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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 10 October 2010 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Helen's Bookshelf Kaveny'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

Wine Service For Wait Staff and Wine Lovers
Rick Jelovsek
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432762469, $19.95,

Wine for some is no simple drink, but an experience. "Wine Service For Wait Staff and Wine Lovers" is a discussion of wine and how to present it. Aimed at wait staff searching for bigger tips, those who want to entertain properly at home, Rick Jelovsek composes a volume for wine lovers by wine lovers. For those seeking tips and a fuller understanding, "Wine Service" is an ideal read, recommended.

Trouble with Tom
Eunice Banks
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432751241, $10.95,

Breaking the law is no easy task. "The Trouble with Tom: In Which Five Gallant Old Men Flout the Law" tells the story of five old men who are pitted against a mischievous turkey who is making their life in in their Nevada retirement community very annoying. The law is slow to act against the turkey, and the five men take up the mantle of the vigilante, only to find it's not much easier or faster. Humorous with plenty of fun characters, "The Trouble with Tom" is not to be missed.

The Cosmic Order of Reincarnation
Khun Shwe Thike
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432748180, $17.95,

What happens after life is a subject which many opinions have been formed on. "The Cosmic Order of Reincarnation" is a work of metaphysical spirituality from Khun Shwe Thike as he provides his own views on the universe and how it works. Analyzing the many cultural views on death and life and the qualities they share, the laws of Cosmic Order, reality, tragedies, and more, "The Cosmic Order of Reincarnation" brings readers a degree of Eastern philosophy that metaphysical studies readers will relish.

Under the Red Velvet Cover
Grant Garris
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449069100, $16.95,

The bonds of family are too often used for evil as well as good. "Under the Red Velvet Cover" is a memoir of Grant Garris facing his own history of sexual abuse, speaking out and discussing how families will often cover their own families trespasses against one another under a veil of secrecy. Hoping his story will inspire others to speak out and protect their children from abuses "Under the Red Velvet Cover" is a riveting read that shouldn't be overlooked.

Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines
Beverly Stowe McClure
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606191125, $14.95

Even when the world is coming down around you, the need for love and comfort is more important than ever. "Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines" tells the story of Lizzie Stamford and her family as they struggle to survive and live their lives as the American Civil War explodes around them. Through the chaos around them, they try to remember what is truly important in their lives. "Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines" is an intriguing read, not to be missed for historical fiction readers.

Parents' Handbook
Roger Ellerton
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Renewal Technologies
5423 North Drive, Ottawa, ON Canada K4M 1G5
9781425147907, $22.95,

A parent controls the direction of their family and has a say in the future of their children. "Parents' Handbook: NLP & Common Sense Guide for Family Well-Being" discusses neuro-linguistic programming. "Parents' Handbook" is a guide to helping parents influence their children through conversations, confront family-affecting habits, and much more. "Parents' Handbook" has solid advice and gives readers much to ponder for their family.

Find Love at Last!
Lee Ann Hawkins
Privately Published
4523 N. Magnolia Ave., Chicago, IL 60640 (publicity)
9780964999534, $17.95,

Love is an endless search, and anything to make it quicker is met with much appreciation. "Find Love at Last!: 7 Steps to Attracting the Sweetest Love You Have Ever Known" is a guide to help the luckless find what they want, what they need, and help them find these qualities in the person who is right for them. With plenty of affirming exercises and psychological input on the topic, "Find Love at Last!" is a read that shouldn't be overlooked for those on the hunt.

The Gospel
C. G. Weiss
114 S. Maple #A-@, Oak Park, IL 60302
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781450027854, $19.99,

The relationship between Rome and the Jews was never an easy one. "The Gospel: The Good News According to Josephus" is a novel set in classical times following historian Flavius Josephus and his business with the other thinkers and intellectuals of his era. The coming tide of war and the prophecy of the oracles however, look to make Josephus' time far more interesting than he desires. "The Gospel" is a fine read that will prove entertaining to many a reader.

Shadows in Summer
Crescent Varrone
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439251966, $23.99,

Some things never let go, even in death. "Shadows in Summer" tells the story of Katrina Nielsen and her ongoing ordeal with her new Copenhagen, Denmark home and how it seems someone or something wants her out. Told from multiple perspectives, Crescent Varrone uses the format to provide a unique and entertaining story that is hard to find elsewhere. "Shadows in Summer" is not to be missed.

Giorgi's Greek Tragedy
Pauline Hager
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741460349, $17.95,

The fight for freedom and independence spread across the globe during the nineteenth century. "Giorgi's Greek Tragedy" tells the story of a particular Greek who takes up the call for freedom fighting and seeks to battle against the Turks. A story of love, war, and family, "Giorgi's Greek Tragedy" is an entertaining and touching read, that should prove hard to put down.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

Competing for Global Dominance
Jack S. Katz
Superstar Press
20660 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 210, Cupertino, CA 95014
9781607730422, $29.95,

You aren't just competing with your neighbors selling a goods or service any more, you're competing with the entire world. "Competing for Global Dominance: Survival in a Changing World" is a book discussing business at the highest levels, where one comes onto the international stage in an international market in today's world that is smaller than ever. Why business is the same as it always been, the global market, the unique standard of the United States, Emerging super powers, and more chapters on important topics, "Competing for Global Dominance" is a powerful and thoughtful resource for entrepreneurs on the global stage.

Me, Myself, and Paris
Ruth Yunker
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432757144, $24.95,

You don't get the essence of a city on a single week visit. "Me, Myself, and Paris: One Toe Under the Eiffel Tower, The Other in the Grocery Store" is a travel memoir from Ruth Yunker as she reflects on her annual visits to Paris where she lived for six weeks, providing a sort of tourism that is more live in, but still looking for something amazing. A thoughtful look at Parisian culture and tourism, "Me, Myself, and Paris" is a top pick for anyone considering a visit or move to the famed city.

The Ides of March
Valerio Massimo Manfredi
Europa Editions
116 East 16 Street New York, NY 10003
9781933372990, $16.00,

The most powerful man in the world may be powerless to the fates. "The Ides of March" is a novel of famed ruler of the known world, Julius Caesar and the overwhelming challenges that lied before him. The corruption of the court wains his power, and it seems by the day, he grows weaker, unable to stop his ultimate fate as it was prophecy by a soothsayer. "The Ides of March" is a riveting novel of Roman politics and intrigue, highly recommended.

Confessions of an Ex-Gun Dealer
Ludwig Sawicki
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432758394, $21.95,

Guns are protected by the second amendment, and those who peddle them have their own tales. "Confessions of an Ex-Gun Dealer" is the story of former gun shop owner Ludwig Sawicki, as he recalls his stories over his tenure of running one of the largest gun stores in the United States and the intriguing characters who proved to be his repeat patrons. "Confessions of an Ex-Gun Dealer" is a unique story of the men who arm themselves in today's world.

Aztlan Libre Press
302 Stratford Ct., San Antonio, TX 78223
9780984441501, $15.00,

The Latino people look back on a complex heritage that comes from many directions. "TunaLuna" is a collection of poems from the self-dubbed alurista - lower case as intended. Reflecting on the spirituality and history of the Xicano way. "TunaLuna" comes with a profound outlook and much to think about, worth considering for those who want insight into the Xicano mind.

6001 Things You Won't Miss When You're Dead
David Dell Johnson
Dog Ear Publishing
4010 W. 86th Street, Ste H, Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781608444564, $12.99,

Life is annoying as heck and it'd be nice to be done with it, wouldn't it? "6001 Things You Won't Miss When You're Dead" is a humorous take on why death shouldn't be feared, but welcomed with open arms. Listing the countless annoyances in life in a quick and annoying fashion, "6001 Things You Won't Miss When You're Dead" is a unique way to encourage people not to fear the reaper.

The Gnoll Credo
J. Stanton
100 Watt Press
PO Box 10897, Zephyr Cove, NV 89448
9780982667132, $10.95,

Gnolls are short lived, miserable creatures, but what makes them tick? "The Gnoll Credo" takes the trope of the gnoll to provide an intriguing take on these vicious beasts, and spins a fascinating tale that takes an original take on the concept of 'we're not so different'. Humorous, thoughtful, and very entertaining, "The Gnoll Credo" is a choice pick, very highly recommended.

The Pretty One
Jan Yager
Hannacroix Creek Books
1127 High Ridge Road, #110, Stamford, CT 06905-1203
9781889262703, $19.95,

What causes someone to lose it all? "The Pretty One" tells the tale of a seemingly happy and healthy psychologist in Emily Taylor, who seems to lose it and bloat to 200 pounds. Telling a story of how weight loss isn't just about health and exercise but facing what caused the weight loss in the first place, "The Pretty One" is a fine and uplifting read, with many perspectives, highly recommended.

Surviving A Season
Michael J. DeFranco
Bookstand Publishing
9 East 68th Street, Suite 1C, New York, NY 10007
9781589097377, $13.95,

Sports injuries can prove to be quite severe. "Surviving a Season: Essential Advice for Young Athletes, Coaches, and Parents on Staying Healthy and Avoiding Sports Injuries" is a useful reference from a doctor who has much experience with sports injuries and grants a good deal of tips on what preventative measures can be taken to reduce the frequency and severity of these injuries, no matter what sports they are received. "Surviving a Season" is a top pick for anyone who is active and at risk for these plethora of injuries.

Writing in the Sand
Thomas Moore
Hay House
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781401924133, $22.95,

Jesus, the son of God, was a human. "Writing in the Sand: Jesus & The Soul of the Gospels" focuses on Jesus's humanity rather than his divinity. Author Thomas Moore looks at the many events in Christ's life, in particular the miracles, for the deeper meaning that lies beneath rather than the spectacle and awe of supernatural power. The kindness, the acceptance of failure, facing disappointment, and other challenges to the spirit are looked at through a different looking glass. "Writing in the Sand" is a fascinating read, and a fine addition to any spirituality collection.

We've Never Had a King
Brad & Mary Bradbury
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432740726, $15.95,

Having decades together can be adventure enough. "We've Never Had a King: Guests of the State" tells the story of Brad and Mary Bradbury, as they relate the story of their marriage, with a focus on their time serving as advisors to the Oil refinery administration in Pre-Saddam Hussein Iraq, providing a unique picture of the country before the infamous dictator. "We've Never Had a King" is a fine read with much insight.

Fly by Wire
Ward Larsen
2817 West End Ave., Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 37203
9781933515861, $25.95,

Technology has become the greatest weapon in warfare, but technology has no morals - it cares not who it serves. "Fly by Wire" tells the story of a conspiracy surrounding the C-500 aircraft. Frank Davis is sent to investigate a crash of this new technology, and finds that this failure of technology has darker meanings, and the truth is much more than some simply faulty technology. "Fly by Wire" is an exciting thriller that will prove hard to put down.

Sending Rupert Home
Trace Fabre
3851 Cottonwood Dr., Danville, CA 94506
9781600761645, $14.95,

The duties of the college librarian include keeping books in order, managing accounts, and helping dead professors move on with their unlives. "Sending Rupert Home" tells the story of Leanne Kendrick, a college librarian and her strange endeavor with the late Professor Rupert Arbery, who is having difficulty in passing on. Her paranormal challenge is only made more stressful as love is pestering her when she needs it to least. "Sending Rupert Home" is a fun read, and a solidly recommended one.

Devil Dogs & Banana Slugs
Will Selling
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432753283, $18.95,

At the forefront of a protest usually lies the disciples of academia. "Devil Dogs & Banana Slugs: Cultural Battles Between the University and the Military" is a personal recollection of one Desert Storm Veteran's own account of his experiences with both sides of the coin. While academia emphasizes individuality, the military pushes unity, and these meet an obvious conflict. "Devil Dogs & Banana Slugs" is a fascinating read, highly recommended.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Incredible Walk
Judi Olga Cahorn
Beach Lloyd Publishers
PO Box 2183, Southeastern PA, 19339-2183
9780979277887, $19.95,

Finding freedom is just arduous as enduring oppression. "The Incredible Walk: The True Story of My Parents' Escape from Nazi-Occupied France" is Judi Cahorn's account of her parents own ordeal with the evil of Nazi Germany and how they broke for their own escape from the controlled France into neutral Spain. A story with more than the element of survival, "The Incredible Walk" is a fine talk on the human will to survive and thrive in spite of it all.

Billie Girl
Vickie Weaver
LeapFrog press
PO Box 2110, Teaticket, MA 02536
9781935248125, $14.95,

The cruelty of people can lead to an unusual set of circumstances. "Billie Girl" tells the story of an abandoned girl in the first half of the twentieth century. Raised by two women with secrets of their own, Billie's life is filled with conflict and confusion, as she comes into her own sexuality and the endless debate to whether life truly worth living. "Billie Girl" is a thought provoking and dark novel with its own unique sense of humor, highly recommended.

From the Sahara to Samarkand
Margaret Bald, editor
Axios Press
PO Box 118, Mount Jackson, VA 22842
9781604190304, $15.00,

All through Eurasia, Rosita Forbes became a writing icon of her time. "From the Sahara to Samarkand: Selected Travel Writings of Rosita Forbes 1919-1937" tells the story of her epic journeys through the land, giving a sample of the work that has proven to be her claim to fame. A solid perspective of the Middle East and Asia before World War II, "From the Sahara to Samarkand" is a choice addition to any literary collection focusing on travel writing.

Hiking the Southwest
Branch Whitney
Huntington Press
3665 Procyon St., Las Vegas, NV 89103
1935396366, $23.95,

Although wrongfully written off as unwritten desert, the truth is that the American Southwest has much to offer the adventurous hiker. "Hiking in the Southwest: The Best Hikes in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico" is a guide to hiking in these commonly desert states and the beautiful sights of nature that reside with them. From the more subtle sights that are secret to most to the majesty of the Grand Canyon, "Hiking in the Southwest" will prove to be an excellent guide, not to be missed.

The Mystery of the Seven Seals
Albert M. Cope
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163106, $25.00,

The book of Revelations is filled with many secrets, and some you may not find even in the English translation. "The Mystery of the Seven Seals: A Revelation of Jesus Christ" is the work of the studies of Albert Cope, who studied the ancient Greek language just so could gain a greater understanding of the Book of Revelations in its original language to gain a better take on the original meanings. "The Mystery of the Seven Seals" is an intriguing analysis, worth reading for those with enthusiasm for the book of Revelations.

Joann I. Martin Sowles
Brookehaven Publishing
PO Box 352, Rocklim, CA 95677
9780984486700, $19.99

Sometimes dedication comes with its own price. "Laney: The Brookehaven Vampires" tells the story of everyday young woman Laney Alexander who encounters Oliver Knight, a handsome man with a bizarre family that Laney doesn't easily understand. Laney becomes embroiled in a story of vengeance, deceit, and the mystery that surrounds Oliver. "Laney" is an exciting read that will prove hard to put down for many a reader.

The Thunder & The Sunshine
Gary Hart
4690 Table Mountain Dr., Ste. 100, Golden, CO 80403
9781555917395, $25.00,

With decades of experience, Gary Hart knows more than a thing or two about public service. "The Thunder and the Sunshine: Four Seasons in a Burnished Life" serves as an autobiography of Colorado senator Gary Hart and his years in the senate, before moving on to other political endeavors which give him a wide reaching view of politics in many administrations. "The Thunder and the Sunshine" a fascinating and educational view of the changing political seasons, very highly recommended for any biography collection.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

The Ugly Tree
Tamara Lyon
Comfort Publishing
9781935361527 $14.99

The Ugly Tree is a dramatic novel of a young woman's coming of age. Cane Kallevik enjoys running and bicycle riding, but perhaps her most questionable passion is her secretive, love/hate friendship/war with her ex-best friend Mikayla Atwood. When a natural disaster strikes Cane's home and leaves her grandmother in a coma, Cane is taken in by the family of her employer Jenny Ryanne Schaefer - and falls in love with the handsome Justice Price, nephew to Jenny, over the summer. As Cane plunges head over heels into love, and uncovers scandals that deepen her bond/feud with Mikayla, tension builds to a shocking climax that threatens to literally incinerate Cane's world - but the depths of calamity also bring to the forefront the things that make life truly worth living. A memorable and dramatic journey from first page to last, The Ugly Tree is highly recommended.

Fixing Forever Broken
Tamara Lyon
Comfort Publishing
9781935361176 $14.99

Fixing Forever Broken is a novel of memories, lies, and hidden secrets. Abby Stafford is engaged to be married when she discovers her father's body - he is dead from suicide. The experience so traumatizes her that she is struck temporarily colorblind, and buried childhood traumas surface amid her memories. She recalls being with her soulmate Eli at a young age; the two of them relied on one another's strength as a defense against her alcoholic father, and even became lovers at the threshold of adulthood, but Abby's own ill choices crushed their relationship. In the present day, Abby must come to terms with the difficult problems and challenges facing her surviving family and friends. The ones who don't outright lie to her are evasive or refuse to answer, and even eight years later, Eli keeps himself at arms length. For the sake of her soul, her sanity, and her future, Abby must reconstruct the buried secrets, betrayals, and misdeeds of the past - both distant and recent. An intricate novel of complicated relationships, highly recommended.

When Women First Wore Army Shoes
Ethel A. Starbird
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450208932 $14.95

Posthumously edited and published by members of the author's family (the original undated typescript was partially distributed under the name "Grandmother Wore Army Shoes"), When Women First Wore Army Shoes: A First-Person Account of Service as a Member of the Women's Army Corps During WW II is the true-life military memoir of Ethel A. Starbird. Starbird was the daughter, sister, and sister-in-law of army men; her wry, down-to-earth testimony reveals the ups and downs of daily life during her honorable service in the Women's Army Corps. A handful of black-and-white photographs illustrates this thoughtful and insightful chronicle of the Army's efforts to adapt to having women within its ranks.

Betrayals Of Hippocrates
Harry J. Saranchak
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781441542335, $15.99,

The realm of medicine has long been fertile ground for novelists, film makers, and television shows. "Betrayals of Hippocrates: Crimes Against Innocence" is the debut novel of Harry J. Saranchak and is the story of a young man named Alson Crowley who entered the study of medicine reluctantly, enrolling in medical school on Montserrat, one of the islands in the Carribean. This friendly introduction to the study of medicine in such pleasant surroundings ultimately gives way to an residency amidst the harsh and relentless demands of a New York hospital that threatens to end Alston's medical career it can begin. Offered a way out in the form of an opportunity to continue his studies in Port-au-Prince, Haiti at 'The Institute", Alston finds himself caught up on an ethical struggle around the study of a substance created by the island's tiny frogs. This study can prove either to be a boon or bane to mankind -- and there are some very strong and dark forces at work on Alston and his fellow medical researchers to make wrongful choices. "Betrayals of Hippocrates: Crimes Against Innocence" documents author Harry J. Saranchak (who has a professional background in medicine) as a major literary talent with a marked ability to capture mood, character, and debate as he skillfully weaves an engaging plot that captures the reader's total attention from beginning to end. "Betrayals of Hippocrates: Crimes Against Innocence" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library contemporary fiction collections.

Healthy Foods
Myrna Chandler Goldstein & Mark A. Goldstein
Greenwood Press
Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
9780313380969, $55.00,

The concept that the food we eat has a direct bearing on our health is universal. Agreement as to what kinds of food we should be eating is not. There are a great many controversies on the subject ranging from issues such as organic vs. non-organic, to food manufacturer claims that are unsubstantiated by science or purposely exaggerated, to the proper and adequate labeling of foods sold in our supermarkets. That's why "Healthy Foods: Fact versus Fiction" by Myrna and Mark Goldstein should be considered mandatory reading for anyone concerned with health issues and our food supply. A 306-page compendium of information and insight compiled and written by the team of independent scholar Myrna Chandler Goldstein and Mark A. Goldstein, M.D. (division chief of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston). Each chapter is alphabetically devoted to dozens and dozens of particular foods ranging from Almonds to Eggs to Mushrooms to Sardines to Walnuts. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' and enhanced with the inclusion of a glossary and an index, "Healthy Foods: Fact versus Fiction" is ideal for both school and community Food & Nutritional Health instructional reference collections.

The GIS 20: Essential Skills
Gina Clemmer
ESRI Press
380 New York Street, Redlands, CA 92378-8100
9781589482562, $39.95,

GIS stands for 'Geographic Information System'. "The GIS 20: Essential Skills" is a 156-page compendium and workbook of instruction by Gina Clemmer that presents twenty skills necessary to mastering the use of ArcGIS software. Organized into twenty distinctive chapters covering a specific topic, Clemmer covers crating map layouts, preparing data, joining data to maps, working with attribute tables, mapping addresses, querying location, and map publication. Enhanced with an accompanying data CD for engaging in specific exercises and thoroughly 'user friendly', "The GIS 20: Essential Skills" is ideal for the novice and has a great deal to recommend it as a refresher course for even the more experienced ArcGIS user, making it an ideal and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, academic, and governmental agency instructional reference collections.

The Women's Book Of Positive Quotations, second edition
S. F. Deger & Lesslie Ann Gibson
Fairview Press
2450 Riverside Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55454
9781577492382, $13.95,

Now in a significantly expanded second edition, "The Women's Book of Positive Quotations" is a pocket-sized 275-page compendium of inspired and inspiring quotes from women recorded down through the ages and in modern times on a variety of subjects, topics and issues of particular concern and relevance to women. The collaborative project of S. F. Deger and Lesslie Ann Gibson, the cited quotations are organized into 32 specific categories ranging from 'Sparks of Joy' to 'Growing from Adversity'. Each section is prefaced by a succinctly descriptive commentary. Thoughtful, thought-provoking, superbly organized and presented, with something for every mood, condition, and circumstance, " The Women's Book of Positive Quotations" is highly recommended for both personal and community library collections. 'The point of good writing is knowing when to stop.' -- L. M. Montgomery

Touring Guide: Big Bay and the Huron Mountains, third edition
Ben Mukkala
Still Waters Publishing
9780970997135, $9.95,

Michigan's 'Upper Peninsula' region has a great deal to offer the casual visitor. This is made abundantly clear through Ben Mukkala's "Touring Guide: Big Bay and Huron Mountains", a 60-page tour guide. Now in its third edition, "Touring Guide" is nicely illustrated throughout with black-and-white photography and area maps. Beginning with a succinct history of the area, "Touring Guide" is filled with such varied and usefully descriptive information as 'Church Services in Big Bay', 'Wild Animals and YOU', 'Hiking on Your Own', and more. Of special note are the sections devoted to fishing, snowmobiling, and hunting. The text is thoroughly conversational in tone, making it a delight to simply browse through. No trip planning itinerary to or through the Big Bay and Huron Mountains should be undertaken without first reading through the informed and informative pages of Ben Mukkala's "Touring Guide". Mukkala has also authored six deftly written works that would make excellent reading material while on vacation in Northern Michigan (or anywhere else!). These include "Thoughts Along The Way: Secrets Of A Happy Life" (9780970997166, $15.95) which is a compilation of Mukkala's newspaper columns; "Copper, Timber, Iron And Heart" (9780970997128, $15.95) offering an entertaining collection of stories from Michigan's Upper Peninsula; "Sawdust And Woodchips" (9780970997180, $15.95) comprised of accounts drawn from Upper Michigan's logging history; "Come On Along" (9780970997111, $14.95) and "Life Is Not A Destination" (9780970997142, $14.95) which are volumes of essays presenting Mukkala's philosophy, experiences, and observations; and finally, "The Gift Of Wings" (9780970997173, $15.95) which is Mukkala's memoir of being an American aviator in the Korean War, a part of the Cold War Era 'Stragtegic Air Command', and ultimately a fighter pilot in the skies of Viet Nam. Ben Mukkala is a gifted writer with an impressive talent for telling a story, spinning a yarn, recounting a bit of local history, and entertaining his readers from first page to last.

David Adjmi
Samuel French, Inc.
45 West 25th Street, NY, NY 10010-2751
9780573697814, $8.95,

A dark satire of life in Brooklyn's Syrian-Jewish community, "Stunning" is a compelling play by David Adjmi and the story of a sixteen year old girl married to a much older man. Lily lives a very sheltered, restricted and restive life but becomes friends with her African-American maid. This friendship brings Lily into conflict and violence as she begins to break free of an insular and repressive world. Deftly written, "Stunning" is David Adjmi's debut play and clearly establishes him as one of the most promising new talents writing today.

True Spanking Stories: Volume 1
Sasha Cave, editor
Nelson & Jones
2272 Colorado Blvd., #100, Los Angeles, CA 90041-1143
9780984367733, $14.95,

Compiled and edited by Sasha Cave, "True Spanking Stories: Volume I" is a 270-page compendium of forty-four real life accounts of erotic spanking, BDSM spanking, punishment spanking, discipline spanking, kinky spanking, corporal punishment, ... hairbrush, paddle, strap, switch, and more. A work of erotic literature, "True Spanking Stories: Volume I" is intended for mature readers only and is recommended (and often instructive) reading for adults with an interest in the erotic uses and experiences of spanking.

Helen Dumont

Kaveny's Bookshelf

Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition
Annotated and transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller, editors
Foreword by Michael Barsanti
McFarland & Company
960 NC Hwy 88 W Jefferson NC 28640
9780786434107 $65.00

So as not to lose my way in the house of mirrors of infinite semiosis with its myriad potential meanings of critical terminology I chose a different path to address this item. A phenomenological approach seemed most appropriate when dealing with this fascinating text. What that means according to the field's founder German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1857-1938), is that one brackets one's and everybody else's presuppositions, and experiences the object of one's intentionality as directly as possible. In my case this was Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula. This line of reasoning lead me to a popular song I first heard nearly four decades ago, as a way of relating my experience as I spent the better part of several days working my way through it.

So what were the results of my efforts? Well in way they can all be wrapped up in an old Rod Stewart song. "Every picture tells a Story", sang teen idol Rod Steward in 1971 in the title song of his number- one hit album by the same name. The same thing may be said about Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition. Because what is a facsimile if not an exact reproduction of a picture, of text, a photograph, or even a legal document. In this case it is a series of pictures on nearly every page from handwriting to sketches photographs and even typescripts of the creative process by which an author's series of ideas, images, experiences, and research are tracked. Nobody would contest that every book not only tells a story, but has its own story form the time that pen or pencil hits paper until it comes to existence as a mechanically reproduced written work of art through the process of publication and distribution. This book gives us strong reasons to be interested in the story of Bram Stoker's Dracula at the start of its existence.

Editors Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller, both world class figures in the field of Dracula studies and the broader field of horror Literature, have done a masterful job. They have compiled Bram Stoker's notes and research materials which were auctioned off two years after his death in1912. I made an extensive search of responses to their book and I could find nothing but laudatory comments for their efforts in creating this unique and valuable resource to the growing field of Bram Stoker/ Dracula studies. Incidentally even a cursory search of the MLA International Bibliography online indicates over five hundred articles in the last fifteen years.

This book is a must for any university, college, public, or particularly secondary school library collection. Because Dracula is a high-interest topic and it offers students the opportunity to identify and interact with a facsimile of primary source materials and indicate to them that there is more out there in the world than Wikipedia.

And it is a must for anyone working in horror, dark, or erotic fantasy to own. One of the many pleasures of this text is to read Bram Stoker's own holographic hand, his typescript, his notes and even his somewhat humorous sketches of himself. I also think, within the limits of fair use, this facsimile is a resource for a working horror writer. I came to this conclusion when I was kept up for most of last night thinking about Bram Stoker's and much of the 19th century pre-occupation with premature burial, and his references to the "Munich House of the Dead", where corpses were discreetly displayed in repose on couches, with music and flowers, as observers walked among the dead looking for signs of life for a three-day period. This would make a wonderful time travel story. And I would add a name for a rock group.

As much as I enjoyed the documentary and almost artifact-like aspect of the text it is the annotations that make the bones of the text come alive and, in a hermeneutic sense, raise the context and make contemporary the almost timeless modernity and adaptability of Stoker's Dracula. The advent of this study culturally situates Stoker's work in both late 19th century Victorian Europe, and 21st century global media culture.

The authors never claim what they cannot prove and at the same time never close the door to someone (like myself) to use their work as a pointer towards some really big questions and future areas of scholarship. For example one might ask the question how is it the blood sucking undead corpse of Bram Stoker's Dracula, becomes (over a hundred ten years later) transformed into the (forever seventeen) teen idol vampire hero Edward of the Twilight novel series and film production with its overwhelming popular reception by teens. In some very conservative circles in which even the Harry Potter books are off limits, these novels are acceptable. The short answer is that Twilight's Edward was there from the start, because of the ambivalent nature of Stoker's project as we can see on page 299 of the summary of the physical characteristics of Count Dracula.

It seems clear is one turns to Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula page (115) note 245, that Stoker's, Dracula, is an ambivalent creation able to evoke great empathy and even perhaps compassion in his victim even as the fires of hell bun in his eyes. Further in the supporting biographical information presented by the authors, including photographs, and sketches, some of them Stokers own, one sees Stoker as a kind of theatrical impresario and London Lyceum manger for the great London actor Henry Irving (perhaps the model for the count himself). As one goes through the book notes and supporting material, one sees Stoker not so much as writer concerned with the literary gestures of his day but perhaps if even intentionally in a contemporary sense as a kind of a franchise builder pointing towards the future with enough fungibility in his property Dracula to bridge the gap between literature folklore, and in the process becoming folkloric in its own right.

Part of what drives this progression is the powerful sexuality of the novel which the note takes us into. Mina describes the necessity of involuntary but compelling exchange of bodily fluids with the count almost in the same way former female pornography sex workers sometimes describe their work. I can only touch the surface of this thread here. However the notes do cause one to look at Dracula through the lens used by Foucault's History of Sexuality, Part II. That is to say in terms not of the forbidden set against the background of Victorian sexual repression, but rather as an exemplar of a Victorian obsession and medicalization, at least of female sexuality.

Time and space limit me from going any further with Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition, but I cannot resist saying, as someone presenting working in the area of Religious Studies here at UW Eau Claire, that the work points to fascinating parallels between the Bible's descriptions of the natural world's responses to the death of Christ at 3 in the afternoon on Good Friday and the fictional death of count Dracula. But I will leave that parallel to entice a reader or to perhaps be elaborated elsewhere.

Philip Kaveny
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

Mini Shopaholic
Sophie Kinsella
Dial Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385342049, $25.00,

Minnie Brandon may only be two years old, but she is chip off the maternal block already. She, like her mom Rebecca, is a major shopper of luxurious items. Price is no problem to the shopaholic addicted toddler.

However, the recession hammers the Brandon family. Luke seeks new business while Rebecca sets a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) to use every item hanging in her closet at least three times before hitting the stores again. She knows that will take some time as her closets are filled. However, Minnie brings new meaning to the terrible twos as she refuses to st op spending. Meanwhile Becky plans to throw a surprise birthday bash for her husband, but finds doing it with little money to spend is beyond her skills and experience. Still she goes ahead as an intrepid explorer finding new territory.

Obviously for the Shopaholic crowd (see Shopaholic and Baby), the latest entry is a lighthearted romp as the Brandon females put new meaning into the definition of the terrible twos. While Becky sets goals to reduce spending, Minnie assumes her mom is ill. Fans will enjoy the nurturing vs. naturing karma of Mini Shopaholic as Becky goes cold turkey as a born again savor while Minnie believes more shopping as a spendthrift will solve their family crisis.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
Charles Yu
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307379207, $25.00,

In Minor Universe 31, time travel is a way of life as is paradoxes caused by someone tinkering with the past. Time technician Charles Yu fixes the stupid actions of those wanting change without comprehending the consequences. He councils these idiots, but does so calmly even when he tries to pacify his harried boss Phil.

Yu visits his mother, who is trapped in a life of one-hour in which she prepares dinner infinitely. He still seeks his father who invented the machines that enable time travel, but vanished while testing his gizmos. Accompanied by TAMMY the operating system with Yu's personality (to include a lack of self-worth) and Ed the imaginary ontological canine, he continues his personal quest to meet and talk with his dad; having gained hope by a book he will one day author, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

This is an intriguing time travel science fiction tale starring a stay out of trouble extremist (think of Columbus in most of the movie Zombieland) who as a bureaucrat quietly rectifies the mistakes of others while searching for his lost dad to have a father-son chat. The story line feels like a Moebius series of loops so is difficult to follow yet quite fun to do so. Although the climax is abrupt and seemingly out of character for the safety only lead protagonist, SF fans who enjoy something radically different will wa nt to read Charles Yu's escapades in time and space.

Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End: The Story of a Crime
Leif GW Persson
9780307377456, $27.95

American John Krassner is in Stockholm writing a biography on his uncle, OSS agent Colonel John Buchanan just after WW II. Krassner has found evidence that ties Buchanan to a Swedish politician known as "Pilgrim", but he is unsure who that is though he has an idea.

Meanwhile the Swedish secret police have become concerned with threats to their Prime Minister Olaf Palme. They link the noise to the American Krassner, who almost immediately is under suspicion. He apparently commits suicide by jumping from a student dorm window. He almost kills an elderly pedestrian walking his Pomeranian, but Charlie the dog saves his owner's life only to have the leaper's shoe kill the dog. Soon afterward someone assassinates Palme, but the Swedish manhunt fails to find a killer or a valid group claiming the hit. However, police superintendent Lars Johansson finds a tie between the dead American, his uncle and the murdered PM.

Constructed around the unsolved cold case murder of PM Palme, Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End: The Story of a Crime is an interesting first act of a fictionalized account of the assassination. The story line has too much going on especially in the first sections of the novel making it difficult to follow. However, once Johansson takes control of the plot, the whodunit becomes more focused and enjoyable. Though Lars (so far at least) is no Falck or Wallender, fans of Camilla Lackberg and Henning Mankell will enjoy this opening police procedural that delves deep into the Swedish identity haunted by the homicide a quarter of a century ago.

Tarizon: Conquest Earth - Volume 3
William Manchee
Top Publications
3100 Independence Parkway, Suite 311-349, Plano, Texas 75075
9781929976652, $23.00,

Aliens abducted teenage earthling Peter Turner and took him to Tarizon where many believed he was the Liberator. However, known as Leek Lanzia, he learned the hard way how difficult his new role proved to be when Civil War forced him to choose sides. Now with the dictator Lai dead, Leek takes a vacation with his beloved wife Lucinda and their baby child Tokin. At the same time Lai's adopted son Evohn Cystrom pledges to keep fighting on his home planet and to take the hostilities to earth as his late father envisioned a grander Pearl Harbor attack.

Captain Lanzia cuts off his family time early when he is apprised of the Cystrom threat. Accompanied by his wife and child, he commandeers a shuttle to fly to earth to warn his birth planet of an invasion, but must escape Tarizon without the enemy aware of his leaving. Cystrom learns of the earth mission and sends his best troops to thwart it while Leek as Peter reunites with his parents before retuning to his new home planet.

Continuing the space adventures of the son of his top rate detective Stan Turner (see Disillusioned and Act Normal), William Manchee provides a strong Tarizon science fiction military thriller (see Liberator and Civil War) as the war goes off planet. Fast-paced and loaded with action, fans will appreciate Conquest earth as Cystrom takes up the mantle of his late dad. Although it helps to read the previous two Peter/Leek novels to understand how far the hero has come from earth, fans of the saga will relish this entertaining entry.

Par for the Course
Jennifer Vido
Top Publications
3100 Independence Parkway, Suite 311-349, Plano, Texas 75075
9781929976720, $14.00,

In Woodlawn Ohio, when her older womanizing wealthy husband Charles is murdered, Piper O'Donnell is the prime suspect as Par for the Course the cops always look at the family. The townsfolk especially those snooty society ladies at the Woodlawn Golf & Country Club assume she killed her spouse for his money or perhaps another one of his affairs; or more likely both. For her part, she wished they remained in Manhattan.

Piper and Rusty O'Brien meet and are attracted to one another. They, accompanied by her sister and her friend, investigate the homicide before the cops replace Piper's clubs with a murder rap. However, none of the quartet are prepared for a killer who plans to make a hole in one with their respective heads if they come close to his or her identity.

Lighthearted, this is an enjoyable nineteen holes of golf amateur sleuth. The story line is breezy as the quartet of tyro detectives follow the sexual escapes of the late Charles as they believe one of his women finally gave him the permanent hook. Fans who enjoy a facetious sports mystery will want to play the Woodlawn course alongside of Piper and friends.

Lodestone: The Sea of Storms
Mark Whiteway
VBW Publishing
P.O. Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
9781602645462 14.95,

On Kelanni, people are disposable with their solo mission to mine "Lodestone" for use by the planet's great dictator. The Prophet who rules the orb is the grandmaster of using the lodestone resource that comes to Kelanni in meteor showers. His powerful extremely loyal Keltar Knights insure no one tries to rebel.

Lyall vehemently rejects the Prophet and the concept of slavery. He vows with his best friend Alondo to overthrow the violent despot. When he meets Shann, who wants the Prophet's reign of terror to end, he teaches her his knowledge of lodestone. The prophet learns of the growing unrest and he sends Keris the Keltar to brutally destroy the rebels using them as an example for others to obey. She has doubts about her vocation and her current mission. When a giant bird attacks her, a Chandara saves her life. Boxx the Chandara informs Keris of her leader's evil plans so she joins Lyall and his insurgents.

Once author Mark Whiteway establishes relativity laws of physics (and astrophysics) in his universe, the first Lodestone tale is a terrific science fiction thriller that in many ways reads like a fantasy. The world of Kelanni is what makes this a strong opening entry as readers will feel they are there along side of Keris as she begins to doubt what she believed all her life was gospel. Fans who enjoy something different yet exciting in their outer space novels will want to read Mr. Whiteway's entertaining take on despots, rebels and negative matter.

Pearl in the Sand
Tessa Afshar
Moody Press
820 North Lasalle Drive, Chicago, IL 60610
9780802458810, $13.99,

In Jericho, Canaan Rahab grows up as a contented girl until her family becomes destitute. Though ashamed and humiliated by his actions, her desperate father turns innocent fifteen year old Rahab into a prostitute in order to feed the family. Rahab vows to face her harlot duty with valor and select those who can use her services. She is very successful at her vocation with plenty of wealthy patrons. In fact she is so good, she buys an inn abut to the city walls as her place of business.

When Rahab rescues two Israelite spies, they thank her for saving their lives by informing her that the Israelite army will attack Jericho and that God has told them how to breach the wall. In gratitude, the operatives direct her to place a red ribbon above her family door so that she and her kin are saved from the onslaught. The assault leaves the entire city dead except for Rahab and her family who seek to join the conquerors. Judah military leader Salmone is irate the spies made a deal with a prostitute because he fears she and her family will bring trouble and idolatry worship. However, Rahab shows her love for the Israeli God and soon the warrior realizes he loves and wants her as his wife. She loves him, but fears he will always reject her as a pagan prostitute.

This is an entertaining biblical romantic work of biographical fiction starring two wonderful lead protagonists (from the Book of Joshua) whose cross-starred love seems doomed. Their relationship starts rocky and continues to remain troubled even though they fall in love and marry. The pace is leisurely, but fits nicely in the tone of the story line and its strong message that it is not your birth but your actions in regard to God that redeems the soul as further accentuated (though not in this novelization) by the Old Testament story of their more famous daughter-in-law.

Harvest Moon
Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara, Cameron Haley
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373803224, $17.95,

"A Tangled Web" by Mercedes Lackey. At. Mt Olympus, Thanatos kidnaps Brunnhilde in the opening ploy of a scheme to enable his master Hades to capture Persephone. Ever since he met her (see The Sleeping Beauty) Leopold is not one to sit idly by when Brunnhilde is in danger.

"Cast in Moonlight" by Michelle Sagara. In Elantra, teenage Kaylin Neya joins the hawks as she works her first case.

"Retribution" by Cameron Haley. Enforcer Domino Riley killed her rival for the position she now holds in accordance with Mob Rules, but an otherworldly hit man is coming after her also in accordance with Mob Rules.

These are three fine fantasies that fans of the respective authors especially will enjoy as Mercedes Lackey provides a Five Hundred Kingdom's entry; Michelle Sagara contributes an Elantra saga; and Cameron Haley an Underworld tale.

Sin Undone
Larissa Ione
Grand Central
9780446556811, $6.99

Assassin's Guild. Chief Seminus demon Sin unintentionally released a virus that is killing werewolves. The epidemic threatens to go pandemic and wipe out the species. Stunned, Sin wants to save the surviving werewolf population from extinction while others have a different deadly agenda for the shapeshifters.

Sin knows her life is in jeopardy as many including herself believe she deserves punishment for the plague she wrought. Her guild also has opportunistic ambitious assassins who plan to kill her so they can take over running the Guild. Connal "Con" Dearghul is directed to bring Sin in, dead or alive, but they are bound by blood. Con knows he must choose between bringing her head in on a platter that would make him a hero who obeyed orders; or assisting her, which would leave him as a hunted outlaw.

The fifth Demonica romantic fantasy (see Pleasure Unbound and Desire Unchained) is a terrific sinful saga as the wicked assassin is finally undone by love. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action as Con must choose between his lady and his duty. This volatile mix makes for a great time for sub-genre readers especially fans of Larissa Ione.

She's Gone Country
Jane Porter
5 Spot
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446509411, $13.99,

In New York City, as she nears forty, former model Shey Darcy believes she lives a terrific life with her photographer husband and their three teen sons. However, her idyll family ends when her spouse announce he loves someone else and leaves her and the kids for this man.

Shey takes her distraught adolescent children back to the Texas ranch she grew up on. Her controlling siblings welcome her and the boys though each want to protect their sister and their nephews. Soon after coming home, Shey finds work as a catalogue model. However, her mom demands the quartet scrub sinful Manhattan from their souls as she is a strict Southern Baptist who expects others to be as pious as she is. Her offspring struggle with adjusting to going country and the betrayal each perceives of their father; especially depressed is Bo. Finally, her first love former pro bull rider Dane Kelly wants back in her life.

Although She's Gone Country lacks the emotional intricacy of the previous thirty-something tale (see Easy on the Eyes), this is an entertaining contemporary second chance at love tale. Shey is a wonderful lead with her can do attitude, which includes tying up in knots the former bull rider and ignoring her mother and siblings. Though much of the cast especially her family is stereotyped detracting from the potential interrelation poignant strife, fans will enjoy Shey's coming home.

Joyce Carol Oates
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061996528, $25.99,

Sourland is a super anthology that focuses on the down side of relationships with the typical Joyce Carol Oates' themes of violence and loss leading to psychological traumas. This makes for a strong insightful collection with no losers. In "Pumpkin-Head", "Sourland," and "Probate" lonely susceptible widows having recently lost their protective mates and encounter an ugly new world order when males use them or the bureaucracy abuses them. In "Bonobo Momma", Ms. Oates turns upside down her usual lethal male when a rapacious former model is the nasty player. In haunting "Daddy Lost", mommy puts people to sleep at the medical clinic while daddy stays home after being downsized to watch over frightened little Tod. In "Honor Code", she knows her life is before and after cousin Sonny or more descriptive before and after manslaughter. Though printed in a variety of magazines in similar form, with these sixteen short stories, Ms. Oates provides a profound look at the dark side of relationships with beasts feasting and "Beating" on the vulnerable.

Taken by Midnight
Lara Adrian
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440245278, $7.99,

The Ancient, one of eight otherworlders, came to earth and created vampire sons when they procreated with native women possessing the breedmark. He escaped captivity and held former Alaskan state trooper Jenna Darrow for hours. He did things to her mind and body that will have long term repercussions. As she nears death, he places an implant inside her; which winds within her skull and spinal column. After the Order vampire police rescued her, medical experts in Boston determine the implant is part of her body having altered her DNA.

She proves strong, faster, and can do things humans cannot. Throughout her ordeal, Brock takes care of her especially with relieving her pain. He begins to have feelings that he does not want as she can never be his breedmate so he rationalizes to himself this is only sex. While the Boston order tries to figure out what the implant is, the vampires fight the ir biggest enemy Dragos who has an army of Gen-Y warriors. The breedmates fight their adversaries as powerfully as their vampire husbands do fending off Dragos's attacks and trying to figure out where Dragos and his army are.

Lara Adrian is one of the top urban fantasists on the market today with her Midnight Breed series (see Shades of Midnight). The current entry is fast-paced and moves forward the overarching plot yet insures Taken by Midnight contains a complete enjoyable story line and three dimensional characters including besides the lead protagonists the villain. Brock and Jenna have experienced first hand tragedy and trauma, which brings realism as their relationship teeters because of their respective pasts. Ms. Adrian has written another fabulous thriller that goes on this reviewer's shelf with all the rest of the works written by this very talented author.

Tastes Of Love & Evil
Barbara Monajem
Love Spell
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780505528629, $7.99,

Males cannot resist the sexual lure of Rose Fairburn the vampire. On the lam, she thirsts for blood and sex. She left Chicago for Louisiana in hopes of meeting her dream man.

She meets Jack Tallis who is unique as the only man who can resist the lure of Rose even after she used her tongue to lick away his blood and close a wound he received. He hides from her that he desires her.

They flee together as underworld assassins want both dead. As each struggles to trust the other, a feeling neither is comfortable with, they meet Juma. She is hiding from her grandmother and has bigger trust issues than Rose and Jack combined. The threesome conceals their darkest secrets while being chased by deadly killers.

Tastes of Love & Evil is an entertaining romantic fantasy starring an intriguing trio on the run who hide their inner most demons from one another. The two adults are a fine fascinating pairing as he is the first male who can keep her at arm's length. Although Juma as a young girl seems genuine, her constant whining becomes irritating. Readers will enjoy this fine thriller.

No Place to Die
James L. Thane
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843964226, $7.99,

Forty-three year old medical malpractice lawyer Beverly Thompson pulls into the family garage when a man with a gun tells her to get out of her Lexus SUV. Her second husband cardiologist David enters from the kitchen only the intruder shoots him twice in the chest followed by shooting Chester their German Shepherd. He uses a rag with a chemical to knock out Beverly and leaves taking the unconscious attorney with her.

Beverly fights for her life as she rejects the notion of being a passive prisoner after seeing the psychopathic kidnapper murder her husband and her dog. However, at least four others have also been murdered by apparently the same weapon. Phoenix homicide detective Sean Richardson and his partner Maggie McClinton lead the investigation into the serial killer homicides with no pattern or link connecting the dead surfacing, and the clues limited. Sean assumes the wife of one of the victims is also dead, but on the remote chance Beverly Thompson lives, he and Maggie diligently work to rescue her and prevent additional murders.

This is an engaging tense police procedural that hooks the audience because the four lead characters seem genuine and the pair of relationships (the two cops and the killer-prisoner) comes across as real. Readers will relish James L. Thane's tense thriller as the detectives know time is running out, if it is not already too late, to save Beverly's life.

Bond With Me
Anne Marsh
9780505528582, $7.99

Three thousand years ago, the Dominion angel guardians of Heaven's throne were murdering their brethren rather than protecting them. With proof, Archangel Michael punishes the rebels by removing their wings and souls, and exiling them as half man and half beast goblins with little hope of return unless they are redeemed by their soul mate who must teach these fallen to love. Three millennia later by 2090 none have redeemed their souls.

At the exclusive G2 club in M City, Mischka Baron searches for her cousin Pelinor "Pell" Arden who she fears has bonded with a fallen angel, which she knows means they suck at your soul. Club owner Brends Duranov wants her from the moment he senses her, but to his shock, Mischka rejects him. Right before her refusal, Brends learned from his sire Zer that a rogue Goblin Changed and was killing human and the Fallen. Brends vows to find the serial killer, but soon has a stronger motive when Mischka becomes the target; as he believes she is the one for him.

Bond With Me is a superb romantic urban fantasy with a strong enchanting world and a solid cast. The story line is a fast-paced suspense thriller as the serial killer and Brends target Mischka for totally opposite reasons. Action-packed, the key element that makes Marsh's land seen genuine is the goblins as these are soulless predatory beasts; of whom, for the most part, are unsympathetic.

No One But You
Leigh Greenwood
9780843963991, $7.99

In 1867 in Caldwell County, Texas, having learned from years of worthless hands, Widow Sarah Winborne needs to marry to save her ranch for her and her seven year old twin children, Ellen and crippled Jared. She figures she would not need to pay a husband though the concept of a spouse makes her ill after her late husband Roger's ire towards her because their son was born with a withered leg. Thus accompanied by her kids, she heads to Randolph family spreads because they are considered an honest ethical brood as is their employees.

She meets Benton "Salty" Wheeler who teases her with Southern "soft soap". They agree to wed in a marriage of convenience. After they exchange vows, they and the children return to her ranch. There Salty diligently works at rebuilding the spread. As Sarah and Salty fall in love, one thing makes her know he is not like Roger. He is kind and patient with both her kids; who he loves as his own especially when kidnappers take Ellen.

With a connection to the Seven Brides Randolph family saga, No One But You is a warm historical ranch romance. The cast is extremely powerful especially the Winborne trio and Salty who is much more father to her wins than their dad was. With late suspense that enhances this exciting Post Civil War Texas romance, fans, especially the Randolph crew, will enjoy Leigh Greenwood's entertaining tale.

Running Around (And Such)
Linda Byler
Good Books
PO Box 419, Intercourse, PA 17534-0419
9781561486885, $13.99,

A highly successful Amish businessman, the Glick family patriarch decides he wants to become a farmer so he takes his wife and children over their objections and moves from Jefferson County to Cameron County near the lands owned by his father and brother-in-law. Datt's daughters Emma and Mandy adapt quickly and are expected to marry soon. The third offspring, teenage Lizzie struggles with adjusting, as she detests housework and cleaning baby messes.

However, musings about eligible boys take a back seat when mam becomes ill and hospitalized. Moaning over her woes and frightened for her mam and for her way from home job, sixteen years old Lizzie has to become responsible as she has to help clean the house and accept a job as a maid to bring in money so that Emma can begin filling her hope chest. As these activities take time away from her love of fast horses, Lizzie is attracted to the outsider egg delivery man. Complicating her confusion about boys is her best friend Stephen implying he apparently wants more than just being buddies.

This is an entertaining first book of the Lizzie Searches for Love contemporary Amish saga. Lizzie is a fascinating lead who acts like many teens lamenting their station in life and wondering if she will meet her soul mate soon; her temper adds freshness to the sub-genre as she is far from a prim and proper miss. The deep insider look at an Amish community and family enhances the tale although the transitions between the present and flashbacks into the past feel abrupt without warning. Still Linda Byler provides a wonderful unique glimpse into a teen growing up Amish.

Pursuit of Justice
DiAnn Mills
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414320526, $12.99,

In the Ballinger area of Runnels County in West Texas, three bodi es were found on a High Butte Ranch owned by Carr Sullivan. Houston FBI Bureau Chief Swartzer explains to Special Agent Bella Jordan the case is hers as she comes from the area and there is a link to Brandt Richardson on the fugitive list. The corpses (Professor Forrest Miller, geologist Daniel Kegley and retired oilman Walt Higgins) were seeking the Spider Rock treasure; Jordan remarks that the location was not even remotely considered an option.

The two suspects are obviously the rancher with a criminal past who refused access to the treasure seekers and Richardson. Ambitious for a promotion, Bella conceals her connection to the latter from her boss as she heads to West Texas. However, as Bella digs for clues, she soon receives threats to back off or else. The warnings seem too personal so she concludes whoever this individual is he or she knows her.

The third Call of Duty police procedural (see Breach of Trust and Sworn To Protect) is a wonderful whodunit. The heroine trusts no one before she arrives and affirms her feelings of depending on herself only after she begins her inquiry though she is attracted to Carr and has family nearby as the culprit obviously knows her. The story line is fast-paced from start to finish as an unknown adversary plays a game of cat and mouse with the returning home FBI agent.

Almost Heaven
Chris Fabry
9781414319575, $13.99

In Dogwood, West Virginia Billy Allman is considered a genius as well as an incredible mandolin player. However, as brilliant as he is with an IQ that would be in the troposphere, Billy lacks common sense when it comes to social interaction with people.

Still Billy who is very pious works diligently on making a successful radio station from his home using discarded spare parts as he lacks funding. Over the years he remains dedicated to his dream and diligent in his reverence of his Creator though he has been taken aback by the angry spiritual adversarial assaults on his soul and the ridicule by others that he wastes his gifts. Malachi the angel becomes a silent observer and soon an avid fan of Billy who has spent his lifetime choosing faith over materialism.

This is an interesting character study of a deeply religious person who chooses to honor God in his way through music though he faces all sorts of hardship and isolation with his endeavor and a belief that whatever he does ultimately turns into failure. Billy is a fascinating individual with a brilliance that the townsfolk feel should take him far, but he prefers scrounging for parts to create his radio station so that the West Virginia hills are alive with the sound of music dedicated to the Lord.

Her Daughter's Dream
Francine Rivers
9781414334097, $24.99

In 1951 Hildemara Rose is back in the hospital suffering from tuberculosis and a fear she is dying. Her husband Trip told her mom Marta who has come to help with the children Charlie and Carolyn as well as take care of the house.

While Hilde remains in an isolated ward with other TB victims, her daughter and her mother bond. After several months away, Hilde returns home, but is angry that her Carolyn and Oma Marta have a special connection. The tension between mother and daughter grows over the next decade plus and impacts the granddaughter who believes she is the cause and decides in 1965 college is her escape. While Charlie joins the Marines, Carolyn attends Berkley. However, a tragedy destroys Carolyn's sense of being and she flees into the counterculture. Two more years pass before she returns home to her parents with a daughter, May Flower Dawn who bonds with her grandmother. This leads to history repeating itself as a war between her mom and her grandma ignites, but Dawn plans to be the bridge not the divider between them.

The second Marta's Legacy (see Her Mother's Hope) completes the saga with a strong epic family drama that occurs over a half of a century. The ensemble cast is fully developed so that the audience will understand motives of each individual that sometimes lead to internal strife. Although Her daughter's Dream stands alone, readers will appreciate Francine Ri ver's powerful twentieth century duology.

For Time & Eternity
Allison Pittman
9781414335964, $13.99

In 1850, just north of Kanesville, Iowa, Camilla Deardon hears the singing of those camped nearby her family's dairy farm. She knows nothing of these Mormons, but recognizes their songs as those she sings at church. However, her parents forbid her making any contact with the outsiders; her mom going so far as to tell her to stay away from the kitchen window.

When she meets handsome Nathan Fox of the Mormon encampment, Camilla believes she is in love. He loves her too and vividly describes Zion in Utah. Though it hurts to break the Commandment of Honor Thy Father and Mother by disobeying them, she marries Nathan. They move to Utah and seem blessed with children, but Camilla cannot adapt to the Mormon way of life especially after her first male is born and sharing her spouse with her sister-wife. While she considers leaving her beloved husband and children, Nathan fears he lost salvation when he failed to get his Hawkeye wife to convert.

This is a profound Americana historical in which the fully developed characters over time challenge their belief systems and that of others. Readers will obtain a better understanding of the roots of Mormonism and why other Christian groups feared them and treated the members as pariahs. Allison Pittman provides a deep look at religion in mid nineteenth century America in Iowa and especially Utah.

D. B. Reynolds
ImaJinn Books
PO Box 74274, Phoenix, AZ 85087-1004
9781933417073, $16.00,

In Buffalo the Vampire Lord of Northeast Krystof appears to be losing his sanity. New York City Master Rajmund Gregor knows he is the only one capable of replacing his sire, but detests the need to take control from Krystof; still he will do what is right for his offspring and sibli ngs though he will grieve for what must be done.

However, he must first uncover the serial killer of human females who the BPD insists is a vampire. While he works the murder case, Sara Stratton whom he met in the Big Apple is back in her hometown of Buffalo. When they meet again, each recognizes their initial attraction was no fluke. Still, she conceals a paranormal skill that she ran way from a decade ago; an ability he needs to rescue any of the kidnapped women who may still be a live while an evil human tries to blackmail her.

The key in the excellent book three of the Vampires of America (see Raphael and Jabril) is that the lead vampire behaves radically different from his star predecessors even with each being arrogant males (an oxymoron). Sara is his equal as she is, when forced, a feisty fighter even with her running from herself. Additionally, the story line spins differently as Rajmund is an intelligent leader who delegates and in fact his lieutenant is the prime field operative. This is a great fresh romantic urban fantasy with a strong late twist, as the vampires and Sara investigate in order to search for a psychopath.

Crystal Death
Charles Kipps
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439139950, $26.00,

Forty-three years old NYPD Homicide Detective Conor Bard, is playing guitar with his band at the Rhythm Bar, pondering whether to be or not to be a musician by quitting the force when his Sergeant Amanda Pitts enters the West Side dive. He knows his boss is not there for the drinks, decorum or the music so he mouths sorry to the group and goes off stage to learn what his superior wants. He and his young inexperienced partner Rosito Rubio lead the high internationality visible murder of an Israeli diamond merchant.

In her Manhattan apartment someone sliced the throat of beautiful diamond dealer Zivah Gavish; adding insult by throwing diamonds all over her corpse. The inquiry has links to Israel and South Africa with suspects from both nations as well as a few locals. At the same time NYPD Lieutenant Rooney wants to remove Rubio from the case and replace her with a veteran; Bard objects as he argues she needs to learn the ropes sometimes and is an asset; besides she looks great.

The second musical detective police procedural (see Hell's Kitchen Homicide) is an enjoyable whodunit though the hero does not always hit the right notes. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Bard leaves one stage for another and never slows down even when he muses that he is a musician playing cop to feed himself. Although stereotypes abound including the hero, fans will enjoy his latest gig.

First of State
Robert Greer
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781556439155, $24.95,

In 1971 twenty-something C.J. Floyd returns home after serving two tours in Vietnam as a Navy gunner. He suffers from undiagnosed battle fatigue and has trouble readjusting to civilian life in Denver. His Uncle Ike owns a bail bondsman business, takes his nephew into his home and thinks the best thing for CJ is to go to work.

Bounty hunter CJ goes to GI Joe's pawn shop where he had secreted antique license plates that are no longer there. He meets World War II veteran and amputee Wiley Ames who has turned his life around after bouts of alcoholism and depression. The two vets feel connected with their love of memorabilia and become friends. When Ames and his Chinese partner are gunned down in what looks like a professional hit, CJ vows to bring the culprits to justice. It takes him five years working on and off the Ames murder before he finds his first clue at the Mile High Flea market where a vendor is selling antique license plates including some from the Ames collection. Even with this lead, CJ has years of inquiries to go before he begins to focus on a culprit ready to kill him.

First of State is a prequel to the CJ Floyd mysteries (see Blackwell Farewell) as fans see what happened to the hero that has led to what he is in the present. He works some cases as a bail bondsman bounty hunter, but also is insecure especially about relationships as he struggles to cope as a young man with what he saw and did in Nam and watching a friend murdered doing surveillance in Denver. Robert Greer has written a great Floyd mystery that fans will thoroughly enjoy.

Vermilion Drift
William Kent Kruger
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439153840, $25.00,

Mining heir Max Cavanagh hires Tamarack County, Minnesota private investigator Cork O'Connor to find his missing sister, Lauren. She established an artists' retreat so Cork starts there. He also looks into who is threatening people involved in the Cavanagh Vermilion One mine that U.S. Department of Energy evaluates as a potential nuclear waste storage site.

Cork and a mine official descend into the Vermilion One mine where they find five skeletons and a fresh corpse. The quintet is probably the remains of the 1964 "the Vanishings" that Cork's father Liam as county sheriff unsuccessfully investigated. The sixth body buried in the mine for about a week is that of a well-dressed woman, who Cork assumes is Lauren.

The tenth Cork Minnesota investigative thriller (see Red Knife and Heaven's Keep) is a terrific whodunit as a homicidal cold case of the hero's father merges with a present day murder. The whodunit is well written hooking the readers early on with trying to find the connection between the deaths over four decades apart. With a bit of Native American mysticism enhancing the plot, fans will appreciate this strong regional mystery.

To Fetch a Thief
Spencer Quinn
9781439157077, $25.00

Peanut the elephant and his handler-tamer Uri DeLeath disappear from the Drummond Family Traveling Circus. Uri's partner Popo the clown fears the worst. Attending the circus are Bernie Little and his son. When Peanut the star fails to show up, Bernie's son Charlie asks his dad of the Little Detective Agency to investigate. They meet Popo who hires Bernie to find Uri and peanut as the cops insist the elephant trainer just quit.

Bernie and his partner Chet the canine follow the trail mostly by the dog sniffing for clues. They receive some help from Police Sergeant Rick Torres, but for the most part the cops say case closed. When the private detective finds the body of Uri, who died from the bite of an African puff adder, the cops proclaim it an accident. The sleuths think otherwise and continue their quest to find the elephant abductors.

The latest Chet and Bernie Little Detective mystery (see Dog On It and Thereby Hangs a Tail) is a witty investigative tale of the tail. The case is fun follow as the antics of Chet serving as the lead sleuth are amusing. Yet what makes this series superb is that with all the jocularity, there remains an underlying serious tense inquiry as the mystery is top of the line.

A Cup of Jo
Sandra Balzo
Severn House Publishers
595 Madison Avenue 15th floor, NY, NY 10022
9780727869128, $27.95,

Thanks to the new train stop connecting Milwaukee to the Brookhills Junction Depot, Uncommon Grounds gourmet coffeehouse is ready to open for business on the first day of the new route. To celebrate their grand opening, owners Maggy Thorsen and Sarah Kingston commission a giant balloon in the shape of a coffee cup and saucer by professional artist Kevin Williams.

Imagine their shock when the two proprietors find the body of Kevin's wife JoLynne Penn-Williams in the bottom of the cup; the cause of death asphyxiation by someone who cut off her breathing. Brookhills County Sheriff Jake Pavlilk eventually arrests Kevin for murdering his wife. Rumors explode that the sheriff and the deceased were lovers and other evidence leads to Pavlik's's arrest. Maggie rejects the notion her lover is a killer, but her insecurities make her wonder if he might be a cheater. She investigates and almost loses her life in the process.

Anyone who enjoys a fun caffeine crime cozy will want to read the Maggy Thorsen mysteries (see From the Grounds Up) as the series contains some of the best amateur sleuths on the market. The obstinate lead protagonist is an interesting person with doubts about her abilities yet also strong convictions that make her need to prove her lover innocent even while she debates his fidelity. With a well constructed whodunit, fans will enjoy A Cup of Jo (or two) as Sandra Balzo provides her readers with a gourmet mystery topped off with a wonderful shocker as to who is behind the victim's death.

End of Days
Max Turner
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312592523, $9.99,

Vampires exist in the world hiding in the shadows and protected by the Underground, which consists of humans, vamps and Others who look out for the Undead trying to live a normal life. Dracula using an iron fist controls all vampires and insures the underground was serving its purpose. With his death, his minions are fighting for control with everyone concerned only with their personal well-being.

Dracula turned the child Zack Thomson because he believed he was the vampiric Messiah who would bring a new order to the species. The Elders detest child-vampires like Zack, his friend Charlie and his girlfriend Luna. At a rave, the vampires come to kill the trio, but a huge werewolf like creature, who kills vampires, chases them away and then goes after them. Zach and his friends search for the beast so they can kill it before the humans learn of its existence.

In the latest Night Runner teen urban fantasy thriller (see Night Runner), Zach must delay his alleged destiny of bringing order to the Underground by dealing with the creature they call Hyde. The heroic lead characters bring youthful courage as they try to do the right thing re the chosen one Zach, but prophecies are just visions lacking action plans with steps so the teen titans must fill the gap. Max Turner brings a fascinating premise to the vampire mythos that grips readers who root for Zach and his BFFs while anxiously waiting for the next entry in the saga.

Me, Myself, and Why?
MaryJanice Davidson
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312531171, $24.99,

In Minneapolis, the FBI Bureau of False Flags Ops (BOFFO) Agent Cadence Jones suffers from multiple personality disorder, which is an asset for the mission of this unit filled with psychotics and an occasional functional neurotic. She and her partner sociopath George Pinkham are assigned to ending the reign of terror of Threefer Killer, who murders people in groups of three leaving behind newspaper articles and nothing else.

The serial killer begins sending messages to Cadence and her two sisters Shiro and Adrienne. Depending on which MPD is working determines whether Cadence is concerned or not. However, anyone who is from the Twin Cities knows better than to mess with the Jones. More concerned to Cadence as she switches from one personality to another is she falls in love with her best friend's visiting brother.

Clearly over the top of the Prospect Park Water Tower and Deming Heights Park combined, Me, Myself and Why? Is a zany dark humorous police procedural. Not for all of MaryJanice Davidson's fans especially the paranormal shoe lovers, this tale lampoons how easily society conveniently catalogues people to make them fit inside a file drawer. The strong radically offbeat edgy cast make for a madcap Minnesota mystery, in which ironically MPD sufferer holds the plot together as readers will wonder whether to label her as the main character or characters.

The Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce
Hallie Rubenhold
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312624163, $16.99

In 1782 Baronet Sir Richard Worsley sues his wife's lover Maurice George Bisset for damages to his property when his friend in debauchery eloped with his wife. Richard demands an excessive amount in punitive money for what the man did to his "property", his spouse with "criminal conversation". Forced to testify under oath though ironically the two males in her life treat her like an object and knowing she will be further ridiculed, Lady Seymour Worsley decides to ruin the reputations of her lover and her husband at the hearing.

This is a terrific historical that provides an incredible look at late eighteenth century English society as gossip and innuendos add fervor to the trial. Hallie Rubenhold explains that this case was so gripping that in spite of the American Revolutionary War still on-going, colonists like General Washington were spellbound with each new revelation and several artists including renowned portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds lampooned the participants as three fools. Feeling like it could occur today with how society wants more scandalous dirty on celebrities (Tiger Woods comes to mind), readers will rethink their notions of the Georgian aristocracy as this is a great account.

Poison Kissed
Erica Hayes
St. Martin's
9780312624705, $7.99

Kick-butt Mina the blue-haired banshee with a deadly siren's tune works as an enforcer for snakeshifting mob boss Joey DiLuca because she owes him for saving her life. Currently Joey and his gang are at war with a rival mob. Joey and Mina are attracted to one another, but each has a million reasons not to form a romantic entanglement between them.

Mina vowed a long time ago to avenge her mother's murder, but has made no progress until now as to who the culprit is. She obtains evidence that shakes her to her bone marrow as what she learns implies Joey was somehow mixed up in her mother's homicide.

The third entry in the Shadowfae Chronicles (see Shadowfae and Shadowglass) is an intriguing dark urban fantasy starring two paranormal beings who trust one another with their respective soul until now. The story line has too much going on with a myriad of subplots, but readers will appreciate the main theme wondering what Mina will do next. Alternate Melbourne has not looked darker or more entertaining than Erica Hayes exhilarating take on the Australian mobs.

Left for Undead
L.A. Banks
St. Martin's
9780312943028, $7.99

After the New Orleans incident (see Never Cry Werewolf), shadow wolf Sasha Trudeau and her lover Hunter, both belong to Paranormal Containment Unit but tired, they take a well deserved respite in New Hampshire. Their idyllic vacation ends when the advisor to Sir Rodney, King of the Seelie Courts, asks them to talk to him about allying himself with his ex-wife Queen Cerridwan of Hecate in matters of love and war. The vampire graves are being invaded with indications pointing to the Unseelie Queen who claims her innocence.

When Sasha and Hunter stop at the Seelie Court, a vampire attack kills six fae. This is the beginning of what appears to be a big war where innocent humans and other species will die. Evidence, at the last assault site, leads to denizens of the underworld placing the Fae and the Vampires against one another. Sasha, Hunter and their allies seek who made a pact with the demons and to find a means to break the unholy alliance by sending the devils back to hell before the deployment of the lethal master plan.

The sixth Crimson Moon Book novel is an excellent story in a great series. Hunter and Sasha no longer have doubts about each other, their relationship or children in spite of being on the front lines of a multi-world going insane as each expects the war of the species. There are several subplots that enhance the prime story line as the lead protagonists and other couplings struggle to balance their respective relationships with the growing hostilities. Supernatural horror and romance converge on a New England fantasy plane with surprising twists adding to the fun of an exciting tale.

No Mercy
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's
9780312546564, $24.99

The assault on Sanctuary left many dead and severely injured while the once safe zone is rightfully no longer considered as such. Shapeshifter Dev Peltier and his family guarded Sanctuary for centuries, but with their parents dead, he and his siblings must regroup, but mentally struggle with grief and concern that the enemy has grown stronger than them. They know they survived the battle of New Orleans because the Dark-Hunters allied with his were-hunters to fight the wolves.

Former Amazon warrior turned Dark-Hunter Samia Savage, who was at Troy and the Sanctuary battles, returns to the Big Easy to keep Nick Gautier safe. However, Stryker apparently wants her most likely because of her and her gift for psychometric skills. Dev also wants her because he is attracted to her. Sam desires Dev too although both understands that is taboo.

Although the romantic premise is somewhat similar to Bad Moon Rising, this is a terrific entry made fresh by the aftermath of the Sanctuary assault and the female Dark Hunter (Huntress perhaps more descriptive). The story line is fast-paced and filled with non-stop action from the moment Sam arrives riding her bike and informs Dev she is as passionately furious in the sack as she is on the battlefield. Fans of the ever expanding urban fantasy saga will appreciate Sherrilyn Kenyon's super entry as even allies make strange bedfellows.

Fly By Wire
Ward Larsen
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781933515861, $25.95,

The crash in France of the fly by wire technological Cargo Air C-500 stuns everyone. The most advanced freight carrier apparently plunged straight down from six miles up in the sky; the pilots died. With a fleet of over a hundred planes of this type, the French government wants the best investigation possible so they bring in the top gun, American National Transportation Safety Board accident investigator Frank "Jammer" Davis whose reputation is strict adhere nce to standard operating procedures especially when conducting an inquiry.

As he digs into the disaster, suicide bombers attack oil facilities around the globe; dramatically disrupting the flow and devastating the already shaken markets. In spite of corruption and bureaucratic blindness, Jammer begins to find the cause of the crash, but soon also links the failure to the terrorist incidents. He and girlfriend CIA agent Anna Sorensen try to uncover who is behind the effort to cause a Depression.

Tying the questionable recent moral behavior of the finance industry to the odious behavior of suicide bombers, Ward Larsen provides an exhilarating conspiracy thriller. The crash investigation is superb as Jammer provides the reader insight into how a plane disaster is analyzed while the action really heats up when the case spins into pure avaricious capitalism with the market correcting opponents and competitors. Although Jammer's issues back home with his teen daughter feels supercilious to make the hero seem human, that detracts from an entertaining thriller.

Come Again No More
Jack Todd
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416598497, $25.00,

Before and at the beginning of the Depression, Eli Paint lived for the love of money. Nothing, not a wife, daughter, or his grandchildren touched his heart. When his daughter dies from tuberculosis, Eli comes to the funeral although he is too late for her burial or for her life having forced her out as a pregnant teen. He meets his grandchildren for the first time with Emaline lecturing him for what he did to her mother. Upon returning to Wyoming, Eli crashes his car. His housekeeper Juanita helps him recover and he declares his love for her.

Emaline marries boxer Jake; of whom she wants to live a lifetime on a farm with him. His personal issues leave her destitute. She leaves him and moves onto her grandfather's ranch. When Eli's first wife returns to the ranch with a six years old son he never knew he sired, Emaline adopts the child as her own. Jake persuades his wife to start over in Oregon.

Based on his family's letters as is its predecessor Sun Going Down, Come Again No More is an engaging early twentieth century Americana that focuses on life during the Great Depression. With a strong cast of mostly the extended Painter family led by the patriarch and his granddaughter, this is a deep look at the struggles with failure, but they never go down for the count. Although at times the epic plot slows down too much, readers will enjoy this strong historical family drama.

Dark Moon of Avalon
Anna Elliot
Touchstone (Simon and Schuster)
9781416589907, $16.00

With the support of brutal Saxon warriors, perfidious Lord Marche sits on the throne of Britain. The usurped highly intelligent High Queen Isolde fears her kingdom is doomed unless she acts immediately, but needs strong allies as any other action would prove lethally rash.

High Queen Isolde still depends on her intrepid friend Trystan for protection from Marche's myriad of assassins. A healer she turns to the smaller kingdoms and the Saxon King Cerdic as an ally though Isolde has doubts he will unite with her as he may have already accepted the usurper as a done deal. With Trystan at her side, Isolde searches for the elusive monarch. On the treacherous trek, she learns of the ordeal her companion face d when they were separated. Isolde hopes they can one day pledge their lives without worrying who is creeping up behind them with a knife.

The second Trystan and Isolde Arthurian saga (see Twilight of Avalon) is an entertaining tale starring two fascinating lead characters whose love for one another is put on hold as they focus on lining up allies to save their people from an abusive false ruler. Enchanting as Anna Elliot builds from the original legend, fans will enjoy the medieval political intrigue although romance readers might want the heroic duet to end their personal sacrifices and instead expedite their love for one another. This is a wonderful compassionate thriller in which the protagonists dodge an abomination and his odious horde.

Starting from Scratch
Susan Gilbert-Collins
Touchstone (Simon and Schuster)
9781439143162, $15.00

Food has always dominated the Tschetter family. When the matriarch Vivian dies, her husband and four adult children toast their beloved with food that provides them with some comfort.

The youngest twenty-seven year old single woman Olivia, who just defended her dissertation, was the closest to their mom so she struggles the most with her departure. Olivia shared everything with her mother and not just their love of cooking. Although her dad and her siblings worry about her, Olivia returns to her childhood home and replaces her mom as the hostess at family get-togethers.

Starting from Scratch is a strong introspective family drama that is mostly seen through the eyes of Olivia. The death of the matriarch impacts her loved ones differently though all mourn their loss. The older siblings worry about their youngest sister who is the most like their late mom. Olivia's "chats" with mom enable the reader to comprehend why she is cherished in death as she laws adored and loved in life. Ironically though food is a prime healing ingredient, the recipes feel intrusive as this is a great psychological character study primarily focusing mostly on grieving as a personal emotional reaction to the death of a loved one although there is also insight into the psychology of siblings. Susan Gilbert-Collins provides a discerning powerful tale.

The Black Madonna
Davis Bunn
Howard Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416556336, $14.99,

In Palm Beach, Storm Syrrell fears her business Syrrell Galleries is nearing bankruptcy when a person hires her to attend an auction that includes a painting that her client believes has healing powers. When she arrives at the auction house, she bids against Mr. Rausch, who also represents someone else. However, Storm's instructions are to get the painting at any cost.

Storm knows her business has been saved by the buyer's agent Raphael Danton. However her friend Emma, high up the power ladder at Homeland Security is sent to be with Storm because Raphael Danton, he opposing bidder's agent is on a watch list. Emma is told that treasure hunter Harry Bennet died in Hebron; she is heartbroken with grief until he calls her from a hospital. She leaves Storm to see first hand that her Harry is okay; Emma takes him to a hospital in Germany. Emma rejoins Storm who with a few more auction bids with the same people and results, she is taken to Poland where she sees for herself the Black Madonna is a fake. They need to get it back at all costs again but somehow Harry's injuries Storm's winning bids are linked, but nothing makes sen se even who is the bidder competing with Storm.

Davis Bunn has written an exciting thriller in which readers will be hard pressed to determine who the protagonists and the antagonist are. The key characters travel to several countries doing their respective jobs. Armchair detectives will enjoy the ride but find it difficult to putting the puzzle together. Storm is a fabulous heroine who misplaces her courage when she is frightened and instinctively prefers flight but has the courage not to run while the relationship between Emma and Harry ads warmth and romance. Readers will enjoy the return engagement of Harry and Storm (see Gold of Kings).

The God Hater
Bill Myers
Howard, (Simon and Schuster)
9781439153260, $14.99

Sexagenarian philosophy Professor Nicholas Mackenzie is a brilliant thinker who has no use for the human race and is a recluse. His only exception is his meetings with Professor Annie Banks; who gives him arguments defending her position that matches his opposite stance. The subject is God and when a tragedy occurred in his life he became an atheist.

His brother Travis is a genius at programming. He uses cloak and dagger techniques to draw Nicholas to his lab where he and other computer scientists formed an A.I. population that thinks and feels as much as its creators do. Every philosophical theory they bring to the computer society results in the death of that civilization. Nicholas the ultimate philosophical thinker is asked to determine if he can prevent society from self destructing. Using micro-technology he downloads his personality into the sentient computer world where his actions end up imitating those of Christ though he is unaware of what he is doing. He just hopes his actions will teach people how live a better life within a caring nurturing society.

As always with a Bill Myers' novel, readers know they will receive a terrific pulse-pounding storyline with underlying strong Christian principles. Nicholas is a fascinating person as he and his virtual doppelganger come to love their "sim" people especially those based on his family. The "sim" Nicholas embrace the emotions the flesh Nicholas buried many years ago. In a sort of bringing King Solomon into the virtual age, wisdom (including science and art) without caring passion is amoral.

A Lily of the Field
John Lawton
Atlantic Monthly
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-4793
9780802119568, $24.00,

"Audacity". In 1934 as Germany turns increasingly violent against minorities, Vienna continues to be a sea of music as ten years old music prodigy Meret Voytek and her teacher Viktor Rosen can testify. However, over the next decade, the Nazi assault across the continent destroys the fine arts. Although she is not Jewish, cellist Meret Voytek ends up in Auschwitz where she survives until the concentration camp is liberated.

"Austerity". In 1948 someone murders Russian artist Andre Skolnik in the London Underground. Police Inspector Frederick Troy leads the investigation and quickly finds circumstantial evidence that leads to the probability that the victim was a Soviet sleeper agent awaiting his assignment. Troy also uncovers a tie between the concentration camp survivor Voytek, and the alleged Soviet spy Skolnik, but the motive remains out of reach.

The latest Inspector Troy historical mystery (see Second Violin) is a great tale that ironically leaves the series star as a second chair support role to the star cellist. The story line is actually two interrelated novellas with the tie being Voytek. Readers will enjoy this profound tale that takes the audience from the beginning of the Nazi aggression into the beginning of the Cold War with the police procedural only occurring in the second half.

Dirty Rotten Tendrils
Kate Collins
Obsidian Mystery
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451231529, $6.99,

Not everyone is happy that Cody Verse is coming back to his hometown in New Chapel, Indiana. It is not to see friends or family, but to defend himself in court against Andrew Chapper who claims he co-wrote the song that Cody used on the national TV show America's Next Hit Single. The appearance catapulted him to fame. Abby, the owner of the flower shop Bloomers wishes he would leave so the town can return to normal.

Cody hired dirty tricks high profile lawyer Ken "Lip" Lipinski to represent him. Andrew's grandparents hired David Hammond who would have refused the case if he knew his opponent is the great attorney. David is diligent and good, but not flamboyant like his adversary who breaks the rules like stealing evidence. Furious David publicly accuses the Lip of duplicity and illegalities. Soon after their spat, Lip is dead with the circumstantial evidence pointing at David. Abby, who worked for David and her fiance Marco, a private detective investigate because they believe he is innocent.

The combination private investigator (Marco) and amateur sleuth (Abby) fuse together to create an appealing Flower Shop mystery (see Sleeping with Anemone) that a wide ranger of readers will enjoy. The heroine's sparkle and spirit sweetly lights up her fiance's heart while adding a warm dimension to the fine whodunit. However the key is Abby's believability as she attended law school, clerked for Dave, and strictly adheres to Marco's instructions. This is a well written investigative tale.

The Crocodile's Last Embrace
Suzanne Arruda
9780451231178, $15.00

In 1921 Lilith Worthy escapes from her London prison. Her intent is to go to Africa to destroy those she blames for enabling Pili, her late husband's offspring from the wrong side of the sheets, to inherit half his estate. The Widow's tar gets are photojournalist Jade del Cameron and her colleagues Lord and Lady Avery Dunbury.

Soon after Lilith's escape, having returned to Kenya Jade begins to receive messages from overseas allegedly sent by her beloved David, the Widow's legitimate son. The only problem with the hurtful accusatory notes besides their cruelty is David died in Jade's arms. At the same time that Jade is the recipient of a personal terror campaign that makes her wish that her boyfriend pilot Sam Featherston was in town, someone murders several people associated with a gold mine deal that obviously has turned ugly.

This is a strong Jade del Cameron historical adventure mystery (see The Serpents' Daughter, The Leopard's Prey and Treasure of the Golden Cheetah) in which the dangerous denizen of the jungle like crocs are harmless compared to the even deadlier Homo sapiens. As always in this wonderful series, Suzanne Arruda provides readers with an insightful light on the "Dark Continent". The focus especially is on Kenya as the geography, the assault on the indigent native population by "illegal" Western immigrants, and a deep look at the local customs. All this occurs inside a powerful thriller.

Murder at the PTA
Laura Alden
9780451231093, $6.99

After getting an amiable divorce from her husband, Beth Kennedy wants a quiet peaceful life with her two elementary school age children Jenna and Oliver. Her best friend Marina believes Beth needs to get out once in a while. Beth, after listening t her froend's nagging, agrees to be secretary of the Rynwood, Wisconsin Tarver Elementary School PTA. The downside is that everyone in the PTA and at the school dislikes Principal Agnes Mephisto.

She is a prude who implants ideas without consulting with the staff or the PTA. Her latest idea is to use an anonymous donation to build a new building, which leads to chaos as she chooses the shape and idea of what the edifice will be. A few days later Agnes is murdered and Marina, the creator of the blog WisconSINS, encourages readers to help find the killer. She receives a death threat so she and Beth conclude they have to find the clues that will identify the killer if they are to feel safe. Beth investigates eliminating suspects until the last one standing has to be the culprit, but she refuses to believe that person is a murderer; instead she tries again from a different perspective. This time she draws a different conclusion that feels right but the killer plans to stop her before she can talk to the police.

Readers are going to appreciate this complex amateur sleuth due in large part to the main character Wisconsin bookstore owner Beth, who is a quiet pensive person preferring to remain in a rut but pushes herself for the sake of her kids. Looking for a murderer is not in her game plan, but single moms do need hobbies even those like Beth who are in hiding from life. Beth makes the tale work as Laura Alden provides an entertaining mystery.

Gary Alexander
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594148927, $25.95,

In Kent, Washington, hit man Ted Snowe allows his targets to either die or accept a new ID for a fee. He has been very successful until the idiot mob enforcer Jimmy "Knuckles" Brutto is caught as Charles Abbott for being with an underage pair of boobs.

Ted's neighbors Buster Hightower and Carla Chance help him hide while he plans his escape. The mob sends the Asp to kill Ted if he can identify him. The Asp starts with Knuckles' grieving widow who mentions Ted by name because her 'late" spouse said he recognized the hit man who once cost him a fortune betting on minor league basketball. Knuckle's widow rushes to Kent to warn Ted and soon the two couples fly to Italy hoping to find Ted's first hit who might be able to expedite him from this mess; Asp follows.

This is a zany over the top of the Cascades and the Dome of St. Peters, but is engaging fun with a refreshing premise of an extortionist hit man. The quartet is a solid group of eccentrics and Asp is certifiable with a traveling companion who was gunned down mob style in the 1950s; but he is not as stupid as some of Ted's other dead men who foolishly surface alive. Readers will enjoy Gary Alexander's wild caper as Ted shows he is the ultimate capitalist offering his targets a deal they can not afford to refuse.

Murder in Caleb's Landing
D-L Nelson
Five Star
9781594148972, $25.95

Thirtyish Annie Young may have been born in the States, but the contract technical writer has lived mostly in Europe with her Swiss based parents. She is a "Third-Culture Kid" not quite comfortable in Europe but totally uncomfortable in America. When her father inherits a home in Caleb's Landing, Massachusetts, the Young family leaves Geneva for New England.

In Massachusetts, Annie dad and his friends persuade her create a CD on the real founding of America. Her program is previewed at the local elementary school. Many townsfolk are irate due to her realistic portrayal of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. In the basement of their new house, father and daughter find skeleton dressed in pre-Civil War rags and a diary written by a runaway slave; her mother's business partner and Annie intervene to save a woman from her abusive spouse. Then there is Des.

This is a fascinating fast-paced mystery the takes off once the Yong family arrives in Massachusetts and never slow down until the finish. Annie's problems with poorly adapting to a different society enhances the tale as her actions make her an eccentric and to some a pariah. Her diligent research provides a rounded realistic portrayal of the founding of America, but alienates many who prefer deity filters on the heritage of the country especially the state.

What Doesn't Kill You
Jan Grape
Five Star
9781594148880, $25.95

In Bent Bell, Texas sixteen year old Cory Purvis tells her half-Native American boyfriend TyTy that their town is boring, they are stunned to find the corpse of nursing student Vickee Allen. Whoever killed her viciously used a knife on the victim.

Cory is stunned to find out TyTy and Vickie were dating. Even more distressing to Cory is that she realizes Sheriff Michael Sparrow believes TyTy is the prime suspect. Soon afterward, the coroner decides Vickee was raped and had many lovers including TyTy. Cory knows in her gut TyTy would not kill; so she investigates the homicide with the help of her Uncle Giff.

Sometimes you get what you wish for as soon as the teen heroine opens her mouth that nothing happens in Bent Bell they find the corpse. Cory is a courageous caring person who, though upset with TyTy and saddened with Vickee's vicious death, investigates with youthful innocence. Although there are too many explanations in lieu of action, Vickee's behavior in life exposed with her violent death leaves readers to ponder small town ethics inside an engaging amateur sleuth.

The Bridge of Peace
Cindy Woodsmall
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400073979, $13.99,

All her young life, her birthmark on her cheek has been the talk of the Amish community where Lena Kauffman was raised. Over time she learned to ignore the stares. Currently, she teaches at an Amish School in Dry Lake that demands strict adherence to the "old ways".

Lena has problems with the board's inability to bend for the better good of the students. She especially has problems with a troubled pupil, fifteen year old recently transferred Peter; who is the oldest and tallest student she ever had. She turns to her Englischer friend Samantha a school counselor for help. This alienates the school board who blames her and her new ways of teaching for her student's rebellion of authority. However school board member Grey Graber commiserates with his lifelong friend the beleaguered teacher and her mutinous student as he feels trapped too in a marriage with a wife Elsie who kicked him out of her life.

The second Ada's House Amish romance (see The H ope of Refuge) is a wonderful refreshing contemporary that makes a strong case that the Plain People have psychological problems just like the English do. The lead couple, his wife and her student is fully developed characters with emotional baggage and issues as Cindy Woodsmall provides a strong fresh tale bolstered by a profound underlying statement that faith helps, but does not necessarily relieve personal concerns.

Judgment Day
Wanda L. Dyson
9781400074754, $13.99

Ultra ethical Suzanne Kidwell hosts the weekly cable news show Judgment Day. The premise of the show is to expose the lies of society leaders from all walks of life. Suzanne believes she is the ideal modern day Diogenes because she has the proper morals and the fortitude to expose the cheaters.

However, she becomes the subject of exposure when her shortcuts leave her open to ridicule and her credibility is nuked. Angry, Suzanne goes home in disgrace. However, she finds a potential subject of her Judgment Day show, businessman John Edward Sterling lying unconscious on her floor. When he dies, the police arrest her for his murder. Her only hope to avoid a conviction resides with her former fiance, private investigator Marcus Crisp, who she stabbed in the back when they were in college together. He wants to refuse the case, but Marcus and his partner Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne take Suzanne on as a cli ent with the understanding anything goes. The more they look into their client's life as a vicious amoral sewer, the more they believe she is guilty, but they also uncover a powerful enemy coalition willing to kill to remain under the radar.

Judgment Day is a strong crime suspenseful novel that showcases how far the media will bend a story by cherry picking omissions to turn it more sensational than it deserves. The story line is action-packed especially once Marcus and Alex begin their investigation into a cesspool of self interests. Fans will appreciate Wanda L. Dyson's terrific taut thriller (see Shepherd's Fall)

The Miracle of Mercy Land
River Jordan
9780307457059, $14.99

During the Great Depression, daughter of a circuit preacher, Mercy Land leaves her safe and comfortable home in Bittersweet, Alabama although with the hard times that is not an easy thing to do for a man let alone a single young woman. Still she moves to Bay City, Alabama on the Gulf. There she becomes a reporter for the local newspaper working for Doc Philip.

Mercy and Doc find a strange atlas, but not of places. Instead it is filled with the maps of the lives of the residents of Bay City. Each time a person made a pivotal choice it is reflected in their personal map. Doc is euphoric as he believes he can rectify a terrible error while Mercy wants to fulfill the tome's prophecy until a train arrives with her past on board.

This is a fascinating tale with an intriguing premise of having the ability to change your past. Readers will relish the diverse opinions between Doc looking back with an obsession to correct a pivotal error and Mercy looking ahead with an equally fixated desire to meet the book's expectation. Fans will muse about what they would change and how will that impact their future as River Jordan provides an interesting whimsical historical.

Dragons of the Valley
Donita K. Paul
9781400073405, $13.99

Chiril is a peaceful prosperous land. However the tranquility ends when an army invades the country. Tipper Schope must hide three statues because if the enemy gets it will mean the end of her nation as she knows it. She enlists her Bealomondore the artist to help her with her quest. He understands he must wield a sword like he did a brush.

At the same time that the terrible foe marches into Chiril, a horrific beast is stalking and killing anyone in its path. No one is safe from the predatory Grawl. Time is running out for the two heroes and their companions as they struggle to reach the Valley of the Dragons where they plan to leave the statues.

The latest inspiration dragon fantasy (see Dragonknight and Dragonquest) is a fabulous tale that, as always in a Donita K. Paul thriller, takes the audience soaring across the author's vivid mythical landscape. As chaos threatens the land, Tipper and Bealomondore are heroic figures; not because they may succeed, but due to risking their lives against overwhelming odds as for instance a peace loving artist picks up the sword. Action-packed with deadly perils from outside coming in and inside expanding out and with a strong cast especially the champions, fans will need a seat belt as this fast-paced novel never takes a respite.

Divine Appointments
Charlene Ann Baumbich
9780307444721, $13.99

In Chicago forty-seven years old Josie "Dragon" Brooks loves her work as a successful business consultant at Diamond Mutual who also enjoys being single as she can do what she wants in her personal life. No one does downsizing better than Josie, who is no purring pussycat when it comes to her favorite part of her job; as she has no concern for what happens to employees she kicked to the curb; that is why her nickname as the bottom line profit is all that matters. She makes Scrooge before the ghostly visits seem altruistic.

Out of nowhere, a snow globe shows up at her apartment. Suddenly her perfect cold life falls apart when people befriend her and one person even offers her love. As she examines her commitment phobia, Josie feels like Scrooge during the transformation.

The second Snow Globe whimsical second chance at life fantasy (see Stray Affections) is an engaging pleasant contemporary fiction. The vast support characters enable the readers to see deep inside the frozen heart of the Dragon lady to what made her icier than the pre melting tundra. However, the key element to the potential transformation of a Scroogette is even the queen of mean has redeeming qualities.

Lady in Waiting
Susan Meissner
9780307458834, $13.99

After two decades plus of marriage, Jane Lindsay assumed she and her husband Brad would always be a couple. Thus when Brad walks out on her to move from Manhattan to Manchester, New Hampshire, she is stunned as she never even remotely saw it coming. With their son away at school, Jane struggles with the end of her emotionally comfortable life.

At her East Village antique shop, amidst a box filled with alleged relics sent by her English friend Emma Downing, Jane finds an old ring. On the inner band is etched a phrase in Latin with one English word: Jane. With a need to know more about the ring that came from a British estate sale, she investigates who the original Jane was. She soon learns about sixteenth-century dressmaker Lucy Day who worked for ill-fated innocent Lady Jane Grey; at a time when the country's tumultuous divide placed her in the deadly middle. Connected by the ring and their first name, Lady Jane and Manhattan Jane have more control over what they want out of their lives than either originally had thought.

This is an entertaining well written comparative analysis of two Janes; one a tragic aristocratic historical figure and the other a present day tragic middle class fictional figure. However, though centuries apart they share plenty in common as each thought they had no say in their lives, but soon learn they control their destinies by making choices. Their opportunity costs are high but obviously Lady Jane's is much more. Fans will appreciate Susan Meissner's strong parallel plots as the author makes the case that readers have choices that they should make and not let someone else dictate their picks even if they select t he status quo.

Blood On Silk
Marie Treanor
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451231567, $14.00,

Elizabeth Silk researches the vampire mythos for her dissertation in the Romanian village of Dmitriu. Speaking Romanian with the locals, several mention a nearby castle ruin where they insist Saloman the vampire was staked. She visits the site and accidentally falls into a hidden crypt. Inadvertently Elizabeth opens up a sealed sarcophagus.

The moment the lid falls off, Prince Saloman steps out from the sarcophagus prison that held him captive since he was staked three hundred years ago. Being an ancient vampire, Saloman is extremely powerful. He and his "savior" are bound by her rescuing him and their mutual desire as he craves her innocent blood and she yearns for his touch especially his teeth. However, she must decide if her attraction should tie them through the bond of blood or sacrifice her love to the encroaching vampire hunter horde coming to kill him.

Although nothing new is added to the sub-genre, Blood on Silk is an entertaining vampire romance. Whereas Saloman is a typical; arrogant vampire right out of the casting, the key to the fine story line is Elizabeth who has readers wondering if she will be his eternal love or his Judas. Fans will enjoy Marie Treanor's entertaining tale

The Disappearance
Bentley Little
9780451231031, $7.99

Five UCLA students drive from California to Nevada to attend the tribal gathering Burning Man in the Black Forest Desert. After a couple of fun filled days, on the second night Gary feels drugged and is knocked out along with his four friends. When he looks for his companions he finds Reyn, Stacy and Brian, but his girlfriend Joan is missing. The police don't take the disappearance seriously ; the four students return to the college to work on a plan to find Joan.

They learn someone tampered with Joan's files so it looks as if she never attended the school; her Facebook and My Space pages are gone. Teri Lin, the student who gave Joan's family number, is killed by a man wearing Amish like homespun clothing that. Gary is kidnapped by three men who wear the identical clothing as Teri's killer wore. When he escapes he fin ds himself in New Mexico. He learns Joan is being held in the religious cult's compound in Bitterwood, Texas where she grew up. Gary and his friends arrive to spring her but hundreds of worshipers of Father surround her. Joan knows she F Father will hunt her and her friends until they are dead.

This will leave chills inside the readers' hearts as the audience will be spellbound with fear yet horrified with this powerful human horror thriller. Gary is a mature person who knows his love for Joan is not a youthful game but much more. Resolute though some would insist foolish, he risks his life for his beloved knowing the cult will try to kill him to prevent one of theirs leaving. Bentley Little will appear on bestseller lists as he mesmerizes his fans with the Disappearance.

Warrior Avenged
Addison Fox
9780451231079, $7.99

Nemesis started her life as a cursed nymph, but recently became a Goddess. However, in spite of her change in position, the neo deity seeks revenge against the God who cursed her unfairly:, Zeus and his pantheon on Mount Olympus. Part of her effort was a Faustian deal with a dark sorcerer, but that has backfired on her since she finally met her first target Kane, Scorpio of the Zodiac warriors.

Her deal, made three centuries ago, is to kill Kane by poisoning his soul. For three hundred years he annually fights the war of survival and every time he has vanquished the toxin even knowing he will repeat the process again and again for eternity or his death. However, this year Kane Montague, an MI6 sniper-assassin, is divided ever since he met a woman Ilsa the secret agent who has him focused on her and not his mission or his survivability.

The latest superb Zodiac Warriors urban romantic fantasy (see Warrior Ascended) is a terrific tale of love, betrayal, and (readers will hope) redemption and not more perfidy as Aquarius and Scorpio do not mix smoothly. Fox world is fully developed with the back-story of what happened millennia go intertwined within the exciting storyline. The support cast especially his concerned brothers in arms enhance understanding of the lead couple as the second saga in the Fifth Age of Man is another winner.

My Lord Scandal
Emma Wildes
9780451231062, $6.99

Unable to say no to his grandmother, Lord Alexander St. James searches for a missing family heirloom. To accomplish the mission he sneaks into Lady Amelia Patton's bedroom as her family stole the heirloom from his.

Amelia's father ordered her to go to London to find a husband. She is taken aback not so much by a man in her room, but by a member of the family, her family loathes. Alexander is as shocked not to see he was caught, but how much he wants Amelia though she is a member of the family his family loathes. As they fall in love with the feud hanging over their happiness, each receives threatening letters exposing the scandalous original source of the spat.

This first "Notorious Bachelors" historical romance is an enjoyable tale as a family feud threatens to keep the beloved enemies apart. Although not a new premise, sub-genre fans will enjoy the exciting story line from the moment Alexander and Amelia meet in her room; their respective reactions are priceless as both are more stunned by the attraction than by his sneaking into her room. With late suspense re the spat, My Lord Scandal is an entertaining nineteenth century romance.

Cross Your Heart
Michele Bardsley
9780451231055, $7.00

Widow Elizabeth Silverstone Bretton went to look at her family's abandoned estate when she was assaulted. She died but came back as a vampire. She lives as an undead in the vampire capital of the United States Broken Heart, Oklahoma, which is also her hometown.

Townsfolk search the Silverstone Mansion, but apparently freed an angry century and a half old ghost with a grudge against the Silverstone brood. The fuming spirit attacks Elizabeth who is rescued by homicide detective were-jaguar Tez Jones. He teams up with Elizabeth investigating what happened one hundred and fifty years ago to make a ghost into a homicidal psychopath and more significantly to get into her bed

This is a jocular Broken Heart entry (see Cross Your Heart, Come Hell or High Water and Over My Dead Body) that fans of the series will appreciate as the prim and proper widow meets a nasty ghost and a crude shapeshifter that has her wondering what happened to the male population at the same time she wants the uncouth were-jaguar though she poorly conceals it. Brisk and breezy, fans will enjoy Michele Bardsley fun romantic paranormal small town Noir.

The Knight
Steven James
9780451231024, $7.99

MSU Law Professor Lebreau and her students found discrepancies in the DNA evidence that has allowed Devin Basque to have a second trial after thirteen years in prison having been convicted as a serial killer. FBI Agent Patrick Bowers must leave his Colorado home to testify at the retrial in Chicago. At the same time that he is to give a sworn statement in an Illinois courtroom, Denver Police Lieutenant Kurt Mason asks for his help on a murder tied back to a double homicide. The victim in the first homicide has a tape recorder in her mouth that shocks Bower as the culprit says he will see Bower in Chicago; few people knows he is going to the Basque retrial. He needs to get ahead of the culprit who is playing him like a puppet on a string when an incident in the courtroom leaves a father of a victim dead.

Adding complications to his already overly wrought schedule is his teen step-daughter Tessa who has found her late mom's diary in which she says she considered aborting her child. Tessa wants to meet and confront her biological father, Paul Lansing. Bowers wants to help his beloved stepchild and be there if she needs his shoulder.

The latest Bowers geospatial profiling police procedural is a terrific entry as so much is going on with the Basque case, the stalking serial killer who has targeted Bower as a victim (readers know before the Fed who he is) and the Tessa scenario. Fans of the series will enjoy this strong thriller and seek the back list (see The Pawn and The Rook) as the action never stops with clever criminals watching CSI for tops and on the personal front as Tessa seeks her biological father.

Chains Of Fire
Christina Dodd
9780451412928, $7.99

Both are Chosen Ones. They have worked together on missions and had an affair that ended nasty with unfulfilled need. Each has learned now to never mix business and pleasure especially between a Gypsy and a socialite though they have known each for the longest time.

Lawyer and mind-control expert Samuel Faa and healer Isabelle Mason remain angry with one another and especially their selves although each also remains attracted to each other. In Switzerland they bury their feelings in order to unfreeze the Gypsy Travel Agency funds, but also rescue a kidnapped child who was abducted by the Others as an expendable pawn to kill the two Chosen Ones in a man-made avalanche. The ploy works to a point as Samuel and Isabelle are trapped inside the ruins of a castle with a ton of ice burying them and the edifice; and the enemy patiently waits to insure the job is done.

The latest Chosen Ones urban fantasy (see Chains of Ice, Storm of Visions and Storm of Shadows) is a superb romantic suspense thriller. The lead couple is a dynamic pairing as they have a long volatile history (told by Christina Dodd in flashbacks). Even with their past interwoven throughout the tale, Chains of Fire is an exhilarating entry as Samuel and Isabelle are trapped under a ton of rocks and under the even heavier burden of their love.

A Nose for Justice
Rita Mae Brown
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345511812, $25.00,

When Wall Street tanked, many people lost their jobs including broker Magdalene "Mags" Rogers. Broke and disillusioned she returns home to her great-Aunt Magdalene "Jeep" Reed who owns the 10,000 acre ranch Wings in Nevada. She has bought more land and water rights to other property in order to stop more mansions from being built that would use up the water and destroy the ecosystem.

On the day that Mags comes home, someone ignites a pipe bomb to blow up property belonging to SSRM (Silver State resource management); responsible for seeing that there is enough w ater to supply the citizens of the state. A man concerned with Nevada's water supply is found murdered in a hotel room. Not long after that another pump is blown up. An SSRM top official is killed. Some people who bought small plots in the Mini Mansion complex Horseshoe Estates are killed and one person is on the run. Others refuse to talk while the police begin to realize all these events are linked. Jeep and Mags becomes involved when a corpse is found on their property. They help the police with background information while their dogs can't make their humans understand their concerns.

Baxter who belongs to Mags and King who owns Jeep have interesting amusing conversations with each other as each believes they are the top dog except when it comes to the safety of their two women. As the canines argue over who is the lead, ironically much of book involves human reed on a scale of The Treasure of the Sierra Madres. This is the first book in Rita Mae Brown's new series and readers who enjoy the author's Miss Murphy capers will love A Nose for Justice as the human and canine cast is strong and the whodunit exciting.

The Mayan Apocalypse
Mark Hitchcock and Alton Gansky
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736930550, $13.99,

Geologist Andrew Morgan seeks to understand life. He is an affluent man who has traveled the globe trying to find meaning beyond is that all there is having lost his loved ones; he holds God culpable for their deaths. So far, his quest has failed. Andrew is fascinated with the ancient Mayan prediction that the world ends in December 2012. He digs deeper into the prophecy and is stunned by the mathematical and astronomical affirmation of what he assumed was a superstitious omen by primitive people. However, in spite of his reluctant conversion that a pandemic tragedy from the skies is coming, he knows his quest for the meaning of life remains unanswered unless death is the only response.

Andrew meets Christian journalist Lisa Campbell as she also researches the Mayan calendar. As 2011 increasingly proves a deadly year with both natural and man-made disasters, she shares the Bible's last days with him. However, he rejects the Bible's Rapture and the Mayan Apocalypse as being the same empty mythos. Yet he and others consider hiding in a bunker as the Hammer of God threatens the earth with cosmic impact on eerily December 21 2012.

This is a terrific thriller with several major twists that enhance the belief that a potential pandemic disaster threatens the earth. The story line is action-packed and fast-paced with a strong cast including the two protagonists, a disbeliever, and several fascinating others. With the doomsday countdown plot hooking readers, fans will relish this exhilarating apocalypse now tale as the underlying premise is that for someone any day may prove to be his or her end of day.

Simply Sara
Hilary Manton Lodge
Harvest House
9780736926997, $10.99

Sara Burkholder left her Amish family and community to room in the English world with Oregonian reporter Jayne Tate (see Plain Jayne) in Portland. Although Jayne initially was reluctant especially finding Sara hiding in her car trunk, she has become a willing and caring mentor, as has her friends. Sara's brother Levi followed her to the big city with his heart insisting he continue to court Jayne, but he also seems to have adapted faster as she struggles with her adjustment though she has passed her GED. Still with Jayne's encouragement, Sara learns to drive and buys clothing and makeup so she will fit in her new environs especially at fashion school she attends.

Sara is pleased to obtain a job at R.G. Cameron Books though the store manager Will Blythe makes her uneasy. However, not ready for romance, Sara flees back to Amish country believing her family especially her dad will reject her. As her doubts grow whether to return to her Amish lifestyle or continue to adapt to that of the English, Sara turns to God; only to wonder if the deity she grew up to respect is the same as those outside of her Amish community who pray to as diligently as she does

The Plain and Simple Sequel to Plain Jayne stars the sister of the male lead from the first novel and the book store manager who scowls at her to hide his out of control heart rate. Entertaining and fresh as this fine Amish romance's setting is predominantly Englisher Portland instead of the Amish country, Simply Sara is simply stupendous.

Hometown Ties
Melody Carlson
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434764959, $14.99,

After failing to stay in touch with one another for years, the fiftyish four Lindas have reconnected. They attended elementary school in the same class starting in first grade at Clifden, Oregon. As they became BFFs, each agreed to use their middle names to reduce the Linda confusion. Now as each does their life over, they vow to help one another achieve their objective though success will prove difficult to even define.

Widow attorney Janie still grieves the death of her beloved spouse. Abby has not adapted to the empty nest syndrome as she has defined herself as a mother for ages. Painter Marley feels burned out as she cannot finish a canvas. Finally Caroline finds being her Alzheimer's suffering mother's caretaker extremely strenuous and testing as she has almost no life of her own anymore.

The second Four Lindas tale is an inspiring story based on the premise that a person can achieve so much to overcome what eats at their soul especially when we have loving people in our corner encouraging our fight. Although the plot is thin and it helps to better understand the quartet by reading the previous book As Young As We Feel, fans will relish Melody Carlson's heartwarming concept that with faith and loved ones, a person can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Travis Thrasher
David C. Cook
9781434764218, $14.99

Following his parents' divorce, Chris Buckley knows leaving Chicago suburb Libertyville, Illinois to live with his mom in her hometown of Solitary, North Carolina will require a major adjustment. At the high school, he is an outsider as 99% of the 700 students would not know Strangeways, Here We Come by the Smiths; however thanks to his murky T-shirt picture he meets the 1%, three Goth juniors. The silent one Jocelyn Evans helps him find his classroom, but he is a bit taken aback when the other kids stare at him as if he was a disease.

Chris is attracted to the enigmatic Jocelyn, who he realizes is a pariah beyond just being a Goth Girl. However, as he pursues her wanting her as his girlfriend; she rejects his advances though she is attracted to him. He and his mom are warned to stay away from Jocelyn, but when he asks why, no one responds; not even the teen he adores who likewise warns him. Chris's pursuit soon proves dangerous to him and his mom though he remains ignorant as to what is going on in spirited Solitary confinement.

Although targeting young adults, older readers will also appreciate this terrific dark teen thriller in which the increasing eeriness of the town leads to a frightening sinister atmosphere. The audience will anticipate the worst will happen, which is a doubled edged sword as it adds tension but also the intelligent Chris feels the same way as the reader yet allows himself to fall for duplicity several times though one might claim love makes people do dumb things. The support cast is strong including the hero's "club" and those staring strangers as Travis Thrasher provides an exciting taut horror thriller.

Reinventing Rachel
Alison Strobel
David C. Cook
9781434767745, $14.99

In SoCal, twenty-six year old Rachel Westing believes strongly that God failed her. Pious and a volunteer, she diligently has followed the word of the Lord for over two decades only to find her personal life imploding. Her fiance Patrick is cheating and her parents Karen and Owen are divorcing.

On top of all that, Rachel questions whether she can turn to her Christian counselor Barbara who is so addicted to prescription pills, her mate will not let her drive. Angry and doubting that God even exists, Rachel quits on the lord, her family, her fiance and her job. She leaves town to stay with her non religious successful childhood friend Daphne in Chicago, thinking that at one time she thought sh e would save her BFF's soul, but now believes her pal might save her from her depression because God abandoned her.

The premise of a cradle Christian running from her devout roots to redesign herself under the tutelage of her secular friend leads to a fine character driven tale of faith. Rachel is terrific as she holds the inspiring story line together when she goes from true believer to doubting Thomas. Although the causes of her religious collapse seem minor compared to what happened to Job and others, inspirational fans will enjoy Reinventing Rachel.

Tears of the Mountain
John Addiego
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
9781609530068, $25.95,

The townsfolk of Santa Rosa, California celebrate the centennial Independence Day. Among the people attending is Jeremiah McKinley who looks forward to s pending time with his family and friends even as he muses over his past starting with the deadly trek decades ago from Missouri to Sonoma County.

However, the day of rejoicing takes a nasty turn when someone poisons Senator Morris in his hotel room. The law arrests Jeremiah's innocuous mentor Professor Elijah Applewood. Making matters worse, Jeremiah, worried for his friend, finds his family has vanished even as notes begin to appear everywhere threatening him. When the Professor vanishes, the law arrests Jeremiah for abetting his escape. He must prove his innocence, find his missing family and friend, and uncover who the guilty person is before he is hung by the law.

This is a fascinating Americana tale as seen though the eyes of Jeremiah who has witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly in America yet retains his hope for the future especially for his family and friends that life will be better for them. Although the support cast feels somewhat stereotyped, readers will enjoy Jeremiah, who lives up to Three Dog Night's opening line in Joy to the World. His action-packed amateur sleuth rave is one step ahead of a lynching as Tear of the Mountain is a wonderful western thriller.

A Geography of Secrets
Frederick Reuss
9781609530006, $25.95

In Washington, DC, at the Top Secret Defense Intelligence Analysis Center Noel coordinates military actions in Afghanistan. However, a miscalculation leads to the errant bombing of a school. Stunned he blames himself for the deaths of the innocent as he ponders how would he react if his daughter at college in Virginia died due to a bureaucrat's mistake. Adding to his overwhelming guilt, he h as no one he can share his remorse with; not even his family or his supervisors. He ponders quitting as he heads to a security conference in Switzerland because a conscience is a handicap in his line of business.

Ethan the mapmaker has just learned of the top secrets of his father in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and afterward in Europe during the Cold War. He is stunned as hi s dad seems more like a spy than a diplomat as he had always believed. His revelation started in Switzerland at his dad's funeral where he met an old friend of his father; a buddy he never knew existed. He hopes to learn more about his father's espionage work. In Bern, he and Noel meet for the first time as one seeks to close a chapter of his life while the other seeks to open a chapter of his life; both enshrouded in secrecy.

Running on two character driven subplots, Frederick Reuss provides a terrific thriller as the lead pair approach secrets differently but with a similar desire. One has spent a lifetime hiding them but now has a desperate need to reveal them if he is to move on pass the tragic error; while the other has a desperate need to know the secrets his father apparently took to the grave. Written like a horizontal hyperbola with two foci connecting Noel and Ethan, readers will relish the aptly titled A Geography of Secrets.

Krymsin Nocturnes
Joseph Armstead
By Light Unseen Media
PO Box 1233, Pepperell, MA 01463-3233
9781935303077, $29.00

For millenniums, the Moon-Chosen vampires and the humans compete for domination of the world. The human governments have cut secret agreements with the vampires while concealing from the general populace that the undead Homo Draeconis live amongst them. Only the metahumans Olympians battle the vamps and their avaricious mercenary mortal quislings.

Blood Mage sorcerer Rajan Seddig Al'Meffistah discovers that a powerful relic has been hidden in California's Borrego Bay. He wants it as he knows that the talisman will make him an unmatched deity ruling the world. His former lover Calianne has followed him to California to prevent him from succeeding. An alliance of strange bedfellows consisting of Quinn of the moon-chosen, spiteful spirits, gangsters, government "spooks" and immortal and mortal mercenaries are also deployed to prevent the calamity from happening.

Krymsin Nocturnes is an action-packed vampiric techno-thriller that genre fans will fully enjoy. The key to Joseph Armstead's strong tale is that the author makes his premise of vampires living secretly amidst mortals due in part to human government cooperation seem real without slowing or dumbing down the plot. Readers will want to join (from their armchairs) the confrontation in New Barrington and West Sussex on Borrego Bay as the world order is at stake.

Gideon Redoak
Anne Fraser
By Light Unseen Media
9780979302817, $59.00

From the day he was born in 1622, Gideon Redoak was raised in a very strict Puritan family. His father the baron demanded respect as he dominated every aspect of life for his family. Gideon was not allowed to speak to single women, nor read anything except the Bible. His sister Prudence likewise was under the strict thumb of their father.

When Gideon is nineteen, his father is murdered most likely by highwaymen. Gideon becomes his sister's guardian and takes care of his mother while running the estate he inherited. When Simon Paxson, who is of an age of his late father, arrives insisting he has a spoken deal to marry Prudence, Gideon says he has no proof and already arranged for his sister to wed James Carter, the estate steward she loves. After his sibling and James marry in 1642, Gideon hires a new steward Etienne Corbeau to run the estate at a time when three strange murders occur. He also realizes his father's chosen bride for him, although of proper breeding and wealth, Piety fail s to move him while his new employee does. Etienne seduces Gideon and turns him into a vampire. Over the years Gideon adapts even finding love, but fears his maker is not finished with him.

This is an entertaining life in a vampire saga over the centuries. Seventeenth century Gideon expected eternal punishment, as part of his Puritan upbringing, for lying about knowing Paxson's deal and the betrothal between his sister and his steward; so there is plenty of irony as the protagonist adjusts emotionally, sexually and religiously to the change. Not for all vampire aficionados as the action is for most part off page and muted, fans of a profound character study will want to read the late Anne Fraser's fabulous fable of the life and death and un-death of a young man.

The Longer the Fall
Inanna Arthen
By Light Unseen Media
9780979302893, $28.00

In 1952 Boston, recently divorced thirtyish Diana Chilton has belonged to the Order of the Silver Light her entire life. However, she decides she has no reason to stay since her marriage broke up and as a political activist seeking freedoms for all she is frustrated with the glass ceiling for females. So she leaves for Pepperell, Maine home of the "Hermit of Pepperill Hills".

Diana meets the hermit Thomas Morgan, who was once part of the same order she just left. He has lived for ages because, as she learns, he is a vampire. Thomas was dying from cancer when he begged the Fae to save his life; they did sort of by cursing him by converting him into an Undead who craves human blood. Thomas persuades Diana to help him especially with curing him of his obsession with human blood. However, that proves easier to say then do as the human and the former human spend two years trying to eliminate his thirst. However, each conceals their real agenda from the other.

The second Vampires of New England novel (see Mortal Touch) is an interesting thriller as mortal and the undead work together, but hide their respective motive from one another. The story line loses some speed towards the middle due to the sexual trysts and other happenings expanded too long; but the plot regains the accelerated momentum when the lead couple confronts what they wrought. With a great twist to the delight of appreciative fans, readers will enjoy Inanna Arthen's vampire tale.

The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove
Susan Gregg Gilmore
Shaye Areheart Books
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
9780307395030, $23.00,

In Nashville, teenager Bezellia Grove knows her affluent family is dysfunctional mostly due to her shrewish sop of a mother but also somewhat due to a cowardly father. He hides at work while she tears into the help (Maizelle Cooper the maid and Nathaniel Stephenson the chauffeur), and her daughter as the affluent glamour image is what the matriarch thrives for. Bezellia turns to the Black employees for a sense of family and does her best to protect her younger sister Adelaide from mommy dearest.

In 1965 then fourteen years old Bezellia and Nathaniel's son Samuel are attracted to each other, but kept apart as unacceptable by their families for different reasons. Three years later, Bezellia visiting her maternal grandparents meets the farmer's son wannabe singer Ruddy Semple; he also is from an unacceptable family but his whiteness makes him a few notches above Samuel. Bezellia goes to college as the family hits economic hard times and dark secrets surface.

This is an interesting look at the life of a white southern female as she struggles with her desires and what her heritage allows. Although the story line is overly fashioned with a zillion too many regional stereotypes that survive (in this novel) well into the twenty-first century, Bezellia's internal conflict between her southern belle upbringing and her improper lifestyle makes for an overall fine saga. Susan Gregg Gilmore's underlying premise is that we have come a long way since the 1950s thanks to pioneers risking their places (an d lives) in society, but also have a long way left to journey, if equality is to become the de facto way of life.

Todos Santos
Deborah Clearman
Black Lawrence Press
9780982520406, $18.00,

In Iowa, humiliated and disgusted with her wandering spouse Eliot's womanizing, artist Catherine Barnes travels to Guatemala to get away from him while she begins her new picture book project. Their troubled teenage son Isaac, who flunked e eighth grade, accompanies her to the Central American country.

Wondering how he will survive unwired for the month he is to spend in this back water land, Isaac works at his paternal Aunt Zelda's handicrafts store while Catherine seeks subjects for her new book in the Mayan village of Todos Santos in the mountains. Isaac does dumb things leading to an accident and his kidnapping. At the same time, the mountain villagers distrust the outsider who they fear will steal their babies. With the help of tour guide Oswaldo, Catherine handles the townsfolk hostility and Isaac's disappearance.

This is an intriguing Ugly American tale of a mother and son in a foreign impoverished country. The cast is solid especially the indigenous population while the son grows up fast but his American mom appears a bit too detached from the swirl that engulfs them. Still the insight into Guatemala is super and a great twist re Isaac enhances a wonderful tale as readers will hope Catherine learns the intimacy of the "Pulsera" rather than just return to the American heartland to die a slow death of ennui.

Million Little Mistakes
Heather McElhatton
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061133268, $14.99,

The reader has won, $22 million in the Big Money Sucka! Lottery. Now we must choose how we will live and what we will do with the money. The choices are ours to make; as each time we select, second and third order effects occur. First we start with do we keep our jobs or not. If we quit our job, do we keep our current relationship or not? If we remain at work, do we hire a fund manager or not? Pressure mounts from loved ones as for instance Lanie needs a kidney transplant but that costs money.

This is a terrific interactive contemporary "do over" choose your own life as an adventure in which selections lead to other choices until that subplot is completed with fifty endings. Readers can then start over and choose a different thread; not all end happily. There are over a hundred possible story lines as this book is not intended to be great literature, but instead a fun diverting look (best perused over a couple of weeks) at how a person can make a Million Little Mistakes in which a fan can start over especially when and outcome ends sadly as some do (like marrying George Clooney).

I Shall Wear Midnight
Terry Pratchett
9780061433047, $16.99

Trained in witchcraft by experts like Nanny Ogg (unofficially in this case that is), Tiffany Aching has become the Witch of the Chalk. Being young and wanting fun with and without witchcraft, Tiffany understands her responsibility to perform the spells to help those in need although she gains no acclaim as she does her work diligently in secret. Adding to her discomfit is reactions of the normal are rarely what she expects them to be.

However while at a fair feeling like a fool tied to her broom; just like the little kids with balloons, Tiffany senses something is not right. Soon people begin to assault witches for no apparent reason beyond their normal fear of the witches. She and her minuscule belligerent intoxicated pals, the Wee Free Men, begin to search what is playing on the trepidations of people towards witches. Needing help, she journeys to Ankh Morpork to meet with Roland, the baron's heir and with a shopkeeper before returning to confront whatever evil is stalking the Chalk.

Targeting teens, the fourth Aching fantasy (see The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith) is a terrific entry that will have readers fully engrossed in the exciting story line. Yet the tale also ponders deep philosophical issues of esteem, fitting in (or not) and it's okay to be different and to a degree alone while making a strong case to speak up if you are domestic abuse victim. All that and more without decelerating and linked to the Discworld saga; fans of that great satirical series will also relish Tiffany's coming of age final test escapades

Loco Motive
Mary Daheim
9780061774768, $23.99

In Seattle, Washington at the Hillside Manor Bed & Breakfast, daredevil Wee Willie Weevil performs a stunt from the roof that fails. His assistant Pepper Gundy blames the fiasco on the B&B and informs owner Judith McMonigle Flynn to expect a lawsuit.

Needing to escape from the guests including her daughter and grandchildren, Judith, her and her cousin Serena Jones and take the cross country Amtrak Empire Builder to Boston on vacation. Their husbands will meet them there. They use the rails out of deference to Renie who fears flying. Also on the train are injured Willie, Pepper, and another of his assistants. Soon after the unhappy reunion, a train attendant disappears, an accident forces the train to stop in Big Sky Country, and Willie is dead in a sleeper.

The latest Bed-and-Breakfast amateur sleuth (see Vi Agra Falls) is a wonderful whodunit although at times there is too much side baggage even on a cross country train. The cast is sold as the sleuthing cousins work the homicide though their motive for doing so is weak. Still fans of the long running B&B mysteries will enjoy riding the rails with the lead females as they leave Hillside manor for a respite only to investigate a homicide.

Chandra Hoffman
9780061974298, $24.99

In Portland, Oregon, Chloe Pinter is a social worker and director of the Chosen Child's domestic adoption program. Her current clients, the recipients wealthy Francie and John McAdoo and the impoverished donor birth parents Penny and Jason, have different demands of Chloe especially when the social worker notices the bassinet in their home. She fears they will not come together in this open adoption.

Chloe warns the McAdoo couple not to count their chickens before they are hatched as the adoption may not occur. Her admonition leads to a series of missteps that places the baby in jeopardy and has Chloe reconsidering the merits of open adoptions that she thought were the best way to exchange a child.

Chosen is a fascinating contemporary tale that focuses on the economics behind adoptions; as the impoverished donor couple struggle to make ends meet while the affluent pair can afford the child. The couples are overly stereotyped as the poor family (including Jason's brother) are abusive and threatening while the wealthy pair is snooty nouveau riche. Ironically a third couple and Chloe are the sympathetic characters. Still in spite of the hyperbole of the exchange couples, Chandra Hoffman provides an interesting 360 degree look at how several people feel about adoption.

Chasing Curves
Lloyd Corricelli
Sons of Liberty
9780982403570, $17.99

In Lowell, Massachusetts someone stole Dr. Katrina Sadolovaki's car and her lover private detective Ronan Marino and associates conduct surveillance. All hell breaks loose and though he conceals his role letting the cops take credit for a car ring bust, she knows in her gut her boyfriend was in the middle. She has doubts about their relationship as she struggles with his occupation and his mob family. They went to the ballet and now attend a U of Mass-Lowell baseball game in which pitching phenomenon Ty Wallace is expected to star. Instead he looks sickly and worried as the opponents Bentley College batter him.

Soon after the baseball debacle, Ty's dad Zack asks Ronan to learn what is troubling his son. Soon afterward, the police suspect Ty of killing his potential agent's assistant. Ronan follows clues seeking the identity of the killer though increasingly he feels the pitcher struck out even as he follows a lead to Fenway Park and Boston's Back Bay.

The second Marino private investigative thriller (see Two Redheads and a Blonde) is a terrific gritty Lowell Noir starring a hero trapped between his mob roots and his gut obsession with justice. The characters make the regional story line fun to read as Ronan is helped by his friend Eddie the cop and Tony his mob enforcer cousin as well as the females in his life starting with the good doctor and the female P.I. The whodunit is entreatingly well-written, but it is the cast and the city with minor league baseball and hockey thriving along the banks of the Merrimack.

Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life
Don Brophy
BlueBridge Books
c/o United Tribes Media Inc.
P.O. Box 454, Mamaroneck, NY 10543
9781933346281, $24.95,

Although Saint Catherine of Siena died in 1380, her "written" (dictated to scribes) work remains a key legacy of the Christian Church today. Plenty has been written about the spiritual Saint Catherine because her devotion to Christ was recognized as late as 1970 when she was declared a "Doctor of the Church". However, Don Brophy provides a fresh perspective on her by providing readers with a deeper look at the medieval era in western Europe. Catherine was not just a deeply pious individual, she was also a pragmatic soul who advised and challenged leaders of countries and the papacy while also establishing a monastery. Thus the beauty of this strong biography is the profound glimpse of the mortal milieu of a highly spirited woman's passionate "public" life as she dealt with kings and popes pleading with them to bring peace and prosperity to the masses. Saint Catherine was more than just a devoted follower of Christ as Mr. Brophy makes a strong case she also dedicated her life to influence the ruling class to do better by their subjects.

One For Hell
Jada M. Davis
Stark House Press
2200 'O' Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781933586304, $19.95,

Riding the boxcars in Texas, Willa Ree takes a quick glimpse around as the train he rides enters Breton. Willa leaps off just before the train stops at the station as he is hungry and broke and believes there are plenty of fat oily suckers here for him to skim.

Town leader Ben Halliday seeks a new cop who has no trouble with turning the other cheek as money is stolen. Willa and Ben meet and size each other up before agreeing this is a marriage made in hell. Ben arranges for Willa to be his dirty cop. However, Willa proves to be an out of control psycho in Ben's mind; as the new cop fails to conceal neither his contemptible thieving ways nor his womanizing. Each knows a showdown for who owns Breton is coming soon though the affluent locals will probably hire a fast gun while Willa relies on himself.

This is a reprint of a 1950s Noir that now reads like a powerful historical crime caper. Readers will anticipate the face-off, but not expect the fabulous twist. Well written and filled with plenty of action though character driven, One For Hell provides a deep look at Korean Era Texas with a strong cast as the audience will wonder who will be the last one breathing when the dust (and blood) clots.

The Mistaken Wife
Rose Melikan
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416560906, $15.00,

In 1797, British spy Mary Finch goes undercover in enemy territory France, masquerading as the wife of an American artist. Her supervisor spymaster Cuthbert Shy assigns her with a two pointed top secret mission in Paris that she is to hide from her soulmate. First she is to become friends with the visiting U.S. envoys in order to cause disagreement and disharmony between the two nations and second persuade the American diplomats that there is a mutual alliance based on a common language and shared heritage with the Americans and the English

Mary's beloved Captain Robert Holland is also in France spying. He investigates rumors of an underwater weapon that has Channel sailors claiming sea monsters are terrorizing ships. He assumes the superstitious sailors mistake legend with fact.

Using real historical events and people, Rose Melikan strongly anchors the time and places of her third Mary Finch espionage thriller (see The Counterfeit Guest and The Blackstone Key) as readers will believe we are there. Action-packed from the moment the heroine and her beloved separately cross The Channel, fans need to set aside plenty of time as The Mistaken Wife is a tremendous late nineteenth century thriller.

The Life You've Imagined
Kristina Riggle
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780061706295, $13.99,

Still sarcastic Cami Drayton has come home to Haven though she prefers not to return to the house she hates where her alcoholic father resides and the man she loves Steve is distant. She must deal with an ugly family secret if she is to move on with her life.

Unlike the next generation including her daughter the hotshot Chicago lawyer, Maeve always has lived in Haven, but not because she cherishes the town. Instead she remains in the family home hoping that her husband will return to her; though he abandoned her and the family years ago.

Maeve's daughter and Cami's best friend at Haven High School, Chicago attorney Anna Geneva grieves the death of a dear friend and mentor August Canfield, but fails to cope with her loss. Needing the comfort of family and friends, Anna returns to Haven.

Finally Haven native Amy Rickart figuratively kills herself to be perfect. She has found her perfect match she believes in Paul Becker, but has doubts she is perfect enough as her childhood still haunts her with how imperfect she was and mentally assumes still is.

Rotating first person perspective though at times it is difficult to separate the voices of who leads a chapter, this is a well written and engaging character study as each woman looks back and wonders what if they made a different choice at a pivotal moment. Obviously character driven, the lives intertwine as the women must confront new decision-making life choice.

The Good Daughters
Joyce Maynard
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061994319, $24.99,

On July 4, 1950 in New Hampshire, Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson are born at the same hospital. Ruth is the youngest of five sisters; whereas her father is a caring farmer who loves his girls including his "Hurricane baby"; her mother is distant. Dana wants stability as her parents drag her and her older brother Ray with them as they follow capricious dreams into one disaster after another. The families remain friends as once a year the Plank brood visits the wandering Dickerson clan regardless of where the latter resides for the moment. Artistic Ruth the romantic reunites with Ray in a haze of sex and drugs at Woodstock. Dana dreams of love with a woman as she becomes an agricultural student where she meets assistant Professor Clarice. As ea ch woman settles into their career of an artist and a scientist, they dream of finding a loving mate and raising children, but also need to know the family link between their parents.

This is an intriguing drama that sweeps through the decades as told by the rotating perspectives of the "Birth" sisters. The fully developed cast enhances the appealing story line that owned by Ruth and Dana as fans will be swept up in their tales and like them with a need to know what connects two families. Joyce Maynard provides a brilliant baby boomer historical saga.

Trail of Blood
Lisa Black
9780061989339, $24.99

In an abandoned warehouse in Cleveland, a mummified corpse is found. CPD assumes the victim was murdered by the city's first known serial killer, the taunting Torso Killer during the Great depression. Although over seven decades have passed since this brutal psychopath dismembered people the case still haunts the department as it was never solved.

Soon after finding the remains from the 1930s, another recently murdered person is found using the same M.O. as the infamous Torso killer. CPD believes an apparent copycat killer paying homage committed the gruesome homicide. Forensic pathologist Theresa MacLean and cousin Frank Patrick look at both cases and assume lunatics committed the atrocities then and now.

The latest MacLean Cleveland police procedural (see Takeover and Evidence of Murder) is a terrific double murder mystery that effortlessly moves back and forth between the present day inquiry and Miller's investigation of the Torso Killer. Both cases are fascinating although readers will know the respective killers before the cops do. With MacLean's personal life still in the tank but perhaps looking up, Trail of Blood is an entertaining well rounded mystery.

Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse
James L. Swanson
9780061233784, $27.99

On April 2, 1865, Confederate General Lee sends a telegram to President Jefferson Davis warning him the Yankee armies were heading to Richmond. Davis immediately stopped what he was doing and fled the capital by train. The next day the North took Richmond. Over the next twelve days the Northern military intensely searched for Davis proclaimed a traitor a s the Confederacy imploded under the assault.

On the evening of April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinates President Lincoln who was attending a play at the Ford Theater in Washington DC; other by co-conspirators assaults failed to kill the intended victims. Lincoln was pronounced dead the next morning while Wilkes fled the city. As the hunt for Wilkes intensified, the funeral process of President Lincoln began on April 19 in DC and from there by train until arriving in Springfield on May 3; millions watched the procession. Davis is called a co-conspirator murderer. Ironically while Lincoln became martyred for the ages; Davis once captured became martyred for the South's Lost Cause.

This is a fascinating comparison of the fates of two presidents in April 1865 as James L. Swanson intertwines their stories. The Lincoln segue is very passionate as the grief of mourners watching the train roll by will impact readers. The Davis segue is more exciting, but lacks the emotional intensity of the juxtaposed Lincoln piece. Enhanced by black and white photos, Bloody Crimes is a terrific historical account of two presidents although not as exhilarating as the superb Manhunt for Wilkes.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Tom Franklin
9780060594664, $24.99

In Chabot, Mississippi, Larry the bookworm loner and Silas "32" Jones the super baseball star became friends in high school in spite of their personality differences and the fact that the former is white and the latter black. When Cindy asks Larry to take her to the movies, he is excited with his first date. However, instead of a movie, Cindy used Larry to escape from her abusive step-father. When she vanishes, everyone accuses Larry of murder and probably rape though no proof exists.

Two decades later, Silas is a local constable and Larry the mechanic remains the pariah. When Larry is shot, the Rutherford girl's body is found on his property. With memories of missing Cindy still lingering and the circumstantial evidence of the current homicide in spite of his bullet wound, Larry is more than just the prime suspect. Silas, who has avoided his former friend si nce coming home, knows he owes Larry his best effort on proving the outsider is innocent.

This is an intriguing late twentieth century regional police procedural with a couple of strong late realistic twists. The story line is a character driven thriller; mostly by Larry who fails to confront the whisper campaign that has condemned him in Chabot. With a strong look at race relations in small town Mississippi in the 1970s and 1980s, readers will enjoy the strong saga of Larry and Silas.

Bad Boy
Peter Robinson
9780061362958, $25.99

Tracy Banks believes her friend Erin Doyle is dating a nasty person Jaff McCready. Erin's mom would agree with that assessment as she finds an illegal gun amongst Erin's poss ession. She reports this to the Eastvale police.

A charmer, Jaff persuades Tracy to flee the country with him and though she should know better she agrees to go with him. Jaff and Tracy hide in the Yorkshire house of her father Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks while is in the States. Meanwhile Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot leads the investigation into Jaff's whereabouts. Tracy opens up Jaff's suitcase to find it filled drugs, money and a gun. His allure ends for her so he turns ugly holding her hostage even as her dad returns from overseas to find his daughter in danger.

This is an excellent entry in the long running Banks police procedural series even with the lead playing at best a tertiary role (being overseas) in the first half of the novel. Even with the hero away, the story line is fast-paced throughout and when he returns the DCI conflicts between being the father of a hostage and the cop working a hostage situation arises. With an underlying theme of how the British feel about guns (and the gun laws) accentuated by the actions of Erin's mom, Peter Robinson affirms what his fans already know that you can bank on him for a powerful tale.

The Queen of Patpong
Timothy Hallinan
9780061672262, $24.99

In Bangkok, American travel writer Poke Rafferty and his lover Rose marry and forge a family with their adopted daughter Miaow. The adults are euphoric that their child is playing Ariel in a school production of the Tempest. However, their idyllic life is battered at a restaurant when Rose's past on Patpong Road raises its ugly head with the return of Howard Homer from the dead while Rose thought she dispatched him years ago.

Now Homer has plans for his woman while Rose thinks back to 1996 when as a country bumpkin teen Kwan was forced to leave her life on a farm to accept employment in the Red Light District as a bar dancer. There is where she encountered Homer who almost killed her before she was able to she thought kill him. Homer stalks Rose, Poke their adopted daughter Miaow and friend Arthit.

The latest Poke Rafferty Thailand thriller (see Breathing Water) is a brilliant entry due to the intelligent way Timothy Hallinan deftly handles Rose's back story as a dancer in the red light district. By not condemning or condoning her actions, Mr. Hallinan makes the tale seem real as he makes it clear this is simply a way of life. Homer brings the suspense to the streets of Bangkok as fans anticipate a High Noon confrontation perhaps on Patpong Road.

The Fall
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
9780061558221, $26.99

The strigori virus that started in New York City (see The Strain) has started to spread pandemically around the globe. Nothing seems to prevent the Vamps from owning the planet with small futile pockets of resistance remaining. Elderly ultra wealthy Eldritch Palmer continues his quisling support of the Master by abetting the strigori undead as the vampires intensify their control of earth. The Master of the seven Ancients also has decided to eliminate his peers so that he and his horde dominate the world with humans as their cattle.

One resistance group that caused problems in Manhattan for the Master still remains in spite of his minion's efforts to dine on them. CDC epidemiologists Ephraim Goodweather and Nora Martinez, Holocaust survivor Professor Abraham Setrakian, and NYC Bureau of Pest Control Services worker Vasiliy Fet have forged a resistance insurgency. The team's prime advisor, Setrakian is a veteran vampire slayer who killed his wife when she was turned; he insists their only hope rests with a Renaissance vampiric Genesis tome. Eph believes that to end the epidemic they must assassinate the Master who has converted his wife and she wants to change their son Zack. Finally Fet adapts easily from rodent pest exterminator to vampire pest exterminator.

The middle book of the Strain urban fantasy is an interesting thriller that never takes a respite from start to finish. The heroes are fully developed with each understanding the horror they face using self-mocking jocularity to lighten their mental burden. Loaded with action and fast-paced as a lot occurs in under a month, readers will be spellbound to follow what is going on and where Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan is leading the audience to in this grim saga.

An Impartial Witness
Charles Todd
9780061791789, $24.99

In 1917, British nurse Bess Crawford escorts several severely injured soldiers from the trenches of France back to England. One of her patients, severely burned pilot Lieutenant Meriwether Evanson is unrecognizable as he barely clings to his life; his seemingly only reason to live is the photo of his beloved wife pinned to his garb. Thus she is taken aback at the London train station to see that woman from the picture crying on the shoulder of a man who is not Meriwether.

After another deployment in France, Bess is shocked to read in the paper that someone murdered Meriwether's wife by brutally stabbing Marjorie. Already despondent and in excruciating pain, Evanson learns of his beloved spouse's murder and commits suicide. Bess feels a tie to the late pilot so she makes inquiries into whom that officer Marjorie was with when she was weeping at the station and whether that person is her killer.

Readers will be fascinated with the second Bess Crawford WWI amateur sleuth tale (see A Duty to the Dead) that deals with the impact of the war in the trenches of France and on the home front. The mystery is fun to follow but Bess' motives for her investigation seems weak at best and what she does as a nurse makes it seem impossible to add a murder inquiry onto her already traumatic job. 1917 life in France and England makes for a vivid and engaging historical mystery.

Judgment and Wrath
Matt Hilton
9780061718137, $24.99

Concerned and fuming Richard Dean hires Florida private investigators, former Special Forces operative Joe Hunter and Jared "Rink" Rington, to extract his seventeen year old daughter Marianne from Miami playboy millionaire Bradley Jorgenson. Richard shows the two sleuths a police photo taken of Marianne after allegedly Bradley beat the crap out of her.

Hunter and Rink figure the case will be a cinch as they assume the wealthy Jorgenson will be a typical bully and run from them. However, the simple snatch and rescue proves convoluted when someone hires experienced hit man Jean-Paul "Dantalion" St. Pierre to kill Marianne and Bradley and the detectives find the teen happy with no signs of abuse.

The second Hunter-Rink investigation (see Dead Men's Dust) is a terrific but overly knotty mystery as too much goes on especially with the additional denouements. Still, Judgment and Wrath is filled with plenty of action as the lead duo finds nothing is what they expected as Bradley and Marianne seem like a nice loving couple and the professional killer quite adept. Readers will enjoy this exciting South Floridian thriller as Matt Hilton keeps the heat on his heroes.

Patrick A. Vanner
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781439133842, $14.00,

In 2197, humanity and Xan-Sskarn are at war with atrocities being prevalent. The enemy destroys worlds with no concern of the genocide they commit to the native population. The aliens want earth's pristine clean water, which over time they will pollute before heading to the next orb they will devastate.

Two years ago, then Terran Navy's elite Dead Jokers Captain Alexandra "Alex" McLaughlin survived an encounter with the deadly salamander like enemy, but most of the subordinates under her command died. She is loaded with guilt, but learned a lot about the enemy. However, someone high in the Terran command is a Quisling, but she is unsure who that person is as the clever traitor has made it appear she is selling valuable information to the Xan-Sskarn. Her only hope and that of her endangered species is to take the war to Ragnarok.

Although there is nothing really new here (think of Marvel's Galactus or Star Trek's the Borg) and the overall plot contains spins that wobble similar to the tilt of Uranus, Ragnarok is an entertaining military science fiction thriller. The action is fast paced especially when Alex tries to take the war to the enemy in honor of her fallen comrades, but a traitor has left her and their species vulnerable. Fans will appreciate the water war as only one side will survive and increasingly it looks like it will be the alien invaders.

The Native Star
M. K. Hobson
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553592658, $7.99,

In 1876 in Lost Pines high in the Sierras Mountains local witch Emily Edwards struggles with a failing business as technology has changed and her neighbors mo longer purchase spells from her as they can mail order them. She decides to cast a love spell to catch a man she has adored since she was a child. She mouths the rhyme while dancing nude and applying lavender.

However, success proves a failure as she has her man adoring her, but she realizes it is not the real thing. Making her feel worse about her error is the exiled wizard from the East Coast Dreadnought Stanton who snottily enjoys telling her she is a snafu. However, Emily has a bigger issue to contend with as minors are turning into hungry berserker zombies and raccoons as large as whales due to ill advised magic appear. Finally, after finding an artifact Emily eludes witch hunters, mindless assassins and evil blood sorcere rs. She figures if she flees California for New York, all will be right in her out of balanced world; Dreadnought accompanies her.

This is an entertaining alternate historical fantasy as M.K. Hobson does a great job setting up a United States in which the government uses magic to enhance national patriotism and magic can be bought through the mail. The story line is fun as Emily struggles to undo her error while Dreadnought smirks at her until both are running, riding, and railing for their lives. Sub-genre fans will appreciate The Native Star as alternate Reconstruction Era America come s vividly alive.

The House On Durrow Street
Galen Beckett
Bantam Spectra
9780553807592, $16.00

Saving her country Altania and having married the mage Mr. Quent, the witch Ivy and her sisters have been welcomed back by the aristocracy (see The Magicians and Mrs. Quent). She and her siblings establish a residence in the mysterious house inherited from their late father on Darrow Street.

However, all is not quite idyllic in Ivy's world as she feels pulled by two conflicting natures. First she is a witch married to a magician and that is hard to ignore. Then there is her place in high society. Though both have some inclusiveness, mostly they are exclusive. All those woes come across as nothing compared with learning the secrets of The House on Durrow Street before raging rogue magicians cause further havoc throughout the land.

This is a terrific dark fantasy in which magic feels genuine due mostly from the interesting eccentric support cast and the title abode. The heroine is a fabulous lead protagonist who readers will like and root for as she works the enigma of what she and her sisters inherited. Galen Beckett obviously had fun writing the second Mrs. Quent quirky fantasy.

Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat
Gwen Cooper
9780385343985, $15.00

Her vet asked Gwen Cooper if she would be willing to adopt a one month old blind stray cat. Gwen planned to say no as she had two other adopted felines living with her while she temporarily resided in a friend's bedroom, not making much money, and her relationship with her boyfriend just ended. She especially did not want to be labeled the cat lady. However, when she picked up the kitty, he purred and she was hooked. Homer, as she called him, moved with her six times, was there for her with more breakups while each time figuring out his new area. He taught her to love as he gave he r his totally.

This is a terrific memoir mindful of Marley as Homer teaches Ms. Cooper what love is all about and how to live life with zest. Though I am biased as one of my cats went blind, this is an easy to read well written tale that not just cat lovers but readers who appreciate a well written inspirational autobiography will love.

Crossing the Lion
Cynthia Baxter
9780553592382, $7.99

Veterinarian Jessica Popper has a unique practice in Reigning Cats and Dogs. Instead of having a concrete building, she makes house calls using her vet-mobile to visit her clients around Long island. Her friends Betty and Winston Farnsworth ask Jessica and her husband Nick to accompany them to Solitude Island where Linus Merrywood, the owner of a Fortune 500 company, died a few days ago; just before his death he called Winston and said someone was out to kill him.

Since Jessica solved several murder cases (see Murder Had a Little Lamb and Monkey See, Monkey Die), they ask her to nose around and see if her investigation can find out who killed Linus, who died from an allergic shock because he ate eggs disguised in a cake. Everyone in the house, friends, family and business associates knew of his allergy and all had a reason to kill him. Detective Falcone asks Jessica to snoop around much to her shock because she is already doing so with the suspects in the house. However, as she begins to piece together the homicide, Jessica needs to be careful because the final answer places her in the most difficult position of her life.

The newlywed protagonist is playing a life and death game of Clue inside of Ten Little Indians with the last one standing most likely the killer. For the most part, Jessica likes the suspects and wants none of them to be guilty. One of the main characters is the house itself which adds a gothic haunting feel to the whodunit as it contains secret passages that lead upstairs to a room where a "crazy" aunt resides avoiding her family. The investigation is entertaining as Cynthia Baxter's provides another fun amateur sleuth mystery that is not "Reigning Cats and Dogs, but instead reigning corpses.

Bryant & May Off the Rails
Christopher Fowler
9780553807202, $25.00

The London based Peculiar Crimes Unit elderly lead detectives Arthur Bryant and John May, capture the King's Cross Executioner, who sliced off the heads of his victims. However, before they could bring this Mr. Fox to justice, he escapes (see Bryant & May on the Loose).

The brass is horrified by their failure especially since Fox murdered a constable as he fled custody. There is a new move to retire the senior PCU leaders and end funding for the unit. As time is running out, the team seeks to recapture the elusive sly Mr. Fox who they believe is the culprit behind lethal incidents in the London Underground in which a single mother fell down a stairwell to her death and an intoxicated student disappeared and is assumed dead.

This excellent Peculiar Crimes Unit police procedural will grip readers from the start to finish as the history of the unit's members, specially their geriatric leaders, enhance a strong contemporary mystery. Amusing yet also perplexing as the baffled senior pair and their subordinates wok the Fox fiasco while the brass want the senior pair retired and the unit shut down permanently. Christopher Fowler's talent is affirmed by the audience not having to read the previous Fox fable, though it is worth doing, as Bryant & May are on the case.

Baking Cakes in Kigali
Gaile Parkin
9780385343442, $15.00

Angel and Pius Tungararza move from Tanzania to Kigali, Rwanda as he has accepted a position at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. Angel becomes renowned for her cake baking and her nurturing as she raises her five grandchildren although she still grieves the deaths of her adult children.

Her Rwandan neighbors see her as a fellow African not tainted by the genocide; besides she is intelligent and caring. As Angel sells her cakes to them, her visitors ask for her advice on a myriad of subjects. Over tea, she provides her new friends and customers with sage assistance for free.

Pius will remind readers of Precious Ramotswe (see No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith) although she is not a detective; she helps her clients cope with their personal issues. Ironically, her clients are never developed beyond representing a complex ugly issue that they face to include the genocide, AIDS, abject poverty, official corruption, and homeless parentless children, etc. Yet with all the darkness attached to a country whose most famous accomplishment in the last century was the genocide, there is a sense of renewal and optimism.

Last Dragon Standing
G.A. Aiken
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781420108880, $6.99,

Two years have passed since Princess Keita, Dragon Queen Rhiannon's daughter, has seen family members. Instead the royal has been doing her thing though none know what she is after.

The Queen orders Ragnar the Cunning to lead a group of soldiers in order to find and escort home her beloved son Eibhear and to catch her allegedly seditious sister Esyld, who is believed to have committed treason. Ragnar and his team run across a fleeing Keita who barely escapes execution. They are attracted to one another although he wants to dump her on her mother as he hates her seductive simpering that has his dragon warriors (and him though he denies it) thinking with the wrong head. At the same time the kingdom is in peril from treachery within while the human Queen Annwyl the Bloody fears for the lives of her twin children.

The latest fiery dragon romantic fantasy (see Dragon Actually and About a Dragon) is a superb jocular yet very dark thriller. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing as she is driving the hero insane with his lust for her. Readers will relish this soaring entry as Ragnar wonders how he will survive his current assignment while Keita wonders how she will escape with her heart intact.

Don't Cry
Beverly Barton
9781420110340, $7.99

Her traumatic childhood has turned Audrey Sherrod into a strong caring adult. She is a counselor who works closely with the Chattanooga police; especially helping victims of crime. When a serial killer terrorizes the town, Audrey is brought in to assist; as is TBI special agent J.D. Cass.

Audrey dislikes the pompous J.D., but likes his fourteen years old daughter Zoe; to his chagrin his child idolizes the counselor while hating him; though he knows part of the problem is he barely tolerates his offspring. As the homicide count rises, the clues seem to imply someone close to the investigators is involved. Meanwhile J.D. and Audrey overcome their initial disgust to fall in love. However, as a gruesome cold case ties to the present murders, a psychopath must be stopped before the pair can pursue the future.

Don't Cry is another wonderful Beverly Barton romantic suspense (see Dead by Midnight). The key to the strong story line is the hooked reader keeps trying to identify the killer before the cop and the counselor can. Audrey is a terrific caring person; perhaps too nurturing. On the other hand the dysfunctional relationship between father and daughter seems real as J.D. and Zoe know neither loves or even likes the other. This is another winner by Ms. Barton.

Kate Douglas
9781420110005, $6.99

For his role in the escape of the former demon Dax and the human Eddy Marks from a Lemurian prison, Alton the son of the ruling Chancellor, was sentenced to death. He would have preferred to have persuaded his father and the Council of Nine of the long term danger to their world by the increased demon activity, but does not rue his choice even if he dies for it. His action against the demon horde activated his crystal sword HellFire, converting it from a seemingly inanimate thou gh actually dormant to an intelligent speaking species.

Alton also admits he is attracted to the human Ginny Jones, who is passionate about life; unlike females of his species. He sent her to safety to Sedona using hypnosis, but has learned a new portal has allowed demons to invade earth possessing animals. With Ginny at his side and hellfire as his weapon he fights the demons, which is the easier task than persuading the Council of Nine that not just earth is endangered as Lemuria is the obvious next stop once the evil ones defeat the humans.

The latest DemonSlayers romantic fantasy (see DemonFire and the novella Crystal Dreams in Nocturne) is an enjoyable thriller that continues the few rebellious Lemurians risking their lives to save humanity from the invading demon horde. The matching of Alton and Ginny is fabulous as he assumes her being female she will be dainty like those of his race, but instead she kicks demon butt. Though somewhat similar to DemonFire in tone, readers will enjoy HellFire as the war of the wo rlds continues on battlefield earth.

Last To Die
Kate Brady
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446541534, $6.99,

In Maryland, after burying her bad cop father, Detective Dani Cole remains the loner she has been all her life as she has relied on one person: herself. Ironically in spite of depending on no one, Dani enjoys helping others in trouble; others call them her "charity cases".

Dani helped Rosie McNamara change from being a street hooker to a solid citizen. However, not long after her transformation, someone kills her. Upset, Detective Tifton and Dani investigate the homicide and the rapid killing of five other women; six dead in a week. The clues lead to a former lover photographer Mitch Sheridan who has quit the camera that had been an appendage of his for years. Mitch seeks redemption and he begins to believe Dani may prove his redeemer as the death toll mounts.

The latest Sheridan romantic suspense (see One Scream Away) is a taut police procedural with a great twist that enhances the exciting investigative story line. Dani is terrific as she has plenty to prove to her superior and Internal Affairs as she knows everyone except field cops expect her to be a chip off the rotten block. The romance takes a back seat to the strong whodunit as Kate Brady provides her audience with an exciting action-packed thriller.

Seduced By A Highlander
Paula Quinn
9780446552370, $6.99

In 1685 Tristan MacGregor attends the coronation of the Duke of York as the king. He rescues Isobel Fergusson, but also roguishly kisses her. They spend time together during the galas as they are attracted to one another. However, Isobel loathes his clan who killed her father and her kin; leaving her to raise her siblings on a patch of nothingness. Her family and his are hostile adversaries.

Isobel returns home thinking of Tristan on the way and once she arrives there, she still cannot move pass his image. She knows she loves her rake. Tristan reciprocates. He decides he will marry the woman he loves and let the feud be damned, but she refuses. Patiently he tries to persuade her that he is until she finally begins to believe him. Tristan brings his beloved and her siblings to meet his family announcing they will marry. Both clans are stunned but reactions lead to shocking disclosures by MacGregor and Fergusson family members.

Though the theme of feuding clans has been used frequently in historicals romances, Paula Quinn provides a fresh seventeenth century romance mostly due to lead couple especially the latest MacGregor (see Ravished by a Highlander and Laird of the Mists). Tristan with his persistence and tolerance makes the story line great as he calmly persuades his beloved (and her siblings) to trust her heart that he believes leads to him. Seduced by a Highlander is another winning historical by always dependable for excellence Paula Quinn.

From Doctor … To Daddy
Karen Rose Smith
Silhouette Special Edition
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373655472, $4.99,

Internist Dr. Dillon Traub runs the Thunder Canyon Resort infirmary for the month that staff Dr. Cates is away. The manager Grant Clifton assigns Erika Rodriguez to serve as Traub's assistant and receptionist. Their first meeting stuns both of them as their desire could light up the skies at night. Both knows mixing personal and professional is dangerous, but each considers taking a chance.

Dillon asks Erika to go on a date with him. Although she has rejected men since her heart was broken by sophisticate Scott Spencerman, Erika shocks herself by agreeing. However, as they fall in live, he hesitates as he unsure he wants to go From Doctor to Daddy to her little toddler Emilia as he has never recovered from the loss of his child who died from leukemia. Erika has her own issues as she wonders whether she could survive a second broken heart.

The key, as always to a Karen Rose Smith's contemporary, is the believable flawed lead couple. Dillon and Erika have issues as he has not moved past the death of his son and she distrusts all males. Inadvertently by being there, Emilia serves as both matchmaker and heartbreaker. Readers will relish the second chance at family, if the adults heed the advice of her offspring and take a chance on love.

Mesmerizing Stranger
Jennifer Greene
Silhouette Romantic Suspense
9780373276967, $4.99

His uncle suddenly died leaving Harm Connolly the family pharmaceutical company Future, Inc. Harm knows the firm was working on a cure for pancreatic cancer that looks promising, but the test data has vanished. Understanding the significance of the results and of the probable theft, Harm sets up an off-site holiday for the top executives on a cruise in Alaska because he believes one of them is the thief.

Cate Campbell enjoys her work as a traveling chef because it gives her the opportunity to see new places and try new things without any commitment. She is catering the Alaskan retreat. Not ready to settle down with one person or in one place, she avoids domestic entanglements especially with clients. However, Cate and Harm are instantly attracted to one another and eluding her feelings will prove difficult especially when the first murder occurs.

This is a superb romantic suspense starring strong flawed lead protagonists, a deep cast, and a great location. With a nod to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, fans will wonder who the killer is and where the formula is as Mesmerizing Stranger is a fast-paced enjoyable thriller.

Fatal Undertaking
Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590588017, $24.95,

In Gainesboro, North Carolina, the Jaycees member Archie Donovan asks funeral director Barry Clayton to donate a coffin for their Halloween fund-raiser for the children wing of the hospital. Barry explains he cannot sell a used coffin, but apparently his girlfriend Dr. Susan Mill supports the idea. He reluctantly agrees if his Uncle Wayne and Fletcher do too.

A month later, Carl Atkinson lies dead in the coffin Barry donated. No motive surfaces as to why someone stabbed Carl to death. Barry, as a deputy sheriff, is assigned the lead. Soon after that, someone tries to kill Archie, which makes Barry wonder who the intended victim was as he has many times since fourth grade wanted to kill Donovan. As he struggles with the homicide case, his former wife Rachel returns to town to cover the story that she believes will launch her TV newscaster career, but alienates her former neighbors.

The latest Buryin' Barry Dangerous Undertaking is a fabulous police procedural starring a lead protagonist struggling between past and present loves as he also makes little progress on the murder mystery. Mark de Mark de Castrique makes a strong case that avarice comes in many ways and not just money as Barry will learn. Fatal Undertaking is a fabulous regional whodunit.

Roman Games
Bruce Macbain
Poisoned Pen
9781590587751, $24.95

In 96 AD in Rome, Senatorial Informer Sextus Verpa is found viciously stabbed to death in his home. The household slaves of the deceased are the only suspects; with no rights they will be executed for his murder once the Ludi Romani Games are over; as no one is killed by the state during the fifteen days of contests.

Meanwhile Emperor Domitian could not care less about slaughtering some slaves in an inferno, but wants to insure his enemies are not behind the stabbing murder. He orders Senator Gaius Plinius Caecillius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Younger, to investigate. Pliny enlists the help of starving author Martial in order to enter places he would have no cooperation. Soon the pair begins to unravel a convoluted conspiracy starting with a horoscope reading that predicts the death of the Emperor is near with tentacles reaching from Jewish and Christian sects, supporters of the Roman pantheon, and Egyptian cultists; but the most dangerous locale for the detecting duet is the palace where the brutal emperor wears no clothes.

Ancient Rome has been used as the backdrop for several mystery series by Steven Saylor, Robert Harris and John Robert Maddox for instance and more so Albert Bell whose lead is Pliny the Younger. However, Bruce Macbain keeps his saga fresh with a strong look at the decadence at the end of the first century in which an ethical hero struggles to keep his morality and his head. The story line is fast-paced as the two opposite ins status and outlook sleuths unite following clues that are religious and political dangerous as separation of state denotes separation of one's head. This is an enjoyable whodunit due to the Roman background interwoven throughout the historical mystery.

Laura Bickle
Juno Books
c/o Wildside Press
9710 Traville Gateway Drive, #234, Rockville, MD 20850
9781439167687, $7.99,

In Detroit, city fire department arson investigator Anya Kalinczyk works more than just the blazes as she is also a Lantern. Her latter skill is to send spirits into nothingness. Used to 24/7 shifts, six months ago, with her salamander familiar Sparky having her back, she faced the vaunting challenge of Sirrush (see Embers) and has been slow to rebound mentally.

Recently, Anya feels she is returning to her lifestyle pre Sirrush. However, her two skills merge when she is assigned an investigation into what has been purported to be spontaneous human combustion at the home of elderly wealthy Jasper Bernard who was caught in the inferno but left not an iota of a trace of his remains. Her inquiry leads to Hope Solomon who insists she grants miracles to her donors. While Sparky hatches the next generation, Anya senses something not quite right about her or her charity backers as if evil has taken hold feeding on the souls of the desperate.

The terrific second Kalinczyk urban fantasy is a great saga that works mostly because of the portrait of Detroit as a city with many ruins, but trying to recreate a new image. The heroine is fabulous as she keeps her wits and sense of humor in the midst of infernos (some created by unnatural arsons) while battling psychopathic and avarice arsonists and supernatural malevolent essences; in this preying on impoverish forlorn seeking miracles.

Weight Of Stone
Laura Anne Gilman
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439101452, $24.99,

In the Vin Lands, the powerful Sin Washers sect accuses Vineart wine mage apprentice and former slave Jerzy of heresy dealing with their ruling Commandment involving magic users and rulers. He knows their condemnation is an open invitation to kill him, so he flees. Joining him on the lam are former aristocratic Lady Mahault the warrior, Ao the trader, and Kainam the Prince of Atakus an island kingdom that has disappeared.

Jerzy and his friends continue their tracing of the taint of the vines. They begin to believe an incredulous conspiracy is behind the destruction. Following the clues by sea, Jerzy and company elude the Washers who demand he face trial and punishment and danger from under and on the water and on board their vessel.

The second Vineart War fantasy (see Flesh and Fire) continues the escapades of Jerzy in a fast-paced tale that also provides deeper focus and understanding of the complicated refreshing Gilman science of magic based on winemaking. Jerzy is a terrific protagonist though he and his three traveling companions seem to whine a lot over wine. Filled with tension throughout, readers will toast the quartet as they trek through the dangerous Vin Lands where the washers want to drink to their deaths.

The Home For Broken Hearts
Rowena Coleman
Gallery (Pocket)
9781439156858, $15.00

Ever since her husband Nick died in a car accident last year, Widow Ellen Wood has struggled with moving on though she must care for her eleven years old son Charlie. Leaving her home is impossible as that is her safehouse from the deadly world at large. However, money has become an issue, but stepping outside remains impossible as she tries with her concerned caring sister Hannah.

When Hannah's London coworker Sabine from Germany needs a place to live having left her husband, she suggests to her agoraphobic sibling renting out rooms in her large Victorian. Sabine, Allegra the romance novelist and Matt the journalist lease rooms from Ellen, who has doubts about bringing in strangers. However, Ellen begins to realize how cut off she has been and how much she is hurting her son. Soon Matt inspires her to take chances on life for her sake and that of Charlie. As family secrets become known, she opens the door, but the next step is gigantic.

The Home For Broken Hearts is a warm tender character study that focuses mostly on the grieving widow, but also goes deep into the souls of her family and boarders. That strong fully developed cast makes for a strong contemporary even with expecting the spins that occur. Rowena Coleman provides a profound tale that will have the audience wondering whether Ellen takes that humongous first step out the door.

A Hellion in Her Bed
Sabrina Jeffries
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439167540, $7.99,

In 1825, Annabel Lake wants to save her family's brewery that seems heading to bankruptcy. The desperate spinster offers a bet to obtain help from rival Plumtree Brewery.

Current manager Lord Jarret Sharpe hates the beer business that his grandmother blackmailed him into running for a year. He never recovered from the shocking murders of his parents two decades ago so he turned to cards as a safety net; his sibling insists Jarret cannot breathe without cards in his hands. He accepts her wager, but offers different terms. Instead of her lucky heirloom ring for his marketing assistance, he demands she spends a night in his bed. His smirk turns to shock when Annabel accepts his stakes. Even more stunning she beats the card shark at his game. He travels to her brewery to pay off his debt. As the two brewery managers become acquainted, they fall in love, but she distrusts gamblers so he raises the stakes especially after learning her dark secret.

With a charming lead couple supported by a strong cast mostly of family (readers will want a Victorian starring one current tweener) and a fabulous insightful look at the beer business, fans will toast Sabrina Jeffries. The second Hellions of Halstead Hall late Regency romance (see The Truth About Lord Stoneville) is a fantastic historical as the second Sharpe Rakehell loses at the tables but wins at hearts.

Much Ado About Marriage
Karen Hawkins
9781439187609, $7.99

In 1567 at Durat Castle, English spy Thomas Wentworth climbs though the second floor window only to be pushed off the ledge into the ground. Apparently as he was entering, feisty Fia MacLean was leaving. She was running away from her overly protective cousin Laird Duncan with plans of meeting Queen Elizabeth in London to show her Highness her plays she has written.

Her shove leaves him in jeopardy of exposure by his enemy in their territory or marriage to Fia to hide his identity under the veneer of avoiding a scandal. They wed and head to London with her taking with her the magical amulet Duncan gave her to keep safe from White Witch Maeve Hurst he stole it from. As Thomas and Fia fall in love, he remains distracted from his original mission by his siren of a spouse.

This is a rewrite of One Lucky Lord (written as Kim Bennett) that enhances the original story line with obvious ties to the MacLean saga (see the Laird Who Loved Me) and much more looser connection to her upcoming Hurst Amulet series. From the opening fall, the lead couple make for a fun amusing historical romance with a touch of fantasy and a lot of espionage suspense. Although a transition tale from the MacLean clan to the Hurst brood, readers will enjoy this entertaining Elizabethan Era romance.

Ghosts Of Ascalon
Matt Forbeck and Jeff Grubb
9781416589471, $7.99

Two and a half centuries ago, the bestial charr invaded Ascalon. Desperate King Adelbern, knowing his monarchy was about to be overrun by the evil charr, called forth the magical Foefire to burn the malevolent assailants. He succeeded in killing the enemy, but the magic did not differentiate between friend and foe so many humans died too. Upset and perhaps insane with grief, the dead Ascalonians became spirit protectors of the burnt remains of a destroyed kingdom. The few survivors left for neighboring Kryta.

In the present Queen Jennah hopes to sign a peace treaty with the charr abominations, as a war would devastate the humans. However, before negotiating the charr demand the return of the Claw of the Khan-Ur, perhaps the holiest of artifacts that they lost in the Foefire of Ascalon. The monarch orders adventurer Dougal Keane to lead a team of misfits into the ruins of Ascalon, a place he considers worse than hell. Not only is he unsure what awaits him in the shadows though he has heard of the legend of the Ghosts of Ascalon, but is positive many charr and humans prefer war for various motives and will kill a band seeking a peace trophy.

This is an entertaining quest fantasy with an obvious tie to the game. The story line is fast-paced with exciting action-packed combat scenes and a strong cast especially Dougal and his comrades. Although the plot ebbs (in between the hostilities) and flows (vivid battle scenes), fans of the GuildWars video game will want to join Dougal and his team that he despises as they venture on a journey with little hope of returning.

My Soul To Keep
Sharie Kohler
9781439101599, $7.99

In Paris her father was abusive to everyone especially his family. In that cruel world, Sorcha the half-breed Lycan grew up distrusting everyone. In fact only her father's top assistant, half-breed Jonah was ever nice to Sorcha. She never forgot the kindness he gave her.

Twelve years later, Widow Sorcha seeks to avenge the murder of her husband that she blames on a demon-witch who cursed the Lycan. The person she wants to murder is under the protection of Jonah who thought his Sorcha was dead and felt guilty all these years for failing her. They have not seen each other in what seems to each as forever, but their attraction that both avoided in the past explodes between them. As they fall in love, Sorcha and Jonah must move beyond their pasts if they want a future preferably together especially when someone wants both dead.

The lead couple is a terrific pairing as they have a past that ended tragically and seemingly no future second chance at love since they are adversaries. The story line focuses deeply into the souls of Jonah and Sorcha so the action is somewhat muted. Still fans of the Moon Chasers urban fantasy will enjoy this spellbinding tale.

Primal Instincts
Susan Sizemore
9781416562146, $7.99

Her Matris demands her daughter Francesca "Flare" Reynard continue their vampire line by carrying the next generation. Flare knows she has little choice but to obey. However, she plans to take advantage of modern technology and use artificial insemination.

Her mother rejects the concept of in-vitro. Instead she selects Prime Tobias Strahan as the sire of her grandchildren. The Matris directs Tobias to seduce her daughter and make her pregnant. The Prime argues that he has no time for Flare as he must keep his supernatural horde safe, but knows when to shut up, he plans to take his annoyance out on Flare. He never expected the flare of attraction that explodes between them as he once had a deep love and has a daughter while she now feels as artificial insemination is coldly clinical.

The latest Primal vampire romance (see Primal Needs, Primal Desires and Primal Heat) is exhilarating tale of two individuals who would like to ignore the Matris, but knows better and worse would prefer to pay no heed to their desire for one another. The story line is loaded with action on several subplot fronts. However, the prime plot holding the complicated tense novel together is the relationship between the protagonists. With a late wonderful twist that hopefully sets up the next Primal thriller as readers will to know the tale of "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold".

The Devil Wears Plaid
Teresa Medeiros
9781439157886, $7.99

Having left gentle Lancaster for the harsh Highlands, Emmaline Marlowe's choices are simple. She either marries someone she does not want to or her father goes to debtor prison. Thus Emmaline is at the church about to wed the Hepburn clan laird, a man older than her father.

Stunning everyone at the church, Jamie Sinclair rides inside the holy edifice and grabs Emmaline before riding away with her. Jamie is not abducting Emmaline for altruistic reasons. Instead he and the Hepburn clan are enemies; he plans to use the chief's fiancee as an expendable discard in his scheme to avenge what they did to him. However, he quickly wonders who the captive is as the feisty Emmaline rejects being any man's throwaway though she must say I do to save her father.

The Devil Wears Plaid is an exciting Highlander historical romance starring the first of the "E" sisters and the rogue who abducted her. Emmaline proves energetic and courageous rather than the weak person her captor anticipated. Although they fall in love (Stockholm syndrome aside), she knows her mission is to save her father (and the rest of the family) so she leaves. Although the premise has been used before many times; readers will appreciate Teresa Medeiros' skills to make her story line fresh, exuberant, and entertaining.

Emma and the Vampires
Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson
Sourcebooks Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402241345, $14.99,

In Highbury, England blue blooded vampires live among the human residents with the latter unaware that some of local gentry are Undead. Daughter of an affluent widower, Emma is especially clueless even though she notices weird dental bites and black curtains, but never puts together another thought as to what that denotes. Instead Emma plays the town's matchmaker until her BFF Harriet Smith declares her love for Mr. Knightly. Emma wants him unaware that his fangs are not due to poor teeth.

Everything changes when the vampires begin stalking and attacking the town's girls. Not one to remain a spectator, Emma grabs a stake that she ties to her thigh and stalks the Undead.

With a nod to Steve Hockensmith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and a wink at Jane Austen, Wayne Josephson converts Emma into a vampire thriller with stakes and tea. Although everyone knows vampires exist, Emma is terrific as she goes from totally clueless to Regency Buffy like slayer. Although how the Highbury citizens failed to know the bluebloods were Undead is mindful of Los unable to see past Clark's glasses (hypnotic glamour must be super powerful), readers will enjoy Mr. Josephus' jocular biting of Emma.

Follow Me
Joanna Scott
Back Bay Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316051682, $14.99,

In 1946 Pennsylvania, her older cousin seduces sixteen years old Sally Werner; when she has qualms he takes her anyway. She becomes pregnant and the family blames her. After giving birth to a son, an ashamed Sally runs away from home leaving her baby behind while following the Tuskee River.

Sally never stays in one town too long. Instead whenever the woman believes her past is catching up to her, she moves using new identities. However, when she has a second affair resulting in a pregnancy, Sally flees from the abusive father of her newest child Penelope; taking her daughter with her. As she enters middle age, she longs for a safe place to call home while her youngest wants to remain on the road.

This is a fascinating look at a female on the American road over six decades. The story line narrated by Sally's granddaughter (and namesake) as Sally the younger tells readers that her grandma spent much of a lifetime running from her past and herself while her mom spent a lifetime running the road. The long and winding road is an obvious metaphor of life, which as in real life can prove repetitive, but worth traveling with the women as they wander the byways of America.

The Reversal
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316069489, $27.99,

In 1986, Jason Jessup was convicted of killing twelve year old Melissa Landry. Recent testing of DNA evidence exonerates Jason who will receive a new trial.

Los Angeles Office of the District Attorney prosecutors are embarrassed as they head to the retrial. They ask defense attorney Mickey Haller for help; he agrees with the stipulation that he employs former LAPD cop Harry Bosch as his private investigator and his ex-wife prosecutor Maggie "McFierce" McPherson as the second chair. Bosch works the cold case trying to find witnesses from the 1986 homicide of the tweener. He especially wants to find the victim's older sister whose testimony hung Jessup. At the same time, Haller finds working for the D.A. quite eye-opening as his every move is under scrutiny while he also distrusts Jessup's sleazy defense attorney. However, perhaps the person all should watch is the one who hated the jurisprudence system before he spent a quarter of a century behind bars; now he obsessively loathes it and those who work it.

The second pairing of this obstinate duet (see The Brass Verdict) makes for a fabulous investigative legal thriller with Haller's former wife on the team; he is thankful that having been married to her they can never meet in court as she is that tough and good. Part of the fun is watching Haller switching sides for this case as fans of the Lincoln Lawyer will see how different what a defense attorney can do vs. a prosecutor. With a strong investigation by Bosch and a powerful courtroom drama by Haller and McPherson, the audience will relish The Reversal.

Emma Donahue
Little, Brown
9780316098335, $24.99

Seven years ago when Ma was a nineteen years old college student and Jack was minus years old, she was kidnapped by Old Nick. Jack went to bed in the wardrobe as a four years old child but has awakened magically as a five years old boy. The wardrobe is his safe zone inside the Room that has been his entire world since he came into being. It is the wardrobe of their soundproof cell that his ingenious mom places him in when Old Nick comes to see her.

Whereas Room is Jack's home and world; Room is his Ma's jail cell. Ma has invented a place for her beloved son to flourish, but she realizes he (and she needs) more. The time has come for her and her brave child to escape, but Ma is not ready for what awaits them on the outside if they succeed; her goal as it has been for seven years remains liberty from Old Nick.

This incredible thriller will hook the audience from the beginning as young innocent Jack tells the tale of his and his Ma's life. Character driven with a strong sense of pending doom whether they escape or not, few novels told by children since perhaps The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold will match the intensity readers will feel as naive even for a five years old child Jack tells his saga.

The Truth of Valor
Tanya Huff
DAW Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756406202, $24.95,

The war between the Confederacy and the Others has been going on for a long time. Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr was proud of serving as a Confederacy marine because she believed in the cause. She eventually learns that both fighting forces were part of a scientific experiment by sentient plastic beings, who hide in plain sight amidst the abundance of plastic products. These insidious beings are exposed, but Torin leaves the marines anyway to become a salvage operator with her lover Craig Ryder.

The end of the war left a power vacuum especially in the outer reaches of space. Pirates filled the void; stealing and pillaging ships, Cho captured an armory that is code locked by the CSO officer and when he kidnapped someone who could open it, he used too much force on the person who died from the torture. Now Cho abducts Ryder; Torin vows to find and rescue him. Ryder knows what his beloved will do so will not abet Cho with the armor he wants to deploy. He waits for her to come and get him.

Having left the Confederation military, The Truth of Valor is Torin's first civilian adventure and though no longer a powerful military science fiction, the heroine's enthusiasm and diligence remains as strong as ever in this veteran outer space thriller. The spin from marine to vet refreshes the Valor Confederation series as Torin and Ryder begin a new phase in their lives together. Fans of the series will appreciate Tanya Huff's talent as she uses the frightening premise of a rogue killer obtaining a nuke as the underlying premise of her heroine's rescue attempt of her beloved while a psychopath pirate possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Mercedes Lackey
9780756406394, $25.95

Once Magpie was a slave for a sadistic mine owner, but the young teen became free when the Valdemar Companion Sentient Horse like magical being, who communicates telepathically, Chose him. Mags is ensconced in Haven training at the Herald Collegium to become a herald. Although the curriculum is hard, Mages believes he is paradise with a comfortable place to sleep and plenty of food to eat.

However, Mags does not feel a part of the group and prefers to sleep in a bedroom in the barn where his Companion is boarded. In the records, he learns the names of his parents who were foreigners. He comes under suspicion when those who foresee have a vision of the king with blood on him and the sense the person with him is a foreigner. His peers at school especially suspect Mags, but his true friends band together and make him feel as if he belongs. One day when he is in Haven, Mags sees the phony tradesman and his bodyguards who say they are from Seejay. After Mags and his buddies exposed their fake identities they pretended to leave. Mags sees the phony person again and knows they are dangerous to Hven. With his Companion injured and he being isolated, Mags must prevent the foreigner from performing the dastardly deed he plans on doing.

Once again Mercedes Lackey brings her fantasy Kingdom of Valdemar to life; a place where magic and Psi power are considered natural skills though most citizens lack either. This entry is a brilliant coming of age story in a realm with a distinguished culture especially a deep rooted belief structure and a thriving political system. Mags brings the energy and excitement to the entertaining plot as he learns he is the son of foreigners growing up as a stranger in a strange land who suddenly observes foreigners seemingly following him.

An Artificial Night
Seanan McGuire
9780756406264, $7.99

Half-fae detective Sir Toby Daye the changeling is stunned and despondent to meet May Daye, a magical doppelganger whose encounter means the sleuth's death will come shortly. Even before she reacts to meeting the Fetch, she learns the Lord of the Wild Hunt Blind Michael has abducted numerous fae and human children as a source to replace his depleted riders.

Since some of the kidnapped are part of her extended family, an outraged Toby plans to challenge Blind Michael though that is a very dangerous notion as there are three roads to this powerful essence, but none can be used twice. She tracks him on the deadly Faerie Roads which is his element and on the streets of San Francisco, which sadly is also his element. On her treacherous quest, Toby is renewed with new supporters risking their lives to further the chance of success of her mission.

The third October Daye (see Rosemary and Rue, and A Local Habitation) is a fabulous private investigative urban fantasy. Toby, who has been burned by both sides of her DNA, is foolishly brave, kick butt tough and spunky sass as she traverses the roads of no return; while knowing deep in her soul failure could prove worse than death because she might be trapped as part of the Wild Hunt. An Artificial Night is a strong Noir due to the heroine and her tours of San Francisco and the land of Fairie as she works a perilous abduction case.

The Heir of Night
Helen Lowe
Eos Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061734045, $7.99,

As the heir to the House of Night, Malian understands the eternal war between her people the Derai and the demonic Darkswarm. High in the frozen mountainous tundra of Haarth is the Wall of Night that has held back the demons, but since the Great Betrayal, the Nine Houses worshipping the nine gods of the Derai are a house divided leaving cracks in the defense.

Malian knows she has the blood oath to her House of Night, but many believe she is the prophesied One-To-Come who will unite the Houses at a time their squabbling will lead to breaches of the wall they defend. Yet in spite of the need for the One, many of the Derai oppose her as do the Darkswarm who want her dead. Exiled from her House, Malian with outcast Priest Kalan of the House of Blood and several locals led by Herald Jehane Mor seek the lost artifacts of legendary Yorindesarinen the Bright who as the Child of Stars died in combat when she killed the Worm of Chaos.

This is a superb coming of age quest fantasy as the heroine knows her calling, but also knows she does not want the responsibility of being the One and her reluctance to leave the shelter of home enables the reader to understand the youthful heroine. . Malian brings the freshness as her shoulders bend under the weight placed on her knowing that the idol she duplicates died in combat. With a deep look at Derai warrior culture of a people who accept honorable death as the norm, the Great Betrayal civil war has left rancor and distrust between the Houses as that went against the value system. Although the trek is somewhat sub-genre conventional, high school aged readers and older fans will enjoy accompanying Malian and her comrades across Haarth.

Kill the Dead
Richard Kadrey
9780061714313, $22.99

Stark, known as Sandman Slim, is not a human. He is a Nephilim; the offspring of a fallen angel and a human mother. He has all the power of a Nephilim, but still was not strong enough to fight black magician Mason Faim, who dispatched him to hell for over a decade. When Lucifer releases Stark, he returns to hell on earth where he dispatches Mason back to Lucifer's kingdom. While there the mage mason tries to take over Lucifer's throne.

The devil comes to earth to watch a picture of him being made and wants Stark to serve as his bodyguard. He also takes jobs for the Golden Vigil, sometimes called "Pinkerton's Angels, such as killing Eleanor the vampire, who wears a belt buckle that interests him for reasons he cannot figure out. Besides the Golden Vigil and Lucifer gigs, Stark works on fighting demons and a way to kill Mason. However, a new threat arises as zombies begin to walk the streets of Los Angeles killing all humans who cross their path. Stark has to figure out who is controlling the walking dead and get rid of him so the zombie menace will end.

Stark is a terrific antihero whose conversations with a horde of paranormal and normal (that is in a specie sense; not a mental sense) is humorously biting satire. He is a half-breed who is neither angel nor demon, but works for both sides as he has no place with either. The story line is fast-paced, filled with high octane testosterone action, but is owned by Stark who tells his latest misadventures in a noir style first person account. Urban fantasy readers will fully appreciate the goings on in the city of angels. This reviewer can't wait for the next Sandman Slim novel.

The Exile
Diana Gabaldon & Hoang Nguyen (Illustrator)
Del Rey
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th fl, New York, NY 10019
9780345505385, $25.00,

After being in exile from his beloved Scotland for seemingly forever, in 1743 Jamie Fraser is returning home though he knows the danger he will face in war torn Scotland. His godfather Murtagh will do what he can to keep Jamie safe because of a death pledge he made to the lad's late parents, but he also knows British Captain Black Jack Randall has a large bounty for the head of Jamie.

Meanwhile the MacKenzie clan disputes the return of Jamie. The chieftain Jamie's Uncle Colum, demands his nephew choose between death and fealty while war chieftain Uncle Dougal demands his death. However, strange, stubborn and beautiful Claire Randall appears out of nowhere; convoluting the return of the prodigal Scot. He saves her life and wants her as does his vicious enemy Randall. Murtagh believes she is an Old Ones' envoy; Randall asserts she is a spy; the feuding uncles believe she is a danger; and Jamie offers his heart even knowing he has hers in spite of also believing she hides something critical from him.

This graphic rendition of the original Outlander saga is refreshed by Hoang Nguyen's terrific pictures and told from Jamie's side as opposed to the original mostly seen from the WWII displaced Claire. The story line is filled with action from the onset, but also lacks the time travel aspects that made the original haunting as the key elements of Claire's husband is two centuries in the future while she falls in love with the enemy of her spouse's ancestor remains in the background. Thus this leads to a strong historical saga that fans of the long running series. Readers will appreciate the well written return of the Exile in graphic form; newcomers will enjoy the work, but should start with the original novel (see The Outlander).

Game Of Cages
Harry Connolly
Del Rey
9780345508904, $7.99

A few days before Christmas, Twenty Palaces' sorcerer Catherine Little asks former convict turned grocery clerk Ray Lilly to assist her with an emergency in Washaway. When he learns the details of the mission, Ray knows he is not the right person for the job, but no one survives refusing lethal Little. Apparently, a predatory alien was on the auction block, but escaped incarceration. Little wants it captured and taken away from these street peddlers or dead; and warns her assistant he is to assist her and no more or else face her deadly wrath.

Neither Ray nor his leader expected the auction participants and staff will kill anyone using guns, magic or both who tries to catch the deadly alien or kill the beast. Meanwhile, the alien predator is devastating Washaway.

The second Twenty Palace Society rural fantasy (see Child of Fire) is a great thought provoking yet action-packed noir as readers will ponder the use of drones in the Middle east killing the enemy and the innocent. Little is a fabulous character as collateral damage of the innocent does not faze her with her bottom line mission accomplished as all that matters. People die in combat is her philosophy. Ironically Lilly is the ex convict with a conscience while Little is a societal elitist with an amoral value system. The auction crowd beliefs align with Little though she is their adversary. Filled with non-stop gory action, readers will enjoy the bloody Game of Cages.

Gears of War: Anvil Gate
Karen Travis
Del Rey
9780345499455, $16.00

The Locust Horde has been apparently destroyed at a high cost to the victors (see Aspho Fields and Jacinto's Remnant). Those who survived begin the arduous seemingly impossible task of rebuilding human civilizations using the fortifications of the defeated enemy as the anchor.

The survivors contend with pirates and outlaws, but having triumphed against a much stronger opponent, the Gears barely blink from a minor threat. However, the idyll of victory ends abruptly as Gears leader Marcus Fenix learned of a new menace much greater than the Locus Horde who feared this adversary. This beast is stalking sentient beings as it marches towards the remote island where the Gears and Stranded must cooperate in what could be last stand using the siege tactics of the Anvil Gate.

The latest Gears of War novel (see Aspho Fields and Jacinto's Remnant) tied to the games is a terrific entry as Karen Travis provides a fascinating spin to the military science fiction saga. Marcus is marvelous as he is stunned to learn of the existence of a predator that frightens the fearless Locus Horde; whatever this species is he figures is bad news as your enemy's enemy remains your enemy. Fans of the full Gears of War universe will want to read the exhilarating fast-paced Anvil Gate as things have gotten dramatically worse for Marcus and his crew.

Mass Effect: Retribution
Drew Karpyshyn
Del Rey
9780345520722, $7.99

The Reapers starships have entered the galaxy where earthlings have joined other alien sentient races mostly in harmony (see Revelation). These bellicose outsiders have come with one purpose in mind; "harvesting" the organic.

Few humans understand the extinction danger posed by the reapers. Cerberus leader The Illusive Man not only does, he plans to act by gaining critical insider knowledge of the deadly Reapers to prevent pandemic slaughter though few support his means. He selects his former operative Paul Grayson as his guinea pig. Paul is abducted and implanted with reaper technology so he can be studied like a rat in a lab. Ascension director Kahlee Sanders, who helped Paul rescue his daughter Gillian (see Ascension), is worried about the disappearance and asks Alliance war hero Captain David Anderson to help her investigate as she believes the outlawed evil Cerberus is behind the kidnapping. As they serendipitously sneak inside the experiment zone, Grayson is turning increasingly into a Reaper as the alien make up supersedes his humanity; leading to him being a galaxy-wide threat from within.

Obviously targeting the fans of the Mass Effect gaming universe, Retribution is a fabulous outer space thriller although it helps to have either played the games or read the previous books. The irony within the story line is that the species who The Illusive Man wants to save is the species that claims he and his Cerberus black ops agents are evil. This fun tale warns the audience to beware of science and technology with questionable ethics while also pondering whether ever the means justifies the end as Stalin said "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic", but trillions dead is neither as none will be left to mourn.

The Topkapi Secret
Terry Kelhawk
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616142131, $25.00,

Berkeley University English Literature Professor Angela Hall is in Ramallah on the West Bank doing research when she meets Mohammed Atareek. He provides her a fascinating theory on the Koran; in which he believes that the modern day version is vastly different from what was written down centuries ago. He has tried to obtain permission to visit the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul to access the Topkapi Codex, but has been denied approval.

Angela is intrigued by Mohammed's premise. Although he warns her of the danger as his colleagues are being hunted and killed, they agree to work together to obtain access to the Topkapi Codex. The American and the Palestinian head to Beirut as they make the dangerous trek across the Middle East towards Turkey not knowing who to trust including each other.

The underling premise of this exhilarating thriller is the debate over whether the modern Koran text is the original words that God spoke to Mohammed as the real allegedly seventh century Topkapi Codex had limited scholarly analysis. The story line is incredible when the focus is on the Koran; when the plot turns to a typical thriller adventure, it loses some of its potency. Still readers will enjoy the Topkapi Secret wondering whether the Koran is the unchanged revelation from Allah or a false fable that like the other major religions use to keep the faithful adhering to the Word.

Finding Perfect
Susan Mallery
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373774685, $7.99,

Pia O'Brien is taken aback when she learns what she "inherited" from her late best friend Crystal Westland; three embryos from Crystal and her deceased husband Keith who died in Iraq. Stunned Pia knows how much Crystal wanted children but she can't raise plants so wonders why her. Still she decides to honor her friend by bringing one of the embryos to term.

Retired professional football player Raoul Moreno has settled down in Fool's Gold, California. He plans to set up a camp for kids. When Raoul meets a still shocked Pia, he offers to help her with her planned pregnancy as he conceals his link to Keith. Neither Pia nor Raoul expected an attraction that soon leads to love.

The third Fool's Gold "Perfect" contemporary romance (see Almost Perfect and Chasing Perfect) is an entertaining tale mostly due to the lead female protagonist. Pia is terrific as a commitment phobic who has always been popular, but cannot see herself as a mother. While she struggles with Crystal's legacy, she inconveniently falls in love with former Cowboy quarterback Raoul who takes her heart (and the rest of her body) into the end zone. Readers will enjoy this sweet entry as love comes in many ways.

Sins Of The Soul
Eve Silver
9780373774838, $7.99

Underworld enforcer and soul reaper Alastor Krayl seeks the Butcher; the assassin who he believes was involved in the death of his brother Lokan. When he finds the Butcher, Alastor is stunned as the killer is dead. Apparently a shocked Naphre Kurata, the Butcher's apprentice, killed him when he tried to murder her.

Naphre buries her former mentor, but Alastor claims his soul as he needs it to free his sibling's soul. However, Alastor is taken aback when he learns the soul of his late enemy belongs to someone else. As Alastor and Naphre find themselves falling in love, a definitely forbidden feeling for both of these non-humans, neither know what to do next about their desires, his brother or the third party soul collector.

The latest dark Otherkin soul reaping romantic fantasy is a great entry in what looks like will be a top series (see Sins of the Heart). The story line is extremely complex with a great late spin, but also incredibly entertaining. Fans will be hooked from the onset as Krayl walks the Territory of Sutehl with revenge as his companion only to be stunned by what he sees. The escapades have just begun for him, her and their hearts. Eve Silver strikes gold with this terrific Underworld thriller.

Into The Wild
Beth Ciotta
9780373774678, $7.99

In Maple Grove, Indiana photographer River Kane has no time to mope over her fiance jilting her at the altar for being conventional. Her father's journal arrives from South America with a strange cover note in which he enigmatically says he sacrificed his life for the accompanying gold amulet.

She quickly heads to South America to find her father. An obsessed cleanliness neurotic with a phobia of germs, River remains resolute in finding her father though he will not expect her as he assumes she is a sissy. Her trek leads her to Cajamarca, Peru where the brother of her friend Kylie (see Out of Eden), TV commentator Spenser McGraw, who hosts the show Into the Wild, learns his latest venture was cancelled. He seems to prefer thwarting her efforts, which enhance her doubts about him as she needs stealth and prudence while he needs PR. She tries to keep him from accidentally deploying an alleged Inca curse that targets those who go after ancient treasure; her fear being he will trigger locals and treasure hunters.

Modernizing Romancing the Stone, this sequel to Out of Eden is a fun romantic adventure thriller starring two apparent opposites who fall in love while traveling Into the Wild. Fast-paced though a bit over the top of the Andes, fans will want to join the trek of River and Spenser as they fall in love while trying to find her missing father.

Burning Up
Susan Andersen
9780373774982, $7.99

Macy O'James was the outsider known as the Sugarville, Washington tramp who nobody was caught dead with due to guilt by association. Upon graduating from Sugarville High School, Macy immediately fled town. She became a steamy video star in Los Angeles though she never stripped.

When her cousin is hurt in a car accident, Macy returns home to care of Janna as she recovers from her injuries. When she and the town's Fire Chief Gabriel Donovan meet, the attraction is ultra hot though he pretends to ignore her when his friend Deputy Sheriff Johnny Angelini pulls her over. His reasoning is to chill his desire is he has reinvented himself into a properly behaved adult since his wild childhood. However, neither he nor Macy can cool the ardor.

Living up to its title, this is a heated contemporary romance starring two people with bad reputations falling in love. Though bad girls returning home with a reputation is not new, Susan Anderson provides a fast-paced tale; from the moment Angelini pulls the steamy video tramp star over, fans will enjoy Burning Up with Macy and Gabe as the heat is on in Washington State.

Renegade Angel
Kendra Leigh Castle
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618422, $5.25

Even Hell does not want Raum the Destroyer of Dignities and Robber of Kings residing there. Thousands of years have passed since the fallen angel was kicked out of heaven and now he has the dubious distinction of being kicked out of Hell, which leaves him heading to Earth.

Raum and a team of former demons actually have a mission to destroy demons on earth and their half-breed offspring. He is in rural Vermont when he modifies his objective to keep safe half-breed fallen angel-human Ember Riddick and to prevent her from opening a portal to hell that will allow the denizen to escape to earth. The daughter of Mammon the fallen angel, Ember turns to her angelic protector Raum for safety, but he soon realizes she is capable of keeping him from harm. Still, her father seeks her out to force her to open the gate while Uriel the angel tries to close due to a potential lethal weakness in it and Lucifer fears she may be the source of redemption for the fallen.

This is an entreating romantic rural fantasy in which Kendra Leigh Castle which makes heaven, hell and earth feel genuine even angels, demons and an assortment of supernatural species seem real. The antihero with his darkened wings is terrific as a rare essence bounced from heaven and hell. Ember is surprisingly more mysterious than her savior as readers wonder what she hides from Raum. Fans will enjoy this Green Mountain fantasy as eternity is a long way from heaven, hell, and earth yet Raum learns where eternal bliss can be found; if he survives the finding.

Love Me If You Dare
Carly Phillips
9780373774708, $7.99

NYPD Police Officer Rafe Mancuso saves his former partner Sara Rios from an assault and has become a city hero. However, he soon learns the down size of "celebrity" status when the Bachelor Blog names him an eligible hunk.

As he heals and tries to stay out of the limelight of the almost famous, Rafe retreats to his lakefront cabin. His vanishing turns the Bachelor Bog's attention on the damsel in distress he rescued, Sara. Like her ex-partner, she needs to avoid the limelight as she is to testify in court against a killer who wants her dead. Sara retreats to Rafe's cabin where the attraction that ended their partnership ignites while someone exposes her hideaway.

The latest Most Eligible Bachelor Blog contemporary romance (see Kiss Me If You Can) is a delightful police procedural romantic suspense. The lead male knows who he wants and does not disguise his feelings; his target Sara shares his intense love. However, surviving the attacks on her comes before they can dare to fully embrace their love. This is a strong contemporary romance.

Tom McCarthy
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019,
9780307593337, $26.95,

Early in the first decade of the twentieth century, Serge Carrefax, a young boy resides with his family at Versoie House. There his father Simeon runs a school for the deaf as a means for him to experiment with his inventions that he cherishes on the kids. At the same dad invents and test, Serge and his older sister Sophie invent and test chemical experiments.

Years later, Serge journeys to a sanitarium in Bavaria seeking a chemical allegedly with healing prowess. Soon after that he enlists in the 104th Airborne Squadron, using cocaine while flying reconnaissance mission. Shot down over Germany, he becomes a POW but escapes only to be sent by the mysterious secret Empire Wireless Chain to Cairo. Over time Serge continues to encounter history's oddest persona until he finally discovers the wavelength that makes him a perfect receiver of historical signals transmitted from time.

This is an odd superb historical "biographical" thriller that hooks the audience from the opening scene and keeps the reader's full attention as Serge escorts fans through the early decades of the twentieth century. The story line is very complicated yet somehow also simplistic as there is a linear path throughout that a reader can focus on, but filled with all sorts of side roads as each year has sameness and differences to make it part of an era and unique unto itself. Tom McCarthy provides a thought provoking superb tour of the early twentieth century.

The Garden of Betrayal
Lee Vance
9780307269775, $24.95

In 2003, three men kidnap twelve year old Kyle Wallace off the streets of Manhattan. Seven years later his parents and sister remain grief-stricken due to their loss lacking any closure as nothing has come of what happened to the boy.

Kyle's father oil analyst Mark Wallace is considered an energy guru on Wall St. However, he finds the recent international scene disturbing. In the Baltic terrorists blow up the pipeline that delivered oil from Russia to Germany. He meets Theresa Roxas who gives Mark information on the Saudis oil reserve that she apparently received form a US senator. Mark's friend hedge-fund player Alex Coleman obtained the same data, but he is found dead in his bathtub. Meanwhile NYPD detective Reggie Kinnard continues when he can to work the now cold case of Kyle's abduction; recently he has begin to link the snatch to Mark's work.

The Garden of Betrayal is an exhilarating financial international thriller that never decides between a family drama and a conspiracy novel. The insight into the finance world is clever especially the brilliant setup that looks like a class in Advanced International Finance 401; while the grieving Wallace trio comes across as genuine. Although the convergence of the two subplots occurs too early, which leaves a long denouement that feels padded; sub-genre fans will appreciate Lee Vance's thriller (see Restitution).

The Thousand
Kevin Guilfoile
9781400043095, $24.95

As a child growing up in Chicago, Canada "Nada" Gold had a gift with numbers. As an adult her numeral skill enables her to seemingly instantaneously collect and analyze data, which works quite nicely in Vegas casinos. She uses her skill to earn a living, but also suffers emotionally from t he traumas she has faced.

Her father Solomon, Chicago Symphony music director, declares he has recreated Mozart's intended climax to the unfinished symphony. However, soon after his declaration, he is charged with murdering his mistress, Erica Liu, a cellist in his orchestra. Nada returns home from Vegas to be with her dad. His lawyer Reggie Valentine and his performance earned Solomon an acquittal though he killed the victim. Soon after his court victory, he is murdered. Meanwhile the secret Thousand, worshippers of Pythagoras, learn of Canada's skills and have plans to use her to further future schemes on a par with calamities like 9/11 and Katrina that they caused in the name of their ancient Greek "god".

The premise is excellent built from what is known about Pythagoras leading to the modern day cabal Thousand who causes calamities for profit (capitalism at its purist). The story line is fast-paced and loaded with fun but somewhat inane chase scenes. Except somewhat for Nada who feels like a freak, the key cast especially any of the members of the avaricious lethal Thousand are never developed. Still readers will enjoy the Thousand's interpretation of the Pythagorean theory.

The Ascent
Ronald Malfi
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781605420677, $24.95,

Affluent risk-taker Andrew Trumbauer loves to take on an impossible challenge. His current quest is to climb an impossible Himalayan peak in Nepal that has never been achieved. He and his selected team of six will traverse the Himalayas' Valley of Walls until they reach the Sanctuary of the Gods before crossing the impossible Canyon of Souls that none has successfully crossed. Andrew will fund the entire venture and also pay his comrades for the daredevil risk they take.

One of the chosen is renowned sculptor Widower Tim Overleigh, who quit art for extreme sports having never recovered from his wife Hannah walking out on him and before he could attempt reconciliation with her; she died in a car crash. He turned to alcohol to dim the mental anguish of loss, compounded by a caving incident. Now as he and the others make their ascent, Tim begins to believe that their fearless leader has two overlapping plans with one obviously to complete the unattainable and the other is pure sinister.

This is an exhilarating thriller as man challenges the Himalayas and each other on a quest that seems almost suicidal yet they try because it is there. Fast-paced, the story line spins from perilous mountain climbing into something more hazardous than hanging off a cliff at the top of the world. Readers will relish Ronald Malfi's exciting tale as the men make a dramatic Ascent to the top of the world, but cannot ascend man's insidious nature.

Desperate Souls
Gregory Lamberson
9781605421704, $14.95

A new drug is sweeping the streets of New York City and it is more addictive than any illegal or prescription drug. Black Magic was made with malice and evil as it turns the user eventually into a zombie who can only be killed by a blow to the head, which allows the soul to finally leave the body for its final destination.

Former police officer turned private detective Jake Hellman meets one of these creatures and is shocked that only a blow to the brain will kill it. He traces the Zombie Plague to drugpin Prince Malachai the one who sells the drugs though he unaware that his lover the Voodoo Priestess Katrina has the power to control him thanks to the demon lover who gives her magical powers. They plan to take control of the city's drug business, but she has an even bigger strategic goal. Jake needs to kill herb because assassinating Katrina means he will be able to unravel her spells.

After fighting the demon Cain (see Personal Demon) Jake would have been happy doing background checks and following errant spouses. Fate has a different plan for him as he called upon to hunt the supernatural evil. Like Jake, readers will get the creepy crawlies as they visualize the zombies that only a few people believes they exist even though anyone who really sees them knows that something is wrong with the way they look. Gregory Lamberson is one of the bright new stars in the horror world.

Bleed A River Deep
Brian McGilloway
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312599478, $24.99,

US Senator Cathal Hagan is the special guest at opening of the Orcas gold mine near Lifford in the Borderlands. Security is extremely tight, but Garda inspector Benedict Devlin, pulled from a bank robbery-murder case to lead the protection of the VIPs, fails at keeping a childhood friend environmentalist Leon Bradley from shooting the guest; thankfully with a fake gun.

Blamed for neglect, he is suspended for two weeks. However, when someone kills Bradley, Devlin investigates the mine and a bank job. Devlin persuades his Northern counterpart Inspector Jim Hendry to assist him as he wonders why Bradley and the illegal Chechen were killed.

The third Inspector Devlin police procedural (see Borderlands and Gallows Lane) is a fantastic thriller as the hero struggles to solve two murders while on suspension so has no official backing. The story line is action-packed from the moment Devlin sees his friend holding a gun for the first time since they played with toy pistols as five years old children. With a deep look at the illegal immigration problem in Europe not as publicized as the Arizona brouhaha, Brian McGilloway provides an entertaining investigative thriller.

Blue Lightning
Ann Cleeves
9780312384357, $24.99

Police Detective Jimmy Perez brings his English fiancee Fran Hunter to his home on Fair Isle to meet his parents and the other residents. A welcoming fete is thrown, but at a bird observatory, someone stabs a woman with a knife to her back and leaving feathers in her hair.

The deceased is a famous BBC ornithologist Angela, alleged guardian of the island's bird sanctuary. Perez realizes the victim was universally disliked by those who knew her; even perhaps her husband Maurice. Suspects are numerous ranging from a myriad of lovers, her stepdaughter, her employee and the bird lovers' crowd. Perez struggles on his own due to a hurricane cutting off the island from the mainland. At the same time just before the storm hit, there is an influx of bird watchers due to a rare avian finding. As Perez digs deeper and Fran tries to help her beloved though he pleads with her not to get involved, he fears a tie to his family.

The final Shetland Island police procedural (see Red Bones, Raven Black and White Nights) is a super whodunit. The story line focuses beyond just Jimmy's investigation and relationship with his fiancee, as the murder haunts the small community although the victim is loathed by anyone who met her. Jimmy is great as he is cut off from professional help, but though he detests what he is finding, he resolutely stays the course. With a final twist that will stun fans, The Shetland Island saga is a terrific series and hopefully will have more colorful Fair Isle mysteries.

The Pericles Commission
Gary Corby
9780312599027, $24.99

In 461 BC in Athens, the man fell from the sky. At least that is how it initially looked to those near the Areopagus. In fact democratic reformist leader Ephialtes was shot with a myriad of arrows before his dive off the Rock of Areopagus. He landed dead at the feet of a sculptor's son Nicolaos.

Ephialtes's political ally Pericles arrives just after the death. He is pleasantly surprised by the logical analysis Nicolaos applies to the assassination; as such Pericles hires the lad to investigate the murder. Knowing the ruling council meets at the Areopagus and the obvious motive is these members refuse to lose power as they would under Ephialtes' reform, he looks for the killer(s) amidst the leading citizens of the city including his client.

This is an excellent Ancient Athenian mystery in which Gary Corby constructs his deep story line around real persona (including the victim) and events (including the victim's murder). The early chapters set the tale of fifth century BC in Athens and once Ephialtes falls, the story line takes off at a resounding speed. Mindful of Jose Carlos Somoza's The Athenian Murders, The Pericles Commission is a superb BCE historical.

Ed Gorman
9780312532987, $24.99

In Aldyne, Illinois Ben Weinberg, the campaign team chief to reelect incumbent Congresswoman Susan Cooper, knows his candidate's bid for another term is in deep trouble. He turns to his colleague who got him the job in the first place, former army intel officer turned political consultant Dev Conrad to straighten out the sinking ship. Dev is concerned because they have worked together for eight years and Ben never asked for his assistance.

Besides the ineffective husband David with his alibis for his wife and rumors of sniffing cocaine, the biggest issue is the money bags, Susan's stepmother Natalie Cooper, better known as the "Dragon Lady". Adding to the problems is the philosophy of the opponent Steve Duffy's consultants, Monica Davies and Greg Larson who believe the end justifies the mean regardless of who they harm in the process. Meanwhile in spite of low percentile of public interest concerned with Susan's mysterious past, she tries to conceal her secrets which hurt her election chances. However, all hell breaks loose when someone murders Davies.

The whodunit is fun to follow, but what makes the second Dev Conrad political consulting thriller (see Sleeping Dogs) super is the dirty tricks played by so called ethical people. Ed Gorman nails the concept that adheres diligently to Leo Durocher's philosophy of "win at all costs" as the innocent are disregarded as expendable pawns as much as the politicians. For instance Dev points out that the unemployed receiving assistance has paid into the system when they were employed, which is irrelevant when you're making political points of lazy on the dole people. Stranglehold is a strong political thriller as Mr. Gorman makes a case that elections are contact sports with no rules except "win at all costs".

Death Notice
Todd Ritter
9780312622800, $24.99

Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania Police Chief Kat Campbell is stunned to find the corpse of George Winnick, a farmer, inside a coffin of sorts at the side of the road. She is further aghast to see the victim's lips sewn together and his blood vessels containing formaldehyde.

Meanwhile, Perry Hollow Gazette obituary writer Henry Goll learns the time of death occurred after he received the faxed death notice. Henry realizes that one of his neighbors is a diabolical homicidal psychopath. When other murders occur, Pennsylvania State Police Officer Nick Donnelly, an expert on serial killers, arrives to assist the overwhelmed locals. However, even with his knowledge and skills, the killer seems always ahead of the cops.

Although at times a bit overdramatic with a stratospheric kill rate, Death Notice is an enjoyable police procedural. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with a horde of eccentric characters as the corpses keep coming. Kat is a fabulous lead who holds the serial killer thriller together with help from Nick and Henry. Readers will enjoy this entertaining regional mystery as a town that never faced a homicide suddenly is inundated.

In Search of Mercy
Michael Ayoob
9780312644925, $24.99

In high school in 1993 in Pittsburgh, Dexter Bolzjak was a legend on ice until he suffered a meltdown in the Pennsylvania state championship. Soon afterward, irate hockey goon fans abducted him and beat the crap out of him. Eight years since his rise, fall and assault has left Dexter a shell of what he was as he sorts produce at a warehouse while trying to keep his sanity, which he recognizes as a full time job.

Aging alcoholic Lou Kashon offers Dexter a deal to make some real money if he locates his lost love, former movie star, Mercy Carnahan, who has not been seen in public since 1958. The cash is too good to pass up so without asking too many questions Dexter begins a search for the recluse.

The key to this strong amateur sleuth is the past of Dexter and Mercy, as the audience sees how they got to where they are today. Fast-paced and vividly descriptive especially the violence (you will feel the hip checks), In Search of mercy is an aptly titled thriller that readers who appreciate something radically different will fully enjoy.

Cynthia Riggs
9780312648718, $24.99

In his office at Watts Electrical Supply in Oak Bluffs, electrician LeRoy Watts uses a taser on his former assistant Jerry Sparks when the latter had the gall to threaten to blackmail him. Jerry crumbled to the office floor dead. LeRoy knows his nine year old twin sons Zeke and Jared will be coming by once baseball practice ends, so he places the corpse in a closet with plans to dispose of the body later.

After the kids leave, LeRoy removes the stiff from his office closet and places the corpse in a book storage shed at the West Tisbury library. Also at the library are the "mathematical" knitters doing Moebius strips and more. Their current project is a coral reef quilt to raise awareness of global warming. Knitter Maron asks nonagenarian Deputy Sheriff Victoria Trumbull for help with an obscene serial phone caller; and boat splicer Emily Cameron wants to know what happened to her boyfriend Jerry. Victoria is back in the middle of a murder mystery.

The latest ninety-two years young Victoria Trumbull police procedural (see Death and Honesty) is a wonderful cozy that uses Martha's Vineyard as an idyllic backdrop for mayhem and for family issues caused when the middle generation arrives to help her daughter cope with her elderly mother. At times the story line turns amusing for instance with LeRoy's efforts to dispose of the body only to have his family and later three law enforcement officials (including the hero ine) visit him with none aware of Jerry's fate; mindful of Hitchcock's comedic The Trouble With Harry. Cynthia Riggs is at the top of her game with this strong Trumbull entry.

The Holy Thief
William Ryan
9780312586454, $24.99

In 1936, Moscow Militia's Criminal Investigation Division Captain Alexei Korolev leads the investigation into the brutal murder of a battered woman in a church. The body's myriad of bruises indicates the victim was tortured as if the culprit sought information from the deceased.

NKVD Colonel Gregorin is fascinated with the homicide that he thinks has political ties. With Gregorin assisting him, Korolev identifies the dead female woman as an American nun, who allegedly helped smuggle valuables out of the Soviet Union. When a second murder similar to that of the Sister occurs, Korolev obtains aid from a diverse cautious crew of friends and associates, wannabe Russian Baker Street Irregulars and auth or Isaac Babel.

The key to this excellent 1930s Soviet police procedural is the Stalin internal terrorism cuts through all aspects of Moscow society; no one is immune, not even a homicide cop. That oppressive aura engulfs Korolev who wants to solve the murder case, but must not cross clearly drawn lines or someone else could be investigating his homicide. In some ways the deep look at people during the heart of Stalin ism is graphic and the use of the strong investigation as a support tool to enhance how fearing Russians were makes this great thriller somewhat more a historical with a powerful whodunit investigation enabling readers to feel the stressful stench of the Stalin smog.

The Detroit Electric Scheme
D. E. Johnson
9780312644567, $24.99

In 1910 Detroit, Will Anderson works for his father's electric car company. In the machining room, Will finds the corpse of John Cooper, who was crushed by a hydraulic press. Recognizing the deceased as the man engaged to his former lover Elizabeth, and panicking, a frightened Will flees the factory as the circumstantial evidence will hang him even without Detroit cops beating a confession from him.

Will informs Elizabeth that someone murdered John and he fears she could be next. He offers to keep her safe, but she refuses. As Will conducts an inquiry far from the spotlights, he finds cruel corruption as the cornerstone of the city; that is when he does not stop for a drink to dull the haze.

The Detroit Electric Scheme is a fabulous historical amateur sleuth that showcases the underbelly of the Motor City at a time of optimism when American companies made Michigan the capital of the fledgling auto industry. Real persona including some of the founding fathers add a sense of realism as does Will's alcoholism which makes his investigation off kilter due the application of fuzzy logic. Although readers will feel some compassion for the lead with his plight that also is tempered by his self inflicting wounds as he is not a likable character. Still the audience will enjoy this fine early twentieth century mystery as where there's a Will there's a way.

Murder on the Bride's Side
Tracy Kiely
9780312537579, $24.99

In Richmond, Virginia, the day after the wedding between Bridget and Colin, someone kills the bride's Aunt Roni. Bridge's BFF maid of honor Elizabeth Parker notices that no one seems concerned about Roni's homicide; in fact the wedding party seems as celebratory as they did for the marriage.

Although the cops insist everyone is a suspect, they narrow the field to Bridge's dashing bad boy cousin Harry and Elizabeth; the latter who found the body had a diamond necklace that belonged to Roni in her hotel room. Not one to panic even when her boyfriend Peter seems engrossed in the wedding planner, Jane Austen aficionado Elizabeth, heeds the serene composure of Sense and Sensibility's Elinor Dashwood in a crisis and then investigates.

The second Parker amateur sleuth (see Murder at Longbourn tied to Pride and Prejudice) is an engaging southern cozy due to the fine cast especially the Austen quoting heroine. The lighthearted story line is entertaining as energizing Elizabeth emulates Elinor's unruffled behavior while on the case of the killer and of Peter's affection. In spite of a thin plot, this is a fun regional whodunit.

The Emerald Cat Killer
Richard A. Lupoff
9780312648138, $24.99

International Surety Special Projects Unit Detached Service director Desmond Richelieu asks retired insurance investigator Hobart Lindsey to work one last complicated case. Hobart agrees not out of some loyalty to his unlikable former boss, but because the inquiry is the type he relishes.

One year ago someone murdered mystery writer Gordon Simmons who wrote his colorful noirs under the alias Wallace Thompson. The case remains cold but the insurance firm paid off the death claim. Now the Widow Angela Simmons and publisher Marston and Morse are suing Berkley based Gordian House, a client of IS, over the latter publishing a hard-boiled detective tale The Emerald Cat by Steve Damon that Angela claims was written by her late spouse. The chief of the Walnut Creek branch of IS makes it clear that Hobart is unwelcome and the Berkley police tell him to stick to the insurance side of the case. At Gordian House, Hobart learns the firm owns the book having bought the rights from Damon's agent Rachael Gottlieb. As he investigates the widow's claim that the book is on her spouse's PC and Damon killed him, his former lover Berkley Police Sergeant Marvia Plum joins him (see Cover Girl Killer and The Radio Red Killer).

Although readers know the killer before Hobart takes on the case, The Emerald Cat Killer is an exhilarating insurance investigation. The cast is strong as Hobart makes the rounds of eccentric characters. His relations hip with Marvia is terrific to follow as long time fans will testify and the look at the publishing industry cutthroat charming. Although the killer's poor mental health feels unnecessarily forced and intruding, readers will enjoy Lindsey's inquiry into a plagiarism claim.

Bury Your Dead
Louise Penny
9780312377045, $24.99

Quebec City Chief Inspector Armand Gamache recovers from a physical injury and the related emotional distress. At the same time he recuperates, the corpse of Augustin Renaud is found at the Literary and Historical Society. Augustin was a noted oddball who searched for the grave of Quebec's founder Samuel de Champlain.

Gamache pleads off the case using his injury as an excuse, but his superior tells him he has the lead. Grumbling Gamache works the Renaud homicide and he sends Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir to Three Pines to follow up on a case he thought was closed (see The Brutal Telling).

The latest Gamache Canadian police procedural is a strong entry in what is a great series. The murder mystery is well written and the return to the previous case is a stunning clever surprise. However, this is Gamache's tale as he struggles to get back in the saddle after the injuries he suffered; mentally he appears to be suffering from posy traumatic stress disorder, but his boss puts him back to work because murder cannot wait for a cop to emotionally heal. Louise Penny provides a terrific thriller.

Danse Macabre
Gerald Elias
9780312541897, $24.99

Someone murders internationally renowned French violinist Rene Allard following his farewell appearance at Carnegie Hall. The police arrest Allard's former top protege and rival African-American superstar BTower. The crossover musical legend BTower is convicted of the homicide of his ex teacher as he was seen near the body, had blood on his hands; and testimony by eye witness Mabel Bidwell and blind violinist Daniel Jacobus. BTower is sentenced to death.

His lawyer Cy Rosenthal needs help to overturn the capital punishment conviction. As he appeals the case, he persuades reclusive music teacher Daniel that justice was not served and to investigate the homicide as he has solved a previous murder mystery (see Devil's Trill).

The case of the "Two Maestros" murder mystery is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale starring a malapropos musician who reluctantly investigates a string of broken violins. The story line is leisurely paced so is not for everyone and why a blind amateur albeit with musical knowledge rather than a horde of professional private detectives seems odd. However, those readers who relish an entertaining look at the music world inside an investigation will enjoy Allard's farewell performance in the Danse Macabre.

The Unbelievers
Alastair Sim
9780312621698, $23.99

In the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Dornoch vanishes without a trace in Scotland. Chief Constable Sir Joseph Stewart, Her majesty's Secretary for Scotland Viscount Dunstre, the Lord Advocate Lord Kinnordy, and Superintendent Burgess inform Inspector Archibald Allerdyce that this is a delicate matter so they must investigate with tact. Allerdyce and Sergeant Hector McGillivray begin their inquiries although the lead inspector publicly obeys but silently objects as he knows the foolishness of the aristocracy can prove a waste of time; he prefers inquiries into commoners.

The inspector quickly finds out that just before the aristocrat disappeared he received a telegram. On the Dornoch estate in Edinburgh, the two sleuths find his corpse in a well. The brass wants Allerdyce to find evidence that will hang a troublemaking mine union leader However, a second homicide has Allerdyce fearing the killer is someone he knows and cares about.

This is a fabulous Victorian era police procedural that brings to life 1865 Edinburgh as well as the workings of the British bureaucratic aristocratic leadership of that period. The inspector and the sergeant are delightful leads as they go from diplomatic low keyed inquiries into a missing duke to an assertive still discreet murder mystery and ultimately aggressive multi homicide investigation. Although readers will spot the killer before the cops, no one will care as Alastair Sim provides a strong historical whodunit.

Body Work
Sara Paretsky
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156748, $26.95,

At Chicago's in Club Gouge, private investigator V.I. Warshawski is watching her troublesome younger cousin Petra. On stage, trendy performance artist Karen "The Body Artist" Buckley encourages her audience to join her in order to use her naked body as a canvas to paint on. One participant draws an elaborate design on the back of Karen; however, Iraqi War veteran Chad Vishneski is outraged with the picture and lets everyone knows as he shouts profanities.

Two nights later, the "Body Artist" whose body painting caused the outburst is shot dead near Club Gouge. The police name Chad a person of interest. His concerned estranged parents hire Warshawski to prove their troubled son did not kill the woman. Her inquiry drifts back and forth between the Chicago war zone and the Middle East theaters of operation, but each step the detective takes seems filled with IEDs.

The latest Warshawski Hardball noir is a strong entry as the kick butt sleuth takes no prisoners while working the mean streets of Chicago's North Side. Action packed and tough on the case yet sensitive in her personal relationships, fans of the long running series will conclude V.I. Warshawski (and Sara Paretsky) still has it.

Violence 101
Denis Wright
9780399254932, $16.99

In New Zealand, fourteen year old Hamish Graham is brilliant but believes the easiest best solution to any problem is attack. He does so logically not out of impulse or temper and knows the consequences of being caught as well as right and wrong. His heroes are those who comprehend what violence can do; for instance Alexander the Great understood the basics of Violence 101 when he conquered the world as the Conqueror overwhelmed the opponents with force and guile while also making examples of these losers. Hamish uses Alexander's philosophy as his own though he adapted it to modern times.

His latest violent act leads to Hamish being locked up at the Manukau New Horizons Boys' Institute. The facility's manager Helen Greenville directs Hamish to write a journal focusing on his life. He picks a fight with the inmates top dog Victor, earning respect for challenging the champ and for busting his opponent's nose with a fork. Hamish's journal looks deep at his three idols Alexander the Great, New Zealand Captain Charles Upham and Maori warrior Te Rauparaha. He surprises himself when he begins to respect Terry the counselor and not shocking himself with his admiration of Toko the PE instructor who understands violence in sports. However, as he begins to comprehend his obsession, Hamish needs to be careful because others want to become the lead dog.

This is an amusing profound hyperbole that condemns society which encourages winning at all costs (steroids comes to mind) in sports, but also condemns those who take it beyond what is "acceptable", which conveniently changes to defend an end justifying the mean. Told mostly through Hamish's journals, readers will be spellbound by his belief in violence as this places H. Rap's Brown's commentary "Violence is as American (though in this case new Zealand) as cherry pie" with a nod to Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange.

Against All Things Ending
Stephen R. Donaldson
9780399156786, $29.95

Linden Avery worries about her adopted son Jeremiah as the Despiser wants the lad though she is unsure why. Meanwhile, over the objections of others who fear what she plans will destroy the world, Linden, using her Staff of Law and the High Loric's krill dagger, brings out of the Arch of Time her dead lover Thomas Covenant.

However, for every action there is a reaction. In this case her awakening her beloved from beyond the grave also rouses the dormant Worm of the World's End, who will devour all in its path. While her lover lies calmly in a field hating who he is; Linden knows she must risk her life to prevent what she wrought. Her only answer to her desperate prayer comes from the last person she would expect to possess such power.

The latest tale in the Last Chronicles arch of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever series is a fascinating fantasy with a neat twist that makes it read different from previous entries. While Thomas is mostly negatively musing but inert, this time Linden is the prime player as she tries to undo what she caused while also keeping her lover alive; a want your cake and eat it too scenario. The story line is fast-paced and contains a strong back story though first time readers will still be lost in the complex realm of Stephen R. Donaldson. At a minimum, readers should read the first two entries in this segue (see The Runes of the Earth and Fatal Revenant). For long time fans, Against All Things Ending is a strong thriller even with Thomas taking a time out to reflect.

Born To Bite
Lynsay Sands
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061474323, $7.99,

Vampire Armand Argeneau is stunned when his lifemate and two other women close to him all died mysteriously accidental. The Council sends undercover Enforcer Eshe d'Aureus to investigate the farmer as the brass wonders if Armand is a spousal serial killer. His brother Lucien enables Eshe to get onto Armand's farm as he tells his sibling that she is hiding from Leonius Livius the second who wants her dead.

As she investigates her host, she and Armand are shocked to realize they are life mates. Neither is pleased with this revelation as she fears she loves a psychopathic murderer and he fears the three women he cherished were murdered by an unknown adversary who probably will make his fourth female he holds dearly the next target. When the incidents begin, Eshe wants to believe a third party is causing them, but she still has niggling doubts about her beloved as all evidence seems to point to him yet everyone who knows him including his in-laws think the world of him.

The latest Argeneau urban fantasy (see Bite Me if You Can, Love Bites and A Quick Bite) is a terrific atypical entry in which the story line is more of a super investigative thriller rather than the vampire romance though the latter is a key secondary subplot. The story line is fast-paced and contains amusing interludes especially when Eshe drives Lucien crazy. Series fans will relish this wonderful tale while newcomers will also appreciate the vampiric whodunit.

The Viking Takes A Knight
Sandra Hill
9780061673504, $7.99

In 970 Northumbria Princess Ingrith Sigrundottir proudly runs a local orphanage Rainstead. However, when brutal Saxon Commander Leo Loncaster visits her orphanage demanding she turn over King Edgar's illegitimate son Henry she disobeys the beast. Instead she flees with her children including Henry to Lord John Graves's home Hawk's Lair where she demands sanctuary for her, Ubbi her elderly guard, and thirty youngsters.

John is attracted to Ingrith, but knows she is off limits to him as the daughter of the king. Ingrith is attracted to her host but cannot get him away from his studies of honey. When Loncaster angrily burns down the orphanage, John sets off to get the king to intercede while directing the princess to remain safe inside his walls. Ingrith rejects his orders and instead follows him to her father's court. In love, they argue before he leaves the court to return to his honeybees while Thorvold announces his daughter will marry soon. John decides he will be her husband, but must persuad e his beloved he is her man for eternity.

This is a fun lighthearted Dark Ages romp in which Sandra Hill uses humor to make the case that the tenth century was an enlightened period with researchers along side berserkers as warriors. The story line is fast-paced while Ms. Hill provides fascinating ways to use honey that the experimenters amongst readers will want to test with their significant other. The lead couple is a terrific pairing as each is fully developed so the audience will understand the motives and flaws of both as the almost aptly titled The Viking Takes a Knight as her honey.

The Echo Of Violence
Jordan Dane
9780061474149, $7.99

Mercenary Jackson Kinkaid is a kindhearted person who does his best to help the beleaguered orphans of Haiti. Sister Kate and others recognizes his bigheartedness and throw a reception honoring him though he feels this is unnecessary, he shows up because of his love for the kids.

Terrorists attack the gala killing innocent people, kidnapping Sister Kate and the children, and making one mistake. They only wound Kinkaid failing to kill him. They post videos of the lethal assault on the web. Kinkaid asks Garrett Wheeler and the Sentinels to help him save the lives of those that were kidnapped. Garrett dispatches Kinkaid's former lover Alexa Marlowe and her Sentinel unit to work with him on the rescue and to capture the terrorist leader alive something she doubts the mercenary will allow.

This is an enjoyable thriller that grips readers from the opening sequence and never slows down. Angst-laden Kinkaid owns the tale as he deals with overwhelming issues with all the sh*t he has seen and done. Readers will root for him while pondering if he suffers from PTSD and hope he and the Sentinels rescue Sister Kate and the children while also wondering whether Kinkaid will allow the terrorist leader to be captured as Marlowe's boss wants.

You Only Love Once
Caroline Linden
9780061706486, $7.99

In 1820, American businessman Nate Avery arrives in London investigating an embezzlement scheme. British spy and assassin Angelique Martand is directed to assist Nate on his inquiry, but also watch him carefully. For their cover, they are to masquerade as a married couple.

Angelique is confused by the assignment as this is beneath her usual type mission. She also is bewildered by her attraction to Nate as he makes her feel like a woman. As they fall in love, Nate and Angelique realize that catching the culprit is not easy and will take care sleuthing to find him and apprehend the embezzler. If they are not extremely careful, unknown adversaries will kill the pretend couple who want to make their relationship real.

You Only Love Once is an exciting late Regency romantic espionage thriller that grips the audience from the moment the lead couple meet. Nate is a solid lead, but Angelique owns the story line as what happened to her as a child and her late mom near Paris during the French Reign of Terror has dominated her life ever since until Nate. Although the plot at times decelerates, historical romantic suspense fans will enjoy Caroline Linden's entertaining tale.

Wicked Delights Of A Bridal Bed
Tracy Anne Warren
9780061673443, $7.99

Lady Mallory Byron feels she lives the perfect life; contented with all she has though she misses her beau who is fighting on the continent. However, her idyllic world crashes when her beloved Major Michael Hargreaves dies in combat leaving her to grieve her loss.

In 1812 the best friend of her brother Edward, Adam Gresham, loves Mallory and though he fumbled his chances before, he plans to win her heart. He uses their friendship to help her come out of her depression. When she suffers horrific nightmares, he comforts her. Finally Adam proposes and Mallory accepts. Their honeymoon is joyful, but when they come home, the past awaits them.

The latest bad Byron Regency romance (see Seduced by His Touch) is an engaging tale as one of the more endearing of the siblings takes the lead. Mallory is a terrific protagonist while Adam's doubts lead to a strong entry. Although it helps to have read At the Duke's Pleasure as Adam and Mallory play second banana but set the table for this historical, fans of the mad bad Byron family will appreciate mourning Mallory's tale.

The Unclaimed Duchess
Jenna Petersen
9780061934995, $7.99

In 1796 six year old Anne Danvers meets her betrothed since her birth, Rhys Carlisle when he intercedes with an incident with a bullying boy. Anne knew that he was the love of her life though she was a child. Years later in 1816 Anne and Rhys marry in what the Ton assume is a love match. However, a few weeks Later Rhys vanishes without a word to his spouse.

Rhys believed all his life with pride that he was a Waverly. Now he knows the truth that the man who raised him and whose ducal title is his is not his biological father. Instead, he is just another one of the ton of illegitimate sired by the Duke of Billington. Fuming, he left home to rusticate. However, Anne follows on a mission to learn what changed her loving husband into a mocking beast. As her love brings him back into the light, he conceals his secret shame even as a blackmailer threatens to expose him.

The key to this strong Regency romance is the lead couple as Rhys who was always arrogantly proud of one day becoming a duke learns the truth about his birth while Anne proves her strength by being at his side even when he tells her to leave. They make a great couple as his inability to talk to her about what troubles him disturbs her, but she refuses to quit on the love of her life. Jenna Peterson provides a strong character driven historical.

Bound To A Warrior
Donna Fletcher
9780061934711, $7.99

In 1005 Scotland, the four MacAlpin brothers are trying to raise an army to return the rightful True King to the throne of Scotland. However, men of the usurper capture one of the siblings, Duncan. He is manacled to a tire d disheveled woman.

Duncan needs to escape and has no time for a female even one as courageous and beautiful as his fettered mate Mercy. They escape and he admires her spunk and soon they become lovers. As they fall in love, Duncan learns who he was bounded to with chains and now hearts, the illegitimate daughter of the ruler the MacAlpin clan wants to overthrow.

The first MacAlpin Dark Ages Highlander romance is a terrific tale that starts off with a strong opening sequence of having the lead couple chained to one another trying to escape and never slows down from there. Duncan is a courageous warrior willing to risk his life for his cause, but he believes Mercy is even braver as she proves her guts while they struggle to survive. Historical romance readers will relish this delightful action-packed early eleventh century Scottish romance.

Leaving Before It's Over
Jean Reynolds Page
9780061876929, $14.99

Over the objection of his wealthy family, Roy Vines married his second wife Rosalind. He cut off all ties to his family and he and Rosalind had two children who had never met their paternal grandparents, their father's twin Uncle Mont or their step-brother Luke.

When his beloved wife becomes ill, Roy returns home to beg for money to save her life. He has no choice but to take college freshman Luke, who believes Roy abandoned him and his late mother, with him for the summer. Luke hates his father and Rosalind as he believes she caused him to desert his first wife and son. However, that summer Luke begins to learn the truth is much more complicated than his belief though he wonders if he will ever learn the entire truth.

This is an intriguing entertaining family drama that at times turns into a soap opera. The Vines are a fascinating brood especially the twins whose DNA is statistically identical yet are so different. However, the key to the tale is Luke as a confused teen finding he enjoys living in the loving household run by Roy and Rosalind. Fans will appreciate this solid contemporary climaxing with the twins confronting one another.

Wuthering Bites
Sarah Gray
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758254085, $15.00,

Mr. Earnshaw finds the Gypsy orphan Heathcliff and brings him home. His daughter Catherine has mixed emotions over the newcomer in the household. On the one hand she is fascinated with Heathcliff and glad her father is so kind; but on the other hand she is shallow and upset with her father for losing her present when he stopped to talk with the lad.

Catherine and Heathcliff grow up together as close friends. However, Catherine knows their relationship must end as they are unrelated and she behaves with the prim and proper deportment expected of an unmarried young woman at the turn of the century. Heathcliff is also pulling away as he begins to understand his split warring desires as a half-breed paternal vampire and maternal vampire slayer. She turns to proper affluent Edgar Linton as more appropriate for her then her childhood friend.

This is an entertaining retelling of the Bronte classic turning the cause of the mental torment of Heathcliff into a schizoid paranormal tendency as his heritage is at war inside his head. Converting Heathcliff into a half vampire and half slayer comes across as plausible while Catherine remains true to the original. However, the story line lacks the amusing biting irony that these parodies need to avoid the question why not just read the original; although Wuthering Bites is a fine reenactment.

Purely Sexual
Delta Dupree
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758227034, $14.00

Donovan Fontana is a notorious womanizer. However, his reputation hurts him when he is accused of allegedly assaulting a woman in his boss' house. He is sent to rusticate on his employer's Montana ranch accompanied by Challie Baderleen the maid who supposedly witnessed Donovan's attack that injured a female. He is warned to marry the woman so she cannot te stify against him in court.

In Big Sky Country, Donovan uses all his seductive charms on Challie. However, what started as protection turns to lust and soon much more as he feels a need to protect the recently arrived immigrant. Although Challie is falling in love with Donovan and needs her job, she refuses to be anyone's punching bag even if that means deportation.

Callie receives all the empathy from readers as she makes the tale as an immigrant trying to make it in America, but facing unfair obstacles. Donovan, on the other hand, is a nasty loser shouting profanities and claiming her as if he is her lord and master and she his sex slave. Their relationship leads to an intriguing coupling although the climax (that is story line) is over the t op of Granite Peak and even his 24/7 hard third leg.

Sexy Beast 9
Vonna Harper, Crystal Jordan and Lisa Renee Jones
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758238429, $14.00

"On The Prowl" by Vonna Harper. Zoologist Jori goes from Texas to India in search of a rare white tiger, but meets Mohan who vaguely knows his savior mate has finally arrived to release the man from the beast.

"Between Lovers" by Crystal Jordan. Oregonian Rhiannon is abducted in the wild and tortured by a psychopath, which turns her into a "Between" shapeshifter. The Between King Elan the lion shifter fears the newcomer will bring harm to his people, but also knows his heart tells him it is too late for him.

"Amber Fire" by Lisa Renee Jones. In honor to her late father, Amber continues his research into the Yagura tribe of shapeshifting jaguars. In the remote Nevada canyons Amber and Jareth meet in a clash of culture and love as each begins to understand the other's people may be in peril.

These are three entertaining romantic fantasies in which strong American females tame with love and understanding the savage shapeshifting beasts.

The Queen's Captive
Barbara Kyle
9780758238559, $15.00

The recent Wyatt rebellion was put down harshly by Queen Mary's supporters. However, the monarch believes her younger half-sister Princess Elizabeth was the impetus for the revolt. Angry, Mary imprisons her sibling.

Learning in Antwerp what has happened to Elizabeth, Honor and Richard Thornleigh and their son Adam return to London to aid the beleaguered princess and to keep her from acting rash at a time indiscretion is the only means of surviving her older sister. Honor takes a position as a laundress in Elizabeth's household to help the young impetuous princess stay in control of herself. At the same time, her husband and her son work serendipitously but diligently to further the Protestant cause while Bloody Mary pushes the country deeper into a religious civil war. While Elizabeth and Adam are attracted to one another, Honor risks her life to save her family, her princess and her nation from disaster.

The thriller Thornleigh historical fiction saga (see The Queen's Lady and The King's Daughter) continues with Bloody Mary's reaction to the failed Wyatt rebellion. In spite of the period having been done a zillion times (see the works of Carolyn Erickson and Alison Weir, for instance), Barbara Kyle keeps her account fresh and manages to throw a few terrific spins including the attraction between the Princess and Adam. Fast-paced yet loaded with descriptors that take the audience to mid sixteenth century England during the internal religious conflict, fans who cannot get enough Elizabethan will appreciate this strong tale of the future queen locked away by her step sister; the irony being she does likewise years later with another Mary.

The Bite Before Christmas
Heidi Betts
Kensington Brava
9780758247612, $14.00

"A Vampire in Her Stocking". Matchmaker Angelina Ricci gives a special yuletide present to vampire in love Vivian Harrison when she changes dying Nick into an unenthusiastic Undead.

"All I Vant for Christmas". His friend Angelina knows wealthy vampire Connor loves Christmas so she hires human party planner Jillian to decorate his mansion for the holidays.

"It's a Wonderful Bite". After eight decades of heavenly bliss, Angelina wants her Undead boyfriend Sergio to marry her so she goes all out to jump his bones at every opportunity especially after a dose of It's A Wonderful Life.

These are three fun heated Beantown Yuletide vampire romances. Especially strong are the first two entries; whereas the last one is well written but the ghost of Jimmy Stewart has been used too much in movies and books.

Falcon's Captive
Vonna Harper
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758229472, $14.00

Jola the falcon shapeshifter loathes the Ekewoko warriors who killed her mate. When she turns human, Nakos the Ekewoko captures her naked. She is humiliated as she thirsted for vengeance but instead became the enemy's prisoner.

Ekewoko is stunned by his desire for his captive while he keeps her tied in bondage. Jola begins to fall in love with her guard while he begins to surrender to her beauty. However, it is Jola who pleads to his dominating her into his submissive. As their game of bondage turns into more than desire, neither is prepared for an ugly plot that leaves both their lives in danger.

This is a terrific BDSM romantic fantasy as the dominant Nakos uses his ropes to bond Jola as his submissive; yet ironically he begins to feel as if he is her captive. Fast-paced, the key that makes this erotic tale works is the otherworldly elements like shapeshifting come across genuine, which enhances the heated gender war between the Ekewoko warrior and the falcon shapeshifter.

In a Heartbeat
Rosalind Noonan
9780758241672, $15.00

At four in the morning, Kate McGann is awakened by a phone call from Cross College in Syracuse. Her nineteen year old college student Ben was assaulted in his dorm room at the university. He lies in a coma after a brutal beating by an unknown assailant using a baseball bat. Kate and her husband Eli rush to Ben's side, but have to wait to see him while he undergoes emergency surgery.

Detective Greg Cord leads the investigation. He believes the victim knew the perpetrator. Most of Ben's skull is removed so that the swelling does not cause any other traumas. Eli cannot cope staying at the hospital so he leaves for home. Greg focuses on students especially players on the baseball team in which Ben was a highly regarded talent. Kate remains vigilant at her son's side. She and the lead detective are aware of one another as an attraction exists. There are two members of the team who hated Ben; for taking a starting spot in the lineup from one of them and forcing the other to change position. Just when he thinks he might have Ben's attacker due to strong circumstantial evidence, Greg has to let him go because the kid has an airtight alibi. The other suspect claims he was nowhere near Ben during the night in question. Relooking his probe from a fresh perspective, Greg starts anew but fears if his hunch proves right Kate's heart will break.

In a Heartbeat is an excellent blending of a poignant family drama and a stirring investigative mystery that fans of a police investigation and of mainstream fiction will appreciate. The secondary sidebar subplot between Greg and Kate adds a light touch to what is a very dark tale. The key characters are fully developed to the point that readers will, In a Heartbeat, want Rosalind Noonan to write a sequel.

Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse
David James
9780758206312, $22.00

In Palms Springs, California, realtor Amanda Thorne struggles with adjusting to being single following her divorce from her gay husband Alex. Amanda buries herself in her work with her goal being recognized as Apex Realty's top agent.

Her showing of a major listing becomes ugly when she finds the corpse of environmentalist Doc Winters, who was poisoned. Amanda assumes she is a person of interest to the local police so with Alex at her side she investigates to clear her name; at the same time police detective Ken Becker keeps coming around because he just wants to take her out. The realtor's theory is that pro Chino Clone landmark developer Mary Dodge eliminated Doc for his opposition to her project. When another realtor and Doc's girlfriend are murdered, Amanda changes her assumption. Something greater than a land dispute must be the motive, but nobody knows what that could be.

Amanda makes for a fun amateur sleuth tale as she is an intelligent klutz who totally misunderstands the signals of the cop. Readers will laugh at Amanda's amusing escapades as she lands in one accident or incident after another.

The Beast Within
Erin McCarthy, Bianca D'Arc and Jennifer Lyon
9780758247353, $14.00

"The Howling" by Erin McCarthy. Liv wonders whether she should delay her marriage to Scarborough as she still loves his brother Sebastian, who obviously rejected her having vanished with her money six months ago. While Scarborough flies to New York on business, Sebastian runs as a wolf while healing from when his sibling tried to kill him. He vows to return to lead his pack, but is angry with Liv for moving in with his brother.

"Smoke on the Water" by Bianca D'Arc. Donna is immune to the zombie contagion so has been partnered with veteran CIA operative John. They head to Tennessee to conduct undercover surveillance of Elizabeth who allegedly created the disease. John and Donna pretend to be newlyweds on a fishing vacation as the lodge next door makes observation easier. The y begin to fall in love but neither knows where Elizabeth conceals her horde.

"Redeeming the Wizard" by Jennifer Lyon. Mira hates Gage the wizard who she blames him for the deaths of her parents, killed by trolls while visiting him seventeen years ago. Still she needs his help when a wizard kidnapped her matchmaking Gram. He asks what she offers in payment and she responds with anything he desires. Seventeen years ago Gage trusted his apprentice Jillian who seduced him and stole some of his power when she tried to bring over a demon, but lost control. The demon killed Mira's parents. Gage killed Jillian and banish ed the demon, but his power overloaded and fried to unusable. As they fall in love he remains her enemy.

The male leads know what they want and go after the women they want while the fantasy elements are cleverly designed to feel genuine although the story lines are thin.

Elvis and the Memphis Mambo Murders
Peggy Webb
9780758225931, $22.00

None of the six hundred residents of Mooresville, Mississippi know that Elvis lives amongst them even though many see him almost every day. They are unaware of the presence of the King because Elvis has been reincarnated as a basset hound. Although a canine, he retains his human intelligence but is unable to communicate directly with the human species.

His earth mom, beautician Callie Valentine Jones, is going to Memphis to watch her mom Ruby Nell and her geriatric partner Thomas Whitenton participate in a dance contest as she does not trust the man as far as she throw him. Callie's chaperone plan collapses when contestant Babs Mabry Mims dies from a fall off the roof of the Peabody Hotel. Ruby Jean tells her daughter she was pushed too. Callie's frazzled nerves go into overdrive when she finds the body of contestant Gloria Divine in the hotel's fountain. To protect her mom and the Mooresville contingent, Callie and her flamboyant cousin Lovie investigate with Elvis advising them hound dog style; while her estranged husband international consultant Jack arrives with a Burning Love to keep his wife safe.

Much of the story comes from the amusing perspective of Elvis, who sees the foibles of the human condition filtered by his previous life gig through canine eyes. He brings freshness to a fun cozy that at times seems too cutesy cliched. Still with Elvis and Jack ready to kill anyone who harms their woman, fans will enjoy this entertaining amateur sleuth whodunit as three female corpses and several near misses make Memphis a dangerous place too stay. Peggy Webb provides her audience with a humorous whimsical Southern Cousins whodunit (see Elvis and the Dearly Departed and Elvis and the Grateful Dead).

Fern Michaels
9780758227201, $15.00

Affluent Toots Loudenberry anonymously buys the tabloid The Informer for her daughter Abby to run (see Scoop). To help Abby, Toots and the posse (Ida, Sophie, and Mavis) move from Charleston, South Carolina to Los Angeles. The four Magnolia State Golden Girls look forward to meeting the who's who of Hollywood.

Toots succeeds in meeting a celeb except for one problem; the famous person is the ghost of the dead owner of the beachside mansion she bought; at least that is Mavis' explanation. Meanwhile Ida meets Dr. Sameer and they seem to have hit it off. While chaos has come to Los Angeles, Abby struggles with turning the Informer around.

The BFF quartet makes for an amusing Southern invasion of Southern California. Humorous as havoc seems to follow everywhere Toots and company go (kind of like Lucy and Ethel), the story line lacks deepness as the woes of each of the ladies seem irrelevant to them and none stand out as the prime focus. Still, fans who enjoy a lighthearted best friends' romp will appreciate the zany Scoop.

Gingerbread Cookie Murder
Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine & Leslie Meier
9780758234957, $23.00

"Gingerbread Cookie Murder" by Joanne Fluke. Hannah Swensen and other condo owners are furious with neighbor Ernie Kusak for playing the music so loud he cannot hear the knocking on his door. When the police arrive and enter the apartment, Hannah joins them and sees Ernie's corpse. Another neighbor who had incidents with Ernie is the prime suspect but Hannah thinks otherwise; so she runs a parallel investigation to that of the cops. Joanne Fluke provides a delectable whodunit.

"The Dangers Of Gingerbread Cookies" by Laura Levine. Jaine Austen visits her parents at their Florida retirement village. The community play is The Gingerbread Cookie That Saved Christmas starring Dr. Preston McCay as the heroic gingerbread cookie. When he dies from a fall while performing, the police suspect Edna, a friend of Jaine's mother, as the killer. The cops believe her motive wa s she believed they were engaged as did two other women in the complex. Jaine investigates in order to prove Edna never killed the lothario. With plenty of humor and wit, McCay's final act makes for a fun novella.

"Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots" by Leslie Meier. Lucy Stone is buying groceries when she spots four years old Nemo at the store. The child wants a gingerbread man, but his mother insists they cannot afford it. Lucy buys a cookie for the child, but is perplexed to notice his mom and stepfather own a Porsche. On the TV news, Lucy learns there is an Amber Alert out on Nemo who was kidnapped. Soon afterward, Rick, Nemo's step-father is found dead with his head bashed in. Worried about the boy, Lucy investigates the homicide and the alleged kidnapping. Lucy Meier writes a charming Christmas cozy.

These three wonderful amateur sleuths star popular protagonists who sweeten the Christmas season with fun homicide investigations.

Jacquelyn Frank, Kate Douglas, Jess Haines and Clare Willis
9781420109870, $6.99

"Phoenix Project" by Jacquelyn Frank. Amara regrets becoming part of the Phoenix Project as the experiments have led to attacks and rapes though it has not happened to her so far. She is paired with undercover Federated States cop Nick. In spite of being watched, they both bite one another as they have been turned into vampires with a desire for each other.

"Crystal Dreams" by Kate Douglas. Banker Mari heads to Evergreen to take over her mom's store while her dad heals. Mica of Kronus uses his crystal sword to kill demonkind leaving the abyss to enter earth. When some get past his effort, he goes to earth. A cat attacks Mari. Mica rushes into the store and kills the demon possessing the cat. Attracted to each other, he calls her a warrior.

"Speak of Temptation" by Jess Haines. Royce the vampire hires private investigator Sara to find out who is trying to sneak into his vampire nightclub the Underground and why. His security chief Angus shows her a photo; she says this is a rival investigator Joe. Sara calls Joe who warns her to stay away from the Anti Others Alliance who hunt the Others, but do not worry about collateral damage.

"My Soul to Take" by Clare Willis. In San Francisco, Maggie is the chief resident of the psychiatric unit. Her patient Derek insists he is possessed by Edgar. Derek tells her he died in a fire, but came back with a hitchhiking soul joining him. They begin to make love until she sees Edgar take over take over the b ody. Maggie asks her sister Eva to help her save her beloved.

These four romantic urban fantasies are fun to read, but the novella format limits character development.

Gary Jennings' The 2012 Codex
Robert Gleason and Junius Podrug
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765322609, $25.99,

Before the Spanish came to what is now Mexico, Montezuma built a vast empire to which all lords paid tributes in slaves for blood sacrifices and other valuable commodities. In a small village in Maya, Lord Jaanab visits and almost loses his life to a jaguar. Pakal, a stone cutter and storyteller, saves his life. As a reward he is taken into the lord's personal guard. They journey to Mayapan where the King holds court. Pakal learns his fellow storyteller Ajal, who mentored him, was Jeweled Skull who took the Dark Rift Codex and hid it.

Lord Jaanab knew who Akul was and he does not believe Pakal failed to know who is teacher was and where the Codex is. Rain is not falling; rivers are drying up; water is scarce; volcanic activity has risen; and anger is fermenting. The Codex supposedly tells how the world of the Aztecs and Mayans will end; by reading it they can perhaps prevent the next step of the prophecies from happening.

In present day Mexico, Rita Critchlow and Cooper Jones are searching for the Codex that Pakal concealed. The problems that escalated in Pakal's times are prevalent today. Once they get the book, they plan to email American government officials in the hopes of finding out why this is happening and how to prevent it from running its deadly course.

Most of the book takes place in the time of Pakal before the Spanish Conquistadors destroyed the civilization; thus readers learn a lot of the Mayan and Aztec culture of a millennium ago in this entertaining historical fiction. Very few chapters occur in the present and those that do focus on the Codex that has a Revelations like feel to it. The 2012 Codex is an enthralling adventure thriller.

Never ending-snake
Aimee and David Thurlo
9780765324504, $24.99

At an airfield landing strip neat Shiprock, New Mexico, two men fire at Navajo Tribal Police Special Investigator Ella Clah, her former boyfriend and father of her daughter Dawn attorney Kevin Tolino and Afghanistan veteran turned Navaho lobbyist Adam Lonewolf. The trio was returning from D.C. when they were attacked. Ella and Kevin received minor injuries while Adam is severely hurt.

His two traveling companions are stunned to learn Adam had, $75,000 in a Monopoly game he was carrying, but his condition does not allow Ella to ask him why. Ella and Chief Big Ed Atcitty wonder if the assault's prime target was Kevin, who is working a legal suit against casino manager Alan Grady. Ella also considers the possibility the attack is linked to the controversial Prickly Weed alternative fuel project on tribal lands.

This is a terrific and powerful Ella Clah police procedural as the heroine works the assassination attempt as well as dealing with personal decisions that deeply impact Dawn. The case is difficult to resolve as any of the trio could have been the prime target so motive is hard to choose as each has enemies. Enhancing the story line is a profound timely look at alternative energy as Team Thurlo's fifteenth Clah whodunit is a great entry (see Coyote's Wife and Earthway).

Resurrection in May
Lisa Samson
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595545442, $14.99,

In 1994, having just graduated from college, May Seymour feels lost as to what to do next with her life as she spent much of her academia as a party animal. When May stumbles onto a street drunk, septuagenarian farmer Claudius Borne hits her. He takes her to his farm near Harmony, Kentucky to heal. They become more than friends as she is the granddaughter he never had and he is the grandfather she badly needs.

A few months later, both are sad when May-May as he calls her leaves on a church a mission trip to Rwanda. When genocide erupts in the African nation, the United Nations begins to evacuate foreigners. May returns to what she considers home, Claudius and his Borne's Last Chance farm. She becomes as reclusive as her beloved mentor until she learns Eli Campbell, her boyfriend from college, is on death row wanting to die.

This is an entertaining somewhat melancholy inspirational character study of an elderly male and a young female forming a strong relationship that each needs at a pivotal point in their lives. That warmth enables May to try to reach out to Eli in order to encourage him to embrace life and God with what time he has left. Although there is too many back stories detracting from the "present", sub-genre readers will appreciate this realistic portrayal of joy and sorrow simultaneously as God works in mysterious ways.

Cold Magic
Kate Elliott
Orbit Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316080859, $14.99,

By 1837 Augustan Year, Europa is divided between the old and the new. At a time when the continent faces an ice age, the battle for the hearts of society pits the cold mages against the industrial revolutionists as the detested former argue that the scientists are destroying the world while the welcomed latter claim they are making life better for the less fortunate.

Near Londun in the port city of Adurnam, young Catherine Hassi Barahal shares a bed with her cousin Beatrice as she lives with her aunt and uncle. She wants to know more about her parents; intrepid explorers who apparently died, but has no avenue to begin until she finds a tome her father apparently wrote about The Lies the Romans Told. Soon afterward a cold mage from the Diarisso Lineage of the Four Moon House arrives claiming a magical contract in which the oldest Barahal will marry him unless she is already twenty. Right there at the house of her aunt and uncle, Cat is bound in marriage to the old cold mage. They begin a journey across the icy tundra to a place she knows nothing of, but must learn fast if she is to survive.

This alternate historical Europe is a great opening act as the readers will believe in this world of Kate Elliot. The conflict between the cold mages and the industrialists mirrors in many ways Dickensian England. Cat is a strong protagonist who holds the vivid story line together, but it is the nineteenth century vision of Kate Elliot as seen mostly through her heroic teenager's eyes that makes for a stirring thriller.

The Rebel Prince
Celine Kiernan
9780316077071, $14.99

Though young in years, the trio matured rapidly from a harrowing experiences while on their quest (see The Crowded Shadows and The Poison Throne). Now the cat whisperer Wynter Moorehawke, the illegitimate Prince Razi Kingsson and the musician Christopher Garron feel the worst is over as they finally believe they have found the hidden camp of the rebellious Prince Alberon who welcomes his half-brother and his traveling companions.

Wynter, Razi and Christopher try to persuade Alberon to make peace with his father for the good of the kingdom. Instead Alberon ignores the pleas of the teens as he has BHAG to ally with his country's enemies in order to build a military that will enable him to take the throne. Those with Alberon in his encampment are an eerie lot as they proclaim being his supporters while encouraging death and destruction to anyone not allied with them.

The final tale in the Moorehawke Trilogy is fast-paced, loaded with action and blood, but clearly character driven. The three teens are stunned (as will be readers) as the Alberon they envisioned (over the first two books) is nothing like the real flesh as he has hardened his heart and turned rigid in regards to his enemies who are anyone not overtly friend. Although the ending seems rushed, fans of the saga will appreciate this terrific political military fantasy as the final tale like its predecessors is a wonderful entry to a strong series.

The Black Prism
Brent Weeks
9780316075558, $25.99

He had been the Prism who controlled the magic of the Chromeria. However that seems like eternity as he lost the civil war to his brother Gavin, the current Prism. Everyday since Gavin incarcerated him in a dungeon beneath heir home. Jacen sees a world of dispiritingly gray; he lives hoping to regain the colors he lost to his sibling.

Gavin may be an intelligent High priest-Emperor who controls the Prism since he defeated his sibling by using guile, but he knows what happened to his brother could occur to him as Prisms have relatively short life cycle usage. Once his prism dies, he will die too. Gavin knows his prism has five years of life left; five years for him to accomplish five unattainable quests or his world will lose all color and consequently all life.

Gavin is stunned to learn he sired a son. Kip will have the power of the Prism, untrained. The lad could be the opponent in the next war of power. At the same the son learns who his dad and uncle are and begins to find out about the sibling splintering, but is unsure what he should do as increasingly he fears the world is going to implode if the colors run out.

The opening tale in the Black prism fantasy is an exhilarating thriller that uses the colors of a prism as the source of magic. The story line focuses on the three male leads while cleverly interweaving the Weeks' "physics" of magic into the plot. Fast-paced and character driven, fans will enjoy the first act as the Prime Prism practitioner begins a quest knowing he must remain vigilant watching for his son and his insane brother; failure will mean death or worse a lunacy to parallel that of colorless Gavin who once tasted the power of the colors.

The Spirit Thief
Rachel Aaron
9780316069052, $7.99

In the prison under Allaze Castle, charming Eli Monpress persuades the spirit of the oak door that being nailed is an injustice, the conned door agrees and spits out the nails before falling to the floor in euphoric rejoicing. Eli escapes the cell and in spite of tight security searching for him, the charm wizard and his allies (Josef Liechten the swordsman with a magic sword and Nico the demonseed who stalks the shadows) kidnap King Henrith of Mellinor. The master thief believes this will lead to achieving part one of his plan as he is sure to become the felon with the greatest reward for his head.

Spirit Court envoy Miranda Lyonettete riding Gin the beast arrives too late as Eli is gone with the king; left behind is an apparent ransom note for 40 thousand assumed to be in council's standard gold. She says she will rescue their monarch, but expects the closed land of Mellinor to open up to the envoy from the Spirit Court. Soon after her frustrated arrival, Henrith's brother exiled Prince Renaud the bounty hunter introduces himself to the thieving wizard; and follows that up by arriving at Allaze to claim the throne. His first act is telling Miranda to leave.

The first wizard thief fantasy is an amusing tongue in cheek thriller. The story line is fast-paced as readers will be mesmerized by Eli as he and Miranda play a satirical game of cat and mouse. Lighthearted throughout, fans who appreciate a jocular satire loaded with charm and irony will want read The Spirit Thief and look forward to more capers by Eli with the serious Miranda in pursuit.

Secret of the Dragon's Claw
Derek Hart
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450224239, $16.95,

In wintry 1941, Hitler's air force is bombing England as the Americans enter the war due to the Pearl Harbor attack. A trio of fourteen years old buddies (Gavin Kane, Emily Scott, and Bunty Digby) are friends with eccentric dragon Sir Thaddeus Osbert, who knows h is human allies have a specially destiny.

In Germany, Himmler has a black dragon that he uses on missions against the allies. He also uses the dark arcane arts egged on by an invisible apparition to open a rift between worlds. Himmler makes a pact with the dark witch Agnes Olmorri, who once fought against King Arthur. She journeys to England to cause havoc from within. Meanwhile former powerful wizard Lanken Rune is helpless except for his new allies, a sugar addicted dragon and three teens, as he lost his staff Elizabeth and his skills. Yet in his true form takes on Agnes while the Nazis come ever closer to blitzing England.

Adults and young readers will appreciate the third spellbinding Secret of the Dragon World War II fantasy (see Secret of the Dragon's Breath and Secret of the Dragon's Eye). Sir Thaddeus is great unique character determined to protect England though the Dragon's Council forbids his interference. Lanken has learned the hard way Lord Acton's theory that power corrupts as he is freed from a lengthy imprisonment while the three teens find out what their destinies are. Derek Hart continues his deep urban historical fantasy saga rooted in the impact of the war on North Cornwall.

The Replacement
Brenna Yovanoff
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, NY, NY 10014
9781595143372, $17.99,

Sixteen years ago in Gentry, the tattooed princess sent Mackie Doyle as The Replacement who took the place in a crib of a newborn human baby. He is not the only Replacement in the town, but the locals are unaware of the switches and besides the changes has proven profitable for the ignorant but blissful townsfolk, other nearby places have collapsed. Mackie leaving Gentry to go to the underworld tunnels of Mayhem is dangerous for him but by staying he has allergies to iron and blood that can kill him. The girl he likes Alice donates blood and has silver pinned on her pierced tongue; he also cannot walk on sacred earth though his dad is a pastor with a church.

However, the strange death of Natalie has shocked every one. Natalie's family attends the church of Mackie's dad though the lad does not know her or her older sister Tate who attends his school. Th e grieving girl obsesses over learning the truth about her sibling's death, which places Mackie in the awkward situation of choosing life above ground or below as he comes to know Tate.

This is an extremely dark horror tale that grips the audience from the moment the teens are introduced and never slows down until the final confrontation. The Gentry high school students makes the story line seem plausible as most behave with reckless abandon with sex, drugs, cigarettes and alcohol prevalent; the teens challenge the adult authority. This is a strong novel that uses the Doppelganger Replacement as the premise of an exhilarating novel that warns readers to look beyond the glitter to insure there is no monster; like Tate is doing with no allies until Mackie joins her quest.

Kiss Me, Kill Me
Maggie Shayne
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778328087, $7.99,

For sixteen years, Dr. Carrie Overton has hidden a secret about her son from everyone even as she stays fearfully vigil that someone will expose her. Still she knows she has little reason for her trepidation as no one else except the stranger "Ever" who gave her the newborn is privy to her secret, not even her child Sam.

When the identity of a murder victim from sixteen years ago is determined after being misidentified as Sarah Quinlan but now Olivia Dupree, Carrie panics. She knows she can be exposed especially with authorities searching for the deceased woman's missing offspring; someone also has offered a half million award. Gabriel Cain arrives in Shadow Falls hoping to find the offspring he never met because he never knew he had sired a child. His penetrating quests frighten Carrie as he seems to be closing in on her and her child. As she distrusts Gabe who she knows could destroy her life but most important her heart on two fronts, Carrie finds herself attracted to her natural enemy.

This is an exhilarating romantic suspense that grips the audience with the opening scene from sixteen years ago and never lets up on the tension while also providing a fascinating star-crossed romance between two people who should be beloved enemies. The story line is fast-paced as not only has Gabe arrived, but so has a psychopath tied to the original murder incident. Readers will relish Maggie Shayne's latest tense thriller (see Kill Me Again).

Anne Stuart
9780778328490, $7.99

By 1804 a chip off the paternal block, Adrian Alistair Rohan has become an elite member of the Heavenly Host. He enjoys debauchery as he has for ages until recently. Unsure why he feels out of sorts, Adrian increasingly suffers from ennui.

Innocent six-foot tall Charlotte Spenser wants Viscount Rohan as hers, but knows how futile her chances of getting him are as he would not look at a virgin. Still after her maid Meggie tutors her on "bleedin' arses", accompanying her widow cousin Lina, she attends a party as a "watcher" at the Heavenly Host. Unable to explain why even honestly to himself, Adrian notices and feels compelled to stay near Charlotte, keeping her out of trouble. However, he could not keep her out of trouble with him as the temptation of having her in a myriad of ways proves too great for his vaunted control. The next three days he teaches her all types of sexual pleasures. However, he wants more, but fears his feelings while she always loved him. Meanwhile someone stalks the couple with ill intentions.

The Wicked House of Rohan (see Ruthless) continues the depraved escapades although the plot has moved forward four decades to follow the next brood of debauchers. The story line is fast-paced as Adrian instructs Charlotte on sensual pleasure, but feels imprisoned by his need for more of her. With a second wonderful warm romance enhancing this fine Regency, fans will enjoy this excellent character driven historical romance.

Saving Max
Antoinette Van Heugten
9780778329633, $14.95

Sixteen years old Max Parkmans suffers from Asperger's Syndrome though he is rather high functioning. His single mom, Manhattan attorney Danielle, worries 24/7 about her son. However, her concern goes viral when he turns violent towards her and she learns he is using drugs; her fears go stratospheric when she reads his journal as his writings and musings are violent and suicidal while the accompanying art is fiercely worse. He has turned increasingly aggressive even hitting and bruising his mom.

Max's doctor suggests Danielle enroll her teen in the Maitland Psychiatric Asylum in Plano, Iowa. She has doubts, but her qualms for her son overrides all else. However, after he is welcomed, the staff informs her Max suffers from horrific schizophrenic psychosis and that to help him she must stay away. Soon afterward, Max is arrested and treated as a competent adult standing trial in the murder of another patient, and his mom also arrested as an accessory to the homicide.

Saving Max will hook readers, especially the parents of a child on the Autism Spectrum. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the mother and her son arrive in Iowa and never slows down with several incredible realistic twists until the final courtroom denouement. Readers will understand how far Danielle will go to protect Max, but Antoinette Van Heugten's medical-legal thriller is his story as he struggles with his relationships with others.

While Galileo Preys
Joshua Corin
9780778328117, $7.99

The sniper has paralyzed the Atlanta area with abject fear. Fourteen humans are known dead (and one dog). Apparently random people have been shot to death around the city from distances that most sharpshooters would be unable to hit the target. As the count rises, Galileo, as he is known by the terrified residents, continues to get away with murder.

Her former partner and mentor Tom Piper pleads with retired FBI profiler Esme Stuart to assist on the case. Only in her late thirties, she prefers to say no as she has become an Oyster Bay suburban civilian with an elementary school aged child, but cannot as long as the psychopath remains on the homicidal rampage. However, Esme soon realizes being a Good Samaritan poses risks not just to her but to her family as Galileo sets his scope on her and kin.

This is a terrific police procedural as Esme and the Galileo are great antagonists who make for an exhilarating story line. Fast-paced from the moment Esme joins the case, fans will relish Joshua Corin's entertaining thriller that takes a historical western classic plot of the retired sheriff taking on the deadly gunslinger and changes the hero's genre, era and locale; while reminding readers of the DC snipers.

Ghost Moon
Heather Graham
9780778327967, $7.99

Key West Police Detective Liam Beckett visits old Cutter Merlin to see if the eccentric is okay. He finds Cutter dead with a spider web on him and a spider in his mouth; his face was that of someone frightened to death as the elderly man gripped the occult tome In Defense of Dark Magick and a reliquary and a little gold casket.

Liam calls Cutter's granddaughter Kelsey Donovan informing her of Cutter's death. She returns from California to a place she prefers never to go; her childhood home. There her mother died in an accident and her father yanked her from this place he hated and feared. Kate plans to take care of her late grandfather's estate and leave soonest as the memories are haunting.

The neighbors believe the Merlin house is actually haunted. There are also rumors of hidden treasure somewhere on the estate. Obviously someone believes in the latter cache as a killing occurs on the Donovan property as well as attempted murder. Detective Liam Beckett and Kelsey team up trying to catch a predator while also struggling with their attraction for each other.

The third ghostly Bone Island romantic fantasy (see Ghost Night and Ghost Shadow) is an exciting suspense thriller. The taut story line grips the audience when the spider comes out of the mouth of Cutter and never slows down as a psychopath haunts the lead couple who wonder whether Cutter died from a self induced heart attack caused by his fear of bumps in the night or a homicidal human haunting his house. That wondering will keep readers up late.

1022 Evergreen Place
Debbie Macomber
9780778328063, $7.99

In Cedar Cove, Washington, when firefighter Mack McAfee and Mary Jo Wyse met as neighbors they were attracted to each other. He even used his paramedic skills last Christmas while she gave birth to aptly named Noelle (see A Cedar Cove Christmas). Excited by their feelings, he proposed and she accepted. However, both begin to doubt the wisdom of their rush. Mary Jo distrusts her former husband David Rhodes and fears he will come for their daughter Noelle; not because he wants her but to punish her mother. David vows to keep the mother and daughter he loves safe.

Mary Jo becomes enthralled with a box of WWII love letters she finds underneath the floorboards (see 92 Pacific Boulevard). She wants to know more about the man who wrote them. She turns to Mack to assist her in learning who this romantic was; even as they learn who they are to each other and to baby Noelle.

The return to Cedar Cove will excite fans of the saga as the continuing stories of the cast supports the prime story line of Mack and Mary Jo coming to grips on their feelings for each other; newcomers on the other hand will find it difficult to take the plunge. Well written, the audience will welcome this fine tale as the back-ups in previous entries take center stage.

Body Heat
Brenda Novak
9780778328032, $7.99

Twelve and counting as someone is killing illegal Mexican immigrants as they cross the border into the desert near Bordertown, Arizona. New Chief of Police Sophia St. Claire knows she lacks the experience to deal with such a cruel insidious serial killer as she sees the bodies of the latest young pair rotting in the heat.

Department 6 sends agent Roderick Guerrero back home to Bordertown, a place he loathes due to his childhood of being mistreated as the illegitimate unwanted son of an affluent rancher. However, his mom was a Mexican immigrant so he wants what looks like a vigilante stopped as the scenario is already ugly.

Sophia welcomes the help, but wishes it was anyone but Rod. Still the case comes first, but town cooperation is negative especially from officials. As the pair digs deeper, they begin to unravel a human trafficking business but the entrepreneur seems always one step ahead of the cop and the private security specialist.

The latest Department 6 thriller (see White Heat and Killer Heat) is a superb timely investigative tale that takes on the illegal immigration problem. The story line is fast-paced from the opening quote on racism to the dramatic finish. The key to the exciting story line is the investigative subplot. Readers will relish this solid look at the Arizona border issue although an intelligent felon ends up obsessively thinking with his wrong head. Still Body Heat is a deep police procedural.

Rag and Bone
James R. Benn
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781569478493, $25.00,

In December 1943, recently promoted to First Lieutenant with his Uncle Ike pinning the rank on his uniform, Billy Boyle enjoys R&R in Italy with his girlfriend. However, his leave is ended abruptly as he is needed in London to investigate the homicide of a Soviet officer.

Briefed as to the urgency of solving the case yesterday delicately with the allies shaky alliance shook, Billy looks into the theory that the murder was revenge retribution for the Katyn Forest massacre of thousands of Polish soldiers in which the Nazis were blamed, but most believe the Communists committed the atrocities. Thus most of the brass believes the assassin works for the Polish government in exile in London; which places Billy in a sensitive position as he fears one of his friends is the killer.

The fifth Billy Boyle WWII thriller (see Evil for Evil, The First Wave and Blood Alone) is a terrific tale in which life in the home front is vividly depicted inside the strong investigative story line. Using real persona like Ike to anchor time and place, this remains Billy's novel as he is fabulous while struggling with walking the political landmines to learn the truth.

Love Bites
Adrienne Barbeau
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312367282, $24.99,

Five centuries old Hollywood legendary actress and studio head Ovsanna Moore looks as beautiful as a twentyish wannabe. Besides her movie roles, she takes care of her Los Angeles based vampyre clan to insure the paparazzi do not discover their secrets.

However, she feels more like a teen going out on her first date with Beverly Hills Police Detective Peter King who she is attracted to but also worries about the cop in him will learn some biting truths about her; beyond what he knows about her being a vamp. They worked together on the Cinema Slayer case, which they resolved to their personal satisfactions, but BHPD will want a body that they cannot produce since the killer melted away. A shapeshifter attacks her just before the date which leaves Ovsanna a bit freaked out while also struggling with vampire unemployment issues. He has issues too as his latest homicide is nasty; but the biggest concern for Peter is dating a much more experienced vampire as he keeps thinking of her giving him a hickey.

The second Vampyres of Hollywood romp is a jocular romantic police procedural urban fantasy. The fun in the tale is the Hollywood crowd who participate in the satirical frolic. Fast-paced throughout, fans will enjoy the vamp and the cop as they date in between murder, supernatural assaults, paranormal jealousy and a bite or two.

I Spy A Naughty Game
Jo Davis
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451231161, $15.00,

Blaze and Emma were an item until she broke it off as she could not cope with his sexual needs. Blaze is a dom and has a basement filled with the proof of his masterful sexual skills.

To his ecstasy and her disappointment, their agency Secret Homeland Defense Organization (SHADO) assigns the two agents to go undercover to prevent a terrorist attack. Evidence has surfaced that a former operative Robert Dietz is abetting a terrorist group in their scheme to release a biological dirty bomb on the Mid-Atlantic States. Blaze is to pose as a dom and Emma as his spousal sub to capture the traitor and prevent the bomb from falling into enemy operatives.

The heat is on seemingly in every variety as the lead couple plays A Naughty Game with a Dark Obsession of love, but must not take their eyes off the target. If your preference is a straight spy thriller, then you should pass on the SHADO saga. However, fans who relish an erotic espionage caper inside of a BDSM story line will appreciate this tale wondering who will beg for "mercy" first.

Riding The Night
Jaci Burton
9780425236567, $15.00

AJ loved Teresa, but left town because he knew he was not good enough for her. A decade later, he is no longer that insecure troubled teenager as he has become a Wild Rider federal agent. He returns to Missouri on vacation, accompanied by his partner Pax.

Teresa never forgot the boy who deserted her. She owns the Greasy Rider bar that AJ and Pax stop at for a drink. She is elated her AJ is back, but also finds she wants Pax too. They reciprocate as AJ never stopped loving her and Pax is falling in love with her. However, a brawl at the bar leaves one dead and Teresa's brother Joey accused of murder. The two Wild Riders accompanied by Teresa head to South Dakota for the big bike shindig to find the real killer and each other.

The latest Wild Riders erotic romantic suspense (see Riding on Instinct and Riding Temptation) is a delightful entry as the three key players and their interrelationships feel genuine. The story line is fast-paced in and out of the sack (and some other places) as the dynamic trio seeks to identify who the killer is; not one of them believes Joey did it. Fans will enjoy Riding the Night with this menage a trois while wondering how their triangle will end.

Vampire Trinity
Joey W. Hill
9780425236703, $15.00

Obsessed vampire hunter Gideon Green remains stunned that, like his brother Jacob who became a third mark servant giving up his soul (see The Mark of the Vampire Queen), he too has become a servant to the Undead beasts he stalked. However, when his lover was turned during a rape by an evil vampire, he had to be there for his beloved mistress Anwyn Naime, owner of Club Atlantis a hangout for the BDSM. He had no choice as she is going insane with the transformation although he remains extremely uncomfortable with the other part of the triangle they formed (see Vampire Mistress), Daegan Rei, perhaps the most powerful vampire in the world.

To save Anwyn's mind, the angry hunter and the serene vampire must unite. They must prepare her to go before the Vampire Council who will rule on her sanity. If her two males, who distrust one another, fail to form a trinity with her, she will fail and be put to death. Daegan is not the hesitant one; Gideon as the only submissive in their trinity remains troubled with forging an unholy alliance with those he recently staked.

The sixth Vampire Queen erotic urban fantasy is a terrific entry that at a minimum requires the audience to have recently read book five Vampire Mistress as the predecessor is a direct feed to Vampire Trinity. Those who have will appreciate the continual tale of the triangle that focuses much more on what Daegan is and contains a wonderful twist. Clearly for fans of the Joey W. Hill saga only, Vampire Trinity is an entertaining entry.

Christina Phillips
9780425238080, $15.00

They became lovers even before they formally met as Carys the Druid high priestess watched Tiberius Valerius Maximus the centurion leader bathe though she knew real lovemaking between them would be forbidden. When the pair meets in person, they relish their lovemaking that she knows is better than her fantasy, but both know nothing can come of it so each enjoys the moment.

When Carys and Tiberius realize they are in love, neither knows how to make it permanent as their relationship is taboo. However, though they part insisting this time is the last time, fate intervenes to constantly bring the Roman charged by the Emperor to destroy her clan and the Celts time after time together. Each wonders if they are meant to be. However they are trapped in the crosshairs of a deadly war that could devastate all of Cambria. Her acrimonious former lover High Druid Aeron dy Ehangwen vows to kill Carys' barbarian lover, the rest of the Roman invaders and their clan's perfidious princess sleeping with the enemy even at the cost of the people.

Set in the time of Caesar, Forbidden is a fabulous erotic ancient historical romance as the two adversaries fall in love. She fears the Eagle of Roman will destroy her beloved culture as Rome assimilates them before superseding the local heritage. With a sense of time and place, fans will enjoy the taboo romance between the Druid and the Centurion.

Worth Dying For
Lee Child
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385344319, $28.00,

Since the mess in South Dakota (see 61 Hours), former Army MP Jack Reacher has hitched south to nowhere Nebraska. Stopping for coffee, he gets involved with a drunken doctor and a nose bleed patient. His desire to help thirtyish Mrs. Duncan who Reacher believes may be an abused spouse lands him in trouble with the woman's husband and his clan who own the county like terrorist despots.

The Duncan family distrusts Reacher as they await a special secret shipment that should have arrived by now. Even as lethal as this clan is, they know their impatient customers are much more deadly than they are. They call sniper Eldridge Tyler while the killer drives his granddaughter home. Eldridge will be there to kill Reacher if he lingers in town as the only reason for him to do is to intrude on Duncan family business.

Worth Dying For is a direct follow up to the cliffhanging climax of 61 Hours so in spite of Lee Child providing a good backdrop, it behooves the audience to read the previous thriller first. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Reacher forces the intoxicated doctor to look at the Duncan woman and never slows down. Although this is a stop off on his way to Virginia, fans will enjoy the non-stop action as the hero appears to have out reached his survival skills.

Cruel Enchantment
Anya Bast
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425236376, $7.99,

Fae assassin Emmaline Gallagher hated her work so she fled from her homeland of the Summer Queen. She prefers to use her power of extraordinary persuasive glamour to help people. However, with her race in peril of extinction, she comes home as the only Fae who can her people, but to do so she will need help from a person she loves who loathes her.

Three centuries ago, Emmaline the assassin murdered the soulmate of Aeric O'Malley. He has had three hundred years to plans his revenge on the Fae he detests. When the opportunity arises by her coming to him, to his shame and chagrin he fails to kill her. Although he has doubts about her sincerity due to her glamour skills, he believes his attraction to his enemy is from within him. Emmaline explains what occurred back then and why; more important she needs Aeric to create the key that will enable her to open a box containing a magical artifact to save her species.

In her latest superb Dark Magick romantic fantasy (see Wicked Enchantment), Anya Bast through the changing relationship between the strong fully developed lead characters makes a strong case that the line between powerful love and intense hate is microscopic. The story line is action-packed, but owned by Emmaline and Aeric who make the world of the Fae seem real. Cruel Enchantment is an enchanting magical entry in a superior series.

A Marked Man
Barbara Hamilton
9780425237083, $14.00

In 1774, two and half months have passed since the infamous (depending on your loyalties) Boston Tea Party. Teenager Lucy Fluckner asks Abigail Adams to help her friend twentyish bookseller Harry Knox, who is in trouble with the Commonwealth law. The Sons of Liberty printer was arrested for murdering the King's Special Commissioner Sir Joseph Cottrell.

Abigail supports freedom from the crown and is proud of her husband John who is a major participant in the Sons of Liberty's endeavors. As such she agrees to look into the homicide. Stunningly, Lucy's chaperone Mrs. Sandhayes insists the victim was her charge's fiance; Lucy denies it as she loathed the philandering Tory and though she fails to say so Abigail knows she loves the accused. Abigail and John, who is a lawyer, investigate and quickly learns that a Negro female servant vanished from the home of their client's parents and that the victim had many enemies on all three sides of the brewing revolt.

The key to the strong second Abigail Adams historical mystery (see The Ninth Daughter) is the sense that the reader is in Boston divided between Loyalists, Neutralists, and Rebels just prior to the Revolutionary War. The story line is fast-paced and the investigation super, but it is meeting the prime real persona and fictional characters representing the divided times in Boston in 1774 that makes A Marked Man a strong late eighteenth century thriller.

The Insider
Reece Hirsch
9780425234624, $7.99

In San Francisco, attorney Will Connelly arrives at work expecting to have made partnership at the firm Reynolds, Fincher & McComb LLP. However, instead of feeling euphoric, he watches in stunned shock and awe as tax attorney Ben Fisher falls from Will's thirty-eighth floor office window. SFPD Detective Kovach questions Will as he was the only other person present in the office and lying on the ground outside next to Ben's body is Will's access card.

After the cops leave, the law firm's managing partner "Teflon Don" Rubinoswki informs Will he has been voted partner. He also will take charge of the late Ben's major project; a merger involving Jupiter Software company firm. That night Will stops at a neighborhood bar to quietly celebrate his promotion. There he meets Katya and leaves with her to go to her place. To impress her with his importance, he mentions the Jupiter Software merger. The next morning two Russians bust into her apartment; they beat up Will forcing him to give them information on the merger. He cannot turn to the police because he violated a legal ethics code involving attorney-client privilege and the insider trading rules of the SEC. Complicating his mess is when he learns his new client has a secret contract with the government involving encryption coding. The thugs sold the information to the Russian mob who demand Will obtains the Jupiter encryption code key so it can be sold on the black market.

This is a complicated action-packed thriller as Will finds out one thing leads to another as Federal, State, and local law enforcement want a piece of his butt, and the Russian Mafiya want his entire butt. From the moment Ben dives until the final fabulous twist, fans will enjoy this fast-paced terrorism thriller as the beleaguered hero struggles with what next; feeling like Murphy as nothing goes right. This is a fabulous must read chilling thriller

Veil Of Shadows
Shiloh Walker
9780425236352, $7.99

Captain Laisyn "Syn" Caar seeks warriors amongst the refugees fleeing the dreaded demon horde that has overrun the forests devastating the Roinan territory. Commander Kalen Brenner wants the refugees removed as they interfere with his strategy of fighting the demons.

One of the newcomers Xan is obviously different from all those who are fleeing Roinan. He is noticeably a seasoned fighter with an assortment of weapons and not much else; but why he is here at the encampment is unclear. While Captain Carr ignores her attraction to him and her recent loss of her magical skills, the Anquar Gate between the worlds remains shut, but trapped warlords, wanting to escape this primitive side back to their realm, plan to find a way to breach it regardless of the cost in lives.

A direct sequel to Through the Veil (suggest reading that just prior to Veil of Shadows), this is a super military fantasy as Caar (and fans) wonders whether the male she loves is the heroic champion her beleaguered race needs or the enemy who will leave her people extinct. Fast-paced and filled with action from the very first reaction by the heroine upon Xan's arrival and never slowing down as she and her allies deal with insane demons, angry trapped warlords, bone weary refugees, and Xan the unknown.

Atlantis Betrayed
Alyssa Day
9780425238103, $7.99

Christophe, a Warrior of Poseidon, is sworn to protect humanity, but he loathes his duty as he detests the perfidious humans. Still he does his mission well in spite of his personal animosities. His current assignment is to break into the Tower of London to steal Siren, a Jewel of Poseidon, implanted in the sword of William the Conqueror.

Christophe quickly discovers he is not the only one breaching the Tower's security. The infamous Scarlet Ninja breaks and enter to steal the Siren too. Not one to allow a male to trump her plan, Scarlet Ninja AKA (in daylight) Lady Fiona Campbell the fairy tale illustrator plans to complete her latest Robinette Hood theft. However, as the pair competes for the gem, a lethal third person breaches the museum taking the sword before the stunned pair can react.

Starting with irreverent Christophe's debate with a vampire while sitting on Big Ben over whether Ripper was a vamp too, the latest Atlantis saga is a great entry (see Atlantis Redeemed and Atlantis Unmasked) as a strong romance is enhanced by non-stop action and plenty of jocularity. The cast is powerful and not just the Warriors of Poseidon and their soulmates as London and Atlantis have never swung wilder. Alyssa Day scores big time with this terrific amusing yet action-packed tale.

Immortal Sea
Virginia Kantra
9780425237472, $7.99

Three years has passed since her husband died, but only recently has Dr. Elizabeth Rodriguez feel she can move on with her life. Nearing forty, she and her two children Zack and Emily move to World's End Island, Maine where she hopes to help her troubled son.

Sixteen years ago, Elizabeth and Morgan met in Copenhagen and shared a one night stand that resulted in the birth of Zack. Unaware he sired an offspring until he meets Liz again accompanied by her kids; Morgan wants to take his son with him to Sanctuary, home of the finfolk. However, to his chagrin he is attracted to Liz in spite of her being a human; a species he loathes. Worse he even likes her seven years old purebred daughter. Liz reciprocates his feelings until she realizes that Morgan is not human and has horrific plans to take away her Zack who she now knows is a half-breed. Like a lioness defending her cub, Liz challenges her son's sire to allow the teen to choose where he prefers to reside.

The fourth Selkie-human "Children of the Sea" romance (see Sea Lord, Sea Witch and Sea Fever) is a fantastic romantic fantasy. The romantic story line is similar to the previous entries as the plot enables the reader to look deep into the hearts of the lead couple and believe in the existence of Selkie and half-breed Selkie. However, Virginia Kantra refreshes her saga through the beleaguered Zack who always felt different but now knows why; as his feelings are not teen angst or grief. Fans will appreciate this strong entry as Elizabeth bets her heart on the two males in her life.

Wicked Surrender
Jade Lee
9780425236369, $7.99

Daughter of an actress, Scheherazade "Scher" Martin manages the small Tavern Playhouse theater troupe. Her position and that of her mom means she will never fulfill her dream of a loving respectable marriage as no member of the Ton will ever wed her. Her best offer comes from Viscount Brandon Cates to be his mistress with he providing a terrific compensation if she agrees.

Scher considers his offer, but his too young cousin Kit proposes marriage. Scher knows if she says yes to Kit she fulfills her dream; if she says yes to Brandon she accepts love. To seal the deal Brandon kisses her leaving both stunned with their reaction. However, he possesses a dark past in which he believes his Scher is his only chance for redemption yet Brandon also believes he is not worthy of such a great Lady.

The powerful fully developed cast, especially the lead triangle, makes for a deep exhilarating Regency romance. Scher and her two suitors have dreams, but also possess flaws that rip at their souls and hence their aspirations. Jade Lee provides a deep character driven historical as readers wonder whether Scheherazade will choose love or her dream.

Shroud of Dishonor
Maureen Ash
9780425237908, $14.00

Two years ago in the year 1200, Templar Sir Bascot de Marins returned to England after escaping the Saracens who held him prisoner in the Holy Land for eight years. Unable to return to active duties as a Templar due to a crisis of faith and battle fatigue, he entered into the service of Nicolaa de la Haye. Now he looks forward to his deployment to Portugal to fight the Moors.

In the Lincoln Preceptory, the Templars house where Bascot is assigned, the entire group is shocked when the body of a dead prostitute is found in a larger wooden chest. Next to the corpse is thirty pieces of silver. The preceptor Everard D'Arderon refuses to let the men leave for Portugal until it can be proven no Templar is a murderer. Everard assigns Bascot to investigate the Templars as a starting point. His inquiries lead to two separate families and if he can figure out what links them he will learn out who the murderer is and what he has against prostitutes and Templars.

Readers obtain a rare and fascinating look into the workings of the Templar Knights Chapter House; this provides insight into their community and how they live. Bascot is bone marrow weary and a doubter, but adheres strictly to his oaths. Readers who enjoy the medieval works of Sharon Kay Penman and Roberta Gillis will appreciate Maureen Ash's skilful rendition of life in the year 1202.

Assassin's Heart
Monica Burns
9780425236529, $15.00

One year ago the Praetorian Guard captured Sicari assassin Lysander. They tortured him, but that is not what disturbed him the most about his captivity. He learned to his horror that he is half Praetorian; every time he looks in a mirror he sees the monster he is and hides from his peers. After escaping, feeling less then worthy by not being a purebred Sicari, Lysander ended his promising relationship with healer Phaedra DeLuca.

He has successfully avoided her until now. Lysander and Phaedra travel to Rome together to search for the ancient artifact, the Tyet of Isis. The pair shares a dream about an ancient Rome couple Maximus and Cassiopeia whose lives ended tragically. As they struggle with their attraction and the strange nightmare, a Praetorian, aware of Phaedra's skills, plans to snatch her.

The second Order of Sicari romantic urban fantasy (see Assassin's Honor) is an exhilarating second chance at love suspense thriller. The keys to this fine tale are the fully developed lead characters, the Burns world that enhance the growing feelings that the heroes are in deep trouble and the dreams of the Ancient Rome star-crossed lovers. Assassin's heart is terrific mostly because of Lysander who psychologically feels unworthy of Phaedra as he fights against half his nature and, his love for his companion who desperately wants to heal him though he says no. Monica Burns provides a fabulous fantasy.

Healer's Choice
Jory Strong
9780425236536, $15.00

Rebekka spends a lot time healing patrons and employees of the shapeshifter brothels a place where she was born and loosely raised. Her unique skill is to save a shapeshifter caught trapped between their two forms. However, by doing this, the victim must choose one shape because the cure includes no more shapeshifting between the beast and the human forms.

Aryck the Jaguar were enforcer learns of Rebekka's healing skills. To prevent a tragedy of five cubs dying from a man-made plague, he searches for her to bring her back to Were held territory to help the ailing youngsters. It is a place where humans and half-breeds are not allowed. Attracted to each other, Rebekka agrees to help, but both soon realize the plague is the first step in a larger genocide plan.

This is a Strong post-apocalyptic urban fantasy as a race war seems imminent in a world torn apart by de facto violence. As in Ghostland, the story line is action-packed but it is the profound look at the purebreds and mixed breeds that make this a powerful tale. Star-crossed lovers, Rebekka knows she is an expendable pawn in a world gone mad in which long dead ancestors punish their descendants for crossing taboo lines as the healer is doing yet she knows she has no choice.

Royal Blood
Rhys Bowen
9780425234464, $24.95

In 1932, Her Majesty Queen Mary asks the thirty-fourth person on the queue to the throne Lady Georgiana Rannoch to represent the crown at a royal wedding in Romania. Georgie has many reasons to agree which include she is broke and bored; sick of her obnoxious brother Binky, her boyfriend Darcy will attend, and her former schoolmate Princess Maria "Matty" Theresa is the bride. The only detractors for the twentyish Georgie is her chaperone is Lady "Horse-face" and she needs a maid so as to not embarrass her country.

At the eerie looking castle in Transylvania, Queenie Hepplewhite becomes Georgie's maid though the servant has been canned for her clumsiness; she accidentally lit her previous employer on fire. Soon after the British arrives, guest Bulgarian Field Marshal Pirin collapses at dinner; he was poisoned. Unable to resist and with Queenie as her assistant or better described her albatross, Georgie investigates the killed the womanizing officer.

This is an engaging lighthearted Royal Spyness Mystery (see Royal Flush and Royal Pain) that hooks the audience with the subtle and slapstick jocularity. The amateur sleuthing whodunit and the depression Era in London and Romania fully developed for the reader to feel as if we are part of the wedding party. However, it is the comedic team of Georgie and Queenie who make for a zany frolic as the Royal Blood flows down the chin of Matty in Transylvania.

Dark Peril
Christine Feehan
9780425236598, $25.95

An ancient Carpathian warrior Dominic decides on what he knows is a suicidal mission to destroy the South American vampires. To achieve his objective, he swallows parasites needed to control the urges which will enable him to go undercover and infiltrate the vampiric horde. Dominic keeps his sanity by dreaming of a shapeshifting female Jaguar warrior who keeps him focused though he doubts she exists.

Although she knows this is suicidal to be at war with her evil father Broderick who killed most of their family and clan, shapeshifter Solange Sangria has kept up the fight to rescue other shapeshifting women and her sanity due to her fantasy of a heroic lover. She and Dominic are stunned when they meet because each assumed their dream lover was a fantasy they made up, but now have each other. With both on death quests, they need to find a way to survive yet also achieve their respective objectives as they now have a reason to live.

The latest Dark Carpathian romantic fantasy (see Dark Slayer) contains a wonderful refreshing premise of two individuals on suicide missions who have found solace in their dreams of the other. Although the tale would have been stronger if either or both fail in the flesh and bone to live up to the image each has of their dream lover, fans of the long running saga will enjoy the action-packed aptly titled Dark Peril as her father and the vampiric horde are a formidable foe.

The Darkest Hour
Maya Banks
9780425227947, $7.99

One year has passed since Rachel died when her plane crashed in the Amazon while on a relief mission. Although her body was never recovered, her spouse Ethan Kelly assumes she died. The former Navy SEAL, consumed with guilt for how he mistreated her, has become a recluse in spite of the efforts of his family begging him to move on; he knows that it is not just grief isolating and self-punishing him but remorse.

When Ethan receives a letter with photos as proof that Rachel lives as a prisoner; the widower also finds a reason to live. He enlists his three of his five siblings (Sam, Garrett and Donovan) of the Kelly Group International to mount a rescue of his wife. They succeed in getting her out of South America though he is hurt and she is addicted to the drug they forced her to take which devastated her memories. Ethan works for his spouse to regain her memory while praying she gives him a second chance to show he changed. Meanwhile someone wants to insure she recalls nothing so that persona arranges for the couple to die.

The opening KGI Kelly thriller is an action-packed tale that goes hyper once an intoxicated Ethan opens the package and never slows down as even after the rescue there remains danger. Like his brothers, Ethan is an honorable person who knows he done her wrong, but though he would prefer she not recall what he did to her, he prays she regains her memories as that is the right thing. The metamorphosis of Rachel from helpless captive to kick butt heroine matches her mental and physical recovery as in many ways the aftermath of the trauma makes the aptly titled The Darkest Hour a winner as there is more than just alpha machos.

Fundraising the Dead
Sheila Connolly
9780425237441, $6.99

She has a fancy title, but Eleanor "Nell" Pratt is simply a fundraiser for the Society for the Preservation of Pennsylvania Antiques in Philadelphia. Nell loves her job of begging for money. History is what motivates her to do her best to obtain large donations for the over-crowded museum. There are so many wonderful items in the collection; of which many ha ve not been catalogued as that will take years, maybe decades.

On the eve of a gala fundraiser, donor Marly Terwilliger complains that some documents she saw in the stacks a few weeks ago are missing. As a pillar of society, Marly demands answers and Nell reluctantly goes to archivist Alfred Finley; who is cataloguing the collections on a web data base. He informs her he has not gathered the items given by Marty and that many things have vanished. Nell concludes one or more visitors are stealing artifacts that fit inside a pocket. After chatting with some people, Nell discusses her concerns with the society's president Charles Worthington, her lover. She is unhappy with how he responds to the thefts as she concludes the stolen property ties back to the accidental death of Alfred, who died just after they talked. Marly and Nell investigate, which could prove "accidentally" deadly.

Leaving the apple "Orchard" mysteries for a museum murder mystery, Sheila Connolly writes a suave witty amateur sleuth tale. Nell knows who she is as she believes she is average in every way, but likes herself because she follows Shakespeare's advice "to thine own self be true". Everyone knows a Nell, a dedicated caring person who never stands out in the crowd, but few if any are as dependable. She is a believable protagonist who makes the story line of two females with no crime detecting experience investigate theft and maybe murder in what at times is comedic yet perilous.

Fiber & Brimstone
Laura Childs
9780425236741, $24.95

In New Orleans, Brett Fowler has worked a successful Ponzi scheme on a city recovering from Katrina. However, someone must have become outraged by his con because during the French Quarter's Monsters and Mayhem Torchlight Parade, he is killed by a minotaur horn stabbing him.

Art appraiser Jekyl Hardy designed the float that included the mythical creature. As such he is a person of interest to the New Orleans Police Department investigating the suspicious death. Jekyl's float designers' friends, Carmela Bertrand the owner of Memory Mine scrapbook shop and Ava Gruiex the owner of Juju Voodoo, believe he is innocent and set out to prove their assertion. NOPD Police Lieutenant Edgar Babcock begs with his girlfriend Carmela to stay out of the case that he leads in what is now believed to be a homicide investigation. However, as he expected to his chagrin, Carmela and Ava ignore his plea and conti nue their investigation.

The latest Scrapbooking amateur sleuth (see Tragic Magic and Death Swatch) is an enjoyable New Orleans cozy. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the two BFFs start their investigation. With Scrapbooking tips and mouth watering recipes on top of a fun investigation, fans will appreciate zesty Fiber & Brimstone.

The Spider's Web
Margaret Coel
9780425236604, $24.95

In Wyoming on the Wind River Reservation, someone murders Arapaho Ned Windsong with his white fiancee Marcy Morrison as the only alleged witness. Marcy accuses Ned's punk friends Lionel Lookingglass and Dwayne Hawk as his murderers. Suspicion also falls on Ned's former girlfriend, Roseanne Birdwoman.

Though he has doubts about her veracity, Father John O'Malley provides a safe location for Marcy and also hides Roseanne. Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden is irate with Father John for doubting Marcy's account as the lawyer assumes her friend would not challenge a Native American's story, but did that of an outsider. Ned's family believes Marcy killed their son; so her televangelist father hires Vicky to protect his daughter's interests. However, both Father John and Vicky are stunned when someone kills Lionel and Dwayne as the case spins out of control with someone behind the scenes twirling The Spider's Web that engulfs everyone else.

The fascination with this exciting entry is the usual partners are on opposite sides of the murder investigation. As always in this series, readers obtain a taste of modern day Arapaho life wrapped inside a murder mystery. Fans of the Holden-Father John whodunits will enjoy the latest entry due to the disagreement between the friends that adds freshness to what would otherwise be a fun but familiar Wind River mystery.

The Countess And The King
Susan Holloway Scott
NAL (New American Library)
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451231154, $15.00,

Katherine Sedley is the offspring of a hedonistic womanizer and an insane mother who insists she was the queen. With that type of heritage, everyone who knows of her peerage expects her to be an affluent lunatic.

Unperturbed, in 1675 Katherine comes to the court of King Charles II to serve as a lady in waiting. She and Charles' younger brother James are attracted to each other and begin an affair. However, when Charles II dies, James becomes the monarch while Katherine is trapped in a web of deceit and avaricious intrigue.

This is an entertaining Restoration Era biographical fiction that brings to life the courts of Charles II and James II through the latter's mistress. The support cast enhances the deep look at the Countess and the King, who come across as genuinely decadent and lewd. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this historical and should consider reading Susan Holloway Scott's similar treatment of The French Mistress of Charles II.

Out Of The Shadows
Joanne Rendell
9780451231123, $15.00

Clara Fitzgerald has temporarily put a halt to her career to support her longtime fiance geneticist Anthony as he conducts research traveling around the country. Engrossed in his work, Anthony ignores Clara except for persuading her to conduct DNA testing to see if she is related to Mary Shelley the renowned author. Clara also conducts her own research into whether her family tree includes Frankenstein's writer.

Clara asks her sister Maxie to join her quest and after meeting Daniel who introduces her to retired Shelley scholar Dr. Kay McNally, she asks the older professor also to assist her in finding the lost journals of the author of Frankenstein. Her work leads her to realize the danger Anthony is placing himself in, but he refuses to heed her warning. Instead, she moves on hopefully with a new love.

This is a terrific character driven tale that contains two subplots with the prime one being the contemporary romantic thriller supported by flashbacks throughout of a biographical fiction of Mary Shelley's life. Clara is a strong academia who learns never to judge a book by its cover while seemingly extroverted Max hopes to one day come Out of the Shadows cast by her successful sister; with Kay as a sort of mentor, the three women bond. Obsessed with fame, Anthony ignores ethics for success while Daniel adheres to his moral values at the cost of success. With Mary Shelley rounding out the novel, fans will enjoy Joanne Randall's thought provoking fiction wondering what barriers are there, if any, to genetic research.

The Wishing Trees
John Shors
9780451231130, $15.00

One year may have passed since his beloved wife Kate died, but former executive Ian McCray has failed to move on with his life even knowing their tweener daughter Mattie needs him. Ian is stunned when he finds a letter written by Katie just before she died directing him to take Mattie on the tour of Asia that they had planned to go on to celebrate their fifteenth wedding anniversary. Katie also informed her surviving spouse that additional letters are inside of film canisters; she implores him to leave them sealed; opening them one at a time as father and daughter reached different countries.

Although he wants to open all at once, he honors his beloved Katie by adhering to her instructions. The tour begins in Japan where the journey of Kate and Ian began when they fell in love. On the trek, Ian and Mattie try bonding, but neither can move beyond the glue that held the family together, Kate. The letters provide some solace but also remind father and daughter of how much they lost when his wife and her mother died.

This is an interesting look at grief as both Ian and Mattie struggle to connect when each paints their lost loved one as even more nurturing than Mother Theresa; Kate's letters from the grave enhance that sense of an angelic paragon. The letters and Mattie's drawings add to much sweetener to the family drama mix especially the latter. Still fans will appreciate the saga of a father and daughter struggling with the death of the loved one who made them a family.

The Border Vixen
Bertrice Small
9780451231222, $15.00

In 1532 seventeen year old feisty independent lass Margaret "Mad Maggie" Kerr seeks a husband. However, she will not settle for any spouse as she has a criterion in who becomes her mate. The man needs to allow Mad Maggie to do what she wants to do. Her frustrated grandfather, the laird of Brae Aisir, Dugald Kerr challenges Scottish men to compete for her hand by proving they can "outride, outrun and outfight" her. The prize to the victor is Maggie who is the sole heir to his fortune including ownership of the key pass between Scotland and England that the Kerr kin have patrolled and collected tolls for over five centuries.

Many males take a chance, but most like Ewan embarrassingly lose to the athletic tomboy. King James V sends his cousin Fingal Stewart with instructions to win her hand and gain control of the critical passage. Fingal passes the tests and more when he wins Maggie's love, but an irate Ewan decides to force her to marry him with his plan to leave with his child growing inside her.

The fifth Border Chronicles (A Dangerous Love, and The Border Lord and Lady) is a fabulous sixteenth century romantic romp retelling the Greek mythological tale of Atalanta. Mad Maggie is a great refreshing heroine while Fingal proves worthy of her not because he wins the contests but due to his racing for her golden heart. Evil Ewan adds late suspense to a delightful amusing frolic.

Bones Of Empire
William C. Dietz
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780441019229, $24.95,

The Uman Empire has conquered many worlds, but the species they watch most carefully and carefully is the shapeshifting Sagathies. Feral to a berserker level, these predators are caged on the planet Corin under the watchful eyes of Xeno police officers who have been reengineered physically to keep these beasts from changing shapes and running violently amuck.

All seems right until Xeno-cop Jak Cato arrives with others only to be attacked by professionals. His reputation tattered and with a thirst for avenging his mates driving him, Jak takes a needed R&R in the capital city of Imperialus. There he is stunned to observe the Uman Empire emperor through his reengineered eyes is a dead shapeshifter who he thought he killed.

The second part of the Uman Empire science fiction duology (see At Empire's Edge) is an action-packed faster than the speed of light futuristic in space thriller. Filled with gore yet also loaded with ET politics and social order, fans who read the first entry will appreciate the race to the finish line as a disgraced beleaguered hero has few allies left after the mass slaughter of the cavalcade, but must save the empire from a diabolically brilliant loner or an incredible conspiracy that would include his people.

Jeanne C. Stein
9780441019175, $7.99

Her first year since the change is coming and Anna Strong has adjusted to becoming a vampire though she does not like it. Instead, Anna tries to cling to whatever humanity is left even as her vampiric needs are starting to supersede all else. She fears the legend that she is the Chosen One as she just wants to go back to being a human bounty hunter.

Anna and her boyfriend Lance travel to Palm Springs. There a dangerous adversary attacks her. She survives and assumes her archenemy Warren Williams assaulted her. However, she will soon learn there are even deadlier foes under the sun as Lance's creator Julian Underwood believes Anna is the Chosen One and hence has plans to use her for his own benefit.

Chosen, the latest Strong urban fantasy (see Retribution and Legacy) is an action packed thriller from the onset and never takes a breather as Jeanne C. Stein puts her heroine through a harrowing gauntlet. Anna takes some nasty shots emotionally and physically as she begins to comprehend how treacherous being the Chosen One can be when you're even unsure of your friends. This is a great entry in a strong series.

Troubled Waters
Sharon Shinn
9780441019236, $25.95

While grieving the death of her father Navarr of the flame, Zoe Ardelay receives a surprising visit from the capital Chialto where she and her late father once fled to rusticate in safety. King Vernon sent Darien Serlast to bring back Zoe as the fifth bride of the monarch in order for a numerically balanced court. The Five Families fight through their respective queen to propel their offspring as the heir. Zoe met the ruler before her father fell out of favor and learns from Darien that his family possesses all that hers once did.

However, before entering the castle, Zoe slips away to the nearby river where she is stunned to realize she is the "Coru Prime" of another family Lalindar of the water. Ergo she is no longer the next bride of Vernon. Zoe explores her new power and investigates palace secrets while facing danger from envious enemies, many of whom remain shadowy unknown adversaries who reject an upstart new dynamo. She and Darien also are attracted to one another, but both know many will use their desire as a weapon to destroy both of them. Zoe's biggest lesson at court is trust no one as everyone seems manipulative with a personal agenda to move up the ladder without regard for others.

Troubled Waters is a great opening political fantasy that is filled with a strong cast, wonderful refreshing laws of magic and court intrigue. From the moment Darien arrives for Zoe, the story line never takes a respite as this is a fast-paced thriller. Sharon Shinn affirms what her fans already knew from the Twelve Houses saga that the author is one of the best fantasists; with her new series loaded w ith action yet introducing the key characters and significantly the mathematics of magic.

Ann Aguirre
9780441019410, $7.99

Sirantha Jax, March and their crew struggle with ending the death and destruction of jumpers in Grimspace. However as the peril from the man-eating Morgut expands, the Conglomerate has need of March. They want March to train an Armada whose missions will be to take the war to the deadly pirates and the Morgut.

Jax considers a perilous trek jumping through Grimspace without the use of beacons. Hesitating she wonders if her new nanotechnology will enable her to do the jump or kill her. However, while she vacillates, Jax also knows time is running out.

The fourth Jax science fiction (see Doubleblind, Wanderlust and Grimspace) continues the outer spaces escapes of the heroine and somewhat less March in the dark (sort of like leaping in grimspace without a beacon) bleak Aguirre universe. The story line is faster than the speed of light as Jax goes from one thrilling adventure to another though she is much more mature but still her philosophy remains shoot first or be killed; questions are irrelevant if you are dead. Fans of the saga will need to set aside time as Killbox is a terrific taut thriller, which sets up book five; newcomers can jump right in and appreciate this entry, but will relish it much more with the reading backlist.

Patricia Briggs
9780441019427, $7.99

Aralorn the shapechanger has been a spy for Sianim for years as the money is great. She is assigned to penetrate the Kingdom of Reth where the powerful sorcerer Geoffrey ae'Magi has established a cruel dictatorship; her mission is to assess how potent the mage is and what he is scheming on beyond this beleaguered land. To Aralorn accompanied by Wolf, this is another easy task.

However, once inside she realizes how dangerous and powerful Geoffrey is. Aralorn quickly completes her mission and rushes back to Sianim to report. Only she now learns how far Geoffrey has ties as his insidious control reaches everywhere. With Wolf at her side, Aralorn the mercenary takes her first stand without a thought of money when she joins the resistance.

This is a revision of Patricia Briggs' first fantasy from the early 1990s; the sequel never released before will soon follow. The rebellion against magical evil story line is entertaining even without Mercy although the cast comes across stereotypical of the sub-genre. Still fans will root for Aralorn as she goes from avarice give me the money realist to rebel with a cause idealist.

Bayou Moon
Ilona Andrews
9780441019458, $7.99

The Adrianglian Secret Service asks William Sandine the Changeling to stop Spider from possessing a weapon of mass destruction that will lead to war. Loathing his long time enemy, William agrees to go to the Bayous of Louisiana to challenge Spider and his insidious ring of operatives.

When Spider abducts her parents, Cerise Mar becomes the clan chief. To save their property the Mire swamps of the Edge, Cerise visits the Broken. Returning to her home, Cerise and William meet. The outsider realizes she and her kin may be the tool to prevent Spider from achieving his nefarious scheme and perhaps ending his terrorism all together. However, William's biggest problem is his attraction to his hostess; a foreign feeling to the Changeling who belongs nowhere and to no one.

This is a powerful swamp romantic fantasy starring a harassed heroine, a hermit hero, a vile villain and the mad Mar mob. The story line is fast-paced with a sort of Scottish historical Highlander feud feel to the Mire while the Spider weaves his web. However, the fun in this delightful tale is the return to Ilona Andrews's Weird world of the Edge (see On the Edge) where malls and magic converge.

Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits
Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson
9780441019199, $15.00

"Phoenix" by Peter Dickinson. In Britain elderly caretakers Dave and Ellie begin to care for the ancient Egyptian Phoenix, who struggles with the change in climate; the pair is rewarded for their kindness in an unexpected way.

"Hellhound" by Robin McKinley. Miri rescues the red-eyed dog from a shelter; not anticipating her kindness will be reciprocated when her canine stands at her side during a confrontation with an evil spirit in a graveyard.

"Fireworm" Peter Dickinson. The fireworm threatens the Home Cave of the dwelling clan. Tandin challenges the beast on the spirit plain, but is stunned to realize the enemy has a mate that it protects from the cave-dwellers.

"Salamander Man" by Peter Dickinson. Tib the orphan is sold to a mage, which leads to his turning into a blazing giant freeing the salamanders and the city residents from the abusive magicians.

"First Flight" by Robin McKinley. Ern prefers to hide in the shadows as he is the subject of ridicule when he is out in the open. His extroverted brother Dag comes home fuming because an injured dragon is assigned to a task that the beast cannot accomplish, yet encouraged by a wizard Ern enables the beast to enter Flame Space.

The sequel to Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits contains five fine fiery fantasy fables that young high school students will enjoy.

Memories of Envy
Barb Hendee
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451463531, $15.00,

There are very few vampires in existence today because they failed to abide by the laws of the elders such as not killing humans. Instead they should use their powers to insure the mortal they drank blood from forgets the incident. Eleisha Clevon lives by that rule and the other laws. She has gathered two vampires Rose and her protector Philip to the Portland underground, an abandoned church set up as vampire headquarters. Wade Shelfield is the investigator who has located vampires so that Eleisha can reason with them to diligently stick to the old laws and offer them sanctuary in her Oregon home.

Standing in their way is Julian who has no telepathy, but he likes power and ignores the ancient laws. He has killed vampires before and uses, without their knowledge, Eleisha and her group to take him into the hiding place of other vampires so he can kill them too. Eleisha learns about the dead vampire Maggie's progeny Simone Stratford and is determined to bring this Roaring Twenties ingenue to her home. She fails to realize that cute innocent looking Simone enjoys the hunt and plans a deadly game with her wannabe savior and Philip who she is attracted to.

Urban fantasy vampire readers will thoroughly enjoy the latest Vampire Memories thriller (see Hunting Memories). Eleisha is a good individual who lives by the moral code of the elders. Her vulnerability is being a Good Samaritan trying to help her peers see the light as she hopes to forge a law-abiding community. She is naive as her faith in her species is strong with her only picturing Julian as evil. Her protector was a predator for years, but now is there for her by trying to abide by her rules. However, it is Simone who makes the tale entertaining as she teaches Eleisha a lesson not to judge a book by its cover.

Grave Witch
Kalayna Price
9780451463807, $6.99

Having met Death when she was five years old, Grave Witch Magic Eye Alex Craft makes a living by raising ghosts for living clients. The Nekros City police department consults with Alex on some recent homicide cases. However, she is stunned when one of the shades she brings back, that of a murder victim, attacks her. That has never happened before and she thought it was impossible.

Following a call from her frantic sister Casey, Alex probes the corpse of assassinated Governor Theodore Coleman, which made their father George Caine governor. Alex finds someone cast odd but dangerous spells. Homicide detective Falin Andrews makes it clear that he is unhappy with Alex intruding on the official investigation. When Alex learns from the ghost of Roy Pearson that the late governor's body is actually his, the witch fears a powerful spellcaster is operating in the area.

This is a terrific private investigator urban fantasy with a noir feel to the story line; not so much by the heroine, but more so by the uneasy dysfunctional relationship between the normal, the paranormal, and the practitioners that bring the two uncomfortable groups together. Fast-paced from the moment Alex leaves an unhappy customer to answer her sibling's call pleading with Alexis to help her, fans will be hooked and demand more Alex Craft cases.

The High King of Montival
S.M. Stirling
9780451463524, $25.95

It has been a quarter of a century since the world was plunged into darkness with electricity and electronic based technology failing. People formed communities to keep safe as mankind returns to the Middle Ages standard of living and society. Rudi Mackenzie traveled from Montival (parts of Oregon and Washington State) to Nantucket where he found the Sword of Lady in the World. He drew it out just like Arthur did Excalibur and it granted him mystical powers that enabled Rudito become the ruler Artos of Montival when he gets home.

Getting back is just as different as people of different communities look at them at as the enemy. Rudi and his allies have to trust their numbers and strength in the wrecks that was once cities to make better time and fight off groups that want to rule Montival like the leads of Boise and Corwin and the Cutters soldiers of the Church Universal and Triumphant. While back home, the various groups that make up Montival are fighting to maintain their way of life against well trained warriors.

When Rudi takes control of the Sword (see Sword of the Lady), he needed to adapt to a new radical change again while also rallying various groups, many of whom he fought against just a few months ago as the evil enemy threatens their well-being. The High King of Montival is filled with plenty of action, intrigue and a touch of romance. Readers will muse over whether magic or a neo branch of physics has entered the world and what it means as S.M. Stirling provides another fabulous post-apocalyptic thriller to his Change saga (see The Scourge of God and The Sunrise Lands).

The Grimrose Path
Rob Thurman
9780451463494, $7.99

To look at Las Vegas bar owner Trixa Iktomi, one would assume she is a beautiful female human. They would be wrong as she is a shapeshifting trickster who is not immortal but witnessed Pompeii die. Her partner is Leo, better known as Loki the Trickster God. Now this couple is human ever since Trixa used an artifact to kill the being who murdered her brother (see Trick of the Light). The artifact The Light of Life took their powers as it thought Loki might being with Trixa who needs four years to recharge her powers so she can use them again.

The demon Eli calls on Trixa to find out who are mass murdering demons. Angels, demons and Trixa and her friend Zeke the angel who left heaven and Gabriel the demon who left hell (the latter seeks redemption) map out the massacre of nine hundred and fifty-six demons in six months. If one thousand demon wings are put together they will form a map to where Lucifer hides in hell and the entity that is doing this will gain hell's power. Trixa's friends and enemies expect her to find out who is doing this and take the deity down.

The second Trixa the Trickster urban fantasy is a terrific thriller as twists and questionable alliances make for an enjoyable entreating tale. Some angels believe Trixa is evil and needs to be destroyed with the end justifying the means in this case as betrayal and lies are acceptable to achieve the mission; ironically some demons logically understand they need Trixa to uncover the identity of the serial killer so pragmatically keep her safe. Rob Thurman is at his best with Trixa the trickster caught in the middle of a supernatural Vegas.

The Ragged Man
Tom Lloyd
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616142063, $16.00,

Although he had to act cold hearted and vicious in the war with the gods and saw his death in visions, the demise of Lord Isak has left the Farlan armies leaderless and retreating in confused panic. Several "humans" try to take up the leader void. King Emin Thonal of Narkang and the Three Cities and Ruhen possessed by the angry shadow-god Azaer who was shockingly defeated by Usak and the Farlan at devastated Scree, push their agenda.

The next key battle is coming. However, the gods learned from what happened at Scree. Instead of leading their supporters in battle, they direct their followers from the safety of a distant command post. The Grave Thief, the Hail Mary last hope for mankind, is realistic about his leadership skills so he seeks a hero to lead the bone weary battle fatigued human military; he turns to the graveyard for his champion.

The fourth Twilight Reign fantasy (see The Twilight Herald, The Stormcaller and The Grave Thief) is a great tale filled with plenty of vivid action. Readers will feel they retreat along side the despondent Farlan, who have come down from an adrenaline berserker frenzy to despair following the stunning death of Isak. Tom Lloyd displays his juggling ability as several interesting subplots with a large cast move forward towards what looks like the coming of the apocalypse confrontation.

Tome of the Undergates
Sam Sykes
9781616142421, $17.00

They are a band loathed and feared by everyone else. They take only jobs that no one else even considers as that is the only work they can get. These mercenaries are not a band of brothers (and sisters) in arms as they detest one another. Their leader by default is Lenk the swordsman whose prime job is to prevent Denaos the thug, Asper the priestess, Dreadaelon the wizard, Gariath the dragonman, and Kataria the shict from killing each other especially when they are on the job.

Their current assignment is to protect a Priest while searching for the stolen by an oceanic malevolence Tome of the Undergates as they sail on the Riptide. Cragsmen of the vessel Linkmaster attack their vessel, but the six defeat the pirates though thy are incredibly outnumbered. However that is a forerunner as soon the sextet will learn what their greed means as they are caught in the crosshairs of a war in which the hell beneath the sea wants to dominate the world.

This is an entertaining seafaring fantasy filled with plenty of adventures. The story line is loaded with action as the six fight adversaries including each other. The back stories of each are well written and interesting though their tales slow down the pace of the oceanic fantasy and in spite of their diversity reads somewhat interchangeable. Still fans will enjoy the opening Tome of the Undergates.

Jasper Kent
9781616142414, $17.00

In 1812, Napoleon's army marches closer and closer to Moscow. Nothing seems to slow down the inevitable. Four Russians are dispatched to obtain help from a dirty dozen mercenaries to hassle the French in order to slow down the encroachment; they agree.

However, two of the Russians Aleksei and Dimitry soon debate whether they made a deal with the devil when the twelve beasts attack civilians; drinking their blood. Aleksei feels these vampires must be destroyed as they harm the populace; Dimitry claims they are allies hurting the French as much as the peasants. As his friend insists the end of stopping Napoleon justifies the mean of deploying vampires even as the undead cause collateral damage without a second thought, Aleksei internally ponders how to rid Russia of the twelve when even his mistress wants to become one of them.

This is a fascinating historical vampire thriller as Jasper Kent places Napoleon's devastating wintry march into Moscow within a horror setting. The vampires are a bloodthirsty lot who do not delineate when it comes to a French or Russian mor sel when dining on humans; a lesser species on the food chain. Aleksei is an intriguing character whose conscience has him deeply disturbed with what they wrought. Although he can overdo his internal debate, readers will enjoy this terrific horror thriller as vampires turn the snow red.

Salute the Dark
Adrian Tchaikovsky
9781616142391, $16.00

The armies of the Wasp Empire continue their ruthless conquest of the other nations. Their prime opponent is Stenwald, but though he and his Lowlander allies have had some success slowing down the blitzkrieg (see Blood of the Mantis), conquest by the belligerent Wasp Empire seems inevitable. Ironically under their iron rule, the various Lowlander entities would be forced to cooperate; however, although still free none of the at-risk kinden trusts the other sects.

Meanwhile inside the Wasp Empire where technology has recently superseded magic unlike their weaker neighbors, vampiric sorcerer Uctebri incongruously uses the Shadow Box to stealthily control the ruler. As the combat turns bloodier, the certainty of the outcome appears very lucid even to a wary frustrated Stenwald who has learned sometimes the good guys fail.

The latest Shadows of the Apt military fantasy is a fabulous entry as the overarching theme moves forward while individuals find out the hard way that good intentions are meaningless in the heat of battle as the bad guys are winning. Action-packed with a clear stunning cause and effect consequences, readers will relish Adrian Tchaikovsky's strong tale.

Ken Scholes
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765321299, $25.99,

When the arrogant Androfrancine Order monks ruled the Named Lands with an iron fist, they ignored the people's well-being to focus on the technology and magic of the ancient Wizard Kings. Thus their neglect and fall leaves chaos throughoutout The Named Lands as groups that once believed in te now dead Y'Zirite religion rises with its bloody violence.

When Nebious was a child, he witnessed the horror that haunts him as an desert chieftain; he watched the genocide of Windwir. He misses his Marsh Queen spouse while suffering from feral nightmares and is aware that women warriors seek to kill him. His mother the Ninefold Forest Queen Jin Li Tam tries to keep him safe, but so many want him dead. Nebious learns from his mother that her religious advisors believe that Jakop, the baby son of the Gypsy King Rudolfo, is the "Child of Promise"; if affirmed the infant has followers who want him as the high king and adversaries who want him dead. At the same time hidden in the shadows is the most dangerous threat to the Named Lands while eerily music spreads from the wastes across the lands leaving the Androfrancine monks and Rudolfo wondering what this denotes.

The third volume of the Psalms of Isaak (see Lamentation and Canticle) continues the excellent moxing of science fiction and epic fantasy with a powerful mystery adding excitement (a venn diagram in which the three genres' respective circles mostly overlap). The fast-paced story line contains a myriad of subplots yet also is filled with action that cohesively moves forward the overarching theme. With all the ad ventures that takes place, fully developed players representing different aspects of the Named Lands' various societies, especially the key leads, make for a terrific thriller that showcases Ken Scholes' talent. This series is a winner.

Haunted Legends
Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamaras
9780765323002, $27.99

These twenty regional ghost stories based on local legends around the world make up a spirited fun anthology that will have readers keeping the lights on for two or three weeks. All the entries are fabulous with perhaps the best of the lot being the final contribution by Joe Lansdale, "The Folding Man" and the haunting (starring Stalin's ruthless henchman Beria) "Tin Cans" by Ekaterina Sedia. Also excellent are Fiji based "That Girl" by Kaaron Warren, the Jap anese located "15 Panels Depicting the Sadness of the Baku and the Jotai" by Catherynne M. Valente, and "Return to Mariabronn" by Gary A. Braunbeck. Whether it be "Akbar" by Kit Reed in India, a "Knickerbocker Holiday" by Richard Bowes in Hudson Valley New York or vampires in Rhode Island As Red as Red" by Caitlin R. Kiernan, this is a super diverse collection.

Will Power
A.J. Hartley
9780765321251, $24.99

The Diamond Empire guards have Will Hawthorne and his gang of thieves at the Waterman, he knows they are lost as the doors crash open. However, they escape as they scatter across the city. Will owes his life to Mithos. At the Fisherman's Arms, they meet Ambassador Linassi who manages to get them out of the city.

When Linassi's coach stops, Will or Mithos has no idea where they are as this land is different than anything he has ever seen. He and his comrade are welcomed by the Fair Folk who are at war with the Goblins. Since the fair Folk are very nice to them and look human while the enemy looks like a horror version of Goblins, the outsiders assume they are on the side of the good guys. However, Will begins to doubt what he initially accepted as gospel although the beer is quite good.

This is a superb tale as the antihero manages to land in one misadventure after another. The story line is incredibly fast-paced and the incidents purposely exaggerated. With the jocular escapades, fans will toast (with beer of course) as A.J. Hartley cleverly weaves throughout the strong saga a warning to never judge a book by its cover as Will begins to wonder who the monsters truly are

Shades of Milk and Honey
Mary Robinette Kowal
9780765325563, $24.99

In England, plain-looking twenty-eight years old Jane Ellsworth is jealous of her beautiful sister Melody's looks. On the other hand, although she has some talent Melody is envious of Jane's magical glamour ability.

Vulgar glamour artist Mr. Vincent is commissioned to create living murals in a nearby mansion. Reticent when it comes to males, Jane wants Mr. Vincent to mentor her in glamour usage; she also is attracted to him and wishes he would reciprocate. However, she has a minor hope he will tutor her and no hope he will desire her as men want Melody. On the other hand she is concerned with one of Melody's myriad of admirers who seems nasty with a personal agenda that she fears will harm her sibling.

This is an interesting ironic look at Regency-like England (for that matter it could be any society in which the aristocracy eats cake and everyone else battle over their crumbs) through a fantasy lens. The characterization is solid and the sense of being there is strong as the descriptions are vivid. The key to the story line is the ironic use of glamour by the aristocracy not to improve society but for selfish cosmetic use. Although the story line at times slows down with the excesses of the affluent, readers will enjoy what happened to Jane as she seeks her glamour groove.

The Questing Road
Lyn McConchie
9780765322111, $25.99

Kyrryl, her husband Yoros and his niece Ashara seek to rescue the kidnapped child Ashara. The brave trio follows a path, but initially is unaware that the trail leads them though a portal opened by a desperate wizard from another world to their realm.

At about the same time that Kyrryl and her companions cross over, brothers Sirado and Eilish, and companion Trasso are enjoying a ride together when they unknowingly cross through a portal to the same world that the rescue party traversed. A cat goddess endows the six travelers with the ability to speak the local language. When the two groups meet, they agree to unite on their respective journeys. The sextet soon encounters local merchants Anatiah and Kaitlen. The latter pair hides escaped slave Aycharna. Now a party of nine, they seek the missing Ashara, unaware that a wizard took her as an animal sacrifice, and hope to return Aycharna to her home before returning to their various homes.

This is an intriguing quest fantasy due to the kidnapper unaware the beast he snatched from the other world to use as a sacrifice has loving sentient family members wanting her home safe and sound. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the trek begins and never slows down as the teams unite in a common cause of helping two young females. Although feline-like deities making the key decisions for the travelers detracts from their expedition, as they have no difficult cultural-ethical differences between the groups from two worlds or choices to make, fans will enjoy the entertaining rescue missions.

The Double Human
James O'Neal
9780765320155, $24.99

Due to overseas intervention, anthrax deployment in malls, oil dictatorships and domestic political discord at home, the once United States is disintegrating. In this increasingly lawless society in which the central government is non-existent and New York City is a wasteland, terrorist anthrax attacks supplemented by radical climate changes have turned Miami into a deadly anarchistic "Quarantine Zone".

Florida United Police Force detective Tom Wilner enters this dead zone in search of the serial killing "the Vampire", who is Undead. There he meets benevolent teacher Mari Saltis of Columbia who refuses to leave the Quarantined Zone as she feels the children need her. As their attraction flourishes within this dark area, the insane predator he chases after wants both of them dead.

This is an entertaining futuristic science fiction-horror police procedural that requires leaving the plausibility at home. The story line is filled with action-packed subplots although some are left dangling (like that of the alien arrival) for a sequel. James O'Neal provides some of the back story as to what happened to Southern Florida and elsewhere as civilizations collapsed; thus this dystopian thriller can stand alone but is enhanced by first reading its predecessor The Human Disguise.

The Osiris Ritual
George Mann
9780765323217, $24.99

In 1902 there is plenty of excitement in the air of London as an odd mummy is arriving from Egypt. The sarcophagus containing the mummy is marked with dynamic colors and strange enigmatic symbols. Like many others British Museum curator Sir Maurice Newbury watches in wonder as the mummy is delicately unwrapped. He muses as rags are dropped to the floor that this is more fun than the battle with the automons last year (see The Affinity Bridge). When the final bandage drops to the floor, the skeleton begins screaming in rage for the horror of being buried alive.

Soon afterward, someone murders the expedition's leader and an agent coming in from the cold of Russia vanishes. Putting on his other hat as a secret crown investigator Maurice and his assistant Veronica Hobbes seek clues to the homicide, the disappearances and more while wondering if his dangerous predecessor Dr. Knox is the link between all. As Newbury researches the arcane symbols, Hobbs works the case of disappearing women.

The second Newbury-Hobbes late Victorian investigative urban fantasy is an exciting action-packed tale with a load of corpses seemingly everywhere in London. The prime subplots are fast-paced as the Queen's detecting duet work together and separately on the cases. Although at time over the top of Big Ben, fans will appreciate this rousing thriller.

He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson
Christopher Conlon
9780765326133, $25.99

Christopher Conlon brings together fifteen highly regarded authors to pay homage to He Is Legend Richard Matheson. The concept is simply to have each participating writer contribute a work tied to a Matheson masterpiece to create a companion short story. The best entries are those that bring a fresh venue to the original story; for instance, "Throttle" by Joe Hill and his dad Stephen King based on Duel (think of the Spielberg film) Recalled by F. Paul Wilson based on The Distributor. The other tales range from I Am Legend, Hell House, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and Somewhere in Time. Although some rehash the original, all are well written as this anthology affirms that Mr. Matheson is in deed a legend.

Claire Delacroix
9780765359513, $6.99

In 2100 Armand is a fallen angel who knows what he must do to regain his wings that he sacrificed to save mankind. To rejoin the exclusive club, Armand and his fallen angel partner Baruch must assassinate Maximilian Blackstone, who is running for president of the Republic. Nothing goes right and Baruch is severely hurt.

If the credit is right Theodora the wraith will kill. However, though her clients assume she is a hedonist seeking blood stained credit while ignoring the fact they hire her to do their dirty work; she has a secret motive to provide for her loved ones that if revealed would make her vulnerable to nasty sorts; so she hides from everyone while doing the kills others prefer not to do. As the government's eyes are everywhere, Armand and Theodora team up. They soon begin to understand what is divine and what is human.

The third futuristic angelic post-apocalyptic thriller (see Fallen and Guardian) is a great tale due to the pairing of the fallen angel who gave up everything to save humanity but wants a second chance at heavenly redemption and a hit woman wraith with a hidden altruistic agenda. Both sacrificed a lot for others, but their call for duty brings them together as The Republic is at a crossroad with the pending election as are Armand and Theodora.

Trish J. MacGregor
9780765326027, $24.99

High in the Andes in Esperanza, Ecuador, two visiting Americans who never met before are stranded at an isolated bus station waiting who knows how long for the bus to arrive. FBI Agent Tess Livingston and Minneapolis journalism professor Ian Ritter chat as she wonders how she got here being on a case of international counterfeiters while he also ponders how he ended up in Peru when he was going to Galapagos Islands. While they wait they explore the town.

Shapeshifting spirit Dominica notices the pair and muses whose body of the two outsiders she will possess. When she begins her take over, Dominica is shocked to recognize each is a transitional soul of the nearly dead. These semi ghosts are dangerous to spirits like her and must be avoided, but she also finds them macabre and fascinating.

Esperanza is an exciting but strange supernatural thriller starring unnatural enemies. Ian and Tess struggle with their transformations as they try to understand the eternal war between good and evil. Although the time traveling sequences add complexity to the story line such as Ian trying to prevent singular atrocities that he knows will occur; these subplots also detract from the entertaining character driven paranormal triangle between the transitional souls and the spirit; the latter is fun to follow as the reader will want to know how it plays out.

Siren Song
Cat Adams
9780765324955, $14.99

Professional bodyguard Celia Graves remains emotionally stunned by the assault that has left her belonging to no species as she is an Abomination half-breed as well as also learning due to the vampire attack that she has siren blood in the mix too (see Blood Song). Adding to her feelings of detachment is she has no earthly idea as to what powers she has and now has a new family she never knew existed.

Of course that is the easy part of her transformation; as resolute adaptable Celia has a new set of deadly adversaries; some of whom she has not met. In court, Celia demands to remain free insisting her human blood will prevent her from becoming a shark like feeding machine that force the lock up of vampires and that she did not murder her BFF Vicki. However, she is being yanked by her siren kin whose queen demands she visit to kneel her allegiance to her and she faces an avenging demon, but must make time to protect the king of Rusland from an assassination plot. Finally her former lover Bruno DeLuca the magician demands time with her.

Although it seems as if there are too many subplots as the heroine would testify so, Cat Adams' talent to keep each coherent and flowing is masterful as readers will be able to keep track of Celia's busy schedule. Action-packed with demands coming from apparently everywhere and then some, Siren Song is a great urban fantasy as last week Celia was just a purebred human bodyguard living in California though in Eastern Europe on an assignment; and now has vampire and siren blood mixed with her red and white corpuscles; her DNA is amazing. This is a wild stupendous second story in the Celia's Song saga.

The Way of Kings
Brandon Sanderson
9780765326355, $27.99

The storms of Roshar are legendary for their fierceness as natural selection has led to flora and fauna adapting to the intensity. Failure to do so means extinction. Humans understand the basic premise for survival of the fittest as they have built great cities only in places where shelter from the torrents can be found. Centuries ago the Knights Radiant laid down their arms having disestablished their units. Now four thousand five hundred plus years since they dispersed, they have become myths while their shardblade weapons and shardplate armor have become the most valuable commodity on Roshar.

Shallan the scholar has uncovered an inconvenient truth as she serves as an apprentice to the sister of the King. Unlike his aristocratic peers, visionary warrior Dalinar Kholin, the current king's uncle looks to the past to forge an honorable just future. Finally acrimonious Kaladin went from aristocratic surgeon to slave to save the life of his brother, but it cost him his honor and caring of others.

The opening act of the Stormlight Machine an epic fantasy which a monster sized book in which Brandon Sanderson establishes his world in minute detail (some might say overly detailed) and the flaws of his three prime players. The story line contains several subplots with Shallan, Kholin and Kaladin serving as the main three in the intertwining saga. Especially intriguing, besides the encyclopedic fascinating depth of Roshar, is the gripping sagas of Kaladin and Shallan; while the arc of Kholin feels forced as if a fantasy element was needed to spice up the saga. Still this is a fascinating grand beginning to what looks like an epic worthy of the late Robert Jordan.

A Star Shall Fall
Marie Brennan
9780765325365, $15.99

Almost a hundred years ago back in 1666, the Fae and all of London were threatened by the great Dragon Spirit of Fire. However, by 1682 the Fae successfully deported the lethal beast inside its home of what was soon to be named Halley's Comet, but not before the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of the city above and beneath the ground (see Midnight Never Come).

In 1705 at Gresham College, predictions of Halley's Comet retuning in 1758 stun the astronomers who though the Great Dragon Spirit of Fire from the sky was gone. In 1758, the Fae astronomers of Onyx Court inform their leader Lune that the lethal dragon is definitely returning as the comet along with its hitchhiker is coming back. Ailing Lune has issues within the Onyx Court as challenges to his rule have surfaced at a time of the pending crisis with many deniers insisting no way. As the great dragon nears earth, London residents (human and fae) are in peril. The only hope for salvation resides with the Stone Prince of the Onyx Court, novice Galen St. Clair, who has no experience whatsoever in dealing with such a catastrophe especially with political enemies from within making his learning curve steeper as time runs out.

This great historical fantasy sequel moves forward in time nine decades to an age where science and math is building off the works of Newton and others. Thus a sense of historical accuracy makes this unique enlightened London seen real as the myriad of vivid descriptions will hook the audience as much as the pending dragon of doom. Marie Brennan provides a fabulous saga that will have newcomers seek the previous visit of Halley's Comet and fans looking forward to the next visit in seventy-five years.

Trio of Sorcery
Mercedes Lackey
9780765328519, $24.99

"Arcanum 101". Diana Tregarde is just starting college, but also is a Guardian witch dedicated to keeping mortals safe from nasty supernaturals. She makes friends with four other students who reside in the same building she does. They saw her banish a dybbuk; but rather than fearing her, they offer to assist her in finding a kidnapped little girl. There only clues come from the fortune teller advising the distraught mother, but the Harvard freshman Guardian believes the woman practices the dark arts.

"Drums". Nathan Begay, the new client of private investigators Jennifer Talldeer and David Spirited Horse, hires them to follow his girlfriend Caroline. She does not want to see him or any of her friends. Caroline seems lifeless as of her soul has been drained from her. Jenny observes Caroline dancing with a ghost; a raging evil spirit who died without honor or love and has chosen Caroline as his death bride.

"Ghost in the Machine". Tom Bishop was intimately involved with the MMORPG (multi-player online game); he helped create another zone to the game. Dark Valley is very popular, but the programmed Wendigo is doing things outside the coding and Tom cannot stop him doing what it wants. The programmers hire Ellen McBridge to fix the flaw. She uses shaman magic to try to get the ghost out of the machine.

The returns of Diane Tregarde (early 1990s; see Children of the Night and Burning Water) and Jennifer Talldeer (mid 1990s; see Scared Ground) will elate fans of Mercedes Lackey. While this is Ellen McBridge's first tale, she holds her own with the other two paranormal investigators. The three novellas are well written and entertaining while starring strong females with similar traits but different scenarios confronting the supernatural.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Curse of the Legion
Book 6 in the Soldier of the Legion Series
Marshall S. Thomas
Ridan Publishing
9685 Lindenbrook Street, Fairfax VA, 22031
9780982514559 13.95

I'm a little sad to see this excellent sci fi series end. I've fought horrific battles with the characters, visited frightening or beautiful worlds, stood my ground with them as life exploded in flames around them, and watched them mature through every harrowing assignment. With skill and compassion, the author brought these characters to life for me. I'll miss these courageous Legion immortals, forever young and strong as they seek truth and justice throughout the known universe.

As Book 6 begins, our hero Thinker and his fellow warrior Priestess are happily raising their son in peace. Their contented extended family includes Millie, the nurse who single handedly saved humanity from a killer virus; Millie and Thinker's daughter; Moontouch and Stormdawn, Thinker's first wife and son; and LiLo, the devoted biogen who looks after Thinker's children. All are citizens of ConFree -- the Confederation of Free Worlds -- an idealistic society of one people, one language, one culture where there is no crime, no prisons, and no taxes. Life would be perfect, if only ConFree and the Legion could forge a lasting truce with the Syties -- the United System Alliance -- and the Omnis, those grotesque spider-like creatures who feast on human flesh and blood.

ConFree's uneasy truce with the Omnis falls apart when the O's invade a friendly world and slaughter ConFree citizens, taking Moontouch prisoner. Why would the O's break the truce and capture Moontouch? No one knows more about fighting the Omnis than Thinker. Despite Priestess's protests, he returns to active Legion status to rescue Moontouch and search for answers. A cryptic message from the O's and psychic pleas from Moontouch lead Thinker through a maze of conflicting clues to the truth.

The Systies have been manipulating behind the scenes, starting wars while protesting innocence. The Systie culture is not much different than our world today. Crime, class hatred, envy, greed, puppet governments and endless wars are the norm and have bankrupted their society. The only hope they have of regaining wealth and power is through a protracted war that pits ConFree against the O's to the death. Will ConFree and the O's fall into the trap? Thinker doesn't care about politics or power. He wants Moontouch safely by his side and will battle the Universe to save her or die trying.

Thomas does a bang up job of tying all the loose ends together in this final book of the series. Along the way he delivers the excitement I've come to expect from this fine series and gives readers much to contemplate. Do we want a future that is as dangerous and unstable as our present, and our past? Do we want to continue housing criminals at immeasurable expense to citizens? Do we want to continue supporting a legal maze that, in the end, protects the guilty and punishes the innocent? Are we sheep, standing idly by while power players sell us down the drain, or will we be like Thinker and his Legion, fighting for truth and justice no matter where it leads? Perhaps we need to take a lesson from the ConFree mandate: "Always seek the truth. If your civilization chooses to embrace a lie, it will be rapidly extinguished from history."

Each book in this series is a stand-alone read, but I suggest reading each book in order. This series is a hallmark of good writing and exciting fiction and is highly recommended. My compliments to the author, and to Ridan Publishing.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Witches Midwives & Nurses
Barbara Ehrenreich & Derdre English, authors
Contemporary Classics
c/o Feminist Press
City University of New York,
365 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5406, NY, NY 10016
9781558616615, $8.95

Originally published in 1973 and now in a second edition, "Witches Midwives & Nurses: A History of Women Healers" is a paperback account of feminist healers' history in Western Civilisation from the Middle Ages through the early 70's. The first publication was written in "An angry blaze" of feminine outrage, but the original "pamphlet" became an underground best-seller in the 70's according to the "Village Voice." Re-issuing the book today invites some re-examination of the same feminist issues that prompted its original publication, and the authors conclude: "We have not been passive bystanders in the history of medicine...Our enemy is not just 'men' or their individual male chauvinism: it is the whole class system that enabled male, upper-class healers to win out and which forced us into subservience. Institutional sexism is sustained by a class system which supports male power: There is no historically consistent justification for the exclusion of women from healing roles...Men maintain their power in the health system through their monopoly of scientific knowledge...Professionalism in medicine is nothing more than the institutionalization of male upper-class monopoly...we must begin to break down the distinctions and barriers between women health workers and women consumers....Our oppression as women health workers today is inextricably linked to our oppression as women (pp. 99-102)." "Witches Midwives & Nurses" includes the original bibliography of the 1973 edition. Published literature in the area was scant at that time. Lest we become complacent, "Witches Midwives and Nurses" reminds us that though we may have come far in the progression of feminist ideas and enlightened health practices and education by and for women, there is yet quite some distance to go.

The Chichester Psalms of Leonard Bernstein,
CMS Sourcebooks in American Music No. 4
Paul Laird, author
Michael J. Budds, series editor
Pendragon Press
PO Box 190, Hillsdale, NY 12529
9781576471524, $36.00,

Elaborately sourced and researched and flawlessly presented, "The Chichester Psalms of Leonard Bernstein" are the fourth addition to the CMS Sourcebooks in American Music. Premiered in 1954, Bernstein's famous choral work of multi--layered beginnings has been described as "a secular work with sacred Hebrew texts and 'a hint of Broadway.'" The work was commissioned by an Anglican cleric, Walter Hussey, for a British choral festival in a medieval church. Bernstein himself wrote the following lines about his decisive choral masterpiece based on the text of the Second Psalm: (King James version: "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?"): And then I came up with the Chichester Psalms./ These psalms are a simple and modest affair,/ Tonal and tuneful and somewhat square,/ Certain to sicken a stout John Cager/ With its tonics and triads in E-flat major./ But there it stands, the result of my pondering,/ Two long months of avant-garde wandering -/ My youngest child, old-fashioned and sweet. And he stands on his own two-tonal feet." Much further analysis and tracking of evolution of the choral work continues in the body of "The Chichester Psalms," including reprinting much of the correspondence between the composer and the aging Reverend Hussey. It is fascinating to read and to follow the development of Bernstein's final concept. For example, it is exciting to trace the decision-making process that led to the composer's ability to quote the choral text of the psalms in Hebrew, for example. There is much to discuss in the field of musical influences prevalent in the time period during which Bernstein composed "Chichester Psalms." What emerges is a vibrant, mutant masterpiece, with both humble and exotic traces of its initial conception. Definitely "trailing clouds of glory," Bernstein's Chichester Psalms" are a modern tonal choral masterpiece with ancient sacred Judeo-Christian roots and a touch of modern American Broadway jazz inspiration. Paul Laird has given the music history of America great food for thought in his innovative and comprehensive study of the composer at work in "The Chichester Psalms of Leonard Bernstein."

Beethoven Piano Sonatas volume 1, Nos. 1-15
Robert Taub, editor
Schirmer Performance Editions
G. Schirmer, Inc.
c/o Hal Leonard
7777 Bluemound Road, P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781423403920, $24.99,

This marvelous paberback bound edition of "Beethoven Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-15" comes complete with historical notes and commentary by Robert Taub from "Playing the Beethoven Sonatas." This excellently edited and presented collection contains the famous Sonata No. 1 in F minor and of course the immortal Sonata NO. 14 in C Sharp minor, the "Moonlight Sonata." All embellishments are prefingered so they can be easily read without referring to footnotes. Many hours of beautiful piano music are contained within this miraculous volume. It's companion recording volume, "Beethoven Piano Sonatas Volume 1, Nos. 1-15" is recorded on five CDs in a matching, paperback covered set (9781423403944, $19.99). The price for this magnificent collection of half of Beethoven's immortal piano sonatas is not to be beaten. Also, the correct scholarship and passion of presentation by Robert Taub are acknowledged as superb. Music students and teachers and performers will all want to take advantage of this magnificent package of Romantic piano music immaculately presented by Schirmer.

Also recommended in this series is "Beethoven Piano Sonatas Volume II, Nos. 16-32," edited by Robert Taub (9781423403937, $24.99) and the accompanying set of five CDs performances"Beethoven Piano Sonatas Volume II, Nos. 16-32" performed by Robert Taub (9781423403951, $19.99).

Other fine offerings recommended in the Schirmer Performance Editions from the Hal Leonard Piano Library are "Tchaikovsky, Album for the Young, Opus 39," edited and recorded by Alexandre Dossin, (9781423483885, $12.99), "Tchaikovsky, The Seasons, Opus 37bis," also edited and recorded by Alexandre Dossin (9781423458098, $15.99), and "Prokofiev, Music for Children, Opus 65," edited by Matthew Edwards and recorded by Jeffrey Biegel (9781423458128, $14.99), and "Bergmuller, 18 Characteristic Studies, Opus 109," edited and recorded by William Westney. All performance editions contain CD recordings of the piano music, along with historical notes and performance notes for each individual piece within the collection. The titles of the pieces are also printed in French for the Bergmuller and in Russian for the Tchaikovsky compositions. Every effort is expended to complete an aesthetically authoritative musical offering, suitable for serious study, intermediate to advanced music education or pleasure.

In the performances, the Prokofiev "Music for Children" by Jeffrey Biegel is particularly fine and delicately nuanced, setting an excellent standard. The two Tchaikovsky recordings by Alexandre Dossin are also magnificent, filled with burnished detail and fiery beauty. The performance of the "Burgmuller 18 Characteristic Studies" by William Westney was particularly zesty and engaging, and his performance notes were brief but inspiring to newly developing late intermediate to early advanced piano students.

These Schirmer Performance Editions are a fine addition to the modern piano pedagogy library and will ensure that the best of fine piano music continues to be studied and performed supremely well, challenging and inspiring the student and enchanting the listener.

The Saddest Music Ever Written
Thomas Larson
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781605981154, $26.95,

"The Saddest Music Ever Written, The Story of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings" is part biography and part tribute/analysis of the quintessential American dirge. Familiar to multiple generations, Barber's Adagio for Strings has been performed following the deaths of President Roosevelt, Kennedy, and former movie star Grace Kelly. It was also part of the theme music for the movie "Platoon," grieving the reality of the war in Vietnam. More recently, it was performed in Great Britain to acknowledge the tragedy of the twin towers' destruction of 9-11-2001. The Adagio for Strings, written in 1936, when the composer was in his twenties, is described as "The Pieta of music. It captures the sorrow and pity tragic death: listening to it, we are Mother Mary come alive - holding the lifeless Christ on our laps, one arm bracing the slumped head, the other offering him to the ages. The Adagio is a sound shrine to music's power to evoke emotion. Its elegiac descent is among the most moving expressions of grief in any art....No sadder music have ever been written (p.7)." In "The Saddest Music Ever Written...," Larson asks, "What is its sorrow about (p. 14)?" He concludes there are perhaps three possible answers: "It is about Barber's melancholia and depression; it is about the aloneness we feel when a loved one is lost or dies,...and it is about our alienation from ourselves as Americans: (p. 14)' or about the death of part or parts of the American dream. Much in Larson's analysis delves deeply into the composer's personal life history and also into his own family and life history. It is as though the experience of the "Adagio" is a common thread of deep, universal, yet intensely personal significance. Surely this book is testament to the importance of music in expression of emotions, specifically grief. As the author states, quoting Chekhov, "'The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them (p. 131).'" He continues on, "What is it about ourselves that we aren't grieving that makes this music so fresh? What is the Americanness of its sorrow? How is it that Barber's dirge became a dual-sided coin, the suicide of Vietnam and the patriotism of 9/11 - the ambivalence digging the well of our national depression deeper and deeper (p. 131)?" The author's partial conclusion comes after many digressions and comparisons to similar works by other composers: "Despite its commercial uses and despite Menotti's and Barber's fears, the Adagio's true legacy is that even in consort with an emotionally and technologically evolving culture, it somehow is outlasting its appropriators......the piece will survive because its memorial value will survive: on a hot, overpopulated planet, fighting over scarce resources, we will need time for and places in which to grieve our catastrophes...(p. 227)." "The Saddest Music Ever Written, the Story of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings" is a full and moving testament to this seminal work.

30 Healthy Things to Cook and Eat
Rebecca Gilpin and Fiona Watt
Photography by Howard Allman
PO Box 472037, Tulsa, OK 74147
9780794523961, $9.99,

Designed and illustrated by Non Figg, Nancy Leschnikoff & Molly Sage, "30 Healthy Things to Cook and Eat" by Rebecca Gilpin and Fiona Watt is a practical collection of carefully, colorfully illustrated practical recipes that should be easily accessible by talented teenage chefs or college students cooking away from home etc. Recipes run the gamut from soups, salads, even an omelette to lamb/beef kebabs, curries, vegetable entrees, pasta meals, vegetable stir-fry, to breads and desserts. All recipes are clearly displayed and arranged in illustrated steps, with a lovely photograph of the finished dish. Utensils and techniques are plainly described and recipes are usually short, with maybe 8 ingredients or so. Safety tips and techniques are incorporated right into each recipe. "30 Healthy Things to Cook and Eat" is a practical survival manual for young adults or even a new bride and would make a lovely gift.

Building One Fire
Chadwick Corntassel Smith
Rennard Strickland
Benny Smith
Cherokee Nation
c/o University of Oklahoma Press
17675 South Muskogee, Tahlequah, OK 74464
9781616589608, $24.95,

"Building One Fire: Art + World View in Cherokee Life" is a magnificent bilingual art-culture book with special titles and phrases written in English and Cherokee, using Sequoyah's alphabet. "Building One Fire" can be appreciated as a superb art photography collection of stunning Cherokee artists' creations including pottery, baskets, paintings, beaded items, weaving, wood carvings, and more, all of it spectacularly beautiful and lovingly displayed and photographed. However, as the title indicates, "Building One Fire" is about more than art, even more than preserving Cherokee culture and practices: it is really about presenting Cherokee art as tokens or current manifestations of Cherokee spirituality and philosophy. "Building one fire" refers to the idea of a community showing gratitude in prayer, symbolized by white smoke, to the Cherokee Giver of fire, and Ancient Lady called Water Spider. The white smoke and prayer rises to Nitsudunvha (One Who Is Always Above), who sends each person four sets of gifts from four messengers from each of the cardinal four directions to develop mind, body and spirit. Thus all representations of the over 200 artworks by 80 Cherokee artists are presented in the context of the messenger, or cardinal direction, with which they are associated, partly because "they are part of Cherokee consciousness and creativity."

Much of the art portrayed includes an element of blending of the Eastern and Western Band (of Cherokees) traditions, as well as a blending of ancient outlooks and referents to present day influences. Some of the Eastern-Western Band blending or sharing is a result of conscious attempts to share and restore lost heritages and traditions dating from the Trail of Tears and before. An example of the ancient/modern blending is on page 80, in the section from the Messenger of the North, representing knowledge, curiosity, and intellect. We find a stunning photograph of a four-colored gourd with acrylic paint by Joseph Erb, titled "Mississippian Warrior with Ipod." The seated warrior figure is traditionally represented wearing a deer mask, but he is using a cell phone in one hand, an ipod is hooked on his ears, and he is touching the keyboard of a computer with his left hand. Thus Cherokee art sometimes represents a fusion of technology and tradition.

Though a nonnative reader can read and enjoy "Building One Fire" from several perspectives, perhaps it is best to keep in mind the following quotation by David Scott, describing a Cherokee attitude towards creating art and beauty:

"The traditional approach to making objects was initially a meditative act which, through a personal, balanced commitment to gathering, preparing, and communing with the materials, imbued the resulting object with the spiritual qualities of virtue. For the Cherokee, the public recognition of such respectful creation is the equivalent of the perception of beauty (p.81)."

Great delight in beauty and perhaps even a transformation of vision awaits the reader of "Building One Fire." It's cost is reasonable but it's value is beyond price.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Creative Collection Of American Short Stories
Edgar Allen Poe, et al.
The Creative Company
123 South Broad Street, Mankato, MN 56001
9781568462028, $28.95

The Creative Company is perhaps best known for their picture books for children which feature museum quality artwork. They have departed from their usual publishing niche to produce "The Creative Collection Of American Short Stories", a 271-page compendium showcasing seventeen of the best American short stories ever written by seventeen of America's finest and most celebrated authors. Opening with Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Black Cat'; to Mark Twin's 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County'; and 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge' by Ambrose Bierce, the stories comprising "The Creative Collection Of American Short Stories" is a virtual cornucopia of short story masterpieces, concluding with 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?' by Joyce Carol Oates; 'Everyday Use' by Alice Walker; and Elk by Rick Bass. In between are short story gems by such literary luminaries as Stephen Crane, Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, Katherine Ann Porter, John Steinbeck, James Thurber, Wallace Stegner, Shirley Jackson, Langston Hughes, Ray Bradbury, and John Updike. Of special note is that each individual short story includes at its beginning a full color, museum quality, full color illustration by Yan Nacimbene. Enhanced with the inclusion of an informed and informative introduction by Ray Bradbury, "The Creative Collection Of American Short Stories" is an enthusiastically recommended addition to personal reading lists, and a prized acquisition for academic and community library collections.

Building Code Compliance For Contractors & Inspectors
Lynn Underwood
Craftsman Book Company
6058 Corte del Cedro, Carlsbad, CA 92009
9781572182387, $32.50,

In "Building Code Compliance For Contractors & Inspectors", author Lynn Underwood draws upon his more than 30 years of experience and expertise as the Chief Building Official for Norfolk, Virginia where he has been responsible for enforcing building codes, including plumbing, mechanical, electrical and architectural plan issues. "Building Code Compliance For Contractors & Inspectors" is a 232-page compendium of tips for contractors in building working relationships with inspectors, advice for when a particular job doesn't pass inspection, when an inspector can be negotiated with and when negotiation is not an option, and ways to insure a successful inspection. Of special note is the commentary on identifying the right person at the building department when help is needed. Enhanced with the inclusion of a code checklist for every trade involved in the building process, "Building Code Compliance For Contractors & Inspectors" is thoroughly 'user friendly', professional, comprehensive, and strongly recommended instructional reference for anyone who requires a permit and who must pass a building inspection.

The Amargosa Blues
Marshal Taylor
Privately Published
9780557480807, $14.95,

The little community of Amargosa Spring doesn't have much to interest teenagers. Michael Foster is one of its small town teens with time on his hands. When he learns about an unusual pistol (a 'Buntline Special') his boss keeps in a desk drawer the boy's curiosity gets the better of him and he 'borrows' the pistol to see what it would be like to shoot it off. Unfortunately this results in the accidental killing of a man and an investigation by Nye County Sheriff Mel Embry. What follows is a deftly written novel by Marshal Taylor as the investigation proceeds and things get progressively complicated for young Michael! Original and engaging from beginning to end, "The Amargosa Blues" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library fiction collections.

Carl R. Miller
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162475, $13.95,

Life close to the land is romantic, but by no means easy. "Kentuckea: "Ken Tah Ten"" tells the story of Dan Hawk, a man who finds a woman named Jolene as they make their lives in the wilderness of Northern Pennsylvania. Their struggles are by no means easy, but it's a learning experience of generations. With much thought and charm, "Kentuckea" is a read that shouldn't be overlooked.

A Collections of My Sayings in Poetic Form
John Williamson
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162390, $21.50,

Poetry is simply a vehicle for ideas. "A Collection of My Sayings in Poetic Form" is an anthology from John Williamson as he provides his thoughts and wisdom to the world with a poetic voice and flare that he uses to get his message across the table. "A Collection of My Sayings in Poetic Form" is an insightful read with much to learn from, highly recommended.

A Spiritual Journey
Betty Sotirakis
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162581, $8.95,

Devotion is a poetic inspiration all in itself. "A Spiritual Journey: Collection of Poems" is a faith driven anthology from Betty Sotirakis as she embraces her faith, Christ, and the events throughout the year that remind us of our faith. "A Spiritual Journey" is profound and thought provoking, making for an intriguing read. "May His Memory Be Eternal": Beloved was your son, your dear John,/Who for many in thought will live on,/He is now in Christ's care,/Though we reach him through prayer,/To his family and friends, sad he's gone.

Dramatic Changes
Vincent Ray Bomar
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533157846, $8.95,

Life throws something different at you every day, and how you react to it is how you succeed. "Dramatic Changes: The Writings of Vincent Bomar" is a collection free form poetry from Vincent Ray Bomar, granting his unique vision and thoughts for his world and what surrounds him. With much to ponder and a lot of faith, "Dramatic Changes" is a fine read that shouldn't be missed. "Reflections": When I look at other people do you know what I see?/In all actuality a reflection of me/Reflections are real and they can be strong/While some reflections don't last very long/Reflections take hold as they begins to unfold/Like a child seeing his face in a glass/Looking at you I might as well be/Looking at mirror reflection of me.

Quick Reference Guide to Nature's Pharmacy
Jacquie Nelson Walburn
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161768, $10.95,

Nature has much to offer in the way of medicine if you know where to look. "Quick Reference Guide to Nature's Pharmacy: Researched Herbal and Nutritional Alternatives" is the research into natural remedies for many ailments and conditions of life and how to avoid the common side effects of many prescribed and over the counter medicines. "Quick Reference Guide to Nature's Pharmacy" is a strong pick for anyone embracing alternative medicine.

What It Feels Like to Be Naked
Lara Green
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533156764, $8.95,

To lack barriers, to lack lies, to lack diversion. "What It Feels Like to Be Naked: A Collection of Poems" is just that from Lara Green, as she reflects on the starkness of much of life, coming to terms with one's own true feelings, the driving desires, and the philosophy which we live our lives. "What it Feels Like to Be Naked" is a collection with plenty to teach, highly recommended. "Pain": It lies beneath the surface,/like pus in a blister/waiting to come out/and cause a dilemma.

An Unknown Queen
Latrice Bates
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158621, $7.95,

The queen in one's life should always be the self. "An Unknown Queen" is a collection of poetry from Latrice Bates discussing self-esteem, personal responsibility, and finding that inner peace. Profound and simple, "An Unknown Queen" is a thoughtful collection that shouldn't be overlooked. "I am": I am the glorious sunrise/the gallant bird in the sky/Gushing waters/And horizon borders./The thick planted tree/the pure moon you see,/The radiant sunset/The shining star/The nightingale that sings afar/The cloud above/And the waterfall of love./Beauty/Lovely/Novelty/Extraordinary./Somebody./I am/Me.

The Trial of Abraham and Abraham's Choice
A. Eric Rosen
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162383, $10.95,

The character of Abraham is a central one in the trio of religions named after him. "The Trial of Abraham and Abraham's Choice" looks inside this character through a fictionalized trial of Abraham, looking to present many thoughts and points into the religious debate. "The Trial of Abraham and Abraham's Choice' is an enticing read that shouldn't be missed, highly recommended.

Voices From the Hemispheres
Kenneth High Harrison
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161058, $15.95,

Life is an adventure that can take someone through vastly different situations in life. "Voices from the Hemispheres" is a collection of poetry from Kenneth Hugh Harrison as he reflects on his life growing up as an orphan and surviving the many curveballs of life. A fascinating read of life and its vastly different changes, "Voices from the Hemispheres" is a read that shouldn't be missed. "Snow": Snow is: Rapture captured,/Skyfall blueprint,/Rain-dancing fixed;/Silent applause, ice carved,/Rain resurrection, Fever frozen/Rain's ecstasy, Eskimo music;/Sky's frenzy composed; Bach's magnificent/Mozart impromptus; Plein-air's artifact/Cloud's divine design; Uplifting downfall,/Love's hexagony: Flakes are.

Lawrence Rotch
Privately Published
9780557578627, $14.50,

Truth buried in the past has plenty of nasty things to dig up along the way. "Bulletproof: A Midcoast Maine Mystery" follows Oliver Wendell, a man who tries to put the past behind him, only to find that when an old friend dies, he can't run forever. But as time passed, he finds returning to his old life is one that may cost him his life as he and his only friend face countless others who would rather see them dead than give them closure. "Bulletproof" is a fun mystery and not one to be missed.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

A Cup of Jo
Sandra Balzo
Severn House Publishers LTD
595 Madison Avenue 15th fl., NY, NY 10022
9780727869128, $27.95,

Sandra Balzo spent twenty years in corporate public relations, event management, and publicity before turning to mystery writing. Her first novel, UNCOMMON GROUNDS, garnered an Anthony and a Macavity Award. Her short stories won two awards, and her second short story was also nominated for a Macavity award. Sandy is involved in the World Mystery Conventions and has served on the board of Mystery Writers of America. She currently has four mysteries published and will publish her fifth, A CUP OF JO, in October 2010.

Maggy Thorsen, co-owner of a Milwaukee, Wisconsin coffeehouse called UNCOMMON GROUNDS, and her new partner are hosting a grand reopening of their business. The party includes both an irritating mime and a gigantic inflatable UNCOMMON GROUNDS cup and saucer sitting on top of a gallows-type wooden frame. The perfect place for a murder? You bet! The fates can't resist, and by and by the body of Brookhills event manager JoLynne Penn-Williams is found stuffed into the bottom of the inflatable cup. If that isn't enough bad luck for one day, Maggy's boyfriend, Sheriff Pavlik is immediately fingered by the press as a possible murder suspect, but not before he accidentally lets an interesting sideline to he and Maggie's relationship slip:

"'But you and I were dating in May.' My voice sounded small, even to me. Pavlik looked up, his blue eyes startled. 'Well, yes. But we didn't see much of each other as I recall.'

'Because I was busy. Because you were busy.' With HER?

It was like he'd read my mind. 'Maggy, I never said I wasn't dating other people.'"

With that bombshell, the plot is off and running. Is Pavlik a real jerk? Was he also having an affair with the deceased? Did he murder her? Maggy, though sick at heart, swings into action. After all, it's her business and love life that are at stake. And what does the mime have to do with all this? Time will tell. Sit back and enjoy the almost virtual cup of java while Balzo slings one liners that are hilarious even as she takes the reader through this delightful story.

Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590587447, $14.95,

Mary Anna Evans is a bi-brained writer. Her areas of expertise include degrees in physics and engineering, but she prefers history and tales of the past. However, she does use her skills in working with teachers to use popular fiction as a vehicle to increase math and science skills. She is currently writing a book on math literacy with a projected publishing date of 2011.

Faye Longchamp and husband Joe Wolf Mantooth launch an archaeological consulting firm, and one of their first jobs lands them in historic St. Augustine, Florida. Dunkirk Manor is now a functioning bed and breakfast, but its history includes an unsolved murder of a Hollywood glamour girl who, it is rumored, was having an affair with the mansion's owner. But in the meantime, a current female employee of the manor disappears, and a very pregnant Faye Longchamp finds herself surrounded by overly-protective people on all sides, including the manor's current owners, her husband, and Detective Overstreet:

"Faye Longchamp-Mantooth sat in the car next to him, barely big enough to carry the child in her belly. Even when she wasn't pregnant, an average-sized man with no scruples could flatten her without half-trying. There was a reason that some policemen kept their own women on a short string, constricting their social circle and limiting their freedom to move around the world until there was really nothing in their lives but their husbands. It was sick and it was wrong, but Detective Overstreet could understand it."

Naturally one disappearing pregnant woman leads to another, and this time it is Faye's best friend and her daughter. Fortunately Joe is an exceptionally intelligent and savvy man who can come to the rescue. In the meantime, lots of interesting artifacts are turned up which shed light on the manor's history, including a diary written by a Spanish priest from 1565, contrasting with trinkets from the 1920's. Both history lines are fascinating.

Mary Anna Evans writes with a mixture of scientific knowledge, including modern archaeological techniques. But, even more importantly, she can tug our heartstrings.

Maid of Murder
Amanda Flower
Five Star Publishing
Gale, P.O. Box 95501, Chicago, IL 60694-5501
9781594148644 $25.95

As her day job, Amanda Flower is an academic librarian for Ohio's Western Reserve. In her spare time, she globe trots and writes mysteries. Her goal is to see as much of the world as she can…and write about it.

India Hayes is a college librarian to pay the rent. Her heart lies with her art, though. She lives next to an elderly spinster who is as Irish as a clover leaf. Oh, and India has been a bridesmaid six times. When her childhood friend…or fiend…Olivia Blocken begs her to be a part of her wedding, India is torn. Her brother, Mark, genius mathematician and overall social outcast, has been in love with Olivia ever since childhood. Naturally Olivia turns up dead. Who do the police focus on immediately? Of course, Mark. To make matters worse, he may have been the last one to see her:

"'I could have saved her,' Mark said. 'I could have been with her. I heard her talking to somebody at the fountain, but I went back to my office to wait for her to come to me. I was always the one to take the initiative in everything. For once, I wanted her to come to me first.' Tears rolled down my brother's sunken cheeks. He said, barely above a whisper, 'if I hadn't been selfish, if I hadn't had to prove to myself that Olivia would look for me, I could've protected her from whoever did this to her.'"

Amanda Flower no doubt writes in part of her experience and personality into this India Hayes mystery. She certainly does a great job of capturing campus life. As for the character of India, the reader finds themselves cheering her on from the very first page. Amanda evidently feels the same, because she gives India room to grow and mature throughout the book. India's is haunted by her circa 1960's family, but there is a love bond there that is hard to miss.

MAID OF MURDER is a delightful cozy mystery that is entertaining through and through. Oh, and if you can guess "whodunit" early in the book, kudos to you. This reviewer didn't have a clue until the very end. Very satisfying.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Green Pieces From The Pond Up
Drew Aquilina
Five Star Publications
PO Box6698, Chandler, AZ 85246
9781589851917, $19.99,

I was not sure what I would find inside the pages of this book, but I soon found myself reading it from cover to cover. Nature is so much a part of all of us whether we realize it or not. In this tale we are taken into the very heart of nature led by some really zany characters.

We have lggman, a turtle, Radic, a dragon fly, and one who loves to drive lggman a little crazy. We also have, Cabby, the bullfrog and, Roc, the raccoon.

You will see how each one of these guys interact with nature and each other, and the rest of the pond residents and environment. The cartoons absolutely bring these characters to life and the area as well.

My favorite was the "Winter." Here we find Igg and Radic stuck under the frozen pond hibernating, that is until Radic has a phobia attack and lgg must take him to the surface. I loved that tale, it was great.

All in all this is a wonderful book, full of top-notch illustrations and adorable characters that will bring nature and the inhabitants alive to you in a superb way. Very well done and highly recommended.

Do No Evil
Kymberly Goltermann & Ashley L Goltermann
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432751500, $15.95,

In this delightful tale we meet two sisters, Phineas and Phoebe. Phineas just got fired and returns home to New York to mend her wounds. We also meet her older sister, Phoebe, who has just been left standing at the altar. The two, although sisters, are very different, but that is what helps to make this story top-notch. Both girls looking for a new beginning decide to open a private investigation service to the dismay of most of their family, except for grandma, of course.

Soon after their doors are open a corpse is left in their office with a warning note. More people are killed, with the bodies in places that the girls would find, and they realize their small town of Lair has some bad history that someone is trying to revenge. Now the girls are thrust into solving murders, finding out what the secret is and why they have been chosen to do this, and hope that they will not be next on the murders list.

I liked this book right from the start. I thought the authors did a wonderful job with their description of the sisters and the girls family making the entire group alive in the minds eye. I enjoyed them bringing in the grandma for a few giggles, she is quite a character and definitely added some spice to the read and fun as well. They also gently weaved in romance with the police officer and the Vet. It wasn't too overwhelming and did not take away from the girls main theme which were all the murders and the job at hand. They were very careful to include details and leave little clues as to just who was behind all the murders but I was still surprised at the ending.

This is really a great book. It is fun, it's romantic, it's mysterious with characters that you will find endearing and hard to forget. It has a storyline that keeps you wanting more even when the last page is read. Good job ladies, thanks for the reading pleasure. I'm waiting for more.

A Cup of Jo
Sandra Balzo
Severn House Publishers
595 Madison Avenue 15th fl, NY, NY 10022
9780727869128, $27.95,

Maggy Thorsen is embarking on a new business, a coffee shop, and to get it going she has a giant coffee cup and saucer made to advertise. Great idea, until a body is found inside the cup and Maggy's world becomes wrapped in murder and mystery. Now, Maggy is drawn into a world where she is not sure who is friend or foe, lover or user, protector or murderer. Maggy must use all her wits and clues to find out the truth and come away alive.

This was a great read. The author did a good job in bringing the characters to life, enhancing their personalities and blending them together within the storyline. She also brought the locals alive, you could almost smell the coffee brewing, taste the sticky buns, and hear the train whistle.

It made you want to walk into the book and be part of the drama. A Cup of Jo is a murder mystery that gave you clues but also left some dangling puzzle pieces for you to piece together.

Did I figure it out? Well, okay, I had to read to the end, but I rather like it that way.

All in all a great read, full of likeable and seedy characters that keep you guessing, great locals, humor and romance, mystery and suspense a real page turning. I recommend this book, highly enjoyable.

Liam The Leprechaun
Charles A.Wilkinson
1012 Illinois Rd, Wilmette, IL 60091
9781453504710, $14.99,

In this delightful tale we meet, Liam. He is a leprechaun who lives in the city of Shillelagh. Now we all know leprechauns are little but Liam is little for a Leprechaun and that makes him very sad. One day he went to the wisest leprechauns of all, O'Hooley and received some great advice. Liam followed that advice and soon his life began to change and something wonderful happened to him and a friend. What a tale.

I liked this story. I like the way the author brings little Liam's emotions into play and allows you to feel true sorrow for what he is experiencing and pure joy when things turn around for him. He is a likeable fellow. I also enjoyed the other characters that were brought into play in the story and the description of the town was good.

Was there magic you may ask? Any book that you read about leprechauns you just expect to find magic and you will not be disappointed in this one. Just the right touch. I recommend this book for young and old. It's fun, magical, and has some good moral lessons given that you swallow before you know it. Good job, great book.

Audrey Kinsella, author
Susan Anderson-Shorter, illustrator
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449083625, $14.50,

I have great respect for 'service dogs.' I believe they are a blessing to many, many people. In this great book we meet, Dingle. Dingle belongs to Aunt Reeny who is in a wheel chair.

Aunt Reeny can do just about everything, but her family and Dingle know that sometimes everyone needs help. Dingle decides to take matters in his own hands and with the help of a service dog named, Rex, and Roddy, Aunt Reeny's nephew, he comes up with a plan to make Aunt Reeny's life easier using himself to help.

This is a delightful story, full of truth, love and imagination that children will adore. It is also a story that brings to light that everyone, human and animal can help each other in sometimes unusual ways. It is warm, fresh and a learning experience for young and old. Very nice book.

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
Enchanted Self Press
170 Morris Ave., Long Branch, NJ, 07740
9780979695210, $8.95,

As I began this read it awakened inside of me the young girl I once was. Inside the pages of this charming and warm book we are privileged to share the heart of a young girl as she begins to taste of life.

Written in the form of her diary we are taken day by day into her events. We share her fears, as she begins a life in a new town, her confusion as she battles her feelings towards old friends and new, and her tender love life as natural emotions begin to peak.

This is a wonderful book. I believe it will encourage young girls to keep a diary of their own where they too can release their hopes and fears, and keep them secret. I also feel that any young girl will relate to what has been written and perhaps they will understand that many in this world are experiencing the same emotions that they are. That's a great plus.

I recommend this book. It would be a great gift for any young girl. It even stirred my own memories of days gone by and I smiled. Girls will grow into women and this book will help them along the way. Very well done.

I Can't Wait To Meet You
Claudia Santorelli-Bates, author
Caleb Sawyer, illustrator
So No Wonder Publishing
533 - 21st Place, Santa Monica, CA, 90402-3047
9780615319353, $15.99,

Inside this book we meet, Grace and her husband, Charlie. They want to have a baby but try as they might it just is not happening for them. They travel to the doctor where they undergo Vito fertilization and are very happy when they find out they are going to have a baby.

Author, Claudia Santorelli-Bates writes this book from her own experience of having a child through the help of IVF. This is a hardcover book, very well made, with exceptional illustrations. Our author takes the reader through the process of what happens when someone is trying to conceive using IVF.

The story is told in a very tasteful, joyous, colorful way, and it has a beautiful ending. However, I don't feel it is a book that just any mother would pick up to read to her child. It would depend on when a family wishes to share with their child how a baby is made. They would need to be ready and open for a discussion of this, so that should be considered. However for parents of an IVF child it will definitely show them how deeply they were wanted and greatly loved even before they entered this world. That knowledge alone is a true gem for any child to know and cling to all of their lives.

Please do not misunderstand me, I liked this book. I think it is beautifully written, creatively illustrated and definitely has something to say, and that is the point. It is not a read me a story before I go to sleep book. It is a story with a mission of love that may not be for everyone, but will definitely touch the hearts of those it is set forth to reach.

Casey Tibbs
Rusty Richards
Moonlight Mesa Association
18620 Moonlight Mesa Rd., Suite A, Wickenburg, AZ 85390
0982758502, $19.95,

I have to be honest, growing up in the outskirts of New York City left me pretty dumb when it came to any one with the talents of the man I was to met in this book. I was not one who went to rodeo's or followed anything of that sort, nor did I know the depth of such people, their lifestyles or what was required of them. The life story of Casey Tibbs, as told by Rusty Richards was quite an interesting read and an eye-opener for me in this area. Inside the pages of this book I met the man, who was a true American Legend and learned much about a world I never knew before..

We are taken back to his small beginnings, his family and the tragedies and battles he endured and overcame. Casey knew from a young boy what he wanted out of life, but soon found it did not match what his father wanted him to have. He would have some tough decisions to make for his future and the road would often be a lonely one. However, he was determined and his face set as stone knowing full well what he wanted out of life, and ready to work to achieving that goal.

We are privileged to read stories of his travels, his adventures and his personal life, both victories and failures. Some were humorous, others heart-felt, but each giving you needed insight into the life of this legend of a man. I am convinced that no one knew horses or understood the world that they were the stars in more than this man. From roundups to winning awards and insight into the very heart and soul of Casey Tibbs, this book has it all. I am honored that now I have a knowledge of a great American Legend that I will not soon forget.

For all who love a slice of the true west, a big bite of rodeo history and just a downright great story about one exceptional man, you will love this book. Very well done, recommended.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Dogs of Divorce
William Kenly
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432745806 $19.95

A bad marriage is something that can ruin you for a lifetime. "The Dogs of Divorce: The Journey out of a Dark Marriage" is a humorous take on marriage, its ultimate poor demise, and how to come to terms with the reality and how they should have realized the problems before it was too late. A thoughtful take on the topic with humor and wisdom, "The Dogs of Divorce" is not a read to be overlooked.

The Devil's Share
Kris Farmen
McRoy & Blackburn
PO Box 276, Ester, AL 99725
9780982031933, $16.95,

Growing up in the wrong century isn't unusual. "The Devil's Share" tells the story of Jack, a man growing up in the mountains of Alaska and coming into adult hood. A summer job turns into something more when romance enters Jack's life for the first time, his rustic nature seems to make him feel that he's stuck in the past while what he wants is in the future. With corruption about along with plenty of crime, "The Devil's Share" is an intriguing take on mountain life and people who still call it home, highly recommended.

A Book of Poems
Anthony F. Rando
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449099916, $12.99,

Simplicity is the basis of the soul. "A Book of Poems: The Inner Soul" is a collection of nineteen poems from Anthony F. Rando, as he produces a quick and simple collection designed to go the basest emotions. "A Book of Poems" is an intriguing take on the meaning of the soul, recommended. "Fields of Love": The memories of you/ The times we spent/The happiness you brought to my life/the emptiness I feel when you are gone/the endless tears of my heart thinking about you/The gentle warm wind that caress my precious life/As I wait till the end of time/For the flower who blossomed in my soul.

Traveling Music
Eric Greinke
Presa press
PO Box 792, Rockford, MI 49341
9780980008197, $11.95,

Highly experienced and very prolific poet Eric Greinke brings readers a unique journey into the psyche of the poet with "Traveling Music" a collection of work that encompasses much of Greinke's career, coming at the reader with simplicity and poignancy. "Traveling Music" is a solid addition to any community library poetry collection. "Apparition": A rabid raccoon stalked across the neighbor's /backyard. Its eyes were milky & saliva hung like a/film cocoon from its mouth. It moved slowly, back-/hairs on end. When it disappeared into the woods, I/was filled with horror & remorse.

My Waltzing Egypt
Aabeid Salama
Thunder House Books
PO Box 5183, Lutherville, MD 21094-5183
9780982737880, $25.95,

Fear drives many people, whether they want to be driven or not. "My Waltzing Egypt" is a story of Kareem Mikhaeel as the encroaching threat that is radicals, the Egyptian government and the mistakes of his past. Unsure of the hold that radical Islam has on Egypt, he flees to America and finds that his escape is not as easy as he would have hoped it be. "My Waltzing Egypt" is a fine story of the troubles of the Muslim world and the challenges they face in America.

Changing the Subject
Stephen-Paul Martin
Ellipsis Press
PO Box 721196, Jackson Heights, NY 11372
9780963753656, $14.00,

Sometimes what's right or wrong doesn't matter. Other times it's all that matters. "Changing the Subject" is a collection of short stories from Stephen-Paul Martin as he focuses on the subject of revenge and morality in a collection that will ask the readers many questions. "Changing the Subject" is a fascinating read that will certainly prove difficult to put down, highly recommended.

America the Beautiful
Sri Chinmoy
Illumien Group
307 7th Avenue, Suite 1201, New York, NY 10001
9780982428467, $9.95,

America is viewed as a success around the world, despite her problems. "America the Beautiful: Reflections on Her Past, Present, and Future" are musings from Sri Chinmoy, who speaks on America's influence through the world. Its history proves inspirational, and even now there are truly wonderful things, and Chinmoy is overjoyed at the potential it still holds. With musings and thoughts on many topics, "America the Beautiful" proves to be an enlightening read of philosophy and the political hopes and dreams that reside within.

The New Experts
Robert H. Bloom
Greenleaf Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
Jane Wesman Public Relations (publicity)
322 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1702, New York, NY 10001
9781608320240, $18.95,

What sold something once may not sell it now. "The New Experts: Win Today's Newly Empowered Customers at Their 4 Decisive Moments" delves into today's customer culture where now, more than ever, customers know that they have choices, and are more informed about those choices. Robert H. Bloom seeks to educate modern sellers that there are four points which decide whether a purchase is made, based on urgency, importance, value, and time. These factors form the foundation, and Bloom explains them well. "The New Experts" is quite the useful read, very highly recommended for any business driven individual.

The Discordia
Bruce Calhoun
Hoopla Press
6988 Scheider Road, Middleton, WI 53362
9780615383439, $13.95

Lucifer was not always the devil, for his name meant the bringer of light. "The Discordia: A Chronicle of Lucifer's Rebellion Against God" tells the story of God and the angel Lucifer, and the events that led to his fall and position as Lord of Hell. The great rebellion in Heaven is visited and pictured as a thought and faithful story of the origins of God, his angels, and the reasons of Lucifer. "The Discordia" is a riveting take of fiction as well as a work of faith.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Eternity Beckons
John Strassel
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432755898, $21.95,

Even with the path of God, there are challenges in your path. "Eternity Beckons" is a Christian novel following Franklin Edwards as he lives a good life with a devout family. But faith doesn't protect him from hardship, and Edwards faith is challenged by a series of unfortunate events. Author John Strassel gives readers a remarkable and fascinating read that shouldn't be overlooked by Christian readers, making "Eternity Beckons" a solidly recommended read.

Beyond Friday Nights
Ray Grasshoff
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9780557393800 $15.95

Some play for fun, some play for sport, some play for the future. "Beyond Friday Nights: College Football Recruiting for Players and Parents" is a guide for those who play their high school football in hopes of landing that all too lucrative sports scholarship. With insight from high school and college coaches and experience from college football players and more, "Beyond Friday Nights" is a strong pick for any teen and their parents who have college sports hopes in their future.

Murder in the Pit
Erica Miner
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606191101 $16.95

The more sophisticated the entertainment, the more sophisticated its corruption. "Murder in the Pit" is a tale of murder in the opera as a violinist teams with an opera fan cop to track down those responsible for the murder of a famous conductor. What they find is that the opera isn't all about classical music and the orchestra, and much more lies beneath the surface. "Murder in the Pit" is a read that gives readers much to enjoy, a solidly recommended mystery.

How to Change Your Drinking
Kenneth Anderson, MA
Privately Published
9781453636619 $17.00

How do some people drink and not turn it into a problem? "How to Change Your Drinking: A Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol" discusses how to encourage moderation and reduction in one's drinking habits, whether one just wants to clean their habits up or simply wants to quit entirely. From preventing blackouts to cultural differences and more, "How to Change Your Drinking" is a useful read for anyone who wants to bring their alcohol consumption under their control.

A Journey into Tomorrow
Veronica Camille Tinto
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781449062828 $10.99

Poetry lets out bottled emotions, and can prove to be quite the relief. "A Journey into Tomorrow" is a collection of poetry from Veronica Camille Tinto, as she reflects on her unique upbringing and immigration from Trinidad and Tobago. With plenty of original thought and opinion, "A Journey into Tomorrow" is a remarkable read, highly recommended. "Ready for the Call": Are we ready for the call?/Do we have all out emotional business in order?/DO we tell the people that mean the most how we feel?/DO we say love... show love... and mean love?/Then can we truly say hear I am... it is I... and I am ready for the call

Unintelligent Humans...
Richard A. Singer, Jr.
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781449056230 $11.95

If we're so smart why do we do so many stupid things? "Unintelligent Humans...: Questions to Stimulate Your Soul" is a thoughtful discussion of the stupidity that consumes us all and the wisdom that exists and stands to separate man from the animals. For anyone pondering the problems with their own life, "Unintelligent Humans..." may answer some of those questions.

The Woman on the Beach
Bob Alba
Privately Published
9781449986216 $14.95

Even if you evade it, love will sometimes find a way. "The Woman on the Beach: A Story of Love" delves into a story of a secluded artist and a woman at a crossroads in her life. Their exotic affair taking place on the Brazilian beaches gives readers a fun and intriguing spin on the tropical romance. A riveting read that will prove hard to put down, "The Woman on the Beach" is a top pick that shouldn't be missed.

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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