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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 4, Number 3 March 2005 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Donovan's Bookshelf Harold's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf
Laurel's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf
Vicki's Bookshelf    

Donovan's Bookshelf

Stealing Elections
John Fund
Encounter Books
665 Third St. #330, San Francisco CA 94107-1951
1594030618 $16.95 1-800-786-3839

The U.S. has the sloppiest voting system of any industrialized nation: so bad that eight of the 19 hijackers who hit the World Trade center were registered to vote. In Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, author John Fund tours national voter fraud scandals from rural states to big cities, detailing how fraud happens, how vote brokers steal elections, and how absentee ballots are abused. The entire American electoral process is in jeopardy: Fund shows how too much bureaucracy and ballot rigging combine to make a deadly threat.

Walker & Company
104 - 5th Ave., New York NY 10011

Setting: the late 1960s: Astro Turf (0802714277 $24.00) author M.G. Lord was becoming a teen in Southern California, her mother was dying of cancer, and her rocket engineer father disappeared into his work at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. Fast forward thirty years later, where Lord is assigned to report on the lab - and turns a report into a search of her past, an elusive father figure, and rocket science as a whole. Lord celebrates and examines her eccentric father and provides a history of the JPL concurrently: readers interested in rocket science will find this packed with intrigue, insights, and industry revelations, making it much more than another girl's inspection of a father. Andrew Taylor's World Of Gerard Mercator (0802713777, $26.00) provides a review of the mapmaker whose techniques changed geography. Mercator lived in 16th century Europe, when wear threatened the land and the Inquisition muffled creativity and science. While Mercator never traveled beyond northern Europe, his imagination fueled a whole new field - mapmaking - and was to foster a new era of navigation and exploration.

Better Off
Eric Brende
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd St., NY, NY 10022-5299
0060570040 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

In different hands Better Off : Flipping the Switch on Technology could have all too easily become a book packed with dogma, rhetoric and passionate illogic. But not so under the deft and rational hand of Eric Brende, a graduate of MIT who chose to move to a community so primitive in its technology that even Amish groups consider it antiquated. Brende decided to see if technology has really made life easier, and if people would be better without it. In Better Off, contemporary science blends with autobiography in an engrossing analysis of the author's personal experiment.

Rarest of the Rare
Nancy Pick
HarperResource c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd St., NY, NY 10022-5299
0060537183 $22.95

Museum enthusiasts and natural history buffs alike will find the museum stories in The Rarest of the Rare: Stories Behind the Treasures at the Harvard Museum of Natural History are enhanced with nearly a hundred color photos by Mark Sloan as images accompany descriptions for some of the unusual specimens housed at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, with Nancy Pick explaining the special importance of each. The Rarest Of The Rare is more than a mere listing or summary outline of specimens as author Nancy Pick reveals just how the item was collected and where, as well as noting the diverse financial and collector contributors who often performed extraordinary feats to get the specimen to the museum.

The Africa House
Christina Lamb
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd St., NY, NY 10022-5299
0060735872 $25.95 1-800-242-7737

Author Christina Lamb, foreign correspondent for London's Times, was on assignment in Zambia when she stumbled on a rich abandoned house deep in the bush: a house of forty rooms, rose gardens, and even a clock tower. Lamb's discovery of a chest crammed with thousands of letters, and journals, resulted in The Africa House : The True Story of an English Gentleman and His African Dream, an intriguing biographical sketch of English gentleman Stewart Gore Browne and his African dream. THE AFRICA HOUSE first appeared in the UK: this edition updates history to include the next generation of Browne's descendants, who are trying to rescue the decaying wonder of his former estate.

Professor Tony Hart
Firefly Books
155 East 34th Street, #5B, NY, NY 10016
1552979709 $19.95 1-800-387-5085

The telescope's invention and advancement let the human world in on how tiny organisms looked, and helped to reveal pathogens and their dangers: now the images of these disease-producing microbes, from viruses to fungi, are accessible to non-scientists in MICROTERRORS, a gathering of microscope color images paired with a quick reference and health facts. Clinical notes on treatment and prevention round out a unique approach.

The Difference a Day Makes
Karen M. Jones
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
1577314751 $12.95 1-800-972-6657

For some, compassionate feelings can overwhelm spare time and energy: readers with such a problem should consider The Difference a Day Makes : 365 Ways to Change Your World in Just 24 Hours a kind of recipe collection for doing good. Turn good intentions into powerful action with a guide which provides vast lists of good things which can be done in a few simple minutes or hours; from providing a resource list for a neighborhood to encouraging workplace and home use of the arts, and assisting an elder who has a pet.

The Big Book of Vegetarian
Kathy Farrell-Kingsley
Chronicle Books
85 Second Street, 6th floor, San Francisco CA 94105
0811841162 $19.95 1-800-722-6657

The Big Book Of Vegetarian: More Than 225 Recipes For Breakfast, Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Sandwiches, Main Dishes, Sides, Breads, And Desserts showcases recipes for vegetarian fare that ranges from breakfasts and sandwiches to main dishes and breads, presenting variations on the usual meat favorites, hearty main courses, and vegan dishes throughout. All levels of vegetarians will appreciate this detailed collection, written by the former food editor of Vegetarian Times magazine. No color photos; but the easy dishes and clear instructions don't need 'em.

Each One Believing
Paul McCartney
Chronicle Books
85 Second Street, 6th floor, San Francisco CA 94105
0811845079 $35.00 1-800-722-6657

Fans of the Beatles and Paul McCartney won't want to miss this lovely title, filled with photos never seen before and insider details from McCartney himself, and packed in an eye-catching hardcover suitable for gift giving and coffee tables. Each One Believing: Paul McCartney - On Stage, Off Stage and Backstage blends McCartney's personal reflections and those of his wife Heather, his band, and his crew and covers both public appearances and private moments. An intimate atmosphere is created which follows some of his finest on-stage moments in recent years.

Is Your Straight Man Gay Enough?
Nan Shipley & Jason Anthony
Chronicle Books
85 Second Street, 6th floor, San Francisco CA 94105
0811845109 $14.95 1-800-722-6657

What makes a straight man 'gay'? There's room for improvement, many a gal will admit, if a straight man can belch the national anthem, won't go to a mall unless a food court allowance is provided, and thinks $15. 00 is outrageous for a haircut. From shoes and shopping to the pros and cons of having a man in a particular profession, Is Your Straight Man Gay Enough?: The Ultimate Renovation Guide doesn't require being gay to appreciate.

Masterworks of Technology
E.E. Lewis
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
1591022436 $28.00 1-800-421-0351

E.E. Lewis is a professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern University, and in Masterworks of Technology: The Story of Creative Engineering, Architecture, and Design, provides both a review of the history of science and engineering, and a discussion of how two very different technological marvels came together in the 21st century. Individual chapters focus on evolving design, different training and perspectives in architect-engineers past and present, and how basic science has influenced a new world of creative engineering and design strategies. An intriguing, lively discussion and very highly recommended reading, especially for non-specialist general readers with an interest in science and technology..

The Sling and the Stone
Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, USMC
Zenith Press
380 Jackson St. #200, St. Paul, MN 55101-3885
0760320594 $24.95

It's crucial to understand there are different types of wars, fought in different ways: that's the message of The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, with author and U.S. Marine officer Thomas X. Hammes commenting on the nature of war in the 21st century. Colonel Hammes' focus here is upon '4GW': fourth generation warfare which is low-tech and surprisingly effective against high-tech enemies. From its evolution to the revelation that 4GW doesn't attempt a win through traditional military defeats, THE SLING AND THE STONE provides many insights applicable to the Iraq war and beyond.

The Ancient Roman World
Ronald Mellor & Marni McGee
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Ave, NY, NY 10016
0195153804 $32.95 1-800-451-7556

From a legendary prince's journey across the sea to an African general who travels with painted war elephants, the story of the ancient Roman world's history needn't be a dry one: not with Ronald Mellor and Marni McGee's ANCIENT ROMAN WORLD in hand. Yes, there are the usual primary sources lending to a research paper; but there's also the lively overtone missing from many similar coverages on the topic, using that material to create an engaging drama of Roman times.

Coming Apart: Israel on the Appomattox
Melvin Patrick Ely
Alfred A. Knopf
1745 Broadway, 17th fl, NY, NY 10019
0679447385 $35.00 1-800-726-0600

A Southern experiment in black freedom from the 1790s through Civil War times? President Thomas Jefferson condemned slavery but didn't believe whites and liberated blacks could live together in harmony: His cousin Richard Randolph and ninety blacks set out to prove him wrong, and built a bastion of freedom in his heritage to bondsman Hercules White and dozens of other slaves. The lives of the newly freed people on the land Israel Hill is revealed in Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War, an in-depth survey of how free black and white folk lived together for decades. Chapters provide both a social history of slavery and a set of political insights detailing hardship, black pride, and an impossible dream come to life.

The Seventy Great Inventions of the Ancient World
Brian M. Fagan, Editor
Thames & Hudson
500 - 5th Avenue, New York NY 10110
0500051305 $40.00 1-800-233-4830

Thames and Hudson's 'Seventy' series provides a blend of discipline contributions in including essays by scientists, historians and more, along with a focus on extraordinary world inventions to tackle all the technological facets which have made modern society so important. Hundreds of photos and special maps and diagrams unique to THE SEVENTY GREAT INVENTIONS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD pack a coverage which examines not just the origins of these inventions, but their lasting impact on the world. Where would we be without coffee, chocolate and board games? Find out in Brian Fagan's engagingly informative and visually impressive survey.

Historical Atlas of The Celtic World
Angus Konstam
c/o International Publishers Marketing
22883 Quicksilver Dr, Sterling, VA 20166
1904668011 $25.00 1-800-758-3756

Three thousand years ago the Celts came to dominate the north of the continent: many a book has been written on Celtic history and influences, but Angus Konstam's HISTORICAL ATLAS OF THE CELTIC WORLD differs from most in including discussion of Celtic influences which remain to influence the modern world, and in adding a wealth of color illustration on every page to enhance such topics as the roots of Celtic art, the Cimbri migration, bog people and more. A treasure trove of facts embellished with plenty of illustrative color for added effect.

Hole In My Life
Jack Gantos
Farrar Straus Giroux
19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003
0374430896 $8.00 1-888-330-8477

It'd be a shame to limit this autobiography to the young adult audience it's intended for: author Jack Gantos dreamed of writing from childhood and is a Newbery Honor medalist among others - but his road to fame wasn't a smooth one. At age nineteen he became involved with a hashish sea voyage - and landed in federal prison, teaching himself to write in a secret diary he kept. HOLE IN MY LIFE is his story of imprisonment and his hard road to a successful writer's career.

Strange Angel
George Pendle
15 East 26th Street, New York NY 10010
015100997X $25.00 1-800-543-1918

Rocket scientist John Whiteside Parsons was one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena: a visionary who surprisingly enough was involved not just in science, but in occultism, where friendships with Aleister Crowley and L. Ron Hubbard led to excesses which proved an embarrassment to his colleagues. While his flamboyant beliefs ultimately discredited his scientific brilliance, nonetheless, as George Pendle shows in Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons, Parsons was still a brilliant scientist despite his rogue methods, and his problems partially stemmed from the takeover of rocketry science by big business. Strange Angel is lively reading by a biographer with many science, art and culture articles for the London Times and others to his credit.

Witch Hunters
P.G. Maxwell-Stuart
Tempus Publishing/Trafalgar Square Press
PO Box 257, Howe Hill Road, North Pomfret, VT 05053-0257
0752423398 $35.00 1-800-423-4525

If witches were supposed to look and sound like everyone else, how could they be detected, in Salem days? WITCH HUNTERS is the first history of the careers of those said to be able to identify a witch, charting the claims and backgrounds of zealots, professional folks and others who perceived evil and sought to expose it. History lecturer Maxwell-Stuart provides a lively survey which uses source material quotes to back cultural and biographical insights.

Wales Half Welsh
John Williams, Editor
Bloomsbury UK/Trafalgar Square Press
PO Box 257, Howe Hill Road, North Pomfret, VT 05053-0257
0747566062 $14.00 1-800-423-4525

So, who says the Welsh have no contemporary fiction writers? John Williams edits a collection of eleven new Welsh writers to draw upon the best of young writers, creating a collection of diverse themes and perspectives united only by their heritage. Any who would believe Wales devoid of literary figures need only consult WALES HALF WELSH to see otherwise.

Expecting Someone Taller & Ye Gods!
Tom Holt
Orbit/Trafalgar Square Press
PO Box 257, Howe Hill Road, North Pomfret, VT 05053-0257
1841493457 $13.95 1-800-423-4525

Fans of comic fantasy will relish an omnibus of Tom Holt's zany stories, packing in a treasure trove of zany fantasy fiction. Fans of Douglas Adams will recognize a kindred soul in Holt, whose funny protagonists finds themselves in all manner of strange circumstances. Hilarious and unexpected all the way!

Ceaseless Turmoil: Diaries, 1988-1992
James Lees-Milne
John Murray/Trafalgar Square Press
PO Box 257, Howe Hill Road, North Pomfret, VT 05053-0257
0719565782 $45.00 1-800-423-4525

Ceaseless Turmoil: Diaries, 1988-1992 is the eleventh volume of prolific chronicler James Lees-Milne's diaries, and surveys his eighties, where his interest in life is as sharp and astute as ever. He discusses architecture with the Prince of Wales, hobnobs with royalty, and reflects on the changes of life and the deaths of friends. An intriguing specialty collection especially recommended for the fan of British upper-class commentary.

Dreaming of Iceland
Sally Magnusson
Hodder & Stoughton/Trafalgar Square Press
PO Box 257, Howe Hill Road, North Pomfret, VT 05053-0257
0340862505 $29.99 1-800-423-4525

When author Sally Magnusson invites her father to accompany her to his homeland Iceland to see for herself the places he's told stories about all her life, neither is sure what they will find. Their journey to the old family estate and their travels throughout Iceland reveal the concurrent stories of four generations - and the source of stories which have engrossed Sally Magnusson since childhood, drawing readers into DREAMING OF ICELAND's cultural and family heritage.

The Fly in the Ointment
Dr. Joe Schwarcz
ECW Press
2120 Queen St. East #200, Toronto, Ontario Canada M4E 1E2
1550226215 $15.95

What is the truth about taking garlic supplements to ward off illness and cure common diseases? What is the relationship between moldy corn and a movie? How do quacks popularize their theories, and what science is involved in corporate crime? These and other questions reveal the mysteries of science, using lively and popular topics to point out the scientific theories, quirks and misconceptions in everyday beliefs. A fun, educational leisure choice for general-interest audiences, The Fly in the Ointment: 63 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life joins other similar science trivia fact guides by the venerable doctor.

Weather Extremes of The West
Tye W. Parzybok
Mountain Press Publishing Company
PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806
0878424733 $24.00 1-800-234-5308

From twisters to Haboobs and quick, sudden changes in temperature which can break windows, wild weather is still with us, though tamer than in centuries past. Meteorologist Tye Parzybok covers weather extremes and their results in the West, presenting rainfall and temperature averages, case histories of sudden and extreme weather results, and insights into the science of forecasting and prediction processes. From disastrous Santa Ana wind effects to maps and microclimate oddities, WEATHER EXTREMES OF THE WEST is an exciting survey of meteorology and weather oddities.

In Neck Deep
Jay Zimmerman
Bottom Dog Press
PO Box 425, Huron, OH 44839
093308790X $15.00

If there's a fisherman in your family who loves to read, give him a copy of Jay Zimmerman's In Neck Deep: Stories from a Fisherman. This is a coming-of-age memoir of a young man who retained a lifetime passion for fishing. First-person life encounters blend with fishing memories in a simple, let lively set of stories from a dedicated fellow angler.

Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3-D!
Suzanne Lloyd
Black Dog & Leventhal
151 West 19th St., NY, NY 10011
1579128945 $24.95 1-800-722-7202

Any with an interest in Hollywood products or nudes will find HOLLYWOOD NUDES IN 3D an outstanding, unique production. If the name 'Harold Lloyd' is familiar to movie-goers, it's because he was best known as a popular silent film star and producer during the 1920s - and was the richest in the world. Lesser known is the fact that in the 1940s and 50s he snapped close to a hundred thousand photos of young women, many of them in 3-dimension. His granddaughter here presents 200 offerings for enthusiasts - and a pair of 3D glasses allows for maximum appreciation of their effects.

Globe Pequot Press
PO Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437

A Chianti tour guide presents a native Tuscan's view of travel in Italy in Dario Castago with Robert Rodi's TOO MUCH TUSCAN SUN: CONFESSIONS OF A CHIANTI TOUR GUIDE (0762736704, $14.95), a funny, warm survey of Dario's more unusual clients and his life and times as a travel guide in the Chianti region of Italy. His native roots and perspective offers a different type of coverage than most travelogues of the region, providing a memoir of the Americans who have stormed the area yet missed some of its best attractions - and many a would-be friend. Jeanne L. Clark and Robert W. Garrison's NORTHERN CALIFORNIA NATURE WEEKENDS (Falcon Guides, 0762711515, $14.95) also provides an excellent read as well as serving as a take-along tote for destination-oriented nature lovers visiting Northern California. There are many weekend choices only natives tend to know about, here; from renting a houseboat on Shasta Lake and visiting the tufa mounds and birds at Mono Lake to biking on Angel Island.

Johns Hopkins University Press
2715 N. Charles St., Baltimore MD 21218

Two excellent guides to New York's subway history offer very different approaches and insights into the building of the subways. The centennial edition of Clifton Hood's classic treatise 722 Miles: The Building Of The Subways And How They Transformed New York (0801880548, $18.95) tells of how the building of the subways changed New York. At one time in history the 22 miles from New York's City Hall to Lenox Avenue was considered a remarkable engineering fete; but by the 1940s New York's subway system had grown to 722 miles. This process was to change New York, and Clifton Hood reveals the story of the subway system's growth on its centennial, adding a new foreword explaining the modern importance of reflecting on the system's achievement. Even more compelling is Gene Sansone's New York Subways: An Illustrated History of New York City's Transit Cars (0801879221, $49.95), providing an illustrated history of New York City's subway cars. Packed with vintage black and white photos throughout, NEW YORK SUBWAYS is no general coverage, but covers virtually every type of car in detail, providing a brief history of its design, service, construction, and costs. This is THE definitive guide for that in-depth transit student or enthusiast who wants every detail; not just a casual overview.

GemStone Press
Rt 4, Box 427, Woodstock, VT 05091

If it's jewelry purchases you regularly make, you absolutely must read and keep close at hand Antoinette Matlins, P.G.'s professional buyer's guides. Her Jewelry & Gems at Auction: The Definitive Guide to Buying & Selling at the Auction House & on Internet Auction Sites (0943763290, $19.95) provides a definitive 'bible' packed with resources, from how to handle auction buying and selling versus other options to understanding knowledge needed before bidding on particular gems, from pearls and diamonds to colored gemstones. Add chapters on jewelry history and notable jewelers and special Internet purchasing concerns and you have a presentation which can't be beat. Colored Gemstones--The Antoinette Matlins Buying Guide : How to Select, Buy, Care for & Enjoy Sapphires, Emeralds, Rubbies and Other Colored Gems with Confidence and Knowledge (0943763339, $16.95) narrows the focus to colored gemstones alone. Why? Because there's so many factors unique to colored gemstone buying and selling; from tips on evaluating color and understanding the differences between a natural and an enhanced gem to recognizing the signs of fraud and misrepresentation in the colored gemstone world, and determining value. Both are 'musts' for general-interest and neo-professional alike.

Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature
Kathy J. Whitson
Greenwood Press
PO Box 5007, Westport, CT 06881-5007
0313327319 $65.00 1-800-225-5800

From Isabel Allende to Anzia Yezierska, seventy women writers whose works are widely read in English are featured in an A-Z reference which contains not just the usual biographical sketch and outline of major works, but an interpretative summary of each author along with more general essays on feminist-related topics. Add cross-references and background along with bibliographic references and you have a reference not just for college-level students, but many a high school reader.

Cars and Culture
Rudi Volti
Greenwood Press
PO Box 5007, Westport, CT 06881-5007
0313328315 $45.00 1-800-225-5800

The car has shaped the very fabric of American society, and its history shows how decisions at all levels of government and society have been shaped by the auto. Volti's history covers the technology behind the car's development, plus the accompanying roads, traffic laws, gas production, and regulation which accompanied fostering of the auto as a way of American life. An intriguing survey evolves.

Classic Experiments in Psychology
Douglas Mook
Greenwood Publishing Group
PO Box 5007, Westport, CT 06881-5007
0313318212 $69.95 1-800-225-5800

Most psychology courses touch upon experiments in psychology, discussing results and approaches: few classes do more than this, surveying the research without probing it in depth. Enter Douglas Mook's CLASSIC EXPERIMENTS IN PSYCHOLOGY, which provides an in-depth, college-level approach to psychological experiments and their implications. Classic experiments are outlined, with different areas of study receiving focus on both pitfalls and positives. Excellent - even required - supplemental reading for any serious-level researcher.

'Teen Guides to Environmental Science' set
John Mongillo & Peter Mongillo
Greenwood Press
PO Box 5007, Westport, CT 06881-5007

The five-volume set TEEN GUIDES TO ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE, intended for teens in high school, should not be neglected by college-level or public libraries, either: each book is packed with images, timelines, lists of environment agencies and organizations, and all the details necessary to involve any adult - though the 100 suggested activities does provide a student's focus. The set includes EARTH SYSTEMS AND ECOLOGY (1313321841), RESOURCES AND ENERGY (131332185X), PEOPLE AND THEIR ENVIRONMENTS (0313321868), HUMAN IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT (0313321876) and CREATING A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY (0313321884): each set a vital contribution to the whole.

O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Hwy N., Sebastopol, CA 95472

Two fine additions to O'Reilly's very basic 'Annoyances' series will reach all levels of home computer users who want to fix the most annoying things about computer hardware. We're talking common problems here, from system hang-ups and cranky mice to vanishing graphics and cabling issues. If you're a PC user, choose Stephen J. Bigelow's PC HARDWARE ANNOYANCES (0596007159, $24.95); if a Mac user, not to fret: John Rizzo's MAC ANNOYANCES (059600723X, $24.95) is the ticket of choice. Each book holds a different focus on problems peculiar to each system: each is easy to understand, offering plenty of examples. Each is highly recommended for average computer users seeking the most from their system.

W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
500 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10110

Two wonderful books on exploration and discovery are recommended not just for school holdings; but for general interest readers choosing from public library holdings. Michio Kaku's Einstein's Cosmos: How Albert Einstein's Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time (039305165X, $22.95) tells how Einstein's ideas changed everyday understanding of the nature of space and time itself. Theoretical physicist and author Kaku provides a fine survey of the universe as Einstein saw it, considering the foundations of his theories and how he thought in terms of simple pictures. It's this focus on how he envisioned space and time which makes EINSTEIN'S COSMOS so accessible to lay audiences with little physics background. Compass: A Story of Exploration and Innovation (0393050734, $22.95) by Alan Gurney provides an eye-opening survey of the history of the magnetic compass, which for a thousand years was the only instrument sailors used for navigation. A chronological order lends interest and logic to this survey of the compass and navigational challenges.

International Designers Network
Shop c, 5-9 Gresson St.
Wanchai, Hong Kong

Parts of Design Lab's magical presentation Vinyl Will Kill: An Inside Look At The Designer Toy Phenomenon (9889706504 $39.95) weren't seen to review here: the complete kit includes a designer toy poster, 36 web cards, and the 232-page book in a handsome box: it's the book which is the focus here, standing well on its own as a unique, engrossing survey of designer toys. Pages come packed with color examples, interviews with toy designers, and discussions which blend career overviews with industry observations and toy design concerns alike. Company and toy histories are revealed, inspirational sources considered, and designer strategies and challenges imparted. An outstanding blend of artistic and business concerns evolves. JAPANESE GRAPHICS: BEAUTIFUL STREAMLINE (9889809729, $50.00) comes in a gorgeous slipcase to protect the delicate linen-like cover and the lovely graphics from modern Japanese artists. Here are influential works by Hideki Inaba, Yugo Nakamura and more, exploring various visual forms and providing a striking set of pages of works from each. A gorgeous visual sampling of some of Japan's finest modern graphic artists.

Audio Editions
Auburn, CA 95604

Two new titles are excellent recommendations for fans of leisure mysteries, pairing powerful narrators with tried and tested authors. Emilia Fox brings Agatha Christie's THEY CAME TO BAGHDAD (157270439X, $29.95) to life, telling of a romantic who falls for a handsome stranger and pursues him all the way to Baghdad, where she becomes involved in murder and deception. Michael Prichard's been the reader for all the Rex Stout mysteries, providing a smooth and continuous trend to the Nero Wolfe classics which continues in the latest GAMBIT (1572704411, $27.95). Here Nero braks almost all of his own rules, helping a young female clear her father of murder and encountering problems with four other suspects in the process.

Diane C. Donovan
West Coast Editor

Harold's Bookshelf

You Bake 'Em Dog Biscuits
Janine Adams
Running Press
125 South 22nd Street Philadelphia, PA 19103
ISBN: 076241961X $12.95 47 pp.

I enjoy finding unique books and this one definitely falls under that category. In addition to the dog biscuit recipes the book includes five cookie cutters to cut your treats into the shape of a dog bone, heart, cat, fire hydrant, or doghouse. The obvious question to many readers is why bother to make your own dog biscuits when you can buy them so readily at the store? If you have to ask then you really don't understand the bond between many dog owners and their dog. For me it is because I can control the ingredients and I can create the "perfect" training snack. My dog is quite finicky about dog treats and doesn't like most of the store brands, so using them as a reward just doesn't work. On the other hand the recipe for Cheddar Liver in this book makes a perfect training reward that she will do almost anything to get. The book itself contains 24 different recipes for everything from basic cheese biscuits to liver and oat, liver leather, multigrain herb, grain-free and even carob biscuits. All are easy to make, although several do require a food processor to puree the ingredients. The attached box with the cutters in it is pretty flimsy and soon falls apart. However, the pages of the book are connected to the box via three metal split rings so the box can be removed, the cutters placed in a kitchen drawer or other appropriate place and the book placed on the bookshelf. This took a lot of thought to put the book together in this fashion so it can be easily converted to a standard book and was greatly appreciated on my part. You Bake 'Em Dog Biscuits is highly recommended to dog lovers everywhere and a perfect gift for that friend who treats their dog as a part of the family.

Windows XP Power Hound: Teach Yourself New Tricks
Preston Gralla
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North Sebastopol, CA 95472
ISBN: 0596006195 $24.95 341 pp.

This book is well worth the price just for the section in the first chapter on how to speedup startup and shutdown and resolve problems with both of them. Most of this information is available on the Internet but why not have it at hand instead of spending hours looking for it? For the novice to intermediate user this is an excellent way to get things Windows XP under control and operating the way it is supposed to. Well-written, easy to follow, with everything explained in plain English, Windows XP Power Hound is recommended for the average user who wants to learn more and customize their system but will contain little new information for someone who is already a power user.

The Will of God as a Way of Life
Jerry Sittser
Zondervan Publishing
5300 Patterson SE Grand Rapids, MI 49530
ISBN: 0310259630 $12.99 236 pp. plus notes

How do we find God's will for our life? How do we find that one person God has destined for us? How do we know that a decision is the right one? Traditional Christian thought has taught that God has a specific plan for each of us and it is our job to find out what that is and pursue it. Jerry Sittser takes a different point of view by first making the case that the will of God may not be some specific future plan with all the details already worked out but may in fact be much simpler. What about the problem of pain and suffering? Do those indicate that we are out of the will of God? Jerry Sittser examines these and other questions as he teaches how the will of God may be a lot more liberating than what we have traditionally been taught. Offering a pathway to personal peace through understanding the will of God in a less traditional way, The Will of God as a Way of Life is a highly recommended read.

Why Birds Do That
Michael Furtman
Willow Creek Press
PO Box 147 Minocqua, WI 54548
ISBN: 1595430598 $15.95 96 pp.

With 40 different bird behaviors explained and photographed this is a very interesting book. Some questions are common ones like "Why do birds bathe?" or "Why do birds migrate?". Other questions have more complex answers like "Why do some chicks hatch naked, and others hatch covered with down?". With photographs that illustrate each question or part of the answer and well-written answers this is an excellent book to understand birds better. Written on a level where it can be understood by about 13 years old or older it is an excellent book. Why Birds Do That is highly recommended and informative.

Who Needs That Nose?
Karen Clemens Warrick
T&N Children's Publishing, Inc.
NorthWord Books imprint
11571 K-Tel Drive Minnetonka, MN 55343
ISBN: 1559718870 $15.95 32 pp.

Seven different noses are described one at a time with the following page showing the animal it belongs to. Each page describes the nose and what it is designed to do and then ends with the question of "Who needs that nose?". The book provides a great opportunity for parents to discuss the wonders of nature and how even things like a nose can vary greatly while still providing the same basic function. The pictures are colorful and work great at keeping a child's attention focused on the book. Who Needs That Nose is a recommended fun and educational book for children.

Trout, Trout, Trout
April Pulley Sayre
T&N Children's Publishing, Inc.
NorthWord Books imprint
11571 K-Tel Drive Minnetonka, MN 55343
ISBN: 1559718897 $15.95 32 pp.

More than just a rhyming story the rhythm and cadence produces a strong chant that children fall into naturally. The rhyming pattern is set on the first two pages and follows that pattern throughout the rest of the book. The illustrations are great and create a personality for each fish while at the same time staying true to their basic shape and color so that the reader can identify them. Brightly colored, finely detailed, the illustrations themselves are exceptionally well done. If you like fish or just want to introduce your child to the fascinating world of fish Trout, Trout, Trout is highly recommended and a lot of fun just to read and leaf through. This is a great chant that keeps on your lips long after you are done with the book.

Steal This File-Sharing Book
Wallace Wang
No Starch Press
555 De Haro Street, Suite 250 San Francisco, CA 94107
ISBN: 159327050X $19.95 296 pp.

Whether it's music, programs, games, books or other files it seems that everyone is downloading something over the Internet these days. If you want to know how to find the files you want and download them safely then you will be interested in this book. The author covers a wide array of places to find files including newsgroups, websites, Instant Messenger, Internet Relay Chat, FTP, and networks that are designed specifically for file sharing such as Gnutella, FastTrack, and eDonkey. One of the most interesting parts for the average computer user is the one with information on how to remain anonymous when sharing files. Of course, this section also includes information on the problems of file sharing - viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, adware, and even warez. I've traded files and worked on the Internet for years and I still learned a few tips in this book. The author includes lots of illustrations and specific web sites where you can download the programs he mentions as well as several alternative ones. Mr. Wang even provides a complete analysis of each program's advantages and disadvantages. One of the things I really like is the fact that he includes information on programs you should be careful downloading and using including Fast Track clients that come loaded with spyware like Kazaa and iMesh. If you don't like AIM he even covers Private Internet Messenger products like Meet Gate, P2P Instant Messenger, and Pal Talk. The breadth of coverage is impressive, the writing and organization excellent. Steal This File-Sharing Book is highly recommended to anyone who shares files over the Internet.

Starting Life Ladybug
Claire Llewellyn
T&N Children's Publishing, Inc.
NorthWord Books imprint
11571 K-Tel Drive Minnetonka, MN 55343
ISBN: 1559718927 $16.95 23 pp.

Starting Life Ladybug is an excellent educational book for children. The author walks the reader through the life of a ladybug from the laying of the eggs through the larval and pupa stages and finally to the ladybug that we all know and love. She covers the feeding habits, parts of a ladybug, hibernation, migration, and other aspects in the life of the ladybug. A very good educational book that should be considered for all children's libraries and as an educational resource for the home, Starting Life Ladybug is highly recommended.

So What? Saw-Whet?
Rochelle Frank
Hummingbird Mountain Press
PO Box 127 Midpines, CA 95345
ISBN: 0974679208 $9.95 28 pp.

This is a nice children's book with wonderful photos of the Saw-Whet owl. It is easy reading and provides a basic understanding of the Saw-Whet owl's habits, habitat, and appearance. Educational and entertaining, "So What? Saw-Whet?" is a recommended read.

The Sensational Skillet Cookbook
Wendy Louise
Champion Press, Ltd.
4308 Blueberry Road Fredonia, WI 53021
ISBN: 1891400258 $16.00 281 pp. plus index and glossary

This is an excellent collection of recipes for the electric skillet. Whether it is traditional fried chicken or stuffed pork chops or something a little more exotic (but just as easy to prepare) like Steak Diane or Veal Scaloppini if it can be made in an electric skillet you will probably find it here. Well written, easy to understand directions make it pretty much impossible to mess up a recipe. Whether it is a main dish, side dish, or dessert there are selections in here for every need. The Sensational Skillet Cookbook is highly recommended and sure to produce delicious results in your kitchen.

Selinux: NSA's Open Source Security Enhanced Linux
Bill McCarthy
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North Sebastopol, CA 95472
ISBN: 0596007167 $39.95 198 pp. plus multiple appendixes and index

So what makes Selinux more secure than standard Linux? Primarily it is the implementation of role-based access control, sandboxing, and an audit facility that allows the system to log any attempts to exceed specified permissions. It does all this without conflicting with the normal permissions of Linux. If you are able to access a file through normal discretionary access control then the role-based mandatory access control provides additional security to determine if you can run the file or not. The only way to open a file is if both systems agree that you should be able to open it. The author covers installation, configuration, administering, and setting up a security policy. The presentation of SeLinux is straightforward and the security model is presented in a writing style that makes it clear and understandable to the reader. SeLinux: NSA's Open Source Security Enhanced Linux is highly recommended as both a Linux security solution and an excellent book on how to utilize all the resources of SeLinux.

Regular Expression Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach
Nathan A. Good
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219 Berkeley, CA 94710
ISBN: 159059441X $34.99 285 pp. plus index

Whether you are using Perl, PHP, Python, grep, sed, or any other program that uses regular expressions you will eventually have a problem trying to figure out just how to do something. That is where this book comes in handy. If you need to resolve a peculiar programming problem then this is the book you will want by your side. If the expression doesn't work, or doesn't provide the correct output this is the best place to turn to figure out what is going on. Or, if you want to do something different then you might want to turn here first to look for ideas on how to attack the problem. Since this is a problem and solution oriented approach it provides a solution in Perl, PHP, Shell Script, and Vim. Regular Expression Recipes: A Problem-Solutions Approach is a highly recommended resource and does an excellent job of describing in plain English how to define the problem, how to work on it, and how to get the results you want. This is the ultimate guide to regular expressions.

Praying the Names of God: A Daily Guide
Ann Spangler
Zondervan Publishing
5300 Patterson SE Grand Rapids, MI 49530
ISBN: 0310253535 $16.99 329 pp.

Every once in a while a book comes along with a deceptively simple title that gives no hint of the much deeper and inspirational thoughts inside. This is one of those books. Throughout the Old Testament God is referred to by various names. Each one represents a specific attribute of God that is particularly relevant to those circumstances. Taken together these names reveal the nature of God and point to ways to see and seek Him as well as understand our relationship with Him. This book is insightful, encouraging, and inspirational while at the same time moving your prayer life up to another level. Full of Bible references, Praying the Names of God is highly recommended and sure to bring a deeper understanding of God to the reader. The only thing about the book that some may find troublesome is the lack of capitalization on all personal pronouns related to God. While God, Lord, and other references are capitalized, Him, His, and He are not. Some more conservative readers may have a problem with this. My advice to them is to not let something like this cause them to miss a very good book.

PHP 5 Objects, Patterns, and Practice
Matt Zandstra
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219 Berkeley, CA 94710
ISBN: 1590593804 $39.99 391 pp. plus appendixes and index

The author of this book assumes a basic understanding of the PHP language and focuses on how to take advantage of the new features of PHP5. The book includes best practices, tools, and principles on how best to write, document and implement a project. The three primary divisions of the book follow along with the title and are sequenced as Objects, Patterns, and Practice. The Objects section covers the history of PHP and how it evolved to include a focus on object-oriented programming. This section contains some of the more basic information in the book including the principles behind objects, classes and inheritance. The section on Patterns examines problems of software design and ways to approach and resolve these problems. In this section the reader learns basic design principles that should be implemented on all projects to make them easier to troubleshoot or expand on later. The last section covers the practices and tools that can be used to correctly manage a project. The focus is on managing your code, managing your project, tracking bugs, collaboration between programmers, and making the project easy to install. It includes a section on Concurrent Versions System (CVS) which allows multiple programmers to work on the same code without overwriting each other's work. Although it assumes some knowledge of PHP programming it does not assume any knowledge of object-oriented programming and that appears to be one of the primary purposes of the book - to take PHP4 programmers and teach them to take advantage of the abilities of PHP5. This is not to say that you can't get a lot of value from the book without prior knowledge of PHP. If you have programmed before and have a basic PHP syntax reference guide available then this book will still be a valuable read. PHP 5 Objects, Patterns, and Practice is highly recommended for PHP programmers making the move to PHP5 and PHP5 programmers that need a handle on best practices.

Perl Core Language: Little Black Book, second edition
Steven Holzner
Paraglyph Press, Inc.
4015 N. 78th Street, #115 Scottsdale, AZ 85251
ISBN: 1932111921 $29.99 471 pp. plus index

This book could have saved me hours on the net getting answers to specific problems dealing with Perl scripts I was writing for a client. If you know the basics of Perl and have programmed much with it then you know the frustration of knowing what you want it to do but needing to resolve one minor issue to get it to work. This book contains a lot of the most common problems and solutions. It is not meant to teach you Perl, but to resolve those sticky problems that stop your progress until you figure them out. After starting with some best practices advice it moves into scalar variables and lists, arrays and hashes, operators and precedence, conditionals and loops, regular expressions, subroutines, references, built-in variables, built-in functions, file handling, built-in modules, data structures, creating packages and modules, creating classes and objects, debugging and style guide, CGI programming, Perl and XML, and secure scripts. Each solution states the function to be used, how it operates, an example of its use, an explanation of what occurs in the example, and a list of related solutions with the page number. A fast and easy quick reference for when you get stumped, Perl Core Language: Little Black Book, Second Edition is highly recommended and a book you will want to keep close at hand.

Nessus Network Auditing
Renaud Deraison, Noam Rathaus, HD Moore, Raven Alder, George Theall, Andy Johnston, Jimmy Alderson
Syngress Publishing, Inc.
800 Hingham Street Rockland, MA 02370
ISBN: 1931836086 $49.95 544 pp.

The purpose of Nessus is to provide an Open Source Solution for network auditing on all Unix like systems. This book not only details using Nessus but also comes with a CD containing the program, as well as Ethereal, Snort, and Newt (a port of the program to the Windows environment). What is a network assessment? At its basic level it is an attempt to detect a live system and then identify the computing environment, services, applications, and vulnerabilities on that system. Basically there are two types of assessment - internal and external. An internal assessment is done over the local network and external is done from outside the LAN. Nessus will do both types and the book details how to do either, or both of them. The authors do an excellent job of detailing installation, setup, and how to interpret the results of a scan as well as various factors that can affect the report. One of the parts not to be missed is the discussion of not only the benefits but also the potential problems of scanning your system. Some of the vulnerability types scanned for include buffer overflows, default passwords, backdoors, information leaks, and denial of service. The Nessus scripting language is covered in detail in Appendix A instead of the main portion of the book; a choice I appreciated very much as it allowed the flow of the book to not be interrupted by such a highly technical section. With Open Source products there generally is no organized technical support phone number you can call of help. So, the authors include information on how to get help via the Nessus User Community, mailing lists, and archives. Nessus Network Auditing is a highly recommended book for anyone interested in auditing their network to find potential problems before they become reality.

Zondervan 2005 Minister's Tax and Financial Guide
Dan Busby, CPA
Zondervan Publishing
5300 Patterson SE Grand Rapids, MI 49530
ISBN: 0310262151 $15.99 175 pp. plus citations and index

A perennial guide to the problems and opportunities of taxation for ministers, the Zondervan 2005 Minister's Tax and Financial Guide is once again one of the best sources of information for the layman. Written in a simple, clear style with lots of illustrations and examples this is the essential guide for the non-accountant. In addition to walking the reader through the maze of tax laws he also provides basic financial planning for the minister. Newly updated for 2004 returns, the Zondervan 2005 Minister's Tax and Financial Guide should be read and understood by all ministers and church financial committees.

Molly & The Good Shepherd
Chris Auer
Zondervan Publishing
Zonderkidz imprint
5300 Patterson SE Grand Rapids, MI 49530
ISBN: 0310708265 $12.99 40 pp.

Molly's school class is going to the art museum today and she is very excited about it. Although she is told to stay with her buddy and keep with the group she soon forgets to pay attention and becomes separated from her classmates. What should she do now? With a focus on staying calm in times of distress and knowing that Jesus always watches over us in times of trouble, Molly & The Good Shepherd is a highly recommended read for children and a recommended purchase for church libraries.

Learn Math and Have Fun Activity Book for Preschoolers
Teora USA, LLC
2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 870 Chevy Chase, MD 20815
ISBN: 1594960097 $7.95 158 pp. plus answer keys

This is not just a math book, but contains a lot of activities like matching, and mazes. With lots of colorful counting, adding, numerical sequence, and other math functions done in a fun and playful way this is a great book for home school or to supplement a traditional school program. Learn Math and Have Fun Activity Book for Preschoolers is recommended for parents and teachers.

Learn and Have Fun Activity & Game Book (5 - 6)
Teora USA, LLC
2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 870 Chevy Chase, MD 20815
ISBN: 1594960046 plus answer keys $7.95 80 pp.

This book has lots of fun and educational activities for children. Some are math puzzles, counting, and basic addition, others include drawing, observation puzzles, mazes, and lots more. With lots of well-done colorful illustrations that keep the book interesting without making it overly cluttered Learn and Have Fun Activity & Game Book is recommended for home school or to supplement a traditional school program.

Learn and Have Fun Activity & Game Book (3 - 4)
Teora USA, LLC
2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 870 Chevy Chase, MD 20815
ISBN: 1594960305 $7.95 80 pp. plus answer keys

The educational activities in this book are mostly related to learning to observe, count and match items. Activities include things like determining which item doesn't belong, matching the shadow with the person, and similar. The illustrations are colorful and keep the book interesting without making it overly cluttered. Learn and Have Fun Activity & Game Book is a recommended book for home school or to supplement a traditional school program.

Learn and Have Fun Activity & Game Book (6 - 7)
Teora USA, LLC
2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 870 Chevy Chase, MD 20815
ISBN: 1594960054 $7.95 80 pp. plus answer keys

Part of the Learn and Have Fun Activity & Game Book series from Teora USA, This one contains a lot of math, seasons, hidden word, reading, scrambled words, learning time, and other activities that encourage creative thinking in a child. It has lots of colorful illustrations that keep the book interesting without making it overly cluttered. Learn and Have Fun Activity & Game Book is a recommended book for home school or to supplement a traditional school program.

Kids Study Bible: New International Readers Version
Zondervan Publishing
Zonderkidz Imprint
5300 Patterson SE Grand Rapids, MI 49530
ISBN: 0310708028 $22.99 1804 pp.

More than just another NIRV children's Bible from Zondervan this is truly a study Bible for the young. One of the unique features is a lot of bright pictures that appear to be drawn by children. With a very brief introduction before each book, questions scattered throughout to encourage children to think about the lessons behind the stories, and lots of other features it is an excellent choice for children. The Bible ends with a section on life in the New Testament times and a small dictionary. The only thing I don't like is the placement of the various pictures. For example the pictures of Jesus walking on the water and Peter's vision are both in the pages of the book of Jeremiah. Likewise Zacchaeus Climbing the tree is in the pages of Ezekiel. This can be confusing to a child when the pictures are in the wrong books. Even with this caveat it is more than just a readable children's Bible, it teaches children how to study, think about what they have read, and find additional information using the dictionary. The Kids Study Bible: New International Readers Version is highly recommended as a first Study Bible for young children.

Inside Active Directory, second edition
Sakari Kouti, Mika Seitsonen
Pearson Education, Inc.
75 Arlington Street, Suite 300 Boston, MA 02116
ISBN: 0321228480 $54.99 1166 pp. plus index

While the authors note in the preface that this book is suitable for the complete novice, I would disagree. It is a much better match for someone with some knowledge of Active Directory who wants to take their knowledge to the next level and become a true Active Directory wizard. For those with some knowledge who wants to really get down to the inner workings of Active Directory in a depth of detail and breadth of coverage unmatched by any other book this is the place to turn. Kouti and Seitsonen provide excellent coverage of topics a lot of people have difficulty understanding and setting up properly. This book supplies you with sound background theory so you can understand these concepts and at the same time gives just the right amount of detail to actually accomplish what you are trying to do. Inside Active Directory, Second Edition is highly recommended to everyone already possessing a basic understanding of Active Directory and who wants to have the best single reference available at hand.

If There's One Thing I've Learned
James Green
Sound View Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 696 Shoreham, NY 11786-0696
ISBN: 0976105845 $19.95 240 pp. plus index

Wouldn't it be great if you could gather the wisdom gathered over the years by others and use that to not make the same mistakes they did? That is somewhat the premise of this book. Author James Green interviewed people and asked them to share some of their most significant insights that they have learned when asked what they would do differently in life if they could do it over. The answers are arranged into the categories of life experience, the one who got away, marriage, careers, high school, college, money, grudges, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, friends, kindness, and retirement. After sorting through hundreds of responses Mr. Green has put the 87 most insightful and inspirational answers into this book. Each of the responses is well written and contains at least one major truth about life. Interesting and insightful for people of all ages, If There's One Thing I've Learned is highly recommended and should be considered by all parents as an excellent choice for a graduation present. Send your child off into the real world with a resource of solid advice learned the hard way from experience.

Encyclopedia of Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Elaine A. Moore
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers
Box 611 Jefferson, NC 28640
ISBN: 0786417943 $65.00 260 pp. plus resources list and index

This encyclopedia offers a whole lot more than just entries on the thirty plus different organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases. The entries include not only information on the diseases but also treatment modalities, various statistics, risk factors, prevention, support organizations, and historical information. Some of the entries provide fascinating historical information and statistical relationships between the diseases and race, socio-economic level, and gender. The authors even go so far as to include competing theories about treatment, origins of the disease, etc. Even-handed and complete the Encyclopedia of Sexually Transmitted Disease is a solid survey of the current understanding of sexually transmitted diseases.

Degunking Your Email, Spam, and Viruses
Jeff Duntemann
O'Reilly Media
Paraglyph Press imprint
1005 Gravenstein Highway North Sebastopol CA 95472
ISBN: 193211193X $24.99 321 pp. plus index

If you have used email for more than a couple of months you realize the problem of spam, viruses, adware, and other aggravations. Resolving that problem, at least to the extent possible given your user environment is the purpose of this book. The approach is simple - create a gunk-free email strategy, degunk your email, degunk your spam, degunk viruses, worms, and spyware, and then keep it from happening again. While not a technical treatise for the power user this is an excellent resource for the average Internet user who wants to know what is happening with their email, slow system performance, and other annoyances. This book explains in simple layman's terms what is happening, how to clean it up, and how to greatly reduce the rate at which it happens again. Degunking Your Email, Spam, and Viruses is highly recommended for the every-day user who wants to regain control of their in-box.

Dear God, It's Me
Lynn Hodges, Sue Buchanan
Zondervan Publishing
Zonderkidz imprint
5300 Patterson SE Grand Rapids, MI 49530
ISBN: 0310706459 $14.99 32 pp.

This is a short children's story about how God is with us any time we call upon Him. Some of the writing comes directly from the Psalms (i.e. Make my heart your own) and can be a good way to introduce children to the Bible by locating the same passage. The authors emphasizes continuously throughout the book that God cares about all the details of our life including the most minor things you do and say each day. Written predominantly as a prayer it helps teach children the importance of prayer and how to pray. Dear God, It's Me is a recommended children's book.

Crown of the Continent
Ralph Waldt
Riverbend Publishing
PO Box 5833 Helena, MT 59604
ISBN: 1931832447 $29.95 168 pp.

This book contains some of the most beautiful pictures of the northern Rocky Mountains that I have seen. The author becomes your own personal guide as he takes you on a virtual tour of some of the most breathtaking scenes of the area. In the writing he shares the different facets of the landscape, animals, and character of each area. With its exquisite photography, Crown of the Continent is a highly recommended nature book and a real pleasure just to sit down and browse through.

California Wild
Tim Palmer
Voyageur Press, Inc.
123 North Second Street, PO Box 338 Stillwater, MN 55082
ISBN: 0896586510 $29.95 144 pp.

California Wild can be summed up with two words - incredibly beautiful. Tim Palmer takes the reader on a trip through the wide variety of geology, botany, and animal life of California in this absolutely gorgeous book. The writing is excellent and makes the reader feel they are a part of the wonderful wilds of California. These are some of the most awe-inspiring works of photography to grace the pages of any nature book. California Wild is highly recommended both for the writing style that invites the reader to be a part of a guided tour of the wilds and for the incredible photography.

Creating and Planting Alpine Gardens
Rex Murfitt
B. B. Mackey Books
PO Box 475 Wayne, PA 19087
ISBN: 1893443078 $22.50 268 pp. plus index

If you are interested in designing and building a rock garden using Alpine plants you will find this specialized book a valuable resource. The author covers everything from designing the area, to working with stone effects, building raised beds, preparing the soil, getting the right exposure and selecting the right plants. At the back of the book the author has included an extensive plant guide with detailed descriptions of different types of plants appropriate for an Alpine garden. Creating and Planting Alpine Gardens is recommended for anyone interested in this unique style of gardening.

Zondervan 2005 Church and Nonprofit Tax and Financial Guide
Dan Busby, CPA
Zondervan Publishing
5300 Patterson SE Grand Rapids, MI 49530
ISBN: 0310261821 $14.99 206 pp. plus citations

This guide covers all the most important tax topics for churches and nonprofit organizations and includes most of the areas where nonprofits tend to get into trouble. The author covers issues of accountability, tax exemption, employee compensation, benefits, reporting, financial records, charitable gifting, risk management, and many other common problem areas. Of particular value is the special index that points the reader to the specific issues and problems of churches. In addition there are multiple checklists, charts, procedures, and even sample board resolutions. Written in plain English so anyone can understand and yet comprehensive enough to keep your nonprofit or church well-organized and out of trouble, the Zondervan 2005 Church and Nonprofit Tax and Financial Guide is highly recommended to everyone involved with the financial aspects of any nonprofit or church.

The Chronicles of Narnia
C. S. Lewis
Harper Collins Publishers
1350 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0060598247 $29.99 778 pp.

This complete collection of the Chronicles of Narnia includes all the stories put together in the order in which C. S. Lewis meant them to be read instead of the order in which they were published. For example The Magician's Nephew was written several years after The Chronicles of Narnia was started but was meant to be read first. In this collection it is placed first as Mr. Lewis meant it to be read. In addition it includes a short essay from C. S. Lewis on the subject of Writing for Children. This is a massive work of almost 800 pages. Most readers will be at least somewhat familiar with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as it has been in several smaller children's books and even some television specials, but it is only the beginning of the Chronicles of Narnia. The complete chronicles include The Magician's Nephew, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle. This is a high quality hardbound book that will survive the typical abuse of children when reading it. If you liked The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe you will love the complete collection. The Chronicles of Narnia, one of the all-time classics of children literature, is a highly recommended read and this publication of it should be considered for all public libraries and private collections.

Charts of Bible Prophecy
H. Wayne House, Randall Price
Zondervan Publishing
5300 Patterson SE Grand Rapids, MI 49530
ISBN: 0310218969 $18.99 175 pp.

With 119 charts this is an excellent resource for studying or teaching Bible prophecy. There isn't much in terms of explanation but it is still a great resource with some surprises. Some of the charts include a Contrast Between the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenant, Stages of the Kingdom of God, Biblical Types, Basic Approaches to Eschatology, Harmony of Daniel, Views on the Relationship of Joel, Alternate Determinations of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel, Comparison of Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, Contrasts between the Rapture Views, Prophetic Significance of Old Testament Offerings, Views on the Millennium, Evaluating Views on Daniel, and even a few charts on the similarities and differences between Muslim, Jewish, and Christian eschatology. With even handed treatment that presents different views in an organized and logical form Charts of Bible Prophecy is a great resource for putting the information into an easy to understand format and teaching eschatology.

Birds in your Backyard
Robert J. Dolezal
Readers Digest Association, Inc.
Readers Digest Road, Pleasantville, NY 10570
ISBN: 0762104953 $26.95 259 pp. plus index

We've all heard of butterfly gardening, planting the right flowers and other plants to attract butterflies of all kinds. But have you considered planting the right garden plants and habitat to attract birds? In Birds in your Backyard the author teaches the reader the details of how to make a bird garden that will attract and support various birds. The book contains a complete section on creating an appropriate backyard habitat including providing food, cover, and housing for the species you want to attract. This is typical of the attention to detail the author displays throughout the book. Other sections cover topics like choosing appropriate plants for housing materials, building perches and shelters, birdhouses and feeders (including complete plans, materials lists, and assembly instructions), adding fountains or bird baths, and protection from predators. The last part of the book is very good section on bird habits, migration information, a guide to common North American birds and butterflies, and a guide to plants that attract birds. Birds in your Backyard is highly recommended to anyone interested in attracting birds or creating their own backyard bird watching area.

Beginning PHP 5 and MySQL E-Commerce
Cristian Darie, Mihai Bucica
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219 Berkeley, CA 94710
ISBN: 1590593928 $44.99 486 pp. plus appendixes and index

The use of PHP 5 and MySQL for e-commerce is a tested and proven combination. This book is primarily intended for the reader who already has some PHP knowledge and needs to understand how to build an e-commerce site. It does not focus on teaching either PHP 5 or MySQL but instead focuses on how to use the combination to produce an exceptional e-commerce solution. The authors use the example of a Tshirt shop and walk the reader through every step of completely constructing a viable e-commerce site. The book covers everything from designing your site, to creating a product catalog, searching the catalog, receiving payments, catalog administration, creating a shopping basket, working with customer orders, product recommendations, storing customer information, secure connections, implementing the order pipeline, working with credit cards, and setting up product reviews. The appendixes include detailed information on installing Apache, PHP, MySQL, and phpAdmin (for both Windows and Unix-like systems), hosting your web site, and project management. While this is not a book about learning the PHP scripting language it does contain enough detailed code to create a functioning e-commerce site even if you don't understand how the code works. For example, on page 192 it says to "Create a new template file named admin_login.tpl in the templates folder and add the following code to it: " This is followed by a long code listing that produces the desired results. There is a short explanation of the function of various sections of the code but nothing that details the purpose of each command, variable, etc. This is really not a problem since they state up front that the target audience is a PHP programmer who needs to learn how to build an e-commerce site, but it does deserve mention for those who have no knowledge of PHP and are considering the book. The first thing a person might notice when thinking about purchasing this book is that there is no CD in the back containing all the many examples of source code. This could be very discouraging as the examples are extensive and rewriting them by hand without error can be a daunting task. However, Apress does make all of the examples available for download at their web site. Beginning PHP 5 and MySQL E-Commerce is highly recommended for anyone who has some basic knowledge of PHP and MySQL and wants to capitalize on this to build a powerful e-commerce site.

Beginning MySQL Database Design and Optimization
Jon Stephens, Chad Russell
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219 Berkeley, CA 94710
ISBN: 1590593324 $44.99 487 pp. plus index

The first three chapters of this book deal with the basics of MySQL including basic concepts, column and table types, keys, indexes, and normalization. The authors have written an excellent introduction to MySQL that provides all the core information you need to start using it right away. The chapter on finding the bottlenecks is one of the best sections in the book and details some of the finer points to be considered when creating your database. On the other hand, the part on optimizing queries is excellent for the beginning MySQL student (which is the target audience for this book) but not as good as it could be for the more experienced MySQL user. Perhaps I am just more sensitive to this area because of all the badly done queries I have had to deal with before. A good understanding of just this part can make a tremendous difference in optimization. If you are new to SQL queries the authors have done a great job of explaining why this is important and how to understand it when a query takes under a minute to run and then after a small change takes twenty. The last section covers accessing the MySQL database via other programming languages such as PHP. Beginning MySQL Database Design and Optimization is a recommended read for its target audience - the beginning MySQL programmer.

Basil to Thyme: Culinary Endeavors from the Garden to the Kitchen
Tim Haas, Jan Beane
Champion Press, Ltd.
4308 Blueberry Road Fredonia, WI 53021
ISBN: 1932783113 $22.95 281 pp. plus index and glossary

If you have an herb garden or just like to cook with a lot of herbs you will enjoy this book of recipes that feature herbs. Each herb gets its own chapter with recipes that focus on that particular one. The herbs covered in the book include Basil, Dill, Oregano, Coriander, Tarragon, Chives, Rosemary, Bay Leaf, Thyme, Sage, Parsley, Savory, Fennel, Garlic, and Ginger. As a particular fam of Dill I had to try the Dill butter with Garlic (great of fresh bread) and Dill Dip. It even includes some complete meal plans that focus on a particular herb. The recipes are clear and easy to follow, the additional information on each of the herbs and how to use them is excellent, and the final results delicious. Basil to Thyme: Culinary Endeavors from the Garden to the Kitchen is highly recommended for those who want to add the use of herbs to their repertoire of cooking knowledge.

Amazing Games: Activities for Smart Kids Ages 6 - 10
Teora USA, LLC
2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 870 Chevy Chase, MD 20815
ISBN: 1594960070 $7.95 96 pp. plus answer keys

If you are looking for a collection of fun activities for young children you need look no further than this book. Inside are all kinds of math mazes, connect the dots, puzzles based on viewing items from different perspectives, and lots of other activities all of which require some sort of creative thinking, close observation, counting, or logical thinking. Amazing Games: Activities for Smart Kids Ages 6 - 10 is recommended as a fun way to sharpen the mind and skills of young children.

All Around Cats!
Dolly Viscardi
T&N Children's Publishing, Inc.
NorthWord Books imprint
11571 K-Tel Drive Minnetonka, MN 55343
ISBN: 1559710721 $15.95 32 pp.

All Around Cats is a short book filled with illustrations of cats engaged in common cat activities. Whether stalking, jumping, prowling, sneaking, or napping they are just all around cats. The illustrations point out the wide variety of features among cats including various colors, tail shapes, and fur types. All Around Cats is a good choice for children learning to read, and especially so if they love cats.

Harold McFarland
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

Len Bailey
ISBN: 0765309815 $17.95, 224 pp.

The Sarksa pirates abduct the Winter Queen, putting King Krystal of Elidor into a tizzy. He needs to mount a rescue, but who would undertake a seemingly suicidal mission. Krystal knows his champion must be the most courageous soul in the universe and no one in Elidor comes close so the monarch turns to the Dream Machine to summon a special hero to save the Queen. Conceptually the King's idea should have worked, but he has doubts when the Dream Machine brings him the best bull rider in the Oklahoma Junior Division rodeo cowboy Danny Ray who was lifted from a Cherokee County amusement park. The monarch is skeptical not because Danny is from earth; he has misgivings because the "champion" is eleven years old. However, Danny Ray upon grasping why they sent for him, plans to prove the royal dude wrong by rescuing the Queen. His crosses the Checkered Sea with the help of Sea Captain Quigglewigg and the Clabbernappers while pirates, an evil monarch, the malevolent Nightmare Queen, and a nasty ghost attempt to kill him. Middle school students will agree with confident Danny Ray that "CLABBERNAPPERS is the best dang adventure ever" as the young rodeo champion seems to land in one precarious situation after another while befriending interesting allies. The story line never slows down whether Danny Ray persuades his callers that he is the man albeit preadolescent for the job until the final altercation after a series of confrontations with the bad dudes. Len Bailey provides a wonderful young adult fantasy that is not a coming of age tale, but instead a youthful intrepid defender performing what he thought would be an itty bitty task.

The Chairman
Stephen Frey
Random House
ISBN: 0345457609 $21.95, 320 pp.

With the accidental death of founder Bill Donovan, Everest Capital selects thirty-six year old Christian Gillette to replace him. Christian won the CEO seat by a razor thin margin over Bill's heir apparent Troy Martin. After a funeral ceremony at a church, Christian's driver opens the door of the limousine to let him in when the vehicle explodes killing the chauffeur and a passerby woman. Christian wonders who amongst his rivals, (Troy, Ben Cohen, and Nigel Faraday) would want him hostilely removed. He rules out the family oriented Ben who is to into the weeds. He eliminates Troy because he believes the culprit murdered Bill and Troy knew that it was a matter of time before his mentor would retire. However as he takes charge of the firm now trusting no one, he realizes the assailant is trying to destroy Everest Capital; even with private investigator Tom McGuire and his firm on the case, it appears the offender will succeed in obliterating the company and perhaps killing the new CEO. More a cat and mouse suspense tale than a finance thriller, THE CHAIRMAN is an exciting boardroom novel. The ruthless cutthroat (in this case literally) between inside rivals insure that the audience understands the golden rule is do unto others before they do unto you. Thus, Christopher don's call me Chris anymore is a cold person whose life motto is trust no one; this mantra actually gets him in deeper trouble as he must rely on others like McGuire if he to live let alone save the company. Stephen Frey continues to be the chairman of the board when it comes to dirty deadly practices on Wall St.

Richard North Patterson
Random House
ISBN: 0345450191 $25.95

Death row attorney Terri Paget is working the fifteen years old capital crime conviction of Rennell Price, who the State of California will execute with a lethal injection in fifty-nine days. Terri realizes that the retarded surly black man is not a good client and her chances of saving him from the death penalty are slim to none. Terri with the help of her spouse and son looks back over time and quickly realizes that neither Rennell had much of a defense. The corpse of nine-year-old Thuy Sen was found in San Francisco Bay and the medical examiner immediately concluded that the cause of her death was choking on semen. Broadcast news ran the story with the picture of the young girl as its feature. This led to a neighbor claiming that Payton and Rennell Price, drug dealers, took the child with them while she was apparently coming home from school. Other evidence placed the victim in the Price vehicle. The circumstantial evidence remains overwhelming yet Terri remains convinced that her client is innocent. CONVICTION is an intriguing legal procedural in which the death penalty debate is incredible, extremely complex and in all honesty wordy (not a one sitting thriller by any stretch even for a reviewer with a multiple book a day habit). Surprisingly with that deep look and with solid courtroom drama, the cast never fully seems real as the law takes on a life of its own superseding any character. Those interested in understanding why the former Illinois Governor halted capital punishment should read Richard North Patterson's strong view on the death penalty, just set aside plenty of time and don't run for DA or Governor of Texas.

A Thread of Grace
Mary Doria Russell
Random House
ISBN: 0375501843 $25.95

By the fall of 1943, European Jews not in death camps or murdered seek sanctuaries in places like Italy's Piedmont Province though this area as a refugee haven remains questionable. The small village of Porto Sant'Andrea is home for Italian Jews led by Rabbi Soncini, Italian Catholics led by Father Tomitz, and the occupying German army represented by Doktor Schramm. Into this mix come non-Italian Jews especially from occupied France. The three prime groups in the village have a tentative peaceful co-existence, but the influx of newcomers places that in jeopardy. The Italian Jews want to welcome their mostly religious kin with open arms. Father Tomitz sets the tone for his followers by providing shelter for the Jews. While Doktor Shramm hides with drink from his murdering almost 100,000 people of which he can account for seemingly everyone, the German leaders blindly follow orders to carry out the Final Solution. Into this volatile situation come the allies. A THREAD OF GRACE is a fabulous complex historical tale (not sci fi as Mary Doria Russell's' two previous works are) that brings alive a dark era through seemingly real people. The story line is fast-paced with multiple subplots that add to the depth and the feel of 1943 Italy. With plenty of tidbits and multifaceted perspectives, the amazing part remains the ensemble cast regardless of national origin or religion which all seem so genuine; for instance the plight of a French Jew with his daughter struggling to cross the Alps to Italy is breathtaking. World War II readers will want to read this slice of an odious era where lights of courageous kindness existed.

Murder at Five Finger Light
Sue Henry
ISBN: 0451213971 $23.95, 288 pp.

Sled dog racer Jessie Arnold feels the world is looking up as she rebounded from knee surgery, recovered from a DEATH TRAP, and is back with her beloved State Trooper Alex Jensen. Jessie accepts an invitation to a paint party thrown by close friends Laurie and Jim Trevino, who are renovating a fixer-upper Five Finger Lighthouse on Alaska's Inner Passage; Alex has a meeting that he must attend so he cannot accompany Jessie, but tells her to have a good time. However, thinking this will be fun though hard work, Jessie goes leaving Alex behind. However, the idyllic gala of paint and panorama ends when Jessie finds the corpse of another guest. Assuming a tragic accident occurred Jessie changes her mind when she tries to call for help by phone and radio; neither work as a killer has severed the lines with the objective to snuff the life out of the party one death at a time. The latest Sue Henry Alaska mystery will remind readers of Agatha Christie's classic Ten Little Indians. The story line is action-packed once Jessie stumbles over a dead body and never slows down as the sleuth realizes a murderer is amongst the guests. The scenery as usual is breathtaking, but it is the cat and mouse game between the culprit and the detective that will have the audience spellbound.

The Big Boat to Bye-Bye
Ellis Weiner
ISBN: 0451213963 $22.95, 288 pp.

Children's TV producers Charlotte Purdy and her spouse Donnie Dansicker, owners of D&D Productions hire private investigator Pete Ingalls to uncover the identity of a blackmailer. Charlotte explains that someone demands one million dollars in a few days or a damning tape containing lewd behavior by the puppet stars of the popular PBS kiddy show Playground Pals, the flagship of D&D, will be shown over the net. Pete begins making inquiries after interviewing the staff as it seems obvious that to have taped the bawdy exchanges that occurred between actual takes, it had to be an inside job. He quickly discovers almost everyone detests the producers and had access to the tape. While Pete is ably aided by his office assistant wannabe actress Stephanie Constantino, the case turns deadly when murder occurs. Following up on his sleuthing in DROP DEAD, MY LOVELY, Pete works the Hollywood crowd as he tries to solve the case in which there are suspects galore. He remains a pop philosopher with observations on life that would make everyone except Stephanie, who knows better, believe that he has too much time on his hands. The blackmail turning into a homicide investigation is cleverly conceived so that fans of Hollywood Noir receive an enjoyable often amusing one reel tale.

'Til Morning Light
Ann Moore
ISBN: 0451214048 $13.95, 416 pp.

In 1852, Irish widow Gracelin O'Malley accompanied by her daughter Mary Kate and adopted son Jack travels to San Francisco where she will wed Captain Reinders in a marriage of convenience. However, Reinders is at sea somewhere near Panama City, a place Gracelin never heard of. Reinders' partner Lars Darmstadt and his spouse Detra are also away. Needing income, Gracelin obtains work as a housekeeper for Dr. Wakefield and his family. The job would be fine except for the machinations of her employer's sister Abigail, who tries to blackmail her to achieve her goals. When Reinders arrives in town, Gracelin prepares for her wedding, but a ghost arises from the dead that may put a halt to the nuptials. Ann Moore continues the exciting adventures of Gracelin O'Malley who has long since left Ireland and has now journeyed across the New World continent with this story having her already arrived in San Francisco. The story line is filled with historical tidbits that enable the audience to believe they are in the middle of the nineteenth century. However, it is the deep cast that makes this a solid historical tale as the audience can taste the psychological prisons that each person uses to lock themselves up from fully enjoying life. 'TIL MORNING LIGHT is a fine Americana tale.

Forgotten Man
Robert Crais
ISBN: 0385504284 $24.95, 342 pp.

At four in the morning, LAPD Detective Kelly Diaz calls private eye Elvis Cole to inform him that a shooting victim just before dying mentioned him as his son. Elvis is shocked as he never knew the identity of his father though he spent much of his life seeking his paternal shadow. Overwhelmed emotionally, Elvis turns to his partner Joe Pike for advice and help especially since the corpse means nothing to him. They fail to learn much more from the police beyond the deceased registered as Herbert Faustina at the Home Away Suites. Could Herbert, if that was the man's actual name, really be Elvis' father? Detective Carol Starkey, who obsessively desires Elvis in what seems like unrequited love keeps doing little favors to help the sleuth learn more. Hindering Elvis is Frederick Conrad who has covered up a deadly secret for years; believing Elvis killed his fellow conspirator his boss, he plans to murder the sleuth. The latest Elvis Cole thriller is very personal as he struggles to determine whether a dying man's last words are true only to find himself with Joe watching his back caught up in a dangerous cat and mouse game in which he is the rodent. The dark story line is driven by Elvis who seems human as he switches back and forth between belief and doubt over the veracity of the death alley statement, but also uses people like he does with besotted DEMOLITION ANGEL Carol. Robert Crais provides an outstanding investigative tale that brings home many of the hero's insecurities.

The Society of Others
William Nicholson
ISBN: 0385513275 $23.95, 224 pp.

He recently graduated college, but has no goals and speculates that life is meaningless. Why bother? However, tired of parental nagging, he decides on a coming of age grand adventure on the continent. He hitches a ride from the English side of the Chunnel with a philosophical truck driver on a three day trek across Europe. However, once they leave the land of the Euro into the heavily guarded East, thugs using a roadblock stop the truck, torture and kill the trucker, but his passenger escapes. They burn the books inside the truck, but the hitchhiker rescues one along with an envelope that the driver gave him. The hiker reaches a nearby town where he meets Petra, who informs him that the burned books were targeted to go to those names listed in the envelop. He joins Petra's revolutionary band, but when her group torture the enemy at another roadblock, he flees into the woods in despair. By himself he ponders the meaning of life. The first half of this novel is a great coming of age tales as the unnamed narrator (apropos label for the disenchanted) finds his grand tour turn into a nightmare. Nameless struggles with both sides in the dispute who use any means to achieve their end. Once he flees from Petra, the story line turns much more introspective as the lead character begins to analyze his relationships especially with his parents even while he dodges the police and to a lesser degree the revolutionaries. This is a strong thriller worth reading due to the despairing antihero but the latter half though superbly well written cannot match the incredible levels of excitement and suspense of the first part.

Rogue Berserker
Fred Saberhagen
ISBN: 0743498739 $22.00, 281 pp.

Harry Silver, with a wife and as a new father, needs money, but a Berserker destroyed his vessel. Wealthy Winston Cheng offers him a small fortune along with a quality ship in exchange for Harry leading a private army to rescue his granddaughter and great-grandson kidnapped by a Berserker. Harry knows that if these killing machines allow a "Goodlife" to live it is only because they become subservient. Winston feels this abduction is different because the death machine is a rogue who acts dissimilar from the others. Still Harry says no as he has two reasons to live. However, Harry learns that the rogue Berserker kidnapped his wife and son. His only hope to save his beloved Becky and Ethan, assuming they have not been terminated as "Badlife" and that Cheng's theory is correct, is the deal. Harry meets old friends, several enemies, and other adventurers while preparing for an assault. Though Winston's strategy seems logical, Harry knows from first hand experience that the best laid plans of Silver always goes astray when confronting a Berserker so why should this quest be any different especially when another machine seeks to kill Cheng's crew. ROGUE BERSERKER is a throwback tale to the earlier novels with Berserkers in the forefront leading to non-stop action. Harry seems more complete as he seeks vengeance, prays for a miracle expecting none, and accepts any means is fine as long as he rescues his family. Fueled by anger and helplessness, his obsession makes him less ethical yet more human than hero. Fred Saberhagen provides a terrific entry in his long running series as he returns to the basics: human vs. invincible killing machine within a tense story line.

Dance of Desire
Catherine Kean
ISBN: 193281535X $6.99

In 1192 Lady Rexana Villeaux is desperate to save her fifteen years old brother Rudd from being arrested as a traitor. To succeed she must steal a list that High Sheriff Fane Linford has. To accomplish this deed, she must replace an ailing actress and dance like a desert courtesan as rumors that the former Crusader survived months of torture and imprisonment due to the love of a Saracen courtesan. While she distracts Fane, her accomplice is to take the list. Fane immediately realizes that the scantily clad female is a fake as she fumbles several nuances in her performance. Still he is intrigued as to why she would perform as she has. When he learns who her sibling is, he offers her a bargain; marry him and he will help her brother. Medieval romance readers will appreciate the DANCE OF DESIRE because of the brooding hero and the courageous woman who lightens his soul when she steals his heart. The story line is somewhat typical of the sub-genre with clever villains plotting against King Richard while a former Crusader and his reluctant bride stand in their way. Still the changing relationship between the couple entertains the audience who will wonder whether ultimately Rexana will have to choose between her love for her husband or for her brother.

Daniel's Veil
R.H. Stavis
ISBN 0974363960 $6.99, 308 pp.

Police officer Daniel O' Brady has witnessed one death too many with the latest involving a child he couldn't save from her father. He's ordered to take a vacation and heads to the countryside when he has an accident with his car. He walks to a village where the people welcome him and won't take money from him for food, lodgings or anything else. He meets Rosie the owner of a diner and the two are drawn to one another. However not everything is good in paradise. The clock in the center of town never moves and a house with blue lights flashing comes into existence when Daniel comes to town. The house, surrounded by blue lights attracts him and when he enters he sees a man in another dimension who is in a supposedly haunted house trying to prove his theory that Slim Veils, energy fields separates the various dimensions and when the veil is slim enough, contact between the two planes can appear. Michael and Daniel discover the truth, one that they never before considered, and it will change their lives forever. Michael wants to prove that the so called ghosts that have been seen by people are really entities from another dimension. Daniel wants to discover what the townsfolk are hiding from him. Neither man realizes they are linked together in a way that defies space and time. R.H. Stavis has written a fascinating and enthralling paranormal tale of what lies beyond the veil. The ending will come as a shock to the readers as the author brilliantly creates a solution that takes in all the possibilities from the adjoining sides of the veil.

Big Hair and Flying Cows
Dolores J. Wilson
ISBN: 1932815171 $24.95 228 pp.

All Roberta "Bertie" Bird wants is to live a normal life. However that is not easy when you drive a two truck five days a week in which your neighbors in Sweet Meadow, Georgia think is a taxi service. They will do anything and everything to get their ride. Even moving out from her parents' home has not proven easy since the owner and previous resident elderly Pete Forney constantly sneaks out of the nursing home to "visit" Birdie when he is not trying to toss her out. She has males in her life, but none reach first base because the zany world intrude from Catch 22 zoning laws to running over a mattress that destroys her wrecker that places "Dirty Bird" on national TV. Following the death of Pete, Birdie meets Pete's son Arch and his granddaughter Petey; they make her feel normal except he fled when she kissed him. Life in Bertie's beloved rural Georgia means the sublime is the norm. BIG HAIR AND FLYING COWS is a series of vignettes centering loosely on a series of misfortune hammering at Bertie that is similar in many ways to the Mossy Creek tales. Bertie is a delight as her efforts to obtain normalcy is constantly devastated by those in need of her services. Her autobiographical account of sh*t happens is southern humor at its most jocular. Mossy Creek readers will appreciate a slice of life in Sweet Meadow through the eyes of a native daughter who just wants the garage sign changed to Bird and daughter from Bird and Sons as she remains while her brothers flew the coop years ago.

The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
Kim Harrison
Harper Torch
ISBN: 0060572973 $6.99, 453 pp.

After being given crap cases that she felt were below her talent, witch Rachel Morgan broke the cardinal rule by resigning from the human managed federal government's Inderland Security. EEO and merit promotion fail when it comes to the glass ceiling for witches and other assorted ilk. Rachel opens up a firm with Jenks the Pixie and Ivy Tamwood the ill-tempered Vampire, but though she loves the independence worries about the rent. Her former agency contracts out an assignment to Rachel. In Cincinnati, a serial killer is murdering witches, which makes Rachel the perfect witch to stop the culprit. The preliminary evidence points towards Trent Kalamack, who would cherish feeding his black magical soul with the prowess of his victims. With her helpers not much help as Ivy still needs to cut her teeth and Jenk is stuck in polyester and her boyfriend is tied up with demons that he conjures up, Rachel patrols the night by herself knowing that she risks her life to stop an evil from feeding on her sisters. This sequel to the delightful DEAD WITCH WALKING is a wonderful paranormal private investigative tale that in many ways will remind readers of the works of Kelly Armstrong and Charlaine Harris. The story line is terrific as Kim Harrison displays insider knowledge to the workings of a bureaucracy when they force Rachel to quit, but hire her back as a contractor for more money and full use of her skills. The key to the tale is the cast who will turn believers of skeptics that vampires, pixies, witches, and an assortment of other supernatural beings exist. That is the magic of Kim Harrison.

Tiger Eye
Marjorie M. Liu
Love Spell
ISBN: 0505526263 $6.99, 352 pp.

In Beijing, Dela Reese searches the various booths of the Cheap Dirt Market until she purchases an ancient looking riddle box for a ridiculously low price. She takes the box to her apartment, but is unable to read the inscription that looks like gibberish to Dela. However, she manages to "open" the box; in the next nanosecond a handsome seven foot warrior offers to obey her commands. Dela tells Hari he is free, but he says she cannot release him because part of the curse is that he must stay near his owner. He explains that the curse began two millennium ago when a magi stole his skin and killed his sister. When an assassin tries to kill Dela with a knife she made, he intercedes though she never commanded him to do so. As Hari finds Dela unique and different than any previous owner, they fall in love, but someone wants her dead and if they succeed the trouble with Hari is that they would own him unless Hari can end the curse by finding his skin. TIGER EYE is an exhilarating fantasy romantic suspense that enables the audience to glimpse modern day Beijing. The genie in a non-bottle container rescued by a courageous heroine is not a new theme. Sherrilyn Kenyon's did this in FANTASY LOVER. However, Marjorie M. Liu makes it feel as if she is the first to use this concept because of the interactions between Dela and Hari. She adapts perhaps because of her curse to "hear" people's laments while he struggles to accept her honest efforts to liberate him without personal gain; together they make for an exciting tale.

Night Games
Nina Bangs
Love Spell
ISBN: 0505524805 $5.99, 353 pp.

In 2502, the most popular spectator sport to watch is sex games. The current league MVP is Brian Byrne has sent many a woman into faint and many a man filled with envy (semen would be too much effort). With the season finished, Brian decides he needs a breather, but his head is too well known so he chooses to travel back five centuries to his ancestral Irish estate. Ally O'Neal is the author of a perfect wife series but her recent divorce jeopardizes the franchise. Her editor wants her to write a book on getting back into the dating game. However, Ally decides to take a breather first and accompanies her eccentric aunt on a ghost-busting trip to Ireland. When Brian and Ally meet, he immediately employs all his craft to bed her though his contract forbids off-season sex, but shockingly, Ally rejects his efforts. Even his strange but interesting gadgets fail to get a rise from Ally. Soon the future stud and the modern day woman fall in love, but how far will they go? Nina Bangs has to be the imagination queen of amusing sexual romances for who else could come up with such a plot and devices that appear to work and blend them with warm characters into an entertaining novel. The science fiction romance story line engages the audience who can understand the future evolution of sports and the spectator. The lead couple is a delight, as their interactions will provide readers with quite a bang. NIGHT GAMES is a humorous satire poking fun at the games people play.

Time Rogues
Kay Austin
Love Spell
ISBN: 0505526212 $5.99, 308 pp.

In Dallas, Mackenzie Cates believes that the Pompeii Man and the rest of the exhibit from that doomed city will be the final ticket for her to become the museum director. However her former lover archeologist Professor Rick Mason is also back and wants a second chance after foolishly dumping her. Besides the weird noises that Mack insists must be from the new ventilation system, she sees the statue move; that has no rationalization. Unable to resist, Mack touches the stone and somehow frees Dak a time rogue trapped inside the stone who now shares Rick's body. As Mack and Rick begin to reconcile, a strange bald female stares at him and the statue as if she desires both. Rick tries to persuade his beloved that he will marry her, but first must save the world from the time rogue and get Dak back to his body; failure in the first could mean the end of the world as Mack knows it, but worse failure with the second means Rick shares his body and so does Mack with that bald beauty. This is an exciting time travel romance starring two delightful battling lead protagonists (kind of like the couple from Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Lost Ark). The story line is fast-paced and action-packed but can be difficult to follow with numerous short inserts that spin away from the prime players, which in fairness paradoxically gives the science fiction feel to the tale. Mack and Rick are a wonderful pairing struggling with a second chance at love while under pressure to save the world. Fans will enjoy the TIME ROGUES, a wild torrid trip back and forth into the past, present, and future.

For Camelot's Honor
Sarah Zettel
ISBN: 0373802188 $13.99, 400 pp.

Widow Adora is pulled in two directions as Arthur of Camelot and Urien of Eufaen want her to align her cantrev Cantru Pont Cymryd with them. Adora takes a daring approach weighing the honor being a vassal to both men while her daughter Elen crosses the bridge to help one of the fae l give birth. A healthy baby is born and Elen heads home, but finds Urien is the Lord and her mother dead. Morgaine le Fay cuts out Elen's heart and puts it inside a falcon so that whoever controls the bird has the woman also under a gaes. Round Table knight Sir Geraint falls in love with Elen while sensing her danger. He tries to rescue her and grabs the falcon just before it takes them to the land of fairy. Elen makes a deal with the Lord and Lady that she will return to them the Spear of Monewydden once she completes her vengeance on Urien. This means traveling to Morgaine's ally the Little King Gwiffert, who has plans for the female falcon with only Sir Geraint to keep Elen safe or die in the attempt. The land where Gwiffert rules is loaded with magic and glamour making it difficult for the two outsiders to locate him until they observe how he treats his subjects. This is a microcosm of the bewitching tale that focuses on one of King Arthur's knights and the woman he loves. Sara Zettel has written an enchanting tale where magic is taken for granted in a similar way to how we accept technology. The Arthurian crowd will love this adventure and look forward to a sequel.

Trip Wire
Charlotte Carter
One World (Ballantine)
ISBN: 0345447697 $12.95, 192 pp.

In Chicago Cassandra Perry cherishes her Aunt Ivy and Uncle Woody for taking her in almost ten years ago when her grandmother who raised her without love died. By 1968 the twenty years old Cassandra is mortified by the world she sees. Her cousin was murdered in front of her, assassinations have struck down two leaders, and recently the riots at the Democratic Convention have made her reconsider her values. When fellow Afro-American Wilt Mobley asks her to move into a hippie commune, she does over the chagrin of her loving relatives. Someone murders Wilt and his white girlfriend Mia Boone. Chicago Police Detective James Norris snidely questions commune members, refusing to look elsewhere for a culprit. He hones in on the only other Negro member Sandy as the commune calls Cassandra insisting that she was jealous sharing a hunk Black man with a white. Accompanied by Ivy and Woody, Cassandra begins her own inquiries knowing the police will either blame her or ignore the double homicides, but the trio is not prepared for the politicians that are willing to kill to stop her investigation. This engrossing historical fiction is a terrific look back to 1968, a year of disenchantment through the eyes of a former idealist turn lost soul. The story line is fantastic as Cassandra wonders what's going on especially when the cops' attitudes towards Blacks and hippies (or worse if you belong to both) are loud and clear. The amateur sleuth elements start late and are fun to follow, but the heart and soul of Charlotte Carter's TRIP WIRE is Christmas1968 in a Chicago where no joy to the world exists.

Hello to All That: A Memoir of War, Zoloft, and Peace
John Falk
ISBN: 0805072187 $25.00, 284 pp.

This touching autobiography wins on two fronts as John Falk paints quite a self portrait of his depressing teen years culminating with the miracle of Zoloft and his twenties as a journalist in Sarajevo in 1993, the heart of the hostilities. Both accounts rivet the audience as Mr. Falk explains that he was a happy preadolescent raised in a loving home when suddenly at twelve he became depressed and stayed that way for a dozen years until Zoloft gave him back his life. To celebrate his return from the living dead, John becomes a war correspondent. This segment of the book relates how the devastated city is home to people trying to stay alive. These human interest stories are touching and warm with hopes that those like a working student made it. Mr. Falk provides a heartfelt remarkable memoir of a person surviving two wars, a personal one that medicine cures and the other caused by human atrocities that should shame everyone.

Busted Flush
Brad Smith
ISBN: 0805076506 $24.00, 320 pp.

Everybody in Coppers Falls, New York has an explanation why Dock Bass left town, leaving his social climbing spouse and the realty job she pushed him into behind as he resents one and hates the other. In fact, no one is close to the truth why abruptly Dock, who enjoys fishing and cards with beer left town. Simply the letter from the Pennsylvania attorney gave Dock a reason and means to skip for he has inherited a farm in the Gettysburg area. On his new homestead that needs immense cleaning, Dock finds nineteenth century treasures especially valuable Civil War artifacts, but the prize is an apparent recording of Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg address. For someone who sought mellow, Dock finds he becomes the center of a storm with the media, treasure hunters, avaricious "friends", and his greedy wife. Using hyperbole to exaggerate traits, Brad Smith provides a biting satire on America where everything from the Blair House to the Lincoln Room to an Inauguration is on sale. Nothing is sacred regardless of what it might be as there is a price for everything as unassuming Dock learns during the shark infested frenzy. Fans of wild lampooning and historical buffs (while cringing with the for sale sign) will enjoy this sharp edged tale and ponder could Monica's dress be E-Bay bound?

The Rising
Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins
ISBN 0842360565 $25.95, 380 pp.

Marilena Carpathia is a dowdy unfeminine woman who is more interested in the intellect than in looking attractive. She is married to Sarin who, like her, is a professor at the University of Bucharest in Romania. Their relationship is platonic, a mating of the minds, and she is satisfied until the day comes that she wants a child, something Sarin doesn't want. She meets and becomes involved with Viv Ivins, a spiritualist who worships Lucifer. She tells Marlena that Lucifer will grant her a child if she promises to raise him to worship him. Both Lucifer and Christ contact her; the former promises her the child while the latter offers her nothing but salvation. She chooses Viv's god and gives birth to Nicolae who grows up to be a brilliant, cunning, and manipulative man who promises to worship Lucifer as his god in return for becoming ruler of the Earth. Readers of the Left Behind series get to see how Nicolae came into being, how Viv entered his life and how Lucifer controlled events to make Nicolae the perfect Antichrist who would obey him. Surprisingly, hearts will go out to Marilena who realized she made a Faustian bargain and lived to regret it. The audience also learns how Rafe Steel becomes the man he grew up to be prior to the Rapture. THE RISING is a fantastic work that only master writers like Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins can produce.

Necessary Evils
Neesa Hart
ISBN: 1414300395 $14.99, 308 pp.

When National Press Secretary George Romero failed to appear at the White House Situation Room following the abrupt disappearance of millions of people, the Chief of Staff Brad Benton assumes his friend is dead. Pictures delivered to Brad prove that someone murdered George. Brad investigates, which leads to several attempts to kill him and his loved ones. Brad works with Los Angeles Times reporter Liza Cannley who finds evidence that wealthy industrialist Victor Rudd, a major campaign contributor to President Fitzhugh's election efforts, abetted by Constantine Kostankis diverted gold from the Federal Reserve. They used their illegal gain to fund a covert operation using Abkhazian rebels to recapture a research facility from Muslin Fundamentalists with the conspiracy involving the White House, the Joint Chiefs, and high ranking Justice and State Department officials. However when the evidence is found the question remains of who to give it to since anyone in Washington and connected to the president is suspect. Unlike the first two tales in this series, the action centers on the heroic Brad who risks his life to expose high level corruption, murder and other illegalities in order to bring George's killers to justice. There is plenty of action especially as the perpetrators attempt to kill Brad. Though his enemies seem invincible and omnipotent in most matters, they are pathetic when it comes to erasing two fleas. Still Neesa Hart provides an enthralling refreshing and original post Rapture political thriller that emphasizes the international left behind crowd more than the religious implications.

3 Brides For 3 Bad Boys
Lucy Monroe
Kensington Brava
ISBN: 0758208588 $14.00

Rand. Phoebe loves Rand, but a tragedy has left him rejecting her. Desperate she offers him a deed to property he covets for one week of sex. Though he vowed never to have sex with Phoebe the offer is too enticing on the boardroom and bedroom fronts. She prays that once they commingle, he will want her forever though she knows the risk could be a broken heart. Carter. To inherit a fortune from his late father, Carter must marry. He selects his employee, the pretty intelligent Daisy as his temporary wife. She agrees as she will earn an easy half a million. Their wedding night is heaven making Carter wonder how to persuade Daisy he wants to erase the temporary from her new job description of wife; Daisy knows now the 500K was not worth the broken heart when Carter ends their marital arrangement. Colton: When Colton wakes up with a woman sharing his bed, he smiles until Fayre insists they are married. He cannot believe he does not remember saying I do. As cool hand Colton wonders how opposites could stay blissfully wedded the more he is with his new wife the more he wants to be with this ardent soul. These three novellas star the Denning "bad boy" brothers and a trio of delightful females who heat more than just their blood. Each tale is distinct because the lead couples contain differing personalities and albeit divergent relationships. Though Phoebe trade raises eyebrows even if her motives are pure, fans of erotic romantic anthologies will enjoy Lucy Monroe's passionate love stories due to a fine cast.

Baked To Death
Dean James
ISBN 0758204876 $22.00, 286 pp.

Taking the pill daily gives vampire Simon Kirby-Jones all the nourishment he needs so he doesn't drink human blood, is able to walks in the sunshine and has heightened senses. The only changes are that he is immortal and is stronger and faster than humans. After he broke up with Professor Tris Lovelace, the vampire that turned him, he moved to Laurel Cottage in the English village of Snupperton Mumsley. He is attracted to his assistant Giles but fears disclosing his feelings in case his cherished one turns away in revulsion when Simon tells him he is a vampire. Tris arrives declaring that he wants Simon wants back. When a medieval fair comes to the village, Simon, Tris, and Giles are present in the tent of Luke de Montfort when the host suddenly dies. Tris believes he was poisoned; Simon throws himself into the investigation to stop thinking about Tris who might have caused Luke's death because he refuses to succumb to blackmail and change Luke into a vampire. There are other suspects who hated Luke; Simon hopes that one of them and not Tris will turn out to be the killer. Dean James has written an upbeat amateur sleuth mystery with a vampire as the hero. Simon has many wonderful qualities and his fear that Giles will turn away from him in horror once he learns the truth about him endears him to the audience. BAKED TO DEATH shows readers what it is like behind the scenes at a medieval fair and how it mimics the real world. Readers will find this charming entertaining and delightful mystery a book to put on the keeper shelf.

The Assassin
Rachel Butler
ISBN: 0440241200 $6.99, 384 pp.

In Key West, artist Selina McCaffrey runs Island Dreams, an art gallery except when she is on assignment for her "Uncle" William Davis. Fourteen years ago William "helped" Selena with a problem involving a death and she would do anything for him now. William sends Selena to clean up a mess incriminatingly left behind by his assistant Damon Long. An irate Damon detests Selena who is treated more like William's family than a worker. Selena temporarily moves to Tulsa to live next door to Detective Tony "Chee" Ceola, who is putting together a case against William. Selena is to destroy the dossier and if necessary kill the cop. Damon hopes she will mess up though he admits she is a survivor. While a serial killer murdering the dregs of society leaves behind "repent" as his message diverts Tony's efforts to put away William, the detective and his assassin fall in love. Will Selena choose the man who gave her a lifeline when she was a drowning teen or the cop that offers her a lifetime of love? The key to THE ASSASSIN is the believability of Selena as a fighter, a survivor, and a woman in love; the cast including Chee pale next to her. The story line grips the audience from the moment Selena shows her skills against a much heavier male opponent and never slows down until she must choose sides. Readers will wonder whether she will go with the father figure who "saved" her in the past or the hunk who offers her a warm enlightened future. Rachel Butler provides a gripping thriller that keeps her audience guessing which one Selena will select.

Path of Glory
Bret M. Funk
Tyrannosaurus Press
PO Box 8337, New Orleans, LA 70182
ISBN: 097188191X $19.95

In the land of Madryn, the four races are forced to work together to defeat the evil Darklord Lorthas. The elves, the humans and the Garan'ah fought courageously at the final battle when the mages erected the Barrier to contain Lorthas. The Barrier is a magical mountain range with only one entrance, a portal guarded by a garrison of troops. A millennium later, the segregated races keep totally to themselves distrusting one another. Young orphan Jeran lives on a farm near the Boundary; he befriends a runaway slave Dahr. The twosome share many happy times together before two outlaws thought to have been exiled inside the barrier attack their homestead. Jeran's uncle sends him to warn King Mathis that the Barrier is weakening. Accompanied by Dahr, Jeran meets allies and enemies in their quest to see the king; even after their message is delivered, the adventures of Jeran and Dahr are just beginning as the monarch has plans for his youthful messengers. PATH OF GLORY is epic fantasy in the tradition of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and the SHANNARA series. The protagonists are two young people who must learn about their different heritages if they hope to understand what is happening and being able to help when the seemingly inevitable war begins. No one will be in a funk after reading this fine coming of age novel except those who fail to read the next tale, SWORD OF HONOR, in the Boundary Fall series.

Sword of Honor
Bret M. Funk
Tyrannosaurus Press
PO Box 8337, New Orleans, LA 70182
ISBN: 0971881901 $19.95

The orphan Jeran and the former slave Dahr thought their mission would end once they warned King Mathis that the "boundary" that entrapped the Darklord Lorthas is weakening (see PATH OF GLORY). The concerned monarch understands how difficult it was to incarcerate Lorthas when the four races united a millennium ago; he fears defeat since there is much more disharmony between the people now. He assigns the messengers and his son Martyn to rally allies among the other races and warn them that Lorthas is coming. Jeran and Martyn meet with the elves, who detest commingling with other species, to persuade them to join in a new alliance; Dahr goes to rally his race the Garun'ah against a not so common foe. As Lorthas mentally crosses the Boundary to devastate the teen messengers when they dream, others plot to use his return to overthrow the King. The elves are divided as some feel Lorthas was right and they should stay out or join his side of the dispute. The Garun'ah have doubts about renewing the ancient alliance. Book two of the Boundaries Fall saga is a terrific coming of age epic fantasy in which Bret Funk makes his five races worshiping different Gods seems genuine as if the Middle East relocated to Madryn. The complex story line contains two prime subplots, the split adventures of Jeran/Martyn and Dahr on their separate treks though other themes are also explored. The cast enables the audience to comprehend how each race sees the world so differently. Though it would be better to have read the previous book first as references to events in BOUNDARY'S FALL would prove meaningless, fans will enjoy this deep fantasy.

The Devil of Nanking
Mo Hayder
ISBN: 0802117945 $24.00, 368 pp.

In Tokyo former London University student "Grey" Hutchins seeks information on war atrocities specifically the 1937 Nanking Massacre. She hears rumors that visiting Chinese Professor Shi Chongming was in the province at the time and filmed the occupying Japanese army torturing the locals. She requests a copy of the 8mm film, but he tells her to leave. Though broke, Grey refuses to give up just because an elderly scholar declines to help her. She obtains employment at The Club, frequented by gangsters where she meets wheelchair-bound hoodlum Fuyuki. He is protected by a mini army of thugs and is rumored to have an elixir that keeps him alive. At Tokai University, Chongming learns that Grey has befriended Fuyuki so the professor offers her a deal; he will give her the film in exchange for her providing him with Fuyuki's elixir. Though probably deadly, Grey accepts the devil's terms, but wonders why he never released the film and why he covets the elixir. She will soon learn more than she ever wanted to know about both and information on her own link to 1937 Nanking. THE DEVIL OF NANKING is an extremely complex tale not for the faint of heart that moves on two major paths. Readers follow the Professor in 1937 Nanking and Grey in 1990 Tokyo; however, the key to the flow and the evidence of Mo Haydor's skill lies in the way the subplots deftly intermingle without disturbing each other yet connect through events and people. This dark at times gloomy tale filled with depressing lost souls is not for everyone, but those who "never forget" the depravity of humans towards humans will feel the haunting of Nanking.

In One Year and Out the Other
Nine different authors
Downtown (Pocket)
ISBN: 1416503307 $13.00, 373 pp.

This nine tale chick lit anthology is overall an entertaining relatively strong collection. Each tale is well written with none disastrous and a third really superb. Especially enticing are entries by sub-genre favorites Cara Lockwood, Beth Kendrick, and Diane Stingley. Though this reviewer holds a prejudicial belief that that the short story is the perfect medium for this milieu, sub-genre fans including those who prefer novels will appreciate this collection. This reviewer's New Year resolution is to try to read books in a timelier manner. Still better late than never, fans will toast the authors of this delightful lighthearted anthology, which holds up for any holiday as the characters and their respective relationships make for a fun read in time for Valentine's Day.

Best of Friends
Cathy Kelly
ISBN: 0743490258 $14.00, 528 pp.

Abby Barton has become a famous TV personality with the success of her show "Declutter: Your Home and Your Life". However, she feels pressure on all sides from her producer to her spouse, but mostly her reticent teenage daughter Jess. Medical receptionist Lizzie Shanahan nurtures everyone but herself. However, in spite of caring for patients, her adult children and even her former husband Myles, Lizzie feels alone; her despondency is augmented by Myles finding a new love in his life. After a decade in the States, Erin Kennedy and her spouse Greg return to Ireland where he begins a new job in Cork. However, she worries about returning to Ireland after fleeing from her family years ago to live in Boston, and Chicago. Sally Richardson is contented with raising her children with a loving spouse, but her happiness is tempered by cancer. When she dies, her three friends, who believed they had the weight of the world on their back, learn what life is all about. The four subplots are handled with dexterity so though rotated in no obvious order; readers with a degree of difficulty will be able keep track of how each of the key females feels. Readers will care about these women and hope for the best for each of them. The character driven subplots are complex and interesting as the surviving trio begins to appreciate what they already have. Cathy Kelly furbishes a fine tale with the moral of live life to the fullest with loved ones for one day you will be an angel sitting on a cloud looking down hopefully with joy towards those you cherish.

I'm With Cupid
Diane Stingley
ISBN: 0743464923 $13.00, 304 pp.

Cynical Cupid believes he has the "worst job in the entire universe" as he deals with romance on Planet Thirty-seven, known by the whining inferior natives as Earth. His current assignment is to bring together Anna Munson and Nick Wells, who work in the same firm, but both avoid office romances. After hearing his laugh at a joke involving an imitation of a difficult client, Anna and Nick feel an attraction. Perhaps it is Cupid's frustration over not obtaining the transfer to Planet Forty-three or just dealing with billions leading to some form of on the job stress, but on their first date, Cupid breaks the romance SOPs. He shoots a true love arrow into Anna's heart before the pair can become better acquainted with one another. Anna goes from self assured to floor mat as she would do anything including destroying her life for Nick. Cupid quickly realizes that after millennium of matchmaking he has made a big error that he must correct or at least cover-up because his employers will punish him for this rule breaking. He must make Anna not love her man; this should prove easy as Nick is a rat who uses abuses and surely loses sweet Anna if Cupid has his way. Chick lit meets the Roman Gods in an amusing offbeat tale. The story line is fun to follow when Cupid is active, but loses some of its zaniness when nasty Nick is the center as he is just a selfish dude (ask the "the not-particularly-promising girl" about him). Still fans will enjoy this fine fantasy romance filled with a lead couple learning what a relationship really is.

Scare the Night Away
Vicky Delaney
Poisoned Pen
ISBN: 1590581415 $24.95, 346 pp.

Vancouver bank executive and widow Rebecca McKenzie swore she would never return to her home town of Hope River. However, the only person who could ever possibly get Rebecca to return, her beloved mom, died so she has come home for the funeral. Her father welcomes her as if she was never away; her older sister Shirley resents her; her older brother Jimmy wants her to forgive him for his behavior as a teen towards her when he emulated their sociopathic grandfather with Rebecca being an abused victim. Her dad gives her diaries that her mom kept especially during World War II when she a Brit, married a Canadian soldier and relocated to Canada where she met "It" her terrorizing father-in-law. In town, she is accosted by two angry men who blame Jimmy as a former convict for the disappearance of a popular high school student, Jennifer Taylor. As Rebecca meets her nieces, nephews and other relatives for the first time and reads the diaries she begins to feel for her father and her siblings. As the trio reconciles Rebecca investigates what happened to Jennifer since she no longer believes the reformed Jimmy did anything. SCARE THE NIGHT AWAY is a fabulous Canadian family drama with the suspense that comes in the latter half of the tale serving as the catalyst towards bringing an estrange family together. The story line is character driven mostly by Rebecca and how she relates with her father, her siblings, their spouses, children, and grandchildren. The diary serves as a solid subplot describing Rebecca's sociopath grandfather terrorizing her parents. Readers will enjoy the cell phone ending to a strong character study.

Painted Veil
Beverle Graves Myers
Poisoned Pen
ISBN: 1590581407 $24.95, 314 pp.

After debuting as a castrati (male soprano) three years ago in Venice, Tito Amato's career soared with plum roles at the state owned Teatro San Marco until now as he plays a significant but not the title role in a production of Cesare in Egitto. Tito allowed fame and the fawning of others to get to his head. He blames himself for his fall; failing to practice properly and allowing his conceited ego to enflame director Maestro Torani who chose vain Francisco Florio for the prime role. Torani asks Tito to find head scene artist Luca Cavalieri who has failed to come to work; he trusts the castrati to be discrete as he was during the INTERRUPTED ARIA affair. Seeing an opportunity to regain favor, Tito searches for the missing painter; Tito's acquaintance, visiting Englishman Gussie Rumboldt, joins him on the quest. They soon find their target dead, which leaves the opera house in jeopardy since the scenes will probably not be ready on time and the cloud of a homicide places everyone under suspicion, Tito and Gussie continue to investigate hoping to identify the killer in time to save the production. The second Baroque mystery is a delightful historical mystery that provides incredible insight into early eighteenth century Venice from mostly the perspective of the artists involved in an opera production. The story line is cleverly developed around Tito's attempts to recover from his fall from grace by sleuthing as he sees cooperating through detection as a means to regain favor with Torani. The who-done-it plays second banana to Beverle Graves Myers' aria that looks deep into opera circa 1734 Venice.

Justice Incarnate
Regan Black
Echelon Press
56 Sawyer Cir. #354, Memphis, TN 38103
ISBN: 1590803868 $13.99, 207 pp.

In 2096 Chicago, security expert Jaden Michaels knows more about her past lives than ever before and vows to make a final victorious stand in this reincarnation against the evil that successfully has killed her over and over again since he first killed her in 1066. Although she acknowledges that is the same pledge she has made in each of her previous lives, Jaden feels she remembers more than ever before so takes hope in that. Her beloved over the years this time is a by the book cop Brian Thomas, who enforces the law to the strictest level including those peddling contraband like black market coffee. Unlike his beloved Jaden, he remembers nothing and never has about previous lives. Her malevolent killer, whose memories run the millennium, happens to be Albertson, a man that Brian, holds in high regard sort of like a beloved father figure. He rejects Jaden's plea that he will kill her as she offers no evidence except some cockamamie story. Will history repeat itself or will Jaden succeed on what she vows is her last stand? JUDGE INCARNATE is a terrific reincarnation thriller that the audience will read in one sitting as the tense story line grips the audience because of the relational triangle through lifetimes. Jaden is a fabulous besieged protagonist who cannot get her beloved to believe her as he needs proof to believe something as intriguingly Brian is the only ignorant member of the war. Fans will appreciate this strong tale in which the audience will believe in past lives while looking forward to future Shadows of Justice novels.

Indian Givers
J.A. Russo
ISBN: 1413464564 $21.99 287 pp.

In Providence, Carl Bartelli has one goal in life and no one including his wife or his business partner Evan Graham will stand in the way of his achieving his objective of becoming a millionaire before he turns fifty. Though his company Barham Armored Car Company has done well in New England and now in Sao Paulo, he sees the opportunity to attain his dream. He offers a deal with The Brave Wolf Reservation tribe to provide the capital to expand the successful slot machines emporium into a casino hotel complex in exchange for a piece of the action. Using the same illegal "borrowing" of client money that capitalized the Brazilian venture at no cost, Carl, Evan and junior partner Judy Meade cut a deal with the tribe. A setback occurs when an abandoned gas station that Carl planned to buy to build the casino on is no longer for sale. The station's co-owner Claude Samuels plans to reopen up the gas station. Refusing to allow anyone to get in his way, Carl, over the protest of his partners, burns down the property of the Samuel siblings. If Judy or Evan become obstacles Carl will kill them. INDIAN GIVER contains a terrific story line, but the key to the tale is the strong cast. One track minded Carl is an intriguing villain while his partners and to a lesser degree his wife are willing to break the law just not as violently as he does. The council members are also interesting as they soon conclude that they negotiated with evil. J.A. Russo writes a tense tale that grips the audience from the moment the audience comprehends how cleverly calculatingly cunning a killer the lead protagonist is. This is an exciting reading experience

The World Still Melting
Robley Wilson
ISBN: 0312336799 $24.95, 263 pp.

In 1980s Iowa farm country, Harvey and Nancy Riker, Burton Stone, and Paul and Arlene Tobler are neighbors. Harvey abuses Nancy who finds first solace and then love with former Nam veteran Burton. When Harvey learns of their affair, he gets a gun to kill Burton, but instead murders Paul for being a Good Samaritan by trying to stop the violence before it happens. While the grieving widow Arlene returns to her family in South Dakota, Harvey goes to prison and Nancy and Burton marry. When vagrants use the vacated Tobler home as a shelter, Burton becomes upset feeling these break-ins is blasphemy and a reminder of the cost to his friends of his happiness. He fixes a shotgun to the door so when someone opens the weapon fires at them to scare them away. Arlene's adult son Peter opens the booby trapped door only to take a shot into his knee, shattering the joint. With Harvey cheerleading Peter on, he sues Burton. THE WORLD STILL MELTING looks closely at the relationships between farmers and the land and between the farm families. The story line is a combination of a soap opera with the Grapes of Wrath battle against nature, the government and the bank. When the tale stays with farmer vs. the environment (natural and man-made), Robley Wilson cleverly uses the past to provides a well written SPLENDID OMEN of what could reoccur in the future. However, when the plot concentrates on the dysfunctional relationships, readers ask why soap up the farm.

Death Splits a Hair
Nancy Bell
ISBN: 0312327811 $22.95, 224 pp.

In the small town of Post Oak, Texas, barber Joe Junior McBride is revered and respected by the townsfolk for his kindness to those less fortunate than himself. He adores his wife Marlene and her daughter Ashley and spoils his son Trey who is hateful to his stepmother and stepsister. The town is shocked when it is discovered that Joe Junior was killed in his very own home. At first the sheriff and Judge Jackson Crain assume it was a robbery gone bad but physical evidence points to the fact that it was an inside job. Marlene says she was upstairs taking a shower when her husband was killed while Trey who was supposed to be out of town was spotted by numerous people. Just when it looks like her life couldn't get any worse for Marlene, who was cut out of her husband's will, her daughter goes missing and as days go by, hopes for her safe return diminish. Joe's brother, who was in love with Marlene, is murdered and Trey avoids coming in for questioning to the sheriff who starts to believe that he might be the killer. Nancy Bell portrays what it is like living in a small Texas town off the beaten track where everyone knows their neighbor and a stranger is immediately recognized. Judge Jackson the person everyone goes to when they have a problem because if he can't solve it professionally, he acts as a friend to those in need and leaves tem feeling better about the situation. Nancy Bell has written a very entertaining who-done-it that will please her many fans.

The Trojan Dog
Dorothy Johnston
ISBN: 0312332475 $23.95

While her husband Derek is in America for a year, Sandra Mahoney struggles with helping her eight years old son Peter cope with reading while returning to the workforce after several years as a stay at home mom. She gets a civil servant job with the Australian Labor Relations Service Department Industries Branch whose unpopular director Rae Evans was a friend of her deceased mother. However, her peers except for the zany Ivan Semyonov make it evident they do not want her here; each fears for their job with the government changing parties as this branch is probably going out of existence. Canberra Times reporter Gail Tremboth calls Sandra as they were college cronies to ask about Rae. An email the paper received insists that Rae embezzled $900K by adding a zero to a grant check and has committed computer fraud. Sandra, remembering her mother's motto of loyalty to friends, believes her boss is innocent and tries to prove she is right with only Ivan helping her as everyone else in the office wants Sandra to take the fall even if she proves to be innocent. THE TROJAN DOG is a terrific Australian amateur sleuth starring a delightful protagonist, a fabulous support cast who makes the office seem real, and a fantastic look at Canberra. Though Sandra feels the world caving in on her with her spouse overseas, her son struggling with school, and her new job probably ending when the government switches leadership, she believes strongly in doing what she perceives is the right thing by not just standing loyally with Rae, but actively proving she did not commit the crimes. Dorothy Johnston provides a super investigative tale that readers will value.

Now You See Her
Cecilia Tishy
ISBN: 089296796X $23.95

In Boston, Tania Arnot believes that the townhouse she is renting is haunted so she informs her realtor Meg Givens that unless she gets rid of the unwanted ghost, she will see her in court. Not wanting a court date or the negative publicity, Meg turns to the only person she knows who dabbles with the beyond, her friend psychic Regina Cutter. Reluctantly since Regina insists she is no ghostbuster, she agrees as she isn't afraid of no ghost, but finds nothing supernatural about the townhouse. While the Arnot case seems cold, Boston Homicide Detective Francis Devaney asks Regina for her professional judgment on the Henry Faiser conviction; Henry a black drug dealer was convicted of killing Peter Wald, son of a State Senator, thirteen years ago. Henry insists he is innocent and that the real killer still walks the mean streets. However, her ESP fails to determine anything so Francis goes with the original finding while Regina decides to investigate the old fashion way. Regina is an interesting character though her paranormal skills seem wanting at least when they count in this story line. The plot is at its best when she fumbles and stumbles with her psychic powers or with reassuring her two adult children, but seems inane when Regina turns amateur sleuth investigating the homicide. Fans will enjoy Regina paranormal detective but wonder about Regina investigator. Though that detour takes away from an interesting tale, readers of a different kind of heroine will enjoy NOW YOU SEE HER, but expect more of the psychic than the inquiring shamus in future adventures.

See Isabelle Run
Elizabeth Bloom
ISBN 0892967854 $22.95, 259 pp.

She moved from Vermont to be with her fiancee but on their wedding day he jilted Isabelle and he too the maid of honor with him to the honeymoon in Fiji he was to share with Isabelle. A class act, Isabelle insists everyone enjoy the reception and even dances on the table. The newspaper prints a picture of Isabelle dancing to go along with her heartbreaking story and Becky Belden, a Martha Stewart clone, offers her a job in her empire. When she arrives Isabelle is assigned to work as Lisa Kinne's assistant in special projects. She learns that she is the replacement for Marcia who died when she was pushed in front of a train. A company friend warns Isabelle other deaths of employees have occurred and one worker Kenny remains missing. Becky dedicates a show to Kenny and places a life sized picture of him in the street level window of Becky Belden's Enterprises where everyone can see it. When Lisa drowns in her swimming pool and a man enters her house to kill Isabelle, she knows something sinister is going on at the company and all the deaths are related and intends to prove it. Elizabeth's Bloom's debut novel is a smashing success and ensures that readers who have read SEE ISABELLE RUN will buy the next thriller this author writes. The heroine is a spunky brave individual who refuses to ignore crimes being committed even when one of the suspects is her lover, a top executive in Becky's business. When she believes she is the next person to be killed, she doesn't runs away but look for answers though that places her in more danger.

Music To Die For
Radine Trees Nehring
St Kitts
ISBN: 0966187989 $14.00, 273 pp.

As the Arkansas highway tourist information manager, widow Carrie McCrite attends the annual Department of Parks and Tourism Convention at The Ozark Folk Center State Park near Mountain View with several of her friends including her closest pal Henry King. Carrie especially looks forward to attending the craft classes that she signed up for and to attending the performances especially country and western stars Chase Mason and Tracy Teal, but dozes through the lectures. However, instead of a weekend of relaxation mellowing in the remote local, all hell breaks lose. Someone abducts Farel, the four year old daughter of Chase and Tracy; however Carrie and Henry find the culprit dead and his house burned down in a deliberate fire. The child remains missing. As they work in tandem while their feelings for one another blossom Carrie and Henry desperately hope to save a little girl even at a risk to their own lives. MUSIC TO DIE FOR is a terrific Ozark cozy that brings to life this region of the country. The mystery is cleverly designed so that the lead amateur sleuths and the audience seem to only find more questions and plenty of troubles, but no child. Henry is a delightful lead as his admiration and fondness for Carrie grow; she is an intriguing charter who when struggling asks the Lord for guidance. Fans of regional cozies will enjoy this tale and like this reviewer seek Radine Tree Nehring's first Ozark mystery, A VALLEY TO DIE FOR.

The Curse of Mesphisto's Seed: The Day of the Awakening
William P Haynes
Publish America
ISBN 1413728650 $19.95 192 pp.

Elliott Stephens was born in 1950 a miracle child to a couple who were told could never give birth. His father died one year later so he has been raised by his cold single mother, Gloria who blames her child for the death of her spouse. Elliot has no friends and is considered a troublemaker at school. When Elliott loses control he thinks of bad things happening to others; however his fantasies turn real with accidents happening consistently and one student even died. His mom fears him although he is only seven. Mesphisto has observed Elliott in action selects a mentor to help the lad focus his power. He sends a wolf to guide the lad, but the subservent asks his master to wait until Elliot is an adult to better use him as a pawn of hell. The devil agrees to wait until the kid is stronger, but kills the wolf for disobedience. Though things around Elliot have quieted down, the day of the awakening is coming with hell on earth; God has selected his acolytes to battle the devil's spawn. William P. Haynes has provided a tense modern day biblical thriller that will grip readers from start to finish. Elliot is fabulous protagonist as he seems like an innocent lab, but instead is a ferocious wolf. His selected opponents do not seem near his equal, but that seems apropos when one considers the selection of Moses as a spokesperson. Fans of angel-devil warfare on earth will want to read the exciting first book of THE CURSE OF MESPHISTO'S SEED though be warned that the font seems small.

The Acts of Judas
Georgiann Baldino
Treble Heart
1284 Overlook Drive, Sierra Vista, AZ 85635
ISBN: 1931742847 $13.50

In Jordon American archeologist Linda Rhodes feels she is near a great discovery from antiquity, but, her expedition runs into problems. A camel spider chews off a chunk of a worker's face. This on top of a seatbelt incident has spooked the workforce into believing that evil travels with Linda. Only the help of her loyal followers Abu and Zuhair keep most of the men from leaving, but six do. Finally two men are poisoned as someone placed ipecac syrup in their food; the syrup came from the American students' first aid kits. In spite of someone sabotaging her efforts perhaps because Israeli Jewish Professor Gold is on the team, Linda stubbornly continues her work that pays off with a major find that appears to be from the Dead Sea Scrolls era. However, Muslim terrorists invade her dig and kill the government liaison Dr. Fawzi. Linda is not sure whether she found the gospel according to Judas or a fake. The terrorists direct her to translate the document or die; she knows that once she completes her translation, they will kill her anyway, but she needs to know what Judas said. This exhilarating archeological thriller occurs just before and after 9/11. Though the preliminary mischief seems childlike compared to the terrorists' activities and the world scene on 9/11 and afterward, the backdrop of growing distrust and disenchantment in the Middle East provides tension because readers know of the World Trade Center tragedy and the suicide bombings in Israel (and now Iraq). The contents of the Judas "translation" augments a fantastic archeological tale caught in the global war on terrorism.

The Accidental Hunter
Nelson George
Touchstone (Simon and Schuster)
ISBN: 0743235525 $13.00

On Brooklyn's Belt Parkway heading to Manhattan, fifteen bikers with the lead person holding an automatic weapon force R&B singer Night and his date Black American Princess Tandi Lincoln to exit the highway. Not long afterward, D Hunter of D Security attends a Knick game where he introduces himself as a friend of Night to an elderly white dude with an afro nicknamed the Mack, but actually is Night's agent Ivy Greenwich. Ivy hires D to pay the ransom to Night's kidnappers and to protect talented pop star Bridgette Hayes. The tabloids name D as Bridgette's toy, but he is a player feeling he is always ONE WOMAN SHORT even while he plays with his client, her sister, and Emily who owns the in Emily's Tea Party. However, he becomes concerned that the bikers may have ties to one of his security staff, but if that true which one as Night's abductors threaten to snatch Bridgette. Anyone serving as her bodyguard can expect bodily harm if they get in the way. This street fast urban noir stars an intriguing player who though heis HIV Positive continues to play the game. The story line predominantly focuses on the underbelly of sex and drug abuse in the music world. However, the myriad of subplots, though well written, for instance one involving a Knick super stud makes it difficult at times to stay focused on the biker scenario. Still Nelson George provides a deep look at the personalities behind the music scenes with East Coast glitz and glamour disguising the NIGHT WORK accentuated by sex and drugs.

Get Bunny Love
Kathleen Long
ISBN: 082177848X $3.99, 304 pp.

In Philadelphia, his Aunt Martha threatens to sell the family firm McNulty Events to rival Armand Miller if Nathan McNulty fails to turn it around. Desperate to save the company rather than work for the odious Armand, Nate persuades Kitty Worthington to allow his firm to host her annual Worthington Cup dog show. Now all he needs is an event planner. Free lance graphic designer Bunny Love applies for a job at McNulty's firm. He hires her to be his event planner though she insists her experience is with graphics not events. As she brings chaos and positive airs into his stiff prim and proper life, someone is vandalizing the dog show in an effort to destroy Nate's company. Still as the show goes on, the staid Nate and the feng shui Bunny fall in love, but this yin and yang do not seem capable of surviving the first night of the dog show. Fans of amusing romantic romps will want to GET BUNNY LOVE, a fun tale that takes a 1930s screwball comedy and updates it with modern new age zaniness. The story line contains two opposites falling in love while working a canine caper. Though fans will wonder why Nate chose Bunny to run the gala rather than doing it himself since his firm teetered on the brink of collapse, readers will enjoy this amusing jump into the chaotic New Age world of Bunny in love.

Highland Conqueror
Hannah Howell
ISBN: 0821777572 $6.50, 352 pp.

In 1473, Highlander Laird Sigimor Cameron and five of his closest supporters rush to England because his friend Lord Peter Gerard needs help. Sigimor would do anything for Peter who once saved his life. However, by the time they arrive, they learn that Peter is dead and his cousin Harold is in charge of Drumwich Castle. Harold incarcerates the six Highlanders. Peter's sister, Jolene drugs the ale of the guards so she can visit the prisoners and negotiate a deal. Jolene believes that Harold poisoned her sibling and his two loyalist men, but has no proof. She fears for the safety of her three years old nephew Reynard, the heir to Drumwich. Jolene frees the highlanders who take her and Reynard with them as they flee with Harold in hot pursuit. As Jolene and Sigimor fall in love, she is pulled in two directions between her desire for her Highlander and being the only mother that Reynard has had since his biological mom died in childbirth; whereas Sigimor belongs in Scotland, Reynard belongs on English lands. Hannah Howell's latest Highlander historical romance is an intriguing tale made complex by the choice that Jolene must make if, that is, they survive long enough for her to choose. Sigimor is a typical hunk constantly taking the honorable high road. Though Harold is out of the Scottish fifteenth century villain handbook, HIGHLAND CONQUEROR is a fine tale due to the valiant heroine who must opt between the two males in her life, leaving one behind.

Drama City
George Pelecanos
Little, Brown
ISBN: 0316608211 $24.95, 336 pp.

After spending eight years in a cell, Lorenzo Brown enjoys freedom refusing to do push-ups as they represent incarceration after doing five hundred a day while in prison. He regrets not knowing his daughter as he was in jail when she was born and her mom refuses him any contact. To keep him company while he goes straight, Lorenzo rescued a canine Jasmine. To the shock of his former street pals, Lorenzo works for the man as a Humane Society Officer, a "Dog Man" protecting animals from the abuse of humans. His dedicated parole officer Rachel Lopez tries to do the right thing for her clients, but has her own woes and addictions to also contend with. Lorenzo and Rachel regularly meet over tuna subs to discuss how he is doing. However, Lorenzo's life suddenly gets caught up in illegal brutal animal fights that return the game into his life though it is not what he wants. He learns of the murder of two young new players; he knows a thug from the old times killed them, but staying straight, the hardest job Lorenzo ever held, means staying out. DRAMA CITY is a terrific insightful thriller that focuses on how difficult it is for someone to stay straight when they return to the same neighborhood that incubated their criminal behavior. The story line mostly follows Lorenzo as he tries to remain out of trouble, but wonders if the local mantra once a player always a player is a truism. George Pelecanos provides a thought provoking thriller on struggling to stay alive while going straight.

The Autumn Castle
Kim Wilkins
Warner Aspect
ISBN: 044661663X $6.95, 435 pp.

Christine Starlight has never gotten over the deaths of her pop icon parents who were killed in an accident by an underage driver. She lives in Berlin with her lover, the artist Jude, who just won a fellowship from billionaire sculpture Immanuel Zweigler to perfect his work. His host also hunts down fairies, captures them, and drops them in an acid vat to use their bones in his current sculpture he Bone Wife which moves thanks to fairy magic which resides inn their bones after death. Christine reunites with her childhood friend Mayfridth, who was abducted by fairies, converted into one of them, and now is the Queen of the magical realm of the German fairies Ewigkreis. Mayfridth has returned to the mundane world to visit Christine, who recently had accidentally journeyed into the fairy realm. Christine realizes May has fallen in love with Jude, but also knows the queen must return to her home because her people need her. Immanuel wants her royal skeleton and is waiting for the right time to kill her. Immanuel enters Ewigkreis to murder the fairies; Christine must stop this serial killer who now has kidnapped Mayfridth. Kim Wilkins has created a magical realm populated by wonderful beings who seem real as if the author has visited the land of fairy. Readers will cherish Christine, a kind, loyal, and caring soul, who deserves the best, not what she has gotten. The Queen's advisor plays a critical but secondary role and his shapeshifting skills t enable him to turn into a fox, crow, or bear and that also seems genuine and adds to the feel that this fantasy tale actually happened. Readers will be swept into THE AUTUMN CASTLE by this beautiful adult fairy tale.

Empire's Daughter
Simon Brown
ISBN: 0756402832 $6.99, 432 pp.

With the death of Empress Hetha Kevleren, regions of the powerful far flung Empire of Hamilay see an opportunity to use the magical force of the Sefid to secede. However, to be successful at Wielding the magic, sacrifice must occur; the closer the Wielder cherishes the victim, the more powerful the usage of the Sefid. The Kevleren have been the most powerful practitioners, but many believe that the Duchess Yunara is the strongest magician today though her sister Lerena is the new Empress. General Third Prince Maddyn Kevleren is unable to work the magic of the Sefid as his relatives can especially his former lover and second cousin Yunara. He tries to make up for his inadequacy through military prowess, but knows that in spite of his being the top general in the empire he remains an embarrassment to his friends. As he angers Yunara, Maddyn knows he must flee to protect loved ones from her wrath. He accepts an opportunity to strengthen the empire's stronghold in the New World, knowing that the unknown is less dangerous than the known. Simon Brown, renowned for his Keys of Power trilogy, provides fantasy fans with a terrific new series with the fabulous Book One of the Chronicles of Kydan. The well written story line moves on two fronts as Maddyn tries to serve the new Empress while keeping his loved ones safe from retaliation; the two royal siblings have troubles starting with a Rivald revolt and massacre aided by magic that seems impossible to have occurred the way it apparently did. Because the key powerful cast seems real, they make magic appear normal so that epic fantasy readers will enjoy Mr. Brown's latest saga.

Heart of the Flame
Tina St. John
ISBN: 0345459954 $6.99

In 1275 Cornwall, England former Templar Knight Kenrick comes to the home of his friend Rand only to see a massacre occurred. Kenrick knows the evil Silas de Mortaine apparently annihilated the family in search of the Dragon Chalice that Kenrick hid in his friend's home. Feeling guilt, Kenrick goes to the hiding place where he hid the chalice, but it is not there. He concludes that Silas has not gained possession of the object that would enhance his dark magic to the point of no one capable of stopping the malevolent wizard. Kenrick finds an unconscious woman dying from infection. He nurtures her and takes her to the home of his sister and brother-in-law to further heal and to learn what she knows about whathappened to Rand and his family. Instead the woman Haven knows she must escape as soon as she is able to leave. Still as Kenrick questions her, she is attracted to him and visa versa, but she hides a secret that if he learns it will make him hate her, at least that is what she believes. HEART OF THE FLAME, the sequel to the wonderful historical romantic fantasy HEART OF THE HUNTER, is a delightful tale that stars Kenrick, whose incarceration was the catalyst that brought his sister and in-law together. This time Kenrick's adventures are told even as he feels remorse over the troubles and probable deaths he brought to his friend. Still he courageously knows he cannot fold as Silas remains a danger to the world. Haven is his perfect counterpoint as she adds mystery with what she hides from Kenrick. Fans of medieval romantic fantasy will appreciate Tina St. John's fine novel.

Wizard's Bridge
Karen McCullough
ISBN: 0975965301 $13.75, 191 pp.

Her village is in trouble from hostile neighbors so Alsa, who has elementary wizardry skills, decides she must save her town. However, though she has latent talent she has no training to focus her flair. Alsa knows her only hope for mentoring comes from the nearby wizard, who lives in a castle on the top of a mountain across a bridge of light particles guarded by a dragon. Frightened by the rumors she has heard of the hermit wizard, Alsa crosses the bridge and meets face to face the dragon, who sends her onto the castle following her explanation. Inside the castle she meets her host who wears a mask to hide what Alsa assumes is his hideous face from her. The wizard listens to her plea without displaying any emotion. Instead he offers to train her if she bears his child. She agrees. As she learns how to use her talent under the tutelage of a difficult harsh instructor, Alsa falls in love with her teacher and the other castle minion, but believes she will be sent home once she gives birth because though she knows her wizard cares he hides his feelings from himself. WIZARD'S BRIDGE is a beautiful retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast story enhanced by fantasy elements. The lead couple is a delight as both will soon learn that they received much more than their original deal's considerations. The action starts right away when the "Little Mortal" meets the dragon and never slows down until Alsa finally learns the first rule of wizardry on what ingredient casts the most powerful spells. Adult fairy tale fans will want to read this delightful romantic fantasy.

Devil's Wind
Richard Rayner
ISBN: 0066212928 $24.95

In 1956 California, highly regarded Los Angeles architect Maurice Valentine feels he rid himself of his past culminated when he changed identity from Maurizio Viglioni after coming home from World War II battle fatigued. Instead, he Anglicized his name, married a wealthy senator's daughter, and has connection is politics and with the mob. Maurice is going places perhaps in DC. At a party, the womanizing Maurice meets self-claimed heiress Mallory Walker, who seduces him; for the first time in years he wants more. However, he is stunned when, Mallory fires a shot at him. Not long afterward, she is found dead in what appears to be a car accident. However, Maurice knows how sly and deadly his connections are; he wonders if Mallory was murdered and begins making inquiries though he knows that is a mistake. He has to know why she wanted him dead. Soon he will find a strange twist involving an obsessed actress and soon to be someone else's wife Beth Dyer, who sends him seeking Vegas mobster Paul Mantinelli at a gala celebrating the latest atomic bomb test. The story line is action-packed, very graphic (the scene with the bomb exploding nearby is brilliant), and contains strong characters. The twists and turns will initially shock the audience, but quickly make sense as no one is quite like they seem; just ask Viglioni in his Valentine persona. Richard Rayner provides a wonderful historical (makes me feel ancient to say the 1950s in a historical context) Noir that pays homage to the Barbara Stanwick femme fatale movies.

Lost Lake
Phillip Margolin
ISBN 0060735023 $25.95, 322 pp.

General Morris Wingate is running for his party' presidential nomination against the incumbent president. To the public at large he is a hero who used his security officers from the company he owns to rescue hostages in Afghanistan. What they don't know is that when Wingate ran the agency for intelligence data coordination, he formed a black ops organization and assigned the men to kill those he declared as enemy combatants of the United States. To dissolve his personal unit, Morris sent his men into a trap in North Vietnam where they all died except for Carl Rice who escaped. Carl was once the lover of Wingate's daughter Vanessa Kohler. When she found about the unit she tried to expose her father as a traitor, but he instead had her committed to a mental institution and now nobody takes her seriously especially since she works on the tabloid Exposed. Carl surfaces after fifteen years on the run; he and Vanessa team up in the hopes of exposing retired General Wingate to the American people. Phillip Margolin has written an exciting political thriller that captures and keeps the audience's attention even when fans knows almost from the start that Wingate is evil but cleverly eliminates anyone who knew about his clandestine activities. The audience will keep reading just to find out given the lack of no paper trail or other evidence how Wingate can be convicted in a legal court room or in the court of public opinion. LOST LAKE is a chilling work because the premise feels so plausible.

The Shooting Script
Laurence Klavan
ISBN 0345462769 $23.95 244 pp.

Roy Millano considers himself a "Trivial Man", a person so obsessed with movie arcane that he doesn't have a life and his only source of income is a newsletter he produces. He considers himself a movie detective after finding the original long lost version of the movie "The Magnificent Ambersons" (See THE OUTING EDGE) even though he was almost killed while pursuing it. Now Roy's mother is ill and his aunt wants him to get a real job to pay for her care. When he gets an e-mail from an anonymous person telling him that he has a copy of the Day the Clown Cried, a Jerry Lewis drama, that was never released, Roy rushes to meet the man. When he arrives at his hotel room, the man is dead and there is no tape. Forgetting about his mother's illness Roy follows the trail to the tape and is stalked by another "Trivial Man" who is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way of finding and keeping the tape. THE SHOOTING SCRIPT is a story of what happens when obsession is taken to extreme; Laurence Klavan has a protagonist with a refreshingly unique voice who can quote movie trivia at the drop of a hat especially when he is nervous. The dangerous situations Roy finds himself in pursuing the movie does not deter him from going after what he wants even though he knows he might get killed by his obsessive stalker killer.

Long Spoon Lane
Anne Perry
ISBN: 0345469275 $25.95, 336 pp.

By the summer of 1893, the English have become concerned with the bombing activities of the Anarchists who set explosions recently in London and Paris. A tip has come into the Special Branch, whose mission is to stop terrorists, claiming a bomb is set to go off in East London. Special Branch Chief Victor Narraway and Agent Thomas Pitt rush to the area; they capture two of the bombers. A third, a parliament member's son, is killed. Pitt investigates the crime in an effort to learn who murdered the third prisoner. As he conducts an internal investigation of the affairs of his office and the police as a whole, Pitt uncovers vast corruption with Bow Street Inspector Wetron of Bow Street seemingly as the untouchable chieftain protected by the highest levels of government. Meanwhile the media goes on a feeding frenzy demanding the arming of Bobbies and invoking patriotism insisting more power granted to law enforcement to intimidate suspected terrorists. Only a devil's deal with his enemy Sir Charles Voisey might stop Wetron from taking advantage of the public fervor, which seems to make this mastermind even more potent and deadly. Highly regarded for her terrific historical mysteries, Anne Perry may have written her most relevant late nineteenth century police procedural in LONG SPOON LANE. The story line is action-packed from the moment the two Special Branch cops race to Myrdle Street to prevent a bombing and never slows down as the hero learns how deep corruption and greed extend in the force. Charlotte, Pitt's wife, plays a lesser role than she did in SEVEN DIALS, but no one will mind as the parallels of 1893 England to modern America is uncanny.

The Dark Queen
Susan Carroll
ISBN: 0345437969 $13.95, 544 pp.

Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, refuses to wed Comte de Renauld though he is persistent to the point of waiting for her at the altar. When she fails to show up, he comes to see her and is very kind to her younger sisters Gabrielle and Mirabelle though the latter "stole" his horse. Renauld gives Ariane a magic ring in which he will come to her if she asks for him; but upon the third use they will marry. He leaves. Not long afterward Navarre Captain Remy arrives badly wounded. He gives Ariane proof that Catherine de Medici poisoned his ruler Queen Jeanne D'Albret. By coming here with his evidence of murder, Remy has endangered Ariane and her two siblings from the deadly Dark Queen. To keep her sisters safe, Ariane uses the ring twice and Renard comes to her aid. He frees her from the third time marriage vow although he still wants to marry her for one simple reason; he loves the Lady of Faire Isle. THE DARK QUEEN is a wonderful first of three historical suspense tales (Ariane's sisters to follow) with a pinch of both the otherworldly and romance to spice up the deep look at the Medici era. Ariane is a terrific independent soul worried for her sisters especially the twelve years old Mirabelle who talks with horses, which lead to a declaration of witchcraft that means death. The story line is action-packed but character driven as the noble Renauld knows he must go slower with his beloved and Catherine is Machiavelli's "prince" with her deadly machinations. Susan Carroll writes a wonderful historical thriller that will have the audience eagerly awaiting Gabrielle's story.

Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams
Nick Webb
ISBN: 0345476506 $25.95, 384 pp.

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun"; there on a inconsequential rock revolving around this insignificant star, Douglas Adams used humor to place the importance of earthlings in the Einstein Universe. Nick Webb in turn provides insight into the life of Mr. Adams, the brain behind such classic tales as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; don't panic there is still time if you ignore your digital watch to read the amusing novel and its wacky sequels or catch the TV series. The well-written biography is parts irreverent (Mr. Adams must have provided divine guidance for that inclusion) and parts insightful especially on his subject's prim and proper British education and during the artistic period of starvation, overwork, and fame. Though obviously targeting Ford Prefect fans, Nick Webb does a masterful job giving insight into Adams during the time he wrote the Hitchhiker-Python-Who scripts in the late 1970s.

Vanishing Acts
Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 0743454545 $26.00, 448 pp.

In New Hampshire, Delia Hopkins and her dog Greta work as a great team helping the police find missing people mostly children. Every time she and Greta succeed in reuniting a mother and child, Delia reflects on her own life raised by her father since her mother died in a car accident when she was three. She also always ponders how she would react if her beloved child Sophie vanished. Though engaged to her daughter's father, Delia raises her daughter mostly with the help of her sixty years old dad Andrew, who runs a senior-citizens' home. The relationship between father and daughter that seemed perfect for over three decades collapses instantly when Arizona police arrest and have Andrew extradited to Phoenix on kidnapping charges; the victim ironically is Delia. She learns that her mother Elsie still lives and that her father abducted her when she was three because he insists she was an alcoholic dangerous to their child. Delia meets her mother, who is a sober caring healer while her dad's tale has inconsistencies; she wonders whether the truth will surface in court? The changing perspectives as each of the key players take turns as the lead provides an intriguing look at what is truth as the audience will observe the same incident interpreted differently, which leads to reality seemingly shifting. The story line is fast-paced, but character driven and filled with angst. Though sidebars like the prison scene add excitement that seems unnecessary to a fabulous thriller that grips the audience in and out of the courtroom wondering whose point of view will ultimately be accepted as fact.

The Tea House on Mulberry Street
Sharon Owens
ISBN: 0399152652 $25.00, 323 pp.

Daniel and Penny Stanley run Muldoon's, a popular place where people escape from their troubles to enjoy delicious pastries. However, in these modern times, the quaint tea rooms seem antiquated even if the cherry cheesecake is the best in town. The Stanleys also feel their relationship has become stale after seventeen years together. Ironically the tea house comes from her family yet Penny wants more out of life than the shop to include children but Muldoon's has always been Daniel's significant other; that's why he married Penny in the first place. Patrons come here as much to escape as for the desserts. Wannabe artist Brenda Brown comes here to drown her sorrows that her art has never sold. Henry Blackstock enjoys breakfast here before opening his bookstore, but recently comes here to mourn in private the death of his beloved gardens killed by his wife to "house" her book club. Overweight and filled with self pity Sadie Smith cheats on her diet here while she believes her husband cheats on her. After two decades overseas, Clare Fitzgerald hopes to find her lost love that she met at Muldoon's twenty years ago. Soon a fire will cause these lost souls connected through Muldoon's to complete their introspective reassessment of life. Well written in a soap opera way, the various subplots run throughout the novel linked by Muldoon's; enabling each of the prime players to seem real and unique. Surprisingly with all this bemoaning, the tale has a sugary (not just because of the desserts) aftertaste; still fans of contemporary character study starring an ensemble cast will want to read Sharon Owens' fine story (on a full stomach).

Prince of Darkness
Sharon Kay Penman
ISBN: 0399152563 $24.95, 336 pp.

The ransom for King Richard the Lionhearted is gathered and his mother Eleanor goes to Germany to pay it. Prince John is unhappy with the news; he is more perturbed that Lady Constance of Brittany, the mother of a possible rival as heir to the throne Arthur, possesses a letter that implicates John in a plot to assassinate his royal brother. John knows the letter is a forgery and through subterfuge he gets Justin de Quincy, the Queen's man, to come to Paris where he convinces his visitor that Eleanor would want him to prove the document is a fake. During their investigation, Justin and his companion see an ally of the Prince die at the hands of an assassin's knife. They are charged with murder and brought to Constantine's manor to linger in her dungeon until they die. By the time they are freed, the killer has vanished, they have no proof and Richard is home believing his younger brother a traitor. Justin reluctantly returns to England pleading the Prince's case to Eleanor hoping she will see justice occurs by interceding between the brothers. Fans of Roberta Gellis' historical novels will definitely want to read Sharon Kay Penman latest medieval thriller PRINCE OF DARKNESS as the story contains a terrific mystery and a great look at the upper class lifestyle especially the royals during the Middle Ages. The hero may not like his assignments, but regardless of how he internally feels he always does his best. Readers will cherish him and hope he finds happiness as he has earned it. As usual Ms. Penman provides a spotlight that shines on a bygone era with an intensity and illumination rarely seen.

Hard Truth
Nevada Barr
ISBN: 0399152415 $24.95, 336 pp.

Married less than a week, National Parks Ranger Anna Pigeon celebrates her "honeymoon" by starting a new job at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado while her spouse Sheriff Paul Davidson remains in Mississippi. However, barely on the job, she finds herself caught up in the case of two female teens, who vanished with a third girl about a month ago, but just returned. The twosome remains closemouthed about their tribulations insisting they do not know what happened or where the third female might be. Though traumatized by a recent climbing accident that paralyzed her, Heath Jarrod , who with her elderly aunt found the two girls, manages to somewhat reach the girls. Anna investigates what little she has learned especially the recent slaughter of small animals and a tight lipped cult whose charismatic leader controls the young that flock to him as she hopes to rescue the still missing third person. Meanwhile Heath tries to aid the two devastated teens, who still seem frightened by whoever abducted them. Actually by assisting the girls, Heath helps herself more as she begins to adjust to life in a wheelchair. Though darker than her previous appearances due to the graphically related evil exploits of the villain, the latest Anna Pigeon police procedural is a terrific thriller in which the heroine risks her life. The story line cleverly counterbalances the malevolent antagonist with Heath's reemergence as a member of the living as both have "purpose". The courageous Anna is fabulous with her two time zone marriage (she may detest cell phones, but they come in handy) while investigating a dangerous case with several viable suspects, who seem as if anyone could kidnap girls and if needed kill.

As Simple As Snow
Gregory Galloway
ISBN: 0399152318 $23.95

Brooding Goth Anna "Anastasia" Cayne recently moved to the small town where she attends Hamilton High School as a sophomore. She dresses in black joining up with six other Manson clones as a clique. Anastasia loves to read, loving those who craft wild ghost stories and enjoys tossing riddles at people. Her hobby is writing obits for the living with her current goal to complete one for all fifteen hundred plus residents in less than a year. At the library, she accosts a student over his reading material; they begin dating. However, upon completing the town obits, Anastasia vanishes. Her stunned boyfriend, encouraged by odd anonymous notes with enigmatic puzzles and codes, begins looking back over the five months she was in town and realizes weird things besides his own darkened transformation had occurred. While the obituaries were being written no one died and the author though new in town knew more about the souls than those who lived here their entire life. He wonders if his family or friends caused Anastasia's disappearing act or did she pull a Houdini and vanish. AS SIMPLE AS SNOW grips the readers once Anastasia challenges the narrator over his choice of Kerouac instead of Burroughs and never lets up until the final metamorphosis, but fails to bring together the enigma that makes up the fascinating anti-heroine. The story line grips the audience on two levels; the need to know what really happened to the gloomy Anastasia and as an insightful look at alienated youth. Gregory Galloway provides a deep look at disenchanted teens, but in the end leaves too much unanswered especially the spooky elements that haunt the left behind boyfriend.

Cold Service: A Spenser Novel
Robert B. Parker
ISBN: 0399152407 $24.95

The Ukrainian mob has begun to muscle its way into the Boston rackets with an eye on competing against Luther Gillespie's bookie operations. Luther fearing the intrusion of this dangerous group from Brooklyn hires Hawk as his bodyguard. However, as good as Hawk is, the mob proves better at killing and most of Gillespe's family except for his young son are murdered, while Hawk takes three bullets in his back. Hawk identifies the shooters but the case is botched leaving it to Hawk's code of ethics to take action although the Ukrainian gangsters have sanctuary in nearby Marshport from the mayor and the local mob. Still taking out five is not the difficult task especially with Spenser covering his back; it is taking out the quintet without retaliation from the Ukrainians, their handlers, and the Mass-east mob without leaving evidence for the Feds or the police that is the problem. The Spenser series always is at the stratospheric levels of male in your face boldness, but this time Robert B. Parker takes the machismo gene to the upper area of the atmosphere, the exosphere. The story line is action-packed as the two friends continue their quest proving why bullets have a certain phallic shape. Series fans will enjoy this thriller filled with Superman levels of testosterone in which even their respective female Docs fail at softening the avenging duo.

Dead of Night
Randy Wayne White
ISBN 039915244X $24.95, 384 pp.

Dr. Marion Ford owns Sanibel Biological which sells marine samples to schools and research laboratories around the countries. He looks like a nerdy scientist but that is a cover for he is part of a deep cover operations team. Members of the group provide its agents with legitimate and mobile professions. Ford's job collecting marine samples takes him all over the world, a great cover when on an assignment. As a favor to a friend he checks on her brother Jobe Applebee because he hasn't answered the phone for a few days. Marion sees a woman Dasha beating and torturing Jobe. Marion chases her and her partner away but meanwhile the man commits suicide. Guinea worms crawl out of his body. A cunning criminal, Dr. Desmond Stokes is letting loose these and other types of exotics so that property values in the area will drop and he can buy prime land cheap. He seeks Jake's computer which might have the cure for the worm infestation. He wants to develop it so that the world will look at him as a savior while the clever and strong Dasha has orders to eliminate Ford who has the computer files and knows who is behind the loosening of the poisonous exotics on an unsuspecting state. Randy Wayne White has written a high powered bio-terror thriller. The action starts during the first chapter and picks up speed, taking the reader on a roller coaster ride full of chilling terror. In the wrong hands bio-terrorists can devastate an area and there is little anyone can do to stop them until after the mission is accomplished and the results become known. This is a very scary novel because it is based on a realistic premise one that people can't guard against. DEAD OF NIGHT is a scintillating action adventure thriller.

Hide Your Eyes
Alison Gaylin
ISBN 045121448X $5.99, 320 pp.

Samantha Leiffer moved from California to Manhattan to be with her boyfriend who turned out to be cheating on her with men and women. She stays in New York and holds two jobs, one as a teacher at the Sunny Side Nursery School and the other at the Off-Broadway Space Theatre's box office. One day she takes a walk by the Hudson River and sees a man and a coatless woman toss an ice chest into the water. Sam has a real bad feeling about the scene. Strange things begin happening to Sam. A word is printed in her book that she reads to her students. She finds a picture of her mother with her eyes pried out. A one word email arrives at her computer at the Space Theater. The police find the ice chest; inside is a three year old child with her eyes cut out. The killer escalates his attacks on Sam and more children die. Sexy Detective John Krull has her stay in his apartment and under his guard because it is clear that the killer wants her as his next victim. The story starts out offbeat, funny and lighthearted as the heroine copes with the radical changes in her life and her runaway imagination. HIDE YOUR EYES gets scary very quickly as Samantha's imagination becomes real and the killer is stalking her and innocent children. The tension soars to unbearable levels and not even Sam's romantic affair with Detective Krull is enough to stop readers form wanting to know what the killer will do next. Allison Gaylin is a bright new star in the psychological suspense and thriller horizons.

The Perfect Family
Carla Cassidy
ISBN: 0451213904 $6.50, 368 pp.

In Cass Creek near Kansas City, Marissa Jamison still mourns the death of her spouse John, a firefighter killed in a hit and run incident in a grocery lot. She hides her grief because she knows her two youngsters seven year old Justin and five year old Jessica need her to be strong. Following a little game in which her son played at Line Creek Park, Marissa gets into a near fender bender with another driver; the woman in the other car is nasty before driving off. That night she is found dead with a message that this is a gift for Marissa. Detectives Luke Hunter and Sarah Wilkinson locate Marissa through her late husband's occupation and stun her with the news. A second present follows. Someone is protecting the widow by killing anyone nasty towards her; this individual has plans because he believes Marissa and her two children need him to round out THE PERFECT FAMILY. This exciting police procedural thriller with a secondary romantic subplot will leave the audience with a chill deep into their gut as the obsessed villain will not allow anyone to stand in his way of attaining his objective. The besieged heroine is fabulous as she struggles with being the focus of a maniac. The support cast enhances the plot as her children still tussle with their father's death, the detectives with protecting the widow once they conclude she is not the culprit and an attraction to one another, and finally the new beau (her high school sweetheart) in Marissa's life. Though the killer once revealed seems too way out, his crazed obsession done in a shadowy way makes a tense chilling thriller.

A Most Unsuitable Man
Jo Beverley
ISBN: 0451214234 $6.99

In 1763 wealthy Damaris Myddleton is stunned when Marquess Ashart proposes to poor companion Genova Smith instead of her. She had set her sights on him and thought he would marry her if for no other reason than he needs money. Realizing she made a fool of herself, she flees, but is stopped by Ash's pal impoverished former soldier Octavius Fitzroger, who persuades her to hold her head up high. She turns to her host Lord Rothgar, family patriarch and asks him to be her guardian instead of the elderly avaricious Henry Malloren; he agrees with the stipulation that she serve as companion to Genova. Rothgar also hired Fitzroger to keep Ash safe from an unknown assailant. As Fitz watches over Ash and Damaris spends time with Genova, they become acquainted and begin to fall in love, which interferes with his task. It helps though frustrates Fitz that she wants a title so he is A MOST UNSUITABLE MAN for a social climber like her. The latest Malloren tale is a fine Georgian romance but readers at first will be very cold towards the heroine until she is endangered. The story line is fast-paced on two sub-plots that of the romance between Fitz and Damaris and the attempts to kill Ash. Jo Beverley effortlessly brings these two themes together along with the return of cast from previous novels into a finely honed historical.

Who Killed the Queen of Clubs?
Patricia Sprinkle
ISBN: 0451214501 $5.99, 272 pp.

Edith Burkett struggles with grief as her spouse the town pharmacist committed suicide and her father suffered a debilitating stroke that has forced his placement in a nursing home. Making matters even more difficult for the shell shocked Edie is that her husband squandered their money on drugs for personal use as he was an addict. Edie has sold their home and now works to earn money to support herself. Her stepdaughter and son-in-law wants Edie to sell the family's pecan farm since her dad can no loner work it and they fear she is becoming forgetful and want her closer to their home. Edie insists she is fine and asks her concerned friends and family to give her space to recuperate. County magistrate MacLaren Yarbrough visits Edie, but finds her friend murdered in a gruesome manner. The police focus on son of the farm's foreman since Henry's machete is the murder weapon and his overalls has Edie's blood on it. Mac believes Henry is innocent as she knows two people with much stronger motives. She sets off to prove her hypothesis not anticipating the danger she steps into. Make yourself a mint julep, sit on the porch swing, and read a delightful down home southern regional mystery. Mac always ends up in the middle of a murder investigation as she keeps tripping over corpses and yet somehow has many friends anyway who recognize she is a friendly neighbor not the grim reaper. This tale provides readers with a charming look at an old fashion southern town in which everyone knows everyone else. This work is a fine cozy sprinkled with intelligence and wit.

Slay It With Flowers
Kate Collins
ISBN 0451214552 $6.50, 304 pp.

Abby Knight, the owner of Bloomers Florists in New Chapel Idaho, needs all the business she can get if she doesn't want to lose the store. After flunking out of law school her fiancee broke off with her and she doesn't want to fail a second time which is why she is reluctantly doing the floral arrangements for the wedding of her rich and spoiled cousin Jillian. Abby is also the bridesmaid in the wedding so her time is stretched pretty thin with no free moments for other activities like solving a homicide involving a member of the wedding party. However, if she wants the wedding to proceed as scheduled so she can collect the money for the floral arrangements, Abby needs to find the killer so she starts questioning the various members of the wedding party from the woman he jilted to the gay groomsman he outed. While she is following up leads, she finds herself trying to prove a prostitution ring is operating in her town and wants to get the evidence that will nab the culprits. These two investigations are linked but by the time Abby figures that out, she is in mortal danger. In spite of the precarious, hair raising and frightening situations Abby finds herself in, SLAY IT WITH FLOWERS is an upbeat jocular amateur sleuth novel. The protagonist despite what she says likes getting involved in an investigation mainly because she has sexy PI Marco Salvare to rescue her when she finds herself in dangerous situations. Kate Collins has written an uplifting, amusing and feel good amateur sleuth tale.

Across a Wild Sea
Sasha Lord
ISBN: 0451213874 $6.50, 384 pp.

The peasant girl Zarina was at the mercy of Lothian, Laird of the Serpent clan, who used and abused her. When she became pregnant, he beat her, but the infant inside remained strong. When she came close to giving birth, he gave her a knife to cut out the child. Instead, Zarina flees to the woods until her baby is born. She places her child in a boat to try to save her life. Gondin, sailing with supplies to his loved one, and is exiled for safety on the Isle of Wild Horses, brings the infant he found at sea to his beloved. She raised the child as her beloved granddaughter Alannah. Commander Xanthier O'Bannon's ship breaks up in a storm, but he manages to reach the Isle of Wild Horses where Alannah finds him. He thinks she is cruel refusing to even look at him, but she believes he is selfish as he has not figured out that she is blind and can "feel" her environment. When her grandmother, who feels Xanthier is Alannah's destiny, dies, she agrees to leave her home with him. As they fall in love, her heritage rises to endanger her and her beloved. ACROSS A WILD SEA is a superb historical romantic fantasy that combines medieval elements with a fine adult fairy tale like atmosphere. The lead characters are an interesting pair especially Alannah, a unique protagonist, who in some ways her isolation has left her pure, somewhat naive, but never twice. The exciting story line blends the fantasy elements inside a well written historical tae that showcases Sasha Lord's ability to provide a wild read for her fans.

A Knight Like No Other
Jocelyn Kelley
ISBN: 0451214382 $6.50, 304 pp.

In the twelfth century, Queen Eleanor backs and funds St. Jude's Abbey, a special place where young women learn to read and write and are trained in armed combat. One such sister, perhaps the best fighter, is Avisa de Vere, an expert with the broadsword and bow, who instructs other recruits in their use. Queen Eleanor arrives at St. Jude's Abbey with a task for Avisa to accomplish. She wants Avisa to guard her beloved godson Christian Lovell, who is on a quest to Canterbury accompanied by his brother and his page to clear his family name dishonored by his father. She is also to find a way to talk him out of going to Canterbury until his King returns from France. Christian "rescues" Lady Avisa from outlaws and soon finds his quest detoured into saving her sister though he is amazed with her broadsword skill even while he and she fall in love with one another. The St. Jude's Abbey and the heroine make for a gender bending fun medieval romance. The story line is action packed with a fine male lead who is capable of taking care of himself and being a champion. However, Avisa, an adept with a sword or a bow, makes the tale fresh and unique with her skills. The suspense comes late, but fans will not be concerned due to the fine duel between the lead couple as to who will protect whom.

Snowball's Chance
John Reed
ISBN: 1931824053 $19.95

After being exiled from Animal Farm, a contrite Snowball returns insisting that he learned his lesson of excess and abuse of power and will harm no one. He slowly begins his means of taking over through "democratic" processes by promising if elected in charge he will reform the farm so that the animals will have plenty of pie and the stables will be heated and well lighted. No one will want under his enlightened leadership. Snowball's reform succeeds so that newcomers from the surrounding areas begin to flock to Animal Farm for a taste of the good life. These refugees are given the jobs none of the old-timers want to do and live in the oldest dilapidated barns. The original loyal followers of Snowball move into choice property outside the crime ridden center. Snowball continues to expand Animal Farm bringing prosperity to his inner circle. Winning a court case, Snowball gains control of the water rights. This leaves the Beavers with nothing but anger and frustration that leads to counterinsurgency with an opportunity to a better afterlife if they die for the cause of freeing the beaver woods. John Reed provides an intriguing ironic follow-up to George Orwell's superb satirical personification of communism by applying the same cast to the personification of capitalism. Some diehard Orwellian fans will loathe what might seem as an assault on the author, but this reviewer believes that Mr. Orwell on THE WHOLE would have done something similar if he lived today. Mindful of a Jay Ward Fractured Fairy Tale involving Sleeping Beauty, SNOWBALL'S CHANCE is a strong satire of a strong satire turning Orwell on his head.

The Greenstone Grail
Amanda Hemingway
Del Rey
ISBN: 0345481879 $16.95

Annie Ward giving birth to Nathan is more than just extraordinary since her only lover died in a car accident long before she could have conceived. However, in spite of his unexplained origin, Nathan is raised by Bartlemy, a weird wizard looking creature. When he is eleven, Nathan comes across an ancient looking alter that was buried over time. Soon he dreams of a green cup containing blood and a world dying due to a plague. As the nocturnal visions continue with more depth each night, Nathan begins taking treks on the astral plane to other places like the devastated Eos. The green cup that Bartlemy recognizes as the Grail surfaces on earth, but someone takes it to Eos to save the people from the plague. However, the timing is wrong and wider devastation could occur if Nathan fails to retrieve the Grail while back on earth his guardian and his mother struggle with those who recognize the lad's gifts and want to use them for their own personal gain. This exciting modern day version of King Arthur is a terrific tale that grips the audience from the moment Nathan finds the alter. The tale never slows down as the lad goes on adventures starting in his dreams, changing into astral visits, and finally on his quest. The support cast whether they try to protect the lad or use/destroy him add depth to the opening tale of what should be a fine Arthurian saga.

Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Del Rey
ISBN: 034545250X $25.95

In 2037, the alien Firstborn takes British Army Lieutenant Bisea Dutt back to her London home where Aristotle greets her after a five year stint off world including time on planet Mira (see TIME'S EYE). At the same time, a giant solar flare disrupts electrical and electronic gadgetry across the Earth as predicted by astrophysicist Eugene Mangle. He now claims that a deadly greater solar flare will melt the planet to its bedrock on April 20, 2042. All nations except China unite in an effort to save the planet by constructing a space shield to block much of the deadly radiation though some of the solar poison will get through. A secondary defense to place the larger cities inside protective geodesic domes begins. Meanwhile, Bisesa believes that Firstborn plans to eradicate humanity while Mangle calculates that intelligent beings sent a planet from the Aquila Constellation to deliberately smash into the Sun in 4 BC, earth time. Could Firstborn be the connection between ancient history and near future calamity? If humanity survives the solar assault what will this alien do next to achieve global genocide? SUNSTORM is an exciting conclusion to the terrific TIME'S EYE; however, readers will have to accept key elements involving Firstborn. The key scientists (like Mangle and Royal astronomer McGorran) are stereotypical antagonist from out of a 1950s movie (sort of like the Lost World scientists) while the interesting Bisea remains a strong heroic character. The story line is at its best during the international efforts to cooperate and during the five year countdown. Fans who accept Firstborn's motives will enjoy SUNSTORM while others will ask how far off 2001 seems.

Sonja's Run
Richard Hoyt
ISBN: 0765306158 $24.95, 352 pp.

In late 1852 or early 1853 depending on which calendar you use, Tsar Nicholas hosts a Christmas gala in which he invites Mikhail Sankov, but the ailing poet is unable to attend. Instead his daughter also a poet, but with a revolutionary fervor, Sonja Sankova goes escorted by her father's friend mathematician Arkady Migalkin. At the party, Peter "Colonel Cut" Koslov, head of the vicious wolfpack, decides that the pretty waif Sonja would make an ideal addition to his "collection". He woos her by boasting about his powers that include cutting off the testicles and ears of peasants. Angry and a student of Tzu, Sonja punches Peter knocking him to the floor. She flees as he vows to cut off her ears. Sonja, garbed as a boy, takes her father towards the Urals so he can die in his birthplace while Koslov follows having already mutilated and killed Arkady. At the same time American daguerreotype photographer Jack Sandt tours Russia with the lofty goal of making pictures of the various races he meets. When he and Sonja meet, they fall in love, but first she must complete her father's final mission of being buried in his birthplace and than there is Colonel Cut who will not rest until he retaliates for his humiliation. SONJA'S RUN is a fantastic historical thriller that brings to life the mid nineteenth century in Russia. The story line is action-packed from the moment Sonja knocks down the abusive Koslov and never slows down until after he finally catches up to confront her. The secondary cast like the Tsar and Karl Marx add depth to an insightful tale that centers on the seeds of the Revolutions sixty plus years later were already deeply ingrained by 1853.

Going Coastal
Wendy French
ISBN: 0765313499 $12.95, 301 pp.

In Bent Harbor, Washington, waitress Jody Rogers, tired of her butt being pinched by middle age patrons like odious used car king Marty McDade, informs her boss at Dean's Ocean Galley that she quits. Dean seems elated as he accepts her resignation with aplomb saying he has her shift covered. Near tears, Jody heads home feeling she was fired to tell her lover Chris what happened. When Chris steps out of the shower, Jody finds he is washing her cousin Beth. At twenty-seven, Jody is staring over seeking employment, a place to live and a new man. Everyone in town offers advice to Jody though no one really knows how she is to find a job, a room (her parents no longer have space for her) and a non-cheating male. Jody considers fleeing to Seattle with her dreams shattered and no prospects at home. Of course the benefit of running away is that she would leave just in time to miss her tenth high school reunion. Still Jody believes she can recover perhaps by wiggling her way back into Dean's Ocean Galley. This is a delightful chick lit tale starring a wonderful protagonist, who in a few short hours watched her world collapse. The story line is lighthearted yet furbishes a deep character study as the audience gets a close look at Jody and her struggles to rebound although her simple dreams devastated. Though perhaps a bit too lighthearted with a fun cast of eccentric inane townsfolk starting with her non-SMOTHERING parents, GOING COASTAL is a strong fable of remain true to yourself regardless of setbacks.

Crazy Eights
Elizabeth Gunn
ISBN: 0765308061 $23.95, 272 pp.

Rutherford, Minnesota Chief of Detectives Captain Jake Hines watches the trial of Benny Niemeyer, accused of carjacking, kidnapping, and killing Shelley Gleason. Benny's partner Dale Trogstad was already found guilty of the crimes. Benny informed the police where they could find the corpse, but that information is not admissible as evidence due to a technicality. There is no other link connecting Benny to the murder and the witness who put away Dale is missing. Not surprisingly, the jury states "not guilty". The next day a freed Benny is dead; the medical examiner declares he was murdered. Although Jake wanted this vermin put away for life and commiserates with the killer, he searches for the culprit. His inquiries lead to the town's richest family who has done so much for the community. This author is a top Gunn when it comes to providing some of the best police procedurals on the market today. There is enough romance in CRAZY EIGHTS to satisfy fans of that genre, but it is clearly the investigation that readers will appreciate. The story line is brilliantly filled with false leads, red herrings, and misinformation that take the audience down wrong trails (sounds like the political parties). Readers will like the ethical Jake, a mixed racial person who usually ignores the ignorance of racists; the news from his live-in lover sets up a freshness for his next appearance and giving his fans plenty to look forward to.

White Thunder
Aimee & David Thurlo
ISBN 0765311747 $23.95, 304 pp.

Navaho Police Special Investigator Ella Clah is still recovering emotionally after almost dying in a uranium mine. She hopes to spend more time with her daughter Dawn but when an FBI agent goes missing on the reservation, Ella and her unit gives top priority to finding him. She doesn't expect too much cooperation from the tribe because Agent Thomas interrupted a medicine man during a Sing (a healing ceremony). This is a taboo and dealt with severely but after talking to the shaman, Ella clears him of any crimes. Ella wants to talk to the man who underwent the Sing Melvin Rainwater in connection with the social security checks of dead men that were not reported deceased sent to a special post office box. A phone call from Agent Thomas confirms he is still alive and in a dark place, which Ella believes is one of the deserted mines just like she was not so long ago. She uses all the resources at her disposal to find him, even going so far as to break some laws, but somebody wants to stop her investigation or at least slow it down and they don't care if they harm Ella in the process. An Ella Clah mystery is always a special treat and WHITE THUNDER is particularly good because the authors bring to life a culture in the same way that Tony Hillerman does. The investigation is compressed into a short period because the protagonist knows that the victim is running out of time which raises the level of tension and makes the audience feels as they are involved in the search. This tale is another great mystery by the talented Thurlos.

Missing Persons
Stephen White
ISBN: 0525948597 $25.95, 352 pp.

Psychologist Alan Gregory does not want to get involved in the missing persons case of Mallory Miller, who lives in the same neighborhood as JoBenet Ramsey. The two used to play together as children and now Mallory vanished on the eighth anniversary of JoBenet's death. Circumstances draw a reluctant Alan into the case because his colleague Diane Estevez consulted with her now deceased friend Hannah Grant about a girl who fit Mallory's description coming into the office for a session. The patient was worried about her mother, a schizophrenic living in Vegas apart from her husband and children. Alan's schizoid patient Bob implies that he knows something about Mallory's disappearance, but patient privilege prevents Alan from saying anything to anyone. Bob disappears and when Diane goes to Vegas to meet with Mallory's mother, she also vanishes. Alan might have to risk losing his license to practice psychology, but he knows he must reveal what Bob and Diane told him to the police to rescue the missing people. MISSING PERSONS graphically describes how medical privilege can be a two edge sword when it protects the rights of a patient bit impedes a police investigation. Alan is realistically portrayed as a doctor filled with doubts on what is the morally right thing to do. His dilemma on top of a fast-paced, action filled story line grips the audience. Though Stephen White enables his protagonist to wiggle somewhat free of his quandary, he remains concerned that he played loose with acceptable medical ethics. Mr. White delivers a pulse pounder that cleverly combines a tense medical thriller with a police procedural amateur sleuth tale.

The Watcher in the Pine
Rebecca Pawel
ISBN: 156947379X $24.00, 309 pp.

In 1940, following the end of the Spanish Civil War, Guardia Police Lieutenant Carlos Tejada is assigned his first command position in the remote mountainous village of Potes. Tejada has mixed feelings about leaving his post in Salamanca, but the idea of being in charge has been an ambition of his even if the area is known by his peers as the Devastated Region from the destruction caused by the war. However, the locals including his police force of the northern Spanish village do not welcome the outsider or his pregnant wife Elena, a Republican sympathizer in spite of her husband's official position in the Fascist government. Carlos learns that his predecessor was killed by guerrillas and hopes to adjust to being an unwelcome outsider. Someone steals crates of dynamite that Carlos expects will be used by insurgents unwilling to accept defeat. Not long afterward a rebel is murdered. As Carlos investigates with no one cooperating inside the police, the village or his household, all signs point to a clever merciless guerrilla funded from outside Spain willing to kill to further his ambition of reigniting the war starting in Potes. The police procedural elements are intriguing as the audience sees the efforts of an honest cop struggling to do his job in a dictatorial government. The story line showcases a bleak life for those who survived the civil war and how much no one trusts the opposition. This puts in perspective modern places like Sri Lanka. Though the mystery arrives late in the tale and, THE WATCHER IN THE PINE is a fabulous historical who-done-it.

Killing Kelly
Heather Graham
ISBN: 0778321592 $19.95

Actress Kelly Trent of the popular soap opera Valentine Valley is on location shooting a scene as the nasty Marla Valentine when the mud she stands on loosens and she almost dies. One week later, while Kelly is in South Beach, Florida with her agent and her business manager discussing her future. The Valentine Valley director plans to kill off Marla out of fear for Kelly's life. Her management team wants Kelly to do a video with rock group Kill Me Dead, whose lead singer Lance Morton is obsessed with Kelly. The soap star insists she cannot dance but agrees to take lessons. Former cop turn private sleuth dance instructor Doug O'Casey is hired to teach Kelly to tango and to protect her. Kelly and Doug meet at a private party on a yacht; each thinks the other is a snob, but both feel attracted to one another. They begin the dance lessons with both feeling the heat. As they tango, Doug admits Kelly is not like what he expected as she is down to earth. They give in to their feelings and make love, but he fears for her life as someone keeps trying to kill her. The ensemble cast enhances either the suspense or the terrific likable lead duo. The story line is action-packed yet difficult to determine the villain as the plot disguises him very well to the point that readers will wonder if accidents occurred as opposed to deliberate acts until deep into the tale. Though too many men seem obsessed with Kelly (which also makes for red herrings) and it is too convenient that so many cops and sleuths are involved in Kelly's life, fans will enjoy this strong romantic suspense.

The Backup Plan
Sherryl Woods
ISBN; 0778321495 $6.99, 400 pp.

War correspondent Dinah Davis has covered many of the recent hot spots. Currently she is reporting on Afghanistan, but has lost her edge since she witnessed the death of a friend and was nearly killed too. Physically Dinah has healed, but her boss tells her she is not the same and should return to the States to marry and have babies. Initially refusing to listen, Dinah realizes that her career is over and wonders if her boyfriend Bobby Beaufort still waits for as he promised a decade ago when she chose journalism over marriage. Back home in South Carolina, Dinah's mom worries that her daughter has not recovered from her last overseas assignment. Meanwhile Bobby's older brother Cord, who thought his sibling was a fool to agree to Dinah's backup plan, quickly wants to revise the arrangement by inserting himself as the groom. As Dinah suffers the malaise of post traumatic syndrome, she turns to Cord not her family or Bobby for comfort while he worries whether he will prove enough in the long run. Though the actual backup plan of Bobby waiting for a decade seems strange, fans will appreciate this deep look into the traumas and tragedies civilians in combat areas can suffer. The story line is character driven once Dinah returns home moping and depressed. Adding to her depression is that she realizes her plan is a failure as she finds the sibling more attractive than the chosen one, but does not want to hurt the loyal Bobby. This is a strong tale that showcases the aftermath of horrific situations on survivors.

Blue Twilight
Maggie Shayne
ISBN; 0778321509 $6.99, 400 pp.

Twenty six years old Maxine "Mad Maxie" Stuart and her partner Tempest "Stormy" Jones are moving from White Plains, New York to Maine to open a private investigative firm. Maxie cons her beloved retired cop forty-four years old Lou Malone into driving; she hopes to persuade Lou that they belong together professionally and personally, but the stubborn former cop feels she can do better than him. The sleuths receive a call from a close friend who they have not seen in years. Jason Beck tells them that his sister and her friend are missing and last seen in Endover, New Hampshire. He fails to warn them that the Prince, a vampire, has the two teens and is using them as bait because he recognizes the picture of Stormy on a brochure announcing the new company. The Prince aided by local Sheriff Fieldner plans to regain the love he lost once he has converted Stormy and eliminating Maxie is a viable option with Lou ready to die to keep his beloved safe from the supernatural. The events of this tale occur in between those of TWILIGHT HUNGER and EMBRACE THE TWILIGHT, filling a gap that will elate readers. Maxie still works on Lou's psyche to get him to realize she is what he needs and more important he is what she desires. The Prince is an intriguing vampire with scruples until he sees the picture; then it all fair in love and war, which he will soon find himself in both as Maxie is quite a formidable opponent especially when a loved one seems threatened. Maggie Shayne provides another splendid paranormal romance with her latest Wings in the Night Twilight thriller.

Lethal Lies
Laurie Breton
ISBN: 0778321517 $6.99, 384 pp.

Popular author Faith Pelletier has not been able to write since her spouse died eighteen months ago. Though pressured to produce her next novel and having spent the advance on her husband's medical bills, Faith drops everything when she learns Chelsea, her best friend since childhood, died in what appears to have been a suicidal drive into the Androscoggin River. Worried about Chelsea's daughter fifteen years old Jessie, Faith heads to River City, Maine to attend the funeral and bring the teen back with her to New York. Though ruled a suicide, Faith believes otherwise because she knows how much Chelsea loved Jessie. Police Chief Ty Savage also has doubts, but has not found one iota of evidence to prove murder occurred. Urged on by the River City Gazette where Chelsea worked as a reporter, Faith tries to track her friend's last unfinished story, but soon finds herself in deep trouble from a killer who wants his actions and her buried along side of Chelsea. LETHAL LIES is an exhilarating romantic suspense that grips the audience as they go on the road with Faith who believes Chelsea's former husband drugged and killed her. The story line never slows down from that stunning start as Faith picks up the gauntlet and continues the inquiries over the fears of Ty, who loves her. Fans will appreciate this strong Maine thriller filled with fantastic misdirection and clever red herrings.

In Hot Water
Mary Lynn Baxter
ISBN: 0778321428 $6.99

Maci Malone goes on vacation to Jamaica where she meets a hunk. The pair shares an incredible night of passionate lovemaking. Though neither expects a morning after, "Stan" and "Mildred" desire this to happen. However, there was none as both know they should have not indulged though they could not stop. They separately left for their respective home destinations never expecting to see one another again. Not long afterward, Maci agrees to marry Dr. Seymour Ramsey who offers her security something she needs in life. Life is good and Maci gives birth to a child Jonah. However, the illusion of stability shatters when her spouse is sued for malpractice and charged with manslaughter for the wrongful death of a patient due to the abusive influence of prescription drugs. Seymour asks his estranged adult son Holt to serve as his legal council. However, Maci is stunned because Holt is the hunk in Jamaica who took her to ecstasy and may be the biological father of her son. Maci is a likable protagonist who feels her world collapse with the charges against her husband and then further implodes when Holt arrives. Unlike the harassed lead female character, the two males are not amiable as Holt is nasty and Seymour pathetic. Still this is a fine contemporary soap opera even if coincidence generates the triangular tension.

Testing Miss Toogood
Stella Cameron
ISBN: 0778321487 $7.50, 400 pp.

In 1815 Reverend Toogood worries that he does not have enough money to provide dowries for his five daughters. To insure he does, he knows he must marry off the first one to a wealthy aristocrat, which will ease entry for the remaining foursome. He selects his second oldest child, Fleur as the best bet since she is the prettiest of his offspring. Fleur detest her father's plan and is appalled to learn that her mother's friend the Duchess of Granville will sponsor her. She wants to marry for love not money so she will meet her sire's commitment of seeking a wealthy suitor, but refuses to wed for anything that excludes a deep love between her and her spouse. The Duchess drafts her son Dominic Elliot to escort the mouthy opinionated rustic. He wants her gone as she interferes with his efforts to uncover the identity of who is abducting well to do women while she tries to learn what his great secret is even as they fall in love with one another. TESTING MISS TOOGOOD is a fine Regency romance starring two likable lead protagonists who are attracted with one another, but show it with discord except in front of his mother. The story line moves along two plots, the amusing dysfunctional romance and Dominic's tense undercover work to save young women from predators. Sub-genre readers will appreciate Stella Cameron's wonderful historical.

Luau of Death
Jerrilyn Farmer
ISBN: 0060587296 $23.95, 240 pp.

For eight years Madeline Bean and her partner Wesley Westcott owned and operated an event planning company making money, but now they are hosting a special party out of love. Their employee Holly Nichols is getting married in two weeks and they are throwing their beloved assistant a fantastic bachelorette gala in Hawaii where Maddie plans to be one of the pampered guests. At their private luau, they meet the party planner for the luau Keriki. The next day, Keriki's boyfriend, a good swimmer, drowns and it was later discovered he was the same person Holly found in her room before she chased him out. The medical examiner reports he was married Next Japanese ruffians pursue a mellowing Maddie because they think she is Holly and is the ticket to finding her husband (who she hopes to divorce before the wedding to her betrothed) Marvin Dubinsky who apparently stole something that they want back or else. When the thugs catch up to Marvin, a scientific genius, they threaten to kill him with Maddie trying to save his life at potentially the cost of her own. Holly is a cute flake who isn't sure whether she is married or not, having been drunk in Vegas with no recollection of how she got there and what happened. She expects Maddie to help her with obtaining a quick divorce or annulment. Maddie knows all heck is breaking loose once she realizes Marvin has joined them with thugs after his hide. She brings the humor to this zany tale as she wants to relax and have a good time, but is questioning suspects especially guests. LUAU OF DEATH is a delightful picturesque amateur sleuth novel that uses the background as seen by natives and by guests like unsinkable Maddie to keep the series fresh.

Torpedo Juice
Tim Dorsey
ISBN: 0060585609 $24.95, 336 pp.

In Florida, serial killer Serge Storms decides he needs to settle down with a wife. However, Serge has a few things to take care of before tying the knot. For instance, where will they live? However before he can get married and they can select their home, Serge he must find the right woman. Thus the quest for the ultimate female for Mr. Storms begins. In the No Name Keys, a place where losers, lowlifes, and similar ilk are considered high society, Serge meets the woman of his dreams, mousy librarian Molly. However, as he writes in his Serge log, marriage is not quite what he expected as Mighty Mouse is driving Serge crazy with her needs. Still, murders aside, Serge somehow becomes a cult's Messiah though he denies it, which leads to High Noon with an oily CEO trying to overturn the anti-social order of the No Name Keys. Finally there are the drug lord looking to invade the Keys and Anna Sebring seeking to murder the serial killer who executed her brother with her revenge radar targeting Serge. TORPEDO JUICE is the typical wacky wild Tim Dorsey irreverent Florida thriller. The key to this tale is Serge's efforts to turn domestic when the world spirals through him in zany insane circles. This series of circular subplots lead to an amusing offbeat madcap tale, but also is difficult to follow as the keys never fully interact even with Serge as the foci. Still Mr. Dorsey provides his typical insane yet brilliant, extremely funny yet satirical wild South Florida tour.

Night Game
Kirk Russell
ISBN: 081184112X $23.95, 365 pp.

California Department of Fish & Game Special Operations Chief Lieutenant John Marquez and his undercover team investigate poachers using torturous devices to capture, and slaughter bears to sell body parts to healers. The violators are organized, professional, and one step ahead of the game wardens because they hacked into the law enforcement computers. No one interferes with this shadowy group's lucrative business and if threatening the wardens and their families fails, murder will follow and may have already occurred. Meanwhile as he struggles to do his job without endangering his loved ones, John investigates disgraced game warden, Bill Petroni at the same time that homicide detective Jack Kendal suspects Bill for murder of a camper last year. The link is Bill's live in lover Sophie Broussard, who has ties to bear poaching and other illegal activities. Could Bill have provided insider information to a deadly group intent on keeping their profits the envy of the Fortune 500 firms? The atmosphere is incredible as the picturesque Northern California Mountains come across as sinister and dangerous as any urban noir scene. John is terrific with his ethics pulled in several directions due to concern for his family, his team and their family, the bears he is supposed to protect, and doing his job. The enemy is the key as they are shadowy yet successful, which leads to intrigue balanced against cruelty and cynicism from government officials whose vision is a paraphrase from the Eisenhower administration that what is good for business is good for the USA. This is a fabulous tale in which justice and morality struggles against making a buck at any cost (as long as someone else pays the tab).

All the Flowers Are Dying
Lawrence Block
ISBN: 0060198311 $24.95, 304 pp.

Five years ago, someone raped and killed three little children. All the evidence pointed to Preston Applewhite, who though he denied the deed, was convicted and sentenced to execution by lethal injection. New York Dr. Bodinson visits Preston, pretending to believe the condemned convict is innocent. Not long afterward, Preston is killed by the Commonwealth of Virginia. In New York, Matthew Scudder, who retired from NYPD thirty years ago, has reduced his private investigative caseload to practically zero as social security, a city retirement pension, and Elaine's income from her shop seems adequate. However, he accepts Louise as a client and looks into the boyfriend David Thompson she met over an Internet dating service. As his simple inquiries tie back to the Applewhite case, he finds evidence of a serial killer who loves to kill when the moment is right; no discernable "full moon" pattern emerges. This diabolical killer targets the Scudders as his next victims, which means rape and murder is coming home to roost. Scudder continues to age with each new book but this time grandpa feels old with his mortality confronting him as he attends several "last call" funerals of peers. Still once he knows what he must stop, he refuses to back down even if healing seems slower than ever. The serial killer is incredible as he does not fall into the usual profile of obsession. This makes him a worthy opponent of Scudder, whose investigation starts off so simple, but soon spins into a deadly game of battle chess between two capable antagonists. Block writes his usual fantastic thriller that his audience will want to read in one session.

Most Wanted
Michele Martinez
ISBN 006072398X $23.95, 384 pp.

When Melanie Vargas had proof that her husband cheated on her she threw him out. One night, her six-month old baby is crying and won't go to sleep, so she takes the infant out in her stroller walking in the direction of police sirens. The home of former U.S. Prosecutor Jed Benson is in flames and his body is all chopped up and riddled with dog bites. Melanie, a federal prosecutor, wants to take part in this high profile case so she convinces the policemen that her boss sent her there as the attorney who will try the case when they catch a suspect. Her boss admires her chutzpah and gives her the case. She is teamed up with FBI agent Dan O'Reilly; sparks fly from the moment they meet. They team up very well but the investigation goes badly from the start. Witnesses are murdered and evidence disappears. Melanie believe someone is leaking information to the killer, perhaps even Dan and when her boss tries to throw her off the case, she makes a final attempt to find the killer and that makes her the potential next victim. Fans of Iris Johansen, Christine McGuire and Elizabeth Lowell will love this suspense thriller with just the right amount of romance. The heroine is smart and ambitious but so vulnerable that readers will take her into their hearts. Besides seeking the perpetrator, the heroine has to figure out who is dirty in her office or amongst the cops. Surprisingly enough, one of the support cast, Melanie's boss will elicit reader sympathy because she is looking for love with the wrong man. Hopefully MOST WANTED is the beginning of a new series.

Liberator Bomber
Frederick Ware Huff
ISBN: 0865548749 $35.00

In December 1941, in response to Japan attacking Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war. Consequently the other Axis powers, Germany and Italy declared war on America. By 1942 a draft was instituted. Twenty-three years old Gene Winn knew he was going to be drafted into the Army so instead he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He served in the European Theatre of Operation until his plane went down in 1944 and he and his crew were helped prisoners by the Germans. This is a terrific insightful look back at one soldier during World War II that brings to life through his letters, his family's correspondence, official memos, and other related documents, the life of an airman and the impacts on his loved ones during 1942-1945. LIBERATOR BOMBER provides a unique perspective to the war as Dr. Frederick Ware Huff using real historical papers that make up much of this super tome paints a perceptive look back. History buffs, especially WW II aficionados, will want to read this strong life in a soldier reminiscent of Stephen Ambrose's classic BAND OF BROTHERS.

Hello It's Me
Wendy Markham
ISBN: 044661453X $6.50, 400 pp.

Since Andre, her spouse of ten years passed away about a year ago, Annie Harlowe has hidden her need to grieve her loss because she knows she must remain strong for her two children six years old Milo and four years old Trixie. She brings in money by baking cookies for Merlin's Catering, but the bills are overwhelming. Her only self indulgence is keeping her husband's cell phone account so that she can hear his voice message and praying that one day he will come on with advice and encouragement, but that luxury will end shortly. Merlin offers Annie a chance to make some additional money by waitressing at the Braddock shindig. She was going to refuse until Andre tells her to go on the cell phone. At the gala she meets Thomas Brannock IV, who is very kind to her. Afterward he finds a wedding ring that he traces through Merlin to Annie. He begins seeing Annie although their class background makes a relationship seem impossible. However, neither expected a heavenly matchmaker to intercede as Andre wants the best for his beloved and that happens to be Thom. HELLO IT'S ME is an enjoyable paranormal contemporary romance with the heavenly elements used to enhance a fine tale. The story line stars two likable adults from different walks of life falling in love. The secondary characters augment the lead couple by providing insight into their motives, especially families and friends or matchmakers. Though the kids seem too precocious readers will appreciate this matchmaking from beyond romance.

The Red-Hot Cajun
Sandra Hill
ISBN: 0446612960 $6.50, 336 pp.

After years of failure as an environmental lobbyist has led to burn out, thirty-five years old Rene LeDeux hides in the remotest area of the Louisiana Bayou. His beloved seventy-nine years old Tante Lulu visits him and not long afterward, middle age hippies Joe Bob and Maddie Doucet land their plane nearby. Rene learns they have kidnapped news anchor Valerie "Ice" Breaux to act as a spokesperson to save the endangered Bayou from developers. Valerie blames Rene and threatens to sue him and have him arrested for her abduction. Tante Lulu sees lightning and knows that Valerie is Rene's beloved. Joe and Maddie leave Valerie behind with no escape for at least a few days. Rene and Maddie inwardly reflect on the most embarrassing moment in their respective lives; when they were fifteen, she was drunk; they started to have sex, but he came too soon and she puked on his jewel. Maddie initially disdains her host, but soon they give in to their attraction and fall in love. However, nothing permanent can occur because Maddie does not trust males as men leave like her daddy did. Sandra Hill is a unique author whose tales combines heat with the absurd as few writers are able to do. Her latest Rajun Cajun romance is a droll hot sauce that readers feel the heat yet laugh with the antics especially that crazy Bengal cat Tante Lulu. The lead couple is a delightful battling pair who wants each other, but uses barbs to defuse the feelings. Ms. Hill provides a Louisiana summer heat romance filled with passion and humor.

To Love a Thief
Julie Anne Long
ISBN: 0446614262 $6.50, 384 pp.

Gideon Cole paid off the debts his deceased father left him alphabetically; the barrister also drew up a master plan that he adheres to with no deviation. Part of his plan is to marry Constance Clary and use her father's aristocratic influence with the treasury and Gideon's success in court to become Chancellor of the Exchequer. Though he knows he competes for Constance and the treasury position with the wealthy titled Jarvis, Gideon will do what it takes including putting a down payment on an expensive London townhouse. Gideon catches nimble pickpocket Lily Masters trying to steal his watch, but she escapes. Later Lily's bad luck continues when jostled trying to pick someone's pocket and is caught. Gideon rescues her by "buying" her from her captor at the cost of his townhouse down payment. He feels she owes him and since she speaks like an aristocrat he decides to use her to make Constance jealous. However, when he brought Lily and her ten years old sister Alice into his life, Gideon did not realize how they would pick apart his heart and plan through love. Lily refreshes this pleasant Eliza Doolittle Regency romance though readers will agree with Gideon that she is a pathetic thief. The hero is interesting as he struggles with his growing feelings to his "guest" and her sister that runs contrary to his master plan while the sacrificing for her sister Lily is great counterpoint to the selfish Constance. Though the coincidence of her failing twice with Gideon there on both occasions is a stretch, fans will accept this happenstance as the catalyst to a wonderful love story.

A Man Inspired
Derek Jackson
ISBN: 0446693529 $12.95, 276 pp.

Gifted orator Jermaine Hill has reached the pinnacle of American life. He is famous, wealthy, and has his choice of beautiful women desiring him. In spite of living what everyone assumes is the good life; Jermaine is depressed having never recovered from the car accident that killed his best friends even though the tragedy occurred nine years ago. Freelance writer Candace Clark wants to do an article on Jermaine; he reluctantly agrees perhaps because fame has left him lonely and she is a rarity as he is attracted to her. However, Candace is a pious soul and Jermaine's lifestyle leaves him undesirable even if she desires him. Meanwhile Gossip columnist Chantal Dixon sees a story breaking with this couple; she hires a detective to trail the couple in hopes of capturing a romantic scoop, but instead captures something more valuable, Jermaine's suicide attempt. A MAN INSPIRED is a strong contemporary tale yet falls short due to a too easy resolution at the climax to complex issues. The story line starts slow as the audience meets the interesting despondent star while gaining insight into this suicidal soul, picks up when the inspirational Candace arrives in Hollywood, and goes stratospheric when the conniving Chantal takes aim at the couple. Well written, Derek Jackson furbishes an intriguing story starring a multifaceted tortured lead character, whose salvation comes too easily and abruptly.

Promises to Keep
Susan Crandall
ISBN: 0446614114 $6.50, 480 pp.

In Boston Sarah Morgan arrives at the free clinic just prior to having a baby. Dr. Molly Boudreau helps her give birth to Nicholas. The educated Sarah refuses to talk about the father except that he is a red haired evil person who will never see her son. Not long afterward Sarah asks Molly to take care of Nicholas until she can insure her baby is safe. The next morning, Molly learns someone executed Sarah. Molly realizes no record of the birth exists yet and though the autopsy will show the recent birthing, she can hide the infant in her hometown of Glens Crossing, Indiana. She drives home where she tells family that Nicholas is hers. In New York, reporter Dean Coletta feels lucky to be alive as he recovers from a bullet he received in the Middle East, but learns that his sister Julie known as Sarah is dead but gave birth to a missing child. Dean makes inquires with all roads leading to Molly and Indiana. When they meet, though he believes Molly abducted his nephew, he is attracted to her; she knows he is not Sarah's evil incarnate, but could be working for him. The strong lead couple and powerful secondary characters especially her extended family make the tale seem very real. The brisk story line moves forward rapidly as Molly and Dean fall in love but have lingering doubts about each other. Though some readers will dislike the lack of a direct final confrontation between good and evil (this reviewer thought that added appropriate realism) and a major subplot involving Molly's nephew takes away from the prime theme, readers will appreciate this suspenseful family drama.

The Real Slam Dunk
Charisse K. Richardson
Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)
Puffin (Penguin Children's)
ISBN: 0142402125 $4.99, 68 pp.

Twins Marcus and Mia as well as other students at their school look forward to meeting superstar basketball player Jason Carter just before a pro game. Both enjoy playing the game and Marcus, who is a math whiz, hopes to be as good as his hero Jason. His sister wants to be a reporter and is writing an article on the visit with Jason. The kids have good time while Jason encourages them to understand that there is more to life than sports as he was a chemistry major in college. THE REAL SLAM DUNK is a well written tale aimed at elementary school children. Young readers will appreciate Marcus as he worries that Mia is taller than him and how to behave when he meets his hero. The story line makes no apologies in that it emphasizes education is more important of a dream although it is okay to want to be a famous wealthy basketball player. This reviewer kept thinking of Mrs. Reagan's unrealistic "Just say no" campaign as Jason preached having dreams outside the hardwood floor.

Ten Little New Yorkers
Kinky Friedman
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 0743246039 $24.00, 195 pp.

Amateur private investigator Kinky Friedman is despondent because his cat is missing and he has no case to occupy his time. He also feels that his life is not going to get any better than it is, which makes him even more depressed. His friends convince him to go to his Echo Hill Ranch in Texas; which he does. When he arrives at the ranch, he feels much better until his neighbor Winnie Katz calls to let him know that she found a wallet belonging to a Robert Scalopini, someone Kinky never heard of. He finds out the man was the fourth male killed in the Village in a week and a half. When the police learn about the wallet they make Kinky return to Manhattan to question him. As evidence at a fifth homicide points to Kinky the police tail him. When he loses the tail, a sixth murder occurs and the Kinkster has no alibi. Someone is framing him for the murders; Kinky has a case to work on to exonerating himself and finding the real culprit. A Kinky Friedman novel is always a treat to read. His raunchy sense of humor, his quirky outlook on life and his love for his cat endears him to readers who hope he snaps out of his funk. It is exciting watching Kinky fall under police suspicion although he knows he is innocent but can't prove it; still he interestingly eliminates suspects. The climax of TEN LITTLE NEW YORKERS will come as a complete shock to fans of this series, making this one a must buy to find out who and why.

Year of the Hyenas
Brad Geagley
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 074325080X $23.00, 291 pp.

In 1153 BC Thebes, the Clerk of Investigations and Secrets Semerket is delegated with finding out who killed the popular much-loved Priestess Hetephras. Unbeknownst to Semerket is that his superiors selected him because they assume that the alcoholic acrimonious loser will fail. Then they can fire him for incompetence, but not before they blame him to the masses who demand the killer face vigilante justice; the pathetic Semerket would make a fine substitute as far as his bosses are concerned. However, shockingly Semerket digs deep and soon uncovers tomb robbers that he begins to believe may be connected to his murder investigation. As he uncovers more clues, he begins to realize that this simple murder of a cherished figure and related robberies are just the surface covering up a conspiracy that he believes places the Pharaoh in peril. As Semerket drinks to ease his fears of what to do without losing his head, his decision making process is stolen from him when his beloved becomes a target. YEAR OF THE HYENAS is a terrific Ancient Egypt police procedural starring an interesting protagonist; readers will agree with Semerket's superiors that he is the last person they figure capable of solving anything. Semerket is an unpleasant grouch who makes a perfect foible for the conspirators except that no one realized how he would go the extra tomb or two to solve the case. Although the prose reads at times deliberately archaic giving the investigation an ancient feel that is difficult to follow, fans will enjoy Brad Geagley's fine historical who-done-it.

Speak Softly, She Can Hear
Pam Lewis
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 0743255399 $23.00 341 pp.

In 1965 New York City Carole, an overweight shy student is determined to lose her virginity before she begins Vassar. Her best friend Naomi arranges for Carole to meet twenty-six year old Eddie in Vermont so he can teach her about sex. Carole gets very drunk so that when Rita appears for a menage a trois she does it. Caroline remembers little except that Rita is dead and Eddie claims she broke her neck. From that day forward, Caroline's life is never the same. Eddie blackmails her for money and her parent's valuables. She runs away to San Francisco and lives in a commune with her friend Rachel and her son Pepper when Eddie once again shows up to terrorize Carole and even hits Pepper, scarring him for life. The small family relocates to Montpellier, Vermont where Carole opens a restaurant and moves in with the love of her life. She thinks she is safe until Naomi and Eddie arrive and their unholy triangle explodes in violence leaving two people dead and one severely injured. Carole is a vulnerable and frightened person but readers won't feel sorry for her because she allows herself to be a victim, first by letting Eddie intimidate her and then by causing her parents' untold grief when she runs away. Eddie is a true sociopath a remorseless stalker who enjoys tormenting Carole; he also keeps tabs on her so he can hurt her some more. Pam Lewis' debut novel is a chilling thriller, full of non-stop action that grips readers so much that they will finish this novel in one sitting.

Saving Cascadia
John J. Nance
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0743250516 $25.00, 320 pp.

US Geological Survey seismologist Doug Lam is positive that the Washington state barrier island Cascadia is on the verge of an earthquake. Still Chadwick and Noble company approved construction of Mick Walker's posh casino-hotel and convention center on the island. Feeling remorse and guilt, company engineer Diane Lacombe possesses proof that her company knew about the dangerous deadly potential of building on the fault line. However, before she can do anything with her evidence, Diane is forced to flee the Seattle area as someone wants the CD with its proof and her silenced. The quakes begin with the first tremor centered on the ocean floor but close enough to the coast to feel it in Puget Sound. The first major quake hammers coastal Bellingham, but help is impeded due to a thick fog. Next Cascadia Island shakes with a ferry containing a hundred guests on the way to the new facility sinking and the new hotel collapsing. Cascadia Island seems destined to become a twenty-first century Krakatoa sinking beneath the ocean while a deadly tsunami is heading to destroy much of the state potentially killing millions. The tragedy in Asia provides a stark reality to John J. Nance's action tale that with each concentric widening circle gets more and more pulse pumping. The story line is action-packed with heroes, victims, and culprits who only care to bury the truth in the rubble. Because of the recent Asiatic devastation, SAVING CASCADIA is more than just a disaster thriller as Mr. Nance makes the case that what happened in the Indian Ocean rim could occur here. This scary terrific thriller should raise alarms in that other Washington.

Heart of Thornton Creek
Bonnie Leon
ISBN: 080075896X $12.99, 344 pp.

In 1871 Boston, feisty independent socialite Rebecca Williams meets Aussie Daniel Thornton. He courts her and proposes. Though she has some doubts about dealing with relocating to Australia and not loving Daniel, she accepts because she is fond of him, respects his kindness towards people and lacks money to maintain her current American lifestyle; she hopes to one day love her husband and looks forward to increased freedom Down Under. The married couple moves to his family's cattle station in Queensland, Australia. There the self-reliant Rebecca runs into problems with Daniels' father Bertram, the iron-fisted patriarch who controls everyone including her husband through his contention of divine commission. She is not what Bertram had in mind for his daughter-in-law as he prefers barefoot, pregnant and fear of brimstone not a spirited defiant Yank. This character driven historical tale will grip the audience once Rebecca and Bertram meet. The triangular lead trio all feels frustration with one another. Rebecca, who anticipated increased freedom away from home, feels thwart and restricted; Daniel feels yanked in opposite direction by the two most important people in his life; while Bertram thinks a female serpent has entered the station. Together, they make for a deep look at clashing cultures in the opening saga of the Queensland Chronicles.

Murder in Stratford
Audrey Peterson
Five Star
ISBN: 1594142734 $25.95, 202 pp.

In Stratford upon Avon, though she is several years older than Will Shakespeare, who works in his father's Glover shop, he courts and marries Anne Hathaway. Over the next few years, they seem happy together though Will who studied law was bored. When he had an opportunity to join a traveling troupe, he leaves his spouse and children behind though he sends money and visits infrequently. Will's fame as a writer begins to grow, but on one of his trips home, his boyhood pal, the odious arrogant Richard Quiney, who even tried to boorishly seduce his friend's wife Anne, is murdered. The corpse is found in the Shakespeare garden. The constable assumes Will, being cuckold, killed the man in a crime of passion. Anne believes otherwise and is determined to prove her spouse is innocent. As the list of those with motives to kill the loathsome Richard seems to grow, almost as if the entire town and surrounding villagers had a reason to murder him, the killer watches Anne to insure she does not get to close to the truth. MURDER IN STRATFORD is as much an amateur sleuth tale as it is a historical fiction novel. The story line is told from the perspective of Anne but not just about the who-done-it but her life even before Will courts her. This enables the audience to obtain a full picture of her and much insight into the Bard. Her investigation is fun to follow but takes a back seat to her life's story so much so that Shakespeare lovers and the Elizabethan crowd will appreciate this fine tale more so than those who prefer a pure mystery.

Chasing Galahad
Molly Charles
Five Star
ISBN: 159414298X $25.95, 235 pp.

Portland, Oregon resident Zephronia Halliday is in London to bid at an auction on Galahad, an antique sea horse she needs to make Galahad's Secret Garden, a children's park, complete. However, her "God-Uncle" Sedgewick James informs construction tycoon Ty McHugh that he would like him to meet his "niece' Zep who is at an auction. Ty knows Zep broke his heart when he was a teen and her wealthy father fired his gardener father because of her. He is affluent while he is unaware that she is broke. He goes to the auction and pays an exorbitant price for Galahad to thwart her from having the antique. At a gala for a children's charity, Zep confronts TY who broke her heart when she was a teen. He blithely informs her that he gave Galahad away to Princess Jane. When she beats him in cards he agrees to help her gain the antique back. Jane gave it to rock star Ferret Flag. As Zep and Ty go on the quest, they both keep from the other that they still love one another and then there is that matter between their fathers. Unless they clear the air, this couple is doomed to lifetimes of unhappiness. Though biting his nose to spite his face by spending a fortune on an antique he gives way seems odd especially in light of how fast Ty agrees to help Zep. Once the audience clears that hurdle, the story line is fun to follow with both fearing to reveal how much they love the other. Readers will ride along with the lead couple who has a second chance at love while chasing after Galahad.

My Lord Beast
Mary Lennox
Five Star
ISBN: 1594143285 $26.95, 389 pp.

In 1842 with her merchant family in ruin, Lilias Merrit believes she is caught between a rock and a hard place; her options are limited to marrying an abusive man or accepting a job at Breme Castle, rumored home to an aristocratic beast. Lilias meets her new employer Aubrey Drelincourte, but shocks him as the repulsive scars on his face do not frighten her. Instead she expects his dark brooding will lead to rages that goes contrary to her feeling attracted to this depressing lord. Still suffering from Malaria he caught in India, Aubrey also feels guilty over his wife's death though he remembers nothing about it except awakening holding the murder weapon while a leopard stood near her corpse. He fears that remembering what happened will affirm that he is a murdering beast. Though Aubrey expects to be tried as a killer, this does not scare him, but his odious cousin inheriting Breme does. He wants to marry quickly and beget an heir before the law comes for him. With little time available he chooses Lilias as his bride, but expects she will refuse to wed a killer. This nineteenth century gothic romantic mystery hooks the audience from the moment that Lilias decides the unknown "evil" is safer than the known "evil". All the evidence cleverly points to Aubrey as a spousal murderer leaving fans to wonder how the male love interest could be the killer. Aubrey has doubts about his innocence and as he begins falling in love with Lilias, worries about her safety especially from him, his biggest fear. He insures MY LORD BEAST is a fine historical romantic suspense.

The Assassin's Dream
J.D. Townsend
Five Star
ISBN 1594142823 $25.95, 430 pp.

In 2174, the new world order came about because of Acquired Genetic Neurological Syndrome killing over two third of the male population on Earth. Women are in power and the central focus of authority is the council selected on each continent. The regime represses individuals who are less important than the whole and opinions are not tolerated. Most infants are genetically engineered. There is a k-class of women bred to be perfect assassins; Kay Black is one of the best. When she goes to terminate Angela Potenkin, she finds a recording she left behind telling Kay that she is the product of a breeding experiment designed to bring about the next step in evolution. People like her have psychic powers that manifest themselves at a predetermined time. When Kay's next assignment is to terminate Angela's son, their meeting brings out their full powers and leads them to an underground enclave in Dar es Salaam where people just like them are living in an underground community. Their safety is just an illusion because the head of the North American Council is getting ready to infiltrate the group and use them for her own ends. It is 1984 all over again with Big Sister keep a close eye on its citizens, ready to kill anyone who threatens the status quo. Kay doesn't understand what is happening to her and reaches out to Aria, a woman working on the council. Something about Kay touches Ana who agrees to help her with her psychic powers and with fitting into the group. J.D. Townsend has written an Orwellian science fiction thriller that is impossible to put down until finished.

The Fight in the Dog
Wayne D. Dundee
Five Star
ISBN: 159414317X $25.95, 360 pp.

She started her inquiries seeking information on her neighbor's lost dog, who vanished from a supermarket parking lot. However, her inane investigation obviously disturbed someone because a thug assaults her in her home warning reporter Jan Mosby to back off or else. Jan refuses to let the punks win so going along with her editor's one demand, the C-2-C magazine editor Cybill Deming hires a bodyguard for her reporter, who happens to be Jan's boyfriend Joe Hannibal. Someone nails a badly mauled canine carcass to Jan's home as a final warning. Still Joe and Jan make inquiries into recent canine snatches and soon find a disturbing pattern. Numerous dogs have being taken throughout the Chicago metropolitan area as fodder for the training of pit bulls as killers. Could this be the work of the deadly head of Hellraisers, a dangerous biker gang? All Joe cares about is that his beloved Jan is safe and he is willing to die or kill to insure that remains so. This private investigative journalist blend is a terrific tale that readers will appreciate due to the fine likable lead couple. The story line moves at fast clip as the dynamic duo makes the rounds and begins finding evidence of inhuman abuse towards animals especially dogs, but nothing that ties back to the culprit. Wayne D. Dundee provides an exciting tale in which his two Js prove it's the fight in the people that make for a fine thriller.

Endless River
Elizabeth Fackler
Five Star
ISBN: 159414270X $25.95, 226 pp.

In Berredo, Texas, four hours from El Paso, Buck Powell pretends to be a police officer, shams the school administration, and abducts student Nathan Wheeler. The victim's seventeen years old girlfriend Amy Sterling becomes concerned about him because he never made it to the police station. Amy thinks nasty peer Zeb Mulroney, who she dated until she saw his abusive side, kidnapped Nate, but no one believes her as the evidence including two eye witnesses from the school points to his cousin Buck. Amy's mother Lucinda persuades former El Paso cop, her tenant and lover Devon Gray to investigate. Reluctantly he does to pacify the teen as much as he also likes her and her mother. Accompanied by the two females who have given him a reason to live, Devon searches the nearby mountain roads for the missing lad. However, unbeknownst to him or the local police Zeb is the mastermind behind the abduction as he plans to hurt Nate for going out with his girl. This is an intriguing regional thriller that moves on several paths to include a minor police procedural, a major private investigation, and a chilling abuse of the victim by his kidnappers. The story line grips the audience who wonder what Zeb will do next, but it is the deep cast to include a young drifter that turns ENDLESS RIVER into a fine Texas thriller.

The Queen's Fencer
Caitlin Scott-Turner
Five Star
ISBN: 1594143021 $26.95, 303 pp.

In 1597, Will Trevallon is the Queen's fencing master; his twenty-one years old daughter Elizabeth is perhaps is best rival. They are happy until Will while in a tournament collapses and dies. Elizabeth grieves more than just the loss of her father and teacher; she has lost her best friend. As Elizabeth tries to move on in her life, Queen Elizabeth sympathizes with her loss, but though the young woman is capable of being THE QUEEN'S FENCER, a female in what the nobles recognize as a male position would cause too much trouble. However, Desmond Kirkconnell has his own plans for the lass; he abducts her taking her to Ireland and then to the Caribbean and back. As she falls in love with her rogue pirate, a rival Francois de la Roche abducts Elizabeth to use as a pawn to trap and destroy Desmond, who risks death to rescue his beloved. Elizabethan romance readers will want to take the plunge into this intriguing tale. The lead couple is a wonderful intrepid pairing though it seems the competent Elizabeth is too easy a victim. The story line is fast-paced whether the action occurs in England, Ireland or the High Seas. Elizabeth's court and other secondary protagonists provide a late sixteenth century feel to the fable, but it is Elizabeth the fencing master who makes the tale hum.

Fairy BrewHaHa at the Lucky Nickel Saloon
Ken Rand
Five Star
ISBN 1594142793 $25.95, 211 pp.

In the Wyoming Territory, Lucky Nickel Saloon owner Mick is ecstatic that a fairy paid for his drink with a gold coin, which enables him to remit the rent owed to his landlady who was threatening him with foreclosure. His spirits plummet when the coin turns to dust. A fairy horde descends on the saloon, causing mayhem and aggravating his regular non paying customers. Former regular Tom Murphy and his mermaid wife Miss Lizzie, who just arrived in town with the circus, join the melee. Everyone takes refuge under the magic piano to avoid the out of control fairies who intend to rob the circus of their gold so they can make more real gold. They demand Mick serve the only drink that can get them drunk, Fairy BrewHaHa, but he doesn't remember how to make it because he and the fairy King J.R. Ewing were drunk when he concocted it. Mick's girlfriend makes a deal with the fairies that will solve everyone's needs. The fairies will get the drink they want and a gold coin so they can make more gold coins; Mick will receive three gold coins a week for a supply of Fairy BrewHaHa. Now he must remember the ingredients and find a gold coin from all his mooching regulars. This wacky, wild and wonderful urban fantasy takes place in the Wild West but instead of cavalry fighting Indians; fairies are fighting humans. Readers will chuckle out loud out with the snappy repartees and the zany situations that arise when two different species occupy the same space. Ken Rand is a grand storyteller whose historical urban fantasy will gather him a huge fan base.

Murder of the Month
Elizabeth C. Main
Five Star
ISBN: 1594143161 $25.95, 259 pp.

In Russell County, Oregon, forty-two years old grandma Jane Serrano lived a fairy tale life until her beloved spouse of over twenty years died. Her three daughters worry about Jane, but the older two reside out of state and the nineteen year old youngest Bianca has frustrated Jane who studies the book Making Peace with Your Adult Child. Jane works at Thornton Books and hosts the Murder of the Month Book Club. Bianca, a club member, insists that Russell County DA Gil Fortune killed his wife Vanessa though the police insist it was an unfortunate accident when she fell into the Crooked River Gorge. Bianca bases her belief on her Wendell, a club member who is a dog more interested in the food than the books. He barked at Gil just like that classic mystery novel Prove It, Puppy!. The teen sells the idea to the other members (Minnie the senior citizen, Ty the teen and Alex the female cynic) that they need to investigate the crime while Jane ponders how to escape from these lunatics. As the amateur sleuths make inquiries the culprit plans to kill anyone who learns the truth. MURDER OF THE MONTH is a terrific amateur sleuth that lightly satirizes the sub-genre and animal detective tales. The story line blends the right amount of serious family conflict with an engaging investigation by a group who follow the book (albeit a puppy detective fiction). Jane is the wonderful center that keeps the main plot together as she considers murdering her youngest offspring and trying to stop the club members from behaving stupidly. Hopefully the audience will have more inquiries by this snoop of the month club.

Dark Secret
Christine Feehan
ISBN: 0515138851 $7.99

Rancher Colby Jansen demands that Juan and Julio Chevez leave her spread immediately and that she will never hand over her young step-siblings to them as they command. She detests the Chevez family for not responding to the request of her "adoptive dad" who never adopted her. He wanted to end his estrangement with his sons their nut they never went to see him before he died. They conveniently show up to take the blood members back with them to Brazil except for Colby who they believe is tainted since her mom never married her biological Chavez father. Accompanying the Chevez males is Carpathian siblings Nicholas and Rafael De La Cruz. They are both shocked that this slight female mortal can block their mental attacks although she does get headaches from doing so. Rafael is stunned when he realizes that the feisty American is his soulmate that he has waited centuries to find. She refuses to have anything to do with him as long as he is on the side of her enemies, which loyalty demands he must be. As Rafael struggles to persuade his beloved they belong together, someone is stealing her equipment, vandalizing her machinery and escalating the assault on Colby, which her beloved will not tolerate. DARK SECRET is a refreshing Carpathian tale that uses a different location to tell an entertaining story. Colby is a courageous mortal refusing to allow any harm to her step-siblings while battling against impossible odds. Her counterpart Rafael is typical of the Feehan alpha male, but knows he has met his perfect match in the feisty American. With a strong support group that further brings out the personalities of the lead couple especially during the war of words and attrition, fans of the series will enjoy this fine gender battle.

The Dead Stone
Vicki Stiefel
ISBN 0843955201 $6.99, 384 pp.

Tally Whyte is a psychologist and a homicide counselor who helps the friends and families of murder victims cope with their loss. One night Tally receives an anonymous phone call from her hometown of Winsworth, Maine telling her to return because the trouble that drove her and her father way is starting up again. Tally and her father escaped their house that was on fire and fled the town. In Winsworth, Tally finds people believe that her father ran off with money from a housing development he conceived and managed. She notices that the development is half built under another name but before she can inquire further, the sister of her best friend is murdered and she intends on helping the family out. Two more murders shortly follow and one of the victims is the person responsible for the housing development not being finished. Since this somehow involves her father, Tally investigates the homicides that were made to look like suicides unaware that she is intended victim number four. The heroine of THE DEAD STONE is a very likeable character who goes the extra mile for people in trouble and puts her own concerns about her father on the back burner to find a killer. There are a lot of suspects who could have committed the murders so readers will find it impossible to guess who the perpetrator is. Vicki Stiefel is a talented writer of psychological suspense who grips her audience from the moment Tally returns home and never lets go until the climax as befitting the work from one of tomorrow's superstars.

Walks in Shadows
Joyce Henderson
ISBN: 0843955082 $5.99, 355 pp.

In 1855 Texas, Walks in Shadow rages over his sister Bubbling Water's abduction and rape by a white. Following her death due to measles, he raised his infant nephew Little Spring for awhile. However, he keeps his deathbed promise to Bubbling Water, who reminded him he was born white; he gives the infant to the Timberlake family who took in his sister following the rape, but vows to come back one day for the child. Five years later, Holden Walker arrives at the Timberlake Ranch albeit to tame a wild stallion, but more to see how his nephew Little Spring, now called, Guy, is doing. Samantha Timberlake and Holden are immediately attracted to one another and she realizes how good he is with horses and with her "brother". She needs a husband to fulfill a stipulation in her late father's will or the bank will select her spouse for her and they have a rich candidate in mind. The banker cares not for Samantha's desires only to fulfill Hiram's concern over the safety of a single woman in Texas. Will Holden fill the bill or will he walk away into the shadows? This exciting western romance will thrill sub-genre fans as Holden struggles between his love for Samantha (and her need of a husband) and Guy in opposition to his obsession to avenge his sister's rape and death. The lead couple rules the story line as the independent Samantha wants to keep her freedom just like the special horse that she hopes Holden can tame without breaking the steed's spirit. Though the villains pale next to the dynamic lead, Joyce Henderson provides a strong tale.

The Care & Feeding of Pirates
Jennifer Ashley
ISBN: 0843952814 $6.99, 355 pp.

In 1809 Charleston, James Ardmore hung pirate Christopher Raine, but not before his sister Honora married the rogue. Now in London four years later, Honoria swears she saw Christopher on the streets and not long afterward he arrives in her bedroom to claim his spouse. Apparently her brother saved his life as he owed a debt to the pirate. She hid her marital status from her sibling who failed to inform her that her husband lived. Christopher has another mission besides regaining his wife's love though he admits the passion still flows; he must rescue his sister from a devious enemy, which means crossing the Atlantic with a volunteer as a wife or a prisoner as a spouse. Christopher vows to leave London with Honoria with him. If he could have seen into the near future and what his actions do to her safety, he would have reconsidered though fighting, kissing and just being with Honoria is bliss. This is an amusing gender war starring two equally powerful combatants whose retorts make for a fine witty tale. Honoria and Christopher are so good together in a second chance theme (although there was not much time the first time around), the subplot involving his foe seems almost unnecessary though that provides plenty of action that augments this terrific historical. Jennifer Ashley is the queen of the pirate romance with this high seas thriller and works like THE PIRATE HUNTER and THE PIRATE NEXT DOOR.

What Rough Beast
H.R. Knight
ISBN 0843954566 $6.99, 374 pp.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's wife is dying of consumption and needing a respite from nursing her he and his son Kingston travel to London to watch Harry Houdini perform. Doyle and his son meet the magician who invites the writer to come with him the next night to debunk the medium Max Cairo. Conan Doyle accepts and goes to the seance where Cairo is exposed as a fraud. He invites the eight members of the seance to come back the next day to see real magic being performed. The octet returns and Cairo draws a septagon and warns everyone not to step over it while he brings Dionysus to Earth. He succeeds but Harry walks into the septagon and Dionysus escapes. Members of the seance are struck by a boost of creative genius and give into their basest desires because Dionysius' magic touches each of them. Harry and Conan team up to find a way to send Dionysus, who wears the form of a monster back where he came from before all of England is infected by the madness he spreads. H.R. Knight is a bright and welcome new voice that horror fans will greatly appreciate. Edwardian England comes to life in WHAT ROUGH BEAST and the atmosphere definitely has a gothic feel to it. The team up of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini is a brilliant plot device and it would be fantastic if these two men are featured in future novels. Dionysus appears as a hideous monster to the humans who are unfortunate enough to encounter to him and he brings out the beast that resides in all of us. Mr. Knight has a unique voice that provides a refreshingly original storyline.

Ride the Fire
Pamela Clare
ISBN: 0843954876 $6.99, 368 pp.

In 1757 Ohio Wilderness, the Wynadot Indians fighting for the French capture Nicholas Kenleigh who is an important member of General Washington's officer corps and two teenage soldiers. The tribe members torture the three men, but Nicholas refuses to give in to the pain. The Indian woman Lyda wants Nicholas to impregnate her as she realizes how strong he is. Since she gets what she wants from her father the chief, Nicholas has a chance to finally escape captivity, which he does. By 1763 the war is winding down. An injured Nicholas reaches a homestead owned by pregnant widow Elspeth "Bethie" Stewart, who distrusts all males after physical abuse from her stepfather and stepbrother. She helps the fevered Nicholas but not before she ties him to her bedposts. As he heals, she sees a softer side to her prisoner who vowed never again when previously held; soon the fall in love, but can each one overcome their traumas to forge a future together? Colonial America romance readers will take great delight in RIDE THE FIRE, a strong tale starring two liable walking wounded souls. The story line provides an intriguing look at life in the frontier as well as the impact of the Seven Year War known in the colonies as the French and Indian War. Nicholas is a heroic individual whether he tries to offer solace to the two teem military prisoners or help Bethie. She is a courageous person striking out on her own to liberate herself from two nasty step-relatives. Fans will appreciate this fine tale of love in the colonial wilderness.

Savage Courage
Cassie Edwards
ISBN: 0843952709 $6.99

In the Arizona Territory Colonel George Whaley leads a massacre of the Apache. One tribesman Storm watches the military slaughter his people and kill his parents. Now the chief of his tribe Storm vows to avenge the deaths of his parents and his people at the hands of the soldiers. Storm sees his opportunity to begin avenging what Whaley did to his family when he abducts half-breed Shosona, the daughter of his enemy. To his shock, however, Storm is attracted to Shosona. She reciprocates his deepest feelings. While Storm's plans go awry because he is in love, the Colonel is coming to destroy his foe. The cast is realistic whether they are the protagonists, the antagonists, or secondary characters running the gamut of the tribe, the military, or white civilians. The story line is deep and descriptive bringing to life the first decade following the Civil War in a vivid manner as few tales do. However, as with seemingly the entire "Storm" novels, one size fits all as the plot comes out of the Cassie Edwards' Indian romance mold. Still fans of the series and someone who has never read Ms. Edwards before will take immense delight in this picturesque tale of love and hate in 1873 in the Southwest United States.

Sign of the Book
John Dunning
ISBN: 0743255054 $25.00, 368 pp.

Former Denver police officer Cliff Janeway has known his Twice Told Books bookstore partner, attorney Erin D'Angelo for two years so that he is capable of telling when she has something bothering her. He remains patient until Erin explains she needs Cliff to do her a favor. Laura Marshall is accused of killing her spouse and wants Erin to defend her. However, Erin informs Cliff she will never forgive Laura for stealing her lover who became her husband, but still the ethical side of her needs to know if Laura's confession that she killed Bobby is legal and true. Cliff would do anything for Erin so he journeys to Paradise to learn the truth and offer some assistance to Laura's lawyer Parley McNamara struggling to overcome the confession. In the Western Colorado town, Cliff aggravates the arresting officer, battles with bibliophiles who behave more like mob goons than book lovers, and begins to wonder if one of the three Marshall kids killed their father as Laura never seems to fully cooperate with her defense. THE SIGN OF THE BOOK is an excellent cleverly designed mystery filled with red herrings, and numerous twists and turns, but fans will still compare this to the already classic last year's THE BOOKMAN'S PROMISE, which few works can compare with. The story line is fantastic as readers go down a path thinking they know what will happen only to find a sudden yet logical detour that works quite well and is totally believable. The sidebars involving rare books are always a bonus, but that might be this reviewer's personal bias. The Bookman is terrific in this fine investigative tale.

The Whole
John Reed
ISBN: 0743485017 $12.95, 209 pp.

Thing was selected for certain symmetrical assets that caught the bulging lusty eyes of MTV executives at a beach party. Surprisingly she hits it off with the viewing public and becomes a correspondent though she has the intelligence of a burned out light bulb. She is promoted as blond bimbo candy based on her garb unable to contain her twin peaks. However, seemingly even faster than Thing becomes a superstar, she becomes yesterday's fad. As Thing plays chutes and ladders with fame, a Midwestern boy Bobby Peterson digs a hole that expands until his and his family and their house fall through the chasm. Thing begins to research the phenomena which she feels will bring her salvation. However, clues take on a strange journey through a land of mysticism highlighted in remote sign posts like Vegas and Roswell. This is a strange tale that satirizes media coverage (to include a parody of John Reed) as being filled with sound and fury but signifying nothing more than an MTV video. Readers will feel for Thing, who is treated with disdain for having a boob size bigger than her IQ and enjoy the irony of the weird, but fun story line. Obviously most readers will not give Mr. Reed's tale a SNOWBALL'S CHANCE, but fans who enjoy a trip into a modern day looking glass led by a Black Rabbit and a Thing, though lacking in the wits and puns of Alice's holey escapade, will want to escape into the WHOLE tale.

The Three Mrs. Parkers
Joan Medlicott
ISBN: 0743487966 $13.00, 320 pp.

After riding a train from Maine to Westminister, South Carolina seventy-five years old Winifred Parker demands her daughter-in-law pick her up. Holding in her ire because her offer to meet the train was previously rejected, Zoe drives Winifred to her home, the two women barely talk, which has been their relationship since Winfred felt her son Steven married down when he wed pregnant Zoe Amorey. Joining the Air Force, Steven died not long afterward. The older woman asks how her thirty years old granddaughter Kathryn (not Kate to the harridan) is doing and how much longer will Kate's brain damaged daughter Laura May live. Zoe lies saying her dispirited daughter is fine and her nine years old granddaughter whose name is Laurie Ann could easily live another decade. However, tragedy occurs as Laurie Ann dies. Her spouse Hank left her when Kate refused to place their child in a special care home; Kate spent the next nine years caring for her daughter, but now is alone except for her mother, the only person who was there for her and her daughter. The three women, Zoe, Kate and Winifred share a roof as the oldest and the sandwiched need one another, but the youngest needs the most nurturing at this moment and Zoe informs her in-law if she must choose, Kate stays. This three generation family drama will please fans of the author as Joan Medlicott takes readers deep into the thoughts, feelings, and worries of the three women. The story line is character driven as the realistic trio faces different woes and pulls. Though the action is limited, fans insightful contemporary tales will appreciate the profound THE THREE MRS. PARKERS.

Shadow Haven
Emily LaForge
ISBN: 0743456149 $6.99, 384 pp.

The spirits told sculptor Gabriella Deveaux not to marry Charles Colquitt, but she did anyway. She left her beloved Louisiana Shadow Haven plantation to live in New York. However, though her eight years of marriage was horrible she stayed with Charles because of her love for their daughter six years old Michaela. Now that Charles has died in a plane crash in Montana, Gabriella accompanied by her reluctant daughter returns to Shadow Haven though his parents plan to contest custody as they feel she is unhinged. Charles' friend lawyer Jarrod Landry tells her that her wealthy in-laws will sue for custody based on her claiming she talks with the dead. Gabriella and Michaela visit the estate's enchanted garden where the angel statue created by Gabriella of her beloved grandnana lives, but no communication from the beyond occurs. A spirit warns a sleeping Gabriella that evil that is not t what it seems is coming. Meanwhile Gabriella realizes that her daughter sees and speaks with her late grandnana who wants her to visit psychic Mary Francis hiding in the swamps. Jarrod keeps visiting and soon loves the Deveaux females; he vows to keep them safe, but the danger to the older one comes from beyond the grave. Gabriella is an absorbing strong lead female protagonist supported by a bewitching secondary mystical cast to include her daughter, her spouse, two witches, and grandnana's spirit. The paranormal story line feels somewhat gothic, but the key to the suspense thriller is that the mystical elements seem real while adding depth and interest. Though a final twist is never fully explained only a theory conjectured, the romance enhances a delightful tale.

Free Fall
Judith and Garfield Reeves Stevens
ISBN 0743406079 $7.99, 556 pp.

After a year of training to use manipulative systems to gather the cylinders containing moon dust and rocks that the rover collected, civilian Cory Rey considered her mission a success and knows her boss Kai Teller of TTI industries will be pleased. The rocks and dust are worth over $100 million dollars and he will make a huge profit at auction. From the time that Cory completes her mission, things go wrong. The science officer tries to kill her in order to take the cylinders; the shuttle and the space station are badly damaged in a crash that kills all but three people. The cosmonauts on the Soyuz rescue Cory after a near fatal accident and she brings back with her one of the cylinders that someone was willing to kill to possess. Inside are the petrified remains of three human fingers but supposedly nobody ever died on the moon. Captain Mitch Webber of the secret United States Space Force is sent to the moon to cover up what a certain faction of the government wants kept secret but he is in a race with the Chinese who plan to reveal what the U.S. government did over three decades ago. Webber is sent on the mission without all the facts and once he discovers what he is really supposed to do he has to decide between taking the legal or the moral course. This is an action thriller that starts off at light speed and than races at an even greater velocity towards the startling climax and resolution. The team of Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens has written a fine tale that will appeal to fans of Tom Clancy and Jack Higgins.

To Pleasure a Prince
Sabrina Jeffries
ISBN: 0743477715 $6.99, 384 pp.

In 1814 Viscount Marcus North, a card carrying member of the Royal Brotherhood whose perquisite for joining is being an illegitimate son of the Prince of Wales, reenters polite society to sponsor his half sister Louisa. He becomes upset when Simon of Foxmoor courts Louisa because the duke is part of the Prince's inner retinue and he wants to keep his sibling away from the royal he detests for bedding his mom one week after his dad died. Simon's half-sister Regina Trent intercedes on behalf of her brother. Marcus agrees to allow Simon to see Louisa only if Regina allows him to court her. Expecting the renowned "La Belle Dane Sans Merci" to refuse, she shocks him when she accepts his terms as he figured no one would want to be seen with the "Dragon Viscount" whose own mother spread nasty tales about him. As Regina and Marcus begin seeing one another, they fall in love, but he believes her brother has a sinister motive for courting his sister while she thinks her sibling is in love. Their siblings' relationship may destroy their chance for happiness. The sequel to IN THE PRINCE'S BED, TO PLEASURE A PRINCE is refreshed by the intruding relationship between Marcus and the Prince; Marcus not only detests the Regent, but refuses to allow his half-sister to see the royal. The prime story line played out between Marcus and Regina is fun to follow and fits quite comfortably within the norm of the sub-genre. However, the secondary cast especially the half-siblings, his "regal" illegitimate friends, his deceased mother, and a more humanized Prince then the usual caricature make for a fine historical Regency.

Otherwise Engaged
Eileen Goudge
ISBN: 0743483189 $24.00

Dude ranch owner Erin Delahanty gave up the Big Apple to marry her Willow Creek, Arizona high school sweetheart Skip. They have a fourteen years old daughter Kayla, but Skip skips out on his wife because he feels she is not there for him. Erin's best friend Jessica lives in New York writing magazine articles. She is seeing Jewish divorcee Jonathon, NY Bureau Chief for CTN, but compares poorly to his ex-wife Rebecca in the eyes of his Long Island parents and children on the grounds of religious and motherly objections. An editor friend offers Jessica an assignment to see if the grass is greener elsewhere. Jessica and Erin will switch lives for six months and provide insight in a series of articles as events unfold. However, not only do each learn to appreciate the other, they begin to understand other relationships especially with loved ones. This entertaining contemporary tale stars two prime players (the switcheroo duo) and a fine support cast; all of whom are likable yet seem unable to get along; no one is a villain. Thus the audience gets an opportunity to observe the difficulty of wearing someone else's moccasins. Though a romance between Jessica and an Arizona native adds a love interest that subplot seems unnecessary to a fine tale in which the moral is be thankful with what you got because the grass is as green on your side as that of your friends and neighbors.

Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down
Sherrilyn Kenyon, Melanie George and Jaid Black
ISBN: 1416501592 $13.00, 352 pp.

"Captivated by You" by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Agent Rhea Stevenson is a bit surprised by her latest assignment. The antiterrorist Bureau of American Defense wants her to go undercover as a dominatrix to capture a street terrorist. To prepare her for her new role, she gets to tie up BAD agent Ace Krux. "Promise Me Forever" by Melanie George. Ten years ago football star Donovan Jericho left his Mississippi mud and his girlfriend behind for stardom. An injury has just ended his career and he returns home. He wants a second chance with Savannah, but she is marrying a pediatrician. She rejects him while he wonders who the father of her daughter is. Needing time to explain his mistake ten years ago and plead for another chance, Donovan abducts Savannah. "Hunter's Right" by Jaid Black. The military aircraft carrying US Army Corporal Ronda Tipton crashes in the Arctic with her the sole survivor. She is captured and taken to an underground civilization where she is placed for sale on the maiden's auction. Lord Nikolas likes her feistiness and claims hunter's rights to her. These three erotic novellas are well written starring delightful protagonists who will tie the audience up to down each tale in one reading session.

Death in Duplicate
Valerie Wolzien
ISBN: 0345468082 $6.99, 272 pp.

Susan and Jeb Henshaw are thrilled that their twin grandchildren, their daughter and her spouse and their nurse are staying with them until they find an apartment in New York City. As they move in, Susan's neighbor Nadine Barnes watches the free for all until she sees the nurse Shannon. She warns Susan that Shannon was a suspect in the deaths of three residents at the Perry Island Care Center and the case still remains open. Uneasy with this news, but also observing how much Shannon seems to care for her daughter and grandchildren, Susan decides to investigate the care center homicides hoping to exonerate the nurse. Following a day of sleuthing, she comes home to learn someone murdered Nadine with Shannon having a motive to silence the woman. However, Susan learns that Nadine's husband and his mother have plans for Perry Island development starting with destroying the nursing home. She sees a tentative link between the previous murders and that of Nadine besides the seemingly too convenient Shannon, but the unknown perpetrator is observing her too, waiting to kill her if she comes too close to guessing his identity. One of the prime reasons Valerie Wolzien's amateur sleuth mysteries are so good is because her characters are so realistic as they have problems, worries, and even fatigue dealing with twin infants and other real life situations. The baby scenes provide humor unless you happen to be up all night. Susan's sleuthing is serious as she believes Shannon is innocent unless she is Academy Award caliber actress, but also wonders if her feelings want the nurse to not be the culprit as the evidence points that way. DEATH IN DUPLICATE is an intelligent down to earth mystery.

Gimme Me an O!
Kayla Perrin
ISBN: 0060587091 $12.95, 358 pp.

Ironically as her fame grows due to a bestselling sex therapy book, The Big O, therapist Lecia Calhoun watches her own love life tank. Still Dr. Love as the media calls her makes appearances on talk shows. Football player Anthony "T" Beals was trying to save his marriage to Ginger when the media caught him with a hooker, which the quarterback insists that it was not what it seemed like. On the same show he is on, Dr. Love says his wife should dump him because of his infidelity and use of a hooker. Anthony blames the sacking of his marriage on Dr. Love for advising his spouse, but in reality Ginger set him up to be caught with the prostitute. T forces Dr. Love to work with him to find the vanished Ginger and get her back in his life. Their trek together opens new issues as they begin to fall in love and T wants to change the game plan. GIMME ME AN O! for outstanding as Kayla Perrin provides an often amusing romantic romp with a fabulous cast openly discussing sexual shortfalls (no pun intended as it is "not the size of the boat" per Dr. Love). T stands for terrific as he struggles between his enjoying his battles with Lecia and his feelings of guilt and incompetence with Ginger. Lecia is his perfect opponent and partner in the gender war. Although Ginger is over the top (read this humorous contemporary to learn why), fans of zany romances will enjoy Dr. Love applying her own help book to her situation.

Play Dates
Leslie Carroll
ISBN: 0060596066 $12.95, 376 pp.

Twenty something Claire Marsh raises her almost seven year old going on thirty second grader Zoe by herself since her spouse dumped the two of them for an older woman. Helping or hindering Claire depending on your perspective is her older sister MiMi, Zoe's role model in living life to the fullest with dates and other happenings. While Zoe has PLAY DATES with friends along Manhattan's Upper West Side, Claire plays child escort and wonders when she might have a date like big sis and little daughter. Although her parents cover her Central Park apartment, Claire finds work as a museum tour guide, her first income maker that is discounting her parents and spouse. She does a good job but that interferes with working with Zoe on the private school projects though the latter normally means working alone while the kid has fun. Claire figures that when she grows up she wants to be just like Zoe, a successful social butterfly, but first the next tour group needs escorting. PLAY DATES is an amusing chick lit tale starring a delightful protagonists bemoaning her lot in life (she would complain in heaven) yet no doubt loves her daughter, her sister, and her parents, and insures Zoe is raised in a proper caring manner. The story line is amusing whether it concentrates on Claire's lament or follows her leading a tour group. Though there is little real crisis as her family provides a warm loving safety net for the Marsh females, readers will enjoy Claire's Manhattan escapades and the black book coda containing a Leslie Carroll interview of her.

Flirting With Danger
Suzanne Enoch
ISBN: 0060593636 $6.99, 384 pp.

Though heavily guarded, Samantha Jellicoe broke into the wealthy Florida estate with ease. Inside the Solano Dorado House, her operation falls apart as security and the owner Richard Addison catch her. A bomb explodes killing the guard, but Sam manages to pull the unconscious Richard to safety before escaping into the night. The police suspect Sam, though they know her as "Smith", murdered the guard and attempted to kill Richard; he knows otherwise, but is unable to persuade anyone that she saved his life. With the heat on her and her partner under surveillance, Sam breaks into Richard's home again offering a deal; she will help him learn who wanted him dead while he helps clear her name of the homicide rap. As they work together they fall in love, but finding the culprit proves difficult. FLIRTING WITH DANGER is a fast-paced, action-packed romantic suspense that accelerates from the onset as Sam the cat burglar meets her latest target British businessman Richard. The story line stays at its rapid rate until the final confrontation with the villains. The lead duet are an interesting pairing because both are used to being in charge, making for extra sparks and conflict. Though his seemingly in the dark over other purloined valuables appears off kilter for his personality, fans will enjoy this cat burglar romance.

Stealing Sophie
Sarah Gabriel
ISBN: 0060736097 $5.99, 384 pp.

In 1728 Scotland, the Carren Clan Chief Duncrieff informs his brother Connor MacPherson that he must marry Katherine MacCarran to make things right between the clans. Connor would do almost anything for his sibling and he knows he is responsible for the feud because he caused the MacCarran to be incarcerated. He abducts Kate as she travels with escort home; he marries and beds her. Afterward the outlawed Highland Ghost as he is known learns he snatched the wrong sister; his wife is Kate's sibling Sophie. When Sophie learns that her husband married the wrong woman, she decides to drive him crazy with kindness as her clan's fairy cup says "Love makes its own magic", figuring a vinegar thug like her husband will toss out her sweetness. Instead she soon has his clan doing her bidding as everyone is enthralled with her and Connor is thankful for his error. However, the clan feud remains volatile threatening to destroy the growing love between the outlaw and the abducted. STEALING SOPHIE is a solid one part amusing and one part action-adventure Scottish historical romance starring a bewildered lead male whose toughness is overwhelmed by the pleasantness of his feisty fairy-like lass. The story line concentrates on the changing relationship between the lead duet as Sophie takes charge through honey, but occurs in a background where the clans are battling one another. Readers will welcome newcomer Sarah Gabriel into the sub-genre clan for providing a fun historical.

Something about Emmaline
Elizabeth Boyle
ISBN: 0060549319 $5.99, 384 pp.

In 1801 every male in the Ton envies Baron Sedgewick, Alexander Denford, for having the perfect wife. His compliant spouse Emmaline makes no demands on Alex and even allows him to gamble and have affairs while she rusticates. She is such a paragon to the jealous men, but only Alex knows that Emmaline does not exist; he made up this ideal woman to keep matchmakers and mamas away from him. His beloved octogenarian grandma reads a gossip note from the Post and Times about Lady S seen shopping in town. Bills arrive from Lady S to pay for all types of female garb. Stunned that someone somehow learned and is using his ploy Alex races to London to confront Lady S. When he sees her in his bedroom, instead of tossing her out Alex wants to toss the clever con artist on his bed to make love today, tomorrow and forever though he fears she will steal his silverware. This is an amusing brisk Regency romance starring two wonderful protagonists whose debates are filled with double entendres and puns. The story line takes off the moment that Alex realizes someone has personalized his brilliant strategy to fleece him. Emmaline is unique protagonist, a likable kindhearted con artist. Their pairing leads to a one sitting read by this humorous Boyle gender war.

The Trouble with Valentine's Day
Rachel Gibson
ISBN: 0060009268 $6.99, 384 pp.

Being dumped last year on Valentine's Day and being alone this year Kate Hamilton hates the holiday. Still desperate after a monstrous drive through snow from Vegas to Sun Valley on her way to her grandfather's home in Gospel, Idaho, she stops for the night, has a few drinks, and propositions a hunk; he rejects her. In Gospel, Kate helps her grandfather with his grocery store. He introduces his Katie to sports store owner, retired hockey star Rob Sutter, the stud who said no to her in Sun Valley. He thinks she is easy and she feels he is a losing boozer. However, as grandpa Stanley plays matchmaker they begin to see that the other has a lot more than their tainted first impressions of a one night stand groupie and an alcoholic. Soon the fall in love, but both have been burned by this emotion before. Time in the penalty box aside, fans will take immense delight with this fine contemporary romance starring two wonderful protagonists ready to drop the gloves at any moment to battle skate to skate with one another. Rob and Kate are a delightful couple whose debates are amusing as each goes for the jugular until love forces them to reconsider how they feel. Stanley provides fine matchmaking skills that are enhanced by the eccentric townsfolk of Gospel who know that once this duo drops the defenses; both assist one another on the winning goal.

Lessons in Seduction
Sara Bennett
ISBN: 0060584386 $5.99, 384 pp.

In 1840 Vivianna Slater stalks Lord Oliver Montgomery as she wants him to reconsider tearing down Candlewood Estate because the Shelter for Poor Orphans is located there. She follows him to a brothel where unable to resist Oliver kisses Vivianna and finds he wants more; so does she. Owner Aphrodite tells Vivianna to use her feminine wiles to get what she wants from Oliver. Vivianna learns that Oliver's older brother Anthony committed suicide at Candlewood after seeing his almost fiancee kissing him. Oliver believes that Lord Lawson, the next Prime Minister, killed Anthony because his brother found incriminating documents. Oliver feels the papers are in a hidden room at Candlewood that he plans to find even if he needs to tear down the place. Vivianna realizes she must seduce Oliver to get him to change his mind, but needs a teacher. She asks Aphrodite for lessons. The madam agrees on the condition that Vivianna explain her passion for the orphanage. She tells her that she and her sisters were abandoned as children; Aphrodite is stunned. Oliver tells Vivianna he has fixed up another of his properties for the orphans. That night they make love. Afterward he tells her that Lawson killed Anthony and that a confrontation is coming. This enticing Victorian romantic suspense stars a strong lead couple with the secondary characters enhancing the look at the motivations of the prime duet. Most interesting to sub-genre fans is how cleverly and effortlessly Sara Bennett establishes two sequels without intruding on this fine story line. Though some readers will think the final confrontation was too anticlimactic (this reviewer thought it was perfect), fans will enjoy this terrific historical.

Hidden Secrets
Cait London
ISBN: 0060555890 $5.99, 384 pp.

In Washington State Cascade Mountains, Spence Gerhard continues his quest to find his nephew, three years old Cody or at least his remains. Over two and a half years ago Spence's sister and her ex-husband died when their pick-up left the snowy road, but Cody's body was not found. Spence needs closure though he prays for a miracle. Fresh Takes store owner Marlo Malone has the uncanny ability to know when death lurks and feels a fabric in her shop is trying to tell her something, but she prefers to ignore those feelings and remain on a "reality" path. Still she continues to sense that a little boy is calling for her to rescue him. She works on the clues her gift sends her way with little progress. Spence returns to Godfrey where he realizes that he still is attracted to Marlo; she reciprocates but neither pursues these mutual feelings. Though he doubts her intuition, Spence has no other road to trek so he joins forces with Marlo. As they fall in love, he begins to believe in her psychic gift and that Cody lives. This is a slow starting contemporary paranormal suspense thriller that once it picks up speed (about halfway through the book), the story line never slows down until the final altercation. The plot takes its time introducing the key cast members especially the lead couple. That provides the audience insight deep into the minds of Spence and Marlo, but also leaves the audience somewhat impatient to pick up the pace. Once Cait London does, fans of psychic romantic suspense will appreciate the preliminaries that enhance a fine thriller.

Embracing Darkness
Margaret Carter
Silhouette Intimate Moment
ISBN: 0373274254 $4.99

Vampire Maxwell Tremayne notices the pretty human female watching the Grant residence when he accosts her. He learns she is Linnett Carroll whose niece Deanna was recently murdered along with his younger brother Anthony. Both believe Nola Grant had lackeys commit the homicides as a warning that no one leaves Nola's cult. Anthony tells Linnett to go home, but she refuses. Though he fears she will interfere with his thirst for revenge, he figures he can control her better if she is with him. As they begin to work their way slowly towards Nola, surrounded by her minion, Linnett and Maxwell fall in love, but what future can there be between a mortal whose lifespan is decades and a bloodsucker who lives for centuries and more. Besides Nola is not going to sit idly by while her enemies close in on her. Readers will enjoy this fantastic vampire romance that starts on a high note when Maxwell comes out of seemingly nowhere (actually from the sky) to confront Linnett. The story line is action-packed as the avenging courageous duo battle the minion of their enemy while also falling in love, an emotion neither feels they can afford at this time if they are going to defeat Nola. Supernatural romance fans will embrace the tense darkness that Margaret Carter deftly portrays because the author enables her readers to easily accept that the undead and other paranormal species live.

The Medusa Project
Cindy Dees
Silhouette Bombshell
ISBN: 0373513453 $4.50

Though she has risen to the rank of major in the Air Force, Vanessa Blake still dreams of becoming a Navy SEAL. She feels she is more than qualified to perform the missions once she receives her training, but no female has ever been selected as a SEAL at least until now. To her euphoria, Vanessa and an elite selected team of women have been chosen to be guinea pigs by forming a cell of female Seals, the Medusas. SEAL Lieutenant Colonel Jack Scatalone is skeptical about these women meeting the physical and mental demands. However, watching them work, Jack changes his mind as he becomes their biggest supporter. In particular he is attracted to Vanessa, but knows that does not interfere in his change of mind only a change of heart that he has found his mate. On a mission to rescue his team trapped in the Middle East, Jack is caught too. This time the brass sends the Medusas led by Vanessa to rescue the male SEALs. THE MEDUSA PROJECT is a terrific military gender bending thriller with the women making up the cavalry coming to the rescue of the besieged men. The story line is 98% testosterone (including the Medusas) and 2% romance mostly because the exploits are non-stop without time or location for much on the sheets. Thus the relationship between the two likable heroic protagonists is realistic rather than the usual life threatening scenario with time for a quick nip and tuck. Fans of thrillers starring SEALs will enjoy the action-packed THE MEDUSA PROJECT.

The Spy Wore Red
Wendy Rosnau
Silhouette Bombshell
ISBN: 0373513461 $4.50

Euro-Quest and NSA Onyx are combining resources to stop a rogue assassin killing agents from both their organizations. Onyx's Bjorn Opell will head the efforts to stop the killer. He has a choice of deadly female Quest agents to accompany him. Though Quest suggests their more endurance player, he selects Nadja "Q" Stefn, the notorious bedroom assassin. He denies knowing her, but he is the only male to survive a night with this black widow. The duo follows the trail of the killer from Prague to Vienna, stopping for some sexual activity on the way. In Austria, Bjorn and Nadja continue to make love as they come closer to a deadly killer who knows they are after him or her and have this duo on the list of those who will die. This is an exciting espionage romance starring two intriguing protagonists though one must wonder if Nadja can be considered likable and how on the edge Bjorn could cherish "rough" sex. The cat and mouse spy counterspy plot is thrilling and using Prague and Vienna as the background gives a Cold War feel though clearly it is a post Wall fall novel. Though most readers will doubt that the couple will survive another month together (no sequel seems feasible for this duo) as Nadja is bound to kill Bjorn, fans of espionage thrillers will appreciate this deep tale.

Personal Enemy
Sylvie Kurtz
Silhouette Bombshell
ISBN: 0373513437 $4.50

In Stamford, Connecticut business executive Peter Dragon needs personal protection so he hires an undercover bodyguard Adria Caskey to pretend to be his assistant. However, unbeknownst to Peter, Adria has plans for her new employer that is not in his best interests. He was one of those who killed her parents when she was six years old living in Hawaii and her surname was Kaholo; he is the only one left for her to enact her grandfather's death bed vengeance. The preliminary phases of her plan go off without a hitch so Adria sets up the implementation step. However, before she can destroy her enemy, an adversary surfaces using her scheme to attack Adria and Peter. To survive this intruder who wants both dead, Adria will have to team up with the person she most hates in the world. As they struggle to live, Adria and Peter fall in love, but she refuses to sleep with the enemy as she cannot let go of the past beyond the current deadly scenario as she still plans to kill Peter once the new foe is stopped. PERSONAL ENEMY is a thrilling romantic suspense with the emphasis on the action though the attraction between the besieged lead duo is not neglected, but handled in context of their past and their current dire straits. The story line is fast-paced starring realistic characters especially Adria and Peter. Romantic thriller readers will appreciate this tense tale.

Lorna J. Cook
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312321295 $12.95, 242 pp.

In Michigan, Malcolm VanderZees married his college sweetheart Esme when she became pregnant. Over the years, they raised four children as he became a professor while she stopped painting. Still this couple has lived the American dream of being the norm with no deviation from the mean as acceptable. Their oldest child seventeen years old Suzan is a throwback romanticist finding relevance with Thomas Hardy and the Bronte sisters while knowing dad is a mediocre nerd and mom is a loser getting kicks with a phone dude when she is home, which is rare. Fifteen years old Evan lives life through foreign movies until he meets New York transplant Soci. Nine years old Hallie is a recluse who debates philosophical issues with Cupcake her pet rat. Suzan eagerly waits the time she can fly; Evan considers running off to Chicago with Soci; Hallie wants to hide even further; and Malcolm considers escaping to Italy. However, it is five-year-old Aimee, hit by a minivan, who "flees" by reliving her near-death experience everyday. What makes this insightful look at the typical American family avoid being maudlin and bland (what would you expect from the average family) is the narration of the two teens who see the world through a slightly different lens. Suzan and Evan seem very genuine with their reflections on life, their parents, their siblings, and their town; they see everyone else as pathetic middling. Every member of the VanderZees seeks DEPARTURE from a boring run of the mill world, but none seem able to take the first step outside their security blanket except Aimee. Reminiscent of Supertramps' Logical Song the audience receives an interesting glimpse at mediocrity.

The Red Hat Club Rides Again
Haywood Smith
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312316917 $24.95, 336 pp.

Though the membership are all in their fifties, the Red Hats still meet every month for lunch though their choice of locale has changed somewhat since Teeny has twenty million earned during the Clinton stock market boom to waste. Instead of always a high class Atlanta area location, the group also meets elsewhere incuding the Bahamas though that was part of a month long plastic-surgery extreme makeovers cruise. When member Pru breaks the substance abuse tenet of the twelve commandments, her southern sisters (Georgia, SuSu, Diane, Linda, and of course Teeny - someone has to pay for this extravaganza) ignoring tradition 5 of minding your own business, converge on Las Vegas. Sin City is not prepared for the invasion of the Red Hats who plan to intervene and kidnap Pru so that they can take her to clean herself up in the Rockies at an exclusive rehab center, but first they must play the slots. The Red Hat Club once again proves that life begins at fifty as these Southern steel magnolias refuse to allow time or family relationships to interfere with their long time friendships. The current tale is intriguingly deep yet irreverent as the members satirically assault anything in their way, just ask Elton John, who will surely wear a red hat in his next public appearance. Haywood Smith provides a warm delightful tale of strong friendships that mean helping one another live life to the fullest.

In Like Flynn
Rhys Bowen
St. Martin's
ISBN 031232815X $23.95, 336 pp.

In 1902, while New York City is in the middle of a typhoid epidemic, Irish immigrant Molly Murphy becomes a private eye; that is why police Captain Daniel Sullivan asks her to work undercover posing as Senator Flynn's cousin from Ireland while the family of the representative hosts the Sorenson Sisters who are mediums. Flynn's wife Theresa wants to contact her son who was kidnapped five years ago and the Sorenson Sisters have a reputation for contacting spirits. Needing the money, Molly agrees to take the assignment to prove the sisters are frauds. She also meets the woman who was briefly considered a suspect in the kidnapping and she wants Molly to find evidence that will prove she had nothing to do with the crime even though she cared about the suspect, the chauffeur Bertie Morrel. From the time she gets settled in Adora, the senator's mansion, Molly feels a sense of evil pervades the place. When Theresa's nurse is killed by falling off a cliff, she almost thinks it isn't an accident. While investigating the Sorenson Sisters, she also probes the kidnapping which makes someone very nervous, a person who has killed before and isn't afraid to murder again anyone who gets in the perpetrator's way. The more one reads about Molly Murphy, the more one realizes how creative and refreshing the series as a whole is. Rhys Bowen is the type of storyteller one rarely finds, who can create the perfect ambience, tell a good story and construct a who-done-it that is almost impossible to solve. IN LIKE FLYNN is a fantastic historical mystery that captures what it was like at the beginning of the twentieth century in New York.

The Hatbox Letters
Beth Powning
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312340222 $24.95

On Canada's Atlantic shore, over a year has passed since her fifty something husband Tom suddenly died of a heart attack, Kate remains mourning and feeling all alone. Her adult children are long gone and having no Tom to age gracefully with. This makes for long days and longer nights. Only piano lessons during the day provide any relief from the solitude. Her sister arrives with hatboxes filled with aging yellowing letters that she brought down from the attic of their grandparents' Shepton, Connecticut home. At first Kate ignores the boxes but finally begins to read the correspondence and is stunned. Apparently Grandfather Giles courted her grandmother's sister, who died from diphtheria in 1915. Kate learns more about her ancestors and begins seeing an old family friend Gregory Stiller, who just returned to the province following his son recently committing suicide. As Gregory pushes Kate to go out more, she misses Tom even more while on the other hand the letters make her feel nostalgic and remind her that her family will think lovingly of her and Tom. THE HATBOX LETTERS is a fabulous character study that showcases a delightful protagonist still grieving the loss of her partner though one year has passed since he died. Kate is a fantastic individual, who makes the story line work as she slowly changes from constant loneliness to middle aged acceptance of the inevitability of life. Over time (and the course of the plot) she begins feeling better as her memories of her grandparents enhanced by the correspondence emphasize that nostalgia is good for cleansing the soul knowing that the next few generations will fondly remember you.

Too Late for Angels
Mignon F. Ballard
St. Martin's
ISBN 0312331863 $23.95, 288 pp.

Stone's Throw, South Carolina is the kind of southern town where nobody bothers to lock the doors because everyone knows one another. One night Lucy Van Pilgrim opens her door to a complete stranger who claims that she used to live there and wants to see her mother. She is gone by morning but Lucy's Aunt thinks it was the cousin of her friend Ellis who disappeared when she was a child. Ellis inherited what would have gone to Florence; shortly thereafter Florence is found murdered in the church parking lot. At almost the same time that Florence is murdered wealthy matron Calpernia Hemphill is found dead; the police think she fell from her room when the masonry crumpled. She was going to build a theatre workshop on her land. Rumors spread that the director Calponia hired is a suspect in her death and Ellis is a suspect in her cousin's death. Guardian angel Augusta Goodnight comes to stay with Lucy because she senses there is something evil going on in Stone's Throw and she wants to protect her charge. As Lucy tries to clear Ellis of suspicion, she finds herself being stalked by a killer who will not hesitate to kill again if Lucy gets close to the truth. An Augusta Goodnight mystery is always a treat and TOO LATE FOR ANGELS is a very special cozy as readers get a taste for small town living. Augusta immediately endears herself to Lucy who welcomes her into her house. Augusta turns Lucy's house into a warm home with her caring and helps in subtle ways in the investigation. Readers will be totally charmed by this beguiling mystery.

You and No Other
Francis Ray
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312986785 $6.99, 352 pp.

In Santa Fe, attorney Morgan Grayson delivers legal papers for a friend to highly regarded sculptor Andre Duval, but the pompous artist treats him with disdain and refuses to sign anything. When Andre's protege Phoenix Banister enters the room, she and Morgan seem to hit it off on some level that disturbs Duval, who tells the lawyer never to come back. After Andre leaves, he warns Phoenix to stay away from the man as he is the only one she can trust. Morgan is very attracted to Phoenix, but has no plans to see her. He is concerned that his matchmaking mom Ruth has targeted him as her second of five children needing a spouse; though he admits that his brother Luke is very happy (see UNTIL THERE WERE YOU). Still he wants to see Phoenix and to his elation she reciprocates. As they fall in love Duval pressures her to stay away from him. Morgan knows he must uncover the hold that Andre uses to keep Phoenix in line. The Second Grayson novel is an enjoyable fine arts romantic suspense with the emphasis on the characters more so than the intrigue though the latter hooks the audience who want to know how "Svengali" controls his protegee. The lead couple belongs together, but with Duval the master puppeteer pulling the strings it looks doubtful that will occur. However, his opponent is not just Morgan, but in his corner are his college music teaching matchmaking mom and the extended family of Graysons and Falcons. Fans will enjoy Francis Ray's tale of "forbidden" love.

Gene Riehl
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312310536 $22.95

In 1992 Paris, sixteen years old Samantha Williamson of Asian descent watches the Americans kill her adopted parents. The North Korans "adopt" her following the tragedy insisting she is one of them and renaming her Sung Kim. They train and brainwash her to be the ultimate spy-terrorist causing havoc in the United States. NSA Director Philip Carter learns that an Asiatic woman stole the Madonna, valued at $15 million, from the home of Lyman Davidson. Philip believes the deadly Sung Kim is the culprit and fears she is escalating her campaign to devastate those in power. He assigns FBI Special Agent Puller Monk to stop her. Besides a gambling problem, Puller believes he inherited from his recently deceased father, Alzheimer's and that he is already in the second perhaps third phase. Now the games begin. SLEEPER is an intriguing sequel in which the fascinating character is the villainess though Sung Kim is more comic book than flesh and blood. Puller in spite of his concerns and his addiction lacks fullness (unless you read his previous appearance in QUANTICO RULES). Still although the key combatants seem two dimensional, espionage thriller fans will appreciate their spy vs. spy war in which both will do anything necessary to triumph.

Miss Gazillions
Richard Weber
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312331401 $23.95, 304 pp.

Twenty years ago, Dan O'Sullivan, Jr. was doing field work in the Caribbean when he decided not to return to school and remain in the sun and fun. His father, a Brooklyn construction firm owner supported his son's lifestyle until he died and his estate turns out to be bankrupt. The Star Ace Corporation repossesses Dan's ship but also provides him a job as a Brooklyn property supervisor. Dan meets his father's last mistress, Lydia Sands who informs him that he owns the coffin until he earns the money to bury it in Caribbean. Tenant Celeste Tranor comes home late one night looking battered and her apartment was trashed. The news reports that a late night traffic accident led to the deaths of the Secretary of Treasury, a former Attorney General, and a drug kingpin; the chauffeur claims there was also a female passenger who vanished. Celeste admits that is she and shows Dan gazillions of dollars and proposes they cut a 60-40 deal to escape town with while thugs want the loot and examples made of Celeste and her "spouse". MISS GAZILLIONS is a zany wacky thriller that never slows down from the moment Dan becomes involved with the two eccentric females until the wild finish. Dan is a terrific protagonist albeit a weak person when it comes to the females who have changed his life as much as acclimating to Brooklyn after two decades at sea in the Caribbean. Celeste and Lydia are intriguing protagonists and the audience will get a kick out of mobster Tony Dee's pickup service. Richard Weber has provided a zany tale where ethics is someone else's problem.

An All Night Man
Brenda Jackson, Joylynn Jossel, Kayla Perrin, and Tamara Sneed
St. Martin's
ISBN: 031232877X $13.95, 327 pp.

"The Hunter" by Brenda Jackson. In San Diego private investigator Hunter wants to refuse the case because he fears how his client Mallory makes him feel. She ended their four months affair six months ago because he was not ready for a commitment. Now she wants him to investigate her brother-in-law who she fears is cheating on her sister after seeing him at the Hilton. "Just Wanna Love Ya" by Joylynn Jossel. In Cincinnati, every Friday night Jai and her girlfriend Rissa go to Club Cream. This Friday night is different as she meets Sloan, who overtly shows how much he desires her. "Never Satisfied" by Kayla Perrin. In Toronto, Amani still fantasizes over her high school senior year teacher Aaron although a decade has passed. No man she has met before or since measures up to him, but although he was not much older than her he rejected her advances. Now he is in Coffee, Tea, and Me where she works and the reality is even better than the fantasy. "Fantasy Man" by Tamara Sneed. In Los Angeles in support of her family's firm, Olivia reluctantly serves as PR specialist to Hollywood action hero Clark. He prefers not to have her as his escort as she has been outrageously rude to him at her family gatherings. However, they both are stuck as her brother's wife is about to give birth and her parents are in Africa. These four erotic contemporary romances entertain the audience with minor but fun conflict and plenty of heat between the likable couples.

Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction
Gardner Dozois
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312336551 $35.95

Following twenty for the most part superior collections of the "Year's Best Science Fiction', Gardner Dozois provides a look back cross section of those he felt were the best, albeit a relative term in this case. This new compilation of stories previously published in the series does not contain one tale from each annual, but instead has multiples from the same year with only the 1987 and 1991 book omitted. The tales represent some of the genre's top guns over the past two decades with each entry top rate. This reviewer has been a long time fans of the series not just because the selections are always superb, but because they can be savored over a week or two; the same holds true for the all star selection. Fans of the series will appreciate this look back with fond memories while newcomers will get a taste of what has been consistently one of best science fiction short story anthologies.

If You Just Say Yes
Reon Laudat
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312933630 $6.99, 320 pp.

Katherine Chapelle threatens business reporter Michelle Michaels of the Manhattan Business Journal with the destruction of her career for having an affair with her spouse CEO millionaire Stanford. Michelle denies anything beyond friendship insisting to her editor Larry Morgan that Stanford is old enough to be her grandfather. Larry feels ethics was broken and arranges for Michelle to be reassigned to a sister paper, the Detroit Herald. This may be a homecoming for Michelle, but it feels like a major step backwards. Though innocent of any ethical lapses, Michelle understands image is critical to a journalist and so vows to not end up remotely in any situation that gives the wrong impression because her goal is to return to New York City. However, investigative reporter Wesley Abbott pressures Michelle to play with him. Though she wants too, Michelle refuses even as Wesley dangles and ultimately persuades her to work with him on a case of official corruption in the court system. Though the investigation takes a while to gel into an intriguing corruption based legal procedural investigation, fans of romantic suspense will appreciate this fine contemporary novel. The match-up between the lead characters is terrific with a player and a burned victim battling attraction in different ways. Readers will say yes to Rene Laudat's quality romance.

Depth Perception
Linda Castillo
ISBN: 0425201090 $6.99

After eighteen years away including six in prison on arson and insurance fraud, restaurateur Nick Bastillo comes home to Bellerose, Louisiana. He obtains a job at a dive of a bar the Blue Gaiter and reflects how far he has fallen from his New Orleans restaurant. His father is cold towards him believing Nick set the fire. Nick knows his former partner Race Robertson performed the fiery deed and set him up for the fall. Making matters worse is his young son drowned while he was behind bars. Nat Jennings returns to Bellerose to an unwelcome homecoming too. Most locals believe she killed her spouse and child before attempting suicide. She was in a coma for two years. She has psychic skills and knows that a bad man killed her family and Nick's child, but if she says anything people will conclude that she knows because she did the deed as they insisted she eliminated her own family. DEPTH PERCEPTION is a fabulous taut paranormal thriller that grips readers once Nick and Nat meet. The story line is action-packed and filled with atmosphere that has the audience gasping as the tension mounts with a murderer ready to strike again and only Nat in the way. Though a romantic subplot between the two beleaguered stars occurs, that feels more like a bone tossed to the romance reader as the suspense is what makes Linda Castillo's exciting tale a terrific read.

Mr. Impossible
Loretta Chase
ISBN: 0425201503 $6.99, 320 pp.

In 1821 having been exiled by his aristocratic father to Cairo, Rupert Carrington intervenes between a Pasha's soldier armed to the teeth and a cripple. Several other soldiers surround Rupert before incarcerating him. Widowed scholar Daphne Pembroke awaits in the European sector for the return of her brother Miles while concentrating on Egyptian hieroglyphics; her late spouse banned such activity as beneath his wife and believed that Egyptian civilization was inferior to that of the English. However, Rupert's ninth law breaking incident in six weeks caused unrest and led to an innocent Miles being abducted. English Consul General Salt is beside himself over the latest altercation caused by Rupert. The Pasha demands a small fortune as a penalty. As he ponders his options, Daphne asks for his help in rescuing her brother. Salt assigns Rupert to assist her; she insists she provides the brains and he the brawn at her command. As the dependable scholar and the out of control son of an earl work as a team, they fall in love, but can these opposites find a middle ground near the Pyramids? MR. IMPOSSIBLE is a terrific brisk tale that uses early nineteenth century Egypt as a fabulous backdrop. The story line centers on the relationship between the lead couple as they fall in love while trying to rescue Miles. Although Daphne is an interesting lead female, the audience will value Rupert not because of his gallant efforts to save her brother. Instead he encourages her that she was "too much woman" for her fiftyish late husband instead of not feminine enough or too like a man as her spouse insisted. Rupert's enlightened take on women makes him a hero not his exploits.

Where There's A Will
Aaron Elkins
ISBN: 0425200264 $23.95, 288 pp.

In 1994, wealthy Magnus Torkelsson is fleeing for his life trying to reach remote Tarabao Island in the Hawaiian chain. However, the bad weather hinders visibility and soon the small plane runs out of gas. Magnus and his pilot Texas transplant Claudia crash into the sea. A decade later, divers in a lagoon 400 miles off the Big island of Hawaii find a plane with two skeletons inside. At the same time Magnus' family learn that his remains have been found, University of Washington at Port Angeles Physical Anthropology Professor Gideon Oliver has attended an anthropology forensics conference and is heading to the ranch of his best friend FBI Agent John Lau. John asks Gideon to look at the evidence, but soon the mainlander begins to unravel a family filled with lies and avarice in which not only was Magnus killed by at least one heir, but his sibling may have been a murder victim too. Aaron Elkins provides a fabulous "A" quality level forensic investigative tale in which the author freshens up the actions of his champion Gideon by temporarily relocating him to Hawaii and not always the main islands. Fans not only see up front the Hawaiian archipelago, but also are engrossed in a mystery that at first does not seem like a homicide, but more an accident. Readers will enjoy this first rate who-done-it as the cast and the locale make for a fine tropical mystery.

Total Rush
Deidre Martin
ISBN: 042520152X $6.99, 336 pp.

After a boring blind date set up byher hero cousin, NY Blades hockey star Michael Dante, Golden Bough bookstore owner Gemma Dante wonders if she will find true love. Her best friend Francis Hoffman encourages Gemma, a practicing witch, to cast a love spell. Gemma decides it cannot do any harm so she does. The next day computer coder Uther Abramowitz enters the store carrying a brochure in which Gemma offers lessons on reading the Tarot. That night firefighter Sean Kennealy and two of his peers visit Gemma in her Manhattan apartment pretending they are on duty so that they can persuade her to stop burning the incense that stinks up the building. Gemma wonders whether the customer or the Blue Eyes firefighter is her true love. One will prove to be her beloved though he is embarrassed by her religion; the other will turn out to be false and dangerous. The latest Dante contemporary romance stars an interesting female protagonist whose mother scorns her and one of her potential lovers does likewise. The fine story line also includes the return of stars from Deidre Martin's previous Manhattan tales (see FAIR PLAY) though hockey plays less of a role this time around even with the catalyst of a charity game between the firefighters and the Blades. Fans of opposites attract novels will enjoy this solid story though the late suspense seems more like two minutes in the penalty box for high sticking after the game is won.

Mourning Ruby
Helen Dunmore
ISBN: 0425200191 $14.00, 294 pp.

Over three decades may have passed, but the pivotal moment in Rebecca's life still haunts her. Her biological mom left her as a newborn in a shoebox in the alley behind Vittori's restaurant. An onion saves her from becoming rat meal. Her adoptive parents had no idea how to cope with a colic baby that did not sleep through the night; over the years they fed and dressed the kid, but were unable to show any love or affection towards the alley brat. As an adult Rebecca rooms with historian Joe, who treats her like a younger sibling and introduces her to her future husband neonatologist Adam. They have a daughter Ruby, who makes Rebecca feel human for the first time in her life. The next five years are terrific as she and Adam shower Ruby with love. When Ruby dies in a car accident, Rebecca returns to her life of nothingness. Adam leaves her, but she meets Mr. Damiano, who hires her as his assistant while Joe tries to provide her solace with a World War I story about a single mother vowing to raise her child though it means working the brothels at the front. MOURNING RUBY is a poignant, but melancholy character study. The title protagonist lives an extreme roller coaster life starting with the box, followed by the loveless early years; a fine interlude with a friend and a lover; the crescendo starring Ruby; replaced by deep grief and hiding in a "box"; and finally friends trying to help her move on. Helen Dunmore provides a deep look that human means grieving for loved ones but also those who love you are there for you even when you reject them.

Death at Blenheim Palace
Robin Paige
ISBN: 0425200353 $23.95, 312 pp.

King Henry II built Blenheim Palace for his mistress Rosamund to keep her far away from the jealousies of his wife Queen Eleanor. The present owner, the ninth Duke of Marlborough, married Consuelo Vanderbilt for her money so he can return his palace to its former glory. The pair shares an unhappy marriage though Consuelo does her best to run the palace. Sleuth Lord Charles Sheldon and his wife Kate visit the Duke and Duchess. However, before they arrive, a servant vanishes without taking her possessions or asking for a reference. Charles believes that she was part of a band of thieves that are stealing valuables from the homes of nobles. He plants a mole inside the servants' quarters to learn if anyone else belongs to the gang. The spy uncovers the identity of another conspirator planning to rob valuables from Blenheim Palace when King Edward and Queen Alexandra visit. Charles and Kate try to ferret out the criminals before His Highness arrives, but the mastermind realizes that and alters the plan. Meticulous research has gone into this extraordinary historical mystery to the point that readers will recognize Blenheim Palace on sight without a guide. Even with that depth of vividness, the investigation is clever as Kate and Charles play major roles in trying to unravel a conspiracy. Consuelo also is a critical participant coping with an unfaithful spouse who is rude to her even in public while preparing her home for the regal visit. Robin Paige continues to provide some of the best historical mysteries on the market today with this novel proof positive of that assertion.

The Next Big Thing
Johanna Edwards
ISBN: 0425200280 $13.00, 352 pp.

In Memphis Hood & Geddlefinger PR associate Kat Larson has met Nick Applby of London over the Internet. He believes that she is a size 4, but the 5'6" woman is well over 200 pounds. Desperate to lose weight before she meets her English hunk, Kat applies for a reality TV show, From Fat to Fabulous, in which the obese participants will be helped in losing weight. To her surprise Kat makes the show that has quite a prize for the winner. As Kat and a few other women live under the lights of reality TV, the show's host Jagger is attracted to her and even kisses her; breaking the no fraternization rule. Kat feels pretty good and comes across upbeat until Nick learns what she is doing and joins her in a surprise visit to the show. Instead of a happy union, Kat is mortified with only Jagger providing her comfort and soon learns what a shallow soul Nick truly is. Gender bending the Big Loss, THE NEXT BIG THING is an interesting chick lit tale starring a delightful TV host, a wonderful female protagonist, and several full sized competitors. The on and off romance between Jagger and Kat seems secondary as the tale provides the audience insight into the feelings and thoughts of the female contestants who like the heroine believes that a size 4 will solve their problems. Fans of contemporary women's issues will want to read Johanna's Edwards' insightful tale in which the grass is not always greener on the other side, but it is easier to dream that it is.

For Pete's Sake
Geri Buckley
ISBN: 0425201538 $5.99, 304 pp.

Though her grandma's recent death has caused a cloud over the Langstown, Florida annual Fourth of July gala, Pietra "Pete" Lang plans to make this the best celebration ever. However, she runs into a slight problem when she and her friend Albert Rheinhold open up a freezer and finds inside the defrosting corpse of a blond with the tattoo "Miss Fritz". The victim is obviously her long deceased grandfather's floozy. Divorce attorney Danny Benedict finds Pete trying to dispose of the corpse. He is concerned as her brother Jackson is planning to run for state legislature while obtaining a divorce after ten years of marriage to wed a podiatrist. As Danny and Pete plot what to do, their initial attraction already hotter than a Floridian summer heats up; soon the are in love and he will do anything FOR PETE'S SAKE not caring about her grandma's reputation or her brother's political ambitions. Readers will appreciate the amusing contemporary romance that will remind the audience of The Trouble With Harry. The story line never takes itself too seriously as Danny and Pete struggle with proof that her beloved grandma killed her husband's lover. The romance is deftly handled as is Jackson's efforts to change wives while running for public office, but the tale belongs to a triangle populated by dead people.

If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend
Alison Pace
ISBN: 0425200248 $13.00, 304 pp.

After two years together as the perfect couple, Texan Jack Davis dumps Manhattanite Jane Laine. Before she can rebound from the shock, she makes a horrendous error at work. She ordered the wrong size Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for her boss Dick Reese, owner of Reese's Art Gallery. To punish her for her transgression, the odious Dick exiles Jane by sending her on a barnstorming Art Tour of four cities in under five months. She is to accompany artist Ian Rhys-Fitzsimmons as he has shows in London, Rome, Chicago and Miami. Jane does not think highly of her companion as they set off to London feeling his fifteen minutes of fame is way too long. However, she is shocked by his consideration starting at Newark Airport and continuing in Europe. Ian knows he loves Jane, but she clings to the belief that he is a con artist shamming the public. As they become acquainted during the whirlwind trek, Jane sees Ian is nothing like the pampered brats who make up the art world. She concludes he and his work are no shams and fears how much she will miss him once their quest ends. IF ANDY WARHOL HAD A GIRLFRIEND is a terrific chick lit tale because of the pace applied to the blossoming of Jane into a woman in love. The story line is character driven mostly by Jane as she starts out detesting Ian, begins to appreciate his kindness and understanding, and finally falls in love with him, but believes he desires someone else. This novel is a fun to read contemporary romance.

Zalman King's RED SHOE DIARIES: Strip Poker
Zalman King, Elise D'Haene, Patricia Louisianna Knop and Julie Marie Myatt
ISBN: 0425201309 $14.00

"Hard Labor" by Zalman King and Elise D'Haene. Jake is depressed wondering if he could have done something different to save the life of his beloeved Alex who committed suicide. He seeks answers in her diary, but finds nothing illuminating. Desperate he asks betrayed or betrayal women to send their diaries to Red Shoes. Three do. Aleta does not want relationships beyond a one night stand to interfere with her goal to succeed. That changes when she meets Antonio, who she fears will expose her soul to pain. "Strip Poker" by Zalman King and Patricia Louisianna Knop. Jack wants Katherine to set a marriage date, but she hesitates because he has changed from a free soul into a bore. They are to meet at Yalta for a special tryst, but he allows business to delay him. An angry Katherine notices a strip poker game and debates whether to join the players and drop Jack. "Slow Train" by Julie Marie Myatt. Edna dies leaving her home, grocery store, and her diary to her granddaughter Sally. The diary highlights Edna's sexual awakening during the Depression and awakens the granddaughter to what life. These three erotic tales filled with profanities offer sex as the prime elixir to most relationship issues. The stories derived from the Showtime show are well written as diary entries, but lack substance as solutions to complex issues are too simplistically resolved in bed. Ironically Jake remains lost just like the audience. Fans of lust as the center of relationships will appreciate this trio, but those who believe there is more between two people will pass.

Vision in Blue
Nicole Byrd
ISBN: 0425201104 $6.99

An orphan, Gemma Smith has wondered who she really is for a long time and who is paying the bills for her to stay at Miss Maysham's Academy for Select Young Ladies. On her twenty-first birthday, her solicitor sends her a letter that informs her that her brother is Lord Gabriel Sinclair. She goes to meet him, but he is not in London when she arrives, but Gemma becomes good friends with Louisa Crookshank who knows Gabriel. Gemma continues to seek information. She meets navy officer (retired) Matthew Fallon who seeks his missing sister sent to a foundling home when their mother died and he was at sea. As they agree to team up on their respective searches they fall in love, but neither knows what to expect once they learn the truth. Though the above paragraphs concentrate on Gemma's tale, to a lesser degree Louise's story is also told; both are well done and complement one another. The cast is solid and the duel story lines are fun to follow especially the amateur sleuthing of Gemma, who went from feeling alone to being loved. Regency romance fans will also want to read BEAUTY IN BLACK, the first appearances of Gemma and Louisa.

Walk by Faith
Rosanne Bittner
Steeple Hill (Harlequin)
ISBN: 0373785321 $12.95, 280 pp.

In St. Louis, her father owned and operated Seaforth's Dry Goods until he died three years ago. His daughter Clarissa took over the store until she met and married Chad Graham. She trusted Chad who she legally named owner of the shop that he ran and gave up her dream of attending Washington University as a nursing student to give birth to their daughter Sophie. She stayed home to raise their little blessing and ignored rumors that her spouse was cheating on her until today, March 16, 1862; Chad deserted her and his offspring to run off with his true love, the pregnant Susan and use the proceeds of the store to obtain a divorce and fund their marriage. With friends heading to Montana, Clarissa decides to start anew with her beloved Sophie. Former First Lieutenant Dawson Clements who saw plenty of death in Tennessee especially with what happened to his friend Sergeant Bridger, leads the expedition. On the trail with fears over an ailing Sophie, Dawson who lost his faith in God and Clarissa who lost her faith in man become acquainted on the dangerous trek, they fall in love, but can either make that first major step that could prove to be a precipice or forever happiness. WALK BY FAITH is a terrific inspirational western romance that stars two wonderful protagonists who are pessimistic about life until they meet and bond over their struggles to save a little girl. The story line is character driven though the audience will feel they are on the trek with Clarissa, Dawson, and the others. Still the lead protagonists who need something to believe in are the key to a fine Civil War moving tale.

A New Lu
Laura Castoro
Red Dress (Harlequin)
ISBN: 0373895143 $12.95, 400 pp.

In Upper Montclair, New Jersey, Lu Nichols works part-time at Five-O magazine for the mature woman. She and her long time husband Jacob recently divorced, but not before one for the road. Their firstborn Dallas is driving Lu crazy with her marriage plans. Her new boss Tai Leigh is sarcastically sweet most of the time and condescending when she fakes being nice. As Tai decides that the almost fifty Lu needs a makeover that the magazine will exploit, the victim feels nauseous but assumes bad oysters is the cause. However, her gorgeous doctor proves otherwise as that last fling with Jacob has left Lu pregnant. Her ex hides; her oldest is mortified; her boss wants Lu to provide a series of articles on the pregnant mature woman. Though all this Lu keeps on ticking and growing. This chick lit turns fifty tale will give readers a pregnant pause that is everyone except the optimistic Lu who keeps her sanity through humorous asides mostly to herself (and the audience). The story line is fun to follow because Lu pulls off the role of mature chickster. However, her aplomb also leaves the relational "tensions" with her daughter and former husband over the unborn look limpid. Sub-genre fans will laugh with Lu, a pregnant fifty years old stand up comedic Pollyanna.

Mim Warner's Lost Her Cool
Lynn Messina
Red Dress
ISBN: 0373895135 $12.95, 288 pp.

Anyone with a dominant cool gene knows that Mim Walker is the coolest coolhunter in the world. Her column is always on the mark even before rumors say the "F" word that ultimately sucks the cool out of a trend. However, to the shock of the in-crowd, Mim's last two predictions were so way out and off the chart her friends are wondering if she is terminal. Selecting dirty hooker T-shirts for preadolescent girls and sharp edged samurai swords for preteen boys is not considered cool by anyone even the manufacturers of the products. Could cool Mim become yesterday's fad, which means clients will go elsewhere seeking a new magnet of coolness. Mim's employee Meghan Resnick like the rest of the staff worries about the future. However, when Mim loses her cool over a corpse, even loyal rationale Meghan believes her boss will look nerdy in pinstripes. MIM WARNER'S LOSES HER COOL is an amusing satire that jabs fads and chick lit tales, which ironically Lynn Messina, a sub-genre author, treats like a fad. The story line never takes itself seriously even when the voice of cool finds a dead body. Chick lit fans who appreciate the laugh at the sub-genre and at the "F" word (fad for you uncool recessive souls) will chuckle at the antics of Mim and her retinue trying to help her regain her lost cool though the plot is a one joke novel.

The Compass Rose
Gail Dayton
Luna (Harlequin)
ISBN 0373802161 $13.99, 400 pp.

The city of Ukiny in the kingdom of Adara is besieged by warriors of Tibre who depend on cannons, guns, and gunpowder instead of magic to take over the realm. Kallista Varyl, a captain and a naitan (witch) prays to the One for a victory and when she uses her magic, to her amazement every Tibre soldier on Adara is killed except for Stone who is taken prisoner. Both Stone and Kallista are god-marked and as they sail on the same ship to the capital city, they realize something inside them has intrinsically changed. Aisee, a Tibran slave girl attaches herself to Kallista on the boat ride to the capital and once there another god-marked person, the rich merchant Obed finds them. The ruler orders all the players, including Kallista's bodyguard married in a special ceremony that will make them an instant family. Kallista acquiesces because she needs all the magic that she can command because her new family is going to the capital city of Tibre to kill the demon that pushed them into going to war. THE COMPASS ROSE is a sword and sorcery fantasy that concentrates as much on the characters as it does on the battles. The Adara use magic as another sense believing it is a gift from the One and they are one in harmony with the earth as opposes to the repressive caste society of Tibre. Gail Dayton has created a world that is so colorful and vivid readers will feel they made an adventurous visit to this enchanting realm.

Cupid and the Cowboy
Carol Finch
Harlequin American
ISBN: 0373750595 $4.99

Former Special Ops officer Judd Foster returns to his ranch in Moon Valley, Texas to hide from the world after a failed mission several months ago devastated his psyche. However, in spite of his abrupt nasty behavior, restaurant owner Erika Dunn keeps visiting him with delicious meals and makes an offer to buy his unused barn that she would like to convert into a cafe. He refuses insisting she not come back, but she says she will as he remains her hero for an incident in which he rescued her from taunting classmates when she was twelve and he was the high school sports star. Erika remains "Ms. Cheerful and Determined" when it comes to her hero who she realizes that her puppy love adulation has turned into an adult love for Judd. He continues to be nasty, but she begins to break through his armor with her do-gooder matchmaking personality. Still he remains gruff towards her until Erika, realizing her heart is breaking, decides enough is enough and is ready to give up the fight. Though not used frequently in the fine plot the matchmaking is overkill for this superb angst-laden character driven contemporary romance. Erika is like the energizer bunny as she keeps on ticking regardless of what emotional grenades Judd tosses at her. Judd is the key to what makes the CUPID AND THE COWBOY (inane title aside) a terrific novel as he struggles with a scenario that went wrong that makes him feel unworthy of worship until Erika begins to shower him with healing love.

Men of Courage II
Lori Foster, Donna Kauffman, and Jill Shalvis
Harlequin Signature Select
ISBN: 0373836422 $5.99, 366 pp.

"An Honorable Man" by Lori Foster. In Ohio Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton Wulf informs school teacher Liv Amery that her father died from a heart attack. Ham knows he loves Liv, but regrets his misunderstanding the terrain as he assumed since she was a military brat she would have no trouble with his career. Liv loves Ham, but has felt alone all her life and being a military spouse means more loneliness; Ham has a tough campaign ahead of him but a tornado gives him a chance as they share shelter together. "Blown Away" by Donna Kauffman. Six years ago tornado observers Marty Mckenna and Cooper Harrison shared a night of passion wilder than any storm either have seen; the next morning they went there separate ways. Now Marty and Cooper are following the same tornado near Cincinnati, but this time he plans to never let go of the woman he loves. "Perilous Waters" by Jill Shalvis. Helicopter pilot Wyatt Stone fears nothing except the female traffic reporter he is currently flying over Denton, Ohio. Ten years ago he fell in love with Leah Taylor, but she broke his heart when she left him to pursue her dreams. When they are stranded together with a tornado bearing down on them, Wyatt realizes he still loves Leah, but fears a broken heart again. These three Buckeye State stormy second chance romances are terrific exhilarating tales filled with action-packed passionate stories in which the storms of the heart are as wild as those in the sky.

Detour Ahead
Cindi Myers
Harlequin Flipside
ISBN: 0373442092 $4.50, 218 pp.

In DC advertising copywriter for a not for profit organization Marlee Jones also maintains a website "Travels with Marlee" where she provides her driving travesties and fun. Her latest entry informs her webbing public that she lost her license after making a wrong turn onto a one way street going the other way. Immediately following the post her best friend Susan calls to ask how Marlee, who refuses to fly, will come cross country to attend her San Diego wedding with Brian. Susan suggests she drive with Brian's best man Craig Brinkman, but also warns her that he is her direct opposite anally controlling his life to a scheduled nanosecond. Even before they leave, Brian and Marlee relate like oil and water as he has written an itinerary to the minute while she wants to stop along the way to enjoy the odd sites of America. As they travel together, she parades on his timetable with her unscheduled side trips. Soon these opposites fall in love as she encourages him to take a chance on opening his own restaurant while he urges her to take a risk on him. This chick lit road trip is often amusing as Marlee seems to get her way most of the time because of Craig's mixed emotions of wanting to please her vs. staying on schedule. Though she can drive a reader and her "Chef" batty, she makes this opposites falling in love in spite of the DETOURS AHEAD for their hearts into a fine humorous road show.

Shall We Dance?
Kasey Michaels
Harlequin HQN
ISBN: 0373770383 $6.99

In 1820 the King is dead and George IV inherits the throne. However, George wants to rid himself of his estrange wife Princess Caroline before his coronation insisting she does not deserve to be queen. Caroline has returned to England after several years on the continent in exile planning to sit on the throne whether her spouse wants her or not. The retired Minister of the Admiralty Sir Willard Humphrey orders his worthless nephew Perry Shepherd to use the undercover skills he learned during the Napoleonic wars to find dirt to discredit Caroline. To gain entry, Willard suggests Perry use loyal princess follower Amelia Fredericks, one of Caroline's orphans. If Perry fails to perform his duty for his king, Willard says he will enlist odious Jarrett Rolin who will do anything to regain his lost status amidst the Ton. Reluctantly, feeling like it is the less of two evils, Perry leaves his hedonistic pastime behind to uncover regal scandal. Instead he falls in love with his ticket but worries how his beloved will react to his treachery of using her to get at her cherished Princess. This entertaining Regency romance is many ways is more a political historical tale than a love story. Readers obtain a taste of the Whig-Tory rivalry accentuated by who the support the king or the wannabe queen. The enticing romance enhances the competition for power as Kasey Michaels provides a refreshing look at the machinations and skirmishes between the Regent and his wife as well as the two political parties prior to the coronation.

On the Loose
Shannon Hollis
Harlequin Blaze
ISBN: 0373791747 $4.75, 247 pp.

In San Francisco, Lauren Massey and her two best friends attend a lock and key charity event. Lauren plans to write an article on speed dating for her column "Lorelei on the Loose" in the Inside Out Paper. Her "date turns out to be Left Coast author Josh McCrea. Afterward, he writes an article Almost Sex. Though she had planned to write such an article and Josh did not use her name, she is angry with him focusing their evening for others to read about it. Still they are attracted to one another from the moment he had the key to her lock although Josh is shook that he may have met the "One" he has waited for. Now he must persuade Lauren they belong together. He knows how much she desires to write for his more prestigious publication, but worries how she will react when she learns he hid from her that he owns one third. ON THE LOOSE, the second Lock and Key tale (see HARD TO HANDLE by Jamie Denton), is a lighthearted romp starring two likable writers falling in love. The story line is as amusing as it is blazing because Josh and Lauren passionately desire one another yet wonder could love at last have arrived. This lead couple makes the frolic fun and leaves the audience on a SLOW RIDE waiting for Carrie Alexander to lock the door to this humorous miniseries.

Getting It Good
Rhonda Nelson
Harlequin Blaze
ISBN: 0373791763 $4.75, 249 pp.

Happily married couple Zora Anderson and Tate Hatcher raises the sex poker bet. She asks him to matchmake his pal Ross Hartford with her friend Frankie "the Carnal Contessa" Savaterra while he counters that if he wins she must hire Ross to work in her all female organization, Chicks in Charge. Tate wins the bet as Zora turns flushed, but recovers rather quickly as she realizes she won since she can place her employee Frankie with her new worker Ross, who has no choice but to accept her if he wants the Ward account as bad as he says. Frankie and Ross are the last couple one would expect to be together, but as they fight, fuss, and fume their attraction turns to love. However, neither will back down and admit how they really feel about the other. For Frankie men are distrustful, something she learned from her father; Ross considered the Duke of Desire by women actually needs one female Frankie, but she seems to take more pleasure ripping his skin and telling others how to add flavor to the sex instead of him. The latest Chicks in Charge tale, GETTING IT GOOD is a delightfully amusing contemporary romance starring two likable combatants. The sort line never takes it self seriously as Frankie has become almost famous for her carnal comments in CHiC magazine while Ross is known for pleasing women, although the only one he desires treats him like a loser. The return of Zora and Tate from GETTING IT will please fans who read the first book and tempt those like this reviewer to obtain the tale as this one is a good time.

Blind Date
Cheryl Anne Porter
Harlequin Temptation
ISBN: 0373692099 $4.50, 219 pp.

Construction worker Joe Rossi is in Tampa visiting his Great Uncle Maury Seeger when he finds an irate female in the men's fitting room of a department store. She mumbles something about women's rooms out of the way before leaving. The next day Joe goes to pick up a blind date that Maury arranged for him. To his shock and elation she is the shopper. Though embarrassed Meg Kendall, a local teacher, goes out with Joe. They have a good time together though Joe feels bad because he has a girlfriend back home. As Joe and Meg continue to see one another, Maury warns them to go into hiding because some of his friends are coming to break his legs. Not believing his Mafia's stories, they still go off together because they are at6tracted to one another. However, both may be falling love, but Joe goes home soon once the goons stop chasing Meg and Maury. Cheryl Anne Porter passed away in the summer, but left her fans with a terrific legacy including the wildly inane BLIND DATE. The story line stars two people falling in love in a contemporary main plot while in the backdrop New Jersey visitors are cleaning up a family matter that dates back to the sixties and Maury. Fans will enjoy the duality of a serious romance blending with amusing mob "suspense" as Ms. Porter pays homage to herself and her readers with this fine Temptation.

Falling for Gracie
Susan Mallery
Harlequin HQN
ISBN: 0373770340 $6.99

In Los Lobos, fourteen years old Gracie Landon fell in love with eighteen years old Riley Whitefield, but he rejected her as being too young while seeing someone else. Her antics got so out of hand that the local media coverage became known as the Gracie Chronicles; her family, in desperation, shipped Gracie off to live with relatives out of state. Riley married and divorced Pam while Gracie never returned to her hometown for the next fourteen years embarrassed by how she behaved. Gracie returns home for her younger sister's wedding, but plans to keep a low profile until her older sister coaxes her to help her find who her spouse Zeke is cheating with. Since he is Riley's campaign manager in his run for mayor, the siblings start there. However, Riley catches a mortified Gracie. She explains to Riley what she was doing. He needs to become mayor if he wants to inherit his uncle's 97 million estate and worries that a scandal by Zeke could hurt his campaign. As they work to uncover the truth about Zeke's nocturnal activities, they fall in love, but sensible Gracie refuses to take any risks when it comes to Riley and Pam is back causing further woes to make her seem unbalanced. This second chance at love (at least on her part) is a fun tale as Riley realizes he is FALLING FOR GRACIE, but no one believes him including himself while she concludes that she still loves him and compares men to him. Though the suspense is soft as Mayor Franklin Yardley also has 97 million reasons to insure he is reelected, contemporary fans will fall for Gracie and Riley.

Dee Davis
Harlequin HQN
ISBN: 0373770367 $6.50

FBI Behavioral Science Unit Chief Walter Blythe informs subordinate profiler Madison Harper that she will co-head a special task force that the White House has sanctioned at the request of her godfather, business mogul Cullen Pulaski. At the same time that Madison objects because she has worked hard to prove herself without using family connections, CIA deep undercover operative Gabriel Roarke is yanked to be her co-leader though he was working on a case for two years in the Keys. He believes that his co-chief is rich man's candy; she figures he is the typical brainless macho over the top warrior. Cullen explains to the two unhappy draftees that he believes someone is killing the members of the elite American Business Consortium, but making it look like an accident or a natural death. Madison brings on an IT guru who pays dividends immediately when he finds a deadly pattern; Gabriel brings on two field operatives that he trusts. As they work together, the initial disdain and contempt turns into respect and admiration before becoming love as each willingly would risk their lives to save the other from a killer who seems one step or two ahead of them. This exciting police procedural romance is an intriguing tale more so because of Madison's abilities than that of Gabriel. The motive for the homicides comes up very late and seems off kilter, but the investigation is fun to follow especially as Madison and Gabriel begrudgingly initially realize how wrong first impressions can be as they soon depend, trust and love one another. Fans of suspense thrillers will want to read ENDGAME, a fine tale of love and murder.

She Drives Me Crazy
Leslie Kelly
Harlequin HQN
ISBN: 0373770316 $6.50

In Joyful, Georgia, County Prosecutor Johnny Walker learns that Emma Jean Frasier was returning to town after being away for almost a decade. Johnny remembers escorting Emma Jean to the prom in her only year in town, but they were caught naked in a nearby gazebo as passion had flared between them. Though he thinks little of her for not showing up at her grandma's funeral, he scoffs at the rumor that she is a porn star opening up a strip joint. Emma returns to the home she inherited from her beloved grandma to rebound from losing her nest egg and her job when her boss embezzled the money before skipping town. Her first moment in town she sprains her ankle. This makes her dependent on the one person she hates and loves Johnny. As their feelings that never had a chance to grow as teens explode as adults, neither knows what they want only who they desire. However, a murder intercedes with the sheriff leaning towards Emma as the culprit unless Johnny can prove otherwise. Fans of contemporary romance (not sure you can say second chance as one date seems a stretched for their first time around) will enjoy this fine tale due to the lead couple; Johnny and Emma know they love the other, but assume their feelings are unrequited. Meanwhile the townsfolk bring out the best and worst in these two stars. SHE DRIVES ME CRAZY is an amusing gender war tale and although the suspense comes late readers will take delight in the humorous sparring highlighted by the romantic secret that Johnny reveals at the end.

The Bachelor
Kate Bridges
Harlequin Historical
ISBN: 0373293437 $5.50, 360 pp.

In 1893 Alberta, Mountie Inspector Mitchell Reed visits the home of Charlotte Ford accompanied in tow by her two brothers Wayde and Tim; he lectures Charlotte that her brothers are delinquents heading for trouble as her two preadolescent sisters watch the one-sided harangue. Charlotte is tired raising her four younger siblings since their parents died and left their children impoverished. Putting aside her dreams of working in the medical field, Charlotte toils hard on a poultry line to bring in some money and food. At the Harvest Fair her two "poultry" friends dare her to try "Dunk the Mountie" as she is a good pitcher having played with her siblings. She succeeds in soaking Mitchell and soon "earns" him for the night winning a raffle while the elite huff and puff over the outcome. Instead of attending the extravagant gala, she puts him to work on the poultry assembly line. As the Mountie from an upper crust home and the lower working class woman become acquainted they fall in love, but she knows that she is beneath his level as he belongs with the beautiful debutante. THE BACHELOR, the latest late nineteenth century Mountie romance, is a terrific tale, perhaps the best in one of the top historical series in the last few years. The story line showcases the distinct differences between social classes, but does it without condemning either group. Instead the delightful lead couple receives a respective education by escort into their beloved's world and through the strong secondary cast. THE BACHELOR as with the entire Mountie collection provides a dependable bridge into a bygone era.

She Walks the Line
Roz Denny Fox
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN: 0373712545 $5.50, 297 pp.

After six years on the force, Mei Lu Ling is prompted to lieutenant in Houston's White Collar Crimes Division. She is working undercover when her boss Chief Tanner (see next month's "Women in Blue" for her tale) reassigns her to work a smuggling case involving stolen Asian artifacts, which worries her because her father and brother sell high end Asian art. Her first assignment is to translate a note from Chinese to English for insurance investigator Cullen Archer, a divorced father raising two fraternal eight year old twins, Belinda and Bobby. Upon first meeting, Cullen and Mei are attracted to one another, but he becomes wary when she tells him who her father is as he is the prime suspect. As they work together, they fall in love, but her family remains in the forefront of their investigation though their alibis seem airtight. The fifth Women in Blue police procedural romance is a terrific insightful look at the Houston based American-Chinese community that along with a strong investigation filled with red herrings and one gigantic final twist will please sub-genre readers. The story line grips the audience as Cullen and Mei fall in love, but he wonders if she is in cahoots with her father and brother as he believes they head the smuggling ring. His twins add chaos while her family and the other Blue Knightettes provide depth to a fine tale although the final spin occurs too abruptly and seemingly out of character for the mastermind.

Somebody's Daughter
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN: 0373712596 $5.50, 297 pp.

In Venice Beach, California, cleaning woman and college student Kit Burke mourns the death of her alcoholic mom and fears Rena's deathbed confession that she was not her biological mother. Instead, Rena said that Kit was actually Kathryn McFarland, but her spouse Frankie, who left them two decades ago, abducted her when she was one month old. DNA testing proves that Kit and Rena are not from the same gene pool and Internet research confirms the supporting information her mom provided including the kidnapping of Kathryn. Kit goes to Salt Lake to meet the McFarland family who are well to do and have set up a foundation dedicated to Kathryn. When she meets Cord McFarland, , she finds herself very attracted to him although she tries not to desire him in case he is her sibling. He reciprocates her feelings and though he believes that her tale is legitimate and that she must be somebody's baby, he refuses deep inside to accept that he could love his sister in a non-brotherly way. SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER is an exhilarating contemporary tale in which the lead couple is falling in love, but fears that if his parent's deepest wish turns out to be true, their feelings are taboo and must be ignored. This cleverly devised sexual tension permeates the plot as the likable pair struggle not to kiss one another while working on the truth. All Rebecca Winters tales are fun in all seasons so family drama fans will look forward to the summer sequel when THE DAUGHTER'S RETURN is published.

The Chosen Child
Brenda Mott
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN: 037371257X $5.50, 296 pp.

In Deer Creek, Colorado after three miscarriages in two years shake their marriage, Nikki and Cody Somers decide to try vitro fertilization with her sister Amanda as the surrogate mother. Everything is going smooth until Amanda stops at a roadside situation on an isolated mountain road, and a hit and run drunk plows through her. Baby Anna is dead before she is born and a badly battered Amanda goes home in Tennessee to physically and mentally recover. Four months later, Nikki and Cody still grieve with the teacher heading east to see her sibling while the cop is unable to move past catching the culprit. Their marriage looks over. While Nikki is in Tennessee, Cody "busts" preadolescent Dustin Holbrook for vandal. The kid's foster parents agree to leave Dusty with Cody. After Nikki returns home to the surprise of having a former student residing with them, she and husband struggle to move on with Dusty's needs serving as a solid incentive if they can get past their loss. THE CHOSEN CHILD is obviously not a romance, but more a character study that concentrates on grieving being personal as each person must move on at their pace and style. The lead couple's exertions are realistic and deftly handled so that anyone who has suffered a loss will empathize with them. Though Dustin is a convenient impetus to bring the pair together, readers will appreciate this strong family drama.

Roberta Gellis
Harlequin Signature Select
ISBN: 0373836414 $5.99, 358 pp.

After leaving his loveless home in Normandy, Alex journeys to England to ask his uncle Sir Simon Lemagne for a position with him. After training, Alex is knighted and sent to prosperous Exceat whose ailing lord Sir Frewyn is probably dying. With Richard held for ransom, the coastal estates prepare for an invasion by the minion of Prince John. The Lady of the manor, Desiree appoints Alex as her castellan. They are very attracted to one another, but neither acts on these feelings out of respect to Sir Frewyn. Alex shores up the defenses at Exceat while keeping a close eye on his brother Vachel who is on a mission for Prince John. Vachel intends to kill his uncle, his uncle's wife, and his brother so that Nicolous of Lewes can have Desiree and her estates while John can have is vengeance on Simon and his wife. Though aware of his sibling's perfidy, Alex, lacking proof, will have to use skill and intelligence to keep his beloved family and lady safe. Readers rejoice! The latest Roselynde Chronicles is out and Roberta Gellis shows she remains one of the most brilliant historical romance writers of the past decade or two. This novel occurs between ROSELYNDE and ALINOR, which leads the audience to feel a homecoming with friends they have not seen in over a quarter of a century. The sexual tension between Desiree and Alex runs at high levels throughout the book as both ethically refuse to cuckold Frewyn. This spices up the story line that concentrates on readying the keep for invasion while surviving Vashel's machinations.

Emergency Engagement
Michele Dunaway
Harlequin American
ISBN: 0373750609 $4.99, 250 pp.

In Chicago, pediatric specialist Dr. Quinton Searle checks on Beth's four year old Carly Johnson who ate some of her mother's cold medicine thinking they were candy. Carly hates hospitals because that is where her daddy died from cancer, but Dr. Searle is nice like Prince Eric rescuing Princess Ariel. At a bachelor party, Quinton is stunned when the stripper is Beth, making him wonder what type of mother she is. He drags her away accusing her of being a bad example for her daughter. Irate Beth tells this critical moral majority member to leave her alone as he just cost her five hundred needed dollars needed as an apartment deposit. Later he learns her real job is at Luie's Deli. At about the same time, his upper crust St. Louis mom calls to push Susie Phelps on him when he attends his sister's wedding. Desperate to keep mom off his back and to make up what he cost Beth, he offers to pay her to pretend to be his fiancee; she being even more desperate agrees. As they become better acquainted, they fall in love encouraged by a little matchmaker who wants Eric and Ariel together. The description of the working poor in which coffee is a luxury hooks the audience as everyone will empathize with the plight of Beth. When the tale switches from struggling to survive in a pretend engagement it loses some of its social stinging, but still entertains the readers. Beth is a terrific protagonist who provides Quint with a touch of reality while her daughter is a precocious matchmaker. This threesome supplemented by a strong support cast makes EMERGENCY ENGAGEMENT a fine tale.

Myrren's Gift
Fiona McIntosh
ISBN: 0060747560 $14.95, 576 pp.

Wyl's father, General of the Legion, died in combat fighting for his monarch. Though only fourteen and in training for his father's former position, Wyl Thirsk nominally heads the Morgravia military and vows loyalty to King Magnus. The heir to the throne Prince Celimus detests the country bumpkin Wyl because he hates his sire who loves the lad. When Myrren of Baelup rejects the advances of one of Celimus' friends, she is arrested, tortured, and condemned to death as a witch. Though having no power, Myrren refuses to confess although tortured to the extreme. While Celimus laughs, Wyl ends the travesty. Celimus warns Wyl there will be a day of reckoning between them. Celimus becomes the King when Magnus dies, ruling Morgravia with a torturous hand. However, he must get rid of his moral General so he has Wyl murdered. Instead of dying, Wyl finds his mind left his corpse and entered the body of his killer. He will soon learn that Myrren had one power that she bestowed on him to switch bodies when his present host is killed. Now he has to fix a world gone crazy starting with its egomaniacal leader although everyone loyal to General Thirsk saw his corpse. MYRREN'S GIFT is an excellent fantasy that hooks the audience even before Wyl and Celimus meet for the first time. The exciting story line never slows down until the climax yet Fiona McIntosh insures her key characters especially Celimus and Wyl seem complete so that the rivalry comes across even stronger to the audience. Readers will cherish this fine saga and look forward to future epics in Morgravia and its neighbor Briavel.

Ghosts in the Snow
Tamara Siler Jones
ISBN: 0553587099 $6.99, 488 pp.

Dubric Byerly is used to eating alone as everyone keeps as far away from him as possible. The Castellan of Faldorahh is worried because someone is killing young women leaving no clues behind. Having solved homicides before with help from his ability to work with ghostly victims, Dubric is very concerned as part of his responsibility is safety and security in Lord Brushgar's Desmesne, and he getting nowhere while the murders are turning increasingly brutal. Still Dubric has a prime suspect as he struggles to find clues. However, suspecting someone is not enough especially since this someone is connected and an accusation without 100% proof could lead to civil war. Worse he sees the bloody specters who look at him to gain peace, but instead are driving Dubric over the edge into insanity. He is racing the clock of his mind in a helpless cause to uncover an invisible vicious killer. GHOSTS IN THE SNOW is a fabulous blending of the paranormal inside a medieval like murder investigation. Dubric is a terrific protagonist who is cursed by his ability to see the dead; still he makes the most of his skill to try to solve violent crimes. The who-done-it is cleverly designed keeping the audience wondering along with the hero what is going on and how. Tamara Siler Jones writes a terrific supernatural mystery that places Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden inside Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma's world.

Every Whispered Word
Karyn Monk
ISBN: 0553584421 $6.99

In 1885 London, Lady Camelia Marshall visits the house of scientist Simon Kent hoping to persuade the genius to help her by building a special steam engine for her to use at an archeological site in South Africa where water has filled the hole. He says no and sends her on her way. Just outside his home, two thugs accost Camelia, but Simon rescues her using firecrackers to scare off her attackers. He escorts her to her carriage near a museum where he sees her driver is a black African Zareb and he has a monkey Oscar with him. When Simon gets home he finds his home on fire. He looks inside and realizez arson occurred. He visits Camelia to accuse her, but she logically explains why she would not cause the inferno that destroyed his inventions. In spite of Rupert the Snake and Harriet the Bird, he reluctantly agrees to accompany her to Africa to build a steam engine for her unaware that the De Beers Company covets her land and will do anything including sabotage and blackmail to prevent her excavation. This unique Victorian romance stars two delightful different protagonists than those who typically star in this sub-genre. The story line brings to life the South Africa late in the nineteenth century monopolistic influence of the De Beers Company even in an environs in which the "sun never sets on the British Empire" and the Boer War is over a decade away. The villain is a stretch, but readers will not care as Karyn Monk provides a powerful historical romance starring two fabulous lead characters and a terrific insightful comparative look at a bygone era in London and South Africa.

Once Upon a Bride
Jean Stone
ISBN: 0553586858 $6.99, 294 pp.

The four women are getting together because Elaine is marrying for the second time and wants her college pals (Jo, Sarah, and Lily) as her bridesmaids. The trio detests the wedding dress that might look great on a teen bride, but horrendous on a forty-three year old mom. As they continue to discuss the woeful selections for a mature second time bride, the quartet form a wedding planner partnership Second Chances to insure that older brides obtain a first class reception. At the same time that the four women meet, Buzz magazine editor John Benson assigns writer turned Professor Arthur Kennedy to do a column called Real Women. Arthur reluctantly agrees only because his friend John needs his help to save the magazine. As Second Chances gets off the ground, the intelligent Jo struggles to hide her hurt and embarrassment from the deception of her lover Brian, who cost her the upper crust Boston lifestyle she had grown accustomed to living. Arthur meets Jo and is immediately attracted to her. As they fall in love, Arthur realizes hiding his column from her could prove costly since male deceit haunts Jo. ONCE UPON A BRIDE is a delightful middle age women's fiction story that stars a fabulous cast that insist life is still exciting in your forties. The story line contains several subplots involving the four female friends, but mostly centers on Jo, a deep and hurting protagonist with trust troubles following her father's desertion as a child and her lover's betrayal as an adult. Jean Stone provides a wonderful contemporary tale starring mature characters looking to regain the magic.

Jane and His Lordship's Legacy
Stephanie Barron
ISBN: 0553802259 $24.00, 292 pp.

Edward Austin, Jane's wealthy brother, possesses the freehold of every house in Chawton Village; he gives his sister and their mother the cottage of the late bailiff, dispossessing is wife which made the villagers irate. The female Austins believe the renovated cottage will make a happy home for them, a new beginning of sorts. On their first day in their new home, a lawyer visits Jane with a Bengal trunk that contains the letters, dairies, and miscellaneous papers of Lord Harold Trowbridge, the only man Jane ever loved. Realizing that the trunk contains items that people would kill to own, she has it taken to the basement where they find a dead body. That same night while dining at the magistrate's house, someone steals the trunk and a laborer is arrested for the crime. A new arrival Justin Thrace arouses gossip and suspicion because he claims to be the Earl of Holbrook's heir. He and his half-sister Imogen are riding when she is thrown from her horse and dies because a thorn was placed beneath the saddle. Justin runs from the law after people accuse him of placing the thorn there. Jane learns that the corpse in the cellar was placed there by Mr. Hinton. As she makes inquiries she thinks the real killer has yet to surface. Stephanie Barron gives a realistic portrayal of how impoverished genteel folks lived in Regency England. The investigation into the murders enables Jane to temporarily take her mind off the death of her beloved Harold. Though somewhat overly scattered with the motive coming late, the who-done-it is cleverly conceived inside of a fast-paced plot populated by eccentric likable characters making for a gem of a historical amateur sleuth.

Metallic Love
Tanith Lee
ISBN 0553584715 $6.99, 325 pp.

In the future, the asteroid is captured between the Earth and the moon and changes the geography of the planet as well as its social structure. There are two classes, the haves and the have-nots. Loren is one of the poor people taken in by a religious sect where at the age of twelve she found the book Jane's Story about a teenager who fell in love with the robot Silver and he with her. The models that would have passed for human have been dismantled. When Loren is seventeen, the Meta Corporation brings back humanoid robots only they could never pass for human having the color of gold, silver, and copper; they are used as pleasure slaves for the rich. Loren is given a chance to meet the robot that was once named Silver who has all his memories but none of his feelings. He goes by the name Verlis and becomes obsessed with Loren. The Meta Corporation believe they have complete control of their creations but the robots plan to throw off the shackles of their slavery; thanks to Verlis, Loren is part of the plan whether she wants to be or not. Like Jane and Silver (see THE SILVER METAL LOVER) Loren and Verlis can and do love each other. Loren believes that Verlis is sentient and dismantling him would be murder even if she doesn't agree with the plans her beloved is making to ensure the safety of his fellow robots and their companions. Tanith Lee surpasses her own genius with this sequel of a classic that has been read by millions of people in several countries. Like the prequel, this work will also be considered a classic.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood
ISBN: 0553587439 $12.00, 374 pp.

Abetted by his Aunt Nafisa, who he never knew existed, Ashraf el-Mansur comes to the Mediterranean port city of El Iskandryia having escaped from an American prison. Lady Nafisa explains to her nephew that her brother married American Sally Welham and though divorced five days later, he is a legitimate offspring of an Emir. Aunt Nafisa introduces Ashraf to her niece nine year old Hani and his future wife Zara daughter of wealth; both hate him because the fuss made over him interferes with their respective lives. However, before his aunt can complete arrangements for his entrance into the elite of Ottoman society, she is killed. As a newcomer and the sole heir to her fortune, the police suspect Ashraf murdered his aunt. Based on his American experience with Chinese employers, Ashraf knows he must prove his innocence or be railroaded into prison or worse. His only help comes from two females who loath him. PASHAZADE is a fabulous futuristic amateur sleuth tale built on an alternate historical foundation to include Germany winning World War I and the Ottoman Empire thriving in the early twenty-first century. The who-done-it is cleverly handled so that mystery buffs have a solid investigative tale with some intriguing police procedural elements. The cast is terrific. Ashraf also known as ZeeZee struggles with what he has learned about his patriarchal ancestry (his mother could not provide two consistent responses as her version of the truth kept wavering) and with his aunt's death. Hani and Zara add depth to Ashraf's character. However, the star is the city of El Iskandryia where fundamentalist Islamic and western hedonists share a troubled past and shop at Wal-Mart.

The Mysteries
Lisa Tuttle
ISBN 0553382969 $21.00, 324 pp.

American Ian Kennedy is a private detective in London specializing in finding missing people. Fellow American Laura Lenski hires him to find her daughter Peri who has been missing for two years. Ian reads Peri's journal and talks to her former boyfriend Hugh; he realizes that once again he is dealing with a case of the Otherworld. When he first came to the United Kingdom, he was hired by Amy's mother to look for her daughter. He meets a woman who explains how he can keep Amy in this world since she already appeared to him asking for his help before disappearing before his eyes. Peri went willingly with Mider, a fairy lord who believes she is the reincarnation of his wife Etain, who was changed into a fly by the sorceress who loved him. Peri's true love Hugh believes in the Otherworld because he has the Sight and sees the fae when no other mortal can. He an Peri also met and dealt with Mider who used magic to make Peri want to leave Hugh and go to the Otherworld with the fairy. Ian, Laura and Peri return to the place where Peri disappeared but it is not Laura or Hugh who has the best chance of finding and keeping Peri but Ian who knows how to deal with fairy glamour. It has been a very long time since a Lisa Tuttle fantasy was published but it was well worth the wait. THE MYSTERIES is a subtle but powerful work that allows the reader to savor the lyrical prose and delight in the ways fairy interacts with mortals. Readers don't actually see the Otherworld as the author leaves that up to each person's imagination to picture it as they would like it to be. THE MYSTERIES is a special book that ensorcels the audience.

A Secret Atlas
Michael A. Stackpole
ISBN 0553382373 $15.00

The Nine Principalities are recovering from the Cataclysm that allowed Wild Magic into the world and brought about The Time of Black Ice. Weather patterns changed, killing millions of people and mutations occurred where the wild magic was heaviest. Explorers find out what is beyond on the known horizon and give details to Cartographer Qiro who puts the new knowledge on the world map. His goal is to fill the entire map so that the entire world is explored and the map has no empty spaces. Qiro sends his two grandsons on very different voyages; Jorim to fill in part of the map and find new trading partners and Keles is to explore the waste lands where wild magic remains in abundance. Someone seeks ancient weapons and magic powder and Qiro's grandson is to learn who is behind this while also finding out if the Spice Road can be traveled to lands that were trading partners before the cataclysm. While they explore new lands, lost civilizations, strange monsters and mutations, Prince Cyronen, the ruler of Nalenyr where Qiro resides, is besieged at home from his inland lords who want to topple him from the throne and the ruler of another Principality who want to conquer and rule the rich and thriving Nalenyr. A SECRET ATLAS is a fascinating, fulfilling and fantastic epic fantasy that takes the reader on journeys to strange unexplored lands populated by people who have never even heard of the Nine Principalities because they are so isolated. The explorers battle strange and deadly monsters while trying to fulfill their missions and the prince fights a battle of a different kind, one in which if he loses, he dies and a usurper will take the throne. Michael A. Stackpole can always be counted on to give readers a refreshingly unique and utterly absorbing tale.

Seal Island
Kate Brallier
ISBN: 0765348926 $6.99, 466 pp.

Cecilia is only twenty-eight, but was recently downsized out of her job and her forced to leave her Manhattan apartment. However, homeless Cecilia "Cecil" Hargrove learns that her not so "Aunt" Allegra Gordon just past away at only forty-five years of age, but left her home and business on Seal Island, Maine to her "niece" who she only met twice. Cecil decides to look at the properties and thinks she will probably sell the tourist shop and the home. Cecil learns from her aunt's shop assistant Abby and reporter Richard Feinman that Allegra was well liked and friendly until last summer when she became depressed before being murdered. The next day Cecil meets Tom Moneghan a lobsterman. Afterward she learns that her aunt removed $80K from the bank in the few months before she died. There is no evidence of what she did with the money. On the way home Cecil meets gas attendant Ronan Grey, who says he is her neighbor; Cecil feels an immediate attraction. These three men "court" Cecil in different ways. None are what they seem. The reporter loves Abby; the fisherman is a famous author fearing his feelings for Cecil; the neighbor is the weirdest of the trio as he provides great sex but demands all of her time. Cecil holds the story line together but is ably assisted by a strong support cast especially her deceased aunt, Ragnarok a seal, and the three males competing for her affection. The story line starts off as a contemporary romance that turns into a mystery and finally curves into a fantasy. Fans will appreciate this modern day romance with an iota of a mystery that climaxes as a fantasy suspense thriller.

When the Beast Ravens
E. Rose Sabin
ISBN: 0765308584 $23.95, 287 pp.

After being taken by the dire women into their dimension, he was tortured and changed into a beast. Gray Becq is no longer enamored with the Lesley Simonton School for the Magically Gifted though he returns there following his summer vacation. He quickly gets into a fight with two of the people who summoned the creatures from the Dire Realms. Not long after somebody steals artifacts from the students and a demon enters this world. The Headmistress believes that Gray's return from the Dire Realm allowed the demon to enter this dimension. The concern is that they have no spell to send the demon home to the Dire Realm. The students are guarded with seemingly unbreakable spells, but someone manages to do the impossible. Everyone concludes that a killer is bringing in demons from the Dire Realm and using them to break the safety spells. Gray discovers that he hasthe power to travel through different timelines and dimensions. His former enemies join forces with him to battle their common foes and send the demons back to the hell where they belong. This is the final book of a delightful trilogy that ties up the loose ends from A SCHOOL FOR SORCERY and A PERILOUS POWER, which obviously means reading the previous novels first. The climax is awesome as the students put aside their jealousies to forge a team knowing this is the only chance, remote as that is, to defeat the overwhelming adversaries. Fans of Harry Potter will enjoy this fine series especially this terrific conclusion.

The Knight
Gene Wolf
ISBN: 0765313480 $14.95, 432 pp.

In the United States, his brother Ben needed suddenly to leave, but there was no reason for the young teen to depart also; so he stayed behind to fish, but instead hiked a trail. He was not lost when he slightly went off the path to cut a staff. He steps into Mythgarthr where he meets the elf Queen of the Wood Disiri, who looks into his soul finding honor and loyalty. She magically changes the lad into an adult knight dubbed Able of the High Heart and provides him with a quest to obtain the mythical sword possessed guarded by a ferocious dragon. If he is to achieve his heroic destiny. However, to sprinkle someone with power and skill and change them into something else does not impact what is inside. The American expatriate struggles with his new environment filled with magic and magical beings and his lack of his experience beyond those of a young teen, not a fighting knight. Though doubts ring his every step, he is still young at heart and so begins his adventures as a stranger in a strange body in a strange land where everybody is strange. This is a terrific tales because of the realistic transformation of the hero who wonders what he has gotten into while on the trek. The support cast insures readers believe in ogres, giants, elves, griffins, etc. Interestingly is how Sir Able cleverly narrates the novel via a letter to Ben; cleverly providing a glossary of terms and names. Fantasy great, Gene Wolf provides a superb coming of age with a twist story that will have the audience anticipating the conclusion to the Wizard Knight twosome.

Craig Spector
ISBN: 0765306603 $23.95, 256 pp.

In Stillson Beach, Virginia, Justin Van Slyke is on a tour of historical antebellum Custis Manor, a place where black slaves were slaughtered. A vandalism incident enables Justin to wander off on his own. He reaches his destination and dives through a large mirror though his right hand fails to make it through the portal. It is sliced off and left behind. Josh Custis, whose family owns the mansion, sends word to the other three surviving members of the Underground to meet with him in the Church of the Open Door. Caroline Tabb Connolly accompanied by her spouse and daughter, addict Amy Kaplan, and Seth Bryant who left his pregnant wife at home heed Josh's call. Josh explains that Justin went through the portal bringing home the nightmare of what happened in 1983 when seven suburban teens formed the Underground. One of them Simon Baxter tripping on acid tried to slice another Mia Cheever, but Justin stopped him. Mia fell through a mirror portal while Simon bled to death from cuts caused by chards of broken glass. Justin has forced them to act even while the medical examiner cannot understand how a severed hand can have a pulse. This haunted house thriller grips the audience from the moment that Justin splits from the tour to enter the mirror and never slows down until the final altercation with the evil on the other side of the portal. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action, and constantly leave readers with goose bumps. Though the magnificent seven are labeled rather than fully developed with a couple of exceptions, ghost story fans will gladly journey through the portal with the UNDERGROUND.

Anywhere But Here
Jerry Oltion
ISBN 0765306190 $25.95, 400 pp.

In an unspecified time in the future, the global conquering United States is ready to go to war at anytime with countries that don't bow down to America's superiority. Meanwhile the hyperdrive engine makes it cheap to travel to other planets. Those people who value freedom and resent the heavy-handedness of the United States colonized planets all over the galaxy. It is now illegal to build a hyperdrive vehicle and leave the planet because much of America's most precious resources, the people, are gone. After Trent and Judy Stinson lose their jobs they decide to visit the colonized worlds but while on the French planet of Mirabeau, the United States attacks using asteroid rocks as bombs. When they leave, they become lost in space and end up in an unexplored part of the galaxy. They find a habitable planet so they can fix their damaged hyperdrive but must depart quickly though there are no direct life forms dangerous to humans, the game and water is inimical to Earthlings. Freedom is a powerful motivator for people to leave their homeland and go to the stars but the Stinsons really want to find a way to change how government operates so it could once again be the land of the free. Homeland security has become a dictatorial giant imagining enemies when none exist and drive people to do the very things they outlaw. Jerry Oltion is a master storyteller who takes readers on a spaceship ride that is exciting, dangerous and fun. Visiting inhabited colonized worlds and orbs where no sentient life exist makes this work of science fiction a great treat for armchair travelers who want to go stellar from their home.

Old Man's War
John Scalzi
ISBN: 0765309408 $23.95, 316 pp.

When he turned seventy-five, earthling John Perry visits the grave site of his wife of forty-two years Kathy interred in an Arizona cemetery. He reflects how much he misses her, how he hates coming here, and that her last words dealt with finding vanilla as she was making pancakes when she stroked to death. With nothing to keep him here, John abruptly decides to join the Colonial Defense Force struggling to defend or annex other worlds in deadly competition with alien races for control of the few hospitable planets. As a recruit, John receives standard gear to include a much younger healthier body that is beyond the ability of most non government citizens to buy except the affluent. Like his brothers and sisters in arms, he bonds with them as they are his family and his hope to survive one skirmish after another in many cases against superior aliens. As his comrades die and collateral damage devastate civilian population, John begins questioning the worth war that enables a few to economically gain a lot at the cost of others even as he begins to ponder whether he is still human. Paying homage to Heinlein (Starship Trooper the book not the movie), John Scalzi provides a tense anti-war military science fiction thriller that will leave fans pondering what is war good for. Readers will also wonder about who benefits from scientific advances and military operations and what actually a human is as science changes Homo sapiens. The story line is action-packed once John enlists as the audience get inside his head while he goes from "youthful" awe to experienced cynic. OLD MAN'S WAR is a terrific tale of a belligerent future in space.

The Duke's Ballad
Andre Norton & Lyn McConchie
ISBN: 0765306360 $24.95, 318 pp.

Kirion as sorcerer to the ruling Duke Shastro insures that his liege gets what he wants. When he "pimped" girls from the old city using his ability to make his victims believe they love and in turn are loved by the Duke, no one in power cared, but when Shastro turned to the young at court trouble is brewing. Meanwhile Kirion's sister Aisling comes home after a three year self imposed exile to elude her sibling while learning under the tutelage of an Adept to use her talent. Besides dreams that insist she must return to Kars, she feels she must do what is right to rid her homeland of her brother and his unfit ruler. Before she and her companion, the telepathic steed Wind Dancer, arrives at her home, Kirion takes their kingdom to war against their neighbor. As a stark winter makes matters worse, Aisling and another brother manage to gain entry into the court. As Kirion abuses his power and position leaving the people in dire straits, Aisling realizes she needs an ally, but no one except perhaps the perverted Shastro is in a position to help. THE DUKE'S BALLAD is a typical Andre Norton fantasy thriller that is fun, exciting yet paints a good vs. evil canvas in which Aisling is pure heroic angel while Kirion is malevolent incarnate. The support cast adds interest to the tale especially Wind Dancer and Shastro as two unique characters. The story line is fast-paced and filled with adventure so that Ms. Norton's Witch World fans will enjoy this collaboration with Lyn McConchie that returns fans to this mystical plane for the first time in several years.

The Scepter's Return
Dan Chernenko
ISBN 0451460146 $14.95, 448 pp.

In the realm of Avornis, two monarchs rule; after years of mutual distrust, Kings Grus and Lanius co-exist peacefully. Lanius is married to Grus' daughter, but resents sharing the crown. Both rulers are determined to retrieve the Scepter of Mercy that was stolen by the Menteshe tribes and now resides in their heavily fortified city of Yozgat. King Grus leads a military campaign into Menteshe freeing the thralls of the sorcery that left them as beasts of burden. He regains lands that once belonged to Avornis but cuts short his invasion with winter coming. The following year, Grus places a siege on Yozgat but it is Lanius who comes up with a daring plan to steal the Scepter from under the nose of the Prince Korut who is d inside the besieged city. If Lanius' plan works, they won't have a protracted battle with many lives lost, but the evil Banished One abets his followers the Menteshe in efforts to destroy Grus and his army. Combine sword and sorcery with family drama within the castle in Avornis and one will have an idea of what THE SCEPTER'S RETURN is all about. Lanius has really matured over the three books in this series and is wise enough to rule in his own right. Grus is a heroic figure who had to fight to get where he is but once he accomplishes all he set out to do, he wonders if his life will ever be as rewarding as it is when his goals are met. This colorful, entertaining and enchanting work is epic is scope. Dan Chernenko is a bright star in the fantasy horizon.

Mystic and Rider
Sharon Shinn
ISBN: 0441012469 $23.95, 448 pp.

King Baryn orders the mystic Senneth to journey through the realm of Gillengaria to find out how the nobles feel about his rule because rumors persist that the aristocracy is unhappy. Accompanying Senneth is Riders( soldiers loyal to the king) Tayse and Justin and Mystics Kira and Donnal. Along the way they pick up Cammon, an indentured servant who isn't even aware he's a mystic until Senneth shows him how to use his powers. The journey is fraught with danger as a cult, the Daughter of the Pale Mother, headed by Conralinda Gisselness has amassed a large following of women who declare that Mystics are evil and must be destroyed. She whips the populace into a frenzy and has her soldiers kill the Mystics wherever they find them. Senneth and company also learn that several heads of the twelve houses are worried about the succession since the king has only a rarely seen daughter. Rumors that his queen is a mystic also upsets the people who think those who wield magic are evil. Civil war on a religious and politic front seems inevitable. Sharon Shinn demonstrates her amazing writing talent in MYSTIC AND RIDER the first installment in a great new fantasy series. Senneth risks her life to save a baby from its grandfather who wants it dead because the infant was born with mystical powers. Readers will adore this vulnerable heroine who is one of the strongest mages in the land and is completely devoted to the king. Riding through the realm, the riders and the mystics observe how much the common folks detest those with magic even killing their own children. The world of Gillengaria is so realistically portrayed; readers will be convinced that this world actually exists.

The Seven Hills
John Maddox Roberts
ISBN: 0441012450 $23.95, 352 pp.

On an alternate earth, Hannibal gave the Romans a chance to surrender and go into exile or he would destroy the city. Most chose exile traveling beyond the Alps to create a new empire, Rome Norricum. They conquered the Gaul, Franks, and Germans; and over a century later they took back Rome. The Romans control all of mainland Italy and look forward to regaining Sicily from Shofet Hamilcar, a descendent of Hannibal the Great of Carthage. Marcus Scipio has placed Queen Selene in power and formed an alliance with Egypt. However, Titus Norbanus and his four legions make other alliances, conquers new territories that once belonged to Rome, and has earned the loyalty of his troops. He plans to destroy Carthage and use the victory to become the ruler of the neo Roman Empire. Only Marcus and perhaps Carthage stand in the way of this upstart achieving his ambition. This is a fantastic sequel that returns Rome to the power that she had lost. Readers obtain a lucid picture of what the senators think of the unfolding political and military events and how they regard the two competitors Marcus vs. Titus. John Maddox Roberts, writer of the terrific SPQR Ancient Rome mysteries, with THE SEVEN HILLS and its predecessor (see HANNIBAL'S CHILDREN) is the Harry Turtledove of an alternate Roman Empire.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Two Dogs and a Cigar
Tom Snyder
Lone Willow Press
P.O. Box 31647, Omaha NE 68131
no ISBN $7.95 chapbook at 39 pages

It's always a pleasure to discover a chapbook from Lone Willow Press in the mailbox. Their featured poets are diverse in style and voice, but all singularly accomplished in their own way. Tom Snyder's poetry has appeared in many literary journals, and he edited the Duckabush Journal for several years. Snyder writes with wit and insight, and occasionally a moving intensity I felt inadequate to demonstrate in review.

His skillful use of metaphor was clearly demonstrated in the first poem, as in this stanza from "O Bird":

whose throat bleeds
music, who draws religion
from a stone and sings
like water flowing....

Even the mundane subject of an unmowed lawn becomes special in Snyder's hands, as in this excerpt from "Poem in Need of Eighty Acres":

Meanwhile, their grass declares victory.
Dandelions flower and cloud, big as seagulls.

My initial response after reading "Death of the Elwha" was stunned silence. In this poem, Snyder names those responsible for killing off giant salmon due to greed and stupidity. Rivers rich with salmon since time began were dammed without fish ladders. Snyder's poetic treatment of the aftermath is powerful:

Dams built in defiance of the law.
So the legislature changed the law to allow hatcheries,
rag factories, and accepted more dams
without fishways --
killers of the wild runs
on the Cowlitz, Chehalis, and White Salmon.

Mother of all, the Columbia, choked by dams and silt!
It is done, I have named them...a story
instead of a song. A long rope of
words and ghosts
to hang them.

Snyder works wonders with the commonplace. In "A Better Day", he breathes new life into a quiet day:

Red wine, almost chewy, softens
the afternoon to a pleasant deformity.

And the simple truths of nature become his focus in "Snowqualmie Song":

Little streams
of light
fall to their senses
and become the forked fingers of time.

The world rolls like a heavy stone
from the cave of your heart.

Whether memorializing nature, governmental deceits, or inhumanities perpetrated by the rich and powerful, Snyder manipulates words in delightful ways. The thirty poems in this chapbook are prime examples of his craft.

Thinking of Math and Her
Alexander Shaumyan
ISBN 1591968755 $12.00 105 pages

This is the seventh book I've read and reviewed by Alexander Shaumyan. This one has a different ring because Shaumyan -- multilingual poet, master of mathematical theorem, scholar, artist -- is in love. That is not to say his political commentaries have ended. He still observes the world with a keen eye and records his findings. He's still the universal soul searching for truth and justice, but everything has slightly dimmed and softened this time in comparison to love.

He lays love's groundwork beautifully, progressing from a broken heart to hopeful lover. "On a Poet's Tombstone" is his quiet introduction:

He left the solace of a womb --
A healer with a gentle verse --
His dreams have led him to his tomb,
A broken heart, an empty purse.

In this excerpt from "Tears" the poet finds a shred of hope:

Carry me off to a place
Where hunger and passion
Can never be satisfied.

And then he explains his hopes, his needs in this excerpt from "I Need a Friend":

I need a friend with faith in love and dreams,
Who does not look for momentary wins,
Who looks beyond the losses and the gains,
Who sees me through my setbacks to the end.
Whether I win or lose, I need a friend
With faith in me.

In "A Disclosure", he dreams of chivalry and grace, and prays the days of romance are not dead:

Oh how I desire
To be completely free
And find that something higher
When you're close to me.

In English, French, Scandinavian, German, and Russian -- with translations -- Shaumyan declares his love for Teresa. But sprinkled throughout his declarations of love are gems of political cynicism. In "The World's Asleep. There is a War That's Raging", I found this small, amazing excerpt:

The hate you sow today's the hate you reap
From someone's bullet or a bomb tomorrow.

"She Drifts in a Vacuum" is a scathing revelation of America's politics today, a world view of chilling proportions. Due to space limitations, I quote only an excerpt: ancient country,
once seen as the cradle
of civilization, now
reduced to rubble and
ashes to be reconstructed
into a makeshift mockery
of a democracy
with a puppet regime,
that allows full access
and control of its resources,
revised and edited as
the liberation of the people.

Shaumyan's international following will not be disappointed in his seventh book. Being in love has reshaped his heart, perhaps, but not his unflinching view of a greed driven world. I'm certain that Alexander Shaumyan will continue to:

Rage on until the bitter end
With tenderness and grace.

Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha
Edward Falco
ISBN 1932961054 $13.95 272 pages

The press release accompanying this book of short stories states that Edward Falco has been quietly establishing himself as master storyteller for years. His stories have appeared in Atlantic Monthly and Playboy as well as prestigious anthologies. His fans will relish this collection. Readers unfamiliar with his work, like me, will remember Edward Falco's name from now on.

Each one of the sixteen stories in this collection is distinct. Falco gives us mysteries, unexpected salvations or revelations, and forces us to examine the sacred and profane with fresh eyes. His plots are gripping, woven from threads familiar to us all: dysfuntional families that somehow work; people who wear their human vulnerabilities like a badge of honor as they flounder; lives derailed or hopelessly wrecked by choice or circumstance; hapless mortals forced to deal with the unthinkable and horrible; and unacceptable but inevitable compromises made amidst chaos. Characters vary, from peaceful people just trying to survive, to teenagers struggling to find their own identity, to dangerous or pathetic human animals at heart. Regardless of the milieu in which the author places them, each character is solid and memorable.

Falco reveals the rage and fear that often trembles hidden at our core. His prose is alternately haunting and tender, comforting and disturbing. Edward Falco's writing beautifully explores the lights and shadows of human existence.

A Summer Harvest
Scott Fields
ISBN 0976247100 $11.95 183 pages

This is one of those triumphant feel good stories rarely found in modern books. Simple. Honest. Uncomplicated. Heartwarming. The characters are as real and human as any I have enjoyed in recent memory. Scott Fields is a writer with promise, and one whose work I hope to read again.

Frank Watson is an irascible retired farmer toughing out a solitary existence. Life has been meaningless to Frank since his wife's unexpected death two years ago. Without Ida as the centerpiece of his life, he's lost interest in everything. His once well-kept farm home and yard have been neglected as he goes through the motions, interacting on a superficial level with family and long time friends. Adding to Frank's sorrow is a once proud, strong father reduced to living in a local nursing home. Each visit finds the elder Watson more dependent and confused, less the man he used to be.

Frank's daily trip to town for breakfast at Bob's Diner is the high point of each day. There he trades sometimes sarcastic, often profane ribbing with townfolk he's known all his life. Bob's Diner is the local gathering place where folks share gossip, enjoy good food. and discuss the depressed farm economy. Springfield, their home town, has been going downhill for years. Two catalysts force Frank Watson to step outside his grief. First comes news of a corporate egg farm and promises of "big money" for farmers willing to sell their property. Then a new waitress starts working at Bob's Diner. Pepper Ledley is young enough to be Frank's daughter but the chemistry between them is immediate and unmistakeable. Frank's life is turned upside down by his attraction to a younger woman. And he's the only man in town who suspects the big spending corporation is not the solution to Springfield's economic problems.

The charm of A Summer Harvest is in the minute details that comprise Frank Watson's life. With poignant toughness, humor, and single minded devotion to his past and future, Watson takes each obstacle head on. He's an unforgettable character, believable and true to his beliefs. I loved this book.

Shadows at Garner Lake
Hank Kellner
ISBN 0595336760 paperback $12.95 156 pages
ISBN 0595669883 hard cover $22.95
ISBN 0595784771 ebook $6.00

Hank Kellner's debut novel is a psychological thriller that delivers as promised. He rivets readers from the beginning through descriptive prose, then propels them headlong into the mind of a maniac. It's a harrowing ride from beginning to end.

Pete Engstrom and Hal Bonnacker -- the professor and the PR man -- have been fishing buddies for years. Their annual visit to Garner Lake is a tradition, a means of relaxing and unwinding, a time of isolation both men eagerly anticipate. But their lives unravel at the seams after an unusual occurence resulting in a young woman's death by drowning. The shams and dysfunctions of their lives are enhanced and catalyzed by Cindy Garvey's death. When these guilt-plagued men return to the lake, accompanied by their wives, life as they know it comes to an end. Long held secrets are revealed, and a mind chilling reality awaits them in the form of Luke Downing and Bruce Orum.

Downing and Orum are sadistic, seedy locals who have formed an uneasy alliance. Privy to each other's awful secrets, they victimize young female runaways and plot revenge on Pete and Hal. Downing is particularly twisted and vicious, insane since childhood, and cunning to a frightening degree.

Kellner skillfully builds his characters and brings readers into the story by moving forward and backward in time. Gradually, we learn each character's secret weaknesses and failings in the past. Cindy Garvey, for example, is a small town Kansas girl who searches for the answer to her dreams in the wrong places. Cindy dies early on, but exacts revenge from the grave in a nice twist of plot.

All characters come together in a shocking finale, with Sheriff Jeff Parker and his girlfriend Molly Hutchison fighting to save the Engstroms and Bonnackers from certain death.

I particularly enjoyed the psychological nuances and how this author built suspense through the backgrounds and secrets of his characters. This definitely is not your garden variety thriller.

Richard Alan Nelson
Behler Publications
22365 El Toro Rd. #135, Lake Forest CA 92630
ISBN 1933016264 $13.95 158 pages

Richard Alan Nelson earned his spurs in the action-adventure thriller genre. In his third book, he tackles perhaps the most thrilling, mysterious action adventure ever. Yeshua ben Joseph. The Man from Galilee. Jesus of Nazareth. In Risen, Nelson tells the story of Yeshua from before his birth until after his death. Research sources include The Holy Bible, Hermetic writings, Kushan history, The Emerald Tablet, and numerous other historical sources most readers have never heard of, let alone read. What results is the life of Yeshua, presented as a fascinating scenario of what might have been his experience.

Risen begins with the familiar story Christians know by heart, with a young pregnant wife and her husband reporting for the annual census. Powerful Eastern Potentates seek the infant's location to pay him honor because this birth is prophesied through ancient writings. In their dealings with the despotic Herod Antipas, the sages know their lives and those of the child and his parents are at risk.

Young Yeshua is an energetic, intelligent boy with a great curiosity about the world. He lives in Galilee, a beautiful land, the crossroads of world trade. His parents know Yeshua's destiny was preordained, that he must study with masters in foreign lands to gain knowledge. When he reaches the age of mitzvah, they sadly part with their son and see him only on rare visits for many years.

Silas, Son of Light, wise leader of the Essenes of Qumran, is Yeshua's first mentor. From age twelve to twenty-one, the youth studies with the Essenes. During this period, Yeshua's curious mind and inquisitive spirit devour the secrets and mysteries recorded from the dawn of time.

From age twenty-one to twenty-five, Yeshua is mentored by Sanaby, a respected Aryan Sage. He learns of man's distant past by studying cave drawings and history recorded on rock, wood, hide and animal horns. With Sanaby, he learns the beginnings of all matter, even the stars in the night sky. Yeshua's wisdom and understanding grow, along with his personal power.

In his twenty-fifth year, the man Yeshua travels to the seat of all learning in the ancient world - Alexandria Egypt. It falls to Aristophanes, his final mentor, to ensure completion of the Rabbi's education. It's in Egypt that Yeshua reaches a calm maturity and becomes the man of peace and power our world knows as Jesus of Nazareth. The libraries of Alexandria provide him with amazing universal truths and powers beyond mortal understanding. Yeshua is focused on absorbing knowledge so is totally unaware of his personal charisma. By the time he leaves for his homeland, Yeshua is tall, serene of spirit, with piercing eyes that see and understand all. An unnameable power and energy is growing inside him as he embarks on the final chapter of his life.

In Galilee, John the Baptist has worked for several years as Yeshua's harbinger as prophesied in Old Testment writings. John and Yeshua are cousins with contrasting personas. John is a radical zealot with fire burning in his eyes. Yeshua walks a softer path than John, while sowing seeds of wisdom with all who will listen. With the truth of God as his net, as the equivalent of a traveling country preacher, Yeshua casts for souls.

The final years of Yeshua's life follow the familiar pattern we all know. He gathers disciples around him and teaches them of God in the same way he teaches his followers -- through parables. His touch heals, resurrects from the dead, soothes troubled spirits. Yeshua loves the downtrodden, afflicted, and poor while reviling the powerful corrupted by greed. His public warnings regarding wealth, injustice, and greed bring about his downfall with Roman rulers and Jewish hierarchies. His death by crucifixion is political, and fulfills yet another set of prophesies.

Modern man has no way of knowing for certain how or where Jesus passed his years from twelve to thirty. Risen proposes a plausible version of the truth. The story is beautifully written and well told.


Interviewer note: I first learned of Klyd Watkins when reviewing a striking book of poetry released by Time Barn Books, Compostrella / Starfield by Charles Potts. After checking the publisher's website, which I normally do when reviewing, my curiosity was piqued. I discovered that Klyd Watkins is an accomplished poet and musician in addition to publisher. After reading his poetry and hearing his music, I requested an interview. He kindly agreed to that request.

Laurel: I barely know where to begin with you, Klyd. You have so many accomplishments. How long have you been writing poetry and making music?

Klyd: I started writing poetry, I guess, when I started college-1960. I had some magazine publications around the mid 60's; a chapbook, pete's improvizations, in 1969. My work in music began later. I always loved music but did not conceive of myself as musical. In the seventies I switched from writing poetry to making it on audio tape, as part of a small movement contributing to the "magazine" released on lp records called poetry out loud. Several years experience with chanting, speaking rhythmically, snatches of singing, choral improvisation, I saw that control of pitch was one of the resources in this way of making poetry, and that I was developing capacity as a vocalist in a way. At the age of 35, too old to be a beginner, I bought a bass guitar and learned to play, beginning with a bluegrass group. I played for some years in honky tonks, playing country, blue grass, rock and roll, and singing occasionally. Writing some songs. Around 1984 I was scheduled to go on the road as a bass player with a girl singer. When she lost her record deal (this happens all the time in Nashville) I gave up on the artistic life and gave all my concentration to selling real estate, for several years. When I started back, I went back to written poetry, and I got the chance to work at recording as well, because of my fortunate friendship with Michael Panasuk, a fine multi-instrumentalist, song writer, and an engineer with excellent recording facilities. We did Listen the Night, calling ourselves "What Are We?" Now I have built a recording studio in my back yard and I'm very excited about recording. Working out loud is ongoing, but I am active in written poetry as well.

Laurel: Your chapbook Ghost Trees took five years to complete to your satisfaction. Do you commonly polish your projects over a long period of time?

Klyd: Well, Ghost Trees is a long poem. Plus, I was trying very hard not to write poetry at all. The plan was to work on the poem only in November, and give the rest of the year to complete attention to real estate. I cheated all the time tho, and ended up going to Radnor Lake probably six times a week. But, Lord yes, I rewrite as long as the muse will let me. There may be a thousand word processing files of different drafts of Ghost Trees. Yet much of it could not be changed, had to be left as it came. It was a matter of the material growing and being rearranged. I treasured weak places because the muse would let me get in there and get some control over the direction of the poem. Most of it came essentially in the form it would stay in and I had the job of moving stuff around and taking stuff out and writing new stuff to tie what I had together. I still revise, prune, expand, contract, a great deal. There are dozens of files of every chapter of Jack.

Laurel: Your work memorializes recurring themes in nature, life, and the spirit man feeds through participating in the natural world around him. Your chapbook The Bass Flying is another example of this philosophy. Do you gain greater insights from nature?

Klyd: What I gain from nature is greater mystery. It's a mystery to me why nature has fed my spirit like it has. So many people feel it like I do. What is it? Maybe in nature we perceive the lawfulness of creation in simpler form than we do in the world of business and social life. Sports is the same thing. The number of laws affecting the outcome of a situation in sports becomes finite, a welcome change. Watching the simplified lawfulness of a lava lamp we perceive the feasibility of the big bang theory. And in nature, where human complexities are filtered down to reverie and sometimes hushed out altogether, the simple reality of a tree trunk emerging from a hill side is incomprehensible for all its simplicity-it says life, being, the earth is alive and loves the sun and waves leafy things toward him.

Laurel: In Jack Chapter One and Jack Chapter Two, you weave a poetic allegory based on Jack and the Beanstalk. What gave you this idea?

Klyd: As a boy I loved the Appalachian Jack tales. Not just the humor but the magic, the alternative cosmology. I didn't as a boy think of it as alternative cosmology, I just became exhilarated-those stories (the ones collected by Stuart Chase) took my mind to a place it was fun to be. Over five years I wrote three shorter Jack poems-one grew to 6-7 pages, trying to capture that mind fun and open it up to adult cognitive effort. When I discovered that Jack and the Bean Stalk, the European version, had that same Jack as hero (in a way very real to my imagination), the necessity appeared to write "the 4th Jack Poem," as I originally named the word processor folder. There are now 7 finished chapters-about 105 pages-of Jack. I self published Jack Chapter One and Jack Chapter Two, which are out of print now, and I plan to publish one thru three together in one volume next. Some day I hope the first seven chapters will appear in one volume. I project 12 chapters but am not working on the material now, except in recording to music what is already written.

Laurel: In your Poetry Out Loud Series, feelings are magnified by music and the blending of voices. You contend that the human voice is the primal home of poetry. Tell me more about that belief and how it affects both your music and poetry.

Klyd: In poetry out loud we were doctrinaire. We worked absolutely without text. Now we cheated a bit at first, but a few years into the venture we created our poetry purely by improvisation, tape recorders running, simultaneous group improvisation more often than not. Any chorus or refrain or hook we based a work on, any strand of content, had to hold its own in memory or go away. We felt we were in a contest with writing poets. Now that I looking for the balance between text and voice, I still see clearly that our proposition-that the human voice is the primal home of poetry-is correct. My experiences playing bass in Nashville honkytonks, and occasionally singing when the real singer wanted a break, taught me that too. In classic English poetry by the 18th century, with all their talk of "numbers," the rhythmic protocol for composition was half visual, and the visual proportion increased all through the 19th and into the 20th centuries, until now some free verse, including some of mine, has only the visual line break as a rhythmic marker. Good contemporary free verse, including I hope most of mine, uses the visual line break to bridle the underlying speech rush. You wrote to me today, Laurel, "To me, prose is not all that different from poetry. It's words, strung together to make a certain point." And I understand and agree with that, up to a point. The shift in accent, tho, that happens from prose to verse, can be profound. It is the job of prose to delineate, to break things down so that when we look out on the world we can do more than just say "oh" overwhelmed by everything, we can ask for a monkey wrench and listen to suggestions about which way to tighten a nut. Our accents in prose and prose speech support this utilitarian focus. When we change those accents, as we must in song or verse or chant, we reverse that delineation back toward "oh" again. We sacrifice one kind of precision to gain song. Even if disruption of prose accent only happens in the mind, it works, but without outer speech and outer song, it can't happen in silence. The human voice is the primal home of language.

Laurel: Your CD Listen the Night is another fine example of music intensifying the spoken word and vice versa. It was an intriguing blend of humor, whimsy, drama and passion with a distinct flavor of improvisation. Tell us about the making of this CD, such as, what was your goal?

Klyd: Our goal was to mix the skills I gained working with poetry out loud with Mike Panasuk's as a musician/producer, to get rich and famous and to have fun. We succeeded three quarters.

Laurel: Do you still participate in improvisation and stand up poetry?

Klyd: I don't feel really welcome at Nashville's poetry venues. But I improvise in my studio. I also use the text (of Jack) in current recording projects. The balance between reading and improvising out loud, whether in speech or song, will go now one way and now the other, but if I don't keep my voice awake with some improvisation the reading does not go well.

Laurel: Did you study music and creative writing on any level?

Klyd: I have an BA and an MA from Vanderbilt, majoring in English. I taught English, mostly at the junior college level for over a decade. Teaching grammar and literature at the college level, even composition, was very helpful to me as a writer, I feel. On the other hand I chafed under the intellectual responsibility I felt as a professor. I thought poets should be neither responsible or irresponsible intellectually. I taught myself to play bass, with a few lessons. I taught myself to sing. It took decades. I was an introverted, anti-musical personality when I started writing.

Laurel: Who were your inspirations in music and writing?

Klyd: So many. Walt Whitman, Shakespeare, Carl Perkins, Crow Dog, Ray Charles-his release of the Fathead Newman album changed my life because I already loved him-William Carlos Williams, Coltrane, the Psalms, Robert Frost, Hank Williams, Henry Miller. Willie Nelson. Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker. Infinite.

Laurel: Is there any question you wish I had asked, or any other bit of information you'd like to share?

Klyd: Thank you, yes. The Temple will publish a little collection of mine, 5 SPEED, within a couple of weeks. And, I will be reading, with a number of wonderful poets, at the Walla Walla Poetry Party this year. Andy Clausen, many others. It's in Walla Walla Washington April 14, 15, 16 (2005). Great event for poetry lovers. The url is

Laurel: Thank you for your time, Klyd. Find examples of Klyd's music and poetry at .


CarrieAnn Thunell is chief editor/co-founder of the Association for the Revival of Formalist Poetry, and editor of the Nisqually Delta Review. She is poetry columnist and sketch artist for SP Quill magazine, and poetry columnist for The Storyteller. She has had poetry, art, articles and stories printed in over 35 magazines, and has a chapbook of sonnets out. She is a wildlife artist and photographer, backcourntry camper, and haiku poet.

Laurel: I am admittedly weak in my knowledge of formalist poetry. Give our readers a thumbail of what types poetry are included under the formalist category.

CarrieAnn: Formalist poetry covers a broad range of poetic forms from the fixed form types that follow a specific template in their rhyme and meter structure such as the villanelle, sonnet, rondeau, to the nonce forms in which the poet decides on a specific metric, stanza, and/or rhyme structure to fit a specific poem. A nonce form, like a fixed form, uses a variety of poetic devises to set up an organic pattern or regularity that reinfoces the tone, feeling, and/or content of the poem. We in the West normally think of those forms familar to us, ususally derived from the French, English, or even Malasian traditions. But a broader definition of formal poetry would also include poetry that follows structured patterns from many cultures throughout the globe such as the sijo from Korea. Sijo was originally an oral form that was perfomed through song and dance. As it is reworked to become a literary form, it undergoes change, as have all oral forms that have now become literary forms.

Laurel: What is it about formalist poetry that appeals to you?

CarrieAnn: Formal poetry is organic. That is to say that it resonates with the tides, the cycles of the moon, the heart beat, a woman's menses, the breath. In many cultures, breath, chi, or prana, is considered the very essence of the life source. All of life on Earth is organized into regular cycles, seasons, and patterns. To use rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, meter and such, is to plant our roots firmly into the soil of Gai. I can find no better vehicle for the transmission of ecological, Earth-based poetry. It plugs us back into our place within the global ecosystem, recognizing on an intuitive level, that all of life is interconnected.

Laurel: Tell us about the Nisqually Delta Review. What are the goals and philosphy set forth? How often will it be sent out each year?

CarrieAnn: My orignial plan was to be a triannual journal exclusvely devoted to formalist poetry. Then I became increasingly involved in the still evolving Western haiku movement. This shifted the focus to a journal that is a 50/50 split between haiku and formalist poetry. I am very interested in the tension and dialogue of that I hope will occur as a result of bringing two very different groups of poets together. The common thread that I see uniting the two are that both formalists and haiku poets have a great love of nature's rhythms. Another unforseen shift is occuring as folks begin to submit tanka, sijo, and rengay. The formerly haiku side of the magazine is opening up to many types of Asian verse. I hope to showcase poetry that promotes peace and global justice, interfaith dialogue through the exploration of cosmology from many differing faith perspectives, and to promote a profound love of the Earth's global ecosystem, of which we are an integral part. I see the highest calling of a poet as "doing theology"; offering hope and solutions to a suffering world, and being a prophetic voice by continuing to offer new "scripture" that meets today's spiritual and ecological needs. I've no use for self-indulgent narcisistic free verse angst, foul language, and ranting. People need solution-oriented poetry that celebrates life in all its diversity and offers hope.

Laurel: I imagine it is a prodigious undertaking to create and compile such a periodical. For example, how many submissions do you receive and where do they originate?

CarrieAnn: Thanks largely to the selfless efforts of Stanford M. Forrester, editor of bottlerockets, I am getting submissions from Greece, Australia, New Zealand, England, Japan, Canada, Korea, and all over the US. Also, I am now getting about 60 email inquiries and submissions a day. Unfortunately, the amount of paying subscribers is slim, and since I take no ads and have no financial backing, the magazine is already in financial trouble. I am loath however, to print only subscribers as then one becomes a vanity press wherein acceptance is based on whether you are a paid subscriber and not on quality. I am comitted to taking only poems of the very highest quality that are in keeping with the journal's focus.

Laurel: It's difficult when poetry submissions must be declined. What are the most common reasons you refuse submissions to NDR?

CarrieAnn: Many poets believe it is a reflection on their own self-worth if their poetry is rejected by a magazine. This is seldom the case. The way I see it, is it is all about finding the best "fit". As in a marriage, one person's court jester is another's Romeo. Each magazine has a particular set of goals, and a particular focus. Light Quarterly for instance, focuses on light verse. They probably would not be too interested in a long blank verse diatribe condemning a particular political regime. A poem may be excellently crafted, yet not fit the particular goals of a magazine. A poet should research the market to see where their style of poetry fits in best. That way the poet can be true to his/her own vision. One should never change one's writing style to fit into a magazine if idoing so goes against the writer's own heart. Also, there is the issue of supply of poetry greatly exceeding space in the magazine, so some has to get left out.

Laurel: Tell us about CarrieAnn Thunell, the person. Do you mind sharing a bit of your background, your interests outside writing?

CarrieAnn: I never allowed myself to be given over completely to poetry as I had a young son to support. But my last job left me permanently disabled. Daily exposure to a variety of inhalent chemicals caused me to develop multiple chemical sensitivities. I've not been able to receive any treatment to cure or reverse this, so I must either remain at home in a very chemically-free environment living in a kind of quarantine, or go deep into the forests and camp. My spouse of 3 years and I spend about 4 weeks total backcountry camping each summer. This cleans out my system, and also sustains my spirit. My illness has made me acutely aware of the connection between what we do to the Earth, and what is happening to our bodies. I became very interested in Thich Nhat Hanh's writings on Interbeing. It is an ancient Buddhist philosophy that all life is intimately connected and that every creature is made up of non-creature elements such as sun, air, minerals, and water. When these are polluted, so are our bodies. Chief Seattle said long ago that "Whatever befalls the Earth, befalls the sons of the Earth". Off-season when I am confined to the home, I have given myself over to writing and non-toxic art that promote the beauty of the natural world.

Laurel: What advice can you offer poets interested in developing and refining their skills where formalist and haiku poetry is concerned?

CarrieAnn: There is a reading list on the NDR site. I would suggest reading those books, as well as anthologies of the great formalist masters, and the great haiku poets. Many of Annie Finch's books deal with the revolution in new formalism that is occurring today. There are also a variety of new Western Haiku anthologies out. I saturate myself with reading. Many of the books listed on the NDR and ARFP sites explain the various forms and genres in detail, and explain how to craft the poetry. It is just a matter of practice.

Laurel: How can readers subscribe to Nisqually Delta Review, order your chapbooks, and find your website?

CarrieAnn: I understand that it becomes a financial burden for poets to support every new literary journal that comes along. But it is good to try to support the few that are a good fit for what you write, or whose writings nurture your spirit as a poet. The hard facts are that hundreds of small presses with no financial backing go under every year because the high costs of producing, printing, and mailing far outstrips the kickback from subscriptions. And the more journals that go under, the less options there are to get published in. The website is All submissions should be emailed from the site. To subscribe, send a check made out to CarrieAnn Thunell for $16.00 in the US or $20.00 cash overseas to PO Box 1774; Olympia, WA 98507-1774. For the chapbook of love sonnets, send $7.75 (includes shipping.)

Laurel: Is there any question you wish I had asked, or any other information you would like to share with our readers?

CarrieAnn: I'm pretty sure I've talked way too much already! I want to thank you very much for this opportunity to share my love of poetry and nature with you. Earth is your Mother, Be good to your Mother!

Laurel: Thank you for your time, CarrieAnn. Good luck with the Nisqually Delta Review and keep writing!


Interviewer note: Stephanie Gertler is a best selling writer, author of four books so far, the latest of which is The Windmill. Her writing style and story telling ability impressed me, so I requested an interview through Ms. Gertler's publicist, Yolanda Carden of FSG Associates.

Johnson: How long have you been writing novels?

Gertler: My first novel, Jimmy's Girl, was written in 1999. I had a "day job" back then as a freelance feature writer for several newspapers and magazines. I wrote the book in the middle of the night (from say midnight to 3 a.m. after the kids and my husband went to sleep). It took me 15 months to write, and it was published in February 2001. As I wrote, I didn't consciously think that I was really writing a novel as much as I was just writing. It sort of "morphed" into a novel...and became an addiction until it was finished.

Johnson: Your online publicist, Yolanda Carden, is quite gracious. Do you also have an agent?

Gertler: Yes, Yolanda is terrific - gracious and quiet and yet prolific when it comes to publicity for me and my books. My agent is Stephanie Rostan of Levine Greenberg. The woman who was the agent for the four Dutton novels and the Hyperion nonfiction is Marcy Posner of The Marcy Posner Literary Agency.

Some unsolicited advice for budding writers: Writers need agents! A good agent knows where to offer your unpublished book, and serves as a liaison between author and publisher, and handles all those nasty mundane issues... like contracts.

Johnson: Your characters in The Windmill were strong and well developed. How do you conceive your characters?

Gertler: Oh, thank you. I am often sad when I come to the end of the book because I miss those characters. They come naturally - from what I am going through or witnessing in my life at the time that I am writing the book. It would be false to say they were/are entirely fictional, and not parts of me and those close to me. They become so much a vehicle for what I am feeling at the time I am writing. They are as much the story as the plot and the theme. For example, in The Windmill, I had a strong sense of past and the present, as I often do since I believe so profoundly that the past defines us. Additionally, I was going through a period of self-effacement as well as disillusionment: Carl embodied the part of my husband that felt disengaged to me; Olivia embodied the part of me who felt a compulsion to face my deepest feelings and fears. Olivia's parents had the kind of marriage and relationship I longed for; and both Olivia and Carl's mothers were the type of women/mothers both genders need at times in life when we are not feeling whole - and the kinds of mothers who ultimately can help in making us feel complete, although the task of self-completion rests primarily within ourselves. The characters, you see, tell the story just being who they are.

Johnson: Locations in The Windmill were described so clearly I could see them as I read. Do you research locations for your books on site?

Gertler: Oh, yes - I do research the locations for my books - quite extensively. Sense of place is key when I write. It almost becomes a character as well. I love the water, so there's always a place near the ocean or a lake...One of The Windmill's backdrops is Cape Cod -- my cousin Judy is a longtime Chatham resident and helped enormously with all kinds of local tidbits I might otherwise not have known. The fictional town of Willow is based on South Hadley, Massachusetts - and of course, Manhattan is my hometown. I transport myself to the venues in the books...sometimes, when I'm in the throes of a novel, I actually feel like I am "there" - and wish I were.

Johnson: I really like your writing style - your voice as a writer. Did you study writing on any level, at any time in your life?

Gertler: Thank you very much. I studied journalism at New York University, but I have never formally studied "writing a novel." I love to read, though and that's the greatest tool when writing. And I love to observe and listen (although my daughter says I observe people much too obviously, and that I am given to staring - isn't that dreadful?). Basically, I write the way I would tell someone a story. Truly, writing is like breathing for me.

Johnson: You've had five books published so far. Do you have a favorite among them?

Gertler: My favorite...probably The Windmill at the moment because it is the one closest to my own heart right now. It reflects my life in an eerie way and truly augured what was to come-- with a happy ending though ...The Windmill helped me to unravel, and clarified what I hold dear... Writing a novel is also cathartic for me and always runs parallel somehow to "real life."

Johnson: Do you have any new books in the works? If so, can you give us a hint what to expect?

Gertler: Much to my dismay, I have two synopses going for novels at the moment and about 100 pages written of one of the novels...Alice McDermott (Charming Billy, That Night, among others once said she does this and I never understood how - and still can't!)

One novel is about a twenty-five-year-old marriage that is in transition, and falls apart when the husband runs off with another and younger woman. It's written in the first person from only the wife's point of view, and although the subject sounds like "old hat," it's not (gee, I hope not) written as something trite. It explores many ramifications of marriage, understanding, anger, and forgiveness...

The other novel, is about a woman who tries to shake the notion heaped upon her for her entire adult life that she has to be a perfect individual...aren't so many of us women just such overachievers, trying to juggle being a wife, mother, and professional? I think this Superwoman status is epidemic among us -- until we hit a certain age, the kids grow up, the dogs pass on, and we feel a need to cut loose and go back to being our carefree, less-than-perfect selves.

There's a fifth book coming out in February but it's a nonfiction called To Love, Honor and Betray: The Secret Life of Suburban Wives (Hyperion) co-authored with my friend Adrienne Lopez.

Johnson: In addition to your career as author, you are a newspaper columnist. How did that position come about?

Gertler: In 1996, I was working for a chain of newspapers in Connecticut. We were starting up a weekly in the town of Wilton. I was a lifestyles editor and had an idea for a that would be chatty and intimate and talk about "life" - I called it These Days and it's been running ever since -- but now runs in The Stamford Advocate and The Greenwich Time. It's like writing in a diary of sorts - and hopefully, my readership can relate to it in the sense that it reassures everyone that none of us are unique in what we go through and how we feel...about life "These Days."

Johnson: Our readers have learned about Stephanie Gertler the writer. Do you mind sharing a bit about yourself outside the realm of writing?

Gertler: My passion besides writing is dancing. I take jazz dance three to four times a week. It's so great - I am a diva those few times a week and just love the music, the moves, the teacher and the women in the class. It's my drug! As I said, I love to read, of course. And listening to music -- all and decorating my house. Spending time with my girlfriends - just sitting around and drinking wine and talking and eating sushi! And of course, my family. They're always my first priority and what and who I enjoy the most and cherish above all else.

Johnson: Is there any question you wish I had asked, or any other information you'd like to share with our readers?

Gertler: I can't think of anything you haven't asked, and I enjoyed this interview immensely. It's so nice to know there are still so many readers out there. Thank you for this opportunity to connect with them.

Johnson: Thank you for agreeing to the interview, Stephanie. I appreciate your time. For more information about Stephanie Gertler or to subscribe to her newsletter, check out her website at

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Death Duties
Janet LaPierre
Perseverance Press
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
ISBN: 188028474X $13.95

Janet LaPierre is a prolific mystery writer who has garnered nominations for the Shamus Award, the Anthony, and the Macavity awards as well as critical acclaim from readers and peers. LaPierre lives in Berkeley, and wanders around several counties for research with her trailer, laptop, and two dogs.

Cold cases are often the most challenging, and Patience and Verity Mackellar, Private Investigators, take on a thirty-year old case in Port Silva when Edgar Larson's granddaughter asks them to investigate child molestation charges that Christina Larson feels sure her grandfather was innocent of. Chris has made a promise to her father on his deathbed, and she means to carry through. Unfortunately, Edgar committed suicide a few months after the charges were filed. One fact is plain. There were two anonymous calls to the police making the from a female and one from a male. As Patience and Verity investigate, it becomes clear that someone in town doesn't want the investigation. When a woman Verity questions turns up dead of a gunshot wound in her pickup, the plot thickens and tongues wag:

"'Then this morning I heard on the local news that they found a Port Silva woman dead in her pickup truck somewhere upcoast. After that a friend called to say she heard it was Tessa Finch and she's been raped and beaten to death.'

Patience folded the napkin over the Danish and pushed it away.

'Marilyn, she died from a gunshot wound. The police suspect suicide but they won't know for sure until there's been further investigation and a postmortem.'"

LaPierre is especially good at tying the lush locale into her tale. The coastal area of California boasts everything from farms to woods and abandoned mines, not to mention the local color of the people. Patience and Verity are both single women who have taken in a precocious eight year old named Silvie, and then a dog named Zak. Their connection with two of Port Silva's police officers create a romantic touch, as well as providing enough police procedural to embellish the tale. The combination of characters, plot, and setting gives spooky authenticity to the family conflicts which surround this mystery. LaPierre holds the reader ransom from the first page until all facets of the tale have been laid out like rose petals. This is a great tale, and LaPierre deserves her exalted position as one of the best writers around.

Mount Doomsday
Donald A. Berman
High Country Publishers, LTD
197 New Market Center, #135, Boone, NC 28607
ISBN: 193215857X $12.95

Donald Berman is a doctor with over forty years of experience who has expertise as a military flight surgeon, a senior aviation medical examiner, and holds a commercial pilot license with instrument, multi-engine, seaplane and helicopter ratings. He has published numerous medical articles and texts on medical environmental protection and regulatory compliance and one novel. He has a passion for archaeology, history, the earth sciences, and the interplay between technology and Mother Earth.

Mount Lassen, a gorgeous peak located south of Mt. St. Helens in the Cascades, shows signs of imminent eruption. Richard Burrell, a prominent newsman whose wife, Lee is a professor of geology, is sent over to investigate. Lee accompanies him, and her Geiger counter meter shoots to the active side. Unbeknownst to park rangers, a family is trapped in their overturned camper just off of the road. The feds and a naive president conspire to keep the story under wraps. In the meantime, Dr. Berman regales his fixated readers with historical versions of major volcanos that have erupted throughout history to set a menacing and terrifying tone to an already viscerally anguished situation, which ratchets up when a leak is discovered in a nearby nuclear plant that is no doubt creating the radioactive lava:

"Charlie stepped over to the edge of the pool to look at the rods. He expected to see them all stacked neatly, but to his surprise a number of them were broken and lying in pieces at the bottom of the pool. 'Did you know that some of these rods are broken?' he asked rather casually.

Malone came right over to see what he was talking about. His face turned ashen when he saw the broken rods lying in disarray on the floor of the pool. 'Sorry, fellas, but those rods should not be there. We will have to leave the area immediately.'"

Berman does an excellent job of both setting up a scientific chain of events, aided by historical analysis, and creating the present day human story of Mount Lassen. Not content with the simple tales of volcanic horror, he affixes an environmental shocker to his story. His message is that we will always have volcanic eruptions, and our rush to create nuclear power plants on tectonic plates is sheer insanity and/or stupidity. Berman has a point, of course, and doesn't hesitate to create a plausible scenario which should scare anyone living on the West Coast. MOUNT DOOMSDAY is a riveting tale, and Dr. Berman should keep at it until maybe someone will listen to his wisdom and experience. He'd be mighty handy in an emergency! And he can write...what a guy. His characters are human, intelligent, and flawed. The story is timely.

The Skinny Deal
Russ Hamachek
Book Publishers Network
PO Box 2256, Bothell, WA 98041
ISBN: 0975540769 $17.95 CAN $23.95

Russ Hamachek is a self-styled writer drawing on his experience as an executive in the brewing industry for his third novel, THE SKINNY DEAL. He has also published HOT, STRAIGHT AND TRUE, a novel about PT boats during World War II and RECOMPENSE, a novel about World War II. Hamachek lives in Portland, Oregon and Tucson, Arizona, two of my favorite places.

The time is 1964, and the place is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Vogelsang-Zorn is a family-run brewery with a young and dedicated management team headed by Clark Madsen that is at odds with its major stockholder, Luther Vogelsang. Luther rules the roost with an iron fist, systematically finding fault with every suggestion to improve the long-term prospects for the company. He finally admits he wants to sell, but even then it becomes clear that he only wants money and has no feeling for his own employees:

"'As to this bootstrap scheme concocted by that fellow Weatherly, I am unalterably opposed to it.' He paused, wiped his brow with his foulard, then reached for and coughed into several layers of tissue. 'Excuse-excuse me. The way I see it, Henry, is as told in your first version. They hope to make a lot by putting in very little of their own money. How much, Mr. President?'"

Hamachek takes the reader not only into the inner workings of a medium-sized brewery, but also into the world of leveraged buyouts and corporate inner workings. Interestingly enough, it turns out to be every man (or woman) for themselves with little thought for the actual integrity of the company. He throws in an interesting twist in the midst of all of this brokering which pretty much blows the entire deal to smithereens. In a world of breweries, geisha girls, and art mistresses, sex seems to be part of the corporate formula. This novel is plot driven with enough characterization to make it interesting and a lot of jargon thrown in for good measure.

THE SKINNY DEAL is an original tale set in the Milwaukee area with lots of local color added to give the reader a nice view of the Milwaukee area. The brewery has a lot in common with the Milwaukee culture, and the German influence is unmistakable. Hamachek keeps his tale tongue-in-cheek so that he has no apparent axe to grind, but still gives credence to cutthroats.

Leave Me By Dying
Rosemary Aubert
Bridge Works Publishing Company, Bridgehampton, NY
ISBN: 1882593731 $23.95

Born in Niagara Falls, New York, Rosemary Aubert now resides in Toronto, Canada. She has an easy familiarity with the criminal justice system after having spent many years working in that area. LEAVE ME BY DYING is a prequel to already published Ellis Portal novels. A series of movies may be in the works based on Auberts Ellis Portal series.

Ellis Portal is 23 years old, and the year is 1965. He is in Toronto and is attending Law School. His rich and handsome friend and fellow student Gleason Adams requests that Ellis accompany him to an autopsy, which will become part of a school project they need to work on. Once there, all is not routine. The body is that of a young woman, at first glance, with a bag over her head and a rope around her neck. The autopsy is interrupted, and the body disappears, but not before Gleason fingers a packet from the body which contains two unusual rings. In the meantime, Portal rushes to pull together another project which might gain entry for him as an intern to Magistrate Sheldrake Tuppin. Kavin, his professor, tries to give Portal a feeling for what the law is really like:

"'Magistrate Tuppin is of the 'Dirty Hands' school.' Kavin smiled, waiting for my inevitable comment. Everyone knew Tuppin to be an impeccable man-even, his enemies charged, a bit of a dandy.

'I can't imagine the magistrate having any part of his anatomy less than perfectly sanitary at any time, but I do take your meaning, sir,' I answered. 'If you want to impress Tuppin,' Kavin said, 'come down from your ivory tower, Portal.'"

Rosemary Aubert writes an excellent mystery that works on many levels: as a psychological puzzle; as a 'coming of age' tale for a somewhat stuffy law student who really hasn't had much experience; as an analysis of what havoc bigotry against gay people wreaks; as a family tragedy; and as a tale with as many twists and turns as the reader could possibly hope for. Aubert writes with a heavy hand towards characterization, and her characters don't disappoint. Family is ever-present in Aubert's presentation, as Portal confronts differing viewpoints in his family. Aubert also takes on the issues of Vietnam, the awakening to Selma and Martin Luther King, the plight of gays, and the transformation of Italian immigrants to positions of power.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Home of The Braves
Pamela Ackerson
Sunstar Publishing Group
ISBN# 188747272X $19.95 382 pages

In this outstanding read we meet a lovely woman named Karen. Karen is a doctor, a woman who deals with facts, why then were the dreams she was having changing her life? How could a dream turn into reality? How could the past and future be as one? In this exceptional novel we are taken into the life of Karen, who after purchasing a bed begins to dream, but her dreams have substance, a life of their own, as they take her into the world of the past. In her sleep she meets an Indian named Standing Deer and begins to live in his world, which becomes as much a reality as her own. What mystic powers are hidden in this bed of dreams that call forth the present into the past? And what part does Karen play in the master plan that is weaving its web around her? Fascinating!

The author has woven a story that takes you from present to past, and back again, as Karen struggles to make sense of what is happening. As she becomes more and more involved with Standing Deer and the Indian people of her dream; you wonder where do the answers lie and what will the outcome be? The challenges become immense as Karen falls deeply in love with her Indian Warrior, and he with her. How can a love like this survive? Will Karen leave the world she knows forever to join her true love, or will he chose to stay in hers? These decisions hang heavy upon Karen along with the knowledge of the history of the time she is thrust into. Does she dare to alter that history?

Not only does Ms. Ackerson write an outstanding fiction work, but she incorporates facts of the plight and living conditions of the Native American Indians, and their struggle to survive. Her description of the plains, the countryside and the respect they had for all life was excellent and drew you deeply into the meat of the story. In this work we are given morsels of history, suspense, romance and the supernatural. It is a love story like none other; one that transcends time and space and stirs within us the unquenchable hope for a better tomorrow. If we could travel in the past, could we make things better for the future or would we dare to tamper with history? A top of the notch read! Highly recommended.

Garfield The Easter Bunny?
Jim Davis
Grosset & Dunlap Publishers
New York, NY
ISBN# 0448092972 $12.95 12 pages

In this Easter tale Garfield wonders where the Easter Bunny is and he and Odie go to find him. To their dismay, the Easter Bunny is not doing his job, his feet hurt, his back hurts and he is just plain tired. Garfield decides he will help him out and goes off to deliver Easter candy and eggs along with Odie. He finds out just how hard the job is, but the day is saved when the Easter Bunny uses a little Easter magic. Cute story, great illustrations, with a good lesson for little ones as well. Things are not always as easy as they seem.

From the Teacher's Desk
Jacquie McTaggart
Book Locker Inc.
ISBN# 1591134080 $18.95 244 pages

I have to admit when I first picked up this work I thought, oh ho hum, but I was in for a great surprise when I read what awaited me between its pages. Outstanding. Packed inside this exceptional book is much needed information for parents and teachers alike, from a woman who has had 42 years teaching experience. How can that be interesting? Believe me it is. The author shares with the reader issues such as bullies in school, the decline of good manners, and what can be done about it, what to say to your children when there is a problem with a teacher and what not. The topics are numerous and insightful. Author, Jacquie McTaggart uses wit and humor along with knowledge that only experience can bring. to give us the answers. I truly believe this book would help any parent or teacher as they embark on the journey we call education of our youth, and give some useful insight to questions that have plagued parents and teachers from the beginning of the education process. Very highly recommended, a gem of a read.

Where's Puppy?
George Siada and Donna Prisis, photographers
Publications International LTD.
North Cicero Avenue, Lincolnwood, Illinois
ISBN# 0785312684 $14.95 10 pages

This is one great book, not only is it filled with wonderful photos of puppy with other animals, but each page has a symbol that when pressed speaks what is on the page. For example, if puppy is at the ranch, we have a great picture of puppy with a horse. When we push the button it says, "At the ranch," the same words that we see on the page. I love this book, and it is one of my granddaughters favorites. Recommended highly.

Evening Prayerbook: Sunday Vespers
Patmos Group
Patmos Publishers
ISBN# 0974174807 $24.95 157 pages

Prayer has always been an important tool for anyone of the faith. Prayers sung only increases the depth of one's prayer life, and brings us closer to our Creator. In this work, we have laid out for us an entire year of Sunday Vespers. The work is concise and easy to use, no flipping through pages in confusion; each Sunday Vesper is clearly marked, written on two adjoining pages, so the book can be opened and easily followed by all those joining in prayer. This is a must have for those who wish to join in with others around the world in prayer and unity. A great work that the entire family, friends and fellow prayer companions, can follow along and share in the experience A beautiful book and a great aid to your prayer life. Recommended!

My First Picture Word Book
Robert Schechter
McGraw-Hill Publishers
Columbus Ohio
ISBN# 157768205X $19.95 65 pages

In this outstanding learning book children are given the opportunity to learn new words and see them in pictures they are familiar with. Starring the "Looney Tunes," each page has a scene and at the bottom has pictures of objects that can be found in the scene. The illustrations are brilliant in color and the tiny stories often add a giggle. All in all a great book that will help your child to learn without them even being aware of it. Recommended.

Peter Cottontail Is On His Way
Andrea Posner
Golden Publishing House
New York, NY
ISBN# 0307995062 $3.99 12 pages

In this tale Colonel B. Bunny decided that Peter Cottontail should replace him as Chief Easter Bunny. However, a nasty bunny named Irontail wanted the job as well and challenged Peter to a contest to see who could deliver the most eggs. Peter, in his pride was sure that he would win so he threw a big party the night before and didn't get up in time to deliver his eggs and so he lost. Discouraged he leaves April Valley and finds himself in the Garden of Surprises with a new friend Mr. Sassafrass. This new friend happens to have a yesterday mobile that just might help Peter make everything right. This is such a fun story, with a lesson about pride and ingenuity. Recommended.

The 31-Day Diet of Spiritual Enlightenment
Gail Gupton
Elevated Publishing
Woodstock, CA 30189
ISBN# 0976247704 $12.99 80 pages

In this work, author Gail Gupton takes you on a 31-day walk through what she calls a Spiritual diet of Scriptures. Each day emphasizing a certain Scripture and it's meaning as she interprets it, also giving a page for your personal notes. At the end of the book she has a Glossary with a listing of Christian terms, such as Blood of Jesus and Wine; in this Glossary she gives what she feels their meanings are, interesting.

This work is well written, and I feel the author has a deep love for God and Jesus, but I cannot agree with her interpretations of the Scriptures in her work, so that did become a hindrance to my enjoyment of the book. Although I would lke to say, I feel her commitment to what she believes is truly from her heart. On the back cover it is written, " This may not be a diet book for the die-hard, steadfast Christian follower," and I believe I am in that category. Although I sense a a strong desire to reach out and help others through her writings; I did not feel this book was beneficial to me. However, I am sure to others, it may be just what they are looking.

Shenandoah Whispers And Echoes
Tom Orrell
Xlibris Corporation 1-888-795-4274
ISBN# 1401047084 $14.95 113 pages

There are times in a read when the story is simple, yet profound. This is what I found in the exceptional work "Shenandoah Whispers And Echoes," by Tom Orrell. It begins in the present when a man finds an old handwritten journal giving the account of a man's life in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the end of the 19th century. In this journal we share the life of this man and his family, from his childhood, through the Civil War and its aftermath. I wondered as I read the accounts of the atrocities that were done to these people during the war just how true they were. If they are true to form, it is no wonder that hatred ran deep for their Northern countrymen. We walk with him as he struggles to overcome the tragedies that life brought his way as he grows to manhood, share his joys; watch as he battles injustices, faces incredible loss of numerous loved ones, and desperately tries to make sense of the very existence he is in. This is a work that runs deep and will keep you on an emotional high. A story that will grip your heart as you share one man's journey through tis experience we call, life. Recommended.

The L.P.
David Walks-As-Bear
Publish America
Baltimore MD
ISBN# 1413722342 $19.95 245 pages

I have to admit I groaned when I first saw this book. I wasn't excited to read a military story that I was sure was filled with phrases and experiences I would never understand; however, once I began this book I could hardly put it down. Set in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, we have an infantry squad that is given an assignment they will never forget. They set out to establish a Listening Post in a home on the outskirts of Baghdad and leading them is the newly promoted Sergeant Parker. Beginning their assignment Parker deals with constant fears of making mistakes as his men themselves wonder can he keep them safe. Only time will tell.

Finding two women in the home, the men soon find out they have stumbled upon knowledge of a sinister plan that they have to live to tell. The fate of the entire world lies in the balance and the safety of these woman is paramount. Unfortunately they are forced to hide in a wine cellar as the house fills with the enemy. Life and death decisions must be made and soon they learn the importance of unity and trust in one another if they are to live to see another day.

The author does a superb job in drawing you into the emotions and challenges that the characters are living and feeling. He brings to light the realization of the war that is being fought and the true reasons why. I was almost hypnotized by the raw emotions that were penned in this work and although fiction, it touched a core within me of respect and honor to those who daily put their life on the line for our liberty. This is a read that I can truly recommend from my heart as one you should not miss, male or female, this story will stay in your thoughts forever. A storyline that is so vivid you will think, could this have really happened? Outstanding read.

Curse The Darkness
Philip James Medley
Helm Publishing
3923 Seaward Ave Rockford, Il
ISBN# 0976091909 $16.95 297 pages

I sit here in a great dilemma not knowing the words that could possibly describe this outstanding work that is before me. As this book took its place in my reading pile, it seemed to call to me, something which I dismissed as I try very hard to read the books in the order they are received. As those of you who follow my reviews know; I am a Christian. I was at first a little put off by the title and cover of this work, thinking it was an occult or demonic tale that I might be uncomfortable reading. However, I could not shake the intense desire to see what laid between the pages and soon gave in and began the read. I was totally captivated by the third chapter and finished it in two days saddened that it was over. Curse The Darkness is a story of a mansion, one that was built by evil, for the work of evil. The author takes you from the past to the present and leads you through the lives of those who have encountered the Kensington estate. We meet Robert and John, childhood friends who both have experienced the horror of the workings of this ungodly habitat. Grown now, Robert is the local Preacher and John owns a small grocery. They are introduced to Lawrence Tellcott, a self-made billionaire with great hurts from the past, who has now bought the Kensington mansion and is about to taste the nectar of darkness. We also meet a young boy who has become a prisoner as well of the blackness in the mansion. There is an evil presence in the mansion, one so dark that as you read this work you can feel the intense physical presence of evil and the hatred for human life and dignity that this entity possesses. Chilling!

The story takes you back in time to the birth of a witch who spins her evil web and continues her ungodly ways into the present. Now Robert and John are called upon by God to fight this evil that has shadowed them their entire lives. There can be no losing this battle, no running away, defeat is not an option as death awaits the loser.

Philip James Medley has woven a story that has captured the very essence of evil and good. He has penned a work so exceptional that through his words you are totally one with every action and emotion of the characters within the read. In this book you become aware of the evil that surely is within our world and you rally around those who are of the Light, knowing their victory is for all mankind. His characters are real, not candy coated goody two-shoes, but everyday people like you and me; as he shows it is not their righteousness but their faith in a Creator whose power is above all that will enable them to conquer evil. This is not written in a preachy way, but gently woven into the storyline and whether you are a believer or not you simply must know who the victor will be. His descriptive power of the dark character is chilling and the dialog he allows this evil to bring forth to her victims is filled with truth concerning the deception that man is under. What a read!

Every so often I find a book that is so good I want every person that I know to read it. I have found this pleasure in Curse the Darkness. If this were a movie I would be standing up and cheering at the end, my applause would be louder than all those within the room. Very few works leave such an impression on me as this one has. It is a masterpiece and one that I will not soon forget. Hats off to you Mr. Medley for giving us such an exceptional work. I look forward to more of your writings in the future. Readers, don't miss this one!


I met Diane while reviewing some of the outstanding books that she publishes. I knew that you, the reader, would be very interested to learn about her and Helm Publishing, let's begin.

SPJ: I'm excited to know about your company, would you please give us some background information, when it was started, what the vision is behind it and your mission statement.

HP: Helm Publishing (HP) In 1994, I started a virtual secretarial service called Secretarial Specialties. I added Helm Publishing in 1997 after I met a writer on one of my assignments where I was implementing a cost accounting system for a client. Since that time, the mission of Helm Publishing is to give voice to new and emerging authors who write from the heart stories. The vision is to educate and provide writers/authors with the process of publication through marketing, promotion, and publicizing their works.

SPJ: Thank you Diane; would you please tell us your position in the company, your duties and how long you have been with them?

HP: I own and operate Helm Publishing. I have a website, , and have a virtual staff of 5 with 3 more people working at Helm. We oversee edit, format, cover illustration, and proof acceptance. Then we work with the author to schedule book signings, book events, participation in Association events, radio/TV appearances, put out press releases, compose letters to online and store front gift shops, catalogs, malls, organizations, and other festivals which celebrate books.

SPJ: Wow, sound great, you are one busy lady. I'd like to now get to the meat of the interview, the questions that all authors want me to ask. Let's talk about submissions. Are you open to submissions, and if no when do you think you will be?

HP: We are open to query through mail right now. Our schedule for production is "booked" until July, 2005. If we request your manuscript, we are taking 3-4 months for review.

SPJ: Great readers, get your queries in! :0) Would you please tell us what type of books you publish, are you looking for specific genres, or is the field wide open? Also, what formats are your books published in?

HP: Generally, we like to see stories that are tightly written with well-developed characters, and a strong plot. We are taking queries for self-help, mysteries, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, Chiclit, Young adult, and cookbooks. Books are published in trade paperback, and e-book, with the future open to hard cover, and audiobooks.

SPJ: That sounds great Diane. Tell me please, what do you look for when a submission comes in, what catches your eye?

HP: The way I'm approached is the first indication whether or not I'll read on. A query letter should contain the MS title, page count, genre, a background of your qualifications to write this book, and a brief synopsis (standard page at most.) The query should also contain a comprehensive market plan, your role in that plan, and demographic areas that you plan to target.

SPJ: Are there certain works you will not publish?

HP: Erotica comes to mind. Also, if we feel the manuscript needs alot more work, we may feel obligated to tell the author that he or she needs to find an editor.

SPJ: Would you give one tip that might tilt the scale and help the author's work to be accepted.

HP: Putting a dynomite query package together. Do your homework--

SPJ: Good advice! What makes you see "RED" when a submission is presented to you?

HP: Misspelled words, names, To Whom It May Concern, Sir or Madam, sentences that run on and don't say anything, or too short a descriptive and authors who assume since they've been published before, everyone will love their newest works.

SPJ: How long is the wait before the author will know if their work is accepted and do you take simultaneous submissions?

HP: The wait is usually around 2-4 months, less if I like the work. Then I phone the author right away. Yes, I take simultaneous submissions.

SPJ: May I ask how many books do you publish in a year and is that a set figure?

HP: We published a total of 6 books last year and have already 10 set for publication this year, which will not be the final tally.

SPJ: Where can your books be purchased? Are they stocked in bookstores and do you have a return policy. (This may seem like a strange question but is a real concern for authors with some publishing houses)

HP: Our books can be purchased through B&N, Borders and, Helm Publishing website, Abebooks,, and independent bookstores across the country. Select B&N, Border's and other stores stock our books directly on the shelves. We are adding retail outlet sites daily. Our books are discountable,(a major draw for retail, but profit biting for authors), returnable, and we have a Baker & Taylor, and Ingram's Distribution channel.

SPJ: That sounds good. Are your books priced fairly?

HP: We price our books according to what the market and other similar books are priced at.

SPJ: A few more questions about author submissions please. May authors submit via email?

HP: Email queries are discouraged at this time because the books do not get a fair representation as they do when they are submitted in hard copy. Maybe in 4-5 months.

SPJ: If their work is accepted, do they have to use your cover art or are they allowed to use their own idea?

HP: All authors have the option of using our illustrators, or their own. Quality is one criteria that must be strictly enforced. The book's cover is the first thing a patron sees when eyeing a book for purchase. It has to draw them to the book and enchant them. I have one author using her own illustrator and the cover is absolutely gorgeous. I've had others use their own illustrators and the covers cost sales.

SPJ: Please tell us, how are your authors paid? Do you give advances and do you work with a standard contract?

HP: Authors are paid by two different means. The first is when the author places orders for books and sells those books directly. The second is when the bookstores, retail outlets, etc. place orders through Ingrams, or Helm, and the sales accumulates in a royalty statement bi-annually. The first gives royalty (profit realized immediately), the second gives royalty in increments of cover price minus print charge, minus discount to bookstore, minus shipping and handling, minus return allowances, etc.) We do not give advances simply because it is much too difficult from an accounting to keep track of advances. The author might not ever see a royalty check because he/she is paying back the advance to the House.

SPJ: What type of promoting do you do for your authors and what is required of them?

HP: Promoting for us means calling the B&N's etc, to set up book signings, put out press release info, arrange radio/TV interviews, contacting outside resources, and other networking. Promoting for the author will include utilizing their friends, family, contacts in their profession, researching local and regional events taking place, and some of the same networking opportunites that are mentioned above.

SPJ: If the author's work is accepted, what is the amount of time from acceptance to print?

HP: It depends on the amount of work that has to be expended putting the book together. It could take anywhere from 6 months to a year.

SPJ: Do you have a good working relationship with your authors?

HP: We work together as a family. Many of my authors have no problem promoting me as their publisher to news and referral authors.

SPJ: Tell me do you use POD technology?

HP: Yes, We have some books listed as POD, not all. Those with healthier sales tracks are stocked in B&N inventory. Helm always has a minimum number of books on hand for ordering. Being POD only means that inventory is kept to a minimum on site and that places like B&N can order the books directly from Ingrams with a minimal shipment wait. When their sales reach a certain point, they will be added to regular book stock. But for now, I would hate to have 5000 books in inventory and have a flood or other catastrophe happen.

SPJ: As a publisher, what is the hardest part of your job and why?

HP: The hardest part is keeping up with the daily influx of new book queries and submissions. There is just never enough hours in the day.

SPJ: What part of your job makes you smile?

HP: Reading all the new manuscripts and talking to writers about their books. Providing encouragement to authors and hearing that "I get it."

SPJ: I can imagine how exciting it is to make a dream come true for a hopeful writer. Do you feel it is important for an author to have an agent? A publicist?

HP: If an author feels comfortable that an agent and or publicist would provide instant access to the world of book sales, then by all means. However, I would hope that the author would interview, and probe so that a solid understanding of fees and cost obligations is established for what kinds of services, how long and an accounting of work done.

SPJ:. Let me ask this, where do you see your company in the next 5 years?

HP: I see our company expanding to include events like Author Cruises, Speaking engagements, Theater performances, programming for schools, greeting cards, software gaming opportunities, movie/film/TV contracts, calendars, ministries, foundations, fundraisers, and audiobooks, to name a few. Currrently, we have an interest from film, and made-for-TV film companies along with software gaming companies.

SPJ: Would you tell us something about yourself, are you an author and if so please tell us some about your work(s).

HP: I am an author of several article publications, and have ghost-written several books.

SPJ: If you will, please use this space for any closing remarks you would like to leave with our readers about yourself, your company, or publishing in general.

HP: We are putting together several publishing workshops with B&N in IL for the Spring, and would enjoy email from those wanting to know more about the workshops. We are also interested in starting a magazine called Encompass. I would especially like to hear from book discussion, or writing groups. To discuss further, email me at .

Thank you so much Diane for allowing me to do this interview with you. I greatly appreciate all the wonderful books that I have had the honor to read and review from your publishing company. I know that you are doing a wonderful job with your authors and in giving the reading world some outstanding works. I wish you and your authors the best in the future.


Dianne Helm, CEO Helm Publishing
3923 Seward Ave. Rockford, IL 61108


Richard Oury, Senior Editor


Readers, I want to tell you that I truly enjoyed this work. I didn't think I would since it is basically a military read, however, it grabed my attention and held it

throughout the entire book. I wanted to know more about David and I think that you will too. I perceive he is a very humble, gentle man who

has much to give to the wonderful world of writing. Let's begin.

SPJ: David, first of all, thank you for writing such a wonderful book and for sharing it with the world. Please tell us, how did you come up with your storyline?

David: That one's easy enough, ma'am. "L.P." is an abbreviation for the words: listening post. It's a term used by both the US Army and US Marine Corp. The military does love their acronyms, eh. Usually in an infantry war, there are two distinct lines between the sides whenever an attack isn't going on. The area between these lines is called: "No-Man's-Land". Often, both sides will send small squads of infantry, equipped with a field phone, out into this no man's land. That's a picture of an army TA-838 field phone on the cover. The squad is there to monitor what the other side is doing during this lull in the fighting. It's a spooky place to be for an infantryman because what happened in the book (getting caught behind enemy lines), can easily happen in real warfare. Anyway, I had the idea for this little story about a L.P. squad that gets trapped behind enemy lines and what they actually hear. So, that's the notion for The L.P.

SPJ: I have to say David, you 'notion,' worked quite well. Please tell us how you came up with the characters. Are they fashioned after people you know?

David: Oh, sure. You bet. Especially on the military side, eh. While in college, I spent some time in the Army and these characters are directly related to men that I knew and trained under and with. I've also spent 22 years as a Coast Guard Reserve photojournalist. In that capacity I've worked with all branches of the military. So, I've known a lot of Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Coasties, too. There's a spattering of all of these guys in The L.P. characters. Anyone who's prior service will probably recognize them. The women and the Iraqi Army characters are very similar to folks that I've met or known over the years from that particular neck of the 'world' woods, eh.

SPJ: David, what made you decide to write this book?

David: Boy, I don't know, ma'am. I wanted to recognize the valor of America's fighting forces, especially those that are fighting overseas now. Perhaps you noticed that The L.P. does not support or condemn the Iraqi War. That's because, to those that are fighting it, it's all about the job that they're doing and their fellow warriors. There is no blatant heroism or hoop la going on in the novel. The plot is fast moving and realistic, but, in addition to that, it contains facts about what it's like in modern combat over in the Middle East. Remember, everyone that's in the U.S. military today is a volunteer - from the Reservists and National Guardsman to the Active Duty. Nobody is there that didn't sign up for it. And many of them re-enlist when they get the chance. So, in my opinion, this generation is going to be great, too. I guess I wanted to covey that when I wrote the The L.P.

SPJ: You did a wonderful job in your book showing indeed what combat is like. What, if any reaction did you receive after your decision to write this book?

David: Well, those people who had read The Murmurings seemed disappointed to learn that Ely Stone wasn't going to be in The L.P. His character was central to that story and the readers seemed to really connect with him. But then, I figure that those folks will get enough of him in the next installment. Other people, that just wanted to read a good story, were quite interested in The L.P. I think it's because of the topical subject, and/or, they liked my first novel for the story appeal. The feedback has all been good on the book so far, and both men and women seem to like The L.P. It seems to be that way with 'Murmurings', too, so I'm happy about that.

SPJ: How long did it take you to complete your book?

David: Boy, now you're gonna get me into trouble, ma'am. I've been advised by my writing bosses to be non-committal on this question because folks may not want to read it if they know how long it took to write. But I really can't fathom why. You either like what I write or you don't - it's that simple, I figure. I usually have the whole story inside my fat little head, right in between my pointy little ears. So, putting it down on paper isn't a big deal, eh. In the case of The L.P., it's not a long story. My first novel, The Murmurings, ran 582 pages. It took me 11 months to write that book. Because it's the first in a series of true mysteries that feature world-changing events, it took a little longer. There's a ton of research in one of the Ely Stone novels and digging up old and hard-to-find facts takes awhile. The L.P. on the other hand, is only 245 pages - all told - and it's very current. The research for it was a snap. So, from research to laying it out, I put it to paper in about two-and-a-half months.

SPJ: I love your honesty David, thank you. What was the most difficult part in writing your work?

David: Oh, I reckon just finding the time to write, edit and finish it. Like most writers, I work a full-time job in addition to scribbling. I'm married and still have kids at home. So, fitting it into the schedule is tough sometimes.

SPJ: What was the most enjoyable?

David: Oh, this one's easy, ma'am. Just telling the story.

That's what fat, old Indians do, eh - they tell stories. I'm having a blast writing fiction, and if folks like what I scribble, then heck, that's even better. I just tell a story. I work as a game warden and I used to hunt and fish a lot. Anymore though, I hunt hunters and fish for anglers during all of these seasons. And the only other thing that really trips my wire is flying helicopters. I don't get to do that very much anymore so; writing has become my primary hobby. I keep my hand in journalism by writing a weekly column for a newspaper, but it's a close match as to which is more fun for me - writing fiction or flying. So, there you go. The bottom line is I'm just a storyteller, telling a tale. If folks like it, then that's really neat. If they don't, then that's alright, too. I enjoy the research and weaving the yarn. So, just telling the story is the most enjoyable for me.

SPJ: Tell us, did you find it difficult to find a publisher and if so what did you do to remedy that?

David: No, ma'am. The first one I sent The L.P. to, picked it up, so I really wouldn't know how it would have been received elsewhere. I had to sign a seven year contract with them, but that didn't include film rights. Apparently, a British company has inquired about the book for a film, so we'll see, eh. When I got this notion for The L.P., I was already deep into research and preliminary writing for the 'Murmurings' sequel, a book entitled, Old Money. I saw the whole L.P. story in my head and thought it'd make a neat little book. It wouldn't take long to write and it was easy to research. So, I quickly wrote up a query and shot it off to the first publisher that came up on Google. They accepted - and that was that.

SPJ: "The L.P. would make an outstanding movie; I pray it comes to pass David. What advice would you give to authors who are looking for a publisher?

David: Geeze, ma'am. I'm not sure how to answer this one. Since the first book, I've talked to a lot of authors, both published and unpublished. Some of them are very big authors but most are on the small side. The one thing they all have in common is the game. So, I always say to unpublished writers is that they have to understand the game. Writing, be it fiction or news, is a lot of work. And it doesn't end when your manuscript is accepted. Being an author is not anywhere near as glamorous as most folks think. Everybody still puts their pants on the same way, know what I mean? And if writing is just a job to you, or if that is what it turns into, then you will have problems maintaining - no matter what. I'll grant that just finding a publisher is a major hurdle, but it will absolutely not be the hardest one in the writing game. Just having a book published is only a third of the battle. In addition to a myriad of other things, authors have to promote, too. It's a solid fact of their lives. So, my advice would be to do the submissions, and if you keep getting turned down, consider a vanity press. Get the book out there, follow the routine of signings, reviews and appearances and see if what you've written is marketable. If it is, and you still like "all of the game", then write something else and have at her again.

SPJ: Good advice! If you could speak directly to publishers, what would you tell them?

David: Boy. I'd tell them what they already know - and that's that they're missing some really good and profitable writers in their slush piles. They know this and yet, they don't seem to be finding a solution.

I know that publishing houses are in business to make money. They know it, too. So, what I don't understand is why they aren't more creative in their money-making routine, eh. I mean, they buy a new computer when theirs is obsolete, so why don't they change methods when theirs is archaic? As an example, consider this one, ma'am. There are literally thousands of people out there that would read MSs from a publisher's slush pile for free or almost free, anyhow. These would be people that the publishers could know and trust. If they got a good heads-up on a book from one of them, then they should send that manuscript to another of their reading group and, etc, etc. If the reports kept coming back positive, then they would know that they had something, eh. This would probably require them hiring one person for their house just to predominantly manage this routine. And while that may be expensive, so is the new computer. Yet, most publishers stay with the same old archaic ritual. Now that said, fairness dictates that there's always the other side of the coin, too. I really have no idea how their game goes and I haven't walked a mile in their shoes. I'd have to guess that they've already pondered similar thoughts, eh. But as it stands and if asked, I'd tell them to be more innovative, especially in regard to their slush piles.

SPJ: I hope publishers read your words David, and maybe take heed. Do you have an agent? A publicist? How important do you think this is to a writer?

David: Yes, ma'am. I'm working with an agent on the Ely Stone Mystery Series now. And I do indeed have a publicist. When The Murmurings came out, I'd just planned a few book signings and that was about all. Then the reviews hit and they were all pretty good. Suddenly, I had invites to speak and appear all over the place, from keynote speaker at an international symposium to being on TV/radio programs and the like. And everyone wanted biography stuff, book synopsis, pictures all kinds of things. I wasn't ready for all of that. I work a full-time job and have a family with all of those responsibilities, too. And the publicity side didn't go away, either. I'd just catch up on stuff then I'd have another ten requests. So, I finally hooked-up with a publicist and boy, was she ever a lifesaver. If you're working a job and have a family and intend to write novels professionally, I think you really need a publicist. And even if you're set financially, unless you know the publicity and PR game, you probably still need a publicist. Before I began writing fiction, I had a pretty extensive journalism background. So, I know what the game is there - the ins and outs, so to speak. But I knew nothing about the fiction writing game. Similarly, unless you have a vast background in this area, I think you need an agent, as well. They know what's-what and just like anywhere else in life, knowing that is paramount.

SPJ: How important do you think it is to have reviews of your work and how did you go about accomplishing this?

David: Oh, very important. A lot more so than I would've ever thought. I personally judge my own interest in a book by what is said in the synopsis and how it reads in a general perusal. So, I was surprised to learn that some readers will buy a book based solely on the reviews alone. One out of four book signings that I've done, I've had at least one person ask: "Are there any reviews on this book?" They then indicate that they seldom buy a book until they've read the reviews. So, there's that. Reviews are pretty important for almost all of the book's promotion, too, since most of the media rely on previous reviews for background in their stories. So, there you go. In my situation, my publicist usually gives me a smaller list of potential reviewers to contact and she does the bulk of the connecting. But like I said, as the writer, I still have my part to do in the promotion process, and heck, I enjoy it. Being the author doesn't alleviate your publicity chore - it actually enhances it.

SPJ: How much promoting do you do? Any tips for other authors?

David: Well, in conjunction with my publicist, I guess a fair amount. I've only been at fiction writing for a couple of years and in that amount of time, the promotion process has grown considerably, exponentially so, as the books have become better-known. As an example, consider this. One of the first critique reviews that I received on The Murmurings said that as a writer, I exhibit shades of Tony Hillerman, Clive Cussler and Steve Hamiliton. I recognized the first two guys but had never heard of Steve Hamiliton. So, I researched and contacted him, he read my book, I read his and we became friends. Last September, I was looking at his schedule and saw that he was going to be at Bouchercon and there was a web address for it. I'd never heard of Bouchercon, so, I sent an email to inquire about it. Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by them and invited to be a panelist at the event - Bouchercon 2004. This is the World International Mystery Writers Convention. I accepted and had a great time meeting all of these authors from all over the States and the world. And obviously, my stuff was being promoted in the process, eh. In February, I'll be appearing at the "Love Is Murder" writer's conference in Chicago and at "Left Coast Crime" in El Paso. So, promotion is very important, in my opinion. And author appearances are part and parcel of that. Libraries are one of the very best places for an author to visit. They are filled with reading groups that just love to find new authors to read and hear about. Libraries are some of my favorite places to appear. They get to learn about you and you in turn, get to learn what readers like and dislike, etc. I highly recommend them.

SPJ: Thank you David, great advice and some new thoughts as well to consider. Do you belong to a writer's group?

David: No, ma'am. Although I've spoken to several, I've never belonged to one.

SPJ: What has writing this work done for you and what do you hope it will do for your readers? What do you hope they will take away with them after reading your work?

David: Well, on a personal level, I got to tell the story, eh, and that was big-time fun for me. But as to other stuff, I hope that folks take away a different perspective on how those in the Middle East view the United States and Americans. The notion I put forth in The L.P. is much different than that espoused by the nightly TV talking heads, those in our government and the newspapers, eh. The media mantra always seems to be that Middle Easterners hate Americans because they despise us our liberty. The book makes a different argument stating that Middle Easterners dislike us not because we have liberty, but rather, because of what we are doing with that liberty, eh. I hope that readers take away that concept.

SPJ:That is certainly very interesting, thank you. How supportive was your family in your writing experience and how important do you think this is to a writer?

David: My family is very supportive, and it's my domestic boss that does all of the final editing for my books. In fact, if not for her, I wouldn't be writing fiction. A retired librarian, she has always pushed me to write. So good, bad or in between, any of the stuff I scribble is directly related to her involvement and encouragement. I have five kids and only the last two girls are left at home. All five of them are somehow into the arts and are very supportive. Like I said, writing is a lot of work, and it takes time and effort away from other things, eh. So I get all of the propping up I need from them. If you're serious about writing, you have to have this support.

SPJ: Do you have any other works in progress? If so in what genre and when will they be released?

David: Yes, ma'am. Old Money is the next Ely Stone Mystery and it's due out this year. I'm working with an agent on The Murmurings which at present is being re-edited. I've also done some preliminary research for a sequel to The L.P. And I'm playing with a notion for a series of Young Adult books. So, we'll see what happens, eh.

SPJ: That's great! I look forward to your books David. Now, tell us this; how many hours a day do you write?

David: Boy that depends. Since I already have the story in my head, I approach it like I've always approached a news story. If I know my deadline and have gathered my research, then I'll just plug away at it here and there with no specific amount of time, day or writing period allocated. On the other hand, if I'm really into the story, then I'll lay into it every chance I get - that's just the way it works for me.

SPJ: Is there a special place that you write, one that inspires you? Has there been a special person who inspired you to write?

David: As to a special place, I really love writing in Hawaii. I feel closer to God there than anyplace I've ever been. But anywhere that I can look up and outside to see woods, nature and the Great Good Spirit's design works for me, ma'am. I do get involved in the storyline. I put on some classic rock oldies or Indian flute music and lock myself away from this world and get into that of the story's. Serenity is important, I reckon. In addition, I'd have to say it's The Great Good Spirit's people and creations that have motivated me to write throughout my life, eh. In regard to a special person's inspiration well, that would be my wife. I've known some excellent folks and seen some fantastic miracles in my time thus far and she embodies both of these things for me. I'm not anywhere near as prolific as a guy like Steven King, but I do like to write. As a kid, I often won writing contests in school. And some 28 years ago, when we were first married, I'd get a story idea in my head and stay up all night writing it long hand. Once I'd told the story, I was done. My wife would find it in the trash the next morning, un-wad it and straighten it out, saying, "This is good. We're going to do something with this." Well, we never did. But she's harped on me all of these years until I finally wrote a novel. I doubt you could get any more inspiration than that, eh.

SPJ: God bless your wife for encouraging you and being there for you. She sounds like a wonderful woman. Has having a book published changed your life in anyway and if so please share that with us.

David: Well, I've gotten busier. When my hobby was just hunting and fishing, I spent a lot less time at it than this, know what I mean? I have made a couple of bucks, which to me, equates to eating the deer I used to hunt, eh. So, overall, other than a feeling of accomplishment and a good feeling about folks liking what I write, I doubt that it's changed my life much.

SPJ: Where do you hope your writing career will be in 3 years and what are you doing to achieve that goal.

David: Oh, shoot, I don't know, ma'am. I'd be happy if I could write full-time. I really like it, and everything that goes along with it. If I could make a moderate living writing, then I'd do it and be happy, eh. But, I'm a realist and don't know if that will ever come to pass. Maybe, and maybe not, too. Time will tell, I reckon. So, for now, if I can just keep writing and keep having folks enjoy the read, then I'll be satisfied. If either of those things doesn't come to pass, then three years or thirty - it wouldn't matter much, eh.

SPJ: A question a little off the beaten track, do you read and if so what genre is your favorite?

David: Oh yeah, I read a lot. I like mysteries, thrillers and good war stories. But I'll read just about anything if it strikes my fancy, eh.

SPJ: Would you tell us a little about yourself, outside of being a published author?

David: Not too much to tell, ma'am. I'm a Shawnee Indian and live that daily. I'm married to a great girl and we're coming up on that 30 year mark. We have five healthy and happy kids and I'm a licensed private investigator and security agent, specializing in conservation and game warden work. I've been in either law enforcement, military or journalism work for most of my life. I've been to a lot of places and have seen, or been privy to, a lot in my life - more so, I've learned, than the average person. I love flying, old muscle cars and traveling and I especially love the Big Island of Hawaii. Other than the writing - that's about all there is to me, eh.

SPJ: Please use this space for anything you would like to share with our readers concerning publishing, writing or your publishing experience in general.

David: Heck ma'am, I've already used more than the space allocated to me for this interview. Thank you for your time and your questions.

I want to thank David for writing such an outstanding book and also for taking the time to do this interview with me. As you can see, he certainly is one talented man and it is refreshing to sense his humbleness in all of this. I wish him much success in the future and encourage you to seek out his books.

You will enjoy every minute of the read. Thank you David-Walks-As-Bear! God bless you.


The Wildland Press, Publish America, Authorhouse - all available on the website.
David Walks-As-Bear:

Owners of Brainstorm Publications and authors of The Mad Myth Mystery series.

I have had the honor to read and review the two works that are the beginning of this outstanding series. Perhaps they are written for those younger than I, but that did not take away from my reading pleasure. I wanted to know more about this gifted couple and what they are planning for the future as I am sure whatever it is will be a plus for the reading world. Please let's begin,

SPJ: Thank you for doing this interview with me. Before we learn more about you and your writings, please tell us about Brainstorm Publications, how it began, what your position is and the vision behind it.

ROBYN & TONY: Brainstorm Publications began as just that - a brainstorm! The catalyst however, was the tragedy of 911. Without getting too morbid, after about three days of watching the horror on the news, we came to the realization that 5,000 people never got to finish their dream, write their book, paint their masterpiece, etc. We had been mulling over the idea of writing a novel forever, but never quite found the time. After September 11th, we found the time, and Brainstorm Publications and the Mad Myth Mystery series was born.

SPJ: Are you open to other authors for possible publication?

ROBYN & TONY: Right now Brainstorm is only publishing "The Mad Myth Mystery" series. As the business grows, we may entertain publishing titles from other authors.

SPJ: Thank you. I have read and reviewed the first two books in your Mad Myth Mysery series and I must say they were excellent.

ROBYN & TONY: Thank you!

SPJ: Would you please give us a little background as to what gave you the idea to write this series and how you came up with the storyline.

ROBYN & TONY: Robyn has always been fascinated by mythology, and decided that it would be virtually impossible to exhaust the seemingly endless supply of heroes, villains, monsters, and other wonderful characters depicted in the Greek, Roman and Norse myths. The most alluring reason for drawing on the myths was that the characters were multi-dimensional, both good and bad. The heroes were always flawed, and the villains always had motive and backstory to explain their horrible misdeeds. Using the myths as the framework for the stories, we fashioned a modern tale using everyday main characters that children and young adults could relate to. To ensure we were hitting our target market, we "tested" the stories on our own children to see if we were capturing their interest. When our son begged us to stay up late one night so he could read the next chapter of The Hero Perseus (which we hadn't yet written!), we knew we were on the right track.

SPJ: It seems you hooked into a great storyline and you certainly have done a wonderful job bringing all the characters from the myths into the read. I can only imagine what the future holds in your books What, if any reaction did you receive after your decision to write this book(s)?

ROBYN & TONY: We never told anyone we were writing a book until it was actually published. We have been involved in many projects that others would think are crazy, such as risky development deals and independent movies, and we did not want to have to explain ourselves until the book was a reality. Once the first book, "The Hero Perseus" was complete, most people were impressed that we found the time and took the risk to do it.

SPJ: How long did it take you to complete your book(s)?

ROBYN & TONY: "The Hero Perseus" took one full year to write. "Atlas' Revenge" took about two years because it is a more complicated story and we had to spend enormous amounts of time marketing and promoting "Hero" while we were writing "Atlas".

SPJ: What was the most difficult part in writing your work(s)?

ROBYN & TONY: Editing is clearly the worst part. By the time you and your editor have gone through the text about twenty times, you do not want to do the twenty first edit! SPJ: What was the most enjoyable?

ROBYN & TONY: We really enjoyed collaborating on the story. We do not sit down at the computer and write together or we would drive each other crazy, but we do collaborate on everything, which leads to some awfully interesting family discussions. (Can you imagine our dinner table conversation - it's definitely different than most families!)

SPJ: That sounds like fun; may I come to dinner? You have started your own publishing company, that is wonderful. May I ask, did you do this out of frustration of the way publishers overlook unknown or was it a dream you had to do?

ROBYN & TONY: When we first completed the manuscript for "The Hero Perseus", we were not certain what to do next. We originally sent the manuscript out to numerous agents and publishers, understanding from everything we read and researched that the rejection rate for unknown authors was enormous. After being rejected by the large publishing houses, we began to research the "publishing business" and realized that with our education in accounting and law, our experience (and certain contacts) in independent films, and our business savvy, we would be better off creating our own small publishing company. Starting Brainstorm Publications has been a decision we will never regret because we did not have to give away large percentages of profits to an agent or publisher. Several years later, the "Mad Myth Mystery" series is just starting to enjoy some success, and we only expect that to continue and grow.

SPJ: What advice would you give to authors who are looking for a publisher?

ROBYN & TONY: Persevere, and do not give up. If you are passionate about your work, which is an absolute requirement, then re-focus your marketing efforts if you get rejected - find another publisher that specializes in your genre, seek out an agent, or self-publish after you have researched what to do.

SPJ: If you could speak directly to publishers, what would you tell them?

ROBYN & TONY: Publishers ought to go back and read "Atlas' Shrugged", because many of the large publishing houses are caught up in mediocrity, publishing the same "safe" novels they published twenty years ago. Greatness is out there, and it is being submitted for review every day by unknown authors, but I suspect that without the proper agent attached to a manuscript, the submissions are thrown in the trash - that is unfortunate.

SPJ: Do you have an agent? A publicist? How important do you think this is to a writer?

ROBYN & TONY: We do not have an agent for U.S. sales, but we do have an agent for foreign rights sales because that is an area we cannot take care of ourselves. We recently hired a publicist, Phenix & Phenix, to help promote a "National presence" for the "Mad Myth Mystery" series, and we decided to work with a distributor, Biblio (a sister company to NBN Books), because Biblio specializes in books sales for independent publishers. We are making some headway, but it is tough for a small press to compete for review space and publicity spots. It's hard to evaluate whether a distributor or publicist's efforts lead to direct sales, but on a simple level, our publicist was responsible for sending review copies of "The Hero Perseus" and "Atlas' Revenge" to The Midwest Book Review, which led to great reviews (thanks!) and ultimately, this interview!

SPJ: How important do you think it is to have reviews of your work and how did you go about accomplishing this?

ROBYN & TONY: As mentioned above, many of our reviews have come through the efforts of our publicist, and the reviews are invaluable. Reviews sell books at every level. Distributors rely on great reviews to sell to wholesalers, and consumers rely on great reviews for their purchases. Outside of our publicist's efforts, Tony and I have received recognition from other sources that we have been able to use to boost sales. For example, right after "The Hero Perseus" was published, it was accepted to the core reading list for Broward County Public Middle Schools and received a Top Three IPPY (Independent Publisher's Book Award) Finalist Award for Best Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. That letter and the award became the springboard for thousands of sales to other school districts throughout the Nation.

SPJ: How much promoting do you do? Any tips for other authors?

ROBYN & TONY: We promote constantly, and no matter how busy we get, at least one submission package goes out every day. We also visit over a dozen schools each year, talking with students, and promoting the series. My advice for other authors is to make phone calls and inquire about submissions. The very worst thing that can happen is that you're told "no", and more often than not, you're told "yes".

SPJ: Do you belong to a writer's group?

ROBYN & TONY: No. Our time constraints are enormous, and we just do not have the time.

SPJ: What has writing this work done for you and what do you hope it will do for your readers? What do you hope they will take away with them after reading your work?

ROBYN & TONY: We have accomplished something we always wanted to do, and that is reward enough for our time and efforts. That is not to say we won't continue to push the "Mad Myth Mystery" series to national success, but sometimes we have to look at the everyday small successes and feel satisfied. For example, this past week we received two fabulous letters from some teenagers who had just finished reading "The Hero Perseus". Their heartfelt praise was a great boost and helps to carry us through the tough times. We ultimately hope that all of our readers simply enjoy the "Mad Myth Mystery" series because that is the sole purpose of a great fiction novel. (Of course, most of the readers will not even realize that they have actually learned something about the Greek myths because they are so caught up in the story!)

SPJ: How supportive was your family in your writing experience and how important do you think this is to a writer? ROBYN & TONY: Our children were (and still are) enormously supportive and they actually became our sounding board for the original drafts of The Hero Perseus. We read them chapters as they were written to gauge their reaction. This also helped ensure that the story was clear and understandable to a young reader. Our families also have been a huge source of support and encouragement. It would be virtually impossible to put in the hours we do without the support and understanding of our families.

SPJ: Do you have any other works in progress? If so in what genre and when will they be released?

ROBYN & TONY: As mentioned, currently our time is consumed by Books 3-5 of the "Mad Myth Mystery" series. At times, however, when we need a mental break from the series, we work on other projects. (Robyn occasionally submits short stories for competitions offered through publications such as "Writer's Digest", and Tony still dabbles in script writing and has a few projects in the works).

SPJ: How many hours a day do you write?

ROBYN & TONY: Our writing time varies from day-to-day, and is generally limited by how busy we are in our development business, and how busy our children are with their activities. Generally, we both try to find about fifteen hours each week to write. (We sleep very little!)

SPJ: Is there a special place that you write, one that inspires you? Has there been a special person who inspired you to write?

ROBYN & TONY: (Robyn) I travel everywhere with my laptop, and have become extremely adept at tuning out the world if I need to concentrate. Many times I write for an hour or two while waiting for my children to finish basketball practice! This may not be the most ideal situation for writing, but it works for me, although I usually have to go back and edit when I do find quieter time. I don't think I can isolate one particular person who has inspired me to write, but I do read a great deal, and I think my inspiration comes from many sources.

(Tony) I generally write late at night in our home office after everyone has gone to bed because that is the only time my phone stops ringing!

SPJ: Has having a book published changed your life in anyway and if so please share that with us.

ROBYN & TONY: Absolutely. We feel an enormous sense of accomplishment that we actually have two books that now grace the shelves of our local (and national) bookstores. Our day-to-day now involves a huge effort toward marketing and promotion, and our evenings (after our children go to bed) are consumed with writing Book 3 of the "Mad Myth Mystery" series. We are quite busy.

SPJ: Where do you hope your writing career will be in 3 years and what are you doing to achieve that goal.

ROBYN & TONY: Three years from now, at a minimum, we will have completed and published Books 3 and 4 of the "Mad Myth Mystery" series, and be well on our way toward completing Book 5. Book 3 (currently untitled!) is scheduled to be released in Spring 2006, and the research and outlines for Books 4 and 5 are complete (so that each "Mad Myth Mystery" will foreshadow the next). As for achieving that goal, we can only continue to write and publish if the "Mad Myth Mystery" series is successful, so in that regard, we are constantly re-evaluating and updating our marketing and promotion efforts. Brainstorm Publications has seen a consistent rise in sales from year to year, so we know that our efforts are paying off.

SPJ: A question a little off the beaten track, do you read and if so what genre is your favorite?

ROBYN & TONY: (Robyn) My favorite author is Ayn Rand, and my favorite novel is "Atlas Shrugged". Tony gave me a copy of "Atlas Shrugged" when we were dating in college at University of Florida (go Gators!), and I could not put the book down once I started reading. We raised some of the main themes of "Atlas Shrugged" in our second novel "Atlas' Revenge", because we believe our young adult readers ought to embrace the notion of excellence early on.

Both Tony and I are also hooked on Dan Brown and loved "The DaVinci Code" and "Angels & Demons".

SPJ: Would you tell us a little about yourself, outside of being a published author?

ROBYN & TONY: We both graduated from University of Florida School of Accounting and School of Law.

(Tony) A die-hard entrepreneur, I went right into business and started a successful real-estate development company.

(Robyn) I practiced law for a few years with a large firm, decided it wasn't for me, and ultimately joined Tony in our business, taking care of daily legal matters. Being in business for ourselves gives us flexibility to be available for our children, and to work on the "Mad Myth Mystery" series.

ROBYN & TONY: In 1995, we co-wrote and produced an independent feature film titled "Catherine's Grove". A few years later we produced another independent film titled "Chapter Zero", written and directed by Aaron Mendelsohn (author of Disney's "Air Bud"). We later decided to switch our writing focus into novels, rather than film, and in 2001, began writing the "Mad Myth Mystery" series.

SPJ: Please use this space for anything you would like to share with our readers concerning publishing, writing or your publishing experience in general.

ROBYN & TONY: We are of the mindset that if we set out to do something, it will be done. The word "no" is not part of our vocabulary. However, in order to be part of this business as a writer or publisher, you have to be able to deal with rejection and constantly move forward with a different angle, because the competition is fierce. Nonetheless, if you love to write, do not let the competition scare you away. The rewards outweigh the daily struggle.

SPJ: Thank you so much Robyn and Tony for allowing me to do this interview with you. Wow! It was great. I look forward to reading more of your work in the future and I pray for you to have exciting writing years ahead of you, sharing your wonderful tales with us all.


Brainstorm Publications, Inc.
24 NE 24th Avenue Pompano Beach, FL 33062
(954) 941-3329 (PH)
(954) 943-7708 (FAX)

Contact: Robyn or Tony DiTocco

The Hero Perseus
ISBN (Paper) 0972342915
ISBN (Cloth) 0972342907

Atlas' Revenge
ISBN (Paper) 0972342931
ISBN (Cloth) 0972342923

INTERVIEW WITH PHILIP MEDLEY - Author of "Curse The Darkness"

SPJ: I have read and reviewed countless books on more subjects than I can remember; but there are times when a work is so outstanding, so well written and with a storyline so unforgettable that you know it simply must be shared. This is how I feel about Mr. Medley's work, "Curse The Darkness." I cannot recommend this book strongly enough and I knew I had to know a little bit about the man behind the story. With such an amazing book, he must certainly be an amazing person. Let's begin.

SPJ: Philip, as a Christian I absolutely loved this work. However, I know that even those who have no religion within them would not be able to put this book down.Your subject matter is so different from any that I have read before, how did you come up with it? And what made you decide to write this book?

PHILIP: First I would like to thank you for taking the time to read and review my book. I was very pleased to read your review and overwhelmed by your praise of my work. Thank you. It was my daughter Emily's first slumber party. She was in the fourth grade and invited five of her friends to spend the night. The hour approached when all of their games, giggling and chitchat settled down. They were all lying on the living room floor and tucked into their sleeping bags. My wife was going to sleep on the couch in case one of them woke and needed something. I was about to head up to bed when one of them asked, "Will you tell us a scary story?" This question resonated through our small gathering and without delay I had six little girls begging me to scare them. I had a thousand stories to tell-real and imagined-but for the life of me could not think of one. So I thought for a moment and came up with one off the cuff. The only problem was that I wasn't thinking of a story that would thrill the hearts and minds of nine and ten year old girls. I had instead created a story that would leave me-a thirty-five year old man-in a quivering heap if it were ever to happen to me. I made it half way through the tail-and had become quite engrossed in the telling of it-when I became nervously aware of the angelic whimpers rising up from the floor begging me to stop followed by one frantic plea towards heaven, "Oh God please make him stop." Realizing that I had just made it impossible for any of them to rest peacefully and seeing my poor wife's expression of I can't believe you just did that, not to mention the phone calls after the children returned home and their parents demanding to know why I had psychologically damaged their child, I quickly settled them down and amended the story, filling it with happy sesame street like characters throwing a wonderful party for a friend. They were all delighted and relieved, save one whose dissatisfaction was thrown at me with strong disapproval, "That wasn't scary!" The next day at work, I thought more about the story and thought it might make a good book. By the end of the day I had developed most of the characters and story line. I played around with it for a couple of years, working on it now and then. However, I really didn't take it that seriously until one summer my wife and me were sitting in our back porch talking. I told her that I believed Curse The Darkness would make a good book and that I could write it. She said, "Get busy writing" and that was all I needed. I started writing that very day.

SPJ: I must say that is quite a story of "Curse The Darkness," beginning. Are the characters fashioned in anyway after people you know, or have known?Of course I certainly hope the 'dark' characters are not, but I have learned to not be surprised what or who people have encountered during their lives journey.

PHILIP: The personalities of some of the characters reflect friends and relatives, while others are made up. In my profession I very often encounter the results of evil; the evil one human being inflicts on another. Evil has no redemptive characteristics. It shows no kindness or compassion. It is certainly without mercy and seeks only to achieve it own selfish ends. It lays and waits for young and old-it does not discriminate. It only wants to feed its insatiable hunger for broken and destroyed lives. I tried to capture this when I wrote the dark characters in the book.

SPJ: Philip, you definitely captured the true essence of the darkness.Tell me, have your characters become a part of your life? This may seem like a strange question, however other authors have told me during the writing of their work they think of their characters all the time. Was this true in your case?

PHILIP: Yes, Absolutely. But more than this, it is their world and the effect it has on them. You think about their lives outside of the story, their friends, their children, their brothers and sisters, their parents. You think about things that have absolutely nothing to do with the story. You feel what they feel, hear what they hear, see what they see. You can smell the moss and mildew growing in the cracks between the stones of a nearly 300-year-old wall. You can count the number of bushes growing in front of the house that the wall surrounds. You find yourself living in their world and you carry it around with you. Some people call this the zone. The psychological and scientific term for it is Flow, but around my house we called it Lawrence land-so named for one of the main characters in the book. When you are writing you become so lost in their world you feel you are actually there. I'm not talking about a mystical or out of body experience. I've heard a few writers say that some kind of muse or some other entity or ghost from the past came and took over the writing while they had an out of body experience. No. What I'm talking about is pure imagination and attempting to create a work of fiction from that.

SPJ:I understand exactly what you are saying. Tell me, did you find any resistance (natural or supernatural) trying to keep you from finishing this book?

PHILIP: None other than my own doubts. Once I was past that I was driven, but in a good way.

SPJ: I'm glad to hear that. What, if any reaction did you receive after your decision to write this book?

PHILIP: Only positive ones. I've been blessed with very supportive friends and family.

SPJ: How long did it take you to complete?

PHILIP: About one year.

SPJ: What was the most difficult part in writing your work? And what did you find as the most enjoyable?

PHILIP: The most difficult part was the grammar and spell checking. What a laborious and time sucking task. I had my wife and a friend go over it after I went over it several times and the manuscript was still full of red ink. When your writing you're not aware of all the mistakes, you're just creating and not thinking about every comma and quotation mark. Researching some of the dates and places was fun. For instance I made mention of a milkman making home deliveries back on the 1940s. I wasn't sure if there were milkmen and milk trucks back then so I had to research it to make sure. That's a small example, but it was things like that and there were a few of them. The most enjoyable part was the actual writing, and that would be for the reason I've already mentioned. The zone is a wonderful place to be. It's a natural high.

SPJ: Tell us, did you find it difficult to find a publisher and if so what did you do to remedy that? How long did it take to publish your work?

PHILIP: Once I finished the book, I sat on it for about a year. I researched publisher, literary agencies, and submission requirements. I was getting ready to start submitting my queries to several agencies when my wife told me that she saw the senior editor of Helm Publishing on TV talking about one of Helm's new releases. My wife said that Helm Publishing was located in our city so I thought that before I tried anyone else I would submit to Helm first. I think it was about three or four weeks later Dianne Helm contacted me by phone and said that they were interested in seeing my manuscript. Along with my query, I sent a copy of the cover I illustrated for my book and she also asked me if I would be interested in illustrating book covers for them. Of course I said, "Yes." About a week or two later Dianne called me back, said that she really enjoyed the book, and asked if I would be interested in being published by them. Of course I said "yes." That was in July of 2004 and I was officially published in September of 2004.

SPJ: Wonderful, how exciting for you. What advice would you give to authors who are looking for a publisher?

PHILIP: Research: From everything I have read on the subject, it is not easy to get published. Getting published on my first try, all I can say is that I was blessed. But I do know that people need to beware. There are a lot of scams out there and a lot of people offering empty services and promises for those who are willing to pay their hard earned money for a shot at success. You can find a lot of legitimate sources on the net but be a skeptic and read carefully. Go to your local library. You can find everything you need to know there. Especially if you have a good librarian

SPJ: Do you have an agent? A publicist?

PHILIP: No. Like I said, Helm is the only company I queried, so after being chosen by them I didn't see the need. I'm sure there may come a time when I will have to rethink this but not right now.

SPJ: How much promoting do you do? Any tips for other authors?

PHILIP: Right now I'm doing book signings and some interviews. Listen to your publisher. They are in the business of selling books and thinking of new and old ways of doing so. Make yourself available when they have a promotion in mind.

SPJ: Do you belong to a writer's group?

PHILIP: No. Before all of this I didn't even know that there was such a thing. I just like to write. I will ask for the opinions of anyone willing to give one though, as long as it's constructive. I have found honest opinions very valuable. I like it when some one tells me they don't like what I have written, as long as they can tell me why. It opens me up to thinking about other approaches to the material. I usually know I have missed the mark before I ask anyway. If I don't agree with their critique I will argue for the work and state my case. If it turns out that they are right then it only means that the work is improved.

SPJ: What has writing this work done for you and what do you hope it will do for your readers? What do you hope they will take away with them after reading your work? Pure reading enjoyment or some thought provoking material?

PHILIP: Enjoyment. That's what it has done for, or rather, given me. I feel blessed to be able to tell a good story and to have others listen. Enjoyment is what I hope for the reader. I hope it makes the reader laugh and cry; I hope it scares the hell out of them, but only in a good way. Some of my readers found it hard to get past the cover. I admit, the cover is creepy and is only a dim reflection of what lies beyond it, but once inside the pages they've found that there is so much more to the book than just creepy. Every reader I've had the opportunity to talk to has told me that it gave him or her the creeps. Some have told me they had a hard time going to bed alone after reading it. But with out exception every one of them has told me that it was a truly moving story. If by chance the readers thoughts are provoked beyond the story and it somehow adds something to their life, then that's just more icing on the cake.

SPJ: Philip, I felt the cover was perfect for your book. Of course I love everything about this work. How supportive were your family and friends in your writing experience and how important do you think this is to a writer?

PHILIP: It is vital. I cannot say enough about the support I've received. God has blessed me with a wonderful wife who has been with me every step of the way on this. My children as well have been remarkable.They love to hear my stories and are always ready to hear a new one. They are the ones I get to try them out on. My friends (two of them in particular) never stopped encouraging me. My brother, my sisters and my parents, all of them supported me in this, and I cannot imagine what it would have been like if they had not.

SPJ: It is said, that writers are always thinking of their next work; mulling over new characters or new experiences to mold into a story. With that said, do you have any other works in progress? If so in what genre and when will they be released? Will there be a sequel to "Curse The Darkness?"

PHILIP: I'm currently writing my next novel, and working on two more on the side. My next one is science fiction and I'm already getting some really good feed back about it. I've also discussed and read parts of it to my publisher over the phone and she's excited. She has asked me a few times when I think I'll have it done. I tell her maybe six months, maybe a year. I won't be writing a sequel to Curse The Darkness, but I have been thinking for some time about maybe writing a prequel.

SPJ: How many hours a day do you write?

PHILIP: As many as I can fit in between my job and my family. Some days I will sit and write only a few paragraphs while I go into my head and spend hours exploring the world I'm trying to create. That probably sounds strange, but it's fun just the same.

SPJ: Is there a special place that you write, one that inspires you? Has there been a special person who inspired you to write?

PHILIP: I write in my office with my feet up and my keyboard in my lap. I've been composing instrumental music since I was a kid, so music is a real inspiring force when I write. I love music that is emotional and melodic; for some reason it really puts me there. My friend has 160 acres out in the country and I go out into his woods and camp for a few days. I do this several time during the summer. Most of the time I take the kids with me, but sometimes I go by myself. Every time we come home I am inspired with new words. My wife and kids and the love I have for them inspires me the most, especially with the book I'm writing now. For me though, the foundation of all my inspiration is in the eternal in whom I find an endless supply.

SPJ: Has having a book published changed your life in anyway and if so please share that with us.

PHILIP: Not a whole lot. I mean we are all happy about it and we feel proud that the book is getting really good comments and reviews like yours (thank you again) but our day to day is pretty much the same.

SPJ: You're welcome, truth is truth! :0) Where do you hope your writing career will be in 3 years and what are you doing to achieve that goal.

PHILIP: I would like to write full time. But what writer wouldn't, right? I don't know, I'm just follow God's lead right now and going through the motions. So I guess wherever he takes it, that's where I'll go. In my profession I work with troubled teens and families in crisis. I do know that I will continue in this regardless of anything else. It would be nice to write for a living and volunteer for the agency I work for.

SPJ: A question a little off the beaten track, do you read and if so what genre is your favorite?

PHILIP: I really don't read that much. I read psychology reference material for my job, the Bible, and sometimes I will pick up a novel and start reading it but I never get very far with them.

SPJ: Would you tell us a little about yourself, outside of being a published author?

PHILIP: I am the seventh of nine children and I grew up in the Midwest. I have traveled extensively and have seen some of the most beautiful sights in the world. I love helping others. Most of my work is with our local police departments and I am on call 24 hours a day five days a week. This includes holidays. I know when my pager goes off, it usually means someone is in desperate need and I feel privileged to have the chance to help. What I am about though, is my wife, our three girls, our two boys, and our foster son. Through them I have come to know the depths of God's goodness.

SPJ: Your faith, love and goodness certainly shows through to others Philip. Please use this space for anything you would like to share with our readers concerning publishing, writing or your publishing experience in general.

PHILIP: To all of the above all I can say is, what a wonderful experience it has been. If anyone is interested in buying my book, it is available through Barns&Nobles, Borders,, and Helm Publishing.

SPJ: I want to thank Philip for allowing me to do this interview. Readers, don't miss this book; it is outstanding! I really know in my heart that Philip has a great future ahead of him and I have enjoyed getting to know him better. May God bless everything you put your hands to Philip. Thank you again.


Helm Publishing
3923 Seaward Ave Rockford, IL 61108
(815) 398-4660

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Vicki's Bookshelf

Lynn Curlee
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
ISBN 0689867425 $17.95, 48 pages,

If you love baseball, changes are you love one particular ballpark. Boston fans wax poetic about Fenway Park. Cub fans are adamant that Wrigley Field is the classic ballfield. Busch Stadium is a hit with folks from Missouri, and Yankee fans are passionate about the House The Ruth Built. Beside passionate fans, there's one other thing all ballparks - from the Union Grounds in Brooklyn built in 1862 to the Baltimore Oriole's Camden Yards built in 1992 - have in common: each has its own vibrant and unique history. In the picture book history book by Sibert Honor Award winner Lunn Curlee, the author explores the histories and the cultural significances of America' s most famous ballparks. Grand in scope and illustrations, and filled with nifty anecdotes about these "green cathedrals," "Ballpark" also explores the changing social climate that accompanied baseball's rise from a minor sport to the national pastime. A Junior Library Guild Selection, recommended for elementary students K-5.

The Valley of Secrets
Charmian Hussey, author
Christopher Crump, illustrator
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
ISBN 0689878621 $16.95, 384 pages,

Stephen Landbury is an orphan who thinks he has no relatives at all until the day a letter arrives telling him that a distant uncle is dead. Suddenly, Stephen finds himself the only heir to a great estate in the countryside. So Stephen sets off to claim his inheritance, but when he arrives there is nothing to greet him at Lansbury Hall but a mystery. The puzzle is as tangled as the vines on the hall's front gate, but two things are clear: Stephen's uncle kept to himself, and none of the townspeople know he's dead. But why does Stephen feel that something or someone is in the house? Curious tracks glisten through the kitchen table dust, food in the pantry keeps switching places, and Stephen swears he saw a dark figure lurking outside in the dark woods. By reading his great-uncle's diary, Stephen learns about his journey through the Amazon jungle nearly 75 years before, and a fantastic truth unfolds. While the mystery of Lansbury Hall is stranger than he could have imagined, it's not nearly as incredible as the reality. A classically stylish page-turner for young adult readers.

Dr. Welch and the Great Grape Story
Mary Lou Carney, author
Sherry Meidell, illustrator
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
ISBN 1590780396 $16.95, 32 pages, www.boydsmillspress

"Thomas Bramwell Welch has a problem. Not with his family. Not with his dentist's office. His is a purple problem. A great grape problem." It's 1869 when the idea struck Dr. Welch. For years people had been using grapes to make wine. But Dr. Welch thought he could make a sweeter drink, one that everyone could enjoy. He used his imagination and the help of his older son to squeeze the grapes, heat the juice, and fill bottles. When it was finally time to sample the first sip, would it be the sweetest, most "purpleicious" juice ever -- or a sour grapes disaster? Mary Lou Carney's lively prose and Sherry Meidell's spirited watercolors combine to tell the remarkable true story of grape juice's journey from idea to invention.

Virginia Hamilton
Blackstone Audiobooks
PO Box 969 Ashland, Oregon 97520
ISBN 0786182415 $36.00, 3 CDs each

"Time Pieces" is a quietly beautiful coming-of-age story from a master storyteller, and lends itself well to this audiobook production, narrated by actress Lisa Renee Pitts. The story features 11-year-old Valena, her family, and dog who live in rural Ohio, where she and her cousin Melinda share experiences that include seeing the aurora borealis, surviving a tornado, and going to an amazing circus. Yet Valena lives in both the present and the past as she struggles with racism in her daily life and listens to and learns from her mother's tales of her family's proud history. Moving backward and forward in time, these pieces of Valena's life blend to form an extraordinary portrait of the ties that bind her family together over generations. Drawing from her own family history, Virginia Hamilton has deftly woven together moments in time, creating a seamless and poignant masterpiece. An unabridged production of approximately four hours.

Winnie-The-Pooh: The House at Pooh Corner
A.A. Milne
Blackstone Audiobooks
PO Box 969 Ashland, Oregon 97520
ISBN 0786182970 (Winnie)
ISBN 0786181982 (House) $27.00, 3 CDs each

Nobody brings A.A. Milne's timeless Winnie-The-Pooh tales alive like actor/orator Peter Dennis. Once again his artful readings are released for audio listening enjoyment, this time in two three-CD sets from Blackstone Audiobooks. "Winnie-The Pooh" - first published in 1826 -- comprises the first unabridged 3-hour presentation in the line's "Pooh Classics." Volume two contains the unabridged "The House At Pooh Corner," first published in 1928. "One day when Pooh Bear had nothing else to do, he thought he would do something, so he went round to Piglet's house to see what Piglet was doing." Thus begins "The House At Pooh Corner," A.A. Milne's wonderful companion volume to "Winnie-the-Pooh." Listeners will rediscover Pooh, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Eeyore, and all their friends and be introduced to the irrepressible and very bouncy Tigger.

Sir Gawain & The Green Knight
Michael Morpurgo, author
Michael Foreman, illustrator
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
ISBN 0763625191 $18.99, 116 pages,

It's New Year's Eve in Camelot, where King Arthhur, Queen Guinevere and all their good knights wait breathlessly for an extravagant feast to begin. Suddenly, a strange, frightening knight bursts into the hall - a giant of a man, green from head to toe, who challenges the Court to a shocking game. Only the chivalrous Sir Gawain dares to take on the hideous Green Knight. But over the unexpected course of his test, will Gawain prove as brave and honest as he'd like to believe? Welcome to a medieval world of sword fights, monsters and magic, and timeless characters boeh gallant and wonderfully human. Written anonymously in the 14th Century. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is retold in its entirety by Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo in a lively and accessible narration that captures all the tale' dram and humor. Vivid illustrations by the celebrated Michael Foreman infuse this classic tale with the sights and colors of dragons, swords, and medieval pageantry.

Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories
Rudyard Kipling, author
illustrated by various
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
ISBN 0763626295 $22.99, 128 pages,

Namely, this exemplary collection houses eight of Rudyard Kipling's fantastic "Just So Stories": "How the Whale Got His Throat," "How the Camel Got His Hump," "How The Rhinoceros Got His Skin," "How the Leopard Got His Spots," "The Elephant's Child," "The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo," "The Beginning of the Armadillos," and "The Cat That Walked by Himself. But almost more importantly, are the illustrators aptly chosen to provide colorful, lively art animating the pages, namely: the amazing Clare Melinsky, Christopher Corr, Chathie Felstead, Louise Voce, Jeff Fisher. Jane Ray, Satoshi Kitamura, and the amazing Peter Sis. A playful and artful combination.

Tales of Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen, author
Joel Stewart, illustrator
Candlewick Press 2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
ISBN 0763625159 $22.99, 208 pages,

Hans Christian Andersen called his life a fairy tale, but as Naomi Lewis points out in her introduction, "Fairy tales also have their darker side." Though he rose from the obscurity of the slums to become one of the most famous men in the world, Andersen was often plagued by self-doubt and financial insecurity, just as the protagonists of his stories are faced with terrible trials. But of course it is these dark moments that are among the most memorable aspecs of his work. From the more than 160 tales that Andersen wrote, 13 of his best are brought to life by translator Lewis and illustrator Joel Steward in this volume, including "The Princess and the Pea," "Thumbelina," "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Little Mermaid," "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Snow Queen."

Carol K. Lindeen
Capstone Press / Pebble Plus
151 Good Counsel Dr., P.O. Box 669, Mankato, Minn. 56002
ISBN 0736836616 $14.95

The Pebble Plus line of "Big Books for Beginning Readers" could have been an excellent staple for elementary school K-1 classrooms if the information contained wasn't so oversimplified. Curious readers four and up will surely want more details than "most octopuses are smaller than people." How small? How big? Overall, the series is shortsighted in its quest to inform in easy-to-read language. The "Under The Sea" series sports gorgeous photography on high interest subjects, as does the "Bugs, Bugs, Bugs" series featuring separate titles on walkingsticks, butterflies, ladubugs, spiders, and more. But with such useless information text as "Walkingsticks look like sticks that can walk," even the most rudimentary reader will feel shortchanged.

Pink: Seeing Pink All Around Us
Michael Dahl
Capstone Press
151 Good Counsel Dr., P.O. Box 669, Mankato, Minn. 56002
ISBN 0736836705 $16.95

The "A+ Colors Series" of educational books could have been a frivolous rhyming picture book series unworthy of much practical use. But the author has cleverly used bouncy rhyming text to make the subject playful, then provides memorable trivia in a sidebar on each spread. So what if cotton candy is pink? What's interesting is that 100 years ago when it was first made, it was called "fairy floss." It's no big surprise that many piggy banks are pink, but kids will be interested to know that they got their name from the "pygg" clay that first made them, not because of the animal shape we know today. Subjects range from kid-friendly bubblegum, ice cream and tutus to curriculum subjects such as clouds, growing plants, and, of course, mixing colors. A surprisingly useful series done well. Other subjects in the series: black, brown, and white.

Bras & Broomsticks
Sarah Mlynowski
Delacorte Press
c/o Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
ISBN 0385731817 $15.95, 312 pages,

Harry Potter meets Bridget Jones' little sister in "Bras & Broomsticks" by best-selling chick-lit novelist Sarah Mlynowski. The bewitching novel establishes Mlynowski as a new force in teen fiction with the first in a series of the misadventures of Rachel, a high-energy, self-depreciating, angst-ridden high school freshman who just can't get her magical powers to kick in. Every girl could use a little magic! Especially 14-year-old Rachel Weinstein, whose first year of high school is not going as planned. Her best friend has dumped her for the cool crowd, her little sister's boobs are bigger than hers, and her father is marrying a woman she can't stand. Just when things can't get any worse, she finds out her sister Miri has inherited magical powers from their mother. With two witches in the family, her life is sure to get better. Despite her mother's warning, it can't hurt if she coaxes Miri into some minor magical spells, can it? New clothes, an instant "in" with the A-list, and a cute boyfriend aren't too much to ask for. But as we all know: be careful what you wish for - it just may come true. A laugh-out-loud, charming novel for teens. A funny and fresh writer, chick-lit novelist Mlynowski has created magical characters readers will love.

The Girl Who Invented Romance
Caroline B. Cooney
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
ISBN 0385732392 $8.95, 192 pages,

Every girl knows the guilty pleasure of a juicy magazine romance quiz. Sixteen-year-old Kelly Williams is no exception. But for all the quizzes she has taken, she is still clueless when it comes to relationships. They seem to be full of surprises and unknown twists - just like the game of Monopoly you never know what you're going to roll, or what good or bad square you will land on. Perfect for Valentines Day, this pleasant paperback is also a playing board for the "Romance: The Game of Love" that Kelly invents to encourage her best friend Faith to gain the guts to approach her secret new crush. Included are "Trait" cards describing a boy's attributes, as well as "Date" cards denoting actual dating excursions. What begins as a simple experiment becomes a complicated game that will forever change Kelly's outlook on love. A lovely Valentine's Day gift from the skilled author of "The Face on the Milk Carton" and "Driver's Ed."

Running with the Reservoir Pups
Colin Bateman
Delacorte Press
c/o Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
ISBN 0385732449 $15.95, 266 pages,

Getting into trouble and hanging out with the wrong crowd resultsin the adventure of a lifetime in Colin Bateman's "Running With The Reservoir Pups," the first installment in the "Eddie & The Gang With No Name" trilogy, a comical adventure about a group of troublesome Irish boys. Eddie is a young boy who lives in a small village off the coast of Ireland. After hearing the shocking news that his parents are divorcing, Eddie is forced to move to the city with his mother. Disappointed and upset, Eddie makes the big move and finds himself becoming friendly with a grubby gang of troublemaker boys: the Reservoir Pups. But the scrappy gang doesn't admit just anybody. Eddie's initiation mission involves breaking into the hospital where his mom works. Against his better judgment, Eddie takes the challenge and inadvertently stumbles upon some twisted baby snatchers along the way. Eddie's downward spiral and struggle with rights and wrong gives heart to the exciting story.

I Am The Messenger
Markus Zusak
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
ISBN 0375830995 $16.95, 368 pages,

Aussie author Markus Zusak is known for finding beauty and hope amidst society's dark and seedy underbelly. In his new novel, "I Am The Messenger," the writer casts his spotlight on Ed Kennedy, an underage cab driver living in a tin shack with a smelly mutt for a companion and not much of a future. The 19-year-old leads a life of mediocrity. He nurses a painful crush on his best-friend Audrey, and has zero ambition. When he inadvertently stops a bank robbery, life as he knows it changes. He begins receiving anonymous aces in the mail - aces that send him on mysterious missions. Ed blindly follows the cards' wishes, becoming a silent aid in the lives of strangers. But what is the purpose of it all? Who is sending the cards? Zusak's unorthodox mystery leads Ed through a series of chance encounters with various characters, and as the novel progresses, Ed's mission brings him closer to home and ultimately closer to himself - a mystery only he can solve. Zusak skillfully, poetically paints an extraordinary picture of ordinary life.

24 Girls in 7 Days
Alex Bradley
Dutton Children's Books
345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
ISBN 0525473696 $15.99, 266 pages,

The list of things sadder than Jack Grammar's love life is short. It can only include things like children lost in supermarkets and old ladies who lose their glasses on top of their heads. In his current sad state of affairs, Jack can't get a date to the prom. So his supposed best friends pull a whacked out prank on him by posting a personal ad in the online version of the school paper. Jack's pretty sure he'll be a laughingstock, but the response is a shocker. Now there's a list of girls - 24 of them - Jack has to schedule dates with before the prom, which is just seven days away. Dating 24 girls is chaos. Sure, it's a dream come true for almost every teenage boy, but it just might drive Jack crazy. What's a guy to do when he goes from being the slightly geeky kids who can name all 20-some Shakespeare plays to suddenly being the flavor of the moment? What does he do, for example, when he gets flashed by girls waiting in front of his house? Or when kissing his best friend is suddenly his favorite thing to do? Jack isn't sure he can handle it, but our boy muddles through the hilarious trip. A fun, fun read, tailor made for a fast-moving teen movie.

Franklin & Eleanor
Cheryl Harness
Dutton Children's Books
345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
ISBN 0525472592 $17.99, 32 pages,

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt shared the same distant ancestors, love, children, and a desire to devote their lives to helping people. In their hearts, they found the strength, mutual respect, and courage to face crippling polio and other personal struggles, two world ward, the Great Depression, and four presidential terms of office. Franklin and Eleanor became a famous and remarkable team that led Americans through some of its most difficult times. From an author-illustrator renowned for making picture book history for young readers come to life.

Beekman's Big Deal
Michael de Guzman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, NY, NY 10003
ISBN 0374306729 $16.00, 214 pages,

Beekman O'Day has lived every minute of his 12 years in New York City on the island of Manhattan, with his father, Leo, who makes his money making dubious deals. Beekman has attended nine schools, he and Leo have resided in hotels, apartments, and rented rooms: 14 different places in all since he was born. But not anymore. As he enters yet another new school, as he and Leo move once again, Beekman decides that enough is enough. He makes a deal with his father - a big deal. No more moving around. They'll stay put and lead a regular life because Beekman wants to concentrate on other things such as his new best friend's twin sister. Then the big deal becomes a big mess. Beekman is expelled from school, his father tells him they must move again, and the girl he admires doesn't admire him. But this story is of a boy who stands his ground, refuses to give up, and is ready to close in on his big deal. A wonderful coming-of-age story for middle grade boys.

Beverly Billingsly Takes the Cake
Alexander Stadler
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
ISBN 0152053573 $16.00, 32 pages,

Beverly Billingsly is the talented star of three picture books by Alexander Stadler. She embarks on a tasty new challenge in this cute tale in which cake takes center stage. Naturally, it's not just any cake. She will bake the Caramel Candy Castle Cake for her friend Oliver, using. It's the perfect recipe. Just gazing upon it sends Beverly on a magical journey through the Land of Cake. Surely she can pull it off or can she? Conquering the odds is a recurring theme for the sweet character, and here she once again charmingly bucks the odds. For ages 3-6.

The Librarian of Basra
Jeanette Winter
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
ISBN 0152054456 $16.00, 32 pages,

Award-winning children's book author-illustrator Jeanette Winter just couldn't get Alia Muhammad Baker off her mind. Winter read an article about Baker in the New York Times on July 27, 2003, and very soon had this true story completed about a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For 14 years, her library had been a meeting place for those who love books. Until, that is, war comes, and Alia fears that the library, along with the 30,000 books within it - will be destroyed forever. In a war-stricken country where civilians - especially women - have little power, this true story about a librarian's struggle to save her community's priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries.

Joyce Carol Oates
Harper Tempest
c/o HarperCollins
1350 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10019-4703
ISBN 0060541490 $16.99, 266 pages,

Darren Flynn has the perfect life - until that day in November. What happened that day changed everything. Did it even happen to him? It changed his life. Changed him. Nothing is as it was before. His friends, his family, even the people who are supposed to be in charge are not the people Darren thought they were. Now they're not to be trusted. This compelling , masterfully written novel by acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates is the best-selling writer's third young adult work of fiction. "Sexy" explores one teenager's search for identity in a complex, deceiving world, and the answers he finds in the most unexpected places.

The Great Rat of Sumatra or Pirates Galore
Sid Fleischman
Greenwillow Books
c/o HarperCollins
1350 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10019-4703
ISBN 0060742380 $15.99, 194 pages,

From Newbery Medalist Sid Fleischman comes this swashbuckling tale for ages 10 and up. Plucked from the sea by the most norotious pirate in the Pacific, Shipwreck discovers his adventure is only beginning. It starts with a pirate ship cutting through the fog, her huge figurehead sporting a ferocious rat with crooked teeth and gouged-out eyes. When the daring giant Rat of Sumatra drops anchor in San Diego, twelve-year-old cabin boy Shipwreck only wants to begin his long journey home to Boston, Instead he encounters snarling mutineers, barefoot bandits, duels, secret identities, scrappy orphans, betrayals, lost loves, old enemies and new villains. Naturally enough, there's stolen treasure too, and it's o well hidden that only someone as clever as Shipwreck could nab it. A very exciting adventure.

Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society
Adeline Yen Mah
1350 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10019-4703
ISBN 0060567341 $15.99, 240 pages,

Adeline Yen Mah's memoirs - "Falling Leaves" and "Chinese Cinerella" - were both about her own unhappy childhood in China during and after the Second World War. In these memoirs she related how storytelling and writing helped her escape from the loneliness and rejection of family life. Her latest book, "Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society," is a blend of martial-arts adventure and historical fiction that was modeled on a story the author wrote at the age of ten. It begind in 1942 and Ye Xian is living in a time of great change and turmoil in China. She takes the nickname of C.C., or Chinese Cinderella, to cope with her difficult and strained relationship with her parents. When CC is thrown out of her home, she turns to Grandma Wu and the Secret Dragon Society for support. This very personal story is set against the backdrop of great worldwide change, and will find a place in the hearts of readers in a time of personal self discovery and metamorphosis. For readers age 10 and up.

Frank Cottrell Boyce
1350 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10019-4703
ISBN 0060733306 $15.99, 250 pages,

It was one-in-a-million chance. A bag crammed with cash comes tumbling out of the air and lands right at Damian's feet. Suddenly Damian and Anthony Cunningham find themselves with vast amounts of money and they can buy anything they want. There's just one problem - they only have a few days to spend all the cash before it becomes worthless. And the crooks who stole the cash in the first place are closing in - fast. "Millions" is screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce's first novel for young readers. The book has already been made into a film by Danny Boyle, director of "Trainspotting." The movie is secheduled to make its debut in the US on November 24th from Fox Searchlight. A smart and wise treasure for readers ages eight and up.

Miss Smithers
Susan Juby
Harper Tempest
c/o HarperCollins
1350 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10019-4703
ISBN 0060515465 $15.99, 336 pages,

"Alice, I Think" introduced readers to Alice McLeod's arrogant yet entirely unconfident teenage world filled with What Would Jesus Do bracelets, hippie parents and 4H Club best friends. "Miss Smithers" is the laugh-out-loud sequel in which Alice competes in a small town beauty pageant while dealing with the premature publication of her 'zine - with all its gossip and opinions - and facing etiquette workshops, all while clinging to her imagined pink status. How Alice overcomes social isolation due to years of home schooling is a fun roller coaster ride teen girls will enjoy.

John F. Kennedy: The Making of a Leader
Jackie Robinson: Strong Inside and Out
Theodore Roosevelt The Adventurous President
Harriet Tubman: A Woman of Courage
Editors of Time For Kids
1350 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10019-4703
ISBN 0060576030 (Kennedy)
ISBN 0060576014 (Robinson)
ISBN 0060576065 (Roosevelt)
ISBN 0060576081 (Tubman)
ISBN 0060576332 (Sharks)
ISBN 0060576359 (Spiders) $14.99,

Why is the "Teddy Bear" named after President Theodore Roosevelt? Did the Underground Railroad have a train? How did slaves share information about escape plans, if they could not read or write? If your kids ask lots of questions - or if you find yourself having trouble answering - the newly released " Time For Kids" Science Scoops and Biographies series are a great way to introduce non-fiction reading and educate children (as well as yourself) about the crucial events and natural occurrences that affect our daily lives. From high-interest subjects such as sharks and spiders, to important curriculum subjects such as influential Americans from JFK and Teddy Roosevelt to Harriet Tubman and Jackie Robinson, these series know how to inform and entertain. Easy to comprehend data is tailor made for homework and classroom usage so kids will find it easy to apply their new-found knowledge of timely information to their schoolwork. Parents will appreciate its easy-to-use applications for school research, report writing, and science projects. A teacher advisory panel helps make sure each title meets elementary school curriculum standards, and the "fun facts and visual elements ensure kids will find the material useful and engaging.

Dollmakers and Their Stories
Krystyna Poray Goddu
Henry Holt & Co.
115 W. 18th St., NY, NY 10011
ISBN 0805072578 $17.95, 146 pages,

Girls have played with dolls since ancient times. The way children play with dolls, and their affection for them, has not changed much over centuries but the dolls themselves have changed dramatically. This fascinating book tells the stories of courageous dollmakers, some of whom are behind some of the most important dolls of the past 100 years, and all of whom have been filled with passion, vision, and determination. Included are the personal stories of entrepreneurs and feminists such as Beatrice Alexander (creator of Madame Alexander's collection). Sasha Morgenthaler (the Sasha Dols), and Ruth Handler (creator of Barbie).

The Doll People boxed set
Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, authors
Brian Selznick, illustrator
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
ISBN 0786852739 $24.49, 2 books,

Two irresistible doll adventures for young readers age 8 to 12, are now housed in a single package. "The Doll People" (Publisher Weekly and School Library Journal's Best Book of 2000) and "The Meanest Doll In The World" (winner of Child Magazine's Best Children's Book Award and a Publisher Weekly Cuffie Award) are paired for sophisticated gift giving in this charming boxed set of two hardback editions in a cardboard slipcase. The pitch-perfect childs-eye adventure is an exciting, action-packed tale that truly comes alive.

Multiplication Math Gear
Innovative Kids
18 Ann Street, Norwalk, CT 06854-2258
ISBN 1584763140 $7.99, 14 pages,

The new Math Gear series is a clever and fun solution to standard flash cards. Rather than using loose cards to test memorization and calculation skills for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, these round, tabbed books provide a new spin to the task with internal wheels that set up a new math question with each turn, and provide the answer hidden under a flap. Students can quiz or be quizzed by 1's through 11, or flip around for random practice. The cool shape and gadget-look and feel of the design will encourage kids to use them, and the handy size can easily be tossed into a pocket or clipped onto a backpack.

Now I'm Reading Game Board Book
Nora Gaydos
Innovative Kids
18 Ann Street, Norwalk, CT 06854-2258
ISBN 1584762160 $19.99 pages,

Based on the popular "Now I'm Reading" phonics book series by Nora Gaydos, the spin-off "Game Board Book" provides playful activities to teach reading in a completely enjoyable, playful way. The box set is packed with fun ways to practice letter recognition, word formation, sentence building, parts of speech, consonant sounds, story creation, short and long vowels, sight words, spelling, matching, sentence development and deductive reasoning. Challenging board games and activities - including "Letter Round-up," "Riddle Word Search" and "Lift the Flap Letter Hunt" -- parallel pre-k and kindergarten teaching techniques and similar academic work books, but always lets kids put their new skills into hands-on practice that seems like play.

Who Says Moo?
Brenda Sexton
Innovative Kids
18 Ann Street, Norwalk, CT 06854-2258
ISBN 1584763078 $14.99, 10 pages,

This fun hands-on learning book is one of two new magnetic "hunt-and-find" novelty board books from Innovative Kids. "Who Says Moo?" With the enclosed doggie finger puppet, his magnetic nose "sniffs" out answers on every page. Toddlers just slip on the cute felt puppet, listen to read-aloud clues, and use the puppet's nose to search for the correct animals. Simple, interactive fun lending an interactive twist to the standard animal-sounds pre-K book lessons. Bold, colorful art is the icing on the cake.

Omaha Perez & Richard Raleigh
PO Box 2013, Redondo Beach, CA
ISBN 097477880X $11.95, 94 pages,

From the indie comix creator of "Prey for us Sinners" and "Raw Periphery," and the co-author of "Shadows Bend" comes this intensely spiritual graphic novel. In San Francisco, a madman sees into other dimensions meets up with a hospital orderly whose karmic corruption makes him prey to dark powers. Meanwhile a middle-aged man from India is unraveling under the guilt of having murdered his wife in a "cooking fire." What is it that links these men? Who is the mysterious Many-Eyed Man who appears to them to steer their lives on their appropriate karmic course? While many of the stark images and literary references bring to mind the punkish, pulp fiction work of Raymond Pettibone, Omaha Perez seeps his work in Eastern philosophy, and confidently takes a more linear path to tell his dark tale of ancient good and evil played out on contemporary city streets. Unique and boldly imaginative, "Bodhisattva" is infinitely more enlightened - and enlightening -- than the average fantasy graphic novel.

Cenozoic: A Comic 62 Million Years in the Making
Mark Fearing
PO Box 2013, Redondo Beach, CA
0974778826 $2.99

Mark Fearing's "Cenozoic" is a comic book 65 million years in the making. Of course you can say the same things about Velcro and rubber bands. Part satire, part cartoon, the first issue of "Cenozoic" introduces the nutty "Cave Bear and Duck," and features the return of Jerry Caveman Inventor who made his auspicious debut in Fearing's comic bow in Omaha Perez's "Periphery." While "Cavebear and Duck" concludes "Cenozoic" with a fresh take on the odd-couple buddy caper, the bulk of the book focuses on Jerry Caveman Inventor, a thinking unibrow ahead of his time, and gives a skewed view of mankind's bumpy development. Considering the hilarious progress-stunted scenario Fearing presents, it becomes painfully clear that perhaps we haven't changed all that much in the past 85,000 years. For instance: no doubt many independent thinkers of The Stone Age met resentment from those who preferred life in The Dirt Age. And pity the poor human who dreamed about life in The Down Pillow Age or the Not Having to Eat Lizards Age. In "Monkey Trouble" Jerry and his fellow humanoids face angry monkeys and take refuge in their cave. After much Neanderthal debate, can mankind figure out how to regain their primary status in the primeval world? And in the short "You Can't Have What You Don't Get," Cave Bear and Duck seek out delicious forest food, only to have Bear captured. Can Duck rescue Bear, or will Bear become just another comfortable sofa in the human's cave? Newcomer Fearing is an incredible artistic and comedic talent. His first-class illustration style is absolutely unique, clever, and confident - just what the comic and illustrative world needs.

Take The Lead, George Washington
Judith St. George, author
Daniel Powers, illustrator
c/o Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
ISBN 0399238875 $16.99, 60 pages,

George Washington grew up wanting to be a proper Virginia gentleman, like his brother Lawrence - until he got the chance to go on a wilderness trip as a surveyor's assistant. It was a rough and even dangerous journey. At times George got discouraged, but his grit and determination kept him going. His early trek into the American frontier was a turning point for George, and he proved he was ready for any challenge from being a Revolutionary War general to becoming the first president of the United States. Written by Judith St. George ("So You Want To Be President?), this picture book for all elementary grades is the second in a series about major moments in the young lives of American presidents.

The Art Studio
Reader's Digest Editors
Reader's Digest
0762106115 $26.95, 128 pages

Budding artists of all ages can create their own masterpieces in charcoal, pastel and watercolor with the 14 projects features in "The Art Studio" gift book and kit. The 64-page "Techniques Book" and "Projects Book" -- each 64-pages -- provides step-by-step directions and additional inspiration, and is housed in a handy drawer along with a few sheets of drawing and watercolor paper. The box "doors" hold six tubes of watercolor paint, eight sticks of soft pastels, a painting palette, sketching pencil, watercolor brush, eraser, fine liner pen, and charcoal pencil. The box itself can be used as an easel, making this a complete and useful all-in-one starter kit.

Fairy Tale Magic
Gillian Swordy, author
Graham Percy, illustrator
Running Press
125 South Twenty-Second St., Philadelphia, PA 19103-4399
ISBN 0762417747 $12.95 10 pages,

Magic Mother Goose
Judy Stevens, illustrator
Running Press
125 South Twenty-Second St., Philadelphia, PA 19103-4399
ISBN 0762415746 $12.95, 10 pages,

Young minds and hands will be engaged by the latest "Large Format Magic Windows" series of interactive books. Filled with fun rhymes, eye-catching illustrations, bright foil and acetate windows that "magically" change, "Magic Mother Goose" and "Fairy Tale Magic"are the first two titles in this new series for pre-K-K children. In "Magic Mother Goose," youngsters will find all their nursery rhyme favorites, while "Fairy Tale Magic" presents classic tales from Beauth and the Beast" to "Jack and the Beanstock." The books' unique but dull gimmick - die-cut windows on every page that changes the monotone illustration into a colorful scene -- sets them apart from the pack, but is unlikely to bring readers back again and again.

I Spy an Eye
Rhyme Time
Elizabeth Encarnacion, author
Barroux, illustrator
Running Press
125 South Twenty-Second St., Philadelphia, PA 19103-4399
ISBN 0762419822 (I Spy)
ISBN 0762421908 (Eye) $12.95, 22 pages,

This series uses a familiar friend from school and playtime - a chalkboard - to teach kids 3-6 the relationship of written letters and words to the sounds they make. Basically, it's a simple board book and chalkboard combined, with chalk and suggested activities making learning more like play. Lined surfaces encourage a steady hand, while fun rhymes get the action started. Pages can be erased, cleaned and used over and over again thanks to a cleaning cloth and mini-eraser included and stored along with the chalk in a handy reclosable storage case. Prompts help parents interact with pre-readers, and a parent's guide explains how to get the most from the series.

The Darkest Evening
William Durbin
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
ISBN 0439373077 $15.95, 232 pages,

In 1935 Jake's life is turned upside down as his father gets caught up in the Socialist fervor washing over their Finnish community in Minnesota. When his father decides to move their family to a new Finnish state inside the Soviet Union, Jake is filled with dread. He must leave everything he loves behind to follow his father's dreams of a worker's paradise - dreams that are shattered when Jake and his family find only disappointment, hardship, and danger. William Durbin masterfully weaves together a little-known corner of history with one boy's heroic attempts to come to terms with the terrible challenges he faces as the Red Broom of Communism sweeps his family's dreams away.

Surviving Aunt Marsha
Sofie Laguna
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
ISBN 0439644852 $15.95, 202 pages,

Bettina's mom and dad are going on vacation, leaving her and her two siblings with Aunt Marsha for three whole weeks. It's enough to freak out anyone out. Aunt Marsha wears loud tracksuits and has a big behind. She hates comic books and believes the family dog should sleep -- of all places -- outside. Worst of all, Aunt Marsha makes the most "delicious" (yeah, right) kidney pie. How will Bettina and her siblings ever survive? A delightful first novel from Australian picture book author Sofie Laguna.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

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

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