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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 10, Number 11 November 2011 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Shogun & Daimyo
Tadashi Ehara
Different Worlds Publications
9780975399958, $59.99,

Japanese culture is unlike anything in the world. "Shogun & Daimyo: Military Dictators of Samurai Japan" traces the history of Japan under the Shogun, for inspiration for role playing games, novels, and other works of fiction. Tracing a long history of Shogunate Japan through its many periods to the earliest shoguns to the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the many major figures who changed the face of Japanese history, it accompanies plenty of information to be studied and applied with no shortage of woodcut reproductions. "Shogun & Daimyo" is a must for anyone who is about to create fiction related to Japan's unique flavor.

Barbara Ebel
Privately Published
9780982935118, $12.95,

It's hurricane season and Hurricane Ivan is barring down on Karen Puno as she scrambles to flee to safety with her Labrador Retriever. But that's only the beginning of her troubles. Then there is the problem of harvesting organs for transplant and a cascading medical crisis, two teenagers discovering love amidst a hurricane's destructive course, and the fate of a bettered dog almost crushed by the hurricane's debris. A unique work of fiction by a master storyteller, "Outcome" is a deftly written novel that will engage the reader's total attention from beginning to end, making it highly recommended. It should be noted that "Outcome" is also available in both Kindle and Nook ebook editions.

Five Foundations of Human Development
Errol A. Gibbs & Philip A. Grey
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456737726, $25.95,

How do we develop our lives and find our calling in life? "Five Foundations of Human Development" is a unique exploration of human nature and how we pursue it through life. Discussing spirituality, morality, society, intellectualism, and physicality, Gibbs and Grey provide much to think about in the vein of human nature and the future. "Five Foundations of Human Development" is an excellent and much recommended read, not to be overlooked.

This Business of Children
Chloe JonPaul
Privately Published
9781600475801, $15.95,

When it comes to determining the fate of children, you can't mess around. "This Business of Children: A Timely Tale of Private Emotions and Public Scrutiny; Personal Desires and Professional Predicaments" is a novel that touches on the environment of an elementary school in the fictional town of Blevins, Maine. Although fictional, Chloe JonPaul touches on the very real issues surrounding education and the future of the town. "This Business of Children" is a unique discussion of education, highly recommended.

Saving Snowflakes in My Pocket
Barbara Jean Ruther
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432773281, $15.95,

To try to make happiness, one may turn to lies. "Saving Snowflakes in my Pocket: Love's Survival Through Years of Deception" is a romance novel from Barbara Jean Ruther, as she weaves a story of a couple unable to conceive. Accepting in vitro assistance from Michael's brother, a web of deception begins to fold between Michael and Sarah. Through it all and more serious deception, "Saving Snowflakes in my Pocket" is a story of the enduring power of love.

With Warm Breast... and Bright Wings
Augustine John Moore
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163649, $14.95,

With faith and love for the world, "With Warm Breast... and Bright Wings" is a collection of dedicated work from Reverend Augustine John Moore as he writes with dedicated morality and life and shares his experiences in life in hopes it will inspire others. "With Warm Breast... and Bright Wings" is indeed a fine pick for readers, highly recommended. "With Warm Breast... and Bright Wings" is a fine collection that should very much be considered.

Domestic Commando
Toni Garcia Carpenter
Privately Published
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry HIll, NJ 08003
9780982161227, $12.95,

The plight of the homemaker has been more and more written off. "Domestic Commando: A Stay-at-Home Revolution" discusses is a discussion of the nobility of the homemaker and taking charge of the home for a better life for one's children. With humor and practical wisdom, Toni Garcia Carpenter presents a discussion on deciding if setting one's feet down on the home front is the best course of action for one's life. "Domestic Commando" is worth considering for anyone who is considering this traditional yet nontraditional career path for their life.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Come Back to Me
Melissa Foster
Greenforge Books
B005V2MWM6, $0.99, Kindle eBook

Tess is unexpectedly pregnant, delighted, and about to surprise her husband with the good news, when he is killed in Iraq - and her life changes forever.

Beau's best friend Kevin comes over to help a month later, discovers that Tess is shutting out the world, and becomes involved in helping Tess overcome her pain. Tess slowly moves to her business interests to shield her from the reality of Beau's death: meanwhile in Iraq a thoughtful woman rescues an injured soldier and begins the journey that will change her life and those around her.

Two women struggle - one to overcome loss and regain a sense of importance about life, the other to overcome cultural stigma to save a man - COME BACK TO ME, a vivid story of romance and change.

Chapters weave an intricate tapestry of hope between two very different worlds and cultures exploring endings, new beginnings, and friendships changed by life. A foreign man's determination to instill hope and fight against hate, and both a husband and a wife's determination to not let go of each other makes for a moving and emotionally charged saga that is hard to put down.

Beau has to enter another culture to make his slow journey back to his wife, while Tess explores her blossoming pregnancy and the potentials of other love versus letting go of her beloved husband's promise to return to her.

When Beau finally journeys home it's to find his beloved is making her own journey - and has indeed been on her own slow travel away from him for months.

Life's ironies and inconsistencies are captured in fine observation of changes and unpredictibility: "This wasn't supposed to happen - none of it. Beau was supposed to return and Tess was supposed to jump into his arms, ecstatic to hold him."

Grief, change and various forms of recovery permeate the themes of challenge and survival that run through COME BACK TO ME. Just as strong are the themes of community and togetherness that form, change, and reform under new conditions. Add unexpected twists and turns of plot and you have a satisfying, involving story line.

COME BACK TO ME is passionate, romantic, and moving. It's a vivid story of loss and hope - and will be a fine read for a wide audience.

Cody Alston
3112 Windsor Road, Suite A-103, Austin TX 78703-2350
9781936925032, $9.99

Trade paperback original edition (available February 1st 2012): 9781936925025

The term 'hotwifing' refers to a situation where a husband and wife agree to the wife's sexual contact with at least one other man - even though her husband won't do the same with another woman - and is thoroughly covered in this 'how to' manual that discusses everything about the concept, from idea to realization. While computer geeks who misread may initially think the title refers to wireless 'wi fi' management, it's quickly evident that the idea is anything but computer-related.

The full title actually says it all: HOTWIFING: WHETHER TO TRY IT, WAYS TO GO ABOUT IT, HOW TO HANDLE IT, while the book cultivates a studied, measured tone on the logistics of hotwifing. Its idea is not to push the concept so much as to explain its pros and cons and how it can operate in a successful, satisfying arrangement for all involved.

The first chapter opens with testimonials to the concept's successful outcomes, gathering a wide range of experience culled from message boards, emails or instant messages, phone conversations and face-to-face interviews with the author over the years. These testimonials do more than applaud the concept: they document the changes hotwifing has brought to a relationship, discuss common pitfalls, and are candid about the emotional strengths and issues involved. Particularly notable is the inclusion of instances where couples have chosen to not actively hotwife, but have blended the concept into a shared sexual fantasy life.

Again: the lack of a 'bandwagon' approach to the concept makes for a factual tone lending authority to the entire book.

Following the testimonials is a discussion of what hotwifing is and is not, why people become involved, and key chapters discussing facets of 'what's in it for him' and 'what's in it for her'. The attention to defining and differentiating the different types of benefits for each sex makes this a fine approach to a controversial topic.

From novels that feature hotwifing experiences and topics to films, HOTWIFING offers a history of differing approaches and discussions. After surveys of various religious concerns about the concept, chapters turn to the actual mechanics of moving from knowledge and fantasy to reality.

From impersonal approaches to raising the topic to one's partner for a discussion that doesn't open as threatening or frightening to offering step-by-step techniques to help men and women encourage their partners to consider hotwifing, this discusses everything from issues of discretion to changed sexuality and ideals of commitment.

Chapters covering setting boundaries for initial contacts and locating the right man (or woman) for hotwifing provide many specific options based on a range of experiences. From safeguards to handling feelings and major hazards, this explores all aspects of physical and emotional connections between sexually involved adults.

In conclusion, HOTWIFING is unique and powerful and deserves to be included in any health collection dealing with adult sexuality.

A Complete Guide to Ventriloquism
Naveen Sridhar
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463684372, $ 24.95,

There are other books on the market covering ventriloquism; but what makes A COMPLETE GUIDE TO VENTRILOQUISM: PRINCIPLES, PRACTICE AND PERFORMANCE a unique how-to manual is its organization and presentation, which lends to its use as a course textbook as well as a sourcebook referencing advanced techniques for improving a ventriloquist's overall act.

The first question is: can you really learn ventriloquism from a book? The quick answer is: this text will stimulate the reader who is already excited about ventriloquism, offering introductory techniques to test talent and teach the basics. It could also provide techniques and exercises that encourage the kinds of practices that lead to success ... and herein lies the strength of A COMPLETE GUIDE TO VENTRILOQUISM.

Beginners and those with some experience will find this loaded with practical tips and hints on the finer points of ventriloquism, from the basic secrets of mastering ventriloquism to advanced techniques for professional presentation.

An introduction provides a solid understanding of the foundation principles of acoustic illusion and draws connections between acting and ventriloquism. Even seasoned ventriloquists with some background will gain additional insights and perspective on presentation techniques, concepts of illusion and magic, and interactions between audience and actor.

Basic exercises on deepening breath, breathing in phases, resonance, and understanding differences between normal and ventriloquial speech patterns follow the introduction. Diagrams explain the physiological basics of breathing and speech, making it easy to absorb the science behind breath and speech choices and how they affect a ventriloquist's act.

Discussion of the science of producing a 'remote voice' is particularly well detailed and insightful, covering one of the basic projection devices of a ventriloquist. Seasoned actors will also appreciate insights on health, how such conditions as the common cold can affect an act, and how some of these problems may be overcome.

Later chapters discuss character development for the dummy, working up an appropriate dialogue between actor and dummy, and incorporating accents and slang into an act. Having a dual survey of the art of ventriloquism and acting makes this a much more rounded consideration of the subject than competing titles, and offers all the tools and exercises needed to produce a superior act.

Finally, direction on the all-important art of projection and handling one's dummy explore entertainment essentials any ventriloquist needs to know to put on a successful performance.

More so than any competitor on the subject, A COMPLETE GUIDE TO VENTRILOQUISM is a top recommendation and a 'must' for any collection strong in acting or in honing a ventriloquist act's finer points and art.

The Sword Of Magna
Chris Hattingh
9781609849658, $9.99,

The Sword Of Magna is a tale which takes place on Magnatus, an Earth-like planet in a distant solar system. The story begins on Axphalia, which is believed to be the only inhabited continent, and whose inhabitants shun boats and water alike. Large parts of their world thus remain unexplored - and it is here on Axphalia, in the treetop village of Oakfield, that a young dwelfling named Chryslan stumbles upon the tip of an ancient sword while searching for his incorrigible pet whipple, Barkly. Little does he know that his discovery will change his life forever...

Within days of Chryslan's find, two orchnid women discover the hilt of the sword in Alpenberg. A short time later, both pieces are mysteriously stolen in two separate incidents. Chryslan and his friends set off on four of his father's treadlings to try and find the stolen sword tip. Their quest leads them to Alpenberg, where they learn of the discovery and theft of the sword hilt. They are then joined by four of the orchnids in their quest to recover the stolen pieces.

Chryslan has no intention of leading a life of travel or danger, but when the tip and hilt of the golden sword are stolen, events are set in motion which lead him on an incredible journey through new, hitherto-unknown worlds.

He learns from the forest nymphs that his destiny as a hero has been foretold; but now he must locate the missing pieces and re-forge the sword to regain the power that will allow him to defeat the ruthless dagons, who would conquer Axphalia.

The Sword Of Magna could easily have been only about this struggle, but it adds spice by including romance that takes an unusual twist when the hero Chryslan is finally reunited with his love, only to discover fate has again taken a hand in changing their blossoming romance.

Dialogue and descriptions are powerful and poignant throughout this epic fantasy: "He was haunted by visions of two lovely, shining eyes gazing up at him, and the memory of a subtle, rose-sandalwood scent, and the warmth of a shapely little hand clasped gently in his. Inside himself he felt a vast emptiness, an aching yearning. What was happening to him? He had been fine yesterday at this time."

Exciting, fast-paced action and strong characterization are the draws keeping fantasy enthusiasts reading avidly to the novel's unpredictable conclusion. Not everybody wins, and not everyone wins easily. Heart's desires change, wax and wane, and the eventual heralding of the Third Age of Magnatus brings with it some unexpected results.

The Sword Of Magna is a lively, satisfying fantasy perfect for any reader who enjoys detailed sagas, strong characterization, ethereal descriptions of alien worlds and protagonists, and romance.

Without spoiling the conclusion, suffice it to say that having a definitive ending over a questionable conclusion makes this a satisfying single-volume novel that leaves nothing hanging!

A Disruptive Invention
Peter W. Shackle
Indie and
9781458173188 (Smashwords),
9781926921129 (Indie Originals Edition)

Physicists have been predicting the existence of a "Fifth Force" of physics for some thirty years, and the appearance of A DISRUPTIVE INVENTION offers a novel based on what could happen were this fifth force uncovered, proven, and exploited.

The story opens with one John Sykes, a young electronics engineer who accidentally discovers a force that enables a flying vehicle to levitate against gravity without wings or rotors. He and his friends determine the discovery will make them rich; but first they confront governments and private businesses who all want a piece of the pie.

It doesn't end with potential personal wealth either; for once John and his associates begin working with the Fifth Force, they determine that any inventions from the force will of necessity look like a flying saucer - raising all kinds of questions about alien existence, space, and alien technology that spark a renewed quest for the truth in outer space.

From developing their discovery and adapting science to a vehicle to handling questions of patents and theft, John and his companions have their hands full. There are quite a few humorous moments to balance out the protagonists' challenges and struggles: the prototypes have such female names as Barbara and Annette, for example, and tongue-in-cheek humor pops into even serious scientific dialogue: "... .I will take personal responsibility for making sure that Judy's nightmare is built into our plans." He turned to his system design manager Terry Entmann: "Terry - can you take ownership of Judy's nightmare please!"

Add the political struggles when foreign interests develop their own versions of craft powered by the science of the Fifth Force, an evolving hostage situation, and intercultural encounters and you have a blend of intriguing hard science, insights on UFOs, and sometimes-whimsical interplays between characters that lend personality to the science and takes the technical edge off the hard science angle.

Anyone interested in a science fiction novel that revolves around hard science and interplays between scientists, governments and individuals will find A DISRUPTIVE INVENTION to be at once a fun, compelling piece.

Chronos Prophecies, Rise of the Telepaths
Tom Ciolli
9781450790000 $4.00

Chronos Prophecies, Rise of the Telepaths is part of a science fiction series and represents military science fiction at its best. It introduces a world ruled by The Mining Syndicate where deadly battles are fought by The Wolverines, led by one Zack Murphy. The Wolverines have been exploring the world they've long shared with aliens and they've made discoveries that show them their fate is linked with the aliens even as they battle huge military robots to free a population enslaved by Chronos dictators.

The Wolverines are more than just a rebel military force: they are a select group of telepaths bred for a thousand years on the planet Chronos, and are called upon to fulfill prophecies.

Their journey across a continent to unlock their abilities results in the discovery of secrets that will change their world. Attacks from Chronos' surviving species and the evil Earth Mining Syndicate give the Wolverines enemies on many fronts, even as they fulfill the prophecies by uncovering technologies that will unlock their deepest powers.

While familiarity with the preceding novel Chronos will help in a smooth transition to this sequel, in actuality Chronos Prophecies, Rise of the Telepaths requires no introduction to provide satisfying and is accessible to the newcomer. Its opening chapter uses dialogue and character interaction to deftly provide settings and concepts that will serve readers throughout the story.

Descriptive action is well done and features fine settings and atmosphere throughout: "The two moons of Chronos give the planet an eerie glow in the evening. Most nights, there is enough light to allow activity. On an occasional night, like this one, a double full moon made it possible to function almost as though it were daylight. The two men were grateful for this. They knew little about their foes, but they did know one thing, they were being hunted by fearsome predators."

Action and adventure and the pace of personal and group discoveries are well done and provide a blend of swift action and thoughtful explorations of the evolution of telepaths and their purposes.

Swift military action combined with hard science fiction make Chronos Prophecies, Rise of the Telepaths a satisfying, complex novel.

The Third Dragon
D.R. Ross
Amazon Kindle
ASIN: B005NWJLG4, $2.99,

The Third Dragon (The Dukarian Legacy) opens with a description of a land devastated by generations of war where a prophecy of peace is the country's only hope against the constant fighting between factions.

One Tomis Dukar, the third son of King Haban Dukar and descendant of the ancient Dragon clan involved in the prophecy, is pitted against his own evil father who has a different idea of how the prophecy is to be fulfilled. His first task involves a struggle
against his own blood for his survival.

The future of Ungal seems to lie in the Dragon clan ... but how the prophecy is interpreted could change or destroy the country. The resulting conflict leads Tomis to undertake a long journey at a young age during which he confronts different ideas and incarnations of evil, finds unusual friends with unique abilities to compliment his own powers, and finds help in a magical order that lends him power against the evil forces amassing against him.

Tomis' ability can lead him to heal or kill with a single touch: but can these powers bring peace to a divided world? And can healing and help be brought to a world through battle strategies?: "It was he who was staring at the ashes of the fire now. Did Mitas kill innocent people to achieve his ends? Is there such a thing as a hero? How could he continue to be a warrior when he wasn't certain if he was fighting for the right thing?"

Poetic reflections on right, wrong, and struggle permeate a fine story of friendships and the hidden costs of warfare and even peace.

In the end spirits, magic, and issues of a father's love and dangerous ambitions come together in an unexpected manner to provide a satisfying conclusion to a fantasy adventure packed with action and twists of plot and characterization.

The story won't end here: anticipate additions to The Dukarian Legacy down the line, even as the dust barely settles on Tomis' ultimate fate and legacy.

Diane C. Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Dunford's Bookshelf

Vermont C.O. The Truth of Attrition, second edition
Christian Noll
RM Communications
9780615267548, $24.95,

The imprisoning of offenders has always been problematic. But the new trend towards institutionalizing of incarceration (including the privatization movement steadily making grounds in the nation today), needs to be brought to public disclosure and debate. That's why "Vermont C.O. The Truth of Attrition" by Christian Noll is such a valued, timely, and documented contribution to our national discussion with respect to prison reform and prison practices. This 230-page compendium is in a fully revised and updated second edition is enhanced with the inclusion of a Glossary and should be considered mandatory reading by governmental policy makers, prison officials, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in prison reform.

Zaftan Miscreants
Hank Quense
Privately Published
9781463740498, $14.99,

Just because we've mastered space flight, doesn't mean we're particularly bright. "Zaftan Miscreants" is the second entry into the Zaftan trilogy as he continues his lampoon of science fiction, politics, and business with his unique assortment of characters and their desire to thrive and survive when everything seems out to kill them. "Zaftan Miscreants" is a choice assortment, of wit, wisdom, and humor, not to be overlooked.

John McCabe
Privately Published
9781884702273, $12.95,

The impact of humanity on the world is massive. "Extinction: The Death of Waterlife on Planet Earth" argues that humanity's lust for food and fuel is the main cause behind the sixth great extinction that is causing the deaths of countless species through a massive chain of events. "Extinction" advocates conservation and veganism, and is worth considering by those who fear for the environment.

How Emotionally Damaged Are We?
John Lindsay O'Brien
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432774547, $19.95,

Unhappiness seems to be everywhere, with contentment seeming to be a myth. "How Emotionally Damaged Are We?" is a spin into happiness as John O'Brien suggests readers change the way they think and fight the way their world has crafted them into depression. Advocating mind over matter for life, "How Emotionally Damaged Are We?" is a solid recommendation for anyone who wants to conquer the old wounds of life, highly recommended.

Step Stones
Jim Scheeringa
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140
Longwood, FL 32779
9781609577780, $16.99,

To love God is to love the self. "Step Stones: To the Second Greatest Commandment" discusses faith and the call of Christianity, the power to love God and to love oneself. Jim Scheeringa advises readers on how to move through life, find their calling and rise to the challenge of life. With much to consider and much to ponder of faith, "Step Stones" is a highly spiritual and highly recommended read, not to be overlooked.

Making a Meal Of It
Jui-shan Chang
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432768218, $23.95,

Sex is twisted in many ways throughout the world. "Making a Meal of It: Sex in Chinese and Western Cultural Settings" discusses sexuality through the cultural divide, as Jui-Shan Chang speaks on making the bridge and offering plenty to consider for those who want to enhance their sexuality mindfully, with the eastern idea of treating it as a meal of sustenance instead of a game. "Making a Meal of It" is an intriguing breakdown of sexual philosophy, worth considering.

Me & D*ck
C. Robinson
Privately Published
9781463517441, $12.00,

Beneath a pristine exterior lives a woman afraid of nothing. "Me & D*ck" is a novel spinning the story of Sunshyne Mercy, a kindergarten teacher by day, and ambitious escort madame by night. With plenty of humor about a woman climbing her way up the world and stepping on them along the way, "Me & D*ck" is an excellent and highly entertaining novel, much recommended.

Up: Pursuing Significance
Joan O. Wright
Privately Published
9780982550526, $24.99,

No one likes to be treated as if they aren't there. "Up: Pursuing Significance in leadership and Life is an inspirational book from Joan O. Wright as she advises readers to take up the mantle of importance in their every day life, and how to apply it to greater success in one's career, and pursue the summits of their lives. Practical and to the point, "Up" is a fine read that shouldn't be overlooked by business leadership and self-help collections.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Change Your Conversation, Change Your Life
Malinda Dowsett & Lani Barna
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9780578086842, $14.95,

Words to ourselves and words to others create our path through life. "Change Your Conversation, Change Your Life" is a self-help and inspirational book from Malinda Dowsett & Lani Barna as they advise readers to find their spirituality and inspiration through their lives and how to make the most of it all through the words in their lives. "Change Your Conversation, Change Your Life" is a thoughtful read, not to be overlooked.

This Brave Balance
Rusalka Reh
Amazon Crossing
PO Box 400818, Las Vegas, NV 89140
9781611090055, $9.95,

When there is only one thing you love, you love it wholly. "This Brave Balance" follows Dipper as he finds himself crushed by the lack of direction in his life. But finding Parkour, he finds friends and a purpose, maybe even romance. But the honeymoon does not last forever, as Dipper soon learns, finding challenges to his little joy in life. "This Brave Balance" is a much recommended read, not to be overlooked.

Below the Line
Brian Tobin
7290 Investment, Drive Suite B
North Charleston, SC 29418
9781463684976, $14.99,

For his niece, he'll delve into the seedy parts of Hollywood. "Below the Line" is a story of Hollywood corruption, following struggling Handyman Squeak Batholomew, who in order to rescue his niece from prison, has to come up with money fast. Working with the corruption of Hollywood and the LAPD, "Below the Line" is a fine and much recommended read for general fiction collections.

The Immortal Lost
H. R. Phillips
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781617394409, $14.99,

The burden of aeons is placed on those who will live through it all. "The Immortal Lost: The Prime Immortals" follows Dylan Black, a young woman who has pressure of immortality placed on her, after a long period of feeling as if she didn't belong with the rest of the world. Through meeting a guardian and learning what it was her duty to protect, "The Immortal Lost" is a fine work of contemporary fantasy that will prove quite an intriguing read.

Striker Jones
Maggie M. Larche
Privately Published
9781460962879, $6.99,

Money is numbers and numbers are confusing. "Striker Jones: Elementary Economics for Elementary Detectives" is a guide to the simple ideas of economics for younger readers to understand as Maggie Larche offers many mysteries to come together for younger readers to learn about real applications to math with fun problems to work through. "Striker Jones" is a thoughtful delve into economics and short fiction, a top pick for younger readers.

Gail Cleare
Privately Published
9781461007760, $15.00,

Through the unknown, we can find something magnificent. "Destined" tells the story of Emily, who takes a job at a curio shop and delves into the occult and mystery. A novel of romance and the life of the occult and the tarot, it's a fascinating break into this culture and the belief in mysticism. "Destined" is a thoughtful and much recommended novel of tarot.

American Inferno
Bret Lowery
7290 B. Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781456575274, $19.99,

To pay for our evil is something that seems to be lost on the modern world. "American Inferno" is Bret Lowery spinning out Dante's literary classic into a modern context as America bathes itself in the seven deadly sins of its life. All seven are addressed with a good dose of humor and as the country faces judgment for its endless sin. "American Inferno" is an insightful and thought provoking discussion of America and its faults, along with the hope for its future.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Journeys of the Mind
Carol Edler Baumann
22 Cedar Lane, Elkhart Lake, WI 53020
9781426960567, $16.95,

What lies deep within our minds? "Journeys of the Mind" is a collection of stories from Carol Edler Baumann as she spins a unique story that delves into our minds, as Ethel Matson finds her dreams becoming things of her own, with her new companion Willy. Telling their stories, Baumann makes for a very enticing and original read that will be hard to put down. "Journeys of the Mind" would do well in standard or short fiction collections.

Parallel Lives
Martin Gwent Lewis
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432772093, $17.95,

So many choices that send life in completely different directions. "Parallel Lives" is the story of Richard, depressed with where his life went, seeks to end it all. He finds that it could have been different and may yet find new hope from the most unlikely of sources - himself. "Parallel Lives" is an insightful and much recommended read for general fiction readers.

Worlds Apart
Luke Loaghan
Privately Published
9781461169659, $12.99,

As one's world seems to break down around you, honesty seems quite out of reach. "Worlds Apart" is a story of David, a young man facing high school with his world falling apart around him. With gang war running rampant around him in 1980s New York City, it doesn't ultimately seem hopeful for his future. A coming of age thriller that deftly works in supernatural elements, "Worlds Apart" is a unique and much recommended read.

Gang Member
P. J. Brown
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162406, $13.95,

With nothing, survival is the only concern. "Gang Member" follows Percy Brown as he tells his story of hitting rock bottom, and clawing his way up through the ranks of a gang for simply a chance at life, and clawing once more to get back to something that resembled normalcy. "Gang Member" is a unique story of the struggle to survive and trying to rediscover something to live for.

Brandon Christopher
Privately Published
9781603183024, $15.95,

When heaven and hell can't take any more, you are left with a collision of the innocent and the cruel. "Nightville" is a work of noir fantasy from Brandon Christopher, telling of Leo Kelso, a law man trying to break away from this default purgatory as he realizes two innocents are about to enter the corrupt world he wants to live behind. In his last act, he must figure out how to protect them from being consumed by it all. "Nightville" is an exciting read that will keep pages turning.

Jay J. Schlickman
Privately Published
9781257813711, $27.25,

Fundamentalism is crafting our world. "Hotamah!" is novel set in the near future where the religious clash of the three Abrhamic faiths still continues, focusing on three children, one of Iran, one of Israel, and one of the United States. Telling their story of a world torn apart by religious strife, "Hotamah!" comes with a powerful message and warning for the future, for our children, and what will be left for them after the clash is done.

Where Am I Going?
Michelle Cromer
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452533742, $17.95,

You can see the places and objects of spirituality, but you need more than the eyes to absorb it. "Where Am I Going?: Moving From Religious Tourist to Spiritual Explorer" is a guide to find one's spiritual calling, as Michelle Cromer presents her own journey on how her travels to visit religious sites helped her find her own path. Moving and well worth considering, "Where Am I Going?" is a fine and much recommended pick for anyone looking to take their own pilgrimage of life.

Helen Dumont

Klausner's Bookshelf

Marco: Book 3 of the Books of Insanity
KT Pinto
Light Unseen Media
PO Box 1233
Pepperell, MA 01463-3233
9781935303237, $10.00,

The Unseelie Fae Queen allows Celeste the vampyress and her companion Vanity the werecat to live. However, the Fae Queen gives them no choice where she dumps them. Knights loyal to Cai of Britannia capture the pair. Cai calls Celeste his sister Morgan and has Vanity locked away in his dungeon. Celeste knows Cai as the renowned Roman General and vampire Marco.

He explains why he changed his name and what he is plotting. He introduces her to Arturus who Marco believes will make a good king of Britannia, but wants to make him a legend. She agrees to assist him with creating the legend of chivalrous King Arthur and his knights. As she develops a money source of prostitutes, Celeste begins the scheme of turning an honorable warrior into a legend starting with the Lady of the Lake and the Sword in the Stone. With assistance from another vampyre Lucifer, eventually released Vanity, and a surprising third heavenly source, High King Arthur of Britannia will live forever.

The third "Books of Insanity" (see Celeste and Vanity) is an intriguing refreshing look at the development of the Arthurian mythos. Although on the surface Celeste's history (and that of Vanity) will remind readers of Chelsea Quinn Yarbo's Count Saint Germain; they are polar opposites when it comes to morality; as she has no qualms about drinking the pure blood of a three year old though even though the toddler will die and she has other choices. Celeste is a fascinating evil protagonist whose actions keep the story line focused as she and her comrades create a legend.

Queens of All the Earth
Hannah Sternberg
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610880329, $13.95,

In Williamsburg, Virginia, a van has been packed with stuff for Olivia Somerset to begin as a freshman at Cornell. However, Olivia abruptly shuts down. Her older sister Miranda the accountant in a state of panic calls 911. The EMTs check out Olivia who physically is normal but emotionally has shut down. They cannot do anything for the catatonic Olivia, but their College of William and Mary professor mom who is giving a presentation tells her oldest daughter to call Dr. Simons. He explains to Miranda she is buried inside her brain and should not be left alone.

Months later, Olivia remains in Virginia struggling to be what she was before she broke down. She also knows she must cope with her father's death that she thinks triggered her collapse. Miranda suggests they travel to Barcelona where they stay at a coed dormitory style hostel. There they meet other quirky people with both sisters finding a romantic interest.

With a nod to E. E. Cummings' "Orientale," Queens of All the Earth is an intriguing character study that looks deeply at a young woman trying to get up from the rug (with her family's help) where she metamorphic lies since her massive mental meltdown. Although the support cast is not very deep in spite of being important to the story line, readers will enjoy two sisters seeking their respective grooves in the Mediterranean.

Carl Brookins
Echelon Press
9781590806685, $13.99,

Jack Marston is the student services director at City College in Minneapolis. He lives with his beloved Lori Jacobs. When she receives an invitation to attend the Riverview class of 1989 twenty year high school reunion, Lori hesitates as she says little about her teen years. Jack agrees to accompany her though she seems reluctant. He figures he will learn so much about the woman he loves when they visit her roots.

The first night dinner and icebreaker is held at Georgina's 40-Mile Club. However, the return home proves brutal as someone murders former quarterback Elroy Guteman near the club. More homicides follow as Jack and Lori become embroiled in Sheriff Arnason's investigation into a vicious pack eating alumni.

The latest Jack Marston amateur sleuth (see Bloody halls) is an entertaining whodunit as a serial killer with a vendetta attacks the class of 89. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the lead couple arrives in Riverview and never slows until the final confrontation. Readers will enjoy this strong Minnesota thriller as Jack learns you get what you wish for as he knows a lot about his girlfriend's past now since it is deadly haunting the present.

The Cheaters / Dial M for Man
Orrie Hitt
Stark House Press
4720 Herron Road, Eureka, CA 95503
9781933586359, $19.95,

"The Cheaters." Big twentyish Clint Mayer leaves his hometown of Beaverkill for working class Wilton. He meets Charlie Fletcher, owner of a bar near the docks. Charlie also runs a prostitution ring, in which he pays Police Detective Red Brandon extortion money. Clint offers to buy out Charlie's businesses until he meets the man's wife Debbie. He revises his business plan to include Debbie. However, he failed to understand how ambitious and lethal Debbie is.

"Dial M For Man." TV repairman Hob Sampson makes a house call to fix the set of Doris Condon, wife of wealthy Ferris who holds a grudge against him. Upon seeing the beautiful blonde bombshell, Hob knows she is trouble for him. He tries to focus on his Kathy, but like a moth to a light he cannot resist Doris. Although he knows what he does is amoral, Hob needs Ferris eliminated so he can be with Doris; who has a different ending in mind for her new knight in shining armor,

These two exciting 1950s pulp fiction reprints share a common theme as outlined in the Afterward (by Michael Hemmingson) of a man losing his moral compass to a femme fatale married to a rich older person. Both entries are mindful of James M. Cain's Double Indemnity, as Orrie Hitt provides two exciting character driven thrillers that will have readers seeking more from an author who brings out the gritty sleazy side of 1950s towns; Brian Ritt's Introduction provides more on Mr. Hitt's sense of place.

Tango's Edge
Carol Bellacera
Beautiful Evening Books
9780615532011, $12.95

In Park City, Utah, ice skating pairs prepare for their event at the Winter Olympics. The favorite team is the Russian duet Mikhail Kozlof who is considered the world's best and his partner Elena Boiko who has political influence that she used to become his skating mate after hers died. In fact Mikhail is unhappy that his long time coach and his partner were removed from his team while forcing him to ice dance with snotty Elena.

American Kerry Niles and her lazy partner Adam Cutter are the best chance for the home country to win a medal. Kerry meets Mikhail's friendly former partner Tanya Novokiva who with Sergei Isavenivic is good but not great. Tanya introduces Kerry to Mikhail who she was attracted to when she saw him at the World's two years ago. Mikhail stuns Kerry when he asks her to help him deflect. If she helps him, Kerry knows this will cost her only chance at medalling.

Tango's Edge is a strong romantic suspense thriller starring two likable lead characters, a super support cast, and a powerful world stage ice dancing background. The story line contains more twists and spins than a dance routine as the course of freedom to love is not easy with both American and Russian interests involved in a Cold War revision. That segue seems real even if two decades has passed since the Iron Curtain collapsed as the audience will score Carol Belacera's tale with a 10.

A Dark and Lonely Place
Edna Buchanan
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781439159170, $26.00,

In 1904 West Florida, Joe Ashley comes home late informing his wife Leugenia that they and their nine kids must leave immediately as a man was shot and he will be accused. His son John grabs his guitar and banjo before running to see his girlfriend Laura Upthegrove to say goodbye for now. However, John is falsely accused of murder and with Laura at his side flees with much of the state's law enforcement in pursuit.

In 2011 Miami Beach, homicide detective John Ashley leads the investigation into the high profile murder of politically connected Indian lawyer Ron Jon Eagle. However, he is stunned when he notices a model Summer Smith at a photo shoot who looks identical to the woman who has haunted his dreams for years; though he has never mentioned his fantasy female to his fiance cop Tracy Dominguez. He also believes she sort of recognized him too by her reaction. John catches up with his model, but soon is accused of murder and forced on the lam with Laura (Summer's real name) at his side while many of the state's law enforcement pursue.

This is an exhilarating thriller as the premise to A Dark and Lonely Place is history repeats the ugly scenarios because humanity fails to truly understand the lessons instead preferring to forget. The two subplots are fascinating with the historical segue based on a real Sunshine State Bonnie and Clyde. Although at times the contemporary plot seems stretched to make it appear identical to what happened to the first John and Laura, readers will enjoy Edna Buchanan's taut thriller.

National Security
Marc Cameron
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9780786024940, $7.99,

A day in infamy, 9/11 was the worst attack on American soil, but it is not last by terrorists or even potentially the most dangerous. Like the Oklahoma City bomber did, a cell of terrorists after years of assembling the needed ingredients drive a truck into a shopping mall killing thousands including sacrificing themselves as martyrs to their cause.

On an American plane, an Ebola like virus rapidly spreads attacking everyone on board. With no other recourse to prevent the spread beyond the tomb of a plane, the military blows up the jet, killing the dying hundreds on board. The French send samples from a top secret lab that contained the man made virus funded by Sheik Hussein al Ferroq. He plans to deploy Typhoid Mary like carriers to spread the disease across American; killing millions. Special Agent Jericho Quinn, who reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence and the President, is assigned to assassinate the "Marys" before the dormant biological bomb they carry inside their body goes active.

Marc Cameron provides a deep look into the mind of a terrorist whose ism is the only icon their brain carries. In this case, the martyrs believe they are doing what the prophet would expect of them. Quinn will remind readers of Captain America (without a sidekick) as he gave up much of his personal life including his wife and daughter to become the ultimate warrior. Somewhat pulp fiction, readers will enjoy this totally entertaining thriller; as a quintessential American hero fight terrorists to keep people safe.

Red-Robed Priestess
Elizabeth Cunningham
Monkfish Book Publishing Company
27 Lamoree Road, Rhinebeck, NY 12572
9780982324691, $25.95,

She is in the twilight of her year but Mary "Maeve the Celtic" Magdalene has much to accomplish in what is left of her life. In her sixties, she still attracts lovers like the newly appointed Governor of Britain General Gaius Suetonius Paulinus who looks somewhat like Jesus. In Gaul, they make love, but Maeve knows that their relationship can go nowhere because of his official position.

When she crosses the Channel with Jesus' daughter Sarah, he is right behind her to get to the fort and take control of the soldiers. Heeding Sarah's blandishment, Maeve seeks out her first born, taken from her by the druid who raped her four decades ago. On her quest, she returns to where she was exiled forty years ago. The druids inform Maeve that her offspring is Boudica, adopted by the Iceni and their Queen. She leads the revolt against theRoman forces. In retaliation to her revolt, Paulinus' troops rape and batter her children. The Praetor and Maeve make love for the last time as the lines are drawn and Maeve readies herself for the tragedy to come

The final Maeve Chronicles is a superb tale that can stand alone as a magnificent biblical historical fiction story, but is enhanced with the previous entries in the life of Mary Magdalen (see Magdalen Rising: The Beginning, Bright Dark Madonna and The Passion of Mary Magdalen). The story line combines mysticism, biblical references and historical accounts to anchor the strong climax in time and place as Mary returns to her Maeve and her Celtic roots. Readers will relish her end of her mortal days as she is pulled by her attraction to the General, her desire to protect her warrior daughter and her need to spread the word with Sarah at her side, not to mention knowing she will soon be with her beloved Jesus.

Dragons of the Watch
Donita K. Paul
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400073412, $13.99,

The oldest of eight children, Country bumpkin Ellicinderpart Clarenbessipawl talks to her best friend Tak the goat on how unfair life is. Everyone received an invitation to the royal wedding and coronation of Princess Tipper and Prince Tayrus. Her Aunt Tiffenbeth and Uncle Stemikenjon will escort Ellie to the royal wedding in Ragar.

However, Tak has other plans as the goat wanders away; she follows Tak to take the goat home before her trek to the weeding of the century, but Ellie gets lost. They end up in a strange city in which giant little kids mistake Tak for a dog and give chase. Famous artist Graddapotmorphit Bealomondore of Greeson rescues them and informs her that they are the only tumanhofers in Rumbard City. He explains the occupants consist of one elderly librarian, a horde of feral very tall six-year-old urohms and seven tiny dragons; he is unaware of the other essence. Considered a hero by the affluent of Chiril, Bealomondtore is on a quest to follow the Creator, but currently he plans to find a way for Ellie, Tak and himself to escape from being bottled up in Rumbard City, after that he will take care of the kids and his heart.

The latest Donita K. Paul "Dragon" Christian allegorical fantasy (see Dragonlight and Dragons of the Valley) is a superb tale with a strong cast especially the lead duet; while several of the kids have different personalities. Their efforts to escape the mysterious city make for a fast-paced story line loaded with action as the lead couple heeding Wulder's advice to follow the Creator by taking one step at a time to unravel the enigma of Rumbard City.

Black Magic
Brenda Jernigan
Dellarte Press
9781450100199, $37.95,

In 1980 in Raleigh, North Carolina, Dr. Alexandria Dumont performs rehabilitation medicine at Regional Hospital. Alex and her friend Carol go to a flea market. There Alex buys an oil painting from Hattie the elderly Cajun who tells her she will be contented tomorrow. Alex takes the painting of a pre Civil War plantation with a young woman in a peach gown near a lake. The reflection from the lake is what stuns Alex as it is not the woman but a burned out house. Falling from the back support is a child's dairy from 1835 that Mex begins to read before falling asleep.

When Alex awakes she finds herself in a strange bedroom with Hattie sitting nearby. She learns Hattie is a free black working as housekeeper at River Bends in New Orleans. Confused that she and her medical bag went back in time, Alex believes she knows why when she meets twelve years old cripple Missy Wentworth. Alex knows she can help Missy walk, but the child's older brother and guardian Brad rejects her assertion as he thinks doctors are quacks, but on Hattie's word hires her anyway to care for his sibling. As he fails to seduce the doctor and is about to announce his engagement, Brad wants Alex.

This is a terrific time travel romance starring a wonderful heroine and a protective big brother. The support cast is solid especially the child, the mysterious Hattie and the nasty almost fiancee. With a few spins, readers will enjoy Alex's sojourn into the past to help a child walk and to meet the love of her life.

The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken
Mari Passananti
Rutland Square Press LLC
9780615493640, $14.99,

In New York, Zoe muses that no one as a child thinks of becoming a headhunter managing other people's careers while hers stagnates. However that is what has become since graduating a decade ago from Princeton with an art history degree. For almost ten years Zoe and Brendan have been an entry, but now as they plan their wedding he ends their relationship not with a bang but with a whimper.

Zoe fears diving into the modern day dating scene as she has had Brendan at her side for years. She meets charming wealthy Oscar who seems perfect for her, but she has doubts as she thought Brendan was perfect for her. Instead she seeks the worst in Oscar and alienates her BFFs Angela and Kevin by doing so.

Filled with twists, The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken is a warm chick lit tale starring an intelligent woman who feels like a failure in relationships and work. Zoe makes the plot work as she wears her broken heart on her sleeve while seeking a Brendan replacement as she feels all her other tsuris will go away if she finds a man. Mari Passananti provides a wonderful contemporary romance with a touch of suspense as Zoe Clark seeks her groove based on a misguided concept that a man in her life will make everything perfect; rather than she thriving with or without a male mate to make everything perfect.

Einstein On the Road
Josef Eisinger
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616144609, $25.00,

Famous for his work on physics and tired of war in Europe, in 1921 Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa visited the United States. In 1922 they traveled to the Far East stopping in Singapore, China and Japan where both are awed by the various cultures they encounter and appalled by the abject poverty they witness. From there the couple went to Palestine and Spain before going to South America in 1925. Finally in the early 1930s the scientist and his spouse came to Pasadena and New York. When Hitler and the Nazis took over Germany, the Einstein pair settled in Princeton and became American citizens. On his global meandering for over a decade, Dr. Einstein kept a travelogue of what fascinated him and what angered him. Einstein On the Road is an intriguing look at the great scientist through his musings on subjects like the locations he visited, the Nazis final solution and other butchering, his conversion from pacifist to Zionist activist, his dealings with royals, heads of state, scientists, and children who he considered his true peers and his love of movies. Readers obtain a memoir that provides a much wider look at the witty brilliant physicist. This is an excellent glimpse at the man whose name denotes brilliance through his observations and conclusions.

James Wesley, Rawles
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781439172803, $24.00,

While politicians fiddled with fake solutions, the economic Crunch had begun. The debt officially at six trillion was over 3 trillion when obligations and off line credit card gimmicks were added to the calculation. Off budget was the only response DC had to the crisis. The dollar is useless; replaced by precious medals, bartering or stealing. People hoarded what they could, but looting and mob murder took over the streets.

In Afghanistan, Army Ordinance Captain Andy Laine realizes the Crunch will leave soldiers abandoned so he stashes supplies and begins an odyssey to get to his family in Farmington, New Mexico. His brother Lars, a 30-point veteran, tries to keep his wife Beth and their daughter Anelli safe on the family farm in New Mexico. Lars also takes in the three teenage Phelps siblings (Matthew, Reuben, and Shadrack). Not all maintain their humanity while trying to survive. Having established a warehouse near Houston to store his loot, Ignacio Garcia forms La Fuerza, a gang that raids unprotected communities in the southwest.

Survivors is a fascinating cautionary tale that extrapolates what his happening in DC, Wall Street and around the world to predict the collapse of the American Corporacy and how various people will act and react to the implosion rings true. Loaded with plenty of data to defend James Wesley, Rawles assertion a collapse is imminent (for instance fighting two wars on a credit card mentality). is believable. The intriguing story line follows a horde of survivors struggling with the ordeal of the aftermath of the Crunch. Although there are too many stories in the Rawles landscape making it difficult to keep score, fans will relish the "coming collapse" of America.

Thomas Enger
9781451616453, $15.00

In 2007 Oslo, the arsonist set the home of investigative reporter Henning Juul ablaze. Henning survived with sever burns to his face and other body parts while his young son Jonas died in the inferno. His marriage to reporter Nora Klemetsen also went up in smoke. Unable to work Henning takes a two year hiatus before returning to work at 123news.

His current boss Heidi Kjus was one of the many journalists he mentored. She assigns him to work with Iver Gundersen, who is stepping out with Nora, on the homicide of twentyish Henriette Hagerup. The victim was found inside a tent on Ekeberg Common where she was partially interred, her body battered and a hand severed. OPD Detective Investigator Bjarne Brogeland focuses on the Westerdals School of Communication film student's Pakistani boyfriend Mahmoud Marhoni with the motive being a sharia honor kill as her texting implies she was dating someone else and he tried to flee from the cops. The virtual tips from 6tiermes7 Juul centers his inquiry on Henriette's screenplay A Sharia Caste co-written with Anette Skoppum.

This is an intriguing Norwegian whodunit as the motive is the key to solving the case. All the circumstantial evidence points to a Sharia kill by her boyfriend, but Juul helped by an on line informant looks at the screenplay as the cause. Juul's mental state surfaces when he and the killer witness one another while the latter murders again. Although the mystery contains too many headline issues especially involving Muslim expatriates living in Denmark, readers will root for Burned out Juul to solve the homicide.

Half-Passed Dawn
Richard Doetsch
9781439183977, $25.00

Manhattan District Attorney Jack Keeler wakes up with no memory of what happened last night. He notices the stiches binding a wound in his shoulder that he has no idea how he got it and looks in a mirror to see a cut over his eye. Confused and frightened, Jack also notices a tattoo on his entire forearm in an apparently a foreign alphabet. In a state of panic, he calls out to his beloved wife Mia the FBI agent and their two young daughters Hope and Sara but no one responds.

He notices newspaper headlines: "New York City District Attorney Jack Keeler Dead" as his car fell off the Rider Bridge. Mia is dead too. Jack calls his friend retired Frank Archer who is stunned as he read the paper. Frank rushes over, but an intruder enters Jack's home. They tackle him as he is about to leave with the Keeler file and two teddy bears belonging to Hope and Sara. As Frank and Jack work on reconstructing what happened, the beleaguered D.A. realizes Mia lives but was abducted. He begins a quest to save his Mia, but the answers lie in a maximum security prison and a diary that allegedly predicts the future.

Author of The 13th Hour, Richard Doetsch provides a fascinating taut twister filled with numerous spins including one unexpected final climatic shocker. The story line starts with the stunning eye opener and never decelerates as a desperate Jack will do anything to save his beloved three females. Half-Passed Dawn is a superb character driven suspense tale as readers anticipate a showdown between the frantic protagonist and his apparently Oedipus Complex adversary who will kill anyone to achieve his goal; but nothing is quite like it seems.

The Lost Angel
Javier Sierra
9781451632798, $25.99

At the National Security Agency, field operative Nick Allen watches a tape of his friend scientist Martin Faber being kidnapped by Kurds. Faber was conducting research into climate change near Mount Ararat when he was abducted. To insure Faber's wife Julia Alvarez a psychic is safe and for her to help his rescue attempt, Allen searches and finds her in Galicia, Spain studying the sculptures at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela; just before an assassin almost got her.

However, as time runs out on Faber, Allen and Alvarez try to save him using the clues he left in the video for his wife to interpret. The group that holds Faber believes they are descendants of angels and the time is now for their return to Heaven with their abductee as the enabler. Faber, who was also looking for the biblical arc, believes that Elizabethan astrologer John Dee spoke to angels. There is less than seventy-two hours to before this fanatic group ends the world. All these descendants of exiles will converge on Mount Ararat where a stone of power will either save the world or send everyone to their maker.

The Lost Angel is an exciting religious thriller that grips the audience from the moment Faber is snatched and never slows down until the final confrontation. Although there are a few unlikely revelations that detract from the story line, for the most part Javier Sierra ties universal beliefs shared by most religions into a terrific twisting end of days' thriller.

The Night Strangers
Chris Bohjalian
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307394996, $25.00,

The seventy seater regional jet flies out of Burlington, Vermont with forty-three passengers, three attendees and a first officer as well as pilot Chip Linton. Geese fly into the two turbines, dying while destroying both engines. As the plane descends and feeling he can not make Plattsburgh or Burlington, Chip decides to land on Lake Champlain just like the heroic landing on the Hudson. He does everything right but a massive wave caused by a ferryboat makes the plane do a somersault. Most on board died while the pilot considers suicide as he suffers from survivor's guilt depression with the image of Dora the Explorer imprinted in his brain.

Chip's wife Emily, an estates lawyer, decides the family needs a change so that Chip can start to heal. Thus Emily, Chip, and their twin ten year old daughters move to the White Mountains in New Hampshire where they purchased a fixer-upper Victorian. However, the house proves not to be a home as they begin to get visitors from the beyond including the father and Dora the Explorer daughter who make demands of Chip to have his children befriend the dead girl and find secret passages including a hidden crypt. Their benign welcoming neighbors have sacrificial designs on the Linton twins.

This suspenseful haunted house psychological thriller is a tense tale with a strong cast especially the Linton family, the neighbors and the ghost from the plane crash. The story line is fast-paced with a sense of impending doom. Although the Linton adults' response to the otherworldly assault seems off kilter, readers will appreciate this scary ghost tale.

Dearly, Departed
Lia Habel
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345523310, $16.99,

By 2195, much of the planet has been devastated by a series of catastrophes culminating in the second American Civil War nuking much of the globe; the United States remains united in total annihilation. In South America, New Victoria created a society based on the historians' interpretation of life in Britain during the reign of the nineteenth century monarch who has been honored with the country's name.

Sixteen year old orphan Nora Dearly is an aristocrat who prefers studying history and politics instead of galas unlike her contemporaries. However, her martinet Aunt Gene, having spent the family fortune mostly on herself, decides to marry off her niece to refurbish her coffers and return to high society to Dearly's chagrin. However, as she pays homage to her dad who died one year and two days ago (her mom much earlier) zombies attack and kidnap her in a plot tied back to her late father. She is rescued by Punk undead Bram Griswold and his zombie unit. As Nora and Bram fall in love, each understands his time is limited as he suffers from the Lazarus syndrome that gave him a second life but quickly will leave him dead.

This is a terrific refreshing zombie post apocalypse thriller with an insightful historiographical premise while starring a delightful full blooded female and the zombie who loves her. The support cast is strong and includes Gene the mean, Nora's BFF Pamela and the zombie horde. The latter makes the somewhat meandering story line work as some are evil while others thrive for equal rights under the law. Young adult readers will enjoy this tender tale of forbidden love at the end of this century.

Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf
Curtis Jobling
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670013302, $16.99,

Sixteen year old twins Drew and Trent Ferran live on a farm with their parents. The siblings are close though they look nothing like brothers. The father and Trent set off for Tuckborogh to sell goods. However, while they are away for the day, a monster attacks and kills his mother even as Drew turns into a werewolf to try to save her. His dad returns home to see evidence that makes his son a killing beast. He drives the lad into the woods.

Drew is unaware that he is the only living lycanthrope as his native land Lyssia has been ethnically cleansed of his species by werelion King Leopold, who rules the Seven Realms and obviously wants him dead too. He finds allies with a wereboar Lord Hector the scholar and werefox Princess Gretchen while struggling to survive the were-assassins sent by the monarch to finish the extinction of the werewolf line.

The first Wereworld middle school fantasy is a fabulous brisk twisting coming of age quest thriller. The story line deploys the frequently used theme of the return of a young hero to fight against injustice and survive assassins but is made fresh by the shapeshifter hierarchy that make up the Seven Kingdoms. Tweeners will enjoy the Rose of the Wolf as the exiled prince returns home.

Wolf Among The Stars
Steve White
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781451637540, $25.00,

Five decades have passed since the alien Lokaron invasion. The earthlings responded to the annexation of the planet into the Lokaron Empire as a colony by either rebelling or becoming human quislings belonging to the Earth First party (see Eagle Against the Stars). As a result of the resistance, the mighty Lokaron Empire threatens to implode into a civil war.

Captain Andrew Roark investigates the strange death of his superior officer Admiral Arnstein. The victim's grieving daughter Rachel, wanting justice for her father, joins him on his inquiry. They soon uncover a diabolical plan in which the alien shapeshifting Kappainu manufacture incidents leading to interstellar combat in which they will be the victors. In a strange bedfellows' way, Lokaron agent Reislon'Sygnath accompanies the humans; they seek a way to prevent the insidious shapeshifters from shifting the power in the galaxy.

Wolf Among the Stars is an exciting action-packed military science fiction thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the hero investigates the admiral's death and never slows down as a homicide inquiry turns into a save the galaxy conspiracy tale. Although there is too frequent use of passive commentary to describe the issues facing the lead trio, readers will enjoy this engaging tale while wondering whose side Reislon'Sygnath really is on.

The Best of the Bolos: Their Finest Hour
Hank Davis
9781451637526, $7.99

All eleven entertaining entries are reprints of previously published tales. Three were written by the Bolo creator Keith Laumer in the 1960s ("Combat Unit", "The Last Command" and "A Relic of War"); the remaining eight were authored by several famous writers in the 1990s. Regardless of whether Mr. Laumer, David Weber ("A Brief Technical History of the Bolos" written as Professor Hermes of the Laumer Chair of Military History, "A Time to Kill" and "The Traitor"), S. M. Sterling ("Lost Legion") or David Drake ("As Our Strength Lessens"), etc. writr the story each entry contains the basic BOLO makeup and theme of a nonhuman lone wolf willing to risk death to achieve the victory. In fact Bolos typically pay a hell of a price in these dark science fiction short stories. The fun in this collection is to compare the 1990s contributors like those named above and Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon, Linda Evans and William H. Keith, Jr. to those of Mr. Laumer. Mr. Weber's introduction treatise rounds out a fine collection obviously for fans of the Bolo universe; as these readers will appreciate the lone wolf in space risking life and limb knowing what will happen to them but doing it anyway.

Starman Jones
Robert A. Heinlein
9781451637496, $13.00

Max Jones would prefer to emulate his late uncle the astrogator who flew to Beta Hydrae rather than his deceased father the Ozark farmer. Still he feels obligated to work the land to keep a roof over the head of his widow Maw; but any chance he has he reads and memorizes his uncle's astrogate texts. When Maw marries lazy Hillman Biff Montgomery, Max leaves the farm hoping to earn his way onto a space vessel though his chances are zero as that requires money or influential contacts with the Astrogators' Guild; he has neither.

Max meets Sam who looks at the lad's astrogate books that he totes with him. Sam steals his books, but when they meet again near the Guild Hall, he helps both of them become crew on the Asgard starship. Due to his Uncle Chester, Max becomes an apprentice to the astrogator cell. The Astrogator head Dr. Hendrix suddenly dies; while another member of the cell Mr. Simes and the ship Captain Blaines blow the coordinates sending them into unknown space. Simes blames Max who had tried to intervene before the error.

This engaging reprint of a 1953 young adult science fiction thriller is an exciting outer space thriller. The crew passes the test of time as Simes for instance failed to correct the captain out of fear for his job. Max is a terrific protagonist who holds the story line together whether he goes to Chicago, flies in space, tries to save the crew with a reverse calculation or meets Eldith. Although the on board computer is ancient history with its size and limitations, sub-genre fans will be flying in space with Starman Jones.

Behind the Redwood Door
John M. Daniel
Oak Tree Press
140 E. Palmer St; Taylorville, IL 62568
9781610090230, $14.95,

Carol Mallon and her five foot tall husband Guy have lived in Jefferson City on the northern California coast for three years. She owns and runs Scarecrow Books the local bookstore while unemployed by choice the fifty something Guy helps her as an unpaid loving volunteer. In deep love, each believes they enjoy the idyllic life.

The Mallon couple is eating at the Redwood Door Tavern with the Jefferson Nickel weekly paper owner River Webster and editor Pete Thayer. However, River and Pete have broken off their person relationship. He leaves presumably to work on a story. She follows immediately to talk with him, but River finds Pete dead with a knife protruding from his chest. River asks former publisher Guy to run the paper and he agrees. However once he takes over the Jefferson Nickel, he begins to have problems. His computer is tampered with and then destroyed; while Pete's office and home are ransacked and disks are missing. Guy spots a familiar face who might be the culprit behind the killing and other incidents. Before he can act on his inclination, he receives a visitor looking for two missing children.

Behind the Redwood Door is a complex mystery with a colorful rustic background. The exciting story line will keep readers on the edge of their seats with wonder as they try to figure out who is the evil serpent is who is destroying paradise and why. John M. Daniels writes an enthralling whodunit within a vivid setting.

Highlander for the Holidays
Janet Chapman
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780515150087, $7.99,

Following a brutal assault in Atlanta poor Mrs. Eric Dixon relocates to Pine Creek, Maine because the population of 800 allows her baby steps to heal mentally from the trauma. Using her maiden name of Jessie Pringle, her service dog Toby and her friend Merissa Blake stop at Pete's Bar and Grill where they meet Duncan MacKeage and his nephew Ian.

Duncan dances with Merissa who will return home to Atlanta in a week. Ian does likewise with Jessie who plans to buy a house in Pine Creek. Ian and Jessie fall in love, but she remains hesitant still struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder while he stays patient with her waiting for the right time to bend down on one knee. While limping in the woods near the lake, an elderly man gives Jessie a cane that he insists will help her heal.

Fans of the Pine Creek Highlander romances (see A Highlander Christmas) will appreciate this warm Yuletide tale of a strong man giving the woman he loves the time to heal. Although the story line never digs that deep into the roadblocks to the lead couple's relationships caused by her PTSD and physical scars of the attack, readers will enjoy a stop with the magical MacKeage of Maine.

My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner
Meir Shalev and Evan Fallenberg, Translator
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780805242874, $25.00,

This is warm hearted often amusing memoir of the author's grandparents. Aharon and Tonia left Russia in the early 1920s to move to the Holy Land. They planned to become farmers in Palestine. At the same time, Aharon's brother Yeshayahu relocated in Los Angeles to become a businessman. Whereas Aharon and Tonia lived in poverty while supporting a Zionist state for Jews around the world to come home after centuries of the diaspora, Yeshayahu becomes rich. Tonia obsesses over keeping their house clean from dust, but refuses to use the vacuum svieeperrr sent by her brother-in-law because she feels strongly she must do the job by hand and rag and cannot allow the General Electric machine to become dirty. Aharon loathes the gizmo that represents in his mind his sibling worshipping the god of capitalism instead of helping the Zionists movement. This and much more like Tonia's Jewish grandmotherly words of wisdom on changing socks and girls make for a wonderful insightful memoir as Meir Shalev pays homage to his grandparents who he visited as a young boy.

Cast in Ruin
Michelle Sagara
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373803309, $14.95,

Elantra Hawk police Private Kaylin Neya and her peers work on resettling the Norannir in the Fief of Tiamaris while the Dragon Emperor demands a visit from her. However, after Kaylin uses her magical abilities to remove mysterious Maggaron from the shadows, she and her partner Severn are assigned an eerie mass murder investigation.

Seven female corpses have been found. They look like identical septets with each wearing the same clothing to further the image of the seven. As they investigate, Kaylin uses her Chosen powers to learn whether these are clones, doppelgangers, or natural as she fears the evil stalking the edges are trying to penetrate the fiefdom. Kaylin willingly risks her life to prevent this from happening.

The latest Chronicles of Elantra (see Cast in Chaos) is a great entry in a strong continuous sword and sorcery fantasy. The kick butt heroine is brave and loyal as she slices and dices enemies while magically and mundanely protects the people she vowed to keep safe. Fans of the series will relish this superb tale as Michelle Sagara provides another soaring suspenseful thriller in the life of Kaylin Neya.

Always Devoted
Karen Rose Smith
Amazon Digital Services
B005KKEILC, $1.99,

Emma Henderson is a natural nurturer who has taken care of her mom until her mother died and her teenage sister Paige; she continued to do so even after she married and had a child of her own. Last year Emma's husband died in a car accident; three months ago, twenty year old Paige vanished while driving to San Francisco. The police found her car but not Paige.

Media giant Linc Granger gets Emma air time to make a plea for information involving Paige. Afterward, Linc who likes the mother and four year old daughter introduces her to his friends Jake Donovan (see Jake's Bride) and Gillian Bradley (see Nathan's Vow) who find missing people as the latter has a special paranormal "gift". As Linc and Emma are attracted to one another, each struggles with their feelings as she feels guilt and he is drowning especially with the added pressure of Becky insisting he is her buddy.

The third Search for Love drama is somewhat different in tone than Karen Rose Smith's insightful Silhouette tales but contains the author's renowned deep look at people struggling with relationships. The mystery of what happened to Paige is cleverly handled while the touch of the paranormal enhances the exciting story line. However, it is the changing relationship between the cynic, the mom, and the child who affirm that Ms. Smith is one of the best contemporary family drama authors.

The Platinum Loop
Austin Williams
Upaya House
9781936965007, $12.95,

In 1973 at the Binion's Horseshoe Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Billy Bob holds Floyd Manning over the forth floor rail while the other two Texans Randolph and Tommy watch. The three Texans are irate at Floyd for failing to introduce them to Frank as he promised. Billy Bob lets go, but Floyd rolls a seven as he lands on a garbage bag in a dumpster. As he crawls towards his car to hide in the trunk, the six pack of cowboy boots howl for his buck fifty pounds of flesh.

Film producer Gene Hoffman has left what was left of his money at the roulette table. Totally broke, he walks away from Darlene the croupier but three Texans shove him out of their way. Angry the three hundred pounds plus Hoffman intervenes rescuing Floyd from a beating. The two hustlers chat with Floyd thanking his rescuer by offering a deal with little risk. Floyd insists he has one of the five cuts of the porn film Platinum Loop starring Marilyn the blond bombshell. At first rejecting the claim as a con, Gene changes his mind when a hired gun visits him at his room. He joins his new partner Floyd as they work their project; while the three Texans are on an avenging vendetta as no one messes with Texas.

With a nod to the Sting, The Platinum Loop brings to life the early 1970s Hollywood-Vegas connection (with a touch of Tijuana). The story line contains dark humor especially the look at what was in like the Rat Pack during the Nixon Era. Filled with action, readers will enjoy Hoffman and Manning teaming up as nothing goes eight with their low risk scheme.

Twelve Drummers Drumming
C.C. Benison
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385344456, $22.00,

Several months after his wife's still unsolved homicide in London, Reverend Tom "Father" Christmas accompanied by his nine year old daughter Miranda, fans of the French version of Nancy Drew, visit his sister-in-law Julia Hennis the music teacher and her husband Alastair the physician Thornford Regis. When Vicar Peter Kinsey failed to arrive to lead the services for the late Ned Skynner at St. Nicholas Church, Father Christmas conducts the ceremony. Tom takes over the vacated position of village vicar

The Christmas pair finds life in the village soothing as they heal from their loss. However, at the fair, someone murders the daughter of the choirmaster; Sybella Parry's body is found inside a large drum. Although most locals assume drugs were involved in the homicide, Tom thinks otherwise. As he makes inquiries and uses the confessional to gather information, Tom finds several suspects who could easily have killed the teenager.

This is an enjoyable English village mystery that stars a fascinating widower who employs a unique way to gather data. The story line stars slow to establish the cast and setting, but once done accelerates into a fast-paced entertaining whodunit with a great surprising final spin.

I Am Half Sick of Shadows
Alan Bradley
9780385344012, $23.00

Eleven years old Flavia de Luce can count on three things: chemistry, irritating her older sisters, and her family being broke. To bring in some needed money in time so the family can eat during Christmas, her parents rent out the rotting Buckshaw estate to a film crew.

While her sisters look forward to handsome actors, Flavia plans to prove to these ill advised siblings that Santa exists. Thus in her lab, she creates a concoction of birdlime. Meanwhile all the local residents of Bishop's Lacey arrive at Buckshaw to watch the famous actress Phyllis Wyvern performing on Christmas Eve while a blizzard hammers the area and the Vicar begs the star to raise money for a new roof on St. Tancred. However at midnight instead of exposing Santa, she becomes embroiled with a final curtain call with a film strip necktie.

The latest Flavia 1950s amateur sleuth (see A Red Herring Without Mustard, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag) is a superb locked country house mystery as the blizzard limits travel. Flavia is her usual precocious self as she finds the aging actress performing Juliet a bit strange but appreciates the fact that the woman knows who she is from the publicized Bonepenny case. Readers will enjoy this exciting historical village cozy as Flavia wins bets with her sisters, works the Santa scenario, and a murder mystery.

The Name of the Star
Maureen Johnson
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399256608, $16.99,

Excited teenager Rory Deveaux leaves Benouville, Louisiana bayou to attend the Wexford boarding school in London for a year while her parents Tulane professors on sabbatical are in Britain. However, she finds much of the city is in fear as Rippermania terrorizes the city with what the cops know is a copy cat serial killer. This psychopath has mutilated and murdered several people, but never appears on the security cameras that are in the city.

As she struggles with the social customs of the school, Rory meets Jerome and her roommate Jazza. Rory and Jazza are walking together when the Louisiana native notices the killer; her new friend fails to see anything. Rory realizes she sees ghosts that other people and the cameras fail to notice. She tells the police who assume she is a typical American teen. However, the killer notices Rory as a threat and plans to bury her.

The key to this young adult paranormal serial killer thriller is the cast, whether they are sightless norms or those who see ghosts, every important player seem genuine. The suspenseful story line is somewhat gory, but jocularity lightens the impact. With satirical asides on the security of the London surveillance network and the new age vamps and weres, readers will enjoy Rory vs. the neo Ripper in the enjoyable opening Shades of London.

V Is for Vengeance
Sue Grafton
9780399157868, $27.95

On May 5 1988, Kinsey Millhone of Millhone Investigations in Santa Teresa turns thirty eight. However, her birthday turns ugly when a virtual stranger punches her in the nose. The assault leaves her shnoz broken (for the third time), her eyes looking like that of a raccoon, and a need for plastic surgery; thankfully paid by her health insurance.

Financier Lorenzo Dante sends his goons to collect from deadbeat Phillip; they send him airborne for failing to pay a loan on time. Just before her battering, Kinsey is in Nordstrom when she notices a woman shoplifting. She informs security who busts the culprit. However, Kinsey failed to realize the thief had a partner until the other felon tried to run her over; she battered her leg avoiding a hit and run. Not long after coming home from Canada, Dante is shocked to learn that Audrey is dead after being caught shoplifting; his ambitious out of control goon Cappi killed her. Soon all this and other events will collide at Kinsey's nose.

Aptly titled, the V Millhone thriller is an exhilarating tale as the heroine works several cases. The birthday driven story line is fast-paced with much more than just the above as all roads lead to and from Dante. Fans will enjoy this fun tale as the protagonist takes a beating but keeps on ticking.

Rain Falls Like Mercy
Jack Todd
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781416598510, $25.00,

In May 1941 in Wyoming, someone murders a girl. Sheriff Tom Call investigates the homicide. During his inquiry he meets and falls in love with Juanita Paint, wife of much older rancher Eli. Progress on solving the homicide goes slow.

Meanwhile Eli's son Leo and grandson Bobby are serving with the U.S. Navy when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Tom enlists with the Air Force and after a brief basic training he deploys to England to fly bombers. Although leaving home, he still works the murder case as he suspects the almost untouchable psychopath Pardo Bury, son of an influential wealthy oil tycoon William, killed the girl.

The third Paint family epic (see Sun Going Down and Come Again No More) is an engaging look at the 1940s through the Paint and Bury families. Much more occurs than above as the war continues with the invasion of Okinawa while the kamikaze pilots try to sink the ships. Readers will anticipate the confrontation between the good sheriff and the amoral evil Pardo as even a world war is a temporary hindrance to their mano a mano destiny.

The Revisionists
Thomas Mullen
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316176729, $25.99,

The government insures history does not repeat the mistakes of the past. Thus when agent Zed's wife and daughter die in an accident, he is granted two months to grieve his loss. When his allowed mourning time ends, operatives arrive at his apartment to remove any hint they lived.

Zed understands the importance of prevention as his job is to insure the past happens but not repeated in the present. His current assignment is to go back in time to insure the early twenty-first century great Conflagration occurs by protecting the Events that led up to this calamity from the Revisionists time traveling historical agitator Hags who want to rewrite history. At a parking lot overlooking the Potomac he eliminates two Hags trying to prevent the abduction of a reporter. However, he soon finds himself butting heads with Leo the former CIA agent, Tasha the corporate lawyer grieving her loss, and Sari the Indonesian maid enslaved by a nasty Korean couple.

This thriller is a super tale in which the "perfect" future is protected at all costs to the past. Rather than trying to prevent the Event that shapes the future, Zed and the government protect the Events leading to the big one. Although there is stereotyping and hyperbole in the modern day, the spin on the world's problems is fascinating as to the victors go the Revisionists history books in which the masses numbly accept as truth even when it is harmful to those individuals. Readers will appreciate the present and future converging in DC.

The Christmas Wedding
James Patterson and Richard DiLallo
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316097390, $25.99,

Fiftyish widow schoolteacher Gaby Summerhill's husband died three years ago. Since the family patriarch's death, Gaby's adult children drifted apart while she ate her way through her grief. The thinner Gaby sends a DVD to her four adult children, inviting them, their spouses and her grandchildren to spend Christmas in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and attend her wedding. She coyly refuses to name the groom as three men her age (childhood friend Tom Hayden, Rabbi Jacob Coleman and brother-in-law Martin Summerhill) want to marry her. The four children want to come to Stockbridge, which will be the first time they will be together since they buried their dad.

In Myrtle Beach, thirty-five year old Claire lives with her pot head abusive slacker husband Hank, their chip off his stoned dad's marihuana teenage son Gus and their tweener twins (Toby and Gabriele) Thirty-four year old Lizzie lives near her mom, but is struggling with her husband Mike's illness while raising their young daughter Tallulah. Twenty-nine years old Manhattan attorney Emily is burned out from over work while her spouse Bart is a neurology resident. Finally the only male offspring twenty-six years old wannabe author Seth lives in Boston with his girlfriend commercial artist Andie.

The Christmas Wedding is an entertaining family affair as the extended Summerhill clan struggle with a myriad of tsuris. The story line is faster than a sleigh going downhill in the snowy Bronx. However, none of the ensemble cast is fully developed as James Patterson and Richard DiLallo never provide much background to what led the quintet and their retinue to where they are. Still this is a fun holiday tale as Gaby Summerhill invites readers to the wedding of the year.

Theft of Swords
Michael J. Sullivan
Orbit Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316187749, $14.99,

After foiling a robbery near the small town of Warric, notorious for hire thieves Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater known as Riyria visit the Earl of Chadwick Archibald Ballentyne. The pair steals parchments from Chadwick who was planning to use these incriminating letters to blackmail Marquis Victor Lanaklin in supporting his marriage to the man's daughter Alenda. Riyria also borrows the Marquis' carriage and clothing before meeting with their client Alenda.

However, soon afterward the pair is accused of trying to kill Prince Alric whose older sister Arista hired the pair. They soon encounter an ancient wizard and others as they begin to unravel the conspiratorial truth that the Church of Nyphron plans to control all of Apeladorn. While keeping the royals safe as she is their client, they must also prove their innocence by finding the framers.

With a swashbuckling tongue in cheek sense of humor starting with the thieves providing tips to their wannabe robber, the first Riyria Revelations fantasy is a terrific tale starring two close friends and partners. Their daring do escapades make for a fun tale filled with twists, sword fights and much more.

Mercury's Rise
Ann Parker
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590589632, $24.95,

In 1880, owner of the Silver Queen Saloon, Inez Stannert takes the coach from Leadville, Colorado to visit her two years old son William and her sister Harmony DuChamps who is watching the infant in Manitou. The ride proves ugly when businessman Edward Pace, traveling with his family, suddenly dies after drinking a medicinal elixir.

Inez is hurt when her child who uses his aunt's surname fails to recognize her. Pace's widow pleads with Inez to investigate her husband's death. Needing to occupy her mind with something other than family, Inez makes inquires into the easterner's abrupt demise. Her investigation leads to where she is staying, the Manitou's Mountain Springs House. However, Inez's personal life intrudes when her missing for eighteen months husband Mark surfaces.

The latest Stannert American Silver Rush historical mystery (see Leaden Skies) is a terrific thriller that focuses on the quacks making a fortune selling cures for tuberculosis. The heroine's family hurts enhances the fullness of the protagonist while the intelligent inquiry into a wrongful death is clever. Ann Parker writes about a slice of unregulated Americana in which let the buyer beware capitalism greedily takes advantage of the desperate.

Fever Dream
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen
9781590589571, $24.95

Pittsburgh Police Department Sergeant Harry Polk and Detective Eleanor Lowrey asks psychologist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, a highly regarded trauma expert, to work with Treva Williams, the first freed hostage of a robbery of the First Allegany Bank. Daniel arrives at the scene while the robbery plays out to its horrific lethal climax. He agrees with the cops that Treva suffers from a form of post traumatic stress disorder after she witnessed the execution of Bobby Marks; his assertion is confirmed when she goes shocky.

Soon afterward while first responders clean up the mess that include a dead robber, district attorney Leland Sinclair and his opponent use the lethal mess to further their runs for governor of the Keystone State. As Lowry with Rinaldi's consultation digs deeper into the perp who fled from the bank early on, the case twists further as politics intrude on good police work.

The second Rinaldi police procedural (see Mirror Image) is an exciting thriller filled with twists and spins. The fast-paced story line keeps the reader's attention as Dennis Palumbo provides an engaging spinning tale in which each time fans and the shrink think they know what really happened in the fog of the bank robbery, the plot takes us elsewhere. Fever Dreams is a wonderful mystery.

The Boy in the Suitcase
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781569479810, $24.00,

As she is overwhelmed at work and in her personal life as a mother of two children, Copenhagen nurse Nina Borg knows she should refuse her friend from nursing school Karin's favor, but agrees to pick up a package from a locker at the train station. Nina takes out the suitcase only to open it and finds a drugged but alive preschooler.

Not sure what to, she observes an angry man who opens the now empty suitcase. Fearing the cops will only take the child back to his seller, Nina leaves with the little boy Mikas who does not speak Danish or any Scandinavian language. She seeks Karin, but learns her friend was violently murdered. While traffickers search for their commodity, Mikas' frantic Lithuanian mother seeks her beloved son too.

This is a fascinating Danish thriller that focuses on human trafficking. Filled with taut suspense from the moment the heroine meets The Boy in the Suitcase, Nina and Mikas flee for their lives unsure who to turn to for help. With a nod to North by Northwest, readers will root for Nina and Mikas as some nasty individuals chase after them.

One Voice Too Many
Paul Martin Midden
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781463413262, $21.00,

Forty-nine year old white male Jeremy Walker was musing about Swedenborg the eighteenth century mystic on his way to work. However, a traffic jam on the interstate ends his ride from Biltmore to the suburbs. The amiable carpenter walks away from his truck, goes to a nearby diner and orders a burger with fries before he starts screaming hysterically. The police take him to a psycho ward and contact his former wife Macy.

When Jeremy and divorcee Macy Caldwell met, they instantly were attracted to one another. They begin seeing one another. After telling her daughter Taylor she met someone she likes, they quickly marry as he wants this one to last forever and she needs this one to work. However, like all his past relationships, this one in spite of their love for one another fails as Jeremy has had only one successful relationship in his disturbed life with the Voice; but perhaps his breakdown will lead to a second chance

One Voice Too Many is not an easy read as Paul Martin Midden digs into the mind of a troubled individual. Character driven by Jeremy, but enhanced by Macy, the Voice and others, readers will appreciate this fascinating profound psychological drama; as Mr. Madden asks can even a loved one know the true essence of someone else when that other person probably does not know themselves.

Long Trail Home
Vickie McDonough
Moody Press
820 North Lasalle Drive, Chicago, IL 60610
9780802405852, $14.99,

In 1865, skin and bones Riley Morgan arrives in Waco only to find his family farm in ruins; his parents dead; and his fiance Miranda married to someone else. Needing work, he obtains a handyman position at the nearby Wilcox School for Blind Children and sleeps in the barn.

Annie Sheffield lives at the school where she cares for the younger children. She is attracted to the former solider, but has a pickpocket past that makes her unsuited for him. However, when an avaricious individual tries to close the school, Annie and Riley team up hoping to save it; along the way they fall in love and may save each other.

The third Texas Trails Morgan Family nineteenth century Texas romance (see Darlene Franklin's The Lone Star Trail and The Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis) is a superb historical drama. The story line looks deeply at veterans coming home after the Civil War and profoundly at blind children. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as they share a whimsical previous encounter. Readers will appreciate this powerful character driven and issue dominated thriller as the third different author has added another winner to the saga.

Kris Longknife Daring
Mike Shepherd
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, NY, NY 10014
9781937007034, $7.99,

The seemingly endless war between the United States and the Iteeche appears over with the signing of a peace treaty. Both sides can return to what they were doing before the two species collided, exploring space. However, scouts probing a particular sector vanish with no bodies, ship fragments or anything belonging to the Iteeche anywhere in the vicinity.

The two species collaborate with an investigation into what happened to the vessels. Lieutenant Commander Kris Longknife volunteers to lead a Fleet of Discovery into uncharted regions. At a jump point, they find aliens who destroyed a sentient planet. Kris and crew learn who this creepy enemy is as they fight and if they loose commit suicide. Still she must remain calm as she decides to stop the aliens, who can pass for human, from destroying the orb where the sentient bird like species live knowing if she goes ahead with her plan it will lead to another interstellar war.

The eighth Kris Longknife outer space military science fiction (see Undaunted) will elate fans of the series who know how far the heroine has come from her rookie ensign salad days to leading a flotilla. The story line is faster than the speed of light as the humans and their former enemy the Iteeche debate how to deal with a third species while Kris deploys the Eisenhower principle of exploring all other viable options before sending soldiers to die.

Jack McDevitt
9780441020737, $24.95

Karen Howard arrives at the office of Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath wanting to hire them to find good prices for her late sister Elizabeth's estate. After insulting Chase by demanding to meet with Alex, she explains her sibling was married to famous physicist Chris Robin who had theories on multiverse realties and vanishing ships before disappearing over four decades ago. Chase explains to Karen there is no market for items owned by a scientist. Alex tells Chase that Chris is famous for vanishing just outside his house; his junk should sell well.

Alex tells Chase they will look into the disappearance though they will not solve it as their investigation will drive interest and value up. Chase cautions Alex that if they solve the mystery value collapses. Thus they begin the odyssey when retired Dr. jerry asks about the Robin items. Thus the pair visits the Christopher Robin Society and soon travel to planet Villanueva, home to abandoned raging AIs while the inquiry turns as convoluted as the missing Abonai vessel that became "lost" six years ago .

The latest Benedict-Kolpath science fiction mystery (see The Devil's Eye) is a great entry as the lead sleuths search for a lost astrophysicist that takes them on a wild adventure. Besides not pooh the name of the scientist, this is a fast-paced thriller from the moment Karen meets skeptical Alex. Fans will enjoy Alex's narration of what happens to Chase and him as his partner leads him into several hair-raising escapades.

The Shadow Reader
Sandy Williams
9781937007010, $7.99

Twentyish human Houston resident McKenzie Lewis English major is frustrated with the intrusions into her obtaining her degree as eight years for a BA is ridiculous. While she takes an exam, the sword-master Kyol her Fae lover arrives. She reminds him that she told the Faerie to leave her alone this week. Kyol tells her they need her now as overt civil war in Faerie seems imminent. McKenzie knows her gift of tracking the fissures left behind by Fae travelers makes her in demand.

The king orders McKenzie to find the rebels. Instead the rebels kidnap her. Aren the rebel leader makes a just plea for her to join their side. While McKenzie considers their argument and is attracted to Aren, she has pledged her loyalty to the king and cannot turn away her taboo love of Kyol.

The Shadow Reader is a wonderful urban fantasy in which human technology has intruded on Faerie and realism is anchored by war atrocities committed by both sides in the name of righteousness. The story line is fast-paced while the female protagonist wants to stay out of the fight but becomes the rope in an ugly tug of war with collateral damage accepted by each combatant as the end justifies the mean. Although the romantic relationships confronting McKenzie with Aren and Kyol seem more a forced requirement, fans will want to enter the Sandy Williams realm.

Timestep to Murder
Norma Lehr
Camel Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603818636, $16.95,

The six former Manhattan Topettes who live near Lake Tahoe are invited to perform a weekend of reunion shows at the Cal Neva Escort Spa and Casino. In their late forties and a quarter of a century since they danced together, Abby, Melanie, Dana, Gail, Blythe and Renee arrive for a precision high kick performance. Coaching the team for the shows is much younger NYC Topettes Teacher Jan Withers.

However, the rivalry between the dancers is as feral as it was twenty five years ago. Lottery winner Melanie retains her superego as the center performer because she is the tallest. Renee hates Melanie for stealing the love of her life Tommy. Business partner Dana has sued Melanie over the lottery winnings. Gail still envies Melanie as the second tallest has done futile stretching exercises to steal the focus point, but remains shorter. Blythe tries to persuade Melanie and the others to sell her health drinks. Driven from California by former cop Blade, Abby is the mother confessor to the group. All hell occurs when someone poisons Melanie and subsequently kills Gail. Although she should allow Detective Fromer to do his job, Abby investigates out of loyalty to her friend Renee, a major suspect.

Fascinatingly, the insight into the lives of the six dancers as former performers makes the investigative thriller stand out. The whodunit is clever as the killer is in plain sight of the stage although Abby's obsessive fueled actions seem over the top of Freel Peak. Still the six antagonists have different personalities and interests as they high kick to the joy of fans their way to a deadly dangerous dance.

Jane Austen, Blood Persuasion
Janet Mullany
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, NY, NY 10022-5299
9780061958311, $13.99,

In 1810 at Chawton Hants, Jane Austen is working on a manuscript but is struggling to focus. First her seventeen year old niece is flirting outrageously with Mr. Terry and the Undead. Second, an Undead "family" has moved into the neighborhood to rusticate since the Prince Regent ignoring how the vampires saved England back in 1797 when Jane was changed (see Jane and the Damned), wants the bloodsuckers banished from polite society.

An Undead Dorcus Kettering visits the Austen family for tea. She informs Jane that her creator William is in town filled with remorse for failing to care for Jane during the critical changes. Although he blames her for his broken heart, William wants a second chance to make amends, but Jane prefers being human rejects his overtures. Instead she fears the vampires will cause a bloodbath and her trepidations are affirmed as rival gangs of the Damned compete for turf control. However, Jane has no idea how to prevent the calamity while her beloved sister Cassandra remains in the same state of denial she has been in since the dance at the Basingstoke Assembly Room thirteen years ago.

Although the story line starts slow as the key cast is set, readers will enjoy this blood and tea historical fantasy. Janet Mullany captures the essence of the heroine as she struggles with her reverting back to the Damned, finishing her manuscript, and keeping a blood bath from occurring as she knows what is at stake. Readers will enjoy this paranormal Regency thriller with a powerful late twist as Jane Bites Back (by Michael Thomas Ford) without the need of any Persuasion at those who want to use her or her family.

Wishes and Stitches
Rachael Herron
9780061841323, $13.99

Home to her late friend knitting expert Eliza Carpenter, Dr. Naomi Fontaine comes to Cypress Hollow, California to practice medicine. However, no matter how hard she tries, she remains the outsider. Her loneliness is accentuated whenever her mom calls; this time the topic being her little sister Anna calling and asking for money. Eliza tells her about her new life, but mom only gets excited when she assumes her daughter has a date, which she does not.

A SUV hits a boy dashing into the street. Milo's Uncle Rig checks to see if he is okay while Naomi asks him let her examine the child. He informs Naomi that Pederson the lead in their practice just added him as the third partner without telling her. Naomi and Eliza had one incredible night in Portland at a medical convention, the only time in her life that she broke the rules of her rigid adherence. Now they must work together ignoring a strong attraction as he fears relationships after watching what happened to his brother and she fears relationships after her father died whens he was a teen.

The return to Cypress Hollow (see How to Knit a Love Song and How to Knit a Heart Back Home) is a warm charming contemporary medical romance as neither doctor has a prescription to cure the love blues. With a nod to knitting and a strong support cast including their respective families and the locals, readers will enjoy the tale of two physicians in denial.

Falling Together
Marisa de los Santos
9780061670879, $25.99

Will, Cat and Pen became friends over Beowulf at college. They remained BFFs throughout their undergraduate years, but their friendship ended when Cat married her long term boyfriend Jason; who Will and Pen loathed. As they graduated, the trio agreed to never contact one another ever again.

Six years later, Cat emails her two former BFFs pleading with them to attend the college reunion so they can see one another. Unable to resist, Pen accompanied by her five years old daughter Augusta and Will go to the reunion to see Cat. Both are stunned with what awaits them at the reunion and beyond.

This is a terrific character study that deftly changes into an engaging mystery. The cast is extremely well developed and not just the lead trio as the support players bring plenty of oomph to the plot. Readers will want to travel with the three protagonists on a journey of awakening even though the walk down the Yellowbrick Road is too long and straightforward; as the trio and fans learn not all that glitters is gold and some that does not glitter is golden.

The Bite Before Christmas
Lynsay Sands & Jeaniene Frost
9780062014078, $19.99

"The Gift" by Lynsay Sands. Port Henry Police Chef Teddy Brunswick is snowed in without electricity at Marguerite Argeneau's isolated Colorado cabin. He cannot escape as downed trees block the road and his truck is frozen. Next door is Katricia Argeneau who tells him she has food while he has a fire in the fireplace. Tricia is excited as she cannot read her fellow stranded traveler, which means that Marguerite is probably right that the man who looks like her grandfather is her life mate. She tells him she is in law enforcement as a Council Enforcer in New York and that Marguerite is her aunt; he knows what she is but is unsure what he is to her.

"Home for the Holidays" by Jeaniene Frost. Cat arranges a surprise birthday party for her beloved husband Bones the vampire. Fabian the ghost, Spade, Ian, Mancheres, Denise and Kira arrive, but Annette fails to show up. Ian goes to see why. Blood is everywhere and Annette looks like she was tortured but refuses to say by who in spite of her sire Bones demanding she does. Bones catches a vampire in the woods; he says he is his half-brother Wraith. Ian distrusts Wraith while Cat has doubts too. After a few hours, Cat decides to kill Wraith in order to save her beloved who acts as if he is entranced. She obtains help from Ian and Denise, also affected by Wraith.

With strong casts, these are two thrilling vampire romances that are part of each author's respective series (Lynsay Sands' Argeneau saga and Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress saga).

Out of Oz
Gregory Maguire
9780060548940, $26.99

Oz Emperor Shell Thropp, brother to the late Wicked Witch of the West Elphaba, sends his Oz army to put down the rebellious break away in Munchkinland. To insure no bewitching interference, General Cherrystone arrests former Throne Minister Glinda. However, while he keeps Glinda incarcerated in her house, the General finds the good witch's broom girl Rain fascinating and begins to teach the child to read. He fails to recognize that his student is the granddaughter of Elphaba and the only person breathing who can comprehend the Grimmerie magical lore tome.

A performing troupe gives the Grimmerie to Glinda for safekeeping. She has her friend Brrr the Cowardly Lion escort Rain on an identity quest. However, Glinda remains concerned over the well-being of the people of Oz as Dorothy of Kansas is back and everyone knows the singing and dancing Cornhusker irritant is a trouble magnet.

The final "Wicked Years" Oz fantasy (see Wicked, Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men) is a great finish to a strong saga as spin maestro Gregory Maguire deftly twists L. Frank Baum's classic novels in brilliant unexpected but logical extrapolations. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the deep look at the cast that makes the tale work; for instance everyone knows ultra optimist Dorothy is a plague with every rosy colored step she takes disaster walks with her. Readers will relish this saga as Mr. Maguire exposes the rest of the story.

Defensive Wounds
Lisa Black
9780061989414, $24.99

At the Ritz Carleton in Cleveland, someone kills infamous defense attorney Marie Corrigan while a legal convention is hosted at the hotel. The police at the murder scene agree immediately on two things. First the unethical lawyer who falsified evidence got what she deserves and that anyone in the city who came into contact with the sleaze would have a motive for murder; homicide detective John Powell tells forensic investigator Theresa MacLean, whose daughter Rachel works at the Ritz, that they have a hotel filled with suspects.

Theresa knows a hotel room is impossible to cope with as previous occupants will leave behind traces that make it impossible to seek oddities. The immediate positioning of the corpse implies a lovers' rendezvous that turned ugly. However, Theresa refuses to jump to any conclusion as the killer could have set up the crime scene accordingly. The case turns serial when two more corpses posed as if they were with a lover are found. Seeking the links between the three victims for a common avenging killer, Theresa soon fears she and Rachel could be on the death list.

Readers will enjoy the latest MacLean forensic investigation (see Takeover and Trail of Blood) as Sarah Palin would agree no one messes with a grizzly mama especially if one of their cubs are endangered. The story line is fast-paced with much of the fun being the simplicity of the murders as everyone including the protagonist and readers seek complexities. Although avenging serial killers is a frequent theme and the protagonist has dealt with these predators (see Evidence of Murder), fans will appreciate Lisa Black's latest forensic locked hotel room tale.

Ecstasy Untamed
Pamela Palmer
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061794735, $7.99,

Feral Warriors Hawke and Tighe are caught in a Daemon spirit trap. Hawke fears his death will leave his spirit animal trapped forever just like 17 who died before him; this will leave only seven to fight the Daemon and the Mage. His brethren rescue Hawke who was trapped for a week. Out of character Hawke goes into a rage, changes into his animal nature and flies away. Feral chief Lyon worries and wonders if Hawke is damaged.

In Warsaw two Daemons attack Faith the Therian, but a stranger kills both. Maxim insists she is his mate and they go to America so he can become the next Feral Warrior replacing the dead Fox. Hawke is attracted to Faith as is his spirit. Faith thinks of going home as she wants Hawke but feels an impulsive need for nasty Maxim. The clan conducts the ritual which brings Maxim his spirit animal, a saber tooth tiger, one of the lost. Five new feral arrive. Maxim boasts to her his new Feral will kill the old and she is one of the bad new Warriors. Before he can make her forget as he has been doing, Faith flees to warn Hawke.

This is an excellent urban fantasy (see Rapture Untamed) due to a great twist that serves as a key element in this tale and in the overarching saga. The story line is loaded with action but it is the romantic triangle that makes the tale fun to read. Although the over used villain's boasting costs his side much of the surprise attack, fans will appreciate this exciting entry as the enemy has found a way to take the fight inside the Feral Warriors clan.

Hell to Pay
Wendy Corsi Staub
9780061895081, $7.99

The earthquake shook Massachusetts. The Bridgebury Correctional Facility was totaled by the tremors and all inside assumed dead. However one female inmate believes the Book of Revelation End of Times has begun with the earthquake. When she miraculously survives while Sodom and Gomorrah like death is everywhere around her, she knows she is a chosen one of the Lord who kept her safe to cleanse the earth of the Lord's enemies and undesirable.

Lucy Walsh and Jeremy Cavalon survived the attack of a serial killer when they were children. Several years ago the Cavalon family won a civil law suit that stripped the inmate of much of her assets. She is coming for them with the Lord on her side; she starts by killing his adopted grandmother Silvie Durand in New York. Lucy and Jeremy mourn Sylvie's death in what was reported an accident when the elderly woman slipped in her bathroom; but abuse victim Jeremy suspects something sinister though he and his wife remain unaware that a female inmate he thought died in Bridgebury is beginning her vendetta against the Walsh-Cavalon families.

The third Walsh-Cavalon thriller (see Live to Tell and Scared to Death) is a chiller due to a brilliant psychopath who believes the Lord has saved this sheep to avenge what her infidel enemies did to her. With righteousness on her side, she starts by killing a guard who raped her before moving onto their families. The story line is fast-paced, loaded with action and stars a harrowing righteous villainess. Although the theme of a psychopath seeking vengeance has been used frequently in serial killer tales, Wendy Corsi Staub provides an exhilarating novel.

Norse King's Daughter
Sandra Hill
9780061673511, $7.99

His father orders Sidroc Guntersson to throw the female baby into the thrall. However, the widower decides he needs a wife to raise his daughter. Sidroc woos long in the tooth hybrid Princess Drifa, daughter of King Thorvald. They marry, but she becomes irate with his boasting of gaining wealth as a third born and a mom for his child; Drifa hammers her new spouse with a pitcher to his head before walking away. When he awakens after days of unconsciousness, he learns his wife has left him and his baby is gone.

Five years later, Sidroc and Drifa meet in Byzantium. He is irate to learn she has a daughter Runa. Needing revenge, he courts and beds his virgin wife. Stunned Sidroc realizes his spouse is raising his daughter. When Drifa is kidnapped, Sidroc vows to rescue her so they and their child can forge a loving family.

This is similar in tone to many of her Viking romances (see The Viking's Captive) with modern day humor imbued into a Dark Ages gender war. The lead couple is a delightful pairing of two strong individuals who both melt in each other's arms though sometimes caustically and with their child. Readers will appreciate the battle between two powerful adversaries in love as even their trysts are jocular (don't tell Sidroc I said that).

What A Duke Wants
Lavinia Kent
9780061986314, $7.99

In 1821 England, the Duke of Strattington's man Divers tosses Miss Isabella Masters and her baby Joseph out of his house because the infant makes too much noise crying, which will disturb the lord. Outside in the dark she meets a man who originally thought she was a doxy until he sees the baby. Once they clear that up she says she Isabella Smith taking Master Joseph to his father in London; he says he is Mark Smythe, who hides from her that he may be the Duke she just scorned.

They hit it off, but she dreams of marrying him while he dreams of not marrying her or anyone. As they kiss, they land in a compromising position. Mark proposes, but Bella wants Strattington so she decides to run away again. However, Mark realizes he wants Bella as his wife whether he is a duke or a commoner.

This is an entertaining Regency romance with a bit of a mystery and suspense enhancing the story line. Sub-genre readers will enjoy the changing relationship between Smith and Smythe while wondering along with the lead male how Bella became Master Joseph's escort.

Sexiest Vampire Alive
Kerrelyn Sparks
9780061958052, $7.99

Romatech Industries Marketing Vice President Gregori Holstein is in Brooklyn watching the filming of an ad at the Vampire Digital Network when Robby McKay and Rajiv the were-tiger arrive to escort Gregori back to Manhattan headquarters as CEO Roman and security chief Angus want to see him. The coven masters discuss the You Tube viral of Malcontent leader Casimir having his head cut off. Roman and Angus interrogate Gregori over whether he drank human blood. He says he uses the bottled product. Recently converted CIA operative Sean Whelan will escort Gregori to meet President Tucker. Gregori thinks his instructions are too weak as he opposes begging for protection from POTUS. Plan B is to become allies. He creates Plan C to offer humans protection from Malcontents.

Gregori learns First lady Belinda is very ill while the First Daughter Madison hosts White House events. He is shocked to realize there is another daughter Abigail the scientist. At the meeting, Gregori realizes no one trusts him. Still the President says for Gregori to take his daughters out in New York. If Abigail accepts him, he will take her on a special trip to China to obtain three precious plants she hopes will save her mom's life.

The latest Love At Stake romantic urban fantasy (see Vampire Mine) is a nice pairing of a vampire with a human First Daughter while the strong support cast enhances the vampires forced out into the open. Little things means a lot like the hero's stress balls and the first date though the latter is too long. Although the plausibility of a First daughter going on an illegal dangerous quest to China seems like zero, fans will relish this entertaining entry.

In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster
Stephanie Laurens
9780062068613, $7.99

McKinsey hires kidnap and disposal specialist aristocratic Scrope to abduct Elizabeth Cynster in London and deliver her to him in Edinburgh unharmed. Scrope succeeds in extracting the target from her sister's engagement ball (see Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue).

Eliza escapes her captors, but knows she needs a hero who's "gotta be strong and he's gotta be brave" (Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero), but settles on academic Jeremy Carling as the only stud at a posting inn. He knows he is out of his league, but cannot desert the desperate damsel in distress. Thus Jeremy dresses her in male garb to pass her off as a boy while they flee her persistent pursuers. As they fall in love, the enemy traps them.

The second Cynster sister is a refreshing Regency thriller due to the hero who is the anti-Cynster male on the surface, but his heart beats like a lion when it comes to protecting Eliza. Action-packed, fans of the series will appreciate this historical romantic suspense while anticipating the next sister Holding Out for a Hero of her own.

Every Scandalous Secret
Gayle Callen
9780061783456, $7.99

Lord Leo Wade enjoys the hedonistic offerings of London. He loves to gamble and wins most wagers especially those involving his other passion females. His current bet centers on the intellectual Lady Susanna Leland. Her only love is the fine arts while she deploys her brains to frighten away the shallow male aristocrats.

Having followed her, Leo introduces himself to Susanna at a party. He confidently informs of his wager and thus will seduce her to win the bet. She as confidently offers to bet him that he will fail. Leo remains persistent as her pursuer while Susanna remains equally persistent at rejecting his advances. While her family demands she marry, Leo wins his bet only to be caught in a compromised position with Susanna. Though each knows they are in love, neither trusts their new spouse with their heart.

The key to this charming historical romance is both protagonists are fully developed so that the audience understands the respective weaknesses of each hidden behind different veneers of a wastrel bad boy and a blue-blooded brainiac. Thus their wager makes for a delightful tale as love may prove too weak to overcome the deep rooted distrust both bring to their relationship.

In Total Surrender
Anne Mallory
9780062017314, $7.99

Financial wizard Andreas Merrick runs London's underworld. No one dares to challenge his power. Yet in spite of a crafty lethal reputation that has even the bravest keeping their distance, Miss Phoebe Pace pleads with him to help her find her missing brother.

Though he admires her courage as he understands what she risks, he still says no and tells her to go home before she is hurt. Phoebe may be an innocent, but she knows the scandalous risk she takes yet refuses to heed his warning. Instead, she blithely assaults him at his office and his home. As she continues her quest, he tries to kiss her away, but instead she wants more of him. As they fall in love, Andreas knows his Phoebe is not safe with him because his enemies will use her as his Achilles' heel.

The second London's underworld historical romance is an exciting suspense starring an unlikely pairing who, as with One Night Is Never Enough, proves to be a perfect coupling. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the persistent pursuing Phoebe accosts the dangerous Andreas. Though he knows the cost to her of her obstinacy and his attraction, he cannot resist the temptation. Anne Mallory will receive accolades for her alliterative female heroines invading the London underground to the delight of sub-genre fans.

The Lost Book of Mala R.
Rose MacDowell
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780385338585, $15.00,

In present-day Southern California, former New Yorker Linda worries about her tweener stepdaughter Paige when the news of a nearby homicide is broadcast especially when the child disappears and her frantic father Peter stalks the neighbors in search of his daughter. Her BFF Christine is pregnant after years of futile failure, but her spouse Tim is accused of murdering twentyish Jennifer. Their friend Audrey takes no risks as her family seems to live under a dark cloud of bad luck that is until now when she takes a chance on romance.

As the three struggles with their family issues, they share the journal written by Mala R. in 1948. The Gypsy woman's entries include spells, recipes and prediction of the future that Nostradamus would have been proud to proclaim. Each turns to the wisdom of Mala R scribed six decades ago while they cope with modern day personal calamities and try to understand the enigma of the Gypsy authoress.

Although the 1948 mystery is obvious, The Lost Book of mala R. is a delightful whimsical thriller that compares the good, the bad and the tsuris between the two eras. The females in both periods are outstanding while the men are drawn enough to matter though not always in a positive light. Readers who appreciate something radically different with enjoy this entertaining character driven tale

If I Tell
Janet Gurtler
Sourcebooks Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, #139
Naperville, IL 60563
9781402261039, $9.99,

Westwind High-school senior seventeen years old Jaz believes she is a pariah because she is biracial; thus neither the black nor while students at school welcome her. However, she is also her own worst enemy with an angry temper that comes across like a terrible two tantrum. Her friend Ashley the lesbian insists her only problem is a lack of self esteem that leads to Jaz wearing a sign that says victim available for kicking down. She has other buddies like BFF Lacey who is always there for her even though she is unappreciated. Finally there is grandma who raised her.

Currently she is angry at her single mom for seeing Simon who Jaz saw kissing Lacey. Complicating matters is her mom is carrying Jaz's future half-sibling. The teen wants to tell someone, but is unsure who. At a party, Jaz and new transfer student Jackson meet. They like each other and the kiss they share is heavenly. However, Jaz trusts no one so she keeps the former juvy drug dealing Jackson at a distance. Likewise, using temper tantrums, she does the same with her BFF, Simon, mom and her new baby brother. Only those who love her refuse to back away from Jaz.

This character driven teen drama is a terrific tale due to a strong cast. Besides Jaz on her self destructive path, her support group has fully developed characters who constantly remind the hurting teenager that they are there for her as they patiently encourage her to realize that the grass is green on her side of the fence due to her caring friends and family.

Fires of Winter
Roberta Gellis
9781402255014, $9.99

Bruno is the offspring of the holder of Jernaeve Keep Sir William Fermain and Berta the whore. His father refuses to recognize Bruno even as a bastard of his.

Lady Melusine of Ulle has been raised in luxury as the cherished daughter of Sir Malcolm and his wife. Though her dad has lineage to the Scottish throne, but not to Ulle, Malcolm owes his control of the keep partially because he is a fair honest leader and partially because he has the King's support.

Years later, civil war divides the country. Melusine's father and brother support King David against King Stephen. Declared traitors, Bruno leads a unit of King Stephen's army that takes Ulle. To anchor his stronghold, King Stephen orders his loyal soldier Bruno to marry the traitor's daughter. On their wedding night, Melusine sets the tone of their marriage when she tries to kill her new spouse. As they begin to find common ground besides an unwanted attraction, Bruno remains loyal to his liege even becoming incarcerated with him, but he is looking forward to return to the wife he now cherishes.

This reprint of a classic twelfth century romance showcases the talent of the great Roberta Gellis. The terrific story line rotates perspective between the lead couple in an epic sweep of the years, but also maintains a strong medieval base as the protagonists are a sign of their times in a great historical

I'm Not Her
Janet Gurtler
9781402256363, $9.99

In Washington State, Tess the brain is the younger sister of the most popular girl at Great Heights High School they both attend. Kristina is a beautiful athletic extrovert while Tess is a brilliant introvert. However, Tess' I'm Not her attitude changes when her sibling's volleyball career crashes with the diagnosis that she suffers from bone cancer. As the family relationships take on a new dynamic, Kristina receives chemo right way.

Kristina goes from the top of the world to the Grand Canyon of depression. Although she loathes being the center of attention, Tess suddenly becomes in at school as everyone wants news flashes on Kristina; Tess' BFF Melissa seems to gloat with the fall of the school queen ending a friendship since fifth grade. Their mom exacerbates the situation with parties and shopping sprees as she is in denial refusing to accept her oldest daughter is deathly ill. Their dad avoids his three females hiding at work. However, while Tess works on winning the Oswald Drawing Prize, she finds boys like Nick Evonic interested in her, but receives emotional support from an academic rival Clark Trent who understands what she is going through; while Tess is there for Kristina.

Ironically Tess tells the tale of how her sister's illness changes relationships in the family and community, Kristina though often off page holds the insightful story line together. The cast is strong as the actions and reactions of various townsfolk towards Kristina reveal their inner strengths and weaknesses. Young adult readers will appreciate this insightful tale as it takes a village to cope with a deadly disease assaulting a teen.

The Storm That Is Sterling
Lisa Renee Jones
9781402251597, $6.99

Renegade soldier Sterling Jeter is a take the hill at any personal cost warrior. His current assignment is to keep NASA astrobiologist Rebecca Burns, who he knew and admired in high school over a decade ago, safe from rebel leader Adam Rain and his Zodius super soldiers. Knowing she is dying from lung cancer, Becca comes out of her three month medical treatment in Germany to return to her home in Houston. Waiting for her at her door is Sterling whose GTECH senses warn him of a Zodius assault.

He protects her from the abduction attempt and explains why he and his Special Forces unit needs her help with an addictive drug made from an alien DNA sample found in the 1950s. Sterling vows to keep the woman he adored as a teen safe and help her find a cure. Rebecca soon discovers the experimental treatment has her addicted to the new drug, but also possesses new skills. As the enemy Zodius ramp up the attacks, Sterling and Rebecca must trust in their love for one another to survive the ordeals.

The second Zodius romantic science fiction (see The Legend of Michael) is a superb second chance at love thriller. Loaded with action as the enemy keeps on coming, fans will root for the lead couple to Lifebond, but to complete the ritual means reaching a safe zone and curing her cancer. The Storm That Is Sterling is a great tale.

Utterly Charming
Kristine Grayson
9781402248511, $6.99

Ealhswith the witch and Aethelstan Blackstone the wizard are in a custody battle over who cares for Emma the Sleeping Beauty. In Portland Blackstone accompanied by Sancho Panza hire near impoverished lawyer Nora Barr to represent the wizard in court, but once she hears him admit he has no legal relationship to the comatose woman, Nora says she cannot help him. Two weeks later, she is his lawyer as Blackstone faces criminal charges of arson and murder in a fire fight. Soon after that mess is cleaned up she is retained by the pair to hide the minibus containing Emma in her coffin.

A decade later, after a one millennium sleep, Emma awakens. Blackstone knows he is her Prince Charming, but she rejects him; blaming her so called champion for costing her a thousand years of life. Emma also wants no part of Ealhswith, the other party that has made her the rope in a tug of war. Instead she asks Nora to mentor her in living in modern day Portland starting with a social security card. Prince Charming finds himself attracted to Nora but knows his fate lies with Emma.

The second charming fractured fairy tale (see Wickedly Charming) is an engaging humorous satire that the late cartoonist Jay Ward would have appreciated. Filled with jocularity as Emma, Blackstone, Ealhswith and Panza converge in modern day Portland in an epic battle of magic in which the warriors learn modern day combatants require a lawyer. Readers will enjoy this amusing take on Sleeping Beauty sleepless in Portland.

The Goblin King
Shona Husk
9781402259852, $6.99

A thousand years ago the druid exiled Celtic King Roan and his warrior horde including his brother into the Shadowlands. A lump of symbolic gold replaced his heart, but time is running out on the former monarch; if not saved by the love of a human he will either vanish into nothingness or join the soulless Goblin Horde.

Eliza Coulter summons Roan to protect her from the rage of her fiance Steven Slade. An heiress she trusted Steven after her dad died, but no more. She knows he has stolen from her and fears his temper. Thus she has turned to the Goblin King. Roan hopes to make Eliza his queen, but she would have to give up so much for him. Destroying his wardrobe will not keep her safe from the abusive Steven, which he knows is his prime mission.

This is an intriguing romantic fantasy with an interesting psychological spin in which the duo worlds of Sharon Husk seem real yet also metamorphic. Roan is a heroic individual who willingly sacrifices his chance for the return of his soul to keep his beloved safe. Eliza is the more fascinating protagonist as she is the ultimate damsel in distress unable to function without a man's protection. However, her passivity to the nth degree helplessness is two edged as readers observe an emotionally crippled person failing to take action beyond calling for help to protect hers even when facing peril but also makes her too damaged to be the lead female in a contemporary setting.

Sara Humphreys
9781402258435, $6.99

Critics ripped her work for the lack of heart and she failed to sell her art until this morning when her favorite painting was purchased, orphaned as a child Samantha Logan is leaving Brooklyn to return home to her Nonie and the beach; based on a dream of the beach and more. However before she can go home, her affluent spoiled former boyfriend Roger Van Douson accosts her. Though scared, something rumbles inside him and she frightens him into leaving her.

Malcolm Drew is the last of his family of the Eagle Clan Amoveo shapeshifters. He knows Samantha is his soulmate having danced with her in their dreams. Her next door neighbor, he looks forward to her return home though he must be cautious as she is unaware that she is one of his kind. However, as she learns, rejects and accepts the truth re her DNA; the ancient Caedo clan of Amoveo hunters stalks Malcolm and watches his mate to see if she displays the infection.

Although the romantic urban fantasy story line takes time to set the players on the stage, fans will enjoy Sara Humphreys' Unleashed. The entertaining story line grips readers once the beleaguered heroine returns home and never slows down while containing a powerful plausible late twist. Sam is a refreshing lead protagonist as she struggles to adapt to all she abruptly learns about herself, her late parents, and being the guy next door's little wolf soulmate.

Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn
Persia Woolley
9781402246432, $16.99

Queen Guinevere lies in a cell awaiting her execution looking back to how far she has fallen for trying to do the right thing by her people and her liege. After years of civil war, King Arthur has brought a tenuous peace to his kingdom. Unable to bear a child, his lonely wife raises her stepson Mordred, the offspring of Arthur and his half-sister Morgause. Mordred adulates his father emulating Arthur until he learns his maternal roots. Arthur's other half sister the Lady of the Lake Morgan le Fey believes she should rule the kingdom so she sets in motion a deadly conflict between father and son.

Over the years she supported Arthur as few had though his Knights of the Round Table and his ambitious family with few exceptions scorned her. She respected Arthur while she loved Lancelot, but kept her distance from the King's Champion. However, Arthur's half-brother Agravain who believed he should have been king set in motion the scenario between Guinevere and Lancelot that has her in her death cell.

The third Guinevere trilogy is a terrific finish to the legend of Camelot through the eyes of an alleged betrayer of the king's heart and soul. The story line is fast-paced partly because of the modern day speech that enables the audience to easily enter post Roman Britannia. The cast is solid as the knights come to life, but like its predecessors (see Child of the Northern Spring and Queen of the Summer Stars); the telling of the legend comes from the unique filter of the pagan Queen (who thinks the hunt for the Holy Grail is a foolish waste of treasure for a shaky cause).

Never Been Bit
Lydia Dare
9781402245138, $7.99

In 1817, Scottish witch Sorcha Ferguson still dreams of marrying a Lycan like Benjamin Westfield who wed her coven sister Elspeth Campbell. She figures that should not prove difficult but so far she has not found any that fascinate her and besides the seer Caitrin Thorpe refuses to tell her who her Lycan soulmate is.

Kind shy Alex McQuarrie chose vampirism over death but rues his decision as the life of an Undead is lonely. He wants a love of his own; someone who will cherish him as much as he would her. However, he is taken back when he becomes upset over his friend Sorcha seeking to marry a Lycan. Exploring his lost inner soul, Alex realizes the sweet plant savior he has known for years may be the one to mend his non-beating broken heart if he takes a chance on love and can convince her to redeem all he lost.

This bewitching paranormal Regency romance is an entertaining redemption tale as Sorcha wants to help her shy friend Alec find what he lost and Alec wants to help his sweet friend Scorch find the love of her life as long as it is not an uncouth Lycan. Sorcha makes the story line fun and fresh as she gives her heart and soul to the man she loves even though he lost his soul and his heart fails to beat. Readers will appreciate Lynda Dare's engaging historical romantic fantasy (see It Happened One Bite and In the Heat of the Bite) as two hearts cannot beat as one since his fails to beat.

Queen of the Summer Stars
Persia Woolley
9781402246401, $16.99

Queen Guinevere loves her husband of two years Arthur and supports his efforts to unite the country under his banner as the High King. Her only regret is that she has not birthed the heir to her husband's throne. Meanwhile Arthur and his loyal Companions deal with the invading Saxons and the unification, which leaves him no time for his wife.

Arthur's half sister Morgan Le Fey wants the crown so she sets all sorts of plots in motion to harm her brother via her sister-in-law. When Guinevere is accused of murder, Lancelot champions the queen who he had previously been aloof towards. They are attracted to one another, but refuse to do anything that will hurt their beloved Arthur. However, Arthur's indifference to his wife over the next few years and his rejection of her belief his sister is undermining him force a schism between the king and queen; she turns to Lancelot.

The second Guinevere Trilogy tale (see Child of the Northern Spring) is a great entry that follows the lives of the Camelot key players (the quartet above as well as Gawain and Ragnell; Merlin and Nimue; and Tristan and Isolde, etc.) during the first decade of marriage between Arthur and Guinevere. The tales of the other players insure the story line is more than just a middle transition book though that is a key element. Readers will relish Queen of the Summer Stars as the players are full blooded with flaws while setting in motion for the final tragic consequences caused by Camelot consisting of humans not legends.

Child of the Northern Spring: Book One of the Guinevere Trilogy
Persia Woolley
9781402245220, $16.99

Celtic widower King Leodegrance arranged for his only child Guinevere to marry the High King Arthur in a marriage of political convenience. The betrothed meet to finalize the deal and although she finds him fascinating she has doubts that an uncouth princess from the north, who never left her home or took over her mother's duties, is the right person to serve as queen.

When the time comes for the chosen one to go top her fiance to marry him and be his queen, the eighteen year old Guinevere does not want to leave her beloved home, but does her duty. On her trek from the north of Britain, she learns of her future husband's war prowess as Arthur attempts to unite a divided nation. As the Saxon threat goes unabated and the spread of Christianity appears ready to supersede the mystical Druids, priestesses like Morgan le Fey the Lady of the Lake distrusts the new queen's ability to rule at Arthur's side.

The opening of Guinevere trilogy is a terrific coming of age ancient historical thriller. The teenage Child of the Northern Spring lacks confidence when she marries Arthur, but grows into the job as she realizes she has the tenacity and courage to do what is needed for her country. Camelot fans will relish Persia Woolley's tale as the unsure of her worthiness child starts to transform into a confident blossoming queen.

Supernatural: Night Terror
John Passarella
Titan Books
144 Southwark Street
London SE1 OUP, UK
9780857681010, $7.99,

Sam and Dean Winchester are in Nebraska completing the Machete Mime spirit case when the brothers' handler Bobby Singer sends them to Clayton Falls, Colorado. A headless horseman attacked teenagers Steven Ballister, Tony Lacosta and the police chief's daughter Lucy Quinn. As they fled, a driverless vintage 1968 muscle car runs over Steven and vanishes. The vehicle looked like the one owned by Lucy's late boyfriend Teddy Kucharski who died in a DUI last year. Homeless Gavin Shelburn reports a giant Gila Monster attacked him. A humongous tarantula kills jogging science teacher Jason Dufford whose legs were trapped inside cement. A tree limb kills a father before leaving his son's bedroom to dump the corpse on the street.

The Winchester siblings claim to be FBI agents as they fight monsters like Nazi zombies and a devouring sink hole. When the killer car murders Tony, Sam and Dean look for links to the car crash that killed Teddy as they believe Lucy is next while her dad rejects the evidence that nightmares are coming to life in Clayton Falls. They know they must not sleep as their nightmares like Soulless Sam will add a filled oil tanker to an inferno.

Supernatural: Night Terror is an exhilarating action-packed horror thriller in which the Winchester brothers, the townsfolk and the reader will obtain no restful sleep until the final confrontation with the supernatural creature causing the deadly assaults as perception is lethal reality. Fast-paced, John Passarella does a great job of novelizing the TV series with an exciting entry that occurs between "Frontierland" and "Mommy Dearest".

The Chocolate Castle Clue
JoAnna Carl
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451234742, $22.95,

In Warner Pier, Michigan, TenHuis Chocolade is owned by Aunt Nettie, but run by her Texas niece Lee Woodyard. After delaying for months cleaning out the storage room, Lee begins the task finding stuff that are four decades old including a trophy and related paraphernalia form over forty years ago when the singing group Pier-O-Ettes won a contest at Castle Ballroom; Aunt Nettie and five other young girls made up the group.

The singing group is having a reunion and everyone associated with the sextet is elated except elderly angry Mrs. Rice, the wife of the late Daniel, owner of the long demolished Castle Ballroom. Mrs. Rice tells Lee and her husband Joe that her aunt is a slut just like the other singers and this time they will get what they deserved over forty years ago when Rice died from a gunshot to the heart. When someone murders Mrs. Rice, Lee becomes the next target as she learns the Pier-O-Ettes were tied to the death four decades ago, but the secrets of how and why remain concealed.

The latest Chocoholic cozy (see The Chocolate Pilot Plot) is an entertaining whodunit as Lee is caught at the angle of a death forty plus years ago and a murder today. The exciting story line includes chocolate trivia, but it is the two deaths of the Rice couple four decades apart that make for an enjoyable amateur sleuth as Lee learns reunions can prove deadly.

The Gingerbread Bump-Off
Livia J, Washburn
9780451234834, $14.00

With Christmas a few days away, Phyllis Newsom is busier than usual because her close friend and tenant (in her home) Eve Turner is marrying to a man she met on Facebook. Phyllis hosts the Christmas Eve bridal shower, bakes for the New Year's Eve wedding and has her house featured in the annual Christmas Jingle Bell Tour of Homes. Because she can't say no to her buddy, she and her only male friend Sam Fletcher scramble with baking holiday treats especially a gingerbread couple as Mr. and Mrs. Klaus.

On the night of the Home Tour, Phyllis hears something break so she goes to look. An unknown culprit took one of the gingerbread displays and cracked it on the skull of Georgia; placing the woman in a coma until she dies. Eve expects Phyllis to investigate as the baker has solved murder cases before (see The Pumpkin Muffin Murder). Once again unable to refuse, Phyllis begins to look into the homicide that has the police baffled while she also asks Sam to help her.
The latest Fresh-Baked Mysteries contains energetic senior citizens working the case, baking the treats, and hosting the tour and wedding. This character driven amateur sleuth is fun to follow as everyday people like Phyllis attempt extraordinary activities. Although she should have just said no, Phyllis questions various people before putting the recipe for murder together in entertaining whodunit.

Death on a Platter
Elaine Viets
978045123524, $7.99

Mystery shopper Josie Marcus eagerly takes on her new assignment of sampling local eateries that offer a variety of dishes unique to St. Louis. As part of her City Eats dining experience, Josie visits Tillie's Off the Hill Italian Restaurant known for their toasted ravioli.

The food is delicious but the fly in the soup is a loud mouthed bellicose drunk. In fairness to the full disclosure doctrine and to Tillie's, Josie decides to try Tillie's again the next day to see if the atmosphere is better. While the toasted ravioli is served to the intoxicated man, the belligerent drunk is in full tirade when he drops dead. SPD finds enough evidence to charge Tillie with murder. Josie does not believe the restaurateur is the killer so sets out to find who permanently shut the nasty diner although she goes it alone as Ted, her boyfriend, cannot accompany her.

The latest Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper (see An Uplifting Murder) is an entertaining amateur sleuth in which the heroine risks her life to identify the real server of the poisoned ravioli. Spunky Josie knows she needs to just say no, but cannot as her mom and Tillie are friends though her mother would prefer her not risking her life. Although there are clues to the identity of the killer, Monday morning quarterbacks including Ted will struggle to decide who done it.

To Catch a Leaf
Kate Collins
9780451235237, $7.99

Having finally flushed away her doubts, Bloomers flower shop owner Abby Knight is engaged to Marco Salvare, owner of Down the Hatch Bar & Grill. When Abby finds an injured cat, she takes the animal to the vet, pays the bills and brings the feline into her home until she locates and notifies the owner.

Abby's employee and friend Grace Bingham leaves the store to visit her buddy ultra wealthy Constance Newport. Grace is away from the shop for a long time before calling Abby explaining she found the body of Connie in what Grace believes is a murder. Since she reported the corpse, the cops have Grace at the top of the suspect list. However, the police are also looking at the victim's family and learn Connie was disappointed with her children and their spouses. The family members rage when the will states that Connie left her money to her cat Charity with Grace as the feline's guardian. Thus a motive surfaces that has the police renewing their efforts to prove Grace killed Connie. While jewel and art thefts complicate the murder whodunit, Abby and Marco investigate those living on the late Connie's estate and quickly find a retinue with reasons to kill their benefactor.

The latest Flower Shop Mystery (see Night of the Living Dandelions) is a wonderful amateur sleuth starring the cute lovebirds cooing and clueing as they search for a killer and a thief. The protagonists are easy to like as they are caring, concerned people who are there for their family and friends. Although the action is limited with much off stage, readers will enjoy Kate Collins' To Catch a Thief, a thief and a killer.

Trust Me, I'm Dr. Ozzy: Advice from Rock's Ultimate Survivor
Ozzy Osbourne & Chris Ayres
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781455503339, $26.99,

Combing his advice columns in Rolling stone and the Sunday Times enhanced with additional memorable incidents, Ozzie Osbourne provides a humorous survivor's handbook by a man recognized as the human drug experiment having tried every known elixir and not known potions. That does not include his cognac consumption. Known for biting the head off a bat, but not known for the rabies treatment that followed, Dr. Ozzy is at his irreverent best with this anecdotal collection that will have readers saying he did what. Perhaps the best section is the questions from fans asking Dr. Ozzy for advice, which he provides in spite of Dr. Malory Practice insisting he is un-certifiable to give consultations. Filled with humor and a don't try this at home attitude, readers will enjoy the best "Advice from Rock's Ultimate Survivor". To paraphrase former Indians Manager Mike Hargrove when he said "That's just Manny being Manny"; that's Ozzy just being Ozzy. While his wife Sharon compares his survivor acumen to cockroaches, this amusing advice book proves Ozzy Osbourne is the ultimate Darwin Award winner as he challenges the survivor tenet.

Three-Day Town
Margaret Maron
Grand Central
9780446555784, $25.99

They were life long friends, but last year out of the blue Colleton County Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant proposed to North Carolina Judge Deborah Knott. She accepted in what she thought would be a marriage of convenience between two older people. Instead love adds passion to their dependable relationship.

Married for one year, the judge and the deputy take Amtrak to New York on a belated honeymoon. The couple is staying at an Upper West Side Apartment belonging to his sister-in-law Kate. Deborah also has a special bronze sculpture small enough to place in Dwight's bag as a gift from dying Jane Lattimore to her daughter photojournalist Anne Lattimore Harald. Anne's husband NYPD Lieutenant Sigrid Harald swings by to pick it up as a party is in swing in the apartment next to the one the honeymooners are staying in. When Sigrid and Deborah enter Kate's apartment, they find the corpse of Sidney the super on the balcony and the sculpture missing. Unable to resist Deborah and Dwight assist Sigrid on the investigation.

The latest Deborah Knott whodunit (see Christmas Mourning) is a delightful refreshing tale as the North Carolina couple finds their Manhattan honeymoon interrupted by murder and robbery. The mystery is clever with roots to 1942; while part of the fun is the lofty attitude of urbane New Yorkers to the country bumpkins as the sophisticated urbanites assume that the entire South lacks six degrees of separation. Fans will enjoy this fine entry enhanced by Margaret Maron having Sigrid (see in Past Imperfect and Fugitive Colors) as the lead investigator.

Saints Astray
Jacqueline Carey
Grand Central
9780446571425, $14.99

Santitos orphans Loup Garron and Pilar Ecchevarria grew up in Santa Olivia, a locked down town in the buffer zone between Mexico and Texas; a place forgotten by the Americans who prefer not to know about genetic engineering. Both understand the military at this Outpost 12 are hunting them with a kill order. Still, the pair would like to liberate the incarcerated Santitos left behind.

Loup's former sparring partner at Santa Olivia, Miguel Garza also escaped from the prison-town. He has gone to the American authorities to testify for the freedom of those he left behind. Supposedly placed in protective custody, Miguel vanishes before he can testify. Though they know crossing the border to the States is illegal and dangerous to life, liberty and one day pursuit of happiness, Loup and Pilar decide they must rescue Miguel before they can do anything for those left behind.

The sequel to Santa Olivia is a great action futuristic thriller starring two kick butt females who are on a quest to do what they believe is the right thing for their compatriots. Although over the top of Guadalupe Peak, fans will not be able to put down this fast-paced tale starring two dynamic heroines.

Zero Day
David Baldacci
Grand Central
9780446573016, $27.99

U.S. Army's Criminal Investigative Division Warrant Officer John Puller, Jr. visits his brother Robert, a nuclear scientist convicted of treason at the US Disciplinary Barracks, but his sibling refuses to answer whether he did it or not. Their father the famous Army hero would like to believe his oldest son did not betray his country.

At Quantico, Puller's Special Agent in Charge Don White assigns the Warrant Officer to investigate the murder of Defense Intelligence Agency Colonel Matthew Reynolds in Drake, West Virginia. The officer worked at the Pentagon, but what disturbs Puller is the DIA should be making the inquiry into the murder of the colonel, his wife and two teenage children in their rural home. He makes contact with Sergeant Samantha Cole, the civilian homicide detective investigating the mass murders, but she considers him an unwanted outsider and acts accordingly towards cooperative Puller.

This is a superb police procedural filled with a twist that takes a local rural homicide investigation spinning it into international waters as only David Baldacci can do and make it feel real. Puller is terrific as the agent holding the story line together. Readers will relish this fast-paced thriller as Zero Day has come to West Virginia and other nearby states.

Robert Ludlum's The Ares Decision
Kyle Mills
Grand Central
9780446699082, $27.99

A special ops unit enters Northern Uganda to execute brutal terrorist Caleb Bahame, but a video displays the peaceful weaponless locals behaving like mythical fearless berserkers use super speed and strength to eradicate the trained professionals. Although the threat may seem regional at best, concern is high that a new bioweapon has been developed. Thus Covert One, established by POTUS to handle proactively global threats while the establishment passively reacts, is assigned to insure this remains localized and countered as the fear is Bahame will give this bioweapon to Iran and other rogue states and groups.

Cover One Director Fred Klein sends Dr. Jon Smith and his team to Africa to learn what is going on and to abate the threat to Africa and subsequently the world. The Covert-One operatives quickly learn Bahame has deployed a deadly parasite on the Ugandan farmers as a beta test that affirms this evil person cares nothing about killing the innocent. Namibian biologist Sarie van Keure joins Smith and his team to prevent further spreading of the lethal parasite especially with an Iranian delegation wanting it released in the West.

The latest Covert-One thriller (see The Moscow Vector and The Arctic Event) is an excellent action-packed tale starring a strong cast in which the team members, the biologist, and the terrorist are fully developed while the local Ugandans and their country enhance the plot. Fast-paced, Robert Ludlum fans will appreciate Kyle Mills take on Covert One.

The Blood-Red Indian Summer
David Handler
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312648350, $24.99,

The NFL suspends volatile New York superstar linebacker Tyrone "Da Beast" Grantham for the season due to his off the field "beasted" assaults that are detrimental to the league's image. Da Beast takes his six children from five women and his fawning horde from the Big Apple to a mansion in Dorset, Connecticut.

However, his idyllic time out of the limelight to allow civil suits against him to be settled and maybe get him reinstated ends when his teenage sister-in-law Kinitra a popular singer is rescued from certain drowning by neighbor scrawny Jewish-American film critic Mitch Berger and his moving parents on the Gold Coast; she is bloodied and battered. The cops suspect Da Beast who has a reputation for Beasted behavior. Even his pregnant wife Jamella, sister to the victim, believes her spouse battered her sibling. As the media drives north from New York to invade Dorset, two of the linebacker's biggest critics are executed. Berger's lover six-foot plus African-American Connecticut state trooper Desiree "Des" Mitry leads the investigation assisted by her depressed dad the Deacon recovering from heart surgery and Mitch.

The latest Des-Mitch investigation (see The Shimmering Blond Sister) is a great whodunit that combines a strong inquiry with human interest. Besides the well written whodunit, there is Da Beast's legacy mindful of NFL stars' legal problems, another neighbor turning into a demented voyeur, and the tsuris the parents of the lead protagonists face as age is catching up to them. Readers will enjoy this engaging Connecticut murder mystery as David Handler provides a super combo of sports headline news with personal problems inside of an attempted murder and homicide investigation.

Bad Moon
Todd Ritter
9780312622817, $24.99

In 1969 as Neil Armstrong steps on the moon, the parents of nine year old Charlie Olmstead go to get him to watch on TV, but he is not in his bedroom as they thought. Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania Police Chief Jim Campbell leads the search that ends when they find the lad's bike at the bottom of a nearby waterfall. Although his body was never found, the cops assumed he drowned.

Four decades later, Charlie's brother Eric has returned to Perry Hollow to bury his mother. In honor of his mom who never gave up the hope her son would come home, he asks his high school girlfriend Police Chief Kat Campbell to reopen the cold case disappearance of his sibling. Eric also hires injured former state police officer turned cold case investigator Nick Donnelly to look into his brother's disappearance. The trio finds newspaper clippings in the house of Eric's late mom. Kat does a follow-up having a much better data base than her dad had; she uncovers the fact that several children vanished in what was called accidents during moon landings. As the threesome connect the dots of an apparent serial killer, Kat's fifth grade son James resents his single mom spending all her time on the inquiry and none on him.

The second Kat and Nick collaboration (see Death Notice) is a terrific investigative thriller that grips the reader from the onset and several stunning but plausible spins later leaves fans satiated yet craving a third team-up soonest. The story line is fast-paced while rolling back the years using the successes and failures of NASA as a launch into political upheavals over forty years. Bad Moon is a powerful serial killer whodunit.

The Lost Women of Lost Lake
Ellen Hart
9780312614775, $25.99

Playwright Tessa Cornell severely sprains her ankle. Her wife of twenty six years Jill Ivorsen cares for her mate at the Thunderhook Lodge she owns by Lost Lake. Minneapolis restaurant owner (of Lyme House and the Xanadu Club) Jane Lawless and her best friend the Allen Grimsby Repertoire Theater of St. Paul artist director Cordelia Thorn travel to Lost Lake to help their friends with a sundry of things like cooking.

A man wearing a White Sox shirt arrives at the LaVasser Soda Fountain seeking information about a woman named Judy Clark who is in a Chicago photo from 1968 with the deceased Jeff Briere. Owner Lyndie LaVasser says she cannot help Steven Feigenbaumer as she has no idea who this woman he seeks is. However, she sees Judy Clark whenever she looks into a mirror. Frantic Lyndie calls Tessa accusing her of getting her in the mess over five decades ago. Jane arrives and knows something besides her ankle bothers Tessa, but the woman refuses to reveal what disturbs her. Her wife begs Jane, who has solved mysteries before (see the Cruel Ever Affair), to investigate.

This is a great Jane Lawless amateur sleuth as what happened in riotous 1968 Chicago impacts the present with a long dead cold case returning to life haunting everyone involved. The is some teen triangular angst involving Jill's nephew and two locals, and Jane may have a new beau; both enhance the prime story line of what happened over five decades ago that haunt Lyndie and Tessa.

Operation Napoleon
Arnaldur Indridason
9780312659103, $24.99

In 1945, a bomber containing Americans and Germans crashes into the Vatnajokull Glacier on Iceland. One person leaves the plane during a blizzard rejecting the plane as a coffin. Two Brothers saw the flight and expected a crash but due to weather conditions could not seek help until four days later. American troops arrive, but find almost nothing of a flight and the air base at Reykjavik also knows nothing of it.

In 1999, satellite technology points to a location in the moving glacier. Led by General Carr, the Americans return to Vatnajokull to extract the German bomber from the ice. At the excavation site is Elias who innocently calls his older sister Kristin to tell her what he is doing. The soldiers retrieve his phone from him and send assassins to kill his sister who works at the Iceland Foreign Ministry in Reykjavik. She escapes when her boss comes to yell at her as he is shot in the head. While the Americans do what they do best, run a disingenuous disinformation campaign filled with lies, Kristin investigates Operation Napoleon.

Though Nazi conspiracy thrillers have been done many times, Arnaldur Indridason provides a fresh exhilarating take on the collaboration premise. The American propaganda spin is deftly handled as the media is manipulated to support the endeavor (mindful of the steps leading to the Iraq War) and criminalize Kristin (Mindful of the Wilson-Plame outing). The story line is fast-paced from the opening plane crash and never slows down as the beleaguered heroine escorts readers throughout her country in search of what the Americans fear someone else will find out the truth.

The Ionia Sanction
Gary Corby
9780312599010, $24.99

In 460 BC, Pericles commissions Nicolaos to look into why Thorion died from a hanging after sending the Athenian leader a note claiming there is a great threat to the city. Thorion was the proxenos representing the city of Ephesus in Athens. After a fumbled incident involving Araxes the bandit, who fled to Ephesus, Pericles assigns Nico to clean up the mess. Nico buys Asia the slave girl who was with Araxes. She informs him her father is Themistocles, the hero who saved Greece before defecting to the enemy. Nico plans to return the daughter to her father in Magnesia as a means to safely obtain information.

Thus Nico sails across the Aegean to Ephesus, Ionia in the Persian Empire to learn what Thorion died for. However he quickly gets into trouble with Persian laws; only Artemis Priestess Diotima enables him to keep his head. His efforts are hindered by Persian officials, brigands wanting the right price for his head and so does Diotima.

The second Nicolaos and Diotima ancient Greece detecting mystery (see The Pericles Commission) is a jocular whodunit that uses real persona like Socrates the irritant, Pericles and Themistocles to anchor time and place. The lead detecting couple is a wonderful pairing as she rips pounds of flesh from her arrogant partner. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy touring the Aegean with Gary Corby as our guide.

The Assassin in the Marais
Claude Izner
9780312662158, $25.99

In 1892 anarchists terrorize Parisians with their bombs exploding in public places. However, though the bombings are frightening, someone breaks into the apartment of bookseller Kenji Mori. The only items stolen were two books and an oddity valueless monkey's skull goblet.

Kenji's business partner Victor Legris finds the case odd as there were more valuable items worth stealing in the apartment. Deciding to investigate who and why, curious Victor quickly learns that someone murdered two people who recently tried to contact Kenji to discuss the purloined goblet. The amateur sleuth knows there has to be more to the story of the goblet, but still remains in the dark as he tracks the additional body count linked to the "traveling" goblet.

Although the murder mystery subplot never quite solidifies, readers will enjoy the goblet run tour of Paris as Legris seems one pas behind the traveling cup while at the same time the city rocks from late nineteenth century terrorism. Fast-paced, fans and Legris will want to know why the theft as team Izner provides an enjoyable historical whodunit.

Ghost Hero
S. J. Rozan
9780312544508, $25.99

Modern day Chinese art collector Jeff Dunbar hears rumors of the discovery of previously unknown works by the late "Ghost Hero" Chau Chun, who died during the Tiananmen Square uprising. A legend among freedom lovers, the Ghost Hero concealed anti-government messages in his drawings. Although Jeff assumes that if the paintings exist they are forgeries as they contain contemporary political messages or the Ghost lives, he hires Chinese-American private investigator Lydia Chin to look into the existence and authenticity of the claims.

Lydia's partner Bill Smith introduces her to a sleuthing colleague Jack Lee, also a native Chinese-American. Jack explains that NYU professor Bernard Yang has hired him to investigate the Chau Chun claims. As the detectives compare notes, Lydia and Bill wonder what their client really wants.

This is a super twisting Chin and Smith investigative thriller (see On the Line) that grips readers from the moment Dunbar hires Chin and never slows down until the final denouement. The key cast is fully developed in this fast-paced yet cerebral mystery. Like Chin, Smith and Lee, readers will want to know who is painting the current Ghost Hero masterpieces.

The Demon's Parchment
Jeri Westerson
9780312609269, $14.99

In 1384 London, disgraced former knight Crispin "The Tracker" Guest earns a living finding missing things for clients. His assistant young street urchin Jack Turner tells him a man is outside acting as if he has doubts about entering their facility. Provencal Jewish doctor to the queen Jacob wants to hire the Tracker to locate and return to him stolen Hebrew manuscripts that the foreigner believes may be tied to some recent gruesome murders. Additionally, London sheriffs want Guest to track down a vicious serial killer who has strangled and disemboweled four boys.

Although he prefers to decline both cases, Guest needs the income so he begins his search for the documents and a serial killer. He soon finds the two investigations merge as Jacob implied they would when Guest meets a nasty giant who may be the mythical Golem protecting the Jews by killing those who would harm them.

In his third medieval tracking mystery (see Veil of Lies and Serpent in the Thorns), Guest is at his best as he works two inquiries that merge into a deadly scenario. The fast-paced story line brings alive late fourteenth century London during the reign of King Richard II. Adding depth is to see the city through the eyes of a visiting Jewish professional who performs a mitzvah to help his people but will learn from Guest that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Skating Over the Line
Joelle Charbonneau
9780312606626, $25.99

Rebecca Robbins inherited a skating rink in Indian Falls, Illinois from her late mom. She looks forward to selling the rink where she nay have a buyer so she can escape her hometown and return to Chicago in spite of her attraction to her new boyfriend veterinarian Lionel Franklin.

When a friend of her grandfather Pop has his car stolen and others at senior center likewise complain about vehicles stolen and set on fire, the elderly turn to Rebecca to investigate as she has solved a crime that the cops failed to do (see Skating Around The law). Still embarrassed that a civilian solved his case that stymied him, Deputy Sean Holmes warns her to stay out of the vehicle inquiry. As she ignores the law enforcement official, Rebecca looks into the car crimes only to have her absentee father Stan the deserter salesman arrive along with angry men bilingually informing her and her dad to back off or else.

Readers will enjoy this amusing amateur sleuth starring a delightful heroine who is a combination of sass and mellow. The townsfolk add Midwest eccentricity especially her former classmates, and Pop and the geriatric gang. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate Rebecca Skating Over the Line.

The Heart of a Killer
Jaci Burton
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778312598, $7.99,

Twelve years ago, Anna Pallino worked at an ice cream parlor. She was near closing waiting for her boyfriend Dante Renaldi and his foster brothers (Gabe, Roman and Jeff) to arrive for their nightly freebie. She goes to the dark alley to toss the trash, but someone assaults her with a knife. They hear her scream and rush to the alley where Dante tackles her attacker. The man dies. Anna has the boys flee so they can avoid juvie, but her relationship with Dante died that night too.

Encouraged by her dad Frank, Dante joined the army and for the next dozen years was in the Special Forces. Now his beloved foster mother Ellen Clemens asks him to come home for her twenty-fifth anniversary gala; he would do anything for her and George so he returns to St. Louis for the first time since that night in the alley. However, his return is marred by the murder of George that copy cats what went down in the same alley twelve years ago. St. Louis homicide detective Anna leads the investigating in which her former boyfriend is a prime suspect. More similar murders follow with Anna wondering whether the man she loves is a cold killer.

The Heart of a Killer is a tense second chance police procedural filled with a surprising twist that seems over the top of the Arch. Action-packed, readers will enjoy the marred homecoming of Dante as he struggles with the death of beloved George, helping Ellen with her loss and keeping Anna safe while being the prime suspect.

Against the Storm
Kat Martin
9780778312925, $7.99

In Houston, former Army Ranger, private investigator Trace Rawlins will tell you dames are trouble; but redheads are the most troublesome of the breed. He knows first hand as his argument is built around his ex wife Maggie O'Connell the photographer.

Someone stalks Maggie sending her nasty messages and calling her with ugly threats. Though he feels he was born yesterday when it comes to her, Trace knows nothing adds up as he senses she conceals something from him and the cops appear indifferent to her plight. Still in love with her, Trace distrusts his former spouse but he cannot help himself as he has a deep gut need to protect her from whoever is assaulting her.

The third Raines of Wind Canyon (Against the Law and Against the Wind) romantic suspense is a tense psychological thriller in which the terror campaign takes top seat over the second chance at love subplot. Fast-paced with two obstinate fully developed protagonists, readers will feel the growing tension but are unsure what is going on as reasonable twists fool the audience and the hero. Kat Martin is at her best with Against the Storm.

In Close
Brenda Novak
9780778312666, $7.99

In Pineview, Montana fifteen years ago, Alana O'Toole vanished without a trace. The disappearance was never solved as the case went cold. One of Alana's two daughters Claire suffered another loss last year when her husband David began an inquiry into what happened to his mother-in-law only to die in an accident.

With a need to know and to pay homage to David, Claire begins an investigation into her mom's disappearance. Her former boyfriend Isaac Morgan offers to help her though he thinks her probe is a waste of time; he still loves her and feels bad with how their relationship ended badly. However, he becomes fully engaged when he finds evidence that David did not die in an accident; making him think the man found something that required his silence. Someone they know may have killed her mom and murdered her spouse.

This is a terrific small-town amateur sleuth in which the romantic subplot enhances the prime story line of someone apparently silencing those getting close to the truth. Like the lead female, readers wonder if the culprit is a family member as her paralyzed sister and her step parents want her to drop her obsession. As the killer has to be In Close to Claire with Pineview being a tiny town, fans will relish this tense psychological thriller in which an unknown predator kills anyone who learns the truth.

Bring Me Home For Christmas
Robyn Carr
9780778312710, $7.99

Nineteen year old USC student Becca Timm loved Marine Denny Cutler, but he broke her heart three years ago before he left for Iraq. Unemployed, she cajoles her twin brother Rich to let her accompany him when he drives to Virgin River to go hunting with Denny and several other Iraqi brothers in arms. Her goal is to prove during the stag only weekend to herself she is over Denny and ready to move on with her boyfriend Dog.

However, the best laid plans of mice and Becca go astray when she breaks her ankle requiring an operation. Denny wants a second chance with the woman he loves and hurt. His one fumbled attempt to reconcile left him with no hope, but her coming to see him has renewed his need to try and win her. Though it kills his gut to see his Becca hurt, he plans to take advantage of her being laid up by proving they belong together.

Fans of Virgin River (See Harvest Moon) will enjoy spending the holidays with Denny, Becca and the townsfolk in this warm second chance at love romance. The tender story line is character driven by a strong cast. Although several elements seem contrived like Becca's concerns for deserting her "BFF", readers will enjoy her tale of love with her marine.

Blood Trails
Sharon Sala
9780778312413, $7.99

In Montana, the three Shade sisters bury their beloved rancher dad Andrew. Their late father's lawyer Coleman Rice gives them a video to watch. On the tape, Andrew explains that he loved his three daughters but that none of the trio is his offspring and they are not sisters by blood. He also informs them how they came into enriching his life.

Like her "siblings", twentyish Holly Slade is in shell shock with the news; in her case that her mother gave her to Andrew to keep her safe from her father, serial killer Hunter. Also like her sisters (see Blood Ties and Blood Stains) Holly needs to know what happened to her mother and meet her father. She knows leaving the family ranch will be harder on her than her siblings as she secretly loves foreman Bud Tate. As her quest takes her to her childhood in St. Louis proves dangerous, Bud vows to protect the woman he loves.

The third Searcher romantic suspense is an enjoyable thriller starring a woman who fears her DNA is tainted and the man who loves her regardless of her roots. The story line is action-packed, but lacks psychological depth especially with Holly learning what occurred two decades ago; she should need therapy for life even with a loving caring man helping her. Still readers will appreciate the final Searchers tale as the intrepid heroine wonders which side of the tree the acorn fell.

Twilight Fulfilled
Maggie Shayne
9780778312673, $7.99

The species cleansing of the vampires has left the Undead nearing extinction. Based on an ancient prophecy, the only offspring of a vampire, hybrid twins James William and Bridget Poe, believe they are the only hope for salvation. J.W. liberates from a five-millennium incarceration, the immortal patriarch of the Undead Utanapishtim; the healer assumes their sire will save his children (see Twilight Prophecy).

Instead of being the savior, Utanapishtim believes this is his chance for redemption by eradicating the abomination he created. The warrior twin Bridget confronts Utanapishtim, but is taken aback by her attraction to him. As they battle one another, she also reasons with the founding father that his return to the living is to save not destroy the race. Meanwhile Nashmum the Fed does not want an alliance that could intrude on his torcher experiments on vampires.

The second Children of Twilight urban fantasy is a great finish to the hybrid twins' next generation's duology. The complex story line is fast-paced, but character driven by the battling lead couple and key support cast who starred in previous entries of the overarching saga. Readers will relish the climax wondering whether the attraction between Utanapishtim and Bridget will be strong enough to overcome the machinations of Nashmum and his goons, and the doubts as to right and wrong by the ancient one.

Where All the Dead Lie
J.T. Ellison
9780778312680, $14.95

The Pretender serial killer put a bullet into the brain of Nashville homicide detective Taylor Jackson (see So Close the Hand of Death). She survived the shot but her head trauma left her mute as the bullet devastated the speech center of the brain.

Mute and suffering from PTSD, Jackson goes to heal at the Scottish manor house of detective inspector Memphis Highsmythe who is attracted to her but gives her the space she needs hopefully to mentally and physically heal. His understanding comes from carrying baggage of not seeing the clues before his pregnant wife committed suicide. In Tennessee, Jackson's fiance Dr. John Baldwin and her best friend Dr. Samantha Loughley also struggle to move passed the recent harrowing experiences. However, as Jackson begins to feel at home, strange phenomena at the manor house increasingly targeting her has her wondering if the bullet she took destroyed more than just her ability to speak.

This is an exciting suspense thriller that has the audience wondering whether the assault on Jackson comes from the paranormal, the normal, or as she leans towards her warped injured mind; the answer is hidden in twisted yet plain sight especially for Monday morning quarterbacks. Fast-paced from the moment the beleaguered heroine arrives in Scotland, Where All the Dead Lie is a super entry in one of the best police procedural series on the market today.

Charles Frazier
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9781400067091, $26.00,

Luce is a lonely woman who does not own the once luxurious but now abandoned North Carolina rustic Lodge where she has lived for three years by herself as its caretaker. With the death of elderly owner Stubblefield, she is not sure whether her late employer's worthless grandson will allow her to stay on at the Lodge.

Luce has other problems with the recent murder of her sister Lily. She has no time for grief as the State has taken Lily's fraternal twin children to her since their stepdad stands trial for killing their mom. Luce has no idea how to deal with her grief stricken niece (Dolores) and nephew (Frank) especially since both are mute and out of control. Still she finds some solace in helping them adjust from arsonist wild animals to human kids. However, she is unaware that her brother-in-law Bud, acquitted of murdering his wife, is coming seeking hidden money he plans to find at any cost to others even his stepchildren. Nor does she know someone else is coming up the mountain with plans for the Lodge.

Nightwoods is a fast-paced character driven suspense thriller. The story line is superb when the focus is inside the minds of the three grievers at the Lodge. The plot loses some momentum of the anticipated confrontation when the protagonists speak like English Lit professors seeking a metaphor. Still this is a terrific tale as three lonely people struggle with the murder of the connecting loved one while the killer is coming.

Rose in a Storm
Jon Katz
Random House
9780345502667, $14.00

Sam the Farmer and Rose the herding mixed breed dog have been together for six years at Granville Farm since she introduced herself to the widower when she was eight weeks old. They have become best buddies and kindred souls as both are workaholics.

During the lambing season, a horrific blizzard of the century assaults Granville Farm. Structures collapse under the tons of snow and Sam breaks his leg and more after a tumble from a slippery roof. Already overworked keeping the other animals safe, responsible Rose takes over running the farm while her human partner is flown to a hospital. When a vicious pack of coyotes attack, Rose becomes hurt in the melee but keeps fighting aided by an enigmatic seemingly paranormal wolf and Flash the wild dog.

Rose in a Storm is a fascinating whimsical family drama starring a wonderful canine protagonist, her human partner, and her new dog pal. The poignant story line avoids sweetness but instead focuses on what makes a dog contented, which varies. Through Rose's observations, readers also learn how lonely Sam has been since his wife Katie died, but he has has a friend and partner on the farm and maybe even a pet. No one gets into the Soul of a Dog deeper than Jon Katz does.

The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic
Robert L. O'Connell
Random House
9780812978674, $17.00

In 218 BCE, Hannibal led the Carthage army using elephants to invade the Roman Empire by climbing over the Alps. Two years later in Cannae, Italy the two enemies fought again using different tactics. The Romans had superior forces and a short supply line. Yet deploying a pincer movement, Hannibal and his army nearly ended the Roman Empire.

This is a superb look at the participants of the second Punic War mostly from the military sides of both combatants and the Roman civilian actions and reactions; there is much less on how the people of Carthage felt. Fascinating with a super comparative analysis of Rome the conqueror and Carthage the traders as well as a discerning analysis of the strategies of Hannibal including his "panzer pachyderms" taking the fight to Italy, and the two Roman leader rivals Scipio Africanus who confronts the foe with swamping the battlefield and no regard to collateral damage and Fabius Maximus who wanted to delay the fight to attrite the enemy. Well written, the disgraced Roman survivors of the Cannae massacre were hidden from public view exiled to Sicily until Africanus realized they had a motive to insure victory at Zama in Africa. Mr. O'Connell makes references to modern warfare that can trace its roots to Cannae and how the victors write the history books with little regard to the facts as he debunks the revisionists who wrote over the next few centuries following the salting ethnic cleansing) of Carthage.

Blink of an Eye
William S. Cohen
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765327642, $24.99,

A nuclear bomb leaves thousands instantly dead in Savannah. They are the fortunate as CDC reports others will soon die horrifically from the radiation poisoning. The Congress and the media demands to know why the Intelligence community including Homeland Security failed to prevent the deadly attack while rumors abound that more bombings of other cities will follow.

As people panic with Congress and the media making things worse with accusations of an Iranian terrorist cell and Presidential election politics demanding retaliation as established by the 9/11 reactions. President Blake Oxley orders his National Security Adviser Sean Falcone to uncover the truth while his opponent Texas Senator Mark Stanfield insists the Savannah incident proves the incumbent soft on terrorism. General George William Parker agrees with Stanfield as he goes to the media demanding an all out assault on Iran.

This exciting political thriller is at its best with the dysfunctional DC crowd who push personal agendas over facts. The story line is fast-paced but lacks the impact of the terrorist attack obliterating Savannah on key elements of American society. Still this is an engaging cautionary thriller that makes a case to gather the facts before hysterically rushing off to war.

Black Thunder
Aimee & David Thurlo
9780765324511, $24.99

A construction crew works on the Navaho Reservation until one of the team hits something solid with a shovel. He digs a bit deeper only to find a human hand. The Navaho cops led by Tribal Police Investigators Ella Clah and her partner Justine Goodluck take charge of the area. There they find a male human corpse with two bullets in the back of the victim's head, execution style.

A further analysis of the Hogback gravesite vicinity uncovers graves of two men and a woman, but one of them just outside the reservation making that homicide's jurisdiction belonging to San Juan County, Sheriff's Department. Ella, Justine and FBI agent Dwayne Blalock work together on the multiple jurisdiction murder case starting with learning who the three John Doe's and the Jane Doe are before they can figure out the connecting why. As the Fierce Ones member of her tribe demand justice now while also threatening Ella and Justine, the medical examiner reports the murders occurred a year apart from each other while a potential young witness needs protection.

The latest Ella Clah Navaho police procedural (see Never-Ending-Snake) is a super whodunit enhanced by events in the heroine's personal life while inside the overarching theme of the conflict between Navaho culture tradition vs. modernization. The whodunit is a complex case made more difficult by the multijurisdictional case between cooperating law enforcement, the Fierce Ones screaming for vigilante justice and the time span of the homicides. Ella also contends with her boyfriend Reverend Ford Tome who is being transferred and wants her and her daughter to come with him and her teenage daughter Dawn is starting to rebel while her mom Rose displays signs of something disturbing her but refuses to talk about.

Winter Hawk's Legend
Aimee Thurlo
Harlequin Intrigue
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
978037374637, $5.99,

Twentyish Holly Gates runs TechTalk, Inc. providing consulting and public relations services to her clients. He largest current customer is Navaho Nation. Ahead of schedule, she takes a time out to enjoy the Mew Mexico landscape. She notices a coyote and several humans before returning to her vehicle to complete her drive. Holly begins a talk to the Navaho on extraction of natural gas when activist Clyde Keeswood interrupts her talk and lifts a chair but Navaho security specialist Daniel Hawk intervenes.

They arrange to meet for dinner in Hartley to discuss security when someone grabs her and places a rope around her throat. Daniel intervenes again. Someone obviously wanted her dead as this was not a simple mugging. She has no idea why or whom. Her Navaho POC Martin Roanhorse assigns Daniel to keep her safe as he considers her work on their behalf important. As the assaults continue with increasing intensity; in order to keep her safe and buy time to learn what is going on, Daniel takes her to his remote New Mexico cabin. Meanwhile Daniel and Holly fall in love; but he prefers soaring free like an eagle while she needs roots.

Winter Hawk's Legend is a superb Native American mystery starring a woman in peril who she has no concept as to who wants her dead or her unknown adversary's motive. Thus readers have an innocent doing an innocent thing leading to her danger mindful of Alfred Hitchcock. Daniel is a terrific bodyguard who begins to learn to follow his heart if he is to soar like an eagle. Readers will relish team Thurlo's enchanting New Mexico thriller.

Saving June
Hannah Harrington
Harlequin Teen
9780373210244, $9.99

In Michigan, a few days before she is to graduate from high school, June Scott committed suicide. After her funeral, her sixteen years old sister Harper wants to know two things; first why and why can't family and friends leave her grieve in peace. To escape the well meaning trite, Harper hides in the backyard where she runs into her late sibling's friend Jake, who apparently created the final musical interlude June listened to as she died.

Harper wonders whether June's boyfriend Tyler the cheat, her parents divorce, her mom's refusal to let her go to California for college, or the sisters' estrangement is the prime cause. With a need to grieve her way while seeking closure with her sister's death and her parents' war over urns; Harper, her best friend Laney, and Jake as the driver head to California to spread June's ashes.

This is a profound look at the impact of teen suicide on surviving loved ones. The cast is solid as readers learn what drove June over the edge, her parents are so not there for her sister, and even the death of their child fails to abate temporarily the divorce war. Although the attraction between Harper and Jake at times intrudes the poignant grief, readers will understand Harper's narration as she mourns her loss and regrets failing to see the signs of weakness in her allegedly stronger older sister.

The Iron Knight
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen
9780373210367, $9.99

The last surviving son of Mab, Queen of the Unseelie Court Prince Ash fell in love with half human daughter of the Summer King. He swore allegiance to her but fate has twisted their relationship when she became the Iron Queen Megan. She released him from his pledge as iron kills purebred fey, but he vows to return to her even if it takes eternity.

Ash refuses to not try to return to his beloved, but knows only one way he can achieve his heart's desire. He must turn moral so iron will no longer burn him. With his partners Puck and Grimalkin, Ash sets out on a personal odyssey, but the trek proves much more difficult than he and his allies imagined as it is not simple to gain a soul though it is easy to lose one.

The final Iron Fey fantasy provides a wonderful refreshing twist as Ash is the lead instead of Meghan who starred in the previous three thrillers (see The Iron King, The Iron Queen and The Iron Daughter). Character driven but filled with action, Ash's odyssey is an entertaining tale filled with moral convictions that if you love someone with all your soul than you must first do what is right for them and second do what is right for you before you can do what is right for both of you. This is a great finish to a superb teen fantasy saga.

A Home by the Sea
Christina Skye
Harlequin HQN
9780373776085, $7.99

Although she has never moved on beyond the death of her fiance in a plane crash, Grace Lindstrom has buried herself in her job as she travels the world to write about food. However, she has an opportunity in DC that the international gourmet historian cannot ignore though it means remaining in one place.

Military explosives detachment specialist Noah McLeod is fortunate not to have been splattered with his latest bomb disposal. He and Grace meet at a dumpster where someone discarded kittens. They are attracted to each other, but he knows he cannot offer her what he believes she deserves. However, when her beloved grandpa takes a bad fall that has left him with amnesia, Grace heads home to the Oregon barrier isle Summer Island to care for him while he heals. Her departure is a wake up call for Noah who knows life without his Grace would be unbearably lonely.

This is an entertaining contemporary romance starring two likable individuals who fall in love but each believes they have no long term future together. Although several support characters detract from the overall engaging sequel to Christina Skye's entry to The Knitting Diaries anthology (see Return to Summer Island), fans will enjoy this return to the Oregon coast.

Until There Was You
Kristan Higgins
9780373776115, $7.99

In Bellsford, New Hampshire, Posey Osterhagen fell in love with town bad boy Liam Declan Murphy when they attended high school together. However she was way too thin, as Posey with her boyish figure attracted no male let alone the king of the school.

Still too skinny though she works at her parents' German restaurant; overall Posey is contented though would not mind a hunk in her life. A widower, his wife Emma was a hometown girl who died from leukemia; Liam is home accompanied by his fifteen year old daughter Nicole. When they meet, she still wants him while he struggles to control panic attacks and his obsessive need to keep Nicole safe. One CPR and a sweet Diamond of a song later have Posey expecting another broken heart.

This is an entertaining New England romance starring a refreshing lead protagonist whose weight problem enables her to pass off as a high school student and a single dad with emotional problems. The evolving second time around relationship between the pair of thirty southings is fun to follow as he is all she ever wanted but she expects him to leave while he has doubts about being with another adult after Emma's death.

'Til Death Do Us Part
Beverly Barton
9780373775996, $7.99

"Blackwood's Woman." J.T. Blackwood and Joanna Beaumont meet for the first time when her Jeep breaks down on his New Mexico ranch where she lives in one of the cabins and he is taking time off from Dundee Security based in Atlanta. He assumes she is a spoiled high society Virginian rusticating while she heard from his sister Elena that the former Secret Service Agent has never had a meaningful relationship. However, though attracted to one another, Joanna is skittish when J.T. comes near her even pulling out a gun on him. He soon learns why she fears touching when the predatory cause for her hiding in the Land of Enchantment comes for her.

"Roarke's Wife." Cleo McNamara hires Dundee Security expert Simon Roarke to be her husband, protect her and donate his sperm. This is the only way she can take charge of her late daddy's firm McNamara Industries. Simon likes the pay but wants nothing to do with his offspring once the child is born as he still grieves the death of his daughter in which he holds himself culpable. As the heiress and the hired gun fall in love, someone tries to take out Cleo.

These are reprints of two mid 1990-s Dundee Security personal protection romantic suspense thrillers. Both are well written exciting story lines starring protagonists with past traumas and present danger.

Courtney Milan
9780373776030, $7.99

In 1841 Sir Mark Turner's A Gentleman's Practical Guide to Chastity tome affirms what everyone knows about him; he is the most virtuous person in London while waiting for true love. However, Sir Mark has enemies who want to ruin him. They hire courtesan Jessica Farleigh to pretend to be a genteel lady of virtue to enable her to get close to the ethical Sir Mar. Her assignment is to seduce him into succumbing to a sexual tryst.

Jessica and Mark meet and forge a friendship that has him wanting to disown his virtual values that guide his life. However, Jessica needs the money but knows she cannot live with herself if she harms the kind caring man she cherishes above her own need to escape a sordid lifestyle she loathes.

Unclaimed is an excellent character driven Victorian romance in which each of the lead couple is willing to sacrifice something they hold dear for the other in a Gift of the Magi loving manner. Courtney Milan provides a wonderful charming historical fairy tale starring two fully developed individuals who learn that love is not enough when opposites attract.

A Lawman's Christmas
Linda Lael Miller
9780373776146, $16.95

In 1914, wannabe rancher Clay McKettrick leaves Arizona and buys land and accepts the position of Marshal of Blue River, Texas. However, when he arrives in town, he finds the house that goes with the job occupied by three females. Twenty something seamstress Dara Rose Nolan was married to Clay's late womanizing predecessor and their two daughters (Edwina and five years old Harriet) still reside in the abode. He refuses to toss the trio out especially with Christmas coming soon. Instead he moves into the jail.

When he learns the town plans to sell the house if he fails to move in, Clay offers Dara Rose a marriage of convenience so he can protect her and her children and they can remain in their home. As he falls in love with the three females starting with Edwina who is seven years old going on forty, Clay knows he must earn the trust of the widow and the younger daughter who both distrust males.

The latest McKettrick of Texas historical romance (see Austin, Tate and Garrett) is a warm Christmas tale starring a competent Dudley Do-Right hero, a precious seven year old child, her frightened sister and a distrusting mom. Readers will enjoy spending the holidays with Clay and his new family.

Bad Boys Do
Victoria Dahl
9780373776023, $7.99

Her husband divorced her because he insisted thirty something Olivia Bishop was a pathetic downer. Having no friends and feeling alone and depressed, the college teacher likes to read so she joins a book club. However, the discussions at meetings have nothing to do with books and all to do with sex. Since she has no one, Olivia offers nothing just like he ex said about her.

Still she attends the sessions with the latest meeting at Donovan Brothers Brewery. There she meets the younger Jamie Donovan. When he attends her class on restaurant development and management, Olivia surprises herself by asking the charming hunk out though she knows this is out of character for her. However, as Olivia regains her confidence she realizes Jamie is much deeper than the shallow bad boy she thought he was. On the other hand Jamie struggles to persuade his teacher he wants her to accept he is not just a bad boy sex toy. Each wants more from the other but both hesitate to take that first step.

The second Donovan Family contemporary romance is an engaging tale of two individuals trying to reinvent themselves as they dislike how others see their respective image. The fascination in the fun story line is how similar the inner protagonists are to each other though on the surface they appear to be opposites since see Good Girls Don't and Bad Boys Do; yet each struggle with self esteem issues that make a long term relationship doubtful.

Only His
Susan Mallery
9780373776016, $7.99

While Nevada Hendrix's triplet sisters Montana (see Only Yours) and Dakota (see Only Mine) prepare for their weddings, she focuses on obtaining a job at the Janack Construction Company. The firm is working on a major construction project in Fool's Gold.

Her only hesitation is she would have to deal with Tucker Janack. A decade ago, she met an intoxicated depressed Tucker. While he struggled with the end of a relationship, she wanted him. They shared a one night stand but in the morning she knew love left with him. Tucker agrees to Nevada's platonic professional relationship, but soon wants more; she always wanted more. However, the woman who broke his heart ten years ago Cat the renowned artist is back ready to play with his heartstrings while Tucker refuses to dance to her tune as he loves Nevada but must persuade her to give him a second chance to prove he wants her.

The latest Hendrix sisters' contemporary romance is a delightful triangle in which the heroine burned once believes her love cannot match the glamour of Cat even if the artist's glitter is Fool's Gold. The story line is thin but fun as the second Fool's Gold trilogy draws to a wonderful conclusion.

For Their Baby
Kathleen O'Brien
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373717378, $5.50

At the Sugarwater Resort in the Bahamas, Kitty Hemmings is shocked that her mom Laurel is going to marry her odious long term boy toy Jim Oliphant. She knows he is a shallow charmer just trying to get deeper into her mom's money. Kitty had hoped that he would leave after eight years of staying at their Virginia home Lochaven which kept her away all that time too. When she hurts herself on the beach, a concerned stranger San Francisco attorney David Gerard asks if she is okay. They make love that night before going their separate ways.

Two months later, when Kitty becomes pregnant she feels she should inform David, but assumes he will be another irresponsible Y chromosome carrier. Instead he stuns her when he says he wants in the life of their offspring and offers to marry her so their child has a complete two parent family. She compromises by moving into his home platonically. As they fall in love, he wants a family with her and their unborn while she has doubts as men are fickle when it comes to sustaining power.

The keys to this deep 9 Months Later romance are the beliefs that the psychological motives driving the lead couple are real. Thus the growing changing relationship makes for a fine contemporary tale. Adding to the fun is that David lost the girl in For The Love of Family so fans of Kathleen O'Brien will root for this kind soul to make it with Kitty.

A Touch Of Scarlet
Liz Talley
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373717385, $5.50

Actress Scarlet Rose speeds from Southern California to prevent her older sister Rayne from marrying that womanizing Brent Hamilton (see A Taste of Texas). However, as she goes ten miles over the speed limit in Oak Stand, Texas, new police chief Adam Hinton gives the vampy star of Deep Shadows a ticket; Scarlet is shocked as no none gives a speeding ticket to Veronica Collins (her TV character) except for the always keeps to the law cop. He ignores her seductive plea and informs she was thirteen miles over the limit and a brake light is out. She thanks him for welcoming her home, which leads to him realize she is Summer Rose. They depart with each irate with the other.

She blames the cop for making her late as her sister married the rat. However she also knows she is attracted to the cop while he keeps reminding himself no bad girls but his desire has him on edge. As they exchange sarcastic barbs and she gets into trouble leading to community service in her hometown, the War of the Roses continues abated by love

Though the lighthearted story line is a bit thin; this Hometown USA Texas romance is an amusing gender battle as the actress has the straight-laced cop tied in knots. The story line is a series of humorous arguments with kisses in between as fans will enjoy a trip to Oak Stand, home of the Rose of Texas family.

Rancher and Protector
Pamela Britton
Harlequin American
9780373753772, $5.25

His friend Logan asks Colton Sheridan to find his son Rudy hidden from him by the kid's nasty aunt. Logan further explains when his wife Sharron died he had legal problems with her death so his sister-in-law gained custody and refuses to tell him what boarding school his son attends. If he gets him back his son, Logan will reward Colt with a prized horse.

Country Colt assumes Aunt Amber is a city snake. However, he is taken aback when he meets the city slicker at Camp Cowboy in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. She has taken a job there as a speech therapist for special needs children while he obtains work with the horses. She also conceals her autistic son from his dad who went to jail for the involuntary manslaughter killing of his wife. Amber would die before she lets this murderer near her "Dee". As he gets to know her, Colt not just falls in love but realizes she is best for what Dee needs.

Dee and Colt's dog Mac own the entertaining family drama as they affirm E.C. Field's wry comment about never starring with kids or animals by stealing the top gun relationship from the adults. The lead couple is a fascinating pairing of a child's ferocious champion protector who sees the good in everyone except Logan and the rancher who sees the bad and ugly in everyone even himself. Filled with angst, perhaps too much so as the three adults have issues; fans will relish this warm tale.

The Surgeon's Surprise Twins
Jacqueline Diamond
Harlequin American
9780373753796, $5.25

In Safe Harbor, California, Dr. Owen Tartikoff donated his sperm so his half-brother Boone and his sister-in-law Phyllis can have a baby. When he visits Boone he sees Phyllis is too thin to be carrying for three months so he assumes she lost the baby. Instead he learns that her younger sister nurse Bailey Wayne is the surrogate mom.

The new head of the Safe Harbor fertility Clinic, Owen is further shocked to learn his sibling leased half of his house to Bailey as a means to defray her costs since Boone failed to cover her medical bills. Unable to resist the tough doctor offers his help to the pregnant nurse, but conceals from her that she is carrying his twins. With their siblings in trouble with the law, he owes her the truth especially as he falls in love with the mother of his unborn children.

The latest Safe Harbor Medical romance (see Falling for the Nanny) is an engaging family drama though resolution of issues is made too easy by the behavior of Boone. Owen feels betrayed and knows when he tells the truth to his roommate she will too as she assumes she carries his brother's baby. Series readers will enjoy the "matchmaking" of the unborn twins as they hook up their biological dad with their biological mom.

The Vampire's Seduction
Cynthia Cooke
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618699, $5.50

The Vampire's Seduction. Nicholai and his vampire clan move to New York City, but months later he fears for his brethren who are vanishing. He traces them the Vindecare School for witches. Desperate to rescue his friends, Nicholai needs a witch to bestow on him demon essence. He chooses Mari Saguna the witch but quickly believes she has nothing to do with the abductions. She agrees to help him, but they soon realize her blood is what has paralyzed his clan members. He must choose between his beloved witch and his beloved clan while she must choose between her beloved vampire and her brother.

Bonus story - His Magic Touch. Eight years ago, demon hunter Trent Drouillard realized his beloved family was unsafe due to his occupation. Though it ripped his soul, he left Sera Barnhardt and their daughter Aimee. However, he realized his departure has left his two females vulnerable to the demon hunting him. He also knows he regrets what he lost with his loved ones while his former wife tells him he gave up his rights as a husband and dad when he left.

The Vampire's Seduction is a terrific urban fantasy romance starring two wonderful star-crossed individuals who fight, fuss and love while trying to find a way to resolve what seems like a paranormal Gordian knot without a sword. Originally published as a Nocturne Bite e-book the bonus short story His Magic Touch is an entertaining tale starring a remorseful Good Samaritan who learns the road to hell is paved with good intentions as he needs to keep his women safe while winning back their trust.

Lord of Rage
Jill Monroe
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618682, $5.50

King Aelfric of Elden married Queen Alvina in a marriage of convenience that quickly turned to love and respect. They have three sons and a daughter. The royals have paranormal powers but Princess Breena's is worthless dreams. The castle is attacked leaving the rulers dead and her siblings missing.

Breena searches the land for her brothers while dreaming of avenging what happened to her family. She makes no progress on her quest until she meets the berserker Osborn of Ursa in his remote cottage where he found her after she ate his food and slept in his bed. She knows him intimately from her dreams of him. However reality proves much different than her fantasies as he refuses to get involved in her royal quest. Instead he and his two brothers have become nomads since the destruction of his clan a decade ago. However Osborn also knows she is the one who warmed him in his dreams.

The second Royal House of Shadows (see Gena Showalter's Royal House of Shadows starring Breena's oldest brother) fairy tale is a delightful romantic fantasy starring a pushy princes and a reluctant raging hero. The fast-paced story line vividly describes Elden while focusing on the lead couple who find love and a common tie forged in blood. With two strong entries, pressure seems stratospheric on Nalini Singh to complete the trilogy with triumphant tale.

Riding the Storm
Joanne Rock
Harlequin Blaze
9780373796472, $5.25

In Chatham, Massachusetts, exhausted interior designer Josie Pessano searches for the boat owned by Chase Freeman in the dark. The Wall St. Bigwig hired her to decorate his vessel. She finds the boat at Slip 39 and enters it. He is not on board so she takes a couple of sea sickness pills as a precaution and falls asleep.

Green Principles CEO Keith Murphy arrives at the Slip to sail the Vesta to Charleston for his brother Jack (see Making A Splash). He is unhappy with Freeman's ship crossing the slip boundaries but saw the mogul drunk at the engagement party of Keith's sibling so he knows to move on. He begins sailing the Atlantic when he learns he has a stowaway. Not long after, he invites her to give in to her neglected carnal desires and continue on a sailing vacation. Their strong attraction is mirrored by a tumultuous storm that brings them even closer and solidifies their irrational attraction in a sexy read from start to finish.

The latest escapade of a magnificent Massachusetts Murphy is a charming Wrong Bed romance. The lead pairing is a delight as the extrovert in your face pirate and the princess in the tower introvert find love on the high seas.

Too Wicked to Keep
Julie Leto
Harlequin Blaze,
9780373796434, $5.25

Five years ago Danny Burnett and Abby Albertini were falling in love. However, he rocked her world when he stole her family painting. Danny showed his true colors as an amoral art thief while Abby learned to never trust her heart.

He wonders whether the two-century ring his brother Michael (see Too Wild to Hold) claims as magical really can change a master thief like him into an upright citizen. Danny will soon face the ultimate test of his attempts to go straight when Abby arrives in New Orleans demanding he right his wrong. She plans to teach the man who taught her about betrayal and broken hearts a lesson he will never forget.

The latest Legendary Lovers contemporary romance (see Too Hot to Touch) is a fun second chance at love redemption tale. Abby knows how to heat up vengeance so it is not a cold dish while Danny is confused by what has happened to his orderly thieving life. Although the story line at times is too passive, fans will enjoy the latest pairing by the matchmaking ring.

Once Upon A Groom
Karen Rose Smith
Harlequin Special Edition
9780373656288, $5.25

When Arizona rancher Silas Decker suffers a heart attack, his son Southern California based film director Zack comes home to the family spread in Miners Bluff. In the Flagstaff hospital Silas asks Zack to help Jenny Farber run the ranch while he recuperates.

Zack and Jenny loved one another, but when he asked her to come with him to Los Angeles she refused; insisting her life is as a rancher and not a Hollywood bimbo while he could not wait to leave Arizona. Both believe the attraction ended fifteen years ago when he headed west. Working together on the ranch and rescuing endangered horses while also attending their high school reunion, Zack and Jenny know they remain in love, but he is California and she is Arizona.

This Reunion Brides ranch romance is a warm second chance at love tale starring two likable protagonists who appear to have different life objectives. Their attraction remains strong even with each employing denial as a defense mechanism fortified by their obstinacy; especially dividing them is how each feels about Silas. Fans will enjoy this entertaining contemporary as Malibu and Miners Bluff converge.

There You'll Find Me
Jenny B. Jones
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595545404, $12.99,

Al Qaeda terrorist Hassan Al Farran led the bombing of Afghan schoolchildren that also killed CNN correspondent Will Sinclair. His eighteen year old sister Finley loved her big brother and cannot move past his death. A talented musician and daughter of an affluent hotel magnate, Finley decides to honor her brother as an exchange student visiting Ireland where her brother found happiness; she also prays she finds God who abandoned her two years ago when he allowed good people like her sibling and the kids to die

On the flight over the pond, she meets nineteen year old film star Beckett Rush. In Shannon, her host family the O'Callaghan quartet picks her up. While Beckett and Finley begin seeing each other while working on a movie, a mentor begins to help her heal by letting God in and the anger and grief out.

This is an insightful look at teen grief starring a young woman struggling to understand why bad things happen to good people. Finley is a strong protagonist who keeps the story line focused with her customized grief although a key by-product eating disorder is somewhat diminished by a late acknowledgment that she has a problem. Still young adult readers will want to join Finley and Beckett as they fly kites to be closer to Will and other cherished loved ones who have died.

Visions of Skyfire
Regan Hastings
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, NY, NY 10014-3658
9780451234971, $7.99,

Teresa Santiago has spent most of her life training to use her elemental powers. She feels almost ready though she is still somewhat fearful as she works with lightning in the desert near Sedona, Arizona. Like others in her coven, the recent Awakening by dormant witches has led to social and political crisis with those seeking power demanding incarceration camps of even American citizens (see Visions of Magic). She also knows who her destined mate is.

Although Teresa knows of Rune, she is stunned by her attraction to him; he likewise shares her desires. As they fall in love, government agents continue their patriotic acts to imprison American citizen witches. While eluding the Feds, at the same the duo must locate and control an artifact capable of biblical levels of mass devastation.

The second Awakening urban fantasy continues the powerful cautionary premise of "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security" (Benjamin Franklin). The burning of the Bill of Rights when it comes to witches makes for an enlightening tale; while the quest for the dangerous artifact enhances the overall excitement. With a strong lead couple and deep secondary characters, Visions of Skyfire contains a profound message (think of Japanese-Americans sent to camps during WWII), as Regan Hastings provides a poignant warning wrapped inside a super, fast-paced thriller.

Touch of Crimson
Sylvia Day
9780451234995, $7.99

In Phoenix, Seraphim Sentinel leader Adrian Mitchell is stunned when Jason Taylor informs him that second in command Phineas died from a vampire ambush. Adrian finds problems with the scenario as described since one of Phineas'' werewolf dogs survived and know one detected a vamp in the area.

At the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Lindsay Gibson notices Adrian as he does her. She is confused with her instant attraction to the CEO of Mitchell Aeronautics while he understands their need. He knows she possesses the soul of his beloved Nephilim Shadoe who he has watched die several times over the centuries. Vowing not this time, he plans to keep his soulmate safe from her Fallen father the vampire. At the same time all hell has broken loose as someone has discovered a dangerous bloody connection between the Sentinel, their bitter Lycan foot soldiers and the Fallen watchers.

This entertaining urban romantic fantasy contains a heated reincarnation love story that grips the audience with its fervor between two intriguing protagonists with quite a history and DNA. However, the overarching theme of the enforcement war between Seraphim and their Fallen former angelic brothers never fully comes across although the plight of the angry Lycan on the verge of rebelling anchors a fascinating spin in which the good guys use a volunteer group of the Fallen as expendables. Overall the first Renegade Angels tale is an exciting thriller.

Lynn Viehl
9780451413147, $7.99

GenHance spliced normal human children with vampire DNA. That genetic mix led to the creation of the Kyndred. Now GenHance continues part two of their research. They want the Kyndred for study dead or alive.

Meanwhile someone else has a different methodology when it comes to studying the DNA of the Kyndred; this scientist kidnaps the Kyndred and takes his victims to a remote Mexican barrier island where he forces them to interbreed. San Francisco medic Charlotte Marena and Takyn protector Samuel Taske are snatched to this isle. They are attracted to one another though she distrusts him as he knows too much about her and she (and he) enjoys the sex between them, which frightens her. As they plot to escape, his power has vanished so she is their only hope to identify and safely flee from their sinister host.

The fourth Kyndred romantic urban fantasy (see Shadowlight, Dreamveil and Frostfire) is a terrific suspense thriller enhanced by the Aztec location. The story line is fast-paced whether it is a sexual interlude or a desperate escape attempt. Readers will appreciate this exciting tale as the overarching theme moves forward with death and life.

Razor's Edge
Shannon Butcher
9780451235206, $7.99

Mr. Chord of Chord Industries believes his newest employee Mary Smith is a thief. He hires Roxanne "Razor" Haught to prove Miss Innocent is an industrial espionage agent. Roxanne has Mr. Chord throw a party in which the target knows his firm's plans for their latest invention is in his safe. The corporate security expert watches Mary steal Chord's key card before catching Mary in the act. After a brief denial, Mary flings the thumb drive out the window and battles Roxanne before being subdued. The other thief escapes.

Roxanne's boss Bella Payne of Edge tells her the client is pissed that they failed to capture the other thief. Roxanne apologizes for her failure to recognize more than one thief was involved and admits her ex has distracted her with men following her. Bella tells Roxanne she is off the Chord case and anything else until her civilian life is fixed. She also will have a babysitter Tanner O'Connell who ignores Razor's contention she does not need a protector. As they fall in love, someone else she cherishes is in trouble while killers attack her.

The second Edge investigative thriller (see Living on the Edge) is a tense tale from start to finish. Fast-paved and loaded with action, the suspense never abates even for the attraction between the lead couple or for a family reunion. With a strong flawed lead couple, a vile villain with a cause, and a solid support cast especially her friend Jake and his brother Reid, Shannon Butcher once again proves she is consistently one of the best at romantic suspense with her emphasis on the taut thriller story line.

Wrangled and Tangled
Lorelei James
9780451235145, $14.00

After eight years and one divorce away from her hometown of Muddy Gap, Wyoming, Janie Fitzhugh is home. She helps Renner Jackson with his new Split Rock Ranch and Resort. Janie is stunned by her attraction to her former spouse Abe Larson and him with her. Also a bit shocked is Renner over his feelings for Tierney Pratt the spoiled daughter of his backer CEO of the Pratt Financial Group who he assumes s is spying on him for her dad. She has feelings for Abe even though he scorns her.

Someone driving a truck rams into Janie's vehicle deliberately knocking her in a ditch. Abe is at the scene when Deputy TJ McConnell arrives suspecting him, but he has proof of his innocence as his truck has no damage. No longer bitter at the woman who dumped him leaving him the victim of pity, Abe knows he still loves Janie and vows to protect her. Janie also realizes she still loves her former husband who has gained a maturity he lacked when they were married.

The third Blacktop Cowboys contemporary ranch romance (see Corralled; and Saddled and Spurred) is an enjoyable heated tale as two couples find love in Wyoming. Although the suspense never gels and Tierney's dad Gene is a nasty sort using his daughter as a commodity, readers will enjoy two times the erotic fun.

Blood Eternal
Marie Treanor
9780451234728, $7.99

Dr. Elizabeth "The Awakener" Silk is hesitant as to what she should do. She has a job offer that she wants to accept in Budapest; but at the same time she lacks confidence in her relationship with Saloman, the king of the vampires and a resident of the Hungarian capital.

Much of her doubts come from her beloved's machinations in the human and vampire worlds as he works on strengthening his powerful position. As Saloman tries to forge an alliance with hunters, the awakening of his vampire blood relative Luk and a related rebellion has him rushing to prevent a calamity while Elizabeth realizes the inevitable is coming with vampires coming out of the coffins.

The third Awakened by Blood urban fantasy (see Blood Sin and Blood on Silk) moves forward the overarching political and social theme and the relationship between the lead couple. Although the changing points of view slow down the pace, sub-genre fans will enjoy entering the bloody realm of Marie Treanor as Saloman tries to consolidate his power in two worlds but also hoping not at the cost of the woman he cherishes.

Werewolf In The North Woods
Vickie Lewis Thompson
9780451234988, $7.99

Seemingly forever to his family Grandpa Earl Dooley has searched for Bigfoot in the Oregon wilderness not far from Portland. Ten days ago Earl claims to have seen two big furry and smelly creatures, but his photo lacks conclusive clarity. His family in Arizona agrees with his wealthy neighbors the Gentry family that Earl is nuts.

The Gentry couple brings in NYU Anthropology Professor Roark Wallace to prove Earl's claim was a fake. His granddaughter Insurance Claims Adjuster Abby Winchell arrives from Phoenix to persuade her Grandpa Earl to sell to the Gentrys and move closer to her home. To convince her beloved relative, she must get Professor Wallace to back down. She shows him pictures to force him to assist her quest for the truth. He is attracted to the Arizonian, but hides that he knows what her grandfather found from her while the werewolf pack fears the professor is betraying them.

The second Wild About You urban romantic fantasy (see A Werewolf in Manhattan) is amusing tale of between star-crossed species. The story line is filled with a strong cast as the support characters bring plenty to the hunt for Bigfoot. The Gentry want Earl's land and him away from the Pacific Northwest for fear of exposure by the persistent obstinate old coot; Bigfoot fanatic Donald Smurtz wants to prove he is right at any cost; finally there is Grandpa Earl who refuses to cede his contention. With that mix and the Oregonian North Woods, fans will enjoy the taboo romance between the anthropologist and the insurance adjuster.

Enslaved by a Viking
Delilah Devlin
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425243176, $15.00,

Using her sexual lures, bounty hunter Fatin Sahin betrayed Viking Prince Eirik, brother to the ruler of Ulfhednars. Now he and other warriors including Hakon cousin to the chief of the Berserkir clan, are sex thralls whose semen have been tested for quality. Eirik plans to escape in order to avenge his affront by Fatin.

He is unaware that she is a former sex thrall to Mistress Aliyah, the Consortium head of pleasure. She finds captives to keep her sister Zarah safe from the Consortium. His betrothed Princess Birget learns of his incarceration and mounts a rescue as only a Viking can do. However, she makes an ally in rebel Consortium Officer Baraq Ata. At the same time, Aliyah tries to crush Fatin and Eirik because of their attraction that she sense is taboo.

This is an exhilarating BDSM (and more) romantic science fiction. The Devlin universe seems genuine with human trafficking and enslavement a key element that binds the Consortium. With a strong cast made up of several races and a lead couple in love and distrust, readers will appreciate Enslaved by a Viking in outer space.

Belong to Me
Shayla Black
9780425243152, $15.00

Twelve years ago on Tyler, Texas, sixteen years old Logan Edgington and Tara Jacobs wanted one another. He took her cherry, but dumped her with no explanation. Hurt badly by him, Tara is unaware he left her to keep her safe from the predator who murdered his mom and threatened his girlfriend.

Logan enjoys being a Dom at Club Dominion especially when he comes home from the latest hellhole the US Navy sends SEALs like him who enjoy seeing the world. FBI Agent Tara is on her first field assignment going undercover inside a sex trafficking ring as a Sub to mount a rescue of another agent who went in as a Sub but untrained; a third agent will be Tara's trained Dom. Tara may be a Sub in reality, but remains angry with Logan for his cavalier mistreatment of her back when they were in high school. Still attracted to one another, Logan replaces the Fed as her Dom on the dangerous undercover assignment.

This second chance at love BDSM romantic suspense is a heated thriller that never slows down from the moment Logan recognizes his Cherry as the Sub he must train. Fast-paced, the key to the entertaining tale is trust or lack of as she must depend on him to survive and complete the rescue mission but cannot bring herself to do so; failure to believe in her partner could prove fatal. Meanwhile he savors the opportunity to protect and make Cherry his life Sub.

Forbidden Embers
Tessa Adams
9780451234704, $14.00

In New Mexico, Dragonstar sentry Logan Kelly knows his clan still faces extinction though they have somewhat delayed what seems inevitable. Desperate times require despite measures so Logan comes up with a scheme to destroy his people's enemy the Wyvermoons and find the cure to the deadly biological weapon of mass clan destruction; a virus eradicating his dragon-shifting species.

Cecily Fournier demands her clan the Wyvermoon name her their leader replacing her late father. She has opposition because she is female. Logan joins the Wyvermoons as a rogue dragon shifter. He and Cecily recognize they are soulmates, but his clan comes before his need; while her clan comes before her need.

The third Dragon's Heat romantic desert fantasy (see Hidden Embers and Dark Embers) is an engaging tale of star-crossed love. Although Cecily seems too weak to even think of becoming clan chief, fans will enjoy Forbidden Embers as nether the heroine or the undercover shifter can afford to meet their soulmate at this time when their respective people face crisis; making the encounter worse is having an outsider as a soulmate.

Men Out of Uniform
Maya Banks, Sylvia Day, and Karin Tabke
9780425243169, $15.00

"Soul Possession" by Maya Banks. In between their hunt for a killer, Truitt and Rick drink at a bar where Jessie Callahan works. The two males want her and soon she joins them in a menage a trois tryst.

"Wanted" by Karin Tabke. FIST operative Colin Daniels escorts his former high school sweetheart Sophia Gilletti from Lake Tahoe to New York to testify against her ex husband. On the trek east, they find time to make love.

"Taking the Heat" by Sylvia Day. U.S. Marshal Brian Simmons escorts a witness to the murder of an undercover Fed, Layla Creed to San Diego. As he keeps her safe, they make love.

These three erotic romantic suspense thrillers are fun tales as the heroes protect the women while chasing down the bad guys; when they are in uniform. When they are not they are exploring the respective woman they protect.

Skeleton Letters
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425243893, $25.95,

Memory Mine scrapbooking shop owner Carmella Bertrand and JuJu Voodoo store owner Ava Gruiex visit historic spooky St. Tristan's Church in New Orleans' French Quarter. The friends hear a noise followed by a scream and a crash. A hooded figure pushed a statue onto Byrle Coopersmith, a regular attendee at Carmella's scrapbook group. The culprit escapes as Ava calls 911. They also learn that an ancient crucifix apparently was stolen also.

NOPD Detective Edgar Babcock warns his girlfriend Carmella to stay out of the investigation as he knows she is prone to snoop. He also tells her the killer used blunt force with St. Sebastian as the murder weapon. However when Babcock fails to take the lead and encouraged by the scrapbook regulars who do not trust dispassionate detective Bobby Gallant to dig deep, Carmella and Ava investigate the murder of a friend.

Although amateur sleuths coincidentally finding a corpse and feeling compelled to behave foolishly by investigating are not new concepts (see Death Swatch), readers will enjoy the latest scrapbooking mystery (see Fiber & Brimstone) as the BFFs place themselves in danger with their inquiry. The cozy is fun to follow and there are plenty of scrapbooking tips. Fans of the series will root for the dynamic duo as they work the case of a regular murdered in a church.

Animal Attraction
Jill Shalvis
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425244005, $7.99,

In Sunshine, Idaho, for the past eighteen months, Jade Bennett has worked for veterinarian Dr. Dell Connelly as a temp office manager at his animal clinic. She is superb at what she does loke keeping order. She knows she must return to Chicago where her family and profession are, but finds Sunshine helps her heal from the trauma that drove her from the Windy City.

Dell and Jade are attracted to one another, but each conceals their desire from the other. Jade becomes frightened when she learns of attacks at animal clinics, but Dell calms her down and shows her how to defend herself. As they fall in love, one of them must take that treacherous first step if they are to avoid a lifetime of regretting what could have been perfect.

The second Sunshine "animal romance (see Animal Magnetism for the tale of Jade's friend kennel owner Lilah Young and pilot Brady Miller) is an amusing tender contemporary. The characterizations including the animals like the pussy the hero asks to give it up to him and Gertie the St. Bernard. Sub-genre fans will relish a visit to this ranching community while looking forward to more Jill Shavis' charming animal crackers romances.

Slow Ride
Erin McCarthy
9780425243961, $7.99

Hysterical at her father's funeral, former racing driver Daniel "Diesel" Lange provides a shoulder for Tuesday Jones to weep in. She thought her dad would beat cancer like he did other incidents in his life; but finds it ironic that her father's favorite driver attended his burial; though he actually was there for his cousin Pete Briggs who died in a crash. Diesel gives Tuesday solace as he says it will get better in time before limping away; showing the remnants of the wreck that broke his neck forcing him to retire.

At a wedding in which she is the maid of honor, Tuesday gets drunk. Diesel is there too so he takes her home as he understands that with her grief comes a special grace. They are attracted to one another, but the timing is off. She grieves her loss and fears the kind ex driver is a convenience while he has issues with his battered body and deaths in his family so is not ready for more than a fling. Neither can prevent the heated encounters, but both refuse to explore their feelings.

The latest Fast Track romance (see The Chase and Hot Finish) stars two fascinating protagonists struggling with recent traumas. Whereas hers is emotional with her loss; his is emotional and physical with his losses. Fast-paced yet tender, readers will enjoy going around the track with Diesel and Tuesday are our drivers.

Heart of Darkness
Lauren Dane
9780425244517, $7.99

Law school dropout Meriel Owen is heir to running the mighty witch Clan though she finds seeing the same coven every day tiresome. That is until her concerned mother Edwina turns to her for help. Edwina explains that someone is stealing their power. She wants Meriel to investigate.

Her inquiry leads her to underground club owner Dominic Bright who distrusts those with power who makes the rules he breaks. Both are unhappy with their encounter as each recognizes the other is their undesirable bond mate. She lives by rules, but begins to show him why adherence is critical at a time when psychopathic mage killers siphon witch powers to further their personal agendas without regard to the innocents. Whereas her side objects to him, their mating leaves both in danger from his side.

The engaging first Bound by Magick urban fantasy stars forbidden lovers whose bonding causes tsuris to her clan but nothing like the reaction from his side. Although star-crossed lovers, the relationship between Bright and Owen goes rather smoothly between them even while each questions the wisdom of their pairing. Still with family issues on both sides, fans will enjoy this opening act.

Heart of Steel
Meljean Brook
9780425243305, $15.00

Mercenary Lady Corsair airship Captain Yasmeen leads her crew to Fladstrand, Denmark. Their arrival frightens much of the townsfolk as the lady Corsair has a merciless reputation. She is here to meet with author Zenobia Fox to inform her she killed her brother treasure hunter Archimedes Fox by dumping him into a Venice canal amidst zombies for his concealing who his late sire was. Having killed his father before him, she has no qualms of number three, especially since the woman is an imposter whose associate wants the da Vinci sketch of an air ship that Yasmeen took from Zenobia. Yasmeen kills the associate. They make a deal on the sketch and on the author writing Yasmeen adventures.

Archimedes survives his dunking. He is resolute as he hunts down the lady Corsair with two obsessions in mind. First he wants his sketch back and second he wants to court the woman who killed his father and almost killed him as he understands why she tossed him off her vessel but into a canal instead of rock. When he catches up to her, he persuades her not to kill him. They soon trek into enemy territory, the Horde-occupied Morocco.

The latest Iron Seas steampunk thriller (see The Iron Duke) is a great tale starring two fascinating protagonists in what may be the strangest courtship in years. The story line is filled with action as the Heart of Steel and the roguish treasure hunter make for an endearing couple. Fans who relish something different in their novels will want to read Meljean Brooks' Yasmeen and Zenobia's excellent adventure.

The Comforts of Home
Jodi Thomas
9780425244487, $7.99

In Harmony, Texas, funeral home director Tyler Wright has loved Major Kate Cummings for years but struggles to tell her how he feels for fear his devotion will drive her away like she has done before. Rodeo performer Noah MacAllen loves his BFF Reagan Truman, but she has another beau in firefighter Brandon Biggs while she also knows her foster father "Uncle" Jeremiah is dying; she also fears Noah will get hurt performing at the rodeo. Maternal abuse victim, reticent Ronelle Logan and crippled raging recluse Martin Winslow help each other crawl out of their respective shells. Denver Sims wants Claire Matheson to commit exclusively to him like he will do to her.

However, a tornado strikes the town. The frightened survivors reassess what matters in their lives.

The third Harmony small-town drama is an engaging tale that focuses on the relationships between several couples and potential parings as a vicious storm hits the Texas community. It behooves fans to have read the previous two tales (Welcome to Harmony and Somewhere Along the Way) to see how far the relations have changed. With a nod to Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove contemporary addresses, fans will enjoy visiting Harmony to see old friends and meet new ones.

Sup With the Devil
Barbara Hamilton
9780425243206, $14.00

Seventeen years old Harvard oriental language student Horace Thaxter sends a note his Aunt Abigail Adams in Boston saying someone who his two uncles John and Mercer gave a reference to tried to kill him. Abigail heads to Cambridge where Horace tells her that Mrs. Lake hired him to translate Arabic. He explains to his aunt the note was written in Arabic letters but as if it was English and the content involved a 1688 meeting between pirate Captain Jezebel Pitts and Governor Morgan. After completing the project, Mrs. Lake is upset that there is no reference in the note about the Devil's Treasure she seeks. She gave Horace some food, which he insists were poisoned and her thugs abandoned him on a remote road; a farmer saved his life.

As Abigail investigates what happened to her nephew, someone murders another student George Fairfield who had remained loyal to King-George. Abigail expands her inquiry from the lost treasure to the homicide while The Sons of Liberty want the allegedly cursed gold as do loyalists, neutralists and avarice souls.

The latest Abigail Adams mystery (see The Ninth Daughter) is a great pre Revolutionary War whodunit that brings out the divisions between residents of Massachusetts as many oppose combat against the king. The investigation is clever as intelligent Abigail shows why she would one day be one of the more brilliant Fist Lady's. However, it is the historical tidbits, (like the oriental languages which include Russian, Persian, Arabic and biblical Aramaic, but not Chinese or Japanese) that anchors this great tale. Barbara Hamilton writes a delightful Abigail Adams tale one year after the tea.

India Black and the Widow of Windsor
Carol K. Carr
9780425243190, $14.00

Evangeline LeBlanc only recently was known as Elsie Gootch of Catahoula Parrish by those residents and employees of the New Orleans municipal jail. Now Else as Mrs. LeBlanc hosts a seance attended by that old pussy Queen Victoria. The medium insists the monarch's late husband Prince Albert needs her to journey to Balmoral Castle. The ruler consents to doing her Albert's request from beyond.

Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli becomes concerned with the Queen traveling to Scotland when he learns Scottish nationalists seeking independence plan to assassinate Her Highness. He directs brothel owner and veteran espionage agent India Black to join the royal retinue as an undercover maid to cantankerous powder sniffing Dowager Marchioness of Tullibardine. Also assigned to the monarch's entourage is another agent Mr. Black. As India deals with a hemorrhoid making aristocrat and a literally pain in the butt hands on Prince of Wales, she seeks the head of the Scottish independence movement.

The second India Black Victorian Era mystery is a fast-paced exciting tale that uses the belief by many in spiritualism including Victoria's relationship with her Albert as a means to set up the assassination of the "podgy neurotic". The plot contains plenty of humor mostly by disrespectful Mr. Black who finds nothing sacred and the sniffing Dowager who has not found a powder except snuff that her nose disliked. Although some escapes seem unlikely, readers who enjoy an entertaining breezy late nineteenth century mystery will appreciate the antics of India Black trying to protect the Widow of Windsor.

Angel Condemned
Mary Stanton
9780425244623, $7.99

Brianna Winston is a lawyer and advocate at the Celestial Court. She has power to defend her spirit clients at hearings that will determine eternal sentencing. Her legal team consists of a cadre of dedicated angels who will do whatever she needs within the strict boundaries of celestial law.

Bree is working a secular mundane case representing her Aunt Cissy's fiance museum curator Prosper White in a fraud suit. At an exhibit at the museum, Prosper is killed with a knife belonging to Cissy. Other evidence points to her as the killer too. She is arrested, but quickly exonerated with new information surfaces. The new suspect is linked to a person appealing a Celestial Court ruling. The attorney digs deep at the archeological excavation of the Cross of Justinian which took place decades ago because it connects her two cases in the Georgia and Celestial Courts.

The latest Beaufort & Company legal thriller (see Avenging Angels and Angel's Advocate) is filled with helping angels and creatures who blinded by the light turned from the heavenly glow. The intrepid heroine deals with nasty demons, haughty nephilim and evil with aplomb as if that is an everyday occurrence. She anchors the whimsical paranormal tale with solid footing in two realms, but then again she has friends in high places.

The Next Always
Nora Roberts
9780425243213, $16.00

In Boonsboro, Maryland, the historic inn has survived over two centuries of war and pace; the walls have heard cries of joy and grief. The edifice lives on in spite of different often uncaring owners. Now the Montgomery Family Contractors begin an obsessive renovation project to modernize the classic beautiful centerfold of their hometown. Oldest brother Ryder is the head contractor; middle sibling Owen is the scheduler; the youngest offspring Beckett is the architect; and finally mom is the eccentric overseer of the three.

While Beckett is fixated on the renovation; he also has a more important personal project in mind. Since he was sixteen he obsessed over Claire Murphy, but she became wife to Clint Brewster and had three sons with him until an Iraqi sniper left her a widow running a bookstore in her hometown. Her biggest regret is Clint never met his youngest son. As Beck begins his campaign to make the widow and her children his family; someone else plans to make the widow sans the kids his family.

The first Inn Boonsboro Montgomery contemporary romance is an enjoyable family affair. The cast is solid including both sets of families, the townsfolk and the historic inn. Although the suspense feels unnecessary as if Nora Roberts was well compelled to include such a subplot for her myriad of fans; readers will appreciate this wonderful warm homage to small-town America.

Mrs. Jeffries and the Mistletoe Mix-Up
Emily Brightwell
9780425243572, $23.95

The holidays are coming, but neither Elaine nor Daniel is feeling very festive. She never loved the husband her father bought with a large dowry settlement, but now she controls her money since her last living relative died. Daniel wants free access to her funds to cover bad investments including a fortune in Far Eastern antiquities; he is broke. Their evening is interrupted by the arrival of guests who he plans to show off his latest acquisition.

A fire breaks out in the servant's quarters. The blaze is put out quickly, but everyone evacuates the house due to the smell. When they return to the home they find Daniel bleeding to death in his office from a sword bludgeoned into his neck artery. Inspector Witherspoon leads the homicide investigation, which proves difficult because everyone present at the gathering had motive and opportunity. Of course, Witherspoon has a top secret weapon so clandestine he is ignorant of the help he receives on his cases from his brilliant housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries and the rest of his loyal intelligent staff. However, this murder may remain unsolved as the suspects are numerous.

The latest Mrs. Jeffries and retinue Victorian mystery (see Mrs. Jeffries Forges Ahead) is a delightful puzzler as the title heroine and her "under the stairs" crew work a difficult case through their employer. The basic theme of this wonderful long running series remains the same, yet once again the whodunit is fresh as Emily Brightwell provides another riveting historical investigation.

Dark Predator
Christine Feehan
9780425241974, $26.95

Despairing Master Executioner Zacarias De La Cruz believes his time on the planet must end as his two prime goals have occurred. He and his brothers defeated a vampire army and his siblings have found their respective life-mates. After a millennium of war, Zacarias is the last one standing solo and chooses to suicide in the sun before he loses control and goes rogue.

However, he is not allowed death when a Good Samaritan female fails to mind her business by intruding on his death count. He orders her to leave, but this feisty female refuses. Raging Zacarias warns the woman, but she proves even more obstinate than him. When danger mounts, he realizes he has one last mission: to keep this pain in the butt mortal female safe from his enemies.

The ultimate, dark brooding hero stars in this angst laden Carpathian thriller where he meets his life-mate while trying to end his life. The story line is very passive as Christine Feehan focuses on the mental state of a killing machine preparing to die only to be pulled from the jaws of death by the lowest of animals, a human. Thus, the tone of the story lie differs from previous entries like Dark Peril as much of the tale is a journey inside the mind and heart of a darkened soul Carpathian who loathes his savior as much as he loathes himself for desiring his savior. Fascinating, but slow, fans still will appreciate the depths of a male dragged from the abyss by lower food chain species.

Who Do, Voodoo?
Michelle Staab
9780425244593, $7.99

Clinical psychologist Liz Cooper is a rational person who scoffs at the supernatural. On the other hand, her friend Robin believes in voodoo and other paranormal phenomena; so not surprisingly she becomes upset when someone places threatening tarot cards on her front door; these were the cards laid out when read by Liz's mother. Needing to better understand the supernatural and what the cards mean, her brother introduces her to religious teacher Nick Garfield.

After tracing the cards to a charlatan thanks to Nick's friend, they are invited to a concert act where they will be able to go back stage due to Robin's boss. There they meet the boss's girlfriend Sophie, a powerful person who gets into a fight with Robin who refuses to allow her into the office to see her boyfriend. As Nick and Liz walk to their car, they find a dead Sophie in her vehicle. The police charge Robin with murder. Convinced her friend is innocent, Liz with Nick's help investigate but to succeed the logical shrink needs to embrace the supernatural.

Ignoring why the professor and the psychologist investigate rather than hire a professional to make inquiries, fans will enjoy accompanying the charming lead pair as they explore the supernatural. In her debut, Michelle Staab provides an entertaining, fast-paced twisting amateur sleuth. The author casts a spell on sub-genre readers with this engaging glimpse into Who Do, Voodoo?

Wolf at the Door
MaryJanice Davidson
9780425243114, $15.00

Just prior to the beginning of the tax season plague, Wyndham Pack leader Michael Wyndham informs his cousin Rachel Velvela the accountant she needs to relocate from the Cape to St. Paul to keep an eye on the vampires that have recently surfaced in Minnesota. Michael shakes his head that the Undead pack leader is a shoe designer moronic addict, but he takes no chances in case Queen Betsy Taylor uses her fetish as a front. He also needs his reluctant cousin to keep a close eye for any werewolf trying to ignite a paranormal species war. Rachael adores her relative but believes he asks too much of her; still she follows orders and relocates.

Edward Batley the Human read Taylor's monthly vamp newsletter that he assumes his a joke though he knows vamps are real. He travels to the state capital to investigate whether Queen Betsy is telling the truth. If affirmed that vampires reside in the Twin Cities, Edward will ask his vampire-slayer buddies Boo and Greg to join him in cleaning out the nest. At a time when someone executes vamps and weres, Rachael and Edward meet with each aware of the mutual attraction but ignorant of the mutual interest in Queen Betsy.

Like a Venn Diagram, the start of a new connecting urban fantasy series is an amusing zany tale starring a CPA who kills with the dangerous modern day weapon of werewolf choice: an audit. The fast-paced jocular story line is fun to read but very thin. Still MaryJanice Davidson's fans will enjoy the offspring of the Wyndham Werewolves and the Palmer Vampires.

Inferno's Kiss
Monica Burns
9780425243145, $15.00

Sicari assassin Cleopatra Vorenus has had her world rocked with two revelations that leave her raging at her mother Prima Consul Atia for concealing the truth from her. First she learns that she had a brother Gabriel abducted when he was two years old by their enemy the Praetorians who raised him to loath his birth people. Cleo calms down and apologizes to her parents for her angry behavior and the loss of Gabriel who Marcus the Eminence Sicari Lord sired and had to kill. However, her mother shocks her further with a new revelation that her father whom she thought was dead is Marcus.

Irate with her mom, Cleo asks for an assignment in Rome where she hopes to rescue her kidnapped friend Marta from the Praetorians. In Rome, she and the Heir to Marcus as the Sicari Lord Dante Condellaire meet with an instant attraction. However, Dante has a celibacy oath to remain pure to the Absconditus that has never been challenged in all the years since he took his pledge until now. They team up to destroy an enemy encampment where kidnapped fertile Sicari females are held but unaware a traitor plans to sell them out to the Praetorians.

The third Order of the Sicari urban fantasy (see Assassin's Heart and Assassin' Honor) is a deep look at relationships between a mother and a daughter and between two sets of lovers as duty and desire battle inside the souls of the quartet. Readers will relish this character driven saga as a dangerous rescue attempt turns even more perilous by a trusted one's betrayal.

Chosen By Fate
Virna DePaul
9780425243992, $7.99

Wraith is a ghost who when touched feels extreme pain. Her ghostly time is soon to expire as wraiths never survive more than a decade. However, she could deal with whatever occurs if she knew who she was and if that person ever felt love when she was alive.

Para-Ops mortal Shaman healer Caleb O'Flare is attracted to Wraith. He understands her agonies as he shares one of them; a deep need to touch and make love with her though he knows that will never happen. As they work an Otherborn case together, she prays for just one night with Caleb so that when she moves on she does so in bliss.

The latest Para-Ops urban romantic fantasy (see Chosen By Blood) is a terrific thriller that nicely deploys on two fronts. First there is the exciting case that the Wraith and the Shaman work. Then there is the growing but impossible star-crossed love between the pair. Fast-paced, filled with action and loaded with angst, readers will appreciate this superb tale, which will be on short lists for sub-genre book of the year.

Haunting Embrace
Erin Quinn
9780425243138, $15.00

Aedan is the name he uses now as his family did when he was born. However, Aedan knows he is the Brandubh Black Raven Druid feared by his kind and mortals for many millenniums. He is the entity of the ancient Book of Fennore that he created before the tome enslaved him.

In the cavern where it all began Aedan sees Meghan Ballagh alive on the floor. They met only a few days ago, but he is disgusted with his relief that she lives. Knowing betrayal by his loved one turned him from the most powerful Druid ever to a pathetic Mr. Brady, he fears Meghan lured him to a trap in this cave three decades before she was born. He distrusts love and she is advised by a female who warns her at a time when her inner sorcery skills arise to never fall in love with an evil Druid.

The latest Haunting Mists of Ireland romantic fantasy (see Haunting Warrior and Haunting Beauty) is a wonderful tale of two people with no reason to trust the other must find a way to rise above their trepidations that love means betrayal. The Book of Fennore story line grips the reader who wonders what the tome has in mind for its creator and the woman who seemingly captured his soul.

Serpent's Kiss
Thea Harrison
9780425244401, $7.99

Rune Ainissesthal the Wyr Sentinel and dying vampyre queen Carling Severan the sorceress made a deal. To save the life of his friend Tiago, Rune will do Carling's bidding.

Thus he flies cross country from New York to San Francisco. He finds out that Carling is losing control of her paranormal skills due to the serpent's kiss disease that destroys ancient vampyres like her. She invested time and resources to finding a cure, but as time runs out so far her endeavor has proven futile. While her supporters flee in fear of her unpredictable power and others prepare to betray her in a power grab, Rune tries to save the female he is falling in love with.

The latest Elder Race romantic urban fantasy (see Storm Heart and Dragon Bound) is a great tale in which Thea Harrison deftly merges vampyre political and social backstabbing machinations with a cross species romance. Time is of the essence as the Wyr and the Vamp fall in love while her followers either distance themselves from her or plot to speed up her death watch. Serpent's Kiss is an excellent thriller.

The Accidental Courtesan
Cheryl Ann Smith
9780425243978, $7.99

To keep her former courtesan student Bliss from Newgate, Lady Noelle Seymour sneaks into an aristocrat's home to return a necklace stolen by her pupil. However, while inside the bedroom of the Earl Seabrook Charles, she finds the lord intoxicated. She explains she is a courtesan to the occupant Charles half-American cousin Gavin Blackwell. He kisses her before falling into a drunken sleep while she exits the boudoir.

Charles and Gavin discuss who the mysterious mistress is and where did the former's courtesan Bliss go. When Gavin sees Noelle, he knows who she is and demands she live up to the promise she made to him when she entered his bedroom although she insists her "deal" was with the Earl and not the cousin. As they fall in love, Noelle has doubts that she can trust him based on her observations of father's behavior over the years. Having an estranged aristocratic English dad, Gavin is patient with his beloved until she finally stomps on their love.

The sequel to A School for Brides is a wonderful historical romance between The Accidental Courtesan and the Bostonian. A mystery subplot adds to the entertaining story line. The solid support cast enhances the courtship between a Bostonian business mogul and a distrusting teacher at what might be better named The School for Scandal (by Richard Sheridan).

Song of the Nile
Stephanie Dray
9780425243046, $15.00

In 25 B.C. in Rome, Cleopatra Selene prepares for her arranged marriage to the Berber King Juba of Mauretania and Numidia. Se muses that her late parents Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and Marcus Antony would want her to have married a king in Rome, but not because their enemy Emperor Augustus decreed it. However, she survived by pledging her loyalty to the man who defeated her parents. Since Augustus took Selene, her twin brother Alexander Helios and their youngest offspring Ptolemy Philadelphus into his household as kids aand, the Emperor always thought of her as his Cleopatra. Thus he rationalizes she belongs to him when he rapes her just before she becomes a client queen of his.

Although a stranger in a strange land, Queen Selene thrives in the North African kingdom. Unafraid of Rome or of royal backstabbing, Selene bravely defies the empire when she brings out into the open the worship of the Goddess Isis even with treachery from those who claim to be her friends. In Rome where much began is where much will end.

The second Cleopatra Selene ancient historical fiction (see Lily of the Nile) is a delightful tale that focuses on a real person who Stephanie Dray points out historians have mostly ignored in spite of her being the last Ptolemaic queen instead of her mom and the most powerful of Augustus' client queens. No longer the child Augustus brought (with her siblings) to Rome, Selene is a courageous individual who seeks religious freedom and acceptance from people in her kingdom and the Empire; yet many proclaim her to be a sorceress. Readers will enjoy the vivid look at the early married years of the Queen of Mauretania and Numidia.

Little Gale Gumbo
Ericka Marks
NAL (New American Library)
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451234650, $14.00,

In 1977 Camille Bergeron accompanied by her two daughters Dahlia and Josie left New Orleans to escape her abusive husband Charles as she fears he will harm their children. She opens up the Little Gale Gumbo Cafe on Little Gale Island, Maine. On the barrier island, she rents a room from Ben Haskell. He is instantly attracted to the best praline maker in New England while his teenage son Matthew is gaga for Camille's daughters. While most of the islanders do not welcome the three Creole females, they cannot resist her food. The three Bergeron females and the two Haskell males become a close knit family.

By 2002 Camille and Ben live together in love and harmony. Josie eagerly learned her mom's recipes and remains attracted to Matthew who desires Dahlia; while Dahlia has become a loose woman sleeping around and hurting her high school boyfriend Jack Thurlow. Charles the drug dealer visited his girls periodically since his females deserted him. When he returns to Little Gale, Charles assaults Ben; Charles dies while lying next to him Ben is in a coma. The three next generation come back home to be there for the patriarch; while secrets concealed for years surface tearing apart an extended family.

Little Gale Gumbo is an entertaining family drama starring a strong cast as the key sextet are fully developed and the islanders add local color to an intriguing suspense. The story line is well written, but does slow down with vivid descriptions of the island and the cafe's food. With a deft late twist, fans will enjoy stopping at the Little Gale Gumbo for good food and to learn the secrets.

Cemetery Girl
David Bell
9780451234674, $14.00

Four years ago, twelve year old Caitlin Stuart vanished while walking the family dog Frosty. Her disappearance has left the relationship between her parents Tom and Abby on life support. Abby seeks to move on starting with taking Frosty to the pound as he is a reminder of Caitlin; Tom prefers to keep Frosty with them as he is reminder of Caitlin. He leaves Frosty at the shelter

Abby prepares for a funeral of her daughter, which is the final shock to her marriage as Tom rejects her notion of closure supported by Pastor Chris. Tom's half-brother Buster comes for the funeral to support his sibling. Tom goes back to the shelter to retrieve Frosty, but he has been adopted. The police pick up a female teenager who is Caitlin. She refuses to discuss what happened to her with anyone. Though his daughter's personality has always been to keep things to herself, Tom fears she was intricately involved in her abduction. He needs the truth so he investigates his offspring's life for the last four years.

This is a terrific family drama as David Bell provides a strong look at grief and closure are customized to the individual; what Abby needs is not what Tom needs and visa versa. The amateur sleuthing is fun to follow as Tom still seeks closure by learning what went down. Although the well written ending seems weak compared with the strong story line preceding it; aMr. Bell provides closure to the audience rather than an open ended "non-solution" that appears more appropriate. Still readers will appreciate the aftermath to when a terrible incident impacts family and community.

Drink Deep
Chloe Neil
9780451234865, $15.00

The vampires residing in Cadogan House are going through a rough time from without and within. Externally the mayor believes vampires are an abomination that should be ethically and ethnically cleansed from the planet. Internally, the Order has dispatched Frank Cabot of Cabot House to judge them based on whether the Cadogan clan is changing the rules.

Merit knows her performance as the Cadogan Sentinel is poor as she cannot focus on her duties since she lost the love of her life Ethan the Master of the house. One night the lakes and rivers turn black. The politicians led by the mayor blame the vampires which angers the suspicious humans. Merit discusses the crisis with the Dryads and the Siren; each insists they had nothing to do with the mess. When Lake Michigan and the other waters turn black again, the night sky turns red. The Queen of the Fairies informs Merit that an elemental magic practitioner is causing the environmental crisis. Merit knows time is running out on her investigation as the state wants the paranormal registered as documented aliens with no inalienable rights at the same time humans demand vigilante mob justice.

Urban fantasy fans will enjoy the latest fascinating Chicagoland Vampires thriller (see Twice Bitten). Using recent immigration furor as a theme, Chloe Neil provides an insightful exciting look at de facto and de jure prejudice even though most of the paranormal want either to be left alone in peace or to help mankind who despises them. Keeping the entertaining story line focused, Merit proves her fortitude as she still reels over Ethan, but pulls herself together accepting the threat to the existence of vampires and humans is tangible and she need to fix it..

Last Breath
Rachel Caine
9780451234872, $17.99

Morganville is not a typical Texas town, but a social experiment to see whether humans and vampires can peacefully co-exist. The vampires stand at the top of the food chain; they make the rules that humans must obey. Four friends (humans Claire, Eve and Shane and the vampire Michael) room in Glass House. Eve and Michael are in love and want to marry, but their respective species violently oppose interspecies marriage.

Taking a rest from the nuptial craziness, Claire and Shane meet a vampire from a nearby town with a letter addressed to Amelie the Founder and ruler of Morganville. Myron the mad vampire scientist takes it and tells them it says "run". At about the same time, Claire sees a strong male who is not vampire or human. An evil long standing enemy of Amelia and her species has arrived. This thing disguised as human can easily kill a vampire. The town's residents regardless of specie are in extreme danger as recently three vampires vanished without a trace after a visit from Magnus.

The eleventh Morganville Vampires small town fantasy (see Ghost Town) is a pulse pounding supernatural thriller that keeps readers on the edge until the Last Breath expires. Courageous Claire has risked her life before against impossible odds, but this time the adversary seems too powerful, but though human she still tries to rescue vampires from the wrath of Magnus. Shane's perspective is narrower as he thrives to do what it takes to keep his risk-taking beloved Claire safe. Rachel Caine writes a wonderful young adult tale in which the heroes must choose fight or flight with either option most likely leading to death.

Bond of Passion
Bertrice Small
9780451234766, $15.00

In 1565 Scotland, the laird Of Rath arranges for his daughter Annabella Baird to marry the older Earl of Duin Angus Ferguson over the objection of his wife who insists her future son-in-law is a Catholic sorcerer. Angus is the most powerful laird on the western borders. He arranged a deal with the recently widowed French Queen Marie de Guise to protect her infant daughter, Queen Mary of Scotland from the machinations of the English who plot to have her wed to the royal heir Prince Edward. Over the years Annabella and Angus forge a strong caring relationship. Annabella is there for Queen Mary whose marriage to Lord Darnley is a battlefield in spite of a son James. Lady Duin tries to help Mary avoid Queen Elizabeth's scheme to incarcerate her on charges of treason. However, she and her spouse are happiest when together with their family.

The latest Border Chronicles (see The Border Lord and the Lady) is an enjoyable sixteenth century drama that brings to life the impact on others by the bitter rivalry between the female monarchs. The lead couple forges a Bond of Passion between them, but like many Scots and English are caught up in the cold war between the two queens. More a historical thriller that does not add anything new to the overly used rivalry, fans of the Elizabethan era will enjoy Bertrice Small's delightful tale of trying to remain loyal without becoming a victim.

The Wild Ways
Tanya Huff
DAW Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756406868, $14.95,

Besides humans, the world contains several paranormal species like vampires, goblins, pixies, and hoberts, etc. however on top of the food chain are the Gales. They look human, but are not human and they possess the power to topple empires. The most powerful Gale is Charlotte, but "Charlie" as she is called prefers playing her guitar with her road touring band.

Charlie loves music but also uses music to focus her power, which explains why several other bands want her to join their group. Nobody is as surprised as she is when she helps the Selkies who had their pelts stolen by her Auntie Catherine who was hired by an oil company. Assisting her is fourteen year old Jack who is a Gale Draconian Prince and sorcerer. The person who wanted to control the Selkie is Amelia Carlson who wants to control the selkies as they belong to an environmental group Two Seventy Five N that presses government to deny off shore drilling permits to Amelia's company. Charlie and Jack search for the stolen pelts, try to prevent the drilling, and prepare for battle against a powerful family member.

The latest Gales urban fantasy (see THE ENCHANTMENT EMPORIUM) is wonderful thriller due to the strong cast who make selkie and Gales seem genuine. The story line is fast-paced but character driven as the aunt and niece are on different sides of the drill baby drill controversy; which anchors the plot in a real contemporary debate. Readers will appreciate Tanya Huff, known for her military science fiction, as The Wild Ways is a terrific read, one of the best urban fantasies I have read in years.

The Ninth Circle
R.M. Meluch
9780756406943, $24.95

On the planet Phoenix, the small Roman unit gives newcomer Cinna a choice to jump or not from the Widow's Edge cliff. Frightened he assumes this is a test to prove he can overcome his natural instincts, but when he lands he leaves a red splat on the ground. His brothers in arms except Nox flee the scene, but Sector Primus Surveillance Center Observer Six watchers observe in horror but bet on the outcome of the incident. The late Cinna's brothers in arms are disgraced and kicked out of the legion.

The Spring Beauty scientific expedition to the planet Zoe has the zenzoologists debating whether the native mammoths communicate even before they arrive. Scientists Patrick Hamilton and Peter Szasney are hostile towards each other. On remote Zoe, they find something that shakes the core of their belief system. As the former Roman unit turned into the Ninth Circle pirates, the crew of the U.S.S. Merrimack, troops loyal to the Roman Emperor Caesar Numa, and something more insidious converge on Zoe.

The fifth tour of the warship U.S.S. Merrimack (see The Sagittarius Command; and Strength And Honor) is a fascinating entry as the war between the two human cultures remains heated but has a new player. Once again, R.M. Meluch makes a case that war is the waste of foolish politicians who send the young (but not their offspring) to die on remote worlds. The Ninth Circle is an engaging military science fiction tale that fans of the Merrimack will enjoy especially because there is a late twist while newcomers will feel lost on the spacefaring tour.

Mercedes Lackey
9780756406929, $24.95

Valdemar has Companions shaped like horses but are much more as they can talk to their riders, can create magical spells, and intelligently defend against enemies. Mags was an orphan who was rescued from the slavery of the mines and was chosen by the Companion Dallen to be his Rider. Right now, the teammates work for the King's Own Herald Nikolas in a blighted neighborhood.

Nikolas pretends to be a pawn broker and Mags is his deaf mute son. They search for anyone who abetted the assassins when they failed to kill Mags or the King. The head Herald figures out that the throwaway children living in a dumpy apartment had contact with the four killers who were killed. Mags learns what the children know and Nikolas shuts him out of the case. The lad finds out more assassins plan to kidnap Nikolas' daughter who is the love of Mags' life.

The third Collegium Chronicles (see Intrigues and Foundation) continues the coming of age fantasy saga of Mags, Bardic Trainee Lena and Healing Trainee Bear with the emphasis on the rookie Herald. The exciting story line contains a partial cliffhanger as the readers know who deploys the assassins but not why. The key cast is fully developed with background interwoven into the plot as for instance Mags is almost obsessed with a need for information about his parents; this anchors the Mercedes Lackey world of Valdemar

Picture of Lies
C.C. Harrison
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive
Waterville, ME 04901
9781432825065, $25.95,

Ever since her little girl Daisy was snatched on the San Diego beach, investigative reporter Keegan Thomas lives in a world of anger, rage and depression. The cops declared the abduction a cold case, but not to Keegan. The Offbeat Arizona magazine writer has gained numerous awards and national attention with her series on missing children; five of whom went home.

Her relationship with Jeffrey over, but still on vacation, Keegan decides to visit Monument Valley where her grandfather was a Bureau of Indian Affairs doctor on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Her cousin gave her an old photo of her grandfather with other people who she plans to meet and interview for a potential article.

The Navaho refuse to cooperate with the "Nosy Pants" reporter; who wants to chat with any of those in the photo still living. Jilly Wolf introduces the journalist to her grandmother. Keegan learns that missionaries took one of the children in the picture. Soon afterward someone murders Jilly's grandmother. Not sure why, Keegan knows an unknown predator will kill apparently to keep buried secrets interred. With assistance from archeologist Dante "Shovel Bum" Covelli, she begins to learn why but she may be the next victim silenced by those who want the truth to remain hidden.

The entertaining return to Monument Valley (see The Charmstone) with a different heroine is an engaging romantic suspense thriller that once again includes a deep look at Navajo customs and recent history. Keegan is a fascinating lead who has never been the same since the traumatic abduction. Although somewhat over the top of Kings Peak, fans will relish a dedicated no longer whole heroine trying to do what is right for the little victims of family disputes.

Seance in Sepia
Michelle Black
Five Star
9781432825485, $25.95

Flynn Kiernan and her teenage son Brody go "dumpster diving" every Thursday as they search for books to buy for her father Daniel's Weston Books from estate sales. On sabbatical leave from her college teaching position, she is currently looking at what the late Mrs. Pilcher left behind for her landlady to sell to cover back rent. Inside a pre WWI Webster dictionary which is in fine shape she finds a portrait photo that she assumes is from the nineteenth century though there are some anomalies like the unorthodox hairstyle of the twenty-something woman surrounded by two men of the same age

Flynn visits antiques storeowner Mr. Heilbocker who says the picture is pre 1880 cabinet card albumen print that looks like a Spirit photo. She finds nothing on the net about Medora Lamb, the name on the back. Flynn puts it on EBay where she receives bids surpassing, $2000. Matt Holtser emails asking if he can see it as he is researching a late relative involved in the Free Love Murders AKA The Prairie Avenue Massacre

In 1875 Chicago, Medora Langley was married to Alec Ingersoll. They and family friend Cameron Langley shared a house together. That ended with Medora and Cam dead with Alec on trial for their murders. Sweating he was innocent, he hires spiritualist Victoria Woodhull to conduct a seance to learn from his wife and best friend who killed them.

This is a superb thriller that compares contemporary and Reconstruction Eras investigative techniques, women and relationships from both periods. The story line is fast-paced even with the deft rotation between past and present as women have come a long way baby since 1875.

Murder by Music: The Wedding Quilt
Barbara Graham
Five Star
9781432825447, $25.95

Park County, Tennessee Sheriff Tony Abernathy is concerned that his wife, his mother and his aunt are going on a quilting retreat at the Lodge. He is worried that Theo needs rest as she is near the birthing of their twins. The sheriff is also concerned over who will watch their two young sons if he is called to duty though a neighbor has him covered.

At the Smoky Mountains hotel, Theo notices the corpse of embroidery expert Scarlet LaFleur. Instead of an accident, someone murdered Scarlet using a mandolin wire as the weapon.

Meanwhile, Tony investigate the murder of loan shark Weevil Beasley and some lunatics running around shooting signs. The county goes national when famous singer Elf LaFleur comes home only to die the same way her sister Scarlet was murdered.

The second Smokey Mountains police procedural (see Murder by Artifact) is an enjoyable whodunit as the beleaguered sheriff (and readers) has a lot to deal with including his wife wheelchair bound due to her pregnancy. The location provides a vivid background and the quilting tips are fun; while the lead couple is a likable duet. Although too much happens, sub-genre fans will appreciate this entertaining mystery.

The Time Seam
Sylvia Kelso
Five Star
9781432825478, $25.95

In Inisville, Australia, Doran Wild is a junior lawyer at the firm of Lewis and Cotton. Her idyllic life takes an ugly turn with the death of boyfriend geologist Chris Keogh who dies in a car crash while also being accused of criminal wrong doing. She meets time traveling North Queensland Minor reporter and mine safety activist Jimmy Keenighan. Dorian and Jimmy team up to prove he was innocent and murdered while falling in love (see Blackston Gold, Book 1 The Solitaire Ghost).

She and Jimmy continue their inquiry as they want to know what Pan-Auric has in mind as they bought the field under the town and above the famous Solitaire mine that Chris found and died for. However, the pair begins to believe there is another time traveling anomaly who if real, they fear will prove destructive as this ghost is unconcerned with collateral damage.

The second Blackston Gold paranormal romantic suspense is an exciting finish to the first tale, which fans should read to learn how the lead pair got to where they are. The story line is action-packed with much of the fun coming from Jimmy's descriptive nineteenth century non political correct Irish metaphors. Although Pan-Auric is a stereotype of the evil corporation (reminded me of the Hudsucker Proxy's Hudsucker Industries), The Solitaire Ghost is a terrific thriller.

No Child of Mine
Kelly Irvin
Five Star
9781432825300, $25.95

In San Antonio, U.S. Attorney's Office Investigator Daniel Martinez and his estranged wife Nicole attend the wedding of Ray and Susana (see A Deadly Wilderness). The bride's son Marco Acosta asks Police Detective Deborah Smith where his Tio Daniel is. The upset child explains to his Tio and Deborah that Daniel's foster son, eight-year-old Benny, is missing. Evidence points to a kidnapping.

While Daniel desperately searches for Benny before the lad is trafficked or killed, Deborah and her police partner Alex Luna find a child's skeleton on Ray's ranch. While the two cops try to find the child and to solve a cold case homicide that has become hot, Daniel, also investigating the abduction knows time is running out for his Benny.

This sequel is a gritty police procedural that looks deep into the visible underbelly of the city and the more discrete but as ugly rural areas. Besides the urban gangbangers, there is also plenty of drug and other illegal trafficking on the back country roads. Although the romantic subplot seems out of place and rushed, the condemnation is for an under staffed overworked foster care system in which politicos only give a sh*t when a media incident occurs. Readers will enjoy this dark Texas thriller.

The Elusive Relation
Helen Macie Osterman
Five Star,
9781432825119, $25.95

In Chicago, elderly Emma Winberry receives a letter from the U.K. sent to her late husband Frank at their former address. The note inside comes from Lindsey Bellingham who claims she is the daughter of Frank's brother Andrew. Lindsey further states her mom recently died and she lives with her ailing cousin Isabel but fears for their lives from someone threatening them. Emma responds back informing her that Frank died twelve years ago and she has no idea where to find Andrew.

Her inner Guardian Angel tells Emma to get involved. When Nate gets a speaking seminar in Paris, though he believes this is a scam, they decide to stop in England to meet Lindsey. The two Americans meet her in London and then in nearby Roydon ailing Isabel, who suffers from hypertrichosis. The visitors learn an American wants to buy Bellingham House, but Lindsey does not want to sell and someone is trying to extort money from her by threatening to harm Isabel.

When Emma's granddaughter is injured, she returns to Chicago. However, Lindsey calls to tell her Isabel was kidnapped. Retuning to Roydon accompanied by her young friend Tracie Adams since Nate could not go with her. Emma becomes frantic when her companion is abducted.

The third Winberry paranormal cozy starring two likable lead characters on their second amateur sleuth case together (see The Accidental Sleuths and Stranger in the Opera House) is an entertaining twisting thriller. The story line is fast-paced while Emma becomes a frequent flyer heeding her Guardian Angel. The two subplots nicely blend together as Lindsey is the focus of each. Readers will enjoy this exciting tale of young women in peril.

Sahara Dust
Jim Ingraham
Five Star
9781432825089, $25.95

FBI agent Tyonek Horse persuades retired NCIS agent Woodrow Barstow to meet him in Summerlin‚ Florida. Soon afterward, the murdered corpse of Barstow is found on a nearby beach. Cherokee City Sheriff Derek Chubleigh assigns Detective Sergeant Randa Sorel to investigation the murder.

However, the FBI claims jurisdiction due to national security concerns since the victim was NCIS. The Feds order Chubleigh to hand over the case to Agent in Charge Tyonek Horse. Chubleigh demands the FBI explain to him why he should cede the inquiry to them when the Feds hide behind the fog of national security as he needs something concrete to explain to the media. Sorel continues her scrutiny into the activities of Barstow that leads her to his probe into arms merchant Raphael Cardozo and Iraqi defector Abu Mosul, but soon finds herself marked for death by the international criminal military law enforcement complex.

This is an entertaining police procedural in which the killer investigates the murder he committed. The twisted story line is fast-paced as Sorel struggles with her boss, her boyfriend's family connection, the Feds and a crime syndicate. Although key cast members lack depth especially Horse and Barstow, fans will enjoy this exciting Florida whodunit.

Time of Death
Gary Madden
Five Star
9781432825133, $25.95

In 1952 in the Pittsburgh area, the ghost of murder victim Virginia Beal visits Melody Rush pleading for justice. The newspapers made it clear the street hooker got what she deserved and the police allow the case to go cold without much of an inquiry. Only Melody investigates the homicide, but when Virginia's pimp Fleck shoots her she falls into the nearby river and drowns.

The Grim Reaper and Melody discuss the metaphysics of death as he introduces the big mouth female to dead Theodore Amos whose soul is trapped for eternity inside his body since something stole the source of his power, his mask. He hires Melody to find and return his mask in exchange for his delaying the pick up of her soul. Beside her mom outraged that she was shot rather than finding a husband and that every ghost in the Tri-rivers area wants to chat with her, Mel feels pretty good especially since her physician for her wound is a hunk. However, time is running out on her client's stolen artifact.

Time of Death is a fun paranormal historical noir that stars a sassy female who is a fish out of water in the early 1950s and even in the afterlife holding station. Her sarcastic discussion with the grim reaper is the best perhaps since Bill and Ted plated Battleship. Readers enjoy this entertaining investigative thriller as Mel and her sidekick Voe the cat work the mean streets of1952 Pittsburgh.

Police and Thieves
James Patrick Hunt
Five Star
9781432825072, $25.95

In Seattle, Seth Bridger works as a probation and parole officer while going to law school at night. He visits his client single mom Natoya Carter to insure she remains clean as part of her parole. When he leaves her apartment, someone shoots him four times.

Seth's lived in lover Elaine Ogilvie calls his estranged brother Dan the auto mechanic thief who resides in Baltimore to tell him his sibling was murdered. Though he had not spoken to Seth since their mom's funeral eight years ago, Bridger arrives in town to learn what happened. As he asks questions, SPD has filed the case as another gang killing while implying he should go back to Maryland. However, what fails to add up is why his brother's gun was left behind when his wallet and notebook weres taken. Bridger investigates as only a professional thief could.

This awesome antihero noir stars a hard boiled thief (see Bridger) obsessed with knowing who killed his good seed sibling and why. The story line is fast-paced but it is Bridger whose kick-butt and takes no prisoners inquiry has gangbangers, Police and Thieves wanting to run him into Puget Sound.

The Talk of the Town
Fran Baker
Five Star
9781432825393, $25.95

In 1933 in Blue Ridge, Missouri Roxie Mitchell attends the Ladies Aide monthly meeting and is shocked that the members are in total agreement over Agnes Dill locking her door out of fear of recently released convict Luke Bauer. Unable to allow a session to occur without dissent, Roxie claims that seems too harsh and dramatic. The others, in turn lecture, the twenty-five years old single woman who all believe is too educated, intelligent and opinionated to land a husband.

The former St. Luis bookkeeper displays her independence by managing a local clothing warehouse. When Luke cannot find work due to his criminal record, Roxie gives him a job in the warehouse. She becomes his only friend in town while her family and friends demand she cut him off even while the boss and the employee begin to fall in taboo love; until money goes missing.

The first Daughters of the Great Depression is an entertaining historical romance in which the era comes alive with little tidbits like a father of five quitting his low paying position to head to the Promised Land. Roxie has moxie whether it is stirring the Ladies Aide members, her family, the warehouse workers, or the rest of the townsfolk with her feisty independence especially when she decides Luke is hers. In many ways proud, insolent, but somewhat beaten Luke is the more realistic character as his convict past is a pariah that limits his activity in his birth town. Still fans will enjoy this fine 1930s Show Me State romance.

Home Sweet Home
Bella Riley
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, NY, NY 10017-0010
9780446584210, $5.99,

A decade ago, Andi Powell left Emerald Lake, New York to move to the Big Apple. She has come home for short visits to family over the ten years she has lived in New York City. However, one year ago her father suddenly died stunning the still grieving Andi who glued a smile on her face everyday she entered the office of the Klein Group where she works.

She has driven the five hours two hundred miles to sell a Klein Group proposal to construct condos in Emerald Lake for affluent Manhattanites. Andi's beloved grandma Evelyn opposes tearing down the magical old carousel. The boy she once loved, Mayor Nate Duncan is for condos but not at that historical location. Nate remains bitter towards the woman he loved and needed who broke his heart when she did her solo dream pursuit. Andi realizes she never stopped loving him and begins to reconsider what matters in life as she has a secret to reveal either to those she loves or her employers.

The first Emerald Lake contemporary romance is a charming second chance at love tale. The lead couple is super as he tests the woman he loves while she struggles with her priorities; the support cast is solid although the small-town life is made too magical vs. urban avarice. Still readers will appreciate the profound debate between preservationists and developers as economics is the root of all arguments.

Heartstrings and Diamond Rings
Jane Graves
9780446568487, $7.99

Brandon Scott watched his real estate business collapse with the burst of the housing bubble. He has no capital available except what he inherited from his late grandma in Plano, Texas. To keep her house in order to sell it, he must reside there for six months. So he decides to also run her matchmaking business for six months to obtain some income in order to return to the housing market and selling his grandmother's business, Matchmaking by Rochelle. Brandon assumes running a matchmaking firm is a deal maker like in real estate. He figures finding six matches for a client at three hundred dollars a match cannot be to difficult.

Alison Carter's BFF suggests she try Rochelle as she has gone out with a who's who of Texas losers. She tries Rochelle, but Brandon's first attempt is just like her failures on her own. His next effort is not much better, but she proves to have great acumen in finding matches for others. As Brandon reconsiders fleeing Plano, he looks in a mirror and realizes staring back at him is the perfect match for Alison, but she may not agree with his assessment.

Heartstrings and Diamond Rings is another warm jocular contemporary romance starring two likable protagonists with different goals in mind until love unites their diverse objectives. The breezy story line is fast-paced with a strong eccentric support cast, especially her dates and his clients, enhancing the entreating tale of a man changing his priorities after learning what matters and a woman finding self esteem when she modifies her priorities.

The Sinner
Margaret Mallory
9780446583107, $7.99

In 1515 Lady Glynis MacNeil has one failed marriage to her name and no plans to test those waters again although she prays for a kinder protector than the hag she currently has. Alex MacDonald is a highly regarded warrior who vowed to never marry.

Her father wants Glynis to have an alliance with his clan so he proposes a marriage between his feisty but obstinate daughter and one of the MacDonald brood. Duncan MacDonald asks his cousin Alex to wed the pox padded Glynis. When he rescues her from pirates, they forge a bond as they trek to safety. Forced to marry, they fall in love, but she distrusts his faithfulness; while her former husband and an enemy of Alex combine their plans to cause trouble for the newlyweds.

The second Return of the Highlander sixteenth century Scottish romance (see The Guardian) is an action-packed historical thriller. Glynis is a refreshing protagonist as she goes to incredibly excessive lengths to get her point across; but that fascinating trait also slows down the otherwise fast-paced story line as she fails to move passed her beliefs regardless of the counter evidence. Still fans will enjoy The Sinner and his redeemer as this couple is made for each other to the delight of their clans and readers.

Too Wicked to Wed
Cara Elliott
9780446584579, $7.99

Though women of quality are forbidden to enter the Wolf's Lair, Lady Alexa Hendrie brazenly walks into the gaming brothel. She seeks information as to the whereabouts of her brother. Secret owner of the lair, the Earl of Killing Connor "Wolf" Linsley takes a kiss from the female invader. She stuns him when she kisses him back. Both are excited and appalled by their mutual reaction.

Four months later they meet at a gala and each realizes they remain attracted to one another. Alexa wins half-ownership of the Wolf's lair. When she arrives there, she finds her partner shot. She takes him to his country estate where he finds his body and his heart healing thanks to his nurse while she sees the real man behind the faced of a rake. However, he has made enemies over the years and now they have his Achilles' heel to bring him down.

The first Lords of Midnight Regency romance is an entertaining heated tale starring two wonderful protagonists. Brave Lady Alexa makes the story line work as she appears to be rusticating spinster, but her secret sojourns to London prove otherwise. Impoverished Wolf clandestinely works for a living but has concerns that his new partner will overwhelm his sense of survival. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the tale of the lady who tames the big bad Wolf.

Always a Temptress
Eileen Dreyer
9780446542050, $7.99

In 1815 Major Sir Harry Lidge is war weary having sent good men to their death on the continent. He looks forward to a life without responsibilities, which is coming soon as he completes his last undercover mission for Lord Drake. Harry believes Lady Kate Seaton is a spy who betrayed him a decade ago and belongs to the seditious Lions. His plan is to kidnap the lioness in order to make her reveal the secret she hides so that she does not harm the Crown.

As he knows first hand from the chaotic fog of the battlefield that things often fail to go in accordance with the plan. Though he distrusts her, Lidge cannot stop himself from protecting Kate as her brother and others prefer she disappear in the Rose Workhouse asylum.

The third Drake's Rakes (see Barely a Lady and Never a Gentleman) is a super Regency undercover romance starring a tough combat veteran and a courageous heroine. Their pairing make for a fun thriller, but it is the support cast at Rose Workhouse and an orphanage that brings a strong emotional element to an exciting complicated historical.

Highland Hero
Amanda Scott
9780446574303, $7.99

In 1402 in Scotland eighteen year old Lady Marsi Cargill refuses to marry for anything but love, but must avoid the vows of an arranged marriage that her guardian the King of Scotland has arranged for her. The dying Queen Annabella tasks her youngest Lady-in-Waiting Marsi to escort the heir to the throne, her seven years old cousin Jamie, to his father the king.

The frail aging King assigns Sir Ivor "Hawk" Mackintosh to bring his son to him. The monarch fears his brother Albany will control the lad once the king joins his late wife. Hawk accompanied by Henrietta Childs and nursery maid Marsi escorts Jamie. As the knight falls in love with the disguised Marsi, the danger mounts from those who either want the heir dead or abducted. To keep the lad safe while on the treacherous journey, Ivor and Marsi pretend to be married, which in Scotland means they are married. When she finally tells her beloved protector that she is cousin to the heir, he becomes irate with her for her deception. However, he knows the mission comes before his contradictory disdain and love for Marsi.

Highland Hero is a deep early fifteenth century Scottish romance starring a strong cast. As always in an Amanda Scott historical the inclusion of real persona and facts enhances the romance; while treachery and betrayal are a normal part of the court. Readers will enjoy the historical romance between Ivor and Marsi as they escort and protect the future king of the Scots while falling in love.

The Doomsday Vault
Steven Harper
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451464293, $7.99,

The "clockwork plague" has left many sort of dead as most victims of the disease become brainless zombies. A few of the inflicted turn into mechanical geniuses creating the technological advances that are all over London.

Twenty-one years old Lady Alice Michaels has no marital prospects amongst her aristocratic class as her family died from the plague and she is a blueblood clockwork expert. She still hopes to make a good match but knows this is unlikely.

Privateers attack the airship USS Juniper. Gavin Ennock is fortunate to survive though he is trapped with no place to go in London. The British government's top secret Third Ward recognizes his musical and air talents worthy of exploitation, but hold off abducting him when Gavin and Alice meet as her estranged aunt left her with something they want to possess. As the beleaguered technological geniuses flee from the government, they learn of the intent of the Third Ward that shows a love of empire right or wrong.

The Doomsday Vault is an engaging steampunk thriller. Alice feels like she fell through a rabbit hole; while Gavin is as confused by the let them drink tea cavalier attitude of the Third Ward. Although the use of coincidence enables much of the key escapades involving the lead pair, sub-genre readers will enjoy Steven Harper's guided tour of the Clockwork Empire.

Magic on the Line
Devon Monk
9780451464286, $7.99

In Portland, Hound Allie Beckstrom adheres to the strict rules of the overseeing of magic Authority while risking her life and soul in support of the practitioners (see Magic at the Gate and Magic at the Hunt). Allie and her cohorts find the corpse of rookie Hound Ant Bell. When Davy Silvers takes a closer look at the body, Ant bites him before dying again. Davy is dying from the bite.

Other dead Hounds have arisen to kill peers and the innocent as a plague epidemic devastates the city. Allie informs the new Authority chief Bartholomew Wray that she believes magic is being deployed by a serial killer. Bartholomew rejects her theory while warning her to strictly adhere to the rules. While Bartholomew fiddles with a power game by isolating Allie from her friends and lover Zayvion Jones, she believes she will have to break the rules of the Authority making them fugitives in order to end the magical plague.

This is a terrific entry as for every action (the Life Well battle) there is a reaction (Bartholomew seemingly the righteous by the book bureaucrat), which leaves Allie, Zay and others trying to do what they believe is right to end a magical borne disease at a great personal cost. Filled with action and strong characterizations, readers will appreciate Devon Monk's latest urban fantasy as the heroine must choose between ignoring the truth and crossing the outlaw line.

I Robot: To Protect
Mickey Zucker Reichert
9780451464194, $24.00

In 2035 Dr. Susan Calvin accepts a psychiatry residency at Manhattan Hasbro Hospital. However on her first day at the research facility, she walks through protesters who believe the hospital violates God by creating "designer babies".

She soon learns of a top secret project in which nanobots are injected into the spinal fluid of selected patients. When the chosen begin to act erratic, Susan becomes concerned. She raises her worries to her supervisors, but is told to be quiet as this program has strong funding and political backing. However, the program supporters fail to use proper due diligence especially security as the technology is taken over by death mongers out to prove their righteousness at any cost.

Paying homage to Isaac Asimov by updating the science, the technology and the three rules of robots; Mickey Zucker Reichert provides a strong thriller that will elate fans of the I Robot saga. The cast of humans and robots seem genuine while Susan holds the exciting story line together with her obstinate need to do right. The late Dr. Asimov would have appreciated this updating of his classic.

Stone Spring
Stephen Baxter
9780451464187, $25.95

In7300 BC on Northland, fourteen year old Ana like others in her community still struggle with the Year of the Great Sea that left so many dead a year ago. Ana, whose mother is dead and father presumed dead, believes more such floods from the melting ice will occur. However, she still seeks a solution.

Novu the brick maker is sold by his father to a trader. When he and Ana meet, he tells her about his city with the wall around it. Excited, Ana wonders if Novu could lead the construction of a wall covering hundreds of miles that will take decades of bones to build to keep the sea from flooding Northland.

The first tale in the Northland trilogy focuses on a teenage strategic thinker whose conceptual vision leads to the project she believes will save her people and their land though Ana does not expect to live long enough to see its completion. A vivid tale, the key to Stone Spring is the details told in life and death on this ancient land starting one year after a devastating tsunami killed so many. Ana and Novu are strong characters while the support cast enhances a trip to a land whose people struggle to prevent the rising sea from claiming it.

Firestorm: Destroyermen
Taylor Anderson
9780451464170, $25.95

In 1942 three combat vessels fell from this world into another realm. The two American destroyers and their enemy Japanese battle cruiser found an odd world. The dinosaur-like Grik are ethnically cleaning the feline-like Lemurians. The Japanese join the Grik side while USS Walker Commander Matthew Reddy unites his crew, those of the American frigate the USS Donaghey, the Lemurians and the human Empire of the New Britain Isles.

However, another human empire, the Holy Dominion has a different plan to eradicate the two sentient non human species and the otherworldly humans while subjecting their rival Empire of the New Britain Isles. Matthew, leading the ally military forces against the Grik-Japanese alliance, worries that his side faces a two front war while more Japanese ships come through the Squall from earth with ruthlessness as the only rule of engagement because they believe in victory at all costs.

The Destroyermen series (see Distant Thunders and Rising Tides) always provides non-stop military action with the latest entry not only living up to its predecessors but complicating the playing field. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as Matthew uses all types of battle tactics to compensate for the Japanese superior ships and amoral disdain for collateral damage. Part of his plan is to take the fight to the Spanish conquistador Old Dominion on land and at sea but must also deal with the Japanese and the diabolically clever Grik. Although only Matthew stands out in a cast that would make Cecil B DeMille proud, fans will enjoy World War II.

The Children of the Sky
Vernor Vinge
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312875626, $25.99,

A decade of survival problems have passed since Ravna Bergndot and the cryo Children of the Sky escaped the near extinction Blight of humanity by landing on Tines World (see A Fire Upon the Deep). They build a civilization of sorts with the help of telepathic Tine canines.

However, humans remain scornful of the Blight peril as a sham to obtain and maintain power, and some local Tine inhabitants want the off-worlders to leave as they believe the outsiders are a blight to their world. Although natural enemies, these diverse groups hold in common one thing: the failure of Bergndot and her hundred children at any cost.

The Children of the Sky is a strong science fiction thriller that focuses on how far humanity has fallen in technology since the adventures in A Fire Upon the Deep. The human skeptics will remind readers of climate change deniers while the Tine is divided between friendly and hostile towards the newcomers. Although the climax is disappointing as it ends with another novel to follow, fans will appreciate Vernor Vinge's follow-up to what happened to those who fled the Blight.

The Faerie Ring
Kiki Hamilton
9780765327222, $17.99

Following the deaths of her parents and needing to avoid her odious uncle, teenager Tiki lives on the streets of London. She and other street urchin pick pockets while they reside in a dump near Charing Cross Station.

In December 1871, Tiki grabs a ring. However this bauble is not just an ordinary piece of jewelry. The ring belongs to the rulers of England and symbolizes the peace between the humans and the fey. If lost, the fey no longer are bound to idly observe the encroachment of the mortals into their realm. Tiki learns the truth and wants to return the ring to Queen Victoria in order to collect the reward that will enable her and her orphans to leave the streets. However, the faerie stalk her as they want the ring so that the truce ends with her blood as the catalyst in a dark magical assault on mankind. Only Rieker the thief as a sort of guardian angel and her urchin comrades have her back; while Prince Leopold stunned by the "ring" he sees etched around Tiki's wrist wants to know who she really is.

With an in your face gleeful nod to Oliver Twist (Rieker is even reading the book) and the Prince and the Pauper, but starring a Cinderella heroine, readers will appreciate this engaging historical fantasy. Tiki is a super protagonist who cares deeply for her "children" while Rieker is an enigmatic thief who seems to always have her back. Although the ending feels more like a setup for future tales rather than a climax, young teenage readers will enjoy visiting Kiki Hamilton's Dickensian fantasy realm.

Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card
Honoel A. Ibardolaza, illustrator
Tor Seven Seas
9780765324603, $10.99

At the Deerfield Middle school tweeners reticent Robbi Holton and aggressive Azure Miles are BFFs. Whereas Robbi expects to remain at Deerfield, Azure wants to attend Laddertop Academy where children are trained at maintenance of the humongous ladders that rise 36000 miles from the surface and the four power space stations where the steps end. A quarter of a century ago, the alien Givers arrived at earth and before abrutly vanishing left behind special energy technology with the ladders and stations.

Azure is euphoric to hear her name called to attend Laddertop; Robbi on the other hands has doubts longer than the ladders because she leaves behind her siblings under the abusive watch of their stepfather. At the academy, a strange beast bites Robbie leaving her with an odd mark that bleeds on and off for no apparent reason. She also struggles with eerier dreams that shake her well being. The pair soon begins to look into the enigma of the Givers; unaware that their investigation could destroy mankind.

This is a great first act middle school graphic science fiction comic book. The lead protagonists are intrepid but display their courageous in totally opposite ways. They make the entertaining Card dad and daughter collaboration fun to read while Honoel A. Ibardolaza's illustrations enhance the space adventures of two preadolescent feisty females.

The Immortality Engine
George Mann
9780765327758, $24.99

Although special agent Sir Maurice Newbury and his assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes have solved some complex cases (see The Osiris Ritual), he has turned to opium. Part of his rationalization is the drug gives him psychic powers. However, deep down he knows the cause is his belief that his sidekick is an informer to Queen Victoria. In fact Veronica remains clueless that she is a prime cause for her partner's addiction as her focus is on her frail sister Amelia who suffers from seizures that include prophecies. At the Grayling Institute, Dr. Lucien Fabian provides Amelia with special experimental care to induce her visions.

Scotland Yard Chief Investigator Sir Charles Bainbridge drags Newbury from an opium den to identify a murder victim; the CH believes the corpse is that master thief Edwin Sykes. Newbury confirms the deceased is Sykes, but something seems off kilter though he is unsure what. When a robbery that only Sykes could have done with the technology deployed leaves the three sleuths stunned.

The third Victorian Newbury-Hobbes mystery is an exciting alternate historical thriller. The lead protagonists have personal issues as he has become an opium eater and she is paralyzed by fears for her failing sister. The Sykes enigma is deftly handled as The Immortality Engine is a wonderful steampunk who and how investigation; vastly different yet as much fun as the occult themed The Osiris Ritual.

The Deception at Lyme: Or, The Peril of Persuasion
Carrie Bebris
9780765327970, $22.99

Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, accompanied by his sister Georgiana and their infant Lily-Anne, travel to Lyme on a combination holiday and family matters. Fitzwilliam and Georgiana are at the seaside village to collect the personal items left behind by their naval cousin William who died in combat.

Not long after they arrive in Lyme, at the base of the Cobb seawall, they find the body of pregnant Mrs. Clay, who had just married Sir Walter Elliot. Apparently the victim was carrying the offspring of William. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth believe the loose woman was pushed to insure inheritance did not change. As they investigate the pair begins to believe William was a murder victim too. Allied with Captain Frederick Wentworth, the Darcy detecting duet make inquires into the death of a woman at the seawall and the death of a sailor at sea.

The latest Mr. and Mrs. Darcy amateur sleuth (see The Matter at Mansfield and The Intrigue at Highbury) is a delightful Regency mystery in which characters from Jane Austen's Persuasion play key roles. The lead couple and his sister are fully developed; while the rest of the cast is solid to the delight of Janeites. With insight into naval matters in the early nineteenth century enlightening and adding to an exhilarating whodunit, too much overseas activity slows down the otherwise fast-paced strong historical investigate thriller.

Cherie Priest
9780765329462, $14.99

In New Orleans, brothel owner Josephine Early asks her former lover Andan Cly to pilot the Ganymede submarine to the North. Since this mission fits his prime assignment to bring needed supplies to the human Seattle underground in which zombies and gas rule the surface, Cly agrees as he tries to go a bit more legal with his endeavors.

However, Jo fails to inform the air pilot of the Naamah Darling that the ship has never been driven successfully, that the ship sits at the bottom of lake Pontchartrain, and the Texian and Confederate armies, who wait at the mouth of the mighty Mississippi, will kill to possess it. If he survives the military forces waiting for his run, Cly still has to drive the vessel that has proven to be a death trap for all his predecessors.

The latest Clockwork Century steampunk historical fantasy (see Boneshaker, Clementine and Dreadnought) is a great alternate Civil War thriller. Cly is a super antihero who wants to atone for his dealing in sap with the supply run though not quite going totally legal as gun running remains a lucrative activity. Loaded with action, fans will appreciate the reunion of the Union spy brothel owner and the bootlegging air pilot.

L.E. Modesitt Jr.
9780765329554, $27.99

Lord Bhayar of Telaryn commissions his friend Quaeryt Rytersyn the scholar to travel to Tilbor Province conquered by the ruler's father a decade ago. Bhayar would like to bring home some of his occupying army so he wants Quaeryt to look closely at conditions on the ground that has the leader concerned.

The journey by sea proves perilous, but Quaeryt arrives in the remote land. As a precaution, the scholar conceals his imager skills to create mental images that turn solid. He looks closely at the plight of the people in the countryside before entering the garrison. As he interrogates the officers, Quaeryt uncovers a political conspiracy to shake Bhayar's rule and send Telaryn into a catastrophe. Not one to sit idly by, Quaeryt plans to prevent the disaster from occurring by any means necessary including assassination.

Occurring before the Imager Portfolio (see Imager, Imager's Challenge and Imager's Intrigue), the title character makes the political fantasy work as he is a serious Scholar and even more serious merciless killing machine. The power struggle has the various players including the newcomer rationalizing that the end justifies any means. The incredibly detailed realm of L.E. Modesitt Jr. is a two edged sword as the audience will believe the world exists but at a cost of slowing down the plot at times. Still the fascinating complex (perhaps schizoid) protagonist makes this a delightful thrilling read.

Fighting to Survive
Rhiannon Frater
9780765331274, $14.99

As The World Dies not with a whimper or a bang but with a zombie bite, a few of the dwindling human populace in Texas Hill Country convert a small construction site into a fortress. Travis led the conversion that provides some security from the surrounding ravenous zombies. However, inside the shelter is a big ghetto with overcrowding and not enough supplies to survive an extended siege.

Salvation is next door at a hotel overrun by the reanimated horde, but getting there and cleansing the place will not be easy as human scavengers like the biker gang lurk nearby and the ever present and growing zombies occupy the joint. While the external threat is dire, the biggest break down is inside amongst the survivors. Having endured The First Days, the cohesiveness no longer exists. Rival groups offer solutions while dealing with psychological issues like survivor guilt that overwhelms at times people like Jenni and Katie.

With a deft merging of Maslow's hierarchy inside of a George Romero world, the second As The World Dies zombie apocalypse is an exciting tale of hope and despair as the euphoria of the early days of just surviving by the minute loses the adrenalin surge. The story line is at its best when the humans debate how to live and when the outside world assaults them. When the lead two females and their "mates" turn romantic rather than sexual escapism from reality, Fighting to Survive loses psychological momentum; for instance Jenni not to long ago watched her husband dine on their toddler, but now has a boyfriend of sorts. Still Rhiannon Frater provides a super middle book as the adrenalin is gone, but the end of days remains imminent.

When the Saints
David Duncan
9780765323484, $27.99

The death of Brother Marek, a monk at the Benedictine Monastery in Koupel, angers his Magnus siblings. Baron Ottokar of Dobkov, Knight Vladislav, Count Anton of Cardice, and Wulfgang the Speaker come together to defend their family castle in Cardice from the assault of the militarily superior forces of Count of Pelrelm Havel "Hound of the Hills" Vranov, his Speaker ties and allegedly his Wends ally Pomerania Duke Warislaw.

The Magnus clan cannot win unless Wulfgang uses the magic banned by the Church except under their control. If Wulf deploys the otherworldly talent he possesses, the Church in the guise of Bishop Ugne of Cardice will most likely proclaim the youngest Magnus a heretic, using demon saints without prior sanctioning. The family knows their enemy will use the chaotic supernatural wild cards to ensure victory and ask then humbly to forgive them after their victory. If he does not use his skill, he risks more than just his life and soul, and his family; as also at stake is the safety of his beloved Madlenka Bukovany, hand-fasted to his brother the count of Cardice.

The excellent Renaissance Era paranormal thriller follow-up to Speak to the Devil is a superb tale that focuses on the division caused by magic with some insisting it is blessed by the saintly sources; while others claim its evil sin derived from Satan. Well written, readers will feel they are inside Cardice in the Duncan realm observing the dilemmas facing Wulf and his family if he uses his Speaker skills. When the Saints is a strong, exciting, and enthralling historical fantasy.

The Omen Machine
Terry Goodkind
9780765327727, $29.99

Richard Rahl learns that many people are using false prophecies as decision making tools. He feels the morons are being taken for an inane ride while believing individuals should ignore self-fulfilling prophecy and do what they think is right based in hard information and a few hunches.

However, he is taken aback when individuals with no skills begin to have visions. Worse he and Khalan Amnell notice something off kilter at the Peoples Palace so they make inquiries. They and Zedd soon find two wordbook tomes (End Times and Regula) in the library managed by Berdine. Disturbed with what is going on, they investigate further but apparently a Hedge Maid hunts Richard who hides in the Garden of Life. There he finds The Omen Machine that apparently is responsible for the sudden pandemic growth in prophecy; while in Da'Hara a prophet demands total leadership through prophecy.

The return to the Sword of Truth fantasy world of Richard and Khalan with the start of a new arc is a fun treat for fans of the series. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Richard and Khalan begin to realize something is afoot in the empire and never slows until the confrontation. Although the villain's powerful paranormal skills go counter-intuitive to what has happened in previous entries, readers who let that ride will enjoy Terry Goodkind's latest adventures of R & K.

Anna Dressed In Blood
Kendare Blake
Tor Teen
9780765328656, $17.99

A chip off the old paternal block, seventeen-year-old Theseus Cassio Lowood uses his late dad's athame knife to hunt down and "kill" ghosts who have harmed humans. Cas and his mom the witch are wanderers never staying in any town for long as mean spirits abound everywhere, which means the teen has no friends.

Currently, Cas is asked to dispatch sixteen years old Anna who was murdered in 1958 in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Over the years since she died Anna has killed many people who entered her home. Cas realizes Anna will prove a much more difficult ghost to move off this plane; yet she never tried to kill him. He obtains allies including Thomas the psychic and Carmel a local teen as they start to learn more about Anna's curse. Meanwhile Cas asks Anna to help him find the spirit who devoured his father.

This enjoyable teen ghost tale stars an intriguing Ghostbuster, his mom, his two new friends and title character still dressed on blood after all these years. The story line is fast-paced and deftly merges humorous asides with tense paranormal combat. Readers will enjoy Cas and crew as they face malevolence in a fabulous haunted house thriller.

The Favored Queen: A Novel of Henry VIII's Third Wife
Carolyn Erickson
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312596903, $25.99,

Her ambitious family sends young Jane Seymour to the royal court as lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon. She likes the queen as do many at court; and is heartbroken when Catherine's newborn son died one hour after birth. Loyal to the queen, Jane appallingly observes her insidious peer Anne Boleyn seduce King Henry VIII. When Henry begins a religious reformation starting with canning Catherine and replacing her with Anne, Jane is horrified but tries to remain on the political sidelines. Queen Anne rages at any young female at court including reticent Jane who is to marry her friend Will Dorme though she loves someone else. Just before Henry is to have Anne executed for god's wrath of birthing no heir he asks Jane to be his third wife. Reluctantly she agrees. She tries to be the Queen to all her countrymen and a mother to Henry's children. Ironically she expects to follow her predecessors with a short marriage, which proves true as she dies giving birth to the male heir.

The latest Tudor biographical fiction (see The Rival to the Queen, the First Elizabeth and The Last Wife of Henry VIII) by historian Carolyn Erickson is another strong look at a leading player on the Henry VIII stage. Jane comes across as a quiet caring person who soothed the savage beast with her calm demeanor. Though the subject of several historical fictions (see Plain Jane by Laurien Gardner and Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir), The Favored Queen is an engaging tale that fans of all things Tudor will enjoy.

Dead of Night
Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312552190, $14.99

At the penitentiary in Stebbins County, Pennsylvania, the prison doctor injects a serum into convicted serial killer Homer Gibbon just before his execution. The elixir is the ultimate cruel and unusual punishment as it will keep the psychopath's brain functioning and aware while his body rots away interred in the ground.

Following the execution, at the Hartnup's Transition Estate, Doc Lee Hartnup is bitten by Gibbon's corpse. At the same time, local police officers Dez Fox and JT Hammond respond to a break-in at the funeral parlor. They flee from the dead coming at them.

Meanwhile Dez's former boyfriend reporter Billy Trout investigates a report that Gibbon's body vanished. He soon runs into the dead ripping the living. He eludes the corpses and meets up with Dez and JT. The trio quickly concludes the reanimation disease is highly contagious and the therefore the government will deploy the National Guard to contain the bioengineered toxin with no regard to those alive inside the contamination zone.

Paying homage to George Romero, Jonathan Maberry writes an exciting zombie thriller. The cause for the epidemic is stolen Cold War research used on the psychopath Gibbon. The lead protagonists possess different personalities as they conclude they are humanity's only hope. Although somewhat similar in blood and gore as the typical zombie thriller, Dead of Night provides freshness with a deep look at the psychological impact on the three heroes and other humans who know that no matter what actions they take inevitably there is no escape; perhaps not even death.

Dark Passage
M.J. Putney
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312622855, $9.99

After helping with the Miracle of Dunkirk, the Irregulars (Lady Victoria "Tory" Mansfield the mirror master, her boyfriend Lord Justin Allard the mage, Elspeth the healer and the two weather mages Lady Cynthia Stanton and Jack Rainsford) leave 1940 through the Dark Mirror. They return to their time and place 1803 Lackland Abbey; a school established to cleanse magic from the students exiled here by their respective embarrassed families.

Tory's dad refuses for her to come home to attend her sister's wedding. However, her sis moves the location so Tory can attend. When she meets Justin's mom, Tory realizes he cannot marry her because he would lose his family estate due to her being a magic practitioner. They return to school worried that Jack's relative in 1940 Nick Rainsford has not exchanged messages through the mirror recently. Nick arrives through the Dark Mirror to explain the Nazi air assault buried the tunnel and he had a vision of rescuing Jewish scientist Dr. Weiss held captive by the Nazis in Northern France. Dr. Weiss is working on a cure for infection. The males are eager to go while the females refuse. However, the Dark Mirror controls the fate of the Irregulars.

The second Dark Mirror young adult historical fantasy is a terrific tale that digs deep into the impact on the key ensemble Irregulars by a society in which the upper class disdains magic while the peasants embrace it. Much of the story line remains passive with a focus on the effect of de facto prejudice on the Irregulars in 1803 England. The action ignites late when the team makes a daring rescue attempt in 1940 Nazi occupied Northern France.

Soul Thief
Jana Oliver
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312614799, $9.99

In 2018 Atlanta, Riley Blackthorne knows first hand what it's like to be the "popular" teen as demons know her by name and as the only female trapper. She, like much of the city, still struggles with recent deadly events as many of her male peers suffered fatalities and crippling injuries in the combat; her boyfriend Simon heals from his injuries and her late dad's buried remains are stolen by a necromancer.

The residents no longer feel safe from the brutal demon assaults battering the city and what happened to the so-called protectors. The Vatican sends rival Demon Hunters to cleanse Atlanta while the demon Trappers try to figure out who betrayed them. What the newcomers fail to understand is the focus of this activity is the only female demon hunter and the evil targeting her is Grade Five.

The sequel to The Demon Trapper's Daughter, Soul Thief is a complex near futuristic urban fantasy with a beleaguered heroine who is learning that death by demon is easier to accept than death by brokenhearted. The cast makes paranormal Atlanta seem real; for instance demons touring the zoo anchor the paranormal in normal environs. Readers will relish Riley's struggles to find her dad and to avoid a one way ticket to hell while the two anti-demon fighting groups battle each other in an unhealthy rivalry to be coroneted as the top gun.

The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition
William Peter Blatty
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, NY, NY 10022-5299
9780062094353, $24.99,

In 1940s Georgetown, actress and single mother Chris MacNeil begins a new film. Her happy young daughter Regan is with her. The child begins to complain to her mom about noises at night and her bed shaking. Chris assumes it is just a child's imagination perhaps caused by her parents' recent divorce. However, she becomes concerned when Regan's mental state deteriorates. Doctors find nothing wrong while Regan's health changes for the worse as her language is filled with profanity, her strength greater than several circus strong men and she claims to be the devil as she molests herself with a religious icon.

Chris asks the Jesuits to conduct an exorcism. Psychologist Father Karras, who suffers from a crisis of faith when he failed to be there for his dying widow mom, arrives seeking a medical solution even when he witnesses first hand the inexplicable. Finally Father Merrin comes to Georgetown to attempt the exorcism while DC Police Lieutenant William Kinderman seeks a ritual serial killer who also desecrates churches.

Forty years since the classic horror was published (two years before the movie) and The Exorcist holds up nicely against the test of time as an exciting good vs. evil thriller in spite of most readers knowing the story line and the release of a sequel (see Legion). The novel is character driven by a strong cast with readers wondering for much of the plot whether Regan is possessed or insane; for how can the devil take residence in an innocent child. This barrier breaker tale remains a strong psychological horror thriller as William Peter Blatty enables his audience to see deep into the souls of the priests, the actress, the cop and mostly the besieged victim.

L.A. Mental
Neil McMahon
9780061340789, $24.99

In Southern California, the local media reports on several strange events over a few months. In February, the local headline news focuses on Municipal Court Judge Berthold trying to bash in his head as he destroys much of his affluent Santa Monica home. In March; Beverly Hills paparazzi favorite, former Miss California Pamela Dutton, acquitted of murdering her older wealthy spouse, lies in a coma. Finally in April, CalTech astrophysics graduate student Peter Janacek ran onto the Foothill Freeway committing suicide.

Not long after people who seemed to have it together went berserk, in Malibu drug addict Nick Crandall tells his keeper brother psychologist Tom that worms are eating away his brain matter. He soon attacks Tom but falls off a cliff. As has been their recent relationship, Tom rescues Nick who is rushed to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Tom learns that their sister Rikki has been threatened through a DVD and their brother Paul is involved in the Parallax Productions movie; both tie back to Nick's odd behavior. Tom goes to the movie set where he encounters former Swedish physicist turned filmmaker Gunnar Kelso whose theories on human behavioral relationships focus on power.

This is an exhilarating nano-technological thriller that grips readers from the moment Nick attacks Tom until the final expose. The truth is frightening as it fails to set free Tom or readers when he (and we) begins to realize what is going on that has turned L.A. Mental. Filled with action without dumbing down the nanotechnology, readers will Neil McMahon's cautionary science fiction thriller.

Death of the Mantis
Michael Stanley
9780062000378, $14.99

In the Kalahari in Botswana, Maguasehube ranger station office manager Thebe Ndoli and Maguasehube ranger station head Peter Vusi find one of their game rangers Tawana Monzo dead in a desert locale way beyond their duty station. Detective Sergeant Phinda "Detective Stone Wall" Lerako arrests three Bushmen who were at the murder scene.

Educated Bushman Khumanego finds his plea to the detective ignored. He asks his Botswana Criminal Investigation Department Assistant Superintendent to look into the murder case. CID Director Jacob Mabaku approves Kubu's inquiry but admonishes him not to cause problems for the local cops. However Kubu finds evidence proving an unknown person was also at the murder scene while his immediate supervisor Detective Sergeant Phinda Lerako demands he backs down until a second similar murder of a Namibian "tourist" in the same arid area occurs.

The third Detective Kubu mystery (see The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu and A Carrion Death) is a strong police procedural in which Botswana plays a major role in the investigation. The whodunit is entertaining and very different in outlook than the whimsical cases of Precious Ramotswe (by Alexander McCall Smith). However, like Mr. Smith's protagonist, it is the profound look into the country; in the Kubu case how law enforcement deals with the nomadic Bushmen that make this a superb mystery.

Darkness Rising
Keri Arthur
Dell Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440245735, $7.99,

Hybrid Helki werewolf (her late mom's side) Aedh (her dad's side) Australian Risa Jones mourns the death of her mother when her soul stealing father, whom she never met, arrives with demands. He needs her assistance to find a tome and the all powerful keys to the gates of heaven and hell. To insure she complies with his orders, the rogue Aedh informs his offspring he will steal the souls of her friends if she fails him.

Vampire council chief Madeline Hunter also gives the besieged Risa an ultimatum. If she wants to live, she will learn why vampires are suddenly aging, losing their minds and dying. Her only ally is a reaper who has no feelings but she is attracted to him.

The second Dark Angels urban fantasy is a superb thriller as the tsuris continues to avalanche the heroine who is not allowed time to grieve her loss. The next generation Guardian (to her Aunt Riley Jenson) struggles with what her father and the head Vampire demand of her, and with her feelings for an unfeeling essence; while also dealing with her mom's death. The sub-genre audience will appreciate this excellent entry but need to read Darkness Unbound first as this tale directly follows what happened in its predecessor.

Engaged in Sin
Sharon Page
9780440244912, $7.99

Orphan Anne Beddington is a fallen lady who makes her living selling her body at Madame Sin's brothel. However, when she learns that Sin employs young kidnapped girls, she hits the Madame in the head enabling the youngsters to flee. Believing she killed her employer, Anne needs to leave London. When she sees the Duke of March, who was her first attempt at a sale five years ago, Anne offers again as Cherise, claiming to be a present from his friend.

Bitter since losing his sight during the war, the former charming Devon accepts her as his mistress. However, when he rages, she refuses to walk away from his rants. As the courtesan heals her patron and even helps his sister, her sinful past has caught up with her. Wanting to keep her beloved Devon safe, she begins to flee, but he refuses to allow his cherished angel to leave until at least he can prove her innocence.

The unique lead couple makes for a fresh Regency romance as he is blind and bitter and she is a soiled dove. Their coming together against all odds will have fans racing through the pages to learn what next in a sensual suspenseful historical.

Darkness Unbound
Keri Arthur
9780440245728, $7.99

Hybrid Helki werewolf (her mom's side) Aedh (her dad's side) Australian Risa Jones has always been able to see reapers. However she never expected a reaper to follow her and accost her with a demand to see her father. Risa laughs at the reaper as she has never met dear misty dad.

Risa soon learns that a soul stealer is trying to open the gates of hell. She knows she must prevent this from happening and learn what the key to the gates mean. She is stunned when the reaper insists the soul stealing Aedh is her sire. Soon with seemingly the entire paranormal population trailing her, Risa turns to her aunt "Riley Jenson for guidance and Lucian the Aedh for assistance and more to prevent hell's gate from opening.

This Dark Angels tale begins the next generation Riley Jenson Guardian urban fantasy with a strong tough female whose mission is to save the world. Fast-paced, readers will be swept along side of Risa as she struggles to keep hell's gate closed and strop the soul stealer. Readers will enjoy this entertaining thriller starring a new heroine in the Jenson universe.

Night Moves
Stephanie Tyler
9780440423058, $7.99

In Chihuahua, Mexico Shadow Force operatives Kell and his foster brother Reid target for execution two Mexican drug lords when a tall blonde flees as if the devil is chasing her. Her path is right down the middle between the drug lords and the operatives. They get Teddie out of the way before completing the job.

Kell knows he needs to ignore her, but though a loner except with Reid, finds he cannot. He promises to escort Teddie to safety, which he assumes should not prove difficult, especially with Reid having his back. However, Teddie fails to inform her knight that she left the Witness Protection Program on an avenging mission to kill those who massacred her family. Thus she shot a man in the back in nearby Juarez. That person and U.S. marshals want her while another adversary targets the agents of Shadow Force.

The fourth Shadow Force romantic suspense (see In the Air Tonight and Promises in the Dark) is an exciting action-packed thriller as Kell and Teddie fight, argue and fall in love while fleeing Mexican drug lords, the Feds and their respective hearts. Though the lead couple's actions seem doubtful with all that is going on against them, Stephanie Tyler provides a taut thriller that grips readers from the moment Teddie enters the kill zone and Kell's heart.

Marriage for Meghan
Mary Ellis
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North
Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736930109, $13.99,

In Shreve, Ohio, Mrs. Joanna Kauffman will soon have to leaver her position as the teacher at the Old Order District Amish School due to her pregnancy. Nineteen year old intelligent but immature Meghan Yost wants the job. However, the Elders including her father the bishop has doubts that flighty Meghan can control a class when she cannot control her own impulses. They decide to give her a chance when her older sister Catherine agrees to come home to serve as the head teacher with Meghan as her assistant while waiting for her betrothed Isaiah to complete school in Kentucky.

As the siblings learn on the job, Meghan alienates her best friend Jacob Schultz who wants to court her. Additionally someone vandalizes Amish property and the school is trashed, which leads Wayne County Englisher Sheriff Strickland and FBI Agent Mast to investigate the hate crimes.

The second Wayne County tale (see Abigail's New Hope) is a wonderful look at the Amish culture as for instance the Bishop upsets his peers when he calls in the outsider to investigate the attacks and Meghan's brothers turn the other cheek against an assault. The story line is character driven by Meghan but ably supported by her family, her former beau, the students and several Englisher. Although the villain's motives are left passive, fans will enjoy the return visit to the Yost family.

When Two Hearts Meet
Janelle Mowery
Harvest House
9780736928106, $13.99

In 1874, Rachel Garrett arrives in the Colorado Territory from Missouri to work as a nurse assisting Dr. Jim Barnes. She opens her heart to the residents of Rockdale while remaining faithful to the Lord's guidance. Rachel is attracted to deputy sheriff Luke Mason. But his heart is buried inside tundra and his soul detests the harsh God who allowed his hero, his law enforcement dad, to die on the job.

Rachel becomes the victim of a series of dangerous assaults by an unknown assailant. Luke vows to keep the feisty believer safe. However, he is not there when a gang kidnaps her so she can keep the leader's son from dying. Although he has fallen in love with her, Luke, panicking over Rachel's safety, still vows to keep his heart safe from the loss of another loved one and his angry soul from God.

The third Colorado Runaway inspirational western romance (see When All My Dreams Come True and When Love Gets in the Way) is a terrific tale of a love between a true believer and a person who turned his back on the Lord. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Rachel arrives in town and never slows down as she lands in one predicament after another but never loses her faith. Although the religious messages are much more in the face of the reader lacking the subtly of the previous entries, fans of inspirational historical tales will enjoy caring Rachel finding love in the Colorado territory but fears the lawman who owns her heart is not suitable as he scorns God.

Them or Us
David Moody
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312535834, $24.99,

As increasingly urban centers turn extinct, the berserker Haters led by violent Commander Hinchcliffe continue their ethnic cleansing of the Unchanged who survived the cataclysm as they were before the pandemic disaster (see Hater and Dog Blood). Someone, most likely a desperate Unchanged, deploys nuclear bombs that devastate English cities like London. This has little direct impact on the Haters continual assault on the Unchanged although the aftermath somewhat slows down the attacks as survival becomes a prevalent issue again.

As the endless nuclear winter leaves the nation teetering deeper into the abyss, Hater Danny McCoyne finds what he hopes is a peaceful home in coastal Lowestoft. McCoyne is a unique Hater because he controls his species' deadly berserker tendencies. Thus Commander Hinchcliffe deploys him to find the remaining dwindling havens of Unchanged in a Them or Us scenario. McCoyne wants to be left alone, but that is an unacceptable response as far as Hinchcliffe and his hierarchy is concerned.

The third Hater post-apocalyptic thriller is an exhilarating dark tale as the landscape goes even unbelievably bleaker than before. Fast-paced throughout the entire series, readers will wonder whether the Unchanged and moody McCoyne will survive the Haters' top dog's thirst for blood, guts and power.

Yankee Doodle Dixie
Lisa Patton
9780312556938, $24.99

Leelee "Fiery" Satterfield married her high school sweetheart and left their Memphis home to build a successful Dixie B&B in Vermont. When her spouse left her and their two daughters for bigger boobs, Leelee decides Vermont was his dream. She sells the B&B and with her kids returns to Memphis. Her only New England regret is leaving behind Peter the chef.

Back in Memphis, Leelee's late parents' former housekeeper Kissie helps her take care of the house and the kids. Leelee obtains a job at Classic Hits FM 99 and reunites with her best friends. At the station she becomes victim to DJ Johnny's pranks and the assaults including olfactory of Stan the jock. Rock star Liam White meets and likes Leelee so he invites her to attend his New York show, which breaks the station's rule of no extracurricular activity with the "guests".

The second Leelee comedic escapades are an entertaining southern family drama but lose the edgy cultural war of a Tennessee rebel in Vermont that made the first tale refreshingly unique (Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter). Still this is a fun tale starring a thirtyish woman whose family (including Kissie), friends and professional relationships make for an entertaining migration back to Dixie.

Secret of the Dragon's Scales
Derek Hart
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462026654, $16.95,

By the Fall of 1943, the Allies are winning the war against the Nazis. Still the Germans are clever and devious with paranormal abilities as the three fifteen years old friends Gavin Kane, Emily Scott, and Bunty Digby know first hand. Guided by their mentor Sir Thaddeus Osbert the wise ancient dragon, the trio has prevented some insidious schemes in their hometown of Crackeston Haven in North Cornwall (see Secrets of the Dragon's Claw, Secrets of the Dragon's Breath and Secrets of the Dragon's Eye). When he is not pretending to be a fireplace, Sir Thaddeus assists Churchill in exchange for his first love sweets.

Meanwhile Himmler has become desperate as he recognizes the war has turned against the Axis to the point that renovation at critical Welwelsburg Castle stopped. He must send the monsters gathered from the rift in space his wizard Adicus Shinagle made though Himmler recognizes they may not have full binding control of the beasts from beyond. Shinagle understands he must eliminate the meddling Cornwall teens to win the latest Battle of Britain.

What makes this entry and the historical fantasy series superb is the sense that young adult readers (and other fans) are in coastal England (and part of Germany) during WWII as the audience obtains a taste of life in Cornwall and the impact of the Russian front on the Germans. With several twists involving the lead trio enhancing the fast-paced story line. the audience anticipates the confrontation between the three teens and their dragon vs. the evil that the dark wizard and his Nazi superior will deploy against England. This exhilarating historical military urban fantasy is the teens' finest hour.

Paulo Coelho
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780307700186, $24.95,

Although an international acclaimed author, Paulo faces a spiritual crisis. He tells his Tradition guide J. that he believes his journeys are over as he can no longer grow. J. suggests he get out on a rejuvenation tour to meet people that will lead him to the Aleph where time is a constant sameness and force him away from dwelling on his previous lives. Reluctantly at first he visits six countries which energize Paulo for the first time in awhile.

Two months into his pilgrimage, Paulo is scheduled to ride the Trans-Siberian railway between Moscow to Vladivostok; making stops on his book tour of Russia. At his hotel in Moscow, Hilel the violinist introduces herself to him before leaving. The next day at his book singing, she is back. Paulo denies knowing who she is but both know he is lying. During the Inquisition in previous lives, they shared the Aleph, but he cowardly betrayed her. He believes his actions towards her are why he cannot grow anymore. As they reconnect, each knows they need to forgive before they can bravely embrace their love and move closer to happiness in and out of the mystical Aleph.

Aleph is not an easy read as the protagonist, the woman he loves in their different lives and his guide tends to use metaphoric transcendentalist talk. The key cast is fully developed in the present arc and so are the glimpses into their past lives especially the inquisition incident. Those readers who appreciate something radically different will enjoy the journeys of Paulo and Hilel to try to cleanse their past if they want a happy future; but in 2006 Russia history seems on the verge of repeating what happened five centuries ago.

Last Man In The Tower
Aravind Adiga
9780307594099, $26.95

In Mumbai, India real estate developer Dharmen Shah wants to tear down the dilapidated Vishram Society Tower A building and construct a luxurious high-rise condo in its place. Many of the current residents have resided in harmony there for years in what is a melting pot mini community with Hindu, Muslim and Christians living there. Regardless of religious beliefs, everyone even Communists accept the exorbitant money offered by Shah though all knows this will end their community as none will be able to afford the new edifice.

That is everyone accepts the loot except retired widower schoolteacher Mr. Masterji. He refuses to sell his ethics to the developer. Once a welcome part of the middle class residents of Tower A, the teacher is now a pariah pressured to join the avaricious mob.

Last man in the Tower is a powerful character study that looks at the plight of a hold-out who adheres to his principles though he does not quote understand why. With nods to the movies Twelve Angry Men and Batteries Not Included, Aravind Adiga makes a strong case that an apartment building is a harmonious hamlet until the capitalists arrive with plenty of money. Readers will appreciate this deep look at what makes a community and how easily the facade can be nuked.

Zoran Drvenkar
9780307273550, $25.95

In Berlin, four twentyish friends (Kris Marrer, his younger brother, Wolf, Tamara Berger and Frauke Lewin) create Sorry, a company that provides apologies for businesses who mistreated employees and individuals who did likewise to others. Their business proves much more successful than they anticipated as customers come to them in droves.

Sadistic serial killer Lars Meybach learns of the quartet and their firm's mission. Using the threat of adding their family members to his death count, he hires Sorry to apologize to his dead victims, absolve him of residue guilt and clean up any mess he caused. Reality hammers the Marrer siblings who relook their business values when they meet their first corpse nailed to a wall by their client Meybach.

This superb psychological suspense thriller grips the reader from the onset and maintains its hold until the final clarification as to who the true victims are. The four partners are fully developed with diverse personalities while also representing metaphors of the modern business ethic. However, the tale belongs to Meybach; whose business vision is when normal people think of serial killers they think of Meybach.

Shards of Ashley
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
9781611600179, $17.95,

From the moment Jay Samuels met Ashley Savage when she moved to la Crosse when she was seventeen years old, he knew he loved her though she has childhood issues that would have anyone else fleeing for their sanity. A military chaplain Pastor Jay is the only male under the age of a zillion who gets inside the skin of Ashley as he not only refuses to run from her he enjoys the battles they have. Still he dreams of one day to have her as his wife raising a family of rug rats together with God's blessing.

Though in denial, she knows obstinate Jay has come closest to penetrating her emotional fortress but besides distrusting people, she loathes his being a pastor. She also believes she could rid herself of him by telling him her darkest secret from her ugly teenage years, but cannot bring herself to do so as his scorn would kill her. Meanwhile he prays to God as Jay knows he can only pick up Shards of Ashley while the Lord can heal all of Ashley.

The fifth Family Heirlooms inspirational romance (see Glass Angels and Foolish Games) is an engaging tale but much darker than the previous entries due to the heroine's past in a dysfunctional abusive home. Jay is a patient person who prays that one day his beloved will find God, but he believes she must forgive herself first for a transgression he does not know what it is. Although her second chance at salvation seems too simplistic with all her psychological baggage including her belief God punishes her for what she did fourteen years ago, readers will root for Ashley to trust the Lord.

There But For The
Ali Smith
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780375424090, $25.00,

In Greenwich, England, charming Miles Garth, a guest at a dinner party hosted by Gen and Eric Lee, rises from the table in between the main course and dessert. He goes upstairs and locks himself in a spare bedroom. In spite of coaxing from the bewildered hosts and other confused guests, Miles refuses to leave the room and only responds by notes he delivers under the door.

Rather quickly a crowd surrounds the house curious in a macabre way to observe what Milo, as the watchers have named him, does next. Fortyish Anna Hardie knew Miles when they met as teens in 1980 during a European Grand Tour. Homosexual sexagenarian Mark Palmer, whose late mom speaks to him in verse, met Miles at a Shakespearean event and invited him to this gala. Octogenarian dementia sufferer May Young, who Miles helped with her grieving of her late daughter, tries to return his kindness. Finally tweener Brooke the attention deficit student disliked by her peers does not know him at all as they just met at dinner. As weeks pass, these five and others forge a family of sorts.

There But For The is a fascinating parable that takes a close look at time, which never stops. The four players intermingling with the legendary squatter represent different eras in the lives of people as does the location. Filled with metaphors and quirky characters, Ali Smith provides a profound tale of mortality as the Steve Miller band said: "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' Into the future."

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse
Eric Carle
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, NY, NY 10014
9780399257131, $17.99,

The child is an artist painting a blue horse followed by a red crocodile and then a yellow cow. The kid continues to paint other animals using colors like orange for the elephant and polka-dots for donkey drawn from pictures in the mind's eye.

Although the targeted audience is pre-school with a strong message of use your imagination to take you where you want to be, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse is much more. Eric Carle pays homage to Franz Marc who painted The Blue Horse in 1911; he died during WWI and a few years later the Nazis banned his work. Readers of all ages will appreciate Mr. Carle's original way to encourage the young artist in everyone to draw your imagination and to showcase the work of a great painter from a century ago while also showcasing his on skills. With a green lion, a black polar bear and a purple fox oh my, this is a terrific creative inspirational.

Future King
Larry Pontius
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463766290, $14.95,

The Troubles has Great Britain reeling from fuels shortages and protests. Prime Minister Alistair Saxon demands Parliament supported by King Charles pass the Emergency Powers Act. Charles tells Saxon he opposes a dictatorship whether by committee or one, which is the first time since 1707 a monarch opposed a law passed by both Houses. Claiming to be patriots acting to save Britain, Saxon and his high ranking allies initiate Project Thunderbolt.

Royal Marines assault the King, his wife Queen Consort Camilla, his adult children and other members of the royal family. However, due to Camilla's action, Prince Harry escapes. The rest of the family is taken to a remote island while Saxon accuses terrorists trying but failing to assassinate the King and his family; he says they are in a safe house.

University Professor Tom Warwick drives to the veterans' home in Camelford where his father is deathly ill. Meanwhile Prince Harry enters a McDonalds which Tom's wife Vivian manages. She recognizes him and intervenes when someone else does too. Victor Emrys Myrdden persuades her to drive them to Camelford with a stop at Glastonbury to awaken the once and future King for the confrontation.

This is an exciting twenty-first century Camelot thriller which extrapolates current trends into a nation threatening crisis that leads to the return of the High King and the wizard. The play with names adds fun, to the enjoyable story line that warns readers as Ben Franklin stated: "Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one." Although none of the cast is very deep, fans will appreciate this entertaining take on the mythos.

Believe Like a Child
Paige Dearth
9781461105671, $11.99

Not long after the death of her maternal Grammy, her protector Uncle Danny sexually abuses his seven year old niece Alessa by placing his fingers into her vagina. She becomes confused and very frightened. Over the next decade, Uncle Danny visits her with impunity. She told her mother that Uncle Danny was sodomizing her, but Caterina called her a liar; while her dad might as well not have existed. The little girl assumed her brother Anthony and her two older sisters (Rosabella and Anna) knew, but did nothing to end the incestuous rapes.

When friendless Alessia turned fourteen, Rhonda in her gym class invites her to a party. When she was sixteen, Alessa was at Rhonda's house when a visitor fires shots and kills her only buddy. Alessa's mom bans her from the funeral. After her parents leave for the weekend, Uncle Danny informs his niece she will be friendly to his poker buddies. Instead she leaves hell house for the mean streets of Philadelphia where more Uncle Danny types stalk teens like her.

This is not an easy read as Paige Dearth does not attempt to hide or lessen the ugliness of predators like Uncle Danny and their silent by hiding in the sand supporters like her mother. Alessa is an incredible individual whose over all life from the day Uncle Danny moved in is a living hell. Her trek from hell house to the big city is filled with more ugliness. Yet Alessa lives up to her name as the Defender of Mankind when she reaches out from the darkness as a light to others like her under the bridge young "roommate" Lucy until the past returns in anger.

Thawed Out and Fed Up
Ryan Brown
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781439171561, $15.00,

In a steady rain in Welshland, Texas Sam Bonham wakes up in the alley next to Rack 'Em Up. He notices blood all over his clothing, not his; and he has his fillet knife tucked in his jeans. He has no idea what happened last night, but assumes he is back in a shitload of trouble; nothing new to him. Six months ago he walked out on his wife Georgia and became a deadbeat dad to their son Sam, Jr. At the Busy Bee Diner, he overhears two cops talking about the vicious stabbing death of Georgia's boyfriend Slick on her lawn; the body was found by San, Jr.

Having had a fight with Slick Motley earlier in the day, he believes he killed Slick in a rage though he cannot remember anything from last night; Sam flees East Texas. He stops in strange Blistered Valley that looks like a movie set of a late nineteenth century town. An outlaw gang runs the town. However, the oddity that stuns him most is meeting cryogenically frozen John Wayne who insists he is Ethan Edwards. Although the septuagenarian Duke is in no shape for a High Noon brawl, he mentors Sam into what it takes to be an American hero like he was during The Searchers.

This whimsical fantasy follows the redemption of a badass who goes from selfish loser to risking his life for strangers as a hero. The transformation of Sam is deftly handled while his thawed out teacher helps him understand what makes any person a hero. This is an entertaining refreshing allegorical thriller.

The Shattered Vine
Laura Anne Gilman
9781439101483, $26.00

In the Lands Vin, the Vinarts create and shape the magic into wine to sell the spells to those who want it. They are isolated remaining on their lands and cannot interfere with the political structure. The land-lords protect humanity and the vinelands because they want to benefit from the magical spells. The Washers have the power to insure everyone adheres to the god Sim-Wander's laws. Those who fail to do so become apostate.

After an enemy of the Lands Vin killed his mentor, Jerzy the former apprentice became the newest Vineart. He believes Ximan who is the Exiles' leader is responsible for the subtle dark magic permeating the land, which has led to land-lords fighting one another with a widening schism between the Washers. Though he accepts the evil practitioner tainting the Lands Vins with foulness is more powerful than he will ever be, Jerzy begins a quest to find the source of the taint and neutralize him. Helping Jerzy are Ao the trader, Mahault the intelligent self-exile and Kainam the former heir to an island that is on the brink of magical induced lunacy.

The third Vineart War fantasy (see Flesh And Fire and Weight of Stone) continues the spellbinding magical saga with its unique system as two types of magic battle for supremacy in an exciting good vs. evil scenario. The reluctant hero prefers not to deal with the dark arts but he has no choice as his nation appears heading to destruction if he and his teammates fail. Readers will toast Laura Anne Gilman for her refreshing magic of the vines.

Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781439195246, $7.99,

In just over an hour, Evalle Kincaid will face the Tribunal on charges that will lead to her eternal lock up. She feels it is unfair since she was too busy saving mankind from an eight-century old warlord to prepare her defense as the only freed Alterant. Her other half-breed species are dead or caged by the purebred Belador. However, Storm the VIPER tracker tells her of Alterant attacks from three escapees. Brina defends her at the Tribunal of Gods, but Evalle concludes protecting humanity is not enough for the biased Tribunal.

One of the Tribunal Loki, to anger another member Ares, suggests she prove herself by bringing in the escaped murdering Alterant. Brina tells her sixteen not three got out; eight are dead but the rest remain on a killing spree. Brina is aware that the Belador link is a death trap for her kind so she needs Evalle who she trusts with her life to hunt down the killers. To succeed in hunting down her now kind, Evalle knows she needs Tristan, an escaped Alterant she sent back to his jail. He is like Ares in that he wants Evalle dead.

The second Belador urban fantasy (see Blood Trinity) is an exciting thriller that once again makes the world of Kenyon-Love seems genuine with multiple species. Evalle is a terrific kick butt heroine while Brina and others show their trust of her by willing to put their neck on the line with the Tribunal. Although fans will get impatient with the Tribunal, the story line is filled with action and betrayal as Evalle knows when dealing with fickle superiors, deals tend to be flushed as excrement.

Spider's Revenge
Jennifer Estep
9781439192641, $7.99

When stone-ice elemental Gin Blanco was a teen, Mab Monroe the fire elemental murdered her mother and her sister. Gin dedicated her life seeking vengeance. Diligently training for the moment, the cold blooded assassin called Spider has been changed by those who cherish her especially her lover Owen Grayson. Thus when the opportunity arises for the final kill, she misses the shot with her crossbow.

Mab knows the true identity of Spider and why she targets her. She places an exorbitant amount of money for the head of Spider and Bria the babysitter. Prepared for a lone wolf mano a mano with Mab and her cohorts including a zillion or so bounty hunters, Gin is stunned when those who love her stand at her side.

Readers, who have anxiously waited for the High Noon showdown in the Elemental Assassins urban fantasy saga (see Spider's Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, Tangled Threads, and Spider's Revenge), will not be disappointed with Spider's Revenge. The heroine has come a long way in preparing to execute her vendetta, but the thing she could not prevent is the love and caring for others that ironically soften her to where her edge may be to dull. Action-packed with a strong cast, Jennifer Estep provides a strong tale in which the story line surpasses fans anticipation.

Conquer the Dark
L.A. Banks
978145160884, $7.99

Celeste Jackson recently learned her schizophrenia was not DNA driven mental illness, but instead her hallucinations are real as her gene pool makes her a Remnant angelic-human hybrid. Her guardian angel Azrael is not crazier than her as she thought between alcohol and cigarettes but a bona find angel (see Surrender the Dark).

Celeste needs a respite after battling demons including one that possessed her now dead boyfriend. However, there is no rest for the weary when Azrael's brother Bath Kol envisions what will happen when an ancient tome containing arcane power to destroy the world vanishes from a concealed spot in an Egyptian tomb. In the wrong hands of the Fallen this means the end is now for the small angelic unit and humanity unless one of the last three hybrids Celeste can prevent the catastrophe. With Azrael as her sidekick, Celeste begins a suicide mission to retrieve the book of death.

This is superb urban fantasy with a secondary but critical romantic subplot as Azrael's attraction to his ward could cost him his wings if he follows his heart by choosing the female he loves over mankind. Readers will enjoy the second battle between angels and the remnants vs. demons as humanity's extinction or existence depends on a recovering schizophrenic addict. Conquer the Dark affirms the incredible fantasist talent of L.A. Banks who passed away in August.

Kelly Meding
9781451620924, $7.99

Fifteen years ago during the Meta Wars, tweener MetaHuman Teresa "Trance" West was a decent telepath assigned to the government's Ranger Corps. However, in the battle of Central Park against Bane's minion, she and her comrades in arms lost their powers. Ever since the loss of her superpower Teresa has done all types of work with her current job being a waitress shorted on tips in Portland, Oregon.

However, without warning her lost skill returns, but not quite the same as she has so much more abilities than before. Realizing she has too much to control, which she fears will kill her, Trance quickly rushes to a devastated Los Angeles where Rangers headquarters has been reestablished and meets her former teammates. Their adversary is an enigmatic stealer Spector, who wants the MetaHuman unit members dead before they become a formidable cohesive squad.

Paying homage to DC comic's New Teen Titans; Kelly Meding provides an entertaining superhero vs. supervillain urban fantasy. Filled with action from the moment the young MetaHumans begin to realize their powers returned though none know why, sub-genre fans will enjoy this fun thriller starring a cast of wannabe limited developed heroes getting an unexpected second chance and a kick butt opponent in dead zoned Los Angeles.

Beauty Dates the Beast
Jessica Sims
9781439188231, $7.99

Six years ago, a werewolf viciously assaulted Sara Ward. Since the bites, Sara's sister Bathsheba protects her sibling and helps her conceal her dark secret.

Sara and Bathsheba work at Midnight Liaisons paranormal dating service. When Bathsheba replaces Rosie on a date with alpha cougar shifter Beau Russell, her boss Giselle threatens to reveal Sara's secret unless she cooperates by dating their paranormal clients who will want her Alliance-certified virginity. When a rival pack abducts one of Beau's females Savannah, the human virgin and the Russell alpha search for Savannah while falling in love; but remain ignorant that the victim is a pawn for an enemy who desires someone else and a betrayal from within.

Beauty Dates the Beast is a fun romantic urban fantasy as the leader of the Russell pack and head of the paranormal Alliance finds a human female who is the first person in a dozen years to ignore his orders. The fast-paced story line is loaded with action as from the moment the two B protagonists meet and never slows down until the final confrontations. With a terrific late twist, readers will appreciate Jessica Sims opening act.

A Winter Scandal
Candace Camp
9781451639506, $7.99

A decade ago at Fenstone Park Lord Gabriel Morecombe kissed Thea Bainbridge. Though he never followed up, the kiss left her mentally ruined foe anyone else. Now twenty-seven years old prim and proper Thea is on the shelf. At a Christmas gala hosted by Squire and Mrs. Cliffe, they meet, but though her heart beats out of control, he does not seem to remember who she is or he was her only kiss. Still he flirts with her.

At the Nativity scene at St. Margaret's Church, Thea finds an abandoned baby wearing a brooch that matches the Morecombe signet ring. Thea confronts Gabriel who insists he is not the father of the infant. He persuades her to help him find the mother of the baby Matthew as he has a very good idea of who she is.

A Winter Scandal is an engaging Regency romance made refreshed by the mystery of Matthew. The lead couple is an intriguing pairing as she has loved him from their first and only meeting up until the Cliffe party and he falls in love starting with her intelligent eyes. Although no one seems to be trustworthy as betrayal and back stabbing are recurring too frequent themes, readers will enjoy this entertaining historical romantic mystery.

A Novel Seduction
Gwyn Cready
9781451612646, $7.99

In Manhattan, Vanity Place magazine publisher Martin Black rages at critic Ellery Sharpe for her scathing incoming missile review of Bettina Moor's memoir and the romance novels her Pierrot Enterprises publishes. Fuming Martin orders his prim and proper literary editor Ellory to write an ode to romance novels. She can handle the candy for the masses assignment except that Black orders her to work with photographer Axel Mackenzie; five years ago they heated Pittsburgh before their relationship ended.

Ellery must learn to praise romance not to bury romance if she wants to keep her position as her boss is secretly trysting with her potential successor; while Axel gets double his fee if he succeeds at her doing so. As he relies on his sister for guidance, Axel shows her first hand what romance is by copying the heroics of the lead male of the book Kitlander. Ellery begins to realize the novels she loathed contain strong intelligent themes as she concludes if you want to study relationships read a romance.

With the contemporary's metafiction anchor, Gwyn Cready provides a wonderfully jocular Novel Seduction. The lead pair are fun to follow as he tries to be a romantic hero while she soon holds out for a hero. The amusing story line is fast-paced with plenty of loud laughter moments as beer, kilts and romance converge in New York, Pittsburgh, and Scotland.

Garden of Secrets
Barbara Freethy
9781451636512, $7.99

In Angel's Bay, as New Year's Eve approaches, ob/gyn Dr. Charlotte Adams assesses her life. She loves her professional work but feels depressed over the state of her personl life.

Ironically she has two men Reverend Andrew Schilling and chief of police Joe Silveira interested in seeing her. She finds Joe the divorcee makes her hot and tingling, but a relationship with him brings plenty of baggage excluding his first responder job. Andrew wants a second chance, but Charlotte has not been able to forgive him for cheating on her when they were dating in high school. However as she tries to decide on her future, she is in the wrong place at the wrong time so she may have no future.

The latest Angel's Bay contemporary tale (see At Hidden Falls) is an engaging triangle as Charlotte knows she needs to choose either one of the men in her life or neither in fairness to both of them. The romantic subplot is the prime theme with the whodunit serving more as a supporting "matchmaking" segue. Although at times a scorecard is needed to recall who's relates to whom, fans will enjoy exposing the Garden of Secrets.

Carrie Lofty
9781451616385, $7.99

In spite of being the offspring of an affluent business mogul Vivienne Bancroft was raised by a single mom in the Paris slums. After her mother died, her father Sir William Christie brought his illegitimate daughter to London where he arranged for her to marry Viscount Miles Durham. Following their wedding night, Viv ran away.

In 1880, she and her beloved half-siblings (Alexander and twins Gareth and Gwyneth) are in New York for the reading of their bombastic late father's will. Also there is Viv's husband. Executor Alain Delavoir informs Viv she is to manage the Christie Diamond Brokerage House in Kimberley, Cape Colony. Stunned she asks where that is; Miles responds the South of Africa and he plans to be there with her.

The first Christie offspring Victorian thriller is an exciting action adventure tale starring a married couple who has one night under their belt though wed for a couple of years. The key to this terrific entreating story is the vivid depiction of dangerous 1881 Cape Town. Readers will enjoy the rogue and the illegitimate finding love the second time around in the South of Africa.

A Most Dangerous Profession
Karen Hawkins
9781439175941, $7.99

In 1822, Robert Hurst knows he must not lose sight of the mission to rescue his brother Michael from the sulfi who demands delivery of a mysterious box as his sibling's ransom. Their other brother William (see Scandal in Scotland) is at sea planning to free Michael while one of their sisters Mary (see One Night in Scotland) worries about her three brothers especially Robert who apparently remains womanizing in Scotland.

However, instead Robert encounters Moira MacJames for the first time since they married and she conned him before leaving. The royal operative knows two conflicting things about his feelings towards his wife. First he wants to strangle her and second he wants to kiss her. Moira wants to tell him the truth that Rowena, the daughter he unknowingly sired, has been kidnapped with the demand being the Hurst amulet. He knows she is hiding something critical from him, but not what.

The third Hurst Amulet Regency romantic suspense is an exciting tale as Robert and his wife take center stage. Although the device of a father unaware of siring an offspring is overly used, Rowena's abduction plays a key matchmaking role by bringing the lead couple back together. The second chance story line employs a similar female thieving scheme as used in Scandal In Scotland, but is entertaining as the King's operative and his spouse fall in love again while she must decide whether to tell him the entre truth.

Nikki Turner Presents Street Chronicles: A Woman's Work
Keisha Starr, Tysha, LaKesa Cox and Monique S. Hall
One World
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345504302, $14.00,

"Dying to Be A Star" by Keisha Starr. Pastor Earl James and his wife Sister Patricia run a strict Christian home that stifles their teenage daughter Melissa. When they catch her in a lie, they kick their daughter out of their Pennsylvania home. She and the other performers in the R&B group Pretty in Pink head to Atlanta where she lives a fast life.

"Money, Stilettos and Disrespect" by Tysha. In Youngstown, three punks rape, torture and slowly kill Mama Bev. Her daughter Aisha wants revenge so her adopted sister Kayla arranges for her boyfriend, C-Lock to set in motion an eye for an eye.

"Southern Girls Escort Service" by LaKesa Cox. In Richmond, someone kills Southern Girl's Escort Service's most popular female Abie. Her best friend Rachida wants to avenge her late mentor's death. Her inquiry will either lead to her death, a killer or both.

"Ms. G-Stacks" by Monique S. Hall. Atlanta Detective Morgan arrests "G-Stacks" on a gun possession charge; a parole violation with a mandatory five years. G-Stacks' boss bitch Taylor plans to get her man released. She works Morgan like a virtuoso and she and her friend Jetta uncover a betrayal inside the gang.

These four thrilling street-lit tales star strong females whose value system seems to differ from the acceptable norm yet actually contain the same traits like loyalty to loved ones with an understanding that A Woman's Work is never done protecting those they cherish from their street enemies. The stars are surprisingly developed considering the novella format as they kick butt in a quartet of super street survival stories.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It
Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780345524966, $15.00,

The key to the twenty-two short stories collection "Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature's Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart ", is how the various contributors pay homage to Jane Austen in diverse ways; the authors stayed true to their prime genre but did it while honoring the great writer. A woman spends "A Night at Northanger" (by Lauren Willig) where she meets a famous ghost. Sara receives a gift of a locket with Austen's hair inside as her boyfriend ends their relationship; when she wakes up she finds Austen;s spirit at her side to guide her as "The Ghostwriter" (by Elizabeth Ashton). In 2010 Austen sends her "Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane" (by Adriana Trigiani) to her engaged niece while Jo Beverly brings humor in "Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss" and Janet Mullany's "Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!" shows one degree of separation between Jane and the Beatles. With hooks to the novels like Jane Odiwe's "Waiting" for Persuasion" and Laurie Viera Rigler's law suits against Pride and Prejudice rip-offs (see "Intolerable Stupidity"), this is a fun anthology; sub title aside.

If You Hear Her
Shiloh Walker
9780345517531, $7.99

in Ash, Kentucky, Lena Riddle while walking her dog Puck hears a frightening scream of "help me" from the woods just beyond her house. She calls the cops, but they find nothing in the woods to confirm her assertion that a woman is in trouble. Still she knows how her acute hearing compensates for her being blind and how stoic Puck normally is but he reacted too.

Six months ago Kentucky State Police officer Ezra King took a bullet in his leg; he walked away limping from law enforcement as more than just his leg was injured. In Ash, he is attracted to Lena so he decides to insure she is safe by investigating the screams she has reported she has heard in the nearby woods.

If You Hear Her is an exciting over the top of the Black Mountain romantic suspense thriller that rotates perspective between a gleeful serial killer and the lead couple. With a cliffhanger ending, the story line contains several subplots that add action, but detract from the prime theme of a heated romance between the cop and the chef while a psychopath continues a nearby killing spree.

Never Love a Highlander
Maya Banks
9780345519511, $7.99

With his two older brothers finding the inconvenience of love (see In Bed with a Highlander and Seduction of a Highland Lass), the youngest McCabe sibling Caelen must complete the clan alliance with the McDonald brood by marrying Rionna McDonald. Neither wants this marriage as he distrusts females after a betrayal left his clan in peril and she prefers to fight with men and not kiss them. They do their duty as the two clans need each other to battle their common enemy Duncan Cameron, but on their wedding night Rionna passes out from too much ale.

However, Rionna and Caelen find they enjoy love making with one another. Still though he has fallen in love with his trouser wearing wife and her with him, Caelen anticipates her betrayal. By the time he learns how loyal she is, he may be too late.

The third sword and romance McCabe brother historical is a terrific finish to a strong saga as the youngest sibling finds love in a marriage of political and military convenience. Action-packed from start to finish, sub-genre fans know this is one author we can bank on for a wonderful tale.

Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings
Alison Weir
9780345521330, $28.00

This is a terrific biography of a woman who was the older sister to one of the merry wives of King Henry VIII and mistress to her brother-in-law and his rival across the Channel King Francois I of France. Allison Weir asserts with a logical argument that the romanticized novels and the papal commentary of Mary Boleyn as a whore is false. Instead, she was an intelligent woman who went with the flow realizing her choices were limited. Her first husband William Carey was extremely influential at Henry's court and would most likely never settle for a whoring spouse. Her second husband commoner William Stafford also from an influential family with ties to the king had no reason to settle on a whoring widow who was older than him and was mother to two small children. Instead Ms. Weir believes Mary had no say in whether she would be The Mistress of Kings. The historian also argues against the belief that her subject's two children were sired by Henry as at least her son (Henry) was the offspring of William. Finally she debunks the so called heroic redemption of Mary interceding with her lover the king to save her sister's life as a myth with no substantial support; a survivor Mary would know most likely she would join Anne in the Tower awaiting execution. Born most likely in 1498 and dead forty-five years later, she was a product of the Tudor era. Inductive reasoning shows a lack of supportive documents from those friendly or neutral towards the Boleyn family condemning her. Only enemies of her or her family call her a whore. This is a strong look at a woman surviving the men in her life, but unable to speak out agonist the false portrayal of her as a "great and infamous whore". Alison Weir champions a more plausible fairer assessment.

Sweet Revenge
Christy Reece
9780345524058, $7.99

The maniac abducted and sold Jamie Kendrick to Stanford Reddington and his even viler son. The Last Chance Rescue team quietly enters Reddington's home in Bustarviejo, Spain. Naked and battered Jamie leaps onto the back of LCR operative Dylan Savage threatening to kill him. Admiring her guts, he explains he and the team came to extract her from this beast.

However using his affluence, Reddington remains free. Jamie needs to take him down so he asks LCR boss Noah McCall to train her as a pawn on a mission to destroy the pervert. McCall assigns Dylan to pretend to train her to obtain information about her kidnapper; as LCR plans to go after her abductee without her. As Dylan earns her trust, they fall in love but he believes she deserves better than his DNA.

The latest Last Chance Rescue romantic suspense (see Sweet Justice) is an exhilarating thriller as aptly named top gun operative Savage and avenging angel Kendrick make for a terrific pairing as he needs to obtain data from her anyway he can but feels guilty for doing so. Kendrick's vendetta obsession overwhelms her mentally adding depth to the tale but her inane fight over flight actions seems improbable. Still she proves revenge is not a cold dish but one very sweet especially with love as one of the benefits.

Hometown Girl
Mariah Stewart
9780345531216, $7.99

Over two years ago, Brooke Madison Bower's beloved husband died while serving in Iraq. She never had time to grieve as the widow had to help their young child Logan with the loss of his father. Mother and son moved back to her family farm in St. Denis, Maryland where her mother and brother live. Brooke also opened up a cupcake bakery.

Attorney Jesse Enright has also come home to St. Denis. He wants to prove to his family that he is not a chip off his irresponsible father; thus he joins his grandfather's law firm Enright and Enright. Jesse is attracted to the former prom queen Brooke, but the widow has vowed to never fall in love again while he has doubts about his paternal descendant (his father) being good enough for the mom and her son who he loves.

The fourth Chesapeake Diaries (see Home Again and Almost Home) is a warm contemporary tale starring two likable lead protagonists and the strong cast of St. Denis townsfolk. The story line focuses on a widow with an eight year old son learning to never say never following the death of her spouse who she was with since high school. Although straightforward with no major twists, fans of the series will enjoy a stop at Cupcakes.

Seduction of a Highland Lass
Maya Banks
9780345519498, $7.99

The three McCabe brothers have struggled for years to bring prosperity to their clan. Recently the oldest one Laird Ewan took the first major step when he married his beloved Mairin (see In Bed With a Highlander). Now Alaric McCabe feels he must follow in his older brother's footsteps.

Taking a small party with him as his clan needs warriors to stay home to protect the laird and his pregnant wife, Alaric heads to nearby Clan McDonald where the aging chief has promised his daughter Rionna in marriage. His party is ambushed by he assumes the family enemy Duncan Cameron. Alaric escapes on horseback near dead. McDonald clan outcast Keeley finds him and heals him. However, as they fall in love, he knows he must wed Rionna for the sake of his clan as two clans and a king would demand; and Keeley though kicked out due to a betrayal remains loyal to her clan (and his) which means he must wed Rionna.

The second McCabe Highlander romance continues the exciting intrigue as the marriage of convenience alliance appears broken when Alaric and Keeley meet and fall in love. The fast-paced story line grips the reader once the loyal heroine rescues the severely injured knight and never slows down until the final confrontation from demanding lairds and a king that also sets up third McCabe brothers historical.

The Viper
Monica McCarty
9780345528391, $7.99

In 1306 Bella Comyn sits in a cage hanging high over Berwick Castle ever since she crowned Robert Bruce as King of Scotland. King Edward of England uses her as an example of those who betray him; and her abusive spouse John who wanted to be the Scottish ruler encourages him. Her only regret is she misses her daughter.

Six months earlier, Highland Guard mercenary Lachlan MacRuairi arrives at Belvedere Castle to escort Bella to Scone to coronate Robert Bruce as the Scottish king. Time runs out on them when John arrives. Lachlan forces Bella to leave her twelve year old daughter behind. They escape, but she is angry with him. John follows them so Lachlan has them hide in a cave. He wants the Countess but distrusts women since his wife betrayed him and his clan. They leave for Scone with Lachlan killing several enemies. They make it safely to Scone but too late for the coronation at a time when Bruce's claim is shaky due to a betrayal. Bruce asks Lachlan to escort nine women and three children to his brother. Lachlan reluctantly agrees. On the journey Lachlan and Bella fall in love, but upon arriving at their destination, she believes he betrayed them to her husband.

More historical than romance, the early fourteenth century era with betrayal and distrust as common traits comes across vividly described. The lead pair is fully developed, but besides an attraction and a few kisses deftly avoids each other; thus rightfully so the romantic subplot is almost non existent. Although there is an odd major gap in time towards the end, readers will enjoy the tale of two supporters of Robert The Bruce.

Kaitlyn Dunnett
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758238818, $22.00,

In Moosetookalook, Maine the Spruces Hotel hosts the First Annual Maine-ly Cozy Con for mystery fans who prefer limited violence and no graphic sex. The headline at the May gala is actress turned mystery writer Yvonne Quinlan. Also attending is odious blogger J. Nedlinger, who described the actress' book as trash to be tossed out. The town's storekeepers look forward to the gala as they expect plenty of cozy aficionados will buy items from shops such as at Liss MacCrimmon's everything plaid Scottish Emporium.

However, the Con turns graphically ugly when Nedlinger falls off Lover's Leap cliff. While no one liked the vicious unscrupulous blogger, everyone assumes it was a horrible accident. However, Liss reconsiders that premise when she realizes how many people celebrate the death of J. Nedlinger. When another victim surfaces, Liss and her town cohorts investigate who is murdering the Con.

Scotched is an engaging MacCrimmon amateur sleuth as the heroine and her BFFs look into the homicides. The background of a cozy Con makes for a fun retinue as does springtime in Maine. Cozy fans will enjoy attending the First Annual Maine-ly Cozy Con.

Prowl the Night
Crystal Jordon
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758261557, $14.00

"Crave Me." Tomas and Ciri Montoya are newlyweds, but before they can enjoy their bond, he is named the heir to leadership of their Panther pride. While he struggles to balance his duties to his pack and his wife; she struggles likewise with her new role.

"Want Me." Were-Panther Teresa Garcia wants to never meet her soulmate after watching her brother go crazy when his died. However, Rafael Santiago makes it difficult for her to reject what he means to her and her to him.

These are two entertaining heated paranormal romances as Crystal Jordon provides exciting were-feline Primal Heat.

Silent Night, Sinful Night
Sharon Page, Chloe Harris and Melissa MacNeal
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758266705, $14.00

"Wicked For Christmas" by Sharon Page. Five years ago, Lord Dante Rivington proposed to Amelia Weston. They made love and he vanished the next morning. Every Christmas since he disappeared without a trace she wonders if this is the season he will return to her. This year he is back leaving the governess to choose to join him on his destiny or not

"Stolen Chances" by Chloe Harris. Winston Matthews believes Lady Beatrice Latimer is a thief. When a necklace vanishes, he knows who took it and plans to expose her as the robber using any means possible.

"Naughty Or Nice?" by Melissa MacNeal. Widow Tess Bennett rides the train to Colorado to escape her memories of Christmas pasts. When she and glass artist Johnny Gazara meet, Tess believes he is just what she needs to stuff her stocking.

Though different in tone except for the heat, these three historical romances celebrate the Christmas season with engaging erotic tales.

Must Love Vampires
Heidi Betts
Kensington Brava
9780758247636, $15.00

The Lamoreaux twin sisters are opposites as Charlotte "Chuck" is a tabloid reporter and Chloe is a Vegas chorus line dancer. They agree to switch places since Chloe is eloping with Aidan Raines while Chuck investigates whether her future in-law's brother casino owner Sebastian is a vampire.

Chuck and Sebastian are attracted to one another, but he adheres to his mission to prevent this woman from marrying his sibling. At the same he seduces a willing Chuck masquerading as her sibling, Chloe and Aidan marry but on their wedding night, he bites her neck, which frightens her as she fears he is a closet Goth freak who will be a bad role model for her young son.

This over the top of the Stratosphere Tower is a twice the fun vampire romance with siblings falling in love. Readers will enjoy secrets revealed one bite at a time as the twins and the brothers conceal secrets from their respective mate. Lighthearted, sub-genre fans will enjoy biting sex and plenty of humor focused on the Wilde "Importance of Being Earnest" with your soul mate.

Kathryn Irons
Kensington Brava
9780758261427, $15.00

Oceanic archeologist Elena Carter takes an artifact from a sunken ancient Phoenician vessel. Her action angers the God of War who displays his temper with nasty storms. When she notices a hunk at sea struggling to survive a torrent, Elena rescues him.

Prince Orion of Atlantis has his choice of underwater females. However, he and his savior are attracted to one another though he is forbidden to make love to a human by the code of his race. Still to keep her safe from the rage of the God of War, he takes her under the sea. Besides protecting her from the War God's wrath, he wants to make love to her though he conceals from her that his magic enhances her desire for him. In between sexual encounters, they team up to take the battle to the God of War.

Though somewhat similar in theme to Seaborne, Oceanborne is refreshed by the constant jocularity of those underwater ridiculing the trash on the surface who dump in someone else's backyard. The knot-paced story line covers many nautical miles in a relatively short span as the intrepid heroine and the hedonistic royal make love and war.

Blood and Fire
Shannon McKenna
Kensington Brava
9780758228673, $15.00

Lily Parr questions the death of her drug addicted father in a mental institution. On his dying day, he mumbled some enigmatic clues about something. She vows to learn what he meant that she considers may have killed him.

Bruno Ranieri suffers from horrific nightmares that he believes must have a basis in reality. He and Lily meet when he intercedes with three thugs trying to harm her; he kills them. She explains what her late father told her and the link to his mom's death two decades ago; but he scoffs at her conspiracy assertion. He admits he has no explanation why she was attacked or how she seems to alleviate his nightmares. As they work together obtaining information, Bruno realizes they need the cavalry; he asks his adopted former Special Forces McCloud brothers to help them battle a mad scientist and his creations, humanoid robots.

Although it helps to have read previous McCloud brothers romantic suspense (see Fade to Midnight), Blood and Fire is an exhilarating action-packed thriller starring the believer and the skeptic. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this heated tale with a strong science fiction base as Shannon McKenna provides a thrilling tale of love and robots.

Erin McCarthy, Donna Kauffman and Kate Angell
Kensington Brava
9780758251329, $15.00

"Blue Christmas" by Erin McCarthy. Blue and Christian meet over car trouble during a Christmas Eve blizzard. They share a night of bliss in a nearby motel.

"Santa in a Kilt" by Donna Kauffman. On Kinloch Island, Scotland, relationship phobic divorce attorney Shay and once burned divorcee Kira fall in love.

"Snow Angel" by Kate Angell. Wealthy heir Aidan and Allie the ski instructor meet and share a night of love, but in the morning she has skied out of his life. Three years later, the couple meets again inside a department store where the outside is frightful, but inside is delightful.

These are three lighthearted holiday romps though the relationships are underdeveloped except for the steamy sex.

Mistress by Marriage
Maggie Robinson
Kensington Brava
9780758251039, $14.00

Six years ago, prim and proper Baron Edward Chase, out of character, married Lady Caroline Christie within a week of their first meeting. One year later, angry with what he perceived her betrayal, he exiled his wife to Jane Street. Once a year on their anniversary date, over the next five years he visited her to make love with her; meanwhile she has become the popular author of the scathing expose Courtesan Court gothics.

Thus in 1820, Edward needs to flush out of his mind and body his constant lust for Caroline. He decides to make her His Mistress by Marriage as he assumes having her available 24/7 will lead to his tiring of her and ergo expunging her from hm. Caroline humiliated by her exile initially says no, but changes her mind and agrees to be his mistress-wife as she assumes he will divorce her soon so she can at least have something of value though she still wants him.

The third Mistress Regency romance (see Mistress by Mistake and Mistress by Midnight) is a great historical starring powerful protagonists and a deep support cast. The story line is a fast-paced gender war with some intrigue caused by a humiliated debaucher who starred in one of Caroline's gothics. Readers will appreciate the amusing (extracts from the novels especially are jocular) battle between the staid spouse and his unconventional Mistress by Marriage wife.

The Vengeful Dead
J. N. Duncan
9780758255648, $7.99

In Chicago FBI agent Jackie Rutledge struggles with all that has happened to her in a very short time (see Deadworld). She grieves the death of her BFF Laurel Carpenter whose psychic skills apparently reach from the grave as she haunts Jackie in death almost as much as she haunted Jack when they were live partners. Jack also knows she needs help for her Death Valley depression in which she feels stuck in a personal deadly version of Groundhog Day starring herself and Laurel; but choose to avoid the FBI therapist. She also struggles with her new found paranormal skills that she does not want.

When a murder victim pregnant Rosa wants revenge, the angry spirit chooses bodies to possess in her thirst. One of Jack's new undesirable talents is to sense ghostly homicides so she knows she must stop Rosa. She ventures back into deadwood to confront The Vengeful Dead Rosa with her team (maybe lover vampiric private investigator Nick Anderson, his vampiric assistant Cynthia and his office manager Shelby the psychic).

The second deadwood urban fantasy police procedural is an enjoyable tale that starts slow as much of the first half focus is a deep look at Jack's mental state. About a little more than half way into the story line, the pace suddenly accelerates as the plot stops the mental case scenario to concentrate on the investigation; Jack and her paranormal crew try to prevent The Vengeful Dead with a cause that the kick butt heroine empathizes with from enacting her plan.

A Vampire Christmas Carol
Sarah Gray
9780758266835, $5.00

Buried seven years ago, Jacob Marley visits his former partner Ebenezer Scrooge to warn him that all the misery and isolation the latter has felt has been caused by vampires who want to insure he fails to fulfill his destiny. Marley explains he will have three ghosts visit him to affirm what he has told Scrooge that the undead bloodsuckers have caused his rift with those he loved like his family, his former fiancee Belle and his employee Bob Cratchit.

The spiritual journey Scrooge undertakes leads him to better comprehend what has happened to him as he finally understands what caused the estrangement with Belle and learns of the personal hardships Cratchit and his family face, and finally his only living blood relative Fred his nephew who still cares about his acrimonious misery uncle. This is Scrooge's last chance to save his soul as his loved ones are in mortal combat against the vampires.

This is an engaging retelling of the classic holiday tale as Sarah Gray provides a fascinating cause for Scrooge's acrimony. The story line follows the ghostly guides but gravely focus on the war for Scrooge's soul between the vampires isolating him and his loved ones trying to save him. Although lacking the satirical humor of similar reenactments like Steve Hockensmith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Wayne Josephson's Emma and the Vampires, fans who enjoy paranormal renditions of Victorian and Regency classics will want to read this exciting but bleakly grayish vampiric Christmas Carol.

The Fat Kid's Wolfy Revenge: Not for the Weak Hearted or Mature Minded
Kristian J. Hanson
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432773151, $14.95,

In Gilbert, Arizona high school student Joe Winnie is as uncool as a teen can be even living in a predominantly Mormon town. He loathes school; the girls treat him like a pariah when they ignore him. He especially detests his female peers who when they were younger were his friend, but now treat him like he possesses a contagious disease.

As he faces the fact he has no one to take to the prom, Joe watches a seven foot plus werewolf rip apart a door to door (always during a football game) Mormon missionary. Although terrorized he may be the dessert, Joe watches the Lycan tear into faked boobs Heather. He decides not to be the lunatic savior from movies like the Howling, but instead starts a blog following the murderous and raping exploits of the American Werewolf in Gilbert. As his blog becomes the in thing, his new BFF the beast that bites leads Joe to ask the rich Brazilian beauty Fernanda to the prom as he assumes she does not have werewolf catnip AKA silicon transplants.

This gory yet entertaining urban fantasy lampoons the sub-genre's tendency towards either heroic passionate paranormal hunks in tune with their feminine side or amateurs risking their lives (and souls) to take down the maniacal beast. Although women are the prime victims of this brutal werewolf; those grotesque assaults are a key element in mocking the compassionate caring hero of romantic fantasy. Nothing is sacred in Kristian J. Hanson's "Not for the Weak Hearted or Mature Minded" except Joe's staying power went from 30 to 156 seconds.

Christmas at Timberwoods
Fern Michaels
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9780821775875, $7.99,

The holidays are always the busiest time of the year for stores. It is also the most hectic for security workers. Heather Andrews is the security manager at the Timberwoods Mall as the Christmas holiday shopping season begins; which means much longer hours requiring greater vigilance as besides shoppers coming out so do thieves.

The mall's holiday designer Angela Steinhart informs Heather she has visions of doom at Timberwoods. Angela insists her premonitions come true. Although Heather wants to ignore the obviously upset and disturbed woman as a nut, she knows to never ignore any possible threat. However, pressure mounts on Angela to be quiet to the point the loner who is unable to cope vanishes. Heather and her boss Felex Lassiter take serious any possible threat but keep it low keyed so as to avoid causing a panic when in all probability Angela's visions are delusional.

This is a strong romantic suspense with the security during the packed mall season being the lead subplot. Fast-paced and cast driven by troubled Angela, dedicated Heather, and loyal Lex; readers will enjoy the countdown to death and destruction for those enjoying Christmas at Timberwoods.

It Happened One Christmas
Kaitlin O'Riley
9781420112399, $6.99

In 1873 Lisette Hamilton and architect Quinton Roxbury approach the same corner in haste from a converging right angle. Thus they collide. Yet both find warmth on this wintry day, but she plans to marry her childhood friend Henry Brooks and he is to wed Lady Emmeline Tarleton, the daughter of a Duke.

They meet the next day on the train heading to Brighton where he is conducting business and she is going for pleasure. Both know their desire is scandalous but the urge to kiss is difficult to stop. Neither wants to hurt others and he fears what will happen to his financial backing and political aspirations, but each feels the blood rush of falling in love over the cold days of December.

The latest Hamilton Sisters Victorian romance (see When His Kiss Is Wicked and Desire In His Eye) is a warm sweet holiday tale. The key to this engaging historical is the respective partners of the lead protagonists as both Henry and Emmeline are nice individuals who make it that more difficult on Lisette and Quinton to dump them even for love. Readers will enjoy this charming holiday romance as it will take a Christmas miracle for this seemingly fated couple to make it together without hurting others.

Cowboy Come Home
Janette Kenny
9781420106602, $6.99

In 1895 Texas, Trey March rides to the JDB Ranch to confront owner Jared Barton. He believes Barton had his men led by viscous Ned Durant leave him for dead because the upstart went after his daughter Daisy. However, he is shocked to learn Daisy is not married and that Barton is dead. Trey shows Daisy where her dad kept his ledger supporting his claim of a debt due. Daisy asks Trey to become foreman at her other ranch Circle 46 where he said there is water. She is upset with herself for still wanting him though he deserted her.

Trey leads a cattle drive to the Circle 46. Daisy tells Trey she has memories of the orphan train and a boy who held her. Trey mentions his foster brother Dade Logan had a little sister Daisy who was taken from him. He sends a letter to their friend Reed to give to Dade. Someone deliberately burns down the JDB. Trey and Daisy visit the JDB to see the damage. He proposes but cannot say he loves her; she refuses though they make love. Their trek back to the Circle 46 proves harrowing as Ned surfaces while Trey becomes increasingly confused with how he feels.

This is a strong end to the Lost Sons western romance (see A Cowboy Christmas and In a Cowboy's Arms). The lead couple anchors the prime plot while they and the support cast insure the major threads from the previous entries are tied up. Readers will enjoy this warm second chance at love if Trey follows his heart.

Bound by Blood
Amanda Ashley
9781420121322, $6.99

As her college graduation present, her dad gives Kaitlyn Sherrad a little place in the country that happens to overlook Lake Tahoe. Kaitlyn loves her father Drake the Master of the Carpathian Coven vampire and her once human mother Elena (see Bound by Night for their tale).

Her parents return to the Romanian Old Country on urgent clan business so she goes to her luxurious cabin alone. Kaitlyn meets and falls in love with casino owner Zackary Ravenscroft. However, she initially is unaware that he is a six century old vampire whose family loathes the East European clan as much as hers detests these upstarts over a two decade old incident. As the heir to the Carpathian Coven, Kaitlyn knows her beloved is forbidden fruit, but history apparently repeats the same mistakes especially with an unknown adversary plotting to take down the couple.

The second Bound romantic urban fantasy is a delightful tale of forbidden love starring fully developed protagonists and a well rounded support cast that deftly ties up threads from the first thriller. The fascinating star-crossed second generation romance is fun to follow though the plot follows the expected course as there are no major twists. Still sub-genre fans will appreciate Amanda Ashley's wonderful paranormal romance.

Deadly Little Lies
Jeanne Adams
9781420108835, $6.99

In San Francisco billionaire Davros Gianakopulos is happy for his business partner security expert Gates Bromley who married former CIA agent Ana Burton. However, their happiness has Davros looking within his soul to see what he wants in life as he misses his home in Greece. He decides it is not what but who and that is art gallery owner Carrie McCray.

He asks her out and she accepts a lunch date. However, their first time out together with Gates no longer running his security turns nasty when thugs grab both of them. Dav considers all that Gates taught him in a hostage situation but none included having the woman you want to make it with being held too. Meanwhile the lead kidnapper his brother Niko has waited years for this opportunity to serve up the cold dish of revenge by dumping his two captives in an overseas hellhole prison. Gates and Ana make a frenzied search for them as each knows time is running out on the prisoners.

The sequel to the superb Deadly Little Secrets focuses on the previous novel's secondary character Dav and the woman he adores as they struggle to survive the ordeal of an abduction that is fueled by angry vengeance. The story line is action-packed from the moment the kidnapping occurs and never slows down as readers will be hooked on this gripping taut romantic suspense.

In the Barrister's Chambers
Tina Gabrielle
9781420122749, $6.99

In 1814 London Lady Evelyn Darlington dreams of becoming a barrister, but society refuses to allow females to pursue scholarly intellectual endeavors; even one who loves the law like she does. Her chosen betrothed Randolph Sheldon is accused of murdering a Drury Lane actress who is a distant cousin of his. Evelyn asks her father's former student barrister Jack Harding to defend Randolph. She explains her intended was not having an affair, but was seen running from the brutal crime scene from the horror of what he saw. Jack's only stipulation is he will tell her father Lord Lyndale who he owes so much to that he is taking on a case indirectly involving his daughter. Evelyn's stipulation is she works the case with him.

Jack has been attracted to his mentor's daughter from the first time he saw her though she was taboo in his mind. Whereas Jack insists he loves her mind though another part of his anatomy would beg to differ, Evelyn always admired Jack's brain and passion for the law. As they follow clues in exquisite and seedy neighborhoods while their client is not very cooperative, they fall in love, but first seek the rumored murder victims tell all journal of paying customers.

The first Barrister Regency romantic legal thriller is an entertaining tale starring two intelligent and obstinate protagonists. Jack understands what he faces on the case; he must find proof to exonerate Randolph which could cost him the girl while failure will cost him the girl most likely anyway. Although the fast-paced story line follows the anticipated path, readers will relish Tina Gabrielle's enjoyable legal historical thriller.

Tempting a Highlander
Michele Sinclair
9781420108569, $6.99

In 1315 twin brothers reserved Crevan and extroverted Craig McTiernay kiss twin sisters in your face Raelynd and dainty Meriel Schellden. Powerful clan leader Laird Schellden catches the two pairs. However, instead of outrage over the affront to his family, the cagy politician sees an opportunity to protect their clan from scam artists. He orders the quartet to pretend they have twin betrothals that would end in one month.

Raelynd is the most volatile against the concept, but appreciates that her partner is outgoing Craig as she cannot stand his mousy twin. On the trek however, Raelynd begins to appreciate the strong reserved Crevan; he shares her attraction but is bound to her sibling. When Raelynd learns his secret that makes him seem wimpy, she realizes she loves her sister's pretend betrothed.

The latest McTiernay medieval Highlander romance (see Desiring a Highlander) is a family affair as a comedy of errors make for a delightful historical. The two sets of twins are fully developed with diverse personalities. As the best laid plans of mice and McTiernay brothers go astray, fans will wonder if the other twins can just remain friends.

His Destiny
Diana Cosby
9781420109924, $6.99

Her uncanny ability to play any undercover role and her unmatched skill with a knife makes Emma Astyn the best English mercenary as she can charm anyone to do anything for her. Currently her assignment is to infiltrate the inner circle of rebel Dubh Duer in order to steal the writ the outlawed Scotsman is carrying to a supportive bishop. To conduct her mission successfully requires her to pose as innocent Scottish damsel Christina Moffat.

However, while Christina prepares to charm Dubh, Emma is taken aback when she meets the man behind the legend Sir Patrick Cleary MacGruder. He distrusts her but wants her. She finds him a man of honor who gave up everything including his family who believe he is dead for his cause, the freedom of Scotland. Love and honor clash with selfless duty.

The latest Diana Cosby "His" medieval romance is an exciting tale of late thirteenth century war torn Scotland in which key players from the previous historical thrillers (see His Woman and His Conquest) including real persona play major roles. The lead couple is a fascinating pairing as love intrudes on their respective mission. Although the ton of historical data at times slows down the story line, fans will enjoy His Destiny is hers.

Desired: The Untold Story of Samson and Delilah
Ginger Garrett
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434768001, $14.99,

In the Philistine city of Timnah, Astra and Amara are on the rooftop of their home when the former sees the bigger than an ox Hebrew who attended the heathen festival at the Temple of Dagon. Astra throws a sharp rod at him trying to kill him. Amara begs he forgives them as she says it was an accident. He marks her house. This gigantic Hebrew Samson, known for his legendary strength, informs Amara's father he will wed her. She has no say in the matter.

Samson informs his parents that he will marry the Philistine. His Mother objects over his taking a flat chested Canaanite as a wife as she believes his God given strength is destined for greatness. His Father is even more upset. Samson marries Amara, but that ends in tragedy. While the Philistines scheme to destroy the Hebrew legend, Samson meets Delilah. They marry and she proves persistent with completing her mission to learn what the cause of his incredible strength is. Soon his Mother's dream of greatness will collide with his wife's greed inside of the Temple of Dagon.

Told from the perspective of the three key fully developed females in the life of Samson, Desired: The Untold Story of Samson and Delilah is a great biblical tale. The conflicting cultures are fully developed as the Philistines and the Hebrews distrust one another as each claims Canaan. Readers will enjoy Ginger Garrett's latest Old Testament thriller (See Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther) as Mother finally understands that God works the miracles of redemption by turning our weaknesses into strengths.

Mercury Rises
Robert Kroese
9781612180861, $15.95,

Banner religious reporter Christine Temetri had become indifferent to the frequent End of Times until she met even more indifferent than her Mercury the Fallen Angel who believes Rice Krispy Treats is heaven. They teamed up with others to delay Karl Grissom the Antichrist leaving his mom's attic to start Armageddon (see Mercury Falls) though much of the Banner staff died in the Anaheim earthquake. Meanwhile author Eddie Pratt the demon has a book to write; a tale about a rogue angel and Armageddon.

After negotiating with a heavenly and hellish bureaucracy that makes Congress look proactive, the angel and the journalist have no time to rest on their laurels. While FBI Agent Slater investigates the Anaheim destruction that has ties to Africa, billionaire Karl Grissom using the scientific method prepares them to learn the secret of the universe by smashing the universe to see what happens. At the same time, Ancient Ones claim a higher order than angels and demons. Temetri and Mercury first must stop the end of the universe in the name of the tree of knowledge experiment from occurring and if successful must find a compromise with the Ancient bureaucracy that makes heaven, hell and congress seem cooperatively active.

Once again Robert Kroese satirizes the commercialization and cynical claims of owning heaven while demonizing others with mocking shots at industry, politics, science and religion making sure everyone lives a hellish life. The story line is amusingly fast-paced as time has begun ticking down to the self-fulfilling prophecy of the End of Times. With a nod to Travolta's Michael inside of Smith's Dogma, fans will appreciate Mercury Rises as the reporter demands the angel stop snacking on sugared treats as that is bad for your health.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Daniel and Agnes Freeman, Homesteaders
Beverly S. Kaplan
Johnsen Pub. Co.
9780910814379 $TBA

As writer, reader, and reviewer, it breaks my heart to discover a long-lost gem that received little or no attention. This book and writer should easily have been on the same literary pedestal as Cather. One of life's odd twists brought this book to my attention, and I'm proud to review it.

Daniel Freeman was the first person to apply for the first homestead under the Homestead Act in 1963. He found a broad sweep of rolling prairie along the Big Blue River in southeast Nebraska, land belly high with native grasses, alive with birds and game, with a rough cabin already built, and staked his claim shortly after midnight before returning to the Civil War. He wanted a home to return to at war's end, a place with broad vistas and fresh winds, a place he could make his own in every sense of the word. Freeman is the ideal protagonist because this outspoken, free thinking, charismatic man really existed.

Through the author's considerable skill, readers live the life of Daniel Freeman and his wife Agnes. We see the unbroken prairies through their eyes, suffer their losses and share their triumphs. We struggle beside them through Daniel's trials and follies, and we experience life as the first pioneers in a land that is both harsh and beautiful.

My review of this non fiction book is inadequate. The prose is often breathtaking, the characters fascinating, with the unspoiled prairies taking on a life of their own within these pages. If you want to experience pioneer life as it truly was, and see the heartland of America through their eyes, find a copy of this book and treasure it.

One and Only
The Untold Story of On the Road
Gerald Nicosia & Anne Marie Santos
Viva Editions
an Imprint of Cleis Press Inc.
2246 6th Str., Berkeley CA 94710
9781936740048 $22.95

Gerald Nicosia -- preeminent biographer of the Beat Generation and author of Memory Babe -- and Anne Marie Santos -- daughter of LuAnne Henderson -- have joined forces here to tell the back story of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. The result of this rare collaboration is a mesmerizing read. Even if you know nothing about the Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac, his friend Neal Cassaday or their friends, this book will draw you in and keep you hooked. Using interviews with LuAnne Henderson and quotes from Beat icons in Kerouac's, Cassaday's and Henderson's inner circle of fellow travelers, the authors give readers a fascinating literary treat.

LuAnne Henderson was blonde, beautiful, and 15 years old when she met Neal Cassaday in 1945. Cassaday was a charismatic, irresistible, fast talking male animal, capable of great potential but little follow through. Their attraction for each other was immediate and explosive. Cassaday was a near genius who had used his looks and sexuality to wrangle enrollment in Columbia University in New York. He married LuAnne and left for New York in a stolen car, funded by stolen money, but never made it to a classroom. Instead, they lived from hand to mouth, with LuAnne working at whatever job she could find while they crashed in the homes of various friends and acquaintances. Soon they were partying and hanging out with other would be writers, like Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Initially, LuAnne was the link that drew this group of friends together, especially Cassaday and Kerouac, and over time became the glue that formed a lifelong friendship.

Henderson's insights into Kerouac and Cassaday are priceless. Through her eyes, they become friends and ordinary people, not the freaks and outcasts the world imagines. She looked beyond the flaws and saw the beautiful potential of each man. Where Cassaday was confident and commanding, Kerouac was shy, clumsy, insecure. Cassaday was his own worst enemy and critic, a man who blithely shattered relationships. Kerouac was almost totally dependent on women for survival. Henderson was loved, trusted, and respected by both men and she returned that love and respect in every way possible.

On the Road will soon be released as a movie starring Kristen Stewart in the role of LuAnne. Nicosia and Santos were advisors on the movie, so I recommend you read this book before you see the movie.

Michael D'Antonio
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
NY, NY 10020
9780743264105 $15.00

Someone told me recently, in response to my complaint that even Hershey's candy was being made in Mexico now, "No matter where in the world Hershey's candies are made or sold, all profits return to Hershey PA and the Hershey Trust." This book proves that statement to be true. And I was wrong. All Hershey's candy is NOT made outside the U.S.A. now.

Milton Hershey was much more than an American entrepreneur and the creator of a candy bar recognized around the world. Hershey started out with little education and even less money. All he had was hope, determination, supportive relatives, and a head full of plans and dreams. He ended up a multi millionaire with a heart and a chocolate empire located in a town he created out of rural Pennsylvania farm land.

Hershey was born in 1857, the son of a wandering father who chased failed dreams and a no nonsense mother. As a youth, Hershey dreamed of becoming a candy maker. Each new plan failed miserably, funded on a shoe string by his mother or aunt. But he learned from each failed business as he dreamed of creating a chocolate candy bar that every American -- no matter how poor -- could afford. Using techniques he learned from European chocolatiers, he experimented until he perfected his own recipe with a distinctly American twist to create the iconic chocolate bar. The Hershey bar sold for a nickel. At first he hawked them in small venues. Slowly and gradually, as sales increased, he started on the second leg of his dream. He'd build his own town around a chocolate factory. His workers would realize their own dreams by living in decent homes built by Hershey. They would pull themselves up out of poverty as Hershey had, through honest work. He bought land that had once been family farms and dairies, platted the land and began building the town that would become Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Hershey and his wife Kitty loved children but had none of their own. They both felt that money, in and of itself, was not important unless a person could do good with it for others. They decided to build a school and provide nurturing homes for orphan boys. The Hershey Trust was established to serve four orphan boys in the beginning, and now serves 2000 boys and girls.

Every human has flaws, and Hershey was not perfect. He loved to live the high life, enjoyed gambling, but was careful to do that in Europe where the good people of Hershey could not see his excesses. He could be stubborn, foolish, and argumentative. But his legacy is positive in many ways. The Hershey Trust has remained strong through tough economic times. The Hershey schools he founded are exemplary. Hershey's candy brands remain top sellers in the business. And he didn't need a government bailout or handout to bring his dream to reality.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Menus For Chez Panisse
Patricia Curtan
Princeton Architectural Press
37 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003
9781616890292, $40.00,

Elegant restaurants required eloquent menus, many of which were works of art. Such were the menus created by Patricia Curtan for Chez Panisse, a restaurant established in 1971 by a group of friends in Berkeley, California. One of the distinguishing features was the single prix-fixe menu (a four-course dinner for a set price). A profusely and beautifully illustrated, 184-page compendium, "Menus For Chez Panisse" showcases forty years of the art and letterpress menus created by Patricia Curtain. Enhanced with an informed Foreword by Alice Waters, and an informative Introduction by Patricia Curtain, the reader is privileged to browse through a wealth of illustrated menu page samples accompanied by succinct and explanatory commentaries. "Menus For Chez Panisse" is highly recommended for academic library collections and non-specialist general readers with an interest in letterpress art in general, and the culinary history of the Chez Panisse restaurant in particular.

Hand Raised
Chere Jiusto & Christine W. Brown
Montana Historical Society
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
246 Goose Lane, Suite 200
Guilford, CT 06437
9780975919699, $39.95,

The humble barn, along with family farms, is a gradually disappearing American landmark. Underwritten by the Montana Historical Society, and featuring the impressive full-color photography of Tom Ferris, "Hand Raised: The Barns of Montana" is the collaborative effort of Chere Jiusto and Christine W. Brown who undertook a survey of more than 6,000 historic Montana barns. "Hand Raised" is 320-page compendium showcasing 140 of them, along with their individual background stories, including the farm families that built them, utilized them as a major agricultural tool and resource, and have preserved them for future generations to use and admire. A unique showcase of American rural life, "Hand Raised" is superbly produced, presented, and recommended for personal, academic, and community library collections.

Tenor Musical Theatre for Classical Singers
Richard Walters, editor
Hal Leonard
P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781458410511, $44.99,

Containing full piano vocal scores for 48 classic musical theatre tenor solos plus CD's of piano accompaniment for solos, the "Tenor Musical Theatre for Classical Singers" is a brilliant collection of the best in vocal solo work for tenors in musical theatre and/or show music. Most solos are presented in the original key; however some transpositions have been made to better suit the voice range of the collection. A preface gives compact information on compilation, avoiding pitfalls, choosing a song, diction, and benefits to preparing a musical theatre repertory. Full piano accompaniment and even some orchestral parts are included in the scores. The "Tenor Musical Theatre for Classical Singers" is a jewel of a collection for the aspiring singer. Some of the song titles include "I Will Follow You," "On the Street Where You Live," "Boy For Sale," "The Music of the Night," "Springtime for Hitler," "Younger Than Springtime," "Johanna," "Maria," and "Wish You Were Here." Additional notes from the source productions for each song or set of songs are provided. Vocal students and teachers will love and use this invaluable collection. Also recommended in this collection series are the following titles: "Mezzo-Soprano Musical Theatre for Classical Singers (ISBN 9781458410504, $44.99)," "Baritone/Bass Musical Theatre For Classical Singers (ISBN 9781458410528, $44.99)," and "Soprano Musical Theatre for Classical Singers (ISBN 9781458410498, $44.99)."

Halloween Spooktacular: 37 Greatest Hits
Cherry lane Music Company
c/o Hal Leonard Corp.
P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781603783866, $14.99,

"Halloween Spooktacular" is an intermediate to advanced collection of great haunting themes for piano and voice, all perfect for performance in the beautiful month of October, or for any special spooky celebration. Full piano vocal scores are included for thirty-seven famous spooky songs, including "Ding-Dong! the Witch Is Dead," "Theme From Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Don't Fear the Reaper," "Ghostbusters," "Little Shop of Horrors," "monster Mash," "The Phantom of the Opera," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," "This Is Halloween," "Time Warp," "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor," "Werewolves of London," and "Theme from X-Files." Many more great scary songs are included. For a Halloween spectacle, music teachers and students will love the musical offerings in "Halloween Spooktacular."

Halloween Favorites
Hal Leonard Corp.
P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781458415721, $9.99,

A Big-Note piano book, "Halloween Favorites: Seventeen Mysteriously Spooky and Fantastically Haunting Arrangements (Big Note Piano)" has 37 delightfully scary solos for young intermediate pianists to perform for thrilling recitals. Some of the song arrangements include "Addams Family Theme," "Casper the Friendly Ghost," "Little Shop of Horrors," "Monster Mash," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Twilight Zone main Title," and more. Presented mostly in keys of C, F, and G, or related minors, solos are accessible to the developing pianist. The large note style notation is very legible and reader-friendly. Young musicians will love this collection of spooky solos for budding pianists.

The Boosey & Hawkes Piano Anthology
Boosey & Hawkes
c/o Hal Leonard
P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781458405548, $22.99,

"The Boosey & Hawkes Piano Anthology: 33 Pieces By 23 Composers" contains full scores for 33 modern works for piano of advanced difficulty level. Every solo is a potential contest entry, though all may not be on the current year's list. An example is Benjamin Lees' synergistic "Fantasia," previously on the advanced piano solo list in Wisconsin, but not listed for the present school year. Contemporary piano literature at its enigmatic, scintillating best is represented in this classic contemporary collection. Including famous piano works by such composers as Alberto Ginastera, Henryk Gorecki, Ned Roirem, Igor Stravinsky, Virgil Thomson, Frederick Delius, Aaron Copland, and Benjamin Britten, "The Boosey & Hawkes Piano Anthology" is filled with classic contemporary challenging pieces for stellar piano performances. Copies of original scores are produced, with accompanying expression markings. To reinvigorate a jaded advanced piano student, nothing seems more promising than this festive collection of beautiful contemporary challenging piano solos to tackle.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Beads of Lapis Lazuli
Doris Kenney Marcotte
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432760540, $12.95,

The search for truth can drive people, even when that truth is thousands of years old. "The Beads of Lapis Lazuli" tells the story of Kathryn Marshall as her obsession with ancient Minoan civilization begins to try her life and marriage. Working with a psychic to find the bits and pieces of history that are lost, "The Beads of Lapis Lazuli" is a riveting mystery with a good human drama woven into the tale.

Jason Garrett
Privately Published
9780982960417, $13.95,

Peril quickly makes short work of any squabble. "Pursuit: A Tale of Bishop's Island" tells the tale of Ryan Rayburn who puts aside the separation with his wife when she suddenly vanishes and he sets his eyes on Bishop island to find her and the truth. Through history and legend, "Pursuit" crafts a unique tale of adventure and thriller, highly recommended.

New Earth: Project O.N.E.
R. D. Pittman
Privately Published
9780615499369, $13.95,

Cataclysm may be unavoidable, but does humanity go with it "New Earth: Project O.N.E." is a work of science fiction, breaking down a future where humanity struggles to survive after the apocalypse, focusing on the impact of the government's meddling. Alex Hanken must stand strong as a pillar of leadership as hysteria and violence grip those who remain... "New Earth" is a fast paced and exciting read, much recommended.

Southern Gold
James Campbell
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781426956140, $18.70,

The lust for gold drives people through history. "Southern Gold" is a historical thriller through time as two billion dollars of Confederate gold is up for grabs as the descendants of the principle men of the conflict clash once more to claim a magnificent fortune in the modern day. A riveting adventure thriller, "Southern Gold" has more than enough twists and turns to keep any reader reading.

Hostage in Time
Linda Lauren
Privately Published
9781456541774, $14.99,

Even when you make the best of a bad situation, it's still a bad situation. "Hostage in Time" follows Amanda Lloyd as she finds herself stumbling back to 1884. With no way back and accused of espionage from Thomas Edison patent attorney Jonathan Brisbane, she finds herself under house arrest and finding a bit of romance within her new situation. Faced with the supernatural and further accusations of treason, "Hostage in Time" is an insightful and riveting read that spins an original time travel story.

The Anaconda Complex
Bryan Cassiday
Privately Published
9781460907740, $25.99,

To further their own sadistic goals, thousands dead is nothing. "The Anaconda Complex" follows a plot to threaten America as a senator is kidnapped and kept from the world. With a massively publicized plot to try to bring America to its knees, it will be up to a few to stop the plan from getting steam. "The Anaconda Complex" is a unique and much recommended pick for thriller readers.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

The Opium Equation
Lisa Wysocky
Cool Titles
439 N. Canon Dr., Suite 200m Beverly Hills, CA 90210
9781935270065 $14.95

Lisa Wysocky's main career is centered in the horse world. She is a clinician, riding instructor, a PATH International instructor (which entails training horses for therapeutic riding), and on the other side of the ledger, is an award-winning author. It seems that all she touches turns to gold.

Cat Enright has been in business for seven years putting heart and soul into her stables in the midst of the Nashville area, training Appaloosa show horses. Her clients are few, but fairly wealthy, and the affluent don't live too far from the down-and-out in the area. One of these is a ten-year-old named Bubba Henley, son of Hilton Henley, a competitor of sorts to Cat. Henley trained a different breed of horses than Cat. Among the town's luminaries is a retired movie star, Glenda Dupree. Everyone loves to hate Glenda; so when Cat finds her at home with her head bashed in, Cat becomes a major suspect:

"Sheriff Big Jim glowered. 'Enough information has not been amassed to comment on who may and who may not be a suspect in this case, Miss Enright. But still, we'd like to know where you were.'"

Lisa Wysocky is an expert horsewoman and trainer, and she bathes her story in interesting explanations of just what that type of lifestyle entails. She includes characters galore in her tail, from the nasty Glenda Dupree, to Bubba, the lost 10-year old, to the remaining members of the Dupree family. Wysocky doesn't forget to include the personalities of the horses, and her devilish beagle puppy. The action begins on the first page, and keeps the reader riveted until the rather wet climax.

All in all, Wysocky puts out an excellent product. Readers will be waiting to lap up more Cat Enright adventures. And there is that hunky country singer...

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Just Fine the Way They Are
Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
Illustrated by Richard Walz
Calkins Creed/Boyds Mills Press
815 Church Street, Honedale, Pennsylvania 18431
9781590787106 $17.95

I would like to say right off that I loved this book, there are many reasons for that statement. First of all I had to chuckle at the title and smile at how well the author worked it throughout the entire book. How many times have all of us used that exact words about so many things that we did not want to change. In this book, author Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge uses this phrase "Just fine the way they are," to take us through the growth of our country's transportation network, and how, at each change, many said why? Things are just fine the way they are. She does a great job in showing how things did improve with each step that was taken. We travel along from dirt roads to the dreams of the future in transportation. Facts are given and come alive with brilliant illustrations that pop out at you and bring you right into the picture.

This is a book that will bring learning without the reader even knowing they are doing so. It flows like butter on bread and captivates you as you travel on wagons, bikes, cars, trains, and more. Every school should have this in its library. Very well done, exceptional illustrations, highly recommended.

Seeing Through Heaven's Eyes
Leif Hetland
Destiny Image
9780768440140 $12.95

All Christians want to do what is pleasing to God. Of course many times there is a great difference of opinion as to what that should be. Some say we should do more good works, others say we should give more money to help spread the Word of God. Still others say that we should stay within our own community and build it up for the Lord. In this book, author, Leif Hetland takes you right into the heart of God. This man has a passionate love for Jesus and in loving Him, he has learned that LOVE is the answer. As he takes you through happenings in his own life and his quest you will find a man whose heart truly was reaching for the truth. He found it in the Love of Jesus. In doing so he realized that he must be a LOVER. Now that's easy to say when you are holding a sweet baby, cuddling your mate, or helping a tender old person in need. However, what happens when you are face to face with someone who hates you and hates your God, your country, everything about you? What happens when you are face to face with a person who only feels hate and that hate is directed at you? The test is on.

Through this book you will understand what it means to see things through Heaven's Eyes. You will realize that unless you have the love of God for the lovable and unlovable as well, you have nothing. Well done Mr. Hetland, may we all embrace the message you proclaim. I'm sure God is smiling as you spread His Love throughout the world.

Off To Class
Susan Hughes
Owlkids Books Inc
10 Lower Spadina Avenue, Suite 400
Toronto Ontario M5V2Z2
9781926818863 $12.95

Inside this outstanding book you will travel to 14 countries and 23 different schools and what a trip it is. When I received this book I thought it would be something like an encyclopedia but I was very wrong. I was greeted with brilliant color pictures of school children that immediately drew my attention. As I began to read about the different schools I was amazed. I was first amazed and happy that people would care enough about the education of children to go to the steps many of them had to see they had opportunity to attend. Take the very first school that is shown in Bangladesh. Because of the monsoon season with the heavy rains, children cannot travel because of floods. These wise people crated a floating school that allowed classes to continue their education. That is just the edge of the ice burg.

In continuing the read you will learn about schools that are "green" and teach children about the environment. You will see Tent schools, Portable schools, Solar generated schools and even a school for the blind and hearing impaired. I loved this book. It left me feeling proud of mankind for taking control over what looked like impossible situations and turning them around for the good of children and the future. It also made me thankful for the education we receive here in America. You will truly enjoy this learning book and perhaps it will nudge you to become involved in helping children all over the world that we all live in. Excellent, highly recommended, very well done.

Carbaviud The Fuel For The Future
Cindy Fleck Howlett
Outskirts Press
9781432769017 $23.95

I was excited to read this book. It was a confident feeling knowing that our author, Cindy Howlett has been a nurse for thirty years, certainly she has knowledge in this area that I would want to know. I am pretty well versed on carbohydrates but the information in this book boasted my knowledge. Like eating protein helps burn fat.(page 9) I did not know that. The illustrations that were used throughout the book brought a clearer picture of what she was talking about and definitely enhanced the read.. My grand daughter actually picked up the book and read and enjoyed it without any influence. Its hard to find an author who can successfully teach different age groups with the same format. I recommend this book, it's not a long read but it sure is packed full of useful information to use for yourself and your loved ones. Very well done.

The Amazing Adventures of Thomas and Erin with Grandad - The Zoo
John Vasey
Create Space
9781463522841 $12.95

In this second book by author, John Vasey, Thomas, Erin and Grandad take a trip to the Zoo. They are excited as they see the gorilla and monkeys, the tiger and the elephants. They enjoy their lunch at the Zoo as they also watch the animals eat their lunch and they ride the train home as a happy family. This is another sweet sharing book for children. Simple story with colorful illustrations await the young reader. Especially special read for grandpa's to grandchildren.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Material Sublime
Carleton Wilson
Nightwood Editions
9780889712614, $18.95,

There's much more to life than material things. "The Material Sublime" is the debut collection of poetry from Carleton Wilson, guiding readers through thought and wisdom of the world, bringing to light things people have never thought of. "The Material Sublime" is a choice work of debut poetry, highly recommended. "Caedmon's Hymn": Now must we praise the Guardian of the kingdom of Heaven, the Creator's power and His purposeful conception,/the work of our glorious father, likewise each of his wonders,/everlasting Lord, Establisher of all beginnings and origins./He first created for the children of the earth/Heaven's firmament, the roof of the sky, Holy creator;/then the middle-kingdom, mankind's Guardian,/eternal lord, afterwards adorned/the world for humans, the lord God, almighty.

Brooklyn's Two-Story Mountain
Albert S. Marcantonio Sr.
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163915, $24.95,

What drives someone into a life of crime? "Brooklyn's Two-Story Mountain" is a biography of Greg Scarpa Sr., a man known for being a major mole against organized crime for the FBI. Author Albert Marcantonio traces his pursuit into a life of crime and his connection to the hometown that represented innocence lost. A fascinating story of a man who went into crime and later looked for a way out, "Brooklyn's Two-Story Mountain" is an intriguing biography, highly recommended.

Beyond Dodge Road
James R. Pierrot
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E. Trade Center Terrance, Mustang, OK 73064
9781617390531, $12.99,

With no education, Jim Pierrot only had drive to succeed. "Beyond Dodge Road: Fighting the Odds & Finding Success" is a personal memoir as Pierrot shares his own story of how he found his own success in life when he started with absolutely nothing. From working with governors to going out on the sea, "Beyond Dodge Road" is a poignant and moving read, worth considering.

Martin Magoun
Privately Published
9780983103424, $15.00,

Poetry captures a distinct honest and soulfulness of life. "Shattered" is a collection of poetry from Martin Magoun is he speaks with a certain original thought of life. Humorous and very thoughtful, "Shattered" is an excellent addition to any poetry collection. "Bathwater": you tested the water/which is now leaving/a thin mist on the mirror/steaming/from the heat, drawn full/ready. My muscles relax/drops rivulet on skin/reflecting a clean moment./at first I felt the sting/stepping through the surface/but it was right/when I finally slid in/immersed, breathing steam/not drowning in slow waves/floating, then coming/to your drowsy bedroom/ready for sleep/it will be a long night/with you/to let just right be.

Raising Teenagers
Devika Primic
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781461041719, $10.00,

Teenagers are nothing but trouble, parents quickly realize. "Raising Teenagers: The Best Way" is an advisory guide from Devika Primic as she grants plenty of advice to parents who are overwhelmed by the sudden changes in one's life. With great wisdom and knowledge, "Raising Teenagers" is a strongly recommended pick for anyone who is feeling daunted by their latest parenting task.

Zev Golan
Yair Publishing
9789659172405, $15.00,

Waiting for peace can often take too long. "Stern: The Man and His Gang" tells the story of Abraham Sten, a man who sought to liberate Palestine from England before the foundation of Israel. Zev Golan writes of his revolutions, discusses the morality of his war, and offers a unique spin of opinion on revolutionary Zionism and its effects on the long road on years to come. "Stern: The Man and His Gang" is a unique telling of this oft forgotten segment of history.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Beauty in Bent Grass
Ruth Ada Clark
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave, South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163847, $14.95,

A life broken way too early leaves those close to you to pick up the pieces. "Beauty in Bent Grass" is a mother's devotional memoir as she collects the scattered writings of her son who died before his thirtieth birthday, trying to piece together what his goal in life was, along with providing her own wisdom on the matter, touching on her son's hemophilia. "Beauty in Bent Grass" is a charming and heartwarming dedication of motherhood, highly recommended.

Gary Lutz
Calamari Press
9780983163350, $13.00,

Forever seems like such a myth. "Divorcer" is a collection of short stories from Gary Lutz as he focuses on the tragedy of relationships breaking and going awry, and what they leave in their wake of pain. "Divorcer" is an excellent compilation of the dark side of romance, very much recommended reading for general fiction collections.

Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism
Leslie James Pickering, editor
9781936900183, $14.95,

The right to free speech and assembly finds itself under constant challenge. "Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism" is the memoir telling of a group of people who dared to protest the 2008 Republican National Convention. The eight defendants present their story in defiance of being inconvenient to the major political event. Hoping to bring an eye to the challenges of dissent in today's America, "Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism" is a very much recommended read that shouldn't be overlooked.

The Digitally Divided Self
Ivo Quartiroli
c/o CreateSpace
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9788897233008, $17.90,

As technology places a grasp on us all, we could lose sight of what makes us human. "The Digitally Divided Self" is an argument for the effects the internet and the technological advancement of humanity could be doing to people on the emotional and spiritual elements of people. With much to consider about the growing web that connects yet disconnects us, "The Digitally Divided Self" is a thoughtful read that brings much to the table.

An American Odyssey
Donna Gruber Adair
Privately Published
9781463517434, $14.99,

For a chance at a better life, we would risk a chaotic life. "An America Odyssey" is a story of a family who in the early eighteenth century choose to go west in the early years towards Kansas from the safety of Ohio. Through the challenges of acing frontier and the drive to find a better life, Donna Gruber Adair does well in crafting a riveting story of the pioneers. "An American Odyssey" is a fine and much recommended read, not to be overlooked.

Paul T. Vogel

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

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