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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 6 June 2014 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Donovan's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf

Donovan's Bookshelf

Imputed Knowledge
Edward De Vivo
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781494763283 $16.70

Imputed Knowledge combines elements of a thriller with insights on faith and God's involvement in human suffering: all this embedded in the story of one Jude Priore, an aviation defense counsel whose mission is to deal with the aftermath of an airplane's hijacking.

Now, Jude is personally experiencing a waning of his faith in God, and so the basic question 'Why are the innocent made to suffer?' only heightens his search for spiritual answers. That's really what Imputed Knowledge is all about, moving between a terrible hijacking's impact on all involved and the personal spiritual crisis of a man who embarks on a quest for answers.

But if you're expecting your standard thriller formula piece, know that Imputed Knowledge is something far more complex. It's all about turbulence: of faith, of humanity, and in Jude's own private reflections on his tasks in life. It's also about clues to terrorist actions that, ironically, lie in religious symbols; and about irony and testing in life that brings individuals to their knees only to rise up again, stronger than before.

Another difference lies in an introduction that uses a different tone to integrate the protagonist's world with the reader's: "Why are the innocent made to suffer? The curve of the question mark was like a giant hook tugging painfully at your soul. Your question stemmed from the rational thought that catastrophe in the modern age was making you doubt your faith....As Lead Counsel for one of the airlines being targeted by terrorism, you were all too familiar with your forthcoming assignment. You had become a fist responder to the devil's bidding."

With such a lead-in, you're off on a blend of adventure and spiritual revelation: and such a heady rush it is, involving sanctuaries where clues lie hidden in stained-glass windows, revenge plots targeting innocents, and challenges to 'professional detachment' that will ultimately test the boundaries of not only belief, but social and legal processes: "All the conventional postures of professional detachment were going to be rendered satirical by the vestiges of a terrorist's signature that you were about to inventory."

As Priore finds himself challenged on different levels, his belief system taken hostage and his courage assailed, he comes upon answers that actually make sense to him.

From encounters with terrorists their thought processes and motivations to the experiences of those on the plane and Priore's witnessing of atrocities, Priore becomes absorbed beyond professional boundaries ("Priore felt like he was wearing all the grime and repugnance of the assault on him.") and finds he'll have to use all his resources - not just those honed in hijacking litigation - to uncover the answers he needs.

These aren't just his discoveries, however: they're answers the world needs, too. And so as Imputed Knowledge weaves its story through violence, mystery, and confrontation with self and others, it invites readers to understand not just the roots of terrorist activities but the ultimate results of life's slings and arrows.

Action, drama, violence and confrontation that test personal and political boundaries, and spiritual insight: it's all here, presented in layers that invite both leisure reading and deeper reflection.

It's this unusual combination that offers readers a fine blend of action and philosophical, spiritual and social assessment: something usually lacking in a format that's strictly about action and intrigue. These elements set Imputed Knowledge apart from lighter, more mundane genre reads and succeed in creating a powerful, compelling story that makes its readers think about not just the adventure, but about social, religious and legal issues in life.

In conclusion: to call Imputed Knowledge a 'thriller' is to simplify its message. It's really a 'thinking man's spiritual saga' and as such, it incorporates and laces its plot with reflections on faith, doubt, and higher-level wisdom that uses the cloak of a thriller plot to make these ideas more accessible to general-interest, everyday readers.

Justice, Inc.
Dale Bridges
Monkey Puzzle Press
9780991542956 $15.00

Justice, Inc. is a collection of short stories that opens with an introduction that's nothing short of hilarious - for those who can take spiritual tongue-in-cheek jokes: "Imagine this. God creates a world. He makes it blue and green and round like a shiny marble. Then He takes a nap. When He wakes up, there are a bunch of fleshy bipeds running all over the place, naming things and bossing everyone around. God tells them to keep it down. They refuse. So He floods the marble. A few of the fleshy bipeds build a boat and make it out alive. God decides they can't do much harm and goes back to bed. Once again, He is awakened by their whining. He doesn't know how they got His number, but they are calling Him day and night. They don't want to build pyramids any longer. They want to live in a lactating country filled with bees. He sends them to Utah hoping to shut them up."

And it goes on from there, culminating in how the author came to write this collection: "In the year of our Lord 2014, a drunken, unemployed writer named Dale Bridges was attempting to steal cable from his neighbor in order to watch late-night porn and accidentally tapped into God's satellite feed..."

So you want to find out more? Read this: it's one of the most brilliant introductions this reviewer has seen in recent years, and for those not scared off by the offbeat spiritual references, it's a fine prelude to the kind of writing you can expect from Justice, Inc - which is anything but ordinary.

For one thing, each opening in each short story scenario is unexpected and gripping. Take 'Welcome To Omni-Mart', for just one example: now, how could one not want to read on, with an opening like this?: "Barry wants me to terminate the babies in the morning before the customers arrive, and he's the District Manager, so that's what I do."

Or perhaps 'The Other Ones', which promises racy reading and delivers it with a bang: "In the beginning, there was porn. Lots and lots of porn."

And once again: if you're easily offended by offbeat references to sex, religion, or alternative cultures, this is not for you.

Expect the unexpected - and expect it packaged in short stories that range from only a page or so in length to multi-page reads; each honed to impact their reader with out-of-the-box scenarios and wry observations. The mark of a real short story artist is the ability to pull high impact with the fewest number of words, so every word must count no matter what the length - and Dale Bridges more than proves his prowess in this field.

From reflections on youth to the digital revolution, chapters pull no punches and provide nothing canned or dull, as in 'The Generation Gap': "And so after many, many years, the young people of the village gathered together and told the old people it was time to die. Of course, the old people were not fond of the idea and said they would prefer not to. The old people argued that they felt just fine."

So if it's out-of-the-box thinking you're looking for and a wry, gritty observational tone that skirts the edges of social offense and humor, Justice, Inc is just the ticket. Expect the unexpected, for it's the norm in each story of Dale Bridges's hard-hitting collection.

Confessions of a Self-Help Writer (The Journal of Michael Enzo)
Benjamin W. DeHaven
Lagniappe Publishing
9780989912686 $22.95-Hardcover
9780988912693 $14.95-Digital

Michael Enzo was a fraud. He was also a philanthropist. He was also a gigolo. And a devout Catholic. He profited from people's insecurities and when that wasn't enough he began systematically psychologically destroying those closest to him - including author Benjamin W. DeHaven.

So why would DeHaven then salvage his former friend's journal from his New Orleans estate after Hurricane Katrina and publish it; especially since he was involved in Enzo's self-help industry deceptions?

Simple: the act of publishing a journal exposing the roots of deception is an act of contrition and an effort to undo the harm that they caused .

And who will be the likely reader of Confessions of a Self-Help Writer? That would be the reader already interested in the self-help field (possibly even those already familiar with Enzo's works) who want a deeper understanding of the entire operation, from Enzo's personality and motivations to the author's own rationale for participating in Enzo's schemes.

Now, forgiveness is a powerful motivator - and so is guilt. Without either in place, Confessions of a Self-Help Writer likely wouldn't have seen the light of day. And another powerful force at work here is egotism: specifically, Michael Enzo's drive to control and change his world and the worlds of others. Without THAT piece in place, he wouldn't have formed the schemes he did, nor candidly wrote about them in this journal. Consider the power of the voice that explains his perspective: ""I am one of the feeble who have to hit rock bottom before they can put things in perspective. Besides, once you hit rock bottom, you can start publishing self-help books in your own name, as long as you're famous. Mine will be a great testimonial to the will of men. When you've physically and mentally demolished the physical representation of your soul, suddenly you become an incredible healer, according to my books."

Add to this dose of autobiography a series of revelations that systematically show how darkness enters a common man's soul and how it twists motivation to ultimately foster deceptive practices and you have a satisfying blend of autobiography, journal entries, and insights into not just one man's obsession, but the psychological trappings of the self-help industry as a whole.

Eye-opening (even eye-popping, at points) and involving, Confessions of a Self-Help Writer reads like a thriller but is true life confession at its best.

River Talk
CB Anderson
CR Press
9781936196463 $16.00

The short stories featured in River Talk are all about small town settings and individual experience, and are recommended for readers who enjoy vignettes steeped in a sense of place and peppered with a wide range of emotional tests.

These small town settings serve as the foundations for tales that evolve to reveal protagonist strengths and weaknesses, and which engage readers with dialogues of self-inspection and challenge.

Take, for example, the opening story 'China Falls'. Now, opening stories often set the tone for the entire collection when it comes to the short story format. They serve as not only introductions to attitude and subject but often set the stage for stories to follow along the same vein. As such, many a collection opens with a strong punch but peters out later on as the tales assume a similarity of focus that eventually sets aside any elements of surprise.

Not so 'China Falls', which is merely one powerful opening act in a wider-ranging drama. Here the town of China Falls is facing a drought and resident Jeanine is facing a personal crisis as a single mother to her special-needs son and teen daughter. Work is the only place that allows her the freedom to relax in her role: "The Fiddlehead, Jeanine thinks as she flips on the blender, is the only place where things happen as they should, where she feels part of a smooth, working unit rather than an emblem of misfortune."

Everyone in China Falls wishes it would rain; longs for relief - as does Jeanine, who protects her son against all odds and is afraid to confess (even to her ex) that her boy is growing too difficult to control: "She will not tell Greg about the tooth or Cory's rage in the car. She will not tell him what she feels: that Cory is getting harder to control. Or that she is tired."

Now, don't expect a clear resolution at story's end: this is a piece describing circumstance and atmosphere, not a formula work consisting of a beginning, middle, and an end. The only 'end' is uncertainty and the only 'conclusion' is Jeanine's connection to her son.

The same goes for 'Dance Recital for the Men of the American Legion in April': quite a different story that centers upon two dancer girls and a recital that captures a moment in time between present and future.

Drama is subtle in these tales; so don't expect highly-charged plots, either. It's CB Anderson's use of subtlety and innuendo that brings out the most in her stories and creates quiet scenarios of desperation and survival in the simplest of events: "A year from now some things would be different. The mother of the red-costumed girl would come home early one morning to find her husband waiting at the kitchen table. Why, he would ask, and she would not know the answer. Soon she would leave, taking their daughter with her. After that, the girls would no longer tap-dance together. This, at least, would provide some small relief to the girls themselves."

Another plus: there's no singular pattern to the characters or settings; from an Iraq War veteran who struggles with civilian life to a Somali's struggle with American culture and work ethics.

These are 'ordinary' people involved in extraordinary situations and they are living their lives on the edge while formulating new worldviews and tools for personal survival. Expect no easy answers - and no easy questions, either.

It's CB Anderson's talent in bringing together these disparate lives with minimal direction and seemingly effortless observation that makes this literary collection shine.

53 Letters for My Lover
Leylah Attar
Pitch73 Publishing
Paperback: 9780993752704, $14.99
Ebook: 9780993752711, $4.99

To call 53 Letters For My Lover a romance (despite its beckoning name) would be to do it an injustice by oversimplifying its focus. Leylah Attar's poignant and emotionally charged debut novel may swirl around an epic and forbidden love, but it is really about transition, an unraveling of the human journey to find happiness, empowerment and ultimately, the freedom that comes with living life on your own terms.

Yes, it's about love. And family. And a woman who writes about her life and the people in it as though she's crafting a novel. Readers may be surprised to learn that it takes the form of a posthumous collection of entries from a journal that's evolved from over thirty years of experience and intimate writings. Expect to be quickly drawn into a circle of relationships and encounters that are filled with vivid descriptions, vivid moments, and atmosphere steeped in visual and tactile flashes that reach out and grab the reader:

"I feel the tension, like spring coils compressed into the space between us, expanding and contracting with each breath we take."
"Your eyes darken, black holes pushing sky blue irises to the edges of raw emotion. Hunger. Anger. Love. Pain."
"One world is waiting to be folded and put away, another is fluttering in the wind, like a sweet-smelling dress on a clothes line, longing to be worn."

All told in the first person, of course, to bring that sense of character and place right into one's own life.

But as was said: don't expect a romance alone. Shayda Hijazi is doing more than breaking a few rules: she's in the process of reinventing her world when, as life often does, a twist of fate enters the process to once again change her direction and focus.

Drawing on raw sensuality and emotion, 53 Letters For My Lover forms a bigger picture that eventually challenges Shayda's illusions about love and life itself. On another level, and maybe even more successfully, 53 Letters For My Lover raises important questions about our notions of love, family, right and wrong. What inspires our passion, what becomes precious about life and its relationships, and what evolves into full, blossoming growth is deftly captured in a novel that will enchant fans of women's fiction who enjoy realistic romance, thought-provoking reads, juicy love scenes and unexpected twists of plot.

Terms of Surrender
Lorrie Farrelly
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B003ZDO4SI, $3.99

Terms of Surrender is set in the era of the War Between the States and tells of a young former Confederate Cavalry officer who is left without hope after the war when he stumbles upon one Annie Devlin's war on the frontier - and saves her life while threatening his own.

Now it's up to Annie to heal her hero - and to help him fill gaps in his life and hers.

Now, Terms of Surrender could be categorized as a Western romance: certainly this audience would be the likely readers of a story centered upon the blossoming relationship between two individuals who have faced struggle and adversity in their lives.

But the added bonus of a plot that revolves just as strongly around hardship and strife and the bonding of two very different protagonists who have faced change and danger with courage makes for a wider-ranging story, with the Wyoming setting (after the Civil War) just adding more spice to the mixture with its added focus on the aftermath of war and its lingering impact on all involved.

Drama and threats to humor and emotion: all spring to life in chapters that add action to romance, rounding out protagonists and settings.

Terms of Surrender is about surrender on many levels, from military to surrendering one's heart and preset notions. It's about sheer determination against all odds, summoning up personal strength to tackle adversity, and the influences that cause people to come together and families to be formed from fragments of past experience: "He had no use for those feelings and he desperately did not want them. And yet, as though his traitorous emotions and the raw craving he felt for Annie weren't enough to torment him to madness, there was the additional vexation of his dawning, grudging fondness for the boy, a cruel and haunting reminder of the feelings he'd once had for his own little brother."

Descriptions are evocative and compelling throughout: "Annie's pale hair cascaded over her shoulders, for all the world as though moonbeams had drifted down around her to settle in a soft, gleaming cloud."

Part of this multifaceted read, however, lies in elements that broaden its romantic overtones: thus readers can expect to find humor, violence, gritty action and exquisitely-wrought tension throughout a creation recommended not for those seeking light leisure reading, but for readers who seek more depth and layers in their stories.

The result feels like a Western romance read but embraces so much more: hope, desperation, and, ultimately, love. As such it's a recommendation for those who like their romances tinged with historical settings and more than a healthy dose of emotional zest.

Brian Evans, Helen Marie Bousquet, Mark Andrew Biltz
H Infinity Books Inc.
Hardcover: 9781619277892
e-ISBN: 9781619278080

It's hard to define the potential of a title using a single word, but Horrorscope does just that, using the dual reference to horoscopes and horror to let potential readers know just what they are getting into before the first page is cracked.

One of the main surprise twists of the story: a psychic is forced to relate her predictions to the mafia, allowing their crimes to go undetected - until someone in the mob questions her authenticity.

Now, Helen is used to giving candid readings: "Mary, he isn't that good a guy to begin with. Even if you ended up with him, he's a possessive guy, and you'd never be able to do the things you like with this guy. He's a jerk, and yeah, if you sit around waiting you'll probably hear from again. Everything, and I mean everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie. He says he loves you, but you know in your heart that you can't trust him. There's a reason he put a GPS on your phone. There's a reason he doesn't want you looking at his text messages when he's with you. You just fall for it and let it go, because you love him more than he loves you."

Her knowledge comes from impressions and otherworld sources she just can't identify; but when she gives a detective a clue that will lead him to three abducted children she begins to "...appear on radars, and some of them were the wrong ones."

It all boils down to belief and disbelief - and given Helen's abilities, it's hard for her clients not to believe, and they pass on their experiences to others who seek her services: some reluctantly, some desperately.

An underboss, betrayal, and an impossible beast that comes to life all add to an engrossing, slowly evolving story of horror and impossible events that immerse a detective in struggles he'd never have believed possible before meeting psychic little old lady Helen.

One doesn't expect a tiger to enter into this slowly-building house of horrors - but it does. In fact, one never knows what to expect in the maelstrom that surrounds Helen's abilities and her clients.

Suffice it to say that Horrorscope is a satisfying novel of intrigue, police and mob strikes and counterstrikes, and deception that builds a solid plot around believable protagonists and offers twists that are gripping. And be advised: if you liked Horrorscope, rumor has it that Horrorscope II is in the making...the story is left open-ended just for this purpose.

Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro
Katherine Pickett
Hop On Publishing
ISBN 9780991499113 (paperback)
9780991499120 (e-book)

If you're a beginning writer, you've likely more than familiarized yourself with the process of producing a polished piece. Now it's time for 'the other half' to kick in: and that's moving the piece from production to publication.

This is also where Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro enters the picture, providing all the resources and professional insights needed to take your book from 'written' to 'published'. Given that the author holds some fifteen years in the industry as an editor, readers can feel confident that her advice comes 'from the horse's mouth' and reflects over a decade of experience with authors and the publishing industry alike.

The process is logical and clear, but filled with pitfalls that novices couldn't know without a guide such as Perfect Bound in hand. Perfect Bound takes the guesswork out of each step and provides all the basics.

Take the first chapter on 'Choosing Your Route to Publication', for example. Now, you'd think this would be a simple matter of 'whoever wants to publish my book wins my hand' - but it's not that easy. Therein lies the 'choice'. An astute author, Perfect Bound maintains, should be researching publishers to ascertain the best fit for all involved. There are good and bad publishing houses: not every publishing house will be a good fit for your book, and a bad match can waste time, energy, and money.

Choices range from traditional publishing to self-publishing: each with its own pros and cons. A simple checklist is presented to help readers decide, accompanied by discussions of the methods involved in exploring each route. Case history examples cement ideas and offer concrete insights on the publishing business using different business models and approaches.

From collaborations and work-made-for-hire to self-publishing, topics are covered in discussions that always include 'what you give up' and 'what's in it for you'.

Keys to working with publishing professionals are specific and essential to streamlining this process, while discussions of timelines involved in seeing a book to publication, understanding the acquisition procedure, and working with copy editors take into account common snafus and how to avoid them: " not lie to your editor about when you have sent a manuscript. This may sound silly, but it happens with some regularity. When I was a new editor working in-house, I told a senior editor that I didn't know what happened; the author said she had sent the manuscript and it would arrive that day, but no package had arrived. Where could it be? "She probably didn't send the package," the experienced editor advised. "Give her a call." Sure enough, the author had intended to send the manuscript but hadn't quite finished her review."

Anything that affects publication, from communications to understanding common routines, is discussed with an eye to showing writers how to make the best decisions for everyone involved.

Perfect Bound doesn't end with the actual book's appearance, either: it surveys self-marketing options, from blogging to author appearances and online promotions, and it shows how to handle common roadblocks - including reviews that pan one's book.

Katherine Pickett sums up her guide in a nutshell - and her follow-through is exactly why novice writers need her book: "The ideas I have presented in this book are based on two complementary mantras that should guide any author seeking publication. One, publishing a book that sells takes more than just good writing; it also requires market savvy, professionalism, and drive. And two, knowing what to expect and what is expected of you will save you time, money, and embarrassment throughout the publishing endeavor."

Want to be a successful author? Perfect Bound should be the first step towards collaborative, cooperative success between an author and publisher!

The Renaissance
D. Medina Lasansky, Editor
Periscope Publishing Ltd.
c/oPrestel, Distributors
9781934772256 $45.00

Art history holdings may recognize this book's editor, D. Medina Lasansky, from her previous works revolving around Italy, fascism, and Italian Renaissance history; but should be prepared for far more depth and a broader focus in The Renaissance Revised, Expanded, Unexpurgated, which covers the lasting social and artistic legacy of Renaissance Italy.

It's important to note, first off, that The Renaissance is no light read for general-interest audiences, but a scholarly work covering different aspects of the Renaissance, from its doctrines, politics and social impact to the art and popular culture that evolved from its concepts and heritage. Thus its audience will be college-level readers who want not the usual (singular) focus on Renaissance art, but a wider-ranging collection of scholarly essays that each holds different themes and perspectives.

Chapters thus hold such intriguing connections between past and present that more closely examine the era and its influences.

Now, one might not expect a popular musician such as Lady Gaga to enter into the picture, but the fact that she does only serves to illustrate the unusual perspective of articles that draw important links between past and present styles, art forms, and figureheads.

So what do these seemingly-disparate topics have to do with modern-day art perspectives? Plenty, as D. Medina Lasansky and Glorida Kury illustrate right off the bat: "But today? The crowds at the Uffizi know little about most of the treasures once installed in the Tribuna. Even if they were to pause to look at a painting like Guercino's Sibyl, it would probably seem dull, the way unintelligible things so often do. Codes of aesthetic experience have changed, passwords forgotten, and the scene restaged."

In short, without background knowledge, perceptions of modern viewers may be one-sided and unable to embrace the historical context so essential to a complete understanding. This applies to everything; from rediscovered art works and fragments of documents to applying the trappings of nineteenth century recovery processes for display and consumption purposes to the needs of modern art viewers.

And lest you think all this covers an obscure topic for a very limited audience, let it be said that enthusiasm for the Italian Renaissance is actually widespread; with Renaissance fairs, TV shows, movies and books capturing its culture and feel. Even video games reflect this interest, as in Assassin's Creed II, set in late fifteenth-century Italy. Whether it be a book or a game, however, real understanding of the Renaissance's modern impact would be missing without this collection.

And if you anticipate a dry collection of writings, think again. Lively discussions include the fine art of making a profit on Italian Renaissance themes (a process which often holds little or no connection to history's realities), correlations between Renaissance table linens and Martha Stewart readers, and sexually explicit publications that shocked 1500s Italy and set the stage for today's moral sentiments about erotic art.

Color and black and white photos of art pieces from paintings to sculptures offer a blend of social and artistic commentary and support text discussions of art history, cultural evolutionary processes, and writers whose works and approaches fostered creativity and artistic expression: "Morelli never wrote monographs or "school" histories. The gallery guide, the emended gallery guide, the guide as an undercover report on the operations of major museums is his genre."

Historical evidence isn't ignored and neither is it footnoted to death: instead, readers can anticipate a lively, edgy quality to scholarship that reveals the course, objectives, blind spots and progression of Renaissance study as a whole.

Under such circumstances the Renaissance actually becomes a mirror where its image reflects the origins and evolution of Western civilization's moral and artistic values.

It's a rare delight to find a scholarly discussion so accessible and so filled with insights about modern society, bringing the past alive with powerful links to the present.

The Renaissance Revised, Expanded, Unexpurgated is such a document; and while its primary audience will still be art and history collections strong in Italian Renaissance subjects, it could (and should) reach beyond the realm of the scholar into the general-interest world, there to engross and educate readers who harbor a basic appreciation for Renaissance art and culture, and who seek more depth and further insights from a readable, lively encounter.

The 7th Tarot Card
Valerie Clay
Valerie Clay via Amazon KDP
ASIN: B00JFCBP26, $1.99

The 7th Tarot Card introduces divorcee Vic Morgan, who is bored with her job and with life in general. What better way to spice things up than through a challenging 'vision quest' to gain new purpose and perspective on life ... and what happens when she lets in more excitement than anticipated, opening a door to the supernatural with an invitation that affects her life?

From frightening phone calls to an attractive (but dark) neighbor, Vic finds her life is suddenly anything but boring - and when a casual agreement to play investigator for a friend results in an unexpected journey, Vic might want to reconsider her desire for adventure.

The 7th Tarot Card starts with a bang right off the bat, with Vic's mysterious phone caller: "Sometimes the calls come in the daytime, but others, like this one, on the stroke of midnight. When I answer, there's never a response - just the sound of someone's slow, steady breathing."

Now, Vic is a middle-aged, self-proclaimed 'seeker', always on a mission of self-improvement and change: "I'm on a perpetual quest for self-improvement, the meaning of life, the perfect man, inner joy, and a bigger condo. Every woman should have a blueprint for her life, and each day I do something to bring me closer to my goals. I call it my VMAP (Victoria Morgan Action Plan). The way I see it, you can give up, stagnate, and die a slow, boring death as the years roll by, or you can push yourself to live life to the fullest, no matter how old you are."

In part, it's her highly charged motivation to learn, change, and get the most out of life which, ironically, introduces her to new dangers. Her primary objective of 'choosing life' and boosting her experiences gets her into convoluted trouble as she faces challenges outside her paradigm of belief and realizes new abilities not present at the time of her divorce.

Readers should anticipate a charged, changing story line that creates a powerful protagonist, then places her in a series of compromising positions that test her flexibility and ability to think out of the box.

As chapters focus on Vic's personality and evolution, they build compelling and believable scenarios that succeed in realizing her opening desire " jump-start my life and get out of a rut the size of the Grand Canyon, I've begun daily meditation, visualizing an exciting, new life filled with adventure and romance. Any day now that should be kicking in. Meanwhile, I'm a legal secretary by day, couch potato by night."

Vic wants adventure and romance (be careful what you wish for!) and she gets both, in spades, carrying readers along on a journey of intrigue and self-inspection that lead her on a breathless course packed with escapades and close encounters of all kinds.

Want heart-stopping car chases? You have it: ""Hang on to your hats, girls," she yelled. "I'll try and lose 'em." Our tires squealed in protest as she accelerated, then made a last minute, hard right turn onto Pecos. Julie slid across the back seat and I grabbed onto the door handle while I looked back to see if they followed us. Sure enough, the Viper squealed around the corner in hot pursuit, then picked up speed."

Looking for insights on how an amateur detective hones her undeveloped skills? That's here, too: "Throwing my Action Plan to the wind, I started biting my fingernails, when it occurred to me - what would Emma Peel do? Would she dissolve into a lily-livered chicken-heart? I think not. Any self-respecting Avengers fan knows that. This could actually be an opportunity to hone my detective skills and practice some diversionary maneuvers. It's all in how you think about it."

As Vic arrives closer to the truth she finds her own life coming full circle from that of a couch potato to an adventuress and back to a place that confronts fears, embraces courage, and ultimately leads to love: "In his dark eyes I saw surrender and a vulnerability that made my heart ache with love. Then he kissed me over and over again with a passion that set my soul on fire."

Readers will find themselves swept away by the passions and perspectives of a feisty woman who doesn't settle for less than she's worth, and will find The 7th Tarot Card to be just the ticket for an involving late-night leisure read.

Predatory Kill
Kenneth Eade
Times Square Publishing
ASIN: B00JNNFEJ2, $0.99

Just as its title says, Predatory Kill: A Legal Thriller combines the genres of a good detective thriller with an exploration of legal process and, much in the manner of John Grisham, laces all this together with strong, believable protagonists who face the impossible.

All this comes from a lawyer/author, so the legal process is authoritative and specific as it relates a lawyer's move to take on cases that involve wider-ranging, more difficult issues of social importance.

As chance would have it, Brent's first venture into new legal realms involves one April Marsh, who instigates a case revolving around the predatory lending practices of big banks who have foreclosed on her parents' home.

It all seems pretty cut and dried ... until murder enters the picture.

With April's mother dead and her father severely beaten, lawyer Brent Marks finds himself confronting an impossible conclusion: that big business has moved beyond the boundaries of predatory lending and into the realm of predatory killing. But why? What is so important about a single home that would cause a bank to hire a killer?

That's the crux of an investigation that becomes more convoluted and complex as chapters go on, immersing readers in a series of legal and social encounters that involve twisted purposes, perspectives, and emotions gone wild.

Fans of Grisham will find equal talent here in Eade's ability to captivate and hold readers with the unexpected, both in character development in nonstop action which lays the foundation for a story that's anything but predictable.

The realistic dialogue is - well - simply killer; while action points in one direction, then often takes a 360-degree turn. In a world where plot and outcome are often predictable from the start, this will prove more than satisfying to readers already well versed in the legal thriller format.

Another note: there's plenty of legal process and background incorporated into the chain of events. This lends Predatory Kill more than a realistic feel, with courtroom proceedings and arguments fueling the fire for out-of-courtroom drama.

Atmosphere is not neglected for the sake of either legal process or character development (as is too often the case in this genre): take (for example) an opening chapter in the salvo of a battle that crosses into different territory: "To the novice, it may have a appeared that a storm was rolling down Stagecoach Road, accompanied by dark clouds and the roar of thunder. But it was not an act of God; rather, a pack of hogs rolling into the Cold Spring Tavern Saturday night. The clan of bearded men and tattooed women rumbled in on their bikes, peeled their leather coated bodies off their saddles, and packed into the bar area."

What does this rough-and-tumble piece have to do with lawyer Brent's courtroom appearances, which liberally dose the book with realistic arguments and legal encounters? Read Predatory Kill to find out.

One thing's for certain: you won't be bored by this page-turner's wealth of characters, settings, and unpredictable cat-and-mouse games.

Daughters Of The Dragon - A Comfort Woman's Story
William Andrews
MADHouse Press LLC
Print 9780991395859 $12.99
E-Book 9780991395842 $2.99

Daughters Of The Dragon - A Comfort Woman's Story is set during World War II, when the Japanese forced some 200,000 young Korean women to be sex slaves (i.e. "comfort women") for their soldiers, and centers around one Ja-hee and her sister who are taken from their family for such a purpose.

Their suffering is terrible and when Ja-hee finally escapes, leaving her dying sister behind, it's only to find that the past haunts her footsteps. Violence seems to follow her as she finds and loses love in North Korea, flees to South Korea, and keeps secret her trials as a former comfort woman, only to find that the truth emerges time and again and threatens to destroy her.

Daughters Of The Dragon is no easy read, so don't expect a light leisure story of survival and endurance. Ja-hee's world is gritty, dark, and filled with struggle; and so readers are swept along into her encounters with Japanese brutality and wartime events, with Ja-hee's only hope lying in a mysterious comb that is the sole remnant of her birth mother and which holds its own story of hope and survival, passed down through generations.

Candid passages and descriptions are eye-opening and revealing: "I had become an ianfu - a comfort woman. I learned a trick, too. I examined the men's boots before they raped me. As I said, the Colonel had his boots tied tight. It was a warning sign. His type of cruelty was the worst. It was psychological as well as physical. After that, whenever I saw someone with boots tied tight, I knew I would be humiliated. But there were many others. A soldier with dirty, untied boots would be careless and quick. A soldier who kept his boots on would often hurt me. If his boots were clean and polished, it would be someone who wanted me to pretend I was enjoying him. Examining their boots was just something I did. But knowing what was going to happen to me did not help. In fact, it made it worse. It was like a torturer telling you what he was going to do to you next. By looking at their boots, I knew how they would rape me."

And being based on actual historical fact, they hold all the more impact and importance not just for Daughters Of The Dragon, but for a deeper understanding of modern-day Asia and why the Japanese are still viewed with caution and anger throughout much of the rest of the region.

That the story of comfort women has all but been forgotten, buried by the Japanese government, is a shame. That it's resurrected here in Daughters Of The Dragon and woven into a fictional story of survival to make it accessible to a much wider audience than nonfiction could have achieved is an even more commendable choice.

William Andrews has taken a nearly-buried historical fact and used it to create a masterpiece of fictional encounters cemented by a strong central character in Ja-hee.

Readers who look for authentic historical meaning, strong protagonists, believable and involving dialogue, and a gripping saga will find Daughters Of The Dragon just the ticket. Anticipate brutal scenes, revelations, and struggles for survival and post-traumatic stress that follow the realistic paths of life in a powerful story of dignity, atrocities and roads to recovery.

It's a shame this story hasn't been fully explored before. It's a revelation that's long needed exposure, and it's outstanding that Andrews has seen fit to research and bring it to public attention now, in a format accessible to more than just history buffs and scholars.

Alan Brenham
Black Opal Books
9781626941373, Price: $3.99/ebook; $12.99/print

Seven missing women plus one murder: but are these cases connected? Their only association seems to be that they were exceptionally beautiful. That's the question detective Matt Brady faces in Alan Brenham's hard-hitting crime novel Cornered, which jumps in to deep waters feet first and very quickly evolves to become a complex thriller.

The first thing to know is that this isn't light reading: scenarios change with a snap, readers are treated to a complex series of circumstances and chapters devoted to rounding out situations, protagonists, and motivations, and the effort begins with a personal foundation and rapidly moves outward to embrace the world.

Cornered may be set in modern Texas and deals with human trafficking; but that's too simple a description. In actuality Matt is a human being facing all the uncertainties and questions that make his detective work a challenge and a pleasure, and these qualms drive his personality and efforts throughout. It's a real pleasure to see the humanity that Matt embodies as he embarks upon the search of his life - and to join him in piecing together the few clues that comprise one of the most challenging cases of his life.

Now, readers are given more answers than Matt; and so are in the position of observing how he pieces together logic and events to come to conclusions viewers already know. And further insights into the perps and their motivations just add icing to the cake of intrigue as a vet, a cat, and other factors enter into a complex series of encounters.

The noose is tightening slowly - but is it tightening upon Matt, another victim, or the perps? Despite the changing viewpoints and insights provided, it's really not possible to easily predict the future events of Cornered - and so readers are treated to delightful changes as the story evolves.

It's rare to see a protagonist who struggles with so many ideas and encounters simultaneously: in reality Matt is a juggler, keeping all the balls in the air but with a satisfying uncertainty that reflects his humanity and self-doubt. The villains here - Weaver and Chiles - are equally well drawn and as the story shifts perspective between detective and perps, readers gain full vision of the motivations and actions of each.

What seems to be a one-time encounter with a veterinarian turns out to be something more as she becomes an intrinsic part of events that unfold with deadly perils for both.

Add a surprise twist to the ending and you have a mystery/thriller combo that reaches its crescendo in a flight to redemption and romance, concluding with new possibilities for all who survive the final confrontation. In short, a mystery/thriller that is steady and gripping throughout: just the ticket for readers who seek something more complex in their detective reading.

Measure of Danger
Jay Klages
Amazon Digital Services
ISBN: 9780692220825

Measure of Danger centers around one Kade Sims, who has been recruited by the FBI to gather evidence of organized crime involvement in an Oregon biotech company. Seems like a straightforward assignment: the only problem is, he uncovers much more than expected in the evidence of not just crime but a large militia force set to unleash a terrorist attack of unparalleled proportions upon the nation.

This is no ordinary discovery and it's no ordinary task for Kade, who now must make some dangerous decisions affecting not just a singular investigation, but the nation's fate under fire.

And just why is the action and scenario so convincing? That's because author Jay Klages is a former military intelligence officer - and it translates well here, with chapters offering precise and realistic insights into intelligence operations and processes.

Personally, this reviewer favors thrillers that revolve around technological threats. There's something about the form, function and use of high-tech possibilities for either good or evil purposes that is an intrinsic 'draw' for any interested in the integration of technology and political (or criminal) objectives.

It's all laid out well here, with Measure of Danger elevating a realistic threats and scenarios to new levels of believability; all this bonded together by Kade's own motivations and the second chance he receives to serve his country by joining an FBI operation.

It's not all nonstop action: Klages does a good job of cementing character personalities and integrating a sense of place into his bigger picture: "The steaming mug warmed Owens' thick hands while he gazed out the blurry window into darkness. There was no stunning view of the river at this hour, but he still enjoyed looking out into the black void sprinkled with dockside lights and listening to the sounds of the storm. With each wind gust, the century-old Sitka spruce and cedar building whistled, swayed, and popped. For Owens, it was like a favorite song reminding him of what his Chinook ancestors endured in this region hundreds of years ago."

They may seem like little details, or little breaks in the action-packed story; but these interludes lend the perfect feel of environment and motivation to the overall story and help make for a juicy plot where various protagonists interact, dialogue between them reveals motivations and personalities, and where readers come to appreciate a sense of place and purpose that makes them actually care about the drama unfolding.

This caring factor can't be forced: it can only be built with carefully-constructed chapters hinging not just on nonstop action, but on building connections between reader and thriller.

When faced with the specter of a battle, Kade realizes he's in the heart of a viper's nest with no way out and must call upon all his resources to save not only himself, but the world: "He thought about his escape plan again, went over the scenarios in his head. Making a move tonight was out of the question since there was now a planned after-dinner activity. He brainstormed if there was anything he could do to further support his plan and create a better chance for success. Could he cause an additional disruption or distraction while he attempted to escape? While he stared at the computer screen further, he thought, yes, maybe I can do something. Maybe some simple cyber warfare is in order."

The result is nothing short of spellbinding: well before the halfway point readers are immersed in Kade's discoveries, dilemmas, and uncertainties. The surprise ending is a hammer just waiting to fall - but not before Kade finds his options have changed.

Strong characterization, a sense of place and purpose, and an evolving technological threat together make Measure of Danger a strong recommendation for any reader of high-technology thrillers; especially prior fans of Tom Clancy, Jack Higgins, Robin Cook and others writing in this vein.

Adventure Inward: A Risk Taker's Book of Quotes
Jonathan Wunrow
Life is Twisted Press
E-book: 9781938568381, $3.99
Paperback: 9780985188146, $10.95

Adventure Inward: A Risk Taker's Book of Quotes is primarily a pick for adventurers; but those non-adventurers who like taking personal risks will also find much here to appreciate. It comes from an adventurer and extreme sports enthusiast who has spent over thirty years mountaineering around the world, and who describes his life of adventure and how to remain open to life's possibilities.

Adventure Inward consists of inspirational and humorous quotes designed to get readers thinking about their own course in life, and it reaches its own summit in tacking the bigger questions of life purpose. Even if you're not a natural risk-taker, it will provoke reflections on life's meaning that ultimately lead to transitions and changes, and is dedicated " the dreamers, the risk takers, and to the misfits."

This is a big job, and it requires organization: there are literally many hundreds of quotes here, and without structure they could all too easily become lost or prove overwhelming. Jonathan Wunrow provides that essential structure in chapters that open with 'Why Play a Risky Game?' and move logically to 'Finding Your Path in Life', 'Hardships and What They Can Teach Us', and 'Family and Other Sacrifices'.

Each chapter comes packed with inspirational quotes from fellow adventurers and spiritual seekers, from Ram Das to Sir Edmund Hillary, and each section receives a fine introduction by Wunrow, who uses his personal experience to translate the process of change.

Thus a series of involving quotes ("It's not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves." Sir Edmund Hillary) are preceded (or followed) by Wunrow's own self-examination: "An even more important question is how do we define "good" and who gets to do the defining?...(sic) ...the best risk takers are the fearless ones...Commitment, determination, and patience are key to dealing with the day-in and day-out mental, emotional and physical grind of training and participating in extreme sports."

And lest you think you need to be a sports enthusiast to properly absorb his adages, let it be said that the only prerequisite is an interest in self-growth and understanding life paths and transition points. If it's an inspirational and thought-provoking reader that's desired, packed with quotes and insights for personal advancement, then Adventure Inward more than fits the bill.

Living Treasures
Yang Huang
Harvard Square Editions Ltd.
9780989596053, $19.95,

Living Treasures was a Bellwether Prize finalist and is a powerful novel set in China and centered on a young law student who finds her life changed by the violence in Tiananmen Square, which kills one of her friends. Her reaction (since she eschews violence) is to fall in love with a charismatic young soldier: the only problem is, she becomes pregnant.

Her parents arrange for her abortion and she flees school and home in disgrace, ending up at her grandparents' house in China's remote Sichuan mountains.

For all intents and purposes this story could have ended here; but Bao's saga continues in an unexpected direction when she helps a panda and a pregnant young mother (who is hiding from China's one-child policy enforcer).

Here Bao's own background comes into play as she sides with family and survival and finds herself simultaneously immersed in a dual struggle to save a young woman and a panda cub.

Living Treasures is nothing short of spectacular; especially for readers who want a story steeped in Chinese culture, tradition, and politics but cemented by a powerful young woman who emerges as a savior to others. Equally notable are passages filled with a sense of rural place, which engage all one's senses in the sounds, smells, and feel of Sichuan province:

"She hiked up the mountain. Wild azalea leaves glistened, their buds swollen and pink, ready to burst into flower. The red bark of birch trees caught the sun's slanting rays, and lichens drooped in luminous strands from their boughs...Never in her life had she imagined fawning over a peasant who tried to circumvent the one-child policy. Bao was a university student, the elite of Chinese youth, and a law student at that!"

Any who want a slowly-building sense of place and purpose and who want to better understand Chinese culture, history, and heritage will find Living Treasures is all about the nation's changes, reflected in the life of young Bao as she learns how and when to take stands for her changing beliefs.

Literary and lyrical, Living Treasures is a lovely, absorbing story steeped in Chinese tradition.

Mr. Ballpoint
Gerald Everett Jones
LaPuerta Books
Hardcover print edition
ISBN: 9780985622749
Kindle edition: 9780985622756

It's getting rarer, these days, to find humorous fiction - much less humor stories based on true stories - but Mr. Ballpoint is such a find, and includes an unusual focus on a father-son relationship and a ballpoint pen.

Doesn't sound funny? Read on, Macduff ... the conflict between the very different personalities of father and son (one a shameless huckster, the other a mild-mannered honors student) is vivid and engrossing.

Now, Milton is a blustering salesperson and promoter of the ballpoint pen and uses a fair amount of b-s in the course of his efforts, determined to win at any cost. His son, on the other hand, eschews these methods in favor of an approach to life that is less flamboyant. The personality contrasts and conflicts are believable and outrageous; but it takes not only marketing snafus but also more than one family crisis to change all this and to lead the protagonists down different roads of engagement.

Milton is used to the concept that haggling wins hearts but in this unfamiliar arena with his son, he's forced to admit that his prior skills have no impact. Nor do his prior achievements (which primarily involved setting off 'The Pen Wars' over a ballpoint pen's rights, manufacturing and promotion.)

As the two play a complicated dance centered around ballpoint pens and risky schemes, readers will find the story offers well-rounded views of past, present, and other family members as well as outrageous exploits and unexpected fame: Presumably traveling on business and spreading goodwill, she and Milt had been piloted in the Flying

Printasign to most of the major cities in South America as they called on prominent retailers. Milt had written long letters back to his friends from each destination - thirty-four letters in all, which the company publicity department eventually collected into a book of memoirs entitled Hasta La Vista (I'll Be Seeing You). They gave boxes of books away to customers. So Milt, the traveling salesman, was now a published book author. I never knew she hadn't been totally thrilled about going with him. It would probably be news to him, as well.

Milt has 'fallen into' his roles (and fortunes) for much of his life - and all that is about to change, also altering the dynamics between father and son.

Don't expect straightforward comedy, here: if you do, you'll be disappointed. Mr. Ballpoint is actually much more; and as readers put together past, present and the probable future of Milt and son Jim, they will come to a new appreciation of the differences between generations and the communication challenges involved.

The fictional adaptation of the real-world ballpoint pen story is a fine vehicle for delivering a compelling saga centered on a stormy father-son relationship, and succeeds in entertaining readers while exposing the rich background and relationship of two disparate individuals. And as for the pen itself (in case you're wondering): the real Reynolds pen may have been a short-lived fiasco, but it helped change the world. To discern exactly why and how, turn to Mr. Ballpoint for an easy introduction.

Not just for comedy readers and not just for those who want serious psychology, Mr. Ballpoint is 'neither fish nor fowl' but a fine, engrossing chapter in the life of a product's development and a family's evolution, and is a recommendation for any who want a blend of entertainment and serious reading.

The Killing Games
Frank Ritter
Trenchcoat Press
ASIN: B00DD6A4CM, $4.99

World terrorism is deadly enough and frightening enough: but what if it, in fact, was funded by a powerful country such as the U.S.? What if the U.S. funded the execution of terrorist groups - and what if CIA involvements resulted in 'hit teams' that mistakenly threaten the general public?

If all this sounds complicated, that's because The Killing Games is anything but light leisure reading - and is anything but predictable. Readers had better be prepared for a high-octane series of encounters spiced with protagonists who are all involved in terrorist activities at some level; and who each have something to lose.

It begins with KGB terrorist Henry Miller, who leads a team to Los Angeles to the 1984 Olympics with the intention of turning the Coliseum into a deadly firebomb. Some 2,000 terrorists are involved in plotting - but U.S. forces succeed in taking almost all of them out ... all expect for key player Henry, who vanishes.

When an ordinary citizen seeking justice for the accidental death of his wife in the process becomes unwittingly involved in the search for Miller, the story becomes a maze of personalities, motivations, and clever games.

Now, if one recalls rightly, there was a lot of concern over the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. So the setting, events and characters here assume a certain gritty reality based on the very real sentiments and social and political flavor of the times.

It's this 'spice' that keeps The Killing Games a highly charged, believable story despite all its convolutions and changes. By basing action on realistic concerns, readers receive an emotionally-charged saga that neatly ties into modern-day concerns not just about Olympic settings and politics, but about world terrorist actions as a whole.

From how the FBI and CIA close in on their quarry and how " seems every nation on earth had terrorist representatives in Los Angeles" to the strategic concerns of eliminating terrorist threats without involving the general public, The Killing Games makes the point that the public is already more than 'involved' at the individual and societal level, and creates a more-than-believable set of scenarios that pit terrorists against not only U.S. agencies but the average Joe on the street.

Characters are well-rounded with all their involvements and motivations presented in action that is unrelenting, while fast-paced intrigue offers satisfying twists of plot that include a kidnapping and even a dash of romance.

Oh, and let's not forget the X-rated sex scenes: be forewarned: they are passionate and explicit interludes in the overall action-packed scenario.

Any who want a thriller based on real-life terrorist threats will find The Killing Games more than makes an impact, and presents page-turning, high drama to the end.

Straight Lines. A Story About Illness, Addiction and Redemption

Gregory Sacchet
9781492250074, $0.99,

Straight Lines. A Story About Illness, Addiction and Redemption is a memoir recommended for any interested in personal stories of addiction and recovery, and opens in the 1990s, when the author is recovering from a broken leg that limits his access to cocaine.

He's long come to terms with the thought that his addiction is part of his life: "In those days, I lived my life every day carrying an enormous weight on my back demanding to be stroked and appeased. Wanting to get high was replaced with needing to get high. I had stopped resisting its call a long time ago. It became as much a part of my life as breathing; a necessity in order to survive. I ignored the health risks, and ignored the sloth that had overtaken my daily existence. I had promised myself at the age of 25, I would stop when I got married. When I married at 27, I promised myself I would quit when I was 30. When I reached 30, I swore I would stop before I reached 35. I continuously violated and broke every promise I made to myself in order to feed the savage beast raging inside of me."

His dependency isn't your usual story of a search for casual kicks, however: it began with his diagnosis of MS (a disease that attacks the central nervous system) at age 23 and it grew to supersede the importance of multiple sclerosis in his life.

And Gregory Sacchet wasn't a thrill-seeking kid: he was a young man who had already struggled with the diagnosis of Tourette's Syndrome at the young age of 13, but now faced a bigger health concern at an age where mortality was not really a big concern; especially if he could ignore the diagnosis and its implications for the future.

And so Sacchet did ignore his symptoms, convincing himself that it was a transient condition that would eventually go away. But as symptoms evolved to include brief seizures, imbalance, and more - and as it became evident that there was no cure and no medical relief (aside from psychological counseling) - Sacchet began a descent into disability and a dependency on cocaine; and herein lies the crux of his story in Straight Lines.

Anticipate an autobiography filled with first-person observation, passion, angst, self-pity and frustration as Sacchet went through a host of feelings about his condition. When cocaine became available at a party, Sacchet viewed it as one of the few things he could do to empower himself and fight back against his deteriorating condition: "I knew cocaine was illegal, I knew it was synthetic, and I knew I was cheating. I wasn't supposed to fool the MS by using an illegal substance. MS had bested me using its natural essence, and I was attempting to match it shot for shot with an artificial powder intent on using euphoria as its weapon."

This presents far more insight than most stories of the addiction process, offering concurrent understanding of the MS sufferer's experience, psychology, and the extent to which they will grasp anything with some measure of psychological or physical relief.

The fact that he was able to keep it secret from his own wife (and the fact that his involvement with a MS support group proved the impetus for real change) makes for involving reading that documents the highs and lows of drug addiction and Sacchet's own descent into the legal system before (against all odds) he beat his addiction.

Powerful, gripping and inspirational: these are the components of a success story that any struggling with addiction (or viewing addiction in a medically challenged individual) will find revealing and positive: "The imprisonment of chemical dependency was no different from the imprisonment of jail. With either, your freedom is restricted. Addiction steals your ability to make wise choices and imprisonment steals your ability to live life outside of guarded, concrete walls."

Involution-An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God
Philippa Rees
CollaborArt Books
ISBN: ebook: 9780957500211
Printed book: 9780957500228
Ebook $8.55 (Amazon) Paperback $27.99

(From Canto the Seventh)

'Then the cleft fell like an axe/Split Eden's innocence/ Sent Man into Exile with a brain/ With which he could survive....Until he traced full circle ( as any planet orbits sun)/ Old soldier with his bandaged eyes/Returns limping to what he once called home/And does not recognize...

At a quick glance, Involution-An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God seems like a scientific or spiritual read, and possibly a dry one, at that. But those too ready to judge a book by its title may be in for a surprise, here: for Involution is in actuality a poetic-based exploration of the Western thinking process, and is more focused on the process of Mankind's incremental rediscovery than scientific or spiritual analysis.

It's neither poetry nor science, spiritual reader nor philosophical investigation - but it incorporates elements of each. Nor is it 'fish nor fowl' - which makes its intended audience and placement a bit ambiguous. How do you tell an audience mired in one discipline that there's value to be had (and elements of that discipline) in a book that crosses genres? Therein lies the presentation challenge; for it'd be a shame for the reader of science, spirituality, philosophy or history to miss the unexpected treats embedded in Involution.

So what, exactly, is 'involution'? It's defined here as the basic idea that the progress of science in fact reflects its ability to recover memory, or involution. Strictly speaking, 'involution' happens when something turns in upon itself; but in this case it's more than a geometric or mathematical expression, more than a medical description, and more than the path the soul takes to become more self-realized. Here it's described as the impetus to the evolutionary process, key to understanding the idea of scientific investigation and progression: "Involution, the in 'folding' of memory, and its recovery by man, does not seek to challenge Darwin, whose world is the evolution of outer forms, but offers a counterbalance, the in 'forming' of evolving awareness that shapes his creatures and their relationships. The central premise of this book is that evolution, prior to man, has been achieved through the infolding of experience - involution - and that its legacy, memory, resides in the very structure of matter."

And if all of this sounds too challenging a view from the get-go, then Involution isn't the book for you. While its tone is lively and its delivery understandable, it's not 'light reading' per say, despite its unexpected vehicle of poetry as the delivery wagon of choice.

Poetry? Really? Yes: because poetic structure in this case lends well to a survey that has to speedily traverse all of time, but which requires slow, careful reading for maximum benefit. Anyone seeking a quick set of insights despite the lightening effects of its poetic structure will be disappointed. Its light-heartedness belies the depth of its insights on the human adventure.

Perhaps Involution can best be described as an 'ambitious work exposing the inspired development of science and philosophy (and parallel art and music) wrapped in the mantle of epic poetry'. Surely its conception marries the disparate worlds of science and religion more firmly with a structure and presentation that will capture readers of either genre. The poetic evocation (addressed to the instinctive right brain, and the heart) is unambiguous, direct and occasionally breath-taking.

Perhaps ideally one should have a familiarity with classical poetry and an appreciation of thinking anew from first principles in order to fully appreciate the purposes, language and history provided in Involution: "But why address the already long converted?/ When science is in greater need of vision/Believing, as it does, it holds all truth./Scientists were caged, not by commission,/Invisible are the bonds to its repute..." It is the 'blindness of the old soldier' (science) that is here offered new eyes to see, in its own history, an alternative spiritual journey of purpose and meaning.

'Saints and scientists break the same bread'

Here you will find it all: poetic cantos, scientific footnotes, discussions of ideals of liberty, Renaissance history, the psychology of love and reunion...all provided in a unique format with a distinctive perspective; perfect for multidisciplinary, college-level readers who want a scholarly yet evocative presentation of the concept and workings of involution through its increasingly unifying stages. This broad-brush journey through the history of Western culture offers an alternative vision of Man's powers and his destiny; a return to Eden, now as co-Creator, conscious of the unity of all creation.

Incidentally, Involution-An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God has been nominated runner-up Book of the Year (2013) by the Scientific and Medical Network. It's easy to see why it deserves this accolade.

Quick Draw: Global Oil Terrorism
Richard L. England
Price: $14.75 Paper $6.99 Kindle

International suspense thrillers (especially those that revolve around themes of terrorism) are proliferating like nuclear missiles these days, challenging genre readers to consider what sets a superior book apart from those that are merely ordinary (or even mundane) reads.

With such a thought in mind it's thus important to note the devices that set Quick Draw: Global Oil Terrorism apart from similar-sounding thrillers - and it's also important to mention that such devices are many, here.

Let's first consider protagonist John Ingram, the head of Fortune 500 company Ingram Energy. John isn't your usual everyday man caught up in a terrorist plot: he's a savvy businessman who wagers his reputation and his very business on a deal against one of his most vicious competitors: a Japanese businessman who will stop at nothing (including terrorism) to win the multi-billion-dollar contract for the world's largest oil refinery in South India.

But the buck doesn't begin and end with these two: underlying their competition is a larger plot that involves an airplane in a terrorist takeover and brings in actors across the international arena; each with very different goals.

So anticipate a variety of protagonists and purposes which are complex and interesting, and who create a series of subplots and scenarios that employ international tensions to create an avalanche of intrigue and action.

From crude oil sites and processing in India to political meetings and maneuverings, Ingram Energy's negotiations and commercial discussions, and cultural and spiritual belief systems, Quick Draw is no light read but comes steeped in the motivations and psyches of individual, corporate and national interests alike: "A street fighter, a gang member, and now head of a world-class energy company, the lessons to be learned and applied were the same. Don't rely on just one plan but have at least three for any situation. No matter how bad the odds turn out to be, never be bullied and never give up."

That this sentiment is shared by many of the protagonists in Quick Draw only serves to make it more thrilling and packed with tension: in such a game there can be only one clear winner: the rest fall back in defeat. And while one wouldn't think romance could enter into this multi-faceted plot, think again: there's more than casual interactions and relationships being formed, here.

So who will win the contract, who will win the prize of their lives, and who will fail?

Read Quick Draw for some unexpected answers and unanticipated alliances between seemingly disparate special interests.

Saving Babe Ruth
Tom Swyers
Hillcrest House Publishing
9781941440001, $16.95,

Saving Babe Ruth is a novel based on a true story, and its only prerequisite is that one must harbor an appreciation for baseball to thoroughly enjoy the history and allusions of the plot.

It's all about a recreational baseball league with an uncertain future, a lawyer who becomes involved in something over his head, and a 'villain' in the form of one Rob Barkus, who lures any good player away from the struggling league with promises of travel and scholarships to build his own A-plus winning travel teams. If this continues, there won't be a town Babe Ruth league!

Lawyer David Thompson finds himself unexpectedly embroiled not just in building a team, but struggling with the political and unfair practices of a predatory rival who will stop at nothing to get his way.

It's rare to see a thriller format embedded in a book about a ball game. Most such approaches create a 'whodunnit' mystery and leave the elements of a good thriller piece out of the picture entirely.

Not so Saving Babe Ruth, which blends its thriller with a focus on the politics and processes of youth sports and centers on how a baseball team of outcasts struggles to make a name for themselves against all odds.

For David, it's a new lease on a purposeful life after his elder law business declines due to most of his clients dying off. Why else would a lawyer be motivated to involve himself in a small town team's efforts?

Oh, and if you expect cut-and-dried scenarios, think again: that's evident from the novel's startling opening: "Armed with an 1859 Sharps carbine, David Thompson gazed beyond the baseball field, across the asphalt and slate-shingled suburban homes of Indigo Valley, wondering how these twenty-one thousand residents would feel if they knew that baseball was dying....He felt certain Annie would think he had lost it if she knew he was at the kids' baseball field armed with a gun."

Now, David's solutions to problems are anything but conventional - and, they work. At least, they worked in his law office to some degree. But here on the baseball field where anonymous letters, parental interactions, a board of education concerned about school statistics, and student concerns intersect, who can say which unconventional approaches will work and which won't?

All David knows is that it's up to him to turn around not just a team, but a town. What it takes to achieve this goal is entirely up to him.

Saving Babe Ruth is all about the corruption of power, the bigger picture, young players struggling to succeed, and the progressive involvement of an adult who comes to realize that there's much more at stake than simply building up a team.

Readers should ideally be interested in a disparate number of threads, from a thriller format to baseball politics, youth involvement, and a lawyer whose techniques don't fit the traditional mold.

Wry humor is woven into encounters (you have to look for it; but it's there!), there's a healthy dose of special interest intrigue that pops up in daily interactions ("David sat outside trying to soak in the absurdity of it all while swimming in a state of disbelief. Here sat the principal of Indigo Valley High School at his desk on a school day, during school hours, defending a professional football player on drug allegations."), and David finds himself more than mired in the quicksand of dangerous associations when he probes beyond the Babe Ruth league's transparent surface.

The result is a fast-paced, changing baseball novel that is especially recommended for sports fans and those who enjoy thrillers filled with unexpected moments!

Jaguar Dreams
Nora Caron
Homebound Publications

Be forewarned: Jaguar Dreams represents Book Three of 'The New Dimensions' trilogy: as such, a new reader here is beginning near the end, opening with protagonist Lucina's search for her runaway lover Teleo in the jungles of Guatemala.

Now, it's not necessarily a bad thing (in this case) to start with Jaguar Dreams: unlike some trilogies, past events are smoothly explained with just enough awareness provided so that newcomers aren't immediately lost.

For Lucina, it's an adventure spiced with the sights, smells and sounds of a strange new world: "Hotel de la Rosa was brightly decorated with orchids, big rocks, tropical flowers, and beautiful stone arrangements on the walls." Her observations of this world carry the reader along not just on a journey to find romance, but on an exploration of an exotic locale that ultimately will awaken and transform Lucina's very perceptions of her life.

But, pause: we're getting ahead of things, here. Before this happens there's a host of dangerous encounters from city to jungle: confrontations that test not only her positive journey but her heart.

Lucina's jungle trek takes on the trappings of a Vision Quest (those challenging wilderness sojourns where the searcher endures hardships to discern their true being.) Only this quest is undertaken in a foreign country for quite a different purpose and brings Lucina in touch with not just nature, but the history and culture of the Guatemalan people: "You haven't heard about our civil war? From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala was ruled by a series of dictators, each worse than the one before. The government wanted to suppress leftist guerilla forces in the country so they created an army called SCUGA, the Special Commando Unit of the Guatemalan Army that was designed to eradicate the various rebel groups for good. This army in turn worked with the infamous death squads who killed, abducted, and raped our people."

As Lucina comes to learn about a world far beyond her realm of experience, so she also comes to understand new truths about her own life and how sheltered and safe it's been: "Lowering her eyes, Lucina knew he spoke the truth. She did live in a sheltered world and couldn't deny it. All she knew from the rest of the world was what was shown in the media and God knew that wasn't the full truth."

There are new lessons to be learned in the jungle at every step of the way, and as her guide reinforces their nature and importance, so Lucina begins to embrace something larger, even, than love; drawing on voices and teachings from her past to make sense of what she's experiencing now, for the first time: "Lucina, sometimes in life, cold water hits us straight in the face. And you have to take it, absorb its nature right into your being. You have to love the cold water. You have to love being cold."

One doesn't anticipate a mission that evolves from a singular purpose of finding a lost lover to a greater purpose in understanding - and changing - the nature of reality itself; but Jaguar Dreams is all about this transformative process - and that's its real strength: "Do you know that some people only dream in black and white?" he asked her, taking a long sip of his wine and savoring it. "Really?" "Yes. Others dream in color. Still others can never recollect their dreams, and that isn't a good sign. It means they're cut off from their spirit and soul. They need to bridge the physical with the spiritual worlds again to remember their dreams. Those with lucid dreams are the most advanced people in society; when you learn to be conscious while dreaming, you are truly walking the path of a warrior. It is only a matter of time before you start re-shaping your day-to-day reality."

As Lucina faces assaults physical and mental she slowly gives up her preconceived ideas and relinquishes the sense of control that drove her on her task to find her lover in the first place. Her discoveries return her to the world with new tools, teachings, and a healing she will carry with her into the rest of her life: "I'm sorry you didn't find your man." Shrugging it off, Lucina smiled. "Swords are forged in a fire not a bubble bath," she answered, repeating words that she had heard from a wise teacher. "Indeed! So you've sharpened yourself?" "I did more than that," was the mysterious answer. She turned on her heel and walked out of El Chicodor..."

Without giving away the unexpected conclusion, suffice it to say that Lucina gets far more than she bargained for when she takes on the jungles of Guatemala.

So if it's an epic adventure you seek, which opens with the promise of finding a lost lover and concludes with something far greater, then Jaguar Dreams will prove your novel of choice!

The Seer's Lover
Kat de Falla
The Wild Rose Press
ISBN: B00ILXE2NO $2.99 until June 4th, then $5.99 digital

The Seer's Lover is truly an unusual creation in the e-world: it comes with musical interludes (which can be downloaded for free) and it tells of Calise, who has long known she has different abilities than most. What she hasn't realized is that her powers will draw her into an ancient conflict between good and evil, pitting her against some of the strongest adversaries in the universe.

If all this sounds familiar, it's because the classic 'good-versus-evil' plot has been done time and again: but as with any good book, it's not just the plot that makes for an exceptional read, but how it's done.

Kat de Falla places her main protagonist on a journey of discovery that leads to the Costa Rican forest, there to encounter a man who (much like herself) has hidden his abilities. Lucas can actually see the demons and angels who walk the earth; but not only has he concealed his abilities; he doesn't want to endanger her by sharing his gift.

What evolves is paranormal romance fiction at its best: a story steeped in passion with the overlay of deadly dangers and powerful talents woven into an ever-changing plot.

Now, the genre of paranormal romance has rapidly expanded. Over the last ten years romance writers have added a variety of elements to spice their creations, and entry into paranormal realms is just one of these newer devices. Another device used here is that of music which runs through the story line as a theme so that musical passages accompany the story.

The Seer's Lover is all about building atmosphere, from its eye-catching cover of a man and a woman on an island facing down blazing red eyes in the sky to these musical interludes that reinforce action.

And this atmosphere is created right from the start, where Calise is already involved with Lucas: "Why would she disclose her whole existence to someone she'd just met? Someone who talked so little about himself that she found herself talking to fill the void. Saying things she could barely admit in her own head."

There are no pat answers here; no formula approaches that would lend too much predictability to events. Calise is alternately brave and terrified, as her abilities are yet untested but her adversaries are seasoned and powerful: "This is not going so well. I'm turning out to be a pretty shitty Buffy the Demon Slayer."

And there are surprises peppered throughout: in the form of a mother whom Calise comes to realize as the wellspring of her powers, and in the guise of a romances past and present which rise up to haunt her. There are unexpected religious experiences, there's a search to find self, and there are elements of suspense tying all of these events together.

In the end Calise faces the greatest challenge of her life - and with prior events having helped her grow, she's in the strongest position ever to find peace in her life.

The open-ended conclusion leaves room for a possible sequel but in the true style of a superior read, it's not essential that more be written: The Seer's Lover is a self-contained novel that properly wraps up its story, and will satisfy any reader of paranormal or romance fiction.

A Search for Israel
Bill Shuey
Elderberry Press Inc.
9781301194780, $4.99,

A Search for Israel centers around one key question: how could a relatively tiny country (Israel/Judea) early on form the foundation of a nation predicted by the Bible to rise to power and become the keystone of the Middle East and a center of Biblical events? It seemed to researcher Bill Shuey that (Israel/Judea) was actually an improbable candidate for this position in the past, let alone its current status: "Genesis 35:10-11 states that Israel would be a nation and also a community of nations. When one looks at Judea today, it simply doesn't fit the Biblical description of a "great nation," and it certainly is not a "community of nations."

And so we are off and running with a controversial, pointed examination of Biblical prophecy, how and why a relative handful of Jews and a tiny besieged area embarked on the road to power, and the events which caused Shuey to question traditional teachings, setting aside everything he'd been taught to reconsider what the Bible actually says about Israel...not how it's interpreted.

What he found will be eye-opening to any interested in Biblical research.

Now, those who are astute and passionate Bible readers and believers should know that Shuey isn't refuting Biblical writings per say: quite the opposite, in fact. He's pointing out that over time, well-meaning interpretations have gone astray - and that better insights can be gained from a closer inspection and consideration of actual Scripture, even by lay readers: "Almost from infancy, we are conditioned to believe certain things. Some of these things are true and some false. As we mature, we discover that there is no Santa Claus, no Tooth Fairy, no Easter Bunny, and dozens of other things that children are taught to believe. Religion is somewhat the same because it conditions people to believe certain things. There is nothing necessarily sinister or diabolic at work here. People in authority, preachers and teachers, simply repeat what they have been told and have accepted as truth."

Chapters are designed to point readers in the direction clarifying these truths, following the path Shuey took in his own research and covering the major questions he tries to answer.

Now, this subject is a puzzle; and like any good puzzle, it should challenge the mind ... which requires from the reader that said mind be open to new ideas: " attempts to put together a jigsaw puzzle of seemingly unrelated pieces. As each individual piece is placed in its proper position, the entire picture begins to come into focus. However, truth is meaningless unless one is willing to be open-minded about what one has been indoctrinated to believe versus what is before your very eyes. The veracity of the Old (OT) and New Testament (NT) of the Bible hinges on the promises made to the nations of Israel and Judah. If the Jews are Israel then the promises are false and everything that Jewish and Christian adherents believe crumbles under the weight of that falsehood. The truth in this book won't "set you free," but it will provide insight into the reality of prophesy contained in the OT."

So be forewarned: A Search for Israel is NOT a recommendation for spiritual readers not open to new ideas, insights, and most of all, to questioning what has too long been taught as 'the only truth'.

It IS for the thinking, questioning, Christian reader who is open to new interpretations of Biblical Scripture. This reader will delight in a focus that concentrates on the evolution of Israel as a state, a concept, and a place of religious importance. It's about the Hebrew people and their place in Scripture, in the Middle East, and in the evolving world - and it pulls no punches in discussing Biblical incongruities and interpretations that cloud the history of the Jewish race.

With an acknowledgment that many passages of the Bible are subject to interpretation ("While the Bible is considered by many to be the infallible Word of God, there are several potential dissimilarities, conflicts, and contradictions that make that assessment problematic. For the purpose of this book, scriptures are presumed to be correct when quoted."), the reader is off and running, learning about the evolution of the nation of Judah and the Bible itself.

Now, one might not expect such a study to be wide-ranging; certainly not to include discussions of ancient Ireland and Druid legends, the cuneiform tablets from Tell Hariri (ancient Mari) in western Syria (which are housed in the Damascus Museum and which have helped clarify the origins of Bible prophesies), and the underlying meaning of the Egyptian periods both to modern Americans and Hebrew history.

Indeed, there are so many facets involved that in less capable hands, A Search for Israel could all too easily have become a search for understanding Shuey's writings - but such is not the case. Part of his art and craft lies in an ability to not just conduct research or question protocol, but to tie together seemingly disparate avenues of investigation
within the larger context of Biblical meaning.

In this, A Search for Israel shines. The fact that it can retain a lively tone while presenting what would otherwise seem an overwhelming combination of researched information, history, and Biblical quotes make for an exceptional read any intellectual Christian reader will find accessible and absorbing.

Diane C. Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

A Dance In Blood Velvet
Freda Warrington
Titan Books
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 OUP, UK
9781781167069, $14.95,

Following A Taste of Blood Wine, Charlotte decides to unite for eternity with her beloved Karl by converting with his assistance from human to vampire. Though physically successful in her change, Charlotte struggles with mental issues as she feels schizoid with the blood lust that ecstatically quenches her needs but also leaves her with a remorseful bitter aftertaste. Still Charlotte rationalizes that being with Karl is worth giving up her humanity.

After ages away, Karl's former lover Katerina escapes from frozen Weisskalt into the Crystal Ring with one objective. She will do anything, including killing Karl's present paramour, to get her ex-lover back at her side. Filled with anguish and believing she cannot compete with her beautiful and glamorous rival, Charlotte turns away from her vampire and towards mesmerizing Violette Lenoir the prima ballerina. However, as an ice maiden descendant of Lilith, Violette is a dangerous individual for human and vampire to associate with.

The reprint of the second exciting Blood Wine Sequence romantic fantasy is an entertaining sequel though it lacks the briskness of the incredible opening act; which as an aside to newcomers should be read first. Character driven by the competing three strong paranormal females while on the other hand fully-developed Karl the blood sucking hunk seems comparatively anemic in need of a transplant when being compared to this dynamic trio. Subgenre fans will enjoy Charlotte's adventures as a vampire in love (and lust).

The Closing
Ken Oder
Skipjack Publishing
9781939889164, $14.99,

In 1968, former Selk County Commonwealth Prosecutor Nate Abbitt tells death row inmate Kenneth Deatherage that his lawyer Swiller died from a heart attack before filing an appeal and the Supreme Court put a moratorium on state executions while studying the constitutionality. Finally the defrocked DA, who as an alcoholic fixed several cases before being removed, says he will act as Deatherage's defense attorney. Deatherage insists the Buck County oligopoly framed him for the rape and murder of Darlene Updike.

Nate rejects Deatherage's conspiracy theory; as he believes his client is guilty, but knows as the defendant's attorney that should not matter. He obtains Swiller's file that contains almost nothing and reads the court record to find the attorney did nada for Deatherage. When he calls Deatherage's mom for information, the woman refuses to get involved with her son she claims is evil. Even more shocking is the executor of Swiller's estate mentions three other Buck County capital offense cases in which the lawyer mounted no defense. Stunned by what he read and not read, Nate heads to Buck County to meet with Commonwealth Prosecutor Maupin and others; but is unprepared for the nightmarish reality he faces there.

The Closing is an intriguing legal thriller that looks deeply at corruption in the jurisprudence system. The recovering alcoholic protagonist is a fascinating lead as he begins to regain his lost life when he accepts the harm he committed to innocent people, his wife, his mother, his mentor and himself. Although the enjoyable storyline spins from a superb capital case to a more conventional David vs. Goliaths thriller, fans will appreciate Ken Oder's strong historical fiction.

Hanging By A Hair
Nancy J. Cohen
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432828141, $25.95,

Dalton and Marla Vail are excited to move into their new house in the Royal Oaks neighborhood. However, the couple runs into problems with their next door neighbor Alan Krabber who parks a boat in his driveway and begins construction of a fence on Vail property; both in violation of the Royal Oaks Home Owner Association's rules; which he as the pompous president believes need not apply to him but strictly enforced for everyone else. At a meeting to resolve the conflict, the home owners force an angry Alan to adhere to their constitution.

The day after the tumultuous meeting, Krabber is found dead in what looks like a suicide. Palm Haven Police Department Detective Dalton initially leads the official inquiry, but is quickly taken off the case when the Home Owner Association incident between the victim and him becomes known. Though her mom designated her as Seder hostess for this Passover, which will eat up a lot of the hairstylist's time; not one to sit idly when her spouse is a prime suspect, Marla investigates only to find several Royal Oak homeowners and business owners with a grudge towards the vile obnoxious Krabber. One of them wants Marla only to taste bitter herbs.

The latest Bad Hair Day Mystery is an enjoyable, timely (with Passover just ending) amateur sleuth as marvelous Marla balances solving the case without too many knocks and preparing for the family horde to descend on her and Dalton for the Seder. The whodunit is entertaining with many viable suspects and red herrings; while adding depth and deftly interwoven into the plot are references to Passover including recipes.

Rupert Thomson
Other Press
2 Park Avenue, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10016
9781590516850, $16.95,

In 1691, Sicilian artist Zumbo sculptures in wax masterpieces of victims who died violent deaths. Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III admires his craftsmanship and invites the artist to come to Florence. Zumbo understands the importance of a powerful patron's protection so accepts the offer.

In Florence, Cosimo still misses his wife Marguerite-Louise d'Orleans who deserted him. He secretly commissions the sculptor to create the perfect life-sized female beauty. Zumbo obtains a corpse from the mortuary of a woman found in a canal. He wonders who killed the victim, what the motive was and is the mysterious dog's head etched deeply into the top of her spine the work of the dangerous Dominican persecutors. Padre Stufa the Dominican wants Zumbo's head, but impatiently waits for the artist to fall out of grace with the duke. When the Sicilian falls in love with Faustina, her secrecy may be the avenue for Stufa to achieve his objective as the Padre seeks to uncover what she diligently hides.

This is a great historical biographical fictional account of the real Baroque sculptor Gaetano Giulio Zumbo. The atmospheric storyline transports the audience mostly to Florence towards the end of the seventeenth century though there are other references to France and Sicily with Zumbo telling much of the tale in a flashback while dying from natural causes a decade later. Readers will relish this strong entry as life in 1691 Florence is very dangerous even for a favorite of the Medici Duke.

The Argentine Triangle
Allan Topol
Select Books
1 Union Square West, Suite 909, NY, NY 10003
9781590791417, $16.95,

Former CIA assassin Craig Page lost his position as the agency's director when President Treadwell needed a sacrifice to keep a scandal out of the White House. Distrusting POTUS and his advisors especially Edward Bryce, Page ended his relationship with his girlfriend out of concern for her safety and underwent plastic surgery to alter his appearance. Instead of spying, Page drives racing cars in Europe.

However, someone Page trusts, current CIA Director Betty Richards contacts him as his nation and a close mutual friend need him. While undercover seeking proof that Dirty War General Alfredo Estrada plans a coup d'etat, CIA agent Ted Dunn vanished in Argentina. Additionally, attracted to Buenos Aires La Nacion reporter Gina Galindo, Bryce arranges arms shipments to loyal supporters of Estrada.

The latest Craig Page CIA thriller is an action-packed tale; as the hero tries to expose the ugly history of Estrada during the vicious Dirty War so this brute loses support while also preventing the arms reaching him. Although the exhilarating storyline is much more straightforward than his previous missions (see The Russian Endgame, The Spanish Revenge and The China Gambit), readers will appreciate globetrotting Page's South American escapades.

A Sensible Arrangement
Tracie Peterson
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764210587, $14.99,

In 1892 Martha Olson knows she needs to move passed her grief that has crippled her since her beloved husband Thomas died in a ranching accident several years ago. The Widow believes to do so she must find a new spouse outside of Texas; especially leaving their ranch where the memories of happier times and the tragedy are everywhere.

Thus Marty responds to a Dallas Daily-Times Herald add in which a Texan living in Colorado wants to meet a Lone Star lady. Affluent banker Widow Jake Wythe and Marty exchange correspondence and soon agree to marry once she arrives in Colorado. As they fall in love, her only regret at being Mrs. Wythe is his insistence they return home and buy a ranch. She also feels guilt for concealing one major secret from her spouse that she still owns the spread where her first husband died.

A Sensible Arrangement is an entertaining inspirational Americana romance starring two lonely people finding love and solace with each other, but lies of omission threaten their happiness; both believe the truth will not set them free. Although the late nineteenth century storyline slows down with too much detail about the behavior of the upper class and the era's banking (though I enjoyed the tidbits seemingly related to the upcoming Great Depression Panic of 1893). Readers will enjoy this tender tale of second chances.

A Dark Song Of Blood
Ben Pastor
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
9781908524300, $14.95,

In 1944 Rome, German Embassy Secretary Fraulein Magda Reiner falls from her apartment window to her death. Italian Police Inspector Sandro Guildi investigates although his superiors, fearing accusations of collaboration with the Nazis as the American military victory in Italy is assured rather soon, insist that National Confederation of Fascist Unions official Ras Merlo killed the now cremated woman.

As Guildi looks into the homicide, he begins to believe someone framed Merlo. Wehrmacht Major Martin Bora surprisingly reappears in his life to assist on the inquiry, which concerns the cop as he does not want to be associated with a German when the Americans take the city. Bora's wife Benedikta arrives to inform him she filed for divorce as the war ended their five year marriage. While Bora feels gut punched though not shocked; at the boarding house where both reside Guildi meets and is attracted to Francesca Lippi. As the case turns even more complicated with additional killings and ties to the Vatican, Gestapo and other high ranking Germans; Rome increasingly turns violent with the Resistance mounting bolder assaults.

The third Martin Bora WWII drama (see Liar Moon and Lumen) is an intriguing historical that uses a police procedural to enable readers to look inside the heads of those in Rome at a time when the Nazi control is almost over. Suffering from physical ailments and PTSD, Bora feels ancient due to being divided between his moral sense of right and wrong, and patriotism; while Guildi also wants to do the right thing but fears the consequences. Readers will relish this entry in one of the best WWII series.

Given Time Living Our Last Months Together
Helene Park Bigelow
Fithian Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745538, $14.95,

In 2005, seventy-one year old Helene and sixty-eight years old Ed, a couple for over three and a half decades, enjoyed walks on the Maui beach though he always wore a hat to keep sun radiation off a spot on his head. When he went to the doctor for a routine biopsy of that spot, neither were concerned as both had skin biopsies before that came up negative; though Ed was warned as a teen that this spot, probably harmed by swimming and sunning at Lake Michigan and he diligently protected for fifty years, could someday be a problem. Ed's prognosis was the dreaded "M Word" Melanoma. He soon found out that the cancer had spread and with chemotherapy he could live a few extra months. Wanting to spend as much time as he can with his beloved Helene, Ed chose chemo.

This profound memoir provides a powerful look at a loving couple sharing their last few months together as much as possible in the same upbeat manner they had for the thirty-five years before Ed's death sentence. Besides a brief look into their shared lives together (including raising three children) before the M Word, Helene Park Bigelow provides a deep glimpse into the impact on the caregiver as she watched Ed's deterioration; if God forbid I am in the same situation as her I hope to be as strong as her. Though the Bigelow's wanted another thirty-five happy healthy years together, they know what the Navaho told Ed at Window Rock that "There are blessings, there are blessings, there are blessings"; and they surely were blessed.

Paige Turned
Erynn Mangum
c/o NavPress
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935
9781612913223, $14.99,

In Texas Paige Alder loves her job as youth intern counseling younger girls. However, her work keeps her so busy that she has not helped her sister Preslee (see Paige Rewritten) or her BFF Layla (see Paige Torn) with their wedding plans as she promised both of them.

Feeling guilt over her lack of providing marital assistance especially since her nature insists she help others even at a cost to herself, Paige also knows her relationship with her BF Tyler remains shaky though she explained to him what he saw with her and her ex-boyfriend Luke. Beginning to have doubts, Paige wonders if Tyler conceals something from her that has nothing to do with Luke.

The third Paige Alder inspirational continues the warm look at a rule follower obsessed person who cannot "just say no" as this time she asks for divine intervention with her personal tsuris re Tyler. Although the entertaining storyline behooves the young adult audience to read the previous two entries in order to better understand the protagonist, series fans will appreciate aptly titled Paige Turned.

Michael Z. Williamson
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476736341, $25.00,

UNPF Sergeant Second Class Kendra Pacelli looks forward to the end of her short-term admin assignment providing assistance to the Logistic Support Function stationed on Mtali. Besides cramped working conditions and lousy quarters, troops on eighteen month deployments loathe short termers like her. Her old lover MP Tom Anderson calls from his personal line to hers with a warning that the UN Bureau of Security pursues those named in the conspiracy of stealing millions in weapons to include an innocent auditor who reported the discrepancy named Pacelli.

She realizes she may not survive the interrogation as the Bureau of Security does not allow innocence to get in the way of insuring the government is not embarrassed or scandalized and that only one planet would not expedite her back to the UN. Thus Pacelli flees to the independent twenty-third century old Freehold of Grainne Embassy requesting asylum. Soon after her arrival, Kendra obtains permission to travel to the independent planet. There she must adapt to an entirely different culture based on very limited government intrusion into people's lives; her new BF Rob and her new BFF Marta help her. Still with her only skill being the military, Kendra enlists fearing that the powerful totalitarian empire will hunt her as no one lives who can humiliate the government.

The special edition reprint of Freehold is a fascinating comparison between two polar opposite societies. Whereas the UN is a rigid totalitarian empire, Freehold is a libertarian former UN colony. Michael Z. Williamson pulls no punches as to which side he is on as the overall exciting storyline (except for some passive pontifications) is an entertaining good and evil human rights science fiction thriller.

Cauldron of Ghosts
David Weber and Eric Flint
9781476736334, $25.00

Republic of Haven Foreign Intelligence Service operative Victor Cachat and Star Kingdom of Manticore agent Anton Zilwicki exposed the shocking centuries old plot of the Mesan Alignment that successfully manipulated the two former enemies into a debilitating war. Leaders of Manticore and Haven forge an alliance between them while creating new internal ones to counter the now known common adversary, but need more information about their foe. Thus, undercover, Cachat now assigned to the Foreign office, and Zilwicki, accompanied by Steph Turner, return to Mesa.

The two spies begin collecting data that stuns both of them as they learn more about the brutal opponent who will do anything to anyone to achieve its genetic BHAG. As the spies create havoc and help enflame a slave rebellion, Cachat and Zilwicki realize how diabolical the foe has been and still is.

The third Crown of Slaves Harrington sidebar science fiction (see Torch of Freedom and Crown of Slaves) is for the most part an exciting tale that requires readers to ignore logic and lacks depth into the home-fronts' reactions to a seemingly unnecessary war. The fun in the storyline is the antics of Cachat and Zilwicki who both live up to the latter's previous boss describing him as an out of control lion made even crazier by this partnership.

Balance Point
Robert Buettner
9781476736440, $15.00

"Balance Point." The second Cold War between the Earth and the Yavi seems over as cooler heads from both sides push for peace. Mort the Grezzen telepath mentally tells American Intelligence Officer Captain Jazen Parker that Earth Trueborn Bartram Cutler was pardoned. With the presidential ban on raids of the Yavi, Jazen informs his partner Trueborn Army Colonel Catherine "Kit" Born and Lieutenant General Howard Hibble that if the Yavi obtain the C-drive, he believes his planet unfairly, as most of the populace has no hostilities towards Earth, will be nuked into oblivion. On Rand, Cutler undercover as "Quartermain" and Yavet Director General of Internal Security Maxillian Polian as "Hitchcock" barter over the former providing the latter with C-drive data to make the device. Meanwhile Jazen receives a deathbed request he cannot refuse from his adoptive mom Orion who wants to see him before she dies. Thus he rushes home to Yavet unaware of a trap by ambitious warmongers.

"Mole Hunt." Otman the Yavi covert operative takes a crew to Dead End with plans to change human history by salvaging a crashed fighter's C-drive. He and his mates are unprepared for the Grezzen and the orb's other unwelcoming species.

The third Orphan's Legacy military science fiction (see Overkill and Undercurrents) is an engaging twisting timely thriller with hawks believing the end justifies the means and doves wanting to "Give Peace A Chance" (John Lennon). Readers will appreciate this gender bending entry as Jazen rushes home with Kit rushing after him as she knows it takes an intelligent female
to rescue a foolish male. Mole Hint is a reprint of a very short entertaining story in the Orphan's Legacy realm.

Waldo & Magic, Inc.
Robert A. Heinlein
9781476736358, $14.00

"Waldo." With the latest crash of a North Power-Air plane this time in Nebraska, Chairman of the Board Gleason discusses with key staff the massive failures crisis. Chief engineer Stevens, research supervisor Rambeau, legal head Harkness and chief stationary engineer Striebel remain stymied as none know the cause. Stevens suggests consulting with rude hermit Waldo over the objection of Rambeau. Obtaining approval, Stevens visits Waldo's only contact Doc Grimes to gain him entrance to the reclusive genius who suffers from crippling myasthenia gravis that forces him to reside in a zero-gravity abode circling the planet. Although he has no reason to save humanity from their poisoning the planet, Waldo's solution to engine failure ties with man-made radiation causing lethargy but proves outside the realm of science and engineering.

"Magic, Inc." With its near monopoly on practitioners and absolute control of government certification and licensing, Magic, Inc. brokers the use of magic by contracting it out to business moguls, politicians and other ambitious affluent people for an exorbitant fee. As first rate independent operators are becoming extinct, businessman Archie Fraser seeks magic outside this cabal, but never expected to enter hell with his new practitioner partners.

These are two enjoyable reprints of WWII published fantasy novellas. Robert A. Heinlein's genius stands out in Waldo as the title character is an antihero at an era when heroes only apply. The storyline deftly changes from science fiction to fantasy while also focusing on issues that remain timely. The companion piece is more typical of the genre circa 1940s though makes a case to beware of the government-industrial complex two decades before President Eisenhower's farewell speech.

Upon A Sea Of Stars
A. Bertram Chandler
9781476736365, $14.00

"Into the Alternate Universe." Although ridiculed for what many proclaim a foolish dangerous one-way ticket, Commander Sonya Verrill persuades Commodore John Grimes to accompany her on field research into two dead people and the Rim Ghosts on a no return trip to the galaxy's rim.

"Contraband From Otherspace." As Rim Mamelute Commodore Grimes knows accepted principles of time-space continuum physics do not apply at the galaxy's outer rim; still the eerie ship Distriyir is solid matter but the crew odd and the vessel strangely off kilter. As Grimes learns the truth about the Distriyir and those on board, he must make a decision that could impact his time-space continuum.

"The Rim Gods." Bored with his tedious office job as the Astronautical Superintendent of Rim Runners and desk jockey commanding officer of the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve; Grimes jumps at a chance to go back into space even with the mission at the rim of the galaxy.

"The Commodore at Sea." At the galaxy's rim where the time-space continuum bends in incomprehensible ways, Grimes and Verrill go kinsolving where they meet Holmes, Watson, Lady Chatterley, William Cody, Lord Greystoke and Jane, and A. Bertram Chandler, etc.

The fifth Grimes omnibus space adventures reprint (see Ride The Star Winds) briskly focuses on escapades outside of the space navy at the galactic rim where the time-space continuum twists in weird ways to the delight of readers. Into the Alternate Universe and Contraband From Otherspace are exciting novellas while The Rim Gods and The Commodore at Sea are entertaining small anthologies.

Live To See Tomorrow
Iris Johansen
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250020048, $27.99,

In Hong Kong CIA operative Catherine Ling looks forward to spending time with the two males she loves. She hopes to connect with her tweener son Luke who recently escaped from an abduction and does not know how to relate to her; but knows her mentor Hu Chang, who saved her from her teenage life on the streets of Hong Kong (See What Doesn't Kill You), will help both of them.

When CIA supervisor Venable asks Ling to mount a rescue in Tibet, she says no just as she did on the Guatemala mission. However Chang feels a debt obligation so accepts the assignment; Catherine reluctantly joins him though she fears Luke will feel his mother abandoned him again. Chang and Ling journey to Tibet where they attempt to free American journalist Erin Sullivan from evil Kadmus whose Himalayan fortress seems impenetrable. Ling meets an enigmatic ally who may prove to be an adversary, Richard Cameron; as the CIA agent notices many locals worship this "Guardian" while others want him dead.

The latest Catherine Ling CIA paranormal mission (see Chasing the Night costarring with Eve Duncan) is an exhilarating over the top of the Himalayas thriller. The relationship between Ling and Chang is fatherly, and with Luke estranged; but hers with Cameron melts the snow though the heroine remains undecided as to friend or foe in spite of their heated telepathic connection. Series fans will appreciate Ling's journey to what may turn out to be Shangri-La or a frozen hell.

Cavendon Hall
Barbara Taylor Bradford
St. Martin's
9781250032355, $17.99

Since the 1760s, the aristocratic Ingham brood has lived at Cavendon Hall in Yorkshire. For sixteen decades, the Swann family has been their loyal servants at the big house. In 1913 as WWI seems imminent, Lord Charles, his wife Lady Felicity and their six children reside at Cavendon Hall. Meanwhile Swann patriarch Walter is the Earl's valet and his spouse Alice and their twelve year old daughter Cecily make fashionable clothing for the countess and their four daughters; matriarch Charlotte serves as the estate manager and her nephew Percy is the gamekeeper.

When a neighboring squire's son Richard Torbett rapes Daphne, her irate parents want satisfaction until the Swann's talk them out of causing a scandal that will harm sweet Daphne much more than the miscreant. When Daphne becomes pregnant, the plan's goal remains to protect the innocent victim, but deployment changes to sending her to the continent. That is until family exile, second cousin Hugo Stanton the affluent tycoon, arrives and falls in love with Daphne leading to their marriage. Meanwhile other dangerous events caused by an angry adversary and ultimately the war leave both families wondering about the generations-old affinity between the two families.

This is an engaging Edwardian epic that explores the relationship between upstairs and downstairs families and compares their respective lives on the brink of WWI. The well-written fascinating storyline entertains the audience although the conflict is muted and the motive for the nefarious activity by the obvious villain never explored.

Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's Griffin
9781250002846, $18.99

With his Malachai father's death (see Inferno), Cajun-demon Nick Gautier inherits powers that frighten him. He feels haunted by what his former girlfriend Nekoda Kennedy admitted to him that her mission was to prevent him from becoming the Malachai who ended the world. Desperate to not harm his loved ones and just be a normal raging hormonal teen even also while thinking of Death's warning to trust no one, Nick turns to friends to firmly create a safety control on his powers.

When Nick next awakens, he possesses no paranormal skills and lives in a different world. His parents are Cherise and Bubba; and demons and even his BF deity he knew in his previous life have turned into mortal high school students like he has become. Confused, Nick soon finds the mundane proves dangerous, but made more lethal by those he used to call buddies might be his deadly enemies and those who previously wanted him dead might prove his loyal friends.

The fifth teenage Chronicles of Nick (see Infamous, Invisible and Infinity) is a terrific action-packed fantasy as the protagonist struggles to survive what he wished for. Filled with twists especially due to the radical 180 degrees changes in the protagonist's relationships with friends and foes that leave Nick bewildered as to who he should trust and what to believe. Series fans will relish this strong thriller as Nick obtains a powerful lesson that he fears his epiphany came too late about not dodging your responsibilities even those you loathe.

The Amish Groom
Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736957342, $13.99,

Tyler Anderson's mom Sadie was Amish but left the People to marry Duke, an Englisch soldier. He was raised as a military brat until his mother died. When Duke deployed, he left his young child with his maternal grandparents in Lancaster County swearing he will come back for his son when he returns to a stateside assignment.

Now in his twenties, Tyler loves his grandparents who raised him Amish for a decade and a half, but always wondered why his dad abandoned him. Now Tyler must choose between living Amish with Rachel Hoeck as his wife, and Englisch with his father, half-brother Brady and Lark in California.

Following up the entertaining Women of Lancaster County series (see The Amish Seamstress) Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner provide readers with a marvelous new saga the Men of Lancaster County. In adherence to the miniseries title stating "men", the strong opening act focuses on Tyler's dilemma enhanced by a wonderful support cast; several folks in Lancaster and California deserve lead or at least where are they now roles in future tales. Readers will relish this entry as Tyler must decide whether to be or not to be Amish.

Rick Mofina
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778316091, $7.99,

In Wildhorse Heights, Texas, Jenna Cooper, accompanied by her four-year-old daughter Cassie and her five-month-old son Caleb, shop at the Old Southern Glory Flea Market for children's clothing since money is tight. A terrible twister hits the area knocking Jenna out. When she regains consciousness she finds Cassie with her but Caleb missing. Franticly searching for her infant, hysterical Jenna knows she must act now without the support of her husband Blake who currently works in Alaska for a moving firm.

Though her job title is intern, Kate Page knows she competes with two others for a permanent position at Newslead in Dallas. Her rivals are Texans with experience while she is from Canton where she left her six year old daughter Grace in Ohio with friends. Kate interviews Jenna who tells her that a Good Samaritan helped her and her two children to safety just before she blacked out, but that person has also vanished. At the same time Kate investigates the apparent abduction, the FBI also works the case.

This is an exciting action-packed thriller made intense by the realistic hysteria of the mom and daughter, and kept anchored by insight into instant journalism and the reporter dealing with a prejudicial boss who believes her Lone Star blood is superior to Buckeye DNA. Gripping from the opening tornado and snatch, readers will appreciate Rick Mofina's tense heart-wrenching Whirlwind.

Killer Physique
G.A. McKevett
Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, NY, NY 10018-2522
9780758276544, $24.00,

Private detective Savannah Reid anxiously waits to meet the parents of her new husband Detective Sergeant Dirk Coulter for the first time. Her friends Ryan Stone and John Gibson invite Savannah and Dirk to attend the Hollywood premiere of their buddy superstar hunk Jason Tyrone's new film.

The next day, Jason is found dead in his room at the Island View Hotel by Ryan and John, who call Savannah. Soon after the P.I. and her spouse enter the hotel room, San Carmelita's medical examiner Dr. Jennifer Liu arrives and quickly announces accidental death due to massive steroid use. However Savannah and Dirk have doubts as they just met the hunk a few hours ago and he showed no signs of ill health. They investigate those inside of Tyrone's circle starting with movie co-star Alanna Cleary who he allegedly had an affair with; his former lover Thomas Owen; and others employed by the late actor, and contacts at the studio and at the gym where he worked out.

The latest Savannah Reid mystery (see Killer Honeymoon) is an entertaining investigative tale as increasingly the sleuth, her mate and readers wonder if the M.E. is right. Although issues like steroid use and the inquiry feel superseded at times by the intrusive meet the parents subplot, series fans will appreciate the newlyweds working the case; as the couple that solves murder mysteries together, stays together.

A Biscuit, a Casket
Liz Mugavero
9780758284808, $7.99

In Frog Ledge, Connecticut, Happy Cow Dairy Farm owners Hal and Emmalee Hoffman host a Halloween gala. Among those participating is Pawsitively Organic Gourmet Pet Food baker Kristan "Stan" Connor who caters the canine costume caper. However, the party ends with the murdered corpse of Hal found stabbed to death with a scythe amidst the field of maze he planned to sell to attendees. State Trooper Jessica Pasquale leads the official inquiry.

Already in financial trouble but unsure how much, a distraught Em asks Stan to look at the farm's books, which she does. Stunned with what she uncovers as several people had reasons to kill Hal, Stan heads to Izzy's coffee shop to learn what else she can about people's motives and opportunities.

Unlike the first A Pawsitively Organic Mystery (see Kneading to Die) in which the heroine has cause to investigate as Pasquale and the locals suspected the newbie poisoned their pets, this enjoyable amateur sleuth lacks a solid rationale for Stan risking her life. Still fans will appreciate this New England cozy as Stan the Gourmet Pet Food queen works the Halloween homicide.

Stolen Remains
Christine Trent
9780758293244, $15.00

In 1869, English Viscount Raybourn, Anthony Fairmont, is sick of Egypt as he can't wait to go home; he cannot fathom why The Prince Of Wales Bertie loves this place. Still with his mission negotiating a deal to construct the Suez Canal finished, Fairmont will soon sail for England. Just a few hours after reaching England, Anthony commits suicide.

With her mom ill, undertaker Violet Harper leaves America for London. Never forgetting how caring Violet was when her beloved Albert died eight years ago, Queen Victoria orders her to treat her late close friend Viscount Raybourn with the same respect and look for clues as to how he died as the ruler doubts he took his life. Violet finds the grieving extended family not upset with the patriarch's death or very nice. When his corpse vanishes and his housekeeper Mrs. Peet found hung, Violet also uncovers ties between the deceased, Egypt and the British Kingdom's highest hierarchal level.

The second Lady of Ashes Victorian mystery is an entertaining complicated whodunit. The storyline uses nineteenth century Egyptology, Victorian above and below the stairs mores, and the Suez Canal project to provide the audience with a strong backdrop for a fascinating investigation although the climax seems rushed and contrived.

Antiques Con
Barbara Allan
9780758263643, $24.00

Accompanied by blind Shih Tzu Sushi, septuagenarian Vivian "Mother" Borne and divorced Brandy "Daughter" Borne leave Serenity, Iowa overlooking the Mississippi River to attend a comic book convention in New York overlooking the Hudson. The dealers plan to sell an original Superman drawing from the 1940s. Due to a reservation fiasco at the Hotel Pennsylvania, they obtain a free room; convention organizer Tommy Bufford's suite.

That first night in the suite, the Borne pair frightens a room invader. However, Bufford has no such luck, as someone murders Tommy by stabbing him in his chest with an award shaped like a pen. Knowing from his brother (Brandy's lover) the duet's tendencies towards trouble by investigating crimes, NYPD Detective Cassato warns them to stay out of his inquiry. Vivian heads to New Jersey to meet the local mob chief at the Badda-Boom Club while Brandy learns who had motive to murder Bufford and killed the organizer's assistant as well.

The latest Trash 'n' Treasures amateur sleuth (see Antiques Disposal and Antiques Bizarre) is the usual fabulous mirthful madcap murder mystery starring a dynamic duet dueling each other over who gets in the last word though they go separate ways straddling the Hudson. Fans will enjoy this amusing over the top of Washington Heights cozy due to the jocular rivalry between Mother and Daughter.

Tell Me You're Sorry
Kevin O'Brien
9780786031603, $9.99

In 2008, thirtyish Sandy Ingalls dies from a stroke leaving behind her husband Dick and their three kids. One year later Dick married Vanessa. An intruder explains to him she killed his wife, and paralyzed him and his children by what she put in their sauce. As she leaves she asks him if he is sorry while burning down the home with the Ingalls inside.

In 2012, Stephanie Coburn cannot believe her older sister Rebecca Hamner committed suicide. Not long afterward, Rebecca's grieving husband Scott remarries only to have his new wife kill him and his kids from his first marriage before committing suicide. Though she did not know the second wife, Stephanie knew her sister did not hate her spouse as a suicide note said; nor would she take her life as family meant everything to Becky. Stephanie soon learns of two other families in which a widower remarried shortly after his first wife died; only to be murdered along with his second spouse and their children. When police ignore her claim of a serial killer, Stephanie investigates; which leads her to Ryan Farrell, whose family was a victim of the same M.O.

From the opening murder scene to the final confrontation, Kevin O'Brien hooks the audience with the psychopath intruding on families. Although the villainess's appearance for most of this strong suspense is limited, she makes a macabre impression on readers as she always leaves the helpless male knowing that he and his loved ones will soon die with the taunt "are you sorry now?" Even as the female killer's skills seem improbable, Tell Me You're Sorry is an exciting taut thriller.

Fire Inside
Kristen Ashley
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455599271, $8.00,

Near Denver, Chaos Motorcycle Club member single father Hop Kincaid considers advertising exec Lanie Heron crazy for ironically standing by her fiance Elliot Belova. Hop thinks the late Belova must have been even more certifiable for getting involved with the Russian mob over the purchase of out of season flowers for their wedding. The Russians killed Belova and left Heron scarred physically and emotionally.

Seeking a one-nighter, Lanie propositions Hop and he euphorically accepts her no strings stipulation. However, as one night becomes another one night and another one night, Hop and Lanie struggle with accepting that each wants a more permanent relationship, but he doubts she can fit in with the danger of being part of Chaos and she hesitates after what happened to her Elliot.

With a nod to the Sons of Anarchy, the second Chaos romance (see Own the Wind) is an engaging tale due to the unique insanity of Lanie, whose crazy poor choices bring briskness to the storyline; while Hop is more of a traditional Kristen Ashley bad boy lead. Faster than a speeding bike (except for the plenty of sex encounters), readers will appreciate this second chance at hog-tied heaven.

What A Reckless Rogue Needs
Vicky Dreiling
Forever Romance
9781455522880, $8.00

In 1821, frustrated with his thirtyish wastrel heir, Marquess of Chadwick tells his son Colin Brockhurst that he plans to sell the estate where they buried the latter's mother years ago. Chadwick also says he will reconsider if Colin marries and ends his womanizing. Knowing he must prove to his father that he cares about their property especially this one about to go on sale; Colin decides to renovate it.

Colin asks his childhood friend scandalized Lady Angeline Brenham for help; she agrees to serve as the lead restorer with the goal of a wife would be proud to live there with him. As Colin and Angeline work together, they fall in love, but she rejects his proposal as burned her once and left her wary and his secrets also keep them from making a permanent relationship.

The latest Sinful Scoundrels Regency romance (see What A Wicked Earl Wants) is a delightful historical due to the pairing of two strong obstinate protagonists. Although both act too mature with rather quick logical acceptance leading to instant forgiveness of transgressions by the other as opposed to a fuming emotional tantrum, subgenre fans will appreciate What A Reckless Rogue Needs is mutual love and respect.

A Match Made In Texas
Katie Lane
Forever Romance
9781455575800, $8.00

Tired of her four pain-in-the-butt brothers and fleeing from a naked internet scandal, Brianne Cates speeds through Bramble, Texas. Rigid law enforcer Sherriff Dusty Hicks pursues the dangerous speeder, demanding she pull over, which she reacts to by accelerating. When he gets her to stop, she sprays him with mace. Brianne mentions he will be sorry as her daddy and siblings are wealthy and used to getting their demands met. Her threat triggers an angry reaction from Dusty who arrests her though he knows it is because she behaved like his ex who used her daddy's affluence to win full custody of their child.

Due to a mutual love of Elvis, Judge Seeley sentences Brianne to two weeks of community service as the sheriff's housekeeper. Both are irate with the situation but soon their anger begins to turn to desire and attraction abetted by the Bed and Breakfast "Hens" who demand nothing less than love between the criminal and the sheriff.

This Deep In The Heart Of Texas romance (see Going Cowboy Crazy, Catch Me A Cowboy and Flirting With Texas) is an amusing heated contemporary. Fans will enjoy the lead couple, encouraged by caring town eccentrics, landing in one mess after another mostly due to the "Runaway Child, Running Wild" (Temptations). Although the fiery avenging Reverend Josiah Jessup subplot feels out of place, fans will enjoy this fast-paced, zany tale.

The Ballad Of A Small Player
Lawrence Osborne
Hogarth / Crown Publishing Group
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780804137973, $25.00,

At one time a two-bit English lawyer, Doyle obsessively enjoys the near instant win or lose adrenaline rush of playing baccarat at the Macau casinos where one card could mean making a fortune or going broke. A scoundrel, Doyle obtained his original stake to play in the high cost game of chance by embezzling money from a trusting older client back home.

Doyle mostly was losing until recently when his luck changed as he began consistently drawing a "natural nine". His success brings him celebrity status as compatriots begin calling him "Lord Doyle". Ignoring the objection of call girl Dao-Ming who cares deeply about him while concerned with his gambling compulsion, Lord Doyle bets his recent winnings on one last draw at the baccarat table.

The Ballad of A Small Player is a fascinating look at gambling addiction played out in intriguing Chinese environs. Character driven by Doyle and his gambling addicted peers like irate Grandma, this powerful look at obsession will remind readers of movies like The Man with the Golden Arm, The Lost Weekend and Owning Mahowny as the need to bet overwhelms personal ethics and common sense. With a shocking finish, Lawrence Osborne provides fans with a strong morality tale.

Flesh And Blood
Daniel Dersch
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781477817469, $14.95,

At the hospital, Dr. John Harris explains to New York reporter Claire Hagen that her sister Amanda should remain under their medical watch at least until they can calm her down as the distraught twentyish woman suffers from either a severe nervous breakdown or schizophrenia. Harris furthermore explains Amanda's deep delusional fear is of a vampire drinking her blood.

Although horrified with what mentally has happened to her younger sibling especially when she thinks back to the guilt of failing Mandy when they were little; Claire needs to know why this has happened to her. Soon Claire finds impossible evidence that vampires apparently are real and bloodthirsty while Mandy seems to be changing into something nonhuman. When Claire comes under attack, which she concludes is to silence her investigation, George Powell, a survivor of Nazi blood science research, saves her life. The pair forges an alliance to rescue Mandy while also being attracted to one another. Meanwhile powerful adversaries, some with the backing of the Vatican, target her for execution and him for further experimentation as the source to eradicate the unholy undead.

This is an exciting action-packed vampire thriller that for the most part never slows down (except for occasional overdrawn clarifying soliloquys) from the moment a shocked Claire learns from Harris that her sister suffers from delusional fear of vampires until the stunning climatic twist. The fast-paced storyline insures the feral vampires come across as genuine as does the Vatican demanding their extermination while the lead couple is caught in the middle.

Evil in the 1st House: A Starlight Detective Agency Mystery
Mitchell Scott Lewis
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201899, $24.95,

In Manhattan Dr. Ethan Williamson offers nationally known Starlight Detective Agency chief David Lowell $1 million in cash if he searches for his missing wife Gloria Greenwood; if he finds her the surgeon will give the astrologist-private detective another million. Williamson further explains they have been separated since just after their twin sons were born. After a nasty fight following the births, she vanished with now fifteen year old Kevin while leaving behind Edward with Ethan to raise by himself. Edward will soon die if he fails to receive a compatible kidney as the lad has an extremely rare blood type and his dad has only one good organ; leaving his sibling as the obvious suitable match.

While working this case and another inquiry, Lowell obtains help from his six foot daughter Melinda the lawyer, hacker guru Mort, office assistant Sarah and bodyguard-driver Andy. Others from California also become embroiled into the inquiry; as nothing is quite like the client claimed.

The third Starlight Detective Agency case (see Murder on the 11th House and Death in the 12th House) is an engaging twisting mystery with the paranormal seeming so genuine due to normalcy brought to the storyline by the staff; for instance Lowell needs legal advice on transplants instead of the stars. As fans, Lowell and his staff accept karma, Evil in the 1st House is a fun fascinating astrological private investigative thriller.

Panthers Play for Keeps: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir
Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590588727, $24.95

In Beauville, pet guru Pru Marlowe walks Spot the service dog in training. Spot interrupts their sojourn when the canine finds a battered, severely mauled female corpse.

The shape of the body leads to the conclusion that a large most likely feral feline attacked and murdered the young woman. However, no animal that fits the description has been spotted in this section of the Berkshires in many years. Pru's lover Police Detective Jim Creighton leads the investigation while the animal expert vows to stay out of the inquiry though she uses her uncanny skills to consult with her cat Wallis and Spot. The amateur sleuth turns active when Jim vanishes.

The fourth Pru Marlowe Pet Noir (see Parrots Prove Deadly, Dogs Don't Lie and Cats Can't Shoot) is an enjoyable psychic mystery. The engaging investigative storyline is made fresh by the heroine left confused rather than lucid after discussing the case with her detecting partner Wallis and her trainee Spot; forcing her to rely less on her anthropomorphic buddies and use more "normal" human abilities.

Bordeaux: The Bitter Finish
Janet Hubbard
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464201547, $24.95

American wine critic Ellen Jordan asks NYPD Detective Maxine Maguire to act as her bodyguard while she visits Bordeaux, France. Once in country Ellen asks French speaking (from her mom) Max also to protect one of the four wine magnums valued at over $30,000 each by auctioneer Paula Goodwin though the American believes these are worthless frauds.

At the annual regional wine tasting gala in Lussac, experts test the contested wines for authenticity. However, Ellen dies from asphyxiation in her hotel room and the magnum Max left in the hotel safe has vanished. Max believes her client was murdered so she persuades her former lover French magistrate Olivier Chaumont and Commissaire Abdel Zeroual to allow her in on the investigation.

With a nod to Ellen Crosby's Wine Country Mysteries (though in France rather than Virginia) the second Vengeance in the Vineyard Mystery (see Champagne: The Farewell) is a super whodunit as suspects straddle both sides of the Atlantic. Fast-paced from the moment Max learns Ellen died, readers will enjoy this solid whodunit as questioning those with motives seems to disprove Vino Veritas.

Under Cold Stone: A Constable Molly Stone Mystery
Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464202353, $24.95

Lucky Smith and Trafalgar, British Columbia Chief Constable Paul Keller enjoy a meal together at a restaurant in Banff, Alberta when two bullies accost customers and staff. Lucky rips into the punks while Paul stares in horror as one of them is his estranged son Matt. Soon after the nastiness, near hysterical Matt calls his dad for help as there is a corpse in his apartment. Paul and Lucky arrive to find the body but no Matt. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Eddie Blechta believes by fleeing into the wilderness Matt committed murder.

In response to her widow mom Lucky's plea, Trafalgar Constable Molly Smith drops all she is doing to get ready for Thanksgiving to come to Banff; while Sergeant John Winters stays at home to deal with a potentially violent protest against development Grizzly Resort. Molly meets Matt's low-esteemed girlfriend Tracey McMillan who asks her to help him as she believes her BF is innocent. Although she knows to stay out of the local investigation, Molly follows Matt into the wilderness.

The fabulous seventh Constable Molly Smith Canadian police procedural (see A Cold White Sun) is a strong entry as family ties complicate the Banff case. As enjoyable is the latest front in the war between environmentalists and developers exploding back home though Winters does a great job trying the impossible to reduce the tension before someone gets hurt. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate this exciting entry.

The Cold Nowhere
Brian Freeman
Quercus, Apr 1 2014, $26.99
31, West 57th Street, New York, NY10019
9781623651312, $26.99,

A decade ago when Catalina Mateo was six years old, she cowered in hiding while hearing the still haunting sounds of her father carving up her mother before he killed himself. The murder-suicide left Cat in permanent trauma as the now teen turned to drugs and prostitution but never escaped the nightmare of that gruesome day.

When Cat realizes her paranoid belief someone stalks her is not fueled by the horror or drugs, she remembers heroic Jonathan Stride promising to keep her mom safe. Though he failed them, Cat turns to the Duluth Police Lieutenant. He finds her half-frozen in his cabin's closet. Stride's partner Maggie Bei warns him not to get involved emotionally as she believes Cat being a chip off the paternal block viciously stabbed her shrink. Whether or not it is guilt driving him, Stride investigates Cat's claim only to find evidence affirming her assertion.

The latest Jonathan Stride Minnesota police procedural (see The Burying Place, In The Dark and Immoral) is a fantastic inquiry as the case and the frozen background make for a strong mystery. The tension between Stride and Bei especially over Cat enhance the terrific taut storyline.

The Enemy Within
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG Publishing
PO Box 269, Lincoln City, OR 97367
9780615906270, $18.99,

Following the JFK assassination and its bungled aftermath, police departments throughout the country are on edge as none want the notoriety of DPD. In Manhattan's West Side, NYPD Detectives O'Reilly and McKinnon are at a double murder scene with a third corpse of a limousine driver nearby. The two cops identify the victims as FBI Associate Director Clyde A. Tolson and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

New York Regional Office Special Agent In Charge Eugene Hart pulls Agent Francis Bryce off of a suicide investigation tied to another Fed but that Frank knows he inadvertently caused by foolishly following the book. Frank heads to contain the NYPD inquiry into the homicides of the agency's top two men; as his assignment is to find the killer but also trample on the locals to keep them out of what Hart insists is an internal matter. To his horror, Frank uncovers clues tying the murders to the suicide.

The Enemy Within is a superb what if police procedural as Kristine Kathryn Rusch catches the essence of efforts by law enforcement at all levels to avoid being labeled as another DPD. Filled with remorse for his poor handling that led to the suicide and with a need to know the truth, Bryce is an intriguing protagonist who receives several warnings not to dig to deep. Fast-paced from the moment the NYPD cops identify the victims, fans will appreciate this taut thriller as corruption at all levels of government leads to a need for a cover-up that makes a bad situation much worse.

C. J. Cherryh
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408831, $25.95,

The heir to the Atevi leader of the Western Association Tabiniaiji, Cajerji celebrates his ninth birthday with his people and select human friends he made. At the same time a deep schism inside the Assassins' Guild explodes into the open between the traditionalists like the Atevi dowager Ilisidi who demand the foreigners including Cameron leave and the modernists like Tabiniaiji who want increased contact. This split especially endangers the party attendees as the Guild provides security to the gala.

All this occurs while Cajeiri's mother Damiri will soon give birth to a royal daughter and his grandmother Ilisidi believes she knows who has assassinated family members. She plans to avenge these murders starting with breeching the impregnable Assassins' Guild Headquarters. Paidhi-aiji Bren Cameron knows his mission is to protect Cajerji and the guests as he promised his friend Tabini. However, the diplomat fears he can do little to prevent a civil war that apparently was deployed long before he arrived here; although he also knows who the enemy is and that this foe probably will take the fight to the party.

The latest Foreigner Universe thriller (see Protector, Intruder and Betrayer) is an entertaining entry with numerous fascinating but passive explanatory essays on hostile politics and ethics based on the end justifies the mean with diverse ethnic beliefs being the underlying cause. Cajerji remains the focus of enemy camps sharing in common only that the heir is a pawn to further personal agendas. Series fans will enjoy this enjoyable bash as the major threads of the Cameron saga are tied up and contains the additional bonus of "Lord Geigi's History of the Aishidi'tat with commentary by Lord Bren of Najda, paidhi-aiji".

Deadly Echoes
Philip Donlay
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608091096, $26.95,

A diabolically brilliant psychopath viciously murders targeted people while placing the homicides on YouTube to insure the world believes that the environmental protection and research activist group Eco-Watch has turned to terrorism. Eco-Watch founder Donovan Nash knows his organization is not behind the lethal brutal assaults and that most likely his militant ecological enemy from three decades ago Garrick Pearce is.

The violent Pearce holds Nash culpable for the death of his beloved Meredith Barnes. With no regard for collateral damage to people or the planet, his plan for avenge attacks Eco-Watch and his despicable foe's loved ones; but will climax that with the environmental disaster of the century in Nash's name. Erica offers the beleaguered Donovan with information he needs to prevent Pearce's scheme while assassins, Feds and Eco-Watch pursue him as he is considered deranged and dangerous. Donovan takes a last stand in Alaska to stop Garrick from an ecological-devastation whose biblical scope has not happened since dinosaur times.

The fourth Donovan Nash saga (see Category Five, Code Black and Zero Separation) is an exciting action-packed thriller that never allows Nash (or readers) a moment of respite. Although the lead antagonists come across as typical genre casting of a beleaguered hero and an insane villain, the secondary characters bring freshness to a fast-paced running out of time to save the world tale.

The Color of Light
Wendy Hornsby
Perservance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745422, $15.95,

TV host of "Maggie MacGowen Investigates", film documentarian Maggie MacGowen is back in her childhood home in Berkeley cleaning out her late father's stuff. Inside his desk, she finds film shot thirty years ago by her dad that provide leads to solving the cold case violent murder of Vietnamese immigrant Trinh "Tina" Bartolini.

Though she believes her father hid the evidence to protect her especially from her biological mother, Maggie investigates the late Mrs. Bartolini's past. Helping her with her inquiry are high school boyfriend BPD Detective Kevin Halloran, current boyfriend French diplomat Jean-Paul Bernard and her agent Uncle Max. While the lack of cooperation from family and friends who make it clear they want her to stop snooping; another schoolmate sleazy Larry Nordquist lurks nearby while also implying to Maggie that he knows who and why.

The ninth Maggie MacGowen Investigates (see The Hanging, The Paramour's Daughter and In the Guise of Mercy) is a fabulous whodunit that deftly goes back and forth between the present and what happened in the college town three decades ago. The sleuthing is strong with red herrings, twists and non-cooperation as this homicide shook the community in the early 1980s and Maggie's search for the truth proves it still remains very sore with residents.

Madness In Miniature
Margaret Grace
Perservance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745439, $7.99,

On summer vacation, tweener Maddie enjoys spending time with her grandmother retired English teacher Geraldine "Gerry" Porter in Lincoln Point, California. The pair carries Gerry's latest dollhouses to the soon to be opened craft chain store SuperKrafts. However, as they walk together, they overhear a heated debate between shopkeepers Maisie Bosley of Maisie's Card Shop and Bebe Mellon of DIY Ceramics; both sold their stores for different reasons to the giant chain. Gerry and Maddie also meet returning native Catherine Duncan who is selling the concept of the superstore to the locals.

Arriving from New York for the Grand Opening is CEO Craig Palmer III. He is barely in town when a minor earthquake strikes leaving him the only one dead. Gerry's nephew LPPD Detective Skip looks into the visitor's death, which turns out not to be from the quake but instead a homicide with apparently Bebe as the prime suspect. Not believing her friend is a killer, Gerry and her eleven year old sidekick investigate.

The latest Miniature Mystery (see Mix-up in Miniature, Mourning In Miniature and Monster In Miniature) is a wonderful cozy starring a dynamic amateur sleuth team. The case is fun, but takes a back seat to the interesting look into town relationships especially with the schism caused by the dispute over the pros and cons of the new superstore.

Sea of Shadows
Kelley Armstrong
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062071248, $17.99,

From their birth, twins Moria and Ashyn were respectively anointed as the Keeper and Seeker of Edgewood; considered the most dangerous spot in the Empire as spirits roam nearby due to proximity to the Forest of the Dead where the barrier between dead and living lacks depth. This is also a place where the guards dump undesirables to die. One other Keeper-Seeker pair works at the court; while two other couplings roam the empire.

Accompanied by her Hound of the Immortals Tova, Ashyn the Seeker enters the Forest of the Dead to collect corpses and send their spirits on; while Moria and her wildcat Daigo protect her sister and the villagers. However, instead of just dead bodies, Ashyn finds living people and hellish monsters. As the feral beasts overwhelm Edgewood in a bloody slaughter, the twins and their bonded animals flee to warn the emperor. Joining them on their dangerous trek are Ronan the con artist and Gavril Kitsune the disgraced warrior.

The first Age of Legends young adult quest fantasy is an exciting tale as the two sisters have been trained to do their jobs; but not mentored in relationships besides with each other, their family and their familiars or adapting to radical change making mission accomplishment impossible. Their difficult adjustment while traversing a vividly lethal landscape turns Sea of Shadows into a strong opening act.

Ten Thousand Things
John Spurling
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781468308327, $27.95,

While sitting on a cold stone floor waiting for judgment, septuagenarian Wang Meng knows the bad times are back as he muses on being arrested for suspicion of conspiracy due to his visiting the art collection of the late prime minister executed five years ago for the same charge he faces. He thinks back over the decades of his life when he ignored his wife's harangue to better their lot by choosing painting landscapes and a low level bureaucratic job over using his direct family connection to the emperor. During those years Wang watched the once invincible Mongol Dynasty that he and his Great Family ancestry supported collapse into lawlessness until the rise of the Ming Dynasty brought order. Still with all the turmoil, Wang loves to paint nature, which led him to other artists, a teenage Buddhist novice, and White Tigress and her bandits who roamed the countryside.

This enchanting biographical historical fiction is a superb look at fourteenth century chaotic China through the eyes of a renowned influential artist. Though there is some action especially with what is happening in China, readers will appreciate more the sense of walking the mountains alongside of Wang Meng as he captures nature with his inks.

A Life Apart
L. Y. Marlowe
BDWY / Broadway Books
c/o Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY, 10036
9780307719393, $16.00,

In 1940 Boston, Morris Sullivan and Agnes marry just before he enlists in the Navy. While he is stationed at Pearl Harbor, she remains in Massachusetts raising their baby with him making two short visits over the next eighteen months. At the same time Beatrice Dobbins follows her brother Robert leaving Mississippi for Roxbury where she trains as a teacher and he joins the Navy.

When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Morris' ship the USS Oklahoma is hit. He loses his footing and slides into the ocean. His last thoughts are on his wife and daughter, but Robert saves his life. Soon after his heroism, Robert dies as the assault continues.

Feeling he owes Robert, Morris sends a letter offering comfort to the man's grieving sister. Beatrice responds thanking him for his kind note especially informing her that her sibling died a hero. However, both know a white married male and a black female cannot be friends so they end their correspondence. Two decades later, Morris and Beatrice meet and soon each admits to being in love with the other. They begin an affair as Morris struggles to maintain two families.

Rotating perspective between Morris and the two women in his life over five decades, A Life Apart is an engaging timely (with the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and recent SCOTUS decisions on voting and affirmative action) family drama. The protagonists of the biracial triangle are fascinating with Morris acting fickle; Agnes knowing something is wrong; and Beatrice fearing consequences. Although the storyline fails to dig deep into the tumultuous background, readers will appreciate this enjoyable historical epic of a man and his two families.

On The Rocks
Erin Duffy
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062205742, $25.99,

As Abby tries on wedding gowns at Vera Wang, she and her BFF Grace discuss the former's upcoming marriage to long time BF Ben. Grace looks up the fiance Facebook page. To both their horror and Abby's consternation, Ben changed his status to single; using social media to end their engagement. When she confronts him, he is apologetic and explains there is no other woman, but a job offer in Arizona that he accepted. Heartbroken Abby feels worse because her younger sister Katie becomes engaged.

For the next few months, Abby makes Ben and Jerry her BFFs until Grace persuades her to spend the summer together in Newport. Grace explains that she needs to leave Boston to escape an affair with a married man and Abby needs to accept and move on that Ben is yesterday. Confused over the single scene Abby struggles with dating in the age of social media changing the rules of engagement since she had been with Ben for a dozen years.

On the Rocks is a fun lighthearted contemporary as Abby seeks her groove in a world in which she feels like a fish out of water; since technology radically changed the mores from what she recalls when she last was single on the dating scene in her twenties. The cast is quirky though not deep, but fans will enjoy most of their antics (except when realistic nastiness occurs on line for all friends to ridicule) as the singles scene has gone virtually naked for all to see.

Ted Bell
9780062279385, $27.95

Since the abductions in 2009 in Georgetown, Chinese General Sun-Yat Moon has kept American Nobel laureate Dr. William Lincoln Chase, Jr. incarcerated on Xinbu Island while at the same time the kidnapped man's family resides in a North Korean death camp. The brutal Chinese officer demands the scientist's cooperation on developing a stronger Chinese version of the Centurion Submariner he created for America in which an unmanned sub can launch multiple long-range missiles. Failure means his family will be slowly tortured to death.

In Cambridge, England the murder of a professor by ancient Chinese torture techniques sends MI6 operative Alex Hawke to investigate; New Scotland Yard Inspector Ambrose Congreve also makes an inquiry. As American President McCloskey fears for his people from the realistic Chinese threat, Hawke learns that his real mission is to rescue Chase and his family before tension between the two powers escalates to the use of the nuclear option.

The eighth Alex Hawke espionage thriller (see Phantom) is an exciting action-packed tale as the superspy understands he and his team must extract the scientist from an impenetrable fortress and the family from a confining death camp before the rival superpowers use the nuclear option. Adrenalin-pumping from start to finish, readers will appreciate the fast-paced save the world albeit over the top novel.

Driving Lessons
Zoe Fishman
9780062059826, $14.99

Married four years, Sarah and Josh hate the New York grind. When Josh receives an offer to teach at a small liberal arts college in Farmwood, Virginia the thirty-something couple agrees to accept the position, leaving behind Brooklyn and her marketing job.

Sarah hopes to find more to life while fearful of Josh's desire for children. As terrifying to the native New Yorker is to raise a child, she is just as afraid to drive, though a necessity, for the first time in two decades since there is no public transportation. While Josh loves his job and is very contented with the area, Sarah feels lost as she cannot find work compensable to her experience and education. When her BFF Mona tells her she has cervical cancer that requires a hysterectomy which will leave her barren and perhaps lead to her boyfriend Nate leaving; Sarah returns to the city to be there for her. Back in the Big Apple, Sarah also spends time with her sister-in-law Kate and her new baby nephew Franklin. She notices the pair enjoys being together though the infant leaves his mom exhausted and even at times frustrated. By observing the euphoria and the heartbreak, Sarah knows she must conquer her phobias to achieve whatever she decides she wants out of life.

Though extensively Sarah's tale, Driving Lessons is a profound look at three realistic flawed women with diverse fears as each thinks the others' grass is greener (yes A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith). Character driven by the strong portrayal of the females, readers will enjoy Sarah's sarcastic New York shtick journey to her awakening though her epiphany is expected even before she raced back to New York.

Rise & Shine
Sandra D. Bricker
River North
c/o Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610
9780802406309, $14.99,

In 2005 Shannon Malone and Edmund Ridgeway married. Their bliss ends on their honeymoon in Fiji when Shannon is injured on a dive that left her comatose.

At the Draper Long Term Care Facility, Neurologist Dr. Daniel Petros welcomes Shannon back when she awakens from her nearly ten-year coma to learn she missed most of her twenties and that her Edmund died from cancer. Turning to her faith for guidance, Shannon struggles between her true memories and her favorite TV shows she "watched" while comatose. Daniel, her three aunts and her friends help her adapt to a world that has radically changed while she was sleeping as cell phones rule the planet and books are read on e-readers like Kindle. Meanwhile Edmund's sister Millicent demands her former sister-in-law relinquish any right Shannon thinks she may have to the Ridgeway estate. However fate strikes Shannon again when she is knocked out by a tornado. Using a different remedy than the one he used for most of those ten years, Daniel hopes his kiss will wake up his Sleeping Beauty.

This contemporary Sleeping Beauty is a fun lighthearted romance due to the wonderful protagonist whose troubled adjustment to the changes in the world (including her husband's death and how old her beloved aunts have become, and technology) makes for a delightful read. Whereas Shannon is Sleeping Beauty; Daniel is a caring Prince Charming who watched over her for most of her coma; her aunts are fairy godmothers; and her sister-in-law the villain. Readers will enjoy this sweet second chance at life tale.

New Watch
Sergei Lukyanenko, author
Andrew Bromfield, translator
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062310071, $15.99,

Young Innokentii Grigorievich Tolkov and Higher Other Anton Gorodetsky meet at the Moscow Airport. To the Light Magician's shock, the child displays signs of being the extremely rare Prophet Other, who foresees his own future when Innokentii shouts at his mom Tamara that the plane they are about to board will crash. Anton intervenes by persuading Tamara that she left the iron on at home; so she and her son race back their abode to keep the place from burning down. Soon afterward the plane crashes.

However, the child's public hysteria also awakens a sleeping beast arising from the darkness. This predator targets the child-clairvoyant while Anton vows to protect the lad, his mom and keep his loved ones especially his tweener daughter Nadya the Absolute Enchantress safe; while the world stands on the brink of extinction.

The fifth Watch urban fantasy novel (see Twilight Watch and The Last Watch) is a superb entry that combines end of the world danger with well-placed humor and wry musings. The hero struggles with decisions in which regardless with what he selects most likely beloved family, allies and civilians (including people he "influenced" to ignore their free will and heed his "advice") will die. Readers will relish Sergei Lukyanenko's powerful tale as Twilight may be falling if Anton, who knows the world is at risk but his concerns are personal re Nadya, and the Others fail at their mission.

Everything to Lose
Andrew Gross
9780062326379, $26.99

Thirty-something single mom of seven year old low functioning Aspie Brandon, Hilary Blum is in financial trouble with enormous debt and no longer employed since losing her marketing position. With no other options, Hilary concludes she must confront Brandon's affluent father Jim for child support though he abandoned them four years ago and since began a new perfect family.

As she drives from Westchester to Greenwich on a back road she never uses, Hilary watches the car in front of her lose control and crash down an embankment. She goes down the slope to check on those inside the vehicle. Hilary finds the driver dead and a bag containing 5000 hundred-dollar bills. Desperate, Hilary grabs the loot and uses it to pay her bills. However, an angry killer seeks the cache that belongs to this psychopath. Realizing her theft left her and Brandon in peril from a deadly adversary, Hilary seeks the truth behind the cash in hopes to expose her predator before he murders her child.

This is a strong thriller starring a beleaguered mom who would do anything to protect her son though she struggles to understand his behavior and fears for his future without her. Andrew Gross captures the essence of an NT caregiver raising an Autistic Spectrum child; as a mom of a high functioning Aspie I relate to Hilary's efforts to deal with her child's thought-processes she perceives as alien. However, why she failed to sue for child support is never explained as raising an Autistic Spectrum child is expensive and Greenwich denotes affluence. Readers will appreciate this tale as the caregiver's prime personal value is do anything for her son even breaking all her other moral anchors.

Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion ... So Far
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs
9780062292551, $27.99

The latest edition of the Discworld companion book (previous edition published in 2003) targets diehard fans of the phenomenal series as four hundred plus pages are an enormous glossary of terms, biographies, geography (including maps) and illustrations taken from the forty or so books. These are fun to read entries (over an extended time as it can turn tedious) reminding us of the brilliance of the puns and quips making social commentary that satirizes our world in novel format for the last three decades. In addition to the enormous amount of information, the reference tome contains two small segments published in the 1994 original companion: an interview with Terry Pratchett and how he deals with readers and fan snail mail (stored in cardboard boxes); and an updated essay on translating the saga into other languages. Finally there are also rules for playing "Cripple Mr Onion."

When The Cypress Whispers
Yvette Manessis Corporon
9780062267580, $27.99

Now thirty-five years old, Daphne finds her once strong belief in the American dream shaken with the murders of her Greek immigrant parents in their Yonkers diner and the vehicular death of her husband by a drunk driver. Fleeing Westchester with her baby Evie, Daphne opens up a successful classy restaurant in Manhattan and recently became engaged to affluent Stephen the banker who approved her initial loan.

They agree to marry on the Greek island of Erikousa; where Daphne's Yia-yia resides. The widow and her five year old daughter arrive on Erikousa early so that she can plan and arrange her marriage ceremony. However, as memories of loving her time on the island surface, Yia-yia tells her granddaughter and great-grand daughter classic myths in which Daphne feels an affinity to the beleaguered heroines. The only downers in Daphne idyllic return to Greece are her knowing her deceased loved ones would cherish being here; her discomfort with Yianni a Jewish friend of Yia-yia, whose family her grandma and other islanders saved from the Nazis; and fish out of water grumbling Stephen.

This is an entertaining though straight forward drama that looks at whether a second generation assimilated American can find her lost Grecian roots on a warm Greek island or is fated to an unhappy second marriage on a cold New York island. The fully developed single mom and her delightful grandma (mindful of a gender changing Zorba the Greek circa a century later) hold the storyline together. The key islanders are fascinating characters; while Evie behaves too perfect in spite of all the emotional tsuris in her young life and Stephen is stereotyped as a cold Manhattan suit.

Paris At The End Of The World
John Baxter
Harper Perennial
9780062221407, $16.95

Seeking to understand why his Grandpa Archie abandoned his family and quit his job that waited for him upon his return from fighting in the front during WWI to stay in Paris, John Baxter researched his relative's time in France. Adding to the mystery of what happened to change Archie is how adamantly he refused to discuss the war though his diaries provide a glimpse into his soul. However, instead of just a memoir, "Paris At The End Of The World: The City of Light During the Great War, 1914-1918" is also a superb historical that shines a light on how Parisians especially artists, who flocked to the city from around the world in spite of the horrors not far away, adapted to the fighting. Whereas the city's residents kept the gaiety of the arts thriving in spite of shortages and the sounds of war nearby, the grim no nonsense Australian soldiers across the Channel prepared to take the fight to the Kaiser. Readers will appreciate this strong WWI account of Paris and the Aussies in Britain while also enjoying the search for Archie's motivation.

Emma Mars, author
Alexis Pernsteiner, translator
Harper Perennial
9780062274175, $15.99

In 2008 France, though she insists to herself this is temporary Annabelle drops her dreams of becoming a reporter because she needs money to pay for her mom's exorbitant medical bills. Thus she becomes a high end paid escort Elle, who over the next year becomes an expert on pleasing men and on the best hotel rooms in town like those at the historical Hotel des Charmes.

When businessman David proposes marriage, Annabelle accepts as she believes her financial problems are over. However, David's brother Louie turns out to be a client of Elle who uses blackmail to continue their arrangement. This leaves Elle filled with guilt not so much because of the tryst, but more because she loves the way her future brother-in-law pleases her sexually. At the same that she struggles with her desires and relationships with the siblings, someone sends her erotic notes describing her fantasies in detail.

Hotelles is a fabulous erotic romance due to the charmante belle femme and a wonderful unique tour of Paris at its seductive best. Subgenre fans will enjoy Annabelle's arousal awakening as she finds herself engaged to one brother but turned on by the other.

A Promise In Pieces
Emily T. Wierenga
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426758850, $13.99,

In 2000, Clara tells her grandson Noah about her time as a combat nurse in WWII. Clara explains she enlisted in the military and was assigned to the Women's Army Corp Nursing Team where she helped the dying and wounded in Europe.

Sometime after bloody D-Day, she and dying soldier Gareth meet. He dictates a farewell letter to his beloved wife Mattie and obtains Clara's pledge to deliver the note in person once she is stateside. Back in America, Clara suffers from PTSD and feels inadequate to cope with the grief she anticipates when she brings the letter to Mattie. Still she made a deathbed promise so visits Gareth's widow. Mourning her loss but grateful to the nurse who helped ease her husband's passing, Mattie gives Clara the baby quilt she created for the children she planned to have with Gareth. Over the years Clara the nurse used the gift to snuggle newborns including her own.

The latest warm Quilts of Love inspirational (see A Sky Without Stars by Linda S. Clare and Scraps Of Evidence by Barbara Cameron) is a wonderful epic that the audience will enjoy as Clara provides readers with the highlight film of her life over the decades with the baby quilt serving as the key. Character-driven, readers will appreciate this engaging entry as some relationships never end.

Operation Shield
Joel Shepherd
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616148966, $16.95,

On Droze, Cassandra Kresnov retired from the Federation's military to work as a field operative for the Federation Security Agency. Sandy's mission is to free android super-soldiers like she once was who were illegally created and are lethally misused by corporations as expendable pawns.

However, a clever adversary leads a vicious campaign naming her as a vile enemy of the GIs she tries to rescue. Complicating matters, the League takes away from her the three orphans she considers adopting. When a battle between the Fleet and the League occurs leaving many casualties especially among the GIs seeking asylum, the Federation Grand Council demands full retreat as they want to avoid at all costs another war.

The latest Cassandra Kresnov military science fiction (see 23 Years on Fire, Crossover and Killswitch) is a complex timely thriller with many more subplots than briefly described above; Joel Shepherd cleverly interweaves real issues into this action-packed storyline. Besides the dandy Sandy prime plot, especially fascinating are the effort by some politicians to change the Constitution in order to restrict the rights of others and the related hit on a lawyer working to expand the constitutional rights to the GIs. Add in the fascinating arrival of a non-soldier GI along with Sandy's contemplating retiring into motherhood leading to a strong entry with plenty to follow.

Ember Island
Kimberley Freeman
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476743509, $16.00,

In 2012, highly regarded author Nina struggles with writer's block of which she believes she knows the underlying cause that she conceals from everyone especially her agent Marla. She rationalizes to Marla that she needs to get away to complete her book. Although she knows her grandmother Eleanor's house Starwater on Ember Island in Brisbane's Moreton Bay suffered storm damage, Nina heads there to oversee the repair and hopefully complete her writing; unaware of what she will find there.

In 1891 Dorset, Matilda and Jasper marry but the ceremony turns tragic when her beloved grandpa dies. Grieving her loss, Tilly obediently follows her husband to the Channel Islands off of Normandy, but instead of solace and loving comfort in Guernsey she finds terror. Fleeing another trauma, Tilly arrives on Ember Island seeking inner serenity. There she becomes the governess to the prison superintendent's daughter, Nell. Tilly diligently hides her past, but Nell observes everything and keeps journals that she hides all over the house.

Although there is a thematic similarity to Kimberley Freeman's previous Australian novels (see Lighthouse Bay and Wildflower Hill), the three fully-developed key females provide a fascinating look at two women separated by over a century struggling with similar issues. Rotating the lead between Nina and Tilly, but linked by Nell, Ember Island is an engaging tale focusing on efforts regardless of the era to surmount heart-wrenching tragedy.

The Hurlyburly's Husband
Jean Teule, author
Alison Anderson, translator
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, SW1W ONZ, UK
Meryl Zegarek Publicity
9781906040659, $15.95,

In 1663 the Marquis de Montespan Louis-Henri de Pardaillan Gondrin and Francoise de Rochechouart de Mortemart, who begins to use the name Athenais, marry. In love with each other, the newlyweds feel blessed to have found one another.

However, love is not enough to pay the bills of an aristocratic couple living the good life well above their means. To bring in needed income and become a favorite of King Louis XIV, Louis-Henri enlists in the army though he finds the front unappealing. In the new Palace of Versailles, Queen Marie-Therese employs Athenais as a lady-in-waiting. Feeling out of place in the decadent Sun King's palace, Athenais pleads with Montespan for them to leave immediately for Paris, but he refuses. Soon afterward, the monarch sees 'hurluberlu' blond curled Athenais and makes her his royal mistress. While his wife becomes the talk of the kingdom, as the latest lover of the king, Montespan is expected to ferme la bouche and quietly enjoy the benefits. Instead unlike the cuckold behavior of his peers who take the money silently, he publicly displays his dismay as the victim who wants his beloved wife returned to him immediately.

Based on a true seventeenth century triangle, The Hurlyburly's Husband is a dark comedy starring a fascinating hero who will remind readers of Quixote and his changing from innocent to obsessed. Character-driven by the lead couple, readers will appreciate Jean Teule's latest witty tale (see The Suicide Shop) as Montespan rejects the acceptable norm and "willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause" (The Impossible Dream lyrics by Joe Darion).

The Steady Running Of The Hour
Justin Go
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476704586, $26.00,

In 2004, JF Prichard of London-based Twyning & Hooper, Solicitors contacts American Tristan Campbell. He explains to the recent college graduate that he may be heir to a trust fund established in 1924 by mountain climber Ashley Walshingham, but never claimed by his beneficiary at that time Imogen Soames-Andersson. Over the next eight decades the firm searched for the rightful heir, but until recently found no clues. Even now the solicitors remain unsure if Tristan is the one though they have some evidence pointing in his direction. Tristan arrives in Europe where he seeks proof that he is Ashley's descendent.

In 1917, Ashley and Imogen share a tryst fueled by love before he goes off to the continent to fight in the trench war. Though fortunate to survive, Ashley is not the same. By 1924, the daredevil mountaineer decides to climb Mount Everest. He dies in the attempt leaving behind his vast fortune to his beloved Imogen though he never saw her after he left for the war. Now with two months to go before the trust fund is turned over to charity on the eightieth anniversary of Ashley's death, Tristan is spellbound by the man's adventures.

This terrific character-driven tale deftly rotates the two subplots though the WWI and post war eras being the stronger with a timely reminder that combat veterans' damaged souls may lead to many unable to return to the civilian life even to waiting love; Ashley suffered from a harrowing stint in the trenches of France that changed him. Although Tristan's romance feels unnecessary and forced, readers will appreciate this entertaining drama especially Ashley's awesome adventures.

The Intern's Handbook
Shane Kuhn
Simon & Schuster
9781476733807, $25.00

Human Resources Inc. recruited seventeen year old John Lago to join their company as he fit the profile of hiring only emotionally damaged teenage orphans. Like other young assassins employed by HR, Lago uses the cover of an insignificant intern floating through various companies requiring a hit by a professional killer working from the inside.

As he nears mandatory retirement age of twenty-five, Bob assigns Lago his last murder to perform inside prestigious Manhattan law firm Bendini, Lambert & Locke. BML caters to a special who's who clientele known for a propensity for disappearing inside the Federal Witness Protection Program. At the same time Lago writes his Intern's Handbook rules and values such as never forget you are the bad guy with no moral compunctions for his replacement to use or die young. After joining the law firm, Lago tries to determine who of the three legal partners is selling WPP names at "auctions"; as that individual will meet the same fate of his sales' "products". At the same time Lago thinks the Feds are closing in on him and the associate he loves Alice who may be the person fingering him to the FBI.

With a nod to Grosse Pointe Blank especially an affinity with John Cusak's Martin Q. Blank character, Lago's actions, wry commentary, and rules and their explanations are poignantly amusing. The amoral protagonist holds the engaging jocular though violent storyline focused while surprisingly looking deep into the child is the adult; but in this case the children are expendable orphans filed away by society similar to expendable interns filed away by companies. Readers will relish this dark humorous twisting caper.

Fearless Hope
Serena B. Miller
Howard Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451660371, $14.99,

In Holmes County, Ohio, Titus Schrock spends $10,000 on a bull that frightens his wife Hope who pleads with him to sell the violent animal even at a loss. He refuses as he believes the bull will enable him to buy a farm instead of renting two acres. After tucking in bed their five years old daughter Carrie and four years old son Adam, pregnant Hope watches in horror when the bull gores her husband.

Using the name Nate Scott, author Logan Parker turns to alcohol to cope with the pressure from his fiancee Marla and recent bad reviews on his latest work. Marla has to go Holmes County to buy Amish goods for a client and insists Logan accompany her. Logan notices a farmhouse that for no reason seems familiar though he never has been to Ohio before. Marla is cynical, his mother acts strange and his agent fears he lost his mind; yet Logan buys the house. He hires Hope as his housekeeper while he frighteningly finds other familiarities. As the Amish widow to her chagrin and the New York writer to his awe fall in love, Logan finds other anomalies that shake his world almost as much as Hope and her children do.

This Buckeye State Amish romance (see An Uncommon Grace and Hidden Mercies) is an engaging tale due to the delightful deja vu mystery haunting the hero; though readers will guess what is happening. Due to the fully developed lead couple, her children and the Amish community, the romance also is fun even as the subplot follows the expected course. Additionally there is a bonus account of An Amish Wedding Invitation to a real ceremony.

A Broken Kind Of Beautiful
Katie Ganshert
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601425904, $14.99,

Feeling all alone, abandoned by family and God, fourteen year old Ivy Clark left Greenbrier, South Carolina to become a fashion model. Over the next decade she proved to be very good at her vocation since clients sought her out. She is also hurt by the people in her life as she desperately needed someone who would break down her barriers to love her as Ivy and not just for being a success. Now at twenty-four, Ivy's career is in rapid decline as the camera shows her age to those who pay the bills demanding a younger face.

Ivy returns to Greenbrier and works at her deeply devout stepmother Marilyn's bridal shop ironically to include modeling the purity white gowns that constantly remind her of being unwanted damaged goods. Ivy's former photographer Davis Knight left his camera behind to follow her to Greenbrier where he also once lived; he obtains maintenance work at a church. He always could see passed her mask to her inner insecurities and makes it clear to her he wants more between them; but she rejects him though she feels the same.

This is a wonderful Christian inspirational drama starring three emotionally lonely people. The lead trio's relationship with the Lord will fascinate the audience as Marilyn remains a true believer though disappointed while Ivy and to a lesser degree Davis feel God wants nothing to do with them leaving them in exile. Though the climax is too neat even for a romance, the journey to redemption is incredible.

Breaking Point
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373778676, $7.99,

In Operations Camp Bravo FOB, SEAL Chief Hampton introduces the latest team member 18 Delta Medic Baylee-Ann Thorn who he explains is part of a top secret program Operation Shadow Warriors testing whether women can perform as part of a cohesive unit in combat. Her Alpha Platoon new teammates are less than welcoming as none accept a woman on their squad; that is with one exception E-6 Gabe Griffin who believes her size, apparent skill and demeanor will make her an asset in a hot fire scenario.

As the SEALs reject her, Bay loses confidence that she can do the job. Only Gabe, who believes in her, encourages her. As they fall in love, a deadly taboo in the amorphous frontlines, Bay is baptized under fire.

This Operation Shadow Warriors military romance (see Risk Taker) is a strong timely tale as women increasingly are in combat situations due to the nature of modern day on the ground war conditions in the Afghan theater and elsewhere. Bay makes the storyline realistic as she understands their macho reluctance and the Degree of Risk she faces if her comrades in arms fail to have her back. On the surface, Gabe is the typical male lone wolf (with a few surprises like an MBA), but finds his heart resuscitated by his love for Bay. This author always writes a great tale.

When We Met
Susan Mallery
Harlequin HQN
9780373778652, $7.99

In Fool's Gold, California, though he lost his wife Marie and their son Marcus several years ago, Widower Angel Whittaker still grieves for them even while attracted to newcomer public relations specialist Taryn Crawford. Knowing he needs to become part of the community, the CDS bodyguard school trainer offers his services to Mayor Marsha. She assigns him as Grove Keeper of the Acorns. Believing he can handle any mission after years in combat and expecting to meet teenage or tweener boys, the former Special Ops officer panics when his unit turns out to be eight seven-year-old girls.

Angel offers Taryn a deal that would benefit both of them. She helps him with his girls and he cooperates with her company Score's campaign to persuade CDS to hire her and her three ex jocks partners as their PR firm. As she struggles with adjusting to the relocation from Los Angeles to this welcoming town, Taryn and her veteran agree to be partners with benefits. However neither expected a deep need to turn those benefits into a lifetime shared entitlement.

The latest Fool's Gold contemporary (see A Fool's Gold Christmas and the "Only" trilogy, Etc.) is an engaging amusing romance with each lead bringing special "bodyguards" to the mix; though his little girls easily tackle her former NFL players. Series fans will enjoy the latest stay in this magical town while also anticipating the sacking of the jocks to follow.

Untamed Wolf
Linda O. Johnston
Harlequin Nocturne
9780263913934, $5.75

General Greg Yarrow learns of feral friction between the established Alpha Force and the newly commissioned Ultra Special Forces Team. He wants the two units to cooperate in fighting the paranormal enemy and not each other. Thus he sends Lieutenant Sara McLinder to report to Alpha Force stationed at Fort Lukman on the Maryland Eastern Shore where the Ultra Special Forces Team also has its flag planted, with plans to join her.

Sara arrives a day early, but soon afterward someone attacks the General. Sara and her direct reporting subordinate Sergeant Jason Connell investigate the assault, but she also finds out that rumors of shapeshifters are real as Jason turns out to be a wolf-shifter. As they work the case, their attraction grows until he risks all to keep his beloved superior officer safe.

The fifth Alpha Force military romantic fantasy (see Undercover Wolf, Alaskan Wolf and Alpha Wolf) is an enjoyable tale due to the lead protagonists; especially Sara's reaction to what she learns about Jason's duality. Though somewhat similar in tone to Guardian Wolf, readers will enjoy this thrilling romantic suspense as Jason proves to be all he could be when it comes to fraternizing and accomplishing the mission.

Possessed By A Warrior
Sharon Ashwood
Harlequin Nocturne
9780263913941, $5.75

The attack left La Compagnie des Morts lead horseman Jack Anderson the vampire dead, but not before Death contacted his teammate Sam Ralston. The police ruled Jack's demise was caused by a DUI. Attending his funeral are his niece wedding planner Chloe and three of his friends, Sam, Kenyon the werewolf and Dr. Mark Winspear. Sam turns out to be co-executor along with a stunned Chloe of Jack's estate; both share in common love, respect and now grief for the dearly departed billionaire, and a disbelief that he died while under the influence; but apparently little else.

At Jack's Oakwood estate, Sam and Chloe find a wedding dress with valuable jewels sewed into it and a note to her to trust him. As the pair team up on an investigation as to who or what killed the leader of the Four Horsemen field agents unit and try to learn the secret of the wedding dress, unknown adversaries assault Chloe; causing Sam to put aside his thirst for revenge in order to protect the woman he loves.

The paranormal elements, particularly the species, come across as genuine as does the inquiry while Chloe and Sam are a delightful pairing of seemingly star-crossed lovers. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy stepping into the Ashwood realm in a terrific romantic urban fantasy.

Seduce Me
Jo Leigh
Harlequin Blaze
9780373798001, $5.50

In New York City, twenty four women race to the table filled with the Hot Guys Trading Cards. Film archivist Natalie Gellar likes what she reads about librarian Max Zimm because of his reference to How I Met Your Mother before turning over the card to stare at the picture of a super hunk; other women are stunned by his looks too.

However, due to a printer's mix-up of card info, Max Zimm is not the librarian but instead the hunk never heard of Lilypad or Marshmallow; finally he is a disgusting lawyer. As Natalie learns more about her choice, she finds she loathes his personality and what he enjoys; likewise he feels the same about her. Still each agree to one-night but both know that is not enough.

The latest It's Trading Men (see Choose Me, Have Me and Want Me) contemporary romance is a strong entry; as the protagonists know their attraction is solar heated but each also accepts they have little else in common. Readers will enjoy this deep drama between diametrical opposites as love (and sex) may not be enough to forge a long-term relationship when nothing else binds the pair.

Make Me Melt
Karen Foley
Harlequin Blaze
9780373798018, $5.50

Judge William Banks gave sixteen years old Jason Cooper a choice between a path to college and a stay in juvenile detention. Jason accepted William's offer and moved in with the judge and his family. Five years later, William's sweet sixteen daughter Caroline is attracted to Jason who is so different than the nearby Stanford law students who work for her dad and her high school cronies. Though he wants her, out of respect for his mentor, Jason rejects her advances culminating when he refused her in his bed seduction.

A dozen years since Jason did the most difficult thing he ever did by saying no to Caroline, someone shoots the judge. While William is in ICU, now a U.S. Marshal Jason returns from San Diego to keep Caroline safe. The desire he barely controlled over a decade ago that she raised in him explodes as both succumb to their attraction.

The latest U.S. Marshals romantic suspense (see Hard To Hold) is a thrilling heated second chance contemporary starring two wonderful leads. The romance and mystery are well written fun, but Jason steals the show with his at risk youthful selecting the difficult moral high road over instant gratification and continues to display strong ethics when it comes to the Banks.

Scene of the Crime: Return to Mystic Lake
Carla Cassidy
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697618, $5.50

FBI special agent Jackson Revannaugh works a missing persons' case involving a family of three in Bachelor Moon, Louisiana. However, as he struggles to make progress, he is reassigned to help FBI agent Marjorie Clinton on a similar investigation in Mystic Lake near Kansas City, Missouri that includes a vanished Fed and her second husband. The pair of agents are total opposites in demeanor, which enhanced by an unwanted attraction rubs each the wrong way.

However, their inquiry into the missing couple leads to an unknown adversary trying to kill them. As Jackson and Marjorie have each other's back, they fall in love, but each also fears their respective dark secrets triggered the attempts on their lives.

The latest Scene of the Crime romantic police procedural (see Scene of the Crime: Return to Bachelor Moon and Scene of the Crime: Deadman's Bluff) is an exciting action-packed investigative thriller. Fast-paced the search for the missing people grips the reader from the moment we meet the leads and never let's go while setting up future tales too. Although the romance is more subgenre standard, fans will enjoy this taut mystery.

The Bachelor Doctor's Bride
Caro Carson
Harlequin Special Edition
9780373658169, $5.50

In Austin, West Central Texas Hospital cardiologist Dr. Quinn MacDowell meets realtor Diana Connor at a major charity event in which her boss assigned her as his next to last choice (eight before her rejected the ticket) to give a business card to every doctor in attendance. Though he feels the time is right to find a woman to forge a relationship with like his brother recently has (see The Doctor's Former Fiancee), he limits his pool to the medical world and definitely not a crazy realtor.

Known for her matchmaking proclivity, Diana believes she has found her life mate in Quinn. However, the heart doctor rejects her as he finds the effervescent Diana too distastefully vivacious for him. Diana tries her best to get Quinn to recognize her as the only woman for him, but he refuses to acknowledge her as his beloved. Finally giving up, Diana concludes her cardiologist will never mend her broken heart.

This Doctors MacDowell Texas romance is an amusing lighthearted contemporary starring seemingly total-opposites in every way, even apparently when it comes to falling in love. Mindful of the 1960s movie Tammy & The Doctor but with a twenty-first century spin, readers will enjoy this engaging tale.

The Bodyguard
Lena Diaz
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697632, $5.50

Suffering physical and mental spousal abuse from the moment she married financier Richard Ashton III, Caroline plans to flee her cruel husband who throughout Georgia has been anointed a saint and her pathetically needy. Fearing Richard's reaction and knowing he uses Stellar Security, Caroline hires rival firm Savannah-based Dawson's Personal Security Services owner Luke Dawson as her bodyguard when she runs away.

When Caroline and Luke arrive at the safe cottage she leased, they find Richard's murdered corpse there. Chatham County Police Detective Cornell considers the victim's siblings Daniel and Grant as persons of interest, but his main focus is on the wife who discovered the body and her bodyguard. Luke believes in his heart his client is innocent especially when someone makes several attempts to kill Caroline. He vows to keep her safe from her unknown lethal adversary while also investigating the identity of her attacker who he assumes killed Richard and soon afterward others.

The Bodyguard is an exciting action-packed thriller in which keeping the heroine safe and uncovering who the deadly enemy is supersedes the frequently used romantic premise of love between a bodyguard and a client. Filled with red herrings and several surprising twists, readers will enjoy Lena Diaz's strong intrigue.

The Wolf Siren
Karen Whiddon
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885930, $5.75

Her abusive stepfather, Church of Sanctuary preacher Jacob Gideon, treated wolf-shifter Lilly Gideon as an evil abomination due to her body containing a demon inside. For a decade and a half, she was incarcerated and tested like a lab rat with the objective being either to kill the evil wolf and or kill the host body. Her twin brother Lucas Kenyon (see The Lost Wolf's Destiny) with the help of Pack Protectors like Kane McGraw rescued his sister whom he thought was murdered by Jacob fifteen years ago.

Living in Lucas' Seattle home with his mate and daughter, Lily struggles to adjust to her freedom after fifteen years in captivity. She psychotically refuses to free the wolf ever; as she had been tortured all those years she was imprisoned to fear the beast inside her. Already concerned for Lily's mental state, when a viable threat from the cult that tormented his sister surfaces, Lucas asks Kane to come from Texas to help him keep his family especially his sibling safe.

The latest Pack romantic urban fantasy (see The Wolf Prince) is a great character-driven thriller that series fans will appreciate even with the action somewhat toned down compared to previous entries as much of the focus looks deeply into the traumatized heroine's psychosis. Readers will root for Lilly to heal from her phobias after years of torment while fans will accept love is the elixir cure if she learns to trust her heart, her wolf, her twin and especially her shifter.

For The Right Reasons
Kara Lenox
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373608409, $6.75

Knowing her ex-boyfriend Kelly Ralston is innocent of the rape and attempted murder conviction he received seven years ago, Dr. Bree Johnson asks Project Justice to take on his case. Project Justice Attorney Eric Riggs knows firsthand how violent and feral Ralston is after they spent time incarcerated in the same Huntsville cellblock (see In This Together) and the psychopath threatened to slice up his six year old daughter MacKenzie. In a team meeting headed by CEO Daniel Logan, Eric claims Ralston is a monster who tried to kill him, bragged about murdering others and raped the victim Philomene Switzer who testified against him. Logan accepts Eric's claim and deep-sixes this case unaware his new employee lied to them.

Eric explains to Bree why they decided to refuse to work the Ralston appeal. She turns livid as she insists the gentle Ralston would not do this. Accompanied by his daughter, Eric meets Bree at a restaurant but Philomene, expected to join them to tell him she wants to recant her testimony, fails to arrive. Soon they learn she is dead. Feeling guilt Eric vows to protect the two females he loves from an unknown adversary targeting them.

The latest Project Justice romantic suspense (see One Night Alibi) is a fabulous tale due to the contrasting yet deftly interwoven subplots as the romance and the viable threat hook the audience. MacKenzie is a terrific child who suffers from loss but cannot hide her feelings (her reaction to meeting a doctor is priceless); thus she enhances the lead couple's changing relationship. Readers will appreciate this enjoyable contemporary.

The Soldier's Promise
Patricia Potter
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373608416, $6.75

The Taliban ambushed the Ranger unit leaving Dave Hannity dead from a bomb blast. Dave leaves behind his cabin in Covenant Falls, Colorado to his BFF Josh Manning, who survived the deadly attack but suffers from severe PTSD. Accompanied by his fallen comrade's retired bomb detecting K9 Amos who the veterinarians at Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dogs Hospital diagnosed with PTSD also, Josh heads to Dave's cabin with plans to renovate and sell.

Covenant Falls Herald columnist Marilyn Evans complains to Mayor Eve Douglas about the stranger in the Hannity cabin while rumors abound about the man and his unleashed big dog. Eve visits Josh at the rundown cabin. He marvels that she is not afraid of him like yesterday's visitor, but also dislikes he cannot intimidate her. Later Deputy Sam accosts Josh over a robbery that occurred yesterday. Attracted to one another from that first meeting, the mayor and the reclusive veteran fall in love; while he also enjoys time with her Little League aged son Nick and their menagerie, as Josh recognizes this crew brings Amos back to life.

The Soldier's Promise is a delightful family drama filled with romance, a cold case drowning, suspense and PTSD. Insight into the real issue of canine PTSD brings freshness as Amos never received closure since he was not on the mission in which his beloved handler died. Readers will appreciate Patricia Potter's engaging contemporary.

Defending the Eyewitness
Rachel Lee
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278657, $5.50

Austin Mendez struggles with readapting to living as a civilian in Conard County, Wyoming after spending six years undercover in Mexico. Corey Donahue has doubts renting to Austin as she prefers college students to gruff dangerous looking men like him; but does so when Conard County Sheriff Gage Dalton vouches for his colleague and asks her as a favor.

To both their amazements, Austin and Corey are attracted to each other. They begin a heated relationship, but the cop inside him knows she hides more than her heart from him. When notes threatening Corey arrive, Austin vows to keep her safe.

The latest Conard County: The Next Generation (see Deadly Hunter and Reuniting with the Rancher) is an exciting romantic suspense. Especially fascinating is Austin's adjustment to the light after years in the dark; Corey's efforts also are intriguing but less developed as she struggles with lost childhood memory of a horror she witnessed; while the villain seems illogical (then again he is a psychopath). Readers will enjoy dining with these two troubled souls who find solace, love and ultimately trust with each other.

Immortal Cowboy
Alexis Morgan
Harlequin Nocturne
9780263913910, $5.75

While visiting her Uncle Ray in his mountain cabin near deserted Blessing, Rayanne Allen becomes spooked when she sees impossible happenings in the "empty" ghost-town. Uncle Ray tells her like him she has the gift.

With Uncle Ray's passing, Rayanne inherits his estate if she meets the stipulation of his will. While her mom goes berserk over the will, Rayanne takes a leave of absence from the university where she teaches and heads to her late uncle's cabin to spend the summer there. In Blessing, she meets the ghost of Wyatt McCain, who turns solid for a few days every year to relive the gunfight that left him and a child dead. As the professor and the ghost fall in love, both accept they have no future together, but each tries to help the other as he wants her to inherit and she wants him to move on.

Immortal Cowboy is a wonderful paranormal romance which enables subgenre fans to believe in the love between the star-crossed protagonists. Readers will relish this delightful ghost story as Alexis Morgan spins a warm tale in which love breaches seemingly impenetrable barriers between the living and the dead.

Her Soldier Protector
Soraya Lane
Harlequin Romance
9780373742851, $5.99

American singing superstar Candace Evans loves performing. She is currently in Australia where the government assigns active duty SAS Logan Murdoch (and his K9 partner Ranger) to protect Candace especially since she has received viable threats.

Though wary of anything but singing and of just about everyone, Candace feels relaxed for the first time in a long time once she meets Logan and Ranger. As they begin to fall in love, she must overcome her distrust of people especially men and he must move past his recent haunting Middle East assignment in which his friend Australian SAS soldier Sam Matheson died; if they are to achieve the permanency that Ranger desires for the three of them.

Her Soldier Protector is an entertaining Australian military romance starring two wonderful seemingly PTSD suffering protagonists. Readers will relish Logan's return as the male lead after a key support role in The Returning Hero. In this sequel, Soraya Lane once again pays tribute to the soldiers and their family members who sacrifice so much.

Deadly Liaisons
Elle James
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278671, $5.50

In Cape Churn, Oregon, Molly McGregor owns and operates McGregor's Bed and Breakfast where several strange deaths occurred over the years and rumors abound of ghosts residing there. Staying at the B&B are several Feds who prevented a potentially deadly terrorist assault (see Deadly Engagement). One of them Casanova Valdez and Molly are attracted to one another.

Someone tampers with the brakes of a car driven by Nova, but he and operative Tazer survive though she broke her nails. Molly and Nova share a wonderful night, but soon afterward she is hurt in an odd accident. Nova insists on staying with Molly especially as more and increasingly dangerous events occur as the rest of the team head home. As they fall in love, Nova vows to take down the vile thug targeting his woman before the pair becomes part of the deadly legend of McGregor Manor.

Returning to the picturesque (except in fog) Oregon coast (see Deadly Reckoning), Elle James provides another terrific romantic suspense with hints of ghostly happenings. The lead couple is a terrific wonderful pairing of a local innkeeper and a Stealth Operations Specialist while the villain (spirit as the heroine thinks or human as the hero believes) lurks nearby.

In A Cowboy's Arms
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin American Romance
9780373755158, $5.50

Eight years ago, Sadie Corkin fled from her father Daniel's Farfields Ranch in Montana when she was eighteen out of fear for the safety of her beloved Jarod Bannock; as she believed her violent alcoholic dad when he swore to kill her fiance. She never told the love of her life why she left town abruptly though he assumed her monstrous father was the prime cause. Sadie moved in with her mom Eileen in San Francisco and obtained a job working at Tim Lawson's software store. Eileen and Tim fell in love, but he died in an accident and she giving birth to their child, now two year old Ryan raised by his half-sister.

With Daniel's death from liver failure, Sadie, accompanied by Tim's younger brother Zane and Ryan, returns to the family Montana spread to make decisions about her late father's estate. Upon seeing her, Jarod knows he still feels anger-fueled betrayal by the woman he cherished and to his chagrin still loves.

The first Hitting Rocks Cowboys romance is a delightful second chance at love tale due to a strong support cast who bring out the best in the protagonists and in Big Sky country. Although there is exciting unnecessary suspense that feels somewhat a subgenre requirement, readers will root for the deserving lead couple to find happiness together and look forward to future series entries.

Dash of Peril
Lori Foster
Harlequin HQN
9780373778577, $7.99

In Warfield, Ohio police Lieutenant Margo Peterson diligently works on breaking up a vicious gang who videotapes their rapes to sell on the porno black market. Deciding the only way to get these brutal psychopaths is to offer herself as bait, Margo works the bar scene undercover. The brother of her subordinate Logan Riske (see Run The Risk) Dash keeps an eye on her over her objections. When Margo is attacked, Dash intervenes.

Already wanting to change their relationship from friend to lover, Dash nurses Margo as she recovers from her injuries. As she falls in love with him, Margo refuses to heed her heart as she knows first-hand how families behave.

The latest Love Undercover romantic suspense (see Getting Rowdy and Bare It All) is a fast-paced thriller that combines working the dangerous case with meeting the heroine's family. Although the predators are underdeveloped, readers will appreciate this exhilarating tale due to the strong female cop who proves she has what it takes to readers, police, friends, sociopaths and especially her dashing beloved; everyone except perhaps her disapproving dad.

The Black Sheep's Inheritance
Maureen Child
Harlequin Desire
9780373733071, $5.25

At a law office in Wyoming, the family and some employees of deceased affluent J. D. Lassiter gather to hear the reading of his will. The terms anger and shock everyone especially when the late patriarch left his nurse Colleen Falkner three million dollars and placed his son-in-law Evan McCain in charge of Lassiter Media instead of the obvious choice his daughter Angelica who deserved the CEO role rather than her husband.

A fuming Sage accosts Colleen accusing her of manipulating her dying patient into turning her from a nurse into a millionaire in three months. Irate Colleen, who has been attracted to her accuser since she first heard about him from J.D., makes it clear she is surprised too. Deciding to learn what Colleen had on his adopted father and why J.D. shorted his daughter who he trained to run Lassiter Media, Sage investigates only to learn the truth sets the heart free if one takes a chance.

The first Dynasties: The Lassiters Wyoming romance (there is a prequel e-book Beauty and the Best Man; not read by me) is an engaging contemporary starring a stunned in the headlights lead female and a scornful suspicious male. The premise has been used often, but fans will enjoy Maureen Child's leisurely-paced storyline as innocent Colleen embraces love while skeptical Sage ignores his name with his "I'm Not In Love" (10Cc) denial.

Inside The Hotel Rwanda: The Surprising True Story ... and Why It Matters Today
Edouard Kayihura and Kerry Zukus
BenBella Books
10300 N. Central Expressway, Suite 400, Dallas, TX 75204
9781937856748, $24.95,

Over a period of about 100 days in 1994, the Hutu genocidaires slaughtered one million Tutsi and left many other Rwandans injured and displaced until Paul Kagame led an army from exile in Uganda to end this Holocaust. In 2004, the movie Hotel Rwanda was released to critical acclaim and a fixture since in school curriculum, describing the Hotel Milles Collines as a safe haven and its manager Paul Rusesabagina as a hero. In that same year, Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, who had been UN peacekeeping mission commander during the atrocities, wrote his harrowing memoir Shake Hands with the Devil. Now Edouard Kayihura provides readers with a grim insider look at what truly happened to those 1200 plus refugees like the author living in the Hotel Rwanda during the horror. Adding to Mr. Kayihura's first-hand account are disturbing comments from other occupants telling what occurred to them and their family outside and within the hotel.

Inside The Hotel Rwanda: The Surprising True Story ... and Why It Matters Today aligns closely to General Dallaire's haunting account rather than the film. Furthermore, Mr. Kayihura (and other survivors) shockingly makes a strong case that Mr. Rusesabagina was not the African Schindler-like savior risking his life to protect others, but as a profiteer in cahoots with those committing the genocide. Not an easy read as this insightful memoir is much grimmer than the haunting Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, but important at a time when Holocaust deniers rewrite history as if "Never Again" never happened in Nazi Europe, Cambodia, Rwanda and elsewhere.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Before and After the Horizon
David W. Penney and Gerald McMaster, editors
Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian
Smithsonian Books
PO Box 37012, MRC 513, Washington, DC, 20013
9781588344526, $24.95,

Seven experts have contributed to "Before and After the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes," a collection of over 70 exquisite color photographs of contemporary and historic examples of Anishinaabe art, published as an accompaniment to the exhibition of the same name displayed at the National Museum of the American Indian, New York, from August 10, 2013 to June 15, 2014. The exhibit will travel to be shown at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Ontario, Toronto, from July 26, 2014, to December 7, 2014. Stunning photos of paintings and works of mixed media alternate with traditional Anishinaabe creations such as a quilled bark dish, beaded clothing and bags, carved dishes of wood, and an illustration of a Great Lakes pictograph series. The artists represented are of Anishinaabe, Ojibwa, Chippewa, or Odawa background and descent, and also Potawatomie, all tribes associated with the vast area around the Great Lakes. Such a vast source of cultural and art inspiration needs some background explanation. This is begun in the foreword by Kevin Gover (Pawnee), The Anishinaabeg and the Great Lakes, and continued in the introduction chapter following, Water, Earth, Sky by David W. Penney. Further exploration of Anishinaabe sacred creation mythos is explored in the chapter titled Animikii miinwaa Mishibizhiw: Narrative Images of the Thunderbird and the Underwater Panther, by Alan Corbiere and Crystal Migwans. Additional historic perspective is outlined in the chapter by Ruth Phillips, Things Anishinaabe: Art, Agency, and Exchange across Time. Gerald McMasters explores contemporary Anishinaabe art in The Anishinaabe Artistic Consciousness, which also contains many exquisite examples included in the exhibition. One outstanding single word of basswood and metal is titled "Beavers," by Frank Shebageget, displaying countless tiny models of the "iconic de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane to suggest the importance of air transport to a country as vast, inaccessible, and sparsely populated as Canada." The models are suspended in graceful formation in the air. "Before and After the Horizon" closes with a chapter of excerpts from "Shrouds of White Earth," by Gerald Vizenor, literary artist from the White Earth Nation of the Minnesota Chippewa tribe. This most interesting chapter explores the idea of an ironic re-envisioning of historic Western art, or 'hyperbaroque portrayal,' by fictional Chippewa visionary artist named Dogroy Beaulieu, whose paintings incorporate Anishinaabe perspectives with contemporary art and art history. "Shrouds of White Earth" makes for arresting, stimulating reading, demonstrating Vizenor's "concise play of the cosmoprimitive."

"Before and After the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes" accompanies the first known art exhibit solely centered on Anishinaabe artistic vision, and is filled with beautiful, striking examples of contemporary and traditional art expressions. Kudos to the artists and the creators of this historic traveling exhibit.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

The Illusion of More - The Trick to Finding Faith in World of Deception
Harris III with Barton Green
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768404043, $12.99, 114 pages

Lucifer's Tactics, Trickery, and Deception

Master illusionist Harris III collaborates with Barton Green in this remarkable story of Lucifer's illusion that he could become equal with God. He shows how Satan formed the seed thoughts in Eve's mind of separation, fear, deception, doubt, and the illusion of being satisfied with more.

Harris uses the principles of magic and the art of illusion to demonstrate how easily we are deceived by our perception of the things we think we see. He helps the reader get a new perspective on Satan's tactic of deception. He helps the reader discover the secret of finding peace and satisfaction through truth, "dispelling all doubt, removing all fear... and the illusion of more."

Whenever I read a book focusing on spiritual growth, I like to determine the author's intended take away and then adapt it for personal application. Harris provides a tool for this through the use of reflective questions at the end of each chapter. These profound questions can be soul searching, and life changing. I found the thought provoking summary sentences worthy of reflection, application, and assimilation.

Harris is a gifted story teller. He is articulate, writes with simplicity and clarity, as he uncovers Satan's fraud to reveal truth. "The Illusion of More" is highly endorsed by recognized Christian ministry leaders

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Where Courage Calls - A When Call the Heart Novel
Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue So., Bloomington, MN 55438
9780764212314, $14.99, 332 pages,

Christian Historical Fiction at Its Best

Feeling a deep sense of social justice and a keen spiritual commitment to ministry, Beth Thatcher answers the call of her heart to take a teaching position in an out-of-the-way mining community in Western Canada.

The conditions she met when she arrived in the small coal mining community of Coal Valley were far worse then she could ever have expected. "Where Courage Calls" is her story of facing the challenge, persevering in the face of trial, and the choosing between the responses of her heart as she is being romanced by two young men who have contrasting backgrounds and offer a diverse promise of her future.

Jeanette Oke has established herself as the pioneer of Christian romance fiction and is still a pacesetter in the genre. She has not lost sight of her original vision to provide Biblical truth and principles through the medium of inspirational fiction.

Oke's writing is compelling; she weaves action, drama, conflict and resolution throughout her plot and subplots. Just as her protagonists a sense of relief they find themselves facing a new crisis testing their endurance and strengthening their character. This is not the genre I usually read. I sometimes felt bogged down in detail and felt the protagonist was unrealistic in her expectations and idealistic expectations.

Janette Oke collaborates with Laurel Oke Logan in "Where Courage Call" a 'When Calls the Heart" novel. Readers will welcome this series a companion to the Hallmark Channel's TV series.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Be the Vet - 7 Dog and Cat Stories - Test Your Veterinary Knowledge
Dr. Ed Blesy and Marcy Blesy
Marcy A. Blesy, LLC
9780615930046, $7.99, 50 pages

An Entertaining Teaching Tool for Pet Lovers

Seasoned veterinary Dr. Ed Blesy and his wife Marcy collaborate in "Be the Vet" a unique concept of heart- touching stories, creative diagnostic assignments for readers ages 9 - 13, with informative recommended treatment plans.

Each of the seven stories features an incident where a family pet has an unexpected medical emergency and the need for a veterinarian. Marcy is a gifted story teller. Her writing is sensitive and age appropriate, stimulating creative curiosity and empathic compassion from her readers.

I became very interested in Jingle the cat's story. Although Jingle was eating the same amount of food she was losing weight. The family noted she was drinking a lot more water than usual. They made a call to the Vet. Lab tests revealed that Jingle had high levels of glucose and was diagnosed with Diabetes. Her treatment called for insulin shots similar to many people who have Diabetes. It is hard to think of a small kitten or other small animal being susceptible to things like Diabetes, kidney, or gland problems.

The "if you were a veterinarian" exercise provides an opportunity for the child to think through on the extent of the injury or sickness revealed in each scenario. Dr. Blesy carefully lays out the steps involved in determining the pets (patient's) history, assessment procedure, and treatment plan.

This assessment plan is presented in a professional style (not dumbed down for kids) however, unfamiliar words are explained so that the process is understandable. Parents may need to assist younger readers in some instances. "Be the Vet" takes the mystery, fear, and panic out of calling for medical help for family pets when needed and introduces the veterinarian as a friend of the family.

"Be the Vet - 7 Dog and Cat Stories - Test Your Veterinary Knowledge" is an entertaining teaching tool for pet lovers. Highly recommended.

The New Lady in Waiting - Becoming God's Best While Waiting for Mr. Right
Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones
Destiny Image Publishing Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768403978, $16.99, 236 pages

All New Insights for Finding God's Best in a Changing Culture Influenced by Social Media, Reality TV, and Multiple Media Services

"The New Lady in Waiting" reexamines the transferable concepts which have been so helpful and encouraging to over a million women in the original edition of Lady in Waiting. The authors have added fresh new insights for a new generation of readers. This is an important book for readers today faced with the challenges of a changed and changing culture at a time when core Christian values are being challenged by public opinion and influenced by Reality TV entertainment and Social Media.

The focus on finding fulfillment for the longing of the heart through a relationship with Jesus continues to be the focus of the book. Lessons are taken from the example Ruth in the Old Testament. Kendall identifies ten qualities of a godly woman. Each chapter includes powerful teaching, hands-on illustrations, and reflective questions for contemplation and application.

Kendall's writing is entertaining, forthright, candid, and compelling. Principles are relevant, Biblically based, practical and workable. She is a gifted story teller and has included dozens of unforgettable short stories taken from real life.

"The New Lady in Waiting" is for every woman, regardless of age or station in life who wants to fulfill God's purpose and find His best. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Total Turnaround - 12 Keys to Breakthrough in Every Area of Your Life
Danette Joy Crawford
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768404081, $15.99, 266 pages

Twelve Tested Turnaround Keys for Radical Breakthrough

In her book "Total Turnaround" Danette Joy Crawford carefully presents a program for getting break though in every area of life emphasizing twelve Turnaround Keys.

These keys provide a plan for change in a natural progression that leads to a continuous communion with the Father and an all-encompassing experience with Him, a dynamic prayer life, and a mindset of faith, hope and expectation, and a life of righteousness.

Crawford uses examples of men and women of faith from the scriptures, compelling illustrations from her personal experiences, to reinforce the principles of each of the twelve keys. The "Points to Ponder" section in each chapter gives the reader an opportunity to review the Turnaround Key introduced, compare and memorize related scriptures, and reflect on God's intent for personal application or action.

I appreciated Crawford's careful word choices, the way her essential message is true to the scriptures, and sensitivity to the needs of her reader. Crawford is an anointed teacher, a gifted communicator. Her passion for her message resonates on every page.

"Total Turnaround" is a dynamic step by step plan for change with a message for everyone who desires a deeper relationship with the Savior.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Brian Russell
Kengorus Publishing
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9780615877136 $16.83 (PB); $9.99 (Kindle),

Besides being married to Cheryl Ladd (actress), Brian Russell is a powerhouse in his own right. He recorded for Elton John's Rocket Records; composed hits for such luminaries as Chaka Kahn, Cheryl Ladd, Kanye West, Beyonce, and Jay Z. He produced several movies, including The Grace Kelly Story and Spellbinder. Not content with these accomplishments, he designed luxury homes and worked in Uganda. SCRIBE is Russell's first novel, but he also co-authored a children's book.

Together, Brian Russell and Cheryl Ladd make quite a team.

SCRIBE opens in the Scottish town of Kilbride. John Macintyre, a producer and his movie star wife, Valerie, rent a house for the summer that seems to come with a history. Macintyre intends to write a book, and they both hope the time away from Hollywood rekindles their devotion to each other. Little do they know they have been chosen to fulfill the psychotic aspirations of a cold-blooded murderer. Macintyre begins his book, feeling somehow disjointed as a story flows out that is based on events from hundreds of years before through a force no one understands. All he knows is he has fallen for the local chanteuse and is losing control even as the words flow out of him from some otherworldly source that draws him to the local old castle with a haunting history...

"John pushed back from his computer, aware of the cold ache in his fingers. He studied his swollen knuckles, wondering what was happening to them. He was shocked. The hands he was looking at were not his. Instead, they were the weathered, scarred hands of an outdoorsman. As he watched in amazement, the hands slowly mutated until they were once again his own."

SCRIBE is a delicious first effort from a mega-talent. This reviewer hopes Mr.

Russell will favor us with more of the same in the future. Love you guys!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Toby Says Be a Buddy Not a Bully
Charmaine Hammond
Illustrated by Rose Anne Prevec
Bettie Youngs Book Publishers
9780983604556, $12.95, 34 pgs,

In this delightful learning tale we meet, Toby, a beautiful dog who has an important message to tell. Toby had a bad experience when a dog bullied him, and shred his most loved teddy-bear. Through that experience, Toby learned how to recognize a bully and how to deal with one. As the children hear of Toby's experience, they become aware of how hurtful bullying can be to all involved. The children learn from what Toby's experienced. This story helps the children to understand just about anyone, even an animal, can be a bully if they chose to be..They also learn how to cope with this behavior from others and what they can do about it, and realize that they should never bully.

This is a great learning experience read for young and old. Using the dog and his situation the children can relate, all children love animals, from this example. They understand how they should act if they are confronted with a similar issue. Unfortunately being bullied usually happens to all of us at least one time in our lives. This book helps young people to recognize bullies, and also check themselves in that area. The illustrations are a plus, definitely adding to the storyline, bringing it alive. All in all I am happy to recommend this book, as one with a great tale and a useful lesson for all.

Guess We Missed the Boat
Barry Finlay
General Store Publishing House
499 Obrien Road, Ontario, Canada, K7V 3Z3
9781771230476 186 pgs $15.00,

I was excited to read this book for several reasons. One is that I love a good giggle, and this book looked like it might deliver that. The other is that I myself have done quite a bit of traveling, and had quite a few experiences. I wanted to see if I was not alone in some of them.

In this read we meet eight retired people who are related, for the most part, and who decide to see the world, if you will; and this is where the fun begins.

We share with them numerous happenings, from bus trips, to car trips, to train trips and airplane trips, and throw in a ship adventure while you're at it. We are off and away. I may have left out some, or perhaps added one that was not there, but with all the trips it does get confusing you know. Nevertheless, our group of adventurers take you on a ride that if you like to giggle, you will love.

I have to say I definitely could relate to some of their adventures while staying at different motels, or just traveling along, but some thank God I didn't encounter. Although as sorry as I was that they experienced these, it sure gave me a laugh. The characters, whom we assume as real life people, absolutely help to make the story come alive. Their reactions to the different 'happenings,' if you will, are hilarious. I think this is a great read. It definitely lightened my day, and actually made me appreciate I was home instead of traveling the world. Don't get me wrong, our travelers had a blast enjoying life, and now you will have a giggle reading about their adventures. All in all I liked this read. I learned some things, and definitely enjoyed the ride, safe and sound in my own home sweet home. Recommended.

Get Balanced, Get Blessed Nourishment for Body, Mind and Soul
Lynne Goldberg
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781452582597, $21.00, 102 pgs,

I am always interested in how others deal with life, and when offered this book for review I took the offer. Reading I found out that our author had battles in life, as we all do. However, she decided to take the Bull by the horn, if you will, and start making a difference within herself. She tells us that we must unlearn all the myths that we have been taught and start learning about ourselves. As our author says, "finding our own inner peace and happiness or our 'bliss." I think we would all like some 'bliss.'

Ms Goldberg breaks down her ideas and ministers in areas of your body, the environment, your mind, getting blessed and your relationships. These are not the only things she discusses but that will give you an idea of what she is giving to you. Take for example, relationships. I like where she says healthy relationships feed our soul. That certainly is a truth. I love how she talks about our Spirit being the essence of our being, and why our environment is so important to us. Both subjects to me are important issues in life. You know it is impossible for me to write what this author has to give you to help you live a better life. I found much of her information useful. No one on this earth can give you a miracle, but I do feel our author has some good living advise that she learned to incorporate in her life after hard times, that could very well be helpful to you. A good self-help read.

Do Not Boast About Tomorrow
Teresa Tallent. Tomorrow
Bridgeway Books
9781933539655, $14.95, 238 pgs,

In this read we meet, Rachel and her family. Her husband is a Pastor and their life if wrapped around God and serving Him. Rachel is a busy woman, a great wife and mother. However, a time has now come that her faith and convictions were to be tested far above what she ever thought possible.

Rachel's husband leaves town for a few days and Rachel becomes the object of an attack by a sexual predator. Even though she lives through this hideous time, she is thrown into the position of Judging her assailant. Will the verdict be death at her hand, or redemption? This was a very interesting book. The author did a good job at bringing you right into the scene of the attack upon Rachel. You could feel the fear, horror, terror and humiliation that filled the atmosphere.. As the situation becomes turned around and Rachel has the upper hand, you travel with her as she makes a decision on the judgment this monster should receive. You will be surprised at the outcome.

I believe the author did well with her character development and the story definitely kept your attention. I take my hat off to the courage Rachel had but I'm not sure all who read this will understand the decisions that she made with her attacker. I know Ms. Tallent is showing the power of forgiveness and the importance of a human soul before God. I believe in this read our author's message is, "Practice what you preach!", even at times when that seems impossible to walk that walk.

Deadly Provocation
T.F. Coleman
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478703419, 170 pgs $14.00,

You never know in this life when you might be thrown into a situation where your actions may well save the life of another. Jake Conley is the star of this novel, a man who saved the lives of others while planning to enjoy a good movie. Who would have known a deranged gunman would decide to attack innocent movie goers! Who would have known Jake would be a Hero! Jakes quick action caught the eye of a company who offered him, money, security, woman, well many benefits if he would work for them, but just what was the catch? As Jake moves along in this new endeavor, he meets, Medalia, a lady who will become very important in his life. Every book needs a little romance. Jake soon finds out, despite the benefits this company can give to him, what they are learning and doing through mass surveillance can have serious consequences for many. This is uncomfortable for him in many ways. Just how far should this be taken? This story is about corruption and how too much power and knowledge, of and over others, can be very dangerous. It is an eye opener that perhaps holds more truth than many of us would like to believe. Good character and local development, a tale that will hold your attention, and perhaps it isn't as farfetched as some would like to believe. You decide! A very good read.

Terrence Crimmins
Knollwood Press
9780991378302, 178 pgs, $14.95,

I think the way the world is going right now even the word, "Hostage" can send chills down our spine. No one even likes to think of being in such a horrible situation where your life may well be on the line. In this book we are taken into such a situation and the ride begins. The characters are well developed as are the different locals. All of the characters add something different, yet each one helps bring the story together. The author does a good job in bringing locals and characters real to your mind's eye. I particularly liked, Tom, a young man who just finished college. Unfortunately he did one more favor for his boss, as Tom had been working at a Pizza Establishment. He was asked to deliver a pizza, not knowing what was going on behind the closed door, and thus was thrown into being a hostage himself.. This is a quick moving read. The storyline is captivating and will keep your attention. An exciting read with many twists and turns as the story unfolds. I think you'll enjoy this one.

Vic Mongo
Jerry Gill
Ann Darrow Company
9781889823607,166 pgs, $14.95,

In the beginning of this book we read the story of two cave dwellers from a long time ago. Nu, and his love, Nat-ul. We are shown their love for each other and the tragic end of their lives. It appears that the character in our book, Vic has had dreams of Nu and feels she perhaps maybe the reincarnation of Nat-ul. Because of this she travels hoping to find a clue that perhaps Nu is somewhere in the world today and they can be together again. So the adventures begin. We travel with Vic and her friends, Lin Li and Chu, in Mongolia. Vic likes to travel where she feels perhaps Nu may also be, or perhaps she can find a hint that he was there at sometime. In this adventure they help to catch a killer who is traveling with them on a ship, battle giant worms that live in sand and are attacked by pirates. They are also shown by Chu a buried city that is full of treasure, but also full of some not so friendly people living there. What an adventurous trip they have.

I have to admit it took me a little bit to get into this read but once I did I found myself really enjoying it. I had to see just what adventure the group would find themselves in next, and if they would all live through what was happening around them. I really liked the characters. I also was hoping that Nu would somehow find the love of her life, Nat-ul. The book held my interest, was quite entertaining and enjoyable. Great character and location development that took you along with the characters and what they were experiencing. I hope true love brings Nu and Nat-l together again. Recommended.

Magical Toys
Amox Ordan
Amazon digital Services, Inc.
BooJ369W9W, 52 pgs, $13.95,

I think all parents have gone through the experience of teaching their children to pick up after themselves. In this tale we meet, Ron. Ron is your typical young boy who enjoys playing with his toys and friends, and having his own room, but does not want to be the one who keeps it neat and clean. One day Ron had a friend over to play and of course everything in his room was array. His Mom told him to be sure to clean up but Ron didn't think it was his place to do that. It is his toys that show him the light in that area. They let him know that if he doesn't care enough about them to take proper care of them, they would just leave. Oh Horrors for Ron. Through their open discussion with Ron he realizes that people and things need to be taken care of with love and consideration. I liked this little tale and believe it is written in a way that children will relate to and remember. Great read to share with your little ones and I believe you will enjoy it as well. Wonderful illustrations as well that truly help to bring the story to life. Recommended.

The Blue Baboon In the Big Balloon
Sarah and Steven Mostyn
Sarah\Mostyn Publisher
9780991490011, 32 pgs, $10.95,

Get ready for adventure in this upbeat read as you travel to the moon in the Big Balloon. In this read we meet Harold, a blue baboon, and his brother, Gerald. We also meet a lot of other fun characters, such as a green cat, Matt, an orange mite and a troll named, Dwight. One day they take a trip to the moon where they meet two new friends and the fun really begins. This is a adorable read with such standout characters that you will fell you know them right from the start. The story is fun, the Illustrations are bright, colorful and bring the story and characters to life in the minds eye. A great little tale that both you and your children will enjoy. Recommended.

Darryl's Reunion
John B. Wren
John B Wren Publisher
9780988937130, 316 pgs, $14.95,

In this fast paced read we meet Detective Ian McLarry who has moved to Vaneksburg, Virginia and has taken a job as one of their Detectives. One of his jobs he must do, is to go over cold case files; as he does he opens Pandora's box. Years ago a young boy was killed, beaten to death, and the killer or killers were never found. This does not settle well with McLarry as he begins to dig for the truth. Will Detective McLarry expose the real killer? And just who is the secret 'patient' that juts in and out of the story? Could they possibly know the answer to this mystery?

I found this read to be a grabber. I believe the author did a great job in character development and building the mystery. I like how he brought the human element into the read and had the characters interact with the Detective and each other. He really brings them alive in the mind's eye, giving the reader a real feel of their personality and character, and that is important. This read wasn't fast paced, but will definitely hold your attention. The idea of putting a mystery person in the read was a good one, kept you guessing what this person's connection was, and how they tied in with the rest of the characters. I liked this read. I enjoyed seeing if I or the Detective figured out the killer first. I'm not telling who did. Well worth your time. Recommended.

Looking Glass Killer
Floyd Merrell
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781493145713, $19.95, 250 pg,

In this read we meet Detectives Lucia and Mike. These two are in for quite a challenge when a killer rears his ugly head and begins to leave bodies in their city. This is not ordinary killer, though, no he or she is a smart one. Could this killer be smarter than the Detectives with all their knowledge and training? The Detectives soon realize that perhaps that is what he or she is trying to prove. It seems this killer leaves and sends them clues using riddles, puzzles, paradoxes, among other things. I have to tell you I was quite confused with these but as the Detectives figured them out I actually enjoyed seeing the clue unfold. I'm just glad I wasn't the Detective because the killer would have never gotten caught.

I really had to pay attention reading this. I believe the author is truly a 'smart' man himself to have written this book. You will be challenged along with the Detectives throughout the read. No, I did not figure out 'who done it!' A great storyline, good character development, and definitely a challenge to those of you who always figure out who the killer was before the end of the book. Good job, Mr. Merrell.

The Story of the Unlucky Teacher and Her Koalas
Nina Johnson
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9780578132945, $22.95, 25 pgs,

In this heartwarming tale by, Nina Johnson, we are taken to a lovely school of Koalas who have one amazing teacher among them, many call her the 'Unlucky Teacher,' but is she? The school is about to have a big contest on Big Mountain to see who can climb it the best and fastest. The Unlucky Teacher's students are those who have no arms or legs, surely she would not put them in the race, or would she? And if she does what will happen? The outcome is heart warming.

This is a well written story that will show young or old that if there is a will there is a way to doing something one truly wants to do, or at least giving it a shot, no matter what the disability maybe. I really felt this story leaves an impression that we are to never give up, no matter how far out our dream may be, we can still achieve it, or at least try. I liked this book a lot. It has great illustrations that help bring the story to life, and the entire concept of the story is positive. I truly feel it would be a plus in any child's hands and even a reminder to adults not to diminish dreams and hopes of our young ones. Very well done, recommended.

If You Were Me And Lived In Australia
Carole P. Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781490522395, $8.99, 28 pgs,

I was actually very excited to receive this book for review. Many years ago someone very close to me was from Australia and he always told me he was going to take me there one day. Sadly that never happened, but I have never forgotten the picture he painted of this country. In this beautiful illustrated read I learned more about it. Within these pages you will learn where Australia is located, what types of food they eat (I have tasted some of them), and what their favorite games are that they play. Add to that learning about their hobbies, their schools, and what are some favorite names for children, the fun is just beginning. This is another winner in this wonderful learning series. Great information given in a whimsical warm way that is sure to capture every child's heart, that has the opportunity to read this work. As with this entire series, I highly recommend this book and truly encourage you to read, share, and enjoy every one of them. It's a learning experience, delivered with fun. Great job Ms. Roman.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

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

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