Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / MBR Bookwatch

MBR Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 4 April 2014 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Donovan's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf
Lorraine's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf    

Donovan's Bookshelf

Gateway to Intimacy: A Married Couple's Guide to Love, Romance, Passion, and Phenomenal Sex
Ed Gomez
Millstone Press
9780991168606, $16.95,

Gateway to Intimacy: A Married Couple's Guide to Love, Romance, Passion, and Phenomenal Sex isn't your typical couple's guide to sex. For one thing, it doesn't focus on jump-starting the sexual act, but on understanding the principles of intimacy, and how that lays the foundation for sexual expression and relationship satisfaction.

Chapters and exercises revolve around building (or rebuilding) intimacy and a renewed sense of courtship, and that's a refreshing perspective, given how the self-help industry is laden with books focused primarily on achieving sexual gratification. Gomez's focus is on 'Relationship Building Sex', and this approach takes the subject in a whole new direction, differentiating his book from the way intimacy and sex have typically been dealt with.

So what exactly is 'Relationship-Building Sex'? Nobody could describe this concept better than the author's own words: "Relationship-Building Sex is a movement of the heart, mind, and soul that can make manifest the love and devotion spouses seek to express. Through Relationship-Building Sex, the entire sexual engagement becomes orgasmic. Time winds and folds into time, masculine and feminine characteristics become entwined, and a sacred space emerges between this world and the next, in which two souls unite once again as on the wedding day."

This approach is for readers who want to move beyond sexual play into a realm that embraces emotional and spiritual intimacy on a whole new level. It's not for those who seek physical prowess, sexual fantasies or toys to enhance sensation. It's for mature couples seeking new emotional connections. The author suggests that sex, redefined as S.E.X (Sacred Energy Xpression) is one of the vehicles for this transformation. In this, Gateway to Intimacy plays an important role, leading the way to a higher level of interpersonal interaction.

Basically, what Gomez presents, "... is a sophisticated system of marital intimacy that engages the sum total of your life experience and brings that to bear on your marriage." It may be that very few male readers will be open to this - but those who are, will likely find herein the keys to a deeper, more satisfying relationship, with the additional benefit of sex (Relationship-Building Sex) serving as the impetus for achieving some of this advanced level of being!

What makes the difference, of course, is the intent and tone of this "arousal" to action, which requires the husband to lay the foundation of intimacy through caring and understanding. As the author writes, "In order to create an atmosphere of romance, a woman must be lovingly and attentively listened to with heartfelt understanding. She must be given ample time to process her day and put it to rest...In short, she must be romantically wooed and slowly seduced."

Eastern practices such as Tantra and Taoism as well as Karezza (a Western form of sacred sex) have to some extent, elevated intercourse to a spiritual practice. However, Gomez argues that without the foundation of intimacy added into the mix, even these approaches can prove empty as they did for him, when his first marriage ended in divorce.

Gomez's studies have created a program based on Relationship-Building Sex, which goes a step further, providing a basic foundation couples can use to achieve unparalleled intimacy: something Western culture has yet to seriously consider.

Developing intimacy is perhaps the single most important step you can take to firmly establish your relationship and successfully maintain your marriage. For those open to doing the work, Gateway to Intimacy will rekindle romance and fire up the bedroom.

Fair Trials, Legal Process & Other Myths - A Veteran Trial Lawyer's Musings
Robert M. Frisbee
RMF Publishing AZ, LLC
9781467598088, $21.95 U.S. + S&H,

Fair Trials, Legal Process & Other Myths - A Veteran Trial Lawyer's Musings was conceived of two decades ago during the heat of the O.J. Simpson Trial when the author, a trial lawyer himself who was appalled by the misadventures and shoddy lawyering during proceedings, decided to outline both the legal process and routines that differentiate good lawyers from bad.

The result is a wide-ranging discussion of what trial lawyers do daily, how their work can be conducted well or poorly, and how lay readers can discern the difference: quite a different approach from most discussions of the legal process.

For one thing, chapters stem from Frisbee's personal experiences and thus are filled with anecdotes and observations related in the first person from his encounters with peers, judges, and clients. This approach succeeds in creating a lively, readable, often humorous text that blends autobiography with legal observation.

For another, chapters do more than just observe process: they clearly differentiate between good and bad process with specific examples that help readers understand the difference: "...just like in sports, the defense is usually ahead of the offense. My partner Markham thought up the way to answer the conduct question. Besides, it's the truth, and it works. The answer to any questions about the standards of the profession, or quotes from texts or articles, is that they're only guidelines, there are no specific standards. There are general scientific principles which apply, such as chemistry and physics, but medicine is really an art, not a science. There are no specific standards. Every patient is unique and individual, and presents the doctor with unique and individual problems. "

From strategies for dealing with challenging and sometimes unfairly prejudiced judges to trying to purchase a firm, underhanded buyoffs and questionable ethical choices, and cases representing the human follies and ironies of all sides, Fair Trials, Legal Process & Other Myths - A Veteran Trial Lawyer's Musings is especially recommended for general-interest fans of legal proceedings, whether fiction such as John Grisham or nonfiction such as consumer self-help guides, the book relies on the author's experiences inside and outside of the courtroom to shed light on behind-the-scenes processes.

It's astonishing to note the depth and complexity of some of these cases. What one sees in the courtroom is only the tip of the iceberg of the social and political interactions beneath the surface and behind closed doors.

From physicians in court defending malpractice accusations to criminal prosecutors gone awry, Fair Trials, Legal Process & Other Myths is packed with various examples of how lawyers choose to handle cases. The work provides plenty of insights for any reader who wants more than a 'how to conduct yourself in court' read, pairing a lively format with a series of vignettes that deftly capture the realities of the legal process.

Troop 458
Judy Iverson
9781496090492, $8.39 paperback; $0.99 Kindle

Troop 458 opens to a night scene of impending violence in a small town in Illinois, where two female friends with a gun await a man who put a best friend in the hospital in a coma. Unless he confesses his crime, he will die. Troop 458 is all about friendships and attachments that last a lifetime. It's also about heroes, villains, retribution, and a terrible secret that not only links two friends but sets the stage for further actions decades down the line.

The intriguing open act leads to chapters that go back in time to pinpoint the roots of beliefs, actions and reactions, following an evolving friendship and a scouting troop's encounters with the wilderness and each other.

In addition to the close-held big secret there are further challenges from life, from childhood leukemia to an abandoned farmhouse, a mysterious graveyard and an odd mourner, and unsolved murders that invite young sleuths to investigate.

Chapters follow these threads and flush out details about the girls' friendships and growth, creating a compelling young adult read that skillfully follows the uncertainties of romances and the evolution of friendships ties over the years.

Moments of introspection are often set against the backdrop of campfires and camaraderie: "By the time they returned to their campsite, they were tired and hungry. Hot dogs, baked beans and potato chips were devoured in short order and then everyone roasted marshmallows over the campfire.

"I hope we will always be friends," Grace said as the flames licked the black sky. "Why wouldn't we?" Peaches asked.

"Oh, you know, people go away to school or get married and have families and they lose touch with their old friends," Grace replied."

As childhood friendships change and marriages commence, the chaos of childhood traumas begin to fade and Cassie, Peaches and her friends move into adult routines of college, only to find murder again strikes too close to home: this time with the disappearance and untimely demise of Cassie's roommate.

Annual get-togethers keep the friends connected despite life's challenges and eventually life's recovery process reaches out to all - even those who seemed irrevocably lost.

Troop 458 is all about the evolution of friendships against all odds, about these friendships withstanding the tests of time and strife, and about growth and evolution.

Readers seeking high drama may be disappointed: Troop 458 isn't that kind of story. Instead it's like a river: gently winding, with turbulence and turmoil smoothing out in calmer waters. It brings mature young adult and adult readers into the world of girls who ride the tide of life, who grow up to overcome physical and emotional obstacles, and who, in the end, each discover different forms of love and healing.

First Impression: A Shadow Maven Paranormal
Pauline Creeden
AltWit Press
201 George Emerson Lane, Yorktown VA 23693
9781495303944, $7.99, Pages: 170

First Impression opens with a bang: the bang of an owl's beak on the window; and young adult audiences are off and running from its first captivating paragraph: "I watched for the owl with my Hogwarts letter to appear on my 10th birthday, but he never did. So when an owl taps at my bedroom window near midnight six years too late, I am more confused than elated. I had never seen an owl before except in the movies. The street lamp casts a yellow pallor on this one, but still its feathers shine just shy of iridescent. Varying shades of brown and gold weave throughout its wings and cover its back. It pecks again at my window pane with its amber beak."

As Chira's story evolves, readers come to recognize Chira is a realist who longs for a touch of magic in her pragmatic world. Given her strength and determination, she does find that magic; albeit not in places and forms she expects.

All the elements of a captivating story line are cleverly woven into a vivid, memorable plot: there's a haunted schoolhouse, a new transfer student who has a pet owl and a strange past, a stepfather whose vicious tongue and surly ways seek to repress Chira's spirit, and most of all: the spark and fight of a teen determined to get the most out of life.

As Chira becomes friends with the enigmatic Ben and his owl companion, they embark on a journey of discovery and sleuthing that involve them a real investigation that involves the disappearances of teens in a nearby town.

As boundaries between the supernatural and reality blur, the two find themselves on a very strange journey together that reveals hidden truths and requires help from the other side: "Ben's jaw tightens and his voice sounds hard and raspy, somehow even deeper than usual because it's low. "There are only two kinds of haunting. Impressions and Possessions. This is clearly an impression." "Huh?"..."Proof of an impression." Ben leans in. "What she just described was like a movie on replay. The impression of a life was imprinted in the place where violence occurred. That much is obvious. That's the first sort of 'ghost.'"

In such a scenario, Ben's background (having been raised by monks) is not only an oddity; it's an asset offering a rare opportunity for understanding and problem-solving. As he and Chira face down impossible dangers in the course of their adventures, they awaken something deadly that could be from another side. Or, is it human after all?

Satisfying twists and turns of plot keep young adult readers guessing throughout, with curses becoming gifts and back again. Is a demon on the loose, or is it the ugliness of a real world gone amok?

Either way, First Impression succeeds in creating a spellbinding story wrapped around a spunky, irrepressible protagonist and her newfound friend, and creates an absorbing story packed with adventure right up to its emotionally charged, satisfying conclusion.

Murder by Misrule
Anna Castle
Capitol Crime
9780991602506, $13.49,

Historical mystery readers (especially those fond of English settings) take note: Murder by Misrule is a wonderful example of Elizabethan times brought to life with a mystery fueling the setting, and tells of barrister Francis Bacon, who must ferret out clues to a fellow barrister's murder at an inn. There's only a few problems with his method: too many suspects, too many concerns about appearance and social ladders, and too many powerful people in high places are becoming connected to the crime.

But, back up a step. Fans of Sherlock Holmes will find a similar atmosphere in this story which features Bacon and his sidekick Thomas Clarady who, unlike Watson, is actually an unwanted assistant who cares more about social connections than crime-solving. This adds an exquisite taste of complexity to what first appears a typical crime saga, reflecting on not just a murder's possibilities but the underlying motivations and concerns of Elizabethan times.

And those who often associate British atmospheres with 'stodgy' action need look no further than the first sentence to realize that Anna Castle's use of description is far from predictable: "A sudden roar startled Francis Bacon out of his thoughts, making him jump, his shoes actually leaving the ground. He glanced to either side, hoping no one had seen him."

Plus, Bacon is no respected barrister but has actually been banished from court for improper ideas: "All he'd done was have an idea - a perfectly reasonable idea for reforming the English common law - and mention it here and there. He was born to have ideas, he'd been told as much from infancy. But his proposal had created a bit of a stir. The queen didn't like controversy among her courtiers, so she'd banished him until further notice. The punishment far exceeded the crime, but to whom might one complain?"

And so Bacon and his unwelcome assistant actually aren't respected bastions of society nor even welcomed for their investigative skills, but are legal rejects: and Bacon's stumbling upon his old tutor's murder isn't about to help his position in society either.

Yes, it isn't Bacon's job to solve mysteries. But in the course of facing a hindered career and political barriers he becomes an investigator - and what he uncovers makes his prior indiscretions seem like child's play.

In addition to a focus on historical accuracy and atmosphere, Murder by Misrule offers its information in digestible chapters perfect for pick-up-and-put-down browsing. Fueled by strong protagonists whose varying viewpoints of society and events are backed by the author's attention to historical accuracy, the mystery that lies at the center of Murder by Misrule is actually powered by realistic, involving protagonists with different perspectives and motivations for their involvements and actions.

All this lends to a story that holds many facets other murder mysteries don't have: protagonists who display more concerns than the murder at hand, who interact with their societies and settings in specific ways, and who excel in lively interactions based on deduction and personal motivation: "Francis blinked at him then remembered that the boy had not attended university. "Occam's Razor, also known as the lex parsimoniae, states that 'entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.' That is to say, we ought to choose the simplest solution, the one requiring the fewest additional causes or stipulations. In the present matter, it is simpler to assume that one murderer is responsible for all three of the deaths related to Gray's than it is to propose a separate killer for each victim, thereby multiplying the causes or motives."

The result is a blend of Sherlock Holmes and history, and is especially recommended for busy mystery enthusiasts who appreciate both approaches.

Anthony Caplan
Harvard Square Editions
9780989596091, $5.63,

Savior sets the tone for life-altering events in the very first paragraph, blending personal with wider world perspectives in a riveting scene that is repeated (in one form or another) throughout the rest of the story, linking a wife's death to a hole in the sky that opens up nearly unnoticed, and another in a heart that can never be repaired.

And while the novel is titled 'Savior', don't expect the protagonist to be either a religious figure or a hero - at least, not right away. Set in a dystopian near-future, Savior is genre-breaking reading at its best and begins with a father and son on holiday looking to recover from a mother's passing.

It's when they run into a dangerous criminal gang working on a scheme to take the world hostage that the thriller element really heats up, with a kidnapping sparking a desperate search and rescue mission where father and son must both call upon deep reservoirs of courage to survive.

There's an ancient Mayan code revolving around all the matter in the universe, there's a code of love and connection that keeps hope alive under the most impossible of situations, and there's pure evil in a force hell-bent on taking over the world and destroying it.

It's good versus evil with enough mystery, intrigue and twists added in that readers interested in science fiction, mystery, and thriller genres will equally find Savior hard to put down - and that's saying a lot, because mystery readers generally don't cross over into science fiction and thriller readers generally seek a different kind of action atmosphere than either science fiction or mystery typically offers.

There's high-technology in the form of nano-tracking chips, there's motivation on the parts of all protagonists bent on their own personal objectives, and there are family connections that just won't quit, even in the face of death and torture.

Add an evolving father/son relationship under such conditions and you have a fascinating combination of high adventure and interpersonal relationships that keep Savior an exciting, unpredictable read right up to its emotionally charged (and satisfying) conclusion.

Luis Gonzalez
9781477492017, Soft Cover $17.98 / Kindle $3.99

Luz opens in Heaven in 1994, where a divine power is worried that the prophecy concerning his son's second coming is not being carried out on schedule. The stage is set, but the main actor has yet to come aboard.

August 1994 is also the year of the Cuban Revolt, and for the first time the Cuban government is allowing citizens to flee the country in fragile boats. Now narrow the focus to feisty Cuban girl Clara, who is one of many determined to leave her homeland, involving her husband in plans to undertake the risky journey when shocking news changes everything.

In an age of miracles, freedom is elusive, only a step away, and can change at any time. And in the mind of a nineteen-year-old idealist, nothing will change her course short of a miracle, which arrives literally on her doorstep in the form of a visitor who invites her to a higher purpose than even freedom.

Luz is a highly charged saga of change and spirituality. It's filled with talk of patron saints, martyrdom, and dying faith in a world gone wrong, and uses the macrocosm of Cuba as its reference point for events that blossom from this pivot point in time and place.

Clara is a powerful observer of her world and Luis Gonzalez's ability to capture the spirit and sentiments of entrapped Cubans in thrall to their political system is striking: "To live in Cuba was to exist in defeat: daily defeats, nightly defeats, defeats large and small that perpetuated themselves endlessly. Defeats that corroded you from within, and gnawed away at you from without. We were not simply awash in defeat, but drowning in it: in a deluge of dread and disappointment. To continue living here was to thrive in this defeat, and even at my young age, I felt dead inside."

The desperate struggles and dreams of a people are deftly captured in Luz; but its higher calling lies in the story of a savior who brings hope and change not only to Cuba, but to the world. And in traditional accounts of the Second Coming, set in first world nations, the passions of a world gone awry are not nearly as emotional (nor as powerful) as here, in Luz, set in 1990s Cuba.

Clara's journey in many ways mirrors the struggles of Biblical figures as they move through strange new worlds: but even more striking are her reflections of place, experience, and the strange journey she's undertaken: "How I wished this were the ancient city of Crimea rather than the tiny sea village of Cojimar. How I wished I were an ancient Cimmerian rather than a modern-day Cuban. That way I could hide in a shroud of darkness. That way nobody could track my movement from shoreline to street or see me walking side by side with one of the mongrels - except, I was not walking the mongrel, the mongrel was walking me, leading me on some invisible leash to who-knew-where."

As Clara finds her voice at last (as the writer she's always longed to be, but never felt the freedom to pursue in Cuba), she documents this process. As her pregnancy with the much-anticipated Luz progresses, Clara's investigation of her world and its forces merge mystery and promise in a story that will captivate readers to its end.

Make no mistake: this isn't light browsing nor easy leisure reading, but a tome packed with reflections and insights steeped in the culture and conflicts of Cuba.

Clara's perspective weaves with the larger story of revelation and promise, and provides a series of rich passages of impressions and experience that involve readers in impossible situations and insights on a Creator that has a different second coming in mind than Biblical tradition has foreseen.

The result is a striking, captivating, and dense read that unfolds like a flower and blossoms with a predestined heroine whose mother's world collapses and rises again from the fires of destruction, like a phoenix.

Readers who appreciate a fine blend of spiritual and social insight, all held together by the glue of a feisty young protagonist surviving a Third World country, will find Luz a gripping, evocative story.

The Great Game
D.R. Bell
Amazon Kindle
ASIN: B00HGM63II $2.99
Print Version: Createspace $12.99

The Great Game is an international intrigue and thriller piece and is a strong recommendation for readers who enjoy cat-and-mouse games set against the backdrop of set against the backdrop of 2022, a future world in which China and Russia have staged a financial coup against the U.S. dollar.

Now, one might think such a thriller would revolve around the CIA and other agent clashes, but that's one of the delights of The Great Game: its primary protagonist is a computer engineer with no prior ties to politics who finds himself on the run after a chance airport encounter with a friendly stranger immerses him in one of the biggest gambits of his times.

Add an innocent Ukrainian transplant (waitress Maggie) who unwittingly becomes involved and a series of murders that draw ever closer to two ordinary individuals not well versed in either politics or espionage and you have a riveting story line cemented by very strong, believable protagonists.

Herein we arrive at the heart of The Great Game: it's all about realistic protagonists drawn into a plot that thickens like quicksand and just won't let go. The name of the novel comes from a term made famous by Kipling, and pertains to the strategic rivalry between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. This term assumes wider applications on a global scale here, and comes to represent a world-wide struggle for supremacy on many different levels: financial, political, and personal.

Connecting the political to personal realms is a challenging achievement: too often either the politics aren't properly explored, or the protagonists assume one-dimensional proportions in comparison to the wider political arena. Not so in The Great Game, which gives equal attention to both and so creates a novel filled with action, intrigue, and the concerns of two persons who find themselves playing a game they never asked for or thought about.

From the time he is grabbed, thrown into a car, and grilled about names and documents he has no knowledge of to his increasing, puzzling involvement in events that unfold from a single chance meeting, David finds not only his circumstances but his entire life thrown into question: "He simply could not come up with anything else he knew that could possibly be of interest to anybody. His previous project involved upgrading a satellite system for a network of gas stations, and who the hell would care about that? The new aircraft Internet service was the most interesting thing he'd worked on in years. He caught himself thinking again that he'd been wasting his life on stupid projects, but chased the thought away. He had other things to deal with right now."

The kidnappers he's escaped have his computer documents and his computer: soon they will have much more as David's search for answers leads him (and everyone he knows) on a dangerous path.

From booby-trapped houses and explosions to more kidnappings and impossible rescues, The Great Game is replete with high-octane action that just doesn't quit, spiced with touches of realistic insights - as when David admits that he can't handle weapons: "Maggie said, "You are crazy. Completely crazy. How could you go there by yourself?" She shook her head, then added, "Thank you. When they didn't kill me on Sunday, I figured someone must be doing something to make them keep me alive. Turns out it was you. But to go like this against five armed men, that is insane. Do you at least have a gun on you?" David smiled. "No, I would probably just injure myself with a weapon." Maggie laughed and repeated, "You are crazy." Then she started crying. David was uncomfortable around crying women, so he just looked ahead and focused on driving.

There are unexpected moments - as when David begins to dream of Lord of the Rings - that even add a touch of philosophy into the evolving scenarios, relating an epic story of friendship and courage to the evolving connections between David and Maggie.

How do ordinary individuals become extraordinary? How can simple lives be changed by complicated circumstances? And how can even those with no special abilities rise to meet life-changing challenges from outside forces?

All these facets and more make The Great Game a satisfyingly-complex novel that engages the reader in just one battle of what will ultimately prove a greater war. Any who want a vivid, fast-paced adventure story will find its characters and action more than a cut above the ordinary.

The Friday Edition
Betta Ferrendelli
Amazon Kindle
ASIN: B008IIFWYK, $2.99

Mystery readers should prepare for something different in The Friday Edition: for the Samantha Church mentioned in the subtitle is not a regular investigator, but the sister of a D.A. who becomes a Christmas Eve suicide statistic. Her sister Samantha knows this can't be the whole truth and embarks on her own investigation of matters, only to uncover a quagmire of danger when information links her sister to a drug smuggling case.

Now, Samantha isn't the good citizen her sister was. For starters, she's an alcoholic: a problem that has cost her a job, her daughter, and her marriage. So how can she assume a greater role in solving the puzzle surrounding her sister's death? There's only one solution: quit the sauce. That Samantha is able to muster hitherto-unrealized strengths and pursue her sister's killers against all personal and professional odds makes for story that draws readers in and keeps them guessing.

Introductory chapters provide much information about Samantha and her family: her father's legacy of alcoholism, the pact she made with her sister to never involve Christmas in a suicide attempt, and her relationship with her ex (cop Jonathan), who was the one to deliver news of her sister's demise. The early attention to providing background histories contributes to a story line steeped in these personalities and past histories, which lend complex elements to a fast-evolving story of danger and intrigue.

Samantha seems able to handle almost everything - even threats to herself - but when her daughter April is threatened she is forced to turn to the only one she trusts who has experience in dangerous arenas; and that's her ex, Jonathan.

In a case that involves a bank's smuggling operation and a Mexican city that proves one of the largest money-laundering capitals in the world, Samantha finds herself up against far more than her sister's murderer.

When issues of trust enter the picture, Samantha comes to realize that hers has been misplaced - dangerously so - and as she draws closer to the truth, she comes to understand that somehow the investigation of her sister's murder and her own struggles with alcoholism are interconnected.

Don't expect an easy solution to Samantha's problems: much revolves around her willingness to admit to and take control of her alcoholic impulses. And even if she solves the mystery of her sister's death, it may wind up costing her everything she loves and believes in.

Suffice it to say that a host of unpredictable twists and turns in The Friday Edition will keep readers guessing and involved right up to the satisfying conclusion, which leads Samantha to new connections and a new purpose in life.

Red Stick One
Kenneth Kirkeby
Sharp Printing
9780615972428, $15.95 Paperback

Red Stick One opens with a Marine troop ascending upon a mountain plateau in Vietnam, alert for attackers, when they come upon an apparently-wounded VC who has an intriguing dog tag and a secret. Fast forward to four years later, where Boyd Perry and Reed are working on a fish and game sting operation on one of their own. Virgil Cleary is operating in a different world than Vietnam, here - and he's no stranger to violence, using it to break commercial poaching rings in swampy settings much like Vietnam.

As the story progresses, certain themes keep recurring: stalking, running, confrontations, hiding. Virgil follows a path of continuous violence in his job as wildlife officer with Florida Fish and Game and 'danger' is his middle name as he becomes immersed in worlds that continually mirror his Vietnam experiences: "He crawled from the trees on that morning, bareheaded, within three hundred meters of the point he sought four days earlier on the map he no longer had. He was feeling for each barefoot track of the Montagnard that had walked between the rocks of the slope a week before. If he saw the enormous valley that now lay below him he did not recognize it. He only knew he had to hurry. There wasn't much time."

As he makes the decision to work on his own and against the people he works with, Virgil moves between a lone wolf lifestyle and his connection to one Michelle and embarks on an interstate journey after a fugitive impossible to track, with his Vietnam experiences providing him with keys to both survival and impossible achievements.

Now, all this is understated: the focus is upon his tracking of an elusive poacher and the major Vietnam connection largely lies in the first chapter, with a few ongoing references to his ex-Marine background scattered within stories of encounters along the way.

But given this information, readers can readily see the ongoing connections between scenarios: Virgil's struggles to survive and gain a foothold against his clever prey's operations, and the wilderness he moves through so familiarly: "When they had crossed the bridge Virgil turned to look a final time at the gorge. On the far side, the two mountain goats stood perched on the ledges where he had first seen them. They shined white in the spring sunlight, the tiny black of their horns and eyes still following him."

Between the crisp descriptions of wilderness encounters and the dialogue throughout which captures a sense of gritty encounters in rural regions of the South, Red Stick One provides a realistic and engrossing story replete with violence, survivalist tactics, and cat-and-mouse games between a tracker and his objective.

Virgil moves deftly through his world giving aliases and keeping his identity and objectives secret, but even alone in the outdoors he has one outside connection that is different in Michelle: "He lay back on the mound of coal and shifted himself until it was smooth against him with no pressure to his ribs. The sun was on his face and he closed his eyes, feeling it, and reached his jacket sleeve behind his head for a pillow. He kept his other hand in the jacket's pocket and rode that way, dozing, until he became very warm with the sun high. Finally, he took the jacket off and lay on it, on his good side, looking at the singular mountains that became larger and more numerous as the train crept northwest. He felt his shirt pocket for his tobacco can but it was gone. Michelle must have thrown it out when she washed his clothes. With his closed eyes he smiled."

In the end it's this connection that fires his move from a world of poachers and law enforcement to one that includes love.

Expect gritty action, a healthy dose of violent encounters, and powerful scenarios in Red Stick One. It's all about morals, motivations and determination - and how one man makes a mission of his life after surviving under impossible odds in Vietnam. Any who enjoy vivid sagas of survival, achievement and redemption will find Virgil's story a powerful saga of encounters with land and people on the tough road to resolution.

Circle of Innocence
Lynda Drews
Whiskey Creek Press
print ISBN: 9781611608564 $16.95 at Amazon and B&N
ebook ISBN: 9781611606898 $3.99 at Amazon and B&N

Circle of Innocence is set in Wisconsin and introduces loner Detective Sydney Bernhardt, who has no romance in her life, lives with her dog inside a former migrant cherry-pickers' cottage on her family's Wisconsin acreage, and (at age thirty-two) feels she has no real life outside of work. All this is about to change when she stumbles on the body of the daughter of a local cafe owner and embarks on an investigation of the girl's past that (surprisingly) causes Sydney to analyze her own relationships, decisions, and their impact.

What begins as a singular murder investigation turns into something more serious when a pre-teen who matches the dead girl's physical description also goes missing. Now there's a trail of crumbs leading to a possible local serial killer and underlying community secrets: a trail that continues to involve Sydney in the kind of investigation that hits too close to home.

Circle of Innocence provides more depth of character and local history than your typical murder mystery, offering many insights into past and present circles of connection: "One of Syd's earliest memories was of hearing her grandmother singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" while walking her rough fingers up Syd's chubby arms. Ever since, she'd called her grandmother "Bitsy," and so had Syd's closest friends."

Crime and suspense novels characteristically omit such tidbits in favor of streamlining plots and eliminating background, but these details here result in an added richness of plot filled with insights into underlying motivations, historical precedence, and community connections.

Another notable device employed by Lynda Drews is that of including psychological profiles of her main protagonists. Readers gain a thorough knowledge of not just what's happening (which is easy enough to provide in your classic whodunit crime/mystery/suspense saga), but why: "Tonight, within this familiar room, Syd felt swaddled by the warmth of her family. Carli Lacount's death had given her a reality check. For two years, Syd had pitied herself as multiple tragedies had clobbered her in tidal waves. Yet through it all, she'd known, she'd been intensely loved."

Add more than a touch of romance and you have a fast-paced crime/suspense story that excels in psychological depth and detail as it exposes a community replete with secrets and hidden threats. Any reader looking for a strong saga of abduction, murder, and evolving danger will find Circle of Innocence fits the bill.

The Terminals Episode 1: Spark
Michael F. Stewart
Non Sequitur Press

The Terminals Episode 1: Spark blends the mystery/thriller format with a dose of science fiction as it explores the strange world of the Terminals: crime-solvers who unravel crimes in one world by accessing another realm. This in itself is an intriguing notion worthy of the in-depth exploration provided by a supercharged thriller that opens with a bang and keeps firing off unexpected encounters.

Lt. Col. Christine Kurzow is recruited as a Terminal after a failed suicide attempt following the massacre of her entire unit of soldiers. Looking for peace in death, she actually finds an unexpected newfound purpose in a thrilling hunt that involves chasing a killer into the afterlife.

She's the one charged with piecing together clues sent back from said afterlife by a monk tracking the perp; and as Christine slowly works with evidence that leads to an inevitable, startling conclusion, she also begins a process of redemption that embraces and celebrates the very strategies that led to her unit's demise.

The first thing to note about The Terminals Episode 1: Spark is its ability to create a tightly woven story line around an unusual set of circumstances. Protagonist Christine has not actually been rescued from her suicide attempt; for her method has destroyed her body and she has only weeks to live anyway ... which places a timeline on the (short) rest of her life, no matter what her decisions.

Secondly: Christine herself isn't a believer in mediums, so when a general spills the secret, her first reaction is not interest, but disbelief: " "For over a decade we've used a medium to connect with newly dead soldiers - terminals, they're called - who embark on a final mission to gather information vital to our country's national security. I want you for a mission." I drew the barrel out of my mouth, but only far enough so as to be able to speak. This was entertaining, and if nothing else it would be good to die laughing. "You do realize I'm an atheist?" "Yes, and it doesn't matter."

"I don't believe in life after death." He shrugged. "By definition there will be nothing to contact." "

Exactly how do 'terminals' work? That's quickly explained in the first chapter: quite an achievement, since the process holds much potential for confusion but comes across as clear, logical, and filled with possibilities. This approach sets up the perfect foundation for immersing readers in the rest of the story: how Christine becomes an agent in the most deadly game of all and receives a new life in the process.

Exactly how terminals work is made clear in the general's explanation to Christine (and the reader): "In 2013, we received intel that a cult was preparing a bioterrorist attack at a papal mass, but didn't have a clue as to the distribution mechanism. By tracking down a recently dead devotee, a terminal tricked her into telling us that a closet adherent owned the country's largest manufacturer of communion wafers." "

The kicker? The military actually needs one of their own to die in order to convince the dead to talk. And that's where Christine comes in.

What emerges within the context of a mystery also incorporates Christine's desire to make amends to those she has killed in the only way she knows how: by using her new connections to the afterlife to track down those killed by her mistakes, and ask their forgiveness.

Perspective is ever-changing in a novel where readers view events first through Christine's eyes and mind, then through others who move through this murky realm on missions of their own. This perspective changes sometimes several times in the course of a chapter, so readers need to stay alert; but it's notable that rarely does confusion take over, so deft are the transitions between players in the story.

Also be advised: there are some gruesome scenes of torture, making this a story not for the queasy. And at times the scenes are surreal, moving swiftly from torture to ecstasy and unexpected encounters that toe the line between danger and salvation.

Christine is by no means the only central protagonist in the story, and this world is by no means its only focus. As readers come to appreciate the interplays between two very different realms and those who inhabit them, they will appreciate the complexities and subtleties of a desperate mission surrounding soldiers, death, and intrigue.

The jaw-dropping conclusion winds both worlds together and provides something different in the way of an ending, setting the stage for new beginnings, as well.

If you think you've read it all in the genre of mysteries and thrillers, think again. By adding a dose of supernatural sci fi, The Terminals Episode 1: Spark leads thriller readers on quite a different journey: one with no prior guideposts and no predictable paths.

Journey To Landaran
Judy Goodwin
Diamond Print Press
1480 W Page Ave, Gilbert, AZ 85233
eBook: ISBN-13: 9781310098789
Print ISBN-13: 9780615917474 321 pages
Price: eBook: $3.99, Trade paperback: $14.99

Journey To Landaran is Book One of the 'Spirit Mage Saga', and is young adult fantasy at its best, presenting a map and an old (230-year) woman who holds onto a fading hope that a seven-times granddaughter living an isolated rural life will give birth to the last generation with the Life Talent that has condemned Korva to be one of the last Great Protectors of her era.

Her desires for peace are about to be answered as she makes the discovery that, indeed, Arlene is about to give birth to not one but two Talents: forces that will change the world.

Tavish and Aidah manage to successfully grow up in a small village with no evidence of their strange abilities: but that peaceful time is about to come to a close as they began to manifest Talents of their own. It's obvious that Tavish is a Firestarter, but Aidah fears she's also developing her own Talent ... a force that will both compliment and supersede her brother's formidable powers.

Time for a journey and a mission: one that could not only change the world, but lead nations to war (after all, with the ability to read minds, travel through dreams, and possess bodies, the sky's the limit.)

Or so it seems to twins who face danger at every turn, struggling with undeveloped powers and their evolution and the designs and schemes of those who would harness such for their own goals.

Mature young adults will find this no simple saga: it's permeated with the hearts and minds of some who are good and some who are evil.

A swirl of secrets revolve around their efforts, challenging both to new perspectives and to setting aside personal comfort for the greater good: "Brenton didn't need to know any of this. He was burdened enough with the care of them, and his thoughts were bleak....If he knew what Rangwar was doing to his niece right under his protection, it would devastate him. She couldn't do that to him. And Tavish - well, he'd shoot flames if he knew, and run off to defend her honor. And Derg - he'd probably die of shame like he always said he'd do if he failed in his role as guardian. She didn't really know what he'd do, but it would be to harm himself, of that she was certain. He always kept things inside. Just like her."

From deaths that need avenging to inner struggles to find courage against all odds, Journey To Landaran is as much about the hunt for personal bravery as it is about handling outside forces, spreading darkness, and strange new powers. The focus is on Aidah, in particular, and her growth and perspectives fuels an already-volatile story of powerful twins who go out into the world to seek their destiny.

As the two become immersed in events that preclude war, Journey To Landaran also is about developing social and political savvy in a changing world - and while its conclusion is open-ended, suffice it to say that great changes take place between the story's opening and its conclusion.

Keep in mind this is Book 1: as such, look for more great things as Aidah and her brother find their talents affecting a world-changing battle.

Gotcha Gas - Debacle Near Roswell
Bill Weimer & M. A. Banak
Goga Publishing
$5.99 eBook
Amazon: ISBN 9780983755937
Barnes & Noble: ISBN 9780983755906
iTunes: ISBN 9780983755913

Gotcha Gas - Debacle Near Roswell is a fictional piece about a host of snafus and bungling on the part of military and individuals near Roswell - but any who anticipate another straightforward (or straight-faced) exploration of alien abduction will find Gotcha Gas is a horse of another color.

Indeed, Gotcha Gas revolves around: a motorcycle gang, a host of motorists unwittingly stranded near an ill-conceived Army blast site for a bomb test, and a cast of zany characters involved in an impossible scenario.

As such, don't expect strict genre-writing here: and despite the mention of Roswell, don't expect a strictly alien focus. It's mystery, satire, and a rollicking rumpus of mishaps bundled into the story of diverse characters (and characters they are!) who, like quicksand, just keep getting more submerged in impossible situations.

The book's introduction sets the stage: "For some people, the simplest explanation will never do. In July of 1947, a top-secret US Army weather balloon crashed near the town of Roswell, New Mexico. To locals arriving at the crash site, the flower-like designs on the reinforcing tape of the balloon (it was made in a toy factory) were interpreted as alien hieroglyphics. Initially, the US Army seemed to agree, but suddenly issued a retraction. Since then, numerous books, tabloid exposes and television shows have forged contradictory and convoluted accounts of this incident into an entire industry. Which is good."

Now, the fictional town Gotcha, New Mexico is more than aptly named: it has a way of grabbing hold and not letting go. What holds true for the protagonists from the first line of the story is also applicable for readers, who will find their attention grabbed and closely held by a series of vignettes that open with go-getter Ramon's search for a surprisingly-elusive town when an inheritance leaves him the deed to a plot of land in Gotcha.

When even a librarian's diligence can't identify the town's location, it's only a strange reference in a phone call (that reference holdings "... currently have no record of it.") that leads him to think that Gotcha once existed. Ramon's perseverance finally pays off as he investigates clues to a town that has all but vanished from public record.

Flashback to late 1946 and a series of incidents that involve strangers, town secrets, desperate men, cover-ups and much, much more.

Mingling with text are satisfying images: a map, a weathered newspaper article profiling the arrest of a New Yorker in Gotcha, and schemes for skimming road projects.

'Simply hysterical' comes to mind as characters interact, special interests collide, and town politics vie with military might in unexpected ways. It is, indeed, a debacle; and as events move to ever-increasing levels of irony and charades, so readers become immersed in strange backup plans, the efforts of a wacky character called the Pickle, and much more.

And yes, Virginia, there are references to spaceships and the potentials for aliens - of a sort: all couched in hilarious encounters that remind this reader of the prowess of Christopher Moore's writings: "With all eyes aimed out the back window, the boys saw the Pickle and the Giant Tire rise majestically in the far distance, on its way to North Mesa Mountain. Perceived as a two-tiered object, small on top with a large, round black bottom, soaring among the distant clouds, the boys knew exactly what it was. "It's a space ship!" the kids shouted. "Sit down!" the adults ordered."

It's hard to say who is controlling the scenario: the military, the townspeople, or individual special interests. Suffice it to say this rollicking saga is hard to put down, packed with a huge cast of characters, and presented in a series of encounters that nearly stand alone in each chapter - which makes it particularly accessible to busy readers who can only digest books a section at a time.

Don't look for genre reading here - or anything predictable. DO expect humor and entertainment: a blend often lacking in modern-day novels.

Dracula: The Real Story
Ken Derby
Illusion Publishing
8369 NW 66 St #3920, Miami FL 33166
ISBN-10: 0615919758
ISBN-13: 9780615919751
Ebook Price: $2.99 Page Count: 101

Dracula: The Real Story is a juvenile biography at its best: and because the subject involves a somewhat sinister figure, it'll attract more leisure readers in the 9-12 age group than most biographies.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy a vivid nonfiction probe of one Vlad Dracula, a little-known Romanian prince who emerged from fugitive status to become one of the most influential warlords of his time, operating between the Ottoman and European Empires with such cunning and brutal tactics (even for the fifteenth century) that he earned the title 'Vlad the Impaler'.

Dracula: The Real Story opens with a quiz and a challenge: who was the real Dracula? Was he a supernaturally-powered count who feasted on the blood of women by night, stymied only by religious symbols; was he a prince obsessed with torture, who terrorized warlords and ambassadors alike? Either way, Dracula was relatively fearless - and the intense descriptions of violence, and the author's skill at contrasting reality with fantasy will draw mature young readers into a fascinating story that seems like fiction, but is historical fact.

Its dialogue isn't your usual stilted nonfiction read, but a lively set of interactions between author and reader often couched in the first person to encourage a personal level of involvement: "Dracula, a prince? I don't think so, you might say to yourself. Princes are noble, charming, and civilized. Besides, I've never heard of this skull-nailing, bloody carpenter. Dracula's a bloodsucker, a vampire, right? Fangs, blood, bats, garlic, wooden stakes, castles, know - the count! Ah, yes. The count. The world knows about him, but where did he come from?"

Would that all young adult nonfiction titles adopt this tone: there'd be many more young readers interested in learning, with such an entertaining and interactive approach! But then again, what young reader wouldn't be interested in learning more about Dracula, the first vampire outlined in literature?

Quotes from source materials (letters, writings of the times) accompany this lively survey and support its contentions and history. From how Vlad discovered his brother had been tortured and murdered to the politics of his era and a focus on revenge which turned into a lifelong obsession with violence, Dracula: The Real Story is more than a narrowed focus of a man's life, but a wider portrait of fifteenth century intrigue and power struggles. Juvenile readers learn about the dilemmas, conflicts, and approaches to war that were altered by Dracula and his motivations, and, surprisingly, how he was viewed as a hero by some.

Want to get juveniles interested in history? Begin with Dracula: The Real Story: there's no better way of creating this interest than with a work of nonfiction that uses the specter of a real-life 'vampire' and then brings it to life with vivid, rich and interactive descriptions!

Sense of Adventure
Claire Davon
Claire Davon, Publisher

What's an extreme sportsman doing with an idealistic woman who never takes risks? It would seem an unlikely combination, but something about their extreme differences serves as a strange attractor, and so Sense of Adventure is not just about a meeting of mind and heart, but about how two very different individuals merge their lives and achieve romance despite all obstacles.

Don't expect smooth sailing in Sense of Adventure: the seas are stormy here and so the protagonists continually butt heads, coming together and apart and finding their different perspectives on life to be challenging.

As is usual with relationships, they come to discover there's more beneath the surface than is first apparent. For Gina, it's a surprising discovery that the very manly Hunter Dillon has closely-held secrets about his painful past that lend to much-damaged reactions to life.

As Gina moves from having a new ad agency client in extreme sportsman Hunter Dillon to becoming romantically involved, she finds her own boundaries tested. For Dillon, a near-instant physical attraction (despite Gina's lack of fashion sense) leads to an interest that quickly moves beyond professional boundaries and into unknown realms: for he's not used to the rigors of romance and its ability to uncover his most closely-held secrets.

In so many ways, Gina is not in tune with Hunter's style: "...she was just Gina with silly inexpensive pajamas, found at a yard sale. The usual practical attire so out of tune with Hunter's sophisticated tastes."

And yet, the spark between them is undeniable and most of all it evolves throughout Sense of Adventure, bringing readers along on a journey that depicts how adventure, risk-taking and interpersonal relationships can change those who participate in life.

It's this series of transition points and changes that make Sense of Adventure more than just another predictable romance: the protagonists join and break apart continually and yet they are always exploring the differences and similarities that connect them.

There are risk-taking adventures, there are other women, there are broken friendships as well as broken relationships: "He was alone, as he had been before he met Gina. Truly alone this time, because he didn't have his so-called "friend" Roberto to talk to. Funny, how he had thought all this time that the man had been in his corner. He never had been. Nobody had been, until Gina. The woman who had run at the first sign of trouble. He had nobody."

In the end, Sense of Adventure is all about how connections are forged against seemingly-impossible odds - and how they are maintained. It's about different perspectives on adventure and how they entwine - and it will 'grab' and involve any interested in following the ups and downs of evolving connections.

The Magnificent Truths of Our Existence - Unlocking The Deeper Reality Of Permanent Happiness
Daniel F. Parmeggiani
TruthSeeker Productions
9780991211203, $15.95

It's not unusual to find a spiritual guide that "...provides inspiration, strong philosophical support, and deep spiritual insight about who we are, the cause of our suffering, and how to completely transform our lives.": indeed, that's the underlying purpose of at least half of the spiritual guides on the market today. Nor is there anything exceptional about the pairing of spiritual revelations with autobiography.

But what's different here, in The Magnificent Truths of Our Existence - Unlocking The Deeper Reality Of Permanent Happiness, is an attention to linking these approaches with exercises and ideas designed to come full circle to the concept of happiness and embracing a positive, guilt-free life - and in these areas The Magnificent Truths of Our Existence really shines.

Chapters consider many themes relating to spirituality and happiness, from the concept of free will and inner feelings of guilt and self-worth to how a vested interest in this 'free will' actually results in thinking that prevents us from finding not only greater happiness, but greater connections to the divine.

It's all about how to overcome fear to achieve enlightenment - and Daniel F. Parmeggiani excels with this approach.

It's not that he doesn't believe in freedom: just that he believes that the concept of free will with accompanying concepts of predetermination and destiny serve to create an empty feeling about life. And it's not that he doesn't believe in free will, either: just that it needs to be tailored with a deeper understanding of spiritual matters: "I am not claiming that we are not free to choose as we please. What I discovered through deep and honest introspection during a desperate time in my life was that, yes, we are free to choose what we want; however, it just so happens that, underneath it all, everyone always wants exactly the same thing. And that makes all the difference." It all boils down to one simple concept that drives not only this book, but the author's own life: "All we ever want is to feel better."

Chapters consider how we 'get ourselves back to the garden' by identifying five existential needs and what's wrong with popular philosophies and approaches to them. From common misperceptions and differing forms of pain to steps to self-acceptance, these concepts are both simple and linked to actionable steps: " proof of our worth is needed in the first place. We are already lovable - always have been, and always will be."

These actionable steps are the heart of The Magnificent Truths of Our Existence, accompanying pages of spiritual and philosophical revelation with exercises designed toward specific, enlightening end results. There are guilt-cleansing exercises, keys to identifying and getting in touch with personal strengths, and keys to calming the 'inner war' in order to more clearly see both the purposes of higher powers through the newfound lenses of unconditional love and acceptance and paths to spreading this love to others.

Now, many self-help books center upon self-realization and fulfillment as though that was the end goal; but The Magnificent Truths of Our Existence holds such endeavors to a higher purpose: "Let us tap into our unlimited capacity for love and spread our healing light in all directions. This world sorely needs it, our existential need for integration requires it, and last but not least, we will be fulfilling our true purpose in life."

And that's yet another difference between this and your usual self-help or spiritual title: by linking self-improvement to a higher purpose, it advocates not a self-centered, introspective lifestyle, but one which starts with the center (self) and moves outward and upward to extend its purposeful healing route to the greater world.

A concluding section outlines and reinforces these 'magnificent truths' and provides a summation that's both powerful and inspirational in a title highly recommended for any who seek to first change themselves, then link these personal transformations to a greater good - and a higher power.

Discovery of an Eagle
Grace Mattioli
Lightning Source
9780615928005, $14.95,

Discovery of an Eagle is the second book in the 'Greco family' trilogy, but familiarity with the first title (not seen by this reviewer) doesn't preclude accessibility to this story. In other words: newcomers are welcome!

The protagonist is 28-year-old Cosmo Greco, who embarks on a road trip with his sister after he's laid off from his job. It's been eight years of struggle in a position where his boss dislikes him, but Cosmo departs with grace (knowing that he has always won in the passive-aggressive wars his boss has brought to the table) and embarks on his new life with characteristic optimism.

His ideas of new beginnings are aptly summed up early on in the novel: "... even though he knew that the leaves changing colors meant that they were dying, he never felt death in the air. He felt life, renewal, and revival."

That's not to say he isn't worried about his future: he is. Just that his ability to adapt, change, and embark on new paths becomes evident in the course of a journey that will challenge many of his perceptions and goals in life.

Cosmo doesn't feel 'stuck', but admittedly he now has no job, no girlfriend, and no ties. So when his sister's proposal of a road trip falls into his lap, it offers an alternative that takes him from Philadelphia to Portland, Oregon - all fueled by his sister's desires.

Now, Cosmo's relationship with his sister is uncertain at best: she clearly never has his best interests in mind, and is always centered on her own: "He was always amazed at how ready his sister was to make plans for other people, especially for him, regardless of his feelings against them. She'd plug people into her plans, as if plugging an exponent into a mathematical equation."

Nonetheless, in this instance timing is everything and her proposal strikes a sympathetic chord; and so the two embark on a road trip that brings him into contact with a host of disparate people and revelations, from spiritual experiences sparked by a monument to Jesus in 'God's country' (a.k.a. the Bible belt) to encounters with Native American culture: ""So what about Hopi," Silvia said, changing the subject. "It's really another world, huh?" "Yeah, it sure is," Cosmo said, sipping his coffee. "Maybe I'm romanticizing the place a tad, but it seemed like the people there were happy in a way. It's such a poor and desolate place, but it didn't feel sad to me." "It didn't feel sad to me either. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that they have their art."

All this is spiced with a sense of place and lovely scenery that evokes responses that are artistic, ethereal and philosophical in nature: "He had never seen the Pacific Ocean before this day. It looked much different that the Atlantic Ocean, just as Santa Cruz looked much different from any town on the Jersey Shore. There were mountains that framed the ocean; the occasional rock protruding out of the sea, some covered with seals, others with pelicans; trees with branches of deep green that swept dramatically toward the ocean, as if being pulled by the endless body of water.

But despite the vast differences between the Pacific Coast and the Jersey Shore, he couldn't help but compare the two places, and being here reminded Cosmo of his childhood beach days."

From sibling relationships and interactions to newfound observations that affect his thinking, Cosmo's discoveries on this road trip will ultimately create new paradigms for the rest of his life. Sure, there's a hint of nostalgia for the past ("They walked through the campus, which was much different in appearance from the campus at the University of Penn, but still it was filled with that same kind of young, ambitious student energy as Penn, and it made Cosmo feel slightly nostalgic for his home. But not nostalgic enough to want to return."), but now it's tempered by new experiences.

Don't expect any tidy conclusions to his story: after all, Discovery of an Eagle is part of a trilogy and it leaves the door open for the next book. Do expect a warm blend of travel and observation, family interrelationships, and reflections that ultimately capture the meaning and purpose of getting away and journeying to new places: "He had gained something inside of himself, something that he could never lose. He knew now that it didn't matter whether he stayed in Portland or went back to Philadelphia. Philadelphia was only a place, and that place had no power over him in terms of who he was or who he would be. Going back wouldn't erase the growth inside. Going back didn't mean going back to his old way of being in the world. Going back wasn't going backward."

Readers who want to vicariously experience such a journey will find Discovery of an Eagle a soaring story of one man's exploration of new possibilities, new worlds, and ultimately, a newfound purpose to life.

An Involuntary Spy: A GMO Political Spy Thriller
Kenneth Eade
Times Square Publishing
ASIN: B00GQPBLZ6, $3.99

An Involuntary Spy: A GMO Political Spy Thriller is nonstop action at its best and is recommended for any who love international intrigue, espionage, and a healthy dose of political interactions blended into a mystery and adventure story.

Now, one might expect that a professional spy (much like James Bond) would be at the heart of such a story, but think again. What if said spy were actually an ordinary individual trying to do the right thing? What if he was a biologist and actually made a poor spy? And what if his work with genetically engineered foods led to a trail of uncertainty and danger causing him to be marked as a dangerous fugitive by his own government?

These elements all weave a complicated plot with one Seth Rogan at its heart, providing a compelling and winning saga that invites readers to experience events through Seth's eyes - making the scenes and sequences nearly impossible to stop reading.

This is a complex story line packed with unexpected twists and turns in nearly every chapter. It might stymie a reader looking for a lighter, more predictable read; but it's just the ticket for fans well used thrillers and mysteries and who seek a bit more complexity and challenge in their leisure reading.

The ultimate messages (about caring for one's job and environment enough to take action about accepting the consequences of said action, and about the dangers of genetic modification and government interactions with such programs) are clearly presented along with action-filled chapters supercharged with an adrenalin rush at every turn.

While the government is busy labeling Seth as a fugitive and traitor to his country for his actions, Seth is equally frantic, doing many things outside his comfort zone from running from everything he's known to carrying a secret that could change the world or result in his murder.

As Seth discovers his company is secretly paid by the government and harbors some dangerous secrets, his role as team leader at work changes to become that of a deadly adversary.

And always at the heart of the action are insights into the forms and perils of genetic manipulation: "Everything in each ecosystem is interrelated. The process of evolution has created an intricate balance between the plant and animal life in the system...This process has developed over millions of years and now we come along and play God with it....Whatever Seth and the company did now could affect the environment for the next seven centuries, or even longer."

How Seth moves from an employee whose primary concern is to do his job and collect a paycheck to an activist on the lam makes for a hard-hitting account with the side benefit of inviting readers to examine the entire realm of genetic manipulation and its moral, ethical and scientific dilemmas.

In a world where nobody can be trusted, what are Seth's alternatives? As his actions turn into an international affair involving the highest levels of governments, Seth finds his own evolving concerns lie at the heart of the controversy and comes to realize that his individual actions could, truly, change the world.

Big business, big government, scientific snafus, intrigue, spies - it's all here. Any who want a more realistic, modern-day James Bond complete with contemporary ethical concerns will find themselves held hostage to the fast action and intrigue in An Involuntary Spy, right up to a satisfyingly-unpredictable conclusion made all the more powerful for its real basis in today's uncertain experiments compliments of Monsanto, Dow, and other genetic manipulators.

Diane C. Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

Troubled Water
John DeDakis
Strategic Media Books
782 Wofford Street, Rock Hill SC 29730
9781939521071, $18.95,

At the urging of her mentor Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Lionel Stone, Lark Chadwick leaves his Wisconsin newspaper the Pine Bluff Standard to accept a job as the Cops and Courts reporter for the Columbia Sun-Gazette in Western Georgia. Driving from her home, she is in Georgia desperately needing to take a leak. Lark leaves the highway and takes an isolated back road when a speeding vehicle forces her onto the dirt shoulder. After stopping in a spot with no one around, Lark feels euphoric following her flooding the ground until she steps on a corpse. She calls 911, but the cops place her in the back seat of their car where she calls in the story to welcoming Columbia Sun-Gazette employee Marcie Peck. Columbia County Sheriff's Department Detective Benson arrives at the scene, questions Lark and sends her on her way.

Accompanied by photographer Doug Mitchell, Lark continues to follow the story questioning the lead detective, and friends and family of the fifteen years old victim Rae Donovan. Meanwhile as a second murder occurs, the ambitious Governor pressures law enforcement to solve the homicide and the journalist she replaced fumes on his blog and at Lark at being unjustly fired.

Troubled Water is a fabulous journalistic investigative thriller due to the strong lead protagonist on her first job away from her Wisconsin home (see Bluff and Fast Track). The whodunit is super, but it is fascinating realistic relationships between Lark and others; such as her with Lionel, Benson, Doug and others on the paper and the local residents; that make for a terrific mystery.

A Sky Without Stars
Linda S. Clare
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426752797, $14.99,

In 1951 Pine Ridge, South Dakota, Frankie Chasing Bear wants her beloved Harold to honor his Lakota heritage as she vowed to her late grandmother when she promised to complete the Lakota Star quilt for her child. However, she also sadly accepts the realism that her child needs to live in a white world though she loathes Christians after what missionaries of that faith did to her parents.

When Harold's father Hank dies in a barroom brawl, Frankie decides to relocate. She registers with the Federal Relocation Program and accompanied by ten years old Harold move to Arizona. Once settled, Frankie works on the Lakota Star though the relocation is not smooth with car trouble and Harold being bullied. When Bureau of Indian Affairs agent Nick Vandergriff meets Frankie, he knows he has found his love. However, though the BIA operative is half-Lakota, he has his work cut out convincing Frankie they belong together raising her son as his Christian beliefs are a non-starter.

The latest Quilts of Love inspirational romance (see Tempest's Course by Lynette Sowell and Scraps Of Evidence by Barbara Cameron) is a strong historical due to the fully developed lead triangle. The storyline contains a profound look at the impact on the daughter of the victims of injustice perpetrated by caring people believing in their white man's burden to bring Christianity to the Indians anyway they can. The lead trio has issues of belonging while the Lakota Star quilt connects the cultures that divide them.

A Road Unknown
Barbara Cameron
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426740596, $14.99,

In Goshen, Indiana, as the oldest of nine siblings, Elizabeth Bontrager has always done her duty helping with her younger brothers and sisters. However, as she turns twenty, her resentment towards having no childhood and being too busy for anyone to court make her want to flee from her family. Thus she leaves home and the fabric store where she worked to go on her Rumschpringe. Elizabeth plans to stay with her Englisher pen pal Paula in Paradise, Pennsylvania.

Elizabeth and Saul Miller meet on the bus heading to Pennsylvania. He is attracted to her and elated when his dad hires her at their crafts store. However, Saul becomes jealous and upset when Elizabeth dates Paula's friend Bruce as he wants to court her; at the same time her Bishop demands she go home as her family needs her.

The first Amish Roads contemporary romance is a wonderful coming of age novel that focuses on conflicted duties to the Lord, one's self, a loved one, family and friends. Subgenre fans will enjoy the opening entry though key relationships feel inadequately developed to insure better understanding of how the heroine becomes pulled in different directions by demanding people she cherishes.

Jennifer Mortimer
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608091126, $26.95,

American Linnet "Lin" Mere knows little about her New Zealand paternal family except that her late father, who died when she was twelve, abandoned his family and left his homeland to marry her mother. Amongst her mother's things, Lin finds a photo of a painting "The Road to Ngatirua" by Rose Mere. She learns from the net that Rose is her deceased dad's first wife.

Deciding to see her paternal relatives, Lin travels to Wellington. There she and her twin stepsisters meet for the first time. She soon becomes CEO of startup Hera telecommunications over the objections of her mean-spirited male rivals and also accepts the end of her beloved Ben in her life. However, as much seems to go relatively smooth, someone willing to kill wants her gone.

This "Roots" storyline is excellent when the focus is on the American trying to adapt to New Zealand society once she meets her family and at the workplace. The lethal suspense subplot detracts from the powerful character-driven look at difficult dilemmas people make to belong and to get ahead while sometimes these choices include deciding whether to abandon loved ones.

The Book Of Jonah
Joshua Max Feldman
Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9780805097764, $28.00,

Manhattan lawyer Jonah Jacobstein lives the good life as a success at his firm and with two girlfriends in love with him. During a storm, Jonah and a Hasidic Jew rush into the subway where the stranger warns him about his biblical namesake seeing the naked wicked. After his latest triumph assures him partnership at Cunningham Wolf, Jonah celebrates at a party until he sees a photo of someone named Judith and almost immediately afterward a disturbing apocalyptic vision of New York under the sea and those at the gala naked. Not long after those twin nightmares and more haunt him, Jonah ends his relationship with GF 2 Zoey and confesses his transgression to GF 1 Sylvia who dumps him. Meanwhile his performance at work falters until he is fired.

Jonah becomes depressed as he still sees visions including the Hasid admonishing him that he cannot run from his fate. Jonah flees to Amsterdam where he meets another non-practicing Jew Judith Bulbrook, the star of that triggering photo. She has suffered from tragedy that has shaped her life.

This is an entertaining allegory that places the Old Testament tale of Jonah into a modern day context as anything can lead to a religious renewal of faith especially when there is no place to flee from one's destiny. Character-driven, readers obtain a deep look into the souls of Jonah and Judith as they struggle to avoid a path neither wants to travel, but whether it is God, alcohol or something else; Joe Louis proves the prophet with his famous comment: "you can run but you can't hide."

Romancing The Duke
Tessa Dare
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062240194, $7.99,

Miss Isolde Ophelia Goodnight became motherless at a young age. Her father became a successful writer so Izzy lived okay though never as the romantic heroine of the fairy tales she adores. When Papa died, Izzy was left a penniless friendless orphan who no longer cared whether Prince Charming arrived as avoiding starvation supersedes romanticizing.

Lord Archer writes Izzy that her godfather the Earl of Lynforth recently died and left her a bequest; he asks for her to meet him at Gostley Castle in Northumberland. With no other prospects, Izzy travels to the castle where the executer tells her she inherited Gostley. However, her castle also contains a reclusive resident, scarred and blind Ransom William Dacre Vane, Duke of Rothbury. He demands she leave so he could wallow in peace, but she refuses. As they cohabitate in the castle, Izzy regales him with fairy tales and begins to believe her bitter castle mate may be her Prince Charming with the twist that she rescues his heart.

The first Castles Ever After Regency romance is an amusing gender war that purposely uses anachronisms and comedic situations as subgenre satirical humor. The lead couple is a nice pairing of two people who at first seem like the anti-Cinderella and anti-Prince Charming. Although his original trauma fails to convince the reader of its genuineness, fans will enjoy Tessa Dare's fractured ode to romantic fairy tales.

Wulfe Untamed
Pamela Palmer
9780062107558, $7.99

A month and a half ago, the "incident" in Harpers Ferry occurred that still haunts Natalie Cash. She remembers nothing about that week in which three of her friends were murdered and her brother Xavier vanished; or why she survived. The police have found no leads.

When a big "dog" visits Natalie, she is ecstatic while her fiance Rick warns her to stay away from the feral wolf. Obsessively out of character for him, Wulfe needs to insure himself this woman, whom he rescued and stole her memory of that lethal mage assault, was okay; though deep inside he knows there is more to why he visits her. However, his good intentions of keeping his distance end when the evil who attacked his Natalie tries to finish the incomplete job. Forced to reveal all to protect Natalie, Wulfe takes her back to the safety of his Feral Warrior peers at Feral House where he escorted her once before. Attracted to each other, Wulfe and Natalie fall in love, but keeping her safe remains his top priority while hers is to persuade him she that she desires him in spite of his physical and emotional scars.

The final "untamed" Feral Warriors romantic urban fantasy (see A Love Untamed) is an exciting thriller that stars the last wolf standing and the human he has cherished from a distance through several tales although the real magic is Natalie proves the cure for Wulf's impotence. Fast-paced, series fans will appreciate the final act as the Feral Warriors, even more intensely fierce than ever before, protect their mates and their offspring, confront the malevolence that threatens their new world.

Shelley Shepard Gray
Avon Inspire
9780062204462, $12.99

In Sugarcreek, Ohio, everyone even her boss at the Sugarcreek Inn where she bakes delicious pies finds it amusing that twenty-five year old Miriam Zehr is always late. In her mind she feels especially late in finding a mate like her pregnant friends have. Much of her life Miriam has been attracted to customer handsome Albert "Junior" Beiler, but he never gives the Plain Jane a look beyond enjoying her pastries.

Her hopes rise when Junior talks to her on a personal matter, but he crushes her crush when he asks how her how to get the attention of her pretty friend teacher Mary Kathryn. Heartbroken, Miriam offers to help Junior make it with Mary though she knows deep in her heart that her true reason is to be with him so that he will get to know and hopefully want her instead.

Following up on the Seasons of Sugarcreek with a new series, the first Return to Sugarcreek is an engaging Amish romance. Miriam is a unique lead character whose caring innocence seems almost ephemeral while Junior misses clues re the feelings of others especially his companion that make him seem at times as an uncaring callous brute; which his younger sister would argue he is not. Though the storyline goes entirely as expected, readers will enjoy the awakening.

Princess Ever After
Rachel Hauck
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310315506, $14.99,

Duchy of Hessenberg Minister of Culture Tanner Burkhardt informs King Nathaniel that they traced Princess Alice's journey through England to America in 1914 and found the present day heir twenty-nine year old Regina Beswick living in Tallahassee, Florida. Feeling a failure who takes no chances out of fear of being considered a loser, Tanner feels ecstatic and frightened when His Highness trusts him with bringing home the princess as the kingdom needs her.

Former CPA Reggie loves restoring classic cars with her buddies when Tanner arrives with the nonsense that she is a royal. Initially skeptical, she begins to believe the emissary, but does not want to give up her day job. Still with a sense of duty, Reggie agrees to accompany him to Hessenberg where an ambitious adversary challenges her legitimacy and she falls in love with guide.

The second Royal Wedding romance (see Once Upon a Prince) is a delightful tale as Reggie struggles to adapt from being an American commoner mechanic to a Hessenberg royal mechanic; mindful of an adult version of Meg Cabot's early Princess Dairies. Her grandmother's journals add historical perspective to a warm contemporary.

Back To Blood
Tom Wolfe
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316036320, $10.00,

Police officer Nestor Camacho becomes a media darling when the Miami Herald reports he courageously rescues an illegal Cuban immigrant from the top of a ship's mast before arresting the man. However, his Cuban-American "Little Havana" community led by his irate dad condemns his brave act due to Nestor enforcing the "wet-foot, dry-foot policy" by not allowing the exile to complete the final 18 metros to asylum. Soon after that Nestor arrests a big drug dealer who was choking his partner, but instead of accolades his African-American boss suspends him; as YouTube caught the entire incident starting with the other cop using racial slurs. Finally Miami Herald reporter John Smith gets Nestor involved in a museum art forgery scam by Russian Sergei Korolyov.

On a personal front, Nestor's former girlfriend Magdalena Otero works for psychiatrist Dr. Norman Lewis who helps wealthy clients deal with porn addiction by becoming hooked on him instead. She becomes Lewis' girlfriend as a means to escape Hialeah as her American dream is accepted assimilation within the greater United States.

With an engaging anecdotal feel to the entertaining storyline, Back to Blood is an intriguing look at Miami mostly through a cop with one foot in the Cuban exile community and the other inside of the American law enforcement world. Nestor's (and to a lesser degree that of Magdalena) escapades bring to life the dynamics of the unique city, but none of the events are deeply developed. Still fans who appreciate something different will want to read Tom Wolfe's look at the dichotomy of Miami.

The Collection
Shannon Stoker
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062271747, $14.99,

In the United States, heeding the warning from her older sister, eighteen year old Mia fled from her vile mate Grant who won the legal bidding to marry her on the Registry auction block. Pursued by Grant's kill first dangerous henchmen, Mia, accompanied by Andrew and Carter, made it to Mexico; haven to runaway brides from America; but dangerous to US Army deserters like her two male companions.

When the abusive Collection captures her two protectors, Mia becomes fearful for their lives and willing to return to Grant to save them. Before she can sacrifice herself, Mia meets Riley who introduces her to a growing underground movement to return basic human rights to women. However, Grant's bounty hunters still stalk her as no one lives very long when they make him look foolish and her friends remain subject to torment, deportation and ultimately much worse.

The second Registry dystopian thriller is an exciting tale that continues to extrapolate the present war on women into a total gender surrender scenario. Although readers will anticipate behavior by the key male players, Riley brings freshness while Mia has come a long way from her opening act as she embraces "Freedom changes everything"; but knows her journey remains dangerous since her personal psychopath continues the hunt. Action-packed with a rotating perspective, The Collection is an entertaining middle saga.

The Cat, The Devil and Lee Fontana
Shirley Rousseau Murphy and Pat J.J. Murphy
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062268785, $19.99

All because of a lost wager several decades ago, in 1947 Washington State, Lucifer arrives at McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary to visit convict Lee Fontana as he has plans for the soul of the aging bank robber. Also with plans to help Fontana keep his soul is his long time companion in and out of prison Misto the cat.

A paroled Lee struggles to adapt to the civilian world as this is nothing like what it was when he went to prison. He works for his friend Jake Ellison, driving a truck on a Southern California farm. However, Lee is angry with Jake for being married to his beloved Lucita and envies the affluence of the farm (and much more) owner. The Devil whispers to Lee he can have the wealth and the woman that he craves while Misto struggles to save the soul of his human buddy.

This is an entertaining supernatural "loose" prequel to the Joel Grey saga (Misto was in Cat Bearing Gifts). The dark soul war stars a unique triangle consisting of the caring spirit Cat, the avenging diabolical Devil and the ex-convict Lee Fontana. Although readers will wonder why Misto thinks slimy Fontana is redeemable, fans will enjoy the feline version of Stephen Vincent Benet's The Devil and Daniel Webster.

Delilah's Daughters
Angela Benson
9780062002716, $13.99

Delilah and Rocky Monroe cherish their three daughters (Roxanne, Veronica and Alisha) even as they encourage them to use their God-given musical talent to make Delilah's Daughters the most popular Gospel group in the country. When Rocky dies, his four females grieve their loss. He angelically watches his beloved "harem" while his widow pushes their adult children to try harder to produce a hit that makes it onto the Billboard charts in honor of their late dad.

The siblings bring different talents to Delilah's Daughters; as Roxanne has the best voice; Veronica the best dance moves; and Alisha the best songwriting skills. They compete as a trio at the annual Gospelfest. Veronica's husband Dexter has plans for his wife to become famous as a solo and leave behind her sisters while Delilah's past threatens to pull down the pillars of her family.

Delilah's Daughters is an exciting inspirational family drama starring four fully developed unique females and a touch of whimsy with Rocky the angel looking over his beloved. Character-driven by each member of the quartet seeking a different life goal; reader will relish the Monroe brood as love proves to be a second hand emotion (nod to Tina Turner) to faith in in God and family loyalty hammered by disingenuous ambition.

Ruberah: Age of Jeweled Intelligence
P. Christina Greenaway
girl by the sea
c/o Cafe Press Inc.
1850 Gateway Drive, Suite 300, San Mateo, CA 94404
9780615949871, $14.95,

The Age of Jeweled Intelligence ends with the destruction of Az'Rayelle when the Ruberah Kingdom Princess Li'ram fiddles away her time thinking only of her love for Emerald Kingdom Prince Da'krah while the Dark Master assaults her land. Realizing too late she allowed her desires to supersede her people's safety, self-loathing Li'ram pleads with the River Spirit to grant her a chance one day for redemption.

Eons later in the Kingdom of Kernow, teenage Princess Tamara refuses to perform her official duties compounded by her defying customs. Her anguished father decrees his rebellious daughter will be changed into a river of tears.

In the present, as Americans Mitch Devere and Miriam Lewis drive a car across the Tamar Bridge into Cornwall, she is stunned by seeing a glowing girl floating on the river. This jogs an odd memory of a vow she made a long time ago and also recalls flashes of a royal life in the ancient Kingdom of Ruberah. Confused, Miriam believes she made a sacred pledge in a previous life that she feels a deep commitment to honor. To do so she must rely on the River Tamar spirit to guide her and Mitch; yet unaware that her otherworldly ally is limited with what she can do to help. Miriam's arrival also awakens the dormant Dark Master.

Written in Ruberah is a superb romantic fantasy as M&M aided by the river spirit have a second chance in the war against the Dark Master. The key to this vivid thriller is that the prime players past and present seem genuine. Readers will appreciate this exhilarating tale as redemption does not guarantee defeating evil.

Prime Of Life
P.d. Bekendam
Worthy Publishing
9781617952272, $14.99,

As Ben cleans toilets, he muses about his "four years of college, four years of medical school, and another four years of training in cardiothoracic surgery" to become a janitor at Heritage Gardens, a retirement home near Temecula, California. Ben appreciates that he no longer deals with life threatening crisis almost every day. His worse stressors are nothings compared to his previous work; as he copes with an incompetent supervisor and cantankerous residents by saying yes all the time while doing the job by the numbers he obsesses over.

The Professor tells him he solved the mystery of Ben when he calls him Doc to the janitor's chagrin. The Professor pulls an experiment in the cafeteria that exposes Ben's secret and proves the janitor should never quit being a doctor. The staff is hurt by his secret and the patients marvel over his career change. Ben is attracted to Dr. Lex Kentucky who according to Frank should have been a supermodel instead of a podiatrist. She asks him to go out with her on a date and he does as his life's prime numbers are changing as they did three years ago.

The Prime Of Life is a fascinating character study of a man who society would insist is foolish perhaps insane for choosing a downward mobility path even if the change of occupations leaves him contented. The support cast is solid though there are some players who come across as too obviously convenient as their roles exist to move forward the plot. Still fans will enjoy Ben's struggles summed up metaphorically by the Professor who admonishes Doc for failing to cash in on his winning lottery tickets.

Freedom Fries and Cafe Crème
Jocelyne Rapinac
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W ONZ
9781908313003, $15.95,

This is an enticing refreshing anthology (with many recipes included) in which attractive and appetizing food connects the twelve months of tales as the way to a person's heart is with tasty healthy dining. Good health and life coach Armand and Liana meet at a New Year's Eve party, but when she asks him out in January she has doubts as he informs her that his young daughter lives with him (any tale that mentions superbe acteur Monsieur Hulot is a winner). Every Valentine's Day, Jessica and Anne-Sophie meet at the Zenith bar, but this year Mary-Whitney crashes their dining with demands they help in keeping her spouse away from the latter. In July, Brune and Pierre discuss "Breakfast for two." As Christmas nears, Dominic tells his shrink he plans to sue Forty State Burger for making him obese; while the psychologist ponders about his patient's blaming others for his unhealthy eating habits and also muses how patient Carla will deal with Armand and his daughter moving to Brooklyn to live with Liana. Bon appetite!

The Panda Theory
Pascal Garnier
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W ONZ
9781906040420, $12.95,

At the hotel Gabriel is staying at in the nondescript small Breton town, lonely Madeleine the receptionist suggests he eat at the Faro restaurant, the only place open on a Sunday. Faro's Portuguese owner Jose tells him the restaurant is closed since his wife Marie is in the hospital and he has two despondent children to raise, but shares his food with Gabriel. Soon after that the visitor meets Marco and Rita, who are going through financially hard times.

Gabriel knows what it is like to have the warmth and love of family and how fleeting that happiness is since teens murdered his wife and children; he believes one must grasp joy when it is there but also accept the evanescence of today as life lacks purpose. Still Gabriel uplifts the spirits of the villagers as symbolized by the fluffy panda he places inside the Faro to welcome people. He knows the morning will return with dismalness in full force and his inner obsession still thriving in spite of his love for Madeleine.

The late Pascal Garnier provides a powerful character driven dark noir in which a sudden deadly act of violence ripped asunder the veneer of civilization. Orson Welles summarized Gabriel's philosophy: "We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone." Readers will enjoy traveling with Gabriel the messenger of the short happiness endowed to the human spirit.

Hidden Agendas
Lora Leigh
St. Martin's Griffin
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250036711, $14.99,

The deadly Fuentes cartel has a reputation for ruthlessness to maintain. Thus Diego Fuentes knows he must not look soft as the daughter of a US senator, Emily Stanton, escaped from his compound with the help of Navy SEALs especially Kell Kreiger. He needs to find an insider he can either blackmail or buy.

Kell and his team know the current mission is to bring down Diego. However, babysitting is a difficult assignment when the person is spirited Emily, who he is attracted to just like she is to him. Emily refuses to allow A-holes like Diego to destroy her life so goes about as if no one is after her although she gladly accepts the protection of Kell as she knows her feelings for him is much deeper than gratitude for saving her life.

Readers will appreciate this this reprint of a strong romantic suspense that continues Lora Leigh's homage to the military (see NAUGHTI BOY) especially the Tempting SEALs (see DANGEROUS GAMES). The story line is action-packed as Kell concludes that to keep Emily safe he must trust no one since someone betrayed them. Readers will enjoy the exploits of the lead couple who struggle to survive treachery of a friend, but cannot worry about who as Diego is coming.

Shoreline Drive
Lily Everett
St. Martin's Press
9781250018397, $7.99

As a terrible spring storm batters Sanctuary Island, Dr. Ben Fairfax drives to the home of Meredith Preston who has gone into labor three weeks early. He knows there is no time to get her to the hospital in Winter Harbor, Virginia even if the ferry ran in this torrent; so in spite of his patients being animals, he vows to keep mother and baby safe once he helps deliver her infant.

After a tragedy destroyed his idyllic family life, Ben vowed never again, but Pollyanna Merry makes him reconsider his personal pledge. Merry plans to build a wonderful safe life for her and her newborn son, but also admits to herself she wants Ben. Surprising himself, Ben proposes they marry and stunning herself Merry accepts. Although attracted to each other, neither expected love would complicate their arrangement.

The latest picturesque Sanctuary Island romance is a wonderful marriage of convenience due to the changing relationship between the two delightful deniers. Although there are unresolved dangling threads, readers will enjoy visiting this Virginia barrier island as love may be in the sea air but will Ben and Merry go for it.

Why Earls Fall In Love
Manda Collins
St. Martin's Press
9781250023841, $7.99

In Bath, impoverished war Widower Mrs. Georgina Mowbray knows she is fortunate to have become companion to the affluent elderly Lady Russell. The only negative in her current situation is her employer's nephew the Earl of Coniston.

Lady Russell adores her dedicated companion; so when threatening letters arrive that frighten Georgina, she notices the change in her employee's demeanor. The aristocrat asks Con to investigate, but Georgina, distrusting him, refuses to cooperate. Her fears grow immensely when she sees someone who looks like her late abusive husband Robert outside her window. That and her observation of how kind Con is towards his aunt and others lead Georgina to tell him what she knows and did. As people are murdered, Con vows to keep safe his precious aunt and the widow he loves.

The second Wicked Widows Regency romantic suspense (see Why Dukes Say "I Do") is a fabulous historical amateur sleuth. The cast is solid, but the key to this great read is the predominant focus on the whodunit as the falling in love subplot supports the mystery.

Dark Bites
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's Press
9780312376864, $25.99

This wonderful eleven short story (plus "Redemption," an extract from the novel Guardian) collection showcases the talent of Sherrilyn Kenyon to provide passionate exciting tales mostly in romantic fantasy, but also includes a twisting High Noon western romance (see "Santa Wears Spurs"). All the engaging entries were published between 2000 and 2006 in different anthologies or venues with an overarching premise of a chance for redemption through love or avenging justice.

In 12,252 BC, the warrior Aricles is sworn to protect the cold Goddess of Justice Bathymaas, but offers her much more in the "House of the Rising Son." In "Phantom Lover" Erin McDaniels suffers from horrendous nightmares as V'Aidan challenges the serpent Krysti'Ana and makes love to her afterward only in her dreams. At the Atlanta based gala, were-panther Pandora the virgin in heat seeks the help of Acheron as she is frightened having left her pack for the first time, but instead encounters enemy were-panther Dante as the "Stroke of Midnight" arrives. Immortal soulmates for five centuries, in Chicago Velkan the Dark-Hunter and his wife Esperatta realize that a fifteenth century Romanian foe has come to kill them in "Until Death Do We Part." Katagarian Fury, vowing to keep his clan safe, seeks the adversary who assaulted a werewolf in New Orleans; while vowing to keep her people safe Arcadian Angelia hunts the raging werewolf that threatens them under the "Shadow of the Moon."

Poison Town
Creston Mapes
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434704870, $14.99,

Trenton City Dispatch reporter Jack Crittendon remains angry for the house invasion that traumatized his daughters (seven years old Rebecca and five years old Faye) and the kidnapping by Granger Meade of his wife Pam (see Fear Has a Name). He hides his rage from his family, but his wife knows her husband is fuming even at the Lord; but she is unaware he carries a gun now that Meade is out on parole.

When Jack drops his car off at friend Travis Randall's garage, the mechanic tells him that his father has begun to obtain proof that the Demler-Vargus run chemical plant produces fiberglass and a toxin making all the employees and many local residents ill. Jack investigates whether the plant with government approval or ignorance is changing Trenton, Ohio into Poison Town.

The second Crittendon Files Christian suspense thriller is an exciting timely environmental tale (think of Keystone) that rotates perspective so that the audience understands the full scope of the issue. Although the climax feels unlikely, fans will enjoy this tale as Jack, already dealing poorly with his faith battered, struggles with the avarice of the local industrial-government complex in which poisoning workers and locals is an acceptable money-making job creating (including in the medical field) by-product.

Wishing on Buttercups
MiraLee Ferrell
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781408097, $14.99,

In 1880 Baker City, Oregon, Beth Roberts lives with her Aunt Wilma in a boardinghouse. She has no memory of her parents and because of ugly scars caused by a fire when she was a child assumes no man will ever want her. Reticent Beth's solo pleasure is scenic drawing and recently she began secretly selling her pictures as Elizabeth Corwin to The Women's Eastern Magazine.

Defiant Jeffery Tucker rejects his family's demands especially from his father to end his foolish dream and come home to work in their business. He knows worse on his psyche than the family pressure is the constant rejection letters from publishers until he receives a note in which a magazine wants to serialize his work if he includes illustrations. Jeffery asks Beth if she knows Elizabeth as he needs a quality illustrator, but she reacts strangely. Meanwhile as Beth begins to regain tidbits of her lost memory frightening her aunt and Jeffery falls in love with her, Steven Mason arrives in town on banking business.

The second entertaining Love Blossoms in Oregon inspirational historical romance (see Blowing on Dandelions) contains a strong cast while the moving storyline once again emphasizes the importance of the triad of faith, family and community. As fascinating Beth begins to recover her lost little girl memories, she needs to accept that God (and Jeffery) does not judge a book by its scarred cover. Although readers will figure out the delightful important twist relatively early, MiraLee Ferrell provides her appreciate audience with a charming Americana.

The Clockwork Wolf
Lynn Viehl
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476722375, $7.99,

In Toriana, Deathmage Lucien Dredmore asks, demands being more accurate, that Disenchanted & Co. dispeller Charmian "Kit" Kittredge interview and protect wealthy widow Lady Eugenia Bestly. The president of the Rumsen Ladies Decency Society, Bestly needs protection from those who will come after her once the media releases the news that she is the affluent arrogant surviving spouse of Terrence the savage Wolfman. Ironically, Kit is one of those less fortunate Lady Bestly tried to destroy for being indecent.

Lady Bestly insists someone used magic to turn her docile caring husband into the vile lethal Wolfman. Kit makes inquiries into the creation of these feral wolf-men with assistance from her BFF Eagle's Nest brothel owner Carina Eagle, her longtime buddy and self-anointed protector New Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Tommy Doyle, and Harry her grandfather the ghost; also accompanying her while ordering her about is the dreaded deathmage Dredmore. At the same the creator observes her progress and prepares to destroy this interfering dispeller and her allies.

The latest Her Ladyship's Curse steampunk adventure (see Disenchanted & Co.) is an exciting alternate vision of America in which M&M is not candy or the 1960's Yankees, but instead magic and mechanical gizmos. Fast-paced with a fascinating emerging romantic threesome, fans will enjoy Kit's tour of Lynn Viehl's dark San Francisco (Rumsen) though the excessive cast makes it difficult to keep track as to who's who especially early on.

Disenchanted & Co.
Lynn Viehl
9781476722351, $7.99

In the Provincial Union of Victoriana, Charmian "Kit" Kittredge firmly believes in the logic of science and math though she knows many in society strongly accept the existence of magic. Kit investigates crimes in which magic is allegedly reported with her objective being to solve the case while proving the mundane not the hocus pocus was involved.

In Rumsen, Lady Diana Walsh states her spouse's first wife cursed her with the odious words etched into her skin. Though Kit hates dealing with the aristocracy, she decides to look into the assertion; expecting to debunk Walsh's claim as non-magic means perpetrated by the husband. However, Kit finds there is more under the sun than just physics as she fears the city will turn into a paranormal dead zone while she also avoids the deathmage of Toriana, Lucien Dredmore who pursues her.

The paperback printing of the opening two Kittredge alternate steampunk America e-books (see Her Ladyship's Curse and His Lordship Possessed) is an enjoyable paranormal mystery in which the vivid Viehl world's pivotal moment is the British won the American War of Independence. Kit the skeptic is super when she works her case that curses her belief system by offering proof that counter her logical preposition. Although Dredmore is too aggressive (assault comes to mind) towards the reluctant sleuth he wants to possess, readers will enjoy Kit's investigation that takes fans on a tour of a different America.

Wicked After Midnight
Delilah S. Dawson
9781451657913, $7.99

In the freaky world Sang, former college student Demi Ward feels guilty as she appreciates what Criminy Stain has done for her starting with rescuing the young Bludman by turning her, but also is bored after six years as a contortionist in his traveling circus. Ignoring warnings from her paper-holding savior Crim and her mentor from her world Tish, Demi insists she needs to escape ennui. Crim agrees to allow her and her caravan roommate Cherie to attend the university in Ruin.

The twenty-six year old looking like a teen Demi persuades her BFF Cherie to skip Ruin and go to Paris with her to sing at a cabaret. However, before they arrive in the city, slavers assault them. The vicious thugs capture Cherie while Vale Hildebrand rescues Demi. Loaded with crippling remorse for convincing her friend to accompany her to Paris, Demi vows to rescue Cherie. Though he expects the worse, doubting Vale offers to help her beginning with kisses while she performs at the cabaret seeking info from her decadent admirers.

The latest "Wicked" Blud steampunk fantasy (see Wicked as They Come and Wicked as She Wants) is an entertaining paranormal romance starring another modern day "Alice" falling through the rabbit hole. Demi's desperation amidst depravity makes for an enjoyable thriller as Sally Bowles sang: "Life is a Cabaret."

Kindling The Moon
Jenn Bennett
9781451620528, $7.99

In Morella, California, Arcadia Bell co-owns Tambuku Tiki Lounge where some of her ebst customers are demons. Cady is not her birth name as seven years ago, her parents, Enola and Alexander Duval were accused of killing three rival mage occultists of the Luxe Order. Although they insisted they were innocent, they could not prove it. Thus the Duval family went into hiding with the cooperation of their order.

However, Cady is shook when a tape on the news shows her parents have been sighted having returned to the States. The Luxe Order supported by other occults want the three Duval's dead, but Caliph Superior of her occult gives her an alternate choice of proving her parents' innocence before she and they become sacrificial road kill. Cady needs to find the Aethyric Albino Demon who actually murdered the trio in order to learn who made the paranormal commit the atrocity. She teams up with earthbound demon Lon Butler whose halo differs from the norm for his race. Neither expected to find a ruthless bounty hunter and the Luxe Order stalk them while the clues lead hell.

The Bennett universe opens with a terrific refreshing urban fantasy thriller starring a delightful mage in peril and the demon who accompanies her on her impossible quest to identify the real killer before the other occults execute her and her family. The keys to this fabulous first fantasy are the various creatures that populate Jenn Bennett's vision of California seem real and the energy of Cady who is the energizer bunny but under hostile conditions. With an unexpected incredible twist, Kindling of the Moon is a fabulous thriller.

Summoning The Night
Jenn Bennett
9781451620535, $7.99

In Morella, California, Arcadia Bell co-owns Tambuku Tiki Lounge where some of her best customers are demons. Several years ago her parents Enola and Alexander Duval were accused of killing three rival mage occultists. When they returned to the States they tried to sacrifice their daughter as their penance, but failed (see Kindling The Moon).

Back at her bar with Halloween coming soon, she is dating Earthbound demon Lon Butler, father of teenager Jupe. However, the Hellfire Club leader Dare asks Cady to investigate a recent series of abductions of paranormal offspring. With Lon as a club member, she dare not refuse. Thus with Lon at her side and assisted by patrons of the lounge, she follows the clues applying her recently activated Moonchild powers. The amateur sleuths soon learn that these insidious kidnapping mirror the snatching of seven children three decades ago.

The second Cady Bell urban fantasy is a superb thriller from the moment Dare assigns the reluctant heroine to end the reign of terror. Fast-paced while the lovers hunt down a devious predator, fans will appreciate the inquiry as the protagonists follow leads into danger.

Grimm: The Chopping Block
John Passarella
Titan Books
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 OUP, UK
9781781166567, $7.99,

In Portland, Brian Mathis and his tweener son Tyler are hampered by the wet grounds while on an internet treasure hunt in Claremont Park. Brian finds the hidden cache while Tyler finds bones buried in a nearby shallow grave.

Portland Homicide Detectives Nick Burkhardt the Grimm and Hank Griffin on his crutches lead the investigation. The ME bleakly informs them that someone cooked the remains before disposing of the bones. Another shallow grave filled with bones is found, but neither Nick nor Hank can figure out how the numerous victims are chosen as the demographics cross all groups. The partners believe Wesen are involved so they consult with Bluthbad Monroe who mentions his grandfather told him a tale of the elitist Silver Plate Society who gathers every twenty-five years to dine on human meat.

The key to this exciting adaptation is the storyline remains true to the theme and the TV cast (Grimm, Hank, Captain Renard, Monroe and Juliette) keep the traits that series fans will recognize and newcomers will appreciate. This action-packed paranormal police procedural is fast-paced fun but the audience will not eat meat while reading.

Minerva's Shield
Derek Hart
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781491708996, $20.95,

The Norton siblings agree that the younger sexagenarian Bob will scatter their parents' ashes in the Black Hills. Bob, accompanied by his teenage child Ian, drives from Marietta, Georgia to bury his parents and also enjoy a father-son trip.

In Minnesota and the Dakotas, Bob and Ian explore abandoned homes seeking left behind treasures. After disposing of the ashes, they stop at the long closed Black Hills Army Depot where they find anomalies, meet ranchers and uncover a heavy gold coin. Soon after they leave, an odd monstrous storm of the century seems to follow them as they head home. In Marietta, the FBI visits an increasingly paranoid Bob at his home. When the Feds leave, Bob, realizing that same strange storm is coming to the Atlanta area, tells his wife Karen and Ian they must seek shelter elsewhere. As the super storm strikes with vast destruction killing Karen and many of their neighbors, Bob struggles with what he saw in the sky. Still he leads on foot a group of twelve towards Ellijay in the mountains. The gold coin planted by NASA years ago as part of Minerva's Shield saves their lives, but no other human seems to have survived.

Minerva's Shield starts off as a leisurely-paced family drama that about a third of the way into the novel turns into a fast-paced apocalyptic thriller. Filled with action while treasure hunting and much more while surviving, fans will enjoy this fabulous opening act mindful of Nevil Shute's On The Beach (albeit twenty-first century in the North Georgia Mountains instead of 1950s Australia) with a delightful metafiction spoofing of Derek Hart.

Baghdad Central
Elliot Colla
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
9781908524256, $14.95,

In November 2003, the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority shut down the army, the police and the Ba'athists. Former Inspector Muhsin Khadr al-Khafaji deserted his post before the disbanding of the cops by the occupying forces. His concerned brother-in-law asks unemployed Muhsin to search for his missing adult daughter Sawsan who did not come home from work.

However, Muhsin's inquiry abruptly ends almost before it began when the Americans incarcerate him as a high ranking Hussein official in Abu Ghraib. Realizing they made an identification error but not before they torture him, they free Muhsin and assign him to train a new police force and investigate the numerous missing Army translators. In return they give his daughter Mrouj quality medical treatment for her kidney ailment, which the sanctions previously prevented.

Baghdad Central is a strong Iraqi police procedural that captures the essence of surviving as a secularist in a Muslim nation ran by a vicious dictator while already under sanctions from the West made worse by the occupation. Poetry and family keeps the protagonist going as Elliot Colla condemns the superegos of the CPA and their impact on people after the harsh effect in Iraqi citizenry by the sanctions. The insightful look at a subculture ignored by the American media obsessive focus on blood and gore supersedes the investigations in this profound look at Iraqi life during the occupation.

Dead Water
Ann Cleaves
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250036605, $25.99,

Having returned to his home in the Shetlands after a stint in London, reporter Jerry Markham drives at night in Brae when an unlit vehicle forces him off the road. Moments later the journalist is murdered. Prosecutor Rhona Laing finds Markham's corpse.

Detective Inspector Willow Reeves arrives from West Scotland to lead the investigation into the Markham murder. She knows she must cooperate with Laing but finds the stressed local prosecutor acting odd and seemingly concealing something critical. Though still on partial leave as he grieves the death of his lover Fran (see Blue Lightning), Inspector Jimmy Perez agrees to assist Reeves on the case by interviewing the islanders he knows so well. Reeves and Perez find the locals split over their feelings re Markham due to an incident years ago involving Evie Watt before he fled the Shetlands. The two cops also learn Markham was digging into a story many islanders prefer he ignored, but who killed him with so many suspects proves difficult to identify.
The fifth Shetland police procedural (see Raven Black, White Nights and Red Bones) is an entertaining leisurely paced whodunit that requires a mental adjustment by series fans; as depressed Perez never displays any energy especially involving the inquiry. The murder mystery is well done and enhanced by a deep look at the constant debate between tradition and modernization (even the police seem enamored with pre social media methods).

Miss Dimple Picks A Peck of Trouble
Mignon F. Ballard
9781250035622, $2e.99

In 1944 with school out for summer in Elderberry, Georgia, first-grade teacher Miss Dimple Kilpatrick visits an orchard to pick peaches when she hears a scream. Stopping her activity immediately, Miss Dimple rushes to see if she can offer assistance to the person in distress at the Peach Shed. No one is there including teenager Prentice Blair, who was working at the Peach Shed.

Not long after the eighteen year old vanished, her corpse is found by the old mill. The murder scene is where she and her boyfriend Clay Jarrett would make out. Clay is the prime suspect as recently Prentice dumped him. "Mad Hattie" McGee insists she saw the abduction, but not considered creditable; as she is known throughout town when she is not claiming she is Scarlett for her persistence that Nazis stalk her and her insistence that she knows where buried Confederate gold is. Miss Dimple, with other teachers assisting her, investigates the homicide.

The latest Miss Dimple WWII amateur sleuth (see Miss Dimple Suspects a Mystery) is a wonderful historical regional cozy. The inquiry is terrific as the focus is on identifying the killer, but also enables readers to taste life in the home front of 1944 rural Georgia.

Only the Lonely
Karen Wiesner
Writers Exchange E-Publishing (Electronic)
PO Box 372, Atherton Qld 4883, Australia
9781304578280, $13.99,

Global Pharmaceutical District 2 Administrative Assistant Diane Hoffman and Pharma Sales Rep Robert Drake have been seeing each other for years though he travels a lot. After being away for four months, Robert acts odd when he tells his girlfriend he is too tired to see her. She soon learns why as Robert is married with two children. Mortified and heartbroken she quits her job and goes on a sugar binge to the consternation of her friends.

Diane obtains a position at Foxx Body Shop where Mikey Lund works. Mikey has always been on the fringe of their crowd partly because he was overweight and mostly because he is shy. He wants to help his friend Diane to get over her former lover; while Robert tries to persuade her to renew their relationship. Not wanting to be the other woman, Diane turns to Mikey to insure she does not return to Robert like an addict in need. Mike prays that he can persuade Diane to take a chance on him and his love for her.

The first Angelfire II tale is an enjoyable contemporary romance as the inadvertent other woman and the once obese still alone man fall in love while pretending to be an item. Karen Wiesner delightfully captures the mindset of the protagonists; as he lost the weight but psychologically feels fat and she lost the cheater while psychologically feels a need for the chutzpah philanderer. Readers will enjoy this entertaining tale as Only the Lonely know how the lead couple feels.

Empress of the Sun
Ian McDonald
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616148652, $17.99,

Everett Singh inadvertently takes the Everness on a Heisenberg Jump to an earth and solar system like none that he or his crew ever seen. This Alderson Disk consists of all the inner planets up to and including Jupiter tied together on a humongous flat surface that would take a civilization millions of years advanced beyond those on the Everness to have created Pratchett's Diskworld. The crew meets these creators, the lethal Jiju dinosaurs who make the outsiders' survival chances seems unlikely as the Everness needs rapid repair to jump out of this alternate before they become extinct.

On the readers' Earth, Everett M battles the Nahn nanobot invaders while knowing he must avoid their touch or die as these bots suck up living essence. Finally Charlotte Villiers sets in motion her latest nefarious scheme to obtain the Infundibulum map of all universes.

The key to the third exciting Everness parallel universes saga (see Planesrunner and Be My Enemy) is the growing complexity; as Ian McDonald honors the intelligence of his teenage audience by not dumbing down scientific theory while also paying homage to Terry Pratchett. Though it remains difficult to keep track of who's who amongst the multiples (Everett, Charlotte and others) without a scorecard, young adult readers will appreciate this thrilling entry.

Drowning Barbie
Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202162, $24.95,

In Picketsville, Virginia, Andy Lieux walks his dog in the woods until his canine scratches at the ground revealing a gray-green hand. At the same time the dog found the corpse of meth addict Ethyl Smut; recuperating from the deadly Scone Island case Sheriff Ike Schwartz and his new wife Ruth are enjoying Vegas having married at the Budding Rose Wedding chapel in a drunken haze.

The newlyweds return home to learn that Smut was interred on top of another body, murdered a decade ago. The prime suspect in the present day homicide is Ethyl's teenage daughter Darla, who has a strong motive to kill her mom for pimping her for years to support her addiction. Ike concludes Darla probably did not commit the matricide, but the teen also remains a victim as those who paid for her services fear the seventeen year old will expose them.

The latest Ike Schwartz Virginia police procedural is an entertaining whodunit as the locals feels Smut deserved death but tremble at what Darla knows and might reveal without the control of her mother. Although there is too much happenchance moving the investigation along; series fans will enjoy the inquiry, the nuptials and the reactions to both in this overall lighthearted whodunit with a serious look at the impact of abuse and addiction on the young not invincible.

A Bad Reputation
Jane Tesh
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202322, $24.95,

Former beauty queen Madeline Maclin works as a private detective in Celosia, North Carolina. She is happily married to former con man Jerry Fairweather, who seeks legitimate employment as he no longer wants to swindle people or take money from his affluent family.

Former resident Wendall Clarke returns to Celosia accompanied by his second wife Flora. He plans to open an art gallery in the downtown area. However, his triumphant homecoming ends when someone murders him at his gallery. Flora retains Madeline to investigate her husband's death. The P.I. is shocked by the vast pool of people from his first wife to his second spouse's former husbands to an angry rival to local artists wanting Wendall dead. At the same time, Honor Perkins comes to Celosia attempting to tempt Jerry away from Madeline as she wants him back as her partner.

The latest Madeline Maclin Mysteries (see A Case of Imagination, A Hard Bargain, and A Little Learning) is a wonderful regional investigation due to the antics of a fabulous eccentric cast. The Clarke case inquiry takes a back seat to these characters as marvelous Madeline deals with a horde of whimsical suspects containing strong motives and a con artist targeting her husband.

Fortune & Fame
Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476747170, $15.00,

OWN TV casts Rachel, Jasmine, Mary and Natasha as the stars of a new reality show First Ladies. Rachel and Jasmine are frenemies; while the former and Mary are 200 proof enemies; and likewise the latter with Natasha.

Unlike her rivalry with Jasmine re being the First Lady of the American Baptist Coalition (see Sinners & Saints), Rachel focuses on kicking off the show born again Mary, the biological mother of her son and ex-convict married to an ambition un-godly preacher. Jasmine concentrates on getting rid of her husband's ex-fiancee Natasha, who plans to win back her Reverend Hosea.

The latest collaboration feels like a wrestling battle royal as readers wonder who will be the last woman standing. Seeking Fortune & Fame, the four fierce frantic females make for a fun tale as Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley once again provide an entertaining over the top of a church steeple romp that spins one hell of a reality TV show.

Moving Target
J.A. Jance
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476745008, $25.99,

Exhausted by her wedding plans' commander her mother, Ali Reynolds escapes to England by accompanying her octogenarian assistant Leland Brooks as he goes home to see his estranged family for the first times since the Korean War when his father disowned him for being gay. In England, they meet Leland's relatives and learn that his dad was murdered in an unsolved decades old cold case. The pair investigates and based on circumstantial evidence, they believe Leland's late brother Langston probably killed their father. DNA on bloody clothing should prove whether their hypothesis is correct.

At the same in Texas teenager Lance Tucker develops the GHOST program that will change online security once he finishes. However, he is arrested and placed in juvenile detention for hacking into and shutting down the San Leandro School District's computer system in protest of their new Big Brother procedure. Someone sets Lance on fire and his computer teacher dies; both incidents are considered suicide attempts. Ali's fiance computer security expert B. Simpson, who hopes to hire Lance, thinks otherwise as he surmises ruthless people want GHOST. He arranges protection for the lad starting with Sister Anselm as Lance's advocate and others for the endangered Tucker family.

The latest Ali Reynolds investigation (see Deadly Stakes) contains two engaging mysteries on opposite sides of the Big Pond. As separate entries the cases are fascinating, but the sum of the parts fails to make a cohesive whole. While the English whodunit enables fans to learn more about Brooks' roots, the inquiry feels soft especially compared to the antics of Texas Taser tornado Sister Anselm.

B.J. Daniels
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373778461, $7.99,

In Beartooth, Montana, eight months pregnant Tessa Winters arrives at the Lawson ranch angrily calling the wrangler Ethan. Sweetgrass County Undersheriff Dillon Lawson explains to the fuming female that his identical twin Ethan died one year ago in a fiery car accident in Arizona. Holding a gun Tessa tells Dillon she is carrying Ethan's baby and wants back the money he conned from her. Dillon calmly tells her neither Ethan nor he is the father.

Dillon muses whether Tessa is conning him or could his felonious sibling be alive. He decides to go with his gut that his twin survived the crash and persuades Tessa to help him investigate. As they work together, Dillon and Tessa fall in love while he keeps her safe from a killing predator. Although her companion acts the complete opposite of his swindling sibling with his gentle caring of her newborn daughter and his horse, she fears he may be pulling a ruse

The fourth Beartooth Mountains thriller (see Unforgiven, Forsaken and Redemption) is an engaging Big Sky romantic suspense. The overarching premise of Sweetgrass County being the murder capital of the world moves forward somewhat especially the Frank-Nettie-Pam triangle. However, Atonement's focus is on the intriguing new triangle as the lead couple seeks the truth re his late brother the seemingly impossible father of her baby.

Close Pursuit
Cindy Dees
Harlequin HQN
9780373778485, $7.99

Kindergarten teacher Katie McCloud joins Doctors Unlimited as a translator in a war torn Karshan village. She will assist brilliant Dr. Alex Peters as he provides medical help to pregnant women. Both understand the danger if caught as he will be tortured and killed, and she will suffer worse. When they run into peril, Alex, showing skills a geek should not possess, gets them to safely while she carries a newborn.

Back in the States, Alex the mathematician calculates the odds of a bad luck assault on them leading him to a hypothesis that most likely Katie was the target or worse. Filled with distrust and believing in the theory of keeping your enemies nearby, Alex hangs around Katie until they fall in love. Meanwhile the illusion of safety in American ends when adversaries attack Katie and Alex who vows to keep his woman safe.

Close Pursuit is a taut romantic suspense with a terrific twisting climax. War torn Karshan comes across as genuine with little anchors like the endangered pregnant woman demanding the teacher rather than the physician perform a life-saving C-section. Readers will relish the enigmatic Alex and the spunky kindergarten teacher as they fall in love while battling to survive in Karshan and the USA against mercenaries.

Texas Outlaws: Cole
Kimberly Raye
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797929, $5.50

The ladies of Lost Gun, Texas target Cole as the last eligible Chisholm now that women roped in his "outlaw" siblings Billy and Jesse. The townsfolk classify Nicole Barbie as a bad girl because the acorn falls near the tree; her mother, owner of the Giddyup honkytonk, has quite the reputation and Nikki does nothing to change their minds. Ironically, no one knows Nikki attends culinary training with plans to become a chef in Houston.

Her family intrudes on her goal while Nikki notices the good girls pounce on wary Cole. She suggests to him that they pretend to be a couple so each can focus on what they want. Chisholm accepts her relationship of convenience. Neither was prepared to fall in love.

The third Chisholm Texas Outlaws contemporary (see Billy and Jesse) is a delightful romance between the not so bad girl and the not so good bronc rider. Although Nikki's pretentious elitist attitude can be distracting, fans will enjoy this heated tale.

Alone With You
Debra Rawlins
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797936, $5.50

In Oklahoma City, eating her pride as a rebel without a cause, Alexis Worthington begs her ultraconservative controlling father Marshall for a job in the family's billion-dollar company. Still angry with his daughter for defying him starting by not attending Harvard eight years ago, Marshall tells his daughter to prove she is a worthy Worthington. Her test is to sign up the final month's rodeo cowboy for a calendar.

Bareback bronc riding champion Will Tanner knows his career is near the end and has doubts about renewing his contract that expires in ten days. Lexy tries to persuade the hunk to be a pinup, but he refuses. On the circuit drive to Houston, Will and Lexy fall in love, but he remains hesitant to be a monthly beefcake while she reconsiders her deal with her dad hoping for a better one with the cowboy she loves.

The Made in Montana romance series (see From This Moment On and No One Needs To Know) leaves the Big Sky ranching community for a fresh Texas road show. The lead couple is a delight and their changing relationship comes across as hot, tender and real; as readers and Will know he was her buttered toast by day three.

Rocky Mountain Rescue
Cindi Myers
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697496, $5.50

With the deaths of her brutal crime boss father-in-law Sam Giardino and her violent husband Sammy, Stacy thinks she and her three years old son Carlo are safe. However, ruthless Sam proves still dangerous from the grave due to his will that stipulates his immense estate placed in a trust for his grandson.

Other members of the Giardino family like his widow Willa and his other son Abel want control of the fortune; which means "raising" the heir. When Carlo is kidnapped before U.S. Marshal Patrick Thompson can relocate Stacy and her son in the Witness Protection Program, he vows to rescue the toddler. As the frantic mother and the Fed work the case together, neither trusts the other though the attraction is higher than the Rocky Mountains they traverse.

The sequel to Rocky Mountain Revenge is an exciting rescue thriller starring two strong characters dealing with trust issues as well as her lethal in-laws (especially fascinating Black Widow Willa who brings meaning to the mother-in-law from hell). Fast-paced with a powerful sense of foreboding in a pristine remote locale, readers will appreciate Cindi Myers's suspenseful tale though Abel and other mobsters are underdeveloped stereotypes.

Bridal Jeopardy
Rebecca York
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697519, $5.50

Desperate to pay off his gambling debts any way he can, Henri Swift offers his daughter Stephanie to John Reynard as remittance. John accepts Stephanie as payment. Stephanie has doubts about marrying her suitor, but her dad pushes her to do so.

Bethesda-based private investigator Craig Branson works a personal murder cold case in New Orleans as he hunts those who ordered a kill that left his twin dead twenty-two years ago. His focus is on untouchable bigwig John Reynard while failing to understand why Stephanie Swift became the dirt's fiancee. When Craig rescues Stephanie from an attempted abduction by thugs Buck Arnot and Wayne Channing, his mind and hers meet like the way his used to with his late brother Sam before the mob hit killed his sibling.

The latest Mindbenders romantic paranormal mystery is an action-packed entry that brings series fans back to the Solomon Clinic. Although this tale can stand alone, newcomers should read the previous stories (see Sudden Attraction and Sudden Insight) to understand fully the genetics overarching premise. Fast-paced from the moment Craig saves Stephanie from the abduction, readers will appreciate this taut romantic suspense as it's in the minds as much as the hearts.

Wife By Design
Tara Taylor Quinn
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373608300, $5.75

In California, several weeks after the birth of their baby Kara, concerned Lynn notices her husband Brandon continues to act strange until he says he loves her but also admits he is gay. Seventeen years ago, an accident left Darin's brain severely damaged; his brother landscape architect Grant has cared for him since and hopes a craniology helps his older sibling. Though each recognizes the bad timing for their attraction to one another, neither Lynn the nurse nor Grant her patient's sibling will act on their respective desires.

Three years later, Grant asks Lynn to suggest an out-patient physical therapy program for Darin to join. Still highly attracted to each other, both know nothing will happen between them as he remains dedicated to caring for his brother and she is devoted to her daughter and those staying at The Lemonade Stand women's shelter.

The first Where Secrets Are Safe saga is a strong family drama due to the real world issues the two caregivers and their charges must face every day; while the romance serves as a supporting subplot. A strong cast makes for a profound contemporary with grateful fans looking forward to another TLC novel Once a Family coming in June.

Sentinels: Lynx Destiny
Doranna Durgin
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885893, $5.75

While staying alone at her father's cabin in the Sacramento Mountains for the first time since she fled as a child, Regan Adler lectures the land to stop talking to her. She also knows she cannot stay long or risk the fate of her mom who lost her mind to the voices before dying in a car accident. Kai Faulkes the lynx-shifter lives in isolation near the home of Regan's father. He hides from the Atrum Core who would assassinate him for his uncanny ability to expose their magic and from the Sentinels who would place him under constant house arrest in order to exploit his skill.

Kai's world shifts when he hears Regan chatting with the mountain while also detecting the new silent Core magic. Unable to ignore her, Kai comes to Regan's aid, but needs her to embrace her talent if they are to survive the Core horde assaulting them.

The latest Sentinels romantic fantasy (see Kodiak Chained) is a fabulous fresh entry with the wonderful spin of the hero avoiding both sides in the war of magic. The story begins leisurely introducing the uniqueness of each of the lead characters before accelerating into an action-packed thriller.

One Night With The Shifter
Theresa Meyers
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885909, $5.75

Banished from the Wenatchee Were Pack where he was Beta for years, Tyee Grayson meets teacher Jess Brierly at the OON in Sinclair, Washington when vampires start a bar fight. Ty keeps Jess safe and they leave together for a one night stand.

Not long afterward, Jess tells Ty she is pregnant with his child. When vampires attack her brother Riley, a soldier Ty is training, the werewolf changes him to save his life. While turning to a vampire pack for help against another vampire group, Ty also must tell his beloved mate that he is a Were; her sibling is a Were; and she carries a Were hybrid.

The fourth Sons of Midnight romantic fantasy (see The Half-Breed Vampire) is a fast-paced novel from the moment the lead couple meets and never decelerates until the final confrontation. The key to this strong entry is Ty's fears of being alone as he contemplates dying as a lethal lunatic, dying as a depressed hermit, or starting a new pack; Jess makes up his mind with a wanted pregnancy. Series fans will enjoy the romance between the exiled Were and the human schoolteacher.

A Family For Tyler
Angel Smits
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373608317, $5.75

In Austin, the six Hawkins siblings arrive at their beloved late mom's house following her funeral. Grieving, each takes their special chair home with them.

Three months later, while special ops soldier DJ Hawkins is away on assignment, his brother Wyatt comes to take his eight year old nephew Tyler Easton to his ranch. The lad's eyes reflect his sadness as his mom abandoned him and his dad has no idea he sired a son. Two weeks later, Wyatt accompanied by Tyler arrives in the courtroom of Judge Emily Ivers where he files for temporary custody of his nephew until DJ returns home. The Judge prefers permanent custody until the tweener insists his mom will come for him. Ivers makes the arrangement provisional based on either parent coming for their son. The magistrate remains uncomfortable with the situation so, without the lad to hear her, tells Wyatt she has her doubts about him caring for his nephew. She hopes that her childhood abuse is not tainting her opinion. Wyatt invites her to the ranch to see for herself, which she does. As they fall in love, the judge must overcome her childhood ghosts if she is to embrace her rancher.

The first and oldest Chair at the Hawkins Table is an entertaining ranch romance due to a strong cast with deep flaws as the child deals with abandonment issues through total independence and the magistrate struggles with her past as her defense mechanism no longer works. Although late suspense forces Emily to choose between loneliness and happiness, the present day cause of this effect feels stereotyped. Still fans will appreciate this deep family drama.

Blame It On The Rodeo
Amanda Renee
Harlequin American
9780373755080, $5.50

In Ramblewood, Texas thirteen years ago, Shane Langtry and Lexi Lawson were in love until he cheated with buckle bunny Sharon Vincent in a one night stand in Oklahoma while his beloved was at Colorado State. Sharon claimed he was the father of the baby she carried so they married and raised Dylan until Tab proved paternity and backed by the court took the infant with him, breaking Shane's heart as he loved the two year old child.

Veterinarian, Lexi keeps her distance from Shane though they have become friends as she works with the horses on his family's ranch. As Shane desperately wants another chance with his beloved Lexi, she feels the same way but has a secret that she must first reveal to him if they are to finally make it.

This Ramblewood ranch romance (see Home to the Cowboy) is a wonderful second chance at love as secrets and betrayals keep the lead couple apart unless one of them takes that first frightening step of admitting their mistakes in order to reignite their relationship. Although Lexi's secret is ethically wrong (and overused) even as a retaliatory response caused by a broken heart, fans will enjoy this character driven Texas tale.

Rescued By The Millionaire
Cara Solter
Harlequin Romance
9780373742776, $5.99

In Calgary, River's Edge Enterprises CEO Daniel Riverton has little time for anyone even his mom; as he works long hours and sleeps much of the little time remaining in his day. While his home is being renovated, Daniel occupies his best friend Kevin Wilson's condo as the photographer is overseas on assignment. However the apartment above him in the adult-only building his firm is driving him crazy as the resident has noisy children visiting her.

Trixie Marsh has mixed feelings about her twin sister Abby dumping her four years old twins (Molly and Pauline) on her since they reside in Australia and she rarely sees them but they are also a disruptive major handful. When there is finally quiet after four nights of relentless noise, Daniel still has a headache. The silence abruptly ends with a loud bang that has him running upstairs where he finds the adult tied by toilet paper to a chair like a mummy captured by Oliver Twist munchkins. As he considers fleeing the scene, Trixie identifies him by the shoes he wears. Instead of leaving behind Auntie and her rambunctious nieces, Daniel finds he needs to be with Trixie.

Rescued by the Millionaire is an amusing contemporary Canadian romance with a strong cast. The lead couple is a nice pairing who falls in love while huddling in the trenches where they learn firsthand to "Never work with children ..." (WC Fields) as they tend to steal the storyline. Fans will enjoy this humorous tale in which the adult love subplot plays second fiddle to the antics of the terror twins.

Moving Target
Kimberly Van Meter
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278602, $5.50

In San Francisco, medical researcher Dr. Kat Odgers diligently works on a cure for Alzheimer's. MCX-209 looked promising, but the test on Auguste the monkey destroyed the memory of even eating a banana instead of repairing the brains cells involved in recall.

The Defense Intelligence Agency learns of Odgers' results. DIA supervisor Miles Jogen sends Agent Jake Isaacs to retrieve the stubborn scientist who refuses to believe she is in danger, and bring her to DC for her safety as other less scrupulous people want her memory erasing drug. In California, the consummate professional cannot resist the brilliant geek who in turn finds herself attracted to the agent.

Moving Target is an entertaining romantic suspense due to the unique heroine whose nerdiness is endearing to fans and Jake. Fast-paced from the moment cute Auguste sadly begins to drool and never slowing down, readers will enjoy this exciting amusing version of Monkey Business.

Cavanaugh Hero
Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278589, $5.50

Someone shoots and kills the slightly inebriated off duty Aurora Police Sergeant Matt Holt. The killer feels justice has been served and informs the dead cop that he will not die alone as others will follow.

Matt's grieving sister Police Detective Charley Randolph obsesses over finding her sibling's murderer. Using their time together at the police academy as a persuader, Charley convinces lead Detective Declan Cavanaugh to let her assist him on the investigation though also hiding from him her conflict of interest. While the predator kills more cops as Declan and Charley work the case together; they are also attracted to one another. However, he is not a one woman man and she knows her lie of omission will anger him and their superiors.

The latest fast-paced Cavanaugh Justice romantic police procedural (see Cavanaugh Baby) is an exciting serial killer thriller. As Declan and Charley fall in love, both know the priority remains putting an end to the murdering of their peers and perhaps them too.

The Queen's Choice
Cayla Kluver
Harlequin Teen
9780373210923, $17.99

The Queen of Chrior is dying. Two heirs qualify as the next monarch of Chrior, but the Queen selects her niece Anya as more suitable for the kingdom than her other niece Illumina. She also assigns Illumina to find her long lost son Prince Zabriel in Warekum.

However, as she grieves for her beloved aunt, Anya feels she may be a better candidate than her cousin, but is still not qualified to rule. Anya decides to leave her Fairie realm to find Zabriel in the human world. For the most part nothing goes right once she crosses over starting with losing her wings, which not only severs her bond with Davic, but also exiles her on this mortal plane. However, the one plus is Anya meets human Shea who mentors her on her misadventures.

The first Heirs of Chrior young adult fantasy is an engaging tale that provides a fascinating mythos. The storyline is fun when the heroine stumbles from one blunder to another due to her stubborn refusal to accept she has been de-winged and so no longer indestructible. However, in between her blunders are long stretches of seemingly nothingness; as this is a solid opening act but not at the level of Cayla Kluver's Legacy trilogy.

Anything to Have You
Paige Harbison
Harlequin Teen
9780373210886, $9.99

Although total opposites in demeanor, high school seniors Brooke and Natalie are always there for each other. Brooke loves to party especially as the center of attention while Natalie prefers to stay home by herself. Both are attracted to newcomer Aiden, but he chooses glamour; ergo Brooke becomes his girlfriend, which Natalie sadly accepts as at least she rationalizes he is with her BFF.

Brooke persuades Natalie to come with them to the Stupid Cupid Rager. Overindulging Brooke becomes intoxicated and her flirty nasty behavior angers Aiden and upsets Natalie. The next morning, Natalie wakes up with a terrible hangover and confused as Aiden shares the bed with her when she thought she had sex with Eric. Feeling she betrayed her best friend, Natalie knows she still is attracted to Aiden.

Rotating perspective between the BFFs, Anything to Have You takes a deep look at teen desire as readers obtain two subjective viewpoints re the same incident or person. Although parental neglect is stratospheric and Brooke unlikable (albeit also sympathetic as her rocket ride seems ready to crash), young adult fans will enjoy this engaging teen triangle.

Elizabeth Scott
Harlequin Teen
9780373210961, $16.99

Dan wants a baby badly so to make him happy his reluctant wife Lisa agrees to the high-risk pregnancy though she wishes her husband would cherish her daughter Emma who lives with them as more than enough as he seemed to at one time. Lisa becomes pregnant, but tragedy strikes and she dies. To save the unborn, Dan insists doctors hook up his brain dead wife to life support equipment.

Blaming Dan for her mom's death, Emma grieves her loss compounded with every visit to the hospital to see her mom hooked on tubes and her once beloved stepdad fussing over his unborn. Her trauma leaves her ignorant that her stepdad conceals his guilt-ridden broken heart from his hurting stepdaughter. Angry, Emma's grades collapse as she no longer cares. Having lost a loved one, town bad boy Caleb recognizes a mourning kindred spirit in raging grieving Emma and tries to be there for her.

Heartbeat is an insightful timely (with the recent Texas tragedy) contemporary that takes an intense dark look at grief and the profound emotional complexity of the availability of modern medical techniques impacting families. Although the teen romance feels more of an unneeded genre requirement that detracts from a poignant character driven storyline, Elizabeth Scott writes a thought-provoking tale.

Romance For Cynics
Nicola Marsh
Harlequin KISS
9780373178919, $5.99

Financial consultant Cashiel Burgess is in trouble after an oversea bank collapsed and a bimbo concocted a fictional account about him that will send more clients fleeing from him at a time he wants to raise investment funds. Cash turns to his college buddy public relations specialist Barton Clegg for damage control.

Bart arranges for divorced gardener Lucy Grant, who desperately needs money for her grandmother, to be Cash's girlfriend and accompanying him at the Valentine fundraiser. At the event in front of crowds and cameras, they act the roles of the perfect couple. Each insists this is a performance as she distrusts commitment after her marriage to a rich guy collapsed and he likes playing the field except when they tell tales about him. Both ignore that the attraction between them makes the sham seem Oscar Award winning real.

Though the fake girlfriend premise is an old theme, readers will enjoy Romance For Cynics as Cash and Lucy go from denial of their feelings to fleeing their unwanted desires to hesitantly embracing their love. Amusing at times, this is a fun contemporary.

No Time Like Mardi Gras Time
Kimberly Lang
Harlequin KISS
9780373178926, $5.99

At a bar during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Colin Raine and Jamie Vincent meet. He shows her the festive carnival, but they become separated. Starting over after a recent debacle, Jamie has mixed feelings since she enjoyed her time with Colin the bartender, but needs to avoid relationship problems. Actually a computer game expert instead of a bartender, Colin searches the city for the woman who haunts him.

When they meet again, she insists it was the atmosphere that brought them together; while he claims it was their attraction. Though Colin knows a beauty like Jamie can have any guy, he wants to be her one and only, but as he wins her heart he loses the woman he relishes when he tries to help her without asking.

The first One Night in New Orleans tale is a delightful contemporary romance starring two likable leads in a fabulous love story with strong subplots. Readers will root for the gaming geek to defeat his zombies and win the heart of the woman who possesses his.

Threads of Home
Jodi Barrows
River North
c/o Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610
9780802409386, $14.99,

In 1856 Louisiana, Lucas feared for the safety of his grandchildren (sisters: Liz a widow and Megan; and their Mississippi cousins Abby and Emma) so he arranges for them to travel to Texas with plans to join them once he sold his property; instead he was murdered (see Threads of Change). In Fort Worth, each of the four women takes a slightly different destination yet they have each other's back.

Working in the mercantile, Liz feels she has come a long way since she lost her parents as a child, her husband and grandfather as she stands at the altar ready to marry a family friend Thomas with her twelve year old son Luke giving her away. Abby prepares to open a new school even as Samuel the lawyer denies his feelings for the schoolmarm. The youngest Emma feels the most disconnected with her confusion as to what to do until a herd of cattle almost runs her over. She realizes she can bring in needed money by providing B&B services to the cowboys and stabling and feeding their horses. While Jackson the lawman is attracted to Megan, she agrees to work with Emma on her venture. As the presidential election nears, a dispute over county records threatens the safety of the four cousins and their loved ones.

The second engaging Americana Quilting Story is an enjoyable historical due to a strong ensemble cast who enable readers to witness the "threads" of late Antebellum Texas. Although the ladies continue to adapt too easily from life as part of the 1% to working class, readers will appreciate this character driven pre-Civil War entry.

Lisa Morton
9781940161082, $18.95,

In 1878 since her beloved husband Lord William Furnaval vanished and is probably dead, Diana lost interest in life including her mission as a Netherworld Gatekeeper partly because he was her diligent partner preventing wickedness from entering our world. Since William's disappearance, Diana performs her duty to patrol the supernatural portals, but lacks the vigilliance she possessed when teamed with her husband.

As she shuts portals, Diana becomes concerned that evil has begun crossing over unchecked. She fears a war with demons will devastate her world if she fails to act immediately. With help from Yi-Kin the Chinese sailor, Mina the guardian and Stephen the scholar, all whom she meets on her globetrotting escapades, Diana fights malevolence while closing gates and searching with little hope for William.

The keys to this fascinating first Chronicles of Diana Furnaval are the alternate vivid Victorian era and the wonderful anachronistic heroine who is way ahead of her time. Although Diana and her loyal band too easily and quickly defeat seemingly more powerful demons leading to the immediate next escapade against a new beast with no respite for the weary, readers will enjoy this action-packed historical fantasy.

Wendell Black, MD
Gerald Imber, M.D.
Bourbon Street Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062246851, $14.99,

NYPD police surgeon Dr. Wendell Black flies home from Heathrow when the purser asks him if he is a physician and if yes show identification. After an annoyed Wendell complies, the purser escorts him to middle aged Marjorie who explains the young woman next to her began sobbing and babbling while not looking very well. As he tries to ascertain the cause, the woman suffers a seizure and dies. Later ME Chief Dr. Benson informs Wendell that his airplane she-victim is Azuk Capinpin, a genetic anatomic-he who was a mule carrying heroin inside his body when the breast implant erupted killing him with an overdose.

Farzan Byarshan, a friend of Black's girlfriend Dr. Alice Sheppard, provides Wendell with information about the dead person on the plane, but soon is murdered too. Alice vanishes while a frantic Black, working with the Feds, investigates what begins to look more like a terrorist plot rather than illegal drug smuggling.

The first Wendell Black, MD mystery is a thrilling whodunit that hooks the audience from the opening 747 scene and the fast-paced storyline never let's go of its grip until the final confrontation. The plot loses some believability when it veers from a police procedural into a terrorist thriller, but retains the exciting action-packed tension as readers will appreciate Dr. Gerald
Imber's entertaining tale.

Isabel Allende; Oliver Brock (translator)
Frank Wynne (translator)
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062291400, $28.99,

In 2012 San Francisco, high school senior Amanda Martin loves her divorced mother Indiana Jackson, but is more like her beloved dad Ed the homicide cop. Whereas her spiritualistic mother sees the good in everyone, her daughter and her ex-husband see the evil in the same people. Meanwhile her mom has two suitors she admires but Amanda notices the dark flaws in both candidates seeking to be her stepfather.

Amanda loves mysteries and serves as the headmaster of an online whodunit game Ripper. The players include her sexagenarian maternal grandfather Blake; wheelchair-bound New Zealander online as "Esmeralda" the Gypsy; a lonely New Jersey teen called Sir Edmond who never leaves his room except for the bathroom; a Montreal nineteen years old with an eating disorder using the name Abatha the psychic; and in Reno thirteen years old genius "Sherlock Holmes".

After her grandmother's omen of a city bloodbath, someone murders Golden Hills Elementary School security guard Ed Staton with a bat and soon other killings follow. Deciding to investigate, Amanda persuades her Ripper playing friends to change the setting of their game from 1888 London to 2011 San Francisco so that they can help her investigate. When Indiana vanishes, Amanda fears for her mom's life, so with resolve and her online support, Amanda works the case that turned frighteningly personal.

Ripper is an exciting amateur sleuth starring a precious investigator and a fabulous support team whose online persona radically differ from their reality. Although the online game is never developed, the players are especially their virtual personalities. Readers will appreciate Amanda and her virtual squad gum-shoeing the mean streets of San Francisco.

To Sail A Darkling Sea
John Ringo
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476736211, $25.00,

His brother warned Steven John Smith of a pandemic disease that starts off like an airborne flu, but turns into a neurological disorder transmitted by bites from sick victims. Heeding his sibling's cautionary advice to head out to sea, the former Aussie Para Steven managed to get his wife Stacey and their two teenage daughters (Sophia Lynn and Faith Marie) out of West Virginia (see Under a Graveyard Sky).

As the world is under siege, the Navy appoints Steven as Commander of the US Navy Atlantic fleet after his success at eradicating zombie nests at sea; his daughters receive officer commissions too. Currently they bravely try to clean out the Iwo Jima from the infected while hoping to rescue those still human trapped inside.

Though this Black Tide Rising apocalypse thriller has the feel of a middle book as the overarching premise feels stalled at sea, readers will appreciate the action-filled (except when the brass pontificates) tale as zombie cleansing is a hazardous occupation. Fast-paced throughout, John Ringo provides an entertaining zombie war tale with civilization forced To Sail A Darkling Sea that needs cleansing the oceans of the madness that occupies the land.

Carousel Sun
Sharon Lee
9781476736235, $15.00

Ten years ago the Guardian of the Land Katherine Fae Archer left Archers Beach, Maine but recently returned when the by the SOPs Fun Country manager Marilyn demanded remittance from her for her space in the amusement park as her missing grandmother failed to pay. While Kate avoided her responsibility leaving the town and land in a horrid downward track, her Fantasy Menagerie Carousel lost a horse when the spirit within awakened and took off.

Kate needs to replace the empty spot while Fun Country demands she does so immediately or face penalties. She reluctantly goes to the Enterprise who has no horses or any items to fit the menagerie. Instead she settles on a fiberglass chicken to fill temporarily the void. Mechanic Nancy Vois works the carousel's night shift and helps install the chicken; while newcomer Vassily Abramovich Davydenko works days. Borgan the trenvay and Bonny the dryad recover from injuries and much of the land also begins to heal since the Guardian came home.

The sequel to the exciting Carousel Tides is an insightful cerebral Maine fantasy though muted compared to its action-packed predecessor. The entertaining storyline focuses more on the healing of the land, the paranormal, the humans and the Guardian although there is a rematch with the drug gang who has a fiery ally in round two. Sharon Lee enables her audience to look deep into the soul of the guilt-laden heroine as she tries to make right what her decade of neglect caused.

Empire of Man
David Weber and John Ringo
9781476736242, $14.00

"March Upcountry." The Empress of Man Alexandra VII sends her spoiled youngest son Prince Roger MacClintock to waive the flag at the planet Leviathan's Net-Hauling event. Roger protests about having to visit a backwater orb that smells for light years around, but does his duty. On the trek through space, terrorists disable Roger's ship forcing an emergency landing on the dangerous planet Marduk that makes Leviathan look like the center of civilization. Accompanied by Royal Marines, Roger needs to grow up rather quickly if he is to survive the hostile planet whose low-tech natives prove as deadly as any species in the universe.

"March to the Sea." With many of the elite soldiers already dead and more expected to follow while still stranded on the hostile planet Marduk, Prince Roger and his remaining protective Royal Marines desperately march to the sea where their only hope of rescue lies. To reach their goal, the outsiders must trek through dangerous terrain filled with deadly unknown species while also avoiding the feral Boman. However, the endangered humans have native allies like exiled Mardukan Prince Raster and General Kar assisting their hellish journey while also finding some surprising higher than swamp-level technology in the cities of Diaspra and K'Vaern's Cove.

This reprint of the first two Prince Roger military science fiction tales contains plenty of action on a fascinating "backwater" world. "March Upcountry" is a delightful coming of age saga as Roger transitions from spoiled royal to responsible team member. "March to the Sea" is a fast-paced survivor thriller, which looks deeply at a superpower struggling out of its element while allied with a backwater contingent against a native bloody horde.

Broken Homes
Ben Aaronovitch
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756409609, $7.99,

The car crash between two speeding vehicles left Allen Frust dead and Robert Weil severely injured. First first responder PC Slatt notices unaccountable blood in Weil's car that leads to him being the prime suspect as a mutilating serial killer. A spell involved in the crash leads Queen's Peace Constable and magician's apprentice Peter Grant summarizing the case to his boss-mentor Nightingale the wizard that Weil may be a mundane serial killer or a ward of the infamous Faceless Man.

The Southwark Council plans to tear down a housing monstrosity, Skygarden in Elephant and Castle. However, efforts to demolish this ugly high rise complex meet eerie opposition. With political pressure on the police to resolve the interference, Peter and his apprentice peer Constable Lesley Mai investigate to determine whether the Faceless Man prevents the demolition and, if as expected yes, why.

The fourth Rivers of London police procedural fantasy (see Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho and Whispers Under Ground) is an entertaining thriller that makes the magical elements seem to be a real force of nature. The human and supernatural cast is strong and Peter continues to grow as an apprentice mage and constable. Action-packed with a terrific twisting finish, fans of the series will appreciate Ben Aaronovitch's lampooning government sponsored housing projects used to warehouse the poor in isolation until the land is needed for something considered more important than filing away the impoverish.

C.S. Friedman
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408886, $19.95,

Jessica Drake's weird dreams of alien worlds have haunted her as far back as she remembers. Uncomfortable, the sixteen year old Jesse shares her haunting dreams with no one except her gamer addicted younger brother Tommy. He, in turn, uses her vivid descriptions in his games.

DNA testing stuns the teen who assumed her parents birthed her; as the data prove they are not her natural family. Even more shocking the results insist she probably is not Homo Sapien. Jesse soon meets other "changelings" with her genetic coding also orphaned on earth while some of these others die in suspicious accidents. When strangers destroy her home and abduct Tommy, Jesse and two changeling comrades follow to a different Earth where the science is magic and the economics is multidimensional colonial mercantilism controlled by a powerful plutocracy. To return to their earth, Jesse and her friends risk their lives by daring to challenge the portal-controlling Guilds.

Dreamwalker is an enjoyable young adult opening act that establishes a parallel earth in a fantasy setting manipulated by the universal 1%. The storyline provides readers with a deep look at this other realm through the escapades of the three changelings. Although the heroine's companions are underdeveloped sidekicks and a romance feels included as a subgenre requirement, readers will enjoy traveling to C.S. Friedman's other earth and look forward to more dimensional adventures starring Jesse and her buddies.

Max Kinnings
31 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
9781623651022, $24.95,

On Madic Farm in Snowdonia, Wales religious fanatic Tommy Denning deploys his plan to surrender to God's will by killing Father Owen of the Church of Cruor Christi. Tommy, his even crazier sister Belle and Simeon head to South Wimbledon where they kidnap the wife and two children of George Wakeham to use as hostages in order force the subway driver to cooperate or else they will die.

During a severe heat wave that makes the London Underground an unmanageable sauna, Wakeham's train stops between the Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road stations while three hundred plus frightened passengers face heat stroke and imminent execution. Blind Police Detective Chief Inspector Ed Mallory tries to negotiate with the psychopath in charge. As the deaths mount, MI5 conducts a deadly lone wolf operation and officials inside air conditioned rooms take advantage of the situation to further their ambitions.

With a modern day fiery John Brown Taking of Pelham 123, Baptism is an exhilarating action-packed thriller that focuses on the danger of religious fanatics cherry picking the bible to defend their claim of doing God's will even sacrificing the innocent like Abraham was willing to do. The key players are fascinating as each has major flaws they overcome in everyday life as George drives an underground train in spite of being a claustrophobic; Tommy is a 200 proof psychopath yet a brilliant methodical operational planner; and Ed uses his other senses to overcome his lack of sight. The two prime females (George's wife and Tommy's sister) are less developed but enhance, along with the support cast, this bloody look at a lethal brand of religious fanaticism.

The Deliverance of Evil
Roberto Costantini, translated by N.S. Thompson
31 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
9781623650025, $26.95,

In 1982 in Spain, Italy wins the World Cup. The country is ecstatic with its first championship since before WWII. While Rome celebrates, eighteen years old Elisa Sordi vanishes. Like much of the country, young politically-connected Police Commissario Michele Balistreri joins in the reveille while he delays the missing person's investigation using SOPs as the rationale to the hysterical parents of the teen. Michele's passion remains vino and women until a few days later when Elisa's battered body is found on the banks of the Tiber. The despondent cop realizes the impact of what he allowed and vows never again.

In 2006, Italy defeats France in Germany to win their first World Cup since 1982. At the same time, Elisa's mom commits suicide while several young women are tortured and murdered just like her daughter was. This time Balistreri vows to solve the present day serial killings and the cold case that still haunts him.

Ironically though the 1982 homicide radically changes the protagonist from an uncaring hedonist to a dedicated cop, Balistreri remains unlikable and unsympathetic. The engaging Italian police procedural provides the audience with a fascinating psychological look at how ugly nurturing turns a human into an amoral evil.

Killer's Island
Anna Jansson
Stockholm Text
19820 82nd Place NE, Kenmore, Seattle, WA 98028
9789187173998, $14.95,

On Gotland Island, Sweden, Detective Inspector Maria Wern heads home in high heels after going to Quay 5 for drinks with her colleague Erika Lund who leaves with a man she met at the bar. Maria responds to a call for help, but when she intervenes to stop three men kicking and battering a young teen they attack her too while a witness flees. At the hospital Maria fears the brutes injected her with HIV. Dr. Eriksson says she more likely will suffer from hepatitis and that the lad suffered severe internal injuries that have left him in ICU after surgery with little chance of surviving.

Soon after Maria's Good Samaritan beating, nurse Linn Bogen heads home after finishing her shift at the hospital when she is assaulted. When Linn learns of the attacks on the cop and the teen, she reports her assault. Pedestrians soon find her decapitated in a wedding dress that eerily emulates the White Sea-Lady myth and also found dead is the witness of the cop battering. As more murders occur, Erika leads the investigation into a serial killer while her private life intrudes on her inquiry.

The latest Maria Wern Swedish police procedural (see Strange Bird) provides an interesting look at the victims before they are murdered and the emotional damaging impact on their grieving loved ones and their frightened neighbors. Readers will enjoy this strong whodunit into terror that paralyzes the islanders with abject fear.

Harmony Cabins
Regina Hart
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758286543, $6.99,

Los Angeles songwriter Audra Lane comes to the Cabins in Trinity Falls, Ohio to overcome her writer's block as she owes her business manager Benita three tunes. If first impressions matter, her wearing a garbage bag as a dress and signing in as Penny Lane are doozies, but disheveled desk clerk Jackson Sansberry contains his mirth until she is out of sight. Over the next three weeks, the lodger and the renovating owner become acquainted and subsequently become attracted to each other, he becomes her muse as she feels empathy for the grieving divorced Jack unable to move past the death of his daughter Zoey.

Caring Books & Bakery owner Doreen Fever begs Jack to participate in the Trinity Falls Sesquicentennial event as he is not only a descendent of the town's founding family, but a good person even donating Penny's room payment to the school rather than his cabin renovations. As Doreen runs for mayor, a late candidate shakes up the race by placing doubts in her mind that she is no longer the best person for the job.

The second Finding Home saga (see Trinity Falls) is an engaging look at a small Buckeye town. Readers will enjoy this warm tale of love between a Grammy-award winning Southern California native and a true blood Buckeye with strong supporting subplots that bring Trinity Falls to life.

Death Of An Irish Diva
Mollie Cox Bryan
9780758266330, $7.99

The day after the St. Patrick's Day gala in Cumberland Creek, Virginia, renowned Irish dancer Emily McGlashen, who gave the crowds quite a performance at the parade, is found murdered in her studio with her shoe lace around her neck. Freelance reporter Annie Chemovitz takes a leave of absence from her book she is writing on the New Mountain Order to cover the story.

The police name Vera Matthews as a major suspect as her purse was at the crime scene. Additionally Vera owns a rival dance studio that has lost most of its business since Emily opened hers up and raided her customer pool; forcing the former to live in her studio after renting out her home. Vera's Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Club Cropper friends reject the theory she is a murderer. Led by Annie, the Croppers investigate with clues leading to nowhere until an antique scrapbook surfaces.

The latest Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Club cozy (see Scrapbook of Secrets) is an enjoyable whodunit as the Cropper crew finds many people loathing the despicable victim, but none who clearly committed the killing. Although there is similarity to Scrapped with a Cropper named as the suspect, readers will enjoy this investigation as the inquiry fails to absolve Vera until the scrapbook provides clues in another direction that Annie hopes does not end in another dismal dead end.

Green Living Can Be Deadly
Staci McLaughlin
9780758275028, $7.99

In Blossom Valley, California, O'Connell Organic Farm and Spa marketing expert Dana Lewis arranges for a Green Living Festival to showcase their products. Dana's middle school best friend Wendy Hartford will host a booth for her carbon footprint offset firm Invisible Prints.

Another classmate Kimmie Wheeler finds the murdered corpse of Wendy in her Invisible Prints booth. Kimmie persuades a stunned Dana to investigate the homicide over the strong admonitions by lead Detective Palmer warning her to stay out, and her mother and her boyfriend reminding her of how dangerous her two previous cases (see All Natural Murder and Going Organic Can Kill You) proved. Dana uncovers the shocking truth that Invisible Prints was a fake, which angered the financial backers, and that the victim's loved ones seem indifferent that she died.

The latest Blossom Valley cozy is an enjoyable murder mystery though the audience must accept the heroine risking her life to investigate after her previous dangerous escapades to enjoy the fun whodunit. Fast-paced, fans will appreciate Dana's fumbling inquiry especially the amusing relationship between the heroine and her demanding "boss" Kimmie with her trimmed nostrils remaining in headquarters while the marketer works the lethal field.

Hidden Riches
Felicia Mason
9780758205735, $15.00

Employed as a domestic and known for her quality quilts (and fried chicken) Ana Mae Futrell recently died from an aneurism while cleaning a toilet. The Ahoskie Times & Union Report mentions in the obit that she is survived by a son Howard who neither the townsfolk nor her family knew existed. Her three younger siblings (Mary Josephine Coston of Las Vegas, Marguerite Delcine Foster of Maryland and Dr. Clayton Futrell of San Francisco) and their significant others arrive in their hometown of Drapersville, North Carolina for the funeral.

Ana Mae's will surprisingly include a lot of money which she initially had won at the lottery but immensely grew with sound investments. It also stipulates her siblings and their mates, her pastor Reverend Toussaint and her BFF Rosalee search for the meaning of a quilt she left behind.

Hidden Riches is an engaging contemporary as the deceased prayed when she was alive that one day she succeeds in her mission. Character driven by a fully developed cast and containing a stunning twist that explains much of the dysfunction, readers will appreciate Felicia Mason's fabulous family drama.

Halls of Secret
Cate Campbell
9780758292285, $15.00

In 1920 Seattle, several months have passed since psychopathic Preston Benedict died in the fire he lit (see Benedict Hall). His sister Margot starts a medical practice not without angry opposition including her father to a modern thinking female physician; while she also is seeing Boeing engineer Frank Parrish, who has a new prosthetic arm replacing the one he lost in combat. Margot has accepted Preston's death, but their grieving dazed mom Edith seems locked in the past as she refuses to allow any changes to her son's room.

On a Grand Tour, nineteen years old Hattie Benedict sneaks away from her parents for a fun evening. However, her angry parents feel Allison's behavior shameful so she is exiled to backwater Seattle to stay with her family there. Considered a heroic anomaly to her younger cousin, Margot mentors Hattie to go after what she wants out of life and to hell with family members who only care about public image.

The second Benedict family historical drama is an engaging look at a changing America caused by the impact of WWI. The storyline mostly centers on thoroughly modern Margot (with a nod to Millie by Dick Scanlan and Richard Morris) whose beliefs are decades ahead of her time. Readers will relish Cate Campbell's entertaining look at the Pacific Northwest just after the "war to end all wars" ended with the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition) and Nineteenth Amendment (Women's Right to Vote).

The Consequences
Colette Freedman
9780758281029, $15.00

Robert Walker and Stephanie Burroughs had an affair until his wife Kathy confronted him. His mistress Stephanie was stunned by the realization that her rival loves her husband. Kathy gives Robert an ultimatum to choose between her as his wife and his mistress. Robert decides to save his marriage (see The Affair) while Stephanie vows to stay away from the married man she loves and instead focus on her work.

As Christmas snow falls, Kathy remains hurt by her spouse's infidelity. She wants to forgive him yet does not, but still gives a contrite Robert a chance. When Stephanie learns she is carrying her former lover's baby, though she wants nothing to do with him, she tells Robert as he has a right to know. Kathy notices Robert behaves suspiciously again, but prefers to ignore whether he is stepping out on her while hoping he will be honest with her; until she can no longer bury her head in the sand.

The Consequences focuses on the emotional turmoil after The Affair confrontation, but also compounded by the pregnancy. Rotating the lead perspective between the threesome, readers will understand how each member of the triangle feels about their interrelationships, their personal code of ethics, and why they behave as they do. Although the ending is too morally "clean", Colette Freedman provides fans with a fascinating look at the aftermath.

Sun God Seeks ...Surrogate?
Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455546978, $6.00,

In New York City, convinced she found her sibling's soul mate, Cimil the Mayan Goddess (see Accidentally... Cimil?) offers human female financially-strapped waitress Penelope Trudeau a million dollars if she has a baby with her brother Kinich the Sun God. Desperately needing the money to pay for her dying mother's medical treatment from an unknown disease, Penelope still rejects the deal.

For numerous millennia, Nick declined fraternizing with humans but is attracted to Penelope and she wants him too once they meet. As the God and the waitress begin seeing one another, he becomes upset to learn his sister's role in matching them up. However, he cannot walk away as he loves Penelope and besides he also knows he must protect her from his enemies; who would gladly use his beloved as an expendable pawn to get to him and Cimil.

The latest Accidentally Yours romantic urban fantasy is a humorous tale as the Sun God's conspicuously colorful sister (think of a female Dennis Rodman in his pre Korean days) seeks a surrogate for him in the midst of a battle with their adversaries. Series fans will enjoy Mimi Jean Pamfiloff's latest fast-paced jocular farce (see Vampires...Need Not Apply?).

Where Evil Waits
Kate Brady
Forever Romance
9781455502066, $8.00

The hit man is an elitist killer; perhaps the best there is. In Atlanta, this predator targets Prosecutor Kara Chandler by going after her family and friends while stalking her. She especially fears for the life of her son Louie so she takes a desperate gambit by turning to a man she has tried unsuccessfully to place behind bars several times as she believes she must fight fire with fire.

Kara pleads with cartel hit man Luke Varon to help her. Though he knows if he comes to her aid he risks exposing himself to danger and jeopardizes his mission even if he can explain the mother and son hits to his boss. Still Luke agrees to fake murdering her and her son. Even more precarious to his safety, he offers to assist her in finding her adversary who he believes has ties to Kara's felonious late husband.

The latest Mann Family romantic suspense (see Where Angels Rest) is an exciting twisting cat and mouse thriller as readers anticipate a High Noon showdown with a predatory pro. Fast-paced, in the frightened mind (more for her son than herself) of a prosecutor in peril Where Evil Waits is around every corner in metro Atlanta.

The Warrior's Bride
Amanda Scott
Forever Romance
9781455514380, $8.00

In 1426 impulsive Lady Muriella MacFarlan is known to leap without looking. Her narrating of tales often gets her in trouble but that does not stop her as she wants to become the clan's seanachie storyteller.

Her propensity for trouble leaves Muriella held captive by clan enemy Dougal MacPharlain for trespassing on his family's land. Muriella's worried father Andrew asks the Baron of Ardincaple heir Robert MacAulay to rescue his daughter. He agrees as he has business with Dougal's father. When he arrives at the MacPharlain clan, Rob finds Muriella undergoing a trial in which her accuser insists her penalty is marrying him. Muriella shakes up Dougal and shocks Robert when she claims to be MacAulay's wife. By failing to deny her assertion, under Scottish law they are married; a relationship neither wants ever since she learned he rejected her father's offer of her as his wife. However, soon both newlyweds want to make their arrangement real.

The third Lairds of the Loch medieval Scottish romance (see The Laird's Choice and The Knight's Temptress) is an engaging tale made fresh by the foolish, eccentric and entertaining behavior of the unique heroine. Muriella's out of control antics turn the overused historical rescue romance into a brisk affair in which her warrior mate can barely keep up with her one of a kind pace.

Forgotten Sins
Rebecca Zanetti
Forever Romance
9781455574445, $6.00

In Washington State, Detective Malloy asks accountant Josie Dean if the hospitalized amnesiac found at a crime scene is her husband Shane. She says yes, but explains they separated two years ago and she has not seen him since. Josie finishes by telling the cop to check with the Marines as Shane was a major stationed at Pendleton when she knew him; and answers Shane's question that their split was his idea before he vanished from her life.

Reluctantly as she is still irate at her spouse, Josie takes Shane to her home for him to heal. Shane may not remember events or people but knows he fiercely loves this woman and that whatever made him leave had to be nothing short of life threatening. Not long after the unhappy couple settle in her house, the danger he faced arrives endangering his beloved Josie.

The first Dean brothers romantic suspense is an exciting second chance thriller. Shane is a terrific protector willing to die for the woman he cherishes. On the other hand uncooperative fuming Josie allows her rage towards him to impair her decision-making; which leads to her placing herself in deadly situations and readers frustrated with her inanity. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy this fast-paced tale and look forward to Shane's siblings as heroic leads.

Nothing Sweeter
Laura Drake
Forever Romance
9781455521975, $8.00

After eight months in the federal pen and a scar to prove it, Aubrey Madison was freed, but instead of returning to Los Angeles, she stayed with her mom in Phoenix until that felt stifling. Though an urbanite all of her life, Bree applies for a groom position on Max Jameson's family-owned High Heather Ranch in Colorado; he hires her.

With his loan due soon and lacking the funds to pay it, Max knows his spread is going under as he cannot compete with the big guns taking over ranches. However, Bree has a plan to enable her boss to keep his ranch. Hesitantly she explains it to Max, who has doubts her scheme can work even as he falls in love with his groom.

The latest Sweet on a Cowboy western romance (see The Sweet Spot) is a super tale that focuses on the difficult decisions that a small rancher must make. The lead couple is a delightful pairing of caring souls, but it is saving the family spread that makes this a strong tale of love (of each other and of the land).

The Hit
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781455521302, $9.00,

U.S. government assassin Will Robie knows the current kill will be his hardest as the hit is on another top level cold-blooded federal killer Jessica Reel. Not caring why she was chosen to die as she is just another job although Robie accepts that this is a High Noon showdown between two elite gunslingers with only one walking away; and he intends that to be him. The CIA Blue Man and his superior claims she went rogue so they give Robie confidential information on his subject that gives him the edge.

A trained killer all her life Reel knows she is the agency's target and that Robie is her personal killer. Instead of waiting for him, Reel contacts Robie leaving him with a puzzle to decipher. She also informs the Blue Man that she is working on a pyramid of kills with her closing in on the top to include him.

The latest Robie thriller (see The Innocent) is an exhilarating non-stop action tale as the top gun CIA assassin meets his equal in a killer vs. killer lethal match that initially will remind readers of a superhero battling a supervillain. Filled with twists, double crosses and Julie the kid humanizing both assassins, readers will enjoy this over the top of Langley showdown.

Once In A Lifetime
Jill Shalvis
Grand Central
9781455521135, $6.00

Five years ago, Ben McDaniel's wife died. Grieving his loss, he fled their hometown Lucky Harbor, Washington to work on water systems after disasters struck dangerous third world nations. When a suicide bomber destroyed his latest project, Ben knew it was time to return to the serene Pacific Northwest and design systems from his home as a consultant for others to build.

The townsfolk consider Aubrey Wellington a bitchy bad girl. She feels bad about hurting people and wants to make amends while also reopening her late aunt's Book & Bean bookstore. Aubrey enlists Ben to renovate the place. A confused Ben is unsure why he said yes to work Aubrey's project even as his attraction to the wild tough chick amazes him more. Meanwhile family and friends warn him that she is not good for him. She also cannot comprehend why she wants Ben while also wondering how to keep with her abstinence pledge. At the same time, former town clerk and her ex-lover Ted Marshall plans a tell-all book.

The ninth Lucky Harbor small town romance (see Always On My Mind and It Had To Be You) is a wonderful second chance (at love for him and at redemption for her) contemporary due to the strong protagonists who make their changing relationship come across as genuine. The townsfolk reaction to their coming together adds depth to this tender tale of love between seemingly opposites.

Jeff Abbott
Grand Central
9781455528424, $8.00

In San Francisco, Janice Keene places her reluctant daughter Diana in charge of their company while she goes to New Mexico for a no contact two week retreat. Soon after concerned and suspicious Diana leaves, a man calls Janice telling her she will use the identity of Marian Atkins and fly to Portland, Oregon while also reminding her to complete the mission for the sake of her beloved daughter.

Not long after Janice leaves town, believing her mom lied to her, Diana searches for the truth and soon finds a hidden video that reveals her mom's greatest secret. The next day, Diana rushes into former CIA agent Sam Capra's bar The Select begging for help as two thugs follow. Sam protects Diana and soon learns John Belias assigned assassin to kill the daughter of one of his soccer mom agents; and now the bar owner too is in the deadly crosshairs at a time when Sam needs to focus on identifying who poisoned Round Table member Dalton Monroe.

The third Sam Capra thriller (see Adrenaline and The Last Minute) is an exhilarating action-packed tale that never decelerates. The complex storyline grips the audience from the moment Diana races into the bar and never slows down as the exciting plot rushes the audience through five cities in five November days without a breather. Although over the top of the Rockies, fans will enjoy Capra's entertaining adventures.

Chris Katsaropoulos
Luminis Books
1950 E. Greyhound Pass #18, PMB 280, Carmel, IN 46033
9781935462330, $16.95,

Accompanied by his wife Ilene and leaving the Midwest winter behind, Theodore Reveil is in Santa Rosa, California to present his paper on Perturbation Theory at the New International Perspectives on String Theory Symposium. Just before his talk, he is upset with Ilene for planning to skip his session for a massage.

Nervous as he hates speeches, Theodore becomes undone when he cannot find his two pages of notes filled with supporting math that were his crutches. As attendees impatiently wait for his arrival, late Reveil hesitantly appears without his papers. Winging it, Reveil ignores his physics expertise to ask participating scientists: "What if the universe ... is really a giant thought?" He angers the audience who reject the notion of a spiritual divine being running the universe.

With the debate between supporters of evolution and creationism (recently highlighted by Bill Nye and Ken Ham), Antiphony is an intriguing timely tale. As readers observe the protagonist's everyday life, we wonder whether Reveil's revelation means he is losing his mind or finding a spiritual awakening that will ultimately lead him to the asylum or the Universe's Final Unified Field Theory. Fans who prefer something offbeat will appreciate Chris Katsaropoulos' profound character study of a physicist on the brink of discovery, insanity or both.

Cider Brook
Carla Neggers
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778315889, $7.99,

In her family house in Boston's Back Bay, Samantha Bennett sifts through her late grandfather Harry's cluttered office. Samantha is fascinated by an oil painting with the words "The Mill at Cider Brook" written on it that she found there. She also discovers a manuscript titled The Adventures of Captain Farraday and Lady Elizabeth; written by the same person who wrote the note on the painting. Curious, she ponders over what the connection, if any, beyond the identical writer could be and whether this leads to the eighteenth century pirate treasure. Knowing that there is a Cider Brook near Knights Bridge, Massachusetts from her previous visit, Samantha takes the two hour drive from Boston to quietly investigate so that Dylan McCaffrey, the son of her deceased former employer who fired her, is unaware of her presence.

Dylan's friend firefighter Justin Sloan finds Samantha camping near Cider Brook. Having met once before when he got her canned, Justin still distrusts Samantha. Though he cannot understand why he does not expose the trespasser or why he listens to her fantasy about pirate loot, Justin helps Samantha.

The third Swift River Valley romantic mystery is a wonderful tale due to the strong somewhat bewildered (re their feelings for each other) lead characters. Series readers will appreciate this entertaining pleasant entry; though Cider Brook can stand alone, it behooves newcomers to begin with previous novels (see That Night On Thistle Lane and Secrets of the Lost Summer) to know more about the overarching key families' theme.

The Swiss Affair
Emylia Hall
9780778314653, $14.95

Second year British university student, Hadley Dunn is ecstatic as she accepts an opportunity to leave her boring commuter college and her family to study American Literature abroad at L'Institut Vandois in picturesque Lausanne, Switzerland. Hadley and Danish student Kristina Hartmann meet over sticky doors and become friends. Meanwhile Hugo "adopts" the naive enthused Brit; while Hadley is attracted to her American Hemingway Professor Joel Wilson and feels all is great in her world.

However, Hadley's idyllic time abruptly ends when Kristina dies after accidently slipping on ice. Unable to accept the official cause of death, a grieving confused Hadley cannot believe vivacious Kristina is dead. Knowing she needs to let go, Hadley begins asking questions about Kristina's last night and who her secret married lover Jacques was.

Leaving Hungary (see The Book Of Summers) for La Suisse, Emylia Hall writes a heart-wrenching coming of age tale. Character-driven by an international cast (including Hemingway), The Swiss Affair engages the audience with its multiple takes on relationships and especially what love is; as Hadley learns that often love hurts.

A King's Ransom
Sharon Kay Penman
Marian Wood Book/Putnam
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399159220, $35.00,

In 1192, King Richard the Lion-Heart sails home on the Holy Rood after fighting in the Third Crusade in the Holy Land. He expects a hero's welcome upon his return and to take back his throne from temporary ruler, his brother Prince John. However, Richard has limited information about England in his absence; especially John's alliance with the French King and the Holy Roman Emperor.

Instead of arriving triumphantly in England, a storm causes havoc to his ship and enemies, ignoring Papal decree of safe passage home for Crusaders, seek his capture off the French and Italian coasts. Mercenaries hired by the Holy Roman Emperor take Richard prisoner. He lingers in a dungeon in Trefils for fifteen months until his mother Eleanor amasses A King's Ransom to free him though at an exorbitant cost to the country. Abashed with what happened to him during his fifteen months in hell, Richard cowardly cannot face his wife Queen Berengaria and instead turns to extra marital trysts. No longer the same confident man he was before his incarceration except in war; for the remaining five years of his life Richard mostly serves as an absentee ruler living on the continent fighting his enemies.

The latest Angevins epic is an exciting medieval fiction that brings to life Richard the Lionhearted though it behooves fans to read the previous two tales first to fully understand how much imprisonment changed him (see The Devil's Brood and Lionheart). Although the engaging plot fails to dig deeply into the impact on the kingdom's economy caused by taxes to pay Richard's ransom and wars; fans will enjoy the entertaining A King's Ransom.

Moth and Spark
Anne Leonard
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670015702, $27.95,

Prince Corin of Caithen fears for the well-being of his small country bordered by two powerful neighbors. The Mycenean Empire contains a vaunted war machine anchored by dragons and their riders; while aggression from Tyrekh and his Sarians who most likely will use the ships of conquered neighboring Argondy to invade Caithen through the port of Dele. Complicating his complex world, the Dragons chose Prince Corin to liberate then from Mycene; a dubious honor that he cannot refuse since they magically tagged him with the quest. However, they provide their chosen one with a little of their power and no information on why they remain captive by the Empire's sorcerers or how to free them because his beastly "masters" do not know.

Tam, the daughter of an esteem doctor, leaves her home city Dalrinia for the capital Caithenor where at the library, she and Corin meet. As Tam learns she is a seer, she and the prince are attracted to each other. Besides a royal-commoner relationship taboo, both accept he must keep his land safe while completing the dragon mission though accomplishing either of the two tasks makes achieving the other seemingly impossible and living through this impossible.

Though a typical quest fantasy, sub-genre readers will enjoy the exciting escapades of Tam and Corin; as they romantically team up on seemingly doomed missions. Fast-paced from the first protagonists' encounter, Moth and Spark provides fans with a fun engaging storyline.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

The Kingdom of Vosh: The Chained Princess
Jason C. Conley
Dark Oak Press
c/o Kerlak Enterprises, Inc.
1779 Kirby Pkwy, Suite 1-373, Memphis TN 38138
9781937035433, 14.95 paperback, 320 pages,

I love a story well-told, regardless of genre. Whether you call this book fantasy or steam punk, it's a rousing tale that held my interest from first page to last.

Vosh is a kingdom of simple ways, somewhat backwards and kept that way deliberately by the congenial, fun-loving King Morgan. His daughter, Princess Jasper, is a spoiled snob who enjoys the pomp and perks of royalty. On the king's birthday, a dark secret from his past returns to destroy Morgan and his kingdom. Lord Buul, the king's disabled, abandoned son, returns to kill his father and pillage Vosh. Empowering Buul and his goals is Shath, the ultimate evil.

To save Jasper's life, King Morgan chains her to a powerful Vork, loyal beasts used for heavy labor in the kingdom. He orders the Vork to protect Jasper from all harm, then gives her an amulet that provides endless power to the possessor. The princess escapes on a merchant ship, chained to the filthy, smelly beast she despises. Thanks to an imaginative plot and exceptional characters, Jasper's transition from spoiled princess to courageous fighter of evil is an exciting journey and delightful reading experience.

Aboard ship she meets Ron, a street smart lad trapped inside a stolen steam driven loader - SDL. Ron is protecting a giant Piksi bird egg, from which hatches a bird of prey the boy names Yerrol. When the ship is attacked by a sea monster, Terrance protects the princess. He's a common seaman who proves himself to be a man of uncommon valor. Princess Jasper, the Vork, Terrance, Ron, and Yerrol join forces to destroy Buul and save Vosh.

The story is unique and well-written, the characters memorable. The author writes in a charming, distinctive style. If you enjoy fantasy or steam punk, Jason C. Conley has created a winner.

Awakening Avalon
Stephen Weeks
Amazon Digital Publishing
9781496097644, $9.99 paper / $4.99 Kindle, 212 pages,

Stephen Weeks harnesses the power of the supernatural with this latest book. The author skilfully weaves together with stunning word pictures a story of reincarnation, ancient heroes, history, horror, evil, love, and courage. Peaceful English locales provide a fitting backdrop in contrast to the action and horror.

In 1945 post-war Germany, two caskets are sealed and hidden in a secret vault below Wewelsburg Castle, a former Nazi SS stronghold. The corpses are evil personified, awaiting The New Mission to be set in motion fifty years in the future. By 1995, the internet is a reality and the ENACT Corporation CEO -- son of a Nazi insider -- quietly lays groundwork for The New Mission to proceed as planned. His ENACT operating system will simplify complicated lives by eliminating all choices. By 2004, it will become the Trojan Horse of the 21st century by first gaining access to homes via the internet and then preparing human minds for conquest by the ultimate malevolent ruler. For the CEO's plan to succeed, he gathers talented assistants from around the world. When the sealed caskets are moved to England, three of ENACT's minions, in particular, drive the exciting plot forward.

Carole Strauss is the savvy assistant to the CEO who walked away from a happy marriage to live a life of corporate perks, power, and luxury. Greg Palmer was in love with English woman Lynda Clifford and planning to get married until he became the product of a sinister corporate brainwashing. Rt. Rev. Jonathan Crichley, Dean of Mercia Cathedral, has aspirations to reach the top of the Church of England hierarchy and thinks cooperating with the ENACT CEO will achieve his goals.

I don't want to reveal plot spoilers in this review, except to say the final battle is between reincarnated ancient English heroes and "an old and savage evil" that threatens to destroy life as we know it today. Whatever genre Stephen Weeks chooses, his skill as wordsmith shines through. Highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Her Name is Sophia
Anna B. Moyer, author
Christopher R. Michalik, illustrator
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781466972759, $16.09,

"Her Name Is Sophia" is the true story of a how a wire fox terrier dog named Sophia came to be a part of a family living in Maine, on many acres of land. Sophia was born in Italy, named Ninah at birth, and came back to Georgia in the U. S. When she was 6 months old. Sophia liked to travel, but didn't like cages, or shots. Once adopted by her family, Martha and Bill, she lived on many acres of land in Maine. However, she got lost in her exploring, so the family built a fence to protect her from her wandering ways. "Her Name is Sophia" is a sensitive, color illustrated true story of a special dog who traveled far and endured difficult experiences to find her forever home.

Green Banana Cook Book
Suzan Damas, author
Ralph Kelly and Emanuel S. Mrindoko, graphics artists
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781479759989, $21.95,

"Green Banana Cook Book" is a delightful, creative cookbook that features simple recipes for green bananas and vegetables for healthy blended foods for young children and infants learning to tolerate solid foods. Created from recipes used to provide healthy nutrients to very young children learning to tolerate blended solid foods, the recipes fall into six chapters or categories. These are green banana and turkey mixes, green banana and chicken mixes, green banana and pork mixes, green banana and beef mixes, green banana and fish mixes, and bonus yummy green banana mixes. All recipes list ingredients first, then give simple cooking instructions ending with mixing and blending for infant consumption. Some of the advantages of using the nutrients of green bananas are listed in professional commentaries in the beginning: Green bananas contain resistance starch, phonelic acids (antioxidants), and aid in balancing blood sugars and counteracting diarrhea. The author has made full creative use of her heritage of growing up in Tanzania in the expansion and presentation of these organic, tasty, healthful recipes for babies. The simplicity of the recipes and ingredients is also very appealing.

Kenzie Cooks: The Lost Recipe
Tesha Vann, author
Anne Attinger, illustrator
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781493774449, $7.99,

Chef Kenzie is about to begin her chef's show for TV production when she discovers her tomato pasta sauce recipe is missing in action. Not only that, but the Director's spotlight-hog son Grady is on set and confiding that he plans to steal the show and re label it Grady Cooks. Sure enough, Kenzie discovers that Grady has stolen and shredded her recipe, but that does not solve her problem. Trying to remember all the ingredients for tomato pasta sauce, Kenzie is assisted by her talented helper, Zesty. In the spirit of conciliation, she offers Grady a job helping her on camera if he will help tape together her recipe. Giving her kitchen helpers credit, Chef Kenzie leads on with constructing her delicious tomato pasta sauce recipe, using tomatoes, onions, carrots, red pepper, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, and fresh or dried basil, her Zesty friend's offering. Ebullient illustrations featuring swirling ingredients and saucy characters in action help make "Kenzie Cooks: The Lost Recipe" a star hit. Even more appealing is the message that Kenzie accepts the help of her would be rival, Grady, and makes a friend of him. Ending with a winning recipe for Tomato Pasta Sauce, "Kenzie Cooks: The Lost Recipe" is a solid package of kid-friendly entertainment, healthy values, and healthy, home made foods.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

After We Die: An Extraordinary Description of the Afterlife
Colin Ingram
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
978193479844, $14.95, 170 pages,

A Fascinating Consideration of Man's Existence in the Afterlife

Meditation teacher and prolific writer Colin Ingram considers answers to specific basic questions frequently asked regarding the hereafter, heaven, bliss, eternal life, and salvation in his book "After We Die - An Extraordinary Description of the Afterlife."

Ingram offers the reader the opportunity to explore fundamental questions in a logical coherent approach. These questions are probing and provocative providing interesting insights in a mixture of information, and revelation for personal contemplation.

The book is divided into three sections: The Author's Introduction, in which Ingram presents introductory material on the Source, contrasting evidence, the limitations of human thought, the importance of an open mind, and a helpful glossary. In section two Ingram interprets the complex messages he has received, recorded and digested over the years. These messages are impressions received. The interpretations may be controversial; however, his position provides a solid basis for understanding human existence in the non-physical or spiritual realm. Section three is made up of stories whack illustrate some of the advances and mishaps the seeker may meet in their search for the esoteric possibilities of the afterlife.

Ingram is an articulate communicator, imaginative, authoritative and passionate about his analyses. His writing is well organized, in a format that lends itself to ease in reading, comprehension, and assimilation.

"After We Die - An Extraordinary Description of the Afterlife" is a unique treatise and comprehensive resource for further study, for reflection, contemplation, and examination.

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

When Heaven Invades Earth for Teens: Your Guide to God's supernatural Power
Bill Johnson and Michael Seth
Discovery House Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442533, $14.99, 2014, 158 Pages,

A Kingdom Adventure for Teens - A Royal Mission - A Supernatural Spiritual Journey

As the subtitle suggests "When Heaven Invades Earth for Teens" is a guide to help the reader realize their supernatural power, and understand the scope of God's mission for today while using God given gifts and talents.

Bill Johnson and Michael Seth collaborate in this effort to provide practical life principles to teens so that they can manifest God's power of faith and prayer to transform their heart, prepare for spiritual battle, and to encourage them to adopt a Christian worldview and a lifestyle of Kingdom living while sharing the message of the Gospel.

Each chapter includes clear Biblical teaching and concludes with important thought for prayer, worship, and fellowship with the heavenly Abba (Dad) Father, probing questions for journaling and reflection, and suggestions for meaningful action steps to accomplish a mission objective. The book is ideal for personal study or easily adapted for small group use or use as curriculum in church youth classes.

"When Heaven Invades Earth for Teens" provides the reader is a Kingdom adventure leading to power for the journey, for the mission, and power for the impossible. Most importantly the authors introduce a new generation of readers to the source of true spiritual power.

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

A Practical Guide to Walking in Healing Power
Chris Gore
Destiny Image Publications, Inc
P. O. Box 310 Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442434, $ 24.99, 172 pages

A Training Manual for Living a Lifestyle and Ministry of Healing Power

"A Practical Guide to Walking in Healing Power" is a companion to Chris Gore's book "Walking in Supernatural Healing Power." The concepts and foundational truths introduced in the book are further developed to address root issues that hold individuals back from experiencing the supernatural flow of God's grace. Each session is comprised of a clearly stated objective, notes and discussion questions, and activation exercises for individual, small group, or classroom study. Adequate space is provided for recording insights, observations, and reflections on these core truths. This feature allows the participant to personalize the study as an important resource for charting progress, further assimilating the material, and for application and putting into practice the principles learned.

Gore is passionate about commissioning and equipping ordinary people to experience an extraordinary life and ministry of supernatural healing and miracles. Gore is articulate, a gifted communicator, direct in his approach; his material is well organized in a logical progression, in a user friendly format.

"A Practical Guide to Walking in Healing Power" is an important resource for every Christian wanting to experience the fullness of power available through the indwelling spirit of Christ. A Powerful message that presents practical principles for dynamic discipleship.

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

40 Days to Reclaiming Your Soul - A Companion to Reclaim your Soul
Cindy Trimm
Destiny Image Publications, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768404692, $14.99, 176 pages

40 Empowering Disciplines for Fulfilling Your Purpose

"40 Days to Reclaiming Your Soul" is a devotional adventure in finding freedom from destructive relationships, unhealthy emotional attachments, and negative perceptions. The book is designed to be used with "Reclaim Your Soul." It is made up of 40 daily devotionals that help the reader put into practice the disciplines introduced in the book; disciplines in self-discovery, establishing identity, and developing behaviors that lead to living a resilient lifestyle.

Each of the 40 day devotionals include a daily discipline, reflective questions, activation exercises, and an empowerment prayer. These components enhance the reading experience to another level of spiritual understanding, application and, beyond simply reading for information and knowledge.

The scripture passage, reflection, and empowerment prayer, incorporate and re-enforce specific actions that can be taken in a direct relation to the discipline of the day. Disciplines range from attributes and alliances, contending for versus competing with, to pursing purpose and pursing God's presence.

"40 Days to Reclaiming Your Soul - A Companion to Reclaim your Soul" is a powerful spiritual growth resource leading to building and rebuilding relationships, emotional healing, and a positive change in attitudes.

Foundational, transformational, character building, and Christ honoring.

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

The Maker's Diet Transformation Journal
Jordan Rubin
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403701, $10.99, 104 Pages

A 10 Day Transformation Experience

"The Maker's Diet Transformation Journal" is designed to be used with "The Maker's Diet Transformation Curriculum." The book includes a plan for a ten-day interactive experience of transformation resulting in: Creating healthy patterns and disciplines, break additions habits and unhealthy cycle that have been holding you back, lead to new dimensions of empowerment in your Bible study and prayer, see prayers answered, and to find God's purpose for your life.

New York Times bestselling author Jordan Rubin challenges the reader to become a part of a generation of "Daniels;" people willing to become an extraordinary sphere of influence for God in a broken world.

The plan can be used in a small group setting or in a corporate church setting. You will benefit individually through the use of the journal with the accompanying materials available, and following the fasting guidelines and meal plans suggested in the "Daniel Diet."

Each day in is broken into three segments which include a Corporate Prayer Directive, a scripture, a devotional challenge, and an opportunity to record your thoughts in your prayer journal, at the beginning of the day, in the afternoon, and in the evening.

"The Maker's Diet Transformation Journal" is for Christians sincerely wanting to: Experience a deeper intimacy with God, develop a more effective prayer life, and establish a renewed purpose and vision.

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

Reclaim Your Soul: Your Journey to Personal Empowerment
Cindy Trimm
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403480, $15.99, 352 pages

A Transformation Journey in Empowerment through Resilience

"Reclaim Your Soul" is made up of two parts. Part One describes the power that works in us through:

God's unique plan for us as an individual
God's design for us in the spiritual and physical realms
The power to change
Righting Relationships

Part Two is made up of 40 disciplines that lead to resiliency. These disciplines are designed to help the reader in an adventure of self-discovery, establishing identity, and developing behaviors and habits essential to living a truly resilient life style.

Trim helps the reader understand how destructive relationships, negative perceptions, and unhealthy emotional attachments hinder spiritual growth, undermine self-worth, make it impossible to be the person God intended and to fulfil His life purpose for an individual.

Each power packed chapter begins and ends with a promise from Scripture a power quote from a recognized leader or a reflective quote from a well-known spiritual giant. Trimm has an amazing gift for communicating spiritual understanding and Biblical teaching into practical principles for empowerment. She writes with conviction, passion, and authority.

"Reclaim Your Soul: Your Journey to Personal Empowerment" is must reading for anyone wanting to successfully live out their God ordained purpose.

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

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

That Touch of Ink
Diane Vallere
Polyester Press
2200 N. Beachwood Drive, #206, Los Angeles, CA 90068
9781939197047, $14.95,

Diane Vallere is a perfect California girl, but perhaps more of a 1950's vintage than present day. She has a passion for Doris Day movies, and her own fashion choice reflects those preferences. She worked in the fashion industry for more than twenty years, but began writing full time from her home, when her childhood penchant for crime detection emerged. (She opened a detective agency at age 10).

Madison Night, throwback interior decorator, is a Doris Day gal of the ages. She has rebuilt her life after a sudden heartbreak from a man she thought to be her soul mate forced her to completely rebuild her life. But her newfound independence is shattered with the arrival of a $5,000 bill, signaling her old love is in trouble. He tries to force his way back into her life, but Madison has grown up since their relationship. Unfortunately, dead bodies begin appearing, so she calls the only cop she knows:

"'Madison Night,' he said. 'To what do I owe the honor?'

'I need to see you,' I said. Before he had a chance for an inappropriate counterpoint, I kept talking. 'There's a man at a shop called Paper Trail on Garland Road. He's been shot. I couldn't find a pulse. Whatever you're doing, stop it and get here. Now.'

'Did you call 911?' he asked, the flirtation gone from his voice.

'I called you.'

'Shit, Night.'"

And the fun begins. Madison is an interesting heroine, bouncing back and forth between a hunky policeman with a jealous girlfriend...who is his partner...and trying to decide if her former lover has brought the mob to her door. Great read!

Monkey Wrench
Terri Thayer
Midnight Ink Books
c/o Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738731261 $14.95 U.S./$16.95 CAN,

Terry Thayer is a self-professed quilting junkie and mystery reader/writer. She has authored seven books: four in the Dewey Pellicano series about an ex-silicon tech who inherits a quilt shop when her mother passes on, and three of the April Buchert series. The Pellicano series is set in San Jose, California, and April resides in a small town in NE Pennsylvania.

Who knew that quilters could engage in the worst sort of cat fights? Dewey Pellicano, a techie at heart, inherits her mother's quilting shop and updates it...including merchandise, the bathroom, and the inner decor. Dewey earns a position in the "Quilter's Crawl" that her mother organized years ago. But this crawl revolves around twitters, fancy promotions, and spiteful competitors. Meanwhile, Dewey's trusted employee Vangie is getting mixed up in something that gets her boyfriend, Wyatt, killed:

"Vangie moaned. 'No. I don't know. I was driving him home. He was having trouble breathing. He threw up on himself, and...' Her trunk twisted as if reenacting what Wyatt had been through.

'I tried to save him, but I didn't know what was going on, and then he was gone. Like that.'

I realized I'd not been hearing what I expected - sirens. 'Vangie, did you call 911?'

For readers who enjoy cozy mysteries about sewing, quilting, cooking, etc., Thayer kicks her books into high gear. Not only does she yank the reader into her quilting world; she provides characters that scream with personality. Naturally her boyfriend is a big hunky cop who manages to be on hand to help, but Dewey is no shrinking flower. She rushes headlong into the investigation to save the day.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

When I Grow Up I Want To Be A Firefighter
Will's Amazing Day
Wigu Publishing
1278 Glenneyre Street, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
9781939973115, $12.95, 54pgs,

I have read and reviewed several books that tell the story of our Firefighters, but truly none as complete as this one. We start out by meeting a young boy who has a fear of firefighters. Now this may seem strange, but I loved how they used this to show there are many different fears that both young and old have in areas we would never guess. Bringing this front and center shows the reader if they have a fear not to be ashamed of it, but try to overcome.

As I read this book I was amazed at how details the story was of the life and duties of a Firefighter.. We learn that they are not just fighting fires, but are often the first to be sent to any emergency situation. The details of the equipment used was great, and you are shown the firehouse and how they live, right down to the dogs that helped in different areas. Besides that there are pictures of different fire trucks, showing the different equipment on them and what they are used for. They also show Firefighting Aircraft and Watercraft. To top it off the children will learn how to help their entire family to learn home fire safety.

To be honest with you I don't think they have left out anything about Firefighters in this outstanding read. It would be interesting to not just children but adults as well. I am very impressed with this book and give it my highest recommendation.

When I Grow Up I Want To Be A Teacher
Wigu Publishing
c/o Wigu Publishing
1278 Glenneyre Street, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
9781939973085, $12.95, 60 pgs,

In this delightful read we meet, Carlee a young girl who is about to start another year of school. Carlee always dreamed of being a teacher, now this dream may change. Her mother, who is a teacher, will be at the same school as Carlee, and this has filled her with many fears. What if her friends don't like her? What if she does something her mom gets upset about? Worse yet, what if her mom embarrasses her? And the list goes on.

I must say this is a great book with top notch illustrations. There are lessons to learn from this read, for example how to deal with peer pressure and overcome fears that may not even manifest in situations we must face. It's a good read for youth and I believe even parents. It also contains learning information throughout the book from different classes that Carlee takes. I found these very informative and interesting. All in all a story well worth reading that is a learning experience and a entertaining read as well. Good job.

It's Got To Be Perfect
Haley Hill
Matador Publishing
c/o Troubador Publishing Ltd
9 Priory Business Park, Wistow Road, Kibworth Beauchamp
Leicester, England, LE8 0RX
9781783060771, $7.00, 336pgs,

In this read we meet Ellie, who has just been crushed by the man of her dreams, and right when she was planning her wedding. How terrible is that? Ellie decides she needs a new start in all areas and becomes involved in matchmaking....hum, how will she do in this? You'll have to read to find out.

This was to me a fun read. Ellie certainly takes you down the road in her new career. At times it is bumpy, at times out loud funny as she wades through her life towards her goal, just what was that again?. I loved all the characters that were introduced and how true to life so many of the stories were. I think this tale is closer to real life than just maybe some of us would not want to believe. It's a snappy fun read, with what I believe just may have some true to life situations scattered throughout. Women will truly like this read. Enjoy.

What A Babe
Kathy Johnson
Illustrations: Captain Cartoon
Starlette Universe
9780615891743, $7.00, 32pgs,

In this adorable read we welcome into the Starlette Universe, Lil'Lilly. Brought front and center by bold colorful illustrations, we learn many things little Lil'Lilly likes to do or have. She is mostly a "Stroller" coaster, loves Bows, and don't try to take her candy or you might get a 'Karate Chop!' The tale is told in rhyme such as, "But from head to toes, I'm the Babe with the Bows," and it is accompanied by a full color picture . I really liked this little treasure of a book. It is entertaining, bright and colorful, and I'm sure will bring giggles and joy to any little one who receives it.

Maya & Filippo Play Chef at Sea
Alinka Rutkowska, author
Konrad Checinski, illustrator
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781494363666, $10.00, 26pgs,

In this adorable story we see Maya and Filippo about to try something new as they travel across the Tasman Sea. Maya, Filippo and their parents live on a cruise ship called the Fun Princess. Today, they are going to learn how to bake a cake. None of them have ever done this before so they are excited and besides they all love cakes. The Chef gives each one of them an apron and hat and gathers them around the table. The children learn what ingredients are needed to make a cake and they are turned lose to begin their creativity.

Filippo and Maya both wanted to use an orange for their cake, but there was only one. The Chef cut it in half for them. Filippo threw the skin away and ate his half and Maya threw her fruit away and used the skin in her cake. Finally all the children's cakes were done and Mom was the taster. She points out one fact that would have made their cakes so much better, but I wouldn't tell you what it is. You'll have to read the book to find out. This is a delightful read that children will easily relate to, and it has a good lesson to learn. The illustrations are very well done and add a lot to the story. I believe your little one will truly enjoy this read. A fun learning adventure.

Stateline: A Dan Reno Novel
Dave Stanton
LaSalle Davis Books
9780989603102, $8.65, 285pgs,

Everyone loves a wedding, and this is how our story begins with the excitement of this event, but unfortunately our groom is murdered the night before. Why has this happened and who would do such a horrible crime? We find out this groom is no ordinary man, but was the son of a very wealthy tycoon who will pay anything and do anything to find his son's killer. He hires, Dan Reno, a man who definitely could use the money he is offered, and one who is known to make sure his job is done once he accepts a case. Now the games begin.

As we follow this investigation, we are taken into the dark side of our world, swallowed up by drugs, sex, gambling, and notorious characters both male and female, who live in the crust of life that most of us pretend is not there. Money is their God, they kill for the thrill, take what is not theirs, and use other humans to meet their desires. Dan also must deal with some police who perhaps are not exactly on the straight and narrow and don't appreciate Dan sticking his nose where they don't feel it belongs. This is where Dan must travel to find his killer and the answers to his questions of why?

I enjoyed this book. I feel the author did a great job with character and local development., bringing both to the mind's eye and pulling you completely into the storyline. I was surprised at how some of that played out, who I thought was terrible in some cases really was not. I have never been to Nevada so that was interesting as well. Just to note, it did have some sections that were on the racy side, but that is where we had to go to find the answers to the questions I believe you will enjoy this read. It has good character development, a solid storyline, and what I thought was a bang up ending.

Don't Stick Sticks Up Your Nose Don't Stuff Stuff In Your Ears
Jerald S. Altman MD and Richard Jacobson
Zona Books
9780988886100, $12.00, 22 pgs,

My first impression of this book was 'Wow!" It is a sturdy, colorful book, with a 'what is that?' picture on the front. Definitely makes you stop and take notice. The story is geared towards children to help them understand it is not a good thing to stick objects into their ears and nose that do not belong there. Yes, we all have told our own children and grandchildren not to do this, but not in the way this outstanding book does, believe me. First of all it is very colorful with great illustrations of children's faces (mostly), showing what should NOT go in different holes in our face and head and why. And what should.

The story is written in rhyme, here is an example: " Ears have really small holes that lead into your head. Sounds should enter in them and never stuff like bread." Great isn't it? The entire book is made of adorable illustrations and accompanying rhymes. The illustrations are colorful and definitely help to bring the words to life.

I have to say I am very impressed with this book. It will definitely help a parent who wishes to show their children the dangers of sticking things in their ears or nose. This book will catch their attention and hopefully leave a lasting impression of what should go into the different openings on their face. Definitely a winner and highly recommended.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design