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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 5, Number 9 September 2006 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Dunford's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf
Lorraine's Bookshelf Mary's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf

Dunford's Bookshelf

Lives Of Mapmakers
Alica L. Conroy
Carnegie Mellon University Press
5032 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15289-1021
0887484514 $16.95

Lives Of Mapmakers is a science fiction anthology of characters who range in background from a sixteenth-century cartographer to a modern farm worker; yet all of them are caught up in a quest for direction in their lives. Magical elements such as the discovery of a prairie mermaid work their way into mundane individual lives, and nontraditional narrative forms obliquely illustrate how protagonists' crucial decisions have reverberating repercussions far beyond their immediate comprehension. A mind-expanding journey to new frontiers, reflecting the endless quest to chart the unknown in various venues of humans existence.

Trim Carpentry
Neal Barret
Creative Homeowner
24 Park Way, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
158011279X $19.95

Trim Carpentry: Plan, Design, Install by woodworker and furniture maker Neal Barret is a hands-on guide to adding trimwork and molding to one's home to enhance value and attractiveness. Multiple full color photographs on every page illustrate each stage of step-by-step processes. From basic tools and techniques to door & window casting to wall design ideas, crown molding, ceiling treatments, columns, and trimwork finishes, Trim Carpentry has both inspiration and practical instructions for home improvement. A user-friendly guide to professional-quality do-it-yourself embellishment.

Taking Stock
Francis T. Cullen, John Paul Wright, & Kristie R. Blevins
Transaction Books
390 Campus Drive, Somerset, NJ 08873
0765803100 $59.95 1-732-445-1245

Volume 15 of the Advances in Criminological Theory series, Taking Stock: The Status Of Criminological Theory is an anthology of scholarly essays by various learned authors. All writings have a common roots in the basic understanding of criminology theory, particularly the three perspectives at the core of criminology: social learning theory, control theory, and strain theory. Specific essays include "Segregation and Race/Ethnic Inequality in Crime", "The Empirical Status of Control Theory in Criminology", "Shame, Restorative Justice, and Crime" and more. Intended for advanced criminology students, Taking Stock is a valuable contribution to common understanding of the causes of, deterrents to, and optimum means to combat crime.

Michael Dunford

Klausner's Bookshelf

Masques V
Edited by J. N. Williamson and Gary Braunbeck
188736885X $50.00

This is one of the year's best horror anthologies with twenty eight new chilling horror thrillers and one reprint from 1985 Playboy magazine ("The Black Wench" by Ray Russell). Each of these well written tales will grip the reader as few short story collections do. The compilation runs the gamut from strange happenings in normal environs to ghost stories to the grisly and finally visits to death in the arcane, tombs, and a few other creepy locales. A who's who of dark side authors like Tom Piccirilli, Richard Matheson, Poppy Z. Brite, Christopher Conlan, Joe Nassise, and the editors, etc. contribute top tales. There are no losers in the first MASQUES V to be published in almost fifteen years. Horror genre readers will agree that MASQUE V is a fitting tribute to editor J. N. Williamson who passed away before the compilation was printed.

The Ice Dragon
George R. R. Martin
0765316315, $12.95

Adara is a winter child having been born during the coldest stretch that anyone including the elders can remember. She loves the cold especially when the notorious Ice Dragon comes near as legend has it this beast brings with it the frozen weather. Adara is not only is unafraid of the Ice Dragon, she accepts the creature as being part of her life making her so unlike her older brother Geoff who must intellectually challenge and question everything. When Adara was five she rode on the back of her beastly friend. Now two years later, the fire dragons have come to scorch the earth. Adara's family farm and those of their neighbors are in peril. Only a winter's child and her Ice Dragon can save the people, but she is just a child and he a beast. This is an exciting fun pre-teen fantasy starring a courageous heroic child and the dragon with a bad reputation who loves her. The story line is action-packed but also contains delightful illustrations that enhance the tale. Young readers will root for Adara and Ice Dragon as they battle the fiery dragons.

Choosers of the Slain
John Ringo
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
1416520708 $25.00 1-800-223-2336

Former navy SEAL Mike "Ghost" Harmon enjoys living with the Keldara in the Caucasian Mountains of the Republic of Georgia. He has brought his new friends modern weaponry and military tactics so that these courageous tough fighters can hold their own with their enemies like Chechen guerrillas (see KILDAR). New Jersey Senator John Traskel asks Mike to do him a favor; Mike says no as American leaders tend to ask for favors, but vanish when the body count surfaces. Still Mike cannot refuse John's request as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee member explains that someone abducted the daughter of a big contributor, fourteen years old Natalya Fedioushina while she was visiting relatives with her mother in Moldavia, whose only export is sex slaves. The Senator only wants the teen located not extracted; Mike informs Traskel that will run about $5 million and probably be bloody without an extraction. However, tracing the young girl in the Baltics proves even more dangerous than Mike expected because of snakes back in DC manipulating the international sex slave trade. The latest Mike Harmon (make that Jenkins) thriller is filled with non-stop global action that never slows down until the final DC confrontation. The exhilarating story line is loaded with several major international subplots that nicely tie together, but can prove difficult to follow or for that matter to find a comfort spot to stop reading for the night. Mike is his usual irascible best when it comes to bullying authority figures and so kind when he relates with the powerless though in this tale he seems more apt to anger than previously in spite of his amusing retorts and asides regardless of the scenario. This is a fine entry that will please John Ringo's galloping ghost fans.

The Redemption
M.L. Tyndall
1597893595, $9.97

In 1665 Lady Charlisse Bristol leaves England to flee her odious abusive Uncle who uses God to get away with molestation and other abuses of weaker people, but she is also on a quest to find her father, a sea merchant whom she never met. However, the vessel she sails on from London to Port Royal sinks in the Caribbean during a storm. Charlisse survives barely on a deserted island where Captain Edmund Merrick and his pirate crew find her near death. Edmund is a born again Christian working for King Charles to stop piracy with his prime objective ending the terrorist reign of his former mentor Captain Edward the Terror. However, his saving the life of Charlisse causes him personal problems as he is very attracted to her and for that matter so is his cutthroat crew; though his desire is her while his men would take any woman. As he falls in love with a woman who mistrusts any man, especially one who believes in God, Edmund realizes that her father is Edward. The first Legacy of the King's Pirates tale is a fantastic late seventeenth century pirates of the Caribbean thriller starring two fascinating characters. Whereas Edmund has found God, Charlisse distrusts God with good reason after being abusively raised by a loathsome man of the cloth. The story line is fast-paced so that historical pirate romance readers will fully enjoy this exciting tale; but also targets Christian historical fans who will appreciate THE REDEMPTION as the dilemma brings out the best in some and the worst in others. Piracy mania aside, the audience will look forward to M.L. Tyndale's next high seas adventure, THE

When the Heart Cries
Cindy Woodsmall
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity, 1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1400072921, $13.99 1-800-726-0600

Hannah Lapp loves her neighbor Paul Waddell, but her father Zeb refuses to see any of his daughters married to an outsider. Paul returns Hannah's high regard, but knows that her father would never tolerate a Mennonite in his Amish family and so fears any efforts on his part would leave Hannah considered dead by her dad. Still before he leaves in his English car for his fourth year of college, he asks Hannah to marry him. That same day that she and Paul become engaged, Hannah heads home carrying a basket of blueberries, when a man driving a car stops, pulls her into his vehicle and rapes her. Already in shock that God allowed such a terrible thing to happen to her, Hannah turns introspective especially when she feels the Old Ways of her family and community have failed her, but still turns to prayer especially when she turns out to be pregnant. WHEN THE HEART CRIES is an interesting look at the differences and similarities between the Amish and the Mennonites. Hannah is a deep protagonist who finds no solace with the Old Ways, with her family, or with her beloved as she feels that everyone holds her culpable for the rape. The story line focuses on everyday Amish life mostly through her perspective as a pariah, but though insightful that can turn tedious to the reader. Still overall this is a fine entry, and her will want Cindy Woodsmall to provide the further adventures of Hannah.

Rene Gutteridge
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1400071577, $12.99 1-800-726-0600

Channel 7 News Director Chad Arbus demands News Executive Producer Hugo Talley, already popping anti-anxiety pills like candy, to raise the ratings or he loses his job. He has few options so Hugo turns to his long time anchor Gilda Braun asking her to change her image in order to bring in many new younger viewers. Stunned and somewhat humiliated, Gilda hesitantly agrees to "youthenize" herself starting with Botox treatment to smooth out the wrinkles. However, a side effect of the treatment is a permanent smile that looks ghastly when the news is bad or serious. Humiliated, Gilda flees town, leaving Hugo in the lurch for a fast replacement. With no candidates, Hugo turns to his upbeat assistant Hayden Hazard though he has concerns with her lack of experience and her evangelical beliefs. Shockingly, Hayden is a major success with viewers. Reporter Ray Duffey is attracted to her and shares her religious beliefs, but hides his conviction from the station managers and his peers unlike Hayden who prays out in the open. However, during an interview, a guest verbally attacks Ray on the air, who investigates his accuser learning the man has ties to a wastewater treatment plant explosion, subsequent cover-up, and though somewhat nebulously the missing Gilda. The first Hazard sibling tale is a terrific inspirational story that lampoons its heroine when she comes out in taboo social settings with what seems like platitudes in spite of her truly believing. Hayden makes the story line work as her beliefs begin to impact those around her especially Ray and Hugo yet Rene Gutteridge also spoofs her message. This technique actually has the intended impact of strengthening the message that it is nothing to be ashamed of by displaying your religious beliefs in public. Readers will enjoy the opening of the Hazard brood with a bit of craziness inside a fine pleasant suspense.

Under the Northern Lights
Tracie Peterson
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
0764227742, $13.99 1-800-328-6109

After being away for a few months, Leah Barringer Kincaid comes home to Last Chance Creek, Alaska when she realizes this is no longer home since she married Jayce and they cannot live here as her brother Jacob resides here. However, instead of the warm greetings from her spouse and her sibling, Jayce's brother Chase says hello warning her to behave or else. While Jayce and Jacob are caught in a storm, Chase takes Leah and subsequently Pinkerton Agent Helaina Beecham hostage. In captivity, Helaina regrets that her obsession superseded her common sense so now she is the prisoner of the dangerous beast she sought. When she becomes ill, Leah nurses her, but has no one, not even God, to nurture her after Chase assaults her as he needs to destroy anything his sibling cherishes. As things turn bleaker with Helaina needing professional help or she will die and Chase becoming nastier, Leah regains her faith and prays God provides them a miracle while Jayce plans to end the war with his twin once and for all for as he went to far when he abducted Leah. The second Arctic Quest tale (SEE SUMMER OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN) is a terrific historical thriller that provides Tracie Peterson's myriad of fans with a powerful look at life in the Alaskan Territory circa 1915. The tidbits that are interwoven into the story line such as the speed of communication make the historical fun to read. Though the plot takes a bit time to move beyond the pace of dog sleds in a storm, fans of inspirational early twentieth century sagas will enjoy Ms. Peterson's fine look back.

Winter Birds
Jamie Langston Turner
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
0764200151, $12.99 1-800-328-6109

Retired teacher widow Sophia Hess found her late husband's legacy quite a shocker as learns her spouse the professor had a deep penchant for pornography. The collection is quite a stunner, but also serves as a catalyst to look back on her life of never being loved and explains why they remained childless. She now realizes he only wed her because he needed an easy to control office assistant. Not wanting to live alone and being wealthy, she offers her fortune to the family member that takes her into their home. In Greenville, Mississippi, nephew Patrick and his wife Rachel offer their home to Aunt Sophie. The octogenarian assumes they welcome her so they can get at her money. However, she wonders about the menagerie of visitors like the disabled child and though he is a bit pompous why Patrick and Rachel, hurt by personal tragedy, still deeply believe in the Lord while fully welcoming Sophie to do more than check the obituaries as they show her they care for one another and offer her the same affection. Action fans will want to pass on this deep character study that uses the story line as a device to enable readers to look closely at Sophia. Initially the plot seems depressing and sort of dull as the elderly woman reflects on her life especially marriage. The tale picks up a bit as the skeptical Sophia moves in with her nephew expecting an avarice relative conducting a death watch. However, instead she gets a somewhat optimist nurturing caretaking couple who want the best for her as they teach this old dog new tricks about love for each other and affectionately caring for another by welcoming her into their nest. Great use of the story line to provide a profound relationship drama as few writers can achieve.

A Promise for Ellie
Lauraine Snelling
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South,Minneapolis, MN 55438
0764228099, $12.99 1-800-328-6109

In 1900 Blessing, North Dakota, Ellie Wold and Andrew Bjorklund have planned to marry since grade school. They finally announce the date to follow the harvest to everyone's elation except perhaps long time nemesis Toby Valders, who tasted Andrew's fists over the years. However, happy for his son and pleased that Ellie will soon be his daughter, Andrew's dad Haaken asks the couple to delay the date a bit longer. While Andrew is frustrated and upset, Ellie assumes that her future father-in-law has a justifiable reason though he does not share it with anyone. Andrew is angry at his father for making such a request, but also at his beloved Ellie who remains calm making him wonder if she loves him. He takes out his anger on completing the construction of their barn. When fire destroys their new barn and what Andrew stowed inside, he assumes Toby did it. Though he promised his fiancee no fisticuff solutions, a raging Andrew burns his pledge of nonviolence to go after Toby; this upsets Ellie who wonders if he will use his fists when they argue. Returning to Blessing, scene of the Red River of the North series, Lauraine Snelling provides her readers with a deep historical tale starring a couple who seems destined for a life together since grade school. However, his temper may cost both of them everything as he has major anger control issues. The dispute between Toby and Andrew provides the message that violence is never an answer whether it is based on assumptions leading to presumptive strikes or hard core evidence; turn the other cheek enables a victim to calm down long enough to learn rationally the truth.

A Hearth in Candlewood
Delia Parr
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
0764200860, $12.99 1-800-328-6109

In 1841 Candlewood, New York, fiftyish widow Emma Garrett owns and operates Hill House boardinghouse. Her reason for living is tending to the needs of her guests including what she perceives is their spiritual and emotional requirements. Grandmotherly octogenarian widow Frances Leonard flees to Hill House from her nearby residence to escape the loving machinations of her sons. Emma takes Widow Leonard in angering her children James and Andrew, who are already fighting with one another. Now Emma is in the middle of a family feud that could turn ugly at the same time attorney Zachary Breckenwith informs her she does not own Hill House in spite "buying" it four years ago from an executor. A HEARTH IN CANDLEWOOD is a solid small town Americana tale that provides insight into living near the Erie Canal when that was one of the transportation methods available in the mid nineteenth century. The story line contains two major subplots competing for the lead with the connections between them being the heroine and odious businessman Langhorne; however neither takes the lead so the audience can be left a bit confused as spins occur to both. Still a strong cast led by Emma and a vivid look back at a boardinghouse in mid nineteenth century upstate new York make for a picturesque historical.

The Longing Season
Christine Schaub
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
0764200607, $12.99 1-800-328-6109

In 1746, Mary Catlett worries about her beloved John Newton, son of a merchant ship captain, who abruptly stopped writing her. She checks the papers for any news about the HMS Harwich, the ship he sails on, as part of the naval war with Spain, but finds nothing, which she knows no news is good news and thanks God for that much. John has left the Navy on a personal quest though his superior officers claim he deserted. He has traveled to Sierra Leone where he was held prisoner while recovering from injuries and across the ocean to Newfoundland with the classics as his guide and a belief that God treats him like a poor Job. On the other hand tossing a Hail Mary she gratefully prays to the Lord that he welcome John in his tent even as she must follow the fate her family has in mind for her unless a miracle occurs. The latest Music of the Heart saga (see FINDING ANNA, the novelization behind "It Is Well With My Soul") is a terrific telling of Amazing Grace, a great redemption tale as John learns what matters in life is not vengeance but instead faith in the Lord's plan and the love of family. The fabulous story line will please fans of Christian inspirationals as much as second chance historical romance readers. Christine Schaub provides fans with another delightful biographical hymn writer novelization this time of the author of Amazing Grace.

Blood Kin
Judith E. French
Love Spell
0505526859, $6.99

In Rehoboth Beach, teacher Bailey Elliot always knew she was adopted, but had no clues to who her biological parents are. That is until she receives a letter from attorney Forest McCready stating she inherited property from an Aunt Elizabeth Somers on Tawes Island in Chesapeake Bay. With school out, Bailey has an a chance to learn about her roots so she immediately travels to the island staying at Emma Parks' B&B, which has one other guest local carpenter Daniel Catlin. When she begins to dig into her past, Daniel and others tells her to leave as this is dangerous. Though she learns that her mother was a teen who died just after giving birth, she continues to search for the identity of her father. When someone tries to kill her, Daniel risks his life to keep her safe as both agree that the adversary wants secrets to remain buried with her mother. Though a murder of a senator lies in the background, the story line starts off as a simple character study in which the readers are introduced to the invading outsider seeking family ties from islanders who trust no mainlander. The story line abruptly switches gear into a suspense thriller as someone wants the heroine to cease her inquiries. Bailey is a fine protagonist whose need to know is halted by a lack of cooperation from her only known living relative (a hermit uncle) and a town including Daniel wanting her to just leave. Though the villain is a stretch, filled with intrigue BLOOD KIN is a fine romantic suspense thriller.

To Ride a Rathorn
P.C. Hodgell
Meisha Merlin
PO Box 7,Decatur, GA 30031
1592221025, $26.95

Ever since Jame returned from the Perimal Darkling, she has wanted to find a person or place to belong to. She hasn't found any with her brother, who fears her Shanir blood and rejects the concept that he has it too. The Matriarch doesn't accept her because she is too independent of a free-thinker. As a last resort, Tori names her his heir and sends her to the College of Tentir. From the time Jame arrives at Tentir, her enemies try to force her out as they are horrified by her Old Blood symbolized by her claws instead of nails. She has to fight supposed friends, allies and adversaries to keep her place at the times of the culling. Jame has to also tame a Rathorn, who wants to kill her because she accidentally blood-binded him to her. He is starving himself to death, which means she cannot eat either because of their tie. Her only hope to survive is to RIDE A RATHORN and thus gives him the will to live. Her efforts to make Tori face the truth continually fails, but Jame refuses to quit because she wants them back their old relationship before they were forcibly separated. This feels like an in-between book that concentrates on everyday details of Jame's life instead of world changing events or sword and sorcery battles. P.C. Hodgell has created a world vivid with depth that leaves the audience feeling as if they have been there. Readers will enjoy Jame's escapades as she jumps from one catastrophe to another but the audience will pity Tori who goes through the motions of living, but actually barely exists because he is unable to accept the truth about himself.

The Last Days
Scott Westerfeld
159514062X, $16.99

In New York City, mountains of trash pile up due to a strike and people suddenly go berserk and are taken away by angels. One crazy lady throws her things out her window leading to high school seniors Maz and Pearl catching a 1975 Fender Stratocaster guitar. Maz tells Pearl that he plays guitar with his friend Zahler; Pearl gets the two boys to join her at her home. She also adds singer Miranda, who like so many people, is sensitive to sunlight, has enlarged canine teeth, eats raw meat, and sings in a strange language. Finally rounding out the band is homeless woman Alanna who uses paint cans for drums. Miranda infects Maz in the subway tunnels where they see a creature being taken out by the angels. After they sign with a record company, they give a performance and a creature crashes through the floor. The angels kill it and take the shocked and, frightened band members away to prepare them for their role in the upcoming war. THE LAST DAYS contains a radical refreshing spin on the vampire saga that grips the audience as the band forms and never let's go until the final coda. Readers will cheer the Fab five on as they find themselves plunged into the ultimate war while wondering about a Manhattan filled with garage (the norm) and supernatural creatures like angels and vampires. However, the key to the theme is not the landscape or the paranormal minion, but the individuality of each of the band members who as a group kick butt as reluctant warriors preparing to defend humanity against an ancient enemy.

David Louis Edelman PYR
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197 1591024420, $15.00 1-800-421-0351

In the distant future, though relatively young, Natch is an extremely ambitious expert on the coding of nano-technical human bio-logics with a reputation that he will try anything and risk everything to be number one in his field. Margaret Surina owns a new technology MultiReal that others covet with High Executive Len Borda and his ruthless minion willing to do whatever to force her to give it to them. She offers Natch an opportunity to "sell" her new product including allowing him to use it if he can bring to market in three days; he readily agrees. Natch and his team work on understanding MultiReal at the same time that Borda sends his army to take control of the product regardless of what they must do even killing Natch and his team while others make a "bid" on it too before the anticipated public market feeding frenzy. Meanwhile fear grows amidst the bio-logic world that the infoquake everyone fears is coming sooner than later to destroy their technology returning the world to the Dark Ages of stand alone CPUs and other supporting peripheral machinery. The reason this futuristic science fiction seems plausible is the depth of details interwoven into the cat and mouse story line so much so that the audience will accept nano-technology bio-logics as happening today, which is some ways are already here with artificial limbs and organs. Batch is not a heroic figure as his climb to the top is brutally and amorally stomping on competitors; however, compared with Borda, he seems like a saint. In the first Jump 225 tale, David Louis Edelman writes an exciting thriller that grips the audience once Surina hires Natch.

To Hold Infinity
John Meaney
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
1591024897, $25.00 1-800-421-0351

On earth, biologist Yoshiko Sunadomari mourns the loss of her spouse as she informs her son Tetsuo, a mu-space technocrat expert residing on another orb Fulgar. When he fails to respond to her, she becomes worried because, though estranged, that is so out of character for Tetsuo especially when it comes to his father. Yoshiko journeys to Fulgor only to learn that her offspring has vanished into the non-terraformed wasteland where the rebellious reside because the bio-technologically enhanced Luculenti rulers demand law enforcement arrest him for murder. Yoshiko refuses to go home as encouraged or sit around idly waiting for harm to come to her son. She begins to investigate and soon learns why her child hastily raced into self-exile as she too uncovers a conspiracy of tech contraband trafficking led by the charming techno leader Rafael Garcia de la Vega. She plans to prove her son is innocent and to confront this charismatic Luculentus though Yoshiko is now the target of her son's enemies. This an exciting science fiction mystery in which the audience will appreciate that the world of Fulgar seems genuine with its three prime tier society: Luculentus, other earthling techs, and the outcasts; in fact the Luculentus serves as an alien species though what they are actually is enhanced humans. The story line for the most part is fast-paced especially as the audience anticipates the showdown between the good guy and his mom vs. the more powerful bad dude. However, the inclusion of programming somewhat slows down the thriller (not used frequently) even as this technique also adds to the feel of a future technological realm. Readers will enjoy this exhilarating tale that extrapolates today's biological nanotechnology into a delightful story.

Mappa Mundi
Justina Robson
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
1591024919, $15.00 1-800-421-0351

In England research psychologist Dr. Natalie Armstrong diligently works on mapping the human brain so that physicians will one day be able to mend traumatized brains and truly cure the mentally ill. She is closing in on her objective thanks in part to MAPPA MUNDI software. As Natalie knows she nears achieving her life's goal, FBI Specialists Jude Westhorpe and Mary Delany investigate the activities of a Russian defector Mikhail Guskov who has been involved in gene mapping and other scientific breakthroughs. Jude and Mary believe that Mikhail has plans for Natalie's research and are assigned to prevent him from doing so. However across the Atlantic, Jude, though afraid, realizes he is no longer an obscure field agent as someone wants him dead; he assumes it is Mikhail while Natalie is stunned that instead of freeing humanity, her nanotechnology is wanted by powerful entities to mentally enslave people. This is a terrific thought provoking medical science fiction mystery that grips the audience with its theme that good intentions can lead to bad endings if abused by those in charge. Readers will ponder the options between thought control slaves vs. healthy and happy people as initially most of the audience will say no that is in no way possible, but soon begin to realize it is absolutely plausible; even without the nano technology, manipulation is the norm rationalized to anchor the power base. Justina Robson provides a powerful thriller that will haunt fans who will compare events to what is going on today as science and politics are manipulated to serve selfish purposes.

The Wrong Abraham
David S. Brody
Martin and Lawrence Press
0977389804, $17.95

Boston attorney Shelby Baskin receives a letter from her mother years before she died, asking her daughter to help her Uncle Abraham should he ever need assistance. When Abraham contacts his niece, she agrees to meet with him and other members of his organization, Kidon. A Holocaust survivor, Abraham, a Holocaust survivor, formed the group with the objective of never again watching a Holocaust grow. Kidon protects the Jewish people from their enemies by watching, warning and then taking action against the hate mongers. Shelby is appalled by some of the tactics employed by the group against people who have hurt the Jews. She feels her Uncle's team is a vigilante organization that takes the law into their own hands. Still when Abraham informs Shelby he has information about a terrorist plot in Boston, she agrees to help him by spying on her friend, who is a client also, and report back to her uncle. However, Abraham omits much of what he knows forcing his niece to go it alone to prevent the terrorists from succeeding. Although many readers will not agree with Abraham's tactics that includes abduction, castration, and worse, they will understand why he is driven into doing what he does. He lives life with a siege mentality that makes him see everything through the eyes of hardliners. He believes people are for him or they are the enemy. His niece is a moderate who sees a world of rainbows not two types of drab grays like her uncle perceives life. The values comparison between relatives turns a fast-paced thriller into a riveting fascinating read.

Violet Dawn
Brandilyn Collin
0310252237, $12.99

Kanner Lake, Idaho is a picturesque out of the way resort town ninety minutes to Canada where twenty-five years old Paige Williams settles to disappear from her past. Still in spite of this haven, she does not sleep well as the shadows frighten her. Her insomnia sends Paige to her hot tub for a soothing dip. She enters only to be greeted by her hand touching and pulling the hair of a corpse. Paige debates calling the police, but knows that even if local law enforcement proved trustworthy, which she assumes they are not from her experience with cops, the call would bring the media and her past out into the open. Paige's past has most likely found her; feeling isolated with no one to turn to, Paige knows she must get her act together, do something with the body of ancient movie legend Edna San, and decide on whether to fight against an overwhelming deadly opponent or flee even though she has nowhere to go if they found her here. Praying for a miracle, Paige begins her first baby steps in her latest life and death struggle. The above paragraphs describe the opening action that sets the tone of a terrific suspense thriller as the audience feels the trepidation and apprehension that almost paralyzes the beleaguered heroine. The atmosphere is foreboding as the normally serene locales coax the reader into anticipating horrible occurrences. Paige keeps the first Kanner Lake tale in focus though other well designed subplots including a flashback to a child augment the prime theme of a woman in trouble. Fascinatingly, readers are not sure by whom only that her past, which slowly is provided, has returned with deadly intent. This is one author worth reading if VIOLET DAWN is any indication of her novels as newcomers like this reviewer will seek out her Hidden Faces series.

The Scout Master
Luisa Buehler
1590804759, $14.99, 384 pp.

Grace Marsden's life begins to spin out of control the day two scouts found a crate in the Robinson Woods containing the bones of a cat and items belonging to it. The FBI becomes involved because the crate stored ammunitions stolen during World War II and an FBI agent was killed while investigating. Taking two Scouts into woods on a lark they hear chanting and Grace can't find her keys so they are stranded. A friend picks the boys up and promises to return for Grace but before he can, robed monk-like figures try to abduct her from the car but she escapes until her ride picks her up. She later learns that in the last two years five women were raped and scalped in the area. They believe besides the scouts in the woods, there are a Wiccan coven and a satanic cult. Attacks on Grace's life begin and though there are many suspect including a scoutmaster, police and FBI operatives, nobody is sure who the culprits really are. When Grace asks the FBI agents to use her as bait to stake out the villains so her nightmare can end, they create a sting that goes badly. The agent is kidnapped and Grace is almost killed trying to rescue her. Unless the perpetrator is found soon, Grace will become another statistic. This is an exciting fast paced thriller that readers will thoroughly enjoy. Although readers will find it hard to see how all the subplots tie into the main storyline, the audience will root for the heroine to survive the many attempts on her life and hope she gets to kick butt. She is a warm and caring character who is a true heroine because she perseveres in spite of her fears.

The Testament
Eric van Lustbader

Dexter Shaw dies in an explosion that injures his son Bravo and his daughter Emma. When Bravo awakens and recovers somewhat, Jenny visits him to inform him she is his Guardian assigned by his father to watch over him as he seeks a secret cache of documents. Bravo is shocked to learn that his dad lived a double life as a member of the ruling cabal, the Order of Gnostic Observatines, an organization that has influenced world events for centuries. The group's enemy The Knights of St. Clement want that cache too because it contains something that will heal the dying Pope, enhancing their secret behind the scenes power in the shadows of the Vatican. Another item the group wants in the cache is the Testament of Jesus Christ that contains explosive information that could destroy Christianity if revealed. Bravo realizes a traitor amidst the order is providing information to the Knights. He trusts no one especially friends, family, or his guardian. Readers who enjoyed the Da Vinci Code and the Brethren will defiantly want to read THE TESTAMENT, a highly sophisticated fresh religious conspiracy thriller whose fast-paced storyline will leave the audience breathless. The protagonist is an interesting person who does not quite grasp how or why his father was involved like he was or why he puts his life on the line to keep the cache out of the hands of the wrong people. Still like a true hero he does what he believes is right and if nothing else has the audience rooting for him.

The Whole Kitt & Caboodle
Susan Laubach
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
0963124617, $16.95 1-800-637-7377

Eight years ago Missy Kitt of Backhoe, Nebraska entered the offices of investment banking firm Caboodle & Company seeking employment at a time when the company had just lost all eight of their stock brokers to a national corporation. President Caboodle, better known as Mr. C, needed someone to sell stocks and bonds or as renaissance assistant Caroline Crane puts it to work, so they hire her. Kitt is trained, studied hard, and soon became an accomplished broker; so much so the company today is called Kitt & Caboodle. This delightful tale of how to succeed in investing with trying is a terrific tale that uses the story of Missy Kitt to teach readers everything they wanted to know about investment planning but was afraid to ask because the answer might be as confusing as an index. Her tale educates the audience in a fun simple manner as students learn investment 101 and 102 to include what is out such as the types of advisers, comprehending financial data, and diverse portfolios including estate and retirement plans. Susan Laubach has written a wonderful winner that should be required high school and college reading.

Primal Heat
Susan Sizemore
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th floor, New York, NY 10020
1416513353, $6.99 1-800-223-2336

At the wedding of Phillipa Elliot's sister Josephine to Marcus Cage, she meets Prime vampire Matt Bridger; the pair almost immediately retires to a hotel room for a night of great sex. When Phillipa awakens Matt is gone. They next meet three years later as both are the godparents of her newly born niece. Once again they give in to passion, but this time Phillipa departs first. Matt knows he wants to be with Phillipa, but he has made too many enemies so he fears for her life if he acted on his desires. As they avoid one another, the Purists, a splinter group of Hunters, try to kill Jo and the baby. The psychic link between Phillipa and Matt leads to him coming to rescue them. A Purist renegade controlled by a vampire tries to kill Phillipa, but Matt scares him off. At the same time of the house invasion, rogue vampires and a werewolf ally loot Vegas stores and homes leaving vampiric police officer Matt to stop them without exposing his bond mate. The fun in this exhilarating paranormal romantic police procedural rests with the hero's feeble efforts to stay away from Phillipa in order to prevent the bonding of their already primal heated souls from happening out of a sense of responsibility to keep her from harm. The honorable Matt adheres to the rules governing vampire behavior especially with their treatment of other sentient species. With her latest vampire romantic suspense, Susan Sizemore once more displays that one size does not fit all with this fresh exciting thriller.

Only a Duke Will Do
Sabrina Jeffries
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th floor, New York, NY 10020
1416516093, $6.99 1-800-223-2336

In 1814 Duke Simon Tremaine courted Louisa North, the illegitimate daughter of King George IV in what the Ton thought was a love match heading to the altar. Instead the Duke of Foxmoor unceremoniously dumped her to ensure his future. Simon went to India to make a fortune. In 1821 Simon returns home with plans to use his wealth and position to achieve the top rung of political power in England, Prime Minister. He even cuts a deal with King George IV to marry his wrong side of the bed offspring in exchange for royal support of his aspirations. As Simon tries to hold up his end of the bargain by courting the intelligent, witty and sensual Louisa, she debates him on social issues especially since he detests her performing good deeds and charity towards the females incarcerated at Newgate. As Simon realizes he loves Louisa, he must overcome his aversion to that emotion as taught to him by his cold grandfather during his icy childhood. Simon learned that no woman must interfere with hisfuture albeit India or Prime Minister. The second School of Heiresses tale (see NEVER SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL) is a fabulous Regency romance starring a likable, bright and caring heroine and her emotionally scarred beloved. The story line focuses on their relationship, but also provides a deep look at how the child becomes the man. A superb subplot involving political scandal augments a great historical that proves with authors like Sabrina Jeffries the sub-genre is alive and not just kicking, it's dancing.

Touch a Dark Wolf
Jennifer St. Giles
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th floor, New York, NY 10020
1416513329, $6.99 1-800-223-2336

A nurse at the cutting edge of medicine at the Sno-Med Clinic in Manhattan, Erin Morgan loved working there as her employer Dr. Cinatas provided miracle cures for cancer. That is until she realized that the main ingredient consisted of poor people that Dr. Cinatas murdered to treat his wealthy patients. Knowing he is so well regarded and needing time until she can figure out what to do next, Erin flees New York City to hide in the Tennessee Mountains. However, preoccupied and paranoid, Erin hits a wolf on the remote mountain road before crashing off to the side. When she regains consciousness she finds a naked hunk lying like a trophy across the hood of her car. Jared Hunter feels battered from the run in with Erin's car. However, he finds the pain vanishes when the nurturing Erin touches his injuries, soothing the savage beast inside him. He desires her like he never has anyone before though he has lived as a shapeshifter for centuries. When Dr. Cinatas arrives to kill Erin, Jared knows he must risk all to keep the woman he loves safe from the malevolent medicine man, but wonders who will keep her safe from him

TOUCH A DARK WOLF is a fabulous Beauty and the Beast romantic fantasy starring two amiable protagonists, who need each other; though the hero is in denial out of fear he will harm his beloved. The action-packed story line is fast-paced even before the caricaturist villain arrives and remains gripping as readers meet the St. Giles paranormal environs who add depth to the plot. Still evil doctor, psychic shrink, shapeshifting human-beasts, and amoral demons aside, it is the relationship between the lead couple willing to die for their soulmate that makes for a strong outstanding mystical thriller.

Good Girls Gone Bad
Karin Tabke
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th floor, New York, NY 10020
1416524851, $14.00 1-800-223-2336

They met three years ago when Lansdowne Internal Affairs police officer Philamina Zorn investigated a brutality charge against undercover Sergeant Ty Jamerson, who at best straddled the line between rights and justice. Now a lieutenant, Ty's latest assignment is to get inside Klub Kashmir where a kidnapper of three young women (two dancers and twenty-two years old police officer Marten) remains comfortable beyond the law as no evidence even enough for a probable cause search warrant exists. Knowing he needs a woman with him, Ty, undercover as the floor manager of Klub Kashmir, is stunned when they stick him with Phil, a prim, proper and there isn't a regulatory procedure she doesn't love person. To his shock and perhaps more hers, Phil changes into the sexy teasing wardrobe of a cocktail waitress. She performs to perfection while turning on Ty who keeps reminding himself to think with the upper head before he loses more than just his wad. For failing to keep his head in the hunt means a deadly felon with ties to the Riders rogue cops will abduct more women like Phil and kill adversaries like Ty. This is an exciting erotic police procedural romance that star "enemy combatants" struggling with desire and a difficult case. The action-packed story line grips the auricle once pedantic Phil is assigned to work with tetchy Ty and never slows down until the final heated altercation. Karin Tabke provides a strong undercover under the cover romantic suspense that lays bare the psyche of the lead duet even more than their SKIN.

Dirty Little Lies
Julie Leto
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th floor, New York, NY 10020
1416501630, $6.99 1-800-223-2336

In Boston Ian Blake head of Titan International fantasizes that he is making love to his employee private investigator Marisela Morales even when he is with another woman, Yizenia Santiago. On the other hand twentyish Cuban-American Marisela has not forgiven Ian for not intervening when her on and off lover Francisco "Frankie" Vega was almost killed. Still she enjoys the international sleuthing Ian sends her way, but detests the current assignment accompanying him at a society gala also attended by Frankie who wants to get back in her pants (see DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS). However, their little indiscretion causes her a moment lapse that enables a Latina sniper to assassinate a congressman. Soon others are also killed by this ruthless female assassin, Yizenia Santiago, who administers justice to those who contributed to the death of young Rebecca Manning. Marisela who lost one fight with Yizenia vows to stop her, but also realizes how much alike she and the merciless killer are. Marisela's second tale is an exhilarating action-packed thriller in which the heroine plays cat and mouse against another "Bad Girl" who reminds her so much of herself that it frightens her. The story line is loaded with action from the moment that Marisela tries to stop the assassination of the congressman and never slows down until the inevitable final confrontation between two kick butt women. Fans will enjoy the latest escapades of this in your face female Dirty Harry.

Charles Martin
1595540555, $14.99

Maggie wanted children in the worst way especially after she had a stillborn and fell into a four month coma. Once she recovers her health, she and husband Dylan try the adoption route, but the interviewers conclude they might not be good candidates. Even though a fertility specialist insists her chances of conceiving at probably zero, she becomes pregnant. One day Dylan comes home to see their house torn up and his wife beaten and bleeding. She miscarries leaving her extremely depressed. However, her troubles have just begun. Arsonists destroy their home and that of their next door best friends too. Three convicts have come to Digger looking to get even with Father John for turning state evidence against them when he was younger, willful, and hung with them. Their devastation impact the relationship between Maggie and Dylan, who will need divine intervention for their marriage to survive. MAGGIE is a haunting and moving tale about a couple, who due to misfortune and bad luck, find their marriage collapsing with the only tenuous tie left being their deep love for one another,. Readers will empathize with Maggie who bears more than her reasonable share of troubles and will understand why she emotionally pulls away from her beloved Dylan. She intellectually knows her spouse is a good man who has stood by his "Maggs" and has tried to help her through her despondency and grief, but may have hit the wall with her rejection of him. Though the convicts seem over the top adding pain to an already battered lead duo, fans will appreciate this unforgettable character study with its deep message of hold on to the love even when darkness engulfs every cell of your body.

Ted Dekker
1595540067, $28.95, 406 pp.

They kidnapped him, tortured him, broke him and remade him into the perfect assassin. They are the X group, headed by Lazlo Kalman, a highly organized group of mercenaries who will kill high-profile people for an astronomical fee. Carl Strople is one of their biggest successes, a childlike man who accepts what is done to him as a method of improving his skills. He and Kelly, who is also a mercenary, happen to love one another; they go to New York to kill the Iran defense minister Assim Feroz who is backing a treaty to have all Middle Eastern nations forcibly disarm. Only the president of the United States opposes the treaty and his spiritual advisor David Abraham agrees believing Assim is evil and his plan will mean the destruction of Israel as seen in a vision by his son Samuel. When Carl and Kelly arrive in New York City, they are told their target is the President but the assassin can't kill him. David tells Carl to go to Paradise, Colorado to learn the truth about whom and what he is. Coming for Carl is the X group assassin Englishman who is not what he seems with powers even his masters are not unaware of. The battle between Carl and Englishman is the classic battle between Good and Evil. Ted Dekker is a brilliant thriller writer and his latest work SAINT is a sure shot to reach the best seller lists. The classic confrontation between good and evil is believable because readers can follow the events on both a mundane and spiritual level. The hero had horrible things done to his mind and body yet he still has the capacity to love and has a child-like charisma that makes readers weep for his suffering.

The Palace Tiger
Barbara Cleverly
0385340095, $13.00

In 1922 Scotland Yard detective Joe Sandilands is staying with Governor Sir George Jardine in Simla, India when the Maharajah of Ranipur asks for some help. Sir George asks Joe to help, which he agrees. He will accompany hunter Edgar Troop as they join a party tracking and killing a man-eating tiger preying on the villagers. Sir George provides Joe with a rifle designed for hunting four legged animals and a Browning M pistol used to kill the deadliest species known two legged beasts. Upon arriving in Ranipur, Joe finds the Maharajah near death and his heir Bishan recently killed by a panther. When the next in line son dies in front of Joe, he obviously becomes suspicious of foul play but by whom. The only one to gain with these deaths is the youngest son, a preadolescent who is the favorite of the British Empire even as the cop wonders whether his country authorized murder. THE PALACE TIGER is a fascinating historical mystery that brings to life 1920s India. The story line is fast paced, filled with action, and plenty of twists including a shocking finish. Joe is a terrific protagonist who feels like an outsider as he makes inquires that are resented by the Maharaja's family especially his second wife and the local law enforcement. Readers will appreciate this powerful tale and seek out other Raj mysteries (see THE LAST KASHMIRI ROSE) by Barbara Cleverly (perfect name for this author).

The Last Days
Scott Westerfeld
159574062X, $16.99, 304 pp.

There is something very wrong in New York City. Garbage collectors are on strike and mountains of trash litter the landscape; a crime wave so severe has swept the area so that people who can afford to, hire bodyguards; and people suddenly go berserk and are taken away by angels. One lady goes crazy throwing her things through her window and high school seniors Maz and Pearl are there to catch a 1975 Fenda Stratocastle guitar. Maz tells Pearl that he plays guitar with his friend Zahler; Peal gets the two boys to join her at her home. She decides they need a singer so she calls on her friend Miranda, who like so many people, is sensitive to sunlight has enlarged canine teeth and eats raw meat. Her singing in a language nobody understands makes the band even more special and when they add the homeless woman Alanna who uses paint cans for drums, the group thinks they have a very good song. Minerva infects Maz in the subway tunnels where they see a creature being taken out by the angels. After they sign with a record company, they give a performance and a creature crashes through the floor. The angels kill it and take the shocked and, frightened band members away to prepare them for their role in the upcoming war. THE LAST DAYS contains a different take on the vampire legend, which hooks readers from the moment that we realize a spin as occurred. Adding to the overall effect is that though the audience is well aware of the fresh radically different slant on the vampire mythos, Scott Westerfield slowly reveals the why and what. Thus the impact on fans is to keep reading to learn more of what is going on and to whom in a world in which angels, vampires, and other supernatural creatures walk and fly. The characters especially the Fab Five have their own personalities with their own back story that is kept short but is cleverly interwoven into the prime plot. As individuals these five musicians feel overwhelmed by all they see particularly when the angels snatch them, but banded together whether to play music or to fight, albeit reluctantly, as warriors they are becoming a force to be reckoned with as they prepare to battle against mankind's ancient enemy. The author skillfully imbues a sense of foreboding into the storyline and sprinkles clues throughout the plot as to what is happening. Readers have some ideas that something apocalyptic is about to occur but the reason for the vampire metamorphosis will shock the audience. In his sequel to PEEPS, Mr. Westerfeld has written a very hip, new age entertaining horror story that will really creep the reader out. This is a fast paced action oriented tale that adults will enjoy even though the prime target audience is obviously teens. Readers will thoroughly empathize with the characters who slowly realize they are called to be heroes, a position they never wanted.

Morrigan's Cross
Nora Roberts
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0515141658, $7.99 1-800-847-5515

In 1128 Eire, the ancient vampiress Lilith has converted Cian Mac Cionaoith into a nightcrawler follower of hers. Cian's horrified twin Hoyt vows to destroy the evil, but his efforts fail as she proves too powerful. Still he refuses to give up the fight against this malevolence and her minion. He is renewed when Morrigan the Goddess of Battle demands he lead the forces of good against the abomination, but first must gather his allies, five other pure souls consisting of "the witch, the warrior, the scholar, the one of many forms, and the one you've lost." To do so he must go to present day New York where he confronts his vampiric sibling and Glenna the witch as the "circle of six" begin to form in time for the ultimate war between good and evil. Nora Roberts is at her best as she smoothly and seemingly effortlessly switches from her romantic suspense thrillers to a wonderful romantic fantasy. The story line is fast-paced and filled with a strong believable cast that leads to the audience to believe in this realm. Readers of the great Ms. Roberts' novels will marvel at the flexibility of her talent while the sub-genre fans will welcome her first entry with accolades and delight.

Shadow of the Cat
Rickey R. Mallory
PO Box 545, Canon City, CO 81215-0545
1933417978, $14.00, 150 pp.

A long time ago Mavra the witch wanted Dimitri Korakov but he had resisted her attempts to seduce him because he loved his wife Irina. It angered her so she caused him to be reborn time after time only to kill his true love starting with his wife. In the present Alexei Korakov was brought up by his grandmother to hate himself and to let his time run out alone to end the family curse that turns him into a panther when he feels any strong emotion. He moves to an isolated area in Mississippi only to find he has a neighbor Drusilla Jordan who knows Alexei even though she never met him before. Maura has also awakened, determined to kill both of them this time around. Alexei wants Dru to leave the area before he hurts her but she, having felt the evil of Mavra, is determined to help him fight her though he believes he will end up killing her. Rickey R. Mallory has written a beautiful rendition of Beauty and the Beast that is so sensually erotic readers will feel the heat the two lovers generate. Both the hero and the heroine are strong-willed stubborn people, the kind one wants to have in your corner when danger threatens. SHADOW OF THE CAT is a charming adult fairy tale, a spell binding romantic fantasy readers will enjoy immensely.

Pale Immortal
Anne Frasier
C/O New American Library 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451412249, $17.99, 384 pp. 1-800-847-5515

The one thing the town of Tounela, Wisconsin is known for is the infamous Pale Immortal Richard Manchester who allegedly killed a hundred people drinking their blood. Some thought he was a vampire and buried him in a manner so he couldn't return from the grave. Since his death a century ago, there hasn't been a murder committed in town. A cult of high school students calling themselves Pale Immortals dig up his body and let it be found by the police for reasons of their own. Graham, a high school student, is dumped on the door of the local resident Evan Stuart, thought by some to be a vampire because he suffers a rare disease that makes him allergic to the sun. Graham claims to be Evan's son and a DNA test proves him right. While the two are involved in their personal melodrama the town is in an uproar because the body of a high school girl was found, her body drained of blood. Evan's DNA is found at the scene of the crime and Rachel, the town medical examiner, hides him before he can be arrested. Graham, who escaped from an abusive mother is in danger from the leader of the vampire cult; Evan will risk everything to save the son he cares for even if it means his own death. PALE IMMORTAL is much darker and frightening in tone than other books written by the author. Readers will wonder if the PALE IMMORTAL was really a vampire and be chilled by the visions of the dead Rachel sees. Anne Frasier has written a very scary novel with gothic and supernatural overtones. Readers will pity Graham and hope he can find a way to have a normal life. This is a stupendous work, worthy of an award nomination,

Stephen Lawhead
1595540857, $24.99, 512 pp.

Bran ap Brychan is the heir to the Kingdom of Elfael but he is more interested in women and drink than learning to understand his people and the land. He is nowhere to be found when his father and his war-band leaves for London to pledge fealty to King William II. On the road, the Welsh run into the troops of Count Falkes de Braose, whose Uncle was given the grant of Elfael as a reward for hiw work for the crown. A fight breaks out and the Braose contingent traps and slaughters the Cymry (what the Welsh call themselves). When the lone survivor returns to Elfael and gives Bran the news of what happened, he, the survivor Iwan and a priest travel to London to demand justice. They are told they can have Elfael back for six hundred marks. He tries to raise the sum but the money is in the count's hands. While trying to escape capture by de Braose, Bran is severely wounded and taken into a cave by Anghared,, a healer, bard and perhaps something more. In her care he heals and realizes he has a duty to his people and he becomes the leader of the group of people living deep in the forest. He wages a guerilla war against his enemies using superstition and stealth to take food, animals and money to help his people. Thus the legend of Robin Hood is born. This is a very different type of Robin Hood than the heroic Errol Flynn portrayal. It is a coming of age tale of a spoiled and selfish young man who goes through many trials and tribulations to become the person his kingdom needs. Taking place in the woods in Wales (instead of Sherwood Forest) during the reign of King William II instead of Prince John, readers are introduced to a new mythos regarding the legend. Stephen Lawhead has written a fabulous historical tale that adds even more mystique to the Robin Hood myth.

How Nancy Drew Saved My Life
Lauren Braratz-Logsted
Red Dress
0373895917, $13.95

In Connecticut Charlotte Bell is saddened and depressed for not only falling in love with a married man, but though she knew better let Buster reel her in to a full blown affair. Her heart was destroyed once he ended it as Buster stayed with his wife who probably never knew about their liaison. All Charlotte can find work as far away from New England as possible. She applies and is hired as a full time nanny in Reykjavik before learning the city is the capital of Iceland. With the wisdom of the fifty-six Drew books (though nothing on Iceland) to guide her, Nancy make that Charlotte flies the seven hours to Iceland to be the nanny to Annette, the six years old daughter of the American Ambassador Edgar Rawlings. Charlotte immediately falls for the precocious child and not long afterward Annette's father who seems to hide a secret from her even as he seems to be falling in love with her. Charlotte ponders what Nancy would do though her responses to herself are more like what Nancy would not do. This is a fine chick lit tale that uses the wisdom of Nancy Drew to guide the heroine as she struggles with relationships. Though a one trick gimmick, Charlotte's asides are fun to follow because many of them refer to the teen sleuth's adventures so that long time favorites of the Nancy Drew series have an added pleasure. Readers will enjoy Charlotte's adventure in Iceland because this adult coming of age tale stars a heroine learns who she is through her analysis of what Nancy would not do.

Welcome to the Real World
Carole Matthews
Red Dress
0373895909, $21.95

London bartender and lounge singer Fern Kendal dreams of making it to the big time in the music industry, but reality is that with two jobs and three males depending on her income, she will never leave the bar scene. Fern is tired, but knows that her asthmatic nephew needs full time care which is tendered to him by his father. That she is okay with; she resents funding her father's gambling addiction as he resides in her flat eating her food, etc. Fern manages to obtain a position as personal assistant to opera singer Evan David; they are immediately attracted to one another. Meanwhile her former high school sweetheart and pianist Carol persuades Fern to try out for a spot on talent show Fame Game; Evan is one of the competitors so she hides her efforts from her boss. Surprising herself, she is invited back by the show producers, but without Carol at a time when an opera diva makes a sexual attempt to reel in Evan. The relationships between Fern and the two men in her life are strong and fun to follow as the audience wonders who will end up with the girl that is if one does. The story line can turn sappy, but Fern's run for fame while having two men desire her makes for a solid fine tale with a rival Lana Rosita adding jealousy and humor to the mix. Fans will enjoy this delightful London swings contemporary romance.

Pardonable Lies
Jacqueline Winspear
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
0312426216, $14.00 1-888-330-8477

In 1930 psychologist sleuth Maisie Dobbs feels a bit overworked as she gets caught up with three situations. First she believes that thirteen yeas old Taunton farm girl Avril Jarvis is innocent of the murder the police accuse her of committing; she sends her assistant Billy Beale to Taunton to gather information on the teen. Second, Sir Cecil Lawton asks her to help find the body of his son, Ralph, an RFC pilot shot down in 1917 behind enemy lines, but his body never came home; his wife, who just died, extracted a deathbed vow from Cecil to bring their son home. Finally her Girton University friend Priscilla Partridge nee Evernden asks Maisie to look into the death of her brother Peter in France. Maisie reluctantly agrees; her hesitation is personal as she hates having to go back to where she drove an ambulance in 1915 while working for the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and fell in love with Dr. Simon Lynch, whose war injuries left his mind and body incapacitated. The third Dobbs historical mystery (see MAISIE DOBBS and BIRDS OF A FEATHER) is a terrific entry as once again the heroine works on cases that involve people still traumatized by WWI over a decade after the hostilities ended. The key characters in the WWI cases still need healing. On top of looking back through time, Maisie also has the "modern day" case involving the teen farm girl. Life in 1930 England and to a degree via half-truth memories and the investigations of WW I England and France come vividly and freshly to life as Jacqueline Winspear spins a delightful tale.

The Interpretation of Murder
Jed Rubenfeld
0805080988, $26.00

In 1909, Dr. Sigmund Freud and his retinue leave Vienna for New York before journeying on to lecture at Clark University in Massachusetts. At about the same time that the Austrian left the steamship George Washington for the Balmoral, someone brutally kills Elizabeth Riverford, whose battered corpse was left hanging from a chandelier in an upscale apartment. The next day wealthy seventeen years old Nora Acton barely escapes with her life, but suffers selective amnesia, unable to remember anything about the violent encounter. Local Freudian analyst Dr. Stratham Younger asks Dr. Freud to mentor him as he works with Nora. Freud agrees to help the young woman regain her memory, which would identify the killer. As Freud also investigates the crimes committed by a sexual predator on wealthy upper class females, he finds a horde of suspects capable of using whips, knives, chains, and other ilk on women; especially an immoral entrepreneur, the killer of architect Stanford White, and Freud's protege Carl Jung. This is an interesting historical mystery that at times can be difficult to read as the subject of psychoanalytical theory of the period supersedes the cast and the investigation. Readers will appreciate the hero adulation Younger (and the author) have for Freud though it turns the Father of Modern Psychology more into a perfect legend than a full blooded individual with flaws. Many readers will find the portrayal of Jung as an insane violent lunatic a shocker (don't know how true this is though Jung did suffer a breakdown after his split from Freud). Though the whodunit takes a back seat to the beginning of psychiatry in America as the fascinating plot builds from Freud's only visit here; THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER showcases the early history of psychoanalysis.

3 Guys You'll Never Date
Stephanie Bond, Jennifer LaBrecque & Rhonda Nelson
0373837186, $5.99

"You Can Leave Your Hard Hat On" by Stephanie Bond. She wanted him back in high school, but now that Samantha Stone is a successful architect, Teague Brownlee's lack of professional credentials seems appalling. On the other hand the backhoe operator's muscles are appealing. "The Total Package" by Jennifer LaBrecque. Software guru Deke Foster hires marketing superstar Abby Carmichael, who can change frogs into princes, to change him from techno geek to techno hunk as he seeks a wife. Abby thinks Deke is cute albeit even with a pocket protector and calculator. However, the customer is always right seems wrong because as she makes him over she desires the inner man who has wanted her from the first moment his brain malfunctioned upon seeing her. "Her Hero?" by Rhonda Nelson. Carley Deluna always had ambition to make something of herself and has succeeded with supplying top of the line clothing; her high-school boyfriend Jackson Harper, prefers mellow as he has not one ambitious cell in his body. When her car breaks down, he comes to the rescue informing her he is now a used-car salesman. These three interrelated (though the friendships between the lead females) lighthearted romantic romps star strong characters. While the men work hard they are satisfied with their blue collar or service positions while the women want to own the world; they instead settle on love with the right man.

The Man of the Month Club
Jackie Clune
0399153667, $24.95

In London Precious Little Darlings boutique owner Amy Stokes enjoys the freedom of an OINKS (one income no kids or spouse). However, several incidents in a short time leads Amy feels her biological clock running down as she turns thirty-nine to sudden introspection syndrome. Following her thirty-ninth birthday party, Amy comes home drunk running over her dog; next she finds an abandoned newborn left by her apartment. That makes her think of the wealthy parents who buy her items for their children at her expensive Chelsea shop. Amy wonders if she should consider an offspring as her biological clock is running down. She needs the right throwaway mate so she begins solicitating partners choosing appropriate men to seduce at the right time of the month. Some are worth lusting over, but lack intelligence and or charm; some are losers; some have children that terrorize their dates; finally there is Joe, single father of twins, but their dates are disasters. Amy begins to think remaining OINKS status looks right for her though Joe believes otherwise. This is an ultra lighthearted British chick lit tale that follows the sub-genre guidelines from start to finish. Even having an infant dumped on Amy only serves as a catalyst throwaway. Still Amy's metaphase is fascinating, as she ponders how she went from the centerfold of OINKS to a need to become pregnant with the right hunk. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this blithe character driven tale of a desperate woman's clock ticking down as her one year objective provides her with losers with children and losers with no children; the common theme being the male of the species is pathetic except perhaps for good dad Joe.

Under Orders
Dick Francis
0399154000, $25.95, 320 pp.

Former Jockey Sid Halley lost the use of his left hand and thus is unable to ride any longer; he went on to become a private detective. He has a thriving business because his clients know that the more someone threatens him, the more he will go after that person and bring him or her to justice. On Cheltenham Gold Cup day, Lord Enstone hires Sid to find out why his horses aren't winning and he want to find out if his trainer Bill Burton and jockey Huw Walker have something to do with fixing the races. Neither Bill nor Huw have a good reputation as rumors swirl that they are dirty. When one of Lord Enstone's horses wins, Sid notices Bill and Huw argue. The sleuth later comes across Huw's bullet ridden body. Suspicion falls on Bill as the killer but the police don't have enough evidence to charge him. When his body is found by assistant trainer Juliet, the police assume he committed suicide rather than face a marathon jail sentence; Sid thinks murder occurred. He sets out to prove his premise, but by doing so he places his life and that of his lover Marina in danger. It has been six years since the death of his beloved wife Mary and his last novel, but his fans will appreciate that Dick Francis has left the starting gate to cross the finish line with another first place showing as the master still has the winning ticket. Although the protagonist has to wear a prosthesis, he doesn't feel sorry for himself and that results in the audience caring about him and hoping he solves the case without his lover getting hurt. Welcome back Mr. Francis to the saddle, we missed your perfecta horse racing mysteries.

Texas Bad Boys
Rosemary Laurey, Karen Kelley, Diane Castell
0758214839, $14.00

"In Bad with Someone" by Rosemary Laurey. Rod Carter expected to manage the Ragged Rooster bar in Silver Gulch, Texas when Old Mr. Maddock died, but instead the old coot selected his London art gallery manager granddaughter. Worse the Brit has crossed the Atlantic and two thirds of the United States to meet the stipulations of the will. Even worse to the Texan is his desire for the prim and proper Juliet Amanda Felicity Ffrench. "Run of Bad Luck" by Karen Kelley. Photographer Nina Harris cannot believe she gave up air conditioning and naked men for the heat of Texas just because she has inherited her late grandfather's ranch Maddock's Dream. However, things look up to Nina when she meets the foreman hunk Lance Colby whom she wants posing nude for a national spread. However, Lance agrees to nakedness on two conditions; she join him and they keep it personal and private; an offer Nina is considering one clothing item at a time. "Come to a Bad End" by Dianne Castell. Silver Gulch Sheriff John Snow cannot believe that a spa could cause so much trouble. Instead of harmony, he is caught in the middle of a gender war though his feelings are on the side of his sex as he believes females belong barefoot in the kitchen or bed. He agrees to shut down dangerous Lillie June's fancy new operation on some pretext until he receives personal coddling and massages that turn him into the top spa customer, who wants to reciprocate with his hostess. The latest "Bad Boys" anthology is a delightful fresh amusing interrelated trio of tales that fans of the series will enjoy as the guys are hot and the female outsiders invading Silver Gulch make for a fun time.

Electric Blue
Nancy Bush
075820907X, $19.95

Dwayne Durbin is mentoring process server Jane Kelly on the fine art of becoming an information specialist also known as a private detective. For the most part the rookie is doing great work. He assigns her to tail a woman at a spa whose husband believes she is cheating on him. She discovers who the perpetrator is vandalizing a homeowner whose house extension is opposed by his neighbors. She is paid for these jobs, but the Purcell case, which takes up much of her time, is gratis. Jazz Purcell contacts Dwayne who dumps him on Jane because he thinks she and he and his blood kin are crazy. Jane meets Jazz's grandmother Orchid to learn if the elderly matriarch is mentally slipping perhaps into dementia or Alzheimer's. Jane is uncertain, but advices Orchid not to grant power of attorney to any or her relatives as the tyro sleuth trusts none of them to care for the interests of the geriatric and probably want her dead. When Orchid dies, Jane feels a murder occurred and is obsessed with uncovering the killer's identity though that places her and Dwayne at risk. Nancy Bush has written a witty clever private investigative tale that is filled with plenty of surprises and skeletons that see the light of day due to the stubbornness of the heroine. Jane is a hoot as she turns away from the wealthy handsome Jazz because he is not the one yet remains in denial when it comes to Dwayne who deep down may be the one. Readers will be disturbed by the dysfunctional seemingly uncaring Purcell family that in some ways could come from recent headlines. ELECTRIC BLUE is simply electrifying thanks mostly to Jane who concocts quite a cocktail.

Vonna Harper
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758215266, $12.95

"The Dance". Asia Drake hides her sexual fantasies from her former work peers, her boyfriends, her family, and even her best friends. Instead she has "toys" to provide her satisfaction as she fears rejection and scorn if she ever revealed her inner desires. That changes when the hunk takes her to Surrender Island where he tries to break her will through bondage. He trains her to be a submissive to be sold to the highest bidder, but finds himself caught in the bonds of love. "The Mask". Porn star Ferren Cooper makes good money acting in S&M roles, but seems somewhat aloof at least to her boss Richard Wilson, who wants more from her. He decides to force the issue by abducting her and taking Ferren to Surrender Island, where she will learn submission first hand. However, his handcuffs and ties fail to keep her inhuman as she somehow captures the heart, soul, and body of her instructor. SURRENDER takes the reader beyond erotica to a world of S&M bondage in which women are kidnapped and sold on the auction block. The two female protagonists are fine fully developed characters as the audience glimpse lives beyond rookie submissives though the male trainers are interchangeable. Still readers who enjoy well written XXXX tales of bondage and love will want to read SURRENDER.

Hot In Here
Susan Lyons
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758214073, $12.95

Vancouver. Canada Reporter Jenny Yuen feels as if she is schizoid having to live "two" lives. On the one hand she must meet the expectations and ethics of her Chinese family; on the other hand she hides from her relatives her sexual inner self that would shock them at best and excommunicate her more likely. Her current assignment is to cover the firefighter calendar competition. Jenny would not mind having any of these hunks hose her down as each is perfect with muscles in all the right places. However, the gut of the journalist desires Mr. February, Scott Jackman whose hose she wants to play with. Scott has family pressures also as his German family wants him to come home to work the farm. Instead he would rather work Jenny who seems to be able to make all his blood rush to his lower head. As Jenny and Scott hook and ladder each other fulfilling one another's sexual fantasies and much more, neither cool down as sparks continue to reignite between them. HOT IN HERE, the second Canadian erotic romance (see Champagne Rules) is a torrid contemporary romance starring two delightful individuals with family pressure bringing a key other side to them. The story line may occur in British Columbia, but is equatorial hot as the lead couple finds love amidst achieving their sexual fantasies.

Catherine Fisher
0060724702, $16.99

Cal is on his way to his Uncle Trevor's home in Chepstow to work in his accounting firm; he leaves behind his mother who always drinks to drown out the voices only she could hear. Cal mistakenly disembarks at Corbenic when he gets a room at the luxurious Castle Hotel Corbenic. There Cal meets the owner Bron, who invites him to attend the evening feast. At the dinner Cal sees a Spear bleeding and the Grail emitting a blinding light. Afterward Cal denies seeing both he goes to his room. Cal wakes up to a ruined decayed hovel before leaving with a sword that Bron left in his room to take with him him. He takes the train to Trevor's base of operations where he begins working at the office. He is quickly bored, but likes making money. Cal joins the medieval troupe headed by Arthur and Gwen who reenact Camelot. When tragedy strikes, Cal realizes he must find Corbenic and undo the damage he caused when he stopped overnight there. The road back is not a straight line, but instead fraught with danger, treachery and a target that seems to move every step he retraces the route. Catherine Fisher's modern day version of Percival and the Fisher King combined with a King Arthur spin and a Brigadoon like setting is well written and will attract many fantasy readers. Teens will enjoy this coming of age tale with feet set in the mundane world and in a magical realm. Cal is terrific as he learns what truly matters in life while trying to rectify his mistakes.

What a Gentleman Wants
Caroline Linden
0821779311, $4.99

Duke Marcus Reece is outraged and exacerbated over his brother David's latest stunt that could lead to a duel of honor. Still he has spent his life cleaning up after him so Marcus ships his wastrel sibling out of London to rusticate while he scours the latest mess. In Middleborough David injures his leg in a carriage race. Hannah Preston, widow of the vicar, helps David heal. He soon proposes to his "nurse" and her daughter, Molly, but just before the wedding, he jilts her before vanishing. An irate Marcus accuses Hannah of forging his signature on the marriage license. She denies doing so, but apparently David did. When Marcus's sister and stepmother meet the two Preston females, they convince the "married" couple to pretend they are married to prevent a scandal and insure Molly's future. As Marcus falls in love with his "wife" and stepdaughters, evidence mounts that David is a major player in a counterfeiting ring. WHAT A GENTLEMAN WANTS is a terrific Regency romance starring two likable responsible lead characters, who find love with one another in spite of the capriciousness of his twin. The story line focuses on the problems caused by frivolous David especially the shocker of the forged document. Though David is over the top with his behavior that scandalizes his family, sub-genre fans will enjoy the romance between Hannah and Marcus, encouraged by her offspring and his two female relatives.

Joseph J. Curtin
Five Star
159414365X, $25.95, 300 pp.

On his first day back at Ridgewood High, Sergei "Von" Vonosovich stuns the facility and student body with his new physique. He is well muscled and good looking and once Coach Minot sees what he can do on the football field he puts him in the starting lineup. Minot, who through a high school student, is selling steroids doesn't care if Von is using them as well because he is a powerhouse that could take the team to the championship. Nobody knows that Von's change from weak geek to sturdy hunk is not the result of exercise or a natural growth spurt. He has found his father's journal that tells him how to make an elixir that gives him an athlete's body, supernatural hearing vision and superior strength. Minot whose busted knee ruined his NFL career begins to believe that Von has a new drug one that he wants and will kill anyone who gets in his way to get it. MONSTERMAN is a hybrid -science fiction horror thriller that is totally enjoyable because the author changes paradigms midway through the book. Minot is a great villain who starts out as a narcissistic man who wants his team to win at any costs and changes into a killer. Von is an anti-hero, a teen that wants to be a big man on campus and is willing to take the elixir to achieve that goal though the cost is high. With the supernatural added to the mix, Joseph J. Curtin takes readers on a wild over the top ride.

Death in West Wheeling
Michael Allen Dymmoch
Five Star

In West Wheeling, Illinois when Pine Ridge Missionary School teacher Roger Devon vanishes; Acting Sheriff Ajax "Homer" Deters investigates. Before he can learn what happened to the teacher, three more people vanish, no connections to one another or to Roger seem obvious; at least none that Homer can detect between local troublemaker Ash Jackson, pregnant teenager Angie Boone, and ATF Agent John Peters. After seeking advice from stroke victim Sheriff Rooney, who is unable to communicate, Homer widens his inquiries especially when the remains of a person are found in nearby Goode Swamp and a second "jawless" corpse is on the highway. His efforts are deterred when a circus tiger escapes and a major pile up ties up the center of West Wheeling. However, the biggest nuisance to solving the case occurs when Peter's ATF peers invade the small town; needing help Homer turns to his friend moonshiner Rye Willis and the woman he secretly desires postmistress Nina Ross. Homer keeps this complex police procedural together with his superb investigation and his desire for the postmistress (though he is in denial for much of the tale). The inquiry into missing people that turns into a multiple homicide investigation is made more difficult by the ATF agents who stomp on anyone including the sheriff that gets in their way as they search for one of their own. Though using civilians seems wrong even if Homer desperately needs their help, readers will enjoy this fine murder mystery.

Stonewall Jackson's Elbow
John Billheimer
Five Star
1594144621, $25.95

The Feds are embarrassed when they audit the books of the First national Bank of Contrary, West Virginia as $750,000 is missing. They would like to go after bank President J. Burton Caldwell, a favorite of Wall St. but he died recently, which is the only reason federal bank examiners got to look at the books. The Federal Deposit Insurance Company knows they must pay back investors so they decide to auction the bank's only assets, the items in Caldwell's Museum of Fakes and Frauds. At the auction, all sorts of fakes go to the highest bidder, but only one item brings in any money, a woman who buys several items. Not long afterward, that same lady dies in a car crash at nearby Devil's Hairpin. Soon afterward the museum curator Victoria Gallagher vanishes. Raleigh County Sheriff Thad Reader asks divorced failure analyst Owen Allison to look at the car accident scene; Owen concludes a homicide occurred. Soon he and other winning bidders are under attack by an unknown assailant for an unknown reason as all he bought was a cheap box of baseball cards for sixteen years old orphan Jeb Stuart Hobbes. As with the four previous appearances Owen is a terrific lead character, the support cast is solid and realistically portrayed, especially the locals, and the mystery subplots tie together quite nicely in this fine police procedural investigation. However, the novel is owned by the fascinating Museum of Fakes and Frauds with each chapter opening with a fun paragraph on a particular hoax. John Billheimer entertains mystery fans with this lighthearted salute to Pt Barnum.

Chasing a Dream
Beth Cornelison
Five Star
1594145148, $26.95

In San Antonio for twelve years Tess Sinclair refused to acknowledge the truth that her husband Randall is an abusive controlling monster until now. She realizes that he just hired a hitman to kill business associate Riley Fanin. When she says something to him, he tells her to mind her business or else, but he also gleefully admits that he killed her sister Angie before taking up with her. Tess flees her home knowing she has one chance to escape and that probability is about zero. Her escape runs into a problem with a flat tire fixed by hitchhiking musician Justin Boyd, who dreams of making it in Nashville. She reluctantly gives him a ride fearing Randall sent him. When they stop for gas, someone tries to abduct Tess; Justin intercedes. Though he thought earlier that she was running from someone he now knows for sure. Remembering how he failed to save his sister from an abusive spouse, he vows to put his career on hold and risk his life to keep Tess Carpenter safe. This an interesting romantic suspense starring two likable lead characters on the lam from a powerful cruel mogul with influence throughout Texas and beyond as the mean-spirited Randall gets away with murder and strong-arm illegal business dealings while remaining a pillar of society because money talks. His boasting confession to his wife that he killed her sibling seems inane and out of character to this control freak, but also provides Tess a reason to flee from the gilded cage. Justin is heroic as he risks his life to keep Tess safe against professionals in this fine thriller.

The Strongest Cord
Brenda Minton
Five Star
1594144923, $25.95

Her father worked the rodeo circuit as a bull rider so was never home. As such Lilly Tanner grew up dreaming of leaving the dust of cowboy s behind for the big city. Ian Hunt helped her escape by buying her a bus ticket out of town. Now she is a nurse in Kansas City. However, her life changes when her family crashes back into hers. Her sister Missy has been jailed for possession leaving her four years old daughter Shelby with her Aunt Lilly. Since Missy struck a deal to testify against her spouse, fearing for her niece's safety from her brother-in-law drug dealer Carl Long, Lily returns to Oklahoma seeking a haven. There she meets Dr. Ian Hunt, who she thought would have left his grandfather's farm to return home to his family in Boston. He vows to keep the two females safe even as he swears he will persuade his Lilly they belong together as this time he will not let her go. Though the drug dealing Carl is so reprehensible with no redeeming qualities (he plans to use his offspring as a hostage to keep his wife from talking) that he seems more a boogeyman caricature, fans will enjoy this solid thriller. The story line for much of the tale is a romance in which Ian struggles to convince Lily they belong together with Shelby because of the love that flows between them. Carl brings the action late in the plot as he implements his plan to use his daughter and her aunt as pawns. Brenda Minton provides readers with an exciting romantic suspense.

Playing God
Kate Flora
Five Star
1594144613, $25.95

On a wintry night in Portland, Maine, patrol officer Remy Aucoin discovers the corpse of a man sitting in his Mercedes. Detective Joe Burgess heads the investigation into the murder of prominent radiologist Dr. Steven Pleasant, who was known for entertaining call girls in his car. The crime scene makes it appear that a hooker, angered with her John, committed the homicide by shoving a steel rod down his throat. Joe and his team, Terry Kyle and Stan Perry, begin to investigate seeking the motive. They talk with the spouse, who knew her husband went elsewhere for his needs and allegedly wanted him dead. That is followed up with other family members who also hated Steven. The cops visit his medical partners and his helpers who are reticent about the deceased, but inadvertently describe the victim as an ambitious person coveting fast money. Finally they talk with hookers who knew the doctor intimately. Soon they uncover inconclusive evidence that Dr. Pleasant was selling Oxycontin while a nurse quietly claims he alienated patients. The potential list of people with a motive, means, and opportunity keeps growing as the victim was not a pleasant person to work with. This is an interesting police procedural starring the so called "meanest" cop in Maine, but readers will see that no nonsense Joe is actually a caring person who does not abide with official stupidity. The story line is fast-paced (part of the reason is to stay warm while at an outdoor crime scene in winter) as the number of people with a motive mounts exponentially with every subgroup that were part of the unpleasant Steven's circle. Leaving Thea Kozak to thaw out, Kate Flora provides readers with an entertaining hard boiled murder mystery.

Stained Glass Window
Innis Grace
Five Star
1594145164, $26.95

In 2004 Colorado, a stranger calls Leigh to inform her that her spouse Phillip is having an affair with his wife. Leigh confronts her husband of twenty years who fails to deny the accusation. Irate and with their daughter attending college in London, she flees their home in Pine Crest to move into her family cabin in nearby Tear Lake. Leigh finds a fascinating small journal written by an ancestor in 1850 that talks of love, relationships, treasure and a missing person. However, her sad musings are interrupted when lightning hits a tree which breaks a window in Leigh's cabin. She calls local glazier Brian Banyard, who recognizes her as a childhood friend who he played with at a nearby fishing hole. As Brian and Leigh become reacquainted, Phillip fears they are falling in love. Still he knows he was stupid letting a middle age crisis rule as he wants his beloved back even as they begin a search for a century old buried treasure hinted at in the journal. STAINED GLASS WINDOW is an interesting middle age inspirational relationship triangle starring three nice people though Phillip pays for his terrible mistake (as does his wife). Leigh is a fascinating protagonist who knows that "to err is human, to forgive is divine", but she feels so betrayed that she accepts she is not divine. Still Phillip will not give up even when history seems to be about to repeat its grisly self as he turns to God so does Leigh. Innis Grace provides a warm moving relationship drama that uses the past to remind the present about what matters most.

Too Far Gone
John Ramsey Miller
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0440243092, $6.99 1-800-726-0600

Days before Hurricane Katrina is considered a threat, FBI Agent Alexa Keen is in New Orleans attending a conference when she receives a late night phone call from the head of Homicide Detective Manseur concerning missing person Gary West. His wife believes that he has been kidnapped; it is well known amongst police circles that Alexa is the best at finding the victims before they are killed. This case is high profile because Gary is married to Casey LePointe West, the niece of powerful influential William Le Pointe, head of the family trusts. William wants to handle the incident privately but Casey insists law enforcement become involved especially insuring Alexa is brought into the investigation. Alexa agrees with Casey's assertion that her husband has been abducted because in a few days part of her fortune was to be turned over to him, a powerful motive. The deeper Alexa digs, the more she comes into contact with cold case crimes impacting this one as an evil person kills anyone that might interfere with the master plan. John Ramsey Miller, author of the Winter Massey novels, has written a thrill a minute police procedural that is so loaded with surprising twists, readers will need seatbelts to avoid whiplash as we eagerly wait to see what spin happens next. Alexa is a strong bold yet believable character while Katrina takes on a life of its own as New Orleans' ambience before, during, after provides incredible background depth. Though the villain is a caricature of malevolent conspiratorial plotters, TOO FAR GONE is a powerful mystery.

Run for Your Life
Lucy Hawking
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0452285844, $14.00 1-800-847-5515

In London thirty-something Fleur Bonner works at Boulden's, an art gallery and antique shop that has been around for a few centuries but now specializes in fakes and forgeries, something she is unaware of. Her life drifts as even her employment is in a holding pattern in Fleur's mind until she finds something worth focusing on. Her friends and family insist she is too smart to stay at Boulden's and encourage her to go out and do things so that she may find something she is passionate about. More to get people off her back than any real desire and pushed by good neighbor Ben Fleur joins the Battersea Park New Runner's Marathon Club consisting of losers, misfits, and the lonely; in her mind she is a perfect fit. When her boss Brinly "Brin" St. John Boulden suddenly vanishes, Fleur is left floundering. Worse than probably losing her three-month old job, the police believe she is part of an art forgery ring selling fakes. Fleur suddenly has focus as she investigates the disappearance, the art forgery ring, and the marathon club in order to insure her future is outside of a prison cell as she is the only one left holding the Boulden's bag. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE is a delightful innovative amateur sleuth chick lit tale that stars a wonderful aimless heroine who begins to find focus with marathon running though her immediate need is to clear her name. The amusing story line is fun due to Fleur and her running compatriots who make street corner observations on life. Fans will enjoy this charmer as they wonder whether Fleur can complete metaphorically the race for the first time in her life.

Dangerous Temptation
Katherine Korbel
Silhouette Nocturne
0373617496, $5.25

Three jewels set in threee crown maintain the balance of power between the mortal realm and that of the Faerie. When one stone is stolen and moved out of Faerie, the Dubhlainn Sidhe turn dark and malignant as they rage and become malevolent. Mab, queen of the earth fairies, rises to power; her heir Nuala will replace her when she retires to the Land of the West. In Ireland field anthropologist Zack Kendall falls through a cairn and enters the realm of Faerie. At first he assumes he is dreaming until he meets Nuala. He begins to believe because she has loved him forever even "visiting" him and his family on the human side. She wants to send her beloved home, but the Queen insists he must pass three tests before he can choose to stay or return; failure means death. However, undergoing the quest is difficult enough, but he, Nuala and the Queen have enemies who want the trio destroyed. This romantic fantasy is filled with intrigue, action and a love that transcends worlds. Nuala is determined to give up the only male she will ever love because he needs his mortal family and they need him too. Zack is willing to die to insure the realm of his beloved remains safe. Together they make a formidable star-crossed team who gains the hearts and souls of readers.

Lindsay McKenna
Silhouette, Nocturne
0373617488, $5.25, 300 pp.

Shapeshifter Calen turns into a jaguar as she uses her powers to protect the esmeraldos from the mercenaries employed by the Guild owners of the Santa Maria Emerald Mine, who have orders to shoot to kill anyone on mine property. Calen, who masquerades as El Espanto, (the Ghost) protects the esmeraldos by instilling fear in the mercenaries which leads them to quit their jobs. The guild hires former convict and superb sniper Rio to infiltrate the esmeraldos so he can learn who El Esparto is and kill him. Rio, also a shapeshifter, flies down to Ecuador and poses as a medical technician but Calen knows he was hired to kill her. They soon learn that they both have Warriors of the Light birthmarks and a vision leads them to find one of the emeralds in the Emerald Key necklace. Legend has it she will find, with some outside help, the other ones scattered throughout the world and when she wears it she will usher in 1000 years of piece. The other part of the legend goes on to say that a woman who is part of the dark side is also looking for the emeralds and if she finds them, the world will be destroyed. When Rio learns Calen's secret identity he becomes her protector and makes an enemy out of the Guild and mercs who want to kill him. Only a miracle will leave them free to love one another. Lindsay McKenna has written an exciting and enthralling paranormal romantic thriller that sets the stage for a gathering place for the warriors of the night and the people who will be drawn to the upcoming quest. Both the hero and heroine have lost those they loved to violence but they are able to find strength through one another. UNFORGIVEN is a fast paced, character driven thriller that will keep reader attention at rarely achieved levels.

Haunted Echoes
Cindy Dees
Silhouette Bombshell
0373514158, $4.99

Interpol agent Ana Reisner works stolen art cases as she is an expert on art history. Her current case comes from the French President requesting Ana solve a murder that has not occurred yet and recover a stolen statue rumored to have powers to extend life. Homicide is not her skill as she is a member of the "Paint and Pottery" Patrol, Ana knows she will need some insider help, she recruits Professor Robert Fraser, a former thief. As Ana and Robert investigate the stolen icon, someone tries to prevent them from success even as a seemingly ghostly figure keeps warning her. As they dig deeper, she find herself at the center of attention of the mysterious Black Madonna cult in which one mistake might end her life prematurely. HAUNTED ECHOES is an exciting, action-packed romantic suspense fantasy that grips the audience from the moment a stunned Ana protests that she is an art expert not a cop and never slows down as her "advisors are a former thief and an apparent ghost. Ana keeps this Madonna Key tale fully focused as the intrepid heroine skirmishes with the eerie, the scary and the weary in her pursuit of the artifact.

Doranna Durgin
Silhouette Bombshell
0373514166, $4.99

CIA Agent Selena Shaw Jones is still shaky from her recent successful hostage "negotiations" in Berzhaan that turned her into a heroine. Needing time to recuperate, she is granted none as her superiors want her to leave Virginia to return to the same hot spot that she feels fortunate to have left alive. This time they need her to extract a terrorist defector with critical information and an agent, her spouse Cole as someone inside the CIA has outed them. Selena heads to the Middle East where she begins her quest to find her husband and his charge. She also must elude those who would enjoy a second chance at her. At the clock is ticking and the enemy is coming for her, Selena has little hope of getting herself and her beloved Cole safely home. The further adventures of Athena Academy graduate Athena Force (see CHECKMATE) is a delightful action packed thriller that grips readers who trek with the heroine as she returns to the danger of the Middle east. The story line is fast-paced but it is courageous Selena who makes the plot work as the audience will believe this reluctant lioness warrior would enter hell, which she believes she has for the second time, to rescue her mate.

Trace of Doubt
Erica Orloff
Silhouette Bombshell
0373514174, $4.99

Forensic criminologist Billie Quinn of The Genetic Testing laboratory did not trust witnesses as many misstate the facts with conviction or suspects may lie. She preferred hardcore data like DNA that works one hundred percent of the time without falsehoods. Her recent involvement in the David Falco case (see TRACE OF INNOCENCE) has thrown her world belief upside down. However, her current case involving the conviction of Marcus Hopkins has national attention but takes an odd frightening spin when someone surfaces who knows too much first hand information about her murdered mother, killed years ago. Billie sees an opportunity for justice finally coming to her mom and to her as this has been the tragic event that has motivated her career. However, her unknown assailant has plans for Billie to star in the replay of the scene in which the culprit killed her mother. Billie's obstinacy can be a two edged sword for the audience as she refuses to back down especially on this investigation, but makes poor decisions that constantly place her in peril yet also brings excitement to her over the top inquiry. Still the story line is action-packed and like its predecessor brings into question a justice system that seeks unreliable closure not valid outcomes.

Sylvia Kurtz
Silhouette Bombshell
0373514182, $4.99

In Nashua, New Hampshire private investigator Sierra Martindale is a workaholic handling dangerous cases. Her current one involves a 285 pound muscleman Finn Murdock who teaches professional wrestling and whose shoulder injury should prevent him from lifting. Her case is to prove he is a fraud. However he and his goons chase her up the Merrimack to make sure she has no evidence that would affirm he has no injury until she suddenly collapses. A heart transplant saves her life. However, she gets more than just a dead woman's ticker, Sierra finds herself communicating with the ghost of the donor. The deceased woman Sofia James claims she was murdered and her killer got away with the crime by making it look like an accident. Feeling she owes this woman her life, Sierra investigates starting with the widower, Wyatt, who may just be the killer or her soulmate. This paranormal private investigative romantic suspense is a fascinating thriller in which the late Sofia provides clues (at too many opportune moments) to help spur the no longer risk taking sleuth to investigate her death. Gender bending the Hoskins-Washington movie Heart Condition, DETOUR is a strong fun tale though the dribbling of information from beyond leaves a shaky premise as readers will wonder why Sofia just didn't confide right away all she knows. Still this is a fine thriller as the heroine wonders just who she is.

Point Clear
Jennifer Paddock
c/o Simon and Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th floor, New York, NY 10020
0743287827, $13.00 1-800-223-2336

Twenty-seven years old Caroline Berry left Oklahoma to attend the renowned NYU writing program. However, she drops out of the program as she struggles to earn a living. On top of her financial woes, Caroline finds she suffers from writer's block unable to put together two coherent sentences. She needs a change, but the opportunity finally occurs when she inherits some money from her late grandfather. Caroline leaves the Big Apple for three weeks at the Grand Hotel, a family favorite in Point Clear, Alabama where she plans to write the great American novel. She soon meets a young man Walker on the beach. However, her idle time is devastated by Hurricane Ivan's assault on the Mobile Bay area and Walker vanishing. With a theme in mind, Caroline begins to write Walker's tale even as she investigates what happened to him fearing suicide will be the ending of his and her tale. Caroline makes the tale as a wannabe writer who finds her subject. The story line focuses on her efforts to make it and cleverly offers the evolution of her work on Walker. Though everyone is super nice and cooperative and the action somewhat lacking, readers will enjoy following Caroline as she obsesses over THE SECRET WORD that will enable her to tell the world what led to what happened to Walker by writing about this apparent tragedy.

Love Is Blind
Lynsay Sands
0843955007, $6.50

Everyone knows how dangerous Lady Clarissa Crambray can be as the clumsy beauty has a tendency to accidentally harm her suitors and herself; just ask Lord Prudhomme about his roasted wig. However, as she trips, falls, and bruises herself and others, Clarissa knows the problem can be simply fixed if her wicked stepmother would allow her to wear her spectacles in public. Apparently pratfalls and the nickname "Clumsy Clarissa" are more acceptable than glasses for lasses. Earl Adrian Montfort has avoided the Ton since his war earned scars leave him imperfect. He figures that Clarissa is ideal for him as her vision is poor and thus she would not see his marks. As he falls in love with the intelligent, forthright and witty Clarissa, Adrian is shocked that she cannot only see deep into the disfigurements of his heart, she is the cure. This is a fun Regency starring a delightful pairing of two matched individuals with both having physical "scars". Still together Clarissa and Adrian overcome their demons, the wicked stepmother, and a killer (unnecessary well written subplot that does add suspense) as he proves to her guys do makes passes at girls who wear glasses and she teaches him love can heal any wound. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine historical.

Dark Dreamers
Christine Feehan and Marjorie M. Liu
0843956879, $7.99

"Dark Dream" by Christine Feehan. The former Carpathian hero sadly knows it is too late for him as his soul is lost forever. However, he makes one last rescue attempt of a woman, but instead of fleeing she fights. Sara Marten knows of him and has since she was fifteen. She desires him, which gives him some renewed hope that his soulmate can rescue him from the abyss. "A Dream of Stone & Shadow" by Marjorie M. Liu. The witch cursed his family turning his siblings into stone and using and abusing Charlie. He has no hope to escape her imprisonment except death or Dirk & Steele Agent Aggie Durand. Death is his first choice as he does not want to harm the sweet and kind Aggie, but the witch has made that nearly impossible. So there is Aggie or continual imprisonment. Both tales are fine paranormal romances though the Dirk & Steele tale seems much more invigorating and fresher than the Carpathian thriller. Still fans of both series will like the latest entries, but this reviewer believes Ms. Liu will gain a lot more new readers.

Hawk's Passion
Elaine Barbieri
0843956372, $6.99

In 1866 Galveston, Texas, Elizabeth Huntington investigates her murky past as she remembers nothing except being adopted after an orphanage fire and raised in New York City with love and affection. Her only clue to her roots is a pendant with the name "Sarah Jane" inscribed on it. Her quest brings her to shipping mogul Simon Gault, who not only recognizes the pendant; he knows who she is, but reveals nothing. He has plans for Elizabeth. Jason Dodd finds a shocked Elizabeth with blood all over her and dripping from her hands looking over a murdered body. He quickly takes her with him to protect her from Simon, who he obsesses over exposing the man's nefarious lethal dealings. When she leaves the shelter of their hiding place, someone shoots Elizabeth. Jason takes her again to safety while wondering how to keep her safe from the likes of the depraved Simon. The second Hawk tale (see HAWK) is a fine western romance that brings vividly to life Texas just after the Civil War. The prize of this solid historical is the tug of war between Jason (representing good) and Simon (evil) with Elizbath as the rope. Though the two male rivals are somewhat stereotyped, readers will enjoy Elaine Barbieri's interesting Americana tale.

Dead End Dating
Kimberly Raye
c/o Ballantine Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345492161, $6.99, 352 pp. 1-800-726-0600

Vampires are either born or made and Lil Marchette belongs to the upper social class that was born. That means her eternity mate has to be a born vampire with a high fertility rating in order to have children. Made vampires can't have children which leaves bounty hunter Ty Bonner off Lil's list as prospective mates if she was searching which she is not. She is interested in getting her matchmaking business Dead End Dating, which services vampires, humans and anything in between off the ground. She meets the oldest, vampire in her father's Kinko like store and if she can get the shy vamp fixed up with his eternity mate, she will make a good start in making her business the place to go. She also wants to fix up a snobby wealthy boring born vampire with someone who cares about him. This will keep her occupied because she thinks too much of Ty, a bounty hunter made vampire who is chasing after a serial killer, even though a relationship between them is definitely taboo. Readers who like paranormal romances will want to read DEAD END DATING. The sparks that fly between Lil and Ty are so hot it feels as if the book will spontaneously combust. The heroine marches to her own drummer and doesn't always follow the dictates of born vampires socially which leads to some very biting episodes. Kimberly Raye has written a magical tale.

Jason Hightman
0060540141, $15.99, 320 pp.

Dragons are responsible for the miseries of the world, but only the St. Georges can see them and use the Deathspell to kill them. These malevolent beasts cause natural catastrophes as they live off the suffering and pain of humanity that comes with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that they inflict on mankind. Aldric St. George, his son Simon, and the Magician Alaythia are under constant attack from dragons. Research reveals that when a magician falls in love with a knight, she emits a sound that only dragons hear; that hum irritates them so much they track it down to the source to kill the Magician. Alaythia leaves her beloved men to find a way to muffle the sound in order to keep her mate and his son safe. However Aldric and Simon refuse to let her go alone and catch up to her in Japan where they meet dragon hunting samurai and a St. George they never knew existed. When the Dragon of Japan goes to India, the Tiger Dragon wants to mate with him, then she plans to kill him afterward so he is out of her way while raising their offspring to rule the world. Aldric and company follow knowing they must stop the mating before the carnage begins. Although SAMURAI is aimed at a teen audience, adults will enjoy this fun urban fantasy though the plot is a bit over the top. The fast-paced story line contains fully developed characters especially the heroic trio who work so well together. However, the key to this solid tale is the antagonists as each dragon is unique with distinct personality traits and eccentricities.

Forest Mage
Robin Hobb
0060757639, $25.95, 736 pp.

After recovering from the plague second son Nevare Burvelle is the only one who feels he is not skin on bones. His doctor believes he is gaining too much weight, a rare symptom of the plague. Nobody believes him that the plague came and spread when the primitive magic believers, the Speck people used dust during the dance that made people sick. He believes this because he fought Tree Woman in another realm and recovered the missing part of himself, a person who was Tree Woman's lover and used magic. Now Nevare is returning home, crossing the planes where the King's Road is destroying the magic and way of life and bringing outsiders who settle there. He watches the magic being totally destroyed when he sees a boy put cold iron on the Dancing Spiral. Twice he unknowingly uses magic and by the time he reaches home, he is worse than obese. Almost his whole family turns on him and his father disowns him. He journeys to the frontier post of Gettys where he becomes an enlightened man taking care of the cemetery. The Speck people tell him that the magic controls him and he is supposed to stop the sacred trees from being torn down because the magic told them so. He doesn't know how to use the magic and if he doesn't find answers soon, the Specks will bring war on Nevare's country and that means death to all he holds dear. Robin Hobb is one of the best high fantasy writers of the new millennium. Her characters, no matter how secondary, are well drawn and have complete personalities. The protagonist is not a hero by choice but because the magic chose him and though he fights it, in the end he gives in to its demand to save his loved ones. There is plenty of action and lot in excitement in FOREST MAGE so readers will thoroughly enjoy this spellbinding tale.

Lost Summer
Alex McAuley
1416525734, $9.95

Divorcee Kathryn informs her sixteen years old daughter Caitlin that they will spend the summer on Danbroke Island on the North Carolina Outer Banks because she feels her two children are out of control. Caitlin is outraged as she planned to sing backup with her boyfriend's band while her eleven years old brother Luke accepts a four wheel bribe from his wealthy mother. After traveling from La Jolla, California the three Rosses reach their destination, the Pirates Lodge, owned by Bill Collins, Kathryn's high school boyfriend. Her two children realize they are across the country because their prescription crazed mother was hoping to renew an old fling. The teen makes friends with an out of place Goth Danielle, but as a hurricane approaches she fears Bill, who always leers at her when he is not "accidentally" touching her. She has no one to turn to as her mom hides behind her drug stupor, her brother continues to be the same lunatic he was on the west coast, and her dad abandoned the family last year. LOST SUMMER is an interesting family drama starring a beleaguered female teen with no place to turn to except to a degree another isolated peer as Bill increasingly tries to take unwanted liberties with her while her mom pretends all is well. Kathryn and Luke are purposely made extreme out of control stereotypes so that their hedonistic destructive behavior negatively impacts Caitlin especially during the isolated LOST SUMMER.

Bling Addiction
Kylie Adams
1416520414, $9.95

At the graduation of the class of 2006 of the Miami Academy of Creative & Performing Arts, Bijou Ross, the valedictorian, sadly denotes that one of their students failed to make it. She thinks that the Fab five as she thought of this fast crowd are now the frightened four as one has failed to attend the graduation because they vanished and are assumed dead. Wealthy Vanity St. John is already making a name for herself until her former boyfriend Jayson James offers an erotic video of her that he took without her permission. Impoverished Dante Medina dreams of making it big in the hip-hop world and with Vanity, but the former remains an aspiration and the latter too hot and cold to deal with. Max Biaggi, Jr. does not want to follow in the footsteps of his famous Hollywood dad; instead he enjoys the hustle of the underground whether it is gambling, sex, or both. English expatriate Pippa Keith pays for her champagne tastes by dancing at the Cheetah, but some affluent patron offers her a lot more if she dances exclusively for him. Finally Christina Perez hides her dark secret from everyone, which adds to her feeling like the invisible woman even with her four friends or her parents, one of whom is an ambitious politician. This is an interesting look at five seniors considered by many of their peers as the in-crowd, but each has issues that impact how they perceive the world. Thus the young adult audience receives a strong teen character study to include self-destructive behavior. Though having five stars leads to some subplots unresolved (hence sequel), readers of coming of age tales will appreciate the BLING ADDICTION of these fats girls and hot boys struggling with what turns out to be a CRUEL SUMMER.

The 310: Everything She Wants
Beth Killian
1416521682, $9.99

Eighteen years old model Eva Cordes has learned who her father is by sneaking into the files of her Aunt Laurel. Her two roommates Jacinda and Coelle inform her that her dad Anatole Farnsworth died just a few weeks after she was born and that she has three stepbrothers. Finally she knows her mother Marisela gave birth to another child. As she confronts her aunt and her mom for more information, her best friend Jeff Oerte from her hometown of Alden, Massachusetts arrives to propose marriage. Stunned as they never dated, Eva has a boyfriend, baseball pitcher Danny Bristow. As she struggles with the two men in her life and her battling roommates, Eva wants to avoid the errors of her mom. Though shunning her mom's destructive ways does not mean that Eva will elude personal miscalculation. The second 310 tale (see LIFE AS A POSER) is a fine teen fiction tale starring a somewhat dazzled but tough young lady needing to understand her paternal past while trying not to repeat the mistakes her mother made with her by abandoning her to her grandparents. The story line focuses on the interrelationships with Eva as the center and her two roommates and two beaus predominantly interacting with and through her. Though the plot can turn a bit inane even those moments augment the story line of this solid relationship drama.

The Thief Taker
Janet Gleeson
Simon & Schuster
0743290186, $14.00

In the middle of the eighteenth century in London, Widow Agnes Meadowes, mother of a child, cooks for the highly regarded silversmiths, the Blanchards. However, she becomes a bit disturbed when the Blanchards think nothing of kitchen maid Rose vanishing; she becomes outraged and disturbed when Rose's peers ignore her disappearance. Unable to let it go and with no one to turn to for help, Agnes decides to investigate. However, her inquiries are on hold when her employers ask for her intervention in a matter. Someone stole a valuable wine cooler just before delivery, killing the apprentice watching it. Agnes negotiates on behalf of the Blanchards with legendary Marcus Pitt to have him retrieve the wine cooler that if not delivered means ruin in return for melted silver. Apprentice Thomas Williams escorts Agnes, who finds her protector kindhearted unlike her abusive late spouse. As she continues to cope with Pitt who wants her thrown into the deal, Agnes continues to search for Rose until her slashed corpse is found. Told to cooperate with Pitt and to drop the Rose matter, Agnes ignores her employer even as her son is abducted and her position as cook is jeopardized. Janet Gleeson uses a deep look at the mid 1700s English lifestyles of the working and artisan classes as a powerful background to a fine amateur sleuth investigation starring an ethical protagonist. Obstinate Agnes learns a lesson about the dangers of good intentions, as she feels she must uncover the truth about Rose. The story line cleverly blends silversmithing and murder to cook up a delicious historical whodunit.

Jan Burke
Simon & Schuster
0743273850, $24.00, 366 pp.

Five years ago Richard Fletcher was murdered, his head bashed in to disguise a bullet wound and his daughter Jenny disappeared. Jenny's brother Mason was found in the desert with drugs in his system and the murder weapon and bloody clothes in the back of his car. He was tried and convicted for the murder of his father and the kidnapping of Jenny. He was given life without parole but his brother Caleb believes his sibling is innocent. His mother remarries Richard's brother Nelson who has loved her for a lifetime. In the present Las Piernas News Express reporter Irene Kelley has written a story on missing children. She receives a multitude of calls from grieving parents including a heartbreaking one from Blade Ives who was married to former Express reporter Bonnie Crews. She also covers the story of a body being found by a cadaver dog belong to Sheila Polson, another Fletcher. When Irene visits Sheila at her home, she finds her murdered and sees a car driving away. As Irene tries to connect the dots that link the murders of Shelia and Richard, Jenny's disappearance and the buried body her life is in danger from someone who will kill to keep certain secrets buried. Anytime Jan Burke writes an Irene Kelly mystery it is a time for rejoicing. Ms. Burk's novels continual back and forth moves from the third person point of view to the first and should be jolting but instead seems effortless as readers don't notice due in part to the author's creative style. Great characterizations unexpected twists and plenty of surprises pull the audience deep into the storyline and keep them there until they finish the book. Kidnapped is a fascinating work, deserving of an Edgar nomination.

Robert Harris
Simon & Schuster
074326603X, $26.00

As he nears death, Tiro writes a biography of his master, the late great Roman statesman, orator, and politician Marcus Cicero, who he served as confidential secretary for thirty six years. As Tiro explains he spent more time with Cicero than anyone else including the man's family, political followers, and dangerous rivals. Thus he provides a first hand account of the rise from obscure province outsider to the center of power, the consulship. Tiro, who invented shorthand, states that Cicero risked all including his life when he exposed a deadly military plot headed by Crassus and Caesar to steal elections by the military and to ultimately take away the citizen's right to free speech. This allowed the great orator to achieve his life's goal, but made the dangerous equally ambitious Julius Caesar his enemy for life. This is a terrific biographical fiction that enables the reader to see deeply into the Roman Empire political power and struggle as much as the novel enables the reader to learn who the "author" Tiro and his employer Cicero were. Robert Harris references a nineteenth century work that claims Tiro (real secretary to Cicero) wrote a biography on his boss that was lost over time. Well written, perhaps the only quibble is that the tale ends at the point that Cicero ascends to the top government seat, leaving readers thirsting for the second act.

Bill Bright & Jack Cavanaugh
Howard (Simon & Schuster)
3117 North 7th Street, West Monroe, LA 71291-2227
1582295735, $12.99 1-800-858-4109

Following his parents' ship sinking at sea as they were returning to America after preaching in England, teenager Daniel Cooper goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Cumberland. He works for casket maker Cyrus Gregg, a powerful businessman. One night in the alley behind the store, Daniel is playing his recorder when he hears a noise and sees fellow worker Emil Braxton knifed to death; the killer and Cyrus make plans for Epps to get paid for the hit. Daniel informs his Uncle Asa and Aunt Camilla what he observed, but they don't believe him. Asa tells Cyrus what Daniel related to him. Daniel falls into a trap, but escapes Epps' attempt to silence him. Epps has fooled Asa, into thinking he is a pal; so the two men chase after Daniel. In the upscale town of Wright's Settlement, Daniel befriends evangelists who heard a charismatic evangelist preach.. They keep him safe while he confronts Asa, who believes him about Epps but not his best friend Cyrus. When his Uncle returns to Cumberland, Daniel follows to keep him safe from the long lethal reach of Cyrus. FURY is a cat and mouse thriller that focuses on a protagonist still hurting from the loss of his parents leading to his turning his back on God until he finds him again when he most needs him. Epps is a complex villain, who likes Asa and regrets having to kill him and his nephew, but will do so because he wants to remain inside Cyrus' influential circle. Readers will enjoy this fine historical suspense tale.

Dying Flames
Robert Barnard
c/o Simon And Schuster
1230 Avenue Of The Americas, 14th floor, New York, NY 10020
0743272196, $24.00 1-800-223-2336

In Colchester, nineteen years old Christa greets somewhat almost famous author Graham Broadbent by saying "hi dad". She insists that he sired her, but he claims he was overseas at the time she would have been conceived. He knew her mother Peggy, but swears he has no children by any woman, but Christa insists her mom has said for years he was her biological dad before she leaves, disappointed in his denial. Unable to let it go, Graham visits Peggy, who he enjoyed a fling with two decades ago, but also knows she appreciated all men she met in the early 1980s. However, Peggy stuns Graham when she sweetly says that he indeed sired a child by her, just not Christa. Astonished and confused he wants to meet his son. Drama queen Peggy arranges a dinner for him, her other "dads" and their children to meet one another. At the hostile affair, no one knows who sired whom except perhaps Peggy. She is unable to because someone murdered her. The sharp sawed satire that has made Robert Barnard a popular author is less in your face than usual, but throughout the novel there is an ironic undercutting of the cast especially the lead protagonist. Mr. Barnard explores how an unanticipated incident can shake a person's demeanor forcing an abrupt change in the mask used to protect one from society intrusion as the former visage fails to shield anymore. Thus readers obtain a deep character story with a late murder mystery as Graham and the audience wonder who amidst the fathers and children killed the matriarch and more important does it really matter.

Arizona Dreams
Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590583183, $24.95 1-800-421-3976

In the Willo Historic District of Phoenix, a neighbor rushes to the home of Mariposa County Sheriff's Department deputy sheriffs Lindsey Mapstone and her spouse retired history professor Dave to bring them to a nearby murder scene. Someone used an ice pick to kill lawyer Alan Cordesman in his home, which happens to be part of the historic tour of the neighborhood. At the crime scene Lindsey introduces her estranged sister Robin to her husband, who until that moment was unaware that his wife even had a sibling. Meanwhile a former student informs David that her late father confessed in a letter that he killed a man four decades ago leaving the body in the desert. Going to the location they find the remains of Harry Bell. However, the victim is only a few weeks dead not the forty years claimed by the letter and David's student has vanished. Soon others are killed with an ice pick. David traces his former student, who turns out never attended any of his classes; instead she is Dana Earley, wife of Maricopa County supervisor Tom Earley, who publicly is criticizing Sheriff Mike Peralta for hiring a history professor to work cold cases when illegal immigration is the pressing issue. ARIZONA DREAMS is a terrific police procedural that contains several delightful spins to keep readers alert to see where Jon Talton's homicidal tour of Phoenix ends up. David is at his best whether he finds a corpse in the DRY HEAT of the desert, drinking a martini with a cold blooded killer, meeting a sister in law he never knew existed, or confronting "Lady Macbeth" and her political hack of a spouse. Using the immigration issue as a political pointmaker adds to a fabulous investigation that will keep the audience fully occupied.

Cruel Music
Beverle Graves Myers
Poisoned Pen
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590582306, $24.95 1-800-421-3976

Early in 1740 following an exhausting tour of the continent, famous castrato Tito Amato returns to Venice to relax with his family. However his respite is short as Chief of Constabulary Messer Grande arrests Tito. Soon afterward Senator Antonio Montorio explains that with Pope Clement XII near death, the Cardinals will select a replacement between his brother Cardinal Stefano and Cardinal Di Noce. Whomever Cardinal Lorenzo Fabiani supports will become the next pope. Tito is to sing for the music loving Fabiani and learn who he backs or his family will suffer. Tito heads to Rome where he provides performances while staying at the home of Cardinal Fabiani. The singer quickly learns that the only topic amidst the residents and servants of the house is the next pope. However, someone strangles to death a beautiful maid. While Fabiani assumes a family member is the killer and decides to cover up the homicide, houseguest Tito and his two person entourage fear that they will be left singing confessions to the murder. They investigate which leads them to some underground Roman groups. The third Baroque mystery contains an interesting whodunit, but that takes a back seat to the insightful look at Papal politics in the middle of the eighteenth century. What is fascinating is the senator's explanation that a Venetian needs to sit on the throne so that patronage can be earmarked for his city. Also appealing are the underground cultures that thrive within walking distance of the Vatican as sects of ancient pagan worshipping is prevalent and biologists, physicists and chemists abound. Though the plot takes its time to set the stage, it is worth the wait as the audience will gain a grasp on the political patronage swapping and once in Rome Tito does not do what the Romans do as he investigates.

Boy Heaven
Laura Kasischke
Harper Tempest
0060813148, $16.99

The seventeen years old girls snuck out of Pine Ridge Cheerleading Camp in a red convertible Mustang belonging to the ring leader Kristy. Accompanying her on their drive through the Blanc Coeur National Forest to skinny dip at Lover's Lake are her best friend Desiree and some other camper Kristi ending in I instead of a Y. With back seat Kristi whining, Kristy stop for gas at a remote station where the guys appreciate the beautifully tanned long legged teens. The trio quickly knows they made a bad error judgment when they chose to sneak out of camp; for they are being stalked by two guys from the gas station. Wherever the trio may be these males are there watching, waiting, and lurking whether it is during practice, or even inside their cabin. Always nearby is a battered station wagon as their shadows relentlessly haunt and haunt them. This is an action-packed exciting thriller that never slows down from the moment the counselor begins to tell the eerie tale of the three teens to her audience and never slows down until she finishes her "true story". The three girls have differing personalities with each coping differently to the stalking. The weird boys are obviously deranged and dangerous leaving notes in beds, parking anywhere the girls will be which adds to the threat of them harming their targets. The climax will stun young adult readers who will not see it coming as Laura Kasischke takes her audience on a creepy joy ride along BOY HEAVEN ridge.

Taming the Beast
Emily Maguire
0061122165, $13.95

In Australia, her family encourages doing excellent in school so fourteen year old Sarah Clark works hard to meet their expectations. When she meets charismatic thirty-eight years old English teacher meets Daniel Carr, no one thought twice of his spending time with her because of the respect the family has for educators. However, Daniel provides the teen with hands on lessons that would devastate her family if they knew; he teaches her S&M sex before leaving for a new position in Brisbane. Sarah is depressed by her mentor's departure and her schoolwork reflects this gloominess as she no longer is interested in learning though a few years later she attends college. Instead the nymph has no time to brood or study as she experiments with unsafe encounters with hundreds of men seeking a Daniel clone to quench her seemingly endless appetite for violent sessions. As the years pass with her needs never fully satiated she turns to her childhood friend Jamie until Daniel reappears seeking a tryst. TAMING THE BEAST is not an easy character study to read though it is well written and very deep as Daniel sexually assaults the willing underage teen even if Sarah encourages him. Neither of the characters is likable as he abuses his position of trust as a sexual predator preying on the young while she has become a sex addict whose needs override everything else. Emily Maguire provides a powerful violent Aussie Lolita.

Gail Carson Levine
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060734086, $16.99 1-800-242-7737

As a newborn, Aza was left at the Featherbed Inn in the village of Amonta, Ayortha. Though a baby, she was singing, which brought her to the attention of the kind innkeepers Father and Mother, who raise her with love alongside their biological offspring. However, Aza is far from pretty so as to not disturb their customers; she remains hidden when the inn is open for business. Still her talent as a singer becomes known, but it is her other talent that brings her to the attention of the royals; besides being able to sing like a lark, she can throw her voice so that the song sounds like it is coming from someone else. Though Father and Mother fear for her safety as they love Aza deeply, she goes off to the court to make it seem as if the horrendously untalented but kindhearted Queen Ivi sings in a public event. Soon afterward Aza as a lady-in-waiting begins to fall in love with prince Ijori, who she believes could never return her fellings due to her ugliness. When she finds a magic mirror that can change its user into the fairest beauty in Ayortha, Aza sees an opportunity to win his regard, but will soon learn there is a price to pay perhaps her life for this change. Though the target audience is older elementary school students, FAIREST is a delightful retelling of Snow White that will grip readers of all ages who cannot help but like and admire the kind heroine and her Prince "Charming". The story line is driven by the characters, especially the misadventures of enchanted Aza, whose escapades at the inn, at the court, and with gnomes teach her that outer beauty is meaningless without inner warmth and love shared with others. Readers will appreciate this superb fairy tale that showcases Gail Carson Levine's skill as one of the FAIREST preteen writers.

Viking Warrior
Judson Roberts
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
006079996X, $17.89 1-800-242-7737

When the Vikings raided Ireland, they captured several women including Princess Derdrui, whom like all the prisoners was made a slave. Danish Chieftain Hrorik Strong-Axe took his needs with Derdrui leaving her pregant. She gives birth to Halfdan, but because his mother is a slave and his father refuses to free him, the lad is raised as a slave too. Over the years Halfdan dreamed of becoming a warrior like his dad, but only a free man learns to truly use weapons. When he was fifteen, the Saxons invaded and killed Hrorik. Derdrui wanting her son to live free strikes a bargain with Hrorik as he is dying; she would accompany him on his death ship provided that he frees Halfdan. The clan leader agrees making his second offspring a free man. Already quite proficent with some weaponry especially for a slave, Halfdan undergoes rigorous training beyond that seen by anyone but may not be enough to persuade the clan, especially his half-brother Harald ,that a former slave can truly become a free warrior. Still in spite of the skeptics and his grief over his mother's sacrifice, Halfdan puts his heart into achieving his goal of acceptance as a free warrior. The first Strongbow Saga tale, VIKING WARRIOR, is a vivid look at the Viking culture during the Dark Ages through the efforts of a teen to become an accepted warrior. The story line is extremely graphic not trying to dumb down or hide abuses from the targeted audience, high school teens. Thus historical fiction readers of all ages will appreciate this deep look at a bygone way of life in which the flow of blood is the norm.

Covergirl: Confessions of a Flawed Hedonist
Maura Moynihan
Regan (HarperCollins)
0060756578, $25.95

In the 1980s upon graduating from college, Veronica Ferris returns to Manhattan where her mom the "New Helena" attends parties for the upper crust and her father John occasionally returns from diplomatic posts in Katmandu, Zimbabwe, or some other locale that his wife avoids. Helena is displeased with the return of the prodigal daughter who acts anything but the proper debutante from her "shoe-polished" hair to her freaky footwear. Instead, Veronica acts like a rebellette without a cause as she struggles with keeping the family reputation in high society while doing the disco scene. At a disco bash at Luna Ticks, John Penn, renowned cover artist of Page magazine, meets Veronica. He decides she would look great as his next cover model. Through Page magazine, Veronica meets cover peer rock star Davey Name. They begin a secret tryst that is exposed by the media. Needing to escape the frenzy, Veronica volunteers at an orphanage in Katmandu where she blunders into a free Tibet movement seeking a covergirl, preferably homegrown. COVERGIRL: CONFESSIONS OF A FLAWED HEDONIST lampoons the let them eat cake lifestyle of the rich and famous, shreds the American superiority complex, and tears apart the media celebrity frenzy while providing a fun coming of age satirical tale. Veronica is a fascinating protagonist as she walks a thin line between the family reputation and adhering to Lauper philosophy that "Girls Just Want to Have Fun". At times the plot can go over the Himalayans, but no one will care as the heroine struggles to enjoy life yet do the right thing to make her dad hold her in high regard not understanding that as his beloved offspring he always will regardless of what she does.

The Righteous Men
Sam Bourne
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061138290, $24.95 1-800-242-7737

British expatriate Will Monroe is a reporter for the New York Times who sees a nebulous link between two murders in which both victims were described as righteous by those who knew them; even Will assumes the deaths are a weird coincidence, but digs a bit deeper. As more similar deaths occur that baffle police around the globe, Will follows the trail to Washington State. However, while he is there, he receives an electronic message that his pregnant wife Beth has been kidnapped. He rushes home in a panic and realizes neither the police nor even his influential dad can help rescue his wife. Through a friend he learns the message came from an Internet cafe in Crown Heights Brooklyn, home of the Hasidic Jews. Will goes there to try to find Beth, but runs into trouble with the Rebbe who wonders who the outsider is working for. Soon the clues send Will searching for answers in the Torah, which begins to enable him to connect his spouse's abduction to the murders of THE RIGHTEOUS MEN; once the thirty-six are dead life on this planet as we know it will end, but why Beth remains a mystery until Will completes the shocking circle that engulfs him. Dan Brown meets Hasidic Jews in this somewhat convoluted religious End of Days conspiracy thriller that uses the Jewish Kabala as the focus. The story line starts straight out straight forward with an interesting murder mystery in which no motives seem to surface and the only tie is that those killed were considered righteous. The tale soon spins into a wild all over the place religious thriller that is exciting, but also difficult to follow with too many religious themes taken from the apocalypse to the messiah to the kabala, etc. Still this kosher Da Vinci tale is refreshing and very enjoyable especially when the reporter crosses the Bay to Brooklyn.

Raging Spirits
Angel Smits
PO Box 545, Canon City, CO 81215-0545
1933417048, $14.00

Psychic Clarissa Elgin first saw him in a vision in which he is shot during a robbery; instead of blaming the punk who pulled the trigger, the man blames someone named Rachel as he dies in Clarissa's arms. Not long after the seeing, Clarissa spots the victim, David Lorde, in a bank where he works. She learns who he is and that he is a vice president of accounts; she visits his office to help him though from what she does not know. He is skeptical and wonders what she is up to especially when she mentions embezzlement going on at the bank. As Clarissa gets up to leave, another vision strikes her of a man and woman arguing with she claming to love him forever, but he insisting she loved his money and prestigious position before a shot is fired. Clarissa wonders if David killed his wife Rachel. Though she fears further involvement, Clarissa remains haunted with more visions involving David and her. She soon realizes that somehow his late wife "lives" with her controlling his soul and body, but that a deeper evil abounds that allowed Rachel to successfully cast her spell. Realizing her tie to David is love, Clarissa risks her life and soul to save her beloved from spiritual manifestations possessing him from beyond. RAGING SPIRITS is a terrific ghost romance that employs a middle class community setting to enhance the horror coming from beyond. The story line is action-packed from the first vision to the last spiritual encounter that will surprise the audience with a delightful final pirouette. Writing like an angel, Ms. Smits provides an entertaining paranormal romantic suspense starring two believable and likable human characters and several ghosts who combined with a mortal everyday secondary cast make possession and psychic skills seem real.

Eye of God
Jon L. Breen
c/o John Daniel & Co.
PO Box 2790 McKinleyville, CA 95519
1880284898, $13.95 1-800-662-8351

In Orange County, California, private investigators Al Hasp and Norm Carpenter run a successful sleuthing partnership. That is until Norm proclaims he is a born again Christian who is quitting the detective business to devote his life to Jesus. Al, taking his head out of urinals, knows that the loss of the brains behind their operations means his brawn is going to fail. Al needs a Hail Mary to keep his partner on board and believes that client TV evangelist Vincent Majors is his prayer being answered. Vincent wants the sleuths to uncover who the Judas is betraying his ministry by revealing confidential embarrassing information to a reporter and to the Federation of Atheists, Irreligionists and Realists. Vincent admits the level of info being sold for shekels has to come from those close to him; thus the prime suspects include his wife, the chief administrator, the media POC, the head musician and the technological guru. At the same that Norm goes undercover joining the ministry, Al works a second case involving Helga Barnabas, wife to Anaheim Rafters basketball coach Abner and not so coincidentally Vincent's daughter. The two investigations tie together as Al works overtime to save Norm from Jesus. EYE OF GOD is a fascinating private investigative tale that stars an interesting lead duet as Al is a hard boiled detective who only believes in God in a fox hole or when he needs a card to pull off a straight while Norm is a true believer who does not use selfish prayers. However, the investigations, though cleverly devised, fail to enhance that intriguing difference in outlook because the inquiries use stereotypes to portray the ministry and basketball team. Still this is overall an interesting detective story because of the odd couple, the brawn and the brain.

Laura Crum
Perseverance Press
c/o John Daniel & Co.
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
1880284901, $13.95 1-800-662-8351

Seven months pregnant, veterinarian Gail McCarthy is taking a year off from her practice to enjoy her pregnancy and laze around when her child is born; this is quite a switch from her usual frantic vet pace. Her cousin Jenny tells Gail that her dog was poisoned and she believes someone is stalking her. Concerned, Gail visits Jenny who confides that she has had an affair with her ex husband's best friend Don until her lover's wife went crazy when she learned what was taking place. When their tryst surfaced Jenny divorced Charley, ended the relationship with Don and relocated across the country to start over. A few days later Jenny's horse comes down with moonblindess; a freaked out Jenny insists Don and Charley did this as a warning as she knows they inflicted this ailment on her other horses in order to win an upcoming race in which there was only one real contender. The next day Gail finds her cousin dead, but leans toward murder though it appears like suicide. The vet ponders whether a racing fix led to a homicide and could she be next as the stalker had to see the cousins talk. Equine lovers and fans of Dick Francis will enjoy MOONBLIND, a thriller that is winner from wire to wire due to an exciting horseracing tale that showcases the darkside of the sport. Though she vowed to mellow, the pregnant heroine is back in a situation that she better win because place or show means death. Readers knows they can bet on Laura Crum providing a winner, which MOONBLIND is.

Family Business
Janet LaPierre
Perseverance Press
c/o John Daniel & Co.
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
1880284855, $13.95, 296 pp. 1-800-662-8351

The normally quiet serene town of Port Silva in Northern California is undergoing turmoil as anti-war demonstrations are becoming violent The residents are certain that the US is going to invade Iraq for the second time and people on both sides of the issue have very strong opinion. When rain disrupts a rally in the park, fights break out with two men pushed into the ocean. One is two year resident Daniel Sato and the other person nobody recognizes. Grace, Daniel's lover is sure Daniel is still alive and hires the mother and daughter firm of private detectives, Patience and Verity Mackellar to find him. If they believe he is dead, she wants them to find out Danny's background because he never spoke about his family or where he came from. Someone breaks into Grace's apartment obviously looking for something and Daniel's best friend is murdered. Finally there is no record of a Daniel Sato in any database so Verity and Patience wonder if Daniel survived the turbulent ocean and if so why doesn't he make his presence known. As much a mystery as a family drama dealing with social issues FAMILY BUSINESS is an excellent Port Silva tale. Janet LaPierre creates images so vivid that readers will feel as if they are in Port Silva observing events unfold. With strong characterizations and a superbly well crafted mystery, this is one story too good to miss.

Angel's Share: Unleash the Hunger
Maya Hess
Black Lace
0352340436, $7.99

After living in exile with her mom in Spain for over fourteen years, Ailey Callister comes home to the Isle of Man with plans to regain her lost inheritance from the man who stole it from her as she recently learned her estranged dad died. She sneaks into a fisherman's cottage that she used to go to with her dad before the exile. Ailey notices a couple making love on the nearby ledge; unable to resist, she watches in fascination and expertly "participates" from her hiding place. The next day she sneaks onto the grounds of her former home Creg-Ny-Varn, but the gardener Dominic catches her. They end up making light bondage love; afterward he hires her as a maid to the elusive aloof owner Ethan Kincaide. As her efforts to remain incognito consistently fail, she next meets her teenage lover Connor, who says he has dreamed of her ever since she vanished years ago. Though she is attracted to Dominic and still in love with Connor, Ailey's mission remains to obtain what she believes is rightfully hers, the "Manx millions" though she struggles with why everyone insists her adversary is at home when she has never seen him though she has been in his bedroom. ANGEL'S SHARE is definitely not for everyone as Maya Hess explores sexual relationships involving masturbation, voyeurism, menage de trois, and bondage that at times relegates the prime plot of regaining a lost heritage to the back room. The story line is heated as it ventures towards-the porno sector, but also contains a strong cast that keeps it on the erotica side of the demarcation. The heroine is a delightful protagonist, but it is the eccentric locals especially those involved in sexual encounters that make for a torrid entertaining contemporary character study.

Love Once Again
Devon Vaughn Archer
1583146792, $5.99

In New York City, the African American company Callister-Reynolds Vice President Dennis DeMetris is concerned that one of the firm's top sellers; writer-photographer Richard Lowry has not done anything in three years. His last work, Autumn in Zimbabwe remains a huge commercial and critical success. Dennis sends newcomer Janine Henderson to California to demand that the recluse complete his contract of two more artistic coffee table books. Knowing she has no choice though she is worried about her seven years old daughter, Janine goes west to see Richard. He has not worked since his wife and their child tragically died. Janine has not trusted men since she realized her now former spouse not only cheated on her, but held her culpable that he did. Neither one is in the market for even a tryst let alone a relationship, but their attraction ignores the past though they emotionally cannot. Still as they fall in love, both must let go of their previous relationships if they are to forge something new. This great second chance at love psychological contemporary drama stars two likable mentally "self-imprisoned" individuals. The story line mostly focuses on the growing relationship between Janine and Richard, but also provides some enlightening flashbacks to his deceased family. Readers will appreciate this fine tale cleverly enhanced by strong family members (her daughter, his widower father, and the ghosts of his late wife and child and her still living ex) as everyone will wonder whether the present can overcome the traumas of the past.

Dark Hour
Ginger Garrett
1576838692, $12.99

In 868 BC in the Palace of Judah, Baal worshiper Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel, allows her in labor Hebrew "sister" Miraiah a chance to make peace with her on the former's terms. Though in severe pain and unattended with no midwife or servant present, Miraiah refuses to bow to Athaliah praying to the Mothers of her religion, Sarah and Rachel. Her daughter is born, but a dead Miraiah stands up and reaches out towards her adversary, stating "this child will be your doom". Athaliah blames the death on Miraiah's refusal of help to their spouse, the future King of the Jews, Prince Jehoram even as she laughs off the curse because the offspring is a mere female. Years later, Jehoram is dead and his heir, Ahaziah, the child he begat with Athaliah, is assassinated during a state visit to Israel most likely by his maternal uncle. Athaliah takes over the throne of Judah and soon Baal becomes the prime religion of both Hebrew kingdoms as the sibling rulers eradicate the House of David. However, a few years into her reign, a child of David surfaces when the high priest Jehoiada proclaims seven years old Joash as the king of Judah. As a rebellion breaks out, Athaliah learns that Miraiah's daughter Jehosheba had saved her nephew's life. This is a fanastic reenactment of Chronicles 21-23 when the children of Yahweh are in one of the darkest most dangerous period as betrayal and murder have led to a devastating civil war between evil and innocence. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action yet the key players on this biblical stage come vividly alive to the reader. Ginger Garrett provides a compelling novelization of a tiny drop of light during the seemingly all consuming DARK HOUR.

Divine By Mistake
P.C. Cast
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373802471, $6.99

Thirty something high school English teacher Shannon Parker stops at an auction sale where she notices a vase containing a portrait of her on it. She wins the bid with a ridiculously low price tag due to a mysteriously appearing crack inside the vase. On her way home, Shannon is transported from her vehicle to a luxurious temple where her friend Suzanna calls her Lady. She soon learns that the vase was a portal that her "twin" the High Priestess of Epona Rhiannon used for them to switch places; Suzanna is actually Rhiannon's slave Alanna. Centaur ClanFintan arrives with his "horsies" to demand Rhiannon complete the hand-fastening ceremony that would have them married for a year. Shannon goes through the ceremony, but refuses to take any lip (or other body part) from a man built at least down there like a thoroughbred. Instead she treats him and others the same way she taught teenage hormonal maniacs in Oklahoma. As the transplanted Shannon and the shapeshifting centaur fall in love, she tells him who she is while they team up to battle the malevolent Famorians, demonic vampire like evil creatures and to prevent the real Rhiannon from returning. The first "Goddess" book is a fun to read mythological romance because the different species of legend seem genuine and the strong heroine is ready to do battle; in this case on behalf of her new society and her beloved against her "twin" and the Famorians using the techniques honed in teaching wars with teenagers. This tale is amusing mostly due to Shannon's observations and quips yet it has its' serious moments too (for instance the worshipped Goddess learns that teachers are treated with economic contempt). Though the heroine adjusts too easily, fantasy romance fans will cast about seeking the remaining delightful Goddess tales.

Shattered Dance
Caitlin Brennan
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
037380248X, $12.99

At the bottom of the Mountain live the horse mages and their horses who are really gods. Valeria is the first female horse mage and one of the most powerful as is her lover First Rider Kerrec. After giving birth to their daughter, Kerrec and Valeria ride to the capital city of Aurelia so the riders and their horses can dance theCoronation dance, a magical spell that shapes the future. Once they arrive in the capital, they sense the foulness of the One God and the Empress falls into the trap of one of her priests. The Empress is rendered sterile which means that Kerrec's children will be her heir, but first he must marry a noble woman. Although she understands why this has to be, Valeria leaves the city to go to the outlying edge of the empire where the barbarians still rule. The Ard Ri is Euan, the barbarian prince she loved and whose life she saved twice even though she stopped him from toppling the empire. He wants to make her his queen and she agrees not realizing that if she goes through with the marriage she will destroy all she holds dear. This romantic fantasy will bring tears to the eyes of the audience as two lovers put the needs of the empire before their own desires. Caitlin Brennan has written a fabulous adult fairy tale in which the audience wonders whether hero and heroine will live happily ever after. The characters are well developed and the setting is reminiscent of the Roman Empire with the barbarians at the gates temporarily restrained. SHATTERED DANCE is a very special story and this reviewer hopes there will be more tales starring these remarkable characters. This is one fantasy readers will hate to see end.

Magic Study
Maria V. Snyder
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373802498, $21.95, 384 pp.

Yelena has left Ixia where she was under an order of execution to return to her birth home of Sitia where she once was kidnapped when she was just a child. She wants to meet her birth family and study magic at the Citadel under the tutelage of her mentor, Master Magician Irys. Her first disappointment comes when her brother Leif thinks she is an lxian spy. When she kidnapped by the only living royal who has a claim to the Ixian throne, Leif sides with him. When she arrives at the Citadel, she is mind raped by the First Magician who admits she is not a spy. Yelena's magic is powerful and doesn't always work the way it is supposed to because she lacks experience and training. Her lover in Ixia, Valek, second only to the leader Commander Ambrose journeys into Sitia as part of the delegation and since he is immune to magic he is the perfect person to save her from two kidnappers and an attempt on her life. However, to save the life of an innocent, Yelena must risk everything. She also knows that failure means rebels will overthrow the lawful government. Picking up where POISON STUDY left off, MAGIC STUDY is a fantastic fantasy set in a world where magic exists in some countries and banned in others. Yelena's adventures have forced her to mature and though she doesn't know the extent of her powers, she knows that she wants to learn to use them to help people. Her time in lxia and her roots in Sitia give her an understanding of both countries that nobody else has which means she has plenty of options for her future.

The List: A Love Story in 781 Chapters
Aneva Stout
708 Broadway, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003-9555
0761142169,$12.95 1-800-722-7202

Using the second person throughout the 781 chapters, this is a slick amusing chick lit tale of relationships (from the female perspective). No chapter is more than about twenty-five words and each consists of a declarative sentence though several have multiple choices. Each entry leads to the next entry so that the love story goes from dreaming of meeting Mr. Right to meeting Mr. Right who turns out to be Mr. Wrong to meeting other Mr. Wrongs and finally to meeting Mr. Right, who fails to measure anywhere near the perfection metrics. Tongue in cheek Aneva Stout satirizes romance fall in love and hate novels, chick lit excessive inanities, and contemporary relationships though at times some of the entries fall right into the sand traps of the platitudes being lampooned. Still this is a one sitting pleasant read that romance readers will laugh at while wondering how anyone can own an iguana and keep their bathroom sparkling clean (at least cleaner than yours)?

A Scanner Darkly: A Graphic Novel
Philip K. Dick
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0375424024, $23.95 1-800-726-0600

In the future in Orange County, California, America has lost the war on drugs though some futile efforts remain by law enforcement. Uncover police officer Fred is assigned to prevent Bob Arctor from selling the lethally still illegal addictive drug Substance D by finding evidence to arrest the dealer, who unbeknownst to the cop is also a user. Getting nowhere as he cannot even find his target, Fred decides on a dangerous ploy to masquerade as Bob Arctor, which means using Substance D in order to find the proof. What Fred fails to know is that the brain spits into two personalities when abused by Substance D; Fred seeks to incarcerate himself as he already is Bob. This graphic novel of the animated film version of Philip K. Dick's classic science fiction thriller is a superb entry that fans of the author who love this dark tale will appreciate though it is more comic book than novelization thriller. Though the book is fun to follow it seems it will pale as still frame when compared to the action sequences of the movie (about to be released) and is clearly nothing like the real thing. Still even in comic book form, Mr. Dick's dark vision of a drugged future retains the awesomeness of the original.

Kit Whitfield
Del Rey
c/o Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345491637, $19.95, 544 pp. 1-800-726-0600

On an alternate Earth almost identical to ours except for one major difference. Ninety-nine percent of the population is lycos who change at the full moon into mindless ravaging beasts. The other one percent is norms that are considered genetic freaks and these "barebacks" (a racist insult) all work for the Department for the Ongoing Regulation of Lycanthropic Activity (DORLA). Their job is to protect the Lycos from each other or barebacks and represent them if their crimes are so severe they end up in the courts. Lila Galley, a norm who works for DORLA, is devastated when her friend and fellow worker Johnny loses his hand to a lycos attack. Later on he is murdered and the person under scrutiny is Mr. Ellaway woo Lola is supposed to defend. On a search for information with her trainee Marty, three werewolves attack Lola and him. They arrest the Lycos for attempted murder. They roughly question the perp Darrel Seligmann who later escapes. One of the people who questioned him is killed with a silver bullet, the same kind of bullet that killed Johnny. Lila elects to stay on the job while those who questioned the perp elect to be relocated until the danger is over. Moving in with her lycos boyfriend, Lila realizes her life is in danger and she could be killed if she doesn't find Seligmann soon and figure the link between the trainee and Johnny. Kit Whitfield has written a great urban fantasy because of her brilliant world-building skills that create a lycanthropic culture where people who can not change into wolf form are considered freaks. The "barebacks" work for the Lycos in a realm where there is much prejudice between the two groups. The lycos look down on barebacks who are second class citizens who work for the lycos. The protagonist struggles to accept her place in this world where she is in the abyss of intense prejudice.

Armageddon's Children
Terry Brooks
Del Rey
c/o Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345484088, $26.95, 384 pp. 1-800-726-0600

In the not so distant future, wars, the destruction of the ozone layer and the melting of the polar ice caps have caused civilization to collapse. Although the few human survivors think of it as an urban legend, the demons from the Void have risen in ascendancy while the Knights of the Word are hunted to near extinction. The water and soil is poisoned, plagues continually sweep the planet and humanity is at the mercy of the non-humans, those who have been subverted by the demons. The not-humans led by demons who look like people attack the compounds where humans live. Teens and children with no parents like Hawk and his group the Ghosts band together in tribes to survive outside the compound. Tom Logan, who has spent two decades in service to the Word, is now on the quest to find a child of magic who will be the one to bring the chosen into the Promised Land. Part science fiction, part fantasy, and totally awesome in its complexity ARMAGEDDON'S CHILDREN is one of the best works of speculative fiction to come along in years. This is nothing like the Shannara books but it is a classic tale of good vs. evil and what happens when malevolence becomes more powerful that its counterpoint. There are many heroes struggling against overwhelming odds to bring light to a dark and dangerous world.

The Grief Shop
Vicki Stiefel
0843957433, $6.99, 353 pp.

Tally Whyte runs the Massachusetts Grief Assistance Organization (MGAP) and although it is in the building that houses the medical examiners office it is a separate entity. The Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Veda Barrow is Tally's foster mother who she loves dearly. She is also in love with Sheriff Hank Cunning who lives in Maine and wants her to take a job up there as chief medical examiner. Tally's life begins to radically change when she finds a lump on her three-legged dog and takes her to the vet who wants to do a biopsy. Then she is called to the medical examiner's office because the body of a child was in there with the phrase "sins of the father" on her hand. When they track down the victim's parents, they discover that a second child that was staying with them was also kidnapped. She is returned to her parents but a third child is found dead with the same words written on her hand that were inscribed on Rose's. Veda is hospitalized with an infection and then someone injected her with medicines that destroyed her brain. To make matters worse, the expected new chief medical examiner wants MGAP out of the building. Tally tries to carry on and identify the killer while finding she has feelings for another man. When Veda is kidnapped, Tally goes on point to find the killer before he strikes again. There is so much action in THE GRIEF SHOP that readers will want to finish it in one sitting to find out what happens and how the various sub-plots are linked together. Most people would break under the strain Tally is under but the protagonist seems to gather strength out of adversity. Vicki Stiefel is a talented storyteller who writes enjoyable consuming psychological thrillers.

Never Say Die
Kris Neri
Hilliard & Harris
1591330920, $16.95

In San Diego triathlete Zoey Morgan is training the Touchstone Classic when a car hits her before speeding off without stopping. The paramedics work to save her life though one believes she is a DRT, dead right there while the other continues to work frantically to save her. Detectives Lou Pena and Dale Terry arrive at the scene and are shocked to recognize the victim who graces the cover of Triathlete magazine. A witness steps forward claiming the driver deliberately tried to kill Zoey and he is someone everyone knows. As Zoey recovers in the hospital Dale asks what she remembers about the accident, but to her chagrin she recalls nothing at all. Meanwhile Doug Tomaso cannot believe the San Diego Union states his victim lived. Stunned self deprecating Dougie plans to complete the job correctly next time. Zoey ponders who truly wants her dead and why as other incidents occur leading her to trust no one not even the cop who she is attracted to and who saved her life. Combining the rigors of training for a major iron person competition with a whodunit, Kris Neri, switching from the Tracy Eaton "Revenge" tales, provides her readers with a captivating sports mystery. The fast-paced story line uses small flashbacks that tell somewhat the past of the beleaguered heroine as well as the motive for wanting her dead starting with her reaction to the CD cover of a dead musician. The twists will surprise the audience who swim, bike, and run along side of Zoey as she tries to stay alive.

Reluctant Burglar
Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Multnomah Books
601 North Larch Street, Sisters, OR 97759-9320
1590526864, $12.99 1-800-929-0910

Desiree Jacobs pulls off the ploy of masquerading as Olivia Layton of the National Antiquities Society so that she can walk out with a genuine Renoir from the Boston Public Museum of Arts& Antiquities. She returns a few minutes later to the museum whose chief Jacqueline Taylor hires Desi's firm, HJ Security to enhance the museum's security. Not long afterward, FBI Agent Tony Lucano, who works art thefts, informs Desi that her beloved father was professionally murdered in his Rome hotel room. Tony and his partner Steve Crane assume she was her dad's art thief cohort and knows where the loot is. Desi believes her father was innocent until an assault in her apartment by someone who believes, like the two feds, that she partnered with her dad. She begins to think about her father's love for acrostics and soon solves a puzzle he left for her, which leads her to stolen art and a note telling her that her father was a thief and to trust no one. Desi wants to depend on Tony, who she is attracted to, but does not believe he would care about her interests; alone she risks getting killed by a vicious international art thief. The RELUCTANT BURGLAR is an entertaining police procedural with Christian and romantic subplots enhancing the story line. Desi is terrific as a beleaguered heroine not sure who to turn to except God while the devout Tony prays she is innocent though his "aside discussions" with the Lord disrupts the pacing. Still fans who appreciate a slightly different but well written inspirational romantic mystery will enjoy the escapades of Desi and Tony supported by a strong secondary cast.

Until My Last Breath
John P. Deffes
Vintage Romance,
107 Clearview CI Goose Creek, SC 29445
0978536827 $16.95 (843) 225-9735

In 1938 while working on his family's Montana ranch, eighteen years old Caleb Roberts meets Jamie Lynn Connor, the daughter of his new neighbors. He is instantly stunned and realizes he is in love at first sight, which he tells her. She says she is fond of him but they just met. Later they see one another as he takes flying lessons from aviator Max. However, Caleb angrily intervenes when Max sexually molests Jamie. Max flies away, but crashes and is found dead. Jamie tells Caleb not to tell the sheriff as she knows first hand no one will believe her, as her dad touches her. Caleb's father visits Jamie's dad to tell him his daughter will live with the Roberts. A year later Jamie and Caleb are married and living in Texas where he trains to be an aviator in the Army Aircorps. As a consequence to the attack of December 7, 1941 now a lieutenant, Caleb is sent to war leaving behind his beloved wife and their infant son Connor. Both adults know they may never see one another in this life again and their son may never learn to play baseball with his hero dad. UNTIL MY LAST BREATH is a great war novel that pays homage to the Soldier by showcasing the real sacrifices and costs to the fighter and his or her beloved family members. The story line cleverly uses WW II as a backdrop to the saga of a loving patriotic couple whose life together is interrupted perhaps permanently by the hostilities. No one will remain dry eyed when four years old Connor asks his mom about his dad as readers ponder "When will they ever learn"? Perhaps not until Congress and the White House have to tell one on one that a beloved died in combat.

Spying in High Heels
Gemma Halliday
Making It
0843957352, $6.99

In Los Angeles, shoe designer Maddie Springer thinks she might be pregnant when she misses her period, a biological condition that the government could use to set the atomic clock. She goes to her every Friday lunch date with her boyfriend Richard Howe planning to tell him about her concern, but though she is late (a usual occurrence unlike her always on time period) when Maddie arrives at the law office of Dewy, Cheatum, and Howe he tells her he cannot do lunch. A few days later, Maddie is worried about her boyfriend whom she has not heard from since his abrupt end to their lunch. She soon learns that LAPD detective Jack Ramirez suspects Richard embezzled $20 million. She believes he is innocent and sets off with the help of her best friend Dana to prove he is not guilty so he can be there when she takes the rabbit test. As the amateurs investigate and stumble over corpses and clues while destroying crime scenes, their inquiries lead them to believe a blond female has killed two suspects and is trying to murder everyone associated with the embezzlement including two bumbling sleuths. This amateur sleuth chick lit tale runs on full octane even with the heroines prancing around L.A. in stiletto high heels. The amusing story line is fast-paced as Maddie and Dana cause havoc to the killer, the cop, and a bunch of eccentrics who believe the daring duo are crazy weirdoes. No Birkenstock with this duo as Gemma Halliday provides an inane zany but totally fun whodunit, chick lit style.

Why Moms Are Weird
Pamela Ribbon
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th floor,New York, NY 10020
1416503854, $13.00 1-800-223-2336

Belinda "Benny Boobenstein" Bernstein, "Boobs" for short, lives in Virginia while her mother resides in the "past" in Los Angeles. Benny rarely gets home especially since her dad died as she lives a busy life in the east watching the fourth season of Mr. Show and besides her mom is a weirdo; she is the one who dubbed her Boobenstein when she was thirteen. However, when mom breaks her leg in a car accident, Benny rushes home to help her while she recovers. Benny is totally unprepared for the animals cohabitating with her mom, her sister's ex-convict boyfriend, the junk piled everywhere in the house of which none seemed to belong to moms, and the hunk doing yard work. Benny plans to fix everything before she heads back to Virginia, but who will mend her broken heart when she leaves Mickey in California? The Bernstein brood makes the Sycamore clan (You Can't Take It With You) look functional leading to an inane but amusing contemporary romance. Besides her family members seeming more at home in the cuckoo's nest, the heroine's asides clearly prove she is part of the family tree; anyone who compares herself to the Texas tower mass murderer is playing electronic solitaire with fifty-one cards. Though overwhelming with its dysfunctional relationships, chick lit readers will laugh with the antics of the Bernstein Boob Bears.

The Fragrance of Roses
Nikki Arana
080073050X, $12.99

Over the objections of her parents, former New York attorney Angelica Amante returned home to Sonoma where she met, fell in love, and married migrant worker Antonio Perez (see WINDS OF SONOMA). They remain happy though financially concerned while her parents continue to doubt the lasting power of the relationship especially with a Downs Syndrome grandchild (see IN THE SHADE OF THE JACARANDA). The couple is still together though a decade has passed since they first met. Angelica is content to stay home raising their Downs Syndrome son Manuel and his eight years old precious younger sister Anica. Antonio and Angelica consider Manuel their miracle child as he has also overcome cancer; that is until now for the disease is back and he is dying. The only hope to save his life is with a bone marrow transplant, which means major medical bills, finding a match perhaps in Mexico, and praying for a miracle. Though some readers will find this tear jerker too manipulative, others will appreciate the strong underlying message of parental love. Either opinion, fans will weep and pray for Manuel in his battle against cancer while Angelica, Antonio, and even Anica will do everything they can to save his life or at least make him more comfortable. Nikki Arana will increase the demand for tissues as no one will remain dry eyed while reading this heart-wrenching family drama.

The Bishop's Daughter
Wanda E. Brunstetter
1597890006, $12.95

In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Leona Weaver sadly reflects that instead of her four years as a teacher ending so she could marry Ezra Yoder; she will be back next year. While shoeing a horse, Ezra was kicked in the head and died. In Puyallup, Washington, Jim Scott fails to complete his death bed vow to his late wife that he informs their son Jimmy that he is adopted. Instead Jimmy learns this from a letter written to him by his mother before she died. Stunned Jimmy needs to know more about his biological parents starting with the lawyer in Maryland. Jimmy heads east as Jim goes on a bender. In Maryland Jimmy learns that the Scotts never adopted anyone. Jim tells him that he kidnapped him, but that his mom never knew. The younger man soon tracks his ancestry to Lancaster County where he obtains work as a painter employed by Bishop Jacob Weaver. When the Bishop slips off a ladder and injures his head, Leona begins to question why God allows terrible things to happen to good people. Jimmy continues his search for his parents and to help the Weavers because he admires the Bishop and loves Leona, but fears that Jim could go to jail if he succeeds on his quest. The third Daughters of Lancaster County Series (see THE STOREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER and THE QUILTER'S DAUGHTER) is a wonderful inspirational tale that provides a close-up look at the modern day Amish lifestyle. The story line is character driven especially by the lead couple who knows that English and Amish should never marry. Though some might scoff at how upbeat subplots comes together, fans of inspirational tales will agree with Wanda E. Brunstetter's assertion that God performs everyday miracles.

Last Whisper
Carlene Thompson
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312937288, $6.99 1-888-330-8477

In Charleston, West Virginia, she was eleven when her stepfather Zachary Tavell ended her childhood by killing her mother and pointing the gun at her head. Brooke Yeager was lucky to escape with her life. Fifteen years later, Brooke is a successful realtor mentoring twenty-one years old Mia Walters. They go to show a house late at night, but no one shows up. Brooke allows Mia to drive her new car, but before they leave someone shoots the driver. A stunned Brooke runs to a nearby house that she is familiar with from her last bout of violence. This is the home of now retired Detective Sam Lockhart, who with his late wife was so kind to her when she dealt with her mom's murder. Though widower Sam suffers from Alzheimer's, he takes in Brooke while his son mystery writer Vincent wants her to leave. While the two male Lockharts try to keep her safe from her stepfather, who escaped prison, Brooke and Vincent fall in love; however she fears attachments as people she love like her daddy who died from cancer when she eight and her mother "leave". LAST WHISPERS is an exhilarating romantic suspense thriller that starts off at hyperspeed and never slows down until the final family reunion. The action-packed story line is driven by relationships to include those dead. Sam worries about Brooke; Vincent worries about Sam; Brooke worries about the Lockharts. Though Zachary's thirst for vengeance seems at first over the top, a terrific plausible twist makes everything possible and creditable so that readers obtain a fantastic tale from one of the stars of the sub-genre, Carlene Thompson.

Gunpowder Plot
Carola Dunn
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312349890, $23.95 1-888-330-8477

In 1924 pregnant Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher visits her friend Gwen Tyndall at their family's Cotswolds estate, Edge Manor where a Guy Fawkes gala will be celebrated. Daisy quickly realizes that the Tyndall family is at odds with one another. Iron fisted patriarch Sir Harold demands his son Jack take over the running of Edge Manor from his sister Barbara as Babs being a female has to be incompetent. Harold also has problems with the nerve of aeronautical engineer Martin Miller wanting Jack to join his firm though he seems to ignore that his youngest daughter Gwen and Miller are an entry. Starting with squib, Daisy finds she is under assault from the young sons of the third sister Adelaide. During the Gunpowder Plot celebration someone murders Sir Harold and the wife of Jack's Australian guest Mr. Gooch. Daisy's husband, DCI Alec Fletcher investigates the two homicides with motive being the key leading to either Gooch killing his spouse and her lover or Jack knowing his dad's will is being changed to remove him from inheriting anything. Alec follows the money so bets are on Jack while his wife believes otherwise and begins to snoop. The GUNPOWDER PLOT is a wonderful historical English mystery that fans of the intrepid Daisy will fully enjoy as she investigates while refusing to allow her delicate condition to get in her way. Interwoven little tidbits bring to life the era like Daisy informing Gwen she plans to learn to drive, a rarity for females in 1924 (but then again this is not the "Victorian Dark Ages"). The whodunit is fun but as always with this series it is the cast especially the heroine who makes the novels a Dunn deal to read as soon as possible for delighted loyal fans.

Too Wicked to Wed
Cheryl Holt
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312937997, $6.99 1-888-330-8477

In 1814 war hero Captain William Luke Westmoreland wins Mansfield Estate in a card game with moronic hedonist Archibald Mansfield. Archibald's older sister twenty-five year old on the shelf Helen pleads with Luke to not displace her and her sibling only to learn her brother also gambled away her virginity. Luke rejects her plea as he has never forgotten that his mother Mary Lucas was a ward of her father and therefore entitled to his protection when she was seduced by Duke Harold Westmoreland; instead her dad tossed the pregnant girl onto the street. Helen ultimately agrees to his terms of being his mistress for thirty days. However, he finds his attraction to her distracting him from his life goal of revenge by ruining Mansfield's daughter. As Luke and Helen fall in love, someone else has plans to use the spinster for personal goals of wealth and perhaps some sex. Though similar in overall theme too many Regency romances, TOO WICKED TO WED contains a vitality and crispness due a solid cast especially the self-indulgent villains. The lead couple is an obvious pairing as they battle over her virtue while her brother's rage with Helen is fabulous as he blames her for his woes because she failed to "sell" her body. Archibald's best friend adds to a feel that the ethics of the male members of the Ton is selfish pleasure at the cost of others. Cheryl Holt provides a fine character driven historical.

Mari Jungstedt
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312351577, $23.95 1-888-330-8477

The friends meet at a resort on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Helena is with Per; Emma with her spouse; Olle and his neighbors Eva and Rikard; and finally Beata and her American husband are all there. However, instead of an amiable get together at the trendy tourist locale they chose, jealousies explode leading to accusations and rage. Not long afterward, the prime focus of the dispute Helena vanishes from her home on the island. However, she is quickly found dead, someone brutally used an ax to hack her to death. Police Inspector Anders Knutas leads the island investigation, but makes no progress as everyone is in shock and denial. As he struggles with the homicide investigation two more brutal murders of females occur amongst the friends, Anders wonders if this is a case of nine little Indians leading to one or just no female survivors. This is an entertaining serial killer Swedish police procedural in which the audience will have solved the case before Anders figures out what is going on. That is the strength of the story line as it brings freshness that the detective is average not a Wallender offspring or a Clouseau clone which still can frustrate the audience that he cannot see the obvious links. The setting is terrific for this fine Swedish whodunit.

Darnella Ford
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312348037, $13.95 1-888-330-8477

Vanessa fell in love with David Claville, but though they married and he seemed to share her deepest regard, he suffers from a birth defect of being unable to stay erect whenever he meets a female. Unable to live with his philandering, Vanessa has separated from David. She lives in a low-income housing dump in El Mirage, Arizona, a dust bowl thirty minutes form Phoenix where she raises her "old soul" twelve year old daughter Kennedy in a dangerous loser's environment. Vanessa lives from check to check as a housekeeper to a wretched, elderly and lonely Miss Gregory. However, she suddenly needs one grand because her talented offspring has an opportunity to escape their miserable environs where they have witnessed a murder and hear their neighbors going at it all night. The Milligan School has accepted Kennedy as a piano student, but the only problem is coming up with one thousand dollars and Vanessa no longer has a job (as Miss Gregory passed away) to pay her bills let alone the school's fee. Pondering her options Vanessa concludes she has one saleable commodity: herself. This is an interesting character study of a woman willing to do almost anything including selling herself so that her beloved child has a chance for a better life. Vanessa is a super protagonist willing to CHOKE on a male to insure that Kennedy has an opportunity. Though the dilemma is to easily resolved readers will appreciate this mother who shows that morality is not a simple righteous up or down vote.

Four Kinds of Rain
Robert Ward
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
031235780X, $22.95 1-888-330-8477

Baltimore psychiatrist Dr. Bob Wells knows his life is spinning out of control due to a gambling addiction and a need to imbibe to numb the pain of his work and the loss of his wife after twenty-two of marriage when she finally gave up on him. In his fifties his once thriving practice lies dormant if not dead. He makes some chump change as a freelance (nice term for fill-in) psychiatric social worker. Bob's only pleasure comes when he plays with his oldies band, the Rockaholics, which is once a week as everyone else has real day jobs. To spice up the act the group hires blonde Jesse Reardon as a singer. To his shock Bob falls in love at first sight with the beautiful blond bombshell. He ignores his desire until she tells him she loves him. Though they share heaven, Jesse informs her beloved Bob that they will not stay together because she refuses to be with a man with no money. Bob decides his only avenue top obtain some cash to keep Jesse is to rob his last wealthy client, neurotic antiquities dealer Emile Bardan. The unhinged Emile thinks that his nemesis Colin Edwards will try to steal a priceless Sumerian sun-god mask from him and will kill him if he tries stopping him; Emile believes Colin has murdered a friend. Bob sees an opportunity to steal the mask and sell it to Colin. FOUR KINDS OF RAIN is for the most part an amusing crime caper in which the bungling cast make mistake after mistake. The story line is fast-paced though a bit over the edge as Emile is paranoid; Colin is dangerous; and Bob is desperate. Fans who enjoy wacky tales starring ultra-flawed characters will want to accompany these escapees from the Robert Ward as this novel is filled with humorous blunders and misguided escapades.

Lights Out
Jason Starr
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312359721, $22.95 1-888-330-8477

Ryan Rossetti and Jake Thomas made Canarsie High School's baseball team nationally ranked; they were both sure shot major leaguers. Jake reached the big leagues where he stars for the Pirates having just completed an all star season hitting 351. However, Ryan saw his pitching career snap to a sudden halt when he tore a ligament. Whereas Jake is making the big bucks in Pittsburgh, Ryan paints houses back home in Brooklyn for less than a living wage. Now the superstar is coming back to Canarsie to celebrate his great success and to change his image from an out of control hedonist to a caring give something back to the community person. His agent warns Jake to behave because he will most likely face a statutory-rape arrest that could end his chances of obtaining the big endorsements. Thus Jake returns to Brooklyn as a hero, but also to ask his high school sweetheart, Christina Mercado, whose surname he cannot remember, to marry him. Christina realizes she is candy to sweeten Jake's image and is seeing Ryan. At the same time the triangle plays out in New York City, other locals have grudges with one another that will violently disrupt Jake's triumphant return to the place where his glory started. From the start readers anticipate tempers overflowing as jealousy, anger, and resentment explode and not just with the baseball players. The story line is action-packed from the moment that readers understand the paths taken by the two former Canarsie superstars and never slows down until the final violent walk off homer. Readers who appreciate a powerfully character driven urban noir will enjoy the aptly named Jason Starr's grand slam thriller.

The White Tower
Dorothy Johnston
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312332491, $23.95, 240 pp.1-888-330-8477

Ivan and Sandra have opened up a consultancy mostly dealing with white collar crime. Since Ivan is involved on another assignment, Sandra goes to the home of Moira Howley who wants her to find out what was going through her son Neil's mind when he committed suicide. The police think he became involved in a MUD internet game Castles of Heroes and was despondent when the gamemaster executed his character and kicked Neil out of the game because he was trying to steal his source code. He jumped off Telstra tower but Sandra can't understand how he leaped over the barbed wire pointed at the visitor. She e-mails people who were involved with the game and all of them are shocked that Neil committed suicide. When she talks to the originator of the game, she learns that Neil signed on from the hospital where he worked as well as his home. She begins to believe someone else signed on using Neil's name especially since he complained someone was stalking him on the game. She wonders if he was murdered and she goes to the hospital to talk to his co-workers who refuse to talk to her. Someone thinks she is getting to close to the truth because a death threat via e-mail arrives. THE WHITE TOWER takes place in Canberra, Australia, giving armchair travelers an enticing look at the continent. The protagonist balances her roles as a wife, a sleuth, and a mother with an ease that seems natural and enhances the believability of the story line. Ivan is a great help who supports his wife emotionally in a way every a woman would like her significant other to support them. Dorothy Johnston provides a fine suspense laden mystery.

Missing Member
Jo-Ann Power
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312357990, $23.95, 320 pp.1-888-330-8477

Congresswoman Carly Wagner of Texas plans to run for a sixth term. Her constituents love the former Miss America runner up and voters like her humor and her ability not to kowtow to the party line. The party is grooming her to run for higher office and plan on making her the key note speaker at the Democratic Convention. She knows how to work the political scene but she never betrays the ethics of Congress or the laws of the land. One morning when she enters her office she finds the body of Minority Whip Alistair Dunhill with a fatal chest wound and his penis in his mouth. The police consider her as a suspect because she saw Alistair in her office the night before and she has no alibi. Eager to turn suspicion away from her, she starts asking questions. Mr. Jones, a bodyguard and private detective hired to protect her, is driving her crazy with his sexy looks, his refusal to tell her who he works for and his ignorance on who hired him to watch over her. When someone breaks into her house and tries to run her off the road, he gives her black ops gadgets that will help in her protection but even with Jones and his gizmos, she still finds herself on the wrong end of a gun. Jo-Ann Power, has written a witty charming and realistic who done it that deserves a place on the mystery best-seller lists. The protagonist is both sophisticated and down home, a combo that shouldn't work but does sort of a younger, prettier (obviously) female Sam Ervin. Mr. Jones is a cipher wrapped in an enigma and surrounded by a veil of secrecy that will have male hearts fluttering. Missing Member is an appropriate title on many levels especially with today's Congress.

Dreaming Of You
Francis Ray
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312939736, $6.99 1-888-330-8477

In Santa Fe, restaurant owner Brandon Grayson is on red alert because he knows his mom wants him married with children and so seeks single women for him. His paranoia over remaining a bachelor has reached epic proportions as he will not even date anyone. However, he assumes that he is safe from permanency with the younger sister of his best friend Cameron. Faith McBride has had great success running the House of Serenity Hotel, but has failed at love. Her problem is that no one she has met measures up to her idol, her older brother's best friend Brandon. She knows she loved him as an adulating puppy and still does as an adult as he is her one. Now she has the chance to seduce him as a plumbing problem has sent him to stay at her hotel. She understands the all or nothing risk of going for her beloved. DREAMING OF YOU is a fine regional romance starring two likable protagonists. Though the tension is somewhat limited, readers will cheer on the courageous heroine as she decides to roll the dice on love that she prays is not unrequited. Brandon is nice person who fears losing her friendship if he accepts the lure that the siren is sending his way. The latest Grayson contemporary tale (see ANY RICH MAN WILL DO) provides fans with a delightful ray of love.

Saratoga: A Novel of the American Revolution
David Garland
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312361483, $13.95 1-888-330-8477

In 1777, loyal veteran British Captain James Skoyles joins the 24th Foot marching down the Hudson Valley from Canada under the command of General John Burgoyne. A courageous warrior who earned his commission on the battlefield, James believes the upstart colonists will be quickly defeated once they reach the mouth of the Hudson in New York City and thus slice the colony in half. This major force easily takes the undermanned Fort Ticonderoga from the rebels that lead to "Gentleman Johnny" and his senior advisors being confident that the ragtag group will be routed. Only James retains a healthy skepticism as he notices the intelligence and grit of the enemy. However, even James is somewhat distracted when he meets Elizabeth Rainham engaged to marry Major Harry Featherstone, who he realizes is an abusive officer with no concern about the soldiers dying or maimed and cares even less about the civilian populace becoming casualties. As they compete for Elizabeth's affection with James dreaming of a post war future in New York with her, Saratoga is reckoning. This engaging revolutionary War historical fiction novel is at its best when the story line concentrates on the British military politics that hampered a powerful force. The plot loses some sting when it focuses on a romantic triangle between the two British officers and Elizabeth especially since James is all good and caring while Harry is all evil and a sociopath. Still the insight into the British military of 1777 makes for a fine tale as readers observe a confident James becoming increasingly a skeptic.

The Year's Best Science Fiction
Edited by Gardner Dozois
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312353340, $19.95 1-888-330-8477

As always the latest compilation in this annual science fiction anthology remains one of the great anthologies as the current entries are top rate. For the most part, the thirty contributions are superb tales from a who's who of the genre. Especially fascinating is Paul McAuley's creative entry "The Two Dicks," in which Philip K. Dick writes mainstream fiction until he meets Richard Nixon. Other stories are well written as Gardner Dozier scores again with selections that run the gamut from alternative realties to artificial intelligence to "animal" intelligence that worms its way into the reader's mind. The introduction by Mr. Dozier provides a "Summation" of the trends in the year, which can be summarized as "stable". Science fiction fans who appreciate shorts will devour this must reading that once again lives up to its title.

Peloponnesian War
Nigel Bagnall
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312342152, $29.95 1-888-330-8477

This is an insightful meticulous look at a key pivotal moment in history, the twenty-seven year (with some interim periods of peace during the period) war between democratic Athens and totalitarian Sparta for supremacy of the Mediterranean. The work can stand alone but appears to be a wonderful companion piece to Nigel Bagnall's Punic War treatise and not as coffee table book ends, but as an insightful pair that armchair historians will appreciate. Though aimed at military historical aficionados, the late Mr. Bagnall goes into immense at times excruciating (at least to this reviewer) detail of what happened and to a degree why. For instance, readers get a microscopic look at how the Sparta blockade worked to cut off Athenian supply lines in spite of the latter having naval superiority. Most interesting is the lessons learned from this Greek tragedy that apply today as the Athenian democratic leaders forced the confrontation in an attempt to insure the dominance in the region against their rival (much different than what is taught in school). Clearly targeting a specific audience, the PELOPONNESIAN WAR is a well written dissertation on a critical relevant period that impacted the western world we know today.

Lily Burana
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
031235505X, $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Artist Daryl Heatherly leaves the Denver area to return to her family home in the Cheyenne, Wyoming vicinity. She and her brother Jace plan to sell the place. However on the drive, Daryl thinks about how poorly she chooses relationship having figuratively burned her last one with reverse snob Alex whom she met two years ago at Colorado State. At the Bluffs Ranch in Wyoming, Daryl meets world champion rodeo fortyish cowboy J.W. Jarrett. He behaves like a perfect gentleman though he is attracted to the enthusiastic girl half his age. She, in turn, finds his gentle romantic old west manner enticing. In spite of her sibling's strong objection of her dating a cowboy twice her age and her friend warning her that J.W. suffers from relationship phobia because of all his groveling groping groupies, they become an entry as they travel the circuit together. Still she has doubts as she wants independence not dependence on both their parts so J.W. knows he must continue to get off the dirt and TRY to convince his beloved that their May-December love is forever. The background rodeo circuit is vibrant as the dust, bruises, and injuries of those participating in the circuit and their beloved family members accompanying them provide a strong setting reminiscent of the Wide World of Sports. The lead couple is a fascinating pairing of an older man with a younger woman but both their closest friends and family believe it is wrong yet love makes it so right so each understands they must TRY. Readers will appreciate this delightful "old west" contemporary romance that showcases (The Wide World of Sports) "the thrill of victory", "the agony of defeat" and "the human drama of athletic competition" in the rodeo and in life.

Bill Napier
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
031293680X, $6.99 1-888-330-8477

The Cold War ended with a whimper, but a few decades later the Soviet Union like a humongous Phoenix has returned with the same objective of burying the west. This time the Soviets are more direct in their hostilities; their physicists come up with Project Nemesis, redirecting an asteroid to crash into the United States. The American government struggles to resume the Cold War mentality, but considers a nuclear retaliatory strike. However the immediate need is to divert Nemesis from its new path with only five days till splashdown kills millions. Scientists from all over the free world have gathered at the Mexican border to abort Nemesis. Physicist Dr. Oliver Webb is assigned finding the projectile before it is too late, but he knows he seeks a grain of sand amidst a desert. Still as the countdown to Armageddon continues, Oliver concludes that clues finding the asteroid is in a four century old document. Once he obtains that manuscript, he believes he can pinpoint Nemesis so that the other team members will be able to complete the mission. Revising the Soviet threat with two decades more of technology and scientific information would in of itself be a terrific save the world thriller. However, what makes NEMESIS must reading for the thriller crowd is Bill Napier's pull no punches knockout description of the vast devastation a direct hit by an asteroid would do to the earth. That vivid pandemic scenario on top of the action-packed exhilarating tale is mindful of the Willis movie Armageddon, but with more subplots, twists and spins make for a neo-Cold War thriller.

The Boy with Perfect Hands
Sheldon Rusch
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
042521172X, $23.95, 336 pp. 1-800-847-5515

A man is found strangled in his home at the same time a woman is found murdered and posed in an outdoor arena. The pattern happens several times. Illinois State Special Agent Elizabeth Taylor Hewitt is assigned the head up the case. Her new captain is not the father figure like her previous one; in fact he is more like the evil stepfather who never lets Hewitt forget she slept with a serial killer. Elizabeth has a theory that two different people working in tandem are responsible for the series of murders. Hewitt's first break comes when she notices that in the house of the male victims, the radio was tuned to the classical station WCLS. On the night of the last murder at 3:03 A.M. Nocturne in E. Flat by Chopin was playing. She thinks the killer got into the apartment and played the song working the victim over just as he did with the other male victims. When she goes over to the radio station, she is shocked to learn that the owner is her old high school friend Jimmy Benson. He tells her that the only disgruntled employee he knows is a radio personality he fired. When Hewitt meets that person her instincts tell her he isn't the killer and she moves the investigation into a different direction one that almost costs her and her lover their lives. Sheldon Rusch proves he is no one hit wonder with THE BOY WITH THE PERFECT HANDS, a mystery that has luscious rich, literary poise, a likeable "everyman" heroine and a group of suspects that could all be the killers. The investigation progresses naturally from one moment to the next and makes the climax feel very right. The protagonist uses tried and true police methods as well as intuition to crack the case wide open.

Gaits of Heaven
Susan Conant
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425211878, $22.95, 336 pp. 1-800-847-5515

Ted and Eumie won training lessons for their golden Aussie hiskapoo at the Cambridge Dog Training Club. Holly Winter feels responsible for their good natured but untrained and not housebroken Dolfo since she was the one who convinced the club to offer the free lessons. She volunteers to train the Green's dog but at one of the very first lessons, Holly finds Eumie dead in her bed. The police believe she was murdered because powerful drugs were found in a health drink that only she imbibed. Eumi's daughter Caprice, who can't stand her stepfather or stepbrother Wyeth, goes to live with Holly, her husband Steve and their five dogs. The remaining Greens are severely dysfunctional and infested by a plethoric of various mental health care needs. Wyeth is perhaps the most troubled of all and his actions lead to a group meeting consisting of anyone connected to the Greens including the killer. Susan Conant is well known for her colorful and intriguing amateur sleuth mysteries. In addition to telling a great story, she deals with social issues that are relevant today and in GAITS OF HEAVEN the biggest issue she addresses is the over medication of doctors who don't communicate with their peers so they never fully know what pills their clients are taking. The plot is fast paced, the characters are hot and eccentric, and the dogs stealthily steal the show as is typical in a Ms. Conant tale.

Dolled Up For Murder
Deb Baker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425212637, $6.99, 288 pp. 1-800-847-5515

Gretchen Birch's family has some interesting occupations; her mother collects and repairs dolls and her aunt Nina trains small dogs to stay in purses. When Nina calls to tell Gretchen that her mother is missing, she asks Gretchen to fly out to Phoenix. When she arrives there she learns that her mother's friend Marha, a "one time doll collector" who ended up as a homeless person fell off the cliff on Camelback Mountain. In her hand there was a note in her hand stating "Carolina Birch-put her away". Two hikers saw Caroline on the mountains shortly after Martha was murdered which makes her the prime suspect. It doesn't help that Caroline disappeared or that an inventory list contained a doll that belonged to Martha was found in Caroline's home. Caroline meanwhile is in Chicago looking at a doll and bidding on another doll on e-bay in the hopes of bringing down a villain and clearing her name. Gretchen and Nina work independently of the police but everything they unearth points to Caroline as a killer. Deb Baker has written a charming cozy that brings into the light the dark side of doll collecting. The support cast is so well drawn that readers understood their motivations, including the two homeless persons integral to the plot, and the heroine who is an everyday person who goes about investigating in a rational realistic manner. DIALED UP FOR MURDER is a great opening book to what feels like a charming new mystery series.

Dark Celebration
Christine Feehan
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425211673, $23.95 1-800-847-5515

The Carpathians and their human companions come together to celebrate Christmas. However, the clan knows there is not that much to rejoice in this Yuletide season. Fear of extinction is real as there is already a very low birth rate, many are stillborn and even many of those who enter the world alive die as the infant mortality rate is high. On top of that their demonic, vampiric and hunter enemies are mounting serious well planned assaults to eliminate females. Prince Mikhail Dubrinsky worries that he cannot save his people as he knows the evidence is overwhelming that they are an endangered species. He also fears for the safety of his soulmate Raven and their daughter Savannah, but still Mikhail wants more offspring not just to procreate but because he cherishes his two females and wants more to love and nurture. His bother Jacques is also concerned especially over the safety of his "lifemate" Shea, a former human medical doctor, who carries his child. Other Carpathian males are just as worried about the females and the children, but none understands that a betrayal that abets a dark mage may prove more dangerous to survival than the vampires, hunters, and demons that seek to leave the species extinct. Though well written, DARK CELEBRATION feels more like a transition book setting the table for future delights. The plot is thin and no couple takes charge of the story line. Still this is well written and will help newcomers obtain a deep understanding of Carpathian customs, lifestyles, and natural enemies while long term fans will know that the treats of "Dark Desserts" (recipes included) will soon follow with future tales.

Kathleen Dante
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425212750, $14.00 1-800-847-5515

KidTek CEO Kiera Stevens concludes that someone from her most inner circles is selling business secrets that could ruin her and her company. She has no idea who this traitor is, as the only people with access to this top secret information are people she trusts; all have clearances since the company provides service to the military as well as selling children's toys. However, to uncover the treacherous mole who sold her out, she needs her own undercover agent. Kiera hires security expert John "Lantis" Atlantis to "join" the company in order to out the industrial spy. However to have full access they agree to pretend to be lovers, but Lantis knows it must look real. He uses his psychic abilities to learn her inner most desires, playing on her submissive fantasies. However, neither he nor his client expected the real sparks that ignite between them. Still the first necessity is to expose the traitor who is selling classified secrets then the duo can see where their attraction leads them to that goes past his spanking her. ENTANGLED is an entertaining erotic romance with a touch of the paranormal and a reasonable amount of suspense needed to justify the couple paring off yet also enhances the relationship between the CEO and the security guru. The story line is filled with sexual encounters between the lead couple that touch on her submissive nature (being a tough powerful CEO must be caused by reaction formation) with him proving the right amount of domination to satisfy her. Not for everyone, this is a fine spanking romantic fantasy.

Mona Lisa Awakening
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425211606, $14.00 1-800-847-5515

Four millennium ago, the Monere left the moon to create a society on Earth ruled by Queens, who live for centuries and use lunar rays to heal. Men serve these powerful rulers until they are discarded or abused beyond use. In the emergency room of Manhattan's St. Vincent's Hospital, one of these Gorgeous males arrives near dead. Young ER nurse Lisa saves Gryphon only to learn that she is not a full blooded human; apparently Lisa is the offspring of New York Monere Queen Mona Sera and that she is the first half-breed Monere Queen, which enables her to do things the purebreds cannot yet do. Her royal peers including her mother fear the newcomer and want her dead. However with her awakening and human goodness (as opposed to the Monere pure ruthlessness) Mona Lisa has begun to attract quite a following from amidst the rejects and throwaways. This is a refreshing contemporary urban erotic horror thriller that grips the audience once Lisa saves Gryphon in a unique beside manner. The readers will appreciate the premise that Queens rule through power including sexual. The exciting creative story line is action-packed as the other Queens want Mona Lisa eliminated before her modern humanized methods destroy their Monere traditions.

Renfield: Slave of Dracula
Barbara Hambly
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425211681, $23.95 1-800-847-5515

Although his mother-in-law and sister-in-law committed Ryland Renfield to Dr. Seward's Rushbrook Asylum, his link to Dracula has not been severed. He sees Dracula seduce Lucy into the life of the Undead and observes Van Helsing and his minion end her "life". Dracula has Renfield invite him inside the asylum where he gains access to Mina Harker. In an action that will change his life forever, he makes a pact with the three wives of Dracula; they transform him into one of the Undead in return they do not want any more spousal rivals. Knowing he has lost his wife and daughter and in the thrall of the female undead, Renfield accompanies them to Transylvania to prepare for Dracula's return. The vampire hunters follow. Renfield hopes in the upcoming confrontation he will be one of the casualties as he loathes his existence, but cannot eliminate himself by his own hand. The Dracula legend unfolds from the perspective of Renfield, a servant of the Count and his three wives before turning into a vampire too. Barbara Hambly does a brilliant job of recreating the saga with her unique voice. Locked away in an asylum as many of the events unfold, he sees what is happening through the mind link and that drives him deeper into madness and violence until he makes a devil's deal with the three wives. Vampire aficionados will want to add this to their collection.

Tulle Little, Tulle Late
Kimberly Llewellyn
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425211320, $14.00 1-800-847-5515

In Salem, Massachusetts, the invitation hit Nina Robertson like a ton of bricks fell on her as her callous catty cousin Celia invites her to her marriage. That in of itself would be no big deal except for the fact that Nina's engagement to globetrotting reporter Jeremiah just ended six months ago and her cruel cuz is her size so will wear the Vera Wang dress bought for Nina. Still not recovered from Jeremiah's dumping and now her rival's upcoming nuptials, Nina decides to bury herself at work, but at the PR firm backstabbing is the only way to get ahead. Without alcohol Nina cannot do this; with alcohol she can't perform the tasks of her job. On the positive side perhaps Nina meets Dante the drifter who begins to lift her out of her maudlin depression at the same time Jeremiah is back from Thailand wanting to see her. Nina is an interesting protagonist especially at work where she is a shirker who probably should have been fired over several unprofessional incidents with clients, but instead has a good chance of reward via promotion (must work for the White House). The story line is fluffy and obtuse outside of the PR firm as Nina is a classic chick lit dingbat deciding between the lesser of two non-keepers. Sub-genre fans will enjoy her antics as she struggles with abstinence that looks like the right choice with the men in her life.

The Case of the Roasted Onion
Claudia Bishop
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425212238, $6.99, 240 pp. 1-800-847-5515

After tenured professor Austin McKenzie retires, he and his wife Madeline move to their farm in Trumansberg, New York, just outside Ithaca. Due to a bad investment on Austin's part, he has a big loan that must be repaid so he opens up a big animal vet practice. He hires two assistants, Joe and Allegra who are competitive with each other but loyal to the McKenzies. After receiving an invitation to be the delegate at the Earlsdown Three Day Event from venture capitalist and horse owner Brewster McClellan, Austin accepts because the fee for his services is $15,000. Dr. Grazley who was in charge of the horse Brewster was running in the event is murdered as was Dr. Schumacher who preceded Dr Grazley. Austin believes Brewster is behind the murders because they both owned a piece of the horse and were partners in another business venture. Austin sets out to solve the homicides but it is only when a third member of the syndicate is murdered do the McKenzies and their two assistants concoct a plan to smoke the murderer out. The first mystery in "The Casebook of Dr. McKenzie" takes place in the same arena as the Hemlock Falls mysteries. This is a cleverly constructed who-done-it with so many layers to peel that the protagonists have to stay alert for any clue because the killer left almost no evidence behind. The love between Austin and Madeline permeates the whole storyline and uplifts the audience to see two passionate seniors care about one another and life in general.

Tales of a Hollywood Gossip Queen
Mary Kennedy
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425209938, $9.99 1-800-847-5515

In Los Angeles Shane, the "sexiest teen alive" Rockett informs newly arrived from Bedford, Connecticut Jessie Philips that he is off until October and plans to show her the city as they dreamed of back east when they filmed Reckless Summer. Jessie thinks back to when she thought they were an entry on and off the screen until she saw him lip hugging with co-star Heidi Hopkins (see CONFESSIONS OF AN ALMOST MOVIE STAR). Still when it comes to the Rockett man, Jessie's brain turns to polenta. When he is not around melting her brain, Jessie wonders if her best friend Tracy is right that he is using her for free publicity as she now writes a teen celebrity column for Juicy magazine. As Jessie hobnobs with Hollywood's famous, the fifteen minute one time wonders, and the wannabes parking cars; Shane escorts her around the town as if he really cares. She wants to believe that he does until dejà vu occurs and she sees him with a sexy teen actress at the same time she learns a business lesson that backstabbing and stealing ones articles is the norm. Though New England is beginning to look warmer in winter than Hollywood in summer, Jessie refuses to quit. The second Jessie Philips teen tale is a fun look at Hollywood from the perspective of a deer in the headlights until the lessons of betrayal begin the end of the innocence. This entertaining teenage chick lit tale enables the audience to observe how much Hollywood changes Jessie yet her essence of what makes her who she is remains the same. Readers will enjoy her exploits as a Hollywood gossip princess who stoically rolls with the punches.

The Lady's Code
Samantha Saxon
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
042521107X, $6.99 1-800-847-5515

In 1812 the note he forged tricked her into coming to the library alone as she thought she was meeting her beloved Robert. Instead the grey haired man explains to Lady Juliet Pervill that since her odious father took a lot of money from him leading to his ruin he wants a pound of flesh for remittance. He assaults her sexually even as gossips Lord and Lady Winslow watch without intervention. However, worse is the look of betrayal she sees from her beloved Robert Barksdale. He refuses to hear her side he walks away from her with scorn and disgust. Lord Harrington tells Juliet regards to her father before leaving her ruined. Refusing to hide in disgrace for the actions of nasty others, Juliet offers her mathematical and logic skills to the Foreign office. She is accepted and assigned to work with renowned code-breaker Seamus McCurren. However, he takes her presence as an insult to his failure to break the latest French encryption. That is until he realizes she matches his wit with a sharp counterintelligence and displays an aptitude towards cryptography. As they fall in love and begin unravel the code, a dangerous agent prepares to kill both of them to prevent their success. THE LADY'S CODE will be considered by most Regency fans as one of the top five novels in the sub-genre for 2006. The Napoleonic War story line grips the audience from the hateful vengeance opening scene and never slows down until the final puzzle is uncovered. The cryptology aspects of the tale add depth to the suspense and to the understanding of the mathematically inclined lead couple. Readers will fully appreciate Samantha Saxon's stupendous saga and seek out the previous capable romantic Ladies' thrillers (see LADY KILLER and LADY LIES).

Zalmon King's Red Shoes Diaries: Forbidden Zone
Stacey Donovan & Elise D'Haene
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425210103, $14.00 1-800-847-5515

"The Art of Loneliness". The woman looks out her window using a telescope to peep at her neighbors obtaining pleasure by masturbating or tying someone up until Elizabeth explains to Frances that her lover is on the phone while her spouse is in the next room doing what he does best with others rather than her. Frances ponders dreams, nightmares or realities as she understands The Art of Loneliness survival. "Forbidden Zone". Tomorrow Choice selection nineteen years old Angelica will marry sexagenarian Mr. Paul. However, someone is beckoning her to flee as a Depraved One into the Forbidden Zone though her mother and father would be incarcerated for parental deficiencies. Escape means living her fantasy while her parents live a nightmare; staying means living her nightmare while her parents can fantasize. "Picnic". Stella appreciates three things in life, but especially loves when they come together like right now. She cherishes rockin' and rollin' with bad boys, but her way. So having two bad boys to rockin' and rollin' with her rules is heaven as Kit and Buddy are hers to do as she feels. "Sex in the Hamptons: The Writers' Confessions. More Stacey than Elise, this is a sort of anecdotal journal over what occurred to the authors over the past year. As always the novelizations of the Red Diaries TV shows is a heated anthology with twists. Especially fascinating are the first two tales that have a Twilight Zone feel to the respective plots. Picnic is well written but is more straightforward while Sex in the Hamptons turns the writers into characters and the readers into voyeurs. ZALMON KING'S RED SHOES DIARIES: FORBIDDEN ZONE is steaming with sensual pleasures.

A Whisper in the Dark
Linda Castillo
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
042521138X, $7.99 1-800-847-5515

In Chicago a ton of Bolivian cocaine just made it to the south side with police detective John Merrick ready to insure the poison went no further. However, when a man points a shot gun at him, John shoots only to learn he killed undercover DEA Agent Franklin Watts. Unable to let go of the guilt, John leaves the force and moves to New Orleans though he is exonerated by Internal Affairs as a misfortunate friendly fire incident. In New Orleans Julia Wainwright owns and operates the Book Merchant antique bookstore. She recently has received six creepy letters printed on a laser but in olde English that seem threatening to her and her sister Claudia. Julia believes the writer knows her secret that she penned a novel under the pseudonym Elisabeth de Haviland so as not to embarrass her father, religious icon Benjamin. The siblings are scared because they know the creeper is nearby. Claudia informs their father who asks John to keep his daughter safe. He agrees though he wonders how he will perform, but quickly concludes that Julia is hiding a secret from him and that he is falling in love with her. This exciting romantic suspense is filled with tension as John feels he cannot do the job as he cannot touch a gun since the Watts death, but also believes that his beloved Julia is in danger from a stalker, but not sure why. The culprit seems more of a caricature of a lunatic religious fanatic unable to accept mortal sins for himself and his chosen one. Still the tension he brings with his persecution of Julia make for a fine thriller as John hopes that love enables him to do whatever, even kill, to keep his beloved safe.

Been There, Done That
Carol Snow
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425210065, $13.00 1-800-847-5515

Salad Magazine education editor Kathy Hopkins is thirty-two, but when she orders a drink she still gets carded as most people assume she is a teen. That can be embarrassing when you act sophisticated during an interview of someone like Dr. Archer, Dean of Admissions at Mercer College, but ID is a requirement when you look as young as Kathy does. Her former Cornell College lover, Tim McAllister asks her to go undercover as a student to expose a big business prostitution ring at Mercer College. His New Nation e-zine would break the story electronically while her magazine would do so in print. Her editors agree with Tim so over her objection, Kathy returns to college where she her physical attributes enables her to fit in though her mind feels like ancient history as she finds the students' needs immature and her inquires uncover everything except hookers. Using humor as a delightful way to lampoon contemporary life, Carol Snow provides an affecting powerful tale that readers will finish in one enchanting setting. Kathy is a fabulous protagonist finding her return to school exacerbating, irreverent and fun; so will the audience. BEEN THERE, DONE THAT with and without the T-shirt is a terrific investigative tale filled with pleasant but surprising twists similar but more amusing than Never Been Kissed.

Satin Nights
Karen Quinones Miller
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446578444, $23.95 1-800-759-0190

In Harlem, thirtyish Regina Harris thinks she might finally have her act together while raising her four years old daughter Camille. She worries about her best friends as Puddin just killed a grandfather in a car accident, but has no remorse blaming God for the black ice and is using a stolen credit card that Regina wonders if she lifted off the sexagenarian vehicle victim. Yvonne is back with abusive Robert who treated her like dirt five years ago leading to her almost killing herself. Finally drug dealers want Tamika, her twelve years old son and other family members dead. Meanwhile ex convict and drug dealer Little Joe Blayton wants back in Regina's life. He dumped her when she was his sixteen years old Satin Doll wearing him out fifteen years ago and her ex-spouse Charles also wants back in her life. Even her teenage niece shocks her when she announced she is gay. When did friendships and men become so complicated thinks Gina but responds to herself when she became thankfully one of the four musketeers years ago. SATIN NIGHTS is a powerful realistic (including street vernacular) look at relationships in Harlem between four "sisters" and the men and family members in their lives. The story line is character driven with Regina as the focus holding the plot together via her interrelationships with the strong ensemble cast. Karen Quinones Miller's provides quite a tour of Harlem as her readers will appreciate this insightful slice of inner city life.

James Siegel
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446531863, $24.99 1-800-759-0190

Reporter Tom Valle worked the big time until he got lazy and began making up his stories until he was caught; branded a cheat and liar, and his career died. He finds multitask-work at the Littleton Journal in Littleton, California, one hundred and fifty three miles from Los Angeles. Tom knows his chances of returning from the shunning and exile is slim as only an incredible story could make him acceptable again, but in Littleton there is nothing beyond the ordinary as he learned in his two years of banishment. Driver Dennis White of Iowa drifts across to the other side leading to a deadly crash; the other driver Edward Crannel of Ohio survives. At the Muhammad Alley bowling lanes, Tom obtains information about the deceased from the "medical examiner" including a castration shocker. Tom ponders the odds of a Hawkeye and a Buckeye crashing in the isolated California desert. Following up on what he learned at bowling, Tom finds out that Dennis White is alive in Iowa. The reporter makes further inquiries and begins to piece together a conspiracy that he cannot believe is real so why would anyone else accept the word of a defrocked journalist. Tom's hopes for a second chance for redemption make for a fine thriller as he has the story that could give it to him but his creditability is so negative that no one would believe him. The locals add humor and color as they accept Tom for what he is, an outcast who would never have found the town on a map; that is why the sheriff calls him Lucas (read to understand the reference). The fun story line is filled with twists and turns yet the audience ironically seems one step ahead of the reporter as Tom struggles with fact being weirder than his "short story" fictions that cost him his place at the top of pyramid.

Piece of Work
Laura Zigman
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
044657838X, $23.99 1-800-759-0190

Thirty-six years old Julia Einstein enjoys being a Connecticut stay at home mother rather than being part of the Manhattan public relations rat race scene that she did before she gave birth. That changes when her spouse Peter loses his job; Julia is forced to find work in her expertise. The John Glom Public Relations form hires Julia. Her client is a desperate has-been like all those who employ John Glom. However, as actress Mary Ford finds her fame rapidly abating to where she is a notch above an obscure trivia question, she correspondently abuses those hired to help her especially her public relations specialist. The PR crowd at John Glom understands that the Mary's of the world pay to bring others down with them especially those they employ. Though she loathes the customer Julia tries finding a solution to turn around Mary's rapidly vanishing name. Though readers know early on how successful Julia will be with Mary, the key to this amusing and acerbic satire is Ford. Whereas the lead focus is Julia as she adjusts to returning to the workplace, she, her spouse, and her PR peers are sympathetic characters. Mary, on the other hand, is a nasty PIECE OF WORK who is at her best is frosty and aloof and at her worst is hostile and cruel; yet beneath her surface repugnance of everyone, vulnerability often surfaces. Thus she keeps the tale from exorbitant sweetening and ultra excessive cuteness, as there is a bit too much of both already. Julia to the rescue is a humorous entertaining tale.

Knitting Under the Influence
Claire LaZebnik
Warner 5 Spot
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446697958, $12.99 1-800-759-0190

Her fairly successful actress twin sisters allow Kathleen Winters to live off of them until she opened her mouth to a reporter while drinking. Angry at her, they toss her out for revealing family secrets that hurt their careers. Animal rights activists assault research scientist Lucy Cameron for her lab's practices. The protests lead to Lucy pondering whether she is doing the right thing at work and with her sanctimonious boyfriend. Sari Hill works at an autism clinic. She has doubts about helping a particular patient when the man who bullied her brother in high school arrives with autistic son. These three friends discuss right from wrong as each knits a special item of clothing knowing deep in their respective souls that life is the SAME AS IT NEVER WAS. This deep character study uses knitting as a powerful metaphor on life with the end products representing the personalities of the trio as well as the path one step (stitch) at a time to get there. The key to this strong tale is that the threesome seems genuine whether they knit, indulge in sex or cuddle a kitten as they discuss their relationships, their troubles, and their aspirations. KUI is the complete package thanks to the complex female membership and a story line that enables readers to hear the clicking of the needles.

Ways to be Wicked
Julie Anne Long
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446616877, $6.50 1-800-759-0190

In Paris renowned ballet dancer Sylvie Lamoureux sees the note from England addressed to her adopted parent Claude, who is away on vacation. She becomes frightened and euphoric when she reads the content. English Lady Susannah believes that Sylvie is her sister, separated along with a third missing sibling as children when their mom was accused of murder. Needing to know the truth, Sylvie immediately travels to England to meet Lady Susannah leaving behind notes to Claude, her dangerous jealous lover Etienne and her employer. At the English docks, Sylvie sees Etienne so she leaps into a carriage containing theater owner Tom Shaughnessy. On the road to London, highwaymen stop them and take Sylvie's retinue that included all her money. In London, she learns Susannah is in Paris seeking her out so she turns to Tom for employment. As they fall in love, Etienne searches the city for her and Susannah rushes back to London to seek out her sibling. The sequel to BEAUTY AND THE SPY (Susannah's story) is a fun Regency romance in which the limits of communication of the era play a key role in the relationship that develops between Tom and Sylvie. Tom is a terrific roguish male lead who cannot stop himself from needing to help the brave Sylvie. The support cast like the General, Etienne, and the other dancers augment this fascinating tale, which clearly belongs to the second sister Sylvie. Readers will look forward to Sabrina's tale and hopefully learn the truth of what happened seventeen years ago in 1803 to their mom Anna Holt.

Captive Heart
Sarah McKerrigan
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446616168, $6.50 1-800-759-0190

In 1136, the Warrior Maids of Riveloch object to Pagan Caeliard arriving to take over the estate that they and their third sister Miriel have tended though King David sent his loyal knight to do so. Instead Helena and Deirdre plan to interrupt the nuptials. However, a drunken Helena is locked away by Pagan's top assistant Sir Colin du Lac. The wedding goes on as planned, but a sober Helena revises her plot to prevent the marriage. She takes Colin prisoner using her wiles; she will offer him in exchange for Pagan leaving. However, her scheme further falls apart as she is attracted to her prisoner and worse he informs her that his liege wed Deirdre. As they fall in love, Helena fears for her independence if she marries the enemy. The second Warrior Maids tale is a fine medieval romance starring a capable warrior woman and the kind knight who loves her. The story line parallels much of the time line that occurs in LADY DANGER so that readers of the first novel will see some of the secondary events take center stage in this story, but newcomers will have a stand alone tale. Sarah Kerrigan provides a wonderful historical romance that will gain her many sub-genre fans, who like this reader looks forward to the final sister's tale where the "Shadow" will hopefully be revealed (though the betting favorite is).

Make Me a Match
Diana Holquist
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446617970, $6.50, 368 pp 1-800-759-0190

Cecelia Burns life is right on track. She is a cardiologist in a rich private practice and is engaged to marry Jack a powerful lawyer; they are renting a beautiful condo that they intend to buy. At a party they are giving to celebrate their engagement they have a gate crasher, Cecilia's psychic sister Amy who drops in to cause trouble after not seeing her sibling for a decade. She tells Jack she and Cecilia used to run cons of people in order to live and to get a good nest egg. It is a time in Cecilia's life that she wishes to forget. To make matters worse she tells Jack she hears voices and they tell her The One True Love of the person she is talking to.. Amy lets it be known that Jack is not Cecilia's true love but Finn Concord, who is dying, is. Finn and Cecilia meet at a sporting event. Sparks fly but Cecilia tries to ignore then because she doesn't want to lose the life she has. Finn's daughter and Amy play matchmaker and when Jack finds out what is going on, he asks Amy to tell him who his one true love is. Her answer sends him out of town and bring Cecelia and Finn closer together but she fears Amy's other prediction that he is dying. MAKE ME A MATCH is an off beat quirky and totally endearing paranormal romance in which these are three protagonists. Amy is the catalyst that keeps the action moving and readers would like to see her story told in a future book. Diana Holquist writes beautiful romance scenes that are right out of an adult fairy tale. Both Finn and Cecilia are interesting characters who have a lot of baggage from their past to discard if they want to be together.

Warrior and Witch
Marie Brennan
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446616974, $6.99, 464 pp. 1-800-759-0190

To create a witch, a channel is created during a magical ritual when the infant is five days old. In order to handle and control the magic, the witch Miryo was supposed to kill her double Mirage, a Hunter but instead a spell never used before merged them into one person having the memories of both. Her name is now Mirei and she is accepted at the witch school Starfall but two of the Prime leaders leave because they think she is an abomination that should be killed. Mirei goes to the various Hunter schools to find the doppelgangers and bring them to Starfall to prevent the rebels and their allies from killing them. The rebels are gaining allies among the lords while Satomi, the Void Prime leader who is her staunchest supporter tries to find out where the rebels are holding the doppelgangers they captured so that Mirei can translocate and rescue them. Eclipse, who is one of the few who knew both Mirage and Miryo and, is very dear to her is also traveling to where the rebels are hiding even though he is under a spell to kill her or die. Mirei is not about to let that happen and does something that puts her at death's door in order to save him. At the same time the final battle between the rebels and Starfall is about to begin. There is plenty of action and adventure in this delightful fantasy that will leave readers wanting to read more books about Mirei and the new world order of the witches. The heroine is strong willed, not afraid to try new ground breaking spells and is still a warrior from her days as a Hunter. These qualities make her perfectly suited to be the role model for the new type of witch.

Real Women Don't Wear Size 2
Kelley St. John
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446617210, $6.50 1-800-759-0190

In Birmingham, Alabama, thirty years old Clarise Robinson has had a successful career as the top seller and now head of the Woman's department at Eubanks Elegant Apparel. However, in spite of her early achievements and recognition, Clarise feels like a coward as she has made no efforts to obtain what she really wants; her boss and best friend Ethan Eubanks to notice her as a beautiful woman he desires as much she craves him. Clarise vows to wow him at the company's annual gala during the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa. However, as she risks all, Clarise is hurt when she believes her wild sister Bobette made it with her beloved Ethan. Men's department head Jake Riley offers to ease her pain as he sees her as a lovely intelligent woman with beautiful curves and a delightful wit. Though tempted as Jake is a hunk, Clarise knows Ethan is the one for her, but she no longer wants him since he did her sibling though he now realizes that his best friend is also the woman he loves. This is an entertaining contemporary romance starring a likable male protagonist and an interesting female counterpart who is a combination sassy sexy sad sack. Though a bit of communication between the lead couple and her sister would have clarified the misunderstanding (and reduced the novel by about 50 – 75 pages), fans will enjoy the escapades of a woman in love.

Dead Man Rising
Lilith Saintcrow
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446616710, $6.99, 416 pp. 1-800-759-0190

Necromance Dante "Danny Valentine" goes from one bounty job to another knowing not to remember the death of her lover, the fallen demon Japhrimel. He is fallen because he had tied himself to a human female and to save her life he turned her into a half demon who is almost invulnerable, doesn't age, is beautiful beyond anything human and has black on her aura. Her ex-lover Jace, who walked out on her years ago, is back in her life; a Shaman who works with her and lives in her home waiting for the day she will turn to him as a lover. Danny's running comes to a halt when her closest friend, a police detective and Necromance asks for her help on a case where psionics are being tortured and killed in a similar manner. Their wards were penetrated from the inside and they all went to the magic school for orphans Rigger Hall, run by an abusive sexual predator, the same school Dante went to as a child. She must find the link that binds the victims but in doing so she puts herself and those she loves in danger. Readers who love the works of Charlaine Harris, Laurel K. Hamilton and Kim Harrison will be totally bewitched by DEAD MAN RISING as Lilith Saintcrow is one of the best urban fantasists writing today. Her characters are well drawn and totally realistic and her heroine is a strong woman with powerful magic who wonders if she is still human even while she grieves the death of her demon lover and feels guilty for not being able to love Jace the way he needs her to.

Happiness Sold Separately
Lolly Winston
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446533068, $21.99 1-800-759-0190

In Northern California Ted and Elinor Mackey seem to have the perfect marriage until she discovers her spouse is cheating on her with his single mom trainer, Gina Ellison at a time when she has undergone hormone treatments so they can have a baby. Surprisingly, the forty years old Silicon Valley lawyer understands why her podiatrist spouse is having an affair as their sex life is zero between her conceiving endeavors, a miscarriage, her work, and the laundry; her drive is nonexistent. In fact he has supported her emotionally all the way. Gina is an intelligent person who believes she loves Ted, but is not sure he fully reciprocates as he obviously has feelings for his wife. However, Gina is concerned with Ted's kindness towards her ten year old son, Toby, who sees the podiatrist as a heroic nurturing father. Elinor decides to confront Ted, who ends the affair while pondering whether to end his marriage as he and his wife separate; in his mind they already had separated. Elinor begins dating tree doctor Noah Orch while Ted returns to Gina. Four individuals are caught in interconnected dysfunctional relationships that cannot continue with the status quo. This astute character study hooks the reader because the key players making up the rectangle behave human with needs that enhance their flaws. The story line avoids being a morality play as no one is condemned for their behavior though Ted and Gina know their relationship could end up having an adverse impact on her preadolescent child. Readers will appreciate this strong family drama as Lolly Winston offers no easy solutions to the complexity of human relationships.

The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Caught
Neta Jackson
5250 Virginia Way, Suite 110, Brentwood, TN 37027
1591453615, $13.99 1-800-524-3402

In Chicago, the thirteen women who make up the Yada Yada prayer group each face personal crisis that they hesitate to take up with God or the other members. Ruth in her fifties carries twins while knowing fifty per cent of those in their forties miscarry and Tay Sachs is a major threat if the fetus lives; she takes solace with the biblical story of Sarah. Chandra rides taxis instead of the Tube or walking as she won the Illinois State lottery, but the victory brings back an unwanted past. Becky needs a job to get little Andy back while Rochelle fears for herself and her child from her angry mate. Finally everyone is caught up with the merging of the congregations of the Uptown Community and the New Morning Churches that should be smooth but instead seems more like the workers on the Tower of Babel. Even capable Jodi struggles as she tries to help everyone like the Good Samaritan she is and which may cost her teaching job. Jodi also feels overwhelmed until she turns to the Lord for guidance and others follow suit. The latest Yada Yada tale is a terrific look at an ensemble cast coming from different walks of life yet sharing in common prayer. The amazing thing about this novel and its four predecessors is that Neta Jackson is able to keep her thirteen "lead" characters and their family members and friends distinct so that fans know what motivates each one of them. Though this deep character study can stand alone, newcomers will be better suited to obtain the previous novels that enable an even greater understanding of the players as Ms. Jackson provides another profound inspirational tale starring real people.

Creola's Moonbeam
Milam McGraw Probst
Belle Books
0976876035, $14.95

Writer Honey Newberry knows that her eight weeks of writing belongs in the trash, which is what she does to her manuscript. Besides writer's block, Honey suffers from middle age despondency as she wonders who stole her youthful body and left behind an overweight corpse. Needing to get way, she flees her Atlanta suburban home for the beaches of Florida after 'talking" with her beloved deceased black nanny Creola, who encourages her "Moonbeam" to rediscover her self. In Florida the runaway meets free spirited senior citizen Beatrice, who reminds the beleaguered Honey of her cherished Creola. Beatrice like Creola encourages Honey to ignore what others think and remain true to your self. As Beatrice mentors her on life with one adventurous caper after another, Honey reflects on her relationships with her spouse Beau, her sister Mary, and especially her beloved "Crellie" as she called Creola when she was a little girl and begins to remember what the blessing of life truly is. CREOLA'S MOONBEAM is a deep look at an individual suffering from a middle age woman believing she has nothing left to offer to herself, her loved ones, or anyone for that matter since she seemingly lost her ability to write. Honey is a terrific protagonist as her woes and her life lessons make for a powerful insightful look at aging. With the combined teachings of Beatrice and Crellie, Moonbeam begins to learn that life is to enjoy as you only have one shot at it. Milam McGraw Probst provides a strong inspirational character study.

Dawn of Empire
Sam Barone
0060892447, $25.95

In 2500 BC in Mesopotamia, a gigantic framing community Orak is formed; two thousand people reside there; staying in one place, which threatens the nomadic lifestyle of most of the tribes, who have forever hunted or gathered their sustenance by wandering the Fertile Crescent. Alur Meriki warrior chieftain Thutmose-sin declares to his brutal pillaging followers that this village on the Tigris must be destroyed as it imposes on their lifestyle by defying the natural order. He expects these "dirt-eater" farmers to flee from his mighty tribe of warriors as they have always done when his raiders arrive. Instead village leader Nicar selects former barbaric warrior Eskkar to lead the defense. With the help of his enslaved mistress Trella, he starts with a wall as he rallies the citizens of Orak to band together to fight for their survival. This terrific Early Bronze Age historical occurs at a pivotal moment in which lifestyles are at stake as a nomadic warrior tribe battles with the residents of the first established settlement for supremacy. A romantic subplot between Trella and Eskkar enhance the exciting plot, but it is the growing anticipation of the fight that grips the audience. Sam Barone provides a powerful insightful look at two cultures at war during the middle of the third millennium BC with the winner goes the future while the loser becomes a footnote.

Dennis Lehane
006113967X, $24.95

"Running Out of Dog". Elgin and Cal returned from Nam to their hometown of Eden, South Carolina while others made it back in a body bag. Both resent that the sons of the wealthy who stayed home. Elgin is seeing two women, one of which Jewel is the wife of .an affluent stayd at home son that can only lead to the war coming to Eden. "ICU". Daniel is stunned when the woman at the bar tells him to leave her alone as a man warned her about him. Next he loses his job and his ex-wife says he cannot have the kids as planned; both because of the man. Daniel dubs the man Troy even while his dad enters ICU. There he meets former KGB Michael whose mom is also in the hospital

"Mushrooms". In New England, they dropped GHB before KL gives his girlfriend the gun. Now the drug is taking over making it easier to commit manslaughter. "Gone Down to Corpus". In 1970 remote Texas drunken high school football players break into and devastate the home of wealthy teammate Lyle, who dropped the big pass before his younger sister joins the revelry that turns even uglier. "Until Gwen". After four years of incarceration Father picks up his newly released son at the prison in a stolen car with a hooker in the back seat. Father demands the stolen loot his son hid while the ex-convict wants to see his girlfriend, Gwen. "Coronado". This is a two act play version of "Until Gwen". These five noir short stories and play showcase the vast talent of Dennis Lehane as each are solid thrillers starring characters either in trouble or about to cause trouble. Fans of the author will appreciate the collection and newcomers will enjoy this fine introduction.

The Slightest Provocation
Pam Rosenthal
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219473, $14.00 1-800-847-5515

Marquess Walter Stanstell expected his young naive wife Emilia to produce his heir and his spare. Following her doing well in 1771 providing him with "Wat", she realizes she is no different than the nearby livestock to her spouse, so she cuts a deal to give him one more purebred male and then he is to never touch her again; she will turn to other men but any offspring Walter must recognize. Walter agrees and nine months later Will is born followed by Belle, Kit and Georgy. Over the years Walter and his neighbor Lord Penley became embroiled in a dispute. The two patriarchs warned their respective family members to stay away from their enemy, but Mary Penley and Kit Stanstell continued secretly to see one another until they fell in love and eloped. However, both were too immature to withstand family pressure until their relationship collapsed in spite of their desire for one another. Kit escaped to the military while Mary turned to the intelligentsia. Almost a decade later, the pair meets only to immediately realize they remain in love, but agree on nothing else as he believes in national security while she considers freedom for all is more important. Trouble looms and Kit needs Mary's help to prevent a deadly scheme that threatens both their values as England is in jeopardy. This Regency romantic suspense is an exciting tale of how Romeo and Juliet find a second chance at love while trying to save England. The story line is fast-paced from the time that Kit and Mary reunite and reignite their desire for one another and never slows down until the final post confrontation between the lead couple over the still timely security vs. freedom issue. Though the rationale seems reasonable, some will ask why Mary feels that strongly but none will question that Pam Rosenthal provides a very entertaining and enjoyable historical tale.

Lady Katherine's Wild Ride
Jeane Westin
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
045121921X, $6.99 1-800-847-5515

Her father Sir Robert Lindsay remained loyal to King Charles II during the parliamentary troubles, but lost everything including his life and heirs leaving only an impoverished daughter Katherine behind at the mercy of her cousin's odious spouse. Whenever Lady Joan Pursevant became pregnant, her husband William pressured Lady Katherine to become his paramour, but she has refused. Now William plans to take what he wants claiming payment for all he has done to protect her. However, a servant Martha hits William leaving him dead before he can rape Katherine. Knowing one or both will hang, Martha and Katherine flee together into the night where they meet Jeremy Hughes and his troupe performing across the countryside as they head to London for a royal show. Jeremy takes them in and is pleasantly surprised when Katherine shows acting talent and joins the show. As Katherine and Jeremy fall in love and he constantly rescues her, a still alive William continues his ambitious plotting for more wealth, power, and the rape of the innocent Katherine. LADY KATHERINE'S WILD RIDE is a terrific Restoration romance starring a likable woman in peril and her champion who not only risks his life to keep her safe, but mentors her that you only have one time at living so make the most of it. The support cast from real persona like the monarch and actress Nell Gwynn and Lord Rochester to the literary players like the villain and his wife add to a fine pairing as she lands in one dangerous caper after another while he daringly leaps in afterward to protect his beloved.

Just One of Those Flings
Candice Hern
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219201, $6.99 1-800-847-5515

In 1813 single mother widow Countess Beatrice Campton chaperones her niece Emily to a masquerade party where she is dressed as Artemis. Marquess Thayne just back in England after eight years in India wants her; boldly Gabriel tells Artemis that. They surrender to their desire sharing a pleasing tryst. Not long afterward, the latest catch of the season Gabriel searches for his masked lover as he knows she shared his passion as this is not JUST ONE OF THOSE FLINGS. He also surprisingly finds himself attracted to the standoffish older Beatrice especially when he looks into the heat her eyes emit. When Gabriel realizes that Beatrice, not a simpering debutante, is his beloved lover, he decides to go all out to make her his knowing full well the scandal that will percolate and even understands the difficulty of convince his beloved. He tries to persuade one of the card carrying Merry Widows that they can share a life together especially IN THE THRILL OF THE NIGHT if she would take a chance on love with his best weapon, kisses. Once again Candice Hern provides readers with a wonderful May-December regency romance filled with humor, wit, and romance as the catch of the season courts the Merry Widow. The story line is fast-paced; however, the interrelationships between the fully developed cast (not just the lead couple) make for a fun intelligent historical. Fans will know the sub-genre is hale and hearty after reading Candice Hern's latest tale.

The Brambles
Eliza Minot
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1400042690, $23.95 1-800-726-0600

Their mother Florence died in a plane crash off of New England just a few years ago and now their dying father septuagenarian Arthur is relocating from Santa Barbara, California to live with his oldest daughter thirtyish mother of three Margaret in Magnolias Heights, New Jersey. Arthur's two other children, a single Edie and married Max live nearby in New York City. Margaret, who already feels trapped as a supermom fears she is not up to the task of nurturing her dad, but also insanely covets having another child. Edie seems to thrive on her swinging singles lifestyle and her work in television, but her loneliness compounds her eating disorder. Middle child Max produces infomercials and corporate videos, but broods over the fact that his dreams vanished until in frustration he quits, but hides the truth from his worried spouse. As his three offspring panic, Arthur in the final stage of cancer and his grandchildren seem calm. He especially feels at peace after he reveals a family secret shared only by his late wife to his children while they welcome grandpa even for a short time. This is a terrific family drama in which the three generations of Brambles (and spouses) cope differently with the impending death of the patriarch. The key to this insightful story line is that each of the four lead characters and the five prime support players (children and spouses) seem different yet fully developed. This is especially true of Arthur and his three children. Though the revelation seems insignificant and unnecessary to the characters' reactions, it adds to the belief that dying is a solo act as grandpa felt the need to come clean while his loved ones are support players on his stage.

The Road
Cormac McCarthy
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0307265439, $24.00 1-800-726-0600

The cities and much of the woodland have vanished in a pandemic inferno; the birds no longer fly as they all died in the catastrophe. Nothing seems to live in the oceans. Left behind is a world with few living species struggling to survive under a grey cover of ash that engulfs the planet. A man and his son trek down the lonely road using a shopping cart to carry their possessions as they search for food to stave off starvation. The elder is armed, but running out of ammo. He vows to not allow his offspring to be captured even if it means using his last two bullets on himself and his son. He fears the cannibals who would see them as choice cut and trusts no one including seemingly harmless other survivors. He insists to his child that they are good people doing what they must as he does what it takes to keep them safe. The lad learns only the strong survive and begins to wonders if staying alive is enough as he now comprehends why his mother committed suicide just after he was born. THE ROAD is a tremendous allegorical futuristic thriller that has current ramifications. The nameless travelers are an interesting pairing as the father does preemptive strikes on others rationalizing it as protecting his son based on in some incidents no evidence only a presumptive belief that everyone is the enemy. The son learns the Golden Rule lesson well of killing others before they do unto you as survival is everything in this grim haunting parable.

Babylon and Other Stories
Alix Ohlin
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0375415254, $22.95 1-800-726-0600

This seventeen short story collection are well written relationship tales in which a character either purposely or more likely inadvertently alienates someone close to them with behavior that seems irrational to the latter. Alas, nobody communicates in Babylon, Long Island or the other suburban/rural settings so dysfunction becomes the norm for all. In some ways this anthology is a series of shorts similar to the reflection of life in Alix Ohlin's novel THE MISSING PERSON. Not easy to read, these are complex haunting tales starring in most cases depressing characters who remind this reviewer of the Marmalade song Reflections of My Life as they seen not to want to live, but also not want to die.

The Fetch
Chris Humphreys
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0375932925, $17.99 1-800-726-0600

The old sea chest that belonged to Sigurd, his Norwegian maternal grandfather that he never met, arrives at the family's new home in Shropshire. Teenager Sky knows that Sigurd went to sea when his daughter (Sky's mom) was six only to die a year later. After school, Sky and his cousin Kristin open the chest to find an enigmatic journal and twenty-four rune stones. Upon seeing the find Sky feels the persistent nightmare he has suffered from for years in which a strange ghost like essence has chased after him is finally going to make sense. Once he arranges the rune stones in accordance to a diagram in the journal, his dangerous adventures begin as he now finds parts of his grandfather's remains in some other realm and can travel through time and space. However, unaware that by doing this, he has released his FETCH, the wraith of himself, just like Sigurd once did. As he struggles to stay alive, Sky can enter the bodies of his ancestors, but the mission has become to save the soul of Kristin in peril from either their grandfather's Fetch or Sigurd himself. Though targeting the teen crowd, fantasy readers of all ages will appreciate THE FETCH because of Chris Humphreys skill in taking an everyday young adult struggling with missing his school-bus and placing him in extraordinary circumstances of life and death. The story line is action-packed and fast-paced as Sky adapts to his new powers and abilities yet struggles to understand why this happened to him while also eluding a lethal ghost. Readers will cheer for Sky as he plunges deeper into the Viking mythos past and present while learning about his heritage and his destiny leading to a great opening to the Runestone Saga.

Don't Be Afraid
Rebecca Drake
0786018054, $6.95, 400 pp.

Sick of her husband cheating on her, Amy Moran leaves Manhattan and moves with her asthmatic daughter Emma to the small Connecticut town of Steerforth where major crimes seldom happen. Amy gets a job as a realtor and she goes to track fellow realtor and good friend Sheila at a house that they are selling. When Amy arrives at the place, she finds Shelia's dead body in an upstairs bedroom stapled to the floor. At first the police believe Sheila's abusive ex-husband is the murderer but when they finally catch up to him, he has an airtight alibi. Attention shifts to Amy when she finds the owner of house she is trying to sell murdered in the same way as Sheila died. The police take her in for questioning but release her when her daughter has a severe asthmatic attack. Detective Mark Juarez discovers that a serial killer using the same M.O. was operating in New Jersey but was never caught. Amy hopes the police have better luck in Steerforth because evidence points to her as the next victim. DON'T BE AFRAID is a high octane thriller that starts off at warp speed and never slows down for an instant. Unlike many works in this sub-genre, the author doesn't neglect her characters, writing them as three dimensional people who have flaws but except for the killer are basically good people. Rebecca Drake has created a heroine who is easy to like but it is her daughter who steals the show.

Every Fear
Rick Mofina
0786017465, $6.99

After years of being told she could not conceive a baby, Maria Colson gets a miracle when she becomes pregnant. She and husband Lee cherish their infant son Dylan, but tragedy strikes when their child is abducted from his teenage babysitter while mom was grocery shopping. Maria seeing what was happening jumped on the getaway van, but fell off and remains unconscious. The FBI and Washington State law enforcement investigate. The van was in a fender bender with a car, but drove off. The car driver reported the incident to a private investigative firm, avoiding the police and his insurance company in the hopes that the driver will settle off the books so he gets a bigger payoff. The father of Seattle Mirror reporter Jason Wade works at the firm and gives his son the license plate of the van. The Wades follow that lead to a home where they find a dead thirty year old woman stabbed over seventy times. The delusional kidnapper believes the child is hers and her ex-con lover has no room for a kidnapped child in his plans, making a rescue seemingly impossible. Rick Mofina is one of the best thrill writers publishing today as proven by his latest book with his ability to have his audience stand in the shoes of Dylan's parents. The suspense is very high because the story line is believable even with a deranged kidnapper. As time passes, fans will feel the growing tension especially with the multiple perspectives as the reporter, the police, the parents and even the kidnapper wear EVERY FEAR on their respective sleeves. This is a must read for thriller fans.

Deal Breaker
Harlan Coben
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0385340605, $24.00 1-800-726-0600

Just a few years ago he was a top NBA prospect until the injury ended his professional career before it began. Two years ago Myron Bolitar became a sports representative that is agent of professional athletes where he remained minor league until now. He signed the hottest NFL quarterback prospect perhaps in history, two time Heisman trophy winner Christian Steele as a client though football is not Bolitar's expertise. Now as he negotiates a contract with the Giants on behalf of his highly regarded talent, Bolitar believes he is on his way to the big time. Myron visits a despondent Christian who had called him in a state of shock. The prospect shows him what came in the mail; an ad for fantasy phone sex including the picture of Kathy Culver, Christian's fiancee that the police and the media assumed died. As Christian falls apart when Kathy calls him, Myron tries to keep the kid's career from being sacked as a scandal would ruin the Boy Scout image worth millions by investigating what happened to Kathy at the same time the mob wants him to stay out of their sex business. This is a reprint of the first Bolitar novel and though a decade has passed since its initial release, the story line holds up quite strongly because of the star. His inquiries seem genuine as he tries to keep a DEAL BREAKER from happening to his client and especially him as neither may ever recover if they tank now. The mystery is filled with twists and trick plays that button hook the reader, who whether a Coben rookie or a seasoned veteran will follow up with more touchdowns from this champion sports series.

Playing With Fire
Gena Showalter
0373771290, $6.99

In Atlanta, twenty-four years old Utopia Cafe waitress Belle Jamison has major bills since she covers much of the expense of her ailing dad living at the expensive Village on the Park assisted living center (and home to the silver foxes). However, barely keeping her job (only thanks to her twin "girls" - boobs that is - coming to her rescue), she calls 911 to save some guy's life from assailants when she learns the enemy is the CIA. Now a week later, the worst coffee wench in history is having personal problems ever since the incident as the endangered dude slipped a powerful Mickey into her latte. Now this hunk Rome Matthews hovers all over the bewildered Belle explaining she was caught in a paranormal war between two adversaries. He further informs her that her body is changing due to the spiked latte she drank and his job is to bring her to his side's lab for testing to see if she can become a superheroine or perhaps neutralizing her, which means being comatose. Too young to consider not having children, Belle Superhero flees with a determined Rome in hot pursuit. PLYING WITH FIRE is a romantic update of the Greatest American Hero though Ralph Hinkley was at least a competent teacher. The story line is action-packed, fast-paced and filled with twists as two sides want Belle. While Rome finds himself falling love with her, he knows he still might have to neutralize her especially if the enemy gets her. Fantasy romance fans who enjoy a zany amusing tale will appreciate this wild fun ride that starts with a resume filled with firings and ends with a save the world scenario job.

Everything's Coming Up Rosie
Kasey Michaels
0373771274, $6.99

Forty year old confirmed bachelor Doug Llewellyn has recently become a hermit. The highly regarded Philadelphia based architect is bored especially with the parade of women in his life. He decides perhaps he can recharge his engine if he avoids females for a few weeks though he admits his partner Camerson Pierce seems sappily and happily married to Darcie. Making matters even more tedious is attending a weeklong celebration of his second cousin Lili-beth's marriage. That ennui ends abruptly when a woman launches herself at him calling him "darling" before giving him the greatest wet kiss of his life. If he had no control and was not in a public bar, Doug might have came in his pants. Apparently a friend of the bride Rosie Kilgannon has used him to elude some male pursuer who will not accept no. Now Rosie and Doug exchange complements about being good kissers as they practice a few more times even as she reminds him to go slow since he is so old. Leaving for the moment the delightful Regency Beckets of Romney Marsh, Kasey Michaels provides her fans with a fine lighthearted romantic romp. Doug knows he is lucky when Rosie chooses him as her savior from an odious arduous wannabe. The story line never takes itself seriously as love comes around you least expect it.

Leanne Banks
0373771282, $6.99

In Atlanta, Amelia Parker is depressed because she believed her former boyfriend Will was going to propose, but instead told her he loved someone else. Burying herself at her job at Bellagio, Amelia realizes she needs to get a life, but would like to start her new life living on a beach. She at least obtains some of her new life when she is chosen to accompany the firm's matriarch Lillian Bellagio to her home in the Keys. At a Tiki Bar, Amelia meets the mysteriously handsome Jack "The Shark" O'Connell, who sees an opportunity to make some easy money off of Bellagio as he feels they owe him big time. When she shows him her list of things to do to bring elan into her life he turns it around and challenges her to use her time away from Georgia to try things that until Will gave her the boot three weeks ago she would never have considered since she is a reticent person. She falls in love with Jack, but fears this venture capitalist is a shark about to hurt Lillian and Bellagio as she believes he is using her to get at them. The Bellagio shoe story is an interesting contemporary romance starring a capable female and a fascinating lead male who has to choose between his love for his "Magnolia" and thirst for vengeance because he hates the Bellagio family. A late twist to the story line will surprise Amelia and the readers as they learn why Jack detests the Bellagios. Footwear has never been considered romantic until Leanne Banks designed her miniseries (See FEET FIRST and UNDERFOOT).

What Goes with Blood Red?
Stevi Mittman
Harlequin Next
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373881045, $5.50

Rio Gallo tried to persuade everyone that his wife Teddi was certifiable crazy and dangerous; he went to great lengths to prove his case until she actually shot him (see the wild WHO MAKES UP THESE RULES, ANYWAY?). Nearly divorced from Rio and now using her maiden name Bayer, terrible Teddi is trying to earn a living as an interior decorator while raising her children. She even has a wealthy client except for the fact that when she meets her she finds her dead. Nassau County Police Department Detective Andrew Scoones heads the investigation with Teddi assuming that she and her business partner are on the short suspect list as the cop keeps visiting her; for that matter he never bothers with her partner. Though she argues to herself why would the cops consider them as murderers, as they lack a motive especially since killing a client is not good for obtaining customer loyalty. Still Andrew seems to be around a lot. The second Teddi rules tale is a fun amateur sleuth police procedural tale in which the audience wonders along side the heroine whether Andrew will kiss her or arrest her. The action-packed story line, like the previous one, is centered on Teddi whose antics make for an amusing yet somewhat serious read. Fans will want more terrific Teddi tales.

Learning to Hula
Lisa Childs
Harlequin Next
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373881053, $5.50

Computer company CEO Rob DeJong was only forty-one when he suddenly died. Neighbors and friends are sympathetic to his young widow, Holly, but marvel how she has handled her grief so well. However, one year later at Smiley's General Store, Holly runs into Rob's significant other, Kitty Cupcake. He ate them by gazillion leading in her opinion to the heart attack that killed her spouse. Irate she takes out her rage on the boxes in the store. Her neighbors and family including her children reassess Holly's mental state and assume she has gone off the deep end. Several fear for the children as after the cupcake massacre, everyone assumes Holly has lost it. Holly believes she is fine and feels it is time to move on starting with selling her spouse's firm over the objection and misbehavior of her children like LEARNING TO HULA to life's setbacks especially with that hunk of a deputy who seems to want more than just insuring there will be no more cupcake insurgencies. LEANING TO HULA is a deep look at the grieving process as Holly and her children struggle in their own ways with the "death by cupcakes" of her husband and their father. Even Holly sisters mourn in a realistic way the demise of their brother-in-law. The character driven story line uses angst and humor to insure that readers understand that grief is customized to the needs of the surviving loved ones. Though action-free except for the nasty but realistic behavior of the kids, fans of powerful character studies will want to learn to hula alongside Holly and company.

Butterfly Soup
Nancy Pinard
Harlequin Next
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373881061, $5.50

The call from her best friend came at o'dark informing Rose Forrester that her former lover Rob MacIntyre was back in town after years of being away. Rose panics, as no one knows that seventeen years ago when she was a teen she made love with the town's golden boy resulting in a pregnancy. Her family, neighbors, husband Everett and her teenage daughter Valley think her spouse sired their offspring; Rose knows better. She would prefer for Rob to leave, but her desperate efforts to drive him out of town fail and only alienate her spouse and daughter. Rose concludes she must tell first Everett, then Valley, and finally her dad the truth about her biological father. All she can do is pray that they are forgiving of her hiding the truth from them; not realizing each one of them also has secrets that they should reveal but fear condemnation by their loved ones. BUTTERFLY SOUP is an insightful relationship drama that is at its best when readers feel the mental anguish suffered by the protagonist; when the story line turns frenzied with a desperate irrational activity it adds excitement, but loses its focus of a deep psychological study when an individual struggles with difficult choices. The cast is solid and seem real (except that those times when Rose is an out of control thorn) as each has secrets they conceal, but none has the steel to reveal even piecemeal.

The Unknown Woman
Laurie Paige
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
037338940X, $4.99

White Bear Lake, Minnesotan native Kerry Johnston came to New Orleans to get away from the heartbreak of her fiance of four years suddenly marrying someone else. However, the Big Easy though still recovering from Katrina is upbeat especially the French Quarter but even the voodoo fortune teller fails to move Kerry out of her doldrums. Adding to her woes is a power failure that impacts the Hotel Marchand that she is staying at. She even hears the cursing and stumbling of the guy in the next room, who finds a corpse in his bed. Kerry goes over to help writer Matt Anderson, who is clueless as to how Patti the voodoo museum docent and waitress that both met earlier today ended in his bed. As Pattie showed kindness towards both of them, they mutually agree to investigate though neither knows how to conduct a homicide inquiry. One thing they do know is that Patti's healing spell works as Kerry and Matt fall in love. The third Hotel Marchand contemporary romance is a fine atmospheric New Orleans amateur sleuth tale. Readers will agree with Patti's assessment when she met the lead couple (separately) that the sad duo would find love and happiness together. The story line is fast-paced as Matt and Kerry fumble their investigation while fostering their attraction and admiration for one another. Readers will appreciate the latest visit to the Hotel Marchand.

A Temporary Arrangement
Roxanne Rustand
Harlequin SuperRomance
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373713622, $5.50

Leaving Detroit for the summer to spend time in a remote rustic section of Wisconsin, Abby Cahill looks forward to a simpler slower life. However, the temporary Director of Blackberry Hill Memorial Hospital learns that her rented apartment burned down in a fire and the only vacancy is at a farmhouse owned by wildlife biologist Ethan Matthews, who is involved in a project to return wolves into their natural habitat. In return for allowing her to stay, he asks for her help around the farm and with his son while he heals form an injury. As Abby and Ethan become acquainted they begin to fall in love; his son and their puppies have already hooked her heart. However, when summer ends she returns to the Motor City to teach nursing though she wonders if this was just a summer romance or much more. Abby and Ethan are intelligent lead characters who prove that the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. The story line is fascinating on several fronts besides the obvious contemporary romance between the protagonists. The look at running a hospital and the efforts to bring back wolves will hook readers as both subplots are fully developed making for interesting reading as much as understanding complex issues. On top of that is a well written romantic theme as the audience wonders whether the nurse will return to Motown or stay in Badger Country.

A Man of Honor
Linda Barrett
Harlequin SuperRomance
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373713665, $5.50

Social worker Heather Marshall opens up a shelter in the middle of a nasty part of town. Police Officer Dave McCoy thinks she is a courageous lunatic, but wants to help her. She wants nothing to do with him, which Dave cannot understand why. Heather grew up in abusive home with her father a cop taking out his anger on his family. She distrusts cops and her first time she met Dave he used force to keep two punks with knives in line. However, when she needs help to protect a woman from her husband, she turns to the real McCoy as she knows she cannot do it alone. Though Dave is A MAN OF HONOR, Heather rejects the notion that she can "Count on a Cop" based on her childhood in which her dad the police officer was abusive. Most interesting is the surface parallels between Dave and her father as the first time she sees the younger man in action he courageously "bullies" a thug on her behalf, which instead of making him a hero she perceives he is just like dad. Adding to the fascination of this well writing psychological character driven romance is her father's efforts for a second chance with his daughter as Linda Barrett provides a deep contemporary romance.

Family at Stake
Molly O'Keefe
Harlequin SuperRomance
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373713657, $5.50

The previous case worker recommended that single father Mac Edwards lose custody of his twelve years old daughter. To insure the right thing is done for the child, social worker Rachel Fillmore is assigned to investigate whether Mac is abusing his daughter. Rachel should recuse herself from this particular case as Mac was her first lover back in high school and remains the standard she judges men by though he was a boy at the time. Mac also wonders if he needs to demand a change at a time when he stands to lose his beloved child as he does not trust the woman who betrayed their love when they were high school lovers. However, both quickly put aside their personal grievance to try to learn what is disturbing the preadolescent as it is not her father who is a great dad. This is an interesting contemporary romance in which the troubled preadolescent makes the tale. Mac knows he is running out of options and would prefer anyone but Rachel on the case. Both know that their mutual distrust of one another caused by youthful miscommunication could lead to failure as they each want what is best for his disturbed offspring. The second chance at love subplot supplements a strong family drama.

Bringing Baby Home
Debra Salonen
Harlequin American
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373751303, $4.99

The prophesy that her Rom roots predict for her involve a child of the light and a man of the dark, but that she must select one for she can only save one. Though she ran from her destiny, all she found was a harsh life out there so Liz Radonvic comes home to Vegas since she has chosen to bring light to a little girl she met in India by adopting Preisha, who suffers from a birth defect. However, before her dreams are answered by the government red tape, she meets gardener David Baines. They are attracted to one another, but she fears he is hiding something from her even as she wonders if she can have him and Preisha that is until he reveals the truth about himself as he is the dark side of that prophecy. This is a warm tale in which love conquers all. Liz and David are terrific lead characters who fall in love in spite of her belief he is hiding something bad about himself from her. Though there is lighthearted undercurrent starting with David running over her hedgehog cactus, the story line contains a serious theme dealing with adoption especially of children with ailments; readers' hearts will go out to Preisha.

Shoulda Been a Cowboy
Charlotte Douglas
Harlequin American
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
037375132X, $4.99

Owner of Tuttle B&B in Pleasant Valley, South Carolina, Caroline Tuttle's dream of owning a ranch finally came true due to her friend Eileen Bickerstaff leaving her Blackberry Farm with one stipulation: that she get a life away from her mom. The thirty-three years old Caroline looks forward to living on the ranch where she worked part-time though she mourns her loss. At the same time firefighter Ethan Garrison takes a room at the Tuttle B&B. He is struggling with guilt as he blames himself for the recent death of his brother. Ethan and Caroline are attracted to one another. However, he remains raw from his loss while her goal is to find A PLACE TO CALL HOME out west amongst the cowboys even as she ponders whether it could be here in Pleasant Valley with Ethan? SHOULDA BEEN A COWBOY is a warm contemporary romance starring two likable protagonists who in spite of love apparently have no chance for a permanent relationship because their goals are different. The pleasant story line focuses on Ethan's efforts to persuade Caroline that love is where the home is whether that is in coastal Carolina or the cowboy west. Charlotte Douglas provides a congenial return to a place readers would not mind calling home.

If You Could Read My Mind
Jeanie London
Harlequin Blaze
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373792751, $4.75

For seven years Jillian and Michael Landry have been happily married. Jillian persuades Michael that they should buy Camp Cavellier because they can spend more time together as they work together. Though they are in each other's company much more, their quality time together dramatically reduces. Michael becomes bitter as Jillian spends increasingly more time working the camp at the cost of their relationship; Jillian feels hurt that he does not share her passion. As their relationships spirals towards collapse, Jillian hires widow Serafine and her brood to serve as camp caretakers. Serafine gifts Michael with a special magical power that enables him to read Jillian's mind; her thoughts humiliate him as she realizes she has no respect for him at the camp but worse she thinks he is a failure in their bed due to his lack of creativity. He also knows her deepest sexual fantasy and plans to use it to show his beloved she means all to him and regain some self-respect. Now he has to find out where to buy handcuffs and related artifacts? Jeanie London provides her audience with a fascinating romantic fantasy starring two likable individuals who clearly love one another, but since buying the camp fail to communicate until Serafine arrives. Readers will be enthralled by Serafine, whose skills make for an interesting story line and hopefully there will be more such tales in the future. Still this fun romance boils down to a relationship drama between two people whose marriage appears on the brink of extinction.

The Perfect Score
Julie Kenner
Harlequin Blaze
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373792735, $4.75

In Los Angeles Mattie Brown took the slut (make that sex) test as a lark. However, when she scores 18 percent on the Internet based exam, she become outraged, humiliated and upset as that tally is what a nun would obtain not a twenty-seven years old siren, make that woman. Refusing to be left behind she decides she will re-take the test as soon as she gains some experiences. Of course Mattie has no one to practice with, which is part of the reason she scored in the lower get a sex life percentile. She needs a practice dummy so she can score an A+ on the slut-meter and thinks she has the perfect hunk, a dumb all body male model. If he fails her there is the sex shop batteries not included. However, Mike Peterson is much more than the body instructor as the computer game expert plans to prove to the beautiful woman who has propositioned him. THE PERFECT SCORE is a fun and amusing contemporary romance that lampoons the American preoccupation with sex and test scores. Mattie is fabulous as her quest takes her into some interesting stores, a humorous discussion with her mom (the asides are outrageously funny), and ultimately with Mike who plans to make her the teacher's pet. Julie Kenner provides a delightful lighthearted romp that never takes itself seriously except when Mattie takes tests.

Death Do Us Part
Edited by Harlan Coben
Little, Brown
0316012505, $25.99

This superb eighteen story collection focuses on crimes of passion in which lust or love leads inevitably to murder. The contributions are well written though a bit ghoulish as red stands for blood not lips. The authors are a who's who of the genre (Coben, Todd, DuBois, Child, etc.) who provide fascinating tales that span various eras and locales. DEATH DO US PART is a fun anthology though as Mr. Coben points out in the first line of the Introduction: "I'm about to give away the ending" as the theme for the most part takes away any shockers and surprise spins. Still this is a terrific look at true love through the lens of the Mystery Writers of America who take their vows seriously.

Taken by Storm
Donna Fletcher
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061136255, $5.99

Locked in a Scottish prison, American Burke Longstan is rescued by outlaw woman Storm. She tells him to follow her men out, but he disobeys her order and instead follows her to insure she remains safe. He explains to her he is on a mission for his late dad to find his brother Cullen lost as an infant when his father fled Scotland leaving the child with his sister-in-law who died shortly after he departed. His dad never found his other son. Burke offers his help and money when his ship arrives. She agrees with the stipulation he follows her orders. Burke and Storm learn that a man is reportedly being held prisoner at Glencurry, home of the abusive Earl of Balford. In the forest haven they talk strategy until Burke cannot resist kissing Storm. Though she liked the kiss Storm is a bit shook by the pushy American. No man has reached her like Burke has since her spouse was killed three years ago. They continue to work together to rescue the prisoner they assume is his brother while falling in love, but he has a future waiting for him in America while she has the gallows waiting for her. Readers will root for the lead couple and her outlaw band to free his brother while wondering why there is a shroud of secrecy surrounding the prisoner. The story line is loaded with action from the moment that Storm and her band of merry outlaws free the stubborn Scottish-American and never slows down until the final confrontation. Though the heroine too often allows the hero to get away with disobeying direct orders from her even though she warns him of the consequences, the fine mystery of the prisoner and the delightful outlaws in love romance provide plenty of enjoyment to readers of great historical romances.

Fate and Ms. Fortune
Saralee Rosenberg
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060823887, $12.95

Robyn Fortune knows her surname is ironic as she feels she is the modern day Job or at least the female Murphy. Still in spite of a series of blue notes, Robyn remains an optimist about life, at least her life that is. She optimistically knows that everything that could go wrong will go wrong. Currently her blue notes include paying off her ex-husband's enormous gambling debts, a job as a make-up artist to a nasty philandering TV news star and selling her wedding artifacts over the Internet. However she defuses her mess with self-deprecating humor that makes Dangerfield seem respectful. That is until mommy dearest (she does lover her mom) decides to leave daddy dearest to move in with daughter dearest. However she knows how low she has gone when she agrees to accept money to go out on a pity date with Ken Danziger, who is perhaps her only competition for the crown of misfortunate. When she sees his picture she begins to think karma as he is the one she salivated over in college from a distance, but never met as fortune failed to introduce her; worse their families are feuding. The key to this wonderful chick lit hyperbole is the heroine who uses humor to keep herself mentally afloat as one trauma after another seems to happen to her. Robyn's optimism is catching as she deals with issues that would devastate a lesser person. Ken will remind the older audience of cloudy Joe BTSFPLK of Li'l Abner fame. When Robyn and Ken meet both think finally luck is on their side, but pulling out the rug from underneath them, Saralee Rosenberg insures her couple has geometric problems to cope with as they believe that the destiny of their love will turn their bad luck into a fortunate lifetime of happiness together.

His Mistress by Morning
Elizabeth Doyle
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060784024, $6.99

By 1810 reticent spinster Charlotte Wilmont knows she loves Viscount Sebastian Marlowe, who ignores the fact that his family is pariahs of the Ton as he takes care of the scandals caused by his four wild siblings and causes a few with females too. Charlotte's fondest wish in life is to have Sebastian love her forever. However, sometimes you get what you wish for as Charlotte wakes up to find Sebastian in her bed. He remain the most notorious rake in England while she has become the most infamous mistress as every male bids to have Lottie Townsend in their bed, but he is the winner. Although she does not understanding how this transition from lonely in love and on the shelf virgin to his mistress happened, Charlotte does not care as she appreciates her freedom from convention, her sexual trysts with Sebastian, and the wealth to buy whatever she desires. Being the subject of male adulation and female envy only makes her unconventional life that much greater. However, in spite of her euphoric lifestyle, something is lacking and soon she realizes a mistress is not a wife and mother and that she may not have her beloved's heart after all. A bit of the whimsical adds to a wonderful Regency romance that will be considered by most readers as one of the best historical tales of the year. Charlotte initially loves that she has become HIS MISTRESS BY MORNING, but soon wants much more from him as she finally realizes her wish has not come true. Sebastian takes immense delight with his mistress at night, as he is a certified rake, but finds he needs more of Charlotte than just the bedroom. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this amusing quirky love story.

No Man's Bride
Shana Galen
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
006112494X, $5.99

Catherine Fullbright has learned how nasty men can be having spent time locked in a closet by her abusive father when she was a preadolescent; she also observed males behaving like hedonistic pigs as she saw first hand how her scandalous father treated women. Thus as a child she and her three female cousins vowed to never marry. By 1811, Catherine's father needs his two daughters married off, but feels the eldest must wed first. Catie refuses though her younger sister Elizabeth is as always compliant, obedient, and nasty but also engaged to Lord Valentine. Dad gives Catie until tonight's ball to choose a mate or he will find her one. She and her cousins plot to stop Lizzie's nuptials, but her father trumps her. Catie marries Lord Valentine, Quint Childers; angering her sibling and making her new husband wonder when this wildcat hellion will destroy his political career as he planned on the compliant one as his wife. Still he enjoys her spirit, her caring about the welfare of others and that she seems to genuinely love him like he does her. However, he must persuade her to trust him as not all men demand strict obedience supported by punishment. This is an interesting Regency romance starring a young woman who learns as a child the excesses of dominating males and takes that lesson to adulthood as she has vowed to remain a spinster. Quint is a patient protagonist who reassesses his ambitions once he finds the wrong wife in his bed; he gives Catie time to adapt, but fears she will never overcome the abuse. Fans of deep character driven historical tales will appreciate Shana Galen's strong tale.

The Perfect Seduction
Margo Maguire
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060837322, $5.99

In 1072 Castle Kettwyck, Kathryn de St. Marie hopes to marry for love until Scots led by Lord Ferguson raid the keep and kidnap her. At Braxton Kell on the Borders, Saxon Lord Edric and his soldiers attack Ferguson and his men for cutting through his land. Ferguson's men have already destroyed much of the keep with their raids. At the same time, Edric's Norman wife Cecily is about to give birth though she does not want the child, hates her spouse and his people, and wants to go home. Edric rescues Kathryn from Ferguson, killing him just before he tried to rape the Norman. Edric takes Kate to his keep. Though he is wary of Norman women, he also finds he wants her. Kate thinks Edric is what she wants in a husband, but he loathes Normans and is married that is until he learns his wife died giving birth to his son Aidan who has no wet-nurse to care for him. Kate ends up with the role as Aidan takes to her holding him and her using an artificial device. Kate says she will stay until he finds a wet nurse then will continue to nearby Evesham Bridge Abbey as she cannot go home. She hides form him the knowledge that her dad is lord of Kettwyck. As they fall in love treachery threatens both their lives. The lead couple and most of the support cast are nice likable individuals who bring to life the first decade after the Norman Conquest. The story line is action-packed, but emphasizes the distrust between the Normans, Saxons, and Scots. Though the villain is obvious and his demise too easy, Conqueror romance fans will immensely appreciate Margo Maguire fine historical.

Hysterical Blondeness
Suzanne Macpherson
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060775009, $5.99

Patricia Stillwell has signed up for an experimental weigh-loss program. However, she was unprepared for the immediate results. While she was sleeping Patricia's hair went from a brunette to a blonde. Along with the change in her hair color, she notices men taking second and third looks at her. She even has two interesting suitors. Wealthy handsome Brett Nordquist and her long time friend Paul Costello desires her with passion in their eyes when they look at her. However, as she affirms blondes have more fun she overtly pursues Brett who she has hidden her secret love because she worries whether she is a lasting treasure or a moment's pleasure. Paul has done likewise with hiding how much he loves her whether she is a blonde or a brunette, but now must make his feelings known or idly watch his beloved with someone else. Perhaps her best friend Pinky can straighten this out as the triangular players seem unable to do so. This is a fun, often amusing, at times over the top contemporary romance with likable characters. Patricia keeps the story line somewhat focused as she learns blondes have more fun but also more troubles with Brett and seemingly suddenly Paul wanting her. Pinky keeps the story line, the triangle, and the readers somewhat in line as Suzanne Macpherson provides a hysterical relationship tale.

To Distraction
Stephanie Laurens
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060839104, $7.99

In London four of his founding brothers who made up the Bastion Club, chartered to fend off "marauding mamas", have succumbed to love and marriage. Retired espionage agent Viscount Jocelyn Deverell vows never him even as he knows his aunt is the family mole trying to do him in with a wife; what he remains unaware of is she has chosen feisty independent Phoebe Malleson as her nephew's perfect match. Phoebe is a difficult choice because she distrusts men who she believes all use and abuse helpless females. In any event, she is too busy to care how much she desires Deverell; still he plans to court her anyway. Instead she serendipitously rescues maltreated servants from wealthy miscreants; she knows the male Ton would never support such a venture especially led by a crusading female. However, Jocelyn realizes he loves Phoebe, but must overcome her stereotyping of men and persuade her he would not harm her. When she becomes embroiled in a dangerous scenario involving operation rescue, only her beloved Deverell can keep her safe and save the abducted female servants. Though similar in many ways to the previous Bastion adventures, TO DISTRACTION is a fine Regency romance due to a refreshing and fascinating villain. The story line is fast-paced as Phoebe ignores her feelings, her desires, and her man to go about her dangerous underground activity to rescue abused servants; while Jocelyn accepts his feelings, his desires, and his woman as he goes about his "dangerous underground" activity to pursue her. Stephanie Laurens provides a fine Bastion romance.

Something Sinful
Suzanne Enoch
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060842555, $6.99

The first time Lord Charlemagne "Shay" Griffin saw her glide across the ballroom he thought he would die from the excess palpitations of his heart. Based on her voluptuous body, he assumes she will be all glitter and no substance, the way he likes his women. After meeting Lady Sarala Carlisle, he tries to impress her with his business acumen and a deal he is about to make involving silks. Not long afterward to his shock, he realizes how intelligent she is when she buys the silk before he can. Shay now knows Sarala hides her brains behind her dazzling beauty. Still he applauds her for beating him at his game; but also vows to seduce her until she and the silks are his. Neither anticipated the danger the ownership of the silks prove to be as Chinese warriors claim the items are sacred. The sequel to the amusing An Invitation to Sin is another rousing Regency romance starring an intelligent opportunistic female and another Griffin meeting his better. The story line is a typical gender battle as the hero tries every seductive trick in the book and a few not listed to obtain the silk that the lady bought thanks to his bragging and misunderstanding the intelligence of a female. Fans will appreciate these loving combatants who together as a team show why England became the first in world trade in the nineteenth century. This is a delightful reading experience.

A Sound like Thunder
Sonny Brewer
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345476336, $23.95 1-800-726-0600

In November 1941 in Fairhope, Alabama, sixteen year old Rove McNee fears the return of his father, a drunken schooner captain who turns mean with the alcohol. He knows his dad will need no excuse to drink, but the teen believes his mom is cheating on his dad. The only recent respite for Rove and his younger brother Julian have been their Granny Wooten, but she just died. On the day of his beloved grandma's funeral, Rove is shocked when he observes his drunken father Dominus threaten their German neighbor, Josef Unruh, which leads to the captain's imprisonment for attempted murder. Rove wonders if Josef is the man his mom is stepping out with and if his dad knows that so therefore threatened him with a knife. Instead Josef gives to Rove, a boat needing repair, which the lad begins to do even as he moves onto the vessel as he at peace only at sea and with class mate Anna Pearl Anderson. The characters keep this fine historical from becoming too nostalgic at a time of the beginning of the end of the innocence with Pearl Harbor and social issues like alcohol and abuse just coming to the surface. Though Rove is the center protagonist, it is Dominus' misbehavior at Granny Wooten's wake that sets in motion the events that impact everyone and break up a family. Though the social issues are not explored that deeply especially in comparison to the author's THE POET OF TOLSTOY PARK and in light of society not wanting to know, fans of mid twentieth century tales will enjoy Sonny Brewer casting fishing nets on the era.

The Power Broker
Stephen Frey
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345480600, $24.95 1-800-726-0600

CEO Christian Gillette has turned Everest Capital into one of the more successful ethical Wall St investment companies in spite of nasty shady rivals. Part of the accomplishments of the firm Christian knows belongs to his top assistant wealthy heiress Allison Wallace (see THE PROTEGE), who he would trust with his life. Two fascinating offers arrive at about the same time as Christian stakes out Vegas for possible investments. First African-American senator Jesse Ford is running for president and wants Jesse on the slate as the VP candidate. Second U.S. Oil CEO Hewitt demands Christian join the powerful secret entity the Order, consisting of nine mega-influential white American businessmen and government leaders who since the group's inception during the Van Buren administration has manipulated the finance, media, political and other key societal elements. Now they want to insure that Ford loses and that the push to turn Puerto Rico and Mexico into states fails. Fearing refusal means his death; Christian turns paranoid when he realizes the Order has ties to Allison. This is an action-packed thriller that never slows down from start to finish as Christian is unsure of who to trust since he learns of his former protege's ties to the Order; he even doubts long time friend and ally Stiles though the CEO knows he is being paranoid. Though Christian's reactions to events make the tale exciting, readers also need to forego that dreaded L word as logic is not a part of this fun conspiracy thriller. If the audience can ignore the impossibilities of the spins, THE POWER BROKER is an entertaining wild twisting ride.

The Wicked Games of a Gentleman
Jillian Hunter
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345487605, $6.99 1-800-726-0600

In 1815 London, Lord Drake Boscastle is the envy of all aristocratic males (except for those happily married like his brother Grayson star of The Wicked Games of a Gentleman) as he has bought Maribella St. Ives as his mistress. Before finalizing their arrangement, Drake notices governess Eloise Goodwin; he steals a dance, a kiss, and a fondle or two from the shocked but willing innocent. However, his payment is helping her find her missing charge Thalia Thornton, who is with a lothario. After taking the two women home as he promised her brother, Drake visits Maribella only to have his cousin Gabriel escort Eloise to the brothel. She needs his help again as Thalia has run off with her lothario. As Drake and Eloise work together to save Thalia from ruin while her sibling has run away to avoid a gambling debt, Eloise's former philandering fiance Ralph Hawkens tries to blackmail her concerning her secret mistake and an upset jealous Maribella sets down the gauntlet. This is a fun Boscastle regency romance that stars two likable protagonists and a strong secondary cast who add depth to the story line. Drake cannot help himself as he feels he must assist Eloise though he also enjoy playing "wicked" games with her. Eloise has a sharp wit that entices Drake. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Jillian Hunter's fine tale and look forward to brother Devon's wicked ways.

To Catch a Husband
Lindsay Graves
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345485483, $13.95 1-800-726-0600

In Colina Linda, California the fearsome female foursome are friends of a sort as survivors of the deadliest combat known to humanity, the divorce wars. They each in fact triumphed in combat coming out of the courts battle in excellent condition as they took their spouses for at least half of their worth. Now the ex-wives quartet meets to discuss charity ventures, but the real not hidden agenda is gossip mostly about the men in their lives or those they would like in their lives. Jessica DiSantini, Lally Chandler, Caitlin Latch and Janey Martinez meet for lunch where the current discussion focuses on newly divorced hunk suave David Clemente, whose spouse dumped him for their art dealer; his billions add to his charm. Each of the women want David as their escort to charity events, galas, and the boudoir so they compete for his affection at the same time that other sirens and vultures hone in on their prey especially a housebreaker who invades their homes and darkest secrets. Though probably this book will be banned by those who insist marriage is sacred in spite of a fifty percent divorce rate, this irreverent look at relationships is amusing and witty. The four female predators are right out of Desperate Housewives, but actually should be dubbed desperate divorcees. However the key to this fine contemporary character study is that readers will empathize with the four females, who use their earned dysfunctional relationship badge as a means to hide their deep rooted vulnerability. Lindsay Graves pokes fun at societal relationships with the amusing Ex-Wives club.

Into the Storm
Suzanne Brockmann
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345480147, $21.95 1-800-726-0600

After a harrowing experience in Afghanistan in which the visit of the Defense Secretary makes air support limited at best, SEAL Team Sixteen arrives home for some R&R. However, Admiral Tucker figures the best rest for this elite group is a competition against a worthy opponent: private sector counterterrorist experts Troubleshooters, Inc, whose CEO is Tom Paoletti, former commanding officer of Team Sixteen. To add to the fun, the exercise occurs in December in the mountains of New Hampshire. Petty Officer Mark Jenkins and Troubleshooters operative Lindsey Fontaine are the liaisons between the teams. However, almost from the start in the frozen granite state troubles occurs as someone apparently kidnaps Tracy Shapiro, the Troubleshooters' new receptionist. No clue to her whereabouts surface and both squads fear for her life as she is no survivalist. However, as they keep searching, the two teams begin to uncover brutally tortured female corpses buried under the ice. A serial killer personally has modified the state motto to live free and kill. The opening Afghan sequence is some of the most realistic written military scene in recent years as Team Sixteen struggle to survive with little hope of support because politics is visiting Kabul. Once stateside, the story line is at its best with the contest and the growing loving relationship between the liaisons. The serial killer story line is fast-paced with women in the forefront, but also but also is a let down that takes away from the fascination of the competition. Still this is a fun thriller in which readers will say let the games begin.

The First Cut
Dianne Emley
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
034548617X, $23.95 1-800-726-0600

Four Pasadena cops have been killed in the line of duty; last year Detective Nan Vining came very close to having her name added to the list as an unknown assailant attacked her with a knife leaving her clinically dead for about two minutes. Physically the single mother of a teen has healed, mentally she fears interviewing strangers and entering unknown residences as any can trigger a panic attack especially since her adversary is still on the streets. Though her boss has some doubts assigning her to the slasher murder of undercover Los Angeles vice cop Frankie Lynde because of the similarities to Nan's near fatal incident, Vining insists on leading the investigation for that same reason. Vining knows from her visions and psychic link to the deceased cop that the killer, wealthy club owner John Lesley-and his wife Pussycat were having a menage de trois with Lynde that leaves the investigating detective hot and bothersome with desire for her former lover Jim Kissick. However, proving to a jury that Lesley is the killer needs more than a mental discussion with a dead woman. One clue has been left behind by Lynde if Vining can retrieve it before she becomes Pasadena's number five. This urban noir police procedural with paranormal elements will grip readers who know early on that psychopath Lesley is the cop killer with a thirst for blood and wild sex. The action-packed story line turns into a cat and mouse game as Vining seeks proof while Lesley uses his spouse and others to insure the cop gets no closer to the truth even as he sets up his next victim. Though definitely dark, Dianne Emley's gripping thriller will take readers on the underside of society where money can hide illegal drug abuse and murder.

Edge of Darkness
Cherry Adair
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
034548522X, $6.99 1-800-726-0600

T-FLAC operator Duncan Edge heeds the telepathic message from his mentor Henry Morgan to keep Serena Brightman Campbell safe, but she wants nothing to do with him. Desperate he mentally plucks her out of her shower to his home where she rips his skin for not staying out of her life. He struggles not to salivate in front of her as he sees his long time nemesis naked. Duncan has always desired Serena from their teen days at wizard school, but avoids her for fear she is the one that could bring forth the Nairne Curse that haunts his family as it has for five centuries. However, Duncan, Serena and another long term friend Trey Culver compete in the four Tests to determine who will become the head of the Wizard Council now that Henry lies comatose from a stroke at the same time someone is serial killing wizards. As Duncan and Serena fall in love to his chagrin as he fears for her due to the curse, the competition heats up with more murdered wizards at a time that Trey seems to be gaining strength; though he prefers not to believe so. Duncan wonders could his former schoolmate be killing his peers to abscond with their power and if yes can he be stopped? The final Edge tale (see EDGE OF DANGER and EDGE OF FEAR) is a terrific paranormal romantic suspense thriller that ties up all the loose ends. Readers will wonder how the Edge siblings will elude the curse as each one has fallen in love; ironically the audience knows that Duncan loves Serena long before he does. The story line is action-packed but it is the pairing of the two powerful wizards that make for a fine finale.

It Might Have Been What He Said: A Novel
Eden Collinsworth
141 Fifth Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10010
1559708123, $23.95 1-800-759-0190

In New York twenty-eight years old acerbically witty workaholic Isabel Simpson runs Priam Books, a highly regarded and successful publishing company. James Willoughby is fixated on becoming wealthy as long as it does not require work that interferes with his expensive lifestyle. His articles for magazines and newspapers fit his need, but also come to the attention of Isabel, who realizes that he is a major talent if he put his mind and butt to it. Isabel decides to meet James. When they do they are immediately attracted to one another though their outlooks on life are totally polar opposites in outlook and demeanor from one another. Now fifteen years later with a son Burgo, Isabel explains to a psychiatrist she cannot remember the motive for wanting to kill her spouse, James, but she is sure she had a good reason for smashing his head with an umbrella before pushing him into Paris traffic. She begins to look back at how their love metamorphosis into an attempted homicide. Though the Python humor is amusing, it also takes away from a serious relationship drama in which Isabel reflects back on where did the love go. Readers will initially assume that James is innocent, but his selfish behavior over time erodes his spouse's self-esteem until she cannot take anymore. Though she is wrong for resorting to violence, readers will understand what drove her to push this survivor into traffic in this modernization (without the biting satire sting) of How to Murder My Wife.

Corpse in the Koryo
James Church
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312352085, $23.95 1-888-330-8477

In North Korea, his superior Chief Inspector Pak assigns him to take a picture of the car when it drives by. Inspector O waits on the road when the black Mercedes arrives; he takes out the state issued camera, clicks, and nothing happens as the battery is dead with no replacement in sight. It did not matter anyway as the vehicle had no license plate as the driver honked the horn speeding past O. O comes in knowing no tea awaits him since they lost the kettle. Joint Headquarters Captain Kim is obviously unhappy with the surveillance bungling, but is more outraged that O is not wearing a picture of either great Leader. Also in the room listening more than interrogating is Central Committee Deputy Director Kang. By the tone of the inquiry, O concludes these two alien outsiders are adversaries as they interrupt one another. He also realizes that the military and intelligence competition needs a fall guy though he is not sure why or how the Mercedes fits into his being the accused. Stoic, O seeks the truth while Pak suffers anxiety to the nth degree and the aliens continue to war over who bungled though O wonders what. Inspector O is a terrific character who understands the State quite well as he knows someone must be held accountable for errors, but s**t rolls downhill to people like him not bigwigs like the two aliens who make the blunders. Still he tries to his job properly in a closed society that does not share his values. His actions, even with the not so subtle threats of enemy combatants, Kim and Kang make for a superb hard boiled police procedural in which North Korea is the star.

All Mortal Flesh
Julia Spencer-Fleming
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312312644, $22.95 1-888-330-8477

In Millers Kill, New York Episcopalian Priest Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne feel guilt over falling in love with one another as he is married to Lindy, who lovingly has been at his side every step of the way for his twenty-five years army career. Neither Clare nor Russ wants to hurt the kind caring Lindy, but they failed to hide their needs and finally he dropped the bomb on her. Linda (Lindy was that naive army spouse) is divorcing Russ and moving on symbolized by her buying her first cat. However, her friend Meg Tracey, having not heard from Linda in a few days, visits the Van Alstyne farmstead only to find Linda murdered. State Police take over the investigation to insure there is no conflict of interest in the homicide investigation of a local officer's wife. The case seems obvious: a disaffected uncaring husband eliminated his unwanted wife to be with his paramour. Adding to that theory is the Archdiocese has assigned a permanent deacon to "assist" meaning watch over Reverend Fergusson. Clare and Russ share culpability, but not that of the murder as the Episcopalian Church comes down on her for her transgression and the law on both of them while the townsfolk condemn the duo as much for betraying Linda and their positions as for believing they killed her. The latest Fergusson-Van Alstyne investigative tale takes a personal spin with the death of Lindy as Clare and Russ feel anguish over what happened to her. The story line is filled with twists and turns that will shock readers yet seems plausible as Julia Spencer-Fleming is at her best with this terrific thriller. This is must reading for series fans while newcomers will find this tale a delightful standalone yet enhanced by reading previous novels (see OUT OF THE DEEP I CRY) to gain a tastier flavor of the triangle.

David L. Coleman
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312353413, $23.95 1-888-330-8477

In July 1947, seventy-six miles northwest of Roswell, New Mexico, a truck convoy delivers special cargo to a remote safe place in Nevada. Men in Black take charge of the operation killing the military and scientists at the scene with the simple rationale that "controlled violence" is needed to counter the enemy. No evidence is left behind as even the blood washes away amidst the cooperating desert sand and everything else is carted away. However this is the second phase of what has become known as the Roswell Incident. In the present in the cradle of the Roswell Incident, another apparent crash occurs, but this time two beings survive unlike the five decade old earlier incident. One is a tiny intelligent alien wanting to keep mankind safe from the other, a killing machine beast whose function is to eradicate mankind. While the Men in Black want to annihilate the helpful alien and control the savage to use as a weapon of mass destruction, the top secret federal government Event Group led by Major Jack Collins tries to stop the rampaging beast. These two agencies with differing views of America and the world will battle one another as much as they skirmish with the extraterrestrials. Action, action, and more action are what the exhilarating EVENT is all about as readers will need seatbelts with this faster than light thriller. The story line combines several well used premises like the good and bad aliens with secret government agencies to spin a fun conspiracy tale. Though the cast is never fully developed, readers will not care as the MIB vs. the Event superheavyweight contender battle to see who will take on the champion from outer space.

In the Wake
Per Petterson
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312343833, $22.95 1-888-330-8477

In Oslo, forty-three years old novelist Arvid Jansen feels depressed. He has felt that way since the ferry sunk killing his parents and two of his three siblings. He knows he must move on, but cannot even while he struggles with writing a novel about his dad. Adding to his feelings of guilt and ineptitudeis the fact his only surviving brother tried suicide perhaps because as Arvid rationalizes it he felt alone as 'his living relative (Arvid) has not been there for him. Still Arvid tries to reconnect with his estranged "Big Brother" and even makes human contact with his Kurdish neighbor, though neither understands the language of the other. Then there is Mrs. Grinde, who looks at him all the time from her window; he wonders if it is as a sex object or a bug though he admits to himself he would like a tryst with her. He thinks back on his demanding father, who he fought with when his dad was alive and Arvid realizes in some macabre way his misses the arguments. IN THE WAKE is a reflective insightful look at grief from the perspective of an individual who seems on the brink of a breakdown with no one to turn to for help. Arvid narrates a few weeks in his life as he still mourns his loss though six years has past since the tragic sinking of MS Estonia (real event). Suffering from survivor guilt and alienated from everyone, Arvid believes that along with the deaths of his family, his writing ability died. This is a deep character study that centers on grief as individualized and solitary, however to return to the living one must look to others not for help, but to help.

The River Killings
Merry Jones
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312330413, $23.95 1-888-330-8477

Best friends, therapist Zoe Hayes and attorney Susan Cummings, have taken up rowing on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia as an entertaining form of exercise. However, one night while on the river, their boat capsizes leaving the two females clinging to the overturned vessel when a flotilla of corpses floats by them. The FBI and Zoe's live-in boyfriend Homicide Detective Nick Stiles question her and Susan, who offer nothing. Zoe soon learns that the victims were nineteen Asians brought illegally to be sold as human sex slaves by traffickers. Following a break-in and a car jacking, thugs continue to threaten the two women and their children. Zoe realizes she needs to act because the slave traders will stop at nothing to insure no witnesses remain alive. Though the subplot involving Nick's ex sister in law adds suspense, it is unneeded as plenty is already going on with Zoe in deeper trouble with some lethal adversaries insuring no witnesses survive. Zoe is a fascinating heroic character who at times seems so very innocent because she "merrily" plunges into dangerous situations without a second thought; the audience will shout at her to cease her activities (she behaves similar to the way bimbos die in teen slasher movies). Still THE RIVER KILLINGS is a fine amateur sleuth- police procedural that the audience will appreciate and readers will want Zoe and Nick to return as stars of future Philadelphia mysteries.

Silence of the Grave
Arnaldur Indritason
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312340710, $22.95 1-888-330-8477

On the outer perimeter of Reykjavik, Iceland, a construction crew uncovers the remains of a body. The corpse had been placed in this shallow grave over five decades ago when the area was undeveloped hills. Inspector Erlendur leads the investigation into the death of this identified male at the same time a forensic archeologist excavates the location to insure no other clues are damaged or lost. While Erlendur works on what is probably going to end up a cold case, he finds the investigation fascinating and enables him to avoid the domestic abuse cases that seem prevalent. Many prominent leaders would prefer past and present family violence ignored. Erlendur would like to do that as those cases eat at the cop perhaps because his drug addicted daughter remains in a coma following a miscarriage. However, the police or society will not be able to pretend that a brutal beating of a young woman did not occur. The subplots tie together to make a delightful police procedural that emphasizes the locale as much as the criminal activity. The crusty Inspector is a fine protagonist with woes caused by feelings of guilt as he fears her failed his daughter; yet it is Iceland that holds the plot collectively as one strong story line. The abuse theme will haunt readers well after the tale is finished as Arnaldur Indritason provides a deep extremely well written Icelandic police procedural.

Mark Schorr
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312359152, $23.95 1-888-330-8477

In Portland, psychologist Brian Hanson talks over the phone with his patient twenty-eight years old parole Tammy LaFleur, who has missed her last two appointments because she insists the men are just outside waiting for her. He warns her that one more missed session and he will report her; she turns angry insisting he does not care. Brian, a recovering alcoholic, feels sorry for himself having to put up with this diatribe. Not long afterward, Brian feels guilty when he learns Tammy committed suicide. However, as he goes over her time with him, he concludes she was either compliant or defiant, but never suicidal. Fearing he will return to a violent reaction as he has done under pressure since his Nam days, Brian informs his police contact Detective Robert McFarlane to make sure he harms no one as he has a violent history. To satisfy his culpability, he investigates the death of his client, the daughter of the former police chief. When others inside of Tammy's circle die, Brian believes a human wolf is killing people. Cliched absolutely! Stereotyped for sure! So what; readers will not be able to put down this exhilarating amateur sleuth investigative thriller. The action never slows down even when Brian's banker wife, fed up with his antics, turns to someone else for solace. The contest between the Wolf and the shrink is fun to follow as both shares so much in common as either one will OVERKILL to achieve their objective.

A King's Trade
Dewey Lambdin
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
031231549X, $25.95 1-888-330-8477

In the late eighteenth century in the Caribbean, Royal Navy Captain Alan Lewrie of the HMS Proteus abducts a dozen slaves from local plantations to ostensibly free them, but actually to work on his ship. His actions cause an international incident, which anger his superiors who believe he is already a loose cannon unable to follow orders. Foreign Office Emissary Zachariah Twigg offers the obstinate Lewrie a choice between certain court-martial and a possible felony trial for stealing private property or act the role of abolitionist hero from a distance meaning get him out of both sides of the Atlantic. Though his preference is to tell the officious bureaucrat to stick it when the sun does not shine on the British Empire, self preservation supersedes pride. Lewrie agrees to be cast as an anti-slavery champion while escorting merchants and a Russian circus between St. Helena and Cape Town whose star attraction to the recalcitrant Lewrie is the gorgeous Eudoxia. The feel to the latest Lewrie Royal navy historical tale is more of a prelude to the next novel as the story line does not seem as fully developed as usual. Still the insight into the late nineteenth century navy is deep and fulfilling, but what makes the tale is the way officialdom classified slaves as contraband. Fans of the series will feel a bit letdown though the antihero kicks some French butt as Alan Lewrie's nautical thriller story line seems thin.

A Stolen Season
Steve Hamilton
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
031235360X, $22.95 1-888-330-8477

In the Upper Peninsular of Michigan, retired Detroit cop Alex McKnight noted how freezing the Fourth of July is this year as he stops in Brimley for a drink or two and a baseball game on TV to warm his insides though he knows summer here lasts one day. Even a brass monkey would freeze its balls off in this cold. Alex, his so-called sleuthing partner Leon Prudell (of Prudell-McKnight Investigation fame) and Coast Guard Auxiliary Tyler soon are outside in the cold rescuing three drunken men (Cap, Harry, and Brucie) from a boating accident in nearby Waishkey Bay. Not long after saving the lives of the trio, the grateful threesome return to Brimley and accuse Alex and his two friends (make that one pal and a possible bud) of stealing their locked box from their devastated boat. Angrily, Alex does a bit of investigating and learns that the gruesome threesome are extorting the Bay Mills Indian tribe out of government funded painkillers that they resell on the black market. As he continue his inquiries, his Ontario police officer girlfriend Natalie Reynaud arrives at his cabin in Paradise because her undercover illegal arms case has connections on the American side of Lake Superior that soon ties into Alex's prescription medicine investigation. The seventh McKnight mystery is a superb entry that not only brings to life the area, but also highlights a growing problem with prescription pill contraband. The story line is filled with twists and turns, and red herrings as everyone seems as if they are double crossing one another until the shocking climax. Steve Hamilton is at his Edgar best with this unnerving tale in which the chilling weather fits the mood.

Lindsay Jayne Ashford
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312355815, $22.95 1-888-330-8477

West Midlands Police Detective Superintendent Martin Leverton asks for Birmingham psychiatrist and profiler Dr. Megan Rhys to help with the murders of two women. He explains they found semen linking the murders of Natalie Bailey with Donna Fieldhouse. With school on holidays so she has no lectures to provide so Megan agrees to help the police. The clues in both cases fail to make sense as if someone reversed the biological evidence between the two victims. Additionally, DS Leverton wonders if one of his cops is the killer; he especially wants Megan to look closely at Donaldson and Costello. As Megan begins to organize the evidence from the rubbish, more homicides occur of people she knows that leads the profiler to wonder if someone close to her may be the killer. This entertaining British police procedural enables the reader to understand the mindset of the serial killer when his thoughts rotate with that of the heroine about halfway into the book; however, this Hitchcockian approach lacks the level of suspense the master filmmaker brought to the plot. Still the cat and mouse story line is fun to follow as Megan feels that Leverton wants her to fail or if not him someone in the department is misdirecting her. Ironically the reader knows the killer long before Megan whose errors in judgment cost the lives of at least one victim in Lindsay Jayne Ashford's fine serial killer tale.

Fantasy Gone Wrong
Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Brittiany A. Koren
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0756403804, $7.99 1-800-847-5515

This sixteen tale fantasy anthology is filled with humorous satires that ironically lampoon the genre. Fans will laugh at the slapstick musings of authors like Alan Dean Foster, Brian Stableford, and Fiona Patton, etc. who all sixteen take amusing barbs at their own work. Everything is a target as heroes are psychoanalyzed, goblins sing lullabies, and food talks back to their diner with contempt even as the different morsels fight amongst themselves for gastronomical supremacy. Perhaps it is because it reminds this reviewer of the works of Jasper Fforde; my personal favorite is the nursery rhyme police procedural "The Murder of Mr. Wolf" by Josepha Sherman. The delightful jocular Shrek legacy lives in characters like Thimble Jack the Pixie or the media frenzy over items like "Local Pauper to wed Princess Penelope" as this witty fantasy goes right.

Hounding the Moon
P.R. Frost
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0756403898, $23.95, 352 pp. 1-800-847-5515

When Scrap the Imp, named because he was small, entered the human realm he knew when he was big enough he would infect Tess with the imp virus and somehow battle the other imps to meld with her. When Tess came down with the virus she was taken in by The Sisterhood of the Celestial Blade Warriors who healed her, trained her how to fight demons and then tossed her out because she was too independent to fit in with their order. Out in the world, Tess and Scrap are a unit even though they have yet to fight a demon. Her chance will come when she meets Cynthia Walking Moon, who along with her friends, is attacked by a dog who kills before Tess dispatches him. She later learns the dog is looking for the new Weaver who creates the tapestry of life and each night the dog undoes some of the work because if it is ever finished the world will end. Two men come into Tess' life one who she is attracted to but is very wary of and one who knows far too much about Tess' magical life. Both men play an integral part in the upcoming battle with the demons that are using a rogue portal to enter this world in order to possess the tapestry. Readers who like the urban fantasies of Mercedes Lackey will want to read the brilliant storytelling of HOUNDING THE MOON. Scrap an 8-inch imp who smokes cigars, wise cracks his way through life and likes to wear Tess' clothes (don't ask how), almost steals the show. There is much action in this character driven fantasy novel based on Native American myths. P.R. Frost displays a unique and refreshing voice in this uniquely original, fantastic and spellbinding urban fantasy.

A Knight's Vengeance
Catherine Kean
27825 North Forest Garden Road, Wauconda, IL 60084
1932815481, $6.99

By 1192, Geoffrey de Lanceau has become a dedicated diligent knight, working extremely hard to overcome the legacy passed down by his late father, Edourd, the former lord of Wode. Eighteen years ago the liege accused Edourd of treason; his keep Wode seized by order of the monarch, and Edourd executed by Lord Arthur Brackendale, and his land stripped from his family and given to Brackendale. Geoffrey believes his father was framed by the man currently occupying Wode. One day the lad vows to prove his father died loyally to his monarch and avenge his death. Lady Elizabeth Brackendale dreams of an eternal love match, but her dad has plans to marry her off to a man older than him. She begs her sire not to sell her to a dirty old man, but he ignores his daughter's plea. However, Geoffrey begins his quest for vengeance by kidnapping Elizabeth of Wode. His plan is to use her as an expendable pawn to get at her father. However, instead Geoffrey finds he is attracted to his prisoner; she reciprocates as she feels deep emotions for the anguished knight as her love begins to heal his battered heart. However, there remains her father, who will never acquiesce to a relationship between his valuable property and the son of his late enemy. A KNIGHT'S VENGEANCE is a well written medieval romance starring an obsessed hero living for vengeance until he captures the daughter of the man he loathes and blames for what happened to his father and his family. The key to the tale is that Arthur is not an odious stereotypic totally evil villain, but instead a complex full blooded character. With a delightful seemingly star-crossed lead duet and a solid support cast, this novel is a keen historical tale.

The Killing Frost
Scott Gamboe
27825 North Forest Garden Road, Wauconda, IL 60084
1932815988, $6.99

In 2212 the cold war hostilities between the United Systems Coalition and the Bromidian Empire seem one incident away from a major confrontation. One particular nasty insurgent group the Rising Sun constantly brings the war to the USC though the Bromidians deny any connection to these guerillas. To counter the Rising Sun, the USC formed military units, Avengers. One such unit Avenger Team 5 is headed by Padian Captain Arano Lakeland, who seeks the annihilation of these killers as they violently massacred his family years ago. Arano and his crew are unraveling a plot engineered by a traitor high up in the USC leadership. He takes actions that many people will applaud while others feel cross the line of humanity. Especially critical of Arano is powerful Grand High Councilor Balor Tient, who swears that the captain is no better than the enemy with his disregard for protocol. Balor has his right hand man Cono Vishturn accompany Arano allegedly to study his tactics. What makes his work even more difficult for Arano is the fact he is falling in love with his human Squad B Captain Alyna Marquat, but the mission comes first as failure means a galaxy at war with his side losing their superiority due to sedition. Though the good guys and bad guys are obvious from the start, THE KILLING FROST is an entertaining space opera. Arano makes the tale as a warrior whose credo is carved in the blood of his family that no enemy is left behind alive so that they can try to kill you again. The story line is action-packed as war means death; something Arano understands when he kills the adversaries from long distance. Though a conspiracy simplifies the internal USC conflict, fans of military science fiction will appreciate the exploits of this no-nonsense hero and his loyal troops and hope this book is the first in a series because it is totally enthralling.

The Alibi Club
Francine Mathews
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
055380331X, $24.00 1-800-726-0600

In 1940 Paris, American model Sally King awaits the arrival of her lover Philip Stilwell even as news that the Nazis had broken the French army causing a massive retreat. Though his note said he would be late arriving at the restaurant, when he fails to show up she heads to his law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell only to learn from her lover's peer Max Shoop that Philip was dead. The police insist a heart attack, but the Coco Chanel model believes otherwise as she thinks he was murdered. The repercussions of Philip's death reach the notorious Alibi Club, the in night club of the city. While African-American singer, Memphis Jones performs at the Alibi Club, others discuss the death of Stilwell especially since the freakishly tall Sally pushes for an investigation before the Nazis reach the city. At the same time Joe Hearst of the American embassy knows that the Germans and others may have connected Stilwell to a secret retained by Irene Curie, the offspring of the renowned scientists. If it falls into the wrong hands the Germans could with little effort devastate the world. Using real persona like the Dulles siblings, Francine Mathews provides a deep look at 1940 Paris just before the Nazi blitzkrieg takes over the city. The whodunit and subsequent amateur investigation are cleverly developed and the mystery of Curie's secret that the Nazis want makes for a strong mystery. However, what makes THE ALIBI CLUB a great thriller is the atmosphere and ambience of the time and place so much so the readers will seek the usual suspects as we will always have Paris.

Stamping Butterflies
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
27825 North Forest Garden Road, Wauconda, IL 60084
0553383779, $12.00 1-800-726-0600

In Paris, a vagrant reads in a paper he picks up that the President of the United States Gene Newman will soon visit Marrakech; he decides on the spot to assassinate the American leader. Shockingly the tramp almost succeeds, but is detained by American anti-terrorist agents, who incarcerate Prisoner Zero on a tiny Mediterranean Sea rock. Needing to know who he is working for and who trained him. The espionage crowd assumes Prisoner Zero is the best with his vagabond outfit seeming so real yet a cover. However, the constant torturous interrogation produces nothing from Prisoner Zero. Meanwhile as the tramp ignores and annoys the spies and other VIPs visiting him, he speaks telepathically with the "Darkness" until Zero using bodily droppings writes a ground breaking series of mathematical equations on the application of zero-point energy. Back in 1969 in Marrakech, street urchin Moz is infected by an intelligence embellishing parasite that finds a place inside his brain. The Moroccan police direct Miz to befriend rock-star and mathematician Jake Razor as they assume the outsider is a spy; the lad succeeds becoming a pal of Jake. Finally five millenniums into the future a sole survivor of a Chinese spaceship is saved by an alien. This leads to an interstellar Chinese Empire whose fifty-third ruler Emperor Zaq dreams of Prisoner Zero and the "Darkness" that he calls the "Library". This is a complex cerebral science fiction that grips the appreciative audience wondering where Jon Grimwood is taking us. The story line rotates perspective between the three subplots before tying together it into a fascinating Moebius Ring that is further twisted and cut into a Paradromic Ring. Fans preferring a linear tale need to pass the convoluted entertaining STAMPING BUTTERFLIES.

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
Gordon Dahlquist
27825 North Forest Garden Road, Wauconda, IL 60084
0385340354, $26.00 1-800-726-0600

The note on Ministry paper from her fiance Roger Bascombe simply said that his engagement to Celeste Temple is terminated. Not upset over the abrupt ending of their engagement or even his cowardly cruel method of delivering, twenty-five years old Miss Temple simply needs to know why. She decides to find out first hand. Leaving her island paradise, Miss Temple travels to London to learn the truth. Disguising herself she serendipitously trails Roger from the foreign ministry to Harschmort House. The curiously intrepid visitor sneaks inside the stately mansion only to find odd goings-on especially at the theater in which Miss Temple sits in the audience apparently enjoying erotic acts performed on stage. Before Miss Temple knows what is happening, she gets involved in a masked tryst with voyeurs looking through mirrors at her while she looks back at their depravity. Miss Temple flees the chambers of sex but not before she kills a thug trying to prevent her escape. Those inside want her stopped while she finds aid from two men assassin Cardinal Chang and diplomat Abelard Svenson, who want to rescue abducted females from this den of iniquity with dreams of world domination starting with local sexual sacrifices. This is a wild over the top but fun Victorian thriller that never slows down from the moment that Miss Temple receives the letter and has an itch to learn why, but discovers much more than just the reason for her dumping. The story line in some ways is a coming of age tale though the heroine is twenty-five and her lessons are in debauchee, religious-sexual ceremonies, and rites of passage. With too many characters coming (figuratively and literally) and going, the story line can get difficult to follow, but worth the time as Miss Temple battles a depraved cabal preparing to conquer the world.

Mark Butz
27825 North Forest Garden Road, Wauconda, IL 60084
0553588508, $6.99 1-800-726-0600

San Francisco Police Detective Van Dijk investigates the murder of a Doe with no match in the DiNA database, but the victim contains electronic skin and philm technology that brings alive in her case Barbara Stanwick and Gene Tierney on her epidermis. Van Dijk concludes that this dead one was used as a toy by a rich patron, as only those with money can afford this type of "reprogramming", especially something the homicide detective has never encountered before. Pelayo earns a living as a guinea pig testing state of the art electronic skin and philm technology. He is fortunate to live as many in his line of work fail to survive the experiments to bring new products to the market for the wealthy to buy once they are proven safe for opulent human consumption. Pelayo visits his cousin Marta, who works at a cinematique that sells discounted unsafe electronic skin products to the impoverished masses, but she has vanished with indentured servant and philm techno-smuggler Nadice, who hides a special contraband growing inside her womb. Soon Pelayo's amateur sleuth hunt for his cousin and Van Dijk's official homicide investigation merge at a resort planning a new wave of technological use and discard the masses as test subjects for the pleasure of their affluent clients. Geometrically extrapolating current American trends in technology and economics, Mark Butz provides a dark future in which a few own everything while most are throwaway "volunteers" for electronic experiments. The story line stuns the audience from the opening police procedural and amateur sleuth search and never de-shocks the reader as the two mystery subplots merge. The audience slowly understands the full implications of what is going on in a society in which technology enables the past to be the realism of the present. Fans of frightening futuristic visions will appreciate the stunning IDOLON tattooing society.

The Assassins Galley
David L. Robbins
27825 North Forest Garden Road, Wauconda, IL 60084
0553804413, $25.00 1-800-726-0600

As the countdown ends 1944, Judith comes ashore from the freezing water off Newburyport, Massachusetts into a Nor'easter. When a two-person civilian patrol stops her on the beach, Judith tries a bluff, but when that fails she kills them. Judith cannot find her murder weapon, a twelfth century knife belonging to enemies of the Templars during the Crusades. Still the enemy agent knows stealth remains her major weapon so no one must know who came ashore. The murders on the beach upset the Secret Service, who assume a plot against President Roosevelt by unknown assassins. Agent Nabbit obtains the help of his former history professor Mikhal Lammeck, who concludes by the murder weapon used that the killer is a professional who will slay anyone remotely in his or her way. He assumes like Dag that FDR is the target. So he waits patiently in DC for the assassin's arrival, not realizing a female is the cold blooded killer and that she is already on the staff of Roosevelt's mistress Lucy Mercer Rutherford, but beyond stopping the assassin Lammeck wonders who hired her. David L. Robbins provides a fascinating historical thriller that uses an electrifying plot to enable the audience to look deeply at 1945 DC. The story line is action-packed so that the thriller crowd will sit on edge throughout, but also includes interesting tidbits. For instance many people by his fourth term thought Roosevelt was a benevolent dictator whose popularity was waning as the war seemed endless, but feared switching administrations (when will we begin hearing the noise to change the twenty-second amendment?). Lammeck is a well-rounded hero struggling to stop an assassination and uncover a conspiracy, but also relaxes by exploring his favorite subject, what is history, which ultimately is the underlying theme of this delightful thriller.

Kill All the Lawyers
Paul Levine
27825 North Forest Garden Road, Wauconda, IL 60084
0440242754, $6.99 1-800-726-0600

They met as opponents on a case, but became legal partners forming Solomon and Lord. Steve and Victoria are as different as two people can be. She is a blueblood; he is a peon. She strictly adheres to the rules; he bends and in some cases breaks the rules. Victoria has never been held in contempt; he holds the Guinness Book of Records for his judicial induced jail time. Their world crumbles when psychiatrist Dr. William Kreuger is released from prison; he knows that Steve gave the prosecution the key evidence that convicted him. William admits that he is out to prove that Steve is no better a person than him, but will kill to make his point. He starts a diabolical plan to frame an innocent person whom Steve loves by placing another innocent victim in danger. If Steve fails to find the endangered missing person, Kreuger wins; if he does find that person Kreuger wins anyway. The latest Solomon vs. Lord novel is a stupendous cat and mouse thriller with Steve being the rodent, his loved ones the cheese, and his adversary as sly and dangerous as Lector as Kreuger sets and changes the rules in this life and death game. Paul Levine infuses warmth in most of his cast (except for the villain) as he makes the case that ethical people when pushed over the edge will do what they can regardless of the self cost to save loved ones. This entry is on a par with Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum's series.

The Fourth Bear
Jasper Fforde
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0670037729, $24.95 1-800-847-5515

PDR, a Person of Dubious Reality to the illiterate, Reading Police Department Detective Criminal Investigator Jack Spratt of the Nursery Crime Division is as always in trouble with the brassy brass for literally his success in solving crimes. However, he wants to burn the book when he and his partner au contrary Mary, Mary is demoted to the Missing Persons department. He assumes this is to get him out of the way so that certain felonies turn cold case. They are assigned to learn what happened to Henrietta "Goldilocks" Hatchett. The investigation leads the two cops to the cottage of Mr. and Mrs. Bruin better known as part of the Three Bears where they find some relationship anomalies among the family members and their alibis seem phony especially the story about varying temperatures porridge pilfering. However, as the sleuths find clues, they feel their inquiry is continuously off kilter until they realize the dangerous serial killer Gingerbread Man is targeting Spratt the only man capable of bringing him down. With Goldilocks probably dead and the Three Bears seemingly innocent with that crime (fundamentally guilty of constitutional family infractions), Jack and Mary two times wonder if the Gingerbread man killed the girl or could there be a FOURTH BEAR? Using literally literary allusions Jasper Fforde provides a delightfully swift police procedural fantasy that as with the first Nursery Crime tale, THE BIG OVER EASY, uses a fairy tale to tear apart the hypocrisy of society. The prime story line uses Goldilocks and the Three Bears to show how easily one can purposely misinterpret information with questions such as why Mr. and Mrs. Bear sleep in separate rooms. Other characters skewer the up and down of I did not know corporate leaders, the three plus decade war on drugs, lying leaks, and no taxation or representation as the latest Jack Spratt tale is a witty satire.

M. Scott Byrnes
Blue Stripe
1015 31st. Street NW, Suite350, Washing D.C 20007
0977267407, $19.95, 278 pp.

Cold fusion, a source of clean energy, has been discovered but for it to have wide use, it must interact with barrettazine, an element that is scarce on earth. Congress has spent billions of dollars getting mankind to land on Mars not for research purposes but because it is thought that barrettazine is found in abundance on the red planet. When NASA geologist Kathy Palmer finds a vast deposit below the surface of Mars she also finds a perfectly preserved city. They find a repository where scrolls are kept and on earth a think tank is formed. Included is Tim Redmond, whose IQ is off the charts though he fears he is going insane since he began having a secret conversation with a person named Peter who pushes him into remembering who he really is. The scrolls have a word that is the name is of Jesus Christ and using that they decipher one of the scroll that have bible verses on it. They also find on Mars a solid sphere, one that is also found in the Sea of Galilee where the Nazarene was born. Tim is the key to finding out the answer of the messiah & God and how the Christ appeared on two separate planets several million years apart. Finding the answers could save the Earth from the Armageddon that is coming. REVELATIONS is an exciting science fiction thriller that is loaded with revelations about the origin of humanity, the existence of Christ, and extraterrestrial beings. The story unfolds slowly so the reader has a chance to absorb all the information that is revealed simultaneously on Mars and Earth. Tim is an interesting character who doesn't understand his true destiny until he meets Peter face to face. M. Scott Byrnes creates an entire new mythos for the origins of Earth and the desolation of Mars.

The Inquest
Jeffrey D. Marshall
University of Vermont Press
One Court St., Lebanon, NH 03766
1584655712, $24.95

In 1830 in Burlington, Vermont, Experience "Speedy" Goodrich dies following an abortion. As County Prosecutor Charles Adams stated five years later, the outrage and uproar by the public and the nebulousness of the law made it impossible to bring a conviction in the case in spite of the Inquest Jury's strong belief to the contrary. In fact the evidence proved contradictory and confusing. However, three critical accounts the tragic incident were scribed leaving it to posterity to decide truth in the same way that Mr. Adams did by seeking common agreement from the accounts. The first account is by University of Vermont medical student Charles Daggett, who may have performed the abortion, but clearly was involved in procuring willing female participants for medical experiments. Another university student Stephen Decatur Parker served as the court recorder who provides insight into the proceedings and mindset of the inquest jury, witnesses, and others associated with the investigation. Finally, there is Speedy's sister Nancy Goodrich Proctor, who provides insight into her sibling. You the reader must draw your own conclusions as to whether murder occurred and if yes by whom. Using a genuine nineteenth century tragedy with real people (except for Parker), Jeffrey D. Marshal provides a well-rounded provocative historical fiction tale that parallels much of the contemporary abortion controversy. Readers are hooked from the opening brief statement by Adams and never let's go as each of the three other protagonists provides their account of the deadly event. Abortion in a religious, individual freedom, and most important economic contexts provide the audience with insight to what people faced in 1830 and ironically what Speedy would confront somewhat today especially if abortion becomes legal only for the rich to go to Europe and the middle class to Canada and the Caribbean.

Maggie Estep
Three Rivers
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1400082730, $19.00, 286 pp. 1-888-523-9292

Ruby is seeing psychiatrist Dr. Judy Ray to try to come to terms with seeing her lover killed before her very eyes. During their appointment, Ruby goes to the bathroom and sees a foot in the fishtank. Judy sees it and identifies it as belonging to her estranged husband Tobias because of the birthmark on the calf of the leg. There is also a note that says "No Police. Just Wait." Judy refuses to call the police and ends her appointment with Ruby. Later, Judy asks her to find Tobias who might be at a second hideaway in the Rockaways; Ruby agrees to help her. She finds Tobias and learns that he orchestrated the plot but his partner got carried away and cut off his leg as proof that the man was in danger. Ruby leaves and finds that her live in lover wants to leave her because he received some pornographic pictures with her in it and her boss fires her because he believes she stole some money from him. When Tobias offers her $1000 to find Judy who disappeared she accepts because she need the money, not realizing her action will cause a tragedy. FLAMETHROWER is a gritty and dark urban noir thriller. The protagonist is an interesting individual who copes admirably when her life seems at its bleakest. Readers get an interesting tour of Brooklyn and somewhat Queens, the kind tourists don't see. There is only one villain in this story but that person comes as a surprise to readers who hardly notice the character as Maggie Estep knows how to tell a good story about the lost and lonely people who frequent Ruby's world.

Whiskey Straight Up
Nina Wright
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
0738708550, $12.95, 312 pp. 1-800-843-6666

Widowed realtor Whiskey is not having a good week in the usually crime free town of Magnet Springs, Michigan. It begins when the man who went to prison for stabbing her late husband is released and asks her for a job as part of his twelve step redemption. Against her better judgment she agrees but when she sees him covered in blood outside an ice shanty on the lake, she begins to regret her decision. When she enters the hut, she sees the dead body of her nemesis, realtor and mayor Gil Green before he disappears in the water where the ice has cracked. Next, Chester, the eight year old son of a local singing superstar Carina, who Whiskey is watching, disappears and later is believed to be kidnapped. Her dead husband's daughter and their twin babies are living with Whisky and Avery is constantly on her case because the babies' father is in town and wants to see his children for the first time; a situation Whisky supports as she wants to start up a relationship with Nash. When the twins are kidnapped, Whisky personally gets involved in locating them thanks to the willingness of a helicopter pilot. The tourist town of Magnet Springs is populated with eccentric characters and pets from Whiskey's stealing afghan who is a good tracker to her ex-husband Jeb, a semi-successful singer who makes it clear he wants his former wife back. Two kidnappers, two murders and nothing to link them except some out of towners with no apparent motive make the crimes in the area difficult to solve. Nina Wright writes a colorful and delightful cozy that will have the audience in stitches of laughter.

The Grail Conspiracy
Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
0738707872, $14.95 1-800-843-6666

Satellite News Network reporter Cotten Stone is in Iraq covering the effects of economic sanctions on women and children when her local driver abruptly dumps her in the middle of the desert. She luckily finds an archeological dig headed by Dr. Gabriel Archer, but before she ask for help Cotten sees an Arab demands Archer hand over something before shooting the archeologist. Archer manages to kill the Arab, but knows he is dying so he quotes the bible, insists she is the one and tells her to take the box and run in a language that she only heard uttered by her deceased twin sister Motnees. The Turks help get her to Ankara and from there via the U.K. to New York. She scans the archival news reports on Archer, but finds only the kind words of Reverend Dr. John Tyler, once a student of Archer, upbeat. However, the box and her related video are stolen making her wonder if she had the Holy Grail as Archer implied. Since John teaches at nearby St. Thomas College in White Plains, Cotten visits him to obtain his help. They soon unravel a clue that leads to New Orleans where Dr. Charles Sinclair of BioGentec Laboratories heads an ignoble experiment that could start Armageddon. THE GRAIL COMPANY is an action-packed Christian medical thriller that cleverly uses background news reports to set the date with the American military buildup just beginning. The story line never slows down from the moment Archer says: "Geh el crip" (you're the one) until the final confrontation in New Orleans. This fascinating biblical science fiction tale is more a twenty-first century Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail than a Brown clone with thank God the sequel THE LAST SECRET coming out shortly.

Kit Frazier
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
0738709158, $13.95, 432 pp. 1-800-843-6666

While an intern at the Austin Journal, Cauley Mackinnon made the mistake of sleeping with her boss, which is why she now writes obituaries at the Austin Sentinel. When her good friend former Dallas Cowboy Scooter Barnes calls her because he threatens to commit suicide, she rushes over to stop him. She is stunned to see a SWAT team there. Cauley talks to Scooter and persuades him put his gun down. From that heroic moment on everyone wants to talk with Cauley about what she discussed inside the building with Scooter, but she reveals nothing. When she stops for gas an earless thug with a gun demands she tell him or else. FBI Special Agent Tom Logan and Customs Agent John Fiennes desperately need to know what he told her. Still she holds her confidence to herself until Scooter is found dead by Cauley. His parents insist it is a homicide not a suicide; she agrees and begins investigating not realizing that soon she will be faced with the same life and death choices her late friend made. SCOOP is a fantastic journalist investigative thriller that methodically yet fascinatingly shows the reader how a reporter conducts an investigation. The audience will empathize with the spunky offbeat heroine tries to do the right thing by her dead friend and his parents. The SCOOP on Kit Francis is that she deserves an Agatha nomination or this delightfully charming and realistic mystery.

Carbs and Cadavers
J.B. Stanley
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
0738709131, $12.95, 255 pp. 1-800-843-6666

Professor James Henry is not having a good year. First, his wife divorces him after a three year separation to marry a rich lawyer, then his mother dies of a heart attack. He has to quit teaching at William and Mary University to move back to his hometown to take care of his reclusive and belligerent father and the only job he can find is that of a librarian. He also is over fifty pounds overweight. So when the opportunity arrives to join a diet supper club, he leaps at the chance, hoping to meet new friends. When the body of a former high school football hero and local bully is found murdered in the local bakery, Lucy Hanover wants to investigate the case because she yearns to be a deputy so she convinces the other members of the supper clan to help her find the killer. They question various people when they are not meeting to discuss diets and the group learns that the victim was blackmailing his former classmates. James with the help of the other four members of the group, think he knows who the killer is but when they go to confront the suspect, they find themselves at the mercy of a stone cold killer. Between the investigation and the dieting, the "Flab Five" as they call themselves develop a camaraderie that develops into a friendship. James is happy because he now has friends and a social life and learns how to be part of a group and at times their leader. J.B. Stanley has written a clever and exciting amateur sleuth mystery that has many suspects with realistic motives that lead to readers eagerly awaiting the next supper club mystery because the first book in the series is delicious.

His Lordship's Desire
Joan Wolf
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778323307, $6.99

He left the army after three years of service to come home as the new Earl of Standish though he feels insecure that he is ready to assume that responsibility. Still Alexander Devize plans to do the best he can. However, he finds his return is not greeted by all with a welcome. His cousin and best friend Diana Sherwood, whom he loves and assumed he would marry soon, is cold and aloof towards him, but hides her reasons for her pique. She is angry that he chose the military just after they made love instead of her. Though she goes to London to obtain a husband, Diana knows she still loves Alexander. He follows her because he plans to be the spouse she obtains in London. This is a fun Regency romance starring a once happy but now brooding hero still recovering from his Peninsular army days and a seemingly immature woman who looks elsewhere for marriage as she failed to understand why he felt he must join the military. The story line mostly focuses on this pair as he wages a campaign to re-win the woman he loves even as she chooses another. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this lighthearted romp as Alexander tries to persuade the obstinate Diana that she is his beloved.

If It Bleeds
Bonnie Hearn Hill
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778323390, $6.99

The San Joaquin Valley, California Valley Voice business reporter Corina Vasquez is proud of her promotion to assistant to investigative reporter Matthew Henderson though he is demanding. With Matthew off, Metro Editor J.T. Malone sends Corina to cover the story of the alleged murder of Mayor Tina Kellogg, who has been missing for three months. Corina knows this will be her break as the newspaper mantra "If it bleeds it leads" will put this story on the front page. A business source of hers Skin Burke leaves her a message that he knows more about Tina's death. When she goes to see Skin, who claimed Eugene Belmont killed the mayor, she finds him dead. Corina begins to dig into the connected homicides, which leads to her beginning to believe a dark conspiracy of power is behind the murders. Now a target to be silenced, only her former lover, who broke her heart, acting Mayor Wes Shaw, can help her while her boss Henderson wants her taken off the story for selfish reasons. This is an action-packed suspense thriller that stars a likable twenty-eight years old reporter trying to do the right thing while navigating her way through a complex dangerous case in which her boss is a shark, who wants her off his team before she proves her worthiness. Corina is a fabulous protagonist as she has doubts that she can make it as an investigative journalist, but refuses to allow her odious boss or other cynics to stop her from trying. Readers will root for this delightful protagonist as her inquiry turns frighteningly dangerous, her boss tries to backstab her at every opportunity, and though she relies on Wes she ponders if he she can trust him as everything seems to lead to and from the mayor's office. This is a fine opening thriller that will have the audience anxious for the next cutting tale.

Angel's Rest
Charles Davis
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778323048, $21.95

In 1967 eleven-years old Charlie York loves living in aptly named Sunnyside, Virginia near Angel's Rest in the Allegheny Mountains. However, the sunshine turns torrential in a nanosecond when his mom Hadley apparently kills his father John. Though she insists her spouse John accidentally shot himself while cleaning his shotgun, she is arrested for the homicide, her preadolescent son moves in with an elderly black man Lacy Albert Coe, who "worked" for his dad at the TV and radio repair shop instead of her white in-laws who live nearby. Lacy, known as the "Storyteller", tells his young white charge lyrical tales of the good and the bad in people even as Charlie fears he lied in court when he affirmed his mom's tale under oath though he feels he saw something else. However, law enforcement has found a tie between Hadley's former high school boyfriend crazy Korean Veteran Hollis Thrasher and John that is a strong motive for murder and witnesses claim the former was near the latter's home. At the same time the white folks are fuming and humiliated that Hadley left her white son with a black man; they take out their rage on the octogenarian Storyteller and any other black who is available. ANGEL'S REST is a terrific historical mystery and character study that grips the reader as narrator Charlie tells his tale of lost childhood when his mom supposedly killed his dad near where the angels took respites while building the mountain range. The cast is fully developed so that the racial tension of 1967 is vivid with hate crimes being acceptable by pious folks. The mystery of John's death is cleverly tied together with another mystery that reveals plenty about the relationships between the key players. Charles Davis provides a strong tale of growing up overnight as Charlie finds allies in the intrepid, caring and loving Storyteller at a time he needs nurturing.

6 Rainier Drive
Debbie Macomber
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
077832334X, $7.99

In Cedar Cove, Washington the residents are already stunned by the fire that destroyed the Lighthouse Restaurant; however even more shocking is the official report that the blaze was deliberately set. The law suspects that former employee Anson Butler lit the inferno, as he was disgruntled and since vanished; the hunt is on for this suspected arsonist. Meanwhile the married owners of the Lighthouse Restaurant, Justine and Seth Gunderson debate over whether to rebuild. He desperately wants to; she prefers to move on with time to do other things. Their argument has shaken the core of their relationship; Justine is having lunch with her former beau Warren Saget. The arson has impacted other citizens as well though not obviously as much as the proprietors as life must go on. For instance Get Nailed hairstylist Teri Miller acting out of character meets and starts dating international chess grandmaster Bobby Polgar. The problems in the relationship between the clinic's physican assistant Lynnette McAfee and horse trainer Cal Washburn seem more exacerbated and significant since the fire. Finally photographer and father of Katie Jon Bowman rages over his recent knowledge of his parents' deception at a time his pregnant wife Maryellen needs his support. Cedar Cove series readers will enjoy the sixth tale that focuses on the aftermath of the restaurant arson on the townsfolk. In spite of a much needed biography that provides a who's who of the key players, new visitors and tourists will be hard put to follow much of the sidebar goings on that continues subplots from previous novels. Still Debbie Macomber's fans will appreciate her latest Washington state US Navy small town soapy relationship drama.

Where the Truth Lies
Christiane Heggan
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778323374, $6.99

In Boston, Grace McKenzie museum art curator looks forward to seeing her dad in Napa Valley. Her vacation begins the minute she leaves the workplace but before she can go, she is stunned to see the last person she would expect to visit her. The mighty bastion of Philadelphia high society Sarah Hatfield, mother of Steven, the man she was to marry a decade ago, informs her that her son was murdered. Her former fiance stuns her further from the grave when he leaves his Hatfield Gallery in New Hope, Pennsylvania to Grace; though he knew she would refuse ownership, his bequest asks her to stay in the town for one week before rejecting her inheritance. Wanting to honor Steven's last wish, Grace agrees. However, Grace learns that the police arrested one of their own Chief Fred Baxter, as the killer. He had motive as he learned that the victim was having an affair with his wife Denise. After running off an intruder from the galley, Grace begins to find evidence that her ex-fiance was trafficking in contraband and fakes. Meanwhile Fred's son FBI agent Matt takes a leave of absence after completing an assignment in Austria in order to prove his father's innocence. When Matt and Grace meet, they are attracted to one another as they work together to solve a homicide, questionable art dealings, and a two decade old disappearance. WHERE THE TRUTH LIES is a fabulous romantic suspense starring two wonderful lead characters with a mutual interest in solving the homicide that initially looks like an obvious crime of passion, but soon turns into much more. The subplots involving the townsfolk, contraband, and the Baxters augment the prime story line of Matt and Grace teaming up with love in an investigation that is filled with red herrings and fabulous twists and turns. Christiane Heggan is at her best with this winner.

Slim to None
Taylor Smith
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778323323, $24.95

Two years ago security specialist Hannah Nicks lost her partial custody of her eight years old son Gabe. Instead of she reading Potter to Gabe, his stepmother Christie is the one to tuck him in at night. She does not fault her ex Cal or Christie though she is jealous. Now she is in the Middle East working as fast and hard as possible to earn the money to walk away so that she can raise her beloved offspring. Finally the chance to make big bucks occurs in Iraq when an abducted American doctor needs rescuing from terrorists. However, an ambush on the road near Al Zawra killed her partner Oz and destroyed her reputation. She gives the Fitzgerald reward money to Oz's family leaving her broke in more ways than one. Two years later, Hannah resides in Los Angeles while Gabe remains with Christie and Cal. Hannah remains bitter towards George Kenner the man who betrayed her and Oz. a terrorist scheme involving a packed crowd at the Staple Center gives her a SLIM TO NONE chance to take down Kenner except he has her son and the audience as hostages. This is an exhilarating suspense thriller that occurs in two parts; the first half of the novel focuses on the incident in 2003 Iraq while the latter happens two plus years later in Los Angeles. Hannah and to a lesser degree Kenner (or whatever name he uses) are the ties between the two interrelated "novellas". Fans will enjoy this tense cat and mouse thriller that takes the audience on an initial high then starts over to once again bring the reader to the stratosphere. Taylor Smith is at her best with this powerful fast-paced two in one thriller.

Sleight of Hand
Kate Wilhelm
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778323404, $24.95, 384 pp.

Twice he was caught thieving; the first time he received probation but the next time he served hard time in the state pen for five years. When he was released his wife Meg was waiting for him but Wally Lederer knew if he ever committed another crime she would walk out on him He went on to make a good life for himself and his wife using his unique skills as an entertainer. One night at the casino he meets a childhood friend Jay Wilkins who invites him and his wife over for a drink. They accept the invitation and when they arrive, Wally sees Jay is preoccupied about his missing wife. Wally is later accused by Jay of stealing a gold horse statue valued at $30,000. Wally goes to lawyer Barbara Holloway for advice she tells him to sit tight. They later learn that Jay was murdered and the police believe Wally was the culprit; the motive is that if Jay could make his case, Wally would have gone to prison for a long time. Before the trial starts, Barbara has evidence that will exonerate her client but she refuses to use it and prays she can get a not guilty verdict at his trial. The protagonist realizes in SLEIGHT OF HAND that justice and the law do not go hand in hand; she is unsure of herself and angry at a system that could incarcerate the innocent. Many readers won't agree with the choice the protagonist makes unless they need a lawyer to extract them from such a mess. The trial is fascinating as Kate Wilhelm known for her exciting legal thrillers, has written a memorable tale.

Body Movers
Stephanie Bond
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778323331, $13.95

When her father Randolph Wren and her mother Valerie fled Atlanta rather then face criminal proceedings, they left behind their eighteen years old daughter Carlotta and her nine years old brother Wesley. Not long after the scandal exploded, Carlotta's fiance U of Tennessee student Peter Ashford ended their engagement and eventually married obnoxious Angela. Carlotta's fairy tale life ended with her working in retail and raising her sibling as a single mom at Neiman Marcus. A decade later, Wesley is arrested for computer hacking and has a sizable gambling debt. Stunned and feeling like a failure, Carlotta is attracted to Atlanta Police Detective Jack Terry whom she met when he investigated her brother. She next meets Jack when she becomes the prime suspect in Angela's murder. Not one to sit idly by, Carlotta begins her own brand of investigating even as Peter confesses and Jack thinks she is back with her former fiance. The BODY MOVERS is an engaging amateur sleuth tale with romantic and police procedural underpinnings. Carlotta holds the entertaining story line together as she intrepidly sets off to learn the truth, but seems to land in one misadventure after another; who could know that the Lenox Mall holds so much danger and excitement? Fans will appreciate her finding work for Jack and look forward to her next escapades as suddenly daddy has called for the first time since he deserted her.

Just for Kicks
Susan Anderson
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778323153, $7.99

In Las Vegas Carly Jacobson takes a bad tumble in her high heels due to a run in with a woman carrying a bag filled with change for the slots. Her neighbor Wolfgang Jones, second in command at Avventurato's Security and Surveillance helps the humiliated showgirl, who hates having her enemy assist her. She does not want to owe anything to the man with whom she battles over her pets getting into his yard though deep down she perversely enjoys their squabbles and he wants to be the one tangled by her legs rather than the dog leashes. Wolf's parents dump their unruly teenage grandson Nik on him hoping he can straighten the troubled lad out. He finds he cannot reach Nik, but notices somehow Carly and her menagerie does. He wants her to help him with his nephew, but deep in his heart he really wants her for him even if he plans to escape the bright lights of the Strip. The humorous and tension (mostly sexual) between Carly and Wolfgang make for a delightful contemporary romance. The story line is filled with amusing escapades including the sexual encounters between the neighbors. Readers will agree that Nik, Carly's pets especially one all male canine, and her heels insure the audience will fully appreciate this JUST FOR KICKS SKINTGHT sequel.

Caroline's Journal
Katherine Stone
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778323315, $21.95

In Seattle for six years attorney Jeffrey Wynn and his wife Caroline have tried to have a baby without success until now. As Jeffrey begins to prosecute a media circus nasty homicide involving former two-time Superbowl MVP Kevin Beale having killed his girlfriend Susannah and their unborn child, Caroline is finally carrying their baby. While the media and the radio talk show have a field day accusing Jeffrey of taking out his frustrations on a hero and blaming Susannah for her death and that of her fetus due to her lifestyle, Caroline struggles with her health as she carries her child. She begins to keep a diary, but worries about her increasingly tired spouse battling a case in which celebrity status and wealth is defeating justice and the truth. When the journey focuses on either Caroline's health or the trial, the story line is loaded with exciting angst that grips the audience. However, when the plot veers into sidebars such as the reconciliation between sisters Caroline and Meg, it adds too much suds to the mix. Still the cast is sold and the spotlights on an at risk pregnancy and on a celebrity murder trial are fascinating.

Last Kiss Goodbye
Rita Herron
0373771029, $5.99

In Kudzu Hollow, eight years old Ivy Stanton finds her mommy lying in blood on the kitchen floor. Her abusive daddy, who never wanted Ivy, accuses her of killing her mommy. She flees her daddy only to have sixteen years old bad boy Matt Mahoney rescue her and one of the glass Santa's that were mostly broken near her mommy. Fifteen years later, Ivy has always wondered if Matt, who has spent all this time in jail, could be innocent of the murders as he has always claimed. Attorney TBuck God Abram Willis proves another "Innocent" was railroaded by local politics; Matt is freed, but Ivy is not as she needs to know the truth. Both are returning to Kudzu Hollow seeking to uncover the identity of a killer, who will gladly murder again to remain anonymous. Rita Herron writes an exhilarating romantic suspense with gothic and supernatural overtones. The atmosphere is incredibly vivid and frightening with the townsfolk wanting neither there to remind them of the homicides and their indifference as the audience sees through the eyes of Ivy the adult and at times the eight year old. The lead couple is a delicious pairing as they have a history and an attraction. Ms. Herron is at her best with this quality action-packed contemporary thriller.

Here Comes Trouble
Leslie Kelly
0373771339, $5.99

He is part of a media and customer frenzy because of a tell all biography by Grace Wellington, widow of a Congressman, who devoted an entire chapter to his mile high sexual exploits, so former Air Force pilot Max Taylor needs a place to hide until his fifteen minutes of notoriety ends. He decides to combine two activities into one by visiting Trouble, Pennsylvania, a town his grandfather octogenarian millionaire Mortimer Potts just purchased to avoid the boredom of retirement while Max's attorney sues to have the degrading chapter removed. Junior editor Sabrina Cavanaugh goes to Trouble to prove that Max is a womanizing seducer, which will augment her firm's defense of the tell-all bio. Sabrina assumes that when she succeeds she will get a raise, which she badly needs to help support her pregnant unwed younger sister. She never expected Max to be a caring kindhearted hunk who she falls in love with and owes the truth, but fears their relationship will die out of a lack of trust on his part. This is an amusing contemporary romance starring two likable protagonists trapped in one delicate situation after another by a horde of eccentric characters led by the hero's grandfather and the heroine's siblings. The jocular story line never takes itself seriously as Max and Sabrina end up in nothing but Trouble. However what makes this plot extra delightful is the audience wondering whether Max really did the mile high deed numerous times including with the Congressman's wife.

Hers to Desire
Margaret Moore
037377124X, $5.99

They have known each other for years and secretly even loved one however, neither act on their feelings as both feel they are undeserving of the other. Lady Beatrice is the daughter of a traitor while Sir Ranulf is a landless knight estranged from his family. By 1244 Ranulf knows he must escape her lure so when his liege sends him to command a castle in Cornwell he rushes off to begin the assignment. Beatrice goes to Cornwell to set up Ranulf's household, but he decides to make her run home with his lustful seduction, figuring he can control himself before he steps too far. Instead she seduces him. As they both finally admit their love for one another, his scandalous past returns with a vengeance while they battle deadly smugglers. HERS TO DESIRE is a tremendous medieval romance as expected when the author is Margaret Moore. Beatrice and Ranulf are a fascinating pair as they deny their love, but those who know them like friend Constance and the readers realize otherwise. However, both wants more for the other so refuse to act on their feelings leading to a strong historical romance with the action coming from battling smugglers that enhance a wonderful vivid thirteenth century story line.

Knight Tenebrae
Julianne Lee
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441014399, $7.99, 368 pp. 1-800-847-5515

American Navy pilot Lieutenant Alexander MacNeil is interviewed by London Times reporter Lindsay Pawlowski on their way to Lossiemouth Air Base on the northeast coast of Scotland. A hole opens in the air, ringed with fire with two red eyes looking at them. They pass through the opening and find themselves in Scotland of 1306 where they meet Robert the Bruce who knights Alex after he kills an Englishman loyal to the English king. Alex and Lindsay meet the elf whose enchantment transported them to the past and he tells them that they ruined his spell and his only goal now is to make them suffer. He transports them seven years in the future where Alex befriends his ancestor Hector, the Laird of Barra. He fights, under the banner of Edward, Robert's brother and is so successful he is awarded ownership of an inhabited island. Alex takes pride in his prowess as a warrior and the wealth and status he earned but Lindsay fears that the man she loves is adapting too well to his new environment and doesn't want to return home even if the elf shows them the way. Fans of James Henley will thoroughly enjoy this magical time travel fantasy romance. Readers get a good look at the Scottish culture, values, and living conditions of medieval times. Perhaps because Alex was a warrior in the twenty-first century he adapts to his new life but Lindsay wants to go home, because she notes the way the Scottish men treat their women. Julianne Lee has a beautiful voice and if KNIGHT TENEBRAE is any indication, she has a great future ahead of her.

A Meeting at Corvallis
S.M. Stirling
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451461118, $25.95 1-800-847-5515

Ten years ago the "Change" destroyed technology leaving a shocked population behind to adjust or die. Some survivors want to live their live their lives in peaceful harmony with nature, but know others will remain aggressive taking whatever they want through force. Former U.S. Marine Mike Havel leads the Bearkillers, neighbors working together to protect one another from invaders. At the same time that Mike's Bearkillers form an alliance with Juniper MacKenzie's pagan clan, ex-history professor Norman Arminger declares himself the Lord Protector of the northwest while establishing a neo-fascist feudalistic empire. The two cultures select different paths that lead initially to a cold war rivalry as two philosophies clash. However, the hostilities turn into armed combat with the winner goes the spoils (and the future history books). The Third Change tale takes the previous recent alternative history tales (see THE PROTECTOR'S WAR and DIES THE FIRE) into the near future in an exciting and fitting end to this science fiction thriller trilogy. The action never slows down as the Bearkillers and their allies clash with the Lord Protector and his minion of followers. Though fun, readers should peruse the previous novels to obtain the full flavor of how society got to where it is in 2007. Though much of the key cast members seem two dimensional this is a rousing finale to a strong trilogy.

The Floating Island
Elizabeth Haydon
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765308673, $17.95 1-888-330-8477

Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme feels like an outsider amidst his extended family. While his generational heritage is with ship building as he is an offspring of renowned shipwrights who prefer to stay home, he figures he must be adopted as he dreams of sailing. Considered of an age and experience to head the quality insurance of the latest vessel, Ven begins his inspection. However, before he can complete his task, fire pirates attack his ship. Ven barely survives and only because the crew of another ship traveling the Island of Serendair rescue him. Ven is thankful to not only have a little magical adventure but unbeknownst to him he is the center of a conspiracy that started with the piracy raid. Unknown assailants believe Ven can lead them to the uncharted Floating Island where they can obtain the Water of Life; if his family, friends, and workers must die so be it. Ven's journal entries and sketches found centuries later by archeologists make THE FLOATING ISLAND seem genuine though it is a sword and sorcery tale. The story line is action-packed as Ven relates his first adventures years before he becomes famous for his classic later works The Book of All Human Knowledge and All the World's Magic. Readers will appreciate this coming of age story as the look back by archeologists at the "authentic" persona and events make the realm of THE SYMPHONY OF AGES series setting real inside a fun fantasy. Elizabeth Haydon is at the top of her game with this superb sword and sorcery "historical".

The Space Opera Renaissance
David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765306174, $34.95 1-888-330-8477

In the Introduction to this superb anthology, space opera was coined by Bob Tucker in 1941: "In these hectic days of phrase coning, we offer one. Westerns are called "horse operas," the morning housewife tear-jerkers are called "soap operas." For the hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn space ship yarn, or world saving for that matter, we offer space opera." By 1959 the connotation remained "A hack science fiction story, a dressed up western" as noted by Fancyclopedia II. By the 1960s space opera was considered dead. Yet today it is alive, well, and highly regarded as its reputation changed as "sh*t became Shinola". This terrific compilation pays tribute to space opera tales from various decades starting with a delightful Edmond Hamilton tale from 1929 to a Stephen Baxter contribution from 2003; the entries showcase the evolution and make an analytical argument that even cheap pulp fiction in outer space can be well written. The break out by decades is as follows: 1920s – 1; 1930s – 1; 1940s – 1; 1950s – 2; 1960s – 1; 1970s – 1; 1980s – 3; 1990s – 16; 2000s – 6. Though the spread is heavily the 1990s (half the entries) with some readers fascinated with the sub-genre roots wanting more of the older entries, the contributions are from a who's who, who come through with superb tales. This is must reading for science fiction short story fans.

The Disunited States of America
Harry Turtledove
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765314851, $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Time Traders laterally travel from our realm to other timelines to sell slightly better products than the locals make. Each Time Trader knows that when one is a Crosstime Traffic trader they must never display too much technological superiority as blending in with the more backwoods natives is the key to success. Recent high school graduate Justin Monroe comes from a family of Time Traders. Currently he and Time Trader Randolph Brooks are in a version of the United States that is not united and in which states constantly are at war with one another. He looks forward to going home to start college as his gut tells him this trip seems more dangerous than any he has been on. From Southern California, Beckie Royer accompanies her Gran and "Uncle" Luke as they head to Elizabeth, Virginia to sell assault rifles to African-American rebels. With the country of Virginia on the brink of a racial civil war, neighboring country to the north Ohio sends a deadly virus into their nation that could only come from a Crosstime Traveler. As they are quarantined while people die from the deadly biological attack Beckie meets Justin and Randolph

The fourth Crosstime Traffic book is a superb alternate history science fiction tale that grips the young adult audience from the moment that Justin is trapped and never let's go until the final confrontation. The story line is fast-paced, but makes a strong condemnation of racism and war with the fractured disunited States. Beckie is a terrific protagonist who provides insight into her world with little interwoven tidbits like no one in Ohio or Virginia messes with someone carrying a passport from the superpower California. Justin is also a fine character as he tries to hide his origin while wondering who from his timeline broke the law. THE DISUNITED STATES OF AMERICA is another winner from Harry Turtledove.

Jennifer Fallon
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765309904, $25.95 1-888-330-8477

Eight years ago, Marla Wolfblade buried her second spouse, but vowed at the time to strengthen her royal power so she would no longer be vulnerable and to protect her offspring especially her teenage son Damin, heir to the High Throne of Hythria. Now she is the true ruler of Hythria though her brother High Prince Lernen sits on the High Throne. Directed by Marla, the dwarf Elezaar teaches Damin "the Rules of Gaining and Wielding Power" so that when his time comes, he will not just be ready; he will maintain his rule. However, as Damin is prepared to take over the throne, the High Arrion of the Sorcerer's Collective plan to either use him as their puppet or overthrow him and put a more malleable ambitious puppet on the High Throne. As powerful and influential as Marla has become, she may not be able to prevent the court intrigue especially the assassination attempts on her, her son and her other children.. However, Damin proves sharp as he turns into an adult, but that may prove ineffective as the attacks appear to be from those who he should be able to trust with his life. There is less action in book two of the Wolfblade Trilogy than in its predecessor (see WOLFBLADE), as WARRIOR is more a cerebral coming of age tale with political manipulations that would make Machiavelli proud. The story line focuses on Damin becoming adept with "the Rules of Gaining and Wielding Power" and who he should consider an ally or an enemy. However, his abilities fail him when he begins to realize his greatest adversary is not the High Arrion, but someone in his inner circle who appears to be a traitor. Fans will enjoy Jennifer Fallon's middle thriller that is light on the sword but heavy on the intrigue. WARRIOR is great fantasy

Roman Dusk
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
076531391X, $27.95 1-888-330-8477

It is the beginning of the end for the once mighty Roman Empire. Barbarians are at the gates with the outposts falling to the enemies. Legions are not getting paid while ethics no longer go as far they once did leading to widespread hardship and fear. Officials are corrupt using their positions of power for personal gain with extortion being the norm. Vampire Ragoczy Germainus Sanct' Fransicus (AKA Count St. Germain) has bad luck when he crosses path with Batsho the decuriae, who collects tax money. Initially, the vampire remains ignorant to Batsho's animosity towards him as he is preoccupied with healing a suffering widow suffering with his special medicines. He gets his nourishment from a call girl that lacks the emotional intensity he craves when he dines. Inquiries about the vampire's goods that need to be taxed call his attention to Batsho's corruption and animosity to him personally because he is a rich foreigner. When Ragoczy learns that one of his servants spies for Batsho, he starts to arrange his departure from Rome, but the Christians have other plans for him. Every time one reads a St. Germain thriller, one obtains an astute history lesson that is cleverly wrapped inside a delightful vampire tale. The story line in ROMAN DUSK occurs around 160 AD, which focuses on the corruption of the Rome's powerful at the cost of long term security. Thus the beginning cracks that ultimately lead to the fall of the City-State are occurring as the affluent get wealthier and everyone poorer. This time the vampire is caught in the middle of a power struggle between the current dishonest leaders and the intolerant Christians pushing to eradicate all the sinners and demon offspring by dispatching them to hell.

When Darkness Falls
Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765302217, $37.95 1-888-330-8477

Though they worked well together to thwart the devious plans of the Demon Queen, humans remain wary and distrustful of Wild Magic, Elves, and other similar species, especially by the human Mage Council. Still the Demon Queen Savilla plots more intrusions that require seemingly natural enemies to remain allies if all are to survive. However, Savilla cunningly uses that distrust to gain a major hold on the human Mages that if not broken by the elves will mean the end for the followers of the Light including the human High Magic practitioners. The Elven King fears for the future of all the followers of the Light allies so he sends children and pregnant females into refuge with one of his top leaders Kellen in charge of their safety. However, that proves quite difficult as the haven chosen has been infiltrated by Savilla's demon horde; only the actions of his beloved half-breed demon Vestakia, who can read the mind of her Demon father, Crown Prince Zyperis, save them from a massacre and perhaps worse as Savilla prepares the sacrifice to summon He Who Is to enable her to achieve her goal as world ruler. The conclusion to the Obsidian fantasy trilogy (see TO LIGHT A CANDLE and THE OUTSTRETCHED SHADOW), is an exciting, action-packed fantasy saga that will elate fans of both authors. Kellen is terrific as he struggles to maintain the alliance between Elves and humans that is shaky in spite of their recent success and the knowledge that they lose if they split. His romance with Vestakia augments the exhilarating plot as the audience wonders how that will end up with the pair in jeopardy at every turn. Though newcomers need to read the previous tales first if they want the full flavor of all that is happening in this complex high fantasy, this is a skillful superb finale.

Brian Lumley Companion
Edited by Brian Lumley and Stanley Wiator
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765304406, $17.95 1-888-330-8477

This work obviously targets die hard fans of the author of the Necroscope tales. The BRIAN LUMLEY COMPANION is a wonderful addition that provides insight into the author and his works from various sources. Besides the obvious personal background, essays that compare Mr. Lumley to H. P. Lovecraft, analysis of the novels and shorts, and an interview with the author combine to add depth to understanding the author's works. The fascinating analysis and publication history of the Psychomech, Dreamlands, Primal Lands, and Necroscope series speak loudly how much Mr. Lumley has contributed to expanding the horror genre. Living and undead readers of Mr. Lumley will appreciate this intelligent analysis yet entertaining look at the writer and his literary resume.

Brandon Sanderson
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
076531178X, $27.95 1-888-330-8477

The immortal Lord Ruler has brutally dominated the Great Houses for over a millennium. The ash that is everywhere symbolizes his Final Empire rule; the lack of flowers anywhere represents the lack of hope. No one, purebred Skaa, hybrids, or otherwise, dares even think of rebellion in this vile wasteland if they want to survive another day out side the evil dungeons. That is none until a half-breed common thief Kelsier survives the ordeal of Lord Ruler's imprisonment by losing his mind. He begins to "develop" super skills that enable him to do the impossible. The thief plans to end the evil regime by overthrowing initially the sycophantic cowardly nobles and culminating with the death of the Lord Ruler. His charisma obtains followers, but his big break occurs when Kelsier meets Skaa street waif Vin, who has the same Mistborn powers that Kelsier learned to use in the torture chambers. Kelsier arranges for Vin to go undercover within the nobles' Great Houses. However, the rebel leader fails to comprehend emotions as his female mole falls in love with Prince Elend Venture. MISTBORN, the first book of the Final Empire series, is a terrific coming of age epic fantasy that uses a what if premise in which the Dark Lord killed the good guy hero (the Hobbit or Beowulf loses to the evil adversary), which leads to a fabulous world in which evil rules absolutely evilly. Vin holds much of the plot together, but Kelsier is the more fascinating character as a Hans Solo type in fantasy land. The Lord Ruler is out of Tolkien 101, but that is to be expected as the regime the malevolent one built pays homage to the foul sides of The Lord of the Rings.

Sorcery in Shad
Brian Lumley
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765310775, $23.95 1-888-330-8477

After five years away, mighty magician Teh Atht has returned to the Primal Land, having failed at his quest. He comes home seemingly empty-handed. At the same time that Teh returns "home" Tarra Khash continues his hedonistic ways of wine and women until the ugly vampiric lamia Orbiquita bites him. The results of her teeth is to cause him to lose interest in females even as she prepares to give up immortality to become a desirable woman as she wants him. Evil sorcerer Black Yoppaloth plans to become immortal and rule eternal over the minion of the Primal Land; he is on the brink of success with the only possible way to prevent his enslaving everyone is Teh and Tarra teaming up; but the former is under a curse and the latter mistrusts all magic practitioners. Like its two Primal land predecessors (see THE HOUSE OF CTHULHU and TARRA KHASH: HROSSAK!), SORCERY IN SHAD is a collection of interrelated tales that fans of the series will enjoy as Brian Lumley brings the fine fantasy to a conclusion.. Though a few of the twelve tales seem more like sidebar fillers that do not enhance the theme, Mr. Lumley completes his delightful homage to the macabre world of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu.

The Tourmaline
Paul Park
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
076531441X, $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In Great Roumania, sorceress Aegypta hid her niece Miranda Popescu on an alternate plane in a place called Massachusetts to keep her safe from rival factions loyal to Baroness Nicola Ceausescu. Aegypta and Nicola know that young Miranda is the prophesized "White Tyger" who is expected to save their people from the German onslaught. However, with Miranda vanished, Nicola claims she is the White Tyger even as she searches for the youngster to eliminate the potential threat. However, Nicola finally "finds" her rival and soon the teen is whisked back to her home realm accompanied by her best friends Peter and Andromeda who join her quest; whereas Peter transforms into de Graz, Andromeda shape-shifts into a canine. However the malevolent Baroness composing her opera THE TOURMALINE and the apprehensive German Elector seek her out to destroy the upstart who is guided by the spirit of her Aunt Aegypta's ghost. The sequel to the delightful A PRINCESS OF ROUMANIA is a fabulous alternate history fantasy that uses a different realm where magic, the paranormal and the supernatural exist and Africa is the superpower. The fast-paced story line is driven by the rivals with the heroine coming of age as she learns her only hope of winning and surviving reside in learning to use magic while her adversary wants her dead. Though perspectives can become difficult to follow as the four key support cast and several tertiary characters play major roles, fans will enjoy this coming of age middle tale with a confrontation to go.

Robert Scheckley
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765315602, $14.95 1-888-330-8477

In Stanhope, New York Marvin Flynn dreams of seeing the universe, but to go off planet costs money so either you are wealthy, you settle on MINDSWAP with a like minded person or you stay home. When he read the ad to swap bodies with a Martian, Marvin concludes this is his chance to go extraterrestrial seeing Mars through the body of a Martian, but retaining his own mind during the swap and the memories after the return. The swap goes well and Marvin looks forward to seeing the universe. That is until he lands on Mars where an elderly Aigeler Thrus calls him names until the South Martian Desert Police take the two men into custody to have a Fulzsime telepath read their minds. Both are victims of fraud as Marvin learns his earthling body has been stolen and that the body hosting his mind belongs to Aigeler of planet Achelses V. Since Thrus' claim supersedes that of Marvin, he is given six hours to vacate the body. His misadventures in body (and planet) hopping begins. This a reprint of a mid 1960s science fiction thriller filled that holds up gracefully even with advances in technology and the Quantum Leap TV show. The story line is loaded with wild odd suppositions leading to zany premises that in turn takes unbelievable but entertaining twists as the hero leaps into bodies whose owners "volunteer" to perform dangerous jobs with Marvin's mind at stake. The different worlds he visits in search of the thief who stole his body are fun to observe though the stays are short. Once the hero learns the universal truth that to find one person in light year space, one should stop off for a drink in the nearest cantina first.

Exile Kiss
George Alec Effinger
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
076531360X, $14.95 1-888-330-8477

Marid Audran is an enforcer working for Friedlander Bey, one of the two most powerful people in Budayeen. As he thinks back how far he has come from his days as a street hustler in the ghetto, Marid enjoys the affluence his current job provides him especially his time with Honey Pilar. However, a Judge accuses Audran and Bey of killing police officer Khalid Maxwell. An associate of Shaykh Reda Abu Adilp, the other most powerful man in Budayeen made the accusation backed with evidence. To save the state money and time, the two "convicted" criminals are exiled into the desert where they fortunately meet up and trek with the Bani Salim tribe who save their lives. The duo needs time to prove their innocence and triumphantly return to the city to confront their accusers. This futuristic tale is the final reprint of a trilogy (see WHEN GRAVITY FAILS and FIRE IN THE SUN). Audran remains a strong protagonist as he relates the events of their exile and efforts to return home. However, the rivalry between Bey and Adilp heat up as both want to be the one and only power in the city. Though it behooves fans to read their previous two tales first to gain needed understanding of a Muslim country in which cyber-technology is imbued into the traditional culture, fans will enjoy this tale though it lacks much of the freshness of its predecessors.

Troll Bridge
Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765314266, $16.95 1-888-330-8477

Though she thinks the event is stupid, sixteen-year-old harpist student Moira attends the annual Dairy Princess gala at the Vanderby State Fair as one of the twelve Dairy Princesses whose likenesses are carved in butter for display on the Trollholm Bridge. Still the publicity is important so Moira joins in the festivities, planning to melt away as soon as possible. To her shock, Moira finds her eleven buttery compatriots asleep in some weird mystical way. At the same time that Moira struggles with the sleeping princesses, the Griffsons teen band members take a break from performance as the three brothers are bone weary after completing their last tour. However instead of R&R, the siblings and Moira abruptly find themselves strangers in a strange land where Fossegrim the magical fox battles to save his Trollholm realm and the outer world against his adversary Aenmarr the Troll of Austraegir. To win Fossegrim must gain possession of the mystical magical fiddle and find someone to play it professionally. He enlists the reluctant Minnesotans to assist him when all they want to do is go home. The latest Rock 'N' Roll fairy tale (see PAY THE PIPER) is a fine lighthearted but clever blending of two fairy tales (The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Twelve Dancing Princesses) and real Minnesota events (like the butter sculptures) into a fun save the world fantasy. The four transplants make for a fine story as they just want to go home, but their efforts seem futile as nothing turns out to be what they initially thought. Fossegrim and Aenmarr as much as their realm add to the feel of a fun fairy tale that young adults and ancient geezers like this reviewer will enjoy.

Susan Holloway Scott
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451218558, $14.00 1-800-847-5515

By 1673, Sarah Jennings has no prospects, no hopes and no future as the family of the thirteen year old has been left impoverished like many other commoners by the Civil War. However, an opportunity occurs when Sarah surprisingly is chosen to be a maid of honor at the court of Charles II. She leaps at the chance because she has an ambition to attain entry into the highest levels of Restoration society. She quickly becomes a favorite of the lonely Princess Anne with her honesty and ethics in a court filled with depravity amorality and hedonistic decadence. She soon meets her male equivalent John Churchill who matches her in ambition, ethics and chutzpah. They become an entry and quickly rise in power until they are titled the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. However, climbing the ladder seems easier than maintaining their lofty status as jealousy and backstabbing are the norm. Finally when the Stuarts are dethroned in 1788, will they survive the bloodless Glorious Revolution? This is an intriguing biographical fiction of ancestors of Winston Churchill though the emphasis is more on Sarah (duh – the title). Sarah is a fascinating protagonist as she swims in a sea of debauched sharks yet in spite of her aspiration manages to remain a principled honest person unafraid to speak the truth to anyone even the Royals. Her Duke is her male equivalent in candor and ambition as they make personal choices that provide for a terrific period piece that historical fiction readers will appreciate.

You Can't Hide
Karen Rose
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Room 913, New York, NY 10020
0446616893, $6.50, 528 pp. 1-800-759-0190

In Chicago psychiatrist Dr. Tess Ciccotelli is stunned by what is happening to her patients. An unknown assailant is somehow torturing them into committing suicide. For obvious reasons, Homicide Detective Aiden Reagan thinks the psychiatrist is either the culprit or hiding the perp especially since she refuses to provide him access to her records that she insists is protected under her oath to protect the privacy of those who come to her for help. Aiden is upset with the shrink for not helping him solve the case, but also respects her spunk and determination to do what she believes is right for the good of those who see her. As he gets to know her, Aiden concludes that an enemy wants her professionally discredited and goes after her family. Aiden assumes this unknown foe will soon target the doctor for his or her final act. The intrigue behind this action-packed serial killer thriller is guessing the motive behind why the culprit seemingly wants to destroy the psychiatrist by taking out her patients, leaving clues pointing at the doctor's failures. The relationship between Tess and Aiden is attractive combatants so they add tension to the mix. The story line is filled with several grisly suicides which takes the suspense-filled story line at times over the edge but fans of Karen Rose will not care; just keep a calculator handy to keep score.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Reflections in the Night: A Survivor's Story of Total Mind Controlled Slavery and Torture
BookSurge Publishing
141963626X $18.99

Mauri was born in the post World War 2 era on Walpurgisnacht, the eve of May, one of two satanic holidays. She was a baby bartered away to Nazi Satanists by her parents for a house, a child intended for ritual abuse. Her story is grim, frightening to imagine, and yet Mauri is a survivor who shares her experiences with hope.

The author's repressed memories resurface in adulthood when she has a job and children of her own. Bizarre dreams about places she can't consciously remember and incidents that seem implausible haunt her sleep. A surreal world of memory fragments takes possession of her life. Place by place, she proves the churches, homes, and barn featured so prominently in her dreams actually exist. Is it possible that the ritual sacrifices and sexual perversions she remembers are reality?

The truth can be more frightening than imagination. Photos hidden from prying eyes proved that Mauri was a kiddy porn princess. The satanic cult to which her parents belonged included men of power and influence in California, men who craved watching or participating in sex with children. Yes, she names names. As a young girl, she found safety in the sky and stars, comfort wrapped in the wings of a guardian angel. Heaven was her parents. As an adult, she found it difficult to believe that her fragile, ailing earthly parents were Nazi supporters and Satanists who willingly used their daughter as a pawn. But slowly and gradually, the awful truth is revealed. Their crimes were not limited to just one generation of helpless children.

This book is a lesson in dysfunction and denial, and the courage required to seek truth, regain personal power, and find healing. In addition to the truths she discovered, Mauri shares scientific explanations for mental rhythms, the effect of discord and lies, of magick and illusion by cults. Most of us will never know the life Mauri lived. Despite her hopeful outlook she believes biblical Armageddon exists now in the evils perpetrated by a select few. After reading her story, I tend to agree.

Different Roads
Joyce Sterling Scarbrough
Authors Ink Books
P.O. Box 396, Sturgis MI 49091
0972238530 $18.00

I love reading Authors Ink-published books for review because ALL their releases are in large print and dark, crisp font. This publisher's philosophy is "People before Profits" and it shows. Authors Ink Books has a small stable of authors right now, but that is sure to change. The Editor-in-Chief has carefully cherry picked very good writers to nurture and represent. One such writer is Joyce Sterling Scarbrough, author of two memorable books so far.

Jaycee Stevens is a girl who has outrageous behavior down to a fine art. At age six she lost her mother. From that point on she fended for herself, growing to adulthood with a brutal, alcoholic father. By the time she's off to college, Jaycee has learned to lock her childhood fears and subsequent nightmares behind a tough, outspoken façade. She leaves her father and old boyfriend behind, marches to her own drummer, focuses on her goal of becoming an investigative journalist, and God help anyone who gets in her way.

Enter the sexiest set of male legs on the planet, topped by a phenomenal physique and smile that would melt granite. When Bud Stanton, privileged playboy extraordinaire, and Jaycee collide, everything you can imagine and then some hits the fan. She resents Bud's wealth, his gorgeous maleness, and his lack of interest in education. Bud ignores her angry barbs and goes after the one female who could transform monogamy into a positive experience. He adores the feisty girl he nicknames Firecracker. When Jaycee finally stops fighting her sexual attraction to Bud, the results are explosive, funny, and poignant. The tough young woman who's afraid of the dark feels safe with Bud because he has childhood specters of his own to deal with. Their battles are as heated as their lovemaking. Both have found their match. But will Bud's wealthy family accept a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks? Will loving Bud ruin Jaycee's future goals and plans? And will Bud ever settle down and become anything but a spoiled rich kid with a killer smile? Believe me, the outcome of this book is worth the read.

Jaycee and Bud are strong, charismatic characters. Characters forced to circulate in their wake are interesting and well developed. I particularly liked Mack Stanton, Bud's father, and Jaycee's raunchy co-worker, Francie, but all characters enhance the story in various ways. The plot is sexy, funny, exciting, and touching. Recommended for mature readers due to strong language and sexual content.

The Fields of Owl Roost
Bruce Majors
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1413798365 $19.95

This first full-length book of poetry by Bruce Majors literally crackles with life's intensity. He grew up in east Tennessee, a beautiful area featured in many of his poems. His visions are shared poetically with readers simply and eloquently. Consider, for example, this excerpt from "In Swafford Bottoms":

Light filters through the oaks
In skewed, yellow columns
Seeming to hold up the canopy
Over the not-much-more-than
A path.
Air moves gently. Breathes.
Softly rattles leaves.

Human existence is often discouraging and troublesome. In nature this poet finds comfort, as in this excerpt from "Mists":

There is a place in the heart
Where these keep cadence
With life
To balance the foreboding.

"Watering the Mules" is an exceptional memory of childhood, a poignant portrait of growing up in the days when man and animal labored long hours in hot fields. Remembering that place and time is precious now:

That place was the left ventricle
In my heart, even more so now,
With so many dead.

Majors speaks for humanity's sorrows and fears in ways his readers understand, by expressing the sometimes inexpressible. This excerpt from "Spence Cemetery" is one example:

The nerve center of souls,
Of those we remember
Or else felt in half-sleep uneasiness
Like cool breath from stones….

In "After James Wright" the poet confesses his sins and regrets in the silent forest, hoping for peace and absolution:

I have come here to confess in this green cathedral,
Beneath the hymn of uncomplicated oaks,
Before this holy altar of goldenrod and
Queen Anne's lace.
Here, from the wormhole of my heart,
To spill out the fetid mess….

The Fields of Owl Roost is an exceptional book of poetry that exalts nature, our roots in the past, loved ones lost, and man's struggle to regain "the cadence of uncomplicated days." Two lines from "Plowing Near Denver Isaac's House" stand out as a fitting description of Mr. Majors as man and poet: The earth was better / For having carried his footprints. This book carries Bruce Majors' footprints and heartbeat and is highly recommended.

Anonymous Lawyer
Jeremy Blachman
Henry Holt and Company
175 5th Avenue, New York NY 10010
0805079815 $25.00

Jeremy Blachman's debut novel is based on his popular blog by the same name. Blachman is indeed a graduate of Harvard Law School, but says any other similarity to "Anonymous Lawyer" is negligible.

Anonymous Lawyer in the novel is the hiring lawyer and partner at a major New York firm. He knows which high-class chair to pick for his large corner office and how to work the firm's pecking order to his advantage. He has the gift of convincing clients, associates, and office worker bees that he cares about them and their lives. He doesn't. It's all about money, lots of money, along with power and position within the firm. One of his jobs is picking summer interns who may or may not be hired by the firm. His cynical outlook is obvious as he considers each intern at the beginning of summer: "The best part of my job is getting to watch people like him go from happy, energetic, eager-to-please young law school graduates to slightly older, frustrated, burned-out midlevel associates who can't stand to be here."

Anonymous Lawyer earns a great six-figure income, money his wife spends faster than he can earn it. He wants more. He wants to be Chairman of the firm. Whatever machinations become necessary to reach that goal, he'll do without turning a hair. But such power and position comes at a price. Anonymous Lawyer is stressed and worried about maintaining the status quo. He establishes an anonymous blog in which he can tell the truth as he sees it: satirize the firm's current Chairman, partners, and associates; ridicule the summer interns; make scathing comments about Anonymous Wife and her drinking and spending habits; and make excuses for his money-grubbing outlook on life. The blog becomes an instant hit, with readers all over the world emailing comments to his anonymous email address. So far, so good.

One complication after another ensues. His idealistic Anonymous Niece wants to do pro bono work after law school instead of reaching for the gold ring alongside her uncle. She helps Anonymous Lawyer with his blog, but does not approve of money being the bottom line. Anonymous Wife doesn't cook but wants to renovate their kitchen. The Jerk, a partner who also hopes to be Chairman, undercuts our hero at every turn. And a couple of people at the firm have figured out Anonymous Lawyer's blogger identity.

Anonymous Lawyer reads like a blog and is reminiscent of Boston Legal. Blachman's characters, however disguised, ring true. The political infighting between partners is alternately entertaining, hilarious and frightening. I think Mr. Blachman has progressed from a wildly popular blog lionized in the New York Times to a best selling novel. I wonder what he'll do for an encore?

The Silence of Men
Richard Jeffrey Newman
CavanKerry Press
6 Horizon Rd. #2901, Fort Lee NJ 07024
0972304584 $16.00

The Silence of Men is Richard Jeffrey Newman's first book of poetry. The book is beautifully printed and presented by CavanKerry Press, in keeping with the contents. Newman is a man who has learned from and been strengthened by his life experience. Love, family, sex, religion, and violence have all played integral parts in making him the man he is today. Poetically, his words penetrate to the reader's marrow and shine with honesty and emotion.

Dream and metaphor carry a joyful, triumphant message in this excerpt from "Light."

In the dream, my life was smoke: I couldn't breathe.
So I ran, unwrapping myself down the beach
till your skin, the ocean, lapped at my knees.
I dove in. Your voice was a current,
a melody gathering words to itself
for us to sing, and we sang them,
and they swirled around us, iridescent fish
bringing light to the world you were for me;

A man's sorrow is often unexpressed, or seems blunted to observers. This excerpt from "Who Knew?" clearly shows the shock of loss and grief:

I'm waiting for the tears that didn't come
when they put him in the ground, that wouldn't come
among the family friends and relatives
who later came to mourn. The small talk
they made of other deaths to make their own
smallness less apparent made my brother's dying
smaller by the hour….

Newman's stark honesty goes beyond simply personal experience. He's equally adept at adopting another's persona. "Sarah's Story" is one of several examples:

It was, of all the ways we ever touched,
the most intimate: His belly bloomed red,
ragged petals of flesh ringing the void
his small intestines should have filled. I pushed
his insides back inside – they saw, they watched –
carried him to our hospital and prayed.
They followed like bloodhounds and when he died
dumped him in a mass grave. That night, I retched
through seven corpses till I recognized
his wounds and lifted him one last time,
properly, into the earth. He was cold,
hard. After I laid him out, I held
his hands to my breasts and whispered his name.
He didn't warm. I kissed him. His eyes stayed closed.

"Poem from the Barnes and Noble Cafe" is a narrative poem that must be read in its entirety for full effect. Newman contemplates many topics and scenarios here, but I've chosen one excerpt addressing fear:

I'm thinking how much
the world needs fear right now,
to step back from the mouth

of what has not yet happened,
like you'd want a suicide bomber to do,
or a soldier with orders to shoot civilians.

Richard Jeffrey Newman's work is exceptional. Readers won't have to scratch their heads and guess at his meanings. He expresses human emotions in ways profound, powerful, and poignant. In The Silence of Men, he tries "to give the dream a shape this page will hold." How he gives life to those words taking shape on the page is an enlightening journey. This book of poetry for mature readers is highly recommended.

The Best of the Ivy Moon Collection
Marie Summers
Shadows Ink Publication
1209 Milwaukee Street, Excelsior Springs MO 64024
40 page, $6.95,

Marie Summers is a prolific poet whose creative voice is equally effective regardless of poetic style. She records the small natural wonders around her in the everyday world, comments on life in ways both whimsical and profound, and feeds her readers' senses with words. In "The Ivy Moon" she contemplates our lunar orb and its effect on earth. I chose one verse in excerpt:

She longs for the soft touch of nature
To landscape ashen despair in lushness
Where yellow-green English ivy vines
Creep around milken moonbeams of light

"Rainshine" is a hopeful, joyful opus to summer rain. In this excerpt, readers can see and feel the response of dry earth and wilted flowers or trees as soft rain relieves their thirst:

The willows steadily weep in silence
While sunflower's smiles are splendidly loud
There is rainshine dancing upon the air
And rainbows are its colorful reflection

Even the most creative spirit languishes from time to time. Words won't form; paint fails to translate feelings to canvas. This verse from "Abstract Emotions" addresses creativity's dry spell:

The taste of ash, heavy upon the tongue
Death out for a moonlight swim
The smell of static in the wintry air
Brings no reassurances this night
Mirrors swallow reflections whole
Rewriting the world with illusions

"Written" is the poet's legacy, a reflection of the sleepless nights, crumpled paper, heartbreaks and joys delivered to print. The last verse reveals the end result:

Growing older with maturing lines
On life's graying 8.5" X 11",
Realizing I'm no longer the writer;
I have now become the poem.

Marie Summers writes and supports poetry and poets in spirit and in actuality. She and her husband James maintain an online poetry guild and publish two popular quarterly poetry journals: Shadow Poetry Quill Quarterly and White Lotus, a Journal of Haiku and Senryu Poetry. Their website at features more poetry plus resources for poets.

Christ of Scheele
Three Sheets Press
2020 S. 25th, Lincoln NE 68502-3017
No ISBN, $5.00, 32 pages

Christof Scheele's poetry has been featured in several well-known journals. He teaches university-level English and has been the recipient of the Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship in Poetry. In Eitherland, he juxtaposes thoughts, concepts, and images in an impressionistic style. The words he uses become his reality.

"Pandemonium," for example, becomes just that as Scheele transforms words into existential thoughts. Consider this excerpt, where the cadence of each line adds drama to the words:

Tonight the pulleys hold. Two diatoms
have quit the colony. I drink what milk
accretes below the skim. Where cisterns store
their reticence of sky she lets me go
because the stump has roots. Inside the stone
the rain lasts seven gulps. I hold my skin

This excerpt from "Outside Nyiregyhaza, Hungary" demonstrates, again, the rhythm and movement that drives Scheele's words:

Before the car lurched down the choppy drive,
skidding between two fields of shattered corn
on ruts slashed into mud and frozen hard
by nineteen days of dry cold after rain,
before the headlights cut the seamless dark,
before the engine raced, the doors clicked shut,
one last goodbye called out, Na, szevasztok!

The title poem, "Eitherland," functions as both welcoming and warning, whichever the reader decides:

Southwest of Hell,
you will note
the swamp ends
in dill weed
& light bickering
in the neighbor's yard.
There was no sand,
no traveler to slake,
no priming arm
to sweat above the cistern
till today.

"Horsewater" paints an abstract picture that gradually reveals itself. Again, Scheele pours out descriptive words and leaves individual readers to translate his message. I quote the first verse here:

Bone led me here, I won't,
fingernail, tendon, hair,
cartilage, skin of my lips
chafed like a cracked second
mouth, too numb, I won't,
to speak, too wide to lick
clean, swollen to a blush,
& taste the biting salt,
it's not a wound, I won't,
you can't make me drink.

Most poems in Eitherland are experimental, existential, impressionistic fragments of Scheele's world as he sees it. Each reader will find a different meaning, or an individual adventure for the senses here.

Cuff Links
Ed Galing
Self Published
3435 Mill Road, Hatboro PA 19040-4536
No ISBN $5.00, 26 pages

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Ed Galing claims the title of Poet Laureate of Hatboro PA. As well he should be, if these poems are an indication of his abilities as poet. All poems in this book were previously featured in Brevities, Pegasus, and Pegasus Review. For this review, I've chosen a random sampling of poems that demonstrate his considerable range, one that moves from humor to pathos with ease.

"Harmonica Man" is a poem best considered in its entirety because Galing plays on all our senses here:

sitting on a bench
in New Hope
all by myself
playing the
air sweet as
first love;
the notes
tremble and
release into
the air,
I blow the
people pass
by and smile;
if only you

"Alzheimer's" is another poem I can't do justice in an excerpt. Any comment I might make as a reviewer is unnecessary because the poet speaks so eloquently to his topic:

the day is warm
I drive her to
Day Care
in the morning
we drive slowly
when I get there
I help her out of
the car,
why are we here?
she asks,
we walk in
together, where the
angels take over
for the day,
I kiss her goodbye
watch as she walks
away like a stranger,
time and tide
know no mercy
I cry on the way

"The Maypole" is a short, humorous poem that still manages to speak profoundly of our human frailty:

so many years ago
since i was a kid
and danced around the
maypole with my class
these days mostly
i hobble

"Franklin" is a cheerful paean to Benjamin Franklin, so realistic the readers walk down the streets of Philadelphia in Ben's skin. I quote the last verse here:

the weather was a bit
chilly as he took the
final steps on this
September morning to
the print shop near
third street and chestnut,
munching on his rolls,
humming a tune,
looking up critically
at the darkening sky,
wondering if a kite and
a key held aloft might
solve a mystery.

Let me be the first in a grassroots movement to seriously suggest Ed Galing as the official Poet Laureate of Hatboro PA. Or why not the entire State of Pennsylvania? With this book he's done his state and city proud.

Wit and Wisdom Needed in the Classroom: A Guide for Teachers
Geneva Fulgham
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
4501 Forbes Blvd. Suite 200, Lanham MD 20706
1578864356, 175 pages $24.95

Geneva Fulgham has experienced many changes in the U.S. public school system during her tenure as an educator. Here, in a sensible, practical, easy-to-read style, she shares the knowledge gleaned from three decades. This information should be helpful for beginning and experienced teachers, as well as parents and those in non-teaching positions within the public education system. Her conversational style of writing avoids obtuse rhetoric and goes right to the heart of problems faced daily by teachers.

Teaching effectively in the public school system requires wit, wisdom, energy, patience, and compassion. The needs of students can easily be lost in red tape, confusing mandated paperwork, and a general lack of support from administration. Compounding those problems are modern technologies. Teachers and parents are no longer a child's greatest influences during formative years. One-parent homes and two-parent employment have changed the living environment of most school age children. Television, computers, and movies affect eye movement, attention span, imagination, and speech patterns long before a public school teacher enters their lives. Inside this book, the author addresses those basic problems and others, such as: establishing boundaries; setting class priorities; planning lessons that will benefit student and teacher as well as satisfy mandates; devising individual and class discipline; dealing with irate parents; reporting suspected drug use; and accepting the fact that most garbage collectors receive more respect and better pay than teachers.

Ms. Fulgham has always believed that, despite low pay and general lack of administrative support, educating America's children is a job worth doing. Educators can overcome many classroom problems by focusing on students with compassion, wit and wisdom.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
Marina Lewycka
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street , New York, NY 10014
0143036742, $14.00, 296 pages

Ms. Lewycka's first book debuted to rave reviews in London, Paris, New York, and all points in between. Critics have described the book as funny, charming, ingenious, astonishing, and poignant. The characters are memorable, the plot unusual and unpredictable.

Nikolai Mayevskyj is 84-years old, a retired draftsman from a tractor factory who emigrated to U.K. from the Ukraine. The feisty widower occupies his agile mind by writing a book on the impact tractors had on Ukrainian society. Until her death, his wife Ludmilla gardened, canned fruits and vegetables, saved her money, and stored food against the time her family might go hungry. Life is good in England, but the memory of suffering and starvation in Ukraina haunts them. Daughters Vera and Nadia are at odds, spending much of their time and energy arguing over dividing Ludmilla's estate, until a 36-year old Ukrainian femme fatale latches onto their fragile, elderly father.

Valentina is buxom, blonde haired, and determined to reap whatever harvests possible in the West. She wants money, marriage, vehicles, status and will do whatever it takes to achieve her goals. Valentina is manipulative, destructive, and cruel, but oddly endearing as she herds Nikolei towards the altar. Among the many men she romances, he's the only one willing to marry her. Vera and Nadia combine forces to rescue their father from Valentina's physical abuse and financial excesses.

Ms. Lewycka's novel is neither farce nor tragedy. It's a social commentary and testament to the human struggle to survive Stalinist Russia. Vera and Nadia remember a Ukrainian past better left unspoken. Nikolai shares a rich legacy through his manuscript. With keen intelligence and determination the Mayevskyjs survived Stalin and starvation, but will they survive Valentina's ruthless machinations?

Somewhere During the Spin Cycle
Joseph Mills
Press 53
P.O. Box 30314, Winston-Salem NC 27130
0977228363 $14.00 US / $20.00 CAN 87 pages

Joseph Mills is a teacher, writer, and poet whose work has been featured in numerous journals and magazines. In his first full-length book of poetry, he skillfully infuses mundane daily happenings with tenderness and power. "Talking to a Miner in the Columbine Cafe About the Memory of Bone" is a perfect example of the power he draws out of obscure moments in time. I quote the first verse:

He says what bothers him most
is having to wear the watch on his right.
He keeps trying his left,
cinching the leather
strap deep into the skin
but it keeps slipping off….

"As if Motion was Action" employs metaphors to draw readers along on a harrowing journey:

Drive long enough
and mile markers skitter
across the road
like rabid shadows,
the "winding curves"
from their signs,
the pavement itself
shrugs, stretches, twists
until you're convinced
you're riding
the back of a living thing.

"Moonrise Bay Winery" evokes the weariness and worry experienced by a vintner. The excerpt quoted here, however, shares a small moment of joy:

You walk the green rows, pulling off clusters
of fruit until juice covers your arms
attracting clouds of butterflies. Here is
your harvest: these clapping wings of color,
these sweet handfuls of temporary grace.

"When My Students Ask Why They Need Poetry" is the teacher-poet's answer, as honestly as he can give it:

….These poems won't
get them a job or a raise. They may never
feel a connection, need, or desire,
but they may also find in the waiting
room, at the head of the banquet table,
along the road, or by the grave, a poem
will say for them what they cannot…..

These are poems borne of the poet's heart and spirit as he gracefully spins fleeting moments into memories. Mills experiences life deep into the marrow and shares his visions with readers. The striking cover art, "Sudestada" by Liliana Italiano, entices the eye and prepares readers for the profound poetry inside the book. If you enjoy poetry, Mills' work is highly recommended.

Doug Frelke
Press 53
P.O. Box 30314, Winston-Salem NC 27130
0977228347 $15.00 US / $20.00 CAN 160 pages

Doug Frelke deserves every award he's won, and more. This Pushcart nominee writes with a vitality that left me breathless. He says this latest offering of short stories is about love in all its nuances. The rhythm of his work varies from story to story. Some are disturbing as an irregular heartbeat in the night, others potent, pleasing, or haunting. Still others crackle with a shattering intensity that raises goose bumps. With Croatan, Frelke has hit his stride and joined my list of top ten favorite writers. I'll provide a brief thumbnail of each story, just to whet readers' interest.

"Imagining Delores" is hopeful and endearing. Adele, a Nigerian widower, molds his persona into what is a tolerable escape from loneliness and sorrow.

"King Bullfrog and the Swan" is a delightful parable that demonstrates some relationships aren't wrong, just a little out of the ordinary.

"Eyes to Stars" is a troubling view of modern society. Love and desire don't exist in the star-filled heavens, but in the baser confines of Earth.

"The Boy With Very Sharp Teeth" is a touching parable bearing a powerful message: To be loved, accepted, and appreciated for who you are can be a blessing greater than riches or possessions.

In "Wedding Reception" we learn that a family's history is not always written by the winners, but by those who accept each other's frailties through sad and happy times.

"Ghost Train" revisits haunting, seductive, metaphorical, ghostly memories of youth, trains, and love.

"Waiting for the Green Flash" is a story Frelke admits to laboring over for years without finding a satisfactory conclusion. Well, he's completed it here. Some seekers see the green flash, others don't. Meanwhile, the Universe grinds inexorably, exacting penance or delivering rewards.

"Little Monkey Heart" is touching, poignant, and a refreshing reminder of life's meaning. What defines us as people? Love? Accomplishments? Or being happy where you are.

In "The Bull of Salzburg" we meet Stephen, a broken man barely scraping by in Austria. If tourists want experiences that border on the kinky, weird, or profane, Stephen's their man. But his unusual services have been delivered at a cost.

"My Favorite Fairytale" is just that – a fairy tale for realists, with a delightful twist.

In the title story, "Croatan," ghosts live in the piney woods. Grandma's divining rod leads her grandson on a chilling chase.

If you appreciate memorable stories masterfully written, Croatan is highly recommended. Cover art by Staci Sawyer hints at the book's content -- dark and haunting in the shadows, hopeful and encouraging in the light. Frelke, Sawyer, and Press 53 have presented a fine package here for your enjoyment.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Rise Stevens: A Life in Music
John Pennino
Baskerville Publishers
2711 Park Hill Drive, Fort Worth, Texas 76109
1880909758, $39.95, 416 pages plus CD, 1-817-923-1064,

John Pennino has written a new and definitive biography of Rise Stevens (a woman who enjoyed a fabulous mezzo soprano opera soloist at the Met for over 25 years), for the Baskerville Publishers Great Voices Series. The tenth volume of this consistently impressive series, "Rise Stevens: A Life in Music," includes a CD of 26 rare recordings, plus works by Bizet, Gluck, Verdi, Kern, Strauss, Schubert, Wolf, Brahms, and others as only she could perform them. Also included is a hefty 48 pages of black and white photos from the archives of the Met, a complete discography in 18 pages, and a complete chronology of her life and works in an additional 41 pages. The definitive Carmen of her time (and perhaps of all time), Rise Stevens has truly gifted the world with her vocal talents. Described as "a force of nature on the stage", she rose from humble beginnings in New York through many obstacles to a legendary status as a variably experienced opera singer. Prolific and proficient in her vocal career, her choices both in her early vocal training with Schoen-Renee, and later in widening her classical career to include more popular entertainment venue under the management of husband Walter Surovy, all combined to affect her total star impact. A true Mezzo, some of her most memorable roles were Carmen, Octavian (Der Rosencavalier), Hansel, Cherubino, Orfeo, Prince Orlovsky, and Dalila. "Rise Stevens: A Life In Music" is a magnificent summation of an unforgettable vocal talent and a core addition to any personal, professional, academic, or community library Music History reference collection or American Biography shelf.

Dying Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me
William E. Hablitzel, MD
Sunshine Ridge Publishing
P. O. Box 69, Blue Creek, Ohio 45616
Greenleaf Book Group, distributor
4425 Mopac South, Suite 600, Longhorn Bldg., 3rd floor, Austin, TX 78735
0977218511, $24.95, 256 pages, 1-888-220-0397,

"Dying Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me: Stories of Healing and Wisdom Along Life's" is a unique, sensitive collection of life and death experiences encountered by physician William Hablitzel. In his view of death as the great teacher and enlightener, Dr. Hablitzel embraces the "uncomfortable duality" of being "both a physician defeated by death and the witness enriched by it (p. 10)." This luminous book of journeys with the dying has all the elements of the greatest teachings about life's meaning. Finding miracles in the everyday events, listening to the science, learning to overcome fear, embracing the unknown in death, and the miraculous process of human growth are all themes developed in these chapters and stories. Bridging the gap between science and faith, "Dying Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me" is inspirational literature of the finest grade -- and especially recommended for medical and health-care professionals, as well as non-specialist general readers, who must deal with end-of-life issues with respect to their patients or families.

Turtle Island Tree Psalms: Poems by Hugh Ogden
Hugh Ogden
Higganum Hill Books
PO Box 666, Higganum, CT 06441
0977655628 $12.95 82 pages (800) 888-4741

A beautiful collection of prayer-songs of trees, heard by the two-leggeds only after long, deep, and meditative listening . "Turtle Island Tree Psalms" is an impressive and memorable volume of poetry by Hugh Ogden which is grounded in observation, natural and Native American traditions, It's language is always clear, once the time is taken to truly listen. Reading "Turtle Island Tree Psalms" can be a very calming, centering experience. It can also be ego-shattering, but that may be a good thing too.

Here are two poems for contemplation, the first, 'Red Oak on Red Hill Above the Floodplain,' and the second, 'Coda, Earth Voice': "I will be here long/ after you're gone, after/ your two-legged life ends/ where it began, after/ what you hadn't thought/ to watch for arrives,/ after storms cease and/ stillness leaves earth/ ready to be born anew (p. 76)."

"The trees have spoken. Now go,/ listen to the mountains,/ winged-feather/ spirits, four-leggeds, even/ scale-bodies athrob/ in water./ Go, listen to all creature-/beings, not just/ to the white/ pine, ash, and spruce but to/the turn of seasons,/lake-murmur/ below lake shine, soil-loam/and layers of stone./ You'll think/ in veins deep down and connect/ to the ground you/ grow from,/speak the tongue of gratitude,/be a two-legged who/ has a mind./ Go, listen (p. 79)."

"Turtle Island Tree Psalms" is something very special for earth and life appreciators.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Mary's Bookshelf

Alaska Native Art
Susan W. Fair
University Of Alaska Press
P.O. Box 756240, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6240
1889963798 $65.00 907-474-5502

Alaska Native Art by folklorist, curator, and advocate for native peoples Susan W. Fair is an extensive examination of the venerable artistic traditions of twentieth century Alaska Natives, including Tlingit, Aleutian Islanders, Pacific Eskimo, Athabaskan, Yup'ik and Inupiaq artists. Black-and-white photographs of artists and full color photographs of their artistic creations, from spirit catchers to statues, dance masks, dolls, articles of clothing, baskets, watercolor paintings, and much more, illustrate Alaska Native Art. Each object of art has a sidebar commentary about it composition, symbolism, history, and other relevant details. The text discusses the nature of artistic tradition and cultural distinctions between different tribes of Alaska's native peoples. A treasury of heritage, beauty, and expression, especially recommended for artbook collections.

Celebrating Freedom
David S. Rubin & Leslie King-Hammond
Hudson Hills Press LLC
74-2 Union Street, Manchester, VE 05254
1555952658 $50.00 1-802-362-6450

Celebrating Freedom: The Art Of Willie Birch by co-authors David S. Rubin (Curator Of Visual Arts, Contemporary Art Center New Orleans, LA) & Leslie King-Hammond (Dean Of Graduate Studies at Maryland Institute College Of Art) is a visual showcase of Willie Birch's artworks. Especially celebrating the vibrance of New Orleans, Birch's works include polychrome ethnic sculptures, reworks of folk art themes, and acrylic/charcoal on paper pieces both in black-and-white and in full color. As a monograph, Celebrating Freedom allows the reader to focus purely upon the art in all its majesty; the only text narrative is an introduction and summary of Birch's career as well as an intervie with Birch himself at the beginning of the book. A welcome and enthusiastically recommended addition to artbook collections.

Mary Cowper

Shelley's Bookshelf

Gownsman's Gallows
Katharine Farrer
The Rue Morgue
87 Lone Tree Lane, Lyons, CO 80540
0915230836 $14.95

In the style of Dorothy L. Sayers, Katharine Farrer set her mysteries in Oxford, England. Ms. Farrer creates Inspector Richard Ringwood, an Oxford educated man inspired by Katharine's husband, Austin Farrer. Katharine and her husband Austin (described as a man with a great Anglican mind) mix with the Inklings, a group of scholars dedicated to the "destruction of scientific materialism" who included J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Dorothy L. Sayers, and C.S. Lewis. The Inklings had specific ideas on how to raise children, and Farrer uses these ideas in her book. Katharine didn't have an easy life, however, as she became addicted to alcohol and barbiturates in the late fifties, had frequent bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis, and died after a fall in 1972. GOWNSMAN"S GALLOWS is the final mystery published by Katharine Farrer in 1957.

Inspector Richard Ringwood's superior office, nicknamed Bloodhound, taps him for investigation of a burned body found in a haystack the Oxford area. Ringwood's wife Claire is having her first baby, and Ringwood is reluctant to leave her, but the Bloodhound is adamant that he needs Ringwood on the job. Ringwood is perfect for the job and jumps right in:

"Inspector Ringwood considered. Then, as if thinking aloud, 'Just the feet of the body left, you said. And the socks, which aren't a straight clue because they belong to somebody who's alive and has an alibi for the time. No fingerprint, no oddity of constitution revealed by the blood they analyzed from the feet. Sothere's only scent left to try. It's been a mild damp day. Might be a chance, even though the trails will be twenty-four hours old at least.'"

Ringwood brings out his secret weapon, his bloodhound, Ranter, and the hunt (and fun) begins.Katharine Farrer writes an extremely smart mystery with layer upon layer of intrigue. She successfully confuses the reader in this whodunit whose participants are enmeshed in oldwar time attitudes and memories. Her characters run the gambit of war time heroes to bums, and she successfully blurs the lines to create fascinating psychological sketches.

GOWNSMAN'S GALLOWS makes the reader sad that it was Katharine Farrer's final mystery, as the reader emerges from this tale eager for more. Farrer was a jewel.

The Deadly Games: A Dum-Dum for President
Douglas Sanderson
Stark House Press
2200 O St., Eureka, CA 95501
1933586060 $19.95

Douglas Sanderson's novels were published in the 1950's to 1960's. He used his own name, but also wrote under the pseudonyms of Malcolm Douglas and Martin Brett. Although his stories featured Montreal private investigator Mike Garfin, he morphed his hero into Bill Yates (same detective and location) for THE DEADLY GAMES. Stark House brought these two Sanderson novels back to the public after 45 years.

In THE DEADLY GAMES Detective and former Mountie Bill Yates gets involved in what could only be described as a major dysfunctional family's fight over money. A wealthy family matriarch comes to Yates for an assignment but is murdered under a trolley car before Yates can get much information. A jealous husband wants Yates to spy on his wife and catch her in the act with another man. Her sister, Fay Boyle, pops into town to complicate matters. But all this isn't supposed to happen in Montreal:

"We're nice, kindly, superior and virtuous, the newspapers insist. They add with a touch of pride that we're maybe drab and colorless. It's a great think to see kindly types kickin in each other's heads every night. Once in a while, like when they suspend the local hockey star thousands of polite drab people go on a screaming, howling rampage, twenty-four house of smashing and looting. Or if the price of streetcar tickets is increased we have another long riot that wrecks and burns two hundred and fifty vehicles, paralyzes all service and ends in mass arrests. Regrettable, say the newspapers. Must be out-of-town elements. We go back to being officially kindly, colorless, drab and dull, till next time."

A DUM-DUM FOR PRESIDENT is just as full of the Archie Goodwin type of investigator, and this time it's P.I. Mike Garfin on the job. A deposed ex-president hires Garfin to keep a key for $500. Garfin makes the connection through an old buddy. Martha Davenport wants Mike to find her missing sister. Suddenly Mike Garfin is getting seriously beaten up at every turn.

Douglas Sanderson wrote great detective novels. His characters are all pulp; the action is non-stop; and the detectives involved are heroic, constantly beaten up, even as the women they get involved with stay on the sidelines and weep. These highly volatile tales supremely entertain!

Blue Schwartz and Nefertiti's Necklace
Betty Jacobson Hechtman
Brown Barn Books
119 Kettle Creek Road, Weston, CT 06883
0976812630 $8.95

Betty Jacobson Hechtman is a Chicago native who now resides in California. She had a lot of experience babysitting as a teenager, and has translated her experiences to juvenile fiction. She currently resides in California with a cat named Einstein and a dog named Yoga. Her love of baking is apparent in the recipes she thoughtfully provides throughout her book.

Blue Schwartz is thirteen and is the second of two children in a lower middle class family in Chicago. Her schoolteacher parents are pinning their hopes on her brother-the-brain, and Blue feels isolated, except for her good friend Yvonne. When Blue babysits for a Professor Albany's kids, a priceless necklace said to be Nefertiti's disappears. A stern Professor Albany immediately blames Blue for the loss and threatens police action if she doesn't produce the necklace. Blue also has a report due at school for a non-supportive and lazy teacher. Then there is the new guy at school, Shane, who is showing some interest in Blue, making her heart jump. Blue and her friend Yvonne try all sorts of clumsy plans to retrieve the necklace until Blue discovers the culprit and the menace of Professor Albany:

"'He wouldn't really want to call the police. They'd start checking on the necklace and find out what he was claiming to be his was stolen property. No doubt, they'd start asking him a lot of questions he wouldn't want to answer. When you're dealing with illegal things, you don't want the police involved, Blue. Just suppose some drug dealer gets his stash stolen. He isn't about to report to the police.'"

Betty Hechtman does a masterful job of producing Blue's voice for the reader. What goes on in a thirteen year old's head is a mystery to much of the population, including their own parents! Hechtman combines Blue's first tentative steps into adulthood with compassion, wit, and laughter. Blue and her friend Yvonne are delightful characters, as are the friends she makes as Blue struggles with some very adult problems.

Hechtman's plot is fast-paced and scaled down to a teenager's world. She uses cooking as glue to hold together an already intriguing plot that involves visits to the Oriental Institute, where Yvonne's mother works. Hechtman produces a book that is perfect for the 12-15 year old crowd. She manages to teach, entertain, and make the reader smile.

Murder at Heartbreak Hospital
Henry Slesar
Academy Chicago Publishers
c/o Jordan Miller
363 West Eric St., 7 E, Chicago, IL 60610
0897334860 $15.95

Henry Slesar is a television writer with over 500 episodes of such well-known series as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Batman," and the "ABC Movie of the Week." His portolio also includes two Edgar Awards for his mysteries, placeing him in the enviable top echelon of mystery writers.

MURDER AT HEARTBREAK HOSPITAL begins with Detective William Troy, reassigned by the NYPD after a run-in with an angelic looking but evil-minded prostitute with homicide by knife on her mind:

"He was making all the right moves towards detective status when, on his twenty-sixth birthday, a hooker with a face like a Botticelli angel and the mental attitude of a Borgia plunged a six-foot kitchen knife into his chest, narrowly missing his heart."

This is just a sample of the descriptive and witty writing as Detective Troy joins the Movie/TV unit of the NYPD, and begins meeting the stars, writers, and producers of HEARTBREAK HOSPITAL. Naturally every daytime soap requires a witch with a "b" to head up the cast, and before long Troy meets and falls in love with Sunday Tyler, who plays Andrea Harmon…the most hated and loved actress who ever graced a soap set. Despised by fans and co-workers, it isn't long before Sunday is also knifed to death. Troy sets out to solve her murder, but is distracted when his ex-girlfriend tells him she is pregnant and then is also murdered…this time poisoned by a lemon-meringue pie when she crashes Troy's apartment with his not yet returned keys. Troy finds himself at the top of the list of suspects for his ex's murder, even as he finds more and more of his personal items purloined by her and her doting mother pointing the finger at him.

HEARTBREAK HOSPITAL is a fun read, full of all the expected misery of a soap drama…a cast with lots to hide; the fan club filled with kooky women with a tentative grasp of reality; the token transsexual; the evil star's past; and the lovelorn cop. Slesar even throws an unexpected twist into the ending. But that would be telling.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Growing Up Pentecostal
J. Stephen Conn
Xulon Press
380 Crown Oak Center Drive, Longwood, FL 32750
1600340857 $23.99 213 pages

J. Stephen Conn has written a work that will capture your heart and keep you turning the pages from beginning to end. The story? that of his life told in a down to earth storytelling manner that will win you over; I promise.Taking us from his childhood in a house packed full of brothers and sisters, Conn relates his growing up years with honesty and humor. He openly shares the doubts that troubled him concerning his faith, and his day of finally becoming a true believer is a real winner. That certainly was one of my favorite stories. To me, the tales of his childhood days are priceless and you will savor each one like a delicious morsel. Things become a little more serious for our author as he grows and experiences life and all this world throws at us, but even in this Mr.Conn is frank and honest about his emotions and what he experienced and that I found to be refreshing.Take it from one who has read countless stories of many lives; this one is not the norm, but is one that has been told from the heart with an easy down-home flow that will keep your interest, teach you a few things and bring you reading pleasure.Recommended.

Michael Putegnat
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Ste. 300, Austin, Texas 78758
1933538211 $21.95 296 pages

How often have we all seen or even felt the effects of those who have power, land or money? Does it not seem that because of the station they hold in life that more often than not they are working and living beyond the law that we all call our own? So is the case concerning John Magne, a powerful-fourth generation Texas rancher who is now facing a terrible financial crisis that could well send his family into bankruptcy. In his eyes any means to stop this from happening was fair game.

However, there are others who also see him and all he owns as fair game as well. Unbeknown to him they are working and not for his best interest. Interested yet? You should be. In this book by Michael Putegnat we see the savage beast come out in mankind as the struggle for power, money and land is fought. We find some decent, some corrupt and many teetering on the edge in this work. What will be the outcome and who will be the winner? Does greed and murder take it all, or could decency possible win? You simply must read this page turner of a book to find out. Very well written.

Blue Springs
Peter Rennebohm
North Star Press of St. Cloud
PO Box 451, St. Cloud, MN 56362
0878392270 $24.95

In this wonderful read we meet a delightful young boy named Charlie and his dog Taffy. Charlie is like any other boy with all their fears, hopes and dreams; but Charlie has a problem. His dad is an alcoholic and because of this Charlie's life is about to change forever.Frank, Charlie's dad is taking him on a hunting trip and Charlie is excited. However, Frank has too much to drink on the way and has an accident. Afraid, he leaves the scene, but not before the man in the other car sees his face. As fate would have it, this man Pisant, is evil and is also connected to Frank's past. To top it off, he sees him again while hunting and decides it is time for pay-back. His plot to get even with Frank for the accident and memories of the past is dark and devious.Upon their return trip Frank again gets drunk and is pulled over by the law. He is thrown in jail for 30 days. Charlie, ashamed and distraught decides it is time to leave. He has one treasure that perhaps will bring him money, a special coin collection that his uncle left him.

Charlie takes this collection to a dealer his uncle had told him about, but unfortunately this man has met with a strange accident and is dead. His partner looks at Charlie's coins and realizes they are worth a fortune, but does not tell the boy, who has decided he would not be interested in selling them. Instead, he plots with an unscrupulous lawyer to steal the coins even if it means the families death. A hit man is hired and told to get the coins at any cost. Creepy!

The two evil men,Pisant and the hit man, unknown to each other, stalk the family for their own intents and are surprised when young Charlie is seen leaving. Thus begins the adventure of a lifetime as Charlie travels with Taffy, hunted and running for his life. We are introduced to another important character as Pisant decides to kidnap Charlie to get to his father but unbeknown to him, an older man named Quill sees what has happened and intervenes saving Charlie's life and befriending him and Taffy. Quill has a secret of his own and the two will draw upon each other's strengths that will surely mean their survival.

I don't want to reveal anymore of this story but I can tell you it is a real page turner.You have not one but two evil characters, family conflict, a wonderful child with his loveable dog and an elderly man with a heart of gold, that truly makes a difference in this young boy's life. The author pens the characters to perfection in the parts they play in this read. This book has mystery, adventure, hatred, greed and love. It is layered with conflict, spiced with loyalty, splattered with adventure and ends with joy.Exceptional and worth every moment of your time.

The King And I
Herbert Breslin & Anne Midgette
Avenue of the Americans, New York, NY
0385509723 $14.95 320 pages

I have always loved opera and to me tenor Luciano Pavarotti sings it like no other so I was excited to read about this man's life. His voice, to me, is a gift from Heaven itself.In this work Mr. Breslin shares with us Mr. Pavarotti's beginnings, his rise to fame and everything in-between. Some of it is flattering, some not so flattering, some a little funny and some a little sad, but all very interesting.There are also many stories of the opera and other singers in that field.This work will be very interesting for anyone wanting to know more detailed information on the great Pavarotti and opera workings in general.

Your Boy
Vicki Courtney
B&H Publishing Group
127 Ninth Avenue, North, MSN 143, Nashville, TN 37234
9780805430554 $12.99 212 pages

"Your Boy, Raising A Godly Son In An UnGodly World," is a must have for all mom's who love their sons.The author of this outstanding work, Vickie Courtney, is certainly well qualified and knowledgeable and you can with confidence utilize the information you will find within the pages of this book knowing you are helping your son grow into the man he should be.Written from an evangelical Christian perspective you will feel as if you are being delivered a glass of cool water as she takes you from infancy to adulthood in your quest to raise a Godly son.Many fears and turmoil's that you are facing or will face as your child grows are addressed in this book and you are given sound guidelines to follow to help you steer you child in the right direction.
Her suggestions are well researched and written in an easy flow making it simple to understand and implement in your own life as you continue on with your job as a mom. Some of the subjects she covers are; Offering your son advice regarding a future mate; Surviving a Sex-Obsessed Culture; and my favorite, "How not to raise a 'momma's boy." Where was this book years ago when some of the people I know could have benefited from it; including myself? Her writing style is free and easy almost bringing you right into her life as she shares stories, examples and just plain life to help you understand her points. Not only will you find yourself relating to many of the circumstances but you might just have a giggle or a tear along the way. Great book; great advice for Christians and non-Christians alike who truly would like to raise a boy that to a true man.

Who The Hell's In It
Peter Bogdanvich
Ballentine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY
0345480023 $19.95 544 pages

Peter Bogdanovich is a director, film historian and critic, who better to write such a work as this than he. Truly he has poured his heart into this work and it definitely shows.In this book we find many stories of actors that we have longed loved and admired, such as Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda and so many more. His insights on these famous people are wonderful, detailed and interesting. You will find many of your questions answered and you will read information that will surprise and amuse you.This is a work that will be cherished by many for years to come; a remembrance of yesterday that should never be forgotten, and this book will help that to be.

God, How Much Longer?
Robert Stofel
Cook Communications
8685 Explorer Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
0781442001 $12.99 192 pages

I don't know about you, but I am always trying to tell God that NOW is the time for everything I want. I want to say my prayer and open my eyes and see the answer. How about you? I think in my case He probably puts on ear-muffs when He sees me coming! *smile*. It is always difficult for us to understand God's timing, we are such a people that we want everything now and it is difficult for us when God says to wait.In this work by author Robert Stofel we are shown that with God patience is possible as we wait for answered prayer and in general in life. Hard to believe, I know, but true nevertheless. Mr. Stofel shows the reader how to trust the Lord and stay in peace while waiting for our prayers to be answered. It is written in a warm, understanding way that will certainly encourage and strengthen those of us who ask time and time again, "God, how much longer?" Looking for peace while you wait? This is the book for you. Very well done, and one that will be a great encourager for those who are praying, waiting, watching and looking to Him.

Jena's Choice
Beverly J. Scott
1594533318 $16.95 436 pages
Bookman Publishing
35 Industrial Dr. Suite 104, Martinsville IN 46151
1594533318 $16.95 436 pages

The setting of this outstanding novel is late 1860's and eighteen year old Jena Grant must face yet another sorrow in her young life with the mysterious death of her brother Jared. Now she is left to take care of her younger brother and try to keep their ranch; something which seems impossible to do. However, one evil man, Carl Walker will take all her cares away if she will marry him. Jena would rather die, but Jared's best friend Flint McKay comes to the rescue. Flint is a half breed Apache and is not accepted among the whites but he extends his hand in marriage to Jena and proves to be a very wise choice in husbands.The adventure heats up as the couple face prejudices towards so many, including Indians, Mexicans, blacks and any for that matter that does not stand up to their standards. Carl is livid with anger and causes extreme problems for Jena and Flint and the mystery of Jared's death is slowly unraveled.I'll tell you the truth I was surprised by the ending to this story; I truly never would have guessed who Jena's true enemies were. Great job.This is a tight written story. Packed full of all the great elements in a good read. We have mystery, adventure and romance, all woven nicely together for a bang of an ending. You will enjoy this read.

Explorers Wanted In The Desert
Simon Chapman
Egmont Childrens Books
239 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6SA
1405207302 $5.99 50 pages

Are you ready for one exciting read that is packed full of learning experiences? If you are this book is for you. Inside you can open up your imagination and take a journey into the desert with our author Simon Chapman. You will prepare for your trip, being told all that you will need and what you may expect to find once there.As you travel you will learn about the dangers of the desert, such as heatstroke and scorpions, to name just a few, and what to do about them. You will meet desert people and learn how they survive such a hostile area and you'll do all this in a great entertaining way.This is a wonderful book, taking children on a learning adventure without them having to leave their chair. Descriptions are vivid, illustrations are great and the facts are given in a fun interesting way. I recommend this for you and your children. A great learning experience. Very well done.

A Song I Knew by Heart
Bret Lott
Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY
0345437756 $13.95 318 pages

We come upon a woman named Ruth who tragically, in a moment of time, is now a widow. Losing her husband to a senseless car accident, she clings to the one person she knows understands,Naomi. Naomi lost her own husband a mere 8 years ago and for her life has never been the same. Now she must face another loss. Perhaps burdened with too much grief, too much to bear, she searches inside herself for some form of peace and comfort.We travel with them as they try to make sense of what is left of their lives, try not to be bitter at what seems so unfair and desperately cling to small fibers of what they can find is good.Naomi decides to return to her childhood home in South Carolina and Ruth decides to go with her. To Naomi this place holds memories of love, of happiness and of hope. It is here that these two women are finally able to be set free from the clutches of pain and sorrow and perhaps understand the motion of what we call life.A moving story of raw emotion, of two women, and of life.

Fading Toward Enlightenment
Wayne Wirs
Missing Man Press
1313 S. Military Trail, #193, Deerfield Beach, Fl. 33442
0976358107 168 pages $24.95

This is a work where the author uses photos, black and white, deep quotes and words drawn from his inward man to help bring peace to the mind and spirit. I really enjoyed the photos and found myself really studying them and dwelling on them, not just to see what the author wanted me to see, but seeking what I could see. I have to admit, some left me clueless, but others were truly peaceful to me.It is a frank and open read as the author shares his journey to find lasting peace and what he had to confront and overcome, including things within his own spirit on his personal quest.For those seeking inner-peace this work should help them along on their journey.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

May Crowning, Mass, and Merton
Liz Kelly
Loyola Press
3441 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657
0829420258 $13.95 1-800-621-1008

May Crowning, Mass, and Merton and Other Reasons I Love Being Catholic by jazz singer Liz Kelly is a testimony of love for the Catholic faith, particularly the beloved rituals, cherished spiritual expressions, and close bonds with holy people and places. A celebration of the extraordinary tradition of Catholicism, that reaches out to the fellow reader to partake in the joys of faith, love, and reverence for God, May Crowning, Mass, and Merton is a passionate and wonderful testimony of true belief. A life and faith-affirming testimony by a fresh young voice.

Prophetic & Public
Kristin E. Heyer
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20007
1589010825 $26.95 1-202-687-5889

Prophetic & Public: The Social Witness Of U.S. Catholicism by Kristin E. Heyer (Assistant Professor of Christian ethics in the Department Theological Studies as Loyola Marymount University) seeks to answer the question "What is the appropriate relationship between religious beliefs and public life?", particularly with regard to the United States, founded on a commitment to religious tolerance. Looking to the example of the Catholic Church and prominent Catholics Michael Baxter and Bryan Hehir, as well as U.S. Catholic advocacy groups The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, NETWORK, and Pax Christi USA, Heyer applies the discourse of public theology to evaluate what constitutes appropriate religio-political engagement. Through her search for norms in case studies, she seeks an equitable balance between Catholic theological belief and the need for public action upon urgent theological issues. A serious-minded, well-reasoned discourse.

West Of Jesus
Steven Kotler
Bloombury Publishing
195 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
1596910518 $23.95

West Of Jesus: Surfing, Science, And The Origins Of Belief by award-winning author Steven Kotler contemplates the link between neuroscience, spiritual transcendence, and sports. After Kotler reached the low point of his life, having lost his job, his girlfriend, and most other things dear to him, Kotler dared to set out and search the world for the mysterious "Conductor" - the mythical surfer who controls weather and the waves. In spite of his own skepticism, he encountered out-of-body experiences and moments that appeared divine. Contemplating the similarities between his personal senses and the reports of mystics and the findings of neuroscience, Kostler discovered the key intersection of biology, philosophy, and spirituality. A serious-minded search for understanding humanity's perceptions and the stories it tells itself to fully live.

Islam In The World, third edition
Malise Ruthven
Oxford University Press Inc.
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0195305035 $19.95

Now in an updated third edition taking into account the impact of the September 11th attacks and the repercussions of the "war on terror" and the war in Iraq, Islam In The World by Islamic-specialist Malise Ruthven is a thorough overview of the religion in historical, geographical, and social settings. Chapters discuss the Quranic worldview, different sects of Islam and their conflicts, the prophet Muhammad interpreted as a model, and much more. A serious-minded appraisal that critically assess Islam's strengths, weaknesses, and fundamental differences from other religions, theologically, socially, and politically. Highly recommended.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Polygamy On The Pedernales
Melvin C. Johnson
Utah State University Press
7800 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-7800 1-800-621-2736
0874216281(pb) 0874216273 (cloth) $21.95(pb) $39.95 (cloth)

Polygamy On The Pedernales: Lyman Wight's Mormon Villages in Antebellum Texas, 1845 to 1858 by Melvin C. Johnson (teaches history and English at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas) is the true history of a Mormon splinter group, led by maverick Mormon apostle Lyman Wight. After Joseph Smith Jr.'s murder in 1844, Wight led his church to establish a Texas colony; his antagonism with Brigham Young kept his group apart from the majority of Mormons gathering in Utah. Though Wight and his followers made a significant contribution to the local Texas economy, Wight's death in 1858 while leading his dwindling group of followers on yet another migration brought an end to his splinter sect. An exhaustively researched saga, presented in a manner equally accessible to lay readers and religious history scholars.

Critical Lessons
Nel Noddings
Cambridge University Press
40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011-4211
0521851882 $30.00

Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach by Nel Noddings (Professor of Education, Emerita, at Stanford University) focuses upon the critical thinking skills that modern high schools should be encouraging in today's children. "Know thyself," as Socrates once said, is not merely a philosophical soundbite; Critical Lessons argues passionately that the ability to know oneself and meticulously evaluate propaganda, the psychology of war, the motivations of other people, and platitudes voiced from all walks of life from churches to social groups to political parties to popular culture, is more vital than ever to sustaining a successful and healty modern society. Critical Lessons does not shy away from controversial topics, such as denouncing the concept that a benevolent God and a Hell of eternal torture as a logically impossible conundrum. A forward-thinking evaluation of positive changes to promote more independence and savvy in future generations.

Black Lebeda
J. Rives Childs, author
Jamie H. Cockfield, editor
Mercer University Press
1400 Coleman Avenue, Macon, Georgia 31207
088146015X $40.00 1-478-301-2880

Black Lebeda: The Russian Famine Diary of ARA Kazan District Supervisor J. River Childs 1921-1923 is the straightforward transcript of the author's experience in Soviet Russia from 1921 to 1923, detailing the inner workings of the American Relief Administration and the brutal famine conditions in both the city and the countryside. Of especial interest are Childs' insights into the Communist Party's workings in local government, and its ruthlessness toward the bourgeois and aristocrats, many of whom came to work for ARA, as well as the personal testimony of Lenin's famous New Economic Policy, actually a partial return to old capitalism. Though colored by Childs' perspective, Black Lebeda is a singularly valuable primary source and firsthand accounting of turbulent changes in the Soviet Union during the interlude between world wars.

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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