Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / MBR Bookwatch

MBR Bookwatch

Volume 6, Number 5 May 2007 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Oahu Revealed
Andrew Doughty
Wizard Publications, Inc.
PO Box 991, Lihu'e Hawai'i 96766-0991
097172797X, $15.95

Now in an updated second edition, Oahu Revealed: The Ultimate Guide to Honolulu, Waikiki & Beyond is a thorough, user-friendly guidebook to everything that makes the Hawaiian island of Oahu unique and exciting. Full color photographs, 20 specially created maps with access to even the most remote beaches, landmarks, hiking trails, web sites with links to every business, restaurants, resorts, and symbols to identify recommended sights fill this practical guide, written by Oahu resident Andrew Doughty with wit and charm. A "must-have" for any Oahu business traveler or vacationer!

Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2007
Douglas Ward
Lande Communications
PO Box 979, Spring House, PA 19477
9812469842, $24.95

Douglas Ward's has 40 years of cruise expertise and is president of the Maritime Evaluations Group, and independent international agency that rates cruise ships worldwide. In Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2007, Ward offers independent assessments of 276 cruise ships, advice for getting the best value for one's money, specific tips for singles, honeymooners, families, and the physically challenged, full-color maps of principal cruise destinations, a number of color photographs, and much more. From the "Big 7" cruise lines to smaller ships, to recommendations for what different cruises cater to which interests, to health and safety concerns, to at-a-glance comparisons of major cruise lines for cabin facilities, food and service, Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2007 is an extensive and thoroughly recommended "must-have" for anyone contemplating a business or pleasure cruise.

Orleans Embrace With The Secret Gardens Of The Vieux Carre
T. J. Fisher & Roy F. Guste, Jr.
Morgana Press
828 royal Street, #514, new Orleans, LA 70116
Blanco & Peace Enterprises Ltd. (publicity)
359 West Chicago Avenue, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60610
0977351475, $50.00

No ordinary coffee table photography book, "Orleans Embrace With The Secret Gardens Of The Vieux Carre" is a 388-page memoir of the New Orleans French Quarter featuring 49 historic black-and-white photographs and 320 full color illustrations. While the overall book draws from the previous work of Roy F. Guste, Jr., the photographs by Louis Sahuc are bonded with a personal and compelling narrative text by T. J. Fisher. Readers will encounter a work originally intended to be of local interest, but in a post-Katrina world, has emerged with universal attraction as a memorial and a motivation to restore a once great American city to its unique and original glory. Enthusiastically recommended, "Orleans Embrace With The Secret Gardens Of The Vieux Carre" will prove to be of immense interest to several categories of readership including: gardening enthusiasts, historians, architects, photographers, and anyone who has every walked along the avenues and admired the parks, gardens, and buildings of the New Orleans French Quarter.

Eldorado Ink
PO box 100097, Pittsburg, PA 15233 1-800-783-6767

Eldorado Ink has just released 'Learn to Play', an impressive six volume series of musical instrument instruction books designed by Frank Capelli to help beginning players from grades 6 and up to play specific instruments. The series consists of "The Violin" (1932904174, $25.95); "The Clarinet" (1932904123, $25.95); "The Flute" (1932904131, $25.95); "The Guitar" (193290414X, $25.95); "The Piano" (1932904158, $25.95); and "The Trumpet" (1932904174, $25.95). Each of these 112-page, step-by-step, instructional volumes is enhanced with some 50 color photographs, numerous chord diagrams and exercises, a timeline, internet resources, a glossary of terms, and an index. Thoroughly 'student friendly', each of these outstanding and highly recommended 'how to' manuals are available individually, but school and community libraries are urged to acquire the entire series for their collections. Sturdily bound for extended shelf live and multiple student usage, the 'Learn to Play' series is attractive, detailed, and replete with 'Tips" to help even the most novice beginner to methodically acquire skill and expertise in playing their chosen instrument whether performing solo or as part of an orchestra.

Faces Of Life
Quint Studer
Covenant Hospice
5041 North 12th Avenue, Pensacola, FL 32504
9780979110306, $29.95 1-800-541-3072

A hospice is a place dedicated to provide terminally ill men and women as dignified a living space and as peaceful a death as possible. The basic premise of hospice care is that even in life's final moments there is meaning. "Faces Of Life" is a project of the Covenant Hospice based in Pensacola, Florida, where more than forty hospice patients were interviewed, profiled, and are here presented with their photographs. Their stories are presented in brief vignettes and reveal how their experience in hospice care affected not only their final days, but touched, and even inspired, the lives of their families and friends as well. Published in celebration of National Hospice Month in November of 2005, "Faces Of Life" is especially recommended reading for anyone facing hospice care for themselves or a loved one, and would make an especially appropriate community library Memorial Fund acquisition selection.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

The Logan Topographies
Alena Hairston
Persea Books
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
0892553294, $13.95

Written by English professor Alena Hairston, The Logan Topographies is a poetry collection set in the coal-mining town of Logan, West Virginia. The Logan Topographies speaks especially for generations of African American miners and their kin, chronicling their work ethic, their destitution, their heartbreak, and their indomitable spirit. At times affecting free verse, and at other times delving into stream-of-consciousness style, The Logan Typographies is an evocative glimpse into dedicated lives and the cultural fabric of hardworking people. "Despair is a thing of time, a commodity of idleness or wealth. If there is room / for it here, then it is not known by its name. Life lives on any track: its taking / willed, its giving silent. Bottomers do not always look up, for what is up / has already been down, is bottom-up."

Other Fugitives And Other Strangers
Rigoberto Gonzalez
Tupelo Press
PO Box 539, Dorset, VT 05251
1932195491, $16.95 1-800-283-3572

Literary critic and award winning poet Rigoberto Gonzalez's latest collection of strongly recommended and descriptive verse comprise the pages of "Other Fugitives And Other Strangers", providing an appreciative readership with a compendium of his lyrical poetry and prose that is best characterized by its intellectual intensity and emotional integrity. Writing with a dedication to candor and the power of language to communicate with precision, each poems is a true gem that will linger in the mind and in the emotional responses of the reader long after "Other Fugitives And Other Strangers" has been released and set back upon the shelf. 'Breads That Hunger': I make love to a man with a button fetish. Correction: a man makes love to my shirt. He yanks each piece of plastic with his teeth and swallow sit, then inserts the cusp of his tongue into the buttonhole. I slip out of the sleeves and off the bed and he scarcely notices. Later, he comes looking for me; my shirt slumped across his shoulder. It looks as if I have shed my skin – the fantasy of meeting the train on the rusty tacks comes to life. Buttonless, I have been stripped of everything that holds me together. He tells me he can replace the shirt. I tell him he can keep me.

Spiritual Fitness
Caroline Reynolds
0875168094, $14.95

Written by international speaker and spiritual counselor Caroline Reynolds, Spiritual Fitness: How to Live in Truth and Trust offers a simple, seven week procedure for fostering purpose and sacredness in one's everyday life. Chapters cover how to detox one's soul, learn to meditate, seek one's role in life, and embrace the sacred aspect of relationships. Written in plain terms to be accessible to lay readers, Spiritual Fitness is a welcome repository of good counsel for emotional and spiritual health. "Soul level forgiveness is not about condoning or absolving someone's outrageous behavior. It means escaping from the painful zone of dealing with them only on an earthly, fear-based and limiting level. To forgive truly you must lift up your thinking to a soul level. Somehow you can find a present-day gift in this memory."

The Christian Combat Manual
Dan Story
AMG Publishers
6815 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421
Veritas Communications (publicity)
PO Box 761, Sandpoint, ID 83864
0899570372, $17.99

From its founding as a collection of British colonies, down through the cold-war years of the 1950s and 60s, the United States has been a nation whose culture, values, judicial, educational, ethical, and social behavior were all shaped by an essentially Christian perspective. But in the last few decades, a secular humanism and the rise of 'counter-culture' values has altered public attitudes giving rise to increasingly popular behaviors that most Christians feel range from the vulgar to the immoral. Written by Christian apologist and author Dan Story, "The Christian Combat Manual" is intended to help practicing Christians counter this 'counter culture' influence utilizing the Socratic method of dialogue and inquiry, along with many other tools. Highly recommended reading for all Christians regardless of their denominational affiliation, "The Christian Combat Manual" covers the historical accuracy of divine revelation, the theory of evolution, the demonstrated existence of God, the person of Jesus Christ, and the contemporary issues and secular postmodern doctrines facing Christians today in the broader and mainstream American culture. Also very highly recommended reading for concerned Christians are Dan Story's previous three books: "Defending Your Faith"; "Engaging The Closed Minded"; and "Christianity On the Offense".

Michael Dunford

Klausner's Bookshelf

The Importance of Being Dangerous
David Dante Troutt
c/o Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0060789298, $24.95

In the early 1990s, thirty something single mom Sidarra detests how the "Board of Miseducation" promotes unqualified white coworkers while ignoring her much more skillful efforts. Public Defender Griff Coleman is bone marrow tired of defending the pathetic poor in a system that simply wants to lock away his mostly black clients; however worse is the attitude of his investment banker spouse Belinda, who acts superior to him in every possible way. Computer Programmer and wannabe comedian Yakoob Jones wants to make it in a white-only power structure that prefers he quietly do his menial chores hidden in a basement.

The three of them learn of the Cicero Dean Investment Club, whose vision is to offer opportunities for humiliated middle class blacks to make money like the whites do via capital investment as a group. The three disillusioned Harlem residents invest in the company. However, they learn the truth about their investment club when drug dealer Raul joins as the Club's pyramid scheme of laundered money, stolen assets such as credit-card fraud and identity theft, and dummy corporations collapses leaving the trio feeling even more disheartened and disenfranchised.

This is an interesting look at middle class ambitions blacks who want to make it, but feels the system rejects their efforts by de facto selecting less qualified whites. When the story line swings into romance (between Sidarra and Griff), it loses much of the stinging momentum as the plot stops exposing the hypocrisy of racial prerequisite only at the higher levels of the economy in spite of decades of EEO. Still this is a strong sharp expose of not making it in America.

No Mortal Reason
Kathy Lynn Emerson
Pemberley Press
P O Box 1027
Corona del Mar, CA 92625
0977191346, $17.95

In 1888, there are many newspapers competing for the large New York City market, but few “girl” reporters work as journalists. Widow Diane Spaulding is one of the few as she has worked for the Independent Intelligence newspaper.

She and her fiance Dr. Ben Northcote take the train to rural Liberty, New York before finishing her journey in even more rustic Lenape Falls where they will stay for a few days before continuing to his family in Maine to marry. In Sullivan County, New York, Diana meets relatives that she never knew existed until recently when her cold Denver based mother for the firs time mentioned aunts and uncles. However, as she becomes involved in the lives of the Grants and Torrances, she worries that a con artist is setting up her relatives in a scam to make their family owned hotel into a Saratoga Springs-like resort. That pales as Diane uses her snooping skills to prove her Uncle Howd the artist is not a killer but the sheriff thinks he murdered the victim, whose bones were just found ten years after the homicide occurred.

The terrific look at Upstate New York in the late nineteenth century makes NO MORTAL REASON feel more like a historical novel especially through much of the first part of the novel; the whodunit subplot enhancing the period piece. The cast is as strong as Diana’s relatives, other townsfolk, a seemingly shyster hotelier, a nasty goat and the corpse make for quite a family reunion for the heroine and her beau. Once Diana begins the investigation, the story line switches gear from a historical family drama into a cold case murder mystery. Fans will have NO MORTAL REASON not to enjoy this Kathy Lynn Emerson’s fine tale of a woman who holds her face up with pride.

Forge of the Gods – The Last Night
Eric Fogle
Breakneck Books
PO Box 122, Barrington, NH 03825
0978655141, $14.99

During the 20th Eternity, the end has begun as time has stopped moving yet the godly residents of the Eternal Heavens suddenly paradoxically are aging. Though deities, none knows what caused both effects though the assumption by most is that the unexpected aging was an effect of the stoppage of time. Whatever reality was is no more; unless they can somehow restore what once was before, Armageddon is now. Four heavenly souls are chosen to destroy this still unrecognized unknown menace apparently to be found on the mortal plane; the theory of the gods is killing the cause will bring back normalcy to the celestial realm.

As the stunned Gods begin their Hail Mary desperation move, squire Areck of the Bre'Dmorian Knighthood begins to display odd powerful skills beyond anything seen in the realm before. In fact, his seemingly innate abilities prove to be beyond that of the deities as Eternal Heaven takes notice and ponders if he is the key. They consider killing him by destroying his mortal plane of existence even though that means eradicating a species. The four heavenly champions focus on Areck as they bring the apocalypse to his earthly realm.

Apocalypse fantasy readers will fully appreciate this deep exhilarating thriller though the audience will struggle with the overly packed chapter one that occurs in 1999 AD (After Devoid) as the upcoming confrontation between God, man and Areck is established. The story line never looks back as the Apocalypse begins in 2020 AD with seemingly no turning back on the mortal plane if the Eternal Heavenly plane is to move forward once again. Eric Fogle provides a deep complex look at the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as the only one who might prevent the end of the world is the one person they feel they must kill if they are to prevent the end of Heaven.

Nomad's Land
Susan Kathleen
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515,Parker, Colorado 80134
1598008188, $10.95

In Chicago twenty something Catrin "Cat" Moran seems to have it all as she enjoys her work at an advertising firm and lives in a posh condo. However, Cat is unhappy because she has no role model in her life though that is not a new experience for her as she was raised by a lesbian with no male about though she knows mom loves her.

Regardless of when she attended school or since she started working, Cat has had many dates, but none she wanted to bring home to meet mom. She even wonders if she is comparing every dude to her imaginary father that no male could ever measure up to. Cat feels she may have met the one in Danny, a comedian who brings her into a SST lifestyle until that burns out leaving her to wonder what next after one more drink.

What makes NOMAD’S LAND so good is that though the description above sounds somber, Susan Kathleen pulls off her deep character study with a deft humorous touch. Readers will laugh with the witty and intelligent heroine who understands her pratfalls very well and makes mistakes but bounces right back because she knows as that Frank Sinatra’s 1966 song That’s Life says “Each time I find myself flat on my face I pick myself up and get back in the race”. This is a fabulous deep look at a woman who understands That's Life “as funny as it may seem some people get their kicks stompin' on a dream, But I don't let it, let it get me down 'cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin' around”.

Autumn Blue
Karen Harter
Center Street
c/o Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
1931722617, $12.99 1-800-759-0190

Single mom Sidney Walker raises three children alone on her insurance agent salary, but her current concern is her teenage son Tyson, who is in trouble with the law. She does not understand Ty and worries that her concentration on him leads to neglecting her two daughters. Sidney believes a husband to serve as a father is what the family needs, but marriage tastes insipid especially since her ex husband deserted t! he fours ome years ago and her former boyfriend Jack who wants to get back with her does not feel right.

Sidney gets some help from her elderly neighbor Millard Bradbury, a former teacher who tries to help Ty. A desperate Sidney turns to Jack, but wants tough cop Deputy Sheriff Alex Estrada, who seems to loathe her. She assumes that he condemns her as being a bad mother. As Ty gets in even deeper trouble, a frantic Sidney turns to God for help.

This is a terrific family drama that provides a powerful look at dysfunctional broken families through mostly the mind of the beleaguered matriarch. Ty is a terrific teen character with psychological troubles, but this is clearly Sydney’s story as she still dreams of a future quite different than the present for her and her three offspring.

Cruel Poetry
Vicky Hendricks
Serpent’s Tail
3A Exmouth House, Pine Street, London, EC1R 0JH
1852429275, $14.95

In Miami Beach if you are male and can crawl let alone walk, you are attracted to the happy hooker Renata. Men cannot help themselves when it comes to this charming siren who has mesmerized even Pepe her snake and her pimp Francisco knows he should keep his hands off the merchandise, but cannot. Even women are intoxicated by this femme fatale. Client Professor Dick is beyond infatuation for her as he has a permanent wet spot whenever he comes to see Renata; make that even when he thinks of his Renata, which means he is diligently wet 24/7. Next door is Jules the writer who hears her sexcapades through the thin walls when she entertains clients, but is frustrated so he settles for fantasy time with her.

Rennie is not a nasty person though she can be tough. When Francisco wants more of her time with him, she calmly tells him they need her income to have any time together. When Richard vows to obtain a divorce and quit his job to be with her, she diligently tries to convince him his family needs him for then her. When Jules desires much more from her; she tries to persuade her they both need their friendship more than becoming lovers. However some men cannot be reasoned with using logic as they make decisions with their lower head in charge. Thus trying to make their fantasy come true, Richard and Jules will do anything including murdering her clients, family members, and perhaps the partner to get Rennie out of her occupation and permanently into their respective lives.

Though this character driven thriller rotates perspectives between Rennie, Dick, and Jules, the story line centers on the prostitute as much as of what the others do and think about her. The story line is fast-paced as sexual fantasy becomes homicide nightmares. Fans of Florida Noir will enjoy this sex and murder thriller in which blood flows more freely than scum.

Ron Butlin
Serpent's Tail
3A Exmouth House, Pine Street, London, EC1R 0JH
1852429151, $14.9 5

At Les Montagnes Blanches ski resort on Mont Blanc, twenty-nine years old caretaker Jack McCall and his thirty-two years old housekeeper girlfriend Anna enjoy the good life of the affluent though they are middle class in earnings and outlook. Their upscale lifestyle occurs because they drift from one vacant apartment to another, making use of the amenities left by their absentee owners. Jack and Anna enjoy expensive food, champagne, dips in the Jacuzzi, and satin sheeted beds. Life is good as Jack and Anna know the rich are not the only ones living affluently especially since no one, not even the nearby villagers of St. Ciers, ,have been by in a fortnight as a particular nasty blizzard has isolated the resort. Still Anna wants more from her lover though she knows Jack is commitment shy.

However, two people manage to make it through the adverse weather; a couple obviously here to share a tryst. When “M. Ferrari-Penthouse” falls to his death slipping off an icy balcony, his lover Therese is the only witness. She insists a tragic accident happened, but Jack has his doubts as Therese is not even slightly shook up. Unable to take charge of the situation, Jack finds himself instead thinking of sex with Therese even as his ogling upsets Anna, who stubbornly reminds him they have a corpse to deal with.

This is a terrific refreshing character study that focuses more on Jack’s inability to take charge of the situation as he prefers to avoid the displeasure that the death of “Ferrari” causes him. Instead of the typical amateur sleuth tale, readers get a reluctant male pushed by two women in differing directions as Anna wants him to engage while Therese wants him to disengage. Ron Butlin provides a fascinating suspense thriller as fans and to a degree Anna will realize we don’t know Jack.

The Twilight Hour
Elizabeth Wilson
Serpent’s Tail
3A Exmouth House, Pine Street, London, EC1R 0JH
185242477X, $14.95

In 1947, in a freezing still bombed out London, Dinah Wentworth finds the corpse of surrealist painter Titus Mavor. Not wanting to reveal any reasons for being at the Mayor’s apartment and heeding advice, she fails to inform the cops.

Not long afterward, the police arrest family friend and film-making business partner Colin Harris, who had a vitriolic public shouting match with the deceased over the immediate future of England. Dinah knows Colin is innocent, a victim of circumstantial evidence compounded by his being a Communist as the Cold War begins to heat up. Over the objection of her husband Alan, who tells her the film partnership was over before Harris’ arrest so they owe him nothing; Dinah needs to prove the innocence of Colin as she believes someone is filling in the blanks to finish framing him for the murder.

The amateur sleuth tale is well written, but takes a back seat to the period piece as London, still recovering from the bombings, suffers through a freezing winter as the Cold War begins. Dinah is a fascinating character as she wants the freedom men has, but besides her spouse and the males who dominate the fledgling English film industry keeping her down, her own limitations also holds her back as she accepts as gospel those limitations because she is a female. We’ve come a long way. Fans of historical tales with a mystery subplot will appreciate THE TWILIGHT HOUR more so than pure whodunit buffs as the incredibly vivid look at the era (readers will shiver with the cold) supersedes the solid investigative subplot.

Vineyard Stalker
Philip R. Craig
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
0743270452, $24.00 1-800-223-2336

Though he loves his wife and kids, retired Boston cop J.W. Jackson looks forward to some quiet time at home in West Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard. However his spouse’s friend realtor Carole Cohen begs J.W. to help her brother. Apparently, someone is harassing Roland “the Monk” Nunes, a Vietnam vet who owns choice property where he lives by himself. Carole believes this unknown adversary wants to frighten Roland into selling his land cheaply.

J.W. agrees to investigate. As he looks at the motive Carole provided to him, J.W. wonders if a cousin Sally Oliver or the neighbor Melissa Carson and her financier fiance Alfred Cabot are behind the threats. However, his inquiry takes a nastier turn when murder raises the stakes.

The latest Martha's Vineyard Mystery is a fresh investigative tale that spins into a murder case. J.W. is at his best as the clues point towards suspects who know the reclusive Monk and include the person who “hired” him. The homicide spin is a terrific twist that affirms how good Philip R. Craig is as a writer. Fans of the series already know that; newcomers will be searching the dunes for previous Jackson thrillers.

The Last Enemy
Grace Brophy
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
1569474591, $23.00

Her father, an American GI, met her Italian mother while stationed in Italy during WWII. Over the objections of her parents, they married, went to the United States to live in Brooklyn, and had a daughter. Years later, the child, now a school teacher Rita Minnelli, mourns the death of her mom so decides to travel to Assisi, Italy to meet her maternal relatives.

Count and Countess Casati do not welcome the foreigner even if she shares their blood. They become chagrined when they realize she plans to stay. Not long afterward, Rita’s welcome ends when she turns up dead in the family vault while the entire town including the Casati clan celebrate Easter Week with the Penitente parade. State Police of Umbria Commissario Alessandro Cenni investigates the homicide even as the Casati crowd refuses to help his investigation; instead they use their political connections to prevent a deep inquiry.

This is a terrific Italian historical police procedural in which Cenni finds that every step he takes there are official roadblocks and a dysfunctional family that makes his teeth hurt. The story line is fast-paced and never slows down even after the audience knows the identity of the killer for there remains a case to prove. Grace Brophy provides an entertaining whodunit.

The Oak Leaves
Maureen Lang
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
1414313454, $12.99 1-800-323-9400

Talie Ingram finds her great-great-grandmother’s journal written in the 1800s. Initially fascinated by her find, she begins to read the entries until she comes across an item that frightens her. She realizes what her ancestor called "feeble-minded" that ran in the family is actually a genetic disorder.

Overwhelmed and frightened that she, her daughter and her sisters might have Fragile X Syndrome, she wants to throw away the ledger without finishing it. However, for the sake of her child and to inform her sister in an intelligent manner, she must find courage to learn more from the journal and other sources including God.

This is a deep family drama that focuses on Fragile X Syndrome and its impact on people. This reviewer never heard of this particular genetic condition until Maureen Lang’s powerful character study that grips the audience from the moment that Talie begins to understand her family Victorian Era history and its implications today. Empathy will go out to her as she struggles with accepting a terrifying prognosis that her son has this condition while wondering why God allows bad things to happen to good people. Extremely deep and haunting, Ms. Lang provides a tale from her soul to ours.

Halfway to Half Way
Suzann Ledbetter
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324508, $6.99

In Missouri, Valhalla Springs Retirement Community resident operations manager Hannah Garvey knows she should be looking forward to her marriage to her beloved Kinderhook County Sheriff David Hendrickson. However, although she loves the law enforcement official and sneaks off the premises to sleep with him, Hannah has some doubts about quitting her job to move in with David.

David is busy investigating the murder of Sanity well-regarded resident Beverly Beauford. Thus he fails to notice that his fiancee is suffering from cold feet. Meanwhile, as everyone is stunned by the murder, Delbert Bisbee and his geriatric sleuths search for a missing husband that even the wife ignores his vanishing. Life is normal at the retirement home.

As always with this wonderful lighthearted romantic mystery series, the cast is over the top so that the readers obtain an amusing tale filled with twists and turns. Fans will enjoy the latest caper of the senior sleuths that drives Hannah crazy as she tries to keep Delbert and the posse out of trouble. Readers of the series will enjoy Suzann Ledbetter’s peculiar bran of humor that is just on this side of sanity.

The Arrangement
Suzanne Forster
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324265, $6.99

Law enforcement assumes Andrew Villard killed his wife Alison while they were at sea on their yacht. To prove his innocence, he feels he must find Alison; miraculously he does alive on a reef. She suffers from amnesia and bad facial battering. He has her visage reconstructed back to a picture of her.

However, Andrew knows someone from her family wanted him dead although he is unsure who. So six months later he persuades Alison that it is time to reconcile with her mom and brother, who cut her off when she married. Alison agrees but fears what her family will see as her memory is coming back to her. At the same time FBI agent Tony Bogart investigates the disappearance of Marnie Hazelton, who he believes killed his brother; the clues take him to Alison and her extended family.

This exhilarating Hitchcockian noir stars no truly likable character as everyone has a nasty grudge that overwhelms every other emotion even that of Alison and Andrew falling in love. The story line is filled with twists as nothing is quite what it seems though everything is in plain sight. Readers who appreciate a gripping well written dark thriller will enjoy learning the truth, nothing but the truth.

Shelter Mountain
Robyn Carr
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
077832429X, $6.99

Former Marine John "Preacher" Middleton works as a cook at the restaurant owned by his former commanding officer Jack Sheridan in remote VIRGIN RIVER, California. Preacher lives a quiet life with no women and a few social events with the other vets from his former unit.

Soaked to the bone Paige Lassiter enters the restaurant carrying her three years old son Christopher. She is on the run from her abusive former spouse, but Preacher assumes it is his scary looks that frighten winners of tough men contests are the reason she is so terrified. However, he also knows he likes her calling him John and somehow her waif like bruised condition reanimates something Preacher thought was dead as he vows to keep and her child safe from that SOB of a “car door” if he ever arrives in the Redwoods. As she works in his kitchen, Paige falls in love with the gentle giant; he reciprocates and includes her son in his heart. When the enemy arrives he will find his ex-wife’s protector is a formidable adversary.

Robyn Carr shows her talent with the second Virgin River tale as this exhilarating thriller stars the enigmatic Preacher and the domestic abuse victim. The story line is driven by their slowly changing relationship as she brings out the obvious protectiveness in John but also a “romantic” side while peeling potatoes. The suspense comes late as it should in this superb sequel.

The Southern Comforts
Luanne Jones
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324222, $13.95

In Orla, Arkansas at the Aunt Farm, Charma Deane George Parker believes life is tough and then you die especially since one of childhood friends, her fifty year old cousin Bess just died not long after their reconciliation (see HEATHEN GIRLS). She enjoys her relationship with Guy Chapman, but believes it is limited and like everything will go wrong as it once did before; the laughter died with Bess.

Charma’s other close cousin Minnie loves her relatives, but would enjoy a moment alone as she lives with her Aunts Shug and Fawnie, and the ghost of Bess, whose recent death brings home her own mortality. However she will learn to appreciate what she had after Charma Deane's son Johnny and her daughter Abby arrive to stay awhile with complications. The Aunt Farm is returning to normal as life goes on filled with laughter.

THE SOUTHERN COMFORTS is an absorbing family drama in which the death of a key member impacts the survivors especially her two cousins. The reactions by Charma and Minnie to Bess’ death is realistic as readers will sympathize with them. The invasion of the extended family to the Aunt Farm is zany playing a frolicking counterpoint to the grief. Fans of character driven tales with limited action will want to read Luanne Jones’s fine reflection on life goes on somewhat painfully until you regain the laugher.

Feels Like Family
Sherryl Woods
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324362, $6.99

In Serenity, South Carolina, she muses that perhaps it is seeing the happiness of her two best friends (see STEALING HOME and A SLICE OF HEAVEN) but divorce attorney Helen Decatur suddenly feels alone. Her work always was enough, but now at forty two years old that reaction formation no longer works as even her biological clock has abruptly set off alarms. She decides to have a child, but has no one in her life to sire the infant.

If she was to choose, Helen would want pastry chef Erik Whitney as the father of her offspring. The attraction between them is palpable as her buddies can sense it as well but he seems to ignore hisr feelings. She begins a scheme to seduce the chef, but when she falls in love she realizes she wants to raise a family with him; Erik has personal reasons from his past to reject the love she offers him.

The final Sweet Magnolias tale is an enjoyable contemporary romance as the readers will enjoy the often amusing witty repartee between Helen and Erik, who both have serious issues that surface as their relationship simmers before boiling. The story line is entertaining due to the antics of the lead couple encouraged by her best friends and their beloved men returning from the previous novels. Readers will agree that “Serenity will never be the same” after this charming trilogy.

The Jericho Pact
Rachel Lee
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324168, $6.99

The world is shook when the assassin killed the German chancellor. Other threats to world leaders, especially in Europe, and to the people have surfaced as riots break out throughout the continent including what turns out to be the final straw at the Grande Mosquee de Paris. Fearing for Muslims, the European Union leadership moves all Muslims into "protection zones".

Office 119 supervisors realize they do have the manpower to prevent some of these events from happening, but which ones to stop before Europe and the world explodes into a war with ethnic cleansing as a catalyst remains the question. While Office 119 Agent Renate Bachle struggles to uncover the mastermind behind the cleverly devised orchestrated assaults, Father Steve Lorenzo and his bodyguard protect a sacred ancient codex. However, the prime puppet-master sees he can use this biblical codex to further the hostilities, plunge a naive suspicious world into open warfare and ultimately chaos so that this master manipulator will arise out of the ashes of civilization as the global ruler.

This Office 119 thriller is an exciting suspense laden tale in spite of the audience knowing relatively early who the villainous WILDCARD is and the use of coincidence to solve much of the investigation by Renate and cohorts. Still this is a fine entry as an unknown Machiavelli manipulates religion to foster a modern day Crusades in which he will be the only victor. Renate’s fans will appreciate her efforts to prevent a religious world war III.

Virtually His
Gennita Low
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324486, $6.99

To be the chosen one meant successfully competing against your peers, the elite of the elite. The winner will become a super-soldier, but unlike the late Captain America of comic book fame, this person will be real and working operations so top secret and dangerous that only a handful of government management agents and the chosen one’s handler will know of mission impossible. The training is two years just to prepare to be selected for the final most risky phase before becoming fully operative as the most dangerous person in the world.

COS Command candidate Helen Roston is the final survivor; she has reached the last segment of her metamorphosis in which she received a special serum to enhance her mind and to ease the link between her and now her virtual reality trainer. His virtual caresses and kisses have her coveting more, but even before she began the training, she preferred to be on top so Helen plans to control her responses as she trusts no one. Her mission is impossible, selected by those whose candidates lost to her so want her to fail so their chosen one can be the second guinea pig. Schools out for real.

VIRTUALLY HIS, the first Helen Roston super-soldier story, is an interesting complex science fiction thriller. The story line, especially at the beginning, takes its time purposely to set the environment by focusing on the technology and training of the chosen one learning to use virtual reality and performance enhancing serums (sounds like steroids) to enable out of body “remote viewing” and other widening of the senses way beyond normal capabilities. This makes the novel a difficult book to read but worth the time. Those fans who appreciate an entertaining well written deep espionage science fiction thriller will enjoy Gennita Low’s opening saga if nothing else but to learn who Helen’s monitor is (kept this reviewer up late).

Blood Ties
Judith E. French
Love Spell
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0505527146, $6.99 1-800-481-9191

When Archeologist Abbie Chingwe Night Horse travels to Tawes Island in Chesapeake Bay County, she combines work and pleasure. The trip enables her to spend time with her mom while also investigating a Native American burial ground in which several artifacts have been recently found.

However, not long after the drowning death of a boy, someone murders Abbie’s mother. Police Chief Buck Davis investigates the homicide and the drowning. He struggles to find a motive, in the murder, but has begun to have doubts about the lad’s death being an accident. While the townsfolk insist it is the curse, Buck falls in love with Abbie, but knows he is an islander and she is a mainlander. However solving the case comes first.

This romantic suspense police procedural will grip the audience from the moment that Abbie’s mother is killed and never slows down until the final confrontation. The fast-paced story line keeps readers somewhat off balance as the curse of disturbing a Native American burial ground begins to look more like the cause behind the deaths instead of a mortal killer. Though the killer seems a stretch, readers will appreciate this terrific tense thriller.

Immortals: The Calling
Jennifer Ashley
Love Spell
0505526875, $6.99

Adrian is one of five immortal brothers created at the dawning of time to protect mankind from those who will use dark magic to destroy life magic. Although much of humanity has forgotten this powerful quintet of warriors, a few life magic practitioners still believe they will come if the world needs them.

Thus when someone possessing incredible levels of magic goes rogue, Adrian, whose brother Tain vanished seven centuries ago, begins a quest to stop this maverick from eradicating humanity; his fear is that Tain turned. Adrian meets life magic witch Amber Silverthorne, who seeks the demon who murdered her sister for no apparent reason. Adrian and Amber are attracted to one another and make love whenever they can, but the quest comes first. As they receive aid from paranormal and mortal individuals, the duo treks from Seattle to the Arctic with points in between hunting a killer and trying to learn more about THE CALLING.

This is an interesting opening saga starring an immortal who uses his superpowers especially mind control to get what he wants; in this case he wants Amber. However, for the most part Amber can thwart his mental efforts to force her to do his bidding. Though sidebars to establish a contemporary earth filled with magic and supernatural beings take somewhat away from the prime theme of the Immortal and the Witch making love in between the latest good vs. evil war, this s a spellbinding and enchanting tale.

Jail Bertie and the Peanut Lady
Dolores J. Wilson
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
1933836113, $24.95

In Sweet Meadow, Georgia, tow truck driver and mechanic Roberta “Bertie Byrd” Fortney prefers the town council cut the tree down that blocks vision at the Oak and Haverford intersection, but takes action when they don’t; she is arrested for tree cutting without a license. Avoiding the anger of the tree-huggers she wants a traffic light installed at that intersection that has kept her busy with accidents. However, she is willing to settle for asking for an automated counter to validate her case that a light is needed. However, there is no money unless the town council reprograms funding from their Christmas party, which is heresy. Instead they order Bertie to tally the traffic and provide a report of her findings to them. Stunned by their lack of priorities, Bertie and council member Bob Bord heatedly argue her request until he dies of a heart attack, leaving an opening on the council.

Bertie runs for the vacancy against Booger Bailey and his renowned barking goats making her chances of winning doubtful as everyone knows not to compete against animal stars. It is virtually impossible for her to gain the seat that most people believe her tirade opened up, her opponent has incredible financial backing from a mysterious “redneck mafia” benefactor while she runs her campaign on peanuts.

Bertie is at her delightful best as she tries to do what she believes is right for her town. Although the lighthearted story line amusingly focuses on small town living in rural Georgia where a debate over a traffic light can become extremely heated and lethal, Bertie owns the tale. Readers will appreciate Bertie’s latest antics and escapades as she drives everyone around her to distraction in her latest romp (see BIG HAIR AND FLYING COWS).

My Lady’s Treasure
Catherine Dean
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
1932815783, $6.99

In 1192 England, Lady Faye Rivellaux meets with Brant Meslarches, who demands silver in exchange for the safe return of her ward eighteen moths old Angeline. She instead offers him “God’s Holy Blood”, gold cup. Brant is stunned as his employer Lord Torr Lorvais insisted the widow had nothing of value to buy back the brat. Faye clings to her goal--to rescue the kidnapped child she vowed to protect. However, he takes the cup, but before he can leave she falls and hurts herself. Having no choice he takes Faye and the cup that proves of Celtic King Arthur exists, as his murdered brother insisted.

Brant feels caught between a rock and a hard place as he would prefer to return the infant to Lady Faye, but cannot. On the other hand, he believes she is his hope for redemption although he loathes hurting the Lady who is beginning to mean more to him than his reputation. Still he must be careful because his liege has plans for her.

MY LADY’S TREASURES is an enthralling medieval romance due to the heroic efforts of Lady Faye to keep little Angeline safe. Brant is the more fascinating lead character as he struggles between honor and loyalty to a liege who he distrusts as being dangerously and dismissively dishonest vs. his admiration for the courage of Faye; all that aside from his love for her. Though Torr comes across as having no redeeming qualities going so far to use a baby as an expendable pawn to get his selfish way, sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine character driven twelfth century love story.

The Three Motives for Murder
Michelle Perry
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
1932815805, $6.99

For years ago the car accident destroyed several families living in Coalmont, Tennessee. Three of the teens were killed, one crippled, another needs pain killers, and driver Natasha “Nat” Hawthorne is carrying around a load of guilt. The tragedy that never left anyone’s thoughts is back as a wrongful death civil suit is in court.

Only twenty-three years old, Brady Simms is selected as the town police chief in a controversial decision because of his age. Ten minutes on the job and he gets a call that his beloved Nat who dumped him following the accident has reported the murdered corpse of her boyfriend Bobby McBee and barely escaped the masked killer. As he investigates the past and present, his supporters fear that he is letting his heart rule over his 147 IQ brain, but a wave of revelations make him wonder if what everyone thought happened four years ago actually occurred that way and whether the current killer is not a revenge seeker as everyone else thinks, but an avaricious amoral person seeing a chance to make a fortune with the upcoming wrongful death suit.

Though at least one prime finding seems too convenient, THE THREE MOTIVES FOR MURDER is a wonderful police procedural romantic suspense. The story line focuses on the homicide investigation while interwoven into the murder inquiry is a second chance at love if Brady goes for it. Michelle Perry provides readers with a fine tale as Brady’s biggest supporters fear his love for Nat supersedes his reasoning.

The River Queen
Mary Morris
Henry Holt & Company
175 - 5th Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
0805078274, $24.00 1-888-330-8477

In Brooklyn, travel author Mary Morris was mourning the death of her father as her daughter was going off to college when she decided the walls of her empty nest abode was increasing her anxiety caused by these recent reminders of her mortality. The travelogue writer needed something different to occupy her middle age thoughts as pictures from the 1920s of her father makes her feel she must do something to honor his memory and to get her out of the doldrums. She hires a Mississippi River houseboat the River Queen owned by Captain Jerry to take her down the great river starting in Wisconsin with plans to reach Hannibal, Missouri home of Twain and her dad, who told her and her brother many river tales.

The memoir is at its best when Ms. Morris observes the “mallization” of the river towns that make places like Dubuque different than what she describes in her dad’s vivid images and metaphors. Also fun is when Jerry teaches her how to steer their vessel though she is not a grade A student. When Ms. Morris goes introspective the travelogue turns muddier than the Mighty Mississippi especially when she rages about her dislikes. Still this is a fine memoir that is entertaining when Ms. Morris brings to life the changing upper river basin especially in the latter half of the journey as if the river eventually cleansed the visitor’s hurting soul.

Barbara Gowdy
Henry Holt & Company
175 - 5th Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
0805082883, $24.00 1-888-330-8477

In Toronto, single mom Celia Fox works two jobs while raising her beautiful mixed race daughter nine year old Rachel. Celia works at Tom’s Video and plays jazz and blues at Casa Hernandez Motel. As protective as Celia is of her daughter, she is unaware of the impact her exotic looking offspring has on men, but begins to comprehend when a child model agent wants to hire Rachel; Celia has doubts, but Rachel sees a chance to earn money that she and her mom could use. However, mom is unaware that repairman Ron has seen Rachel and fallen in love.

Ron wants to save his beloved from poverty and maternal neglect and abuse. When a blackout occurs, Ron realizes he has the opportunity to save his Rachel so he abducts her for her own good. He enlists his girlfriend Nancy to help him “protect” the child, but finds his needs for her beginning to overwhelm his reasoning. As the police search for the missing preadolescent and Celia fears the worst, the media turns the abduction into a circus.

This is a deep psychological study that looks into the minds of the key cast members especially mother, daughter, kidnapper, and accomplice. The story line is totally character driven with the suspense coming from the subtle changes in attitudes of the prime quartet. Celia suffers from guilt and doubt as she deals with a caring mother’s she worst nightmare; Rachel begins to change her attitude as the Stockholm Syndrome begins to take affect. Nancy begins to have doubts that they did the right thing for the little girl as she realizes that Celia is not a terrible abusive mother. However, it is creepy Ron who makes the tale as he begins to conclude his pristine reasons are not pure. This is a frightening insightful suspense thriller that never lets the readers pause for a moment.

Cleansing Hunt
Greg Park
Bladestar Publishing
1499 North 950West, Orem Utah. 84057
0978793196, $24.95

It has been twenty years since the Dread Lord Throy Shadon was defeated by the combined armies of the Nine Nations, but now he has returned refleshed with his soul in a dead man’s body. His cult in Melek, mostly followers of Maeon the Evil One plan to invade another Kelsa. The Agla’ Con steal the Ta’Shaen from the Earthsoul so they can defeat the followers of Elderon the Creator of All Things while those who worship Elderon are given to those that are worthy freely. The Malek King saves Gideon Dymas, a warrior prophet who was imprisoned in a dungeon but his two son’s were killed. Gideon is one of Kelsa’s last hopes to defeat Maeon.

The Earthsoul, the spirit of the planet, is dying and a firstborn son of Elsa must use a Talisman of Elsa to rejuvenate it otherwise their world will end and Maeon will rule. Jase Farimor, a nephew of the king of Kelsa o can wield the Talisman of Elsa when one can be found in its original resting place. Word arrives that just such a Talisman has been found so Jase and his cousin Eldin journey to get it along with Gideon and a large army. They split up when they learn the Talisman is stolen by an Agla’ Con and Jase’s mother has been kidnapped. Gideon vows to recover the Talisman while Jase goes to rescue his mother, but both fear that events seemingly out of control will force Jase to turn Agla’ Con if he can’t learn to control his darker emotions..

AS the Nine Kingdoms awaken to the danger facing it, brave warriors surface to try to save their world but wonder if the means is as critical as the end. CLEANSING HUNT is a brilliantly written epic fantasy in the tradition of Tolkien and Brooks, but also contains realistic characters who struggle in an environs filled with gray choices, not black and white ones. The heroes especially fear they may have to employ fire to fight fire, which means they must kill without turning to the dark side. There is plenty of political intrigue as battle preparation occurs, but the backbone of this fine saga is Jase, who fears he can not pay the price to save the Earthsoul. Readers will be parked for hours enjoying this entertaining epic.

Goblin Hero
Jim C. Hines
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0756404428, $6.99 1-800-847-5515

The mountain is riddled with tunnels created by magic that go anywhere and everywhere and are home goblins, hobgoblins, and ogres. Before his adventures with Straum the dragon and the Necromancer, Jig the Goblin was the runt of the litter, picked on by everyone and considered the weakest of the weak. That was then; now he is called Jig the Dragonslayer and has the power to heal which makes him valuable to his species.

The Goblin leader Kralk wants Jig dead by stealth means so she asks for the Goblin’s help. Something magical is killing the Ogres and they are helpless to prevent it. Kralk sends Jig, moronic Brof, and Grell the oldest to confront the culprit. As they begin their quest they meet Veko, a wannabe wizard, who begs to join their mission. They soon find pixies from another realm whose queen plans to take over the entire mountain unless Jig and company can find a way to defeat a seemingly invincible foe.

Jim C. Hines has an uncanny ability to make his magical species co-existing inside a mountain seem plausible including residing there. With no human in sight, his characters are unique with none more inimitable than Jig. The pixies are alien (odd to use that term when the focus is a goblin) and 200 proof evil as they do cruel things including a painful death to their enemies. The three goblins are quite the heroic trio as they battle adversaries in which Jig seems happiest when cornered and the other two want to run. GOBLIN HERO is a wonderful fantasy quest tale with humor and wit normally missing with the sub-genre’s normal Tolkien grave save the universe quests.

The Spirit Stones
Katherine Kerr
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0756404339, $24.95 1-800-847-5515

Some of the Horsekin have civilized themselves and settled in cities but that hasn’t abated their thirst for war. They need more lands for their heavy horses to have more pastures and they believe their goddess wants them to have it. The dwarves, the elves and the humans of Deverry are planning to attack Zakh Grel, the fortress they built to stage their battles from. As the men make ready to go to battle, people from 983, over one hundred years ago who have been reincarnated in the present all have a role to play.

Nevyn the herbmaster was a powerful wielder of Dweomer (magic) found the woman he and then her lost to a magic wielder’s poor judgment. In the present he is known as Neb a scribe married to the Lady Bronna once known as Morwen. Both possess Dweomer and are ready to defend the borders. Friends and enemies from 983 are all alive in the present and have a role to play in the upcoming war. In the past Gwairyc was a lord who looked down on commoners but in the present he had to earn his lordship and is a great leader of men. Lez Maj, an outlaw in the present was a pedophile in another past incarnation while Mella, now Sidro, an ex-priestess who is Laz’s lover. Maj’s lover is fascinated by the black and obsidian pyramid made with magic in 983. As the forces of good and evil begin to march, nobody knows what the outcome will be, not even the seers.

The latest Deverry novel contains an epic high fantasy plot that is absolutely spellbinding. The tale is divided into two parts, 983 and the present and the various players who have reincarnated in the present are believable characters taking their personalities from one era and transforming them into something else in this incarnation. Filled with wondrous creatures like talking dragons who are allied against the Horsekin speaking animals and heroes who will fight and die for a cause they believe is just, THE SPIRIT STONES is a wonderful and exciting tale.

Yellow Eyes
John Ringo and Tom Kratman
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
1416521038, $26.00 1-800-223-2336

The Monroe Doctrine has never been challenged like what has happened throughout Latin America. The reptilian Posleen aliens have conquered everything without much resistance except in Panama where American soldiers, especially former expatriate vets, join a local resistance to battle the alien horde while all the strategic thinkers agree on the outcome that if the Canal is lot it means the starvation of North America.

Though unable to send troops as the military is needed to defend the continental United States, the countryside enables the humans to use successful guerilla tactics against a powerful foe who sees the enemy as lesser beings in the food chain. However, politicians make deals that would shame Neville Chamberlain with a willingness to sacrifice the freedom fighters as expendable pawns. Still the human militia takes the fight to the lethal Posleen.

This entertaining fast-paced military science fiction thriller grips the audience from the first page action until the final battle. Interestingly the superpower aliens seem more humane than the cowardly politicians who sell their soul (and some lives) to remain in power, albeit a much weaker command. Fans of the series will enjoy the latest Human-Posleen War as the action moves from a WATCH ON THE RHINE to Latin America.

Russian Amerika
Stoney Compton
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
141652116X, $24.00 1-800-223-2336

In 1989 in Czarist Russian controlled Alaska, Naval Captain Grisha Grigorievich detests the de jure and de facto prejudice that he suffers from just because he is a half breed. Less competent with less success officers have been promoted before him. However, even worse in his mind is the true-blood theory of law in which a Cossack purebred can invoke Czarist control on half breeds or Native Alaskans; it galls Grisha when a lightweight uses his heritage to order him about like a slave.

Grisha learns how far his lack of status goes when he is accused and convicted of murdering a government agent. Without any chance of repudiating the accusation, he is taken to a prison labor camp with no hope of exoneration or for that matter freedom; no one escapes the internment camps. However, not long afterward, Native American Alaskan separatists attack the confinement complex freeing Grisha. The freedom lovers plead with Grisha to join their cause, but he has plans to kill those whose lies led to his incarceration.

Alternate history fans will relish this superb thriller whose basis is that Russia never sold Seward’s Folly. The concept and the subsequent dominoes that occur from that opening historical alteration seem reasonable. However, what makes for a delightful thriller is the “current” time scenario as Stoney Compton interweaves the key events from the past in the present. Perhaps the best scene in the novel and one of the best of the year is the revolutionaries (insurgents?) and the Czarists battle in the cold regions where climate is a deadly weapon. This is an excellent alternate historical saga.

The Screaming Room
Thomas O’ Callaghan
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
0786018127, $6.99 1-800-345-2665

Six years ago NYPD homicide commander Lieutenant John Driscoll lost his daughter to a drunk driver. His beloved wife stayed in a coma in their home all that time before she passed away. Now Driscoll, a grieving widower, is ready to plunge into work to forget his private demons.

His case begins when a series of tourists are killed by blunt forced trauma to the head, their heads scalped, their bodies placed in famous tourist attractions like the Ferris wheel in Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Bronx Zoo and many other places. DNA evidence at the scene of the crimes shows that they are dealing with two killers, a male and a female both identical twins. The killers Angus and Cassie are the victims of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and their victims are no innocents. Complicating the case is one of the victim’s fathers Malcolm Shewster has put a multi-million dollar bounty on the twins. He doesn’t want them arrested; he wants them killed so the secrets they know or could come out by other means would be taken to their graves. Both Driscoll and Shewter are racing each other to find the twins which is not easy to do since they are very clever and in a city of nine million they have a lot of places to hide.

Thomas O’ Callaghan follows up his debut novel the BONE THIEF with a chilling thriller. THE SCREAMING ROOM shows the depravity the human race is capable of especially where it concerns innocent children. Although readers will be horrified by what they endured as children, the twins elicit no sympathy because of what they do in the present. This is horror of human of the human kind and it is more terrifying then any Stephen King tale because it is based on reality.

Late Night Talking
Leslie Schnur
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0743288246, $22.00

Following her all night talk radio show Sterling Behavior, Jeannie Sterling enjoys walking home. Jeannie has two things she obsesses over; first to end rudeness especially in Manhattan and second to find a love forever. On her way home, a stud driving a Hummer almost hits her. She calls him a turkey even as he steps out of the vehicle. They have a confrontation before she scratches the Hummer.

He thinks she is a kook, Jeannie rants about him on her radio show until she realizes he is zillionaire Nicholas Moss. Since he listens to her show as a fellow insomniac he realizes that this hostess calling him a pig is a righteous prig who considers herself the arbiter of right and wrong. She assumes he inherited wealth when instead his parents were East Village working stiffs. His goal is get even with Jennie by buying the radio station WBUZ. Thus as her seventy-five years old dad Lou arrives to stay in her apartment with his companion Mouse the dog and her beloved reporter friend Tommy Whitney returns from overseas, Moss buys the station. Soon a new format of Jeannie and her sidekick Luce working rudeness on the street leads to a TV show even as she begins to wonder what is right for her professionally and personally.

The concept of talk radio comes across as a winner as Jeanie is an interesting humorous host whose tales are realistic and sadly amusing as we all have done some of the rudeness she rants against. The support cast is strong as each enables the audience to better understand the lead characters especially Jeannie. Although, as characters like Luce point out, Jeannie’s incessant rants can become irritating, contemporary fans will enjoy this romance over the air waves.

Thrown a Curve
Sara Griffiths
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
1890862495, $2.95 1-800-637-7377

In New Jersey, her mother deserted her father, her two brothers, and her when Taylor Dresden was a baby; she has no memories of the woman that she can say are her own. When Taylor was seven, her dad would rotate taking her brothers to Yankee Stadium, but never her. When she was eight, her brothers played little league and she decided she wanted to do so too. Taylor became a pitcher, but the only female player. Her father watched her siblings play, but never her. When she overhears him mention that he is embarrassed that his daughter is a better thrower than the boys, Taylor quits.

Now fourteen, her only friend Justin gets her to show off her pitching arm at a carnival. Later she gets drunk for the first time in her life and throws a brick through the school window. Guidance counselor Mr. Sacamore saw her and gives her an ultimatum. She tries out for the all boys baseball team or he goes to the cops. She makes the team die to her wicked curveball, but no one except Sacamore and Justin wants her on the team and her dad especially wants her off the team. Still as she shows grit and talent, the softball team girls adopt her as one of them and her teammates except for superstar Rick realize she can make them a winning team. Can Taylor adjust to success and friendships, both new in her life even as her only pal wants to be more than just friends?

This is a fabulous young adult character study starring a teenager who believes life has thrown plenty of curves at her and a few beanballs in the mix. Baseball is her confident builder as she learns that the strong don’t just survive, they thrive. A secondary message involving her dad’s failure to communicate that he loves and is proud of his daughter makes her assume he hates her adding to a fine character study.

Glitter of Diamonds
N.J. Lindquist
That’s Life Communications
PO Box 487, Markhan, Ontario, Canada, L3P 3R1
0968549594, $24.95

When Cuban Ricardo “Rico” Velasquez made it to North America, the Toronto Matrix baseball team signed the extremely talented pitcher to a lucrative deal. Starting pitcher Armando Santana was demoted and was called on to play when a mop up pitcher was needed. Money and fame went to Rico’s head and he turned into an egomaniac, a real “bad boy” who was not a team player. He was especially on the case of Armando, constantly deriding him and calling him a has been.

Sports talk show host Stasey Simon notes Rico’s attitude and says on air someone should take a bat to him to knock some sense into him. That is exactly what happened on the night when Rico’s wife Alita, who just arrived from Cuba, met the press at a party at the Diamond Dome where the Matrix play ball. Detective constable Jacqueline Ryan and inspector Paul Manziuk are the lead police officers on the case and are under a lot of pressure to bring the case to a close. Before they find the killer, one innocent is murdered, another person is beaten with a bat and lies comatose in the hospital and Rico’s girlfriend was given a Mickey Finn.

Sports fans and readers who like police procedurals will want to read GLITTER OF DIAMONDS where famous baseball players are shown to be ordinary people with the same stress and problems as anyone else. The investigation is fascinating to watch as the police follow the clues and eliminate suspects one by one. N.J. Lindquist is a fine writer who tells an exciting baseball whodunit.

The Overlook
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown & Company
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316018953, $21.99 1-800-759-0190

Retirement didn’t work out for LAPD Harry Bosch so he went back to work for the cold case unit. Now he is working for homicide special and he is called out at midnight to the overlook above the Mulholland Dr. Somebody has been murdered execution style with two bullets to the head. When Harry and his new partner Iggy (who he is breaking in to the job) arrive on the scene he finds out that the victim is Dr. Stanley Kent. When he calls the information in, the FBI quickly arrives on the scene. Dr. Kent had access to Cesium, the fusion of uranium and plutonium.

The FBI warned the victim last year to be careful and to take protection to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. When they arrive at Dr. Kent’s home, they find his wife tied up. She tells them two men dressed in black and wearing ski masks did this and took a picture of her. Both Harry and the police learn that they sent the picture to Dr. Kent saying that if he doesn’t give them a quantity of cesium they will kill his wife. The radioactive material has been stolen from one of the hospitals that the doctor uses and the race is on to find it. The FBI tries to shoot Harry out of the case but he isn’t listening because there is more to the case than meets the eye.

Harry Bosch is one of the most irascible, stubborn and bullish police detectives to ever grace the pages of a police procedural. He is also determined to see justice done which gets him in trouble with other agencies and his superiors yet he is resolute to do things his way which is usually the right way. THE OVERLOOK has plenty of action and chase scenes so that readers never stop reading the book until the final astonishing climax.

Body Surfing
Anita Shreve
Little, Brown & Company
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316059854 , $25.99 1-800-759-0190

Stunned by the sudden death of her second husband due to an aneurism, twenty-nine years old Sydney feels lost and unanchored. To pass time quietly in a serene locale while she silently grieves about life’s ironies, Sydney accepts a tutoring position at an ocean front cottage. Mr. and Mrs. Edwards hires her to teach their eighteen years old daughter, intellectually challenged but artistically brilliant Julie, who is a disappointing underachiever compared with her thirtyish older brothers, Boston realtor Ben and MIT political science professor Jeff.

Julie suddenly runs away with Mrs. Edwards blaming half-Jewish Sydney for putting dumb ideas in her head. As Jeff and Sydney search for the missing sibling, they fall in love. However, when Julie reappears relatively safe in Montreal with a lesbian lover twenty-five year old Helene, Mrs. Edwards deems her middle child will not marry the Jewish upstart and Ben is outraged by the proposed nuptials.

Mostly told through the perspective of Sydney, fans obtain a fascinating family drama as readers observe the impact of the tutor on the Edwards clan though it takes a final shocking watery twist to understand Ben’s reaction to the engagement. The key cast members seem real even through Sydney’s filter. However this is the heroine’s tale as she learns that life is a roller coaster in which one ride ends with a death of sorts while the next spin begins. This is a fine contemporary tale as expected by Anita Shreve.

Ghost of a Chance
Amy Patricia Meade
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN, 55125-2989
073871092X, $13.95

In 1935 Ridgebury, Connecticut is holding its annual carnival sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church and one of the big attractions is the Ferris Wheel. When the seat holding the last person on the ride opens the man flops to the ground. At first they think he died of a heart attack but mystery writer and amateur sleuth Miss Marjorie McCelland finds a dart near the wheel. She and her friend, British aristocrat Creighton Ashcroft bring it to the medical examiner. Tests show the man died of curare poisoning and the dart contained blood that matched that of the victim.

Marjorie’s fiancee, police detective Robert Jameson informs her that the victim’s name is Alfred Nussbaun and his wife Josie identifies the body. She doesn’t seem upset and it isn’t too long before they find out he was a bigamist with a wife and two children in Boston. They also learn that Josie is also married to someone else and is running a scam to part Alfred from his money with her husband’s approval. Suspects abound with motives aplenty but the identity of the killer will shock everyone even a clever mystery writer.

Amy Patricia Meade has written a very charming amateur sleuth and police procedural mystery. The author has a way of creating characters that make them seem like the neighbor next door and even the killer will elicit reader sympathy. The triangle that develops between Creighton, Marjorie and Robert is very well developed and adds an extra dimension to the plot. Romance readers will definitely like this Depression Era regional mystery partly due to state of forensic science and the relationship between Creighton and Marjorie.

Swapping Paint
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
0738710202, $12.95 1-800-843-6666

Glad and Ruby have a very good and happy marriage although he is a generation older than her. Glad retired as a detective from the Chicago PD and with his pension and sound investments has more than enough money to travel around the country following the NASCAR circuit.

They are in Concord, North Carolina to watch the Coke Cola 600 and attend the pre-event galas as her brother Bobby is one of the racers driving for the Massey team. A tragedy occurs when one of Massey’s other drivers Ricky Sanders is found dead in his racing car. Bobby is the prime suspect because he is the last known person to have sent he victim alive; his prints are on the murder weapon; and his racing outfit is stained with blood. On top of the already damning evidence is the family feud between the kin of Bobby and Ricky. The police charge Bobby with the homicide that his sister and brother-in-law firmly believe he did not do as he could not hurt a fly so they look to prove that he is innocent.

SWAPPING PAINT, told in the third person from the perspective of Glad, is a madcap comedic whodunit that engages the audience due to the antics of the lead duo as he gladly prefers to watch the goings-on while she takes the wheel at speeds that NASCAR drives envy. Thus Glad’s love for his take the hill spouse shines through, as he undertakes actions for her and only her. Fans of racing and mysteries will enjoy this speedy turn around the track as Joyce and Jim Lavene provide a superb racing thriller.

A Fiery Secret
Diane Craver
Samhain Publishing
512 Forest Lake Dr., Warner Robbins,Ga.31093
1599983699, $14.00

In Park City, Ohio, editor in chief and owner of the Messenger Jane Gibbons informs her small staff including investigative reporter Catherine Steel that she is expanding the popular sports section and bringing in Jake Michaels as the sports editor. Catherine is unhappy with Jake coming home because he failed to show up to escort her to the prom when they were seeing one another in high school.

Jake never got over Catherine and wants to start over; Catherine never forgave Jake or any boy and chose virginity until she says I do. However having Jake around makes her choices difficult as she still loves the rat. Meanwhile in between supplementing her income writing fluff for women’s magazines and fantasizing about Jake while avoiding him, Catherine investigates the recent death of high school janitor Max Hartman, officially ruled an accident, but she has found some contrary evidence that begins to imply homicide.

A FIERY SECRET is a wonderful small town journalistic investigative mystery starring two likable protagonists and a horde of eccentric Midwesterners. The whodunit is fun to follow as an over-worked Catherine begins to uncover long held secrets that culminated in her mind with the janitor’s murder though law enforcement believes au contraire. Her relationship with Jake is fascinating as they knew each other back then, but find refreshing surprises about each other. With a great cast, a strong final twist, a delightful investigation, and two fine prime time stars lead to a terrific entertaining romantic mystery.

Elementary, My Dear Watkins
Mindy Starns Clark
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
0736914870, $12.99 1-800-547-8979

While her boyfriend Danny is in Paris on Scene It magazine business, Jo “Tips from the Tulip” remains home in New York recuperating from some injuries. Jo looks forward to Danny’s return because the couple plans to marry soon afterward. However, not wanting to worry Danny or worse have him abort his photography internship work in France to come home, Jo hides from her fiance her simple assertion that someone wants her dead.

Resolute and having solved some recent mysteries, Jo decides to investigate with the help of her grandmother, who she believes is somehow involved; at least the amateur sleuth thinks so. As Jo begins to uncover clues to motive and hopefully the identity, Danny has some difficult decisions to make that affect both of them.

The third Smart Chick mystery is like its predecessors (see BLIND DATES CAN BE MURDER and TROUBLE WITH TULIP) a delightful suspense thriller starring an intrepid heroine with health and household issues even before someone threatens her. The story line is fast-paced as Jo deals with her life threatening problems while across the ocean Danny struggles with his life choices. With plenty of suspects even family members, red herrings, and wit, chick lit mystery fans will immensely enjoy this entertaining amateur sleuth tale.

Tribulation House
Chris Well
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
0736917411, $11.99 1-800-547-8979

Mark Hogan reflects on the steps that lead to his killing Reverend Daniel Glory. He thinks back and Mark realizes how good he had it with a great paying job that he liked; a loving family who adored him; and even the regard of the embers of The Last Church of God’s Imminent Will where he is a key participant. In fact Mark had everything he desired except a 2008 Bayliner 192 boat.

When Reverend Glory announces the Rapture is coming on 17 October at 5:51 AM, Mark reacts as any American would that time is running out on him to buy the boat of his dreams. Like everyone else in town, Mark believes in the word of the Reverend so he borrows money from the mob knowing that he will never make remittance. However, one minor problem as just like Jesus, Reverend Glory does not know when God will start the Rapture. On 17 October after 5:51 AM has long past, Mark realizes he owes a lot of money to some dangerous individuals who plan to collect one way or another as they have their own end of days plan.

Using humor and satire, Chris Well provides a powerful cautionary tale that warns readers to be careful with prophets (both genuine and false) as God would expect people to keep on living pious normal lives. The story line focuses mostly on Mark’s reaction to the end of times, but also to a degree that of the townsfolk and the mob. Christian readers will appreciate this intelligent look at the end of times that never began as TRIBULATION HOUSE is a wonderful inspirational thriller.

When I Fall in Love
Lynn Kurland
Jove Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0515142964, $7.99 1-800-847-5515

Manhattan concert violinist Jennifer McKinnon feels she will never meet and marry her soulmate though she admits the potential pool of perspective suitors is wider than most single females. Her maternal heritage includes mating with a beloved from a different time period than their own. These otherworldly relationships are taken for granted by Jennifer and her kin.

Unbeknownst to lonely Jennifer, the ghost-side of her family believes they have the ideal spouse for her. They plan to hook her up with and married to Nicholas de Piaget, even if he is a thirteenth century knight and she is a twenty-first century musician. Her matchmaking kin send Jennifer through a time gate to Nicholas’ era where each finds the strings of their respective heart stirring. As they fall in love, this duet has a problem that time cannot heal as she wants to go home.

This is an interesting romantic fantasy starring a likable couple who obviously belong together, but whose time may not come to pass. Interestingly there are no villains as everyone wants the musician and the knight to come together. Jennifer has a problem because she wants her Starbucks and her Nicholas. Though somewhat muted, fans of time travel romances will enjoy this ghostly enhanced tale of two chronologically impaired people falling into a love that will be forever.

Grave Illusions
Lina Gardiner
ImaJinn Books
PO Box 545, Canon City, CO 81215-0545
1933417951, $14.00

Though part of NYPD, Jess Vandermire feels all alone; as far as she knows she is the only vampire with a soul. Her mission in life is to stop her soulless cousins from feeding on humans. Her quest has recently become extremely difficult as an ancient genetically altered one has taken control of the vampire horde and organized them into a smooth fighting force.

John Brittain feels his life is over ever since he lost his police job following his killing of his partner Randy during a dispute between them. A reluctant Jess, knowing she needs help even if that goes against her fight alone nature, asks Britt to join her top secret team as a full member of NYPD, but provides no further info except people will die. With his former boss at the meeting encouraging him, Britt accepts. However, he will soon learn how dangerous their mission is when evidence surfaces that Jess’ war ties in to his partner’s death. As they work together, they fall in love, but he is human and she is vampire.

The lead couple is a fascinating pair who finds their world suddenly turned upside down and not just because they fall in love. She is a loner who suddenly becomes a police lieutenant running a NYPD black ops team; he is an alcoholic who suffers from depression who suddenly is back on the force he loves after having no hopes for any future. Together, along with other recruits, they make a formidable team as they battle killer vampires using a dangerous drug Sunshine to enhance their prowess. Though the story line starts a bit slow while Britt makes up his mind whether to join or not, fans will appreciate the adventures of Jess Vandermire, vampire hunter.

Touch of Night
Carin Rafferty
PO Box 545, Canon City, CO 81215-0545
1933417226, $15.00

Ariel Dantes tried to talk her twin brother Armand from visiting with self proclaimed warlock Lucien Morgret, but failed to persuade him as he believes there is something beyond the mundane existence while she is the ultimate non-believer. Armand met with Lucien in a seedy bar the Witches' Brew in a downtrodden Philadelphia neighborhood. However, Armand never came home or contacted his sister afterward.

Terrified for what might happened to her sibling, Aries goes to the same bar that is the last place she knows Armand went to; there she plans to accost Lucien, the last person she knows of who spoke with her twin before he vanished. Though attracted to one another, Lucien refuses to get involved with her brother’s potential plight as he insists Armand is an adult. Despondent, Ariel returns home not sure what to do next while also berating her self for wanting the so-called warlock. However, something must have happened because Lucian suddenly appears out of nowhere in her home agreeing to rescue Armand, but Ariel must accept all his stipulations starting with sacrificing her soul. Ariel wonders if her biggest fear is not for her brother or even her soul, but for her heart as Lucien frightens in ways no man has ever before.

This is fantastic romantic fantasy starring two terrific protagonists. Perhaps antagonist might be a more suited definition of their early relationship as the heroine distrusts the warlock, does not believe in paranormal powers, and wonders if he harmed her twin even as she falls in love with her “adversary”. The story line is action-packed while Rafferty’s realm sees plausible. Still the tale belongs to the changing relationship between the cynic and the warlock with souls and hearts on the line.

Magdalen Rising
Elizabeth Cunningham
Monkfish Book Publishing Company
27 Lamoree Road, Rhinebeck, New York. 12572
0976684322, $24.95

On the Shining Isle Tir na mBan of the Otherworld, Maeve is sired by the God Manannan Mac Lir and mothered by eight warrior witches. The women raise her with love and affection until the wise ancient one Cailleach insists the girl’s destiny is in the mortal realm. Reluctantly the despondent octet sends their beloved ward to attend the Druid College on Mona. There she hopes to meet the Mysterious one who haunts her dreams.

Instead she meets Esus of Jerusalem, who becomes her best friend and rival as they argue over everything and anything. However, it is her power that stuns the Druid faculty and her peers as Maeve is able to heal the dying by placing her heated hands on them. No one quite has her skills, which seems to be a cross between witchcraft and druidism. Maeve begins to believe that she and Esus are offspring of the Gods and soon feels they belong together amidst the mortals. He disagrees, but this is only the beginning of their relationship at a time when Lovernius the Druid is fasinated by both of them.

MAGDALEN RISING is a stupendous prequel to the insightful THE PASSION OF MARY MAGDALEN. Readers will appreciate the young Maeve and equally youthful Esus as they constantly debate. The story line provides insight into Ancient Celtic mythology and makes an obvious connection to the early days of both protagonists in their pre Christianity days. Readers will enjoy the delightful discussions between them as night and day while wondering what Lovernius plans for the pair even as the Romans are coming. This is a superior Christian historical tale.

The Mind Parasites
Colin Wilson
Monkfish Book Publishing Company
27 Lamoree Road, Rhinebeck, New York. 12572
0974935999, $14.95

In 1994, Archeologist Gilbert Austin returns home after providing a lecture at the Middlesex Archeological Society. Before going to sleep he returns the call of three decades old friend Karel Weissman only to learn from his associate’s secretary that he committed suicide.

Stunned as they stayed in contact and having no idea what motivated Weismann to take poison, Gilbert is further shocked upon receiving the final working research papers of his colleague. Weissman had insisted that mind parasites lived by feeding from the minds of human consciousness. Wanting to ignore what seems absurd; Gilbert soon begins to believe in the Weissman theory as there is obvious proof once you accept the validity of the underlying concept surfaces. At an archeological dig in Turkey he realizes that humanity is in a war of survival that has been ongoing for several centuries. Humanity just did not know it. Gilbert and a colleague Reich struggle to save humanity but they realize it may be too late to fight back as no weapon of sorts can be found that will not destroy the host.

The tale seems more like a memoir with much of the story line being passive and introspective, yet extremely deep. Colin Wilson uses the MIND PARASITES as a horror-parable to explore the complex concept that a few can control the many in terms of thoughts. The WMD fiasco and the subsequent Bushie spins support the author’s premise although the book was written before the recent communication revolution that enables a select few to manipulate communication to the many. Not easy to read, fans of cerebral reflective science fiction will appreciate the Big Brother horror portrayed by Mr. Wilson’s look at the collective consciousness of the masses manipulated by the brazen minority.

The Woods
Harlan Coben
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
0525950125, $26.95 1-800-847-5515

At a summer camp, with their counselors preoccupied with one another, four teenagers snuck into the woods at night never to return. Two were found dead (Doug Billingham and Margot Green); two vanished, but are assumed dead (Gil Perez and Camille Copeland); all victims of the Summer Slasher serial killer. No one was caught as two families mourned their loss but were able to obtain some closure with funerals; the other two families didn’t even have a body to inter.

Though the guilt lingers as he was one of the counselors, two decades later Paul “Cope” Copeland has somewhat moved past the loss of his sister Camille, whose body was never found because of another tragedy. The Essex County prosecutor mourns the loss of his wife to cancer, but more important he is a single father raising a six-year-old daughter Cara. However, the past returns when a murder victim in Manhattan turns out to be the male missing teen Doug. Cope needs to know the truth even as he works a high visibility rape case. He meets up with the other neglectful counselor from that fateful night, his first true love Lucy Gold, who also feels the guilt of failure.

Though very exciting as the audience wants to know whether Camille lives and if yes why did she fail to contact her family, there are too many distracting side-plays involving the lead couple that takes away from the prime suspense. The story line is action-packed and will hook readers who will want to know where Harlan Coben is taking them. With a final slam dunk twist that will stun and please readers, THE WOODS is an exhilarating investigative thriller.

Burning Bridges
Laura Anne Gilman
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373802749, $4.95

The Cosa Nostradamus is the magical community consisting of three major groups; the council of mages, the lone jacks who are independent operators, and the fatae, the non-human species. Wren is a Retriever, a thief who uses her talent magic to steal things that her clients want. Her lover Sergei is a null (no magical talent) who left the organization of the Silence, a group who protect humans from larger darker forces to become an entrepreneur.

Both are loners but in the present climate, Wren can no longer stay on the sidelines. For years the fae were attacked and the lone jacks did nothing and now a vigilante group founded by an unknown organization is killing lone jacks. The fatae and the lone jacks for the first time in history along with the council organize a truce to find out who the enemy is and neutralize them. When a target is killed, by nulls and those who have talent, the truce is broken and the council withdraws. However the fatrae and the lone jacks are united in their determination to strike out at the enemy while Wren and Sergei are lovers fearing every step they take will make matters worse. A confrontation is coming and when it happens it will change alliances.

Laura Anne Gilman writes some of the best supernatural fantasy on the market today. BURNING BRIDGES is a fantastic urban fantasy thriller with loads of action, protagonists that are likeable and understandable and a conspiracy that hides in the shadows using disposable minions to further its aims. Wren is a strong willed person while Sergei is a tortured soul who is tugged between two opposing groups who have claims on his loyalties. Readers will await the next installment in this series to see how the coming war bears out.

Coyote Dreams
C.E. Murphy
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373802722, $14.95

Twenty-something Seattle Police Officer Joanne Walker finds her law enforcement world and her tyro shaman realm (her birth name is Siobhan Walkingstick) turned upside down. Much of the police force is down with some form of the "blue flu" although perhaps the “blue sleep” would be more descriptive. Even Joanne’s superior officer, Captain Michael Morrison, who never takes a sick day, is missing in action.

Jo has her own sleep disorder as she keeps having weird dreams filled with vivid scenes from her past. Initially she assumed her spirit guide, Coyote, was transmitting visions to her as part of her Shaman apprenticeship, but he stopped making contact so she has some doubts about whom the sender is. Jo realizes her two worlds have collided due to the wormhole projects of Navaho twins, quantum physicists Barbara and Mark Bragg. They have opened a portal that has allowed evil butterfly demons and a Navajo god to go through into Seattle. Only she has the Mojo to stop the blue sleep plague and close the wormhole door, but she is a Shaman in training without her mentor around to guide her.

COYOTE DREAMS, the third Walker romantic fantasy (see THUNDERBIRD FALL and URBAN SHAMAN), is a delightful paranormal mystery in which the heroine struggles with preventing a widening disaster. The fast-paced story line grips the audience from the onset as a bewildered Jo begins to figure out the cause, but not the solution. Readers will enjoy her efforts to save Seattle as the reluctant URBAN SHAMAN is forced to travel the mystical path to save those she cares about in the mundane realm.

In Secret Service
Mitch Silver
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
1416537945, $25.00 1-800-223-2336

When Yale University Professor Amy Greenberg learns of the safety deposit box her late grandfather leased, she travels to Dublin to obtain the contents. Inside is an alleged memoir manuscript written by James Bond author Ian Fleming.

However, the book, apparently written in 1964, is not a spy novel, has never been published and allegedly contains a terrible secret that the late renowned author said he had kept since WWII. Fleming insists that King Edward VIII after abdicating the throne had a relationship with Adolph Hitler that jeopardized Great Britain. As a stunned Amy affirms much of the contentions through other documents, she wonders what to do with the Fleming expose. However, the choice may not be hers as adversaries, who have killed at least one famous royal and probably others, are willing to murder her and her boyfriend to gain possession of the nonfiction pages.

IN SECRET SERVICE will fascinate readers with the question whether Mitch Silver has written a historical fictional account of real occurrences because the key players in Fleming’s “memoir” including him are genuine persona and so are the prime events. The story line is fast-paced especially when the plot focuses on the past while the present seems more typical of a cat and mouse drama. Fans will enjoy this fine thriller that connects major twentieth century Englishmen and women even when Mitch Silver’s connecting of famous incidents seem far-fetched rather than a historical slam dunk tenet.

Christopher's Ghost
Charles McCarry
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
1585679143, $25.00 1-800-743-1312

In 1939 Berlin sixteen year old Paul Christopher struggles with the Nazis control of much of society. However, his American novelist father and his German aristocratic mother warn Paul to be careful as the SS do not mind abducting and torturing intellects especially those who do not hide their disdain towards the Fatherland’s mistreating the Jews. Paul learns this fist hand from vicious SS officer Major Stutzer who enjoys irritating the half breed teen. Paul falls in love with a Jew, which places him further in the abusive sphere of Stutzer. However, as war explodes on the continent, Stutzer personally deals with the Jew SS style leaving Paul with a bitter need to one day avenge his beloved though WWII and the Cold War prevented his opportunity.

In 1959 CIA operative Paul Christopher works an undercover sting in East Berlin to prevent a Soviet plot to gain leverage in the Middle East. Studying closely the Suez fiasco that alienated much of the Arab world, the Soviets see opportunity to gain footholds in the Middle East; they hire former SS Officer Stutzer to train their new allies. Christopher and Stutzer will soon meet with a two decade score to be settled that leaves the needs of both their countries on the back burner.

This is an exciting early entry in the Christopher Cold War espionage tales (see THE LAST SUPPER and TEARS OF AUTUMN). The story line is action-packed as 1939 and 1959 Berlin come to life with both eras sharing the commonality of bleak dangerous scenarios. That similarity adds a powerful haunting feel of life at the center of two distinct related wars. Paul is fabulous while his lethal sadistic adversary is somewhat a stereotype of the SS Officer, but also shows how well this group adapted in defeat. Charles McCarry is at his espionage best with this salad days thriller starring his long time protagonist, but Berlin steals the show.

The Edict
Bob Cupp
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0307266451, $24.95 1-800-726-0600

In the fifteenth century, golf has become the national pastime of Scotland with only raiding matching it with intensity. So popular is the sport, raiding is halted during the annual tournament at St. Andrews while betting on the players is hot.

The favorite to win the St. Andrews tourney in 1457 is shepherd Caeril Patersone. However, a noble panics when he realizes he made a stupid bet. To insure that Caeril fails to win the event, he writes off a debt in exchange for beautiful Eta to distract the favorite. If that fails, he still has his ace in the hole of appealing to King James II to ban the sport and consequently the tournament because he has proof too many soldiers hit the links instead of the archery range.

THE EDICT is a delightful sports historical thriller based on a real event that occurred in Scotland when the King outlawed golf on March 4, 1457. Readers will root for Caeril, who in spite of being the best golfer in the tournament, is a decided underdog because the fix is in. Historical readers and golf aficionados will believe that Bob Cupp is a masterful author as he makes birdies and eagles with this ace of a fifteenth century sports saga.

Cat in a Red Hot Rage
Carole Nelson Douglas
Tor/Forge Publicity
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue,New York, NY 10010
0765314010, $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In Las Vegas, Electra Lark volunteers to work security at the Red Hat Sisterhood convention. However, someone proves to have too much zest when an under fifty Red Hat apprentice Pink Lady Oleta Lark is strangled with a purple scarf. The police suspect Electra killed her as witnesses claim she helped the victim set her scarf just right and the women were ex-wives of Elmore Lark.

Electra begs her tenant public relations specialist and renowned amateur sleuth extraordinaire Temple Barr to prove her innocence. With Temple’s feline owner Midnight Louie and his Midnight, Inc partner Midnight Louise leading the way, the trio investigates the Red Hat Sisterhood to determine who killed the Pink Lady.

The latest Midnight Louie whodunit is a terrific tale of the fur as, the two cat sleuths work the murder investigation and keep Temple safe. The story line is fast-paced and amusing as the heroes aided by an assortment of cats and people seek to prove Electra’s innocence by uncovering the identity of the killer among a horde of aggressive middle age red hatted females and felines. However, as always in Carole Nelson Douglas’ cat capers that feline Noir Midnight Louie owns the story.

Conversations with the Devil
Jeff Rovin
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue,New York, NY 10010
0765307030, $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In somewhat isolated Delwood, Connecticut, two hours on back roads to any major city, the Delwood Academy, affectionately known as “Delac”, is considered a pipeline to Yale. Though she never attended the school, psychologist Sarah Lynch works with some of the students who go there as many suffer from isolation with where they live as they have virtual choices re the Internet.

Still when Sarah learns that one of her Delacian patients, Fredric Marash committed suicide she is despondent and wonders how she failed him. Rationalizing that she will not make the same mistake twice, she looks at what turned Fredric into a Satanist and if that worship of the Devil led to his taking his life. Sarah lost her faith in God years ago after the Lord failed to heed her desperate prayers during a tragedy. However, the cynical rationalist is unprepared for Mr. Devil to visit her at her office. The glib visitor spins a different take on the bible and the war between him and God but conceals that the latest battleground is Sarah’s soul as he seductively offers her the choice of happiness while he claims his adversary demands kneeling in total adulation.

Once the Devil makes his initial appearance that occurs just after the opening set up of place, time and catalyst, readers will not be able to put down this fascinating “dialogue”. Sarah is terrific as she has doubts about God in spite of her best friend who is a nun. Her friend tries to counter what Sarah sees within herself, her family and with her patients. When the slick Devil arrives he smoothly provides her choices that look so much nicer and freer than what God commands of the faithful. Who will win the latest war between Heaven and Hell not fought as End of Days universe-wide Armageddon, but instead one soul at a time?

In War Times
Kathleen Ann Goonan
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765313553, $25.95 1-888-330-8477

In 1941, enlisted soldier Sam Dance enjoys playing the saxophone, but the Army notices his inclination for math and science so they think he might make an ideal code-breaker; the brass assigns him to attend college level classes. While his Physics Professor Dr. Eliani Hadntz seduces him, she also informs him of her concept to tie physics and the human mind so that she will be able to rescue Europe from the Nazis. At about the same time, Sam’s older brother dies when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

Sam and his jazz playing friend Wink work on the Hadntz device that shifts the realities of the space-time continuum. By doing this, he and Wink see the worst of Hitler, but make progress until they begin to place their machines around the world praying that this time they have seen the war to end all wars by preventing humanity’s basic mob trait tendency towards abuse and violence.

Using a comparison between the evolution of jazz and science starting in WW II through JFK and beyond, Kathleen Ann Goonan provides a powerful exciting science fiction thriller that calls for an encore. Sam is terrific as the star performer holding the tale together on both counts; all that jazz and physics. The story line is fast-paced as the hero dances to a different beat once he meets Dr. Hadntz, but saving JFK brings other consequences. Alternate history has never been better than IN WAR TIMES.

The Ninth Talisman
Lawrence Watt-Evans
0765310279, $25.95

After the Swordsman killed the Dark Lord of the Galbook Hlls, a Wizard Lord gone rogue, he returned to his small community of Mad Oak and became part of the farming community. He is one of eight Chosen, men and women who are granted special magical powers so that a Wizard Lord can be taken down if he doesn’t rule benevolently over all the people of Barokan. The new Wizard Lord is having roads built throughout the country connecting towns and cities and thus making it easier for trade goods to be transported all over the empire.

Swordsman travels to Winterhome to see the new Lord Wizard and is shocked to find a former Chosen, a traitor, is one of the chief advisors is the new Wizard Lord Artil. Artil tells him that the time for magic has passed and that people usingnon-magical skills will bring peace and prosperity to the land. While Swordsman thinks about this restructuring, Arti’s soldiers find wizards and interrogate them about THE NINTH TALISMAN before killing them when he doesn’t get the answers he wants. The eight champions meet to decide what to do about Artil and his plans and wonder if he may have gone to the dark side.

This is second book in the Annals of the Chosen and one doesn’t have to read the prequel THE WIZARD LORD to understand THE NINTH TALISMAN. The Swordsman is patient and willing to observe what the Wizard Lord is all about and that makes this book more of a character study than an action packed fantasy. The ending is very ambiguous so there is at least another book to the series. Readers will enjoy this novel so much they will recommend it to their friends who like sword and sorcery fantasy.

Beyond the Gap
Harry Turtledove
0765317109, $24.95

The Raumsdalian Empire has expanded slightly northward for centuries by occupying the tiny bits of land freed by the retreating great glacier. However, Bizogots’ clan chieftain Trasamund comes to the capital Nidaros to report new phenomena. Apparently, for the first time as far as anyone knows, a narrow opening into what has always been a solid unassailable mountain ice has occurred.

The city is excited with the news and the opportunity for courageous somewhat crazy risk-takers to explore the other side of the ice that legend insists leads to the Golden Shrine of the gods. Though normally the two cultures clash as one is urban and the other is nomadic, Count Hamnet Thyssen joins Trasamund to lead an expedition to trek through the crack in the ice cap to see what is there.

This is a fantastic Bronze Age saga that compares two rival cultures battling for supremacy yet united on the mission to see what is on the other side. The story line is filled with action, but most important insures that the audience feels they are at a time just a couple of millennia since the Ice Age ended. The cast especially the explorers (and not just the intrepid two leaders) is solid as they add to the sense of time and place. Fans of Harry Turtledove will enjoy this opening prehistorical thriller in which the anticipation is to learn what is on the other side.

Falling Upwards
Kassandra Sims
0765355817, $6.99

Neva Jones is in Wales on a business trip when she meets the enigmatic March. From the onset she thought he was different though she is not sure why except that he seems to live in this world and somehow outside this world.

In sweet home Alabama, curious and attracted to March, Neva suffers from hallucinations that frighten her. Still she develops a hypothesis to overcome the limitations of her mind. On the other hand, March believes Neva is the woman who can lift the curse that has left him with one foot in a realm of dreams and one in the mortal plane. As Neva begins to believe that there is more to the universe than the physical plane starting with the metaphysical feelings of falling in love, she struggles with reality vs. illusion as she enters a realm in which her only realism anchor is March.

FALLING UPWARDS is a sort of modernizing of Alice Through the Looking Glass. The story line starts a bit slow and disjointed as Neva and March meet in a Welsh pub, but once she crosses over into a fantasy realm, the story line turns fast-paced and exciting as the heroine ponders whether reality means insanity. Fans who dive into that Alabama pond with Neva will enjoy her quest once she steps out of the water to meet fantasy species, talking animals and of course March.

Mother of Lies
Dave Duncan
0765314843, $24.95

On the dodecahedral shaped orb Dodec, Werist worshipper Bloodlord Stralg Hragson uses his austere kingdom of Vigaelia as a base to expand his rule. Using his barbarian horde and clairvoyant seers, Stralg has traversed the icy mountains to conquer much warmer Florengia where he forced the locals to worship his war god Weru and abducted the four children (Dantio, Orlad, Fabia, and Benard) of the ruling Doge Piero as hostages.

However, Stralg proves too successful in converting the Florengian when Werist rebels led by Marno Cavotti begin to kick the northerners out of their realm until only Hragson’s sister Saltaja, a follower of the death goddess Xaran, remains a threat. Seer Dantio, Werist Orlad and closet Xaran worshipper Fabia agree to go home to prevent Saltaja from destroying Florengia while each, along with their sculpturing sibling they left behind in Vigaelia, wonder who will rule the country once the conquerors are gone and their sire dies.

MOTHER OF LIES is an exciting action-packed tale, but it is more thriller than fantasy as much of the magic of the Gods provided to the mortal and extensively used in the first novel (see CHILDREN OF CHAOS) is underutilized in the second saga. Thus a two edged sword surfaces as the audience can see deeper into what are the key motivators of the principal players especially the offspring of the Piero and the sister of Stralg. Still the second Dodec fable is a fast-paced fantasy as the “empire” strikes back.

The Silver Sword
David Zindell
0765316749, $25.95

While much of the large island landmass Ea has fallen under the evil spell of the Lord of Lies Morjin, King Kiritan of Alonia selects Prince Valashu "Val" Elahad to begin a quest to obtain THE LIGHTSTONE Cup of Heaven before Morjin finds it. Val carefully heeds the prophecy in order to prevent Morjin from freeing the Lord of Lies. This seventh son of the ruler of Mesh successfully assembled his magnificent seven and retrieved the Sword of Fate Alkaladur (see THE LIGHTSTONE).

Val and his team begin the second trek of their quest which is more dangerous as they must enter dark lands under Morjin’s malevolent control. Using the Alkaladur’s glowing gelstei magical gem as a guide, the magnificent seven fight the enemy horde until they reach their second major stop, the Library of Khaisham, where they learn the location of the Lightstone. To his consternation and fear, Val realizes that the journey ends in the darkest place in the island, Morjin’s underground city of Argattha; he expects to confront the evil face to face with only one leaving alive in possession of the Lightstone. He does not yet understand that dead has an entirely different meaning when the Lord of Lies is the power behind the throne as allies are traitors and war between the Kingdoms of Ishka and Mesh is imminent.

The action picks up in the second Lightstone saga as the magnificent seven’s quest takes them behind enemy lines. However, the increase in daring deeds comes at the cost of the fascinating sidebars that made the first tale unique such as the minstrels’ ballads providing the history of the island and the words of the ancient prophecy. Still Val and his crew display their valor as the escapades never stop. David Zindell's sequel is a terrific good vs. evil fantasy with a fabulous finish.

Memory and Dream
Charles De Lint
Tor Orb
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765316781, $15.95

In Newford, former art apprentice to cruel genius Vincent Rushkin, Isabelle Copley learned she had an uncanny skill to paint images that seemed so real, they became animated. Isabelle brought to life those who reside in the spirit realm with her art. However, she became frightened of her skill and fled her talent and her town.

Five years ago, writer Kathy Mully tragically died. From the beyond, she warns her friend Isabelle that her creations from two decades ago are causing harm and that she must confront what she wrought. Unable to deny Kathy as she knows too deeply what happened to her friend, Isabelle begins the catharsis of truth. Native American John Sweetgrass, also a friend of the late Kathy, helps the artist who must confront her evil former master by accepting her love for John, the star of many of her drawings.

Shifting viewpoints and eras, Charles De Lint provides an excellent Newford thriller that will persuade the most skeptical that the small northern town not only exists, but also contains powers from beyond the mortal plane. The cast drives the exhilarating plot as Isabelle must confront what she has denied of her past. Readers will enjoy this fine thriller as Mr. De Lint writes a tremendous horror fantasy.

The Broken Kings
Robert Holdstock
0765311097, $27.95

As Merlin temporarily resides inside fortress Taurovinda, he is worried as the Shadows of Heroes leave the other realm to claim the Kingdom of Cornovidi as their own. His concern is not with these Shades, but the unknown adversarial puppeteer that enabled them to enter the realm of the living and apparently guides them.

Meanwhile, High King Urtha Pendragon of Cornovidi seeks a diplomatic solution while his heir Prince Kymon wants to go to war. His daughter Princess Munda foresees the future lies with Jason’s sentient ship Argo, who has returned battered but ready to confess a dark secret to Merlin only at the right time. The mage knows as he traverses time with the Argo that he must find the truth in his past to save the kingdoms from the horde of dead, but it is up to Jason to prevent the latter’s offspring from usurping Urtha’s rule so that the envisioned glorious future can occur.

This is a complex blending of several myths that is difficult to pick up even with gimmicks telling the back story of the first two novels (see CELTIKA and THE IRON GRAIL). Readers will appreciate the intricate series The Merlin Codex much more so by starting with the first book. Merlin tells the exciting tale that fans of Camelot and Greek and Celtic mythologies will enjoy; just set aside plenty of time as this is a rich multifaceted fantasy.

The Silver Ship and the Sea
Brenda Cooper
0765315971, $25.95

The planet Fremont was considered a dangerous place for colonization due to its odd lethal flora and fauna as much as from the meteorites that crash on its surface and it’s volcanic and quake activity. However, in spite of a need to cooperate twelve years ago war exploded between the original human settlers and the second group bioengineered to fit the orb.

Near Artistos, the only town on the planet, is the deadly Grass Plains and in its center lays the single silver spaceship that humans fear. Six altered children left orphaned by the hostilities and unwanted by the purebreds except as slaves, dream of freedom. Abetting their hopes is the last altered adult Jenna the crazy woman as Chelo Lee leads the other five on a quest to find either escape from the planet via the abandoned ship or establish a new home where they can live free.

This coming of age science fiction is a fun lighthearted read. The story line focuses on the children as they seek their own way in hostile environs made worse by rampant prejudice towards their kind. However, though fun to follow their exploits in search of freedom, Chelo and her comrades fail to show the impact of being raised by people who fear them while wanting to use (and abuse) their altered gifts. Still this is a fine tale of six courageous youths on a quest for freedom.

Expiration Date
Tim Powers
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765317524, $15.95

Los Angeles is a city filled with beings not pumping gas or parking cars. Instead L.A. is a ghost town loaded with otherworldly spirits, some souls with a foot in the grave and the other on the freeway, and humans seeking to extend their LAST CALL on earth. Life and after life are competitors to obtain immortality.

In this weird 1990s Los Angeles, eleven years old Koot Parganas is raised by parents who worship dead Mahatmas and has been warned not to touch certain artifacts. However, the preadolescent ignores his parental warning to stay away from sacred items and breaks the bust of Dante. Inside is a glass vial that contains the preserved ghost of Thomas Alva Edison; Koot steals the container and the spirit inside. However, ghosthunters and ghost addicts can “see” the bright lit spirit of the late inventor. They want it and are inspired because for no perspiration on their part they can gain incredible power. Sensing dangerous Hurricane Weather in which he is the eye of the storm, Koot flees with mortals, semi paranormals, and a canine chasing after him.

This is an exciting paranormal thriller that grips the audience once Koot disobeys his parents and never slows down as he finds many of the residents (not all living) want what he holds. The story line is fast-paced with many eccentric characters but Koot owns the plot. Readers will appreciate his L.A. “joy ride”.

The Quest for the Trilogy
Mel Odom
0765315173, $25.95

After Grandmagister Edgewick "Wick" Lamplighter vanished while searching for rare books and fighting off evil doers, his assistant recently promoted Grandmagister Juhg wants to stay home studying how to establish schools throughout the realm. However wizard Craugh directs him to continue Wick’s quest so Juhg searches for three encrypted journals that belonged to the missing Grandmagister.

Upon completing the first leg of his literary quest by finding the journals, Juhg reads the Wick entries of seeking three magical weapons lost after the battle of Fell's Keep. Craugh says these artifacts are needed to stop an evil person from employing a weapon of mass destruction. As he goes into the field on his quest, Juhg also battles the malevolent Goblinkin who care little that the world is in peril.

This is a terrific entry in one of the best fantasy series on the market today (see LORD OF THE LIBRARIES). The story line is fast-paced even when the plot pays homage to libraries. Especially fascinating is Juhg “reading” Wicks’ journals as if he is Wick (that segment is worth the price of admission). Fantasy quest fans will appreciate Mel Odom’s latest thriller in which once again the hero hopes to prove that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Joel Shepherd
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
1591025400, $15.00 1-800-421-0351

Cassandra “Sandy” Kresnov is a G.I., a synthetic as opposed to organic person created in the League’s laboratories. She has intelligence and morality and she defected from the League to the Federation because she felt that she would be treated as a person on the planet Callay. After saving the president from an assassin, she has been awarded citizenship, which angers some politicians and people who see her as the killer that was part of the League’s army.

Sandy works black ops for the CSA but is technically attached to a swat team under the auspices of her best friend Vanessa. Trouble is brewing on Callay as article 42, a provision to be voted on to succeed from the Federation, is up for referendum. If approved, the heads of corporations believe this will allow them to use biotech, the science that created Sandy. The SIB harasses Sandy causing her to lose her job and citizenship because they believe she is a killing machine. Still Sandy does her best to do her job even as the upcoming vote on article 42 leaves her in a void status while even something more radical is percolating.

It is ironic that the heroine feels more at home in the Federation where the science that created her is outlawed. Readers who have read CROSSOVER, the first CASSANDRA Kresnov novel will find BREAKAWAY is just as good. The tale contains great characterizations especially the heroine, a cultural look at an advanced civilization, and plenty of political intrigue. All this contributes to make Breakaway a one sitting reading experience.

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Khaled Hosseini
c/o Penguin-Putnam
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
1594489505, $25.95 1-800-847-5515

In Herat, Afghanistan in 1959 Nana was a housekeeper to Jalil, an affluent businessman with nine legitimate offspring and three wives. When Nana became pregnant, Jalil exiled her. She gave birth to Mariam, a harami (illegitimate) baby, who she raised by herself with scorn for the child and the father. When Mariam turns fifteen, Nana hangs herself. Jalil marries his illegitimate daughter to forty something shoe maker Rasheed. Thus she moves to Kabul to live with her husband. Rasheed enforces traditional values in his young wife and over the years he gets very angry with Mariam blaming her for her numerous miscarriages.

In the 1980s, the Soviets rule with an iron fist, which ironically allows women some freedoms they never had before the occupation. However, by 1992 the Soviets are gone and the Taliban turn women back into slaves. In Kabul, Mariam’s teenage neighbors Tariq and Laila make love just before he leaves for Pakistan; soon afterward, Laila’s parents die. Rasheed brings the fourteen year old into his household with plans to make her wife number two and give him the heir he deserves. Laila gives birth to a worthless female, but Laila worries that soon her new elderly husband will know this is not his offspring.

This is a fantastic novel that looks at Afghanistan over a four decade period through mostly the eyes of Mariam. The story line is character driven as Jalil, Nana, and Rasheed vividly represent one generation; Mariam the sandwich generation; and Laila and her newborn the younger generation. Fans will see the ironies of what happens to women under Afghan, Soviet, and Taliban rule. Khaled Hosseini provides a great saga that will have readers lining up for more tales as A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS will be on most short lists for novel of the year.

Nicola Griffith
c/o Penguin-Putnam
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
1594489351, $26.95 1-800-847-5515

Norwegian Aud Torvingen was born into a life of wealth and privilege. The former police officer gives back to the community by teaching women self-defense. The new women in her latest course cross all social and financial lines so that a southern society belle is on an even footing with a housewife. The women savor each other’s triumphs until one day one of them has to put into practice what she learned.

After dealing with officials following the woman’s act, Aud flies to Seattle where she owns property that she must clean up as her property manager violated OSHA and EPA rules. The woman was stealing from Aud’s account pretending to fix things while pocketing the money and forcing tenants to move out quickly. Aud tries to buy land on either side of her warehouse. Her warehouse is currently rented by a movie company that is plagued by incidents threatening to bankrupt the company. As Aud cleans up the mess caused by fraud, she finds the perfect person for her, but obstacles stand in their way.

As ALWAYS Nicola Griffith provides a classic noir heroine who sees herself as strong and capable. ALWAYS is as much a crime thriller as it is a woman coming to terms with her vulnerabilities making for a deep character study of the self-assured lead female and to a degree the support cast. Aud is terrific as she recognizes her shortcoming of gullibility, but plans to correct her error personally while still trusting those deserving of it. The two separate subplots rotate chapters with Aud the furious female fury as the link to a fine character-driven thriller.

Abandoned in the Maze
Michael Berg
Bedside Books
PO Box 65624, Salt Lake City,Utah.84165
1589823001, $22.00

In the United States, abortion is illegal, which has led to a further split in the classes. The affluent upper class send their pregnant daughters to Europe where they obtain a legal (in Europe that is) prescription for the abortion pill. Those less fortunate Americans give birth, obtain illegal abortions or perform dangerous self-abortions. Thus the prison industry is booming with women incarcerates, mostly with minorities who make up much of the poor.

Cheryl Cobb raises her two daughters, seventeen years old Irene and twelve years old Rita by herself. She works full time as a waitress and as liaison at the women’s civil rights group Pop-Con. When Cheryl is arrested and handcuffed in front of her children as a dangerous lawbreaker for her Pop-Con work, her daughters are forced into the state run Trench Center where they are separated and retrained. Irene never sees momma or Rita again as she is treated as a state prisoner, who must be drugged at all times because the facility makes more money for medicated than non-medicated. Irene’s only hope is when she turns eighteen; the state will dump her on the street as human waste.

This is not an easy book to read as Michael Berg extrapolates the position of the pro-lifers by going after the mothers rather than the doctors. Using the current jurisprudence system that cannot arrest people for a “crime” performed in a country where it is legal, Mr. Berg makes the case that outlawing abortion will mean only the poor will be punished. The story line also assaults the state run social service systems that make decisions based on money not need as the child once born becomes ABANDONED IN THE MAZE by those who claim life is sacred. Readers will squirm throughout this well written realistic satirical fictionalized social commentary.

Cactus Heart
Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590583523, $24.95 1-800-421-3976

In 1999 Phoenix, Arizona, historian David Mapstone is a consultant to the Sheriff’s Department and a deputy who works cold cases. One night while out to dinner with his lover, his boss Chief Deputy Mike Peralta interrupts. Three criminals are hijacking a car. One was immediately caught, another was captured by David and Peralta in a warehouse; the third remains free. During the warehouse arrest, a wall crumbled; inside were the skeleton of two children and a pocket watch.

David notes that the watch contained the brand of the Yarnell Empire and that the remains are probably the Yarnell identical twins kidnapped during the Depression. David is assigned to affirm his theory and close the case, which seems simple to do by matching DNA from the bones with that of a live Yarnell descendent. However, to his shock the DNA samples are not a match yet all other circumstantial evidence and dental records affirms these are the brothers. As he ponders the stunning information, someone murders the head of the Yarnell family making his inquiry take a modern murderous twist.

This is a well written police procedural starring an intelligent protagonist who is able to brilliantly look at issues from a variety of perspectives something few people can do. David’s analysis of the present and the past especially the abduction will surprise readers yet remains plausible. That is the key to a terrific investigation of a Depression Era double murder and a modern day linked homicide. Jon Talton provides an entertaining mystery.

In the Woods
Tana French
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0670038601, $24.95 1-800-847-5515

In 1984 in the Dublin suburb of Knocknaree, three preadolescent children play in the nearby woods. However, none return home so their moms call the police. They find a hysterical twelve years old Rob Ryan wearing bloody sneakers and unable to recall one iota of what or who terrorized him, whose blood it on him, and where are his companions. The case was never solved.

Two decades later at an archeological dig site near Knocknaree, the murdered body of twelve year old Katy Devlin is uncovered. Detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox lead the investigation that seems so similar to what happened over twenty years ago at least to the only surviving victim Rob. As he begins to remember fractured oddities, Rob and Cassie try to solve a hot homicide and a cold case that is personal.

IN THE WOODS is a superb Irish police procedural especially when it focuses on the Ryan-Maddox investigation and the ties between the two cases beyond that of the lead detective. When the story line looks at the modernization of Ireland issue re a highway project debate it brings a sense of place and time, but loses some momentum. Still this is a terrific whodunit as the audience will root for the likable flawed lead cops especially Ryan who needs to recover his repressed memory so they can solve the children cases of 1984 and now and for him.

Body of Lies
David Ignatius
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
0793065070, $24.95 1-800-233-4830

While working in Iraq CIA agent Roger Ferris is hit; his leg is filled with shrapnel, but he knows he is lucky as his driver is dead. He is sent to Amman, Jordan to recover and to begin a new effort along with the Jordanian “Heart” Intel operatives led by Hani Salaam to uncover the identity of the brilliant al-Qaeda mastermind Suleiman, who has taken the war to the West via bombs in Milan and Berlin.

Ferris’ new plan is to use the British WW II concept of the “Man Who Never Was” to divide the Suleiman team. He selects thirty something James Borden found in a Florida morgue and gives the dead Caucasian male a new identity as the “legendary” Harry Meeker of the US Agency for International Development; he even gives Harry a beautiful blond as expected by those who think James Bond is the modern day western operative. Ferris “becomes” a Middle East architect seemingly not involved, but able to observe. The divide and conquer scheme has begun to make it look like some of Suleiman’s lieutenants are talking to the west as truth and honesty are not important in the Global War Against terrorism.

BODY OF LIES will be one of the top five espionage thrillers of the year as the suspense keeps growing until the incredible climax that will stun the audience. The story line is fast-paced from the opening sequence of creating Meeker until the final altercation. The support cast is strong from James’s boss to the chief of the Jordan Intelligence Agency to a woman working a refugee camp and others. However, this predominately cat and mouse encounter that modernizes Hitchcock into a post 9/11 world belongs to the obsessed Borden who will do anything to destroy his enemy and his shadowy adversary who will do anything to destroy the west.

The Big Beautiful
Pamela Duncan
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0385338384, $14.00 1-800-726-0600

As her family looks on and her father A.J. encourages her to take a dump or get off the pot, Cassandra Moon thinks of Pride and Prejudice and her dad’s last second “advice”. Dennis waits at the altar to exchange vows, but instead Cassandra flees from the rural Western North Carolina church and steals his limo that he was going to use to take them to Asheville for their honeymoon.

Cassandra drives across the Tarheel state to the ocean where she stops at Salter Path for no reason except that she is drunk, half stuck in the sun roof, and thinks the next landmass is Portugal and she has no passport. There the overweight fortyish Cassandra muses that there must be more to life than she has lived as she wants her own Darcy to love and to be loved. Apparently the townsfolk knew her mother Marvelle so they adopt Cassandra while Hector the sea captain keeps giving her that Darcy look of desire.

Though the rural Carolina dialogue takes some getting used to, the adjustment is worth the time as this sequel to the MOON WOMEN is a well written character study of a person seeking their niche in life. Cassandra is an interesting protagonist but in many ways the geo-eccentric townsfolk of Salter Path steal the show with home grown wisdom that they try to pass on to the confused visitor. Regional contemporary fiction readers will enjoy Cassandra’s odyssey.

Kiss of Midnight
Lara Adrian
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553589377, $6.99 1-800-726-0600

Millenia ago eight aliens crashed landed on earth and the only nutrient that sustained them was human blood. A very few women who mated with them were able to bear them sons and the vampire race was born. In a dark alley, photographer Gabrielle Maxwell sees some men drinking the blood of victim. The ones who are doing them are Rogues, vampires with an out of control addiction to blood. They are vile and disdainful of humans who they see as cattle but the Breed vampires don’t succumb to the blood lust and drink from volunteer humans.

Lucan is part of a warrior clan dedicated to the wiping out the Rogues. He sees Gabrielle in the alley taking pictures and after he kills the Rogues hunts her down. He gets the pictures from her by pretending to be a policeman but when they start to make love he sees a small mark on her neck. This marks her as a Breedmate, a woman who is destined to mate with a vampire and through the continued exchange of blood will have eternal life. Gabrielle is attracted to Lucan who fights his feelings because he is on the frontlines of a war and doesn’t want any woman to take his mind off the fight. He is also afraid that he will give in to the blood lust and doesn’t want Gabrielle to see that part of him that he feels is weak. The two put their own relationship on hold as the war between the Breeds and the Rouges heat up. A new leader has organized the enemy into an army that he hopes will exterminate the Breeds. Gabrielle finds herself in the crossfire of a battle and her only hope of being saved is Lucan.

Lara Adrian has an interesting take on the vampire mythos with its’ deep structure and divisions in vampire society. This is an enticing and spellbinding paranormal romantic thriller. Lucan, who is nine hundred years old, comes across as a human with the same emotions and needs. Gabrielle accepts very quickly that vampires exist but is never frightened of Lucan who she sees as a vulnerable warrior tagged with the responsibility of eliminating the Rogues for too long. Readers who enter Lara Adrian’s world will find themselves thoroughly absorbed in it.

The Blood of Father Time: The New Cut
Alan M. Clark, Lorelei Shannon, Stephen C. Merritt
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594145954, $25.95 1-800-223-1244

At twelve years old, Jack Riggs was a bully who on his first day at a new school beat up Mark who later became his best friend. Living with an alcoholic father toughened him up even as it made him afraid to go home. He loved history and spent much time dreaming about living in nineteenth century Tennessee. One day he and Mark were exploring THE NEW CUT, a man made deep gouge in Brian’s Creek, when eight years old Billy, whose mother had the New Cut created starts following them. Suddenly the Cut seems to keep going on and on.

When they leave the gorge they find a cabin without electricity or other amenities and the family who lived there gave them food and shelter that they were supposed to “pay” for by doing chores. Mark and Jason run away from them but are captured by the land pirates and forced to bait a flat boat into an ambush that turned into a massacre. The pirates are the infamous Pikes and their minions, a ruthless group of cannibal murderers. Billy, who got separated from them, meets an Indian Willawick wearing Nikes. The boys try to figure out how to get the Indian to take them out of 1811 and back home but first Jason and Mark have to find a way out of the cave that is the pirate’s headquarters which is surrounded by a blood thirsty militia.

This time travel fantasy is also a coming of age tale in which the protagonists realize that history is romanticized and reality is more gritty, dangerous and ugly. Jason learns how to make decisions for his little group and to have more tolerance for people, especially those that don’t want to kill him. The authors have written a delightful work that will appeal to young adults as much as the older crowd.

Recipe for Trouble
Jackie Griffey
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
159414530X, $25.95 1-800-223-1244

In Pine County, Tennessee, author Mattie Carrington plans to write a cookbook, but before she can escape to her hideaway cabin, the house she shares with her sister Katie explodes. Not long after that incident in which no one was hurt, but damage to the kitchen occurred; Mattie is rushed to the hospital poisoned in what appears to have been caused by a relative as no one else had access to the writer.

County Sheriff Cas Larkin investigates the poisoning, but finds the sisters’ attorney Laurence Fields in his way as the latter tries to protect the Carrington siblings and their cousins Connie and Mayne Anderson, who are the prime suspects. Still refusing to allow anyone from preventing him from doing his job, Cas keeps digging while insuring the Carrington sisters are safe because he believes a very resolute killer wants Mattie dead although the motive remains a mystery.

RECIPE FOR TROUBLE is an interesting regional cozy starring several female relatives and a male sheriff trying to keep them safe. Fans who prefer action will pass on Jackie Griffey’s tale that focuses more on a deep look at the interrelationships between the four females, even for instance when the house explodes. Cas is terrific once his police procedural investigation starts but the targeted audience is more for those who appreciate a family drama with late suspense from someone trying to kill the author.

Death and the Family Tree
Linda Berry
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594145261, $25.95 1-800-223-1244

At the Ogeechee bicentennial celebration, ten living mayors are on the program to speak including the oldest Julian Stubbs. However, the day after he gives his chat he is found dead having fallen down stairs at his relative’s B&B.

Chief of Police Henry Huckabee and Officer Trudy Roundtree investigate the accident that quickly proves to be a homicide. However, the cops also have other crime inquiries to make as someone tried to steal valuables including diamond earrings from the Stubbs family house that Willie and Della are converting into a B&B. Making their cases more difficult is the family fails to cooperate as they are distracted because they learned that an extended family member Kevin Purvis eloped with Gretchen Holland. As the two law enforcement officials continue to ask questions of the extended Stubbs kin to include the Purvis offshoot, the investigations turn muddier.

Though the Stubbs extended family has too many subplots to keep score of, this is a delightful regional police procedural as the two dedicated cops struggle with a case loaded with a B&B filled with eccentric suspects. Trudy also deals with her jealousy as she fears her boyfriend might be turning to her best friend for affection. Southern cozy fans will enjoy the investigation into the murder of the elderly former mayor.

Wilder Rumors
Molly MacRae
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594145555, $25.95 1-800-223-1244

Lewis Wilder is elated with being the curator of the Nolichucky Jack History Museum in the Tennessee side of the Blue Ridge Mountains because the job allows him to do what he enjoys most: researching old documents and artifacts. Meanwhile three things complicate Lewis’ sedate lifestyle. First a burglar called the Fox is stealing antiques from the townsfolk; monthly anonymous envelops with, $200 inside for the museum keeps arriving; and finally there is Marilyn Wooten of Blue Iris Books & Crafts. All three converge on Lewis because Marilyn, who he likes, is the niece of Sheriff Glaser who believes the WILDER RUMORS that Lewis is stealing and selling the antiques which in turn is where the, $200 comes from.

However, his situation turns bleak after meeting Don Sherrill who donates to the museum a nineteenth century bird pipe just before he was murdered. With only Marilyn and his estranged Aunt Katherine who raised him in nearby Stonewall, Kentucky believing he is innocent, Lewis has his work cut out for him because the evidence including a public argument with Sherrill and the pipe hangs Lewis.

Lewis makes this a fun regional police procedural as his need to keep his past secret and his love of historical artifacts get him into deep trouble as the townsfolk assume he is a foxy thief when the evidence points towards him as a murderer too. His estrangement with his Aunt does not quite come across as lucid as the audience might like, but his trouble with the law does. Fans of a fun Blue Ridge Mountains cozy will enjoy hiking along the Wilder side of the investigative trail.

Death Roll
Marilyn Victor & Michael Allan Mallory
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
159414544X, $25.95 1-800-223-1244

The Minnesota Valley Zoo hosts the Beastly Ball to raise public awareness and funding. However, as the staff escorts the visiting dignitaries to the newest exhibit, the Australian Walkabout Trail featuring Crocodile Island, the corpse of the disliked director Anthony Wright is found.

Police Detective Ole Sorenson arrests lead crocodile handler Johnny Ray “JR” Erling as the evidence strongly points to him especially since he vanished soon after Wright’s mutilated body was found in the habitat of Sebastian and Babe. Zookeeper Lavender “Snake” Jones and her spouse herpetologist Jeff believe otherwise; they investigate, but every clue the amateur sleuths uncover affirms the police belief that JR killed Wright.

Timing aside with the recent tragic death of the Crocodile Hunter as Jeff seems so much like Steve Irwin; this is a fine amateur sleuth tale in which Snake’s investigation enables the audience to see what goes on behind the exhibits of a zoo. The deep look at a zoo is cleverly interwoven into the whodunit, but is so well done, the Minnesota Valley Zoo feels like a key character. Fans will enjoy this fine murder mystery in which every clue points toward JR being a killer hiding his illegal peddling of wild animals with only Snake and Jeff having doubts that are slowly vanishing with one clue after another.

Russell Andrews
The Mysterious Press
c/o Warner Books
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0892960213, $24.95 1-800-759-0190

East End Harbor, Long Island Police Chief Justin Westwood is sharing a bed with married Abigail Harmon when he receives the call that his tryst mate’s wealthy stock market investor was brutally murdered. Justin is stunned as he is the widow’s alibi and when he thinks about how they first got together she was the pursuer.

Local District Attorney Larry Silverbush sees a great opportunity to use this case as a major stepping stone to Albany as he covets becoming the state governor. He does not believe that the suspended police chief killed the victim, but does not care as he uses the affair to further his ambition even while tearing apart Justin’s reputation. Complicating matters for the besieged cop is back in his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island another murder involving his family has occurred. Needing to be in two places at the same time to clear his name, Justin begins his own unofficial inquiry only to find powerful international enemies wanting secrets to remain hidden.

The third Westwood police procedural (see MIDAS and APHRODITE) is a terrific investigative thriller that ultimately goes over the top though is fun while doing so. The story line is at its best when the focus is on Long Island and Albany as a besieged Justin struggles with being the center of a homicide investigation made worse by ruthless political hacks uncaringly taking advantage of a tragedy. When the tale morphs to New England and beyond the story line remains fascinating but does slow down a bit by the complex magnitude of what the hero confronts beyond his personnel troubles. Still Westwood is in top form as he tries to solve two murders with hopes of getting back his job.

Here She Lies
Kate Pepper
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451412397, $7.99 1-800-847-5515

Annie has been married to Bobby for less than a year but they and their baby daughter were a very happy family until an e-mail leads Annie to believe Bobby is having an affair. He vehemently denies it insisting he doesn’t know anyone who signs their email lovylove addressed to bobbybobs. Yet the contents of the notes are very erotic and exact going so far to describe the marks on his body only a wife or mother would know.

Even when they get new credit cards and destroyed the old, unexplained charges occur with things one would give to a lover appearing on the bill. After two months Annie walks out on the marriage and takes their daughter to her identical sister’s house; She knows Julie will love and support them through this trying time. When Anne goes to keep an appointment for a job, she is arrested on embezzlement charges. Bobby put up the house for collateral and Annie makes bond but when they return to Julie’s home neither her sister or child are there. Besides identity theft, Anna now has to deal with a kidnapping with her frantic thoughts taking her down a horrific path that she is afraid to give any credence.

Besides being a great thriller, HERE SHE LIES gives readers an incredible look at the consequences of identity theft and how it impacts the victims. Annie’s love for her sterile twin is so strong and so deep that thinking bad thoughts about her sibling feels like a betrayal of the person she loves most next to her daughter. Bobby is a great character willing to be dominated by a stronger woman. Kate Pepper rolls up the tension in this cleverly written suspense laden urban crime thriller.

Scot on the Rocks
Brenda Janowitz
Red Dress Ink
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373895283, $13.95

In New York City attorney Brooke Miller is stunned when her live-in Scottish boyfriend of two years Douglas dumps her and immediately becomes engaged to someone else who she hysterically insists does not have a real name as no one is a Beryl. Losing the hunk would have been enough, but to have him drop her just when she needs him to escort her to the wedding of her law school boyfriend Trip so that she can show off her European hunk is the pits.

Brooke decides she needs to get her man back in time for the marriage. However, in her pursuit of the perfect escort, she enlists the help of her best friend, her co-worker at Gilson, Hecht and Trattner, Jack. Before long she realizes she has targeted the wrong stud as she now knows Jack is for her.

SCOT ON THE ROCKS is an amusing Manhattan chick lit romance starring a likable zany nut and a strong support cast who don’t know Jack about her so inadvertently trip over her antics. A lighthearted frolic, readers will enjoy Brooke’s pursuit of the Scot while her advisor Jack has waited for two years for her and plans on escorting her to Trip’s wedding.

I Take This Man
Valerie Frankel
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060785551, $13.95

On the day they were to exchange I do, Bram Shiraz informs Penny Bracket that he cannot marry her, leaving her a note saying he is sorry and not much more. Penny is upset especially since Bram did not have the guts to face her; after all they were seeing one another for two years so he owed her that much.

While Penny wants to know why, her mother Esther, distrustful of men, is outraged by Bram’s cowardly negative. She confronts him with a champagne bottle to his head and takes Bram prisoner to her Short Hares, New Jersey vast estate. Esther demands Bram write a personal note apologizing to each of the more than two hundred guests and eat every piece of the massive expensive wedding food that Esther has had shipped to her estate. Bram's widowed father Keith searches for his suddenly vanished son to learn why also. All roads lead to Esther Bracket, but no evidence of his son seems anywhere so perhaps a seduction is in order to obtain the facts.

This tale is obviously over the top but readers will enjoy this zany contemporary romantic comedy. The story line is fast-paced once Esther performs the abduction and never slows down not even for a seduction or a bite or two zillion. The CIA will want to hire Esther as her form of torture (eating quiche for 200 plus guests) make rendition obsolete. Fans will enjoy Valerie Frankel’s fun lighthearted romp.

At the Edge
Cait London
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061140503, $5.99

Renowned psychic Greer Aisling has used her gift to help police departments find missing people and solve homicide cases. However, she also kept her beloved triplets (Claire, Tempest, and Leona) out of the limelight in spite of the paparazzi efforts to take pictures of them and scientists and behaviorists wanting to study the trio. However, while Greer worked a case with the Canadian police, agents of the Blair Institute for Parapsychology abducted the then ten years old triplets from their home. For two days they conducted all types of tests until Greer came back and recovered her children. Law suits followed, but only time will tell how much psychological damage the Institute caused in the name of science.

Twenty-two years later, in order to have some privacy, the four women keep their distance because they are mentally connected. Especially needing space is the empath Claire, who has moved to open Big Sky of Montana to find peace. However when her elderly neighbor dies, the lady’s nephew Neil Olafson moves in and drives Claire to distraction as she is attracted to him. She agrees to help Neil find his abducted son Sammy, snatched almost eight years ago when the child was six months old. When someone assaults Claire, Neil comes to rescue the strange recluse with a power he does not understand; the power of love.

This is the charming first of a trilogy of romantic fantasy tales starring the Aisling triplets. Claire is a terrific character as her need to help others hurts her since she can be mentally overloaded with everyone else’s problems (sort of an adult version of the X-Men’s Rogue). Neil is a skeptic who wonders if he fell in love with a nut case until he begins to see her capabilities. Fans will be charmed by Cait London’s entertaining story of love between the psychic and the skeptic with two more tales to come.

It Had to Be You
Sarah Webb
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060571683, $13.95

In Burnaby, Ireland, Molly Harper manages Happily Ever After bookshop that caters mostly to readers of romance. However, she is stunned when owner Anita Vickers informs her she sold the store to Milo Devine. Molly is unhappy as Milo reminds her of a used car salesman who will make radical changes for the bottom line’s sake and not the customer. To her chagrin Molly feels an intense attraction to his son Sam.

Close friend Kate Bowan is so busy selling designer shoes and running Dublin Dummy Dates matchmaking service that she has no time for herself though she feels lonely. Her current matchmaking client Angus Cawley is driving her crazy as she is attracted to him, but refuses to act on her feelings.

Molly's other close friend; Burnaby County Councilor Paige Brady is happily married with two children, Alfie and Callum. However she has problems as the Little Orchard that watches her rugrats is closing for the month, her opponent on the proposed Crescent Refuge Center Connie Calloway attacks her on a personal level, and she is pregnant.

The story line rotates as each of the three amigas rotates front and center for a chapter at a time. However, though incidents cross the subplots, the audience actually have a trio of novellas that focus on each of the fully developed females; ergo the rotational perspective format comes at the cost of momentum. Sarah Webb provides a wonderful contemporary look at Ireland through the eyes of modern day women.

Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom
Jo Barrett
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061128619, $13.95

New York based divorce lawyer Claire St. John decides to leave the Big Apple and her high paying job to return to her hometown Austin, Texas after catching her spouse cheating on her. Claire vows no more men in her life and considers writing a book based on the best advice column in the world: the women's bathroom.

Planning to heed the guidance of the strangers written reverently on the walls to avoid male jerks, Claire quickly gets rid of Manhattan mush as her friends and family welcome her back and her mom gives her a rent free home. However, there is one problem in her campaign the “Year of the Claire” that surfaces upon her reverting back to Longhorn status; she is attracted to organic food business mogul Jake Armstrong, but her salsa mouth keeps getting in the way.

This is a whimsical chick lit tale as the heroine’s approach to life, relationships, and love seem inane especially when one considers she was a successful Manhattan divorce attorney. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy this lighthearted romp as you can take the Texan out of Texas, but cannot take the Texas out of the Texan as the moment Claire returns from that foreign land across the Hudson, she reacclimatizes amidst her friends, family, and Jake.

The WWW Club
Anita Notaro
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060825367, $13.95

In Dublin, the four best friends share several things in common that eat at each of them. In their thirties, they have no men in their lives and they cannot resist food like bonbons. Knowing they are one for all and all for one, the four musketeers (Ellie, Maggie, Pam, and Toni) agree to work as a cohesive unit to overcome the lack of real hunks and the desire to diet on rich fat food. Thus the fearsome female foursome form the Women Watching Weight Club, affectionately called the WWW by the sisterhood.

They plan on dining on healthy food, exercise every night, and share the tale of the tape once a week at encouragement meetings. However, reality is crueler as each meeting turns into a depression session as the weight stays on and each has a personal issue. Ellie complains about her daycare job; Maggie the secretary detests her boring relationship with an accountant; Pam worries about her two offspring as their dad is a zillion kilometers from them; Toni the nurse feels like a fish out of water amidst her eighties years old retirement home patients. However, they see a little light in the tunnel and it is not a train as Ellie obtains a new nanny position working for a caring single father and Toni dates the married son of a patient.

The lead quartet and strong secondary characters turn the WWW CLUB into a wonderful insightful chick lit tale. The four fine females have tested all the diets only to fail as they begin to understand there is more to losing weight than just the latest fad as changing lifestyles is critical too. The ensemble cast consists of unique individuals who turn Anita Notaro’s tale into a fascinating “Friends” feeding frenzy frolic.

Beyond Reach
Melody Carson
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
1590526937, $11.99 1-800-929-0910

In Oregon, seventeen years old Samantha MacGregor has a gift from God that enables her to see dreams of the problems confronting other people. She has used her ability to help police officer Ebony Hamilton, but after a harrowing case in Arizona involving the missing rule breaker Kayla Henderson (see BAD CONNECTION) she comes home tired and asks God for a timeout.

A few days later Ebony asks Samantha to assist her with a cold case involving a teen Peter Clark shot in the head after leaving a suicide note. His mom believes a homicide occurred after her son’s girlfriend Faith Mitchell got in touch with her insisting that Peter would never kill himself. As Samantha tries to help, she realizes she has stopped dreaming for a couple of weeks. That scares her because she believes that God listened to her and took away his gift. She finally envisions her chemistry lab partner Garrett Pierson jumping off a bridge and as to the Clark case she believes the younger brother knows what happened.

BEYOND REACH, book two of the Samantha MacGregor Secret Life tales, is an entertaining teen inspirational investigative thriller starring a heroine struggling with acceptance of God’s special gift to her though her faith is strong. Samantha holds the story line together as she tries to use her gift to help others especially her police pal. The cold case will fascinate the audience as Samantha’s ability seems gone at first as God heard her prayer for a time out, but how long will that last frightens the courageous teen as she learns to honor what was given to her. The support cast adds mostly to the thriller elements as fans will enjoy Samantha’s efforts to do the right thing while trying not to burn out as she is a young human with quite a responsibility.

A Tendering in the Storm
Jane Kirkpatrick
WaterBrook Press
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1578567351, $13.99 1-800-726-0600

In 1857 in Willapa Bay, Washington Territory the tragic death of her beloved spouse Christian Giesy, leaves his widow Emma alone to raise their preadolescent children though their respective families offer to help her. The religious order she and Christian used to belong to before the group moved south to the Oregon Territory also offers to help her if she relocates, but she declines as their severity and intolerance made life untenable when she belonged.

However, her best proves not good enough as her pride of demonstrating she is a strong capable mother reaches the point where she may be hurting herself and her children. Emma prays to God for guidance as she realizes she must choose between accepting the help of others that she and her family need or put them at risk.

Apparently based on a true mid nineteenth century account, this Americana historical is a fascinating tale of the maturing of a headstrong woman whose allows her pride to interfere with what is best for her children especially with a baby born after her spouse’s death. Although the religious sect led by Kiehl seems to have become tolerant and kinder since the events of A CLEARING IN THE WILD, readers will enjoy this entertaining look at a person who changes as she cherishes the preciousness of life she learns it takes a village to raise children.

Rene Gutteridge
WaterBrook Press
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0877881995, $12.99 1-800-726-0600

Although retirement looms on the near horizon and he earned the desk job, Las Vegas police sergeant Ron Yeager is bored. Thus when the brass asks him if he would agree to train an undercover task force of rookies to infiltrate an auto theft gang, Ron euphorically says yes. He may have reconsidered his agreeing if he met his inexperienced team before his acceptance.

Ron meets his squad and instantly knows some idiot must be punishing him as they make the worst choices he could imagine going undercover inside the underbelly of Sin City. The squad includes an open Christian Mackenzie “Mack” Hazard trying to get converts, super-egotistical Jesse “know it all” Lunden trying to get Ron’s job, and Dozer trying to stay awake more minutes than Disney’s Sleepy. Ron thinks this trio will send him into disability retirement due to high blood pressure.

The second Occupational Hazards tale (see SNOOP) is a delightful police procedural due to a strong prime cast. Ron is fabulous as he wonders what insanity led him to say yes. His tyros are eccentrically different as Mack makes her religious beliefs known to her teammates, Jesse makes it clear he knows more than anyone else including Ron, and Dozer cannot stay awake. Humor and police on the job training and investigation fit nicely together in Rene Gutteridge’s fun inspirational tale.

The Midwife of St. Petersburg
Linda Lee Chaikin
WaterBrook Press
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
140007083X, $13.99 1-800-726-0600

Karena Peshkov dreams of going to medical school, but the Imperial College of Medicine ignores her annual application. By 1914, Karena has accepted that she will never be trained as a doctor so she makes the best of helping her Jewish mother, the village midwife. She accepts an invitation to spend some time with her cousin Tatiana Roskov, daughter of an influential Czarist general. At the affluent estate she meets Colonel Alexsandr Kronstadt. They are attracted to one another but he is intended for Tatiana.

Trying to provide medical assistance to the neglected impoverished peasants becomes nearly impossible as Karena and her injured mother are forced to flee to St. Petersburg. The Bolsheviks accuse the two female Peshkovs of royal connections while the Czarist secret police believes she is a Bolshevik assassin. Neither side cares one iota about the truth as power is all that matters. Unable to remain neutral anymore as he fell in love with Karena at the Roskov estate, Alex risks his military career to insure she is safe though he does not dare go anywhere near her.

This is a deep look at Russia during the turbulent end of the Tsarist reign and subsequent competition to replace the monarchy. The story line is mostly seen through the discerning eyes of Karena, but to a degree the audience also obtains the insights of Alex. Romance fans will hope they will find a way to be together during the torrential chaotic era while historical readers will thoroughly enjoy Linda Lee Chaikin’s deep look at revolution in WWW I era Russia.

False Witness
Randy Singer
WaterBrook Press
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1400073340, $13.99 1-800-726-0600

The CEO wanted the algorithm that will change the Internet especially if it is exclusively sold to him for about, $50 million. Professor Dagan watched via computer from his apartment as his protege Chow Zhang completed the negotiations. Only the other side, once they were assured only two people had seen the formula, abruptly ended the deal by killing Zhang.

After a failed repro in Vegas followed by a drugging, bounty hunter Clarke Shealy receives a portentous call from the Chinese; they allow his beloved wife Jess to come on, but she begins to mention a name so he hears what he knows is bone on bone. He is warned to do their bidding in a timely manner if he wants his wife returned alive. They order him to locate a vanished Chinese mathematician, who created an algorithm that will change Internet protocol.

The above two paragraphs are only the first third of an incredible action-packed thriller that proves Christian action tales can be exciting and inspirational, yet not biblical and without being intrusive. The story line starts with the deal, switches to Clarke’s frantic efforts to rescue Jess, and finally changes into a legal thriller starring a professor and his three legal aid students. The two key elements are the switchovers are so smooth that the audience will realize how good Randy Singer is and the invocation of Christianity is lightly fitted into the plot without slowing down anything. Thriller fans regardless of faith will sing the praises of the author.

Dead Place
Stephen Booth
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0385339062, $25.00 1-800-726-0600

The calls are unnerving as the individual promises soon to begin his “killing will be a model of perfection”. The receiver of the frightening calls Detective Superintendent Diane Fry prays some crackpot is making crank calls, but thinks this guy is the real deal that will keep on killing once he starts until he is stopped. Adding to the discomfit of the DS is the fact a woman has reportedly vanished from a nearby office.

At the same time Detective Constable Ben Cooper investigates what happened to the woman whose human bones were recently found in the woods. Electronic facial reconstruction names the victim as Audrey Steele, who officially was cremated 18 months ago. Ben follows the fiery trail until the case turns stranger when an arsonist burns up potential proof as to who was cremated. Soon Ben’s inquiry and Diane’s preventative endeavor collide.

Don’t eat lunch while reading this exciting police procedural as a secondary character go into graphic detail lecturing the cops and readers on human decomposition rates and what happens to bodily fluids in death amongst other icky and yucky (scientific terms for gross) forensic insights. The two prime subplots are well written and fascinating to follow, partially because the respective tour guides, Ben and Diane, are sub-genre unique as they not likable protagonists. The bottom line is those who could stomach high school biology will enjoy this interesting look at the art of studying death.

Companions of Paradise
Thalassa Ali
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553381784, $14.00 1-800-726-0600

In 1841 in Lahore, India, British expatriate Mariana Givens believes her husband Hassan Ali Khan, a Punjabi Muslim, plots to kill her Aunt Claire and Uncle Adrian, an Intel Officer. Outraged, she flees her new home demanding a divorce and travels to reside with her aunt and uncle behind the safe walls of the British fort near Kabul, Afghanistan.

However once there, she hides from her family and the British officials and their dependents that she remains married. Mariana rues her rash rush to judgment as she misses her beloved Hassan, his four-year-old son Saboor, and her fathering-law the renowned Sufi mystic. When Hassan fails to answer her pleading letters to forgive her, Mariana turns to a local soothsayer for advice. However, her biggest fear is the open hostilities between the British and the local supporters vs. the tribes who want the ousted king returned

When the tale concentrates on the “first” Afghan war, COMPANIONS OF PARADISE is a superior period piece that brings to life the British mid nineteenth colonization of the country. However, when the plot focuses on Mariana’s introspective of her personal issues through dreams and fortune tellers, it loses some of the momentum. Still this final tale of Victorian India and Afghanistan can stand alone though it is enhanced by first reading A BEGGAR AT THE GATE and SINGULAR HOSTAGE. This is a fascinating insightful look back with fascinating parallels to the modern day Afghan war.

Stone Rain
Linwood Barclay
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553804561, $6.99 1-800-726-0600

In the last three years science fiction writer and reporter for the Metropolitan Newspaper Zack Walker has written some deadly stories that have fallen into his lap. He has crossed paths with criminals and his first person accounts are widely read although his editor would like to fire him and his wife Sarah would like to kill him for scaring her. He promises her to walk away from danger in the future, but he knows how difficult adhering to this pledge will be because he never looks for trouble but it always seems to find him.

His good friend Trixie, a dominatrix who works out of her house, asks Zach to talk to suburban newspaper reporter Martin Benson, who heard a rumor about her and wants to interview her. Trixie wants Zack to persuade Martin to drop the story, and especially not to take any pictures of her. When Zack refuses claiming journalistic ethics, Trixie tries to manipulate both men, but her picture appears in the Suburban anyway. This leads to Trixie running away with dangerous men sent by her former boss to get his money back from her on her trail. They use Zack and his wife to try and find Trixie otherwise Zack won’t have to worry about his wife killing him. The crime boss will.

Linwood Barclay has written an exciting crime caper whose protagonist likes and needs action, but dives head first into disorganized dangerous dilemmas. Readers will empathize with Zack’s wife who has to put up with his shenanigans There is plenty of action in STONE RAIN, but the heart of this tense thriller is the hero, who is in trouble with the law, his boss, his wife, and Trixie’s enemies; just a normal day at the office for the Zackster.

No Humans Involved
Kelley Armstrong
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553805088, $20.00 1-800-726-0600

A home in Brentwood, California is being used to house the stars and staff of the TV reality special “Death of Innocence” where three mediums demonstrate their powers. Only one of them Jaime Vegas is the real thing, a talented necromancer who can see and talk to the dead. The climax of the special is to contact Marilyn Monroe but Jaime’s interest in the show is that she touched by ghosts and hears their chatter but can’t make out what they are saying which has never happened to her before.

She can’t reach out to them but through empirical evidence she comes to the conclusion that they are children who were killed using blood magic. They are stuck in between places and neither another medium nor Jaime’s ghostly friends can reach them. The demon Aratron tells Jaime that the magic being used to keep the children in limbo is something unheard of: human magic. Now Jaime and her allies and her werewolf lover Jeremy, the north American alpha werewolf, try to set a trap that would bring the human magic practitioners out of hiding so that Jaime can find a way to let the children pass over.

Jaime has some interesting allies on both sides of the veil including a half demon with chaos powers. a spirit in life that was a practitioner of the dark arts and now works for the Three Fates, and a werewolf. All of these characters are well developed, play significant parts in the story and are powerful beings not to be trifled with. Kelly Armstrong writes spellbinding supernatural fantasy in the tradition of Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris. There is plenty of action and a heated romance in NO HUMANS INVOLVED.

Lane Robins
Del Rey
c/o Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
034549573X, $14.95 1-800-726-0600

In the Kingdom of Antyre, the Earl of Last needs an heir to begat his aristocratic grandson. He selects his teenage offspring Janus, born on the wrong side of the sheets and raised in the worst slums of Murne. Janus’ girlfriend fifteen years old Miranda is appalled when her long time companion and lover is taken from her and vows to be at his side after she kills his patrician sire.

Knowing a female cannot just walk about Murne by herself especially a young woman trying to move about in the upper crust circles, Miranda needs a disguise so she turns herself into a male noble and gains entrance into the home of wastrel Baron Vornatti, who detests Last. The Baron and his servant Gilly train the eager Miranda in what she needs to know about treachery amidst the debauched aristocracy. When the Black-Winged Goddess Ani completes the metamorphosis of Miranda from love sick teen to deadly avenger, the young female becomes Maledicte, whose goal remains the same with just more victims to dispatch.

This is a terrific fantasy due to the powerful emotions of the lead character. The audience will follow the capers of this seemingly innocent urchin who willingly becomes an expendable pawn of the violent Goddess of Love, as the deity and the girl share the same traits of deep love and even deeper hate. The story line focuses on Miranda’s obsessive efforts to be with her Janus so much so that she becomes more and less than human too achieve her goal. Readers will appreciate Lane Robins’ character driven dark fantasy.

The Last Mimzy
Henry Kuttner
Del Rey
c/o Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345497554, $13.95 1-800-726-0600

The title to Ray Bradbury’s Introduction to these seventeen stories succinctly sums up this collection: “A Neglected Master”. This reviewer cannot recall reading any of Henry Kuttner’s tales before this “reprint” as the author died almost fifty years ago, but had not had a following like Tolkien or Heinlein, etc. Apparently, Mr. Kuttner’s tale “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” serves as the basis for a film “The Last Mimzy” (at least we understand the title).

The anthology is top rate as it runs the gamut from science fiction to fantasy; robots out of control to gnomes out of control to angels out of control to aliens out of control; all sharing in common the proud belief they are right (sounds sort of familiar in DC the last few years). My personal favorite is Mr. Kuttner’s take on social issues like the real “The Cold War”, “The Housing Problem” remains relevant and “The Iron Standard” where a stubborn proud alien race is neither hostile nor friendly just rigid leading to serious issues. This is a delightful collection as the speculative audience will appreciate the wide range of Mr. Kuttner who used science fiction and fantasy to focus on societal problems that are still issues today.

The Music of Razors
Cameron Rogers
Del Rey
c/o Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345493192, $17.98 1-800-726-0600

Seventy two angels fell with Samael and a seventy third wanted to make a deal with him. However knowing how dangerous Samael is he aged the bones of another angel and used them to infuse each one with his own form and then scattered the pieces all over the world. Samuel rejected the Angel and; while an angel can neither be killed nor unmade, God stripped the angel of everything that made him unique. Now nobody knows the angel exists including himself. That is the punishment God meted out to the angel who was rejected by heaven and hell.

In the nineteenth century, Henry a man who desperately wants to be a surgeon needs Dorian who knows something about the angel. He and Henry as well as a few others create a coven to summon someone who can tell him about the instruments that was made form the angel’s bones. That seance turns deadly and Dorian disappears collecting the instruments in his travels until he meets Henry again in a small Arizona town and takes his place. He collects souls to barter with the winner of the war between heaven and hell but he is getting tired now and wants to find his replacement. He thinks he found that person in the child Walter but he escapes s by merging with that of the monster in the closet that was guarding him. Henry has set his sights on Walter’s sister Hope and Walter will do anything to prevent it.

Fans of cutting edge fantasy will enjoy this book as it spans a century of time that to beings that are more than mortal is like the blink of the eye. Reminiscent of the works of Neal Gaiman, THE MUSIC OF RAZORS has a surrealistic feel to it which makes the different times very easy to follow and understand. Cameron Rogers richly deserves the nomination for the Aureoles Award for Best fantasy in Australia that he received.

Don’t Scream
Wendy Corsi Staub
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
0821779729, $6.99 1-800-345-2665

Ten years ago, five Zeta Delta Kappa members went to a popular drinking spot The Prom to imbibe hard booze because one of them Rachel Lorant was feeling depressed on her birthday. She got so drunk that evening that she fell off the slope and died. Her four surviving sorority sisters vow to never speak of that tragic night as they believe the body will be found by someone the next day because someone always walks that trail as it is a popular spot.

Now a decade later, socialite Tildy, business tycoon Fee, stay at home mom Brynn, and resident Cassie each receives a letter from someone who is supposed to be Rachel. Someone knows what happened that fateful tragic evening leaving the quartet uneasy, but hoping it is just a prank until Tildy is murdered on her birthday. Brynn is determined not to be a victim so she seeks out a clever killer who hides in plain sight.

Readers who like the chilling thriller works of P.J Tracy and T.J. MacGregor will find DON’T SCREAM enthralling. Although Brynn is the prime protagonist, the story line is told from the points of view of all four of the women. This leads the audience wondering who will survive if any and just who the killer is as Wendy Corsi Staub provides readers with a fantastic cat and mouse thriller.

The Naked Earl
Sally Mackenzie
0821780751, $5.99

Sleeping naked and alone at the Tynweith house party, Earl Robert Hamilton was awakened when two large naked breasts hovered over his nose. Instantly realizing what Lady Felicity Brookton had in mind as she prepared to scream, he jumps out the window. He climbs through another bedroom window that of Lady Elizabeth Runyon, who is a bit tipsy and naked too while admitting to him she loves him.

Though troubled by jumping from the fire into the frying pan, Robbie thinks that Elizabeth is desirable. As he considers how to convince him they belong together, he finds himself drooling over his vision of her naked boobs. While Felicity plots, Robert and Elizabeth fall in love, but is a naked encounter enough for a permanent relationship.

As with THE NAKED DUKE, THE NAKED EARL is an amusing nineteenth century romantic romp that readers will relish. The story line strips away all pretenses of the Ton as the lead couple matches up quite nicely in and out of the boudoir. Historical romance fans will appreciate the fun frolics of the naked lady and her naked gentleman while seeking previous series tales (see THE NAKED DUKE and THE NAKED MARQUIS).

Another Life
Ann Roth
0821780344, $6.99

In San Francisco, Mary Beth Mason is stunned when her beloved spouse of two decades Stephen dies from a heart attack. She initially grieves her loss and worries about their daughter. However, she soon wonders if she knew her husband as she finds herself in major debt instead of the affluence she thought would continue even with her husband’s death as he made a bundle as a high priced elite attorney.

On the other side of the state Caroline Mason grieves the death of her beloved husband Stephen, a high priced attorney who traveled all over California and worries about the impact on their daughter. She is shocked to find mountains of debt instead of the affluence she expected.

When Caroline and Mary Beth meet they forge a deal once each overcomes the shock that their beloved Stephen was a bigamist. Instead of outrage at one another, the two widows help one another and their offspring as a bond forms between the four female survivors left behind by Stephen.

This is an interesting family drama starring a solid cast stunned by whet they have learned about the man each adulated. A late romance seems unnecessary and the adjustments made by the widows and their daughters seems a bit to easy considering how deep the betrayal must be as Stephen was a hero to the four women, but his legacy proved false. Still Ann Roth provides an intriguing look at moving on while grieving more than just the loss of a loved one.

The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish
Elise Blackwell
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
1932961313, $23.95 1-888-732-3822

The skies are darkening as the weather service predicts a huge type 4 maybe even 5 hurricane to hammer the gulf coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. The media focuses in on what Katrina might do to New Orleans, but ignores the impact on some of the other locales like Cypress Parish. Nonagenarian Louis Proby waits for the perfect storm to come ashore from his home as he reflects on the storm of the previous century that destroyed Cypress Parish in 1927.

He was seventeen years old, one of four offspring of Cypress Parish's lumber company superintendent, wheeler dealer William Proby. Louis understood that his dad’s position meant he ran the Parish also. Louis, at his father’s coaxing, planned to become a doctor, but currently was making money chauffeuring lumber company official Charles Segrist to and from New Orleans; he got the job because of his dad, but enjoys the side benefits of partying at the clubs. However, though a teen, it is the plan and execution that his father condoned for a fee that haunts him most eight decades later. The plan included blowing up the Cypress Parish levee to release the floodwaters there that will destroy that backwater in order to keep New Orleans safe, but the teen begins to believe the destruction of his home is unnecessary, but only money matters.

Using Katrina as a hook, THE UNNATURAL HISTORY OF CYPRESS PARISH is a fabulous look back to Bayou politics and history during the Huey Long era through the filter of a senior citizen waiting out the latest storm of the century. The story line is character driven as Louis knows what he lost when the levees were dynamited besides a home; he thinks back to Nanette and what could have been if only the power brokers including his father were not greedy. Readers will appreciate his reflections on life in 1920s Louisiana.

Warrior for One Night
Nancy Gideon
Silhouette Romantic Suspense
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373275323, $4.99

Her parents died in a fire leaving Melody Parrish feeling alone. She became a daredevil pilot whose performance obtained her a job with Personal Protection Professionals. Her first client for her new firm is to fly Xander Caufield and his valuable stamps from Las Vegas to Reno. Though he is a cold SOB she acts the professional.

In fact Xander is an arson investigator who believes the Parrish family has fooled his client Western Mutual Insurance into large payouts. He also has a personal vendetta with Mel and her kin involving fires. However, as she figures out that her customer is not what he claims to be, the fire investigator and the aviator begin to fall in love. Suddenly Xander wonders who he must hurt amidst his family, her family, his beloved or the likely loser himself as someone will take the fall in his quest for justice.

WARRIOR FOR ONE NIGHT is an action-packed romantic thriller that soars from the first moment an abrupt aloof Xander meets not a male Mel and never stops for a landing until the final future is put out. The lead couple makes this tale work as the audience will appreciate their changing relationship once both recognize love has confused the equation. No confusion about talented Nancy Gideon as she once more provides a terrific romantic suspense.

Raintree: Inferno
Linda Howard
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373617623, $5.25

Dante Raintree is the Danir chieftain because his psi powers are stronger than anyone else in the Raintree clan. His heir Gideon wants Dante to marry and produce children so these offspring can be the new Danir if something happens to their leader. Dante, owner of the Inferno casino, sees on the security that a woman is winning too easily.

He has Lorna Clay brought to him to find out how she is controlling winning when he realizes she is a powerful though untrained psychic who he believes is a stray or a member of the Ansara clan that the Raintree clan defeated in a war hundreds of years ago. Once he makes sure she is not his enemy, he acknowledges that he has romantic feelings for her and she reciprocates those feelings. However, members of the Ansara clan have grown powerful in the centuries of their exile and plan to kill the Danir and the rest of the royal family. Dante and Lorna don’t know they are targets and the fire and accidents weren’t accidents at all.

Linda Howard has the magic touch when it comes to writing paranormal romances and RAINTREE: INFERNO is one of her best to date. It stars two protagonists who act like cats around each other until they have to trust one another. The attempted assassinations by the enemy add a nice twist of excitement and suspense to this enthralling tale. Next month read Gideon’s story in Raintree: Haunted.

Blood Calls
Caridad Pineiro
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373617631, $525

In New York City, art gallery owner Diego Rivera is intrigued by artist Ramona Escobar whose paintings are full of life. Diego, an old vampire, is drawn to them and knowing that Ramona needs money for her mother’s long term care (she has Alzheimer’s) he gives her a show whose proceeds will go towards her mother’s treatment. Ramona accepts a commission to paint reproductions of famous paintings.

At an auction she sees those paintings have sold as originals and when she complains, the patron threatens her and her mother. She doesn’t know what to do because time is running out for her as she is dying from a virulent form of anemia. Diego, who knows nothing of this, grows more intrigued by Ramona but he tries to hide his feelings because mortals have a short life and when it ends, he knows he will mourn Ramona forever. He does help her with the problem with the paintings but he is not in time to keep danger from claiming her. Star-crossed lovers, they want each other but keep their feelings hidden until their lives change when certain truths are revealed.

The vampire romance novels of Caridad Pineiro’s “The Calling” Series are tastefully erotic, very action oriented and character driven. In BLOOD CALLS, number six in the series, the protagonists are afraid to love for very different reasons. Ramona, knowing time is short, is determined to live life to the fullest and meet the goal of seeing her mother cared for in a nursing home for the for the rest of her natural life. Readers will like Ramona but adore Diego whose mixed emotions make him a believable character.

Con Ed
Matthew Klein
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446579556, $23.99 1-800-759-0190

He was once the king of the Grifters, but after spending several years as a guest of the state, Kip Largo stays clean as he fears a return engagement. Instead he lives in a dump in Palo Alto, has no friends or family who will talk to him, and ekes out a meager living at a dry cleaner and selling vitamins over the net.

When the femme fatale blonde approaches him with her scheme, Kip thinks beauties like her ignore guys like him except as expendable pawns. She offers him a plan to con her spouse Las Vegas casino owner Ed Napier out of, $20 million. Kip’s share will save his offspring Toby from further beatings and eventually death from Russian mafia enforcers who demand he pay back his debt of several hundred thousand dollars and growing. Well aware of the risk, Kip obtains investment money from the mob, puts together a team including a programmer, and offers Pythia, a program that predicts stock price changes especially with the dot-com mania though as he sets in motion the game he fears he is being out-conned by a drop dead gorgeous blonde and her husband.

This is a terrific cautionary tale warning about repeating stock market bubbles and corrections and not to trust the media to play hard-boil at the start (not after the horse has left the stable). The subplots involving other stings, the investment mania, and the reporters failing to investigate the '90s investment craze (Iraq is media deja vu) add fascinating depth for a fun prime story line. Modern day Noir readers will wonder whether Kip can pull off the scheme and train his son in the art of the con while wondering along with the hard boiled hero whether he is being set up by the beautiful blond.

Kushiel’s Justice
Jacqueline Carey
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446500038, $26.95 1-800-759-0190

Imriel was an orphan, a slave and a goat herder until he learned he is a Prince of the Realm. He is engaged to Dorelei of Alba, the niece of Drustan the Cruarch of Alba who is husband to Queen Ysandre of Terre d’Ange. It is a marriage of state though Imriel’s heart belongs to the Dauphine Sidonie, heir to the Terre d’Ange throne. Sidonie loves Imriel with the same passionate intensity that he feels for her.

They embark on an affair that onlyintensifies their feeling but they are too afraid to admit their love to the queen and cause chaos in both realms. Imriel marries Dorelei and when he moves to Alba, he spills his seed on that soil and an Old One who is a bear shape shifter makes a manikin out of of it. She can use it to control him but she takes a binding oath that she won’t. Imriel’s relationship with Dorelei is sweet but not passionate. When she becomes pregnant with his child he is elated until the Old Ones strike; Imriel begins a journey of vengeance that will take him too many lands but hopes to reunite with Sidonie when is quest is finished.

KUSHIEL’S JUSTICE is historical fantasy at its finest. Readers who like the works of Judith Tarr will thoroughly enjoy this romantic fantasy. The Old Ones act out of fear and that causes Imriel to learn how to cope with his feelings and change and grow to be a person worthy of being loved. He travels a hard road because his mother was a traitor to the realm and almost caused Terre d’Ange to be conquered. Many people don’t trust him although those who get to know him find him an honorable man. Readers will enjoy this long epic saga.

American Outrage
Tim Green
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
044657743X, $24.99 1-800-759-0190

In New York City American Outrage TV news reporter Jake Carlson mourns the loss of his wife Karen. However, their thirteen years old adopted son Sam is having more trouble with her death in many ways more than Jake is as the kid feels he does not belong anymore. Sam asks Jake to find his biological mother; reluctantly he agrees though he is not sure how successful he can be as they adopted him from a nebulous Albanian system.

Jake starts his search with the lawyer who finalized the adoption only to find the man committed suicide. He next goes to the Albanian agency only to learn they are no longer in the baby business; instead they are a travel agency. Still though he makes little progress, Jake digs deeper for Sam’s sake with his teen at his side. When the travel agency head is killed after a night with Jake, he knows he is getting close, but not sure what he has. He becomes tabloid news, Sam vanishes, and the Mafia and an unknown affluent adversary want Jake stopped.

This is an enjoyable thriller as Jake changes during the course of the quest. Whereas he initially gives his investigation lip service, he soon realizes how important it is. Adding interest to the fun tale is the reporter becomes the subject of his peers and gets a taste of his own medicine. Fans will enjoy this solid investigative tale.

Octavia E. Butler
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446696161, $13.99 1-800-759-0190

She awakens feeling inside middle age, but looking preadolescent. Even more confusing is she suffers from amnesia and doesn’t know why she is in this cave badly bruised and injured. Finally she is starving, but instinctively knows she must dine on human blood preferably without killing the host.

Wright drives by, sees this young battered girl alone, stops and offers her a ride, which she accepts along with feeding from him. He stays at her side feeling compelled to do so as Shori meets other Ina almost like her and learns that humans like Wright are symbionts providing their nourishment. However, she also finds out how unique she is even amongst the vampiric Ina as she is the result of a genetic experiment using African-American human DNA that enables her to withstand sunlight, why her family was murdered and that a predator seeks to finish the job by killing her and her new symbiont. Survival is her only objective.

FLEDGLING is a reprint of a terrific vampire tale that provides a deep look at family, race relationships, and sexuality yet is loaded with action. Shori holds the tale together as she learns who she is and why someone wants her dead. Though some readers might have issue with a fifty-three years old female who looks like she is ten or eleven years old (Ina age slower and live longer) having adult relationships, Octavia E. Butler writes a thought provoking character driven relationship allegory.

Dinner First, Me Later?
Candy Halliday
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446617520, $6.99 1-800-759-0190

In Woodbury Park, the four friends (Zada Clark, Jen Marshall, Tish Jones, and Alicia Greene) make up the Housewives Fantasy Club though realtor Alicia is not married. Recently she sold a house in their cul-de-sac to retired Chicago Cub superstar Jake "The Rake" Sims; known for his underwear commercial. Zada thinks Alicia and Jake are a perfect pairing so she pushes them together over the objection of Alicia, who wants nothing to do with men having divorced her neurosurgeon husband Edward Carlton after learning he was gay.

Jake wants Alicia, but plans to avoid her as he knows he must behave if he is to gain permanent custody of his fourteen year old daughter Dani, whose mother died six months ago. He fears his martinet former mother-in-law will turn his offspring into a replacement for her daughter. As Jake watches his suburban steps, he and Alicia fall in love, but Dani comes first.

The latest Housewives Fantasy Club tale (See YOUR BED OR MINE?) is a fun lighthearted romantic romp with a serious undertone involving custody of a child. The lead couple is a wonderful duo dueling with their feelings as neither wants love at this time. The other club members play matchmakers while his too precocious discerning daughter is yanked in two directions by her father who just entered her life and her grandmother who has modeling plans for her. Readers will enjoy the latest secret fantasy culminating at Wrigley Field.

The Spy Wore Silk
Andrea Pickens
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446618004, $6.99 1-800-759-0190

Lord Lynsley knows that whoever is selling top military secrets to England’s enemy must come from a select few who have power, and money to accomplish the seditious deed as the nefarious seller has access to high levels of government. Lynsley especially thinks one of the members of the Gilded Page Club (Dunster, Fitzwilliam, Winthrop, Leveritt, Jadwin, and Kirtland) is the traitor, but these are connected aristocrats so accusations of traitorous activities must be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Linsley turns to the Mrs. Merlin Academy for Select Young Ladies for an undercover spy to ferret out the identity of the culprit as these women taken from the slums of London have been trained to fight or seduce their foes into submission. Mrs. Merlin chooses Siena, a bold fighter and art connoisseur. Siena pretends to be a brash courtesan who infiltrates the club by offering her wares exclusively to whom she decides is the chosen one. Her plan is perfect except she is attracted to the Earl of Kirtland, a war hero who saved his men’s lives only to be disgraced for failing to follow a superior’s order that would have needlessly led to his squad’s deaths. The cat and mice game has begun, but a Russian and a Merlin join the contest.

This is engaging Regency espionage romantic suspense tale starring a courageous heroine and a strong support cast. Readers will appreciate the audacious saucy steps that Siena takes to uncover the traitor while feeling for Kirtland, who is the only who suspects there is more to this courtesan’s infiltration even as he wants her like no other female ever before. Sub-genre fans will take pleasure in this fun thriller and look forward to Siena’s roommate’s adventures as a nineteenth century “Jane Bond” saving England.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Hot
Stephanie Rowe
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446619019, $6.99 1-800-759-0190

Nick Rawlings is the last known surviving Markku, a race of fighters that fled Satan for freedom only to be destroyed. In fact Nick is actually a half-breed who currently is watching over a frozen part of Satan Jr. When his half-sister Dani calls saying they will kill her unless he kills Satan, he ignores her until he realizes something is wrong. When he goes to her place, he finds her unconscious inside of some sort of bubble that he cannot penetrate. He knows his only hope to save his sibling is to find a Rivka servant of Hell to assist his assassinating Satan.

At a club, Nick meets Becca Gibbs, the most infamous of the Rivka and her apprentice Rivka Paige. He offers her a deal that if she helps him on his quest to save his sister; he will help her get free of Satan. Becca accepts as she wants to live eternity away from Satan’s control though she knows that her life-force comes from his being so the king of Hell must live. As they work together neither can resist the lure of the other.

The third devilish paranormal romance (see MUST LOVE DRAGONS and DATE ME BABY, ONE MORE TIME) is a lighthearted romp that adds much to the Rowe mythos with two major Hellish races revealed. The story line is lighthearted frolic yet filled with plenty of action while the lead couple goes from one adventure to another while they fall in love; an unheard of emotion for residents or offspring of Satan. Fantasy romance fans will enjoy the latest amusing battle of the souls (soulless?) on hell and earth.

The Secret to Seduction
Julie Ann Long
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446616885, $6.99 1-800-759-0190

In 1820, after another senseless duel in which neither shooter was hurt, the womanizing Earl Rhys Gillray learns that the country estate la Montagne is his. Tired of angry husbands and flirty wives, his reputation as the bawdy poet Libertine, and mostly a sedition trial that touches him, Rhys decides to rusticate at his new home.

He hides his retreat by throwing a house soiree. Paul and Mary Capshaw are among the invited and they bring her friend, Sabrina Fairleigh, daughter of a vicar and in love with curator Geoffrey Gillray, Rhys’ cousin. Mary plans to help Sabrina with her pursuit of Geoffrey, who is visiting his cousin to obtain funding for a missionary project abroad. However, when the Earl of Rawden and the vicar’s daughter see one another for the first time, an attraction ignites. He sees her as a means to end his ennui while she sees him as a rake she desires. As they match wit with pleasure, neither realizes the links between their families that once understood will prove love is not enough.

Julie Anne Long provides an entertaining Regency romance with some late suspense that threatens to end the relationship between the lead couple just as it soars. The story line is a gender battle between an innocent woman and a hedonistic rake who plans to teach her first hand THE SECRET TO SEDUCTIONS only to begin to wonder just who is the student and who the professor is. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this enjoyable charmer.

Set Me Free
Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446533319, $24.99 1-800-759-0190

Friends, family and those he has helped consider Elliott Barrow an idealistic ethical icon. When Native American Cal Fleecing returns from Harvard to his reservation home in Oregon he meets the charismatic caring Elliot and they become close friends with a vision. They open up the Ponderosa Academy in Stolen, Oregon with a dream to provide quality education to Native Americans.

However, Cal hides from Elliot his resentment that everyone thinks the world of the man while ignoring Cal’s hardworking contributions. Elliot's first wife theater director Helen Bernstein arrives from Manhattan to direct The Tempest at the school. At about the same time she comes to Stolen, Elliot’s teenage daughter Amelia (from another deceased wife) leaves Portland and seventeen years old Willa Llewellyn leaves Connecticut to arrive at the school. Cal realizes he has comrades who share with him resentment of Elliot’s constant Pollyanna upbeat philosophy while the offspring pushes hard to learn what really happened to her late mother. When everyone converges in Stolen, Elliot finds himself at the center of a tempest as his statue crumbles from the pedestal.

SET ME FREE is a delightful contemporary work of fiction with a bit of a mystery (the link between the players though somewhat obvious because the hub is evident) due to the strong ties to Shakespeare as all the key players provide perspectives with references back to the Bard especially the Tempest. The story line predominantly focuses on the relationships between Elliot and everyone else including his late wife as secrets surface in which the others demand of the magnetic Elliot to “SET ME FREE” from his vision, the last words of the Tempest.

Invisible Prey
John Sandford
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399154213, $26.95 1-800-847-5515

Minneapolis Police Detective Lucas Davenport leads a very sensitive investigation into the activities of Minnesota State Senator Burt Kline allegedly having sex with a minor. The consummate professional cop, Lucas is extremely careful with his handling of the official inquiry because he knows what a mess a media feeding frenzy would be with a politician-Lolita tryst.

As he prepares to arrest Mr. Kline for sex with a fifteen year old, Lucas also is assigned the murders of wealthy widow Constance Bucher and her maid Sugar Rayette-Peeples in the former’s mansion. Both were battered to death and the house ransacked. The first thought is a robbery turned ugly, as the affluent home is filled with valuable antiques. However, Lucas realizes that he has no idea whether anything was stolen so perhaps the murders were personal especially with the skulls smashed. As he continues his inquires, he soon finds a strange connection to the sleazy senator scenario, but identifying the killers still remains difficult and convoluted.

Though number seventeen in this long running police procedural, INVISIBLE PREY is a fantastic tale in which the two cases are appealing because of the strong key players ranging from victims, suspects, witnesses, “vultures” and participants, etc. Readers will appreciate Lucas’ investigations as John Sandford provides his hero with not the usual suspects in what will prove to be a one sitting thriller.

Free Fire
C.J. Box
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399154272, $24.95 1-800-847-5515

Attorney Clay McCann walked into the Bechler River Ranger Station in Yellowstone National Park holding a still warm weapon while informing the ranger that about a half hour ago he killed four campers. A few months later Wyoming Governor Spencer Rulon visits former State Game and Fish Department Game Warden Joe Pickett, who was fired by the agency’s Director Randy Pope (see IN PLAIN SIGHT), at the ranch of Joe’s father-n-law to ask a favor. Though McCann got away with murder on a technicality, Rulon shows him a note from one of the victims just before he was murdered that implies the illegal stealing of resources that could impact the revenues of the state. He wants to look into whatever this “Yellowstone Dick” was alluding to as a state has no jurisdiction in a national park.

Joe begins his quiet investigation with the help of his friend falconer Nate Romanowski. They soon obtain the assistance of park ranger Judy Demming, who like most of her peers remains reeling that the cold blooded killer freely roams Yellowstone while four caring environmentalists are dead. They begin to find a link between the homicides and questionable bio-mining rights that would destroy Yellowstone's famous hot springs, but McCann and his partners do not mind adding three more murders to their count.

In his seventh Joe Pickett mystery, C. J. Box is at his best as he describes the “Stone” with adulation for its exquisiteness while also using a loophole over jurisdiction between the Feds and the state. The story line is fast-paced as Joe and his teammates begin to uncover the contemptuous illegal waste of natural renounces to make a profit without regard by stripping the beauty from the “Stone”. Fans and environmentalists (except perhaps the EPA political appointees) will appreciate FREE FIRE as Joe investigates as a private citizen what some amoral avaricious antagonists are doing to make millions.

The Prada Paradox
Julie Kenner
Downtown Press
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
0743496159, $13.00 1-800-223-2336

Play, Survive, Win is an online role playing game where the target has a protector to save her from the assassin and this game has made it out into the real world where unwilling people participate in order to stay alive. Mega movie star Devi Taylor is making a comeback in a film based on someone one who played and survived the game. Her only doubts about the film are her co-star Blake Atwood who played a big role in their very public breakup.

She is in her heavily guarded home working on her lines for the next days when Blake arrives allegedly to read them with her but in truth he wants to win her back. A Fed Ex package arrives from Play, Survive, Win and when they open the site they learn that she is a target who was poisoned and if she wants to live she must follow the clues to find the antidote. Andy, a fellow worker on the movie, arrives saying he got a message saying he is the protector. Blake refuses to stop for the antidote which happens to be a good thing because he ingested the poison and now he has as much at stake as Devi who is targeted by the assassin. As they follow the clues, Devi realizes her love for Blake has never died and if they both come out of this alive, she intends to make sure nothing comes between them again

Julie Kenner has written an outstanding thriller that sends chills down the readers’ spines as they watch with baited breath to see if the stars can beat the assassin and Blake can find the antidote. This work of romantic suspense is enjoyable to follow as the audience tries to decipher the clues along with the characters. THE PRADA PARADOX is a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience just likes it predecessors (see THE GIVENCHY CODE and THE MANOLO MATRIX).

Karin Tabke
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
1416524924, $14.00 1-800-223-2336

The only legitimate business that the Donatello family owns is Skin, which Francesca “Frankie” Donatello is turning into a skin magazine for women. Her father Santini doesn’t like his only daughter being involved in such an enterprise and at their last meeting harsh words were exchanged that could never be taken back because someone killed him soon afterward. Frankie is looking for a spectacular model to boost sales and gain more advertisements and Reese Bronson fits the bill.

Frankie has doubts about the hunk because he stimulates her hormones until she feels like she is in a Bronson fever. What she doesn’t know is that he is an undercover officer who works the case of who killed Santini. Frankie is the only honest person in her dysfunctional family but it takes her a while to believe someone has taken a hit out on her. Reese’s colleagues believe the mafia princess killed her father for embezzling funds from the magazine and she arranged it to look like her life was in danger. Reese doesn’t want to believe it because he has fallen for Frankie but the evidence starts pointing to her being a stone cold killer.

SKIN is an exciting sizzling police procedural romance that will appeal to readers who like a lot of sex in their romantic suspense novels. Karin Tabke is a first rate storyteller who creates characters that the audience will like. It is fascinating to watch the heroine be surrounded by criminals and stay honest and clean with nary a parking ticket to her name. Yet the author plants seeds of doubt in the form of evidence that makes the audience wonder if the mafia princess is a sociopath or a framed innocent.

Unexpected Family
Joan Medlicott
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
1416524568, $14.00 1-800-223-2336

In Covington, North Carolina, widow Amelia Declose is stunned when the proof that her late husband cheated on her arrives at her door. His daughter Miriam having no one to turn to has arrived at the hometown of her deceased father. She seeks shelter from her abusive obsessed former spouse. Amelia cannot refuse to help Miriam due to Sadie, her late spouse’s young frightened granddaughter.

The three generations of females struggle to find common grounds especially with the two adults hurting from men who let them down. However, though Amelia and Miriam rationalize that they accept one another for Sadie’s sake, both knows deep down they need each other too. Still neither will state that they are forging a family that could break apart if they fail to admit their need for each other goes beyond Sadie.

Fans of the Ladies of Covington will enjoy Amelia’s turn in the hopper as her late husband’s indiscretion arrives in town. Though somewhat feeling like a soap opera, the fully developed lead couple, Amelia who remains consistent with her past appearances and Miriam, keep the interesting story line focused as they initially sublimate their feelings while trying to do what is best for Sadie.

Echoes of the Dance
Marcia Willet
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312361009, $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In Dartmoor, Cornwall, Roly converted his barn where he lives into a canine-rescue operation. Roly is unhappy as his overbearing former wife Monica is coming to town while her new mate is busy at work so that she can see their son Nat. Also besieged with the invasion of Hurricane Monica is Widow Kate, who sympathizes with Roly and Nat even as the dog rescuer tries to persuade the grieving widow to take in a canine. However, Kate soon realizes that father and son have hidden key elements in their relationship with calculating Monica that explains much.

Meanwhile Roly’s sister Mim runs a dance studio in London so they don’t see each other as much as they used too when he was a photographer as he has since retired. She wants to help Daisy Quin, an injured former dancer adjust to becoming either becoming a civilian or an instructor while her sibling takes in the stray human.

Fans of Marcia Willett will rejoice with the return of Kate Webster and friends (see FIRST FRIENDS and A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY) as everyone rallies to help one another work through their personal issues. The key characters as always are full blooded and remain consistent with past performances. Though the story line in some ways reads like a series of episodes that techniques works as it adds to the feel of real people with worries until the too sappy ending.

The Silent Assassin
Lori Andrews
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312352719, $23.95 1-888-330-8477

Dr. Alexandra Blake works at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology where she uses her knowledge of genetics to find bio-terror vaccines. She is also sometimes called upon to use her medical skills when a situation occurs. When the corpse of a man who died from a bayonet is brought to AFIP Alexandria is able to tell that he recently returned from Vietnam and further investigation into his past shows he helped broker a deal for the U.S. He successfully brokered a deal where Vietnam would sell the U.S. oil reserves, something that was important to the president who saw it as a way of healing wounds between the two countries.

American soldiers stationed in Nam when returning home sometimes brought back Vietnamese skulls with them. Now in a special White House ceremony the items are being returned to the Vietnam government. In one of the skulls, Alexandra finds a note saying that Americans conducted a massacre. Someone breaks into Alexandria’s home while she is sleeping and tries to kill her before getting away and her office is ransacked. Her superiors believe it is her knowledge of the massacre that is causing someone to want her dead but the truth is much more explosive.

Although this is only Lori Andrews' second fiction book, her work is reminiscent of Patricia Cornwall novels. The heroine is a strong-willed, caring individual who doesn’t hesitate to do what she believes is the right thing. She refuses to be intimidated by those who want to kill her and although she can’t see the conspiracy at the highest level of government, when the time comes she makes a decision and acts on it knowing if things go wrong she could end up in jail or worse.

Yesterday's Fatal
Jan Brogan
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312359977, $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In Providence, Rhode Island, Providence Morning Chronicle reporter Hallie Ahern observes an odd tragic car accident in which she tries to rescue the already dead driver. Dominican bookkeeper Lizette Gorda, a mother of three working for attorney Dane Piedmont, apparently hit a tree twice; at least that is what the elderly witness told her. Lizette’s husband insists another driver was involved with the mess but left before the police arrived.

Hallie begins to make inquires that lead to mobster Tito Manaforte, who attended the funeral and personal-injury lawyer Joe D'Anzana. As she digs deeper she begins to believe that Lizette’s accident is tied to an insurance scam to file false claims with insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid. However, her efforts alienate her boyfriend, prosecutor Matt Cavanaugh who warns her he will subpoena her if he has to while Dane makes no apology that he wants her; of course so does the bad guys.

Hallie is a fabulous investigative reporter whose inquires make for a superb mystery; however her romances are a different story as they are used to show her flaws, but instead feel as if they intrude on the prime theme, her investigation. Still she makes the story line fun to follow as she cleverly follows the leads while the criminals follow her. Readers will enjoy the escapades of Jan Brogan’s intrepid journalist when she is on the case more so than with the men in and out of her life.

Lindsey Davis
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312361297, $23.95 1-888-330-8477

In 76 C.E. Roman Emperor Vespasian orders informer Marcus Didius Falco to investigate the murder of nobleman Sextus Gratianus Scaeva. The Emperor is concerned that the homicide is an act of terrorism related to Scaeva's brother-in-law, who has incarcerated Veleda, a Germanic rebel chieftain who was leading an insurgency against the Roman Empire. This she-wolf escaped her captivity while the killing occurred.

Though everyone else including the Emperor assumes Veleda killed Scaeva, Falco and his astute wife Helena Justina have some doubts as the timing of her escape is too convenient and had to be helped by an insider. He and Helena investigate how the woman obtained her freedom because they feel that is the path to the culprit; at the same time they want to recapture Veleda before someone else who wants her silenced.

As always in this long running Ancient Rome mystery series, Falco and Helena are astute, witty, and fun to observe as they work the homicide in which the “media” frenzy, the politicians, and the public have already convicted Veleda. Everyone seems to demand that the married sleuths do likewise with one person willing to kill them to emphasize that point. Fans will enjoy the latest whodunit that takes a modern day concept of hanging the most likely suspect before the evidence is fully found and effortlessly brings it into the first century Common Era due mostly to the strong cast especially the lead couple.

Secret Relations
Annabel Dilke
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312334796, $24.95 1-888-330-8477

The family patriarch, attorney Lionel St. Clair expects his grandchildren to follow the tradition of their ancestry just like his four offspring did though Henry is deceased and Camilla a disgrace as her divorce is tabloid fodder. Lionel turns to his other adult children Tom and Suki for what he demands of the younger generation of twenty plus years old to continue the family image.

As the younger generation of cousins gather for the annual gala hosted by Lionel's only living sibling, injured war veteran Uncle Hector, they have desires of their own apart from being a St. Clair stereotype. Liza wants to be a singer and not a married mother at least at this time in her life. Charlie is studying to become this generation’s family lawyer an “INHERITANCE” expected of him from his attorney dad; he is in love with his first cousin Kitty. She, in turn, desires her first cousin Max, who just wants to escape the ignominy of his parents’ public divorce. However, anger and resentment explode leaving the family on the verge of total collapse with only Hector trying to avert raging feuds by admitting the secret tragedy over the angry objection of Lionel that devastated him and his siblings so many years ago

Though SECRET RELATIONS starts off as a British aristocratic 1970s family drama that has been done a zillion times, Hector provides freshness when he begins to reveal the up to then the banned tragic scandal of his youth. However, the key to the insightful story line is that each of the cousins has different personalities, which makes their wants and jealousies of one another seem genuine. Sub-genre readers will enjoy this discerning character study.

My French Whore
Gene Wilder
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312360576, $18.95 1-888-330-8477

In 1918 in Milwaukee, Paul Peachy wonders if that is all there is to life as he nears thirty. His work as a train conductor is boring; his marriage has no spark; and he is just tired of achieving nothingness. Thus Paul, who has not seen much beyond Wisconsin and tracks, enlists in the military.

In France, Paul offers the military one skill or else he would be just another expendable unknown soldier. His company commander Captain Harrington wants Paul, who speaks German, to interrogate spy, Harry Stroller, expecting his country to lose soon and unable to cope with his loneliness and ennui, surrendered to the allies. Sent to the front, Paul flees the battle only to be captured by the German army. He insists that he is master spy Harry Stroller and soon meets and convinces Colonel Steinig that he is a German agent; his host introduces him to French hooker Annie Breton. They share a wonderful tryst until Paul realizes Harrington is a prisoner. He arranges for his former commander to escape, but stays behind to be with his beloved prostitute though he knows the gig will be up soon.

This is an entertaining WWI romance starring an interesting lead male. The common thread of the warriors from both sides of the battle is languor with risk taking becoming the norm just to bring some excitement into their lives. Readers will appreciate Gene Wilder’s fine tale of love in the trenches.

A Fatal Grace
Louise Penny
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312352565, $23.95 1-888-330-8477

In Three Pines, Quebec socialite CC de Poitiers runs a successful personal guidance business based on her book Be Calm until she participates in the local Yuletide curling competition only to be electrocuted. Montreal Chief Inspector Armand Gamache arrives at the tiny village to lead the official inquiry into what appears to be a tragic accident.

Armand interviews the victim’s submissive spouse and overweight daughter, a lover, a rival self-help guru, curling competitors and officials, and some townsfolk. All seem to have alibis, but share in common a universal loathing of CC. In fact each person questioned paints a picture of an abusive ugly person and that the culprit should be honored not arrested. Thus everyone he has talked to especially the family members has a motive for killing the apparently odious CC de Poitiers; most had an opportunity though they offer alibis.

When Gamache is front and center investigating the death, A FATAL GRACE is a superb police procedural; when the plot refers to the past especially that of the odious deceased it loses momentum. Still the story line contains a fine whodunit as it appears that much of Quebec wanted the nasty CC dead and several had the opportunity to fix her equipment and that make for a bunch of suspects for the police and readers to sift through and find out who, of all those who wanted her dead actually, acted on the desire.

Gun Shy
Ben Rehder
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312357524, $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Blanco County, Texas Game Warden John Marlin, a member of the National Weapons Alliance (NWA), believes that people cause trouble not guns as he supports the right of citizens to bear arms. However, he also understands why his lover, police officer Nicole disagrees as she has been hurt by misuse of guns.

Their personal dispute turns heated when Rodolfo Domingues, a Mexican illegal immigrant, working the garden outside of popular country singer Mitch Campbell’s home when he is shot dead by the famous crooner. John gets involved when the corpse is found and he realizes that the victim was moved from the homicide site to the new location. Digging a bit deeper John finds a link to NWA spokesperson Mitch, who hides the fact that he is Norman Kleinschmidt of snowbound Middlebury, Vermont. Concerned, John feels strongly he better solve the complex case before the NWA annual convention fingers point towards the group in light of the Campbell connection and much more.

Though somewhat convoluted with too many sidebars (especially Mitch’s past), GUN SHY is a fine irreverent look at the Second Amendment debate over gun control. The arguments are at two levels, with groups on both sides making their case irregardless of valid information as neither side wants to hear the facts that support the opponent; while also inside the John-Nicole love nest is a battle over those same rights. Fans will enjoy this fine mystery as the ethical Marlin, unlike many of his NWA cronies, and the moralistic Nicole, unlike many of her gun control supporters, refuses to allow personal beliefs prevent them from uncovering the truth.

Bobbie Faye's Very (very, very, very) Bad Day
Toni McGee Causey
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312354487, $12.95 1-888-330-8477

In Lake Charles, Louisiana, twenty-eight years old Bobbie Faye Sumrall wonders what evil she must have done in a previous life to have so many catastrophes. Everyday is a day in which Murphy of law fame proves an optimist in Bobby Faye’s mind. Somehow whatever could go wrong does; if by some miracle a day without disaster occurs, Bobbie Faye assumes she was either dreaming or living someone else's life.

Take today, a normal day in the life of the mistress of disaster. The washing machine inundates her trailer home with biblical level flood waters. Kidnappers have abducted her younger brother Roy (she does feel sorry for the felons) demanding her tiara as ransom. Although she needs the tiara to wear as queen of the Contraband Days Festival, she plans to do the right thing if not for Roy, for her five-year-old niece who lives with her. However, at the bank to get the tiara, thieves steal her precious jewelry. Bobbie Faye forces driver Trevor to take her in his truck to follow those thieves. This is just another day in the life of the mistress of disaster.

This is a wild lighthearted bayou tale stars a heroine who feels like a cloud is always over her head (think of JOE BTFSPLK of Li’l Abner fame). The story line is a zany series of vignettes as one thing after another goes wrong, which to Bobbie Faye is the norm in her mad, mad, mad, mad world. BOBBIE FAYE'S VERY (VERY, VERY, VERY) BAD DAY is a very good day for readers.

The Moonlit Cage
Linda Holeman
Three Rivers Press
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0307346498, $14.95 1-888-523-9292

In 1845 Afghanistan, Darya dreams of freedom to do whatever she wants including reading the Qur’an in public and visit some of the locations she has heard about mostly from her grandmother. However, Darya knows that is a fantasy because a female must obey males. Over the next decades her father is outraged by her behavior as he considers her wicked, but it is his second wife Suluma who takes action by cursing her and arranging for her father to sell her to the abusive son of a nomadic tribe chief.

Desperate to escape her even tighter bonds, Darya flees. English expatriate David Ingram escorts her to Bombay where he leaves her as he continues on the England. However, Darya misses the kind Ingram, who she loves. She arranges to travel to London escorted by Osric Bull, who has other plans for the exotic beauty.

The Asian chapters are superb insightful look at the mid-nineteenth century even filtered through the heroine’s perspective. The story line remains strong when Darya travels with Bull, but loses some of the uniqueness that will stun the audience as the Afghan tribal culture insures that the role of women is to pleasure men. When she reaches 1850s London, Darya anticipates freedom only to find a single female still has almost no rights as high society assumes they are there to ease a man’s burden. Her revelation keeps her fresh as THE MOONLIT CAGE is a fabulous historical tale that fans will appreciate.

One Big Damn Puzzler
John Harding
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061132187, $14.95 1-800-242-7737

On a remote South Pacific island, most of the inhabitants have lost one or both limbs due to landmines left by the American military years ago. In that environs, American attorney William Hardt arrives to coordinate compensation for those native victims of the military’s neglect. To his shock they all speak English, albeit the King’s English not the Americanized version.

However, he meets a strange bunch of locals starting with the seemingly articulate Managua, who plans to translate Hamlet into island pidgin. He finds more oddities as parents preferring daughter dress their sons in female garb, pigs running loose owning the island because they are descendents of the British colonization, and the use by apparently everyone of the hallucinogenic "kassa". However, the most stunning thing of all remains the all natural giant toilet bowl “shitting beach" where everyone goes to take a communal crap. Still Hardt completes the mission though he has no concept of what he wrought when the serpent reentered paradise.

Nothing is sacred as John Harding acerbically rips the globalization of American military-big business exploitation of the world. The story line is filled with jabs, hooks, and crosses including several below the belt as ONE BIG DAMN PUZZLER satirizes everything from the misuse of the 9/11 tragedy to the “corporacizing” war fighting to the growing of big government by those claiming small government goals to the illusion of a giant toilet bowl beach dump where anyone can pollute with all natural crap. The natives sum up this humorous often gross satire by knowing the Brits gave them Shakespeare while the Americans left guns, landmines, and lawsuits.

D.J. Taylor
0061146080, $24.95

In 1863, Sergeant Morgan of the Suffolk Constabulary inform the Woodbridge Chronicle and Intelligencer newspaper that thirty-two year old respected gentleman Henry Ireland died when he fell from his horse. Henry’s widow Isabel struggles with her loss because her spouse made all the decision involving the estate and their marriage.

Her neighbor naturalist James Dixey of isolated Easton Hall offers Isabel some solace and brings her into his home. However, though Isabel initially welcomed having a strong man tell her what to do, she becomes distraught when she begins to believe she is being kept as a trophy just like his stuffed bear and caged raging wolf. Only Isabel’s cousin John Carstairs seems to worry about her as he seeks to offer his protection, but cannot find the vanished widow. As Dixey’s maid Esther Spalding keeps Isabel somewhat safe, Scotland Yard Police Captain McTurk begins to tie seemingly unconnected dots which include Henry’s so called accidental death, the vanished widow, a questionable debt collection service that apparently collects by robbing, and the great train robbery, but who is the mastermind remains murky.

This is a superb multifaceted Victorian mystery that cleverly comes together as the various subplots converge on the missing widow. The cast is solid as they bring a Dickensian feel to the complex story line. Creepy Dixey is a fascinating series of contradictions; for instance he claims to be a naturalist but welcomes poachers and takes pleasure in destroying animal eggs so that his collecting the widow is natural for him. Readers will immensely enjoy this one sitting intelligently dark Victorian mystery.

Last Look
Mariah Stewart
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345492226, $6.99 1-800-726-0600

In 1983 in the town of Hatton Shannon Randall disappeared and the chief of police thought that eighteen year old Eric Beale from the wrong side of tracks had something to do with it. Out of his depth he calls in the FBI who sends Special Agent Matt Ranieri to take over the case. Although he couldn’t get a confession out of Eric, Shannon was seen in his car, her blood was found on his shirt as was her homework book. When the case comes to trial Matt is so convincing that the jury finds Eric guilty and sentences him to death. He is executed eight years later.

In the present Shannon’s body with a bullet and stab wounds is found on Shelter Island off the coast of Georgia. She died approximately eight hours ago which means an innocent person died. Special Agent Andre Shields is assigned to find out who killed Shannon assisted by Matt’s daughter FBI agent Dorsey Collins who is unofficially working with him.. When they arrive in Hatton, Dorsey thinks that Shannon ran away and was a victim of abuse. Getting answers in the small town won’t be easy as the townsfolk know how to keep secrets. As the FBI agents work the case, romantic feelings spring up but they don’t let their feelings get in the way of finding out who beat up Shannon before she ran away and never returned home.

Mariah Stewart can always be counted on to write an exciting romantic suspense thriller and LAST LOOK is no exception. The protagonists are totally believable in their actions and desires especially Dorsey who know what she learns will hurt her father whose reputation was made by the Eric case. Ms. Stewart does a good job of showing how the small town inhabitants close their doors politely to the outside authorities.

Lorenzo Carcaterra
034541098X, $25.95

John Frontieri aka Boomer is an ex-cop with part of a lung missing but he is financially stable because he lives on three quarters of a pension with full health benefits. In 1982, he and other ex-cops who were injured and forced to retire formed the Apaches, a rogue police unit that went after and took down a drug queen and her entire posse. Three years later the Apaches with three new members are on the streets again to take down a South American drug lord, Angel who was a former priest before he turned to the dark side.

The reason Boomer and company, including Buttercup, a drug sniffing dog who can hold her own with the Apaches, wants Angel dead is because he ordered a hit on a couple of the G-men (Ceerzule brothers) in a restaurant and Boomer’s niece was collateral damage. The new members are Ash a former arson investigator scared by a fire and Quincy who is in the early stages of AIDs. They manipulate the various crime lords having them at each others throats, accept help from the mob who wants a piece of Angel’s turf and they take heavy chances that cost Angel big time. In the end, it is not their street smarts that determine the outcome but a little help from those on the wrong side of the law.

Many readers will wonder what the difference is between the Apaches and the criminals they battle and the answer is not much. Both cross the line into questionable activities as the Apaches act as judge, jury and executioners not paying attention to civil rights. Surprisingly, for such a dark shoot-em-up crime thriller Lorenzo Carcaterra has a way with characterization that brings an anchor of reality to the mix. Dark humor, characters that are shades of grey and the belief that any means to an end is good are the hallmark elements of CHASERS.

The Lavender Hour
Anne D. LeClaire
0345460480, $13.95

Having passed the mystical five year mark of surviving cancer, but recently losing her Virginia teaching position and with no male attachments, thirty-two years old Jessie Long feels a need to start over. Ironically as she draws that conclusion the radio plays her life record with the other sex, Johnny Lee’s oldie “Lookin for Love in All the Wrong Places. Jessie decides to move into the lavender smelling vacant family-owned cottage on Cape Cod.

Jessie volunteers to work at a local hospice, but conceals her cancer history from everyone. She is assigned to assist dying forty-five years old fisherman Luke Ryder. As they spend his last moments together, they fall in love. When the pancreatic cancer becomes too painful, she assists him with an overdose of pills. Not given time to mourn her loss, Jessie stands trial for murder as assisted suicide in Massachusetts is against the law and Luke’s acrimonious daughter Paige, jealous of the intruder’s time with her dad especially at the end, wants her hung.

This is an interesting character study that transcends the grieving process by looking at the complete person that Jessie is. Her decisions to abet Luke are not easy life and death choices though that it is black and white as far as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. No pampering to the right to die with dignity crowd or to thou shall live regardless of the quality of life commandment crew. Instead readers obtain a discerning look at loving another human enough to sacrifice your own well being by assisting them with something that goes against your very need of more time with them.

Jonathan Kellerman
0345452631, $26.95

Tanya Bigelow was not even four years old, when her slutty mom Lydia finally dumped her on her single Aunt Patty. The ER nurse took in her niece and raised her as best as she could. She got the child help from psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware and ultimately Tanya proved her aunt’s assertion that she is a lady turned out true.

Now nineteen, Tanya calls Dr. Delaware to ask for his help. Just before dying from pancreatic cancer, Aunt Patty told her that she committed a homicide years ago. Tanya has trouble believing that the caring person who sacrificed so much for her could have killed someone, but needs to know the truth to obtain final closure about the person who was a mom to her. Unable to say no, Alex enlists the help of his friend LAPD detective Milo Sturgis as they determine “A did-it-even-happen” investigation? As they make inquiries into Patty’s past, both are stunned with what they learn including a new murder tied to their maybe cold case.

Though a light case for the level expected of the Milo-Alex tandem, this remains a fascinating tale as the investigators assume Patty was delusional at the end until they begin to find unexpected clues otherwise punctuated by the modern day murder. The story line is action-packed from the first call until the final consultation that Alex knows is only the beginning for Tanya. Dr. Delaware’s fans will enjoy this combining a client’s psychological need with a maybe murder investigation.

Cathy Marie Hake
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
0764201662, $13.99 1-800-328-6109

In 1860 California, rancher Galen O’Sullivan finds twins Ivy and Ishmael Grubb illegally squatting on his land. Unlike people before him who kicked the Grubbs and their wastrel father off their property, Galen allows the siblings to stay in exchange for working at his spread.

About the same time as he shows kindness, Galen begins to realize he no longer sees Laney McCain, the younger sister of his best friend Josh, as a nuisance. Instead he is falling in love with her; she has been in love with him since she was a little girl. Just as he is to make his intentions clear to her and her family, Ivy claims he impregnated her. Though denying this, he is forced to do what he believes is right and marry Ivy.

Though the ending simplifies matters too expediently, BITTERSWEET is a fine western romance that brings to life Civil War era California through a strong cast. Laney is a wonderful protagonist while Galen is heroic to a fault. Ivy is actually a likable somewhat desperate person who surprisingly will gain audience empathy even as readers will wonder how Laney and Galen will get together; that is if they get together. The sequel to LETTER PERFECT (Josh’s saga) is a fine BITTERSWEET inspirational Americana.

The Watchers
Mark Andrew Olsen
Bethany House
0764228188, $19.99

Twentyish Abby Sherman is undecided what she will do with her life, but the deeply religious young woman is not concerned as she believes the Lord will show her the way. However, Abby is shocked to find out she has been contaminated with an inexplicable, deadly disease and given a short time to live. She posts her story including some strange dreams onto her blog. Thousands of women claim the same experience turning Abbey’s blog into a popular site and her into an online star. Abby feels she owes it to everyone to learn the truth before she dies and make it clear on her blog that she intends to pursue this quest.

Black Ops sniper Dylan Hatfield is assigned to kill Abby. He internally objects because he feels she has done nothing wrong to deserve death. He decides before completing this distasteful project, he will at least learn why this Abby is considered a danger needing elimination though he also fears the truth will make him aware that perhaps he is playing for the wrong team.

At times graphic, WATCHERS is a terrific exhilarating romantic fantasy with the emphasis on the action on the mortal and supernatural planes. The story line is fast-paced yet quite vivid and needs a warning label: once started one can not stop reading this book. Abby is a strong female lead who wants to do good deeds before dying although she confesses to herself that she would like to know why for closure purposes too. Dylan in some ways is the more fascinating character as he ahs always been the loyal soldier willing to die for his mission, but has doubts about the honor of this assassination. Readers will appreciate this strong thriller that circles this world and that beyond.

In the Company of Secrets
Judith Miller
Bethany House
0764202766, $13.99

In the 1880s in London, Olivia Mott works in the exclusive Spencer home, but when she rejects the sexual assaults of highly regarded Chef Mallard, she finds herself in jeopardy of losing her position. However, she gets lucky when pregnant single Lady Charlotte Spencer decides to go to America to find the father of her unborn child; she wants Olivia along as her companion.

They reach factory town Pullman, Illinois where the prime factory is and those who work for the company of the same name live. Under Charlotte’s direction, Olivia hides her past and obtains work as an assistant chef at the Florence. One lie leads to another and soon Olivia feels engulfed in the well meaning Charlotte’s web of deceit as she falls in love with sincere town manager Samuel Howard.

This is an interesting historical tale that brings to life a company town through the deep support cast and the reactions of the two female English newcomers to Pullman. Olivia is a delightful protagonist who detests the mendacious background that necessity being the mother of invention has forced her and Charlotte to create. Readers will appreciate this Postcards from Pullman tale as Judith Miller vividly brings to life late nineteenth century Americana.

Falconer’s Quest
T. Davis and Isabella Bunn
Bethany House
0764203584, $13.99

In the 1830s in Salem though he mourns his loss John Falconer tries to move on following the death of his beloved wife of eighteen months Ada so that he can be there for her son Matt whom he promised to raise as his own. Already tight as a father and son though not the lad’s natural sire, John and just turned ten Matt become even closer than most biological parents are with their children as they turn to one another for comfort.

A friend Reginald Langston asks John for a favor for him and his wife Lillian as they are at their wit’s end to free his willful adult stepson Byron from slave traders; John agrees. With Matt at his side, John sails from their Moravian home across the Atlantic to France; from there they continue their quest across Mediterranean to North Africa seeking the deadly abusive pirate Ali Saleem, notorious for leaving slaves and crew better off dead than alive from his beatings.

The latest Heirs of Acadia historical tale is a terrific exciting high seas adventure thriller that never slows down from the moment Reginald makes his request until the final confrontation. However, as always with this strong series it is the characters, in this case John, who make the novel fun and inspirational. John has reasons to say no as he grieves his loss, but instead he says yes because his friend needs him. His fortitude will be tested by a vile pirate as the Bunn writing team provides a wonderful stand alone that will send the audience seeking previous saga works especially NOBLE FUGITIVE.

Patrick F. McManus
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
141653265X, $24.00 1-800-223-2336

Blight County, Idaho resident Blanche Wilson reports her spouse Mike is missing. After obtaining information from Blanche, co-owner of the Branch Lodge with her husband, Sheriff Bo Tully obtains the assistance of his father retired sheriff Pap and their tracker friend Dave to go into the nearby mountains to find Mike, but first plan a couple days asking questions while relaxing at the affluent wilderness lodge.

However, their trek proves dangerous when the father and son team barely survives an avalanche. Disturbed by the rockslide mostly because he does not trust coincidence; the trio finds Mike’s corpse, which turns the missing person investigation into a homicide case. They soon learn that Blanche has multimillion reasons to see Mike dead.

The second Blight Country police procedural (see THE BLIGHT WAY) is lighthearted fun as the hero sees a chance for a free soak in a hot tub while reading Danielle Steele’s newest tale. However, the suspicious occurring avalanche changes his R&R concept as he and his companions believe someone wanted them dead. The whodunit is enjoyable though somewhat straightforward, but takes a back seat to the camaraderie between father and son.

I Heard That Song Before
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster
0743264916, $25.95

The landscaper’s daughter on the Carrington estate in Englewood, New Jersey, Kay Lansing snuck onto the second floor of the mansion to see the hidden chapel. While she was there she heard two people arguing and the woman was threatening to blackmail the man. Twenty-two years later, Kay visits the estate once more to ask the owner Peter Carrington if she could use the place for a charity function. He reluctantly agrees and the event is a success.

Kay and Peter have a courtship and five weeks later they get married. Kay knows that he is a “person of interest” in the disappearance two decades ago of Susan Althrob who most believe is dead. Many people think he killed his wife after he found her drunk when she was over seven months pregnant. Kay knows all this but believes Peter is innocent even when new evidence surfaces and Peter is charged with murdering Susan. Using cadaver dogs, the police find the body of Kay’s father who everyone believed committed suicide a few years ago. Although Kay begins to wonder who is behind the killings, she is determined to believe her husband is innocent and hires the private investigation who got enough evidence for the police to arrest Peter to find evidence that will exonerate him not knowing that someone is watching her patiently for her to make a wrong move.

Mary Higgins Cark is the recognized grandmistress of the suspense genre and her latest work I HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE is full of apprehension, but feels more gothic in tone than her other novels because of the location, the accused, and the believing strong willed heroine. The suspense levels are so stratospheric with all the unexpected twists and turns pointing to different characters with motives to commit murder that the audience will wonder who really has the will to kill.

The Wedding Dress
Kimberly Cates
Harlequin HQN
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373771894, $6.99

Twenty-eight years old Jade Star Emma McDaniel looks forward to the complex role that will prove she can act to all her doubters; the part also allows her to escape somewhat the American tabloids fascination with her ex-husband cheating on her. She crosses the ocean to the dig site in Scotland to prepare herself for the role of early fourteenth century legendary warrior Lady Valiant, written for another actress who got hurt. Her teacher archeologist Dr. Jared Butler is rude towards her to hide his shocking, to him, attraction to the American.

Jared is haunted by medieval ghosts and personal demons. He wants nothing to do with Emma, but cannot stop his desire for her. She feels the same way. However, as they make interesting discoveries at the dig, they fall in love.

THE WEDDING DRESS is an interesting contemporary romance that is actually at its best when the lead couple reflect upon the 1305 heroics of Lady Valiant. Though the story line at times decelerates especially when the McDaniel clan enters the fold (past and present), readers will enjoy the changing relationship between the actress and the archeologist

All About Evie
Beth Ciotta
Harlequin HQN
0373772076, $6.99

Fortyish actress Evie Parish knows she is at the breaking point of her career as she is getting fewer parts since most casting directors prefer younger women. Adding to her feeling that she is getting old is being dumped by her now former husband for a younger female.

Evie is desperate as even the few parts she was offered seem to have dried up. Knowing how low she has gone, Evie accepts a job she would not have considered just a couple of years ago. On a cruise ship, she is to assist novelist Arch Reese by pretending to be Sugar Dupont, a former ditzy Vegas showgirl who he just married. The objective is to con a con artist. However, neither the writer nor the actress expected that their performance would be real.

ALL ABOUT EVIE is a terrific contemporary romance starring two interesting protagonists. Readers will cherish the “discussions” between the actress and the author as their exchanges are humorous and often filled with double entendres whether they are themselves of in character. Beth Ciotta provides an amusing romantic suspense with the emphasis on a sea cruise romance that will continue if Evie has her way long after the ship docks.

Klondike Doctor
Kate Bridges
Harlequin Historical
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373294484, $5.50

In 1898 North West Mounted Police Colton Hunter is assigned to escort Dr. Elizabeth Langley from British Columbia to the Klondike. He is outraged because he has better things to do than baby-sit. Colton informs Elizabeth she is to obey his orders on the trail and to act as his sister as she suggested although he believes that will prove impossible. She frustratingly agrees because she needs his protection and escort to reach her grandfather in the gold fields.

However, Colton is even more upset with himself for having non-sisterly thoughts about his ward. On the trail, they face danger from nature and a nasty felon, but it is their feelings that both fear. As they fall in love and he learns to respect her medical prowess, her fiance Dawson refuses to let Elizabeth go.

Kate Bridges returns her fans to the late Victorian age in Canada with a fabulous action-packed road thriller. No one writes about the Canadian wilderness and the sexy North West Mounted Police like Bridges. Her heroes are the strong, silent type, and it's simply delightful to watch them fall in love with her headstrong heroines. Not only is the romance wonderful, the unique backdrop adds another fascinating dimension to a terrific story. The exciting story line stars two “siblings” whose skirmishes make for a fun tale of love. However, the superstar in this vivid historical, as with the previous Bridges to the late nineteenth century (see THE COMMANDER) is Canada circa 1890s.

The Legacy
Shirley Jump
Harlequin Hotel Marchand
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373389493, $4.99

Photographer Paul Clermont learns he inherited a dinosaur from his late Uncle Neil in Indio, Louisiana. His plan is to sell the dilapidated opera house as fast as he can even if it means making little money on the property. Still he goes to see the place and is further depressed by what he finds as this a more than just a fixer-upper as the decrepit place that is his “family legacy” reminds him figuratively and literally of Great Expectations.

Residents like funeral director Marjolaine Savoy have plans to restore the Indigo Opera House to its former glory as part of the Bayou’s Cajon heritage. Paul cannot understand Marjolaine’s passion for the project as he sees the place as heap of junk. However, he is extremely passionate when it comes to making love with Marjolaine. As they fall in love, he is the wanderer with no roots while she is entrenched in the Bayou; leaving no room for compromise.

The lead pairing is a wonderful coupling as they slowly change from enemy combatants to beloved enemies with their wider than the Mississippi gap on what to do about the opera house. The story line is fun to follow as the skeptical outsider and the local spitfire go at it. Though the link back to Hotel Marchand is tentative at best, THE LEGACY is a fine finish to the Louisiana mini series.

Full Throttle
Wendy Etherington
Harlequin NASCAR
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373217730, $5.99

NASCAR Team Mercer driver Kane Jackson is one of the best on the circuit and has a pretty good chance of winning the overall championship. However, in spite of his strong season, he is depressed because he made a monster mistake when he dumped his crew chief Lexie Mercer; not from the pit, but from the bedroom. He would give up racing if that would give him a second chance with her.

However, he has two major obstacles in his way to regain his beloved. First her father, his boss, opposes their relationship out of fear that it will cost the team the championship; second his father, a former NFL star does not think of NASCAR as a sport. Finally the biggest barrier is Lexie. Although she still loves Kane, she fears a personal relationship will hinder his chances at winning the championship.

This second chance at love stars a superb lead couple who both want to get back toegether, but the NASCAR championship keeps them apart as each has reasons not to pursue the other. Fans will enjoy the antics of Kane and Lexie to keep their desires in second gear, but their hearts keep accelerating. Can they gain the checkered flag and each other, or will they have to choose between their second love NASCAR and their first love one another?

No Time to Lose
Carrie Weaver
Harlequin NASCAR
0373217722, $5.99

The Tanner family has a solid NASCAR team headed by driver Ryan Pierce. However, the daughter of the team owner, Jamie Tanner has given up on the family business and NASCAR because her dad refuses to accept how talented she is when it comes to racing engines.

However, when her father suffers a heart attack and the engine in Ryan’s racing car seems to have a low performance, Jamie is brought home to take over running the operation and fixing the poorly performing engine. She begins to build a new engine for Ryan even as they investigate who wants him and his team to fail. Although their respective hearts race from their attraction to one another, neither the driver nor the boss’ daughter expected to fall in love.

NO TIME TO LOSE is an entertaining NASCAR romantic suspense starring a gender bending female coming home to save the family business even though she was rejected because of her sex when she originally wanted to join the team. The story line is at its best when Jamie stars as the heroine saving the day. Though the causes for the engine problems and the thefts seem distracting, the romance between the driver and the mechanic is a fine race around the track.

The Twilight Lord
Bertrice Small
Harlequin HQN
0373772033, $6.99

Magnus Hauk’s wife Lara learns that war is imminent between her homeland Hetar and the land she and her husband rules over Terah. She feels divided loyalties and would like to prevent the hostilities, but has no idea how to achieve her lofty goal.

However, she has no time to act because the Twilight Lord Kol kidnaps her as he believes she is the faerie queen, who will give birth to his replacement. Lara suffers from amnesia and becomes Kol's lover; ultimately she gives birth to twin boys. When she recalls who she is she returns to her husband Magnus in order to prevent war from breaking out between the kingdoms for she knows the long term price of the subsequent chaos means the end of life as she knows it.

The third World of Hetar fantasy (see LARA and A DISTANT TOMORROW) is a strong tale that makes the fairie queen realm seem plausible even with magic being the physics of that plane. Lara is a fascinating protagonist who remains fresh as she as destiny’s darling (or victim) caught in a tug of war. Fans will enjoy her latest sexual frolics and her actions to stay alive.

Her Outlaw
Geralyn Dawson
Harlequin HQN
0373771967, $6.99

In 1897 in London Emma McBride Tate wonders how a wild woman like her could ever learn to be sedate. The Fort Worth resident knows the townsfolk back home still consider her as the ring leader of the McBride Menaces. The widow knows when her spouse died from pneumonia, the menace died with her. Still she thinks once a menace, always a menace so Emma seduces Highland visitor Alistair "Dair" MacRae. However, when he slinks away with her necklace she comes after him with wild abandon holding up his carriage to recover her necklace.

Dair wants Emma, but needs her necklace that he assumes has ties to the death of his mother. However, though he desires the passionate hell-cat, he fears telling her the truth about his quest as someone close to her may have been involved with what he believes is the murder of his mom. Still as Emma sheds her respectability, she believes she is the one to destroy the McBride bad luck curse as she has found love; now all she needs is to persuade the Scot and find the Sisters' Treasure unaware that someone has plans to keep the negative streak alive with her death

The final round two of the Menaces historical romances is a delightful tale of love with a touch of the paranormal caused by Ariel’s curse. The story line is classic McBride bad luck though Emma dears to flaunt Victorian society with her seduction. Readers will enjoy the chief menace’s romance with the Scot who steals first her necklace and then her heart with this fitting and wonderful climax to fun late nineteenth century romances.

Family Stories
Tessa McDermid
Harlequin Everlasting
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373654103, $5.25

In 1929 when traveling salesman Frank Robertson and Marian Cooper meet they are attracted to one another. Frank wants to court Marian, but her father, a minister, says no. In love, they elope.

Seven plus decades later, Frank and Marian remain a couple. Their great-granddaughter Hannah wants to throw a special party bringing all the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren together to celebrate their second diamond anniversary. However, to Hannah’s surprise, Marian says no as she does not want to have a gala for their seventy-five anniversary. Hannah needs to know why.

Hannah’s quest to look into four generations of family turns this tale into more a series of vignettes than a novel. The cast through the seven plus decades are fully developed with just the right touch of eccentricity. Fans who gain pleasure from FAMILY STORIES will want to read Hannah’s investigation into her living roots.

The Marriage Bed
Judith Arnold
Harlequin Everlasting
037365409X $5.25

Thirty-seven years ago Drew Foster deserted pregnant Joelle Webber without a look back until now. Married for three decades to Helen, Drew has returned needing a humongous favor of Joelle. His son Adam is dying from leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. His proved not a good match leaving one person left, their daughter Claudia.

However, Joelle and her husband Bobby DiFranco never informed Claudia that he was not her natural father. Instead they hid that truth as Bobby raised her with love as if he sired her. Joelle has no choice but to inform her daughter that Drew is her biological father and pray Claudia understands they did what they did out of love for her, but Bobby fears losing his relationship with his daughter once she knows Drew is her biological father not him.

THE MARRIAGE BED is an interesting family drama starring a strong cast struggling with several issues besides the obvious as described above. Though readers will wonder why Bobby and Joelle, who were best friends back in their hometown of Holmdell even while she was seeing Drew in high school, never shared their feelings, fans will appreciate this solid character driven contemporary tale.

Sex as a Second Language
Jamie Sobrato
Harlequin Blaze
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373793200, $4.75

In Rome, Italy, Ariel “Eurogirl” Turner writes a blog that highlights her sexual escapades with hot foreign hunks. However, she still fears her former lover in Greece will come after her. She knows that he knows that she knows he is a terrorist.

However, her latest conquest Marc Sorrella is the first that she wants to wake up with in the morning still in bed with her; at least since Kostas and Greece. Upsetting to Ariel is that he seems more fascinated with her blog than with her. Upset, she begins to investigate Marc’s past, not realizing that when you mess with the CIA, you might become a permanently rendition to the home of the spy who loves her.

This is an amusing espionage romance that in many ways is a coming of age character study as Eurogirl goes from unable to care for a goldfish to ready to adopt the world’s children and Marc unable to commit to anyone to ready to adopt the world’s children. The story line is fast-paced as Marc believes Ariel is the key to capturing a terrorist. Jamie Sobrato writes her fun version of the Spy Who Loves Me.

The Haunting
Hope Tarr
Harlequin Blaze
0373793219, $4.75

In Fredericksburg, Virginia, life has been hectic over the last few weeks for Maggie Holliday. She obtained am assistant professorship in the history department at the University of Mary Washington, defended her dissertation, and bought an 1850 Victorian house. Her high TLC maintenance boyfriend Richard the famous DC psychiatrist is unhappy with what he considers her neglect, but she is elated especially when she goes up into the attic.

However, the “orgasmically challenged” professor is stunned when she explores her attic only to find a man wearing a Civil War uniform who seems familiar to her although she would swear she never met him before. He insists she is Isabel and he is her Ethan. As he begins to take her to levels of ecstasy that she has never felt before, the former frigid female falls in love, but Ethan never stays around as he constantly vanishes in thin air. Maggie considers that she is either insane or he is the ghost of her former lover in another life as he insists they are; either way there is no future unless one of them can cross the great divide.

THE HAUNTING is a charming paranormal romance starring two likable protagonists whose chances of making it together seem time-crossed impossible though fans will root for Maggie and Ethan to find a way. Subgenre readers will enjoy this second chance at supernatural love between the ghost and the professor.

Carolyn Davidson
Harlequin HQN
0373772858, $6.99

In 1888 in the Dakota Territory, half-breed Debra Nightsong lives alone as neither her Indian progeny nor her white people accept her. She is okay with being somewhat a hermit especially when the winter freezes everything though deep down she knows she is lonely and expects one day to die without anyone coming to her funeral except perhaps her half-brother.

After a long day working hard on her farm, Debra returns to her home only to find Ethan Tyler inside holding a gun aimed at her. He is one the lam, but will not explain why; she assumes he runs from the law though it could be a woman. Ethan makes Debra his hostage, but he surprises her even more with his hard work on the farm. As they fall in love, a bounty hunter is coming to bring Ethan back to face the law.

NIGHTSONG is an entertaining western romance starring a woman who has given up on humanity (with few exceptions) due to facing bigotry all her life, and a mysterious seemingly kindhearted man on the run. The story line is at its best when this couple works the farm together. It loses some steam when the late suspense occurs with the arrival of the bounty hunter. Though no major villainous character shows up, Carolyn Davidson provides a strong look at the debilitating impact of racism in the late nineteenth century.

Dark Seduction
Brenda Joyce
Harlequin HQN
0373772335, $7.99

Claire Camden owns a bookstore, which she lives above. Her life has been relatively quiet until the sudden appearance of someone saying she is Sibylla, who realizes the bookstore owner has not gone back yet, and demands the page before knocking Claire out. Soon afterward Malcolm of Dunroch, a Highland warrior claiming to be a member of the Masters of Time arrives and insists he will not harm her, but that he believes a page of power is in her bookstore that contains twelve thousand books.

To keep her safe, Malcolm takes Claire back six centuries to his time. There she learns that the Masters of Time was formed amongst the greatest knights to battle demons that want to control the earth. As she gets to know Malcolm, Claire falls in love. However, she needs to be in the twenty-first century where a powerful page can probably be found in her bookstore while he needs to remain in the fifteenth century fighting the enemy as much as his heart that he vowed never to give away when he pledged his allegiance.

Taking the needed time to establish the Joyce paranormal universe where demons live and time traveling occurs, the first book of The Masters of Time DARK SEDUCTION is a fabulous romantic fantasy thriller. The story line is fast-paced, but really accelerates about a third of the way into the plot as Brenda Joyce shifts gears from introducing her players and real to back and forth action starring two valiant time-crossed lovers. Sub-genre readers will rejoice with this fine entry and look forward to more such sagas from out of this time and world lovers.

Real Cowboys
Roz Denny Fox
Harlequin SuperRomance
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373714122 $5.50

Worried about her ten year old son Danny “replacing” his late father Colton in the minds of his paternal grandparents, wheelchair bound Kate Steels accepts a teaching position in Owyhee, Idaho teaching 20 students ranging from first to eighth grade. When she tells her in-laws that she is taking a position in Idaho, Royce and Melanie Steele are outraged as they insist she is not ready for permanent work and their grandson needs them if he is going to be a rodeo star like his late father. Kate worries that the Steeles see Danny as a viable substitute for Colton.

Danny hates the move as his grandparents have spoiled him in their efforts to relive the glory of their late son especially at the Little Britches Rodeo competition. Meanwhile Idaho rancher Ben Trueblood considers quitting the rodeo circuit to work full time as a rancher and to be a full time dad to his adopted daughter Clover when he meets Kate and Danny. Though he doubts the Texan will survive the winter, he hopes she does because he is falling in love with her; she feels the same way but Kate rejects the idea of a rodeo rancher husband as one was enough to last a lifetime and her in-laws still want him home.

Readers will enjoy this entertaining “Home on the Ranch” contemporary romance as the lead couple fall in love, their children abetted by her in-laws have a different agenda. The story line is character driven by the six prime players, which leads to a richly fulfilling family drama as each is unique with varying needs. Though the wrap-up coda at a Texas airport restaurant after a late Amber Alert like suspense seems too nice, fans will appreciate Roz Denny Fox’s deep tale.

Married by Mistake
Abby Gaines
Harlequin SuperRomance
0373714149 $5.50

In Memphis, Casey Greene and her fiance Joe are to marry on live TV as the highlight of this week’s Kiss the Bride show. Joe got cold feet and failed to show up at the studio; ergo Casey is being jilted in front of a zillion viewers. Millionaire businessman and owner of the show Adam Carmichael wants to kill his cousin Henry for allowing this fiasco to occur just before the representatives from the sponsor New Visage Cosmetics arrive. To help her save face and to save his show, he offers to be the groom.

However, the most eligible bachelor in Tennessee is stunned after he exchanges I do on the show when he learns that his made for TV nuptials is legally binding. They agree to annul their marriage quietly, but the media and their family constantly matchmake them. As they fall in love with one another, will Casey or Adam step up and plead that they no longer want an annulment.

Using the reality theme concept, Abby Gaines writes a fun contemporary romantic romp. Casey and Adam are likable protagonists whose reasons for agreeing to marry on the show actually seem plausible; as does their reasoning for obtaining an annulment. Fans will enjoy this couple who fall in love inside the fishbowl of the media, the public and their family observing every misstep they take.

Everything but the Baby
Kathleen O’Brien
Harlequin SuperRomance
0373714114 $5.50

Allison Cabot was waiting at the altar for Lincoln to arrive, but he never does. She assumes he jilted her because of her prenuptial agreement. The only good thing about Lincoln Gray’s failure to appear is that her father was not alive to see the humiliation as dad died six months ago. She only wishes he broke off the engagement before she spent money on the wedding.

However, Mark Travers arrives to explain to Allison that Lincoln jilted her because he married his sister Tracy last year before absconding with her funds. Mark further explains that Lincoln carefully selects his marks as lonely women in their thirties suffering from a setback that leaves them at this moment open to his charm. He wants her help to find the scoundrel who wiped out his sister’s bank accounts before vanishing. Allison agrees to assist him, but Mark changes his mind as he does not want the woman he loves used as bait to catch an amoral rogue.

The lead couple makes for a fine tale as the audience will immediately accept Allison and Mark setting up a scam to get back at Lincoln; neither expected nor desired love to enter their relationship forged out of a need for revenge. Fans will enjoy this fine cat and mouse romance while wondering if Lincoln has even one redeeming quality.

The Right Twin
Laura Marie Altom
Harlequin American
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373751648, $4.99

Sarah Connelly reluctantly agrees to run her twin sister Sadie’s successful Blueberry Inn for the weekend while her sibling handles some emergency. To make it easier on herself, Sarah pretends to be Sadie while struggling with the work requirement of an innkeeper and cursing her sister who insisted this is easy.

Guest Shane Peters arrives in time to help Sarah with a stack of towels. Shane is actually Heath Brown filling in for his twin brother, Hale, the renowned food critic for Zodor's International Country Inn Review Guide. Sarah and Heath are attracted to one another, but both hide their identity from the other. As they fall in love, both know they must be earnest and reveal the truth that they are the other lesser twin.

This contemporary romance is a fun lighthearted romantic romp that focuses on falling in love when the object of your affection thinks you’re the other more successful twin. The mistaken identity story line provides a Wilde zany frolic as readers will like it when Sarah assumes Shane is Hale while Heath believes Sarah is Sadie. This tale is easy to follow as love makes for a fun weekend for THE RIGHT TWIN.

Council of Fire
Aimee Thurlo
Harlequin Intrigue
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373692552, $4.99

Navaho warrior Hunter Blueeyes belongs to the Brotherhood of Warriors a society whose main goal is to protect the tribe. They work in the shadows and have a network of operatives and safe houses second to none. Hunter is tagged with finding the obsidian dagger that is said to have power that can revive the person who is involved in a battle

Lisa Garza’s father who was in charge of keeping the artifact safe returns to the tribe a fake one. Word got out that he was a thief and that was why he committed suicide. Lisa believed her father was murdered and is determined to find the person who stole the dagger and destroyed her father’s name, and to keep their company from collapsing. Before he died, Lisa’s father told her to contact Hunter if anything happened to him. Together they’re besieged by a series of clues that will lead them to the dagger and during the journey they fall in love. However, the Brotherhood of Warriors has first claim on his loyalties and he fears he will betray Lisa when he returns the dagger without the publicity she needs to exonerate her father. While dodging enemies and relying on the Brotherhood to help them, Hunter vows to himself somehow to honor the Council and Lisa without betraying either.

Aimee Thurlo has written an exciting and enthralling romantic suspense that gives insight into the Navaho culture. The protagonists are two sides of the same coin; they are loyal, honorable and strong-willed yet each brings out tenderness in their counterpart that is touching. COUNCIL OF FIRE is full of action but it is the romance that holds the storyline together.

Ex Marks the Spot
Merline Lovelace
Harlequin Next
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373881312, $5.50

Following a wound suffered while on duty in Iraq, USAF Colonel Andrea “Andi” Armstrong accepts medical retirement as an infection setsin. Not even forty, Andi decides to move to a location where many veterans reside, the Florida Panhandle.

However, to her chagrin the rental she leases is next door to the home of Colonel Dave Armstrong, her former husband. Living near him would be difficult except for one problem, Andi is still attracted to her ex spouse. Dave is ecstatic as he feels he has a second chance to make it with the woman he never stopped loving.

The second chance at love is well written, but it is the look at military life during and after serving that make the tale special. The engrossing story line focuses on the themes of the impact of a married couple both being in the military hurting their relationship and on the impact of retirement at a relatively young age (twenty and double pass means you’re out) though in Andi’s case it is due to medical reasons. Merline Lovelace is at her best as she uses romance to place a powerful spotlight on life in and after the military.

Raspberry Sherbet Kisses
Ellyn Bache
Harlequin Next
0373881320, $5.50

LilyRose Sheffield suffers from synthesia as she has the uncanny ability to "see" sounds and "taste" shapes. Twelve years ago her then boyfriend called her a freak because of her senses behaving differently from the norm. Mortified, LillyRose has hidden her gift ever since treating it as a curse as she hates the ridicule and scorn.

However, she explodes when a nasty customer cruelly mocks a young girl, who suffers from the same synthesis condition. Angrily LilyRose hits a woman with a basket leading to her arrest. This one may have a happy ending when the raspberry-sherbet tasting lips she has waited for all her life comes to take her out of jail.

RASPBERRY SHERBET KISSES is an interesting contemporary character study with a romantic subplot. The story line focuses on LilyRose’s efforts to mainstream so that she avoids mockery until the tasty kisses of the hunk rescues her from her own self imposed exile. Readers will appreciate this fine look at a woman whose biggest problem is accepting that it is okay to be different and those who mock her are ignorant fools unless you give them the power to limit you as LilyRose did as Kermit the Frog is right.

Nine Months Notice
Michele Dunaway
Harlequin American
037375163X, $4.99

At Wright Solutions Tori Adams accepted a promotion that brought her back to her hometown of Kansas City, but left behind her lover of a couple of years, her boss Jeff Wright in St. Louis. While Jeff remains devastated as he thought they had more than a quick office romance after all that time together, Tori believed he could never commit to anything beyond sex.

However, she is stunned when two pregnancy tests affirm why she had missed her last two periods; she is carrying Jeff’s child. Jeff is not giving up on the woman he loves and is overjoyed that she is carrying their child. He offers to marry Tori, but she refuses as she feels he only wants to do due to the baby. His strategic plan is to marry the woman he loves before she gives birth because he plans to spend a lifetime spoiling her and their offspring. The only obstacle remains persuading stubborn Tori that he wanted to make her his wife whether she was pregnant or not.

NINE MONTHS NOTICE is a fine contemporary office romance starring two likable protagonists. Tori has learned a lesson about office romances so when a desperate Jeff crosses Missouri to be with her, she rejects his sudden need to marry her as she believes it is for the sake of his offspring and not a love for her. Thus the well written story line focuses on Jeff’s efforts to persuade his beloved that he wants a different paradigm to their relationship. Readers will enjoy this fine frolic as Jeff feels that once the baby is born, his efforts to prove he loves Tori and their child will be futile.

If I’d Never Known Your Love
Georgia Bockoven
Harlequin Everlasting
0373654073, $5.25

Sacramento based designer Julia McDonald becomes concerned for no reason re her husband’s sudden business trip to Columbia when he replaces a peer who cannot make it. She soon learns that paranoia can be real when Evan is abducted. Julia makes every effort to recover her spouse safely, but though she meets the demands of the kidnappers, he never comes home.

Five years later, Julia focuses on her two children, Shelley and Jason, still traumatized by what happened to their father. Though they have finally had his body returned to them and buried him they each pray everyday to turn back the hands of time before he left for South America. Julia’s catharsis is a letter she writes of her life with her beloved before the serpents destroyed their personal Eden.

This is an interesting family drama that initially focuses on the impact of a lack of closure has on a spouse and offspring, but deftly moves into grief for a beloved one. Julia and her children cannot fully move on because they still have a fiber of hope that Evan is alive and will come home to them soon until his corpse is returned to them. The three surviving MacDonalds struggle with their loss as each grieves and copes differently wondering what they could have done differently to inform the patriarch how much they love him; in the end that is the key message to tell your loved ones how much you love them.

The Night We Met
Tara Taylor Quinn
Harlequin Everlasting
0373654081, $5.25

In 1968 San Francisco Nineteen years old Eliza Crowley plans to enter St. Catherine’s Convent where in six months if God is willing she will become a novice. Eliza stops at a pub across the street from the convent where she meets much older Nathaniel Grady. She is stunned by her attraction to the twice divorced ski resort manager because no man has ever hooked her before. Still she knows she is no longer suited for a convent life as her heart belongs to Nathaniel. He feels the same way about her though he feels he is robbing the cradle. They marry.

Over the years they remain married and raise children who give them grandchildren. Their relationship remains strong through their time together has dented some of the luster. Still Nate and Eliza are an entry although the ardor has cooled over the years somewhat.

THE NIGHT WE MET is the first event of many years together for Eliza and Nate. However, Eliza is the only fully developed character as each escapade unfolds it is from her point of view. Thus the audience sees Nate and their offspring through her filter. In some ways more of a series of vignettes than a saga, this is an interesting relationship drama of a couple through the decades.

A Second Chance
Kara Lennox
Harlequin Hotel Marchand
0373389485 $4.99

Two years have passed since Luc Carter tried to illegally steal the Hotel Marchand in New Orleans from his cousins. His endeavor has alienated him with his family and led to his conviction of conspiring with criminals. He has been on probation since hiding from everyone in shame.

Luc runs La Petite Maison B&B in Indigo, Louisiana where he meets single mother baker Loretta Castille when they work on a festival together. He is attracted to her but hides his criminal past from her because he knows she will dump him immediately having a former husband who died in prison. However, he knows what a Hobson Choice means as he must tell her the truth if he wants any chance of a future with her and her delightful eight years old bird watching daughter Zara, but fears if he tells mama the truth he will have no tomorrow with his beloved Loretta.

Though the connection to the Hotel Marchand is through Luc’s DNA and his felonious activities, Kara Lennox provides a solid second chance contemporary romance. Luc, who has renovated the cottage into a B&B with his hard labor feels quite a dilemma as he knows he does he is doomed and if he does not he is doomed. Either way before he can persuade his beloved they belong together he must forgive himself. Loretta is not quite as developed as he is though her stance on convicts means one strike and you’re out. Thus love may prove too feeble to connect permanently in the bayous.

The Blue Zone
Andrew Gross
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061143405, $25.95 1-800-242-7737

The Bronx based medical researcher Kate Raab is stunned when the FBI arrests her gold trader father, Benjamin for moving money for a drug cartel. Even more shocking is when a precision squad of hitmen tries to kill all of Benjamin’s relatives. Everyone immediately accepts the Feds' offer to start over inside the witness protection program; that is every member except Kate.

When Benjamin abruptly flees the WPP and is subsequently accused of killing his government contact agent, Kate begins to wonder just who her dad is as she had not truly believed the original charges. She needs to know if she shares the DNA of a cold blood killer or is he something else; she prays for something else though not sure what that could be even as her inquires lead to one betrayal after another.

On his first unaccompanied flight (sans James Patterson), Andrew Gross provides readers with an interesting action-packed thriller that focuses on the deceptiveness of the Witness Protection Program. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Mercado cartel attack the extended Raab family and never slows down as a likable heroine struggles for the truth. Though key aspects of the plot seem implausible, WPP thriller fans will not care as Mr. Gross provides a delightful entertaining tale.

The Land of Mango Sunsets
Dorothea Benton Frank
0060892382, $24.95

Living in New York, Miriam Swanson finds her life nuked since her husband ran off with “his whore". Her friends have abandoned the middle aged woman as if she was the one cheating on her spouse; making it more difficult to adjust is her boss Agnes Willis who is one of those bosom buddies who give Miriam the cold shoulder. Worse she caught Agnes’ husband Truman in a seemingly compromising position with her tenant Liz. Her two adult sons are polite, but avoid her like she has the plague. It seems the only folks who talk to her are her parrot and her tenants with each squawking at her.

Miriam decides to escape the city by visiting her socialite mother Miss Josie on the South Carolina barrier island Sullivan. She is stunned when mom no longer cares about fashion as the older female has gone bohemian. Miss Josie introduces Miriam to Harrison Ford (the banker that is), but though attracted to him, she fears he is Miss Josie’s fling. So she returns to New York where she reveals Truman’s indiscretion leading to his girlfriend’s beating. Feeling guilty, Miriam takes Liz to Sullivan's Island to recover but the trip is more healing to Miriam who begins to reach out to those who care about her.

THE LAND OF MANGO SUNSETS is an interesting character study starring a lonely woman who finally understands she must reach out if she wants people to reach back. The story line is driven solely by Miriam with the secondary ensemble mostly relating to her even when for instance Truman is married to Agnes and having an affair with Liz. Though the ending seems very abrupt and improbable as time may heal all wounds, but the key is it takes time. Still fans of Dorothea Benton Frank's South Carolina tales will enjoy the return to SULLIVAN’S ISLAND.

Set Sail for Murder
Carolyn Hart
006072403X, $23.95

Her former lover Jimmy Lennox married Sophia Montgomery instead of Henrie O Collins so when he comes begging for her help she wants to tell him to ask his wife instead. Jimmy explains that Sophia has had a series of accidents that individually seems to affirm she is clumsy, but in total make him suspect a family member wants to hurt perhaps kill her. He assumes it is one of Sophia’s stepchildren from a previous marriage and wants Henrie O to join them on a cruise in order to keep his spouse safe and to uncover who wants to harm her.

On the two week cruise of the Baltic, Henrie O quickly realizes that all the stepchildren loathe Sophia with good cause. However, which one wants her dead before she announces her plans for their inheritance that she legally controls seems impossible to determine as every family member wants her dead, money or not.

The latest investigative tale starring retired reporter Henrie O is a fabulous entry due to a strong support cast especially Jimmy, Sophia, and the wannabes. The story line is filled with red herrings, terrific knots and twists, and several suspects with strong motives to kill. Fans of the series will appreciate this tale as Henrie O struggles to control her feelings for James while wondering just who demands death for Sophia.

Meeting Point
Roisin McAuley
0060737905, $24.95

Her long time friend Isabel persuades Claire Watson that the two of them accompanied by her son Sam, his cousin David, and the adults' pal George need to vacation on the French Rivera like Cary Grant did in To Catch a Thief. On her French holiday, Claire meets John “Rocky” Rock. They are attracted to one another, but as she falls in love, she keeps thinking they met before, but where or when remains initially elusive.

However, as they spend time together, memories of a decade earlier in Northern Ireland surface of a broken marriage leading to a suicide off the cliffs that some believed was spousal homicide. As George acts jealous and angry, Claire ponders whether her Rocky might be that same killer from ten years ago?

This character driven fascinating romantic suspense feels like a cross between To Catch a Thief and Suspicion. Claire’s mixed feelings make for a fine tale as she struggles with her growing love for seemingly kindhearted and charming Rocky while beginning to think he is the same person who got away with murder near her hometown. Fans will enjoy this exciting thriller of love and mayhem in the south of France.

Black Hats
Patrick Culhane
0060892536, $24.95

In 1920 in Los Angeles, the widow of Doc Holliday, "Big Nosed Kate" Elder, hires her late spouse’s best friend private investigator Wyatt Earp to help her son John, a speakeasy owner, with problems caused by a small time thug Alphonse Capone. Wyatt agrees willing to do anything for Doc’s widow.

In New York, Wyatt hooks up with another of his Old West pals, Morning Telegraph sportswriter Bat Masterson. They learn that Johnny is a chip off of the old Doc block as he refuses to cow tow to gangsters. Instead he sells his pre-Prohibition liquor at his joint while the tough guys demand he sell their watered down alcohol and pay protection or else. Wyatt and Bat may be senior citizens with .45s battling young punks using Tommy guns, but so what as bullets and booze battle in the Big Apple.

The tale starts off more like a historical thriller than a 1920s crime caper as Wyatt spends a lot of the early pages reminiscing about the good old bad days in the untamed Wild West with Big Nosed Kate and Bat. Once Wyatt moves past his well written nostalgia, the storyline turns into an exhilarating action-packed thriller as Al Capone vs. Earp and Masterton in a terrific High Noon showdown.

Portrait of an Unknown Woman
Vanora Bennett
0061251836, $24.95

Henry VIII is increasingly shutting down religious freedom at a time when Catholicism is under siege from an assortment of heresies. Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More becomes the defender of the faith.

Observing the battle of religions is More’s intelligent ward Meg Giggs. As renowned artist Hans Holbein paints a portrait of More and his family, Meg sees her former tutor John Clement, whom she not only loves but shares a common interest in healing. John wants to wed Meg, but Sir Thomas has doubts until the young doctor is appointed to the College of Physicians. However before they can exchange their vows, John reveals that he is Richard Plantagenet, one of the two princes allegedly killed by the late former monarch Richard III. They marry and have a child, but as he moves apart from her emotionally, she turns to Holbein who is working on another More family portrait five years after he completed the first commission while her sister seductively flirts with the men in her life.

This is a well written historical drama of an often told story of the battle between King Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More, but Vanora Bennett freshens the saga by using an a first hand witness of the entanglement. The story line is fast-paced except at those moments when the politicians debate religious freedom; as those passages are much deeper and cerebral. Mel is a fabulous intelligent protagonist who, in spite of the great men of history who the focus is indirectly on, serves as the center of the exciting story line. Fans of sixteenth century character driven tales will appreciate this insightful look at an early skirmish in the war for religious freedom.

What She Craves
Lacy Danes
Kensington Aphrodisia
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
0758215673, $13.95 1-800-345-2665

“Lust’s Vow”. In 1815 England, Hannah Rosworth’s late husband insisted she was to sexually inexperienced so the widow attends an orgy to see what he meant. There she meets rakish Kenneth Walker, who sees the passion that he plans to release in her.

“Checkmate”. By 1818, Cora Durand is tired of being London’s most popular courtesan caring for the tastes of her customers, but not her own. She thinks she has found the lover to satisfy her craving, but Rupert Roland has his own carnal fantasy.

“Night of the Taking”. At the Full Moon Festival of Catus on the Isle of Skyas, selected virgins participate in an erotic ritual. In the 1802 gala, Jessica is a chosen one by the green-eyed hunk, who believes she is his goddess of love.

These three torrid Regency romances are exciting tales that readers will enjoy, but this is not mom’s historical as bondage, orgies, and menage de trois are intimately interwoven parts of the novellas.

A Taste of Honey
Jami Alden
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758215746, $12.95

“Stripping It Down”. Kit Laughlin writes a column on sex on the Internet though she has not had a decent tumble in her mind in centuries. Now the last hunk to make her orgasm Jake Donovan wants back in her life, but though she still loves the rat she does not trust the man who hurt her.

“A Taste of Sin”. With her beloved dad ailing, Dr. Kelly Sullivan returns home to be with him. Her high school boyfriend Nick Donovan wants to be with her as he never forgot the taste of his sweetheart.

“Kiss Me twice”. When former sweethearts Mike Donovan and Karen Sullivan see one another, both realize their attraction remains strong; perhaps even more so this second time around. However, will they give it a second try since they cannot keep their hands off one another?

These three well written second chances at love Donovan brothers’ novellas are hot, hotter, and hottest, but also contain fascinating relationships between the fully developed couples as the females distrust the men they love who hurt them in the past. Jami Alden provides a fine collection.

Moon Shadow
Lucinda Betts
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758214677, $12.95

Sorceress Esmenet Sokaris provides love spells for her abused female clients; many of whom are rape victims. To perform her work better, she needs thee right assistant, but has failed to find an apprentice who would work smoothly with her especially in the arcane erotic rites that is the prime element to her success.

That is she has been unsuccessful until now. She finds the perfect helper in hunk Gage Feldspar. However, he wants more than just a professional relationship with his mentor and does everything to foster more with the woman he loves. However, the reluctant Esmenet has legitimate personal reasons to keep her personal life apart from her work because she knows full well what will happen to her skills if she falls in love.

The key to this erotic romantic fantasy is the belief that the Betts universe is plausible. Placing two likable individuals struggling between their sorcery work that requires intimacy and keeping their personal feelings inside is what makes Betts environs steamy and it also makes for a fun tale for readers. The personal issue of choice confronting the lead female protagonist adds to a fine tale as the author’s fans know that this is one writer who is a sure bet to entertain with a torrid paranormal enchanting tale of love.

Pleasure Planet
Evangeline Anderson
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758216491, $13.95

“The Girl, The Geek, and the Time Machine”. Five years with Brad has Kara Wilson thinking their relationship is permanent. However, she also likes the geeky scientist Dr. Ethan Robertson and wants to ride in his time machine to see what her future is with Brad. To take a spin she must enter naked with Ethan as her guide, but he is anything but a geek with his clothes off.

“Mirror of the Heart”. The dream of making love with the hunk was so visual, Taylor Simms comes. She wonders who the stranger that has captured her fantasy and especially her libido is; she knows it is not Miles whom she bought some sexy underwear to seduce him. She will learn soon that her dream lover Reese is not born yet, but plans to travel back over a century to make love in the flesh with the woman he considers a goddess.

“Wild-Men and Wormholes”. Leaving behind her fiance Milton who is behaving more like a Tergal rodent-like mammal than a lover, anthropologist Ariel Stone-Tarrington travels to study the mysterious natives of planet Tordanji Prime. These locals are sentient but not considered humanoid. However, she meets Kor who is more human than Milton as they fall into lust and love with wild abandon.

These three terrific erotic science fiction romances work because readers will believe that the PLEASURE PLANET in each is a genuine setting. The lead characters are top rate while the story lines are hot and exhilarating, but it is the background that makes Planet Anderson’s novellas so much fun to read.

Close Encounters of the Sexy Kind
Karen Kelley
Kensington Brava
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
0758211724, $14.00 1-800-345-2665

On planet Nerak, Mala finds her perfect life too perfectly boring as the Coalition of Elders know what is best for everyone. Her only fun in life is her grandmother’s illegal contraband including a journal about her travels on earth where the best lovers in the universe can be found. Having not obtained an orgasm in over three years, Mala is envious as she covets having an earth male make love to her.

When the opportunity surfaces Mala flees Nerak with the hot journal and an erotic western "documentary" starring the “Sheriff”. She makes it to earth where Sheriff Mason McKinley has just put down a Bigfoot rumor has to deal with a UFO rumor that turns out to be Mala. As they make love and fall in love, the irate Coalition of Elders arrives to bring home the recalcitrant youngster.

Karen Kelley provides one of the top romantic science fiction tales of the year with this delightfully jocular gender bending merging of Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Earth Girls Are Easy. Mala is a delight as she explores every inch of the Sheriff in ways he never imagined. Fans will appreciate this amusing hot close encounter of the first kind as the heroine learns earth sheriffs are easy to love.

The Perfect Stranger
Alison Kent
Kensington Brava
0758211155, $14.00

Smithson Group former pilot J. Jackson Briggs awakens to the thought that early last night he was the sober best man at his friend Brad’s bachelor party and this morning he has a four poster hangover that proves never to mix tequila with a Mickey Finn. Adding to his aches is San Torsico Comandante Mosquera who shows him his marriage certificate and demands he escort his wife to her mountain village where her family will decide whether he is worthy of his eight month pregnant bride.

Suddenly Jack has a wife, a kid coming, and no options except to escort the woman who looks American to him into the mountains. Jillian Endicott of the Boston Endicotts would move that mountain if it means saving the lives of her missing son Joshua and his best friend Gabriel. In the jungle, Jack and Jillian fall in love, but first a rescue from some nasty people must occur.

THE PERFECT STRANGER is an exciting romantic suspense that starts with a horrific headache and climaxes with a cigar. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the needs of the lead couple as Jack vows to uncover the truth about his “wife” and how his signature ended up on a marriage certificate while Jillian swears nothing will stop her rescuing her son. Although the prime suspense subplot comes much later than usual for a SG-5 thriller, fans will enjoy the skirmishes between Jack and Jill as they go up the hill to fetch her son.

Revenge of Innocents
Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
0758213034, $24.00

Ventura County, California Probation Department Investigative Unit division manager Carolyn Sullivan should be euphoric as she gets married in two weeks and her two kids support the upcoming nuptials. Instead she is depressed as the ugly cases keep on coming. Now her best friend Veronica Campbell rips her skin for recommending a jail sentence for Brent Dover for sodomizing and beating up Patricia Baxter, who actually is Patrick Baxter. Veronica makes a strong counter argument, but the brain damage suffered from the battering makes a stronger case.

Not long after they agree to disagree Ventura Police Lieutenant Hank Sawyer informs Carolyn that a maid at the East Thompson Motor Inn found the murdered body of Veronica; she was shot in the head. Ready to put her wedding on hold, Carolyn wants the culprit caught, tried, and executed even as the cops believe a suicide occurred. However, she soon finds her pal since grade school fronted a dysfunctional family with darks secrets that tear further at Carolyn’s soul as she wonders how she failed to see the now obvious signs of a troubled person who probably killed herself.

The fourth Sullivan legal thriller (and first without the heroine’s name in the title) is a terrific tale. The prime case is personalized further by Carolyn as she wants more than just justice. However, as the truth about Veronica and her family surfaces, Carolyn tears into herself wondering how she, an investigator, failed her friend so badly by missing what now seems so obvious. Readers will devour this excellent one sitting entry as Carolyn begins to believe her friend may have committed suicide.

It’s Not My Wedding (But I’m In Charged)
Sharon Naylor
0758214375, $12.95

Anyone who can afford seven digits with no decimals wants to hire Zoe Brandenberg as their wedding planner; as Zoe’s “angel” Mylie Ford walks six blocks to the bank to deposit a ten million dollar check; of which she receives 5% after the I dos. Their current clients are the latest wedding of the decade as all Zoe ceremonies are, but superstars Kick Lyons and Celia Tyranova demand their upcoming gala be kept top secret, not easy to accomplish when every action Zoe takes is followed closely by the media and in this case the bride and groom are paparazzi favorites. The pressure is totally on Mylie to pull off this wedding as Zoe is somewhat a decoy.

However Zoe fires Mylie over an alleged indiscretion with Bryan an apparent paparazzi, which angers Kick and Celia who like Mylie. Her friend Renata suggests Mylie go to Dolphin Dance to recover from her shock. There she meets Russell the chef and his six years old daughter Emma. As she falls in love with Russell over what Mylie assumes is the dancing objection of his daughter; Zoe, Celia and Kick want her back while Bryan stalks her as his ticket to the wedding of the century.

Wedding expert Sharon Naylor provides a lighthearted look at what goes into a celebrity marriage from the perspective of a likable wedding planner. The story line is totally owned by the beleaguered but honest Mylie as she struggles with the differing demands of her two clients, the outrageous orders of her boss, the odious stalking of her former beau, and the worst of all the insistence of her heart. Though the “conflicts” seem minor and the romance comes late, readers will enjoy this fine look at planning the marriage of the century.

Smart and Sexy
Jill Shalvis
Kensington Brava
0758214456, $14.00

Bailey Sinclair knows they are coming for her so she needs to pull off a Hail Mary ploy before she goes after her late husband’s fortune. Noah Fisher knows he needs time away from his California based charter service Sky High so he is heading to Mammoth Mountain in the Sierras for a weekend of rest.

Bailey hijacks Noah’s flight to Mammoth Mountain, but realizes as they are sky high she is attracted to the calm pilot who used to call her late spouse a customer. As they soon share kisses, her adversaries, her spouse’s “Investors”, continue their pursuit. Having killed her husband, she knows unless a miracle occurs, Bailey expects to join her spouse in the afterlife at a time she is falling in love. However, what really bothers her is that she may have caused Noah’s death too.

SMART AND SEXY is a wild zany soaring contemporary romance that is fun to fly with though the lead couple chooses sexual encounters at seemingly dangerous moments. The story line is fast-paced as the Investors chase Bailey and Noah who take time outs to join the mile high club during the pursuit. Fans of lighthearted romps will enjoy Jill Shalvis’ second sexy stratospheric saga (see AUSSIE RULES).

Poisoned Petals
Joyce and Jim Lavene
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425215814, $6.99 1-800-847-5515

Fiftyish Dr. Peggy Lee is coming back to life after the death of her beloved husband two years ago. Although she is still teaching at the college, her heart is with her garden shop, The Potting Shed and she has a new man in her life, Steve, a vet seven years younger than her. She wonders if she should give up teaching to work full time at the shop and as a forensic botanist consultant to the police.

While collecting endangered plants to replant in the Community Garden that is part of Feed America and led by her friend Darmus, she meets his brother Luther, who tells her he is dying of cancer. On impulse she goes to Darmus’ house and smells gas; the place explodes and Darmus is declared dead. However when she looks at the corpse, she knows this is not Darmus. Luther who now heads Feed America dies a few days later. An autopsy reveals he was poisoned with the evidence pointing towards his sibling; Peggy thinks otherwise and plans to prove it.

Joyce and Jim Lavene are a fabulous team who create poignant entertaining mysteries. The investigation is cleverly plotted and potted so that readers struggle with the identity of the killer as Darmus looks guilty, but the heroine thinks otherwise; fans will wonder if she could be wrong. The support cast from her parents to her friends to her new man adds depth to a delightful botany mystery.

Prince of Fire
Linda Winstead Jones
0425214818, $7.99

The Red Queen of Anwyn, Keelia expects her people’s natural enemy Joryn the Caradon to kill her, but so far he has only threatened to harm her since he abducted her after heeding the advice of his people’s witch woman Grandmother. Joryn demands Keelia lift the curse she put on his people that turn them into monsters, but she insists she did not do this and that an evil is coming to harm her wolf-people and his mountain cat–people unless they join forces.

She knows he is her soulmate that she has made love with in her dreams; he finds himself making love to his prisoner in his dreams. As they agree to a truce and begin a trek to Grandmother for further guidance, Keelia knows that in order for the Prophesy of the Firstborn to successfully complete phase two (see PRINCE OF MAGIC for the first phase), she will have to sacrifice love, which she assumes means betraying Joryn even perhaps killing him.

Book two of the Children of the Sun trilogy is a Fyne tale that can be read alone as it contains its own romantic fantasy, but also enhances the overall saga as begun in the opening novel. Sub-genre readers will appreciate the twist that the Anwyn and Caradon peoples are shapeshifters, just different animals. The action is driven by the lead couple from the start as the haughty courageous Queen knows her jailer has been the star of her fantasies for years and the desperate bewildered hero cannot understand how his prisoner “breeched” his defenses starting with his dreams, then his needs, and finally his heart. This is a superb entry that will have readers anxiously waiting for the third Fyne offspring confrontation with the Demon (see PRINCE OF SWORDS).

Fear of Driving
Daniella Brodsky
0425210804, $14.00

Sitting in a car that is not a taxi let alone driving one brings back nightmares of her youth when her mom drove her all over the country, but never settling in one place. That is a prime reason Ruby Reynolds moved to Manhattan so she would never need to drive again; as everyone knows New Yorkers rarely own cars let alone drive them unless they are going to Connecticut, Long Island or Jersey, which she never does.

However, everything changes when Ruby attends a country wedding in Middleville, Connecticut where she meets Ed Robbins. They are attracted to one another, but he lives in this suburban community where a car is a necessity. She knows she loves Ed, but relocating to his home means overcoming her biggest phobia from her childhood, driving a car.

Before anyone says no way about Ruby, this reviewer knows first hand not obtaining a license when living in the Big Apple unless you go outside the city it is not necessary (and even leaving town is relatively easy to do sans car). Ruby is a terrific lead character as she struggles with leaving Manhattan for love, which means inside her dreaded adversary the dragon automobile. Readers will enjoy this fine insightful chick lit look inside the head of a true-blood Manhattanite deciding whether Ed is worth going behind the wheel for love.

Bled Dry
Erin McCarthy
0425215156, $14.00

In Las Vegas, everyone knows making passionate love with a vampire can be dangerous if your partner loses control and leaves you with a bite more than a hickey. However, making love with the undead also means no need for birth control as no procreation that way is possible. Tell all that to Brittany Baldizzi, who after a night of wild lovemaking is six months pregnant carrying missing vampire Corbin Atelier’s offspring though she cannot find him.

Corbin wants to return to being a human so he hunts a cure. However, he is shocked when he learns the woman whom he shared the greatest night of his life with, alive and dead, is carrying his fetus. He wants to be a daddy and would not mind a forging a family with Brittany. However, can a mortal and an immortal make a permanent relationship even for the sake of their half-breed unborn?

BLED DRY is a humorous chick lit vampire romance as the lead couple argue over his paternal rights while falling in love. The opening scene in which a stunned Brittany reacts to Dr. Hopkins; news that “once is all it takes” sets the tone of the lighthearted romp as the future momma thinks Corbin’s “boys could still swim”. Fans will enjoy this HIGH STAKES fun tale with a BIT THE JACKPOT telepathic chick lit twist.

All or Nothing
Claire Cross
0425214990, $14.00

Following her mom asking her if she is gay and ordering her to find a Yuppie to marry and have babies with, Jen needs a date for her family’s Thanksgiving dinner or her matchmaking mom will provide her with one. She decides Zach is perfect as her escort. Zach agrees to go with her.

The pair have a good time together even with mom beaming. Zach wants to see Jen again and she reluctantly accepts their going on a date. When he decides he needs to know more about her, she actually surprises herself by telling him a truth she is ashamed of; although she expected him to flee in disgust Zach wants to see Jen even more as their pretend relationship feels genuine at least in his heart.

This is a fun lighthearted contemporary romance starring two likable souls who have in common an anti commitment syndrome and a love for one another. Jen is a delightful character as she barely blinks when her mom, “caught in a 1970s time warp”, accuses her of being gay because she isn’t married yet. Fans will enjoy the antics of this couple who insist “I’m not in love”.

Hunters: Heart and Soul
Shiloh Walker
0425213927, $14.00

“Soul of a Hunter”. Leandra the witch spent much of her life as part of the lethal Scythe consisting of vampires, werewolves, and witches. Five years ago Malachi the vampire bit and changed her. Several months ago he brought his changing vampire to the camp of the Scythe enemy the Hunters where she realizes that her former side was evil while their foes were not innocent but at least had some scruples. The only problem is her love for Michael Prescott, who still deep down sees her as the enemy, a Scythian witch.

“Heart of a Hunter”. Unable to deal with his sexual dreams, Malachi the vampire flees to Alaska to be by himself though the witch he makes love to every night appears while he fitfully sleeps. ”. Unable to deal with her sexual dreams, Kelsey the witch flees to Alaska to be by herself though the vampire she makes love to every night appears while she fitfully sleeps. When they meet in person, they make love. However, he distrusts her as he wonders if she has an ulterior motive having haunted his fantasies; she distrusts him as she wonders if he has an ulterior motive having haunted her fantasies.

This reprint of two Hunter novellas demonstrate why Shiloh Walker’s series is so well regarded as these tales are some of the best erotic romantic fantasies on the market. Walker world is vibrantly alive with this pair.

A Killing In Comics
Max Allan Collins
042521365X, $14.00

Harry Spiegel was the writer with a dream and he shared that with Moe Shulman; together they created a hit comic series Wonder Guy and sold it to Donny of American Comics. However they were two innocents who signed away all rights including fees for merchandise based on the comic.. Their contract is coming up and they might not sign up with American Comics. Stark Syndication, the outlet that distributes their work to newspapers across the country would be fairer to them.

They have an idea for a comic book and they want to sell that to Stark Syndication. At Donny’s birthday party, he keels over and dies. A toxicology report reveals he was poisoned and Jack Stark, V.P. and troubleshooter for Stark syndication starts an investigation rights. His interest is purely financial as he doesn’t want a long protracted investigation involving three players in their stable. By finding the killer, (he is a licensed P.I.) the company will know what business decisions to make but he soon realizes he has his work cut out for him. Donny was a man who many people had a motive to want him dead.

A KILLING IN COMICS takes place in 1948 Manhattan and has a nourish gothic feel to it as well using some comic book Golden Age history . It is a trip down memory lane when people believe that comics are destroying the minds of children who read them. The well executed plot and the Phillips Marlow type protagonist makes this an excellent historical mystery. The illustrations by Terry Beatty are fantastic and visualize key plot points.

The First Stone
Judith Kelman
0425213676, $24.95

New York General induced Dr. Malik into leaving his present position in Cleveland by giving him a tremendous salary increase, a state of the art lab, and a new pavilion called the Malik Center for Cardio-Thoracic Diseases. Dr. Sam Colten, a resident wants to get on Malik’s good side and study under him. His pregnant wife Emma is uneasy about the Maliks who live in the apartment above them. She hears him yelling at his daughter almost every night and she hears Adriana begging her father to stop.

Emma is so upset with what she hears each night that she tells her friend social worker Siena about it although Emma doesn’t believe what she overheard means the child is being abused. She is more worried about Sam’s interest in beautiful bombshell Dr. Suze Stitch, a colleague of Dr. Malik’s. One day Sam comes home saying he was fired as Suze complained he attacked her and Dr. Malik and his assistant back her up. Emma doesn’t believe the charges and vows to help Sam regain medical reinstatement not realizing that appearances are deceptive and things and people are not always what they seem.

Judith Kelman is one of the best author’s writing suspense in the market today. Readers empathize with Emma who believes Sam was tried because of what she said to Siena who did call child’s social services. Emma is the strong one in the marriage who holds the family together while being pregnant, working part time and taking care of an energetic three year old who doesn’t want his mom and dad to have a baby. THE FIRST STONE will appeal to readers who like authors like Patricia McDonald, Andrea Kane and Jodi Picoult.

Organize Your Corpses
Mary Jane Maffini
0425215806, $6.99

After dumping her two-timing fiance and throwing his ring into the river, Charlotte Adams leaves the city to return to her hometown Woodbridge, New York. She sets up shop as a free lance “Professional organizer”, who straightens out other people’s messes at home and in businesses. She is shocked when Miss Helen “Hellfire” Henley hires her to clean up Henley House in order to find some missing documents. Miss Henley made Charlotte’s student life a living hell when she was her teacher at St. Jude’s.

At Henley House, Charlotte learns that the last resident was Randolph Henley. She and Helen come to an agreement and a check is provided. That night Helen demands Charlotte go see her at Henley House, but the organizer says no. The next morning Charlotte finds Helen dead. The police determine a murder occurred and Pepper, once Charlotte’s best friend, thinks Charlotte is the prime suspect. Feeling guilty, Charlotte investigates starting with a visit to Miss Olivia, Helen’s wealthy brain damaged sister. Her good intentions go astray as the cops wonder if Charlotte is a deranged killer.

This is the first book in a new series that is fun to read. The story line focuses on the murder investigation predominantly that of the amateur sleuth but also interweaves into the plot organizing tips in the tone of observations by the heroine. Charlotte is a strong person who tries to help people and is bold enough to play cat and mouse with a killer if that also helps people. Mary Jane Maffini provides a first rate well organized whodunit.

A Killer's Stitch
Maggie Sefton
0425215202, $21.95

In Fort Connor, Colorado, someone kills rakish alpaca rancher Derek Cooper with a blow to his head on his spread. The deceased was seeing House of Lampspuin instructor Lucy Adair, who is stunned by her loss. Also grieving is Diane, a friend of another instructor, who had a heated romance with the "love 'em and leave 'em" Cooper.

House of Lambspun knitter Kelly Flynn, curious that the local paper mentioned a homicide has no plans to investigate this DEADLY YARN although she has successfully done so three times before since leaving DC for Fort Connor nine months ago to attend her beloved aunt’s funeral. However, when she learns of the connection to the House of Lambspun, Kelly finds an excuse to get involved if only to prove the innocence of the instructor and of the friend of another instructor over the objection of her steady date Steve.

Interestingly the amateur sleuthing reads smoother than the kiss and tell locker room chatter amidst the knitters, as the former feels tightly stitched while the latter seems awkward sewed for this age group of obvious pals. The inquiries are fun to follow as Kelly uncovers clues one stitch at a time. Cozy fans will appreciate this fine knitting whodunit while newcomers will seek the previous Knitting Mystery patterns (see KNIT ONE, KILL TWO and NEEDLED TO DEATH).

The Wolf
Jean Johnson
042521463X, $14.00

After resolving the first verse of the prophecy of doom on Nightfall Island, the second verse begins. As children shapeshifter Wolfer and Alys were inseparable best friends until he and his seven siblings were exiled to Nightfall Island. He misses her with all his heart, but holds no hope to ever see her again.

Alys has big issues to face with no hope except perhaps one. As her evil Uncle Lord Broger uses his malevolent spells to harm her almost as much as he tries to kill the brothers, she makes a bold bid to reach her beloved friend Wolfer. She knows of the prophecy and realizes her appearance will move it one giant step closer to happening, but prays she can find sanctuary and much more with the man who has owned her heart since she was a little child.

The second “Sons of Destiny” is an excellent romantic fantasy that can stand alone, but most sub-genre fans will prefer to read the first thriller (see THE SWORD) as THE WOLF moves forward the overarching theme of the eight siblings and the prophesy. The courageous Alys knows that Wolfer is a terrific hero who will be there for her even at the risk of what he knows her presence means to him and his seven brothers. The audience will appreciate Jean Johnson’s second verse as it’s same as the first in terms of being superb, but has a unique flavor of its own due to brother number two being quite different than his older sibling Saber and Alys from these medieval times vs. American businesswoman Kelly Doyle entering a “reenactment. Two for two as Ms. Johnson provides another winner.

Night Echoes
Holly Lisle
Signet Books
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451220943, $6.99 1-800-847-5515

With the death of her adoptive father following that of her adoptive mom, artist Emma Beck decides there is nothing left for her in Wisconsin so she buys a dilapidated Civil War era house in Benina, South Carolina, the hometown of her late biological mother. Her objective is to learn more about her roots.

However, Emma is stunned by the attraction between her and Mike Ruhl the contractor she hired to fix the house. For some reason it feels as if the duo have already shared intimacy although they just met. Even scarier is the fact he looks identical to a visage she has used in some of her paintings. Emma becomes more frightened by noises and a phantom cat that seems to vanish into thin air. When she goes to meet two friends of her late mom, Emma is horrified to find two corpses. As Mike uncovers documents in the attic, he begins to believe that he and Emma are caught in some sort of action from beyond just like her parents were a few decades ago.

NIGHT ECHOES is a fabulous haunted house (town?) romantic suspense that will elate fans of the supernatural as well as those who like some heat between the lead (human) characters. The story line is fast-paced as Emma and Mike fall in love to the backdrop of increasingly frightening supernatural happenings that both insist cannot occur. Fans of paranormal romantic suspense and horror readers will fully appreciate Holly Lisle’s superb chiller.

Bad Girl Bridesmaids
Susanna Carr
0451221206, $14.00

“Bad Girl Bridesmaid”. Since she met them at college, Kelsey Morgan wanted to belong, but she was scholarship and they were money. She made herself needed by doing things for her sorority sisters, but after “hosting” their latest wedding she has had enough. Zack escorts his godmother Shirley to the wedding only to learn she set him up to look like a gigolo. Kelsey offers him his fee to be her escort. As Zack and Kelsey share incredible sex and begin to fall in love, she learns the truth about who he is.

“The Bridesmaid’s Diaries”. Tara Watkins, events planner at her family owned winery, is asked to fill in at a wedding ceremony when a bridesmaid got ill. Though upset that her fiance dumped her she agrees, but later after a few drinks she sleeps with the best man Luke Sullivan. Tara feeling ashamed refuses to see Luke but wrote about it in her blog. Now two years later, at a wedding vow renewal Luke is elated as he has loved Tara at first sight. He believes she loves him too as he has read her blog. However he knows trust is the key to her heart.

“Wedding Wrecker”. Several years ago Amber Hughes opened her mouth at a wedding of a friend to prevent a travesty. The couple married, but later divorced. Everyone blamed Amber, who left town. Now she is back as a bridesmaid though she prefers it to be otherwise. The bride Madison asks Amber to crash the bachelor party to see if her fiance Carl is cheating. Amber reluctantly agrees, but Josh Griffin intercedes. The next day a picture implies Carl and Amber were together. However, Josh tells everyone Amber is his girl and Madison is Carl’s.

Each tale is fun to read as each lead bridesmaid battle a bridezilla and their retinue, but at these weddings they have a male hunk ally. Though the endings seem rushed, these are lighthearted delightful frolics.

Parallel Seduction
Deidre Knight
045122096X, $6.99

FBI linguist Hope Harper met half-breed Scott Dillon when the American military imprisoned him just prior to the war with the deadly Antousian invaders from space. They worked together to save the “timeline” and consequently the earth. The earthling female and the Refarian-Antousian warrior fell in love as she helped him survive his battle injuries and believe they have a life together.

However, the Refarian monarch sends another time traveler to insure the timeline is properly secured. Jake Tierney finds alterations in time that he cannot rectify and leaves him trapped. He also realizes he wants Hope. Scott fears the newcomer will destroy his new found happiness as he knows that Hope is attracted to both time travelers. She must choose between them as she shares “fond memories” with both of them.

The latest “Parallel” romantic science fiction thriller (see Parallel Attraction and Parallel HEAT) is an exciting much more complex thriller as Deidre Knight cleverly uses the paradoxes of time travel to shake up the linear relativity that readers use as a foundation of existence. The story line is driven by the triangle as Hope shares common memories with both time traveling hunks. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s classic refrain: “Did you ever have to make up your mind? Pick up on one and leave the other behind. It’s not often easy and not often kind. Did you ever have to make up your mind” seems so apropos to this fabulous sci fi romance.

The Last of the Red Hot Vampires
Kate MacAlister
0451220854, $7.99

Facts, nothing but the facts, are how physicist Portia Harding sees the world. Logic can apply to anything and those items that fail to be validated in a consistent reliable manner simply mean some facts remain unknown.

When Portia visits a so-called English magical site, she assumes superstition or con artists worked their trade to bilk the locals. However, she soon learns that there are some odd things in the universe that do not fit the Harding concept of reality when she skeptically chants, which summons the virtue Hope from the Court of Divine Blood. Seeing an opportunity to save herself from a deadly threat, Hope transfers her ability to control weather onto Portia before vanishing into seemingly thin air without further explanation. Portia, using logic, assumes it must be something she ate causing hallucinations especially with the cloud over her head and when her next visitor claims to be something called a nephilim, the son of an angel Theondre North. He tells her he will protect her while he needs her to change his fate. However, she stands accused of murdering a virtue and his fate leaves her neck exposed to a bite or two unless she becomes illogically in love.

This is a wild zany romantic fantasy that will have the audience wondering what next will happen to the female Mr. Spock. The fast-paced story line never slows down as one incident follows another destroying Portia’s logical thought process that she clings to in hopes of waking up except when Theo kisses her. Paranormal romance readers will enjoy this madcap tale of the logical physicist who finds love with THE LAST OF THE RED HOT VAMPIRES.

The Quest
Wilbur Smith
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312318421, $27.95 1-888-330-8477

It has been seven years since Taita, the magus ad lose friend of Pharaoh, and his comrade Meren visit the Temple of Knowledge and Regeneration where those who follow the path of Truth (good) go to have their third eye opened truth. It is not an easy operation and once the adepts mistakenly open it to a follower of the follower of the Lie (Evil). Taita goes ahead with the surgery as he is a savant with considerable power.

Taita and Meren return to Egypt to see the Nile has dried up except for small trickles of poisoned blood; the land is filled with poisonous toads and hordes of locusts. Pharaoh sends Taita to search for the reason why the Nile has dried up. Taita believes Eos, a follower of the Lie, is behind the catastrophe ands she lives near or near a volcano because the fire strengthens her power. Taita travels to the source of the Nile to deal with the cause only to find hostile tribes wanting to kill him. To his astonishment and elation he meets the young woman Fenn, who is the reincarnation of Pharaoh Regent Lostris, the only women he ever loved. They find the city of Joria made up of legions that disappeared when Lostris sent them to find the Nile’s source. It is a place controlled by Eos who wants to drain Taita of his wisdom and knowledge before she kills him. The showdown that is coming will take place in an unusual place and manner and Taita
does not know if he will win over a millennia old immortal witch.

This is the fourth book in the historical fantasy saga starring Taita and as with the previous thrillers (see RIVER GOD, THE SEVENTH SCROLL, AND WARLOCK), Ancient Egypt is a key element as Wilbur Smith brings the land of the Pharaohs to life. Magic is considered as ordinary everyday occurrence by people who take for granted that mages have these skills. Taita is respected by everyone because he seeks the Truth and is kind and caring and can be ferocious when need be to protect those he cares for and loves. This entry is a terrific look at the lifeblood of the Sahara during a drought that impacts everyone.

Pearl Harbor
Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen
0312363508, $25.95

The premise of this alternate history is the debate between two competent Japanese naval officials over how many waves of attack would be needed to render the Americans as helpless. Admiral Yamamoto felt you had to keep the pressure up to and including the forty-eight contiguous states while Admiral Nagumo felt Pearl Harbor left the United States helpless and defeated. In this novel, Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen explore the Yamamoto theory starting with the Japan of the 1930s until the December attack on much more than just Pearl Harbor.

The look at Japanese society and its military invasion of China in the 1930s is fabulous and insightful. The argument between the two admirals over what is needed to beat America is terrific as Yamamoto believes they United States can come back if it is a one or even two punch assault. However, the political leaders, FDR and Hirohito seem one dimensional and that dimension is wordy, pompous and out of touch. Still this strong what if alternate military history account of the War in the Pacific is discerning yet entertaining.

Neon Dragon
John F. Dobbyn
c/o University Press of New England
1 Court Street, Suite 250, Lebanon, NH 03766-1358
158465614X, $24.95 1-800-421-1561

In Boston Michael Knight works as a third year associate attorney at Bilson, Dawes, Leftbridge & Sykes law firm. Thus he is shocked when African-American judge Amos Bradley, expected to be named to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court soon, asks him to represent his son Anthony, who is accused of killing sexagenarian Mr. Chen An-Young during a New Year's parade. The shooting has angered the Chinese-American community as Mr. Chen was a well respected grandfather.

Knight visits the incarcerated Anthony at the Suffolk County prison where he finds his client articulate and grateful. Anthony insists he is guilty of only agreeing to go with his friend Terry Blocher to attend the Chinese New Year gala. At the office, attorney Alexis “Lex” Devlin offers to help Michael with the case; Alexis was the top gun until a decade ago when a jury-tampering charge forced Lex into “hiding”. The case looks hopeless on the surface, but with Knight following clues that take him into nasty neighborhoods, he believes he can prove his client’s innocence that is if he stays alive long enough.

The protagonist knew nothing about government corruption or Chinese organized gangs in spite of being in the prosecutor’s office for four years before he joined his current firm and grew up in the city. Knight is a terrific protagonist who, with his mentor, makes for a delightful Bostonian joy ride. The story line is fast-paced and includes some fun references to Beantown literary sleuths. However, it is the courtroom that makes this a fine legal thriller as fans of the sub-genre will enjoy the teaming of Michael and Lex.

Summer of the Eagle
Susan Edwards
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0843953357, $6.99 1-800-481-9191

Her healing power makes Blaze different than everyone else among the tribe, but what really scares the People about her is her dream to soar like an eagle. Thus in spite of her gift she uses to help her tribe, her Sioux compatriots treat her like she is a pariah to be avoided except in dire need. While living apart as an outcast, Blaze envisions a light haired man that will come for her.

French trapper Luc is near hysterical over strange visions he sees. He wonders if he could be a spirit Walker who can change shapes, but wants nothing to do with the responsibly that comes with the role. When he and Blaze meet, they recognize one another as lost souls who have found the other that makes them complete. Together as they fall in love, they share a destiny that will either destroy or save their respective families and one another.

Though the romantic theme is similar in many ways to Susan Edward’s fine “White” tales, SUMMER OF THE EAGLE is a refreshing saga due to the paranormal elements and the lack of acceptance by the Sioux of the female practitioner and Luc feeling that same isolation. Readers will anticipate their initial encounter, which comes fairly deep into the story line as Ms. Edward’s builds up the relationships or lack of each has with other people so that her fans know how alone the lead couple feels before they meet. This is a terrific Indian romance that also provides a deep character study.

Tara Moss
0843958480, $7.99

It has been eighteen months since Ed Brown the “Stiletto Killer” of nine women was caught after he kidnapped and tortured Canadian model Makedde Vanderwall. All the women he butchered wore stiletto heels like his mother used to before the incident he caused that put her in a wheelchair because she no longer had legs. Mak is leaving Canada and heading to Australia to be the star witness for the prosecution since she was the only victim who survived Ed’s torture.

She testifies on the first day of the trial but in the middle of her testimony Ed Brown confesses that he is guilty on all counts of murder. In exchange for certain privileges, he leads the police to a place where he says a victim lies that the police never discovered. It is a trap and when an incendiary device explodes, Ed escapes. Makedde is scared out of her wits because she knows Brown is fixated on her. She hops on the first plane to Hong Kong for a modeling assignment. Ed, with the help of the prison guard he befriended, follows her and the two come together in a confrontation in which only one of them is left standing.

Tara Moss is Australia’s answer to Patricia Cornwell. Her characters are multi-faceted and run the gamut from pure good to pure evil. The scenes in which Ed Brown is the prime player are the most interesting because readers get to see how his twisted mind thinks. Makedde is a beautiful amazon with a high IQ who runs from danger that makes her even more believable than the rest of the characters because she knows Ed Brown is too dangerous for her to be on the same continent with. This is a fascinating crime thriller that contains a feeling of ever spreading danger.

Graham Masterton
0843954264, $7.99

Lily is asleep when a noise coming from downstairs awakens her; there is someone in the house. When she goes downstairs she finds two men dressed in black and wearing masks waiting for her. They say she is a witch because she didn’t treat her ex-husband Jeff right. They set her on fire and take her two children away but Lily is able to break free of the bonds and escape with only some burns. She is told by an FBI agent that she is not the only woman that this happened to and FLAME (Father’s League against Mothers) takes the credit.

They believe Lily’s ex-husband Jeff has the children and a nation wide hunt begins. When three months go by, Lily still doesn’t have her children and in desperation she tells her boss Bennie that she is willing to have private help; he recommends John Shooks who suggests George Iron Walker, a Mdewakantin Sioux for the job because he can call up the Wendigo, a hungry spirit who will search for her children until it finds them. She is skeptical until she sees the Wendigo and lily then gives George the go ahead. The Wendigo, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, finds the children but Lily can’t give George the payment he demands. A vindictive man, George will kill everyone Lily loves and then kill her to get what he wants.

Graham Masterton is a first rate horror writer whose latest novel take a legend from Native American mythology and gives it life. The Wendigo is a force not human so it has no human values or morals and is guided by the one who has summoned it. Mr. Masterton describes the spirit so well that the readers feel that it actually exists in our world for those who have vision to see it. The action never lets up as the heroine, a strong willed woman, goes to extraordinary lengths to protect those she loves.

The Taken
Sarah Pinborough
0843958960, $6.99

In Somerset, ten years old years old Melanie Parr looks like an angel, but is actually a cruel devil instead. She enjoys hurting the other kids, which she does constantly without recrimination. The mothers of the other children try to talk to her mother and reason with Melanie, but both fail. Desperate they decide to take matters into their own hands before this preadolescent psychopath kills or maims one of their offspring.

Three decades have passed since Melanie died in a tragic “accident”. No one has said anything further about what really happened. Now "The Catcher Man" who provides a holding area between life and death for those who died young has freed Melanie. His liberating her from the after life enables her to return as an avenging angel where she has sexagenarian parents, their adult children, and their grandchildren as victims of her resurrection.

Amazingly the key to this exhilarating they come back horror thriller is the realistic portrayal of the sixty years old parents who show their age in many ways as they have grandchildren, middle aged children, and suffer diseases like terminal cancer. This “older” group seems genuine as they struggle with personal issues of aging, the guilt from what happened back then, and now have to accept the unbelievable in order to prevent Melanie from destroying their descendents. THE TAKEN will be considered one of the top ghost tales of the year.

The Everlasting
Tim Lebbon
0843954299, $6.99

As a youngster Scott spent a lot of time with his grandfather who he calls Papa. Although he didn’t know it at the time, Papa imparted a lot of arcane knowledge into Scott’s memory so that he will be able to remember it when he needs it. Scott’s time with Papa comes to an end when his grandfather kills his best friend Lewis and then kills himself. Scott sees Lewis after his death and asks him for the Chord of Souls.

Scott doesn’t know what he is talking about and tries to forget the encounter ever happened. Three decades later, happily married to Helen, Scot receives a letter from Papa and Lewis appears and tells him that he must find the Chord of Souls. He kidnaps Helen and takes her into the Wide, a vast passageway to the afterlife. Nina, one of twelve immortals guides Scott on his journey because she wants him to find the Chord of Souls as she wants to learn how to die after living for several millennia. Although he doesn’t trust Nina he follows her to a point until he no longer needs her and starts out on his own to find a way to the valley that doesn’t exist where the House of Skulls contains the Chord of Souls, danger stalking him every step of way.

Tim Lebbon is one of the premiere writers of horror novels. Tucked within the horror storyline is the romantic subplot between Scott and Helen that is critical because it is his love for her that gives him the motive and impulses needed to search for the Chord of Souls while dealing with bad Mojo and immortals who think differently so are undependable. The EVERLASTING is an intellectual horror novel that makes the audience question their own beliefs.

The Untamed Earl
Taylor Jones
0843958456, $6.99

Estella loves pranking people, but her latest effort proved the joke was on her as she crossed a line, which ends up with her married to Lord Seabrook, a prim and proper person she dislikes. Their wedding gifts are standard fare as no one in either family or their friends show any imagination; at least that is how the bride sees it with one exception. Someone gave Estella a training book on controlling unruly canines that she thinks with an ironic smile she can apply to Godolphon, her spouse.

Godolphon knows he could have prevented the marriage, but he sees his nuptials as a means to prove his new father-in-law is a smuggler. He has access to the house and plans to find the ledgers and then he will deal with his prankster wife. However, he failed to factor in one key ingredient in his otherwise perfect plan; he wonders if he can send to prison the father of the woman he loves.

THE UNTAMED EARL is a lighthearted historical romantic romp starring a unique lead female protagonist who should have been a card carrying road member of the merry pranksters instead of the Ton. Era aside, the canine manual will remind the audience of the Sandra Dee- Bobby Darin 1960s film If A Man Answers. Readers will enjoy the makeover of the hero more so from suspicious accidents than the dog book; Godolphon changes the objective from proving his in-law is a dangerous felon to keeping his beloved spouse safe. Taylor Jones provides a fun romantic romp with relatively late suspense adding to the enjoyable story line.

Bad Luck and Trouble
Lee Child
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0385340559, $26.00 1-800-726-0600

Ex-Army, ex-M.P Jack Reacher has a debit card, a bank account and very little else. He is a drifter who takes off on a whim but doesn’t even own anything. When he checks the bank statement he finds a significant amount of money has been deposited in his account. This is a signal from Frances Neagley, one of nine in his army unit, so he calls her office and her assistant tells Jack she is in L.A. They meet at a Denny’s where she tells him one of their own, Calvin Franz, was tortured, his legs broken and thrown out of a helicopter. She called all of the eight in their special unit and only Jack has answered so far.

At Frances’ office they figure out he had a post office box so when they open it there is a thumb drive in it. When they place it into a computer and get the password they find a spread sheet with numbers on it. It also has five names on it and they believe the person’s real name is Azhari Mahmoud and the other four names are aliases. Two other team members arrive while three others are murdered but when they figure out what the numbers mean, they realize they are dealing with a danger international in scope and whoever is behind the murders must be stopped at all costs.

Jack Reacher is one of the most interesting anti-heroes in thrillerdom. He stays under the radar but is a believer in justice and that idealism makes him a warrior who fights when necessary. He is a survivor in a world that doesn’t understand him yet he has friends that are totally loyal to him. There is adrenaline pumping action in this enthralling thriller but it is the unity of the group that that makes BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE a special reading experience.

Len Bailey
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765309823, $17.95 1-888-330-8477

The evil Fantasms have concocted a new scheme to cause havoc in the Kingdom of Elidor. No more direct assaults by these malevolent insurgents as they used to conduct before their recent setback caused by "the best dang rodeo cowboy in Oklahoma" that pain in their butts (that is if they had a butt) Danny Ray. Instead the evil-doers kidnap innocent beautiful Princess Amber. The diabolical plan is to freeze King Krystal into a state of inactive grief and fear for his daughter and beyond that his loyal subjects.

A simple abduction has left the Kingdom and its monarch so despondent that the depression spreading across Elidor makes the darkness of the Fantasms grow ever stronger. . However, Oklahoma Junior Division eleven years old rodeo cowboy Danny Ray and his close friends (Tuk the hellwain devil, Prince Blues, the Sultana Sumferi Sar, Captain Quigglewigg and the Clabbernappers, KarooKachoo the dragonfly princess, Hoodie Crow and the White Lady) take the bull by the horns (perhaps a chess piece or two) as they set sail on a chessboard of immense side to save Princess Amber and the kingdom of Elidor.

Middle school students will appreciate the adventures of confident Danny Ray and his wild assortment of teammates as they land in one precarious situation after another while trying to save the Princess. The story line never slows down as Danny Ray once again sets out to prove he is the man albeit preadolescent for the job. Len Bailey provides a wonderful young adult fantasy starring a youthful intrepid hero who as he once wisely said in CLABBERNAPPERS, this “is the best dang adventure ever" again.

Flesh and Spirit
Carol Berg
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
045146088X, $15.00 1-800-847-5515

In Navronne, twelve years ago then fifteen years old Valen was abandoned by his companion Boreas to die (as predicted by the teen’s mother). Instead he survived somewhat due to his "doulon sickness" addiction, but vanished from his family of pureblood sorcerers renowned for their mapmaking foretelling skills. Before he was left to die he took with him his grandfather’s most sacred tome, Maps of the Known World, that many believe can guide the right mage to the realm of angels if the key can be found to unlock its secrets.

Valen lives in concealment amidst the Gillarine Abbey monks, who gave him sanctuary because of the volume he stole from his family; they believe he will eventually interpret the book so they can use it to reach the angels’ realm. However, as he struggles with his "doulon sickness" addiction, his family and others have found his haven; they are coming for Maps of the Known World.

FLESH AND SPIRIT is a terrific first entry in an apparent two book saga. This tale is a coming of age thriller as the beleaguered hero begins to understand what he possesses, the world converges on him. Everyone touched by magic, which means everyone, want Valen to use him as their guide to the Angels or to kill him to take possession of the tome. Readers will appreciate this terrific opening gamut, whose only flaw is waiting for the rest of the journey.

Faith Hunter
0451461479, $17.00

The end of the world didn’t destroy all life on earth but it did kill billions of people and created a new life form neo-mages. They were born from humans in the first trimester of pregnancy when the first plague, pestilence and other things that changed the fetus’s DNA. They are said to be soulless and when they die there will not go to the High Host but simply disappear. Earth is now in a mini-ice age and Seraphs watch over humanity and the new mages. It is forbidden for a seraph to mate with a mage.

Thorn is a neo-mage who owns a jewelry store in Mineral City and was outed to the humans when she saved the town. She is put on trial but the charges against her are proved false and she goes free. The town is invaded by shadow spawn and she as well as others fight these evil beings. In the pit of the mountains of Trine, a Watcher is held captive by a demon as is a cherub and another seraph. An evil is coming out of the Trine and Thorn and her guardian must go down there to stop the dragon from escaping as well as rescuing the Watcher, Seraph and Cherub. It will take a miracle, even with a Seraph’s help to win a battle without dying in the attempt.

Faith Hunter has written her take on what happen after the apocalypse; the world she has created is unique and bleak. Humans fear Neo-Mages and most of them live in enclaves free from humanity and prejudice but the heroine is an independent solitary creature who needs her space and chooses to be free of the gilded prison. She is stronger than she knows and has the courage to fight evil even though she will be ignored by the High Hosts. SERAPHS is an action pick, exciting science fiction thriller.

Saturn Returns
Sean Williams
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441014933, $7.99 1-800-847-5515

In the very distant future, a person wakes up on a ship with no memory and his rescuer the Jinc, a gestalt mind with its people all part of that mind. They find him floating in space before he was vaporized by nukes and they have put him back together. One of the only mistakes is they made him a woman when Imre Bergamasc was always a man. When he fails to remember information they want from him, they want to absorb in their gestalt. A mysterious voice abets his escape by opening up a ship closed tothe jinc.

Imre learns that the Continuum is destroyed, the worlds no longer looped together. He finds that the next step in humanity’s evolution is no more and communicating on the Line is gone. The Slow Wave was responsible for all this yet nobody know if it was a man made weapon. Imre meets up with his former members of the corps and they soon start working together. It seems there is a connection between the Slow Wave and Imre’s murder and finding it will tell them what direction their lives should take if they are able to gather reliable information without getting killed by their enemies.

Sean Williams entertains his readers with a bleak and dark future of which the tragedy is that the galaxy was once golden. Imre is the star, focus and the man with the answer although between his amnesia and the fact that he is a Singleton makes it difficult to put the pieces of his memory back together. Mates of the hero are spread throughout the universe slowly but find themselves reaching out to the members of the Corp from clues they left behind. This is space opera at its very best with its exciting scenes and the descriptions of a puzzle that destroyed the structure of the known universe. Readers will like Imre, a combination of a hard and vulnerable person who needs to find out what he has done to change the known universe.

All Together Dead
Charlaine Harris
0441014941, $24.96

Bon Temps, Louisiana psychic waitress, Sookie Stackhouse feels her plate is overflowing with three weddings to attend. If that is all she had to deal with Sookie could easily cope. Instead she is expected to attend the vampire conference in Rhodes instead of storm damaged New Orleans; she knows two of her former lovers will be there also and vampire politics can be blood curdling even when everyone leaves their teeth shield home. On the plus side is her lover Quinn the were-tiger who will accompany her to the convention.

However, Sookie finds a new catastrophe for her to prevent. With her power at an all time low and forced to reside in Baton Rouge while her capital city recovers from the hurricanes, Louisiana Vampire Queen Sophie-Anne Leclerq is at risk from someone who wants to destroy the cluster of vampires. This individual plans to insure the DEFINITELY DEAD attendees are permanently DEAD TO THE WORLD. Sookie investigates before the vampire conference turns into CLUB DEAD; complicating her inquiry as to why there is a horde of males offering their best dental side at her side.

Though New Orleans was used in the last tale (see DEFINITELY DEAD), fans will enjoy the return of Sookie and the vampire horde in a suspense filled thriller. Vampires from all over the region converge with many seeing this as an opportunity for a coup d’etat. Sookie as always is caught in the middle, but with her humorous asides, she tries to do what she believes is right for the living and the dead. Fans will enjoy her seventh entry as her past loves show up to cause havoc with her heart and a hostile takeover plan sends her sleuthing to prevent a tragedy. Sookie soars superbly in this post Katrina fantasy.

The Penny Tree
Holly Kennedy
NAL (New American Library)
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451220552, $14.00 1-800-847-5515

Seattle couple Jack and Annie Hillman are getting divorced. Annie returns to her hometown of Eagan's Point, Washington accompanied by their sons thirteen year old Luke, who wants to remain with his dad, and eleven years old Eric, recovering from a nasty long illness. Annie worries about finances as Eric's malady has led to exorbitant medical bills. Feeling desperate she takes a temporary office job at a funeral home. Her only relief from her fears and tribulations is thinking about THE PENNY TREE where her dad once nailed a 1969 penny when she was twelve years old and the world awaited her appearance.

However, suddenly a secret admirer begins taking out ads in a local paper which include pictures of a young Annie and a vivid description of her likes and dislikes. As she struggles with Luke’s anger and Eric’s recovery, Annie ponders who knows her so well and why he regrets his errors.

Annie is a terrific lead character struggling with money issues and being a single mom to two boys with different needs. The secret admirer ironically is obvious to the audience long before Annie learns his identity as she wonders who in Eagan’s Point is the one from her past. Though the support cast is reasonably solid, THE PENNY TREE belongs to Annie who learns lessons about the value of five cents.

Murder with Reservations
Elaine Viets
0451221117, $21.95

After catching her husband cheating on her with their neighbor, Helen Hawthorne destroyed his SUV. The Judge directed her to pay her former spouse half her salary in an alimony settlement. Rather than remit one dime to this louse, Helen went on the lam and accepted low paying dead end jobs in the Ft. Lauderdale area. Her sister calls Helen to tell her that Rob the rat is now in the Fort Lauderdale area looking for her. When Helen goes to her maid job at the Full Moon Motel she learns Rob is a guest there looking at her employment record.

While eluding the despicable Rob, Helen finds the murdered corpse of another maid in the motel dumpster. The last time Helen saw Rhonda was three days ago when the woman was talking about her wealthy boyfriend giving her several fifty dollar bills so that she could purchase an airline ticket for her mom to vacation in Mexico. When Rob visits Helen’s home, he meets his ex-wife’s landlady who sets him up with an affluent sexagenarian widow, whose husbands died under mysterious circumstances. When someone else dies at the motel, Helen goes on red alert sleuthing to the point of potentially lethal consequences.

MURDER WITH RESERVATIONS is the best mystery in this charming amateur sleuth series as Elaine Viets adds wit and humor into her characters. The heroine continues to earn the respect and admiration of the audience with her efforts to make a new life for herself. The continuing support cast is a colorful eccentric mob with hearts of gold as they look out for one another including Helen. The whodunit is fun to follow as Helen pursues clues while eluding her ex. Fans of Ms. Viets should also read her other jocular series starring Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

The Species Crown
Curtis Smith
Press 53
6610 Shallowford Rd., Suite 202, Lewisville NC 27023
9780979304903 $18.00

Whenever an advance review copy arrives from Press 53, I know to expect an excellent reading experience. The Species Crown by award winning writer, Curtis Smith, is the latest literary gem from this exceptional small press. Smith delivers each of the eleven short stories and the title novella in this book with a stylish flair. His characters are sometimes shocking and flawed but always sympathetically human.

Life and death, hope and despair, human foibles and mysteries are realistic themes throughout. Smith writes of the beautiful and profane, ghosts, dreams, and family dysfunctions with a shattering grace. This excerpt from "Beneath the Net" is one small example of how Smith reveals his characters and their lives. A lonely ex-boxer contemplates a mostly failed, loveless life while working in a camouflaged airplane factory during World War Two:

"You smoke your morning cigarette until the lit nub warms your fingers, nod a hello or two, but no one knows a thing about you, your boxer's past, the home you left long ago. A sleepwalkers' parade files past, faces obscured by the net's ever-shifting play of shadow and light, and you think of the deeper camouflage of a man's life, his heart wrapped in actions and stances meant to mask the sorrows that were his alone."

Smith chose his novella to end the book. "The Species Crown" is both poignant and disturbing, but I can't recall a more satisfying read recently. Stanley Watson's aunt and uncle ask him to house sit and "baby sit" their mentally impaired son so they can go on vacation. Only Stanley knows how and why his cousin Bobby's brain became mangled. Bobby is a damaged butterfly, a twenty-something man with the mind of an eight year old. In a moment of enlightenment, Stanley realizes, "If man is the king of all species, then surely the brain is his crown." Bobby's brain may be damaged, but the lessons Stanley learns from him through summer transform their lives.

Curtis Smith sees the fragile and broken people walking among us, the public crumbling of human lives, and memorializes each scenario through stunning prose. The Species Crown contains mature themes and adult language, but is highly recommended to adults and mature readers.

Heartbeat for Horses
Laura Chester and Donna DeMari
Willow Creek Press
P.O. Box 147, Minocqua WI 54548
1595434437 $29.95

This book is a horse lover's dream, especially if you are a horse crazy girl like I was. Laura Chester's exceptional prose melds gloriously with Donna DeMari's breathtaking photography of horses and the girls who ride them. As an added bonus, Chester included quotes from poets and writers who revere horses. I was pleased to find excerpts from favorite books and writers of my horse-loving youth -- Marguerite Henry, James Herriot, Anna Sewell -- and poetic paeans by Lyn Lifshin and Ted Hughes, to name only a few.

This excerpt from "My Life With Horses" by Chester sets the book's tone ideally:

"We loped through the fields, our pajama pants blowing. With moonlight tipped on the horse's manes and our blonde hair, we were ghost riders, flashing primeval, almost weightless on our invisible saddles. It seemed mysteriously right to be riding, forbidden, and the horses too were casting their spells."

"Yearlings in the Pasture" by Lyn Lifshin captures the spirit and joy of horses, and why humans love them:

no responsibility, just play
in the grass in a rose wind,
a butterfly wind. Before
harnesses, before shoes….

There are too many fine stories and poems in this book to cover in a review. And unfortunately, I can't reproduce the photographs that accompany each poem and story. DeMari's work is sensual perfection, memorializing both horse and rider. My compliments to Chester and DeMari. The result of their collaboration is delightful and beautiful. I enthusiastically recommend this book for readers of all ages.

C.H. Foertmeyer
2021 Pine Lake Rd. Ste. 100, Lincoln NE 68512
0595438571 $13.95

C. H. Foertmeyer's stories are always a pleasing surprise. Each of his twelve novels has a suspenseful plot with intriguing twists, real-life characters -- common folk struggling against overwhelming odds -- and an underlying message of hope. I probably say this in each review of Foertmeyer's latest book, but I mean it with all sincerity: Badr just may be his best book yet.

Marlin Goldburg is a quiet, sensible man who enjoys the solitary peace of working in his gardens. As the book begins, Marlin fears he may be losing touch with reality. Odd visions come and go unpredictably while working in the garden, during breakfast, even while driving on the interstate that cuts through Cincinnati. Without warning, Marlin is transported to another time and place. He sees tan hands and a forearm marked with a distinctive tattoo. The hands are digging in sand, burying bombs. Marlin and his wife Anne research the tattoo because they feel it is key to his visions. The tattoo is a red Star of David pierced by a black scimitar. The mystery of his visions dies with Marlin in an accident on the interstate on May 13, 1986.

Badr is born in Iraq on May 13, 1986. As soon as he is old enough to think for himself, Badr hates Americans and American Jews in particular. As a young man he funnels that powerful hate into surreptitious acts of violence against the American soldiers occupying his land. He avoids joining jihadist groups and works alone, earning the name Lone Wolf. Neither the soldiers nor his people know Lone Wolf's true identity. Badr masquerades as a friend to the Americans, earning their trust. His goal is to move to America, become a citizen, and sacrifice himself in one horrendous act. From childhood, Badr has been haunted by frightening visions of pale-skinned hands digging in rich dirt, planting flower bulbs.

Marlin's God and Badr's Allah work in mysterious ways. Badr does reach American soil with his hate and plans intact, but is Allah on his side? Does Allah honor a young man with murderous hate in his heart? That's where several delicious, suspenseful plot twists come in. You'll have to read the book to learn the answer. If you enjoy a suspenseful story, well told, Badr is highly recommended.

Lightning and Ashes
Poetry by John Guzlowski
Steel Toe Books
Dept. of English, Western Kentucky University
1906 College Heights Blvd. #11086, Bowling Green KY 42101-1086
0974326453 $12.00, 90 pages

One critic dubbed Guzlowski as one of the "great recording angels" of our age. This is apt praise for a true poet whose words are simple, straightforward, and sing with raw power. Guzlowski's parents met in Hitler's labor camps and survived to build a life out of "lightning and ashes." This book is his testament to them.

In the prologue poem, "My Mother Reads My Poem 'Cattle Train to Magdeburg'" the poet's mother shares a few of her memories, but only a few:

Even though you're a grown man
and a teacher, we saw things
I don't want to tell you about.

"My Mother Prays for Death" is one example of that simple, raw power I mentioned earlier. The poem is best read in its entirety but I quote one excerpt here:

She is the poet of dead ends, old despairs written in whispers, beads slipping between her fingers like peas dropping into soup. In her hands, the rosary is a ring of bones, yellow as old ivory, hard as living. Her wooden suitcase holds nothing. She doesn't need what she leaves behind: the empty house, the worthless bed, the pictures she gathered over the years.

This excerpt from "My Mother Talks About the Slave Labor Camps" explains eloquently the lasting lessons that haunted her life:

She learned that the world is a broken place
Where no birds sing, and even angels
Cannot bear the sorrows God gives them.

Guzlowski's father had no education and scant understanding of the world. He drank too much, had few skills. "Why My Mother Stayed With My Father" explains why a woman stayed with such a man:

My father was like that, but he stayed with her through her madness in the camps when she searched among the dead for her sister, and he stayed when it came back in America. Maybe this is why my mother stayed. She knew only a man worthless as mud, worthless as a broken dog would suffer with her through all of her sorrow.

Guzlowski's father labored in the work camps as a "bony mule" -- starved by his captors, broken down from hard work and shattered hopes. This excerpt from "Night in the Labor Camps" presents a poignant picture of a young man who did the best he could in an unimaginable existence:

He hates no one, not God,
not the dead who come to him,
not the Germans who caught him,
not even himself for being alive.

He is a man held together
with stitches he laced himself.

John Guzlowski is, indeed, a great recording angel. This record of life during and after World War Two is a masterful work and highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Blood Matters
Taffy Cannon
Perseverance Press
P.O. Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
1880284863 $14.95

Taffy Cannon lives every English Literature major's dream. She lives in California, where she runs the Friends of the Library bookstore. She has written fourteen novels, and has been nominated for Best Novel in the Agatha and Macavity Awards areas. She has written series, an Academy Award-nominated short film, and stand-alone mysteries.

Roxanne Prescott is a transplanted Texan working as a detective for the San Diego police department. She took time off after a partner was killed in Austin, Texas. Sam Brennan, a man who built up a multi-millionaire business involving adoptions, has been brutally murdered. His home is a carefully inventoried collection of toys that he has indicated should be transformed into a museum in the event of his death. He seems to be loved by one and all, as his elaborate funeral indicates. But there is someone who hates him enough to kill him. The trouble is, the police can't figure out the motive. He has several ex-wives and a history as a police officer:

"'Wish I could,' Sergeant George Fowler said with an engaging smile. No matter how bad the news, he was always able to cushion the delivery. 'But we'll have to settle for a long time ago in a far-away galaxy. Samuel Brennan was a sworn officer in Lincoln, Nebraska, before he moved back to California. I talked briefly with his ex-wife, who lives in Nebraska. They met at Berkeley and after graduation she wanted to go back to the Midwest because of some family illness. He got on the department back there because she had an uncle who suggested it and he didn't have any other idea what to do. She says Brennan never liked Nebraska, so they came out here and he went on the department in Escondido. He stayed for three or four years and then there was a shakeup in the department and he left.'"

Taffy Cannon's writing style is so smooth that she just pulls the reader into Roxanne Prescott's world without any apparent effort. It's like sitting down in front of the television to watch your favorite program. Cannon knows her police procedural, and the reader gets a bird's eye view of how the police department works, down to the boredom of surveillance. BLOOD MATTERS is a delightful read with a great plot; wonderful pacing; and a well hidden villain.

Murder by Proxy
Robert L. Hecker
Hard Shell Word Factory
PO Box 161, Amherst Jct., WI 54407
0759945241 $12.95

Robert Hecker is a Utah born boy who grew up in Long Beach, California. He spent his career writing radio and TV dramas, then morphed into writing documentaries and marketing films. His Air Force training, complete with medals for distinguished service, provided him with the background to cover military subjects. He is currently working on novels and screenplays.

Benjamin Roan runs a security company which has several government contracts. When a call comes in from the highest levels of elected officials, Roan travels to Washington D.C. where he comes face-to-face with a president who is dying of leukemia. The president and first lady never had children, but there is a "love child" who might be a match for the desperately needed donor for a bone marrow transplant. Roan quickly locates the lovely daughter in Cuba, but it seems that people in power have other ideas, such as killing both Roan and Lisa. In the midst of dodging the fearsome police officer "El Tigre" from Cuba, who is trying his best to impede the rest of their lives, Roan is so attracted to Lisa that his inner language constantly entertains the reader:

"We used our hands to swing the inner tube so we faced the eastern shore, watching for the dark forms of docked ships. In the sky, a spangled brilliance of stars added to the light of the moon. Cradled as we were inside the inner tube, our sides pressed together, our derrieres submerged in warm water, my licentious hormones seized the moment. This would be the way it would feel to be together in a bathtub, except we wouldn't be wearing any clothes. It was almost that way now."

Robert Hecker writes yummy action novels, and MURDER BY PROXY is no exception. He strings death-defying moments together so that the reader can't stop turning pages. His locations are exotic; his plot is full of action and conflict; the characters are steeped in sex appeal; and the tale is full of details that Hecker imparts due to his own varied experiences. MURDER BY PROXY is a barnstormer of a novel that is impossible to put down. Hecker really has a gift for suspense! Just when the reader things the characters are out of danger, another seemingly impossible obstacle is put in their path. Readers won't be disappointed in Hecker's latest effort!

The Black Iris
Constance & Gwenyth Little
The Rue Morgue Press
87 Lone Tree Lane, Lyons, CO 80540
1601870035 $14.95

The Rue Morgue Press reprints books that were considered the hallmark of the Golden Age of mystery fiction. Authors such as Dorothy Bowers; Pamela Branch; and Constance & Gwenyth Little (as well as many others) are included in this austere group, and picking up a Rue Morgue Press mystery is a sure winner. The sisters Little always wrote in bed and used the word "Black" in their all their titles but The Grey Mist Murders. Born in Australia, they settled in East Orange, New Jersey. Their backdrops include drafty old mansions; dank hospitals; eerie hotels; or forbidding cruise ships. Their plots were wacky and lots of fun.

Miss Ivy and Miss Violet are elderly spinsters, whose father was so controlling that he had himself buried in the basement. They are constantly quarreling about items such as the placement of chairs, their own futures, and the disposition of their assets. Their nephew Richard looks in from time to time, and is horrified to learn they have been playing Russian Roulette with pistols to settle their estate. Richard has been dating Ada Terry, a Broadway actress related to the sisters by marriage. Richard and Ada decide to announce their engagement to try to stop the sisters' shenanigans, and as usual the best laid plans are fouled up by when murder makes its appearance:

"She was covered only lightly with earth. Apparently there hadn't been time to bury her properly, but she was draped from head to foot in a bloodstained shawl. The chief gave a queer little grunt, stretched a tentative arm, and then withdrew it. Neither of them wanted to uncover her, and they remained still in a silence that presently became too much for the chief. He scrambled to his feet and lurched to the foot of the stairs, where he bawled, 'Pete!'"

Constance and Gwenyth Little delighted in writing stories that had a touch of the absurd. Their natural sense of humor is evident throughout the book, as Richard and Ada find themselves married before they are really ready to examine their own feelings. This story would make a delightful play, with a Cary Grant clone as the hapless Richard. Those were the days of golden mysteries, and the Littles were in top form. A most entertaining and endearing mystery!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Angels of Wrath A Novel of Global Warming
G.P. Hardy III
Halcyon Press Ltd
2656 South Loop West Ste 440, Houston, TX 77054
193182343X $19.95

Who among us has not heard the warning and felt the uncertainty of our earth's future because of 'global warming?' How many of us fully understand the impact that it is having on our earth and will have within the lives of future generations? Is it as serious as some beat the drums to bring to our attention or can we truly believe that the earth will continue supporting life forever as it does now?

In this novel by author G.P. Hardy III we are taken into the very heart of this matter as scientist, who have developed a computer which they call Wormwood, and one that shows the terrifying outcome of future earth, face the shocking reality of what is about to occur on plant earth and how it will effect and is effecting every giving of life function on our planet. The conclusions are literally earth shattering! And as they present their findings to the leaders of our nation they fearfully await the course of action that they will take and silently pray it will be the right one.

This is a subject matter that isn't pleasant to think about but our author G.P. Hardy helps us to take a hard look at our possible future and does it in a fast paced, interesting novel that holds your attention and gives you knowledge in a storyline that certainly does have the potential to unfold before our eyes, in reality, in the future of planet earth. God help us all! Certainly a novel that is well worth your time and one that will be a true eye-opener. I applaud the author for undertaking a very controversial subject matter and bringing it to light in a way that will not bring forth a yawn but a far better understanding.

My Single Mom Life
Angela Thomas
Nelson Books
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
078522128X $19.99

It is an unfortunate fact that many children now grow-up in a one parent home due to divorce or unexpected death. The problem exists of the emotional growth of these children to become un-scared adults; not an easy task by far. In this work by author Angela Thomas we are given an inside view of a scorned woman, left with young children to raise and the challenges before her. How she handles them may well shape the future of her children; this fact is ever forefront to her.

In her book she deals with some hard situations with the many roles that she must now assume and the emotional trauma that she is also working through. It is hard enough to be thrust into a world of change without having the added responsibility of children. However, she is not a quitter, and after allowing herself some time to adjust she bravely pulls herself together and forges forward determined to have a brighter future than was her past. Ms. Thomas is frank and honest as she opens her heart to her readers concerning feelings of anger and resentment, guilt and unwanted pressures and being just plain tired of all the responsibilities that should never have been placed upon her in the first place.

She guides the reader through her walk as she learns to cope with these many responsibilities that are hers and hers alone, and she clearly emphasizes the importance of having God on your side to get you through each and every challenge faced. She shares many practical lessons, learned from experience on such things as dating, finances, just being a mom and some wonderful advice on loneliness. After reading this book you will certainly walk away with a greater assurance that you can achieve and rise above your circumstances and live a happy full life, for you and your children. A very helpful, encouraging read for any mom who now must walk the road of parenthood alone.

El Shaddai
The God of More Than Enough
Vicki Jamison-Peterson
Vickie Jamison-Peterson Ministries
P.O. Box 700030, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74170
No ISBN $12.94

In this outstanding book by Vicki Jamison Peterson we are taken into the true meaning of our Father God and one of His Names, "El Shaddai." It has been a while now that I have realized what Psalm 91 means when it says, "because you have know my Name, therefore I will deliver you."

Knowing the Names of God is truly knowing who He is and can certainly change your life with the knowledge of all His wonderful attributes. That is why it is so important for any serious Christian to grab hold of a book such as this one and explore the Names of their God. In this case, His Name - El-Shaddai.

As you read this book you will learn that El Shaddai - the God of more than enough- awaits you with open arms of love and caring. Our author not only explains the full meaning of His Name but also gives you example after example of how He manifested El Shaddai in her life. The stories are tender, open and will truly minister to your heart. And she encourages you, the reader to allow El Shaddai to work in your life as well.

Our authors writing is free and flowing, almost a one to one style that will help create in you an atmosphere of receiving all the nuggets of truth she is bringing to your spirit. This is a great book that will definitely help you understand and bring into your own life El Shaddai - The God of More Than Enough. Don't miss this one.

Meet The Adelies
Happy Feet
Penguin Group Publishing
375 Hudson Avenue, New York, NY 10014
0843121017 $3.99

In this children's book we meet Mumble who is an Emperor penguin that travels far from home and arrives In Aelie Land by accident. Here he meets many colorful characters such as Ramon, a penguin with an attitude, Rual, who is a friend to every penguin and Lovelace, who is the Guru of penguins. The difference in this children's book is that it is bilingual with a mixture of English and Spanish words, a list of some Spanish words in the back of the book, and what they mea, and some stickers as well.

A cute story, colorful illustrations and a nice merge using both languages. A good learning experience for both English and Spanish speaking children.

Poisoned Petals
Joyce and Jim Lavene
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425215814 $6.99

In this third installment of the Peggy Lee Garden Mystery we find our main character Dr. Margaret Lee, better know as Peggy, trudging about pulling up endangered grass doing what she does best, saving our planet earth. Peggy is a teacher of botany at Queens University and runs a garden shop, but she is also the widow of a police officer and despite her best efforts, she seems to become involved again and again in solving one murder after another; often endangering her life in the process to the woe of her beloved son Paul, who himself is a police officer, and her boyfriend Steve.

However, in this story Peggy goes over the top as two brothers, and friends of hers, end-up dead, or that's the way it appears in the beginning of this tale, but is that the way it really is? What mysteries and secrets have woven their web in the lives of these two brothers that have hidden truths even to the discerning eye of our beloved Peggy? There are just too many questions and not enough answers as far as Peggy is concerned, and she is determined to find her answers, one way or another.

Our authors bring more of Peggy's family into play in this story and I loved it. We get to meet her mother and father, an uncle and a cousin and believe me they are very colorful characters. You quickly become involved and familiar with each of them. I particularly loved Peggy's father and it was evident where Peggy inherited her thirst for finding answers. Our authors teamed up Peggy with her dad in many scenes where Peggy searched for evidence and this really brought the storyline of the mystery she had to solve and her home life together.

What can I say; this is yet another home-run for Jim and Joyce Lavene. A top-of-the-notch, over the fence mystery read with beloved characters, a fast paced storyline and a wallop of an ending. I absolutely loved this book and impatiently await another. I am happy to say that Jim and Joyce Lavene never disappoint me.

The Road Map To Rich
Joseph Michael Dickerson
Ovation Books
PO Box 80107, Austin, TX 78758
0979027500 $16.95

I found it interesting that at the very start of this book our author poses a question that you wonder will he indeed answer. The question: Why do some people get rich, why others don't? Do you know the answer? By the time you finish this book you will.

Our author Joseph Michael Dickerson takes us on a journey in a quest to make our fortune through real estate. Within the sixteen chapters of this book you are given expert advice on topics such as: What You Really Need To Know When Starting Your Business; The Real Estate Road; Become a Millionaire In Fifteen Years Starting with Only $10,000 (my favorite), and Putting the Plan Into Action.

The information in this book is easily digested, concise, and you will not feel intimated as with some books on similar but you should feel an easy flow as you partake of the information. Mr. Dickerson walks you down the journey step by step giving you information that you can, with a little get-up and go, implement in your desire to obtain success and achieve your goal. Very well written and I am sure will be a treasure to the upcoming Real Estate Entrepreneur.

The Stillness of Love and Exile
Rosa Martha Villarreal
Tertulia Press
P.O. Box 2450, Nevada City, CA 95959
0978598806 $18.00

In this dramatic novel we meet a young Mexican woman Lilia and experience the death of her spirit when she endures a brutal rape and is forced into a marriage that lacks love, compassion or any form of marital bliss. For six years Lilia endures abuse and to survive she crawls within herself merely existing. Miraculously she finally finds the courage to escape her captor and travels to Hidalgo to live with her grandfather. Fearful that her husband will find her and kill her, Lilia must still hide in the shadows. This is where supernatural and natural begin to wrap themselves around this story bringing Lilia's life finally to a place of peace.

Our author does a wonderful job in allowing the reader to fully understand the inner turmoil within young Lilia. She expands on the deep emotional trauma that Lilia is experiencing and touches deeply within, revealing her true heart's desire for happiness. In this work we travel into the world of the supernatural, from past to present, slowly piecing together Lilia's future. This is a deep read, but is full of passion for life and living. Very well done.

Interview with Joseph J. Neuschatz M.D., author of "TerrO.R.

There are times when you see a special spark in a book that you read and you know to keep your eye on that particular author; this was the case with Doctor Neuschatz's book "TerrO.R. I wanted to bring attention to him and his work, so please read below a little insight from an author I am sure you will be hearing more and more about.

Shirley: Joe, thank you for doing this interview with me. Please tell us why did you write this book?

Joe: Are all your questions going to be so easy ? The answer is simple: I had to write it. If you read the short auto-biography on my Amazon Profile Page, you will find the following phrase: "the terrO.R. novel was inspired by an old, never explained O.R. incident." I was obsessed ever since.

Shirley: Ah! Now you have spiked my interest. How did you come up with the storyline? Is the story based on facts or fiction or part of each?

Joe: As I said above, the story is based on my obsessive-compulsive need to explain an unexplained 20th century demise under anesthesia. But today, in the 21st century, it makes more sense to explain it through the terrorist angle. Maybe it happens, maybe it did happened but probably it will happen. This book is a wake-up call.

Shirley: A very 'scary' wake-up call; I might add. Are the characters based on people you know or have known?

Joe: Oh yes ! I only dared writing it after retirement. I maybe obsessive-compulsive and slightly paranoid but not masochistic enough to work with some of the surgeons who recognized themselves in my book.

Shirley: How did you chose the local? Is it a true local?

Joe: This action starts in one of the 2 Long Island hospitals in which I practiced my "gaspassing" skills. All the names were changed to protect the innocent.

Shirley: Who if anyone helped to influence your decision in writing this book?

Joe: My better half. Probably tired of listening to my repeat whining, intuitions, presentiments, theories, interpretations and unverified suppositions about the case, one evening, during supper, she said to me: "why don't you sit down and write a book about it ?"

Shirley: I'm glad she did; I will have to thank her one day. Did you have to do research and if so how much and what kind?

Joe: Not really. Put together my Anesthesiology training with the 36 years of hospital practice as a "sandman," mix it with a dash of 9/11 and after you stir well, add a pound of daily terrorism news et voila ! As a matter of fact, the first title I chose for my novel was "TERROR ENDS IN OR" but "terrO.R." is shorter.

Shirley: I like the title; it is very catching. How long did it take you to write your work?

Joe: In my head ? 30 years. On paper ? 6 months.

Shirley: May I ask you Joe, what was the most difficult part of writing this book?

Joe: Reliving the "Code Blue" followed by the unsuccessful C.P.R.

Shirley: Yes, I'm sure that was. What was the most enjoyable?

Joe: Writing the most exciting phrase in the entire novel: "THE END."

Shirley: Oh yes! I know that wonderful feeling. Tell us this; do you have and did you have family/friend support?

Joe: I kept it secret from my friends. I suffer from an allergic reaction to the "literary imposition on friends" syndrome. I had a close acquaintance who was writing a book and every get-together between our two families included a post-prandial reading and discussion of the manuscript. And not only his latest chapter ! My wife was/is and will remain super-supportive. My married kids ? As supportive as they can be. They have their own kids, their own lives, their own problems and all 3 live in different states.

Shirley: Joe, are you planning a sequel?

Joe: The next novel is vegetating inside my gray matter but, it will not descend to my word processing fingers, unless approached by a real traditional publisher. After wasting almost a year with a small "traditional" publisher who forgot to disclose that he was running out of money and after wasting another year with an agent who forgot to disclose that she hasn't made a sale yet, I self-published "terrO.R." Self-publishing is an interesting and unique experience and it will remain "unique" from all the points of view.

Shirley: Self-publishing has its good side and its bad side in my eye. Let me just throw my little two cents in here about self-publishing. Other than in the 'writing' world, who to me at times seem to make it unbearable for the new authors, I don't see, for readers in general, that it makes much of a difference if you are self-published or not. Readers, who are not authors, very rarely look to see who published the book they are reading. They just want a good story or information that they can use. From what I have seen it appears to be one word that brings success and that word is PROMOTION! And many times even the 'acceptable' publishing houses do not give you enough of that.

Being a reviewer, I know for a fact that many authors published by 'acceptable' houses spend thousands of dollars on promotion, out of their own pocket. No! Letting the world know about your book is the door to success. I'm sorry for throwing this in here, but I grow weary of the mud thrown on self-published authors when they usually are the most gifted; it just is not fair. If I were to give advice I'd have to say concentrate on PROMOTION in any and all forms and don't worry about who published you, just look at it as a door you are going through to take you where you want to go. Period. Okay! I am getting off my soap-box now.

Joe, let me ask you this. Do you have other books written? And if so what are their titles?

Joe: No. Just articles. Published in The New York Times, Vogue Magazine, Newsday, N.Y. Doctor etc and one translation: the Romanian chapter of "Theatre Companies of The World" for Grenwood Press.

Shirley: Impressive! Do you belong to a writers group?

Joe: No. I used to. I found it to be a waste of time. Maybe it is my fault.

Shirley: Do you have an Agent?

Joe: No but....I am available.

Shirley: A personal question please. Where is your favorite place to write?

Joe: At my desk, under the skylight.

Shirley: Ah! Sounds inviting and perfect for writing. What advice would you give to other writers?

Joe: Never give up but, don't impose your writings on your friends.

Shirley: Please add anything you would like the readers to know about yourself or your book(s).

Joe: The final truth is that I hate writing but....I LOVE BEING PUBLISHED! Thank you!

Shirley: Amen! I want to thank Joe Neuschatz for allowing me to do this interview with him. Please find my review of his outstanding book in last month's column. This is one book you will never forget. My best to Dr. Neuschatz and I am sure we will be hearing more about him in the near future.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Barack Obama
Maureen Harrison & Steve Gilbert, editors
Excellent Books
PO Box 131322, Carlsbad, CA 92013-1322
1880780291, $24.95

Barack Obama is currently a very important figure on the American political landscape as he seeks the Democratic nomination for President in the forthcoming 2008 election. His multiracial heritage, his gift of oratory, and his novelty to the American media have made him a household name in just a very few short years. Now for those who wish to know more about this remarkable politician who currently serves as the junior senator from Illinois in the federal congress, "Barack Obama: Speeches 2002-2006" is available to the reading public. Compiled and co-edited by Maureen Harrison & Steve Gilbert, this compendium of Obama's public speeches in a variety of settings and before diverse audiences will provide an informed and informative resource for Obama's statements and positions on global warming, the Iraq war, the Walter Reed Hospital scandal, and other critically important social and political issues of our time. Everyone, regardless of their party affiliation, who has an interest in the outcome of the 2008 presidential elections needs to give a careful reading to what Obama has had to say and the positions he has taken in "Barack Obama: Speeches 2002-2006".

Fishing Connecticut and Rhode Island
Bob Sampson
Burford Books
32 Morris Avenue, Springfield, NJ 07081
1580801366, $16.95

Written by outdoorsman Bob Sampson, whose credits include contributing to "On the Water", "The Fisherman", and the "Norwich Bulletin", Fishing Connecticut and Rhode Island: A Guide For Freshwater Anglers is an in-depth guide to catching bass, walleye, trout, pickerel, salmon, catfish, carp, and many other species. Addition chapters also cover filleting and cooking one's catch, preserving a trophy, and fishing with kids. Anecdotes and fishing tips with a personal touch add form a smooth narrative flow for this superb guide for anglers of all skill and experience levels.

Stone Crazy
Tracy Gallup
Mackinac Island Press
216 East Front Street, Suite 205, Traverse City, MI 49684
1934133132, $9.95

Tracy Gallup is a talented and imaginative expert at creating unusual dolls that are quirky, fun, emotionally evocative, and connected to a stone. "Stone Crazy" is a compendium of full color photographic pictures that showcase her handmade figures, each of which is joined with an uncommonly distinctive stone and together – the figure and the rock – create a visual image that gives rise to a series of individualized stories. Each picture is provided a line or two of lyrical commentary that tells a story of that particular image. Also very highly recommended is Tracy Gallup's companion title "Shell Crazy" (1934133140, $9.95) in which she uses the same figurine story telling process to create doll images joined to all manner of seashells.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Cult TV
Robert Sellers
Plexus Publishing, Ltd
Apartment 5-F, 110 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10024
0859653889, $19.95

Film/television writer and journalist Robert Sellers presents Cult TV: The Golden Age of ITC, an examination of the legendary media company responsible for just about every cult/fantasy television show of the 1960s and 70s, from "Thunderbirds" to "The Prisoner" to "The Muppet Show". Vintage black-and-white photographs pepper this exciting behind-the-scenes history, drawn from interviews with more than 50 stars and big names. An amazing behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of 60's and 70's American popular culture.

Finding Heroes
Byron Starr
Creative Guy Publishing
24 West Kenworth Rd., Columbus, OH 43214
189495341X, $14.95

Funeral director Byron Starr presents Finding Heroes: The Search for Columbia's Astronauts, the true story of his participation in mass volunteer search to find and catalogue the debris and human remains from the tragic space shuttle Columbia explosion that happened in 2003. Part memoir, part firsthand chronicle of sad history, Finding Heroes narrates not only the difficult hunt through the pinewoods of East Texas, but also the coming together of a community, and compassion amid fellow human beings in the wake of national loss. A touching and inspirational chronicle.

Challenging the New Orientalism
M. Shahid Alam
Islamic Publications International
5 Sicomac Road, #302, North Haledon, NJ 07508
1889999458, $19.95

Written by M. Shahid Alam (Professor of Economics at Northeastern University, Boston) Challenging the New Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on the "War Against Islam" is a post-September 11th anthology of short essays sharply critiquing "new Orientalism" - specifically, Western demonization of the Islamic world. While recognizing the political and economic failings of the Islamic world, Alam denounces the not-really-hidden objective of new Orientalism: to justify American and Israeli grabs for power, territory and influence as a security imperative and civilizing mission. Challenging the New Orientalism does not in any way condone terrorist acts; however, it does urge readers to think deeply about fundamental mishandling of modern situations - such as bungled wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that are ultimately creating terrorists faster than allied Islamic governments can catch them. Of particular interest are Alam's two essays critical of well-known New York Times political columnist Thomas Friedman. An emphatic, vociferously passionate counter against the tendency to frame Islam itself as a harmful, retrogressive, or pro-terrorist force.

On the Cutting Edge
Dr. Robert F. Brodsky
Gordian Knot Books
100 west 57th Street, Suite 2M, New York, NY 10019
1884092624 $18.00

Written by engineer, educator, and arms race/spacecraft design pioneer Dr. Robert F. Brodsky, On the Cutting Edge: Tales of a Cold War Engineer at the Dawn of the Nuclear, Guided Missile, Computer and Space Ages is a collection of true tales of the author's professional experiences. Active in the atomic and space race from 1950 to 1988, and not really retired up to even the present day, Brodsky gives an insider's view of everything from the creation and fixing of the first externally carried A-Bomb (the Mark 7) to the inception of the Space Age to how astronautics became an accredited curriculum to Brodsky's visions of a hydrogen-fuel based economy in the future. An engaging chronicle of deadly weapons, technological marvels, and the quirky human personalities behind the military and space age science that transformed the modern world, accessible to readers of all backgrounds and highly recommended.

Paul T. Vogel

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design