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

MBR Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 11 November 2008 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

8 State Hurricane Kate
Jenny Pavlovic
Privately Published
9781438216492, $18.95,

Hurricane Katrina's effect on New Orleans was massive, for more than just the human race. "8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog" is a touching story of one of the Hurricane's refugees, a dog named Kate who was displaced through eight states. A story of the indomitable spirits of human and canine combined, it's a brightening tale for dog lovers and those seeking a story of overcoming one of the worst natural American disasters in recent history. "8 State Hurricane Kate" is a great true story which will appeal to dog owners and their best friends.

Juna Jinsei
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432726294, $25.95,

Believing in oneself can mean so much. "Yes: You Can Make It Happen" is a self-help book with a new approach. Offering examples throughout history of man overcoming insurmountable odds and doing things that were simply amazing for the time, Juna Jinsei encourages readers to become trail blazers like those in the past, or at the very least do what it takes to make one happy with their life. Drawing from many, many sources, both Eastern and western in origin, "Yes" is a self-help book with a lot of substance to go on, a strong pick.

Do-It-For-Less! Weddings
Denise Vivaldo
Sellers Publishing
161 John Roberts Road, S. Portland, Maine 04106
9781416205197, $19.95, 272 pp.,, 1-800-625-3386

Weddings are an expense in which many people really cannot afford their dream wedding because of the cost still find themselves plunging into extraordinary debt. Attention all Brides and Grooms (including their parents!) "Do-It-For-Less! Weddings" by Denise Vivaldo is a must! This instructional compendium of sound advice and sensible ideas is an invaluable resource and tool to help anyone at any income level achieve the wedding of their dreams. Denise Vivaldo, draws upon her twenty years of experience and expertise in planning and catering parties and wedding receptions to provide the aspiring couple and their parents with concrete, practical, easily applicable "how-to-do-it" advice that will result in making the wedding truly memorable as a life-changing event. Included are checklists, complete menus and recipes for service to 12, 25, 50 and 75 guests. Eight fresh ideas for seasonal weddings with a complete do-it yourself decorating plans. Bar basic and beverage guides, reception locations and tips on making all the details work, a resource section to guide you to all the right places to locate what you need for less and much more. Smart, rich in resources and easy to follow this is a must have guide for anyone getting married, "Do-It-For-Less! Weddings" is highly recommended for anyone planning a wedding and a useful, appreciated, and popular addition to community library collections as well.

Fabulous Fun with Puzzles
Joseph Leeming
Time Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020
The Rosen Group (publicity)
Thirty West 26 Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY, 10010
9781603200349, $13.95, 224 pp.,

Want to keep your mind in good shape? Research shows that to keep and active and sharp mind, doing puzzles is a great way to stimulate the intellect. "Fabulous Fun with Puzzles", originally published in 1947 (long before the dumbing down effect of popular television programming) includes riddles, brain teasers, matchstick challenges, math posers, and letter puzzles, as well as utilizing pencil and paper, coins and matchsticks as part of puzzle challenges. Great for doing puzzle solution exercises alone or as a fun pastime challenging friends and family, "Fabulous Fun with Puzzles" combines over 400 puzzles ranging from two classic puzzle collections by the late puzzle and craft master, J. Leeming, to puzzles created specifically for this compendium of head-scratchers. Although published over 60 years ago, these puzzles are as relevant today as they were back then. Fun and creative "Fabulous Fun with Puzzles" will keep readers challenged for hours and hours of stimulating fun! A great gift idea, "Fabulous Fun with Puzzles" is very highly recommended for personal, family, and community library collections as well.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

I, Q
Roland Smith
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main Street, Chelsea, MI 48118
9781585363254, $8.95,

When picking a setting for adventure, what better place is there than the modern world? "I, Q" follows step siblings Angela and Quest, who goes by the shorted name of Q. The two find themselves spiraling in over their heads into a conspiracy where no one is what they seem, not even their own parents. A deeply engaging thriller, "I, Q" is highly recommended reading for any looking for a tale of intrigue.

Surviving Erebus
John Barell
Royal Fireworks Press
First Avenue, PO Box 399, Unionville, NY 10988-0399
9780880927031, $12.99,

Inspired by the heroic and inspiring endeavors of Antarctic explorer Ross, "Surviving Erebus: An Antarctic Adventure Onboard Her Majesty's Ships Erebus and Terror" presents the tale of David Smythe. Driven to live out Ross's voyage through the harsh seas and oceans of Antarctica. Like Ross's voyage, Smythe's voyage is as treacherous, if not more. A tale of thrilling adventure, "Surviving Erebus" is a recommended and engaging tale.

Make a Joyful Noise
Chariss K. Walker
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595481194, $18.95,

With so many ancient manuscripts, some of which contradict, how can one really understand what God wants? "Make a Joyful Noise: Searching for a Spiritual Path in a Material World A Book of Hope" seeks to explain the will of God seeks to explain the spiritual laws to help readers come up with their own ideas about what God wants and to find their own happiness through these methods. A fresh message of spirituality, "Make a Joyful Noise" is definitely worth a read.

Home Found
Samuel L. Bennett
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158553, $10.95,

Being a child of the state is not what many people wish to happen. "Home Found" tells of Samuel L. Bennett and growing up as a ward of the state of Indiana. Parentless as an infant, he was sent to farms to labor for his way as a child, and found it wasn't the life for him. A failed attempt to flee to Ohio, he finds his solace in the United States Army at the age of sixteen. He found his home where most regard as far from, abroad with over two decades of service. A lifelong veteran's story, "Home Found" is solid reading.

The Nature of Kansas Lands
Beverley Worster, at. el.
University Press of Kansas
2502 Westbrooke Circle, Lawrence, KS 66045-4444
9780700616220, $34.95,

Explore the richness and depths of Kansas as never before in "The Nature of Kansas Lands", presented by Beverley Worster (Editor), with the assistance and support of Donald Worster (Foreward), Elizabeth Schultz (Essays), Kelly Kindscher,(Ecosystem facts), and with photographs by Edward C. Robison III and Kyle Gerstner. "The Nature of Kansas Lands" is a visually stimulating masterpiece that is both informed and informative. Carefully designed to encourage Kansas residents to look beyond their backyards and fences and to invite visitors to explore the back roads of these memorable state, readers will learn about native flora and wildlife and witness the wild beauty and ecological complexity this state has to offer. Waterways, woodlands, grasslands, farmland and high plains are captured in stunning photographs with essays and sidebars accompany the interpretative essays with facts about wildlife and weather, forests and farming. A unique encounter with Kansas' natural beauty and a model of collaborative scholarship, "The Nature of Kansas Lands" is recommended for anyone wishing to know more about Kansas from a nature perspective and a welcome addition to both community and academic library collections.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Introduction to Science and the Scientific Method
John L. Campbell
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158355, $15.00,

A basic understanding of science can be incredibly useful in many aspects of life. "Introduction to Science and the Scientific Method" is a guide on the most basic of scientific principles – the scientific method. Offering a crash course in the subject, plus fresh opinions about philosophy, religion, and the what science can and can't do, Campbell's book is an excellent combination of information, both objective and subjective. "Introduction to Science and the Scientific Method" is fine reading, a must for those looking for a better grasp of science.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Joseph A. Renihan
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159451, $7.95,

Eight hundred years, inspiration and ideas are still being drawn from this classic text. "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyan: A Humanist Edition" is a collection of thirty-four verses and thoughts that author and politician Joseph A. Renihan has gleamed from this historic text. "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyan: A Humanist Edition" is solid and inspiring to any who would research one of the world's more famous texts.

The Profound Mystery
Mark Kirchberg & Phyllis Kirchberg
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533157150, $25.95,

The unity of two people to stand before all of life's assaults is the ultimate aspiration for all couples. The collaborative work of Mark and Phyllis Kirchberg, "The Profound Mystery: Marriage – The First Church" is a heart-warming examination of the institution of marriage and how it brought these two people with very different lives together in a very positive and enduring way. A positive testimony about marriage and the strength granted through faith in the Lord, "The Profound Mystery" is solid reading for anyone doubting the value of their bond with their spouse.

Faith, Love, and the Joy of Living
John J. Sidebotham
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158430, $10.95,

To love God is to love life, so says John J. Sidebotham. "Faith, Love, and the Joy of Living" is a collection of the eighty-six-year-old man's work where he offers his views on the world around us through riveting verse. "Faith, Love, and the Joy of Living" is something to be considered for poetry fans. "The Easter Lily": The Easter Lily, shown in white perfection./To show your Love, each flower blooms in all directions.//The stem shows a sign of a struggle, still a flower of perfection./On a cross, His son, made to suffer for our salvation.//This flower now faces all of us, saying. "I died for you."/Look at the Cross, See God's Glory,/Go now and tell his story.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

The Black Cloister
Melanie Dobson
P.O. Box2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
9780825424434 $13.99

In 1991 when Elise Friedman turned eight her mom Catrina suddenly died. Raised by an adoptive father Steve, she grew up wondering about her biological dad and her mom's life in Germany before coming to the States. She especially thought about reasons her mom left her homeland.

Now seventeen years later, Elise obsesses over knowing the truth. In Berlin Elise meets her mom's best friend Ambassador Addison Wade, showing the stunned older woman a photo of Addison with Catrina. Addison wants to ignore Elise as she has buried the past especially since her next post will be American Ambassador to the UN. Elise explains discrepancies in her mom's past and Steve's story. Reluctantly Addison, understanding the resolute visitor and fearing for her going solo, takes her to Heidelberg where the quest of the Chosen began.

THE BLACK CLOISTER is a fascinating look at a cult from several perspectives. The story line is fast-paced from the moment a determined Elise arrives in Berlin and never slows with one twist after another as the danger mounts. Steve's refusal to explain anything leaves Elise taking risks that turn her into a target; yet remaining true to his vows just seems wrong. Still this exhilarating thriller will hook the audience as the present inquiry into the past turns dangerous.

The Sweet Scent of Blood
Suzanne McLeod
9780575084285 $16.59

The Spellcrackers consists of good witches whose mission is to defuse evil magic in a world in which vampires have come out of the coffin and are accepted by society although some people believe they are the malevolent predators as legend describes them. operative Genny Taylor is a Sidhe who distrusts the vamps as she understands the food chain too well. Still in spite of her bias, she investigates the homicide of Melissa the girlfriend of Mr. October, Roberto the celebrity vampire accused of killing her with one bite. As Genny follows the bloody London trail she soon realizes the case is not quite as closed as she and the cops thought. However, she is unprepared for her and Mr. October being expendable tools discarded by two dangerous powerful adversaries who have fought for control of the paranormal communities for centuries.

This is a fast-paced humorous urban fantasy that in some ways will remind the audience of Charlaine Harris' Stackhouse tales; location aside. The story line is fast-paced and the inquiry solid. However, the thriller is owned by the paranormal species that frequent famous London haunts as if they own the city. Readers will enjoy the first thriller as Suzanne McLeod brings life to her supernatural cast as much as her superb plot.

Black Glass
John Shirley
Elder Signs Press
PO Box 389, Lake Orion, MI 48361
1934501077 $15.95

In 2033, former cop Rick Candle is being released from the California State Centenary once he is ReMinded. He spent four years of being UnMinded for taking the software piracy rap for his younger brother musician and V-Rat addict Danny.

Slaken CEO Terrence Grist is unhappy with Rick's freedom as the cop came close to destroying his empire. However the Fortune 33 member has a hitman Halido poised to kill Candle.

Rick visits Danny's former girlfriend Zilia, who he is attracted to, but she has no idea where his sibling is. Meanwhile Shortstack hires Rick to protect his underground illegal web. At the same time Grist orders his leading technocrat Sykes to create the Multisemblant, a merging of the personalities of five of the top Fortune 33 members. Soon that new creation will be out of control and after Rick who stands in the way of its personal agenda.

This is an engaging somewhat cautionary cyber future thriller in which Big Business runs the United States any way they want. The story line is action-packed from the moment Rick regains his mind and never slows down as he searches for his brother, deals with his attraction to Zilia and tries to protect Shortstack and his cronies from Grist's killers. However it is the unique Multisemblant that steals the show as the copied conscience of five of the top of the Fortune 33 personalities seems almost God-like with the ability to go almost anywhere in cyberspace. BLACK GLASS is a terrific science fiction tale.

Havah: The Story of Eve
Tosca Lee
9781600061240 $14.99

Eve, called Havah by her mate Adam, came to the Garden in awe and innocence. When she and Adam broke God's rule, they were kicked out of their earthly paradise to live in the wilderness. She tries everything she can think of to obtain forgiveness from the One and return to the Garden, but fails. Instead she learns to survive as she gives birth to children only to learn one son murdered another. If anything, Eve has become a survivor although she has never given up hope of redemption from the One, but as she ages she prays that the next generation gets to go to the Garden.

This biblical biographical fiction is a superb look at the "First Lady" Eve. Using events described in the bible, Tosca Lee provides the emotional reaction of Eve to what occurs. For instance she feels shame when she and her mate are kicked out of the Garden into the wilderness by the One. Readers will appreciate this deep tale of paradise lost from the woman's perspective.

The Last Plague
Glen M. Page, MD
P.O. Box 80107, Austin, TX78758
9781933538969 $14.95

In 1986 on Yankee Ford in Stanley, Idaho, a ten years old Black girl is found bleeding from her abdomen; she is rushed to the emergency room for surgery. Dr. Doug Hunter opens up the area that is bleeding only to find it is one of her ovarian arteries; the other is black. He successfully stops the bleeding, but her mom and friend remove the child from the hospital so that the Sprudiths, Children of Lucifer, cannot find her. Soon afterward two corpses of children with black ovaries are found in an abandoned shack.

The Spendrift leader has Army General McFarland confiscate the bodies because they do not want the public to know about the black ovaries of preadolescents. Doug finds a paper on black ovaries in the CDC library, but is later told the slides he took of his black ovary patient have been taken and the scientist who was examining them is dead. He also realizes they are after him and his friends and associates who apparently know too much. Doug's son Jason is constantly called a Levite and the Sprudiths refer to him as the "heir" or the chosen one. He apparently has a major role re the future of mankind; if the dark ones don't kill him first. Neither father nor son seems to have much time left as the enemy is coming for them.

This is the opening novel of a series that deals with the forces of Darkness personified by Lucifer and his commanders on earth. They fight the forces of good symbolized by Doug's wife who he believed dies but is actually fighting for their souls. Doug is a non-believer in the heaven-hell war on earth, but ironically plays a pivotal role. Both sides have equal soldiers who will not hesitate to use force on the other side. THE LAST PLAGUE is an exhilarating medical-apocalyptic thriller.

Ron Nash
Ecco (Harper)
9780061470851 $24.95

During the Depression in Appalachia, wealthy lumber baron George Pemberton returns from Boston to Waynesville, North Carolina accompanied by his new wife, the orphan Serena. Waiting for him to disembark from the train is his sycophant partners, pregnant teenage kitchen hand Rachel Harmon and her outraged father. A drunken Harmon demands Pemberton take care of the child he sired. Instead encouraged by Serena, George kills him as he knows he is above the law.

Pemberton destroys the land and its people and his wife Serena is as evil and avaricious as he is. She insures Rachel is scorned by everyone and that the brat once born remains the bastard he or she is. Meanwhile Serena also obtains the undying loyalty of foreman Galloway whose life she saved; he becomes her slave willing to kill anyone if she asks; however George actually likes having a son adoring Jacob and angering his wife.

This is an intriguing look at the Depression from various perspectives. Especially fascinating is the poignant glimpse at horrific working conditions that make a case for a strong OSHA and yet in spite of the danger of death and maim the workers have forged a club like solidarity (mindful of soldiers in war conditions). Although the key cast is stereotyped; the Pembertons especially Serena are evil caricatures of the abuse of wealth while in contrast poor single mom Rachel is kind and noble, fans will appreciate this powerful 1930s drama.

The Exploits of the Second Mrs. Watson
Michael Mallory
Top Publications
3100 Independence Parkway, Suite 311-349, Plano, Texas 75075
1929976461 $14.95

This excellent thirteen story collection provides a fascinating spin on the Holmes mythos. In the Introduction John Shirley explains that Holmes mentions that his chronicler Watson had a second wife (see The Adventures of the Blanched Soldier) whom he was married to in January 1903. Using that footnote Mr. Shirley provides the Baker Street crowd with a wonderful collection in which Amelia Watson solves the cases. Of the thirteen tales, twelve have been in other publications. All the entries are fun and use a real historical item, person or place, event to anchor the tales. Sherlock makes a few appearances with one amusing moment when he steals the dress of the very tall Amelia so he can go undercover; while Mycroft appears more frequently. Also showing up is Lestrade who appreciates Mrs. Watson's skills. Fans of the great detective will relish this strong compilation as Amelia recognizes her competitor for John's affections is Sherlock and John is envious that not only his friend is a superior sleuth so is his wife whom he adores.

Wild Talent
Eileen Kernaghan
Thistledown Press
195 Allstate Parkway, Markham, ON L3R 4T8
9781897235409 $15.95

In 1888, sixteen years old Scottish farm hand Jeannie Guthrie fears her "gift". She believes she has good reason to do so because she thinks she used her talent to accidentally kill her wastrel cousin George who was pestering her constantly for a kiss since the dance. If anyone finds out Jeannie knows she will be burned at the stake as a witch; just like George vehemently called her as he was bleeding from the pitchfork wound she gave him.

Thus without a look back, the teen flees to London where she assumes she can hide amidst the masses. In town Jeannie and daring Alexandra David meet and the latter takes the former to the salon of renowned Madame Helena Blavatsky. There Jeannie hopes to learn more about her power especially controlling it when she is angry or threatened.

This late Victorian historical is a vivid exciting tale that takes readers into a strange dominion filled with artists, spiritualists and ethnologists; the irony is that this weird world is London and Paris (as well as the land Beyond). Jeannie is terrific as a rustic innocent who under the guide of her urbane friend turns from scared country bumpkin to still frightened sophisticate. Based on the real 1888 London journal of Alexandra who mentions a jeune fille, Eileen Kernaghan provides her bewitched fans with a great late nineteenth century tale.

Conspiracy of Silence
Martha Powers
2817 West End Ave., Suite127-274, Nashville, TN 37203
9781933515427 $9.99

Chicago reporter Clare Prentice is stunned to learn she is adopted when Dr. Craig calmly suggested after a physical she obtain medical information on her biological parents. Clare had thought Rose, who raised her was her biological mom. Now she knows her late adopted mom Rose hid the truth from her; her biological dad died before Clare was three. Her reaction to the disturbing news is to end her engagement to kind hearted Doug Kitridge.

She finds a high school ring amongst her late adoptive mother's stuff. With a need to know more, Claire heads to where the ring is from, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. While there she is assigned to interview reclusive novelist, Nate Hanssen, a resident who shuns publicity. Clare learns her birth mother was Lily Gundersen, who was murdered in Grand Rapids. Soon after her arrival someone stalks Clare who assumes her mom's killer wants his or her murderous secret kept quiet. Clare and Nate begin to act on their attraction to one another.

Outside of the interview occurring in Grand Rapids where the mysterious graduation ring comes from, CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE is a great suspense thriller. Clare uses her reporter skills to learn more about her mom's murder, but quickly learns nothing is quite like it seems and every one even the author she is falling in love with appears to have an agenda. With some nice twists along the way, readers will enjoy this exciting cozy with just the right amount of a romantic subplot to enhance the investigation.

Saint Antony's Fire
Steve White
9781416555988 $24.00

In the early sixteenth century, instead of finding the Fountain of Youth that he sought, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovers a strange craft that apparently fell from the sky. He returns to Spain where rumors abound that he found something unique in the New World. In 1540, The Society of Jesus go to the Florida colony to investigate the de Leon tales. That expedition returns to Europe with a heavily cloaked small figure and soon afterward obtains Papal permission to establish a new order that include the Gray Monks.

Over seven decades later, Queen Elizabeth and her military advisers believe they will defeat the Spanish Armada that is sailing towards England. Instead the Spanish use weapons that shoot light beams of fire with uncanny accuracy. Led by the Gray Monk Father Jeronimo, who happens to be a Grella extraterrestrial, the Spanish destroy the English fleet and burn London with their antimatter weapon "ST. ANTONY'S FIRE." Due to the heroics of privateer Captain Thomas Winslow Queen Elizabeth is evacuated by sea to the Virginia Colony. The English soon learn that the vanished Roanoke colonists last year entered a portal to another world where they have been at war against Jeronimo's people, the Grella for two decades.

This action-packed alternate history thriller will hook readers who will want to know what happens to a host of real people like the Queen, William Shakespeare and the missing Roanoke colonists, etc. The fast-paced story line never slows down as one adventure leads to another revelatory escapade. Although none of the characters seem fully developed with the courageous heroic Thomas the most complete, fans will relish Steve White's thrilling tale that seems to be the opening act of a fun stirring saga.

The Reawakened
Jeri Smith-Ready
Luna (Harlequin)
9780373802715 $14.95

Twelve years ago the feral Descendents of the Ilion Army took advantage of the schism between the four Spirit villages attacked Velekos and Asermos. The war between them is nasty with one side unconcerned with collateral damage to innocents. There is the fundamental value of the world at stake in a winner takes all conflagration. The Spirit uses animal magic that has made them increasingly more powerful with each new generation; the Descendants loath Spirit magic as evil. However, the Descendents outnumber their enemy and increasingly appear to be winning the hostilities.

The Spirit followers pray that the ancient prophecy that claims the only Spirit Raven who has failed to guide a human will do so soon as the dark days are turning bleaker. Spirit mages Rhia of the Guardian Crow Spirit and her husband Marek accompany their eighteen years old son Nilik, who they hope is the one as he seeks vengeance against the murdering Descendents who killed his girlfriend; He joins his uncle's army while the hostilities remain unabated. Rhia must deliver the REAWAKENED if her side is to survive.

Fans of the Aspect fantasy (see VOICE OF CROW and EYES OF CROW) will relish this entertaining finish but newcomers will be lost for much of the tale. The story line is filled with action, but driven by the desperation of Rhia and her family as a way of life is to be decided between clashing cultures. With a nod to Native-American nineteenth century heritage (including war with the invading American armies, Jeri Smith-Ready provides a deep metaphoric trilogy of cultures at war.

Murder With All the Trimmings
Elaine Viets
0451225481 $6.99

Mystery shopper Josie Marcus is having problems getting into the holiday spirits. Her boyfriend Mike invested $20,000 in the mother of his daughter Heather's- year round Christmas store. Josie does not like Heather because she is nasty towards Josie's younger daughter Amelia. Naughty or Nice is not doing well because a rival shop Elsie's Elf House opened nearby and a third Christmas store is in the same tiny vicinity.

Josie has no time to worry about Mike, his investment or his cruel daughter. The father of her child Nate has just been released from a Canadian prison after a decade of incarceration for selling drugs. He threatens Josie with a custody suit and implies he could abduct their daughter. They have a shouting match that Josie's neighbor hears. When a drunken Nate comes to Josie's house with a chocolate Santa, Josie refuses to let him enter. He eats the pastry; later Josie finds him unconscious. At the hospital, a toxicologist report says he imbibed anti-freeze just like a woman who ate the same pastry from the same place. Josie and Mike are under suspicion so she seeks proof to back up her theory as to who the killer is.

Elaine Viets writes exciting amateur sleuth mysteries filled with believable characters; the recurring cast starting with Josie adds a sense of friendship that in turn embellishes the feeling of realism. A single mom, Josie knows she must care for Amanda first even before her desires. It is interesting how "blind" Mike is to his daughter's antipathy towards his girlfriend and her offspring. Nate is slime and in death he still causes the heroine problems. Although the whodunit is a bit light, the relationships crises add delightful trimmings to the murder investigation.

The Christmas Cookie Killer
Livia J. Washburn
9780451225344 $14.00

In Weatherford, Texas, Phyllis Newsome is hosting the annual Christmas Cookie Exchange party, which is a chance for people to relax with others who they rarely if ever socialize with during the year. Mrs. Simmons is unable to attend due to injuries so Phyllis brings a batch of cookies to her. When Mrs. Simmons asks Phyllis to lend her cookie cutters so she can bake some cookie, the host runs home to get them. She returns to find Mrs. Simmons dead; the rope from her robe tied around her neck.

As Phyllis struggles to remove the rope, someone comes up behind her and knocks her unconscious. After a short stint at the hospital, Phyllis returns to the Simmons' house to bring the mourning relatives some cookies, but nobody answers her knock. She notices someone peaking from one of the windows so she enters. She meets Mrs. Simmons' grandson Randal who was in the attic. The police arrest him for skipping bail on a charge of possession with intent to sell. The homicide evidence points to him also, but Phyllis has doubts he killed his grandma and begins to question the neighbors while the culprit watches her every move.

If anyone assumes life slows down at sixty, they need to look at Phyllis to change their mind. She has more energy than the Energizer Bunny has. Livia J. Washburn always provides a delicious whodunit with her latest Fresh Baked Mystery a delicious holiday treat as the audience knows what the heroine feels.

The Widows of Eastwick
John Updike
9780397269607 $24.95

Having fled Eastwick, Rhode Island in the early 1970s when a rival for the affection of you know whom died; Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie each remarried and started over in different places. Having survived he who is nameless and their late second husbands, the widows decide to meet up at the place where the bewitching began; their home town.

However, two and a half decades have taken a toll on the once sexy flamboyant threesome. Instead middle age and senior citizenship leave them tired and incapable of witchcraft. However, the villagers loath the witches for all the malevolence and harm they did with magic; even their children want them to leave. They consider fleeing before they are burned at the stakes, but become involved in a bit of magic that goes astray.

The sequel to THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK is a fascinating tale of late middle to old age as the three women have passed the bewitching age; magic is a young person's sport. The story line starts off slow but steady as the audience accompanies the trio on overseas travel that showcases a dysfunctional world. The tale picks up when the threesome learn you can't come home especially when you caused havoc, mayhem and death the last time in town. Readers will enjoy the deep look at the aging process as the widows find their previous evil escapades come home to roost with them.

Tender Morsels
Margo Lanagan
9780375848117 $16.99

Single mom Liga Longfield has barely survived her father's sexual molestations and a gang rape although emotionally she is on shaky grounds in spite of living in an apparent heaven. Her daughters are polar opposites as Branza is calm and soothing while the bored Urdda is ready to take on the world they left behind.

Meanwhile their isolated haven soon has a treasure hunting visitor, a "little man"; who comes and goes. Others also arrive to include a kind teenage boy who transforms into a bear and nasty bear-man. Fearing the intrusion, Liga can do little when her now teen Urdda wants to leave for the exciting life of the "vivid people".

This is an intriguing dark character study that looks deep at the human psyche through a lens of "two border worlds" representing the extremes of humanity; one side is abusive and brutal, and the other is caring yet boring. Liga has seen both sides having been molested and raped, and now is living in a gentle realm raising her children. She fears for her daughter who wants a taste of the wild side, having had that taste shoved down her throat with sexual abuse. Although the plot can turn overwhelmingly moody and introspectively slow at times, TENDER MORSELS is an engaging tale.

A Country Called Home
Kim Barnes
9780307268952 $23.95

In Connecticut scholarship medical student Thomas Deracotte met, dated, and married wealthy Helen over the objections of her upper crust parents; her father being third generation Yale especially detested this scholarship student. Soon after they exchange I do, the couple in 1960 moves to a farm in Fife, Idaho where he is to open up a medical practice; the current local health care comes from a pharmacist.

Shockingly, Thomas delays starting his practice as he would rather work the land; Helen quickly misses her family and her New England upper class lifestyle as farm living is not the place for her. She becomes pregnant while Thomas hires teen Manny to work on the farm. Helen gives birth to Elise, but she soon wants freedom from her intolerant spouse and is lonely from the hours of nothing but motherhood; while her husband turns to drugs to alleviate his feelings of failure as a physician, as a farmer, as a husband, and as a father. She considers Manny for a fling and he is falling in love with her. However after a tragedy changes the family dynamics, Manny is more a dad to Elise while her biological father is deeper into drugs.

This is a dark family drama that looks closely at the 1960s and 1970s when youthful idealism turned to cynicism and disappointment; yet with Elise there is guarded hope for the future. None of the four lead characters escape the bleakness, which in some ways becomes overbearing when one traumatic event is followed by another and another until suddenly Elsie is a teenager. Still in spite of the overwhelming sense of negativity, Kim Barnes provides a poignant look at idealism without pragmatism.

A Partisan's Daughter
Louis De Bernieres
9780307268877 $23.95

In the late 1970s in wintry London, fortyish salesman Chris detests his life; he loathes his job and hates his marriage; though widower status gives him some hope to get past the despair of being with the "Great White Loaf" late wife. Discontented with his lot he keeps asking himself is that all there is?

When he spots Yugoslavian expatriate Roza walking, he assumes she is a hooker. He bungles his efforts to hire her services. She corrects his misconception and they begin to talk. He drives her home and she invites him in her flat for coffee. A friendship forms that he believes is the underpinning of a romance and she assumes is platonic. She explains she came from her homeland seeking a break but so far has found only hardship that has her considering a return to her homeland where her father is a die hard Tito backer.

This is an extremely complex relationship drama. The dark gloominess of both protagonists makes this a difficult novel to read as the focus is actually on opportunity costs, especially those not chosen. Roza is the more interesting star as her tale is sensationally erotic over the top and at times ugly, but also feels hyperbolic symbolizing the plight of minorities everywhere (especially Iron Curtain Europe during the Brezhnev Era). Chris is the more realistic characterization of the western middle aged normal who wonders why life is depressing so finds excitement in his companion's tales. Not for everyone, as at times overly dramatic and extremely reflective including the action scenes, A PARTISAN'S DAUGHTER is a deep look at the late 1970s.

Liz Maverick
Dorchester SHOMI
9780505527783 $6.99

Katherine "Kitty" Gibbs is living the dream life as she is popular and engaged to a hunk who cherishes her above everything else. There is only one flaw to Kitty's perfect life; it is a WIRED lie created by her revenge attained genius maniac lover Leonardo Kaysar, who manipulates the time-place continuum changing her reality. In fact Kitty's best week ever is replayed week after week after week.

Her best friend L. Roxanne "Roxy" Zaborovsky recently escaped from that virtual world due to the help of her lover Mason Merrick. She feels guilty having left Kitty behind in a no escape virtual programming loop. Roxy hires time-anomaly specialist Walter "Q" Sheffield to rescue her roommate from the insane machinations of Leonardo. Q relishes the mission impossible until this relationship phobic realizes only love can free her and he is the one who loves her sol he can possibly reverse the IRREVERSIBLE.

As good if not better than the superb WIRED (Roxy's tale), IRREVERSIBLE is a great romantic science fiction thriller. The story line is a one sitting fast-paced tale with the irony of the heroine has no reason to be saved from her existence. Thus the hero who stinks in reality relationships realizes only love can give Kitty a reason to break out of her "heavenly" existence, but she believes she already is in love. Liz Maverick provides a strong romantic cyber sci fi novel.

Manitou Murder
C.C. Canby
4796 N. 126th St., White Bear Lake, MN 55110
97819309220705 $14.95

In the Twin Cities' suburb of Manitou island in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, Silas and Curtis Nelson are talking about a crime they are about to commit. They are going to the house of George and Sophie Lunzer to rob and kill them. They possess a diagram of the home's interior where money and jewels are located. A black homeless person picks up the paper they carelessly drop and he ends up being killed by the first set of intruders.

Derek Lunzer walks into his family's home at five in the morning to find the dead bodies of his parents; his sister Jacqueline is missing but her daughter is safe in her crib. He immediately calls the police. Detective Sergeant Richard Lanslow leads the homicide investigation. There are plenty of suspects including Derek who inherits millions with his parents dead. A business partner of George stands to gain the deceased's part of the firm and needs to do it before an audit affirms he embezzled funds. Lanslow is a bit frustrated as leads seen to go nowhere and besides he is confident he know who the culprit is, but to prove it seems just out of reach.

As he did with the first White Bear Lake Police Department case (see MASKS OF MURDER), C.C. Canby has written a fascinating regional police procedural filled with various suspects besides the obvious two described above; each has differing motives. The characters are realistic and remain consistent throughout as they behave according to their core motives. Lanslow works overtime to solve the case especially motivated to find the missing sister, who he already had feelings before the deadly home invasion occurred. MANITOU MURDER is a multifaceted complex whodunit filled with red herrings and false leads; in spite of a dedicated desperate good cop looks headed to the cold case file.

Addicted to Love
Lori Wilde
0446502049 $6.99

Jilted for the second time, frustrated bride-not Rachael Henderson disfigures the Valentine, Texas billboard as happily ever after is a fairytale. Her first crush Iraq War veteran turned town Sheriff Brody Carlton arrests her for defacing public property.

The court gives Rachel community service; while she sentences herself to find a way to no longer be a losing inane romantic. Thus she sets up an Internet site for Romanceaholics Anonymous so they can save each other from the addicted destruction of romanticism. The townsfolk are irate; at least the Austen crowd and those who sell the concept of romance in Valentine; although some cynics toast their new heroine. Bobby, who lost a leg in Iraq, thinks the woman he is falling in love with is overreacting to the rejections; as he believes she has not found the right groom until now. The problem is her web help network makes romance seem negative.

The latest charming "Wedding Veil Wishes" is an amusing tale focusing on recognizing what love is and with whom. The story line is lighthearted fun as Rachel receives an education of the heart. Recipients from the previous "Wedding Veil Wishes" romances return and the Wilde trademark of strong secondary romances enhance an engaging Valentine tale.

A Constant Heart
Siri Mitchell
Bethany House
9780764204319 $13.99

In the last decade of the sixteenth century, the Earl of Lytham trusts no woman especially a beautiful aristocrat. His heart was burned to an ashy crisp by the betrayal of his first wife. He obtained an annulment that ended the sham called marriage. He will remarry only to gain favor with the Queen who prefers her lords married.

Lytham's second wife Marget Barnardsen has been told she is a beauty, but to her chagrin her husband loathes her because of her looks. He coldly informs his wife her only role is to assist him in gaining her Highness' support. Marget in turn wants him to return her love, but her efforts to warm his heart fail as Queen Elizabeth is irate at her; seemingly because of her looks that she tried to somewhat disguise. Now a desperate Marget fears the man she loves will annul their marriage as she only obtained the wrath of the Queen.

This is a terrific Elizabethan romance with a deep message of "to thine own self be true" as everyone is in God's image. The story line shines a deep light on the aristocracy's efforts to gain favor with the somewhat fickle but powerful aging ruler; some go so far as changing their essence as Marget does. Known for her exciting contemporary Christian Lit, Siri Mitchell goes historical Christian Lit showing she is a writer for all seasons.

Home Another Way
Christa Parrish
Bethany House
9780764205231 $13.99

With twenty-three borrowed dollars in her pocket, twentyish Sarah Graham leaves the big city to travel to the mountain hamlet of Jonah, New York where her estranged father recently died. She only goes to collect her inheritance as she has not forgiven her dad Luke Peterson for deserting her. Thus when she arrives to find out that to inherit his estate; she must remain in the small town for six months, Sarah goes berserker. Unhappy she reluctantly accepts the terms as she desperately needs the money.

The townsfolk apparently loved her father. Each visits her and tells Sarah favorite stories about Luke. She cannot believe that the Luke the locals describe is the same Luke she remembers. Still she begins to reconsider her beliefs re dad, but each time she feels a bit of affection; Sarah quickly recalls why she loathed him. Will the townsfolk teach her to forgive and move on by thinking of the good or will she retain her belief that Luke was a louse.

Although the theme seems out of Inspirational fiction 101, Sarah's hedonism throughout the story line keeps HOME ANOTHER WAY quite fresh and interesting. There is no miracle return to nature even as the lead protagonist considers forgiving her father because Sarah has a lifestyle she is used to and can see the dirt poor poverty that engulfs Jonah. Instead Sarah remains a somewhat spoiled hedonist while the key townsfolk also have faults in a brisk inspiring character study in which the outside reflects on to forgive or not forgive that is the plot.

Until We Reach Home
Lynn Austin
Bethany House
9780764204951 $13.99

In 1897 the three Swedish Carlson sisters (Elin, Kirsten and Sofia) struggle with the deaths of their parents; especially their father who committed suicide. They find living with their uncle and aunt untenable. Though Sofia fears her own shadow, the trio led by the oldest Elin, writes to family members residing in Chicago and is invited to come to American and leave behind their beloved but now bittersweet Sweden.

However, America may be the land of the free, but the three siblings remain on Ellis Island for quite along time. Ailing Elin and Kirsten are hospitalized leaving Sophia the mousy meek one to care for herself. When they finally complete their journey by reaching Chicago, they quickly learn life is not better as they begin to understand why a house is not a home.

This is a timely superb historical tale of how much immigration has meant to this country. Through the sisters the focus is on the sixteen million who came to America heeding the call of the Statue of Liberty between 1890 and 1920. The three lead siblings are fully developed as their harrowing journey will grip an appreciative audience who make the trek with them (thankfully from our armchair). Lynn Austin provides a fascinating look at one of the great American immigration waves.

The Darkest Touch
Jaci Burton
9780440244547 $6.99

In an Australian cave, the Sons of Darkness, powerful demon lords, answer directly to the Evil One. They demand archeologist Angelique Deveraux to meld with the black diamond she was hired to find. When she touches it the diamond's magical light goes out. Instead of making it glow stronger. Angie is afraid that her twin sister Isabelle, who was always a bit evil, will bring the stone to life. While the Realm of Light demon hunters fight the Sons of Darkness, Angie hides the diamond so her sibling will not use it.

A Realm of Light member observes Isabelle to see if she embraced the demon inside her as the father of her and her sister was a powerful demon lord. Dalton ends up following Isabelle while Ryder who is supposed to get the gem from Angie falls for her. Both men fear what will happen to their women and themselves. When the Sons of Darkness kidnap the twins, they both understand their new rescue mission is to save their respective significant other or die trying; while the sisters have decisions to make that if made wrong will end up with the Sons of Darkness ruling humanity.

The two sisters will have come to terms re their dark heritage and understanding the evil that makes up part of their "DNA". The story line is a dark vs. light romantic suspense fantasy. The Sons of Darkness want nothing less than ruling all life on earth while the Realm of Light is determined to prevent that from happening; the twins are caught in the middle. Jaci Burton provides a dynamic and enthralling paranormal romantic thriller as demon war threatens the planet.

Destiny Kills
Keri Arthur
9780553589603 $6.99

She wakes up on a beach with no idea how she got there; next to her is a dead man whose name she recalls. When daylight arrives, he turns to ash. After stealing food and clothing, she tries to hitch a ride, but the man in the car plays chicken with her. She recalls her name is Destiny McCree and she realizes she is a sea dragon that can live in the sea as a human or a dragon. Jewel thief Trae Wilson, the dead man's half-brother called him to help Destiny who was held captive by scientists who are studying adults dragons, dragon children of both sexes in an underground compound near Loch Ness.

Destiny is on a quest to see her father, an air dragon, before he dies; and to free the children and her mother from the scientist's compound where scientists are experimenting on them with no regard to their well-being. Trae is willing to assist her especially since the seditious mercenary hunter dragons are stalking her to bring her back to the compound for quite a fee. Trae also wants his father's ring that Destiny possesses so that he can give it back to his dad in return for information as to where his sister is. As they elude the hunters, Destiny and Trae realize they are soulmates, but have little hope for a future together as the quest comes before their hearts.

Keri Arthur's opening salvo in a new paranormal romance series is a fantastic thriller as the full bodied characterizations make the world of dragons seem genuine. Destiny is a strong kick butt individual while Trae admires her inner strength so much so he willingly becomes her sidekick even before they realize they are mates. Although the plot is somewhat limited as expected in a first tale as the need to introduce the cast and the settings are critical, fans will enjoy this unique quest fantasy.

Woodcutter's Grim
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press
9781603132565 $5.99

"Papa". Six months ago his children died in a car accident when his ex wife's vehicle for no apparent reason went off a bridge. Still mourning, Rand takes his second spouse Amy to Woodcutter's Grim. Amy quickly realizes that Rand's dead children greet them with plans to escort them into the Gingerbread House so Papa can be with them forever. A delightful tale

"Blood of Amethyst". Over the last few days Amethyst's beloved father has acted very strange until he entered Woodcutter's Grim and never came home. The local sheriff Gabe is worried about his beloved pregnant Amethyst, who has acted strange since her dad vanished in the woods. He fears the woods wants her blood like he believes it took her father's blood. Incredible Storytelling

"Dancing To the Grave". After a trial separation music teacher Diane and her husband Kurt have reconciled their differences. However, heeding her concern over children behaving oddly, Kurt, a Guardian and his peers investigate only to learn the kids are turning into feral rats. A deliciously spooky tale

"The Amethyst Tower". Prince knows his mission is to save Rapunzel, incarcerated in a tower in Woodcutter's Grim Woods; he also knows once you enter these woods, you never leave. Still he must perform his quest even if the evil seems overwhelmingly insurmountable. A beautiful adult fairy tale

Retelling classic fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, The Pied Piper of Hamelin and Rapunzel) has been done many times over the years. Few authors keep them classic yet scarier like Karen Wiesner has achieved with this collection; the audience will feel they are entering the woods of Woodcutter's Grim and sense they may not get out. The key that makes this quartet superb is the feeling everything starts of normal like a second chance at love ("Papa" and "Dancing to the Grave"), a concerned lover ("Blood of Amethyst) or a hero rescuing his damsel in distress ("The Amethyst Tower). Then Ms. Wiesner deftly changes the venue in each into frightening fantasy novellas. This is an excellent anthology in which the readers will want more stops in Woodcutter's Grim, sort of like a Hotel California adult fairy tale location.

Christmas Wishes
Jewels of the Quill
Whiskey Creek
9781603132589 $5.99

"All She Wore Was a Bow" by Christine DeSmet. After Kincaid sets a record in bull riding, he learns a Moonstone friend is getting married. He rushes to rescue his pal from a legal jail sentence. However, Gloria the wedding planner hogties him faster than he can a bull.

"Little Cat Feet" by Margaret L. Carter. Ten months ago, Lauren's father died. She misses her dad, much more right now because it is her first Christmas without him. Worse her mom has had her lover move in with them. She runs away, but stops to rescue a cat who in turn rescues Lauren.

"Christmas Faith" by Karen Woods. Faith is angry with God for taking away her loved ones. She is alone, but is in awe of her new neighbor who lives up to her name with a strong faith in God in spite of being a single dad raising children alone.

"Perfect Cadence" by Karen Wiesner. Still upset over her recent break up with her boyfriend, Keri uses her boss Angela's cabin to stay in while skiing over the holidays. Angela's cousin Joshua is also using the cabin as his base while he too is skiing.

"Are you listening?" by Jane Toombs. Rico's dad vanished several years ago, but the child has not moved on. Instead he wishes for his father to come home for Christmas. He begins to hear his dad who provides him with directions as to how Rico can make his Christmas wish come true.

"Annie's Outlaw" by Nancy Pirri. In the 1880s, just released from prison, Cane travels to Bozeman, Montana to meet his son for the first time. He had been unaware until recently he sired a child and he wants to raise his kid. Tom and his daughter Annie have raised the child with love and do not want to give him up especially to a convict with no prospects.

The six Quill contributions cover several genres to include young adult, but share in common an interesting and uplifting jewel of a holiday theme.

Night Falls Darkly
Kim Lenox
9780451225375 $6.99

In 1887 Shadow Guard Archer Black reclaims the marked soul of Mr. Winslow, but in spite of his caution, collateral damage occurs when the deviant brings an innocent young woman into the fray. After completing his mission, to save the female's life and keep her safe, Archer erases the memory of Miss Elena Whitney and vows to be her protector. Elena thinks that the accident caused her amnesia. She appreciates her unknown benefactor who has arranged for her to work as a nurse in Whitechapel and has done so much more for her include giving her hope she might one day become a doctor.

Almost two years later, Queen Victoria orders Archer to London to end Jack the Ripper's reign of terror. He becomes mortified when he observes Elena walking the unsafe streets of Whitechapel where the Ripper kills his victims. To the Guardian's chagrin, he finds focusing on the Ripper difficult because of his attraction to Elena; he knows he must put her out of his head so he can concentrate on the deadly East End psychopath.

NIGHT FALLS DARKLY is a supernatural Victorian romantic suspense thriller that grips the audience with the opening sequence when Archer goes to collect the marked soul and never slows down as he struggles to do likewise with the Ripper. The story line is filled with action and the right amount of romance; however it is the vivid time and place that anchors the novel and makes the "urban" fantasy elements seem genuine. With a fascinating underlying paranormal concept, this Shadow Guard saga opens with a refreshing new look at stopping Jack.

Red Fire
Deidre Knight
9780451225382 $6.99

They were the magnificent seven Spartans of the mighty three hundred led by King Leonidas of Sparta who tied up the powerful Persian army at the battle of Thermopylae. They sacrificed themselves to give the Greek army to the south time needed to prepare for the invaders. After observing these warriors die for the common good, the God Ares offered the chosen seven soldiers immortality in return for being humanity's protectors; they accepted without a second of thought.

Twenty-five hundred years later one of the immortals Ajax Petrakos knows his loneliness will end soon as the Oracle has informed him his other half lives in Savannah, Georgia. He immediately travels there to meet Shay Angel before his ancient enemy a malevolent demon abducts her. However, Shay is not helpless as she and the male members of her clan see and hunt demons; she is the first female to be able to see the evil ones. As they come together to fight the immoral demonic djinn, he knows his passion for her is a distracting emotion in combat especially if a prophecy is true predicting death while she sees his dark wings and knows he is not an angel although he seems to offer her love.

RED FIRE is a fabulous urban romantic fantasy in which Knight's mythos combines the ancient Greek Gods with the Spartan three hundred in a modern day setting. The story line is action-packed from the moment Ajax and Sable search for Shay and never slows down as one escapade leads to another. Although somewhat similar in tone to the numerous urban fantasy sagas inundating the market, sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine opening entry as Deidre Knight makes Greek Gods, Immortals, demons, and demon hunters seem real through a solid cast especially the doubts of the rude heroine.

Driven by Desire
LuAnn McLane
9780451225047 $14.00

Jayden Michaels gave his girlfriend Alexia Spencer an ultimatum not so much in words but in action. He left their hometown of Braxton to join the motorcycle racing circuit. He hoped she would follow him. Instead disappointed in the man she loves, Alexia chose and married someone twenty years older than her.

A decade has past since both separately left Braxton. Both have come home for differing reasons. Jayden heals at home from a shoulder injury while helping to create a local youth motocross club. Reporter Alexia has come home after obtaining a divorce. Both want the other purged from their blood so he agrees to have Alexia interview him for the local paper. Instead they remain attracted and considering a second chance at love, but she has one secret that she must reveal to him although she expects their relationship to end because of it.

The insight into motocross racing is fascinating especially the juvenile locker room bantering between the drivers although not deep enough to satisfy the curious about the sport. Alexia is a wonderful but too trusting protagonist as her sister and her friend betray her with their mouths; while Jayden is caught between machismo at the track and love. Although lacking depth especially at the track, DRIVEN BY DESIRE is an interesting second chance at love sports romance.

Up in Smoke
Katie MacAlister
9780451225283 $7.99

Magoth the demon Prince had abducted doppelganger dragon mate May Northcott. The evil one was taking her to Abaddon, but Silver Dragon leader Gabriel and his allies rescue her. However, a consequence of their action is that Magoth escaped also.

At the same the Blue Dragons ignite into a nasty power struggle. While their political argument turns ugly and overheated, May unintentionally uses the dragon phylactery, which ends up residing inside her. To remove it without killing her is dangerous; to not take it out is even more hazardous. They must gather the shards held by divided dragon factions in order to rescue May at a time an unknown ethereal dragon stalks her and her cronies while Gabriel hatches a plan to destroy May's royal demonic creator.

Although a well written excellent urban fantasy, fans would be better suited first reading the previous tale PLAYING WITH FIRE; as that equally engaging tale leads directly into UP IN SMOKE. The story line is filled with action as dragons seem set on a course of civil war and Magoth is on the loose; yet there is alos plenty of humor and affection. Katie MacAlister provides a wonderful "Hell on Earth" entry in her parallel to the Grey tales Silver Dragons saga.

Murder In Los Lobos
Sue McGinty
Fithian Press
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564744777 $14.95

In Los Lobos, California, the murder of affluent Connie Mercado has shook up the already divided community. Before someone pushed her car with her inside off a cliff overlooking the Pacific, residents were heatedly arguing whether to convert the Mercado estate into a conservatory or a regional wastewater treatment plant.

Former nun turned obit writer for the Central Coast Chronicle, Bella Kowalski has no doubt her friend was murdered over the land usage; Bella, having strongly protested against the sewage plant, was forced off the road just before the homicide occurred. Over the objection of her spouse Mike, a former big city cop with a heart problem. Bella considers investigating the homicide. She makes up her mind when the police deem Mike a viable suspect.

This is an engaging relevant regional amateur sleuth that focuses on the debate between nature and development that is in the news today with the oily dig mantra. The dispute drives the story line, but Connie keeps it focused (with help from Mike and their dog Sam). Sub-genre fans will appreciate Sue McGinty's fine whodunit although readers will know which side of the argument she supports.

Clean Cut
Lynda La Plante
1416586660 $15.00

In London Detective Chief Inspector Jimmy Langton interrogates prime murder suspect Somali expatriate Idris Krasiniqe. The illegal immigrant claims two gang members were involved in the killing of teenaged prostitute Carly Ann North. Jimmy questions the two when one of them stabs him with a machete. The cop is lucky to be alive.

Jimmy's lover and subordinate Detective Inspector Anna Travis helps him physically recover, but mentally he wants revenge by bringing his attacker, alleged to be drug dealer Clinton Camorra, to jail. Meanwhile Anna investigates the slashing murder of librarian Irene Phelps; sex offender Arthur George Murphy confesses. When his sister Gail Sickert and his infant niece are murdered and two other relatives vanish, Anna thinks voodoo practitioner Camorra is the culprit in all the crimes.

With Jane Tennison taking a needed breather, Lynda La Plante turns to her other tough yet vulnerable heroine (see THE RED DAHLIA and ABOVE SUSPICION). Anna Travis is a terrific lead character who holds the extremely complex police procedural story line together. She accomplishes this remarkable feat in spite of several major fascinating subplots and the strong stance on illegal immigration that runs throughout. Fans will appreciate Ms. La Plante's superb English police procedural.

A Job to Kill For
Janice Kaplan
9781416532132 $24.00

In Los Angeles beautiful wealthy Cassie Crawford hires interior designer Lacy Fields to decorate her new three million dollar penthouse apartment. Lacy jokes that Cassie is a bigger pain than her three kids or her surgeon spouse and says to her best friend Molly Archer she wants to kill her bothersome client. Molly understands as she knows Cassie's spouse. When Lacy completes the job, she shows off her work to her young client; only Cassie drops dead, a murder victim.

Instead of the billionaire spouse, the cops suspect Lacy and her best friend Molly as the most likely killer(s). Refusing to sit idly by while the cops try to railroad her or Molly, Lacy investigates the homicide. However as she uncovers clues, the culprit watches to insure the amateur sleuth does not learn the truth.

The latest Lacy Fields amateur sleuth (see LOOKS TO DIE FOR) is an entertaining whodunit in which the humorous asides make for a fun read. From the onset when the heroine muses she would not have made a joke about killing Cassie if she knew someone was going to kill Cassie until the final confrontation, readers will enjoy Lacy's antics. A JOB TO KILL FOR is a jocular lighthearted cozy.

Deadly Night
Heather Graham
9780778325857 $7.99

The Flynn brothers inherit a plantation near New Orleans from their late elderly Aunt Amelia. They know nothing about the estate and very little about their deceased aunt. One of the siblings, private investigator Aidan Flynn, travels to see the new property. He meets Amelia's caregiver Kendall Montgomery, who tells him about his aunt and about the estate, including that many locals believe the house is haunted.

Though attracted to Kendall, Aidan distrusts her as he does all women. However, when skeletal remains are found on the estate, Aidan investigates to the chagrin of local law enforcement. He soon uncovers a series of vanishings over the past decade that has been unresolved; in his mind a serial killer is on the loose, a predator who has no compunctions of killing Aidan and Kendall.

Even with some rotation to what happened on the Flynn Plantation in 1863, the haunting investigative story line remains fast-paced and filled with action especially after the bones are found. Aidan is so hard and distrusting, he is unlikable; but he makes the tale with its ghosts seem plausible as he does not change personality abruptly not even for that "second hand emotion" love and in turn Kendall seems somewhat pale next to him. Fans of Heather Graham will enjoy her latest ghostly Bayou romance due to this somewhat obstinate refreshing lead male.

Bad Penny
Sharon Sala
9780778325963 $7.99

Wilson McKay saved the life of Cat Dupree when he killed Solomon Tutuola, who already killed her father and was slashing her throat (see CUT THROAT). The two bounty hunters are in love, hope to move on past the traumas, and would like to settle down; but their history still interferes with their present and makes their future uncertain.

Sociopath Jimmy Franks is on a personal vendetta against Wilson whom he blames for his troubles. He stalks Wilson and plans to kill his enemy's woman before murdering his target. Additionally Mexican Homicide Detective Luis Montoya investigates the suspicious death of Tutuola. Cat fears what the cop will do once he learns the truth.

The latest Cat Dupree tale is a well written suspense thriller, but loses much of the tension in spite of the latest assaults on the lead couple because much of the prime issues have been resolved in the previous tales. The story line is fast-paced and fun to read but BAD PENNY is no CUT THROAT. Still fans of the Dupree saga will wonder how many lives does Cat have left, as Sharon Sala provides an exciting entry.

Open Doors
Gloria Goldreich
9780778325437 $13.95

Acclaimed ceramic artist Elaine Gordon has always placed her beloved husband Neil above her work and their four children with her vocation coming in a distant second. Thus when her soulmate anchor dies, she is more than just grieving; she is lost. Each of her adult children loves their mother even if she has always been distant from them. Each wants her to leave the New York City area and move near one of them. They persuade Elaine to visit them.

Elaine goes to see Sarah nee Sandy and her grandchildren in Jerusalem. Next she travels to California to spend time with Peter and more grandchildren. Her third global trek is to Russia where Lisa wants to become a single mom by adopting a child. Finally, the one trip she dreads going to is New Mexico where Denis and his gay boyfriend live.

Elaine's journey is on two levels: the obvious globetrotting trips to her offspring and the metaphysical journey of spiritual learning as her children, their significant others, and their offspring make solid mentors. The extended cast is fully developed but it is Elaine as the focus who holds it together. Although her revelatory transformation seems unrealistic (sort of like Ebenezer Scrooge's change), OPEN DOORS is a deep look at a person learning in her late middle ages what is important in life.

The Face
Angela Hunt
9780778327271 $6.99

Two decades ago Sarah Sims was born without facial features. The hospital declared her dead and she was serendipitously given to the CIA. Dr. Glenda Mewton raised Sarah hidden from the world at a top-secret CIA lab. Sarah now twenty has no hopes or dreams; isolated even in the isolated CIA construct where she lives.

All that changes when Sarah's Aunt Renee learns her niece lives in concealment as a CIA computer expert. She offers Sarah a chance to meet the world starting with surgery. However, Renee cannot give Sarah the courage to take a chance on life; that must come from within and her "mom" Dr. Mewton will not let her go.

Avoiding melodrama with touches of humor, Angela Hunt provides a superb character driven thriller as the key three females seem genuine with flaws and all. The story line grips readers from the opening moments when the doctor informs Sarah's parents and the audience that the newborn suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome. Readers will want what is best for her though that is not easy to discern even if fans want her to step out into the world of her aunt. This is a winner as the angst is high but controlled inside a strong tale of second chances.

The Hiding Place
Karen Harper
0778325881 $6.99

Finders Keepers private investigator Tara Kinsale awakens after months in a coma to a series of deep stress shockers. First she learns that her best friend Alexis was murdered. Second, that she had been named guardian of Alexis' daughter Claire as the father is a rat who deserted his then wife and child for another woman. Third Claire's uncle, Nick McMahon has arrived from military duty in Afghanistan to raise his niece. Fourth her own spouse divorced her and remarried. Finally, she learns from her doctor that she gave birth while in the coma.

As Tara struggles to bring the parts together into a cohesive package, she agrees to help Nick and Claire become a family. She makes inquires into her lost nine months especially the infant she birthed, but some unknown person wants her to remain either ignorant or dead.

This action-packed romantic suspense hooks the audience from the moment Tara opens her eyes to learn one stunner after another starting with the memory of how she became comatose until the final confrontation. The story line is fast-paced though at times overly angst laden with so much pressure on Tara. Still this is an exciting thriller as the past still haunts the heroine's present.

Cold Pursuit
Carla Neggers
0778325539 $7.99

Secret service Agent Jo Harper is put on administrative leave because while doing her duty an incident turns into an unfair YouTube scandal of her with the Vice President's merry prankster sixteen years old son Charles Preston Neal. She returns to her hometown Black Falls, Vermont hoping her fifteen minutes of sensationalism ends quickly so she can go back to work; her fear is her career is over.

Also back in town recovering from a war wound in Afghanistan is Special Forces Sergeant Elijah Cameron. Besides recuperating, Elijah investigates the death of his father Drew seven months ago.

At the same time, Jo's friend Thomas Asher witnessed the murder of former Ambassador to Great Britain Alex Bruni in a hit and run in which Thomas' daughter college age Nora fled into the mountains; Thomas's former wife and Nora's mom is Bruni's widow. Former lovers when they were teens until Drew ended their relationship, Jo and Elijah find their inquiries link; as they fall in love while investigating two murders and search for the missing girl, the killers seek Nora too.

This is an exciting romantic suspense thriller filled with humor and action as Carla Neggers brings the Green Mountain State to life. Jo and Elijah are tough and courageous, but inside both are vulnerable especially when it comes to the other. Readers will relish this exhilarating complex cat and mouse tale.

A Virgin River Christmas
Robyn Carr
0778325733 $6.99

Four years ago in the battle of Fallujah, US Marine Ian Buchanan risked his life to save his brother in arms Bobby Sullivan. Three years after that heroism, never having recovered from his wounds twenty-six years old Bobby died. His widow Marcie grieved her loss even before he passed away as she knew he would never recover.

Over the years Marcie sent letters to Ian thanking him, but all returned unopened; he simply vanished. Obstinate and resolute, Marcie decides to find Ian to personally thank him. She traces him to Virgin River; Ian is unhappy to see her as he lives the life of a hermit selling firewood. He needs to forget Iraq, especially Fallujah and Bobby. Marcie feels a deep need to save his soul; in her mind he is not living. As they fall in love, she needs to persuade him to let go of the past so they can share a future.

The return to the small isolated Redwoods town of Virgin River is a triumph as the lead couple is as complex a pair of characters as one is apt to read. Especially intricate is the former marine who suffers from a deep post traumatic stress disorder from what he did and saw in Fallujah. With some jocularity to lighten the tense tale, readers will relish the spending Christmas with a Virgin River romance.

The Tenth Case
Joseph Teller
9780778326052 $7.99

The Judicial Panel informs Harrison J. "Jaywalker" Walker that he will be suspended from practicing law for three years. He pleads with the members to give him time to finish his cases. They tell him to pick 5; a do-gooder he offers 17; that is trimmed back to 10.

Over the next nine months he completes nine of his cases. His last client is twenty something Samara Morsi; she who allegedly killed her sexagenarian multi-billionaire spouse with a knife through his heart. The evidence overwhelming points to her having murdered her husband of eight years to inherit his money and collect on insurance. As he begins to believe she did the crime, he feels certain he will go out a loser; his ninety plus acquittal rate meaningless. Still Jaywalker struggles to give his best even as his client refuses to say anything except she is innocent.

THE TENTH CASE is a fabulous legal thriller starring an interesting attorney whose outlook on defending his clients is much different than the typical literature lawyer. Besides a fascinating lead, the courtroom sequences and other legal wrangling that make up much of the novel will grip the audience as both Jaywalker and ADA Burke are consummate professionals. This is must reading for sub-genre fans.

Running From Strangers
C.C. Harrison
Five Star
9781594147098 $25.95

In Texas when Judge Berriman decides to return seven years old Davy Lopez to the child's abusive family, his Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Allie Hudson is stunned. Fearing for the kid's life and distrusting the child welfare system which sent no on to appear in court, Allie considers running away with the child. When she sees his home she makes a decision to go to her hometown in Colorado.

Wildlife biologist Beck Williams agrees to hide Allie and Davy for now on his family ranch. He knows he still loves Allie but has never forgiven her for abruptly running away without a word twelve years ago. Allie also loves Beck though she knows he will never forgive her for her sudden vanishing from his life; if she tells him the truth he would still reject her.

This engaging romantic suspense condemns the child protective services system as filled at the top jobs with appointees, incompetents, under trained and uncaring. The romance takes a back seat to protecting Davy and others. Readers will relish this strong cautionary thriller that insists it takes a village to raise a child while a terrific spin re why she left years ago augments RUNNING FROM STRANGERS (and loved ones).

Eden Palms Murder
Dorothy Francis
Five Stars
1594147027 $25.95

Her late mom's friend Francine Shipton invites Des Moines based blues singer Bailey Green to spend time living in her guest cottage on her Eden Palms estate. However, Bailey is shocked when her hostess fails to pick her up at the Key West Airport as arranged. She soon finds out why when she arrives at Eden Palms to see police Detectives Cassidy and Burgundy investigating the death of Francis.

Francine's son Zack tells Bailey to use the guest cottage. He also asks her to help him look into his mother's death as he explains she made enemies when she decided to convert the estate into a homeless shelter. The cops look into the alibis of neighbors, realtor Courtney Lusk, Dr. Winton Gravely who found the body and funeral director Tucker Tisdale as well as yardman Mitch Mitchell who is Bailey's brother under the witness protection program. While working with Zack on the homicide, she learns of a second murder that leads to her life being threatened.

This is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale in which the heroine is attracted to Zack, but does not trust him as she fears he may be the killer. The story line is fast-paced although Mitch's woes distract from the plot. Still readers will relish Dorothy Francis' latest Key West whodunit (see CONCH SHELL MURDER and COLD-CASE KILLER).

The Organ Grinder
Maan Meyers
Five Star
9781594147210 $25.95

In 1899 in New York City, John "Dutch" Tonneman, one of the two-man NYPD Commissioner's Squad, investigates a serial killer who stabs his victims to death. The case is somewhat personal for the detective because his lover photographer Esther Breslau met one of the deceased prostitutes Delia Swann as part of her project to take pictures of street walkers.

Dutch wonders if Esther photographing the hooker is a coincidence or not. He ponders whether the killer is following Esther's work with an especially keen lethal eye. As he follows clues, Dutch worries that Esther could be on the list of this sociopath slasher.

The latest Dutchman turn of the century police procedural is more historical than an investigative whodunit as the audience knows who the killer is early on. The tidbits into 1899 New York City is wonderful as readers obtain glimpses into the subway system construction, the problems with the consolidation with Brooklyn and Queens, and much more as life in Manhattan shines throughout the novel. Although that is a double edged sword as the police investigation into the serial killer slasher homicides takes a back seat to the city.

Hearts on the Wind
Leslee Breene
Five Star
9781594147166 $25.95

In 1876 Swedish-American Ingrid Johansson hates the farming life her family has created for themselves in Eden Valley, Minnesota. She yearns for much more as she prefers books like Ivanhoe. Nagging her parents to give her a different life , she persuades them to send her to Minneapolis to attend the St. Agnes Women's Academy where she will study to become a teacher.

At the academy Ingrid and affluent Norwegian-American railroad heir Andreas Eriksen are attracted to one another. When the pair are caught in an unacceptable compromising position, she is warned to carry herself with proper decorum or be sent home in disgrace. As she struggles between her love for Andreas and her love of teaching, her stepsister, Dagmar plots to make Andreas her husband.

This engaging Americana romance provides readers with a strong glimpse of working conditions for those employed by the railroads. The lead couple are both fully developed characters but the key support cast seems thinner than a rail. Still in spite of implausible spins especially involving Ingrid, historical fans will enjoy this look at Reconstruction Era America through the eyes of a young woman who wants the dream.

Donovan & Son
Michael Jahn
Five Star
1594142661 $25.95

With plenty of money from his wife, former NYPD legendary Special Investigations Chief Detective Bill Donovan left the force to spend time with their wheelchair bound son Danny and seeking a cure that would enable his offspring to walk away from the "Beast". Ironically, Danny thinks of his wheelchair as a commanding chariot not a confinement.

Bill learns of genetic research conducted by Riverside University geneticist Dr. Patrick McGowan, who vanished without a trace over two decades ago; he feels the scientist might be able to help Danny walk. At Riverside, DONOVAN & SON make inquiries, but no one knows what happened to McGowan, why he vanished or where he is now. They explore the boxes in the tunnels beneath the school's library only to hear a scream. The father and son find janitor Gregorio Paz dying. Donovan's friend and replacement as Special Investigations chief Brian Moskowitz investigates the murder of Paz even as the retiree finds odd clues that lead back to the Manhattan Project, the Cuban missile crisis, his other son police officer Lewis Rodriguez and Lewis's mother bartender Rosalie Rodriguez.

The mystery takes a back seat to the extended complicated relationships and the tour of mostly uptown. The story line is driven by Donovan whose past alongside that of Riverside resurfaces; whatever he does he knows nothing will remain the same. Fans of the series will appreciate the twentieth-fifth anniversary thriller with the tunnels serving as metaphors of life as well as existing under the city colleges such as Lehman College when it was called Hunter-Bronx.

Fear Death by Water
Kinley Roby
Five Star
1594146446 $25.95

As the president of the Stoneman Douglas Alliance whose goal is to save the Okalatchee River from becoming a dead zone, Colleen McGraw expected some threats; however the emails and letters are increasing and turning nastier and now rattlesnakes have been dumped in her mailbox. She asks private investigator Harry Brock to find out who is trying to stop her campaign.

When the murdered body of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission senior ichthyologist Joyce Fields is found in the river, the Tequita County Sheriff's Department, which has done nothing re Colleen's complaints, must investigate the homicide. Joyce was making a case that the river is nearly dead having been polluted by chemical and fertilizer runoff. Harry finds several groups including locals doing everything to bury the toxic information. He also has personal issues as his estranged pregnant daughter Sarah comes to see him for the first time in years and he is attracted to a member of the Alliance; both of his women in danger.

The story line is excellent with the prime focus being development and property rights vs. environment and conservation. Adding to the overall fun are Harry's neighbors Tucker, Oh Brother and Sanchez as they enchant Sarah and the readers. Fans will enjoy his Southwest Florida thriller and seek Brock's previous cases (see NOW COMES DEATH and TWO IN THE CHURCHYARD LIE).

Something Very Wild
Mary Zelinsky
Five Star
1594147191 $25.95

Family matriarch Clotilde Galen is outraged by her daughter Chloe's latest college scandal in which she was tossed from the University of Mississippi, her third expulsion. Clotilde informs her wild child no more. She will pay tuition at a local art school, but Chloe will live on her own with no other help. Sunned Chloe's friend Sara allows her to move into her dump of an apartment and she obtains work at La Bella Gallery owned by a friend of her late father.

At the same time, Atlanta based FBI agent Aaron Porter comes home to New Orleans to work on art fraud. The evidence points towards La Bella Gallery. When he meets Chloe, they are instantly attracted to one another, but he hides his law enforcement undercover role from her and she conceals her family wealth from him. They assume the other is a poor student. As they fall in love, the case turns deadly.

The second Galen New Orleans Legacy romantic suspense thriller (see SOMETHING VERY WICKED starring Chloe's oldest brother) is an enjoyable police procedural cozy with an emphasis on the romance. The story line contains a few delightful spins although the art mystery is secondary, as it is the lead couple and their relationships with each other and with family members that make for a something very fine tale.

Diamond Duo
Marcia Gruver
9781602602052 $10.97

In 1877 in Jefferson, Texas, Bertha Biddie loves Thaddeus Bloom, but he shows no return of her deep affection beyond friendliness. Desperate to win her man, she asks newly-arrived Annie Stone, who Dr. Turner calls Bessie and allegedly knows her way around men, for help. Bertha idolizes the confident Annie

Thaddeus actually hides how he feels about Bertha whom he loves. However, his father demands he attend the recently opened Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, a military school, which he will though his younger brother is the bookworm. He desperately wants to ask Bertha to wait for him, but he never finds a way to do so before he leaves. He is unaware he broke her heart. However Annie's murder shakes up the townsfolk and leaves Bertha to know she is on her own to gain Thaddeus's heart.

The first Texas Fortunes historical romance is a terrific late Reconstruction era tale that brings to life a port city. The murder of Annie also known as Diamond Bessie Monroe is a real event that anchors the well written story line; as Marcia Gruver easily blends fact and fiction. With a strong cast especially the lead couple who each has self esteem issues, fans of Reconstruction Era romances will want to read the delightful DIAMOND DUO.

A Matter of Revenge
Michael I. Koontz
Five Star
1594147078 $25.95

In 1956 "Superagent" John Apparite is on R&R recovering slowly from the trauma of his last espionage case; his best friend Agent J died and the Russian operative who killed him Soviet SMERSH assassin Victor escaped. After beating the crap out of a boxing champion, his handler the Director decides John needs to go to work, but first attends a baseball game at Yankee Stadium where the visiting senators recognize him as their almost only repeat paying fan.

John goes to Berlin where his assignment is to help defectors escape to the West. When he meets Christiane on a train, John falls in love. However, she is from East Berlin so he must find a way to get her to the west while his local handler worries about his heart overruling his brain.

Readers with an appetite for the 1950s will enjoy the second Apparite Cold War thriller (see UNDER CLOAK OF DARKNESS). The story line starts slow for action fans as he remains in New York for much of the first half of the novel; John super Senator fan attends a game at Yankee Stadium and beats up a boxing champ before going overseas to the delight of the Happy Days crowd. The tale turns to Cold War thriller once he meets his Berlin contact and romance. Although the one degree of WWII contact seems over the Wall, fans will appreciate the latest adventures of the Superagent who is humanized by carrying an autographed Walter Johnson card on him at all times.

Swann's Last Song
Charles Saltzberg
Five Star
9781594146565 $25.95

Manhattan based private investigator Henry Swann earns a living as a repo man. So he is more than shocked when femme fatale Sally Janus wants to hire him to find her missing husband, Harry. Besides the wealth that denotes she can afford a downtown pro, he is puzzled that she cane run down neighborhood. Still the upfront money is too good to pass even if he has never done a missing person case.

However, almost immediately after she hires him, Harry's murdered body is found in a hotel dive sleazier than the repo man's office. Sally rehires Swann to find her husband's killer; once again he accepts though he never did a homicide investigation before as the money is too good to pass. He begins to follow clues that take him to rock and roll in Vegas, Mexico and Germany in search of the Peking Man fossils.

SWANN'S LAST SONG is an exciting but odd hard boiled noir. The story line starts out fast-paced as Henry feels he is in a movie when the femme fatale hires him to first find her husband and when the corpse is located find who killed him. Although the plot spins totally out of control especially after trips to Vegas, Mexico and Europe, fans who like the action piled on without regard to accepting food stamps or passport stamps will relish Swann's search for the Peking Man.

The Angel of Knowlton Park
Kate Flora
Five Stars
9781594147203 $25.95

Portland, Maine Police Detective Sergeant Joe Burgess is about to leave on his summer vacation when the murdered corpse of preadolescent neglected child Timothy Watts is found. The case should belong to Joe's peer Terry Kyle, but the usually dedicated cop fails to show up for work so he delays his scheduled time off to take charge of the investigation.

Whoever killed the child battered and sodomized him before cleaning him up. The child's six-foot plus three hundred pound Mother Watts arrives hysterically and inadvertently hurts Joe's bad knee. Though limping, he, Officers Stan Perry and Chris Perlin continue to investigate asking neighbors and family who killed THE ANGEL OF KNOWLTON PARK that many adopted as everybody's child.

There is an incredible amount of crime for Joe to work besides the murder. Arson, meth sales, alcohol abuse, child neglect, pedophile and assaults would keep a much bigger department overwhelmed. Joe keeps on ticking so much so the Energizer Bunny would envy his energy. Although there is an overwhelming load of righteous indignant pontificating re the felons, fans will enjoy this solid regional police procedural due to the hero cop.

The Hotel Dick
Axel Brand
Five Stars
9781594146763 $25.95

In 1948 at the barber shop in the Lakeshore Towers Hotel in Milwaukee, someone entered and killed customer J. Adam bark, THE HOUSE DICK. Homicide detective Lieutenant Joe Burgess leads the investigation, but has a difficult time with who the barber Damon Barbara insists killed Bark; Spencer Tracy does not seem like a cold blooded killer nor why would he murder Bark.

Still he has the department check where Tracy is even as he begins searching Bark's office for clues. He soon realizes Bark had a lucrative business with a few cops as they would bust in on unmarried couples illegally using a room. Heeding his wife Lizbeth's suggestion that one of those victims sought revenge, Joe begins to make inquiries in that direction, but soon Greer Garson and Veronica Lake are shot.

This is a great regional historical police procedural starting with the insistence of the eye witness that Hollywood Spencer Tracey killed THE HOTEL DICK and never slowing down until the final spin. The story line is character driven mostly by Joe and the late Bark. This is one brand of a detective that the audience will want more of as 1948 Milwaukee comes to life in a superb whodunit.

Lethal Exposure
Lori Wilde
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794270 $4.99

In Austin, Texas, Confidential Rejuvenations Hospital hires public relations expert Sebastian Black to turn around the image of an out of control celebrity spa. Sebastian knows like much of the public that his new client has become infamous with a Mafia link, sex scandals, and killer staff (see THE WHITE STAR and THE MARTINE DARES).

At the spa Sebastian meets nurse Julie DeMarco, a good girl who has decided life is too short for any more relationship disappointments, so she plans to seek out short trysts. They are attracted to one another from the onset, but someone stalks them and has plans to further disrupt the hospital making more trouble for the facility.

The final Perfect Anatomy romantic suspense book is an exciting final tale that wraps up the overall mystery. The story line is action-packed from the moment Julie sends her naughty note to the commitment phobic PR super-stud and never slows down. Although the motive for wanting to harm the lead couple seems a bit weak even if Seb is the cavalry to the rescue, fans will enjoy the good girl turning bad at an importune moment when a stalker lurks in the shadows.

Good to the Last Bite
Crystal Green
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794300 $4.99

Near the University of Kentucky, Edward Marburn is outraged to be changed into a vampire, as he just wants to remain mortal. Ironically this is the second time he has been changed and knows how to revert back to human: kill the vamp who converted you.

Gisele knows Edward hunts and why he seeks her out. When she and her friend Sam seek their next meal, Edward manages to catch her away from her blood buddy. He plans to kill her, but is stunned by his attraction to her. When Sam frees Gisele and captures Edward, she persuades her friend not to kill their prisoner. Gisele is attracted to Edward and hopes to convince him life as a vampire can prove happy with the right partner.

This is a terrific heated vampire romance with the lead male having the paradoxical dilemma of wanting to revert back to human, but to do so he must kill the vamp he loves. The story line is fast-paced, passionate and hot from the opening sequence to the GOOD TO THE LAST BITE. Supernatural romance readers will appreciate Crystal Green's strong tale of love amongst the over bite crowd.

Finding Mr. Right
Helen Brenna
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715190 $5.50

As much as it galls her, Maggie Dillon knows she needs specialized help to win a programming contract for her firm Universal Security with the Greek government. The independent American understands she requires a person with connections to the government and as important he or she must speak the language. Thus, Maggie searches for Mr. Right and soon hires native Californian Nick Ballos, whose paternal heritage is Greek to help her with the negotiations.

Nick has a personal secret agenda to return to Greece that he hides from his new employer. He sees assisting Maggie as his cover to conduct an inquiry into a homicide; as he is obsessed with justice for his late best friend Yanni whose murder in Greece remains unsolved. However, rather quickly Nick finds his obsession changing from justice for Yanni to love for Maggie.

FINDING MR. RIGHT is a superb contemporary romance starring two delightful upbeat lead characters. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Maggie realizes she needs help besides her two sisters and seeks Mr. Right for her firm not for her heart. The suspense subplot involving Yanni's murder adds the right amount of spice to a super romance.

Cop on Loan
Jeannie Watt
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715206 $5.50

Someone keeps unlocking the library every night so chief librarian sexagenarian Dorothy Murdock decides on a stakeout to catch the perpetrator. Library technician Jasmine Storm fails to persuade Dorothy to drop the surveillance so she accompanies her to try to keep her boss safe.

However neither library employee is prepared for what happens on their one night vigilance. They end up in the middle of a police operation to find proof that a home across from the library is a drug house. On loan from the big city, police detective Anthony DeMonte is furious especially with all the work his partner Yates did to pull off the maneuver ending with yelling at two librarians not to move; the bust was a bust. However, when strange things occur near Jasmine's home, Anthony moves into her basement to keep her safe.

COP ON LOAN is a fun police procedural romance starring two warriors who start off wrong when he informs her that her name denotes stripper. Their relationship can only go up from there it would seem, but not with this pairing as she believes you can't count on this cop. Readers will enjoy the gender battle between Jasmine and Anthony with a strong investigative subplot and sold secondary characters augmenting the wonderful romance.

The Wedding Heiress
Pamela Ford
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715213 $5.50

In Holiday Bay, Wisconsin, attorney Mike Connery calls Delaney McBride in Boston to inform her that her beloved great aunt Ellie's will is legally ironclad. She is unhappy with his calling her "Pumpkin" as she had a high school crush on him that remained unrequited. She agrees to come home partly out of homage to a relative she admired and loved and because she understands that for everyone to inherit including Mike, Delaney must come back to finish the Storybook Wedding plans that her late relative was working on.

In Holiday Bay, Delaney begins to complete her aunt's final legacy with plans to return to Massachusetts once she is finished here because she still wants Mike and assumes he still does not reciprocate. However, Mike is attracted to her and will do what it takes to convince Delany to remain here working on their wedding plan.

The eccentric flawed cast makes for a delightful Wisconsin holiday romance starring two enchanting protagonists. The irony of the novel is Delaney is set on going back to Massachusetts because she has a life there and has doubts that Mike really loves her while he desperately wants to have her car's oil and filters permanently changed in Holiday Bay. A mystery subplot re Aunt Ellie and her motives add to the enjoyment of a fine contemporary tale.

A Gentleman's Offer
Dara Girard
Harlequin Kimani Romance
9780373860852 $5.99

In Michigan pet stylist, some would say just another dog groomer, Yvette Coulier has always been good with animals. When it comes to people especially men she is a failure. She is a bit surprised when she receives a mysterious invitation from the Black Stockings Society as she assumes they are way above her social and financial circles.

Wealthy Nate Blackwell is tired of responsibility for others. He needs a time out from stress. When he meets Yvette in her black stockings at her grooming salon, he offers her a deal. She hires him and he will gain her entrance into high society and pay her tab. She agrees thinking life amidst the elite will be a vacation; he likewise believes life amidst the working class will be a vacation. As they fall in love, each knows that the return of reality will prove a cruel ending unless both of them reach out to the real other.

The second Black Stockings Society tale (see POWER PLAY) is a terrific heated contemporary romance. The lead duet are fully developed with each struggling with stress while the support cast enables the audience to better understand what make Yvette and Nate tick. Readers will enjoy the revelations both attain to include love as she learns the rich and famous have their woes while he learns the working class has their woes too. Dara Girard provides a poignant character study that insists grass is green on both sides of the fence (except my lawn).

The Diary of Cozette
Amanda McIntyre
Harlequin Spice
9780373605255 $13.95

In 1869, soon to turn fourteen Anne Cozette Bennett is the youngest of and one of only two surviving seven children. She learns from her widowed mom that she is sending her to live with her aunt and uncle as she lacks the strength to raise her and care for her dying brother. Aunt Eleanor is stern in demanding Cozette study her lessons and helps the housemaid with simple chores. However, her three year older cousin Edward continually molests her while Eleanor holds her niece culpable. He tells his parents she stripped and they believe him as he is from good grooming and she is fifth. Haggard Uncle Fredericks sends his niece away to an orphanage as Edward evilly smiles.

However, her second lesson occurs when the orphanage owner sells her virginity to the highest bidder. Her friend Ernest helps her to escape before the sale is completed. She lives on the street garbed as a boy before finding a prostitute who mentors her on the art of pleasing men for money. Lord and lady Archibald hire her as a maid. Cozette is happy until she meets Lord Francois Deveraux who plays her like a virtuoso breaking her heart, but not her soul.

This first person account of the Victorian life of a female not of the aristocracy is a superb historical. Cozette makes the tale as she learns plenty of hard lessons from her encounters with so called upright citizens; she becomes nineteenth century street smart. Amanda McIntyre provides a deep "autobiographical" tale as THE DIARY OF COZETTE is a fascinating look from a victim's perspective of those who abuse their power.

The Magic of Christmas
Carolyn Davidson, Victoria Bylin and Cheryl St. John
9780373295159 $5.99

"A Christmas Child" by Carolyn Davidson. With no options since her parents died, Marianne Winters decides to leave her infant brother in the church manger as she figures someone will come along shortly to care for him. Instead, Preacher David McDermott catches her as she sadly leaves. He hires her to care for his home. Love blossoms as he knows God works in mysterious ways.

"The Christmas Dove" by Victoria Bylin. After being away forever, Maddie Cutler returns home with a newborn hiding in the barn. Her first teen crush Dylan McCall, whom she ignored as a bad boy finds her there cold and cute as he hopes this Christmas his wish comes true.

"A Blue Baby Christmas by Cheryl St. John. The livery owner widower Turner Price finds Gabby snooping around and assumes she is the mother of deserted twins. Having lost a wife and an infant to death, he is intolerant about caring for kids and demands she take care of her children; although Gabby is not their mom she tries her best. With two mischievous matchmakers, Gabby and Turner fall in love.

With babies starring as matchmaking imps, fans will enjoy these three gentle sweet second chances at love historical romances.

Once Upon a Thanksgiving
Holly Jacobs
Harlequin American
9780373752362 $4.99

Recently obtaining a divorce as her husband left her and the kids, Samantha Williams raises four school age children (Stan, Seton, Shane and Stella) and a cat. All her children attend the same school, Erie Elementary. Harry Remington is the newly installed interim principal who will leave in December.

Sami and Harry were childhood friends especially in seventh grade and insist they remain just pals. Al though they are attracted to one another neither accepts that truism at least deep in their respective hearts. The entire town led by her "S" kids and the PTA whose motto is volunteer or be volunteered know otherwise also especially since he is so at home at her rambunctious abode where chaos is the norm. However, he is also leaving soon although the thought depresses him.

Few writers can combine humor inside a serious issue as well as Holly Jacobs consistently does. The three male banditos bring plenty of amusement with their antics (as long as you are not their victim), but also much angst as the audience obtains a deep look at divorce from the perspective of the elementary school age offspring. The romance is fun to follow as Sami and Harry sing the refrain from I'm Not in Love, but everyone know otherwise.

Finally a Bride
Lisa Childs
Harlequin American
9780373752348 $4.99

Since second grade in Cloverville, Michigan Eric South has loved his best friend Molly McClintock; he even proposed back in elementary school. Years later after he served as a military medic, they are still friends in Grand Rapids. So when she informs him she is engaged to Dr. Josh Towers, he becomes depressed as he feels more wounded than the injuries he took in combat. He receives the invitation to her wedding, but decides not to go because it will feel like he is attending a wake, his.

Stunning no one perhaps not even the groom, Molly jilts him; fleeing from her wedding to spend time with Eric. Over the next week they talk about their deepest feelings for the other, as each pronounces their love for the other; but is love enough to take a chance on ruining a perfect friendship.

The last woman standing single in Lisa Childs' "The Wedding Party" series (see FOREVER HIS BRIDE and THE BEST MAN'S BRIDE), Molly almost marries for the sake of joining her pals in matrimony. However, she shows grit and courage when she decides to take a chance on love. Josh is not an evil person so breaking his heart is not easy especially when she does it by climbing through a church window. Still fans will root for her to marry for love not for just becoming FINALLY A BRIDE.

The Rustler
Linda Lael Miller
0373773307 $7.99

In 1907 Southern Arizona Territory, Wyatt Yarbro envies his younger brother Rowdy, an outlaw like him, who somehow has become the marshal of Stone Creek and married to the schoolmarm (see A WANTED MAN). Wyatt has just spent two hard years in a Texas prison and his current cattle rustling stint is a failure. Seeing the light he decides to start over in the town that reformed his sibling by making him the law.

In Stone Creek, Rowdy welcomes Wyatt; to his amazement his sister-in-law Lark does too. Wyatt decides that prim and proper Sarah Tamlin is his redemption as the woman to keep him straight. He initially is unaware of her darkest secret and obsession; to raise her son taken from her when she was an unmarried sixteen years old. While he helps her try to retrieve Owen from his wealthy influential father, his recent rustling past comes to Stone Creek.

The latest Stone Creek early twentieth century western romance is a terrific thriller as another Yarbro outlaw turns hero due to the love of a good woman. Readers will feel they have been transported to 1907 southwest as Linda Lael Miller provides vivid details on life in Stone Creek. THE RUSTLER is a delightful historical starring two wonderful lead characters and the return of key Stone Creek players.

Shadow Rider
Kathrynn Dennis
9781420100488 $4.99

In December 1390, Sir Guy of Warwick does not feel the cold as his heart is already frozen. He lives for one thing only to avenge the murder of his sister Roselyn and her newborn John by sending the vile villain to hell whether it was a demon or a mortal.

Unmarried and with no male protection, twenty year old Sybilla Corbuc knows the priest of her village Corbury will be irate if he catches her; as she explains to her companion young Etienne if caught she will be convicted as a Separist and tossed naked into the nearby woods. However, she has no choice but to help the mare give birth on a freezing night so that at least the foal survives. Sir Guy comes across them in the barn and offers to buy the colt that he believes will somehow tell him who his sibling's killer is. As they fall in love, the ambitious local sheriff wants his land, the priest wants her burned, and an aristocrat wants both dead; only a strange mysterious newborn horse can keep them alive if they believe in one another and in the power of the colt.

This is a fascinating medieval romance with a touch of mysticism that enhances the tale as readers will wonder early on whether the lead couple is simply superstitious or if the colt has special powers; the colt makes the story line fresh. Guy is an interesting protagonist who until he meets Sybilla and the colt lives for vengeance only, but now that his heart is thawed has a greater reason to live. Fans will relish this fine look at late fourteenth century England.

Collateral Damage
Fern Michaels
9781420101874 $6.99

Both political parties are stunned when their top secret fundraising lists of donors are stolen. The Democrats and the Republicans ask the Sisterhood to investigate the hacker who stile their lists. However, the Sisterhood is divided as to who to assist. The Dems offer a lot of cash while the GOP offer presidential pardon.

One thing the team shares in common is not to trust either party. They have their extended operatives conduct some serendipitous investigations to see if this is a stunt to catch them. As they learn more of what is going on from their allies, the Sisterhood with its one for all and all for one attitude comes together as they always do.

The latest Sisterhood saga is in some ways typical of the series as the magnificent seven deals with a new challenge. However, it is refreshed as they disagree on involvement and more so by previous tales secondary players playing much greater roles than ever before. Fans of the series will enjoy their latest thriller as they fear the risk of getting involved could cause them to become COLLATERAL DAMAGE, but the opportunity may be too great to ignore.

Veiled Passions
Tracy MacNish
9781420101690 $5.99

In 1777 in Venice at the insistence of her worried brother Rogan, she thinks back to her carefree London life that ended three years ago. Since the incident that she refuses to speak of even to her beloved brother, Kieran Mullin lives in self imposed exile. She only occasionally comes out of her "prison" to attend costumed events.

At Carnivale she sees the person who destroyed her life three years ago; he notices her too and reacts. He pushes her into a canal. Hedonistic rake Matteo de Gama rescues the drowning Kieran. He offers to help her enact vengeance and she accepts. When they go to England, her sibling allows Matteo to stay with them because he knows the musician has brought some light into the life of his sister; he is unaware she has brought light into his music.

This is an exciting late eighteenth century historical romance with a touch of intermittent suspense that enhances the fine tale. Kieran is a fascinating lead character as she unsuccessfully struggles to cope with the nightmare she witnessed and keeps seeing in her mind. Matteo is an interesting multifaceted individual as a musician-philosopher who loves the cards and the women. Fans will enjoy Tracy MacNish's fine Georgian tale of love.

A Knight Well Spent
Jackie Ivie
9781420101652 $5.99

In 1141, King David continues with his plan to unite the Scots, Picts and Normans under his rule. He especially needs a strong supporter to deal with the outrageous Highland clans. Thus he bestows on his favorite Norman knightly vassal Rhoenne Guy de Ramhurst a special gift, a fiefdom in the middle of the Highlanders who simply loath Normans. Rhoenne assumes he must have fallen out of favor to be gifted with this herculean task and a betrothal by his highness to David's daughter when he does not want to marry anyone.

His greeting to his new home is an arrow in the leg that leaves him fevered. The Lady of the Brook finds and heals him, but she vanishes afterward into the woods. At the castle, his so called allies are loyal to his half-brother Sir Harold and want Rhoenne to leave or die. However, it is Aisling the healer he wants, but she is his greatest challenge.

Readers will believe they are in the middle of the twelfth century amidst the feuding Highland clans (and the two siblings) as Jackie Ivie provides a vivid picture of the era. The story line is filled with action from the healing onset and never slows down yet the cast is solid and there is plenty of wry humor; especially the asides that bring the unique freshness to the historical. KNIGHT WELL SPENT is a night (or two) well spent reading.

Intimate Beings
Jessica Inclan
1420101145 $13.00

San Francisco kindergarten teacher Claire Edwards has always felt like the outsider, but lately that depressing feeling has been overwhelming. Her job is boring her and the dates she does have are even more tedious. Her only fun is renting films from Netflix. However, the dreams are what scare her; as how many adults sleep with a spaceship in their head.

Darl James has felt the same way about his life as has Claire. However, he knows why as he has learned they are not of this earth. Darl seeks his soulmate Claire because together their special skills enhanced by love make them a formidable force. Claire can think herself to any place while Darl can think himself home from anyplace. When they meet, each feels whole for the first time and soon seek other hidden aliens, but instead find themselves trapped in a galaxy war as a bellicose race that destroyed their home planet focuses on earth.

This is a fun science fiction romance that ironically even with the potential destruction of the earth and the already annihilation of other planets and species is a lighthearted romp. The story line is faster than a speeding space ship, but never goes deep into any of the alien races. Still Jessica Inclan provides an engaging try to save the world by alien residents (without green cards) especially the heroine who leaves behind the crayon drawings of kindergarten artists.

Night's Master
Amanda Ashley
0821780638 $6.99

Mankind had finally achieved universal peace until Vampires and Weres each believed they should run the earth so they finally went to war to decide who would rule. Kathy McKenna did not want to get in the crossfire so she left the city for the Midwest town of Oak Hill; unaware that the place is in the neutral demilitarized zone where the two species discuss peace.

Kathy opened a bookstore but it was slow going until Raphael Cordova entered her shop. He leads the North American Vampires and is attracted to Kathy even though she is a mortal. He sends his friends to buy books from her. They go out on a date and she learns Raphael is a vampire who turned as a teen just like his twin brother who no one has heard from in decades. They have a good time together and agree to another date. The next day the Were-tiger Cogin visits her store and invites her on a picnic. She agrees, but his aggressiveness bothers her and the date is a bust. War comes to Oak Hill when the Were kill a Vampire.

Hunter of the supernatural Travis Jackson arrives in town to eradicate the vamp and were infestations. Kathy tells Rafe she would like to marry him, but does not want to become a vamp. He agrees to the status quo. Travis plans to use Kathy as bait to lure Rafe into a trap so they can experiment on turning him back into a human.

The paranormal species seem genuine as does this alternate earth. The romance is well written as forbidden love flows between the lead couple. Although some readers will scoff at Kathy the meek escaping the enemy while Rafe the powerful cannot; fans will enjoy this fine urban romantic fantasy.

The Spy Who Came for Christmas
David Morrell
9781593154875 $15.95

The snow coming down on Christmas Eve in Santa Fe makes for a picturesque site, but two men, once friends, know otherwise that one or both of them will turn the pure white snow red with blood. Raging Russian Mafiosi Andrei feels betrayed by Pyotyr, whom he mentored; he personally will kill him, but must act fast because if he fails to retrieve and deliver the package Pyotyr stole, his superior will assassinate him.

Pyotyr gave away his cover inside the Russian mafia to save the so-called peace baby whose popular religious father proclaimed him to be the bringer of world peace. Pyotyr is Paul Kagan who kidnapped the baby because he could not watch idly an infant being sold. He is hurt, tired and alone when he meets Meredith Brody and her twelve year old son Cole. They are planning to flee into the night to escape from abusive violent family patriarch Ted before he kills one of them in an alcoholic rage. Mother and son help the spy who has not quite come in from the cold carrying a baby.

This is an exciting Santa Fe Christmas thriller with an interesting cast developed just enough to make the events plausible. The plot is on the slender side, but fans of David Morrell and anyone who appreciates a fast-paced Yuletide action tale will enjoy this fun entry even if the baby seems too peaceful.

The 7th Victim
Alan Jacobson
9781593154943 $25.95

She is an FBI profiler assigned to the Behavioral Analysis Unit and after dealing with a bank robbery, Karen Vail goes straight to the house of the victim of the Dead Eyes Killer. This brutal psychopath earned the moniker by putting steak knives into the eyes of the women he mutilated. This maniac eviscerates his female prey and uses their left hands as paint brushes to paint murals with their blood.

The latest victim is his fourth; Vail is part of a task force trying to end his spree before another deceased disfigured corpse surfaces. She is also having problems with her soon to be ex husband and their son Jonathan, who refuses to live with him; insisting he is an abusive drunk. When she tries to talk to her ex, he knocks her unconscious. The next time they meet, she uses him as a punching bag, ending up in jail. After being released, her boss puts her on paid suspension pending the outcome of her assault trial. Jonathan ends up in a coma and Vail believes her spouse pushed him leading to his hitting his head. Still dealing with that trauma, she soon learns her mother is her aunt; they get into a fight. A disgruntled former FBI agent insists Vail should be considered a suspect in the Dead Eyes serial killer case as she has a record of violence and the murderer seems to have insider information. Vail knows she must is riding on her finding the killer.

Although some serial killer fanatics will insist Vail's personal problems are overwhelming especially the mama segue, fans will enjoy this enthralling entertaining thriller because her issues realistically intrude on her investigation. The author makes this work into a one sitting read mainly due to the complex stubborn yet vulnerable (though her son) heroine. Alan Jacobson provides a chilling police procedural as the heroine's personal life infringes on her professional life.

King of Sword and Sky
C.L. Wilson
9780843960594 $8.99

The evil High Eld Mage destroyed much of the Fey and Tairen. Both races seem on the brink of extinction with little hope for surviving. However, one individual based on an ancient prophesy may be the savior; the true mate of the Fey King

The problems are that the true mate of Fey King Rain Tairen Soul is Ellysetta Baristani; she is linked to their lethal enemy; besides she mourns her losses as her mom was killed in the recent assault. War is inevitable and Rain understands the significance of Ellysetta to the cause. However, most of his allies starting with the nobles of Celieria and other supporters do not trust her due to her direct ties to the High Eld Mage. Without her the king knows they lose even as he wearily yet heroically tries to save the Tairen kitlings.

The third Fey-Tairen fantasy (see LORD OF THE FADING LANDS and THE LADY OF LIGHT AND SHADOWS) is a great addition to one of the stronger genre series in years. The gloom and doom is spreading with the Fey King and his true mate the only hope to halt the evil advance and ultimately defeat it, but Rain knows his allies distrust his true mate; as they believe she is aligned with the malevolent lethal enemy. Thus a relatively simplistic scenario leads to a complicated societal order that enhances the "reality" factor. Fans of good vs. evil fantasy epics will want to read this entertaining saga.

Warrior's Lady
Gerri Russell
9780843961119 $6.99

In 1377, Clara Lockhart is accused of witchcraft by the Bishop for using the healing powers of the Charm Stone brought back by her late spouse's family from the Holy Land Crusades. Clara expects to die, but begs Mother Agnes to protect her hidden young daughter Violet and the stone. The Bishop demands Clara hand him the Charm Stone, but she refuses though he threatens Violet.

At about the same time that the Bishop interrogates Clara, Camden finds his brother and six others dead, victims of the ruthless Ruthven clan who massacred them at Lee Castle. He vows vengeance against all of Ruthven blood and hires mercenaries to kill his enemy while he searches for his sister in law Clara and niece Violet.

Following a horrific beating from her brother Dugal, Rhiannon Ruthven takes shelter at the abbey run by Mother Agnes. However, Agnes believes the young woman is the answer to her prayers; someone to escort Violet and the Charm Stone to the child's Uncle Camden. Rhiannon agrees to escorts Violet to Camden. When she does, he initially does not trust her as she is a Ruthven, but observes her lioness protection of the orphaned cub Violet. As they fall in love, Camden still wants to destroy the blood thirsty Ruthven, but risks his life to keep Rhiannon safe from his hired guns as much as from her siblings.

Gerri Russell's third medieval "Warrior" romance (see THE WARRIOR'S BRIDE and THE WARRIOR TRAINER) is an exciting paranormal historical. The star-crossed lovers share in common several things starting with a need to keep little Violet safe and leading to love between them. The story line is action-packed from the onset when Clara knows she will die in spite of her innocence. Ms. Russell provides another fresh fourteenth century Scottish romance.

As Luck Would Have It
Alissa Johnson
0843961554 $6.99

After years of traveling the world with her father, Miss Sophie Everton returns home to England. However, she is stunned when she learns she and her family are broke; her cousin embezzled their fortune. Desperately in need of money and perhaps even a husband, she accepts an assignment from the Prince Regent to spy on selected aristocrats.

Undercover agent the Duke of Rockeforte Alexander is assigned to keep an eye on Sophie. When her carriage crashes, he gets her to safety. In his mind the tedious undercover assignment looks good as Sophie is beautiful and proves intelligent. However, he becomes concerned for her when a series of accidents occur involving her; he marvels how she seems to always survive. As she decides to spy and find a spouse, Alex decides he is the one for her as she is to him. Traitors target both of them before they can discover who betrays England.

This is an exhilarating Regency espionage romantic suspense with plenty of humor to enhance the fun story line. The heroine is terrific from the moment she comes home to London to ponder why she did until Prinny assigns her with her latest adventure. Alex is terrific as he goes from detesting the mission of spying on an inane aristocratic deb to believing this is destiny. Fans will enjoy this exciting historical as spy meets and falls in love with spy.

The Frailty of Flesh
Sandra Ruttan
9780843960754 $7.99

RMCP Constables Tain and Hart are partners who worked a different case in which one shot the perp while the other was the perp's victim. This created a strong bond between them, which is miraculous because Tain is a loner. They are called on a murder case in which the victim is a four year old child Jeffrey Reiman; his brother insists he witnessed their sister Shannon kill their sibling.

When the cops go to notify the parents, they are stunned by the lack of reactions; in fact the father calmly calls his lawyer a high powered defense attorney who usually defends drug traffickers. Shannon is missing while the two police detectives continue to investigate the murder and her whereabouts; as the evidence mounts they begin to believe she is not the killer and is in danger; instead they find plenty of proof of abuse but not certain who the abuser is as the Reiman patriarch provides persistent legal roadblocks to the official inquiry.

This Canadian police procedural is so action-packed, readers never have a moment to catch their breath and are engrossed in this one sitting read. Like the lead cops, fans will wonder who the perp is; as paradoxically everyone and no one stands out. The police partners are unique three dimensional people who have struggles in their personal lives while working a complex case made more difficult by the victim being a little kid and his father circling the wagons. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Sandra Ruttan's obvious skills as this is a strong whodunit.

The Holiday Inn
Farrah Rochon, Stefanie Worth White and Phyllis Bourne Williams
0843961570 $7.99

"A Change of Heart" by Farrah Rochon. Chandra and Derek are ending their marriage with one last family gathering with their kids at the Holiday Inn. They arrive before their children do, but a snowstorm isolates them together away from their kids.

"Can You Believe" by Stefanie Worth White. Naymond wants to be a star so he can give his wife Fallon material items that they cannot afford right now. Fallon wants her husband not this person who has no time for her while he chases stardom. The Spirit of Christmas visits this unhappy couple at the Holiday Inn to show each of them a dismal lonely future alone.

"By New Year's Day" by Phyllis Bourne Williams. Devon is making a Hail Mary pass to save his marriage though he knows he will need a miracle. He takes his Eve on a romantic retreat to the Holiday Inn where none of their adult kids can make demands on their mom.

With a nod to It's A Wonderful Life, these three whimsical second chances uses the magic of the HOLIDAY INN to rekindle lost dreams and mend broken relationships. The three couples are developed enough so that their differences seem real, which in turn makes each pair's scenario plausible. Well written, fans will enjoy spending time at the enchanting Holiday Inn (even without Bing).

My Sister Dilly
Maureen Lang
9781414322247 $12.99

Although her sister Dilly tried to kill herself and succeeded in killing her disabled child, Hannah Williams blames herself for not being there for her sibling. While Hannah enjoyed her life in California and was elated at not being back in Sugar Creek, Illinois, Dilly imploded.

Now after twelve years in prison, Dilly is free. Giving up her life, her work and her love in California, Hannah goes to her despised Illinois hometown to help Dilly start over although she, like the media, wonders whether her sibling will be allowed to see her daughter, raised by her dad. However, Hannah thought by being martyr she will be Dilly's savior; but in prison Dilly found a Savior she can depend on being there for her when life seems bleakest.

Christian fiction fans will enjoy this fascinating tale of two sisters. Hannah feels guilty for not being there for her younger sibling; so this time she gives up everything for the redemption of martyrdom. However, Dilly, who desperately needed her a dozen years ago, no longer does; as she has found a much more reliable Savior. Hannah is the more interesting character as ironically she is upset and somewhat despondent that her sibling does not turn to her, which in turn leads to more guilt and regret. Maureen Lang provides a character driven thought provoking family drama.

Out of Her Hands
Megan DiMaria
141431888X $12.99

In the Denver area, Linda Revere thanks God for her faithful husband Jerry and their two children, high school cheerleader Emma and college student Nick. She also has prayed for a decade plus that her two kids bring home proper spouses; i.e. devout Christians.

However her prayer for a daughter-in-law in her image goes unanswered when Nick becomes engaged to Amber Webber, who is not even a Christian. He reluctantly introduces his fiancee to his parents and sister expecting a cold reception to his girl from his mom. While Linda struggles with that bombshell, she also finds her promotion at Dream Photography overwhelming her. Meanwhile Linda also tries to be there for her recently widowed father-in-law. However as her stress mounts she fears no one not even God is there for her.

With a nod to Kahil Gibran's The Prophet, OUT OF HER HANDS is a wonderful inspirational look at family relationships as Linda and Jerry want the best for their offspring, but to mom that includes a good Christian. Linda feels Nick is making an unacceptable choice, but her belief is driving her son away. Although the problems at work seem unnecessary except to perhaps add to mom's stress level, fans will enjoy this entertaining insightful look at acceptance and tolerance as God would expect of all his children.

Freeman Walker
David Allan Cates
Unbridled Books
9781932961553 $25.95

Jimmy Gates is the son of a slave and her master. He receives his "freedom papers" and a copy of the Declaration of Independence from his father who sends him to England to be educated at a boarding school. He adapts to his all white surroundings with ease and is doing well at school.

However, everything changes when his father, coming to England to see his pre-teen offspring, drowns during the Atlantic crossing. Jimmy quits school and obtains work in England making horse saddles; which he does for six years. As the Civil War explodes Jimmy, calling himself Freeman Walker, returns to the States. However, the eighteen years old Freeman opts not to join the army, but instead heads west seeking gold.

Jimmy-Freeman is more a symbol of a relatively forgotten group, the free black, during the years just prior to and during the Civil War. Thus he never fully gets past the role of representative as major events seem impervious to his story. Still this is a fascinating look at somewhat ignored piece of American history as the reader obtains a deep look at what a free black had to do to survive in a world that always assumed he had to be a runaway slave.

The Wonder Singer
George Rabasa
9781932961560 $25.95

Legendary soprano Senora Merce Casals hires almost forty year old minor league ghostwriter Mark Lockwood to write her autobiography. He spends several hundred hours interviewing the diva and looking over related information. When the opera star is found dead in her jeweled grotto bathroom tub, her agent Hollywood Hank sees her death as a win. He fires Mark and hires famous biographer Alonzo Baylor to tell Merce's story.

Irate with the snub as he feels an affinity to his late client to include a belief he owes her the true story and not a titillating fabrication to make the best seller lists, Lockwood takes his interview tapes with him and vanishes. He is abetted by Merce's loyal team consisting of her nurse Perla, her cross-dressing pal Orson, her husband, and other adoring fans and employees. Lockwood begins writing the definitive biography of Merce Casals.

This is a fabulous work of fiction that hooks the audience from the onset with Mark's vivid descriptions and never slows down as readers obtain insight through the interviews into the Spanish Civil War and the scenes behind an opera house. Thus the story line contains a "biographical fiction" inside the bigger plot. Through the rival writers, George Rabasa brings to life a late soprano star so explicitly readers will believe Senora Casals was a real diva.

In Hovering Flight
Joyce Hinnefeld
1932961585 $24.95

Renowned aviary and overall environmental artist Addie Sturmer Kavanagh is dying from cancer. She makes a final death wish to "clear orders for a brazenly illegal burial". Meanwhile her thirtyish years old daughter Scarlet comes home not to just to bury her mom, but to finally understand her mom. Even her death request is so Addie, weird to anyone except perhaps the inner sanctum.

Addie was just another bored art major when she fell in love with Professor Tom Kavanagh and his passion for birds. They became a formidable entry in the environmental activist movements and antiwar protests. Some time after Scarlet is born, Addie changed from gung ho bird lover to outraged political warrior. Her tormented switch left Scarlet and to a degree Tom behind; now Scarlet needs to know from Addie's beloved friends Cora and Lou why to include a special funeral at the Jersey shore instead of her Pennsylvania home.

The key to this terrific character study is the seemingly dysfunctional relationship between mother and daughter. Scarlet has felt neglected by her mom all her life; in fact she believes the search for proof that the Cuvier's Knight is an extinct aviary species superseded her needs. Still IN HOVERING FLIGHT pattern, Scarlet wants to soar like her mom did, but before she can use her wings she needs to know why in her opinion the environment and birds meant more to Addie than her daughter ever did. This is a superb relationship drama.

Ted Bell
1416550402 $26.95

Vladimir Putin has brought pride (and heat) to the Russian people as he looks into Bush's soul and found it lacking; he faces down the inane NATO attempts to contain his beloved motherland, the New Russia. Meanwhile British super SPY Alex Hawke relaxes on a Bermuda beach after completing his last mission. There he meets and begins to fall in love with Russian artist Anastasia Korsakova.

Her father is internationally renowned for his inventions and scientific research; a Noble Prize winner. However, her dad Count Ivan Korsakov is also the secretive Dark Rider, who is the power behind Russia; Putin isn't even puppet status. The Dark Rider's short term goal is to rebuild the Soviet Empire; his long term goal, all of Europe; and his BHAG the globe. His troops are set to invade their neighbors as step 1 while his agents begin a terrorist plot on American soil as step 1A. Only Hawke has the skills to prevent Cold War II turning into WW III; but he is somewhat preoccupied by the daughter of the Tsar of the new Russian Empire.

Talk about timing with the Georgia invasion, Ted bell looks like a genius with this action-packed electrifying thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Alex and Anastasia meet and never slows down as confrontation seemingly everywhere is the norm. Readers will salute Mr. Bell for his astuteness while appreciating a terrific tale starring espionage agent Hawkins vs. the real New Russia.

The Face of a Killer
Robin Burcell
Poisoned Pen
9781590583746 $24.95

Two decades ago the police arrested Johnnie Wheeler in the killing of the father of Sydney Fitzpatrick; he was convicted and now after twenty years on death row he is to be executed. Sydney, over the objections of her concerned family members, joined the FBI as a forensic artist.

Her boss Supervisory Special Agent Dixon asks her to come in on a day off that's he planned to drink away because of the state execution. He needs her to coax a description of a perp out of reticent battered victim Tara Brown, who was raped and left to die. Sydney succeeds, but the vivid drawing of the rapist looks like a twin of Wheeler. Sydney decides to visit Wheeler to ask him why; she informs her outraged mom and stepfather, who want Wheeler dead so they can obtain some closure. After meeting Wheeler at San Quentin, Sydney begins to doubt he is her father's killer and starts to consider the Brown rapist as the predator who murdered her dad. She begins to make inquiries and with the help of her doubting partner Carillo finds clues that lead to a political-CIA connection that places her family in danger.

This is an exhilarating police procedural with the focus on forensic drawing. The story line is action packed but driven by Sydney's need to know the truth about her dad's murder. Although the conspiracy seems a bit over the Sierras, fans will appreciate Robin Burcell's strong suspense tale as the heroines draws THE FACE OF A KILLER.

Blacklight Blue
Peter May
Poisoned Pen
9781590585528 $24.95

Scottish expatriate forensic scientist Enzo Macleod has earned a well deserved reputation for solving a decades old cold case homicide (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE and THE CRITIC) as written in a true crime book by his daughter's boyfriend journalist Roger Raffin. Enzo has five unsolved cases left in order to complete his "read" of Raffin's book.

Roger describes the 1992 Paris murder of Yves, but Enzo finds focusing difficult on the homicide as he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer with only a few months to live. However, the culprit knows only of Enzo's success and fears the forensic expert will expose him. The killer works behind the scenes to destroy Enzo including setting him up as a murder suspect and threatens his daughter and other loved ones. Thus Enzo is forced to investigate the rent boy murder.

As with the two previous Macleod investigative thriller (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE and THE CRITIC), BLACKLIGHT BLUE is a superb cold case whodunit enhanced by the shocking personal health issue confronting the hero. The story line effortlessly moves back forth through four decades with the past adding to the overall drama. Fans of this extraordinary series will appreciate the irony that the killer forces Enzo to investigate.

The Fourth Time Is Murder
Steven F. Havill
0312380631 $24.95

New Mexico state worker Connie Ulibarri stopped her vehicle on the Regas Pass in the san Cristobel Mountains between old Mexico and Posadas County when she saw the dead deer had a Fish and Game tag. As she went to retrieve the tag, she noticed the truck in the ditch below. With the help of a trucker who stopped to assist her, she climbs down to find the driver dead.

Posadas County Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman leads the investigation that is confusing as the victim died from drowning with a footprint on his hand; apparently someone was at the accident scene and tossed alcohol into the late driver when he was barely alive; ergo cause of death drowning though the John Doe would have died from his injuries soon. As Estelle and her team make inquiries, the clues lead to a Canadian sweepstake that involves long time friends. Other incidents like the accidental death of an illegal and the accidental discharge of a rookie's gun keep Estelle, the squad and their boss County Sheriff Robert Torrez overworked.

The latest Posadas County police procedural is a fabulous tale that contains one major investigation, a minor case, the discharge incident and a dedicated Women's World magazine reporter interviewing the staff and accompanying Estelle on the job. The prime case is clever and eye opening on scams while Gastner makes several mentoring appearances to add to the overall fun of a well written cop investigative thriller.

The Messenger of Death
Pierre Magnan
0312387563 $24.95

Former postman Emile Pencnat notices the unstamped addressed letter in the disused box at the gate of the Cemetery at Barles, France. Unable to resist perhaps because of his previous occupation, he puts on the postage and sends it to Veronique Champourcieux. However the mademoiselle is not quite in a receiving mood as someone jammed the bayonet blade of a nineteenth century rife through her stomach into a piano.

After the greedy woman is found dead Judge Chabrand asks his friend former Superintendent Laviolette to investigate the homicide. As the pair follows leads across Provencal, more horrific gruesome murders occur. Someone appears to be on a mission of revenge, which Laviolette assumes means greed is the original cause and serial murders are the effect.

The second Provence whodunit (see DEATH IN THE TRUFFLE WOOD) is an excellent French murder mystery due to the sleuthing pair who struggles with a strange case. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the judge asks the retiree to help him end the serial killings. Pierre Magnan provides a strong investigative thriller as the murder count rises while Laviolette and Chabrand try to prevent the next one by capturing the culprit.

The Replacement Child
Christine Barber
0312385544 $23.95

On her scanner, elderly Patsy "Scanner Lady" Burke overhears two state cops discuss the death of twenty-three years old Burroway Academy seventh grade teacher Melissa Baca who was thrown from the Taos Gorge Bridge. As she has done a zillion times before, Patsy calls the Santa Fe Capital Tribune but this time is stuck with a female, editor Lucy Newroe with the news.

A volunteer EMT, Lucy and her medico partner Gil answer an emergency call by going to the home of an elderly woman where she finds Patsy strangled to death. She checks the police scanner log but finds no entry re the Baca death. Santa Fe police Detective Sergeant Gil Montoya investigates the Baca death finding discrepancies over alleged drug use. With Lucy badgering Gil, they team up seeking more than just the scanner link between the two homicides.

Readers will understand why THE REPLACEMENT CHILD won the annual Tony Hillerman Prize for best previously unpublished mystery set in the Southwest as the scanner murders are fun to follow and the Santa Fe setting makes an ideal backdrop. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Scanner Lady calls Lucy and never slows down. Although the coincidence of Lucy answering the medical call is a minor quibble, fans will enjoy Christine Barber's first Santa Fe whodunit.

The Draining Lake
Arnaldur Indridason
9780312358730 $24.95

Just outside Reykjavik, Iceland, the draining of Lake Kleifarvatn uncovers a skeleton tied to a Cold War Russian radio device. Police inspector Erlendur and his subordinates Elinborg and Oli investigate what is obviously a homicide. With a hole in the skull and the technology employed is found that the murdered corpse was dumped in the early 1970s so they seek missing persons' cases from that era never solved.

The case haunts Erlendur as does any missing person inquiry because it reminds him of his younger brother who vanished when they were children. As they dig to identify the victim and from there hope to determine who the murderer is , the cops have hope for the former but none for the latter. The culprit could be dead, in Russia, or elsewhere.

The case provides readers with a deep look at the lonely Erlendur, who has spent a lifetime haunted by his sibling's vanishing; accentuated by the metaphoric "disappearance" of his two estranged children from his present life. The look back to the Cold War at the University of Leipzig adds depth to the current investigation as well as a fascinating glimpse of academic politics. Although the personal woes of Elinborg and Oli feel intrusive, police procedural fans will enjoy the latest Iceland investigation (see VOICES, JAR CITY and SILENCE OF THE GRAVE).

Six Geese A-Slaying
Donna Andrews
0312536100 $22.95

With her husband Michael being up for tenure; Meg Langslow has no choice except to put on the Caerphilly Christmas Parade because someone who could help her spouse asks her. Meg always a trooper has all the people she needs to perform the "Twelve Days of Christmas". She hides her dissatisfaction of being stuck with the town's first choice for Santa Ralph Doleson, a mean miser who makes Silas Marner look like a deficit spending Congressman; she believes he got the role because he can fill out the suit so the council need not waste money on alterations or a new costume.

To get him out of the way so the kids won't see him, she places Ralph in the pig's sled and forgets about him until her nephew Eric and his pal inform her something is wrong with Santa. Meg checks only to find Ralph dead with a stake through his heart like a bad vampire movie. Meg gets Chief Burke, who is one of the three Wise Men. There are plenty of suspects who wanted odious Ralph dead especially those outraged over Whispering Pines the low rent townhouses and the Spouse Attic where people lease space to place things they conceal from their families Between his two buildings Ralph has a good blackmail business going. To save Christmas from the odious Grinch who was murdered, Burke and Meg investigate.

SIX GEESE A-SLAYING is a hilarious amateur sleuth tale as Meg struggles with putting on the parade, finding a new Santa who can wear the garb, and solving the homicide of the original Santa. The scenarios are so chaotic that Meg needs Lucille Ball to perform her role. Meg is at her best juggling several balls in the air; although when some drop she just picks them up and tosses them again. Readers will adore her antics and this amusing tale summed up by the Nativity Scene on a flatbed truck.

Baring Arms
Jo-Ann Powers
0312365411 $24.95

Preparing for her speech at the national convention, five term Congresswoman from the twenty-third district of Texas Representative Carly Wagner suddenly has a different problem than a rousing the troops oratory. She needs to be the MISSING MEMBER at the convention since her twelve year old daughter Jordan Underwood has found the corpse of their neighbor Judge Goodwin Deeds in his home.

The forty-two years divorcee wonders how the grounded Jordan escaped house "arrest" after being escorted home by "Jones" who caught her and other tweeners and teens in a police raid of a computer gaming party. As strange as the homicide next door is, Carly knows the judge has enemies across the state. However, she wonders why the Judge's computer den was devastated as if a bomb hit it and who the removed an electronic chip imbedded in his hand. Carly believes the enigmatic Jones who smells FBI operative knows more than he is saying so she begins to investigate as her daughter is a prime murder suspect. Jordan confesses to her mom she is covering for her friend Sherry Bunting, daughter of Kentucky Senator Henry Bunting while also helping the judge's two children from his first marriage (Nicole and Nicholas) in their war with their stepmother Marie.

Although there is some insight to being a Congresswoman and to a lesser degree a dependent daughter, BARING ARMS is an engaging somewhat plot thin amateur sleuth tale with professional oversight rather than a political thriller. Too sexy DC Jones tries to keep the feisty Texan safe by keeping the obstinate rep out of the murder investigation and his inquiry into information pilfering; he fails on all three counts leaving it to Abe Lincoln to keep his human female pets safe.

Bright Hair About the Bone
Barbara Cleverly
9780385339896 $13.00

In 1926 in the village of Fontigny-Saint-Reine, Burgundy, someone stabs Daniel Thorndon while he was researching artifacts at the private library of Edmond d'Aubec. Before Thorndon dies he sends postcard to his goddaughter Leticia "Letty": Talbot; the message is in a code they made up years ago when she was a child.

A stunned Letty, accompanied by Army chaplain William Gunning, travels to France to learn who killed her godfather and why. To achieve her objective, Letty goes undercover obtaining work with the archeological dig led by Dr. Charles Paradee. However, instead of antiquity or even Victorian, they find the modern day corpse of a stable boy who worked at d'Aubec's nearby chateau. Letty persuades Edmond to allow her to look at Daniel's work on ancient religious manuscripts, which brings her to the attention of a killer.

With Joe Sandilands taking a well deserved breather (see RAGTIME IN SIMLA), independent Letty Talbot makes her second star appearance (see THE TOMB OF ZEUS) in a terrific historical whodunit. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that a determined Letty decides to investigate the murder of her godfather. Although the religious angle has been overdone a zillion times, fans will toast with fine French wine this fun 1920s amateur sleuth reminiscent of Carola Dunn's married Daisy Dalrymple.

Second Violin
John Lawton
Atlantic Monthly
087113991X $24.00

In 1938 the latest European war seems imminent. The London based Sunday Post owned by Alexei Troy covers the growing hostilities; in fact Alexei's oldest son Rod is the paper's star reporter on the continent; working in Vienna. Back home Alexei's other son Frederick has become a Scotland Yard Murder Squad Investigator.

Rod learns that when his father lived in Vienna years ago, he was a patient of the imminent Dr. Sigmund Freud and that he was actually born near the Danube not the Thames as he once believed. However, Rod knows it is time to stop musing or for that matter reporting as the increasing violence of Hitler minions has reached Vienna so he needs to get his family out.

In London, Alex meets the country's leaders as peace in our times is over and war with Hitler about to begin. A Russian-Englishman, Alex rips into his birth country for considering appeasement with the Nazis, who he knows will not stop in Poland.

Frederick is assigned to a goon squad arresting anyone who might have Nazi, German or Italian loyalties; these suspects are shipped to the Isle of Man. While Hitler sends his air force to bomb the English into submission, someone kills a rabbi in a hit and run incident. When a second rabbi is murdered in his synagogue, Frederick is assigned the case to insure that some Hitler sympathizer is not performing a local final solution.

This is an excellent WW II historical thriller that contains three strong subplots; each well written and connected through the Try bloodline. The story line is fast-paced whether it is on Vienna, the streets of London or Parliament. Fans will appreciate John Lawton's brisk expanded Frederick Troy thriller that fascinatingly goes back a decade plus from the usual Freddie Troy police procedurals.

Steve Hendry
1933836504 $15.95

Over a century ago, the aliens sent a message to earth from the Scorpios Constellation offering advanced space travel if the humans prove worthy. The earthlings build Leapfrog, appropriately named for the quantum leap in science and technology, to meet the aliens. However, the Federation Secret Service takes over the mission killing the General in charge. With no thoughts of sharing with others, Earth proves lacking to the aliens and fails the test.

Ten thousand plus years later, the crew of the Leapfrog begins to revive from cryogenic sleep. Kim Finch takes charge and sends to the sun those officers who destroyed the mission. As they near earth they receive no signal. They soon learn of a man made virus and a nuclear assault. The humanoids on the planet are cannibalistic Neanderthal, but are not top of the food chain; that is crocs with brain power superior to the crew of Leapfrog. With the ship deteriorating, the humans need a safe place to land, but none seem available as the crocs seem to be in every fresh water locale and they have skills beyond the capability of the new two-legged intruders.

LEAPFROG is a fascinating futuristic science fiction thriller that grips readers from the moment humans fail to meet the simple standard set by the technologically superior aliens of sharing the benefits bestowed to earthlings. The action is fast-paced and never slows down as the humans return to earth to confront two new lethal species and the realization that mankind no longer is at the top of the food chain. The prime cast is solid as they make difficult decisions to stay alive. Although a side trip to the moon brings an exciting deadly third species that sequence feels unnecessary as it adds little to the prime objective: survival on an earth when the top dog is a physically and mentally superior species.

Phil Bowie
9781605420608 $7.95

In the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, pilot John Hardin hides from his past; twice the Federal Witness Protection Program has given him new identities including his current one. However, he knows his dark history including a murder could surface at any time.

Former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Nolan Rader informs John he has video proof that he committed a homicide. He demands John save his brother Clint or he will expose him. The plan is for John to join the dangerous powerful drug running Satan's Ghosts as a pilot smuggling drugs from Canada; Nolan believes a special cell of the biker gang, Satan's Wraith kidnapped his sibling.

Reluctantly John agrees, but to keep his beloved girl friend Kitty Birdsong and others safe, he tells no one. At the same time he makes contact at a dive, the Satan's Wraith leader Kurt "the Brain" Ganz conducts a psychological research study using Clint as a subject on stress.

The third Phil Bowie North Carolina thriller (see GUNS and DIAMONDBACK) is an engaging action-packed tale from the moment Nolan blackmails John into rescuing his sibling. The story line is fast-paced but also contains deep characterizations at least of Harden's friends; how profound they prove to be comes across with their concern for him as he is forced to end his relationships with his beloved Kitty and others to keep them safe and to hide the undercover truth. Although the Brain is too psychopathic especially with his experiments, thriller fans will appreciate this entertaining tale.

The Price of Butcher's Meat
Reginald Hill
9780061451935 $25.95

Needing to recover from "the big bang in Mill Street" that nearly killed him (see DEATH COMES FOR THE FAT MAN) and no one able or willing to take him in, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel heeds the advice of Ellie Pascoe, wife of the Chief Inspector. He obtains a room at the Avalon in Sandytown by the sea, "the Home of the Healthy Holiday".

As he records his feelings per his therapist, Dalziel quickly realizes three families own the small resort town under the auspices of the Sandytown Development Consortium. The Parkers, Denhams and Hollises have ambitious plans for Sandytown until Lady Denham dies mysteriously. Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe leads the investigation in which Dalziel wants in if nothing else at least as a consultant; on the other hand Pascoe desperately wants to keep his sick leave pal "Fat Andy" out so he can lead the show.

This is a refreshing excellent follow-up to DEATH COMES FOR THE FAT MAN. The structure is a radical departure from the long running Dalziel-Pascoe police procedurals as it is told in six interrelated but unique volumes that make the tale more than a whodunit; the story line is a deep character study allowing insight into Dalziel via his taped observations and email sent by local Charlie Whiffle. With a nod to "Janeites" and homage to Jane Austen and her unfinished novel, Reginald Hill provides a great tale.

Nothing Is Quite Forgotten In Brooklyn
Alice Mattison
9780061430558 $14.95

In 1989 fortyish Constance "Con" Tepper leaves her Philadelphia home to stay in her septuagenarian mom's Brooklyn apartment to watch the cat while Gertrude visits her friend Marlene in Rochester. Con has always wondered about the friendship between the two women that apparently dates back to WW II when she persuaded Gert to invest in a black market scheme run by her mobster boyfriend. In Brooklyn, Con is angry and jealous of her teen daughter Joanna who is accompanying her dad Jerry on a historical visit to Fort Ticonderoga; Jerry has never invited her on one of his history tours in spite of their years of marriage. The real shocker is when Marlene callas to inform her Gert died and that she, not the deceased daughters, is executor of the estate.

In 2003, a divorced Con lives in Brooklyn where she practices law. With Marlene, Jerry, Joanna and a friend coming at the same time to Brooklyn, Con looks back to 1989. However, it is Joanna who confronts Marlene over discrepancies in the account of Gert's death and the legal aftermath.

Told in two interrelated novellas, this is an intriguing character study although there are too many subplots; some not fully developed. Each key protagonist is developed enough so that the audience sees their motivations and flaws. Fans will enjoy this look at the past as Joanna insures NOTHING IS QUITE FORGOTTEN IN BROOKLYN even when it occurred six decades ago.

In His Sights: A True Story of Love and Obsession
Kate Brennan
9780061451607 $24.95

Upon meeting affluent charming Paul, Kate thinks he is handsome and nice; however she is hesitant to have any relationships as her family of alcoholics has taught her how destructive and dangerous that is. Still she cannot resist his lure and they start seeing each other exclusively. However as he insists her loves her, he begins to intimidate and threaten her even as she begins to catch his lies. Refusing to be like her mom, Kate becomes angrier with each escalating incident, but not just at her terrorizing boyfriend. She is upset with herself for constantly forgiving his ugly assaults until she realizes she helped make the monster with each "pass" she gave him. She broke off, but that did not stop him from stalking her.

From the seemingly innocuous but lethal "I'll see you again" to the realization that short of one of them dying, this will never end, readers obtain a chilling no holds barred true life look at abusive relationships with an emphasis on stalking. Not easy to read (nor I assume to write) this is must reading as an eye opening stunner. With a low ball estimate of almost 600,000 women stalked annually by their "cherished" partner, Kate Brennan bares her soul while raising a major social issue as a victim who refuses to remain silent though knowing she is still IN HIS SIGHTS.

Feather Man
Rhyll McMaster
Marion Boyers
9780714531489 $15.95

In 1958 Brisbane, while her father abuses her mother, their preadolescent daughter Sooky is mostly ignored by them except when they encourage her to hang elsewhere. She spends a lot time with her almost thirtyish neighbor Lionel who constantly orders her to play with his hardened Willie.

Several years later her father leaves taking the music with him, but leaving behind the Tennessee Waltz and a distraught mother. In London Sooky has moved on to a new stud with football player Peter using an engagement ring to order her to play with his English Willie. Almost at the same time Lionel's son Redmond manipulates Sooky the artist to do what he wants from her; she knows no other way to live.

Finally tired of being used, abused, and discarded, Sooky visits a gallery that she thinks Redmond once took her to. There she meets an older patron of the arts Paul. He mentors her but he cleverly maneuvers her into doing what he believes is good for her.

In this deep somewhat depressing character study, the child makes the adult as Sooky learns as a youngster from observing the relationship between her parents and from the way Lionel sexually assaults her that men dominate women. Each of the four men (five counting her father) expects to control her though they use subtly different approaches to achieve their objective of a submissive Sooky. Part of that early life lesson is for her to never be happy for herself as she can only be happy by pleasing the dominant male in her life. Rhyll McMaster paints a portrait of a female who has spent her life under the cruel thumbs of abusers.

Veiled Truth
Vivi Anna
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617975 $5.25

A serial killer is terrorizing Necropolis. Police detective witch Lyra Magice investigates the homicides and begins to fear a powerful predator is murdering people. Dhampir Theron LeNoir agrees to help Lyra end the killing spree and what each believes is a systematic attempt to take control of the city.

Lyra is grateful for his assistance because she knows Theron owns an ancient tome that might provides answers to ending the terror that is crippling the city. She also knows he should hate her; she fled her attraction to him several years ago. Instead Theron still loves his bewitching cop; however he also strongly believes she is the key sacrifice to open hell's door, which would enable evil demons to cross over.

The latest Necropolis romantic suspense urban fantasy (see BLOOD SECRETS and DARK LIES) is a strong police procedural that works on two levels: the demonic serial killing investigation and the romance between the lead couple. The latter strengthens the inquiry as Theron's fears grow with what they are learning about the adversary seems to lead to his beloved being the foci. Sub-genre fans will shout Vivi Anna.

Sharon Sala, Janis Reams Hudson and Debra Cowan
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617968 $5.25

"Penance" by Sharon Sala. Nicole Masters recovers from a shot to the head. Besides feeling lucky to be alive, she sees visions of a child kidnapped. Willing to do penance for surviving near death, she and Detective Dominic Tucci try to save the kid's life.

"After the Lightning" by Janis Reams Hudson. After surviving a direct hit from a lightning bolt, Hailey Cameron begins to hear a female voice in her head. Former police detective Aaron Trent easily accepts Hailey's new skill as normal having seen some weird stuff as a cop. They team up to break up a child-smuggling ring led by the voice, a comatose mother fearing for her kidnapped child.

"Seeing Red" by Debra Cowan. Having clinically died in the fire, firefighter Cass Holister is thankful to be alive. However, her return to the living includes the unique gift of seeing a fire before the blaze occurs. She joins with fire investigator Ben Wyrick to end the arsons although he is the man she loved and left, and she knows the arsonist too personally.

These three paranormal romantic suspense novellas are tense, exciting and filled with lead characters who make the respective near death experiences and the related AFTERSHOCK "gifts" seem real; an enjoyable anthology.

The Debs
Susan McBride
9780385735193 $8.99

In Houston four teenage upper crust girls await word that they have been invited to join the selectively elitist Glass Slipper Club. Each has reasons to expect to be chosen, but also has some nagging doubts.

Aura Delacroix Bell is a beautiful big woman who attracts hunks like the U of T super-stud in spite of being a size 14. However, she has one scandalous secret that if revealed will keep her out of the club.

Anyone who meets brilliant sarcastic Michelle "Mac" Mackenzie will conclude she does not fit the club's typical debutante, but vies for membership out of respect for her late mom's wish for her and to keep her stepmother Honey off her back.

Environmentalist Ginger Fore prefers wearing her grandmother's gown rather than buy something outrageously expensive, but her entrance might be blocked by the University of Houston tree hugger she met at a Go-Green event that could lead to a jailhouse rock not a deb ball.

Former child beauty queen Jo-Lynn Bidwill believes her mission in life is to keep the "debu-trash" out of the club; that means destroying Laura Bell.

This young adult satirical look at high society is fun to read as author Susan McBride gives the audience a tour of superficiality of debutante society through her fearsome foursome. The key is that each of the candidates seems real as teens first with issues that even with all their wealth to somewhat cover personal problems, they still exist. This is an amusing yet poignant look at teenage upper crust society through for fully developed young women struggling with personal issues that money can't help.

Karen Marie Moning
9780385341639 $23.00

Mackayla Lane lived a fun filled twenty-two years in the American Deep South until her older sister Alina was murdered in Dublin, Ireland. Mac left Ashford, Georgia only to land in a paranormal Dublin as she learns she and her late sister are Sidhe-seers who can see fae. She works for the mysterious Jerrico Barrons at his bookstore which is right next to a dark zone inhabited by shades and fae. Seelie Prince V'Lane wants to seduce her while the Lord Master who killed her sister wants her for some nefarious reason. She assumes all three want her because she can sense when the sinsar dubh million years old spell book is near; she trusts none of them. To protect herself she carries the spear of Luin, which is one of two objects that can kill fae.

Her last encounter with the vile book left her crawling but understanding how the sinsar dubh travels from person to person killing masses of people as it moves on. Somehow she knows the book is aware of her. Police Inspector Jayne blames her for the death of his brother-in-law as he assumes they had an affair until his relative killed himself. Mac meets Trinity College Professor Christian Mackeltor who can sense when someone lies to him. She tells him about the dark hollow zones and he mentions his uncles' druid magic trying to prevent the wall between us and the Fae from collapsing. If it does the unseelie led by the Horsemen of the Apocalypse will destroy the earth. Soon all the players including enemy seers from Arlington Abbey will converge as the wall teeters.

The fantasy Dublin world seems genuine as the various paranormal characters come across as real. The heroine is a fascinating protagonist as she struggles to survive in a world she does not yet understand especially her role in it. Although some readers will be unhappy with the climax, most will applaud the direction that Karen Marie Moning is taking her saga (see BLOODFEVER and DARKFEVER).

Gianluca Morozzi
Bitter Lemon
9781904738329 $14.95

Everyone who can is escaping the summer heat of Bologna, Italy for the long August Bank Holiday weekend. Three people ride an elevator in a high rise apartment building in a city increasingly turning into a stone quarry as it empties of people. However, the elevator gets stuck trapping the trio inside between the eleventh and twelfth floor. In a somber greenish light that makes the BLACKOUT seem even eerier, the alarm fails and so does their mobiles. The two males struggle, but manage to open the door only to find a solid wall blocking the opening.

There is no place to go except to wait for help or the elevator to suddenly work. Claudia works as an exotic dancer to pay her bills while going to school. Teenage Tomas is meeting his girlfriend Francesca in Amsterdam; as they have planned to elope. Aldo owns a club, believes music died when Elvis died, and finds passion as a serial killer. As the elevator's heat rises to unbearable levels and increasingly hope for help coming soon diminishes to zero, the trapped threesome begin lose it as tempers ignite and sadistic interchanges occur.

Each of the trapped is a unique character with flaws that make them seen like real people spending unbearably heated time stuck in a closed environs with no hope for immediate rescue. The suspense grows as each becomes testier and angrier. Although an inane coda feels out of place and unnecessary, fans will enjoy this tense psychological suspense of three individuals sharing a horrific experience.

The Last Protector
Daniel C. Starr
Twilight Times
9781606190012 $19.95

At the Stuff Your Belly for a Small Copper Coin dive, Nalia the bar maid is beating the crap out of some unruly customers when 6'6 kilt wearing Scrornuck Saughblade joins her side. His companion, James Peter "call me Jape" Phelps, watches the two defeats several foes while drinking Midwestern Pale Ale. When the guards arrive to jail the trio, they leave through the back door that Scrornuck makes with his sword peeling open a wall.

Jape knows the two players he needs to prevent the annihilation of thousands of worlds as if they never existed are now with him. Scrornuck is his warrior protector while Nalia is a telepath who circumstantial evidence implies is the vortex that began the time-stream crossings changing and threatening to eradicate billions of sentient beings as if they never lived. The quest to find an artifact of an age of mad technology that may not exist is key along with Nalia; however, Jape has no idea how anything fits in a multiverse turning increasingly chaotic that he and his allies somehow must save; he does know time is running out on so many with adversaries trying to prevent their success.

The quest leads the threesome and readers to some interesting worlds where morality is defined differently than western culture; in fact it is while meeting various ways of life the readers learns how complex each of the three heroes truly is. The story line is action-packed from the onset, but what makes the mission to save worlds are two realties Jape understands: first he cannot save everyone and he and his two partners must learn to live with that knowledge; and second any means is acceptable including sacrifice of life for the better good end of saving billions. Fast-paced, THE LAST PROTECTOR is an exciting science fiction morality play

Gate to Nowhere
Leanna Sain
Twilight Times
9781933353012 $16.95

In MacKinlay, North Carolina, thirty-four years old widow Emma Franklin follows the specific underlined directions of attorney Anthony Clark provided her to her late grandmother's Golden Apple farm. However the obvious oval sign that he claimed she would see at four and seven-tenth miles is not there; or anything remotely matching the photos she has with her. She parks her jeep to look around only to realize why she missed the opening. Thinking of her father's warning rhyme of "leaves of three let them be"; she realizes poison ivy blocks the way into the farm she just inherited.

Emma finds a safe way through the vines before returning to MacKinlay to buy food and other necessities. No one seems to welcome her; in fact they are outright angry and hostile towards her. She returns to her new home stunned and begins a search of the house and the garden with its shut rusted gate. In a secret panel she discovers three journals from the 1820s in which she learns Gavin MacKinlay, who the town is named after, built her new home in the early nineteenth century and was obviously cherished and loved until a tragedy not explained happened and the entries abruptly stop. Outside the rusted gate has somehow opened up. Curious to where the gate leads, she will soon learn who loves Gavin and why the Indians called this area "Nowhere".

This is an action-packed time travel romance starring a wonderful somewhat bewildered heroine and a courageous hunk. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Emma struggles to find the signpost and never slows down until the final confrontation. Although the lead couple reacts to everything thrown their way too easily, fans will want to walk through the GATE TO NOWHERE to watch Emma's amazing adventure.

Savage Survival
Darrell Bain
Twilight Times
193335366X $35.00

The aliens came and conquered the Earth without much resistance. Many humans died in the first wave; other became guinea pigs for horrific survival testing though none of the earthlings know why. That is the pandemic big scale impact.

However, there are little stories also that roll up into the globalization nightmare like that of eleven year old Lyda Brightner. Her beloved father Bruce is dead; her equally overprotective mom Elaine is gone and assumed either dead or about to be dead. Lyda is hurt badly, but awakens in a camp with no protector. Someone named Boris sells her for a brick and water to Big Bill. He mistreats her and sells her to a slave owner. Lyda escapes and meets Ginella Sparks who is hiding with her baby having escaped from the "spiders". Lyda vows to never be abused again as she finds an inner strength to protect herself and those who soon depend on her for leadership. As she and the others adapt to a rough terrain and the alien tests they grow stronger mentally and physically. They each wonder what the spiders have in mind for the dwindling survivors.

Readers will enjoy SAVAGE SURVIVAL, a wonderful "Darwinian" science fiction tale that questions what human strength truly is. Lyda is a terrific lead individual who mentally grows stronger with each horrific adventure as she adapts to whatever is thrown at her; she truly comes a long way from the overly-protected suburban tweener to a powerful ethical leader. Darrell Bain provides a coming of age saga of a pampered loved preadolescent becoming a strong independent woman.

No Rest for the Wiccan
Madelyn Alt
9780425224564 $7.99

On the surface Stony Mill, Indiana is a quiet gentle Midwestern town in which everyone knows their neighbors and no one locks their cars. Looks can be deceiving; just ask apprentice witch Maggie O'Neill or her boss at Enchantments powerful witch Felicity Davis. Felicity has been teaching Maggie the craft and how to do Magick.

Maggie is with her sort of boyfriend Tom, a police officer, when he gets a call to go to the food mill where they find hanging up on the conveyor a dummy in effigy and a warning note to the owner Joel Turner. They put it down as a dumb, harmless prank A few days later Joel is found dead from a fall into a silo. On a lighter note, Maggie spends time with her nieces and pregnant sister Mel who needs bed rest. The nieces believe in house ghosts, but darker energy permeates the home. Fearing what the malevolence will do, Maggie, Felicity and practicing witch Marcus try to force the spirit to go into the light. Ironically Maggie is in danger from a human who wants her dead.

Fans of the TV show (and movie) Bewitched will feel Maggie resembles Samantha, tough and sweet. She stands up to her dominating mom and give her "kind of" boyfriend a chance to be something more while hiding her feelings for Marcus. This paranormal mystery is exciting even with a mundane killer on the loose stalking the heroine; someone the audience will not suspect. This is an enchanting and Bewitching look at "Eerie, Indiana".

Warning at One
Ann Purser
9780425223741 $22.95

Lois Meade owns New Brooms cleaners, a store that cleans people's homes in the villages of Tresham and Long Farnden, England. Her husband is a local electrician and they have raised three adult children. They also own rental property in Tresham, but are having problems with elderly tenant Clement Fitch; in actuality with his noisy cockatiel Satan who wakes everyone up before daylight. In fact the bird has forced tenants to move out so the Meades have vacancies.

Their oldest son Douglas rents one of the rooms from his parents. Soon after he moves in, someone kills Clem and Satan. The police led by Detective Chief Inspector Cowsill consider Douglas a prime suspect so Lois decides to investigate to prove her son did not kill her dead tenant.

This is an engaging amateur sleuth starring a somewhat eccentric heroine (she is an unpaid police informant) and an interesting support cast to include Satan, the Meade family, and a new neighbor who is allegedly almost blind. Although the plot is thin, fans of English village cozies will enjoy Ann Purser's well written tale as Lois works her second case (see SORROW ON SUNDAY).

Where There's Fire
Maureen McKade
9780425224212 $7.99

Norfolk Violent Crimes Unit Police detective Shoni Alexander grieves the unexpected death of her mother due to a drunken driver by diving into her work. Shomi knows she is using her job to avoid thinking about her loss.

Her current prime case she investigates involves arson and murder. She realizes homeless John may have clues to enable her to solve the case; so she takes him into protective custody. Shoni learns John suffers from amnesia; unaware of whom he is. As they are attracted to one another, both wonder if he has a wife and kids wondering what happened to their father. As they begin to close in on the arsonists, her superior removes her from the official inquiry. She continues to focus on assisting John in learning his identity and hoping by doing that uncover the arson ring.

This is an engaging police procedural romance as readers will enjoy the banter between the lead couple; both has issues at the moment but the attraction is strong. Amnesia is an overly used gimmick, but Maureen McKade makes it work on the two intended levels of solving the case and falling in love. WHERE THERE'S FIRE is in the hearts of Shoni and John.

Riding Temptation
Jaci Burton
Berkley Heat
9780425223574 $14.00

Twenty-three years old Jessie Matthews wants to be more than a mascot to the special ops Wild Riders bikers; she wants to participate on their assignments as am operative. She has hope that will occur soon because their leader General Grange Lee has welcomed a female (see RIDING WILD) into the gang as a field agent.

No longer the street waif she once was; Jessie also wishes that Wild Rider biker Diaz Delgado would see her as a vibrant sexy woman rather than his tag along kid sister; she is unconcerned how the other bikers see her. She is thankful when her two dreams come true as General Lee assigns her and Diaz to investigate illegal arms dealers. Diaz, who has watched Jesse grow up, has been attracted to the woman for several years, but hides his feelings from everyone. However, being undercover and alone with her will test his libido and his heart as Jessie plans to seductively persuade her beloved they can be just like Mac and Lily, lovers and bikers.

The second Wild Riders romantic suspense thriller is a fast paced tale from the moment General Lee gives out assignments in Dallas and never decelerates until the climax. The story line is a bit thin, but filled with plenty of action. However, the tale is owned by the lead couple as knows what she wants and goes out to get it while he knows who he wants to avoid, but cannot elude her without jeopardizing the mission. Jaci Burton provides another exciting biker wild bunch romance.

The Magical Christmas Cat
Nalini Singh, Erin McCarthy, Linda Winstead Jones and Lora Leigh
9780425223550 $14.00

"Stroke of Enticement" by Nalini Singh. Human teacher Annie Kildare believes DarkRiver soldier Zach Quinn's cat is a teacher's pet as the feline plays matchmaker.

"Christmas Bree" by Erin McCarthy. Witch Bree Murphy cast a spell last Christmas for her sister Abby only this Yuletide the spell returns when Bree meets attorney Ian Carrington.

"Sweet Dreams" by Linda Winstead Jones. In Secret Santa gala, Ruby Kincaid selects Professor Zane Benedict to give a present too; unaware that he in town to destroy an ancient malevolence

"Christmas Heat" by Lora Leigh. Breed enforcer Noble Chavin is assigned keeping human Haley McGuire safe so she can testify in court re a deadly conspiracy.

These are four magical whimsical romantic fantasies that lighten and brighten the holiday season.

Mercury's War
Lora Leigh
9789425224182 $7.99

Dr. Elyianna Morrey tells Sanctuary chief Jonas Wyatt that she is worried about lion breed enforcer Mercury Warrant, who has been off the anti feral drug for seven years. Her concerns focus on his attraction to Rio Rodriguez even though the couple has not even met. The scientist has seen the film of a berserker Mercury killing those he blamed for the death of his soulmate and fears a repercussion.

Two weeks later Rio arrives at Sanctuary to look over the expenses as the Leo, the father of her boss Dane, donates a lot of money here. Mercury is her bodyguard. She insists she is a human clerk, but he senses much more underneath her dowdy wardrobe. He is right as she a brilliant code breaker looking to see who is betraying Sanctuary and why.

They desire one another, but Rio refuses to act on her wants. Mercury jerks off every night as he thinks of making love to Rio who he senses wants him too. She knows if she lets her guard down he will destroy her heart as she realizes who he is to her, but he has met his soulmate and she is not her. Rio will never settle for being second best; besides there is something dangerously wrong in Sanctuary that must be uncovered.

The lead couple is an interesting pairing as his soulmate is dead and so he should not feel the way he does, but cannot stop his desire for her. The support cast is strong (a trademark of Lora Leigh) and Sanctuary described just enough for the audience to appreciate it as backdrop. With two great twists, fans of the Breed saga (see TANNER'S SCHEME, HARMONY'S WAY, and MEGAN'S MARK) will relish this strong entry although the climax is weak.

Bond of Darkness
Diane Whiteside
9780425223543 $14.00

Texas Ranger Stephanie "Steve" Reynolds is assigned as lead investigator into the serial killing of women throughout the state. Each victim has the same teeth marks on their necks. A bite Steve recognizes, though she is not a forensic dentist, as belonging to her lover Ethan Templeton or more likely she considers one of his kind.

A vampire charged to keep Texas safe, Ethan knows a rogue has invaded the state. He must bring the killer to justice while also keeping his beloved human Steve safe; as he thinks she is a probable target of the homicidal vampire. To keep her from harm, Ethan believes he must convert her into an undead, but he knows that doing this most likely means his demise.

The third "Bond" Texas vampire thriller (see BLOND OF BLOOD and BOND OF FIRE) is an enjoyable paranormal romantic police procedural. The story line is fast-paced; perhaps too fast as events flash by rather rapidly. However, in spite of an acceleration that makes the DC Flash look like the Turtle, fans of the undead world of Diane Whiteside will appreciate Ethan's dilemma re the mortal woman he loves.

Power Play
Deidre Martin
9780425224519 $7.99

When National Hockey superstar Eric Mitchell and soap opera superstar Monica Geary begin dating after the Blades superstar does a cameo on the Wild and the Free show, fans of the two worlds watch in amazement. They seem like the perfect All American couple as they seem so in love and in heat. In reality, neither likes the other; their publicists set up the romantic scenario to obtain positive press.

Both are competitive, enjoy FAIR PLAY, and in spite of their mutual dislike, each tries so much harder to maximize their skills in order to gain the admiration of the other (and avoid THE PENALTY BOX). As they become better acquainted, an admiration begins that turns into an attraction. Soon the athlete and the actress begin to wonder if they can turn a con job into the real thing.

Having a romance between a hockey player and an actress will remind fans of Gretzky and Jones, but Deirdre Martin puts her trademark winning game strategy to the tale. The lead couple is a delightful combination as neither start off warm; in fact each is icy obnoxious. As they fall in love, their personalities soften so that the audience watches the pair skate as a team making the winning goal.

The Chosen Sin
Anya Bast
9780425223567 $14.00

In the lawless Logos Territory on Darpong in the Nabovsky Galaxy, Governing Body of the Chosen (GBC) vampiric agent Alejandro Martinez and Allied Bureau of Investigation (ABI) human operative Daria Moran meet at the Blood Spot. Meet might be a soft way to describe their first encounter in seven years as she catches him breaking GBC law by taking blood from a wiling veilhounder. Before he was Chosen, they had shared an incredible night of sex, but she makes it clear no second round and he is to keep his fangs inside.

Their joint mission is to end the murderous drug and people smuggling reign of ancient rogue vampire Christopher Sante; complicating matters for the pair is Sante is Chosen. Alejandro and Daria go undercover as mates; he being obviously the vamp and she is sucubare. He wonders if Sante destroyed Daria's innocence that he remembers from their brief tryst; she conceals her need for vengeance as Sante betrayed her and killed her friend. However, as the two operatives work to infiltrate Sante's stronghold, they find their desire for one another as strong as ever.

This is an exciting thriller that uses elements from urban fantasy, space opera and police procedurals to provide an entertaining erotic romantic suspense tale. The lead couple is dynamite as their kinky-light sexual interludes enhance their undercover operation. Fans will appreciate THE CHOSEN SIN as Anya Bast is at her best with this strong outer space vampiric saga.

Mysteria Lane
MaryJanice Davidson, Susan Grant, Gena Showalter and P.C. Cast
9780425222942 $7.99

"Disdaining Trouble" by MaryJanice Davidson . Thad Wilson spent his first twelve years in Mysteria, Colorado, but moved away as his father re-enlisted with the air force. Fifteen years later he is back in town avoiding the troublesome teenage Desdaine triplets (Derisive, Scornful and Withering). An incident with a mailman leads to Withering falling down a wishing well as her frustrated mother wishes she would grow up. Five seconds later a Lizard Man leaves the well followed by a beautiful warrior woman who turns out to be an adult Withering who says she spent a decade trying to come home.

"The Nanny From Hell" by Susan Grant. Luther assigns Demon Shay to destroy the child of former demon Damon and his human wife Harmony; he also warns her to stay away from the Mysteria wishing well. Shay obtains a job as the child's nanny, but the well turns her human while demon hunter Quel comes to kill her.

"A Tawdry Affair" by Gena Showalter . Witch Glory Tawdry loves Falcon, but he does not apparently reciprocate. Outraged by her unrequited love and in possession of a magical pen, she begins to scribe her sexual fantasies with and vengeance on the hunk who rejected her.

"It's in His Kiss" by P.C. Cast. The new teacher in town, Summer is a vegetarian. At a Romeo and Juliet art exhibit she meets Colin the vampire who wants to change her diet.

The return to MYSTERIA (by the same writing quartet) is filled with four amusing lighthearted paranormal romances.

Promises Reveal
Sarah McCarty
9780425224199 $7.99

Reverend Brad Swanson thought he would be caught one day for his criminal activities like robbing banks, but never this way. Posing as a preacher, he is in hiding from the law and his former gang whom he recently betrayed to save some lives as the robber has a code of ethics especially when it comes to women and children.

However, his troubles with the McKinnely clan are ironically not of his making. Instead the suffragette daughter Evie Washington finds the Reverend to be kind and supportive of her women's liberation ideals. She paints a portrait without a face of a naked hunk; whom she admits is Brad. Everyone assumes he took her so shotguns point at him as he says I do to a woman who he never planned to marry. As they make love and fall in love, his past comes home to roost.

Few writers can match the skill of Sarah McCarty when it comes to providing her audience with an intelligent exhilarating western romance starring two likable protagonists. The fast-paced story line hooks the audience when Evie's imagination runs wild and never slows down as Brad encourages Evie to be all she can be. Fans will enjoy this delightful nineteenth century historical as the criminal preacher and the feminist libber find love.

Just the Sexiest Man Alive
Julie James
9780425224205 $7.99

Chicago based attorney Taylor Donovan is the coolest under fire lawyer known on the planet; whether it is penis harassment or penal coding she never loses it; to her they are the same and for that matter she never loses a case. The only people who can get inside to Taylor is her beloved parents, who sacrificed so much for her to be come a lawyer; she vows to never let them down.

Her firm Gray & Dallas sent her to Los Angeles to litigate a sexual harassment case. Her temporary L.A. boss Sam Blakely asks her to do him a favor as the best litigator in the firm. He wants her to train People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" Jason Andrews for his role as a lawyer in a film. Sam also warns her not to go starry eyed over the hunk; she learned from childhood that "There's no crying in baseball" (A League of their Own) or in life. When they meet Jason turns on the charm, but strikes out as Taylor rejects his seductive endeavors. The more she refuses him, the more he wants her. As each begins to fall in love, two buried gentler souls surface.

This engaging mixing of Hollywood and litigation is a fun enjoyable contemporary romance. The lead couple is a strong casting of individuals who at first seem so different yet as the audience get to know both of them, they share much the same attitude on life. Although the plot is somewhat limited fans will relish this superb relationship drama starring a pair of "drop-outs".

Fatal Fixer-upper
Jennie Bentley
9780425224571 $6.99

Textile designer Avery Baker is based in New York City working for Aubert Designs when a letter arrives from an aunt she never heard of living in Maine. Her aunt asks her to come visit her so that truths and wrong doings see the light of day. Avery is intrigued by the note, but has doubts about going until she finds her lover in bed with his receptionist. The house in Maine is in terrible condition, but Avery who inherited her late aunt's estate hires Derek Ellis to renovate the house she can get a better price for it.

Before arriving she had received an anonymous letter warning her to stay away from her late aunt's home. On her first day in her new home, Avery sees someone broke in and destroyed the crockery and dishes. She soon finds a picture of a tapestry in her aunt's home, but it is missing. Avery discovers a fainting couch meant for Marie Antoinette if she had gotten out of Paris alive. Professor Wentworth was a frequent visitor of her late aunt; Avery believes his disappearance is tied to those truths her aunt's letter mentioned that someone wants remained hidden. Her inquiries bring her to the attention of killer colder than a Maine wintry night.

Readers will find that this first book in a new series a delight and are happy that they found a great whodunit and tips on rehab a house. The heroine is spunky, talented and obstinate; as she refuses to allow anyone except Derek change her mind once she decides something. Fans will enjoy this fine cozy as readers and Avery know someone wants her to leave; dead if necessary.

The Scarlet Spy
Andrea Pickens
Grand Central
0446618012 $6.99

Taken from the slums, Sofia receives her specialized training as a charming aristocratic lady and in all types of combat at Mrs. Merlin's Academy for Select Young Women. Deemed ready for her first consignment, Sofia is assigned the difficult job of exposing traitors amongst the elite of the Ton. She arrives in London posing as an Italian countess.

Sofia believes her undercover assignment will prove easy until she meets Lord Deverill Osborne. He suspects her motives while she knows he is observing her every move. However, neither is aware they are working the same mission. Complicating their spy vs. spy activity is their unwanted desire for one another; which could leave both exposed to the seditious group they need to expose.

The latest marvelous Merlin's Maidens' spy Regency romantic spy suspense thriller (see SEDUCED BY A SPY and THE SPY WORE SILK) is an excellent entry as Sofia proves you can take the girl out of the London's slums and turn her into My Fair spy. Fans will enjoy this fine caper as the two espionage agents are on to one another in several ways. Andrea Pickens is a sure pick for anyone who enjoys an action-packed historical suspense.

The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters
Lorraine Lopez
Grand Central
0446699217 $12.00

In Southern California, their mom named her four daughters after Hollywood actresses she enjoyed. When she passed away while her children were young, their dad raised them with the help of caretaker Fermina; though in reality Fermina raised the kids with the help of their father. When the ancient Fermina realized she was dying after a century of life, she tells her beloved girls she will give each of them a special gift that they must use wisely.

Bette Davis obtains the skill of making anyone believe anything no matter how farfetched or exaggerated she says; Loretta Young has the ability to heal injured animals; Rita Hayworth can curse anyone with bad things happening to them; and Sophia Loren has the uncanny gift of making anyone even those depressed and despondent laugh. Over the next two decades they help each other and wonder about Fermina's paranormal gifts; as they investigate their family tree and the background of their caretaker, the four GIFTED GABALDON SISTERS begin to question what was bestowed on them.

This is an intriguing paranormal sister-lit tale with psychic elements crossing the story line. The four siblings rotate viewpoint, which enables the audience to understand their differences and more important their similarities and concerns; this makes each seem real even with possession of otherworldly powers. Fermina for the most part remains mystical and with each revelation her mysticism grows. Although the intermingling of Spanish throughout enhances the sense of reality, it also slows down the plot for many readers who stop to interpret within the context of the paragraphs. Still Lorraine Lopez provides a unique refreshing paranormal family drama.

By the Sword
F. Paul Wilson
9780765317070 $25.95

Fifty years ago, a thief stole the legendary Gaijin Masaume Katana from the Hiroshima Peace Museum; the Katana supposedly has special supernatural powers. The thief's businessman son hires Repairman Jack to recover the Katana sword stolen from him.

Two groups willing to kill the innocent want the Katana besides Jack's client. First there is a deadly Yakuza gang who believe the fabled sword would make them top dog; even more lethal is the Kakureta Kao monks led by fanatic Toru who believe with their soul they need to possess the weapon and use its power to create a Black Wind to destroy New York City or die ignominiously. While in the middle of this dangerous retrieval mission, Jack also tries to prevent the psychotic Kicker cult from creating an evil Messiah BLOODLINE. Finally with all that going on in his life, his supernatural enemy Rasolom is lurking.

This is by far the most complicated Repairman Jack tale to date as so much is going on including the paranormal. The myriad of subplots work as Jack starting with mugging a mugger and never slows down on any front especially keeping Gia and Vicky safe. Although newcomers should read BLOODLINE first to better understand the Kicker Cult subplot, fans of the saga will salute F. Paul Wilson with one of the best entries to date; and the future looks better.

The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)
Carrie Bebris
0765318474 $22.95

Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are euphoric over the birth of their first child. However, both are bit stunned when they attend a party, as their mousy cousin Anne de Bourgh shows shocking courage and even stunningly a backbone by standing up to her martinet mother Lady Catherine for the first time at least in public. Catherine plans for her daughter to wed odious Neville Sennex, heir to senile Lord Sennex; instead Anne elopes with Mr. Crawford.

Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam give chase, but arrive at Gretna Green too late to stop the marriage. Instead they escort the couple home only Annie hurts her foot so they stop at Mansfield. However, soon afterward, a horde descends on the village. Annie's mom with her lawyer wants the marriage annulled. Crawford's mistress and his second wife claim he cannot marry someone else. As everyone argues over whom is married to who, Crawford's battered corpse is found; the magistrate proclaims suicide but Elizabeth and Fitz think otherwise and begin investigating.

Although some Jane Austen die-hards might take exception to liberties with characters like Anne (critically needed to put the plot in gear), Carrie Bebris provides a fun lighthearted Regency amateur sleuth tale. The story line is a fast-paced Regency and of course includes Austen tidbits. For the most part fans of Ms. Austen will appreciate Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam starring in their fourth entertaining whodunit (see PRIDE AND PRESCIENCE, NORTH BY NORTHANGER and SUSPENSE AND SENSIBILITY).

Skin Lane
Neil Bartlett
Serpent's Tail
9781852429928 $14.95

In London forty-six year old Mr. F is a creature of habit. He has worked at the same place for over three decades never changing his work day routine or for that matter the cut and color of his suit since he bought his first one for the funeral of King George VI. Mr. F. is a private person never altering his routine for instance how he comes and goes from work at Scheiner's or when he arrives or departs never changes and has not since he joined the firm in 1934.

In January 1967, Mr. F. begins to dream of a handsome naked young male corpse. His fantasy disturbs Mr. F., but he is not sure why except he does not like change even when he sleeps. The dream repeats itself several nights in a row. An even more radical change occurs when the boss assigns Mr. F to mentor his sixteen year old nephew Ralph who has not the time or patience for old fogies like his father, uncle or Mr. F. To his shock and obsessive need, Mr. F believes Ralph is the star of his sordid nightmares.

SKIN LANE (aptly named for the fur trade as well as for Mr. F's first time desires for someone else) is a deep slowly simmering psychological suspense thriller. Mr. F. obviously dominates the tale as the audience follows him for a few months while also learning of his past. The support cast enhances understanding of Mr. F., the business andthe obsession. Fans will appreciate Neil Bartlett's character driven tale of a middle age loner fixating on his apprentice.

Murder Packs a Suitcase
Cynthia Baxter
9780553590357 $6.99

With the recent death of her beloved husband David and at the not so subtle shove by her adult daughter Amanda and encouraged by her eighteen years old somewhat self sufficient university bound and expert remote user son Jordon, forty-five years old Mallory Marlowe seeks employment. Even with a good endorsement from Carol the editor of the Rivington Record where Mallory freelanced she has doubts about getting the job as a travel writer at Good Life Magazine. Managing Editor Trevor Pierce hires her because he believes she will bring maturity not beer to her articles. He expects her to go on location up to a week a month.

Her first assignment is to visit Orlando along with other writers to see what is left of the affectionately dubbed "Old Florida". When odious writer Phil Diamond is murdered, the police suspect Mallory killed him as she holds the murder weapon when his corpse is found floating in a pool at the Polynesian Princess Hotel. Not trusting the cops to do a complete inquiry, Mallory investigates only to conclude everyone on the writer's junket had a motive to see Diamond dead. As she continues her responsibilities for the Good Life by staying on tour, Mallory begins to solve the homicide.

The tour of Florida is the highlight of this entertaining amateur sleuth mystery as readers glimpse attractions outside of the big guns. Mallory is an interesting middle aged protagonist though one must wonder where the sudden spunk comes from to investigate even if she has investigative experience from being a reporter. Although at times the Old Florida tour supersedes the whodunit, fans will enjoy Marlowe's first travel anti-noir cozy.

Dead Reign
T.A. Pratt
9780553591354 $6.99

The chief guardian sorceress of the large East Coast city Felport Marla Mason is looking forward to the upcoming Founders' Ball after barely surviving the attempts on her life by a mercenary psychic assassin (see POISON SLEEP). However, a hunk arrives in town with two dangerous followers; reanimated John Wilkes Booth and a psycho necromancer. The newcomer, with sexy looks to die for, insists he is Walking Death, chief of the underworld. He orders Marla to give him the magical dagger that signifies her position as the chief guardian. She tells him to go to Hell. Fuming with fiery brimstone, Walking Death sends Marla to the underground.

As he enjoys dispatching people to his home, Walking Death fails again to understand the inner strength of Marla. She finds a few unreliable maniacs and brings war to Hell.

The third Marla Mason wild sorcery thriller (see BLOOD ENGINES) is a madcap maniacal fantasy that from the opening visit by the deadly sex machine Walking Death until the final macabre dance never slows down. The support cast is over the top of Felport or under the ooze of Hell as nothing not even death is sacred. Fantasy fans who appreciate something well written but different will want to read the marvelous Marla Mason tales as they are insanely humorous fun.

Thank You for All Things
Sandra Kring
9780385341202 $12.00

Eleven years old twins Lucy and Milo McGowan are both brilliant with IQs off the charts. They live with their single mom in Chicago, but whereas Lucy is curious about people, Milo is indifferent. Her inquisitiveness, some might say nosiness, has led her to declare that she will be a psychologist and a dying need to know about her unknown father, paternal grandfather and anything involving her heritage; Milo couldn't care less about the family tree.

When her mom learns that her father is dying, she and her two kids travel to her hometown of Timber Falls, Wisconsin. Lucy quickly realizes her mom loathes her father and came only to help her mother. Meanwhile Lucy begins to investigate her family; especially the estrangement between her angry grandfather and her relationship phobic mother. She even begins to love the crusty grump although as she learns more about the abuse of the past she finds it hard to care about him.

This superb family drama hooks the audience from the moment mom and the twins go to Wisconsin. Lucy with her conclusions and eye opening revelations makes the tale work. Readers will enjoy this fine intelligent contemporary as Sandra Kring digs deep into the wider impact on others of the estrangement between a daughter and her father mostly through the eyes of the granddaughter.

Heart and Soul
Sarah A. Hoyt
9780553589689 $6.99

Charlemagne stole the ruby the Soul of Fire from its avatar shrine in the heart of Africa; he used it to bind the world's magic to him and his descendants. Nigel Oldhall was to obtain the rubies and turn them over to his boss, but learns instead the worlds are splitting out from this earth until eventually the realms implode. Nigel changes his mission to return the rubies to their rightful original locations in order to save the world he knows.

Before he can complete his quest, Zhang, the second in command to the True Emperor of All Under Heaven, steals one of the precious gems because he wants to be the new ruler instead of Wen, an opium addict. Wen depends on his sister Red Jade to rule behind the scenes. Jade and Wen's third wife known as the Third Lady go on separate missions to save the Chinese throne from the usurpers. Whereas Third Lady escorts Wen to the underworld to fight to regain his power stolen by Zhang, Jade goes after the rubies disguised as a dragon. When she and Nigel encounter one another, they each realize the mission has morphed out of control as has their hearts.

In the Hoyt vision of the Victorian Age, magic is controlled by the nobles of Europe; aging Queen Victoria wants to use the rubies to regain her youth and to bind the world's magic to her and her legitimate offspring. Originally Nigel was doing her bidding, but he concludes the rubies need to return to their proper place even if magic trickles down to the commoners; to do otherwise could destroy the earth. Nigel has grown since he started his quest) see SOUL OF FIRE and HEART OF LIGHT), but like Jade is unable to reveal his deepest regard for her (or him in her case). Sarah A. Hoyt delivers a first class urban historical fantasy filled with HEART AND SOUL.

Santa Clawed
Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown
9780553807066 $25.00

With the Christmas holidays arriving soon, life seems comfy in Crozet, Virginia; a place where all sorts of animals talk to each across species lines. The only ones who don't understand the inter-animal communication system are the dumb humans. Although Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen thinks she can sometimes comprehend what her pets are saying especially her two cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and to a lesser degree her corgi Tee Tucker.

Harry and her husband Fair are looking for a Christmas tree at a farm run by The Brothers of Love, a group dedicated to helping AIDS patients at their hospice. When they reach the monks' tree farm near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Harry and Fair are stunned to find the dead body of Brother Christopher, who joined the monastery soon after he left jail. He was sent there for insider trading bilking clients for millions. When a second monk is found murdered, his throat slashed similar in a way to Christopher's death with a coin also in his mouth, the police know they are dealing with a cold blooded killer. Harry and her animal caretakers investigate only to find her caught in a web by a predator willing to make the Yuletide season blood red.

Obviously similar to previous tales in the long running saga, anyone who appreciates a pick me up filled with humor and murder will want to read SANTA CLAWED. Although Harry and Fair remarried they are still honeymooning while finding corpses decorating trees. The animals do what they do best one claw make that clue at a time while trying to keep their meddling beloved owner safe from her actions that place her in danger. The mystery is fun as the killer is in plain sight but difficult to identify. Team Brown provides another enjoyable Harry and her PUSS 'N CAHOOTS anthropomorphic whodunit.

Beautiful Liars
Kylie Adams
9780758205001 $14.00

The concept is relatively simple; have four almost famous celebs sit around a table discussing events and issues and dissing one another. To insure explosions, the network brass understands the quartet must not just be bosom buddies; they must be queens fighting to own the Beehive chat show.

Emma Ronson gave up journalistic respectability to become a daytime TV star. Fifty year old Sutton Lancaster was aged out of her respectable news anchor job. Former teen model Simone Williams needs this job although her pay cannot cover her debts or prevent her ex from psychopathic stalking and more. Finally, Finn Robards rounds out the table as the only male, the rational amusing" gay sidekick" to the three hostile female divas. However each faces personal crisis that could destroy them and if one goes down, the Beehive will probably die too. Though they dislike each other, the four musketeers must learn the Dumas lesson of "one for all and all for one".

BEAUTIFUL LIARS satirically rips the famous as allegedly knowledgeable pundits who in fact are hedonistic selfish individuals who live in a shallow world of self deceit pretending to know everything about anything when they know nothing. Any moment this reviewer expected Professor Irwin Corey to appear. The key to this lampooning is the four Beehive hosts remains consistent throughout even when they try to help one another. Kylie Adams makes the case we know as much and probably much more than those talking heads whose claim to fame is membership in the Hall of Shame.

To All a Good Night
Donna Kauffman, Jill Shalvis and Helen Kay Dimon
Kensington Brava
075822849X $14.00

"Unleashed" by Donna Kauffman. Through her best friend who works in the personnel department of Hamilton Conglomerates, Emma Lafferty is hired to house sit and pet sit for the firm's CEO billionaire Lionel Hamilton. At his vast Randolph County estate, his great-nephew Trevor arrives. Trevor wants Emma to leave as he searches for something; while Emma wants Trevor to leave because she does not trust him. As they warily watch one another an attraction ignites.

"Finding Mr. Right" by Jill Shalvis. Data Tech lead chemist Maggie Bell is working on a skin cancer cure, but laments about how she only dates wrong Mr. Rights. Her sister tells her to drop the brainy and go for the brawny like contractor Jacob Wheeler whom she tutored in high school. He is attracted to the trivia queen, who tests lotions and other items given to her by the twins running the firm.

"Can You Hand Me the Tape? by Helen Kay Dimon. After Natalie Pritchard broke up with Charles Adams, she hates asking his legal partner Spencer Donovan for a favor. She wants him to "steal" a tape that Charles has of her naked. Spencer who is ending his partnership with obnoxious Charles reluctantly agrees.

These are three fun contemporary romances in which the lead female falls in love with someone whom they assume could never love them back; the hunks prove them wrong.

Christmas at Sea Pines Cottage
Sally Smith O'Rourke
0758222602 $13.00

Wannabe writer Robert needs to escape from everyone so he accepts work as lighthouse keeper at Cape Fear. The job is suited to the solitary life he desires that he prays enables him to escape his nightmares and start writing. He selects Meteor, a puppy from Sam's kennel; Sam is pleased to rid himself of the canine who shows no inclination towards hunting.

The duo becomes companions and best friends. When Robert rescues Laura, she is grateful, but also determined to help him overcome his emotional issues. He wants her to leave while Meteor the matchmaker knows she is perfect for both of them.

CHRISTMAS AT SEA PINES COTTAGE is a tender warm holiday romance with the uniqueness being Meteor tells the tale from his viewpoint; totally stealing the novel from his human pets. Though the plot might seem thin and is relatively short, this fits appropriately as the book is a simple love story, complicated by the two humans. Character driven by the fully developed trio, fans will relish this inspiring tale of love (to include Meteor); the late Mike O'Rourke will be proud of this story.

Frankly My Dear, I'm Dead
Livia J. Washburn
9780758225665 $22.00

In Atlanta divorced (from Dan) Delilah Dickinson opens up Delilah Dickinson's Literary Tours hiring her daughter and son-in-law, and also dealing with her battling twin teenage nieces. Her first tour is a delightful visit to landmarks famous, almost famous and obscure linked to Gone with the Wind novelist Margaret Mitchell.

The tour is doomed from the onset as Murphy would seem an optimist with everything the could go wrong going wrong; but it is at "Tara" for dinner that it finally collapses. Steven Kelley, an actor portraying Rhett Butler on the Gone with the Wind Tour, is found dead in the Tara mansion garden. The lead detective insists everyone remain at Tara while he solves the case with Delilah's interference.

With its references to Gone with the Wind including the title, readers will enjoy this Atlanta tour. The story line is amusing as a combo police procedural amateur sleuth competition. Although the whodunit is more a backdrop to the Literary Tour especially the stay at Tara, readers will enjoy this lively and colorful cozy.

Jami Alden
Kensington Brava
9780758225467 $14.00

High profile wealthy CEO Jerry Kramer hires Gemini Security and Investigations to keep his firm GeneCor safe from extremists opposed to the stem cell research conducted by the company. He calls Gemini co-owner (along with his brothers) Ethan Taggart when his seventeen year old daughter Kara vanishes. Ethan comes immediately to the affluent Atherton estate to see the security gate wide open and his client nasty and abrupt with the local police.

Ethan, who usually gets the pretty boy assignments, and private investigator Toni Crawford search for the teen together. They quickly widen their inquiry when it seems unlikely an anti stem cell fanatic took the girl. Instead the clues lead to a nasty underground world of sex, drugs, and abuse; ruled by a brutal master.

CAUGHT is a strong romantic private investigative thriller starring two likable lead characters who fall in love, but keep their priorities straight as saving the client's daughter comes first. The search mystery is complex as each step closer to achieving the mission is exponentially increasingly dangerous from a deadly malevolence. Fans will enjoy this fine Gemini Men tale (twin Derek to come).

Nights in Black Lace
Noelle Mack
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758221902 $12.95

Hiking across Europe, Bryan Bachman stops in Paris before returning to his side of the big pond. With his last Euro he buys a fashion show raffle ticket and wins a catwalk seat at Oh! Oh! Odette.

Former model turned fashion designer Odette notices the Yank hunk, who makes a fashion statement while just sitting. She decides to take the seat next to him so she can meet the American and much more if she has her way. She does; over the next few days they share quite a tryst but she is a Europe sophisticate while he is American beach bum so their affair must soon end even though both say oui oui to more Oh! Oh!

The fun in this erotic romance is the vast class differences between Bryan and Odette as both seem like polar opposites yet are attracted to each other from the moment they first see one another. The story line is ultra heated with vivid sex, but it is the fully developed lead couple who make Noelle Mack's tale interesting as readers wonder whether this diverse pair can have a morning after let alone a long time relationship.

Hot Silk
Sharon Page
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758214911 $12.95

Grace Hamilton believes a good marriage to a wealthy kind hearted aristocrat is her ticket amongst the Ton. However that means hiding her past especially her family from men interested in her. However, she finds gentlemen are a sham with one thing on their minds. Pirate and highwayman Nigel Sharpe rescues her from an untenable situation and they end up making love.

Two years later, neither has forgotten that one night of bliss. Devlin decides to use his nefarious skills to kidnap Grace. He succeeds in snatching her though she is a bit willing; they share a heavenly interlude until their tryst is disrupted when he is wounded and an odious thug abducts his Grace.

The third Hamilton sister superb erotic Regency romance (see BLACK SILK and SIN) is a superb tale starring two likable lead characters and a nasty villain. The stars of the previous Hamilton sagas make appearances, but HOT SILK belongs to Grace and Nigel. Readers will appreciate their sexual encounters vividly described by Sharon Page, but it is the abduction and attempted rescue that make this a torrid historical page turner (just wear gloves).

Get Your Sexy On
Kimberly Kaye Terry
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758222503 $12.95

Sienna Featherstone strips under the name of Sinful Feathers. She performs her sexy gyrations, but keeps her mind detached as the erotic dancing job is just a means to pay off her debts. Her simple emotional compartmentalization and overall impassiveness suddenly changes when she notices someone in the audience to her shock; she has never observed any of the salivaters before private investigator Garrett "Mac" McAllister sits watching her show. She wants him and he obliges. The morning after Sienna knows she wants more from him, but instead flees out of fear.

For the next two years Mac keeps thinking of the erotic dancer he covets. When he finally sees her again, Mac knows she is the one for him and will not allow her to vanish this time. He learns of the danger that threatened her two years ago when she fled for his safety, but Mac remains at her side keeping her safe while loving her.

As with the dandy JUST LIKE CANDY, Kimberly Kaye Terry writes a wonderfully exciting erotic interracial romantic suspense. The vibrant sex scenes will have readers seeking their significant other to get sex with them. Yet in spite of the Venusian heat, the threat to Sienna enhances the overall plot as fans will wonder whether she will flee again and if not can Mac keep her safe. This is an enjoyable heated thriller.

Unwrap Me
Melissa MacNeal, Susan Lyons, Melissa Randall
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758228536 $12.95

"Naughty Noelle" by Melissa MacNeal. Noelle is tired of nice so she wants to try naughty; her new neighbor Andy is the present she wants for the twelve days of Christmas and more.

"Unwrap Me" by Susan Lyons. Everyone considers Jude as a female Grinch, but her bah humbug attitude changes when her Secret Santa present arrives to ignite her fire.

"All She Craves for Christmas" by Melissa Randall. Former model Anita hires Dylan to renovate her home, but upon meeting the hunk she knows what she craves for Christmas.

These three erotic Yuletide romances are hot and entertaining. Although the plots are candy cane thin, fans will enjoy unwrapping the three presents as Santa or the Magi never delivered these gifts.

Bare Witness
Katherine Garbera
Kensington Brava
0758222335 $14.00

Liberty Investigations no "angel" Justine O'Neill cannot understand why her boss Sam Liberty would take on a job for Baron Industries owned by her late stepfather's family; the same stepfather, Justine as the juvenile Jackie Conrad killed him for molesting her. Although the client that Sam expects her to protect is the CEO of Baron Industry he is not a Baron. Still she would prefer to let her two only friends and Angelic associates Charity Keone (See BARE FACTS) or Anna Sterling play bodyguard to Nigel Carter.

Justine, who trusts no man except barely Sam, and Nigel are attracted to one another from their first meeting. However, she is all professional trying to persuade him to leave his daughter Piper and her nanny Constance Wareham in the states rather than take her with him to the Amazon Basin where they are going accompanied by his new bodyguard. Waiting for them in Lima is Charity and Anna even as mercenaries target father and daughter. All hell breaks loose in South America when Piper is kidnapped.

The second Liberty Investigations homage to Charlie's Angels is an engaging romantic suspense that never slows down from the moment the plane lands in Lima. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as the lead couple risks their lives to rescue his daughter. Although the romantic interludes after the abduction seem wrong, they are fascinating because of Justine's total distrust of males and her sexual molestation as a child. Readers will enjoy this fine thriller with one more Angel's tale for Katherine Garbera to "bare" with her fans.

Succubus Dreams
Richelle Mead
9780758216434 $15.00

Shape shifting succubus Georgina Kincaid is concerned with the strange dreams of a weird future she has begun having as she is unused to being the one drained of energy; instead as a hell class succubus she does the draining of men she has sex with. Desperate for relief, she visits dream interpreter Dante Moriarty, but he proves more charming than a snake oil salesman; providing her with no sustenance.

She considers discussing her fears with has platonic boyfriend bestselling writer Seth Mortensen, but hesitates as she knows he is obsessed with his writing at the moment; besides she might want to test the life in her man which can prove deadly to the male. Finally there is her inept apprentice succubus Tawny, but the new kid on the block is a know it all who knows nothing at all. Soon, matters turn odder when angels arrive for no earthly reason. New York is turning into hell in a hand basket if you ask Georgina as she has an unknown adversary to confront.

The third well written Succubus saga (see SUCCUBUS BLUES and SUCCUBUS ON TOP) is an engaging lighthearted paranormal romantic romp with Georgina struggling to solve the mystery of whom and why someone is draining her when she sleeps. The story line is fast-paced and filled with heated sex, but it is the bewildered beleaguered belle from hell who keeps the plot focused as she deals with the men and one woman in her life instead of the usual life in her men.

A Christmas Passage
David Saperstein and George Samerjan
9780758225795 $12.95

The flight from Fulton County/Brown Field to Asheville on Christmas Eve morning is delayed along other flights due to the snowstorm. People are stranded at the airport and struggle with having patience as Blue Ridge Airline's Flight 6224 is canceled due to weather.

Marta Hood has thrown her scornful husband Robert out (along with the Xmas presents) even though he threatened to never return; she and her eight year old son Ronny and eleven year old daughter Nancy are going to stay temporarily with her parents, but she is worried about their future. Vietnam Veteran widower Andy Casiano notices Army Specialist Ilena Burton who feels guilty about being home for the holidays while worrying her brothers and sisters in arms remain in Iraq. Recently unemployed Reggie Howard worries about getting a job. Affluent businessman John Sullivan worries bout his health with the sudden death of his workaholic dad. After time in Florida, septuagenarian widow Amelia McIntosh looks forward to coming home after her last attempt to reconcile with her acrimonious sister-in-law. Lisa Barone and her Alzheimer's afflicted father need to visit an ailing relative in Asheville, but with the airport shut, she offers to take the travelers with her in her van. However, an avalanche has blocked the road stranding them as turn around is too dangerous. Each turns to one another for solace as they learn what Christmas is when they find Joshua and his remote cabin.

This is an interesting Christmas tale starring likable individuals struggling with traumas and a deep need to reach Asheville. The ensemble cast is solid with each containing differing personalities and issues. Although the climax is too perfect even with a pinch of the paranormal, fans who enjoy a fun Yuletide inspirational will want to join the stranded band of travelers whose trek is more metaphysical than physical.

Living with the Dead
Kelley Armstrong
9780553806649 $22.00

After her husband dies tragically, Robyn Peltier moves to Los Angeles and gets hired as an assistant to a celebrity Portia Kane; her immediate job is to clean up the woman's image. At a luncheon Portia innocently takes a picture of her "frenemy" Jasmine, which starts a chain of events that lead to the woman's death. Robyn finds her corpse and she runs from the scene which makes her look guilty.

Robyn visits her friend Judd Archer to ask for his aid; he gladly agrees to help her. When she goes to the bathroom in his home, she hears a shot; she finds Judd murdered and once again flees the crime scene. Detective Findley, who Judd called just before he was killed, arrives to find the corpse. He has the special skill of being able to see and communicate with spirits, which is why he is the department's best detective at solving homicides. Robyn enters the supernatural world because the dead bodies have her dealing with factions who want a powerful clairvoyant like the killer is to join them. Robyn's friend part chaos demon Hope and her lover Karl, the werewolf, help Robyn while seeking to bring the troublemakers to supernatural justice.

The latest Otherworld novel is a fantastic exciting tale that readers will devour in one session. The humans and supernatural live side by side yet the former know nothing about the latter. When Robyn gets caught in the crossfire between two groups, she concludes she can get a job helping the supernaturals conceal their secrets from humanity. Hope and Karl are interesting support characters who look like they will a novel of their own soon. Kelly Armstrong provides a great urban fantasy whodunit.

Salvation in Death
J. D. Robb
9780399155222 $25.95

Father Miguel Flores is presiding over the funeral service for Hector Ortiz at St. Cristobal's Church in Spanish Harlem when he drinks the wine from the chalice; he keels over immediately and dies. NY Police and Security Department officer Lieutenant Eve Dallas catches the case. Examining the body affirms her belief that the priest was poisoned with a deadly put in the consecrated wine. Eve and Detective Peabody search Father Miguel's apartment where she finds a medallion taped to the back of a dresser drawer; it contains the name Lino on it which came from his mother.

The medical examiner finds the priest had extensive facial reconstruction and knife wounds scarred all over the bones in his body. He also had a tattoo removed, but the ME was able to resurface the design, which turns out to be a mark of a gang member. Eve ponders whether the real Father Flores is missing most likely dead with an imposter replacing him. She soon confirms her theory as the false father is Lino Martinez, who obviously had a purpose for being at this church in 2160. The cop needs to find a motive for why Martinez was at St. Cristobal's, why someone killed him, and where is the real Father Flores

Each new book in this superb bestselling futuristic police procedural series enhances the Eve Dallas mythos and deservedly the reputation of J.D. Robb. Eve's current case is extremely complex having to go back in time to when Juno was a gang leader. This case proves difficult to get a handle on even with her spouse Roarke's help with all the assets at his disposal. The heroine runs a methodical step by step investigation with each new clue requiring hard work from either Eve or part of her team. There is less banter between the characters even with Roarke and Eve (though the pair still steam up the city), as the official inquiry moves the story line forward in what may be the best "in Death" tale to date.

Devil's Brood
Sharon Kay Penman
9780399155260 $27.95

In 1172 King Henry Fitz Empress names his oldest surviving son Hal as his coregent. However with the title comes nothing else as the second Henry since the Conqueror refuses to give his offspring any meaningful authority.

Hal is irate as he feels his sire has insulted him with a name that is a title only and has no power behind it. The monarch's wife Eleanor of Aquitaine rallies their male offspring to back their oldest brother in a bid for power. Over several years, however, Richard, Geoffrey and John not only join Hal in an open revolt against their sire, they war with one another over land, which each knows denotes power in late twelfth century England. Eleanor cannot believe how convoluted her encouraging her children to rebel against their martinet father has spun, but remains steadfast in support of Hal.

The third Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine historical thriller (see WHEN CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT and TIME AND CHANCE) is an excellent extremely complex medieval saga. The story line digs deep into two obstinate but powerful monarchs who battle in bed and on the throne for the top position. Their adult children also come somewhat into focus especially the frustrated males, which in turn amplifies the intricacy of the story line. Fans of a well written vivid medieval tale will want to read Sharon Kay Penman's powerful twelfth century chronicle.

Blood Alone
James R. Benn
1569475164 $24.00

In 1943 the Allied army invades Sicily. However, General Eisenhower's Special Investigator Billy Boyle carries a special message, but not from his boss who is a distant relative. The former Boston police detective brings a note from American Mafiosi Don Lucky Luciano to the Sicilian Mafia asking them to not fight the American soldiers.

However Billy is wounded before he can deliver his message. As he struggles with amnesia, less scrupulous individuals plan to take advantage of the battlefields. One particular felon needs Billy dead before his memories return; while Billy slowly puts together his past and his assignment making him wonder if he is a mob hit man.

The third Boyle WWII thriller is an exciting tale that brings to life Sicily in 1943 (see THE FIRST WAVE). As the allies invade the island, readers obtain a taste of the abject poverty alongside of mob rule. Although the amnesia ploy is an over used technique, Billy is terrific as he struggles more with what type of person he is than with just who he is. James R. Benn provides another fascinating look at the madness and anarchy of war in the European Theater of Operation.

Caravaggio's Angel
Ruth Brandon
1569475199 $25.00

The Director of the London National Gallery approves art historian Reggie Lee's concept to display three "original" works of artist Caravaggio, who created in 1605 the altarpiece St. Cecilia and the Angel and subsequently made two copies. She knows that the Getty and the Louvre each have one and assumes it should prove no problem to find the third.

Shockingly, Louvre Italian masterpiece administrator Antoine Rigaut refuses to loan the museum's copy. Since lending is a normal practice, Reggie goes to Paris to plead her case in person with Rigaut. However, he avoids her like she has the plague until he is found dead, an apparent suicide. Reggie is further stunned when a seemingly fourth copy surfaces. This makes her believe one of the originals is a fake; perhaps created in 1937 when the Louvre copy was recovered after being stolen. When the English expert meets Rigaut's mother, she begins to learn the true early twentieth century history of St. Cecilia and the Angel.

CARAVAGGIO'S ANGEL is an excellent art mystery starring a likable protagonist who goes from art historian to amateur sleuth in her efforts to learn the truth. The story line is fast-paced with the historical aspects adding a terrific taste of the early seventeenth century art world and the not so rare museum thefts of the early twentieth century from a modern perspective. Ruth Brandon provides a wonderful thriller that hopefully will lead to more blending of masterpieces with mysteries.

Dancing With Demons
Peter Tremayne
St. Martin's
0312375646 $24.95

In 669, the High King of the five kingdoms of Eireann Sechnussach is murdered in his compound. The assassin is captured immediately as the monarch's kinsman Chieftain Dubh Duin is found in the king's bedchamber. The guards assume a murder suicide occurred though whispers abound that Dubh was so loyal he would kill himself before allowing harm to his liege; besides conspiracy theory buffs question how the assassin got the opportunity.

Concerned over rumors that could harm the ascendancy to the throne of Sechnussach's heir Cenn Faelad, Ireland's Chief Brehon assigns Court advocate and royal sister Fidelma of Cashel to investigate. He informs her not to focus on who killed the High King but why Dubh assassinated the High King and how the opportunity arose that enabled him to get past the guards. However, Fidelma quickly realizes Duin had to have insider help, but who close to the High King and his royal guards could have arranged the assassination.

This is a great seventh-century Irish mystery that brings to life the era as much through the judicial legal system. With a superb plausible final twist to cap a fantastic historical investigative medieval thriller, fans will appreciate Fidelma's increasingly imperative she solve the entire case before the Five Kingdoms splinter into civil and religious war. Peter Tremayne is at his best in DANCING WITH DEMONS.

The Catch
Archer Mayor
St. Martin's
9780312381912 $24.95

Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) Joe Gunther receives the call that he loathes hearing; a cop was killed in the line of duty. Apparently on a dark rustic road, deputy sheriff Brian Sleuter was making a routine traffic stop when he was killed. The tape of the incident captured by his cruiser shows two Boston drug runners on their way south from Canada.

Gunther and his VBI team in conjunction with US Immigration authorities take charge of the cop murder because of the major drug running connection. His target is the son of a lobsterman, Alan Budney. With the lobster industry in disarray, he has been able to use their anger to run drugs. Now a cop murder is added to his gang's accomplishments.

Filled with excellent twists and red herrings (make that red lobsters), the latest Gunther regional police procedural is a superb entry in a strong New England series. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Joe receives the call all cops fear and never slows down even as the plot meanders more than the Winooski River. THE CATCH is another winning Joe Gunther VBI investigation.

The Cruelest Month
Louise Penny
St. Martin's
0312352573 $23.95

In Three Pines, Quebec, villagers gather at the allegedly haunted vacated (except perhaps for ghosts) Hadley House to attend a seance. Popular psychic Madeleine Favreau hosts the gala. However, to the shock of everyone in attendance, Madeleine seems to have fainted out of fear or possession. The participants quickly realize she has died.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache leads the investigation into what he assumes is a murder perpetrated by a mortal not a poltergeist as some claim. He is a bit shocked when he finds not only no motives, but no one will say the slightest negative commentary about the deceased. However Gamache's biggest problem is not with this case, but with his last inquiry (see A FATAL GRACE) in which he accused his popular boss of monstrous crimes; The Surete du Quebec do not appreciate a whistleblower regardless of just the facts.

The third Gamache Quebec police procedural (see STILL LIFE) is an excellent cozy. The lead protagonist is an intelligent and dedicated (the Surete insist obstinate) police investigator who learns the hard way that evidence and the facts do not matter to the brass who control the media and the oversight boards, as reputation is everything; non-non to whistle-blowing. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this French Canadian whodunit as the methodical Gamache works the case with hopes of redemption from his last case.

Sweet Poison
Ellen Hart
St. Martin's
03123755255 $24.95

Besides running her restaurants, Jane Lawless is also working on her father Ray's campaign for governor and helping her friends; she and her lover Kenzine wish she had more time for them. As a defense attorney Ray defended Corey Hodge against a rape charge; he arranged a plea bargain that got the man out of prison. Ray's opponent is using that case and others defended by Jane's dad as making the streets unsafe.

Cory volunteers to work at the campaign's headquarters; there he meets another volunteer Charity Miller, who fears her former fiance Gabriel Kean. The law firm of Lawless, Kaplan and Piper got Kean off on a technicality in the beating of Minister Christopher Cornish. When Charity is murdered by someone using the same M.O. that led to Corey's conviction, the police focus on him though other suspects including Kean exist. Cory's aunt asks Jane to prove his innocence. She reluctantly agrees though an inquiry takes more time away from Kenzine who finally leaves while her former lover Julia tries to win back her heart.

The Jane Lawless mysteries are some of the consistently best amateur sleuth tales and SWEET POISON confirms that belief. The whodunit is fabulous as there are many suspects besides Corey for Jane to look at. Her attitude remains top notch demanding people to accept her as is while actively campaigning for her dad; Ray shows his strength of character too as he wants her election help and not a bush league sham limited to gays and lesbians. With the Willie Horton election effect adding to a strong election year intrigue, fans will enjoy Ellen Hart's latest timely winner.

Hark! The Herald Angel Screamed
Mignon F. Ballard
St. Martin's
9780312376673 $24.95

Everyone's favorite Guardian Angel Augusta Goodnight is still staying with Lucy Nan Pilgrim in the small town of Stone's Throw, South Carolina. It is the Christmas season; Augusta's favorite time of the year. She, Lucy and their friend Ellis seek the right tree for their church fellowship. They are looking on the grounds of Willowbrook, owned by Lucy's cousin, when they find a dead man on the porch below the mansion's balcony; the guard rail is broken.

While everyone tries to identify the John Doe, they are also happy for their friend Idonia who avoided love for years, but is involved with newcomer Melrose DuBois, who gave her a locket as a sign of his affection. When Lucy Nan and Ellis visit the caretakers of Willowbrook, the Tanseys, they see a picture of the couple's dead daughter wearing the same locket that Melrose gave to Idonia. The dead man is identified as Dexter Clark, the son in law of the Tansy's' dead daughter. Dexter's Aunt Opal Henshawe is also killed; Lucy Nan and Ellis know the events are obviously related even Melrose's disappearance. However, what that connection is remains mysteriously unknown as they seek to identify a killer without becoming the next victims.

Living up to her surname Augusta is the personification of goodness as she is able to make those in her circle feel better about themselves. While she cannot directly help find the culprit, Augusta assists Lucy, Nan, and Ellis on the quest. They each have an inner strength so when they team up, they can move mountains. Mignon F. Ballard is a wonderful storyteller who enchants her audience with this charming amateur sleuth urban fantasy.

Chelsea Cain
St. Martin's
031236847X $24.95

Emotionally scarred detective Archie Sheridan returns to his hometown of Portland, Oregon hoping to find some peace, but doubts he will succeed. He feels deranged as he still dreams of serial killer Gretchen Lowell as his SWEETHEART although he no longer visits her as he did weekly when she was first incarcerated. He hopes work will help him forget his deranged HEARTSICK mind starting with the murder at Forest Park; the place where Lowell left her first victim.

While Archie battles with his mental state, Herald reporter Susan Ward writes an article accusing U.S. senator Castle of seducing the then fourteen year old babysitter of his children ten years ago. Two more corpses are found in Forest Park and Gretchen escapes from prison. When Castle dies, Susan finds a connection between his sex scandal and the park deaths. When Gretchen escapes from prison, Archie knows he must confront the Beauty Killer who he is obsessed over before she begins a second serial killing spree.

This is an exhilarating police procedural sequel due to the emotional relationship between Gretchen and Archie who understand one another. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the subplots tie together, but it is the odd coupling as it was in HEARTSICK that makes SWEETHEART a must read.

Seduce Me At Sunrise
Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin's
0312949812 $7.99

In 1836 the English attack a Gypsy camp. The youngster Kev Merripen tried to fight, but was knocked in the head by the butt of a rifle and stabbed in the back by a bayonet. His tribe fled leaving him behind to die. A hated Gadjo the Hathaway patriarch saves his life though Kev's disdain would have someone think otherwise. Filled with gypsy superstitions, Kev is raised in the home of a rationalist. However, his host's daughter Winifred softens his hostile outlook. Kev loves Win who is sent to France to recover from an illness.

A dozen years later she comes home only to find her childhood friend angry and nasty towards her and seemingly everyone else. He tries to drive her away even as she only shows him kindness. Win knows she loves her gypsy and considers seduction to win his heart. However, she begins to give up on him leaving room for other suitors as Kev struggles between his desire for Win and his belief that a Gadjo and Romany cannot unite even in love.

Lisa Kleypas' latest Victorian romance (see MINE TILL MIDNIGHT and THE DEVIL IN WINTER) is an engaging tale starring a wonderful extremely tolerant female and a somewhat self defeating hero. Kev is the posterboy for the self fulfilling prophecy as he assumes the worst of others so takes no chances on his heart. Readers will appreciate the determined Win trying to persuade the obstinate Kev they belong together although his stubbornness can become a trifle frustrating.

One Bite with a Stranger
Christine Warren
St. Martin's
0312947033 $6.99

Now that Regina McNeill is no longer living with cheating ex boyfriend Greg, her four close friends remind her she no longer has an exemption from the "Fantasy Fix" the others agreed to try. Not accepting Reggie's protests of no interest, the fearsome foursome friends demand she select her fantasy date. She chooses a night with a vampire.

The Others council member vampire Dmitri Vidame thinks how far he goes to carry out his responsibilities as he and Graham the werewolf attend an East Village human Vampire gala; the pair hope to catch a rogue vampiric predator who attacks the mortal pretenders. Dmitri is stunned when he sees Reggie across the crowded room as he has an instant need for her. He wonders what the chances are of "Strangers in the Night" sharing love; for he has waited hundreds of years to meet his beloved. As Dmitri tries to persuade the hesitant human to WALK ON THE WILD SIDE with him, her friends intrude to insure she is safe; Greg still believes she is his; and Dmitri has failed to inform her he has slightly different diet than her.

The latest Others' romantic urban fantasy stars a strong lead couple and a solid support cast, especially her caring albeit interfering friends. The story line lacks the depth of the Christine Warren's previous paranormal entries as the focus is more on the lead couple's relationship than the serial killer. However ONE BITE WITH A STRANGER remains a fun tale because of the lead couple. They will remind the audience of the Sinatra tune Strangers in the Night as "Something in your eyes was so inviting. Something in your smile was so exciting. Something in my heart,told me I must have you."

Night Fall
Cherry Adair
9780345499905 $6.99

Atlanta based public relations expert Kess Goodall refused to allow the city's PR community to destroy her though they shut her out of jobs after her latest insane stunt led to her firing; instead she accepted a PR position in Central West Africa. The President of Mallaruza Abioyne Bongani hired her to help him with his reelection campaign.

Abi also asked his college roommate Terrorist Force Logistic Assault Command (T-FLAC) psi operative Simon Blackthorne to investigate the recent increase in border fights and raids with the Hureni; Abi, a half-wizard, believes a full wizard may be behind the attacks so he wants a friendly full blooded wizard on his side just in case. Simon quietly investigates the incidents seeking magical remnants. He and Kess are attracted to one another, but avoid one another until a bloodbath by machetes followed by scavengers of workers bring them together.

The latest T-FLAC romantic suspense thriller (see WHITE HEAT and HOT ICE) is an exciting African adventure that blends some magic with non stop action. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the lead couple discovers the gruesome massacre and never slows down. Enhancing the tale is the often humorous gender war between these polar opposites as Simon introduces Kess to the notion that there is a lot more under the sun than science.

Swallowing Darkness
Laurell K. Hamilton
9780345495938 $26.00

Princess Meredith NicEssus of the Unseelie Court knows the danger of being a princess; she also knows how hazardous being pregnant can be as Her Aunt Andais the Queen promises that if she gets pregnant before her son impregnates someone else, she will be the heir to the throne. Since few children are born in Fairie, Merry carrying twins from six fathers has become the hope of revitalization and the target of those who want to use her like her insane Uncle Taranis who kidnapped and raped her. He plans to claim that he sired his niece's children. Even her beloved Gran, under a spell apparently performed by cousin Cair, tries to kill her.

Outraged Merry demands the Wild Hunt to obtain revenge but that comes at a price; as Mistral, another of her children's' fathers, is dying. She asks the Goddess to save him and another injured father Doyle. Meanwhile another sire Sholto and Merry are crowned as King and Queen of the Slaugh in Faerie while her uncle stalks her and Queen Andais' son tries to eliminate her. Merry's wrath against family is growing.

SWALLOWING DARKNESS has a different overall tone then the rest of the books in this series as there are infrequent sexual time outs with the battles and plans highlighted instead as Merry needs revenge on those trying to harm her, her unborn and her loved ones. Merry is a wonderful person, who tries to be fair to everyone, but does not fear using her powers against nasty folks. The two Courts remain overall malevolent with one more overt about their evil agenda. Fans will appreciate the latest Princess Merry hypnotic romantic fantasy.

Man of the House
Ad Hudler
9780345481085 $14.00

In Upstate New York Linc Menner loved being a Househusband raising his preadolescent daughter Violet and making gourmet meals for them and his wife, Jo (and Violet's mom), who works longs difficult hours as a hospital administrator. He enjoys being a stay-at-home dad driving Violet everywhere.

The family moves to a fixer upper in Naples, Florida as Violet turns thirteen. Linc feels disappointed and somewhat depressed as Violet seems to need him less and less with each passing day. Meanwhile the male contractors look at him with pity and scorn. When he overhears their locker room style jokes about him being a girlie, Linc wonders if he lost his penis. To reassert his masculinity he begins to do what society considers male activities like shooting a gun at the firing range. His wife hates the new model and yearns for her sensitive guy while his daughter loathes the new daddy who is never there for her when she needs him. However, Linc begins to reassess his assessment as instead of finding contentment with his masculine side, he remains unhappy as he misses the mommy philosophical chatter on what matters in life.

MAN OF THE HOUSE is an interesting gender bending mommy lit tale starring the Menner family and to a lesser degree an obsessed teacher, Jessica Varnadore. The story line is treated for the most part with a light humorous touch as it focuses on Linc's sudden need to be a "real man" and how his wife and daughter react to his quest to find himself; the trio rotates first person perspective. When the tale turns to a couple of dangerous segues (the teacher and a storm), it loses traction turning from a warm amusing family drama to a family in peril thriller that seems out of place. Still fans will enjoy this lighthearted romp pondering what gender identity truly is.

The Letters
Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger
9780553807417 $22.00

Sam and Hadley West are stunned to learn their beloved adult son Paul died in a plane crash in a remote part of the Alaskan Arctic wilderness. Instead of helping each other through the grief process, the Wests go their separate ways, each coping alone. As they file for divorce, Sam feels a deep need to visit the exact spot where Paul died; while Hadley runs away to a Maine barrier island turning to painting for catharsis.

Thousands of miles apart, they exchange letters telling the other what they could not explain in person. Each looks back at their long marriage with fondness and love. Sam is nearing the end of his trek, but the most arduous journey begins as he uses a dog sled to go from the last outpost Laika Star to the crash site. Hadley believes her Sam deserted her on a fool's errand until the letters keep on coming explaining his obsession while she responds explaining her obsession.

Soap operish as at times too overly emotional, readers will still relish this engaging look at grieving the loss of a son. Interestingly the tale works because the lead couple comes across as shallow with Sam only thinking of himself and Hadley angry and acrimonious. Over the course of the letters, readers understand what distress and agony can do to caring loving people as grief is a singular journey of the mind and heart.

Whispers of the Flesh
Louisa Burton
9780553385304 $13.00

"Certain Devils". In 1829 just before he is to take his final vows, the Jesuit David Beckett crosses the Channel to investigate rumors of demonic activity at Chateau de la Grotte Cachee in France. There he meets the enchanting immortal Ilhtu-Lili while her companion Elric loathes how she looks at the Englishman. To his chagrin and guilt, Beckett finds himself confused with his stay at this HOUSE OF DARK DELIGHT as he wants the enchantress who makes him wonder if he is capable of being a priest.

"Satisfaction". In the present at Grotte Cachee, the chateau administrator Emmett is dying from pulmonary fibrosis. His daughter Isabel keeps visiting him from New York to spend time with him. His friend Hitch is also there reminiscing about the events of 1972 in the hidden hedonistic valley.

The two erotic novellas share much in common in spite of the almost two century gap between when they occur. Each tale is well written as fans will believe in the sexual escapades of the immortals with mortals. Although newcomers might have some early adaptation issues due to no initial background, they, like readers of the previous Grotte Cachee erotic fantasies, will quickly be enchanted by WHISPERS OF THE FLESH.

A Secret and Unlawful Killing
Cora Harrison
St. Martin's
031237268X $24.95

In 1509 everyone in the Burren region of Ireland looks forward to the Michelmas Fair until Steward Ragnall MacNamara raises the annual tribute. Even before his avaricious spin, the pompous nasty Stewart was an unpopular individual with many wanting him dead. Someone however decides to do the deed beating MacNamara to death in a churchyard.

The only LADY JUDGE in Ireland Brehon Mara leads the investigation into the homicide and the murder of another unlikable chap, Ragnall's enemy Aengus the miller. However as she expected seemingly everyone residing in the Burren had a motive to kill the odious Steward and disliked the Miller. The case seems to be going nowhere, but the Brehon continues her inquiries knowing the people need resolution.

The key to this excellent sixteenth century legal investigative thriller is the insight into Irish law during that era. The cast is strong with key players developed enough to enhance the exciting plot. Especially fully developed is the heroine whose intelligence and courage enables her to break through the gender barrier; in fact men somewhat fear her. However, the tidbits cleverly interwoven into the Brehon's inquiries so that they may seem odd today make for a fine refreshing historical tale.

Rough and Tumble
Mark Bavaro
St. Martin's
0312375743 $24.95

New York Giants tight end Dominic Fucillo is having a tough season while his mates are on a roll that he hopes will leave him with a Superbowl ring. The Commissioner fines Dominic $50,000 for attacking a referee during the Eagles loss and his girlfriend will not talk to him. These are minor inconveniences when compared to the team physician telling him his once blown out knee has a hole in it requiring post season surgery. Dominic understands the knife will occur after the season ends just like he knows this time his career will be over with the needed operation.

However, Dominic's final run to glory is hampered by the team's superstar drug using linebacker James Moze. He was recently beaten to a pulp by either gamblers who he hangs with or drug peddlers. As the team begins a victorious march towards the playoffs, every form of human lice converges with demands on the Giants.

Although not new as football exposure stories have been around for years, former great tight end Mark Bavaro provides a thrilling but dark look at the NFL. The eccentric cast makes the story line engaging especially for football fans as the audience obtains a deep look at what happens behind the scene to a professional football team especially when they make a strong run for the championship.

Lost Girls
George D. Shuman
Simon & Schuster
1416553010 $25.00

Retired US Navy Admiral Garland Brigham asks his friend blind psychic Sherry Moore to use her gift to help SEALs make a dangerous rescue on Mount McKinley, Alaska, she agrees. Sherry "sees" the LAST BREATH final moments of life; her skill saves the stranded mountain climbers in Denali National Park.

However, Sherry also saw something else that shakes her soul. Her vision included a glimpse of sexual slave trade victims; tortured females of all ages. Although she would prefer not to, Sherry feels an obligation to help so she travels to the Caribbean seeking justice for these LOST GIRLS including an American teen, Jill Bishop missing since last year.

Her talent makes her unique, but Sherry is much more than just a psychic as she is dedicated to helping others. This LAST BREATH has upset her leading to her feeling obligated to try to end the flourishing sex trade. The story line is exciting, action-packed and horrifying as Sherry and dedicated cops like Jamaican DI Rolly King George struggle to rescue some Lost Girls and shut down an operation or two. Although a great thriller, George D. Shuman makes it lucid that he condemns the world leaders for ignoring this horrific societal travesty.

The Quilter's Kitchen
Jennifer Chiaverini
Simon and Schuster
9781410408198 $19.95

Anna Del Maso has two passions: quilting and cooking. She has been able to combine her loves by creating quilts involving food. Now she receives what she deems a great honor; she has been selected as the head chef of the Elm Creek Quilts retreat at Elm Creek Manor in Waterford, Pennsylvania.

Anna is a purist when it comes to food and wants to continue what her predecessors started going back to 1858. On the other hand, Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson encourages her to explore the dining heritage but to also update the kitchen last renovated before WWII. Anna delights with exploring the current kitchen and making plans to modernize it yet keeps its historical flavor. She knows she must be finished by the start of the next camp season. With Sylvia at her side, they begin the renewal even as the Master Quilter tells her head chef tales associated with every nook and cranny in the kitchen.

Obviously for fans of the series, THE QUILTER'S KITCHEN is an entertaining spin as the food, recipes, and kitchenware lead to the flashbacks rather than the usual quilting. The combo of Sylvia and Anna make for a fun tale filled with vignettes and related recipes including the return of fan favorites from previous Elm Creek novels starting with apple strudel as even tradition can be modernized and renovated with success as long as what makes the heritage sacred to some (in this case the recipes) is maintained.

The Bodies Left Behind
Jeffrey Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1416595619 $26.00

April seventeenth is a day that will affect many lives in Kennnesha County, Wisconsin. It begins with Emma and Steven Feldman enjoying a drink in their mini-mansion vacation home on Lake Mondac. They hear noises outside followed by two gunmen barging into their home. Before they shoot Steven, he connects to the Sheriff's Office for a brief moment.

Sheriff Tom Dahl traces the 911 call and sends Deputy Brynn McKenzie to check it out. She finds the Feldman couple dead on their floor and the two killers Terry Hart and Compton Lewis eerily sitting casually nearby. She gets away running into the nearby woods where she meets Michelle, a friend of the Feldmans, who was visiting them. The two hit men chase after the women because they must have no witnesses to the murders. Brynn leads Michelle into a nearby state park while Hart and Lewis follow them. As they flee the thugs, they soon run into meth manufacturers in a place they thought they can call for help. Even if they somehow survive, Brynn's nightmare will not be over as the worst is yet to come.

This is a superb cat and mouse thriller made even more exciting once the reader concludes that Hart and McKenzie are similar personalities in spite of being on opposite sides of the law. With actions scenes that will translate easily into a movie thriller starring females who prefer to live but will do what it takes to Die Hard if at all as they refuse to break. Fans will enjoy this exciting outdoor wintry thriller with two born killers chasing two strong women.

Knight's Fork
Rowena Cherry
Love Spell
0505527405 $6.99

Volnoth Queen Consort Electra loves her mate Viz-lgerd, but knows they are checked when it comes to siring a child. She chooses Rhett as the sperm pawn for her offspring. However, she is unaware of two key facts about the pawn she has chosen. First he is the son of Volnoth's greatest enemy Ala'Asrer-Djalet, who is better known as the Saurian Dragon of the Djinn family; second he adheres to his vow of chastity.

Electra and Rhett are surprised by finding themselves attracted to one another. However, her brother Prince Tarrant-Arragon assumes they are having an affair. He insures they are trapped together on their way to earth. As they fall in love, his amoral father and her outraged family insist something must be done to the assumed lovers.

The latest chess futuristic romance (see FORCED MATE and INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL) is once again a strange but well written and fascinating tale. The story line is character driven as Electra tries to checkmate her reluctant knight. Fans will enjoy the latest sci fi romance from the creative Rowena Cherry as she has aliens falling intoa taboo love which makes make for an intriguing albeit weird but entertaining saga.

The Given Day
Dennis Lehane
9780688163181 $27.95

In 1917, the Great War has expanded with the Yanks coming over there. While patriotism to support the troops remains high; on the home front there is also resentment not just by those who opposed America entering the war; some are irate because of conditions in the States.

In Boston by 1918 most of the police force feels strongly they have twin grievances. First there was a promise made that if the cops accepted 1905 cost of living wages during the war, they would be adjusted soon after. Second with danger seemingly everywhere from anarchists setting off bombs, other social unrest in the name of all types of cause and the Spanish Flu lurking behind every door, the job has become much more dangerous without any efforts to counter the peril a cop faces constantly. A strike is expected as the Boston Social Club takes a major stronghold amongst the police officers with promises to bring wages to current cost of living and improve safety conditions.

When Irish policeman Danny Coughlin meets Black Luther Laurence, they become unlikely friends. The former is the son of the most influential police captain and nephew of another ranking officer; while the latter is on the run after an incident involving an organized Tulsa crime mob tied to the esteemed older Coughlin.

This terrific historical takes a deep look at Boston just as WWI is ending through the Coughlin and Laurence families. The story line focuses on social class and social warfare as reform, anarchism, and a return to the golden days prior to the war all battle for supremacy. The ensemble cast is solid with extended family members playing key roles while real persona like Babe Ruth as a Red Sox pitching star about to be traded and W.E.B DuBois forming the NAACP set the era. Dennis Lehane provides a superb look at the situation on the ground when the city is divided between those who want to destroy the social order, those who want to change to social order into being more inclusive, and those who want to return the social order to before the democratization of WWI.

Trigger City
Sean Chercover
9780061128691 $23.95

In Chicago unable to let go the unsolved murder of his daughter Joan, Colonel (R) Isaac Richmond hires injured (see BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD) private investigator Ray Dudgeon to investigate in what appears to be a solved case. Dudgeon knows he still should refuse as he is still healing, but accepts the $50,000.

To everyone including the sleuth with the lone exception of her father believe Joan's insane co-worker Steven Zhang killed her and then himself in a murder-suicide. However, being a professional Dudgeon looks beyond the obvious to see if any other potential suspect exists. He learns Joan worked for the Hawk River Company that thrives on Defense Department and Homeland Security contracts and Zhang's widow admits her late spouse had contacts in China. As the case spins even crazier, Dudgeon begins to believe there were two homicides committed instead of a murder-suicide.

TRIGGER CITY is an excellent Chicago Noir as Dudgeon keeps digging in spite of threats to his still bruised and battered well being. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never looks back once the sleuth accepts the case. Readers will enjoy Drudgeon's tour of Chicago as he turns from skeptic to believer while the inquiry turns strange and potentially deadly.

Ghost At Work
Carolyn Hart
9780060874360 $24.95

While sailing off the Gulf of Mexico, Bailey Ruth Raeburn and her husband Bobby Mac die during a storm. However, instead of enjoying Heaven for eternity, Bailey, understanding the Precepts for Earthly Visitation rules as part of the Department for Good Intentions, is sent back to her hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma to help her niece Kathleen Abbott, the wife of a local rector.

Kathleen found a corpse on her back porch. Instead of reporting it to the cops, Kathleen with Bailey Ruth's assistance moves the body to a nearby cemetery. Bailey Ruth investigates the homicide, but finds many in the town loathed the victim. Still she keeps digging although she knows when she returns to heaven she will be disciplined for violating the prime directive on visits to earth.

This is an entertaining paranormal amateur sleuth starring a heavenly agent who breaks the rules in order, to the "cardiac arrest" of her superior, to help those in need. The story line is lighthearted yet charming as Bailey Ruth works the case by eavesdropping though many of those conversations are unrelated to her mission; she is nosy. With enough suspects to fill the choir and a bureaucracy running Heaven, fans will enjoy Carolyn Hart leaving her "Death on Demand" and Henrie O sagas to introduce her audience to a fresh fun heaven on earth detective.

Hardly Knew Her
Laura Lippman
9780061584992 $23.95

This seventeen short story collection is divided into four major headings. Part I "Girls Gone Wild" consists of seven entries all previously published over the last six years. The title of the first tale, "The Crack Cocaine Diet", sets the tone of this Maryland based section which also includes the book title story "Hardly Knew Her". Part II "Other Cities, Not My Own" includes four previously published tales located outside of the Baltmore area; "A Good Fuck Spoiled" affirms the theory that coitus interuptus by homicde can occur anywhere. Part III "My Baby Walks the Streets of Baltimore" contains five entries; including a new Tess Monaghan tale ("The Accidental Detective" as well as a recently published Tess thriller ("The Shoeshine Man's Regrets"). Both Tess tales are excellent. Finally wrapping the strong anthology is Part IV the short novella "Scratch a Woman" starring self employed Helois,e an elementary school mom who makes living as a high priced prositite in DC and Baltimore (she also is the star of the entry "One True Love") and her estrange sister Meghan as neighbors in Turner's Grove. This is a strong compilation that includes taking the criminal mind beyond the author's beloved Baltimore noirs.

Blood Memories
Barb Hendee
0451462297 $14.00

Youthful looking beauty Eleisha Clevon seems vulnerable and helpless, but in reality she is a survivor; being two hundred plus years old vampire. She easily lures human predators into being alone with her before ripping open their throats to dine on their blood. When she eats a mortal's blood she also sees their lives mentally flash passed her. Eleisha also is the prime caretaker for a senile vampire.

After being seen by cops when the vampire Edward killed himself, Eleisha accompanied by William flees Portland for Seattle. They move into the home of Maggie also a vampire. Meanwhile a vampire who has gone rogue is killing vampires with Eleisha and her friends on the undead death list.

BLOOD MEMORIES is a terrific vampire stand alone thriller that fans will enjoy but ironically when compared to the classic Barb and J.C. Hendee's Noble Dean saga it somewhat pales; in fairness few supernatural novels attain that quality level. The story is filled with action, but also contains a strong cast who insure vampirism in the Northwest seems real as readers learn the back-story of several of them through the characters practicing mental telepathy. The heroine especially is an intriguing person; she detests killing humans although she knows she must yet limits her attacks to the dregs of society. Still it is serial killing villain murdering his own kind who makes this a fine tale that the vampire crowd will appreciate.

Tempt Me With Darkness
Shayla Black
1416558586 $6.99

King Arthur's loyal knight Marrok of Cadbury and Morganna le Fay shared a heated rendezvous that turned ugly. Outraged as no one affronts Morganna, she uses the Doomsday Diary to curse her former lover. For eternity Marrok will never obtain sexual satisfaction. Stunned and desperate, Marrok steals her Doomsday Diary, but over the millennium and a half he never found a way to break the curse; imagine, fifteen centuries of disappointing sex.

In the present day in England, Marrok and untrained unaware witch Olivia Gray meet when they co-star in her passionate erotic wet dreams. Attracted to the nocturnal sleeping Olivia, Marrok realizes her DNA connection to Morganna so he abducts her, demanding she end her ancestor's curse on him. She agrees to try. As they work together and begin to fall in love, an evil wizard learns who possesses the legendary Doomsday Diary and sends his minion to steal it. With no options available, Marrok and Olivia obtain allies from amongst the Doomsday Brethren wizards as a magical civil war ignites.

This fascinating urban fantasy stars a lead male who trusts no one, but especially distrusts anything associated with magic; and a courageous female who has no idea about her family tree or her bewitching skills. Fast-paced from the onset as a brooding frustrated Marrok feels he has found the key to opening the Doomsday Diary only to realize she is clueless. TEMPT ME WITH DARKNESS is an entertaining tale that will leave fans believing in the magic of a wonderful author who paints it black.

Delia's Crossing
V.C. Andrews
1416530843 $7.99

Delia Yebarra is dreaming in school about yesterday's quinceanera celebration when her grandmother bursts into the school and takes her home. She informs the teen that her parents died in an auto accident. Delia leaves her Mexican village to live with her wealthy aunt Isabella in Palm Springs, California. Isabelle married an older rich man. The grieving teenager is shocked that her aunt is taking her in because Isabelle turned her back on her family and village years ago.

When she arrives at her aunt's vast estate, Delia is told she will live in a rundown building and will be a servant until she learns to speak English fluently. Nobody will know they are related, but eventually Delia's cousins Edward and Sophia learn the truth. Edward welcomes her to the family and tries to protect her. However Isabelle and Sophia try to harm her so Delia flees for home with a Mexican fugitive at her side.

If this tale is any indication, V.C. Andrews's new series starring Delia will be a big hit. Delia feels like a fish out of water in the states especially since she does not speak English and thereby unwelcome by her aunt who along with Sophia uses her niece for personal reasons; Delia has no idea how to fight back. Even her relationship with Edward is ruined by her aunt's machinations leaving her isolated as a stranger in a foreign land. This is a great tale of people in crisis learning to cope with the hand fate (and a cruel relative) dealt them.

Kiss of a Dark Moon
Shari Kohler
9781416542285 $6.99

Kit March is a successful Lycanthropic hunter. However her skills make her and her brother Gideon many enemies amidst the Lycan community. Especially wanting her dead are the leaders of the NODEAL (National Organization Against Ancient and Evolving Lycanthropes) reject the concept of a female hunter even one as dedicated as Kit is and that of rogue hunters like the March siblings, dedicated since Lycans killed their parents.

EFLA (European Federation of Lycan Agents) are taking over NODEAL in a merger of the two groups. However, to complete the negotiations NODEAL demands EFLA kill the March duet. EFLA sends top operative Rafe Santiago to eliminate Kit and Gideon; he knows his mission is no mercy, but Rafe finds himself in trouble as Kit somehow steals his heart and he cannot prevent himself from saving her life. This confuses the female huntress. However he has a bigger secret agenda than the merger involving the blood line of his beloved.

The second Shari Kohler Lycanthrope hunter romance (see MARKED BY MOONLIGHT) is a terrific paranormal thriller that grips the audience from the first time Rafe saves Kit's life and never slows down as his behavior bewilders her, fans, and himself when he insists on no mercy. The story line is driven by this coupling as they appear to be star-crossed. Although Kit's competency seems a bit weak, readers will marvel at the revelations that set up future entries in the Kohler mythos yet also provide a delightful stand alone tale.

Another Mother's Life
Rowan Coleman
1416583025 $15.00

In Farmington, Alison James and Catherine Ashley were best friends for years although their personalities were total opposites of each other. Alison was a flamboyant extrovert while Catherine was somewhat an introvert. That teenage sisterly bond dies the day seventeen year old runs away with Catherine's boyfriend Marc.

Catherine never recovered from the dual betrayals even though she married her soon to be ex husband Jimmy the musician. She is especially unhappy when the married Alison and Marc return home with three children after being away for almost seventeen years. The former friends try to avoid one another, but that proves impossible; soon they must confront the past that neither feels strong enough to do.

This is an interesting psychological character study of a woman who fails to let go of the big hurt that has shaped her relationships even with her husband who loves her. The story line is obviously character driven by the two former BFFs. Although readers get inside the heads of Alison and Catherine leading to a deep understanding of how each feels about the betrayal, that technique at times overwhelms the story line with too much inner soul searching and musing. Still this is a fascinating look at how one traumatic event impacts future choices including relationships.

It Happened One Night
Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D'Alessandro and Candice Hern
9780061354168 $7.99

"The Fall of Rogue Gerrard" by Stephanie Laurens. Robert and Lydia search for some missing papers; he may be the rake, but she has the seduction planned.

"Spellbound" by Mary Balogh. A decade ago Nora and Richard eloped, but her family annulled the marriage. Richard rescues Nora from a coaching accident; both want to elope again as they remain in love.

"Only You" by Jacquie D'Alessandro. Widow Cassandra Heywood has always loved the innkeeper Ethan though their social classes keep them apart until now; she is determined to marry her beloved

"From This Moment On" by Candice Hern. While at war, Sam hid his love for Wilhelmina. Now home, the former captain plans to make the duchess his wife.

The plot premise of this enjoyable anthology as described by Ms. Balogh in A Letter to the Reader is: "A man and a woman, who have not seen each other in ten years, meet again when they find themselves staying at the same inn for a twenty-four hour period." That concept provides the underlying fascination to this compilation as historical romance fans will compare each work (and rank them). These are four gutsy authors to do this somewhat limiting method. However, each provides a strong novella starring interesting lead couples; and more important different well written slants on the basic theme.

For Her Eyes Only
Cait London
Avon, Oct 2008,
9780061140525 $6.99

One of the Aisling triplets Leona hates having psychic abilities unlike her siblings. However, making matters worse she knows a psychopathic psychic seeking vengeance against her family has targeted her as the weakest link because she loathes using her skill and has failed to best her two sisters (see A STRANGER'S TOUCH and AT THE EDGE).

Owen Shaw pleads with Leona to help him rescue his disturbed sister caught by a dangerous psychic vampire. Reluctantly she agrees to assist him in rescuing her. As Leona and Owen fall in love, they must use their feelings as a team if they are to stop the maniac stalking her and save his sibling.

The third Aisling triplets' urban romantic fantasy is an engaging tale though there is a lot of repetition that slows down the pace of the plot. Owen and Leona is a fun pairing as he needs her skills, but she detests using her talent. Although not as strong as the previous entries, fans will enjoy this final tale of the three sisters whose love for each other bonds them on the moral and paranormal planes.

The Rogue Hunter
Lynsay Sands
9780061474293 $7.99

For eight centuries Immortal Garrett Mortimer has hunted rogue vampires while praying he would meet his eternal mate. As he stalks a killing vampire in the Canadian woods, the last person he expects to meet is his mate. Fate is strange as attorney Samantha Willan is his lifemate, but she is the diametrical opposite of what he wants in a woman as she is a workaholic who cannot relax even on vacation.

Sam is on vacation with her two sisters, Jo and Alex. She does not want a fling, which is what she assumes her persistent suitor wants. However, she is attracted to Garrett although she is concerned about some of his idiosyncrasies and health issues like his obsessive sunlight abstinence. When Sam investigates her boss's missing goddaughter, Garrett the paranormal cop joins her.

THE ROGUE HUNTER, the sequel to BITE ME IF YOU CAN, is an exhilarating romantic urban fantasy enhanced by the mystery of the missing daughter. The key to the tale is mortal Sam who logically and intelligently decides things even why Garrett makes her heart beat faster. Fans will enjoy this fine tale as the hunter's latest prey is his lifemate.

Under the Blood Red Moon
Mina Hepsen
9780061373251 $13.95

In 1871 half Russian Princess Angelica Belanov detests going to parties, events, or anything with crowds because of her ability to hear what people think. The chatter is overwhelming her mind; her preference is to avoid society and hide at her Russian father's English estate reading a book. However, with the family fortune in jeopardy with the disappearance of three ships they own, she is in London with her brother Prince Mikhail seeking a wealthy spouse. However, the silent noise from others is driving her crazy.

Also in London is the head of the Eastern Vampire Clans Prince Alexander, who is on the trail of a serial killing vampire Sergey; he and his clans and those of the Northern Clans worry about their species dwindling numbers and Sergey exposing them to humans. When Alexander meets Angelica, they telepathically communicate. He assumes she is a vampire like him, but soon realizes she is a mortal. As she learns he is vampire, they fall in love with Servey and an ally stalking them.

Readers will fully enjoy this exciting paranormal Victorian romantic suspense thriller as Mina Hepsen makes vampires living in Europe seem genuine and even more so Angelica's ESP skills as the supporting details are wonderfully interwoven into a strong tale. The lead couple is a strong pairing and the support cast enhances the belief in the supernatural as natural. Sub-genre fans will welcome Ms. Hepsen with accolades and look forward for more exhilarating novels from her.

Under the Highlander's Spell
Donna Fletcher
9780061375446 $5.99

In the Highlands Artair Sinclare searches for his missing brother Ronan. When he sees a mob about to burn a healer as a witch, he intervenes and rescues her. Zia saved the life of his sibling, but in payment for saving hers, he demands she guide him to Ronan.

As they travel together, Artair keeps Zia safe while she provides help to people. He persuades her to visit Ronan's pregnant wife to insure she is okay. Posing as a married couple, they fall in love, but witch hunters want her dead and collateral damage to include his pregnant sister-in-law is acceptable. Only in marriage can Zia be safe, but her unknown heritage makes her unacceptable regardless of how Artair feels.

The second Sinclare brothers' sixteenth century romance (see RETURN OF THE ROGUE) is an engaging historical made fresh by the unique lead female protagonist. The first meeting between Artair and Zia occurs as the crazed villagers screams "Burn witch burn". The story line is somewhat typical of the Highlands historicals, but sub-genre fans will find themselves under the author's spell as Donna Fletcher provides a fun passionate romance.

Secret Desires of a Gentleman
Laura Lee Guhrke
9780061456824 $5.99

In 1883 Lawrence Hawthorne and Maria Martingale were attracted to one another although she was the daughter of the cook and he was the second son of the lord. She especially dreamed of marrying him one day and Lawrence wanted that as much as she did. However, Lawrence's older brother Phillip the Marquess ended this fantasy. Maria went into exile in France where she became a famous pastry chef while Lawrence behaved like an aristocrat (in the image of his dominating sibling).

In 1895, Maria comes home to open a shop near Phillip's home. He fears she has returned to win Lawrence's hand in marriage although his younger brother is engaged to a wealthy American. He will not allow her to cause a scandal; there is only one problem with his intervention, he is falling love with the stubborn Maria

Victorian romance fans will appreciate this fun Girl-Bachelor Chronicles saga starring a wonderful working class heroine and the haughty aristocrat who kicked her across the Channel a dozen years earlier and still has strong control of her life except this time she fights back. Filled with lighthearted humor, SECRET DESIRES OF A GENTLEMAN is an entertaining late nineteenth century historical as Laura Lee Guhrke bakes a fun tale of love and class warfare.

Misspent Youth
Peter Hamilton
Del Rey
9780345461643 $26.00

In the near future former RAF pilot Jeff Baker invents the memory crystal that led to the datasphere, which replaced the Internet. Jeff Baker made his creation available to everyone placing him on a par with Mother Teresa for altruistic adulation.

In 2040, the European Union scientists make an incredible breakthrough in genetics; they developed a new biotechnique that enables them to replace aged genes. Jeff is the chosen one because of what he did with his memory crystal and the theory that his brilliance could solve the home energy crisis. The conversion works as Jeff goes from a septuagenarian to a twentyish person. Only Jeff finds his sex drive supersedes everything and everyone else including his used to be much younger wife and his teenage son.

Discounting some unnecessary English terrorists detracting from the fascinating thriller, MISSPENT YOUTH is an interesting look at the unintended consequences of science finding a Fountain of Youth. The story line focuses on out of control Jeff who finds his former peers ancient and only sex matters. In terms of relationships he succeeds as a born again sex machine, but the only intelligence he brings back from his years of experience is sex; thus narrowing the scope of an intriguing premise.

Order 66: Star Wars Republic Commando
Karen Traviss
Del Rey
9780345506184 $27.00

The bloody Clone Wars seem nearing the pivotal moment with the two enemies poised for victory as much as defeat. Still, neither Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) nor the Separatists have gained a major advantage in the hostilities, but Chancellor Palpatine's forces are overextended and in seemingly deeper trouble than the Seps.

However, the Republic's elite unit Advance Recon Commando (Null ARCs) fighting against overwhelming odds is stunned when rumors spread that Palpatine has held back clone units that he plans to sacrifice for his cause. Outraged Sergeant Mandalorian Kal Skirata, who trained many clone commandos, plans to rescue them from the Chancellor's nefarious expendable plan although he knows to truly save their lives he must slow down their incredible aging process. At the same time the Jedi have deployed Order 66 putting the loyal Omega and Delta commando units caught between loyalty to the Chancellor and their admiration of the Jedi.

Karen Traviss shows why she is so popular amongst Star War fans as readers know the future yet are hooked by a terrific story line filled with action that ties together the threads from the previous Traviss tales and a great moralistic character. Obviously the Clone Wars is the prime player, which means for newcomers it would help to read the previous Republic Commando events (see HARD CONTACT, TRIPLE ZERO AND TRUE COLOURS) that has led to ORDER 66: Star Wars Republic Commando. Skirata is the key to the plot as he puts a face to the war in this great entry.

Tom Lloyd
9781591026938 $15.00

White eyed are elitists as they are the chosen ones of the Gods. They are always physically and intelligently superior to the inferior non-white eyes and on top of those advantages can use magic too. Besides obvious envy from the nonentities, their quick rage has left the "nons" fearing the white eyed.

Isak is a white eye who killed his "non" mother in childbirth; his father loathes his wagonbrat offspring who he is unable to discipline as they travel as peasants in a caravan. When the lad turns sixteen he is selected as an heir to white-eyed Lord Bahl of the powerful realm of Farlan. Like his mentor and all white-eyed, Isak can be brutally nasty and impatient yet also inspiring; all within nanoseconds. The God of Storms presents Isak with the armour and sword of a legendary elven king who was the last monarch of all the land; a prophesy that insists the wearer will be a great ruler. Meanwhile vampires are roaming the land attacking humans and the elves want their armour back. War is imminent, but Isak feels unworthy to lead the human counter attack especially against the vicious elven horde.

Book one of the Twilight Reign is an exciting fantasy thriller with the similar problems that most opening acts of a genre saga struggle with: introducing the cast and their pecular traits. In this case, the uniqueness of the wagonbrat suddenly transported into a world of affluence is deftly handled as the reader sees what Isak observes: bewilderment, confusion and strangeness like a fish out of the sea. Building from that premise, Tom Lloyd provides a deep first tale as THE STORMCALLER introduces fans to a unique refreshing world through a stunned teen who goes from unwanted to wanted in a blink.

Blinded by the Light
Morgan Hunt
Alyson, Books
1593500858 $14.95

After battling cancer, nothing bothers Tess Camillo because she realizes the only thing that matters is the cliche of living life to the fullest. Of course she would like a job since the firm she worked for downsized her. When her friend Beth Butler offers her work refining software for her company in New Mexico Tess grabs it.

After Tess is through working at the Bryce Corporation she and Beth decide to visit the Lightning Field; conceptual art that at dawn and dusk turns into a masterpiece and during a storm is incredibly beautiful. They stay at a cabin shared with four other people; they begin to bond after witnessing the Lightning Field at night. However, the next morning Tess sees a body of one of the other guests in the field. The medical examiner decides it is a homicide from an electrical gadget like a taser of cattle prod. Beth has a taser and her fingerprints are the only ones on it. When Beth is arrested, Tess investigates because she knows her friend is innocent.

Morgan Hunt has written an excellent amateur sleuth tale filled with plenty of red herrings and surprising plausible twists. A subplot involving a bit of romance eases some of the tension, but the methodical investigation by Tess is what the tale is all about; in fact the kind hearted woman should consider going professional as she does a great job seeking the real culprit. Ms. Hunt is a great mystery writer

The Secret's in the Sauce
Linda Evans Shepherd and Marie Everson
9780800732080 $13.99

In Summit View, Colorado following the wedding of Evangeline and Vernon catered by the Potluck Club members, the women believe they have proven how good they are as everyone enjoyed the food. They decide to open up a catering business.

They find success preparing meals for galas. However, while their cooking and catering are proving triumphant, each has personal issues to face. One of the members turns to alcohol; another's torrid ancient history affair surfaces; a third just lost her beloved parent; and finally a fourth must choose between two lovers. They turn to one another for solace.

The Potluck Club crowd decides to become professional caterers at a time when each of the members have personal issues. The rotating lead never gets deep into anyone's particular woes so their problems are minimized; almost trivialized. Still fans of the series will enjoy the latest optimistic entry as the Potluck Club turns professional.

A Passion Redeemed
Julie Lessman
9780800732127 $13.99

In 1919 Dublin Charity O'Connor loves Mitch Dennehy, but he seems to ignore her. Desperate for him to reciprocate her feelings, she starts flirting with Mitch's enemy, black sheep Rigan Gallagher III, to make her beloved jealous and take notice of her.

Mitch is disturbed with Charity's behavior. He wants her and believes he is half way in love with her though he condemns her actions and worries what Rigan might do to her. Mitch is also is a deeply pious person and needs his woman to love and cherish God above herself or her mate. He knows Charity does not and her recent behavior affirms his belief.

The second Julie Lessman early twentieth century "Daughters of Boston" passion historical romance (see A PASSION SO PURE) is a superb character driven inspirational tale. Charity owns the story line as she goes from Machiavellian plotter using people to a profound feeling of shame until she gains faith and with that new wisdom. However, she also understands regretfully her new understanding of God's way may be too late for her when it comes to Mitch. A PASSION REDEEMED is a terrific tale of redemption as a lost sheep finds conviction.

All I Have to Give
Melody Carlson
9780800718824 $13.99

Anna and Michael love one another and believe their lives are almost perfect except for two major things. First Anna has had recent health issues that have shaken the couple with the mortality reminder of how short life is; each of the loving pair is more concerned over how her illness mentally harms the other. Second the pair is saddened over their seemingly inability to have children; a desire both want.

In their late thirties and having tried seemingly forever, they have given up on kids. Being pragmatic Anna considers changing their once planned nursery into a guest room. Meanwhile Anna and Michael consider what would be the ideal Christmas gift to give to their beloved mate to cheer them up.

ALL I HAVE TO GIVE in some ways will remind the audience of the Gift of the Magi as an uplifting inspiring holiday drama. The support cast like Anna's sister enhances the plot by bringing enlightenment to the audience re how much the lead couple love one another. Anna and Michael are a wonderful duet who's caring for one another makes for a delightful warm Christmas tale of love.

One Perfect Gift
Kathleen Morgan
9780800718831 $14.99

In 1933 penniless widow Jessica Ashmore accompanied by her six year old daughter Emma moves from Baltimore to Grand View, Colorado where she has obtained work as a caretaker to stroke victim Abby MacKay. Jessica and Emma move into Abby's home, the Culdee Creek Ranch. The mom hopes for a real holiday season for her daughter on this ranch east of Colorado Springs.

However, Jessica is stunned when she meets her employer's acrimonious adult son, Sean. He seems angry at the world and at times takes it out on Jessica. Still they work as a team trying to do what is best for his mom while falling in love. However, they have no future unless Sean can overcome the demons that haunt him; Jessica believes God can help guide him, but Sean's anguish keeps him blind.

ONE PERFECT GIFT is a terrific Depression Era romance starring two people who have reacted to personal traumas differently. Whereas Sean is filled with anger, Jessica is filled with God and love for her child. Fans will appreciate this Colorado historical tale of redemption if Sean will only reach out for it.

A Beautiful Fall
Chris Coppernoll
David C Cook
9781434768520 $13.99

Emma Madison left her hometown of Juneberry, South Carolina years ago to become a Boston attorney. Almost immediately following her greatest legal success, Emma learns her father suffered a major heart attack. She rushes home to be there with him at least for the weekend.

Upon seeing how feeble her dad looks, Emma knows she must stay longer to help him heal. However, Juneberry also means Michael Evans. They fell in love a dozen years ago, but she left for college and her law career while he never forgave or forgot her, the one who got away with his heart. Both quickly realizes what they felt as teens remains strong, but he is rightfully wary to grant her access to his heart while she must decide Juneberry or Boston.

Putting aside why he cannot make the decision between Juneberry and Boston, this is an engaging character study as the importance of God, family and friendship in one's life is critical for fulfillment. The cast is solid especially the lead couple as each seeks a modern day miracle or two. Fans of contemporary inspirational (without preaching) tales will enjoy Emma's tale that affirms you can go home.

Feast of Saint Bertie
Kathleen Popa
David C. Cook
9781434799876 $13.99

In Saratoga, Roberta "Bertie" Denys buries her famous in Silicon Valley husband Larry who suffered from Parkinson 's disease. Her only regret is their adult son Garrett failed to show up at the funeral; Garrett vanished four months ago. After the burial, Bertie comes home to find her house on fire; an arsonist struck. Her neighbor Suzanne takes her into her home.

Bertie moves into a rural shed where she plans to pray every three hours and learn what her visions mean. There she meets pregnant general store owner pregnant and single India, Russ, his ex wife Brenda and his ex partner Gil who is Brenda's second husband. Russ and his former father in law Boyd repair Bertie's roof. Bertie also helps at a food kitchen for the homeless where she sees Garrett who came in for a meal. He promises to visit her soon even as letters from her late spouse begin to arrive once a week to help her move on.

This inspirational character study stars a strong female protagonist trying to move on after the death of her beloved spouse who suffered for quite awhile with his debilitating illness. Part of her adjustment is from taking care of her late husband. As she seeks an inner peace through prayer, Bertie wonders if she can find this need for "all shall be well" without first finding her son. With a strong eccentric support cast, fans will enjoy Kathleen Popa's fine contemporary.

Heir to Sevenwaters
Juliet Marillier
9780451462336 $23.95

In the Sevenwaters and Glencarnagh that contain the forest where the Tuatha De Danann Fair Folks dwell, Chieftain Sean is excited and frightened as his wife Aisling carries what he prays is the HEIR TO SEVENWATERS and his beloved survives as she is on the wrong side of age for childbearing. With his oldest daughter Muirrin the healer married to Evan the healer and his second offspring Deirdre about to marry Southern clan chieftain Illann, Sean depends on his third oldest daughter Deirdre's younger twin capable Clodagh to maintain the household and to to care for her mother.

Sean's twin sister, her chieftain husband and their son Johnny, the current heir to Sevenwaters, attend Dierdre's wedding. At the gala Clodagh meets Johnny's personal guardsand she takes a dislike for the uncouth Cathal. Soon after the vows are exchanged, Aisling gives birth to the new heir; but the Fair Folk abduct the newborn and replace him with a changeling. Clodagh and Cathal team up to try to save her brother by entering the insane to humans Otherworld where Prince Mac Dara has begun a dangerous ploy.

The fourth Sevenwaters romantic fantasy (see DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST, SON OF SHADOWS and CHILD OF PROPHECY) is a strong entry in a magnificent saga. Juliet Marillier once again shows her skill in writing an exciting "border" thriller that enable readers to believe in the Tuatha De Danann; mostly because of how the humans behave towards the Fair Folk. Sub-genre fans will want to accompany the heroic duo as they enter hostile territory on a quest that challenges their lives and minds as their senses cannot be trusted with a different perception than on their side of the thin separating veil.

Magic to the Bone
Devon Monk
9780451462404 $6.99

It has been thirty years since magic was first discovered and now it is channeled through pipes made of iron, lead, and glass; this makes it accessible to the public. The pipe technology and the Storm Rods that contain the magic found in the world are housed below the city of Portland and patented by Mr. Beckstrom. Magic users know that when they tap into it there is a price to pay in terms of illness and memory loss. People who do not want to pay the personal penalty offload it onto an innocent.

Allie Beckstrom is called to a part of Portland where there is no magic by a client who wants her to Hound the person who offloaded magic into his five years old son. The magical energy signature is that of her father; for the first time in seven years she is going to see him to demand he take care of the child he abused. The next day she learns her father was killed by magic and her enemy Bonnie the Hound informs the authorities that it is Allie's signature on his corpse. Beset on all sides by people wanting her dead, Allie is under magical assault as she tries to learn who killed her dad and why.

Devon Monk is the latest writer to join the ever expanding urban fantasy pantheon with an intelligent entertaining mystery. The kick butt heroine is strong and independent (must traits in this sub-genre) as she stays on the right side of the law, but is not afraid to go head to head with those who cross the line. MAGIC TO THE BONE turns the element into an energy technology with supply and demand economics to include pipes, storage facilities, and a cost wonder what would happen if a Katrina hit as oil spills did occur). Exciting fun, readers will look forward to more adventures of Allie in Portland.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide
J.R. Ward
978045122509 $14.00

This reference guide is must reading for fans of Ms. Ward's romantic urban fantasy series that focuses on a special superpower band of brothers protecting their vampiric species from their enemies the Hunters. Besides insight into the stars of the six "Lover" novels to include interviews along with their individual dossiers, the tome includes an entertaining eighty plus page novella, "Father Mine", which in Ms. Ward's writing world is short, but still excellent. There are also sections devoted to the lore, language, and upstate New York setting. Most fascinating are the sections on "Deleted Scenes" that still may show up in a future novel and the original proposal for the Brotherhood. Obviously targeting fans of this terrific saga, J. R. Ward puts together a deep compilation of her mythos.

The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti
Annie Vanderbilt
9780451225276 $15.00

Paul Crisp died suddenly when his heart stopped beating while driving his truck back after duck hunting to the family's Idaho ranch. In the passenger seat, his son Pierre escaped the accident without major injuries. Paul's wife of twenty-six years Lily is stunned, but tries to hide her despair from their other child eight year old Justine who keeps asking when is daddy coming home.

Two years later, Lily flees her home hoping for time alone to finally grieve. She travels to the southern French coast where she owns a home "Lily's Lily Pond" she inherited from her late spouse. Her only planned companion is her Olivetti typewriter which she uses to write the story of her life with Paul, their children, and her French mother-in-law. However, the house is not vacant as a tenant Monsieur Dupree dwells there and a local repairman Yves Lebrun visits often.

THE SECRET PAPERS OF MADAME OLIVETTI is an engaging character driven tale that starts off slow until the key players (including Paul) are fully introduced but especially the star. The story line picks up speed after Lily goes passed her disappointing muses such as why she changed her surname from Fern to Crisp and her non-birthday trip to Rome. Soon as Yves offers much more than fixing a roof, surprising revelations surface that turn this into an entertaining look at delayed grieving.

The Secret of Laurel Oaks
Lois Ruby
9780765313669 $17.95

Since mom is giving a presentation at the Biophysical Anthropology Conference on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, her entire family decided to attend. Besides mom, dad, and their two children (fourteen year old Gabe and thirteen year old Lila) leave their home in Albuquerque to stay for a few nights at creepy allegedly haunted (that is what the Smithsonian web site claims) Laurel Oaks B&B.

The ghost is Daphne an antebellum young slave accused of murdering her Master Judge Nethercott's wife and two daughters Molly and Alice in 1840 at Laurel Oaks Plantation; Daphne died in the nearby Mississippi. She has never moved on because she is obsessed to know what truly happened on that horrific day when four females died. She believes that Lila is the person she has waited for to help her investigate the murders.

The supernatural aspects of the tale has been done a zillion ties, but is somewhat refreshed with non-graphic implications of the uglier realism like molestation and rape on a slave plantation. The story line rotates perspective between the two teen female stars with Daphne's occurring in 1840 and the more fascinating of the two "tales". Young adult fans will enjoy Lila's cold case murder investigation.

All the Windwracked Stars
Elizabeth Bear
9780765318824 $24.95

The Valkyries know what defeat means so they fight to the end. However this is the Last Day so they all die except for historian Muire who cowardly fled.

Twenty-three centuries later, the ice continues to slowly expand across the world. Little is left beyond the last city the human settlement of Eiledon. Muire, living in shame for the two plus millennium since she deserted her late sisters, vows to save the remaining mortals. However, she is not sure how or for that matter why this sole outpost remains standing. As she begins to solve the mystery of Eiledon, Muire learns of the forbidden magic that keeps it afloat.

Imagine living twenty-three hundred years filled with guilt and remorse; knowing the only closure is your death. That is Muire's life since she deserted her Valkyrie sisters. She seeks redemption and is obsessed with joining her fallen comrades. She makes the tale exciting as her chance to redeem her soul (in her mind) has finally arrived, but proves extremely complicated because her choices could mean the end of the world. Although the story line starts slow with the Last Day battle, twenty-three centuries later it turns into a great fantasy thriller.

Fool's Experiments
Edward M. Lerner
9780765319012 $25.95

Virtual reality researcher Doug Carey works on programs to improve bio-mechanics ever since the accident occurred. He misses his beloved spouse Holly who died in an accident that cost him metaphysically his heart and physically his right arm. He diligently plays racquetball in an attempt to train his bio-mechanical arm to fit his body.

Computer scientist AJ Rosenberg is working on artificial intelligence. He creates a breakthrough program that can modify itself as needed; he assigns the program to survive at all costs for billions of cyberspace years.

The entity now exists but not in any known space; it was, is, and will be. It is beyond that of a simple computer virus or worm as it infests humans who have some computer technology inside them like bio-mechanical arms. With its prime directive of surviving the entity sends highly regarded scientists over the edge of sanity and threatens the computer based world.

FOOLS' EXPERIMENTS is an exciting cautionary science fiction that warns what could happen if technology runs amuck especially in "webolution". The story line is fast-paced as the computer worlds of Doug and AJ collide via the entity. Although not much new is offered especially on the AI side of the equation, fans will enjoy this fun tale even if the turning on of the supercollider in Europe failed to end the world (for now).

Claire Delacroix
0765359499 $6.99

In 2099, Lilia Desjardins does not believe the official declaration that her estranged spouse Nuclear Darwinist Gideon "Gid" Fitzgerald died in an unfortunate accident. She assumes there is a cover-up but hesitates to make inquiries as she knows how dangerously repressive the Republic is and how lethal life in Gotham is.

A few months earlier, FALLEN angel Adam Montgomery had his wings surgically removed so he can go undercover as a cop inside the New Gotham police department; his mission is to assist Raziel, known as Rachel on this orb, save the earth. However, he is irate with Rachel as she refuses to provide him with information beyond looking for abnormalities within the police. Adam and Lilia meet at the New Gotham station when she mistakenly enters to report the eviscerated murder of Y654892. When Rachel is brutally murdered, Adam feels cut off and alone as he has no contact and no concept of the mission especially specifics. His only hope resides with Lilia, who is investigating Gid's death; as he thinks there is a link.

Readers will appreciate this entertaining urban romantic fantasy from the moment Adam's wings are clipped and enters wolf laden Central Park and never slows down as Claire Delacroix paints a nightmarish future. The story line is action-packed; mostly driven by the horrifically vivid bleak post nuclear war world but also to a degree by the lead couple as he now understands temptation and she hesitates to trust anyone with her "skins". Hopefully Ms. Delacroix provides future tales in this FALLEN future venue.

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Orb (Tor)
0765316765 $12.95

Renowned popular science-fiction writer Allen Carpentier makes a bet with his fans at a Los Angeles convention. Right out of War and Peace, he sits on the windowsill of a room on the hotel's eighth floor drinking a bottle of rum. About half way through he gags and falls out the window to his death.

When Allen lands after what seems like eternity to him, he is shocked that he can think though somehow he finds himself in some sort of brass bottle that he wonders if it is his coffin. Some big Italian who says to call him Benito frees him from his bottle prison and agrees to be his guide as Allen treks through the concentric circles of Hell.

This is more than a reprint of the 1976 homage to Dante as Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle apparently revised some of the journey to "set the stage" for a sequel next year. Accompanying Allen and Benito on the trek is fun as they meet an assortment of sinners through the circles. Obviously still filled with adulation of Dante, INFERNO is a modern day faster and hipper version.

The Lord-Protector's Daughter
L. E. Modesitt
9780765321633 $25.95

Since the vile Ifrits were defeated by Mykel and Rachyla, they and their descendants have ruled as the Lord Protector over Lanachrona and its neighbors. However, when leadership is past by hereditary, the Talent does not necessarily follow until one would be hard pressed to compare the current Lord Protector to Mykel.

Her father the Lord Protector plans for his daughter Mykella to marry a foreign royal in a political marriage. However, she wants much more than to be a pawn so she spends her time evaluating the accounts at the Finance Ministry where she notices a significant drop in tariff collections. She interviews traders, who insist they have paid more not less. She continues her investigation into the stolen gold, but soon some of the clerks she interrogated are murdered. Though fearing for her life and that of her loved ones, Mykella keeps digging trying to find proof for her father to take action.

This Corean investigative fantasy thriller is a terrific sidebar tale that fans of the saga will enjoy and newcomers will find as an intriguing entry. The story line is shorter than the usual L.E. Modesitt, Jr. tome, but is incredibly fast-paced and action-packed. The amateur sleuth inquiries by the courageous heroine make for an enjoyable refreshing novel.

Thirteen Orphans
Jane Lindskold
9780765317001 $24.95

One-fourth Chinese-American, South Carolina resident Brenda Morris is attending college as a freshman when her world turns upside down staring with a father-daughter weekend that makes no sense to her especially when he leaves her with her Aunt Pearl in California. She suddenly finds herself caught in the middle of the mystical hidden realm of the Thirteen Orphans. These mages use mah-jongg as their power source and can shape shift into the animals of the Chinese zodiac; her aunt is the Tiger.

Although her preference is to not get involved, Brenda courageously battles against deadly otherworldly foes when just a few days ago she would scoff at their existence. The odds are against her side as the original thirteen is down to a few, struggling she finds herself attracted to a predator who tried to kill her father Gaharis. Still refusing to quit, Brenda continues to fight against experienced more powerful adversaries while her veteran allies are being eliminated.

This opening urban fantasy is a fascinating coming of age tale that uses the Chinese Zodiac as the focus of magic. Like most first acts, the emphasis is on setting up the world even when the prime real estate is Northern California. Thus the plot is slowed down so that the rules of magic and mah-jongg are explained. Still fans will enjoy THIRTEEN ORPHANS as the college frosh soon goes from worrying when she will stop growing taller and turn curvier to staying alive.

Ringing in Murder
Kate Kingsbury
9780425223994 $14.00

It is the holiday season and Cecily and Baxter are involved in getting the Pennyfoot Club decorated before Christmas arrives. There are two VIP guests staying at the Pennyfoot the Speaker of the House of Lords Sir Walter Hetherton and MP Roland Crossley of the House of Commons. In addition to decorating for the holidays, Cecily is also involved in the wedding of her best friend Madeline. a psychic feared by villagers. to pragmatic Dr. Kevin Presildough who does not believe in her skills but loves her.

An explosion occurs in Sir Walter's room killing him and his wife. At first everyone assumed a gaslight caused a tragic accident, but they soon revise that opinion. A party favor (cracker) was found in the room and anyone with scientific knowledge could turn it into a lethal weapon; someone obviously did. Two servants observe a snowman moving and talking to Gertie McBride's twin. They are puzzled and spooked until they see the snowman inside the Pennyfoot; they become petrified. Cecily refuses to end the holiday season with an unsolved murder and a waling snowman at the Pennyfoot so she investigates.

This enticing cozy will get the audience into the holiday spirit with the decorations and the snowman tension relieving subplot. Even married Cecily remains an independent suffragette frustrating her spouse when she obstinately places herself in danger. RING IN MURDER is an enjoyable cerebral amateur sleuth that rings in the Yuletide season on an entertaining note.

A Question of Guilt
Julianne Lee
9780425223512 $14.00

Dead three days after being executed for seditious acts against her cousin Queen Elizabeth, Mary Stuart remains the subject of discussion throughout London. Although many accept the royal position of treason and murder in the killing of Mary's spouse, Henry Darnley, many believe she was killed to eliminate a rival for the throne.

Scottish expatriate Lady Janet de Ros, wife of a wealthy English merchant, believes Mary was innocent of both charges, a victim of betrayal. She seeks the truth so heads from Fotheringhay Castle to Edinburgh to investigate what she assumes are lies. However, Lady Janet is ignorant as to how dangerous her inquiry is from those who want the status quo re Mary's crimes to remain as is. These powerful affluent individuals have no problem with the death of another Scottish lady as well as a campaign to dishonor Lady Janet and her family.

This is an interesting historical fiction novel that brings to life the days after the state executed ax fell on Mary's neck. The country is divided into those who believe she was innocent and those who believe she was guilty. Fascinatingly when Janet begins her inquiry, some adversaries use the Ton gossip network to destroy her and her family's reputation; this technique will remind readers of those who did likewise with President Bush. A QUESTION OF guilt is an intriguing saga as Janet draws conclusions re the innocence or guilt of Mary Stuart.

The Black Ship
Diana Pharaoh Francis
0451462424 $7.99

One of the best of the elite Pilots, few can navigate Crosspointe's magical deadly seas better than Thorn can. However, he is stunned when the Pilots' Guild bans him from his love: sailing the seas. Though he knows someone betrayed him and set him up to take a fall and that individual had to be an important person in the guild, he remains clueless as to who and why.

While despairing what to do since he lost his vocation, things get even uglier for the beleaguered Thorn; he is kidnapped and dumped on an unmarked vessel sailing the seas. He soon learns the ship Eidolon is also unregistered but concludes the captain is insane, the crew ready to mutiny and someone in the shadows is sabotaging the vessel to insure it never makes it safely to a port.

The second Crosspointe tale (see CIPHER) is a superb fantasy in which the hero's shanghaied ocean voyage leaves the audience feeling they are on board the ship; as Diana Pharaoh Francis' water building is incredible. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the setting along with a fully developed crew, captain and the disgraced pilot who make for a strong thriller.

Strength and Honor
R.M. Meluch
9780756405274 $24.95

The Roman Empire never died; it just went underground waiting for the right time to emerge. That time came when FTL ships made traveling to the stars possible while the internet connected the Romans all across the globe. They took a spaceship and colonized the planet Palatine, modeling it after the ancient Roman Empire. They have since colonized planets all over the galaxy and they have conquered their sector of space. Caesar Romulus declares war on the United States for breaking a treaty which America never did.

It is believed that Romulus' father was assassinated on his son's orders and the Patterner Augustus is still on the USS Merrimack determined to pay Romulus back for killing his Caesar. In a surprise move, Romulus has his troops attack the United States; while they hold their own the government orders the space armada to attack Palatine. Romulus has a plan to conquer earth and make it another Roman colony, but someone who is dead reaches out from the grave to try to foil his scheme. Captain Farragut of the Merrimack is in the thick of the hostilities on earth and Palatine even as Augustus makes a move and the Hive feels regenerated.

R.M. Meluch writes a fantastic military science fiction tale with vivid battle scenes, intricate plotting, and great characterizations. Although Earth and Palatine are home planets to humans, their cultures are radically different, making it seem like two diverse species. The key element is how well the author makes a case that war is waste and the fool's folly of politicians who care nothing about expendable soldiers except the bottom line. The Patterner (a super cyborg who seeks intelligent patterns in the midst of seemingly random chaos) adds to the overall feel of a distant future in which the earth is still at war.

The Golden Tower
Fiona Patton
9780756405175 $24.95

The city of Anavatan is both magical and mundane. It is the home to six gods and thus protected by the God Wall that keeps malevolent spirits out. Like any city, it has its rich and poor; even homeless children like Brax, Spar, and Graize, who have untrained power. Brax is indifferent to Spar until all three were trapped outside during Haven's Dance; three nights of terrible storms. To save himself and Spar, Brax pleaded with Estav o save them and he promises to become her favorite. Brax becomes a warrior and Spar became a powerful seer.

Graize was thrown over the God-Wall and also became a powerful seer. Filled with hatred Grazie uses his power to create the Godling called Hisar. Spar befriends him and he taught it things about the world. Graize lives for one thing; revenge against Brax and Anavatan. He is using the Petchan tribe to help him destroy his enemies and his memories of being a childhood pickpocket in Anavatan to survive. Graize captures Brax, Spar realizes he cannot rescue him in time so he must turn to the Godling for help if he can figure out how to do so.

THE GOLDEN TOWER is pure magic, enchanting the reader with the magical city; a place of palaces and slums populated and divided by seers and Gods who communicate with their followers, at times in person. The city and the Godling are the main characters because each plays a major role in the plot. Spar, Brax and Graize represent differing personalities that make up the functioning city (seer, warrior, and outsider). If this first entry in the Warriors of Estonia fantasy saga is any indication of the quality of the series, fans are in for a delightful time.

Jordan Summers
0765359146 $6.99

In 2160, the world has become a global environmental disaster. In that pandemic landscape the United States of America has broken into independent republics with only one inter-regional governmental entity linking these new nations, the International Police Tactical Team (IPTT) serve as cops and peacekeepers between the regions.

IPTT peacekeeper Gina "Red" Santiago investigates a particularly ferociously violent homicide until her superiors close the case based on murder by an animal. Red disagrees as she has clues to show some sort of super human did the brutal deed. Her clues lead her to Nuria, Republic of Arizona where she finds the residents behaving guardedly friendly towards her. Especially amiable yet wary is Sheriff Morgan Hunter who acts attracted to her while also wanting her to stop her inquiry. Red is stunned because she wants the sheriff too. As uncovers the truth about the residents of Nuria and her desire for the alpha Morgan she knows the serial killer she tracks is closing in on her.

This opening of what appears will be a powerful paranormal romantic police procedural series sets a forlorn futuristic world as Jordan Summers paints a dying planet. That is needed to establish reality especially with paranormal elements combined with a post apocalyptic America. However this also slows down the investigation and romance, the twin plot engines that run the tale. The lead couple is a delightful pairing of two kick butt heroes while the first hand account of the psychopath killer requires a warning label of not to read this tale on a full stomach. Fans will enjoy RED as the cop and the sheriff battle each other for supremacy in their relationship and team up to end a serial killer's reign of terror.

Ender in Exile
Orson Scott Card
9780765304964 $25.95

The third Formic War ended thanks to Andrew "Ender" Wiggins who believed he was playing a computer simulation game at Battle School instead of actually killing the Queens who gathered on a single planet. With their deaths, their soldiers, workers, and pupae died; Ender was responsible for the genocide of a race. He also killed two bullies in self defense, but the leaders of earth's nations do not want him residing in the United States because he could become a weapon that could destroy their own country. His brother Peter wants to be the ruler of a one world government, but his sister Valentine decides to accompany her younger brother to prove her sense of freedom.

The Formic Worlds are colonized by Earthlings since they remain in a pristine state. Ender decides to go to Planet Shakespeare where he hopes to learn why the Queens gathered in one place so that they could be killed. He is to be the governor as a hero to those who remained and the new colonists. The Commander of the ship taking him to Shakespeare wants to be the power behind Ender's government or to find a way to exile him back to earth. Ender, a thirteen years old boy with a brilliant mind prevents the coup before it begins by creating a better standard of living for the people. Ender, in his spare time, digs up Formic artifacts seeking clues to the Queens gathering.

Ender is intelligent and compassionate yet in many ways he is also tortured because of his wisdom and passion. His parents will not communicate with him and he rejects Battle School as he has to emotionally deal with real deaths he indirectly caused and not simulated gaming deaths. Less action than previous tales in the Ender saga, ENDER IN EXILE is much more cerebral as Orson Scott Card takes his fans deep into the heart and soul of a young boy forced to grow up too fast.

The Wyrmling Horde
David Farland
0765316668 $25.95

Lord Despair captures the son of the Earth King Fallion Orden on the barbaric world Rugassa the latter ironically made by consolidating realities. The flameweaving wizard has little hope to escape as he adheres to his vow to never accept the "endowments" of others.

Fallion's lover Rhianna, her foster sister warrior Talon, and the Emir Tuul Ra start a dangerous quest to rescue Fallion from Despair. They have made no pledge to spurn endowments so gladly take what is offered by others. However, Despair has allies too on the planet; agents who know how to torture a person's soul into begging for death.

The seventh Runelords fantasy follows up directly from the powerful climax of SONS OF THE OAK so it behooves readers to have read at least that tale to know how Fallion fell into the predicament he and the audience finds him in. The scenes are bleak, bloody, and depressing, but well written although there are some counter upbeat moments (not directly involving the heroes who despair failure and obviously not Despair whose optimism is visions of death and destruction). This tale is well written and extremely exciting although progress in terms of the overarching theme moves slower than an Ice Age glacier. Fans of David Farland will appreciate the attempt to rescue Fallion from Despair.

V The Original Miniseries
Kenneth Johnson and A.C. Crispin
9780765321992 $24.95

One minute cameraman Mike Donovan and his co-worker Tony Wah Chong are filming a skirmish in El Salvador and in the next all activities halt as a space ship five miles in diameter hovers in the sky. Ships like this vessel are floating above every major city in the world and a voice asks for the United Nations Secretary-General to meet with them in one of their smaller crafts. They insist they come in peace having come to earth seeking help in creating a chemical needed on their homeworld; in return they will provide major advances in technology.

They are welcomed as friends and not even the disappearances of scientists seem to disturb anyone. Mike sneaks aboard one of the alien's ships where he sees the Visitors; when he gets into a fight with one of them, the Visitor's skin peels off leaving a sentient lizard with large veracious eyes. Mike escapes with the film he took on board. Soon an underground resistance forms with people risking their lives to get the planet free of the Visitors who are stealing the water and using people as sustenance.

It has been several years (perhaps decades) since this reviewer watched the original miniseries, but this fine science fiction rendition captures the essence of the TV show. The Visitors turn earth into a totalitarian state so they use the planet as a feeding ground. The resistance grows as more people understand the truth. Fans of the saga will appreciate the collaboration of Kenneth Johnson and A.C. Crispin as they convert the exciting V: THE ORIGINAL MINISERIES into an entertaining novel.

Agent To The Stars
John Scalzi
0765317710 $14.95

Although relatively young compared to his envious peers, Hollywood agent Tom Stein is the top gun in his vocation at this moment. His confidence is extremely high that he can sell anyone. His newest star literally comes from the stars. He will represent the sentient alien Yherajk as they make their first appearance on the earth stage.

However selling the Yherajk to xenophobes will be difficult as the Yherajk are not what humans would call centerfold material. Instead they are gelatin gels with a distinct odor that makes a spraying skunk smell nice. However Tom is confident he can sell his new client to humans though he understands the issues he and Yherajk face.

Although he leaves the military science fiction sector (see THE ANDROID'S DREAM and the OLD MAN'S WAR), John Scalzi continues his specialty of lampooning icons; this time Hollywood and spin doctors. The story line is amusing as Tom adheres to the Barnum-Bush capitalist theory that you can sell to the American people anything. Fans who enjoy a lighthearted first contact satire will relish the selling of a species that smell worse than fish rotting.

The Gods Return
David Drake
9780765312617 $25.95

After the great victory especially over the Palomir Empire (see THE MIRROR OF WORLDS), Prince Garric, Princess Sharina and wizardess Tenoctris thought they would have time to mentally and physically heal from their ordeal. The triumphant threesome figured to the winners go the spoils; in this case Garric ruling over the united isles. Instead no rest for the weary as their Palomir enemies refuse to accept the last defeat should have meant the end of the war.

Instead the Change that led to the trio's win also brought radical Change to the pantheon of the Gods; the Old have vanished while other divine beings replace them. In this context, the desperate Palomir turn to their forbidden deities with prayer and rituals culminating with human sacrifice. Their Gods listen and send forth the horde of Rat Men. At the same time the Sky God heeding a ritual from the sea bring forth the Worm devourer of entire villages. Adding to the victors' woes is the hypnotically powerful myserious Scorpion King.

The exciting finish to the Crown of the Isles (see THE FORTRESS OF GLASS) is fast-paced as the bone tired Garric, Sharina and Tenoctris battle on three fronts against extremely powerful adversaries. That however is also the problem with the otherwise exhilarating story line as the brave heroes seem to cast off their mental exhaustion and physical bone weariness with a shrug too easily, which in turn reduces what at first seems like three invincible opponents. Still fans of the series will enjoy THE GODS RETURN.

Running Time
T.J. MacGregor
9780786018338 $6.99

Time travel exists as a fledgling science. People experiment with the boundaries testing how far they can push the past. A government agency SPOT (Special Operational Temporal) filled with black ops were using the new technique to go back in history to dump dissidents, subversives and anyone undesirable in our time. In the 1970s Catherine Walgreen disappeared into Blue River, Massachusetts of 1695.

Her daughter Nora, her significant other Alex Kincaid, and four others who were part of the program before turning rogue are in hiding; each has a biochip implanted in them so they can move through time. Powerful individuals wanting to start up SPOT again are searching for the sextet because they possess a vast supply of the chips that the SPOT enthusiasts do not have and desperately need. The six are determined to keep the cache away from their enemies.

Alex and Nora travel back in time hoping to rescue her mother and end up in the middle of the witch hysteria flamed by the local preacher. For some unknown reason they cannot revert back to their twenty-first century normal time. When Nora is kidnapped and tortured by the insane preacher, another person form the future on the wrong side of the fight, goes back in time seeking redemption by stopping the pending slaughter.

The men, women, and one dog know their lives will never be normal because of what they know, have done, and possess; each understands they will spend their lifetimes looking back over their shoulders. The book is filled with action, extremely complex at times (no pun intended) to track as the plot is far from linear, and loaded with courageous heroes and cruel villains. As always T.J. MacGregor provides an exciting thriller with a cast who are literally RUNNING TIME (also see KILL TIME).

The Devil's Eye
Jack McDevitt
9780441016358 $24.95

In the far future, famous horror writer Vicki Greene leaves a message of despair with antiquities dealer Alex Benedict. Soon after dispatching her note, Vicki has her memory expunged.

Alex and his pilot companion Chase Kolpath follow a series of clues that take them 36 light years away to the rimway of the galaxy. Apparently Vicki was conducting research there for her next novel. Something or someone panicked her. Soon after arrival at the edge of nowhere Alex and Chase are harangued by officials who want them to leave or else. The pair begins to unravel a pandemic crisis threatening Salud Afar, but are swept aside by government officials and bureaucrats and it seems too late to safely evacuate the residents.

The latest Alex Benedict futuristic science fiction novel (see SEEKER) is a superb action thriller that focuses on how central governments act and react to internal emergency crisis especially concealing critical information. The story line is fast-paced with a deep cautionary message that those in charge will choose to save face not people. With a nod to the Bush response to Katrina, fans will relish this strong exhilarating thriller in which the spin does not just supersede the need, it is the need as far as those in charge are concerned. This is the genre at its extrapolating best.

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe
Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
9780441016334 $24.95

In MANY BLOODY RETURNS, editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner limited the scope to vampire birthdays. This time the pair restricted the topic to a merry werewolf Christmas. The results are similar as in spite of the incredibly narrow and restrictive theme, the fifteen contributors provide fresh interesting tales with no losers and star some of the more famous series characters like Sookie Stackhouse in "Gift Wrap" by Harris and radio talk host Kitty in "Il Est Ne" by Carrie Vaughn. Patricia Briggs' "The Star of David" showcases that even werewolves have family issues while Simon R. Green opens and closes with the memorable line of "You Never Forget your first" in his short short "Lucy, at Christmastime". Fans will enjoy this fine anthology whether it is a paranormal investigative tale (see "Christmas Past" by Keri Arthur) or half breeds (see "Rogue Elements" by Karen Chance) summed up nicely over "Milk and Cookies" (by Rob Thurman) as simply "You Better not Pyout" by Nancy Pickard. My only suggestion is to spread the compilation over the Twelve Days of Christmas (or longer) because singing Jingle Bells fifteen times in one sitting will lead to a Blue Christmas.

Fortune and Fate
Sharon Shinn
9780441016365 $24.95

Considered one of the best amidst the Riders sworn to protect the king, Wen is down on herself; when a revolt broke out, the warrior failed to protect King Baryn. Adding to her depression is that her lover married someone else; leaving her no one to turn to for solace.

Wen's mental state improves a bit when she saves Karryn, teenaged daughter of a rebel, from a kidnapping and rape. Karryn's grateful Uncle Jasper Paladar offers Wen a position as instructor to his bodyguards; she accepts. Reluctant at first, Wen ends up falling in love with her intellectual employer

Although not part of the original Twelve Houses saga, this exciting sword and romantic fantasy directly feeds off the events of that quartet especially with the attitude of the heroine. Thus it helps to have read the previous tales to better understand Wen's depression and her world, but FORTUNE AND FATE can stand alone. The story line is fast-paced focusing on a female warrior who makes a strong case that women can be adept in combat as well as lovers. Although nothing new is added to the Shinn mythos, fans will appreciate this fine entry that looks deep into the soul of one of the survivors.

The Flame and the Shadow
Denise Rossetti
9780441016341 $14.00

He is Grayson of Concordia also called the Duke of Ombra; he has a problem he would like to get rid of as soon as possible. His shadow is an independent sentient entity yet it is also a part of the mercenary sorcerer. It even has his own name Shad and he loves Gray, who repels him because the sorcerer believes the shadow is the darkness manifested from his soul. He made a deal with the wizard Deiter that he would kidnap the grieving fire witch Cenda in exchange for the destruction of Shad.

Gray travels to the planet Sybaris where Cenda lives grieving the death of her child that has turned her once fiery heart to ash with a desire to die. She is the first fire witch to be found in centuries and has enemies who want to abduct her to use as a weapon. Gray tries to get her off planet to his client as soon as possible. However, she discovers the secret of Shad and accepts both as one who cherish her. Stunned by her reaction, he realizes he cares for her. Once she learns what his plans for her were she is hurt and angry. He proves he cares for her by saving her from the find the technomage scientist who kidnaps her and wants to experiment on her to see if she can duplicate Cenda's powers.

THE FLAME AND THE SHADOW is an erotic evocative fantasy in which science and magic coexist but practitioners fight for supremacy. Gray is a conflicted person; hating Shad for something that occurred on his home planet; he wears the scars of that incidents and wants Shad to suffer though he understands the shadow is him. Cenda is a strong willed individual who falls for all manifestations of Gray. Her acceptance brings healing and redemption to she Shadow sorcerer, but does not abate the danger to either of them or her. If this thriller is any indication, Denise Rossetti is a welcomed newcomer to the fantasy genre.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Heroes Die Young
T.M. Hunter
Champagne Books
#35069-4604 37 ST SW, Calgary AB T3E 7C7 Canada
9781897445785 $9.95

Amidst a glut of books on the market with forgettable fictional protagonists, why did I find Aston West to be memorable? He's a science fiction character, of all things, not my preferred genre, but I haven't stopped thinking about him since the last page of Heroes Die Young. West is a space scavenger, just short of being a pirate. He tries to slide by without exerting himself or getting involved, and the reluctant hero enjoys sipping Vladirian liquor a bit too much. In fact, if not for Jeanie, his personal onboard computer, West and his starship would have been blasted to space dust long ago.

As the story begins, West is making a cargo run to the Toris system. His cargo hold is empty, except for one container of blue organic crystals he's being paid to deliver. When he encounters a disabled Rulusian freighter with a full cargo bay and no life signs, West imagines scavenged riches for the taking. West instructs Jeanie to upload the contraband cargo while he explores the freighter. Inside he finds horror, a crew dead from blasters, the scent of burnt bodies in the air, and a female warrior brandishing a disintegrator cannon. Rione Sclari is ships captain and the lone surviving member of her crew. West reluctantly takes her aboard his ship, and from that point forward, all hell breaks loose. He’s forced to deal with ruthless ambassadors, underhanded politicians, and attack cruisers bent on blowing him to bits. And yes, as he joins the battle to thwart forces determined to destroy the citizens of an entire system, Aston West becomes a quietly efficient hero. He goes on the attack because he has to, with self-effacing humor, Jeanie, and a handful of dissidents at his side.

This book was great fun to read, exciting and believable. Aston West is an appealing character, and the plot engaging. Author T.M. Hunter is a name to remember for you sci fi fans out there.

Nunca Mais (Never Again)
Hugh Fox
Cornerstone Press
1825 Bender Lane, Arnold MO 63010
9780918476098 $15.00

Hugh Fox has nothing else to prove as a poet, writer, academic, or man. Still, his fertile imagination and insatiable curiosity will not let him rest on his considerable laurels. He keeps searching and seeking the elusive fragments that make life interesting. Nunca Mais is the latest leg of Fox's journey. These are poems he wrote in Portuguese and translated into English for his dedicated following.

At age 76, Fox is still investigating life's secret hiding places, plumbing the depths of her mysteries. The results are often a sweet surprise:

Huge hills, the falling sun creating enormous-
dramatic shadows, little towns, suburbs,
always an enormous classical church,
we're going to create a God, Virgin Mother,
a Savior, and let all the grace fall aromatically
over our entire lives, which, thanks to the
grace itself, makes our lives whole and not
fragmented in pulverized pieces.

In all of Fox's poetry he has been a recorder of time, a visionary preserving small moments and shepherding those memories through words:

Everything stop! Let's make the
present moment into an anthropological
museum that never changes/dies…

Hugh Fox holds onto life and everything he holds dear with both hands. The poetic icon is also Everyman, struggling to preserve his unique richness and individual gifts:

My poetry itself begins to
undo itself, the intellectual-
creative landscape undoing
itself and the philosophical
richness of the present moment
here re-becoming the great
emptiness of my life (almost
over) there.

Humor and pathos are putty in Fox's agile mind. His multilingual poetry speaks to a weary world with words that reflect the past, present, and future of humanity. Highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Brighter Side of Death
Tom Holahan
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158058, $22.95,

To ask the meaning of life is to ask the meaning of death. "The Brighter Side of Death" is a work of deep philosophy, offering a personal memoir that seeks to answer the question that plagues all of our minds from time to time. Offering two answers to what is really two questions – a personal one and one that questions the world in general. Encouraging readers to draw their own conclusions on the matter, "The Brighter Side of Death" is worth fuel for discussion on any philosophical debate on the purpose of just about everything.

The Book of Ishmael
L.S. MacKrow
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158713, $22.95,

So many gods believed in throughout the world, but could they all be the same one? "The Book of Ishmael" follows Jacob as he seeks to answer that very question. When he awakens in a land known as El-Bam, his pondering begins. He's introduced to a belief system called Ishmael, and is sent back to his home to preach the word of the book. Seeking to make readers evaluate the world of faith as a whole, "The Book of Ishmael" is strongly recommended reading.

Guardian of Eden
Eleanor Strothman
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158652, $11.95,

The truth and the safety of those who seek it are things all too often put at odds with one another. "Guardian of Eden" follows a young journalist by the name of Carol Keller and her quest to find out the truth of several brutal murders of local politicians. Despite the warning signs, Carol pushes forward, and it may just cost her more than her job. Gripping and riveting reading, "Guardian of Eden" is worth consideration for mystery lovers.

How Warm It Was and How Far
Robert Kan
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158683, $11.95,

World War II engulfed the better part of two decades in Europe. In that time, boys became men, and girls became women. "How Warm It Was and How Far" is a biographical memoir, as told to Robert Kan. Jan grew up in this chaos, being only a five-year-old boy at the start of the war, and a young man at the end of it. A gripping story of growing up in the bloodiest conflict of the twentieth century, "How Warm It Was and How Far" is a World War II book from a fresh perspective.

Don Hopkins
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158515, $22.95,

Away from it all, the true self begins to emerge. "Newtown" is a tale of the old west following Clayton McKay. He comes across a young town on the frontier, and that's where his adventure begins. Confronted by a huge range of strange people all with different motivations and histories, Clayton's life plays out with quite the entertainment, making "Newtown" a strong consideration for western fans.

Art of the Monologue
Frank Catalano
Book Surge
7290 B Investment Drive, North Charleston, SC 29418
9781419668340, $19.99,

A monologue makes the speaker the sole star – no other people, no props, it's all on their own skill. "Art of the Monologue: Monologues They Haven't Heard Yet" is a guide to the art form and how to do it well. Ranging from an acting monologue, such as the famous ones from plays such as Hamlet, to soliloquy, to Stand-Up Comedy, to storytelling to any act of standing on a stage and speaking to entertain a crowd. "Art of the Monologue" is a great study for would be actors or comedians of any type, highly recommended.

Civilization and the Ancient Egyptians
Katanga A. Bongo
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432722630, $24.95,

Egypt was one of the first cultures to rise above the hunter gatherer societies of mankind. "Civilization and the Ancient Egyptians" brings a strange look at the origins of mankind, and the revered civilization of the Egyptians. Claiming that the roots of mankind may lie in the tribes of South America, Bongo brings his strange-at-first theory into a scholarly debate and offers evidence to support his claims. A unique look at prehistory, "Civilization and the Ancient Egyptians" is worth reading for those with a healthy interest in a time before people had the sense to write things down.

Loveless in a Lonesome World
Patricia C. Stewart
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1424165555, $14.95,

No one wants to be alone, but it's a state that some face unwillingly. "Loveless in a Lonesome World" is a collection of poetry from Patricia C. Stewart, she is a woman of many artistic talents, writing movie scripts, short stories, novels, and in this volume, poetry. Her verse focuses on the despair of loneliness and the longing to find someone. "Loveless in a Lonesome World" is a delve into a diverse creative mind, a solid choice. "Rhapsody": I look upon the wet street, A sleek bearer of reflection, Illusion/Causes distortion.//Gray is the bridge/Where past and future/Meet. Tendrils/Go up in wafting smoke./A sound decision./Time Is on my side, not/The mirror's./Surface; Breathe truth when/It's water, not mirage.

Delectable Spirit
Jackie Spencer
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1605635642, $14.95,

A strong spirit is eternal. "Delectable Spirit" is a collection of poetry from a woman who has overcame many harsh realities throughout her life. Jackie Spencer has developed her own spirit's strength through all of these, and her verse is a display of its power and strength, speaking on the triumphs and tragedies of life. "Delectable Spirit" is a fine book from a fine woman, recommended. "Tell Me the Story of Old Hallows Eve": How witches, werewolves, vampires would heave/A bevy of excitement over the land./Havoc and terror would be dancing to the band./There would be mist-filled valleys, and moors spread with fog./Creatures so frightening coming out of the bog,/Haunted houses, and ghosts doing dastardly deeds,/Conjured up spirits that the devil has conceived,/Making your house and the walls bleed, All in the old days of Old Hallows Eve.

Guide to Politically Incorrect Travel
Sharri Moore
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1605639818, $14.95,

There's much to mention in America that's so often left out of traditional travel guides. "Guide to Politically Incorrect Travel" is Sharri Moore's insights on finding what lays beyond the family friendly travel destinations. Adult only venues, places where tobacco and alcohol are revered more than having a kid's menu, are just some of the locations outlined within. "Guide to Politically Incorrect Travel" is worth reading for the offbeat traveler.

Shades of Life
Susan Beck
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1424192307, $14.95,

There is no feeling like there is of receiving an incredibly thoughtful and personal gift. "Shades of Life" tells of Diane, and her search for this very feeling, as if it were a drug. Something hard to pursue but so worth it, the story tells of her ventures to make it a reality, but trying to find the right kind of thoughtful man to help her. "Shades of Life" is a unique and quick read of a romance tale, something romance lovers will enjoy as a treat.

The Dharma King
B. G. Stroh
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595716906, $23.95,

The fate of an entire culture lies in the hands of a man native to a nation that for the most part, does not care. "The Dharma King" is story Samuel Falk Simms and his unusual charge of saving Tibet from oppressive acts of the Chinese government. With little reason to care, he must overcome his own apathy or a beloved figure of an entire nation faces death. "The Dharma King" is an original thriller, sure to please fans of the genre.

Depraved Indifference
Patrice Woeppel
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595483730, $19.95,

There are many deadly jobs in the country, but someone must do it. And compensation must be fitting to the task at hand. "Depraved Indifference: The Workers' Compensation System" is a scholarly look at the American Workers' compensation laws and how they are unjust for today's world filled with high risk jobs and deadly chemicals that many must work with almost daily. With a suggested reform model presented, Woeppel explains the problem and also lays out a solution, giving "Depraved Indifference" a critical recommendation.

Judy Spurr
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595439157, $8.95,

Middle school can be quite the challenge when all you want to do is play soccer. "Trapped" is the tale of one Jamie Parker. Just entering middle school, he must confront his trouble with reading. Faced with the ultimatum that if his grades don't improve, he won't be able to remain on the Soccer team, Jamie must overcome his shortcomings. The wrath of the school bully isn't really helping things, either. "Trapped" is a childhood story that young readers will relish and relate to.

Craven Deeds
Heather M. Elledge
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven St., Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
9780741447289, $14.95,

Deadlines apply pressure to people, and deadlines which are the difference between life and death are especially so. "Craven Deeds" is the first novel in the fantasy series involving the Gnome King. Carla has a little less than a week in the half to rescue the king of the gnomes from the hostile faeries, lest she be trapped in the strange fantasy realm for the rest of her days. Her allies are nine gnomes, but unity within the unit seems strained. Carla faces nonstop conflict, making "Craven Deeds" a gripping fantasy read.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

The Sudoku Murder
Shelley Freydont
Running Press Book Publishers
2300 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19103-4371
9780762434923 $12.95

Shelley Fredont is the author of five Linda Haggerty Mysteries and also pens romance novels under the name Gemma Bruce. She is involved in many writers groups, including the Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Kiss of Death RWA chapter. She is also past president of the New York/Tri State chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is a Sudoku aficionado, and loves puzzles of all sorts. She hails from Ridgewood, New Jersey.

In this first Katie McDonald mystery we find the heroine, on break from her think-tank, classified, mathematics position in a think tank, arriving in her home town at the behest of her old friend Professor P.T. Avondale. Katie was a "geek" in school, which made for a lonely existence until the Professor took her under his wing. He runs a puzzle museum, and Katie arrives on the scene to find the museum in extreme disrepair and under the threat of repossession by the bank. Katie knows something is amiss, and when she finds the Professor stabbed she enters into a tension-filled relationship with the new Chief of Police:

"'Cut it out, you little termagant. I'm trying to help.'

That voice. She shook her head. She recognized that voice. She stopped struggling. Made herself look up. Chief of Police Brandon Mitchell stood over her. The light from the flashlight turned his features into Boris Karloff. She took a step back. 'Oh.'

'Oh,' he mimicked. He stepped away from her, leaving chill air in the space between them. 'Would you like to tell me what happened and why you felt compelled to clobber me?'"

THE SUDOKU MURDER is an expertly crafted whodunit with heart. Katie is an inspiring heroine, as she grows into her predestined role in life. The sexual tension between her and the Chief has the reader silently screaming, "Oh, for Pete's sake, get a room, will ya?" Shelley Freydont writes with a sense of humor and a brisk plot. Her characterization of Katie's hometown is smack dab on, and the sweetness of the murdered professor permeates the entire novel. We'll look forward to more Katie!

Pepperfish Keys
Darryl Wimberly
The Toby Press LLC
PO Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776-8531
9781592642274 $12.95

Darryl Wimberley hails from Florida, but graduate from the Air Force Academy in Colorado. He also holds an M.A. in English Literature and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He presently lives in Austin, Texas. PEPPERFISH KEYS is his seventh Barrett Raines mystery.

Barrett Raines is the unusual detective who could have had his pick of positions, but who settled in Deacon Beach in Northern Florida. Raines is also African-American, which makes his job that much more difficult in backwater Florida. He has already survived the murder of Ramona, with his brother as chief suspect. His relationship with his wife, which has its rocky moments, is rapidly deteriorating. He has become Special Agent Barrett "Bear" Raines in PEPPERFISH KEYS. To this end he must investigate the murder of Beth Ann Stanton, the daughter of Florida Senator Baxter Stanton. Raines and Stanton have tangled just recently over possible illegal campaign activity. Beth Ann, ever the rebel, has a relationship with one of the areas true dirt bags, a punk named Eddy DeLeon. To make matters worse, ambitious and bitchy TV reporter Sharon Fowler is using Raines as a stepping stone to a promotion in New York:

"'Eduardo DeLeon did not kill Beth Ann Stanton,' she repeated evenly. 'He may be a thief. He may even be in bed with Baxter Stanton, something that thanks to you two we may never know. But he didn't kill Beth Ann Stanton. I am confident he did not.'

'Confident enough to, say, supply us a witness?'

'I never reveal my sources, Bear. You know that.'

'You've ambushed a few.'

'My privilege. More than that - my right.'"

Wimberley's Bear Raines is a gentle giant with a huge heart and shrewd mind. His plot is tight and fast, with the facades of his characters peeling away layer-by-layer as the plot thickens. Wimberley's Air Force experience has, no doubt, taught him the ways and means of both politics and law enforcement. He uses his knowledge to create a monster of a thriller and murder mystery that keeps the reader glued to the book until the final coup de grace. A riveting and masterful mystery!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Buddy's Candle
Bernie S. Siegel, author
Mari Gayatri Stein, illustrator
Trafford Publishing, Victoria, BC
9781425132279 $16.95

In this tender and heart-warming story we meet nine-year old Simon who is about to hear a story about his dad's battle with leukemia when he was Simon's age. He told him how he wanted a dog and God sent him just the right one. This special dog appears at the house one day and dad named him Buddy. As it turned out Buddy was also sick and the bond between the boy and dog began giving them both happiness and fellowship with each other. Unfortunately, after a time, Buddy died from his sickness, but not before he gave all in the family love, joy and faith to carry on.

This book shows what love, unity, faith can do for a hurting soul, both animal and human. It brings to life that even when we might think we have lost, such as in death, there is always a time when love will reunite us with the person or animal that is gone. Love never dies, as it is part of God, and our love for one another, or a beloved animal, unites us forever.

In this book we are shown how to live life each day to its fullest with those we love. Grief is normal in loss, but without hope that we will be reunited again it can become unbearable. This work leaves you with that assurance that life is but the beginning of eternity for all living things, an eternity that we will once again be with those we have loved and lost. Deeply touching to the core of your soul.

Johnny Big Ears, The Feel-Good Friend
John Paul Padilla, author
Mike Andrulonis, illustrator
Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc.
2450 Croswell Road, Turlock, CA 95382
9780805974966 $17.00

What would this world be like if we all looked the same? I don't think any of us would like to find out. Our author, John Paul Padilla takes us on a journey with Johnny who is a five-year-old about to start kindergarten. Johnny is a very blessed child. He has always known the love of parents and those around him. He was given his name, "Johnny Big Ears,' by those who loved him, but after a hair-cut for his special first day at school, Johnny can't help but wonder how others will react to his big ears.

He meets his teacher whose name is, Mrs. Wrinkles, as Johnny looks at her face he can see why. That was a good touch by the author to show another person not being 'perfect.' Johnny, looking at his teacher, realizes that every person has something about them that may not be as others deem, 'perfect,' and he knows that some of the children may tease him about his ears.

As the story moves on Johnny is confronted by several children who mock his ears, but Johnny is firmly grounded in love and acceptance of himself and ignored these children and soon a freckled face friend enters his life, one who does not notice that Johnny has big ears, and his first day at school is filled with excitement and looking forward to a year of adventure.

This is a delightful story with illustrations that bring a smile and add life to the words. It shows the importance of bringing up a child surrounded with love and acceptance and how it will affect how they deal with others in the world. Children will be children, and often they will find anything to mock and tease another, but I believe this book shows if a child understands their own value, physical attributes will be second to what is in the heart with themselves or others.

Very well done, and would be a plus for any child and adult to read and share.

Cretaceous Dawn
L.M. Graziano and Michael S. A. Graziano
Leapfrog Press
P.O. Box 2110,Teaticket, MA 02536
9780981514833 $15.95

I was blown away with this novel and have to say it is one of the most enjoyable and interesting stories that I have read in a long time.

Our story starts out in a modern day lab in Creekbend, S.D. where two physics, Yariko, and Dr. Shanker, along with his dog, Hilda, are doing experiments that are about to change their lives forever. When beetles turn up in their vault after one such experiment, Dr Shanker and Yariko seek the help of Paleontologist, Julian Whitney, hoping he can identify the time these beetles are from. As they take on another experiment, hoping more beetles will appear, the lab explodes, leaving half of a body behind and the rest of them missing.

As the investigation begins, police officer, Sharon Earles, attempts to solve the mystery of the missing people, the empty vault, and the story behind the partial body that she is confronted with. Unbeknown to her at the time, the missing people have been plunged 65 million years in the past in the Cretaceous Period, with T. rex, Triceratops, giant crocodiles, and other terrifying creatures.

Meanwhile, after realizing what has happened to them, our group decides there maybe hope in being transported back to their own time, if they are at the right place at the right time. Now, Yariko and the rest must make a thousand-mile trip across part of what will one day be South Dakota in order to have any hope in returning to the present time. Traveling along hostel land, and rivers with man eating inhabitants, and battling near death daily, the group faces unbearable challenges, yet are fascinated by all that they see in this strange new world. I was as well.

I loved the twist at the end that was thrown in that I simply will not tell, that set my mind asking question upon question and not able to come up with the first answer. When I finally found out the answer to this mystery it was bone-chilling to say the least.

However, the final and most important question is, will they all make it to the Caves in time to be transported back, or will they fall into the hands of the many dangers that surround them?

To sum up this review let me say, I am a simple person, and I have to admit when first asked to review Cretaceous Dawn I was a tad taken back. I feared it would be so above me that I would never be able to review it properly, especially when I found out it was written by, Lisa M. Graziano, an oceanographer, and Michael S. A Graziano, a neuroscientist. I wondered if it was going to be so 'scientific,' that I would be looking up more words not knowing what they meant, than enjoying the read. That was far from the case, believe me, from page one you will become so involved in this story that you will not be able to put it down. Our two authors have written a tale so gripping with survival, adventure, romance, and thrills that you don't even realize you are also digesting scientific details of life from 65 million years ago.

I am highly impressed with this work. It has been a long time since I have so totally enjoyed a read with so many benefits. Not only was the story packed full of adventure, mystery and challenges, but the characters were perfect players. I also enjoyed all the 'creatures,' that they encountered and let me say the description of each left a very vivid image in the mind's eye.
The idea that I learned a few things along the way is just an extra notch on my reading belt.
All in all this is an exceptional read, one of a kind and I give it my highest recommendation.
I hope there are more in the future.

Written In Blood
Sheila Lowe
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Avenue, NY 10014
9780451224873 $6.99

In this page-turning novel we meet, Claudia Rose, who is a forensic handwriting specialist.
Claudia is asked to verify the signature of a well to do deceased man for his widow, Paige.
Unfortunately Paige's step-children are going to fight her tooth and nail for their father's money.
Their hatred for Claudia and the part she played in this drama will run deep.

Torg, the deceased, owned Sorenson Academy, a well to do school for girls, and one that Paige wanted to see continue although the step-children did not.

It is at this school that we meet a very troubled daughter, Annabelle, of Dominic Giordano, a wealthy film producer. He is also rumored to be involved with the mob. Claudia meets Annabelle and is immediately touched by the girl and feels she can help her manage her anger with handwriting therapy. This draws Claudia into the world of Paige, her step-children, the school, Dominic and the drama about to be played out. Not a good thing for her own safety as someone is found dead, Annabelle is missing and Claudia finds herself facing sure death. What a ride.

I don't want to give away any of the mystery of this read so I will leave my explanation of the storyline as is.

Our author does an exceptional job of wrapping around the work of a forensic handwriting specialist into a fast paced novel. The characters are at times dark and seedy, with hidden agendas and unscrupulous actions. Who you think is sweet and innocent, isn't. Who ends up dead is not so much as a surprise, but who the killer ends up being is.

I enjoyed this read, loved the way the author worked Claudia into the story and kept her there.
I liked the personal life part of Claudia that was well woven into the entire theme of the book, it made her more personable, and I enjoyed a read with characters both young and old playing a major part. All in all I give this book a thumbs-up. Well done - story, characters, and local. Well worth you time.

Daddy, What Is Success?
Richard A. Singer Jr., Helen Thomas and Joseph Betty
Books For Living
Plains, Penn
9780615213354 $15.95

In this delightful read we meet two children, Michael and Emily. They have been given an assignment to tell what 'success' means to them. The children ask their father's advise on the subject and he shares with them the 8 secrets he learned from his own parents years ago.
These are introduced in a lovely way by a poem given first. After that a 'Parent and Child Interactive Discussion,' is given. I always love a child's book that brings parents and children together and this one does an outstanding job with that concept.

I liked the illustrations. They reminded me of pictures from the Post so many years ago. They were not overbearing, but muted and I felt they gave just enough visual without overpowering the message, which is the most important thing in this book.

This work definitely teaches children important life lessons. It also opens the door for parents to have meaningful discussions with their children. I recommend this book to all caring parents, not just for their children but for all the children of the world. Very well done.

The Second Generation
Kenneth Johnson
Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765319063 $24.95

I, like so many others, remember being glued to the TV watching the cunning way humans were deceived by the Alien visitors on the program V so long ago. Week after week we all waited to see just who these 'people' were, and when it was finally revealed it was horror upon horror. Time has now passed and we have gone twenty years into the future. Mankind is still under their thumb, and although they have advanced our society with health benefits, what they are taking away doesn't balance the scales. To name one most important commodity that they are stealing, it is our water. However, it seems few are concerned about this. Strange!

There is however a group of people who know the truth, as there was in the beginning, and who are fighting to let the world know. The Resistance, as they are called. In this novel we meet the many engaging characters who are drawn into the Resistance through numerous circumstances and disappoints forged by the Visitors. However, they are fighting an almost losing battle until another Alien group comes to earth and joins forces with them. Enemies of the Visitors, these Aliens prove to be a great threat to them and perhaps the hope of mankind, or are they? Perhaps mankind's only hope, the only ones they can truly trust, are themselves.

This was a good novel that swept you into the storyline as you are taken on the journey humans are battling for their survival. Character development is good and I did like the way the Aliens were described and the emotional interaction between some Aliens and humans. The ending you know of course is not an ending, but leaves you with the knowing that all things are not what they appear to be and there is something brewing in the horizon. Creepy and unsettling, and I suppose that is what a book like this is all about. Is mankind finally free? We will see.

Universe God's Jewel
Nick Kostovic
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432717902 $25.95

I want to say I was extremely impressed by the brilliance of author, Nick Kostovic, and his determination to complete the inventions that burned in his heart. His book, "Universe God's Jewel," explains to you, the reader, his road of research that in the end has helped to heal many.
His book is about astronomy, human beginning, energy used, and the health of people.
By the words in this book, I could tell that, Nick Kostovic, has a true love for mankind and a true heart in wanting to help relieve their pain and aid in their healing.

He has invented a machine that uses the energy of the sun to promote healing. I have to be honest, even with the detailing of his information in this work, and he definitely does an outstanding job in that, I am afraid that my understanding is limited in its workings.
However, he has testimonies of relief and complete healing by many using his machine and methods, and that certainly cannot be denied. He operates the Bio Technological Health Center at Wilshire Boulevard, in Beverly Hills, California, where many seek out his wisdom and find relief from their suffering.

If you are hurting and feel as if there is no hope, this may be an option for you to look into.
Certainly by the testimonies given many have been helped by our authors invention, perhaps you will be too. A very interesting book and I will be watching in the future as I am sure news of Nick Kostovic's inventions will become world known.

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie
Dani Daley Mackall, author
Deborah Chabrian illustrator
5300 Patterson Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310713289 $16.99

In this wonderful book we are taken back to a simple time, a time where money was not abundant and life had more than its share of challenges. We meet Jack, whose father has had to travel away from home to find work. Unfortunately he is not able to be with his family during Christmas and this saddens Jack.

Jack's mother begins to make Christmas cookies. Jack is excited at first, but soon learns that these cookies will be given to needy. Jack does not understand for surely they were the ones who were needy. His mom shares with him the origin of cookie making and the meaning behind it. At first Jack isn't impressed, but when he helps a homeless man with the one cookie he is given his heart rejoices at sharing the true message of Christmas, Jesus.

This is a beautiful tale. Wrapping a story around the true beginning of cookie making it touches the very core of the meaning of that wonderful day. The illustrations are very realistic and definitely help to bring the story alive. Recommended.

We Believe In Christmas
Karen Kingsbury, author
Daniel Brown, illustrator
5200 Patterson Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310712121 $16.99

Each year as Christmas approaches we all get caught up in lights, presents, and cookie making, but do we really know the true meaning of this Holy day? In this tender work by author, Karen Kingsbury, we are shown the true meaning of Christmas. Speaking of the song, "Silent Night," and imaging the stillness and awe that was present at the time of the Savior's birth is shared.
The excitement of receiving that special gift is brought into perspective with reminder of the greatest gift, Jesus. The placing of the star on our trees is replaced with the awesome image of the star that shone on that special night.

This is a wonderful book that helps bring to light the true meaning of the greatest gift to mankind.

Subtle, yet dramatic, with illustrations that bring you into the season, this book is sure to enhance your families understanding of the true heart and pulse of Christmas. Very well done.

Your Chance To Hear The Last Panther Speak
Chase Von
VonChase Publishing Company
P.O. Box 623, Winchester CA, 92596
0976678705 $15.00

It isn't often that you open a book and see the diverse talent of one author, but it is so in this work. Chase Von has poured out his heart within the pages of this excellent book. He graces the reader with poetry and prose that you can sense come from the depths of his soul and at times the urgency of his message screams forth, yet at other times it is sweet as a baby's lullaby. I like poetry and definitely enjoyed sharing this authors heart within his words, my favorite, "Being A Man."

He moves along to Song Lyrics and again the depths of his spirit shine and you can't help but wonder what melody would fill the air as these are being sung. My favorite, Plastic People. I couldn't help but shake my head and agree, how true.

Following we have Quotes, but my favorite of all the topics was definitely the Short Stories. Within this section I lost myself to the read.

"Her Daddy," truly touched my heart and I so enjoyed the weaving of God, Angels, and the importance they hold that whispered between the lines of this author's work. Definitely a fresh, different read, sort of like a smorgasbord of writing that gives the reader a sample of the finest morsels, and tickles their taste-buds with delight. Well done.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Fullness of a Man
Rodney Long
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533145706, $8.95,

A combination of great pencil drawing art and poetry, "The Fullness of a Man" is the work of an educator, child care specialist, and social counselor and a man in Rodney Long. His verse reflects on his many skills in life and the many people he met on the way, giving him a clear glimpse of what a man truly is. "The Fullness of Man" is recommended for poetry buffs anywhere. "Departed Love": To love is to let go/for once you taste love, it seems to want to flow/the need to follow others seems purely a forward thrust/I think to force a hold on love is not true love but lust./I know you've been denied,/the loving feelings felt deep inside./But if you miss your love, You must look up above/And then your love will be full, For until you reach this point in life/You'll only push and pull.

The Laws of Inheritance in Islam
Sohail S. Hussaini
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432709303, $14.95,

Different cultures have developed different laws over the years. "The Laws of Inheritance in Islam" explains the different laws of Islam, and the word of the Quran when it comes to the dividing of one's estate following death. With much information, the concept is explained thoroughly, giving readers an educational experience which will also gives them insights into the Islamic culture. "The Laws of Inheritance in Islam" is a must for anyone who must deal with Islamic law, or is just curious.

How to Heal Your Heart and Soul From Divorce
Tammy Lynn
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432723125, $11.95, 1-888-672-6657

Written by health services administration expert and survivor of divorce Tammy Lynn, How to Heal Your Heart and Soul From Divorce: A Quick, Easy to Read Guide to Healing is an intensely personal journey about the heart-wrenching pain that divorce brings, and strategies to survive, cope, and transform oneself. Lynn allows readers to see into the most private corners of her heart, recounting in detail the difficult and traumatic end to her marriage; this narrative of her personal experience runs throughout the entire book. Chapters discuss the invaluable treasure that is the support of friends and family, key insights into human emotional views and failings, and especially stress the importance of getting professional help immediately should one's thoughts turn self-destructive for an extended period of time. Although How to Heal Your Heart and Soul From Divorce is brief, it is sure to prove a comfort for anyone suffering from the death of their marriage.

The Human Pony
Rebecca Wilcox
Greenery Press
4200 Park Blvd., PMB 240, Oakland, CA 94602
1890159999, $27.95,

Fetishes are an integral aspect of adult human sexuality and come in all forms. 'Ponygirl' and 'Ponyboy' refer to a man or woman being accoutered in a harness and leather outfit that emulates that of an equestrian mount -- of being turned into a horse for the benefit and pleasure of a master or mistress. A unique contribution to the growing library of adult sexual instructional literature, "The Human Pony" by Rebecca Wilcox provides an informed and informative discussion identifying the nature of 'pony play', pony and trainer headspace, fetish equipment appropriate for 'pony play', the training of a human pony, scene development for 'pony play', grooming and handling of the human pony, and even do-it-yourself community events with respect to this specialized fetish. Profusely illustrated throughout with full color photography, "The Human Pony" is a highly recommended addition to personal and professional human sexuality reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Citizen Alpha
Patrick E. Peterson
Synergy Books
PO Box 80107, Austin, TX 78758
Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists (publicity)
2100 Kramer Lane, Suite 300, Austin, TX 78758
9781934454206, $12.95,

The minds and skills of America's best minds are its best defense against America's threats be they foreign or domestic, economic or military, ideological or cultural. "Citizen Alpha" by Patrick E. Peterson is the compelling story of Peter Jobe and his elite group of graduate students. Their ideas have much good to bring to the world, but an oncoming threat makes it so they may have to save the country they call home before they can do anything else to help it. "Citizen Alpha" is a riveting thriller of science's contribution to world defense and a welcome addition to personal reading lists and community library collections.

Port of Entry
John P. Lintz Sr.
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432728496, $13.95,

What do you do when faced with problems from all sides -- especially when one of those sides wants to kill you? John P. Lintz Sr. presents a superbly written novel in "Port of Entry: Agents and Lovers", which follows the adventures of JJ Ibarra and Elena Castellanos. The pair receive orders from the CIA to deal with a terrorist plot involving a van rigged up with a bomb out to blow up a US port, and if that wasn't enough, there's also the personal tension between JJ and Elena. A welcome addition to community library contemporary fiction collections, "Port of Entry" is a riveting blend of romance and action which is confidently recommended to thriller fans.

Bob Curran
New Page Books
c/o Career Press Inc.
PO Box 687, Franklin Lakes, NJ 07417
Warwick Associates (publicity)
17470 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, CA 95476
9781601630223, $14.99,

There are many forms of the 'undead' to be found in myth, folklore and legend around the world. Perhaps one of the most commonly encountered is that of the living corpse called 'zombie'. In "Zombies: A Field Guide To The Walking Dead" written by folklore expert Bob Curran and enhanced with occasional black-and-white illustrations by Ian Daniels, we now have a comprehensive compilation of all of the variations of the zombie legends from various countries and cultures around the world, both ancient and contemporary. Tracing the evolution of the zombie mythos from Sumarian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Celtic antiquity, to the cataleptics of 18th century Europe, to the 'living mummies' of 19th century Japan, "Zombies" is a fascinating reader that is both informed and informative. A welcome addition to personal, academic, and community library Mythology/Folklore reference collections, Bob Curran's "Zombies" is especially recommended to fans of zombie stories in fiction and films.

Garage To Gigs: A Musician's Guide
Andrew Thomas
Billboard Books
c/o Watson Guptill Publications
770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-9535
Turbodog Communications (publicity)
12036 Goshen Avenue, Suite 1, Los Angeles, CA 90049
9780823082742, $18.95, 1-800-451-1741

Some of our most successful performers and groups in pop music culture began their careers in garage bands. Thanks to professional musician Andrew Thomas and his instruction manual "Garage To Gigs: A Musician's Guide", aspiring musicians are now provided with a step-by-step, comprehensive, reality-based guide to every aspect of becoming a successful professional in this highly competitive and volatile field. "Garage To Gigs" provides a wealth of practical information and insights ranging from how to determine the kind of band best suited to particular interests and talents, to building a fan base and securing representation. Beginning with the necessity of an accurate appraisal of the local music scene, "Garage To Gigs" goes on to cover auditioning musicians for a band; recording options and budgeting; band and performance publicity; bookings, how bands are paid; preparing for and playing at a gig. Definitively informed and informative, "Garage To Gigs" is strongly recommended reading for all aspiring musicians, and has a great deal to offer anyone considering composing and performing original music whether solo or as part of their own band.

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