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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 9 September 2013 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf
Kaveny's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf
Lorraine's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Shelley's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf

Cowper's Bookshelf

Common Core Creativity
Garrett M. Carter
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781490905686 $15.99

Middle school language arts teacher Garrett M. Carter presents Common Core Creativity: 30 Projects and Activities for Middle School ELA, a guide written especially for middle school language arts teachers. Each of the thirty offered classroom projects is designed to work smoothly with the implementation of America's rigorous Common Core State Standards (currently in use in over 40 states). One sample project encourages students to imagine what apps a character from a novel might have on his or her smartphone. "For example, if a character likes to read, he or she may have a reading app downloaded. On the pages that follow, use evidence from the text to explain why you chose the apps that you did." Another project is about comparing and contrasting two newspaper articles, and another encourages students to build vocabulary with "word study" from literature. The purchaser of Common Core Creativity is given the right to reproduce the book's worksheets for their own students to use in the classroom (but the purchaser is not given the right to give worksheet copies to another teacher, or sell worksheet copies for commercial profit). Common Core Creativity is an excellent and inexpensive supplemental resource to enrich classroom learning, highly recommended for middle school language and literature teachers everywhere.

The Adventurous Vegetarian
Jane Hughes
New Internationalist
55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK
JKSCommunications (publicity)
9781780261249 $25.00

Featuring full-color, full-page photography of its sumptuous recipes, The Adventurous Vegetarian: Around the World in 30 Meals is a global culinary treasury. Recipes tracing their origins to China (sweet potato and ginger dessert), Malaysia (terong belado, an eggplant/aubergine sambal), Tanzania (kashata, a Swahili sweet peanut snack) and many more nations fill this sizeable compendium, along with brief notes about each country's traditional foods, as well as the occasional insights into the challenges faced by traveling vegetarians and vegans. "'The Vegetarian' magazine in the UK regularly receives reports from travelers who have struggled to obtain vegetarian food in France, faced with restaurateurs who thought a little meat wouldn't matter, or that by using their home-made rich beef stock they would be giving the vegetarian diner a treat." Highly recommended, especially as a giftbook for vegetarian and vegan gourmets!

The Piccolo Chef Cookbook
Tina Fanelli Moraccini & Lilian Palmierie
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781475978087, $24.95,

Beginning with the baby boomer generation, Americans more and more 'outsourced' their meals to corporate cooks as represented by fast food joints, frozen TV dinners, 'heat & eat' prepackaged foods of all kinds. A whole new generation of children are growing up not knowing basic culinary skills that any family kitchen cook should know. That's a major reason why "The Piccolo Chef Cookbook: Healthy Cooking with Your Kids" by Tina Fanelli Moraccini and Lilian Palmierie is so critically important an addition to personal, family, and community library cookbook collections. This profusely and beautifully illustrated, 208 page cookbook compendium of nutritious recipes that will please any palate and satisfy any appetite offers dishes ranging from Very Berry Buckwheat Pancakes; Springtime Rosemary Grissini and Prosciutto Bouquet; and Pizzette Party; to Paper Fun Wrapped White Fish; Farro Arancini with Parmigiano and Mozzarella; and Light-As-A-Cloud Almond Semi-Freddo with Warm Chocolate Sauce. Thoroughly 'user friendly' and specifically designed to help parents teach their children basic culinary skills in ways that are as fun as they are affective, "The Piccolo Chef Cookbook" is truly extraordinary and enthusiastically recommended!

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Eyes of the World
Alex Siegel
Amazon Digital Services

Eyes of the World is another Gray Spear Society story adding to the prolific thriller series by Alex Siegel; but no worries if you haven't been introduced to the series before: background is quickly absorbed right in the beginning, where Eyes of the World opens with an unforgettable 'bang' of instantly-gripping action:

"What in God's name are you talking about....the greatest battle of the Gray Spear Society? What does that mean?"

Team response to Ethel's shout into a telephone includes vivid descriptions of each member and sets the stage for a battle which once again differs from battles the Society has faced in Alex Siegel's previous stories.

Yes, Eyes of the World opens at the point of the cliff-hanger ending of Book 9 - but the usual prerequisite of having knowledge of the last book is not required here (though once a newcomer delves into Gray Spear saga, the prior books will be of interest!)

The first thing to know about the Gray Spear premise: it's based upon religion, social and political (as well as 'good versus evil') struggles, and supernatural 'gifts' given to various Spear members by God.

The second thing to realize: this is NOT a 'religious novel' per say, but an action thriller that knows how to open with a bang, keep readers riveted with powerful characterization and ever-changing twists and turns of plot, and present confrontations that are anything but predictable.

As the tenth book in the series, Eyes of the World could all too easily have assumed the trappings of formula writing. The glory here is that Siegel avoids such techniques, opting instead for expanding his stories of threats to the world in general and the Society's members at large. In this scenario powerful twins Bethany and Leanna are the target of unknown assailants even as the President of the United States is kidnapped.

Torn in different directions and driven to protect both the President and their own, Society members strive to overcome darkness and evil while realizing their God-given abilities in the process. Romance and an understanding of how opposing forces with powerful allies in government and society serve God's enemies makes for chapters loaded with complexity and action.

Now for a caution: Eyes of the World includes scenes of torture (via supernatural powers) and confrontation. Like others in the series, it's not a title for readers who abhor violence. From Tawni (whose power involves sending her 'shadows' to invade another's body) to Ethel (who oversees a painful interrogation process for the sake of obtaining dark, closely-held secrets) this injection of horror makes for unusually powerful scenarios.

However, its brooding plot and tense action make Eyes of the World a powerful read and any used to the thriller format know that violence and confrontation - even on epic or intimate levels - is never far from such a genre.

Also - sadly - it's important to note that Eyes of the World concludes this series, anyway. All good things must come to an end - but the author promises we haven't seen the last of the Gray Spear Society; its direction has just changed.

So fans can await the new focus with bated breath while those who receive Eyes of the World as their introduction will find nine prior books of glorious action await!

Two Brothers: Origin
Sofia Diana Gabel
Escargot Books
9781908191830 ePub
9781908191847 Kindle
$3.99 for ebook and $9.99 for print

Two Brothers: Origin opens in the Mojave Desert in Palmdale, California, moves quickly to modern Palmdale California, and revolves around two boys who just want to fit in, but can't. However, don't expect your usual coming-of-age angst despite this seemingly common theme: for Argus Dachel is half-alien, and he and his brother Tai are being pursued by a secret government agency interested in their extraordinary, hidden powers.

It's shades of Alexander Key's 'Witch Mountain' all over again - but with more depth and different twists of plot as Argus and his brother learn that he and other 'New Breeds' are slated for extermination by another group of hidden, hostile aliens.

Now it's a blend of government and otherworld forces that work against them; all this set against the usual coming-of-age scenarios of first romance, school bullies, and an uncertain prospect of survival to adulthood.

Two Brothers: Origin shouldn't be defined (or limited) as a young adult read: all ages will find its characterization solid, its action gripping, and its premise refreshingly different, offering approaches that set it apart from any other novel featuring an alien teen protagonist trying to fit in to human society.

The family struggles to keep the boys safe; but with the evolving complexity of more players on the field of subterfuge and special interests, Argus finds there's nowhere to turn and fewer positive choices for his future:

"What would happen if the government knew for sure they were aliens, half-aliens? He didn't want to spend his life hiding, or worse, as a prisoner to be studied by the government. This was starting to look like a choice between being a prisoner at the Citadel or the government. After spending his whole life secluded at home, hardly ever allowed outside the walls, he didn't want to go back into hiding. He'd tasted freedom and liked it."

Even the wise, fifty-thousand-year-old Aunt Celeste can't comprehend the forces working against the boys and the underlying motivations that operate on different levels; and if she can't understand these forces, how can the boys have any chance at lasting safety or freedom?

From Ramtalan forces and the opposition of AURA to Argus' seemingly-impossible desire to embrace romance and have a life, Two Brothers: Origin centers around a scenario that ultimately demands the greatest sacrifice in the name of lasting freedom ... something Argus may find impossible to willingly give.

Blend a coming-of-age saga with a thriller and add alien forces pitted against one another and you have a compelling, satisfyingly unpredictable plot that all ages will find impossible to put down.

Sisters in Bloom
Melissa Foster
World Literary Press
9780989050869, $3.99

Sisters in Bloom, Book Two of the 'Love in Bloom' series, offers steamy love scenes, emotionally-charged drama, and a family-driven story, making it the perfect story for any romance reader; especially those who have read Book One, Sisters in Love.

Kaylie Snow is pregnant and her self-image of being the flirty, pretty sister changes as her body changes, while older sister Danica continues to face a new relationship and a new career with her usual calm, graceful approach to life.

Kaylie's fiance is everything she could want in a man, but problems begin when she uncovers secrets about his past - including the presence of an old lover who is also funding his latest film effort, and whom he must impress to further his career.

Romance, betrayal, distrust, and the uncertainties of pregnancy lend elements of emotion and intrigue to Kaylie's life which are mitigated by her close relationship with her older sister, whom she finds a stabilizing force in a crazy, emotionally conflicted world.

\When Kaylie's insecurities and perceptions drive Chaz away, it's up to Danica to help her perceive the positive paths in her life - and to suggest that some of the problems could stem from changes in self-image brought about by pregnancy and hormones:

"What is happening to me? Why did all this stuff just hit me now? You know me, I'm not a crier. I'm not insecure about my looks, or my job, but lately," she threw her hands up in the air, "I can't control anything around me. Apparently, not even my fiance."

One thing the sisters have in common (besides their sibling bonds and affection for one another) is an ability to interact positively not just with each other, but in each other's lives. So Danica has some connections to Chaz which help her sister's situation even as she struggles with her own issues of control, self-esteem and romance:

"She knew the whole thing with Kaylie would eventually blow over - either with drama or without - but this...being with Blake...feeling safe and loved...this was her now. This was the present, and it was all she really wanted to think about."

Each sister takes a different path and makes different choices about the experiences life sends their way - and each finds that what at first appears to be differences in their methods and choices in fact draws them closer together.

Each has personal obstacles to overcome, and so they come to discover that in the case of romance, they actually are on parallel paths, mirroring each others' experiences and learning from them to grow their relationships.

Sisters in Bloom is perfect for any romance reader.

Victor Smith
Itoh Press
9781938383488 $TBA print
9781938383471 $4.99 Kindle - this is Itoh Press where the paperback will be available soon. - At Smashwords

$5.16 in US and 3.38 Brit. pounds in UK

Orchid is set in pre-war Germany and features the experiences of two little boys: one a German, one a Jew.

These boys are very different not only because of their ethnic roots, but because one is raised in a loving family environment while the other longs for affection.

It would seem unlikely these two protagonists would understand one another, much less form a friendship - but against the backdrop of events in Germany, this is exactly what happens ... and what gives Orchid its unusual driving force.

The novel opens with a visionary insight that doesn't just suggest reader involvement: it literally compels readers to learn more:

"For many years, you couldn't cultivate it in their house; it was even forbidden to mention its name. His father used to call it "that accursed flower," but his wife loved it so very much, "that orchid flower." Yet, for the time being, I will say only one thing that their son, who was my best friend, told me: "When you put the orchid in a flower pot, first it loses its freedom, and then if you don't know how to care for it, it loses its leaves. With its leaves gone, its roots dry up. That way the orchid is condemned to die and returns to the soil, just as my mother did."

Thus one friend's ongoing mourning of his loss lays the foundation for recurring themes that give Orchid its power: those of friendship against all odds, reunion, and secrets and promises that forge the way for reconciliation and understanding.

Orchid's introduction - which centers on the narrator's decision to at last tell his story of love and loss to his family - offers a smooth transition between past and present, promising mystery and insights that continue to involve readers:

"I thank God for showing me this day that I can finally reveal my story, which I wrote in this diary and hid in my drawer....When others read my story after my death, they too will be saddened by it. The reality of my life will emerge, they will understand what true love is, and will never put barriers between two people who love each other."

What evolves is an account steeped in belief and spirituality, in love and war, and in one man's quest for God and the right path amidst chaos and change. This blend of romance, blessing, and an evolutionary path between friends and lovers involves readers in an extraordinary journey of spiritual and social revelations - all steeped in encounters with ordinary people facing chance, circumstance, and new beginnings.

Eventually the narrator makes his escape - and takes with him memories of peoples, events and challenges which will form his relationship with God and with outsiders to the German experience for the rest of his life:

"The war ended, and Hitler's death brought joy to many. Every one celebrated Germany's defeat, but I didn't. The German people had lost, but it wasn't they who'd started the war; yet they were the ones who'd suffered."

Readers who seek more than the usual one-dimensional stories of World War II experiences will find Orchid provides extra layers of complexity, emotional connection, and most of all, spiritual understanding that steeps through every layer of the saga.

Like a flower the rich petals of Orchid open through chapter after chapter until, at the end, a beautiful saga is complete.

Highly recommended for any looking for spiritual accounts of survival and friendship under challenging conditions.

The High Hunt
Adam Connell
Privately Published
9780985485535, $3.99

Ordering Link:

The High Hunt is Book One of 'The Orion Guild' series and tells of Lansing, a member of a strange Guild which uses guns and antique methods of hunting in a universe where starships are traveling galaxies. Lansing, the guild's prime marksman, is charged with tracking and putting down a herd of infected beasts on his homeworld - only to discover that a new guild (which holds no honor or scruples) and a lone-wolf marksman are complicating the hunt. The lone wolf has been banished from Lansing's guild for taking contracts hunting people, and has accepted a position with the rival guild...and now things begin to get interesting.

The guild's involvement in primarily animal-related problems takes a new turn with these events in place, and Lansing finds himself at the center of a storm of controversy that defies the very ideal of 'honor through effort' which he's upheld throughout his life.

From a swamp monster who kills children and a quest which results in Lansing's elevation in status to Grand Marksman of his guild to Lansing's realization that he's come full circle in trying to escape his past while returning to his homeworld, The High Hunt is a hunting-oriented science fiction drama filled with close encounters between hunters, the hunted, and those with their own agendas for facing past and present events:

"This planet was his past, and Lansing had no patience for memories. He was intolerant when it came to memories of his parents. He'd escaped Wildernesse in his teens. Back on Wildernesse, stuck in the van, Lansing felt as if his escape had failed."

Basically it's a hunting saga set on another world, packed with collisions and strife that ultimately come to center around The High Hunt - and who will win it.

Lansing's choices will test everything he has come to know as truth in this powerful saga, recommended for any who love hunting dramas, stories of confrontations between strong resourceful individualists, and science fiction.

Chicago Bound: A Jake McGreevy Novel (Book Two in the Series)
Sean Vogel
MB Publishing, LLC
Softcover: 9780985081454 $9.95
Epub: 9780985081461
Kindle: 9780985081478

Chicago Bound is a powerful new Jake McGreevy novel that provides another thriller for middle-grade audiences; this one centered on Jake's search in Chicago's art world for clues to his mother's untimely death.

When Jake accepts an invitation to join an elite group of students visiting Chicago for a two-week performing arts fundraising camp, he suddenly realizes that he'll be seeing, for the first time, the place where his mother was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Moreover, he'll be viewing the huge Mary Cassatt mural which his mother had been in the process of authenticating in the days before her death. With the discovery of a puzzling note from his mother hidden in the teddy bear which was her last gift to him, he comes to understand that his mother recognized a threat to her work and possibly her life - and provided a cryptic message to her family in the one place that would likely reach them.

Spicing his visit to Chicago is the opportunity to spend time with his friends Ben and Julie, both of whom match his skill at drawing quick conclusions and using technology to extend abilities, and who support his determination to investigate his mother's death.

Right away they encounter a formidable obstacle in the form of one Dean Stanley, a take-charge director determined to keep their group in line and prevent any mishaps. When Jake discovers the reasons behind Dean Stanley's fierce commitment to obedience and safety, it only lends fire to his evolving determination to find out what really happened to his mother in Chicago so many years ago.

Supported by his best friends, Jake follows his mother's last footsteps which reveal art clues, issues of authenticity, and possibly a masterpiece which has yet to surface.

Mixed emotions accompany the protagonists at each step of their discoveries, making for a fast-paced and involving story line: "“My mother spent her life looking for this. She died because of it. I don’t know if I like the mural or hate it.”

Factor in unknown assailants who become determined to do anything to prevent Jake from learning the truth and the factor of time (his investigation must be done in the course of a short holiday, which is supposed to include performing for fundraising efforts) and add in the uncertainties of romantic possibilities with two very different girls and the stage fright of a friend who needs to overcome his fears to move ahead and you have a fine, multi-faceted read that pairs psychological overtones with a vivid, fast-paced plot.

Time is running out on many levels: for Jake, for his revelations about his mother's last days and final contribution to the art world, and for a short stay in Chicago which is likely too quick to solve much of anything.

Like a compelling musical piece, Chicago Bound opens with an interesting promise of mystery and moves quickly and solidly to a crescendo of cat-and-mouse moves between Jake and his friends and unknown assailants who are committed to hiding the truth.

Readers will be fascinated to the end - and surprised by an ending which blends an art history investigation, a mother and son's lasting connections, and commitments between good friends.

Diane Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

She Walked for All of Us
Louise Bruyn
Distinction Press
354 Hastings Road, Waitsfield, VT 045673
9781937667122, $16.95,

Synopsis: Someone ought to walk to Washington to tell the government to stop this war! - Louise Bruyn Louise Bruyn did just that 1971 - America has been at war in Vietnam for almost six years. The death toll is rising, both for the U.S., and for the "enemy." Louise Bruyn had enough! It was time to do something. What could one woman do that would make Congress take notice of her protest? She decided to walk-from her home in Newton, Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. to make her point. Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative Robert Drinan met her on the Capitol steps. What a point she made! People all over the country rallied to support her. Finally, someone was saying what so many citizens wanted to, and had no idea how to, say-"Stop this War!" This is her diary, day-by-day, detailing her struggles with fear, her encounters with people along the way, and the many wonderful people who opened their homes, encouraged her, and helped her on her way.

Critique: Deftly written, personally candid, often insightful, occasionally inspiring, always engaging, "She Walked for All of Us, One Woman's 1971 Protest Against an Illegal War" is an iconic read and highly recommended for anyone who has ever aspired to protest against a perceived social or governmental injustice. "She Walked for All of Us" would make an enduringly important addition to community and college library Social Activism and 20th Century American Biography collections.

Return Of The Heroine
Kaye Michelle
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781452562810, $39.99,

Synopsis: For Joan of Arc, it was about surviving in a man's world. Nearly six hundred years later, at West Point, not much has changed. One of the greatest heroines of all time returns and reveals the wisdom she received from Archangel Michael. "When you dare to commit to your deepest desires, your heart grows to accommodate the task at hand, no matter how daunting," Archangel Michael advises Joan of Arc before she embarks on a mission that will change the course of history. With only eleven days left to live, she must take yet another leap of faith, surrender to the guidance of Archangel Michael, and set the record straight to ensure those in the future know the truth. Her legacy reaches across the veil of time to awaken the heroine in all women. And for one twenty-first-century woman, Jane Archer, a West Point cadet, it means finding the courage to expose a cultural crime that has been disempowering women for centuries. In the process, she must learn to trust her own inner guidance.

Critique: A beautifully crafted novel, "Return Of The Heroine" is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is engaging and entertaining. Elegant, eloquent, and deftly written from beginning to end, "Return Of The Heroine" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should also be noted that "Return Of The Heroine" is available in paperback (9781452562797, $21.99) and in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

Peter And The Missing Mansion
Nancy Temple Rodrigue
Double R Books Publishing
740 North "H" Street, Suite 170
Lompoc, CA 93436
9781938319013, $12.99

Synopsis: "Peter and the Missing Mansion" is the second Action-Adventure Mystery novel in the series involving Disneyland and its founder -- the legendary Walt Disney, written for Adults, Teens, and Tweens (age 9 and up). Alone and scared, Peter Brentwood finds himself in the distant past and in front of a hauntingly-familiar mansion. As Peter gets to know the inhabitants of this mansion, people aren't as he thought they should be. The man he thought was an innocent victim is now an adversary. Is there more to the story than he ever imagined? Stairways to nowhere and hidden passageways, lit only by candles, might lead Lance to his son. Can he trust the one who might not be as she seems? Is the Disney legend just a story or is it the truth? On their return, the three travelers find they are the only ones who realize something has gone wrong at Disneyland. It is up to them to protect Walt Disney s legacy.

Critique: A unique blend of fantasy and mystery, "Peter and the Missing Mansion" is as original as it is entertaining for young (and not-so-young) readers ages 9 and up. Appreciative readers will also want to see the first novel in this outstanding series "Hidden Mickey Adventures 1: Peter and the Wolf" (9780983397564, $12.99). Highly recommended for school and community library collections, it should also be noted that both titles are also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99 each). Indeed, young readers will look eagerly toward the third in the series (The Mermaid's Tale) which is scheduled for publishing in 2014.

Elizabeth Pulford
Running Press
2300 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4371
9780762450046, $9.95,

Synopsis: Zara has one immediate and urgent goal, and it is to find her brother, Jem. She faces a few complications, though, not the least of which is searching for him in her subconscious while she is in a coma. Zara's coma has pulled her into the world of Jem's favorite comic-book hero. But no matter how quickly Zara literally draws her own escape, she is taunted deeper into the fantastical darkness by the comic's villain, Morven. All the while she is caught between the present with visits from friends and family in the hospital and the past by flashbacks of a traumatic event long ago forgotten. The search for her brother may help Zara see the light, but in order to find him, she must face her innermost secrets first.

Critique: A superbly crafted and complex novel that will hold young readers' rapt attention from first page to last, "Broken" is a very highly recommended addition to school and community library collections for children ages 7 and up. It should also be noted that "Broken" is available in a Kindle edition ($7.96).

Lila: The Sign of the Elven Queen
Mark J. Grant
Mascot Books
560 Herndon Parkway, #120, Herndon, VA 20170
The Barrett Company (publicity)
12021 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90025
9781620863572, $14.95,

Synopsis: Lila always knew her big eyes made her special, but she never realized how special. With her special eyes she can see her invisible pet dog, Fluffy, who is full of surprises. Fluffy introduces Lila and her parents to a kingdom of invisible people. Their lives are turned upside down in the process, but will Lila's dream come true to become an Elven princess?

Critique: With this debut novel, author Mark Grant demonstrates an impressive literary gift for creating a truly original and thoroughly entertaining contemporary fairy tale that will capture the rapt attention of young readers from beginning to end. An extraordinary entertainment, "Lila: The Sign of the Elven Queen" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should also be noted that "Lila: The Sign of the Elven Queen" is available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).

The Beautiful Evil
Robbi Sommers Bryant
Bedazzled Ink Publishing Company
2137 Pennsylvania Avenue
Fairfield, CA 94533
9781939562128, $12.95,

Synopsis: Constance Sartone Jacobson has spent her life mourning the loss of her father and resenting her mother's efforts to protect her from the dangers outside their own little world. Caught in a humdrum life and a failing marriage, Constance carefully closes off her emotions and lets in vivid dreams and daytime visions of her father beckoning from a horse-drawn carriage. She accompanies her husband on a business trip and is compelled to buy an ancient Greek vase from a curio shop. She quickly learns that this is no ordinary vase and can't resist its lure into a world where dreams blur into reality. She learns the paradox of the beautiful evil and finally finds freedom from her emotional shackles . . . or is she caught on a roller coaster ride into the chaos of her personal hell?

Critique: "The Beautiful Evil" is as compelling a read as it is entertaining. Author Robbi Sommers Bryant reveals a true literary talent for creating memorable characters embedded in a complex and engaging storyline from beginning to end. "The Beautiful Evil" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and for community library fiction collections.

Observations: Visual and Poetic
Donal Keohane
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781466968875, $33.00,

Synopsis: "Observations: Visual and Poetic", is a follow-up on Irish artist and poet Donal Keohane's "Musings in Haiku", where he expressed thoughts and reflections on his surroundings. This compendium of his work showcases his visual art creations in paintings, sculpture, drawing, stained glass, and mosaic done over the years. Added to the visuals on facing pages are his longer poems with themes on nature, existence, and human relationships.

Critique: The images are fabulous. The poetry memorable. The experience of both Donal Keohane's art and words are such as to linger in the mind and heart long after the book closed and set back upon the shelf. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "Observations: Visual and Poetic" is very highly recommended for both personal and community library collections. It should also be noted that "Observations: Visual and Poetic" is available in a Kindle edition ($5.00) as well.

Meet Me At Fountain Park
Mindy Killgrove
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781612962269, $17.95,

Synopsis: Missy Lawrence's life has come to an unsolicited standstill. Her job as a news reporter for WSTA-Charlotte is miraculously mundane and her love life is practically non-existent. Even though she tries, she can't seem to pull herself out of this rut. While she's stuck in between, all of her friends are finding themselves in a flurry of activities: Brooklyn's moving in with Duke, Benson and Jack are heading across the country in search of stardom, and Adair is preparing to walk down the aisle and wed the man of her dreams. As her social engagements pile up, she notices that her calendar has reached maximum capacity because of her friends and their obligations. Missy now realizes that she is going to have to make a huge decision: Will she stay in the past or will she join her capricious pals and take a leap of her own?

Critique: "Meet Me At Fountain Park" is the second of a three book trilogy and continues to document author Mindy Killgrove's undeniable literary talent at weaving an engaging and entertaining story that grips her reader's rapt attention from beginning to end. Highly recommended reading, "Meet Me At Fountain Park" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99). Also highly recommended is the first novel of the trilogy, "Meet Me At The Pond" (9781612961675, $18.95 / Kindle edition ($7.99).

Objects in Mirror
Tudor Robins
Red Deer Press
c/o Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited
195 Allstate Parkway
Markham, Ontario, Canada, L3R 4T8
9780889954977, $12.95,

Synopsis: Grace is looking forward to spending her summer weekends at horse shows riding new and spirited horse Sprite to the medal podium. But things don't always go as planned. It seems that her summer is ruined when Sprite is sold by the riding stable to a new owner. Other opportunities present themselves however - Grace is now going to live her dream. She will be spending all summer working with horses in her new job helping the trainers at the stables. With handsome new coworker Matt and a fragile, damaged mare that needs extra special care, Grace's summer seems perfect. She can't hide from the truth though - the eating disorder that she is starting to acknowledge but not truly understand is rearing its ugly head and threatens to derail everything. Will she be able to heal herself along with the horses she is caring for?

Critique: An enormously entertaining read, "Objects in Mirror" amply demonstrates author Tudor Robins's gift for creating a deftly written novel for young readers age 12 and up. That this is her debut as a novelist is all the more impressive in what she has accomplished. Fully engaging from beginning to end, "Objects in Mirror" is especially recommended for personal reading lists and community library YA fiction collections.

The Death Chamber Of Commerce
Helen Mirth
TBT Publisher
PO Box 502, Mt. Dora, FL 32756
9780983768739, $12.99,

Synopsis: The Uma Chamber of Commerce is the base camp for the ambitious Dottie. She plans to succeed where Ponce DeLeon failed and conquer Florida using all her assets, including handsome men, lots of Vodka, and a license to kill. Set in Florida "The Death Chamber Of Commerce" is a complex and fast paced story, revealing how clandestine politics can turn people into lunatic fanatics. "The Death Chamber of Commerce" is about how drug laws, sunshine laws, and economic development can converge to make life get 'very weird very fast'.

Critique: Helen Mirth has a demonstrable gift as a writer in deftly crafting a cleverly woven and engaging story populated with memorable characters in a novel that will linger in the mind and imagination of the reader long after it is finished and set back upon the shelf. As original as it is entertaining, "The Death Chamber Of Commerce" is highly recommended reading and would make a popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections.

The Adventurous Couple's Guide to Sex Toys
Violet Blue
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781573449724, $14.95,

Synopsis: This is a witty and well-informed guide providing a clear explanation on how to choose and use sex toys to play and explore together for the purpose of having mind-blowing sex. "The Adventurous Couple's Guide to Sex Toys" provides a practical, sex-positive approach to all manner of sex toys along with an explanation of the many options available, including different materials, care and cleaning, and how to see through exaggerated marketing claims. Of special note are practical tips on creative usage and ideas for introducing sex toys to a relationship: how to ask your boyfriend to use the blindfold in your bedside drawer or how to surprise your wife with a saucy gift without getting your face slapped (unless that was the point). Along with the basics, "The Adventurous Couple's Guide to Sex Toys" also covers a threesome fantasy with two people; setting up the sexiest lighting for a webcam show, and so much more.

Critique: "The Adventurous Couple's Guide to Sex Toys" is deftly written and thoroughly 'user friendly'. Highly recommended for gay or straight adults looking to 'spice up' their personal lives as individuals or as a couple, it should be noted that "The Adventurous Couple's Guide to Sex Toys" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

A Secret Star
Krystyne F. Aleksandr
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781625635815, $26.955,

Synopsis: Sometimes there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes? There's not. Because true light doesn?t appear at the end of a long, hard road. True light comes from within. Most of the time, however, we live unaware of this secret shine, and it is not found until someone shows us that it's there. During the hardest times of her life, Natalie Winters struggled with what light to seek and what star to wish upon. She lived a life in which she was enriched with a deep darkness that caused even the brightest of glows to fade away into darker shadows. A Secret Star is a memoir of the horrific stories of her childhood? the abandonment, the abuse, and the absence of love. However, this little girl found that in her darkest of tunnels, she was not alone. For even the darkest of skies still have the sparkle of the stars.

Critique: With "A Secret Star", author Krystyne F. Aleksandr has written a candid and compelling biography that will resonate in the reader's mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. Deserving of as wide a readership as possible, "A Secret Star" is very highly recommended and would make a welcome addition to and all community library collections.

The Power Of Harmony
Jan L. Coates
Red Deer Press
c/o Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited
195 Allstate Parkway
Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 4T8
9780889954953, $12.95,

Synopsis: Jennifer's dream is to become a famous singer--except she's terrified of singing in public. Since her best friend moved away, Jenn has become the target of the bullies at school. But when a Native girl, Melody, joins the class, the bullies have a new victim. Jenn's heard what people, including her own grandmother, say about "those people." But, as she gets to know her new classmate, she discovers that, like her, Melody enjoys books and reading. She also finds that both of them love music. Set in Springhill, Nova Scotia during the late 1960s, this story of peer cruelty, faith, mortality, racism, and friendship perfectly captures time and place as its young narrator, Jennifer, struggles to find her voice and ultimately discovers the power of harmony.

Critique: Simply stated, "The Power Of Harmony" is deftly written and thoroughly entertaining from first page to last. It's sometimes said that those who teach can't do. But clearly that is not the case with Jan L. Coates who is highly sought after with respect to her school of writing workshops given through the Writer's Federation of Nova Scotia. An enduringly popular addition to community library Children's Fiction collections, "The Power Of Harmon" is especially recommended for young readers ages 9 and older.

Murder In Stilettos
Barbara Bryant
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781481703185, $23.95,

Synopsis: A successful stolen art insurance investigator, Prudence Paley is called home to be by her dying father's side. Prudence, fiercely independent, and confused as to what she wants out of life, should she stay after the death of her father, or return to her glamorous life traveling the world looking for stolen art. She experiences mounting conflicting feelings which she cannot ignore that will resonate throughout the rest of her life. While attending a charity luncheon and fashion show, Prudence is suddenly caught up in a famous model's murder. Even though, there was no real connection between Tashama and Prudence, Tashama passes Prudence a note asking for help. This puts Prudence's career in the spotlight. As she is beginning to work with the police on Tashama's murder, a second model, Jenna Johnson, is murdered. As both cases progress; she realizes this case is more about stolen art and diplomatic bags than the modeling world. It's beginning to appear as if the murders are more about revenge against her than the models. What starts out as a family's revenge on Prudence, takes a turn, and revenge has to take a back seat to survival of their own. As she comes to rely on the detective handling the case, the tension between them is riveting. Tired of playing games, she makes the first move toward a relationship.

Critique: It's clear from the pages of "Murder In Stilettos" that author Barbara Bryant is able to draw from her background as an entrepreneur, a journalist, and a broadcaster to create a riveting mystery thriller of the first order. Deftly written and populated with memorable characters carefully woven into an compelling and entertaining read from beginning to end, "Murder In Stilettos" is highly recommended reading and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted that "Murder In Stilettos" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

In Too Deep
Coert Voorhees
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, NY, NY 10023-6298
9781423140351, $16.99,

Synopsis: Annie Fleet, master scuba diver and history buff, knows she can't fight her nerd status as a freshman at her Los Angeles private school. And she doesn't care-except for the fact that her crush, Josh, thinks she's more adorable than desirable. Annie is determined to set him straight on their school trip to Mexico. But her teacher has other plans: he needs Annie to help him find Cortez's lost-long treasure. Suddenly, Annie finds herself scuba diving in pitch-black waters, jetting to Hawaii with Josh, and hunting for the priceless Golden Jaguar. But Annie and Josh aren't the only ones lured by the possibility of finding the greatest treasure ever lost at sea. Someone else wants the gold-and needs Annie dead. In deeper danger than she ever imagined, can Annie get the boy and find the Jaguar, or is she in over her head?

Critique: There is no better writer of YA romance novels today than Coert Voorhees. Her latest literary work, "In Too Deep" is an eloquently crafted story that will raptly engage the reader's total attention from beginning to end. A solid entertainment, "In Too Deep" is enthusiastically recommended, especially for school and community library YA fiction collections. It should be noted that "In Too Deep" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Translator
Nina Schuyler
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, NY, NY 10004
9781605984704, $25.00,

Synopsis: When renowned translator Hanne Schubert falls down a flight of stairs, she suffers from an unusual but real condition - the loss of her native language. Speaking only Japanese, a language learned later in life, she leaves for Japan. There, to Hanne's shock, the Japanese novelist whose work she recently translated confronts her publicly for sabotaging his work. Reeling, Hanne seeks out the inspiration for the author's novel - a tortured, chimerical actor, once a master in the art of Noh theater. Through their passionate, volatile relationship, Hanne is forced to reexamine how she has lived her life, including her estranged relationship with her daughter. In elegant and understated prose, Nina Schuyler offers a deeply moving and mesmerizing story about language, love, and the transcendence of family.

Critique: What stands out in Nina Schuyler's complex and absorbing novel is her ability to craft descriptive and emotionally engaging language with respect to her characters and how she deftly weaves her storyline. A solid, compelling novel from beginning to end, "The Translator" is truly exceptional and highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library fiction collections. It should be noted that "The Translator" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99) and as an audio book (AudioGo, 9781482101461, $21.55).

Julie Summers

Kaveny's Bookshelf

The Theology of Battlestar Galactica: American Christianity in the 2004-2009 Television Series
Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611
Jefferson NC 28640
9780786465507 $40.00

As I sit at my laptop working on this review at my dining room table linked by my home wireless network to the now almost archaic sounding World Wide Web and "The Cloud," with the first episode of the "Battlestar Galactica" mini-series running in the background (after discovering that entire series is available as free streaming video though Amazon to Prime customers) it is time for a little reflection on the technological enhanced changes which are tectonic in scale, yet morphing into invisibility. One is forced to reflect that in sense this world of the commoditization and instant delivery of mass cultural products which Walter Benjamin first discussed in the mid-1930 in his "Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction". Yes, that essay is available full and free in a number of online sources, and links our present with a historical context past memory's reach.

This must be said. We were well into the second decade of the 21st century and only four years from 2017, the Year that Ridley Scotts' Blade Runner is set. Kevin Wetmore's book is nothing less a paradigmatic signifier of a seismic shift in scholarly production in which he breaks out of the typographic cell in the prison house of language. Myriad aspects of the setting of Blade Runner are realized in our world, as we study "Battlestar Galactica". For example, I leaned a few Days ago in a PBS Nova special on combat drones that more armed forces personnel are being trained to drive drones sitting with X-Box controls seven thousand miles remote from the combat centers. Incidentally, though drone drivers are still called pilots, actual pilots are not taken into the drone program, according to Nova, because the cost of taking combat skills away is twice that of training a novice with no flight experience. Earlier I stated we are well into the world of Blade Runner; upon reflection in many ways we have exceeded it. How far is it for example, to go from combat drones with discretionary targeting capabilities, to the rebellion of the Cylons?

Even a cursory search shows that there are at least sixty books on the Battlestar Galactica series and literally hundreds of citations in academic databases; I suppose the question we must ask is why we need yet another book on the topic. The answer is this is one of the best books on the topic, both academic and interesting to a more general readership. Wetmore's book is similar in its high quality to Battlestar Galactica: Investigating Flesh Spirit and Steel edited by Roz Kaveney and Joy Stoy, though it differs from this collection which really examines the series on an ideological basis. Kaveney and Stoy investigate the series, asking among other questions, to what extent does it support patriarchal hegemonic multinational capitalism, and to what extent does it critique those institutions. Wetmore's book is more like more mainstream, and makes a great companion to the other best scholarly book on this topic, Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy, also an essay collection edited by Jason T. Erdel. What I like about all three books is that all keep the subject text, which is the series itself, in sharp focus using critical methodologies which explicate rather than obscure.

Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr., who is a professional actor and director and also an associate professor of theater at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, brings something special to his project in that in his chapters as he argues convincingly that Battlestar Galactica is, in and of itself, a theological text. Over the course of 87 episodes and two television movies, the series' narrative arc explores the meanings of salvation, prophecy, exile, apocalypse, resurrection, messianic trajectory from prophecy to enunciation, and clearly demonstrates the working of a divine will in a material world. Upon engaging with his text I think he is acutely aware, because work in theater as an artist, actor, and director of the great dramatic force which is embedded in the very structure of the series. This brings to mind something American film director Cecil Blount DeMille (1881 - 1959) said about the greatest book ever written (the Judea Christian Bible), after all it was written by a team of writers, and of course Battlestar was written by a team of screenwriters also.

Wetmore's assertion that media are serving a religious function in contemporary American society is an open question. I am more than a bit skeptical about America being the most religious of Western industrial societies but that may be because of my blue state sensibilities. Yet, he may be right in the sense that media is kind of public space where groups trapped in their ideological silos of the liked minded can dialogue, as around reproductive choice in the series.

Perhaps in an almost ironic way The Theology of Battlestar Galactica dialogues with David Hartwell's 1980 book about the science fiction community Ages of Wonder, in which he introduced a couple of memorable concepts. The first is "the church of science fiction" which is a way of life from which no one gets excommunicated. The second is the role of the really big idea in science fiction. This is a time in which all the really big and powerful ideas have been banished or made heretical from Western academic philosophy as I learned recently when a took a course in the meta-ethical. I became entrapped in the enchanted forest of infinite semiotic replication, where we could only speak about theories that spoke about theories which spoke about speaking about theories, if we could speak about anything, if any referent existed past a web of self-reverential language.

It is wonderful to have found big ideas having taken refuge and made accessible and interesting with The Theology of Battlestar Galactica. The book is valuable for any high school, college or academic library, because we all love the really big ideas, once we agree to be both philosophically charitable, and in a phenomenological bracketing of our preconceptions, and essentially opening our minds and suspending our disbelief as we remind ourselves that the text of Kevin Wetmore's book study is a pointer to the performed theology of the Battlestar Galactica series.

In recognition of a new episteme, a fancy name invented by the French philosopher Michael Foucault for a paradigmatic shift in the knowledge is produced and accessed, I am going to include just a little of a longer paper in progress.

I am sitting here in the putting the final touches on Kaveny's Bookself in friendly, pleasant, and clean confines of the Starbucks Coffee Company store located at 953 West Clairemont Ave. in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. With my scholarly impedimenta spread out in front me, I can't help but reflect on how twenty years before, when I was working on my dissertation as a graduate student at the UW Madison School of Library and Information Science, the same amount of material that I have contained or have access to through the internet on my laptop, Amazon Kindle, and Amazon Kindle Fire II, would have filled the largest eight wheel semi trailer truck well past its street legal weight limit of 108,000 pounds.

Phil Kaveny
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

Bound Spirits
Karen Wiesner
Writers Exchange E Publishing
9781922233035, $16.97,

On Lake Superior in Erie County, Wisconsin is Bloodmoon Cove Park with a reputation for the eeriest urban legends. After Park Ranger Dave Kotter died there last year, the county sheriff shut the park down warning people to stay out, but there is always some idiot like Troy and his Three Stooges followers who foolishly enter where Harrity Kotter and Dave vanished, many years apart. When a ghost dog comes to greet them, Troy joins the missing while his frightened mates ditch him.

Dave's son John quits his park ranger position in Arizona to come home as he knows there is no one but him left to replace his dead dad at Bloodmoon Cove. At the campgrounds, John, accompanied by his dad's dog Robert, is shocked to find someone living there though the place had been closed since his father's death. Instead of making Esmeralda "Esme" Dumas leave, he allows her to stay without asking her why she is a recluse though she obviously knew his dad and Robert. He accepts she is not ready to tell him her tale of being locked away with rodents as her companions. The couple learns that Troy went missing near where Harrity Scaritty allegedly haunts Bloodmoon Mountain. As homicides occur, Esme goes in search of the hidden cave while a worried Dave goes in search of her.

The Bloodmoon Cove Spirits urban fantasy is a fabulous ghost story that grips readers from the moment Troy and his friends enter the forbidden zone. Fast-paced, the romantic subplot is anticipated but kept low-keyed as Karen Wiesner focuses on the hunt for angry avenging spirits.

The Night Is Alive
Heather Graham
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778315070, $7.99,

Two and half centuries ago Blue Anderson was a gentleman pirate. When Abby Anderson was a child she saw the ghost of her ancestor at times when family members needed him; she saw him when a killer was stopped and when her parents and grandma died. Now a FBI trainee, Abby comes home to Savannah because her grandfather Gus asks her to visit him. When she arrives at the family's historical tavern Dragonslayer, she fails to find Gus waiting for her; instead Blue guides her to a tunnel where her beloved relative lies brutally dead. As Blue begins to make out of character frequent appearances, Abby informs FBI Krewe of Hunters unit chief Jackson Crowe.

He decides to send private investigator Malachi Gordon to Savannah as a beta test of the potential recruit's paranormal skills though veterans will also be there. As more violent mysterious murders occur, Malachi and Abby struggle with their attraction and their life-long distrust of showing their otherworldly skills to someone else. To end a serial killer's reign of terror they must rely on one another or become victims.

Though similar in tone to the previous Krewe of Hunters paranormal romantic mystery (see The Night Is Watching), this is an entertaining thriller due to Savannah (as fascinating as the Old West was in its "night" predecessor) and Blue the ghostly pirate; as they combine to give readers a flavor of the city's history. Action-packed from the moment Abby calls Jackson and never slowing down; readers will relish visiting the haunts of Savannah.

Wedding Belles
Beth Albright
9780778315292, $14.95

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Vivi Ann McFadden has two wonderful reasons for being euphoric. First she is seven months pregnant carrying the child of the man she loves Lewis Heart; and second her and her beloved are marrying soon.

However, her bliss crashes when Myra Jean the trailer park psychic warns Vivi that the voice of Crimson Tide football has another woman. She learns her Lewis is married. As she always does, heartbroken Vivi turns to her best friend, Lewis' sister-in-law Blake O'Hara Heart for solace and legal advice. The attorney investigates Lewis' marital status even while the University of Alabama home opener is about to begin.

The latest Sassy Belles relationship drama is an enjoyable tale as the Steel Magnolias and the men who appreciate them engage in a gender war. Readers (except Auburn fans) will enjoy this "Yea Alabama" contemporary as Vivi's over the top of Bear Bryant Stadium frantic hysteria makes for an amusing Crimson Tide romance.

Can't Help Falling In Love
Bella Andre
9780778315582, $7.99

San Francisco Station 5 firefighters battle a terrible blaze destroying the 1280 Conrad Street apartment building, home to two dozen people. Firefighter Gabe Sullivan enters the inferno where he rescues the Thompson elderly couple who tell him their neighbors Widow Megan Harris and her almost seven years old daughter Summer are inside. In spite of station Captain Todd Phillips telling everyone to evacuate the building, Gabe and his partner Eric go in. While he gets them to safety, a beam hits Gabe in the head; he is carried away on a stretcher to the hospital.

Megan and Summer visit Gabe at the hospital to thank him. The two adults feel the instant attraction that neither wants. Her late husband David was a pilot who died in a flying accident while he dated a rescued woman that ended badly. Complicating their relationship is Summer idolizes the man who saved her life and that of her mom.

The entertaining latest Sullivan siblings' romance (see The Look Of Love and From This Moment On) focuses on the healing power of love to provide second chances. Although the trysts distract from the adults' relationship drama made much more complex by Summer the precocious matchmaker, readers will appreciate the tender tale as the first responder and the rescued damsel in distress fall in love.

Home to Whiskey Creek
Brenda Novak
9780778315452, $7.99

Adelaide Davies returns to the one place she vowed never to go back to Whiskey Creek, California; coming home only because her Gran needs her at the restaurant. When she goes into the spot where Cody Rackham and others gang raped her while they celebrated their high school graduation fifteen years ago she becomes trapped inside. The fraternal twin of Cody, who died that same night, Noah rescues her.

Adelaide feels like a traitor to herself when she finds she is attracted to the brother of the rape ring leader. The owner of Crank It Up bike shop, Noah cannot understand why Addy, who he wants, rejects him. As each falls in love, those involved with the incident and their families keep the inconvenient truth buried while shockingly so does Addy for a different reason.

The latest Whiskey Creek romance (see When Summer Comes, When Snow Falls and When Lightning Strikes) is a strong character driven contemporary although the antagonists are not fully developed beyond their role in the brutal incident or their blood ties to those involved. Whereas the fascinating female protagonist struggles with the trauma of what happened to her that night while her male counterpart feels betrayed by his parents and some friends as almost the entire town without pity prefers the brutal night kept secret.

The Mistress
Tiffany Reisz
9780778315704, $14.95

They abducted Nora Sutherlin and tied her up with handcuffs but not in the sexual way she finds pleasuring. The two males are uninterested in BDSM sexually, but demand she tells them about her sordid trysts with Søren, Kingsley and Wesley if she wants to stay alive.

As Nora thinks back to her past, she also ponders her future; while at the same time telling her dirty bedtime (and other locations) stories about her and the three males she cherishes. She also concludes that if she comes out of this ordeal alive, Nora does not want the traditional storybook ending as she relishes her lifestyle; albeit before these thugs kidnapped her. Meanwhile Nora waits rescuing like a damsel in distress fairy tale princess by her Prince Charming(s) but hopes it proves less than a Thousand and One Nights.

The latest Original Sinners erotica (see The Angel, The Prince and The Siren) is a terrific thriller as Nora learns that being handcuffed can be torturously enjoyable or torturously dangerous. The storyline is fast-paced, the cast solid, and contains a surprising delightful late twist as series fans will relish Nora's revelations.

Playing With Fire
Kayla Perrin
9780778314981, $14.95

Zienna Thomas ended her heated relationship with Wendell Creighton because he rejected her plea for an increased commitment between them. She since met Nicholas Aubry who she enjoys sex with and hopes he proves to be the one for her.

Zienna wonders what abomination she did to anger God when Nicholas introduces her to his college best friend Wendell. She likes both men though they provide different pleasures as Nicholas is steady and tender while Wendell is volatile and exciting. As she ponders what to, Zienna thinks why keep the cake if you can't eat it so she decides to have two boyfriends; unaware that the truth may be freeing but raging.

This is an exciting triangle relationship thriller with the three players seemingly real as Zienna plays with fire. Although the premise of playing two lovers is not new, Kayla Perrin provides a fabulous fresh erotic tale as Zienna learns heat burns when one of her chosen hunks angrily decides no sharing.

The Sweetest Hallelujah
Elaine Hussey
9780778315193, $14.95

In 1945 Memphis, Betty Jewel Hughes ends her career as a jazz singer when she finds herself pregnant. Ten years later in Shakerag, Mississippi, single mom Betty Jewel learns she has cancer with little time left. Not concerned for herself, Betty Jewel worries what will come of her beloved Billie Jo once she is gone.

Desperate as she has no one to replace her, the dying black mom puts out an ad for someone to love and raise her ten year old daughter. Touched by Betty Jewel's plea, white reporter Cassie Malone decides to do a story on the mother whose dying wish is for her child. A recent widow still grieving her loss, Cassie and Betty Jewel connect until they learn a secret that shocks the journalist's soul while the tweener wants to meet her daddy. Not everyone is a saint when it comes to Billie's care, but most are nurturing kind people.

This is an entertaining 1950s Deep South family drama that captures the stratospherically high racial tension that explodes just after the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling. In that environs, black and white do not mix yet Betty Jewel and Cassie forge a friendship in spite of the secret as both want what is best for too precocious Billie.

The Dark Man
Stephen King
Cemetery Dance Publications
132-B Industry Lane, Unit 7
Forest Hill, Maryland 21050
9781587674211, $25.00,

He is the ultimate dangerous wanderer because as the outsider with no attachments, he loathes those with friends and families. In his denims, fuming with rage 24/7 he nightmarishly rides the rails frightening the hobos who recognize what he is and what he is not; or hitches at night with those moronically picking him up learning too late why he is The Dark Man.

A forerunner of Randall Flagg, Stephen King wrote this aptly titled short poem while in college. Artist Glenn Chadbourne provides his interpretation through approximately seventy intriguing illustrations to the 200 or so dark words. Fans of Mr. King will enjoy this entry though the picture to word ratio at times fragments the structure of the dark ode.

City of Mirrors
Melodie Johnson Howe
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10004
9781605984681, $25.95,

Last week Widow Diana Poole buried her beloved mom, the famous actress Nora Poole; last year she buried her husband writer Colin Hudson. Facing bankruptcy and fortyish, Diana is fortunate her friend Celia Dario's lover Robert Zaitlin has given her a small but important role as the mother to star Jenny Parson in a move he currently produces on The Lot that was once Warner Bros and once Samuel Goldwyn. However, Zaitlin warns Diana that her part is in peril because Parson cannot remember her lines; frustrating everyone including co-star Jake Jackson who wants the amateur replaced, which most likely means a different actress as the mom.

Diana agrees to have dinner with Jenny. After picking up her mom's ashes, Diana goes to dine with Jenny only to find her body in a trash bag about to be taken away by a garbage truck. While Zaitlin insists on saving the movie even more so than Diana, she investigates the homicide seeking to keep the checks coming; only to find nasty truths that nuke the images of family and friends; only adversarial Heath the Fixer has her back even if they differ on the outcomes.

This delightful Diana Poole investigative mystery (see Shooting Hollywood: The Diana Poole Stories) is an exciting whodunit as the heroine (and readers) peel away the glittery facade to reveal some despicable realities. Fast-paced with some over the Hollywood sign action, readers will enjoy this engaging tale as Melodie Johnson Howe provides a vivid look at behind the scenes through the protagonist's amateur sleuthing.

Light Of The World
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781476710761, $27.99,

Louisiana Sheriff's Detective Dave Robicheaux, his wife Molly, their daughter Alafair the reporter, and his former NOPD law enforcement partner Clete Purcel and Clete's daughter Gretchen Horowitz vacation on Albert Hollister's ranch in Western Montana. They are having a good time until someone shoots an arrow at a running Alafair. She challenges bull fighting Texan Wyatt Dixon by asking him if he shot the arrow; instead of responding he invites her to shower though his even crazier girlfriend would rip skin off his guest. He also warns her to stay out of the woods. Meanwhile Gretchen has made enemies of the wealthy and local law enforcement for her work on shale oil extraction.

However, unbeknownst to the two Bayou families is that serial killer Asa Surrette escaped a Kansas prison van crash rather than died as reported. He has fixated on making Alafair, who interviewed him in the pen, the center of his next masterpiece. Anyone in his way like her parents, their friends, and the retired professor who owns this spread or locals will die.

Light of the World is a great Dave Robicheaux thriller (see Creole Belle) as the change of venue to include the hero's lack of legal law enforcement authority brings a freshness to the series; as two dads will fight anyone harming their courageous cubs. Fast-paced from the first arrow (even the Vietnam flashbacks) until the final confrontations, readers will relish this vividly gory (don't read on a full stomach) tale as human monsters contaminate pristine Big Sky Country.

The Deep Whatsis
Peter Mattei
Other Press
2 Park Avenue, 24th Floor
New York, NY 10016
9781590516386, $15.95,

Thirtyish egomaniac Eric Nye works as the Chief Idea Officer at Tate ad agency. His boss insane "pit bull" Barry Spinotti assumes the job entails innovation and new ideas, which in Eric's mind means nouveau art, but deep in his soul he understands his position denotes firing people.

Nye appreciates the finer things in life like waking up to the rising sun over the Williamsburg Bridge, the best dining in New York and possessions like his "Dalai Lama Edition Tibetan" rug; but especially sleeping with the beautiful people. When he enjoys a night with the Unkindest Cuts Intern who cannot hide her passionate need for him, Nye fixates on owning her while her infatuation turns irrational too.

The Deep Whatsis is a terrific satire that lampoons abusive corporate values in which dignity means nothing. Nye the idea's guy is a wonderful antagonist who will remind the audience of J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as stepping on others is an acceptable part of the culture. Although the end feels out of place, readers will relish Peter Mattei's mirthful mocking of the amoral money-makers.

Fern Michaels
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9781420121483, $7.99,

In Manhattan, attorney Oliver Garfield informs his client Mace Carlisle that his avaricious wife Darlene moved twenty-seven million from Carlisle Pharmaceuticals into her personal account and has begun rumbles in Wall St. that her husband is insane. The lawyer says as soon as Mace kicks the greedy SOB (neither uses her name) out of his expensive Dakota apartment and cuts off finances to her and her nasty thirtyish son (or his) he will have their assets frozen. Oliver begins the divorce filing while Mace and his dog Lola vanish (in Alabama). In Rosemont, Alabama, Mace as Oliver rents a cottage from Julie Wyatt, but she learns the truth from the news when she sees his wife and stepson accuse him of bribing the FDA.

Months later, Mace is back in New York where he changed his will before dying in a freak accident. Sisterhood members Annie de Silva and Myra Rutledge come to Rosemont to help Julie, who grieves the death of her son Larry and the loss of her still living granddaughter. She believes her avaricious daughter-in-law Darlene is behind Larry's death and making life miserable for her stepdaughter Olivia. The Vigilantes plan to retrieve the child and punish the evil stepmother starting with Abner Tookus using the Net to eradicate the existence of Darlene and her boyfriend Adam Fortune.

Although the Sisterhood gets started somewhat late as most of the first quarter of the storyline hones in on Mace, readers will enjoy the unexpected return of the Vigilantes as Mark Twain said: "the report of my (the Sisterhood) death was an exaggeration". Even though avarice is overused, Gotcha! is a lively entry as the Vigilantes bring street justice to amoral snots.

How To Be A Scottish Mistress
Adrienne Basso
9781420129021, $7.99

In 1306 in Northern England, the Baron of Arundel Lord Henry allows safe passage for Gavin McLendon, Scottish Earl of Kirkland, through his land over the objection of his wife Lady Fiona who fears the impact on their supplies. She is stunned to learn of the raiding agreement between the lords to insure no one gets hurt and reps are maintained. However, King Edward hears of the arrangement and dispatches brutal Sir Roland Dupree to claim Arundel. Henry is dead, but loyal heir Spencer whose broken leg (during the assault) has no time to heal properly flees with his stepmother Fiona due to the help of Sir George.

Fiona decides the safest place to take limping Spencer to is Kirkland. However, she lacks money and influence so she knows she has only one item of value to offer Gavin. In exchange for providing a haven for Spencer, she offers herself as Gavin's mistress. Though he wants her, Gavin knows this is a bad idea as he soon weds his neighbor in a marriage of convenience; besides he feels sleeping with the widow dishonors his late friend. Yet he says yes. As Gavin and Fiona fall in love while Spencer thrives, sleeping with the English is not a good political practice.

This is an entertaining medieval romance with a strong seemingly star-crossed lead pair and a solid support cast especially Spencer who refuses to allow his bad leg from preventing him from doing anything. Although the English-Scottish dispute barely impacts the seemingly star-crossed love, fans will enjoy Adrienne Basso's charming Highlander historical.

The Double Cross
Carla Kelly
Camel Press
c/o Coffeetown Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603819459, $13.95,

In 1780 in the Spanish colony of New Mexico, widower and rancher Marco Mondragon serves as the Valle del Sol region Juez de campo brand inspector. He is diligent in his job though he knows how dangerous that can be with his sector and ranch next to the dangerous Comancheria. Several years ago his wife and twin children died from cholera and were buried before he came home from a two-week inspection tour.

He journeys to Santa Fe to hand in area's records to the governor. Traveling with him is Senor Felix Mureno who will marry the daughter of wealthy Don Alonso Castellan, Maria. Marco meets his friend's obnoxious bride and her disgusting parents who treat their orphaned niece Paloma Vega as an abused servant. Needing a dog to warn his feet at night, Marco overpays for Trece the runt who loves Paloma. Before he can get home, Trece runs away and when he reaches Paloma with "divine" help, she runs away with him to return him to Marco. Meanwhile ranchero Joaquin Munoz has caused a major threat for the Valle del Sol that has the dangerous Comanche conducting raids.

The Double Cross is a superb refreshing Spanish colonial romance as the audience meets a variety of interesting people such as priests, Jewish shop owners, workers and servants who share in common a desire to help Paloma; her family being the exception. Marco is chivalrous as he does his job. Readers will relish this engaging tale in which Carla Kelly writes a wonderful whimsical Spanish Brand historical.

Kill City Blues
Richard Kadrey
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062094599, $24.99,

In Los Angeles half-angel James "Sandman Slim" Stark and Samael the ex-demon relish the taste of deep-fried dough at the Donut Universe as both are relieved they are no longer Lucifer. Samael dumped the position on Stark who dumped the Devil position on Mr. Muninn; who ironically is one fifth of God after the deity's nervous breakdown. At times Stark feels guilt but not when he tastes fritters with Candy at his side.

Declan Garrett interrupts their devilishly good snack offering Stark a million to bring him the Qomrama Om Ya god-killing weapon that the former Lucifer used against the child ghost. Stark says Aelita the angel possesses the weapon now; but realizes he better take back the Qomrama so if needed he can destroy its creators, the former owners of this universe before an upstart God conned the angry Angra Old Gods out of what is theirs.

The latest Sandman Slim irreverent humorous urban fantasy (see Devil Said Bang, Aloha From Hell and Kill the Dead) is a fun over the top of the Hollywood sign thriller. Fast-paced, Stark and his band search for the god-weapon ending up in the lampooned Kill City Mall where they meet a horde of supernatural losers while seeking one of the splintered five essences of God; as once again this is religious satire at its amusingly darkest.

Karl Taro Greenfeld
Harper Perennial
9780062132406, $14.99

Mark, the 113 North Moore half-breed Sound Engineer, enjoyed breakfast with other fathers who like him dropped their children off at the school. However, that changes when he sees a picture of a child molester that even his two young daughters insist looks like him. His magazine editor wife prefers being stoned and his oldest child is the school bully. Thanks to one of the fathers in his breakfast club Sumner, the Tribeca community including the cops thinks he is the molester though the perv is allegedly a Caucasian. In spite of working on isolating a recording for the police, he remains the neighborhood's accused. At home things are not better as he turns to the eighteen year old babysitter while his wife remains high as she never recovered from her brother vanishing.

113 North Moore is the fabulous overarching tale that runs through this fabulous brisk collection. Other entries starring residents of nearby addresses also are included. For instance the tale about attending high school with his beautiful older sister and her car accident by the fashion photographer of 145 Greenwich that he often relates to his partner Oliver and their adopted son; 104 West Broadway writes a memoir; the father in 65 Hudson is having an affair with a woman who looks like a sister to his wife. The shorts are all quite good with each first person entry containing completeness yet also adding to the entire novel look at the Lower Manhattan triangular neighborhood though 79 Worth cruising the Mediterranean is not on the Hudson.

Win, Place, Or Die
Les Roberts and Dan S. Kennedy
Gray & Company Publishers
1588 E. 40th St., #3A, Cleveland, OH 44103
9781938441370, $24.99,

Cleveland private investigator Milan Jacovich worked a case for affluent investment banker Glenn Gallagher in which he identified the top level official stealing millions from wealthy clients. Glenn invites Milan, his junior associate Kevin "K.O." O'Bannion and their respective girlfriends, CPD Homicide Detective Tobe Baline and Milan Security office manager Carli Wynsocki to a night of harness racing world at Northcoast Downs. They are enjoying the evening as Glenn is a major fixture at the track and winning on Proud Milan. Glenn tells Milan he has another case for him that they will discuss on Monday. The night ends early when abruptly Glenn feels ill so Milan takes him home; only the banker-harness racing owner dies in the car.

Glenn's son Hiram University Professor Cullen visits Milan and K.O. because he believes his father was murdered though officially his dad died from cardiac failure and has no idea why his dad wanted to hire Milan. K.O. works the track scene while Milan investigates the financial side; as the victim has enemies in both. When drunkard stable employee Gecko dies, the inquiry focuses on the racetrack.

The latest Jacovich whodunit is an enjoyable investigation in which the mystery competes with harness racing for top billing especially early. I enjoyed the time at Northcoast Downs as I have fond memories of being a $2 better at Yonkers, now closed Roosevelt and once at Goshen though I never could see the difference between trotters and pacers. The inquiry at the track is refreshing yet mindful of the works of Dick and Felix Francis while the banking angle is more conventional. Readers will enjoy this winning entry.

Me On The Floor, Bleeding
Jenny Jagerfeld
Stockholm Text
19820 82nd Place NE, Kenmore
Seattle, WA 98028
B00C4GTMB6, $6.99

In a sculpture class at St Erik's Sixth Form College in Stockholm, seventeen year old Maja Mueller works on a shelf using an electric saw when she slices off the top of her thumb. Enzo fell to the floor while instructor Jonas Valter calmly unplugged the dropped running wild blade. However, Simon sets the tone by taking pictures with his cell to place on the internet.

After Dr. Levine stitches the wound and throws out the thumb tip, Valter tells her he contacted her dad but was unable to reach her mom. Her dad, her teacher and her classmates believe Maja purposely cut off her thumb tip though she denies doing that deliberately. Maja calls and texts her mom but she fails to respond. Still this is her weekend with her mom so she takes the train from her dad's home where she lives in Ornsberg to spend time in Norrkoping. When she arrives she finds her mom is not there. She decides to stay anyway as she hopes to wish her mom a happy forty-fifth birthday in person. Maja spends the weekend alone thinking about life while worrying about her mom who never failed to meet her at the station; whether she intended to cut off her thumb; another wood attack with a splinter in her foot; and an attraction.

This is an entertaining coming of age Swedish character study starring a delightful teenager struggling with who she is and who she wants to be. Besides obtaining a vivid sense of the greater Stockholm area, readers will appreciate this drama as marvelous Maja transitions from immature teen to mature young adult.

Visitation Street
Ivy Pochoda
Dennis Lehane Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062249890, $25.99,

In Brooklyn's summer baked Red Hook neighborhood teenage BFFs Val Marino and June Giatto decide to ride a pink raft on the bay. They walk past the projects where their former friend Monique lives, avoids Coffey Park and see eighteen year old Cree James, whose father was murdered, at the pier. Not long after they set sail, an unconscious Val floats ashore while June vanished along with the raft.

Grieving the loss of her best friend, Val is ostracized and bullied at school and scorned in the neighborhood. Her family tries to be there for her, but Val feels they do that out of duty not love. School teacher Jonathan Sprouse knows how she feels and tries to help her cope while the police focus on Cree, who feels Val's torment.

The strong cast and the Red Hook location make for a fabulous character study with the neighborhood stealing the show between the grim projects and the working middle class homes undergoing as part of the renaissance of the fourth largest city. The mystery of what happened is a deft hook, but the dark storyline is more a deep look at a divided neighborhood through the anguished filters of key players turning this into a profound urban thriller.

The Right Side Of Wrong
Reavis Z. Wortham
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201486, $24.95,

In 1966, twenty-four year old Constable Cody Parker is stunned by the snow piling up as it rarely comes down let alone sticks in Center Spring, Texas on the south side of the Red River. He notices tire marks in the snow so he follows them using his wife Norma Faye's vehicle as his car's battery died due to the freezing temperature. When he sees the sedan parked, Cody down shifts but skids anyway. The other driver fires a 12 gauge through the windshield hitting Cody whose Plymouth crashes. A starving pack of abandoned dogs fights over his injured body until elderly newcomer Tom Bell kills the alpha and another sending the rest fleeing.

Cody's Uncle Constable Ned Parker and deputy sheriff John Washington lead investigations into the near fatal attack and other homicides in the area. Each concludes that a new type of trafficker had come to Red River; these homicidal predators sell drugs that they obtain in Mexico. Still upset with the assault that nearly killed him, Cody follows suspects south of the border. Ned follows his foolish nephew to save him from killers.

The third Parker clan historical police procedural (see The Rock Hole and Burrows) is a great 1960s period piece thriller with segregation remaining strictly enforced; for instance Washington is the Jackie Robinson of law enforcement in the area but separate facilities for whites and coloreds remain in place a dozen years after the Brown ruling. The drug trafficking is also just beginning to find favorite lethal migratory paths. The cast is solid as is the investigation, but it is the vivid look at 1966 Red River shootout that makes for a super entertaining tale.

The Terrorist Next Door
Sheldon Siegel
Poisoned Pen
9781464201646, $24.95

Chicago PD Homicide Detective David Gold receives a Medal of Valor in a public ceremony for stopping student Hassan Al-Shahid from bombing the Art Institute of Chicago, but his partner and best friend Paulie Loszewski died. As he gives a short uncomfortable speech, a car bomb explodes and a text arrives claiming it is not over. His boss Maloney calls in the Feds as terrorism has come to South Chicago.

Other car bombs explode near landmarks with the motive to force the city to free Al-Shahid. As the city lives in fear with deaths mounting and no place safe, Gold, his new partner A.C. Battle and the FBI pursue a clever Muslim extremist terrorist thought to be related to Al-Shahid.

The Boston marathon bombing makes the first Gold police procedural appear authentic as terrorism shuts down a major American city. The lead cops have plenty of personal tsuris but remain focused on taking down the brilliant predator while their insight into Chicago (Cubs or Sox) brings depth to the mix. Although late happenchance detracts from the excitement and Mike Daley is on recess, readers will enjoy the taut Terrorist Next Door which warns Americans to avoid stereotyping the enemy.

A Murder In Passing
Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen
9781464201516, $24.95

In Asheville, North Carolina, Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson have no clients. Sam is bored so Nakayla suggests they close the Blackman & Robertson Detective Agency for the day and go on a mushroom hunt on the historic Kingdom of the Happy Land. Thinking this venture will increase his ennui, Sam goes anyway. Sam finds human skeletal remains on the freed-slave commune property. Henderson County Sheriff Deputy Overcash, who hates Sam for solving a case of his, warns the two private investigators to stay out of their inquiry; though jurisdiction may belong to Greenville County, South Carolina as the boundary is right at the hollow log containing the corpse.

Marsha Montgomery arrives at the office of Blackman & Robertson Detective Agency wanting to hire Sam and Nakayla to investigate a burglary at her mother Lucille's home in 1967. She explains someone stole a rifle and a photograph of her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother taken in 1932 at The Kingdom of the Happy Land by famous photographer Doris Ulmann. The police arrest African-American octogenarian Lucille for the murder of her white lover Jimmy Lang over forty years ago. Sam and Nakayla investigate the cold case murder.

The fourth B & R mystery (see The Sandburg Connection, Blackman's Coffin and The Fitzgerald Ruse) is an engaging investigative whodunit with the artist being the famous Appalachia photographer rather than a writer. Fast-paced from the moment Sam finds a body and never slowing down even with some repetitive back story, fans will enjoy this tale that links several decades at a place where former slaves created The Kingdom of the Happy Land.

Hungry Like A Wolf
Christine Warren
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312357252, $7.99,

Manhattan-based Silverback clan Alpha Graham Winter considers his Beta Logan Hunter as a brother who he has always trusted with his life and that of their werewolf people. However, lately Graham realizes that his BFF wants to be number one; as his wolf has recently been increasingly out of control. With the death of the White Paw Clan Alpha Ethan Tate from cancer, Graham sends Logan to Connecticut to determine whether his former Beta, his daughter Honor who helped conceal her dad's illness, can take charge of the pack. Both understand a female alpha is a dead alpha and a female beta is either dead or brilliantly cunning.

Honor's longtime friend Paul Clark challenges her and she bites off his hand though she feels bad for doing so. Though she informed Graham of her father's death and her revelation, Honor resents him sending Logan to look into her competency; though she is attracted to the unwanted intruder as he is to her. As she fights off Logan's claim, Honor takes on challenges from clan members she has known for years, but a psychopath hides in sheep clothing.

The latest Others romantic urban fantasy (see On The Prowl and Drive Me Wild) is a hardcore entry that focuses on the violent werewolf pack succession to the Alpha position with a ferocious mating scenario that could leave either or both participants dead. Series fans will enjoy this thriller with a surprising villain brings freshness though the coda deletes from the Alpha journey.

Fifth Grave Past The Light
Darynda Jones
St. Martin's
9781250014405, $24.99

The Grim Reaper Charlotte "Charley" Davidson moonlights as a private investigator as her prime gig does not pay the bills. She learns firsthand what temptation truly is when the son of Satan Reyes Farrow moves into the next door apartment.

Still Charley's tsuris excludes her libido gliding in the troposphere. Dead women hover around her causing havoc as none want to move on in spite of the Grim reaper demanding they do. She fears a serial killer has targeted females and a serial arsonist she suspects is her hunk of a neighbor complicates her efforts to catch the murdering psychopath.

The latest Davidson urban fantasy (see Third Grave Dead Ahead and Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet) is an amusing exciting thriller though once again the overarching theme barely moves forward. Charley is at her graveyard humorous best while the horde of women drives her crazy but not as much as Reyes lingering in her mind as an arson suspect and in her body as a tingling tormenter. Readers will enjoy the fast-paced irreverent storyline toasting a fifth of Davidson.

All That I Need
Francis Ray
St. Martin's
9781250023810, $7.99

Travel writer Fallon Marshall has the patience of Job especially when things go wrong, but she always gets the job done right. She learns of an auction being held by Saxton Auction House at the famous Yates Estate. To gain access to the sale and the landmark home, Fallon will need the cooperation of Lance Saxton who two weeks ago she called a thief.

Fallon knows she first became attracted to Lance when she saw a photo of him in Fortune magazine. Lance knows he was first attracted to the journalist when they first met and argued. Each thinks the other uses the misfortune of people. He agrees to allow her access so she invites him to dinner to make up for her calling him heartless. Both are wary, but begin seeing each other as their attraction turns to love; which frightens these world travelers even more as each doubts relationships survive the early desire.

The latest Grayson Friends contemporary romance (see The Way You Love Me and One Night With You) is a fabulous entry as the protagonists struggle with love due to false preconceptions caused by caring family members trying to keep away the hurt only to make matters worse. With the recent passing away of Francis Ray, subgenre fans have lost one of the consistent greats whose Grayson pantheon is a fabulous legacy that has at least one more entry in the Fall (All That I Desire).

The Entity Within
Cat Devon
St. Martin's
9780312547806, $7.99

The Boston witches coven banishes Zoe Adams and her grandma Irma. Unable to remain in Boston, Irma's longtime friend Nick St. George invites the two shunned females to stay with him as his guests in Chicago. Neither Irma nor Nick tell Zoe that he is a vampire residing in the gated community Vamptown along with others of his species.

Demon hunter Damon Thornheart the vampire recently moved to Vamptown. He loathes witches due to an ally betraying him. He and Zoe meet with plenty of fire, ire and desire. However when Irma looks into the Book of Darkness, she releases demons in Vamptown. This affirms Damon's belief that witches are untrustworthy though he reluctantly accepts Zoe as his teammate seeking the truth behind the demon invasion.

The second Vamptown romantic urban fantasy (see Sleeping with the Entity) is an amusing paranormal though the humor at times seems flat. Still the lead couple is a wonderful pairing of a witch and an anti-witch falling in love in the fully developed vivacious vivid Vamptown.

Midnight's Captive
Donna Grant
St. Martin's
9781250017277, $7.99

In Ferness, Scotland two years ago Laura Black entered an inn owned by Charon Bruce. Immediately attracted to her, Charon hired her as his assistant so that he could see her all the time but also knows he will never tell her how he feels. As a six century old Warrior fighting the evil of Deirdre; her incarceration turned him into a monster who is now in love. She stares at him with love in her eyes but believes he suffers from PTSD though she does not know why and that he does not share her feelings.

Charon's enemy Jason Wallace the druid plots his death; Dreagan Distillery informs a euphoric Laura that the pub can sell their scotch. However, as eerie events occur in Ferness, malevolent Jason, his wicked lover and dark Drough target Laura as the means to get to Charon who would risk death to keep the love of his life safe.

The latest Dark Warriors romantic Scottish fantasy (see Midnight's Kiss and Midnight's Temptation) is an exhilarating thriller starring an emotionally wounded warrior and a seemingly innocent mortal. The engaging storyline takes several surprising spins as secrets are revealed and brave Laura stands by her man and his allies against evil that she only recently learned existed.

Black Jack
Lora Leigh
St. Martin's Griffin
9781250036674, $14.99

Like all Elite Ops field agents, Travis "Black Jack" Caine and Lillian "Night Hawk" Belle died in their previous civilian lives. Both were British aristocrats with him joining Elite Ops after British M16 felt he was too out of control while she enlisted after her agent father was murdered and almost her too. For six years, her mother, uncle and brother grieved her death in the car crash into the river that killed her dad; while his family rejoiced he was dead. Additionally they are attracted to one another.

Six years since she died, someone somehow recognizes Lilly Belle as Lady Veronica and tries to kill her; the bullet grazes her head leaving her with selective amnesia as she forgets everything that occurred since her first death. Elite Ops knows her father had uncovered a traitor who killed him before he could reveal who the person is. Black Jack's assignment is to ferret out how dangerous the woman he loves as Night Hawk is in exposing other undercover operatives; and if she is the slightest threat he must kill her.

This Elite Ops reprint (see Heat Seeker, Maverick, and Wild Card) is a character driven thriller that focuses on the mind of the heroine who if she recalls her lost memory becomes expendable by her agent peers and the traitor. Although amnesia has been used in espionage thrillers (Bourne) the story line is fast-paced with an interesting late spin. Fans will try to determine who the enemy is while also wondering why this person and the Elite Ops just don't take Lily out before she regains her missing six years as she is a dangerous liability to each side.

Scandal In The Night
Elizabeth Essex
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
9781250003812, $7.99

In 1830 Thomas Jellicoe returns home to Hampshire, England after spending several years as a government spy masquerading as a horse trader in India. His brother James, his mother, his sister and the rest of the family greet him as a hero; but he acts weird when he sees the governess Miss Cates. Thomas staggers a bit as he knew her as Scotswoman Catriona Rowan when he fell in love with her and almost destroyed his undercover identity. Though he knows she hates him for what he did to her, his Cat was his only regret as he searched all over India, Scotland and England for her fearing the worst.

Thomas tries to persuade Cat to allow him to make things right between them by giving him a second chance to prove his love of her. Meanwhile someone from India also seeks Cat for a nefarious avenging purpose.

The latest Reckless Brides historical romance (see Almost a Scandal) is an exciting second chance at love suspense. Fast-paced and filled with action, readers who ignore the odds of the protagonists meeting in Hampshire will appreciate this taut tale as flashbacks tell what happened in India that comes to a head in England.

Krista McGee
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781401688721, $9.99,

The nuclear war ended life on the surface; forcing survivors underground. Though rumors of a Designer as the ultimate power, Ten Scientists saved those who survived but to prevent conflict they genetically removed emotion from their subjects.

Thalli, the Musician of Pod C, concealed for spent years her outlawed abnormality while doing her job by playing instruments to stimulate the labor of her mates. When she was nine running laps with her Pod mates, Thalli was shocked when Asta the historian stopped and began oozing from her nose until the Monitors removed her as a Code 4 never to return. Thalli concludes Asta broke one of the most important rules of never be different while she hides her innate curiosity. Three years later Berk the Scientist departed with a gala celebrating his becoming a leader. A few years later, because of Bach, Thalli's anomaly surfaces so she is removed and slated for Annihilation. With minutes counting down until she dies, Berk persuades his peers to keep Thalli alive to study her anomaly.

Anomaly is an exciting thought-provoking young adult dystopian thriller that has the teen audience pondering faith in a Designer when faced with an execution countdown due to displaying feelings. The McGee world feels like Alice fell into the realm of Huxley's Big Brother yet at the same time the milieu feels underdeveloped. Still fans will enjoy the "Curiouser and curiouser" Musician's adventures as she learns to keep the faith with someone mighty watching out for her.

Kristrine Kathryn Rusch
WMG Publishing
PO Box 479, Lincoln City, OR 97367
9780615762050, $18.99,

In 1913 a serial killer terrorizes the citizens of Vienna. The Carnival Sniper was never caught though investigator Johann Runge diligently tried. Runge eventually wrote a true crime book Death At Fasching as a means of moving past his biggest failure, but that never gave him any peace.

Thirty years ago, Sofie Branstadter's life became defined when she witnessed as a child a sniper murder her parents. In 2005, her parents' case remains unsolved, Sofie, a historian and an author, begins her research into the Carnival Sniper homicides that remind her of what happened to her parents three decades earlier. With forensic anthropologist Karl Morgenthau and others at her side, and the paparazzi trying to trump her and each other; Sofie arranged to disinter the remains of Carnival Sniper victim Viktor Adler buried in Zentralfriedhof Cemetery. Meanwhile the great grandson of Johann, pianist-composer Anton Runge has mixed feelings as her efforts increase the sales of Death At Fasching making him money but reminds him of how embarrassed his father and grandfather were with the book. In the grave the diggers find an impossible anomaly. Soon Sofie and Anton team up investigating the 1913 cold case.

This is an exciting twisting science fiction whodunit that raises questions about the impact on accepted historical events when pivotal players are eliminated before they become global movers and shakers. Although the romance feels more a required necessity, readers will relish Kristrine Kathryn Rusch's fabulous fast-paced thriller.

Rachele Alpine
Medallion Press, Inc.
100 South River Street, Aurora, IL 60506
9781605425870, $9.99,

Since the death of the Franklin family's patriarch, siblings Brett and Kate, and their father communicate through Post-its. Thus when their dad asks them to meet him for pizza, Kate is shocked. He informs them that Beacon Prep hired him as the coach replacing legendary Bud Simeon whose last team won the state title and sent five players to NCAA top colleges. He also demands his children attend the same school though he promised not to dislocate them.

Feeling betrayed Brett fails to adjust while Kate becomes friends with Jenna and Ali, and begins dating player Jack Blane. However, at a party, another player Luke assaults Kate. Her dad and Jack demand her silence because the basketball team comes first; while, Jenna and Ali believe Luke as one of the BMOC who can get any girl when he insists Kate came onto him. Only Brett and a student she mistreated Julia believe the ostracized Kate.

Canary is a fascinating high school drama in which the team's values and needs supersede the individual even in the case of an assault (as affirmed by the Penn State atrocities). Kate is a wonderful character who insists she wants to fit in but her poetry contradicts her claim. With a strong though ironically stereotyped cast; teenaged readers will relish Canary as the heroine's rollercoaster struggles to survive high school especially when almost everyone turns toxic towards her.

The Riddle of Solomon
D.J. Niko
9781605425290, $14.95

British archaeologist Sarah Weston and American anthropologist Daniel Madigan lead the excavation of the state sanctioned dig of the Kindite City Qaryat al-Fau in Saudi Arabian Rub'al Khali Desert. The couple wanders a couple miles away where they make a find only to have a nomadic tribe warn them to stay away or else. However, before the intrusion, they discovered a buried ancient scroll that leads them to believe King Solomon's mythical treasure is real.

British millionaire Trent Sacks believes he is the last direct descendant of King David. To prove he is the long awaited Messiah, he needs his ancestor's legendary treasure. When Sacks learns of the find in Saudi Arabia that he spent a fortune and much of his life seeking it, he sends mercenaries to take the scroll and kill anyone who tries to prevent him from obtaining what he knows belongs to him.

The second Sarah Weston Chronicles (see The Tenth Saint) is a taut thriller that uses the modern day religious conflicts as a base to an engaging storyline enhanced by a twisting revelation that if released would shake the world. Readers will not care that the latest "Messiah" claimant is over the top of Mount Meron as the fabulous The Riddle of Solomon pays homage to H. Rider Haggard's classic late nineteenth century King Solomon's Mines.

A Spy To Die For
Kris DeLake
1935 Brookdale Road, #139
Naperville, IL 60563
9781402262852, $6.99,

Skylight "Sky" Jones may be the offspring of two assassins but killing someone is not in her nature. Thus, Sky works as a spy for the Assassins Guild to pay back what she owes them. She is at Starcatcher Restaurant on the grimy Krell Space Station eating a delicious bacon double cheeseburger when Rovers unsanctioned assassin Jack Hunter asks the waitress to serve him outside the diner because of his humongous height and size. Sky allows him to sit at her table.

Jack and Sky are instantly attracted to one another. However, working for assassin organizations, regardless which one, means trust no one; and working for rival assassin organizations means especially don't trust your heart. When elite assassins target the pair, each realizes survival means teaming up for a chance to live or dying alone.

The second Assassins Guild science fiction romance (see Assassins in Love) is an engaging thriller based on the generally accepted concept by society that assassinations are normal and that a dive on a slimy rock makes the best burgers in the universe. The two fully developed espionage agents are a wonderful pairing of "unreliable" rivals forced to unite against common foes. Although the main adversary is underdeveloped, readers will appreciate this enjoyable space station gender war.

The Officer and the Secret
Jeanette Murray
9781402265464, $6.99

After an eight-month deployment Marine Captain Dwayne Robertson comes home. His marine buddy Jeremy Phillips (see (see The Officer Breaks The Rules) picks up Dwayne to take him to his apartment, but first must stop at the home of their friend Tim O'Shay and his wife Skye (see The Officer Says I Do). When the pair arrives, several friends welcome Dwayne home. However he only has eyes for his Skype buddy Veronica Gibson; being the daughter of missionaries, she considers fleeing from the officer who has been the star of her nocturnal (and some day) dreams.

While Dwayne struggles with adjusting to civilian life and fearing he may suffer from PTSD; Veronica struggles with how he makes her feel. Though both behave uncomfortably with one another as neither wants to deal with their attraction, they cannot resist so become an entry. As they fall in love, health becomes an issue.

The third Semper Fidelis Always Faithful contemporary romance is a warm tale of love healing two wounded warriors. The lead couple is an interesting pair as he suffers from PTSD and she suffers from growing up emotionally excessively protected. Although the problems come across overly emoted, fans will relish the third marine veteran and his woman finding love heals most wounds.

The Outcast Prince
Shona Husk
9781402280160, $7.99

Lydia Callaway inherited irreparable Callaway House, home of illicit affairs, from her late grandmother, but though she wants to restore it to its glory, she may have to sell it as her mother received all the money. As it is she hosts a garage sale to bring in needed cash. Caspian Mort, a rare fairy changeling born on earth rather than in Annwyn, walks around assessing and touching things with reverence as his psychometric ability shows him the object's history. He offers to buy a mirror that used to creep out Lydia's mom as a portal it can look into Annwyn where a power struggles has disrupted the kingdom.

Fairies search for Caspian who prefers his life with the mortals. A Gray, seeking the mirror, stalks him and his father the beleaguered king demands The Outcast Prince come to his ancestal home. As Caspian and Lydia become acquainted, the residue of the past acts as a matchmaker. Falling in love, though wary after Natalie, Caspian vows to keep his Lydia safe from the Annwyn conflict seeping into the mortal realm.

Leaving Goblins in The Shadowlands, Shona Husk begins a romantic fantasy series starring fairies who are amoral by human standards. The protagonists are a fabulous pairing who because of the demand on Caspian become star-crossed while if they met earlier would have been ignored. The storyline opens leisurely introducing the species (but fails to develop interracial and intra-racial relations), key players (for instance Caspian's touch adds fascinating anecdotal history) and the scenarios in two realms. Readers will enjoy the opening Annwyn thriller as civil war amongst the fairies seems imminent.

Charles E. Gannon, et al.
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781451639032, $25.00,

"By the Book" by Charles E. Gannon. Near Hygeia, Custom Patrol Lieutenant Lee Strong leads a rescue of prisoners held by space pirates. However, upon escorting the rescued to a space station, Lee feels something's not right so he investigates.

"A Call to Arms" by Timothy Zahn. Axelrod Corporation official Jeremiah Llyn hires Admiral (self-anointed) Cutler Gensonne and his Volsung Mercenaries to fight a key battle. At the same time Lieutenant (Senior Grade) Travis Long in the HMS Phoenix is taking part in simulated space battles that turns hot.

"Beauty and the Beast" by David Weber. Royal Manticoran Navy Lieutenant Alfred Harrington matriculates at a medical school on Beowulf. He and another medical student Allison Chou are attracted to one another when all hell breaks loose.

"Best Laid Plans" by David Weber. Twelve year old Honor Harrington hikes to Rock Aspen Creek where she meets treecats and Peak bears.

"Obligated Service" by Joelle Presby. Grayson Midshipwoman Claire Lecroix enjoys her time especially swimming in clean water training on the Saganami Island. However, like her Aunt Jezzy warned her returning to the reality of Grayson and its toxic oceans proves difficult.

The sixth Worlds of Honor science fiction anthology (see In Fire Forged and The Server And The Sword) is a strong collection. Especially interesting is Beauty and the Beast as fans read about the first time Honor's future parents meet.

A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 1
Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781451639230, $15.00

A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 1 provides fans of the Liaden Universe with seventeen previously printed short stories that fill some of the gaps in the novels especially background of the key cast. The stories' dates range from 1995 to 2002 with ten of the entries released in the nineties. Val Con and Edger meet for the first time in "To Cut an Edge" while in "Where the Goddess Sends" provides the initial encounter between Moonhawk and Lute as she asks him why a great magician like him cannot conjure up their breakfast instead of using illusions to obtain eggs from the appreciated audience of villagers; they also co-star in "A Spell for Lost." My personal favorites are Priscilla y Mendoza's recent trials and tribulation in "Moonphase" and the short version of "Balance of Trade" (which readers will compare with the 2006 novel). Obviously targeting Liaden Universe travelers, Constellation is a fabulous anthology.

The Lemon Orchard
Luanne Rice
Pamela Dorman Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670025275, $27.99,

In 2007 in New England, sixteen year old Jenny drives while her dad Peter sits in the passenger seat. In another car are Jenny's mom Priscilla and the family dog Bonnie Blue. Staying with the family is Priscilla's aunt and uncle from California as he is a guest lecturer at Yale. Peter plans to move out of their home in Black Hall. Instead, an accident leaves Jenny and Peter dead.

Five years later, Julia still grieves her loss. Currently she resides with Bonnie Blue at the Malibu estate of her aunt and uncle while they are away. A migration anthologist, Julia is an expert on the Irish movement to America in the nineteenth century. She meets undocumented Mexican immigrant Roberto, who is the estate manager. They share in common the loss of a child as his daughter vanished during their illegal crossing. His efforts to find her while staying beneath the ICE radar have proven futile. Meanwhile Julia studies the underground Mexican migration and sees similar trends and patterns to that of the Irish; she also concludes Roberto's child is alive.

The Lemon Orchard is a fascinating drama that combines a wonderful refreshing romance with a deep look at nationalities' migratory movements; the comparative analysis between the Irish and Mexican migration over a century apart is incredibly interesting. Though there is some unnecessary padding to add tension, fans will enjoy the profound The Lemon Orchard.

Me Before You
JoJo Moyes
Pamela Dorman Books
c/o Penguin Books
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10014
9780143124542, $16.00

After working at the local cafe for six years, twenty-something Louisa Clark comes home depressed as she informs her parents the owner Frank shut the place down giving her no notice. Her boyfriend Patrick tries to be supportive and offers to pay for their vacation. At the Jobseeker's Office to get her first allowance, Lou learns how limited her skills are until the worker Syed mentions the care assistant position feeding and caring (but no butt wiping) for a quadriplegic during daytime hours.

Will Traynor loved the thrill of closing out a multimillion dollar business deal. He also relished the adrenalin rush he received from mountain climbing and sky diving. Finally he had his choice of any woman he desired. All that ended when he suffered a spinal cord trauma that left him filled with rage and frustration. He believes his mom's new employee is a twit who he would never have noticed before he became wheelchair bound. Filled with anger and morbidly depressed at his helplessness, Will lashes out at sweet Lou; but soon admires her refusal to quit though he rationalizes she needs the money. When Lou concludes that Will plans to commit suicide, she desperately tries to prove to him he can still have a wonderful life while she also looks closely at her settling for a bland existence.

Although the underlying premise is not new, Me Before You is a profound relationship drama with an underlying message to readers to live life fearless and to the fullest. Character driven by the protagonists and with a super support cast, fans will appreciate this pathos tale filled with humor and anguish.

My Education
Susan Choi
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670024902, $26.95,

In 1992, for her first week at the university, new graduate student Regina Gottlieb attends orientation. The most interesting information she received was the excessively oft repeated warning to keep her distance from Professor Nicholas Brodeur; impossible to do as he her instructor.

Lacking confidence that she belongs at this school, Regina is stunned as no one added the label to the warnings that Brodeur was gorgeous. Her only friend so far Casper summed it up between bedding the hunk and being the hunk. When Brodeur offers her the position of his teaching assistant, Regina's self-esteem rises immensely. Her roommate Dutra tells her to accept and take more from him. Though his TA, Regina avoids him on a personal level. However when she meets Brodeur's wife Martha, Regina cannot resist the attraction. The two women begin a heated affair that both know but each ignores the warning that this can only end badly for them.

Though the intriguing storyline follows the anticipated course, My Education is a strong drama due the fully developed caring cast, especially the lead couple. Character driven by the charismatic professor's spouse and the under confident needy student, readers will appreciate this enticing romance that seems destined for doom.

Black Market Medicine
Cassandra Collins
Haikalis Publishing & Art
9780615418094, $16.95,

The U.S. Healthcare Distribution System Act of 2045 declared the federal government as the sole proprietor of healthcare to all citizens. The bureaucracy makes all medial decisions based on formulaic allotments.

In 2075 Janis suffers from painful cancer, but her medical apportionment was reduced. Caregiver 42 offers her nothing as rules matter not patients. Desperate Janis pleads with God but like the government the lord ignores her need. Finally unable to take it any longer, Janis looks back to what her mom said about healthcare before the takeover. At the same time dedicated providers seek ways around a rigid system to treat their patients.

Using interrelated anecdotal struggles by providers and patients, Black Market Medicine is a timely strong condemnation of healthcare in America that makes a powerful case of keeping the government (albeit Obamacare and anti-abortion legislation) out of the system. The insurance companies can be substituted for the feds as supply is controlled by the biggies forcing demand at times to go outside the legal system (for example buying prescription drugs in Canada). With the key fully developed players drowning in a process that demands don't use logic and passion, only follow the regulations; readers will feel the horror of a failed by the book system that forces many to turn to the black market for their medical needs.

White Trash Zombie Apocalypse
Diana Rowland
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408039, $7.99,

In Tucker Pont, Louisiana, Angel Crawford drives the St. Edward's Parish coroner's van for a living though she is dead. She notices zombies smoking cigarettes and realizes like her no living zombie would be caught dead smoking or drinking as brain matter is not easy to replace; ergo these idiots are wannabes.

Her latest corpse retrieval is at the prime location of the filming of High School Zombie Apocalypse. Brent Stewart was walking when a pole broke and fell on his head at Tucker Pont High School. As she bags the body, she notices Philip, who she was forced to change as part of a military experiment to create a super zombie soldier, but she had not seen him in months. He rescues her from a car seemingly deliberately trying to run her over; her "baby" flees immediate from the near fatal incident. Angel investigates who wants her dead with all answers leading to her boyfriend and "sire" Marcus Ivanov's powerful Uncle Pietro.

The latest Angel Crawford Louisiana white trash zombie (see My Life As A White Trash Zombie and Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues) is an amusing bayou investigative fantasy. Readers will continue to root for the heroine who ironically lives a morally productive lifestyle as a dead head than she did when she was alive; while her past as an impoverished druggie neglected by her mom and living with a drunken dad still haunts her. Fans will enjoy this fun metafiction with a zombie movie filmed in the midst of zombie parish.

Elisha Barber
E.C. Ambrose
Daw Books
9780756408350, $25.95

Elisa Barber is shaving a customer when his estranged brother Nathaniel arrives. His sibling explains that the midwife sent his wife Helena to the hospital because the baby became wedged. Irate at his sibling for allowing his anger at Elisha preventing Nathaniel from coming to him, the barber-surgeon says hospitals are deadly. He hopes to remove Helena in time and deliver the baby while unlike physician who plans to save the unborn at the expense of the mother; Eli tries to keep both alive. He fails as mother and daughter died, and Nathaniel commits suicide using Barber's razor. Stunned he says he killed them all.

To insure his brother is buried on sacred grounds, Elisha accepts the constable's accusation of fratricide. Though he willingly accepts his guilt for the deaths, Barber flees by joining the royal military laying siege to the Duke of Dunbury's castle. His job is a combat field medic working on wounds and when necessary amputating limbs. Upon meeting Brigit the herbalist, Elisha learns he is an untrained magus.

The first tale of the Dark Apostle medieval fantasy is an exciting fourteenth century thriller. The protagonist is a fully developed fascinating lead who applies advanced (centuries ahead of his time) medical thinking though ironically saving lives and body parts gets him into trouble with the unenlightened; as England is vividly described as a grim nation. Although the support cast never comes across as three dimensional, readers will appreciate E.C. Ambrose's extremely dark historical fantasy.

The Necromancer's Seduction
Mimi Sebastian
ImaJinn Books
PO Box 74274, Phoenix, AZ 85087-1004
9781610261326, $14.00,

In San Francisco Professor Ruby Montagne hates lecturing the Introductory Anthology class because most if not all of the students take it for the credits. Being a necromancer, another vocation Ruby loathes unlike her late grandma or her mom who relish the role, she notices the strange movement in her class. When everyone leaves, the Fae asks Ruby for help. She refuses unless he is a student in her class as she knows bringing back the dead bites one butt and besides she has her tenure presentation to prepare.

Kara the witch asks her friend Ruby to help her look for expelled coven member Adam's spell book in his apartment. Instead they find his murdered body. The supernatural council wants the untrained reluctant necromancer to bring him back as a Revenant zombie so they can end a serial killer's rampage as Adam is the third victim that includes her grandma Cora. When Ruby is attacked, Ewan the demon warrior with assistance saves her. Ruby knows her options are death as Revenants and other paranormal loathe necromancers or joining the hunters.

The supernatural on the streets of San Francisco makes for a fabulous locale in the Sebastian realm as readers will believe in several paranormal species. The coming of age storyline is at its best when Ruby and her romantic and not romantic team investigate the homicides that have them soon fearing a viable major threat to the moral and paranormal planes (to be resolved). Whereas the romance between Ruby and Ewan is too typical of the subgenre (perhaps apple pie would have been fresher), but fans will enjoy Ruby's seduction by the demonic hunk and by her power.

The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter
Jillian Stone
Kensington Brava
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758269003, $9.95,

In 1889 London, as guardian for years to beautiful Mia Chadwick, Dr. Asa Exeter takes some time away from the fight against Professor Lovecraft and the need to recover the moonstone to find a suitable husband for his ward. In that fatherly-like role, Asa contends with two issues besides sniffing males. First he must ignore Mia's obvious attraction to him and him to her; and second he must end her out of control tendency to shift into a panther by helping his charge learn to control her inner feline. Both test his ability to tame the beast as he struggles to do what he considers his honorable duty almost as much as he battles Lovecraft's threat to London.

Meanwhile Scotland Yard consultant Moonstone Investigations Phaeton Black has been declared missing since he vanished without a trace though those searching for him (Exeter, Mia, pregnant America, Tim, Jersey and Valentine) know he is alive. In the Outremer, Prospero holds and tortures Black in order to force the sleuth to hand over the moonstone.

The third fun Phaeton Black Victorian romantic investigative fantasy (see The Seduction of Phaeton Black, and The Moonstone and Miss Jones) concentrates more on the relationship between Exeter and Mia (as obvious from the title) than on the missing sleuth. Still readers will appreciate this engaging alternate paranormal historical version of Shaw's Pygmalion.

Bucking The Rules
Kat Murray
Kensington Brava
9780758281067, $9.95

On their family ranch in Marshall, South Dakota, Trace Muldoon says he wants famous horse trainer Red Callahan to move into the main house as he sleeps with his sister Peyton the ranch manager all the time (see Taking The Reins). Trace wants to move into the trainer's house with his one years old son Seth. Red tells him his younger sister soap opera actress Bea beat him to the house.

In town, newbie Josephine Tallen owns a bar while living in the upstairs apartment. Peyton watches Seth while Trace and Red go to Jo's Place. Trace and the owner flirt with each other and soon have sex, but she insists their relationship remain secret. When Trace asks Josephine out; she emphasizes no relationship as her mom married seven times, but agrees to dinner; which proves nice, but he fails to mention Seth. When Jo learns Trace has a child he failed to mention, she wants nothing further to do with him. However, due to a Bea emergency, Josephine suffers a near nervous breakdown when Trace leaves Seth with her. Soon afterward her liquor license becomes in jeopardy due to her responsible behavior towards a town's favorite son, but many locals defend her.

The keys to the second rousing Roped & Wrangled ranch romance are the lead female suffers from relationship phobia that feels genuine and the baby acts like a baby as both prove legitimate roadblocks to a permanent relationship; Jo's time with Seth is insightful. Although the townsfolk overwhelmingly support the big city newcomer over a long time powerful resident in a liquor accident dispute seems doubtful, readers will enjoy the engaging Bucking the Rules.

He's The One
Linda Lael Miller, Jill Shalvis, Lucy Monroe, Kate Angell and Cat Johnson
9780758210951, $7.99

"Batteries Not Required" by Linda Lael Miller. In Montana Gayle grew up in the back of her mother's bar where she fell in love with Tristan but left town heartbroken. Ten years later Gayle is helping her mom sell the bar while avoiding Tristan, who still heats up her blood.

"Captivated" by Jill Shalvis. Insurance investigator Ella is handcuffed in her Baja cottage's bathroom when her estranged husband James arrives. They still love one another, but James fears for her safety making it impossible to live together.

"Seducing Tabby" by Lucy Monroe. In Port Diamond every female including shy Tabby wants English visitor Calder. Tabby cannot compete with her beautiful sister Helene who every male covets. Yet Calder asks Helene about her sibling.

"No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" by Kate Angell. In Barefoot William, since high school Violet has worked at her Aunt Molly's diner. She dreams of leaving one day like her former sweetheart Brad did, but feels obligated to help her sister Lydia and her sibling's three kids. Now Brad is back to re-win the heart of the woman he left behind.

"Fish Out of Water" by Cat Johnson. Mark has doubts about a camping trip even if his friend Logan insists Stillwater, Oklahoma's primitive sites will be fun. Logan proves right when the scholarly professor and Carla the manure drenched cowgirl meet.

The first three entries are reprints from the 2005 Beach Blanket Bad Boys while the final two are newbies. The anthology contains "Hot Fun in the Summertime" (Sly and the Family Stone) tales.

Of Grave Concern
Max McCoy
9780758281937, $7.99

By 1877 many surviving family members heeded the advice of New York Tribune editor Horace Greely to "Go West, young man." Heading for Colorado, spirit sensitive Ophelia Wylde rides the train accompanied only by Eddie the quoting bird in a cage. As the train passes the Hundredth Meridian that all schoolgirls know, Ophelia sees a spirit of a murdered girl. When the train stops moments later in Dodge City for a ten minute break, Ophelia takes a look at a murdered girl.

When she goes to re-board the train, Ford County attorney Michael Sutton stops her. She is accused of being murderess Kate Bender of the Bloody Benders and will be handed to the sheriff of Labette County where she will stand trial. Ophelia sits in a jail cell musing men enjoy taking away freedom from independent women. She puts on a psychic performance at the opera house to raise money to pay her lawyer Potete that stuns everyone except bounty hunter Jack Calder who knows she is a con artist. The customers turn into an ugly mob who takes her to Boot Hill where she encounters real ghosts; as Ophelia is legit but to make money means being a fake spiritualist; skeptical Jack saves her.

The first Ophelia Wylde Paranormal Mystery is an enjoyable Reconstruction Era investigative thriller. Ophelia's fabulous first person account anchors the time and place with terrific tidbits and witty commentary that holds true today. Readers will enjoy this entertaining historical as the medium and the bounty hunter make a fine team.

Death of a Coupon Clipper
Lee Hollis
9780758267399, $7.99

In Bar Harbor Maine, Island Times food and cocktails columnist Hayley Powell needs money to pay her bills after a collapsed roof, a crushed car and a busted furnace. She thinks she has the answer when Hayley learns that the Wild and Crazy Couponing TV reality show will host an event at the Bar Harbor Shop 'N Save.

Hayley and shrewish nurse Candace Culpepper are selected as the contestants. Show host Drew Nickerson displays his prejudice when he interviews Hayley harshly and Candace gently. Hayley finds the murdered body of Candace. Police Officer Donnie looks at Hayley's BFF lobsterwoman Mona Barnes as the killer; as witnesses at a bar told him she said would like to kill the victim. Not trusting the inexperienced cop to dig deeper, Hayley investigates her rival's homicide.

The latest Hayley Powell Food & Cocktails Mystery (see Death of a Countryfried Redneck and Death of a Kitchen Diva) is an engaging amateur sleuth. The breezy (in spite of the cold weather) storyline is fun to follow though the whodunit commences a quarter of the way into the novel as the protagonist's financial crisis and the TV show take center stage early on. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted frolic.

Tell Me
Lisa Jackson
9780758258588, $25.00

Two decades ago, Blondell O'Henry and her three children were in a cabin in Savannah when the police arrived to investigate a shooting that left the oldest child pregnant teen Amity dead, and eight year old Niall and five year old Blythe in critical condition. Blondell insisted a stranger broke in firing the shots; but Niall testified his mom was the culprit. With no evidence of an intruder to counter Niall's statement, Blondell was convicted and sent to the pen for life.

In the present, Niall claims the cops forced him to testify against his mom, which would release Blondell from prison. True crime author Nikki Gillette has more than just a writer's interest in this case that she plans to investigate; she and Amity were BFFs, and her family was involved in the trial and owned the cabin. Her fiance SPD Police Detective Pierce Reed and his partner Sylvie Morrisette are assigned to review the evidence.

This is an interesting investigative tale with a cast that would make Cecil B. DeMille proud but also limits the characters to two-dimensional. Still fans who keep a scorecard focused on the two prime families and their one degree connections will appreciate this taut double helix thriller as an infamous case closed reopens.

Catherine Coulter
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157332, $26.95,

After their work together in San Francisco (see Backfire), FBI Special Agent Dillon Savich hires FBI agent Griffin Hammersmith to join the CAU Division. On his way to DC, Griffin plans to see his sister Delsey, a student at Stanislaus School of Music in Maestro, Virginia. Before arriving at his sibling's place, Griffin receives a call from Agent Ruth Noble (nee Warnecki in Point Blank) informing him his sister was found unconscious but okay with blood on her that was not hers.

At the same time, Dillon and his FBI wife Lacey Sherlock investigate the murder of college student Tommy Cronin. The case has caused a media frenzy since the victim is the grandson of a former Federal Reserve Bank chair. As the homicide count grows rapidly, the married Feds know anyone within one degree of Tommy is a potential victim.

Bombshell is a strong S & S & associates police procedural as the rotating two cases prove exciting and fast-paced. Readers will appreciate the tense police work as the Feds work the assault and perhaps murder at the school while S & S struggles to end a DC killing spree with the press demands intruding their efforts.

On The Razor's Edge
Michael Flynn
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765334800, $25.99,

Mearana the harper hopes she can reconcile her estranged parents though she knows former Shadow of the Confederation of Central Worlds Donovan (the scarred man) and Bridget ban of the Hounds are natural enemies. However, her plan goes astray when Counselor Gidula abducts Donovan because the kidnapper believes one of the ex-Shadow's personalities knows the secret entrance into the City of the Names. This occurs at a time when the members of the Shadow's Lion's Mouth deploy assassins while heatedly debate support of the Name.

Needing help to rescue her dad, Mearana arranges for CCW Shadow Ravn Olafsdottr to kidnap her though the latter assumes it was all her doing; unaware that the hybrid harper needs her abduction to motivate her mother to bring the Hounds in pursuit of her and Donovan. With deceit and distrust everywhere, war seems imminent but it is hazy as to who is on which side; only that enemies CCW and the United League of the Periphery need Donovan to win.

The fourth futuristic CCW-ULP thriller is a complex entertaining tale that focuses on Machiavellian intrigue; as several civil wars seems imminent while the two rival empires continue their hostilities. More convoluted than the DNA helix, all roads pass through subconscious mind of The Scarred Man, but to appreciate and understand (for the most part) the journey with the Hounds and Shadows means fans must read the previous entries (see In the Lion's Mouth, The January Dancer and Up Jim River).

Cold Coast
Jenifer LeClair
Conquill Press
9780980001761, $15.00,

Minneapolis Homicide Detective Brie Beaumont remains on leave suffering from PTSD after being shot and her partner Phil killed while on duty five months ago. Currently she is second mate on the Schooner Maine Wind sailing with passengers and crew along the coast. When a Nor'easter strikes, Captain John DuLac pulls up anchor in Tucker Harbor. The next morning the storm has left the harbor but remains dangerously nearby so DuLac allows crew and passengers to explore the village for a few hours. While hiking to Heron Head on Final Reckoning Road, they find a corpse of a man whose neck was sliced. Brie protects the crime scene until Washington County law enforcement arrives.

Shorthanded and having seen the results of her work before (see Rigged for Murder), Maine State Police Detective Fenton asks Brie to help investigate the homicide of local trucker Jake Maloney. Since DuLac has an extra experienced hand onboard, he reluctantly agrees as he will miss his second mate for professional and personal reasons; but he knows Brie needs this test to determine whether she should return to law enforcement or continue sailing. MPD also supports Brie working the case. Brie questions the victim's widow and his former employee until she finds a link to a cold case murder of a researcher.

Though waiting out a storm was used at Granite Harbor in Rigged for Murder, readers will enjoy this engaging police procedural as Jenifer LeClair once again vividly captures the Maine background in her latest Windjammer mystery (see Danger Sector). The eccentric Mainers add depth to a fabulous step by step investigation; fans will enjoy Brie trying to uncover secrets that should tie together two seemingly unrelated murders four years apart.

Pinot Envy
Edward Finstein
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610880893, $21.95,

San Francisco resident Woody Robins teaches a Wine Appreciation class at Rosewell College where the fortyish professor is on faculty. He also writes a column on wine for Haute Living and has published a book Wine Is A Four Letter Word. Woody even met his girlfriend Julia Harper when he provided consulting work for her firm the Wine Emporium and found his cat Mouton in a back alley next to empty wine bottles.

Having solved a wine fraud case, Woody meets with UC Davis Professor Walter Pendry to discuss a rare double magnum, the last bottle remaining from an exclusive Napoleon-commissioned label. Last year, James McCall purchased the wine valued at 2.5 million, but recently the bottle was stolen from his secure vault in the Los Carneros area that straddles Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Woody goes straight from Davis to the McCall estate where he agrees to investigate the theft because he believes his client is not committing insurance fraud. With Julia, his Aunt Sadie and others, he begins his inquiry.

By focusing on a stolen valuable bottle of wine, this fascinating cozy enables readers to learn about the engaging history and present day vineyards. Though paid and with an SFPD detective amongst his team, Woody acts like an amateur sleuth as he fumbles his way from one scenario to another. The protagonist's reflections on relationships in his life are overdone and detract from the case. Still readers will toast Edward Finstein with a less costly pinot for an engaging character-driven whodunit.

Chasing Atlantis
Kelly Coughlin
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478703631, $17.95,

Teenager Amy Jane prefers remaining home with her dad in San Antonio for the summer. However, her desires are irrelevant as she travels to Vero Beach to spend her two-month vacation with her snobbish mom and Mr. Perfect Steve.

Upon arriving in Florida, Amy Jane sees how beautiful her mom and Steve are. The next day at the public beach she notices all the females entranced ogling three lifeguards. The trio stares at Amy Jane; who notices the women looking at her with ire. One of the lifeguards Ty asks if she remembers him; she says no. He tells her to leave as her kind is unwelcome here. Her mom and Steve escort Amy Jane to dinner with their friends the Greys as she wants to match up her daughter with their son Adam. Stunned as the parents no longer look leathery but instead lovely and Adam is a hunk not a big nose, Amy Jane assumes Steve is a plastic surgeon. When a fanged female stalks her, Ty rescues her. As she begins to learn the truth, Amy Jane and Ty fall in love while battling to prevent evil that covets the Texas teen.

Chasing Atlantis is a thrilling urban fantasy in which the deliberate set up and early pace enables readers to believe in the Coughlin realm of horror. The beleaguered heroine keeps the storyline focused as she deals with her controlling mom but also fears Steve is Svengali to her mother's Trilby while not coping well with especially Ty, but also his brothers and Adam. The truth proves much more perilous as older teens and adults will enjoy Amy Jane's fabulous Floridian adventures.

Some Like It Hot
Susan Andersen
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373777761, $7.99,

Undercover for her mom's philanthropy Harper Summerville plans to spend the summer in Razor Bay, Washington. Her assignment is to ascertain whether the Cedar Village home for troubled boys should receive a grant; while her cover is the inn's activities chief.

Sheriff's Deputy Max Bradshaw is a shy hunk attracted to Harper. She feels the same way about him, but has doubts about a summer fling though is tempted. However, she changes her mind when she observes the tough muscular law enforcement official work with a tough love attitude encouraging the Cedar Village teens to overcome their background and make something of themselves like he and his half-brother Jake (see That Thing Called Love) did.

The second Razor Bay drama is a warm contemporary romance. The teens never come across as deeply troubled but instead seem more like the Sweathogs of Welcome Back Kotter who act clownish but listen to authority too easily for at risk boys. Still readers will enjoy this engaging tale of two polar opposites falling in love.

Three Little Words
Susan Mallery
Harlequin HQN
9780373777785, $7.99

When she was fourteen, Isabel Beebe fell in love with Ford Hendrix, but he was dating her older sister Maeve who cheated on him with his best friend. He joined the military and over the next few years, Isabel wrote him letters but he never responded; so she gave up on her correspondence and settled on her heart when she married Wall St. Eric, but that ended in divorce.

Isabel comes to Fool's Gold, California to take over the family bridal shop. Ford is also in town having left the SEALs. When they meet, she realizes she still loves him and he knows he wants her while recalling how her letters helped him emotionally in some dangerous scenarios. When his mother begins a campaign to find wives for her two sons, Ford persuades Isabel to be his pretend girlfriend in order for him to weather the storm. She wants to remove the adjective pretend from their arrangement, but he clings to no commitment.

This is an engaging Fool's Gold romance with two wonderful love stories (the secondary love subplot stars Ford's brother math teaching single dad brother Kent with kick butt Consuelo though their misunderstanding is weak) and humor provided by Mama Hendrix. Fans will relish this delightful second chance at love as the Hendrix brothers and their women make this tale twice the fun.

Dawn Metcalf
Harlequin Teen
9780373210732, $9.99

In Glendale, BFFs Joy and Monica go to the Under 18 club at the Carousel. Whereas Monica goes for "Mr. Wide" Gordon Weitzenhoffer, Joy notices the teen with totally blackened eyes. He sees her too, but instead of friendly chatter, he tries to cut out her eye, but instead injures her cornea.

Indelible Ink had not planned for this outcome when he went after Joy; as all he wants is to feel and comprehend human emotions similar to his sister Inq's understanding. However, he must adapt to having marked her as his lehman "slave" not as Inq insists "lover" or die. Joy must adjust to being his beloved helper and "seeing" the strange eerie environs of Twixt filled with monsters and weird girls or both will meet horrible deaths.

The first Twixt young adult urban fantasy is an exciting tale starring a courageous human female (whose mom deserted her and her dad) and an intriguing creature who is filling the void of lacking emotions with learning the good, the bad and the ugly. The support cast is solid, but the Twixt realm is never established beyond a superficial veneer and the romance too typical of the sub-genre in spite of the fascinating filling up the male lead's blank slate. Still teen fans will enjoy Indelible Ink while looking forward to the tale of Invisible Inq.

Wanted: A Real Family
Karen Rose Smith
Harlequin Special Edition
9780373657599, $5.50

A fire in her house left widow Sara Stevens with nothing except her car and most important her four year old child Amy as they got out of the blaze safely. A former patient of the physical therapist, globetrotting journalist Jase Cramer, learns of her plight. Through the Mommy Club volunteers based in Fawn Grove, California, he invites mother and daughter to stay in the guesthouse at Raintree Winery owned by his estranged reclusive father.

Both adults feel the strong attraction between them, but neither wants to take the first step. When they finally do, he insists they keep their relationship secret, which she accepts. As the two families heal emotionally, Jase and Sara fall in love even as he regrets his error when he demanded a serendipitous affair.

The first Mommy Club contemporary showcases why Karen Rose Smith consistently is one of the best writers of family dramas as the key cast seem genuine with semi-crippling hurts that each of the foursome begin to overcome due to love's healing power. The key to this strong entry is that the lead protagonists must deal with their inner emotional problems before they can work on a loving relationship. Readers will appreciate this wonderful tale and look forward to more Mommy Club entries.

The Heart Won't Lie
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797639, $5.50

Pure bred New Yorker Michael Hartford has three weeks to learn cowboy 101. Thus he heads to the Last Chance Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming to ride a horse for the first time with only Jack Chance as his instructor knowing his guest is western writer Jim Ford about to show off his skills as part of a promotion of his next book.

Last year, socialite Keri Fitzpatrick fled Baltimore following a scandal. She since has become the housekeeper at the Last Chance Ranch. Keri and Michael are attracted to each other from the first time they see one another. They begin a tryst, but as each hides their secret identity from the other, both fears the truth will overwhelm their love.

The latest enjoyable Sons of Chance ranch romance (see I Cross My Heart) is a fresh entry due to the protagonists being city slickers struggling with life changing opportunities including a loving relationship. Throw in a Chance wedding and fans of the series will relish this engaging contemporary as "anything is possible" when love is the impetus.

Taking Him Down
Meg Maguire
Harlequin Blaze
9780263905151, $5.50

Mixed-martial arts fighter Rich "Prince Richard" Estrada is rising rapidly though the MMA ranks. Matchmaker Lindsey Tuttle has become a big fan of the Lynn, Massachusetts hunk. When they begin a heated encounter, he abruptly ends it leaving her confused.

During a submission victory over Moreau, Rich breaks his foot so comes home to Wilinski's Fight Academy in Boston while he heals. There he and Lindsey begin a rematch in what ended as a no decision while he also trains her sister in MMA. As Rich and Lindsay fall in love, he knows he must submit his heart to her as proof of his sincerity though he fears a rejection will leave him out for the count.

The second Wilinski's Fight Academy MMA romance is a fun contemporary starring two protagonists who were support players in round one (see Making Him Sweat). Though much of the heat is off-page and mindful of Lori Foster's SBC Fighters' series, fans will enjoy this thrilling bout between the matchmaker and the fighter.

To Sin With A Viking
Michelle Willingham
Harlequin Historical
9780373297504, $6.50

In A. D. 875 Ireland, Caragh O'Brannon fears her tribe is running out of food. Many have already starved to death and Caragh's parents died last year when her father drowned trying to catch fish and her mother simply stopped living. Her two older brothers hope to trade a gold brooch for food; while she, her younger sibling Brendan and others struggle to stay alive.

Styr Hardrata knows his marriage to Elena is on the rocks, but hopes the sea journey from Hordafylke saves it. When his vessel sails near Caragh's tribe; her people attack him, his mate and other Vikings on board in order to sell the ship for needed food. Brendan grabs Elena, but before Styr can bury his battleax into the lad, Caragh hammers his ear with a staff. Separated from his spouse, Styr gets free and captures his guard Caragh to use as a hostage to rescue Elena though he loathes his attraction to his former warden when he is duty bound to his wife.

This Forbidden Vikings Dark Ages romance is an entertaining historical made fresh by the complex relationships as the hero struggles between love for Caragh and being honor bound to Elena. The key to the engaging storyline is that Elena is a good person and not a shrew; and her husband knows that. Michelle Willingham provides a wonderful tale that has readers believe they are on a ninth century Irish island facing starvation.

Faking It To Making It
Ally Blake
Harlequin Kiss
9780373207251, $4.99

Dating by Numbers online site hires SassyStats to analyze their data. Partners Saskia and Lissy set up accounts to obtain deeper first-hand looks at the validity and reliability of information provided by clients.

Melbourne financier Nate needs a date for a wedding in order to prevent his sisters from matching him up with one of their friends. To get the twins and his older sister off his bachelor back, he proclaims he is seeing someone. Ergo the confirmed bachelor needs a date for the wedding only. Using Dating by Numbers, he selects the female whose favorite music is Retro Grunge though Nate wonders what that is. The suit and the grunge meet, both are attracted to each other. However successful Nate envies her internal harmony and serenity; unaware Saskia believes no one will ever find her worthy of their love.

Faking It To Making It is a wonderful amusing Australian romance starring two opposites and his interfering sisters. Readers will enjoy the madcap matchmaking mayhem at a marriage ceremony as Ally Blake provides a fun lighthearted frolic.

Last-Minute Bridesmaid
Nina Harrington
Harlequin Kiss
9780373207275, $4.99

Over a decade ago, seventeen year old Kate Lovat attends a party in which haughty Crystal and her Crystalites treat her like trash especially taunting her outfit that she put together. That changes when twenty-year old university student publishing heir Heath Sheridan announces to all he was looking everywhere for Katherine. After he takes her home, Heath kisses Kate goodnight.

Eleven years later that kiss remains the highlight film of Kate's life in spite of her success as a fashion designer. Now a major publisher, Heath needs a date to act as a Last-Minute Bridesmaid at his father's wedding since the woman he was taking ended their relationship. Believing Kate owes him, he asks her and she accepts. As they attend the ceremony, Kate and Heath struggle to ignore their attraction to one another as each distrusts their own respective heart let alone their beloved's heart.

The Last-Minute Bridesmaid is an engaging second chance at love contemporary. Though the storyline is somewhat similar in tone to the first Girls Just Want To Have Fun romance (see The First Crush is the Deepest), fans will root for the engaging likable protagonists to make it together.

Two of a Kind
Susan Mallery
Harlequin HQN
9780373777686, Jun 25 2013. $7.99

In Fool's Gold, California, certified as an off the charts genius Felicia Swift may be proficient in hand to hand combat, but the American spider she spots in the warehouse does not have hands. Her scream brings Gideon Boylan running to protect her. She explains she came to town with military friends seeking a mundane community life while stunned he resides here as a semi-hermit.

Felicia and Gideon shared the night of their life when both were overseas. However, though she wants a lifetime of that night, he cannot emotionally connect with anyone beyond superficial. PTSD sufferer Gideon remains locked inside the nightmare of his black ops team captured, tortured and murdered. Not one to surrender, Felicia mounts a campaign the Pentagon would admire with the objective to win his heart though complicated by his son. She fails strategically to recognize she already has his heart, but not his soul as he lost that on his last deployment.

The latest Fool's Gold romance (see Just One Kiss) is a poignant gripping tale that allows the audience to see deep into the anguished mind of a PTSD inflicted veteran. With suicides and domestic violence by returning soldiers very high, the profoundness also makes Gideon's abrupt conquering of his relationship fears unlikely; even rationalizing this is a romance. Still series fans will appreciate Two of a Kind as the lonely genius and the lonely soldier find love may end or amplify their loneliness.

One-Night Alibi
Kara Lennox
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718627, $5.75

Not feeling well, Montgomery County Sheriff's deputy Hudson Vale observes famous lawyer Franklin Mandalay III soliciting Jazz the hooker. Though no longer in Vice and knowing he should ignore the negotiation, Hudson intercedes. Jazz flees while he arrests the prominent Houston attorney.

Franklin files a lawsuit accusing Hudson of false arrest and excess force. Soon afterward someone murders Franklin. The police suspect Hudson whose alibi is Mandalay's estranged daughter, Elizabeth Downey who he just met at a wedding reception and shared a one-night tryst. The problem with her as his alibi is that everyone knew she hated her dad and was his heir; many believe she hired Hudson to kill her father. The couple turns to Project Justice to prove their innocence before they are railroaded.

The latest Project Justice romantic suspense (see Hidden Agenda) is an exciting mystery that hooks fans from the moment someone murders Mandalay. Fast-paced and with a nod to Selleck's My Alibi, fans will relish this taut thriller as Manderlay's superego begins a complex web of deception.

A Texas Hero
Linda Warren
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718610, $5.75

Upset with her former husband's latest shenanigan re their child, bank teller Abby Bauman is late for work and distracted while driving recklessly. When she misses her turn, she stops on a busy highway. Homicide detective Ethan James, who wants to get home to his daughter after a graveyard shift, rear ends her. They enter the nearby bank where she works to exchange insurance information when two robbers wearing masks enter. The robbers plan to take Abby hostage, but Ethan shocks her by volunteering. Thus they snatch both of them.

The pair are driven miles into a dried up rural area and left tied in a shack. They escape and begin a terrible survival trek for help as the extreme heat left much of Texas withered and on fire.

The first Willow Creek romance is a super suspense that uses the terrible heat wave that baked Texas two years ago as a fabulous backdrop to a taut whodunit. Although the villain is obvious early on, readers will enjoy this tale of two single parents falling in love while trying to survive an ordeal.

The Ranch Solution
Julianna Morris
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718641, $5.75

Seattle CEO Jacob O'Donnell is frustrated with the recent behavior of his fourteen year old daughter Kittie. Her actions have led the widower to donate money to the private school she attends as a means to pacify the angry principal. However, Kittie went too far when her smoking in the girl's locker room led to a small fire.

Jacob's friend Gene told him how the U-2 Ranch in rural Montana helped him and his wife troubled son Wes. Desperate Jacob takes Kittie to the ranch run by Mariah Weston. The Weston family demonstrates what matters in life to the O'Donnell pair, while the urban father and daughter show Mariah that love is a key element in what matters in life.

The Ranch Solution is a warm family drama with an emphasis on positive values with an obvious bias. Character-driven by a strong cast, contemporary fans will enjoy rusticating in Big Sky Country as two families unite in love.

The Keepers: L.A. Keeper of the Dawn
Heather Graham
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885732, $5.75

LAPD police officer Mark Valiente dreams of marrying the woman he loves though he has never met her. Dreams aside, in the Starry Night Cemetery the vampire cop and his partner Brodie McKay break up a sacrificial ritual that includes humans and Others using elven females intended to bring back from the dead evil Sebastian Hildegarde. The leader and some Others escape, but Mark is more interested in the woman draped over Sebastian's effigy. He recognizes her as his bride in his loving fantasy.

Mark plans to keep Alessande Salisbrooke safe as he fears she is marked by the Hildegarde followers. While he hunts the perpetrators, Alessande is of a different mindset as she says she will help him or go it alone.

The final Keepers: L.A. romantic urban fantasy (see Keeper of the Shadows by Alexandra Sokoloff, Keeper of the Night by Heather Graham and Keeper of the Moon by Harley Jane Kozak) is an exciting paranormal police procedural that completes the Gryffald cousins' saga. Fast-paced with taut twists and red herrings, readers will welcome the return of the previous leads as they assists the protagonists in keeping their women safe while bringing down the unknown main malevolence.

Beautiful Danger
Michele Hauf
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885749, $5.75

As the fire destroys their complex, Levallois werewolf pack leader Remy Caufield grabs valuable documents from a safe. Before he can leave their raging pet vampire Domingos LaRoque tells him he will return to kill every member of the Levallois pack for torturing and forcing him to fight in the ring over his months of captivity; or die trying. Remy knows they will meet again as he rues the error of having Domingos fight and drain the blood of the powerful phoenix vampire who years ago survived a witch's attack.

One month after the blaze destroyed their compound, Remy contacts The Order of the Stake for help as eight of twenty-four clan members have been murdered by the insane suicidal Domingos. The Order of the Stake sends it solo female knight Lisa "Lark" Cooper to take care of their lethal problem. Lark lives for revenge as her goal is to kill 366 vampires to match everyday her late husband Todd was held in captivity and tortured by these evil beasts before they converted him; she killed her mate. The anguished vampire and the avenging knight meet when four werewolves assault her and he intervenes; her goal stalls at 72 and his at 8.

Beautiful Danger is a terrific romantic urban fantasy due to the believable Hauf world and the tortured lead souls suffering from a deep need to revenge what happened to them. She distrusts vampires and he distrusts werewolves and knights who protect these cretins. The romance heats up late, but that distracts from a strong dysfunctional relationship drama of Beloved Enemies.

The Colton Ransom
Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278305, $5.50

One year ago Dead River Ranch security chief Trevor Garth and a stranger Joyce had a one night stand in Cheyenne. He could not remember her name when Joyce arrives with a newborn girl that she insists is his. When he refuses to take on Avery, Joyce leaves the baby on his doorsteps. A couple weeks later he struggles to handle it as the baby nuked the single dad's lifestyle.

His employer's daughter Gabriella Colton tries to help him with Avery just like she does with her three month old niece Cheyenne. When a killer mistakenly kidnaps his infant thinking she is an heir to the Colton fortune, Trevor, accompanied by Gabby who feels responsible for what happened, attempts to rescue his daughter as he fears for her life even if the ransom is met; meanwhile the former cop also realizes he loves both females in spite of them driving him crazy.

The first Coltons of Wyoming romantic suspense opens a new saga in the extended family. The lead characters are a strong pair who stays focused on saving Avery. Although the storyline has been used before and goes the anticipated path, readers will enjoy this engaging tale.

The Paris Assignment
Addison Fox
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278329, $5.50

Kensington Steele orders her brother Campbell to work with Abby McBane to learn who broke the seemingly impenetrable firewalls of McBane Communications for seven minutes. At first refusing the Paris Assignment Campbell agrees to go undercover to identify the hacker or insider responsible for the seven-minute invasion.

Abby and Campbell meet in New York with both attracted to the other. They fly to Paris as a couple while she meets with the firm's board and he works on how, why and who. When Campbell realizes Abby is in danger from a brilliant psychopath who employs a gun on top of the electronic intrusion, he adds bodyguard to his job description over her objection; his new role would amuse his sister if it was not so dangerous.

The first House of Steele romantic suspense is an enjoyable mystery based on the premise of how a person or firm can be destroyed in the information age by a clever hacker. The exciting storyline uses the irony of providing information to the readers while keeping the protagonists in the dark from a crazed villain targeting the pair; who hopes to live long enough to tell each other they are in love.

Branded by a Callahan
Tina Leonard
Harlequin American
9780373754618, $5.50

After surviving Firefreak the bounty bull, retired SEAL Dante Callahan tells his twin brother Tighe he is heading home to Rancho Diablo in Hell's Colony, Texas to see the family dressed for Halloween. Tighe says his sibling is going home to see bodyguard Ana St. John. Dante acts indifferently but both knows his love is unrequited.

At home, Ana catches an intruder. Later that same night, Dante and Ana wake up in the bed of a speeding ruck. Both are confused but conclude someone kidnapped them. They escape with each knowing their mutual attraction is stratospheric but neither willing to admit it to the other. When she wears a magical wedding dress that "measures" a woman's desire to marry, both finally admit their love for each other.

The latest Callahan ranch romance (see His Callahan Bride Baby and A Callahan Outlaw's Twins) is an enjoyable contemporary but never cohesively merges the romantic main plot with the wedding dress fantasy and the failed kidnapping incidents suspense. Fans will enjoy this tale due to the nice coupling of the bodyguard and the former SEAL who will do anything to win her love he already has while also looking forward to Tighe's adventures with River.

Rumor Has It
Maureen Child
Harlequin Desire
9780373732531, $5.25

Seven years ago, Amanda Altman left Royal, Texas, breaking the heart of Nathan Battle. She returned two weeks ago to help at her family's Royal Diner while Nathan, now the sheriff, has avoided her as if she has a contagious disease. He even stopped getting his coffee at the diner and instead gets it at the gas station that obviously uses fuel instead of water.

Feeling deja vu, Nathan hates being the subject of town gossip again as he was when she left and he fled soon after to the police academy in Houston. Nathan decides the only way to move on is to seduce the woman who still has him tied in knots. Amanda initially rejects his efforts, but cannot hold out very long as she wants the sheriff as much as he desires her. However, she feels deja vu too when she becomes pregnant, but Amanda prays for a different ending from the miscarriage she suffered seven years ago.

The first Texas Cattleman's Club: The Missing Mogul contemporary romance is a warm second chance at love family affair (Amanda's angry sister finds love too) with a bit of a mystery (Nathan's friend Alex's disappearance). Readers will enjoy this royal rumble as two stubborn individuals fuss, fight and dance in the moonlight.

How To Melt A Frozen Heart
Cara Colter
Harlequin Romance
9780373742493, $5.99

At three in the morning, nonagenarian Deedee Ashton calls her late granddaughter Becky's husband Brendan Grant saying Charlie is dying before hanging up. The widower architect knows he needs his sleep to function, has a ground breaking ceremony for his Village on the Lake complex project, and dislikes Charlie; however this is grandmother-in-law Deedee so he drives to her nearby place on the prestigious Hansen neighborhood The Hill.

Unable to refuse any Deedee request even the insane, Brendan drives her and Charlie the cat to a pet healer in nearby Creighton Creek. She claims Nora Anderson as able to cure ailments with a "gift" of the touch; he assumes a quack or con artist. Brendan and Nora meet when she is hurt in accident while checking on horses. They are attracted to each other but neither wants these feelings as the architect feels guilt for coming alive and the animal rescuer was burned by her ex-fiance when she became her fourteen year old nephew's guardian.

This is a tender contemporary romance in which WC Fields' witty comment "Never work with ... animals" comes to mind. Cara Colter provides an engaging second chance at love tale as she learns How To Melt A Frozen Heart and he learns how to mend a broken heart.

Amanda Sun
Harlequin Teen
9780373210718, $9.99

With the death of her mother, grieving Katie Greene leaves the States to live with her Aunt Diane in Shizuoka, Japan. Besides mourning her loss, Katie feels like a total outsider as she speaks English only and knows none of the local customs including shoes and slippers etiquette.

At school, she is drawn to Tomohiro the artist and kendo star who seems to detest her as he keeps his distance from Katie. However, when they are near, they are explosive together and not just because of their attraction to each other. Katie witnesses his ink drawings come to life as he has the ancient power of the Kami and she enhances his skill. While the Yakuza plots to control the pair for their profit, Katie and Tomo must learn to control the Ink or else.

Though pictures may be worth a thousand words, Ink is a fabulous young adult Japanese urban fantasy (drawings included) that will remind readers of the movie Inkheart. The American heroine is terrific as she struggles with local customs, her attraction, Yakuza and the Ink while the Japanese artist deals with the same except for the local customs. Although the teen romance never quite gels as strong as the Ink collaborations, readers will enjoy Amanda Sun's fascinating romantic thriller.

Confessions Of An Almost Girlfriend
Louise Rozett
Harlequin Teen
9780373210657, $9.99

Rose Zarelli feels she has matured considerably since her Union High School freshman year as she believes she is no longer angry at her loved ones including her late dad who died eighteen months ago in Iraq though she still sees a therapist her mom. Rose feels she will be the breakout music star of the sophomore class. She will swim away from trouble by avoiding being the abused Good Samaritan, which means ignoring her brother's apparent drug problem, and emphatically refusing to allow the principal to interrogate her like she is an enemy combatant. Finally, she plans to tell incommunicado Jamie Forta to stick it.

Rose and her BFF Traci attend a party at Mike Darren's house. Nothing looks different amidst the school hierarchy including the swimming team bullying Conrad. When Conrad looks like he will drown, Rose intercedes only to be shoved into the pool; not a good way to end summer and start as Rose 2.0.

The second Confessions young adult drama (see Confessions of an Angry Girl) is an engaging look at a teenager trying to reinvent herself while swimming against the high school caste current. Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend is current with real issues throughout like homophobic bullying, violence (accentuated with a bench clearing brawl)and teen drug use, but somewhat lightened with humor that at times feels out of place as Rose learns to sing Love Hurts (Nazareth).

The Loner
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN
9780373777723, $7.99

Former Navy SEAL Dakota Carson received a medical discharge due to an injured arm hurt in a firefight in Afghanistan. He also suffers from PTSD, which is why he lives alone high in the Tetons. When a bear attacks him, he and his friend Storm the wolf kills the raging animal but not before the beast bit deeply into his arm hitting an artery. Using combat medical skills, he controls the blood flow but needs to reach a hospital or die.

Dakota reaches the Jackson Hole Hospital ER parking lot where Sheriff Deputy Shelby Kincaid helps him inside. As he goes into surgery, he asks Shelby, who looks familiar, to take care of his wolf. As he recovers, Dakota thinks "Barbie Doll" is much tougher than she looks; refusing to accept his efforts to push her away. When killers target his Shelby, Dakota risks his life to keep her safe from the adversaries who had ties to his family tragedy that led to his joining the military at eighteen.

The key to this strong military romantic suspense is the slowly changing relationship between the protagonists as the SEAL's crippling PTSD does not magically vanish because he fell in love though that helps. Action-packed in a terrific outdoors environment, fans will anticipate the confrontation between the vicious killers and the fully developed loving heroes.

The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi
Mark Hodder
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616147778, $18.00,

In 1840, an assassin murdered Queen Victoria. Since the royal's untimely death a couple of decades ago, a small oligopoly runs the British Empire with their prime advisor being Abdu El Yezdi, a dead mystic communicating with these rational men from the Afterlife.

Known for solving the mystery of the Nile, explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton heads to England struggling with his sense of reality. While he journeys home, the British Empire and the Greater German Confederation negotiate an alliance. However before the pact can be signed, Florence Nightingale, Charles Babbage, ruling cabal member Isambard Kingdom Brunel and other notable scientists and engineers vanish. Notified of the vanishings Burton receives a king's agent appointment to locate Abdu El Yezdi, who has stopped communicating as if this spirit disappeared too. The case turns personal when Burton's friends and family begin to disappear in an eerie manner that links to the muted Abdu El Yezdi.

The latest Burton & Swinburne Adventure (see Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man and The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack) is an exciting alternative historical Victorian era with a strong paranormal element. The storyline is fast-paced and captures the essence of the British Empire's white man's burden colonization rationalization that Burton rigidly believes. However, the time-altering plot is extremely thin though fun to follow as Burton must protect those he cherishes, communicate with a silent ghost and figure out what is real and what is a hallucination.

Sugar Pop Moon
John Florio
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616147952, $15.95,

In 1930 Manhattan, Jimmy McCullough hires Jersey "Snowball" Leo to work at his mob-owned speakeasy Pour House because no one forgets seeing an albino; except perhaps his mother who deserted him (and his dad) when he was a baby. Snowball buys top quality booze for the bar, but the booze proves to be fake Sugar Pop Moon.

Knowing he will be blamed by his violent employers, Snowball searches for the missing seller to get back the money; but fails to find him while struggling through misadventures in Philadelphia at the same time someone stalks him. Snowball concludes he needs help. He turns to his pop, a former boxing champ who never hides his scorn of his offspring especially for working at a mob establishment. Father and son pursue the moonshine distributer

This is an exciting coming of age Prohibition Era noir. The cast is very strong, but obviously this is Snowball's tale as he (and his father) tries to save his life while finding out revelations about himself and his family. Readers will enjoy this solid historical crime thriller and want a matured Snowball to return.

Chimera: A Jim Chapel Mission
David Wellington
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062248770, $24.99,

In Upstate New York at the highest secure military facility in the world, Camp Putnam contains genetically modified "chimera". These killing monsters are 99% human, but the remaining DNA comes from chimps, rattlers and bears. Several have escaped killing elite guards as they hone in on their particular assigned kill target; collateral damage is not even on their mental radar as nothing in the path of any of these physically super beasts lives.

Having lost an arm in Afghanistan, Special Forces Captain Jim Chapel works in an office at Fort Belvoir wishing he was back in the field as he understands the kill or be killed lifestyle better than his butt sitting on a desk. He gets his wish when the Pentagon assigns him to stop the chimera and once that is done find out who performed the modification (including the financial backing) and how these predators escaped. Instead of elite Special Forces, Jim works with the mysterious Angel though he never sees her and Julia the veterinarian while the CIA and the chimera creators have other ideas.

The second Jim Chapel Mission (see Minotaur) is a terrific action-packed thriller as the hero hunts the hunters in an action-packed storyline that will have readers wondering who the monsters really are. Although the Julia romance feels more like a forced necessity, fans will relish this otherwise taut tale and want awesome Angel to join Jim in future operations.

Gone With The Win
Mary Daheim
9780062089847, $23.99

At the Hillside Manor B&B in Seattle after the old bat crashed her wheelchair into a birdbath, Mary Smith checks in. However, Mary is actually Judith McMonigle Flynn's friend Ruby Tooms, who used an alias to insure she would be welcome after what happened at the Little Bavaria Oktoberfest.

Ruby asks Judith and her husband retired cop Joe Flynn to investigate the murder almost two decades ago of her mother Opal; her father was in jail at the time of the strangulation having stolen Judith's wallet at her late first husband's Meat & Mingle cafe. With fans creating a web site proclaiming her detecting skills, Judith has vowed no more inquiries. However, Joe has a personal interest in this case as his former partner and still close friend Precinct Captain Woody Price worked the unsolved homicide. An intruder further motivates Joe, his reluctant wife, and her sleuthing partnering cousin Renie Jones to look into the murder of Ruby's mom.

The latest Bed-and-Breakfast Mystery (see The Wurst Is Yet to Come and All The Pretty Hearses) is an engaging humorous cozy as this time Joe wants them to take on the case instead of Judith tripping over a corpse. With a strong cast, readers will enjoy this lighthearted amusing whodunit as the amateur sleuthing cousins plus Joe hesitatingly investigate.

Big Girl Panties
Stephanie Evanovich
9780062224842, $26.99

Personal trainer Logan Montgomery hates flying anything except first class, but wants to get home to New York after two days working with first baseman Chase Walker in Toronto so he sits in coach. He is further anguished when the big butt female sits in his row. Thirtyish widow Holly Brennan always had a big body, but two years of caring for her dying husband made her enormous as food became her escape. She notices the hunk looks at her with horror of being seen in public with the fat chick.

Feeling guilty about his reaction to her, Logan offers to help her change her lifestyle. She accepts. As they work together, Logan reassesses his first impression as Holly diligently works at changing herself. When she begins to lose weight and gain self-esteem, his friends begin to see her as a sexy individual, which upsets Logan though he remains unsure why.

This is an engaging contemporary romance that looks closely at images. When the protagonists meet on the plane, the lead female is an obese individual whose self-esteem is extremely low at a time she still grieves her loss; while her male counterpart is a perfect confident hunk who has statuesque beauties clamoring to be with him. Although doubtful that Logan would make such an offer or the relationship ebb and flow the way it does to include a one punch knockout by a could have been contender, fans will enjoy the Pygmalion Effect of changing the Ugly Duckling into the beautiful swan.

The Curiosity
Stephen P. Kiernan
9780062221063, $25.99

Funded by brilliant lunatic Erastus Carthage, molecular biologist Dr. Kate Philo has successfully reanimated dead crustaceans and plankton. When the perfectly preserved frozen body of Judge Jeremiah Rice, who fell off an Arctic research vessel in 1906, is found, Carthage sees an opportunity to skip several tests on bringing back to life the dead.

Philo succeeds in bringing back the Harvard graduate causing a fire and brimstone religious fervor enhanced by the media. Carthage's superego glows in glory while others see an abomination or greedy monetary awards. That is except Philo who wants to help the beleaguered Rice adapt to a foreign crude world he finds lacking in family values as even the National pastime has gone crass and avaricious.

Putting aside the plausibility (or lack of) of the pseudoscience, The Curiosity is an entertaining morality tale in which Stephen P. Kiernan finds the twenty-first century lacking as he fondly compares today to the Gaslight Era. The key cast lacks development as each represents a metaphor of what is wrong with society today or in the case of Rice what was right in society back then (sort of a Happy Days nostalgic look at the Gaslight Era). Still readers will enjoy 1900 sensibilities meeting 2000 insensibilities.

The Arrivals
Melissa Marr
9780061826962, $24.99

Based on information from Governor Soanes, the Arrivals (Edgar, Francis, Mary and siblings Kitty and Jack, and others) go to a peace negotiation with the brethren. Instead the brethren attack using guns and magic killing Mary. While her allies kill the rest, using a spell and a knife, Kitty slays the demon monk though she takes a bullet and burns from his blood. They hope Mary wakes in six days; while in Covenant former ally and her ex-lover Daniel tells Kitty that her enemy avaricious Ajani wants her on his team of cutthroats who always come back from temporary death unlike her band who might not return.

Last night in DC Chloe Mattison saw her fiance having sex with her boss in her place. She left and had her first drink in five years. Now she awakens in the Wasteland's Gallows Desert as the newest Arrival. The siblings take her back to camp as she mumbles hallucinations. Jack and Edgar chat that they came from different eras and locales after committing murders on earth, but Chloe seems the latest date yet. Being the oldest Arrivals, Jack and Kitty know the Wasteland is changing as Chloe fails to fit the "rules".

The Arrivals is an exciting fantasy as the indigent population and the Arrivals (and readers) wonder why the newcomers come to this beastly hell. The cold (and at times hot) war between the heroic cutthroats and Ajani's thug army is entertaining, but never enables the realm to come into focus outside the desert band. Still readers will enjoy visiting the Wasteland while wanting more tales located there; preferably a series of interrelated short stories starring different characters who would provide depth to this strange hellish realm.

Private Spies
P.J. Nunn
Tidal Wave Publishing
9780615832562, $13.95

After graduating from college, Joey Catronio came home to open Private Spies, a P.I. firm. When Joey dies, his childhood best friend Jesse Morgan inherits the successful business. Jesse considered selling as she only worked the information technology end but decided to keep the company open though she knows very little about sleuthing and cannot park in his spot. Just before he died, Joey hired retired police officer Byron Montgomery as an investigator; at least that is what the ex-cop claims. Not stupid, Jesse knows she needs Byron if she is to make it as a P.I.

Beverly Gafford calls to speak with Joey, but instead hires Jesse to find her ex-husband Lawrence Gafford who she says abducted their daughter taking her back to his Dallas home. The simple case turns convoluted as nothing is what her client claims it to be. With a corpse in Jesse's tub, she sorts through names and pictures that fail to match until Beverly abruptly fires her.

This is an engaging twisted private investigative thriller starring a wonderful rookie and the veteran trying to keep her out of trouble though she is a magnet for tsuris. Fast-paced from that first call, readers (and the sleuths) wonder what is going on as nothing is what it is supposed to be; the refreshing reason will stun the audience.

Karen Slaughter
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780345539472, $27.00,

Macon police detective Lena Adams married her late partner Jeffrey Tolliver's son Jared whose mother Dr. Sara Linton blames her for the homicide of her spouse five years ago due to her shoot from the hip attitude. Last week, Lena led a drug raid that turned ugly leaving four dead, one hospitalized and her with a scalp wound and the haunting memory. After dealing with Internal Affairs, Lena plans to get back to working on taking down local drug lord Sid Waller.

Shooters break into their home hitting Jared and leaving him barely alive. Lena takes down one of the intruders and recognizes another as GBI Agent Will Trent who is undercover as Bill Black. Jared is rushed to the hospital while his paternal grandmother tells his mother who immediately leaves Atlanta's Grady Memorial to be with her estranged son. Will knows his cover may be busted with the woman he loves in town. Both believes Jared being in intensive care is due to Lena's crossing the line again, but though he works a drug case, this time Will hopes to prove it before someone else is hurt.

Longtime fans of Karen Slaughter's Georgia police procedurals (Grant County and Will Trent) will appreciate the latest series crossing as the anticipated cat fight between Sara and Lena comes to a head; while Jared lies near death and Will hopes to avoid exposure leading to his becoming the next victim. Gripping from the opening home invasion, readers will relish this strong twisting thriller as all roads lead to Lena.

A Home At Trail's End
Melody Carlson
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North
Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736948753, $13.99,

In 1857 widow Elizabeth Martin fulfills the dream she shared with her late husband James when she, her children (Jamie and Ruth) and other family members reach their Oregon homestead. She hopes wagon master, Eli Kincade will stay with her as she loves him and him her, but to her consternation instead he leaves, as he not ready for roots.

Though feeling alone, Elizabeth joins with others trying to build a community. Eli returns to Elizabeth's joy and they marry. Meanwhile a fire and brimstone minister divides the community leading to Elizabeth's father preaching from his house; and racism flourishes with Elizabeth's black employee Brady a target and Eli due to his genuine caring for the Indians.

The final Homeward on the Oregon Trail (see A Dream For Tomorrow and Westward Hearts) is a fabulous finish to a wonderful mid nineteenth century Americana due to a strong cast and vivid scenery. Eli's leaving and returning feel unnecessary as the profound look into racism and religious bias make for a strong historical fiction.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Look to Mountains, Look to Sea
Ron Singer
River Otter Press
PO Box 211664, St. Paul, MN 55121
9780983553052, $12.99,

This is a beautiful poetic rendering of the people and places, sounds and scenes, weather and wonders of Maine. Appealing art and photographs by Elizabeth Yamin and Leon Goldin enhance Ron Singer's word pictures.

I've never been to Maine, but Singer took me there vicariously through his eyes, as in Grain Moon:

A grain moon rules the world tonight,
drawing the gleaners of mussels and clams
to stand in knots on the road by trucks
with beer cans hoisted, spilling jokes.

Singer moves from serious to humorous, from country to city, mountain to sea with exceptional grace. Readers who enjoy poetry need to visit Maine through Singer's words.

Murder at the Forum: The Harry Krisman Mysteries
Tom Sheehan
Anvil Press Publishers
278 East First Avenue
Vancouver, British Columbia, V5T 1A6 CANADA
Amazon Digital Services
B00B12287O, $2.99 ebook,

What do the battle of Dien Bien Phu in the 1950s, the hockey Forum of the Montreal Canadiens, French royalty of ages past, and a string of grisly murders have in common? Private Investigator Harry Krisman knows they're connected. It's the how and why that has him baffled.

Harry loves hockey, and he loves Maxine "Max" Humdroph, not necessarily in that order. When two retired hockey players and the author hired to write about hockey history are murdered, Harry's intuition sends him searching for answers. Each clue he uncovers complicates the puzzle. He's dealing with an ancient brotherhood whose foul deeds remain shrouded in an ominous darkness Harry can't penetrate. The murderer is like invisible ether, a shadow stalking Harry and everyone he cares about.

Sheehan has crafted a nifty thriller here. He pulled me into the story and characters so thoroughly that I could see, feel, hear and experience every nuance. This isn't your run-of-the-mill mystery, thanks to Sheehan's skill as a wordsmith. Each little detail brings life to his characters and intrigue to the mystery. If you like mystery suspense thrillers, this one is highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Sew Me! Sewing Basics
Choly Knight, author
Design Originals
c/o Fox Chapel Publishing
1970 Broad St., East Petersburg, PA 17520
9781574214239, $19.99,

"Sew Me! Sewing Basics: Simple Techniques and Projects for First-Time Sewers" is a fine manual for beginning seamstresses or sewers of virtually all ages (10-12 to adult). Starting at the beginning, author Choly Knight helps beginning sewers determine their sewing style and analyse special sewing features to help decide which sewing machine model to purchase for beginning sewing. Color photos and color cued handy fact charts help the sewer learn to categorize fabric and sewing machine features and tools. Further background on color and design theory, organizing sewing space and tools and prepping your machine plus a sewer's arsenal of machine stitches help the novice sewer get well started in the Sink Your Teeth In chapter. After that, four fun-filled chapters present complete instructions with colored photographs and patterns drawn to scale for 15 different projects, each highlighting a new sewing skill or technique. The first project, emphasizing straight seam sewing, is a pillow sham, decorated with trim and ribbon. As skills increase, project difficulty also increases. Some further project examples include Marvelous Mr. & Mrs. Cat, chic placemats, a belt loop MP3 player holder, a convenient coin pouch, and a snuggly ruffled scarf, a radical wrist cuff, plus many more. Each project's initial layout includes estimated time, cross referenced specific techniques, materials, tools, prep work and prep work, followed by patterns and measurements in both standard and metric units, and illustrated step by step simple sewing instructions. A beautiful color photo of the finished project crowns each design. "Sew Me! Sewing Basics" is a very complete, practical beginning seamstress' guide to all things made by sewing machine, demystifying sewing machine management, and opening a world of creative design pleasurable experiences to even a novice.

Primeras Lecciones Piano
Per Danielsson, author
Mel Bay Publications
PO Box 66, Pacific, MO 63069
9780786684144, $9.99,

"Primeras Lecciones Piano" is a beginning piano instruction book for adults or older children written in Spanish, accompanied by a CD which contains most of the enclosed exercises and pieces. In progressing difficulty, there are 38 different pieces for practice, each demonstrating a new technique or component of piano performance. Initial pages cover finger numbering system, keyboard orientation, use of double staff and musical notation, rhythm, counting, and C position. Continuing pages show short pieces of gradually increasing complexity and using the pedal, legato and staccato approaches. Simple songs such as "When the Saints Go Marching In" and favorite Christmas carols are included on page 30 and beyond, along with others written especially for "Primeras Lecciones Piano." "Primeras Lecciones Piano" is a useful piano guidebook for the older, Spanish speaking beginner, young adult to adult.

A Child's Christmas in New England
Robert Sullivan, author
Glenn Wolff, illustrator
Bunker Hill Publishing
285 River Road, Piermont, New Hampshire 03779
9781593731519, $16.95,

"A Child's Christmas in New England: Memories of Seasons Past" is a fragrant collection of family memories of childhood Christmas holiday celebrations in the 50's and 60's, spilling over into other corners of cherished or poignant experiences and memories. Decorated with intricate, snow bedecked portraits of past Christmas scenes, "A Child's Christmas in New England" is both extremely personal and universal in its impact. Told as a series of memories related from father to daughter, each episode's narration wanders organically through the intricate system of smells, sounds, sensations, and feeling of a long ago time. Through it all, the reader shares the author's remembered experiences, as well as his daughter's reaction to the tales. From the howl of the bobcat to the colored bulbs, tinsel, and bubbling candle lights which decorated the family tree,"A Child's Christmas in New England" invites a readership to commune with the wistfully remembered past to enrich the present day.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Eros, Naturally
Daryl Sharp
Inner City Books
Box 1271, Station Q
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4T 2P4
9781894574419, $25.00,

Synopsis: "Eros, Naturally Jungian Notes from Underground with Sett In My Ways: A Badger's Tail " is a romp with gravitas. It is another Jungian romance by the author who created the genre, starting with Chicken Little: The Inside Story (1993) and continuing through over a dozen more tomes. No other writer has so adroitly interwoven Logos and Eros, thinking and feeling. In this new book, Sharp s wit and analytic knowledge are counterpointed by Badger, an alter-ego who lives in the basement.

Critique: As an author, Daryl Sharp has repeatedly proven himself more than capable when it comes to writing that is as whimsical as it is informative. "Eros, Naturally Jungian Notes from Underground with Sett In My Ways: A Badger's Tail" is a unique and seminal work that is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking, one of those unique literary works that lingers in the mind long after the book is set back upon the shelf.

The Chinese Secrets for Success
YuKong Zhao
1644 Anna Catherine Drive
Orlando, FL 32828
Morgan James Publishing
4410 E Claiborne Square, Suite 334
Hampton VA 23666-2071
9781614485353, $17.95,

Synopsis: "The Chinese Secrets for Success: Five Inspiring Confucian Values" offers fresh ideas and practical guidance based on five Confucianism values as they relate to career aspiration, education, money management, family, and friendship. These are the untold secrets behind the rise of China and the success of Asian Americans. Examples are provided for what Confucianism-influenced Chinese families do differently when it comes to parenting, money management, family management, and friendship in their pursuit of a high-quality education, good career, and prosperous life. Using an insightful cross-cultural perspective, "The Chinese Secrets for Success" advocates a balanced approach that combines the strengths of Confucian values and American culture replete with sensible solutions that are refreshing, distinctive, and effective.

Critique: Deftly written, superbly organized and presented, "The Chinese Secrets for Success" is as informed and informative, as it is thoughtful, and thought-provoking, making it very highly recommended for personal and community library self-help and self-improvement collections. A unique and seminal work, "The Chinese Secrets for Success" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

The Coven Of The Spring
Jeff Lovell
TotalRecall Publications
1103 Middlecreek
Friendswood, TX 77546
9781590951132, $27.95,

Synopsis: Grace DeRosa, a gifted research chemist, her husband Jime and their seventeen year old daughter Crissy, find a hidden spring in the woods near Salem Massachusetts. She discovers that the consumed water imparts unique and fearful powers that lead to the ability to read minds, create terrifying mental pictures and force the user's will upon others.

Critique: A deftly crated, complexly woven, highly originally novel of fantasy and suspense, "The Coven Of The Spring" is a thoroughly entertaining work of literate fiction that will engage and entertain its readers from beginning to end. An unexpected bonus is the provision of perceptive insights into the old Salem witch trials. Author Jeff Lovell demonstrates a considerable and polished literary talent that may well compel his readers to seek out his other works listed on the TotalRecall Publications web site at It should be noted that "The Coven Of The Spring" is also available in paperback (9781590951149, $19.95) and in an ebook edition (9781590951156, $9.99).

Marcus Sakey
Thomas & Mercer
Amazon Digital Publishing
9781611099690, $14.95,

Synopsis: In Wyoming, a little girl reads people's darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They're called "brilliants," and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in - and betray his own kind.

Critique: A roller coaster of a read, "Brilliance" is a deftly crafted and complex novel that will grip and hold the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end. Author Marcus Sakey has a very special gift for spinning a story laced liberally with memorable characters and observations that linger in the mind long after the novel is ended and set back upon the shelf. "Brilliance" is original, entertaining, and highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Brilliance" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

Record of Miraculous Events in Japan
Burton Watson, translator
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, NY, NY 10023-7015
9780231164214, $24.50,

Synopsis: The Nihon ryoiki, is a collection of setsuwa, or "anecdotal" tales, compiled by a monk in late-eighth- or early-ninth-century Japan, that records the spread of Buddhist ideas in Japan and the ways in which Buddhism's principles were adapted to the conditions of Japanese society. Beginning in the time before Buddhism was introduced to Japan, the text captures the effects of the nation's initial contact with Buddhism -- brought by emissaries from the king of the Korean state of Paekche -- and the subsequent adoption and dissemination of these new teachings in Japanese towns and cities.

The Nihon ryoiki provides a crucial window into the ways in which Japanese Buddhists began to make sense of the teachings and texts of their religion, incorporate religious observances and materials from Korea and China, and articulate a popularized form of Buddhist practice and belief that could extend beyond monastic centers. The setsuwa genre would become one of the major textual projects of classical and medieval Buddhism, with nearly two dozen collections appearing over the next five centuries. The Nihon ryoiki serves as a vital reference for these later works, with the tales it contains finding their way into folkloric traditions and becoming a major source for Japanese authors well into the modern period.

Critique: An extensive and informative introduction by Harou Shirane (Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and Culture, Columbia University) will be particularly appreciated by those new to Japanese Buddhism. Academician and translator Burton Watson has done an impressive work in making these Buddhist stories accessible to an American readership. A seminal work of scholarship, "Record of Miraculous Events in Japan" will prove to be invaluable to students of Buddhism and a unique, cored addition to academic library Buddhist Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "Record of Miraculous Events in Japan" is also available in a Kindle edition ($20.95).

Death In The Ashes
Albert A. Bell, Jr.
Perservance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745323, $15.95,

Synopsis: A few years after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, where he lost his adoptive father and mentor, Pliny the Younger is asked by his friend Aurelia to help her husband Calpurnius, who has been accused of murder in Naples. He has solved previous crimes, but never before has so much time and distance elapsed before his arrival on the murder scene...nor has he carried so much emotional baggage. With the help of his wisecracking sidekick Tacitus, he now must investigate cunning plots by some descendants of Augustus, which include murders and babies switched at birth. One fortunate circumstance in Pliny's detective activities is that the hardened ash crust makes good impressions of hand- and foot-prints. But now, for the first time, Pliny must swallow his phobias and ghastly memories and face a deadly challenge in the ruins of a buried villa.

Critique. Author Albert A. Bell Jr. is a master literary craftsman as evidenced by his deftly written historical mystery set in the culture and era of ancient Rome. "Death In The Ashes" is the fourth of these eloquently crafted mysteries. All of which are thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections, in addition to "Death In The Ashes", the Pliny mysteries include "All Roads Lead To Murder" (9781932158427, $17.95); "The Blood Of Caesar" (9781932158823, $17.95); and "The Corpus Conundrum" (9781932158960, $17.95).

Flying A Kite
Ian Kingsley
101 Broadway, Bournemouth, BH6 4EJ, UK
9781782993704, $14.95,

Synopsis: Money always solved everything for multi-millionaire Aldo Galliano. So when faced with imminent death and the need to decide between cryonic preservation or faith in God and an afterlife, he offers a 1m British pound prize for the most convincing argument 'for' or 'against' God. Enter Bruce Kramer, a dropout theology graduate, who strives to consolidate religion and science by revealing links between creation and evolution, and explaining mysteries as diverse as the Garden of Eden and the wise men's guiding star. But dangerous rivals aim to prevent his success. With locations including Bath, Rome, Lake Garda, Tenerife, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, this fascinating novel draws the reader deeply into the excitement of Bruce's squabbling research team, his untimely romantic entanglements, and the compelling theories pursued by a cast of engaging but eccentric characters. Subtly combining the spiritual discernment of C. S. Lewis, the humour and rich characterization of Peter Carey, and all the twists and turns of a mystery thriller, the author brings us an entertaining and unforgettable tale. But beware. Like one of Galliano's favourite lattes, while it might appear frothy on the surface, a high caffeine brew lurks deep below that may keep you awake at night... thinking.

Critique: Ian Kingsley's "Flying A Kite" clearly documents the literary talent of its author. Deftly written, original, genuinely entertaining, iconoclastic, "Flying A Kite is a rewarding and entertaining read from beginning to end and highly recommended for personal and community library Contemporary Fiction collections. Of special note is the author's own web site at that is packed with helpful information for aspiring writers seeking to create their own memorable literary works.

The Last Stand Of Daronwy
Clint Talbert
Barking Rain Press
PO Box 822674, Vancouver, WA 98682
9781935460565, $13.95,

Synopsis: Twin Hills is a dying forest in an abandoned Texas oil field, now skirted by a residential neighborhood. Its protector is an ancient oak tree called Daronwy, who has turned the forest's pain into a dark magic that it hopes can keep the remaining trees safe from further harm. The spell was working, too - until a young boy from the nearby neighborhood, Jeremy Trahan, is drawn to the woods in search of the magic he senses instinctively. By finding the magic, Jeremy hopes it will help him escape the boredom and bullies that plague his life - just like in all the books he's read. But as he gets closer to discovering the gateway to the other world that the spell hides, land developers descend on the fragile forest with bulldozers and chainsaws. Will Jeremy seize the chance to leave his mundane world behind, or will he stand and fight for his haven?

Critique: For a debut novel, "The Last Stand Of Daronwy" by Clint Talbert must be considered an impressive success. A deftly woven, complex, original fantasy story that engages the readers total attention from beginning to end, "The Last Stand Of Daronwy" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library YA fiction collections. It should also be noted that "The Last Stand Of Daronwy" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.95).

Wiggle Room
Darden North
Sartoris Literary Group
c/o MM Book Publicity
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274
Nashville, TN 37203
9780989318624, $19.95,

Synopsis: Brad Cummins is an Air Force surgeon who returns from overseas deployment after serving four months at the height of the Iraq War, during which he fails to save an injured soldier but mends the GI's attacker. He endures rigid criticism from his peers, yet survives the medical tribunal's investigation. Back in Jackson, Mississippi, still blaming himself for returning the insurgent to the killing fields, Cummins discovers his look-alike brother shot to death and is certain that he was the intended target. Both the police and Brad's fiancee discount his fears as paranoia, forcing Brad to consult a psychiatrist. Then his fiancee is found murdered in his apartment. There is no doubt in his mind that he is marked for murder.

Synopsis: Darden North is one of those writers who pays meticulous attention to getting the detail right in the course of his riveting thrillers and "Wiggle Room" is no exception. A deftly woven and compelling story populated by memorable characters, and also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99), "Wiggle Room" is a solidly written novel that would make an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. Also very highly recommended reading are his three earlier thriller novels: House Call (Kindle, $6.99); Points of Origin (Kindle, $6.99); and Fresh Frozen (Kindle, $6.99).

A Clean Pair of Hands
Oscar Reynard
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781483650364, $19.99,

Synopsis: Members of one modern French family carve out their individual lifestyles, with dramatic consequences. For families and presidents who live dangerously close to an edge where they may lose control, those consequences are not always direct or immediate. They can strike suddenly, unexpectedly and in many cases retrospectively. In a modern society it is increasingly harder to keep dirty secrets, and knowledge of corruption in public or personal life trickles down to every individual, so one could assume that if it is known about and tolerated, it must be OK. But inevitably there will be consequences - often unexpected and unprepared for.

Critique: In "A Clean Pair of Hands", author Oscar Reynard has written a deftly crafted, complex, and sophisticated novel where the unfolding story is told from diverse viewpoints. As engaging as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "A Clean Pair of Hands" is highly recommended reading and would make an excellent addition to community, college, and university Contemporary Fiction collections.

Demon Bastards
Clinton Williams
Biographical Publishing Company
95 Sycamore Drive
Prospect, CT 06712-1493
1929882890, $16.95,

Synopsis: Cain and Lemuel are hybrid immortals who are half demon and half human. They are mortal enemies, and have been for thousands of years. Cain's the evil one, and Lemuel the righteous one. Cain attempts many times to corrupt the whole world in order to rule it, whereas Lemuel manages to foil his plots many times. They are heading towards the ultimate confrontation prophesied as Armageddon.

Critique: In "Demon Bastards", author Clinton Williams has deftly crafted a truly engaging fantasy novel laced with elements of history and suspense. The result is an engaging and entertaining read from beginning to end, making "Demon Bastards" highly recommended to supernatural thrillers and occult tinged action/adventure story enthusiasts. It should also be noted that "The Demon Bastards" is also available in an ominously priced Kindle edition ($6.66).

White Sugar, Brown Sugar
Michael A. Pyle
Armstrong Media Group
1655 North Clyde Morris Blvd., Suite 1
Daytona Beach, FL 32117
9780985804411, $15.95,

Synopsis: Set in Daytona Beach, Florida, "White Sugar, Brown Sugar" is the story of an upper middle-class white boy from the peninsula, or beach-side, of the Inland Waterway, and a black boy of lesser means, who lives west of the railroad tracks, where Blacks were required to live, become good friends, in spite of the racial separation in effect in the 60's in the south. David "Jude" Armstrong (the white boy) and Roosevelt Harris (the black boy) meet at a basin of a yacht club. The boys meet various times over the years. The tranquility of Jude Armstrong's safe, upper middle-class white world ends when his alcoholic mother tosses his father out of the house. Roosevelt Harris's life has never been tranquil. He has grown up with his grandparents. He has never known a father, and his mother is a heroin addict who disappears for weeks at a time, and is incarcerated frequently. Neither boy understands the racial issues of the time. Both boys fully understand the misery and difficulties that arise from abuse of alcohol and drugs, and both swear they will never end up in that situation, yet they both follow the same path. Eventually, Jude's father, Lansing Armstrong, an attorney, helps the boys escape criminal prosecution for drug-related crimes, and becomes a guiding light for both boys. Roosevelt grasps sobriety much sooner and easier than Jude does. As the founder of a successful restaurant business, he eventually places both Roosevelt and Jude in control of the business. Jude and Roosevelt struggle to overcome their prior problems, and eventually lead normal and successful lives. White Sugar, Brown Sugar follows their loss of innocence, submergence to the depths of desperation and eventual emergence as recovering adults.

Critique: "White Sugar, Brown Sugar" is a superbly crafted novel replete with historically accurate details of a racially charged decade in the American South. As thoughtful and thought provoking as it is grittily accurate and engaging from beginning to end, "White Sugar, Brown Sugar" is highly recommended reading and would prove to be a welcome addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections.

The Interpretations
David Shaw Mackenzie
Sandstone Press
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7
Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9781908737267, $16.95,

Synopsis: The police believe that Tom Kingsmill killed himself by jumping off a bridge but Mike Delvan is convinced he is still alive. To solve this mystery Mike will not only have to excavate the past but examine the fears, prejudices, and secrets of the people of his hometown, Dalmore. This carefully paced, illuminating novel explores, with sensitivity and humor, the complexity of life in a small town where everyone knows everyone else and where affection and friendship stray towards separation, deception, and loss.

Critique: "The Interpretations" is a tautly written contemporary novel that clearly documents David Shaw Mackenzie as an especially skilled author able to craft memorable characters and embed them into a riveting story that will capture and keep the readers total attention from beginning to end. A very highly recommended and entertaining read, "The Interpreations" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.79).

Conquistador of the Useless
Joshua Isard
Cinco Puntos Press
701 Texas, El Paso, Texas 79901
9781935955542, $16.95,

Synopsis: Joshua Isard's debut novel is a hoot. Our hero Nathan Wavelsky moves into the burbs with his wife. Life is good. He's a successful slacker. He doesn't want to rock the boat. His definition of a good time is listening to his favorite bands on his iPod and staring at the grass and the poplar trees in his backyard. As a mid-level corporate manager, he does what his bosses tell him. If they want somebody fired, he fires them. No questions asked. But the boat does start to rock. He innocently gives a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle to a teenage girl and his neighbors are righteously appalled. His wife's hormones start to tango and now she wants a baby. Sure, he enjoys sex, but that doesn't mean he wants a baby in the house. Worse, his best friend wants him to climb Mount Everest. Nathan likes to camp and hike, but climbing the Himalayas? He could die, for God's sake. He just wants to be left alone. But no chance. Shit begins to happen.

Joshua Isard developed and is the director of Arcadia University's low-residency MFA Creative Writing program. Since the program is high-tech and has a study abroad component, it gives him a chance to enjoy two of his favorite things at work: travel and Apple products. His short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and in the anthologies The Lie of the Land and Outlandish Affairs. He lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two cats.

Critique: It's sometimes said that those who can't - teach. Clearly that's not the case with Joshua Isard (director of the MFA Creative Writing program, Arcadia University) as his debut novel "Conquistador of the Useless" is a literary gem that captures the reader's total and rapt attention from beginning to end. Funny, witty, bright and brilliant, "Conquistador of the Useless" is a deftly written entertainment that is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library contemporary fiction collections.

Jack Mason

Richard's Bookshelf

Final Conflict - A Tale of Two Witnesses
Kenneth Ziegler
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403329, $14.99

Supernatural Technology, Prophetic Events, the Darkness of Evil that Lead to the Great Tribulation

"The Final Conflict - A Tale of Two Witnesses" the fifth and final book in the "Tears of Heaven series is an action packed, adrenaline pumping drama of the darkness of evil and the truth that God's ultimate purposes will not be thwarted.

Kenneth Ziegler skillfully brings together fictional characters, factual events of Biblical prophecy, futuristic technology, insights from science, elements from science fiction, and fantasy to creatively explain one of many interpretations of prophetic end-time revelation.

"Final Conflict" is a cutting edge, non-preachy, presentation of the Gospel Message. Ziegler's characters reveal a respect for individual seekers by carefully listening to their questions and opinions out of sincere concern; this approach opens an opportunity to share how their needs can be met through Jesus the promised Savior.

Readers may come from one of various interpretations of end-time prophecies described in the Bible. Whichever this may be "The Final Conflict" and Ziegler's "unconventional" but Biblically based interpretation "may spark criticism and healthy debate." However, the book is a refreshing reminder that salvation is based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. "The Final Conflict" is entertaining, thought provoking, and an example of good story telling from a broad context of universal appeal.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Praying to Change Your Life Facilitator's Guide
Suzette T. Caldwell
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768441994, $39.99

Christ Centered Teaching from His Model Prayer

The Praying to Change Your Life Facilitator's Guide provides detailed steps for implementing each of the nine lessons of the course. Two DVD discs are included which feature Suzette T. Caldwell as facilitator of the series. She leads the participants with Biblically based, articulate, relevant teaching on a life changing approach to prayer.

The course centers on the model prayer of Jesus as being the Lord's: because He said it, it is God centered, practical and productive, transformational, producing faith, is relational, and defeats the power of the devil and it produces kingdom results.

Caldwell carefully presents basic Bible doctrines to build evidence of the purpose and importance of prayer in an authoritative and convincing, presentation. Her material is well organized. She skillfully presents complex concepts and Biblical truths in simple terms, easy to assimilate and understand. Everyday illustrations are introduced to reinforce the scripture truths included. I appreciated the way Suzette portrayed Jesus as a man's man and conveyed the idea of an individual's prayer becomes the command center for Christian living.

At the beginning of each new session Suezette gives an excellent review of each of the previous lessons to reestablish the meaning of prayer as well as clear instructions for the ensuing week's assignment and expectations.

The program incorporates a balance of effective graphic power points and lectures to command and maintain a powerful presentation that captures the attention of the participant.

Praying to Change Your Life Facilitator's Guide is highly recommended for small group use by incorporating in the church educational program, as a prayer emphasis for the whole church, or for use as an important resource in Bible college and seminary curriculum.
A complimentary copy of this material was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Praying to Change Your Life - Small Group Edition
Suzette T. Caldwell
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Spartanburg, PA 17257
9780768442007, $24.99

Christ Centered Teaching from the Model Prayer He Taught His Disciples

The Praying to Change Your Life course includes this student guide which is designed to provide instruction, thought provoking prayer exercises that stimulate a spirit of expectancy and a prayerful attitude of awe for God's majesty and His omnipotent power to perform His promise to meet our needs and to hear and answer our prayers. Personal stories and powerful testimonies of miraculous answers to specific prayers are used to help the reader experience a more effective prayer life. The power guide material encourages small group participation and practical personal application.

Pastor Cadwell identifies and carefully develops six different areas of concern from the model prayer the Lord Jesus used to tech His disciples to pray.

Intimate Praise and Worship
Praying God's Will
Praying Your Needs
Praying for Forgiveness
Praying for Protection
Kingdom Praise and Worship

There are also sample model prayers drawn from the scriptures that follow the pattern mentioned above with suggestion for personalizing.

Suzette's writing reveals the vibrant reality of the potential and power of a life intentional about incorporating prayer, praise, and worship at its core. I strongly recommend the book for every believer desirous of improving the effectiveness of their prayer life.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Searching for Tom Sawyer: How Parents and Congregations Can Stop the Exodus of Boys from the Church
Tim Wright
WestBow Press
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, Indiana 47403
9781449786205, $13.95,

Challenging Boys to Become Heroic Men - Followers of Jesus

Tim Wright's book Searching for Tom Sawyer: How Parents and Congregations Can Stop the Exodus is highly endorsed by highly respected church and ministry leaders, educators, life coaches, and businessmen.

At a time when we are seeing the alarming number of an estimated 70% of the young men raised in the church abandoning church involvement in their teens and twenties Tim Wright carefully analyzes the problem and offers positive solutions to the challenge.

Tim's writing is:

Articulate, timely, and relevant; Well researched and documented; Diagnostic and analytical; Practical and Engaging; A clarion call to action

A helpful appendix provides suggestions supplementary lessons for parents and class coaches and suggestions for additional, books and programs that reinforce the principles and concepts introduced throughout the book.

Tim's credentials include over twenty-five years as a church pastor, as an established writer, and as a trainer of pastors, Christian educators, and church leaders. The core focus of Tim's message is a challenge and call for: "Parents and congregations, partnering together to lead our boys into a heroic quest to follow Jesus."

Searching for Tom Sawyer is must reading for of every pastor, youth director, family counselor, and Christian parent.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

A Fax from Heaven, Gift Edition
Faye Aldridge
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403473, $9.99

Dreams, Visions, and Encounters with God

A Fax from Heaven is made up of stories the lessons learned along the way in one family's spiritual journey. Faye Aldridge shares from her heart how God met her in times of testing in hope of helping others find hope and comfort, assurance of an afterlife, and the reality of God's presence and communication today.

Each chapter presents a story with a clear message of:

Divine Intervention - an unexplainable occurrence
A demonstration of God's loving concern for the individual
An evidence of the reality of a personal relationship with God revealed through His Son, Jesus
Spiritual promptings of God's gifts delivered by the Holy Spirit

Faye has amazing insights into Scriptures often overlooked in casual reading, powerful promises available for the Christian today. These dreams, visions, and encounters describe how dreams can be heavenly forms of communication, often symbolic of things to come.

A Fax from Heaven is a rich reading experience. The events and supernatural occurrences, divine visitations, and miraculous answers to prayer provide excellent conversational starters, offering inspiration, encouragement, and hope to the hurting, and to those searching for peace of mind or an assurance of their destiny in the afterlife. This attractive edition makes it ideal for gift giving.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Supernatural Man: Learn to Walk in Revelatory Realms of Heaven
Adam F. Thomason
Destiny Image Publishers Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403428, $14.99

Remarkable Revelatory Teaching on Supernatural Living

Adam Thompson boldly proclaims a message that moves today's Christian from an ordinary or halfhearted dedication and humdrum experience to an exciting adventure in supernatural living.

Kingdom truths and revelatory teaching from Jesus in the Gospels, the Apostle Paul, and the Prophets and writers of the Old Testament are accompanied by faith building, heartwarming stories of God's intervention, transformed lives, healing, and prophetic fulfillment. Thompson shares his own testimony of personal encounter in the heavenly realms, dreams, visions, and Holy Spirit empowerment.

Scripture references and key concepts are highlighted for easy recognition and emphasis through the use of indentation of passages and through the use of bold print. These techniques provide the reader with additional visual impact, a reminder for later review and are effective for immediate assimilation. Chapter end notes add to the authority and credibility of Thompson's writing as well as providing additional suggestions for future reading and study.

The Supernatural Man: Learn to Walk in Revelatory Realms of Heaven motivates and equips readers and Christ follower desirous of experiencing God ministering through them in the power of the Holy Spirit as "carriers of God's glory" in a global awakening and a harvest of souls.

A complimentary copy of this book was received for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Elevating Excellence - Defining Choices that Lead to Relevance
Curtis Wallace
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403435, $14.99

How Relevance and Choices Can Help You Achieve Success in Business, Ministry, and Life

Evaluating Excellence - Defining Choices that Lead to Relevance, as the subtitle suggests, defines ten choices that when applied will lead to relevance. Curtis Wallace is recognized for his cutting edge leadership skills and his personal dedication for elevating excellence among the leadership of faith-based non-profit organizations. The many principles introduced in this book address leadership in the Church, however they are also applicable for business ventures, as well as personal achievement and ministry.

Wallace is articulate and knowledgeable. His writing style is direct, well organized, and formatted in a reader friendly and easy to assimilate style.

The book is divided into two sections. In the "Know Yourself" section, I found the concepts of the big idea, ability to focus, and the power of the brand especially interesting. Section two covers the area of active choices. The chapters are crammed with practical counsel on the need for understanding your primary focus, the need for a coach, and the importance of working as a team.

Elevating Excellence - Defining Choices that Lead to Relevance provides the tools for making right choices that will result in relevance, impact lives, transform your organization, and raise your personal standard of excellence.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Relentless Pursuit - Awakening Hearts to Burn for Him
Antonio Baldovinos
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403442, $15.99

Important Keys to Intensify and Maintain a Passionate Walk with God

Antonio Baldovinos guides his reader on an exciting life changing spiritual journey in his book Relentless Pursuit - Awakening Hearts to Burn for Him. He shares glimpses into his life story, his calling, and his destiny. It is his prayer that as you read the book your heart will be awakened and ignited with passion as you realize God is pursuing you, desirous of your wholehearted response to the reality of His relentless pursuit and fervent love.

The pages are filled with profound quotes and references from dozens of highly respected contemporary and classic writers on the subjects of pursuing God, knowing Him and experiencing His presence. These are well documented in the chapter end notes and provide the reader with excellent additional resources for future reading and study.

Antonio encourages the reader to pursue God's presence with a reckless abandon, to abide in proximity to the heart of God, and to take a deeper look into pursing holiness, and cultivating a supernatural prayer life. He takes a deeper look into the Christian's positional identity, as the Bride of Christ, intimacy with God, and fasting.

Relentless Pursuit is informational and inspirational. Baldovinos' cutting edge writing style is sure to impact a generation of contemporary Christian leaders as well as new readers for generations to come. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Paper Boy
Stan Crader
610 East Delano Street, Suite 104
Tucson, AZ 85705
9781604944761, $21.95,

Growing Up in Small Town Rural America during the Dramatic Changes that Came About in the Sixties. The decade of the sixties brought about unrest and change as opposition to the U. S. involvement in the Vietnam War escalated. Even the small towns across rural America felt the impact brought about by racial tension, public demonstrations, and societal challenges.

Paper Boy tells the story as seen through the eyes of young Tommy as he delivers papers to the homes and businesses of Colby, Missouri during one critical year. Tommy got the first glimpse of the daily headlines and picked up the local news (town gossip) firsthand all along the route.

Stan Crader has a keen gift of observation and storytelling. His writing captures the unique flavor and nature of growing up in a small town in rural America. Crader's dominant characters move the story along at a unique slower pace, representative of his characters, the era and small town setting of the locale, while creating a compelling story line that kept me eagerly reading as I did not want to miss one word of the growing sense of intrigue, mystery, and suspense.

Paper Boy is a character driven novel. I However, Crader uses of a balance of event structure and has a good understanding of the power exerted by his dominant characters. He has a gift for skillfully developing well-crafted colorful descriptions of every person introduced.

I enjoyed Crader's creative dialog filled with juvenile "playground barbs" and the way this adds realism to the character of the protagonist and his friends. I especially appreciated his imaginative dialog and descriptive word pictures of the action during the combined football practice among the sixth graders who are thrown together with the junior high team. Another fun filled incident described Colby's marching band and the playful humor used in the conversation between Tommy and his budding romantic interest, Melody.

Paper Boy will be enjoyed by aficionados of Americana, coming of age stories, and memoirs. It will also appeal to anyone growing up during the sixties, as well as young adult readers of an emerging generation. This is a book that should be in school libraries, it is rich in examples of the core values of love for country, compassion, responsibility, perseverance, and faith.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Activist Faith - From Him and For Him
Dillon Burroughs, Daniel Darling, and Dan King
P. O. Box 30051
Colorado Springs, CO 80935
9781612913919, $14.99,

Dillon Burroughs, Daniel Darling, and Dan King, co-founders of the Activist Faith Movement collaborate in "Activist Faith - From Him and For Him. The authors skillfully blend engaging stories, Biblical principles, and carefully presented analysis of issues facing an increasingly global society. They have a united goal to challenge the reader to rethink their world view, their involvement in politics, and their cutting edge responsibility as a Christian to important societal issues in light of faith and culture, and to encourage Christians to live out what they believe.

The book is written for an emerging generation of Christians as well as for Christians at every walk of life. Each chapter is packed with informational tools, resources, guidelines, encouragement and support presenting ways to influence and become actively involved in meeting the needs of the hurting.

Well-developed chapter notes provide the reader with additional reading and equipping tools for joining others in communities of faith to reach out locally with the love and compassion of Jesus, God's Son, the motivation of our worship and service.

"The Activist Faith" has given me a new appreciation for the complexity of issues of immigration, poverty, homelessness, prison reform, education, and the environment.

A complimentary review copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

All That's Familiar: How to Remain in your Home and Age in Place
Anne R. Rachin
Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
150 Willow Pt., Abbeville, SC 29620
9781937327156, $14.95,

Anne R. Rachin has worked in the home care field for thirty years. She and her husband started Home Health Care in North Providence, Rhode Island. Her background includes a B.A. in Psychology, with experience working in community clinics and with Vietnam vets. Her passion is assisting aging adults with home care so they can remain in the places they love.

Anne Rachin writes compassionately of her goal in life, which is to assist aging adults in Rhode Island and Massachusetts with home care needs. She makes an excellent case for the elderly remaining at home, as nursing home rates have skyrocketed past the ability of most people, and the government, to pay. Nursing homes provide a regimented life for the elderly, and there are usually no familiar faces to add to the quality of life. Thus, most people die at an accelerated rate in nursing homes. Home Health Care can enable the elderly to remain at home with a fraction of the cost of institutional care, and Rachin provides many examples:

"We matched Bill and Dee, an aide experienced with clients suffering a chronic progressive disease. Dee was scheduled two hours per day, twice a week. Tuesday was designated laundry day. On Thursday, Dee vacuumed, dusted, cleaned the bathroom and kitchen and washed the floors. When leaving, Dee also book Bill's garbage to the trash barrel. Bill adapted to the new routine quickly. Looking forward to Dee's twice-weekly scheduled visits, Bill relished talking about what he did with his grandchildren or shared what he learned at his support group meeting."

Anne Rachin's "All That's Familiar: How to Remain in your Home and Age in Place" should be an eye-opener for baby boomers, who are now aging and developing health issues. Her love of the elderly positively shines through the book.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Psalmist, I am
Ray Abner
West Bow Press
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449786809, $10.95,

In reading this book, I thought, what is our author wanting us to see, to feel, to experience from his work? After all, we could easily pick up our own Bible and read the Psalm, but he wanted us to do more.. I believe one of his motives was for us to understand the writer of these words was a person, who felt, cried, laughed and lived their life just as we do, with perhaps some exception. As they journeyed through every thought, every action, every day was filled with the Creator. He was included in their emotions, their work, their relationships, their past and their future. He was seen in nature, in space, in every part of their life. This is what I feel author, Ray Abner, wants us to see as well. He wanted us to search our hearts and join them with God every moment of our life, in the good and the bad, the hard and the easy, the dark and the light. He wanted us to know He is always there. I pray that God blesses this work and that it touches many with the love of God.

If You Were Me And Lived In South Korea
Carole P. Roman
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781481062343, $9.99

I have had to honor of reading and reviewing several books from Ms. Roman's wonderful series, "If You Were Me And Lived In..... I was not disappointed as I read about South Korea. The cover is perfect, the children adorable, and the information about their lives very well written. I liked the way the story words were printed in white over a dark green surface with the picture on the other side. As I expected the illustrations were great and of course brought the story to life. You will also find a list of some words and how to say them on the back page. I can just see children giving this a try, and I'm sure they will. All in all, this series, and this book, would be a great addition to any children's reading world. Recommended.

A Different Little Doggy
Heather Whittaker, author
Scott Alberts, illustrator
Pen-Tech Professional LLC
PO Box 67 Greenville, WI 54952
9780982096215, $9.99,

Being different in any area often times can rattle our world, whether it is with ourselves or others. However, if we realize that being different is not bad, merely a situation that simply needs understanding and tolerance. In this well written work by author, Heather Whittaker, we meet, Taz, a wonderful little dog. Taz shares her life with the reader from being small, to having pins put in to fix her knees, and even to going blind. Taz is not one to complain, feel sorry for herself, or blame others. No, she works to overcome and live her life to the fullest. What a gal and role modal she is.

This is a wonderful book with top of the notch, colorful, and real to life illustrations that draw you right into the storyline. Using a love-able dog, our author shows how we should accept ourselves, and others for what and who we are. The story shows that just because someone may not be able to do all others can, does not make them less of a person (or doggy), nor would it make them less of a friend. It teaches acceptance and love in a warm and wonderful way. I enjoyed this read and feel it has a very important lesson for young and old, told in an upbeat and joyous manner, that will leave you feeling good inside. Well done! Recommended.

Wild Edibles
Sergei Boutenko
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781583946022, $19.95,

I was really impressed with the knowledge this young man has. I got the book out of curiosity. There is a lot of detailed information on 60 wild plants. He gives you all the information you will need to get started. He also tells you why you should be eating these weeds, besides the fact that they are free. He not only tells you what to look for, but where to look, and what you will need. He tells you all about the poisonous plants to avoid, as well as, giving you a field guide for edible plants and recipes to enjoy them. He gives detailed nutritional information, and pictures of the plants, leaves, bark, flowers, and/or seeds. I never knew, I could eat a Dandelion. I didn't know that I would want to. I'm not sure that I am ready to start actually tasting these plants, but I am glad to know I can if I had to. I was a bit concerned that maybe, being as I process things a little slower now, that I might make a mistake and eat something inedible. Well, I was happy to see at the end of the book is a website and you tube links. So, you can see videos of what these plants look like.(if pictures aren't enough) For those of you who do not have the time to spend on researching at your computer, Sergei has an app for that. Yes, an app to help identify what plants you can eat! I recommend this book for everyone! It's great to get a taste of what our ancestors had to learn the hard way!

Cloning Around
Dee Rose
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478704232, $19.95,

In this excellent read by author, Dee Rose, we meet, Robert Bassett, an FBI agent who is about to work the case of his life. Scientist, Dr. VanHellman, is cloning people, his objective, to rule the world. The Doctor is a very evil man, truly an insane person who will stop at nothing to achieve his life-long plan, including gruesome murders. You will be shocked as each character is revealed and the part they play in this drama. Will FBI Bassett be able to stop him, and is he somehow connected to all these events? This is one read that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the stunning conclusion.

I have to say, I love stories like this one because I know they could very easily happen in the world we live in. This book is a real page turner that will you not soon forget. Well done, recommended.

Still Well
Michael Phillip Cash
Red Feather Publishing
133 Steep Mountain Ct.
Livermore, CO 80536
9781484196090, $24.95,

At first I thought I would not like this book. It starts out taking us into the lives of a family who has just lost the mother. We travel along as Paul shares his memories, his grief and his concern for his children, but than there is a turn. Paul begins to have night terrors, as does one of his children. It seems there is some 'other world' connections with the family that is touching them all, even spreading into his work as a Realtor. One house is drawing him as he feels the answer to what is happening can be fond there. The suspense builds as you are pulled into the paranormal of his life, the secrets that are revealed, and the surprising outcome. It's quite a ride, with a very good ending.

I enjoyed this read once I got into it. I loved the locals and the way the author described them giving you a mind's eye picture of where you were. The characters were also well done and the description of them definitely brought them to life. The story had sorrow for sure, but it was packed with suspense, mystery, paranormal events and a satisfying ending. I recommend this read, I believe you will enjoy it.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Seven Deadly Sins
Alex Clark & Rosalind Porter, editors
Union Books
7 Greenland Street, London, England, NW1 0ND
Dalyn Miller Public Relations (publicity)
9781908526151, $24.95,

Collaborative compiled and jointly edited by Alex Clark and Rosalind Porter, "The Seven Deadly Sins: A Celebration of Virtue and Vice" is a compact, 244 page compendium comprised of contributions by seven able contributors. The essays consists of Sloth by Todd McEwen; Wrath by John Sutherland; Envy by Ali Smith; Gluttony by Martin Rowson; Lust by David Flusfeder; and Vanity by Nicola Barker. As informed and informative as they are thoughtful and thought-provoking, the essays making up ""The Seven Deadly Sins: A Celebration of Virtue and Vice" is thoroughly engaging from beginning to end and a highly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library collections.

Character Assassination
Jon Edward Gruber, author & illustrator
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781413471328, $29.00,

"Character Assassination" is a tongue-in-cheek collection of witty or ironic observations, liberally laced with humor and truth, and enthusiastically illustrated with uneven drawings and painstaking artworks. Here we have such gems of wisdom as "The realization of freedom should never be misconstrued by the privilege of youth," and "Happiness: Content with the exhaustion following a day lived to its potential." Perhaps identifying the author's outlook is a challenge, perhaps it is irrelevant: the point seems to be to revel in the unexpected. Some sayings are almost recognizable, like "Genuine friendship requires high maintenance to continue. It's probably a lot easier to own a bunch of pets." These sayings are enhanced, or book ended by little stained glass motifs and black and white illustrations with varying moods and messages. One saying that appeals to a far ranging sense of humor is: "What might be cool about heaven is spying down on everyone you knew on earth to find out what they tried hiding from you." Definitely alternative, but with applied restraint and balance, "Character Assassination" is a trifle ambiguous, a bit vain, a bit mysterious, and a lot intriguing. Its subtitle says it all.

John Taylor

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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