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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 7 July 2008 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Who's There
Sandra Jones Cropsey
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd – 515, Parker, CO 80134
C Works, LLC
PO Box 1006, Griffin, GA 30224
9781432701970, $16.95,

What can go wrong when you keep a loved one's lost leg in the freezer? "Who's There?" is the charming story of a family in the agricultural south. Bunk loses his leg, and starts to grow more and more irrational as time grows on; eventually he is forced to live in the shed. "Who's There?" finds its biggest appeal in its characters, whose ups and downs will resonate with many readers. "Who's There?" is a ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Finalist, and Sandra Jones Cropsey is a 44th Annual Gaya Author of the Year, and both are rightfully deserved. A top pick for community library literary fiction collections.

Thank God I'm Dead Already
Diana deVault
International Plaza 2, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781425795016, $19.99,

Dying is unavoidable, something that medical science is never going to cure. "Thank God I'm Dead Already: Or It Ain't Over 'til the Fat Lady Sings" looks at death in a positive light – the end to the contract with God for those who have lived their lives for Him. Stating that death is simply something that must be accepted and embraced to do this necessary task peacefully, "Thank God I'm Dead Already" is a top pick for any Christian pondering their own mortality. Highly recommended for community library Christian collections.

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese
Intercollegiate Studies Institute
PO Box 4431, Wilmington, DE 19807-0431
Chicago Distribution Center
11030 S. Langley Ave., Chicago, IL 60628
1933859628, $25.00,

The rise of feminism, equal rights, and sexual liberation has had side effects that many do not view as wholly positive. "Marriage: The Dream that Refuses to Die" looks at the decomposition of one of the world's oldest institutions. Arguing that there is a possibility that the concept of marriage may eventually become a thing of the past, author Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's examination of the topic is thorough and knowledgeable, sure to grant readers all her wisdom on the subject. "Marriage: The Dream that Refuses to Die" is highly recommended for any collection dedicated to relationships.

Flying with Big Birds
D.D. Lewis
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434352477, $21.99,

More than three fifths of baby eagles die on their first flight with their parents. "Flying with Big Birds" uses the parallels of a young eagle's life to the difficult starts of a young human child trying to move in the world of the big people – adults. Filled with gorgeous full color photos of eagles and packed with wisdom, "Flying with the Big Birds" is deftly recommended for community library pet and wildlife collections, with a nod to children's collections.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

Beyond the Finish Line
Steve Warren
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
No ISBN, $12.75,

"Beyond the Finish Line" is the story of Blake Tremont, who marathons for their simplicity. When one of his co-workers joins him, trouble starts to brew for Blake; suddenly his love of marathons isn't so simple anymore. Faced with dilemmas that thrust him into fame and put his livelihood in danger, Blake must solve his problems or lose his job, his friendships, and his hobby. A thrilling read all the way through; community library collections would do well to add "Beyond the Finish Line" to their fiction collections.

The Sassamon Circle
Louis Garafalo
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432720667, $14.95,

The first encounters of the Native Americans and the Pilgrims was a strange time for all involved. "The Sassamon Circle" follows a Native American called John Sassamon, a skilled linguist who was able to operate in both cultures. He watches as tensions rise and war begins to brew, a war that will consume his life. A riveting piece of historical fiction from a unique perspective, "The Sassamon Circle" is a top pick for community library historical fiction collections.

The Ohioans
Richard Puz
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432720209, $18.95,

Giving everything up in an effort to seek a better life out west was the gamble many took back in the 1830s. "The Ohioans: Six Bulls" is the story of four families, focusing on one Captain Vogel, whose internal and external conflicts drive this tale. Captain Vogel must confront his inner racism against the natives that are currently being forcefully driven from their homelands, unlike the white families on his ship. A riveting story set against a tragic time in America's history, "The Ohioans: Six Bulls" is highly recommended for community library historical fiction collections.

Six-Gun Two-Step
William C. Duncan
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
Spotlight Publicity
1424186099, $24.95

Six-Gun Two-Step is a dark, brutal novel of suspense following the decidedly anti-heroic Timmy Thomas, a mid-20's man who supplements the meager income from his dead-end job by dealing cocaine, when he's not using the drug on himself. After a local dealer is rumored to be dead, Timmy Thomas decides to claim his former competitor's stash of drugs for himself before the police close off the crime scene. His greed brings him into direct conflict with the local MS-13 gangsters; though he leaves town to escape their ire at first, he later returns to settle matters once and for all. Packed with martial arts and scenes of all-out action, Six-Gun Two-Step is a gritty, enthralling drama from first page to last.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Lord Above
Charles Keech
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741445824, $11.95,

God is always there, even when people ignore His existence. "Lord Above: A Guide to the Only God, The God of Moses, The God of David, His Simple Message for the Gentile" states its message loud and clear - to reunite those who have lost their faith with the one true God of Abraham. Stating that knowing God and following His word is an ideal path to happiness through life, "Lord Above" quotes directly from the Holy Bible, and is a must for community library Christian collections.

Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America
Paul Peter Jesep
International Plaza 2, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781436303606, $19.99,

Could supposed God fearing conservatives be the worst offenders in the secularization of America? "Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America: The Republic of Faith Without Wisdom" is Bishop Paul Peter Jesep's critical look at modern American politics, calling out the "religious right" conservatives of the country, and accusing them of doing more damage than help. A critical analysis of the United States and its status as a nation of faith, "Crucifying Jesus and the Secularizing America" is highly recommended for community library Christian Studies collections.

Gringos in Real Estate
G. Robert Baglio
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432719272, $15.95,

The real estate business can be very treacherous. "Gringos in Real Estate: A Housing Crash Survivor Tells All" is the memoir of a real estate agent just starting out. In this context, "gringo" means a person new to the culture and customs of real estate. The author suffered over two million dollars' worth of debt from the housing crash; his advice on how not to make the same mistakes he did is sound and should be read by every real estate agent. "Gringos in Real Estate: A Housing Crash Survivor Tells All" is highly recommended for community library collections.

Rainbows End
Peter Webb
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432724832, $16.95,

During a long life, evading interesting times is near impossible. "Rainbows End" is author Peter Webb's story of his life. Starting from his earliest memories at the age of two, "Rainbow's End" draws the lines through his childhood in England, his time in the military, and his emigration to Canada with his family where he adopted the country as his own. His story is filled with the wisdom and anecdotes that only life experience can bring, in this deftly written memoir. A top pick for community library biography collections.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

The Night Bird
Catherine Asaro
9780373802685, $14.95

Student mage Allegra was on her way to receive training when she was abducted by desert raiders who plan on selling her as a sex slave; her golden hair they assume will make them quite of bit of money. In Jazid, ruthless General Yargazon and outlawed Prince Regent Markus Onyx bid on Allegra; the latter wins the slave.

However, Allegra is not a docile native female willing to sit idly by while men do whatever they want to her. She intends on escaping but understands the difficulty in a society in which women are by law cattle. As she plots her freedom, Alegra is attracted to her owner and him to her. However, her hope for escape relies on her untrained mage skills while the General sets in motion a scheme that will gain him power by plunging the region into a large scale war.

What makes this romantic fantasy spellbinding for fans of Catherine Asaro's Lost Continent saga (see THE FIRE OPAL AND THE MISTED CLIFFS) is the incredibly deep look at the male dominated Jazid culture. Thus being a female makes it that much more difficult for Alegra to escape as being a woman means legally you just don't wander around. Although the general is a stereotypical Macbeth-like antagonist with ambitions to be the ruling despot and no scruples, readers will enjoy the delightful taboo romance in a fantasy realm in which allies are apt to back stab you rather than watch your back.

Medium of Murder
Edited by Susan Budavari and Suzanne Flaig
Red Coyote Press
P.O. Box 60582, Phoenix, AZ 85082
9780976673347, $14.95

These eighteen murder paranormal mysteries turn McLuhan upside down as "The Medium is the Message" (by S.M Harding) with a wide connotation from the authors. The tales range from a connection to the sprit world with some fraudulent ("Dead Reckoning" by Gary Earl Ross) and some genuine ("Dead Even" by Frank Zafiro); while some tales focus on the hocus pocus of the mass media (iRomance by Gary Tolti Kinsman). Each tale is well written and entertaining with no clinkers in the anthology. By having some diversity in definition, the compilation becomes more fun to read as the audience does not know which track the writer takes. Personally I enjoyed all the entries, but my favorites are John Randall Williams' avenging "Rose" by any other name is a killer, Kris Neri's "Hocus-Pocus on Friday the 13th", "Neither Rare nor Well Done" by Judy Starbuck. However, the best of this strong compilation in my opinion is the terrific twisting "Medium Risk" by Susan Budavari. All are solid tales as this collection runs the gamut of MEDIUM OF MURDER.

Lisa Samson
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595546081 , $14.99, 1-800-251-4000

In New York, Jose was once a famous Mexican soccer player, but since the tragic accident four years ago he is not the same person. His career and his social life died along with another person, whom he visits at the cemetery all the time. That is when he is not cooking at older brother Robert's restaurant El Callejon.

Nina is a waitress at the restaurant. She and the boy next door law school student Ryan exchanged emails that led to drinks and action; now one week after a lonely twenty-fifth birthday, she spends time throwing up. Her life besides being pregnant is cheap videos and cheaper take-out.

Nina plans to get rid of the baby; Jose wants to help her anyway he can except support an abortion. Can these two lost souls help each other; Jose is determined that this is God's test of him while Nina remains in denial except for morning sickness.

This is a well written novelization of the 2007 film. The story line is an entertaining contemporary drama starring two wounded warriors struggling with life. The support cast is powerful as the audience obtains a close look at a Mexican-American family. Fans of inspirational tales will appreciate BELLA as each of the lead couple sees the unborn in a different light; redemption or damnation.

Too Little, Too Late
Victoria Christopher Murray
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416552529, $15.00, 1-800-223-2336

Although she has done plenty of wicked things in her life, Jasmine plans to remain faithful to her husband Reverend Hosea Bush. Cementing her vows to God and her spouse, she loves her husband and their child Jacqueline. Hosea not only loves his wife and accepted her child from another man as his; he proudly admires her transformation from sinner to strong believer in the Lord's way.

The Bush trio has temporarily left New York for California where Jasmine finds her sinful shameful past testing her new Christian devotion. Not only is Jacqueline's biological father Brian Lewis there with marital woes as his wife believes he is cheating probably with Jasmine; Hosea's former fiancee, Natasia Redding is also there. She wants her man back and will do what it takes to steal his soul; Hosea struggles with the TEMPTATION of the flesh that Natasia offers. Not one to sit back, Jasmine muses that it is A SIN AND A SHAME, but God takes care of those who take care of themselves so she fights as only she can to keep her man.

Too Little Too Late is an excellent entry in the Jasmine Larson Bush Christian Lit saga; perhaps the best so far. The key is Hosea who proves humanly fallible as he finds himself filled with lust and willing to omit some truths from his wife. Fans will appreciate this fine tale as everyone seems to have gone full circle in a well written intense drama. That could lead to the unthinkable, two destroyed marriages.

Fool on the Hill
Morgan Hunt
Alyson Books
245 West 17th Street, Suite 1200, New York, NY 10011
9781593500276, $14.95,

Between being a breast cancer survivor and the serpentine murder attempt on her life (see STICKY FINGERS), Tess Camillo knows she has come a long way baby. The San Diego resident vows to live her life to the fullest and not let her fears get in her way.

Tess and her roommate Lana Maki attend the Gabrielle Leatheross concert; though they are more interested in hearing the opening act, 1980s fold rock star Cody Crowne perform. The next day Tess decides to relax in Torrey Pines States Preserve. When she hears ravens squawking she goes to investigate only to find a crucified Cody. After calling the police, Tess goes home and tells Lana what she saw, horrifying her roommate and her confidante Raj her Welsh Terrier owner. Unable to let the cops do their job, Tess and Lana feel a need to sleuth.

Putting aside the logic of two amateurs investigating a homicide of a celebrity stranger (let alone anyone), fans will appreciate this enjoyable whodunit. The story line is character driven by the unsinkable Tess who comes out of nasty incidents so much stronger. This time she meets a woman she likes, but fears her reaction when she tells her about her mastectomy; the old Tess would have brooded and done nothing while the new Tess tells all to her potential lover. The mystery is fun especially a late twist as Tess and her Finnish friend compete with the cops and a killer willing to add two nosy females to the death list.

The Brimstone Murders
Jeff Sherratt
9781590805527, $12.99

In Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Jimmy O'Brien understands the overwhelming evidence against his current client Robbie Farris, who confessed in the name of Jesus to stabbing Golden Valley College Professor Carmichael twenty-seven times. Still the consummate professional Jimmy plans to insure Robbie gets the best defense he can provide him even as the seemingly deranged lad mentions his friend the Lord told him to kill the Catholic professor.

However, at Robbie's arraignment, the accused pulls out a gun that he somehow obtained; he escapes. Soon after Jimmy visits Robbie's mother Hazel Farris, she is found murdered in her dumpy house trailer. The cops suspect Jimmy killed her as he admits he was at the crime scene just before she died. Jimmy uses his associate twenty-six year old Rita to defend him from a murder in the first degree charge of killing Hazel. Following clues mostly by tracking his runaway client, Jimmy lands in the middle of brimstone evangelists; one of whom wants to send Jimmy to hell before his time.

This entertaining legal thriller hooks the audience the moment Jimmy's client mentions the Lord told him to kill the professor and never slows down until the final confrontation. The story line in many ways is more of an investigative thriller filled with twists and red herrings as makes inquires into the evangelistic world, but also has strong legal subplots. Fans will appreciate THE BRIMSTONE MURDERS as the odds are SIX TO FIVE AGAINST the hero (see ONE, TWO, & EVEN for a previous O'Brien case).

What She Wants
Cathy Kelly
Downtown Press
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781416564607, $15.95, 1-800-223-2336

In Bath, England, Hope Parker struggles between her roles as mother to two toddlers Toby and Millie, wife to writer Matt and her job at Witherspoons. However, she believes Matt is too distracted as he nears his fortieth birthday; she fears he is having an affair. Before she can figure out what next, Matt announces he wants the family to spend a year in rural Redlion, Ireland, home of his late Uncle Gearoid, so he can focus on his novel and alleviate the guilt of not visiting his beloved relative in four years until it became too late. Though she has doubts, Hope agrees as she figures that should take him away from his mysterious woman; if there is one that is.

In Redlion, Hope makes friends with Mary-Kate the pharmacist, her niece Delphine and recently widowed grandma Virginia. Connell However as Matt ignores her and seems to spend more time in England than Ireland, she wonders if he moved her and the kids out of the way. Still she has a hunk of her own to perhaps tryst with.

This is a strong character study starring several protagonists with future issues caused by mistakes in the past or present. The relationships between everyone make for a strong realistic drama as fans and Hope wonder WHAT SHE WANTS. All the players from the four females, to the local hunk to Matt and others (even the deceased) make for a deep entertaining tale that looks at people keeping PAST SECRETS from loved ones and pondering ALWAYS AND FOREVER or nevermore.

Jack Fuller
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
9781932961478, $24.95, 1-888-732-3822

George Bailey felt he lived "A Wonderful Life" until the collapse wiped out his wealth; worried about the impact on his family, he thinks back to his youth when his grandfather seemed contented whether he was wealthy or broke. Needing inspiration to get past his gloom and doom, George goes to the place of his nineteenth century roots, Abbeville, Illinois.

This is where his grandfather Karl Schumpeter began working at as a clerk at his uncle's logging company before going to Chicago during the 1893 Exposition to trade in grain futures. After getting married, Karl returns to Abbeville where he thrives as a banker. In his late thirties Karl goes to France as part of the ambulance corps as WWI ignites Europe. However after the Great Depression's Black Tuesday, Karl makes illegal loans to friends and family; he goes to prison for his actions. Always upbeat, he feels he disgraced his family; he was never quite the same, but once back with the love of his family never stopped trying. Now his grandson, George fears he will fail his family too.

Using the cycles of the twentieth century as a backdrop of rise and fall at a family level, Jack Fuller provides a great saga of an individual's spirit embraced by his values to survive war, economic disaster, personal loss of loved ones and pride; yet through it all Karl kept rising like a phoenix. Fans will want to join George on his odyssey to discover how his ancestor remained optimistic even as he felt humiliated when he was caught in the American nightmare; staying upbeat is easy when you live the American dream. This is an excellent look at the impact of momentous events on people through a deep look at a caring person who would not make a footnote outside of his family.

Hallam's War
Elisabeth Payne Rosen
9781932961492, $25.95

Mexican war veteran Hugh Hallam relocates to Tennessee with his wife Serena, their children and their slaves. The former Virginian establishes Palmyra Farm. His neighbors think Hugh is an idiot as he cares about the well being of his slaves; trying to keep families together and providing them with cabins; in five of these well kept abodes live eight men, five women and six children; in a sixth cabin resides his top hand French, a black slave he bought in New Orleans three years ago. He also works the field another taboo by the owners. Serena misses her upper crust life back in Charleston, but loves her husband so she goes with him.

When the Civil War breaks out, Hugh a seasoned soldier and graduate of West Point joins the Confederacy although he has doubts about slavery and the future of the southern economy. He commands the 8th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, which fights at Shiloh where he is wounded and taken prisoner. Meanwhile Serena runs their farm and raises the children.

HALLAM'S WAR is a powerful Civil War tale that vividly describes life in the south just prior to the conflict and during the war. Especially descriptive is the slave market where preadolescent girls are sold into bondage that separates them from their parents and includes acceptable sexual molestation by their owners and the battle hospitals where what seems barbaric practices today were the norm. Fans of Civil War dramas will appreciate Elisabeth Payne Rosen's insightful look at the antebellum south.

Getting Even
Mitzi Szereto (Editor)
Serpent's Tail
3A Exmouth House, Pine Street, London, England, EC1R 0JH
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
9781852429614, $14.95,

These seventeen tales share the title theme as women avenge affronts and insults perpetrated mostly by men although in a few cases a couple is the cause and target. The short story collection is fun as the audience compares the means and opportunities used by each of the scorned female; motives are provided throughout and make important segments of all the stories, but it is how the woman gets even that makes this an engaging compilation; although I wonder why my husband chose a business trip at this time as he kept mumbling "Be Very Afraid" as "Hell Is Where the Heart Is". He took some solace in that he is an Aquarius and not an Aries. This is a fun compilation as "Hell has no fury like a woman scorned".

Tall Tales and Wedding Veils
Jane Graves
0446617873, $6.99

In Las Vegas, Heather Montgomery and Tony McCaffrey marry after too much champagne. However when they return to their hometown, the prim and proper accountant realizes they are incompatible as she is a workaholic and he is a player. She informs her spouse she will annul their marriage; he offers no resistance.

When she learns it will take a month, he suggests they live together for the thirty days; then they file saying they made a mistake; this way she will not suffer local humiliation for her drunken I do. She agrees, but soon their attraction has both seeking compromise. He teaches her to relax and have fun and she shows him how to make his sports bar dream a reality.

This is a fresh throwback contemporary romance between two likable characters. The story line is fast paced from the onset as Tony looks forward to returning to being the playboy of the western world, but his conscience demands he protect from scandal and ridicule the vulnerable Heather. Readers will enjoy their antics of living together for one month as he never cleans his toothbrush while she sterilizes everything. The life planner and the chaotic free faller make for an engaging Texas romance.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
David Wrobleweski
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061374227, $25.95, 1-800-242-7737

In a remote part of Wisconsin, Gar Sawtelle, his wife Trudy and their young son, mute
Edgar makes a living breeding and training dogs. Edgar has developed a unique special relationship with Almondine, one of the family dogs; the pair communicate in a way that his parents are unable to do with their son.

The family is contented although the work with the canines is hard. When Gar's brother charming brother Claude comes home the family dynamics change but not in a positive manner. Soon after his arrival Gar dies and the silent Edgar is unable to call for help. He is filled with remorse and guilt making his grief even more difficult. However, he soon believes his father was murdered by his uncle who has spent an exorbitant amount of time with his mom. Fearing he may be next, Edgar flees accompanied by his best friends Almondine and two other dogs.

Hamlet is brought into modern day Wisconsin as readers feel the destiny of tragedy will occur from the moment Claude arrives and after that happens, a sense of a second calamity once Edgar concludes his uncle killed his father to eliminate the sole barrier to his mother. Readers will be spellbound by David Wrobleweski's retelling of the classic as the key cast comes alive especially the mute Edgar who readers get to know by his thoughts and his communication with Almondine (sort of in some ways like the Ghost). This is a fascinating winner, but at 566 pages set aside some time.

The Deceived
Brett Battles
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385341578, $24.00, 1-800-726-0600

As a CIA Cleaner, Jonathan Quinn has only one restriction as he rids corpses that must vanish without a trace; his one personal decree is to insure nothing can ever trace in even a remote way to him; he must "disappear" once the job is done.

His current assignment is to clean up the violation of his basic rule of survival. At a Los Angeles port, a shipping container arrives holding a special cargo; inside is CIA agent Steven Markoff, who once saved his life. Quinn knows that besides cleaning the mess, he must inform Steve's girlfriend, Jenny Fuentes that he is dead and find who sent him this corpse as a special cryptic message. To Quinn's shock, Jenny is missing and many people want her to stay vanished, which means killing Quinn and his two cronies.

Quinn and his buddies globetrot to Europe following clues that ultimately leads to what appears to be an international conspiracy focused out of Singapore. However, he needs to turn to additional underworld help to close in on his main adversary. At an incredible pace faster than the speed light in spite of stunning plausible twists, fans will relish this electrifying thriller that in many ways is more political than espionage (though some might say all espionage is political).

Dead in Red
L.L. Bartlett
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594146404, $25.95, 1-800-223-1244

Jeff Resnick was mugged with his culprit swinging a baseball bat at his head. When he recovered from his injuries, he found he had the ability to psychically see things. He tries to prevent his so called gift from ruining his life.

Jeff takes a job as a bartender at The Whole Nine yards, his favorite drinking spot in Buffalo. However, he learns that his predecessor Walt Kaplan vacated the job due to being murdered. He begins seeing flashes of what happened and with the help of his reluctant older half-brother physician Richard, still recovering from a bullet wound he received helping Jeff ten weeks ago (see MURDER ON THE MIND), he begins to investigate starting with a receipt for custom designed red shoes that lead the siblings to the underground drag queen community.

DEAD IN RED is an engaging paranormal amateur sleuth starring a likable protagonist and his brother and brother's girlfriend who want him safe. The story line is fast-paced as Jeff seeks the dazzling red shoe that he believes will lead them to the culprit. Although the whodunit is well written and fun as is Jeff's talent that seems to place them in trouble not keep them out of trouble, it is the relationship between the siblings that make this a special whodunit.

Every Secret Crime
Doug M. Cummings
Five Star Books
9781594146657, $25.95

In Wihega County, Illinois an intruder breaks into the home of renowned TV show hosts attorneys Croix and Margo Hayden; he expected no one home at the time. However, the teenage son Trey is there so the assailant shoots him in the chest before fleeing. The victim's sister finds him.

The county cops hone in on Trey's pal Lucas Bremer as they had a fight at a party earlier that night over the former's girlfriend Lindsey and he was seen later at the crime scene. However, TV reporter Reno McCarthy thinks the cops are looking for an easy solution to make this media frenzied case vanish even as officials control the news better than the Pentagon does. He begins his own inquiry while the police refuse to cooperate and warn him to back off or spend time in jail; someone else uses a firebomb at the station to try to get Reno off the case. All these attacks, other related murders, watching corrupt powerbrokers scurrying like roaches for cover and personal problems intensify Reno's investigation

This is an entertaining journalistic investigative tale as Reno finds the cops and the county government acting peculiar as if they must conceal something that he plans to reveal once he learns what is going on. The story line is fast-paced and never slows down as Reno takes a licking but keeps on ticking.

Saving Paulo
David J. Walker
Five Star Books
9781594146558, $25.95

In Chicago, after losing his job for calling his boss a sexist a-hole, Charlie Long meets his cousin lawyer Eugene "Sal" Pacewlli at the Billy Goat Tavern to tell him he was fired. Frustrated with his Sir Galahad relative, Sal leaves in disgust. Soon after Sal leaves Charlie heads to the bathroom when he sees a well dressed black guy pulling a mixed race looking little kid when two white thugs fire and kill the adult. Without warning Charlie grabs the little kid and takes off.

The profession al hitmen pursue Charlie and the kid who ducks into a porn shop before entering a fortune teller store owned by elderly Zorina. She keeps the man and child safe while insisting Charlie must keep the kid, who does not talk, out of harm's way; he says no.

At the same time heiress Maria "Mary" McGrady has come home after working at Porto de Dues Orphanage in Rio. She searches for a boy Paulo who was abducted from her in Rio. As the local police, FBI, Russian hitmen and Paulo's uncle seek the child, Charlie hides the lad with the help of Zorina and eventually Mary.

Although there is a touch of the extrasensory via Zorina's skills and her insistence that this is Charlie's destiny, SAVING PAULO is an entertaining thriller in which a Good Samaritan is unable to prevent himself from interfering. The story line is fast-paced from the onset, but loses some of its steam once the Feds takes the lead players to South America as the truth of uncle affection becomes known to Charlie and Mary and a child is a sacrificial pawn to the agents. Fans will enjoy this fine tale of a man who in spite his misgivings feels a need to protect a helpless preadolescent stranger.

In For a Penny
Maggie Toussaint
Five Star Books
9781594146466, $25.95

In Maryland at the Hogan's Glen Golf Course, Cleopatra Jones and her best friend Jonette are playing around. Jonette is killing Cleo at their game because the latter "sees" the figurative face of her ex-husband Charlie on her ball so she slams it for the seats. On the sixth hole, her ball lands in the inseam of deceased local banker Donny "Dudly" Davis who lies in a sand trap.

Detective Britt Radcliffe leads the investigation into the homicide in which Jonette is acting strange. Soon Jonette becomes the prime suspect with Cleo, dodging her mom and battling daughters Charla and Lexy, investigating in order to prove her best friend is innocent even as she is attracted to club pro Rafe Gordon and ignores her cheating ex spouse who wants a second chance.

Though Cleo's mom can be a distracting hook as she overwhelms her scenes, fans will enjoy this amateur sleuth as the heroine displays her moxie and loyalty by investigating the homicide expecting to prove her best friend is innocent. However every clue Cleo finds adds a nail to the case against Jonette. Fans will enjoy this fun mystery wondering whether the golf pro, the ex husband or no one will score with the heroine.

One Small Victory
Maryann Miller
Five Star Books
9781594146992, $25.95

In Texas teenager Brad Brennan was driving too fast high on drugs when he crashed; he killed his passenger Mike Jasik and he was nearly dead in the hospital. Mike's single mom flower shop owner Jenny is stunned to learn Brad was deriving high on dope though Mike was clean but dead.

When her fifteen years old other son Scot informs her that drugs are easy to obtain, she decides to take action. She informs Police Lieutenant Steve Morrity she needs to join the undercover drug task force. His superior Chief Gonzales agrees if she passes the physical test. Steve commiserates with the grieving mom and lies to his superior that she did pass the test. The rules are simple: no one is to know what she is doing including her two surviving children, her best friend or her canine. Her son and her daughter Alicia notice her acting strange and they inform their dad, who threatens a custody suit although he never showed an interest in their kids. Still she needs to bring down the Main Man if she is to sleep at night even though that places her in danger.

ONE SMALL VICTORY is an engrossing suspense thriller with a hint of romance that is intelligently kept very minimal and mostly off page futuristically possible. Obsessed Jenny makes the story line work as she must do what she does in order to stop drug trafficking at least in her small town. Fans will appreciate her courage and fixation while also wanting to scream at her that she has two other kids. Maryann Miller showcases how difficult it is to win the over three decade war on drugs on a macro scale, but individuals can help secure small local victories; albeit not necessarily by going undercover.

Pearl's Redemption
C.H. Admirand
Five Star Books
97815941467005, $25.95

In Emerson, Colorado, Pearl Lloyd 's life and that of her daughter Amy dramatically improved when her odious abusive spouse died. She inherited the Ranch that her ogre husband had turned into a brothel, but managed to keep him from selling her or her Amy to men.

However, the infamous Committee for the betterment of Emerson place an ad in a Denver paper offering Pearl's ranch for sale without her approval. Bostonian Davidson Myth buys the spread sight unseen because he is fleeing Massachusetts and the belief that he killed his brother. After the tall female points a gun at him and the sheriff puts him in jail, he and the woman compare notes. They agree to team up for now until they can resolve their differences. As they fall in love, she remains wary of men while he tries to show her that not all males are a beast like her late husband was. Meanwhile someone is willing to kill and has murdered to gain land cheaply; eliminating Pearl and David is acceptable.

The third C.H. Admirand's Irish Western romance (see THE RANCHER'S HEART) is an entertaining historical that stars two likable heroes conflicted over ownership of the ranch due to that outrageous committee committing fraud. The story line is fast-paced but the audience will feel they are in the Rockies; a trademark of a Ms. Admirand tale. Fans will relish this fine entry as a somewhat beleaguered depressed and bone weary heroine is quite a pearl of a woman desspite of all she has been through. She has hope for a better future for her and Amy.

Gypsy Blood
Steve Vernon
Five Star Books
9781594147067, $25.95

Many people live interesting lives, but no one lives a life quite like Carnival does. He tells fortunes out of a storefront and has a permanent ghost residing inside his chest near his heart. Carnival knows his late poppa killed his mother and when he refused to tell him where he buried her, he murdered his dad and placed him in his chest. The only problem with their arrangement is poppa never shuts up even as he refuses to free himself by telling his son where his mom is.

One day he meets the vampire Maya and falls in love with her. He promises to take care of her, which includes insuring she has her blood sustenance every night. The only problem with their arraignment is that Carnival does not like killing people even those who deserve death. He makes a deal with a demon who tells him how to change Maya so she no longer is a vamp. What he fails to grasp is someone is manipulating him and his friends and family to fulfill a master plan. If Carnival wants to live he must learn the full truth, but so far has no inkling that an adversary is playing puppeteer with him.

GYPSY BLOOD is an interesting original supernatural thriller as the protagonist works the paranormal to his advantage and desires, (and to the audience's delight). The life he placed inside him is a touch of irony while he accepts the undead as his soulmate. His father buried in his chest is a strange symbiotic relationship that will have the Freudians in a feeding frenzy while readers will laugh at their "discussions". The first Carnival tale is an entertaining unique story that leaves fans anxiously waiting for the next entry in what looks like will be a fun saga.

Vita Nuova
Magdalen Nabb
Soho Press
853 Broadway , New York, NY 10003
1569474931, $24.00,

Just above Florence in her bedroom someone shoots and kills twenty-five years Daniela Paoletti. The victim is connected as the oldest daughter of an affluent Florentine nightclub owner. Marshal Guarnaccia puts aside his personal concern of life after the military to investigate the shooting homicide of the single mom PH.D candidate.

Guarnaccia quickly realizes there is no apparent motive for someone to shoot the woman six times in her tower bedroom and not target anyone else, but also concludes that Daniela's family has issues. Her father remains in the hospital recovering from a stroke and his wife appears in a state of perpetual intoxication. However, most unsettling to Marshal is talk of female trafficking from Eastern Europe into Italy.

This is a strong Italian police procedural that plays out on two levels. First there is the homicide investigation that leads the hero to an even bigger case haunting the world; the abduction and sale of females into sexual slavery. Additionally a second subplot has Guarnaccia concerned with personal difficult decisions as he ponders if life is passing him by starting with his deep thinking about early retirement. The late Magdalen Nabb affirms why she has been consistently one of the best mystery writers of the past decade.

The Salisbury Manuscript
Philip Gooden
9781569475126, $24.95

In 1873, London attorney Thomas Ansell travels to Salisbury to pick up Canon Felix Slater's manuscript of his father's explicit memoir. George Slater was a compatriot of the great romance authors like Lord Byron, but his reputation was earned for his hedonistic ways especially womanizing.

After Thomas and Slater meet, someone murders the latter in his study; the murder weapon is a flint spearhead. The local police find Ansell near the corpse with his hands wet with blood. He knows he is prime suspect though the motive the cops assign to him is greed re stealing the manuscript. Not trusting the police to look elsewhere and needing to clear his name of scandal let alone murder suspicion, Ansell investigates.

This interesting Victorian amateur sleuth hooks the audience with an engaging whodunit and an unusual writing style that initially stuns the reader, but once adjusted seems apropos as it adds to the sense of time and place. Ansell is a fascinating protagonist who knows he is in over his head when he applies his legal skills to a murder mystery, but feels he has no choice. Although the ending seems too obvious, THE SALISBURY MANUSCRIPT is a fun late nineteenth century English mystery.

The Price Of Silence
Camilla Trinchieri
9781569474976, $13.00

In Manhattan Emma Perotti teaches English as a second language. Five years ago, Chinese immigrant An-ling Huang signed up to attend Emma's ESL class. Emma felt the frightened young girl's loneliness and overall defenselessness. Emma suffers from guilt from an incident involving the death of her other child as an infant. She has hidden her culpability from her husband Tom for years. she brings An-ling into her family.

Whereas An-ling thrives on her teacher's motherly attention; Tom is irate and resents the intruder; An-ling perceives his loathing Emma while Tom's teenage son Josh forges his own special relationship with her. However, when An-Ling is found suffocated to death, Emma is arrested. During her trial secrets the Perotti conceal from one another and that of the deceased Chinese woman surface.

This is an exciting family drama as guilty secrets lead to an implosion. The story line is fast paced from the moment Emma feels that helping the vulnerable An-ling will give her some solace from what she accidentally did years earlier to her little girl. Although the climax feels too easy, readers will appreciate this look at relationships when lies are key elements of the foundation.

Pitch Black
Susan Crandall
044617856X, $6.99

In Mississippi, when Mr. McPherson, the stepfather of one of her son's friends Jordon Gray, dies on a camping trip, Buckeye Daily Herald reporter Maddy Wade is worried about the effect on her adopted teenage son Ethan. Attracted to former Philadelphian Maddy, Sheriff Gabe Wyatt wants to help the mother and son become part of the community, but he steps back when he realizes the victim was murdered during the campout.

The four boys who went with McPherson are the suspects. When one the foursome dies in what appears at first to be a tragic coincidental accident, some evidence surfaces that makes Ethan the prime person of interest. Maddy believes her son is innocent and determined to prove it while she wonders if Gabe will help or hang Ethan.

The key to this deep regional romantic mystery is that the homicide investigation (mostly amateur sleuth, but some police procedural) takes front and center over the romance. Thus Gabe and Maddy may be in love, but the murders intrude on their relationship as he finds increasingly growing proof that the wild northern teenage transplant is a dangerous hood while she believes her Ethan is innocent. Susan Crandall provides a strong suspense tale as bias pays a key role on how everyone including his adopted mom decides Ethan's guilt or innocence.

The Ten Best Days of My Life
Adena Halpern
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0452289408, $14.00, 1-800-847-5515

Four AM in Los Angeles, twenty-nine years old Alex Dorenfield was walking Peaches her Miniature Beagle whose bowel obstruction became unobstructed when a Mini Cooper ran them over. Doritos and Ambien aside, Alex finds herself in perfect Seventh Heaven with her beloved poop dog Peaches at her side. Her grandparents lovingly greet her and she can eat all the delightfully fatty carbos she wants with no weight gain or bad cholesterol issues. She has her choice of a designer wardrobe and a wonderful home. Finally Alex also feels she has met her soul mate after a decade plus of wondering where the hell (make that heaven) is he.

Of course like the way she died in which Peaches need to crap had a hidden celestial agenda inside it; she learns for her to remain in Seventh Heaven, she must defend her life in essay form; sheesh she feels she graduated years ago and never though she would ever write an essay again. However failure means demotion to the fourth floor where she would have a condo not a house, wear last year's off the wrack clothing, no loving grandparents to spoil her, no soulmate hunk next door, and most critical having her beloved Peaches with her; as dogs by their unrequited loving nature always go to Seventh Heaven. Alex must defend her life as being worthy of seventh heaven.

Any moment one would expect Albert Brooks to appear to mentor Alex on Defending your Life, as the heroine struggles to make a case that she is worthy and not clueless. Readers will enjoy Alex's whimsical chick lit asides as she ponders why she deserves seventh heaven and writes the essay on THE TEN BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE. While working on it she realizes she must not just prove to the angels her worthiness, she must prove to herself she earned "Heaven On The Seventh Floor" (without Paul Nichols' help). Amusing and poignant, Adena Halpern provides a fascinating look at a young woman defending her former existence to herself.

The Streets of Babylon
Carina Burman
Marion Boyars Publishers
24 Lacy Road, London, England, SW15 1NL
Meryl Zegarek Public Relations (publicity)
255 West 108th Street,Suite 9D1,New York, NY 10025
9780714531380, $16.95,

In 1851, fortyish Swedish authoress Euthanasia Bondeson accompanied by her young niece Agnes Bjork completes her research in Paris for her next writing. The two females cross the Channel to London where they plan to attend the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. The English police gentlemen help the two ladies make it to the Golden Cross Hotel

The next morning after settling for insipid tea instead of coffee for breakfast, the Swedish pair goes to the exhibit. Outside is mobbed and they separate with Euthanasia telling Agnes to wait for her inside. When Euthanasia enters, her niece is not there. She searches everywhere, but cannot find her niece. She tells the police and cop Owain Evans investigates with Euthanasia at his side.

The vivid picturesque Victorian London will have readers believe they are there exploring the Great Exhibition and much more as THE STREETS OF BABYLON is an excellent historical mystery that makes the time and place seem so alive. The story line is brisk with a fabulous superstar as Euthanasia takes charge of the plot in skirts and pants (undercover as a male going where no respectable female has gone before except incognito). Carina Burman provides an exhilarating mid nineteenth century kidnapped thriller with Sarah Death's translation from Swedish to English remarkable.

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon
Debbie Fuller Thomas
Moody Press
820 North Lasalle Drive, Chicago, IL 60610
9780802487339, $13.99, 1-800-621-5111

The last two years have been very rough for Marty Winslow and her family. Her daughter Ginger died from Niemann-Pick disease, which makes no sense since neither of her parents are carriers. Ginger could not have been their biological daughter; affirmed by a blood and DNA test that proved conclusively she belonged to another family as a second mother gave birth at the hospital that same night as Marty did. That child Andie is given into the custody of Marty because her parents died and she was prohibited from moving into her grandparents' senior citizen trailer home community.

It is not easy for Andie to move in with her biological mother and her two biological sisters, who are all strangers to her. The oldest sister Deja resents her and the younger sibling Winnie tries too hard to welcome her. Each misbehaves in their own way and Marty tries to cope with bringing her three daughters into a family unit.

All of the major characters are feeling a lot of anguish and pain inside their hearts; how each copes lifts this memorable work from being an ordinary soap opera and overcomes the stigma of insuring no rivals for the parenting of Andie. She especially struggles with going to a stranger even if she shares DNA with that woman as she refuses to accept her grandparents are realistic as they know they are to old to care for her although they love her; this adds to her feeling of being alone even with two sisters and a mom who insists she is not a replacement for Ginger. This is a deep five tissue box tearjerker.

Lilith Saintcrow
ImaJinn Books
PO Box 545, Canon City, CO 81215-0545
9781933417363, $14.00,

The Circle Lightfall is stunned by the brutal assaults as they are clueless who is behind these horrific attacks that leave the victims body and soul broken. The Watcher/Tracker patrol the perimeter and more expanding their protective role from individual witches to the city, but have failed to prevent the vicious muggings.

The Circle Lightfall chooses Mindhealer Caro Robbins to investigate though they are concerned as she refuses to have a Watcher at her side; she has suffered survivor guilt ever since a Watcher sacrificed himself to save her life. When the Dark minion attacks her, Merrick the patrol Watcher rescues Caro. He realizes she is his Witch, which means he is to personally protect his beloved, but the Mindhealer rejects his protection. Frustrated as Caro enters dangerous scenarios, Merrick proves as obstinate as she is; going where she goes even though she objects. Love is a dangerous thing when two stubborn people insist on keeping the other safe while facing deadly encounters.

The latest Dark and Light war is a fascinating tale with the added twist of a Watcher who finally finds his redemption only to have his one decline. The story line is action-packed from the onset and never slows down, a trademark of Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine tales as well as this terrific saga. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing as each needs to keep the other safe for differing motives; her because of watching a Watcher die for her and him because it is part of his "DNA". Fans will enjoy MINDHEALER, a delightful "Watcher" romantic fantasy.

Hungry Ghosts
Susan Dunlap
Counterpoint Press
2117 Fourth Street, Suite D, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781582434179, $25.00, 1-800-788-3123

When she was sixteen and living with her family in San Francisco, her older brother Mike walked out of the house never to be seen again. She returns to the City by the Bay years later to work as a stunt double and as an assistant to Zen teacher Leo Garson. Just as she is about to take a dive off a building, Darcy Lott notices on the rooftop of the Victorian opposite where she is a red haired man who from this distance looks like Mike.

A stunned Darcy describes the man to Leo; he informs her the man is her new landlord Eamon Lafferty who gave them rent free apartments for six months and decorated the place for a gala for high end clients. On the night of the reception celebrating the zen center's opening, Darcy sees her long time friend Tia Dru, who is Eamon's escort. The two pals find and old concealed tunnel and enter it though for Tia the journey is painful. Darcy goes to see Tia for lunch only to find her buddy vanished. In Leo's room she finds Tia's corpse. Obviously Leo is a person of interest to the police, but Darcy believes her employer is innocent. Not long afterward, Tia's friend is found murdered in the tunnel. Darcy begins to put the puzzle pieces together going after a perpetrator about to escape with a deadly cargo.

The Darcy Lott mystery series is an exciting tale filled with complex characters some of whom wear masks to hide their deadly agendas. The heroine is an interesting lead character who courts danger like Winnie courts honey. Her need to identify the killer is obsessive yet readers will admire her courage and loyalty. Enhanced by the streets of San Francisco, HUNGRY GHOSTS is an enjoyable amateur sleuth high octane action thriller with plenty of Karma.

A Curious Affair
Melanie Jackson
Love Spell
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0505527383, $6.99, 1-800-481-9191

Three years have passed since her spouse died, but Jillian Marsh has not moved on; she still grieves her loss and questions whether life is worth living. However, last Halloween, lightning hit Jillian. The only after effect is she can communicate with cats like a Dr. Doolittle.

Finally, on a rainy March night in the Sierras (that is an oxymoron for that season and locale) Jillian considers suicide as she never got the chance to apologize to her husband for doing him wrong and she suffers from TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder); the third Seconal and fourth Drambuie add to her melancholy. However before she takes her life, Atherton the cat, whom she never met, arrives to inform her that a murder just occurred. Jillian informs new sheriff Tyler Murphy. As he tries to keep her out of his inquiry, she refuses to stay on the sidelines. Meanwhile the townsfolk refuse to assist the sheriff on his investigation; so Jillian turns to the feline population as they are determined to see the killer pay and expect the woman who can understand them to take care of justice for them.

This whimsical whodunit second chance at love is stolen by the feline crowd especially Atherton, who fits TS Eliot's quote (at the beginning of the tale of the tail): "When a Cat adopts you there is nothing to be done about it except to put up with it until the wind changes." Although a bit padded with too much cat litter at times, fans will enjoy this lighthearted frolic in which cats serves as witnesses to the crime and as matchmakers.

Lyndsay Randall
Love Spell
0505527650, $6.99

Every midnight Dax knows the assault will occur. The demonic soul stealer Phantom attacks Dax's body and mind in an attempt to gain control. So far Dax has thwarted the beatings, but he also knows he is tiring of the daily war for his soul; he can only kill so many of Phantom's horde of evil riders as every night more arrive. Dax realizes he must never show his love of anyone for they will become the target to force him to acquiesce.

Healer Robyn has loved Dax forever though he avoids her. She believes he feels the same way about her though they have not seen each other until recently in ages. Dax is frightened because he knows the demon will read his love for Robyn and go after her soul in order to claim his soul. Dax vows never even if he must enter hell; Robyn vows to be at his side when he attacks the Phantom.

From the opening frightening sequence to the climax, PHANTOM has a deep feel of doom as if it is just a matter time before the evil one and his minions abduct Dax's soul and most likely that of the pure good Robyn. The lead couple is a superb pairing as he wants her as far away from the malevolence that hunts him as possible and she needs to be at his side battling evil for his soul that her heart claims is hers. With nasty villains and fully developed good guys, Lyndsay Randall's gripping horror romance belongs to the constant sense that evil has eternity to win.

Weddings Can Be Murder
Christie Craig
Love Spell
0505527316, $6.99

With two weeks to go before they exchange I do, Katie and Joe have doubts. Katie is not sure she wants to walk down the aisle while Joe wonders why he felt attracted and connected to a woman he met in a bar.

While the pair separately wonders about marriage to each other, private investigator Carl Hades after battling a man wearing a pink thong is meeting with wedding planner Tabitha Jones of Tabitha Weddings on a case he is working as her brides are suddenly dying which is murdering her business. However, Tabitha is murdered. Meanwhile, Katie wants Carl and her best friend Leslie desires Joe. Besides which a serial bride killer aims to make Katie the next victim as WEDDINGS CAN BE MURDER.

Romantic suspense fans will appreciate this fine fast-paced tale in which two couples struggle with their pairings while Carl works a homicide case in which his client is no longer around to pay him. The story line focuses more on the romantic quadrangular relationships with lighthearted sexual bantering. The murder mystery subplot is entertaining although the wedding killer is a bit over the aisle; but clearly this tale is predominately about the zaniness of marrying the wrong person when Mr. Right is locked with you in a closet.

Cry of the Wolf
Elaine Barbieri
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0843960132, $7.99, 1-800-481-9191

Embracing her Kiowa heritage, Letty Wolf needs to protect her three estranged daughters. She has found two of them (see NIGHT OF THE WOLF and SING OF THE WOLF), but has one to go Justine Fitzsimmons.

Out of work and money in Oklahoma Justine obtains work as a cook although she cannot boil water. Her boss hires Ryder Knowles to teach Justine how to cook. Ryder acts nasty and contemptible towards his student even as he seeks a missing heiress. However, he also sees inside to the vulnerable women hiding behind a veneer. When danger threatens Justine, he is there to protect her even while they fall in love. Also rallying around the unskilled cook is her mom, sisters and their family.

This is a terrific ending to a contemporary paranormal romance in which the third sister, like her siblings before her, is the star. Stranded in dingy nowhere, Justine meets two strangers who demand she go with them. One wants her dead while the other wants her safely with her mom and sisters. Elaine Barbieri provides her fans with a fabulous finish to an engaging trilogy.

Jane Candia Coleman
Leisure Books
9780843961041, $6.99

Now elderly and still as tiny as a "skeeter" but with a bite ten times worse, Allie Earp thinks back to her days with her beloved Virgil, one of the famous Earp brothers. Allie now knows how wonderful her Virgil was to her as he never shut her up when she cursed or used a gun; in fact he encouraged her to be a strong person in her own right and not just a tough woman. She reminisces of the days of riding at his side along with Wyatt and the rest of the now legendary brood. She was there at dangerous Deadwood for the most famous gunfight in history, the O.K. Corral. She was always there for Virgil and he was there for her. Now in her old age, Allie provides a fresh perspective to what most believe was a testosterone lifestyle.

This is an excellent historical autobiographical fiction starring a woman who literally stood by her man just like her man stood by her. Well written, readers see a wider deeper scope into the Earp legends from a woman who was with them through many of their adventures. Jane Candia Coleman will enthrall her audience with this fine tale as Allie looks back on what she considers a rewarding life with her beloved supportive Virgil.

Wanted: The Half-Breed
Bobbi Smith
Leisure Books
0843958502, $7.99

Years ago in Two Guns, Texas, half Comanche Wind Walker Stevenson and Veronica "Roni" Reynolds loved each other, but they were too young especially to overcome the objections of her parents and his stepmother who loathed the half-breed illegitimate son of her spouse. Roni eventually left town to follow in her dad's footsteps, but ultimately she returns as the latest generation Dr. Reynolds.

When Roni and Walker see each other for the first time in years, they both confess their love for the other. However, soon afterward, the half-Comanche is arrested and convicted of killing a rancher. As he is sent to prison he swears to his beloved he is innocent. Ronnie wants to believe him, but the evidence leaves her with doubts. When Walker escapes, Ronnie joins him to uncover the identity of the real killer.

This entertaining nineteenth century western romantic amateur sleuth stars two strong ethical people who loved one another when they were young and as adults still do; though many townsfolk loathe their relationship as an abomination. The investigation serves more as a vehicle to bring Roni and Wind Walker together yet also refreshes the overused basic theme of a taboo romance while cleverly designed with a neat twist. Bobbi Smith entertains sub-genre fans with the forbidden love between a hybrid and a purebred in which a homicide brings them together but may end up separating them forever.

We All Fall Down
Simon Wood
Leisure Books
9780843960532, $7.99

Design engineering contractor Hayden Duke is pleased to have been hired by Marin Design Engineering for a short term project. He hopes that his work will impress the firm's bosses so they would hire him for a full time position. Before he was selected, another contractor walked into the ocean and drowned. The witnesses who called 911 heard the man mumble he did a horrible thing and must pay the price.

The person who hired Hayden is his friend Shane Fallon who is glad to have his pal on board. A couple of days after Hayden starts working Shane sends him an email with an attachment that he cannot open. Hayden calls Shane, who warns him to delete it. Hayden goes to Shane's house only to find a hallucinating man who is locked inside his apartment seeking electronic bugs. He kills himself and the autopsy reveals a bruise on his hand like the man who committed suicide in the ocean. Shane's sister Rebecca and Hayden believe there is more to his apparent suicide and it is linked in some manner to the project. When the project is completed, everyone associated with it except Hayden and Rebecca die in an arson fire. Trying to stay alive and elude police and fire officials' suspicions, the pair seek the truth, which may prove deadly for them.

WE ALL FALL DOWN is an exciting enthralling thriller that focuses on two characters, Hayden and Rebecca, who obstinately and perhaps foolishly are determined to learn what is going on. They refuse to quit their amateur sleuthing although each step especially false leads they take opens up additional cans of worms and exponentially increases the danger to them. Simon Wood provides a dynamite suspense story as the audience is beguiled into anticipating what next.

Release Me
Farrah Rochon
Leisure Books
0843960582, $7.99

The car accident ended NBA basketball player Toby Holmes' career, but he did not mope over what could have been; instead since his forced sports retirement he became an entertainment manager concentrating on music talent. He becomes euphoric when Marshall Kellerman of Over the Edge Productions offers his client Aria Jordon a fabulous deal that will make her famous. To help, Toby hires a management company to help promote his star.

His childhood friend Sienna Culpepper is put in charge of the publicity. She assumes Aria and Toby are seeing each other and becomes jealous because she is attracted to him like always. Meanwhile Aria also wants Toby, but turns to his long time rival hoping to generate jealousy. On the other hand Toby heeding his older brother's warning is careful with his relationship with Aria and begins to fall in love with Sienna. Chaos becomes the norm for this foursome.

RELEASE ME is an enjoyable contemporary romance starring likable lead characters who forge a triangle of sorts that converts into a rectangle. Although resolution could have occurred faster, fans will relish this fine tale as Toby falls in love with Sienna, who has loved him since they were children, but assumes he will never reciprocate and besides he has Aria. Farrah Rochon entertains with an entertainment romance.

The Beach House
Jane Green
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670018857, $24.95, 1-800-847-5515

Sixty-five years old eccentric widow Nan owns THE BEACH HOUSE on Nantucket Island. Although she knows her neighbors would disapprove, needing money and not caring what anyone else thinks as she is a sexagenarian who buried her husband, the feisty Nan decides to rent rooms during the summer.

Her summer renters come to the island to think and escape. Separated from her husband Richard following his affair, Daff must decide what she wants beyond her two roles of mother to teen Jess and wife or perhaps ex wife. Therapist Dr. Posner helps, some might say hinders, Bee and Daniel to face the inconvenient truth that is destroying their relationship. As he faces middle age, Michael wonders if he will ever find the right woman for him as every female he meets turns out wrong.

THE BEACH HOUSE is a well written character study in which each of the visitors and Nan has issues to confront over the summer. Each of the cast members is fully developed and seems like a real person as they struggle with their respective issues. Although the resolution is too simplistic in such a short time, fans will enjoy the most wonderful summer.

Havana Gold
Leonardo Padura
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
9781904738282, $14.95

In 1989 Cuban police detective Mario Conde hates being a cop as he would have preferred to be a writer. However, no matter how he tries to romanticize his existence, he must eat and so cop he is. Drinking helps him when state sponsored corruption interferes with his investigation.

His current case makes him want to quit in order to turn into a 24/7 alcoholic. Someone murdered pretty Pre-University High School schoolteacher, Lissette Nunez Delgado. This particular inquiry hits home as Conde went to school here when he dreamed of becoming a Cuban Hemingway. As he interviews the headmaster, staff and pupils, Conde wonders what happened to his dreams and those of his countrymen.

The fourth Havana police procedural is a great tale (likes its colorful predecessors) that follows one year in the life of a dedicated cynical Cuban cop. The story line is fast-paced as Conde investigates the murder of a young popular teacher, but runs into bureaucracy from the school and his superiors. However, the key to this saga remains the disenchanted hero who struggles to do his job properly, which to him means solving the case, but to others connotes satisfying the state and the Party.

Swan Peak
James Lee Burke
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416548522, $25.95, 1-800-223-2336

New Orleans PI Clete Purcel is fishing on what he thought was a Montana state park. Two men arrive stating he is on private property, the Wellstone Ranch, owned by Texas gazillionaire oilman Ridley Wellstone. He recognizes one of them as Lyle Hobbs, former driver for the late mob boss Sally Dee, who died in a plane crash years ago. Before leaving, the Wellstone security drive over Clete's fishing gear and warn him the state pond is five miles away.

Clete, his former police partner New Iberia, Louisiana sheriff's deputy Dave Robicheaux and the latter's wife Molly are in Big Sky Country at the invitation of novelist Albert Hollister. Dave and Clete hope Montana would help them come to grips with Katrina. However, soon after the fishing incident, someone murders a University of Montana coed and her boyfriend near the cabins Albert gave to his southern visitors to use. That is followed by a violent chase out of the Fugitive TV show/movie when a Texas prison guard chases an escaped convict. Dave and Clete know they should mind their business, but neither ever could.

Changing location from Katrina wracked Louisiana to pristine Montana does not lessen the violence as nasty predators reside in both states. Clete and Dave seek R&R; in this case respite and redemption as each wonders if they could have done more during the Hurricane and its immediate aftermath. However, catching mean SOBs and rescuing innocents do not relieve the soul; friendship and love do. James Lee Burke provides a strong tale in one of the best continuing series on the market.

Chasing Darkness
Robert Crais
Simon & Schuster
9780743281645, $25.95

The forest fire remains out of control so police are evacuating homes in the blaze's path in Laurel Canyon. In one of the houses the cops find the corpse of Lionel Byrd; he apparently committed suicide.

When Los Angeles private investigator Elvis Cole learns of the death, he is stunned and filled with remorse. Three years earlier, Byrd was accused of a homicide; working for the defense, Cole found proof that his client was innocent; the charges were dropped. However, recently new evidence has been found that strongly implies Byrd committed that murder, four known others before being caught and at least two more since Cole found the prof that freed him. Wracked by guilt for those who died perhaps by his actions, Cole investigates determined to learn whether he was duped, erred, or was right three years ago.

Returning to Cole after his partner Joe Pike starred in THE WATCHMAN, fans of the series will see a different hero as he is obstinately determined to learn the truth; thus there are less amusing asides than usual and few scenes with friends; the plot fits the tone of his demeanor, as Cole suffers from crippling guilt. The story line is fast-paced from the onset, filled with plenty of action, and plausible but powerful twists and red herrings. CHASING DARKNESS is a strong tale as a more introspective Cole than ever before battles personal demons.

Occupational Hazards
Jonathan Segura
Simon & Schuster
9781416562917, $14.00

Reporter Bernard Cockburn works the crime beat for the Omaha Weekly News-Telegraph; though in his late twenties, Bernard is already burned out with only alcohol and some questionable drugs enabling him to walk the mean streets of Omaha. His lover pregnant Allison demands he grow up by giving up the booze and drugs for the sake of their unborn, but so far that haze is the only thing that keeps him obstinately working; he detests her nagging and prefers she rid them of the fetus especially in light of all the sh*t they have used.

His current interest beyond the latest foolishness of Police Detective Dick, an apropos name if their ever was one, is a strange downtown land deal that smells of city kickbacks. His efforts to learn why LLC is buying decaying property meet roadblocks and official bureaucratic stalling; he struggles to even identify the group members. However everything turns dark when LLC board members die after he interrogates them; soon Bernard links their homicides to a vigilante neighborhood watch cleansing the streets brutally and lethally of drug and sex traffickers.

Bernard is not likeable; in fact he is reprehensible with his irresponsible and uncaring nature. However, in spite of his only desire being the next hazy high, readers will appreciate this antihero whose asides are poignant from a negative outlook. His dissertation on motive is on target as befitting a depraved cynic who feels there is nothing a person will not do. The inquiry is fun to follow as Bernard stays in character with his dirty purple haze outlooks throughout while walking the streets of Omaha and while fighting with Alison over the rug rat growing inside her. Not for everyone, purebred urban noir fans will welcome this unwelcome protagonist.

The Narcissist's Daughter
Craig Holden
Simon & Schuster
9781416572787, $14.00

In 1970s in Cleveland, pre-medical student Daniel "Syd" Redding hates his narcissistic boss, Dr. Ted Kessler. He dreams of killing the egomaniac, who makes his life at the hospital miserable. Working the grave yard shift, Syd meets Kessler's sexy wife, Joyce. She outrageously flirts with the young student and soon has him controlled under her siren's S&M spell.

However, their affair falls apart leaving Syd angrier than his heroes the Ramones and bitter. His need to obtain revenge against these affluent snobs is stratospheric eating at his gut. He knows he cannot attack directly as he would lose. He chooses their seventeen years old daughter, Jessi. He planned to make her the avenue of his vengeance starting with dating her, but falls in love.

Two decades later, happily married Syd and Jessi raise a family together. All is well until a construction crew digs up human remains.

This reprint of an engaging family drama is fun to read as Jessi changes Syd's attitude from hate to love, but twists it into a suspense thriller as that fateful year 1978 comes back to haunt them decades later. The story line is fast-paced once the players are introduced especially after Syd meets THE NARCISSIST'S DAUGHTER as he fears his relationship with her mom will surface like a Mrs. Robinson and destroy his happiness; instead a corpse threatens it. Although the homicide suspense comes across somewhat secondary in a supportive role, fans of character driven tales will appreciate Craig Holden's fine look at family relations.

Letters to a Secret Lover
Toni Blake
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061429880, $6.99,

Relationship advice columnist Lindsey Brooks feels she is on top of the world with a hunk of a fiance Garrett, a great job, and excellent shopping choices in Chicago. However when Garrett dumps her, a hurt and embarrassed Lindsey decides to retreat. She heads to Moose Falls, Montana with a plan to purchase the canoe livery once owned by her late great-aunt Millie. Thus she and her family can go rural when they need an urban retreat whenever they want.

The owner grumpy Rob Colter refuses to sell. He is attracted to the city slicker, but wants her to leave him to his snippy existence. She thinks he is perfect for her sexually as she is attracted to the grouch. As they fall in love, she finds his passionate love letters and discovers the tattoo on his chest; she concludes he met and lost his soulmate and second helpings is not her style.

Though many readers will guess the twist to this fine romance, the eccentric small-town residents enhance a fun contemporary as the advice columnist and the grump fall in love. The amusing story line embellishes the differences between the lead pair yet shows how compatible they are in and out of bed. Fans will appreciate Toni Blake's fine romance as Lindsey knows she found love, but her beloved had found his soulmate before her based on reading the LETTERS TO A SECRET LOVER from Rob to Gina; the truth will set them free.

Not Another Bad Date
Rachel Gibson
9780061178047, $7.99

Science fiction and fantasy author Adele Harris leaves Boise to go home to Cedar Creek, Texas to help her pregnant older sister Sherrilyn who is in the hospital while her husband William moved in with his college age assistant Stormy. Adele is caring for her thirteen years old niece Kendra. She thinks of Zach Zemaitis who broke her heart fourteen years ago.

A former professional football player and U of Texas legend, the widower Zach is trying to raise his ten year old daughter in Tiffany in his late wife's hometown. This forces him to pretend he cared about Devon who was a malicious person and the cause of his break up with his beloved Adele. Zach is stunned to see Adele, who he never stopped loving, but knows she will never forgive him for the big hurt. Meanwhile in the afterlife Devon Hamilton-Zemaitis must pay for her bad karma on earth as dying by crashing into a garbage truck is fitting but not enough; her job is to bring Adele and Zach together, the way it should have been.

This is a whimsical second chance at love romance in which the paranormal is kept to a minimal, but brings karma and humor to the mix. Readers will relish Zach's efforts to regain what he lost years ago while Adele wants to avoid him like the plague. Devon brings humor to the mix starting with her former late schoolteacher lecturing her, a trip to Wal-Mart and the need for her as pompous mother to back off from interfering in her mission. Rachel Gibson provides a warm Texas contemporary with a conniving matchmaker from beyond.

Your Scandalous Ways
Loretta Chase
9780061231247, $6.99

In 1820 Venice Francesca Bonnard enjoys the fruits with no entanglements of being a scandalous fallen woman. Because of her attitude, men constantly seek her company. Although she knows polite society holds her in contempt, she gives their men her body but never her heart and soul.

Undercover espionage agent James Cordier is on his last assignment in Venice. He is to steal letters that are reported to be in Francesca's home left their by her former spouse. To get into her home he must seduce the scandalous woman. However, as he gets to know her, he falls in love and changes his mission to keep her safe from an unknown adversary who will kill to obtain her letters.

This exciting espionage Regency romantic suspense stars two interesting lead characters. James as an apropos name as he is an early nineteenth century debonair Bond type while Francesca is a courageous woman who holds her head up high while knowing her contemporaries scorn her except in her boudoir. Fans will appreciate their pairing as James realizes he loves Francesca's scandalous ways as long as he is the recipient.

Don't Make Me Choose Between You and My Shoes
Dixie Cash
9780060829742, $13.95

Although they were second choice, Salt Lick, Texas private investigators Debbie Sue Overstreet and Edwina Perkins are thrilled to be invited to speak a at the National Association of P.I.s convention in New York City. Besides a free trip, they plans to investigate all the latest sleuthing gadgetry and designer shoes; not that they can afford any with their beauty parlor being their moneymaker.

The dynamic detecting Domestic Equalizer duo makes friends with natives such as some ladies like Cher who work the street for a living and visitors from Texas like mugging victim Celina. Although they swore no cases while enjoying a bite of the Big Apple, Debbie Sue and Edwina end up in the middle of an NYPD serial killer inquiry in which the murderer considers targeting two dizzy detective dames from Texas.

The latest Domestic Equalizer mystery (see MY HEART MAY BE BROKEN, BUT MY HAIR STILL LOOKS GOOD and SINCE YOU'RE LEAVING ANYWAY, TAKE OUT THE TRASH) is more a culture war between rural Texas and urban Manhattan. The bets are on the two zany Salt Lick hair stylists. As always in this series, the lead duet try to do the right thing as they perceive that to be, but most often cause more problems for those they want to save and leads to plenty of humor. Readers will appreciate the Texas-Manhattan encounter as Debbie Sue and Edwina bring their hearts and humor to Times Square.

No One Lives Forever
Jordan Dane
9780061253768, $5.99

In Chicago, bodyguard and paid killer Jasmine Lee visits Christian Delacorte to call in the favor he owes her. She needs his help to rescue her boss and lover crime lord Nicholas Charboneau; kidnapped in Brazil. Although he wants nothing to do with this woman or her caper as he just wants to be with his beloved Detective Raven Mackenzie, he reluctantly agrees. He knows he owes her and pays his debt.

Jasmine also knows that Christian is Nicholas' son and informs her shocked new partner who never knew who his dad was. With Raven joining them as she refuses to be left behind, the trio goes to Brazil to rescue his father, but Christian does not trust the hit woman and wonders what Jasmine's true agenda is.

The third "No One" thriller (see NO ONE LEFT TO TELL and NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM) is an exhilarating romantic suspense tale filled with plausible twists especially as Raven and Jasmine wonder who their ally is and who their enemy is; no one is quite like they seem. Fans will feel the danger on every page as this strong action-packed tale lives up to its title. Jordan Dane is three for three.

The Safety of Secrets
Michael DeLaune
9780060817367, $13.95

They met a quarter of a century ago as first graders in Lake Charles, Louisiana over a pair of socks. Fiona Marshall and Patricia Woods became friends with both eluding odious mothers. Whereas Fiona's mother was abusive, Patricia's was negligent. They left Bayou country soon after high school to make it in Hollywood.

Each was married and divorced; they survived the Hollywood night culture that has destroyed so many young. Both share a secret that no one else knows until now. Twenty-five years of best friend sisterhood may end with that secret revealed. Fiona and Patricia reexamine their friendship, other relationships over the years, and the difficult realities that have surfaced for them.

The story line moves back and forth between the present and past in Southern California and their childhood in Louisiana as events today have the lead females looking back in time. Fiona and Patricia are fully developed characters, but it is their deep friendship forged back in elementary school that Michael DeLaune focuses on. Though loving best friends who would do anything for the other, with warmth and caring comes hurts and anger. Healthy relationships have a down side to them even when they are mostly loving, upbeat, and supportive. THE SAFETY OF SECRETS is a deep character study that will leave readers examining their strongest relationships.

Crave: The Seduction of Snow White
Cathy Yardley
9780061376078, $13.95

Investigative reporter Stephen Trent decides to breach the impenetrable Penitent compound in order to do a story on the primeval cult. He expects to see horrific conditions as the group has allegedly repelled modern living. However, he is stunned when he meets Goodmaid Beth inside the complex because he recognizes Beth Cordova.

Ten years ago Princess Bianca vanished without a trace fleeing from a wicked stepmother to hide inside a strict cult. Now Stephen has found her using the name Goodmaid Beth. Attracted to one another the pair breaks the strictly enforced sex rules. Soon they are in love, but Stephen realizes getting inside proved easy; getting out with his beloved Beth impossible; an if miraculously they escape the wicked stepmother maintains her vigilance just in case the missing princess should return.

Modernizing the epic Snow White fairy tale with a secretive cult instead of a sleep disorder, Cathy Yardley writes an engaging timely contemporary romance. The story line is fast-paced, from the moment that Stephen meets Goodmaid Beth as each is instantly attracted to one another even as he knows who she is. Fans will appreciate their taboo relationship and wonder what they will do as breaking the strict rules is dangerous and leaving is dangerous. Fans will crave more such tales from Ms Yardley as the Seduction of Snow White is a winner.

At the Bride Hunt Ball
Olivia Parker
9780061355448, $5.99

The Duke of Wolverset Gabriel Devine believes marriage means shackles; he vows to never become incarcerated. However, he also knows the family needs the heir and the spare. His game plan is to find a wife for his brother Tristan. To achieve this, Wolverset invites twenty contenders that he pares down to seven eligible ladies and their escorts to his country estate to compete for the privilege of becoming his sister-in-law.

Although her mother forced her to join the contest, Madelyn Haywood rejects both siblings as heartless cads. However her outspoken manner and ability to rip his skin catches Gabriel's attention; her clumsiness unlike the other six adds to her allure. Finally her tone when she says not interested in marriage makes him reconsider his wants. As the pair falls into a passionate scandal, Gabriel thinks a life sentence with Madelyn is perfect.

This amusing Regency romance hooks the audience from the moment that Madelyn and her friend Charlotte arrive as "forced" by their respective families to be unwilling contestants for the not so Devine prize. Fans will relish this humorous wink at the Ton as Gabriel finds he enjoys the banter with Madelyn. Olivia Parker provides an entertaining tale and hopefully more groom and bride hunts will follow.

Under Your Spell
Lois Greiman
9780061191367, $6.99

Like all the students at Lavender House, Elegance "Ella" St. James possesses special talents; as that is a prerequisite to get into the exclusive school. However, unlike her peers, she has no interest in spellbinding a man into marrying her. Instead she wants to act "normal" but first she is interested in uncovering the person who murdered her friend.

However her efforts at undercover sleuthing fail because wherever she goes regardless of the time, Thomas "Sir Drake" Donovan is always there. Thomas knows she is in over her head and worried about her even as he knows she is dangerous to his heart. Ella wants desperately to trust Thomas, but fears he may not be what her heart hopes he is; so she tells him nothing and continues to dig bringing her to the attention of someone who has killed before.

Readers will be under Lois Greiman's spell as her first Witches of Mayfair historical paranormal romance is an enchanting tale. Ella is a terrific, some might say foolish, heroine who knows what she wants and does not want until the interfering Thomas enters her life. He is heroic as he knows from their first encounter she is the one although she seems to reject him. Combining a delightful romance with a solid murder mystery, a bewitching paranormal element, and plenty of action, UNDER YOUR SPELL is a terrific one sitting read.

His Dark and Dangerous Ways
Edith Layton
9780061253638, $5.99

Undercover agent Lord Simon Atwood spent a year in a dank French prison. Now free and home, Simon wants to put the past to rest although he knows he will be haunted by his stay in France forever.

His friend, agent Viscount Delancy asks Simon to undergo one last mission; he agrees for Delancy's sake to find out what is going on between Delancy's brother and Lady Harwood. He knows the best person to assist him is the dance teacher employed by Lady Harwood, Jane Chatham. As he seductively tries to gets her to team up with him to uncover the truth. Jane does not trust him although she is attracted to her melancholy partner while he finds her vigor for life intoxicating. As they fall in love, Simon realizes something is not right in Lady Harwood's parlor, but the evidence points to the last person Simon believes would act dishonorably; his error in judgment may cost his beloved and him their lives.

HIS DARK AND DANGEROUS WAY is a superb historical romantic intrigue as the heroine distrusts any man but especially the suddenly interested Simon who she realizes is a very complex angst individual who knows first hand the horrors of war. The story line is character driven by the lead pair as they work together on his investigation. Fans will appreciate this fine ninetieth century romantic mystery as Edith Layton entertains her myriad of fans.

Wild Hunt
Lori Devoti
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617883, $5.95

Hellhound Venge Leidolf knows the right time to start the wild hunt is now. He or his brethren cannot stop its call. Geysa the Valkyrie knows her gift of allure makes her different from her warrior sisters. She and Venge have in common a need to avenge a wrong.

When Venge and Geysa meet, they, in spite of being natural enemies, are attracted to one another. They know their species' instinct is to kill the other, but they desire one another. Each puts aside the thirst to kill to team up in search of the horn that proclaims the ErlKing's wild hunt to prevent it from calling the death, mayhem and destruction that automatically comes when it sounds.

The latest WILD HUNT saga (see UNBOUND and GUARDIAN'S KEEP) is a superb romantic fantasy in which star-crossed lovers either must kill the other as it's in their DNA imprint or let love lead them elsewhere. Venge and Geysa know they have quests to fulfill and that desire, attraction and that cursed L word are not convenient at this time and between their respective heritages at any time. Fans will relish this entry while newcomers will quickly become devotees of this excellent fantasist.

The Daddy Plan
Karen Rose Smith
Silhouette Special Edition
9780373249084, $4.99

Corrie Edwards wants to have a baby although she has a slight problem to overcome; she has no spouse, boyfriend or significant other to speak of. She asks her boss, veterinarian Dr. Sam Barclay to be the child's sperm donor. He is shocked by her request, but reluctantly agrees.

As Sam and Corrie work out the logistics, each finds an attraction to the other that neither felt before her request. Still he is concerned she will change her mind as he recently ended a relationship when the woman had an abortion without informing him of her intent. As he falls in love, Sam has some doubts while Corrie begins to question her decision for having a child.

On the surface the second Dads in Progress (see THE DADDY DILEMMA) plot is a typical overused theme, but superb author Karen Rose Smith keeps her story line fresh by not overwhelming the tale with excess baggage. Instead she allows the best friends to struggle with their changing relationship as the unborn nukes their previous easy going pairing. Fans will enjoy the well written entertaining THE DADDY PLAN as Sam and Corrie wonder what they truly want from the other now that love has entered the equation.

Dark Deceiver
Pamela Palmer
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617890, $5.25

Half Esri, Kaderil the Dark begins a quest to steal the magical stones needed to fully open the portal between his plane and the earth. Besides the theft of the stones, he must also kill the few humans who are immune to the Esri enchantment. Once he obtains the stones, completes the massacre, and opens the door, his full blooded Esri allies will invade and bind humanity in slavery.

However, on the earth side of the portal, Kaderil meets Autumn McGinn. She stirs his human half, which has been dormant for much of his life. He finds himself falling in love with this kind soul even as he knows she is the key to the Esri victory. Will he betray his heart or the Esri; even the confused Kaderil is unsure.

The sequel to the DARK GATE, DARK DECEIVER is a superb romantic fantasy mostly due to the suddenly conflicting nature of Kade. His human side never developed until he meets Autumn who is like spring to him. Readers will enjoy this passionate spellbinding thriller as love brings Kaderil the dark into the light, but will he choose to remain there with his Autumn or will he instead open the portal for the Esri to slaughter his beloved's species.

Stephanie Doyle
Silhouette Athena Force
9780373389827, $5.50

She never met her parents and knows nothing about them. Her skin is poison to touch so she has no first hand knowledge of passion let alone hugs. Lilith has lived amidst nuns in isolated Arunachal Pradesh, India near the Chinese border where many revered Buddhist monks reside. She saves the life of a warrior who was dying from fever caused by a bullet to his leg.

The Sisters tell her she has a package from recently deceased pilot Jackie Webb. She learns Jackie was her biological mother ignominiously known as criminal Arachne and that she is and a half sister she never knew existed are genetic experiments. Apparently her sibling is coming for her. Former MI-6 operative Tarak Hammer-Smith, whose life she just saved, is nearby healing and vows to keep his angel safe from her family as Echo is coming. However, they are attracted to one another, but her touch is poison.

With an obvious spin from very civilized Jackie to very barbaric Echo, the Athena Force saga continues its strong romantic thrillers. The current entry is superb as Lilith and Tarak fall in love, but have a slight problem with touching as her power-curse will remind readers somewhat of Rogue of the X-Men. Fans will enjoy this excellent action-packed tale as love may not be enough to keep Lilith safe from her half-sister or Tarak from their desire.

With Every Breath
Lynn Kurland
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780515144703, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

In 2005, American Sunshine Phillips is exhilarated to be staying in sexy Scotland in the cool late March rain; she loves her stay and reconsiders returning to Seattle as that would mean leaving the Highlands she cherishes. As she lives in the witches' cottage on the MacLeod estate, she wonders how to extend her stay beyond the summer.

In 1375 concerned Robert Cameron rushes into the Macleod witches' cottage to demand one of the occupants help his dying brother Breac. He reaches across time grabbing Sunny to assist his sibling critically wounded due to Robert's open fight with the backstabbing Fergussons. As he and Sunny fall in love, treachery sends the pair fleeing through the time portal, but they alight separately with her grieving her loss and he not remembering his fourteenth century life or his love. When they meet again, Sunny despairs because her Cameron fails to know her.

This is an entertaining time travel romance starring two stubborn likable protagonists who if they fail to open up will lose a chance for a loving relationship between them. The story line is fast-paced with the paradoxes of time adding to the fun of the tale. Sunny is terrific as she struggles to persuade Robert that the impossible is possible when love makes it happen.

Lover Enshrined
JR Ward
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451222725, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

Brotherhood member Phury knows he has no choice but to be the Primale to the chosen females, but he detests his destiny as he has met his soul First Mate, Cormia the first of the chosen. At the same time he hides from women to search his passionate heart and anguished soul, his beloved Cormia hides from Phury whom she loves but feels unworthy of the Primale.

At the same time these mates hide form one another, the Omega grows stronger and plots the final phase in the destruction of the Black Dagger Brotherhood vampires. Twenty years have past since they first began this diabolically insidious ploy of placing one of them inside The Brotherhood; an individual who has shown loyalty and courage to the Brotherhood. Revelations are coming and rookies are coming of age as confrontations from within and from without seem inevitable.

Though it seems impossible this great series has what may be its strongest tale to date and one of the top five fantasies of the year. Several subplots ignite together in an incredible climax that not only makes LOVERS ENSHRINED complete, but sets the tone for the next entry. More a fantasy than a romantic fantasy with the love subplot being only one of a few storylines, JR Ward provides her audience. This is a one sitting stunner.

The Aztec Heresy
Paul Christopher
9780451224521, $7.99

In 1521 the Nuestra Senora was carrying treasure meant for the Spanish Royals, but it was lost at sea during a storm. Also gone is the Codex, the guide to where Cortez stole the gold and jewels from the Mayans he conquered. He did this because he knew that if he went back with all the booty he would be excommunicated and declared a heretic. In 1962 two hydrogen bombs were dropped from planes over the Yucatan.

In the present, in the general archives of the Indies in Seville Spain, treasure hunters Finn Ryan and Lord Billy Pilgrim are looking for clues to the lost treasure ship. Their efforts lead them to an Israeli spy who tells them to go to a Frenchman who owns a bookstore. He informs them of the chronicles of the Codex and where the ship is located. It is held by psychotic drug dealer Guzman who makes a deal with pharmaceuticals businessman James Noble and his son Harrison. Guzman has the two bombs dropped over forty years ago and hopes to deal with his Cuban allies who want them. There is going to be a showdown on the Yucatan as different groups want the bombs, the treasure ship and the Codex; all tied to the man who would be King of Mexico Guzman.

THE AZTEC HERESY is an action-packed thriller with a persistent heroine mindful of Lara Croft. The scenarios are set up so that the escapades could easily be seen as a Caribbean movie (starring a female Indiana Jones). However, readers do not get to know the characters very well because the emphasis is on the adventures that keep on coming one after another. Readers who appreciate a fast-paced 200 proof action adventure thriller will want to read Paul Christopher's engrossing epic.

Red-Hot and Royal
Susanna Carr
9780451223999, $14.00

Following the forced wedding of compatriot Prince Hugo to Princess Agnes, three other princes, Zain of Mataar, Santos of Isla de la Perla, and Rafael of Tiazza heed the warning of watching their steps in public. The threesome agrees that even though Agnes meets the bridal princess job description perfectly, they do not want to follow Hugo into an arranged boring marriage.

Zain is turning thirty shortly; his people believe deeply in the "Prince Curse" that the female who kisses him at midnight on his birthday is his bride; failure to comply means forfeiting his claim to the throne. To avoid ambitious females, Zain hides in an Illinois cornfield. Lauren is on a quest to achieve her life goals including kissing a prince; she does at the wrong time, but rejects Zain's offer of marriage though accepts his offer of bed time.

Santos is exiled to a class in Los Angeles hosted by an image consultant so that he can perform some of the duchy's diplomatic functions. Kaylee sees her project as converting a surfer-boy into a royal adult; Santos sees the project as converting his instructor from a born again workaholic into a frolicking beach bunny.

Rafael visits his brother Luca, who loves unacceptable Cathy the American commoner. He asks his friend Shayla to pretend to be a gold-digger chasing Luca so their family will accept Cathy as the lesser of two evils. However, Rafael turns jealous when Shayla performs in his mind too perfectly and Cathy dumps Rafael for concealing her from his family.

These four contemporary romances are amusing chick lit tales as the European royals are Americanized. Susanna Carr juggles are ensemble cast with dexterity so that none are the same and all are full blooded; albeit the guys in blue and the gals in red. Although there are a couple of key moments that are brushed aside but seem too significant to ignore, sub-genre fans will appreciate these middle class women who fit the anti-princess job description and their royal hunks falling in taboo love.

Jessica Anderson
9780451224378, $7.99

Almost a quarter of a century ago Nightkeeper King Scarred-Jaguar and his warrior priests fought a suicide mission to seal the barrier from the demon Banol Kax. Most of the brave people died, but they accomplished the objective. A few children and their Winikin servants survived the terror.

Twenty four years later the Striking Jaguar, son of the courageous late king, who died in the last war with Banal Kax, knows the time for the deadly solace is approaching. He begins to get his force prepared for the upcoming war.

Meanwhile Miami narcotics detective Leah Daniels is tied to a Mayan altar as the priests prepare her for sacrifice. Strike knows who she is, what she means to him and is determined to keep her safe from the upcoming war to re-seal the barrier. However, Leah ends up at his side, both ready to die to keep Banol Kax interred on the other side.

This terrific romantic fantasy builds the Andersonian world around the Mayan doomsday prophecy that on December 21, 2012 global cataclysm will occur. The story line is fast-paced action but centers on Striking Jaguar who must choose between love and the sacrifice. The fascination in this excellent thriller is that the warrior priests including the hero are unsure what to do to save the world; they fear being active might cause the beginning of the end and being passive likewise. Jessica Anderson provides a strong story that sub-genre fans will cherish.

Highland Knight
Cindy Mills
9780451224392, $6.99

Charleston, South Carolina writer Amelia Landry suffers for the first time in her successful career from writer's block. Desperate as her manuscript is due to her editor shortly, Amelia's personal assistant Zulia Tinkerly rents a remote Scottish house to help motivate her. Thinking inspiration by the historical tower like facility, Amelia loves the place.

However, Amelia is stunned to find Laird Ethan Munro and his brothers living in some form of in between realm. Every day at twilight, they enter the mortal realm in solid bodies for one hour. She introduces her hosts to all sorts of modern gizmos like TV, computers and iPods. However, Ethan becomes her inspiration for her next novel as she is falling in love with him. She hopes to uncover the truth about how he and his siblings were cursed, how to end it, and hopefully stay with her Ethan forever.

The extra fun in this wonderful paranormal romance is the reactions of the fourteenth century Highlanders to modern gizmos. Amelia and Ethan is a charming couple while the support cast enhances the well written story line. Readers will enjoy the antics between the twenty-first century Southern belle and the early fourteenth century HIGHLAND KNIGHT.

Wild & Hexy
Vicki Lewis Thompson
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451412584, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

Although they prefer not to go to the backwoods of Indiana, witch Dorcas Lowell and her wizard husband Ambrose know they have no choice as the wizard council sent them to Big Knob. Their assignment is to force George the dragon to finally accept his responsibility as a guardian of the woods. George prefers play to work even though his poker playing stinks as he consistently loses to cheating card shark raccoons.

They cannot leave until George moves on so to ease the boredom and to not cheat their target out of his money by playing poker with the moron, Dorcas and Ambrose open up a matchmaking firm. They decide who their clients will be and choose reticent Internet cafe owner Jeremy Dunstan and Chicago reporter Annie Winston as a perfect pairing even if she is here for a short time to attend her sister's wedding. Jeremy has always loved Annie while she has just gotten a divorce. They also agree to find DeeDee the lake monster a loving albeit water loving mate and teach those dishonest raccoons a lesson on integrity. With all that to pass time they must remain focused on George, their only priority.

This time the geek who knew his soulmate when he was fourteen was too shy then and now to act on his love; thus he needs hex help in this charming romantic fantasy as Vicky Lewis Thompson returns to OVER-HEXED nig Nob, the capital of eerie happenings. The lighthearted story line is fun to follow as Dorcas works her loving magic with amusing side consequences. Fans will enjoy her efforts as a WILD & HEXY matchmaker with Ambrose trying to keep her from going too far.

Mrs. Perfect
Jane Porter
5 Spot/Hachette Publishing Group
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446699242, $13.99, 1-800-759-0190

In Bellevue, Washington everyone envies thirty-six year old Taylor Young who seems to live the perfect life. Her husband adores her and they have three wonderful children as they share an affluent lifestyle. Taylor looks forward to being super Head Room Mom for her daughter Tori's fifth grade class.

However to her shock, MRS. PERFECT is bypassed as class supermom as her enemy and complete opposite hippie mom Marta Zinsser is selected. As the two women fight over everything, Taylor learns her affluence is gone and her trust devastated; her spouse has been unemployed for six months but hid it; he no longer can. As everyone seems to cut her off only her enemy combatant Marta still talks with her.

ODD MOM OUT was a deep character study of Marta that focused on personal and professional relationships; this time Marta plays a secondary role as Jane Porter places her spotlight on a supermom MRS. PERFECT in another deep character study. Taylor evolves from her image is the message lifestyle to the realization that true friends are there when things turn nasty. Fans will appreciate Ms. Porter's strong look at what happens to relationships when the walls come tumbling down.

Victory of Eagles
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345496881, $25.00, 1-800-726-0600

The war rages on between England and France, but Napoleon's forces have landed on English soil. At the same Will Laurence knows he did the right moral thing when he betrayed his country but also feels anguish for doing so (see EMPIRE OF IVORY) as he realizes Napoleon is bringing the atrocities of war to his people thanks in part to his seditious act. Already convicted of treason, he believes he deserves to die even if he still feels he acted ethically as slavery is an abomination.

Meanwhile his dragon Temeraire is bored and grieving as he assumes Will is dead and cannot stand the haggling hags who he shares the Pen Y Fan breeding pen with in Wales as a guest of the state. However, having enough with their jealousies and constant bickering, Temeraire quickly turns them into a dragon force led by him.

When the ship bringing prisoner Laurence to England for his execution goes down in the Channel, he survives. He is given a stay if he reunites with Temeraire to bring the Divine Wind against Bonaparte, who controls London.

The fifth tale in this alternate historical fantasy is a superb entry even as Will and Temeraire stay home unlike the world traveling of the previous novels (see THRONE OF JADE, HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON, and BLACK POWDER WAR). The story line is fast-paced from the onset while once gain insuring dragons at war seem genuine. However it is Laurence's conflicting anguish between knowing he did right vs. betraying his country and Temeraire's doubts as to how to help him move past his angst make this a strong military fantasy. Fans of the Naomi Novik saga will appreciate this excellent entry even if Temeraire's miraculous conversion of the cackling dragons into a precise aerial military unit in Guinness Book of Records time seems implausible as the heroes debate my country right or wrong.

Cosmos Incorporated
Maurice G. Dantec
Del Rey
9780345499936, $15.00

The war to end all wars seems an accurate description as sometime in the near future, the hostilities devastated the planet leaving one and half billion survivors to scurry for sustenance on a planet none recognize. Cities are dead and continents radically altered as rising oceans pushed the coastline inland. Multiple nations vanished and there is one world-wide ruling government through a humongous computer network that tracks the movement of everyone.

The Russian-American Mafia assigns Red Star Order assassin Sergei Diego Plotkin to travel from Russia to Grand Junction, but to do so he must cross security checkpoints where his memories would betray his mission to kill the town mayor Orville Blackburn. Thus much of his recall is erased as the mob needs to make an example of the mayor for breaking his pledge to them. He arrives in Grand Junction, site of one of the last operating cosmodromes where one can purchase a Golden Track (ticket) on a space ship to the Orbital Rim, Mars or Luna colonies. Plotkin and his AI Melatron plan the scheme including who will take the fall for the assassination. Then he meets dying Vivian McNellis; he revises his mission to get her to the rim though his employers will come after him.

This post apocalypse tale plays two themes. First there is the paid hitman who will remind readers of the Schwarzenegger character in the movie Total Recall; Vivian makes him a better person, but she also is much more and much less than she seems. Besides the lead characters with a support cast that showcases the pair and their environment, there is also an overarching somewhat in the background theme of a dying earth. Readers will relish this deep look at a grim future yet there remains a glimmer of hope that a Divine Plan is at work.

Time Spike
Eric Flint and Marilyn Kosmatka
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781416555384, $24.00, 1-800-223-2336

Supervisor Captain Mark Stephens was observing the guard mount shift changing at Illinois' maximum security prison when the ground rumbled. He and others assumed an earthquake occurred. However, looking outside, the geography has changed radically; The Mississippi river vanished and all evidence of human activity outside the prison like roads are gone. Instead they see strange looking flora and shockingly a dinosaur that uses the prison wall to scratch its skin.

Mark quickly concludes somehow they have been transported back in time to a pre-human era when dinosaurs ruled the planet. They are not alone as other people from various millennia have also gone back perhaps a million years. Some of those locked up are cold blooded killers and some from the other groups like conquistadores quickly prove human life is expendable. Mark and his staff know they have their backs against the wall as they deal with human killers and dinosaurs, but enforcing the law of thou shall not kill is critical for their survival.

The Assiti who relocated Grantville, West Virginia into seventeenth century Europe have stirred earth chronology again this time moving several periods into the dinosaur era although the displaced Illinois crowd is the prime focus. The story line will remind the audience of the first Ring of Fire tale as the story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but has not quite become overly complex with time paradoxes as later tales begin to have. Fans will appreciate this strong opening act of a new Assiti time experiment as humans continue to be their guinea pigs, but for Mark and his staff survival of the fittest means containing the violent prisoners and some as vicious other era travelers.

Blind Rage
Terri Persons
Doubleday & Company
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385518758, $24.95, 1-800-726-0600

As a white Halloween hits Minnesota, the lone FBI Agent in St. Paul, Bernadette Saint Clare ponders the deaths of six female college students in the past few months. There were four watery deaths either in the Mississippi or in bath tubs at the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus while two perished in water at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. Though there is no evidence linking the six deaths or of foul play, she wonders if these so called troubled coeds were murdered by a clever serial killer.

Deciding to follow up on her intuition especially in light of the bathtub drownings, Bernadette visits the University of Minnesota to question the students, faculty and staff to learn whet they know about victims Kyra Klein and Shelby Hammond. She with the help of her superior find two connections between the six dead; a strong one involving uncooperative psychiatrist Dr. Luke Von-Hader who fears family law suits and less likely that of an uncooperative professor who had several in his classes, but no evidence either or both is a killer. Playing her hunch that at least one is, Bernadette turns to her "mentor", dead FBI Agent Creed for help.

The second FBI Agent Saint Clare thriller (see BLIND SPOT) is an engaging serial killer investigative tale starring an interesting lead character. The inquiry is fun to follow as the star struggles with simply connecting the dots beyond age, gender, and water to make a case that a serial killer is loose. Entertaining as the storyline is, the paranormal subplot comes from out of jarringly nowhere with no explanation why or how she has a "wireless" ghostly contact to assist her. Still fans of FBI serial killer investigations will enjoy Terri Persons' solid police procedural.

Mercy Street
Mariah Stewart
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345492265, $22.00, 1-800-726-0600

In Conroy, Pennsylvania, two male high school seniors are executed with a bullet to the back of each of their heads; two other students who were with them, Courtney Bauer and Ryan Corcoran vanished. The local police led by Chief Drabyack assume Ryan robbed and killed the other two before fleeing with Courtney.

Ryan's grandmother Mary believes the teen she raised is innocent and either is in trouble or dead; so does Courtney's mom Linda. Mary plans to mortgage her house to pay for a sleuth to investigate. Her boss Father Kevin Burch asks his friend gadzillionaire Robert Magellan to fund a private investigator. Robert remains desperate to find his missing wife Beth and their son Ian; however, he distrusts all private investigators as those he hired provided nothing but padded bills over the past year. Reluctantly he agrees to pay the fees of true crime writer Mallory Russo, a former Conroy cop. Ex-Philadelphia police detective Charlie Wanamaker, who just came home to Conroy to help his family, assists in spite of being part of the local force after seeing Grand Canyon holes in the official inquiry.

This engaging romantic private investigative thriller is an enjoyable read made fun by a sold mystery and the attraction between Mallory and Charlie. The story line is fast-paced as the bets keep on coming as to the teens' innocence, padded bills, and a romantic relationship between the unoffical partners. Readers will enjoy the MERCY STREET sleuthing.

The Brass Bed
Jennifer Stevenson
9780345486684, $6.99

Chicago is being overwhelmed by magic seemingly being blown everywhere. The mayor orders his subordinates to conceal what is going on insisting he fears a panic. Chicago Department of Consumer Services investigator Jewel Heiss is unhappy with her boss; with all the goings-one he assigns her to perform surveillance of his wife, who happens to be her best friend.

Her surveillance introduces Jewel to Clay Dawes, who claims his magical brass bed will cure all female sexual problems by simply taking a nap in it. Jewel is upset with the scoundrel who charges an exorbitant fee, but takes him up on his challenge of testing the bed free of charge as long as he is in it with her. However, his brass bed also contains an incubus cursed in the nineteenth century for being a crappy lover while a genie is turning the city into a magical mystery mayhem tour.

The speed is hectic from the onset, but fans of urban investigative romantic fantasies will hop onto THE BRASS BED for the wild ride. Though at times wordy, the lighthearted story line has a lot going on so it bewilders the audience as it does the investigative heroine; who must decide between sexual curse and sexual fraud; either way she wants to test first her hand (and a few other body parts).

Martina Cole
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446179966, $24.99, 1-800-759-0190

In 1960s swinging mod London bodacious Patrick Brodie takes control of the East End in-clubs where he peddles high class hookers and sells illegal alcohol. He quickly becomes a man to respect or else regret. Patrick marries factory worker, Lily Diamond. They have several children together over four decades, but it is she who runs the home through tough love while he runs his criminal empire through violence. Their motto is only trust family warily.

The Sopranos and Godfather connections are obvious though Anglicized. This is a deep look into an English crime family over a span of decades and the area of their control. The story line engages the audience from the moment that Patrick establishes his BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) to take over the East End scene and never slows down over the next forty years as he and his family fight to maintain their lofty position. Filled with violence that add realism, fans of the Sopranos will appreciate the equivalent across the big pond.

Vicious Circle
Mike Carey
Grand Central Publishing
9780446580311, $24.99

Following his efforts applauded by the Bonnington Archive ghost who encouraged him, Felix "Fix" Castor reopens his exorcist shingle though he remains impoverished and is concerned for his friend the possessed Rafi. His only income is some consulting sleuthing for the cops, but they are reluctant to give him anything that might lead to more jobs as the constabulary does not want to advertise they employ an exorcist as a part-time contractor.

Fix thinks he has found a fix for his fiscal deficit. He seeks a kidnapped ghost of a little girl, but Asmodeus the evil fire and brimstone malevolent, other nasty demons, Satanists and Ms. Julia the succubus stand in the way of his success. As he battles in and out of churches all sorts of otherworldly species want to recruit him onto their side, he struggles with the underlying concept of why a young female spirit is critical to the universe. Still he works the case while dreaming of a high paying low risk job instead of everything seemingly under the sun trying to kill him.

Readers will enjoy their latest Fix (see THE DEVIL YOU KNOW) as Mike Carey provides an enjoyable urban Noir fantasy in which London once again steals the show with all the supernatural residents that greet Castor. The story line is similar in some aspects to the Dresden Files, but is more humorous as Mr. Carey somewhat lampoons the "rules" of the sub-genre. Readers will appreciate Fix's London as he seeks paranormal work to pay off a deficit that he insists would be acceptable in America.

The Things We Do For Love
Xavier Knight
Grand Central Publishing
9780446582384, $14.95

Jesse Law grew up lonely as the youngest sibling in the first family of music. He became the most famous member of the Law brood with many hits by the time he turned twenty-year-old.

A decade later, his rise to the top is in his past. Yet he feels the happiest he ever has been due to his beloved wife Minister Dionne Favor and performing as lead singer of a gospel group. The both want a child, but she has not been able to conceive so they decide to adopt, but by doing so a skeleton hidden in his closet threatens their relationship as do secrets the media reveals about his friend and teammate Coleman Hill, the perfect husband and father. The media threatens to destroy everyone he cherishes.

This is a profound Christian drama in which devoted pious people face personal and family crisis. The key characters are fully developed so that fans will wonder whether Dionne can live up to the first half of the mantra to forgive is human; because she is human , to forget is divine seems out of reach once she knows Jesse's secret, but also realizes the child should not be the victim. A secondary subplot involving homosexuality and Christianity needs to be required reading for those who demonize sexual preference. Throughout the well written character driven story line is the underlying message that people make mistakes, but God is forgiving so why can't we forgive ourselves, our loved ones, and even strangers.

Volk's Shadow
Brent Ghelfi
c/o Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9780805082555, $25.00, 1-888-330-8477

In Moscow, terrorists apparently bombed the headquarters of AMERCO, an American oil company. The attackers take over the oil company's bombed out offices holding hostages. His superiors order Russian army Colonel "Volk" Volkovoy to breach the offices and do what it takes to bring down the Chechen terrorists.

However, nothing goes according to Volk's plan as they seem to be waiting calmly for his arrival. Volk knows betrayal is the norm in Putin's Russia, but wonders if he is to be sacrificed for someone's promotion. He follows clues of criminal activity as he begins to doubt the Chechens had anything to do with the Moscow bombing. From the brothels of Moscow to Chechnya he runs into betrayal after betrayal as he finds his investigation constantly expanding to include the surfacing of a valuable Faberge egg; the kidnapping of a preadolescent girl and a video of Russian massacre of Chechens. Yet as he misses his beloved Valya, he wonders if the murky Russian atmosphere will ever be clean as money seems to buy anything including crimes and culpability cover-ups.

There is so much going on that fans will wonder where suspicious, dedicated, yet ethical Volk gets the mental energy to keep up the incredible pace especially since he is a major cynic re Putin's Russia. The story line is fast-paced and filled with twists and betrayals, a way of life at least in Volk's Russia. Timely as the world watches the transition of power, Brent Ghelfi provides a deep dark thriller in which the real star is an alarming gloomy Russia fueled by oil economics and superpower return ambitions.

Castle Lake
Thomas A. Ryerson
Grey Swan Press
9780980037708, $16.95

On Oct 13, 1821 near Castle Lake, James Murdoch goes duck hunting when a thick fog reduces visibility to near zero. His first shot hits a duck, but his second bullet goes wild and he thinks he may have hit a person. William Fick's daughter Lorrie Anne and her beau enjoy a pre-birthday celebration on the lake when a bullet goes through her knocking her unconscious.

Sixteen days later she dies on her sixteenth birthday; her mother is in raging pain and strips before walking into the lake and drowning. Determined to get even, William visits the local witch doctor to sell his soul to the devil. The first female Murdoch to reach her sixteenth birthday will die. Sixty one years later Alicia Murdoch is about to turn sweet sixteen when William's spirit returns from the grave to possess a human host for Alice must die.

CASTLE LAKE is a good old fashion ghost story that will remind readers of Stephen King's early works. Thomas A. Ryerson writes a stirring story of revenge at any cost even one's soul with the only acceptable reparation being the life of an innocent female to pay for the life of his innocent females. The characters are developed enough to matter while the gothic atmosphere enhances the effect of a creepy feeling that bad things are going to happen to a good person.

The Last Embrace
Denise Hamilton
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416584933, $25.00, 1-800-223-2336

In 1949 Hollywood, former OSS agent Lily Kessler searches for actress Kitty Hayden, the sister of her late fiance, US Army Major Joseph Croggan. As she travels by train to California Lily thinks of Joseph, whom she met and fell in love in London during the war as they battled spies together until he died eight months ago in a Budapest car accident. Lily is worried about Kitty who vanished while seeking either rich sugar daddies or men with influence who give her parts.

After taking a room in Kitty's dumpy boarding house, Lily learns Kitty has been murdered; conjuring up the notorious Black Dahlia homicide. Unable to resist as she feels she owes her late fiance for failing his sister, Kitty investigate the homicide. The case and police corruption lead her to Police Detective Stephen Pico, who pleads with her to let it go. In spite of her attraction to the cop, Lily continues her inquiries though her efforts could lead to her to joining Kitty.

This engaging Hollywood historical mystery is fun to follow due to the antics of the fully developed heroine and the cop who adores her and tries to prevent her from getting killed. The support cast is a bit flat, but the audience will not care as Lily is the star of this look at the film industry between WWII and Korea inside of a well written whodunit.

Vineyard Chill
Philip R. Craig
9781416535584, $24.00

Retired Boston cop J.W. Jackson and his family are shocked when his friend Clay Stockton arrives unannounced for a visit in the dead of winter on Martha's Vineyard as mainlanders never come out in January or February. Apparently a local boat builder has hired Clay. J.W. likes the swashbuckling Clay, but also knows where the man goes trouble follows.

Sure enough not long afterward, two armed men come looking for Clay. J.W. sends the strangers to the local cops while warning Clay to stay alert. At the same time a bird's nest containing strands of human red hair has been found; hair that matches missing Nadine Gibson, who disappeared last year; the prime suspect is Bonzo who took her bird-watching just before she vanished.

This excellent Vineyard thriller is a terrific tale that pays homage to its late great author. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Clay lives up to his reputation and Bonzo becomes a person of interest; both friends force J.W. to act out of a deep sense of loyalty. Fans will feel the icy chill in the air as murder comes to the Cape.

Executive Privilege
Phillip Margolin
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061236211, $25.95, 1-800-242-7737

Oregon attorney Brad Miller works pro bono as he files an appeal for convicted serial killer Clarence Little, who sits on death row. Interestingly Clarence does not deny the murders except one; he insists he never killed Laurie Erickson, the babysitter to the children of former Oregon Governor Christopher Farrington, who now resides in the White House. An associate lawyer, Miller assumes his client is lying for some unknown reason, but soon uncovers proof that someone else killed Laurie to bury with her Farrington's affair as he made his run for the presidency.

In the DC area, attorney Dale Perry through intermediary former local cop Andy Zipay hires private investigator Dana Cutler to conduct surveillance of college student Charlotte Walsh. Although the sleuth knows Zipay left the force under a cloud and Perry is a pig, the money is too good to ignore. He trails her to a rendezvous with Farrington. The next day she is found dead, a victim of the DC ripper. On two coasts, two small time guys have strong circumstantial evidence that someone in the White House is invoking a special brand of EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE to protect POTUS from scandal. However, trying to obtain sold evidence and staying alive seems impossible.

This is an exhilarating serial killer political thriller as a White House operative or two take the Exterminator's dirty tricks handbook in which the short term end always justified the means to the extreme; in this case killing anyone who might cause problems for the president. Although the premise seems as if the media would go on a feeding frenzy and expose the serial killings connection, which would ruin the plot; but then again no one except the bloggers blinked when the NYT reported the Pentagon used the military experts to propagandize the war. Anyway, fans will enjoy two regular people trying to stay alive while also seeking proof that a powerful killer uses the White House to cleanse any potential scandal.

The Maytrees
Annie Dillard
9780061239540, $13.95

Just after WW II ends in Provincetown on Cape Cod, wannabe thirtyish poet Toby Maytree and college student Lou Bigelow meet. Though an author, Toby struggles to get his tongue straight as he is unable to put together two coherent thoughts let alone sentences. Still she senses something deep inside his soul; they relish the dunes, fall in love and marry. A few years later they add a son Pete to their perfect family.

However, their idyllic life together ends when a cheating Toby leaves his wife and son to go be with his lover in Maine. Two decades later, a tragedy brings Toby and Lou together for the first time since he left his family behind. They poorly coped with his desertion. Feelings between the pair remains strong, but love proved weak the first time around.

The key to this fine family redemption drama is Annie Dillard avoids values pointing in order to make a "guilty" verdict re her flawed characters; instead she leaves that to readers to decide who failed at relationships and why. No action, this is a purely character driven tale of paradise lost and paradise regained maybe; as a wiser Toby, Lou and Pete finally understand life is a journey to death.

Dead Silver
Neil McMahon
0061340766, $24.95

After two decades away, Renee Callister comes home to Helena, Montana to bury her disgraced father John. She is just about the only person who believes her dad did not kill his second wife Astir or her lover as assumed by just about everyone else.

While going through the estate, Renee finds photographs of Astrid posing nude, which she believes are clues to the cold case homicides. She contacts her friend former journalist Hugh Davoren asking for his help. Although he insists he is a carpenter in partnership with his friend Blackfoot Indian Madbird, he reluctantly agrees especially when he sees how beautiful Renee is; he hides from her his motive and his belief that her dad did the double homicides in a fit of rage.

DEAD SILVER is a superb investigative thriller starring strong characters including Big Sky Country. Hugh's inquiries are fun to follow as they are cleverly designed with red herrings, dead ends, and danger, but his motive makes him human. Madbird has his woes too in a supporting role. Neil McMahon provides an engaging low key cold case investigation that will send readers seeking the previous collaboration between Davoren-Madbird (see LONE CREEK).

Stone Creek
Victoria Lustbader
9780061369216, $13.95

Although she still believes that Paul is the one for her, Lily starts to doubt whether she still loves her husband. Lately she has found nothing brings her joy especially her lack of connection on any level with workaholic Paul.

Needing time to find her equilibrium and decide what to do about her marriage, Lily leaves Paul and Manhattan to spend the summer at Stone Creek in Upstate New York while her spouse takes no time off from work. There she meets widower Danny and his sad five year old son Caleb. Although a decade older than Danny, they are attracted to one another, but it is Caleb who enters Lily's heart. Meanwhile Paul has an epiphany that Lily is unhappy, but he is assigned a critical case so he must choose.

In many ways the support cast Paul as a workaholic and Caleb as a grieving little boy steal the show from the lead pair Lily and Danny. However, overall they enhance an insightful character study that looks deep into child grief, spousal estrangement, and maternal biological clocks. Ultimately simple yet convoluted relationships as Lily's need for contentment changes four lives. Although some of the issues are repetitively overdone, fans of contemporary tales will appreciate Lily's search for happiness in STONE CREEK.

Love's Magic
Traci E. Hall
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781933836270, $7.95,

In 1192, Celestia Montehue wonders if she is adopted; her sisters are red hair amazons while she is a small blond. She also has two color eyes; one blue and the other green. There is no trace physically that she descends from the notorious Queen Boadicea, but Celestia shares in common the ability heal.

Sir Nicholas Le Blanc is a knight pledged to Baron Peregrine. While on a crusade, he and his men are assigned to protect an ancient artifact. However, they are attacked leaving all dead except Nicholas; his enemies take him prisoner and torture him. He escapes but feels guilt because he killed a woman to get away.

Celesta who vowed to never marry and Nicholas who is too mentally disturbed to marry are forced to wed in an arranged ceremony. They travel to his dilapidated keep where his mom committed suicide and still haunts the place. As she falls in love with her agonized spouse, someone murders a maid. Celestia vows to heal her husband, help his mom move on and uncover the identity of the killer if she lives long enough.

This engaging medieval paranormal amateur sleuth romance is an enjoyable tale as two broken winged lead characters find healing through LOVE'S MAGIC. Nicholas is an interesting hero, but except for his mom's haunting very typical of twelfth century lea males. Celestia brings the magic to the fine plot as a unique individual; the oldest sister who's towered over by her younger protective siblings, she feels so different from them. Her courage makes for a wonderful story as she tries to help her mother-in-law the ghost, solve a murder, and heal her spouse all in one novel.

The Front Porch Prophet
Raymond L. Atkins
Medallion Press
9781933836386, $25.95

Sixty miles southwest of Chattanooga live one thousand souls in Sequoyah, Georgia. Two of them, A. J. Longstreet and Eugene Purdue have been best friends since childhood. However, the buddies fight over Eugene's Peter Pan lifestyle that irritates A.J. who insists he act like an adult. They go their separate ways.

Years later, A.J. is dying from terminal pancreatic cancer. He welcomes his childhood friend Eugene who has come to see him back into his life. They renew their friendship, but A.J. demands two things from his pal. First he needs Eugene's help to visit his family, past and present, to learn what made him what he is. Second when the time comes, he wants no machine keeping him alive; instead he pleads with Eugene to end it for him Peter Pan is no longer in Neverland as mortality and euthanasia requires a grownup.

THE FRONT PORCH PROPHET is a deep poignant look at friendship in a small Georgia town. Humor is used to somewhat abate the tension of pending death with light touches like the local fire department's inability to put out a fire or even names of the eccentric support cast. Fans will appreciate this insightful glimpse at life in the south where sipping Georgia ice tea on a cabin's porch might be dangerous as anything can fall from the sky; just ask the cops.

Cry of Sorrow
Holly Taylor
Medallion Press
9781933836263, $15.95

The Coranians have defeated their enemies the Kymru in battle. However, their leader Havgan does not celebrate the victory as his troops do; he feels there remains one last task to complete before he can claim victory. He must find the four treasures (the Stone, the Spear, the Cauldron and the Sword) that will gain him entrance to the Hall of the High Kings, Cadair Idris; then he can claim victory as the High King of Kymru.

However, Haygan knows his quest is impossible as the Treasures were concealed ages ago. He orders Gwydion the Dreamer to insure he achieves his goal soonest. Reluctantly, Gwydion seeks a lost song which contains clues to the relics in the lyrics at the same time he has doubts about the worthiness of his liege to be the High king. He recruits Rhiannon the witch, her daughter Gwenhwyvar, and his nephew Arthur to accompany him on the dangerous quest while Havgan's soldiers follow them as Haygan trusts no one especially someone allied with a hated witch. In spite of blood relations and friendships when attractions erupt, the wary foursome doubts the loyalty of one other, but for the quartet to succeed, they must depend on one another.

The latest High Kings romantic fantasy (see CRIMSON FIRE and NIGHT BIRDS REIGN) is a strong tale in which the quest and the "counter"-quest make for an engaging twisting thriller. The story line is action-packed as like any quest fantasy there is a lot of strange evil creatures out there. However, it is the quartet distrusting one another even as they pair off in love; feelings no one wants especially at this dangerous time. Holly Taylor is at her best with her strong High King saga.

Run Among Thorns
Anna Louise Lucia
Medallion Press
9781933836331, $7.95

Jenny Waring is just a regular person until she killed three armed men, the MacGregor brothers and Watson in close combat caught on a CCTV camera. No one knows where the fortitude came from as these were scary looking guys with weapons and she is here on a Visa work placement exchange so the locals do not know her. The Feds need to know just who Jenny is and how she reacted like an experienced professional. They assign Agent Kier McAllister to interrogate and break through the cover of Jenny Waring to find out what her assignment is.

Kier is all over the seemingly frightened woman as he harshly interrogates her expecting her to break. Instead his threats of torture and his myriad questions appear to not faze the woman who just stares at him with open eyes. Soon Kier feels she broke him as the accusations she does not voice but are her eyes rip at his stomach. He begins to think of how to get his mark to safety because the guy who replaces him will not care one iota whether he leaves Jenny with damaged organs and broken bones.

This is an exciting romantic suspense with the emphasis on just who is Jenny Waring. Readers, the agency and Kier are hooked with "breaking" Jenny (though our motives differ). It is fascinating to watch the cold hardened Kier break instead as he begins to admire and desire his target. When he falls in love, he knows she broke him. Readers will relish this character driven espionage romantic thriller.

Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584835, $24.95, 1-800-421-3976

Archaeologist Faye Longchamp and her housemate Joe Wolf Mantooth are restoring a plantation house while excavating a site to include the Turkey Foot Hotel on Joyeuse Island, Florida, where her family once lived. Faye uses the basement laboratory of Douglass Everett to catalogue and store her findings. So far the top item is a stunning emerald.

However, Douglass's wife finds her spouse dying as Faye's FINDINGS lie nearby shattered and her notes gone. Faye is stunned to hear this but not as much as the shocker that her beloved mentor died. Grieving, but a professional just like Douglass would expected of her, Faye investigates the history of the emerald and more important to her who murdered Douglass. When a second murder occurs and an attempt on Faye's life fails, Joe Wolf vows to keep her safe while her Atlanta based legal friend Ross Donnelly asks her to relocate as his wife.

Faye Longchamp's fourth (see RELICS, EFFIGIES, and ARTIFACTS.) archeological mystery is a terrific combining of Florida history with a whodunit and a bit of romance. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Faye begins the arduous digging that she relishes. As always she makes the tale; in this case she must put aside her grief to honor her mentor as he would expect her to finish the excavation. Readers will appreciate her efforts as an amateur sleuth, a potential victim, and a professional archeologist who relishes the past but mourns her loss while taking care of business.

Queen of Flowers
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590581711, $24.95

In 1928 the townsfolk of St. Kilda are euphoric as they prepare for the annual Queen of the Flowers gala. Socialite Phryne Fisher is especially looking forward to the festival receiving the honor of being name the Queen of the event. This means spending time buying fancy dresses and dining in top restaurants, a hardship that Phryne will suffer with relish though the elephant may be a bit too much even for a woman who tries anything.

However, Phryne's adopted daughter, Ruth vanishes in search of her biological father after learning from her birthmother TB victim Anna Ross at the sanatorium who he is. Phryne has been hired by family friends in Melbourne to search for missing Rose Weston while she also plans to trace her adopted daughter. Her investigation proves stunning and shocking as she uncovers some horrific happenings.

As always with this excellent Australian historical mystery series, the characters especially the nonparallel Phryne make for a strong period piece. The investigations are fun to follow as the heroine begins to find horrific occurrences that shake even her. However, it is the heroine and her support cast who bring late 1920s Australia to life that makes QUEEN OF FLOWERS and the rest of the Fischer saga some of the best recurring lighthearted investigative tales.

Jeff Abbott
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525950288, $24.95,, 1-800-847-5515

In Hawaii on his honeymoon with his beloved Emily, consultant Ben Forsberg goes to take a shower anticipating more sex before they catch the plane back to the mainland. When he finishes his shower, he finds Emily lying dead in a pool of blood. Two years later; Ben still grieves his loss and has not been on a date with another woman since the tragedy that has become a cold case to everyone but him.

In Austin, sniper Nicky Lynch and cleaner Jackie are to take out the big man and the computer geek Adam Reynolds. Nicky fires at both and watches them fall; he assumes they are dead. Instead not long afterward the big man kills the sniper. Former CIA agent "Pilgrim" wonders why he was set up to die by he assumes his handler or his superior as the objective to frame Forsberg for a murder seems to have included eliminating the consultant's only witness to his innocence. Instead Pilgrim decides to team up with a beleaguered Forsberg to uncover the truth and take down who wants them dead. Forsberg does not trust the operative, but has no choice as someone has set him up to take a homicide fall and that someone wants him dead so he has no trial. What the corporate suit also does not know is his historical connection to Pilgrim; what he believes is the agent plans to terminate the partnership once he cleans out those who want him dead.

The keys to this powerful thriller are Ben and Pilgrim seem real in a deadly cat and mouse game against unknown foes though Pilgrim has a good idea who the opposition are. The story line is fast-paced from the opening sequence two years ago in Hawaii and never decelerates until the final twist of several occurs; ironically even when the reader expects a certain spin because Jeff Abbott is known for that, we marvel at the deftly twist the plot takes. This is an entertaining action thriller that fans will enjoy.

More Than It Hurts You
Darin Strauss
0525950702, $24.95

In Long Island Josh Goldin loves his wife Dori and their eight month old son Zack. However, the TV salesman is very worried about Zack who twice has been rushed to the emergency room with strange life-threatening symptoms. African-American ICU pediatric chief Dr. Darlene Stokes reports the Goldin case to the Child Protective Services; her theory is that Zack's mom suffers from Munchausen syndrome, which causes her to inflict harm to her child in an attempt to draw attention to herself and her family.

CPS decides to take Zack away from his white Jewish parents who challenge the government agency in court. The public is divided between parental rights and children protection as the case is not quite as black and white as the two sides pretend it to be.

Extremely timely with the Texas Child Protective Services-Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints incident and the media sell out to the Pentagon, Darin Strauss slices and dices the new American economy in which everything is for sale especially health (you may not be able to buy health unless your Cheney, but many Americans cannot afford anything but illness and death). Whether it is a hospital bed, a news report or a politician, the price is right. At times the powerful satirical elements overwhelm the basic social issue of parental rights vs. professional opinion re the welfare of a child as everyone is stereotyped to lampoon some aspect of society. Darin Strauss carves up Bush's American dream asserting that for many it is more a nightmare.

Sweet Love
Sarah Strohmeyer
0525950648, $24.95

In Watertown, Massachusetts, cancer survivor Betty Mueller regrets what she did two decades ago that cost her beloved daughter the love of her life. She serendipitously destroyed Julie's relationship with older Michael Slayton because she felt her daughter was too young and he too wild. Now twenty years later, she realizes Michael was Julie's one.

She wants to make amends before she dies as she would love one last a glimpse of the happier carefree teen that her machinations changed into a workaholic divorced single mom. However, Betty knows Julie, a Boston TV reporter, refuses to speak to Michael so her goal seems impossible, but this time mother knows best (at least she prays she does). Betty cons Julie into attending famous French chef Renee D'Ours dessert class at the Famous Boston Cooking School; recently divorced Michael is attending too.

On the surface this may seem like a typical second chance at love, but Sarah Strohmeyer refreshes the theme with plenty of humor, just desserts, and Shakespeare especially the sonnets. Betty is terrific as she understands the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Michael and Julie are classic star-crossed lovers, but there is no real Shakespearean villain, only a caring dying mom.

From a Distance
Tamara Alexander
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764203893, $13.99, 1-800-328-6109

In 1875 photographer Elizabeth Westbrook arrives in Timber Ridge, Colorado Territory to take pictures of the legendary beauties, Maroon Bells. She also plans to photograph the nearby recently discovered cliff dwellings. Elizabeth has another reason to come to the Rockies; she prays that the clean mountain air and the hot springs will help cure her from a mysterious illness.

Daniel Ranslett is also in town still trying to move past the Civil War and the guilt he feels as a Confederacy sniper although a decade has passed and he rationalizes he was doing his job However, Elizabeth's life is threatened when a picture she took becomes key evidence in a murder case. Daniel vows to keep her safe even as they argue constantly; he also knows what is ailing her and how to fix her health issue while they fall in love.

Readers will believe that Tamara Alexander employs a time machine as the audience will feel they have been transported to 1875 Colorado Territory. Provide yourself plenty of time for a one sitter as interruptions will feel annoying. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing as both have issues to deal with to include falling in love and keeping her safe though their interests differ.

Washington's Lady
Nancy Moser
Bethany House Publishers
9780764205002, $13.99

When her beloved Daniel died as well as two of their children, wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis vowed death would never mock her again. However, being affluent and young, many want to court her; none interest her. That is until she meets the French and Indian War Colonel George Washington, a shy warrior. She knows she has met her soulmate.

They marry and live in his Mount Vernon home. However, their life together is interrupted by war as George now a general leads the rebel forces against the mightiest army in the world; a side he once belong to. There are several years of separation and worry as Martha tries to hold the family together while George is at war. When they reunite, their love is stronger and helps them several years later when she becomes the first First Lady; but death will return to mock her once again.

As she has done with Jane Austen (see JUST JANE) and Nannerl Mozart (see MOZART'S SISTER), Nancy Moser provides a strong look at the first First Lady, who Washington insisted was "my other self". Readers will see how deaths of loved ones shaped her adult life and helped her as the "mother of our country". Biographical fiction fans and historical novel readers will appreciate this superb glimpse of WASHINGTON'S LADY, Martha.

Deep in the Heart of Trouble
Deanne Gist
Bethany House Publishers
9780764202261, $13.99

In 1898 in Corsicana, Texas thirty-four years old Essie Spreckelmeyer is contented with living life her way as a single woman who runs Sullivan Oil and spends as much time as she can in the Corsicana Velocipede Club. The male townsfolk has adapted to the spinster running the key business that employs most of them.

Tony Bryant arrives in town looking for work at Sullivan Oil not knowing Sully has given his daughter control. She gives him a job, but they do not see eye to eye. However, as they fall in love, Tony fears he will leave heartbroken once his beloved Miss Essie learns who he is. She will not tolerate him as the son of her business rival; his full name is Tony Bryant Morgan. He may be estranged from his father and Morgan Oil is run by Tony's half brother, Darius, but his Miss Essie will not forgive his omission. Essie has a secret too that could leave her heartbroken if her beloved Tony fails to accept her past.

This engaging late nineteenth century Texas romance uses oil as the matchmaker and match-breaker as the lead couple each has the liquid gold flowing in their veins. Tony and Essie are a wonderful pairing as they fight, fuss, and fall in love. Readers will enjoy Deanne Gist's second trouble in Texas tale (see COURTING TEXAS) as the heart of the matter is not oil but love.

Final Theory
Mark Albert
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416572879, $24.00, 1-800-223-2336

Rumors fly that Albert Einstein formulated the unified field theory, but feared its release would lead to even more lethal weapons than the atom bomb; if true he took it to his grave. However some people think otherwise and he did discover the unified field theory and that a few still living know it.

Thus diverse players from the Feds to other countries to unscrupulous scientists and even a ruthless Russian mercenary seek the remaining direct link survivor. An intruder batters elderly theoretical physicist Hans Kleinman trying to make Einstein's assistant talk. Instead the torture sends Hans to the hospital near death. When Columbia University Professor David Swift visits his mentor, Hans babbles some enigmatic commentary in his native tongue about "Einheitliche Feldtheorie" with a numerical sequencing of equations that seem to combine the vastness of space with the nano of atoms just before he dies. However David becomes the new target fleeing for his life as he trusts no one not even the FBI except his former girlfriend Princeton physicist Monique Reynolds.

This is an action-packed thriller that takes off from the opening sequence and never slows down as David becomes the target of nasty folks who want to control the next weapon of pandemic destruction. The story line is fast-paced yet provides enough scientific theory to support Einstein's efforts to develop the Unified Field Theory equations. Fans will relish FINAL THEORY as this one never takes a breather while using as the plot's prime concept the reversal of the universally accepted belief Einstein never achieved the equations to prove his theory.

Say Goodbye
Lisa Gardner
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553804331, $25.00, 1-800-726-0600

FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy became somewhat famous for her capture of the infamous Eco-Killer (see The Killing Hour). Thus Atlanta hooker Delilah Rose turns to her with a story that seems more like fiction. Delilah insists that a John calling himself Dinchara is abducting prostitutes. She fears Dinchara, who's allegedly obsessed with spiders as evident by the reverse spelling of his moniker, has kidnapped her best friend Ginny Jones.

Although pregnant and preferring to ignore the prostitute anyway as there is no evidence that a crime was committed , Kimberly cannot; guilt reminds her that her mom and sister were victims of a serial killer. Her inquiries lead to no corpses, more prostitutes missing, and the apparent connection between Delilah and Dinchara that the hooker never mentioned during her interviews; Kimberly even begins to wonder if there is such a killer as no solid proof has surfaced.

SAY GOODBYE is an entertaining FBI thriller in which the switching veiwpoints make for a terrific tale that showcases the dark Atlanta underground (not the site). Kimberly wonders if a crime has been committed as nothing surfaces to affirm that although ironically the audience knows early on whether one occurred. Readers will appreciate this fine tale in which the heroine ponders whether she might be the fly to Dinchara the spider as nothing seems to come together on the "Spideyman" case.

Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
Bantam Books
9780553806960, $22.00

Volstov has won the hundred years' war with its neighbor the Ke-Han, thanks to its superior Dragon Corps that enabled their side to control the air. However, with these hot shot pilots who soar on the wings of magically fueled mechanical dragons are a bravado bunch that without an enemy causes havoc within the city.

Whereas scandal diverts Volstov from finishing the triumph, the Ke-Han develops a brilliant counter assault with the slight respite the suddenly divided foe has given them. From victory Volstov's elite corps has snatched defeat. The only hope the stunned people of Volstov has resides with four champions (Roysten, Rook, Hal, and Thom); three unlikely as an exiled magician, a country boy, and a student seem so heroic while the other is an insane ace airman who flies the deadliest dragon known to humanity Havemercy.

Mindful of Naomi Novik's brilliant military historical fantasy saga, HAVEMERCY is an enjoyable thriller starring four distinct fully developed "heroes" and the fiercest dragon the world has ever seen. Filled with espionage plots and counter spying, the action never stops as the two warring neighbors continue to try to vanquish each other through war and stealth. With the fearsome foursome frolicking and fighting each other and while romance flourishes dividing them further, fans will want to soar on the back of HAVEMERCY as Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett provide an enjoyable military fantasy starring a non-heroic quartet and a kick butt mechanical dragon.

Promise the Moon
Elizabeth Joy Arnold
Bantam Books
9780385340663, $6.99

Two months have passed since Toby went mute and his older sister Anna pretended she is okay but sneaks down to look at the picture every night. Their mom Natalie hides her anger and fear from her broken kids, but whenever she gets a chance she kicks the gravestone of their father, her husband Josh.

Two months and the marines are kicking them off Camp Pendleton as the three are no longer military family not since Josh splattered his brains in their garage for Toby to find him. To help them adjust Natalie has been corresponding as Josh from heaven writing to Anna and Toby, who respond back. Her masquerade has helped Toby, who has begun talking, but Anna remains stoic hiding her fears while insisting Josh is talking to her; telling her things only he would know. Natalie is worried that someone else knew Josh intimately and is revealing family secrets to Anna, but who? Could it be Iraq, which his service time and a nasty incident led to his suicide or someone else? A broken family struggles with the aftermath of suicide.

PROMISE THE MOON is not an easy book to read as the angst is stratospheric, but is a relevant tale that focuses on the aftermath of a military suicide on the family members. The story line is character driven; more so by mom and daughter who rotate viewpoint as each uses lies to hide their depression behind a veneer of coping from each other and especially from vulnerable Toby. Fascinatingly a third generation also conceals truths from the others. Military suicide is a serious current issue that the leadership struggles with helping returning soldiers from the war zone to prevent, but Elizabeth Joy Arnold makes the case that more must be done for the families when it occurs.

Trust Me
Brenda Novak
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778324126, $6.69,

Four years ago, Skye Kellerman was assaulted in her bed by Oliver Burke. Unlike his alleged previous victims, she survived and testified against her assailant. Outraged by the intrusion and her treatment by the court system, she became a strong victims' advocate.

Sacramento Police Detective David Willis stuns Skye with the news that due to the SFPD recommendation over SPD strong opposition Oliver was being paroled. Burke hates the woman who he blames for his prison time and vows to finish the job. Attracted to her since he first met her during the original investigation, David is concerned for Skye as he believes Burke is a serial rapist murderer although no hard core evidence beyond the major drop in river corpses since the three years the dentist went away has surfaced. He may not be able to officially keep Skye safe, but he vows to keep her safe because he knows Burke will act.

This is a strong romantic suspense police procedural starting with SFPD rewarding Burke for enabling them to close two cold case homicides. The story line never slows down as David and Skye have no doubts the dentist will come for her; as both understand Burke's Law is to blame others for his lethal activities so he holds her culpable for his jail time. The romantic subplot adds personal tension and fans will appreciate the efforts of a caring cop to keep a strong woman safe from a nasty psychopath.

The Night Cafe
Taylor Smith
Mira Books
9780778325222, $6.69

In Malibu, Art Gallery owner Rebecca Powell hires her former college roommate private security expert Hannah Nicks to deliver a painting to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Suspicious about the nature of the assignment as a courier is not her normal job; thirty year old former LAPD cop Hannah accepts the contract because she needs the lucrative fee.

Before she leaves town to transport the painting, FBI agents visit Hannah. However, although wary about the job even more so than before she delivers the art to arms dealer Moises Gladding. There is only one slight issue at the destination point; his home is loaded with dead bodies. Back home more corpses follow in Hannah's wake. Soon international law enforcement officials like former Scotland Yard Art Recovery Detective Teagarden want to question Hannah, whose only assignments at the moment are staying alive and keeping family members safe although she begins o explore what she really delivered to the home of Gladding.

Romantic suspense fans will fully enjoy this strong thriller due to a powerful cast starring in an exciting story line. Hannah with her first person account gives the tale a momma Noir (her son Gabe lives with his father) feel to the crime caper and subsequent murder frenzy. The support characters are solid and the twists and spins keep on coming, but THE NIGHT CAFE belongs to the heroine who understands the mantra "People remember pain".

Before The Storm
Diane Chamberlain
Mira Books
9780778325413, $13.95

Although her son Andy is fifteen years old, Nurse Laurel Lockwood keeps a close string on him because he suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; an illness she blames on herself. Whenever she feels he can go off without her safely, she is anxious but guilt propels her to allow him. Besides the obvious she knows she is overprotective. Thus Andy attends a youth function at their church Drury Memorial where everyone knows he is different as his ingenuousness makes him socially immature.

When a fire breaks out in the church several people die, but heroic Andy saves many others. Laurel is elated that her son not only survived, but he saved lives. However, her euphoria turns to horror when a witness claims seeing Andy outside the church before the fire; because of his handicap most consider him the arsonist; even Laurel has doubts about her son's innocence.

The complex tale grips readers as the audience obtains a deep look at how a tragic event impacts on the lives of several individuals, to include not just mother and son, but his older sister Maggie and others. Diane Chamberlain effortlessly changes perspective, which enables the reader to not only see what that person sees, but also into how their present perspective is impacted by their relative past. With a plausible critical spin BEFORE THE STORM is a fascinating tale as a smothering mother recalls her vow when Andy was ten hours old and taken from her, but fears this incident tests her resolve.

All Souls' Night
Jennifer Armintrout
Mira Books
9780778325376, $6.99

Though they can use the time to heal emotionally and physically from the battle with the Oracle, undead vampire hunters Carrie Ames and Nathan Grant know they have none as they must prepare for what they pray is the final combat. The lovers must stop the father of Carrie's dead first sire, Jacob Kendrick or the Soul Eater as he is known will become an invincible evil god ravaging the earth.

However, the two heroes know that Jacob is already way too powerful for both of them even with their combined strengths. They anticipate not winning unless a miracle occurs and even then they do not expect to survive. Still they must try. Carrie knows there is only one way for her side to become victorious but that method would still require a Hail Mary. If she goes that route, she will not know the outcome as Carrie understands fully her choices.

The final Blood Ties romantic horror thriller (see THE TURNING, POSSESSION and ASHES TO ASHES) is an excellent finish to a strong saga. Carrie tells the tale for the most part so that readers comprehend her angst and fears as she ponders whether "to be or not to be" is the seemingly only possible solution to the question of how to stop Jacob. Fans of this terrific miniseries will appreciate Jennifer Armintrout's answer.

Season of Strangers
Kat Martin
Mira Books
9780778325543, $7.99

Realtor Julie Ferris and her sister Laura are enjoying their day relaxing in a private cove on Malibu Beach owned by friend and client Owen Mallory when both discuss hearing and not hearing an odd buzzing sound that seems everywhere and nowhere. They fail to complete their chart as each has an urge to take a nap.

Not long afterward, the siblings feel plagued by that lost day that neither can fully recall. Since their day at the beach Julie, who rarely had a headache, suffers from crippling migraines and remembers only falling asleep; while Laura suffers from nightmares of an alien abduction.

Meanwhile at the real estate office, realtor Patrick Donovan recovers from a cocaine heart attack that changes him from a drug using philander into a considerate person who wants Julie as his lover. Julie is stunned by the makeover and her attraction to the newly improved Patrick, but rationalizes that the near fatal heart attack warned Patrick that he can no longer abuse his body. However, she soon realizes that extraterrestrial Val Zarkazian has taken possession of Patrick's body; he has fallen in love with the earthling, but must leave and when he does Patrick's body will die just like the man's soul has already did.

SEASONS OF STRANGERS is a well written but odd paranormal romance as readers will need to adapt to a male lead body snatcher. The fast-paced story line hooks the audience from that eerie opening scene on Malibu Beach and never slows down as Julie begins to ponder the impossible by connecting the dots. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Kat Martin's third "Earth Girls Are Easy" when they fall in love with non-traditional males (see SCENT OF ROSES and THE SUMMIT).

Poisoned by Gilt
Leslie Caine
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440336006, $6.99, 1-800-726-0600

First they were rivals in the interior design profession, but Erin Gilbert and Steve Sullivan ended up becoming business partners. If not for a phone call the night before, both of them would have ended up in the same bed. Instead Steve's mentor Richard Thayers, who was supposed to judge an environmentally friendly home contest in Crestview, Colorado sponsored by Earth House, is livid that they designed the house of his archenemy Burke Stratton. He calms down enough to host a class where he demonstrates environmentally safe products by drinking gold paint.

Following the session Richard gets into his car while Steve and Erin go to their respective homes. The next day the partners learn Richard is dead, a victim of poisoning; someone tampered with the paint. Erin cannot stop herself from snooping and soon receives business cards warning her to back off or else. Still, an obstinate Erin keeps investigating with plenty of suspects from the contestants, the class, the architect, and even others. However, the killer is watching her every move waiting for the moment to end this inquiry.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy this entertaining amateur sleuth tale as Gilbert and Sullivan's romantic aria crashes although Eric does not know why. The support cast, especially Erin's landlady, adds humor to the plot. Erin is loyal to her friends and clients so feels strongly she must take action even when she knows that might place her in danger from a culprit who killed once. Amateur sleuth logic aside, POISONED BY GILT is filled with charming characters, a courageous heroine and a pitiful villain, who come together to make an engaging whodunit.

Seven Nights of Sin
Lacey Alexander
Berkley Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451223142, $14.00, 1-800-847-5515

Only three years passed since she moved from Centerville, Ohio to Los Angeles. Brenna Cayton has mixed feelings when her boss Carl Jenkins informs her he is grooming her to be the next Artist and Repertoire Representative at Blue Night Records. He explains that if the current holder of the position bad boy Damon Andros can clean up his act he will stay with the company and Brenna will get a different promotion; if not he is fired and she his replacement.

With some doubts, Benna goes to Vegas to spend seven days under Damon's tutelage. While her professional life is on the fast track of success, Brenna sings to herself "You don't need a man", but if she could have one it would be Damon. As they spend seven days together, Damon introduces Benna to SEVEN NIGHTS OF SIN, his style. She falls in love with her mentor, but fears once he learns the truth that his job was at risk and she stayed silent, he will dump her; but if she informs him, he will drop her anyway as Damon goes through women like potato chips.

This heated week in Sin City is driven by the needs, desires, and libidos of the lead couple who evolve over the course of their seven nights together. Whereas Benna proves his equal in the bedroom and an enthusiastic student on the job and at night, Damon realizes he has found his partner and wants to sing a lifetime duet with her. When he learns the truth, he obviously leaves feeling "f***ed by her and love. Fans will relish their erotic SEVEN NIGHTS OF SIN contemporary romance as work and play make for a stronger relationship.

The Elite
Jennifer Banash
9780425221570, $9.99

With her mom traveling in Europe, Casey McCloy left Normal, Illinois to attend the prestigious Meadowlark Academy in New York. She will live with her Nanna in the affluent Bramford Building in the Carnegie Hill section of Manhattan's Upper East Side. Her first impression of her new abode is shock at is elegance starting with the doorman.

Although the sophistication level is stratospherically hirer than Illinois, Casey quickly grasps the basic rule of teenage survival in New York is not that different from Normal; who you knows pay dividends in the social bank account. The it girl is extremely popular Madison Macallister; Casey met her in the lobby of the Bramford before she even made it to Nanna's apartment the first time. Madison can destroy any other student with just a look. Casey soon meets Madison's posse Sophie and Phoebe; and soon afterward Drew, who may be the ruler's boyfriend. Casey spends time with the Madison trio who seem to have adopted the rube until Madison sees her talking with Drew. The welcoming committee turn into the queen of mean and her court as Madison wants Drew back anyway she can.

The cast makes this a strong high school character study as Jennifer Banash hones in deeply at the social caste system. Interestingly, the support players like Madison's retinue seem fully developed while the lead triangle is each strong individuals though the battling females are somewhat stereotyped like professional wrestlers. Fans will enjoy the tug of war with Drew as the rope between the mean queen of THE ELITE and the sweet not quite country bumpkin.

Sydney Bauer
042522290X, $7.99

To celebrate her daughter Teesha's seventeenth birthday in style, Boston based attorney Rayna Martin rents a boat to take her teenage child and Teesha's three musketeer friends (Christina, Mariah and Francie) on a sea trip. However, the happy occasion turns tragic when Christina drowns.

Christina's father Senator Rudolph Haynes is outraged blaming race for the death of his daughter. He and his child are white Brahmins while the Martins and the other two friends are African-American working class. He pounds the DA into charging Rayna with a race related murder. Rayna hires attorney David Cavanaugh to defend her while her best friend Sara Davis vows to help prove a tragic accident occurred.

Rudolph is overly stereotyped as an ambitious always right manipulative conservative politician rather than a full blooded grieving dad lashing out at the only adult he can; whereas the rest of the cast including the late Christie seem genuine. Stealing the show from a secondary perspective is the victim's mom who reassesses all she believed in the American dream. Well written, UNDERTOW is an exhilarating legal thriller that turns over the Simpson premise that money can buy the dream team defense as influence can purchase the best prosecution in the world.

Real Vampires Get Lucky
Gerry Bartlett
9780425221549, $14.00

By the dumpster in the alley near her shop, Glory St. Clair hears someone gurgling their last breath. She and Valdez the canine protector rush outside to find a young female human dying from the loss of blood caused by a vampire mugging. Unable to resist though only recently being converted from pure blood type B human to vampire universal blood user vampire, Glory does her first turning.

However, Lucky turns out to be more than just lucky to be alive (loose definition). She is a flamboyant loan shark collector for the mob and has some strong family ties. While Glory tries to get Lucky to hide her exhibitionist tendencies and to stop breaking bones, vampire hunters converge on the instructor and her recalcitrant student while Lucky goes after Glory's pals who owe her boss money. Worse Lucky converted her former rock star boyfriend into a vampire to avenge his leaving her. Real vampires get unlucky when the real world intrudes as someone wants Glory dead.

In her third Real Vampire appearance, Glory learns that being an undead does not have as direct path to hell as good intentions. Nothing goes right from the moment she saves Lucky's life. Fans will appreciate this amusing lighthearted entry as the heroine wonders will she live long enough to survive her first conversion.

The Excalibur Murders
J.M.C. Blair
9780425222539, $6.99

Arthur is the High King of the Britons but Camelot is not the place of myth and legend. For instance Merlin is not a wizard but instead a scientist, scholar and doctor. Queen Guenevere hates Arthur so mush so she cuckolds him with Lancelot in her own castle at Corfe on her own estate. Arthur is thrilled that Percival has found the "magical" Stone of Bran and his vassal King Mark of Cornwell has sent him a silversmith to create the proper case to contain the artifact.

Someone kills the squires Borolet and Ganelin leaving their bodies so mangled their own mother wouldn't recognize them. Whoever did it made a big mistake because they were no ordinary squires, but were Arthur's illegitimate sons and heirs. Merlin vows to find the killer and bring him to justice. There many suspects including Arthur's half sister Morganna la Fey who covets her half-brother's power; his wife who wants him dead; and his rival King Mark who wants too usurp him. All plot to overthrow Arthur; but it is Pellanore the King who ruled Camelot before may not be as crazy as he seems and is Arthur's choice as the killer even though Merlin doesn't agree with him and keeps on sleuthing

This obviously is a different take on Camelot as it is a country filled with intrigue, double crossing, betrayals, and ambitious people who believe they are more deserving than their liege to rule (sounds like the Neocon version of the Republican Party). It is a more realistic place populated with individuals who seem genuine and not the archetype goodness fantasy of the myths. Though somewhat diverting because the audience waits for the legend to begin; using Camelot as a backdrop, J.M.C. Blair provides a great historical mystery.

Through the Veil
Shiloh Walker
9780425222478, $6.99

As long as she can remember, Lee Ross has dreamed every night of being in battle along side warrior Kalen Brenner. However, when she awakens she is in her earthly bed, but sees the bruises on her body as if she was in combat. She knows she is different, but is unaware that she was sent from her home THROUGH THE VEIL to Earth to keep her safe from the Warlords.

In Ishtan, Kalen knows his people can never be free of the brutal Anquar Warlords without Lee's help. Her on and off presence jeopardizes his quest as he needs her full time in Ishtan. When she finally comes back THROUGH THE VEIL while awake, Lee fears she has gone insane even as she recognizes Kalen from her nocturnal fantasies. He must convince her that her mind is sound and her people need her while Warlord Char wants her abducted.

This is a fabulous action packed romantic fantasy that hooks the audience from the moment Lee's dream lover shows up in the flesh and never slows down as the bewildered heroine struggles with believing the truth of her heritage. Fans will believe that the world on the other side of the veil exists, which is key to this fine tale of a realm trying to survive and an innocent woman being the destined one as savior and lover if she can adapt to her new environs and survive betrayal.

The Trouble with Moonlight
Donna MacMeans
9780425221983, $6.99

In 1877 British spy John Locke trying to obtain a list that will help his side in the combat when he is stunned to see a ruby necklace float by itself in the air past him. Curious he follows the necklace to Lusinda Havershaw. He learns Lusinda has a skill that would be useful in his espionage efforts; she can literally vanish in the moonlight. He gives her a choice between prison and working for him.

Lusinda is shocked having never been caught before. She earns a living for her family by repossessing stolen goods by entering homes naked so that no one sees her and takes back the item to the original owner. John assigns her to help him expose a Russian spy, a potentially lethal mission if caught, but what frightens the reluctant spy is her attraction to her blackmailer; he on the other hand pretends he can concentrate on the case rather than her when she owns his brain.

This is a fun Victorian romance with a touch of fantasy starring a fascinating heroine and a bewitched roguish espionage agent. Their pairing makes for an entertaining lighthearted read as John Locke philosophizes that THE TROUBLE WITH MIDNIGHT is being diverted from your dangerous mission by falling in love. This is a terrific historical

Running Wild
Sarah McCarty
9780425221501, $14.00

"Donovan" needs to persuade his cousin Wyatt to come home as his father the pack's alpha is dying. At a bar, he meets his soul mate Lisa who was pounding the crap out of male crap for harming her younger sister Robin.

"Kelon" arrives to help his brother Donovan to convince Wyatt it is time to come home. When Kelon meets Robin he knows she is his soulmate, but some s***head took her virginity and hurt her emotionally so she is reluctant to be with any man.

"Wyatt" returns to his pack with his two cousins, their mates and a third sister Heather, who is his soul mate. However, like Donovan and Kelon, he must choose between the woman he loves and his pack as humans are taboo.

The three interrelated novellas provide werewolf romance fans with a strong heated collection. The story line is fast-paced whether each of the pairs are coupling or in dangerous scenarios. Fans will be RUNNING WILD with Sarah McCarty and her pack who make this fantasy romantic compilation a fun read.

The Cat
Jean Johnson
9780425221495, $14.00

Amara was to be the queen of the shapeshifters, but instead was forced to flee her kingdom in order to save the life of her twin sister Arora. The mages want Arora for her unique special magic. The siblings barely make it to Nightfall Island after surviving a nasty swim from their wrecked ship.

There on Nightfall Island reside eight brothers, four sets of twins, with four of them having found their soulmates. Trevan the shapeshifter has waited too long for his to arrive. Now that she has, his Amara distrusts Trevan, his siblings and their women as mages want to kill her and kidnap her sister to use as their tool.

Once again Jean Johnson does, as she has done with the four previous Sons of Destiny tales, creates a stand alone tale that focuses one of the brothers and his beloved, but it behooves the audience to read the previous books first (see THE SWORD), etc. because there is also an overarching theme developing. The key to this fine entry that starts the second half of the saga is the audience sees deep inside the hearts of Trevan THE CAT and the ex Queen Amara so what matters to each of them is fully understood; especially her distrust of magic using males. Fans will appreciate this visit to the Johnsonian Universe.

A Royal Pain
Rhys Bowen
9780425221631, $23.95

In 1934 England like the United States is reeling from the world wide Great Depression that even impacts the aristocracy. Lady Georgiana, thirty-fourth in line for the crown has seen her allowance cut off by her brother Binky. She is staying in the family's London townhouse without any servants. The Queen worries about her son and his infatuation with Wallis Simpson so she conspires with Lady Georgie to find him someone else to interest the heir.

The Princess of Bavaria Maria Theresa Hannelore Wilhelmina Mathilda (try signing that on your check) comes to England to stay with Georgie. The Princess learned her English from American gangster movies so sounds like Capone's moll and steals like a thug instead of a royal. Working incognito as a maid to bring in some quid, Georgie meets a member of the Socialist Party, who is murdered in the bookstore where he worked. Hannelore and Georgie find him Soon after at party; a guest is slipped a mickey and falls off a balcony whose rail was tampered so it was weakened. Finally the Princess' chaperone aunt dies of a heart attack. Afraid that Hannelore is the target and her homicide would mean another great war to end all wars, the queen orders peace loving Georgie to investigate; expense being no problem as long as Georgie funds it.

Talented Rhys Bowen always provides the audience with a sense of time and place with strong characters populating her historical mysteries. Her latest is amusing yet serious as fans will admire the courageous heroine who thinks "The world would see a new Georgy girl" if she had money, which means extorting from Binky the cheap. Fans will relish this fine tale starring a noble who may be dreaming of being someone of affluence, but accepts reality.

The Art of Desire
Cherie Feather
9780425221600, $14.00

Santa Fe Women's Art Museum Director Mandy Cooper looks forward to satiating her addiction for "dirty sex with a dirty boy". The prime and proper Mandy knows that since she met artist and notorious celeb Jared Cabrillo that he is on her mind and body all the time. The only exception to her Cabrillo icon that consumes her brain is her obsession with the relationship between late nineteenth-century artist Catherine Burke and Native American outlaw Atacar; her lover's ancestors.

Whereas Mandy fears Jared will leave her for his next encounter; Jared hides the truth from her that he loves her out of his fear of the emotion. Mandy knows that her favorite painting by Catherine is her portrait of Atacar, the man the artist loved; she wishes Jared would do one of her with the same level of passion. However it is an 1895 journal kept by Mandy that wakes Jared up to embrace his deepest feelings, his love for Mandy before it is too late.

This heated contemporary romance uses a journal to tell a forbidden late nineteenth century love that becomes a matchmaker for the director and the artist. The two pairings are filled with warmth, passion and heat. All four key players seem genuine yet the two eras distinctive form one another. Cherie Feather provides an engaging hot tale of loves in 1895 and 2008.

Sword of the Highlands
Veronica Wolff
9780425222485, $6.99

Her boss Walter, principal curator at the MOMA, asks his sister art curator Magda Deacon to come to the Metropolitan to see an oil painting he wants added to the exhibit Finding Arcadia: Pastoral Paintings of the seventieth Century she put together. She is stunned when she sees the painting and wonders if her brother is right about too many carbs as she is attracted to the portrait of Lord James Graham, the first Marquis of Montrose. She cannot stop herself from touching his face. Shockingly that caress sends Magda back through time into James' bed.

A noted womanizer James is excited with finding a beautiful female occupying his bed. However, her behavior is brazen as she is not bashful with intelligent opinions on all sorts of topics including independence, freedom and leadership. She also beats the guys at golf and rides a horse like a man. However in his bed she is his woman. As they fall in love James is irate at the demands of his monarch to support a foolish war. However he becomes preoccupied with saving his beloved when his enemy Lord Campbell abducts her.

Although somewhat similar in tone to Virginia Wolff's previous time travel romance (see MASTER OF THE HIGHLANDS), this is an engaging tale as a twenty-first century Manhattan female takes over seventeenth century Highlands Scotland. The story line is fast-paced, but it is owned by the computer age woman who knows what she wants in and out of bed and the laird mesmerized by this intelligent sexy anachronism. Their romance makes for a fun read.

How To Knit A Wild Bikini
Christie Ridgway
9780425221938, $7.99

In Southern California, her knee injury forces sous chef Nikki Carmichael to leave her job that requires standing up on her feet all day. Thanks to a friend and an ad throughout the Los Angeles area she feels fortunate to obtain work as private chef to NYFM hip men's magazine editor Jay Buchanan although he wants a lesbian so they have no sexual issues between them while he practices abstinence over the next year.

Nikki is unaware that Jay hired her not for her cooking skills, but to use as a fake girlfriend to keep females like his neighbor Shanna way from him. She learns his extra requirements when he kisses her in front of Shanna. However, Shanna is beginning to look away from the editing hunk to her landscaper Jorge while Jay's seventeen years old niece is attracted to an older teen. Nikki seems to be in the middle of all these relationships including her own with her new employer, which drives her to Malibu & Ewe for a stitch of sanity.

This Malibu & Ewe contemporary romance is an engaging tale especially when the focus is on the lead couple. However, there are several other relationship sidebar subplots forging, even beyond the two mentioned above, so at times the plot feels overwhelmed with too many knitters. Still Jay is a fascinating character who suddenly has a tendency to need to spend time in the kitchen whereas Nikki proves from that first kiss she does not meet his job requirement. HOW TO KNIT A WILD BIKINI is a fun Southern California romance.

Uneasy Relations
Aaron Elkins
9780425221761, $23.95

Physical anthropologist and homicide solver Gideon Oliver and his wife are attending the annual International Paleoanthropological Society Conference held in Gibraltar. Oliver, known as the Skelton Detective, is going to celebrate the discovery of the First family, a Homo sapiens mother holding her hybrid Neanderthal son. This find proved that the two humanoid species interacted, mated and had offspring.

Although he never worked at the site, Oliver examined the bones of the Gibraltar woman and her son. While on the Rock, only luck saves him from being killed. He thinks someone deliberately pushed him, but is not fully sure if it happened or it was his imagination. When he gets set to lecture, only the warning of a fellow scientist keeps him from being electrocuted. He thinks the attempts on his life are linked to a story planted by his editor in the newspaper about a revelation he will make. When it is discovered another group member Sheila Chin was not killed in a cave in but murdered also, Oliver concludes someone working the site is willing to commit two years ago but was murdered Oliver decides to start his investigation.

In some ways Oliver will remind forensic fans of Scarpetta as he uses the latest scientific techniques and some intuition to solve homicides. In this tale, Aaron Elkins makes it easy for the lay reader to understand the science behind physical anthropology and the pressure the scholars are under to discover something. The whodunit is entertaining as the suspects are professionally gathered from around the world sharing the same motive and opportunity. Fans will appreciate the Bone Detective as he searches amidst UNEASY RELATIONS to find a killer.

Blood Noir
Laurell K. Hamilton
9780425222195, $25.95

Jean-Claude's pomme de sange Lycan Jason visits his master's human servant vampire executioner and living vampire who feeds off of sex, Anita Blake to ask his friend to accompany him as his pretend lover when he visits his dying estranged father. Anita agrees when Jason informs her that his father refuses to speak to him not due to his lycanthropic condition, but because the older man believes his son is homosexual.

Jason and Anita arrive to find out that Keith Summerland, who looks like Jason's twin, is getting married this weekend. Pretending affection in public Jason kisses Anita in front of a reporter causing a scandal in which other Masters consider grabbing the seemingly weakened Jean-Claude's territory. To prevent this Jean-Claude will have to display anger in public and punish his errant servants.

Meanwhile first vampire Marmee Noir, the Mother of All Darkness and asleep for a millennium, is attracted to Anita's powers. She strikes at Anita and Marmee Noir makes her have sex with two shapeshifters including a were-tiger. Anita feels another metaphysical tiger in her body. Jason and Anita still worry about an enraged vampire because Keith married the wife of the Master of the City; and the Master Vamp wants the interloper dead. The authorities fear for the lives of Jason and Anita while she also has to deal with Marmee Noir without the help of Jean-Claude

BLOOD NOIR is very different in tone than the previous books in the Anita Blake saga as the heroine for the most part costars with one man rather than her usual male queue. This allows the audience to see another side of the vampire slayer as she shows she can relate to a man with being in love with him; an extraordinary concept. Although well written, too many key unanswered questions involving Marmee Noir exist, which subtracts from an otherwise strong tale as Anita proves to herself she can enjoy without love sans guilt. Blake fans will appreciate how far the star goes for a friend.

Nora Roberts
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399154911, $26.95, 1-800-847-5515

She was a child star, but when her television show was cancelled Cilla McGowan's Hollywood career was terminated too although as a teen she scored parts in slasher flicks, made CD's, and performed in public. She realized this was not what she wanted to do with her life although her mother, a failed wannabe actress, kept pushing her in that direction. Finally Cilla persuades her mom to sell her, in exchange for money to put on a show in Las Vegas, her late grandmother's farm which she always wanted.

Cilla's renowned grandma Hollywood legend Janet Hardy had her hideaway in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Janet died there under suspicious circumstances. Cilla is determined to restore the place to its former glory. She finds Janet's letters that she was having an affair and the married man wanted to end it. Someone in town wants Cilla to leave and that person tries to intimidate her into fleeing back to the other coast. Cilla refuses to be driven off, but her adversary keeps raising the stakes until her life is in jeopardy.

As always Nora Roberts writes a fascinating tale that her audience will read in one wonderful sitting. Cilla is an obstinate strong person who gained strength with her determination to withstand her mother's pressure and her own fight with stage fright; so is prepared for the most part to deal with the stalker's dangerous intent. This is a strong TRIBUTE to a great storyteller.

Killer View
Ridley Pearson
9780399155055, $24.95

A skier goes missing on Galena Summit, Idaho. In spite of the snowstorm making conditions treacherous even for experienced individuals, Blaine County Sheriff Walt Fleming bring together his Search and Reduce team to make a concerted effort to find the lost skier. However, during the dangerous trek, a shot is heard and they find crewman Randy Aker dead.

Not long afterward, Randy's brother and fellow S&R member veterinarian Mark Aker disappears; though his best friend Walt worries about him he assumes his buddy needs some alone grieving time. However, Walt revises his assumptions when an unknown adversary molests a veterinary assistant and there is a major increase of sick employees at a water-bottling plant and numerous animals reported dead. He begins to wonder if someone is slowly and diabolically cleverly working a terrorist campaign in Sun Valley.

This one sitting police procedural will hook the audience from the onset with a need to know what is going on as the plot twists plausibly with every new incident or clue that Walt encounters. The story line is fast-paced and filled with a strong cast. The setting is electric; the Sun Valley area comes across beyond its geographical beauty as a two caste social system symbiotic tied together economically. Ridley Pearson provides a strong Idaho mystery as readers get a KILLER VIEW of Sun Valley.

The Front
Patricia Cornwell
9780399154188, $22.95

Working as a homicide investigator for the Massachusetts State Police Win Garano is currently assigned to Middlesex County District Attorney Monique Lamont, a power hungry, ball-busting political beast. She is opposed to the Front, a coalition of police departments that come to each other's aid like fire departments do; this provides a center of excellence built on an economy of scales as they do not need to duplicate labs or police specializations. Monique sees the outcome of this trend as lessoning her power so to hell with the citizens as that will not be allowed to happen.

Monique assigns Win to the cold case of a blond British woman living in the Commonwealth who was killed four decades ago. She orders him to look into a possible link between that homicide and the Boston Strangler. Win works with Watertown Detective Stump, who refuses to deal with either the State cop or Monique. Win catches her telling many lies, which makes him wonder what she hides and if it is connected to the inquiries. Stump is working on a case where a bank robber leaves a letter with no fingerprints on it and he is not wearing gloves. She is also working a case where copper is being sold illegally. In an ironic twist the bank robbery case is solved with Win's help but Monique might be in trouble and is not as tough as she appears because she fears her mistakes will surface to cost her what she holds dear.

THE FRONT is a powerful dramatic police procedural novella that packs as strong a punch as the Scarpetta saga does. Win feels insecure at times due to the machinations of his boss who is a Massachusetts Lady Macbeth. The audience will adore and admire Win though he is a beta male working for an alpha female. Monique on the other hand will be detested not because of her tough dominating personality, but for putting her ambition over what is good for the State. Fans will enjoy this solid whodunit while hoping Win wins and Monique gets her comeuppance.

Tobsha Learner
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765320100, $14.95, 1-888-330-8477

In 2002 Los Angeles, pregnant genetic researcher Julia Huntington searches for the gene that makes someone become a remorseless killer. However Julia's life collapses when she learns her spouse Klaus loves her best friend; she becomes despondent and angry. She also knows she can kill with no remorse having done so in Afghanistan.

In 1849 Julia's great-grandmother, Lavinia was a young woman living in Ireland when she was assaulted; she stabbed her attacker feeling no remorse. In 1860 she was chosen to be the wife of three decade older amateur anthropologist Colonel James Huntington. Lavinia was given no choice in the matter. However, when she learns the secret that her spouse hid from she becomes despondent and angry.

The fun in this engaging psychological horror thriller lies with the comparative analysis of the two eras; especially enlightening are biological theory, criminology, and psychology in 1860 vs. 2008. The audience will enjoy following the escapades of the abusive remorseless couples although the rotating viewpoints between the two women feel disruptive at times, not enabling the reader to get deep into the hearts of either lead female or their "abusive" spouses. Still psychological horror fans will enjoy Tobsha Learner's look at the souls of two female relatives a century and a half apart as the author raises the argument that civilization's nurturing can impede or enhance the core individual's DNA blueprint depending on circumstances.

The Hard Way
Julie Luongo
0765316676, $13.95

In 1990 with the death of the family Venier's patriarch, the three female survivors, his wife and two daughters, cope differently. His spouse Margaret finds a new love Eli; his oldest daughter the married pharmacist Nancy lights candles every night; his younger offspring by almost two decades Lucy returns to journalism school.

A few years later, Lucy graduates from college. She seeks contentment in her chosen writing career and her personal relationships. However Lucy finds little happiness in terms of deciding between becoming a big city crime beat reporter, working the Web where the future lies, or following the money into advertising. On her love front, she goes through men like potato chips Over time Lucy and Nancy, somewhat estranged due to their age difference and their reaction to their dad's death begin to reconcile and then there is another second chance with Ben. Lucy may have found that elusive butterfly of life in the normally tragic third act as she wisely understands that people support those they care about even if that means acting as a compassionate bridesmaid.

In a way this is more a series of vignettes of a coming of age young woman whose choices at times hurt her, but she is the epitome of the Sinatra tune, That's Life: "Each time I find myself, flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race." Readers will appreciate this wonderful character study that is a deep chick lit tale in which Lucy finds her groove THE HARD WAY, but her way.

Steven Brust
9780765301475, $24.95

Vlad Taltos is upset with his divorce as he married expecting forever. However, he is more concerned over his former employer, the Jhereg, putting a hit on him for his recent betrayal. He concludes if he wants to remain with a head on shoulders he has to leave Draegara until the Jhereg's assassins find a different target to occupy their time.

Vlad decides to visit maternal relatives he never met in some way out place. His only clues are their surname is Merss and they reside in Burtz, Fenario. He leaves with his usual retinue of telepathic lizard familiars Loiosh and Rocza. In Burtz, Vlad expected a hero's welcome or at least a welcome to the family greeting. Instead he is warned to be careful by everyone in the paper mill town he encounters, including his grandfather, as he is under surveillance because the leaders expect him to cause trouble. The outsider is further stunned by a lack of a local coven, a given in every Fenario village, and the normally potent Guild remains silent while workers are abused. However when a fire that looks like arson kills most of his relatives, Vlad begins to investigate, but each clue he and his limited support crew uncover leaves them with many more questions and danger from a powerful despotic oligopoly.

This is a fresh change to the strong, long running series, as not only does Vlad leave town enabling the audience to meet some of his maternal roots, but he conducts a fabulous whodunit investigation. The storyline is fast-paced, with humor mostly performed by the two lizards who provide 1930s style sidekick comments to the sleuth. Fans will enjoy this entertaining trek into Vlad's heritage; Steven Brust writes a delightful fantasy investigative thriller.

Mr. Monk Goes to Germany
Lee Goldberg
Obsidian Mystery
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451220998, $21.95, 1-800-847-5515

He suffers from an extreme case of obsessive compulsive disorder so severe that the SFPD let him go in spite of his extraordinary case resolution success rate as no one could work with him. His disorder combined with his brilliance enables him to solve homicide mysteries so his former peers use him as a consultant when they are stymied. He goes to a psychiatrist three times a week hoping he can be helped enough so that he can return to the force full time. After solving the missing sock caper, however, when his shrink informs him he is going to Germany for a week, an unglued Monk has a compulsive reaction.

He and his assistant Natalie agree they should go to Germany so Monk can keep his appointments. While in Lour, Germany Monk notices n eleven fingered man who he follows only to lose him. The only case he never solved is the death of his wife who was murdered by an eleven-fingered man. He goes to the police who explain they are investigating a homicide. He promises to solve it if they will find the eleven-fingered man for him. Later Monk sees him with his psychiatrist. Whereas everyone else believes it is a coincidence, neither Monk nor Natalie accept that theory. Monk thinks this man has committed other crimes too and sets out to find the hard core evidence.

Lee Goldberg is the best author at adapting TV shows into a series of novels as in the case of Mr. Monk he captures the essences of the key continual characters especially the eccentric lead protagonist. Told in the first person through the eyes of Natalie, readers get a glimpse into how she sees a person suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. Yet like her the audience does not pity Mr. Monk but admires his genius as he solves mysteries rather quickly just ask the Justice Department or SFPD for a reference.

Mission Canyon
Meg Gardiner
9780451224729, $7.99

Evan Delaney is on his way to a society function to serve a summons on Cal Diamond, who is dressed as Zorro. Her mission fails when she sees there are two Zorro's at the event and she has no way of distinguishing them. Frustrated she returns to the van where her fiance waits for her. Jesse Blackburn is uninterested in Evan's summons any longer because he saw Franklin Brand, the man who ran over him and left him a paraplegic while also killing his best friend Isaac Sandoval.

Evan gives chase, but loses Franklin. The police are on the case and catch Brand, but he makes bail and is released before vanishing. Evan sees him meeting with Kenny Rudneski, the son of theowner where Brand worked as a VP before being caught embezzling. Evan and Jesse are determined to find Franklin while also believing that Mako technologies, owned by Kenny and his father, is the cause of the blackmail attempts against them and the secret jobs they must undergo as told to them by the cabal if they want to keep their loved ones safe.

MISSION CANYON is unfortunately a very believable tale about cybercrime in which businessmen ally with thieves leaving the innocent to bear the costs of their criminal activities. Evan is an admirable courageous woman who does not care that her Jesse is wheelchair bound; she even acts at times as if she does not notice the chair. There are many suspects and the exciting plot is filled with twists and revelations (perhaps a few too many of the latter) that shock the audience just when the story line seems to be settling into a pattern. Fans will enjoy this timely tale of the avaricious crooks, cops, businessman and innocents caught in their web.

Dirty Deeds
Suzanne Price
9780451224576, $6.99

After her beloved husband died following a long suffering illness, Sky Taylor moved to Pigeon Cove, the next town past Gloucester. She stays with her friend Chloe rent free in return for doing the house cleaning, which is no hardship as Sky owns a cleaning service as well as writing a newspaper column.

Sky and Chloe are waiting for people to leave at the Art Association Festival when realtor Kyle Fipps is found asleep in his hammock in the middle of the Getaway Groves Condominium model house display. They try to wake him up, but immediately realize he is dead. Police Chief Vega tells Sky that the toxicology report indicates murder as the victim ingested the poisonous seed of a pong pong, which is similar to digitalis. This homicide is not the only incident happening in the Cove. Councilman Tommy Thompson, who is involved in the Getaway Groves Condominium project, is embroiled in a scandal as he was seen with Sandy the stripper at a strip joint. As Sky and her lover reporter Mike Evans seek a link between the condo project, Kylie's homicide, and the disappearance of her best friend Jessie Barton, someone tries to kill her.

This charming lighthearted cozy contains many suspects with plausible motives to wanting the Kyle dead. Sky is a delightful protagonist who can turn obstinate once she makes up her mind as to a course of action, which in DIRTY DEEDS can prove lethal to her. This regional mystery provides readers with a taste of a coastal small New England town, who provide much of the support cast (along with some Gloucester residents). Suzanne price uses Sandy to add humor to the intense whodunit that sub-genre fans will appreciate.

Questions to Ask Before Marrying
Melissa Senate
Red Dress Ink
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373895601, $13.95

Maine schoolteacher Ruby Miller evaluates her relationship with her fiance Tom Truby using a New York Times Article's fifteen questions as a gauge. The first fourteen are a resounding affirmation that she and Tom belong together. Question fifteen asks: "Is their relationship strong enough to withstand challenges? Ruby truthfully is unsure as she doubts Tom has ever met anyone like her twin sister hurricane Stella, the Manhattan muse.

While Ruby struggles with that last question Stella informs her that her future brother-in-law is wrong for Ruby who will be bored to death within one year of blissful matrimony. She also says she is pregnant with a hunk whose name begins with Ja, but not exactly sure. Stella asks Ruby to come with her to Nevada so that she can find the dad of her unborn who she says mentioned Vegas and at the same her sister can find her loving groove. Ruby knows she has issues as she dreams of schoolteacher Nick McDermott instead of Tom terrific so she agrees.

QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE MARRYING is what chick lit is all about when the characters and their scenarios are excellent. The twins are a delight as they go cross country seeking answers and finding more questions. Witty and amusing, the strong story line deals with complex personal issues involving families such as rejections, desertions, and especially what is true love and is that enough to cement a permanent relationship. Readers will ask two questions afterward of Melissa Senate: what next and when?

Destined to Meet
Devon Vaughn Archer
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373860715, $5.99

Three years ago Joseph Hudson died in an accident; he left behind a grieving widow Courtney, whose social life has been dormant ever since. Her cousin Pilar persuades her to meet her at the hottest club in Lake Barri, Colorado, The Train Stop. However, Pilar failed to show or answer her cell phone leaving Courtney to fend for herself.

Born and raised in Anchorage Police Detective Lloyd Vance moved to Lake Barri. The person he is to meet at The Train Stop failed to show up; however, when he sees Courtney he no longer cares. They talk as each is attracted, but their first encounter is interrupted when he is called on duty as her cousin is a hit-and-run victim. As they fall in love, he refuses to discuss with her either the case or his relationship with Pilar before he met Courtney.

This is a fascinating contemporary romance in which the lead male's reluctance to discuss his relationship with this beloved's cousin puts their future in jeopardy. The story line is driven by Courtney and Lloyd who each has ghost they bring into their relationship; she feels guilt re Joseph and he never recovered from his dad walking out on his mom and him. Although one subplot "heals" long festering wounds too easily, fans will appreciate the romance between the Alaskan and the Lower Forty-eight widow.

Sinister Among Us
William B. Bradshaw, PH.D.
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781598867404, $22.95

Big problems threaten to shut Cyprus College, a small Christian school in Copperville, Indiana. The accreditation board is on the verge of withdrawing its support, which is the death penalty for a school; financially the college is near bankrupt and scholarships have vanished. Other happenings involving drug trafficking has the FBI looking. With that mess on top of the recent death of the school's president, the Board of Directors seek a special person who can bring fiscal responsibility and respect to the beleaguered school. A banker on the board recommends retired sexagenarian widower Dr. Bradley Green whose reputation is saving financially troubled colleges.

Eight months after accepting the position, Brad remains troubled with what he has found. Besides the money and drugs, he uncovers a prostitution ring using students and abuse by faculty. Being a rationale thinker, he struggles with one small school having all this evil assault it. He begins to wonder if the unbelievable could be happening here; a demon causing malevolent havoc.

SINISTER AMONG US is a terrific tale that for much of the story line focuses on an ethical dedicated college president resolving issues that threaten the school's existence. There is a subplot involving Christian doctrine on demonology, but Dr. Bradshaw cleverly interweaves that into the college in trouble story line as a potential cause. Although there are grating moments when something passively stated is immediately reaffirmed in the active voice to emphasize a point, this is a well written fascinatingly unique contemporary tale. Readers will appreciate the ethical hero aided by his lawyer and banker (modern times) trying to save a Christian College from the mundane and perhaps something more SINISTER AMONG US.

Donita K. Paul
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400073788, $13.99,, 1-800-726-0600

For the first time in decades the world is at peace. Dragon Keeper Kale is busy taking care of baby dragons since peace has brought a population explosion in that race wheras before they were dying in mortal combat. One day Kalie's husband Bordan sees a village where empty space used to be. He lands his dragon and talks to the leaders whose villagers call themselves Followers. They say they are spreading the word of the Creator Wuldor with the permission of his voice Paladin.

Bordan hears a fairie hole in the leaders voice and he sees no children and it looks like a boot camp. He doesn't have time to investigate further because he plans on taking his wife on a quiet vacation. They are going to a hidden Meech community so their fellow traveler Gilda can leave her egg to be hatched at a time of the commune's choosing. The journey is not an easy one as they are constantly attacked by small black lethal dragonets and have to deal with Followers who have spread across the land. When they reach their destination they face another battle and only with Wulder's help twill might win against an overwhelming evil.

This is the fifth and last book in Donita K. Paul's dragon series and it answers all the major threads left from the previous entries. DRAGONLIGHT is an action-packed fantasy thriller starring wonderful characters who insure readers can believe in dragons. The story line is engrossing and the world feels genuine, but as with the rest of the saga, it is soaring with dragons alongside Bordan and Kalie that make this a superb thriller.

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society
Beth Pattillo
9781400073948, $13.99

In Sweetgum, Tennessee, the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society consists of women who have been hurt in their relationships, but share their love of knitting and formed a book club. Sexagenarian librarian Eugenie Pierce has never even tasted love. Sisters Ruthie Allen and Esther Jackson will probably take sibling rivalry to the grave. Twentyish Camille St. Clair may not have the years of kicking the can experiences like the others, but her life is currently on hold as she cares for her dying mother. Merry McGavin seems happy with her loving family, but loving family means hiding the truth behind a façade as she is overwhelmed. Finally there is newest member thirteen years old Hannah Simmons, who has no future except to repeat the ugly past culminated with a temper fit in the library tearing out pages from books. As each faces a personal crisis caused in part by secrets they hide, their knit lit pals encourage and support one another.

This Yada Yada crowd meets the Elm Creek quilters in a Mossy Creek like Tennessee small town is a fine ensemble tale starring fully developed women in personal crisis who finds their knit lit members being there for them. The story line is well written, but though smooth, the author never explores deeply any of the ensemble cast while touching on all of them. Fans will enjoy the sisterhood as each helps one another.

Rene Gutteridge
9781400071593, $12.99

Atlantica Flight 1945 is flying from Atlanta to Amsterdam. The pilot is infamous CJ Brewster-Yarley who was the last person to land a jet safely in water, the Bermuda triangle; the other pilot is First Officer Danny McSweeney, who struggles with the break up of a long time relationship; First Officer James Lawrence is the non-scheduled to fly emergency pilot. On board is emotional impaired Anna Sue and her companion Chucky the pig; FBI Agent Dee Tasler and her prisoner Leendert Rojkaard are being taken to the Netherlands for diamond theft; recently dumped Lucy Meredith who lives by Oprah advice; her ex Jeff the rat and his new girlfriend; musician Jake Van Der Mark who is returning stolen diamonds to the grandma he never met; and Hank Hazard hired by the airlines to test the service of the crew like fifty-five years old flight attendant Gigi. Finally besides the rest of the other Slam and Clicks (flight attendants) and passengers, Federal Aircraft Inspector (ACI) Miles Smilt is there to inspect the pilots for safety violations.

However ACI Smilt is actually Perry Watts planning to steal the diamonds that Jake has with him. This will be a flight like none before as a woman dies, the jewel thief fears the grandson will kill him, and no one is flying the plane thanks to Perry. However, led by Hank's quiet faith those on board Atlantica Flight 1945 may be frightened but pray God is their pilot.

This is an exciting often amusing flight across the Atlantic as incidents seem to keep on coming as if Murphy piloted the jet Each member of the ensemble cast is unique with enough of a personality to make them distinctive and seem real. The inspirational elements are for the most kept in the background except for Hank's explanation of his belief system to atheist Lucy whose God is Oprah and his offer of prayer to the elderly woman whose mom apparently died on the flight. Fans will appreciate SKID as Rene Gutteridge pilots readers on an exhilarating airplane ride.

A Mile in My Flip-Flops
Melody Carlson
9781400073146, $15.99

Thirtyish Gretchen Hanover is shook to her core when her engagement ended badly leaving her with a broken heart and her only male companions Ben and Jerry, her concerned dad and a new Lab puppy Riley. Her other companion is home improvement TV shows on the Home and Garden network.

Eighteen months and twenty-two pounds B&J "Chunky Monkey" and other sinfully delicious flavors later, Gretchen realizes Riley is getting too big for her pint sized apartment; she decides to buy a fixer-upper house as she feels she knows what to do from all that TV. Her plan calls for her to flip the renovated house and use the profit start on another one. However, Gretchen may have energy and enthusiasm but lacks practical skills; her father's friend Noah Campbell a carpenter, helps her.

A MILE IN MY FLIP-FLOPS uses the self-renovation mania to tell an amusing character driven tale. Gretchen is a wonderful lead protagonist as she finds emotional healing with passive activities that do not require interaction like eating ice cream and watching TV until the home improvement shows motivate her to get active. By doing this she "flips" her life even if the climax seems she underwent too perfect of renovation.

Painted Dresses
Patricia Hickman
9781400071999, $15.99

Twenty something Gaylen Syler-Boatwright had dreams of forever when she married; now her marriage is dead and her fantasy nuked as she and Braden broke up. With her father dying, she comes home to Boiling Springs, North Carolina to say good-bye and to bury him. Afterward needing to escape, Gaylen accompanied by her flakey younger sister Delia leaves town to hide away at her late Aunt Amity's mountain cottage.

Gaylen figures in this isolated locale she will be left alone to reassess her goals. However, her aunt's cabin is freaky as on display is a gallery of framed painted dresses accompanied by a fascinating travelogue. The two sisters agree to hit the road to meet family members they never knew existed and learn more about the original owners of the painted dresses.

This engaging intelligent character study makes a strong case that hiding family shame makes the incident even darker and more shameful even if it is never exposed; those concealing the truth know it in their hearts. Although some might challenge the truth will free you concept, Patricia Hickman makes a compelling argument. Filled with angst, the Syler sisters seek solace as they search the new south for their heritage.

Garth Nix
Eos Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061474354, $9.99, 1-800-242-7737

Eighteen years old necromancer Sabriel attends the exclusive Wyverley College in Ancelstierre, where Magic does not work. When her father Abhorsen, also a necromancer who uses Charter magic, sends her a message containing his word and special bells, she knows he is asking for help, she leaves the college to return to the nearby Old Kingdom where magic works in order to find him as he is apparently ensnared somehow by Death. She is concerned because this has never happened before when her father or for that matter her return the dead to where they belong.

The quest to save her dad is loaded with danger as many want to prevent her from success especially since she is somewhat a neophyte when it comes to dealing with the dead. However, besides the usual suspects like an evil spirit or a blood thirsty Mordicant, she has to contend with necromancers and a dangerous dead magician who plans to use Sabriel and Abhorsen to bring him back reanimated. Still she bravely dives into the frozen waters of the River of death to attempt the rescue.

SABRIEL is a reprint of a terrific young adult quest fantasy starring a courageous engaging heroine who refuses to quit even though the odds are heavily against her succeeding. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the challenges keep on coming with the young teen audience wondering if Sabriel has the skills and stomach to win. Garth Nix provides a strong fantasy starring a fully developed female teen running an otherworldly gauntlet in an effort to rescue her father from death.

Destination: Marriage
Jill Marie Landis, Jo Leigh and Jackie Braun
Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373837250, $5.99,

"Trouble in Paradise" by Jill Marie Landis Carrie is to marry Kurt in Hawaii, but nothing goes right making her wonder if an article she just read on omens is warning her she is making a mistake.

"Biting the Apple" by Jo Leigh. After winning a wedding party in New York, Trish asks her boyfriend Mark to come with her as her pretend groom so she enjoy the Big Apple and perhaps obtain a reporter's job there; but Manhattan makes her wonder about her future with Mark and her choice of locale and employment.

"A Venetian Affair" by Jackie Braun. Dayle and Max are partners in an import-export firm. While on business in Venice, the engaged Dayle sees a deeper side to the womanizing Max and wonders about partnering in their personal lives too.

These are three wonderful contemporary romances starring likable couples discovering what they really desire and love in life.

Slow Hands
Leslie Kelly
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794065, $4.99

The Turner half-sisters banker Madeline and socialite Tabitha Turner adore their too often married father and want the best for him; they hope his latest much younger spouse, number four, proves as such. However, Tabby learns their new stepmother detestable Deborah plans to bid on a gigolo at a charity bachelor auction.

Tabby insists her sibling Maddy outbid the shrew. Maddy reluctantly agrees for daddy's sake as she does not want him hurt. She wins international businessman Jake Wallace. However, as their attraction grows, he is confused by her references to global economy as if she assumes he is an expert when he is a local paramedic; the auction brochure was wrong.

The fun with this humorous contemporary romance is the miscommunication between Maddy and Jake; as her premise is he is an international womanizing businessman while he assumes she knows he is a paramedic. Their banter sounds at times out of an Abbot and Costello routine only bawdier. Leslie Kelly keeps her ensemble under control while the laughs never stop as Maddy and Jake fall in love, but may not make it together due to her pre-perceptions.

To Protect the Child
Anna DeStefano
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714971, $5.50

In Atlanta neurosurgeon Robert Livingston performs emergency surgery at Atlanta Memorial on a Jane Doe rushed to the hospital. However, he is a bit surprised that the FBI and Atlanta police maintain a vigil waiting for her to awaken. Even more stunning to the physician is his attraction to an unconscious woman he never met before the OR; especially since his own marriage collapsed mostly due to him after their child died.

When Jane awakens she informs him she is Alexa Vega though her memory is fuzzy. Over a short time she regains much of what she lost and informs the caring doctor that she has been working undercover collecting information against a deranged dangerous Russian mobster. However, she also knows she left behind a child Evie who needs her help, as the girl's only friend is her stuffed animal Felix, and her psychopath mobster of a father is apt to harm perhaps kill his daughter.

This is a deep police procedural romance starring two dedicated professionals in different fields falling in love; yet the story line is owned by "Bambi" as Lexie knows Evie is in deep trouble because she failed to save the child, but plans to make a second go at it. Readers will be hooked from the opening sequence until the final confrontation as Anna DeStefano provides an exciting tale powered by a child in need.

A Soldier Comes Home
Cindi Myers
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714988, $5.50

In Colorado Springs, Captain Ray Hughes returns from a deployment in the war zone to no wife and little left behind in their house. Worse his spouse dumped their young child Thomas James on his parents in Omaha. Ray vows to bring his son home and be the best single dad in the world; he also swears no more female entanglements.

Widow Chrissie Evans still grieves the death of her husband in combat. She vowed no men especially military ever again. However, she finds herself attracted to her neighbor, a single dad raising a child by himself while on leave from the war.

A SOLDIER COMES HOME is an engaging look at the problems our military confront with constant deployments especially when a single parent has a child to raise. The story line is character driven as Chrissie fears a relationship with a soldier since her Special Forces spouse died in action and Ray distrusts women who cannot adapt to being a soldier's wife as he refuses to let another female hurt him and especially harm Thomas. Although the climax feels too rushed and simple, fans will appreciate the deep look at a single soldier's relationships with his son, his parents, and the neighbor next door that he loves.

Falling for the Deputy
Amy Frazier
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373782406, $5.50

Western Carolina Sun reporter Chloe Atherton arrives in Applegate, North Carolina to do a story on the local sheriff's office. Deputy Sheriff Mack Whittaker is assigned escort duty, an assignment he detests especially since his mom keeps calling him with the same question did the reporter come yet.

A Gulf War veteran, Mack wants his past to remain buried especially his need for atonement from his military days so he plans to keep the journalist focused on the department and not him. However, once they meet, neither can ignore the attraction between them so his strategy goes awry. Still, the consummate professional, Chloe keeps digging looking for the right angle to her story, which she believes is Mack's secret; whatever that is. Although she feels a bit guilty for her investigating as she has a whopper of a secret of her own.

Chloe and Mack are a strong Carolina blue pairing as each has reasons to avoid a relationship, but shares one overarching motive to come together: love. The support cast adds eccentricity especially the sheriff's office and his interfering mom. Readers will enjoy this often amusing, but always serious contemporary as two people with a past fall in love.

Nobody Does It Better
Jennifer LaBrecque
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794058, $4.99

After ending her no-go relationship with her boyfriend who called her a compulsive "neurotic mess", American schoolteacher Holly Smith vows to find her biological mother who deserted the family when she was a toddler; she needs to know why. This is the first flight for Atlanta's Holly Smith as she heads to Venice, Italy.

Sitting next to Holly on the plane is English tour guide Gage Carswell, who actually is an undercover t British Secret Service agent working the Gorgon case in hopes of capturing this uranium black-market dealer. Holly fits the profile of the type of female Gorgon obsesses over because of her aqua eyes. As Gage and Holly begin to fall in love, he fears for her life if Gorgon captures his woman.

NOBODY DOES IT BETTER is an amusing espionage romance as the British Secret service believes Holly is a brilliant undercover agent who uses her neurosis to conceal her mission. Since she is the worst choice as a spy and Gage wonders if eh is falling in love with the enemy, fans will laugh out loud at their antics. 007 is tuned upside down as Jennifer LaBrecque provides a jocular The Spy Who Loves Me contemporary.

Reluctant Partners
Kara Lennox
Harlequin American
9780373752201, $4.99

Allie Bateman misses her late employer Johnny, but hopes to keep his memory alive by running the Dragonfly, the charter fishing boat that he gave her in his will. However, there is one fly in the ointment; Johnny's nephew attorney Cooper Remington believes the will is a fake as his Uncle Johnny would have bequeathed the vessel to him as family even if his late relative was a bit estrange from the rest of them; to himself Cooper admits his family is pure prim and proper while Uncle Johnny seemed not to care one iota about scandalous lifestyles. If the will is genuine than this sea beauty must have been his uncle's woman.

The pair argues until both agree to not waste needed funds in court, but instead set up a reluctant partnership. As they become better acquainted at sea and on land they fall in love, but he has some doubts about her trustworthiness as he still believes the will is a fraud.

This entertaining at sea romance stars two likable lead characters who distrust one another as much as they are attracted to one another. Fans who enjoy seeing opposites fall in love will want to go on the Dragonfly for a sea cruise.

Texas Lullaby
Tina Leonard
Harlequin American
9780373752171, $4.99

Former soldier Gabriel Morgan has come home not because he wants to see his estranged father Josiah, but instead to receive the easy cash dear old dad promised him if he lived on the family ranch for one year. His three brothers were also offered the same deal; Dane and Pete might arrive in a few months while Jack ignored the offer. Pop, who lives in a stone castle he'd bought in Pzenas, also asks him to watch out for Widow Laura Adams and her two small children, Penny and nine month old Perrin.

Gabriel immediately realizes the Widow is beautiful, but it is little Penny's cute smile that gives him heartburn as he wants to give her a fatherly hug. Soon he is thinking of marrying Laura and raising her kids as his and adding more kids that are theirs. However, Laura is wary of love, marriage, and males in general except for kindhearted Pop, who Gabriel thinks is a mean SOB.

The first of the Morgan brothers to take up the challenge of their father makes for an interesting contemporary romance. The fun in the tale is actually with how the two little kids, especially Penny can wrap the tough combat vet with one sad flicker of her lips; he cannot handle her crying. Although the story line bogs down at times with Laura's wariness, which takes away from the deeper bigger family drama, fans will enjoy kick butt Gabriel getting his butt kicked by a mom and her kids.

Diana Palmer
9780373773008, $24.95

In San Antonio anyone looking at pint sized Gloryanne Barnes would not connect her to being a tough district attorney, but she is. Besides being small, Glory is handicapped by a bad hip, broken twice as a child by her volatile mother Beverly who got off the child abuse hook due to her affair with wealthy Myron Pendleton; his lawyers persuaded the jury that Gloryanne's father harmed her and he went to jail in spite of his daughter's crying testimony otherwise.

When drug czar Fuentes is sent to jail by her testimony, he arranges for a hit to silence the only witness. His assassin almost succeeds, but the bullet misses her ear by a fraction. To keep her safe, Glory is exiled to work undercover at a small organic farm as a canner. Manager Rodrigo Ramirez wonders why she is working here when she cannot get around; she also ponders about her employer who seems to be out of place on the farm. Attracted to one another although neither will admit it, as danger mounts, they need to trust one another; something neither is used to doing.

FEARLESS is a fascinating romantic suspense starring a likable heroine and a reticent hunk willing to risk his life keeping her safe. The story line starts a bit slow as Diana Palmer introduces Glory's inglorious past to the audience, but once it accelerates the story lien never brakes until the final denouement that the heroine is no longer on the market. Fans will enjoy this solid Texas thriller.

The Darkest Kiss
Gena Showalter
9780373772322, $6.99

In the Budapest stronghold where the Lords of the Underworld warriors reside Lucien regrets he opened Pandora's Box allowing the demons to escape. The Gods punished him millennia ago by placing the demon Death inside him. The warriors search for the box to keep it safe; praying they will be able to return the demons inside it.

He and his friends host a party when Anya Goddess of Anarchy crashes it. Anya has been invisibly stalking Lucien while eluding Cronus the Lord Titan who demands she hand over her treasure; heeding her father's advice, she refuses. Now she obsesses over Lucien. He recognizes her odor as that of the person stalking him. He wants her, but knows his facial scars makes him too ugly for a pretty woman like Anya is. Anya kisses Lucien and tells him she wants his penis. Lucien rejects her again, which hurts her.

Cronus arrives as Anya flees. He orders Lucien to kill Anya or his pals will suffer. Warrior Reyes tells Lucien that Anya is cursed by Themis, but not sure how or why. Lucien traces Anya and tells her Cronus ordered him to kill her. Lucien says he will obey. He catches her and they kiss leaving both confused and fleeing each other. Later Anya tells Lucien that Cronus wants the box to place the Greek Gods and demons inside it. Though he wants her, he tells her to leave as no woman will ever desire him; but she wants him although she knows Themis' curse means any man who takes her owns her forever.

Although a stand alone, some threads continue from the previous Lords of the Underworlds tale (see THE DARKEST NIGHT) so it behooves the audience to read that entry first. This excellent romantic fantasy enables readers to believe the fantasy species and the hunters are genuine and the paranormal earth real. Filled with plenty of action, the pairing of the lead couple makes the tale; still the other Lords of the Underworlds warriors have distinct personalities and with a "traitor" enhance the plot.

Susan Grant
9780373772599, $6.99

Coalition Admiral Britasha "Brit" Bandar 'Brit is upset with the changes that impact her. The courageous warrior knows she must adapt as the Coalition has merged with Earthling and Drakken to forge a Triad; she grew up believing the Drakken were the enemy who must die and now they are allies and on board.

Brit Commands the Unity with her second in command a Drakken, Finnar "Scourge of the Borderlands" Rorkken. He is a former leader of the Drakken Horde and is proud to be on board the key example of peace the Unity although he is concerned about his superior officer as they have battled one another for years. Still Finnar also knows the assignment will include better working conditions for his crew. However, neither expected an attraction hotter than a star while they battle their unwanted feelings they also confront terrorists threatening the fragile peace.

Expanding the Grant universe, MOONSTRUCK is a suburb military science fiction romance starring Beloved Enemies. The Jasper saga (see YOUR PLANET OR MINE, MY FAVORITE EARTHLING, and HOW TO LOSE AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL IN 10 DAYS) goes into the Borderlands of outer space with this terrific entry as the lead couple have a lifetime of combat leading to total distrust; however failure to communicate will prove disastrous as many from the three sides want the Triad to fail. Fans will be "Star" struck by Susan Grant's extraterrestrial talent as this may be her best sci fi tale to date.

Overnight Male
Elizabeth Bevarly
9780373772148, $6.99

OPUS spy Lila Moreau has waited for a long time to have a mission that combines business and personal. She is going undercover at a college in order to uncover the identity of student hackers led by former OPUS agent Adrian Padgett; he goes by the name Sorcerer and plans to release a virus that will cripple international information systems.

Lila will also introduce her new partner Joel Faraday to the world of espionage. Joel proves to be an asset on the case as well as off as the pair is attracted to one another from the first handcuffing moment. However, both recognize shutting down the hacker party and taking Sorcerer into custody comes before their desires for one another.

This delightful espionage romantic suspense thriller is action-packed from the first encounter between the lead pair and never slows down as they work the case. Their bantering makes the tale fun to follow as he "corrects" her and she threatens to kick his butt from DC to Abu Dhabi and elsewhere. The efforts to catch the Sorcerer continues Elizabeth Bevarly's fun saga (see YOU'VE GOT MALE) as this time it is Lila's efforts to prevent a disaster from happening.

Three Boys and a Baby
Laura Marie Alton
Harlequin American
9780373752157, $4.99

In Brown, Kansas Ella Garvey's eight year old twin boys Oliver and Owen and Jake Tate's seven years old son Dillon are playing together when they find an abandoned baby girl in the nearby park. The kids bring the infant home.

Meanwhile their single parents, casualties of the divorce war, are attracted to one another, but hesitant after their first respective marital failures. However, none of their three sons are pleased with Jake and Ella beginning to see one another. As the adults fall in love, the kids team up to sabotage the relationship especially when Dillon's mom comes home.

Outside of the initial matchmaking the baby subplot never feels like part of the prime story line as the tale focuses on two caring adults struggling between their love for one another and what is best for their respective children. The cast is strong and fully developed as the kids make it clear they oppose a relationship between their parents and each adult wrestles between their desire and that of their sons. Fans will enjoy this entertaining family drama as love is complex when kids are involved.

The Mommy Bride
Shelley Galloway
Harlequin American
9780373752164 , $4.99

Lane's End Memorial Hospital Nurse Claire Grant is attracted to the new member of the staff Doctor Ty Slater. However having spent time on the streets, she is wary of any relationship with anyone, but especially someone she works with who is in debt; instead she focuses on being the best single parent raising her teenage son Wes. Ty feels the same way about her, but owes a fortune in medical school loans so is as wary as she is.

However, after a particular emotional wringing day at work, they do share one night only of passion; to both their euphoria and chagrin, she becomes pregnant. As Claire and Ty struggle with what to do about the unborn as well as their love for one another, each remains reluctant to forge a lasting relationship.

This entertaining family drama stars two likable wary adults and an even more distrustful teen although he likes the nice doc. The story line is driven by the changing relationship between Claire and Ty as each love the other, but both have doubts. Readers will enjoy this fine contemporary romance in which baby makes four.

His Secret Past
Ellen Hartman
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714919 , $5.50

In Hoboken, siblings Jake and Anna Walsh have had some success with their documentary film making company Blue Magic. However Jake is tired of globetrotting so he informs his sister he is quitting to stay home more frequently with his significant other partner Rob.

Anna persuades Jake to help her make a final film together, which he agrees. They will produce a documentary on the second most famous rock act to come out of New Jersey, Five Star. Apparently the group is coming together to make their first album in fifteen years. However, Anna has a personal reason as she wants to know the truth behind the band's touring bus crash that killed her best friend. However, she is stunned when the lead singer Mason Star is not a pompous superstar, but a loving father fearing he will lose custody of his son and Mulligan's community center that he built and manages. To her chagrin, Anna finds herself falling in love with him.

This engaging contemporary romance hooks readers from the moment that the lead couple meets as their attraction could light up that city across the Hudson and never slows down. Anna is so sure that Mason is a wasted druggie until their initial encounter and she reassesses her thoughts. Fans will enjoy this delightful tale as HIS SECRET PAST may prevent this loving couple from sharing a passionate present and future.

Anything for Her Children
Darlene Gardner
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714902, $5.50

When the boy's hoops coach suffers a heart attack, Grady Quinlan is hired as an interim coach at undefeated Springfield High School. However, Grady has an incident from the onset when he catches superstar Bryan Charleton cheating in his nutrition and exercise class. He suspends the teen from the basketball team. This outrages the community who has suddenly become fans of a winning team.

Worried about her other charge Rose, Keri Cassidy refuses to believe that one of her adopted children would cheat so she confronts the coach. However, she begins to believe in his integrity over that of an outraged Bryan. Grady is attracted to the lioness who defends her cub, but fears she will bench him once she learns of the Carolina State College scandal that sent him back to high school coaching.

ANYTHING FOR HER CHILDREN is an engaging contemporary romance starring an ethical coach who believes values are the key V over victories and a caring woman who adopts children. Although Keri is too easily is persuaded that Grady is right and her child Bryan is wrong except when they talk about the teen, fans will enjoy this interesting tale of love between two principled people.

Baby By Contact
Debra Salonen
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373782376, $6.25

Sentinel Pass, South Dakota postmaster Libby McGannon feels her biological clock ticking and wants a baby without a husband. Not happy with the locals, she offers half her share in the family gold mine over eBay for a sperm donor. To her shock thousands of people offer their DNA to her.

After sharing emails and phone calls that prove their compatibility, TV actor and reality show host Cooper Lindstrom arrives in Sentinel Pass to complete the sale. He needs money to pay off his recently deceased mother's gambling debt; her bookie will kill for his cash. His two former wives also demand their monthly stipend form their divorce settlements but he has no funds to meet his legal requirement. As they fall in love Coop decides he wants to raise their offspring with his beloved Libby. However, he knows he failed to come clean with his real reason for coming to the Black Hills; creating a situation comedy based on Libby's offer. He fears when she learns the truth she will kick him off the Plains back to the Pacific Ocean.

BABY BY CONTACT is an amusing lighthearted contemporary romance that plays out on two subplots. First there is the obvious typical romance between the lead couple. Second there is Coop's humorous assessment aside of everyone he meets as possible characters on his upcoming show. Fans will enjoy this South Dakota takes Hollywood frolic.

Wicked Game
Jeri Smith-Ready
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416551768, $14.00, 1-800-223-2336

Con artist Ciara Griffin has decided to leave behind the life of a cheat and become legal and morally above board. To accomplish her objective, Ciara obtains work at small radio station WWMP where no one cares about your resume, your past, and your lack of conventional morality as long as you accept the stinky pay.

However, she soon learns a fascinating sidebar about her new place of work; all the night DJs are vampires who are expert musicologists on the era of their respective conversion. However, a huge conglomerate tries to buy the station with plans to change the format. Ciara worries about her night friends losing their link to humanity, especially she is concerned about grunge rocker hunk Shane who she desires. Trying to save her pals by saving the station, Ciara tells everyone listening that the night DJs are bloodsuckers knowing no one would believe her. She was thinking about human disbelief on the subject, something she is familiar with; Ciara failed to consider an ancient vampire might object to her exposure in daylight scheme.

WICKED GAME is a brilliant vampire thriller in which readers will believe in magic of the supernatural as Jeri Smith-Ready makes everyone seem genuine. The concept of vampires stuck in a time warp is ingenious leading to quite a variety in music. Fans will enjoy this fun tale even if "It's Only Rock and Roll", blood dining, the infamous Griffin curse that rivals Greek mythology and sex, but we like it.

Karin Tabke
Pocket Books
1416564446, $14.00

In Montrose in Silicon Valley, highly regarded men's club Callahan's changed ownership two months ago and consequently watered down the entry fee. It used to be old money, but now crass nouveau riche has changed the place into what is becoming a whore house instead of just female companionship.

Manager Jade Deveraux would quit if she did not need the money to support her sister Tina attending college. The latest affront is from Andrew Townsend who assumes she is a hooker. She warns him she will slice his balls off if he did not back away. The next morning a cop walking a beat finds Andrew's corpse with his balls stuffed into his mouth; he asphyxiated on his maleness. Police Detective Jase Vaughn leads the inquiry, which takes him to Callahan and the enticing Jade. He and his partner Ricco Naza interview people and observe the activity especially when Otis Thibideaux from Louisiana accuses Jade of being trailer trash Ruby Leigh. Jase knows Jade is hiding something, but he believes it relates to Townsend's murder instead of Bayou Country; however his biggest regret is that she is a hooker who he falling in love with.

This romantic police procedural is a terrific thriller starring two likable protagonists who neither want love in their respective lives, but cannot prevent the attraction. The story plays out on two subplots: first the whodunit and second what happened in Louisiana years ago. Fans will appreciate JADED even though the Silicon Valley serial killer and the motive are over the top of the Sierras.

Phantom in the Night
Sherrilyn Kenyon with Dianna Love
Pocket Books
9781416503576, $15.00

Her partner was dead and she entered rehab to recover from the injuries, but Terri Mitchell also quit the DEA to join the Bureau of American Defense. Nathan Drake walked away as a field operative after learning his mom was undergoing chemo and his brother Jamie murdered after joining the Marseaux mob. This pair has never met, but shares much negativity in common as both fight internal demons and external foes.

Using guerilla tactics in New Orleans Nathan stalks the Marseaux mob; focusing on leaders especially of the drug ring. This PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT and Terri meet as she is working a personal case that takes a terrorist attack spin she hopes to prevent. They need each other to achieve their mission objectives and though neither will admit it even to themselves to mend their broken souls.

Both lead characters are bad to the bone as neither care one iota about law when doing field work involving deadly gangsters and deadlier terrorists. Whereas Nathan is an avenging assassin, Terri has her need for vengeance too. Fans will appreciate this over the top thriller and look forward to more works from this dynamic duo.

A Darkness Forged in Fire
Chris Evans
Pocket Books
9781416570516, $26.00

The Calahrian Empire's Iron Elves Commander Konowa Swift Dragon felt he deserved a hero's welcome, but instead received exile as politics has its privilege. Acrimonious, angry, and cynical he wanders in self pity feeling he got the shaft. The military brass broke up his unit sending them from rebellious Hyntaland to the south and sent Konowa off by himself with no rank. His crime was killing the vicious bloody viceroy of Elfkyna, a political appointee who secretly served the evil witch the Shadow Monarch.

With a new even nastier viceroy in place having locals killed on a whim, the Shadow Monarch grows stronger threatening the empire. Desperate for sound military leadership, Konowa is asked to return to duty to lead the fabled Iron Elves. However, he finds his unit is not the same as these are simple men not elven warriors and their commander is an idiot who is heir to the empire. His mission is to retrieve the Red Star that has allegedly fallen somewhere to the east and heralds a special magic that has returned. His allies are elfkynan witch Visyna Tekoy who like her brethren hate elves and empires, and the most untrustworthy profession of them all a reporter Rallie Synjyn. Revolt is in the air fostered by the Shadow Monarch who also goes after the Red Star.

Though somewhat by the writer's 101 standardized book for high fantasy quest, Chris Evans uses contradictory traits to make his key cast members seem fresh and different; for instance the disgraced Konowa wanders forests, but unlike the stereotypical elven he loathes woodlands, etc. The story line is fun to follow even when the hero grumbles every step of the way. With the premise that my enemy's enemies are my allies but still my enemies, A DARKNESS FORGED IN FIRE is an engaging saga.

Robert Zitella
BluewaterPress LLC
2220 County Road 210 West, Suite 108 #132, Jacksonville, FL 32259
9781604520125, $15.95,

In Elburn, Illinois, former Sheriff Brad Jenkins has become the mayor, a job he expects to enjoy. However, lately Brad, happily married with two kids, has been suffering from intense nightmares that seem vividly realistic and the smell of burnt flesh when he is awake. He is pushing development projects including the construction of a new school, but at his first town meeting with the council he loses control and feels a need to make the opposition submit to his will and a desire to inflict pain especially on Tom Dasche.

That night Brad awakens on Tom's lawn with his body caked with mud and blood. He races home arriving at 4:30 AM frightened and wondering how he ended up at Tom's place. Later that morning he learns someone killed Tom's dog. As the nightmares intensify, Brad increasingly loses control of himself; a physician and psychiatrist do not help him though they try. Finally when he sees tanks and other major abuses, Tom realizes what is going on; he concludes he is seeing flashes of his past life. He accrued the most negative KARMA in history as a charismatic man in the 1930s and 1940s that mass murdered millions without a second thought. His accumulated debt is enormous.

The underlying concept is incredible as the lead character slowly learns why he is losing control of himself; he owes a KARMA debt from his previous life that is so exorbitant, it seems like it might take eternity and more to balance the scale. Brad is terrific as he knows he is losing control and goes for help to prevent that from happening. As he begins to learn the truth behind his visions, the smells, and his actions, readers will wonder if he will start paying off his KARMA deficit or increase the debt ceiling. Robert Zitella uses a person living the American dream to provide a unique reincarnation tale as Brad learns he was no hero in a previous life; instead her was the most infamous genocidal monster in history.

Hell's Gate
Richard E. Crabbe
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312336103, $24.95, 1-888-330-8477

Smuggling is big business in 1904 New York City and whoever controls the Hudson and East Rivers is able to get goods including drugs, guns and other illegal contraband into the city. Detective Mike Braddock is on the river in a boat after a tip concerning the Hooker gang who are planning to rob a ship. When the police make their move, a blood bath occurs with both sides having fatalities and injuries.

Mike wants to know who was behind the robbery and he forces it out of one of captured criminals who claims "Bottler" put the plan together. The Bottler is not the top gun but directs the crime that the boss set up. Mike goes underground to obtain information, but is made. He ends up in the middle of a gang war and the two sides see him as collateral damage if he gets in either of their ways. Mike and the woman he loves Ginny get caught on a trip on the General Slocum and barely free themselves just before the greatest disaster in twentieth century New York City occurs.

Readers who like details of the era that they are visiting will enjoy HELL'S GATE, a descriptive tale of life in the Big Apple circa 1904. Richard E. Crabbe focuses on the culture of corruption in Tammany hall as leaders and cops report to the crime kingpins. Mike believes in fairness and justice so he vows to clean up his city; in many ways Ginny is more fascinating as a former whore trying to become respectable so she can proudly walk with her Mike. Although the tale sadly never explores the psychological and emotional aftermath of the Slocum tragedy on survivors nor indirectly compare it to 9/11, historical readers will enjoy this offbeat crime thriller.

David Lynn Goleman
0312352646, $24.95

In 13000 BCE much of the world is united behind warriors like Herkulus and King Jason to fight the superpower Atlantis. When the combined might of the enemy began to win, the desperate rulers of the City of Light unleashed a secret weapon of mass destruction called the Wave. However, the ensuing earthquakes and more proved out of control; in three minutes ten millennia of civilianization vanished when Atlantis the continent sunk into the sea and the face of the globe reengineered with radical changes like what is to become Spain breaking off completely from Africa. Over the thousands of years since the man-made cataclysm, civilization returned not quite to the Atlantis level of technology yet none learned from that pandemic devastation as many sought the now mythical weapon to use to gain global dominance.

In the present, an earthquake and tsunami devastates North Korea; the Kim government blames oceanic digging by the South Koreans as the cause. On the Iraq-Iran border, tank forces stand poised to fight when an earthquake destroys at least forty percent of both sides' forces. The American President worries that an unknown oligopoly has discovered a weapon that is causing earthquakes around the globe. He assigns his elite Event Group to prevent further destruction a million times worse than Hiroshima by finding the key to the ANCIENTS' weapon apparently being used by ruthless ambitious predators for global domination.

The third Event Group thriller (see EVENT and LEGEND) is like its predecessors an over the stratosphere gripping thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the opening cautionary warning of a smug desperate ancient civilization using a weapon of mass destruction causing pandemic destruction and never slows down. With twists galore including a final shocker, David Lynn Goleman keeps the events coming as the action never wanes for a paragraph.

Rock & Roll Never Forgets
Deborah Grabien
9780312379994, $24.95

Legendary British rock band Blacklight is performing in New York City. Odious slimy reporter Perry Dillon tries to force the band's renowned guitarist John "JP" Kincaid into an interview; JP prefers the a-hole leave him alone even as Dillon snidely states he will write a revealing biography of the band's members. Soon after JP tells Dillon to stick it, the writer is found dead in the guitarist's dressing room.

NYPD suspects JP's girlfriend Bree Godwin committed the homicide to shut Dillon up; as the insidious reporter claimed to have information that will expose the scandalous behavior of JP, Bree, and the musician's estranged wife Cilla. NYPD Lieutenant Patrick Ormand leads the inquiry while JP looks back at a quarter of a century performing with the world's greatest rock and roll band at times in a drug stupor in order to figure out what Dillon had on them; hoping that will lead to the motive and subsequently the killer.

Dillon turns this interesting whodunit into an engaging amateur sleuth concert, as he rock and rolls his investigation while Ormand sees the superstar and his retinue as the prime suspect. Character driven with plenty of musical references, Deborah Grabien provides her audience with a three beat tale that is fun to read as Dillon does it his way.

Days of Infamy
Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen
9780312363512, $26.95

Admiral Yamamoto orders Imperial Japanese Naval Air Forces to attack the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Three waves of bombings destroy much of the American fleet and leave the island in chaos. He believes the Americans reeling from the assault will sue for peace.

However, Yamamoto is stunned when he finds out his own government betrayed his confidence in them. He warned the Foreign Ministry to openly declare war before he ordered the attacks because he understands the American mindset having lived there. He was promised and set his date and time from the first wave accordingly. Instead he knows the Americans will not negotiate a settlement before the hostilities as they perceive this as a sneak attack. They will go all out in an acrimonious avenging extended war in the Pacific that Japan cannot win if it stretches too long. Yamamoto knows his majesty's only hope for victory is an all out ruthless assault on the American military throughout the Pacific and he knows his side may not survive the retaliation and counter attacks. Admiral Halsey leads the American response.

The concept is excellent as Yamamoto concludes the narrow-minded idiot politicians back in Tokyo did not do him or the country any favors when they failed to simply formally inform FDR of the war declaration as he knows the sleeping giant has been awakened into an angry snarling tiger. The execution by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen is superb as the audience will believe the sequel to Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th, 1941 is plausible. What if fans will appreciate this fast-paced war in the Pacific alternate history as the military and political action never slows over a few days of infamy in December 1941.

Skeletons at the Feast
Chris Bohjalian
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
9780307394958, $25.00, 1-800-726-0600

In ice cold January of 1945, Germans living near the Polish border know the Russians are coming and expect a brutal retaliatory occupation; they also assume the western allies led by America will be less harsh on them. Most know the war is lost even if Hitler and his Third Reich insist they are winning. Thus there is a mass exodus heading west just in front of the Russian army marching through Poland.

Not all can escape. For instance, aristocrat Prussian Rolf Emmerich, who neither the war nor the Nazis had touched his family's upper class lifestyle until now, and his two oldest sons are conscripted and sent to fight; his wife takes their other children and accompanied by a Scottish POW flee for France. They meet Jew Uri Singer, who escaped from a train bound for Auschwitz. Jewish women also head west having escaped a death camp only most die on the death march to France. All know the Russians match the Nazis in brutality and none want to be caught in between either force.

Apparently based on a Prussian woman's 1945 diary, SKELETONS AT THE FEAST is an excellent character driven historical thriller. The story line is loaded with people trying to survive on a desperate trek in which the death of faith in Europe is a by-product of the horrors of war. Readers will feel the hopelessness of all and yet like a tiny glimmer of light in a totally darkened universe, the spirit remains strong not to give in to this despondency. Chris Bohjalian provides an incredible vivid look at a horrific journey to avoid the ruthless Russians in which hope is almost as dead as faith, but little things like love and caring sustain those fleeing, who are fortunate that at that time they remained ignorant of the atrocities the Nazis did to the Russians and the death camps; that knowledge might have snuffed out their last iota of compassion for one another in a world otherwise gone mad.

Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill
N.M. Kilby
Shaye Areheart
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
0307382079, $23.00, 1-800-726-0600

Brian Wilson (not that BW) works as a security guard at gated Laguna Key, a Florida beach community. His prime task is to keep safe the daughter of his employer blind Sophie Whit.

Her dad is planning to expand his minor fiefdom by buying land. He has been successful with everyone he offers money to except for the owner of Bad Girl's Bar and Grill. Former horror B-film actress Danni Keene refuses to sell in spite of constant harassment and vandalism that she assumes is directed by Whit. Meanwhile things turn uglier when Brian finds the corpse of a homeless activist while the victim's brother Solas Mackay has set up his traveling puppet troupe in the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill parking lot. With a Barry Manilow imitator, everyone seems to be having a good time except a stunned half-Whit who plots over fast food to do whatever is necessary to possess Danni's property.

This is an interesting slice of life drama with the murder mystery enhancing the tale. The key cast members seem genuine as each struggle with what they are doing with their lives. Retirement in Southern Florida is showcased at its best and worst by the crew of MURDER AT THE BAD GIRL'S BAR AND GRILL as these zanies make for an amusing yet poignant look at those still working in these communities.

Black Out
Lisa Unger,
Shaye Areheart
0307338487, $23.00

In Florida Annie and Gray Powers seem to have the perfect relationship while raising their beloved four-year-old daughter. However, this was not so less than ten years ago when teenager Ophelia March was either the prisoner or side kick of serial killer Marlowe Geary. Security consultant Gray rescued Ophelia but not before he sent the killer to his death. He later helped Ophelia become Annie.

Annie has blanked out much of her time under Marlowe's thumb, but unconsciously has lingering problems that manifest with quick panicky glances over her shoulder, anxiety attacks and blackouts. However, when Annie notices a stranger on their property, she fears Marlowe is back while a dishonest cop looks into her pre marriage days. Annie realizes she must regain those painful memories that she buried along with Ophelia if she is to ever rid herself of Marlowe.

The fascination with this serial killer on an avenging mission lies with Annie who, as an intriguing protagonist, struggles to recall a past that she really does not want to remember. The story line is action-backed as fans anticipate high noon between the cold blooded chilling villain and the loving wife-mom who reinvented herself. Lisa Unger has the audience enthralled from the moment Annie believes Marlowe is back perhaps from Hell.

Along Came a Cowboy
Christine Lynxwiler
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781597898966, $9.99, 1-800-852-8010

In Shady Grove, Arkansas chiropractor Dr. Rachel Donovan just wants her practice to succeed without any hints of scandal so she goes out of her way to avoid dangling alliances with men especially with cowboys. She has had a scandal to last a lifetime so burned once she adheres strictly to her mantra of no cowboys.

However when Rachel meets cowboy Jake Westwood while on a town planning committee, she thinks he is quite a hunk when they are not arguing. He finds her pretty when they are in agreement and lovely when she yells at him. However, fearing her past will surface, Rachel rejects any relationship with the hunk, but love cannot be easily discarded especially when the stubborn cowboy insists on constantly coming around to see her.

LONG CAME A COWBOY is a deep character study starring a woman wanting to overcome her past as she seeks personal salvation. The romantic subplot enhances Rachel's efforts to obtain redemption starting with paragon behavior of someone nominated town citizen of the year. Readers will appreciate Rachel's tale supported by a strong secondary cast especially the title cowboy, the townsfolk and her family.

Illegal Action
Stella Rimington
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307268853, $23.95, 1-800-726-0600

MI5 officer Liz Carlyle is unhappy with the management directed reassignment from the counterterrorism department to the backwater counterespionage dept., but vows to excel in her new office. Her first major project involves surveillance of an affluent Russian expatriate residing in London. Apparently a drunken Stakhov mentioned a nebulous plot that worries the M16 leadership as the war on terrorism supersedes the counter espionage so much so that a caught spy is not expelled from the country out of fear of harming the partnership with the Russians. The assignment is to monitor Stakhov and the other oligarchs in order to learn what their plot is.

Liz concludes that someone has targeted the wealthy oligarch for assassination. She follows up on clues and begins to believe the hit was called by someone powerful in Russia; perhaps a person connected to the Putin government. However, unbeknownst to Liz is that some is watching her sleuthing and is considering her as a potential threat worth eliminating.

This modern day espionage thriller is excellent from the onset as a disappointed Liz realizes in spite of the pay being the same she was demoted when the brass transferred her from the top gun department to yesterday's new department. The story line is fast-paced as Liz begins to unravel the complex truth, which makes her a strong secondary target. Spy thriller fans will fully relish Stella Rimington's terrific tale as ILLEGAL ACTION may mean nothing in the current counterespionage world.

Black and White and Dead All Over
John Darnton
9780307267528, $24.95

The New York Globe is in deep trouble financially with ads and circulation dropping dramatically and consequently the stock price is falling. However, that is no reason for someone to murder odious assistant managing editor Theodore S. Ratnoff; whose corpse is found in an office of the paper.

NYPD Detective Priscilla Bollingsworth and Globe's investigative reporter Jude Hurley join forces to find the killer. The problem is almost everyone working at the Glove had the motive including Jude because Theodore took pleasure in humiliating anyone and everyone. The list expands as bad cops, a reporter accused of plagiarism and a disgraced by the deceased executive editor have motives and opportunities. The inquiry spins even uglier and more complex when a Globe's gossip columnist and a food critic are killed.

BLACK AND WHITE AND DEAD ALL OVER is a wonderful whodunit in which the cleverly designed case and the news milieu make for powerful social observations on what and how get printed regardless of the medium. Priscilla and Jude are a fine pairing as their professions insure mutual distrust, but need each other to thoroughly investigate who likes to contribute to the obituary column. John Darnton provides a strong entertaining murder mystery with solid hooks at society's hypercritical foibles.

The Legal Limit
Martin Clark
9780307268358, $24.95

Mason Hun escaped his sadistic abusive father Curt with a college scholarship. When his father vanished, Mason, his older brother Gates and their mother Sadie rejoiced as no one was as mean as Curt was. In 1984 twenty-four years old law student Mason comes home to visit his beloved mother. He is on the back roads with Gates when his brother cold bloodedly shoots and kills a man who was playing with his girlfriend. Mason agrees to ignore what he witnessed as his sibling was always there keeping him safe from cruel Curt.

Years later, Mason is happily married to Allison as they raise their daughter in Stuart. However, he is devastated when Allison dies in a car crash. In 2003, Gates seeking a pardon from prison turns state's evidence against his brother; accusing Mason of murder almost two decades ago. A special prosecutor gets a grand jury to indict the attorney.

This exciting family legal thriller is filled with suspense in and out of the courts; in fact some of the strongest scenes involve in the estranged siblings and their mom in a variety of confrontations. Martin Clark makes a case that the law may be so blind that achieving justice often fails. Fans will relish this thought provoking tale as Mason learns blood may be thicker than water, but so is ketchup as betrayal can come from those who allegedly cherish you.

Christine Meldrum
9780375851766, $16.99

After leaving the home of her sister, martinet Maren Hellig raised her daughter Aslaug for over a decade locked away from the contamination of the outside world especially her aunt and cousins. Instead she teaches her daughter that there was no man in her life even to sire her as she is a product of the divine Immaculate Conception. She teaches her to enjoy nature and books. Without knowing better, Aslaug is contented with her world until her mom abruptly dies.

Alone, frightened and a suspect in Maren's death, Aslaug moves in with her Aunt Sarah, who was estranged from her mom, and her cousins. A social misfit, Aslaug struggles to survive in her new scary world. However, when another death in the family occurs, Aslaug is arrested and put on trial for the two homicides.

This is a deep character driven young adult thriller that hooks readers once they have met Maren and Aslaug with the need to know did the teen commit matricide. The story line is character driven obviously by Aslaug, but also by her extended family. Secrets slowly are revealed to a stunned audience. MADAPPLE is a deep family drama in which the seed does not fall far from the tree, but truth may not set her free.

Palace Council
Stephen L. Carter
9780307266583, $26.95

In 1952, twenty important men meet secretly to set in motion a scheme to own the President of the United States. Two years later, writer Eddie Wesley finds dead one of the plotters, white Wall Street attorney, Philmont Castle, in a Harlem park. Knowing how the police think about a young black man finding a white corpse, he hides his identity from the cops.

Intrigued by the victim's hand holding tightly an inverted cross with an enigmatic inscription, Eddie wants to know who killed the man, why, and why was a wealthy lawyer in Harlem. Over the next two decades Eddie and his beloved Aurelia Treene serendipitously investigate the murder of Philmont Castle with clues taking them to the highest powers of New York and DC while the Palace Council conspirators have reached the zenith in the early 1970s and will kill to remain there.

Although at times over the top of the Washington Monument, PALACE COUNCIL is an exhilarating action-packed political thriller starring real historical persona from Langston Hughes to Richard Nixon and two wonderful lead protagonists. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the strong cast (real and literary) who make this a superb tale as a variety of social issues like de facto racism replacing de jure racism is realistically portrayed. Fans will appreciate Stephen L. Carter's strong conspiracy historical thriller and seek his two excellent previous works (see NEW ENGLAND WHITE and THE EMPEROR OF OCEAN PARK).

The Last Oracle
James Rollins
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061230943, $26.95, 1-800-242-7737

Sigma Force leader Commander Gray Pierce is walking across the DC Mall when a homeless man stops him before collapsing in his arms. The man dies almost immediately, but not before he gives Gray a strange coin with apparently the Greek letter Sigma etched in its center or perhaps just an odd shaped capital E.

Gray later learns the deceased was Neurology Professor Archibald Polk of MIT. From his command post underneath the Smithsonian Castle, Gray tries to learn more about the coin and what happened to the dead academic. Soon he and his unit begin unraveling a nasty plot of insane Russians planning to radioactively poison the world, genetically alter mammals and savant children with implants behind their ears and American espionage units plotting, plotting, and plotting. Only the third century Oracle at Delphi Greece seems to provide answers, cryptically over time of course.

This excellent over the top thriller hooks the reader from the moment the homeless professor accosts Gray who acts so real when he pulls out his wallet to give the man money to get rid of him and when he thinks AIDS upon seeing the blood. The story line starts fast, goes global, and accelerates taking the audience for an entertaining ride with twists and tilts as only James Rollins could do linking Ancient Greece, modern nuclear warfare, and genetics into a suburb action filled tale.

The Fourth Watcher
Timothy Hallinan
9780061257254, $24.95

In Bangkok, travel writer Poke Rafferty, accompanied by his girlfriend former hooker Rose and their adopted child Miaow, is conducting street research into the unsafe underbelly of the Thai city as part of his next book. However, he vows to stay out of trouble starting with the three "faded" shirts who remind him of Pennyman's First Law of Espionage: "the other guy is good". However he remains unaware of the Fourth Watcher.

Meanwhile the U.S. Secret Service accuses the statuesque Rose of working for the North Koreans by passing counterfeit money; apparently the Kim II government is surviving by inundating the world with billions of fake dollars. While Poke tries to extradite his now fiancee from her mess, Ming Li abducts him and takes him to his estranged despised father, Frank, whose adversary Colonel Chu begins a deadly scheme; Rafferty with his friend police officer Arthit, whose wife is caught in the growing tsunami, try to counter it.

This exciting sequel to A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART is a terrific twisting thriller that takes the audience on a tense tour of Thailand as Poke struggles to save the two women in his life and the wife of his buddy. The story line is fast-paced and the cast solid; especially enlightening is the relationship between father and son as the latter has not forgiven the former for walking out on his mother and him years ago. Fascinatingly Chu believes blood is thicker than water so he expands his personal war to include Poke, Rose, and Miaow. Throw in Kim's agents and American counterspies on top of all that is going on leads to one heck of a Bangkok ride.

Lawrence Alexander
0061456403, $24.95

California Democratic Senator Bobby Hart learns that terrorists plan an attack on America timed to disrupt the presidential race. Hart tries to prevent the disruption that he learns is dubbed "Rubicon". However, in Los Angeles the Democratic nominee dies in a suicide bombing and likewise the Republican candidate in Atlanta.

Like most of the country, Hart assumes Islamic extremists killed the two candidates and others because suicide bombing is their MO. However, as he digs a bit deeper, he begins to believe someone else outside of the Middle East is responsible for the terrorist acts, but who remains shadowy and he fears the assassinations are the first ploy from someone planning to cross like Caesar the Rubicon; only in America that river happens to be the Potomac.

Although over the top especially with its not subtle comparisons to the Bush White House, fans of action-packed political thriller swill appreciate the aptly named RUBICON. The story line is fast-paced from the opening suicide bombings until the final revelations are revealed. Perhaps the only major drawback is the heroic senator's wife who exists to make Hart seem human, but only distracts from the exciting escapade driven subplots; fans will skip those intrusive interludes to focus on the entertaining RUBICON.

This Charming Man
Marian Keyes
9780061124020, $24.95

The media and most of the female population of Dublin named Paddy de Courcy "Ireland's most eligible politician". Many females dream of being the one who caught the handsome hunk. However, when he announces his engagement, a horde of women go into mourning.

Stylist to the rich and famous Lola Daly is especially stunned feeling betrayed as she had been seeing Paddy for over a year and had no inkling he was dating someone else more seriously. Reporter Grace Gildee is also a wee bit surprised as she remembers Paddy from college when he and her twin sister Marnie had an odd relationship that led to her sibling becoming emotionally fractured. Unable to resist and not trusting Paddy, Grace investigates only to learn the truth about the soulless rogue. She decides it is time for a reckoning with the help of Marnie and Lola.

This is a great charmer that balances darkness with hope. The three women are solid characters teaming up on a mission of vengeance while their antagonist is a fabulous shallow hunk who uses people like a soul draining vampire. Using dark humor at the perfect moments, Marian Keyes provides a strong look at the causal effect of alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicidal tendencies, and violent relationships leading to individual destruction. THIS CHARMING MAN is a superb character study.

Damage Control
J.A. Jance
9780060746766, $25.95

Joanne Brady is the sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, a mother and a wife, but daily she struggles to maintain a balance between her three major roles. One long weekend stretches the resources of her department to the limit. Alfred and Martha Beasley have a pleasant picnic near Huachuca Mountain; afterward they calmly speed on the mountain until the vehicle goes over the side. It was a double suicide as Alfred feared he had Alzheimer's and neither he nor his wife could live with that sentence.

Then after a violent storm, two garbage bags tied together are found in the desert and inside are the skeletal remains of mentally impaired Wanda Mappin who lived in a group home run by Flannigan Foundation. Wanda complained to her mother before she died that her friend Wayne was missing. The Foundation listed her as missing soon after she disappeared, but the Foundation waited two months to report it.

The Beasley's two adult daughters have not spoken to each other for decades. They come to town to deal with the deaths of their parents and the estate. They end up in jail for drunk and disorderly conduct. When they are released one of them has a psychotic break down and holds her sister hostage, but soon after the other too goes over the edge. A woman kills an intruder in her home thinking he is her boyfriend when it is a stranger linked to another case while an elderly person dies in a trailer fire while his daughter and children survive. Joanne has had a long weekend.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are more crimes and deaths and plenty of people with information who fail to step forward. Although somewhat overwhelming in a novel with so much big and small happening, realism hits home as J.A. Jance juggles several subplots that reflect life as a county sheriff. DAMAGE CONTROL is impossible to put down whodunit as Joanne Brady believes she can do it all, but would not mind a short respite to recharge the batteries; but if none come so be it she will do all her roles well.

S.J. Bolton
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312381134, $24.95, 1-888-330-8477

Excited but a bit apprehensive obstetrician Dr. Tora Hamilton leaves London with her husband Duncan Guthrie, to open up a practice near his hometown on the Shetland Islands. When her horse dies, Tora starts to dig a grave to bury her steed. However, her shoveling uncovers the corpse of a young woman. Runes are etched onto the victim's back and her heart ripped from her chest.

The autopsy also reveals the woman recently gave birth. Unable to resist Tora investigates trying to learn who the woman is, what happened to the child, why this seemingly ritual homicide, and by whom. No one cooperates not even her spouse, who warns her to back off from her inquires. As she gets closer to the truth, Tora becomes frightened that she could be next victim and begins to trust no one especially Duncan.

This is a deep amateur sleuth with local mythos and a hint of the supernatural making for a compelling tale that is mindful in many ways of the 1973 version of The Wicker Man especially as Tora begins to uncover the motive. Readers will be spellbound by the islanders who resent the outsider's inquiries into their lives and belief system. Vivid in detail including some stomach turning sequences, SACRIFICE is definitely not a sacrifice to read as SJ Bolton provides a powerful look at the essence of inhumanity, which humanity would insist is pure evil.

I Shall Not Want
Julia Spencer-Fleming
St. Martin's Press
0312334877, $24.95

In Miller's Kill, New York, Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne remain in shock over the death of his wife Linda (see ALL MORTAL FLESH). Out of respect for the dead and lingering guilt over their feelings for one another, though both remain strongly attracted to each other, Clare and Russ avoid one another.

Their grief and guilt are interrupted when an unknown vigilante team assaults a van loaded with Mexican migrant farm workers. Russ investigates the nasty incident with Clare assisting him as he believes her presence as a woman and a minister might enable him to get the migrant workers to open up; otherwise he faces a wall of silence as Mexican workers do not trust law enforcement in these times of harassment. Soon other Latinos are murdered; leaving the cop and the preacher to wonder if a war on foreigners has come to Upstate New York.

The latest Fergusson and Van Alstyne tale continues the complicated and convoluted relationship made exponentially even more complex by the haunting spectral memory of Linda; each feels they betrayed her by their feelings for one another. Although the plot takes improbable spins, the exciting look at foreign migrant workers is timely. Fans of the series will enjoy this character driven entry.

Escape from Amsterdam
Barrie Sherwood
St. Martin's Press
0312380402, $23.95

University of Kyoto student Aozora Fujiwara has run up quite a gambling debt to local gangster Mr. Uno who runs an illegal mah-jongg parlor. However, his IOU may be covered because lucky for him his wealthy Auntie Okane died leaving him and his sister Mai with a large estate. However, a stipulation in his aunt's will causes Aozora some concern; to collect his sister must be with him. She vanished from opera school.

While the yakuza mobsters seek to break some of his bones, Aozora searches for his sibling, whom he has not seen in over a year. Clues lead him to Amsterdam (Japan not Europe) where she is performing at the strange Dutch-themed amusement park home to the renowned "Harry Potterdam". However, even there Aozora runs into mobsters as local kingpin Gondo refuses to free the indentured Mai, who owes him; besides she does not want to leave her status as a princess entertaining his special clients here.

This is an engaging lighthearted farcical Noir look at the nastier side of Japan through the eyes of a beguiling rascal who can be summed up by his self deprecating observation that women see his penis as a lobster fest. Fans will appreciate his unwanted escapades as Aozora seems to cross thugs or bores everywhere even on the bullet train. Manga illustrations and photos augment this mellow young man's run through the criminal gauntlet.

The Blood Detective
Dan Waddell
St. Martin's Press
0312378904, $24.95

Scotland Yard hires genealogist Nigel Barnes as a consultant to their investigation into ghastly serial killings haunting London. The only link between the victims besides a gruesome death is each corpse is marked with "1A137".

Barnes follows up on the death number and soon realizes it is the number on the death certificate filed in 1879 for murder victim Albert Beck, who was stabbed to death in a churchyard. As he widens his historical search, he learns that Beck was one of the five victims allegedly murdered by the Kensington Killer; Eke Fairbairn was arrested as such, tried and executed. Further evidence seems to imply Eke was innocent and an apparent descendant is avenging his undeserved execution by executing relatives of the prosecution.

Although the climax seems implausible, readers will relish this strong police procedural with a fascinating lead character, who uses genealogy to uncover nineteenth century clues to a present day serial killer. The story line is fast-paced, but held together by Nigel as he begins to piece together the puzzle. He will remind the audience somewhat of Rhett McPherson's Missouri genealogist Torie O'Shea. Fans will enjoy this fine English whodunit while looking forward to more such cases starring Nigel.

Bobbie Faye's (Kinda, Sorta, Not-Exactly) Family Jewels
Toni McGee Causey
St. Martin's Press
9780312354503, $13.95

In Lake Charles, Louisiana Bobbie Faye Sumrall is tired of battling the universe as if the cosmos was her spouse. From the bank loan rejection just because she has been shot at making her a life risk to her job at the gun counter of the infamous CeCe's Cajun Outfitter and Feng Shui Emporium, harassment is the norm. To top off Bobby Faye's day in which she is her usual crazy, cranky, and cantankerous self, Francesca the diva cousin invades her space at work.

Francesca using the DNA connection as improbable it might seem demands Bobby Faye help her find the family jewels. Apparently, Francesca the drama queen insists her momma, Bobby Faye's loving aunt, vanished taking diamonds with her that she stole from her adversarial husband who by the way purloined those from a dangerous criminal who wants them back or he will cut off that limb of the family tree. Bobby Faye knows the only way to rid herself of the pest is to do her bidding. With her boyfriend Trevor of the FBI and her childhood pal Cam the detective, Bobbie Faye begins the quest for the family jewels (the diamonds too).

This is a sort of Stephanie Plum reincarnation into a Bayou Babe as sassy, brassy and assy Bobbie Faye winds up in one predicament after another; several of those caused by family assistance. The story line is an amusing regional chick lit mystery that never slows down although somewhat overwhelmed by an eccentric cast out of the De Mille extravaganza. Fans of lighthearted farces will enjoy this fun tale and BOBBIE FAYE'S VERY (VERY, VERY, VERY) BAD DAY.

Don't Tell a Soul
David Rosenfelt
St. Martin's Press
9780312373955, $22.95

Timothy Wallace still mourns the shocking death of his wife Maggie. It is not just her sudden death that has shaken Tim; it is also how she died. Several months ago, she died in a boat explosion on Long Island Sound in which he was the prime suspect in her death.

While getting drunk at a local dive on New Year's Eve, another intoxicated customer tells Tim a stunner re his late wife's death. Tim is further stunned when he becomes the prime person of interest in a second woman's suspicious death and the cops, especially Police Detective Jonathon Novack, looks closely at him again for Maggie's death. Tim tries to ignore being the focus of Novack who believes the widower is a cold blooded murderer by concentrating on his successful security construction firm that is working on the development of Newark's Federal Center; unaware others watch him and the work for odious reasons.

Readers will agree with Novack that Tim murdered his wife as increasingly the evidence points towards him; even Tim who knows whether he killed her and another woman or not wonders what the hell is going on. The story line is fast-paced and filled with twists and plausible red herrings; especially enlightening is the underlying denotation that politics means avarice, graft, and abuse. David Rosenfelt provides his audience with a one sitting thriller with a dedicated stubborn cop looking at a widower who is looking at how a construction deal ties to his wife's death.

Walk on the Wild Side
Christine Warren
St. Martin's Press
0312947917, $6.99

In Tennessee while driving home with her mom Misty, their truck crashes. Misty is unconscious, but Kitty Jane Sugarman manages to get both of them clear of the vehicle. However, they need help desperately, but on the back roads no one is in sight. Somehow while in severe pain, Kitty Jane for the first time in her life shifts her body; she now knows her father is an Other, a lion shapeshifter.

The Felix of the Red Rock Leos, Martin Lowe is dying from cancer. He wants to meet his daughter before he dies. He sends his trusted aide Marcus "Max" Stuart to arrange for his meeting Kitty. Max goes to Vegas to meet Kitty at the airport. He is stunned to find an innocent twenty-four years old instead of the hardened easterner that he expected. However, many in the Pride want Max and Kitty out of the way so the can replace Martin and inherit his wealth; none expected the strong loving bond between the number two Leo and the daughter of the Felix.

The latest Others' supernatural romance is a strong tale starring a solid cast who make believers that shapeshifters exist. Kitty and Max are a wonderful coupling as they fight, fuss, and purr in love. However, the star is Kitty who had no inkling of her paternal DNA until the accident, but whose steel magnolia personality comes in handy as she deals with her dad's pride, a totally new side of the family; with at least one or more wanting her either frightened back to backwoods Tennessee or dead. Fans will enjoy the war between love and avarice as Christine Warren provides another terrific paranormal romantic suspense thriller.

One With the Darkness
Susan Squires
St. Martin's Press
0312941048, $6.99

Eighteen hundred years have past since Contessa Donnatella di Poliziano followed her species' strict rule outlawing the creation of a new vampire. Over the eighteen centuries, she has been lonely, angry and acerbic because back then she had the chance to save the life of the only man she loved, Jergan, but timidly let him die instead of converting him to what she was and is.

In 1821, her Renaissance friends Michelangelo and Leonardo left Donnatella a note that they knew of a time machine that would enable her to back to that first century and mend her broken heart. However, upon her return to the age of Caligula when she was and once again is Livia Quintus Lucellus, she forgets her quest. Instead she is part of a group wanting the Emperor removed from power. However, fate intervenes when she buys Jergan the slave, but will the second time around end any different than the first tragic time.

This is a superb time travel vampire romance starring a courageous heroine who goes after the love of her life in an attempt to rectify what she believes was an error on her part. The underlying second chance at love theme enhances a strong plot in which Caligula's Rome is a key element. Susan Squires knows her vampires as she provides a strong tale of forbidden love in Ancient Rome.

Sherri Rifkin
St. Martin's Press
9780312380212, $13.95

Manhattan media expert Tori Miller feels her world is imploding when the love of her life dumps her with no warning and her employer dumps her with even less warning. Still Tori somewhat rebounds from her woes by opening up her own production company, MillerWorks.

However her two "J" employees and her buddy Alice worry about her depression and rejection of males. They form the "Transformation Trio" using Tori as the first makeover on their new TV reality show. The new glamorous Tori joins a Hampton time sharing summerhouse with five yuppies. The rules drive her crazy as they change before she can learn them and contradict one another so one is doomed to break them. Still that insanity does not prevent her from trysting with housemate Andrew Kane or helping another mate Cassie Dearborn with her escapades.

LOVEHAMPTON is an amusing summer breeze as Tori takes over the Hamptons. The support cast is strong in Manhattan and on Long Island, but the tale belongs to the star as Tori finds this is the most wonderful summer of her life even as she breaks the sacred timesharing taboos.

Carolyn Haines
St. Martin's Press
9780312377083, $23.95

Sarah Booth Delaney finds it difficult to leave her friends and home in Zinnia, Mississippi, but she follows her dream. She has a chance to co-star in the remake of Body Heat with her former and future lover Graf Mileau. Graf is determined to win Sarah's heart and give her the opportunity to figure out if she can love him and make a commitment to him; he wants to marry her and have children with her.

She wins the role. However before she goes on location at director Federico Marquez's home in Petaluma, Costa Rica, the corpse of actress Suzy Dutton, who expected to gain the part Sarah got, is found. In Costa Rica Sarah feels someone is watching her and she hears noises and voices in the wells. The locals blame it on Federico's daughter Estelle who does not want her or any of these females in her late mother's house. Sarah sees a ghost in red and Federico's lover Jovan vanishes. Her Zinnia sisterhood mafia (Cece, Millie and Tinkie) arrive to help Sarah by sleuthing; none realize their investigation increases the danger to them exponentially.

The exciting latest Sarah Booth Delaney amateur sleuth is a bit different from her previous appearances as the heroine is taken out of her Southern magnolia milieu and placed in another country doing what she always wanted to do, star in a film. There is something happening every moment leaving readers to anticipate what next. Fans will admire the loyalty of the Mississippi posse (even if passports seem too expeditiously obtained in this Patriot Act era). With a dash of romance on top of a strong mystery, fans will enjoy Carolyn Haines' terrific novel as Sarah has life choices to make that will dictate the future path of the series.

One of Those Malibu Nights
Elizabeth Adler
St. Martin's Press
9780312364496, $24.95

Southern California private investigator Mac Reilly hosts the cold case mystery show "Mac Reilly's Malibu Mysteries"; he enjoys leading his audience on investigations of unsolved cases. Mac is walking his dog on the beach by his home Malibu Colony at night thinking about his lover Sunny Alvarez who left for Rome after they argued. When he hears a scream from a nearby home, Mac immediately races to the location to be of assistance. He arrives only to have a beautiful female point a gun at his face; a gun that goes off just missing him. Mac leaves before he is hurt as he knows this is one of these crazy nights.

Later he learns his accidental shooter is one of the zillion Ronald Perrin girlfriends. Perrin is an investment billionaire married to Hollywood actress Allie Ray, who plans to divorce her philandering spouse. Ironically, Ron hires Mac to find out who is following him and Allie hires Mac to find out who is stalking her. Following her appearance at Cannes, Allie vanishes changing Mac's surveillance cases to something more sinister.

This fast-paced whodunit moves from California to Europe to Mexico and back to Malibu, as Elizabeth Adler, known for her overseas thrillers, provides an entertaining whodunit. Mac is fabulous as a PI turned reality host having a married couple as seperate clients even though he knows that he could have some ethics issues if he has to testify in court at their divorce suit. Fans will relish his Hollywood polished Noir as ONE OF THESE MALIBU NIGHTS is a fun private investigation tale.

The Shadows
L.A. Banks
St. Martin's Press
9780312368753, $14.95

In Greece, the Neterus Damali and Carlos injured the Anti-Christ; Lilith is working to stem the bleeding and heal him while her husband Lu is fighting the angels wanting to destroy the Anti-Christ. Damali and Carlos accompanied by their team are in a safe house protected so that the Dark Side cannot find them. They are energy depleted and one their members discovered that A Council Vamp are sending negative essences through communication devices lie television, the internet and music so that when the time comes these humans will explode and chaos will be the norm.

The Unnamed One seeks the Neteru team who almost destroyed is heir. In his search for them he has his demonic army go topside and cause havoc on a catastrophic mass destructive level. Damali is pregnant and Carlos is doing all he can to protect her; three of the guardians are also carrying. Vampiric Councilman Sebastian tries to convince Lilith and the Unnamed One it is true they are pregnant but Lucifer believes this is false because the angels are trying to kill him as they think they can win the war now. The Neteru team is forced into another life changing deadly battle against the Darkness.

L.A. Banks latest entry in her Huntress Legend saga is an exciting and evocative thriller filled with the trademark supernatural battles, romance, and plenty of suspense as not all skirmishes go the way of the good guys. Carlos has matured into a heroic leader who makes difficult decisions that send loyal people to their possible deaths. Damali is his ethical spiritual anchor who is vulnerable yet strong. Readers will relish this tale and look forward to the next installment in this superb apocalyptic series.

Fearless Fourteen
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's Press
9780312349516, $27.95

Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is having a difficult morning while trying to take Loretta Rizzi to jail for missing her hearing and forfeiting her bail; the problem is that Loretta holds a gun to her head threatening to kill herself. By the time she talks Loretta down Stephanie promised to pick up her son Zook up at school. Stephanie gets him up and takes him the home of her lover Joe Morelli, who is also a distant cousin of the lad.

Dom Rizzi is released from prison after robbing bank of nine million dollars. He was the only one of the partners who went to jail. When he gets out he is livid that Aunt Rose left her house to Joe, a very distant cousin of his. It is believed that the loot is in Aunt Rose's former house; strangers seem to be stalking the place at all hours. Loretta makes bond, but is abducted by one of the bank robbers who wants the loot. Joe uses a jackhammer to concrete he placed in the basement as he believes the key to getting the money is buried there. Stephanie and Dom team up to free Loretta from a former partner of his who will kill her if the money is not given to him immediately.

FEARLESS FOURTEEN is a hilarious crime caper as Stephanie who often does not know what she is doing next relies on Ranger for his illegal activities to assist her. Joe is a saint for putting up with her antics including putting up with strangers in his home while his house becomes the focus of treasure hunters. Stephanie is her usual self landing in one predicament after another, but always pulling out a plum in her most dire moments. Janet Evanovich writes a fabulously amusing numbered entry in her beloved series.

Silent Thunder
Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen
St. Martin's Press
9780312367992, $24.95

It is her job as a marine architect to make sure the Russian nuclear sub Silent Thunder is clean so that it can be put on exhibit by the museum that purchased it once there are no booby traps or despicable items on board. Hannah Bryson works with her brother Connor on the scrub; he finds the strange metal plate with weird symbols on it. She leaves the sub to make a call to a CIA agent to inform him of the find, but while she is doing that someone gets insides and blows up Connor.

Livid, Hannah has no time to grieve as she learns that Agent Bradworth and Russian Nicolas Kirov used them as bait to trap crime lord Mr. Pavski, who killed the crew on the sub's last voyage except for Kirov who wants revenge. The CIA wants to use her to get top secret information Pavski possesses about Putin's Russia. Pavski is obsessed with finding the precious artifact the Golden Cradle because he believes it will give him more power. Hannah and Kirov team up to get Pavski because he killed people they loved.

Though a bit over the top, the Johansen mother and son team provide an exciting thriller that uses a touch of romance to relieve some of the stratospheric levels of tension. SILENT THUNDER is a superb cat and mouse caper with the bad guy and some of the so called good guys consistently changing the rules of the game to better fit their personal agendas. Hannah is a courageous but typical of the action thriller genre as a person who seeks vengeance for her brother's murder and though she lacks the skills and it means placing her own life on the line; whereas Kirov is an enigmatic introvert who has plenty of experience surviving the dark side of life.

Anybody Any Minutes
Julie Mars
St. Martin's Press
9780312378691, $24.95

In 1995, Manhattanite fortyish Ellen Kenny heads to Montreal to spend time with her sister Karen and her infant nephew Olivier. However, the former hippie stops in Eagle Beck, New York and on a whim buys a fixer upper house not occupied since 1988; all on a credit card. Her spouse of seventeen years Tommy is stunned when she calls to tell him.

Ellen realizes that her purchase may have had a consequential side effect of devastating her marriage, but feels she did the right thing. However as she tries to become part of the small town, Ellen feels like an outsider even though she becomes friends with the local Hatfield and McCoy, feuding Rayfield and Rodney while Olivier is living with her for now.

This interesting character study looks deep at a disenchanted middle aged woman who finds her current secure life unsatisfactory and makes a whimsical spur of the moment decision to capture what she feels she lost but could cost her marriage with Oliver. When the tale focuses on Ellen's relationships with her husband, sister, and nephew, the subplot is powerful and emotional. When the novel turns humorous with her being pulled by the feuding duo and other locals the story line is more amusing but dissipates some of its steam. Still this is a fine look at a former hippie turned middle class trying to regain the idealism of her lost youth paradise , but the reality does not always match the memory.

The Water's Edge
Daniel Judson
St. Martin's Press
9780312352547, $24.95

Off a Southampton, Long Island bridge hang two severely battered corpses; the victims turn out to be drug couriers, but law enforcement is stymied as someone is providing a warning message to someone else, but the transmitter and receiver remain unknown to the cops.

Former boxer Jake Bechet understands the message is the medium as he used to be a mob enforcer for the merciless Castello family. He is blackmailed into investigating by Castello thugs who threaten his loved ones. At the same time that Bechet deals with "hostages", retired private investigator Tommy Miller realizes a former lover is connected to the dead men; the current police chief who replaced Miller's corrupt dad pressures him to investigate, but he planned to anyway. He searches for her to keep her safe with assistance of ex cop Kay Barton. The three sleuths share in common a need to hide from their respective pasts and a chance for redemption by insuring their loved ones are safe.

The nasty weather symbolizes this exhilarating crime thriller as three people who each feel they respectively failed at life find an opportunity to redeem themselves while searching for clues in fog and heavy cold rain that they hope wash away the past. The prime threesome are unique fully developed characters with the intimate knowledge of the Hamptons making those Long Island communities come across as a fourth entity. In twenty fours they will either fail or be redeemed, but keep in mind suspense and twists are throughout and the ending is pure Daniel Judson.

Shadow Magic
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin's Press
9780312949587, $8.99

In Otherworld, gray witch Hannah Wentworth plans revenge against the Dark Goddess of Underworld Ceithlenn, who caused so much death and destruction in San Francisco. Using her dragon elemental mirror to scry the future, Hannah is shocked to see humans flee from the Fomorii Demons and her familiar Fire Dragon shoot flames at her. Hannah travels with D'Dannen warriors and fellow D'Anu witch Rhiannon to meet with the latter's father Drow King Garren ruler of the Dark Elves, considered a traitor by those in the Otherworlds of elves and humans for allowing Ceithlenn and her evil God spouse Balor to escape from Underworld. However, to defeat Ceithlenn, they will need Garren's support although his elves like him cannot travel in sunlight as they have been cursed.

At the meeting Hannah feels nervous around Garren as they are attracted to one another. However, they ignore their desires and discuss the situation. Garren makes it clear he will do what is right for his people. After escorting Hannah on a tour of the Dark Elves realm, he explains they opened the door to Underworld to let in the light, but erred instead allowing the Fomorii Demons and Ceithlenn to escape; his beloved brother died in the fight to stop them.

In San Francisco, Ceithlenn is weak from her fighting with the witches, warriors, and cops, but most of her anger is at Darkwolf who has stolen her spouse Balor's Eye. She also fears for her husband as she has not found him and knows he must be very weak and near death. Soon all the parties will converge in a key showdown.

This series is already one the best romantic urban fantasies and SHADOW MAGIC may be the best book to date. The lead couple is a great pairing who the audience will like while the paranormal species all seem genuine as does the attacks in San Francisco. Though there are obviously previous novels in this series and the future is somewhat established, this excellent tale can stand alone as Cheyenne McCray affirms she is a great fantasist.

She Always Wore Red
Angela Hunt
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414311708, $13.995, 1-800-323-9400

A former Chief of Staff to a US Senator, almost forty Jennifer Graham left DC for Mount Dora, Florida following an ugly divorce, accompanied by her two sons. She is attending mortuary school and has converted her family Victorian mansion into a place for her and the boys to live and as the Fairlawn Funeral Home. Since she is in training, elderly embalmer Gerald Huffman lives with them while overseeing the body dressing.

However, the change does not work out as smooth as Jennifer hoped for. Her son thirteen year old Clay has joined a team of shoplifting troublemakers and has been nasty at home to her and his brother. He is driving her to the end of her rope although she loves him and will keep on feeling that way regardless of what trouble he is in. However Jennifer also discovers she has a half-sister dominated by a fundamentalist stepfather whose beliefs make Jennifer wonder about her own as her faith in God is tested.

The sequel to DOESN'T SHE LOOK NATURAL is a deeper tale than the fine first Graham entry as issues of faith, race, divorce aftermath and teen peer pressure are handled deftly while interwoven into a strong character driven story. Jennifer is a wonderful lead protagonist who left DC for small town Florida for her sake and that of her sons in order for them to start fresh; however the best laid plans of mice, women and Jennifer often go astray. Angela Hunt provides a poignant contemporary novel that in spite of the profound issues, frustrations and differences true maternal love is always there.

Tom Pawlik
9781414318936, $12.99

Three people experience the most frightening event in their lives when they are doing ordinary things until a strange storm with odd lights appears without warning. They become unconscious; when they awaken they find no one in sight.

Former model Helen Krause had just been turned down for an assignment and her son informed her he is moving to New York. Mechanic Mitch Kent planned to propose to his girlfriend. Attorney Conner Hunter has his daughter Rachel for the weekend. This trio separately realizes they are alone until they meet and compare their experiences. Each hears shadows whispering and soon believes they are under surveillance of sorts. Soon they conclude that the observers want to separate them and keep them from meeting others, but do not know why, who they are, and what happened to everyone else.

Readers will understand why this is the winner of the 2006 Operation First Novel contest, Each of the key characters has issues that they kept pushing off hoping to ignore; which proves prophetic as the VANISH supersedes their seemingly minor previous problems. The threesome are in many ways similar yet distinctive and fully developed as they wonder how they landed in the Twilight Zone; the truth will shock the audience as Tom Pawlik provides a strong thriller.

Chris Fabry
9781414319551, $12.99

It has been twelve years since Will Hatfield was sentenced to Clarkeston Federal prison, but he is about to be released in two months. He has a great desire to see the family farm in Dogwood, West Virginia and Karin the only woman h ever loved. When he went to prison, she never answered his letters as she made a new life for herself in a passionless marriage with three children she adores.

When Will comes home, he is not greeted like the prodigal son as most locals believe he should have spent his life in prison for his crimes; even his brother would be happier if he left. The family has been dragged through the sewage due to Will's DUI vehicular homicide of two innocent girls. He is attacked at the place he used to work and the town tries to take the farm away from him due to eminent domain. Karin is coming to learn the truth ABOUT THE SACRIFICE Will made for her.

On the surface DOGWOOD seems like a straight line story with Danny the brother of the dead sisters receiving counseling because he blames himself for their deaths. Karin tries to be happy in her situation while Will shows patience as he waits for Karin to realize the truth. None of the peoples' stories are quite what they appear as the revelations are quite shocking. Chris Fabry has written a heart wrenching character driven tale as each of the key players feels guilt while praying for redemption and a fresh start.

The Moon in the Mango Tree
Pamela Binnings Ewen
B&H Publishing Group
127 Ninth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37234-0143
9780805447330, $15.99, 1-800-251-3225

Not long after WWI ended, Barbara is forced to forget her dreams of being an opera diva when she marries Dr. Harvey Perkins, who informs his new bride that he is giving up his practice to serve as a medical missionary in Siam. He offers her a platitude that she will be able to sing once they settle in Siam. Frightened as she is a comfortable Christian and not a missionary, Babs objects to their relocation as she prefers they move to Chicago where the local opera has offered her a performing role. However, he rules as the husband and they head to Siam.

However, not long after arrival in rural Nan, Babs is unable to adjust to the abject poverty she witnesses or the conditions of their lifestyle. Harvey is appalled with his spouse's failure and irate with her weakness when she suffers a nervous breakdown. Still they return to the States for her to heal, but fanatical Harvey forces them to return to his Siam practice soonest.

THE MOON IN THE MANGO TREE is a terrific historical tale that allows the audience too look deeply at the role of women in society. Fascinatingly Harvey cares and loves his spouse, but is disappointed in her failure to adjust; her ambition and goals are irrelevant. Babs wants to adapt as she accepts that is her position in life, but resents giving up her goals and cannot cope with what she has seen in Siam. Although the description of time and place is extremely vivid enabling the reader to feel they are in America and Siam circa 1920s; that also slows down the pace of an otherwise strong early twentieth century relationship drama.

Don't Ever Tell
Brandon Massey
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780786019939, $6.99 1-800-345-2665

Dexter Bates is free after spending four years at Centralia Correctional Facility. A prison guard Steele, and Dex's pals Javier and Javier's wife Christy liberated him as he was being transferred to another facility. They inform him his woman vanished. He is unconcerned as he will find her for betraying him and payback is hell when he makes the remittance.

Happily married Rachel Moore has changed her identity so that she can move past her relationship with incarcerated abusive Dexter; plus just in case he somehow gets out he will not easily find her; she knows he will look. She has relocated so he cannot find her. However, although she feels free of him, she still at times looks over her shoulder into the shadows. Rachel knows if he is freed, he will search for her; if he searches for her, he will not quit until he finds her; if he finds her, he will killer her beloved husband and torture her until he kills her. She prays every night, but so does he in his way. Only one can have their prayer answered.

Dexter is a chilling villain who seems so calm even when he is killing someone. As he begins his quest, Rachel is very happy in her new life. That contrast between them enhances a strong psychological suspense thriller that never slows down from the moment the correctional guards escorting Bates stop to help a pretty blonde with car trouble and never decelerates as he is coming for her. Fans know high noon is coming as Brandon Massey provides a gripping suspenseful tale.

Don't Turn Around
Hunter Morgan
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780821779477, $6.99, 1-800-345-2665

In Delaware in the middle of the night Linda Truman calls the Sussex County Hospital Victim Advocate Casey McDaniel pleading with her to help her as her former boyfriend Charlie Gaitlin is trying to break into her home. Casey calls the cops and rushes over to the terrorized woman's house, but is too late; Linda is dead. The victim advocate gives sworn testimony that Linda named Charlie as her attacker on the phone and two weeks earlier, which led to her hospitalization. Charlie is locked up for four months as he could not make bail. At the hearing, however, ADA Adam Preston III informs a stunned Casey that Charlie is free on a nolle prosequi plea by the DA Office as the DNA evidence was not back and they were unprepared. Afterward Charlie warns Casey to keep looking over her shoulder.

At the hospital, Casey meets attorney Lincoln Tyndale over chili and crackers. They get on well together and she decides she would not mind seeing him again. Preston also wants to date her. However, apparently Charlie is acting out his threat to Casey as she receives nasty phone calls, letters, and emails that include threatening to kill her dad, and a widow suffering from Alzheimer's. She was a victim once before and vowed never again, but this insidious campaign is frightening her as her dad is being used as a potential pawn to get at her.

This exciting romantic suspense thriller grips readers from the moment Charlie threatens Casey in the isolated parking lot by the court building in spite of doubts that such a locale during business hours would have no people moving about. The fast-paced story line contrasts the heroine's attraction to Lincoln and Preston vs. the terror campaign. With a superb late twist that will stun readers though the clues are there, fans will appreciate this taut tale while looking back over their shoulders.

Highland Fire
Hannah Howell
Zebra Books
9780821774298 , $6.99

In 1400 off the Northwest coast of Scotland, Moira Robertson recklessly risks her life to rescue her kidnapped cousin. She cannot help noticing the older man on board George Fraser, who stares at her when she thinks she does not notice and wonders about his secrets just like he does likewise about her. A sudden storm sweeps Moira and George overboard. They manage to make it to shore where she realizes his bulging stomach is gone and so is his gray. Elderly George is a hunk her age not thrice her age.

Tavig MacAlpin explains to Moira why he was disguised. He tells her he has been accused and convicted by Sir Ivor of a crime he did not commit; his sentence is the gallows. He seeks proof of his innocence, but the ransom to capture him allows for his death. As they help each other on their quests, they fall in love, but neither can look at the future as the present is filled with danger.

This is an engaging Scottish historical romance with a wee bit of the paranormal (she is a healer and he can see the future). The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down until the final confrontation. Although Moira can be a pain in the butt with her continual rejections of the hero's declarations of love based on the Scottish superstitions that she might be evil (except when she heals someone with her touch), fans will enjoy Hannah Howell's latest fun Highlander historical.

When He Was Bad
Shelly Laurenston and Cynthia Eden
Kensington Brava
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758227264, $14.00, $14.00, 1-800-345-2665

"Miss Congeniality" by Shelly Laurenston:. In Seattle, Van Holtz heir as the future alpha to his pack ignores the fact that Professor Irene Conridge seems to not want him as he desires her. She actually hides her attraction as she struggles against nasty enemies who want her chemical warfare secrets. Only Van Holtz can keep her safe, but she wonders at what cost.

"Wicked Ways" by Cynthia Eden: Miranda Shaw's Internet date affirms that this is a dangerous form of meeting someone when he tries to bite her neck not to give her a hickey but to drink her blood. Her next door neighbor Cain Lawson, who has fantasized about her, hears her scream and comes to her rescue. They team up in the boudoir and on the prowl to prevent a serial killing vampire from further murders.

These are two entertaining paranormal romantic suspense novellas that sub-genre fans will appreciate as the heroes' wet dream of the respective lead females while the women seem to ignore them until that first heated kiss.

Damned, Delicious and Dangerous
Delilah Devlin, Lisa Renee Jones, Megan Kerans
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758225504, $12.95

"The Demon Lord's Cloak" by Delilah Devlin. Voletta is the sacrifice left naked and tied for the fallen angel Damien to devour. However, instead of the usual fear he sees in the women dumped on him, she welcomes his touch.

"Night Sins" by Lisa Renee Jones. In Las Vegas, Ethan the vampire and Kayla the watcher know a relationship between them is taboo by both their species; however, neither can resist the lure of the other.

"The Devil's Paradise" by Megan Kerans. Dash gave away his soul centuries ago leaving himself condemned for eternity until he meets wedding planner Justice who plans a gala at The Last Resort Hotel, but nothing is like she expected when she meets the soulless one.

These are three lighthearted paranormal exotic romances starring likable female humans who go after DAMNED, DELICIOUS AND DANGEROUS hunks with no fears in their hearts.

P.F. Kozak, Devyn Quinn, Jane Ledger
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758225318, $12.95

"Hot Pepper" by P.F. Kozak. Pepper Kaufmann has just come home after a decade away. Back in high school, Butch Lorenzo was her soulmate while Ted Duncan was her best friend. This time she plans to taste both men.

"No Strings Attached" by Devyn Quinn. Exotic dancer Lara Green says yes to a chance to earn a million dollars if she spends a week at a mountain cabin as the sex toy of wealthy Nick Conway and his best friend Jared.

"Bring It On" by Jane Ledger. In an accident in which no one was hurt, Nancy Roman ran into her high school friend police officer Steve Karan and his partner Jack Ginnis. She decides to go for the men in (make that out) of uniform insisting she looks forward to doing both men with their birthday suits.

Not for everyone as the title is apropos with three entertaining menage a trois tales. The triangles are set up reasonably well so that the erotic story lines do more than just heat the sheets. Fans who prefer something hot yet different will enjoy these women as it takes two men to satisfy them

Peach Blossom Pavilion
Mingmei Yip
9780758220141, $14.00

In 1918 China Xiang Xiang's father Baba is accused of a crime, convicted, and executed; throughout he swore he was innocent; his crime was being righteous while "meddling in rich men's business". He left behind his beloved daughter and his wife, Xiang's mom, but the disgrace forced the older female survivor to enter a Buddhist nunnery in Peking and to "sell" her daughter due to the machinations of a distant relative Fang Rong who conned the grieving widow.

With no options the teenage virgin enters the Peach Blossom Pavilion. Owners Fang Rong and Wu Qiang see the young girl as a valuable commodity as virgins sell well in a bidding war although the newcomer treats them like honored parents. Still Precious Orchid as she is now called hopes to earn enough money to leave and to one day learn who set up her beloved father. Over time with the help of her best friend Pearl, she adapts and soon becomes the most poplar courtesan. Richard Anderson for instance enjoys chatting with the intelligent Precious Orchid and also enjoys listening to her play a musical instrument. Ultimately he offers her marriage, but will tainted Precious Orchid say no thank you or will innocent Xiang say yes.

This is a fascinating historical biographical fiction that grips readers from the moment Xiang Xiang explains what happened to her parents and never slows down as she relates her life story to her granddaughter in California (and to the audience). The Chinese social system of the early twentieth century encourages avarice and corruption; something Precious quickly learns to manipulate for her personal gain. Her vow is not to repeat her father's mistake of righteousness, but to use her innocence as a tool to live the good life paid for by the same affluent types who murdered her father. Fans will admire Xiang as she does what she has to do, not to just survive, but to live a luxurious pampered life; will she give it up for Richard?

Nights in Black Leather
Noelle Mack
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758221896, $12.95

Lara Stone lives up to her surname as she leaves no stone unturned or untouched for that matter in her quest to clmb the corporate ladder. Thus when an opportunity arises, the ambitious at all cost Lara avidly agrees to be the corporate headquarters' mole in their London office; she sees an opportunity to shortcut the climb to the top.

Lara leaves Chicago for England to spy on hedge fund magnate Adam Bowlin. However, she is stunned by the hunk she assumed was a playboy. Instead of clubbing he prefers nights in his chateau spent with the beautiful American as they explore together virtually and reality BDSM and more including her most secret desires. However, in daylight she fears how her beloved will react when he learns why she came to England.

This is an engaging erotic romance although too much emphasis is on the BDSM scenes and not on the lead couple outside of their sexual encounters. The story line hops from one BDSM scenario including virtual reality to another. Fans who prefer their hardcore to dominate the tale will relish the erotic moody blues of NIGHTS IN BLACK LEATHER.

Handbags and Homicide
Dorothy Howell
9780758223746, $22.00

To fund her obscene addiction, Haley Randolph has gone into deep credit card debt; if she never eats, drinks, puts gas in her car, or shop she figures she could pay off her debt in about three lifetimes. However, Haley knows herself too well; she can do without food or liquid or even gas in Los Angeles, but being a "crazed, obsessive, handbag whore" means she cannot stop herself from buying designer bags.

Adding to her woes the accountant is fired from a LA law firm because of evidence of her embezzling funds surfaced. She obtains work during Christmas at Holt's Department Store where she meets the owner Ty Cameron. However, soon afterward, someone murders the store's detested assistant manager, Richard, whose nickname on the floor was obvious. The police suspect Haley as she found the corpse. She vows not to take the hit again as she did when she lost her accounting position; she investigates seeking the real killer while debating whether sex with her boss would be tied to her keeping her job as she would never use her body to stay employed but wants Ty to use her body.

Haley's amusing asides make for a fun chick lit amateur sleuth tale as she investigates the homicide. Haley the sleuth is a bumbler while Haley the person is a dolt even when she fumbles on high heels from one clue to another. Fans will enjoy a combo Inspector Clouseau-Stephanie Plum starring as Ellie Woods of Legally Blonde.

Hot Date
Ann Garvey
Kensington Brava
9780758215932, $14.00

Following her divorce, Grace Lamb returns to her hometown of Wrightsville, Pennsylvania in a rundown VW bus that should have had its last rites years ago. She seeks to renew her juices by opening a gardening business, but her first event in town is to crash into a local police car driven by Nick Griffin the hunk, her older brother's best friend.

Whereas she quickly buries herself with enthusiasm in the restoration of an antique store and being a kind of big sister to a young girl, Nick is a bit surprised that he is attracted to the beautiful woman he always thought of as a pain in the butt little sister; the girl who was always in trouble and needing his rescuing. He does that like old times, but Grace is irate as she does not want a babysitter but a loving partner as she proves in bed that she is his equal and does need his saving her, only being there for her. Making matters worse he alienates the local mob.

This is an engaging look at a small Pennsylvania town through the dual lenses of a romance and of the townsfolk living in Wrightsville. The relationship between big brother's friend and the little sister changes because of Nick seeing her as a sexy adult and not his pal's younger sibling; the amazing Grace always desired and was half in love with Nick in time for years. Amusing HOT DATE is a fun contemporary romance.

Superb and Sexy
Jill Shalvis
Kensington Brava
9780758221841, $14.00

Sky High Air concierge receptionist Maddie hides her attraction to brooding pilot owner Brody West partly because of her entangled past and somewhat due to his outrageously flirting with every female except her; he keeps his distance. However, when her twin sister Leena arrives frightened with the need to activate their disappearance plan as Maddie had previously done alone, Brody becomes gravely concerned and intercedes as he wants to help the sisters.

Maddie and Brody pose as a married couple. He shocks her as he knows her intimately when she thought he barely knew she breathed. For Leena's sake Maddie goes back to her past that she fled with Brody at her side. As they fall in love she considers running again while he must persuade her to stay.

The third Sky High Air Sexy with a capital S tale (see SMART AND SEXY and STRONG AND SEXY) is an engaging refreshing entry as Jill Shalvis moves the plot from the air and the airport to the water and ground. The story line is driven by the lead couple who battle and love each other as she chooses flight and he chooses fight. Although the suspense never soars until very late, fans will enjoy this engaging contemporary romance as love takes to the air, earth and sea.

The Madam Of Maple Court
Joan Elizabeth Lloyd
9780758223722, $15.00

When Dom DePalma suddenly dies he leaves his twenty something widow Pam with an exorbitant mortgage on their exclusive Maple Court mansion and other bills. Pam knows that if she is to continue to live her lavish lifestyle she enjoyed with her spouse, she needs to find a way to bring in money.

Chase Hobart, a married associate of Dom, suggests to Pam that she is a sex object he desires though he loves his wife Anna. He implies she should host special parties for visiting business moguls in which beautiful women offer distinctive services for a fee so that Club Fantasy allows her to continue to belong to the country club. In other words she would be madam to high price call girls catering to the rich and richer. Things work extraordinarily well for Pam, who is booked solid and her sex life is better than ever; however, she soon realizes someone is not euphoric by her cottage industry and she fears may make trouble for her.

This engaging lighthearted frolic is an enjoyable read as Pam turns her posh mansion Maple Court into a high class brothel so that ironically she can pay her mortgage on her home. Pam keeps the story together as the only fully developed character; readers will understand her motives as her hedonism is a refreshing change from the usual adjusting to a less income lifestyle. With the Governor Spitzer and Senator Vitters scenarios, Pam's saga is relevant; however, the story line loses an opportunity to look deeply at what drives a person to prostitution to maintain their current social position. Instead the tale never takes itself seriously yet fans will enjoy Pam's escapades as the Maple Court madam to the wealthy.

The Last Time I Was Me
Cathy Lamb
9780758214638, $15.00

Mourning the death of her mother, Jeanne Stewart is outraged to find out her boyfriend "Slick Dick" has been cheating on her. Irate Jeanne obtains revenge on her live in lover when she mixes peanut oil that he is allergic to with his condoms. His reaction is to sue her. With her personal life in tatters, her professional life melts also when she suffers a nervous breakdown.

Jeanne closes her mom's Chicago home and taking a violin and a gold dolphin necklace her dad gave her just before he died, she leaves and heads to her brother's home in Portland, Oregon stopping to have pancakes at the Opera Man's cafe in Weltana. She begins her recuperation by signing onto an anger management class as required by the court. Running naked as the class requires, she stumbles but a kind man helps her. At her brother's urging, Jeanne works on the PR campaign of a gubernatorial candidate; the man who rescued her when she fell running. The Slickster she left behind in the Midwest is considering a lawsuit.

THE LAST TIME I WAS ME is a charming character study of a grieving woman using a betrayal to find herself. The story line overall is fun to follow, but at times Jeanne turns chick lit chic responses that feel out of place for her. Still fans will cheer Jeanne on as she seeks to find her misplaced groove.

Above the Houses
Susan Enberg
Delphinium Books
9781883285302, $23.95

These are nine insightful tales starring people quietly hiding their feelings of helplessness from loved ones while navigating through a personal crisis; realism is Susan Enberg's poignant deep collection. The best entry and one of the best shorts of the year is "Time's Body" as an elderly man attends the funeral of his long time wife; anyone over fifty will taste their mortality with that story. Others are as deep as this one whether it is a grandpa who has not met his grandchildren talking with a grandma he just met who has memories of her children, a late spouse and a grandchild, but nothing else ("Beginning"); a new bride undecided between exaltation and detachment towards her new mate ("Moon"); or a woman recognizing her life is filled with lies starting with self-mendacity ("River Hills"). Ms. Enberg is one of the best short story authors on the market today as affirmed by this anthology that has readers marveling at the depths of her everyday people.

Murder's Madness
Alex Matthews
Veiled Intent Press
546 N. Humphrey, Oak Park, IL 60302
9780979475603, $15.00,

Chicago therapist Cassidy McCabe runs a successful practice out of her Oak Park home. Recently she married her sweetheart crime reporter Zach Moran. Their life is perfect; wrong! Depressed Zach is struggling with a new editor, who has treated him shabbily. Almost as bad as Zach's lack of tender loving, Starshine her cat has apparently found a better place to hang its' paws.

Medicated for schizophrenia Delia Schiff recently rented Zach's condo in Marina City; Cass has befriended the lonely woman. However, when Delia calls her hysterically about Dark Angels, a corpse in a closet and magic, Cass assumes her new pal is off her meds. She goes over to reassure the distraught woman, but though Cass fails to find a body, she notices some blood. As Delia vanishes, Cass calls the police even as she intends to conduct her own investigation to insure Delia is okay.

The ninth Cass McCabe mystery, IN MURDER'S MADNESS, is an exciting amateur sleuth tale that stars a caring therapist hoping to save the life of a schizophrenic, who is off her medicine and may or may not have seen a corpse. The story line is driven by the heroine's need to help a lonely person; a trait fans of the series know is part of Cass' make-up. However, the plot is owned by Delia even though her appearances are limited; as she enables the audience to go deep inside the tormented soul of a mentally ill individual who needs to stay on her meds to keep some mental equilibrium.

Act Two
Kimberly Stuart
Thomas Cook
c/o David C. Cook
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434700117, $13.99,

Classical soprano superstar Sadie Maddox is a diva in every connotation of the word; she lives in Manhattan and thinks her ex husband lives among the barbarians, somewhere on Long Island. However, her CD sales are drooping and her agent Avi "the Shark" Feldman tells her she has no gigs as no one wants a forty years old except Moravia College in Maplewood, Iowa. Desperate she accepts the visiting teaching position in the Corn Belt knowing that she will spend time in a designer shoe store desert.

In farm country, Sadie realizes her peers like voice teacher Kent Johansen loses his voice when she is near him or like conductor Gunther Rienhart flirty and her student assistant Mallory Knight is snippy when she is being kind. However the worst is living on a pig farm with Cal and Jayne Hartley and their three kids. Finally there is the veterinarian Mac who shockingly has her reconsidering her countdown back to the real world of culture even though she is appalled that even though it is not country western, he has never heard her sing.

ACT TWO is a delightful contemporary romance between two opposites as the fish out of water diva and the local vet fall in love in his pond. The story line is owned by Sadie, who finds Iowa to live down to her expectations only somehow she makes caring friends and realizes mentoring Mallory actually makes her feel great. Mac is her perfect contrary as the city slicker and the country animal doctor prove love has no artificial boundaries except the individual's construct that can destruct.

Leave It to Chance
Sherri Sand
David C Cook
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434799883, $13.99,

Her mom calls Sierra Montgomery to tell her she just inherited an old horse from Miss Libby. Sierra explains to her mom that she is struggling to feed and shelter her three children so what is she going to do with a horse after losing her job and her ex philandering spouse's child support checks bounce higher than a basketball. She hides the fact that horses frighten her

Although her kids want to take a Chance on the aptly named horse, Sierra decides she must sell the ancient steed. However, she fails to close the deal so her mom finds a place where Chance can stay and even buys his feed. The stable owner, landscaper Ross Morgan offers to buy Chance from Sierra, but something about the horse makes her hesitate especially since her oldest child raging Braden has found a friend in the horse and in Ross who becomes the father the lad desperately needs at this time. While Ross and Sierra are attracted to one another, both agree the kids come first, Chance second and then them.

This is an engaging inspirational family drama in which a mother and her three kids feel abandoned by God and a rat of a husband-father until Chance and then Ross come into their lives. The key to this enjoyable tale is the ensemble cast is full blooded with issues and doubts that make them seem real (can't say human as Chance is quite a title character). Fans will appreciate Sherri Sand's fine tale of a horse leading people to each other and back to God, who has time for everyone.

Night Shift
Lilith Saintcrow
Orbit US/Hachette Publishing Group
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
0316001783, $6.99, 1-800-759-0190

As a young girl she lived in the streets selling her body to anyone who had the cash to pay for it. Her life changed for the better when she met Mikhail, who taught her to be a hunter; a person who works the darkside keeping humans safe from hellbreed (demons). She performs the exorcisms that the priests cannot or will not. Ironically the Church believes she is doomed to hell because she kills and consorts with the damned.

Life is about to turn depressing for Jill Kismet even though she has a link to a hellbreed Perry who has given her extraordinary powers. Five police officers were killed by what seems like a hellbreed and a rogue were-shapeshifter. Jill knows these are her natural enemies. As the murders continue Jill thinks the hellbreed is protecting the Were especially when she learns who the father of the damned is. As Jill struggles to end the killings, someone decides to end Jill.

Lilith Saintcrow always provides a spellbinding action packed urban fantasy that contains a touch of romance, which enhance the plot. However it is the locale where magic works and human authorities deal through liaisons with the supernatural in a realm that seems real because the crimes committed by the paranormal come across as genuine and the subsequent investigations feels authentic. Jill is a strong protagonist who takes on the hellbreeds to protect humanity especially the children. She chose to link with Perry so she is a better fighter though she knows that will probably damn her; at least the Church says so. Her efforts on the NIGHT SHIFT make for an enjoyable urban fantasy investigative thriller that shows why this reviewer is a huge fan of Ms. Saintcrow.

The Veil of Gold
Kim Wilkins
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765320063, $25.95, 1-888-330-8477

After breaking with her boyfriend the historian Daniel St. Clair, Rosa Kovalenka returns to her homeland Russia for the first time in years to assist her uncle at a St. Petersburg dilapidated bathhouse. Workers uncover a golden statue of a bear buried in the walls. Rosa asks Daniel to authenticate the find. Accompanied by Em Hayward, Daniel suggests asking his former professor in Archangelsk to take a look at the artifact; Rosa agrees.

Daniel and Em drive towards Archangelsk, but vanish somewhere on the two day trek without a trace. While Rosa searches for her missing former lover, the bear has taken the pair into another realm Swazi; a place where a millennium ago when a Russian princess adopted Jesus the country split apart into the land of men called Mir and the realm of dangerous magic Skazki.

This engaging horror fantasy is played out along three well written subplots. First there is Daniel and Em trying to survive the dangerous Skazi realm while finding a way home; then there is Rosa in Russia trying to rescue Daniel; and finally there are asides starring an elderly person telling tales of the history of Russia to his daughter (and readers) around the time that princess caused the split. However, the key to this excellent saga is no one is incredibly courageous or 100 percent evil. Everyone is a little of both with a basic instinct, whether you are a human in Russia or Skazi or a mythical creature, to survive. Thus the underlying message of this exciting tale is ethics are personal so what the reader might find horrific, another person (or creature) might find as the norm. This is a great work by a terrific author.

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two B
Ben Bova, editor
9780765305329, $29.95

The follow up to Volume Two A, which also like this anthology, contains eleven novellas published from 1929 to 1964, is a strong selection; however in fact The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two B: The Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time Chosen by the Members of the Science Fiction Writers of America is a boomer era collection containing one tale from 1928 (close enough for government and sci fi collections), three from the forties, five from the fifties, and two from the sixties. The authors for the most part remain famous, a virtual who's who to include Asimov, Blish, Budrys, Cogswell, Forster, Pohl, Schmitz, Sherrod, Shiras, Simak, and Vance. Some of the entries like "The Martian Way", "The Midas Plague" and "The Witches of Karres" remain popular. The choices are solid as none are bad though some handle the test of time better. This reviewer especially enjoyed "Earthman Come Home by James Blish having remembered reading it in high school. The key to this anthology and its predecessor are that it is just about all story; in this case 526 pages of stories with no padding except for a brief two and half page introduction to explain the voting process. Great look back at some of the pre Nebula Awards age, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume Two B is a strong enjoyable compilation that validates how entertaining science fiction was especially from 1947-1961.

Reading the Wind
Brenda Cooper
9780765315984, $25.95

The planet Fremont was considered a dangerous place for colonization due to its odd lethal flora and fauna as much as from the meteorites that crash on its surface and it's volcanic and quake activity. However, in spite of a need to cooperate war exploded between the original "unaltered" human settlers and the second group bioengineered to fit the orb; the purebred colonists won the sundering war.

The genetically enhanced survivors are divided between staying or leaving the planet. Whereas altered teens Chelo, Liam and Kayleen choose to stay on the only planet they know as home in spite of the big and little sundering; Chelo's brother Joseph, his girlfriend Alicia, and their friend Bryan choose to go to the ancestral orb Silver's Home. Jospeh wants to learn more about his roots and seek help for their broken protector, Jenna. However as Joseph navigates his way around the genemod environment of Silver's Home, he begins to understand an angry people who thirst for avenging the genocide on Fremont with plans to eradicate the originals. Meanwhile back on Fremont, Chelo and and Liam roam wild Fremont as two of the three only known genetically changed amidst thousands of fearful originals unaware that a new race war is imminent.

The sequel to THE SILVER SHIP AND THE SEA is an exciting science fiction tale that plays out on two subplots before converging into a final confrontation. When the storyline focuses on the three teens left behind or on Jospeh's efforts to understand Silver's Home society and belong, the tale is excellent. When Brenda Cooper turns to the confrontational action-packed convergence subplot it feels forced and loses some of its insightfulness into a future in which a group fears bio advancements that leave them "less" than the altered next generation. Still readers will enjoy this fine look at a future form of racism.

The Summer Palace
Lawrence Watts-Evans
9780765310286, $24.95

The Red Wizard continues his campaign to kill all other magical practitioners including his peers and the Chosen, those humans specifically selected by the Council of Wizards to protect people from magical abuse of power. However, ironically the Red Wizard is loved and cherished by his people who have flourished under his rule.

Of the Chosen only Erren Zal Tuyo the Sword still remains free. He knows he must confront the Red Wizard, but also realizes he can cannot win as the mage is extremely popular and everyone knows Erren as the assassin trying to kill their beloved leader. Innocent people will want him dead let alone professional assassins. Instead he mopes in Upland trying to survive while outside the control of the Red Wizard pondering what he should do. Meanwhile the Red Wizard plans to bring the fight to the last of the Chosen.

This intriguing fantasy is radically different in tone being passive as opposed to its much more action packed predecessors (see THE WIZARD LORD and THE NINTH TALISMAN). Much of the saga has Erren by himself in deep thought as to what to do next while going over the past to see if he could have done something different. Well written and interesting, but too reflective in tone, fans of the Annals of the Chosen will be surprised and probably a bit disappointed as the brunt of the action is a rehash.

The Dragon's Lair
Elizabeth Haydon
Tor Starscape
9780765308696, $12.95

Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme has completed successfully his secret mission for King Vandemere of Serendair and looks forward to some respite before his monarch sends him on another assignment. His hopes for some needed rest are dashed when High King Vandemere says he must leave the area; the Thief Queen is livid that he escaped from her and her Gated City and took with him her grateful daughter. Ven sends him on a task that will place Ven and his friend oceans away.

A dragon is burning Nain villages in the High reaches, which is personal to Ven who happens to be a Nain (a species that has a lifespan four times greater than humans). He agrees to try to stop the dragon. The Kingdom of Lirin and Nain are at odds because the latter has something the former believes belongs to them. He wants Ven to straighten out the problem so the King can get what he wants. The group goes through dangerous adventures to avoid the wrath of the Thief Queen who has her horde of ravens seeking Ven.

Readers will enjoy the latest Ven journal as he describes his escapades dealing with a recalcitrant dragon who has a legitimate reason for his ire towards the Nain and avoiding the Thief Queen's thugs. Ven also escorts the audience on a tour of the island of Serendair to show the magic it contains. Ven's comrades are a diverse group that includes a merrow (mermaid) who starts turning human when she loses her cap. Nain Studies expert Elizabeth Haydon has "found' an entertainingly stunning fantasy journal.

The Valley-Westside War
Harry Turtledove
9780765314871, $24.95

There is no such thing as time travel into the past or future; but there is crosstime travel; alternate earths with differing histories. Crosstime traffic usually involves trading with other earths by pretending to be one of their citizens. One divergence led to a nuclear war in 1967 and the need to know why is critical.

The Mendoza brood gets a grant to study the causes of WW III sending civilization back into the Dark Age. A civil war between two local nations now has the Mendozas under suspicion. Liz Mendoza is doing research at the UCLA Campus Library when a soldier points her out to his superior as a possible spy. The Mendozas flee back to their home timeline but return to the nuked earth to gain some more data at a time when the war has just begun.

Harry Turtledove provides his latest exciting young adult multiverse science fiction thriller in which this time the divergence is a nuclear war. WWIII devastated the planet in 1967; the Crosstime Traffic agents wonder why this happened because the remaining records give no idea that hostilities will break out. Liz at times seems more of an adult than her parents as she does the critical tedious research to learn how a nuclear conflagration occurred in 1967.

The Court of the Air
Stephen Hunt
9780765320421, $25.95

Molly Templar is driving orphanage owner Beadle crazy because he wants to make a profit on her before she is freed next year; but the teen has been fired four times in four months. Desperate the Beadle apprentices her to a major employer of women, Damson Emma Fairburn owner of Fairburn and Jarndyce brothel. At her new employment location, Molly sees a brutal murder that scares her; she races back to the orphanage for safety, but instead finds a mass murder site; every orphan and some of the adults are dead. Molly flees again, but knows she has no haven as she was the target in both places because she has information that several people are plotting against the state.

Oliver Brooks was contented living with his merchant uncle until someone murdered his relative and framed the lad as the killer. Fey special agents try to kill Oliver to insure he cannot defend himself. A Court of the Air agent helps Oliver flee. When he and Molly meet, they team up to battle an ancient evil considered dead since it had not reappeared in a thousand years; defeated back then this malevolence now has strong cold-blooded partners.

THE COURT OF THE AIR places Charles Dickens like orphans in an exciting fantasy thriller. Readers will admire the unsinkable Molly who plans to make something of herself once she is freed of the Beadle; Oliver is the naive one as his uncle somewhat pampered him. On the run on the ground and in the air, they make a dynamic duo whose allies would sacrifice either of them in a heartbeat if they did not need him for their cause, preventing the return of nasty ancient gods. This is a fun fast paced frenzy as Molly and Oliver quickly learn to depend on one another as the good guys and the bad guys could not care less about the mean; only the end matters.

The Grin of the Dark
Ramsey Campbell
9780765319395, $24.95

Hoping to somewhat rekindle his self destroyed film critic career so that even seven year old Mark implies innocently that he's a loser, dishonored Simon Lester is writing a biography on long forgotten silent film star Tubby Thackeray. The actor was quite a character who could stir normally serene people into a riotous mob with some of the shocking actions he did until Hollywood had enough and blacklisted him.

Simon detests the research into his subject's personal life even as the apparent spirit of the scandalous actor seems to harass his every activity even over the Internet. Simon fears he may be losing his mind as he knows there is not such thing as ghosts yet he keeps getting visits from the long forgotten blackballed silent screen star whose grinning clown visage frightens the wannabe author in light let alone what that grin in the dark does to him.

This is a tense thriller in which readers will keep changing their mind as to whether it is a ghost story or a psychological horror tale. Simon simply makes the novel work, frighteningly so, with his seemingly innocent relationships including with the apparent ghost of his biographical subject. Ramsey Campbell keeps the tension stratospheric as the audience will wonder like the lead character whether he is going insane as Mr. Campbell cleverly invoked the images of clowns to add to the foreboding sense of personal disaster.

By Schism Rent Asunder
David Weber
9780765315014, $25.95

The military technology advances provided by android with a human brain Merlin Athrawes to King Cayleb II of Charis led to their naval slaughter of the forces of their neighbors sanctioned by the Church of God Awaiting at Darcos Sound and Armageddon Reef. Merlin hopes further victories against the corrupt beleaguered Church will ultimately allow mankind to soar off Safehold into space; currently banned by church doctrine as interfering with God's way.

The nations who allied with the Church fear retaliation and know there is little they can do to prevent this since their fleets were destroyed. At the same time a stunned Church of God Awaiting considers declaring Charis as a heretic nation and demanding a holy war to be fought on land as the sea belongs to the renegade kingdom. Meanwhile Cayleb and his Archbishop consider making the religious schism official.

This great sequel (see OFF ARMAGEDDON REEF) has much less action than its exhilarating predecessor, but will be considered one of the best science fiction thrillers of the year. The key cast members seem fully developed, but what makes this superb thriller worth reading is how deep yet subtly the story line provides the audience with insight into how much the Renaissance changed the world.

The Voyage of the Space Beagle
A.E. Van Vogt
9780765320773, $14.95

The crew of the Space Beagle encounters a strange species the Coeurl on this forbidden planet. The creature looks like a cat with large tentacles. The Coeurl concludes these are outsiders from another star system on a scientific expeditions; it knows scientist are brilliant idiots, who cannot kill especially an intriguing beast like it. However, the space travelers quickly conclude they are in danger when they realize this enigmatic beast "eats" the soul of humans for sustenance. Nexialist Elliot Grosveneur, ignored through months of the journey by those who have no idea what his specialty means as he has none being a nexus connecting generalist, chief chemist Gregory Kent, and expedition leader Hal Morton realize they face a dangerous monster.

Above is the first of four alien encounter adventures that the multi disciplined scientific expedition of the crew of the Space Beagle face. All are dangerous meetings in which Dr. Grosveneur plays a key role. The reprint from 1950s magazines showcases A.E. Vogt's unique ability to combine outer space action with cerebral prevalent social theories; in this case the debate over Oswald Spengler's cyclical rise and fall like seasons of empires/cultures in his 1920s DECLINE OF THE WEST seems so timely, but it is difficult to grasp the nuances of the debate. Still readers will want to join the crew of the SPACE BEAGLE as they go where mankind has never been before encountering strange species, not all friendly; and will search the net for information on Spengler and Nexialism.

An Autumn War
Daniel Abraham
9780765313423, $25.95

In Machi most of the Khaiem ignore the warnings of their ruler Otah, who fears they day of reckoning is coming soon. He knows the time is coming soon when the magical elementals andat can no longer be enslaved by the mighty poet-mages to do the Khaiem bidding.

While he worries about the changes of losing control will bring, General Balasar Gice, of the neighboring Galt Empire declares a holy war to rid the world of the dangerous andat that he feels will soon be free to avenge their enslavement by destroying humanity. He knows how to neutralize the andat and does so, sending his mighty military across the sea on a crusade. The Poets are divided with some wanting to regain control to save their mighty city state while others want to slink away to safety with their families. One things is for sure, nothing will return to what it was.

The third Long Price seasonal fantasy (see A SHADOW IN SUMMER and A BETRAYAL IN WINTER), takes a fascinating refreshing spin yet continues its deep poignant look at civilization in a fantasy realm. Although the story line somewhat follows the adventures of reluctant ruler Otah and the escapades of aging Poet Maati and his former lover Liat, the prime focus this time is the fanatical ruthless General Gice who believes he has God and right on his side. Daniel Abraham makes a strong case that societal values can be detrimental as well as fostering, but does so inside a great fantasy tale with readers looking forward to whether spring proves the rebirth or the cruelest season of them all.

Dragon and Liberator
Timothy Zahn
Starscape (Tor)
9780765314192, $17.95

Fourteen-year-old space pilot Jack Morgan and poet-warrior Draycos continue their symbiotic quest to bring the human closure following the murders of his family and a way to save the K'da dragon's race from genocide. They have survived much, but neither feels they have made any meaningful progress towards achieving either stretch goal and time is running out at least for the K'da Dragons. Still they work together as Draycos hides as a tattoo on Jack's back.

Neverlin, the human killer of Jack's parents and the fleet in which Draycos was the only survivor, has obtained a Death machine. He plans to use it in conjunction with his allies to eradicate millions of K'da refugees. Only Jack and Draycos stand in his way, but what can a teen and a tattoo do to prevent the holocaust.

Although obviously similar in tone to the previous five books in this exhilarating young adult saga, the final Dragonback adventure is a great finish as the suspense grows to extraordinary levels with the heroes literally having their backs against the wall. The story line is faster than a K'da scout ship never slowing down with the readers wondering if the heroes are going to lose. Although targeting middle school, science fiction fans of all ages will appreciate this strong series as the dragon and human have battled against impossible odds in search of justice for themselves and others.

The Time Engine
Sean McMullen
9780765318763, $26.95

In 3144 Wayfarer Inspector Danolarian Scryverin had just completed his patrol in the West Quadrant. He stopped at the Mermaid's Slipper for an ale by himself to reflect about the year of change. He thinks back to the Lupan invasion of Greater Alberin leading to his squad member Riellen preaching electocracy, winning the government power, leading to the expulsion, and finally changing the calendar so that tomorrow what would have been 3145 is now 1 YE (Year of Electocracy).

His musing ends when Lady Velender holding the cat Constable Wallas enters the tavern. Soon afterward, he learns the hard way that she has abducted him into the future along with Wallas and they are on the run while trying to learn how she did it and more important why she did it. He also knows that before he can return to his time and place, he must somehow go to the past to complete a basic law of physics, the circle of causality. He lands in a world rumored to be paradise unless you are the focus of 5000 naked horsemen who apparently have your access home, THE TIME ENGINE; obtaining it does not automatically mean returning.

The action obviously takes place in the future and the past, but in both periods it never slows down for even a nanosecond even with sidebars explaining the somewhat convoluted tale. Fans of the series will appreciate the fourth Moonworlds Saga (see VOIDFARER) as Danolarian is caught in dangerous yet

Three Stooges like scenarios.
Mage-Guard of Hamor
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
9780765319272, $27.95

On the island of Recluse, master scribe Kian mentored his apprentice younger son Rahl; but unbeknownst to the teacher, his pupil to avoid hassles and make life easier on himself serendipitously used tiny doses of order magic. The Council magisters traced his misuse back to him; his impulsive temper and his seemingly out of control skill led to his exile across the sea to the wilds of Hamor; a place where he will either learn to control himself and his order magical use or die (see NATURAL ORDERMAGE).

On Hamor, mages work for the government or they do not work. Mage-guard Taryl is assigned a bitter Rahl as his pupil. Rahl loathes his instructor who only complains about his failing apprentice. During a civil war between brothers, Rahl is deployed with the Emperor's army in horrific field conditions. If they are not in combat, the weather is good, and they have foraged enough food and water for sustenance then the soldiers are bored; however usually Rahl and his unit are in the midst of hostilities either from the enemy, the weather or the farmers. He begins to gain wisdom about good and bad, and order and chaos. He realizes he must choose when to be defiant or the Ordermage system will continue to destroy him.

First off, MAGE-GUARD OF HONOR can stand alone, but is so much more understandable if read after NATURAL ORDERMAGE as the audience will better comprehend Rahl's personality and the complex rules of magic. The story line is a coming of age tale, as Rahl gains wisdom on the tedious trek. Although the exhaustive, agricultural, climate and cultural dissertations can become tedious but realistic, fans will appreciate the latest Recluse tale that occurs almost entirely on a different island.

Null-A Continuum
John C. Wright
9780765316295, $25.95

Being a dual brained, Gilbert Gosseyn does not fear death because when he dies he wakes up in a new body with his previous lives recalled. However, what he does not know but wants to know are his origins, why the Chessplayer uses him like an expendable pawn, and who the woman is who visits him in his dreams is.

He investigates all three using his ability to telepath great distances with a thought. However, he has to put aside his personal inquiries when he learns of a plot to destroy Earth and Venus by diabolical Enro the clairvoyant dictator who wants to expand his vast empire. Enro's prime ally is Gilbert's previously unknown third brain.

This is clearly paying homage to the late great A.E. van Vogt and it pays for the reader to have read THE WORLD OF NULL-A and THE PLAYERS OF NULL-A to better understand the somewhat convoluted yet complex story line. The above reflects a small segment of all that is going on with detailed clarifications embellished by even deeper revelations. Though not easy to follow and no character even Gilbert hooks the reader as the dissertations supersede the players, Mr. van Vogt is smiling in science fiction heaven.

Jack: Secret Histories
F. Paul Wilson
9780765318541, $15.95

In 1983 New Jersey, teenager Jack enjoys playing Atari games with his friends, siblings Eddie and Weezy; his other pastime is riding his bike. Jack prefers to stay away from his home as his parents are pests, his older sister demanding and his older brother an abusive jerk.

Jack and his two buddies are biking in the Pine Barrens when they find an ancient burial site. Unable to resist they search for hidden treasure only to find a more modern but rotted corpse and an odd looking black box with arcane symbols etched on it. Neither Weezy nor Eddie can open it; only Jack can. They soon learn the victim was a member of the elite Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order. Not long afterward other members are murdered. Jack investigates the enigmatic box and the serial killings of the Order.

Repairman Jack teenage sleuth is an enjoyable whodunit as fans obtain a look at the strange hero's early life in suburbia. The story line starts a bit slow especially for those who know Jack as F. Paul Wilson methodically sets time and place more so for older followers of the series. Once we know Jack, the plot takes off as he makes inquiries that places him in jeopardy, but sets him on his future life's path. JACK: SECRET HISTORIES is a wonderful refreshingly different entry that targets young adults, but series readers will relish young Jack in action.

The Iron Hunt
Marjorie M. Liu
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441016068, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

Long ago demons walked the earth killing anything foolishly that got in their way. The humans exploded on the planet leading to war over which species would dominate the orb; mankind won and established a prison of sorts to keep the demons away forever. Over time the Great War has been forgotten lost in the myths until one last demon hunter Maxine Kiss remains. The veil has weakened and been breached with those demons who have come home by using a human as a zombie-host.

Maxine wears tattoos of demons as armor in daylight; at night they leave her to become separate alive entities; they are her family until she births the next generation female who will inherit them while Maxine dies just like her mother did. One day, Maxine feels something different has made it through the veil. Not a zombie demon, but Ahsen wears the shape of Maxine the child. Stunned the last protector learns she is an Avatar capable of destroying the world as Maxine knows it.

Readers who love urban fantasies like those of Charlaine Harris or Kim Harrison will relish Marjorie M. Liu's excellent adventure. The protagonist is an interesting character who has always been lonely as her companions ironically are demons. She courageously accepts her fate to protect humanity but never be part of humanity and to always be alone until her death when her yet to be conceived daughter replaces her. However she finds herself for the first time fascinated with a male, but she also knows that theirs is relationship doomed to heartache. This is the superb start of a dynamic looking saga.

Lost Fleet: Valiant
Jack Campbell
9780441016198, $7.99

Captain John "Black Jack" Geary knows his Alliance fleet is in deep trouble as they struggle to return to home base. He knows his numerous enemies from within Alliance want him to fail as his heroism and that of his unit allowed others to escape a death trap, which made him a legend embellished by his return from the grave generations after his peers and family died out. However, his predicament is that supplies are extremely low and an external foe is preparing to attack.

Desperate Geary chooses a Hail Mary strategy that he prays will get his force safely into the Alliance sector. His feint gambit works and it seems he has bought the time needed to escape. However, someone apparently wants Geary dead and collateral damage by destroying several vessels and their crew is acceptable.

This military science fiction tale will grip the audience as realism in terms of the vastness of space as communications and maneuvers take time and can be countered leading to the loss of ships and lives; this concept is critical to the story line. Black Jack is a fascinating hero; mindful especially in his decision making of Honor Harrington as both accept death as real outcome. His family's descendents detest him as much as his jealous Alliance fleet leaders; several who choose betrayal to eliminate him. Fans will appreciate the fourth Lost Fleet tale, but to better comprehend how many light years Black Jack has traversed, this reviewer suggests reading the previous entries first (see THE LOST FLEET: DAUNTLESS, THE LOST FLEET: FEARLESS, and THE LOST FLEET: COURAGEOUS).

Saturn's Children
Charles Stross
9780441015948, $24.95

By the twenty-third century humanity was extinct leaving behind androids that were built to feel and think and even dream like mankind once did. The androids created a caste system. The Aristos are nobles who own slaves expected to obey them or else. There are also some free independent droids who are mostly impoverished manual laborers.

Freya Nakamichi was made to be a sexbot, but thanks to her sibs is free. The mysterious Jeeves offers Freya a well paying job as a courier; she accepts. Her first assignment is to go to Mercury to pick up a biological sample that she is to place in her uterus and bring it to a lab on Mars. The task seems simple and straightforward although she has no idea what the sample is and why suddenly people seem to be hunting her for her "package". She eludes killers, thieves and an assortment of other predators as she races to Mars.

Imagine a world in which androids are the dominant species and act like humans in all respects except they cannot reproduce. Thus SATURN'S CHILDREN is about a culture the androids have forged centered on a caste system although the slaves and the free strive for a better life. Freya is a bot Lara Craft, a strong willed skilled beauty who uses brain and some brawn to think her way out of danger. Charles Stross answers the Philip K. Dick philosophical question Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? with this original look at a mirror humanoid culture.

Fall with Honor
E.E. Knight
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451462107, $23.95, 1-800-847-5515

2075 in the old calendar, but most would say it is the fifty-fourth year of the Kurian Occupation. These alien murders took the planet by surprise; winning the war with hardly any counter resistance. The Kur stay hidden in their towers while their loyal avatars the reapers release the life energy from humans to send back to the Kur as their nourishment; the reapers sustain their life on blood.

However, five plus decades later, the resistance grows stronger as a fighting force winning some victories and creating pockets of human civilization freeholds to thrive away from the Kur and their minions. The human Southern Command prepares for combat as their plan is to forge a freehold in Appalachia, which will anger the enemy. They also are going to Eastern Kentucky to augment a strong resistance that has surfaced. Southern Command Major David Valentine has been following the resistance since he was old enough. He especially detests the quislings who sold out mankind to the Kurians. David realizes that there is a lot about the Kur he does not know, but he and his force better learn fast as the time of reckoning part two is coming.

The invasion and subsequent occupation is seen through David's eyes; he knows that facing a devious treacherous enemy means committing atrocities or become fodder. Readers will feel empathy for the hero who is tormented with what he has done including to humans in his unit and what he expects to do if his side is to ever defeat the foe. E.E. Knight focuses on the humans whose differing factions battle the Kurian Order in a chilling occupied earth future.

Ink and Steel
Elizabeth Bear
9780451462091, $14.00

Prometheus Club author and subtle supporter of Queen Elizabeth through his plays containing magic that emboldened her rule Christopher "Kit" Marlowe is reported murdered. Everyone who knows him is stunned and assumes the enemy Sorcerers assassinated the playwright who has caused them numerous problems in their effort to dethrone the monarch and destroy England.

Kit's close friend young playwright Will Shakespeare is assigned the responsibility of the new author who spins magical spells with his literature. However, Morgan le Fey saved Kit from murderers resurrecting him in the land of Faeire. Meanwhile the talent and value of Shakespeare has made him a target of the various factions who want to control the Queen. However, Kit brings Will into Faerie where they must confront there an unknown force seemingly more powerful than queens on either side of the veil; an essence that stalks them even as Kit knows they must go home to ferret out the Prometheus traitor who set him up to die.

Set before the events of BLOOD AND IRON and WHISKEY AND WATER, INK AND STEEL is and exciting Elizabethan Era fantasy with the second part book to be published in August; which is the only issue this reviewer takes issue with as we must bear a one month's wait for the finish. As with the previous books in the saga, the story line contains intriguing references to the real Marlowe and Shakespeare, which in turn makes the magic of their words seem even more genuine. Fantasy fans will appreciate Elizabeth Bear's terrific historical saga as Promethean Age is at its best in the treacherous land of faerie and at the even more dangerous seditious Queen Elizabeth's court of intrigue.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

A Promise is a Promise
Shirley Priscilla Johnson
9781434834249 $12.95

Shirley Priscilla Johnson is a versatile writer of music and songs, poetry, Christian adult fiction and non-fiction, and humor. With the Promise Series of books, she adds young adult fiction to her accomplishments.

When 13-year old Maria's father relocates his family for work purposes, she finds herself in a new neighborhood and school system. Maria is attractive, intelligent, and likable. She makes new friends easily, but silently worries about leaving her best friend Danielle behind. Danielle's parents have separated and Maria made her friend a sworn promise, a Salt Promise, based on ancient Biblical truths.

Maria quickly finds friendship in her new home. Becky and Charlie live in her neighborhood and waste no time teaching Maria about their school. She learns that students are divided into three groups at school: The Preps always have their hair done just right and always wear designer clothes. Maria knows instinctively she won't fit into this exclusive club, nor does she want to. The In-Betweeners make no attempt to impress, just simply want to follow their own priorities. And The Nothing People come from the poor side of town. They can't compete with the Preps because their parents can't afford such luxuries. Maria is troubled by these divisions. She's been raised to believe that everyone is valuable in God's eyes.

Secrets and mysteries lie just beneath the surface in Maria's new school system. One teacher, Mrs. Niggleton, is universally disliked by students. Another teacher, Mr. Thomas, is attractive and popular, and yet both Charlie and Becky warn Maria to steer clear of him. Why? Maria sets out to solve the mysteries behind the secrets and finds danger she couldn't have imagined.

A Promise Is A Promise is interesting reading for young people and adults. There are also valid life lessons to be learned, through Maria and her friends. I can see the Salt Promise spreading through High Schools like wildfire. The premise of this promise is helpful, honest, and comforting. Ms. Johnson also shows clearly the dangers of judging people by their appearance. A handsome face and charismatic personality often hides a predator. Plain, no-nonsense people aren't always what they seem. How Maria resolves her problems and relies on adult wisdom to solve problems is an integral part of the lessons she learns. This is an exceptional story, highly recommended to young people and adults.

What's That Smell?
Shirley Priscilla Johnson
9781438231464 $12.95

This second in the Fos and Prissy series is a worthy follow up to What the Heck Happened? This one is an outrageously funny adventure in the same vein as the Chevy Chase Vacation movies. Anything that CAN happen, DOES happen to comic effect.

In What's That Smell, Fos and Prissy's fortunes are expanded when they unexpectedly win the New Jersey Lottery. To celebrate, Prissy decides they should take their odd assortment of friends and relatives on a Florida vacation. Those who aren't afraid to fly book a flight - about half the happy group - while the hapless Fos drives the other half south in his van. As always with everything Prissy plans, eventful and not necessarily fun-filled times are had by all.

Among those packed into Fos's van are Poopsie the aptly named dog and Machine Gun Marge, the 85 year old with hearing, digestive, and continence problems. Add into this traveling madhouse poison ivy in unmentionable places; botched motel reservations; demented red neck peach farmers; rampaging gators, bees, and fire ants; fine dining adventures; and.....Well, you get the picture. Long before they reach Florida, Fos is taking Valium, praying for God to strike him dead, and Prissy has discovered that Florida is far from Paradise. Meanwhile, the group that opted to fly from New York to Florida are not faring any better. Those with large behinds are battling teensy seats in Coach Class. One with claustrophobia gets locked in an airplane bathroom. The pretty one amongst them - the one with a Barbie Doll figure and hair that is her crowning glory - gets barfed on by the kid behind her and makes the trip with vomit in her glorious blonde hair. Another group member has an allergic reaction. And all this is mostly ignored by inattentive or hysterical flight attendants. True life, right? Fos and Prissy's group arrive at the airport - looking like war refugees - just in time to collect their fellow travelers, who look equally bad. Exhausted, disheveled in their unwashed states, sporting injuries of every kind, all they have the strength left to do is sniff each other and wonder "What's That Smell?".

Listen, I laughed out loud while I was reading this! Anyone who's ever taken a group vacation will relate. Those who haven't been so cursed can use it as a "how to" manual to avoid ending up like Fos and Prissy. The cover art is a gem, colorfully created by Susan Brown to reflect the van interior as Fos and Prissy travel with their friends. All in all, cover art and hilarious contents, I thought it was a quite delightful package. OK, Ms. Johnson. I'm ready for the next adventure simmering in your devious mind.

The Pond at Cape May Point
Poems by Burt Kimmelman
Paintings by Fred Caruso
Marsh Hawk Press
Box 220, Stuyvesant Station, New York NY 10009
9780971333246 $12.50

Fred Caruso and Burt Kimmelman are two friends who vacation with their families at Cape May Point. Their collaboration on this book, whether it was their intent or not, is a visual and poetic gift to the world. Through his skill with words, Kimmelman blesses readers with tranquil moments, soothing visions, quiet wonders. Caruso's impressionistic whispers speak of wind, grass, trees, water, and sky. Together, they've created a placid oasis where readers can escape the chaos of our modern world.

The very simplicity of Kimmelman's poems is reminiscent of ancient Haiku masters. "Afternoon Haze" transports readers to this quiet moment in time:

Sky a single color --
and below, the trees thick

across water and sun --

shoots of bramble springing
up against the mud shore.

Kimmelman doesn't need a surfeit of words to share his peacefulmoments. "Morning Pond" calms and soothes in three lines:

Circles in
the still shine --
wings overhead.

Existing around us, everywhere, are primordial miracles. All we have
to do is look and we will find "Something" to awe and inspire us:

The slate rock takes in sunlight
in an endless darkness but
for a white cut line across
its base. Something will grow there.

Hummingbirds, swans, sparrows, geese, and egrets co-exist here with humans and trees, sunshine and stars, storms and squalls. Each variation of light and shadow impacts the Cape May existence. Caruso and Kimmelman have captured this experience beautifully in word and watercolor. For lovers of poetry and art, this book is highly recommended.

Bagels With the Bards #3
Edited by Molly Lynn Watt
Ibbetson Street Press
25 School Street, Somerville MA 02143
9780615207629 $15.95

According to the Introduction by Regie O'Hare Gibson, a Bagel Bard is "a poet that is glazed and ring-shaped whose poetry has a tough, chewy texture usually made of leavened words and images dropped briefly into nearly boiling conversations on Saturday mornings -- often baked into a golden brown." The Bards featured in this anthology of 55 poems by 51 poets come together as writers over breakfast every Saturday morning. Every poet -- famous, unknown, or somewhere in between -- is welcome to share breakfast with the Bagel Bards while baking up some tasty treats.

I've chosen not to quote from any particular poem in this review. The work here is as individual and unique as each contributing Bard. Delighted readers will find a variety of styles and forms, including ekphrasia, prose poems, villanelle, and free form poetry. Between these covers can be found little day-to-day deaths, dreams, and wounds, lost causes and dead ends presented in playful, whimsical, and experimental ways.

If you haven't discovered the Bagel Bards yet, start with their latest anthology. Short of having breakfast with them at the Au Bon Pain, reading the results of their Saturday mornings is the next best thing.

Poetry by Burt Kimmelman
Marsh Hawk Press
P.O. Box 206, East Rockaway NY 11518-0206
0975919709 $12.95

Each book of poetry Kimmelman creates is different and varies in style and focus but, always, he provides readers with quiet places of contemplation and clarity. He weaves precise syllables and forms into "two dimensional / worlds without memory, lives lived / at odd angles…" His words, these quiet places he inhabits, become a celebration of life and the natural world around us.

In "Standing Stones" he memorializes a place most readers will never see, Calanais, the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. In this place, humans can rejoice and weep:

The unworked stones standing
tall before the living,
found or quarried, raw and
yet so intelligent
in their perfect array --
how long since they were set --
oddly, they ignore the
aspiration towards grace,
the unforgiving crags
rough to the touch, having
made a space where time, a
mist, can come among us,
and then leave us in tears.

"Gerhard Richter's Stag" draws readers into this celebrated painting in the Museum of Modern Art through ekphrasia and the poet's eye:

The blurred antlers,
obscure eye, taut
musculature --

the flat lines of
forest before,
after -- half in

the hunter's sight,
lost in a world
without shadow.

"Letter To My Dead Brother" needs no commentary to enhance or explain its simple power. I quote the first verse in example:

I suppose letters to the dead are common.
We need to speak, even when no one's there.
I think of the crazy juxtapositions, the people
and things you loved. Life is a mute grieving.

Sometimes, the opinions of scholars and pundits seem unnecessary. Sometimes, a poet's work speaks eloquently for itself and needs no explanation. Burt Kimmelman is such a poet.

Are All Men Pigs?
Book 3 in the Fos & Prissy Series
9781438234175 $12.95

In this third installment of the Fos and Prissy series, our brave couple and their motley group of friends continue their Florida vacation. Fos is beginning to wonder if he will ever be "normal" again. But his foul mood is soon lightened by visions of tanned young waitresses and nubile sun worshippers on the beach.

Yes, even the sensible Fos - knowing full well the consequences with Prissy - gapes open mouthed at the half naked beauty around him. He flirts. He sucks his stomach in and thrusts his chest out, and shows more life than Prissy's seen in him for a very long time.

This group is prone to hilarious mishaps and Book Three carries on in that tradition. 80-something Marge loses her bikini top in a shark attack. From that point on the group is stalked by an enraged shark sporting a polka dot bikini top on his head. Attacks by pecking birds heighten the pleasures of Florida's blistering sun and burning sand beaches. Part of the gang gets trapped in a sink hole, and even courageous firemen or State Troopers find the rescue more than they can safely bear. For the married ladies, thoughts of romance and blissful interludes with their beloved husbands quickly fade. The men-folk make fools of themselves, ogling waitresses and drooling over tanned goddesses. Their fates are sealed in a bunny hopping finale with a chorus line of showgirls. Any attempt at making up in hopes of late night romance or forgiveness is lost.

Darn! I eagerly anticipated whatever paybacks Prissy and her lady friends might foist upon their groveling men. But no! Wouldn't you just know it. The author saved that enjoyment for Book Four. I can hardly wait to read what these slapstick characters get into next time around.

Is Revenge Sweet?
Book Four of the Fos & Prissy Series
Shirley Priscilla Johnson
CreateSpace Publishing
9781438234960 $12.95

In this rousing finale of the Fos and Prissy saga, Fos is tired and just wants to go home. He tries to behave himself on their Florida vacation, but can't seem to stay out of trouble.

When Fos and his male chums go a little crazy over beach bunnies in bikinis, and are caught doing the Bunny Hop by their wives, the battle lines are drawn. Such behavior cannot go unpunished and Prissy knows just where and when to strike.

Meanwhile, the ladies' visit to the white sands of Florida goes awry. How could Prissy know she chose a nude beach? And something simple like having their nails done with a relaxing massage turns into bedlam when the "special attractions" are revealed. By early afternoon, Prissy is ready to go back to their hotel and forget all about revenge, but the ladies have their pride to consider. In preparation for their night out on the town, the 80 year old Marge decks out in hot pants and a tummy baring shirt. Separately and together the Fos and Prissy gang meets old friends: a stalking shark wearing a bikini top; the beleaguered Florida State Trooper who always seems to happen onto the New Jersey tourists at the worst time; the tanned blonde haired waitress with an eye for Fos.

While the wives go out to dinner, dressed to the nines, the men revisit their youth and "go cruising." One shock follows another, with uproarious results.

I'll leave it to the readers to decide if revenge is as sweet as Prissy hoped it would be. And guess what follows the gang back to New Jersey? Here's a hint. It has a dorsal fin and is stalking the New Jersey coast in a bikini top.

If you like to laugh, read this series. The author has taken everyday life and transformed it into comedy.

A Year and A Day
Michael Corrigan
Idaho State University Press
921 So. 8th Ave, Stop 8265, Pocatello ID 83209
0937834769 $17.95

Michael Corrigan personifies the romanticized vision of what an Irishman should be: musical, humorous, a gifted performer and wordsmith, blessed by the blarney stone and the love of his life. The last thing he expected was to lose his adoring wife, an accomplished professional and beautiful compassionate woman whose "bright light was blown out forever."

When Karen Lea Smith Corrigan died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm in September 2005, life as he knew it ended. The day of her death he prays for lightning to strike and incinerate him. When that relief does not come, he continues as a grieving ghost -- stunned, numb, shattered, separated from reality, and alone in his grief. From that awful beginning of life without Karen, he embarks on a year and a day of traditional Irish mourning. His existence without her is all raw nerve endings and aches and pains. Somehow, he survives the early days of her loss. Corrigan returns to teaching at the University. He sees a grief therapist and begins a journal in hopes of helping others cope with such awful loss. With compelling honesty, he questions her death and struggles with memories:

"I wish her soul would return on All Souls Day, or any time. I would tell her I loved her and probably should have said it more often… She often mentioned that others admired her work and I think she expected me to say, "Yes, you are the consummate professional." I did believe that but never felt the need to say it. She didn't need validation for her gifts, or so I thought. Perhaps that was a mistake. After such sudden death, there is that "What if?" syndrome and the nagging question: Why didn't I praise her more or tell her the truth -- that I worshipped her this side of idolatry?

If at some time I found the ability to stare into the seeds of time and saw what was about to happen, I would have withheld nothing. Could any intervention have saved her? There is the possibility that Karen's fatal condition was inevitable…but knowing that any second could be our last together might have shaped how we lived."

You'll find no meaningless buzz words here, like "closure" or "healing" and no empty platitudes. Corrigan faces his losses head on and claws his way through because he believes his life with Karen is worth the grief. Each day is a struggle, a battle to celebrate her life and survive her death. This journal is Michael Corrigan's attempt to honor Karen's memory with his honest sharing of grief. Anniversaries, holidays, remembered rituals and joys, pain, regret, and panic are all laid out truthfully in a way he hopes will help others suffering from loss. Highly recommended to all adult readers, especially those reeling from the loss of someone they love.

Burt Kimmelman
Spuyten Duyvil
P.O. Box 1852, Cathedral Station, New York NY 10025
1881471039 $8.95

Burt Kimmelman's work in Musaics blends the agelessly classic with theimmediate contemporary. In this poetic consideration of paintings andsculptures, somehow, still life absorbs the living essence of peopleand places around him.

With this review I'm changing my usual routine of quoting parts ofseveral poems. Instead, I chose one poem that exemplifies Kimmelman'swork. But regardless of title or topic, whether he writes of Paris,people, Notre Dame, Nantucket, or the Pacific Northwest, Kimmelmangives readers sensual moments, graceful pirouettes into a distantpast, poetic brush strokes that shatter and soothe, and those tenderparts of life we cherish.

In its entirety, here is "Franz Marc's The Fate of the Animals 1913 /Boston 1991" written for his brother, Seth:

Among the dangerous shards
the breathing animal turns,
nervous and bright, and looks
into the dead wind. The act

is simple -- yet the world's
structures abandoned, to find
a place in the wreckage
incalculably complex. You

lie on your couch in your
"living room," your useless
spindle legs rest on my
visitor's lap. What will

become of us all, living
and dead. You say it's not death's
mystery but the details
of disaster, the new

illnesses each day, which
overwhelm -- and the sane
tubes, their clear liquids, their
unforgiving order; they

are sleepless, without any
musculature -- they are
here while you, incredibly,
disappear before our eyes.

Strange enough, there's no longer
confusion. We speak softly,
brother to brother, now
of all the things we'll miss.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Sundowner Ubuntu
Anthony Bidulka
Insomniac Press
192 Spadina Avenue, Suite 403, Toronto, ON, Canada M5T2C2
9781897178430 $21.95

Anthony Bidulka is, by his own account, a great aficionado of life. He has spent his career in academia, accounting, footwear, food services, and farming. He finally left the world of accounting to pursue writing, and has five mysteries and several prestigious awards to his credit. Bidulka currently lives in a small prairie city in Canada, but has traveled extensively throughout the world.

Russell Quant is enjoying the life of a private investigator with enough cases to keep him busy. He has a gay lover, two lovely dogs, and is content with his lot. Then an elderly lady hires him to look for her estranged son. The only piece of information Quant has to go on is the location of Matthew Ridge's high school. Almost immediately Quant is followed, and a dear friend is viciously attacked. Quant's search finally leads him to Africa, and the life threatening events escalate:

"After an hour or so, the heat intensifying with every passing minute, I moved to the spot buried deepest within a healthy slice of shade. I pulled my feet up on the bench so that I was in a lying position and, using my carry-on as a pillow, tried to doze, but my busy mind kept me from sleep. Eventually, I got up and again paced about the structure, feeling unsure, sweaty, a little sick to my stomach, fighting an unsettling nervousness."

Not only is Anthony Bidulka's powers of observation such that easily translate into a gripping novel, but his sensitivity and willingness to work in gay issues makes his books riveting novels that can't be put down. Russell Quant is a hero who is humble, vulnerable, but intelligent, resourceful, and all too human. The backdrop of Africa is terrifying and exotic. The word UBUNTU refers to a philosophy Africans have of taking care of your fellow man. Bidulka works this philosophy into both the books positive strength and its deepest and darkest aspect.

SUNDOWNER UBUNTU is a refreshing and original tale. Anyone who has traveled to a Third World country will understand its danger value. Bidulka is a fantastic writer, and his Russell Quant mystery series is a real winner.

Death of a Cozy Writer
G.M. Malliet
Midnight Ink, Llewellyn Publications,
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738712482 $13.95

G.M. Malliet is a professional journalist and copywriter with degrees from Oxford and

Cambridge Universities. DEATH OF A COPYWRITER is her first mystery and has already garnered the Malice Domestic Grant and the Romance Writers of America 2006 Stiletto Award in the thriller category.

Sir Adrian Beauclerk-Fisk is as phony as his title. He has also produced one of the truly great dysfunctional families. He is ensconced in his eighteenth-century Cambridgeshire manor, and has married a woman who was accused of murdering her first husband for his money. He delights in using Violet to torment his grown-up children, all of whom have their own foibles. The result naturally turns to murder, and it is up to Detective Chief Inspector St. Just and his sidekick, Detective Sergeant Fear, from the Cambridgeshire Constabulary to sort out the mess. The servants also have their own secrets to cover up, and the result is a jolly investigation marked by hilarious dialogue and commentary:

"The poor bugger really was dead, and he'd been dead awhile. St. Just thought it was little wonder the man who said he was his brother was in such sad shape. The body in the wine refrigerator or whatever it was called was a mess, the skull thoroughly crushed in. The face, itself, however, was intact: In profile, it retained the aristocratic, pampered visage of what the coroner would undoubtedly describe was a well-nourished, middle-aged man."

Malliet writes this little "cozy" with a sense of humor and an eye towards thoroughly confusing the reader. The connections made by St. Just are nothing short of Sherlock Holmes at his most coherent.

Malliet is not unaware of the perils of alcoholism to the family unit, and she uses this as a vehicle to produce the family secrets that would otherwise emerge as far-fetched. But in Ms. Malliet's able writing, it all makes a sordid type of sense. The result is a page-turner that is both entertaining and exhilarating. A most excellent first mystery!

The Gift Horse
Pamela J. Dodd
P.O. Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
1591134358 $15.95

Pamela Dodd taught English to high school and middle school students for over twenty years. She has always loved telling a good story. She also has published TRINITY ON

TYLOS, which is a futuristic novel.

Angela Donalson is a young beauty from Georgia who is orphaned and living with an aunt who has little means herself. When Angela applies for a college grant, she catches the eye of a man who has more than subsidizing students in mind. Angela is kidnapped and held at Marc Avery's Tennessee estate. She tries to escape, but quickly finds that her life has been mapped out for her by Marc Avery and that he means to possess her:

"'Let's talk about that, then. At least indirectly.' The bantering tone was gone from his voice. 'I know that you've worried about your aunt. She's fine. By the way, she won a contest, held by a subsidiary of Avery Electronics, for $10,000. That should help her adjust to the loss of your Social Security checks. You're officially a missing person, but the local police think you're a runaway. Billie was careful. And it's no secret that you wanted to get the hell out of Adamsville. Angie, there was no evidence of foul play in your disappearance. The investigators realized pretty quickly that your home was something that one might want to escape. No one is looking too hard for you.'"

Not only is Pamela Dodd an accomplished writer, but her imagination knows no bounds. This is a highly original plot with social commentary on the rights of young women in our society. There is an obscure warning in all of this, but Ms. Dodd turns it around into a moral question. Is it worth it for a woman to subject herself to total domination by a powerful male in order to gain material security?

Dodd's plot moves along nicely, and there is always something happening to our poor, hapless beauty. But along the way she learns to be self-reliant, and in the end she gets what she wants, although the reader may or may not be sure they agree. At any rate, THE GIFT HORSE is a compelling read, and Ms. Dodd's writing skills are impressive!

Bound for Eternity
Sarah Wisseman
9780595350889 $15.95

Sarah Wisseman works as an archaeologist at the University of Illinois, directing the Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials. She has also written a second Lisa Donahue mystery entitled THE DEAD SEA CODEX, based on her experiences living in Israel in the 1970's.

Archaeologist Lisa Donahue is working as a temporary curator at the Boston University Museum of Archaeology. The tale opens with the x-ray of an ancient mummy from Roman times, who appears to be a young child. A team of scientists, doctors, and archaeologists team together to examine the Roman period Egyptian mummy. Lisa is also competing for a permanent position with another temporary archaeologist. True to the academic world, competition brings out the best and worst in the department; the worst being the discovery of a body in the museum, which turns out to be Lisa's friend and co-worker. Someone has something big to hide, and Lisa's co-workers suddenly turn into murder suspects. To add to the fun, Lisa has met and fallen in love with her best friend and co-worker's steady squeeze:

"'He dumped me. We had a dinner date the other night. Halfway through dessert he told me it wouldn't work, that he'd met someone else.' Ellen was indignant. 'I can't believe it. We had such a good thing going. I think I'll give him a little cooling off period and call him again. Maybe the new lady will disappear.'

'I'm sorry,' I said insincerely. Ellen didn't seem that upset, so I wasn't worried about her emotional well-being—just her notorious temper. Was I the 'someone else?' There was something about the way James had looked at me…this could get really sticky. Would he call, now that he was no longer dating Ellen? If he did, would I agree to see him? Would we…"

Wisseman does a great job of combining 'archaeology for dummies,' 'museum management for dummies,' and a great plot with lots of action and interesting characters to make her first Lisa Donahue mystery provocative, page-turning entertainment. It is always fun to read about mummies, and Wisseman corrects some of the folklore regarding archaeology and mummies. BOUND FOR ETERNITY is crisp and seductive.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

The Perfect Menopause
Dr. Henry M. Hess, M.D., Ph.D.
Westfall park Publishing Group
2255 South Clinton Avenue, Rochester, New York 14618
9781604029352 $19.95

First off, let me say that the compassion and true caring for women and their experiences coping with Menopause shines forth from every page of this book with each word written by our author, Dr. Henry Hess. Now that in itself is a wonder, as I'm sure you feel as I do, that we at times are simply given a pat on the back, a patronizing smile, and sent on our way while we desperately search for answers during this time in our lives. Well, ladies, the search is over.

Inside the pages of this outstanding book, Dr. Hess unravels the many misconceptions about Menopause, the treatments available, and the myths that simply are not true. I was shocked that a man could understand the deep emotional and physical challenges women face during this time, and give such knowledge and insight. Amazing.

I'm telling you, you will close this book with a smile on your face and the complete satisfaction that finally you have found the answers you were looking for and the compassion you so desired. At the conclusion of the read you will finally feel as though you are armed with knowledge of what you are going through and where you will end up. This is a wonderful book, a must have for all women, one that could simply be life-changing. Thank you ,Dr. Hess for caring and sharing. I wish we all had a doctor like this in every town.

Damien The Man
Ralph D. Nybakken
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, Colorado 80134
978143702595 $19.95

Dr. Michael Abbott Nelson has much to be proud of. After all, he has just completed delivering a computer system that will control the world and all that live in it. Quite a feat for anyone. However, when Michael's best friends and millions of other Christians suddenly disappear almost at the same time Michael introduces his program, his world begins to fall apart.

European Union Secretary General, Damien, doesn't seem to have an answer, and as catastrophes begin to happen all over the world, Michael and his wife start searching for answers and once they find out the truth, their very lives are on the line. Time is running out and the battle rages. What a ride!

I have read many 'Rapture,' stories and always enjoy them. In this read it was a nice twist to actually live it through the life of the very man who invented and put into effect the computer of death, as I see it called. The author does an outstanding job in bringing to light the raw emotions of the day, the hatred and cunning of Damien towards Christians, and mankind in general was bone-chilling. The flight and fight of the Christian was vivid and I absolutely loved the way the author does give Glory to God showing the times He intervenes for the Saints to save their lives, and gave strength and courage to those who were martyred. Very well done.
This was a great read, fast moving and emotionally tugging.

A definite eye-opener and a reminder of just where we are and what will take place in the not so distant future, in my opinion. Is this a book of fiction or a promise of what is to come? You decide. I know I have. Recommended, a must read.

Virus Games
G.L. Sheerin
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane,Suite 300, Austin, Texas 78758
9781934454046 $11.95

I was totally amazed at this book. I never realized that such an adventure as I enjoyed in this book could be found based on computers. We meet young Peter Dempsey, a great young man, but one who doesn't seem to have what it takes when it comes to computers. However, that was about to change.

One night Peter is struck by lightening, and for some unexplained reason he was able to communicate with the "packets" in his computer. I had no idea what these were, but through reading I began to understand that they were actually what sends our communications throughout the internet. Peter befriends these "packet's," who by the way seem to have different personalities, and the world of computers opens up for him. However, another young man, Terry, creates and unleashes a super virus that is bringing destruction to computers world wide.

This virus is killing thousands of "packets," and may well cause the end of the internet. Peter and his friends set out to stop this virus, but will they be able to do it? The race is on.

I have to say this was really a fun and interesting read. Totally out of the box as far a other young adult books I have read. I believe the author has found a way to take the love for computers that our youth have, and adults as well, and merge it with one great tale. This is one book you will truly enjoy reading from beginning to end. Recommended. Smart and very well done.

The Gatherer
Jerry Bayne
BookSurge Publishing
9781419687365 $14.95

I always love a book that starts out with a grabber and this one definitely had it with the weird murder of Robert Sacks. Creepy. I loved it.

As I continued on with the read I met the rest of the main characters. Detective Mike Sims, who I immediately liked.

Doctor Cary Blake, who worked with Robert Sacks. Father Daniel, and Brother Peasley, Doctor Tony Ortex, a forensics doctor and of course His Eminence..All the main characters in place the read took me for a ride that I won't soon forget.

An ancient scroll has been found at a dig in Italy. Now this was not an ordinary scroll, but one that has Occult power, powers that were already invading the world, and if not stopped would bring evil that mankind had not seen for a very long time. The scroll must be deciphered and time is of the essence. Can Dr. Blake, Father Daniels and Brother Peasley understand its meaning in time? And what about the second scroll, how important is it to what is happening? It is very difficult to review this work without giving away the storyline so that is as far as I am going to go with it.

However, this is one fantastic book. The author does an outstanding job with the character description making each one of them personal and quite alive in your mind's eye. You really feel as if you know these people.

He also does a great job merging them together within the storyline, giving each one the importance of their presence and the definite need for them to be there.

Jerry Bayne laces this work with mystery, keeping you guessing and wondering when another murder will happen and will this group of courageous people be able to stop the evil. I loved the joining of the church and the police as they fought together trying to unravel what was happening. I also liked the element of romance that was brought into the story. I'll tell you, this was a real page turner, and one that kept me glued to the pages until I finished the read.

I am proud to give this my highest recommendation. Very well done, exceptional.

You're It!
Marc J Loranger
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, Colorado 80134
978432718626 $11.95

I want to say right off this is a great book for both young and old alike. We meet three young boys, Jed, Corey and James who find themselves in quite an adventure that could well cost them their lives.

The days were hot and long, boring if you didn't have money to spend. It certainly looked like a long summer was ahead until they found a baseball card, one that could be used for power. And then they found another one. Just what were these strange cards, and where did they come from?
Unfortunately, someone was looking for the lost cards, someone who desperately needed to have them and he was getting closer and closer to finding out where they were. A neighbor is killed and the boys began to put two and two together, they realized they were in trouble. When one of them is kidnapped, in an attempt to retrieve these mysterious cards, his only hope is in his friend's hands.

Can they save him and their own lives as well?

What a story! This is one great read, even for a grandma like me. I read this book in one sitting and absolutely enjoyed every page of the book. The characters were well defined, the story line ran smoothly and kept the element of mystery until the end. All in all a very good book and I highly recommend it.

Rules Are Rules
Julie Scandora
Book Publishers Network
P.O. Box 2256, Bothell, WA 98041
9781887542647 $17.95

I have to say, as I read this story I definitely could relate to Maya, as I'm sure many children and adults will too. This little girl has a problem, one she desperately needs help with. She is told to follow a rule, but what happens when a rule makes you feel uncomfortable? Should you still have to follow it?

Maya sits quietly in her forest and ponders what to do. She finds wisdom and is able to talk freely with a kindly woman friend and Maya musters up the courage to talk with her mom about this rule, and give her idea of a possible solution.

"Rules Are Rules" is a very good book. The author blends the calmness that nature can bring into the child's life, the understanding that it is a good idea to talk with someone, and the realization they can come up with a possible solution. The watercolor illustrations add depth to the read and definitely help bring the story to life.

The Other Daughter
Miralee Ferrell
Kregal Publications
P.O. Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
9780825426599 $12.99

This was an awesome read, one that will stay with me for a long time to come, for it truly stirred my emotions right to the core of my existence.

This story was about a couple enduring trials through the unexpected arrival of a young girl at the front door. This young girl would change all their lives as the story unravels of who she is, and where she has come from. Their reactions and interactions as well as their inter most thoughts play out in a emotional drama that will make it hard for you set this book down as the story unfolds.

I felt it was the first book that I have read that really showed life from a Christian perspective.
How, you ask? It showed the difficulties that people not only face in real life situations but also what we struggle with inwardly in our Christian walk. It clearly shows the different mind set between a believer and a non-believer and how that effects our relationships.

I highly recommend this book! It certainly sets a new stage for writers of Christian novels to attain. Excellent!

Who Says Animals Go To Heaven?
Niki Behrikis Shanahan
Pete Publishing
P.O. Box 282, Tyngborough, MA 01879
9780972030151 $13.99

I was honored to be asked to review this work by author, Niki Behrikis Shanahan, as I have had the honor of reviewing Ms. Shanahan's other works, There Is Eternal Life For Animals, Animal Prayer Guide, and The Rainbow Bridge: Pet Loss Is Heaven's Gain. I know what an exceptional writer she is and I knew this book would be as informative and encouraging as the ones before. I was not mistaken.

Written in a slightly different slant than our author's other works, Ms. Shanahan takes us on a journey sharing with us insights from knowledgeable men and women on the subject of life after death for animals. She quotes over 60 experts consisting of theologians, scholars, teachers, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. We are given background information on each one, dates, qualifications, religious or educational background. I found this in itself to be extremely interesting. Within the cover of her book we are taken across time, as these men and woman share God's heart concerning the fate of animals. What an eye-opener their comments give. Excellent.

The main basic of the entire book is proving that animals do indeed go to Heaven. The words of each of these experts shows without a shadow of a doubt that indeed they do. We have commentaries, revelations of the Word of God, and even visions of Heaven. I especially loved reading those as I always feel a quickening in my spirit of the reality and joy that awaits us there. Very uplifting. To me, each expert added another layer to my belief of the hereafter for animals and strengthened my faith in that area. Being an animal lover, I certainly could not imagine my afterlife being totally fulfilled without the companionship of my beloved earthly pets.

This book is one more step that our courageous author has taken to try and shake the Christian world in general in understanding the truth that God is a God of love, and that love includes all of creation. It helps the reader understand much of the compassion and love of God. Think about it, why would God care to know when one sparrow fell, if He was not going to bring it to its eternal home? In each of our author's books she shouts the words, "All life has value in the eyes of God, and He cares for every living thing." Her heart cry is to touch and comfort hurting souls everywhere with the knowledge from God's Word that your grief will be turned to joy once you are in your Heavenly home, for surely there God will reunite you with your pet. I applaud Mr. Shanahan for not being afraid to write the truths in God's Word that surely have touched the hearts of many. Who Says Animals Go To Heaven?, is a book that every Christian should have in their library. It certainly can be used as an essential tool when ministering to someone who is heartbroken over the death of their pet, or dealing with a doubter of the goodness of God and his love for animals, even after death. A wonderful addition to her works, from a very gifted author. Highly, highly recommended.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Spirit of Morph Code
Joseph Hennaleigh
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533156771, $11.95,

Communication is and has always been an invaluable skill. "The Spirit of Morph Code" is about improving communication through the same evolutionary morphing that turned life from a few single-cell organisms in an ancient sea to the complex homo sapiens we are today. A deft examination of what everyone uses every day and how to improve one's own skill, "The Spirit of Morph Code" is a top pick for community library self-help collections.

How to Get, Keep and Be Well Paid in a Job
Jay Goldberg
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432725297, $19.95,

The cost of living becomes higher and higher by the year; getting a well-paying job is essential just to survive. "How to Get, Keep, and Be Well Paid in a Job" is a guide for prospective employees to succeeding at their searches for a good job, not to mention tips on the easiest way to keep a plum career - by excelling at it. With an examination of how workplaces function and how the reader can make himself or herself a vital cog in the corporate machine, "How to Get, Keep, and Be Well Paid in a Job" is highly recommended for community library career collections.

Insights for Life
Ernestine Dearing Hogan & Marshall Hogan
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158164, $8.95,

The wisdom of the world does not require a epic doorstopper-sized novel to get the message across. "Insights for Life" is a compilation of knowledge and wisdom to help readers enlighten themselves about the reality of life. Presented from a Christian world view, "Insights for Life" is an ideal gift for anyone who has been down on their luck and needs a positive look at the future. Highly recommended for community library self-help collections.

The Run-Up to the Punch Bowl
John Nolan
International Plaza 2, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
1599267624, $28.79,

An oft-forgotten major conflict between World War II and Vietnam, the Korean War was a major event in American history. "The Run-Up to the Punch Bowl: A Memoir of the Korean War, 1951" is veteran soldier John Nolan's reflections on serving during this critical period, focusing on the events that he and his troop faced. Enhanced with a chapter dedicated to the lives of the men after they served in the war, "The Run-Up to the Punch Bowl: A Memoir of the Korean War, 1951" is highly recommended for community library memoir collections.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

The Organ Grinder And The Monkey
Sam Moffie
Xlibris Corporation
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
Uel Enterprises
765 Golfview Drive, Boardman, OH 44512
9781436327756, $19.99,

Imaginative, unique, complex, engrossing, offering three major characters whose personal behavior and emotional dysfunction have brought them under the care of the same psychiatrist, "The Organ Grinder And The Monkey" documents author Sam Moffie's superb storytelling style, an ability first demonstrated in his debut novel "Swap". By turns humorous, tragic, and outrageous, the storylines weave together in a complex tapestry of clashing philosophies, attitudes, perceptions and biases, threaded together with psychiatrist psycho-babble and hidden agendas. Especially recommended to contemporary literary fiction enthusiasts, "The Organ Grinder And The Monkey" is the stuff of which award-winning, cutting edge independent films are made (on very small budgets, but to the appreciation of very large audiences)!

Confessions of a 'Sixties Priest
James M. O'Brien
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595496150, $24.95,

The sixties were a time of change for everyone – even Catholic priests. "Confessions of a 'Sixties Priest: But Probably Not What You're Thinking" is the author's tale of becoming ordained when everyone else his age was pushing a cultural revolution and pioneering the music of rock 'n' roll. A tale of ambitions and learning about the world outside one's own sheltered upbringing, "Confessions of a 'Sixties Priest: But Probably Not What You're Thinking" is an intriguing piece of writing indeed, and a top pick for community library memoir collections.

Jeffrey Von Glahn
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595364292, $19.95,

Very few can remember their lives as a toddler; even fewer can remember their days as an infant. "Jessica: Autobiography of an Infant" presents the case of Jessica, who through extensive use of the technique known as catharsis is brought back to reflect in full English the thoughts that went through her head as an infant, when most of us just remember a blur. A deeply enthralling peek into the early human psyche, written in a form that resembles fiction.

The Clone Chronicles
Phillip G. Cargile
International Plaza 2, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
Power Promotions (publicity)
24165 IH 10 West, Suite 217-424, San Antonio, TX 78257
9781425735050, $22.99,

Are they nothing more than machines, tools created to labor for the benefit of humanity? "The Clone Chronicles: Dawn of the Clones" follows Detective Dexter Royac as he stumbles upon a shocking fact – that the clones, believed by the planet to be subhuman bio-automatons, are more human that anyone could ever believe. A finely written science fiction novel with many exciting concepts, "The Clone Chronicles: Dawn of the Clones" is highly recommended for community library science fiction collections and fans of the genre.

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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