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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 9 September 2009 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Cowper's Bookshelf
Dunford's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf Helen's Bookshelf
Klausner's Bookshelf Larsen's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf
Lorraine's Bookshelf Micah's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf Vicki's Bookshelf
Vogel's Bookshelf    

Buhle's Bookshelf

In Search of Paradise
Roger D. Grubbs
Privately Published
9780981668048, $16.95,

Humanity was rejected from the garden of Eden, forever cast from paradise. "In Search of Paradise" is the story of two doctors who go on a journey through the Middle East in search of their friend and fiance. They are led to believe he is lost in the Garden of Eden, but there is no certainty where exactly that is. To find their lost comrades, they must find what has been lost to mankind for millennia. "In Search of Paradise" is an intriguing biblical thriller, sure to entertain many a reader.

The Last Templar, updated version
Alain Demurger
Profile Books
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc.
9781846682247 $15.95

Now in a new edition, published in the U.S. for the first time and with the addition of an epilogue, The Last Templar: The Tragedy of Jacques de Molay is an in-depth examination of the arrest, trial, and devastating punishment of the Order of the Knights of the Temple, also known as the Templars. In October of 2007, the Vatican chose to publish original documents on the trial of the Templars; the new epilogue pays especial attention to these documents, looking beyond the hype to scrutinize the significance and legacy of one of medieval history's most famous trials. An excellent addition to medieval history shelves, The Last Templar is particularly recommended for college library collections.

Escape from Iran
G. Gray Garland
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438933597, $17.99,

Espionage is not a safe career choice by any means. "Escape from Iran" is a political thriller following a reluctant businessman in the business of rare materials, as he allegedly goes to Iran to sell what they need for their weapons of mass destruction. But he isn't there alone or really there to sell them nuclear parts - he is out to deal a blow by making key individuals defect from the Iranian government. "Escape from Iran" is a classically styled thriller sure to give fans of the genre what they seek.

The Lark, the Lemming, and the Owl
L. Jeffrey Young
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438944531, $29.42,

There is no one decisive way to look at life. "The Lark, The Lemming, and the Owl: Traipse Through Perspicuity" is one man pondering the world around him. How people interact with one another, dealing with the unpleasantries of life, and God are all major topics for author L. Jeffrey Young and he proves to be entertaining as he presents his viewpoints on the world. "The Lark, The Lemming, and the Owl" is a fun and strong consideration for memoir readers.

When Devil Fish Come Out to Play
Cal Smith
Privately Published
9780978383381, $12.95

The ocean isn't the most friendly of places to mankind. "When Devil Fish Came Out to Play: Adventures of an Abalone Diver" is the memoir of a person who made his living risking his life throughout the 1960s and 70s as an abalone diver, one who harvested the clam-like creature in the sea. He endured countless catastrophes and near-deaths (and some not-so-near deaths) threatening his life or the lives of his co-workers. "When Devil Fish Came Out to Play" is a riveting read of the harshness of sea life.

Obeying the Voice of God
Jack MacDonald
Privately Published
9780977854516, $19.99,

Divine intervention can happen anywhere. "Obeying the Voice of God" is the reflections of Jack MacDonald as speaks about his conversations with the divine. His story is simple and straightforward, and he offers advice in the hope that readers will open their hearts and their ears to hear the voice of the divine around them. "Obeying the Voice of God" is poignant and recommended reading.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Naked Public Square Reconsidered
Christopher Wolfe, editor
Intercollegiate Studies Institute
3901 Centerville Road, Wilmington, DE 19807-1938
1935191276, $28.00,

Science and religion seem to be locked in a never-ending conflict. "The Naked Public Square Reconsidered: Religion and Politics in the Twenty-First Century" is more thought on Richard John Neuhaus' famed book, originally written a quarter of a century ago. Discussing the changes in the debate since Neuhaus' book, several thinkers converge and offer much knowledge and food for thought, with an afterword from the original author. "The Naked Public Square Reconsidered" is a very much welcome addition to the current debate.

The Somali Pirate
Noor Fayrus & Quinn Haber
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439239865, $17.99,

Why does one take to piracy in the modern era? "The Somali Pirate" is a first person account from one of these Somalian pirates that have recently gained international attention. Telling the story of why he became what he was, he urges people not to look at the symptoms, but rather the cause of the disease of Somalia. "The Somali Pirate" is an intriguing read about a problem that few people truly understand.

A Big House for Little Men
Michael W. McKay
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440155406, $12.95,

How does one neighborhood turn a child so sour? "A Big House for Little Men" is a novel following Cody, a kid who grows up in an impoverished neighborhood in Boston. He runs with gangs, which leads to his adult life being spent in prison. But prison doesn't seem to be all that different from the streets; Cody remains as ruthless as ever, and he has no idea where he will end up next. "A Big House for Little Men" is an intriguing exploration of the criminal psyche, recommended.

Middle Management is Murder
Les Rich
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Star Treatment Publicity Services (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
9780595477975, $19.95,

Everyone hates their boss, but how much does it take for that hate to turn into murder? "Middle Management is Murder" tells the story of a good job with one terrible consequence: a despicable boss. Everyone seems tolerant of Paul McDermott, but someone wasn't so forgiving when he turns up dead. With everyone having a known hatred of the man, there is no lacks of suspects or motives. "Middle Management is Murder" is well worth the read for whodunnit lovers.

A Quest for Immortality
John Klopfer
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438964911, $14.49,

The fear of death spurs people to gain their own piece of immortality. "A Quest for Immortality" is a story exploring this belief, using one man as he sees life change before his eyes. As he matures, he gains a fresh outlook on the world around him. A novel blending love, growing up, and looking at one's life as a whole, "A Quest for Immortality" is a story many people will relate to and think about.

John Burroughs

Cowper's Bookshelf

Why Faith?
A. G. Green
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781607911470, $22.99,

Why do some choose to embrace faith in times of turmoil? "Why Faith? Your Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Tough Times" is a pastor's discussion of why faith is vital to tough out the bad times in one's life, and how faith helps these people find their way. Inviting readers to look inside themselves for their own faith, "Why Faith?" is of interest to anyone who has lost their way and is having trouble.

God, Are You Serious?
Kay Jemison
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595483075, $17.95,

When everything else around you fails, some place their remaining faith in God. "God, Are You Serious? A Quest from Hollow to Healed" tells the biographical story of author Kay Jemison and her long, winding road to higher faith as friends failed to be friends, and her search for love was riddled with violence, animal abuse, mysterious disappearances, and more. A story of how faith can carry one through the worst of times, "God, Are You Serious?" imparts a message of value to Christian women.

The Creativity Formula
Amantha Imber
Liminal Press
9780646509624, $18.99

Creativity is something that humans do better than any other species, but why are some people better at it than others? "The Creativity Formula: 50 Scientifically Proven Creativity Boosters for Work and for Life" is a guide to enhancing creativity in one's life, using scientifically proven methods known to inspire humans above and beyond what is normally expected of them. "The Creativity Formula" is a very much recommended read for those facing the dreaded writer's block, or any other psychological obstacle.

Out of the Mouths of Babes
Dyan Eybergen
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595470624, $19.95,

Parenting is not a one way street. Children play perhaps the biggest part. "Out of the Mouths of Babes: Parenting from a Child's Perspective" is a different sort of parenting manual encouraging parents to parent reactively to their child's needs, as every child has a different personality and temperament. "Out of the Mouth of Babes" is of interest to parents who want to think outside the box for the future of their children.

The Would Be Saint
Jo Leonard
Privately Published
9781439232859, $16.99,

Sainthood is certainly a high aspiration. "The Would Be Saint: A Collection of Experiences on the Way Home to God" is a memoir by Jo Leonard, recalling her early desires to become a saint to enrich her relationship with God. Reflecting on this certainly daunting childhood desire from an adult perspective, she speaks wistfully of her Christian childhood. Highly recommended.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

For a Minute, I Lost Myself
Scott Gann
Privately Published
9780578023007, $33.02

What is life like for a schizophrenic, one who is so often dismissed as 'crazy'? "For a Minute, I Lost Myself" is the story of author Scott Gann, a schizophrenic, or as he more correctly terms it, a person afflicted with Schizo-Affective Disorder. Promoting awareness to the condition and hoping to impart understanding to his readers, "For a Minute, I Lost Myself" offers much for readers to learn. "For a Minute, I Lost Myself" is of recommendation to any trying to gain a better understanding of Schizophrenia.

21 Bizarre Short Stories
Jose Cepeda Garcia
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432722210, $10.95,

Author Jose Cepeda Garcia gives readers "21 Bizarre Short Stories", a fine collection of work edging on the stranger side of life. Drawing on the elements of horror, fantasy, and surreality, the stories will entertain readers for many hours. "21 Bizarre Short Stories" is a collection that many will cherish.

What Are You, Stupid?
Henry Shephard
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432730567, $14.95,

Stupidity is everywhere and it's fairly contagious. "What Are You, Stupid?" is author Henry Shephard's discussion of stupidity and how it infects every facet of society. Why is stupidity so widely prevalent? Offering many poignant insights and bringing much to the discussion of stupidity, "What Are You, Stupid?" is an entertaining read to any who have been annoyed by the folly of humankind.

A Complete Guide to Public Speaking
Joseph A. Grippo
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515 Parker, CO 80134
9781432734848, $9.95,

Public speaking is one of the finest arts one can learn. "A Complete Guide to Public Speaking" is author Joseph A. Grippo's rock-solid guide to public speaking. Straightforward and to the point, Grippo offers many techniques and advice that one can do to better carry oneself on the public stage and effectively get one's ideas and points across. "A Complete Guide to Public Speaking" is a solid and very much recommended read for anyone who wants to master the skill of successful communication.

Thoughts and Heresies
Dan Wickert
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741447266, $11.95,

The world is a complicated place and filled with complicated thoughts. "Thoughts and Heresies" is a collection of ponderings on the world from one Dan Wickert, a man of Christian faith but with several un-Christian ideals. He offers his ideas in an entertaining format, making "Thoughts and Heresies" a solid pick.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Epic of Arya
Abir Taha
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438941899, $14.99,

Spirituality and religion are dividing things. "The Epic of Arya" is the story of a half-goddess who finds herself challenged with love, and the polarizing views of the world on faith where people of the faith go to one extreme and atheists go to the other extreme. Tasked with restoring humanity's faith in the divine and finding where her love lies, "The Epic of Arya" is an entertaining story that asks some thought-provoking questions.

For the Victims III
Roger D. Grubbo
Privately Published
9780981668031, $15.95

Saving the world can be a family affair. "For the Victims III: Nation in Crisis" is the third entry in Roger D. Grubbs' 'For the Victims' series, following the Stevens family as they battle the International Crime Organization, a sinister group bent on the destruction on the Untied States. The International Crime Organization holds power even over the president. A story of one family standing against seemingly insurmountable odds, "For the Victims III" is an entertaining adventure, sure to please.

The Shangri-La Code
Fritz Galt
Sigma Books
c/o Lulu
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780557028375, $16.95,

The things people do for love. "The Shangri-La Code" is another of Fritz Galt's 'Brad West' novels, following Brad's tumultuous romance with the Chinese woman of his dreams, May. When May performs at an air show in Paris, the Eiffel Tower is defaced and she is to blame. Brad must travel across Europe and Asia to clear her name before he can hope for a happy life with her. A fun-filled thriller, "The Shangri-La Code" is of particular interest to fans of the previous volumes in the series.

Bye Bye Satan
Bruce Oakley
Trafford Publishing
2657 Wilfert Road, BC Canada V9B 5Z3
1425167721, $27.95,

How does one who has deeply researched both science and religion view the world? "Bye Bye Satan: Living by Evidence" is Bruce Oakley's exploration of faith and evidence, offering his own insights on living by the evidence and evidence alone. Not a condemnation of religion and faith, "Bye Bye Satan" presents some intriguing world views that are food for thought. For those pondering the nature of the world, "Bye Bye Satan" is a fine philosophical read.

A Gentleman Drunk
Jeffrey Taylor
Privately Published
097270471X, $9.95

You might not know it's a problem until it's too late. "A Gentleman Drunk" is the story of a man realizing his problems after a shock set him straight. Telling the story of how he overcame his disease and worked to make his life right, "A Gentleman Drunk" is a memoir that others in similar situations may find strength in.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Broken Birds
Jeannette Katzir
Privately Published
9780615274836, $17.95

People remember their mothers in many different ways. "Broken Birds: The Story of My Momila" is how Jeannette remembers her mother, telling her life story. The story of her mother is the story of her family, as this Polish family faced much heartache through their lives, and even an inheritance war. Jeannette offers a truthful and conflicted spin of love for one's mother. "Broken Birds" is a fine read for those looking for a unique family history and memoir.

The Making of a Madam
Patsyann Maloney
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
Veritas Communications (publicity)
PO Box 2075, Canon City, CO 81215
9781439218464, $19.00,

How does one get to the point where they are running a brothel? "The Making of a Madam" tells the story of Patsyann Maloney. Throughout her entire life, she was shown the most evil side of humanity and was led to believe that people only cared for her body. The story of what it's like to be driven to prostitution and running a brothel as a madam, "The Making of a Madam" is a cover to cover fascinating read.

When You Fall Down - Get Up!
Ella M. Coney
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781425987770, $18.95,

How do you go from welfare to caviar? "When You Fall Down - Get Up!" is a memoir from Ella M. Coney as she relates her rags to riches tale of how she went from not being able to make ends meet to using money as a toy. Through real estate, she changed her life, and she hopes to inspire other readers to follow suit. "When You Fall Down - Get Up!" is a top pick for those who don't think they could get any poorer.

Explosion in Paris
Linda Masemore Pirung
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440140747, $22.95,

Til Death do us part is a line many women end up regretting. "Explosion in Paris" is the story of Angela Briann Scott and her growing disillusionment with her husband Mitch. When Ross arrives in her life, it becomes harder and harder to resist what has been growing on her mind for quite some time. With a relocation to France, she starts to gain the courage to do what she's wanted to do for quite some time... "Explosion in Paris" is a fine romance novel that will strike well with women who have lost their luster in their lives.

A Girl Named Maria
Valerie S Kruetzer
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595497058, $16.95,

When a toddler is abandoned, only questions will follow. "A Girl Named Maria" tells the story of Maria Consuelo, who as a child was abandoned in a Columbian restroom, left to die. When she reaches adulthood in America, she's left with only questions to find out where she came from and who her biological family is. "A Girl Named Maria" is an intriguing story of facing one's roots and finding peace with them.

Helen Dumont

Klausner's Bookshelf

Dark Haven
Gail Z. Martin
Solaris Books
c/o BL Publishing
1525 Hulse Road, Unit 1, Pt. Pleasant, NJ 08742
9781844165988, $7.99,

Three months have past since King Martris "Tris" Drayke defeated his brother, Jared the Usurper, and his ally Blood Mage Arontala (see THE BLOOD KING). Winning a war seems easy to Tris in retrospect. Now he must move on and rule a devastated kingdom. Apprehension remains high as some forces loyal to the Usurper continue to fight with enemy Lord Curane and his troops trapped at Lochlanimar and rumors spread that to the south a child has a legitimate claim to the throne. With all that Tris must find a way to feed and shelter his displaced refugee population especially with winter coming to freeze the lands to the north. Meanwhile Tris also prepares for his wedding ceremony with Princess Kiara.

He appoints his protector best friend Jonmarc Vahanian to take over as Lord of Dark Haven, a key estate to the north. Finally as the lord of their realm Margolan, Jonmarc negotiates with the Blood Council of vampires the Vayash Moru at a time when some of the vampires believe the mortals are unworthy of ruling especially since the Flow of magic The Flow is unbalanced, which means the blood magic of vampires is stronger than the light magic of the SUMMONER.

This is a super third tale that fans of the Necromancer fantasy saga will enjoy. Tris and Jonmarc learn how complex it is to change from rebel to ruler as they struggle to insure the kingdom's subjects don't starve to death or are further victims of war. Although well written, DARK HAVEN is a middle book that sets up the next entry as no major plot line is completed. Still exciting and well written, Gail Z. Martin provides a deep tale that makes the case that John Milton's "Better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven" omits how much more difficult to rule is than to serve.

Secret of the Dragon's Breath
Derek Hart
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595480951, $16.95,

In 1941 Crackeston Haven in North Cornwall, England continues to have rationing in support of the war with the Nazis. Gavin Kane feels the impact as his thirteenth birthday party as there is no eggs or sugar to make a cake. His friends Emily Scott, and "evacuee boy" Bunty Digby accompany him to see the wise ancient dragon Sir Thaddeus Osbret the dragon who loves sweets when he is not pretending to be a fireplace. That night Bunty draws a picture of a castle that he fears contains an evil threatening the world

In Shloss Wewlesburg Castle in Germany, Herr Himmler learns his top scientist evil Deiter Gortz is missing, but has somehow created a dragon that the Nazi calls Black Wing. He is unaware that Deiter is the dragon. Also in residence is Reinhard Heydrich as Himmler knows to keep his most vile rivals nearby. He is also unaware that something beneath the castle has begun to control Heydrich who has come up with the "Final Solution".

The dragon Council meets to discuss humans and their propensity for war and global destruction. Thaddeus makes a pitch in favor of the humans, but several have doubts the species should be allowed to live. Korbin the dragon warns his friend an evil is coming that could take the "Final Solution" out of their hands.

Besides the fantasy elements, which ring genuine, it is the deep look at life in coastal England during WWII that makes SECRET OF THE DRAGON'S BREATH a super read. The birthday cake is a great example of how rationing impacted people throughout the country. The tale is fast-paced and exciting as the danger to England mounts with the human friendly dragon and the three teens on one side while enemies human and supernatural mount on the other. The sequel to SECRET OF THE DRAGON'S EYE is a super historical military urban fantasy.

Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel
Boris Akunin
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780812975154, $15.00,

St. Petersburg's Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod is outraged with the behavior of Sister Pelagia; he questions whether she should be allowed to wear the veil. Not long after her censuring, Sister Palagia is sailing on the steamboat Sturgeon when someone kills Manuila, the messianic leader of the Jewish sect Foundlings. Though she knows she should keep her opinions to herself she offers advice to the Inspector Dolinin.

Not long after Manuila was murdered, someone tries to kill Sister Palagia several times before she flees Russia and heads to the Holy land where she continues to investigate the homicide on board the Sturgeon. While she is in Palestine, back in Russia friends and foes debate the merit of Sister Pelagia who continues her sleuthing instead of doing her sisterly duties as befitting a bride of Jesus.

The third Sister Pelagia amateur sleuth (see SISTER PELAGIA AND THE WHITE BULLDOG and SISTER PELAGIA AND THE BLACK MONK) is a super historical although there is a lot less detecting than in the previous entries. The story line is fast-paced as the heroine has to get out of "Dodge" (at least St. Petersburg) because she is unable to investigate freely why someone wants her dead and the church leadership wants her banished. Her adventures in the Holy Land continue as Sister Palagia cannot resist a mystery. Fans of the saga will relish Boris Akunin third late nineteenth century thriller as Tsarist Russia and Palestine come alive though the beleaguered nun's eyes.

The Riesling Retribution
Ellen Crosby
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416551683, $25.00,

In Virginia, Montgomery Estate Vineyard Lucie Montgomery visits her parents' graves when a tornado strikes. The twister destroyed some vines, but also uncovered relatively recently buried human bones where none should be. The timing is exacerbated by reenactors arriving for the 1861 Battle of Ball's Bluff. At the same time her winemaker Quinn Santori and her field manager Chance Miller are dueling over the vines and her.

The remains belong to Beauregard Kinkaid, who had a fight with Lucie's scoundrel father. When the murder weapon is found and belonged to the late Leland, the police declare the case is solved and Lucie's late father is the killer. Lucie knew her dad was a rogue but not a murderer. She tries to investigate but the second spouse of Beauregard's wife, powerful Summer Chastain, will not allow anything to interfere with the official verdict.

The latest wine mystery (see THE BORDEAUX BETRAYAL, THE MERLOT MURDERS and THE CHARDONNAY CHARADE) is a charming amateur sleuth in which readers will toast elegant entertaining Ellen Cosby for this fun entry. The heroine is harassed on all fronts as she struggles with the internal war between two key employees in which she is attracted to both of them, the arrival of the horde of reenactors, and the belief her late rogue of a dad killed a rival. Although the whodunit is entertaining unlike the previous three tales, Lucie's inquiry shares top billing with the feud and the Civil War buffs; still fans will enjoy future wine tasting awesome alliterations.

Hell's Kitchen Homicide
Charles Kipp
9781439127902, $25.00

The corpse is found in Hell's Kitchen overlooking the Hudson. NYPD Detectives Conor Bard and Ralph Kurtz have the lead though the latter is retiring in a week. The corpse is criminal defense attorney Walter Lawton with mob ties, who has freed many obvious felons from incarceration.

The obvious prime suspect is the victim's wife Holly who will inherit millions. The cops learn her lover is a professional hit man running a Brooklyn kennel Salvatore Zeffel and they fish the murder weapon a 22 out of the river; Sal's choice of guns. The case takes several spins with almost all having an Albanian connection, but none quite making sense. Adding to Bard's confusion is four women in his life: his boss who never leaves the station; his former lover who is seeing jealous Captain Reynolds; Holly who calls him all the time, and Albanian visitor Monica who he calls. He is attracted to the latter two while he wants Reynolds off his back as the case seems to go nowhere.

This is a terrific New York police procedural as nothing is quite what it seems. The banter between the partners is fun and Conor's female problems add depth to him, but it is the whodunit that makes this an entertaining tale. Every clue leads to the Albanian community in the Bronx, but every step forward also leads to a seemingly dead end. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this fast-paced thriller as the streets of Manhattan seem dirtier than usual.

A Quiet Belief in Angels
R.J. Ellory
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781590202500, $24.95,

In 1939 in Augusta Falls, Georgia, someone rapes and murders a twelve year old child. The classmates are stunned but especially affected is Joseph Vaughan. When he turns fifteen raised by his widow mom, he remains haunted by the incident and violent death in general. He persuades other boys his age to form the Guardians to prevent future assaults.

Over the next few years, the Guardians fail to stop brutal attacks as kids are abducted. A depressed Vaughan leaves Georgia relocating to Brooklyn, where he hopes to make it with his other goal to become a writer. However, a murder in the Big Apple ties back to Augusta Falls bringing him full circle.

Although there are too many minor subplots over complicating a fabulous character study of a seemingly OCD youth; A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS is a terrific tale of a Georgian fixated for decades with brutal killings especially by serial killers. Fans will appreciate how deep author RJ Ellory takes the reader inside the mind of Joseph without slowing down the narrative. He is the key holding the tale together as the focus of the story line. As a as a senior citizen he connects the deadly dots between New York and Georgia but even then Mr. Ellory continues digging through the layers of the soul of his beleaguered frustrated hero. This is a super look at a caring person struggling with his inability to prevent violence.

Faces in the Fire
T.L. Hines
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595544537, $14.99,

Truck driver Kurt Marlowe goes to estate sales to buy the clothing of dead people. Kurt has a special paranormal talent as clothing communicates with him, which leads to him creating metal sculptures from the images the clothing transmit to him.

Kurt has no memory of his past so he is pleased to meet lymphoma sufferer Corrine who has a catfish tattoo that was given to her by Grace who has a tie to Stan the assassin. These four begin to interact with one another while dealing with a set of numbers on a napkin that make no sense to any of them, but keeps reappearing. Together they may break this code; separately the code will break them.

Character driven by the unlikable quartet, FACES IN THE FIRE is a haunting thriller as readers (and the foursome) wonder what is gong on and what next until the climax brings everything together; sort of. In many ways the story line feels like a surreal mystery that though in content different kept reminding me of the movie The Cube. Fans who prefer something radically different but refreshingly unique will relish reading T.L Hines' novels like THE UNSEEN and his latest psychological perhaps even supernatural thriller.

31 Hours
Masha Hamilton
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
9781932961836, $24.95,

At three in the morning in Manhattan, Carol abruptly wakes up with a premonition that her son Jonas is in trouble. She thinks about it and realizes he has not called her in several weeks. Carol goes back to feeling uneasy as only a mom can understand. The next day she tries his cell phone and visits his apartment, but neither proves fruitful. She visits his girlfriend Vic, who informs her Jonas has not returned her calls nor has she seen him lately, but she has no idea what she did to make him so angry that he cut off communication to her. Vic's response sends Carol into a deeper panic.

Jonas Meitzner is the son of an atheist mother and a Jewish father Jake whose parents were Hasidic. His parents split when he was young, but that did not matter as he grew up faithless, but recently discovered Islam. His spiritual guide Masoud believes that American society needs change from within violently; Jonas is an expendable tool to do so.

31 hours until he puts into place what he learned while secretly sequestered in Pakistan; 31 hours before he commits an act of terrorism on the trains; 31 hours before his letters reach his loved ones; 31 hours before he breaks many hearts including that of his mom.

Mindful of the young Minneapolis Muslims that apparently has concerned the community and the Feds, 31 HOURS is a timely thriller as loved ones increasingly become concerned when they lose contact with Jonas. Fans will feel the anguish of his mom, the concern of his dad; the bewilderment of his girlfriend; the disassociation of guilt by his guide; and finally him, the focus of those who care about him in varying ways as he knows if one of them besides Masoud reaches him he will falter with his beliefs. Fans will be hooked into this one sitting as a nice young man walks a deadly final 31 hours unless a miracle intercedes.

Emma Gabor
PO Box 546, Montvale, NJ 07645
9781893798571, $21.95,

In 2003 Sopron, Transdanubia in Hungary, the vampyr bit into Emma's neck turning her from a hard working college freshman into a compulsive yet reluctant blood seeking Undead. After dining on a homeless girl, but not wanting to be alone, Emma visits her BFF Kati so that the "forever" becomes real. After converting Kati, they visit Gizi and Eszti to convert them too.

The quartet paint the town red though Emma also feels shame for subjecting people she has known for years to a bloody terrorist attack each night. At a ball at Frakno Castle, Emma meets genetic research scientist Zoltan. For the first time in her life, she understands why her three buddies enjoy the guys rather than the books. As they fall in love, her friends fights with her and each other over their nocturnal desires.

Predominantly told by Emma who speaks to the reader in a sort of memoir format, vampyr fans will enjoy her exploits and that of her three friends. In spite of their conversion into immortality, the four best friends act like the teens they are, arguing who knows best with Emma claiming she is not just their "mom", but fifteen minutes older and so much smarter when it comes to Vampire 101 and advanced knowledge. Although Emma can over prattle re sidebar related topics like Hungarian history, teen readers will enjoy the battles between the four BFFs who differ on whether they want to go back or not.

Bed and Breakfast
Lois Battle
Penguin Press
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780143116431, $15.00,

Widow Josie Tatternall does not have fond memories of her womanizing dictatorial late spouse, who treated her like he did the soldiers he led. The septuagenarian owns the Point Bed and Breakfast in Beaufort, South Carolina. .Christmas is coming and feeling her age after calling 911 when her bridge playing pal Peatsy collapses, Josie wants her three adult daughters to visit her for the holidays.

As her sister reminds her, that will take a miracle. Her oldest Camilla has not come home in ten years, vowing back then never; however, depressed that her job may be gone, her lover definitely gone, and her period probably gone due to she fears a pregnancy, Cam accepts the invitation.

Her middle child Lila Gadsen of Hilton Head immediately accepts. She hopes seeing mom will allow her to escape for a week from her politician husband and his attitude, and their two teens with attitude that only prescription medicine alleviates the headaches.

Her youngest Evie lives in Savannah where she writes a newspaper column that exposes her family to ridicule as they are often the topic. She also accepts her mom's invitation.

The four Tatternall females converge on the Point with good intentions to let bygones be bygones. Christmas Eve is a catastrophe in spite of the good intentions. The three daughters are together for seemingly for only nanoseconds and each is ready to run home.

This reprint of a well written regional charmer affirms that the family that gets together fights together, but hopefully also loves together. Josie is the star though her daughters obviously play key roles in the bickering and arguing, and some wise acceptance and consideration of others. Fans will enjoy this engaging family drama as everyone grows stronger with increased perceptive understanding of those you thought you already know.

Lady Anne and the Ghost's Revenge
Donna Lea Simmons
Sourcebooks Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402217920, $7.99,

Although he saved her life (see LADY ANNE AND THE HOWL IN THE DARK), Lord Darkefell could not stop himself form proposing at the same moment. He knows he made a strategic miscalculation, but learns how far when he visits her mom and grandma only to learn Lady Anne Addison is visiting friends in Cornwall. As he rushes to see Lady Anne, her family sends poor relative Mills Lolly Broomhal to chaperone her.

Lady Anne fears her attraction to the handsome Darkefell will cost her independence. However, she is more interested in the goings on at the beach near the home of her host siblings Captain Marcus St. James and his sister Pamela. She sees smugglers in action as well as the legendary Musselman ghost. When Darkefell arrives, she is taken aback by his pursuit but also asks for his help investigating the smuggling activity. He wants her safe so he reluctantly agrees, but murder intercedes and he is the prime suspect.

The key to this apparent middle book is the relationship between Lady Anne and her pursuer. His shouts of love frighten her. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Anne sees the happenings on the nearby beach and never slows down as she and her wannabe paramour work the case of the Ghost's revenge. Historical romance readers will enjoy the refreshingly unique Lady Anne as she runs head first into dangerous escapades while running away from love.

Hugh & Bess
Susan Higginbotham
9781402215278, $14.99

In 1341 thirteen years old Bess de Montacute is outraged and humiliated that she has been directed by her parents to marry Hugh le Despenser. It is bad enough he is twice her age and her breasts remain childishly flat, but the widow (her spouse died when she was eleven) is galled that his heritage is that of the son and grandson of traitors (see THE TRAITOR'S WIFE). She is aghast that her surname will be that of a disgraced family.

Hugh is as outraged as Bess over the arranged nuptials to a child bride, but is more accepting or at least hides his ire better. He knows to regain good standing for himself and his family; he must marry the bratty daughter of the Earl of Salisbury, a close advisor and friend to King Edward III. To him it simply means marrying for duty rather than love. As war and plague devastate England, against all odds Hugh & Bess fall in love.

This is a terrific fourteenth century historical romance starring two people forced into a political marriage who find love. Bess is a reluctant wife as this time she is expected to live with her husband unlike when she previously wed and remained home; High is a fabulous lead male who loathes marrying his young bride, but has no choice if eh wants to remove the stigma. Their changing relationship over a decade as she matures makes for a fine tale of love amidst betrayal, back stabling and war.

Little Bird of Heaven
Joyce Carol Oates
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, NY, NY 10022-5299
9780061829833, $25.99,

In 1983 in Sparta, New York Zoe Kruller and Eddy Diehl are having an affair. She is a gentle beauty while he is kick butt tough guy. All is great between these opposites until her young son Aaron finds her murdered body. The police hone in on the two male adults in Zoe's life, her spouse and her lover.

Five years after the homicide, the police arrive at Eddy's home. He refuses to cooperate and instead challenges the cops even as his horrified daughter Krista watches the macabre event as if it is a movie scene. He is shot down in what is called a suicide; case closed as far as the cops and the people of Sparta are concerned, but not the survivors. Instead their respective offspring are traumatized by events, but though they try to move on separately, neither can. Then they meet.

LITTLE BIRD OF HEAVEN is a fabulous character study that looks deep at the offspring generation surviving a tragedy. Krista tells the tale, which focuses on psychological defense mechanism employed by her (denial her father might have done the deed) and by him (denial that his mom was having an affair). Neither is able to move past the respective defining moments in their lives, seeing the corpse of a parent who had a violent death. Fans will relish prolific author Joyce Carol Oates's latest psychological suspense as Krista and Aaron meet each other and the ghosts they carry inside their hearts.

The Blue Enchantress
M.L. Tyndale
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781602601574, $10.97,

In 1718 on Saint Kitts Hope Westcott has no hope for her future as she stands in disbelief on a slave auction block about to be sold. She regrets the choices she has made and prays that God gives her a chance to redeem herself.

Captain Nathaniel Mason detests loose women so though he sees despondent Hope for sale, he leans towards leaving her to wallow in her what she wrought. He wants to walk away and go back to his shipbuilding business in Charles Towne, but cannot feel anything but pity for the wench; at least that is the rationale he gives himself when he goes to liberate her. Still he argues with himself that he does not need a fallen dove in his life, but heeds the Lord's words of casting the first stone.

The latest Charles Town Belles historical romance (see THE RED SIREN for Hope's sister Faith's tale) is a super exhilarating inspirational tale starring two individuals who make the story line work. He is a pious person, but in a way arrogant as he looks down on those who take a different path; she has made mistakes but plans to redeem herself. Her rationale for seeking redemption changes as she changes. If you have not read M.L. Tyndale, you are missing out on one of the best authors at combining character-driven, action packed historicals (on sea and on land) with the underlying inspiring message of the Lord is there for everyone who enters his house.

The Public Prosecutor
Jef Geeraerts
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
9781904738381, $14.95,

Affluent Albert Savelkoul seems to live a near perfect life as the public prosecutor of Antwerp. He is affluent and influential due in part to the right marriage although his deeply religious wife Baroness Marie-Amandine de Vreux d'Alembourg detests him. His mistress Louise is beautiful and kind though he is considering a maid for that position. Finally he has a secret Swiss bank account concealed even from his spouse in which Albanian drug dealers donate in exchange for magically changing heroin into talc.

His wife arranges with the Opus Dei to destroy Albert. She gives them insider information that they use to blackmail the suddenly beleaguered Albert. The powerful Catholic group demands a cut starting with any inheritance he planned for his offspring. They also easily get into his Zurich account and wipe that out. Opus Dei operatives raise the ante further as they try to break Albert. He prays to God to allow him and his love to safely flee Belgium for Scotland.

The premise behind this great psychological suspense is that a big fish in a small pond can be eaten alive by a bigger fish. Thus corrupt Albert makes the thriller work as he goes from affluence to stomp upon roach rather quickly when someone more powerful sends him back to the masses as another nonentity. Fans will relish this deep character driven tale of corruption and back stabbing as the norm especially for one climbing up the ladder of affluence and influence only to be thrown down by someone higher up. Jef Geeraerts provides a powerful indictment of western civilization circa 1999 as a "Bitter Lemon" whether it is Belgium, Scotland, or the United States.

Where the Wind Blows
Caroline Fyffe
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0843962844, $6.99,

In 1888 Wyoming recluse Chase Logan informs Jessie Strong that her husband died. He feels for her, but plans to leave. People assume he is her spouse so he remains a little longer until she can adopt a three years old waif Sarah.

He delays his plan to leave again when she is threatened by a thug. He marries her to keep mother and daughter safe though he still plans to leave. As time moves on and Jessie anticipates his leaving, she knows he has her heart and that of Sarah; she figures she will be okay but sad but fears for her child when she loses another parent. However, the ascetic Chase keeps putting off his leaving rationalizing to himself why he stays; deep down he knows he loves his two feisty females.

WHERE THE WINDS BLOW is a wonderful western romance with a Shane like hero who knows he should ride off into sunset but keeps delaying what he thinks is the inevitable. Jessie and Sarah are terrific as they both cherish and shower Chase with love and affection while the mom fears a broken heart for her but is more frightened by the impact on her adopted daughter when he leaves as she expects him to do. Caroline Fyffe provides sub-genre fans with a great tale.

The Strangely Beautiful Tale Of Miss Percy Parker
Leanna Renee Hieber
9780843962963, $6.99

In 1888 an albino with hair as white as snow and living in London, reticent Miss Percy Parker has a special gift when it comes to communicating in languages and a skill to see the future through visions. Though a female and extremely timid at that, Professor Alexi Rychman has invited Percy to study at the Athens Academy; serendipitously hidden in plain sight in the big city; he sees her as powerful and passionate while she sees herself as frightened and different

Percy is a super student grasping her studies rather quickly and easily; everything that is except math. Professor Rychman is not just proud of the best pupil at the academy, he has plans for Miss Percy Parker when he deems her ready to join his secret organization (too secret to even mention their name) struggling to keep the world from destruction from the likes of Ripper. The Professor underestimates Miss Percy who begins to uncover what is going on inside the Athens Academy and also inside their respective hearts.

This is a terrific Victorian urban romantic fantasy with a nod to My Fair Lady that will hook the audience from the moment Alexi invites the uncanny Percy to attend the Academy. Although Percy overbites with her self-deprecating commentaries about being different, fans will relish alongside Alexi her adventures against the paranormal like Ripper and with teaching the professor that love is the most powerful magic under heaven to battle those from hell.

The Fire King
Marjorie Liu
9780843959406, $7.99

Soria left Dirk and Steele after she killed a man in cold blood though he deserved it. She has not healed mentally since the incident and wants no more field work. However, Roland sends an agent to plead with her in medieval "dead" Welsh to come home to help them on a strange unique case of a man, who speaks a language that no one has ever heard before, was found alive interred in an ancient tomb. She is the world's foremost linguistic expert as her talent is communication in any language. On the one hand she wants to say no; on the other she is curious.

Soria meets Karr, who states three words in three languages: "Zoufalstvi. Epatoivo. Asa". She knows exactly what he says and quickly realizes he is part of an ancient race of shapeshifters. However, things turn ugly when apparently other shapeshifters exist and need the former son of their late king dead as promised to him and so the "normals" including the psychics will have no proof they exist. As Soria and Karr begin to consider acting on their mutual attraction, trust remains as big of an obstacle as danger from his were-cheetah race eho threaten him and his beloved human.

This is a terrific D&S tale with an intriguing spin of a "hidden" tribe whose prince is "awakened". The urban fantasy story line is action-packed and filled with that special Marjorie Liu intrigue from the moment Roland's agent Robert speaks several languages with Soria at the Minneapolis airport and uses her unique linguistic talent to get the strong tale soaring. The plot accelerates from there as Soria and Karr fall in love but their journey is long, dangerous and taboo.

A Marriage of Convenience
Jewel Amethyst
9780843962987, $6.99

Tamara Fontaine has worked diligently on making her marriage perfect. She does everything right without being a bridezilla. Now the time to exchange vows is here, but one problem occurs; the groom fails to show up leaving her with a ton of bills and a mortgage she cannot afford.

Humiliated, but financially strapped and sinking deeper into the abyss, she listens carefully to the offer by Ghanaian scientist Kwabena "Ben " Opoku who needs a green card to remain in the states. They marry with him paying off her bills and she giving him the avenue to remain in the country. However, as they fall in love, Tamara fears hurt as she learned once again at the altar that men don't love plus size women; Ben has to prove her hypothesis wrong one experiment at a time.

Ben makes this a refreshing marriage of convenience contemporary romance as his Ghanaian heritage comes to life as much as his legal efforts to remain in the country in spite of his being a scientist and the anti immigration fervor still lingering. The story line is driven by the lead couple and though the audience will know where it will end, traveling the road with this pair is entertaining as like the author's name each is a gem of a character.

Comanche Moon Rising
Constance O'Banyon
0843962658, $7.99

In 1846 Texas, the Blue Norther killed her father and left Shiloh Braden worried to death about her ranch failing and when it does what will happen to her and her younger brother who she is raising. Shiloh also finds the storm left a young female Indian with a fever stranded in her barn. Without a second thought, she takes the child inside to try to heal her; which she does.

Comanche war chief Shadowhawk comes for his younger sister Moon Song stranded by the storm. He knows he owes her for protecting his sibling. When a neighboring rancher proves perfidious and dangerous, Shadowhawk, paying off his debt of honor, abducts Shiloh and her brother over her protestations to keep them safe. As they fall in love, Shadowhawk knows he cannot keep Shiloh at his side as his wife so returns her to her ranch when he deems it safe.

This is a fun Americana tale due to the strong lead characters who know they have no future together although the well written storyline and the cast will remind sub-genre fans of Cassie Edward's "Savage" romances. Filled with depth, readers will enjoy COMANCHE MOON RISING as a taboo love between the Indian war chief and the white rancher makes for an exciting "C. Edwardian" historical tale.

Belisarius III-The Flames of Sunset
Eric Flint and David Drake
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781439132807, $23.00,

"The Dance of Time". In the sixth century, General Belisarius plans to invade the Malwa Empire to take the war of the future to the enemy in India. To the shock of the Malwa, his assault proves successful as he drives deeper into their empire using futuristic weapons and transportation given to him by the Aide also from the future. The enemy is stunned and in retreat as their Evil from the future tries to remain calm with defeats piling up and his side losing sight of the long term objective of the new Gods ruling earth.

"The Tide of Victory": In India the Malwa Empire suffers a major defeat, but led by the futuristic demon trapped inside a computer, they have not lost sight of their strategic goal of changing the future to having the New Gods rule. They redeploy preparing for a renewed offensive against the Byzantine Empire led by General Belisarius who has a futuristic aide giving him minimal assistance. The Malwa believe that if they can assassinate Belisarius the opposition will collapse as he is the rallying cry.

The fifth book in the Belisarius saga is in some degrees is a filler set up entry for the climax (The Tide of Victory), but the focus of taking late twentieth century weapons, communications, other technology and tactics and bringing them onto the sixth century battlefield remains entertaining and fun. Whereas the final book The Tide of Victory wraps up a super alternate history military thriller in which two superpowers helped differently by allies from the future vie for world domination. However before reading the third omnibus reprint, it is strongly recommend the previous two (Storm at Noontide containing books 3 and 4, and Thunder at Dawn containing Books 1 and 2) should be read first.

A River Called Time
Mia Couto
Serpent's Tail
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 W 108th St., Suite 901, NY, NY 10025
9781846686719, $15.95,

In Mozambique, the family patriarch Dito Mariano is near death. His family already divided and spread across the civil war wracked nation is further split because he was the only one holding them together. Still they all make a pilgrimage to pay homage to Dito as they come to bury him and the obsolete past he represents.

His grandson Mariano is among those who have come to Nyumba-Kaye, his grandfather's house named in two languages, for the funeral. Although he has been at school, he understands family tradition and hopes to reconcile the Northern and Southern sides of the family in honor of his ancestor. However, his Uncle Ultimio plans to convert Nyumba-Kaye into a luxury hotel although he knows his father would loathe the idea that he markets it to the family as development, but the whispers of the past including his grandfather tells Mariano the younger to save the family heritage from the ravages of the curse called progress.

This is an extremely complex family drama that brings to life Mozambique through the divided live and ironically dead members of the Mariano brood. There is no easy linear chronological order to the deep storyline as the grandfather and his grandson narrate the goings-on past and present in a realm where ancestors reside along with those souls who never made it out of the womb alive; each has a tale to tell through Dito who has one foot with them and one foot with his warring family that emulates the civil war that has ravaged the island nation. A RIVER CALLED TIME is a complicated and rightfully convoluted super look at a different culture.

War Damage
Elizabeth Wilson
Serpent's Tail
9781846686504, $14.95

In 1949, ballet critic Freddie Buckingham leaves a party hosted by socialite Regine Milner and begins walking across Hampstead Heath when he is shot to death. The police investigate the homicide.

Detective Chief Inspector Plumer and Detective Sergeant Murray quickly find a horde of people with motives to kill overtly homosexual Freddie. People from his personal life and his professional life with grudges against him seem everywhere. Even the hostess with the mostest is considered a suspect. However, none from the performing arts, the homosexuals, the bohemians, politicians or starving socialites stand out from anyone else. All seem to have in common a refrain of rejoicong that Freddie's dead.

This is an exhilarating post WWII police procedural that has a Noir feel to it, but no detective is hard boiled; the Noir comes from the atmosphere of the "Heath" and London in 1949 as unexploded bombs remain from the war, buildings are derelict and damaged but people reside in them, and the gritty dark fog enhances every step of the plot. Aptly titled WAR DAMAGE is everywhere. Although the introduction to just about all the party goers seems overwhelming at first, fans will enjoy this fine historical whodunit as Freddie's death enables Elizabeth Wilson to provide a tour of the war torn city.

The Pravda Messenger
Robert Cornuke
Howard Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416549840, $12.99,

The Bell Bible is a divine journal ending up with people chosen by God. That person is the messenger and in the right hands has the power to change things for the good of its temporary owner. Through an unusual set of circumstances, the bible comes to Tanya of Colorado Springs after it was found on the ground following a plane crash and a thief stole it expecting riches.

Tanya immediately recognizes the bible having seen it seven years ago hidden in the tomb of Feodor Kuzmich, believed to be czar Alexander who left his pampered life to become a monk. She also recalls noticing a gold snuff box believed to hold manna inside it. In the present the Soviets want the manna to study it so that the scientists can increase food production; they reject any divine creation of manna. The Cubans want Tanta because she is the PRAVDA MESSENGER, a woman who can hear lies when they are spoken. Tanya's father is in a Gulag Camp C-23. People are working to free him so he can be used to blackmail Tanya into cooperating with her enemies.

There are many more villains in this intriguing work. This includes a Soviet spy who failed to obtain the snuff box seven years ago; the only blight on his record so he is obsessed with getting a second chance to recover it,; an American working for a top secret agency whose desire for money supersedes his loyalty to his country and the Russians are willing to pay for his cooperation. Tanya is much more mature than her age as she understands the blessing she has received, but also knows the Lord will protect her. There are many heroes willing to become martyrs to keep her safe, but the most important is the Bell Bible given to God's chosen for his purpose. Inspiring, unique and special, fans will appreciate the PRAVDA MESSENGER.

Honor in the Dust
Gilbert Morris
Howard Books
9781416587460, $13.99

As he struggles with achieving acceptability and affluence amidst the aristocracy, Stuart Winslow adheres to his vow to never do what his father did. Stuart loves his mom, but his dad chose her and abject poverty over his aristocratic family's wealth; his steadfast goal is to obtain what his father threw away. He works hard at weapons design and shows a natural propensity for falconry. These two skills obtain him a position in the court of King Henry VIII. Stuart feels great that he achieves the first step in his strategic life plan. However, he finds the court frighteningly wicked and enticingly tempting as vice is the norm; he also learns the hard way to trust no one as backstabbing is the other norm.

William Tyndale proclaims for all to hear that he will translate the Bible from Latin into the language of the commoner. Henry VIII declares that is heresy, arrests William and sentences him to death. Anyone who speaks out for William, his project or against his sentence will also be executed. Stuart finds himself in a dilemma as he believes in William's project that will bring Jesus to the masses. If he chooses the King's world as represented by Nell his soul will probably die; if he chooses William's world as represented by Heather; his life will probably end.

Over several decades mostly in the early sixteenth century, Gilbert Morris compares the overindulgences of the materialistic Tudors starting with the monarch and the courageous pious actions of those who risk their lives for their beliefs like real person William. Thus Stuart desires to be accepted by the former as one of them though he disdains their behavior and admires the latter. Fans will enjoy this well written historical drama as Mr. Morris captures the essence of the era of the first Tudor monarch while inspiring his audience to not let material desires for more than one needs supersede faith.

Alan Jacobson
Vanguard Press
c/o Perseus Books Group
Eleven Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9781593155483, $25.95,

After a particular rough case and the take down of a cop killer in front of the White House, FBI profiler Karen Vail is ordered by her boss to take a vacation. She and her boyfriend Detective Robby Hernandez head to Napa Valley.

While they are inside a wine cave on the Silver Ridge Estate, Karen sees a look of despair on the face of a worker that tells her something is wrong. Showing their credentials, she and Robby are escorted to the site where a woman lies dead with her breasts eviscerated and a toe nail ripped from her right foot. Vail quickly concludes an experienced serial killer performed the ghastly deed. The lead detective Redmond Brix makes it clear to her he does not want her anywhere near his case, but his superior overrules him; Karen joins the task force.

Another female body with the same M.O. is found followed by a third corpse in the same condition soon afterward, but this body is male. The link between the deceased is that all three were involved in the Georges Valley Wines dispute, but Karen is confused as there are other victims with seemingly no ties. Karen puts her life on the line to capture the killer, but she also seeks answers that tie all the murders together; the only one who can provide them is the killer, who already has cops on his dead list.

Told from the viewpoints of the protagonist and the antagonist, readers see fascinating perspectives of a predator and a hunter challenging one another. The serial killer stuns readers as John Wayne Mayfield has no remorse when it comes to killing humans; he has hidden strategic goals and objectives that will shock the audience because some of his targets are killed for a specific reason. Karen pushes her way onto the task force because she believes they need a profiler to take down this brilliant psychopath. CRUSH is a very exciting and chilling thriller.

Her Deadly Mischief
Beverle Graves Myers
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590582336, $24.95,

In 1742 castrato Tito Amato and company are performing Rossini's Armida at the Teatro San Marco. There is plenty of excitement in the air as this is opening night. However, as the opera is performed a frustrated Tito targets his voice at the rude spectators behind the closed curtained fourth-tier box owned by Alessio Pino, son of a master glassmaker. Tito feels better for a moment when the curtains open. However that nanosecond passes as a masked man is struggling with a woman before pushing her to her death.

The victim is popular but manipulative courtesan Zulietta Giardino, a conniving courtesan. Tito is the sole witness and explains to the Venetian constabulary head Messer Grand that he saw a very tall masked person push Zulietta. That night he tells his Jewish wife Liya, disowned by her family, what he witnessed. The married couple investigates as does Grand, but many diverse suspects surface including one who kidnaps their son.

The latest Baroque historical mystery (see THE IRON TONGUE OF MIDNIGHT, PAINTED VEIL, INTERRUPTED ARIA and CRUEL MUSIC) is a great tale that once again brings vibrantly to life mid eighteenth century Venice. Besides the music scene, readers obtain a perspective of the degree of anti-Semitism the lead couple faces including the opposite cutting sword of the ostracism from Liya's Jewish family. The whodunit is cleverly devised to provide readers with an exciting mystery and a strong background that makes Venice circa 1742 seem real as virtuoso Beverle Graves Myers provides a tremendous historical.

Service Dress Blues
Michael Bowen
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590586679, $24.95

In Milwaukee lawyer Rep Pennyworth and his wife, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee English professor Melissa, are working on separate items. Rep is working on trademark and copyright law for Democratic Party activist Ole Lindstrom; Melissa is looking into the apparent mugging by a woman of Ole's nephew Harald Lindstrom from the U.S. Naval Academy found unconscious in an Annapolis motel the night before the "Game".

The police arrests Ole's septuagenarian wife Lena; who is accused of hammering him on his head with a frying pan. She is charged with attempted murder. She swears she did not bean her husband with a skillet; instead she swears that an intruder knocked him out. Ole is gleeful in spite of the headache as his candidate for Attorney General Veronica Gephardt is running on a domestic violence platform. Soon after that someone kills Ole; and Lena is arrested again this time for murder; Rep represents her.

With events going on in early 2009 playing in the background, the latest Pennyworth thriller (see SHOOT THE LAWYER TWICE) is an amusing lighthearted farcical mystery that is fun to read. The lead married couple is having fun though the stakes change for him with a murder defense and for her with a baseball trivia quiz. Although the prime suspects in the homicide are not just underdeveloped, they seem emaciated when compared with the Pennyworth pair. Still Michael Bowen provides an entertaining who's on first tale.

Deadly Descent
Charlotte Hinger
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590586457, $24.95

In western Kansas, historical Lottie Albright marries Keith, whose adult children are older than his new wife. Her twin sister clinical psychologist Josie objects as she assumes her sibling married for money. Living the life of a Jayhawker socialite, Lottie works as director of the Carlton County Historical Society; a role she thought would be fun. She is also the district manager of the election campaign for senate by Zelda's nephew Brian Hadley.

Lottie enjoys her life until someone murders Zelda. The victim's daughter Judy accuses Brian's mother her drama queen Aunt Fiona of the homicide. To keep her silent while sheriff Sam Abbott investigates, Lottie hires Judy as a research assistant at the Historical Society who finds the records of a similar homicide in the archives. Keeping Judy safe ad silent backfires when someone kills Judy. Shorthanded Sam hires Lottie to make inquiries while the state police investigate the two murders.

This is an exciting Kansas amateur sleuth tale starring a wonderful heroine who plays Mozart, fires a gun accurately, and deals with all sorts of relatives from her and his families who loath the marriage to Keith. The story line is fast-paced from the opening theatrics of Fiona until the final confrontation. Fans will play in their heads The Magic Flute while somewhat ignoring a civilian hired as a temporary on a homicide investigation because Lottie makes the tale fun to read.

Gran's Secret
Trevis Powell
Black Wyrm
Chimney Ridge Ct, Louisville, KY 40299
9780982006771, $11.95

Since the wolves and the werewolf attack on Cobble (see ALBRIM'S CURSE), village life has changed dramatically. Many died before leader Gran killed the beast. Her son Borel was one of the buried and her grandson Albrim was bitten and changed. However, instead of killing him as she knows she should have, Gran could not murder her last blood kin. She arranged for the outcast Mute the Giant to control Albrim while with the help of a few loyal villagers she pretends to bury him.

Gran now runs the Bucket of Ale when a woman warrior arrives asking questions about the Were assault and survivors. Jarma explains to the brave elderly Gran she is a Were hunter and knows there are more in the area. The old woman rarely has fears, but now fears for the life of her grandson; she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jarma is not leaving the area until she totally believes no Weres live nearby. Gran sets in motion her second scheme to keep her grandson alive, but Jarma refuses to quit on her quest. She and the enemy Quarg want Albrim; the former wants him dead and the latter wants him captured. Only his beloved Gran and his mentor Mute want him to live free.

The second Were-War fantasy thriller is a terrific exciting tale as the adventures of Albrim as a werewolf continues with people after him. The story line is character driven by the opposing camps whose agenda re Albrim radically differ. High school age fans will enjoy GRAN'S SECRET anticipating from the moment Jarma and Gran challenge one another the converging of adversaries on the crosshairs target Albrim.

Falcon's Bend Case Files Volume II
Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780578031095, $15.00 (print), $5.99 (download)

"Murder on the Heartstrings". Police Lieutenant Pete Shasta promises his wife Lisa that their celebration of her birthday and Valentines Day will include no investigations. Upon arrival at the Honeymoon Haven Inn, they are greeted by a blizzard and the murder of the hotel masseuse.

"Flashback". Police Lieutenant Danny and his wife Melody Vincent prepare a nursery for the child they are expecting when Lucinda Staub, missing for seven months, arrives. Her frightened husband Ryan refuses to allow her back into their home; insisting she has fought and defeated the devil; Danny investigates what happened to Lucinda.

"Double Take". Police officers and lovers Amber Carfi and Warren Jensen investigate the theft of a valuable painting stolen from the Brooks Gallery. To the shock of the cops and the owner Victor Brooks, the brazen thief returns the next day to purloin two more paintings.

" Retribution". Lisa and Melody are not thrilled that their spouses ogle the hot Latina, six foot plus neighbor Cassandra Delicia. When Cassandra vanishes leaving behind her two young children Chastity and Owen, Lisa, depressed over the loss of her unborn child, investigates the vanishing while watching over the kids.

"Up in Smoke". With Melody in labor, Pete teams with Sergeant Jeff Chopp to investigate a robbery and arson at Mitchell Ferrara's Christmas tree farm that is now out of business for the season due to the fire.

"Ghost of the Past". Amber looks forward to enjoying the evening with Warren; she stops for take-out at the Rainbow Cafe only to have Ericka Callister claim a teen is stalking her. Amber knows in 1989 sixteen years old Ericka gave birth to a son she wrapped inside a pillowcase and tossed into a dumpster; he survived so Amber wonders if it is he?

The return to Falcon's Bend for six more cases is a terrific anthology that looks deep into the lives of cops and their significant others as each thrives for normalcy while also conducting investigations into the abnormal behavior of criminals.

The Hottie Next Door
Shiloh Walker, Elisa Adams and Ruth D. Kerce
Ellora's Cave
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439102954, $14.00,

"Good Girls Don't" by Shiloh Walker. Lori catches her fiance Dirk in their bed with Sara. She kicks to the curb the cheating ex and goes to the Expose Sex Club for adventure. Her next door neighbor Detective Mike responds to her fantasy because she has been his fantasy for quite awhile.

"Drop Dead Sexy" by Elisa Adams. Joy is writing a magazine article on how women can make their man's fantasy come true. She asks her neighbor Nathan if she can interview him. He says that's only words; instead let him demonstrate what he desires from his woman with her.

"Virgin Seeks Bad-Ass Boy" by Ruth D. Kerce. Twenty-four years old librarian Alice has seen Caleb with all types of women and decides she wants a piece of the action. She brazenly informs him she wants him to deflower her. He tries to talk her out of it, but acquiesces when she mentions her second choice twice divorced and much older Ed.

These three well written erotic romantic novellas are entertaining tales because each author insures the lead neighbors are fully developed (and not just in one male organ) before they work the sheets, tables and a few other hard and soft spots.

Gloria Mallette
Gemini Press
Unit A1, Dolphin Way, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex BN43 6NZ
9780967878935, $15.00,

Romance writer Sassy Davenport is a very good author, but has one problem; she has issues describing the romantic moments as she has no experience. At a book signing, a customer and obviously a fan, architect Norris Yoshito asks her to autograph the ten books written by her that he is buying. She is stunned as males never read her books; even her close friend Kenneth refuses. In fact Norris stopped for a moment at the store not intending to buy books from an unknown author, but the first time ever he saw her face (nod to Roberta Flack); he became a believer in love at first sight.

They become an entry as Norris wins her heart with his kindness towards her. That changes when he arrives and forces Kenneth to leave her apartment; he angrily screams at her, scaring Sassy. Soon afterward, even more frightening to her, Norris insists he never came to her apartment and has never met Kenneth. Sassy loves him but now fears him as she witnessed what he denied and the police want him for the murder of people who were close to him as they have witnesses; yet she sees how tender he is towards her beloved cousin Bernard, dying from AIDS.

This is a fascinating psychological drama as readers will wonder whether Norris is a clever killer, has an unknown twin, suffers from dissociative disorder, or someone sinister and loathing like his Tokyo childhood buddy somehow disguised as him. Sassy knows that the Norris she loves is kind and caring towards others, which compares favorably vs. Kenneth who thinks of Kenneth first and last. The other Norris is violent and apparently deadly. Fans and Sassy will wonder who he is and what he plans for her.

Child's Play
Carmen Posadas
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, NY, NY 10022-5299
9780061583629, $24.99,

In a private school in Madrid four decades ago, Antonio Gasset drowns in the swimming pool. His twin brother Miguel never quite got over the final separation between them when they were just young students.

Now forty years later, Miguel meets his school-days' friends, Sofia Marquez and Luisa Davila. Sofia teaches at the school they attended while her class includes her daughter Avril, Luisa's daughter Elba and Miguel's son Miki; all tweeners. Miguel is in a nasty custody battle with his fourth wife and Luisa has changed from children's writer to cerebral mysteries. When Miki dies falling down stairs at the school, the novelist begins seeing murderers lurking at every corners of the school; no different than how she felt when Antonio allegedly accidentally died.

With all that is going on, CHILD'S PLAY lacks suspense as the intriguing story line has more of a philosophical loquacity to it than an action thriller. The key cast members are fully developed, but are introspective even when they debate what happened then and what is occurring now. Well written with a harrowing profoundness that is not for everyone especially those readers who prefer action, Carmen Posades provides an interesting relationship drama in which the ties that bind the living are death.

Two of the Deadliest: New Tales of Lust, Greed, and Murder from Outstanding Women of Mystery
Elizabeth George
9780061350337, $25.99

The premise for this entertaining anthology is most crime focuses on two of the seven deadly sins: Lust and Greed with twenty-three contributions ranging the gamut of the crime caper environs. There are no clinkers, but some are super especially those that get to the point of lust and or greed right away while a few are only okay because they take too long to establish the premise or too short to explore the concept. Especially enjoyable is Marcia Talley's "Can You Hear Me Now", which will remind readers of a scene from Annie Hall with Marshal McLuhan, as an odious cell phone user who gets what he deserves. I am personally a sucker for stories containing late writers from long ago (though an overdone sub-genre) like Sherlock Holmes commentaries that enhance the strong entry by Linda Barnes as love hurts in "Catch Your Death" and Wendy Hornsby's "Violinist" virtuoso to Jack London. The best entry is "The Runaway Camel" by Barbara Fryer in which a lusting fan is stalked by a lusting fan. Also fascinating is Patricia Smiley's "The Offer" in which a woman from the Pacific Northwest comes to Los Angeles to compete for a job that seems perfect until she learns too late the real price of relocation. Overall this is a superb look at lust and greed as seen through the eyes of the Outstanding Women of Mystery.

A Twisted Ladder
Rhodi Hawk
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765323736, $14.99,

Tulane University psychologist Dr. Madeleine LeBlanc has a personal interest in cognitive schizophrenia as her father "Daddy Blank" and her brother Marc suffered from the illness. Maddy has spent her medical career seeking the cause of the crippling disease and its prevention. Since her brother's suicide while fishing on Bayou Black, she fears the disease will prove genetic.

Maddy is also afraid she might be schizophrenic or a schizoid psychotic when a "devil-child" visits her psychically. With help of Tulane neurologist Ethan Manderleigh, Maddy investigates her heritage especially on the family sugarcane plantation. However, instead of a better understanding of herself and her kin dating back to her nasty voodoo queen great-grandmother, she believes a childhood friend is a serial killer though she wonders if her conclusion is caused by her mental state rather than facts.

The fun in this exciting urban psychological suspense fantasy is the blending of voodoo with modern mental health research. The story line is refreshing due to those ties that connect in the soul of Maddy. She fears she will be a chip off the old block of her schizophrenic father or her nasty century plus old voodoo queen great-grandmother; either side is a genetic loser in Maddy's mind as each lead to madness. With her only hope for survival rests in understanding her complete heritage, Maddy flashbacks to Prohibition New Orleans to comprehend Chloe's salad days. Fans will enjoy the aptly titled A TWISTED LADDER as the heroine ponders nurturing vs. naturing with her DNA and her childhood tainted in this terrific refreshing character driven thriller.

Civil Twilight
Susan Dunlap
Counterpoint Press
2117 Fourth Street, Suite D, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781582434520, $25.00,

In San Francisco lawyer Gary Lott persuades his stuntwoman sister Darcy to do him a favor; he asks her to occupy his client Karen Johnson while concealing what she does from their sibling John the cop. Though she has a zillion questions Darcy meets Karen, who says she is divorcing her spouse former football star Matt, but Gary is not a divorce lawyer.

Not long after her meeting with Darcy, Karen leaps from a high-rise building onto a freeway. Her suicide bewilders Darcy; so she investigates the woman. Darcy learns that Karen had numerous identities, but the one most stunning is that of Sonora Eades, who allegedly stabbed to death a noted cookbook author over a quarter of a century ago.

Zen Buddhism is the key to solving the murder, the suicide, the multiple identities and the key question of "How do you step off the hundred-foot pole?" Fans will enjoy seeing San Francisco through the eyes of the heroine as she brings her Buddhist perspective to landmarks. Brisk with a great final twisted confrontation to a terrific whodunit and a surprising killer, CIVIL TWILIGHT is a fabulous San Francisco treat.

Benny & Shrimp
Katarina Mazetti
Penguin Press
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson St, 4th fl, New York, NY 10014
9780143115991, $14.00,

In northern Sweden, librarian Desiree the "Shrimp" is adjusting to becoming a widow while Benny the dairy farmer works his family land. Neither realizes how lonely they are until they unexpectedly meet at a cemetery where Benny is visiting his late mom and Desiree her recently deceased spouse. Each is reticent but attracted to the other.

They hit it off as each finds a need fulfilled with the other. However, soon after the first euphoria wears off, Benny prefers cows while Desiree devours books. Desiree detests his dilapidated farm while Benny loathes her indifference towards housekeeping. However, as their social diversity proves wider than the Baltic Sea, they both fear loneliness and rationalize the sex is great; but at night alone each ponders is that all there is?

The story line rotates perspective between two lonely thirtyish people who find a precarious relationship that is anchored on sex as they share little else in common. Both characters are fully developed so that the audience can see what motivates them and especially what turns them off; ironically their significant other fails to comprehend what makes them shut down. Well written, the plot makes a strong case for compatibility as opposites may attract but cannot remain cohesive. Although the ending is forced and feels unrelated to what has happened between the librarian and the farmer, fans will enjoy Katarina Mazetti's answer to the Beatles' question of Where do all the lonely people go? (Eleanor Rigby).

In the Guise of Mercy
Wendy Hornsby
Perservance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564744821, $14.95,

On Monday documentary editor Maggie MacGowan's life changes forever because her beloved husband Los Angeles Police Detective Mike Flint killed himself rather than let cancer rot him to death. In his goodbye note to Maggie, Mike asks her to forgive him and to find out what happened to Jesus Ramon, a cold case that always haunted him.

A decade ago, Mike put the diminutive sixteen years old gangbanger drug dealing snitch in his car. When he drops the teen off, he disappears without a trace. Maggie begins to sleuth starting her inquiries with cops, gang members, drug dealers and users as she cannot say no to a dead man she loves. However, one person carefully observes her progress and when she begins to get close to the hidden secrets he conceals, he cuts her brake line.

Although one must wonder why Mike would knowingly endanger his surviving loved one instead of retiring and going out with one last glorious investigation as a civilian, fans will be hooked by this poignant amateur sleuth from the onset when Mike who lived life to the fullest and took charge of his life decides to take charge of his death too. Maggie understands why he committed suicide and honors his last wishes by investigating the disappearance of Jesus. Her inquiry is brilliantly done step by step though she makes missteps along the way. Wendy Hornsby makes an emotional case that the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness also by its denotation also includes the ability to choose death in this strong inspirational but mentally draining tale.

An Old Chaos
Sheila Simonson
Perseverance Press
9781880284995, $14.95

Latouche County Sheriff Mack McCormick and his wife Beth moved into a McMansion on Prune Hill. They got a fabulous deal from developer Fred Drinkwater who made a substantial donation for Mack's fifth term as sheriff. After dinner, Beth notices a crack on a wall going from top to bottom; she fixes it and does not give it another thought.

Police Officer Robert Neill's cousin surveyed the site where the homes in Prune Hill are; his mentor classifies them as a Class II Landslide hazard Area. Drinkwater hires his own geologist to get the State to declare the location as Class III; the Board of Commissions approve. Rob warns the sheriff who ignores him. A couple of weeks later, the hill collapses, destroying the homes, killing the sheriff and others, and severely injuring many surviving residents. Drinkwater is found dead with the autopsy report ruling murder. The prevailing theory is that Drinkwater bribed someone to suppress the first assessment, but the most likely person to have done that is dead too. Rob struggles with investigating the tragedy that could have been prevented if avarice had not prevailed.

This terrific police procedural will resonate with readers as greed unchecked can go amuck. The culture of this small western Washington State county is a critical part of the tale as the tragedy impacts everyone including those living on the Klalos Reservation. The viewpoints change adding to the sadness as the characters before, during, and after the collapse make for a stirring intelligent story line.

Stolen Heat
Elisabeth Naughton
Love Spell
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780505527943, $7.99,

In Egypt, Katherine Meyer supposedly died in a car bombing. However, unbeknownst to those who wanted her dead, she remains alive but in hiding. Six years since her death, Katherine surfaces risking her life to break into an auction house in order to steal an ancient artifact before it falls into the wrong hands; as it contains secrets that some nefarious villains will murder to possess.

She fails to escape totally as her adversaries including her former lover Peter Kauffman not only see her; they know who she is. Although Peter betrayed her in Egypt six years ago, Kat saves his life. They flee into the night to buy time and regroup as they ponder who wants her dead.

This is more a terrific thriller with a romantic subplot supporting the action then and now. The key to STOLEN HEAT is the effortless moving back and forth in time so readers know first hand what happened six years ago and what is happening now. Kat is a fabulous focus as she holds the exhilarating tale together with enemies wanting her dead while the man she loved and still does swears he will keep her safe this time though she knows he betrayed her the last time they were together. As she did with STOLEN FURY, Elisabeth Naughton will have readers spellbound with this action-packed romantic suspense with its emphasis on suspense.

A Wolf in Wolf's Clothing
Deborah MacGillivray
Love Spell
9780505527813, $6.99

Trevelyn Sinclair Mershan understands what it feels like to be schizoid. His goal set by his older brother years ago has been to destroy the Montgomerie family whom he holds culpable for the suicide of his father. However, he has a slight problem as his heart tells him to modify his goal and go after Raven Montgomerie.

She haunts him 24/7. He plans to stay the course by ruining Raven. However, obstinate as he is, the Auld Souls intercede as do an odd mechanical gypsy fortuneteller. Trev feels like a traitor as he is deeply in love with the enemy while invading her home Colford Hall.

The third Mershan brother contemporary romance (see INVASION OF FALGANNON ISLE and RIDING THE THUNDER) is an enjoyable tale that runs time-wise parallel to the stories of Trev's siblings; thus he feels remorse and guilt at the same time love because ironically unlike the readers he is unaware that his older brother, who has planned their revenge for years, has the same predicament. A WOLF IN WOLF'S CLOTHING is a terrific finish to an engaging trilogy; kudos to Deborah MacGillivray who stayed consistent throughout the saga yet also entertaining.

The Night Side
Melanie Jackson
Love Spell
9780505528049, $7.99

The recent rout at Solway Moss battle left Balfour clan without a leader as the laird and his sons were all killed. The new laird is twelve years old George, who resides with his cousin, Lady Frances Balfour, who vows to protect him with the intensity of a lioness with her cubs.

Frances keeps hearing the howling of the ghostly canine Bokey. The residents insist the hound appears and howls whenever a Balfour is about to die. Frances fears that someone could be George as several people want to usurp the chieftain position from the lad whose only protection is the daughter of the dead laird. Frances fears she will be forced to wed. Hope arrives when King Henry VIII sends espionage agent Colin Mortlock to learn what is going on with the Balfour Clan at Noltland Castle; between a ghost and spirited female he learns more than he expected about life and love..

THE NIGHT SIDE is a typical Henry VIII romance that brings to life the intrigue and distrust that permeates much of Scotland and cleverly fostered by the English in the early 1540s. The lead couple is a delightful refreshing pairing as the heroine sees the outsider as her and her nephew's salvation. Melanie Jackson provides an entertaining paranormal historical as the spy comes out of the cold when he falls in love.

Seduce Me
Robyn DeHart
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446542005, $6.99,

In 1887 the Solomon's gentlemen society hire artifact hunter Viscount Fielding Grey to find Pandora's Box; he agrees to undergo the mission though he blames the society for the death of his father. The society fears the legendary relic falling into the wrong hands that of Fielding's nefarious uncle Raven.

His uncle finds the ancient object and believes the key to opening it resides with scholar Esme Worthington; so he kidnaps her to force her to release the curses upon humanity. She peaks inside and soon is wearing the bracelet marked "lust" that turns the reticent spinster into a siren. Fielding rescues her, but also struggles with desire and need. Outraged with the setback from his nephew, Raven comes for them and the box as he continues his plan to destroy the world starting with his nephew and the woman who can free the curses on the Victorian world.

Placing Indiana Jones and Joan Wilder (of Romancing the Stone) in a Victorian Era thriller is what Robyn Dehart does with her latest fun Legend Hunters saga. The fast-paced story line starts off with plenty of actions in a tomb near Alexandria and never slows down as Fielding rescues Esme, but struggles with her "carrying one of the seven deadly sins, lust; she has the same issues. As they struggle with lust and soon love they also must flee yet prevent his uncle from releasing the curses on humanity).

Dark Hunger
Rita Herron
9780446199483, $6.99

CNN reporter Annabelle Armstrong believes she has a strong story involving reclusive Quinton Valtrez; she feels he is an assassin and plans to prove it. However, when she finally meets the enigmatic man, Annabelle feels a stunning attraction to him.

A half-breed demon human, Quinton Valtrez has spent his life trying to control his dark side. He currently works for Homeland Security's top secret Ghost Cell hunting down paranormal predators. To his chagrin, he is attracted to the nosy intrepid journalist.

They soon learn of a pending terrorist attack that each hopes to prevent from happening; to do so they must team up though each fears doing so as their desire feels overwhelming. The evidence points towards demons bent on world domination behind the planned assault, but given the facts Annabelle refuses to believe in paranormal bogeymen until she is captured. Now Quinton has to save the purebred he loves while knowing if he succeeds she will see his tainted soul and her human DNA will knee jerk react by loathing his demonic half.

With a paranormal tour of Southern cities, the second Demonborn urban romantic fantasy (see INSATIABLE DESIRE) is an entertaining thriller starring a disbelieving reporter and a hybrid proof. The story line focuses on their relationship over the paranormal anti-terrorism action making the romantic subplot supersede the fantasy that runs throughout. Still fans of the sub-genre will enjoy the engaging DARK HUNGER.

How To Tame a Modern Rogue
Diane Holquist
9780446197052, $6.99

Her beloved grandma who raised her following the desertion of her parents suffers from dementia; Grandma believes it is the Regency era in England. Although she is leaving New York for San Francisco, high school teacher Ally Giordano wants to do something fabulous for her beloved Granny Donny.

Ally hires a horse drawn coach to take her grandma to a luxurious estate in the country. The driver Mateo and even the horse Paula persuade Granny Donny that they are in the Regency era. However, the final nail to her belief is Sam Carson, whom she believes is a duke. Matchmaking her granddaughter with a duke, Granny Donny works on her reluctant relative and even more reluctant beau planning the ball of the century.

This is a whimsical contemporary romance that brings the Regency Era into a modern day environs that will remind readers of Frank Capra's A Pocket Full of Miracles. Sam the rake cannot help but fall in love with the two women who have turned his lifestyle upside down when they made him the heroic prince of Ally's fairy tale as written by Granny Donny. The key characters are fully developed which turns Diane Holquist's quirky romance into a charmer.

Where Eagles Fly
Lisa Norato
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594147630, $25.95,

In Wyoming, almost forty year old Shelby McCoy expects to never find her true love but refuses to settle for less. She drives to the dude ranch owned by her sister Caitlin and her husband Michael Ketchum. Her companion is her Pomeranian Jorge when her car breaks down near the ranch. Shelby and Jorge walk towards the Flying Eagle.

However, something odd occurs as she sees a man on a horse and a woman with a teen in a horse drawn carriage. Rose St. Cloud seems kind so Shelby mentions her vehicle broke down, but when she looks around the paved road is gone and her car is nowhere in sight. Rose's two sons who are with her, silent horse whisperer Ruckert and thirteen year old Wyle, think she is a bit crazy, but Rose shows her the letter from her grandma's grandma Nana Marie Tinkler saying she is coming as their cook. Shelby soon learns somehow she is in 1886 near Laramie and meets the third son Holden, but finds herself ironically in love with Ruckert who feels the same way though his stuttering interferes with his telling her.

This is a whimsical time travel romance starring a woman who refuses to settle for anything less than love. With a great stunning final twist, the story line is fun to follow as Shelby is a realistic lead character refusing to accept she has gone back in time over a century to find love. Although how she did it is only partially explained, fans will enjoy her falling in love with a terrific horse whisperer who can communicate with wild stallions but stutters amongst humans.

Kitty Hitter
Andy Straka
Five Star Books
1594148120, $25.95

Eagle Eye private investigator Darla Barns asks former NYPD police detective Frank Pavlicek to help her on the case of the stolen kitty. The Charlottesville, Virginia private eye agrees to come back to Manhattan accompanied by his daughter Nicole. In exclusive Manhattan co-op Grayland Tower, several people have complained about a bird of prey the Great Horned owl attacking their pets. The client is animal rights activist Dr. Korva Lonigan who claims her cat Groucho was abducted and probably killed by the predatory bird.

Darla and the father and daughter team are attacked at the airport. Clues lead to Central Park and Westchester. Further digging connects Korva to the affluent Egyptian-American developer she accuses of being behind the assaults. Complicating the inquiry is the shooting deaths of two gangbangers, right where the Virginians are following leads in Central Park that with each clue seems increasingly sordid and focused on a young Falconer and a bird of prey.

This is a terrific whodunit as what seems no more than an amusing minor tenant dispute with a landlord turns into a dangerous inner city mystery. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but it is the twists that keep on coming yet seem plausible that will hold reader's attention throughout. Andy Straka as he received with Frank's tale COLD QUARRY will obtain plenty of accolades for KITTY HITTER (except for the too clever title).

To Grandmother's House
Glen Ebisch
Five Star Books
9781594147647, $25.95

Laura Magee was the art writer at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts until she lost her position and her boyfriend painter Owen Reynolds. Leaving Boston, she moves in with her grandma in the nearby college town Ravensford. When the Ravensford Chronicle's most popular columnist, Auntie Mabel dies after over three decades of advice, the owner Roger St. Claire hires Laura to continue the column as few people knew that Mabel was Ann Rickdorf.

Ravensford College head of security Keith Campbell charges into the newspaper's office demanding to see Auntie Mabel for the column she wrote yesterday. Apparently her advice persuaded his Amazonian girlfriend, college art teacher Heidi Lipton, the renowned "Pottery Princess", to dump him. Laura hides her alter ego from him, but offers to go out with him to make Heidi jealous even though she is attracted to the handsome Keith. At a gala, art department chair Jack Proctor is found dead when Laura accidentally falls on him at the bottom of some stairs. Heidi's bracelet is found with him. As Police detective Michael Farantello tells her to stay out of his inquiry as she has compromised the crime scene already; Laura helps him anyway.

This is a fun lighthearted whodunit as the heroine goes from no men in her life to three men (Keith, Frank and Owen who has come to the college) to maybe one man. The mystery is cleverly designed so that the beautiful but clearly strong Heidi seems to havs committed the crime as she and the victim had issues, were arguing, and her bracelet was found on him; strength, size, and height being a key reason why she is a prime suspect and Laura is not. Fans will enjoy this entertaining Massachusetts frolic as the art of the heroine's late grandfather becomes the center of the conflict.

The Desert Hedge Murders
Patricia Stoltey
Five Star Books
9781594147852, $25.95

In her mind her brother reclusive clairvoyant Willie Grisseljon, a sexagenarian like she is, conned into going with their octogenarian mom and the other Florida Flippers traveling Miami Dolphins' fan club to Laughlin, Nevada. The former judge and retired Fed widow Sylvia Thorn wonders what trouble can the Flippers get into on their trip when they find a corpse in the bathtub of a room shared by Sandra Pringle and non-member Patsy Strump.

Sandra turns up missing while the troupe heads off to the Lone Cactus Gold Mine. There they find Sandra's corpse. Willie has a vision of his sister in trouble so with his dad at his side; they race to Nevada while the FBI Agent Damon Falls investigates the goings on at the Mohave County, Arizona mine though he would not mind investigating the much older Sylvia in a more exclusive luxurious locale. As Sylvia tries to keep the Flippers out of trouble, trouble seems to find them; so with Patsy, her sibling, her parents, the other Flippers, and a six foot plus female dynamo, she leads the inquiry (more like a chaotic retreat) into the death of Sandra that forces law enforcement at all levels to share notes.

Though over the top of Hoover Dam, THE DESERT HEDGE MURDERS is an amusing amateur sleuth tale in spite of the fact the lead "detective" has experience as a former FBI agent. The story line is as fast as Freda the amazon drives her bike and never slows down even when the seniors are a bit tired. Fans will enjoy this zany Nevada-Arizona whodunit.

Peace, Love and Murder
Nancy Holzner
Five Star Books
9781594147753, $25.95

When Bo Forrester was eighteen, he could no longer reside at the commune his gentle parents raised him in; so he enlisted with the army. Two decades later, he has come home to Rhodes, New York praying they can reconcile, but the commune has been replaced by a sub-division and no one seems to know where his parents went except somewhere out west. He drives a cab while seeking information on his parents.

He is driving Carl and Ronnie to work when Deputy Sheriff Trudy Hauser stops the cab for speeding. Ronnie flees, but Trudy tackles him and finds marijuana on him. When Bo pops the trunk, Trudy stares at a corpse; later identified as history professor Fred Davies. Whereas Trudy believes Bo is guilty and follows him legally and not so legally, he begins to investigate and soon finds a horde of people who loathed Davies; others die, but though suspicion remains even stronger that Bo is the killer, Trudy believes he is innocent and teams up with him to uncover the killer.

This is an enjoyable whodunit starring a fascinating hero who grew up as "Rainbow", a name he detested, but now misses his loving parents. His relationship with Bo turns from suspicions and distrust to strong attraction and maybe love although the change by Trudy seems too abrupt and ends her Inspector Girard like persistence of chasing the "fugitive" that added freshness to the mystery (even if she should have been suspended). Still fans will appreciate this fine murder who-done-it enhanced by Bo's past and look forward to a sequel in which he goes west to track his parents.

Barbara Fleming
Five Star Books
9781594147906, $25.95

In 1872 in Cincinnati, Ohio, her stepfather Karl Schussman informs Hannah Morris that she will marry Widower Wilhelm Hessler, a church elder with three offspring. Although she loathes leaving her mom behind with this martinet, Hannah boards the train to St. Louis to meet her beloved Lucas Bowman, a bi-racial son of a former slave raised in Paris where he became a physician.

They join a wagon train to California with Lucas pretending to be Hannah's servant. However, in the Colorado Territory, Lucas saves the life of child bitten by a snake. The lad's mother is extremely grateful while the father is outraged that a person of color touched his son. Hannah and Lucas are forced to leave the wagon train at night during a driving rain. They are fortunate to meet homesteaders Alma and Adam who help them settle in the farm next door. When the circuit judge arrives, the couple marries and over the next few years seems happy raising their children. However, when an angry Southern racist is murdered; just before dying he accuses Lucas of killing him to the sheriff. Lucas is arrested and stands trial.

Although the last chapter seems unneeded tying all the loose threads of what happens to everyone, the audience will relish this super Reconstruction Era bi-racial romance. The Civil War is over, but the prejudice remains the same as educated physician Lucas has to pretend to be a servant and is in trouble for saving a white boy's life. Hannah is a strong individual as is Lucas. Readers will relish their efforts to build a life together in an America that may have legally freed the slaves, but economically and socially keep blacks apart and beneath the whites. Barbara Fleming provides a strong historical fiction tale.

Breaking Loose
Tara Janzen
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440244707, $7.99,

General Grant, head of the Special Defense Forces, has no one ON THE LOOSE for his latest mission. Instead he sends contractor agent Suzi Toussi, a fine art expert (as both are needed on this assignment), to Paraguay to find and retrieve the stolen Memphis Sphinx that allegedly has mystical powers.

Also seeking the ancient Egyptian statue is Dax Killian, who needs the Sphinx to make an exchange with Erich Warner for information she possesses and he desperately wants to makes a Faustian deal. He is taken aback to see Suzi in a dive in dangerous Ciudad del Este. Dax vows to assist her in obtaining the Sphinx, but he will then snatch it from her; but soon finds he is rescuing her from one hot spot after another until their passion ignites.

This is a fast-paced SDF action thriller that will remind readers of Romancing the Stone with a roguish hero and an art guru who proves masterpiece paintings and kicking butt are compatible. The story line is fast-paced and somewhat over the top of Cerro Peró, but no one will care as the game is afoot with Dax struggling between his growing love for Suzi and his need to purloin the relic from her.

The Calligrapher's Daughter
Eugenia Kim
Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9780805089127, $26.00,

When his daughter is born, aristocratic traditionalist Han refuses to name her because Japan occupies the Korean Peninsular. Instead the newborn becomes known as "baby", etc. Fives years after her birth she is lovingly nicknamed Najin, the name of her mom's hometown. When Najin turns fourteen years old, her strict father decides she needs a spouse of his choice. Her usually obedient mother objects and instead sends her daughter to the royal court.

Najin graduates from college and becomes a teacher. She goes home to marry, but soon afterward, her loving husband obtains a visa to study in America while she is denied one due to her humanitarian activities. The Japanese occupation turns brutal as they assault Korean tradition and destroy affluent families like that of calligrapher Han. Najin is arrested and incarcerated as a spy while the war expands into WWII.

This is a super look at Korean history from WWI through WWII as seen by the heroine, but also provides some insight into the rich heritage of the country. For instance the ruling Joseon Dynasty lasted over five centuries before the Japanese finally destroyed it in 1910 though the seeds of interring the Yi monarchy occurred in the 1905 Russo-Japanese Treaty that ironically is highly regarded in American history books as top rate Teddy Roosevelt diplomacy. The story line is super as the audience follows Najin's life, but is owned by the profound look at the brutal Japanese occupation, which turns THE CALLIGRAPHER'S DAUGHTER into an excellent biographical historical fiction novel based on the life of author Eugenia Kim's mom.

Richard North Patterson
9780805087734, $26.00

Football star Mark Darrow receives an athletic scholarship to play at Caldwell College in Wayne, Ohio. While there he discovers the corpse of African-American student Angela Hall. The police arrests Mark's best friend Steve Tillman, who is convicted for murdering the coed.

While Mark goes on to law school and becomes a nationally prominent defense attorney, Steve remains in prison insisting he is innocent. Sixteen years since Angela was murdered, Caldwell College is in deep trouble over an embezzlement scandal of a just under a million dollar endowment. Desperate to save the college, Mark's former mentor at the school and current Provost Professor Lionel Farr asks him to return as the school president so that alumni money does not stop. He agrees as a favor for his friend. However, he also looks into the embezzlement that got his predecessor in trouble and the homicide that has locked away his best friend. His efforts has some people wanting him stopped anyway they can even murder.

Fascinatingly the suspense is not driven by action, but by how deep Richard North Patterson enables his fans to know Mark; thus everything that he does or occurs to him is enhanced by him seeming like a relative or close friend. His escapades to learn the truth then and now places the hero in danger from someone who wants the facts to remain interred and if necessary inter the amateur sleuth. Fans will enjoy SPIRE simply because of the dedicated obstinate Mark, who is The Little Engine That Could (die).

Always Forever
Mark Chadbourn
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781591027416, $15.98,

The ancient Gods and the Fomorii demons have brought Balor the Heart of Shadows into the world for the first time in eons. The power of the all evil essence is growing and on Samhain the WORLD'S END will be completed.

The last hope for humanity,the five Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, have been defeated by the Fomorii after a horrific battle though they did their best it proved futile during the cataclysmic THE DARKEST HOUR. They are leaderless, scattered apart or dead. Though despondent and filled with a hopeless despair, each one of the quintet continues to risk their lives as they separately try to move past the insufferable loss and seek one another as well as persuade Queen Tuatha de Danann to help them defeat the Fomorii to prevent Balor from succeeding. Church, Ruth, Shavi, Ryan and Laura must find their inner strength for if any falters, it means Balor rules and the end of mankind. Even if they prove successful starting with obtaining Tuatha's help, they will still need to deal with the potentially treacherous Queen.

The third book in The Age of Misrule saga is an excellent finish to a fabulous saga as readers will mark this author for future tales. The story line is action-packed as the follow-up to the stunning defeat in the aptly titled THE DARKEST HOUR which is filled with escapades and adventures, but also allows the audience to see into the hearts and minds of the fearsome five who have no hope for the future as all seems lost. Fans will admire them for their courage to carry on in spite of their anguish, accentuated by the belief some of their allies died. The quintet brings the souls to Mark Chadbourn's great trilogy.

Stalking the Dragon
Mike Resnick
9781591027454, $15.98

In Manhattan, many folks look forward to the Eastminster Dragon Show. The favorite to win the Best in Show award at the competition this year is Fluffy the toy dragon. However, on the eve of the event, someone abducts Fluffy.

Private investigator John Justin Mallory still struggles with adjusting to a New York City unlike the one he comes from as the mythos do not live in his birth Big Apple. He is hired to find and rescue Fluffy in time for the show. Accompanied by his staff Felina and Jeeves, Mallory investigates the snatch even as time is running out on Fluffy making an appearance let alone be ready to win

The third Mallory in a rather different Manhattan is a jocular urban noir (see STALKING THE UNICORN and STALKING THE VAMPIRE) because of Mike Resnick's lampooning of the city starting with the Eastminster Dragon Show and a trip to "Greenwitch Village". The investigation is a lighthearted and engaging tour of an alternate Manhattan. Although the plot is lighthearted Fluffy fun thin, fans will enjoy Mallory and his team as they are STALKING THE DRAGON to rescue the toy dragon in time as the show must go on with or without the star.

Desolation Road
Ian McDonald
9781591027447, $15.98

Earthlings have colonized a small patch of Mars by terra-forming the planet. Amongst the settlements is a shabby locale with a few buildings on what is called Desolation Road. It is a weird place not so much because it look like it lives up to its name, but because of the people who reside there or periodically pass through there.

At one time it was the center of ROTECH and the Bethlehem Ares Corporation. Now that is a distant memory. However, folks like Catch the super snooker star and Adam Black with his Traveling Chautauqua and Educational 'Stravagana showcased the fallen angel always makes stops here. However, perhaps the most fascinating and weirdest is the founder Dr Alimantando, who leaps in and out time and place. This is a town that may be the center of weirdness in the galaxy.

This is a reprint of a 1988 super but strange science faiction that changes direction rather sharply yet somehow smoothly. The story line uses a deep focus into the ensemble cast to tell the vivid story of DESOLATION ROAD and in a sense earth's colonization of Mars. There are many more characters than the few above as the town's founder Dr. Alimantando leaps through time observing what is happening over three decades to his DESOLATION ROAD.

Dust To Dust
Beverly Connor
Obsidian Mystery
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451227683, $7.99,

The RiverTrail Museum of Natural History consulting archaeologist, Barnum University Adjunct Professor Dr. Marcella Payden is shaken up when she is attacked. The museum's director and the head of the Rosewood Crime Lab Diane Fallon and her unit work the assault scene along with Detective Hanks and a uniform when bullets are fired at them. When the dust settles, and the perpetrators are gone for the second time with paintings and pottery stolen whatever is gone is not worth the risk of the second assault.

Former FBI profiler Ross Kingsley visits Diane to ask a favor. He tells her he no longer believes in profiling after the BTK case and a serial rape case he worked. Instead he works for Florida based Darley, Dunn and Upsahw as a private investigator; currently doing a pro bono action. Nine years ago Ryan Dance was given a life sentence for murdering fifteen year old Ellie Rose Carruthers. His younger sister Stephanie believed he was innocent and tried to prove it. Last week the obstinate twenty-three year old was found dead; the cops claim autoerotic asphyxiation as the case. Her father believes she found the proof and was murdered for it. Ross shows Diane a photo of the death scene and the forensic expert begins to make a case that murder occurred.

The latest Diane Fallon investigation (see SCATTERED GRAVES) is a super entry with two strong diverse cases; most fascinating is the refreshing knot forensics spin that shows when readers think they've read or seen everything, something new surfaces. Diane is at her best as she uncovers secrets buried in the dust that those who concealed them thought would be blown away by the wind. This is a great forensics investigative thriller due to a strong cast working complex cases, but especially the super look at criminal science will have the audience profiling Beverly Connor as one of the top mystery writers.

Treasure of the Golden Cheetah
Suzanne Arruda
9780451227898, $24.95

She is known as the lioness Simba Jikefor her courage, honesty, strength and ability to get out of tough situations. Photojournalist Jade Del Cameron likes Africa and constantly risks her life for a story. In 1920 she is part of a safari that is heading towards Mt. Kilimanjaro with actors filming a movie on the treasures left by King Solomon's son Melinek.

While she is doing a feature on the Hollywood group, she also considers Sam Featherstone's marriage proposal. Jade loves Sam, but fears marriage will confine her as she knows he will want to keep her safe while she is a risk taker needing her freedom. The trek proves dangerous with people dying starting with the producer. The deaths initially look like tragic accidents until Jade finally concludes there is a predator amongst the safari. Doing her job, Jade knows she is caught in a precarious situation, but with her friend Jelani the healer and her pal Biscuit the cheetah, Jade vows to end the serial killing spree.

1920 Africa as always owns this fascinating amateur sleuth tale starring a brave heroine who marches to her own drummer. Jade is independent and tough but is also tender and caring. With a nod to Hemingway, the whodunit is fun, but the TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH is as much a great historical as it is a mystery.

Vampire a Go-Go
Victor Gischler
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416552277, $14.99,

Gothic State University grad student blew off the semester when he met Brenda Cole. After she dumped him and he groveled but failed to win her back he finally moved on. His adviser Professor Carpenter and her 122 birds named Admiral Snodgrass say he can salvage his student status by accompanying notoriously known hard-ass Professor Evergreen and his wife on a research prject at a castle in Prague. Although his love is the Bronte sisters perhaps after Brenda's tattoos, Allen absolutely agrees.

In the Czech republic, Allen finds nothing going right as the Battle Jesuits Society of Witches (and one vampire) attack their party. He also concludes that Evergreen seeks the legendary philosopher's stone that reanimate the dead Not sure where he fits in to everyone's plot except as the fall guy, Allen soon meets Cassandra, Amy the good witch with no power and Penny who says she will earn and own him before the summer is through.

Lighthearted fun, VAMPIRE A GO-GO is an enjoyable Prague summer as Allen seems to run into one problem after another as if he is Job. Much of the story line is told by jovial spirited alchemist Edward Kelley or at least his ghost; who moans and groans over the Net's crappy picture of him. The characters are brilliantly developed and seem real (including Allen) so that readers will enjoy the most wonderful summer of Allen's life that is if he survives to the fall.

Brandon Massey
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780786020850, $6.99,

In Atlanta Corey Webb is the poster boy for living the American dream as he runs a successful business has a beautiful caring wife Simone and an adoring precocious nine years old daughter Jada. His perfect world collapses when he runs into his childhood friend from Detroit Leon Sharpe who is maliciously staring at Jada.

On the run from the FBI, Sharpe demands Webb pays for his silence or he will reveal their past associations in Motown. Already on the Ten Most Wanted List, he also threatens Webb's family. Willing to pay the blackmail fee, but not at the cost of his beloved wife and daughter, Webb knows he must find a way to extract his family from Sharpe's deadly entanglement.

That initial encounter on the Atlanta streets is a terrific opening to a fast-paced thriller as Webb's roots come back to entangle him in a deadly scenario. Character driven mostly by the lead pair but nicely supported by Webb's family and others, fans will be excited by the hero's compelling ordeal as the code of the street was DON'T EVER TELL. Exciting and fun in spite of the unlikely circumstances and happenstance making plausibility slight, fans will enjoy this fine family crime caper.

The Rapture
Liz Jensen
Doubleday & Company
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385528214, $24.95,

At the Oxsmith Adolescent Secure Psychiatric Hospital in Hadport, England, wheelchair-bound art psychologist, Dr. Gabrielle Fox takes over treating psychotic teen Bethany Krall. Gabrielle has her issues since the car crash killed her fiance and left her in the chair. The patient-prisoner killed her mom and claims the ability to foresee the future; all her forecasts are dire bleak disasters.

As Gabrielle uses electro-convulsive therapy to literally shock her patient, she begins to realize the teen's uncanny grim predictions are coming true every time. Gabriele begins to comprehend that Bethany's father Reverend Leonard Krall imprinted his "Faith Wave" view of the coming Rapture and those who bear the mark of the beast cannot go to heaven. Gabrielle wonders if she is overreaching in her theory of Bethany's skills and the frequent disasters that the teen predicted and have occurred when she desperately brings her patient's upcoming calendar of calamities to physicist Frazer Melville, who not only does not laugh at the shrink but takes the forecasts dead serious.

THE RAPTURE is an exciting thriller that stars the psychiatrist and the physicist but focus on the teen seer and her skills. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action, but even with efforts top prevents the next calamity from happening, the plot as character driven. Fans and the lead pair will wonder whether the teen is the devil or the savior as Gabrielle and Frazer ironically (from the religious point of view that is) struggle with stopping what seems increasingly the end of days.

Man with the Iron Heart
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780345504357, $18.00,

In 1942 Reinhard Heydrich, the evil designer of the Holocaust, was assassinated in Czechoslovakia by a partisan who hated the Nazis. However, on an alternate earth, Heydrich survived the attempt on his life and received permission from Himmler to create a guerilla army to harass the allies into leaving Germany so the Reich can rebuild. During the next three years, he dropped out of sight and ammo vanished as Heydrich formed the German Freedom Front secretly.

On VE Day, just like Heydrich predicted, the government signed the declaration ending the war in defeat. However, hostilities were not over as Heydrich and his Freedom Front force began their campaign; their efforts killed thousands of occupying allied soldiers. When Mrs. Diana McGuire receives a call that her son died after VE Day, she started a movement that grew rapidly to bring the men home. German POWs are on trial in in Nuremburg charged with war crimes, but the courthouse is destroyed. The trials move to Frankfort, but a suicide bomber ignites a radium bomb making the city uninhabitable. They turn to the Russian occupation next, but the guerillas succeed in disrupting the trials. Germans do not consider the war lost and the allies fear the Nazis like a Phoenix will return to power to continue the fight.

What happened in Iraq and Viet Nam is transposed to late 1940s Germany in THE MAN WITH THE IRON HAND. The German people help the Freedom Front because they seek the removal of foreign occupiers from their soil. The treaty is a piece of paper that proves worthless while the allies ponder a surge of more troops and for how long or withdrawal. Heydrich is sinister and brilliant as he will do anything to force the occupation army to leave. This alternative historical showcases Harry Turtledove at his thought provoking best as the question is how long does a surge (by definition temporary) remain in place and what happens afterward if conditions fall back?

Day of the Damned
David Gunn
Del Rey
9780345500021, $26.00

Following his last bloody operation (see MAXIMUM OFFENSE), not quite human DNA, Army killing machine Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg takes some deserved R&R at the home of theWildside. That ends abruptly when his Commander General Jaxx sends a message to perform a cleansing mission with a new unit in his home city Farlight; the capital is in the midst of a brutal civil war; the reign of boyish looking Emperor OctoV spanning several millennia and tens of thousand planets is in jeopardy of ending.

Sven sans his combat arm or his AI Sag handgun and his squad try to prevent a successful coup d'etat while he still attempts to avoid unnecessary collateral damage in this urban warfare zone while the enemy couldn't care less if planets are destroyed let alone a city to achieve the mission.. The intelligence is weak as no one knows that the rebels have support from the allegedly peace seeking United Free Empire that has plans to annex OctoV's tens of thousands of planets into their spans of control. However the plotting of rulers means nothing to Sven. He lives for two reasons: the promise and the kill.

The third Death's Head far futuristic in space science fiction is an incredibly fast-paced thriller that never takes a breather once the General sends Sven on his mission (almost at the very start of the book) and never decelerates even for a breather. As the speed of light story line moves bloodily on and on, David Gunn also answers much of the questions from the previous Sven's adventures; not an easy task for a writer whose prime color in the minds of the audience is red. Readers will appreciate this bleak look at mankind in outer space still fighting one another.

The Crying Tree
Naseem Rakha
Broadway Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY, 10036
9780767931403, $22.95,

In 1983 Union County, Illinois deputy sheriff Nate Stanley calls his wife Irene to inform her without warning that he accepted a position as a deputy post in Oregon. Irene is angry at her husband for not talking to her before he took the job with his Viet Nam buddy and frightened as she never was west of St, Louis. Still insisting he knows what is best for her and their two kids (teenager Shep and tweener Bliss), he relocates the family.

In Blaine, Oregon, fifteen years old Shep enjoys exploring the countryside and seems settled to the living on the West Coast. However, one day Nate comes home after a shift to find his son in their kitchen savagely beaten and shot in what looks like a robbery turned ugly; Shep dies in his arms. Stunned, Nate and Irene go after the accused cold blooded killer of their oldest child mechanic Daniel Joseph Robbin with cold blooded determination over the next two decades until he is executed by the state. During much of the obsession, Bliss becomes de facto caretaker of her parents as Irene lives for the devil's death and Nate cannot find any solace. However, in 2004 with the execution date set, Irene knows she must see and forgive her son's killer, whom she recently began exchanging letters with, if she is to move on.

THE CRYING TREE is a fabulous family drama that focuses on what happens to surviving loved ones when a violent unexpected tragedy occurs. The five key players in this calamity are fully developed in 1983 and in 2004; ergo the audience sees how much they each has changed over the two decades from the murder to the execution. Although a major "truism" twist will be seen early by everyone and feels intrusive, fans will appreciate Naseem Rakha's engaging aptly titled character story.

Easy on the Eyes
Jane Porter
5 Spot
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446509404, $13.99,

Thirty-eight year old hostess of "America's Sweetheart, Tiana Tomlinson wants to move past entertainment news to real news. However, she fears for her employment as the show's producer plans to bring in a younger fresher face to co-host Wither. She is also strongly suggested to have a face lift or face dire straits.

Plastic surgery is a downer as she does not want any part of it, but losing the show is a bigger issue for Tiana as America's Sweetheart has saved her life and soul since her beloved husband died seven years ago while covering a story in a dangerous part of the world. Tiana meets Hollywood plastic surgeon Michael O'Sullivan and reacts with hostility, a defense mechanism that hides her attraction from him as much as from herself.

This is an engaging chick lit romance that sub-genre fans will enjoy though Tiana's mixed reaction to Michael never quite seems real as it is obvious from the first cut they want each other and will quickly get each other. Still the story line is fun to follow as Jane Porter explores Hollywood's youth obsession making cosmetic plastic surgery a recession proof industry in Southern California.

Civil War
William Manchee
9781929976522, $23.00,

Seventeen year old Leek Lanzia has found life on Tarizon dangerous yet rewarding after being exiled from his birth planet earth. He is the orb's savior if one can believe an ancient prophecy. In that role, Lanzia leads the mutant Loyalists and their allies against the superior forces of the Tarizon Global Army especially their hovertanks.

However, various races who have been divided in the past and encouraged to remain split by the ruling elite have rallied around the savior. Soon the Loyalist side has air power that almost matches their foe. Meanwhile still a teen at heart and in other parts of his anatomy Leek tries to rescue his mate, Lucinda.

The sequel to THE LIBERATOR continues the unlikely but entertaining and satirical adventures of the exiled Leek on Tarizon. He now leads a growing force of mutants and other species n a civil war, but still has issues with raging hormones (though I would like to see more of his raging hormones interfering with his duties and responsibilities) that call for a time out so he can rescue his girlfriend. Once again the underlying message of this fun young adult military science fiction remains at a minimum tolerance for all while the preferable choice would be consensus.

Al and Joanna Lacy
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601420558, $12.99,

In 1888 the Zarbo brothers are the meanest outlaws in the west. They are wanted for murders and bank robberies as they do not care who dies when they do a job.

In Colorado, U.S. Marshal John "The Stranger" Brockman arrests Lee Zarbo, but his siblings Todd and Chice remain free with plans to liberate him. Lee faces the gallows so the Zarbo brood decides to steal a page from the Old Testament by kidnapping John's thirteen-year old daughter Ginny. If he wants her back alive, he must let Lee go; even the Lord cannot give John solace as he loves his three children and his wife with all his heart.

The latest Stranger inspirational western police procedural (see OUTLAW MARSHAL and the mid nineties Western Christian fiction saga The Journeys of the Stranger) is a fabulous historical thriller once the key players are introduced to the audience, but especially after the abduction of Ginny. John and his wife Breanna have doubts that Jesus will protect their daughter; their fifteen year old son John has given up on the Lord while his nine year old adopted sister Meggie expects nothing less than a miracle. Feeling like he is being tested, John struggles with what to do as his fans will rejoice with his journey to the Savior.

Chuck Holton
9781590525609, $12.99

Chernobyl remains a horrific radioactive wasteland due to its nuclear heritage; not just the most famous accident. Now terrorists see the locale as the perfect ground zero to devastate Europe.

U.S. Special Operations Explosives Ordinance Detachment (EOD) unit Task Force Valor is assigned to prevent a disaster in the Ukraine that will make 1986 look like a picnic. CIA Agent Mary "Phoenix" Walker leads the EOD squad with Master Sergeant Bobby Sweeney at her side. Both have issues but especially Mary who still suffers nightmarish flashbacks to when she was a prisoner. The threat widens to include the United States as the terrorists widen the Global War on the NATO alliance.

The third Task Force Valor anti terrorism thriller is the best of a strong series as even with the return of leads and support players from the previous books (see ALLAH'S FIRE and ISLAND INFERNO), the star is Chernobyl. The story line is fast-paced and filled with non-stop action, but it is when the heroes enter the dead zone where the MELTDOWN occurred that the true meaning of nuclear energy having no cost (disposal of the by-product in a waste land apparently does not count) is clear. Fans will relish Chuck Holton's strong tale as the MELTDOWN dead zone eerily hooks the reader.

Shamrock Alley
Ronald Damien Malfi
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781933836942, $24.95,

Secret Service agent John Mavio goes undercover in an effort to break up a particularly violent Irish gang working out of Hell's Kitchen. He plans to end their lucrative counterfeiting operation. As a collateral action, Mavio also hopes to bring to justice two predominantly nasty gang members, two twenty-something age killers Jimmy Kahn and Mickey O'Shay.

To achieve his objective Mavio pretends to be a criminal wanting to buy counterfeit money from Kahn and O'Shay. They do not trust him and he knows it making him wonder if a snitch is in his office working for the gang. Still he persists trying to obtain evidence to send both behind bars even knowing the danger if they uncover his identity to himself and his family; and the realism that O'Shay has never been convicted of any crime even when a cop witnessed him killing someone; which adds to his fear for his loved ones.

This is an interesting Manhattan police procedural that looks closely at the gangs, drugs, and those living at the peripheral on gangbanger waste and charity scraps in the cesspool. Ronald Damien Malfi paints a dark gloomy Manhattan based on a real 1980s case. Although the story line is very straightforward and in some regards narrow, SHAMROCK ALLEY provides readers with a solid undercover investigation and more fascinating in a sad macabre way the life of gangbanger groupies, hanger-ons and dependents.

There Be Dragons
Heather Graham; illustrated by Cherif Fortin & Lynn Sanders
Medallion Press
9781605420714, $25.95

Once upon the time in the medieval magical kingdom of Calasia, Marina is the only surviving member of her family, .the daughter of the House of D'Or, The Count of D'Artois, her step-father is giving Marina in marriage to the Count Carlo Baristo whom his fiancee loathes. Carlo's mother Countess Geovana arranged the marriage by ingratiating herself with D'Artois. While wandering outside the castle a concerned Marina meets a wounded falcon who speaks and insists she is the fairy Thomasina.

The fairy grants Marina three wishes. While one of them is an indulgence in which she asks for Carlo to make a fool of himself, the second is for her to spend a day with the love of her life. That man turns out to be Michelo, the son of Duke Fiorelli, engaged to marry her stepsister Daphne, whom he does not like. Marina and Michelo meet and fall in love. When his father hears from the falcon that Michelo should marry the woman nearest to where an olive branch falls; Geovana will prevent that from happening by conjuring up evil to insure the death of Marina.

People of all ages will enjoy Heather Graham's fine fairy tale enhanced with thirty colorful illustrations by Cherif Fortin & Lynn Sanders spread throughout the novel and a CD of original related Christmas songs. This is a spellbinding tale though like most fairy tales the cast is stereotyped between the forces of good and evil as malevolence can wear the disguise of attractiveness (think of the witch in Snow White) leaving intelligent people to go beyond the surface to the inner beauty.

Reclaim My Life
Cheryl Norman
Medallion Press
9781934755006, $7.95

The English professor calling herself Elizabeth Stevens moved to Drake Springs in the upper part of Florida over a year ago. She is friends with recent arrivals Cathleen Hodge, Kris Knight and Sunny, they frequently get together and go out on the town. Elizabeth Stevens is not her birth name, but that became her name when she entered the witness protection program. There is a hit out for her by Lexington, Kentucky's most renowned surgeon Dr. Frank Sullivan who is up on charges of racketeering and murder which Elizabeth as Sofia Desalvo witnessed; her testimony could lead to Death Row.

He hires the best to find and kill her, but that will not be easy as Elizbath has gained weight, dressed dowdy and cut her hair; she looks nothing like Sofia. Despite her changes, local sheriff Wilson Drake is interested in the drab looking professor and she feels the same though she lives a lie. She fears an assassin is in town searching for her when two of her friends are murdered. Wilson agrees that the killer has moved into Drake Springs. He vows to keep the woman he loves safe, but knows how difficult that will be as the town has numerous newcomers with almost any one of them there for the hit.

Cheryl Norman is a terrific romantic suspense writer whom sub-genre fans should keep an eye on as she is very talented. The heroine is strong willed and refuses to be RUNNING SCARED, but her key trait is her ability to adapt even to adversary and incredible levels of stress and guilt. Wilson knows there is much more to this mysterious woman who as dull Elizabeth still oozes Sofia's charm and realizes she is in the witness protection program, which means he accidentally compromises her. RECLAIM MY LIFE is simply super.

Cleopatra's Daughter
Michelle Moran
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
9780307409126, $25.00,

In 31 BC, with Octavian's Roman legions led by Marcus Agrippa winning the war between the surviving duet of the original Triumvirate and invading Egypt; Marcus Antony and Cleopatra, knowing what to expect from Roman Emperor Octavian, chose suicide. However, Octavian wants vengeance for the affront Marcus did to his sister Octavia, when he dumped her for the Egyptian so he has his soldiers take the three offspring, ten year old twins Alexander and Selene and their younger brother five year old Ptolemy in chains to show off the fate of what happens to those who disobey him. However, Ptolemy dies during the voyage across the Mediterranean.

Over time both twins adjust to being part of Caesar's family as the chains are somewhat removed but never figuratively far away as each sibling understands that at any moment they can be accused of anything whether justified or not. Everyone in Octavian's circle wants to use them as the Emperor's nephew Marcellus and his wife's son Tiberius compete for the role of heir apparent.

Ancient Rome historical fiction fans will enjoy this strong tale as seen through the eyes of CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER Selene, who is sort of like a fly on the wall observing the rivalry to ultimately replace Octavia on the throne. The intrigue and manipulations of the two competitors, their supporters and retinue make for a fascinating historical fiction. Michelle Moran leaves the Emperor and his court with no clothes as she lays bare what drives him and those who ambitiously want to be his replacement.

North! Or be Eaten
Andrew Peterson
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400073870, $13.99,

The reptilian Fangs of Dang crossed the Dark Sea of Darkness, conquered the Skree and instituted brutal martial law based on their bite that slowly and painfully kills (see ON THE EDGE OF THE DARK SEA OF DARKNESS: ADVENTURE, PERIL, LOST JEWELS, AND THE FEARSOME TOOTHY COWS OF SKREE).

In the town of Glipwood had lived the Igiby family of Mother Nia with her father and her three children (sons Janner and Tink, and handicapped daughter Leeli). An incident at the Sea Dragon Festival caused by Leeli's beloved dog Nugget led to the three siblings learning the truth as to who they are; the Lost Jewels of the legendary Kingdom of Anniera. Fang General Khrek knows the prophecy of the Jewels of Anniera and wants to prevent it from occurring by killing the three heirs. Others want them dead also. Their only hope for safety is the frozen tundra of the Ice Prairies that the fangs cannot acclimate to. Besides avoiding Fangs who have a massive alert out for them; they must cross Glipwood Forest filled with monsters who enjoy dining on children; elude the East Bend Stranders who would steal the clothes off their moms while their moms would steal their clothes; and if they are still breathing the horrific Fork Factory, who they fear will use them as part of the manufacturing process.

Fans of the Chronicles of Narnia will enjoy "North! Or be Eaten: Wild Escapes. A Desperate Journey. And the ghastly Grey Fangs of Dang", the second super young adult fantasy while older readers will appreciate this too as this saga runs on several levels. The three Igiby children have plenty of adventures as they head to tundra that the fangs cannot enter, but once again it is the amazing allegedly handicapped Leeli who wins the hearts of the audience with her courage and optimistic outlook. Fans will ponder what escapades Andrew Peterson will come up with next for the three Igiby children to confront.

The Hope of Refuge
Cindy Woodsmall
WaterBrook Press
9781400073962, $13.99,

Twenty-eight years old Widow Cara Atwater Moore accompanied by her seven year old young daughter Lori flee New York City following her husband Johnny's death as his crony Mike wants her in his bed one week after she buried her spouse. She hides in Amish Country because she has some fleeting memories of being there happy as a child before the horrific foster care drained her soul. Mother and daughter go Dry Creek, Pennsylvania where she and her mom once stayed. However, the pair finds a surprisingly hostile greeting as none of the townsfolk want Cara or Laura there as they remember her mother Malinda Riehl Atwarer vividly.

Ephraim Mast is the one exception as he remembers Cara the child. He believes God would want him to help her and Lori and he does though he risks being shunned by his community even his family and his girlfriend Anna Mary Lantz. Cara distrusts Ephraim's offers of assistance as she wonders what is in it for him. His sister Deborah also has issues as her beau of two years Mahlon Stolzfus seems distracted as if he plans to leave.

Ada's House Amish family drama is a terrific character driven tale as Ephraim sets the standard for everyone in Dry Creek when he risks everything to help the innocent but "shunned" due to maternal sins of Cara and Laura. The key cast members will have to look into the mirror as their values and beliefs stare back at them shouting shunning hypocrisy or the HOPE OF REFUGE.

Demon Inside
Stacia Kane
Juno Books
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439155073, $7.99,

Therapist and popular radio personality Dr. Megan Chase understands her true mission in life as the head of the local Yezer Ha-Ra. She and her associates deal with PERSONAL DEMONS though she perhaps is the only human on the planet without a demon inside of her. Ironically her boyfriend Greyson Dante is a powerful fire demon, but lately has been distracted as if the flame between them has burned out.

However, she is chagrined and concerned when she fails at her prime task; instead of keeping demons safe, they explode when she is near. She begins an investigation, but before she can dig deep the police arrest Megan. Soon witches attack her, but neither that assault nor the cops frighten her. What does is a sudden obsessed need for blood in which the source is irrelevant whether it comes from her friends, clients, or a bank does not matter; her unknown past seems to have made a presence.

The return of Megan is a delight as with PERSONAL DEMONS the horde wants to be the one to possess her as their egos insist they are the "one" while at the same time her troubles seem to compound as she begins to learn about her heritage. The story line is fast-paced from the first whisper to the last flame as seemingly everyone chases after the heroine except perhaps the dogs who chase after demons. Fans will enjoy this exciting urban fantasy thriller as the devil is the personal DEMON INSIDE of you.

To Crave a Blood Moon
Sharie Kohler
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
1439101582, $7.99,

In Turkey, lycan hunter Sebastian Santiago chases after a pack, but instead is caught by them. They torture him while the Alpha leader Gunter plans to mate Sebastian with a female of his choice to form a master race. He starves Sebastian and locks him with a female to force his beast to surface leading to his killing the woman located in his cell with him

Weird loner Ruby Deveraux chaperones teens only to see the girls sneak out of their room at night. Ruby pursues them only to be caught in a lycan massacre with her as the only survivor. They toss her into a dank dark cage with a male who seems over the edge. Thus Ruby meets Sebastian who seems weirder than her; they need to team up to find a way to escape before he loses his ebbing control.

The sequel to KISS OF A DARK MOON (starring Sebastian's sibling) is an enjoyable werewolf romantic urban fantasy. The key to the tale is the suspense starting when the lead couple meets in the cell as he struggles not to attack her. Fans of the sub-genre will appreciate Sharie Kohler's character driven tale

Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men
Molly Harper
9781416589433, $7.99

In Half Moon Hollow instead of allowing children's librarian Jane Jameson to die, Gabriel converted her into a vampire and his lover (see NICE GIRLS DON'T HAVE FANGS). She loves her "sire' dearly but also knows he is not honest about where he goes when he leaves town or who the mysterious Jeanine is. Gabriel asks Jane for more time, but swears he will explain all to her soon; she agrees to his request. Meanwhile she works at an occult bookstore owned by Mr. Wainwright who accepts her for what she has become unlike her blood family who are ashamed of her fangs.

She's a bridesmaid for her best friend Zeb and his fiancee Jolene the werewolf. Both families are against the marriage and will do anything to sabotage it. Zeb's mother wants her son to marry Jane and Jolene's pack demands she wed a were. They show their opposition in violent ways, which leaves Zeb to wonder if he can live safely on the same land as his future in-laws. If that is not enough to occupy Jane, she wonders how a dead man can be alive with a zillion spouses who did not survive the first year after saying I do while worrying about her Grandma Ruthie who is next to the altar with this Black Widower.

NICE GIRLS DON'T DATE DEAD MEN is a humorous down to earth vampire thriller with various subplots that add depth to the story line. Molly Harper's take on the vampire mythos is not totally new (see MaryJanice Davidson's Betsy's shoes and all), but refreshed by a terrific heroine who lost her library job due to the hours the place is opened. The eccentric cast adds depth in terms of jocularity as they drive Jane crazy. The different species effectively turn Half Moon Hollow into a unique locale in the urban (make that small-town) fantasy sub-genre. Readers will enjoy what happened to Jane as she finds herself as the forever bridesmaid in dresses that she would not want to be caught dead in let alone attend a wedding.

All Roads Lead Me Back To You
Kennedy Foster
9781439102046, $15.00

In Washington State by the foothills of the Blue Mountains, the blizzard is nasty so Alice Anderson plans to stay inside on her ranch Standfast. That is until she sees a saddled quarter horse wandering aimlessly in the snow. She knows whomever was riding it is in trouble from exposure to the icy weather. Reluctantly after placing the horse in a barn, Alice searches for the missing rider although she fears she will bring home a frozen corpse. She finds him alive so Alice manages to get Domingo Roque on her sled and to the safety of her ranch.

Domingo proves to be an expert vaquero as he helps Alice work her ranch. However, he is also an illegal with the authorities seeking to return him to Mexico. As Alice and Domingo work together respect and friendship grows between the padrona and the vaquero; love soon follows. However Immigration is closing in on him and vile part owner Jerry Graeme makes demands of Alice or else the ICE will bring a colder reception than the blizzard did.

This is a fabulous contemporary romance that uses ranching to bring alive the impact on people of the immigration policy, which in its current manner is like the war on drugs: a failure. Fascinatingly Domingo at first struggles with working for a female, as women are not typically heads of ranches in Mexico or in the states. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as the reader anticipates the ranching couple to fall in love, but like each of them also expects it is just a matter of time before he is deported. Alice's antagonist is a unique villain while Domingo's foe will remind the audience of Javert from Les Miserables. ALL ROADS LEAD ME BACK TO YOU is a super modern day romance.

Sleepless in Scotland
Karen Hawkins
1416560254, $7.99

Catriona Hurst will do anything for her younger twin sister Caitlyn. So when her sibling plans to elope with Alexander MacLean, Triona plans to stop it somehow while her twenty years old younger brother William objects. She jumps inside Alexander's carriage.

Alexander's brother Hugh MacLean plans to prevent a marriage he deems unsuitable. He uses his sibling's carriage. When Triona and Hugh are found together inside Alex's coach, they are deemed by their family and the rest of the Ton as compromised. Honor demands they marry and they do. Neither know one another so when they go to his home, Triona learns she is an instant mother as he has three daughters who demonstrate their ire towards her. As his offspring plot to drive the intruder away, Triona plots to turn them into a loving family of five and counting.

The fourth MacLean curse historical romance (see TO CATCH A HIGHLANDER, HOW TO ABDUCT A HIGHLAND LORD and TO SCOTLAND, WITH LOVE) is an amusing yet profound tale. The brisk story line starts off with an As You Like It mistaken identities spin and twists from there as the three offspring (Christina, Devon and Aggie) test Triona to the limit and a bit beyond. Thus the lead five and a strong support cast make for a wonderful time though readers will be sleepless in America due to a one sitting enjoyable time.

Written on Your Skin
Meredith Duran
141659311X, $7.99

In 1880 Hong Kong British espionage agent Phin Granvillle is working his case out in the cold before coming home to retire from field work. However, his mission turns ugly when he is poisoned. His mission turns divine when wealthy American Mina Masters nurtures him back to health.

Four years later in England, Mina is being forced to accept a marriage she does not want. Soon afterward her mother vanishes. Mina believes her mom's abduction is related to her odious ruthless stepdad's gun-running. She pleads with the retired Phin to rescue her mother and uncover the traitor against the throne while secretly hiding from him her hope he asks her to marry him as she still loves him even more than when saved his life.

This super late Victorian romantic suspense is fast-paced from the onset and does not miss a beat as the persistent Yank drags the reluctant retired spy back into the cold. Their escapades in the field together make for an amusing investigative romance as she rips his skin with words while he retorts with verbiage and kisses in a terrific gender war. With ties to BOUND BY YOUR TOUCH, Meredith Duran provides her fans with an exciting action-packed romantic thriller in which the combatants are on the same side (hate to see what they would have said to one another if they were adversaries).

Dark Warrior Unbroken
Alexis Morgan
9781416563440, $7.99

Arson investigator Lena Wilson missed the funeral of her mentor and father figure Maynard Cooper because of the breach between them. The dispute seems inane to her as she stands at his gravesite crying that they never reconciled and vowing to uncover the identity of his killer in spite of the cops insisting they have no leads; she has special skills that enable her to find things the police would never notice.

Talion Warrior Chief Enforcer Sandor Kearn regrets doing his job when he was forced to kill his best friend, Bradan. He not only has doubts he has the stomach for this work; he has the added problem of obsessive persistent Lena who keeps digging. Sandor wants to tell her that he killed her mentor's murderer already, but cannot reveal that or anything about his people the Kyth. He tracks a Kyth rogue killer in Seattle while she tracks him as Lena believes Sandor killed Maynard.

The second Talion thriller (see DARK WARRIOR UNLEASHED) reads somewhat like the first novel, but the clash between the lead couple brings freshness to the exhilarating story line. Lena knows in her heart Sandor is the one for her but believes in her brain based on what she has learned he is the one she must kill to complete her vow. Sandor, who plays a key role in the previous tale, is caught between a hard place and a rock as he wants to pour out his heart to his obstinate pursuer and give her closure and more; but he understands his imprint is indirectly all over the death of Maynard. Alexis Morgan provides a tense thriller as the vigilante goes after the enforcer.

Highland Obsession
Dawn Halliday
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, NY, NY 10014-3658
9780451227010, $15.00,

Cam the Earl of Camdonn and Jacobyte Laird Alan MacDonald were buddies tasting the best of London as wild Scottish youths. The wild times together ends in 1715 when Alan marries Sorcha Stewart unaware that she is not a virgin as she was Cam's lover.

Cam is irate over his former best friend wedded to his favorite lover while Alan is upset that his wife is not pure and worse did it with his former best friend. Outraged and jealous Cam abducts Sorcha on her wedding night. Alan wants his spouse back and in his bed so he prepares for clan war; Cam expects Alan and his horde to invade so prepares for clan war. Their difference over who rules Scotland also heats up. What they share is neither laird cares what Sorcha wants though she knows who she loves.

This deep Scottish romance focuses on a destructive triangle in which Cam obsesses over Sorcha who loves him but not like she does Alan. The story line is fast-paced with the hostile Scottish debate between the conventional laird and the Jacobyte supporter adding intensity to the argument over who Sorcha belongs too. Ironically, neither Cam nor Alan asks her for her opinion as that does not matter to them. Fans will relish this profound historical that digs deep into the lead characters and obviously sets up a sequel for the one who does not walk away with Sorcha.

Drawn into Darkness
Annette McCleave
9780451227805, $7.99

Centuries old and counting, Father Lachlan MacGregor gathers souls to deliver to heaven before the demons can suck them dry, for Lachlan this means penance as he is the Soul Gatherer. At the same time he insures his downstairs neighbors, artist Rachel and her fourteen years old daughter Emily are safe; he is especially keeping a wary eye on the teen.

Rachel is taken aback by her attraction to the handsome hunk upstairs as he is forbidden fruit being a priest. Lachlan reciprocates her desire, but he has some supernatural wars to contend with. As they fall in love, they team up to keep Emily safe from an especially evil essence who wants the teen to fulfill an ancient prophecy while also using the child as a pawn to get at Lachlan. What the Soul Gatherer hides from his beloved mortal is her child is his next transfer to the beyond.

This fast-paced urban romantic fantasy will grip readers with the first sword duel and never slows down until the final confrontation as everyone from beyond want to know the way to San Jose. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the relationships as the hero falls in love with the mother of his next delivery and the rebellious daughter is enticed by a charming demon. Annette McCleave provides a terrific thriller.

Maureen Child
9780451227720, $6.99

Maggie Donovan defeated evil fae Queen Mab in a classic cat fight (see BEDEVILED). Although the part human part Fae woman will never forget what she witnessed especially never listen to ABBA on a full stomach again, she knows she will never return to her previous lifestyle. Culhane the warrior says she is the Chosen One and struggles with being called Queen Maggie.

Outraged by having her butt kicked in by an impure female, former Queen Mab escapes incarceration and prepares for a rematch as she still believes she, as a purebred fae, is superior to a hybrid fae "diseased" with human blood. Maggie adapts to being the Queen of the Otherworld especially with Culhane as her adviser and lover. As Mab vows not to underestimate her foe, she raises their personal war to higher levels when she kidnaps her adversary's niece at a time when Maggie has doubts about Culhane's motives.

The conflict in this wonderful sequel is on two levels as the heroine begins to question where her lover's loyalty lies and the upcoming war with her evil rival. The story line is fast-paced and filed with action, but it is the strong cast, not just the lead trio, who makes Otherworld seem genuine.

Pitch Black
Leslie Parrish
9780451227713, $6.99

FBI profiler Alec Lambert nearly died during the Professor serial killer undercover operation that turned deadly. She was exiled for the lethal failure as someone has to take the hit within the bureau and she agreed with the assessment that her unit has failed to catch this serial killer for years.

However, instead of her career dying with the blotched Professor case, Wyatt Blackstone brings Alec onto his BLACK Cats FBI cyber crime unit. Her first assignment on her new squad: the Professor serial killer who has stayed current on technology and now uses the Internet to find and lure his victims into his deadly web. Alec's partner is reclusive scam expert Samantha Dalton who is the agency's best bet to identify the Professor. As Alec pursues the killer and his partner, the Professor pursues Alec's partner targeting Sam as a victim while Sam struggles with her attraction to her partner and her fascination with the Professor who has fisted on making her his next valedictorian.

The sequel to FADE TO BLACK is a terrific FBI police procedural romantic suspense starring two broken winged heroes and a brilliant diabolical villain with a heart that's cold The story line is fast-paced from the onset with its failed operation until the finish as the killer seems to constantly trump the Feds. Although serial killers have become a staple (see Untraceable) fans will enjoy the second Black CATs thriller.

Storm of Visions
Christina Dodd
9780451227638, $7.99

Jacqueline Vargha rejects the idea that she is one of the magnificent seven Chosen Ones; instead she insists she has no paranormal skills. However, her her adoptive mother psychic Zusane knows better and forces a reluctant Jacqueline to join with the other six special Chosen.

The team is shocked when their selected mentors die in a bombing. The reluctant untrained Chosen One and Zusane's bodyguard Caleb, who was once Jacqueline's lover, accompanied by two unskilled elderly assistants with no extrasensory skills hunt the assassin while dodging their natural enemies the Others and struggling with an attraction neither want but both desire.

STORM OF VISIONS is an action-packed paranormal romantic suspense that sets the stage for what looks like will be a terrific series, but also insures the opening act contains a strong story line. Caleb is an interesting male lead, but Jacqueline is the more fascinating protagonist as she prefers to pretend she has no paranormal abilities just like she prefers to ignore her feelings for the bodyguard. Although the romance is more like a light switch being turned on and off throughout the plot, fans of Christina Dodd will enjoy her suspense laden paranormal thriller.

By the Time You Read This
Lola Jaye
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061733833, $13.99,

In 1983, thirty year old Kevin Bates is stunned with the medical diagnosis. He has six months to live at best and no time to wallow in self pity or what if drills. Instead he wants to leave a legacy of fatherly guidance to his five years old daughter Lois. Thus he goes into hiding to write The Manual; an advice guide for his beloved child to use to help her navigate life starting when she turns twelve.

Seven years later, Lois still grieves the loss of her daddy. She is angry at her mom who is about to marry some creep; as if she forgot her late husband. Lois struggles when she first tries to read her dad's advice to finding happiness and letting go pain, but over the years the Manual becomes her bible as she navigates through life until she finally meets her "one".

This is an engaging look at the loss of a loved on from the perspective of a daughter who grieves her daddy until she begins to obtain solace in his last words. The story line follows Lois' reading the Manual and incorporating the words of wisdom in her daily life. Although Kevin seems too perfect sort of like Kahil Gibran's Prophet rather than a dying young man knowing he leaves behind a wife and little daughter, fans will relish this five tissue box tearjerker.

With Seduction in Mind
Laura Lee Guhrke
9780061456831, $6.99

In 1896 London, Daisy Merrick is fired from her typist job for her unbecoming behavior when the boss tried to fondle her and she refused him. Soon afterward, Social Gazette critic George Lindsay writes a sarcastic mocking review of Sebastian Grant's new play calling it "rubbish". The duke is irate and goes after Lindsay who called him "a second rate Oscar Wilde" only to learn Lindsay is Daisy Merrick and his publisher demands he work with her on completing a novel that is past deadline. She agrees under the condition her book be considered for release too.

Sebastian tries to hide from Daisy that since he stopped using opiates, he suffers from writer's block. He decides to seduce her, which he hopes will lead to his writing again. However, his plan is to use her as a one-time muse before ending their partnership. However, though they argue like cats and dogs they fall in love, but will he realize she is his permanent muse.

This is an amusing late Victorian romance starring two likeable enemy combatants in a gender war mindful of the 1930s screwball comedies. The story line is a series of back and forth bantering as Daisy becomes the new cocaine for Sebastian. Fans who enjoy a humorous historical romance will want to read the war of the authors.

The Infamous Rogue
Alexandra Benedict
9780061689314, $6.99

In 1825 Sophia Dawson hopes money will bury her past as the daughter of a pirate and as the mistress of Black Hawk, the terror of the sea. She comes to London to see who is selling a title and preferably can be controlled by her.

At about the same Sophia arrives amidst the Ton with wealth to spare in London, Captain James Hawkins also appears in high society. Sophia knows James is the one man who could ruin her before she gets started as they were lovers on the high seas. James remains outraged by her abandoning him; Sophia remains outraged by his refusal to marry her. These two enemies are ready to duel to the scandal except that in between the halfhearted feints, each knows they remain in love.

This is an enjoyable second chance at love Regency romance starring two infamous rogues. Sophia and James battled at sea and now battle on land as each has an agenda, he wants vengeance for her ending their affair while she wants a marriage of respectability. Fans will appreciate this fine historical gender war and look for the prequel e-book novella Mistress Of Paradise (at HarperCollins web site).

Beauty And The Duke
Melody Thomas
9780061472671, $6.99

When they were young, Erik and Christine were once lovers, but that ended with both still attracted to each other. She went off to see the world of fossils while he did his ducal duty and married twice.

In 1840 while London is swamped with tourists including a horde of unkempt children, fossils are found on Erik's Scottish estate. Erik asks Christine to lead an excavation of the dinosaur remains. Fearless Christine travels to Scotland looking forward to the dig and seeing her former lover who has buried two wives. When they meet, both know they still love one another, but at the dig site a female human bone is uncovered that places suspicion on the Duke; already rumored to have done away with two spouses.

This is an excellent second chance at love Victorian romantic suspense with the most fun being logical Christine's archeological skills as she carefully leads the Scottish dig while also not carefully gives away her heart. The whodunit enhances the fine tale as the pair investigates an apparent homicide. Fans will enjoy the escapades of the female paleontologist and the duke as they fall in love over bones.

Obsession Untamed
Pamela Palmer
9780061667527, $6.99

FBI Agent Delaney Randall cannot sleep well anymore. Every time she closes her eyes she sees through the eyes of a dangerous serial killer. She watches in horror as he kills again and again.

Feral Warrior Tighe is at war with himself as half his soul resides in a killing clone. He must capture his other half before his other side kills him too as his essence has become proficient at murder. His clues lead him to FBI agent Delaney, who is somehow receiving the dreams that his other half should be transmitting to him. She fears that Tighe is the killer, but slowly he brings her around. As they team to recover his soul, Tighe knows Delaney owns his whole soul and heart.

This is a fascinating Feral Warrior paranormal romantic suspense (see PASSION UNTAMED) with a terrific twist (reminiscent of classic Star Trek "The Enemy Within" episode). They make a wonderful pairing as Delaney "sees" his other half and knows they must merge, but expects when the evil side reunites with the good Tighe, the man she loves will vanish. Fans will enjoy Pamela Palmer's super thriller.

Since The Surrender
Julie Anne Long
9780061341618, $6.99

Captain Chase Eversea earned a reputation for heroism during the war, but never forgot the one indiscretion of his life. Five years ago, he met his commander's much younger wife Rosalind March and had the sexual encounter of his life. However, soon afterward he was transferred to another unit where he displayed courage under fire.

Now back home and out of the military, Chase vows to avoid scandal as he plans to live up to his family reputation, although he knows he will never forget Rosalind. However the best laid plans of men often go astray when a woman begs him to help her. At the Montgomery Museum Rosalind meets with and asks Chase to assist her in finding her missing sister Lucy "The Blond One" Locke, who was arrested for allegedly stealing a valuable bracelet and sent to Newgate; only to vanish. She swears her sibling is innocent just feathery. They investigate following clues that lead to danger and love.

This is an entertaining Eversea historical romance (see THE PERILS OF PLEASURE) is an engage tale due to the hero who wants the facts, just the facts as he and his "sidekick" investigate while each struggles with their attraction. The investigation is cleverly intertwined with the romance in a clever DNA helix way so that fans will relish the search of London to find the missing sister and the misplaced love.

Destined for an Early Grave
Jeaniene Frost
9780061583216, $7.99

Half-breed Cat Crawfield looks forward to some Parisian R&R (romance and relationship enhancement) with her purebred vampire husband Bones. However, the best laid plans of mice, men and half vamp Cats often go astray. The master vampire Gregor arrives to claim her as his wife; he insists he had a prior claim to her as her spouse making her a bigamist.

When Cat was a teen, Gregor abducted her with a goal for later the future. However, Mencheres the master vampire took her away from Gregor, locked the master vampire in a special prison, and erased Cat's memory of the incident and this master vampire. Cat is outraged for several reasons but also somewhat fascinated while Bones is reeling as he fears Gregor has a stronger claim and not just with vampire law and Gregor seems obsessed over his assertion.

The fourth Night Huntress urban fantasy is an exhilarating thriller driven by the paranormal triangle (though told through a confused Cat's perspective). The overarching story of Cat and Bones spins brilliantly into a darker drama as the heroine must make several complex decisions with convoluted choices to select from. Another winner from Jeanine Frost, fans of this strong saga will appreciate aptly titled DESTINED FOR AN EARLY GRAVE.

Mastered By Love
Stephanie Laurens
9780061246371, $7.99

In 1816 the Duke of Varisey, Royce heads home, knowing he paid a high price for his work for the Crown. Sixteen years ago, his father disowned him for dishonorable behavior as a duke's heir should never be involved in espionage. He hoped to reconcile, but his father just died before they could; his mother died a few years ago.

At Wolverstone Castle, Royce meets his chatelaine Minerva Chesterone, who was a young orphan his parents brought into the household. They are attracted to one another, but both hide the unwelcome feelings. Minerva swore twice to both his parents on their respective death beds that she would help their son become the duke. She also understands Royce must wed soon and once he does she will leave the castle she has called home for over two decades.

His three sisters and their husbands arrive as do the rest of the family for the late duke's funeral; the Grand Dames attend too and warn Royce to marry soonest as Prinny is planning something. Royce is irate as he put his life on hold to protect the crown yet ironically the crown wants to take away his heritage. He talks about tenant farms with Minerva and asks her to draw up a list of possible wives while his Bastian Club friends and their wives also arrive. However, the only woman to excite him is the one not on Minerva's list.

The romance between the lead couple is fun to follow while the Ton's intervention enhances the tale. The lead male is too similar to the other Bastian Club members, but Stephanie Laurens cleverly defuses that by having the wives state so during their strategic meeting. Although the Last Traitor subplot is minor though built up through several books, fans will enjoy the return of a hero who gave everything to the Crown only to come home to learn that his sacrifice is yesterday's news.

Speed Shrinking
Susan Shapiro
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312581565, $23.99,

Bestselling self-help author Julia Goodman is almost finished with her latest book Food Crazy, which assists people in dealing with food addictions especially sugar. She knows once done, she will make the rounds of the talk show circuit selling her tome just like she did with successful Up in Smoke.

However, her own support group vanishes at a critical moment. Her tough love psychiatrist Dr. Ness moves out of town; her beloved spouse Jake is in Hollywood working on a film project; and her BFF Sarah has married and moved to Ohio. Panicking that she is alone, she goes on a cupcake binge. Now with the Today Show coming soon, she needs to crash diet or be the laughing stock of self help. To return to slim, she needs a new doctor so she tests eight in eight days in a SPEED SHRINKING that leaves even Julia breathless and still feeling overweight.

Although the plot device has been used more times in recent years than Julia weighs after her binge, she brings freshness to the charming story line with her panic to lose the belly in Guinness Book record time. Fans will enjoy Julia's frantic race as she runs through doctors and gurus while also boohooing her trio of support for deserting her just when sh needed them most. This is a winner as most readers can commiserate; including me who swears the cake hypnotically says "eat me" to the victim, moi.

Gone to the Dogs
Mary Guterson
St. Martin's
9780312541798, $13.99

Brian displayed his guts when he telephoned his fiancee Rena the waitress to end their seven year relationship. Angry especially over his cowardly means of dumping her, an outraged Rena kidnaps his dog Tilly only to learn the canine with a girl's name is a boy and as an aside her ex (that is Rena's ex and not the dog formerly called Tilly) has a new girlfriend.

To make matters worse for Rena, her late fifties mom has a new guy Dr. Ron in her life and her sister's perfect Orthodox Jewish marriage is falling apart. Her family decides to find a man for Rena; their latest selection is kind hearted but ethical Chuck, who tells her, he likes her, but she needs to move forward starting with returning formerly Tilly to Brian. Rena blunders making her conclude that to err may be human, but no one especially the errant one forgives.

This lighthearted chick lit tale is fun to read due to the interaction between Rena the neurotic who expects her family to blind date her with a serial killer and her stereotyped (by her) family, who serve as her straight men and women for her asides. Amusing, fans will enjoy this frolic as Rena wails to no one there Who Let the Dogs Out (nod to the Baha Men) and this is not Cleveland.

Concord, Virginia: A Southern Town in Eleven Stories
Peter Neofotis
St. Martin's
9780312537371, $19.99

These eleven tales focus on eleven different people (one per story) who live in the small Shenandoah Valley town of Concord between 1951 and 1974, but no in chronological order; for instance the opening act "The Vultures" occurs in 1963 twelve years after Jethro the stone carver artist found the artifact (story III). The stories interrelate with Concord as the prime connection throughout but also something that occurs to one person in a tale impacts another in a different entry; part of the fun is that the cause of an effect sometimes is described in a tale after the impacted person's story is told (a sort of quantum physicist). Overall the anthology contains several super entries and no clinkers; though some thematic repetition happens so it pays to spread the eleven stories over a couple of weeks. Issues based on bigotry are frequent (see "The Botanist" and "The Builders"). With a nod to Thomas Jefferson, fans will enjoy these engaging short stories filled with some dark twists as Concord, Virginia comes acr oss real and surreal at the same time. This is an engaging refreshing collection.

One + One = Three
Sasha James
St. Martin's
9780312560157, $13.99

She was born Margaret Smith in a small Michigan town; however she took the name Munro Sheridan when she became a fashion model. While performing, she never thought of what comes after though she planned to retire at thirty, which she does to the shock of everyone as the towering exotic beauty still has several great years if she has chosen to stay.

Rockmon "Rock" Phillips has been Munro's friend from her Margaret elementary school days. They remained close and have shared some heated trysts over the years. Rock met and became friends with Dirk Baptiste when they both lived and played in London. Back in New York Rock and Munro take off where they left off; but this time Dirk has joined them setting up a menage a trois. However, several accidents at the Strutt lounge she has had built has worried Munro as each new incident is increasingly more dangerous than the previous one; she and her two mates fear someone is sabotaging her new nightclub.

The key to this fascinating Manhattan menage a trois is the three lead characters and their relationships are put out their with no fan fare for readers to accept and enjoy or not. The story line is driven by the trio to include flashbacks that augment understanding their desires. The mystery at Strutts is a fine subplot that also augments the threesome's arrangement as the two men who cherish the heroine vow to keep her and her club safe. ONE AND ONE = THREE is not for everyone, but those who enjoy something out of the ordinary in their exotica will appreciate Sasha James' fun tale while wondering who will be standing hard when one and one = ecstasy for two at the climax.

Girls Just Wanna Have Guns
Toni McGee Causey
St. Martin's
9780312358501, $6.99

In Lake Charles, Louisiana, Bobbie Faye Sumrall's cousin Francesca Despre orders her to help her find missing diamonds that her eccentric mother, Marie buried before disappearing. Not wanting another "Very (Very, Very, Very) Bad Day", and knowing her Cajun cousin is a drama queen, Bobbie Faye says no, but Francesca somewhat wins her over when she swears Marie's estranged husband Emile has put a hit out on her mom in the event the diamonds aren't returned.

Reluctantly and slower than a crab, Bobbie Faye steps into the mess only to be abducted before she can go under the ooze that always happens when she does a family reunion. FBI undercover agent Trevor Cormier is also interested in the diamonds and international thieves; he rescues Bobby Faye. Her former boyfriend local Police Detective Cameron Moreau investigates the shooting of a jeweler in which the evidence points towards Bobby Faye.

GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE GUNS is a zany out of control Cajun crime caper that hooks the audience from the moment Francesca begs in her southern charming way that fails to move her cousin, but quickly switches to the DNA link between them. The story line is fast-paced and filled with alligators, swamps, and eccentrics who make for a fun read. However, it is Bobby Faye's optimistic fortitude in the face of another Very (Very, Very, Very) Bad Day (make that a week) that has fans wanting more of her Lake Charles thrillers.

Everywhere She Turns
Debra Webb
St. Martin's
9780312532963, $7.99

Dr. C.J. Patterson is a resident at a John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. However, she goes home to Huntsville, Alabama for the funeral of her sister Shelley. Her sibling never escaped the street life of drugs and became a hooker to pay for her habit; and now she paid with her life as someone murdered Shelley.

C.J. vows to bring justice to her last known family member and believes the cops couldn't care less about a dead prostitute. C.J. assumes Shelley's pimp Ricky Banks killed her. She takes a medical position at a clinic so she can continue her inquiries. Huntsville police detective Braddock leads the official investigation, but believes Ricky's boss Nash is behind the murder and much more. However, someone else is stalking the crime king as those associated with Nash are being killed; this person is considering widening the scope of the serial killing field to include the "bitch doctor".

Adding to the externally dark gritty atmosphere that permeates the entire exhilarating whodunit is Huntsville, a city known for science especially space leaving the audience unprepared for a walk down the seedier side of town. The heroine is obstinate and driven with some guilt as she wonders if she could have dome something else to pull her sister from the streets. Fans will relish this one sitting chilling thriller as villains seem to own the city.

Wickedly Ever After
Michelle Marcos
St. Martin's
9780312948511, $6.99

Lady Athena McAlister caught her chosen fiance Calvin Breatherton lip locked with very tall bony Lady Posonby. Not being a twit, the twenty-eight year old Athena concludes that men prefer their mistresses over their wives. She ponders how to make the spouse the first choice and concludes a wife must also be the mistress. She persuades her wealthy grandfather to open up a school for young women to teach them the typical agenda of being a lady, but also adds courses on seduction and being a mistress in the boudoir. Athena hires rakes and courtesans as instructors in the "Pleasure Emporium" in Scotland.

Marshall Hawkesworth arrives to learn what his sister is studying as she seems to hint of things she should not know about. Athena hires Marshall as an artist's nude model and as a teacher of sensual kissing. To prove his lips' worth, he picks Athena as his first apprentice. Their kiss shocks both of them and each wants more. However, a tabloid wants to do an expose of the school for scandal and its headmistress; Marshall plans to keep the woman he loves and her pupils safe from any scandal.

The third Pleasure Emporium Regency romance (see WHEN A LADY MISBEHAVES and GENTLEMEN BEHAVE BADLY) is a terrific tale that satirizes several standard historical themes. The brisk story line starts a bit slower than usual but once Athena realizes she lacks the seductive weapons to compete with a mistress even one in which she is much prettier and more charming than her towering skinny rival, the plot takes off and never slows down as the heroine never takes a breather. Fans will enjoy the latest use of the infamous brothel.

Night Runner
Max Turner
St. Martin's
9780312592288, $9.99

For eight years Zack Thomason lived in Nicholls Ward, the home for the mentally disturbed of the Peterborough Civil Hospital; not because he is crazy, but because of a rare medical condition. Max cannot abide sunlight or food with the only nourishment his body accepts and digests is a drink made by Nurse Ophelia. He obviously sleeps during the day and is awake at night. Thus when a man drives a vehicle through the lobby, Zack hears him state that he has come to see Zack. Before the intruder is shot to death, he warns Zack that "he" is coming for him.

Soon after that incident, his Uncle Max visits Zack, which is a shocker because the youngster thought he had no living relatives. Max explains to Zack that he and the lad's late father were vampire hunters; which he still is. His father died trying to kill Baron Vrolok, who survived the attack by drinking Zack's blood; that turned the child into a vampire too. The police under the Baron's control arrive to take Zack with them, but the driver of the Harley that ran through the door rescues the boy. They get separated and Zack struggles to survive on his own in the outside world. He meets with his mortal friend Charlie who visited him at the ward and with Charlie's pal and Zach's love interest Luna unaware the danger he places them in until it is too late; the Baron is coming for his "offspring".

This is a coming of age urban fantasy as the protagonist adjusts to what he is, what happened to his biological father, dealing with the challenge of his blood sire, and struggling with his natural adversarial relationship with his uncle. He is a good person who must make choices some of which seem bad if he is to survive. Charlie the king of chaos and Luna are there for him as Max Turner provides an enjoyable vampire thriller that will keep his teen audience up late night running alongside of the hero.

The Summer Kitchen
Karen Weinreb
St. Martin's
9780312379254, $24.99

On Halloween in Bedford, New York, Nora Banks answer the doorbell as she has done all evening though this trick or treat visitor is a bit late so she assumes it is teenagers. She has her candy ready only those at the door are not there for sweets. The Feds arrest her husband Evan.

Nora and her three adolescent sons (seven years old Thomas, five years old Nicholas and three years old Charlie) quickly realize not just the affluence is gone; they are treated like felons by those who were friends until Evan was taken away. The children's nanny Beatriz remains loyal and soon the three kids are being raised by a household run by the two women. Nora opens up a baking business THE SUMMER KITCHEN bakery-cafe to bring in some needed income and considers an affair; as the five members of the household struggle to become entrepreneurs over the objection of the Bedford wives who spend the summer on the Cape.

This is an entertaining inspirational family drama as Nora and her horde roll up their sleeves rather than wallow in self pity and recriminations; in other words they move on trying to regain equilibrium. The wealthy townsfolk who were their friends before the fall prove shallow and though that is a key impetus for the Banks making it; they come across as less dimensional than the more famous Bedford Wives. Still fans will enjoy this fine tale of a family bonded by need and love, but also seeking actualization form loved ones and especially their selves.

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty Sixth Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois, editor
St Martins
9780312551056, $40.00

This anthology always lives up to its title as there are thirty strong short stories with 628 pages of contributions included. The Summation of 2008 is a deep fascinating essay that focuses on the good with overall strong creative writings especially in book anthologies; and the bad being the collapse of several print magazines with those surviving cutting back the number of pages in each copy and reducing the number of releases per year. The stories are for the most part super but in spite of the rise of the on line magazines most of the compilation comes from print magazines and book anthologies. My personal favorites are those I had not previously read (thus I discount the excellent "Boojum" by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, "The Gambler" by Paolo Bacogalupi, and "Eligible Boy" by Ian McDonald, etc.). "The Six Directions of Space" by Alastair Reynolds, "Five Thrillers" by Robert Reed and the "Erdmann Nexus" by Nancy Kress are tremendous; the rest are quite good too. This collection with its Honorable Mention list and reference guide is a short story delight.

Gone to Green
Judy Christie
Abington Press
201 Eighth Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426700248, $13.99,

At the Dayton Press, reporter Lois Barker knows Ed, her beloved mentor at the paper, should have been named editor, but the central office hired a young suit who is at home in the accounting meetings and not the reporting sessions. Ed quits having "bought" his grandfather's paper, the twice a week Green News-Item. Soon after Ed leaves Ohio for small-town Louisiana, Lois attends his funeral in Green, Louisiana.

Still grieving the loss of a man she considered a father, Lois also learns Ed thought of her as his daughter; she inherits his family's newspaper. Not wanting to live in a rural town nor feeling experienced enough to manage a newspaper even one that publishes twice a week, Lois heads to Louisiana after a odd thought plopped into her mind that somehow she would be helped; still her plans is to sell the newspaper. Instead she finds a need in life as a gung ho progressive reformer demanding change so that the extremely depressed area can begin a Sportsman's Paradise renaissance to benefit all.

The fascination in this well written albeit unlikely tale is the changes in the heroine. She goes from independent Buckeye to unsure grieving Bayou Bengal to demanding progressive. Fans gets a look at the workings of a rural Deep South newspaper that is a tool for the "carpetbagger" to shine an ugly spotlight on the negative impact of sexism and racism, as well as the pressure on the media to acquiesce to the corporate and political bedfellows; all this inside of a solid religious element to include handling grief. Fans will relish this fine look at it takes a caring community guided by God's loving hand to become all that a person can be.

The Call of Zulina
Kay Marshall Strom
9781426700699, $13.99

In 1787 in the Gold Coast of West Africa, Grace is the adult daughter of English sea captain Joseph Winslow and African Princess Lingongo. Grace's maternal grandfather forced her mom into a marriage of convenience in order to keep his people safe from the slave trafficking. Seeing no wrong with having slaves or forcing his daughter into marital servitude, Joseph informs Grace and Lingongo he has arranged her marriage to haughty pretentious, English visitor Mr. Hathaway; who firmly believes his people and nation are doing a favor with the Africans.

Not only does she reject the snobbish superiority of her intended, Grace recently learns the family business is slave trading that has given her a very high standard of living to include her beloved enslaved Mama Muco to her horror and shame. Grace also realizes in some ways she and her mom are domestic slaves with no choices. She decides to take a choice as she flees into the night only to become embroiled by the passionate plea for freedom of Cabeto as he leads a slave revolt against their masters and traders at Zulina.

Timely with Congress working the long overdue apology, this is a strong look at the full slave trade business from deals of all sorts and the treatment of the enslaved. The cast is solid on both sides of the issue; especially surprisingly the Europeans. It is not just the traffickers who see it as the divine right of the superior white man's burden to "care" for these human animals. The romance between aptly named Grace (as noted in the introduction John Newton went from slave transporter to abolitionist to Amazing Grace hymn writer) and Cabeto seems unneeded and forced. Still fans will appreciate this powerful realistic look at the destructiveness of slavery as Kay Marshall Strom states Zulina is Goree Island in Senegal, enhancing the case we must never forget less we repeat the horrific indignities.

Walking Dead
C. E. Murphy
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373803019, $14.95,

When Joanne Walker was left in a parking lot with a sword in her body, Coyote offered her a choice between death and life as a shaman. She embraced life as a shaman with healing powers and other mystical gifts. Her police partner Billy is not shocked by Joanne's new skills because he is a medium who communicates with the dead. Ata a Halloween party, a cauldron appears out of thin air; Joanne see that is a dark thing of evil. evil tries to trap her, but she resists the call.

The cauldron disappears leaving a massacre of evil behind in Seattle by raising the dead. It originally came from the Museum of Cultural Arts and the two security guards are gone from their posts; one was killed while the other has vanished.. Joanne believes the deaths of the guard and the cauldron are obviously linked, but she also receives further bad news when Suzanne whose soul she saved returns to tell her she had a vision of Loanne dying and it had something to do with the cauldron. Suzanne has a premonition that Joanne and Billy die on Halloween. They try to be careful while seeking the mage who started the horrific fiasco as the cauldron keeps reappearing leading to more deaths and reanimations.

WALKING DEAD is a special urban fantasy as the loads of action include the mundane and paranormal, which leads to a belief that Seattle is under siege with everyone trying to defend the city and fascinated fans going sleepless. The focus obviously is on the strong shaman who can travel to different planes as if she was hiking. The mystery behind the cauldron and its apparent power make for a fabulous investigation by the heroine and her partner at the same time they must prevent further destruction. C.E. Murphy is a great fantasist who makes the otherworldly devouring of Seattle seems so authentic.

Hot House Orchid
Stuart Woods
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156014, $25.95,

After another futile run in with former CIA Technical Service Department agent turned international terrorist, Special Agent Holly Barker's superiors decides she needs extended down time away from the job, Teddy and the bad publicity. Teddy is a lethal person who kills right wing extremists he believes is dangerous to his beloved United States. That is no longer important to a distraught Holly who heads home to Orchid Beach, Florida, where she once was chief of police chief in what seems like a different life. At the same time Teddy rents a house in the next town.

To her horror she learns the new chief is James Bruno, her commanding officer who tried to rape her when she served in the military. He succeeded in raping then Lieutenant Lauren Cade who is now with the State Police. Someone is killing young women and leaving them where they can be found easily. Holly and Lauren believe Bruno is the culprit, but lack proof. Lauren becomes involved with Teddy, who uses a disguise to watch over her as sets a trap to catch the serial rapist killer.

Stuart Woods writes thrillers in which Teddy comes across as an avenging angel while the killer is the monster; though some will challenge and others agree with Teddy's the end makes the means acceptable with the predators he dispatches. HOTHOUSE ORCHID is filled with plenty of local color, eccentric characters, and plenty of twists and surprises. Holly is coming back to life at home, but can't wait to return to work at the CIA while she is sure of her new lover, who ironically applies for a job with the Firm mostly to be with her when he assumes she returns. Although the coincidence of Teddy next door is a stretch longer than the Florida Turnpike (I didn't say I 75 which is longer), fans will relish Holly Barker's latest thriller.

Sara Paretsky
9780399155932, $26.95

In Chicago, private investigator V.I. "Vic" Warshawski searches for a black man, Lamont Gadsden, who was last seen in 1967. Her inquiry into Gadsden leads her to her father's police peers. They send her to the prison where gang leader Johnny Merton is a guest of the state. She defended him when she was a lawyer so he cooperates.

She soon finds Steve Sawyer, who vanished soon after a murder conviction. Vic's investigation has her dig deeper into a peaceful 1966 civil rights march led by Martin Luther King; whites rioted and black female Harmony Newsome was murdered. As she digs deeper, someone wants the notorious decade left interred and to insure Vic cooperates, the antagonist kidnaps her twentyish cousin Petra.

The latest Vic investigative tale is a terrific entry as the heroine makes inquiries into a period of deep de facto and de jure racism that led to riots and murder, but though buried four decades ago and we have come a long way, the taint still remains impacting today. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as Vic' cold case investigation leads to modern day issues and problems including danger from someone playing HARDBALL with her niece. Fans will enjoy Sara Paretsky's strong Chicago joy ride back to the volatile sixties as seen through a current day lens.

The Hidden Man
David Ellis
9780399155796, $25.95

In 1980, someone abducted two-year-old Audrey Cutler from her bedroom. Her stunned mother held her seven year old son Sammy tight as if she will never let him go. The police question sexual offender Perlini, but the evidence was not there.

In 2006 Sammy runs into Perlini. Soon afterward the prime suspect in the kidnapping and murder of Audrey is dead. The police arrest Sammy. His high school crony defense attorney Jason Kolarich is hired to defend Sammy. However, the fee for his services comes from an unknown M. Smith who wants a speedy trial and the lawyer believes his defeat as he is told how his client is to plea. Still reeling from the deaths of his wife and daughter in a car accident, Jason tries his best. His inquiry leads to a mass grave of children, but instead of euphoria, his client's financial backers abduct Jason's brother threatening to kill him if the attorney uncovers any other revelations.

This is a terrific legal thriller starring a dedicated attorney who wants to do his best by his client regardless of who is paying for the defense or his own issues. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as armchair lawyers will root for and read in one sitting Jason's efforts to mount a viable defense. Fans will enjoy Jason's idealistic attempts to defend Sammy especially after his sibling is kidnapped. David Ellis has a winner in Jason Kolarich.

Piggly Wiggly Wedding
Robert Dalby
9780399155574, $24.95

In Second Creek, Mississippi, septuagenarian town mayor Hale "Mr. Choppy" Dunbar is marrying his sweetheart Gaylie Lyons of Lake Forest, Illinois whom he met and lost his heart to back in the 1940s and has not seen her since until recently. Her two adult children Petey and Amanda oppose their mom remarrying and relocating. Gaylie and Hale decide to invite both of them to spend time in his town so he can gain their support.

The local Nitwitts prepare for war because they want their mayor happy with the love of his life. This army of southern matrons and belles are planning to charm the northerners with sweet tea, but if that fails they will give the intruders a taste of steel magnolia justice as only a Mississippi Delta iron maiden can.

The third Piggly Wiggly Mississippi delta tale WALTZING AT THE PIGGLY WIGGLY and KISSING BABIES AT THE PIGGLY WIGGLY is a terrific second chance at love for senior citizens. The story line oozes Southern charm using humor to bring to life the local eccentric Nitwitts who know the world is changing faster than the speed of the internet as affirmed that the title supermarket in their town has been closed for several years. Fans of regional sagas will enjoy the capers of the Iron maidens as they prepare to either charm or rout their guests (or intruders as the case may prove) in the second war of northern aggression.

The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet
Arturo Perez-Reverte
9780399156038, $25.95

In the seventh century Captain Diego Alariste, his loyal protege Inigo Balboa Aguirre and their friend author Francisco de Quevedo are in Madrid, a city known for its duality. On the one hand there are numerous wonderful theaters and exquisite palaces while on the other hand there are duels seemingly over nothing affronts.

Diego is setting up a tryst with the lovely but married actress Maria de Costa only to learn so is King Philip IV amongst other salivating suitors. The mercenary blades-man walks a line thinner than his sword as the monarch is his only source of revenue since the Hundred Years War ended too soon for him. As he ignores threats to his life and his purse, Inigo pursues Angelica de Alquezar, who maneuvers the young man to do her bidding. However, Diego and Inigo soon find themselves caught in a brilliant scheme to assassinate the king; whether successful or not means the gallows for the mentor and his apprentice; all because they both thought with their wrong blade.

The latest CAPTAIN ALARISTE saga is filled with the usual terrific daring do, great sword play (in and out of the boudoir), and over the top of the Pyrenees escapes and escapades as the hero and his now ready for prime time apprentice land in one problem after another, because each was led by their respective wrong heard. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action; a trademark of the entire saga as historical Spain comes alive in this tale and previous translations like THE KING'S GOLD and THE SUN OVER BREDA.

The Law of Nines
Terry Goodkind
9780399156045, $27.95

In Orden, Nebraska, artist Alex Rahl notices the woman in the path of a speeding plumbing truck with a dangling pirate flag. She seems ignorant of the fact that the pirates were bearing down on her. He grabs her arm and yanks her back as the vehicle misses her and then abruptly stops. One of the pirates steps out menacingly, but the police arrive at the scene. Alex apologizes to her for hurting her arm, but mentions the near incident; she mysteriously says it was probably no accident.

Jax further explains she has come for Alex from another realm. He is there only hope to save her United States from a magical coup d'etat. However, though attracted to this Jax, Alex says he just a downtrodden just turned twenty-seven year old artist whose recent inheritance should make him at least wealthy. She mentions her world's technology is magic based rather than engineering-scientific centric. He doubts her tale as she cannot perform even an illusion let alone change the laws of physics until he soon learns the universal law of Good Samaritans to not get involved when Jax's adversaries cross over with the intention of killing the rebel, her protector, and his loved ones.

THE LAWS OF NINE is a terrific fantasy thriller that stars off at a fast-pace, settles into an explanatory worlds' settings and incredibly accelerates into an action-packed speed of light tale. Alex is fabulous as a skeptic until he and his love ones are literally assaulted and tries to assist the kick butt heroine he just saved. All the action is on this side of reality so the thriller aspects supersede the fantasy elements that are for the most part implied and established for perhaps a sequel on Jax's world. Terry Goodkind provides fans with a super opening act.

Drawn in Blood
Andrea Kane
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd St, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061236808, $24.99,

A decade ago, Matthew Burbank and his business partners witnessed the murder of Cai Wen, a crime that has come back to haunt him and his family. The FBI Special Agent Williams has questioned Matthew and his partners who tell little out of fear for their loved ones. The chief of a Chinese triad, Dragon Head, has a long memory and feels the time to kill the witnesses and their family is now. They assault Matthew's wife Rosalyn in their apartment and leave behind a fortune cookie note threatening retribution if he fails to remain silent.

At the same time, Mathew's daughter Sloane's former partner and current lover FBI Special Agent Derek Parker leads inquiries into Dragon Head and his cohorts. Following the Burbank apartment "robbery" in which nothing except their mental solace is taken, Matthew asks his daughter for help. She pleads with him to let her bring Derek in on their situation, but he says no fearing for his wife and daughter. Thus he places Sloane in the awkward situation of concealing what she knows about Dragon Head and his associates from her lover who also hides information from her.

The first third of this fast-paced FBI romantic suspense sequel (see TWISTED) focuses on Matthew and Rosalyn, but smoothly switches leads to Sloane and Derek. The story line is action-packed and the spin of who stars is logical and never decelerates the speed of the enjoyable story line. The audience knows just about all during the parents' lead which takes away somewhat from the suspense; much of what happens to the younger pair is ironically caused by each hiding instead of sharing information. Fans will enjoy their trysts in between their bickering over trust and who is concealing more though the investigation takes a somewhat back seat to the relationship.

Bird in Hand
Christina Baker Kline
9780688177249, $24.99

Alison and Claire met in elementary school and became friends. Clare met Charlie and Ben in London as three American graduate students. When Claire fell in love with Ben, she introduced her pal Charlie to Alison so he would not feel alone. The couples marry and remain friends over the past decade.

Following a book launching party for Claire, Alison drives home only to become involved in a fatal accident not her fault. A mother of two, Alison logically understands she did nothing wring, but her rationale thinking is superseded by her passionate guilt and sadness for the death of the boy in the other vehicle. Charlie is non-supportive of his wife implying she was at fault for drinking two martinis before driving although he puts on a pretense of caring. He has an agenda as he wants her to walk out of their marriage while he plots the end of his beloved Alison's relationship with Ben so he can come out in the open with their affair.

Once readers (especially boomers) get past the similarity in names to the movie Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, BIRD IN HAND is an interesting look at four people heading into middle age. Each of the quartet comes across genuine as snippets and vignettes bring out the back story of the past decade of two friendly couples; while the differing points of view enhance the audience understanding of the apparent destruction of two marriages. The key to this profound family drama is Christina Baker Kline does not moderate from her resolute unwavering glimpse at the end of marriages through the unblinking eyes of the four protagonists turning seemingly into antagonists.

The Elephant Keeper
Christopher Nicholason
9780061651601, $24.99

In 1766, the Dover arrives from the East Indies docking in Bristol, England. Rumors spread like an out of control blaze that something special is on board. Though most assume it is a mythological creature, it turns out two young elephants each over twelve feet and the other live cargo like the zebra is at first sight assumed by many as mythological beasts.

The affluent patriarch of the Harrington merchant family buys the elephants as a present for his kids. He assigns young teenager Tom Page as the groom of the pachyderms living on his estate. Tom names them Timothy and Jenny. Tom becomes attracted to sassy maid Lizzy Tindall, especially after she is kind to his Jenny. However, when Jenny and Timothy are sold to separate owners, Lizzy tells him ironically to forget Jenny (and Timothy) as she is "only an Elephant", angering Tom. He goes with Jenny though he is saddened by his having to leave Timothy. As the pair moves from one owner to another, he tries to keep up with Timothy's health until Jenny is moved into a hovel in London where Tom deserts her for the highlights of the decadent big city. Eventually, he realizes what he has done and returns to his Jenny; writing her story a few years after they first bonded.

This is an excellent refreshing historical tale that uses the uniqueness of an elephant in Georgian England to tell a coming of age tale of loyalty in a violent era in which animal rights are non existent. Jenny is terrific as she is able to communicate her needs and caring for her human groom to Tom (and the reader) even when he deserts her temporarily; Tom understands her as she is his "soulmate" and realizes especially after London that his bond is unbreakable for his Jenny.

The Justice Game
Randy Singer
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414316345, $13.99,

In Virginia Beach, Larry Jamison assaults the WDXR news station whose reporters were doing an investigative story on him; he executes anchor Manuel Sanchez and demands they go on the air and kills the reporter pregnant Rachel Crawford on live TV before the SWAT unit kills him. After the funeral, Rachel's family sues the gun company MD Firearms who made the killer's semi-automatic assault weapon.

The plaintiff lawyer is Kelly Starling while the defense is represented by Jason Noble. Bot are yuppies filled with ambition. They also worked at the same firm at one time and each has secrets that will derail their careers if revealed. Let the latest trial of the century begin with the media watching every move of the two legal teams and the judge.

This is an exciting Christian legal thriller that focuses on the legal adversaries Jason Noble and Kelly Starling as much as on the Second Amendment issues especially is a semi automatic assault weapon protected by the Constitution. The story line is very entertaining from the onset and never slows down as the cast is fully developed. Although the dysfunctional relationship between Jason and his father is fascinating, it is irrelevant to the bigger questions of the rights of man under the Constitution vs. the rights under God. Randy Singer once again affirms he is a leading voice on Christian Constitutional legal thrillers (see DIRECTED VERDICT and DYING DECLARATION).

One Good Affair
Tess Stimson
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385341271, $14.00,

Pediatrician Ella Stuart knows her thoughtful husband Jackson loves her, but also believes her lover William Ashfield loves her too. William turns to Ella when either his disturbed wife Beth or his rebel without a cause teenage daughter, Cate send him over the edge with nonsense. Ella and William are happy with their arrangement.

Everything changes abruptly when Ella's husband drops dead making her single and available. William knows his spouse needs him, but thinks when is it time for him to consider his needs. He also believes his daughter Cate would be in trouble by his leaving them for his beloved Ella. Soon he must choose knowing someone he cares about will be hurt.

This is an entertaining relationship drama starring a fully developed relatively small ensemble cast. The story line rotates perspective between the four prime players as Jackson's death forces his widow and her married lover to make decisions that impact on his wife and daughter. Although the story line seems overly stretched and doubtful especially the late Cate factor as the reader after a while will hum Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind? and You Didn't Have to be So Nice (Lovin' Spoonful). ONE GOOD AFFAIR is overall an enjoyable read.

The Shortest Distance Between Two Women
Kris Radish
9780553805413, $15.00

In Higgins, South Carolina, the biggest annual event is the Gilford family reunion. The yearly happening is headed by the widowed matriarch Marty as a Five Star general and three of her four adult daughters as Field Generals. However, the youngest daughter forty-three years old Emma is the NCO making sure the gala comes off all right; in fact making sure the lives of her older siblings, their spouses and children, and mom come off all right.

One blast from the past changes everything when Samuel leaves a voice message asking Emma if she would see him. He wants to start over. Emma on the one hand does, but fears he will leave especially after the Higgins chaos; on the other hand she wants him to go to hell. Her family collapses without her helping hand since she now needs a mental helping hand from them but none step forward. Samuel's return forces her to relook her relationships as the spinster who is the dependable one never gets the hunk because she is too busy.

This is an engaging regional family drama that is fun to follow but clearly over the top of Sassafras Mountain with the Gilford "kick the can" rules; that includes an overwhelming ensemble cast making it at times difficult to recall who's who. Still this is entertaining tale that reminds the audience to be responsible but take time out to enjoy life with your love ones.

The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners
Luanne Rice
9780553805147, $26.00

In spite of her wealth, heiress Lyra Nicholson is lonely while living on Capri, Italy. Her two teenage daughters, sixteen years old Pell and fourteen years old Lucy are almost as lonely as their mom while residing with their grandma in Newport, Rhode Island.

Lucy, a math prodigy, with the help of her best friend Beck tried to use equations to contact her late father, but failed (see Geometry of Sisters). Pell decides it is time to confront Lyra so she travels to Italy to demand her mother finally be a mom to them; having abandoned them years ago. Playwright Max Gardiner, who loves Lyra, encourages Pell to go for it while the older daughter is attracted to his nineteen years old Rafe, a recovering addict.

This profound sequel to GEOMETRY OF SISTERS focuses on the older sister (whereas the previous one centered on Lucy) who after a decade of separation has come to challenge her mom. Ironically when mother and daughter meet, the former seems like a young teen and the latter appears as the more mature fortyish parent. Capri with is vivid setting enhances a deep look at families that as a unit may not survive a tragedy, but the component members endure coping in their own ways.

Forget Me Knot
Sue Margolis
9780385339001, $13.00

In Islington, Fabulous Flowers florist Abby Crompton runs her business quite successfully, but not so her personal life. Her fiance Honorable Toby Kenwood proposed a month ago, but has so far failed to provide her with an engagement ring.

However, she soon fails the mommy test when she meets her future mother-in-law the Dowager Lady Penelope Kenwood at Covenant Gardens though Toby forgives her for being tipsy. Abby had become soused when stuck on a lift with stranger; film director Rebound Dan who supplied her with the wine and wants to include Fabulous Flowers in a London based romantic comedy he is making. They hit it off, but he conceals some important details about his life especially his past. Having been toasted once though still engaged, Abby considers ending her rebound relationship, but Dan remains persistent.

FORGET ME KNOT is a lighthearted amusing British chick lit romance starring a likable heroine surrounded by eccentrics and more eccentrics (Islington seems like the capital of eccentricity). The story line is fun and breezy as Abby struggles between two men while wondering how her not any longer stay at home mom would handle each of her huggables. This is a fun inane frolic that never goes deep into the star, but fans of Sue Margolis will relish the cast's antics.

Snakeskin Road
James Braziel
9780553385038, $15.00

In 2044 recently widowed Jennifer Harrison is pregnant and desperately needs to return to her hometown Chicago where her mom lives. Currently she is in the vast desert of what was once the southeastern United States; the entire region destroyed by a hole in the Ozone layer. However to become free she needs to escape Birmingham and become an indentured servant for three years in the Midwest.

She travels up the Snakeskin Road used by human traffickers. Her bus crashes and she becomes guardian of thirteen year old Mazy. As they struggle northward on the deadly trail, Rosser the ruthless bounty hunter pursues them as no one leaves Birmingham alive. In Illinois Jennifer is indentured to a brothel where she believes she can survive three years if Rosser is not a customer.

Mindful of his own work, BIRMINGHAM, 35 MILES, James Braziel paints a dark, gloomy future landscape especially the expanding desert widening like a new Ice Age that makes Mad Max look like a still life. The story line is fast-paced because anything less means unburied death for those who dawdle. Jennifer is terrific as a heroine on the run with a teen to protect; but it is Rosser who steals the show as a futuristic Tom Loker before the Quaker revelation in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Although the too many regional idioms and southern dialect anchor the locale, it detracts from the post-apocalyptic view of the journey north on SNAKESKIN ROAD; a path with no conductors, only killing traffickers and desperate escaped slaves dare venture on this lethal "Underground Railroad".

A Disobedient Girl
Ru Freeman
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439101957, $25.00,

In Colombo, Sri Lanka, recently orphaned five year old Latha Kumari is taken in by the wealthy Vithanages family as an unpaid except for room and board companion and servant of their same age daughter Thara. Over the next few years, spoiled Thara treats Latha as less than nothing. As the servant's resentment grows, a communist tutor encourages her to never accept caste servitude. She also finds solace in Princess Diana's rise from nanny to popular royal. Latha is outraged when her employers refuse to give her money to buy shoes she badly needs; her revenge is to seduce Thara's intended, but unlike the soap operas that guide her, she finds her plan backfires.

Biso flees from her drunken abusive spouse, her dead lover and a town of uncaring people who call her "whore" loud enough for her to hear. She races to family in the north of the country expecting haven for her and her three accompanying children across a dangerous and deadly landscape. With terrorists everywhere threatening everyone, Biso and Latha meet with one's tragedy becoming the other's salvation.

Extremely timely, Ru Freeman focuses on the plight of women trying to survive in Sri Lanka where until recently the almost two decade civil war between the central government and Tiger Tamil was brutally fought with no thought for collateral damage. Relationships are keys to this super portrayal as the "owners" blithely ignore the needs of their "slave" while the teen servant is outraged by her mistreatment and lowly status. Biso in many ways is similar to Latha, but with maturity understands the plight for her and her offspring. Ms. Freeman without preaching makes a strong case that in society women tend to be the lowest while war places additional hardship on females who often end up in the excretion (from above) ooze below the food chain.

Heaven's Keep
William Kent Kreuger
9781416556763, $25.00

The day before Jo O'Connor boards the charter flight to Wyoming with seven other people, she and her husband Cork get into a fight. The small plane flies through a wintry storm and suddenly vies off course; no longer tracked by radar, the assumption by officials is the plane crashed into the Wyoming mountains. Cork joins the search into the wintry Rockies but after days of fruitless searching hampered by bad weather making a harsh mountainous terrain that much more difficult, the party gives up as there is no sign of the plane; no one could have lived through the cold if they made it past the assumed crash.

Six months later, Rebecca Bodine and her friend Liz Burns show up at Cork's place in Minnesota. Rebecca claims the pilot of that charter was not her husband as everyone else assumes especially with a wrongful death suit claiming Sandy was drunk when he flew that fatal flight. A reporter digs up what Sandy was doing before the flight: getting drunk in a bar. Cork looks at a video of the pilot and concludes he did not drink but instead poured the liquor into something under his shirt while pretending to imbibe. Although he still believes his wife died, Cork knows something is off about the official conclusion so goes to Wyoming to investigate. The closer he comes to the truth, law enforcement officers, other government officials and drug lords are watching him to see if they have to take action against him.

Readers will sympathize with Cork who feels remorse that he and Jo went to bed angry with one another instead of making up while his fuming good bye was his last words to her. As Cork investigates, he and the audience begin to wonder whether Jo is alive but if so how. Filled with action and vivid descriptions of the Wyoming Rockies, William Kent Kreuger has somehow made this strong thriller a personal drama as well in what may be the best O'Connor tale to date.

Shadow Magic
Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553806977, $25.00,

The Hundred Years War is over with the city-state Kingdom of Volstov's metal dragons corps having defeated the Ke-Han Empire's imperial troops (see HAVEMERCY). Stunned by his side's loss the Ke-Han emperor does the honorable thing in his society by committing suicide.

The Volstov send a peace delegation led by magician Caius Greylace and General Alcibiades to negotiate the terms of surrender. The new Emperor Iseaul greets them even as he plots to strengthen his new position of power starting with the assassination of his younger brother Prince Mamoru. The attempt fails and Mamoru and his personal servant Kouje flee while the diplomacy moves forward at a snail's pace as Iseaul objects as if his side were the victors.

This fascinating sequel switches from the military fantasy of Havemercy to a diplomacy fantasy with as much intrigue, Machiavellian machinations modified by magic. The story line is as fast-paced and action-packed as its predecessor but with a different take. Fans will enjoy this strong entry as Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett provide a deep look at conflicting societies loosely modeled after Shogun medieval Japan and Empirical Rome respectively placed in a fantasy realm.

Witches Incorporated
K.E. Mills
Orbit Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316035446, $7.99,

Everyone who knew him including himself believed Gerald Dunwoody was a third-grade wizard; he affirmed his level of competency as a safety inspector who accidentally blew up the factory he was inspecting. However, everything changed for Gerald in New Ottosland where his performance proved elitist (see THE ACCIDENTAL SORCERER).

The New Ottosland royal government trains Gerald in secret to become a first class wizard. His first cold field assignment is to find and capture a deadly saboteur. At the same time Princess Melissande and Emmerabiblia Markham open up one stop one shop Witches Incorporated to handle all matters of bewitching. Once again, Gerald while Reg pecks at his brain, and Melissande with never silent Biblia at her side (well almost) work on the same case just representing different clients.

The second Rogue Agent fantasy is an amusing enjoyable tale filled with a strong albeit reluctant lead character and solid support players who are purposely uses hyperbole to satirize the genre. The story line is fast-paced as the accidental sorcerer is on his first official case; keep in mind preventing a war between a superpower and the kingdom employing you does not count as that was not in his job description at the time. Fans who appreciate a jocular fantasy filled with humor and intrigue and more humor will want to read the lighthearted continuing adventures of Gerald and his acerbic bird-brained sidekick.

The Drowning City
Amanda Downum
9780316069045, $7.99

The necromancer undercover agent Isyllt Iskaldur travels to the dangerous "Drowning City" of Symir in the country of Selafai. The capital of Sivahra is famous for its monsoon weather and canals as it is for its deviant miscreant population. Currently the kingdom is under the military control of the invincible forces of the Assari Empire.

She sees an opportunity to stir local trouble in order to prevent the Assari from invading her nation, next on their conquering agenda. However, the necromancer has some personal issues before financing the local insurgents as she is attracted to Imperial fire-mage Asheris. Her bodyguard Sivahran Xinai begs Isyllt to begin her mission as she loathes the violent empire that ruthlessly destroyed her clan.

This is a terrific fantasy thriller with a unique heroine who uses necromancy to support her side as she tries to stir up trouble inside a mighty empire to keep them occupied internally in order for them not to occupy her country. Fans will enjoy Isyllt's adventures as a foreign agent acting sort of like a 1950s CIA undercover operative stirring up trouble in a third world nation like Iran heavily influenced by the Soviets who will bury her people if not stopped. Readers will relish the refreshing brisk first tale of the Necromancer Chronicles as espionage, politics, and military merge with magic in a fascinating fantasy.

Redemption Alley
Lilith Saintcrow
9780316035460, $7.99

Having just rescued a teen from a Trader, Hunter Jill Kismet knows her vocation allows no vacation. Her Santa Luz police department contact Detective Montaine asks Jill to look into the suicide of a cop; Officer Marvin Kutchner ate his Glock two months ago. The deceased has not returned from the grave so is outside of Kismet's cases. However, Montaine says Kutchner was his partner at one time and he would never take his own life. Kismet notices the popular police candy Tums unopened and the police hydrator whiskey almost filled so decides to help her contact obtain closure by investigating the death so that the bottles remain practically filled.

The simple case turns convoluted and deadly as allies prove false and enemies prove loyal. Cops want her dead and Hellbreed have damning information they offer to her. As she digs deeper and deeper, Jill finds links to disappearances and begins to uncover a hellish conspiracy that places the city in danger unless she can finish peeling back the onion in time with the help of another Hunter and some Were.

The third invigorating Jill Kismet investigative urban fantasy is as vivid and violent as the previous thrillers (see NIGHT SHIFT and HUNTER'S PRAYER) in this action-packed take no prisoners without blood flowing saga. The story line is faster than the speed of light as the heroine jumps feet first into the hellish fire as nothing is what it seems. Filled with great twists, Lilith Saintcrow provides a stunning Kismet entry as the Hunter affirms Schwartz's tenet that Murphy is a god damn optimist.

The Lost Sister
Megan Kelley Hall
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758226808, $9.95,

It has been one year since the Hawthorne, Massachusetts based SISTERS OF MISERY tried to kill Cordelia LeClaire on nearby Misery Island, but somehow she survived. While she seeks her estranged father Malcolm Crane, whom she blames for the tragedies that have devastated all the females in her family, Maddie feels guilt and remorse for not helping her new friend out of fear of retaliation by the Sisters.

She is away at school struggling with her weakness especially her failure to help Cordelia. Haunted by neurotic trepidations she returns to Hawthorne when she learns her mother is dying from cancer. When a Sister dies at a party hosted by the Endicott family to announce their plans for a new hotel on the site of the Ravenswood Asylum, the police arrest Finn and Reed, who are still suspects in the cold case of the disappearance Cordelia as murder suspects. Cordelia returns so one charge against Finn and Reed is dropped. Meanwhile The Endicott Hotel construction is stopped due a blaze destroying what has been built. The townsfolk are divided in opinion between a human or an otherworldly arsonist. Maddie and Cordelia team up to investigate who burned down the partially constructed hotel and killed the Sister, but neither trusts the other for good reasons; they better move past their suspicions of one another as something is stalking them.

The second Sisters of Mercy young adult fantasy will appeal to older readers as well due to the character driven tale containing a deep Gothic feel and haunting foreboding atmosphere that hooks fans of all ages. The lead amateur sleuths are terrific as they invesitgate while doubting the sincerity of one another at a time they better get over it or else. With strong ties to the late seventeenth century Salem Witch Trials, THE LOST SISTER is a super thriller as evil comes in all packages.

Highland Beast
Hannah Howell, Heather Grotaus and Victoria Dahl
9780758235091, $13.95

"The Beast Within" by Hannah Howell. In 1513, when Gybbon MacNachton of a clan of vampires rescues Alice Boyd, neither can believe the attraction.

"The Vampire Hunter" by Heather Grotaus. In 1104 Beatrix is the last white witch in the Highlands, but is accused of the misfortune that has hurt nearby villagers, who soon attack her. Only Alder can keep her safe, but his clan of vampires killed her ancestors a century ago.

"Laird of Midnight" by Victoria Dahl. In 1595 Finlay, the only survivor of clan Maclain, seeks to kill the vampires who destroyed his family and converted him five decades ago. He has no plans to live after he kills the last vampire until he meets tavern serving wench, Kenna whose life he saves from a deadly assault.

These are three enjoyable vampire historical romances starring strong lead characters.

The Scoop
Fern Michaels
9780758227188, $13.95

In Charleston, South Carolina the four sexagenarian BFFs gather for the funeral of the millionaire husband of one of them Teresa Amelia "Toots" Loudenberry; this is her eighth spouse she has buried. She informs her buddies that the mourning period will be one week before they dash to Hollywood.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder centerfold Ida, overweight Mavis accompanied everywhere by Coco the Chihuahua and smoker Sophie agree to go with her to California. Toots plans to buy the near bankrupt tabloid the Informer where her daughter Abby Simpson works as a reporter. . However, the ten million dollar deal collapses when newspaper publisher Rodwell Archibald Godfrey III takes the money and runs to the Cayman Islands. V

THE SCOOP is a zany over the top of the Hollywood Hills starring the Golden Girls who go after Godfrey. Each of the four musketeers is different, while the ringleader is Toots. The story line is amusing and irrelevant as even the opening funeral services affirm nothing is sacred in life when it comes to eternity. Fans will enjoy this madcap comedic tale as the escapades keep on coming when the four BFFs go after their man.

Working Stiff
Annelise Ryan
075823452X, $22.00

She thought she had the perfect marriage and perfect job working at the same hospital as her husband Dr. David Winston as he was a surgeon and she is a surgeon's nurse. However Mattie Winston's world collapsed when she caught him with another nurse Karen Owenby. Without a word, she rushes home, packs her bags, and visits her best friend medical examiner Izzy, who gives her a home in his guest cottage and hires her; training her to be a deputy coroner.

When Mattie learns that Karen is at the home she once shared with David, she cannot stop herself from peaking through a window. What she observes horrifies her as the pair argues heatedly until David throttles her. Later that same night, Izzy and Mattie are called to a homicide scene where a female corpse has two bullets in her head. The victim is Karen. Suspicion falls rightfully on David, but though she is angry and acrimonious with him and knows what she saw at their house, Mattie refuses to believe he would kill anyone. A second murder implicates David further as Detective Steve Hurley finds evidence hanging Mattie's soon to be ex at a time the cop and the trainee are attracted to one another and he realizes she should be a prime suspect as a betrayed wife.

The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Mattie realizes her spouse is a womanizing cheat, but not a killer and never slows down as the heroine risks her life (to the chagrin of her boss and the detective) to catch the culprit. Fascinatingly though she is a WORKING STIFF as an apprentice deputy coroner, the enjoyable story line reads in may ways like an amateur sleuth as she has little experience on homicide investigations. Fans will enjoy Annelise Ryan's fun investigative tale, the opening act of a new series.

The Sari Shop Widow
Shobhan Bantwal
9780758232021, $15.00

Anjali Kapadia had once dreamed of raising children, but after a decade since she cremated Vikram, the Indian-American has little hope of a second marriage as she has not found anyone she wants to marry though she has a secret boyfriend she hides from her parents. Nearing forty with her biological clock winding down, she has all but given up on her dream. Everything else in her life is good as she and her parents Mohan and Usha run the Silk and Sapphires upscale boutique in the Little India neighborhood of Edison, New Jersey where she designs clothing.

However, Anjali is ignorant of the fact that the shop is failing. Her desperate father Mohan asks his wealthy older brother for help. Anjali's Uncle Jeevan-kaka has not been state side in five years, but comes from India to see what he can do to save the boutique. He is a benevolent dictator who drove Anjali and her mom crazy with his demands on his last visit. Jeevan arrives in New Jersey with his London-based business partner Rishi Shah, an expert on saving businesses buried in red ink. They plan to save the shop but also demand fifty-one percent ownership of the store. As Anjali and Rishi fall in love, she must decide can she trust him with her heart, her boutique, and her future when he already has a client girlfriend?

This is a super ethnic family drama from an author who consistently provides readers with great profound novels that give insight into the Indian especially the Indian-American Hindu culture (see THE FORBIDDEN DAUGHTER and THE DOWRY BRIDE). Once again the fully developed characters make for a strong deep look at Hindu life in central New Jersey with the romance augmenting the insightful look. Shobhan Bantwal's enjoyable novels are incredibly entertaining but also enlightening as the reader sips masala chai.

The Mercenary: The Savage Seven
Katherine Gabera
Kensington Brava
9780758232106, $14.00

In South Africa, affluent socialite Olivia Pontouf and diamond-mine manager Ray Lambert are engaged. However, their wedding plans die when she accidentally uncovers evidence he commits business murder and fraud. When he realizes what his fiancee has learned, Ray plots her death.

The Savage Seven mercenaries are hired to protect Olivia. However, by the time second in command Kirk Mann lands in Johannesburg, Ray has kidnapped Olivia. The ex-marine is all action and few words as he leads the counteroffensive to rescue the wealthy heiress. He succeeds, but has a new more lethal problem that neither his marine nor his Savage Seven training helps solve; he is attracted to his client and worse she reciprocates never feeling safer than when she is with Kirk.

This opening act is more a thriller than a romantic suspense though there is a major romance subplot. That feels out of place and would have been better suited to have had overly spoiled Olivia in a role similar to that of Erika Eleniak in Steven Seagal's movie Under Siege. Still the story line is fast-paced and filled of furious action as Kirk and company kick butt in the terrific South African backdrop. Katherine Gabera provides an overall exciting first magnificent Savage Seven tale.

Tasting Fear
Shannon McKenna
Kensington Brava
9780758228635, $14.00

"Outside the Limit". The coroner ruled that Lucia died from natural causes; having suffered a heart attack. Her three adult adopted daughters know otherwise. The intruder who broke into Lucia's home watched her die; that thug could have saved her life with a 911 call. Nancy, Nell and Vivi vow to bring the killer to justice and to recover stolen priceless Renaissance art that the D'Onofrio siblings believe is the motive. Nancy arrives at her adopted mom's house only to meet a stranger inside. Contractor Liam finds himself needing to keep Nancy safe; while she finds herself feeling safe with him and willing to tell him what she knows though she also believes it could prove costly to her and her sisters.

"Ask for More". Nell knows who best can assist the sisters; her boss Duncan, who she is attracted to, is an expert on the deadly cyberspace underworld from his former government operative days. She asks for his help in finding clues to the missing masterpiece and he agrees to assist her as he is as attracted to her as she is to him.

"Ready or Not". Vivi has ferocious government operative Jack who seeks justice at the limits of the law to look after her. Even he is shocked how much the wild Vivi turns him on and keeps him somewhat calm.

Although a bit over the top, these three interwoven romantic suspense thrillers are fast-paced and filled with action as murders occur driving each couple closer to one another. Fans will enjoy this exciting tale of three sisters in the anger stage of grief seeking vengeance and recovery (of the lost masterpiece) but finding love with hunks who want to keep them safe from nasty killers.

Seducing the Moon
Sherrill Quinn
Kensington Brava
9780758231895, $14.00

Two years ago Pelicia Cobb could do nothing as her life fell apart due to former commando Declan O'Connell. She did nothing wrong, but ended up in jail, unemployed and her heart broken.

Pel fled to her home off the coast of Cornwall where she has mentally recovered though her heart remains shattered; she accepts her rep on the mainland is kaput so she manages her grandfather's Bed and Breakfast. Declan knows what he accidentally did to Pel, but though he believes he should stay away he cannot as he plans to claim his mate. He comes to the B and B to beg for a second chance. However, as if he is a trouble magnet, his arrival also has brought a killer with him who shoots at Pel and has murdered several people. Declan who has one more howling shocker to reveal to his soulmate vows to keep Pel safe from whoever wants them dead.

Readers will enjoy this fast-paced paranormal romantic suspense as the hero uses his superior werewolf skills in the cat and mouse battle with the killer while also concealing his shapeshifting from his beloved until he deems the time is right to do so. The story line is action-packed and St. Mary's the biggest island in the Isles of Scilly is a fabulous location that brings the only freshness to an otherwise well written fine but typical werewolf romance plot.

Men In Blue
Devyn Quinn, Myla Jackson and Delta Dupree
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758237972, $12.95

The Hard Way" by Devyn Quinn. Undercover cop Drew Hardage has a plan to take down his crime boss; he will seduce the moll Mara Luce. Plans of mice and undercover police often go astray when a broad is involved as Drew and Mara reach erotic nirvana, but are on the run from the boss.

"Saturday Night Special" by Myla Jackson. Because he is an expert hula dancer, Honolulu police officer Mano Kekehuna goes undercover to find a serial killing siren who strips the life out of male strippers. As he performs in the nude, he hones in on Rachel Grant, who looks like she is coming to watching the show. They leave together with him assuming he has lured the killer into his trap, but reconsiders who has whom as the librarian has each singing more and more is how they like their love.

"Cuffed Heat" by Delta Dupree. Police Officer Raegan Crosby just wants to be accepted as one of the guys so she curses more than a teen locker room and kicks butt harder than her peers as she knows a woman must be tougher than a man to be treated equally. Fellow cop Thaine McDuff wants to treat Raegan equally in his bed and begins his seduction of her. However, as they make love, a killer wants both dead.

Mistitled as these are men are in their birthday suits, these three exciting erotic romances star cops heating the sheets much more than beating the streets.

Wicked Harvest
Anitra Lynn McLeod
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758235336, $13.95

The Harvester understands that sex is duty and duty is sex. In that environs, Chur a Harvester in training, has prepared for the past year minus one day for his role of taking virgins to ecstasy but never allowing himself the same pleasure. The women with his one dip into their honey pot are deemed ready for marriage, but he must remain alone and aloof.

His loyal paratanist servant Enovese has fallen in love with her master Chur. She believes he cares for her much more than just as a kind boss though he hides his feelings. She has decided to take a chance on love by giving her virginity to the Harvester; if she fails she will have to marry someone else. He has freed his first two females to marry their bondmate, but is stunned with the identity of the third one. Chur tries to hide his desire, but Enovese will not allow him to escape her siren's call. He knows she is his bondmate, but if he declares her so, as he knows also the consequences, he plans to teach his slave sexual obedience that is if he can keep her from making him come to soon.

This is a fantastic erotic romantic science fiction tale in which Anitra Lynn McLeod creates a fascinating world with an intriguing custom. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as Enovese risks all for her perfect mate while Chur is caught between his need for his bondmate and his responsibility to society as a Harvester. Fans who relish something different will appreciate the tale of the WICKED HARVESTER and his clever paratanist.

Take Me
Shelli Stevens
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758235282, $12.95

Talia of Zortou has spent years since she turned eighteen as a Rosabelle pleasing males on a world where females are scarce . Not once in all that time did the highest bidder for her services consider her pleasure; instead they took what they wanted as they all felt they paid for their enjoyment not hers.

Undercover operative Ryder arrives on Zortou to thwart an invasion of his planet Bolton. He learns that the handlers of Talia are behind the schemes. Believing she knows their intimate secrets, Ryder abducts her planning to seduce her into telling all. As he gives the woman of pleasure ecstasy for the first time in her life, Ryder finds he enjoys making love with her as much as she does with him though she tries to hide her passion he has enflamed. Talia realizes he is her ticket to freedom while Ryder realizes he wants more form his prisoner besides information, but having been brainwashed for her entire life she finds it difficult to betray her abusive handlers.

Talia is a fascinating lead character as she wants to tell all to her kind liberator, but has problems doing so as she has been trained form almost birth to accept male dominance and abuse; she accepts is her fault when her handlers rough her up for an indiscretion. Ryder is more typical as a hunk of a hero. Although the lack of background about either planet leaves readers anchorless, fans will enjoy the erotic romance between a couple from different walks of life and planets.

Trio of Seduction
Cassie Ryan
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758220677, $12.95

In Phoenix half-breed Dr. Kiera Matthews meets with diminutive Council member Danen to argue that it past time for the Cunts to go for peace with the Klatch. A quarter of a century ago the clan split into civil war and now the Cunts hide amongst humans with Kiera their only medical practitioner. He calls her a traitor just like her purebred mom; irate she kicks his butt in with moves she learned from her human military father.

The stranger watches her take out the arrogant counselor and his two guards. He applauds her skills even as she never believed in love at first sight, but now accepts lust at first sight. Ryan is the Prince of Klatch and recognizes Kiera as his mate, the Healer who will bring the divided clan back together, which is her life goal dedicated to her late mom. As a being who thrives on sexual energy, he knows she is the one because his dreams have changed from dark hair to a specific blonde. However, though she relishes the heights of passion he brings to her, she has doubts that a Halfbreed can be destiny's darling for the Klatch and the Cunts.

The third "Seduction" erotic romantic science fiction (see VISIONS OF SEDUCTION and CEREMONY OF SEDUCTION) is a terrific thriller with some paranormal elements enhancing the exciting story line. The lead couple is a delightful pairing in and out of the boudoir as they feed off of each other while also encouraging one another. Readers will be seduced by Cassie Ryan's enticing sexual healing (Marvin Gaye style) "Seduction" science fiction saga.

Obsidian Prey
Jayne Castle
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780515146899, $7.99,

On the planet Harmony, humans were not the first people to live there as an ancient race lived and traveled in underground buildings, tunnels and catacombs that cross the entire orb. The former inhabitants were strong in ESP and also left behind strong residual PSI that had the effect of brining out similar previously latent powers in humans.

Lyra Dore is one of the few who can work amethyst amber and has found a lode of amethyst strong in PSI in an underground rain forest. The Amber Inc CEO Cruz Sweetwater went undercover and worked on her until she told him about the find. He steals her lode. Three months later, he walks back into her life because his psychic powers have made him realize who his true love is. Cruz knows he must convince her that he will never betray her again as he loves her, but her distrust is strong even when someone threatens to kill him and kidnap her.

Whether she writes historical, contemporary or science fiction, Jayne Castle also known as Amanda Quick and Jayne Anne Krentz can be depended on for providing her readers with a blockbuster romance. Her myriad of fans can be counted on to buy any of her titles regardless of milieu and author name. Her latest return to Harmony affirms her writing skills as the planet is a great place to explore with Ms. Castle as the guide taking her devoted audience to the caverns filled with sizzling PSI energy. Lyra is wonderful as an independent prospector who learns from being burned; while intriguingly he does not regrets his actions but is burned more so as his obsidian and her amethyst is a fiery PSI heart and soul matching . This is another winning romance from a writer comfortable in several sub-genres.

Hank Schwaeble
9780515146912, $7.99

The US Army trained Jake Hatcher to use enhanced extraction techniques to obtain information; the combat vet was good at this task and was rewarded by the military who sent him to prison for doing exactly what they trained him to do as a "rotten apple" grunt taking the fall when the program is exposed. He is freed from incarceration to attend the funeral of his brother though he never knew he had a brother until his sibling died. With a desperate need to know who Garrett was, why he never heard of him, and how he died, Jake investigates.

Jake learns how difficult it is to make inquiries into someone who more often than not lived in the shadows of the other side of the law. With what he has found out about Garrett, he finds it an anomaly that Garrett died trying to save the life of a woman. Unfamiliar with finesse investigative techniques as he was trained in harsh methods, Jake is a bull in a china shop that has two detectives deciding what to do about him. Meanwhile a wealthy psychopath gets his kicks slicing and dicing women and the eerie Carnates secret society of females each have reasons to silence the soul of the DAMNABLE Jake.

This is an exhilarating Noir as Jake makes inquiries into the brother he never knew existed until he attended the funeral. Fans will enjoy his wild exploits as he only knows one way to extract information, the Cheney method. However, the downside of his approach is not so much the quality of the extraction, but the noise he makes brings him to the attention of others who want him either dead or back in prison. The aptly titled DAMNABLE applies as that is surely what Jake is as two detectives, a society of women and a psychopath await to personally greet him.

Get Real
Donald E. Westlake
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446178600, $23.99,

New York cabbie Stan Murch's mom takes Get Real reality-show company producer Doug Fairkeep from the airport to Manhattan. They talk during the drive about his show and she persuades Doug to use her son Stan as a getaway driver and his cohorts as a segment on the show of criminals planning a heist. The next day mom talks to Doug and Dortmunder. They agree with mom that they can make some money using their previous financial activities in a sort of mockudrama. Dortmunder lines up Kelp, Tiny and the Kid about the gig and they agree to do it.

While Dortmunder and crew work on the details of the robbery with Get Real to include stealing from the firm for the camera and working with a real actor and a gun moll, they plot a real theft of the company's valuable assets at their Varick Street warehouse. After the TV script is changed and killed and resuscitated by the hour, they finally begin to shoot the TV robbery at the same Dortmunder and the gang executes the real robbery.

With this excellent comedic satirical final Dortmunder crime caper, the late Donald E. Westlake, who died in January, pays homage to himself as he adds to his tremendous legacy. The story line is terrific as once again Dortmunder and his cronies come across as eccentric individuals whose relationship is humorous with a strong belief this time they will pull off the real heist due to Fairkeep's superego. Additionally, WHAT'S SO FUNNY is the mocking of reality TV to GET REAL as Mr. Westlake provides a great final Dortmunder; a tribute to one of the best mystery writers in the past few decades.

The Palace of Strange Girls
Sallie Day
Grand Central
9780446545860, $13.99

In 1959 in England, the Singleton family of four goes on vacation at the seaside town of Blackpool. There the father, WWII vet Jack has a difficult decision to make between job offers as manager of Prospect Mill or being a union representative. He conceals his concerns from his demanding wife, Ruth who wants them to buy a new house. His sixteen year old daughter Helen hopes to find a boyfriend soon, but believes to do this she needs the latest fashion and freedom from her mom's strict control. His other child seven year old Beth has health issues having just been released from the hospital, but just wants some free time to enjoy the shore, fill in her "I-Spy" book as she tracks everyone and most important escape from her demanding mother's diligence.

This is an enjoyable historical family drama that stars four fully developed characters; all with differing needs and desires that come to a head during the four day vacation. The interrelationships ring true though the solutions at the end of the Singleton family vacation seem to quick and unlikely. Ironically the father and the two kids blame all on the mom due to her demanding manner though she uses her martinet orders to hide her fears from her loved ones. Fans will enjoy Sallie Day's fine trip back to 1959 England.

America Libre
Ramos y Sanchez
Grand Central
9780446507752, $13.99

In El Paso, a cop shoots and kills a Latina youth. The Hispanic community in the border city is outraged and rioting occurs. The Texas Governor calls in the National Guard to quell the riots and prevent looting. Shots are fired and twenty-three Latinas are killed.

Across the country there is horror from many quarters and defense of the use of force from others. However, Latinas explode in outrage. In Los Angeles tensions between Hispanics and Anglos are boiling over with every incident and rumor escalating the tension. Wealthy Ramon Garcia creates the La Defensa del Pueblo to protect Hispanics from the Anglo backlash. Unemployed former Army Ranger Manolo "Mano" Suaraz is one of the veterans who enlist over the objection of his frightened wife as he obtains work as a bodyguard. Soon La Defensa del Pueblo begins to ally with local Hispanic gangs. Civil war seems imminent as the government sets up "Quarantine Zones" and internment camps to isolate Hispanics from the general population.

This is an exciting timely tale that makes a strong warning to beware of the fast growing populace turning angry. The case Ramos y Sanchez makes is supported by the potential backlash to the anti-immigration assault and the Judge Sotomeier attacks. Although no exploration into how other races like Asian-Americans and African-Americans, or foreign countries or terrorist groups react to the American racial civil war, fans enjoy Ramos y Sanchez's entertaining but admonitory thriller that avers liberty and libre are the same or else.

Sand Sharks
Margaret Maron
Grand Central
9780446196116, $24.99

Judge Deborah Knott looks forward to getting away from the bench and her new family after an incident with her husband Dwight and his son as she attends a conference in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. After a couple of more negative events this time at the conference, a tipsy Deborah escorted by friends pukes into the water where she sees the corpse of Judge Peter Jeffreys. Local authorities are well aware Deborah has solved homicides (see DEATH'S HALF ACRE) so they ask her to help them by going undercover and making circumspect inquiries amongst the other judicial attendees.

Deborah is taken aback when she realizes several participants are not upset and in fact sort of joyful over the death of Peter. As she digs a bit deeper, someone is aware of her efforts and scrutinizes her every move to insure if she gets a bit too close she will be victim number two.

Deborah, as she always does, turns this whodunit into an entertaining often amusing homespun regional mystery. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the judge vomits and never slows down although the climax seems unbelievably forced. Still SAND SHARKS is a solid entry as Deborah un-knots the complicated life of the victim who did bad things from the bench, but one obviously rebounded deadly.

Teri Woods
Grand Central
9780446581691, $21.99

In 1986 in Philadelphia, two punks believe they can rob the illegal drug stash of drug lord Simon Shuller. They capture one of the guards Poncho, but fail to take control of the man's more violent partner Nard. When the dust clears Nard is the only person left breathing.

Nard pays twentyish African American stripper old Daisy Fothergill two thousand dollars to provide him with an alibi during the time of the deadly face-off. A witness informs the police that Nard killed the three men, but soon after telling his story to the cops that man is dead; a warning to others to keep their mouths' shut. Meanwhile Daisy visits her mother, Abigail, but finds her dead from natural causes. Her windfall pays for her mom's funeral. She becomes pregnant but her boyfriend Reggie Carter dumps her. Needing time to regroup, Daisy visits her aunt in Murfreesboro, Tennessee knowing she will have to face the music in Philadelphia soon.

This is a terrific crime caper starring an intriguing cast especially Nard (short for Bernard). He makes the story line work from the onset as he methodically cleans up the dead scene and establishes his alibi so that if any of the witnesses speak to the cops he has his counter testimony. Fans will appreciate Teri Woods' strong thriller as the fascinating focus is on a unique anticipated High Noon with fans wondering whether the hit man will soar like a predatory eagle on its prey when Daisy returns to the city of Brotherly Love.

So Into You
Sandra Hill
Grand Central
9780446535779, $7.99

Angel Sabato asked poker champion adventuress and former nun Grace O'Brien to marry him as he informed her he loved her; shocked that her friend declared his affection, she said no because of a secret that would turn his love to loathing. He married someone else, but that rebound relationship failed rather quickly and he fled for Germany to lick his wounds.

One year later he has returned to the Bayou. Tante Lulu asks him in her sweet ordering manner to help build a house for a family of orphans, victims of Katrina. He agrees, but in exchange begs Tante Lulu to help him marry his beloved Grace. Soon Angel and Grace are trying to keep the orphans together. Meanwhile the object of Angel's adulation wants to say yes if he asks again, but fears telling her beloved the truth about her past; and he deserves nothing less if she says yes.

The return to Cajun country for the magic of Tante Lulu will elate fans of Sandra Hill as the author provides the usual facetious farcical frolic but also contains two serious subplots: Grace's past that has her rejecting Angel's proposal and the orphans' efforts to stay together although the oldest is a teen. Fans of the series are so into the Cajun romances, "there must be voodoo in the vibes" (Atlanta Rhythm band).

The Cavalier of the Apocalypse
Susanne Alleyn
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312379889, $24.99,

In 1786 Paris Aristide Ravel struggles to earn a living from writing commentaries that criticize the church as corrupt and depraved, and King Louis XVI as feeble. Ravel also warns those in power that a great internal Revolution similar to that across the ocean will occur with much blood flowing.

Ravel finds a murdered corpse wearing a fancy waistcoat that does not conceal the symbols etched on the body; markings of the Masons. His former neighbor when he could afford to eat cake, police inspector Brasseur, names Ravel as his prime suspect, but hires him to solve the homicide just in case someone else did it; if the writer fails, he will arrest him for the crime. Knowing he will be a guest of the Bastille and probably Madame Guillotine, Ravel investigates. Although the body is stolen from the morgue, Ravel finds out who is reported missing and concludes only the Marquis de Beaupreau or Monsieur Lambert Saint-Landry could have owned the waistcoat. Both are Masons. His inquiry leads to revelations about his father that shake him. Ravel keeps digging into the Masonic clues that seem to imply a conspiracy to remove Louis XVI from the throne and a scandal focused on Queen Antoinette and a missing necklace. All this occurs while the sleuth is fascinated by Lambert's spirited sister Sophie.

The police procedural investigation is well written and fun to follow, but what refreshes this brisk historical mystery is the insightful look at the era just before the revolution; as Susanne Alleyn vividly depicts a period of trouble boiling over which the King, his advisors, and the Church do not believe will ignite as the prevalent theory of most of the powerbrokers start from the axiom of "the divine right of the king" and cannot make the paradigm switch. Fans of French revolutionary War whodunits will relish this great prequel that occurs before Ravel's previous starring roles (see the post Revolutionary GAME OF PATIENCE and A TREASURY OF REGRETS).

Soul Murder
Andrew Nugent
9780312536565, $24.95

In North Kerry, Ireland the students of St. Isidore's boys boarding school sneak out of the dorm late at night for an impromptu midnight barbecue. Following their midnight soiree, the seven pupils sneak back into their tower only to be met by housemaster Maurice Tyson lying in a bloody mess with his throat cut.

The Garda Siochana send Dublin based sexagenarian Superintendent Denis Lennon and youthful Sergeant Molly Power to lead the investigation into the gruesome homicide. Fisher, the headmaster of St. Isidore's, insists Tyson was the victim of kidnappers trying to abduct French student Bertrand Laporte, the son of a wealthy family. The two cops believe that suggestion is ridiculous until Bertrand is kidnapped when he returns to France, but Inspector Quilligan (and the Surete) rescue the lad. However, the police look at a different motive; that of a former student accusing Tyson of abuse.

The third Lennon-Powers Irish police procedural (see SECOND BURIAL FOR A BLACK PRINCE and THE FOUR COURTS MURDER) is an exciting boarding school whodunit. The insight into the goings on including pranks at a boy's school seems real while the official investigation is well done and entertaining. Although the final solution appears weak especially by the standard of excellence for this series, fans will appreciate Andrew Nugent's thrilling murder investigation.

Devil's Trill
Gerald Elias
9780312541811, $25.99

Every thirteen years the Grimsley Competition is held for prodigies under thirteen years of age at Carnegie Hall. The winner receives money, appearances with the New York Symphonic and use of the renowned seventeenth century Piccolino valued at, $8 million for a Carnegie Hall performance.

Blind Daniel Jacobus was once a losing participant, but since feels strongly that the competition and similar music venues destroy the gifted young. Child prodigy Kamryn Vander is this year's winner, but to the shock of the members if the Music Arts Project responsible for the gala, someone stole the revered Piccolino, the only known three-quarter-size Stradivarius. The police blame Daniel, who was at the scene of the crime when the locked door was opened and found empty and has voiced a loud motive to end the competition by breaking the violin. Encouraged by insurance investigator friend Nathanial, grumpy Daniel accompanied by his current student Yumi, whose green eyes are his vision, searches for the missing Piccolino. Murder has the almost maestro and his protege fleeing to Japan before they become the second act of the killer.

This is a super amateur sleuth tale with a musical twist as Daniel with the help of Yumi tries to track down the missing Piccolino. Fans will enjoy the blind teacher turned detective as the almost famous but now infamous Daniel understands the irony of his predicament; he wanted to end the competition that he feels harms children yet now must find the instrument that is the prize of the contest if he is to prove his innocence. Fans will enjoy his profound cantankerous view of the state of classical music in this engaging mystery.

Tears of Pearl
Tasha Alexander
9780312383701, $24.99

Newlyweds Lady Emily and British intelligence agent Colin Hargreaves honeymoon in Constantinople. They are looking into the mugging of Sir Richard and papers stolen from him when a half-English harem girl is murdered. Sir Richard recognizes her as his daughter Thedore stolen from him two decades ago. He pleads with Colin to lead the investigation. The crown's representatives with the cooperation of the Ottoman Empire also reluctantly agree to allow Emily toquestion the women and eunuchs inside the harem.

However, Emily is not known for following orders to do no sleuthing outside the harem. Instead she follows leads that take her to victim's family; her father the diplomat and her brother the archeologist. As Colin struggles to keep her in line, Emily interrogates the previous sultan who ruled when Theodore was abducted and the current sultan. Nothing including her spouse, the English throne, the Ottoman Empire Sultan and not even a probable pregnancy stops Emily from her inquiry.

The latest Lady Emily Victorian mystery (see AND ONLY TO DECEIVE and A FATAL WALTZ) is a fun whodunit (except if you are Sir Richard) though filled with numerous seemingly improbabilities. The story line provides the audience insight into the late nineteenth century teetering Ottoman Empire and British diplomacy. However, the plot belongs to the married couple whose relationship in some ways will remind the audience of Nick and Nora of Thin Man even with a different time and place.

City of Silver
Annamaria Alfieri
9780312383862, $24.99

In 1650, Spanish King Felip IV is concerned with a flood of impure silver coins that threatens the very foundation of the empire. He sends the Visitador General Doctor Francisco de Nestares to Potosi, the largest city in the New World and the center of silver production to investigate and execute those coining the counterfeits.

At the same time in Potosi, Inez Rojas de la Morada, daughter of the Alcalde Municipal, apparently commits suicide while inside an abbey. The New Spain Grand Inquisitor Fray Perdro de la Gasca sees an opportunity to strengthen his control; he blames the abbess Mother Maria Santa Hilda. He calls her a heretic because she was allowing Inez to be interred in holy ground. Not one to sit idly by, Mother Maria sets out to prove that Inez was a murder victim and did not take her life. Her inquiry uncovers implications that some of her people are involved in the watering down of the silver.

This is a great mid seventeenth century historical fiction that grips the audience from the moment the Spanish monarch sends his "investigator" to New Spain and never slows down as the tale turns into an exhilarating amateur sleuth with a clock ticking. Revelations abound that stun the Mother Superior while the Visitador General and the New Spain Grand Inquisitor do their respective jobs. The mystery is cleverly done to entertain readers with strong competing inquiries pulled by personal agendas; in which the truth may prove irrelevant but even more so to provide a deep vivid look at the biggest city in the seventeenth century New World. Awesome Annamaria Alfieri will be fully welcomed by the genre.

A Bad Day for Sorry
Sophie Littlefield
9780312559205, $24.95

In Missouri, after several years of abuse from Ollie Hardesty and not believing in divorce, Stella took care of business. The widow opens up a sewing shop and could wear a T-shirt that says "I survived domestic violence the old fashion way by burying my spouse".

Stella also believes she needs to help battered women like she was as a form of redemption for putting up with Ollie much too long and as an avenging angel dispatching retribution on these bullies. Stella keeps an eye on Roy Dean Shaw, ex mean ass husband of gentle mom Chrissy Shaw. When Roy Dean abducts Chrissy's two years old son Tucker, Stella decides this punk needs a permanent lesson in how to treat a lady. She affirms her feelings about this abusive moron when she learns he is part of the stolen auto parts mob. Chrissy, upset with his taking her infant, has had enough. As Sheriff Goat Jones watches Stella with his dreamy eyes, she hopes it is for her body and not her activity asshe leads Chrissy into hell as they team up to take care of Roy Dean and his car ring associates to rescue the baby from the mob.

This is an enjoyable jocular frolic as middle aged Stella takes on the world with no looking back as to whom she runs over when she does. She makes the tale work although the rest of the key cast members are fully drawn especially Chrissy and Roy Dean. The latter will soon learn what the wrath of a lioness is as she and her sidekick kick butt to rescue the infant. A BAD DAY FOR SORRY is a good day or three for readers.

The Silent Hour
Michael Koryta
9780312361570, $24.95

Convicted killer but freed Parker Harrison sends a series of letters to private investigator Lincoln Perry asking for his help; the sleuth simply ignores them. Exasperated by no response Parker arrives at Perry's Cleveland, Ohio office to cop a plea in person.

Harrison explains that twelve years ago he worked at a rehabilitation program for violent offenders run by Alexandra and Joshua Cantrell. The couple abruptly vanished without a trace. He wants Perry to find them. Perry is suspicious of the motive since a dozen years in a long time to wait to begin an inquiry. He soon learns that Joshua's remains were found in A WELCOME GRAVE near Pittsburgh. Not long afterward, Pittsburgh based private investigator Ken Merriman comes to Cleveland to ask Perry to assist him in finding who killed Joshua; a homicide that Alexandria's mob chieftain brother wants left interred.

This is a super dark yet redemptive investigative thriller that grips the audience from the onset with Harrison's persistence and never lets go with Perry's persistence as the focus. The story line is fast-paced throughout with readers wanting to know the truth while so does Perry and Harrison though they fear what he will find as things are never quite like they seem in THE SILENT HOUR after death.

Seduced by a Stranger
Eve Silver
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780821781302, $6.99,

All her siblings died in childhood leaving Catherine Weston lonely and macabre thinking and dreaming all the time of death. Her only friend is Madeline St. Aubyn, but she is very ill and needs help. Worried about her friend, Catherine travels to Cairncroft Abbey, notoriously known for its evil past.

Catherine is shocked with what she finds at the onerous estate. Anytime Madeline seems comatose, her cousin Gabriel appears. Catherine is attracted to Gabriel, but she is confused by the so called curse that haunts him and his family. Gabriel is stunned with his deep feelings for the visitor, but fears to act on it. When a woman is murdered, Gabriel is the prime suspect; even Catherine wonders if the man she loves is a killer as she has heard.

SEDUCED BY A STRANGER is a terrific frightening Regency gothic that grips the audience from the opening scene of being buried alive near your four interred brothers as the readers wants to know what next to haunt the protagonist. The story line is fast-paced, but contains all the gothic elements as the heroine wonders if her beloved is a killer like everyone else claims. Eve Silver provides a tense historical romantic suspense.

Never Love a Lawman
Jo Goodman
9781420101757, $6.99

In 1882 in Reidsville, Colorado, Sheriff Wyatt Cooper takes his job seriously to protect the townsfolk. He insures everyone is safe including newcomer Rachel Bailey, who he knows is a creature of habit as every male in town knows when they watch her walk the street to her establishment early in the morning. However, no one was prepared when Clinton Maddox dies and shockingly leaves the valuable railroad spur to Rachel, which places her in danger as others want the town's lifeline.

Wyatt and Rachel agree to wed in a marriage of convenience so he can keep her safe. However, the townsfolk are euphoric and want to celebrate the nuptials. The only ones not ecstatic are Wyatt and Rachel. When her past arrives with two goals to destroy Rachel and claim the spur, Wyatt realizes protecting her has become personal.

This is an entertaining Americana romance starring an intriguing heroine and a wolf of a sheriff who sings the refrain from I'm Not in Love. The exciting story line contains a strong cast who bring to life the small town that would die without the spur. Jo Goodman provides an enjoyable western romance.

What A Dragon Should Know
G.A. Aiken
9781420103755, $6.99

As the third born dragon son Gwenvael the Handsome knows his family thinks he is a fool though the women fall all over him. Thus he is taken aback when his seven months pregnant sister-in-law Queen Annwyl assigns him to a key mission. Because of her delicate condition, she cannot travel to negotiate a treaty with the Northlanders and the Beast; she orders him to go in her place; especially after his crack that she is big. Gwenvael would do anything for Annwyl, so he agrees. He revels in her confidence in him but accepts the mission mostly to escape her wrath and her husband his older brother Fearghus the Destroyer and his adopted sister Izzy the muscle queen before they beat his face into a bloody pulp for upsetting the pregnant queen.

He arrives at his destination only to learn that the most feared warrior in the world the Beast is a brilliant human female Dagmar Reinholdt, whose ingenious plots have protected her father the warlord Reinholdt and their people. An even bigger shock than learning who the Beast is (to Gwenvael the Handsome) is that Dagmar with her glasses and plain robes on seems to ignore his beauty; women jump his bones and scales not scorn him. Instead to his greatest shock, she appreciates his intelligence, a first for a dragon who lives by his charm and looks. As Gwenvael tries to win Dagmar's heart, treachery from within threatens both their families.

This is a super hysterical romantic fantasy starring a sly vainglorious dragon and a clever fraudulent human falling in love though she verbally rips off a few pounds of scales from his skin. Fans will laugh loudly at the gender war as Dagmar takes the handsome out of Gwenvael and Gwenvael takes the beast out of Dagmar. G.A. Aiken has written a tremendous irreverent tale that amusingly turns sexually changes Beauty and the Beast.

Silent Killer
Beverly Barton
9781420100501, $6.99

Eighteen months ago, Catherine Cantrell observed in horror her well respected spouse Mark die in an inferno on their front porch. Horrified by the arson that killed her spouse, Cathy fled to Birmingham leaving their teenage son Seth with in-laws. Now with the help of her BFF Lorie Hammonds, she returns to her hometown of Dunmore, Alabama to raise Seth; though she knows she will never forget what she saw or heard. The case remains unsolved.

However, more clergy are murdered in Dunmore that local police detective Jackson Perdue assumes is tied somehow to Cathy. As his former lover back in high school and knowing he still loves her, he rejects the circumstantial evidence that Catherine is the avenging serial killer as the Cantrell family implies.

This is an exciting action packed romantic suspense that is at its best when Catherine and Jackson share the stage with no one except a corpse even though the underlying premise focuses on the families of religious leaders who try to keep secrets from being revealed. The subplot of Jack and Cathy rekindling their love is done well as he struggles with his heart saying she is innocent, but his upper head and the townsfolk think otherwise. SILENT KILLER is a strong tale that contains too many subplots and townsfolk detracting from the super main theme of an enjoyable regional police procedural romance.

Jacquelyn Frank
9781420104240, $6.99

Below ground in Alaska is a concealed city that humans are unaware of its existence. It is the place where the Shadowdwellers race reside. The underground is darkness as even the slightest ray of light can kill these people.

Sanctuary priest Sagan is kidnapped by a serial torturer killer and her minions; they bring him to the house of Valera, a born witch. She uses her magic to kill his captors shocking the underground priest that a human magic user has no taint of evil oozing from her.

Magnus, the head of Sanctuary, wants Sagan to bring his beloved Valera to the "dweller" city to demonstrate to the Night Riders that not all magic practitioners are evil. The senate governing the Shadowdwellers is trying to force Chancellor Malaya to marry a person of their choice and produce an heir. Her bodyguard Guin, who has protected and loved her (unrequitedly) for fifty years, detests his beloved having to marry a man not of her choosing. Unable to cope he leaves her for the first time in five decades. His departure makes Malaya realizes what she has taken for granted and how much she loves her bodyguard. Acadia, whose uses another name in the senate, attacks Magnus' wife and Guin, leaving it to the outsider Valera to mitigate damages although few Shadowdwellers trust her.

Thus ends the exhilarating Shadowdweller trilogy (see ECSTASY and RAPTURE) and while the enjoyable story line fails to wrap up everything in a nice tidy package, readers will gain much PLEASURE from this fine entry that hopes for peace amidst the night walker species. The romantic subplot between Guin and Malaya is fascinating as he tries to hide his feelings especially his ire over what the leaders are doing to his beloved while she fails to see him beyond a trusty protector and to a degree friend. The other romantic subplot is also terrific as the human witch and the Shadowdweller are natural enemies. Jacquelyn Frank is a master fantasist who makes her paranormal earth seem real with a spark of hope for peace, but frankly this is an author known for her twists and spins.

Bloody Right
Georgia Evans
9780758234834, $6.99

In 1940, the villagers of the insular hamlet Brytewood are fighting the war just as the soldiers do in an occupied land. Both the Allies and Axis use vampires as spies and assassins; though these paranormals are motivated by their countries differently. The German vampires are in England because the Nazis have incarcerated and threatened their families with a Final Solution or cooperate and receive land; the British do it to remain free.

The Nazis send four vampires to the village in order to blow up the nearby munitions plant, but thanks to were-fox Gloria Prewitt, grandmother and grand daughter pixies Helen Burrows, and Alice Doyle, they killed the first enemy wave. Mary LaPrioux the water sprite and dragon shapeshifter Gryffyth Pendragon have to take care of the remaining two enemy vamps. The German vampires infiltrate the home of Wharton Lacey where Winston Churchill plans to relax with his school friend Sir James and his wife Lady Gregory. Mary, Gryffyth, and the Others must destroy Schmidt and the most evil vampire of all Weiss before they kill the Others, and the Prime Minister.

BLOODY RIGHT concludes the historical paranormal village fantasy trilogy with a thoroughly BLOODY GOOD finish to a wonderful alternate WWII saga (see BLOODY AWFUL). The German vampires are strong operational thinkers, which makes the challenge to the Others that more difficult as they are amateurs unused to war strategy on the ground. Although there is a fine romantic subplot involving the water sprite and the were-dragon, Georgia Evans super ending focuses just as much on the supernatural war in a remote cloistered English village circa 1940.

One Week as Lovers
Victoria Dahl
9781420104820, $5.99

Cynthia Merrithorpe feels her heart break when her childhood friend Viscount Lancaster leaves to take charge of his responsibilities. However, Nicholas quickly realizes he will need to marry wealth to save the estate.

In 1846 Nicholas becomes engaged to Imogene Brandiss, which further destroys Cynthia's last fiber of hope. However, when he catches his intended with her legs spread for another man, he understands his role as an ornament and why she has become so quiet since the betrothal announcement. He flees back to the countryside where he had his best times growing up. There he finds himself surprisingly attracted to Cynthia. As they fall in love over a week together, Nicholas knows duty to his family calls for his marrying Imogene.

This is an enjoyable Victorian romance with no villains as Nicholas, Cynthia and Imogene are trapped by the rules of society. Their interplay makes for a fun historical tale as each struggles with the announced relationship. Fans will enjoy Victoria Dahl's' aptly titled with a guilt laden Nicholas relishing the ONE WEEK AS LOVERS interlude until he must do his responsibility that neither he nor the two women in his life want.

Rosemary and Rue
Seanan McGuire
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756405717, $7.99,

In San Francisco private investigator Toby Daye is a half-breed part human and part fae. She avoids magic like it's the plague having spent fourteen years as a fish following an investigation that turned ugly. She refuses cases that have even a potential taint of magic.

However, in spite of her avoidance doctrine, a female elf in her dying last breath curses Toby who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The elf's last wish is for Toby to uncover who murdered her; if she fails Toby will die quite painfully. With an incentive like that, Toby makes inquires that lead to magical and mundane assassination attempts. If she survives the attempts to kill her, she still has to survive the killing curse with her time running out or she will die anyway.

This is a super new urban noir fantasy that will remind readers of Cast A Deadly Spell though six decades later and just less than 400 miles to the north. The story line is fast-paced from the opening scene as readers meet the magic-phobic half-breed heroine who does not want to be tied in knots as the incredible Ms. Limpet and never slows down as she works a particularly nasty personalized case. ROSEMARY AND RUE is a winner in a sub-genre that has been butchered recently with zillions of imitations.

Laid Bare
Lauren Dane
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425229712, $15.00,

A decade ago in Seattle next door neighbors, police officer Todd Keenan and rocker Erin Brown, had a brief but heated tryst that neither has forgotten. Though their S&M scene left both wanting more, it ended as fast as it began.

Todd left the city and the force; he married nice Sheila, but she divorced him after he came out of a coma following an incident as she could not deal with the danger of law enforcement. he has returned home to Seattle. He is shocked with how beautiful yet delicate Erin has become. He wants her again, but swears to himself he will not leave her this time. As he helps her heal from emotional scars, Todd works his way back into her life and boudoir, his best friend Ben joins them in bed too.

LAID BARE lives up to its title as the menage a trois stars lay open their bodies and their souls so that fans of erotic romance obtain a strong balance between several vivid sex scenes including the men going at it and a deep look at what motivates each. Lauren Dane provides a heated yet entreating second chance at love due to the tender caring in and out of the bed of each of the prime players.

Out Of The Light, Into The Shadow
Lori Foster, Erin McCarthy, and L.L. Foster
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425230527, $7.99,

"Have Mercy" by Lori Foster. Mercedes Jardine loves Wyatt Reyes and wants to marry him. However, although he loves her he fears a permanent relationship so he refuses to marry her. Her powerful brother Braxton likes Wyatt, but expects him to come to his senses and wed his sister. Brax's office manager Cameo Smithson tells him to mind his business.

"Deal or No Deal". by Erin McCarthy. In Vegas, Russian expatriate Nick Stolin protects two young vampire siblings (he changed back the tsarist period) Kate and Pete Stolin. When Kate puts on a family heirloom, Rasputin knows the necklace with the blood of the ancients inside has surfaced. He plans to steal it to strengthen his power. Michael St. Markov also learns the woman he always loved Katie is alive and he plans to keep her safe.

"Total Control" by LL Foster. Brax knows Cameo is the woman for him. He fires her from her job and uses his special power of persuasion to sexually manipulate her. When his Uncle Amos arrives a hurt Cameo does not blink as she helps him. However, the woman who injured Amos is coming for them and using Cam as bait.

"Undead Man's Hand" by Erin McCarthy. Las Vegas police detectives Jordan Water and Shawn Marshall investigate a serial killer who drains the blood from his victim. They come to Bellagio to talk with thirteen year old Pete, an allegedly autistic teen who witnessed the assault. He offers nothing. Nick asks Jordan out and she accepts as they are attracted to one another although she thinks his family is dysfunctional.

This is a fine collection that readers, especially of paranormal romance, will fully enjoy. This reviewer suggests finishing the two Foster tales back to back and like wise with the McCarthy entries as "Total Control" is a direct sequel to "Have Mercy" and likewise with the two Ms. McCarthy contributions. Fans will enjoy this entreating anthology.

Ghastly Glass
Joyce and Jim Lavene
9780425230305, $7.99

Renaissance Village in Myrtle Beach is for the first time in history is decorated to look like the Faire is Halloween. Renaissance reveler Jessie Morton is apprenticing under various master craftsmen to obtain research for her dissertation Proliferation of Renaissance Crafts in Modern Times. This year she is being trained by Roger Trent, owner and glassblower of the Glass Gryphon. She is also reunited with Chase.

The strong but gentle giant Ross plays Death and is very convincing as he looks spookily like the grim reaper. When someone kills him everyone at the faire except his killer is shocked. On his chest is a note that states "Death Will Find Thee". His brother Bart takes over the role of death. Someone is also trying to frighten Jessie. When Roger is attacked with the same message left on him as that was pinned to Ross, Jessie believes the latter's nephew stalks him. Although Henry is arrested, Jessie doubts he is the killer. Instead she believes a village resident is the culprit especially when someone else vanishes.

Jessie provides a unique look at a renaissance faire as she stumbles and tumbles into one adventure after another. Through her eyes, readers learn what happens behind the scenes and into the minds of the performers especially the revelers who relish reenactments. This is a colorful exciting amateur sleuth mystery filled with quirky characters who endear themselves to the reader as Joyce and Jim Lavene write a delightful whodunit.

The Silent Spirit
Margaret Coel
9780425229767, $24.95

On the Wind River reservation, Kiki Wallowingbull comes home after serving two years on a charge of selling drugs. Father John O'Malley, who just returned from Rome after a six month stint there is now the interim pastor of St. Francis Mission located on the reservation. He and Kiki meet and the ex-convict tells the priest he is clean and determined to find out what happened to his great-grandfather Charlie who vanished in 1923 while in Hollywood doing a shoot to promote a movie, The Covered Wagon, in which he had a part.

When Kiki returns from Hollywood, he tells Father John that the answer to the disappearance is here on the reservation. Soon afterward, Kiki is found dead. Lawyer Vicky Holden hears from a man who insists he killed him in self-defence, but though they soon talk in person she never sees his face. The police arrest a drug dealer, but Vicky knows the man is innocent of this crime; she must find the culprit to insure justice is served even though the arrested prime suspect is a career criminal.

The story is told in two parts, the present and 1923 when the Arapahos and the Shoshones make the movie. In the present, Kiki dies trying to learn what really happened to his ancestor. Readers will enjoy trying to find out what the link between the two deaths are besides blood; and want to do it before Father John and Vicky solve it. Margaret Coel provides an enjoyable mystery that is highlighted by the Arapahos eight decades ago and now.

Saving Midnight
Emma Holly
9780425229040, $7.99

In 1934 the Fitz Clare clan are a family composed of vampires and humans who love and cherish one another deeply; so much so each would die to save one of their bloods. Graham recently proved this premise when his adopted father Edmond was kidnapped by two vampires who demanded he reveal how to create more undead; Graham was changed into a vampire and with the help of beautiful Pen, they rescue Edmond who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (see BREAKING MIDNIGHT).

Now his fiancee Estelle asks for help from the vampire that Edmond most loathes in the world. Graham finds he misses Pen and his emotions are all tangled because he needs to see her but refuses to contact her. Pen thought he was interested in her, but when two rogue vamps Li-Hua and Frank attack her at the plantation she now owns, she call Graham's family for help. Graham, his mortal brother Ben and his pregnant wife Sally come to help her. They realize they have to find the artifact that gives the evil vamps more power and even when they do they fear they are in for the battle of their lives as the enemy is stronger than a regular (if there can be such a thing) vampire as they share a mystical bond that exponentially enhances their strengths proving the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Meanwhile Graham and Pen are sharing their feelings for one another.

Emma Holly's "Midnight" saga is one of the best historical urban romantic fantasies written today (see KISSING MIDNIGHT) as humans and vampires find love with one another. The characters are well defined especially the extended Fitz Clare clan whose philosophy is to cover each others back and neck.. The different vampires have diverse powers, which they learn to use by experimenting as no one can teach a fledgling what to do. SAVING MIDNIGHT transports readers to a romantic fantasy alternate depression Era that is bloody great.

Beloved Vampire
Joey W. Hill
Berkley Heat
9780425227954, $15.00

Master vampire Raithe tortured Jessica as his imprisoned servant for several years. She escaped by killing her tormentor. In the Sahara, she plans to die, but another vampire Mason saves her life. His retinue shows kindness towards his latest marked servant trying to help Jessica heal especially mentally.

At the same time she begins to recover from her horrific ordeal, the Vampire Council decides to execute Jessica for killing Raithe as no one is allowed to get away with killing a master except them no matter what evil he may have perpetrated on their slayer. Meanwhile Jessica becomes fascinated with the three-hundred years old diary of Farida, Mason's beloved human servant even as she ponders whether she wants to be his present day "concubine".

The latest Joey W. Hill vampire thriller (see A VAMPIRE'S CLAIM, THE VAMPIRE QUEEN'S SERVANT and THE MARK OF THE VAMPIRE QUEEN) is a terrific entry with a fascinating theme that a human servant who kills a master vampire for whatever reason (including rape) must be executed; the theory behind the premise is similar to the slave owners which to keep the masses from revolting and slaying their "owners". The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Jessica feels as arid as the Sahara that beckons her to add her dust to the sand. Vivid and filled with action as executioners are coming for the servant who killed her master, fans will relish Ms. Hill's super entry in an extraordinary saga.

Allyson Roy
9780425225509, $14.00

Sex therapist Saylor Oz and her roommate Benita Morales are also BFF as they care about the wellbeing of each other and their respective families. When three models in the last three months are murdered, circumstantial evidence links Benita's brother Angel to the homicides as the prime suspect. A jury finds him guilty and he is sent to Riker's island waiting for transfer to Ossining. Oz and Benita believe Angel is innocent; Saylor vows to prove her assertion by finding the real killer.

Saylor recalls seeing a porno flick BABYDOLL in which Nikki Cumrite played the lead bad girl who killed three rivals, slicing off a piece of hair from each and placing it inside a coffee can. The therapist believes that if they can find the real actress who played the role of BABYDOLL, they might also find the killer. They work on learning Nikki's real name and the investigation leads them to Darlene Kleppe, who vanished after the movie and left no paper trail. The buddies must find a way to get Kleppe to come to them instead of looking for a needle in the haystack; that is if you can find a haystack in Brooklyn where a tree might grow.

This exciting action-packed amateur sleuth over the top of the Brooklyn Bridge is loaded with danger and a lot of steamy sex. The BFF seem to leap from one crisis into another as they receive threats that specify Saylor as the next victim. Besides cut brake lines and high speed chases from a man with a gun and a man with a car trying to run them over, this is just another day or three in New York. BABYDOLL is a "Hot town, summer in the city" as Oz and Benita are not finding any spoonfuls of lovin as they are getting rundown and dirty from their inquiries into the underbelly of the fashion industry.

Getting Rid Of Rosie
Lynda Simmons
9780425227923, $14.00

Seven years ago in Toronto, Samantha Marcello loved her fiance Michael Hughes. However, he ran off and married her best friend Rosie Fisk. Sam turned to her business the Silver Swan pub for solace, which in her mind and heart apparently worked.

Now a widower Michael is back in town and wants Sam back in his life. However, Rosie may be dead, but she also has returned; she will do anything to keep Michael and Sam apart. Both haunt Sam as Rosie makes it clear from the grave that she still does not want her ex BFF with her husband even as Michael pleads for a second chance. However, neither of them haunts Sam as much as Michael's compassionate power tool using brother Derek does.

Sort of combining the TV show Cheers with the movie Over Her Dead Body, GETTING RID OF ROSIE is an enjoyable lighthearted paranormal romance that brings to life Toronto from a living and dead perspective. Although the story line is thin, the eccentric support cast adds to the zany comedy; however it is a couple of delightful refreshing twists that make for a fun read.

Neck And Neck
Elizabeth Bevarly
9780425229033, $7.99

Natalie Beckett has had a string of failed business ventures, but keeps on trying like the motto says. This year she is a party planner who's working a Kentucky Derby Eve soiree that will either make or break her business.

She needs a star attraction who, by showing up, will bring the infield crowd with him or her. She thinks reclusive billionaire video game creator Russell Mulholland, who is in town, would be perfect. However, in order to persuade Mulholland to come to her gala, she needs to get past the hunk, his bodyguard, Finn Guthrie, who is like an offensive line protecting the quarterback from a persistent women he is attracted to; he and Russell trust no one with their secrets not even a woman he could love.

This is a laugh out loud amusing contemporary romance with a relevant nod to the Derby and an insider look at why almost famous people turn paranoid as stalkers are a cell phone away. The story line is brisk and breezy as Finn sees Natalie initially as a tabloid stalker, then a nuisance and finally something else. Fans will enjoy his metamorphosis as Natalie the nuisance never quits.

Haunting Beauty
Erin Quinn
9780425228173, $15.00

Danni grew up as a foster child believing her parents abandoned her at birth or soon afterward. She worked hard to make something of herself and has become an expert at antiques. The young woman has no interest in her own past though occasionally late at night she curiously wonders who they were.

Sean Ballogh enters her life seemingly out of thin air. He insists her family has been searching for her for two decades and he wants to bring her home to her Irish roots on Ballyfionuir Island. Furthermore his arrival has stimulated her second sight skill. Unable to resist the lure of kin, Danni travels to Ballyfionuir where she meets loving family, alive and dead. As she and Sean fall in love, Danni realizes, for them to have a future, she must change her family's past and fight an evil beyond her imagination or watch her beloved die.

This is a whimsical charming modern day Celtic romantic fantasy starring a courageous heroine and a haunted hero. Danni makes the tale when she and Sean reach her birth island as she is in awe as she meets her family, live and dead members. Fans will enjoy her family reunion, but in order to have a future, she must somehow rewrite the past. Erin Quinn provides a haunting thriller.

Beyond the Rain
Jess Granger
9780425229262, $15.00

On planet Azra, Captain Cyani looks forward to finally returning home after working behind enemy lines for five years. She is anxious to return to see her brother and to rejoin the sisterhood of celibate warriors. Still there is one mission left to accomplish before she can leave the battlefields of the civil war ravaging the planet.

However, her last assignment is interrupted when she rescues a battered chained prisoner Soren. He is ailing physically from the beatings and the leeches used to suck out his unique hormone sold as a sexual narcotic on the black market. He has been drained of the hormone that gives him life. Cyani saves his life again but he is now bonded to her. If she leaves he dies. He hides his link so she can choose to stay or go even as others want the hormone he is producing thanks to his soulmate.

This is an exciting outer space romance with a twilight Zone like twist. The creative story line is fast-paced once the key players are fully understood as to their basic needs and their desires. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as the audience will relish Cyn's "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done" (A Tale of two Cities) values as he is willing to die to let his beloved choose between staying and going. Jess Granger provides an engaging romantic science fiction thriller.

Jory Strong
9780425227930, $15.00

In Oakland, Arana the human thief has the uncanny ability to change the threads of lives of others due to the deadly spider tattoo that wanders all over her body. Though an outsider due to her anomaly, she has felt safe and loved for a few years due to the protectiveness of two endearing pirates, Eric and Matt. However, both are dead and she is taken prisoner.

Tir has no memory of his past and has had his power drained to almost nothing due to a collar he wears. He knows one thing with certainty: he loathes humans. He and Arana meet while both are being held prisoner; each is stunned; he because a mortal liberates his mind and she because he is immune to her tattoo. They become lovers with a goal of freedom, which begins with learning who they are and where they come from.

As with GHOSTLAND, Jory Strong continues to paint a post apocalyptic world (following The Last War) as a dark, grim realm. Ariana is a refreshing kick butt heroine and Tir who detests humans with his deepest soul (can an angel or whatever have a soul?) is a heroic Prometheus like figure. Together they are a formidable team in the deadly streets of New California. However, on the other hand in the boudoir scenes her acquiescence as a submissive to his dominance seems off kilter for her take the hill personality. Still erotic urban fantasy readers will relish SPIDER-TOUCHED (and GHOSTLAND) while looking forward to many more Strong escapades in the Oakland diocese

Shoot to Thrill
Nina Bruhns
9780425229057, $7.99

Although time has passed, Bellevue Hospital emergency room nurse Lorraine "Rainie" Martin still grieves the tragic loss of her parents murdered during a carjacking. Their sudden deaths haunt everything she does and she knows it, but cannot do much about it as she has not moved on beyond the grief.

Thanks to her BFF Gina Cappozi, Rainie attends a speed-dating gala with the belief she will meet no one. Thus she is unprepared when Kyle "Kick" Jackson using the name Dr. Nathan Daneby of Doctors for Peace and recent National Geographic fame also goes to elude his former CIA Zero Unit suits. Strangers in the night, she expects an incredible evening as he escorts her from the event. Instead she learns he is running from the CIA whom he works for as a field operative and is also detoxing from Oxycontin. However his peers catch up to the pair and they are sent as a team to fight terrorists in Egypt. Rainie must wear her rubber underwear to overcome her fear of travel ever since her parents died and help Kick kick his addiction to Oxycontin.

This over the top of the Pyramids and the Empire State Building, romantic suspense thriller is fast-paced and a lot of fun so the audience will ignore their plausibility meter. Fans will get a Kick out of the hero and the waves of shock that would overwhelm the average person, but an inner city ER nurse sees worse daily. SHOOT TO THRILL is an entertaining blast.

Bengal's Heart
Lora Leigh
9780425229026, $7.99

During a failed rescue of Bengal Breeds at a German facility, reporter Cassa Hawkins realized her husband Douglas betrayed those attempting to liberate the prisoners. Three died as did Douglas. The only survivor Bengal Breed Cabal St. Laurents blamed Cassa who may be his soulmate, but rejects her as a traitor.

Eleven years sine that tragic failure, Cassa begins to receive evidence of a serial killer avenging those involved in atrocities. Cabal knows the psychopath must be stopped before purebred society goes on a witch hunt against the breeds. However, to succeed he needs Cassa's assistance; she is the only link to the predator. Avoiding his attraction was easy as long as he stayed away, but teaming with her sends his brain and heart out of control.

Although the overarching saga crawls forward only slightly, Breed readers will not care as the lead couple makes for a great suspenseful urban fantasy. Character driven, she knows who he is to her when they first met in that disastrous failed rescue; he knows in his gut (and heart) too but holds her culpable for the deaths of his "siblings". Thus when he turns to her, Cabal believes he knows how difficult it will prove to be not to touch her with affection ; he soon realizes how much he underestimated his animal need for his mate. Fans will love BENGAL'S HEART as all the denial in the world is not strong enough when your lifemate draws you to them.

Table Manners
Mia King
9780425227893, $14.00

In Seattle although the television cooking show she starred on, The Simple Life, died followed by her life imploding, Deidre McIntosh has made a sweet comeback. She is about to sell Sweet Deidre desserts and has a wonderful boyfriend Kevin Johnson, whom she thinks she loves.

However, Deidre's second perfect world implodes again. Kevin's former fiancee Sabine Duran, as in incredibly gorgeous, charming, and thriving, has returned to reclaim him. Her opponent for the affections of Kevin is so beautiful and successful while Deidre's new business is failing before it can be started and don't even try to compare beauty. She knows she cannot compete for Kevin, but vows to try anyway and she refuses to quit on Sweet Deidre.

The enjoyable sequel to GOOD THINGS, TABLE MANNERS, is a fine contemporary romance that once again focuses on Deidre who decides to "create" a recipe for her life; sort of a strategic plan with two operational objectives: make Sweet Deidre a success and win Kevin. Although the final sweetened baked goods are obvious, fans will enjoy observing the pasty chef implementing her recipe for life.

Cold Midnight
Joyce Lamb
9780425230244, $7.99

A decade ago, Kylie McKay had a promising career as a professional tennis player. That ended with an attack the destroyed her knee. Unable to remain in Kendal Falls, Florida, the distraught Kylie leaves.

Now ten years later, Kylie comes home to Kendall Falls as a new tennis facility is being constructed; however the digging leads to her cold assault case reopened with the finding of the bat used in that brutal attack. Detective Chase Manning, who loved Kylie before she left town breaking his heart, leads the investigation. As he begins to piece together a case against her half-brother Quinn, someone threatens to harm Kylie if she fails to leave town.

This is an intriguing mystery with a nod to the Harding-Kerrigan incident from several years ago. The story line is fast-paced and Kylie is a solid lead character who will receive reader empathy for what happened to her career and her current efforts to move on. The problem is Chase, who was a jerk a decade ago and to make up for his inability to be there for his beloved, he constantly apologizes at the same he holds a grudge against Kylie for leaving him; fans will think she needs to do it again. Still in spite of the cop COLD MIDNIGHT is an enjoyable romantic police procedural.

Larceny and Lace
Annette Blair
9780425229118, $7.99

She originally came to Mystick Falls, Connecticut for her sister's wedding (see A Veiled Deception) that turned ugly with the homicide of the groom's mother. However she has remained in the picturesque small town thanks to her centenarian friend Dolly Sweet giving her a building to house her new business. Madeira "Mad" Cutler knows the renovations from the Underhill Funeral Chapel carriage house is almost complete and in two weeks she will open the doors to Vintage Magic, a dress shop with historical classics and originals.

The construction crew has just left the facility when Maddie hears a noise; the intruder escapes and her spirited resident Dante the ghost says the person is male, but has no idea who he is. An arson set blaze destroys the historical playhouse across the street from Vintage Magic. While Maddie was there, her invader returned stealing the three decade old bones wrapped in a quilt and hidden in a drawer. Detective Sergeant Lytton Werner tells Maddie to stay out of his investigation and calls her shop a crime scene. However between Dante's tips and her psychometric skill to see things that occurred by touching them, she tries to piece together what happened before the Halloween grand opening. Aunt Fiona, chairman of the Southeast Connecticut Chapter of the White Star Circle of Spirit arrives to help or hinder depending on who you ask at a time someone wants her dead with Dante, her best friend Eve, and Lytton trying to prevent her death.

The second Vintage Magic mystery (see A VEILED DECEPTION) is a wonderful investigative tale that will have armchair readers spellbound trying to solve the case before Maddie can. The inquiry enables the audience to learn more about the heroine's family especially her father and aunt, as well as her BFF. With whimsy, humor and Dante to round out the magic, fans will enjoy this entertaining paranormal amateur sleuth while wondering if Lytton will become the latest cop bewitched by Mad Maddie.

A Better View of Paradise
Randy Sue Coburn
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th fl, NY, NY 10019
9780345490360, $25.00,

Her Hawaiian upbringing has made thirty-six year old landscape architect Stevie Pollack very popular in the mainland as she brings a taste of the islands to her work. However, her latest effort in Chicago is universally scorned as pretentious rather than the natural exotic beauty she normally delivers, Stevie is stunned and hurt as she struggles with the criticisms something she never faced before. While in the Windy City, her cousin Margo informs her that her dad Hank has a sister he never mentioned to her. She returns to New York for solace with her lover, but he adds to her depression when he dumps her.

She debates with herself whether she should return to Hawaii. On the one hand she has not seen her father in ages, but their relationship was at best argumentative; however, she muses over the "swirling wonder" of the island with its calming waters and balmy land which has always soothed her soul. Following her discussions with Margo about the family and the dumping, Stevie knows you can go home if it is the right time; for her it is the right time.

Although overwhelmed with improbable happenings that ease Stevie's decisions like her learning her dad is dying or her meeting the hunk veterinarian, fans will enjoy this strong whimsical Hawaiian adventure filled with local lore and myths. Stevie is a likeable protagonist who holds the tale together in Chicago, New York, and Hawaii as she ponders the reflections of her life as more than just marmalade as she muses growing up with a cantankerous father and a stiff upper lip Brit mom. Fans will enjoy her return home as she knows it is not the same yet somehow in the bigger scheme, the island retains its mystical hold on her.

Cutting Edge
Allison Brennan
9780345502766, $7.99

When she was eighteen years old, Nora English betrayed her deadly anarchist mom by turning her in to the FBI. She did it to save her younger sister Quin. Twenty years later mom still lingers behind bars psychotically outraged at her two ungrateful daughters especially the older one, who besides her treachery has become a FBI agent; her younger one is almost as evil becoming an arson investigator. To her glee, they are somewhat estranged.

Nora investigates arsons of the biotech industry by an apparent internal terrorist gang. This time they breach security expert Duke Rogan's computer system protecting a biotech company, but the inferno is different as the charred remains of a corpse are found. The autopsy reveals the starling revelation that the deceased actually bled to death. Norah and Duke realize something new and lethal has entered the equation, but what and who remains elusive as both investigate as a team.

Although having teammates working a dangerous inquiry fall in love is quite common as romantic suspense is hot, Allison Brennan adds a refreshing profound psychological look at the dependency of relationships and of a need to belong. Quin needed Nora back then and Nora needed to be needed by Quin back then. Thus Duke has quite a task to win Nora's heart. Fans will relish this terrific thriller as Nora realizes she is a prime target not because of her inquiry, but because of her lineage and begins to fear Quin is behind the assaults. CUTTING EDGE is a winner.

Hot Pursuit
Suzanne Brockmann
9780345501578, $26.00

In only her second week in office, New York Assemblywoman Maria Bonavita receives death threats including one note with a knife at the office stating the next one will be in your face. Maria's chief if staff Jennilyn LeMay complains to NYPD Detective Callahan who says there is not much they can do and suggests they upgrade private security. The Troubleshooters, Inc. is brought in to protect Maria.

Troubleshooters Alyssa Locke and her husband former Navy SEAL Sam Starrett arrive to keep the new Assembly woman safe. They are accompanied by their son Ash, and SEALS team members Dan Gillman and Izzy Zanella. However, none of the participants including FBI Agent Jules Cassidy quite understand the flexible diabolical serial killer known as the Dentist has decided to manipulate the scenario as he initially goes after Maria's campaign manager Savannah von Hopf, a friend of Alyssa. This brilliant psychopath adapts when his initial target rushes to San Diego to be with her injured spouse; his new target is Alyssa and he is extremely close by.

Ten books have past in this strong continuing saga since Sam and Alyssa starred in GONE TOO FAR; fans will rejoice catching up with what has happened since. Several subplots flow through the delightful exciting storyline focusing on changing relationships. Well written and fun to read, ironically fans know how close the villain is to his next prey while the heroes are in the dark. This is another winner from Suzanne Brockmann as the dentist will do to the audience what jaws did to ocean swimming.

Goddess Of The Hunt
Tessa Dare
9780345506863, $6.99

When eleven year old Lucy Waltham met her brother's kind friend Sir Toby Albridge she fell in love although he shot at her; actually at a partridge not knowing she followed them. He dubbed her Diana, goddess of the hunt. Everyone assumed it was youthful infatuation and the puppy love would end when she turned into a teen.

In 1817 now nineteen years old, tomboy Lucy knows Toby is the one although he fails to show the same desire. She refuses to believe she is stuck with unrequited love and decides his pursuit of Sophie is wrong. Lucy plans to seduce Toby and decides to practice with another of her brother's friends prime and proper Jeremy Trescott. Three kisses and Jeremy is done but so is Lucy but she does not recognize the signs. Instead she becomes daring Diana on the hunt for Toby while Jeremy tries to keep control of his ardor and prevent Lucy from scandal; he fails at both as they are caught in a compromising way.

This is a super Regency romance with a strong cast especially the excellent lead female. The brisk story hooks the audience early on as Lucy knows with total certainly Toby is her one until she shares a kiss with Jeremy. Fans will relish this amusing historical tale as the Diana the GODDESS OF THE HUNT must change from tomboy to countess with a new goal convince the husband she did not want but had to marry that he is her one.

Linda Howard
9780345486561, $26.00

Seven years ago Jenner Redwine dumped her mooching boyfriend just before she won the lottery. She thought her luck had changed for the good, but soon learned otherwise as her father steals from her and her friends demand she pay for their comfort. She soon has no family or friends; as everyone wants a piece of the action. She makes one new buddy who is uninterested in her buying her things, but offers her advice on money management as only a caring heiress could. Sydney Hazlett and Jenner Redwine become "sisters".

Sydney persuades reluctant Jenner to join her on a charity voyage of the luxurious Silver Mist. However, instead of the Love Boat as she anticipated, Jenner finds herself starring in Under Siege when Sydney is abducted. At the same time, security expert Cael Traylor tries to learn what stunt the liner's owner Frank Larkin is scamming. He persuades a frightened but outraged Jenner to let him use her cabin to learn more about Frank's scheme that involved Syd, Jen and other wealthy people. Jenner is also angry at herself for her attraction to the undercover agent who wants her but saving Syd, keeping Jen safe, and taking down Larkin comes before his needs.

This is an amusing romantic suspense thriller filled with plenty of high seas action. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Cael takes over Jenner's cabin and never slows down as the mouse that roars becomes more than just a formidable partner as she takes over his heart. Fans will enjoy the spins and twists of who kidnaps who as Linda Howard is at her best with this enjoyable jocular thriller.

Criminal Karma
Steven M. Thomas
9780345497833, $25.00

In Southern California, two bit crook Robert Rivers wants the diamond necklace valued at, $250,000; he does not plan to pay for it, but instead plans to steal it from its owner socialite Evelyn Evermore. However, his perfect gamut is nuked by a competitor wanting to claim the same prize and somewhat by his all brawn no brains partner Reggie England; the cops home in on Rivers and England.

Rivers like his surname flows to another scheme. He knows the lightweight Evermore is a New Age freak and in fact is a disciple of popular guru Baba Raba. Rivers figures how hard can be to infiltrate the base of a charlatan in Venice. However, as he begins to learn more about Evermore Rivers he begins to like her as she is not the dimwit socialite he thought, but has substance; and for that matter so does the guru. As typical of his capers, all hell breaks loose as he and his sidekick are protecting their targets from a diabolical crime ring.

This is a zany satirical crime caper that hooks the audience from the first failed plan to the last. The story line is brisk and amusing as Rivers figures his crime karma is so negative, his time is due to balance his cosmic scales. Instead he finds himself deeper in the cosmic ooze as once again (see CRIMINAL PARADISE) the best laid plans of mice and licentious souls go astray.

Leader of the Pack
Karen MacInerney
9780345496270, $6.99

In Austin, Texas, Sophie Garou is a highly regarded auditor and has a wonderful boyfriend, but is still adjusting to knowing that several times a year at night she is ON THE PROWL and HOWLING AT THE MOON. However, pressure from the Houston pack of werewolves especially alpha leader Wolfgang for to join is immense, but used to being a loner except for her mom the witch, she tries to ignore their threats to join or else. She is also worried about her human BFF, Lindsey dating Tom the werewolf

However, the best laid plans of mice and men, make that werewolves and women, often go astray. Her long estrange father Luc, who she has not seen in ages, comes to Austin to attend the annual Howl gala, but is arrested by Wolfgang on a homicide charge. Sophie who proved her mom innocent of a homicide plans to do likewise for her dad. This means playing nice to the Texas werewolf and other paranormal and human communities; requirements that have Sophie spitting up fur balls.

The latest Garou amusing lighthearted urban fantasy is an entertaining jocular tale that will have readers howling with laughter at the messes that the werewolf accountant finds herself in once again. The story line is breezy and brisk as the feisty independent Sophie learns the true bottom line as she steps in werewolf droppings trying to solve a murder in which the evidence including what she finds affirms Luc committed murder, a capital offence amidst the packs.

Greetings from Somewhere Else
Monica McInerney
9780345506382, $14.00

In Melbourne, Complete Events Management Lainey Byrne is used to wacky chaos when she sponsors an event, but always brings it together to the satisfaction of the client. Her personal life is also somewhat out of control as her boyfriend Adam the chef seems never around and her parents and three brothers leap from one end of the world crisis to another always expecting her to fix it, which she does quite nicely. Handling people chaos is her expertise.

Her agitated mom informs Lainey they need her help (what else is new). In Ireland, her paternal Aunt May left her B&B to her brother with the stipulation that the family must take over running the place for a year; if they fail to meet her condition, her cats become the owner. The family selects Lainey to run the place over her objection that she is busy, can't cook and never cleans; important aspects of running a B&B. Instead Lainey loses the argument and heads to Ireland worried about leaving her loved ones to fend for themselves while struggling with an adjustment to life in the country and running the B&B. She feels fortunate to connect with her childhood friend Evie and begins to learn to pick and choose her charge up the hill moments while mostly let it be.

This is an engaging complex chick lit tale of an alpha female who has by default and overall personality trait become the prime caretaker of her extended family until she leaves them behind. While Lainey learns that she cannot care for everyone and handle everything; her parents and three brothers also learn responsibly to take care of their so called end of the world crisis. Read will enjoy GREETINGS FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE as life lessons comes to the Byrne brood.

Twilight Of A Queen
Susan Carroll
9780449221099, $15.00

In 1588 as the Spanish Armada sets sail to blockade England, the Dark Queen Catherine de Medici fears her control of the throne is tenuous for the first time in her long rule. Ailing and unable to directly confront her rival the Lady of the Faire Isle she turns to mage Louis Xavier, a notorious pirate who has used the dark arts to achieve his watery superiority.

However, for the first in his life, Louis is distracted by passionate and courageous Lady Jane Danvers. Meanwhile, Ariane Cheney protects her beloved Faire Isle from the Dark Queen as three women prepare for battle on the mundane and magical planes with one another for who will sit on the throne. Ariane anoints Jane as her heir, which sends the vicious Dark Queen after her. Louis vows to protect his beloved or die trying.

The final Faire Isle historical fantasy (see THE DARK QUEEN and THE SILVER ROSE) is a super tale with strong adversaries and allies, and a terific exhilarating story line that ties up the critical loose ends. Catherine de Medici is incredible as the evil one; Ariane appears to be her equal while Jane has to prove her worthiness under fire with Louis surprisingly as her protector with her supporters questioning his dark past. Fans will relish Susan Carroll's regal yet dark sixtieth century as the war between the light and dark clash with a royal finality.

The Magicians
Lev Grossman
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670020553, $26.95,

In Brooklyn, high school senior Quentin Coldwater conceals his only love in life, children fantasies from everyone else as he knows the ridicule would be unbearable. So Quentin is bored and miserable except when he hides in his closet re-reading Fillory and Further for the quadrillionth time. Drifting with no future, he stumbles upon a portal to the elusive and exclusive Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy and easily passes the impossible to pass for the magically deprived entrance exam.

Quentin feels uplifted as he has found his home. He and the other misfits from the mundane world begin to fit in together. He and reticent Alice become lovers and Eliot becomes his best friend. They learn at school how to apply the energy currents of the universe to cast spells; After graduating, in spite of Alice's warnings, Quentin returns to drifting supplemented by drinking as he has had a taste of another life only to see it end with him back in the boring mundane. When he betrays Alice, Quentin feels remorse and misery as he has never felt before. However, he learns Fillory exists and seeing an opportunity to redeem himself with Alice, Quentin seeks purpose there, but finds the place much dangerous than the novels portrayed.

This is a deep dark romantic fantasy starring a strong cast while paying homage to classic young adult sagas like Narnia, Harry Potter, and the Lesley Simonton School for the Magically Gifted (trilogy by E. Rose Sabin). The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but totally owned by the relationships between Quentin and others especially with Alice and Eliot that drives the plot. Fans will enjoy Quentin's quest for redemption as he returns to Fillory after letting down his Alice.

The Alternative Hero
Tim Thornton
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th fl, NY, NY 10019
9780307271099, $24.05,

In the late 1980s, Clive Beresford loves the indie band Thieving Magpies. In fact the student worships the band's frontman Lance Webster. Clive is a groupie of sorts as he attends every concert the band performs.

However, his hero destroys himself and vanishes from the pop culture scene. Now in his early thirties Clive remains heartbroken and betrayed since his superstar crumbled from the pedestal. Clive is unable to cope in relationships or at work. However, he soon learns his former hero lives nearby and so Clive revs up his courage to meet Lance using his newest job at a vet as the means, but also pretend he does not know this is his fallen angel because he plans to write an expose.

THE ALTERNATIVE HERO is a wonderful look at music over the past two decades; especially deep is the present era with the audience seeing inside a fallen remorseful hero who was unable to deal with his growing fame back when he was rising. Lance in some ways is like Jonathan Rhys Meyers' role of Louis Connolly in whimsical August Rush though in the movie he gets a second chance. The fun in the tale is Clive as a teen groupie worshipping his God and as an adult scheming to tell all about his fallen God. Although the story line contains too many rigged arrangements including the climax although in fairness that is what Clive is doing, fans will enjoy this dark comedic yet profound tale of the hero falling off the pedestal.

The Invisible Mountain
Carolina De Robertis
9780307271631, $24.95

"Pajarita". In Tacuaremb, Uruguay on Jan. 1, 1900, a baby miraculously flies from the treetops to her grandmother; her name is Pajarita, the little bird. Years after the miracle, Venetian immigrant Ignazio Firielli joins a touring troupe of magicians. When he meets Pajarita, he falls in love at first sight. They marry and he takes his bride to Montevideo. However, over the years he turns to whores, gambling and drinking while she supports the family with her healing herbal elixirs.

"Eva" When their oldest daughter Eva turns ten, Ignazio removes her from school to work at the shoe shop; the owner assumes part of her duty is being raped until she flees to La Diablita restaurant where revolutionaries plot the overthrow of the decadent. Eva waits tables while writing poetry until she relocates with her friend Andres in Buenos Aires. There she marries Dr. Santos, a close associate of Peron. Eva gives birth to Roberto and Salome while writing poetry. When Argentina turns dangerously revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, she flees with her two kids back to Uruguay.

"Salome". Whereas Salome heeds her mom's revolutionary fervor, she also ignores her mom's enjoyment of the good life. She joins the Tupamaros revolutionaries who try to overthrow the Uruguayan dictatorship, but fail. Salome and others are incarcerated and tortured with no hope for the future until after years of imprisonment she is freed and Montevideo is not the same as her memories.

Using three generations of females in a family, Carolina De Robertis tells a great tale of the twentieth century history of Uruguay and to a lesser degree Argentina. The story line employs pathos and humor to relate the cultural and political changes that swept across Uruguay. The three women are terrific unique protagonists who hold their part of the tres tales together as each in their way believes in a better life for herself, her loved ones, and her country. This historical fiction will be on the short lists of best historical novel of the year.

The Slippery Year
Melanie Gideon
9780307270672, $24.95

This is a fascinating autobiography by a forty something woman looking at her life as a twin growing up with three sisters; as a wife with a wonderful caring husband; and as a stay at home mother of a preadolescent adorable child. Melanie Gideon in the phases she has lived asks herself what has she achieved as she ponders whether future generations of Gideon's will know her name; the answer is probably yes due to this amusing memoir that reflects on her life. The best part of THE SLIPPERY YEARS is the self assessment that would please Covey's Seven Habits. The impetus for the internal review was her spouse buying a vehicle that has no logical place in the burbs where they live. Her conclusion was that she had misplaced or killed her spontaneous gene while her husband still did the occasional inane escapes like they did when they were in their twenties; when they lived life as if there was no tomorrow and ironically also felt immortal. The biggest change that made them cost conscience was the birth of their child; cost conscience until her husband buys the van. As she realizes "the changing from sunlight to moonlight" (Reflections on My Life by Marmalade), Ms. Gideon vows to recapture some of those sun rays as their kid is okay and will not mind her parents doing something silly; or at least the child will get over it fast if she perceives it as embarrassing; as children are resilient. This is a winner that will have the audience reflect on their lives and wonder if that is what they want their offspring to remember about them.

That Old Cape Magic
Richard Russo
9780375414961, $25.95

When Jack Griffin was growing up in New England, he vowed to never follow in the footsteps of his academia parents, both professors. Instead he fled to Los Angeles where he became a screenwriter and ultimately married Joy.

Ironically, after his parents die, he and his spouse move east as he accepts a position as a professor of film. As Jack has the urns containing the dust of his parents in his trunk, he looks back at his life wondering is that all there is. He thinks of his honeymoon with Joy at the cape where he demanded they go and a year later to Maine where she demanded they go. He reflects on the marriages of his parents and her parents while pondering whether he needs to call its quits on his.

This is an intriguing look at relationships with the emphasis being on marital, parent-adult offspring, and parent adult offspring's spouse. How haunting these combinations can be is accentuated by Jack's inability to spread the ashes. With flashbacks, the audience sees how dynamics change over time due to age and marital status. Although Jack can overkill a poetic soliloquy with a passionate display of motor mouth, fans will appreciate Richard Russo's deep look at relational magic.

The Perfect Couple
Brenda Novak
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778326670, $7.99,

In Sacramento, single mom Zoe Duncan becomes engaged to her live-in lover Anton Lucassi. However, her euphoria ends when her thirteen years old daughter Sam vanishes without a trace. No one saw her leave the house and the police find no evidence of foul play so they conclude the child is a teen runaway.

Desperate and despondent, Zoe hires private investigator Jonathan Stivers. He studies the police report and interviews the neighbors, but all of them like the Bells insist they saw nothing out of the ordinary. Jon makes no progress until a report of a kidnapped imprisoned teenage boy surfaces that sounds too similar to the Duncan investigation to ignore. As he compares the two cases, he hones in on the Bells, but is far from sure if what they are hiding involves two missing young teens.

This a dark abduction thriller in which the entire key cast members are fully developed especially the mother, the villain and the hero. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Zoe realizes Sam is gone as the hopelessness grows inside her gut with Jonathan seemingly her "last stand". The key to this super investigative tale is a romance never surfaces between the sleuth and the distraught mom though Stivers' eyes let everyone know he thinks Zoe is beautiful; rescuing the children comes first, second and last. Fans will relish Brenda Novak's taut tale of a mother's worst nightmare.

Sea Glass
Maria V. Snyder
9780778325802, $13.95

The entire Sitian Council and the three Master Magicians demand apprentice glass magician Opal Cowan report to the Council Hall immediately. Her friends warn her if she goes to the Citadel as ordered she will vanish for quite a long time inside the Keep's dungeons. To ignore their summons means being declared an outlaw but for now being free; to adhere to their summons means being declared an outlaw and at best be under house arrest, but more likely dungeon duty. Her new powers to take away a magician's power frightens them more than her as they are wary of anyone powerful enough to milk dry any magician.

Opal chooses to travel with her exasperating prisoner Devlen and her easy to goad ally Janco to the Moon Clan's land where they hope to find Devlen's body containing Ulrick's soul so that Yelena the Soulfinder can switch them back. Opal believes she loves Ulrick and will do anything to save him though she fears Devlen is right that her beloved is addicted to the blood magic, which if true would mean she lost him. As she treks across a land in which every mage wants her for her new skill, Opal also thinks about the hunk Kade the Stormdancer who seems repelled by her. However, Opal has no time to explore her desires as her quest remains steadfast.

Although it helps to have read STORM GLASS to understand how far Opal has come and the soul switching magic, SEA GLASS is a fascinating quest fantasy. The heroine makes the novel worth following as she struggles to remain resolute while seemingly every practitioner in Ixia wants a piece of her. Fans will enjoy Opal's second gem of an adventure as she tries to rescue her beloved, but must at the same time either drain or elude a horde of mages. Maria V. Snyder affirms with the Glass series what the Study trilogy proclaimed that she is a super fantasist.

Red, White and Dead
Laura Caldwell
9780778326663, $7.99

In Chicago, since losing her job as an entertainment lawyer, Izzy McNeil works for private investigator John Mayburn. After her undercover work exposed Michael DeSanto as a crook (with the help of his wife), she is working on his associate Dez Romano, head of the family business. However, her identity as Suzanne is exposed when Michael sees her with Dez. They chase after her into a garage when a man calls out to "Boo" enabling her to escape.

Mayburn, who loves Michael's wife, tells Izzy to leave town. She decides to head to Rome to talk to her paternal Aunt Elena because only her mom and her late dad called her "Boo". Mayburn agrees to conduct research in the States. In Italy, Izzy is joined by her best friend Maggie and two hunks as she learns of her family connection to the Camorra mob, but remains ignorant to how deep and that they are aware of her presence in Rome and Naples.

The third Izzy "Red" thriller (See RED HOT LIES and RED BLOOD MURDER) takes a family spins on both sides of the Atlantic. The story line is fast-paced as the Italian mobsters try to scare the heroine back to Chicago so the American side of the family can quietly silence her; a killing of a red headed Yank in Italy would be international headline news as opposed to just local in the Windy City. Although lacking the humor and anti-noir feel of the previous two story lines, RED, WHITE AND DEAD is an enjoyable mystery with a few terrific twists as fans and Izzy try to figure out what is going on.

Riverside Park
Laura Van Wormer
9780778326526, $13.95

Their marriage is considered the legendary happily ever after with only the fiftyish couple TV network president Cassy Cochrane and her spouse Jackson Darenbrook knowing their relationship is a sham. He cheats and has been cheating since they said their vows. Her latest lover has helped Cassy feel better about herself.

Bartender Celia Cavanaugh feels she is drifting as she seeks an anchor in life in spite of her coming from affluence. She enjoys her much younger lover, but his mom makes her feel her age.

Literary agent Howard Miller has killed himself at work to maintain the family lifestyle. When that proves lacking he takes out loans so his wife Amanda and their children can continual to live in luxury. However his workaholic lifestyle has his spouse considering a tryst.

Sam and Harriet Wyatt and their two daughters live an enviable affluent lifestyle. However, their perfect little world implodes when one of their darlings informs her parents she is pregnant and refuses to name the father of her unborn.

The sequel to RIVERSIDE DRIVE is an enjoyable relationship drama with four couples facing issues. Although readers never get deep inside any of the ensemble cast as there are too many leads with four equally prime subplots, fans will still enjoy the fast-paced happenings at RIVERSIDE PARK.

The Weight of Silence
Heather Gudenkauf
9780778327400, $13.95

In Willow Creek, Iowa, Griff Clark has gone fishing when his wife Antonia awakens from her sleep to find their seven years old daughter Calli gone. She is worried because this is not normal for her child who has been mute for three years after a run in with her abusive father.

Checking with the neighbors, Antonia learns that Calli's best friend Petra Gregory is also not home. Distraught, Antonia turns to her long term friend, Deputy Sheriff Loras Louis to learn what has happened to her daughter. He arranges a manhunt even as he hides how much he loves Antonia from her.

Although it takes a minor adjustment, as the perspective rotates between five key players, this is a tense dark family drama that hooks the audience from the moment Antonia wakes up to the worst that could happen to her; much more so than the beatings from her abusive spouse. The realistic story line is fast-paced even with the rotating viewpoints, but never lightens up; so is not for everyone as the aptly titled THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE is very heavy as "Silence like a cancer grows" (Simon and Garfunkle's The Sounds of Silence).

Night's Cold Kiss
Tracey O'Hara
Eos Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, NY, NY 10022-5299
9780061783135, $7.99,

The Hundreds Years War between the humans and Aeternus vampires finally ended when courageous leaders from both sides reached a desperately needed peace accord. However, Necrodreniacs rebels reject the pact as they thrive on human blood; their thirst is insatiable.

Fifteen years ago, when she was six years old, Antoinette Petrescu observed in fear and horror as vampire Dante Ribins slowly killed her mother. Although another vampire Christian Laroque saved the child's life, she loathes all undead. Her racial prejudice has driven Antoinette who as a teen worked obsessively hard so she could become part of the elitist Venator corps stalking down paranormal criminals.

The CHAPR council between the humans and para-humans that has maintained the peace is beginning to fall apart due to distrust fostered by the actions of rogues on both sides especially the vamps. To save the council, Antoinette and Christian agree to team up though she loathes doing so. However, as she begins to believe Dante is behind the prime assaults on the council, no one accepts her theory that the notorious serial has returned from the dead. She also ponders whether Christian, hiding behind his mask of concern, is the impetus behind the dreniacs's bloody surge.

The first Dark Brethren tale is a terrific foreboding urban fantasy that uses sentient species' needs to be numero uno as a form of prejudice to anchor an ominous looking world where danger is everywhere. The story line is fast-paced, but the introduction to who's who slows down the reader (thankfully Tracey O'Hara provides a scorecard). Fans will enjoy the hostilities to be top dog on earth yet Antoinette makes this thriller work as she witnessed the tragedy of her mother's s death; the adult is the child. This is a great start to a world in which NIGHT'S COLD KISS is the warmest time on planet earth.

The Texas Bodyguard's Proposal
Karen Rose Smith
Silhouette Special Edition
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373654697, $4.99,

McCord Jewelers security consultant Rafe Balthazar does not want anything to do with the diva, but Blake McCord asked him as a favor to keep Gabriella McCord safe while she is in the States. Their first meeting at the McCord family mansion is quarrelsome as he dictates two rules and she counters with what he is to do and not do. Gabby insists she will not allow paparazzi, crazed fans, and others to lock her in a cage. She leaves for her aunt's birthday party while he figures she will prove troublesome, but he protected POTUS so some gold spooned spoiled beauty should prove relatively easier.

Neither is prepared for their strong unwanted attraction. Gabby reels from the very public end of her last relationship so does not want a new one and in spite of what the tabloids say she does not do short term trysts. Rafe grieves the deaths of his wife and child and does not need the aggravation of publicity if he becomes her next boy toy. However, everything changes when her last lover Miko arrives wanting her back. He shakes up Rafe who cannot abide anyone but him with his beloved Gabby, but he must somehow persuade her they belong together permanently.

The second tale in the Foleys and the McCords continuity series (see Crystal Green's THE TEXAS BILLIONAIRE'S BRIDE) is a wonderful contemporary romance starring two seemingly battling combatants falling in love. Both are fully developed characters enhanced by a strong support cast. Fans will enjoy this fine though straightforward tale of opposites attract as Texas dirt Rafe struggles to overcome his guilt re his late spouse and knowing he will be a paparazzi target as a gold-digger while European sophisticate Gabby fears the tabloids will have a field day with her beloved latest "sex toy". Karen Rose Smith is a sure shot for providing readers with entertaining contemporaries.

Time Raiders: The Seeker
Lindsay McKenna
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373618163, $5.25

Time raiders Delia Sebastian and Jake Tyler are assigned to work together in finding the first piece of an alien artifact the Karanovo Bronze Seal in ancient Rome during the time of Julius Caesar. Delia does not want to go with Jake as her partner as she has a past with him that left her hurt. On the other hand, Jake looks forward to spending time with her.

Their Italian vacation posing as Grecian mercenaries proves dangerous as Caesar's mistress Servilia has an agenda of her own yet the artifact is in her Pompeii villa. Worse, an alien seeks the artifact and is using the body of the scribe to hide inside. As the peril mounts, Delia and Jake must cover each other's back if they are to survive the mission and have any hope of successfully accomplishing it.

This is the opening act of a new romantic science fiction series in which different authors over the next few months will provide novels. THE SEEKER is a fine tale starring two leads who battle one another and two insidious enemies. The story line starts slow as the key background information is provided, but once the protagonists (some might say antagonists) go back in time to 44 BC, the action turns fast-paced and the lead couple's attraction could ignite Ancient Rome. Fans will enjoy Lindsay McKenna's solid thriller as Ancient Rome comes alive and the table is set for Cindy Dees in September to go after the next segment of the Karanovo Bronze Seal.

Sentinels: Lion Heart
Doranna Durgin
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373618170, $5.25

Ocelot shapeshifter Lyn Maines is assigned to investigate whether a Sentinel is betraying the cause. She heads to the Arizona mountains Dook'o'osliid to determine if mountain-lion shifter Joe Ryan has gone to the dark evil Atrum Core while also hunting the retreating regional Drozhar (prince) after his side lost a battle recently. Based on what she knows about the case, she assumes Joe is a traitor.

After a few days with Joe, Lyn begins to reassess her opinion. She believes he is either an Oscar Award level actor or innocent. As she falls in love with Joe, she fears her heart is rose coloring her eyes or someone diabolically clever is framing him. Now she needs his help to deal with the Atrum Core Drozhar using the mountain's power to restore his own, but all the evidence affirms Joe is betraying their cause.

Although the plot feels a bit emaciated at first, the latest Sentinels Arizonan urban fantasy romance (see JAGUAR NIGHT) picks up momentum and turns into a wonderful entry due to the suspicion by Lyn and the Sentinels that Joe is the traitor. Thus their relationship starts off on the wrong foot, but as they fall in love, Lyn refuses to believe her beloved whose obvious love of the mountains would sell out to someone destroying his revered snowy peaks. LION HEART is a solid entry with a bit of a mystery to enhance the fun plot.

Shadow of Betrayal
Brett Battles
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385341585, $25.00,

The Cleaner Jonathan Quinn, his girlfriend-partner Orlando, and his protege Nick travel to Ireland to monitor an information exchange. However a sniper insures something goes wrong, leaving four dead and Jonathan forced to use his cleaning skills to make sure no clues of the homicides remain behind in the church meeting locale. His agent orders Quinn to forget Ireland and instead fulfill the agreed upon three jobs with no questions. He is to locate a missing U.N. worker Marion Dupuis; she has vanished without a trace. Others search for her too.

Jonathan and company head to Africa, the last known place Marion was seen. At an orphanage where she helped, the owner says she ran away with a Down Syndrome child Iris, who rebels want though he is not sure why. Marion and Iris flee to Montreal, but are captured and taken to California as Jonathan follows the convoluted trail.

This is a terrific complicated Quinn globetrotting tale (see THE DECEIVED and THE CLEANER) as he goes from the Europe to Africa to Canada and finally the States on the chase. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of bloody action on three continents as Quinn knows his deal haunts his soul as he does jobs he loathes performing. Although somewhat similar in theme to THE DECEIVED, Quinn is at his best undergoing tasks that eat at his gut.

Navajo Courage
Aimee Thurlo
Harlequin Intrigue
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373694211, $4.99,

Albuquerque Police Detective Valerie Jonas knows she needs special help with her current serial killer investigation in which the culprit apparently uses Navajo magic though Valerie is a doubting Thomasina. Tribal Police detective Luca Nakai comes to the big city to assist Valerie with her inquiry as the son of a medicine man, he understands Navajo magic intimately.

Luca once he gets past his initial first sight attraction realizes they are dealing with a deadly skinwalker who has killed two and targeted his next victim. Valerie is even more stunned by her reaction to the tribal cop as she never mixes sex with her work, but considers making an exception as she wants him. They begin to fall in love though they disagree over magic, but each agrees that the culprit whether he is a mage or not needs to be stopped before they examine deeply their feelings.

This is a terrific Native American urban romantic police procedural fantasy. The opposites attract story line has been used a lot, but Aimee Thurlo refreshes the plot with a deep understanding of Navajo magic that fits so well in the Albuquerque setting. Fans of the author will not regret popular Ella Clah taking a much deserved breather as Luca and Valerie fill the void quite nicely.

My Soul To Take
Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen
9780373210039, $9.99

Though underage, Kaylee Cavanaugh sneaks into the Taboo club for people eighteen and over thanks to the voluptuous statuesque Marshall sisters. The teen feels great especially when Eastlake High School hottie Nash Hudson dances with her instead of beautiful Emma. However, abruptly she senses someone is about to die and when that happens to her she has a deep need to scream at the top of her lungs. Nash calms her down, but a humiliated Kaylee cannot understand what is happening to her; as this is not the first time she had this deep urge.

She tells Nash that a nearby strawberry blond is "darker" than everyone else and will soon die. The next day she is dead. Nash explains to Kaylee that banshees love to scream when someone is about to die and she is a banshee. He also explains who he is or at least his species. They begin dating and the kisses have Kaylee screaming louder than a banshee. However, the pair also has to stop a serial killer as the grim reaper seems t be focused on Eastlake High School. Of course there is still trig.

The "second" Soul Screamers teen urban fantasy (see My Soul to Lose novella prequel that can be downloaded for free from the net) is a fun tale starring a bewildered heroine and the hunk who helps her adjust thanks to his soothing voice while also displaying his attraction to her. Fast-paced from the opening club scene and filled with twists, fans will enjoy Rachel Vincent's strong entry due to Kaylee who saves a soul and a life, falls in love, but has to study for her history exam.

Back To Luke
Kathryn Shay
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715794, $5.50

Architect Jayne Logan is in shock when one of her buildings collapses. The obvious cause is a design flaw, which means her career is over.

Needing to hide from the media and seeking solace, Jayne visits her best friend, Jess Harper in Riverdale, New York in spite of knowing his wife Naomi's jealousy of her will make her object to her request to stay with them. However, she is further stunned when her former lover builder Luke Corelli is living there. Seeing him for the first time since she kicked him to the curb for being the benevolent dictator reminds her what she misses. However, though the attraction and perhaps the love remains strong between them, he refuses to give an inch.

This is a great contemporary romance due to a strong cast especially the lead couple and the Harper duet. In some ways the jealous Naomi steals the show as she fears even after all these years and another man in her rival's life that her husband's college lover will take him away from her. Fans will enjoy this super second chance at love enhanced by the secondary pair's marital woes.

The Secret Sin
Darlene Gardner
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715800, $5.50

In Indigo Springs, sixteen year old Annie Sublinski and Ryan Whitmore shared a tryst that left her pregnant. Her father, owner of a river rafting business, arranged for his granddaughter to be adopted.

Thirteen years later, now a magazine writer Annie is managing her father's business while he is away. She is stunned to meet her daughter Lindsey Thompson for the first time. Her father arranged for Lindsey to be placed locally so he can see and make it easier if his daughter wants to meet her. Annie informs Ryan, now a doctor, who Lindsey is. Like her, he wants to know his offspring. As the parents get acquainted with their offspring, they also get to know each other and soon fall in love.

THE SECRET SIN is a fascinating family drama as teen lovers have a second chance together as they each close in on thirty years old, but must also come to grips over their offspring given away for adoption. The relationship between Annie and Ryan then and now is solidly drawn; however neither seems as emotionally deep with meeting Lindsey. Still fans will enjoy this charming second chance at love and much more.

Save The Last Dance
Roxanne Rustand
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715831, $5.50

Attorney Jared Mathers is severely injured in a hit and run accident. The female passenger in his car dies and the police are shocked to find a gun inside the vehicle. While Jared is in critical condition fighting for his life in the hospital, his wife veterinarian Kate believes the incident is related to a legal case.

Kate knows she and Jared have had their differences even having separated for a time, but she prays for his recovery. The police imply he may have been cheating on her, but Kate wants to trust her husband would not and when he regains consciousness will explain all. As Kate remains diligent at his side, she must also cope with his distraught mother who blames her for everything in her son's life that has gone bad; as if Kate drove the other car.

Kate makes the tale work as she wants to trust the man she cherishes with her heart, but also knows they have major differences that led to the separation. His upset angry mom adds a strong dose of realism with her holding Kate culpable for her son being in the car with another woman and hurt in the accident. The story line cleverly uses the present situation to tell the back story through Kate's reflections and musing. Roxanne Rustand writes a fabulous family drama as Kate fears there is no more dance between her and her Jared.

The Rodeo Rider
Roxann Delaney
Harlequin American
9780373752737, $4.99

She loved to ride horses when she was a child. That is until the accident when she was twelve left her temporarily in a coma. Jules Vandeveer has kept her distance from horses ever since she regained consciousness, preferring the big city to ranch country.

However, the urban based lawyer has no choice but to enter Oklahoma rodeo country as her best friend Beth Anders is getting married and expects her to attend the ceremony. Jules figures she can deal with anything for a month like she did when they first met at the hospital when Beth had poison oak and she had the injuries. She had not counted on rodeo bronco rider Tanner O'Brien and his troubled fourteen years old nephew Shawn who he is raising. Unable to stay out of the uncle and his ward's issues, Jules becomes involved when she intercedes while they argue in a tavern's parking lot. Tanner admires her guts when it comes to teens, but wonders why he is attracted to a person who disdains his vocation.

Though none of the three lead characters are developed deep enough to fully understand their fears, fans of contemporary romances will enjoy the well written THE RODEO RIDER. The story line is fun to follow due to the range wars between Jules and Tanner over how to deal with Shawn, bronco and horse riding, and love; as both grasp in their respective gut the desperation of caring and fearing for someone else.

One Of A Kind Dad
Daly Thompson
Harlequin American
9780373752768, $4.99

Lilah Jameson accompanied by her young son Jonathan flees before her abusive ex spouse Bruce just released from prison, kills her as she turned him in for his fraudulent practices. In Serenity Valley, Vermont, they meet kindhearted veterinarian Daniel Foster who is a dedicated foster father to four needy boys. He wants to give them what he never found as a kid until in a Vermont Juvie hall he met and forged a family with his "brothers" Ian and Mike; like the Dean Martin song Everybody Needs Somebody so he will be there for frightened deserted kids like Nick.

Daniel recognizes the signs of a troubled past for mom and son, but hires Lilah anyway as housekeeper to his boys. Although attracted to the frightened Lilah, Daniel is cautious as he does not want to frighten his nervous housekeeper as he senses not much would send Lilah over the edge. As he falls in love ands want his housekeeper and her son to be part of his family; she wants the same, but expects a life on the run instead of her new fantasy of being a soccer mom and wife but she will not allow harm to come to the vet or his kids that she now thinks of as their kids.

This is a one of a kind psychological romantic suspense tale with the actual suspense coming late, yet readers will feel the tension throughout as Lilah knows he is coming. The story line is character driven as much by the kids especially her son who believes his dad is dead and Nick as it is the lead couple. All five youngsters seem real with deep differing fears though the older teens are adjusting to life. Daly Thompson provides a winner as the shadowy boogieman (Lilah's descriptions of her ex-husband) is coming for his wife and child.

Tori Carrington
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794874, $4.99

Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the Marines gives Carter Southard a medical suspension (see BRANDED) although he objects as he wants to stay with his brothers and sisters in arms. In Dallas, he is arrested form a crime he swears he did not commit. Attorney Laney Cartwright gets him released; while both acknowledge the attraction between them.

Laney receives a threatening note warning her to drop her current case involving a wealthy man accused of murder during an armed robbery; if not she will regret it. As Carter and Laney begin to see one another and the sex takes both over the top of the Bank of America building, as they enjoy their trysts and being together each wonders how it can end any way but heartbrokenly sad. As the marine and the lawyer relish their time together while also pondering how to mend the anticipated broken heart, the attacks on Laney dangerously accelerates.

UNBRIDLED is Tori Carirngton at their best with an incredibly super story line anchored by two fully developed protagonists. Fast-paced and filled with action and romance, fans will click their seatbelts to enjoy the one sitting ride.

Storm Watch
Jill Shalvis
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794911, $4.99

After being deployed during hurricanes like Katrina and Rita and a nasty flood in the Midwest that took out his best friend Matt, National Guardsman Jason Mauer returns to his home in Santa Rey on the mild central California coast. He plans to rest from the difficult rescue mission and enjoy his rare time home renovating with his brother Dustin their place of business.

Another devastating storm leaves ER nurse Lizzy Mann barely reaching an evacuation area while unable to reach her pregnant sister Cece. She tries to reach Dustin for help, but the cell phone failed though Jason did hear a woman whispering for help. Jason soon realizes it was Lizzy who he knows from high school and thought she was a hot babe back then, but now she is even hotter; he offers to help, but she says no. However, with the horrific weather so bad, Lizzy knows Cece's needs come first.

This is a tense romantic thriller starring two fascinating heroes. Lizzy's constant rejections of Jason's offers of help will drive readers dizzy as she makes no sense since he is a professional rescue expert just what she needs at this moment even if she remembers him as Mr. Ass the bane of her high school existence. Still fans will enjoy this taut tale as Mr. Ass and Miss Prissy fall in love.

Dark Lover
Brenda Joyce
9780373773701, $7.99

In New York City, Center for Demonic Activity, Historical Crimes Unit demon slaying witch Samantha Rose misses her sister Tabitha (see DARK VICTORY) and her cousin Brianna (see DARK EMBRACE) as her fellow agents married Highlanders and live several centuries in the past. She focuses even more on her work with her latest assignment to retrieve the Duisean, a valuable Celtic manuscript owned by Rubert Hemmer.

International art thief Ian Maclean is known for being able to obtain any masterpiece for his clients. He and Sam had a run in when they met in Scotland that left her humiliated and furious. They meet again as he is seducing the wife of Rupert to foster his plan to steal the Duisean in order to sell to the highest bidder. Sam and Ian team up to try to steal the valuable artifact though neither wants that teaming. Worse they are attracted to one another and begin to depend on one another although both fear the directions their respective feelings are taking them.

The latest Masters of Time romantic urban fantasy is a super complex tale as the kick butt adversaries must unite but both have doubts distrusting the other and even more their hearts. He uses a suave uncaring demeanor to hide his darkest secret that the demons once imprisoned and tortured him for seemingly eternity; she has never forgotten or gotten over his rejection in Scotland. However, they have no choice if they are to prevent an ancient dark one from arising; time is of the essence as they plunge into his worse nightmare that of his own past.

Linda Lael Miller
9780373773886, $7.99

In 1915 Arizona Lydia Fairmont finds her options near zero as she either marries the local banker or lose her property to the local banker; she fears losing the spread because of where will her sexagenarian kind spinster aunts go. Her childhood friend Gideon Yarbro learns Lydia is caught between a rock and a hard place as the cold aloof banker Mr. Fitch offers her no other option; so the undercover agent decides to save her in spite of her acceptance of the inevitable.

Gideon abducts Lydia taking her to his home in Stone Creek. He forces her to marry him vowing to protect and cherish her while she assumes they will have a platonic marriage of convenience although she is unsure what he gets from their matrimony. However, when someone tries to kill Gideon, Lydia realizes she loves her friend. Meanwhile Gideon struggles between a nasty squabble between the miners and the mine owners that is turning dangerous even as he fears for the safety of his beloved Lydia from the assassin trying to kill him.

The latest Stone Creek early twentieth century romance (see Gideon's older brothers' tales; Wyatt as THE RUSTLER and Rowdy as A WANTED MAN) is a charming tale starring two likable protagonists. However, though he coerces her to say I do, he is caught off guard by the tigress he marries. He planned to keep her safe but did not expect his new bride trying to keep her BRIDEGROOM safe even if he objects. Fans will enjoy this fun Arizona tale as the honeymoon includes party crashers who want Gideon dead for different reasons.

The Undoing of a Lady
Nicola Cornick
9780373773954, $7.99

In 1810 Lady Elizabeth "Lizzie" Scarlett is concerned that her childhood friend Lord Nathaniel Waterhouse is marrying someone he does not love out of a sense of duty. She knows Nat has always been there for her so she decides to be there for him even if he does not appreciate what she does. She kidnaps him to keep him from marrying Miss Flora Minchin of Fortune's Folly as this is no love match with his title in exchange for her money.

Lizzie's attempts to seduce Nat lead to their being compromised. Nat breaks off his engagement, but needs money to pay off a blackmailer. His solution is to marry wealthy Lizzie, which he does. However, though both feel a deep desire for the other and passion blazes between them, neither trusts the other any longer and pride leaves bot hiding their love out of fear of rejection.

Although similar in tone to the previous Brides of Fortune series (see THE CONFESSIONS OF A DUCHESS and THE SCANDALS OF THE INNOCENT) especially the lead characters, fans will enjoy this charming regency romance. The amusing story line starts off with a terrific opening abduction by an innocent woman who is seduced by her angry captive leading to THE UNDOING OF A LADY now in love. Fans will enjoy the gender war as neither seems to have the guts to tell the other how they feel.

Bound by Love
Rosemary Rogers
9780373773961, $7.99

In 1821 Leonida Karkoff arrives as a welcome guest of Lord Edmond and his wife Brianna (see SCANDALOUS DECEPTION). However, Leonida finds herself attracted to her shock to her host's twin brother Stefan, the Duke of Huntley. Stefan distrusts Leonida, who as the illegitimate daughter of Czar Alexander has no reason to be in England unless she has some diabolical plot to harm the Russian ruler.

However, Stefan is more upset with himself for wanting a woman he distrusts. Leonida feels guilt as she is pulled in two directions as her mother sent her to retrieve letters that will hurt the czar if exposed and her desire perhaps even love for Stefan. He seduces her, but soon afterward she vanishes with the letters to the content with him in pursuit. In St. Petersburg, Stefan catches up with his Leonida, who has fled his bed for fear her heart will die if she remains with her beloved.

The St. Petersburg setting refreshes a wonderful Regency romance sequel starring two beloved enemies. Besides the enticing Russian backdrop, Leonida is a refreshing protagonist pulled by her mother in one direction and yanked in the opposite by her love for Stefan. Fans will enjoy this brisk tale as Rosemary Rogers shows why she is consistently one of the historical romance sub-genre sure things.

Cape Storm
Rachel Caine
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451462848, $7.99,

The hurricane heading towards Southern Florida may make Katrina look like a sun shower; Chief Weather Warden Lewis Orwell knows what that storm did to New Orleans and the rest of the delta so he fears something even worse for Miami. He hijacks the cruise ship Grand Paradise and assigns his weather wardens and their djinn to sail the vessel into the open water with his goal being that the storm will chase after his unit rather than the populace on the Floridian Peninsular.

Newlyweds Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin and Djinn David are on board the Grand Paradise, but obviously this is a working honeymoon. However, this super sized storm is actually the work of magic by insane former weather warden Bad Bob; his formidable power is enhanced exponentially by his amoral lunacy. The honeymooners and their comrades in weather battle the hurricane of any century while Joanne and David also struggle with the poisoning of the demon mark that infects her.

CAPE STORM is an exhilarating weather warden thriller. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of magical action as the lead couple is victims trying to stay one step ahead of the perfect storm, while also trying to contain the poison devastating Joanne. Rachel Caine provides another terrific tale in one of the stronger urban fantasies on the market today.

Trick of the Light
Rob Thurman
9780451462886, $7.99

Las Vegas is sin city for a reason; it is a place where demons seek and eat human souls to embellish their power. In Vegas, Trixsta bar owner Trixa Iktomi supplements her living selling information mostly to the angels and their mostly human demon hunting allies at Eden House. She supports their cause not because of some divine belief, but due to her need for vengeance against those who killed her brother.

Trixa learns of an ancient supernatural shield the Light of Life that allegedly can prevent any heavenly or hellish assault from penetrating. She and her bartender Native American Leo Rain want to possess it before the demons find it. Her only problem resides with the demonic hunk Solomon, who seems attracted to Trixa; she reciprocates but fears he is only interested in dining on her soul.

The first trickster urban fantasy is an enjoyable action-packed tale that makes the mingling and mangling of angels, demons, and humans seem genuine due to a strong cast anchored by the bar owner who is as much antihero as she is hero. Trixa is a fascinating protagonist who is a mix of vulnerability, courage and acceptance; as she understands it is the season for heaven and hell on earth. Fans will enjoy the Rob Thurman experience as "demons in paradise" must have a purpose under the heaven, but like Trixa readers will ask what the hell are they and angels doing crapping in Vegas.

The Sword Of The Lady
S.M. Stirling
9780451462909, $25.95

Rudi Mackenzie continues his dangerous trek across what was once the United States in his quest to learn more about the Change that crippled the superpower turning the world into literally a darker neo Dark Ages in which electricity ceased. His goal is to go the source in Nantucket. Along the way, he has made friends, several of whom are traveling with him, and many enemies.

He attains his destination only to find a stranger world that makes what he seen before seem normal. Nantucket Island is totally woodland with no more than two hundred confused people who insist they come from other eras, but somehow were transported to the center of the Change. Nothing makes sense to the wary and weary Rudi as Nantucket offers no answers that he can fathom. However, there is one house made of stone still standing. Still searching for clues to what caused the Change over two decades ago; Rudi enters and immediately is drawn to a sword that he picks up as if the weapon was calling him. What he thought he knew will be sliced and diced forever.

The third Change post apocalyptic thriller (see SUNRISE LANDS and THE SCOURGE OF GOD) continues Rudi and company's trek across the battered dying land trying to come back to life two plus decades later. The troupe has reached their destination, but Nantucket is nothing like what they or the audience expected when they set out; for that matter the trip across the country was also filled with inexplicable unexpected happenings as the gods intruded along the way. Although it is imperative to have recently at least read THE SCOURGE OF GOD, fans will enjoy this excellent epic that will stun the reader with the direction S.M. Stirling spins as Rudi has come a long way to grab the sword and apparently has a long way still to go.

Hunting Ground
Patricia Briggs
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th fl, NY, NY 10014
9780441017386, $7.99,

Anna Latham was turned against her will into a werewolf, but soon became wife and mate to Charles Cornick, the son of Bran the Marrock alpha enforcer of all the North American werewolves. Charles is Bran's enforcer and understands his mission is to kill anyone in or out of the pack that can cause harm to his breed. Charles knows he would do anything for Anna to make up for the abuse she suffered with her first pack.

The Marrock sends his son and daughter-in-law to Seattle to head a conference dealing with relationships with humans starting with announcing their existence. The attendees are divided over the related subjects as much of the European packs oppose the agenda strongly claiming history is on their side. Jean Chastel., the European Marrock, is outspoken as he loves dining on pretty human females. On the other hand the Alpha of Great Britain supports Bran's position but he fears what otherworld species can do when his beloved wife is killed by rogue vampires. He collapses. These same bloodsuckers stalk Anna infuriating Charles as they try to kill him and kidnap her. Anna investigates who is directing the undead while she fears for her beloved dying from a mage's spell at the same time he is the chief suspect in a murder that means execution in the North American werewolf code of justice.

The key to this super ALPHA AND OMEGA urban fantasy series (see CRY WOLF) is Patricia Briggs' uncanny world-building skills that cleverly interweave a full culture into the plot; for instance the werewolf code of justice. Anna is an omega outside the pack structure while her soulmate is an alpha loner (before he met her) yet insider. Charles is obsessed with her well being, but when he becomes the target, the omega proves that lifemates are alpha when their beloved is in trouble. Fans will relish this strong entry in a terrific saga as the Briggs' earth is filled with full blooded paranormals living unseen along side the narrow minded humans.

Jeanne C. Stein
9780441017737, $7.99

She has been fighting a losing battle to hold onto her humanity, but months old vampire Anne Strong doubts she can much longer. Her parents are sent by Anna's nemesis to a winery in France with their "grand-daughter" so they cannot be used as hostages by those coming for Anna. She has few friends, but one of them is shapeshifting Culebra who owns a bar in Beso de la Muerte where vampires can feed on willing hosts. He meets her in Mexico her and asks not to visit the bar because he is on vacation and his substitute Sandre wants nothing to do with her. Unable to believe what he is saying, Anna goes to see herbut meets Warren Williams, the former San Diego chief of police and now the chief officer of the supernatural community.

He warns her that six young vampire corpses have been found drained of their blood. Soon after that meaning Sandra summons her to come to the bar because Culebra is ill and may be dying. Before Culebra lost consciousness he mentioned Belinda Burke, an enemy of his, Anna and William. She cast a spell on him and the only way to save his life is to find the witch and kill her. Anna fears she and Culebra will die if she fails to locate the witch. Tracing the path of her enemy, Anna finds more drained dead vampires and a person close to her who is helping Culebra stay alive through magic spells is now near death. Killing Belinda becomes the only sensible RETRIBUTION.

This is a strong vampire urban fantasy entry in a great series (see THE WATCHER, LEGACY, and BLOOD DRIVE) due to the lead professional who has distanced herself for obvious reasons from her family and has joined the supernatural community. Anna continues to explore her new powers as she also treks the dangerous dark world in which beauty is only skin deep is a mantra as the monsters inside are deadly. The world of Jeanne C. Stein is dark, deadly and dangerous; but most critical to readers is her species (vampires, witches, and shapeshifters) seem genuine.

Chapterhouse: Dune
Frank Herbert
9780441017218, $25.95

In the past twelve years (since the HERETICS OF DUNE), the Honoured Matres have devastated the Bene Gesserit to the point their adversaries are nearing extinction; their last enclave is a slowly changing Chapterhouse into the desert realm like they once had on Dune. The desperate Bene Gesserit Mother Superior Darwi Odrade knows her Sisterhood is in deep trouble. Their only hope resides with technology taken from the now almost extinct Bene Tleilax whose last survivor Scytale is in captivity.

The Bene Gesserit Sisterhood creates a ghola of Miles Teg, but no one knows how to use it against the enemy only that they must train the ghola to be their counter weapon as he has been used in many lifetimes before. Meanwhile the Sisterhood also mentors with training the application of the Coda ex Honoured Matre Murbella and her lover Duncan Idaho in hopes that they prove useful. However a tribe of Jews offer to help the Bene Gesserit as they know what the final solution means to them if the Honoured Matres win as seems likely.

This is a reprint of the 1985 final book written by Frank Herbert in the Dune Chronicles with the concentration about 90 plus percent on Odrade and her efforts to save her group by correcting a major defect in all of the Bene Gesserit that leaves them vulnerable to the enemy. This is a fascinating well written tale; however that focus also means minimal appearance by the Honoured Matres so the big theme never moves forward much. The completion of that overarching saga was done in collaboration by the late great author's son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson based on notes left behind. Fans should read previous Dune books before Chapterhouse and the collaboration of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson starting with HUNTERS OF DUNE to obtain the full flavor as this entry is a betweener tale.

Dark Road Rising
P. N. Elrod
9780441017553, $15.00

In 1938 Chicago, Jack Fleming is trying to recover from the worst trauma of his life. Hog Barstow, a sadistic sociopath captured and almost killed Jack; he left his victim with emotional damage that has him frightened of his shadow (which says a lot as Jack is a vampire) and physical scars from the monster's attempts to skin him alive.

The New York mob sent Gabe "Whitey" Kroun to the Windy City to kill Jack as retaliation for killing one of their associates. When Jack tried to commit suicide his best friend Charles Escott stopped him, but they had a fight and the mortal ends up in the hospital with severe life threatening injuries. Gabe was turned into a vampire but also suffered memory loss; a bullet in his head limits his skills. He learns of his ugly past, which disgusts him. Gabe wants to do no more evil deeds so when he finds Escott dying he gives the man blood, which saves him from certain death. At the same time, an old enemy captures Jack with plans of forcing him into changing him into a vampire. Certain people like Gabe's brother want him dead for what he did to a young girl; only lucid thinking and a bit of luck will save Chicago's two vampires.

Time and place are captured through the vernacular though perhaps mobster talk is a bite or two overdone. Still readers will enjoy the escapades of a sensitive vampire whose vulnerabilities make him fresh as he stands out from the supernatural crowd; yet he seems to end up in mob messes that require a hard boiled Noir reaction from him when all he wants to do is spend nights at his club Lady Crymyn. The pathos of the three males will stun the audience as P.N. Elrod follows up SONG IN THE DARK with more dangerous adventures on the mean COLD STREETS of Chicago at a time when Capone was a guest at Alcatraz, but danger remains high.

Charles Stross
9780441017195, $24.95

The nine entries affirm the author's strong scientific and hi tech foundations that make his science fiction novels so fascinating. However, the contributions are uneven as some are really great while others feel more like a beta test for something grander and more complete. The super contributions include the excellent novella "Missile Gap" in which the Cold War is fought on a different platform; "Unwirer" future of America starts with unplugging as wireless connections are outlawed; "Down on the Farm" with Bob Howard (enuf said) and "Snowball's Chance" of hell in Scotland. Of special mention is "The Colder War" that focuses on the convergence of Lovecraft and the Iran-Contra. Although overall fun to read with more than half being excellent entries, WIRELESS as a whole does not compare to Mr. Stross' novels.

Cold Moon Rising
C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765359643, $6.99,

Sazi Wolven law-enforcement operatives Tony and Sue Giodone are still struggling with their mixed marriage with him being a recently converted werewolf and she a human. As he learns to control his new paranormal skills, Tony also deals with being on the law side of life as a pack leader instead of his previous employment that of a Mafia hit man.

Tony is currently working on a hostage rescue assignment when he suffers an out-of-body experience for the first time in his life; something that is not typical of a werewolf. He finds himself able to see what Ahmad al-Narmer of the Cobras sees as the council member is stunned to face a woman he thought dead. Ahmad also believes Tony's new skill will prove valuable as the "snake" goes undercover trying to unravel a deadly plot to destroy the werewolves, snakes and humans by some of the former mobster's previous associates led by a personal "friend" of Ahmad.

As great as the previous Sazi urban fantasies have been, COLD MOON RISING is one of the best, if not the best. The strong story line is the usual fast-paced and action-packed from start to finish. However, it is character driven predominantly by Tony, but also to a degree by Ahmed, who fans normally hiss at. There is a terrific twist involving the two natural (not sure that is the right adjective with paranormals) enemies having to work together against a deadly cabal led by a woman one of them loved and thought dead because of his betrayal.

The Kingdom Beyond the Waves
Stephen Hunt
9780765320438, $25.99

Tycoon Abraham Quest agrees to fund obsessed archeologist Saint Vines College Professor Amelia Harsh's search for the legendary lost city-state of Camlantis; her theory is that the pre-history kingdom floats somewhere in the air beyond the range of Jackal air navy. Following the official rejection of her funding from the school and others, Amelia is galled having to ask and depend on odious Abraham for her quest as he is the mogul who destroyed her father leading to his suicide.

To achieve the objective, Quest converts a submarine, which angers the Jackals who want to be the sole flying act. He also employs Amazonian warriors to guard his interests while Harsh persuades Commodore Black and his crew to navigate the potentially lethal water and air from deadly denizens. Not only is there danger around every breeze and wave, the Quatershift plan to sabotage the mission.

The sequel to the COURT OF THE AIR is a terrific lively fantasy starring a beleaguered heroine who wonders whether her obsession is worth the cost of dealing with a man she loathes and once she decides that whether its merits the dangerous escapades. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action on land, air and sea. However, it is the cast who makes THE KINGDOM BEYOND THE WAVES a fun read as the diverse crew of the Quest is always one minor incidence from internal brawling with all bets on the Amazons.

Ground Zero
F. Paul Wilson
9780765322814, $25.99

On 9/11 a person in a boat in New York Harbor detonates explosives planted in the Twin Towers at about the same that al-Qaeda agents commit suicide by crashing airplanes into the two buildings. The boatman quietly escapes as the Towers collapse and the world blames al-Qaeda whose leadership also believes they did the dastardly deed.

Several years later, Eddie Connell asks Repairman Jack to find his missing sister Weezy, a forensic scientist who anonymously placed her brilliant 9/11 findings on the web. Jack locates Weezy in a hospital. She, and anyone trying to protect her, is in danger. Weezy found evidence of strange suspicious stock trading just prior to the World Trade Center destruction. Additionally, she shows to Jack that someone's picture was deleted from photos of bin Laden and his top deputies. Soon Jack and the Connell siblings conclude the world is in peril perhaps from the Otherness or the adversary he dubs the One missing from the pictures.

Although fast-paced and filled with an apocalyptic 9/11 conspiracy subplot, the latest Repairman Jack thriller is saved from being grounded by Weezy's key appearance (see JACK: SECRET HISTORIES). Filled with plenty of action, Jack struggles to keep Weezy safe while she continues her ingenious effort to solve the 9/11 puzzle. As Year Zero Minus One countdown continues, readers will enjoy GROUND ZERO, but mot quite as frightening as the other Minus entries perhaps because of the 9/11 connection in which reality was the chiller.

My Rotten Life
David Lubar
Starscape (Tor Books)
9780765316349, $5.99

Belgosi Upper Elementary Fifth grader Nathan Abercrombie knows three strikes you're out in baseball though he does not play sports due to his asthmatic condition. However, he soon learns that on this particular day being a card carrying member of the Second Besters is a highlight film after his already rotten life equates to four strikes and you're sort of dead.

In the lunch hall, Shawna Lanchester tosses the first mortar; she announces for all to hear he is not invited to her party. Next gym teacher Mr. Lomax throws hand grenade number two when he picks four captains to pick the others for their teams as they train for a competition with a rival school that they have lost to for the past few years; Nathan is the last one selected. The third strike is playing with Caleb's zombie killing video game in which Nathan's "men" die instantly, spastic is a kind description of what his classmates' state.

He takes heart when weird newcomer Abigail brings him to her Uncle Zardo, a scientist who has invented a potion to stop people from feeling bad. An accident leads to Nathan being doused with the entire serum instead of a drop as the cops crash into the lab to arrest Zardo. Strike four is being half-dead though the benefits are feeling no pain from oven heated pots to Rodney the bully, but how to explain to mom and dad you can't eat any food as it rots in the stomach.
Middle school readers will enjoy the escapades of Nathan, his best friend Mookie and Abigail as one thing leads to another until the protagonist agrees to be a subject of the "Hurt Be Gone" experiment, which only makes his life more rotten. Fast-paced throughout, young readers will enjoy MY ROTTEN LIFE as it is fun to read while a strong message encourages the audience to stay positive.

Zadayi Red
Caleb Fox
9780765319920, $24.99

Ever since Sunoya was born under an omen of duality either she will be a great enlightener or an even greater darkness bringer. To influence the path, she has been mentored by the medicine man of the Galayi tribe to one day replace him. His mission is to see she goes down the path to help their people. The young shaman sees a horrific vision of the tribe's greatest artifact the magical Cape of Eagle Feathers that helps keep the tribe safe and thriving as the Seer of the People wears it so he (or she) can see the future. Sunoya sees it bloodied and dirty. Her foretelling means hard times for her people.

However, Sunoya also foresees a hero will restore the cape to its previous glory and restore the tribe back to a better lifestyle. She believes the hero is her second cousin, infant Dahzi. The tribe anoints the baby as their savior and over the years he faces much danger including an envious evil loathing grandfather who along with several others who wants him dead. Sunoya keeps Dahzi safe as both will sacrifice plenty for their people.

This is a fabulous fresh Native American fantasy that fans of the sub-genre will fully enjoy. The keys to the story line are the two heroes as Sunoya and Dahzi struggle with what they must personally give up to save their people. Mindful of Aimee Thurlo's fine tales, ZADAYI RED is a super thriller.

Burn Me Deadly
Alex Bledsoe
9780765322210, $24.99

In sleazy downtrodden Neceda, self-employed private investigator with a sharp sword Eddie LaCrosse will do anything except murder for twenty-five pieces of gold. After finishing an inquiry for a paying customer, Eddie is riding back on his horse Lola to his seedy office over slimy Angelina's Tavern.

However, this trek home is a bit different when he almost runs over a severely injured almost nude blonde. His head tells him to keep going as no good deed goes unpunished; but his lower head wins the debate. Eddie stops to help Laura Lesperitt, but soon is waylaid by some vicious thugs who torture him and Laura before knocking him out. When he regains consciousness, the outraged master swordsman sees in the moonlight the dead battered Laura lying near him. He is taken to the moon goddess hospital where his girlfriend freelance courier Liz Dumont tells him he is a mess who lost a week. Eddie owes three torturers payback even if that means as he learns dealing with a dragon cult tied to criminal gangs and the house of King Archibald; Liz is at his side helping him stand up though he knows he must tell her the secret about her twin sister that stands between them; alas that is for another time.

The second La Crosse medieval sword and sorcery Noir (see THE SWORD-EDGED BLONDE) pays obvious homage to Mickey Spillane with terrific action from the onset when the hero breaks his basic rule of non-involvement (except for a fee) and gives Laura a lift. Once he regains consciousness in spite of aching ribs and other bruises, Eddie knows three men deserve his pin point sword. Fans will enjoy this entertaining thriller as the hero finds vengeance Spillane style as Eddie (like Hammer) learns blondes can prove deadly.

City of Fire
Laurence Yep
Starscape (Tor Books)
9780765319241, $15.99

In 1941 twelve year old Mistress of Kles Scirye is angry to learn her older sister Nishke was killed trying to prevent a treasure from being stolen from the Hearn Museum in San Francisco. She plans to regain what was taken and kill her sibling's murderer Badik the evil dragon though she is ignorant of the plan of the dragon's even more evil partner Mr. Roland to possess the five Lost Treasures of Emperor Yu in order to change existence as Scirye knows it.

Fuming she sets out to avenge her sibling's murder. Joining her on her trek is Bayang the dragon disguised as a human Pinkerton Agent, Leech the orphan, and his best friend Koko. Her three allies have secrets they keep from one another but share a common need to destroy Badik and his associate Mr. Roland. The trail leads to Houlani, the newest Hawaiian island created by magic, but even with Pele the Goddess of volcanoes abetting their cause they are too late to prevent a second theft as they pursue the malevolent duo into the frozen north.

This is a fast-paced alternate historical fantasy as one episode follows another. The story line is loaded with a horde of mythological creatures, beasts, cretins, and Gods, but it is the unlikely teammates led by a tweener who fight the forces of evil. Although at times the discussions between the good guys slows down the plot especially during dangerous incidents, middle school fans will root for Scirye and her squad against the enemy who seems several steps ahead of them; setting up a sequel or two.

Prospero Lost
L. Jagi Lamplighter
9780765319296, $24.95

Contrary to how that Elizabethan author distorted the truth with his Tempest in a teapot drama, Prospero the Sorcerer did not burn his tomes or shatter his staff. He has nothing against the Bard as truth does not set you free; it gets you executed. Instead Prospero lived; having more children besides his famous daughter Miranda (that Shakespeare is worse than a tabloid writer as he cannot keep the family out) even if he made his daughter the heroine of his outrageous popular fabrication.

They live in modern society quite comfortably as the family patriarch formed Prospero Inc. whose corporation mission is to negotiate deals with elementals to prevent natural disasters; Miranda is the overworked CEO never taking a break. However, their idyllic lifestyle is disturbed when Miranda realizes her father has vanished into Hell and the Three Shadowed Ones are after the family magic. Miranda, Mag the air spirit possessing a hard-boiled private eye, and her certifiable brother Mephistopheles begin a quest to rescue Prospero and warn her dysfunctional siblings to beware the Three Shadowed Ones while she also fails to avoid Ferdinand the jilted one.

Using humor, L. Jagi Lamplighter cleverly pays homage to Shakespeare and to a degree John Milton's Paradise Lost and maybe Found in this wonderful modern day satire. Miranda tries to play the heroine by warning her siblings, but they loathe her for being the Bard's pet and jealous for her fame treating her as a pariah. Their mistreatment of their renowned sister makes none of the siblings likable even as she once again is the responsible one trying to save their lives. Ironically they assume some new Bard will write her story. Fans who enjoy a comedic urban fantasy will relish the return of Miranda the workaholic as she attempts to battle the Three Shadowed Ones, rescue her dad and warn her family who ignore her as they believe she is just a glory hound.

The Sunless Countries
Karl Schroeder
9780765320766, $25.95

Far from the center of Vega where the artificial light is at its strongest in the city of Pacquaea, the dimmer outer towns begin to vanish with no known cause. Those in the inner sanction believe a threat from off world has begun to systemically destroy the sunless orb.

At the same that towns are being devastated most likely from the outside, a new religious movement has taken root proclaiming that Vega is eternal and not created. They are called Eternists. They begin a concerted effort to impound books, control all the news they feel fit to print and force a referendum on subjecting science to popular votes.

Sun lighter Hayden Griffin and historian dreamer Leal Hieronyma Maspeth unite to investigate the outsider assaults. Their inquiry takes the courageous duo to an eerie group of dead apparently killed by rain, encounters with the "mythical", struggles with menacing politicians threatening to end each of their careers especially his commission to build a new "sun". As he reconsiders his choices while she pushes on, they begin to close in on the outside at a time the increasingly powerful Eternists want to prevent them from learning any truths except what they decree is the one and only Truth.

The latest Virga science fiction thriller (see SUN OF STARS and QUEEN OF CANDESCE) is a super entry as Karl Shroeder takes readers to previously unexplored bubble regions beyond the world's centrally located artificial suns; places that were dim, but now are THE SUNLESS COUNTRIES. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the two heroes investigate why bubbles are going dark. Fans will relish Karl Shroeder's excellent outer space saga as once again the bubble world of Virga seems a genuine host for a great adventure.

Servant of a Dark God
John Brown
9780765322357, $25.99

In the New Lands, the Koramites who have settled on the land are vassals to the Mokaddians. There is danger in this mostly unexplored place; the least of which are Bone Faces who attack the colonists from the south. They cut off a person's pinky and use black magic to bind that individual to them. More dangerous are the Sleths who use Fire (another person's life force) to give them incredible strength and speed. Only the Divines are allowed to use Fire because they feel anyone else would over use and over time would tirn into something evil. A monster nesting amidst the colonist has turned others into monsters.

Charity has come to the attention of authorities when her dead baby with parts of a stork and a stork with body parts of a human were found when the rains washed up the casket. Her husband was killed but her children blind Legs and Sugar seek shelter at the home if a member of the Order who use magic for good purposes. Talen, the man's son wants to turn them in but his father refuses. The monster Hunger seeks Charity and brings her to his master. Soon many members of the Order are trapped in the monster's cave and only a miracle can save everyone.

This is the first book in the Dark Gods series and it uses action to introduce the reader to the dangerous New Lands in which life is not precious. Readers get a sense of the differing species competing for power. For instance the Divines want more power to strengthen their hold at the top of the food chain. The monster who creates monsters out of humans wants to go back to where humans were herded like cattle. The Order is mankind's only hope for a free life, but many doubt the lords and the commoners will believe in their cause due to prejudice against magic users who are not Sleth. John Brown has written a compelling but bleak fantasy world filled with a complex and convoluted social structure that will grip readers from the onset.

The Virgin's Daughters
Jeane Westin
NAL (New American Library)
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451226679, $16.00,

The younger sister of the late Lady Jane Grey, Lady Katherine Grey admires Queen Elizabeth and vows to be loyal and faithful especially to the monarch's decree that her female retinue must remain virtuous. Lady Katherine has no problem remaining pure as no man attracts her enough to give away her virginity.

However, when Elizabeth falls in love with Sir Robert Dudley, Katherine assumes that frees her from her vow of chastity just like the queen she emulates. Katherine falls in love with the Earl of Hereford, but Queen Elizabeth begins to suspect her of seditious acts to take the throne like her sister did.

Over time, Elizabeth turns increasingly acrimonious as she cannot fully act on her love for Essex. Her Lady in Waiting Mary Rogers understands firsthand what that means as she loves the queen's godson, but that could mean death for both of them.

Although a look at Queen Elizabeth through how her Ladies in Waiting sees her has been over done, as well as the Grey sisters (see the Alison Weir's novels), Jeane Westin provides a fascinating look at the court over time. The Queen becomes angrier and frustrated but not as much as her Ladies in Waiting, who know that love is a seditious act. Well written, fans who cannot get enough of Elizabethan Era historical fiction will want to read THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTERS trying to remain loyal to their Queen bit also struggling to survive falling in love in the "Court of Elizabeth I".

When Alex Was Bad
Jo Davis
9780451227027, $15.00

Fifteen years of marriage has led to Olivia and Alex Quinn drifting. Since she still loves her husband she offers him a deal to save their marriage. He is to have seven trysts; after each he must describe in vivid detail the sex; after his account, she will punish him with her choosing the method. Alex is shocked but fascinated so he agrees.

While Alex explodes in anticipation, Olivia meets Jason Strickland, the nephew of her neighbor Bill. She decides to have fun and games with him while her spouse performs with his women. After Alex performs with another attorney, he comes home to "mistress" Liv who punishes him into submission. Their relationship has changed to her being the boss. However, as she brings Jason into the punishment, some nasty people want a piece of Jason's ass and not for sexual reasons.

This is a profound BDSM romance that is filled with numerous sexual encounters. The story line is at its best when Jo Davis digs deep into the psyche of the three prime players especially Liv's control of the two hunks. A suspense subplot involving Jason seems out of place as this super orgasmic tale is at its best WHEN ALEX IS BAD.

Casting Off
Nicole R. Dickson
9780451226990, $15.00

As she waits along with her six year old daughter Rowan for the transport to the island off Ireland's west coast, textile archeologist Rebecca Moray thinks back sixteen years to Berkley and her BFF Sharon who told her tales of the sweaters and taught her to knit them. Now, Rebecca and Rowan are on Sharon's island to research the sweaters for a book she is writing. However, while Sharon is in Dublin about to give birth any minute, the isl anders welcome the Americans as friends because Sharon has told them about her buddy.

Like all Americans it seems, Rebecca is on a tight clock as her grant runs out in two months; the locals are on a different time schedule as they live a less hectic pace enjoying life to the fullest. Rowan adapts rather easily to the pace, making many friends and especially enjoys the father-daughter closeness of hardened widower fisherman Sean Morahan who is unable to scare off the child. Meanwhile Rebecca fears abusive Dennis, Rowan's dad, will demandingly arrive to ruin their daughter's happiness. She also fears seeing Sharon as the memories must be greater than the reality. Rebecca finds herself enjoying the one knit at a time creating a gansey while wondering if she can cast off her past is she is to make it with Sharon's childhood friend Fionn whom she loves and who loves her and her daughter.

Although the story line goes the way readers will expect fans will enjoy the trip to get there as Rebecca finds second chances. The island support cast makes the tale as they bring to life the "Island". However, this is Rebecca's redemption if she casts off her past and walks towards not away from love; as she holds the plot together. Fans will enjoy Nicole R. Dickson' fine tale of a Yank (and her daughter) finding her life on an Irish island.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Larsen's Bookshelf

Sea Service Medals: Military Awards and Decorations of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard
Fred L. Borch and Charles P. Mcdowell
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5034
9781591140894 $34.95 800-233-8764

There is a story of heroism, duty and competence behind each medal.

Sea Service Medals is the first and only complete historical examination of all the personal awards, decorations and medals that may be awarded to Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personal for heroism, achievement and service.

The authors, both military veterans, establish the authority of the medal, when it was first issued, criteria, order of precedence, devices, designer, description and symbolism, describe the front and obverse of the medal and give historical background.

Built to last, like all Naval Institute Press offerings, Sea Service Medals is handy to have on bookshelves and is a surprisingly good read.

Two Soldiers, Two Lost Fronts: German War Diaries of the Stalingrad and North Africa Campaigns
Don A. Gregory and Wilhelm R. Gehlen
1016 Warrior Road, Drexel Hill, PA 19026
9781935149057 $32.95

Two recently discovered war diaries form the basis for this book. The first diary was kept by an unknown member of the 23rd Panzer Division from the German victory at Kharkov in April 1942 through the advance through the Caucasus to defeat at Stalingrad in March 1943.

The second, a hand written diary, authored by Rolf Krengel; a soldier in Rommel's Africa Corps, starts with the beginning of the war and ends with the occupation. Neither of our diarists were famous, or of high rank. They wrote what they saw.

What gives this book flavor is the careful translation and comments from Don Gregory and Wilhelm Gehlen. They let the diary writers speak.

Bound to be of broad interest, "Two Soldiers, Two Lost Fronts" is a winner from Casemate.

A Hundred Feet over Hell: Flying with the Men of the 220th Recon Airplane Company over I Corps and the DMZ, Vietnam 1968-1969
Jim Hooper
Zenith Press
c/o Quayside Publishing Group
400 1st Avenue North, Suite 300, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401
9780760336335 $25.00

With A Hundred Feet over Hell by London based war correspondent and author, Jim Hooper, Zenith Press continues to offer fine military histories at a fair price. Here Hooper has interviewed survivors of the "Catkillers" of the 220th Recon Airplane Company, forward observers who spent many hours flying low and slow over hostile Vietnam in flimsy Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs in 1968 and 1969.

These young pilots strapped on their little Cessna's and flew, always at slow speeds and often at altitudes of 200 feet or less looking for and finding enemy troops before they could attack the American ground forces. Hooper sure put me in the cockpit! This book is a fine three hour read.

A Kid from Pittsburgh: A baptism of fire from reform school to World War II
Marion Rosen with Morris Rosen
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
Reference Milton Kahn Associated, Inc.
Post Office Box 50353, Santa Barbara, CA 93150
0741453746 $19.95 805-859-8555

Things were tough for young Morris Rosen, raised during the depression, incarcerated in reform school at age 13. He enlisted in the Army at 17 and soon found himself serving in North Africa.

He inadvertently captured 100 or so Italian soldiers from Mussolini's army. Though seemingly a screw-up, Morris learned how to soldier. His skill with radio led to a job as forward observer, a most dangerous job, where he was wounded twice. Following the war, Morris attended college, earning a master's degree in school administration. Later he changed occupations, became an investment councilor, finally retiring after 23 years at age 71, a true member of the greatest generation.

Marion Rosen, his wife interviewed Morris for 15 years and wrote this fine narrative.

Richard N. Larsen
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

A Shift in Time: Mystic Places Revisited
Poems, Stories, Illustrations by Jan Turner
Shadows Ink Publications
1209 Milwaukee Street, Excelsior Springs MO 64024
9780982299692 $10.00

Jan Turner is an award winning poet, writer, and creator of several new poetry forms. In her latest chapbook, she transports readers to ancient lands and intriguing mysteries through 21 poems and 5 short stories. Colorful photos, computer imaging, and the author's pen and ink drawings are an added bonus as Turner takes us to Atlantis, ancient Britain, Easter Island and Peru. This excerpt from the introductory poem sets the tone for Turner's amazing tour de force:

The higher the mountains, the faster the streams,
I seek those adventures that lure and beguile.
Whatever the danger, whatever the cost,
in mystical places I love to be lost.

In this excerpt from "Napoleon's Secret" readers see the Egyptian pyramids for the first time through his eyes:

The skyline drew him with its spell;
his army stilled at what they saw.
Though soldiers who were seasoned well,
three pyramids held them in awe.

What god-king raised a tomb of stone
that reached the heavens from his throne?
Napoleon approached the ruin
and mysteries of Cheop's tomb.

"The Stonehenge Space/Time Curve" captures those magical, mysterious stones that hold their own place in time. In this excerpt, our modern world disappears and we stand with Turner in the glow of megalithic power:

The circle glows of lavender and mist
as all about me sounds a tribal hum.
Ethereal, the stones begin to twist
the curvature of space, as I feel numb;
a portal in the center might exist…
if only I could will it to 'become.'
This bending space in megalithic rhyme
creates a framework, overlaying time.

Like her poems, the five short stories weave the ancient and modern into a fascinating whole. If I had to choose a favorite, it would be "The 2012 Galactic Gateway" because it gave me goosebumps. If you enjoy poetry, prose, and fine art, you'll find everything in one exceptional package here.

The Science of Want
Poetry by Sara Dailey
Shadows Ink Publication
1209 Milwaukee Street
Excelsior Springs MO 64024
9780982299647 $10.00

This is an exceptional poetic study on love, loss, sorrow, and searching. It's no surprise, then, that Sara Dailey's poetry has been featured in numerous poetry journals. Many poems in this chapbook address the death of her brother and they are fine tributes, indeed. Consider, for example, this excerpt from "A Recognition of Being Left Behind:"

…You startle in my heart
like blood welling up, brother.
Who's to know my secrets now?

Dailey's sorrows are beautifully expressed and poignant. I read through these two excerpts from "Gregor Mendel's Peas on the Anniversary of My Brother's Death" several times, imagining the poet remembering and recreating her loss:

…and those peas, those looped spools
of vine twist around the heart, stubbornly
twinned, they cannot be unwound
outward or shed like skin.

…When my blood spills,
are you still there
in strands of DNA
like threads in the loom
of some cosmic weaver
leaving each breath
a silver shimmer?

No matter what sorrow we experience, somehow life goes on and time passes. Due to space constraints I can't quote "Woman Continues, Indistinct" in its entirety. I had to make do with one small excerpt of this fine poem:

If you'd hear, I'd tell you how
the world hums a song tonight,
gilt-edged with sorrow, a whole fist
of silver notes spiking like stars,
how when rivers meet rivers
two is always less than one.

For lovers of poetry, discovering the work of Sara Dailey is a delight. And if you know someone struggling with grief and loss, this comforting chapbook would make the ideal gift.

Poetic Nature in the Hoosierland
Edited by Stacy Smith
Shadows Ink Publications
1209 Milwaukee Street, Excelsior Springs MO 64024
9780982299630 $10.00

This poetry anthology is a "Who's Who" of Indiana poets who collaborated to extol the beauties of the natural world they see around them every day. Royalties from this chapbook go to support Mounds State Park, an ancient Native American historic site. I always find it difficult to choose poems from an anthology containing the work of many poets. I decided in this case to choose a random sampling of poems that spoke to me about the prehistoric Mounds, where nature and Native tribes cohabited in ways we seldom see today. Whether they are about the Mounds, or other parts of Indiana, these poems are glorious word pictures, created by skilled wordsmiths. They help readers see "a kingfisher belting his displeasures" or "crows gathered for gossip." Every poem is a treasure and become, when taken as a whole, "wings embracing the wind."

This excerpt from "The Great Mound" takes readers back in time, to an era when America and the Mounds were pristine:

I sleep nestled within the forest,
an earthwork created by a tribe
of ancients encircled by my brethren.
I hold the treasures of the mystic past
deep in my soil beneath Father Sky.

Native people dance and sing by firelight in "A Sonnet of the Summer Solstice: Mounds State Park, 2008." Ancient past and present meet in this excerpt:

Respectfully we share this sacred space,
And come like they to mark the solstice rite.
We are the watchers with no sense of place,
As if intruding on this hallowed night.

Sometimes the simplest poem paints the clearest picture. "December Field" feeds our senses in three lines:

snow-lathered stubble
invites the wind's razor - a
cedar bleeds redbirds.

Book's finale is a long, collaborative tribute to nature, with each of 22 poets contributing a verse. This anthology is a must have for poetry lovers, nature lovers, or readers who mistakenly believe Indiana is flat and featureless. The wonders to be found in this state are exceptional, like the poets who live there and generously share her mysteries in this chapbook.

Searching for Virginia Dare
Marjorie Hudson
Suite 202
6610 Shallowford Rd., Lewisville NC 27023
9780979304965 $16.00

I've often wished it possible to see America before urban sprawl, mechanization, smog, technology and other taints of modern life took over the wild places. In this book, Marjorie Hudson granted that wish. Through an engrossing mix of fact, fiction, and imagination, she took me on a journey through the centuries to that moment when Britain first colonized our eastern shores. Long before the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies existed, there was Roanoke.

In 1587, Spain dominated the New World and Britain hoped to claim America by establishing settlements along our eastern coastline. In those days, the east coast of America was like a frightening Eden. The settlers at Roanoke found deep, dark, fragrant forests overgrown with unfamiliar plants, savage storms, blistering heat in summer, swarms of mosquitoes, bone chilling winters, dangerous predators and strangely dressed native tribes whose intents were uncertain. It was during that first summer, August 18,1587, that the first British child was born on American soil. Virginia Dare was that baby, granddaughter of the first American Governor, John White. White's illustrations, maps and written journals - the ones that survived at least - documented pre-colonial America and the Native tribes that thrived along the coast. The Roanoke, Hattorask, Chesepiuk, Chowanok, and Croatoan tribes fascinated White.

White leaves his daughter and granddaughter behind and returns to England for supplies. When he returns months later, every settler in the Roanoke colony has disappeared without a trace. No bodies, no evidence of foul play, only empty spaces where settlers once lived. His only clue is the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree. White searched for Eleanor and Virginia Dare for years but found no trace of them. Where did they go? Were they taken as slaves by Native tribes? Did friendly Natives take them to safety in some distant place? Or did the settlers strike out on their own for places unknown?

Marjorie Hudson begins her search for Virginia Dare at Roanoke and works her way outward. Her discoveries along the way are compelling. Her imagination colors the empty spaces, combines the real, the fanciful, personal, past and present. We don't find Virginia Dare, but we discover gray and blue eyed Native Americans whose language has always been English back as far as anyone can remember. And many of the English words they speak today are Elizabethan in origin.

This book was intriguing and beautifully written. If you love American history and enjoy good writing, The Search for Virginia Dare is well worth the read.

Two of the Missing: Remembering Sean Flynn and Dana Stone
Perry Deane Young
Press 53
P.O. Box 30314, Winston-Salem NC 27130
9780981628097 $19.95

Press 53 released this story, first published in 1975, because it is a classic and as pertinent today as it was 25 years ago. The Vietnam War still evokes powerful memories in those of us old enough to remember the era, those who spent time there, and those who lost loved ones there. Words used by critics to describe Young's memoir include: devastating; magnificent; tender; unforgettable. Personally, I could not put this book down. Not for a minute. Young's telling of the war, his journalist friends, and the sights they experienced, alternately horrified, saddened, amused, or enthralled me.

Sean Flynn - son of movie icon Errol Flynn - was a real life swashbuckler in his own quiet, unassuming way. He wanted to make his own mark in life, to accomplish something meaningful, to do more than club hop and tan in Palm Beach. Sean was tall, handsome, a magnet for every female around, and a loner dedicated to his journalistic work in Vietnam.

Dana Stone was in many ways the opposite of Flynn - short, mischievous, irrepressible, and married to the love of his life. He became a recognized authority on survival and military tactics in Vietnam, although he was a journalist and not a soldier. He took his wife, Louise, with him to Vietnam instead of leaving her behind in America.

Both men fearlessly pursued their craft, taking photos under fire, during battles. Dressed like the soldiers they accompanied to the battlefield, wearing heavy field packs, they thought like soldiers and behaved as soldiers if they have to. Their images of war made the covers of Time Magazine and major dailies around the world. During their down time they drank, smoked dope, and partied with their friends. Such amusements are as much a part of their story as the battles they photographed. Both men tried to leave Vietnam several times throughout the course of the war. Each time they left, the war or the pursuit of truth or their friends pulled them back.

In April of 1970, Flynn and Stone headed out on assignment riding two red motorcycles. Flynn was on assignment for Time Magazine at the time and Stone for CBS News. They rode off grinning and joking each other as always, and were never seen again. Natives reported later that they were captured by the Viet Cong. Nothing more was ever learned about them and their remains were never found.

Perry Deane Young's telling of the Vietnam experience is personal and compelling. This is an exceptional book and highly recommended for mature readers.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

The Life of Saint Brigid, Abbess of Kildare
Jane G. Meyer & Zachary Lynch
Conciliar Press
P.O. Box 76, Ben Lomond, CA 95005-0076
9780982277003, $12.95,

Written by Jane G. Meyer and illustrated by Zachary Lynch, "The Life of Saint Brigid" is a paperback children's book about the life and legend of Celtic Saint Brigid of ancient Ireland. Illustrations reminiscent of Celtic engravings and enlightenings with stained glass colors enhance the text. Born of an Irish chieftain father and a Christian slave mother, Brigid encounters many trials in her growth from childhood to maturity. Because of her generosity with her father/owner's possessions and food, he attempts to give her away to a neighboring king. Ultimately she is freed upon the advice of the king and she also eludes her family's attempt to marry her to a gentle and handsome poet suitor. In desperation, Brigid scarred her face and so convinced her family of her wish to become a bride of Christ. The scar healed miraculously when the priest placed a white veil on her head. Another wondrous story about Brigid tells of her request for land to build a monastery on from her king. She was supposed to be limited to the amount of land that her cloak could cover, but again miraculously, when she laid down the cloak it spread across a wide expanse of land and ultimately became the Abbey of Kildare, where Brigid became Abbess, as well as sheperdess. Brigid continued to tend both her sheep, her novitiates, and the poor, feeding all she could. Because her one convent was not large enough for all the Irish women who wished to become nuns like her, Brigid prayed for abundance and again was rewarded with the eventual founding of many, many convents all across Ireland, which Brigid traveled to visit often with great hardship. On one of her journeys, she gave aid and comfort to a dying pagan chieftain who had terrified and alienated his servants and caretakers. While she tended him, she braided rushes from the floor together into a cross, a symbol of Christ, who died to save mankind. The chief asked further about the cross and all it meant, and Brigid comforted him with her faith and ultimately baptized the dying man. "The Life of Saint Brigid" ends with the Irish Rune of Hospitality: "I saw a stranger yestreen; I put food in the eating place, drink in the drinking place, music in the listening place, and in the name of the Triune he blessed myself and my house, my cattle and my dear ones, and the Lark said in her song/ Often, often, often, goes the Christ in the stranger's guise." Children and adults will enjoy this addition to the most famous of Irish hagiographies.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Aztec Dawn
Kerrie Louise Thomas
5341 Dorchester Road, Suite 16, Charleston, SC 29418
9780473149529, $17.99,

There are those who still hold on to the old ways of their people. "Aztec Dawn" is a novel about the Aztec people and those who still consider the culture's ways sacred centuries after their fall. A white man who is willing to give his father to ritual sacrifice, and there seems to be a movement among the old Aztecs to try to reclaim Mexico. "Aztec Dawn" is an intriguing yarn of ancient traditions and how far one is willing to go for their beliefs.

Uncontrolled Substance
Kenneth Foust
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434349507, $14.59,

Does the future of humanity lie in performance enhancing drugs? "Uncontrolled Substance: The Solution" tells of a future saturated with enhanced drugs in a world that values performance and perfection among all else. Exploring these concepts with an ethical eye through a conflict of purists and those who seek power, "Uncontrolled Substance" asks many questions and is a fine and recommended volume for readers who like fiction that makes them think.

He Said, He Said
Gerald Mackrell
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595493616, $13.95,

It is never easy being a widow. "He Said, He Said" is a novel following the life of Sean McManus, a writer devastated by the sudden death of his wife. Seeking to get away from it all, he leaves America for his ancestral homeland of Ireland, and finds solace in the new area. But getting over his wife's death would require him to move on, and he may miss a second chance at love if he can't do so soon... "He Said, He Said" is a story of finding renewed love, highly recommended.

Squire William's Lucky Day
Mark R. Brewer
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781436358736, $23.99,

Adventure doesn't care what you are when it comes looking. "Squire William's Lucky Day" tells the story of Squire William and his discovery of a document that could lead to an ancient secret of untold power. Whisked away on adventure, he soon finds that he may have been better off if he had never found the document, but there may be more to it yet. "Squire William's Lucky Day" is a fine fantasy aimed at younger readers, with much to offer older readers as well, recommended.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

The Family (The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power)
Jeff Sharlet
Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd St., New York, N.Y. 10022
9781607512981 $15.99

Jeff Sharlet is an American journalist who writes about religious subcultures in the United States. He is the author of THE FAMILY and KILLING THE BUDDA: A HERETIC'S BIBLE. He is a contributor to ROLLING STONE AND HARPER'S and has two online journals.

Religious freedom; the separation of church and state; the Declaration of Independence; the Bill of Rights…these are sacred documents to our culture and heritage in the United States. We are founded on the idea that no one religion will ever become a state religion that is forced on the populace. But there are those who think differently, and they would rewrite our nation's history to educate their young to eliminate these truths.

In his excellent book, Jeff Sharlet tells of an organization called "The Family," a group of fundamentalist Christians, whose goal is to take over the world. He infiltrated the group, starting with Ivanwald, a tax-free private house in Washington, D.C. Who are these people? Unfortunately, many Republicans whose names are familiar are members of this group, as well as some Southern Democrats. What is their goal? Some of the participants belie their political identities:

"Hillary fights side-by-side with Brownback and others for legislation dedicated less to overturning the wall between church and state than to tunneling beneath it. Practically speaking, such work appeased evangelical elites without drawing the notice of liberals who thought Hillary stood for separation, but such tunnels genuinely undermine the foundations."

For the record, these fundamentalists are more interested in world domination and creating a strict theocracy than the basic teachings of Jesus. They bathe in the idea of Jesus without churches, but rather form cells similar to the Taliban for their instruction.

Sharlet's book is difficult to read, in that it is so shocking. He names names, follows the trail of monies diverted from our government for use by The Family, and warns that this movement is not for dummies, but a sophisticated group that included both Bush presidents and many other prominent politicians. It should be a must read for anyone who has the right to vote. Because as the saying goes, we will end up with a government we deserve if we are not vigilant. Jeff Sharlet is to be commended for his personal sacrifice in exposing this group.

Her Last Letter
Nancy C. Johnson
Penwyck Publishing
Wolverine Lake, Michigan
9780979190902 $12.95

Nancy C. Johnson has been making up stories since she was a child. She is a complete bookworm and loves to create a romantic world for the reader. She craves excitement, and wants her stories to engage the imagination of the reader.

Set in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, a town in close proximity to Aspen, Nancy's story begins with Gwyn Sanders, recent heiress, discovering a letter from her dead sister hidden in a desk. The letter indicates that her sister slept with the boyfriend of either Gwyn or Linda, the third sister. Gwyn and Linda decide to hire a private detective to conduct a background check on both men. After all, new money and its owner can easily be separated. Unfortunately, this situation puts a strain on both fairly new marriages:

"When I returned home I sought a good hiding place for the report. Later tonight, after Trevor went to bed, I'd read it in depth. I'd decided that my discovery didn't mean a thing, that if anything, having a father in prison had taught Trevor one thing and one thing only. DON'T END UP THERE. Look how diligently he went about his business, about his life. Of course he didn't want his father's mistakes to reflect on him. That's why he'd kept it a secret."

There is no better place to set a mystery than in an exotic place or in the mountains. Nancy Johnson makes excellent use of this backdrop to set the stage for a smashing mystery that is chock full of romance; sexual tension; and true mystery. Her dead sister seems to be speaking to her from the halls of their childhood home, and the reality that follows is just as startling as if her ghost had jumped out at Gwyn.

The idea of new money creating possible targets is also explored in this mystery. Naturally there are "other women," and it all adds up to a spicy and juicy read that is impossible to put down once the first page is read.

Nancy C. Johnson has created a winner with HER LAST LETTER. Hopefully this book is the beginning of a career that is sure to thrill her growing readership for years to come.

A great read!!

A Blood Stained Ivory Tower
Richard Kelly
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
1418408042 $11.50

Richard Kelly is a clinical psychologist with twenty-five years of teaching at the university level. He has worked at psychiatric facilities in the U.S. and other countries. He and his wife keep their primary residence in Indiana.

Tom Evers is a psychology teaching at a Midwestern university. One of his research assistants is found brutally murdered after spring break. In a town that is not familiar with solving homicides, Tom asks for and is granted permission to conduct his own private investigation when the local police come up empty. The young woman's parents engineer the idea in Tom's mind, and he undertakes his investigation as a tentative exercise. When a second woman is found murdered, Tom steps up to the plate with a new determination:

"Beth was suspicious. 'Margaret, I think Tom is going to want to talk with you privately. He's on a mission and a little out of control.'

'Sounds interesting,' Margaret said.

'There's no stopping him. I'll leave you two alone,' Beth said, as she moved away."

Dr. Kelly has a clinical style of writing that is precise and factual. His plot is obviously close to home, while expanding his experience to a plausible plot. His characters are well developed, and he gives the reader an accurate bird's-eye view of academic (ivory tower) life. While he isn't a theoretical academic, he still possesses a plethora of experience which contributes to the backdrop of the story.

A BLOOD STAINED IVORY TOWER is a classic whodunit that builds to an exciting crescendo and leaves the reader with the feeling that the bad guy got what he/she deserved (I'm not telling).

Dr. Kelly has a distinct flair for mysteries, and his background lends even more mystery to a well written story. Keep at it, Dr. Kelly! Tom Evers is a reluctant hero who puts it on the line in a pinch.

Capable of Murder
Brian Kavanagh
BeWrite Books, U.K.,
1905202105 $12.50 U.S./$14.99 CAN/ Euro 10.50 Europe

Brian Kavanagh has spent years in the Australian film industry as a writer, editor, producer, and director. He has received awards from the Australian Film Editors Guild and the Australian Film Institute for editing FROG DREAMING, as well as an AFI award for his first feature film, A CITY'S CHILD, which also won the Gold Southern Cross Advertiser Award for Best Australian Film.

Australian Belinda Lawrence receives a cryptic note from her great aunt Jane, who is a bit of a recluse. She can't think what it's about, as Aunt Jane wasn't particularly friendly at their first meeting. But she is totally unprepared for her aunt's body lying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. She is amazed even further to discover that she is the heiress in her aunt's will, bequeathing an ancient cottage and rundown garden on the outskirts of Bath, England. Belinda settles in, but it seems that everyone she encounters has a hidden agenda, making her wonder if her aunt's death was an accident:

"'It seems my aunt had been asking around Bath for old maps. She even called personally at a bookshop and specified that she wanted a map that showed this village.'

Hazel walked to the window and looked down into the derelict garden.

'Which book shop?'

'Can't remember the name, but it's in Pierrepont Street, near the bus station. A strange place and an even stranger owner.'

Hazel turned back into the room. 'You mean JACK THE RIPPER?'

'Do I?' Belinda looked at Hazel in alarm."

There's nothing like a good old fashioned English cottage owned by a reclusive woman to arouse the interest of the reader. Add a few British rainstorms, a mysterious and handsome neighbor with something to hide, a few real estate agents and lawyers with ulterior motives and it all wraps up into a perfectly packaged mystery that makes the reader shiver with delight.

Hopefully this Belinda Lawrence mystery is the first of a series, and that Brian Kavanagh's first foray into mystery writing produces a good many more books.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

The Horse Painters
Peter Stockwell
Book Locker
9781601458483 $12.95

Are you ready to go back to the Ice Age and become part of the life and culture of the times as seen through author, Peter Stockwell, in his gripping story, The Horse Painters.

Inside this book you will travel back to a time when life was hard, survival the name of the game, where The Horse Painter is probably the most important element in their lives.

What or who is, The Horse Painter? It is a person with a gift, one that allows them to draw animals and actually bring them into the open so the tribe may hunt them and survive. They also can commune with animals. Interesting to say the least.

We meet a family and in this family the young girl, Aariak, has this gift, but is killed by one of another clan in the belief that now he will possess her gift.

Now, a member of Aariak's family must kill the killer in order to get the gift back. The oldest son, Umalik, is the only one slightly capable of accomplishing this task. Although the odds are against this young boy, he has to try. So begins his journey, one where he will encounter near death from animal, man and elements. Exciting! And he has a surprise companion on this journey, one who proves to be invaluable to the success. Along the way he meets many interesting people, some helpful and some dangerous. Will he succeed?

In all honesty I am usually not one who is over interested in any books that take me back in time, but this one definitely has me rethinking my mindset. I was totally absorbed in the story right from the beginning. I believe it is because the author took the time to make the characters come alive, brought you into their world, their beliefs and their raw emotions as the story unfolded. The characters were not those who grunted and hit everyone with a big club, but had structure in their world, emotions, meaning and purpose. This all in keeping with what you would expect the local to look like with the extreme conditions that existed. Very good job!

I was very pleased with this book. It had a great storyline, characters that touched on both sides from good to evil, and some that were quite colorful, and an ending that promised more adventures in the future. I believe young readers will find themselves plunging headlong into this read and not come up for air until they travel the entire road. Well done.

When The Sun Goes Down
Betty Breuhaus
Publishing Works
60 Winter Street, Exeter, NH 03833
9781933002767 $12.95

Several in my family thought it quite strange that I would agree to review a book about planning a funeral especially after the many deaths we have had in our family the past year, yet this was something I wanted to do, and I'm glad I did.

Let's face it, death is coming to each one of us, some sooner than later, but it's coming. It is very sad that most of us do not plan for this and leave all the details to those we love, those who are hurting and emotionally distraught. It is time we all take responsibility for not only our lives, but our deaths.

Inside the pages of this great book our author, Betty Breuhaus, takes you by the hand and leads you through your last page on earth. It is a book packed full of useful knowledge in many areas such as: Benefits of a Funeral, Funeral Homes, Disposition of the Body, Cemeteries, Type of Service and Obituaries, among others. Each category has subtopics such as Headstones, under Cemeteries. The information cleared up so many misconceptions that I had about so many things. At the end of the book our author includes a Personal Funeral Planner so you can have everything in order and believe me after experiencing taking care of so many funerals this year, that would be a true gift for your loved ones.

This is a great book, not morbid as one might assume, but packed with information, and even some humor along the way. Very well written, sensitive and informative. I recommend it for every living person, and don't delay, we never know when the bell will toll. I plan to put my copy to use and know my loved ones will have one less thing to worry about.

America's Best BBQ
Ardie A. David & Chef Paul Kirk
Andrews McMeel Books
1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64106
9780740778117 $19.99

If you love BBQ and especially BBQ Pork, and you are always searching for the 'joint' that makes the most mouth watering meals, this is the book for you. Inside the pages of this fun BBQ Cookbook you will find it brimming with recipes from numerous BBQ joints across the nation. From traditional ones like, "Smoked Barbecue Beef Ribs" (pg.30) to some out of the box ones like, Barbecued Pig Snoots," (pg 63). To me, that one wasn't very appealing.

Also included, if you can believe this, are some really great deserts, like, "Root-Beer Cake," Pg 169), I never heard of that before, but it sounds good. And several deserts using bananas that sounded very appealing. It has full-colored pictures to emphasize the food, gives you background of the 'joint' featured, with some photo's included, and the recipe used.

In the back of the book there is also included some BBQ-tips for those just getting started on this culinary adventure. If you enjoy trying out recipes and you enjoy a good BBQ you will love this book. Colorful, entertaining, useful and delivers exactly what you expect it should.

The Love Response
Eva M. Selhub, M.D. with Divina Infusino
Ballantine Books
Avenue of The Americans, New York, NY 10012
9780345506528 $25.00

Do you believe it is true that through giving and experiencing love things in your life can bring greater joy, not just to yourself but to those around you? Do you walk around heavy hearted, disturbed, overburdened by daily life, not knowing how to break out of the cycle you are in?
If so, take heart, there is help for you.

In this work by, Dr. Eva Selhub, you will find a hidden power to use to turn your life around, a power that is within every human, one that can be tapped into and released to change your world. That power is, love. Our author has taken her research, and first hand knowledge and laid out a step by step plan showing you how to plug into the human emotion of love and use it to quiet and change the stressful world around you. She explains that in doing so, your mental and physical health will improve. The doctor gives you examples of situations and helps you to be aware of shortcomings we all face, that can be destructive forces in our lives, such as trust and distrust. She takes us through some exercises to help us understand these forces and overcome them. I enjoyed this and it definitely helped me to understand myself better.

Fear, anger, and anxiety are all robbers that flood into everyone's lives on a daily basis. What can you do to stop their effects? In this book you will learn how through easy to understand steps. In these steps you will see how you are being robbed in life from your happiness and what to do to counteract the effects. Her steps are easy to understand, to follow, and definitely given in a way that frees you to have control over situations and emotions we all face daily, and help bring you through with victory instead of those emotions creating stress and sickness in your life.

Let me put it this way, Dr. Selhub weaves scientific information with spiritual and human response to bring you to a better you. One that can have more control over their lives, live more productive and happier than they ever deemed possible. I believe this book will help many. Interesting and helpful read!

Too Too Many Tutus
Suzanne Davis Marion, Illustrated by: Marj Hales
9781439218471 $12.95

Christina is a beautiful little girl who enjoys ballet. She loves to dance and she loves to wear her tutus. However, poor Christian has a problem. It appears she has too many tutus and cannot decide which one to wear. She seeks advise from her mother, father and brother, Max. Max tells her to lay all of her tutus out on the bed so she may look at all the beautiful colors and make her decision. Christina looks at them all, and each one reminds her of yet more beauty. Blue, the color of the sky. Yellow, the yellow butterflies, sunflowers and daisies. They are all so beautiful and remind her of such happy things, how can she chose?

This is a delightful, insightful book showing how children relate colors to the beauty of our world, relating them even in the cloths they wear. The illustrations are warm and appealing; facial expressions giving life to the words of the story. Appealing and charming, a story any little girl will truly enjoy.

Her Name Was Beauty
Deborah A. Williams
BookSurge Publishing
9781419678622 $12.95

The star of our book, Selena, is the daughter of a couple with mixed heritage. Selena is a bright and beautiful child, open to the wonders of her world, but she is about to find there are some cruel things there as well. Selena goes off to school for the first time, bright eyed and excited to meet all the new children. However, she soon finds that some of them do not like her, will not play with her, and act as if she is below them and she does not understand why. She comes home sad and confused, asking her father, am I ugly? How heartbreaking is that? Her father explains to her why this has happens and tells her that this may happen to her in the world, but she only needs to remember that she is beautiful and have confidence in herself to succeed.

Each day our world is getting smaller, races are coming together and struggling to learn what it means to share and to belong. Many are crossing race lines in marriage bringing forth children that some do not accept, sad but true. Our author brings this problem front and center, making it personal by showing the pain of the innocent. This truly is an issue we all need to address, we need to show tolerance one for another, we need to show love.

I enjoyed this read and believe it has great moral value for readers young and old. I would like to see illustrations put to this story and perhaps in the future our author could do that. I believe it would really pop this story to life, however, illustrations or not the message is loud and clear.
Well done.

East Bound
Mark Slomiany
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432723996 $12.95

Life leads all of us in many directions and puts before us many different paths to walk. One has to wonder why we chose the paths that we do. Influence from our family, peer pressure, circumstances? All play a part I am sure, but what happens when the inner turmoil of a man finally leads him to where his heart wanted to always go.

In this work we meet Mark who is searching for what I believe is contentment in whatever road he finally walks. However, he must overcome his fear of commitment and must be definite in his life choices. He seeks for love and acceptance, at times from the hands of those who are only takers and users. And, at times, he appears to not see the hands of those that are outstretched to him and would prove to be an asset in his life.

Mark travels his road, fights his inward battles of who he is, where he has been, where he is going and his up and down relationships. He battles between pleasing others or following his heart's cry. He is a giver in many areas and so being has had to withstand the heartache of the abusive taker. Mark is on quite a ride.

This story is one that I am sure is being played out in one way or another in many lives. I feel the author did a good job at pulling you into Mark's life, his emotions, turmoil's, and even his victories.

It is a story of one mans inward struggles to find completion and purpose in his existence. The story of a man's journey to find what we all are seeking, happiness and self worth and contentment. Interesting read that kept my attention. Very well written.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Widow-Maker Heart Attack at Age 48
Patrick J. Fox
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438962795, $18.25,

A heart attack is a life-changing event. "The Widow-Maker Heart Attack at Age 48: Written by a Heart Attack Survivor for a Heart Attack Survivor and Their Loved Ones" is a combination memoir and advice manual, reflecting on Patrick Fox's own survival of his heart attack and the year after which proved quite tumultuous for him. An emotional experience with a major focus on family and being near death, "The Widow-Maker Heart Attack" is a very much recommended read for anyone concerned about their own heart's health.

America's God and Its Founding Fathers
Jerry R. Self
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159833, $23.95,

America is meant to be the land of the free, with freedom of religion being one of the major freedoms, but could the country be straying too far from its Christian heritage? "America's God and Its Founding Fathers" is author Jerry R. Self's study of America's shifting attitudes towards Christianity. Jerry Self defends America's Christian past, which he feels is being more and more forgotten as time goes on. Of interest to any who value Christianity for their country as a whole, "America's God and Its Founding Fathers" is a read to consider.

Tim Coffey, Dave Siegel, Mark Smith
Paramount Market Publishing
950 Danby Road, Suite 136, Ithaca, NY 14850
9780980174571, $39.95,

Just because everyone keeps saying and doing it, doesn't mean it's right. "Innovation: The Real Truth Behind Popular Beliefs, Myths, and Mythstakes" is a business guide taking on much of the conventional wisdom that is discussed in today's business world. Topics covered range from excessive customer worship, to finding the sanity in madness, to the point where being too creative is a detriment. "Innovation" is packed cover to cover with wise advice about the way things are, and as such is an enthusiastically recommended volume for any business leader.

The Absence of Goodness
Isaac Morris
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440116704, $30.95,

Devotion to God is good, but sometimes it must be put aside. "The Absence of Goodness" is a Christian mystery following Deputy Margaret Donovan as he copes with the slaying of her lover, another deputy from her same precinct. In mourning, she almost becomes a nun, she withdraws from her position as deputy, but it seems her crime fighting days are not yet over. With more love on the horizon, Margaret is pulled between God, justice, and her heart. "The Absence of Goodness" is a fine adventure and mystery, sure to keep readers reading.

The Ringmaster: Proud Man's Game
M. A. William
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781425942595, $23.95,

Evil finds its way around and seeks to crush the dreams of many. "The Ringmaster: Proud Man's Game" is the story of such a cruel entity menacing a teenager with aspirations of being a great basketball player. This entity however, only wishes for the boy to make the headlines with his death. "The Ringmaster: Proud Man's Game" is a story targeted at teen readers about the power of resisting evil.

John Taylor

Vicki's Bookshelf

A Smart Girl's Guide to Understanding Her Family
Amy Lynch, Lauren Scheuer
American Girl
8400 Fairway Place, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562
9781593696177 $9.95

The advice in "A Smart Girls' Guide to Understanding Her Family: Feelings, Fighting & Figuring It Out" can help girls understand and get along with parents, stop fights with siblings before they start, and negotiate solutions to nearly any tween-age problem. This newest addition to the Smart Girl's Guide series includes engaging activities to help girls create memories with the people they live with and love, plus tear-out family fun coupons and awards. "A Smart Girl's Guide to Understanding Her Family" is a smart tween girls' choice for self-help guidance along with other age-appropriate American Girls guides such as "The Feelings Book: The Care & Keeping of Your Emotions," "The Smart Girl's Guide To Boys" and "The Smart Girl's Guide to the Internet."

Is This Normal?
Edited by Erin Falligant & Michelle Watkins; illustrated by Norm Bendell
American Girl
8400 Fairway Place, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562
9781593694838 $8.95

More than two million girls have read "The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls" by Valerie Schaefer. As a companion to that bestseller, this book answers letters from real girls with concerns about their changing bodies, covering everything from pimples to periods - all those personal new problems that girls may otherwise be afraid or embarrassed to ask about. Plus, it includes tips to help readers talk with their parents about puberty and other touchy topics. "Is This Normal?" approaches topics sweetly, with a gentle, friendly touch, making it a wise buy for tween girls, especially if paired with the earlier American Girls tween issues guide "The Care & Keeping of You."

100% Wolf
Jayne Lyons
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416974741 $16.99

Freddy Lupin is the youngest of a noble line of werewolves. His father, Flasheart Lupin, was the bravest werewolf since their great ancestor Sir Rathbone. His uncle, Lord Hotspur, is the Grand Growler of the Hidden Moonlight Gathering of Werefolk. And tonight, on the evening of his one-hundred-and-twenty-first month (ten years and one month to humans), Freddy will undergo his first transwolftation. It's a rite of passage for every great werewolf. For Freddy, however, it's going to be the most embarrassing night of his life. Because Freddy is not going to turn into a werewolf at the sight of the full moon. He's going to turn into a poodle. Thus begins a funny and fast-paced adventure, wherein Freddy is thrown out of his pack, finds himself in the clutches of the Coldfax Fort dog pound, uncovers the truth about his father's mysterious death, and discovers that the great werewolf hunter, Dr. Foxwell Cripp, is planning to destroy all of his family and friends, and Freddy is the only one who can stop him. He might be small, pink, and groomed, but Freddy Lupin is one hundred percent wolf.

Sacred Scars
Kathleen Duey
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780689840951 $17.99

Sadima, Franklin, and Somiss, driven out of Limòri by a suspicious fire, are living in a cave hidden within the cliffs that overlook the city. Somiss is convinced the dark passages of the caves were the home of ancient magicians, and his obsession with restoring magic deepens. Sadima dreams of escape -- for her, for Franklin, and for the orphaned street boys Somiss has imprisoned in a crowded cage. Somiss claims he will teach these boys magic, that they will become his first students, but Sadima knows he is lying. Generations later, Hahp is struggling to survive the wizards' increasingly dangerous classes at the Limòri Academy of Magic. He knows the fragile pact he has forged with his secretive roommate, Gerrard, will not be enough to put an end to the evil. It will take all the students acting together to have any chance of destroying the academy. Building trust, with few chances to speak or plan, will be almost impossible, but there is no choice. The worlds of Sadima and Hahp move closer together in the second compelling installment of Kathleen Duey's brilliant trilogy, which began with the National Book Award finalist "Skin Hunger."

Tales of Mystery and Madness
Edgar Allan Poe, Gris Grimly
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416950257 $18.99

A murder driven to the edge by the sound of his victim's still-beating heart. A mental institution runs by someone other than its staff. A Mysterious box aboard a ship, with a ghastly secret. The hypnotist's stare that, perhaps, could paralyze even death... Strap into your straitjacket and fasten it tight, for within these pages are stories of lost love, lost ways...and lost minds. A companion to "Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Madness," this second installment of perennial Poe favorites includes "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether," "The Oblong Box," and "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar." While the original stories have been neatly nipped and tucked, the dread, the gore, and the horror still reaches otherworldly heights thanks to Gris Grimly's spine-chilling visuals. Open the book -- if you dare -- in celebration of Edgar Allen Poe's birthday bi-centennial. Illustrator Grimly is as mysterious as Poe himself. What is known is that his own particular brand of creative brilliance was first seen in many books, including "Monster Museum," "The Cockatrice Boys", "Pinocchio," "Creature Carnival," "Boris and Bella," and "Gris Grimly's Wicked Nursery Rhymes."

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx
Sally Koslow
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345506207 $23.00

The circumstances of Molly Marx's death may be suspicious, but she hasn't lost her joie de vivre. Newly arrived in the hereafter, aka the Duration, Molly, thirty-five years old, is delighted to discover that she can still keep tabs on those she left behind: Annabel, her beloved four-year-old daughter; Lucy, her combustible twin sister; Kitty, her piece-of-work mother-in-law; Brie, her beautiful and steadfast best friend; and, of course, her husband, Barry, a plastic surgeon with more than a professional interest in many of his female patients. As a bonus, Molly quickly realizes that the afterlife comes with a finely tuned bullshit detector. As Molly looks on, her loved ones try to discern whether her death was an accident, suicide, or murder. She was last seen alive leaving for a bike ride through New York City's Riverside Park; her body was found lying on the bank of the Hudson River. Did a stranger lure Molly to danger? Did she plan to meet someone she thought she could trust? Could she have ended her own life for mysterious reasons, or did she simply lose control of her bike? As the police question her circle of intimates, Molly relives the years and days that led up to her sudden end: her marriage, troubled yet tender; her charmed work life as a magazine decorating editor; and the irresistible colleague to whom she was drawn. More than anything, Molly finds herself watching over Annabel -- and realizing how motherhood helped to bring out her very best self. As the investigation into her death proceeds, Molly will relive her most precious moments -- and take responsibility for the choices in her life. Exploring the bonds of fidelity, family, and friendship, and narrated by a memorable and endearing character, "The Late, Lamented Molly Marx" is a hilarious, deeply moving, and thought-provoking novel that is part mystery, part love story, and all heart.

A Mighty Fine Time Machine
Suzanne Bloom
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590785270 $16.95

It may look like an ordinary box, but an Aardvark named Grant and an Armadillo named Antoine see it for what it really is - a time machine! Under the supervision of their friend Samantha, an Anteater, they cobble together a bunch of thingamabobs and hoozie-doozies to turn the empty box into a marvelous device for travelling through time. Can the three adventurers actually turn back the clock? Suzanne Bloom's comical story features three endearing characters with vivid imaginations. A fun, though non-memorable romp for Pre-K through first grade.

Lurlene McDaniel
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385734592 $10.99

What is the toughest request anyone can be asked to fulfill? Travis Morrison is a champion diver and one of the most popular kids at school. On the first day of summer vacation, while boating on the lake with his friends, Travis attempts a silly stunt dive that goes wrong. He fears he has broken his leg. Instead, his trip to the hospital reveals he has a rare form of cancer, and to save him, the doctors tell his parents they must amputate. In an instant, Travis's life and the lives of everyone around him are forever changed. Travis is determined that he and only he should decide the course of his life. He has a plan, but he can't carry it out alone. Will he convince one of his friends to fulfill his most important request? Prolific young adult book author Lurlene McDaniel tackles a controversial subject, probing the issues of personal choice and quality of life.

If The Witness Lied
Caroline B. Cooney
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385734486 $16.99

Choices do matter and forgiveness is possible. Jack Fountain knows that what's happened to his family sounds like the most horrible soap opera anyone could ever write. But it happened -- to Jack; his parents; his sisters, Smithy and Madison. And to his baby brother, Tris. What made it worse was that the media wanted to know every detail. Now it's almost Tris' third birthday, and everything's starting again. Aunt Cheryl, who's living with the Fountain children now that their parents are gone, has decided that they will heal only if they work through their pain -- on camera. The very identities they've created for themselves are called into question. In less than twenty-four hours their fate will change yet again, but this time they vow to not be exploited and to discover the truth. In this gripping thriller, bestselling author Caroline B. Cooney details how love, devotion, and forgiveness make resilience -- and recovery -- possible.

It's Not You, It's Me
Kerry Cohen Hoffmann
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385736961 $15.99

Funny and touching, "It's Not You, It's Me" is (obviously) a heartfelt breakup story. Zoe loves Henry. Henry dumps Zoe. Zoe wants Henry back, of course -- at any cost. Zoe's two best friends come up with a plan to help Zoe get what she thinks she wants. The plan: make Henry jealous. But the plan takes a surprising turn, keeping Zoe and Henry -- and teen girl readers - on their toes. Spanning thirty-one days in the cycle of a romantic breakup, young adult book author Kerry Cohen Hoffmann's ("The Good Girl" and "Easy") "It's Not You, It's Me" depicts a girl whose single-minded focus on her ex-boyfriend has pulled her far from the person she most needs to win back: herself.

Ocean's Child
Christine Ford, Trish Holland, David Diaz
Golden Books / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375847523 $15.99

"Ocean's Child" is a gorgeous new picture book, illustrated by Caldecott medalist David Diaz. As a mother and child canoe along the Alaskan Beaufort seacoast, they observe a baby walrus held close to its mother's spotted chest, sea lions snuggling, and the Northern Lights shimmering above. Diaz's powerful, lush illustrations bring to life the majesty of the ocean and skies -- and the vulnerability of the ocean's biggest and smallest inhabitants, from the orca to the puffin. With rhythmic language consisting of part free verse, part refrain, "Ocean's Child" is written to rock the youngest of readers to sleep. The book ends with the human mother and her sleeping child gliding home for the night. "Good night, Mother Ocean, good night."

Henry's Night
D.B. Johnson and Linda Michelin
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780547056630 $16.00

Inspired by Henry David Thoreau's "Walden," D.B. Johnson and Linda Michelin's "Henry's Night" recreates the wonder of Henry David Thoreau's moonlit walks, and shines a quiet comfort into the mysterious night woods. In this picture book - the fifth of the Henry series -- Henry cannot sleep. The sounds of the village keep him awake. If only he could find the whippoorwill, the night bird no one sees, and hear its sweet song! Henry takes his night jar, fills it with fireflies, and sets off with the lantern to track his elusive serenader. But each time he draws near, the bird stops singing and flies deeper into the woods. Henry encounters many wonderful creatures there, but will he ever find his night bird? And where will the whippoorwill ultimately lead him?

I'm Your Peanut Butter Big Brother
Selina Alko
Knopf / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375856273 $16.99

In this engaging picture book, the narrator, big brother, uses his boundless imagination to wonder what his new sibling will look like. "Baby brother or sister, will you look like me? I blend from semisweet dark Daddy chocolate bar and strawberry cream Mama's milk. My hair is soft crunchy billows of cotton candy. I'm your peanut butter big-brother-to-be." Selina Alko's lyrical and jazz-like text playfully and with childlike-wonder, deals with skin color issues. The cheerful spirit of the text is matched with the vibrant energy of her illustrations, perfectly capturing the excitement of a new baby for an older sibling, while celebrating the genuine love of families the come in a rainbow of hues. Illustrator-author Selina Alko is the illustrator of "My Taxi Ride" and "My Subway Ride."

Love is the Higher Law
David Levithan
Knopf /Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375834684 $15.99

First there is a before and then there is an after. . . The lives of three teens -- Claire, Jasper, and Peter -- are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents' frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he's okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire's, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him. Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other's in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by. Author David Levithan has written a novel of loss and grief, but also one of hope and redemption as his characters slowly learn to move forward in their lives, despite being changed forever.

Red Carpet Riot: Book Three
David Van Etten
Knopf / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375846809 $15.99

It's award night -- will Mallory make it down the red carpet? When we last left Mallory in "Red Carpet Riot" books one and two, her first show had just aired to rave ratings; her conniving mother was engaged to her dreaded producer boyfriend, Richard; she wasn't sure if her boyfriend, Keith, would stick by her; and the school secretary had some unwelcome news about her student status. Now, just when her show gets a Daytime Emmy nomination, she's got to fend off sneaky saboteurs, decide between Keith and Dallas, her show's hunky star, break off her mother's engagement, and pass gym class. Hang on for a wild ride that takes us to the end of Mallory's story, and maybe her rope, as the Emmy Awards inch closer and closer and she's got to do-si-do as fast as she can to keep up. Author David Van Etten is actually three writers: Chris Van Etten, a full-time writer for ABC's "One Life to Live"; David Ozanich, a freelance writer and playwright; and David Levithan, the author of "Boy Meets Boy" and many other young adult novels.

This Book is Not Good For You
Pseudonymous Bosch
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316040860 $16.99

Between the pages of this book lies the secret to the best-tasting chocolate in all the world. I promise, your taste buds will tingle. Your palette will sing! Oh no, have I accidentally tempted you to read this book? I will warn you, however, the most delicious things are never good for you...and this story is particularly scrumptious! In this tooth-rotting adventure, Cass's mom has been kidnapped by the evil dessert chef and chocolatier, Señor Hugo! The ransom...the legendary tuning fork. Can Cass and Max-Ernest find the magical instrument before it's too late? Will they discover the evil secret ingredient to Señor Hugo's chocolate success? If you're tempted, take a taste, but just remember...this book is not good for you. With the focus of his third book being chocolate, will elusive narrator/author Pseudonymous Bosch finally reveal his secret identity? Readers will have to wait and see. In the meantime, don't forget to gather clues from his previous books: "The Name of This Book is Secret" and "If You're Reading This, It's Too Late."

Baby Signs
Kyle Olmon and Jacqueline Rogers
Orchard Books / Scholastic
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439543255 $19.99

"Baby signs" is based on American Sign Language helping babies and toddlers learn the basic signs to communicate with you. From early morning wake-up to eating, to playtime and bedtime, "Baby Signs" is designed to teach baby and parent their first fifteen signs to communicate with each other. Each page features babies demonstrating the movements of the signs - from "yes" and "no" to "I love you." Pop-ups and pull tabs on every page make the process of learning an easy, interactive experience. "Baby Signs" is based on American Sign Language, and is a project of the Sabuda & Reinhart Studio, the leading creators of contemporary pop-up books.

Woe Is I Jr.
Patricia T. O'Conner
Putnam / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399243318 $16.99

Who ever said grammar can't be funny? As Patricia T. O'Conner proved in the adult version of Woe Is I, grammar can entertaining and easy to understand. And now she's made it fun for middle-graders. With funny chapter names like "Incredible Shrinking Words," silly poems about meatballs, and examples that reference Shrek and earwax jelly beans, kids will know this isn't a dry, boring reference book-conversational language and humorous examples painlessly illuminate the rules of the English language. Like a humorous Strunk and White manual for fourth through eighth graders, this is destined to become a must-have for every English classroom and student.

Alyson Whitestarr
Isobelle Carmody
Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375839382 $17.99

Are Alyzon's new abilities a blessing . . . or a curse? Alyzon Whitestarr doesn't take after her musically talented father or her nocturnal, artistic mother. In fact, she's the most normal member of a very eccentric family . . . until the day that an accident leaves her more unique than she ever could have dreamed. Suddenly colors are more vibrant to Alyzon; her memory is flawless; but strangest of all is Alyzon's sense of smell. Her best friend smells of a comforting sea breeze. She registers her father's contentment as the sweet scent of caramelized sugar. But why does the cutest guy in school smell so rancid? With Alyzon's extrasensory perception comes intrigue and danger, as she becomes aware of the dark secrets and hidden ambitions that threaten her family. In the end, being different might be less of a blessing than a curse. Author Isobelle Carmody is an award-winning, critically acclaimed fantasy writer in her native Australia, and is the author of the "Little Fur" series and "The Obernewtyn Chronicles."

One Lonely Degree
C.K. Kelly Martin
Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375851636 $16.99

Anything is possible. . . . Finn has always felt out of place, but suddenly her world is unraveling. It started with The Party. And Adam Porter. And the night in September that changed everything. The only person who knows about that night is Audrey -- Finn's best friend, her witness to everything, and the one person Finn trusts implicitly. So when Finn's childhood friend Jersy moves back to town -- reckless, beautiful Jersy, all lips and eyes and hair so soft you'd want to dip your fingers into it if you weren't careful - Finn gives her blessing for Audrey to date him. How could she possibly say no to Audrey? With Audrey gone for the summer, though, Finn finds herself spending more and more time with Jersy, and for the first time in her life, something feels right. But Finn can't be the girl who does this to her best friend . . . can she? A breezy, romantic summer read for teens that can't get enough of "Gossip Girl" and other popular teen chick lit titles.

The 39 Clues: The Black Circle
Patrick Carman
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545060455 $12.99

In Book Five of the chapter book/prize hunt mystery series, "The 39 Clues," a strange telegram lures 140year-old Amy Cahill and her younger brother, Dan, deep into Russia and away from the only trustworthy adult they know. Signed with the initials NRR, the telegram launches a race to uncover a treasure stolen by the Nazis and the truth behind the murder of the last Russian royal family. All too soon, the treasure hunt starts to smell like a Lucian trap. But the bait might just be irresistible…what will Amy and Dan risk to find out what really happened on the might their parents died? "The Black Circle" -- by author Patrick Carman, author of the series "Skeleton Creek" and "Land of Elyon" -- is a page-turner that does not disappoint. Coming next: Jude Watson's installment o "Clues."

My First Signs
Dr. Michelle Anthony, Dr. Reyna Lindert
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545109246 $7.99

With years of experience teaching parents and babies across the country to sign, Michelle Anthony and Reyna Lindert bring their expertise to these interactive board books. Each page focuses on one word, showing a photo of an adult to model the sign. Beside it is a photo of a baby making the sign to ease parents' identification of the sign as young hands might make it. Facing these photographs is an illustration of the object, as well as a touch-and-feel. Authors Michelle Anthony and Reyna Lindert, both Ph.D.s in Developmental Psychology, are skilled in American Sign Language and have extensive professional experience working with hearing preschoolers and families with young children. Both are actively involved in research in the baby sign language field and keep current on research in the fields of language development, cognition, and literacy. Together, they co-founded Signing Smart, an international program of parent-child play classes and materials.

Rissa Bartholomew's Declaration of Independence
Lynda B. Comerford
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
05450505808 $16.99

Eleven-year-old Rissa Bartholomew has had the same friends her whole life. But as the other girls in thr group become obsessed with ballet, shopping, lip gloss, and boys, Rissa begins to think it's time to "leave the herd" and be her own person. She didn't plan on declaring her independence from all of her friends at her own birthday party, one week before the start of middle school. But somehow, that's exactly what she did. Unfortunately, no one seems to understand Rissa's change of heart, least of all her own mother. Now she's entering sixth grade without a single friend, and she's determined to make new ones without simply following the rest. Rissa's declaration of independence couldn't have come at a worse time. But maybe, just maybe, it could turn out to be the best thing she's ever done.

Nic Bishop
Scholastic Nonfiction
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439877589 $17.99

Most people know about lions, zebras, monkeys, and bears, but what about bettongs and bilbies? Or quolls and quokkas? And potoroos and pademelons? These animals live on the continent of Australia, along with kangaroos, koalas, and many other marsupials. With crisp, full-page images, including a double-gatefold spread, Sibert-Honor photographer Nic Bishop introduces the beauty and diversity of these amazing animals. The simple, engaging text presents both basic information and fun, quirky facts about marsupials' appearance, habits, and life cycle. An index and glossary are included. Bishop is the author and photographer of many award-winning books for children, including "Red-Eyed Tree Frog"; "Chameleon, Chameleon"; and "Forest Explorer." He has a doctorate in biological sciences and a passionate interest in many of the smaller animals on our planet.

A Garden of Opposites
Nancy Davis
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375856662 $10.99

Enter this beautiful picture book garden and even the youngest pre-readers will enjoy seeing what opposites they can find. A short caterpillar and a long garden snake, a closed bud and an open blossom. These delightful images will teach youngsters about basic opposite concepts, and about the charms and wonders of the outdoors. This simple book has a surprise treat at the end -- a gatefold displaying the whole garden, with opposites galore for little ones to search for. Plus, sturdy cardstock pages make this book perfect for reading indoors or out. "A Garden of Opposites" is award-winning graphic artist Nancy Davis's first picture book. For Pre-K through kindergarten.

This Little Bunny Can Bake
Janet Stein
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
8680375843136 $15.99

In this picture book for the youngest child, there are eight students in Chef George's School of Dessertology. And only one -- a studious little bunny -- has any interest in following the rules. While bunny is busy baking a masterpiece, everyone else is busy making a mess. And even though only bunny actually learns to bake, all the students -- from Dog with his shoe-fly pie to Mouse with her Swiss cheese surprise - are happy with how their desserts turn out in the end. Black, white, and pink illustrations give this a hip, retro feel, and, with plenty of easy-to-make recipes adorning the endpapers, "This Little Bunny Can Bake" is one yummy picture book treat.

The Hermit Crab
Carter Goodrich
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416938927 $16.99

Hermit Crab is no hero. He would rather just keep to himself. He's content to spend the day looking for food and staying comfy in his shell. And when he finds a new shell, he is excited to have something so beautiful for himself. But when a mysterious contraption lands in the center of town, no one knows what to make of it. The lobster thinks it's a restaurant. The bluefish thinks it's a trap. No one is brave enough to go near it until they realize that flounder is trapped underneath! When Hermit Crab comes upon the contraption looking for the source of the delicious smell, he inadvertently rescues the flounder and everyone in town cheers his triumph, but is he the hero or is his shell?

Kip Campbell's Gift
Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416935964 $15.99

Can a gift also be a curse? Kip Campbell isn't sure. In the second book in Coleen Murtagh Paratore's clever "The Funeral Director's Son" series, Kip knows that there is something special about him; he knows that most people don't hear the dead talking to them. And he is glad that he can help them move on by resolving things left unsaid or undone while they were on this earth. But to be honest, he is a little tired of it. After all, he is twelve now, he has other things to worry about. Like how Drew wants to go on a date with him, and how the new funeral home down the street is threatening to put his father out of business. Even a promise of his weight in gold doesn't satisfy him, but there is one problem with Kip trying to quit: Can you really quit a job you never applied for?

When You Reach Me
Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385737425 $15.99

Miranda is a sixth-grade latchkey kid growing up on the Upper West Side of New York City, who had always considered her neighbor Sal her very best friend. She and Sal have gone through everything together, from naptime at daycare to avoiding the crazy guy on their street corner. But on their walk home from school one day, a boy punches Sal for no reason, and suddenly Sal doesn't want to be best friends anymore. This would be confusing enough, but then Miranda starts receiving anonymous letters from someone who knows a lot about her - even things that haven't happened to her yet. The letters change how Miranda sees her friends, her family, and ultimately, her universe. "When You Reach Me" unfolds with precision and vivid imagination in a very real setting, with a thrilling time travel twist. Spunky Miranda and her journey will appeal to all ages, from middle grade on up.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

New York Nights
Nick Catalano
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595485963, $15.95,

The life of a producer in New York is endlessly fascinating. "New York Nights: Writing, Producing, and Performing in Gotham" explores the career and life of Nick Catalano, a man who has worked with countless comedians and musicians throughout his career from the highbrow works of Duke Ellington to the not-so-highbrow exploits of Jerry Seinfeld. "New York Nights" is an intriguing tale of the nightlife of New York and those behind it.

Man Overboard
Sandy Mason
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439233849, $14.99,

You can't get away from adventure sometimes. "Man Overboard" is another entry in Sandy Mason's 'Johnny Donohue' series as Johnny tries to get away from it all living peacefully in Florida. When a fellow sailor vanishes, Johnny must figure out what happened, and finds a confusing jungle of the Underworld standing in his way. "Man Overboard" is an exciting mystery, sure to entertain many a reader.

Another Foot in the Grave
Erin Allen
Strategic Book Publishing
c/o AEG Publishing Group
845 Third Avenue, 6th Floor - 6016, New York, NY 10022
9781606936665, $26.50

Some people are just pure, unadulterated evil. "Another Foot in the Grave" is a mystery following police detective Lieutenant Killian Shelleen, who is hot on the trail of a sadistic madman who kidnaps, murders and dismembers women throughout the area. The events of her personal life do not make the matter any easier. "Another Foot in the Grave" is a top pick for the mystery lover who likes a good blend of genres.

Brenda L. McCartney
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
1439215421, $14.99,

Educated poet and mother Brenda L. McCartney brings readers her book of poetry "Leap". She offers a skilled display of her first work, reflects on her life and opinions, and does well through her verse. "Leap" is a solid collection of work, recommended. "Celebrate": Blossoms/ Lilies/ Rain drops/ Snow flakes/ Captures your essence/ My take/ Love.../Affluence.../Celebration/ Creation/Dance.

The Messy Buddha
Kate McLennan
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432735500, $16.95,

Even when life is hectic, one can find peace and meaning. "The Messy Buddha: Dancing on the Soul's Growing Edge" is a guide to finding serenity in a life that doesn't allow it. With tips on finding the time to meditate and the benefits of meditation in life, advice for embracing creativity, and thoughts on finding one's place in the world of spirituality, author Kate McLennan proves a solid spiritual teacher. "The Messy Buddha" is a strong and recommended pick for anyone who struggles to fit time for their spirit into their lives.

Tales of the Eventide
Andrea Leigh
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438954851, $11.75,

There is a dark side to humanity and it has manifested itself in many ways. "Tales of the Eventide: And Other Dark Matter" is a collection of stories and poetry focusing on the grim side of humanity, speaking on themes varying from a post-World War devastated America, to the undead, and other icons representing the fears and failures of humanity. "Tales of the Eventide" is a unique collection of verse and prose, highly recommended.

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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