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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 9 September 2010 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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



Cowper's Bookshelf

Reading The World With Picture Books
Nancy J. Polette
Libraries Unlimited
c/o ABC-CLIO
PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
www.abc-clio.com
9781598845877, $35.00, www.amazon.com

Picture books are as an ideal format for education children as they are for entertaining them. This is particularly true with respect to geography, history, and social studies which is the particular focus of "Reading the World with Picture Books" by Nancy J. Polette who draws upon her more than 40 years as an educator to provide an impressive 180-page compendium of picture book options for stories set in all of the diverse countries around the world. Organized by continent and then by country, the titles listed and described include opportunities for students to engage in thematically appropriate activities as a way of reinforcing the informational content of the picture books. An ideal instructional reference source for storyhours and classroom booktalks, "Reading the World with Picture Books" is an impressive and highly recommended for school library faculty reference collections and is appropriate for community library acquisition for the benefit of home-schooling parents.

Dappled Glory
Diane Mechem Kinser
Lucky Press
PO Box 754, Athens, OH 45701
www.luckypress.com
9780984462759, $18.95, www.amazon.com

"Dappled Glory" is set in a time when the United Mine Workers of America were locked into a life-and-death struggle with mine owners, their political allies, and their hired thugs (in and out of police uniforms). In particular, "Dappled Glory: The Black Diamond Heritage" is the story of Jamie Burns, a 20th Century Irish immigrant struggling to survive life in the coal mines of Ohio and Pennsylvania. "Dappled Glory" is also the story of Fred Hunt and the Markham family striving to build a merchandizing empire in southeastern Ohio. Author Diane Kinser has a considerable gift as a story teller who is able to lace historical facts into her fictional account. The result is a deftly crafted, 272-page novel that will hold the fascinated attention of the reader from beginning to end, making "Dappled Glory" an endorsed candidate for community library historical fiction collections and personal reading lists for anyone who enjoys a particularly well written novel set in America's turbulent years of the early 1900s.

Taking Local Control
Monica W. Varsanyi, editor
Stanford University Press
1450 Page Mill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304-1124
www.sup.org
9780804770279, $24.95, www.amazon.com

American immigration policy and implementation is one of the leading social and political issues of the day. Because of widespread and pervasive dissatisfaction with how the federal government has failed in controlling illegal immigration into this country, the issue is now being addressed by an increasing number of American cities and even several of our states with a prime example being that of Arizona. "Taking Local Control: Immigration Policy Activism in U.S. Cities and States" is a 320-page compendium of articles on the issue of local activism with respect to immigration that has been knowledgeably selected, compiled, and edited by Monica W. Varsanyi (Associate Professor of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice) and includes contributions by legal scholars, sociologists, geographers, and political scientists. Employing case studies to illustrate the evolution of contemporary immigration activism, and enhanced with the inclusion of a comprehensive index, "Taking Local Control: Immigration Policy Activism in U.S. Cities and States" is a seminal body of work and an especially recommended contribution to academic and community library Political Science and Social Issues reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Mary Cowper
Reviewer


Dunford's Bookshelf

Bicycle Technology
Rob van der Plas & Stuart Baird
Cycle Publishing
c/o Van der Plas Publications
1282 - 7th Avenue, San Franciso, CA 94122
www.cyclepublishing.com
9781892495662, $39.95, www.amazon.com

The bicycle continues to be one of the most useful, efficient, and 'planet friendly' means of transportation available. The collaborative work of bicycle experts and enthusiasts Rob van der Plas and Stuart Baird, "Bicycle Technology: Understanding the Modern Bicycle and its Components" is a superbly and profusely illustrated, 320-page compendium detailing all of the parts that comprise the modern bicycle and covers the complete range of bicycle types including road bikes and mountain bikes. Beginning with informative chapters on the history and anatomy of the bicycle, "Bicycle Technology" goes on to cover the materials used in the creation of bicycles, the basics of bicycle design, and then devotes specific chapters to all of the bicycle parts and systems from the frame and the wheels, to the steering and gearing, to brakes, seats, suspension, and so much more. Of special note are the chapters dedicated to power assisted bicycles and the future of bicycles. Enhanced with an appendix, a bibliography, and an index, "Bicycle Technology" is an especially recommended instructional resource and reference for personal, academic, and community library collections.

Take Charge
Greg Geracie
Actuation Press
401 North Wabash, Suite 54E, Chicago, IL 60611
9780615379272, $19.95, www.amazon.com

Whether you are a small businessman striving to compete in a volatile marketplace or a corporate executive charged with the responsibilities of advance your company's bottom-line earnings, "Take Charge Product Management: Take Charge of Your Product Management Development; Tips, Tactics, and Tools to Increase Your Effectiveness as a Product Manager" by Greg Geracie will prove to be an invaluable and profitable read. Drawing upon his years of experience and expertise as the president and founder of Actuation Consulting where he has help numerous company product managers avoid common mistakes and exploit market-place advantages, Greg Geracies has compiled a thoroughly "user friendly', 232-page compendium of instructions, advice, commentary, insights, tips, tricks, tools and techniques for adding value, developing corporate vision, forming successful teams, proactive product management, and results documentation. A complete course under one cover, "Take Charge" fully lives up to the promise of its title and is enthusiastically recommended reading!

Deadwood Days
Steven Merrill Ulmen
Eagle Entertainment
130 Teton Lane, #2, Mankato, MN 56001
www.eagleentertainmentusa.com
9780615371542, $14.95, www.amazon.com

The third book in the Toby Ryker Trilogy by Steven Merrill Ulmen, "Deadwood Days" finds that Ryker and the David Stewart family have sold their ranch in Wyoming and relocated to Deadwood in the still wild Dakota Territory where they take over the Potato Creek Mine. Now an old man with a bad heart, Ryker has a warrant against him for shooting the man who killed his wife and child those many years ago. A wrong against his name and honor (and liberty) that must be set right. No easy task but one that he is determined to carry before his days end. "Deadwood Days" is a superbly crafted work of western fiction that pays meticulous attention to historical detail. The result is a wicked good read from beginning to end. Also very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library western fiction collections are Steven Ulmen's two previous Ryker novels: "Toby Ryker" (Lulu, 978-1411660397, $13.95); and "Blood On The Prairie: A Novel of the Sioux Uprising" (Eagle Entertainment USA, 978-0615247960, $14.95).

Breaking News
Shawn Sprague
Innovative Publishing
PO Box 36, Apalachin, NY 13732
www.breakingnewsthenovel.com
9781893038301, $7.99, www.amazon.com

When cable news host Eric Hills receives an e-mail containing a photograph sent to him by the kidnapper of Samantha Kollet, one of America's best known and beloved actresses, he is faced with a series of choices. His situation only compounds as he receives more and more direct communications from the kidnappers, giving his television news show the highest ratings in cable television history. Then a suspicion surfaces -- could it be his own television network that is behind the kidnapping for the purpose of manufacturing an audience attention grabbing story? And if it is -- what should he do? Continue to advance his now soaring career, or risk everything in the pursuit of the truth by exposing the machinations of his own network brass. "Breaking News" is a superbly written and riveting story populated by memorable characters that we would all recognize from our own cable television "news" shows in a story that could be the stuff of today's newspaper headlines.

The Ovary Wars
Mike Hogan
Peppertree Press
c/o MM Book Publicity
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 37203
www.peppertreepublishing.com
9781936051847, $15.95, www.amazon.com

A near future United States is under a threat of annihilation. Not from nuclear bombs in the hands of terrorists, but a biological weapon in the form of a virus that will create an unstoppable epidemic of infertility. "The Ovary Wars" is a superbly crafted, 298-page novel of gripping suspense and cliff-hanger tensions. In his debut novel, author Mike Hogan demonstrates an impressive gift for crafting the kind of riveting story that is the stuff from which block-buster movies are made. "The Ovary Wars" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.

Tool School
Monte Burch
Better Way Books
c/o F&W Publications, Inc.
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
www.fwpublications.com
9781558708518, $29.99, www.amazon.com

"Tool School: The Missing Manual For Your Tools" will prove to be an invaluable instructional resource for any amateur do-it-yourself homeowner faced with the necessity of utilizing hand tools, portable electric tools, and stationary tools in their own workshop or garage. Profusely and superbly illustrated throughout, this 240-page compendium with its notebook style coil binding (permitting the book to lay open and flat on table or bench) is thoroughly 'user friendly' with complete sequential instructions on the safe and effective use of hammers, handsaws, chisels, drills, routers, electric saws, table saws, lathes, bench sanders, and so many more commonly encountered tools associated with woodworking and household repairs of all kinds. Strongly recommended for personal reference and community library collections, "Tool School" would make an excellent curriculum supplemental textbook resource for school shop classes as well.

The Yoga Sutras
Nicolai Bachman
Sounds True Audio
413 South Arthur Avenue, Louisville, CO 80027
www.soundstrue.com
9781591792609, $149.00

Yoga is both a practice and a philosophy of life whose origins lay thousands of years in the past and which has now become world-wide. About 2,000 years ago yoga master Patanjali offered 195 succinct key concepts that became known as the 'Yoga Sutras'. Interpreted and adapted for contemporary yoga students and practitioners, Sanskrit and Ayurveda instructor Nicolai Bachman "The Yoga Sutras: An Essential Guide To The Heart Of Yoga Philosophy" offers a superbly organized and complete course which focuses on the yoga sutras derived from Patanjali's seminal text. Deftly presenting 51 key concepts, even the most novice of students will be able to comprehend, appreciate, and apply the basic principles of yoga philosophy within the framework of their daily lives. A 336-page, color illustrated workbook featuring all 195 sutras, and enhanced with the inclusion of a guided reading on CD, 51 study cards, and a comprehensive glossary of Sanskrit terms, "The Yoga Sutras: An Essential Guide To The Heart Of Yoga Philosophy" is an ideal, 'user friendly', and enthusiastically recommended addition to personal, academic, and community library instructional reference collections.

Michael Dunford
Reviewer


Greenspan's Bookshelf

Total Housing
Tomoko Sakamoto, et al.
Actar D
158 Lafayette Street, 5th fl., NY, NY 10013
www.actar.com
9788496540880, $49.95, www.amazon.com

As metropolitan areas become increasingly population dense, the need for multi-family housing also increases -- often dramatically. Knowledgeably co-edited by the team of Tomoko Sakamoto, Irene Hwang, and Albert Ferre, "Total Housing: Alternatives To Urban Sprawl" is a 396-page compendium providing detailed, insightful, illustrative, descriptive commentaries showcasing multi-family architectural structures by some of the finest established architectural firms, as well as an impressive number of new architects coming up with project solutions to the problems of urban sprawl. A seminal work that is enhanced with the inclusion of floor plans and colored photos of exteriors, "Total Housing: Alternatives To Urban Sprawl" is an impressive and strongly recommended contribution to professional and academic library architectural studies collections.

Miami Architecture
Allan T. Shulman, et al.
University Press of Florida
University of Florida, 15 Northwest 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 32611-2079
www.upf.com
9780813034713, $29.95, www.amazon.com

The collaborative work of Allan T. Shulman, Randall C. Robinson Jr., and James F. Donnelly, "Miami Architecture: An AIA Guide Featuring Downtown, the Beaches, and Coconut Grove" is a 352-page illustrated guide to the impressive diversity of architecture and landscape design. Covering the distinctive architectural elements and examples, "Miami Architecture" is a superbly organized, deftly presented, and thoroughly 'user friendly' guidebook covering the cities of Miami and Miami Beach with each specific, succinctly descriptive entry cited with its address. A core addition to academic library American Architectural History reference collections, "Miami Architecture" is also specifically recommended as a supplementary tour guide for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in Miami's regional architectural history.

Wired Youth
Gustavo S. Mesch & Ilan Talmud
Routledge
270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
www.routledge.com
9780415459945, $34.95, www.amazon.com

The latest addition to the outstanding 'Adolescence and Society' series from Routledge, "Wired Youth: The Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age" is the collaborative work of Gustavo S. Mesch (Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Haifa) and Ilan Talmud (Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Haifa). This 184-page compendium presents a seminal introduction and description of the literature on youth sociability and relationship formation in this era of personal electronic communications. Of special interest is the attention paid to the negative and positive consequences of adolescent usage (and contemporary dependence upon) online communication. A work of impressive and painstaking scholarship, enhanced with twenty pages of references and a comprehensive index, "Wired Youth" is a strongly recommended addition to academic library Contemporary Sociology reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Outline Of Basic Statistics
John E. Freund & Frank J. Williams
Dover Publications, Inc.
31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, NY 11501
www.doverpublications.com
9780486477695, $11.95, www.amazon.com

Originally published in 1966 by the McGraw-Hill Book Company, this unabridged edition of John E Freund and Frank J. Williams "Outline of Basic Statistics: Dictionary and Formulas" once again makes available to personal, academic and community libraries a superbly composed and presented, 208-page compendium that is divided into two main section: 'Dictionary of Basic Statistics' and 'Statistical Formulas'. Of immense value to students and researchers in any branch of scientific or technological endeavor involving statistical evaluations or assessments, the "Outline Of Basic Statistics" is the perfect 'user friendly' introduction and reference, making it an ideal and highly recommended inclusion into the personal reference collections of non-specialist general readers with an interest in statistics as well.

Roads To Infinity
John Stillwell
AK Peters, Ltd.
888 Worcester Street, Suite 230, Wellesley, MA 02482
www.akpeters.com
9781568814667, $39.00, www.amazon.com

To understand mathematics is to understand the nature of the universe and all that it contains. The 'frontiers', theories, problems, and development of mathematics continues to advance from generation to generation. "Roads to Infinity: The Mathematics of Truth and Proof" by John Stillwell (Professor of Mathematics, University of San Francisco) is a succinct 250-page introduction and history of contemporary mainstream mathematical inquiries. Readers will learn how mathematical concepts evolve from inception to conclusion. Of special note is the recognition of important but often overlooked contributors to the field like Post and Gentzen, often overshadowed by such luminaries as Cantor and Goedel. Featuring chapters dedicated to the diagonal argument, ordinals, computability and proof, logic, arithmetic, natural unprovable sentences; and axioms, as well as being enhanced with the inclusion of a lengthy bibliography and a comprehensive index, "Roads to Infinity: The Mathematics of Truth and Proof" is highly recommended reading for students, scholars, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the history and contemporary issues of mathematics today.

The God Father Of Poker
Doyle Brunson
Cardoza Publishing
5473 South Eastern Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89119
www.cardozapub.com
9781580422574, $26.95, www.amazon.com

Doyle "Dolly" Brunson is justifiable called the "Godfather" of professional poker and not just because of his longevity as a gambler. Brunson is one of the most recognizable faces and names of the poker world who has consistently excelled at the various games of poker for decades. Now in his seventies he is still winning tournaments and is a sought after player on such popular television shows as "Poker After Dark" and "High Stakes Poker". Now we are treated to the story of a remarkable man's equally remarkable life in "The Godfather of Poker: The Doyle Brunson Story", his autobiography written with the capable assistance of Mike Cochran. This 352-page biography is a fascinating, entertaining, and informative compendium of the life and times, adventures and occasional misadventures of a man who has played in every single annual World Series of Poker tournaments in Las Vegas, Nevada, since its inception. Here are to be found the stories of the hazardous days of playing poker illegally in the state of Texas, the transition of poker from a saloon backroom game to a nationally televised event. Simply stated, "The Godfather of Poker: The Doyle Brunson Story" should be considered mandatory reading for his legions of fans and for anyone who enjoys the drama of No Limit Texas Hold-em and any of the other many forms of poker.

Able Greenspan
Reviewer


Helen's Bookshelf

My Literary Profile
Helene Pilibosian
Ohan Press
171 Maplewood Street, Watertown, MA 02472-1324
9781929966080, $20.00, www.amazon.com

Escaping the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide, Helen Pilibosian's parents brought their daughter to sanctuary in Watertown, Massachusetts where she graduated from the local high school and went on to study literature through Harvard University's continuing education program. A writer of poetry and prose, Helen suffered from occasional bouts of depression and even suffered an episode of cardiac arrest in 1963 that almost ended her life. Helen traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East with her husband, became an enthusiast of the theories and ideas of Carl Jung, and continued to author books of poetry and prose. A remarkable woman who has led a remarkable life in remarkable times, "My Literary Profile: A Memoir" is an extraordinarily well crafted autobiography and a very rewarding read from beginning to end.

Fairy Tale Lust
Kristina Wright, editor
Cleis Press
Box 14697, San Francisco, CA 94114
www.cleispress.com
9781573443975, $14.95, www.amazon.com

Combining erotica with romance, the eighteen short stories comprising "Fairy Tale Lust: Erotic Fantasies for Women" is a 256-page compendium that has been knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited by Kristina Wright. Each story is a clever and often surprising twist on a classic fairy tale. A fascinating, entertaining, and thoroughly attention engaging collection of tales by some of the best storytellers in this specialist subgenre, "Fairy Tale Lust" is unabashedly and highly recommended for a sophisticated and adult readership.

Helen Dumont
Reviewer


Kaveny's Bookshelf

Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary
Jane Frank
McFarland
960 NC Hwy 88 W Jefferson NC 28640
9780786434237 $135.00

As a retired, librarian, I subscribe to the Anglo-Austrian linguistic philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein's, dictum that words are tools. By extension I consider a well constructed and meticulously researched reference work by a world class expert like Jane Frank, with her Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary, to be a multipurpose tool kit with a wide range of academic and public-sphere applications. They would range all the way from the small public library or school media center to the multimillion dollar research facility like my Alma matter, University of Wisconsin Madison-General Library System. I hardily agree with my colleague, Steve Silver, whom I had the pleasure of working with when I co-chaired academic programming at the 2000 Chicago World Science Fiction Convention who states.

"Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century should be shelved along with the John Clute & Peter Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the John Clute and John Grant Encyclopedia of Fantasy, Neil Barron's Anatomy of Wonder, and other classic science fiction reference works"1

But I will go a bit farther than Steve and state that books like the fine examples that he cites alongside Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century ought not just to sit on reference rooms' shelves. They ought to be used as access points into the entire genre of Science Fiction and Fantastic which has done so much to shape and define the art and literature of the previous, that is to say the 20th, century. More than that as many of our SFRA researchers have indicated, perhaps most particularly Bruce Franklin, in the case of his book War Stars: the Super Weapons and the American Imagination (Revised 2008). Science Fiction and Fantasy have shaped the socio-economic and geopolitical landscape of the reality of 20th century itself.

This biographical dictionary is an outstanding access point into the lives of the four hundred or so artists who were part of this process. One of earliest is the H.G. Wells illustrator Warrick Gobel (1862-1943) who was born shortly after the midpoint of the 19th Century and worked well into the 20th. At least some of the younger artists represented as working in the decades towards the end of the 20th Century will be working well past the midpoint of the 21st century. This is particularly true if we continue to elect many more Republican administrations or congresses. Thus in a way this book acts as an access point into artistic life and productive capacities that span across three centuries.

These artists' biographies and publication sources are particularly useful because of the work's historically contextualizing introduction: "A Century of Science of Science Fiction Art" by Robert Weinberg and Jane Frank, which brilliantly and implicitly makes the augment that the entire genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy in the 20th Twentieth century was not culturally autonomous by any stretch of the imagination. Rather that it had a highly volatile cultural presence, surviving the contraction, and even collapse, of certain markets only to morph and expand into others throughout the century.

Of course so far in this review I am preaching to the choir. By this I mean a SFRA readership where even the youngest academics, (with the exception of a few Wunderkinds the likes of Delany when he was twenty in 1962, or Asimov who was the same age in 1940, are in their mid- twenties. That is to say the might have even been born into a home in which there was no home computer (we got our first a 64K Morrow in 1984) and who might have even reached middle school without high speed broadband home access to the Internet.

For them the 20th Century is still part of memory's reach. But I can say through my daily contact and exposure to this year's 2010-2011 college freshman class that the same thing cannot be said of them. For them the 20th century is rapidly sinking below their event horizon. I can speak with some authority on this matter since I am a non-traditional student, returning to get yet another degree in Religious Studies, so a deal with them on a kind of peer basis. Ironically they all want to hear about the sex, drugs, and rock and roll of the late 1960's, but they are clueless about how a grade in a course could become a life and death matter as far as a student's Vietnam era draft deferment.

Yet paradoxically because of the proliferation of web-related electronic resources, many of the 20th Century's Science Fiction and Fantasy cultural and artistic products are readily available at least for virtual and digital to purchase and down load on demand, and for free on sources like YouTube. Some of those appearing in complete audio-visual form as in The Lord of the Rings films completed the first few years of the 21st century. As a result even middle school students have reference questions that are answerable using Jane Frank's book.

This is something we should all be celebrating. Yet we live in these draconian times when middle and high school media centers are being shutdown and librarians and media specialists are being given pink slips, and all enrichment programs are under pressure to give way to increased class size and greater teaching loads.

I mentioned before that I am professionally trained as a librarian. My eight hundred square foot office workplace-library is located in a high tech section of a converted tire plant which twenty years ago, before it feel victim to crude economics of the global race to the bottom, employed two thousand well paid unionized workers. Since I keep my door open when I work on my various projects, I find myself becoming the semi- private librarian-in-residence, and lately I have been using Jane Frank's Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century to give a kind of crash course to visitors in how to use a reference book, starting with the principles Beverly DeWeese, who retired not so many years ago as Head of Reference for the Milwaukee Public Library related to me a couple of decades ago.

"Any decent reference book worth its salt will have this stuff in the front which will tell you how to use it, but many people think they are too busy to read the instructions, so they wander around and don't find anything, and most times can't even state their question, and they wander off before anyone can help them.

Yes. I can report that everyone who I made read pages 5-7, the section entitled "How to Use This Book," has found it quite useful, and were able to find the answers to their questions. The book is well laid out with typography that is relatively easy on my eyes (I wear trifocals). It also has very attractive and sturdy painted book-boards and a drop resistant library binding. I know because I inadvertently dropped it on my office's poured concrete floor and it bounced twice and survived without a dent.

Philip Kaveny
Senior Reviewer


Klausner's Bookshelf

It's Murder, My Son
Lauren Carr
CreateSpace
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
www.createspace.com
9781452819433, $14.99, www.amazon.com

In DC Homicide Detective Mac Faraday cannot believe the judge's ruling in his divorce from his wife of twenty years; she left him for another man but got their home and everything else of value. As he left the courthouse stunned, elderly lawyer Ed Willingham accosted him, but sick of his ex wife's attorneys he flees until he stopped feeling sorry for the man struggling to follow him. Ed informs him that he is the child and heir of the late Queen of Mystery Robin Spencer. She gave him up for adoption over four decades ago as an unmarried teen who knew kids can't raise kids.

Mac moves into the closed gated community in Spencer, Maryland. As he takes first step towards his new home, Gnarly the German shepherd attacks him; Archie as Robin's assistant who comes with the manor, saves him from sever injuries. Archie tells the retired Georgetown cop that three months earlier, someone killed multi-millionaire Katrina Singleton who would have been his next door neighbor. The police believe the "Pay Back" stalker murdered her, but have not found any evidence as to who this individual is and whether he actually killed her. Reading his mom's novels, plays and journals and assisted by Archie and a brother he never knew existed, Mac investigates what is turning into a cold case murder.

It's Murder, My Son is an enjoyable amusing murder mystery starring a likable cast and a few avaricious nasties. The story line is lighthearted fun as Gnarly brings jocularity to the mix while every time Mac and Archie try to kiss they are interrupted. The whodunit is top rate, but the entertaining plot belongs to Mac and friends and family as he leads the inquiry into the death of the next door neighbor.

Silver Serenade
Nancy J. Cohen
Wild Rose Press
9781601547828, $15.99, www.thewildrosepress.com

Earth Centrum Security Integrated Network field operative Silver Malloy is assigned to eliminate ruthless Tyrone Bluth, leader of the brutally nasty gang Tyrone's Marauders. S.I.N.'s top assassin, Silver almost completes her mission when Kurashian Jace Vernon interferes by tackling her.

Ace pilot Jace is after Tyrone also, but unlike Silver needs his prey alive if he is to prove his innocence on his home planet where he is wanted for murder. He does not want to work with Silver who wants the beast dead, but has no choice if he is to achieve his objective as his enemy's enemy is his ally; if he does not team with her they will get in each others' way. She reluctantly agrees with his assessment.

This is a fun romantic science fiction thriller as the lead couple targets the same person, but disagrees with the output as each has a different outcome in mind. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jace makes the hit on Silver and never slows down as love between them complicates their already complex relationship. Sub-genre readers will enjoy this outer space tale of a lethal gang lord serving ironically as a matchmaker between two people who disagree on what to do with him as the options are life in a maximum prison or assassination.

Noise
Darin Bradley
Spectra
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
www.randomhouse.com
9780553386226, $14.00, www.amazon.com

When the country converts from analog to digital, Salvage broadcasts underground stations in the lower frequency airwaves. It tells the populace what to do to survive in the face of the collapsing society and the words are bound in the Book. In the college town of Slade, Texas, best friends Hiram and Adam collect the wisdom of the Salvage so they can be ready when the collapse of American civilization occurs.

The predicted Event happens leaving America rudderless as the country declares bankruptcy and the government loses all control. The Narrator calls himself Hiram and Adam renames himself Levi. They gather other people amongst the homeless of the dead society to go to Amaranth. It is an isolated place where they will be safe. Other groups join them on the bloody journey to the Promised Land.

Reminiscent of the Lord of the Flies merged with Deliverance, Noise is a deep look at civilization spinning out of control into anarchy before leading to a rebirth. The cast is solid with plenty of violence and gore. This makes the aftermath effort to get to Amaranth feel plausible. Darin Bradley writes an entertaining futuristic cautionary thriller as out of the death of America rises the Phoenix of a new order.

Coronets And Steel
Sherwood Smith
DAW Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
www.dawbooks.com
9780756406424, $24.95, www.amazon.com

Bored Los Angeles graduate student Kim Murray's French only speaking grandmere is ill. As grandmere recovers from the debilitating fever, she remains mute; but encourages strongly for Kim to travel to Europe to learn her family's genealogy. Before leaving the States, her grandma gave her minuscule bits of information about their heritage, but refuses to go into any depth.

After Paris proved fruitless, she reaches Vienna lacking information as to where to start so she visits a genealogist. Kim goes on a tour when she notices what looks like a ghost. Soon after that, a suave male treats her like an old friend he has not seen in a while although she swears she never met this sophisticate before. She and this Alec go for drinks, but when she awakens she is on a train though she is unsure how she got on it. However, the biggest shock of all is to learn she looks so much like missing cousin Ruli, they could have been twins. Alec wants her to pretend to be Ruli so he can find her.

Told by the third generation American, this is an exciting at times jocular but always action-packed thriller as Kim digs up her roots in Europe. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy the heroine's European adventure as she is 200 proof American believing she can do anything while also being facetious and irreverent when she is drugged, abducted, and confronting family ghosts. This is her tale as the rest of the cast supports her escapades as a young brash American trashes her kidnapper and taunts the spirits that haunt her and her family.

A Little Consequence
Amy Knupp
Harlequin SuperRomance
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
www.harlequin.ca
9780373716524, $5.50, www.amazon.com

Heiress Selena Jarboe is upset with her brother who plans to return to the war because she worries for those she loves performing dangerous duty. Unable to cope she runs away to her Texas beach house. There she meets firefighter Evan Drake. They are attracted instantly to one another and have the best night of sex either ever had; so good and long his roommate did a four in the morning run not to disturb the couple.

Selena becomes pregnant and does the right thing by informing Evan although she wants nothing from him. He plans to be there for their child as he never had a father growing up; he also wants to be there for Selena even after he learns she is wealthy and can buy anything she needs. As they fall in love, each must stop running from the demons that haunt them if they are to make it as a cohesive family raising a child together.

The key to the second super Texas Firefighters contemporary romance (see Playing with Fire) is Selena who struggles between her love and admiration for Evan vs. her fear of his dangerous work. Evan is a super counterpart to Selena, but her phobic like trepidations brings freshness to a strong romance.

Black Magic Lover
Cynthia Cooke
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618439, $5.25

The phone call stuns Laura Larame who had believed her mom was dead. She considers someone pulled a sick joke on her, but must know the truth as to whether her mother Delilah, whom she had not heard from in two decades lives in the Louisiana bayou.

Laura Larame returns home where she meets her childhood friend Drew Michel, who saved her life on the night her mom vanished and was assumed drowned. Drew and Laura are attracted to one another and he wants more than them just being friends; while she determinedly remains fixated on her mom. Drew who sees ghosts, fears his beloved is going to be sacrificed by his mother, a voodoo priestess, who plans to use her death to bring her God back using her son's body as the deity's container.

This Bayou romantic suspense is an exhilarating tale that grips the reader with a need to know what happened to Laura's mother. The story line provides an in depth look at voodoo without slowing down the plot. Although the ending seems abrupt, Black magic Lover is a fast-paced horror thriller as Cynthia Cooke shows her Mojo.

This Cowboy's Son
Mary Sullivan
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373716531, $5.50

Five years ago Matt Long and Jenny Sterling made love, but he left immediately afterward; fleeing from Big Sky Country. She became pregnant and raises her son Jesse. However, the single mom is engaged to marry Angus Kinsey, who Matt reveres like a father figure.

Returning to Ordinary, Montana and owing Angus, Matt obtains work on his Circle K ranch where his boss is Jenny. She pulls no punches when she immediately informs her former lover that her son is his too. They remain attracted to each other, but she knows he will leave soon and he fears he agrees with her. When Angus ends their engagement, Matt has no excuse as he loves mother and son, but does he have the guts to forge a family with them?

Although men finding out they sired a child years after the kid is born is not new, a secondary romance adds depth to the contemporary romance. The lead male has issues but maturity and a need to do the right thing with his woman and their son supersede all else. Although Angus makes it easier with his transgression, fans will enjoy this entertaining second chance at love.

A Child Changes Everything
Stella MacLean
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373716555, $5.50

In Durham, North Carolina nurse Lisa Clarke buries her adopted mother only to learn from the estate lawyer Tank Tweedsdale that her biological mom Carolyn Lewis is alive; she thought the woman who birthed her died in a car accident. Tank hires Lisa's former boyfriend Mason Stephens to find her mom, which he does.

Lisa heads to Florida where her mom resides in Palmetto Bayside Nursing Home. Her older sister Anne Marie is in jail charged with trafficking. Needing to prove her sister's innocence, Lisa hires Mason and an attorney to do that. She takes her three year old niece Katie and mom back home with her. Mason is stunned with how good a caretaker Lisa is as she rejected children leading to their breakup. However, his former wife Sara plans to leave for the other coast with their son putting him on the spot of choosing east with his Lisa or west with his offspring Peter.

This is an enjoyable family drama with a second chance at love subplot. Lisa matures as she takes charge of her newly found biological family. Although Mason is a better sleuth than boyfriend material, fans will enjoy this fine contemporary.

Lord of the Desert
Nina Bruhns
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618408, $5.25

The Kilpatrick family hires historian Gillian Halliday to find the grave of their ancestor, English lord Lieutenant Rhys Kilpatrick. He died over a century ago in the Nubian Desert of Egypt. As Gillian follows clues she is taken aback to what they lead her to.

Instead of a tomb, she encounters the breathing Rhys who remains alive though he vanished one hundred and twenty five years ago. Shapeshifting Rhys explains that he serves immortal vampire demigod high priest Seth-Aziz, a five millennia being, as he has for decades. When Rhys and Gillian fall in love, he risks everything to be with her even when his owner demands he turns the woman over to him. Their only hope is to find her mother, who vanished twenty years ago.

Placing a vampire romance inside of Egyptian mythology, Nina Bruhns provides romantic fantasy fans will a great read. The Immortal Sheikhs story line is fast-paced from the moment the star-crossed lovers meet and never slows down for an instant. Lord of the desert is a winner as fans will root for the lead couple as they go up against impossible odds with love their strongest yet also weakest weapon.

Sureblood
Susan Grant
Harlequin
9780373774661, $7.99

The pirate clans live in the Channels asteroid belt. They earn a substandard existence by raiding passing ships containing precious minerals needed for the intergalactic war fought in another sector. However, the clans have their own combat going on as instead of cooperating for the overall good of everyone, they fight with one another.

A new clan leader Dake Sureblood is a visionary who can see how teamwork would benefit everyone, but is blank as to how to proceed when no one trusts anyone from another clan; even he distrusts the other broods. Two clans the Surebloods and the Blues raid the same vessels. Dake saves the life of Valeeya Blue. Her grateful father Conn invites Dake and his kin to join forces with his clan. Already attracted to Val, Dake readily agrees. However, betrayal by opportunists causes the two clans to bicker and consider hostile actions against one another rather than teaming with Dake left in hell for five years after someone assassinated Conn. However, that traitor never counted on Dake returning to prove his innocence and claim his wife and their son as his though he knows she believes he killed her father.

This is a fun sort of Scottish Highlanders in outer space futuristic romantic science fiction romance. The story line is fast-paced from the opening raid and never slows down as betrayal and murder keep the lead couple apart. Readers will relish the swashbuckling escapades of Dake and Valeeya as he returns to avenge his father-in-law and himself while desperately wanting his spouse at his side and to finally meet their son.

Colby Velocity
Debra Webb
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373694891, $4.99

Kendra Todd asks the Colby Agency to investigate the death of her friend Yoni Sayar, a political aide who was helping shifty Senator Judd Castille push a bill to temper lobbyists' influence. Kendra wants to be part of the investigative team.

Colby assigns former Equalizer Leland "Rocky" Rockford to team up with Kendra. As they make inquiries into the DC octopi power structure, they find blackmail and questionable deals as they follow the clues through a miasma of pond scum running the country. Rocky knows that as they get closer to the truth, the culprit will have no problem hiring assassins to murder two more people as the villain has no compunction when it comes to murder.

The latest Colby Agency Merger is an action-packed gritty thriller that never slows down even for a body bag from the moment Kendra and Yoni meet. The lead couple is a super duet as they fall in love, but she only trusts her job not her heart. Readers will relish the full velocity of this tale, its previous miniseries entry (see Colby Control) and the rest of the Colby saga.

Alpha Warrior
Aimee Thurlo
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373694921, $4.99

Librarian Drew Simmons is training for a position in the police department's records section. Although she is unsure why, someone tries to kidnap her. Police Detective Nick Blacksheep's intervention saved her from the abduction though the culprit got away.

His boss Captain Wright assigns him to keep Drew safe while Detective Koval investigates the assault. However, more assaults occur though she remains ignorant as to the motive. Nick assumes she found something perhaps in the records that worries someone. He also believes a police insider is assisting the unknown adversary. As they team up to solve who and why, they fall in love, but her safety remains paramount in his mind.

This is a terrific romantic suspense police procedural that starts off with a bang when Nick saves Drew from an abduction and never slows down as he knows a police department insider is helping the unknown adversary who obviously has influence. Fast-paced and loaded with action, readers will enjoy this wonderful Long Mountain Heroes' thriller Aimee Thurlo provides another winning modern day Navaho tale with a sibling to follow.

All I Ever Wanted
Kristan Higgins
Harlequin
9780373774586, $7.99

In Georgebury, Vermont Callie Grey knows she loves her boss, Mark Rousseau, who dumped her. She dreams he will realize she is his one too until he shatters her dreams breaking her hart when he announces on her thirtieth birthday he is engaged, but not to her.

Callie's mother throws her a birthday party at the family run Misinski's funeral home. Embarrassed by her mom's kindness and her family's advice to ignore the butthead, Callie decides to wake up her unrequited beloved by dating someone else to make him jealous. Shy veterinarian Dr. Ian MacFarland prefers animals to people especially after his former wife toasted him. However, he likes Callie, who lives life to fullest; she thinks he is pathetic, but decides he will do to achieve her mission. As they fall in love, he fears commitment so Callie who has revised the mission has a tough assignment, but she has Bowie to serve as her matchmaking canine.

This is an amusing contemporary romance starring two wonderful likable lead protagonists, a charming setting (even the funeral home), and a strong support cast. Fans will enjoy Callie's strategy to provide the vet with a personality make-over though sitting on his lap while he sits on a rocker makes her think he is perfect. Fans will enjoy this entertaining lighthearted frolic due to the eccentric cast (canine and human) who bring out the fun in this charmer.

A Mom For Callie
Laura Bradford
Harlequin American
9780373753192, $4.99

Widow author Betsy Anderson has not moved on since her husband Mark died eighteen months ago. Literally moved by a picture of Paxton Bridge in a bookstore calendar, she leaves Manhattan to see the real thing twelve hundred miles away. She knows her spontaneous act is certifiable as there are nicer views from New York City's pedestrian bridges than this one in Cedar Creek, Illinois, but she felt compelled to go see this stone bridge, as if this simple inane act symbolized moving on.

At the bridge, Betsy meets Police Officer Kyle Brennan, a single father uninterested in any romantic relationships since his Callie's mother Lila deserted her. At a bookstore in town, Betsy meets fan Angela Murphy whose husband Tom is Kyle's partner. They discuss true love, which leads to Betsy staying in town to write her next book. As the author and the cop begin to see one another, her guilt over defiling her late spouse's memory and his remorse over doing the wrong thing for his child Callie by dating threatens to end their relationship.

This is a wonderful contemporary romance starring a grieving widow who knows she loved Mark, but was not in true love with him and the cop who makes her tingle and sweat. The keys to the story line are Callie is not precocious or rabid and Laura Bradford's ability to tell a Heartland romance without denigrating big cities or turning small towns into Eden. At times false impressions seem overly done, al though one could argue the lead couple's emotional baggage is the cause. Still the overarching theme that home is where the heart feels the contentment of being loved and loving back makes for a delightfully contented read.

Firefighter Daddy
Lee McKenzie
Harlequin American
9780373753208, $4.99

Widower Mitch Donovan is a single dad who would do anything for his daughter Miranda as both cope with the tragic death of the woman in their lives. A dedicated San Francisco firefighter, Mitch has no plans for any other woman in his life besides his child and his mom Betsy Evans.

Schoolteacher Sonora "Rory" Pennington-Borland is known as "Miss Sunshine" by her students. Mitch's daughter is in her class and Rory happens to be his mom's tenant. They meet when his stuttering daughter introduces her daddy her hero to her class. Total opposites, Mitch and Rory are attracted to one another. However, she likes being a free spirit and is unsure she wants the responsibility of a child and he is unsure he can move on passed his wife's death.

This is an enjoyable contemporary romance with a strong charming cast. Although the coincidence of his daughter's teacher renting a room in his mom's Victorian is doubtful, no one will care after the initial reaction. Lee McKenzie disaffirms Mark Twain's comment: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco as fans will feel the tenderness of different relational types of love by the matchmaking of the bread generations of their sandwiched beloved male with the teacher-renter.

My Fake Fiancee
Nancy Warren
Harlequin Blaze
9780373795574, $4.99

In Philadelphia, at Kepler, Van Horne Insurance, Co., David Wolfe needs a fiancee to obtain a promotion to partner at the family run firm. However, he has none and the myriad of women he dates or has dated would never do. He needs someone fresh.

Chef Chelsea Hammond, a friend of David's sister, needs a temporary place to crash to save expenses while starting a catering business. Though she is reluctant and hides her reason for doubt, they agree that she stays in his place in exchange she will pose as his fiancee with her added stipulation of "no contact". However, they end up making love and she falls in love with her faked fiance, but he admits he is commitment-phobic.

Although the premise of a fake fiancee or "Occasional Wife" has been used a zillion times, Nancy Warren magically makes it fresh with a strong cast especially the support players like his sister and his co-workers who bring out the best and worst in the lead couple. Fans will relish this wonderful contemporary romance as the slow learner realizes why he reaches in his bed for a female phantom who never slept through the night there and the woman who wisely knows why.

Simon Says
Donna Kauffman
Harlequin Blaze
9780373795581, $4.99

In Chicago night hotel manager Sophie Maplethorpe agrees to help her friend Delia out of trouble though if caught she will be fired. Delia spent the night with investment banker Daniel Templeton, a sex stamina star but she left her cell behind in his room; her fiance hotel mogul (including Sophie's) Adam Wingate calls every morning promptly at 7:00 so she better respond.

However, the Good Samaritan sneaks into the wrong room. Recovery specialist Simon Lassiter seeks a stolen emerald that he plans to purloin in order to return it to his client, the rightful owner. When he catches Sophie breaking into his room, he assumes she works for his adversary. However, he soon finds he needs her assistance to do the right thing. The problem is he cannot keep his hands to himself and she abets his roving hands with her own roving hands.

This is an amusing Wrong Bed contemporary romantic suspense that starts a bit slowly as the key players are introduced to one another, but once shifting into first gear never slows down as the lead couple takes the audience on a joy ride that Ferris Bueller would envy. Sophie learns the road to heaven is paved with good intentions though it takes her a while to understand that as her first encounter with Simon has him pointing a gun at her. Humorous, hot, and taut, readers will appreciate the escapades of the night manager and the recovery specialist as they fall in love.

Sins of the Heart
Eve Silver
Harlequin
9780373774821, $7.99

As the offspring of Sutekh, the four demi-god Krayl brothers are soul reapers. When the youngest brother Lokan is murdered, his soul vanishes, which means he cannot come back from the dead without his essence. His siblings are outraged by the double affront. Each one of his brothers demand retribution, but also each knows they must move out if they are to resurrect Lokan.

Otherkin Asetian Guard Roxy Tam is part of an elite unit that defends humanity from other worldly threats. She and Dagan Krayl have a past together that includes attraction and repellant. However, as once again, an inferno ignites when they meet, they must put aside their desire and their mistrust because someone has placed the Underworld in peril.

This is a super opening Krayl sibling romantic fantasy as Lokan and his family investigate the homicide that should have been almost impossible, search to find the lost soul in time to save him, and in Dagan's case fall in love with his partner. Fast-paced, the key to this wonderful thriller is the supernatural beings seem genuine especially the Krayl extended family, the villains, and the Guard. Readers will fully appreciate Eve Silver's golden first act as the hybrid and the kick butt fall in love.

Kiss Me If You Can
Carly Phillips
Harlequin
9780373774548, $7.99

In Manhattan Sam "Coop" Cooper always reports the crimes news not stars in the story. That is until he stops for lunch at a dirty dog stand in Midtown while he works a story on apartment burglaries in the Upper West Side. He notices something odd in nearby Vintage Jewelers and knocked out a thief using a hot dog medal l id cover.

Watching the store along with her teenage daughter for her dad who is in Florida, grateful Anna Burnett forces Coop to take a ring as a thank you. TV news catches the aftermath of the heroics and soon the city votes him most eligible male on The Bachelor Blogs. Lexie Davis sees the ring on the new s and realizes it matches a necklace that her grandma wears. She meets Coop who thinks she is another bimbo to disturb him, but she wants the ring not him. They soon pair up investigating the history of the matching jewelry starting with a cold case 1950s theft that seems to implicate granny even as they fall in love

This is a terrific romantic comedy starring two likable individuals, the Big Apple and Granny the maybe jewel thief. The story line is fast-paced as Carly Phillips paints a fun tale winking at the enthralled audience with this madcap novel. Fans should set aside time as once you begin this Manhattan maniacal mayhem you will need to finish it in one delightful sitting.

Libertine's Kiss
Judith James
Harlequin
9780373775057, $7.99

They were friends and neighbors as children, but their avaricious fathers insured each had an unhappy life. William de Veres was exiled to school and Elizabeth Walters "sold" to the highest bidder. William joined the military to escape his father's gluttony while Elizabeth got married to an abuser. Years later he became a hero; he deployed his new fame status into being a rake while she remained a victim.

Years pass with both remaining unhappy. When they meet for the first time as adults, neither appears to recognize the other. Two more years pass before Elizabeth asks King Charles for a favor as she has fled her marriage; William as a friend to the recently restored monarch and as his bard helps her get a royal appointment. They begin to fall in love all over again, but she has issues with her beloved for his work for the King that was part of the destruction of her family.

This is an entertaining restoration romance that occurs just after Charles returns from exile to sit on the throne. The rich historical background enhances the reading experience as at times the romance lingers in the background. Fast-paced with a strong cast and filled with intrigue as betrayal is a way of life at court, historical romance readers will relish this exiting late seventeenth century tale.

Heiress to a Curse
Zandria Munson
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618415, $5.25

In the sixteenth century in Romania, a witch placed a curse on the Drakon family that turn each one into gargoyles. Centuries later Marius Drakon knows he is next to change unless he can earn the trust of the witch's descendent and then kill her.

Twenty-nine days remain before his conversion. Marius meets reporter Alexandra and knows he must make her believe in him before he murders her. There is only one problem, he is attracted to her. She is working a child abduction case in which he joins her. When she learns who he is and what he must do, she is heartbroken as she loves him. As they trust in their love, they fight off his family who see her death as redemption and seek another way to overcome the curse.

This is a great romantic urban fantasy due to the apparent star-crossed lovers as each understands the curse. The first Hearts of Stone story line is fast-paced from the moment they meet and never slows down as his days tick away. Readers will need to set aside time for this fabulous thriller as Zandria Munson provides a strong tale that means little if any nocturnal sleep.

The Mommy Proposal
Cathy Gillen Thacker
Harlequin American Romance
9780373753239, $4.99

In Fort Worth CEO Nate Hutchinson prays his effort to adopt a child proves fruitful. To somewhat affirm his seriousness and to convert his abode, he hires widow interior decorator Brooke Mitchell to change his bachelor pad to a safe home fit for a single dad with a son. She understands being a single parent as she raises her son by herself since his father died.

Brooke is stunned with how well Nate and the two young boys hit it off together. As shocking to Brooke is her growing attraction to the new father and his child. She also believes he needs to relax and let it be as his zealousness threatens the lad. Nate knows he needs Brooke and the two boys to make his life meaningful.

The matchmaking two boys own this entertaining Lone Star Dads Club family drama (see Wanted: One Mommy) as they manipulate their parents. The romance fully takes a back seat to the antics of the children though Nate and Brooke are likable characters. Readers will enjoy The Mommy Proposal.

His Hired Baby
Jacqueline Diamond
Harlequin American Romance
9780373753246, $4.99

Desperately needing money for her and her five years old son to live on, reluctant widow Kate Evans agrees to be a surrogate mom to the Franco couple. The only thing disturbing her about the deal is she detests having to hand over her baby to another couple, but knows she has no choice.

However, to her shock after she becomes pregnant, the adoptive mother leaves her husband filing for a divorce. The adoptive father Tony Franco still wants his child though he will raise the baby as a single dad though he knows nothing about children. He turns to his surrogate mom to mentor him in all things child care. As they fall in love, his distrust of women since his ex wife's desertion has left him wary.

This is an enjoyable Safe Harbor Medical romance (see The Would-be Mommy) starring two wonderful lead characters whose matchmaker is not born yet. The story line is driven by Kate's desire to mother her baby and Tony's fear of commitment. Fans will enjoy this couple who make for a fun contemporary family drama.

Double Play
Joanne Rock
Harlequin Blaze
9780373795642, $4.99

Shy book reviewer Amber Nichols is spending her vacation at a friend's beach house on Nantucket. Upon seeing the hunk next door, although clearly out of character for her, she vows to go for a one-night stand with the jock, Boston baseball coach Heath Donovan.

The coach knows he will be held responsible by management for the team's slump. To take his mind off his fears of being fired, he thinks a one night stand with the beautiful groupie next door is just the thing. However, as one night becomes several nights, each wonders when and how their game will end.

The latest Wrong Bed tale is a heated sports romance that contains two charming pitchers throwing complete games as their lust turns into love. The enjoyable story line is hotter than a summer on the Cape while the lead couple makes for a fine time away from the ball park. Baseball fans will wonder whether Heath and Amber will hit into a Double Play or grand slam walk-off home run.

Claimed!
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Harlequin Blaze
9780373795604, $4.99

Neither wants this, but former lovers Jack Chance and Josie Keller are named best man and maid of honor at a horseback wedding. Besides their past in which he dumped her, the only problem is Josie does not know how to ride. Jack is volunteered to teach her.

On his Wyoming ranch near Shoshone, Jack trains Josie to ride a horse. However, they also ride each other as neither can keep their hands off the other. She knows she still loves him in spite of her expectation he will leave her again. However, he ran from her the last time out of fear of his feelings, but this time he plans to stay the course and prove to his beloved they belong together.

This hot Sons of Chance romance (see Wanted! and Ambushed!) is a fun read due to heated outdoor acrobatics of the lead couple in spite of their doubts. With a touch of humor to lighten the torrid ranch romance, Vicki Lewis Thompson will claim a lot of fans with this strong second chance at love.

Villain
Shuichi Yoshida; Philip Gabriel (translator)
Pantheon
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
www.pantheonbooks.com
9780307378873, $25.95, www.amazon.com

In 2002 in southern Japan, the corpse of Fukuoka insurance saleswoman Yoshino Ishibashi is found. Soon after the discovery of the dead woman's body, Nagasaki police charge twenty-seven year old construction worker Yuichi Shimizu with first degree murder.

The pair had dated a few times but the motive remains as elusive as the ghosts that allegedly haunt this region of Japan. The cops learn that the victim had numerous online boyfriends and went on mundane and cyber dates; as Ishibashi hated her boring job. Meanwhile Shimizu also detested his cramped lifestyle as he cared for his ailing grandparents; his escapism from ennui was with his extravagant car. Meanwhile as he and his girlfriend evade the police, the impact of the murder reverberates on three families and the communities where they reside.

Using a horrific homicide, Shuichi Yoshida provides a powerful look at modern day Japan through multiple perspectives. The discerning story line rotates effortlessly between the past of lead pair (killer and victim) and the aftermath of the killing on the couple on the run and the families. Readers will relish this tense thriller as murder is the mechanism used to enable the audience to feel they are on the islands observing contemporary Japanese culture.

Power Slide
Susan Dunlap
Counterpoint Press
2117 Fourth Street, Suite D, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781582435428, $25.00, www.counterpointpress.com

In San Francisco stuntman Damon Guthrie begins to reveal a shameful secret to his intermittent girlfriend stuntwoman Darcy Lott. Before completing his confession to a stunned distressed Darcy, Damon asks her to come to a meeting accompanied by her sibling John the cop at the Palace of the Fine Arts.

However, on his way to the meeting, Damon dies in a car accident. The timing seems suspicious to Darcy who decides to investigate as she has done before feature (see Hungry Ghosts, A Single Eye and Civil Twilight). Darcy also remains determined to find her missing other brother Mike, who vanished over two decades ago. However, those predators who murdered Damon decide Darcy is next.

The latest Zen detective amateur sleuth mystery is an exhilarating whodunit as the two inquiries are personal; although each requires a degree of acceptability that the heroine knew so little about a man she dated on and off for several years, and the tundra cold case of missing Mike. The fun in the investigative story line is the refreshing use of Zen Buddhism to work the cases and the amusing movie memorabilia collectibles, as the latest Darcy Lott mystery is an enjoyable whodunit.

Scumble
Ingrid Law
Dial Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway,m New York, NY 10036
www.randomhouse.com
9780803733077, $16.99, www.amazon.com

When he turns thirteen, Ledger Kale inherits his genetic Savvy, but hates the feeling of what he describes as red ants running wild in his blood. He especially is ashamed because he cannot control his Savvy unlike his family including his older cousin Mibs (see Savvy); his power leads to destruction of human created objects.

Fearing for their son (and society), who has not learned how to Scumble his Savvy, his parents leave Ledge and their younger daughter seven year old Fedora at the remote Wyoming insect ranch of Uncle Autry. Also staying at Flying Cattleheart Ranch are several of Ledge's cousins . Complicating the situation is thirteen year old Sarah Jane Cabot, snooping wannabe reporter who sees expose articles on the strange extended family at the ranch. At the same time her businessman father sets out to take ownership of local establishments including Autry's ranch. Ledge knows life at the ranch is at least as complicated as back home.

This is a terrific whimsical coming of age tale that targets middle school readers (and my spouse) with its insectoid humor, but will be enjoyed by adults as a strong metaphoric novel as well. Filled with a conscience and guilt, Ledge is a fabulous narrator whether he discusses with readers the plight of destroying his father's nose trimmer, spilling his guts to feed carnivores, or the quandary caused by the snoop queen. The support cast at the ranch also brings humor to the mix. However, this is Ledge's saga as he struggles with the change from tweener to adolescence causing him emotional stress and physical imbalance; all because his Savvy has surfaced out of Scumble control.

The Secrets of Paradise Bay
Devon Vaughn Archer
Urban Renaissance
9781601622198, $14.95, www.urbanbooks.com

In Paradise Bay, Oregon, Trey Lancaster hurt his wife Ivana Kendall-Lancaster and their marriage when he had an affair with the spouse of a client six moths ago. Feeling ashamed for what he did to his former supermodel wife, Trey invites his brother Clyde to stay with them without consulting Ivana. Clyde, just released from prison following an assault conviction, accepts his wealthy sibling's offer. Ivana is irate with her husb and for ignoring her when he made this decision.

Clyde and Ivana begin an affair from almost the moment he arrives. However, he feels guilty for making love to his sister-in-law while she is confused wondering which brother she loves. When Clyde meets Stefani the singer he becomes further disoriented a s he no longer understands his feelings. Meanwhile Willie Munroe owes Clyde and plans to pay back using the brother, the wife and the crooner as expendable pawns.

The Secrets of Paradise Bay is a fantastic romantic suspense family drama with a strong ensemble cast who each has major issues. The tension mounts on two subplots as the brothers seem ready to commit fratricide with each irate with the other and the Munro retribution entry that grips the audience with a sense of pending doom. Devon Vaughn Archer provides a great tale in which sibling rivalry may prove deadly if they fail to reconcile.

Hangman
Faye Kellerman
Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
www.williammorrow.com
9780061702563, $24.99, www.amazon.com

Los Angeles Police Department Lieutenant sexagenarian Peter Decker knows rumored New York hitman Chris Donatti and the alleged killer's wife Terry McLaughlin. He met them on a case fifteen years ago when the couple were in high school; Chris confessed to a murder he did not do to protect Terry. Now, both vanish after a fight and their young teenage son Gabe calls Peter. The cop and his wife Rina Lazarus takes the boy into their home though they worry about psychopathic Chris h arming their daughter. Meanwhile Decker searches for the vanished parents.

At the same time, Peter leads the inquiry into the brutal murder of St. Timothy Hospital's neonatal nurse Adrianna Blanc. She was found hanging at a construction site with her car still in the hospital lot. Decker and his team Sergeant Marge Dunn and Detective Scott Oliver learn the victim enjoyed booze and sex. Her boyfriend Nurse Garth Hammerling has also vanished while on vacation.

This is a strong entry in the long running series due to the comparative analysis of two families. Decker-Lazarus is a loving unit with a strong relationship between them and with their daughter. On the other hand Donatti-McLaughlin is a dysfunctional unit with a history of violence with a piano prodigy offspring who uses music to escape his life. Although the inquires take a strange twist, fans will relish this fine police procedural as Decker fears Donatti might harm his family., but he and his spouse try to do what they believe is the right thing.

Foreign Influence
Brad Thor
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
www.simonsays.com
9781416586593, $26.99, www.amazon.com

The new Administration aborts Department of Homeland Security Project Apex as the top secret antiterrorist group had been assigned rule breaking by the previous White House occupant to prevent attacks. As he did when he left the SEALs, Apex member Scot Harvath easily lands a position with Defense Department's funded Carlton Group; mission identical to that of the disbanded Apex team.

In Rome a terrorist bomb kills a bus load of American tourists. Horvath travels to Italy on the mission of search and kill the prime suspect the Troll, and any associates. Chicago police officer and lawyer John Vaughn searches for the Middle Easterner taxi driver who ran over a woman in a hit and run. His inquiry leads Vaughn to a terrorist plot to kill civilians in Chicago.

Over the top of the Willis Tower, Foreign Influence is an exhilarating thriller in which the hero of previous tales simply switches teams. The story line is extremely fast with both subplots moving at a rapid rate of speed. Although Brad Thor argues that the government is incompetent and even antiterrorism efforts need contracting out when comparing the CIA with the Carlton group, fans who enjoy action, action and more testosterone action will appreciate Harvath's latest thriller.

The Thieves of Darkness
Richard Doetsch
Atria
9781416598954, $25.00

Having gone straighter after a career as an art thief Michael St. Pierre uses his experiences as a criminal as a security consultant. Almost forty years old, Michael remains shook by the death of his wife Mary over a year and a half ago. His friend Father Simon Bellatori arranges a blind date with Katherine "KC" Ryan, who happens to be a thief.

As he is falling in love with KC, Michael learns that his best friend Simon has been locked away in the brutal Middle Eastern Chiron Prison in the Akbiquestan Desert; where he is to be executed. Michael flies to the country and breaks into the prison to rescue Simo n and shockingly KC. As the trio flees for Istanbul, maniacal businessman Philippe Venue searches for a fabled treasure and he knows Simon possesses key information. Soon everyone rushes off to the Himalayas on a treasure hunt.

The third St. Pierre thriller (see The Thieves of Heaven and The Thieves of Faith) is an exhilarating over the top of the Himalayas tale that grips the audience the from the moment Michael develops his plan in depth to save his friend and never slows down on his Asian tour. Fast-paced throughout, but requiring the locking away of plausibility, sub-genre readers will stay up late to follow the action-packed adventures of Michael and his two cronies.

The Moses Expedition
Juan Gomez-Jurado
Atria
9781416590644, $24.99

During WW II the Nazi Butcher of Spiegelgrund conducted painful deadly genetic experiments on Jewish children. A sibling to one of the young victims managed to escape to the United States.

Over six decades later, that escapee now New York billionaire Raymond Kayn finally learns where the Nazi genetic butcher has remained in hiding. He dispatches Vatican secret service agent Father Anthony Fowler (see God's Spy) to Austria to obtain an heirloom from the odious Nazi. The heirloom contains a scroll that locates the biblical Ark of the Covenant in the Jordanian desert. At the same time Kahn hires Spanish journalist Andrea Otero (also see God's Spy) to cover his expedition to obtain the sacred Ark. Huqan sends his terrorist agents into the desert to ambush the outs iders.

Although over the top of Raiders of the Lost Ark and lacking a consistent lead as a cast worthy of Cecil DeMille rotate the lead, fans will want to join The Moses Expedition from the armchair as terrorist bombs bursting in air and killer insects attack the team. Loaded with international action on four continents, Juan Gomez-Jurado provides a fun suspense thriller for those who can ignore plausibility.

The Stuff That Never Happened
Maddie Dawson
Crown
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
www.crownpublishing.com
9780307393678, $23.00, www.amazon.com

She had thirty years of marriage to historian Grant McKay, but with their two kids gone, Annabelle wants more as she always loved someone else although her husband is a nice kindhearted person. When her pregnant daughter Sophie has a major health issue, Annabelle comes to Manhattan to help her.

The city reminds her of her first love back in the 1970s when as newlyweds with Grant teaching at Columbia University, they lived with his sponsor Jeremiah. Both Jeremiah and Annabelle knew an affair between Grant's beloved wife and his cherished mentor would destroy him. However, they could not resist the passion. Now back in New York, she knows Jeremiah is near; Annabelle must choose between the two men she cares most about.

This is an entertaining chick lit family drama held together by Annabelle as readers compare her and her two loves in the 1970s with her as an about to be grandma with two loves in 2005. The triangle is strong as is Sophie and the city. Although the ending feels abrupt and too pat, fans will enjoy The Stuff That Never Happened as the lead protagonist has a second chance at selecting between the two men she loves.

The Fire Lord's Lover
Kathryne Kennedy
Sourcebooks
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402236525, $7.99, www.sourcebooks.com

In 1724, elven lords from Elfthane rule England with a cruel iron fist. Half-breed son of elven Fire Lord evil Mor'ded, Dominic Raikes conceals the full extent of his magical skills and more important his heart from his sire because he knows his father would view him as a threat for either and kill him.

Meanwhile the human Rebellion, who want to overturn the Elven malevolent reign of terror, raise seemingly innocent Lady Cassandra Bridges to appear prim and proper to disguise her other training as an assassin. She and Dominic wed in a marriage of convenience. However, to their shock, the newlyweds fall in love with one another. Unintended consequence is his human side of empathy and love supersedes his ruthless elven half, which leads to his worst nightmare that his dad becomes aware of what has occurred.

This is a superb Georgian romantic fantasy that effortlessly merges facts of early eighteenth century London with a mythical spin. With several great twists the story line is loaded with otherworldly action anchored by the realism of 1724 England as the Rebellion and the elves control the destiny of the newlyweds. Ironically even with others trying to pull their strings, the exciting plot is owned by the lead couple as she is a top rate assassin and he a half-breed coming into his power due to the love of the mortal he married; while Mor'ded tests his son.

Whisper On The Wind
Maureen Lang
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
www.tyndale.com
9781414324364, $12.99, www.amazon.com

When the war broke out, her parents got the entire family out of Belgium before the German war machine invaded the small nation. However, in 1916, Isabelle Lassone returns to war ravaged Brussels to persuade the man she loves Edward Kirkland to flee the continent with her. Edward refuses to go but also demands she leave. Isabelle tells him if he remains in the devastated country so will she.

Edward is irate with obstinate Isabelle for staying as he fears for her safety; he also admires her courage and knows he loves her. However, Edward also worries what will happen to her, him and his "illegal" colleagues if she will learn he works for the underground newspaper, La Libre-Belgique, a dangerous occupation as the German invaders censor any news that places them in a bad light; truth be damned.

Whisper on the Wind takes the reader to Brussels during WW I when the Germans occupy the city and country. Isabelle and Edward are intrepid souls because they know if caught they will probably be executed without a trial. Readers will relish how the news traveled in 1916 as those who controlled the "free press" controlled the news.

Plum Blossoms in Paris
Sarah Hina
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
www.medallionpress.com
9781605421261, $15.95, www.amazon.com

Andy, her boyfriend in high school, college and graduate school, unceremoniously dumps Daisy Lockhart. Heartbroken as she never saw it coming and assumed as her only boyfriend she ever had, they would always be together. Daisy, unlike her Henry James' namesake, travels to Paris rather than Rome. There the American meets writer Mathieu, who grieves the recent death of his mother.

Mathieu and Daisy become lovers. He shows her a side of the city that few Americans ever see especially the arts and the legends that make Paris what it is. As they remain together, Daisy knows she delays the inevitable of choosing between being an American in Paris or an American in America.

This is an entertaining contemporary relationship drama in which Paris owns the story line. The city is seen mostly through the admiring, adoring and to a lesser degree disapproving eyes of the American in Paris. The lead couple is a wonderful cross Atlantic pairing, but more so the blossoming Daisy; as readers will wonder whether Daisy will follow the dreams of her heart or the American dreams she left back home.

Theater of Illusion
Kathy Steffen
Medallion
9781605420868, $15.95

She and her brother Tobias survived a horrendous upbringing from an abusive religious father; thanks to her courageous mom who killed the intolerant family patriarch to protect the young from his murderous piety wrath. Now a decade later in 1910, Sarah Perkins will not allow any man to prevent her from doing what she wants to do. Her dream is to become a riverboat pilot though the River Board insists that is a gender specific (meaning males only) occupation. She chooses her childhood friend Jeremy, who she bested in many contests, as a pilot.

Sarah boards the Spirit of the River paddleboat that travels the Ohio and Mississippi praying she has the opportunity to pilot the vessel. Also on board is Le Theatre d'Illusion troupe. Soon afterward, a performer vanishes and much of the crew and passengers become ill with some dying from a mysterious ailment. She worries about her brother who drinks himself into stupors each night to bury the voice of their father that he hears when he is sober. Tobias fears his father possesses him and while intoxicated is killing in the name of God. Sarah is up against an avenging killer who might be her brother gone mad or the only person standing capable of steering the ship of doom to safety.

The third Spirit of the River historical (see Jasper Mountain and First, There Is a River) is a wonderful thriller that reminds readers women have come a long way from the past century as the heroine cannot crack the glass ceiling; women need not apply. Inside a strong mystery-adventure, this fast-paced entry looks at alcoholism, sexism, and other debilitating isms. Fans will want to ride the river with Sarah as their pilot though she reconsiders what she wished for when she first stepped on board.

The Road Through Wonderland
Dawn Schiller
Medallion
9781605420837, $15.95

Her father was career military so Dawn Schiller spent her childhood moving from post to post. A road trip from the east Coast to the Glendale, California led to the teen meeting thirtyish married "King of Porn" star John Holmes. Only fifteen and ignored by her dad, Holmes becomes a father figure to Dawn. He and his wife Sharon allow Dawn to move in with them. Cocaine and other drugs changed the relationships as Holmes turned violent and forced Dawn into prostitution. Barely surviving the gruesome 1981 Wonderland murders, she ran away turning her "mentor" over to the police.

The movie Wonderland was a gritty look at Dawn Schiller's teenage years leading to horrific murders. However, her memoir is even grittier and darker as the author goes much deeper in describing her early life. Not an easy read though well written as the horror will last in the audience's mind long after finishing the book. Stunned readers will appreciate Ms. Schiller's autobiography warning parents and other adults that discarding children leaves them vulnerable to a Pied Piper who showers them with deadly interest (think of the DC Snipers).

The Nursing Home
James J. Murphy III
L&J Publishing
P.O. Box 100, Tahoma, CA 96142
9780984273102, $14.00, www.amazon.com

The son of eighty-four year old Morris Grover can no longer cope with living in the same house as his father. Confined to a wheelchair and dependent on his family, Morris constantly makes demands of them. Morris continually fights with the three people he shares the house with until they cannot stand being with him. Sam and his wife Lila forcibly place Morris in a Florida nursing home. He quickly hates the horrific smell and the terrible tasting food. The biggest shock is the abuse the staff heap on the residents. Morris soon meets some men who not just think similar to him, but respect and like him.

At first a series of patients die unexpectedly, but the staff is dying as well and they are getting nastier especially the abusers. The police investigate but find no evidence to arrest anyone although circumstantially wheelchair bound Morris is a person of interest even though the killer had to be able to stand. Four determined teenagers and two of cops investigate who are killing the residents and staff of Riggs Nursing Home.

On top of the guilt of having to place a loved one in a nursing home, this thriller is a double sword horror tale as readers will cringe with what humans do to the elderly while there is also a supernatural spin to the fine mystery. Thus The Nursing Home grips readers on two levels with the abuse being the more horrific as that is realistically portrayed. However, it is the paranormal element that ties the homicides and other incidents together into a enthralling reading experience.

Thrilled to Death
L.J. Sellers
Echelon Press
editorial2@echelonpress.com
9781590807279, $13.99, www.echelonpress.com

A few hour after impoverished Danielle Blake left her psychiatrist's office she disappeared. Her baby son Micha's paternal grandmother Kera Kollmorgan becomes very concerned. She calls her lover Eugene, Oregon Police Detective Wade Jackson who starts the wheels in motion for her to file a missing person's report the next day.

At about the same time, wealthy Elle Durham, who owns plenty of property in the city, files a missing person's report on her daughter Courtney. She never came home after going to a club with friends.

His superiors order Jackson to give his full and undivided attention to the Durham case; while, the brass all but ignores the Blake disappearance. When Courtney's body is found on a bike path near Puget Stadium, his superiors still ignore the Blake case ordering Jackson to focus on finding the killer. Fuming, Jackson investigates the homicide while quietly working the case that interests him.

The newest Detective Jackson police procedural (see Secrets to Die For) is a terrific investigative thriller in which L.J. Sellars argues money matters as the cops chose the dead rich girl over the maybe still alive poor mom. Multilayered yet character driven, the audience will feel Jackson's frustration with his superiors who twice select wealth (the second time in death) over poverty. The investigation is strong and realistic leading readers to fully relish Jackson's latest case(s).

Brewski For The Old Man
Phyllis Smallman
McArthur & Company
322 King Street West, Suite 402, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 1J2
info@mcarthur-co.com
9781552788363, $19.95, www.mcarthur-co.com

Thanks in part to her silent partner lover, Sherri Travis now owns the Sunset Bar and Grill in Jacaranda, Florida where she was previously a bartender only. However her euphoria turns to concern when Ray John Leenders arrives at the bar's parking lot. When Sherri was almost twelve years old, RJ moved in with her mom and her. He consistently would trap her and eventually tried to rape her; she fought him off, but feared telling her dad who was a hot tempered veteran. Now he is the boyfriend of storeowner Rena Cagel, the mother of young teenager Lacey. Sherri fears for the child and warns Rena who defends Ray John. Lacey confesses to Sherri that the animal is assaulting her, but cannot tell her mom who believes he is perfect. Sherri warns Ray John to leave Lacey alone, but he ignores her and comes after her.

Additionally, Sherri has a second issue with another man from her past arriving. Her father Tully Jenkins asks her to help him deploy a detailed revenge scheme. She tells him about Ray John and he promises to take care of business. A homicide later and the police suspect Sherri.

The latest Travis amateur sleuth (see Margarita Nights and Sex in a Sidecar) is a terrific thriller as the lead protagonist's horrific childhood comes back to haunt her with two males who she knows still belong in the swamp, preferably dead. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Sherri realizes Lacey's RJ nightmare is her RJ nightmare and never slows down as the bartender fails to heed the advice of the late Miss Emma not to stoke the fire. Readers will appreciate this caring Floridian as she sets out to prove her innocence though caught in the nightmarish returns of two violent males.

Needle in a Haystack
Ernesto Mallo
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
www.bitterlemonpress.com
books@bitterlemonpress.com
9781904738565, $14.95, www.amazon.com

In 1976 in Buenos Aires, Police Superintendent "Perro" Lascano investigates a double homicide. When he arrives at the crime scene, he finds three corpses. Two of the bodies are dressed similar in jeans and polo neck shirts and have numerous bullet wounds, which is evidence that the Junta death squad executed the pair as they share responsibility in case of accountability. The third dead person is different as he is much older and wears a suit and tie; however, the biggest difference is he has one bullet wound. The cop is unauthorized to look into the political killings of the jean wearers as that is disallowed but he can investigate the dead suit.

Lascano meets Eva, a dissident running from the Army. She looks like his late wife Marisa, who died in a car accident. He conceals Eva who gives him a reason to live as he has been despondent since Maria's death. Meanwhile Lascano and his friend Fuseli the forensic pathologist identify the older victim as moneylender and Auschwitz survivor Elias Biterman. Lascano learns that Elias' younger brother Horacio introduced him to his decadent friend Amancio. The lender lent money to Amancio. Lascano thinks bankrupt Amancio is the killer or hired the killer, but needs t o prove his assertion in a society in which no one seems to care.

Ernesto Mallo uses the official police investigation to focus on the atrocities and moral rationalizations of those in charge. Readers will need to make a slight adjustment to the unusual technique of first person dialogue with no identification as to the speaker; a metaphor of death squads. Once the audience adapts, the story line is fast-paced throughout especially the climax. This is a strong historical that looks deeply at how society failed to protect its citizens especially the young.

Death on a Budget
Michael W. Sherer
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
http://gale.cengage.com/fivestar/
9781594148910, $25.95, www.amazon.com

In Huntley, Illinois, banker Lou Barrett commits suicide using a shotgun. His childhood friend Chicago private investigator Emerson Ward returns home for his buddy's funeral though he us stunned that Lou killed himself.

At the same time that Emerson heads home, his girlfriend Nell Reilly decides to go home to Seattle with their two-year-old daughter Emily to visit her mother dying from cancer. Lou's sister Meg Brodsky informs Emerson that she believes someone murdered her sibling, but made it look like Lou killed himself. Emerson, who was going to rush home to talk to Nell before she flew to the Pacific Northwest, begins to uncover a dirty mall deal, which leads to further questions about Lou's business partner Pete Anderson and Emerson's conclusion that his pal was murdered. However, not only does someone want him silenced and the FBI warn him off the case as they conduct surveillance of a Muslim businessmen, clues lead back decades to the sleuth's teen years and his brother Hank's suicide.

The latest Ward investigation (see Death Is No Bargain) is personal as the death of a childhood friend brings back memories of the hero's salad days when his sibling killed himself. The exciting story line is complex with two prime subplots, but several threads in each. Although the climatic ending seems to come out of nowhere, readers will enjoy Ward's investigation into Death.

Tea Leaves And Tarot Cards
Jacqueline Seward
Five Star
9781594149146, $25.95

In 1816 London, the Ton adores Maeve the half gypsy fortune teller. At a gala all eyes are on Lady Caroline whose brother James the Earl is her guardian since their parents died. James plans to marry off his sister to the wealthy widower the Duke of Rundford though he is old enough to be her grandfather. Maeve and Caroline meet Rundford and his cousin Marquess Adam deViller, but James informs his sister she will no longer be friends with the gypsy.

Adam and Maeve are attracted to one another and each uses these feelings to their advantage enabling Caroline to come with them. When Caroline meets Maeve's unkempt friend Charles LeBrun, she falls in love. However, he rejects her as she can do much better though he loves her too. As Adam plots to make Maeve his mistress, she hopes to somehow keep Caroline safe from the Duke, the Earl and her best friend while praying her heart is not broken in the process.

This is a delightful lighthearted regency frolic starring a strong ensemble cast though the lead players are Maeve and Adam. Filled with a taste of the era enhanced by a slight mystery, sub-genre fans will relish Tea Leaves And tarot Cards as contemporary psychic Kim Reynolds (star of the author's The Drowning Pool and The Inferno Collection) would know the future looks bright for Jacqueline Seward in the past.

The Death of an Ambitious Woman
Barbara Ross
Five Star
9781594148989, $25.95

In New Derby, Massachusetts businesswoman Tracey Kendall is on her cell phone with her four years old son Carson when she curses just prior to crashing into a stone wall. She is dead on impact. The assumption is she was driving too fast, but no one knows why.

Ruth Murphy knows the risk to her career especially since she made the final cut for the permanent position of town Police Chief. She was warned by Mayor Rosenfeld to behave especially since she and the District Attorney are far from allies. Still acting Police Chief Ruth Murphy investigates the death. She, and Detectives McGrath and Moscone interview the spouse Stephen a prominent artist who finds his muses with affairs and the avaricious sleazy business partner at Fiske and Holden. Ruth believes a clever homicide occurred especially when Tracey's mechanic vanished even as the D.A. wants her to end the inquiry.

The Death of an Ambitious Woman is a superb police procedural starring a dedicated cop who knows her chances of becoming chief are diminishing with each step in the investigation while her self esteem and the respect of the department conversely grows. Fans will appreciate this entertaining investigation as the cops methodically seek a clever killer while the mayor and the D.A. demand they end their inquiry.

Hazards of the Game
Norma Tadlock Johnson
Five Star
9781594148811, $25.95

Following the funeral of her husband Fred, their well meaning friends drive Seattle suburban widow Paula Madigan crazy until one of them a widow also arranges for her to meet with Mrs. Pappas. To escape the friends, Paula agrees to housesit and watch Mum-mum and Carioca the cats at Kamiak Hills, overlooking Puget Sound while Mrs. Pappas is away. She and her new friend, next door neighbor Ellen Cogsdill are playing golf at the country club when they find a female hand in a sand trap.

Soon afterward, Paula's thirteen-year-old granddaughter Laurie Shuler is coming to spend the summer with her. She is excited about her "roommate", but until recently was unaware of Laurie's existence as she and her daughter had not spoken in sixteen years four months thanks to dearly departed Fred. Laurie makes friends with the felines and Ellen's oldest twelve-year-old Josh. The foursome investigates the case of the mostly buried female corpse. They begin to fin all sorts of nefarious secrets that lead to someone warning them to back of or else. That person driving a silver vehicle tries to kill them while more homicides rock Kamiak Hills.

The latest Cedar Harbor Mystery (see Donna Rose and the Slug War and Donna Rose and the Roots of Evil) allows Donna Rose a breather as a new young amateur sleuth team investigates the sand trap grave. The youngsters-feline investigation place them in danger from a killer who plans to remain anonymous at all costs. With a dysfunctional family subplot rounding out the latest Cedar Habror whodunit, readers will enjoy this fun cozy.

A Gift From Home
C. H. Admirand
Five Star
9781594149184, $25.95

In 1878 the Committee for the Betterment of Emerson, Colorado has reconvened after a short temporary shutdown (see Pearl's Redemption); the members feel an urgent need to hold Jessi Fahy culpable. The CBE accuse Jessi of arson; setting on fire Peterson's Stable and causing injury to the owner. They also blame her for behavior unbecoming of a lady by her fighting in public and devastating John Reilly with a one punch knock out.

Over five years ago John Reilly left County Cork, Ireland and then thirteen years old Jessi for America. Jessi and John's mother team up to send her as a "present" to him. After an oceanic voyage and a trek across two thirds of America, Jessi arrives in Emerson only he fails to recognize the almost nineteen year old beauty. Frustrated with him and bone tired, she throws a right to his jaw that proves what his mom said: his jaw is made of glass; as one punch knocks out big John. Though the CBE demands Jessi leave, she refuses. Instead s he hopes that her one punch KO knocked some sense into John that they belong together though outlaws and kindhearted Flynn distract her somewhat from her mission.

The latest Irish Western romance is a fun lighthearted historical starring a feisty female with a terrific right-cross and the man of her dreams with a glass jaw. The support cast, especially the CBE members especially Millie Peabody the town nosy body, enhance the tale of a brave woman seeking what she believes is her destiny.

With Friends Like These
Sally Koslow
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
www.randomhouse.com
9780345506221, $25.00, www.amazon.com

The foursome met in the 1990s when they became apartment mates sharing the costs of rent in Manhattan. Over the years, they went their separate ways, but Quincy, Talia, Chloe, and Jules remain friends although their lifestyles are different from those single day s in New York.

Chloe married a Wall Street hedge fund manager while Talia wedded a teacher with a healthy trust fund. Both have preschool aged sons while also job sharing a copy-writing position. They were best friends until Talia went after a job that should have gone to Chloe. Quincy and Jules remain childless. They were best friends until Jules gave away Quncy's real estate deal to her boyfriend.

Each is confronting their forties with men in their lives who seem at times too powerful and too inadequate. Arthur admires Jules but fails to act beyond friendship. Tom hides in the academic world while Talia anchors them in gritty reality. Xander demands timorous Chloe be at his side at parties and other events. Jake tries to be there for his Quincy, whose life is filled with tragedy. Now the quartet has reconnected.

This is a warm tale that focuses on the value of friendship in the good times and especially the bad moments that everyone faces. The lead four females are totally different in personality, but each holds up their perspective rotated between them. The men in their lives are also diverse with differing degrees of demands on the women in their lives. Although nothing new to the sisterhood theme is added, readers will enjoy this intelligent salute to friendship due to the strong ensemble cast.

The Chamber of Ten
Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Ballantine
9780553386561, $7.99

As Venice is sinking under the sea, residents have already shut down the bottom floors of their homes. American archaeologist Geena Hodge and her assistant lover Nico Lombardi have gotten Italian government permission to save as much of the heritage from the encroaching Adriatic in what is the Bibliotheca project that has BBC filming praying not another Capone vault.

Digging in Piazza San Marco, Geena, assisted by Nico and some students, finds Petrarch's library. Beyond the famous lost library, they uncover the fabled Chamber of Ten. However, nothing goes smoothly as the walls collapse allowing flood waters to inundate the chamber. Soon afterward Nico acts insane as he has become possessed by a Renaissance Era mage battling three evil immortals with the city at stake.

This is more an exciting thriller than a horror tale. The story line starts off as fast-paced as any tale this year and as vivid (with its dank damp picture of the city), but never quite keeps the accelerator at that incredible opening rate of speed. Still readers will enjoy the Chamber of Ten as the archeologist and her team is caught up in the middle of a centuries old Magical war in which Venice is at stake.

Veil of Night
Linda Howard
Ballantine
9780345506894, $26.00

While paying her traffic ticket fine, Jaclyn Wilde loses her balance and falls into the arms Hopewell, Georgia Police detective Eric Wilder. She likes what she sees (and feels), but has no time for an encounter because as an event planner for Premier, which she co- owns with her mom, they host six weddings in five days.

At the end of a brutal day made worse by Carrie "Bridezilla" Edwards, Jaclyn stops off for a drink. Also at the same bar is Eric. The exchange business cards so they can hook up in a week, but lust gets the better of them and they spend a night making love.

Carrie fires Jaclyn and slaps her former planner in the face in front of many witnesses. A few hours later, Carrie is found murdered with the weapon being kabob skewers. Eric leads the investigation and as such must treat Jaclyn as a stranger being that she is a prime suspect; although he is positive she is not the killer. He plans to find the killer, keep Jaclyn safe from someone who wants her dead, and somehow regain her trust lost by doing his job.

The quality of Linda Howard's romantic suspense novels remains consistently high as affirmed by Veil of Night. The tale is filled with tense intrigue, a strong police procedural investigation, a memorable cast, plenty of humor and a powerful lead couple - the cop and the suspect who go from lust to distrust as Eric performs his job. This is a must read.

Siren
John Everson
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
www.dorchesterpub.com
9780843963540, $7.99, www.amazon.com

When Josh drowned, his death also figuratively killed his parents Evan and Sarah. Suffering from aquaphobia, Evan watched in horror as his son drowned. Now he watches in horror as his beloved wife drowns her sorrow with alcohol.

Over a year since the tragedy, Evan meets naked Ligeia on the beach he tramps every night before bringing his intoxicated wife home from the bar. She provides Evan with an escape from his nightmarish failure as a father and now a husband. She sexually entices him with her perfect body and her silky voice drowns out Josh's plea to him for help. Mostly she makes him forget, but not entirely as he tries to ignore her siren's call by returning to his wife.

Siren plays out on two levels; as a horror thriller and as a psychological family drama. There is also a second subplot that provides the audience with a late nineteenth century look at Ligeia's past, which is a two edged sword depending on the reader's taste; on the one hand it anchors the siren story line, but also detracts from the reader's imagination of whether she is true or a desperate figment of grieving Evan's psyche. Still this is a powerful thriller as John Everson uses the loss of an offspring as the springboard to the gripping Siren.

Wolf Runner
Constance O'Banyon
Leisure
9780843964394, $7.99

Among the Montana Blackfoot, half-breed Wolf Runner is unafraid of their enemies and is willing to risk his life to keep his people safe; his courage makes all consider him a full blood. His Indian mother sends him by train accompanied by his wolf to New Mexico Territory on a mission for a white family friend Ivy Gatlin who is dying. Ivy wants an escort to take her granddaughter Cheyenne, a half-breed treated with disdain as an abomination by the residents of Santa Fe, to her maternal grandfather.

When Cheyenne meets Wolf Runner; she is stunned by his confidence amongst the whites and later the Indians. She compares herself to her new hero and knows she is lacking as she fears everyone. On the journey north to her grandfather, she falls in love with her guide, but detests his mercilessness even as his cold actions save their lives. He falls in love, but is promised to Blue Dawn; though the words of family friend widower Cullen is to marry the wrong woman is worse than being alone with only memories of the right woman to warm your heart.

This is a wonderful Indian romance starring two likable but different lead protagonists. The story line is character driven by the two half-breeds as they fall in love during their perilous trek, but know their match is taboo. Although the ending seems contrived, readers will enjoy this strong late nineteenth century historical.

Montana Dawn
Caroline Fyffe
Leisure
9780843964271, $6.99

In 1883 in the Montana Territory, while on a drive cattleman Luke McCutchen hears a scream while riding. He investigates a wagon where he finds a woman biting on wood. He goes to help her, but her young "son" Cullen hits him with a frying pan. He helps Faith Brown give birth.

Faith has fled Nebraska and her late husband's family. They accused her of killing her spouse Samuel and demand she marry her evil brother-in-law Ward, who covets her spread near Kearney. A desperate Faith takes a chance on Luke and his men keeping her and her kids safe although she fears she has placed Luke and the others in peril when the odious Ward catches up to her as she expects. While falling in love on the trail, her lies keeps her from fully turning to Luke, who loves the three stragglers he found.

Caroline Fyffe's second late nineteenth century Great Plains Americana romance (see Where the Wind Blows) is a superb tale that grips the audience the moment that Luke investigates the scream and never slows down for even a paragraph. Like the beleaguered heroine, readers anticipate the high noon showdown in Big Sky Country as heroic Luke and despicable Ward will face off while Faith tries to do the noble thing in spite of her lies. This is an exciting winner even with stereotypical opposites of a noble hero and a vile villain.

Shadow Fall
Erin Kellison
Leisure
9780505528308, $7.99

While trying to save the life of his best friend, Custo Santovari was murdered by traitorous Spencer, an apparent wraith supporter. The Shadowman brings Custo to heaven where his courage and willingness to die for his buddy makes him an angel. However, Custo's goal is to get back to America to warn his BFF Adam Thorne; besides he rationalizes he is too much a sinner to be an angel.

In Manhattan Annabella the ballerina magically dances causing a rift between realms. Custo returns to earth, but also making it through is Wolf the shadow hunter. Custo knows his mission is to go to the New York Segue Institute safe house to warn Adam and to keep safe Annabella from a nightmare; but nothing goes right as Adam thinks he must be a wraith and he falls in forbidden love with the :angel" he protects.

This is a fascinating urban romantic fantasy starring an obsessed lead male fleeing heaven on a quest and the woman who enables him to escape from the angels. The story line is fast-paced, as the city comes across grim and foreboding. Readers learn a little more about the wraiths since the events of Shadows Bound (Adam's romance), but Shadowman remains enigmatic. Sub-genre fans will relish the second wraith war thriller as the shadows continue to darken the earth.

The Dervish House
Ian McDonald
Pyr
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
www.prometheusbooks.com
9781616142049, $26.00, www.amazon.com

In 2027 in Istanbul, Turkey Necdet rides the jammed tram to work, but though he is not a creep he cannot stop staring at the young woman with the red highlights and silver curls. Thus he sees first hand when she touches a jewel at her throat and detonates her head. The exploding skull panics everybody.

The nanotechnological Swarmbots gizmos investigate what seems like a loner suicide bomber. Necdet knows he must elude the Swarmbots because they have ways of knowing everything; he must not reveal that he is moving into the Dervish House for fear he will destroy his brother's plan to use the home as a sanctuary for an underground Islamic group. The timing for the move is bad especially as the country celebrates its fifth decade as a member of the EU, which means terrorists will blow themselves and others up for some obscure inane cause in God's name and law enforcement will sweep anyone regardless of criminality.

This is a complicated gloomy science fiction novel that extrapolates current trends in politics, economics, religion, science, technology and social terrorism into a strong enthralling thriller. The cast is solid starting with Necdet and the Swarmbots while the story line is fast-paced and extremely dark. Readers will appreciate Ian McDonald's ominous near future as 1984 comes to full throttle in his vision of 2027.

The Hounds of Avalon
Mark Chadbourne
PYR
9781616142032, $16.00

Since the Fall devastated earth with the return to magic as the prime power source, governments are collapsing around the world and with their breakdowns civilization as we know it no longer exists. Optimistically the future is bleak; realistically there is no future. That assessment was even before the pandemic plague struck.

As mankind is on the precipice of extinction, the potential for survival has diminished much further for the Void has emerged. The Void lives for all other essences even its armies to die. Desperately trying to regroup and find a resolution to prevent the Void from nullifying all life, the British government leaders try a Hail Mary ploy by going after one of the Brothers and Sisters of the Dragons. They abduct Mallory to use as their counter weapon against the forces of the Void. However, in their naivety they leave behind a critically wounded and perhaps dying Sophie; weakening the already waning strength of the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons. With insider help, Mallory escapes and joins his brethren in a last stand against first the Void's invincible armies and if miraculously successful and still somehow alive then they will battle against the Void; human existence is at stake.

The final The Dark Age fantasy is a great ending to a complicated mythos as the world appears to be blinking out. The story line is fast-paced from the onset while the focus is somewhat different from that of its predecessors (see Devil in Green and Queen of Sinister) as the reader obtains a deeper look at pillars of civilization like government imploding. The Void is a terrific unique end of life essence as it devours the world with only the Dragon siblings sort of like a team of David (or the fantastic Four against Galactus) the only slim prayer. To appreciate fully the Chadbourne Dark Age, readers need to start at the beginning; it is worth the journey.

Married with Zombies
Jesse Petersen
Orbit Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
www.hachettebookgroup.com
9780316102865, $7.99, www.amazon.com

Seattle based David and Sarah hope to salvage their faltering marriage as they love one another. When they go to their appointment with their marriage counselor, they find Dr. Erica Kelly dining on another couple. Shocked, they flee in spite of charges for a missed visit.

They manage to reach their home safely, but remain stunned with what they witnessed. After discussing what next, David and Sarah decide to visit his sister in nearby Longview to insure she is okay. Everywhere they go they are chased by a zombie horde. Having seen the Romero and Ron Zombie films and other sub-genre movies of the walking dead, they know how to fight the enemy. As they remain struggling first with seemingly irreconcilable differences, they team up as married slayers battling the dead while having each other's back but also thinking of placing the knife elsewhere.

Based on the principle the "couple who slays together stays together"; Married with Zombies is a fun lighthearted horror thriller that never takes itself even remotely seriously. Fast-paced, but eventually repetitive with a ton of zombie tangos and dysfunctional marital discord, this remains an amusing lampooning of zombie fever.

Blameless
Gail Carriger
Orbit
9780316074155, $7.99

Lady Alexia Maccon is a soulless, forever denied an eternal home because she was born without a soul; her touch renders supernaturals (vampires and werewolves) human for a period of time. She is the only known female soulless and her husband Scottish Earl Maccon, a werewolf, denounced her and tossed her out of his pack because she is pregnant. He knows the fetus is not his as werewolves cannot procreate so she obviously cheated. She is fuming at her spouse as she knows that she was only with him.

Alexia returns to her parents' home in England and they are upset because of the scandal she caused; which she notices does not include her spouse. When they learn she is pregnant, they throw her out as they know she cuckolded her husband as werewolves cannot procreate.

In London, vampires try to kill her and ladybugs attack her so she flees to the continent where the supernatural are uninterested in human affairs. She ends up in Florence captured by the Knights Templar because she can be a weapon. However, when they learn of her condition and what she might give birth to they want her dead. Only a miracle can save her and her unborn as everyone she encounters fears the abomination she carries.

The third Parasol Protectorate tale (see Soulless and Changeless) is an action-packed, at times amusing, but always suspenseful historical urban fantasy. Readers will root for the intrepid unsinkable heroine who does not adhere to Victorian societal rules. Usually mild mannered, only her husband can raise her ire, which leads to her landing in out of control dangerous scenarios. This alternate Victorian world storyline is an enthralling thriller.

Land of the Burning Sands
Rachel Neumeier
Orbit
9780316072793, $7.99

The Kingdom of Casmantium used griffins and the magic of fire to annex territory from its neighbor Feierabiand, but the subsequent war ended in abject defeat (see Lord of the Changing Winds). However, inside Casmantium, the loss has led to a power struggle as the fuming griffins have filled much of the void and are overtly hostile to the other sentient species especially the last surviving mage.

Convicted to a life of slavery Gereint Enseichen also believes the debacle has given him a chance to escape from his servitude. However, instead of freedom across the border, he finds himself caught in the middle of trying to prevent the griffins from turning the kingdom into a graveyard of burning sand as they are doing with the city of Melentser; ceded to them during the peace treaty. His mentor Amnachudran rescues Geraint from his botched plan; he and his wife send Gereint to Bredichboden to become an assistant to their brilliant absent minded scientist daughter Tehre. Back in his ho me city, the adventures continue as Gereint fears he will be caught while the King tries to save his throne.

While the griffins who starred in the first book take a bit of a respite, Gereint picks up the mantle of driving the story line as he tries to stay free. The story line is fast-paced from start to finish and the aftermath of a bitter defeat is made worse when everyone expected the glory of victory which is the vivid focus of this terrific fantasy. The middle Griffin Mage Trilogy thriller is a terrific entry as the action never stops coming while the cast is superb especially the convicted slave and the scientist.

Bad Blood
John Sandford
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
www.penguin.com
9780399156908, $27.95, www.amazon.com

Bob Tripp, in charge of the Battenberg Farmer's Co-op grain elevator patiently waits for Jacob Flood to arrive to deposit his crop; Bob plans to kill Jacob. His scheme works perfectly as the police arrive at the scene and conclude he was murdered by Tripp rather than the accident the young man claimed happened. They arrest Tripp who is placed in a jail cell with overnight deputy Jim Crocker remaining in the office. While in the jail Tripp dies in what looks like a suicide, but is a homicide while at his home Crocker is also dead with the evidence pointing towards a female.

Because of a conflict of interest, Warren County Sheriff Lee Coakley asks BIA Agent Virgil Flowers for assistance. They drive separately to Homestead where the killings occurred. The pair learns that two of the victims belonged to the cult World of Spirit where rumors of rape, incest, and young teen brides are acceptable practices. Virgil and the sheriff also know they have no legal admissible evidence as the cult members stick closel y together circling the wagons. Knowing the innocent are being harmed, the two law enforcement officials continual their diligence, but remain clueless.

With his fourth Flowers (and the zillion Prey tales) thriller, John Sandford once again affirms he is amongst the top echelon in the police procedural sub-genre. Virgil has a wicked sense of humor that distinguishes him, but when it comes to a case he is serious and meticulous. With plenty of murder, mayhem, and more, fans will enjoy the investigation by "F" Flowers and the female sheriff.

Pirates of the Levant
Arturo Perez-Reverte
Putnam
9780399156649, $25.95

In the year 1627 sword for hire Captain Alatriste and his former page Inigo now an adult seventeen year older soldier in his own right, are on board the Spanish galleon Mulata. When not at sea battling Spain's enemies and collecting booty, they are based in Naples. It is in Naples that Inigo shows he needs more time to grow up as he tangles with a swindling gang and needs his former mentor's help to keep him safe.

They have adventures as they catch and bound their enemies and sell prisoners as slaves for booty. In a remote Spanish port on the North African island Oran, Captain Alatriste and Inigo meet Sebastian Copons whose supervisor refuses to allow him to leave the island because he needs all the soldiers he can deploy. After Alatriste tries to buy his friend's freedom, Gurriat the Moor sees the captain in action and attaches himself to him and earns a berth on the Mulata. The four of them and the rest of the Mulata crew believe they are going to die in battle against several Turkish ships, but refuse to back down.

This is the final book in the swashbuckling Alatristo historical saga and like its predecessors (see Cavalier in a Yellow Doublet, The King's Gold, The Sun Over Breda, Purity of Blood and Captain Alatristo) this entry vividly brings to life historical Spain as if the reader is there. The audience observes as if at the front the Christian civil war with the Mohammedans (Moors) as religious intolerance led to strife and conflict. Pirates of the Levant makes the Edwin Starr case of the ugliest of "War, what is it good for; absolutely nothing" inside a great adventure thriller.

The Mullah's Storm
Thomas W. Young
Putnam
9780399156922, $25.95

In Afghanistan, the C-130 Hercules transport plane left Bagram Air Base to deliver a Taliban Mullah prisoner for interrogation when the storm hit. The heavy blowing snow made visibility impossible and a rapid drop in pressure made flying even more dangerous. However, a surface to air missile strikes the plane causing it to crash in the mountainous lethal Hindu Kush region. The crew has several dead or severely injured; the blizzard cuts them off from immediate rescue while the Taliban who know the area intimately are coming to rescue the Mullah.

With broken legs keeping him trapped, Lieutenant Colonel Fisher assigns the highest ranking person standing navigator Major Michael Parson and Army Pashto interpreter and cultural awareness expert Master Sergeant Gold to escort the Mullah to the authorities. The enemy who heed the Mullah's call to bring hell to the Americans and their allies know the terrain made more treacherous by the storm while his two escorts already believe they are traveling in a frozen hell. The Taliban hunt them abetted by frightened villagers and the Mullah who prays for deliverance.

This is an action packed military thriller that brings alive the stark reality of war in Afghanistan. The Air Force navigator and the Army interpreter are fully drawn characters, but it is the prisoner they escort who owns the plot (along with his country).as his beliefs profoundly contrast with prevalent Western philosophy. The suspense is summed up by author Thomas W. Young as an airman in Afghanistan: ", what scared me the most wasn't the thought of getting shot down and killed. It was the thought of getting shot down and not killed"

The Rembrandt Affair
Daniel Silva
Putnam
9780399156588, $26.95

Art restorer and retired Mossad agent Gabriel Allon and his agent second wife Chiara retreat to Glastonbury, England for some R&R and a return to normalcy after the recent near fatal abduction of her (see The Defector). However, the respite ends when Allon lear ns a dear colleague was murdered and the Rembrandt painting the victim was restoring was stolen. Unable to hide on the sidelines, Allon investigates.

Allon's inquiry into a theft turned ugly takes him into the underbelly of capitalism as European firms clandestinely and illegally are selling reactor centrifuges to Iran. He realizes all nuclear waste in this case leads to Switzerland. Knowing he cannot go it alone, Allon calls in his former crew mates.

The latest Allon thriller is a terrific tale that has a different feel to the story line. The tale starts off as a mystery, but the clues turn the plot into an action-packed espionage thriller. Fast-paced regardless of genre, The Rembrandt Affair has the hero doing his usual quality job as he comes out of retirement to try to prevent the illegal sales to Iran. The escapades never stop until after the final confrontation; yet the key that refreshes this entry is Allon, who on the surface seems the same as in his previous appearances, but long time fans will notice subtle but fascinating differences.

Wait for Dusk
Jocelyn Drake
Eos Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
www.harpercollins.com
9780061851810, $7.99, www.amazon.com

He hammered her in the jaw cursing Mira for being a nightwalker as if that is the most sinful abomination in creation. Still recovering from her successful but harrowing triumph that has kept the perilous Bori from conquering humanity (see Pray for Dawn; better yet the entire Dark Days saga), Mira is further stunned when the man battering her claims to be her father. In between the vicious beating, she insists her dad is dead, but he proclaims otherwise and demands she use her paranormal power of being the only nightwalker who brings the fire for his profit or she and her loved ones and allies will suffer the consequences.

The coven makes her an Elder and sends her to Budapest to repel the deadly onslaught of the Naturi incursion. Mira fears a set-up as she knows few if any trust her because her skills make her unique by placing her with a foot in each camp. She turns to Danaus the vampire slayer for back-up. However, in Hungary, as she learns who her dearest so called dad is, Mira is right about treachery, but wrong as to the source.

As dark and bloody as its four predecessors, Wait for Dusk is a terrific entry in which this round Mira tells the tale. The story line continues the overarching theme of back stabling treachery with the mantra trust no one especially family and loved ones. Readers will appreciate this urban fantasy as the European vampire and human communities are being overrun by the insidious bellicose Naturi.

The Waters Rising
Sheri S. Tepper
Eos
9780061958878, $26.99

The Big Kill has left the earth shattered as most life died during the pandemic mass murders by the unseen Slaughterers. However, the survivors of the onslaught have no respite as a second potentially deadly threat has arisen. In places like Norland, the sea is overwhelming land masses with decreasingly safe places to stay.

Young Xulai is a no more than a superfluous gnat in the scheme of those struggling with surviving the rising waters. When she meets an apparent Slaughterer apparition, she flees for her life. However, unlike her species who feels she is a throwaway to disregard, that deadly beast recognizes her potential as the only person who could save mankind. To insure the extinction of humanity this predator goes after Xulai planning to kill her.

Returning to the Plague of Angels realm, The Waters Rising is a clever enjoyable post apocalyptic thriller that deftly uses a Noah like tale to disparage current societies for their disregard and abuse of the planet. The cautionary story line is fast-paced as a frightened heroine arises amidst the shrinking livable land. Readers (except for deniers) will relish Xulai's coming of age escapades as she and her idealistic cohorts simply hope and pray they can save mankind though some of them doubt whether humanity deserves a third chance.

The Last Lie
Stephen White
Dutton
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd fl., New York, NY 10014-3657
www.penguinputnam.com
9780525951773, $26.99, www.amazon.com

In Boulder, Colorado, psychologist Dr. Alan Gregory and wife Assistant District Attorney Lauren meet new neighbors renowned attorney Mattin Snow and his wife. Alan and Lauren are worried how their adopted son Jonas will react to the sale of his family home, but he conceals his feelings. Meanwhile the day after a welcome to the neighborhood party, a widow claims she was raped at the Gregory house where she was sleeping off to much wine.

Lauren and their friend BPD Detective Sam Purdy and his partner Detective Lucy Davenport investigate. Alan obtains information on the allegation from his peer Hella Zoet who says the victim "The Burning Man Woman" formerly dubbed "The Three Wood Widow" called her to tell her about being acquaintance raped. Soon a witness is dead and Alan fears more will follow.

Though there appears to be major conflicts if interest issues (then again there is Justice Scalia argument otherwise); the latest Dr. Gregory case is an intriguing thriller as he and his wife (with the cops) compete with their respective investigations; each side going down a different not quite parallel path. Action-packed, but character driven, fans of the series will enjoy Gregory back in Colorado after a stint in New England (see The Siege).

Jump Gate Twist
Mark L. Van Name
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
www.baen.com
9781439133705, $12.00, www.amazon.com

This omnibus focuses on the distant future outer space adventures of Jon Moore nanotech warrior and his partner Lobo the artificially intelligent Predator-Class Assault Vehicle. The tale contains two novels, two short stories and several articles.

"My Sister, My Self". On Pinkelponker, Jenny heals an injured Jon.

"One Jump Ahead". Pinkelponker has been shut off from the rest of civilization, but Jon got off planet before the blockade could be enforced. He travels to Macken for R&R hoping to forget his warrior past although his nanotech enhanced body serves as a constant reminder. Jon is informed of the kidnapping of a girl Jasmine. Her father affluent Ron Slake of Kelco hires Jon to rescue his daughter from the Gardeners who demand Kelco leave. Jon finds a broken Predator-class assault vehicle Lobo that he borrows to challenge the Gardeners.

"Slanted Jack". Jon and Lobo become couriers, but Moore discovers his partner is incredibly intelligent with emotional issues that make the killing machine confrontational. At a restaurant in the Falls, con artist Slanted Jack arrives needing his aid. He ignores Jack but not the shyster's client Manu who needs help. Jon checks out the Research Institute and a warehouse owned by Dougat with Lobo's assistance leading to a secret secure basement. All hell breaks out with Jon rescuing Maggie and Jack before taking them on board Lobo. A grateful Jack injects a chemical into Jon knocking him out.

"Lobo, Actually". Before Lobo meets Jon, he worked with other humans not as sensitive to his needs.

This is a strong collection in which the two shorts tells the early days of Jon and Lobo respectively; while the novels are exciting action-packed though similar with the pair going from one firefight to another. The real fun is the bickering relationship between two hard-butt warriors.

His For The Taking
Sarah Parr
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
www.kensingtonbooks.com
9781420104790, $5.99, www.amazon.com

In 1794, Marquis Warrick Barry, a privateer, searches for a band of traitors. However, he lacks information so his superiors order him to marry Karly Bane, who has the data he needs to accomplish the mission. Karly resents a forced marriage and makes her feelings abundantly known to her new husband even if he is handsome

Warrick tries to earn his bride's trust while also seducing her as she is pretty, feisty and besides he believes seduction is the key to get the information she conceals. She is attracted to her new husband, but not only distrusts him with what she knows, she refuses to tell him any of her secrets that would betray people she cherishes. As they fall in love, danger mounts for each of them and her loved ones.

Following up with the next generation Barry (see Renegade), His For the Taking is a pleasant late Georgian romance. Fans will enjoy the gender war as the privateer and the pirate's daughter battle for seductive supremacy as he believes the end justifies the mean and she believes in loyalty.

Running Scared
Lisa Jackson
Zebra
9781420101829, $7.99

In 1980 Kate Summers still grieves the deaths of her husband and daughter due to a drunken driver. When she is given a chance to adopt an infant, she does not have to think about her decision; Kate instantly agrees even with the stipulations that she must ask no questions, leave Boston immediately and tell everyone she birthed the child.

For the next fifteen years, Kate raises her beloved child in Hopewell, Oregon although she always looks over her shoulder in fear that someone will know the child she loves is not hers and the adoption was probably criminal. The moment of truth that always frightened her arrives whe n Deagan O'Roarke, an illegitimate offspring of a Boston Brahman, arrives from New England and becomes a friend of the single mom and her teenage son. He begins to fall in love with both and eventually admits Jon is his son. He insists he was drunk when his cousin Bibi Sullivan seduced him. Bibi's father Robert detesting his pathetic family seeks his grandson while the rest of the brood knows what his finding the teen means to their gold spoon lifestyle.

This is an exhilarating rewriting of the author's tale Wishes with the new version emphasizing the suspense while the original the romance. Kate is terrific as she behaves like the Running Scared man in Roy Orbison's song of the same title as she always expected someone to claim Jon as theirs. When he and the extended Sullivan family converge on the Pacific Northwest, Kate knows her nightmare has come true but it is even worse than her frightening dreams as she never expected her son to be in danger . Lisa Jackson converts her tale into a taut thriller.

Driven to Ink
Karen E. Olson
Obsidian Mystery
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
http://us.penguingroup.com
9780451231574, $6.99, www.amazon.com

In Las Vegas, Brett Kavanaugh is a tattoo artist who caters to a high class clientele. Her store, The Painted Lady, is located in an upscale mall unlike her prime rival Jeff Coleman, who owns Murder Ink in an out of the way strip mall next door to a bail bondsman. When Sylvia Coleman wants to marry Bernie Applebuam, Brett lends them her car so they can drive to the chapel served by several Dean Martin imitators.

The day after she retrieves her vehicle, Brett hears a thump in the trunk. When she opens it inside is a dead Dean Martin actor. Underneath the human corpse is the remains of a rat. The victim is Ray Lucci who worked at the chapel where Sylvia and Bernie got married. Around his neck is a clip cord missing from a room of one at Brett's tattoo artists. Additionally the honeymooners are missing and not on their honeymoon. Brett and Sylvia's son Jeff investigate as she feels violated and both worry that the newlyweds and all the Martin impersonators may be in danger, but the scenario escalates dangerously when another person is killed.

Driven to Ink is a delightful amateur sleuth mystery that focuses on a Vegas that tourists rarely visit. Readers see Sin City through the eyes of residents who know what lies beneath the glitter and glamour of the Strip. This is a multilayered plot with so many twists that the audience wil l struggle with who the killer is and the motive. Karen E. Olson provides a refreshing mystery with a touch of whimsy as readers shout: will the real Dean Martin please stand up.

Scoop to Kill
Wendy Lynn Watson
Obsidian
9780451230768, $6.99

In Dalliance, Texas, Tally Jones owns the upscale ice cream parlor Remember the A-la-mode. Her sister Bree and Bree's daughter Alice work there; the three females also live together. At Dickerson College, the trio attends the annual Honor's Day festivities. Alice looks for grad student Bryan Campbell who is being honored at the program.

She finds him dead, murdered by blunt force trunk from an industrial strength stapler. The victim was charging Dr. Emily Cowper with failing him on his pre-dissertation test because he refused her sexual advances. Although nobody except his family liked Bryan, Emily starts to hang around Alice at the parlor; Tally and Brea begin to know her. When Emily calls them from her home, they rush over to see if she is okay. They find her dead with her a robe's belt tied around her neck. The police and the college quickly determine suicide due to guilt over Bryan, but the trio believes otherwise and set out to prove it.

Read this entertaining amateur sleuth on a full stomach because the ice cream descriptions and recipes lead to get a craving for the treat. As with I Scream, You Scream, the second A la mode mystery is a charming cozy filled with a likable lead trio, plenty of humor and of course mouth watering ice cream. With an inside look at the cut throat academic world as seen through the threesome with so many suspects surfacing, fans will enjoy this calorie inducing amateur sleuth.

Star Island
Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th fl., New York, NY 10019
www.randomhouse.com
9780307272584, $26.95, www.amazon.com

Singer Cheryl Bunterman alias Cherry Pye began her career as a fifteen year old at Jailbait Records. Besides her lack of any talent, Cherry cannot stop her addictions for sex, drugs, and booze. Her singing career seems tanked.

However, several people have a deep interest in Cherry's career remaining afloat. Her mother Janet Bunterman, her producer Maury Lykes and her double Ann DeLusia like the money. That is why Ann is seen about the town while Cherry is in rehab. Also interested in Cherry are developer Jackie Sebago and paparazzo Bang Abbott, as each sees money to be made from the crooner who cannot sing. Bang kidnaps Ann thinking she is Cherry by mistake while the former Florida governor Clinton "Skink" Tyree, who fell in love at first sight with Ann or is Ann as Cherry plans to rescue his darling.

This is a superb satire that lampoons the celebrity frenzy that grips Americans. The story line rips the media for how easily they are suckered by spin doctors, and the tabloid reporters for stalking the famous even placing people in danger doing so while claiming their First Amendment rights, and their readers for supporting the stalking. Also gutted is the celeb retinue and hanger-ons who are there when the money and fame are there, but vanish when the star novas. This is a winner as Carl Hiaasen leaves no prisoners in his version of "Fame".

My Hollywood
Mona Simpson
Knopf
9780307273529, $26.95

Before relocating to Southern California, Claire the composer and Paul the comedy writer shared raising their son William reasonably equal. However, in Santa Monica, Paul works long hours as a TV comedy writer; which leaves the raising of their baby almost totally to Claire.

With no time for herself or her career, Claire hires fiftyish Filipino Lola to help with William. Lola sends most of her earnings back home for her children to attend better schools. Besides caring for William, the nanny tries to help her high powered employees remain a coherent family unit as Claire and Paul seem continents adrift. Other parents realizing Lola's full value try to buy her loyalty.

Except for those who believe marriage is a sacred constitutional right, the readers will relish this stinging jocular indictment of the American marital system. Ironically the Hollywood pair lives in the same house while the nanny's family is across the Pacific, but seemingly the latter is much more content and helpful to others than her American counterpart. As Claire and Lola rotate leads so the audience can determine honesty and pretentiousness between the two mothers and their social circle this novel will make readers think about what is really important.

The Dark Vineyard
Martin Walker
Knopf
9780307270184, $23.95

In the French countryside overlooking Saint Denis, ruffians assault and set on fire a secret agricultural research station studying genetically enhanced crops. Chief of Police Benoit "Bruno" Courreges, the only cop in the rural village, investigates the arson. His prime suspects are eco-terrorist environmentalists.

At the same time, American winemaker Fernando Bondino is in the area considering the possibility of investing in the fertile land at a time when the local economy is in an empty vat. However, Fernando's aggressive behavior has alienated many of the villagers especially when he brawled with local environmentalist-winemaker Max Vannes over Jacqueline, a Canadian visitor. When Max and his adopted father winemaker Francois Cresseil are found murdered, everyone suspects the American. As Bruno makes inquiries, the mayor warns him not to alienate the prime suspect.

The sequel to Bruno, Chief of Police is a terrific French village police procedural as the Chief investigates an apparent arson, two murders, and several visitors including one from the other side of the Channel who he is attracted to while also tasting quality wine. Ironically, one of the worst crimes is dropping a bottle of '82 worth quite a few euros. The whodunit is cleverly designed, but much of the enjoyment comes from those in power like the mayor who warn Bruno not to drive an investor away with his persistent investigation. Readers will toast Martin Walker for a fine mystery.

Captured by Desire
Kira Morgan
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
www.hbgusa.com
9780446548182, $7.99, www.amazon.com

In 1548 Master Goldsmith Miss Florie Gilder understands society dictates for women; as she is the talent who makes the beautiful pieces people buy, but her foster father gets the credit as the artisan because women are not allowed to create or sell these masterpieces. She becomes upset when the only item she owns that is not for sale, a piece her late mother gave her that her biological father created, is mistakenly sold to Lady Mavis Gilbert, wife of the Selkirk sheriff Gilbert.

Florie steals her family heirloom, but Lady Mavis shouts thief and if apprehended she will be charged with theft. As she flees from the sheriff's men, Rane MacAllister, who hunts deer to feed the sheriff and the poor, shoots an arrow at her mistaken her gallop for that of an animal. He realizes his error when he gets closer. He takes the injured woman to a rundown church to heal while concealing her from the sheriff. As they fall in love, he knows his mission to the impoverished needs to come first, but he endangers it by hiding a "criminal" as he could lose his position as the sheriff's hunter or even be hung.

From the opening line of "Thief", Captured By desire is an entertaining fast-paced sixteenth century historical romance. The lead couple seems star-crossed as he is the sheriff's hunter while she is the thief the sheriff chases. Historical readers will enjoy this exciting twisting tale as love arrives when you least expect it.

Desperate Deeds
Dee Davis
Forever
9780446542029, $6.99

Daughter of a highly regarded General, Tyler Hanson served in the Army before accepting an assignment as the munitions officer for American Tactical Intelligence Command (A-Tac). She heads a mission that surprises her military team as "outsiders" even army brats with military experience are never assigned to this type of mission let alone lead it. The transport turns ugly with two of her subordinates dead and a key nanotechnological nuclear weapon stolen.

British MI-5's Intelligent Agent Owen Wakefield interrogates Tyler to learn what went wrong on the mission starting with why Tyler's father assigned the lead to her. They team up in an effort to regain what was purloined and bring military justice to the assassins. As they follow clues, the pair uncovers a dirty nuclear bomb plot with all roads leading back to her dad with one noted exception that Tyler betrayed her unit.

The latest A-Tac romantic suspense (see Dangerous Desires and Dark Deceptions) is a terrific military thriller in which the several mysteries make for a strong tale. In some ways the well-written romance takes a back seat to the intrigue. Readers will appreciate Dee Davis excellent entry in her strong series.

Deadly Fear
Cynthia Eden
Forever
9780446559249, $6.99

Since the trauma of childhood FBI profiler Monica Davenport conceals her emotions behind a seemingly impregnable wall she created ever since surviving serial killer Romeo. After that horror, sixteen years later she mentally survives and thrives by putting herself inside the minds of serial killers in order to catch these deadly vile predators and lock them away before they harm someone else.

Recently, the first cracks in her barrier have occurred as FBI Agent Luke Dante wants in as he wants her. The Bureau teams them up to bring down the notorious Watchman, who uses fear to immobilize victims. To defeat this brilliant psychopath, Monica and Luke will have to face their worst respective personal nightmare; if they unite they might overcome their baggage; if not two more filled body bags.

This is an entertaining romantic police procedural starring a fascinating heroine and a more typical alpha hunk. The story line is fast-paced throughout with a sort of second chance relationship between the lead couple as they met intimately at the Academy. Filled with tension especially when the Watchman targets Monica, fans will relish Deadly Fear as Cynthia Eden provides a taut nail biter.

Naked
Megan Hart
Spice
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
www.harlequin.ca
9780373605460, $13.95, www.amazon.com

At the annual Chrismukkah party hosted by her former boyfriend Patrick MacDonald, graphic designer Olivia Mackey notices a hunk. Patrick warns her that not only is international consultant Alex Kennedy bad news, he does not like girls. Since Patrick is gay, she assumes he means Alex is also.

Though attracted to Alex, Olivia and having had an orgasm fantasizing what she would do to him, Olivia writes him off and plans to avoid him. However, he needs a place to stay and she has an apartment to rent and needs the money. As they become neighbors, he tries to disprove her beliefs about him with hands on ease, but also hides nothing behind his facades as what she sees is what he is.

This deep erotic romance focuses on the complexities of relationships including between men as the key cast members are fully developed complicated people. The lead pairing is a refreshing unique couple as is the loving secondary support duet of Patrick and his significant other Teddy. Naked is a profound erotica as Megan Hart argues that life is convoluted because 1 + 1 does not equal 2 in the set of human interrelationships.

Mob Rules
Cameron Haley
Luna
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
www.harlequin.ca
9780373803200, $14.95, www.amazon.com

Street smart and kick butt tough Domino Riley serves as the lieutenant to six millennia old Sumerian gang boss Shanar Rashan. When a low bottom rung mage Jamal is gruesomely murdered with his magic siphoned away, LAPD and the mobs assume a rival gang took the victim out with a strong-arm declaration of war.

Domino investigates starting with talking to Jamal's ghost. The dead graffiti artist mage informs the mob lieutenant that his homicide has roots with a magical practitioner outside of their gang and not with the usual mundane competitors. Evidence mounts towards Rashan's son Adan doing the hit, but Domino knows he lacks the ability to steal the magic. She tries to keep him safe as she is seeing him, but to do so Domino breaks the rules between the mobs. Her actions place her in danger from mortal gangsters and sorcerer killers.

Although the story line is obviously a first book in a series as establishing magical Los Angeles is the prime plot, Cameron Haley provides an enjoyable opening urban fantasy noir. The cast is strong as the support players make magical L.A. seem genuine. However besides the city, this is Domino's tale as she investigates and keeps her boss' son her lover safe. Sub-genre fans will be looking forward to sequels hopefully with a more robust plot.

Book of Nathan
Curt Weeden and Richard Marek
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781933515915, $25.95, www.oceanview.com

Former advertising executive Rick Bullock runs a homeless shelter in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His late wife who succumbed to cancer had a passion to help the homeless and now he does. He is taken aback when the police arrest someo ne he knows former East Jersey State prisoner and a frequent guest of Rick's facility, Zeus for the murder of a famous televangelist in Florida. Bullock refuses to believe that Zeus who would not hurt a fly killed anyone especially this gruesome homicide.

Bullock heads to Florida to determine what he can do. He is taken aback further when his amateur inquiry leads to a lost book of the Bible that contains a definitive answer to a disturbing question and the evidence that his friend is innocent. However, someone does not want the out of state person intruding on a slam dunk case and that unknown adversary is willing to kill to achieve Zeus' conviction.

Filled with numerous surprising spins, the Book of Nathan is an enjoyable incredibly fast-paced mystery as Rick's discovery of a manuscript has the mob, pro-lifers, pro-choicers and others demanding he hand over his find or else. Over the top of High Point, readers who appreciate a twisting story line faster than a speeding bullet and will want to join Rick on his odyssey.

Murder on Elbrus
Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins
Irion Books
9780984161829, $19.95, www.irionbooks.com

Following the Murder on Mt. Everest fiasco, renowned mountain climber Scott Devlon still remains mentally shook though physically somewhat recovered. However, he knows the criticality of getting back to work so he agrees to observe a European Union conference in Ki slovodsk in Southern Russia near the continent's highest elevation the twin peaks of Mt. Elbrus to discuss refugees caused by the dispute with Georgia.

However, the conference takes an ugly spin when the First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Ivanov Livachev is murdered on Elbrus. Russian security chief at the conference immediately suspects Devlon who was with the victim. Everyone else, including the not so camouflaged American spies, supports the assertion. With Natasha and an international crew of strange bedfellows, Scott flees across the Caucasus in Chechnya with the Russians in pursuit as he seeks to expedite himself from what is an iron clad case against him.

The latest Summit Murder Mystery is a terrific tale as readers obtain a sense of elevated geography for instance how one reaches the summit of Elbrus inside a whodunit with espionage and international geopolitical issues enhancing the thriller. Scott is at his best rushing across vividly described war ravaged Chechnya as he has not fully recovered form the ordeal at the top of the world, but now needs to extract himself from a new dangerous situation in which he unsure who to trust. This is another majestic mountain climbing murder mystery.

Time Will Tell
Eddie Upnick
Eloquent Books
9781609110970, $14.95, www.strategicpublishinggroup.com

Eddie Upnick is a psychologist at a nursing home in Queens. He mentally bets on his patients as his personal coping defense mechanism though he deeply cares about each of them as they came to this adult living facility to die. His orderly world tilts on its axis when an elderly tired man with a slight German accent arrives at the "Queens Hilton" needing a place to stay for a year or two with no social security or bank assets; the man had, $90,000 cash. Married with a child and another on the way, Eddie is excited when Jeff tells his tale.

In 2133, the Nazis control the world with an iron fist. The leaders plan a global bicentennial gala to celebrate the legend of Fuhrer Hitler's rise to power. However, some dissidents want to change the present and future, but only can do so by altering the past. Four renegade scientists go back to 1938 Berlin with that in mind while two SS agents pursue th em to prevent their scheme; the twentieth and twenty-second centuries Nazis commonly deploy hideous weapons of mass destruction as collateral damage is enthusiastically endorsed. Less than a decade later, aliens arrive with plans to enslave earth once again as collateral damage is acceptable.

Opening with a riff that will remind readers of the beginning of the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, this is a fast-paced entertaining science fiction time traveling thriller. Loaded with action and a vivid look at "history", readers will want to learn what Upnick hears about the future and the past. Although the ET switch seems initially abrupt and odd, but once the reader adjusts they will enjoy Eddie's efforts to save the world as he learns one thing from Jeff and (SS Hillman) that only Time Will Tell who won.

Black Magic
Cherry Adair
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
www.pocketbooks.com
9781439153819, $7.99, www.amazon.com

In Western Australia wizard-geologist Jackson Slater is doing field work. His former fiancee wizard Sara Temple is in San Cristobel, Venezuela working on a luxurious hotel deal when the illness struck turning good well balanced people into homicidal psychopaths. When her mentor whom she considers her father since her parents died becomes ill, a panicked Sara instinctively shouts telepathically to the only man she ever loved for help. Jack still loves Sara and hears her cry and teleports to her side instantly as if he is one of Pavlov's dogs.

Based on the mounting evidence, the Wizard Council fears the serpentine Omnivatics are siphoning off the life-force and power of wizards. They also believe the pairing of Jack and Sara is the only hope to prevent the malevolence from returning to take over the world in their evil way. The chosen duo believes they are a poor matching, but agree to work together to save the world; perhaps as a by-product they can save their relationship too.

This is an exhilarating second chance romantic urban fantasy in which the paranormal elements of wizardry and the Omnivatics seem genuine. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing of two people in love, but with polar opposite beliefs when it comes to magic as she never moved pass the death of her parents so she stopped being a practitioner; they are not a yin and yang fit, but together in unity prove that in their case their love makes for an inequality as 1 + 1 > 2. Like she did with her Night T-FLAC trilogy, Cherry Adair provides an engaging thriller starring two wizards in love; this time trying to save the world.

Captured by Moonlight
Nancy Gideon
Pocket
9781439149652, $7.99

New Orleans Police Detective Charlotte "Cee Cee" Cassie has been seeing unsavory Max Savoie, but she has concealed the identity of the person she is dating from everyone even her partner Alain Babineau. Max's criminal connections make him a questionable lover for a cop. Still she hates the secrets and decides to reveal who she is seeing to her partner and the other detective at the precinct.

None of her work associates are pleased with her. When an associate of Max is murdered, he and Cee Cee argue as he knows that murderous shapeshifting trackers wants him dead, but refuses to tell her because she will dive in head first if he does. To keep his beloved safe he hides what he knows from her, but he obviously has not learned his lesson when it comes to Cee Cee (see Chased by Moonlight); nothing will keep her out of the line of fire when her loved ones are imperiled.

From the beginning, readers are captured as Max knows his Cee Cee is near from the smell of her Voodoo Love perfume. Fast-paced, fans will relish the third Moonlight romantic police procedural fantasy though similar in tone to Chased by Moonlight except that this time Max expects his beloved to nuke his attempts to keep her safe. Fans will enjoy this exhilarating romantic urban fantasy (see Masked by Moonlight) while rooting for Max and Cee Cee to find a way to be together; that is if they survive.

Dark Warrior Untamed
Alexis Morgan
Pocket
9781439175927, $7.99

Talion Greyhill Danby leaves London for Puget Sound to begin his new position to protect the Kyth's Grand Dame Kery Thorsen. When he arrives at his new office he is a bit surprised and unwelcoming to find a beautiful woman sitting inside. Assistant to the Grand Dame Piper Ryan is not shocked by his reaction to her though they share the office albeit his is on a temporary basis.

However, the ancient warrior and the administrator are at war with one another. That is until the emails begin to appear on Piper's computer which concerns both of them. When the bombing terrorist acts occur, Greyhill goes into full protective mode from an unknown adversary. Though attracted to his temporary office roommate, Greyhill adheres to his vow of protecting the Grand Dame.

The third Dark Warrior Talion political urban fantasy (see Dark Warrior Unleashed and Dark Warrior Unbroken) is a terrific tale of two distrusting individuals desiring one another with out of control hormones yet neither seems willing to take the first step. That distrust is a prime key to this strong entry as danger mounts so does their suspicion of one another as neither grasps the diabolical brilliant revenge ruse of an unknown adversary. The world Morgan continues to create feels genuine especially because of the dirty politics at play. Although the romantic subplot takes a necessary support role to the suspenseful mystery, readers will enjoy this taut Talion thriller.

The Language of Trees
Ilie Ruby
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
www.avonbooks.com
9780061898648, $14.99, www.amazon.com

In 1988, the three preadolescent Ellis siblings (Melanie, Maya and Luke) steal a canoe and row on Canandaigua Lake to Squaw Island while it is storming. However, their trek goes wrong ending with eight years old Maya accusing her older sister for the disappearance of their younger brother.

After being away for about a year, in 2000, Echo O'Connell comes home to Canandaigua to take care of her ailing dad. Her former childhood lover, Grant Shongo, once a healer with Seneca bloodlines, left Rochester to hide in his family's remote cabin still stunned that his wife Susanna left him. At the cabin, the spirit of Luke pleads with him to uncover the truth as to what happened over a decade ago as the ghost worries about his sister vanishing leaving behind her baby. Grant finds a reason to go on and soon a second one when he and Echo meet.

This is an entertaining regional paranormal mystery as the strong key cast has failed to move on pass respective tragedies. The story line affirms that forgiving (one's self) is a critical early stage in healing regardless of their personal belief system although the plot uses that of the Seneca people. What happened then and happening now are kept somewhat thin as the fully developed characters with their motivations and values (negative as well as positive) are the focus of the mystical The Language of the Trees.

Autumn's Promise
Shelley Shepard Gray
Avon
9780061852374, $12.99

Nineteen years old Lilly Allen remains grief stricken over her recent miscarriage. She also feels guilty that her family relocated from their home in Cleveland so her out-of-wedlock pregnancy can be hidden from her friends. Lilly knows she has moved by her negative reaction to the news that her forty something mom is carrying.

Twenty-four year old Amish widower carpenter Robert Miller grieves the death of his beloved wife Grace who died three years ago. His caring family and friends want him to start courting Amish women, but he is not ready. Instead he is attracted to the Englisher Lilly who he knows from stopping for breakfast at the Sugar Creek inn where she works. As they begin to date to the consternation of their families, they fall in love, but an Amish and an Englisher has little in common.

The third Seasons of Sugarcreek (See Spring's Renewal and Winter's Awakening) is a terrific contemporary Amish romance starring two people who have lost loved ones relatively recently and know the barrier between them seemingly is impenetrable. The support cast is super as his Amish friends and family and her family reject their relationship. However, this excellent entry belongs to the lead couple who each strongly believes their love has healed their respective souls but will break their hearts.

Eternal Kiss Of Darkness
Jeaniene Frost
Avon
9780061783166, $7.99

Ancient Egyptian Master Vampire Mencheres believes his life is coming to an end. Ti protects those he cherishes from an in family civil war to replace him by designating Bones as his co-ruler; especially since he expects a life and death showdown with his enemy Radjedef.

In Chicago, Ghouls seemingly have trapped Mencheres, but mortal private investigator Kira Graceling saves his life; at least she thinks so when she courageously dives into the fight. Stunned by the mortal's bravery, Mencheres finds himself dazzled by Kira who is attracted to him though fearful of the strange world she discovered when she jumped into his fight. However, as he now has a reason to live, he fears her distraction and attraction will kill both of them.

The second sidebar spin-off from the superb Night Huntress saga (see First Drop of Crimson) is a great urban fantasy as the Master vampire falls in love at an extremely bad time. Filled with action, as Mencheres tries to keep his beloved from becoming a pawn in the death match with his adversary a great risk to his existence, Jeaniene Frost continues to be one of the sub-genre's top Master mages.

Swept Away By A Kiss
Katharine Ashe
Avon
9780061965623, $7.99

In 1810 after two years of exile in Boston, Lady Valerie Monroe is on her way back home as she knows her brother Valentine the earl forgives her foolishness. Although her upper crust American relatives led by Cousin Abigail are concerned that she travels alone on a Dutch merchant ship, Valerie cannot wait to reach Portsmouth.

On the vessel Valerie meets passenger Jesuit priest, Etienne LeMarque who prefers the Anglo version of his given name Stephen. They are attracted to one another, but both hesitate. When pirates capture their ship, he keeps her safe until they are rescued. In England her hero whom she loves disappears breaking her heart. However, she is stunned when she enters a salon onl y to be introduced to her beloved Viscount Steven Ashford who loves her too. However, he has a quest to complete unaware that the adversary he seeks now has a pretty pawn to use to destroy him.

This is a wonderful Regency romance starring two likable lead characters who are fully developed so that the reader understands what motivates them besides love. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Valerie goes on deck to breathe only to find her breath stopped upon seeing Etienne. He is shocked by his attraction as he has no time for the distraction of desire. Sub-genre readers will appreciate Katharine Ashe's fine historical.

A Highland Duchess
Karen Ranney
Avon
9780061771842, $7.99

In 1864, a nervous Lady Emma arrives at Chavensworth to meet with her husband Anthony, the Duke of Herridge. She loathes and fears her cruel spouse and wishes him in hell like he has done to her. However, she is taken aback to learn her husband is dead. Known as the Ice Queen amongst the Ton, Emma wants to be a free widow, but her Uncle Peter Harding demand she marry again even before the acceptable mourning periods ends as he covets the money she would bring to him.

Laird Ian McNair breaks into Emma's boudoir demanding she return the Tulloch Sgathan that he insists belongs to the Scots, but she has no idea what the thief alludes to with this alleged mirror. When her uncle comes to lecture her, Ian knocks him out and abducts Emma. Ian is stunned by the passion he sees hidden beneath the veneer of the Widower. However though he wants to make her ignite, he knows she is betrothed to his cousin, Bryce. When Bryce suddenly dies, the Ton believed the cold haughty Emma is a black widow spider as many believe she poisoned him. Ian vows to prove her the victim of ruthless males including the real killer of his cousin.

A Highland Duchess is a superb Victorian romantic suspense starring a strong hero and a beleaguered woman. The amateur sleuth whodunit enhances an exciting romance as Ian begins melting the ice protecting his beloved's heart, but she trusts no man as all males, who should have protected her, since her dad died have been demandingly ruthless.

Last Night's Scandal
Loretta Chase
Avon
9780061632679, $7.99

1831 London, Earl Peregrine Dalmay has just returned from Egypt, but plans to go back as soon as he can make arrangements. While oversea for several years he and Olivia Wingate-Carsington became pen pals. In her writings, she made it clear that her blood lines mean trouble as they are filled with con artists, including her.

His parents ask Peregrine to manage the restoration of Gorewood castle, which is falling apart in Scotland. He says no, but ends up heading to the Scottish family property with Olivia cleverly manipulating her way onto his retinue chasing after a last adventure before respectability bites her. Nothing goes right for Peregrine at the construction sight as apparently ghosts harass him, a murder may have occurred, and Olivia haunts him. However, the Egyptologist and the con artist are not as fazed by family, homicide, spirits and other intruders as they are frightened by love.

This is a terrific jocular historical romance that will hook the audience from the opening act of his parents as drama queens driving him to Scotland for some relief and never takes a breather until the final con occurs. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy the amusing story line as Peregrine and Olivia fall in love, but must deal with family and ghosts before they can decide how to deal with each other.

Into the Crossfire
Lisa Marie Rice
Avon
9780061808265, $13.99

In San Diego former Navy SEAL Sam Reston of Reston Security is an uncover private sleuth infiltrating the Bucinski gang looking to identify who was smuggling merchandise to the recent tune of, $10M from his client. He knows how dangerous the assignment is so he avoids relationships. However, just over two weeks ago his wet dream moved next door and staying away is impossible, but he must for her safety and to keep his mind on the deadly mission.

Unable to resist, in order to get a date with Nicole Pearce, Sam gets Mayor Villarreal to vouch for his character, which His Honor does except warning her about playing poker with the shark. She should say no as she is just starting a new business and worried about her ailing father, but accepts. Neither expected love and his need to keep her safe as they uncover a terrorist plot.

This exciting and enthralling romantic suspense is a fast-paced entertaining thriller that seems any moment as if it will go over the top of the Sierras, but never quite does; a testimony to Lisa Marie Rice's skills. Sam is terrific from the onset as he counts time from how long he first saw her while Nicole proves his perfect mate making his wet dreams of her arid compared with the real thing. The smuggling and terrorism plots add tension, but the charming relationship between the lead couple as each falls in love at the same time Into the Crossfire makes this a fun tale.

Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over
Belinda Acosta
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
www.hachettebookgroup.com
9780446540520, $13.99, www.amazon.com

In San Antonio, fourteen year old Celeste Sanchez arrives at the home of her Aunt Beatriz Sanchez-Milligan as the older woman, her husband Larry and their teen children Carlos and Raul celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. Beatriz is in shock as she tells her Aunt Beatriz that her mom a Mexican labor organizer Perla died. Aunt Beatriz takes her niece into her home though Uncle Larry has doubts as wherever Perla went trouble followed.

Beatriz ignores Larry's concerns of a chip off the old block and what that will do to their kids. She wants to adopt her niece and throw Celeste a quinceanera gala. Deep inside her gut, Beatriz feels guilt for failing to stay in touch with her sister and though caring for Perla's daughter is the right thing it does not abate her remorse. When El Paso reporter Josie Mendoza arrives with a final "present" for Celeste from her late mom, he implies to Beatriz her sister was murdered. Twenty-fives years of a strong marriage begins to shatter as Larry wants the teen out with his memory of his sister-in-law tainting his feelings; while Beatriz wants her niece as part of the family partly because of her memory of her sister tainting her feelings.

The second quinceanera coming of age family drama (see Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz) is a terrific tale that centers on the characters; in this case mostly the niece and her aunt serving as a surrogate mom. The three Milligan males and Celeste's uncles (and their families) enhance the poignant passionate plot, but this is the bonding of three females as an aunt and niece grieve their loss yet also cement their love. The ending will leave readers with wet eyes.

More Church Folks
Michele Andrea Bowen
Grand Central
9780446577762, $24.99

In 1986 at the Gospel United Church, older flock members remember the two-decade plus old scandal at the Triennial General Conference (see Church Folk) as another meeting is about to convene. At this church meeting, bishops are elected to fill vacancies. Senior Bishop Percy Jennings wants good Christian males to sit in these critical seats. Bishop Jennings believes Pastors Theophilus Simmons and Eddie Tate are ideal individuals who would make super Bishops. He needs at least one of them to gain a seat if he is to clean the church of its avarice embezzlers who cannot spell Bible.

Bishop Jennings learns something nasty is occurring in Mozambique. He assigns Pastor Tate's mentee Pastor Denzelle Flowers to investigate. Denzelle's day job supervisor is elated that his ordained minister FBI agent Flowers is going to Africa to look into drug smuggling. Pastor Flowers soon discovers a scheme to sell illegal sexual enhancement drugs to Bishop Jennings' prime adversary's mentee Pastor Sonny Washington; they plan to extort the votes of those caught in an adulterous scandal.

The return to the Church Folks environs is a terrific insightful tale that once again reflects on the religious leaders being a microcosm of the larger society. Some care about the spiritual and other needs of their flock while some of the leadership care about themselves as Michele Andrea Bowen makes a strong case that just because you're a bishop or pastor does not mean you are holier than the congregation. Although the ensemble cast can be overwhelming for the reader as well as church officials, with interesting FBI intrigue enhancing the thriller, fans will relish this exciting entry as the avarice and the nurturing battle for the souls of the congregation with motives wider than the chasm be tween heaven and hell.

The Pirate Devlin
Mark Keating
Grand Central
9780446563901, $24.99

In 1717 on the West Coast of Africa, French Marine Royale Phillipe Ducos lies dying after begin run aground by pirates. The only pirate who apparently understands French is newcomer Patrick Devlin. Besides taking the dead "frog's" boots, he removes a treasure map that he conceals from his traveling companions.

Captaining the vessel Lucy, Patrick and his crew sail across the Atlantic into the Caribbean where the French guard gold. His adversary on this adventure is his former master Royal Navy Captain John Coxon under orders by the Admiralty to retrieves the treasure. Still fuming and ashamed he lost his ship to pirates, Coxon will kill anyone, British, French or pirate (and his former man-servant) who are in his way. Patrick knows he must trick British, French and pirates (and his former master) to retrieve the gold.

This is a rousing early eighteenth century swashbuckling thriller in which violence and blood flow throughout the exhilarating story line. Patrick is superb as the daring pirate captain who goes mano a mano with Blackbeard while Coxon compulsively obsesses with a need to prove he is a worthy sea captain. Readers will enjoy the confrontation between the master and the man-servant

Wicked Intentions
Elizabeth Hoyt
Grand Central
9780446558945, $6.99

In 1737 someone is murdering people in London's dark alleys. The homicides are so gruesome rumors spread that the Ghost of St. Giles is the culprit.

When his mistress becomes a victim, Lord Lazarus Huntington vows to find the killer. To make his investigation succeed, Lazarus needs help so hr asks Widow Temperance, whom he just meets over a baby rescue. Lord Lazarus Huntington needs Temperance's St. Giles' insider knowledge due to her owning the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children to assist him. She agrees on the condition he find her a patron to fund her home. They investigate in seemingly every nook and cranny of St. Giles but the psychopath seems several steps ahead of them leaving behind grisly corpses for the pair to "admire" the work. As the amateur sleuths fall in love while chasing a predator, they find the Ghost of St. Giles seems to be there when they most need it.

This is a terrific Georgian amateur sleuth romantic suspense starring a refreshing heroine and an avenging hedonist. The story line is a fast-paced cat and mouse thriller with the romantic subplot enhancing the overall tension as Temperance becomes the cheese. Historical romantic suspense fans will relish this action-packed tale as a serial killer stalks London while also being the matchmaking catalyst between the lead couple pursuing after this deadly predator.

Dog Tags
David Rosenfeld
Grand Central
9780446551526, $24.99

Billy Zimmerman was at one time a police detective; a soldier in Iraq who returned home a hero minus a leg. Unable to return to his civilian job, he became a thief. His accomplice is Milo, his former K-9 German Shepherd police partner.

On Billy's signal, Milo retrieves an envelope from a man and runs off with it. Lawyer Andy Carpenter's friend Pete asks him to get Milo out of police custody. He speaks to Billy who hires him as Milo's lawyer. Andy makes a strong presentation to free Milo who stays at his house as someone wants the envelop Milo took. Andy also represents Billy who is in jail because he was seen with the gun after the victim with the envelope was killed by the person he was talking to in a car. The case goes badly for Billy because Andy only has hunches that the killing goes back to a suicide bomber in Iraq who killed eighteen people including two American businessmen. The more research Andy conducts, the more he believes that Billy's case involves Army and Wall St. top brass. The Pentagon, FBI and other Homeland Security agents are very interested in Andy's information.

Readers will enjoy the antics of Milo and Andy as the lawyer tries to gain the trust of the K-9, but being a cop the dog distrusts attorneys. Andy needs Milo to take him to the concealed envelope. The courtroom scenes are fantastic as Andy mounts a defense wi th little evidence and plenty of theories that all seem cockamamie to him. With a message to care for of our vets (and not just politically shrill), there is plenty of action in and out of the courthouse, and a strong cast. Dog Tags is stupendous thriller.

Water Bound
Christine Feehan
Jove
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th fl., New York, NY 10014
http://us.penguingroup.com
9780515148244, $7.99, www.amazon.com

In Sea Haven, Rikki Sitmore dives for sea urchins. However, her attention radically changes when she notices a man in trouble in the swirling currents. Rikki rescues severely injured Lev Prakenskii. Besides his physical traumas, Lev suffers from situational amnesia, but is well aware he must remain hidden as someone wants him dead.

Reluctantly Rikki takes Lev to the estate she and her five "sisters of the heart" call home. Like Lev, Rikki has issues as she cherishes the water and loathes the fire as a tragedy left its imprint on her. Each has deadly enemies coming for them, but together with two hearts beating as one, they can overcome anything even lethal predators and autism.

Returning to Sea Haven, home of the Drake Sisters, Christine Feehan begins a new saga as once again some paranormal is blended inside a mystery, which in turn is inside a powerful romance. Though somewhat similar in tone to the "parent" Drake Sisters' series, the audience will relish this action-packed tale from the moment Rikki saves Lev from drowning and fans will enjoy this entertaining thriller. Ironically even with a strong love story between two traumatized souls and plenty of suspense, it is the deep look at what haunts the pair especially Rikki and the tragic fire that brings compassion to the tale.

Midnight Crystal
Jayne Castle
Jove
9780515148367, $7.99

The new head of the Frequency Guild is Adam Winters appointed to clean up the corrupt organization. He is also the direct descendent of Nicholas Winters who found a way to enhance psychic skills. However, his concept was flawed with a curse to those who have the genetic marker. That person becomes a Cerberus, a person with three diverse psychic talents who will eventually go insane and must be killed; unless he can find the Burning Lamp and the female guide who can use dreamlight.

Adam believes he is cursed but when he meets the head of a private investigation agency Marlowe Jones who can manipulate dreamlight she fixes his brain section that was damaged. They team up to go into the underground because fractures in the walls in a certain part of the maze means the whole place blows up killing many unless Marlowe and Adam can fix it. Before they have a chance to catch their breath, they meet the traitor in the Guild who wants to kill both of them, and probably will succeed.

Connecting the Krentz universe with the clever Dreamlight trilogy (see Fired Up by Jayne Anne Krentz and The Burning Lamp by Amanda Quick), Midnight Crystal is a terrific entry that fans of the author will relish. The story line is fast-paced and action-packed. In some ways similar in tone to the previous entries in this arc yet different as time and place widely varies (hence the three names the author uses to delineate historical, present and future). This is a winning stand alone, but the brilliance of the author comes across by reading and comparing the trilogy.

Tempting Fire
Sydney Croft
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
www.randomhouse.com
9780385342285, $15.00, www.amazon.com

In the Brazilian rainforest, a force massacres a highly regarded elite Navy SEALs unit. Cryptozoologist experts insist the Chupacabra predator cannot exist in spite of the shocking evidence that they agree speaks otherwise especially with the only survivor Chance McCormack insisting so.

Agency for Covert Rare Operatives (ACRO) sends field agents Sela Kahne who brings expertise on the mythic logical Chupacabra and Marlena West to investigate. Sela has another skill of being able to read the mind of her partner while they make love. She needs to do so with Chance, but is attracted to the man who saved the SEAL and leads their expedition Logan Mills; at the same time Chance and Marlena pair up. Meanwhile vicious Phoebe of ITOR also wants the Chupacabra.

The latest ACRO paranormal romantic suspense thriller (see Riding the Storm, Seduced by the Storm and Taming the Fire) is a strong tale with a legendary beastly spin. The lead foursome makes the rumble in the jungle seem genuine as they chase after the Chupacabra; a creature they hope does not exist while also falling in love. Series fans will appreciate the latest confrontation with ITOR over the Chupacabra.

When Blood Calls
J.K. Beck
Bantam
9780440245773, $7.99

Manhattan-based government attorney Sara Constantine is euphoric following her win in court. She celebrates her victory by spending a heated one night stand with stranger, Lucius Dragos; who is at the tavern because Braddock, who he will kill later that night, is there. Sara is rewarded with a promotion to Division 6; whose lawyers prosecute vampires, werewolves, hellhounds and demons.

To her chagrin, fate deflates her enthusiasm when she is assigned to argue the government's case against alleged killer Lucius Dragos. He likes Sara and not just because of the great sex. She somehow abates his demon. He argues she needs to take the blindfold off as he insists justice is not a blind legal adherence to the law because where evil deserves death; while she insists the law is the law even as she wonders if the man she prosecutes and loves is a vampire.

Ignoring conflict of interest based on the Judge Scalia defense of not recusing In Cheney v. United States District Court for the District of Columbia Supreme Court case, this is a fascinating legal thriller inside an urban fantasy settin g with a touch of romance. Though there is plenty of action in the first Shadow Keepers thriller, the story line is owned by the lead couple who debate justice. Readers will believe the Beck universe is real while pondering the same questions that disturb dedicated prosecutor Sara. If someone murders a serial killer they may be legally a criminal but morally are they delivering justice to an amoral ergo inhuman predator? That is the essence of Lucius' argument as he insists he killed a malevolence that deserved death, but as Sara (and the audience) ponders should he be judge, jury and executioner as a seemingly vigilante. Their falling in love enhances the legal vs. moral argument.

Perfect Blend
Sue Margolis
Bantam
9780385339018, $15.00

In London Amy Brown left the public relations field to raise her son Charlie as a single mom. Now that he is six years old and in school, she has returned to work planning to become a freelance reporter, but fails to obtain any work in the field. She works at her friend Brian Potter's Cafe Mozart coffee shop.

Brian has a commitment phobia as he goes through women faster than his customers can drink a cup of coffee. Amy's other best friend Bel is a struggling actress who earns a living doing electronic messages. She always meets brutes. Amy believes her two BFFs are meant for each other.

When her opinionated sister Victoria opens her mouth most people including her parents and their significant others ignore her. Architect Sam Draper challenges Victoria's latest assertion. Even though he is building a nearby mega coffee shop for a client, Amy instantly likes and admires him for speaking back while he is attracted to her. However, she also knows that when her boyfriends me et Charlie, they flee.

This is a fascinating slice of life in modern day London with Amy as the anchor of the entertaining story line. Each of the key players has issues that frighten them, but the underlying premise is as bad as these seem the world will breathe tomorrow. That enchanting generalization also detracts slightly from the specificity of the tsuris like Brian's terror of going bankrupt, Victoria's fear of inadequacy and Amy's efforts to be a working single mom. Still fast-paced with a touch of jocularity, fans will enjoy this lighthearted contemporary.

The Paramour's Daughter
Wendy Hornsby
Perservance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564744968, $14.95, www.amazon.com

Independent film producer Maggie MacGowan is in the parking lot about to go shopping when she is accosted by a strange well dressed woman who insists she knows her. Nervous, Maggie asks store security to get the stranger to leave her alone. That same night the woman is run over twice by the same car. Maggie identifies the body as the person who disturbed her earlier in the day. Her mother informs Maggie the deceased is Isabelle Martin.

Her mom also tells Maggie the woman was her biological mother who her father had an affair with and eventually gained custody of the baby as Isabelle abandoned her. Maggie wants to meet her extended biological family residing in France. However, she is ignorant that at least one of them will do anything to keep the inheritance from shifting to the American. Someone does not want that to happen and attempts to kill Maggie as that individual used hit men to murder Isabelle

The Paramour's Daughter plays out on two interwoven threads: that of a whodunit and a woman seeking her biological roots in France where she is unwelcome as the "Ugly American" trying to steal "their" fortune. Maggie may mourn the loss of someone she never knew, but also is interested in a French diplomat, which adds sizzle to the Family Plot of homicide attempts. Wendy Hornsby prov ides a terrific tale starring a likable person.

Arsenic and Old Paint
Hailey Lind
Perseverance
9781564744906, $14.95

In San Francisco, former forger turned decorative artist Annie Kincaid and her two assistants restore an exclusive men's club housed in a historic brownstone in the Nob Hill section. They are interrupted when they hear a scream. The three restorers head down a flight of stairs to the source. There they find a maid looking in horror at a man in th e bathtub with a sword in his chest.

SFPD Inspector Annette Crawford leads the investigation starting with warning Annie to butt out as they have butted heads before. Meanwhile Annie's art mentor "Uncle" Anton Woznikowicz is very ill from arsenic poisoning and an insurance adjuster wants to hire her to locate a stolen erotic painting.

Aptly titled, the newest Art Lover's mystery (see Brush with Death) is a wonderful tale as Annie connects the dots between the bathtub homicide and the attempted murder of her uncle. She vows vengeance on the culprit while Crawford wants her to chill and stay out of her way. Readers will relish Annie's efforts as she ignores the cop and tries to get her lover alleged art thief Michael X. Johnson to help her. Annie and the support cast including San Francisco make the whodunit fun.

Dick and Jane and Vampires
Laura Marchesani
illustrated by Tommy Hunt
Grosset & Dunlap
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th fl., New York, NY 10014
www.penguin.com
9780448455686, $9.99, www.amazon.com

Dick and Jane are surprised to see a bat. Over time, the bat is comfortable with Dick and Jane, their parents and their baby sister Sally. He shapeshifts into a Vampire and becomes friends with Dick and Jane. Soon he is playing with them and welcomed by the rest of family though dad is a bite or two concerned that he may have a cape wearing rival. Eventually the milkman delivers bottles of blood along with milk.

Broken into three short stories with illustrations, this is a lighthearted romp that early elementary school children and older readers who grew up on Dick and Jane will enjoy. Each tale is further broken into short shorts so that the younger readers can take breaks. Although I think a child vampire instead of an adult would be more apropos especially playing with the children, the targeted audience to include nostalgic boomers and the older Gen X will enjoy Dick and Jane making new friends summed up: "See Dick Play. See Jane Play. See Dick and Jane Play with a vampire!"

The Lacuna
Barbara Kingsolver
Harper
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022-5299
www.harpercollins.com
9780060852580, $16.99, www.amazon.com

His father is an American who has nothing to do with him; his mother is a Mexican who sort of raised him, but parenting was not her gig. Thus early on, Harrison William Shepherd learned to take care of himself as he grew up in Mexico without the benefit of schooling. He found books and loved reading; self taught of course. He begins writing as an adolescent; claiming his work is that of Mexican notorieties like artists Rivera and Kahlo, and Russian Bolshevik exile Trotsky; eventually he meets some of his heroes.

When his hero Trotsky is assassinated allegedly by another Bolshevik, Harrison heeds the advice of Kahlo to flee for America to become a full time writer. He authors historical fiction while supporting the Communist Worker's Movement in North America until 1951when the Congressional Committee on Un-American Activities orders him to testify.

The Lacuna is a an intriguing historical epic that uses diaries and memoirs to tell the tale of the Communist movement in Mexico and the United States starting from the Great Depression until the McCarthy hearings. The story line is very deep as the audience sees into the souls of the two artists (and their works) as well as to a lesser degree Trotsky amongst other leading lights in the North American "heyday" of Communism. Although the pace is slow and never accelerates, the story line is insightful and in many ways cautionary as Barbara Kingsolver provides a powerful look at two decades in American and Mexican history that has reverberations with today's recession.

The Blessings of the Animals
Katrina Kittle
Harper
9780061906077, $14.99

In Ohio, after eighteen years of marriage her husband Bobby leaves veterinarian Cam Anderson and their teenage daughter Gabriella. When Sheriff Metz calls for her help with dead and dying horses, Bobby ends their marriage rationalizing if she only asked him to help.

That same afternoon, she knows it is over with Bobby when she catches him with a younger woman. Despondent, Cam notices other successful relationships like her parents celebrating their golden wedding anniversary; her BFF (Bobby's sister) is engaged to a nice man, and her gay brother Davy and his for life mate are adopting a child. She distrusts her heart as being fickle, but soon learns she is not alone with broken dreams when Davy's adoption plans fail and her daughter Gabriella has turned from sweet to caustic sour. Still as she helps a cranky geriatric horse, she reflects on her life and where she wants it to go; concluding with the ironic help of her horsy patient so far in spite of Bobby's desertion, it's a wonderful life especially with other men vying to enter it.

This is a profound look at relationships through mostly the eyes of someone who realizes the healing Blessings of the Animals; a feeling I personally agree with Katrina Kittle as my husband always insists my significant other was Max the dog. The story line is character driven as fans see how the lead protagonists and people in her sphere observe their relationships with others especially loved ones. If you prefer save the world action look elsewhere, but those who appreciate a superb well written drama that focuses on saving a soul or two will relish this deep one sitting tale; an aging steed serves as Clarence Oddbody figuratively teaching the depressed vet how to move on with her wonderful life.

Fever of the Bone
Val McDermid
Harper
9780061986482, $14.99

In Bradfield, England someone is using the social networking website RigMarole to meet teens in person before killing them ; two victims so far. The hot case police make little progress with their investigation. However, Cold Case team leader DCI Carol Jordan and her unit find clues. She asks her new boss to allow her to use profiling expert Tony Hill, but James Burke says he is too expensive so they use an in house profiler.

Tony recently inherited the large estate of his late father, who had abandoned him as a baby. He travels to Worcester to sort through what he was bequest. The Worcester police department hires him to profile a murderer who killed a teenager. Carol cannot discuss her case with Tony, but soon they realize that in all probability the same predator murdered the teens in Bradfield and Worcester.

Although the police procedural elements are superb, the strength of the latest Hill-Jordan thriller is in the personal lives of the parents of the victims and the profiler. The parents struggle with their loss as they are good people coping with a tragedy that they thought they could prevent by warning their children not to socially in person meet strangers who seem friendly online. Tony tries to understand the father he has spent a lifetime hating and encouraged by his mother to do so; fans will hope he moves on to the next level with Carol. With a strong Internet social network whodunit and personal subplots, Fever of the Bone is a winner.

The Jewel of St. Petersburg
Kate Furnivall
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, NY, NY 10014
www.penguin.com
9780425234235, $15.00, www.amazon.com

In 1910 Valentina Ivanova is considered The Jewel of St. Petersburg aristocratic society. However, she does not want to be the top diamond as she is uninterested in being the image of the young paragon. Instead Valentina wants to become a nurse and prefers not to wed the chosen Count selected for her.

When she meets visiting Danish engineer Jen Friis, she falls in love, but her parents reject the non-Russian working class outsider. As the embittered squabble between the Duma and the Tsar heats up with the Bolsheviks fomenting more trouble, Valentina must choose between the people she love; her younger sister who needs had and her parents vs. Jen who wants to take her and their love child back to Denmark.

This prequel to Valentina Ivanova's later tale in The Russian Concubine and her daughter's saga as the Girl From Junchow describes her early days before the Revolution with a deep vivid look at a teetering tsarist Russia. The story line brings out the era while the love story of the Dane and the Russia is beautifully depicted as she as the title character who struggles with heart wrenching choices at a time her world is collapsing. This is a wonderful historical fiction novel.

The Book of Peach
Penelope J. Stokes
Berkley
9780425234495, $15.00

She grew up under the boring auspices of her mother and grandmother who insisted she be a "Southern Lady" at all times. Priscilla Bell Posner "Peach" Rondell envied the freedom of being ignored by the matriarchs that her brother Harry had and the ease of her much older sister Melanie seemed to adapt to being another iron maiden. The first chance she got to escape from Chulahatchie, Mississippi and their home Belladonna, Peach did.

Now twenty-three years later, divorced from Robert after two plus decades of marriage, the former Miss Mississippi runner-up has come home following the advice of her white-hair shrink to confront her mommy demons. She uses a journal to write down her thoughts as escapism from her widow mom who has not changed one iota from her adherence to the Southern Lady rules of public behavior. She also begins an affair with soon to be divorced Charles Chase whom she met at the Piggily Wiggly fruit aisle. However, Peach finds the most solace at the Heartbreak Cafe, where she writes her musings and becomes a member of a motley crew who would be unacceptable to mom.

The Book of Peach returns readers to the same setting as the Heartbreak Cafe (the latter's star Dell makes key appearances in this tale too) in a satirical often jocular regional family drama. The bittersweet humorist journal kept by Peach in her second Mississippi run enables the reader to understand her childhood and the exclusive membership requirements of being a Southern Lady, which the lead protagonist admits she failed at because of displaced compassion. Although at tim es the story line can slows down the pace of sipping mint juleps, Penelope J. Stokes provides insight into a regional subculture maintained subtly by Steel Magnolias.

Feline Fatale
Linda O. Johnston
Berkley
9780425235546, $7.99

Kendra Ballantyne works as an attorney for a small laid-back law firm dealing mostly with the elderly and those who have pet problems. She is dating wealthy Dante, owner of the Hot Pets supply chain. Currently she is pet-sitting at the Brigadoon Complex so her friends Wanda and Darryl can go on vacation.

Kendra gets into a fracas with Margaret Shafter who doesn't like strangers on her complex and opposes pets inside as that brings in outside riffraff. Teddy and Ruth Bertinetti support Margaret. Wanda returns Kendra's call and informs the lawyer that Brigadoon is divided over the pet issue with several making nasty dangerous threats. The next time Wanda contacts Kendra is when she is a murder suspect. One of the cats, Lady Cuddles, escaped entering Margaret's apartment. Wanda followed the frisky feline inside the apartment where Margaret was apparently murdered. Kendra promises to find the killer, but instead realizes a horde of people had viable motives. Kendra turns to a risky extraordinary method to flush out the culprit.

Once again Linda O. Johnston has written a creative crazy complex and charmingly delightful cozy as Feline fatale is one of the better amateur sleuths in the Pet-Sitter mystery series (see Howl Deadly). Kendra is a caring courageous person who goes the extra kilometer for her friends and loves Dante despite his excesses. Fans of the saga will appreciate the heroine as she tries to identify the murderer to insure Wanda is no longer a suspect.

A Deadly Row
Casey Mayes
Berkley
9780425236413, $7.99

Zach was the Police Chief of Charlotte, North Carolina when he was shot in the chest and forced to retire. He and his wife puzzle creator Savannah Stone moved to Parson's Valley far away from the big urban centers, but police work is part of Zach's DNA makeup so he opens up a consul ting firm.

The new Police Chief Davis Rowles, who Zach recommended, asks for his services. Charlotte Mayor Grady Winslow is receiving threatening letters from someone who apparently has killed two people already. When they arrive at the Belmont, they are put up in the swanky suite owned by billionaire Baton Lane. One of the victims worked for him and was a friend so he believes hosting the Stones is his minor contribution to capturing the killer. Savannah's puzzle skills come in handy when letters and pictures come to the police station with a puzzle number on the package; she knows if she finds the key she will locate the psychopath. Zach uses mundane police methods by questioning suspects including Davis and Grady. Both of the Stones arrive at the identification of the killer at the same time, but now Savannah's life is in danger.

Casey Mayes has written a fascinating amateur sleuth-police procedural starring a husband and wife couple who work well together. The pair loves one another and talks to each other sharing notes on their respective inquiry. Character driven with several terrific twists, readers who enjoy mysteries like those of Parnell Hall's Puzzle Lady will enjoy observing the two Stones methodically work separately and together on their first joint case.

The Tale of Oat Cake Crag
Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley
9780425236611, $23.95

Beatrix Potter continues to rusticate at Hill Top Farm in the Lake District in order to avoid her snooty upper class parents. She knows they will denigrate her fiance and scornfully disapprove her engagement to solicitor Will Heelis that she has concealed from them. Beatrix learned her lesson when she became engaged to her editor Norman Warne six years ago only to face a barrage of criticism; she believes that they rejoiced when Normand passed away prior to their marriage.

Beatrix and the local birds and animals are irritated with the noise making new gizmo, a flying floating aeroplane that sputters with a racket more than it soar over Lake Windemere; even the loud teen dragon finds the plane disconcerting. Meanwhile at Oat Cake Crag, Rascal the Jack Russell takes her to injured plane designer Fred L. Baum.

The latest Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter (see The Tale of Applebeck Orchard and The Tale of Briar Bank) is an entertaining whimsical entry that once again captures the essence of the author and more pointedly her tales. The mystery remains in the backseat to Ms. Potter's lifestyle in the Lake District and her relationships with humans especially a touch of romance with Will and the animals. Fans will enjoy her escapades as The Tale of Oat Oak Crag is a charming cottage cozy.

Hot Finish
Erin McCarthy
Berkley
9780425235942, $7.99

Being totally broke Suzanne Jefferson is no longer able to perform charity work as she needs to bring in income. She returns to her previous profession of wedding planner though she wishes she did not have to.

Her first client is Bridezilla, but worse is the best man is her former husband Flat Out Sexy Ryder. To her chagrin, she finds out they are not exes as she thought as they remain married. Ryder, on the other hand, is euphoric to learn he and Suzanne remain married. He wants a second chance, but time is running out as the court date to finalize their divorce is set. Though wanting to go Hard and Fast, Ryder tries going slowly in spite of the lack of time, but good intentions of taking his time ends with what they always managed to have great sex together.

The latest Fast Track tale is a fun somewhat hot second chance at love. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing of two people in love with her insisting it is only lust. Although the plot is thin especially when compared to previous Fast Track tales, fans will enjoy watching the desperate antics of a married couple at cross purposes.

Deadly Daggers
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Berkley
9780425236444, $7.99

During the school year, Jessie Morton is an associate professor of history at the University of South Carolina also working on her dissertation. In the summer, she is part of the Renaissance Faire Village as an apprentice to different craft artisans. This year she works under the tutelage of Master Armorer Daisy Reynolds.

Everyone connected to the Faire knows of Alistair the Great swordsman. Daisy, a hefty woman, is supposed to battle Alistair and lose, but she goes all out as she was attracted to him twenty years ago and when she tried again this year he dumped her just like before. . When they put on their sword fight, she creams him. The next time Alistair is seen, he is dead with a sword thrust through his chest. Daisy is the initial prime suspect, but attention soon turns elsewhere. In between her apprentice job and time with her lover the bailiff Chase Manhattan, she searche s for Alistair's missing sword as Jessie seeks who would have a motive to murder the legendary Faire swordsman.

The Lavene duet can always be counted on for an enjoyable whodunit as shown by the latest Renaissance Faire mystery and the previous two entries (See Wicked Weaves and Ghastly Glass). The Faire is a community with societal rules and culture populated by eccentrics who prefer to reside with the traveling troupe year round. That is what makes it difficult for "snowbirds" to participate. Jessie proves herself so is one of the few received openly though she knows she is not Peter Pan as Wendy grew up. The amateur sleuth is cleverly woven so that suspects seem everywhere once the story line spins from just Daisy as the killer. Filled with twists and red herrings, Deadly Daggers is a delightful mystery.

Buzz Off
Hannah Reed
Berkley
9780425236420, $7.99

In Moraine, Wisconsin Story Fischer feels pretty good that her divorce from her cheating husband Clay is finalized. The owner of the Wild Clover grocery, she celebrates her new single life sharing champagne with her customers and a special one day sale of all goods. However, her idyllic day ends when her beekeeping mentor Manny Chapman, owner of the Queen bee Honey, dies from a swarm of yellow jackets.

The townsfolk and Manny's wife Grace assume his honey bees killed him. They want his bees and that of Story's out of the county before someone else is hurt. Story refuses as she wants to go into the homey making business. Grace sells Manny's hive to Gerald Smith who is nowhere to be found. Hunter Wallace, who is interested in Story, accompanies her on a ride looking for her raft. When she looks inside she sees the murdered body of her former husband's girlfriend. Clay is arrested, but Story believes the rat is not a killer and the two deaths are linked. Searching for Manny's hives, Story begins to put the puzzle together while the killer watches her do so waiting for the right moment to strike again.

Buzz Off is a sparkling debut that enables the reader to see the down side of small town living when something bad happens as the insular population reacts in what seems a genuine cause and effect. Story is spunky as she tries new things especially to earn a better lifestyle yet careful not to alienate her eccentric neighbors. Readers will enjoy a taste of honey as Hannah Reed provides a delicious amateur sleuth mystery.

Shadows At Midnight
Elizabeth Jennings
Berkley
9780425235997, $7.99

Marine Daniel Weston is attracted to Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Claire Day since he first saw her at the American Embassy in Laka, Africa where both are assigned. He does not act on his attraction. A too well planned attack and bombing of the embassy leaves several occupants dead and Claire in a three month coma with situational amnesia as she has no lucid memory of the devastating incident.

A year after the assault that blew away her DIA career, Claire suffers from nightmares with the only glimmer being a brown-haired man trying to protect her. When she sees her dream hero who she believes may have saved her life on TV, she flies to Washington to meet him and see if he can help her regain her memory of the attack. Dan is stunned with euphoria as he thought Claire died in the bombing. Realizing his woman is not quite wh at she was, he vows to assist her with her recall and to keep her safe this time, but someone wants to insure her memory stays buried even in a grave.

This is a strong romantic suspense thriller that grips the audience from the onset and only tightens the hold especially when the lead couple reunites. Fast-paced throughout, mesmerized fans will root for Claire and Dan to not just make it but make it alive. As Paradise Lost can become Paradise Regained but more likely dead.

Angel Interrupted
Chaz McGee
Berkley
9780425233146, $7.99

In life, Kevin Fahey was a lousy father, a miserable husband, and a bottom feeder detective; who was drunk more often than he was sober. In death, he remains stuck on the mortal plane seeking redemption. He believes he needs to make reparations because of all those he harmed when he was alive. He follows the activities of his replacement highly regarded Detective Maggie Gunn.

Currently Maggie is bogged down with two complicated cases that each needs her full attention. A female corpse is found in her home; dead by a gunshot made to look like a suicide, but Maggie realizes a murder occurred. Across the street is a park and while all attention is inside the victim's home, someone abducts a child there. Fahey knows where the kidnapped child is being held and that the lad is safe for the moment. He needs to find a way to inform Maggie, but has limited ability to communicate with her. If he succeeds he knows that she will conclude that the homicide and the kidnapping are linked.

This is a great paranormal police procedural that focuses on two violent crimes, a dedicated but lonely cop working both and a ghost who fights evil anyway he can as he has a personal objective. Heart wrenching yet also heartwarming, Angel Interrupted is fast-paced with terrific twists the reader never expects yet afterward will feel Chaz McGee is on target as the paranormal adds the nice extra touch to an entertaining whodunit.

Heart Journey
Robin D. Owens
Berkley
9780425234549, $15.00

In the year 407 since the colonization, highly regarded cartographer Helena Del D'Elcampane and her FoxFam Shunuk prefers the remoteness of traveling the unmapped sector of Celta. However, recently Del senses her HeartMate is near. She rushes back to civilization to meet him, but also learned of the horror of that happened to her Family, except for an infant, dying in an inferno.

Her only living relative cousin Dookee has been adopted by Straif Blackthorn and his HeartMate Mitchella (see Heart Choice). Grieving her loss although not close to her Family, Del is taken back to learn her HeartMate is actor Raz Cherry (support role in Heart Fate and Heart Change), who has expected his HeartMate to come to him as the Oracle informed him and he sensed her arrival. She had doubts re a HeartMate, but he embellishes her hesitation as he is more interested in his acting career than a lifetime commitment; until a serial thief keeps stealing from them as if he or she seeks something specific, but nether know what.

The latest Celta romantic fantasy HeartMate stars two total opposites sharing in common one thing; reservation about what a permanent relationship would do to their respective vocation. Saga fans will enjoy their vacillation as that refreshes the story line as much as the mystery. With the return of some of the stars from the previous thrillers, the audience will relish the expanding Owens universe as her newest entry is told with the usual plenty of heart.

Bedeviled Angel
Annette Blair
Berkley
9780425235973, $7.99

Guardian angel Chance Godricson returns to earth (with a heavenly shove from his BFF Angus) out of concern for one of his clients, agoraphobic sufferer Queisha Saint-Denis whose life he saved eight years ago when he died in a mall collapse. The mortal faces difficult challenges as the Fitzgerald couple disappeared on a mountain climbing trip. Queisha is the legal guardian of their five years old twins Lace and Skye because they trust her to care for them as she had been their surrogate mother birthing them.

Works Like Magick employment agency owner Viveca assigns Chance to serve as the cook for Queisha and the children. He also serves as guardian to the frightened twins. Queisha struggles to provide the twins with what they need. Chance has problems too as he sheds his feathers whenever his thoughts stray to Queisha, adheres to the awkward angelic honesty tenet regardless, and hardest of all tries to remain detached.

The second Works Like Magick urban romantic fantasy (see Naked Dragon) is a terrific tale with plenty of humor especially as Chance struggles with unacceptable thoughts and dreams, and the heavenly dictate of complete honesty. The twins enhance the story line though perhaps they are too precocious while Angus is more an impish messenger than a guardian angel. With a strong lead couple and a taut look at an agoraphobic battling her neurosis to raise young children, Annette Blair provides a strong heavenly sent thriller.

Burning Up
Virginia Kantra, Nalini Singh, Angela Knight, Meljean Brook
Berkley
9780425235959, $7.99

"Whisper of Sin" by Nalini Singh. In 2072 San Francisco, leopard shifter Emmett and his pack rescue Ria Wembley from a rapist. She is under their protection while they fight an evil destroying their beloved city. Emmett knows Ria is his soul mate.

"Blood and Roses" by Angela Knight. With justification Ameris has no choice but to seduce an abomination (in her mind) vampire knight Raniero. However, as she becomes acquainted with him, she changes her opinion of his race

"Shifting Sea" by Virginia Kantra. In 1853, Major John Harris inherits an estate in Scotland and much more, the love of Morwenna, one of the Children of the Sea.

"Here There be Monsters" by Meljean Brook. Ivy flees Mad Eben Machen who chases after her. When he catches her, she will find the heart of the monster.

The four romantic fantasies are entertaining tales starring fully developed protagonists in terrific settings as each author contributes a world building winner.

Seduction Wears Sapphires
Renee Bernard
Berkley
9780425235966, $7.99

In 1859 Ashe Blackwell lives a hedonistic lifestyle since his return from India. However, his grandmother makes him a wager he cannot avoid. She demands Ashe behave with decorum for an entire season or lose his inheritance. There is one additional stipulation Ashe especially loathes as he feels he can act properly in accordance with the inane rules of the Ton. Grandma insists prim and proper Bostonian Caroline Townsend will serve as his chaperone.

They are enemies even before they meet; their initial encounter is hate at first sight. Caroline hopes to earn enough money to open up a school for women while also secretly dreams of a grand adventure in the boudoir of a rake. Ashe just wants the prickly colonist to go back to Massachusetts. His schemes to send her across the pond fail as everyone seems to love Caroline. However, the sleepwalking Caroline charms Ashe who wants t o make love to her. As they fall in love, his former resentful mistress, his avaricious relative and his time in India threaten to send his American back home single and ruined.

The latest Jaded Gentlemen Series (see Revenge Wears Rubies) is a wonderful gender war Victorian romance starring two enemy combatants who come out swinging from the first bell. The story line is fast-paced fun as Caroline and Ashe detest one another while also wanting one another. Sub-genre fans will enjoy waltzing with this "not so charming" couple.

Damsel in Disguise
Susan Gee Heino
Berkley
9780425235980, $7.99

Actress Julia St. Clement was Lord Anthony Rastmoor's mistress until he lost her gambling with his nasty cousin Cedric Fitzgelder. Outraged to be a stake in a game of chance and fearing the despicable Cedric, Julia flees disguised as Mr. Alexander Clemmons learning to eat soup through a moustache

Julia continues to travel as a male, but accompanied by a "wife" Sophie, learns that Cedric plans to kill Anthony. Still garbed as a male, she warns her former lover who recognizes her in spite of her clothing, wife and mustache. As they begin a second tryst with her seen as his male companion in public, they begin to fall in love again, but she no longer trusts her heart or him with her heart. Meanwhile the duet begins to investigate the secrets of their families espically after her wife mysteriously vanishes.

This enjoyable Regency romance is a fun Comedy of Errors as Julia keeps up her masquerade to fool the foul odious Fitzgelder. Although her starting a second time with someone who gambled her away displays inanity, love or inane love depending on your perspective, readers will relish the courageous Mr. Clemmons as a Damsel in Disguise.

Devil's Highlander
Veronica Wolff
Berkley
9780425236277, $7.99

In 1660 Scotland following the defeat of the Scots, the MacAlpin clan returns home to Dunnottar. A war hero, Cormac MacAlpin remains traumatized though thirteen years have passed since his brother Aiden was abducted while the pair were playing in Aberdeen. His best f riend Marjorie Keith was with the brothers when the tragedy occurred and has since become an angel to the impoverished youth of the city.

When another child is snatched from the city's streets, Marjorie begs Cormac the reclusive fisherman to save the kid. However, he remains immobile by shame and self-pity. She refuses to accept inertia from her beloved. Instead she keeps pressuring him to join her on an investigation into who is kidnapping children off the streets of Aberdeen or she will go it alone.

This is a wonderful seventeenth century Highlander romance starring a tormented reluctant hero who blames himself for what happened to his twin though he could do nothing to prevent the kidnapping and the angel who demands he save the latest victim. The story line is at its best when the focus is on 1660; the plot slightly decelerates when it centers on the lead couple's traumatized look back to the tragic event of 1647 though that adds enormous realism as the snatching of Aiden made Cormac and Marjorie what they are as adults. Fans will appreciate Veronica Wolfe's latest Highlander romance wondering what became of Aiden.

Body Master
C.J. Barry
Berkley
9780425234556, $14.00

Secret government agent Seneca Thomas of Extraterrestrial Criminal Enforcement Locality (XCEL), New York City Division, provides a needed innate skill as she can identify the alien shapeshifters who live amidst mankind. The aliens were stranded on earth when their spaceship crashed two years ago in the Badlands. They use homo sapiens DNA to appear as human.

Seneca's partner Riley is killed in the line of duty while hunting for "Jack" a serial killing shifter. Wanting revenge, Seneca is outraged when XCEL leadership assigns her Max Dempsey as her new partner; Max is a dreaded shifter who offered his services to find the rogue killer. He conceals his personal agenda of killing the psychopath who murdered his wife and exposed their race to potential disaster even perhaps genocide. Worse he detests his attraction to his acrimonious human partner. Both are stunned with what they find.

In some ways mindful of Alien Nation, the opening XCEL science fiction romantic police procedural is a terrific manhunt (make that ET hunt) thriller. The story line is fast-paced with the shifters intermingled with New Yorkers coming across as genuine. With the two lead investigators forging a star-crossed relationship while going after Jack, but discovering so much more, readers will relish C.J. Barry's entertaining tale.

Awakened By A Kiss
Lila DiPasqua
Berkley
9780425235560, $15.00

"Sleeping Beau". French Marquis Adrien d'Aspe is awakened by a kiss. He spends the best night of his life with his rescuer, which his being a rake says a lot. However, she vanishes. For the next few years he searches for his beloved until he finds his Catherine.

"Little Red Writing". Assigned by the king, ambitious French Count Nicolas de Savignac believes if he uncovers the identity of the popular infamous political satirist Little Red he will receive an award and a promotion. That is until he meets the outlaw writer Anne de Vignon as he prefers to incarcerate her in his bed.

"Bewitching in Boots". The French king's illegitimate daughter Elisabeth de Roussel has her choice of almost any man at court. However, the only male she covets Tristan de Tiersonnier rejects her. She mounts a campaign to get the injured former King's Guard commander into her bed permanently.

These are three enjoyable erotic romantic rewrites of classic fairy tales. The stories are fun with their adult makeover though none of the cast is very deep. Readers will enjoy Lila DiPasqua's sexual twist turning children's tales into heated adult romances.

The Secret Eleanor
Cecelia Holland
Berkley
9780425234501, $15.00

By 1151, the Duchess of Aquitaine is perhaps the most powerful female on the continent even before she marries elderly French King Louis VII. However, being the Queen of France fails to live up to the title as expected by Eleanor. In fact she is treated with scorn and feels she has lost some of influence rather than see it expand as she anticipated.

When he son of the Duke of Anjou Henry visits the royal court, Eleanor feels the younger man is her male counterpart especially since he has a strong chance of becoming the King of England. Although her husband has her constantly watched, Eleanor and Henry secretly meet and plot for her to dissolve her marriage to Louis and wed Henry.

Although Eleanor has been the star of biographical fiction (see The Captive Queen by Alison Weir, The Courts of Love by Jean Plaidy, and Eleanor The Queen by Nora Lofts) numerous times, Cecilia Holland provides a strong tale that focuses on her motivations. Although the key historical events are not new to sub-genre fans, readers will enjoy the latest Eleanor of Aquitaine fictionalized account as Ms. Holland affirms the two-time Queen set the stage for powerful females who follow her lead over the centuries

Whisper Kiss
Deborah Cooke
Signet
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
www.newamericanlibrary.com
9780451230928, $7.99, www.amazon.com

In New York City tattoo artist Rox is a Good Samaritan who tries to help those going through hard times. Her "projects" include her former roommate, Pyr Thorolf, who moved out to work with Niall Talbot.

Rox does not trust Niall so she confronts him. Neither anticipated the inferno "firestorm" their first encounter causes. Niall is stunned by Rox's not blinking at meeting a dragon while she is stunned by her attraction to him. Neither have time nor the emotional desire for even a kiss as he tries to remain focused on his obsession, the destruction of Shadow Dragons. However he and the other Pyr remain fixated on their eradication mission so they keep their eye on the wrong ball as a new more deadly threat arises.

This is a terrific Kiss urban romantic fantasy (see Winter Kiss and Kiss of Fate) as the lead couple may be firestorm perfect mates in heat, but neither has the time or inclination to place their heart and soul in the inferno they spontaneously combusted at first sight. Both have issues, but still team up on a perilous trek in which one mistake means death. The author has Cooked another winner with the tattoo artist and the dragon shapeshifter.

Kiss of the Rose
Kate Pearce
Signet
9780451230942, $6.99

In 1485 the Druids and King Henry Tudor made a pact in which the priests are to eradicate the vampire race while he becomes ruler of England and Wales. In 1529 at the Richmond Palace, home of the court of King Henry VIII, there have been a series of murders; the victims drained of all their blood. Obviously a serial killing vampire or multitude of the undead is making the palace unsafe for humans.

The Druids assign born vampire hunter Rosalind Llewellyn to kill the predator. However, before she can find the hidden beast, she must deal with vampire protector Sir Christopher Ellis the Druid slayer. Attracted to one another, both are stunned when their superiors order them to cooperate in finding and destroying a rogue. Neither is prepared to be soul mates fulfilling an ancient prophecy if they truly team up and if they survive the deadly mission.

The first Tudor Vampire Chronicles is a wonderful historical romantic fantasy. The mystery and the history take a back seat to the paranormal and the romance so that the background to a vampiric King Henry VIII castle never fully comes to fruition. Still this is an exciting early fifteenth century star-crossed lovers' thriller as the immovable vampire hunter meets the irresistible Druid slayer.

Siren's Call
Devyn Quinn
Signet
9780451230935, $7.99

Kenneth Randall was so filled with grief from the murder of his wife, the shocked man wandered into the ocean and nearly drowned. A woman saved his life leaving him on the beach supposedly with no memory of her saving his life.

Ten months since the good Samaritan rescued him, Ken returns to Point Rock Harbor on barrier island Little Mer, Maine to thank his angel and to put to rest his recurring dream of a sea nymph saving him. Little Mer Island lighthouse keeper Tessa Lonike is unhappy with the arrival of the man she pulled out of the sea almost a year ago. He should not have remembered her or what happened to him on that day. However, her sister Gwen is euphoric when the visitor offers to repair things. As Ken and Tessa become acquainted he figures out her deep watery secret and becomes protective when her former fiance archeologist Jake Massey arrives claiming he has information on the heritage of the sisters.

The Dark Tides oceanic romantic fantasy is a fun tale starring a thorny acerbic shapeshifter who learns where good intentions lead and the obstinate man she rescued from the icy sea. The story line is fast-paced, but the villain is a caricature with no redeeming quality rather than a real adversary. Still readers will enjoy this entertaining tale due to the relationship between the lead couple.

Corralled
Lorelei James
Signet
9780451230133, $14.00

Sports therapist Lainie Capshaw has worked with injured cowboys for years. She knows to ignore the hunks and their seductive manners as she performs her rehabilitation. Her refrain is: don't let herself fall for cowboys.

Thus she is stunned after being so successful ignoring them; Lainie is attracted to Hank Lawson the bullfighter and Kyle Gilchrist the bull rider. She enjoys both men, but also feels guilty that she sees each behind the stout back of the other. That is until judgment day comes when Hank finds her stepping out with Kyle. Neither Hank nor Kyle seem upset and in fact are buddies. Each wants her, but Lanie is reluctant as she knows she should choose which cowboy she prefers riding on into the sunset.

The first Blacktop Cowboys romance is a lighthearted frolic starring three strong protagonists and plenty of bull. The story line is fast-paced as Hank and Kyle compete as friendly rivals for the affection and love of Lainie, who has rodeo baggage that holds her somewhat back. Readers will be Corralled with the need to know who she chose; that is if she selects either.

Listen to the Dead
Randall Peffer
Tyrus Books
1213 N. Sherman Ave., #306, Madison, WI 53704
9781935562184, $14.95, www.tyrusbooks.com

Bird Island harbormaster Corby Church uncovers human bones. Police Chief Chi Chi Bugatti sends untested Detective Yemanja Colon to lead the inquiry into who the victim was; her first as the head investigator. She arrives on Bird Island with enthusiasm as she looks forward to her initial solo performance.

However, something strange occurs to Yemanja when she becomes the voice of the unidentified twenty something female victim. Since the murder occurred in the 1980s most people assume the dead woman was a victim of the New Bedford serial killer, who murdered at least eleven people. Yemanja finds herself attracted to Corby but suspects he is hiding something germane to the case. Corby conceals he once had a relationship of sorts with the dead female identified as Remy La Moreaux. They and three other men sailed to the Bahamas together.

Part of the fun in reading the exciting fifth Cape Islands whodunit (see Killing Neptune's Daughters, Bangkok Dragons, and Cape Cod Tears) is the relationship between the chief and his inexperienced subordinate as it evolves until this is her first lead. Yemanja is nervous, anxious, and confident while Chi Chi is sort of like a parent letting the child drive the car without adult supervision. Randall Peffer explains that the mystery has ties to the real unsolved New Bedford Highway serial killer as he provides a strong entertaining police procedural.

The Hornbrook Prophecy
Robert Wickes
Crystal Dreams Publishing
P.O. Box 698, Dover TN 37058
9781591463429, $18.95, www.amazon.com

In 2010, the economic crisis confronting the United States is leading to a depression. President Winston Dillard wants Congress to show fortitude by voting on an increase and a reduction in benefits and entitlements. Senator Henley Hornbrook (I) strongly opposes the bill. However, the president wins as the bill becomes the law.

Taxpayers explode in anger leaving the country close to defaulting on its debt. Dillard sees the unrest as a chance to gain more power so he declares a national emergency in which upcoming elections are suspended. Using the bully pulpit, Holbrook blames the mess on Hornbrook. He then declares martial law with the Army patrolling major cities and the local police furloughed. Senator Hornbrook's aide Major Eagle McCall informs his brother-in-law Tom Warner that open revolt is coming and he should leave Los Angeles for remote Washington State where he has a home. The drive through California and Oregon proves dangerous and even in rustic Washington state, armed m ilitia attack anyone not with them.

Using hyperbole and deliberate stereotyping of DC power wielders, Robert Wicks provides readers with an entertaining cautionary tale of the Constitution ignored by those already in power wanting not just to remain but lusting for more. With a nod to Lord Acton's commentary on the abuse of power and though somewhat simplistic especially with the depiction of Hornbrook as a sort of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, readers will enjoy this exciting political thriller while trying to figure out who, if any, the novel's politicians resemble.

Renegade
Elaine Barbieri
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
www.dorchesterpub.com
9780843963656, $7.99, www.amazon.com

In 1866 Samantha Rigg obsesses over her vendetta to avenge the murder of her father, a Pinkerton agent. She pleads with Alan Pinkerton to hire her, but he says no out of fear for her life as her attitude is dangerous and besides she lacks experience; he begs her to grieve but move on.

Refusing to end her avenger's quest, Samantha travels to Texas to go after a deadly bank robber. She believes rancher Matt Stait is posing as a rancher to conceal he is a killer. Samantha obtains work as a saloon girl so she can go undercover seeking proof of her assertion. However, she never anticipated falling in love with the man she suspects is the col d blooded murderer of her dad; nor he would likewise expect to be attracted to her.

Renegade is an entertaining western romantic mystery due to the dangerous tango between the feisty intrepid woman obsessed with justice for her late dad and the "outlaw-rancher" she believes in spite of her seditious heart in her gut is his killer. That relationship irony makes for an enjoyable Americana romance as each distrusts love as much as they do the target of their deep affection.

Love Lessons at Midnight
Shirl Henke
Leisure
9780843963632, $6.99

In London, nothing that men want shocks Lady Fantasia, owner of the infamous House of Dreams bordello. Her establishment makes the dreams of her wealthy clientele come true for a hefty payment; anything goes with one exception being no one can have her.

For two years Robert St. John, as the reformist Earl of Barrington, ripped bordellos like the House of Dreams in Parliament. However he visits the establishment to ask Lady Fantasia to have her most gifted courtesan mentoring him in satisfying the needs of a lady, namely his future spouse.

Having been an abused spouse when Lady Fantasia was Amber Wolverton, wife to a sadistic mad Marquess, she is intrigued by her new customer's request as this is a refreshing change than the usual me-me. Breaking her golden rule, she becomes Gabrielle, Rob's French instructress. As he proves to be a star pupil in her class of induction of Love Lessons At Midnight, they fall in love, which in turn heals their battered hearts. However, love may not be enough for the patron and the owner yet at the House of Dreams fantasies do come true.

The key to this wonderful Regency romance is the lead couple who both have issues of the heart and soul for bad marriages when he insanely visits her at her brothel. The great adventure of this discerning tale is observing the pair heal through their bonding with love for one another. Readers who relish a character driven relationship drama will enjoy Shirl Henke's fabulous tale of the healing redemption of love even for seemingly lost souls.

The Ghost and Miss Demure
Melanie Jackson
Love Spell
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
www.dorchesterpub.com
9780505528353, $7.99, www.amazon.com

Restorer Karo Follett quit her previous position with a potato salad flourish that haunts her as she became a pariah though her cause was just. She struggles with finding a new position and finally scores work on a remote plantation, Belle Ange in Virginia. She immediately travels to her new job site before her employer might change their mind.

She arrives at her destination during a torrent. At the front gate, lightning hits her. Suddenly Karo sees an apparition having trysts like an eighteenth-century Marquis de Sade; Karo has met the original owner of Belle Ange, Hugh Vellacourt. Fearing she suffers from PTSD, Karo meets her British boss and is attracted to him but vows to adhere to her pledge not to mix work and pleasure. As she helps restore the mansion into a tourist attraction, she tries to ignore the ghosts and their sexual spirits as much as her desire for her employer.

The Ghost and Miss Demure is an enjoyable paranormal romance starring an outraged female who has become an ardent misogynist and the two males in her life who make her reconsider her vow of no men allowed. The background never quite settles on modern day restoration romance or ghostly interlude yet fans will enjoy the antics of "Miss Demure" and her unwanted mates. The ghost is very entertaining as his attitude is his French peer was a phony upstart who became a legend because vellacourtism is not as sexy as sadism; mindful of Robert Wuhl's presentati on in Assume the Position on Bissell vs. Revere. Karo's triangle between the British hunk haunting her heart and the S&M spiritual expert advising her how to use her vagina makes for a lighthearted fun frolic.

Operation Prince Charming
Phyllis Bourne
Love Spell
9780843963908, $6.99

Her TV career ended with her marriage though she has hopes to resuscitate the former while letting the latter remain dead. Still while waiting for a fresh opportunity, Ali Spencer return to Nashville to help her aunt save the family owned Spencer School of Etiquette.

Wealthy Erica wants to make it into the highest social circles. However, she believes she needs a social makeover of her boyfriend Detective Hunter Coleman if she is to achieve her goal. He is tired of Erica's inane ranting that he holds her back from climbing the ladder. Thus Hunter enrolls in the Spencer School 's class "Manners Makeover" that has Titans as alumni. When Ali the teacher and Hunter the student meet, she thinks he is fine the way he is. Hunter wants to be the teacher's pet while Ali knows she must remain professionally aloof from her favorite pupil. As Erica hunts for a better social prospect, Ali and Hunter fall in love.

This is a warm Tennessee waltz starring two likable lead characters who agree that Hunter should follow his basic instincts of his heart. The story line is character driven by the lead couple, but enhanced by support players like her aunt and Erica. Fans who enjoy a low keyed realistic contemporary will want to read Operation Prince Charming.

The Vigilante's Bride
Yvonne Harris
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
www.bethanyhouse.com
9780764208041, $14.99, www.amazon.com

In late December 1884 at the Aldersgate Home for Girls, director Elvira Beecham informs outraged orphan Emily McCarthy she will marry Montana rancher Bartholomew Axel on Christmas Day; he had advertised for a bride in the Tribune. In Montana, Luke Sullivan learns from a cattle rustler about to be hung that his father was cheated by Bart Axel out of his ranch and mulls over what to do about it though two decades have passed and his enemy is wealthy and influential.

When Luke learns from Bart's frightened banker Phineas Martin that a delivery by coach to Axel is occurring, he decides to steal back his money. Instead he abducts Bart's fiancee who is on the coach and admits she has never even seen a picture of her intended. Though not sure whether he rescued her or not fiery Emily is attracted to her kidnapper and him to her. He knows how powerful Bart is, but not how obsessed he is to claim his bride as the abduction is an insult. While he depends on a gun, she believes God will turn what seems ugly into something beautiful especially after the Crow mind ing their business become involved in a White man's dispute with the treasure being Emily.

This is an entertaining inspirational Americana romance starring a likable firebrand city slicker and the rancher who kidnaps her. While the villain is too proof odious with no redeeming quality, fans will root for The Vigilante's Bride as she turns to God for spiritual support, and to herself and her beloved for earthy daring do while trying to get her man who feels like a late nineteenth century Big Sky Job.

Hero
Cheryl Brooks
Sourcebooks Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402229411, $7.99, www.sourcebooks.com

Since his brother Tychar found his soul mate (see Rogue), Trag the Zetithian is depressed though he feels great for his sibling as he wants the same thing for himself. An outlaw on many planets, he is careful even when he offers to pay for sex; his talent insures he never has to remit any money as women find him to be the sexual encounter of a lifetime. Still he dreams of meeting a female especially from his now destroyed species, but fears no soulmate exists for him. He is especially despondent when he is with his few surviving male brethren (including his brother) as each has found their females.

Micayla leaves her home world of Earth for the first time in her life. She feels lonely but accepts a truism that men or women don't turn her on and that somehow she is different than her family and friends. That changes in an instant gut changing observation of the back of a stranger who she finds desiring. However, when she meets the hunk who she wants, instead of jumping Trag's bones as her inclination screams inside her, she rips his skin off blaming him for her unwanted desire.

While the overarching story line involving the pandemic destruction of a race and their planet moves forward with insight into who committed the atrocity, the latest Zetithian science fiction romance also contains the most powerful Cat Stars Chronicles coupling to date. That says a lot as previous tales like Fugitive, Rogue, and Slave are excellent. Readers will relish this pairing of two of the universe's loneliest people; as Micayla makes Trag dance the Macarena to snare his soulmate.

Seduced by the Wolf
Terry Spear
Sourcebook
9781402237539, $7.99, www.sourcebooks.com

In Oregon, rancher Leidolf Wildhaven is worried about the purebred humans wanting to look too closely at the wilderness wolf populace. Not that the timing would be good ever for him and the werewolf pack he leads but this particular moment is disastrous as he just came from Colorado to take over as Alpha leader of a dispirited pack; werewolves who are without spirit and zest for life become easy targets.

Adding to his headaches is the leggy biologist Dr. Cassie Roux who believes wolves in the wild need protection from human predators. She has problems caused by her angry peer, wolf biologist Alex Wellington and her attraction to this rancher who says a wolf is man's best friend. She can sniff the lupus garou scent he emits. Courageous she tries to protect a she-wolf and newborn litter from rogues (wolves, hunters and enemy biologists) while also trying to keep her heart safe from a hunk of a werewolf.

No one makes werewolves seem real better than romantic urban fantasist Terry Spear continually does with her "Wolf" saga (see Legend of the White Wolf, To Tempt a Wolf, Heart of the Wolf and Destiny of the Wolf). Her fifth were-wolfish thriller is a strong tale of two dedicated people wanting to d the best for the wolfish populace in the northwest. Sub-genre fans will want to roam Oregon with this lead couple as outside a werewolf, a book by Terry Spear's is woman's best friend; inside the werewolf it is to dark to read (Groucho is turning over in his grave).

Pretty Little Things
Jillane Hoffman
Vanguard Press
387 Park Avenue South, 12th Fl., NY, NY 10016
9781593156077, $25.95, www.amazon.com

Thirteen years old Lainey Emerson loves MySpace, especially keeping her page current. Her biggest peeve at the moment is relocating with her family, which means a new school and finding new friends.

However Lainey becomes excited when she meets El Capitan online. She agrees to go out with the boy, but conceals her date from her family. A couple days pass before her mother reports her missing, as she assumed Lainey was behaving just like her older sister, a serial runaway. Florida's Crimes Against Children Special Agent Bobby Dees leads the search for the missing teen even as he fears she is the victim of a serial killer, who uses the net to lure victims and then after killing them sends drawings of his kills to the media.

Rotating perspective between the missing teen, the agent (his daughter vanished last year) and the killer in chapters not much longer than Twitter, Pretty Little Things is a terrific cautionary tale that warns readers beware of internet social networks especially what you tell of yourself and the contacts you make. The story line is loaded with twists that enhance the growing tension, which the agent and the teen especially emote. Although the ending feels weak especially with the taut story line that brilliantly leads to the climax, fans will appreciate Pretty Little Things while wondering how to allow their youngsters to enjoy the net yet avoid stalking cyber predators.

The Mists Of Time
Susan Squires
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
www.stmartins.com
9780312943554, $7.99, www.amazon.com

San Francisco romance writer Diana Dearborn meets a stranger who gives her an ancient tome. Somehow the old book propels her to Dark Ages Camelot. She returns to the present with no time elapsing, but has brought forward with her severely injured Medraught of Orkney.

Diana feels no desire towards the hunk she brought into his future. Instead she feels an attraction to a stranger who she has noticed in the shadows seemingly stalking her or her guest. His father ordered Gawain to keep Diana safe, but he arrived in San Francisco a few years later than he needed to be there; as he learns her trip in time periled her. To begin correcting the scenario they must return Medraught to the past, but he refuses to go willingly as he loves the modern world.

The Mists of Time is a well written complex time travel Camelot romance that grips the audience from the moment a feral teen Diana is in lock up and never slows down as the readers learn what happened to her. The story line is fast-paced with intriguing paradoxes and a wonderful link between San Francisco and Camelot while the lead pairing and the knight they need to send home seem real though their flaws are reiterated too frequently. Fans will admire Susan Squires as she refreshes the Camelot legend.

Till Dawn With The Devil
Alexandra Hawkins
St. Martin's
9780312381257, $7.99

In 1821 everyone admires yet also fears the notorious Lords of Vice. Perhaps the most frightening of the friends is Lord Gabriel "Reign" Housely, who's deriding of others since his wife died after a spat nine years ago, is beyond polite nasty.

When Lady Sophie Northam was a child she suffered an injury that wrecked her eyesight. When she meets Gabriel, she is unable to see him, but can hear his scornful cynical tone. Instead of backing away like most do when Gabriel rips skin, Sophie senses the melancholy he conceals beneath a veneer of derision. Still she also knows her imperfect body makes her an undesirable so she plans to stay away from the aristocrat she is attracted to in order to avoid the hurt she expects she would feel. He refuses to allow her to run as he wants her too. However, their parents ' deadly trysts leave both wondering if love is enough to surmount their interrelated heritage.

The latest Lords of Vice Regency romance (see All Night with a Rogue and After Dark with a Scoundrel) is a wonderful pairing of a seemingly Romeo and Juliet like star-crossed pair with additional personal issues that make each feels less than worthy of the other. The story line is fast-paced but it is the tango between the female who cannot see yet "sees" into the soul of her beloved and the male who feels guilt over his late wife's death.

Love In The Afternoon
Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin's
9780312605391, $7.99

In the mid 1850s while in combat in the Crimea, British Captain Christopher Phelan knows the one thing that keeps his morale high is correspondence from Prudence Mercer. Pru tells her friend Beatrix Hathaway about Christopher's latest letter that fondly tells about Albert, the regiment's dog. Beatrix tells Pru that she would like to reply, but they agree it should be under the latter's name. Over time as Beatrix writing as Pru sends and receives letters f rom the front, she falls in love with her Captain.

After being wounded in battle, Christopher is sent home. He also suffers from battle fatigue having seen so many horrors. He turns to the woman he loves, the author of the letters that saved his life, for solace. However, he quickly realizes that his Pru could not write those letters as she has not one drop of intelligence near what was written to him. He soon realizes Beatrix who he initially ignored is his beloved pen pal, but even love may not be enough to overcome the nightmares that still haunt him day and night.

The newest Hathaway's historical romance (see Mine Till Midnight and Tempt Me at Twilight) is a great entry with a Cyrano twist to the strong story line. Bea is terrific as she goes from support character in previous entries to lead protagonist while battle fatigue sufferer Christopher has his work cut out once he is home as he fell in love with his pen pal "Pru". Although the support cast detracts at times from this engaging mid nineteenth century tale, Hathaway fans will relish the animal lover and the vet falling in love.

Deeply, Desperately
Heather Webber
St. Martin's
9780312946142, $7.99

Although being able to read auras can be a hardship as not all are positive, the Valentine family uses it to enhance their Boston based matchmaking service. Additionally, Lucy Valentine brings to the firm the ability to find missing objects; her focus recently has been on locating lost loves.

However, her latest lost love recovery turns shockingly into a murder case. Even with her psychic ability, Lucy knows she is out of her element so she asks private-investigator Sean Donahue for help. As the pair investigates the homicide, their attraction ignites, but her family's curse appears too strong to be overcome by a mere wanting.

The second Valentine tale (see Truly, Madly) is an enjoyable lighthearted frolic. The P.I. and the lost love finder make for a strong pairing as each uses different skill sets to find missing people or things. The support cast, mostly her blood relatives, adds amusing zaniness over the top of the Green Monster as the lead duet works the case, the curse, and the coupling. Readers will root for the Deeply, Desperate Lucy to find her groove this time.

The Demon Hunt
Kris Greene
St. Martin's
9780312944230, $7.99

Gabriel Redfeather just wants to go back to being a computer-bookworm geek, but he knows he can never go home to that existence ever since the former Hunter student met hybrid demon De Mona Sanchez and she introduced him to the attacking demon horde. The slaughter was horrific (see The Dark Storm) as they and their allies need a new sanctuary to regroup, but he surprised his kick his butt mentor and her allies with his use of Nimrod the ancient trident and thwarted attempts by the weapon's former possessor, the insane and soul trapped Bishop, from taking it.

However, there is no respite for the war weary as Redfeather's grandfather and Lucy the witch are kidnapped at a time a chasm has ripped open the barrier between dimensions. Titus the Betrayer and Goblin Prince Orden pursue mankind's last hope with diligence and vigor. At the same time NYPD deems Redfeather as a person of interest when two of his friends from Hunter are murdered as all hell has broken loose on the streets of Manhattan

The adventures of computer role player Gabriel continues in Central Park and the nearby neighborhoods in an action-packed urban fantasy; though it helps to have read the previous book The Dark Storm to learn how the least likely hero is humanity's last hope. Gabriel is terrific as the reluctant champion of humanity while his "sidekick" keeps kicking his butt when he feels sorry for himself. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of street drama, but the overarching theme barely budges as the demonic horde begins pouring through the hole between worlds.

Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance
Sara Poole
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312609832, $14.99

In 1492, Giordano is murdered on the streets of Rome. His daughter wants to know why and who, but no one not even his employer seems interested. To obtain the knowledge she seeks, Francesca knows she must replace her late father as the chief poisoner of Rodrigo Borgia. The only way to prove her capable of performing the position is to poison someone of importance; she kills her target and is hired by Borgia as his personal poisoner.

When Pope Innocent II dies, her assignment becomes clear. She must murder any rival of Rodrigo who along with his family plans to see him become the next Pope. However, her efforts prove so successful that those who killed her father come after her.

This is a fascinating early Renaissance era thriller starring a fabulous lead protagonist who brings to life the political intrigue of the times. Although the story line can turn slow as Sara Poole provides a powerful look at the Borgia dynasty through the female poisoner, fans will relish this strong historical as murder and mayhem mix in late fifteenth century Rome and Vatican City as competitors to replace the late Pope Innocent II kill off opponents.

Infinite Days
Rebecca Maizel
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312649913, $9.99

Five centuries, nine decades and two years ago Lenah Beaudonte became a vampire. In recent decades, she has come to loathe her undead life. She wants to die a human so she would no longer dine on mortals.

Now after 592 years she awakens a disoriented and frightened human after a long period of a deep sleep. Her soul mate Rhode, who existed so much longer than she, displayed his guilt for changing her and his love for her by sacrificing himself in an ancient ritual so she can revert. Lenah struggles to acclimate to being human. Thanks to Rhode she attends the exclusive Wickham Boarding School as a sixteen year old student and marvels how far mankind has come with technology. However, her crypt is opened by her vampire coven who finds her gone. They obsess, especially her emotionally hurt last lover Vicken, over finding their missing queen at any cost to her.

This is an exciting vampire thriller with a strong cast that makes what happened to Lenah seem real. Besides the intrepid heroine, the three main males in her life (Rhode, Vicken and Justin who tries to keep her safe) make for a strong urban fantasy as the emotions of this quartet and other coven members feel genuine. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Rebecca Maizel's entertaining character-driven dark with a glimmering of light tale of the Undead.

Wicked Appetite
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's
9780312652913, $27.99

After pastry chef Elizabeth "Lizzie" Tucker inherited her eccentric Great Aunt Ophelia's home in Marblehead, she quit her job and moved from New York City to Massachusetts. She became a pastry chef at Dazzle's Bakery in Salem. Everything is going right for her until a handsome man entered the store and touched her hand; leaving a burn mark on her. Her life turns further complicated when Diesel shows up at the store and her home.

He informs Lizzie that they are both "Unmentionables" humans with special abilities; his is to find people whiles hers is to locate objects. He needs her to find the SALIGIA Stones; each one possesses a power of the Seven Deadly Sins. His cousin Wulf wants the stones to create hell on earth while Diesel wants them hidden in a safe place. Lizzie and Diesel go after Gluttony, which has been fractured into pieces with each segment given to a member of the Hope family by their Uncle Phil. However, no matter how diligent the pair is, Wulf is always a step or two ahead of them until he obtains his first piece while the two unmentionables feel increasingly h opeless.

Janet Evanovich's new series opens with a great first entry filled with her trademark humor especially as Lizzie takes on the characteristics of an Unmentionable and the storyline contains plenty of action and romance. The heat generated by Lizzie and Diesel will burn reader fingers while the villain is the more fascinating player as he is an enigmatic wicked yet charismatic person. Readers will look forward to the next adventures of this interesting cast.

The Way of the Guilty
Jennifer Stanley
St. Martin's
9780312376840, $7.99

Cooper Lee has a good job, nice friends that she met at Hope Street Church who formed a Bible Study Group; a great boyfriend; and a wonderful family. Her sister Ashley does not feel as lucky because she wants a baby so badly but is having trouble conceiving due a medical condition. Ashley's husband owns a car dealership and when she is given a loaner she freaks out to find a body in the trunk.

Cooper is on her way to Ashley's house when she gets a flat. She meets ex-con Edward Crosby who feels he owes her for uncovering who killed his father. He takes her to Ashley's place and eventually the sisters learn the victim is Miguel Ramos who worked as a head lot attendant. Cooper wants justice done by catching Miguel's killer. However, she also learns he was involved in a shady operation because he lived in an expensive place, had expensive clothing and had a wad of money in his home. Shortly after Miguel was killed, the son of the title clerk was also murdered. Cooper fe els the two people murdered are linked in some way and with Edward's help, she starts down a path that she hopes will lead to a cold blooded killer.

This inspirational mystery dramatically demonstrates that even the most diabolical person can change and seek redemption. Not preachy, this amateur sleuth focuses nevertheless on lessons learned that retain applicability today. This whodunit is riveting with a believable cast so the audience will complete the tale in one sitting.

Slicker
Lucy Jackson
St. Martin's
9780312565008, $24.99

Mollycoddled Manhattanite Desiree Christian-Cohen abruptly feels the asphalt jungle of Kansas where she expects to find a nicer lifestyle in Honey Creek. Her new revelation even enables her to forgive her father for his transgression of coming out of the closet. However, the amber wave proves nastier than the Big Apple in many ways as bigotry is an acceptable practice, especially towards the "half-Jew". She does meet Bobby McVicar, but even he makes her feel even more like a fish out of water on the Great Plains.

Doubts build up as she misses her family and friends back home. Meanwhile in New York, her mom Nina, her ailing grandfather Marvin, and their caretaker forge a family together built on trust and acceptance.

The prime story line in Kansas is interesting as the city slicker struggles with adapting to life on the Plains. Stereotyping of the local residents as bigots detracts from the impact of Desiree's efforts to belong. The supporting subplot in Manhattan (New York that is) is much deeper as the reader understands what disturbs Desiree's family. Character driven, Slicker is a fascinating look at a person seeking a fresh start but uses her sweet tooth to select the locale.

Maybe This Time
Jennifer Crusie
St. Martin's
9780312303785, $24.99

Thirty-four year old Andie Miller plans to finally sever the ties to her former husband North. However, she is reminded how difficult ending their relationship truly is in spite of their divorce. Somehow he persuaded her to help him rectify the issues confronting his deceased cousin's two troubled children Carter and Alice though she has no legal or blood links to the kids.

The children reside in a gothic style mausoleum with a live grouch of a housekeeper Mrs. Danvers and a horde of ghosts. Andie tries her best to help the depressed lonely youngsters, but Alice and Carter are difficult to reach. She attempts to persuade late Aunt May, but the spirit insists she is going to get it right the second time around. Finally recently dead Dennis and seemingly eternal haunts Miss J and Peter prefer to stay earth bound. The beleaguered ex wife believes life is harder now with her former in-laws, live and dead, than when it was when she was married to North.

Maybe This Time is an amusing paranormal second chance at love romance in which readers will agree with Andie that the otherworldly asylum and a facility on this side too have let the crazies out. Fast-paced and action-packed with a story line seemingly about to go out of control, but never does. Readers will enjoy Jennifer Crusie's zany romantic romp as North wonders if he still has a ghost of a chance with the woman he loves.

Dark and Stormy Knights
Edited by P. N. Elrod
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312598341, $14.99

This fine nine urban fantasy collection focuses on dark knights who protect the innocent and the not innocent from dark nights. The anthology contains five strong entries and four solid contributions. The best two tales are "Even Hand" by Jim Butcher with a Dresden connection as his enemy Marcone has a grudge match with an inhuman sorcerer and Carrie Vaughn's "God's Creatures" with a Kitty connection as Cormac the hunter searches for a werewolf at a reform school. Also top quality are "Even a Rabbit Will Bite" by Rachel Caine starring a dragon slayer who faces unemployment and a fear what next since her prey are almost extinct; Vicki Pettersson's Shifting Star has a female lead who stalks a predator kidnapping young girls; and Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels assigned to protect "A Questionable Client". The entertaining compilation also includes fun tales from Shannon K. Butcher, P.N. Elrod (a Jack Fleming thriller), Deidre Knight and Lilith Saintcrow.

Fatally Frosted
Jessica Beck
St. Martin's
9780312946111, $7.99

In April Springs, North Carolina (population 5001), Suzanne Hart owns the popular Donut Hearts donut shop. She is a reasonably contented person who loves her vocation especially being her own boss doing what she enjoys. Suzanne has a nice boyfriend, State Police Inspector Jake Bishop and several close friends. For the September Kitchens Extraordinaire, her buddy Marge asks Suzanne to demonstrate how to make donuts in her remodeled kitchen. Suzanne leaps at the chance to make beignets for the gala.

On the first day of the festival, Suzanne demonstrates to a large crowd how to make beignets when someone screams: "she's dead." Kitchen tour organizer Peg Masterson has been murdered with the weapon being Suzanne's lemon-filled pastry which the victim was addicted to and everyone in town knew it. Suzanne is at the top of Police Chief Martin's suspect list with Jake investigating though he rejects the notion that his girlfriend poisoned Peg. Distrusting the professional law enforcement officials including her Jake to do their jobs, Suzanne and her sweet tooth posse conduct an inquiry.

Suzanne in her second amateur sleuth (see Glazed Murder) knows that Peg was a nasty sort so had several enemies with strong motives of whom the donut maker places on her list. Fatally Frosted is a sugary concoction that provides readers a glimpse through the donut hole of living in a small town. Although one must wonder why she does not trust Jake to do the job and still see her, the story line retains a sense of realism due to the recipe like method employed by the amateur sleuth to uncover who were the strongest motivated and who had the means.

The Lotus Quest: In Search of the Sacred Flower
Mark Griffiths
St. Martin's
9780312641481, $35.00

Taeko-san sends to British highly regarded horticulturist Mark Griffiths three lotus seeds. Mr. Griffiths plants them in his garden as he has done with so many floras. They bloom beautifully for a day; in fact he felt they were the most beautiful plants he ever seen. Later, Mr. Griffiths learns that the seeds came from an anthropological dig in Japan and were astonishingly proven to be 3000 years old. Stunned he begins The Lotus Quest to understand how a relatively simple plant's seeds survived three millennia and how the lotus became the legend it is. His travels take him to Egypt and India before he arrives at his ultimate destination the Chuson-Ji Temple in Japan.

Anyone who thought botany is boring will change their mind with this superb insightful look at the history of the Lotus. Well written and engrossing, history, science and gardening converge as Mark Griffiths lovingly and reverently tells the true tale of the Sacred Flower, from past to present in his wonderful memoir.

Mothers & Other Liars
Amy Bourret
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312586584, $13.99

Nineteen year old runaway Ruby Lavender finds an abandoned baby inside a trash can at a rest-stop. Assuming the parents were discarding the infant, she names the child Lark and takes her with her as her child.

Nine years later in New Mexico, Ruby works as a nail technician while raising her daughter as a single mom. Mother and daughter are contented as they have plenty of friends and support. Ruby even has a boyfriend; whose family adores her and especially Lark.

However, Ruby's perfect world implodes when she reads in a tabloid about two parents whose baby was kidnapped nine years ago and they pray for a miracle. Ruby now knows her Lark was abducted not dumped. She must choose what is right for Lark though what this is remains nebulous except one choice will rip her motherly heart to shreds.

This is a character driven superb family drama starring a strong cast especially Ruby, Lark and the biological parents. Readers will empathize with the "adopted" mom who struggles with just what is right for her beloved daughter as she knows her mind cannot filter passed life without Lark. Although too much is piled on the heroine (more than the above), sympathetic fans will relish this profound look at Mothers & Other Liars.

As Lie the Dead
Kelly Meding
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
www.randomhouse.com
9780553592870, $7.99, www.amazon.com

After waking up in someone else's body on a slab in the morgue, Hunter Evy Stone's first case was to solve who killed her and her still dead Triad partners (see Three Days to Dead). Evy still struggles with the memories and previous lifestyle of her new body; that of Chalice Frost while physically and emotionally healing from injuries and her own body's death.

The Assembly of Clan Elders wants all Triad members dead but especially Evy's friend Rufus St, James for his leading their genocide attacks on the Owlkins people. Evy blames herself for the annihilation while she and her former handler Wyatt Truman try to prevent further carnage as they believe Brass is behind the assaults. Feeling some regret as to what happened to the shapeshifters due to what she believes were attacks on her, Evy vows to keep their survivors safe and take down Brass. As an assassin continues to target her and anyone in her sphere or even strangers by happenchance near her, she will soon realize how much she underestimated the problem.

The second Stone urban fantasy is a great thriller as the heroine further learns betrayal by those she felt in her previous life she could trust is the norm. Evy feels remorse that so many have died especially the shapeshifters all because someone wants her dead. This is her tale of learning how naive she once was as she peels away layers of a conspiracy that leaves her paralyzed with the shock of humanity's brutality. Kelley Meding is a great storyteller.

Infamous
Suzanne Brockmann
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th fl., NY, NY 10019
www.randomhouse.com
9780345521200, $7.99, www.amazon.com

In 2010 history professor Alison Carter is the expert on the feud between legendary Marshal Silas Quinn and notorious outlaw James "Kid" Gallagher of the brutal Kelly Gang; the Kid kidnapped and murdered the lawman's wife, Melody. In 1898 in the Red Rock Saloon in Jubilation, Arizona Quinn and the Kelly Gang faced off. Alison knows she has come a long way from growing up the daughter of an alcoholic as now she is the consultant to the Hollywood film Quinn.

Having served in the Bush senior's Gulf War, A. J. Gallagher came home suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. For several years he depended on alcohol to numb the ghosts of war. Sober, he wants to exorcize the ghost of his great-grandfather The Kid. However, the Kid refuses to go to hell; instead demanding his descendent clear his name as he insists the legend is false since he and his beloved Melody ran away to Alaska to es cape from abusive Quinn. A.J. confronts Alison, but though his evidence is the word of mouth from a spirit, the veteran and the professor are attracted to each other. When deadly felons go after his woman, A.J. vows to keep her safe.

This is a great paranormal romance mindful of Who Shot Liberty Valance and Robert Wuhl's presentation in Assume the Position on "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Fast-paced, the story line is at its best when the focus is on the Kid challenging A.J. to sell the facts to the so called expert while A.J. wants to sell himself to his beloved expert. When the plot takes a suspense spin, it loses some of the charm and underlying insight that the winners write the history to make them heroes and their adversaries' villains.

With Friends Like These
Sally Koslow
Ballantine
9780345506221, $25.00

The foursome met in the 1990s when they became apartment mates sharing the costs of rent in Manhattan. Over the years, they went their separate ways, but Quincy, Talia, Chloe, and Jules remain friends although their lifestyles are different from those single day s in New York.

Chloe married a Wall Street hedge fund manager while Talia wedded a teacher with a healthy trust fund. Both have preschool aged sons while also job sharing a copy-writing position. They were best friends until Talia went after a job that should have gone to Chloe. Quincy and Jules remain childless. They were best friends until Jules gave away Quncy's real estate deal to her boyfriend.

Each is confronting their forties with men in their lives who seem at times too powerful and too inadequate. Arthur admires Jules but fails to act beyond friendship. Tom hides in the academic world while Talia anchors them in gritty reality. Xander demands timorous Chloe be at his side at parties and other events. Jake tries to be there for his Quincy, whose life is filled with tragedy. Now the quartet has reconnected.

This is a warm tale that focuses on the value of friendship in the good times and especially the bad moments that everyone faces. The lead four females are totally different in personality, but each holds up their perspective rotated between them. The men in their lives are also diverse with differing degrees of demands on the women in their lives. Although nothing new to the sisterhood theme is added, readers will enjoy this intelligent salute to friendship due to the strong ensemble cast.

The Ocean Dark
Jack Rogan
Ballantine
9780553385182, $7.99

In a rarely noticed remote island in the Caribbean, the Mariposa cargo ship heads to its meeting with the Antoinette to pick up an illegal shipment of guns. However, the criminal crew mostly from Costa Rica is attacked by deadly apparently amphibious creatures.

When the Antoinette finally reaches the rendezvous point, they find an island littered with broken ships. The crew of almost entirely felons with one undercover FBI agent on board is under siege. A nearby FBI vessel serendipitously follows the Antoinette, but hesitates whether to intervene. While in the States DOD scientists have an idea what is terrorizing the Antoinette, but protocol slows down their assistance. All hell has broken loose in a tiny dot in the Caribbean.

This is an exciting horror thriller as the beasts mount up quite a number of kills even before readers meet the amphibious species up front and in person. The story line is fast-paced with mostly unsympathetic characters like the last survivor on the Mariposa Braulio putting a human face to the terror. Action-packed from the first bloody scream to the last, fans will enjoy this exhilarating sea thriller mindful of the Beast from the Black Lagoon especially over the first third of the novel.

Home Again
Mariah Stewart
Ballantine
9780345520357, $7.99

Dallas MacGregor knows she has come a long way since moving to St. Dennis on the Maryland side of Chesapeake Bay from New Jersey back in 1983. She hated the change until she met and debated worms with Grant as she lived with energetic Great Aunt Berry just after her four years old sister died. In 2010 she has become an award winning actress.

However, her wonderful Hollywood lifestyle is nuked when her soon-to-be-former spouse, movie producer Emilio Baird is involved in a sex scandal that causes a nightmare for Dallas as the tabloids investigate and bombard her with innuendos and deliberate half-truths and lies. Sick of the unfair furor and wanting to keep her son Cody safe from the feeding frenzy of the media nasties, she flees from Southern California with her child to Aunt Berry's abode where she remembers spending her happiest childhood moments. There she and veterinarian Dr. Grant Wyler soon meet and both understand deja vu as they still are attracted to one another. However, his performance is sidetracked when Cody and his new best buddy Logan vanish and a frantic Dallas panics. Emilio followed by the media storm rushes to Maryland in order to salvage his career by performing as the doting husband and concerned father. However, while he acts for the cameras, Grant performs in the field for the woman and her son he loves.

The latest Chesapeake Diaries family drama (see Coming Home) is an entertaining contemporary second chance at love romance. Dallas is the star as the link between Hollywood and St. Dennis while the rest of the cast play second and third banana support roles. Although the comparison between a shallow Hollywood and a profound Chesapeake Bay seems exaggerated on each coast, readers will enjoy Dallas' coming Home Again.

Three Nights With A Scoundrel
Tessa Dare
Ballantine
9780345518897, $7.99

In 1817 Julian Bellamy holds himself responsible for the murder of his friend Leo Chatwick, founder of the Stud Club. He obsesses with the need to find Leo's killer and bring him or her to justice.

Leo's sister Lily has concealed that she loves Julian as he seems to see her as kid sister. When she visits Leo, she is shocked how much her beloved her deteriorated physically and emotionally since her brother died. Julian has always been attracted to Lily, but he has always remained reserves as he believes she deserves better than him. Lily tries to help Julian move on in his grief by offering him her love.

The latest The Stud Club Regency romance (see One dance with a Duke and Twice Tempted with a Rogue) is a fabulous conclusion to a strong trilogy though the tone is similar to the two predecessors. The lead couple makes the story line so much fun as he feels unworthy while she knows he is her one. Loaded with compassion, fans will relish this fine historical as the heroine dares to go after who she covets with her heart.

The Exile of Sara Stevenson
Darci Hannah
Ballantine
9780345520548, $15.00

In 1814, lighthouse designer Robert Stevenson sends his pregnant nineteen year old daughter Sara to reside at the isolated Cape Wrath Lighthouse in Scotland. Sara waits patiently in exile for her lover Thomas Crichton the sailor to come for her and for the birth of their child. Reticent lighthouse keeper Willy Campbell is upset with her arrival as he prefers solitude.

To pass time, bibliophile Sara corresponds with an Oxford antiquarian. Sara becomes upset when she finds out her parents plan to take her baby away from her. Desperate she sends a pleading letter to her pen pal to rescue her and her baby from her parents. He wants to assist her, but has a major problem to overcome that might prove impossible to surmount.

The Exile of Sara Stevenson is an enjoyable Regency romance with a wonderful twist as the letters between the pen pals have quite a distance to travel. The cast is solid throughout as the audience obtains a taste of life at a remote lighthouse during the early nineteenth century. Although Sara's problems never fully come across as threatening, readers will enjoy this intriguing look at love crossing impossible to penetrate barriers.

Unfinished Desires
Gail Godwin
Ballantine
9780345483218, $15.00

In 2001, Mother Suzanne Ravenel begins taping her memories of fifty plus years of teaching at Mount Saint Gabriel's School in Mountain City, North Carolina. Looking back at her time in Appalachian Mountains school, she has fond memories of some classes like that of '74 and the 1930s when she attended the school as a student.

However, the class that sticks out in her head was the most horrific, 1951-52. The year of toxicity started with the arrival of ninth-grader Chloe Starnes, who was grieving her mother who had just died. Young Mother Malloy was assigned to the freshman class. Chloe's cousin Tildy Stratton becomes her BFF. However, she is uninformed as to her manipulative cousin picking up her mom Cordelia's vendetta against Mother Suzanne.

This is an intriguing character study that uses the memories of Mother Suzanne to tell the story of feuding people. The engine that drives the story line is Cordelia rather than Mother Suzanne; which adds to the depth the audience sees of the prime cast; years after the two key events that shaped their animosity occurred. Although too many tertiary players crowd the stage at times, Gail Godwin provides an interesting drama.

Scared Stiff
Annelise Ryan
Kensington
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
www.kensingtonbooks.com
9780758234544, $22.00, wwww.amazon.com

The residents of Sorenson, Wisconsin know each other as the town is very tiny. When Deputy Coroner Mattie Winston discovered her husband Erik cheating on her, she left him and moved into a house owned by her boss and closest friend Izzy. She meets Detective Steve Hurley when Mattie's husband was under suspicions for murdering his girlfriend (see Scared Stiff) and to this day still has a crush on the cop.

They meet again when Izzy and Mattie are called to Shannon Tolliver's home. She is lying face down on her outside sidewalk; shot to death. A witness states that the victim and Erik had a public fight; afterward she tossed him out of their home insisting she wanted a separation. Other circumstantial evidence surfaces and finally enough proof is gathered to make an arrest. Mattie rejects the notion Erik killed his wife in a crime of passion because she finds a letter he wrote to his Shannon just after they split up saying how much he loved her. She pleads her case with Steve before beginning her own investigation, which places her in danger from a deranged killer.

The Mattie Winston mysteries are funny, romantic and complex; blending together into an enticing read. The small town setting makes for a fine background for the "Trick or Treat" homicide as kids walk the streets not expecting to see a real corpse. Scared Stiff is a delightful tale starring a psychopathic villain vs. a dedicated deputy coroner using a taxi to get around (don't ask what her cost is).

Falcon Prince
Karen Kelley
Kensington Brava
9780758238382, $14.00

In Miller Bend, Texas the naked male hunk comes out of the fog to the amazement of Rianna Lancaster. He insists he came for her to bring her home to the planet of New Symtaria. She reacts like any American female would; she sprays him with Mace and dials 911 as she runs away from the intruder.

The residents believe dog groomer Ria is a fruitcake as she behaves so different than a Texan; the sheriff ignores her insistence of a streaker and her adopted parents betray her when they rent her bedroom to the wealthy Prince Kristor. Ria detests his arrogance, but finds she also wants him. He insists she is a royal from his orb and they belong together forever. She insists she is a Texan and they belong together for a tryst.

The second Prince of Symtaria romantic science fiction (see The Jaguar Prince) is a zany tale of an illegal alien and a citizen with questionable legal status fighting, fussing and falling in love. This lighthearted frolic may be over the top of New Symtaria and contains a rushed climax, but fans will relish the star-crossed amusing yet heated tale of love in small-town Texas.

Damage Control
Amy Fetzer
Kensington Brava
9780758231390, $14.00

Archeologist Olivia Corrigan investigates an ancient Celtic legend. Her research tracks the routes of twelfth century Viking and Chinese traders that lead to the Arctic Circle polar cap where she believes an ancient ship is under the ice.

However, her efforts turn ugly when people associated with her project begin dying. Apparently, Russian agents want to know the secret of the Celtic legends and are willing to kill to succeed. Dragon One mercenary team assigns her former husband explosives expert Sebastian Fontenot to safeguard the woman he still loves while also trying to rescue from kidnappers a colleague of hers who knows much about legend snatched in his hotel room. As they team up to save the life of the abducted English bookworm scholar from adversaries who cold-bloodedly murdered innocent bystanders in the hotel, Olivia still wonders if she would be safer with the Russians than with her former spouse who she still loves.

The latest Dragon One (see Fight Fire With Fire and Come as You Are) is an action-packed romantic suspense that circles the globe as Olivia hops seemingly everywhere. The second chance romance starts towards the middle of the story line and enhances the dangerous adventures the lead couple and his cohorts confront. That is the key to this entertaining thriller that never stops for a respite.

Such a Pretty Face
Cathy Lamb
Kensington
9780758229557, $15.00

She once was well over 300 pounds, but lost 170 pounds thanks in part from the fear brought on by a heart attack. However, thirty -something legal assistant Stevie Barrett is no longer sure who she is. Pondering what to do as mentally she still feels obese, Stevie decides that the only way to move on is to look back starting with the death of her mentally ill mother drowning her sister and the uncle who raised her though he loathed her.

As her cousins encourage her while they prepare a gala to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of their parents, Stevie knows she must face her uncle. She also wants to date her neighbor, quit her job to become an artist and a roller derby performer. However, first she must deal with the uncle who resented his poor orphaned niece.

Stevie is a super lead character who holds her tale together as she loses the weight she realizes she has not rid herself of her insecurities baggage; to do that she must face her uncle as the other person she would need to confront her mom is long dead. The scenes in which Stevie reflects on her life by herself or to a lesser degree with her cousin are powerful and gripping. When her uncle or her mom (in flashbacks) appears, they come across as caricatures though that is mostly because Stevie filters them through how she sees them. Readers will enjoy this deep contemporary character study as losing the physical weight is not enough; one must lose the emotional and mental weights too.

Wicked Witch Murder
Leslie Meier
Kensington
9780758229298, $24.00

In Tinker's Grove, Maine, with her cat familiar Piewocketat her side, Wiccan storeowner of the charming shop Solstice, Lady Diana Ravenscroft, high priestess of the Silver Coven, sends a warning to Pennysaver reporter Lucy Stone to expect danger. Lucy thinks nothing of the reading as she is used to being in danger.

Lucy is walking her dog Libby when they come across a burned body in the woods. She learns later the victim is identified as the magician Malcolm Malebranche, a member of the Silver Coven. Diana is stunned as her associate was supposed to be in England not New England. Meanwhile Lucy's teenage daughters Sara and Zoe and their neighbors' daughter Abby Stoughton find Lady Diana enchanting. When Abbey's ailing mother dies, her grieving father Ike, a religious fanatic, holds Diana culpable. When Abby becomes very ill, Ike goes berserk with his accusations as Lucy tries to find out what is going on before the teen succumbs like her mom did.

The latest Lucy Stone investigative journalist cozy (see Valentine Murder and Mother's Day Murder) is a terrific entry as deaths seem to converge on Lady Diana. The story line is fast-paced as Lucy follows the clues but struggles to connect the two deaths though Ike swears Lady Diana is a killer. With a neat lat spin, Wicked Witch Murder is a charming New Age murder mystery.

Bedding the Enemy
Mary Wine
Kensington Brava
9780758234674, $14.00

In 1604, reluctant Keir McQuade has become laird of his clan. As he wanders aimlessly at Red Stone Castle, Keir knows he has his work cut out to restore the prestige of his clan. He starts by traveling to London to pledge his fealty to King James I; while at court he plans to find a wife.

If he was asked before arriving at the palace whether he believed in love at first sight he would have scorned the question. However, now that he sees Lady-in Waiting Helena Knyett he knows how true that is as he instantly smitten. She feels the same way, but her brother Edmund has other plans for his sister. When Edmund loses Helena as a stake in a gambling game, James directs Keir to marry her; which he readily agrees. However, someone, perhaps her wastrel bother or his chosen suitor for her Raelin McKorey, wants her groom and maybe even her dead.

The latest "Bedding" historical romance (see In the Warrior's Bed and In Bed With a Stranger) is fabulous tale of love at first sight. Keir and Helena are strong lad characters who knows what they want (and what readers want), which is each other. Fast-paced and loaded with intrigue and suspense, fans of Stuart romances will enjoy Mary Wine's intoxicating historical.

Swept Aside
Sharon Sala
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
www.mirabooks.com
9780778328025, $7.99, www.amazon.com

After the deadly mass murders at the high school graduation in Jasper, Texas where she was the art teacher, Amalie Pope came home to heal. Suffering from PTSD she moves into the Bordelaise, Louisiana home of her recently deceased beloved Nonna. Amalie hopes some R&R will help her regain her equilibrium though she doubts it as she vividly see Pauly Jordon kill four students, two teachers and two parents as well as wounding six others including her.

However, instead of a respite, four dangerous males invade her home. They use her as a hostage. She is frightened as she expects even with negotiations she will die. One of the deadly felons Nick Arroyo senses the fears that Amalie displays. He wants to extract her from the scenario, but doing so will blow his cover and place both of them in peril. Amalie feels Nick is different from the others as he seems kind while the remaining threesome are beasts. The undercover DEA agent is her solo hope for survival, but she wavers over trusting him as he came with them.

The latest Storm Front romantic suspense (see Torn Apart and Blown Away) is a terrific taut thriller that works because of the quintet inside the house. The three predators especially Lou and the lead couple make for a tense tale as readers wonder how Nick will expedite Amalie from the deadly situation.

Kiss of Death
P.D. Martin
Mira
9780778327790, $7.99

The corpse was found in Temescal Gateway Park. LAPD fears the murder is ritual caused by an NRM (new religious movement) as the locale is where After Dark, a self proclaimed vampire group, holds rites and the victim has two puncture wounds in her neck. The local cops ask for FBI profiler Sophie Anderson to work with Detective Sloan on the investigation into who murdered Sherry Taylor, teenage daughter of an affluent producer.

As they interview interested parties, Sloan believes an acting professor or the former boyfriend killed Sherry while Anderson believes either After Dark or another "vampire" clan performed the deed. When a second corpse is found near the Sherry's murder scene, Anderson fears someone is working on a psi transfer of power. However, as the Fed ignores her visiting boyfriend (from Arizona) and fears her attraction to Anton Ward, leader of After Dark, who senses her psi power, she goes undercover as Lady Veronica seeking a killer amidst the Goth scene.

The fascination in this tense well-written police procedural is with the insight into the two types of vampires (psi and blood suckers) as readers learn of psychosomatic illnesses (porphyria and Renfield's syndrome). Sloan is a terrific support character who should have a return engagement with Anderson. The prime rest of the secondary cast bring to life either the Goth or police subcultures. Although Anderson's eerie attraction to Ward is not fully explained as this is a key element and questionable is the ease she switches to and from her Aussie accent (and vernacular), fans will enjoy her latest whodunit (see Killing Hands, Fan Mail and The Body Count).

Overkill
Joseph Teller
Mira
9780778327769, $7.99

Defense attorney Harrison J. "Jaywalker" Walker sits in a docket room in the Supreme Court building in Manhattan waiting for his client's turn to plea. He hears an obvious civil lawyer tell Judge McGillicuddy guilty with an explanation. The Judge asks the lawyer Fudderman and the ADA Katherine T. Darcy to come to the bench where he reads the riot act before calling Mr. Jaywalker to come forward. McGillicuddy "assigns" the defense to Jaywalker.

After a brawl over a girl, Jeremy Estrada shot and killed another boy with a gun shot between the eyes. Though he cannot string together a coherent sentence Jeremy claims self defense and thus demands a trial. Though he doubts he will be paid, Jaywalker agrees to defend him before his mom comes up with another attorney willing to plea bargain the kind into a life sentence.

This is a super legal thriller that sub-genre fans will enjoy. The story line is fascinating from the moment Jaywalker struggles to spell "harass" and never slows down until the jury is polled on the final verdicts on the twelve counts as the audience sees up close how the system works (or not works). Overkill is another terrific Jaywalker tale (see The Tenth case and Depraved Injustice).

Spy Glass
Maria V. Snyder
Mira
9780778328476, $13.95

Opal Cowen gave up magic when she siphoned off her blood to defeat the evil mage Ulrick (see Sea Glass). In Sitia, her mom is planning her other daughter's wedding which is driving her crazy and her boyfriend Kade is tied up with magical issues. Bored Opal wants to get back what she gave up by reversing what she previously did. However, the teen has a slight problem before she can begin the reversal procedural; someone stole the Sea Glass containing her blood. She ponders whether Ulrick might have some of her blood.

Opal still can detect and deflect magic so obtains work keeping Councilor Moon safe from magical assaults. She also signs up for a spy training program that she hopes will enable her to find her blood. When she meets the head of security for the Commander of The Territory of Ixia, Vanek, he mentors her on power without magic. Now two males compete for her affection, but though she must choose between them, a desperate Opal stays focused on her quest. Using her future revealing spy glass and her beloved Quartz, Opal begins her quest to find her blood with the only acceptable outcome being having her magic restored.

This is an exciting entry, but lacks the uniqueness of the glassmaking magic that Opal once possessed (though the previous tales). The quest is fascinating though at a much lower scale than the battle with Opal with the incarcerated in a maximum security prison Ulrick; as she is willing to risk death to regain what she sacrificed. With some romance as she has two males in her life competing for her affection, fans will appreciate this sort of coming of age fantasy as the heroine fails to adjust to being mundane.

Ghost Night
Heather Graham
Mira
9780778328155, $7.99

On Haunt Island near Bimini, writer Vanessa Loren is part of a crew filming a low-budget horror movie. As they complete the final wrap, someone gruesomely murders two actors Georgia Dare and Travis Glenn. Their heads are decapitated and posed in a frightening manner in the sand. The case is unsolved. For the next two years, Vanessa remains frightened and unable to sleep as she suffers nightmares from the grisly scene she saw on the Bahamas' island beach.

Filmmaker Sean O'Hara hires Vanessa to work on a documentary he is filming in the area where the cold case homicides that haunt her occurred. Hoping to get closure, she agrees. Sean can see ghosts and Vanessa fall in love, but a deranged killer stalks them anxiously waiting for a rerun of what happened two years ago.

The second Bone Island paranormal romantic suspense (see Ghost Shadow) is a delightful thriller due to the ghosts feeling genuine. The lead couple is a wonderful duet whose hope for a Hollywood ending is in trouble from a slasher (everyone knows what happens in a slasher flick). Ghost Night is tense entertainment as a killer looks forward to adding a pair in love to the count of victims.

Kill Me Again
Maggie Shayne
Mira
9780778328049, $7.99

In Shadow Falls, Vermont two joy riding teenagers Samuel Overton and Kyle Becker find a wounded man in a field. He is rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment, but has no idea who he is as he suffers from amnesia due to his trauma.

He did carry a business card of English professor Olivia Dupree in his pocket so the police call her to come to the hospital to see if she can identify him. Olivia cannot, but wonders if the amnesiac could be reclusive author Aaron Westhaven, whom she was to meet for the first time. They share a philosophy that life is a string of disappointments that is best run alone. After leaving the ailing hunk at the hospital, someone attacks Olivia in her home; more frightening is the name she hears, a name she has not heard anyone call her in sixteen years. Olivia and the man with no memory flee as unknown adversaries stalk them though she wonders if it is her or his past that has them on the run.

Though amnesia is an anciently used technique, Maggie Shayne turns it into a strong feature of the latest Secrets of Shadow Falls romantic suspense (see Killing Me Softly and Kiss Me, Kill Me). Fast-paced from the moment the lead couple meets in the hospital and never slowing down, readers will wonder whose past has caught up with the protagonists. With a super twist, readers will fully enjoy this tense thriller.

White Heat
Brenda Novak
Mira
9780778327950, $7.99

Several college students from wealthy families formed The Church of the Covenant. Over the years their little sect has grown until there are two hundred members in the flock. Ethan Wycliff is the Holy One leader with twelve Spiritual Guides. The unholy thirteen use their flock for sex and drugs. They are also righteous murderers defending what they believe is their divine right.

The Department 6 private security firm assigns Rachel Jessop and her supervisor Nate Ferrentino to go undercover as a married couple in order to infiltrate and expose this deadly cult. The pair, who shared a one night stand both never forgot, travels to Paradise, Arizona home of the Church of the Covenant with Rachel as a weak person seeking solace and Nate as her skeptical husband.

This is a fascinating romantic suspense thriller with its intimate look at the Cult's activities especially sexual dominance and torture in the name of the Lord. Nate is euphoric with the assignment because he wanted a second to the nth trysts with the woman who seduced him that one time. On the other hand Rachel is much more complex, but too much so; she remains humiliated by what she did that one time and the Cult brings back better forgotten childhood memories of a strict by the bible rod using father. Readers will enjoy this glimpse into how few charismatic nasties can dictate in every sense over those i n need desperate to belong to anyone.

Outside the Ordinary World
Dori Ostermiller
Mira
9780778328896, $14.95

Landscape artist Sylvia grew up detesting her mother Elaine's extramarital affairs as much as mom's bouts of religious fervor. Sylvia had no empathy towards her cheating mom until recently.

Raising two children (Hannah and Emma) while teaching art at workshops, Sylvia is bored with her sexless marriage with Nathan, her failed painting career, and even with her two kids. When she meets Tai, father of a student of hers, she is attracted to him. As she considers to tryst or not to tryst, she looks back to her childhood when her mom combined affairs with self-righteous piety and her father's brutality that led to the final tragic schism.

Rotating viewpoint between Sylvia in the present and Elaine three decades ago, Outside The Ordinary World is an engaging character study. Sylvia has begun to appreciate what her mom went through as she considers an extramarital affair though turning deeply devout at the same time seems too hypocritical to her. Both women are flawed, but readers will somewhat empathize with mom, but not with the daughter. This strong family drama makes it seem history is son ready to repeat itself.

Ruthless
Anne Stuart
Mira
9780778328483, $7.99

In 1765 Paris, English Lady Elinor Harrington struggles to prevent her hedonistic out of control mother from wasting what little funds they have left. When her mom runs off to a party hosted by the notorious King of Hell Viscount Francis Rohan, Elinor follows thinking she knows what debauchery she will find there, but is unsure of how to remove her mom from the decadence without causing a scandal.

Rohan knows an innocent Elinor does not belong in his den of iniquities. However, he is also stunned that his lower other head disagrees with his assessment of her. Thus he decides to play with her. However, as he lowers the bar with his S&M games, he finds himself wanting more from his now beloved who is confused by her sexually voracious "protector".

This erotic Georgian Era romance is not for everyone as Rohan living up to the title is an extremely dark lead male filled with Fire and Ice while Elinor initially comes across as a victim (of her mom and beloved). Sub-genre readers will enjoy this tale of codependency as the sexual predator becomes the prey of his mentee with love as the equalizer.

Sarah's Christmas Miracle
Mary Ellis
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
www.harvesthousepublishers.com
9780736929684, $10.99, www.amazon.com

Sarah Beachy seems very contented living in her small Amish community in Ohio. She loves her family, has an interested beau Adam Troyer, and enjoys her work at the Country Pleasures Bed and Breakfast where Englishers from all over the state come to stay for a taste of the Amish.

Perhaps the only negative is her older brother Caleb left the People to join a construction company in Cleveland. Sarah wants Caleb home for Christmas after being away for over four years. This Thanksgiving she decides, over the objections of her parents, to go to the big city, find her sibling and persuade him to come home.

This is an exciting family drama as most of the tale follows the courageous heroine as a small fish in the big pond of Cleveland trying to find and convince her brother to come home. The story line is character driven and not just by Sarah as her Mamm prays to God to keep her children safe and bring them home while Adam struggles not to go after the woman he loves but instead places his faith in God and her. Not a romance by any stretch, and the Caleb situation is too simplified as one wonders "How you're going to keep him down on the farm after he has seen" Cleveland.

Walker's Wedding
Lori Copeland
Harvest House
9780736927611, $12.99

In 1870 Boston, railroad heiress Sarah Livingston is a twenty-five year old and unmarried. She believes she will remain a spinster as her father rejects all males who court her as he assumes each one is after her fortune.

At the same time that Sarah frets she will never be married, in the Wyoming Territory Walker McKay has given up on having a wife since he was jilted at the altar. Still he sends for a mail order bride.

When Sarah sees an opportunity to take the place of a mail order bride, she leaps into the role. Sarah arrives by train in Wyoming where she finds her fiance Walker hosting a barbecue. Walker informs the preacher, who had no idea this was a wedding party or did the other guests, to marry him and Sarah. As they fall in love, she fears how he will react to her deception as she feels just like Trudy who dumped Walker.

This is an amusing lighthearted western romance with a powerful message of the importance of trust in relationships between people and with God. The tale contains two likable lead characters and a strong support cast. The story line is fast-paced but it is the relationship between the distrusting groom and the desperate bride who make this Americana so much fun. As with Outlaw's Bride and A Kiss for Cade, Walker's Wedding is an enjoyable nineteenth century romance.

The Pirate Queen
Patricia Hickman
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
www.waterbrookpress.com
9781400072002, $13.99, www.amazon.com

For the sake of their three children Saphora Warren stayed married to her womanizing spouse plastic surgeon Bender. However, with the nest empty, she has had enough of his cheating so decides to leave him and their affluent lifestyle. Her plan is to let Bender remain on the affluent estate overlooking Lake Norman where they just did a shoot for Southern Living magazine; she will move to their dilapidated bungalow Oriental on the Outer Banks.

As Saphora begins her exit speech, Bender interrupts with two words: "I'm Dying." She agrees to remain with him at Oriental though she also feels like a fool for her sympathy towards the father of her children. Paradise Lost becomes more crowded than Noah's Ark when a horde of family members arrive and townsfolk keep dropping in on them. As Saphora seeks herself she finds inadequate time to do so; instead she asks God for a sign of divine guidance to help her find Paradise Regained.

This is a deep character study that focuses predominantly on Saphora who is a nurturing person though some readers might conclude she is a codependent for not just leaving her philandering cancer stricken husband. The cast makes the story line work as readers observe how Saphora deals with trauma vs. another family living on the Neuse River. Fans will relish this strong poignant drama.

The Charlatan's Boy
Jonathan Rogers
Waterbrook, Aug 10 2010, $13.99
9780307458223, $13.99

All young Grady knows about himself is he has always traveled with Perfessor Floyd Wendellson who proclaims to be the world's greatest authority on "feechie life and habits". The lad would like to know about his past with a strong need to belong, but no matter how hard he concentrates he remains clueless.

Their traveling con show across Corenwald has recently seen dwindling attendance as people no longer believe in the legends of the Feechie especially at the cost of a copper. The duo reaches rock bottom when the latest hoax to make the Corenwalders fearfully fascinated with the "Wild Man of the Feechiefen Swamp" works too well; leading to an enraged mob wanting to lynch the Perfessor and the Charlatan's Boy. However, Floyd may be frightened, but he is also euphoric because during the dangerous chaos he found his first clue about his mysterious past and a new hope he will find blood kin.

Ironically though the Perfessor tells his con artist tales about the Ugliest Boy, etc. to the rubes, the novel's story line is told by the uneducated but trained to play roles orphan. The lad makes the tale work as his obsession to find his family brings empathy to well written strange world. Fans who enjoy something dramatically different will appreciate a visit to Mr. Rogers' magical neighborhood.

Trust
Kate Veitch
Plume
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
www.us.penguingroup.com
9780452296350, $15.00, www.amazon.com

College art teacher Susanna Greenfield is the poster person for sandwich meat. She is the peacemaker between her mother Jean and her born-again sister Angie; she is the peacemaker between her spouse Gerry the architect and their teenage children. Lately as she tries to recreate her art career, she is tired of being caught in the middle with the demands of her loved ones ignoring her needs whether they expect her to play tennis or take them somewhere. In fact she believes they scorn her as pathetic when all she wants is her art life back and fears it is too late as she no longer wants to be the responsible one holding the extended family together.

A car accident leaves the two sisters stunned with grief though Susanna focuses on painting for her upcoming exhibit. Angie's son Finn is fearful of his mother's boyfriend from the Faith Rise Church, gospel-singing Gabriel while Susanna learns the truth about her monogamous marriage and Angie learns the truth about her boyfriend. Life seems to be falling apart for the siblings, but each shows strengths that neither expected they had.

Although the story line has a soap opera feel to it, the strong cast makes the tale worth reading. Susanna is an incredible individual as her children Stella-Jean and Sebastian would testify with Stella-Jean showing similar fortitude late in the novel. Angie is an addictive personality needing to belong. Whereas the two adult males are selfish and abusive though in radically different ways as Gerry is verbally disdainful of his wife while Gabriel is ugly to Finn. Fans will root for the two sisters to kick the men in their respective lives to the curb, but doubt either has the strength to do so in this entertaining family drama.

Dead in the Dregs
Peter Lewis
Counterpoint Press
2117 Fourth Street, Suite D, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781582435480, $14.95, www.counterpointpress.com

Renowned wine critic Richard Wilson can make or break a winemaker with his critiques. He visits Norton's Winery in the Napa Valley, bit soon afterward vanishes. His sister Jane is frantic and turns to the one person she feels can find her brother. Jane asks her former husband, part owner of Poncho's, Babe Stern to search for Richard.

Babe investigates starting where Richard was last seen, the Norton Winery. He quickly finds his ex brother-in-law floating in a vat of Cabernet Sauvignon. Whoever left him there had smashed in Richard's head and cut off his hand. Babe realizes that Wilson had plenty of angry enemies in the winemaking business. However, as the local police affirm each adversary had an air tight alibi, the be st lead in his mind is not local, but a former intern at the Norton Winery Jean who went home to Burgundy, France. There Babe runs up against walls of protection one of them by the winery families; of whom one is willing to float the nosy American.

Dead in the Dregs is an entertaining amateur sleuth that is at its best when connoisseur Peter Lewis focuses on wineries. The whodunit is well written as the hero invades France only to run up against a powerful protectionism while other critics are killed. Although why Babe would go to such lengths for his ex is not very clear as the characters are somewhat thin but readers will toast Mr. Lewis with a glass of Burgundy.

Private Dancer
Sheri Whitefeather
Heat
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
www.newamericanlibrary.com
9780425234570, $15.00, www.amazon.com

Beverly Gilbert loves her vocation in spite of knowing that being an exotic dancer who also taught the art led to her divorce two years from her husband Jay Novak. He hated her profession and demanded she end her career as Malibu; instead she quit their marriage. Now his former menage partners (Amber and Luke) persuade Jay to come to the Dusky Do ll because he remains hard (heart and penis) at the thought of Beverly.

Jay asks her what she has been doing and she mentions regression therapy. In the late eighteenth century in the Mediterranean, Camille Renard is to marry spoiled Neylan Empire heir Prince David Abir Ron Veli, but she detests being just part of the harem. She wants to be his harem and plans to lure her future husband with her sexual enticement. As the stripper and the ex begin an affair, she wonders if he was the Prince while he is jealous of her Prince.

This is an entertaining erotic romantic fantasy that uses reincarnation to tie the two eras together. The story line is heated from the moment Jay reappears in Beverly's life especially beginning with her lap dance that readers will want to emulate with their significant other. Well written with strong characterizations, sub-genre fans will relis h Beverly two times while wondering like her if Jay is jealous of himself.

Nauti And Wild
Lora Leigh and Jaci Burton
Heat
9780425234426, $15.00

"Nauti Kisses" by Lora Leigh. Rogue's brother John Calvin Walker, Jr. has moved to Lake Cumberland, Kentucky. However, as he seeks a peaceful lifestyle after all his escapades he misses his beloved Sierra, who he has known from her birth and is almost family. When she is attacked by a stalker in Boston, John's father, who is also Sierra's godfather, asks his son to keep her safe. Sierra makes it clear she is irate with John for leaving her.

"Riding the Edge" by Jaci Burton. In Vegas federal agent Rick Benetti is assigned to keep Ava Vargas safe while escorting her to her father, a senator. He also investigates Ava's involvement with his former gang. Ava has a rescue mission of her own; to save her best friend since childhood Lacey from self destruction with Rick's cousin, Bo.

The latest Nauti Kentucky bad boy (Nauti Nights and Nauti Dreams) and Riding Bad Boy (see Riding on Instinct and Riding Temptation) romantic suspense thrillers are exciting novellas with kick butt lead females who are perfect matches to their hunks. Fans of both series will enjoy this collection.

Possess Me
R.G. Alexander
Heat
9780425235287, $15.00

"Release Me". Following the accident and family acting as if she died, writer Allegra leaves Houston intends to move in with her friend Michelle in New Orleans. She is stunned to be attracted to tormented Rousseau, who thinks he reciprocates but fears his desire may be orchestrated by a sexual voodoo spirit Bone Daddy.

"Reclaim Me". Ben has loved Michelle since they were children, but she denies the attraction. Bone Daddy intercedes as the matchmaker between the runaway artist and Big Ben.

"Redeem Me". On All Saint's Day, Bone Daddy can actually walk the streets of New Orleans in a corporal body. When he runs into reticent Bethany, he thinks she is the reincarnation of his eternal love, but how can they be together tomorrow.

These are three interrelated super heated romantic fantasies starring a solid (pun intended) cast.

Platinum
Aliya S. King
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
www.simonandschuster.com
9781439160251, $24.99, www.amazon.com

Entertainment reporter Alex Sampson Maxwell has gained recognition for her coverage of some of the most prominent people of the past decades. She is engaged to single dad Birdie the rapper and ghostwriting the memoirs of notorious man-eating groupie Cleopatra "Cleo" Wright.

Cleo tells her tale of sleeping with over 90% of the rapper recording artists in the New York metropolitan area. Her approach to relating her sleeping prowess with a who's who and more is through a novel Platinum. As Alex begins to write Cleo's tell all "memoir", she wonders if her Birdie slept with a toxic relationship breaker. At the same time Alex is working a magazine article The Secret Lives of Rapper Wives starting with Rapper Z's spouse Beth (and their three kids with one coming),

The fun in this exciting contemporary drama is figuring out who the characters are in real life, which can detract from the well written story line focus on will fame spoil rappers (and Rock Hunter). Still Alex keeps the three prime subplots focused as the audience obtains a deep look at what goes on behind the closed door of the famous.

The Red Queen
Philippa Gregory
Touchstone
9781416563723, $25.99

As a child, Margaret Beaufort felt she was destiny's darling and planed to remain pious while pushing the cause of the red Rose of Lancaster. However, her mother rudely awakens her by informing her she is a worthless chip off the old block of England's military commander in France; and therefore will be sent to Wales to marry some lord older than her parents. She is quickly widowed at thirteen and forced to marry again. This time she has a son, whom she names Henry after the king. To keep him safe she sends him away but pledges him to the daughter of the White Rose rival York family. Widowed and married this time to Lord Thomas and knowing her son is ready to take the throne from the usurper, Margaret executes a coup.

This is a terrific historical biographical fiction as queen of the sub-genre Philippa Gregory provides her fans with another strong female royal (see The White Queen and The Other Boleyn Girl). Filled with intrigue, murder and betrayal while occurring for the most part in the second half of the fifteenth century, Ms. Gregory focuses this time on a female dynasty maker as Margaret Beaufort proves to be the matriarch of the Tudor line.

A Scattered Life
Karen McQuestion
Amazon Encore
c/o CreateSpace
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
www.createspace.com
9781935597063, $14.95, www.amazon.com

Skyla is a nomad who meets Thomas at a Wisconsin Mexican restaurant where she is a waitress when she was hurt in a violent incident. He begins dating her, buys a home for them, and marries her although her mother-in-law Audrey disapproves of her. They have a little girl Nora.

Skyla loves having a home and a family, something she never had growing up. However, as Nora turns four, she feels stifled. When she meets her scatter brained new neighbor Roxanne, mother of five kids and a big mastiff, she makes her first friend outside of Thomas' family. Skyla soon obtains a job at Mystic Books after meeting psychic Madame Picard. As her life blossoms with new friends, Audrey disapproves as does Thomas. However, Skyla refuses to give up either of her new buddies though life will soon hit home with what is friendship and love.

A Scattered Life is an unhurried developed story line that allows readers an extremely deep look inside the soul of key players especially the heroine. In spite of the relatively unrushed pace, the plot grips the audience from the moment the rambunctious new neighbors settle in and never slows down. The story line centers on the friendship between the new BFFs and other loving relationships notably a mother and her children, and spouses. Well written, readers will enjoy this profound melodrama as Skyla learns what matters in life from Roxanne who lives life to the fullest with plenty of zest as she insists You Can't Take It With You (Moss and Hart) the love you receive from and give to others as everyone needs to feel cherished now.

Wanting Sheila Dead
Jane Haddam
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
www.minotaurbooks.com
9780312380878, $25.95, www.amazon.com

Repulsive Sheila Dunham is universally loathed by everyone. She is a nasty boor who deserves a special place in the Guinness Book of Records for TV firings and for being the most despicable celebrity. She went from reporter to guest personality to reality judge only to be canned by all as the queen of mean terrorizing anyone in her sphere. Recently she began her own successful reality show from her home in New Fenwick, Connecticut where everyone detests the woman too. Someone wants to do more than wish her to drop dead; in fact a woman shoots at her. Sheila's assistant Olivia Dahl hires Armenian-American detective Gregor Demarkian to investigate. He will soon find himself dealing with a murder that brings back a tragic moment in his own personal history.

Just back home in Philadelphia from his honeymoon with beloved Bennis, Armenian-American detective Gregor is also is hired by the Very Old Ladies to look into one of them, widow Sophie Mgrdchian. With another member Viola Vardanian, he enters Sophie's home to find a woman on the floor and another seemingly comatose nearby.

This is a great entry in one of the best long running series as the clues are out in the open, but easily missed due to brilliant red herrings and misdirection. Demarkian is terrific as he looks into his two cases while also showering attention on two women in his life: Bennis and Agatha Christie. Fans will relish this entry as Jane Haddam provides a fabulous whodunit that also takes a biting lampooning of so called realty TV.

The Superman Project
A.E. Roman
Minotaur
9780312375010, $25.99

With his marriage of a decade crashing, Bronx private investigator Chico Santana has moved into his small office. Obese eighteen year old janitor Pablo Sanchez and his mom Esther enter Chico's office seeking his assistance. They want him to find a missing estranged Brooklyn couple, artist Gabby Gupta and her husband, Joey Valentin.

The police believe Joey probably killed Gabby before vanishing. Chico knew Joey as children, but his childhood friend left for the Pacific years ago. Pablo explains Joey went to The Superman Project (TSP) Island run by Gabby's dad, Father Ravi who accuses Joey of murder. The mother and son client believe it is a frame and offer Chico a valuable Superman comic as payment to find out what happened to the Williamsburg couple and if she is dead who killed her. Chico assumes Pablo has sniffed too much cleaning fluid as the conspiracy theory seems inane. However, as he uncovers leads, he begins to reconsider his scorn of paranoid Pablo's pathetic pabulum especially when someone murders Esther.

The latest Chico Santana investigative thriller (see Chinatown Angel) is a superb hard-boiled detective story starring a likable protagonist. The TSP charter seems like lighthearted foolishness by Peter Pan types, but soon proves dangerous and nasty by Captain Hook types. Filled with twists and a great final spin, fans will enjoy A. E. Roman's tour of the boroughs as The Superman Project merges the South Bronx with Nietzsche, Hinduism, and DC comic mythos inside a strong urban noir

The Montmarte Investigation
Claude Izner
Minotaur
9780312383763, $24.99

In 1891 Paris at an outing of the C. Bontemps Boarding School, Elisa borrows Iris' red shoes to run away with twenty-one years old Gaston. Some time later on Montmartre, a female body is found; her face burned with acid so it is unrecognizable; the corpse is barefoot. A red shoe is delivered to the Bookshop owned by Victor Legris and Kenji Mori.

When Kenji recognizes the shoe as one he gave to his goddaughter Iris, he assumes logically and mournfully she is the dead victim until he learns from her she lent them to her friend. Victor follows Kenji to the school and once he catches up with what the shoe denotes he insures Iris is safe as she may have been the intended target. Gaston's body is found in a wine cask on the wharf. Having solved two cases (see The Disappearance at Pere-Lachaise and Murder on the Eiffel Tower), Victor fancies himself a detective so he is determined to solve the case before his rival police Inspector Le cacheur can. When Elisa's mother is also murdered, the three killings appear linked to a cold case in Lyon, but why and who is the avenger remains unknown.

This is an exhilarating French historical mystery that gives armchair detectives a taste of late nineteenth century Paris when cabarets and wine houses were the rage. Real historical figures add to the atmosphere while anchoring the time and place of the storyline. Secrets from the past prove either deadly or joyful as Victor investigates the serial murders linked to a cold case.

Treachery in the Yard
Adimchinma Ibe
Minotaur
9780312585938, $22.99

In Government Reservation Area II, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, the bomb devastates the home and garage of affluent Pius Okpara, who is running against Dr. Vincent Puene for the National Conservative's Party's nomination for governor of Rivers State. Outside of the property damage, no one is hurt. Neighbor Mrs. Naomi Karibi, wife of a judge and mom of three, may have seen the culprits as she describes to the police on the scene.

Homicide Detective Tamunoemi Peterside leads the official investigation that soon turns from a bombing to murder when Mrs. Karibi is killed. As his superiors intrude on Peterside's inquiry, other potential witnesses are also murdered.

Although not as deep as the Botswana mysteries (see Alexander McCall Smith's The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Michael Stanley's Detective Kubu), the first Peterside Nigerian police procedural is an interesting tale. Action-packed as the murder count rises alarmingly fast, Adimchinma Ibe makes a case that corruption intrudes on good police work. Although more insight into Nigeria is needed and less of a Perry Mason climax, fans of African police procedurals will enjoy the first Detective Peterside investigation.

On Location
Elizabeth Sims
Minotaur
9780312586577, $25.99

Los Angeles law student and single mom Rita Farmer feels the worst is finally over after a seemingly century of dealing with her alcoholic former spouse. However, the ex actress is stunned when her sister Gina along with future brother-on-law wealthy Lance de Sauvenard vanish in the wilds of Washington State during a nasty storm. Lance was scouting for an ideal on-site locale for his filmmaker brother to make a movie.

In her gut Rita knows she should turn to her boyfriend private investigator George Rowe to help find her sibling, but does not. Instead she rounds up the posse of her six year old son Petey and her gay friend Daniel the actor to search the wilderness filled with beasts that very loosely might be categorized as human who stalk the seemingly helpless trio.

More a thriller than a mystery, the third Farmer tale (see The Actress and The Extra) is a fabulous novel as Rita's independent streak leads her and her two compatriots into trouble reminiscent of Dickey's Deliverance. On Location is a winner that does not need a Byrd to tell fans that this entry is terrific.

Nemesis
Lindsey Davis
Minotaur
9780312595425, $24.99

In AD 77 on a hot summer day in Rome, informer Marcus Didius Falco has twin tragedies strike him almost simultaneously. His newborn son dies just hours after being born and when he took his baby to be buried on his father's property, he learns his dad died also. As the heir Marcus must make quick business decisions. Marcus has a contract to deliver over a hundred statues to the amphitheater, but when he arrives to pay his father's supplier for them and pick them up, Julius Mo Destus and his wife Livia Primilla are nowhere to be found.

The nephew of the missing couple takes remittance for the statues. He also informs Marcus that his Uncle Julius complained about Nobilis of the Claudii family who reside in the desolate Pontine Marshes. Marcus soon learns that the mutilated body of Modesto has been found. Falco and his friend Vigiles Petronius investigate. They visit the Pontine Marshes and see how trashy the Claudii live and how everyone in a miles wide radius fears them. As they make progress on the case, their enemy Chief Spy Anacrites takes over the inquiry. Falco realizes someone high up in the government is protecting the Claudii so he and his partner continue their probe.

Falco is home after a best selling trip to Alexandria; once again Lindsey Davis brings to life Rome mostly through the eyes of the informer. As a sort of anti-hero, Falco gets his hands dirty while seeking justice for his late father's deceased supplier though the inquiry enables him to put his grief as the sandwich generation mourning two deaths on hold. The rest of the cast is strong especially the protagonist's partner, the first century bureaucrat Anacrites and the squalid living Claudii who ironically have high level protection. This is a terrific Ancient Rome whodunit with surprising twists and Falco running from his grief.

Murder in the Air
Bill Crider
Minotaur
9780312386955, $24.99

The residents of Blacklin County, Texas are outraged over the odious smell coming from Lester Hamilton's humongous chicken farm. The locals demand County Sheriff Dan Rhodes act now or face unemployment. He insists he has no authority as this is a matter of the state's Environmental Protection Agency, which everyone knows works for the protection of big business.

At a time he prefers to hide from two female authors who wrote novels starring heroic Sage Barton rumored to be him, he suddenly has a suspicious death to deal with when Hamilton is found dead near a popular fishing spot. Although the Sheriff believes it was an accident caused by "noodling," for large catfish with his hand as bait, he investigates anyway as he knows a lot of people are angry with the deceased. As Rhodes investigates the death, he deals with Robin Hood shooting arrows with notes attached to them and women scantily dressed in feathers protesting the fowl factory farm.

Filled with plenty of the trademark humor, the latest Crider police procedural (see Murder in Four Parts) is a wonderful zany Texas thriller. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with an eccentric cast who add to the zaniness of the plot. This is a fun detective tale in which there may not have been a crime beyond noodling.

An Ordinary Decent Criminal
Michael Van Rooy
Minotaur
9780312606282, $24.99

In Winnipeg, career criminal; Montgomery Haaviko is trying to stay legit. His efforts to stay straight are fueled by his wonderful wife and their child. However, his intentions fail when three men break into his home. Though they are armed, Haaviko kills them in self-defense.

He explains to the cops what transpired, but his past catches up with him and he is arrested for murder. Distrusting the Canadian judicial system to give him a fair shake, Haaviko refuses to talk to the police without a lawyer present. The cops severely batter him into unconsciousness trying to make him confess, but he remains mute. Later, in spite of the claim by the police that he confessed Haaviko and his lawyer force all charges to be dropped. However, legally from his point of view the case closed but he is unable to obtain employment. Someone has begun a crusade informing prospective employers that Haaviko is a career felon who just got away with murder.

This is a terrific gritty Canadian crime thriller in which the hero struggles with his past haunting him while he escorts the audience through the harsh criminal underbelly of the city. The story line starts incredible fast-paced and loaded with action, but eventually slightly decelerates as Monty's woes take center stage. Readers will appreciate this delightfully often darkly humored tale of how difficult it is going straight especially when someone wants to get Monty.

Hemingway Cutthroat
Michael Atkinson
Minotaur
9780312379728, $24.99

In 1937 in Madrid, Spain Ernest Hemingway feels like a fraud rather than the literary God that everyone seems to think he is. He feels he has achieved nothing noteworthy lately and simply lives off an undeserved reputation.

His friend, writer John Dos Passos, encourages Hemingway to investigate the execution of Jose Robles. Hemingway met the late medical volunteer several years ago when both were in Italy. Recently Robles was accused of being a Marxist spy; his corpse was left near Valencia where it lied for several weeks before being found. Obsessed with finding answers, Hemingway working from the Hotel Florida begins his inquiry into who killed Robles; assisted by unwelcome socialite Mordaunt Worsleighson.

This is a terrific historical tale with a strong whodunit as its underpinning. The story line occurs almost two decades before Atkinson's previous Hemingway Deadlights as the macho hero struggles with being a drunk who writes garbage until he heeds the advice of his meek writing pal. With a nod to For Whom The Bell Tolls, Hemingway investigates the murder of Robles in his inevitable bullying Noir style though he never quite explains why he cares. Still with cameos and violence adding to the feel of being in Spain during the bloody civil war, Hemingway struggles between the legend and the man.

Retired And On The Rocks
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
www.whiskeycreekpress.com
9781803138812, $14.95, www.amazon.com

Private investigators Sylvia Price and Denim McHart are partners. Whereas she loves him she assumes it is unrequited and so tries to conceal her attraction from him. Besides which she feels undeserving of love as she feels guilt and regret over being a prime cause of her mom's mental instability.

Ironically Sylvia believes God has forgiven her while she has not forgiven herself. Their latest case involves a missing engagement ring as a bride Naomi Deva insists to the duet she was left at the altar by her fiance Briar's Point Mayor Thomas Julian who caught her with the best man. She hires them because she cannot find the engagement ring that Thomas demands she return to him. During the joint inquiry, Den makes it clear how he feels as does Sylvia, but both knows they are long way from a permanent relationship.

This is a terrific inspirational mystery that grips the audience with the early introduction of the partners. The story line is character driven especially by Sylvia who carries a ton of baggage on her heart and soul. She knows God forgave long ago, but has not forgiven herself so believes Den deserves much better than her. The case is sold but it is the relationship between the lead protagonists who provides a terrific opening Denim Blues Mysteries.

Rules of Betrayal
Christopher Reich
Doubleday & Company
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
www.randomhouse.com
9780385531542, $25.95, www.amazon.com

In Zabul Province, Afghanistan Dr. Jonathan Ransom of Doctors Without Borders is providing medical care to the locals when a Taliban assault occurs. He is air lifted out of the deadly firefight.

However, Jonathan learns from his assistant Hamid who secretly works for the American top secret agency Division that his wife Emma also known in some circles as Lara Antonova, who may be one of their operatives, is in trouble. He knows how capable a killer his Emma is so Jonathan has problems accepting the assertion, but refuses to ignore the possibility. Apparently Emma has done something to anger a Taliban brutal operative The "Hawk" and thwart fuming arms dealer Lord Balfour. The Division fears Emma has gone rogue somewhere in the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact she has found a B-52 that crashed in 1980 carrying a nuclear bomb that she has taken with her. Everyone from the infamous Indian war dealer to the deadly Taliban terrorist to the Division and even the Russians' FSB head to Lashkar Province seek to take the bomb from Emma-Lara; except Jonathan who seeks to extract his wife from being in the eye of the storm.

The third Ransom Rules (see Rules of Vengeance and Rules of Deception) is a superb espionage thriller as Jonathan who wants nothing to do with Division or spying is back in the field worried about his mysterious spouse. Readers learn much more about enigmatic Emma's background as she operates with rules in which trust and rely on no one as they will betray you. Jonathan is pulled between saving his wife and securing the bomb, which leaves readers anxiously awaiting the fate of the nuke in his next thriller.

The Grim Reaper Dance
Judy Clemens
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
www.poisonedpenpress.com
9781590587317, $24.95, www.amazon.com

Casey "Jones" Maldonado is on the run from the CEO of Pegasus. One of his defective cars caused an accident that killed her husband and son. She is also wanted for the murder of a Louisville criminal and for questioning in the death of a Clymer, Ohio citizen. Her only companion is Death and she wishes he would really take her so she can join her family.

She hitches a ride with Wayne a trucker. They get into an accident caused by men who want the papers he has hidden on his truck. Before he dies, he tells Casey where they are and she stays in the small town where Wayne lived to obtain the papers and see that Wayne in deat h receives justice. Plenty of truckers from Class P Trucking wants the documents and will do whatever it takes to retrieve them. Casey takes refuge in a shed in the middle of nowhere. There she meets teens who were at the hospital. They kind of adopt her and help her when the truckers catch up to Casey who in spite of the danger remains resolute in determining who killed Wayne.

Death is an actual essence that only Casey can see though one can wonder whether she suffers delusions. He is with her trying to convince her that she needs to swing the bat by rejoining the living as it is not time for her to Embrace the Grim Reaper. Casey has a deep rooted social conscience so though she prefers death rather than life as her companion, she still insists social justice occurs and is willing to risk her existence to see it happen even for a dead person. The Grim Reaper Dance is an excellent mystery starring a strange perhaps deranged heroine and her "BFF" Death.

Mirror Image
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen
9781590587508, $24.95

The Pittsburgh Police department consults with psychologist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi on particularly nasty cases like kidnappings. Daniel is considered a noted expert helping victims of violent crime cope as most remain haunted by the trauma long after the horror has passed.

College student Kevin Merrick was a victim of an armed assault. He is traumatized and desperately in need of a hero. Kevin feels he found one in his analyst Dr. Rinaldi. The troubled student begins to emulate his idol, but before Daniel can help him, someone viciously murders Kevin. Shocked by what happened to his patient, Kevin and PPD believe he, not the student, was the target. The culprit erred because of how much the unfortunate young man dressed like the psychologist. However when PPD realize who the victim's dad is, they reconsider their theory even as the killer floods Rinaldi with threatening messages. Rinaldi is not one to sit around so he begins an inquiry into who wants him dead and why.

This is an exciting thriller starring a fascinating shrink who learns a lot about himself with his affair with an officer of the court and his need for compassionate justice. Readers will enjoy Rinaldi's psychological sleuthing as he goes after his stalker but not just for himself; as he feels he owes Kevin "peace" as he prefers t believe his late client's sister that he is in a better place and will feel even more contentment if his killer is caught. Although a mocking egomaniac psychopathic killer has been used too frequently as has a psychologist as a police consultant sleuthing (Kellerman's Dr. Delaware), Rinaldi's sense of purpose and his skills make for an enjoyable mystery.

The Scorpion's Bite
Aileen G. Baron
Poisoned Pen
9781590587539, $24.95

With the world at war, following her first escapades working for the OSS, its chief General Donovan (see The Torch of Tangiers) sends archaeologist Lily Sampson on assignment in Trans-Jordan. With her surveying the desert are the Director of the American School of Archeology in Jerusalem Gideon Weil and photographer Klaus Stein.

When their jeep axle breaks, Lily notices a sandaled foot sticking out of a sand dune. They find the corpse of a Bedouin. Meanwhile, another Bedouin who Gideon knows, Jalil ibn Akram arrives and takes Klaus with him to the Desert Patrol Outpost so he can get help. Lily and Gideon brush the sand off the victim's face and find their guide Qasim ibn Achmad. Jalil returns and arrests Gideon for murdering Qasim.

As Lily seeks proof that her companion is innocent, she continues her OSS mission and soon identifies two oil pipelines running through the desert; one of them supplies the Allies while the other the Axis. Each side of the conflict wants to sabotage the enemy's oil supply while Lily also finds out the Nazis plan to assassinate eight-year old King Faisal of Iraq.

The key to this terrific World War II Middle East espionage thriller is the deep look at local culture, in which several diverse value systems are spotlighted. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the heroes find their guide's corpse and never slow down for a breather. Although the villain is obvious and stereotyped, readers will fully appreciate this profound look at the people of Trans-Jordan while the west is at war.

The Lucifer Code
Charles Brokaw
Forge
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
www.tor-forge.com
9780765320933, $25.99, www.amazon.com

Linguistics expert Dr. Thomas Lourds flies from London to Istanbul University to study artifacts that westerners have not seen. At the airport, he meets a beautiful "fan girl" Kristine Webber whom he offers to show her the sights of the city. Kristine grabs his arm in a painful hold and informs the professor he will accompany her; any resistance will lead to his limb broken. When a man offers to help her with her ailing "father", Kristine places a taser in Thomas' hand and forces him to shoot the good Samaritan. Bullets soon fly and many lie dead and wounded at Ataturk International Airport. The CIA is stunned as this was a simple pickup not a frontal assault.

Lourds goes from danger to hell when he is ordered to interpret coded scrolls that the group believes will lead to the greatest revelation ever written; a lost scroll authored by John who authored the Book of Revelation. The scroll contains writings that some fear will mark the beginning of the end of the world while others pray this is true. He becomes the target of several groups who want to control the scroll. On the other hand, his only ally is his former girlfriend deadly Dr. Olympia Adnan who invited him to Istanbul in the first place.

This is an over the top of Mount Ararat Byzantium thriller that grips the audience from the moment Kristine strongholds the professor and never slows down as the hero goes from one lethal scenario to another leading to the translation of the Lucifer Code. Readers who suspend credibility will fully relish Lourds' latest exhilarating roller adventures (see The Atlantis Code) as he learns his mom was right to never talk to strangers; even beautiful ones.

Betrayers
Bill Pronzini
Forge
9780765318206, $24.99

Nameless wanted to say no, but knows he is unable to deny the septuagenarian client Mrs. Abbott who asks him to look at threats, a poisoned cat and ghosts over a real estate deal. On a personal note, Nameless investigates how a package of cocaine ended up in his daughter Emily's bedroom.

At the same time his partner Tamara Corbin tracks down Lucas Zeller who broke her heart; her odious former lover seems involved in a charity scam. Their third partner Jake Runyon searches for Madison a bail jumper whose family is a piece of work.

The best of the four cases by far is Tamara's as she and readers realize she learned a hard core lesson from Zeller and has come out of that bad relationship much stronger of a person. The Runyon investigation and the two Nameless inquiries are solid but not inspiring. Fans of the Nameless detective tales will enjoy the latest entry though not as strong as most of his caseload (see Schemers and Fever).

Kings of the North
Cecelia Holland
Forge
9780765321923, $27.99

After being away for several years, Raef Corbanson, accompanied by his traveling friends Leif the Icelander and Liassa, returns to England at a time when strife threatens the country. Whereas Raef just wants to go home to Jorvik, several men strive for the throne ever since Ethelred the Unready became the ruler.

Raef's former shipmate Denmark King Sweyn Forkbeard wants the crown now precariously worn by Ethelred. The monarchs' respective sons Edmund and Knut also covet the throne. Raef tries his best to be a decent foster father to Knut and reconcile with his daughter, Gemma. However he hesitates to confront Lady Hedeby while also hoping to stay out of the monarchy free for all.

The final tale of the Loosestrife dark ages thriller (see The High City) is a terrific Viking era historical. Partially because he can see the future that he believes cannot be changed, Raef remains submissively acceptant of his and others' fate. His realistic reaction to his paranormal skill leaves him relatively inert as the center of the story line reacting to those hyperactive rivals seeking the crown. Still fans of the Loosestrife epic will relish the fight for the throne in the early decades of the eleventh century.

The Cold Kiss
John Rector
Forge
9780765326430, $24.99

Nate and his pregnant fiancee Sara are driving from Minnesota to Reno, Nevada to get married. . In Nebraska, as snow begins, they pull off the highway into the Red Oak Tavern. There they hear a man coughing badly that reminds Sara of her grandfather who had a similar sounding cough just before he died. Sara sympathizes with the sick person Syl White, who is coughing up blood and has car trouble. She convinces Nate to give Syl a ride, but the man is bellicose towards his Good Samaritan refusing the ride at first. Seeing the snow piling up, Syl changes his mind and gives them five hundred to take him to Omaha.

A blizzard forces the couple and their ailing passenger to pull over at an isolated motel. Both are stunned and appalled to realize Syl died in their back seat. The engaged couple is even more shocked to find the deceased carried nearly one million dollars. They agree to take the loot, but must dispose of the corpse. The plan is simple toss Syl into the large snow drifts. Neither Nate nor Sara realize how much danger they wrought on to themselves when they chose to take the cash.

This is an exhilarating Noir thriller as the young lead couple learns life lessons about values such as avariciousness that makes them lose sight of why they offered a ride to Syl in the first place. The story line is fast-paced from the moment a coughing blood Syl tells Nate to tell his do-gooder girlfriend to F off and never slows down until the final roll of the ball kissing the roulette wheel. Fans will enjoy John Rector's fast-paced tale as some nasties go after the innocent lost sheep who have lost their way once dollar signs replaced hearts entirely.

Cure
Robin Cook
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
www.penguin.com
9780399156625, $26.95, www.amazon.com

Medical examiners Laurie Montgomery and Jack Stapleton are euphoric with the birth of their first offspring. Following medical leave, Laurie returns to work and her boss assigns to her a routine inquiry in which the preliminary indication is death by natural causes.

However, something feels off kilter to Laurie and she is positive it is not caused by postpartum blues. She digs a bit deeper and soon realizes the victim has been poisoned. Her investigation leads to the Mafia and Japanese gangsters competing with money laundering investments in a crooked stem-cell research firm. When the felons kidnap her son Laurie goes lioness berserker in pursuit.

Cure in an exciting medical thriller due to the diligence of the lead protagonist whose investigation leads to a convergence of the biotechnical and mob industries aimed at her and her loved ones. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Laurie begins her autopsy and never slows down. Although resolutions are incredibly too obvious, easy and abrupt, fans will enjoy the latest Montgomery-Stapleton tale (see Foreign Body) as the enemy goes after them by targeting their Achilles' Heel.

Santa Fe Edge
Stuart Woods
Putnam
9780399156915, $25.95

Barbara Eagle Keeler continues her effort to escape from Mexico's El Diablo Prison for Women, as her mission remains unfinished. Her obsession is to kill her former husband Santa Fe lawyer Ed Eagle.

At the same time that Barbara works her latest ploy, CIA agent Holly Barker wants a second chance at nabbing rogue CIA agent Teddy Fay (see Hothouse Orchid). Fay opts to remain in Santa Fe because he assesses Agent Todd Bacon as too inexperienced to cause him any issues.

Eagle gets his client golf pro Tip Hanks free of the charge of spousal homicide. However, Tip remains in a sand trap as his troubles still mount.

The latest Eagle thriller (see Santa Fe Dead and Santa Fe Rules).is an entertaining tale in which all roads lead to the New Mexico city. Eagle has recovered from his Mexican gangs escapades though he knows who still stalks him even from behind bars. His defense of the golf pro is fun to follow as is Barker's (see Blood Orchid and Iron Orchid) visit. Although over the edge with questionable incidents that make things easier for the heroes, Santa Fe Edge is an exciting novel as Stuart Woods uses two of his series leads to the delight of his fans.

The Wet Nurse's Tale
Erica Eisdorfer
Putnam
9780425234471, $24.95

Growing up Susan Rose saw her mom serve as a wet nurse to the children of other women. She vows to be different. Susan works in a wealthy family's house, but the master's son Freddie leaves her pregnant and alone. She comes home, but her son dies. Her only avenue of income is to do what her mom did to bring in money.

Susan lives a nomadic life nurturing other people's babies while having no time to grieve her loss except at night. Susan meets a Jewish dentist and has a baby David with him. However, her father sells the infant. Stunned by her paternal betrayal, Susan travels to London to become the wet nurse to her baby. When she discovers an inconsiderate truth about her child's adoptive family, she tak es the baby and flees praying she finds her son's dad in the Jewish community

Told from the perspective of the title character, The Wet Nurse's Tale is an insightful look at a pragmatic individual who knows her bosom is her ticket. Although she allows her compassion to at times overrule her logic, Susan pulls no punches even when raped as she goes after what she wants. The secondary characters, her mom, her lovers, and the customers enhance a profound Victorian tale that focuses on how the lower class made a living anyway they could.

Crossfire
Dick Francis and Felix Francis
Putnam
9780399156816, $26.95

After losing his foot in an Afghan fire fight, Captain Tom Forsythe has returned to the States to recover and learn to use his prosthesis. With no place to go, he returns to his mother's Kauri Horse Stables in Berkshire, England. At seventeen, tired of the fights with his stepfather, he left to go to war. Now he learns his family is concealing something from him.

He soon learns someone is blackmailing his mother to the tune of 2000 pounds a week and they also lost a fortune in a sham hedge fund recommended by their accountant Roderick Ward who was found drowned; officially ruled an accident. What hurts Tom's mom the most is that her extortionist is forcing her to make sure her horses lose races. Tom investigates, but is kidnapped and left hanging in an abandoned warehouse. He escapes, vowing to take down the killers and others involved in harming him and his mom.

This father and son team has proven to be as successful writing entertaining mystery readers as Dick Francis did when he rode solo (with his late wife as his researcher). The story line is driven by the hero who lost a limb in the Afghan war, but though depressed refuses to allow his trauma from helping his mom out of her predicament. With homage to Dick Francis who goes out a winner as he passed away a few months ago, Crossfire is a terrific character driven suspense thriller.

After America
John Birmingham
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th fl., New York, NY 10019
www.randomhouse.com
9780345502919, $26.00, www.amazon.com

Several years have passed since the catastrophic wave of energy destroyed the United States in 2003 that came like a tsunami Without Warning. Scientists remained baffled with what caused it, why it abruptly vanished a year later and how to prevent a return. In the meantime the White House moved to Seattle where American President James Kipper is frustrated with no answers and as is the case with the traumatized people struggling to endure, he fears what will happen if another such wave assaults the continent. Still he pushes forward with the greatest reconstruction project in the history of the world.

President Kipper visits the Declared Security Zone of New York where militia and pirates rule the city and the burbs, but is greeted by an assassination attempt. At the same time in the breakaway republic of Texas, farmer Miguel Pieraro follows the path to citizenship in the New America until an ethnic cleansing campaign led by a rogue army officer destroys his family. In England, American army officer Caitlin Monroe struggles to survive an assault on her life. Finally, in the wasteland of the Middle East comes a major threat to what is left of the world. Between lawlessness on the eastern seaboard and what is occurring overseas and in Texas, Kipper, a builder by heart, needs to find his warrior fortitude as he is reluctant to confront anyone with America still reeling; but ignoring the threats to local security will destroy the United States permanently.

The sequel to Without Warning is a terrific exhilarating thriller that grips the audience from start to finish. Heroes are everywhere from every walk of life whether they are city engineers turned POTUS, a Mexican-American farmer, an overseas officer and others risking their lives against ruthless lethal fully armed adversaries. Readers will enjoy this exhilarating post-apocalyptic tale that stands alone, but enhanced by reading what the wave caused first.

Star Wars: Clone Wars Gambit: Siege
Karen Miller
Del Rey
9780345509000, $16.00

Strategically, the planet Lanteeb is a nothing microdot in the Outer Rim; far from anything of minor significance. Yet for some unknown reason in the minds of the Republic, the Separatist Alliance has invaded this meaningless orb. Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker travel undercover to learn why.

The truth lies with research scientist Bant'ena Fhernan, who is being held captive by Separatists demanding she work on a super virus to cause a pandemic never seen before. To fuel this biological weapon of mass destruction, the Separatists require damotite found deep in the mines on Lanteeb. Thus Separatist General Lok Durd and his force enslave the beleaguered locals. He also knows Jedi are on the planet and hunts for them with pleasure while the prey are alone as the natives cannot risk helping them and their communication with their allies are severed by the their adversaries.

The second book in the Gambit duology (see Stealth) is an exhilarating Star Wars entry as Obi-Wan and Anakin risk their lives to prevent a pandemic disaster that could leave the Republic teetering on the brink of extinction. Fascinatingly the audience sees deep inside Skywalker as he struggles with the end justifying the mean pondering "The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic" (Stalin) since the Lanteebians may have to be sacrificed for the rest of the Republic. Fast-paced and loaded with action, readers will enjoy this solid military science fiction in spite of being somewhat similar in tone to its predecessor with the heroic Jedi Knights going beyond exhaustion with no aid in sight and everyone after them, but ironically should read Stealth first to understand the set up.

The Evolutionary Void
Peter F. Hamilton
Del Rey
9780345496577, $28.00

Having become known as the Second Dreamer, Araminta fears everyone hunts her for their own purpose. She believes some want her dead and others want to use her; both for the same reason; her ability to provide a path into the timeless Void where many believe Eden exists while other think pandemic destruction will occur.

Ilanthe of the Accelerator Faction and the Living Dream cult want to control the gateway, which is Araminta so they can enter the Void. Others like Government Agent Myo search for Araminta fearing what she might unleash as the Void demands incredible energy from outside to feed it. Meanwhile Edeard the Waterwalker has fooled with time judiciously (in his mind that is) for his people, but his dreams that connect to the First Dreamer Inigo turn darker as he grieves loss caused by his maneuvers. Inigo via Edeard and Araminta via herself must make choices that will determine much of what is to come inside and outside the Void.

This is an extremely complex and somewhat convoluted science fiction thriller as the intensity and tautness mount towards a showdown that could alter the universe. With an underlying concept that even when the monumental universe is at stake, the fully developed key cast members bring personal agendas and plenty of baggage whether they are heroic or malevolent. Although, one must read the previous two books in the Void trilogy (see The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void) to dive into the Void finale entry, fans of the saga will relish the entertaining ending.

Bearers of the Black Staff
Terry Brooks
Del Rey
9780345484178, $27.00

Five centuries ago the demonic Great War left humanity on the brink of extinction. Young Hawk the Gypsy Morph led a few battered human, elven and mutant souls into a sanctuary protected by a magical barrier (see The Gypsy Morph). Those inside knows that outside hell reigns.

However, when he led the march to safety, Hawk never expected what has occurred recently; the barrier has collapsed allowing the demonic horde to invade. The last surviving Knight of the Word Sider Ament knows the people need new young heroes like the Bearers of the Black Staff he possesses that once was held by Hawk when he led them to safety. He rescues teen Trackers Panterra Qu and Prue Liss and tells them to warn the Hawk's descendents. However, the council complacent after hundreds of years of peace rejects Sider's belief the demons are coming while the Knight goes out to the external world to learn what has happened there and most likely in the valley. The tw o Trackers believe the Knight's word and seek allies.

Terry Brooks continues his prehistorical saga the Legends of Shannara with the first of a twp part fantasy thriller with the story line occurring five hundred years since the events of The Gypsy Morph. Inside the once safe valley is a fascinating look at a peaceful life on the verge of pandemic collapse with leaders mostly unable to accept the demonic tsunami is coming. As enjoyable as that subplot is, fans of Shannara will especially appreciate the other segue as Sider escorts the audience in a venture outside the valley, which enables fans to see what happened after Hawk saved the band. Mr. Brooks is at his best with this tale as his myriad of fans will look forward to the conclusion.

Dust
Joan Frances Turner
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
http://us.penguingroup.com
9780441019281, $24.95, www.amazon.com

After not buckling her seatbelt, she died at fifteen in a car accident and was interred in a zone void of humans. She wakes up inside her coffin and though she has only one good arm as her right was almost severed off in the accident, she pushes her way out of the coffin and digs through the dirt. The teen immediately knows what she is: a revenant (zombie) and joins a pack of her kind. They live in a human-free zone where they hunt animals for food.

Jessie is an undead who does not suffer from zombie amnesia as she remembers her previous mortal life though nine years have passed since she passed. She has feelings for those she considers family (past and present) though humans lock them away with putting electrical security fences their homes as if they were illegal immigrants and the police have standing orders to kill at first sight. However an inexplicable plague arises like none before as this pandemic disease can kill human and revenant. If a miracle cure is not found soon, both species will go way of the dinosaur turning into fossils and Dust.

This is a first rate urban fantasy that "humanizes" zombies who are not mindless shark like predators, but a different sentient life form with feelings for others. Jessie is a strong willed resolute soul who thrives on coping with whatever splitter fastball life throws at her head. Readers will root for her while enjoying Joan Frances Turner's sensual revamping of zombie fever.

Queen Of Shadows
Dianne Sylvan
Ace
9780441019250, $7.99

In Austin, Miranda Grey fears she is going insane with only alcohol numbing her mind and playing the guitar in front of an appreciative audience giving her satisfaction. She soon realizes she has the skill of playing with the emotions of her fans as the "magic is in the music and the music is in" her (Lovin' Spoonful). However, not long after that, Miranda learns the cost as her audience can do likewise to her and she has no defense mechanism to prevent the mental rape of her mi nd leading to her mental breakdown.

Following a show and a nasty assault on her, vampiric lord David Solomon rescues Miranda. He knows she is an untrained empath and gives her a remedial education into the world of vampires and much more that she always thought were fiction. As David tries to save Miranda, he prays she reciprocates and saves him from his emotional demons ripping at his soul.

This is a well written but not easy to read romantic urban fantasy as Dianne Sylvan pulls no punches as rape and the healing from sexual (and emotional) assaults are described. The relationship between the empath and the vampire make for a strong Shadow World thriller that will enthrall the audience with a sense of awe as supernatural Austin comes across realistic though the filters of the flawed lead protagonists.

Ghost of a Chance
Simon R. Green
Ace
9780441019168, $7.99

In a deserted supermarket in Bath, England are the Ghost Finder agents powerful in magic JC Chance, technological geek who disdains magic Melody Chambers, and telepath Happy Jack Palmer. The place is haunted and between psi and tech skills, they locate a stone age settlement miles beneath the parking lot. A woman's murder led to the haunting, but they obtain justice and dispatch the victim to the next plane and malevolence lingering from ancient times is destroyed.

Shortly afterward, the team, who are part of the Carnacki Institute, is summoned to meet with their boss. A massive supernatural event occurred at London's Oxford Circus Tube Station. The team is to learn what supernatural essence caused the incident, kick its butt, and send it back to whatever hell it calls home. They realize "it" is a Power so potent no one can defeat it. Adding to their difficulty is two dark arts practitioners from the Crowley Institute; the mission of these operatives is to kill the three Carnacki agents. When they comprehend that the otherworldly entity can terraform the planet into its environs, the adversarial pair of earth groups unite though none of the five field operatives believe they have a ghost of a chance to prevent the extinction of their world.

The newest series from urban fantasy grand mage Simon R. Green is as good as the Nightside and the Secret Histories sagas. Each of the three Carnacki heroes have their own personalities, which feel believable as they fight the supernatural; their human enemies become frenemies because they may practice dark magic but are not suicidal as they do not want to be devoured by otherworldly powers. Filled with action, no one turns London into a horror-fantasy playground better than Mr. Green consistently does as the city has a Ghost of a Chance of surviving the writer's latest magical mayhem.

Rise Of The Poison Moon
MaryJanice Davidson, Anthony Alongi
Ace
9780441019045, $7.99

Supplies are dangerously low for those residents of Winoka trapped inside a magical barrier. Ancient Furnace and dragon leader Jennifer Scales are becoming increasingly desperate, but they have no earthly idea how to break through the enchantment "prison". Jennifer also struggles to survive as Ember and the rogue dragons want her dead.

On the outside Jennifer's former friend were-arachnid Skip Wilson wants to kill everyone. At the same time the ancient wars between the beaststalkers, dragons and were-arachnids has left many dead or maimed and more deaths likely. Jennifer struggles to prevent further hostilities, but her plate is already overflowing and her flexibility restricted by the barrier and her enemies.

Fascinatingly, as Winoka remains isolated, the species trapped inside are unable to forge a mutually needed alliance, which leaves all in peril. Mostly told inside the magical containment area, Jennifer's troubles and danger mount while outside hell has broken loose too. Although the innocence that marked the earlier young adult urban fantasies in the saga is long gone as pragmatism has replaced it, fans of the series will enjoy Jennifer Scales and the Rise of the Poison Moon.

Final Crisis
Greg Cox
Ace
9780441018574, $15.00

The war of the Gods is over after eons of lethal combat; Darkseid and his evil Apokolips horde are victorious. His next step now that he defeated the defenders is to employ the Anti-life destruction of free will in order to take charge of earth, the key to controlling the Multiverse. Once he succeeds on this, which is inevitable as only the embattled JLA rema ins to stop him, eternal darkness will be everywhere.

While tracking down six missing children, ex cop Dan "Terrible" Turpin meets dying New God Orion, who warns him that "he's in all of you!" Confused and upset, Turpin ends up at a Command bunker in devastated Bludhaven. As the Anti-Life turns millions into Darkseid minions, supervillain Libra murders a member of the Justice League, which enables him to claim leadership of the Society of Super-Villains. The Green Lanterns investigate the murder of Orion leading to a new hope with the rebirthing of a dead superhero, but Superman is trapped in a non future and Batman is a prisoner. It w ill take a miracle to save the universe, but none seem forthcoming.

With homage and awe to the late great Jack Kirby and his Fourth World mythos, Greg Cox provides a terrific rendition of the wonderful Final Crisis (comic books are well written too; thanks to my spouse a big comic book fan). With seemingly every DC characters making at least a cameo appearance in "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and multiverse, Final Crisis is actually a simplistic tale of superheroes and others willing to go out (not in a blaze of glory as the victors write the history books) to fight overwhelming evil that has won eternity. Mr. Cox does a fabulous novelization of the classic miniseries as even down to the final flicker, goodness refuses to quit.

Almost To Die For
Tate Hallaway
NAL
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
www.newamericanlibrary.com
9780451230577, $9.99, www.amazon.com

In St. Paul, Anastasija Parker has known for a long time that her mom is a witch; she has doubts about being a chip off the mother block. On her sweet sixteenth birthday she learns the truth about her dad; whom Ana thought was a deadbeat loser.

As she now knows the first part of the compound word deadbeat sort of applies to her father. He visits her demanding she join him in her rightful spot next to the king of the vampires, dead undead dad. Her mom pleads with her to inherit only her bewitching half while her dad claims her blood flows royally albeit tainted. As she struggles with high school, two boys sort of want her. One is a witch; the other is a vampire.

Mindful of the Jennifer Scales series by MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi, the first Vampire Princess urban fantasy is a great young adult thriller. Ana is wonderful holding the opening tale together as she learns the truth about her DNA and the war between the vampires and the witches in an up front and personal way as her parents are preparing for open combat as are two male teens who want her as their respective girlfriend. With an amusing tongue in cheek biting story line, readers will enjoy Almost To Die For as the beleaguered heroine muses high school was hard enough before learning she is wanted as a royal hybrid.

Passionate Pleasures
Bertrice Small
NAL
9780451227003, $15.00

Lucifer Nicholas is CEO of Channel, which is a woman's only network where females can fulfill their fantasies in private (parts and no family or friends knowing). Tall fortyish Kathryn St. John is the Egret's Point librarian. Lucifer wants to lure Miss Kathy as he has successfully done with the males of her "Sin Gin" family, but she will be tough to bring to the dark side through passion as she is a typical librarian avoiding scandal.

Lucifer's fantasy takes an upbeat turn when the new middle-school principal Timothy Blair arrives at the library. He wants Miss Kathy, but she remains reluctant and not just because he is younger than her. She prefers the Channel males that he conjures from literature than hard bodies. Still they go out on dates and soon make love. He knows she is his fantasy while she learns loving a hard body is better than a dream. However, the townsfolk led by her brother object to the scandalous behavior between the principal and the librarian.

Passionate Pleasures is a fun well written romantic fantasy starring a wonderful "triangle" as Tim's arrival makes Lucifer's plans for Kathy attainable until love complicates the equation. Readers will passionately gain pleasure from Bertrice Small's clever tale of a woman learning "Ain't nothing like the real thing" (Marvin Gay and Tammi Terrell).

His Last Letter: Elizabeth I And The Earl Of Leicester
Jeane Westin
NAL
9780451230126, $16.00

Growing up, Princess Elizabeth and Robert Dudley play together as each share a common bond of how fickle life can be in the court of her father King Henry VIII. As young adults, Princess Elizabeth became the Queen and Dudley her beloved "Robin". Everyone expected them to marry, but she was fearful of having a spouse. Ironically that enabled him to have two other wives and many lovers though he would give all up if she married him. Angered by his women though she flirted with men, her jealous Highness at times wished otherwise as she loved her cherished Robin. Yet through all the political and personal chicanery, their love survived even after his death.

The story line is extrapolated from a deathbed love letter Sweet Robin wrote to his beloved middle aged "Virgin Queen" who chooses political sensitivities over personal desires. Although Elizabeth has been the subject of nonfiction and fictional accounts in books and movies, fans who relish historical biographic fiction especially of the British royalty will want to read Jeane Westin's powe rful look at the love between the Earl and his queen.

Black Swan Rising
Lee Carroll
Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
www.tor-forge.com
9780765325976, $14.99, www.amazon.com

In her New York City neighborhood jewelry designer Garet James walks into a curio shop that she never noticed before. Owner John Dee notices the swan design on her ring is identical to that on an antique silver box that he cannot open. He asks her to open the box. Shortly afterward, three men with no whites in their eyes enter her father's art gallery and then her apartment. They take the box and her father is shot; he informs Garet they are demons who tried to take him over. Garet returns to the store, but it is shut and looks like it has not been used in years.

Garet sees a picture of billionaire Will Hughes and his home which has the same swan design on the arch as that of the ring and box. When they meet, he explains she is a guardian watchtower standing between two worlds fighting evil. Garet visits the Cloisters in the Bronx; where a manticore comes alive and bites her. Will tells her he is a vampire; his bite will rid her body of the deadly manticore toxin. He further explains he is tracking the demons Despair and Discord who came to this plane when the box was opened and are in the process of forming. Will wants to prevent them from spreading their malevolence and needs her help starting with her meeting King Oberon of the fairies.

Garet's metamorphosis from designer to arcane warrior make for a fun urban fantasy as she sees fey on the city streets. Garet adapts to her new world order rather too easily as the heroine meets demons, elementals, air sprite, a mermaid, a dragon, a gnome and others while falling in love with a vampire. Fans will enjoy touring the streets of Manhattan and the Bronx with Garet as our guide.

The Bear
R.A. Salvatore
Tor
9780765317919, $27.99

Honce has been at war for years as two rivals battle for the throne with each indifferent to the plight of peasants trapped in the deadly combat. Self-anointed King Yeslnik the Fool flourishes on blood and guts from the unmerciful war while his chief opponent Laird Ethelbert is perhaps slightly less inclined towards violence causing collateral damage.

Yeslnik's other major opposition comes from Dame Gwydre of Vanguard, who cares about the people, but is somewhat helpless as she is trapped inside the Church of St. Mere Abelle with the mystic monks; though due to magic jewels and the swordsmen, they are safe. She considers an alliance with Ethelbert, whom she deems is the lesser of two evils, but his assassins murdered Jameston Sequin and attempted to kill Bransen Garibond the Highwayman.

Bransen opts out as he is bone wary of war. He intends to takes his pregnant wife and leaves but he meets Gwydre who tries to help the beleaguered people. Instead of vanishing, he escorts her to meet the king's general Bannagran, the Bear of Honce to see if between them they can bring peace.

The final tale in the epic First King saga (see The Highwayman, The Ancient and The Dame) is a rousing winner as R.A. Salvatore continues to effortlessly blend magic and medieval type warfare inside an action-packed military-political fantasy. The key cast is powerfully drawn as betrayal and expedient shifting alliances between enemies is the norm. This series is one of the best over the past few years because of the deep look at political fantasy in a kingdom at constant civil war.

The Word for World Is Forest
Ursula K. Le Guin
Tor
9780765324641, $11.99

In the far future on the pristine world of New Tahiti is a wilderness Eden that Captain Davidson and other earthlings want to exploit for profit. He has already begun cutting down the trees. If it means the primitives die so be it as collateral damage often occurs when yumans conquer Mother Nature.

The native Athsheans are horrified over being massacred and enslaved. However, the vilest crime by the off-worlders is destroying the forest as their Word for World is Forest. Fearful of this new powerful God who is brutal on their former forest deity and on them, the Athsheans know there is little they can do but obey as violence is not in their make-up although Selver tries to lead an insurgency, which only further threatens his people's way of life.

This book was published over thirty years ago; long before Avatar. The story line is fast-paced while using a science fiction base to make a case that the "White Man's Burden" left Africa ruined and places like Tahiti devastated. Still relevant after all these decades, readers will appreciate Ursula Le Guin's classic novella of bloodthirsty avaricious outsiders destroying a peaceful Eden for profit.

Lady Lazarus
Michele Lang
Tor
9780765323170, $14.99

In 1939 Budapest, Magda Lazarus is the eldest daughter of an eldest daughter whose lineage traces back to the ancient witch Ein Dor. Magda is the servant of Bathory the vampire. Fleeing Stalin's wrath, a Russian Jew Zihad Juhuri pleads with Magda to help him obtain the Book of the Angel Raziel that only one who has returned from the dead like a Drinker can obtain. He fears the Nazis will obtain the greatest weapon, this biblical tome, ever known. At the same her sister Gisele the seer warns of a pandemic destruction of the Jews by the Nazi abomination.

Magda searches for the tome. On her quest she encounters a horde of diverse supernatural Nazi essences who want to prevent her from becoming the Lazarus witch who can reach the angel Raziel. As she gets closer to completing her mission that she hopes prevents the mass devastation her sibling predicts is coming, she meets and magically duels the King of Lies.

This is a fascinating WW II fantasy thriller that builds its mythos from mostly the Jewish lore sprinkled with some Hungarian and other Eastern Europe myths. The story line is fast-paced as time is running out on Magda while Nazis werewolves, demons, and worse assault her preferable to kill her permanently because she is a threat to their domination. Although the language can turn stilted in an archaic way, which in fairness brings realism with it, readers will enjoy the exhilarating tale of Magda trying to become the Lazarus in order to protect her family, her people and Europe in that order.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer


Lorraine's Bookshelf

Queen of the Night
J. A. Jance
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022
9780061239243, $25.99, www.harpercollins.com

"Queen of the Night" is the latest mystery/suspense thriller by Southwestern/Western sleuth-writer extraordinaire, J. A. Jance. Set in Arizona, with scenes of fear unfolding within the Tohono O'odham Nation's reservation boundaries, "Queen of the Night" stars familiar Dr. Lani Walker, a Tohono O'odham physician and a new character, Dan Pardee, an Apache Iraqi war veteran who has become a Shadow Wolf, an unorthodox Native American Border Patrol group. Along with his canine companion and guard, Bozo, Dan intervenes to rescue a lost child from a terrible multiple murder scene set in the beautiful Arizona desert on the night of the blooming of the Queen of the Night, the night-blooming cereus. The pace never slackens, as more players from different races and official agencies become involved in the investigation of the multiple murders and the wrenching decision regarding the placement of the four-year-old child witness to the murders. Tribal customs, traditions, and history are woven into the story line skillfully, with many inner conflicts surfacing to confuse the hunt for the murderer. The human touch is all, in Jance's narratives. Readers will be unable to stop turning pages whether electronically or physically, as "Queen of the Night" approaches its final resolution, engaging all race, all issues, all senses, all attention. There is a message of interconnectedness, acceptance and human compassion in the mystery novels of J. A. Jance that transcend the genre, taking it to realms beyond pure entertainment.

Drawn to the Land, The Romance of Farming
Elizabeth J. Cockey & Barton M. Cockey
Bridgeway Books
c/o Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists
8716 Mopac, Suite 330, Austin, Texas 78759
9781934454404, $18.95, www.phenixpublicity.com

"Drawn to the Land, the Romance of Farming" is an artistic odyssey through the seasons in traditional farm country in upstate New York in the Upper Hudson River Valley area. Residents and descendants of area farmers, husband and wife team Elizabeth and Barton Cockey present artistically rendered authentic scenes of present day farms along with descriptions of the sturdy people who are the current stewards of farming activities in the challenging, historic area. Painting from photographs, artist Elizabeth Cockey renders realistic images with a softening blur of Impressionism. Author -historian Barton Cockey presents current stories and anecdotes of farm people interviewed along with highlights from the Slow Food movement, definitions and practices of organic and sustainable farming, and tackling of "food myths." "Drawn to the Land" is a beautiful current chronicle of scenes of timeless beauty and agricultural practices that have their roots in earlier times. "Drawn to the Land" is also a gentle tribute to the land and people beloved by its creators.

Dear Max/ Lieber Malcolm
North American Beethoven Studies No. 6
William Meredith, general editor
Pendragon Press
PO Box 190, Hillsdale, NY 12529
www.pendragonpress.com
9781576471845, $54.00, www.amazon.com

"Dear Max/ Lieber Malcolm: The Rudolf/Frager Correspondence" is a collection of letters between Max Rudolf and Malcolm Frager from September 15, 1982 to September 26, 1991. Complete with brief biographies of the two friends, Rudolf the conductor and Frager the performer, "Dear Max/ Lieber Malcolm" is a priceless record of an ongoing dialogue about Classic and Romantic music, particularly commenting on the performance of compositions by Beethoven with emphasis on interpretation, dynamics, and specifically, tempi. Correspondence written in German is presented in both German and English for better comparison. "Dear Max/ Lieber Malcolm" presents readers with a unique opportunity to experience/inhabit the common mindset(s) of two musical geniuses of the 20th century. In addition, many musical debates and dialogues may cast light upon interpretations of Classical and Romantic compositions. The warmth of the personal relationship between the two men adds vibrancy to the collection. "Dear Max/ Lieber Malcolm" is a scholarly, artistic, and humanities contribution of great note to the published word.

Old Favorite Honey Recipes:
Revised and Updated
Bright Mountain Books
206 Riva Ridge Drive, Fairview, NC 28730
www.brightmountainbooks.com
9780914875550, $10.00, www.amazon.com

"Old Favorite Honey Recipes: Over 250 Great Recipes from Beekeepers and Cooks" is a revised and updated issuing of two original source books, "Old Favorite Honey Recipes (Iowa, 1945)" and "The Honey Recipe Book (Iowa Honey Producers, 1971)." In the updated version, all references to honey as food for infants have been removed for health precautions because of the possibility of infant botulism. These old fashioned recipes have been tested over time in traditional, not modern kitchens. "Old Favorite Honey Recipes" presents recipes in thirteen categories, including beverages, breads, cakes, candies, confitures, cookies, desserts and dessert sauces, fillings and frostings, meat glazes and sauces, salads, salad dressings, sandwiches and vegetables. A recipe index at the end contains recipe titles and page references. "Old Favorite Honey Recipes" is both a practical guide to cooking with honey and a historical key to traditional uses of honey. It is meant to be perused (delightedly) and used (stickily).

Whispers of the Ancients
Tamarack Song, author
Moses (Amik) Beaver, illustrator
University of Michigan Press
839 Greene Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
9780472071067, $35.00, www.press.umich.edu

"Whispers of the Ancients: Native Tales for Teaching & Healing in Our Time" is both an entrancing collection of Native American traditional teaching tales and a compass for the story-wisdom-seeker. Stunningly illustrated in vibrant Native artwork by Ojibwe artist Moses (Amik) Beaver, "Whispers of the Ancients" is filled with teaching tales of sacrificing heroes and heroines, monsters, wise old ones, and shamanic shapeshifters. Each tale is introduced with a traditional title and a small highlighted theme which the story is about. For example, "The Grandfather and the Stone Canoe" is a teaching tale about criticism, while "Night of the Windigo" is a tale about fear. Origins of the tales are presented and described in more detail separately, at the end of each tale. Stories are divided into six main categories; The Gifting Way, Self Discovery, Winter Stories, The Guardian-Warrior Path, Seeing through Different Eyes, and the Journey Called Life. At the end of the stories is an Afterword, Glossary, and Ojibwe Terms Glossary. "Whispers of the Ancients" is a magnificent treasure of a medicine tales collection, filled with flashing glimpses of Aboriginal wisdom and images. It will leave long shadows and trails upon the inner souls of its fortunate students.

Cherokee Stories of the Past
Roy Cantrell
Bandit Books
c/o John F. Blair, Publisher
1406 Plaza Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27103
9781878177209, $8.95 www.blairpub.com

"Cherokee Stories of the Past" is an amazing collection of stories and memories from the author's ministry among the Cherokee of western North Carolina in the early 70's. Each of the individuals whose offering is shared is from an era of about a century ago. These are priceless memories, including making Indian blowguns, honeysuckle basket weaving, making beaded neckties, making bean bread and chestnut bread (Winnie Raby), the Cherokee medicine man (Amoneta Sequoyah, the herb doctor), making hand-carved Indian dolls (Ted and Amy Roberts), building a log cabin (Martha Owl and her grandfather, David Partridge) and more. Each essay about an individual's life experiences of creating includes black and white photos of that person working on their craft. "Cherokee Stories of the Past" is a priceless bundle of precious memories preserved for future generations.

Easy Parties and Wedding Celebrations
Patty Roper
Quail Ridge Press
P.O. Box 123, Brandon, MS 39043
9781934193303, $32.95, www.quailridge.com

"Easy Parties and Wedding Celebrations: Tablescapes, Menus, Recipes" is a lusciously photo-illustrated guidebook to the gracious entertainer. Filled with delectable suggested menus of delicacies, stunning floral and created decorations and centerpieces, divine tablescapes, and literally hundreds of creative ideas to make fairytale, dream-come-true entertaining easy for discerning hostesses, "Easy Parties and Wedding Celebrations" is just the kind of book to dive into when planning an Event. The Easy Parties chapters are divided into four seasons, with several different party theme suggestions and menu plans for each season. The Wedding Celebrations chapters cover engagement celebrations, showers, parties for bridesmaids and groomsmen, wedding parties, and wedding receptions. Between them, the two categories of celebrations cover a wide gamut, presenting a beautiful variety of stunning selections to adapt to taste. At the end is an Index of Parties by menu category (brunches, dinners, luncheons, receptions/teas, even picnics) and also a list of photo credits, as well as special credits for homes, couples honored, and cakes. Photographers include Ron Blaylock, Greg Campbell, Shane Carr, Bonnie Dickerson, Tempy Segrest, and David Wiggins. In short, "Easy Parties and Wedding Celebrations" is a stunning monument to fabulous entertainment/celebration efforts and moments, meant to be savored and treasured by all who enjoy planning, imagining, and attending such events.

Songs in Motion, Rhythm and Meter in the German Lied
Yonatan Malin
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016
9780195340051, $49.95, www.oup.com

"Songs in Motion, Rhythm and Meter in the German Lied" is a scholarly work that authoritatively dissects some of the beautiful effects found in written and composed settings for many German Lied and published as part of the outstanding Oxford University Press series 'Oxford Studies in Music Theory'. Divided into two parts, "Songs in Motion" first discusses Rhythm and Meter in the German Lied in two chapters, then continues in Part II, Songs in Motion, the extended analysis of famous examples of German Lied composed by Hensel, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Wolf. A brief epilogue entitled "Song Analysis and Musical Pleasure" concludes with a famous example of graphic art combining with music to set a song into motion. It is a reproduction of the end of Brahms' "Alte Liebe" Op. 72, No. 1. In the picture in the illustration, "Birds fly out from a descending arpeggio in the piano part to the tower of a walled city in the distance. A couple can be made out below walking on a path...The song... seems to fly with the birds into the distance..." thus personifying the 'old love' of the song's title. "Songs in Motion" is a distinguished contribution to the field of study of the German lied.

The Sun God's Children
James Willard Schultz & Jesse Louise Donaldson
Riverbend Publishing
Po Box 5833, Helena, MT 59604
www.riverbendpublishing.com
9781606390221, $14.95, www.amazon.com

"The Sun God's Children: The History, Culture, and Legends of the Blackfeet Indians" is a paperback reissue of the original publication dated 1930, with an introduction by Darrell Robes Kipp, Executive Director of the Piegan Institute in Brownings, Montana. James Willard Schultz left a precious documentation of his colorful life, much of it spent sojourning with the Blackfeet between the 1870's and the 1930's. Fur trader, hunting guide, storyteller, Schultz acted as a cultural avatar in his thirst to record some of the ceremonial customs, sacred tales, cultural practices and way of the Blackfeet. The purpose of writing "The Sun God's Children" was described by Schultz as "to integrate the activities of the life of the Blackfeet tribes, in the days of the buffalo, and including certain of their ceremonials of the present time." Thirteen chapters recount sacred stories, tribal tales, and Blackfeet history as remembered by the white races. The author frequently places himself at the center of the tale. This literary device works to fix reader interest, and also somehow echoes Schultz's beliefs and attitudes towards the Sun God's children. A great example is the Beaver Chief's tale, recounted in Chapter V The Origin of the Beaver Medicine. The mystical beginning of the sacred Beaver Roll is explicated. All the water animals come to the Beaver Chief's lodge and sing their songs for their special visitor, a warrior's young second wife who is invited to visit by a handsome youth while she is collecting water for the lodge. The immediacy of the setting and the characters is felt, just as the storyteller intends. The reader/listener is entranced and intrigued at the delight and mystery of the tale. Powerful medicine comes from slow, patient careful retelling of beloved details. The oral tradition is strong and preserved in these pages. Their impact has motivated many Native prehistory cultural imagineers who continue to infuse the legends with new life. "The Sun God's Children" is a great legacy bequeathed to us and subsequent generations. Sorting through its mixed bag of traditions, stories, practices, histories, and myths is a wise investment in our future.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer


Micah's Bookshelf

Waking To Danger
Robert A. Rosenbaum
Praeger Publishers
c/o ABC-CLIO
PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
www.abc-clio.com
9780313385025, $44.95, www.amazon.com

Prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, there was a large and very active political movement that supported the policies and programs of Hitler's Germany and sought to keep America out of the European and Asian theatres of war in a political state of neutrality called 'isolation'. It was called the Bund. "Waking to Danger: Americans and Nazi Germany, 1933-1941" is the detailed history of the struggle by far-sighted Americans (including President Franklin D. Roosevelt) who saw the rise of the Nazi's self-proclaimed Fourth Reich with alarm against the isolationist pressures being exerted here in America. This 224-page compendium is deftly written, superbly presented, and enhanced for the reader with copious historical footnotes, an extensive bibliography, and a comprehensive index, making it an ideal and strongly recommended addition to community and academic library 20th Century American History reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

U.S. Border Security
Judith A. Warner
ABC-CLIO
PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
www.abc-clio.com
9781598844078, $55.00, www.amazon.com

The management and security of America's national borders (especially its southern border with Mexico) is a burning social and political issue under the twin impacts of massive illegal immigrations and the current climate of global terrorism targeting people, property, and institutions on American soil. Part of its outstanding 'Contemporary World Issues' series, Judith A. Warner's "U.S. Border Security: A Reference Handbook" is a 381-page compendium covering this broad and controversial subject in depth and detail. "U.S. Border Security: A Reference Handbook" includes an informed and informative introductory essay, a chronology of border security oriented events, legislation, and movements; biographies of activists, advocates, and legislators involved in border security issues; thematically relevant statistics, tables, figures, and documents; as well as a directory of involved organizations and agencies. Enhanced with the inclusion of a glossary, annotated lists of print and non-print resources (including web sites); and a comprehensive subject index, "U.S. Border Security: A Reference Handbook" is a thoroughly 'user friendly' and core addition to school and community library Contemporary Social Issues and American Political Science reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

The Handbook Of Private Schools, 91st edition
Porter Sargent Handbooks
2 Lan Drive, Suite 100, Westford, MA 01886
www.portersargent.com
9780875581712, $99.00, www.amazon.com

Now in its 91st edition, "The Handbook Of Private Schools 2010: An Annual Descriptive Survey Of Independent Education", covering 2010-2011, continues to be the definitive directory of private educational resources available to the public. Featuring descriptive entries for more than 1,700 elementary and secondary schools, boarding schools, military schools, pre-professional arts and sports academies, and day schools in all fifty states, this 1360-page compendium is cross-referenced by grade range, enrollment, religious affiliation, tuition costs as well as admissions standards and selection criteria. A comprehensive and thoroughly 'user friendly' index will enable speciality selection for students with special needs arising from learning disabilities or who require alternative educational programming. From student financial aid availability to campus amenities, "The Handbook Of Private Schools" is an essential, comprehensive, up-to-date reference and a critically important addition to professional, academic, and community library reference collections.

Micah Andrew
Reviewer


Shelley's Bookshelf

Too Rich & Too Thin
Barbara DeShong
Echelon Press Publishing
9735 Country Meadows Lane 1-D, Laurel, MD 20723
9781590806418 $16.99 www.amazon.com

Barbara DeShong, Ph.D., P.C. is a practicing psychologist, is the author of THE SPECIAL EDUCATOR: STRESS AND SURVIVAL; and is an award-winning public speaker. She was educated at the University of Austin, earning her bachelor's degree and Ph.D. She worked at Austin State Hospital and has had a thriving counseling business for over thirty years. She has also written many articles. TOO RICH & TOO THIN is her first foray into mystery writing.

Dr. Jessica LeFave is an interesting person. She has a successful practice as a psychologist; drives the right car; hangs at the correct country club, and, in general, should be a happy, successful yuppie. But her husband's death a year before cast a shadow over her life that she can't run from. The evidence shows that he committed suicide; had been having an affair; and was not the man she thought he was. She knows better, but can't convince the rest of the world. Then one of his patients is brutally murdered, and the dysfunctional family, mired in the movie and publishing world, leans on her for help:

"That was her word. Sometimes when he was little and started crying, she would make Hank stand naked in the shower for hours with his head under the drip. If I begged, she'd let me sit on the floor and talk to him, and I'd make up stories about a special place where everyone loved everyone else. I called it our 'little blue world'. That way Hank could get his mind off how cold he was. You know the worst part?"

In spite of the dysfunction and murderer swirling around, Dr. Jessica still has to deal with the possible connection between the murder and her husband's death. De Shong is great at creating foibles for the good doc to lean on, like the fake diamonds from her husband's accident scene she carries around in her pocket. There are also a couple of hunks running around to make life more tantalizing; in the form of Don the police chief and an erstwhile lover called Coy Earl. DeShong sprinkles enough humor and zaniness into the mix to keep the reader's attention, even as things get hotter in good old Texas. TOO RICH & TOO THIN reads like a stream of consciousness at times, but it's definitely worthwhile.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer


Shirley's Bookshelf

Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue
Molly Coxe
Photographs by Olivier Tappin
Brave Mouse Books
PO Box 1839, Eastsound WA 98245
9780981969718, $16.95, www.amazon.com

Right off let me say that I loved this book. I was immediately treated to wonderful photographs, so different, so alive and vibrant. They are outstanding. Now on to the storyline.

We meet Benjamin Middlemouse, (how cute is that name?) who lives in a wooden wardrobe in a little boy's bedroom. He lives there with his mom, who one day went out shopping and did not return. Oh no! Benjamin is a brave little mouse and decides he is going to find his mom. He enlists the help of her friend, Bumper, who is an elephant. Together they speed off to find mom, but oh no, she has been captured by Sir Pouncelot, who plans to have mom for dinner. What will they do?

I have to say this was quite an enjoyable read, even for a grandma like myself. The photographs brought the story so alive it was like you were there with them, and the characters are endearing.
I loved the way the author had the friends come up with a solution to save mom and work together to bring it to pass.

This story has it all, great photographs, unique, and a wonderful storyline. I really enjoyed it, and I know any child would be thrilled to own this book. Very well done.

Shirley Johnson

Love, Sex & Deception
Lisa Hultin & Claire Hultin
Morgan James Publishing
1225 Franklin Ave. Ste 325, Garden City, NY 11530
9781600377754, $17.95, www.amazon.com

It's about time! Those are the words I must say about this outstanding book, it has been too long in coming. Authors, Lisa Hultin and Claire Hultin have teamed up to write a book that millions of people need to read. What is it about? On line dating, a topic that is on the front burner for so many today. Get ready for the read you have been waiting for.

Our authors have taken countless stories of people, and told of their experiences with those they have connected with on line. Some are downright funny, others are horror and yet others didn't turn out too bad.Each one is well worth reading, believe me. The ladies add little comments after the stories that are great and I found were some of the same questions I would have asked. Why?

This book is a must have for any who are traveling the highway of the internet in search for relationships. It will definitely give you quite a few giggles, some warning signs to be aware of, and just be pure entertainment. If you have had some of the same experiences you will fell better knowing others have felt your pain. This is a great book. I loved it. Well done ladies.

My Vampire Cousin
J.K. Hawkins
Illustrated by Heather Payer-Smith
Lily Ruth Publishing
PO Box 6622 -Paris, TX, 75461-6622
9780982300909, $8.95, www.amazon.com

Alice Trivett thought she was just like any other little girl, but our 12-year old was about to learn different. Alice decides one day to travel into the forbidden woods, the area her mom told her to never go. As she walks along she stumbles upon a castle, and being curious she simply must go inside. Big mistake Alice, or is it?

As Alice explores this new find she realizes someone is with her and soon discovers it is a vampire who would like to have her as a meal. Oh my! Now to make matters worse, Alice finds out this strange creature is her cousin. How could this be? And so the ride begins!

I have to say right off that I have never read a storyline like this before. Our author certainly used her imagination to carve this story out, well done. She also allows Alice to be inventive as she battles vampire and other weird creatures throughout the story. Alice is not portrayed as a wimpy girl, but one who keeps her wit about her to overcome very dangerous situations. I like that the character is strong, yet wise. The storyline flowed well, and I believe will keep the young reader interested, wanting to know just what battle Alice will have next. Good job.

"My Vampire Cousin," is certainly a fun read and one that children slightly older would enjoy. It has interesting characters and local and keeps the action going from page to page.

Just For Fun
Barbara Bryan
Outskirts Press
10940 Parker Rd, Parker CO 80134
9781432742935, $18.95, www.amazon.com

I am always happy to see any book that gives children exposure to rhyme and this one does a beautiful job. Inside the pages of this work we find a collection of poems with many main topics such as: The Ocean, A Winter Day, Fourth of July, and My Cats, just to name a few. There are twelve in all. Each one is presented with a colorful illustration, bright and alive, that associate with the poem.

I feel it is important for us to educate our children in the art of poetry. This book is a fun book, one that they will enjoy reading and sharing and will hopefully walk away with a few rhymes in this own mind about the world they live in. Well done.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer


Taylor's Bookshelf

Financial Aid For Veterans, Military Personnel, And Their Families: 2010-2012
Gail Ann Schlachter
R. David Weber
Reference Service Press
5000 Windplay Drive, Suite 4, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762-9319
www.rspfunding.com
9781588412096, $40.00, www.amazon.com

Completely up to date with both public and private financial aid resources and programs, this new edition of "Financial Aid For Veterans, Military Personnel, And Their Families: 2010-2012" is a superbly organized and presented 437-page compendium that includes all pertinent details for scholarships, fellowships, grants-in-aid, and loans for military members past and present, and for their dependents. Of special note is an instructive introduction in general and the entry on 'Tips to Help You Use the Directory' in particular. Enhanced with thoroughly 'user friendly' indexes for programs titles, sponsoring organizations, residency, tenability, subject, and calendar, "Financial Aid For Veterans, Military Personnel, And Their Families: 2010-2012" will prove to be an invaluable financial aid resource and reference. Also very highly recommended for academic library and vocational rehabilitation agency financial aid reference collections is the new edition from the Reference Service Press: "Financial Aid For The Disabled And Their Families: 2010-2012" (9781588412041, $40.00).

3D And HD Broadband Video Networking
Benny Bing
Artech House Publishing
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062
9781608070510, $119.00, www.amazon.com

The 'Information Age' is now dominated by video and multimedia traffic distributed and received via the internet and broadband access networks. In "3D And HD Broadband Video Networking", Benny Bing draws upon his many years of experience and expertise as a research faculty member in the School of ECE at the Georgia Institute of Technology and editor for the IEEE Wireless Communication Magazine to describe in considerable and deftly presented detail ways technicians can optimize video transmission over broadband networks and what new wireless access networks can accomplish with respect to video connectivity within and without a residential setting. A 400-page compendium of superbly organized and presented technical information, "3D And HD Broadband Video Networking" is enhanced with the addition of a glossary and an index, making it ideal for academic and technical school library reference collections and curriculums.

Hidden Costs Of Energy
National Research Council
National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
www.nap.edu
9780309146401, $47.00, www.amazon.com

There is far more to the costs of petroleum-based energy in the production and distribution of energy than the price at the pump or the monthly electric bill. The results of a detailed and long-term study by Environmental, and Other External Costs and Benefits of Energy Production and Consumption Committee on Health and the National Research Council, "Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use" is a 506-page compendium of documented findings and cogently presented information on the true costs of energy to the national economy and its implications for the future as projects from the present. Detailed, authoritative, and an impressive body of extensive, comprehensive, and seminal research, "Hidden Costs Of Energy" is highly recommended for corporate, academic, governmental library reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Brueghel's Heavy Dancers
John Block Friedman
Syracuse University Press
621 Skytop Road, Suite 110, Syracuse, NY 13244-5290
www.SyracuseUniversityPress.syr.edu
9780815632153, $45.00, www.amazon.com

The latest addition to the outstanding 'Medieval Studies' series under the general editorship of Mary Maleski, "Brueghel's Heavy Dancers: Transgressive Clothing, Class, and Culture in the Late Middle Ages" is a 361-page compendium of detailed and painstaking scholarship by John Block Friedman (Professor Emeritus of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). The subject is 16th century artist Brueghel's images of the clothing and culture of peasants life compared with the depictions provided by late medieval poetry and manuscript illustrations. The result is a fascinating exposition of a variety of medieval peasant activities ranging from eating, celebrating, brawling, dress and comportment. Enhanced with occasional black-and-white illustrations, substantial footnotes, extensive bibliographic references, and a comprehensive index, "Brueghel's Heavy Dancers" is a seminal work and an invaluable contribution to academic library Medieval History reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Supporting The IEP Process
Nicholas R.M. Martin
Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company
Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
www.brookespublishing.com
9781598571141, $29.95, www.amazon.com

IEP stand for Individual Education Plan and was original created when federal laws were passed mandating local school districts to educated physically, emotionally, and mentally handicapped children. Typical IEP committees consisted of a specific child's parents, the school psychology and/or social worker, as well as appropriate classroom and special education teachers. Additionally, as needed, would be included members of the school administration, school nurses, school librarians, community doctors, and education resource specialists provided by state departments of education. Every IEP meeting had a leader whose task is to coordinate discussion and facilitate the development of an educational plan that would meet the student's specific educational needs -- and insure that whatever resources were necessary to that plan be in place and implemented. It was also the obligation of the team leader to help the team members to conduct timely evaluations of how the plan was working out and make any modifications deemed necessary. One of the unsung tasks of the team leader is also the keeping of accurate records. Those are only some of the reasons why "Supporting The IEP Process: A Facilitator's Guide" by professional conflict resolution consultant Nicholas R.M. Martin is such an invaluable and instructive resource for anyone having to be responsible for the conducting of an IEP meeting. This 197-page compendium is thoroughly user friendly. Of special value are the chapters on 'Dealing with Impasse' and 'Establishing IEP Facilitation'. Enhanced with a wealth of useful appendices, "Supporting The IEP Process" should be on the reference shelve of every school district IEP team leader.

Poetry! Poetry! Poetry!
Peter Davis
Bloof Books
info@bloofbooks.com
www.bloofbooks.com
9780982658703, $16.00, www.amazon.com

As demonstrated by the pieces that comprise "Poetry! Poetry! Poetry!", Peter Davis is a master of the prose poem format. A kind of one-man poetry slam (the titles of his poems are as unusual as the poems themselves), the quality of his work is nothing short of impressive and highly recommended reading, especially for those with an appreciation of his contemporary avant garde style. 'Poem That belligerently Address People Who Believe I'm Self-Obsessed Or Something Like That': Well, you have an enormous ego too. That's why you're reading this, you narcissist! Get over yourself! Sure, you're smart because you get what this poem is about and how cool it is, or you get how crappy this poem is, and you know why, but you're still just another reader. So, don't look at me. You're the one obsessed with yourself!

Arrested For Telling The Truth About The Benefits Of Food
D. Way, PhD.
CouldBe Publishing
www.couldbepublishing.com
couldbepublishing@yahoo.com
No ISBN, $19.95,

"Arrested For Telling The Truth About The Benefits Of Food" is the personal story, personally told, of how the author was arrested for the illegal practicing of medicine without a license when he instructed people on how they could improve their health by what they ate. It is astonishing that in this day and age, the imparting of nutritional information that can (and does) help improve personal health and well-being, even reverse the damaging effects of various forms of illness and disease, can be declared illegal unless the person doing the dissemination of such information is a duly licensed minion of the American Medical Association. This 166-page memoir should be considered mandatory reading for anyone concerned with the unjust loss of personal liberty under the oppression and suppression of monopolistic organizations exerting political influence and exercising the power of the state. Shocking, true, and a clarion call justice, "Arrested For Telling The Truth About The Benefits Of Food" is strongly recommended reading.

John Taylor
Reviewer


Vogel's Bookshelf

Race Track Attack Guide
Edwin Resser, III
Sericin Publishing Company
reeserclan@sbcglobal.net
www.RaceTrackGuides.com
9780984172405, $16.95, www.amazon.com

Edwin Resser draws upon his many years of experience and expertise in "Race Track Attack Guide - Laguna Seca" to create a 114-page compendium packed from cover to cover with information, instruction, and commentary that will enable even the most novice competitive driver to enhance their performance racing cars on the Laguna Seca driving course between the cities of Salinas and Monterey, California . This thoroughly 'user friendly "Race Track Attack Guide - Laguna Seca" is also a terrific introduction to the sport of road racing for the uninitiated. Providing a comprehensive 'turn by turn' guide to the selected racing course; enhanced with the inclusion of maps and photographs for the circuit; practical and usefully applicable information on safety and preparation measures for the track; track day checklists; tech inspection forms; and so much more, "Race Track Attack Guide - Laguna Seca" is an invaluable and strongly recommended resource for anyone seeking to drive this demanding course.

The Insider's Guide To The Psychology Major
Amira Rezec Wegenek & William Buskist
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242
www.apa.org/books
9781433808159, $29.95, www.amazon.com

The collaborative work of Amira Rezec Wegenek (Professor of Psychology, Saddleback College, California) and William Buskist (Distinguished Professor in the Teaching of psychology, Auburn University), "The Insider's Guide to the Psychology Major: Everything You Need to Know About the Degree and Profession" is a 126-page compendium of practical information for anyone who aspires to an degree in the field of psychology. Informed and informative chapters cover the value of a psychology degree, the resources available to students seeking a psychology degree, the process of acquiring a psychology degree (including a Master's Degree and a Doctorate Degree), and the jobs available to holders of a Baccalaureate degree in psychology. Of special note is the chapter devoted to graduate school and getting 'real-world' experience as part of securing a psychology degree. Thoroughly 'reader friendly', "The Insider's Guide To The Psychology Major" is an invaluable and informative introduction which is strongly recommended reading for anyone considering a psychology degree at any level.

Innocent Blood
Raymond Haigh
Thorpe
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
Box 1230,West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
www.ulverscroftusa.com
9781444800951, $32.50, www.amazon.com

A large print, 328-page novel, "Innocent Blood" by Raymond Haigh is the story of a man lost in lust. Jason Brody is enmeshed in a dangerous affair with the wife of a dying man. When his mother can't reach him she gets worried enough to hire the private investigator Paul Lomax to find her missing son. What he finds in pursuit of the prodigal son are forsaken traditions, betrayed friends, lost fortunes, and the very real possibility of murder. A gripping mystery from first page to last, "Innocent Blood" is highly recommended reading and would make a welcome and popular addition to personal and community library Large Print collections.

Academy Chicago Publishers
363 West Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60610
www.academychicago.com

The 1920s and 1930s were the 'Golden Age' of pulp fiction. One of the most popular genres were the mysteries. And one of the most popular fictional characters was Charlie Chan, a Chinese-American detective and the creation of Earl Derr Bigggers. So popular were the Charlie Chan mysteries that Hollywood made many of them into movies. Now Academy Chicago Press has brought out new trade paperback editions for six these time-lost classics for a new and appreciative generation of readers in a numbered series featuring their original pulp paperback covers. Included in this impressive publishing project are: "The House Without A Key" (9780897335799, $14.95); "The Chinese Parrot" (9780897335782, $14.95); "Behind That Curtain" (9780897335843, $14.95); "The Black Camel" (9780897335850, $14.95); "Charlie Carries On" (9780897335942, $14.95); and "Keeper Of The Keys" (9780897335959, $14.95). Although each title is available individually, community libraries would be well advised to obtain the entire six volume series for the benefit of their grateful patrons who appreciate well crafted mysteries by a pulp fiction mystery writer who was at the top of his game!

Gold: Science And Applications
Christopher Corti & Richard Holliday
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
www.crcpress.com
9781420065237, $239.95, www.amazon.com

Gold has far more uses than backing the value of paper currency or the making of jewelry. It's also is a critically important metal with both industrial and medical applications -- which account from more than 10% of the world's annual demand. Knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited by the team of World Gold Council members Christopher Corti and Richard Holliday, "Gold: Science and Applications" is a 444-page compendium of informed and informative contributions by leading experts in their various fields covering contemporary applications of gold in medicine, dentistry, electronics, engineering, industry, photography, catalysts, nanotechnology, and even pollution control. With a comprehensive index, "Gold: Science and Applications" is an impressive anthology and a core addition to professional and academic library instructional reference collections.

Understanding And Supporting Adult Learners
Frederic Jacobs & Stephen P. Hundley
Jossey-Bass, Inc.
989 Market Street, 5th floor, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741
www.josseybass.com
9780470592540, $40.00, www.amazon.com

Although there have always been adults as a small portion of college and university student bodies for pretty much as long as there have been colleges and universities, it was the returning American soldiers at the conclusion of World War II and the G.I. Bill that saw a massive influx of adult students in the late 1940s and earlier 1950s. The phenomena of adult students continues today under the economic pressures and realities of today, making "Understanding and Supporting Adult Learners: A Guide for Colleges and Universities" (the newest addition to the outstanding and continuing 'Jossey Bass Higher and Adult Education Series') a valued and valuable reference resource. The collaborative work of Frederic Jacobs (Professor of Education, American University, Washington, D.C.) and Stephen P. Hundley (Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Undergraduate Programs, and Associate Professor of Organizational Leadership, Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis), is a comprehensive and thoroughly 'user friendly' introduction and instructional guide to student, faculty, and institutional issues associated with adult students, profiles of policy issues relevant to the adult student, and an informed and informative analysis on improving the learning environment for adult students. Enhanced with extended references and a comprehensive index, "Understanding And Supporting Adult Learners" is especially recommended reading for college and university boards of directors, administrators, faculty members, and school counselors.

Paul T. Vogel
Reviewer


James A. Cox
Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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