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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 12 December 2010 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Remembering Oz
Christianna Rickard
Tate Publishing & Enterprising
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781616630201, $12.99,

The Scarecrow was in pursuit of a brain throughout the Wizard of Oz, but the man who most memorably played him had one and then some. "Remembering Oz: My Journey with the Scarecrow" is a memoir from Christianna Rickard as she reflects on her uncle, Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow in the famed 1939 adaption of the Wizard of Oz. Stating that her uncle played a huge part in her life, "Remembering Oz" is a poignant memoir not to be missed, highly recommended.

The Bialien Trilogy
Vlane Carter
Privately Published
9780578044545, $22.58,

There are places far beyond what humans have evolved into. "The Bialien Trilogy: Vol 1- Rise of the Bialiens Sapien: Human Evolved" tells the story of Jaden, a man of earth in 2014, who finds himself whisked away to the Andromeda galaxy where he's rapidly advanced by a society tens of thousands of years ahead of humanity. A Sci-Fi series set on exploring concepts of the deep future, "The Bialien Trilogy" is for the Science fiction fan who likes to be amazed at what the future holds.

Deadly Portfolio
John J. Hohn
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432758752, $18.95,

When bodies start piling up, it's hard to just dismiss it as an accident. "Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds" is a story of successful finance and murder. Detective James Raker is on the force as two people turn up dead in similar ways, only to be shocked when they're dismissed as accidental deaths. Feeling foul play is afoot and more murders are on the way, Raker goes against the establishment in the name of the truth. "Deadly Portfolio" is a thriller that'll be hard to put down.

The Medical Profession is Dead
Alan D. Cato
Privately Published
9780557178827, $13.00

Personal care should not be broken down into dollars and cents. "The Medical Profession is Dead: and the Doctor is Critically Ill!" is a call out to how medicine has quickly been taken over by free enterprise and greed instead of personalized care and doing what's right for the patient. Stating that a profession is the term for when the outcome means more than the money, he states the business of medicine is booming and for the wrong reasons. "The Medical Profession is Dead" is a thoughtful criticism of modern medicine and its many problems.

Testing the Waters
Gordon A. Price
Privately Published
9780615336978, $9.95

The allure of the sea is a strong one for many. "Testing the Waters" is a memoir from Gordon A. Price about his life on the sea and how the challenges that laid before him that threatened his life only made him yearn for more of the ocean. For anyone who wants a bit of true life sea adventure, "Testing the Waters" may be the volume for them.

The Final Possession
A. M. Hunter
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781616636791, $18.99,

When evil roams, one is forced to wonder when it will come for them. "The Final Possession" is a suspense novel following Claire Henley as she returns to her quiet small town after years away. When murder roams the town with a high kill number, the returning Claire draws suspicion. Her only hope for her own safety as well as ending the madness is Detective Quaid Carrington, a man whose heart she broke a decade before. "The Final Possession" is a riveting read, very highly recommended.

The Witches' Almanac Spring 2011 to Spring 2012
The Witches' Almanac, Ltd.
PO Box 1292, Newport, RI 02840-9998
9780982432303 $11.95

A good witch is never unprepared. "The Witches' Almanac Spring 2011 to Spring 2012" is filled with information and wisdom appealed for today's self-styled witch. Filled with stories and musings to various topics astrological and metaphysical, they will read amusing as well as wise. "The Witches' Almanac Spring 2011 to Spring 2012" is a fine addition to any metaphysical collection.

The Autism Sisterhood
Michele C. Brooke
Privately Published
9781452895468 $9.95

Autism changes one's life, and many often try to find comfort with others in their plight. "The Autism Sisterhood" reflects on a group of women who joined and became friends with the common thing they have in having children with autism. Serving as strength and inspiration for other mothers in a similar plight, "The Autism Sisterhood" is a choice pick for any mother of an autistic child.

Faith and the S.T.O.P. Principle
Sabrina Fairchild
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781616635435, $15.99,

In today's high speed world it gets easier and easier to shelve God out of one's life. "Faith and S.T.O.P. Principle: A Study Guide to learning How to Surrender, Trust, Obey, and Patiently Wait Upon The Lord" is a guide for the modern men and women to try to find the place to stop with their lives and remember their faith. Sabrina Fairchild comes to readers with a strong message of faith and God, and does much to encourage others to take the measures she has to make sure God remains there. "Faith and S.T.O.P. Principle" is a vital volume to any Christian who finds faith's place dwindling in their life.

Face the Winter Naked
Bonnie Turner
Lulu Enterprises
9780557299348, $16.35,

The great war tore apart lives, and the depression didn't help. "Face the Winter Naked" is a novel of two such situations, telling the story of Daniel Tomelin, a traumatized World War I veteran and his family. A story of the challenges of family and facing tragedy and the constant challenges of motherhood during these rough times, "Face the Winter Naked" is a touching work of Depression fiction, highly recommended.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

Popularity Genie in a Bottle
Donatella Fragiale & Cristina Fragiale
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432761103, $18.95,

A popularity contest isn't the end all be all of life. "Popularity Genie in a Bottle" tells the story of Isabella, a girl in the popularity contest that is high school. In her struggle to become the queen of the popular girl's table, she is flung back into the ancient time, and gets an head full of what's really important. With a strong Christian message, "Popularity Genie in a Bottle" is a fine read, highly recommended.

Blessings From Mary
Sally Bartolameolli
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432751586, $21.95,

The role of the woman in a Christian life can often be a conflicting one. "Blessings from Mary: Daily Sacred Feminine Meditations That Awaken One to Their Divine Purpose Inspired by Mary Magdalene" is a spiritual guide with a daily spiritual affirmation for Christian women looking for strength to empower their faith and lives to a better life. Thoughtful and driven, "Blessings from Mary" is a solid pick for the Christian woman with much doubt in their life.

Links & Chains
David A. Weiss
VBW Publishing
PO Box 9949, College Station TX 77842
9781602645967, $13.55

To find where one came from is one truth this lawyer won't be able to find. "Links & Chains" tells the story of Michael Goldman, a lawyer trying to piece together the remnants of his family after they were split. A lost twin brother, his birth parents, his search is further complicated by the demands of his career. "Links & Chains" is an exciting read, and very highly recommended.

Coffee and Fate
R. J. Erbacher
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741459053, $11.95,

When your job is to save the lives of those in need, nothing is ever that simple. "Coffee and Fate" tells the story of Val, a college student and her relationship with Elderly Bud. Being the friends that they both need, their lives will change forever and neither of them truly know if it will be for the better or not. "Coffee and Fate" is an excellent read of friendship, highly recommended.

I'd Rather Be a Fool
Folorunsho Obalugemo
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781616630881, $14.99,

Love and the spirit often go hand and hand. "I'd Rather Be a Fool" is a collection of poetry from Nigerian poet Folorunsho Obalugemo, whose studies lead him to write this volume, focusing on the challenges of love and finding God in his life. Simple, poignant, and spiritual writing, "I'd Rather Be a Fool" is a fine volume, very highly recommended. "If Love to Life Will Give": Well, if we somehow meet today,/I may haply see you again,/But should each other we miss today/How can we possibly meet again?/And if you're not willing to be mine,/Thank goodness, somebody else is, lady,/And I can never be thine/When that beautiful one I've won wholeheartedly./For if fresh love to this selfish life will give all/Some heart might surely and always whirl.

Blood Royal
Jonathan Green
Abaddon Books
9781907519376, $9.99

The fate of the world will be decided by the unseen. "Blood Royal " takes place in the alternate universe of the Pax Britannia as unusual creates roam Europe and America. Ulysses Quicksilver is faced with protecting civilization from the stranger mutations of creatures that threaten his home, all throughout London to the far reaches of Russia. Nonstop excitement, "Blood Royal" is a read that will prove hard to put down.

Asylum Road
Wendy L. Courchaine
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432763848, $20.95,

Within a sanitarium, normalcy is a distant memory. "Asylum Road" tells the story of Lindsey Porter facing the strangeness that lies in Lakeside Sanitarium. Within the sanitarium, Porter finds many dark forces that lie within that tell much about the sanitarium's long and dark history. "Asylum Road" is a riveting thriller that will be hard to put down, a top pick for any fan of dark mystery.

Three Scoops is a Blast!
Alex Carrick
Privately Published
9781452862552, $13.99

It's more fun to jump to the heart of the matter. "Three Scoops is a Blast!" is the follow up to Alex Carrick's previous volume 'Two Scoops are Just Right', containing many more short stories with an values and thoughts on many subjects. "Three Scoops is a Blast!" is a fine read, and a solidly recommended one for any short fiction fan.

The Purple Light
Tony Taylor
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781451290387, $16.95,

Even in the worst of addiction, the light of God is still visible. "The Purple Light" is a memoir of Tony Taylor's own struggles back from crushing addiction and how his faith in God allowed him to recover and turn his life around. "The Purple Light" is an uplifting and very highly recommended read.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Light within Our Shadowed Minds
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432763190, $19.95,

As a child, the world was wonderful and vibrant. "The Light within Our Shadowed Minds" is a collection of poetry from Bear, the pseudonym of a man who wants to provide simple poetry that tries to connect that vibrancy of the world that has faded. With much discussed, "The Light within Our Shadowed Minds" is a fine collection of poetry, highly recommended. "Sunlight and Blue Skies": Sunlight and blue skies/are waiting there for me/bright eyes and warm smiles/makes everything seem so sane/How did she ever become part of my life?/The air is so sweet, the sun shines so bright./Accident or destiny, I don't care tonight/Then the bell of the dawn, it was all just a dream./So sweet and so clear I should have seen./But maybe, just maybe, when the alarm rings again./It will be the start of my dream and never the end.

The Great Collapse
Jeff W. Horton
Tate Publishing
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781616638443, $25.99,

Technology has been so ingrained into take it away could be the harshest blow the world could face. "The Great Collapse" tells of a terrorist attack gone catastrophic. With the intent of EMP to America, it spreads all over the world, ruining all technology on the planet. Humanity struggles to survive as scientists race to figure out how to keep the technology-dependent humanity afloat. Thoughtful, "The Great Collapse" proposes many questions and offers many answers.

Talking Pictures
Jacob Youmans
Tri-Pillar Publishing
9780981892320, $14.95,

The powerful message of God can resonate even in the most secular of movies. "Talking Pictures: How to Turn a Trip to the Movies into a Mission Trip" discusses how faith and God's work show in modern cinema and encourages Christians to use film to reinforce their faith in themselves as well as others. For Christians who want to spread the word, "Talking Pictures" may be the ideal choice for them.

The Awakening
Lisa Anne
1663 Libery Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440197093, $15.95,

Perfection is something just waiting to be shaken. "The Awakening: A Woman's Search for Truth" tells the story of Meg Richards, a woman who faces much conflict as her beloved life is threatened by her past and penance she has not yet paid. Thoughtful and riveting reading, "The Awakening" is a read with plenty to ponder and think about in facing the skeletons in one's closet.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Fire Bomber Into Hell
Linc W. Alexander
Privately Published
9781609104368, $18.95

Flying into fire never sounds like the brightest idea. "Fire Bomber Into Hell: A Story of Survival in a Deadly Occupation" is the memoir of Fire bomber Linc Alexander, and his daunting job as big gun in fighting wild fires in the South west. A scary job with plenty of risk, his job is an exciting one as he reveals his own experiences and the history of the profession. "Fire Bomber Into Hell" is a top pick for those who want to enter the minds of those crazy enough to fly a plane into a blaze.

Power of Plentiful Wisdom
Julia Shpak
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452064741, $10.95,

To lose sight of the magic of the world can drain many. "Power of Plentiful Wisdom" is an inspirational read calling for readers to remember the magic in their lives and how to gain a better and stronger appreciation of the world and how this appreciation can make life seem more worth living. "Power of Plentiful Wisdom" is a thoughtful and solidly recommended read, not to be missed.

Class Collision
Annette Mackey
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432753672, $16.97,

Fates can have fun with us all. "Class Collision" is a unique love story of Linda and David. Linda finds David, a battered and beaten man who seems to have nothing to his name. But David's story reveals that he has far richer callings and history, but Linda may never know such things, and may only find the truth as a pleasant little surprise. "Class Collision" is a fun read with a bit of fable thrown in, recommended.

For the Love of Strangers
Jacqueline Horsfall
Leap Books, LLC
9781616030032, $14.99,

Kindness to strangers is what is occasionally needed to survive. "For the Love of Strangers" tells of 16 year old Darya, a young woman with a kind heart to those who need it in their community. But her kindness may be needed by more than humanity, as creatures of the forest call for her aid, only it isn't so easy, as the eyes of her family and her friends look down on her strange habits. "For the Love of Strangers" is a thoughtful and exciting read, making for a top pick.

Helen Dumont

Kaveny's Bookshelf

Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy
James Hirsch
Mariner Books
222 Berkeley Street Boston, MA 02116
0618340769 $17.98

Reading and then doing follow-up research on The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy: by James Hirsch is really a step in my process of yearning for social justice, which means for me to be able to love my country and love justice at the same time. I make no apologies for sharing the belief that" Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".1 I further believe this is true of the events portrayed in Riot and Remembrance by James Hirsch even though the events took place nearly ninety years ago.

I am dismayed that the 1921 Tulsa Race War was not on my event-horizon until two months ago though I have deeply aware for my entire adult life of some other events to which it appears to have a family resemblance. These include Kristallnacht2, or, for that matter, the 1943 Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising.3 Some of the events reported on by author James Hirsch also resemble events that to took place during, and immediately after. General Augusto Pinochet's 1973 Chilean Coup, like rounding up suspects, taking them to athletic facilities, and using air strikes to support the operation, though in the case of "The Tulsa Race War "the use of military aircraft may have been limited to reconnaissance purposes.

I was unaware that there was a 1921 Tulsa Race War (or race riot, rebellion, uprising, or genocide) depending on how the eyewitnesses, contemporaries, journalists, perpetrators, victims, media, producers, or historians frame it.5 I was unaware that the Tulsa Race Riot which, according to most reliable sources was America's most deadly and costly racial incident in terms loss of life (estimates range from thirty-four to three hundred dead). Further I was unaware that it is nearly impossible to equitably express the economic cost of The "Tulsa Race War" in terms of dollars or lost family- and generational-capital. Insurance claims on over fourteen hundred residential, and commercial properties located in the in the nearly exclusively African American section of Tulsa, where nearly all of Tulsa's blacks resided, were not honored since the Oklahoma courts declared the disturbance a "riot, or an unlawful uprising, by Negros" rather than for example arson or criminal damage to property

It is not too much of a stretch to declare at least one of the necessary, but not sufficient, causes of this great destruction was the first act of the Oklahoma State Legislature, upon its inception in 1907, which was to institute racial segregation, black codes, and Jim Crow legislation. We have heard of these paralegal/illegal actions in our classroom lectures, media presentations, and discussions. Perhaps the most profound aspects of the riots is that they are a case study in the concept of raced being used to maintain a non-egalitarian, highly immobile class system through a system of prescribed deference and based on the perception of race rather than any biological reality.

I was unaware of any of these facts until I came upon a reference to the Tulsa Race Riot that placed African American novelist and 1953 National Book Award winner Ralph Ellison at the scene immediately before and shortly after the event. At the time he was a seven year old passing through, on the way to and returning from Gary Indiana with his widowed mother and little brother where they had made a failed attempt to fulfill the American dream in pursuit of a better life.

In a way his family was doing the exact same thing that most American family's dream of doing. The same thing they work their entire lives to achieve, including what the twelve thousand black residents of the destroyed (Greenwood, Little Africa), section of Tulsa were doing before their homes and their section of Tulsa were destroyed as certainly as sections of London's East End during the Second World War, or perhaps the Warsaw Ghetto during the uprising against the Nazi's. That was my phenomenological response to watching Black Wall Street - The Tulsa Race Riot HBO documentary.

Reading James Hirsch's book did not change that response much as he seemed, at least on the surface, to direct me away from it. And yet not entirely, in both a live-interview and on a sub-textual level, and along the margins of his narrative, he goes so far as to undermine his main narrative thrust, which I think is constrained by readers' expectations and the thorny issues of reparations for black survivors of "The Tulsa Race War and the families of its victims. For example, in the Feb 22nd 2002 C-SPAN (73- minute video interview taking place at the Novel Idea Bookstore in Tulsa before survivors and descendants of victims,8 James Hirsch backs away from his idea of the "Tulsa Race War," taking place because of the isolation of Blacks from Whites, and legitimate fears from their respective perceptual standpoints, and as he says, "No the Whites did not want the black businesses, they wanted the land." (The Whites wanted them destroyed).

On a descriptive level Hirsch's Riot and Remembrance is an excellent piece of historical work. He directs us to available resources and he gives equal weight to all evidence. For example there are numerous accounts of Tulsa Tribune publisher Lloyd Jones' 3: PM News Story NAB NEGRO FOR ASSAULTING WHITE GIRL IN ELEVATOR (Hirsch, p. 79) which appeared in the bottom corner of the front page of the 3: PM May 31St editions The Tulsa Tribune, which gave the identity and race of the suspect James Roland, a lurid account of the alleged event, and the location where the suspect was being held. There are also numerous accounts, mostly from 1921 riots survivors, indicating that a more inflammatory article was written by publisher Lloyd Jones of The Tulsa Tribune, calling for the assembly of a lynch mob, though there are no extant copies, as Hirsch repeatedly indicates. In a sense this is perhaps symptomatic of Hirsch's lack of analysis. Perhaps Hirsch is looking at the way we study the social function of lynching in maintaining Black Codes and hegemony of the white upper class economic privileged by placing obstacles between potential political alliance between populist poor Whites and Blacks.

The front page story In The Tulsa Tribune reads more like a code which calls for the assembly of a lynch mob and at the same time a clarion call for Blacks to prevent one more horrific, illegal, execution,. I do not think it is a signifier of a rather unfortunate series of accidents, exacerbated by jealousy, bad economic times, and hot weather. This caused a group of Whites (a lynch mob) to go to the Tulsa jail late in the day. A group of Blacks also went to the Tulsa Jail at about the same time, seemingly willing to use deadly force to stop that lynching. ***

I would like to take a different look at New Negro discussed in our Harlem Renaissance readings. It seems that 'The New Negro" was not simply a literary or artistic creation Rather I would suggest that "The New Negro" represented a manifestation of a culture of resistance present and progression against odds, against the objectifying forces of slavery and its de-facto re-institution through U.S. v. Cruikshank: 1875 the failure of congressional reconstruction, the bloody compromise of 1877. I would further suggest that "The New Negro (both men and women represented as much of a threat to those individual who materially benefited de-facto re-institution of slavery as an antebellum slave revolt. In an ironic sense the admission of The State of Oklahoma 1907, was a bit like allowing a new de-facto slave state into the union forty two years after Appomattox Courthouse.

Perhaps esteemed historian of European revolution can tell us something about the apparent ferocity up and unto its annihilation resisted overwhelming military and paramilitary who in my opinion behaved like the returning World War One German Freikorps fighting a Civil War. The name "Black Wall Street", really says it all nearly because it signifies the economic gains Black community had made in spite of all of the de-facto restriction

In some of cases the African American individuals had fought along with and other Americans' for freedom against the imperialism of the central powers in segregationist Woodrow Wilson's (Jim Crow Army as Ralph Ellison later called it). These same individuals were willing to fight, with their comrades, and community members to assert these constitutional rights denied them. It would have been impossible for this event to have taken place if the Supreme Court and not castrated and lynched the Bill of rights and other constructional protections through U.S. v. Cruikshank I suspect African American Militias would have made the racially motivated lynch mod an impossibility.

But then why was May 31st the flash point. Perhaps because things had gotten a little bit better in the Greenwood section of Tulsa that appeared to be worth the fight, which I think is one of the reasons that the beneficiaries of oppression could not allow things to get better.

Self assessment has not been my strongest suit since I am my own favorite author. I have kept myself awake late into the night and early into the morning thinking about history and progress. I have learned that violence is a perpetual motion machine and as tool of fighting oppression its human cost is appalling. Yet I feel that self defense is constitutionally justified since the days of John Locke. I also think there is a need for a Forensic historical approach to events like this. He is what I meant by that.

James Hirsch gives strong evidence that he is a person of" Philosophical Good Will" making the best choices he could writing the central narrative of the book which treats The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy as a case tragic case study in race based miss-understanding yet in doing that he undercuts the class based and economic narrative which race rests upon. I truly believe that he did the best he could have and kept his book contract .I learned big lesson here which I can apply to my own my own experience. I know have had several of my articles which rejected for publication even though I had a contract, which meant it cost me four hundred dollars. James Hirsch has taught me a lesson in how to be sub textually counter hegemonic. What I mean by this is that Hirsch includes a Reference to Eighty Two year old Clyde Snow an internationally famous forensic anthropologist, human rights advocate who testified as expert witness against Saddam Hussein and a number of others charged with war crimes over the years. Clyde Snow had taken on the task looking evidence to corroborate the contention the official death toll for The Tulsa Race War was off by a factor of ten. Snow was greatly restricted by where he was allowed look for bodies, but he did say was not examining the site of a race war but a murder, but rather a murder scene.

My most interesting course of future research would be to study the legal precedent for reparations for nearly four hundred years of de-jure and de-facto slavery. The present German Government, recently making its last Versailles treaty payment ninety years later, set

Philip Kaveny
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

Trajan's Arch
Michael Williams
9780982714942, $19.95,

In 1992 in Lake Geneva, Gabriel Rackett sends a letter to Jasmine as he has no prospects, a sad commentary for someone nearing forty years old. He once showed promise as a novelist until the alcohol took it toll. However, he thinks back to 1968 when the Cardinals ran all over the National league.

In Louisville, he was thirteen playing baseball with his two best friends being Gino Robinson and Joey Hardy near the home of elderly lunatic Miss Vivian when her adult son Trajan Bell moved in with her. Curious about the newcomer, Gino tosses Joey's glove into the yard; Gabe sneaks in to retrieve the mitt and meets Trajan. Later that same summer, as Joey befriends Beatles' fans and Gino shop guys, Gabe feels alone except for Trajan and soon Jasmine.

As he creeps towards middle age while a bored college teacher, Gabe knows he failed at work, family, and life. Everything changes, just as it did when he went into Miss Vivian's yard to get the glove; he obtains a strange manuscript written by Trajan. Gabe begins a trek home past and present with the dark "stigmata" imprinted on the palm of his hand from when as a teen he touched an incline put in the yard by Trajan.

This convoluted thriller is not an easy read yet grips the audience with a need to know who Trajan Bell is and what if anything did he do to Gabe. The story line includes eerie works besides Giacco Piano by Mr. Bell such as "Second Ephesians" and "The Isle Is Filled with Noyses" that add to the strangeness of the well written story line by adding more questions to the mystery of Trajan. With Gabe's letters to Jasmine enabling the audience to look deeper at him, fans will wonder if he lost his mind when he was thirteen, as the ghosts that haunt him as he nears forty are either psychological or real. This is a memorable and unforgettable book.

Unwelcome Light
David Lehner
Fithian Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564744999, $12.95,

Three years ago, his dad gave his fortyish son a letter which the latter misplaced. A year later, his father died and at the funeral his aunt asked if he read the letter he received from his dad at his uncle's funeral last year. The man admits he never did having misplaced it. His aunt explains his father the man who raised him was not his father.

Stunned, he needs to know who his biological father was and what happened. He obtains a teaching position at the school his "father" was the headmaster at for years. His classes include Intro Greek, Level Two Latin and Advanced Greek with his most challenging student being Natalie. He also finds a classmate from when he went to the school, married teacher Elizabeth. As he makes inquiries, he recalls when his dad thought he may have stolen money only to have it turn out to be the son of his father's bitter rival. However, as he gets closer to the truth his rival from school arrives and soon whispers begin that he is having affairs with Natalie and Elizabeth.

This is exciting thriller as the lead character, aptly having no name, investigates his roots only to land in all sorts of trouble as the truth does not always set you free. Readers will relish David Lehner's riveting character driven tale starring the unnamed narrator who learns the hard way some people reject an Unwelcome Light shined on them.

Mystery Montage
Patricia L. Morin
Top Publications
9781929976751, $14.95,

The key to this superb twelve short story crime anthology is the diversity of entries that cross many sub-genres and locations. "Under the Boardwalk" occurs in Atlantic City where septuagenarians find a key clue in a police procedural but do not solve the case. The "Maasai Murder Mystery" is a terrific African tribal police procedural while the longest tale "Who Killed Horatio T. Adams takes place in Oahu. In "The Pool Room" sting, a San Francisco writer's emails and journals, told in "Rap Sheet". In Los Angeles or on a train heading to Exeter, new Hampshire, these are fabulous stories with different twists. Finally, whether it is private investigator Green "Landing in the Rough on a New Jersey golf course or the "Funeral" where a story is within a story, fans will appreciate this strong Mystery Montage.

City of Tranquil Light
Bo Caldwell
c/o Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9780805092288, $25.00,

In 1966 widower Will Koehn looks back at his life with his wife Katherine who died twenty years earlier. In 1906, Will an Oklahoma farmer and Katherine Friesen a Cleveland deaconess met on a ship traveling to China. Both were Mennonite missionaries filled with enthusiasm and fear. They became companions and later a married couple as she offered her nursing skills and he the word of the Lord. The pair was there when the revolution occurred culminating with the rise of Kuomintang even as other missionaries are violently exiled. The duo stays through drought, famine, earthquakes and winters requiring five thick coats; as long as Will and Kate had each other and God, they can help others cope with any human atrocity and any natural disaster.

This is an entertaining early twentieth century epic that provides a vast look of life in China. The dedicated couple endures all sorts of external problems, but though at times it seems over the top as they adhere to their mission and each other in an almost superhero detached way, their love for God and each other keeps them strong and going. Ironically the passion in this engaging historical comes with Katherine's diary as she invokes feelings for the plight of their Chinese neighbors and for each other.

The Redemption of Holly Dobson
C. Lynn Barton
Dark Willow Books
9780615349411, $16.95,

Holly Dobson understands her name quite well. Her simple first name denotes sweet and stable, which she is not and her surname comes from her adopted parents who bestowed her with her basic needs of food and shelter, but nothing else. She is like the Holly trees she planted in front of her Illinois home; or perhaps the red berries of the trees is more descriptive as they look beautiful on the outside but are inedible as twenty of them will kill anyone.

Holly knows one thing: society considers her evil because she will do anything to protect her son and grandson. She knows she takes the family values mantra to an extreme, but so what she rationalizes is that not what the politicians say to do until you do it. As she smokes her Meerschaum pipe, Holly muses about life with George Dobson, who mentors her on all things evil or perhaps it is her who teaches him the evil facts of life. She is the daughter, the mother and the grandmother while he is the son and father.

Told by the title character looking back on her life one puff at a time, The Redemption of Holly Dobson is a deep thought provoking psychological thriller that ponders the essence of what is evil. The story line looks at nurturing vs. naturing while using hyperbole to skewer the family values mojo practitioners who conveniently surface during elections and dark incidents. Holly, her son and her grandson Simon are strong individuals with apparent an evil DNA flowing through their cells. Elderly, the matriarch reflects on her life and its impact on her descendants as it is with them she believes she can claim redemption as a caring mother and grandmother who will do and has done anything for her progeny; as her family right or wrong is her family.

A Killing in Real Estate
Michael Castleman
MacAdam/Cage Publishing
155 Sansome Street, Suite 550, San Francisco, CA 94104
9781596923652, $13.00,

A serial arsonist has been lighting up the Mission District. San Francisco Foghorn columnist Ed Rosenberg is concerned as the latest inferno was just a few blocks from the renovated Victorian where he, his wife Julie and their two kids (ten years old Sonya and infant Jake) live. He could smell the flames three blocks away

Although he did not sleep well and Julie pushed him again for them to move, Ed meets his friend from the paper real estate reporter Ryan Duffy for brunch and a discussion on a 1934 diary kept by his grandfather, a longshoreman during the bloody acrimonious strike; the scribble is impossible to read for a layman so Ryan hopes historian Ed can translate it. Ed arrives to find a naked Ryan dead; bound as if an S&M tryst turned ugly. Stunned he takes the diary with him and begins interpreting what looks like an arson's scribble. Motivated Ed investigates his friend's death and the fires creeping closer to his abode.

The 1934 diary refreshes the exciting investigative whodunit as the readers learns of a nasty period in San Francisco history. The present day inquiry into the murder and especially the serial arsons is cleverly designed as the audience wonders who is lighting the fires and why. A Killing in Real Estate is a fabulous San Francisco treat.

The Lion of Cairo
Scott Oden
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312372934, $25.99,

In the impregnable Afghan mountaintop, Alamut the Hidden Master of the Assassins sends his top assistant Assad on deadly missions. So when Alamut gives Assad his latest task, he assumes he will assassinate an enemy. Instead his job is to keep the young caliph of Cairo safe from insidious enemies so as to arrange an alliance between Cairo and Alamut.

The task seems easy until Assad realizes how much peril Cairo is in. The Christian king of Jerusalem Amalric wants to use the lad to further his plans of tightening his control and Nur-ad-Din, Sultan of Damascus wants to own the Caliph or kill him. Amalric leads his army while Nur-ad-Din's loyal Kurdish general leads another. At the same time while ambition explodes, the grand Vizier plots to kill Assad, the Templars and Cairo. As Assad struggles to keep the Caliph safe, a rogue Assassin necromancer has murdered his allies, but he has himself, his magical sword and three kick-butt females; more than enough to defeat armies and traitors.

With a nod to Robert E Howard, The Lion of Cairo is a super sword and sorcery historical fantasy filled with blood and gore from the fresh perspective of an Arab. Assad is terrific as he uses masquerades, a special sword that loves to kill the Crusaders especially the Templars and is co-mingled with an ancient demonic salawar. He works the shadows so well even the infidel Europeans quietly call him "Emir of the Knife". Scott Oden provides a delightful twist on the Crusades and the Templars due to their enemy assassin.

The Nostradamus Prophecies
Mario Reading
9780312643799, $24.99

In Paris, a Gypsy Babel Samana insists he possesses the reported for centuries missing fifty-eight predictions that Nostradamus supposedly wrote down but concealed. The other 942 quatrains have been printed and analyzed numerous times, but no one has seen in centuries the complete set of ten verses for ten centuries. Achor Bale believed him and demanded the document, but when Samana fled, he killed the Gypsy.

French Surete suspect American writer Adam Sabir as the killer. He flees France and Spain accompanied by Babel's witch sister Yola. Adam believes Nostradamus left the Lost Predictions with the Gypsies for safe keeping. Pursuing the pair is the assassin with "freakishly clotted eyes" Achor Bale, whose secret group wants ownership of the cache as they believe that Nostradamus mentioned an Antichrist triad of Napoleon, Hitler, and someone to come. Meanwhile though his peers remain confident that Sabir is a killer, French Police Nationale Captain Joris Calque thinks otherwise, leaning towards Bale as the amoral ruthless murderer.

Although this is another Brownian 101 thriller; fans will appreciate this exciting tale due to the insight into The Nostradamus Prophecies especially why some believe there are fifty-eight unpublished. Calque brings freshness as a diligent intelligent police officer whose professional inquiry is welcome because it is rare in a sect conspiracy tale. Fast-paced from the moment Bale stabs Samana, fans will enjoy the opening act as Nostradamus scholar Mario Reading shines a light on the legendary seer inside of an action-packed thriller.

Crown of Dust
Mary Volmer
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781569478615, $24.00,

As the Gold Rush fever spreads across the country, temporary poorly constructed towns like Motherlode, California form. Realizing a chance to make some needed money from the horde, Emaline runs the Victoria Inn providing room and board to the prospectors trying to make their fortune. For the right price, she also offers other specialized services.

Emaline is attracted to the mystery of newcomer Alex, an enigmatic stranger who never speaks more than a few words at a time and never stops for a second even when acknowledging others like his hostess. Unable to resist learning more about the silent man with the hat, Emaline learns he is a she. Further unable to stop herself from going maternal, Emaline keeps an eye on Alex, who becomes known as "Golden Boy" as "he" seems to find gold in the mines. As Alex's gender bending causes "him" trouble due to his effeminate manner, Emaline runs into trouble due to her relationship with a black man.

This is a great Gold Rush era tale that provides the audience with a deep look at life in one of the hastily constructed towns. Emaline is a wonderful protagonist who holds the insightful story line together as she has a heart of gold (sorry for my triteness) and cares for others while also trying to make it anyway she can. The support cast is solid enhancing a strong sense of time and place. Hopefully Mary Volmer can find more gold circa 1850 California.

Haunted Echoes
Julie Ann Howell
Peppertree Press
1269 First Street, Suite 7, Sarasota, FL 34236
Maryglenn McCombs (publicity)
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 37203
9781936051694, $19.95,

Having one book to her credit, Sarah Reddington faces writer's block while her deadline to hand over her second novel to her publisher is nearing. She is staying at the Otter Cove Inn in Cape Elizabeth, Maine for a few weeks as the only guest; not even the innkeepers are around when she arrives.

Strange sounds reverberate throughout the walls; so loud that Sarah hears them. A noise in the room on the third floor scares her into running back to her writing area. She does not hear the doorknob slowly being turned until she realizes an entity besides herself is in the inn and guarding it. Her sister Abby knows she is in danger and intends to get her out of there. Before she can do that, Abby's daughter Tessa is taken in by the spirit of the inn with no way for Abby to reach her daughter until Riley, who knows what is going on helps Abby. They must find a way in to rescue Sarah and Tessa before aunt and niece are lost forever.

Haunted Echoes' main characters are the Victorian inn and the spirit that inhabits the haunted house. Together along with the Atlantic coast of Maine they create an eerie gothic like atmosphere. The arrival of Sarah triggers the supernatural events as the Keeper wants the visitor's soul. Mindful of King's The Shining even with its radically different locale, fan will enjoy this old fashion spooky haunted house thriller.

The Evangeline
D.W. Buffa
Blue Zephyr
c/o CreateSpace
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781452826097, $12.99,

Learning from the mistakes of nautical disasters like the Titanic, the Evangeline was constructed to never sink; yet the designer insured the vessel contained every reliable electronic high tech gizmo on the market and also safety escapes like enough lifeboats just in case.

However, history repeats itself when the unsinkable Evangeline sinks off the African Atlantic coast during a torrential storm and in spite of mundane safety precautions only one lifeboat makes it off the ship. The tiny lifeboat contains fourteen survivors including Captain Vincent Marlowe. Weeks later as the stored food and water supplies that were on board were depleted, only one source remained. Forty days at sea, the survivors of the Evangeline are rescued; six people including the captain who is charged with multiple homicides. His defense of the murders is simple: to save some others died.

Although this exhilarating thriller ostensive occurs in a courtroom with testimony used to tell what happened at sea, readers will be reminded of the Hitchcock classic The Lifeboat with its similar crammed setting. The question of saving a few by killing a few leads to a strong moral debate over how to choose who shall die and why even though the law is allegedly blind to ethical debates. Although some of the key support characters are never fully developed, the defense lawyer, the prosecution and the captain are so that fans will appreciate The Evangeline.

The Price of Life
Greg McCarthy
Otherworld Publications
4949 Old Brownsboro Road, Suite 113, Louisville, KY 402222
9780982649459, $19.95,

Eight years old Jennifer Haller suffers from a brain tumor that is too late to just remove. The insurance company denies coverage of what they deem is an "experimental" operation to remove the tumor. Her father U.S. Marine Captain Ed Haller comes home from his fourth tour of Iraq to bury his child and his belief in the American way.

He and his wife Julie hire lawyer Grant Mercer to sue a doctor who failed to order an MRI when Jennifer's ailment was still operational. However, the medical malpractice suit is difficult to prove as the doctors and insurance companies with their lawyers refuse to cooperate; abetted by Texas state politicians who decided a life lost due to medical negligence is worth no more than, $250,000. As a senator, lobbyist and insurance executive are murdered; Captain Haller sits stoically less a limb lost to an IED staring at witnesses providing depositions.

Clearly biased on one side of the debate on malpractice lawsuits, Greg McCarthy provides a strong legal thriller that will leave readers questioning the ethics of the health-jurisprudence system that buys politicians. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jennifer dies and never slows down as no one takes responsibility for her death except perhaps her father who is filled with remorse that he chose his country over his family. Although much of the cast except for grieving guilt laden dad is not fully fleshed out and the homicides seem unnecessary even if exciting, readers will enjoy this deep look at The Price of Life.

Phantom Four
Roger Wilson
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432761226, $14.95,

In 1735 in Nepal, the Historian Professor Stevens lead Memory to the remote site where she learns her god Lucifer's scheme to dominate the world has four Chosen ones in the way. Memory kills the professor, but concludes the Chosen Ones have not been born yet. She places a curse on them to die when they turn five years old.

In 1985 in Brooklyn Julie Smith gives birth to a quartet of fraternal boys. Her euphoric husband Damon names them Rex, Kevin, Paul and Oscar. Five years later the four brothers and their two years old sister Erica are at playground with their parents when a beam comes from a comet in space killing the quartet.

In 2010, the four shadows of the Smith quartet arise from their graveyard, but as muscular adults. They are confused as to what happened to them and who their family is though they know each other's first names. The foursome meets women they like and grow stronger as does the curse inside of them. Soon, they find themselves at the front of a war; the battle zone is New York City and the enemy is Lucifer's devils from hell with their beloved women their only anchor to sanity.

This is an exciting urban fantasy with a key romantic subplot that is cleverly interwoven into the action-packed story line. The lead fantastic four are clearly delineated even when they are five by their particular prowess even though having a quartet of heroes and their support can be overwhelming at times. Readers will enjoy taking the "subway to hell" as train conductor Roger Wilson provides a thrilling ride.

To Snare a Wolf
Robert Nowak'
Pinnacle Peak Press
24001 N 112th Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85255
9780984263509, $14.95,

In 1871, fourteen year old Christian Dejoux leaves his hometown of Strasbourg to fight in the Franco-Prussian War for the French who blame Bismarck for the hostilities. However, his side is overwhelmed by the superior Prussian army. Having survived an impoverished childhood, he believes strongly there will be another war between his country and the Germans. Although his countrymen may be lapsed in their vigil, he will not ignore the threat even risking his life spying in Berlin.

At the same time Wolfgang Loewenhardt grows up in affluent aristocratic family in Berlin. He believes Prussia will rule all of Europe one day. He plans to insure that happens.

In Berlin, Christian meets and falls in love with Heidi; she unwittingly abets his stealing secrets from the Ministry of War where she works. Since her father rejects the poor foreign Catholic as a suitor for his daughter, the pair elopes to Switzerland carrying the Prussian secrets. Wolfgang sends his top agent to retrieve the secrets.

This is a superb historical espionage thriller as spy and counterspy battle one another over several decades starting with The Franco-Prussian War that affirmed their respective beliefs and ending at the Frist battle of the Marne in WWI. The keys to this excellent drama are the lead adversaries though different on the surface with one being somewhat shy and humble and the other arrogant yet share in common patriot fervor as each is willing to risk their life for their country. The locations throughout Western Europe bring a sense of being there to the armchair traveler whether it is the Marne, a nightclub in Paris or Berlin or at the front during the Prussian-Franco war. Robert Nowak provides an exhilarating saga that also gives hope that if the French and Germans can live side by side in peace, other combatants can also.

Dining with Joy
Rachel Hauck
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595543394, $14.99,

In South Carolina, Joy Ballard is the host of the local cooking show, Dining With Joy that she inherited from her late father, a great chef. She has one problem in that she cannot cook. So when a national network wants to pick up her show she panics.

Former Manhattan chef Luke Davis moved to Beaufort, South Carolina after his restaurant failed. He pays his debts as a cook at the Frogmore Cafe.

Allison Wild of Wild Woman Productions who bought the rights to Dining With Joy, adds Luke to the show for wider appeal especially to the women. Luke and Joy detest one another at first sight, but the sparks make the show stratospherically successful. However, being an ethical person, Joy loathes concealing her inability to cook from their audience and especially from her co-host. As they fall in love, he knows her secret, but others want her job so are willing to expose her as a sham and further destroy his reputation as guilt by association.

With a nod to Christmas in Connecticut, readers will enjoy this entertaining contemporary romance starring an ethical woman struggling with her amoral behavior and a failed chef with the irony that she has succeeded and he has not. Readers will enjoy this amusing culinary romance in which No Reservations are necessary for Dining with Joy; just avoid her offerings and Eat your Heart out on his.

The Lightkeeper's Bride
Colleen Coble
Thomas Nelson
9781595542663, $14.99

In Mercy Falls, Katie Russell enjoys her work as a telephone central switchboard operator. However, she is disturbed that her parents want her to marry wealthy Bartholomew Foster though she does not love him. The wedding will bring her family prestige which they want..

However, Katie accidentally overhears a phone conversation between Eliza Bullmer and a ship apparent lost at sea with the male voice angrily mentioning blackmail. The authorities investigate, but find nothing; not even the caller. Katie talks with the new lighthouse keeper, Will Jesperson; as a smallpox epidemic forces the pair to remain quarantined in the lighthouse. As they team up to find the vanished female caller and the seemingly phantom ship, they fall in love.

The latest Lightkeeper's Bride (see The Lightkeeper's Daughter) is a wonderful historical romantic suspense. Part of the exhilarating story line is the rather different views of the Victorian Era through various perspectives that showcase differing lives mean differing viewpoints in what Colleen Coble describes as diversity not monolithic. Filled with spins and waves, readers will enjoy the mystery of Eliza who disappeared Without a Trace left behind, except the tie to a male voice Katie heard in the background and the lost ship. Katie and Will fall in love while their belief in the Lord enables each to believe in each other and in their conviction that God will help them solve the mysteries safely and gain custody of beloved little Jenny; read to find out where this child fits in the strange mystery of the Lightkeeper's Bride.

A Suitor for Jenny
Margaret Brownley
Thomas Nelson
9781595548108, $14.99

In 1881 with the deaths of their parents, Jenny Higgins takes charge of her two younger sisters Brenda and Mary Lou. Her plan is to find suitable husbands for both. Though in her early twenties, Jenny wants no mate for herself.

When she learns Rocky Creek, Texas is filled with eligible bachelors, she and her siblings arrive looking for two spouses. Jenny puts up wanted: husband flyers throughout the town. She interrogates candidates, but finds no one who comes close to meeting her spousal criteria. Meanwhile Marshal Rhett Armstrong is attracted to Jenny and plans to be there when her plans implode, but also has mental scars from his war days. Jenny is falling in love with the law man, but stubbornly rejects her heart as Rhett fails to meet her husband measurement criteria.

The second Rocky Creek historical romance (see A Lady Like Sarah) is an enjoyable inspirational frolic as readers will root for obstinate Jenny whose two track mind is finding two husbands and no more while her siblings seek to find their own spouses. Filled with humor and pathos, with Rhett seeking redemption knowing God forgave him but he has not forgave himself, readers will enjoy this warn inspirational Americana.

Love Finds You in Deadwood, South Dakota
Tracey Cross
Summerside Press
9781609360030, $12.99,

In 1879 recently widowed and pregnant single mom Jane Albright learns from her late spouse Tom's freight delivery partner Hank of the note signed by her just buried husband to avaricious moneylender Franklin Lloyd. Hank says he and his wife are leaving for Oregon as he has given up on the business. He says he warned Tom not to sign using his homestead as collateral but he did; payment is passed due, which means she and five years old Danny could be homeless.

Desperate to save her home and the freight business, Jane travels to nearby Deadwood, South Dakota to beg for an extension. Franklin grants Jane an extension of six months to pay off her dead husband's note or lose everything. However, as she works diligently earning the respect and admiration of Franklin, Trent Bedlow tells her he loves her. With the help of her friend Molly, Jane sees beneath Trent's veneer of caring and Franklin's wall of indifference to the souls of each. Realizing he is losing Jane and her property, Trent kidnaps her leaving it to Franklin to try to rescue the women he loves.

This is an intriguing Americana romance that brings to life the late nineteenth century in Deadwood, South Dakota. The lead trio forges an interesting triangle as Jane learns the hard way never to judge a book by its cover. Although the climax is abrupt and leaves too much dangling especially since history buffs and romance readers will know what is coming, fans will enjoy this entertaining historical.

Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe
Irene Brand, Anita Higman
Summerside Press
9781609360047, $12.99,

"An Appalachian Christmas" by Irene Brand. Julia Mayfield made a death promise to her late sister that she will take her two years old nephew Bobby to meet his paternal grandparents in Mistletoe, Kentucky. Although people are kind like the mail carrier, nothing goes right when they leave the bus upon reaching town as the only taxi is rented. However, things look up when they meet WW II veteran David Armstrong who assists Julia and Bobby.

"Once Upon a Christmas Eve" by Anita Higman. Hollie Rose Goodnight is unprepared and obviously stunned when her store is voted the best Christmas shop in the country. People like her story of her father storekeeper Albert finding her as an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve; so a writer Van Keaton has arrived to tell her tale and perhaps write the next chapters.

Although Irene Brand's entry is Christmas Past and Anita Higman's contribution is Christmas Present and there is no Christmas Future; together the two stories make a terrific holiday collection that warms the hearts and souls of readers on a cold wintry night.

Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio
Serena B. Miller
Summerside Press
9781609360023, $12.99,

Sugarcreek, Ohio police officer Rachel Troyer watches over her three beloved Amish aunts (Bertha, Lydia, and Anna) who run a farmhouse inn in the olde Amish way. Though their niece wants them to use her inheritance as she worries that they work too hard as Bertha and Lydia are past retirement age and Anna suffers from a weak heart due to Downs Syndrome, the trio loves meeting tourists who come to visit the Amish town.

Joe Matthews stops in Sugarcreek when his truck breaks down. He needs shelter for himself and his young son Bobby traveling with him. The aunts welcome the two males to stay at their rustic inn. However, though attracted to the handsome stranger, Rachel's police blood screams danger although he refuses to reveal his secret that she fears will harm her aunts especially when the incidents begin.

Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio is a super Amish romance due to the strong cast. The half English niece and her beloved olde style Amish Aunts (no electricity at the inn) bring to life an Amish town in Ohio while the two male strangers bring dangerous intrigue and romance to the mix. Readers will relish this enjoyable romantic suspense although the villain's motivation seems a bit weak.

I'll Be Home for Christmas
Julie L. Cannon
Summerside Press
9781609360184, $12.99,

In December 1943 in Athens, Georgia Maggie Culpepper grieves the death of her beloved Mother blaming God for her loss and vowing never to trust in the Lord again as her prayers went unanswered. Thus she is caught totally off guard when her childhood sweetheart William Dove proposes though at one time she expected him to ask her to marry him.

Instead of marrying him, Maggie enlists with the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) and stationed at an air station in New Jersey. William, who due to polio is unfit to serve, has not given up on his Maggie as he believes his faith in God and in love will bring them together if she only moves on with her grief.

With Bing singing on the radio, fans will feel like they are whisked to 1944 on the homefront as Julie L. Cannon brings to life those wonderful women who volunteered to serve as WAVES. Maggie is terrific lead protagonists as she is somewhat confused, still grieving for her mom, and feeling lonely being away from her father, her beloved William, her hometown, and God. The audience will root for William who insists home is where the heart is and his heart is with her.

World and Town
Gish Jen
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307272195, $26.95,

In her late sixties and on the anniversary of five decades in the United States, Widow Hattie Kong misses her late husband and her best friend who both died from cancer. A descendent of Confucius and a missionary, Hattie muses that since she used the same church, the same organist and the same crematory, she should have received a group rate discount; an American buy one get one free.

Two years since the dual burial, Hattie lives in Riverlake. There she meets an immigrant Cambodian family who live in an overly crowded trailer; patriarch Chhung survived Pol Pot though his first wife could not cope with a burial atrocity by the Khmer Rouge. Also in their neighbored is retired neuroscientist Dr. Carter Hatch. Hattie and Chhung's teenage daughter Sophy becomes friends. Apparently Chhung, who met Sophy's mother in a Cambodian concentration camp, relocated from the inner city to keep his adopted son Saran away from the gangs. Feeling all alone in American and unable to connect with his children as his son resents the abode in the burbs and his daughter becomes an evangelical Christian, a frustrated Chhung explodes while on the East Coast terror has come to America in the skies. Hattie feels a need to help Sophy and her family, but is unsure what to do.

The strong cast makes for a profound look at Asian immigrants at a time when Americans turn xenophobic. Hattie holds the character driven story line together as she finds a reason to live; she goes from "I'll but lie and bleed awhile" to "Rising to Fight Again". Gish Jen makes a strong case that in an ideal world, we would go way beyond just religious and racial tolerance to include harmoniously welcoming other beliefs, but this is not an ideal world as The Killing Fields, 9/11 and post 9/11 prove.

Compass Rose
John Casey
9780375410253, $27.95

In Sawtooth Point, Rhode Island, Game Warden Elsie Buttrick gives birth to Rose. Elsie loves Rose's father her neighbor, fisherman Dick Pierce, but cannot marry him as he already has a wife May and two children. Although much of the small town condemns Elsie for having a child out of wedlock, she holds her head up high while raising her daughter as a single mom. May on the other hand feels publically humiliated by her husband's betrayal.

Over the next decade and a half outgoing and optimistic Rose wins over all of those who scorned her mother; Even May loves the precocious girl. As Elsie and Dick stay attached through lust that some might say is love; a depressed May turns to her sons and Rose while dedicating her life to making their small part of the Sawtooth Point human ecosystem that they reside in better.

This is a direct sequel, though it can stand alone, to the award winning Spartina. The story line is obviously character driven mostly by the three females pierced together by the man in their lives. Readers will relish the return to the Narragansett Bay estuary to visit the extended family of Dick Pierce although no one appears to be punished for their excesses; instead even Peirce seems rewarded due to sunshine Rose, a teen Mary Poppins.

Driving on the Rim
Thomas McGuane
9781400041558, $26.95

In Montana, Dr. I. B. "Berl" Pickett blames his mother for all his woes as who names a baby in Big Sky Country after Irving "God Bless America" Berlin. When his friend Clarice fails at suicide, Berl conceals her attempt. However, later she dies from her injuries and he is suspended from practicing awaiting a review board look at negligence and potential criminal charges.

To pass time, Berl becomes a house painter, an occupation he did before he became a doctor. He also muses on his past as Irving Berlin's non protege and at fourteen when his aunt seduced him. Berl thinks of the doctor who mentored him and the two women in his life, Jocelyn the pilot who makes him want to soar and thoughtful Dr. Jinx who makes him look inside at his soul; however it is another woman who wants him dead for what he did.

Not for everyone as there is limited action and even that, for instance a stabbing, is quick and not very vivid. Instead Driving on the Rim is a strong reflective character study of a person who believes he is worthless in spite of several people who hold a contrary opinion about Berl. Readers who appreciate a profound look inside the heart and soul of a person will enjoy Driving on the Rim as Berl learns the true meaning of functional simple two-way and convoluted multi-way relationships.

David Bajo
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
9781609530020, $25.95,

Their newspaper is folding in a few days leaving workers exploring what to do in the future. However, they are assigned their final stories by managing editor Gina before the paper ends its run on the California-Mexico border. None of them know what they are covering except that it is big and will come together eventually though they only have a few days to finish their last hurrah.

Reporter Aaron Klinsman and photographer Rita Valdez travel to an empty room at the Motel San Ysidro in which towels cover the mirrors, black tape strips cover the doorknobs, and the outline of a woman's body is imprinted on the bed sheets. Confused they continue their snooping with reporter Oscar Medem joining them. As the trio struggle to comprehend what they are seeking, they follow clues in Tijuana and Otay though remaining ignorant to what it leads to except they know it ties to the femicide murders that haunted Juarez for over a decade and has apparently come to the California border towns with a lethal vengeance. With the clues beginning to click together, Aaron, Rita and Oscar compare what is going on to the male Luchadors who wear masks all the time to hide their faces as opposed to their female counterparts who takes theirs off outside the ring for as Mil mascaras says "what we observe becomes us".

Not for everyone, Panopticon is an odd intricate journalist thriller with various seemingly at first disconnected coils. The lead trio supported by a powerful cast on both sides of the border makes the story line feel genuine as each slowly learns the underlying truth. Set on the dangerous border where guns flow illegally from the north, fans who relish something radically different and remain patient to learn how the coils connect will want to read David Bajo's fascinating look at modern times when nothing remains private even the visages of the male Luchadors.

Broken English
P.L. Gaus
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452296619, $13.00,

After spending twenty-five ears in the New Jersey State Prison for rape and felonious assault, Jess Sand is freed having served his full sentence. He heads west stopping in Millersburg, Ohio, a peaceful Amish town in which crime especially violent is rare. Jesse invades a house, but the young woman fought back while calling 911. He kills her as the police arrive. The victim's daughter Amish David Hawkins, encouraged by Pastor Cal Troyer, comes to the jail to forgive Sands, who is scornful until his visitor goes for his throat.

Reporter Eric Bromfield was covering the homicide until he became part of the story when he is murdered. Moody Sheriff Bruce Robertson assumes the father of the first victim has become avenging as well as hostile and killed the journalist especially since Hawkins seems to have vanished. However, Professor Michael Brandon and Pastor Cal also investigate as they believe Hawkins' past before the Amish welcome him to live with them returned to haunt him.

The stars (Brandon, Robertson, and Troyer) of the powerful Amish mystery Blood of the Prodigal return for a fabulous second engagement in a whodunit that tests the moral fiber of each of them. With a fully developed cast and insight into modern day Amish life, the story line remains fast-paced throughout as Sand resides in jail while the sheriff, the professor and the pastor seek the motive behind the murder of the reporter.

The Severance
Elliot Sawyer
Bridge Works Publishing
P.O. Box 1798, Bridgehampton, New York 11932
9780981617534, $23.95,

To punish him for his attitude and disobedience, Captain Jake Roberts is placed in charge of the Army's worst unit the Kodiak Platoon. The soldiers are those dumped as losers by other platoons. Rather than early discharge for incompetency, these addicts, deserters, and dysfunctional humans are assigned the horrific missions in the Afghanistan Mountains because the brass believes each one is expendable.

Surprisingly to the shock of even the troop, the soldiers bond and do well fighting the insurgents (and each other - can't have everything). .However, everything changes when on a mission they find a million American dollars, a contractor under the table stash. Jake and his subordinates agree to smuggle into the States the "Severance" loot to be equally divided by all of them even as they still fight the Taliban, their superiors, an unknown adversary who may be one of them, and each other.

This is an entertaining military tale that is a sort of mix of Up Periscope with the Dirty Dozen, but never quite chooses between the two films. Thus, the story line is amusing yet loaded with action, but not fully gelled into a cohesive thriller. Still readers will root for the Kodiak Platoon especially Captain Jake to keep the Severance Pay as the rules of engagement include the "cost of doing business" in a highly contracted out war.

Secrets of the Tudor Court: By Royal Decree
Kate Emerson
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439177815, $15.00,

Aging and ailing King Henry VIII chooses Katharine Parr as his sixth wife. Not long after the monarch remarries, Elizabeth Brooke arrives at court as a lady in waiting to the new queen. There she meets Katharine's married brother Will. Elizabeth and Will become friends as he helps her with the backstabbing intrigue. They are deeply attracted tone another and she believes she loves the kind Will, but marriage is traded on a royal exchange as an item for bartering.

Years later Will is single having had his marriage annulled while his Bess also is free as her fiance died. They become lovers at a time an era ends with the death of the monarch; Henry's son Edward becomes king. The widow queen Katharine remarries but dies in childbirth. Lady Jane Grey ascends to the throne, but not for long as less than two weeks later Princess Mary becomes queen. Mary a devout Catholic married to the Spanish king also an extremely deeply religious Catholic accuses many at court especially Bess of seditious support of Jane.

The latest Secrets of the Tudor Court (see Between Two Queens) is an entertaining historical made fresh by the lead protagonist Bess Brooke, a real person. She brings an interesting perspective to the overly written era as an optimist in a dangerous curt filled with nasty intrigue and stays up beat even when accused of treason in allegedly placing Jane on the throne and in support of her cousin's failed revolt. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Kate Emerson's enjoyable look at the Tudors.

Lipstick in Afghanistan
Roberta Gately
9781439191385, $15.00

In Boston, Nurse Elsa Murphy wants to work at an overseas clinic in an impoverished nation. Her motivation was the news clips and photos of the Rwanda genocide back in `1994 when she was part of a poverty stricken household consisting of her single mom, her infant niece and an addicted sister. Thus in 2002 when Aide du Monde assigns her work at a medical clinic in a rural area of Afghanistan she is exhilarated.

After a long journey made easier by kind guides starting in Pakistan, Elsa arrives at remote Bamiyan home to the Hazara. She moves into a home recently vacated by the Taliban invaders who were kicked out of the village. Elsa's enthusiasm to learn local customs and her friendly caring nature make her quickly popular with those who work at the eighteen bed hospital and many villagers. However, she and feisty Widow Parween especially become BFFs starting with a common pleasure in using lipstick; something banned by the Taliban and a need to help females. The Bostonian also likes Lieutenant Mike Young though fraternizing is taboo.

Lipstick in Afghanistan is a terrific insightful character study of an American diligently working in a remote Afghan village. The two best friends are wonderful fully developed protagonists as they risk their lives to improve the lot of others. Although the romance with Mike seems a bit forced though well written and does raise questions of how far must you depart from your culture when you are a guest of another nation in which promiscuous behavior is unacceptable. Still fans will enjoy this discerning look at a dedicated Massachusetts nurse providing health care and more in a remote rural part of Afghanistan.

Lisa Rinna
9781439177617, $24.99

In Los Angeles wannabe starlets, actresses Tally Jones, Sadie Fletcher, and Mandy Hogan, hope to make it in Hollywood, but a break seems out of reach until now for the three friends. Tally replaces Susie Sheppard on the hit show Dana Pont and stunningly the ratings boom. Super agent Josh Gold hires Sadie to work for him. Finally overly endowed Mandy obtains a position at Dandy Candy porn studios.

On the personal front, Tally dates amoral hunk medical thriller TV star Gabriel McNamara who teams up with her enemy Susie to try to sink her career while film producer Mac Carlton offers her his undying loyalty and love. Sadie marries her boss, but his drug habit destroys their relationship. Meanwhile Mandy becomes the glamorous queen of porn sleaze.

This is a fun Hollywood expose in which the females are fully developed as assertive and anxious dealing with two dimensional powerful pathetic males. Fans will root for the BFFs and hiss at stereotyped despicable pair (Susie and Gabriel). With a nod to Jackie Collins, Lisa Rinna provides an entertaining look at the under side of Hollywood in which the amoral abuse the ambitious.

The Vampire Jerome
Ann B. Morris
ImaJinn Books
PO Box 74274, Phoenix, AZ 85087-1004
9781933417509, $14.00,

Everyone believes that the deaths and vast destruction of the Mississippi delta was caused by Katrina, but what is mostly unknown is that during the chaotic lawlessness in which civilization temporarily vanished, evil deep earth vampires feasted. The malevolent potent Zurik captured Dottie Crawford with the intent of using her to get to the Whitcombe brother Julian. After being tortured many times, Julian frees her and sends her to his sibling Jerome for medical treatment.

Jerome loves being a vampire but if he meets a mortal woman he cherishes more then he would give up immortality for her. He knows Julian who found his soulmate wants that for his brothers even though that means fighting the amoral immortal deep earth vampires with the powers the Goddess Lilith will give them as humans. A shift in the magical forces near the earth's core indicates a major earthquake is coming soon; Jerome and his cadre are needed to prevent another Katrina hammering the Bay area. Jerome knows he has feelings for Dottie, but fights his desire as undesirable because he detests the concept of monogamy. He finally concludes he loves Dottie but is duty bound to his bother and their Whitcombe legacy; either way he fears for the woman whose blood is imprinted on his brain.

The Vampire Jerome is a terrific urban romantic fantasy filled with plenty of action and yet also contains complex moral dilemmas; together they grip the audience to keep turning the pages to learn what happens next. Dottie is a person of strength who loves Jerome although he is a vampire who seems to cherish being undead and she was a hostage of one of his kind. The second Whitcombe triplet's legacy (see The Vampire Julian) continues the fresh take on the vampire mythos as each of the brothers must choose the dank darkness or the light of love.

Mystic Witch
Mark All
ImaJinn Books
PO Box 74274, Phoenix, AZ 85087-1004
9781933417707, $14.00,

In Atlanta, the funeral of Gram last week led Bailey Campbell to think back to the Incident that changed her family dynamics with the death of her father murdered by evil sorcerer Bern Emmerich over two decades ago. Her mother cut her off from her Gram and raised Bailey to live a normal life; void of magic. Nearing thirty, Gram's odd will especially the coda has shaken Bailey's soul.

At work late at night, something attacks her only bud Juan who screams for Bailey to run. Instead the Bailey Temper flares as she confronts faceless creatures. Apparently evil Emmerich has escaped captivity and is coming for the daughter who he blames for his two decade imprisonment in an alternate reality. His plan is to use her to bring his hell to her earth. Bailey obtains a mentor in warlock Frank Demming, who admits he has kept an eye on her over the years as he expected her to play a pivotal role when Emmerich returned. As she trains for the war of magic, she wonders if her teacher is her soul mate, ally or a perverted foe while Atlanta burns.

The Mystic Witch is an exciting character driven urban fantasy although the theme of the battle between the light and dark goes back to Beowulf. Fast-paced, the dark seems too powerful for the innocent light (loosely mindful of an adult version of the movie The Seeker) since the heroine even suffers from "homophobic" fear of the sight of blood. The key to this enjoyable winner take all thriller is the third party Demming as the audience ponders whether he is teaching his beloved student effective magical processes or if he is a sick pervert abusing her before allowing her adversary to use her.

Elizabeth Jolly
Persea Books
853 Broadway, Suite 604, New York, NY 10003
9780892553631, $15.00,

Trinity College hires novelist Alma Porch to teach a summer seminar at the school's Better Body Though the Arts program. Her students are all overweight women wanting to lose weight. However, her first day at the college starts off with a bang when Miss Porch rams in the back of bus leaving her vehicle disabled and escape futile. She meets her roommate Mrs. Castle who cannot take a breath without talking about her darling three grandchildren; who after fifteen minutes Miss Porch loathes sight unseen. .

She introduces her class that seem to exclusively include gays and lesbians only to what Miss Porch believes will soon be a classic drama, "Foxybaby" that she is still writing, but insists the students perform. The story line focuses on a sandwich generation single mom on the run with her child and her father. Although her preference is classical music like punk and hard rock to accompany her play, school director Mrs. Peycroft and her friend Miss Paisley intrude.

This is a reprint of a 1985 character study that uses hyperbole to satirize relationships. The story line is an amusing Australian absurd musing on relationships between lonely souls. Although at times the need to connect with others is confusing due to extreme sublime understatement, Foxybaby is an intelligent humorous look at people's basic needs to relate to others, but not always in a positive way.

The Sugar Mother
Elizabeth Jolly
Persea Books
853 Broadway, Suite 604, New York, NY 10003
9780892553624, $15.00,

Obstetrician Dr. Cecilia Page takes leave from her medical practice for a year in Europe on a fellowship grant. Her fifty-four years old husband Edwin, a professor, remains behind in Australia as he has commitments.

A milquetoast, Edwin meets the new neighbors, twenty-something Leila Botts and her outrageous mother. He is attracted to the younger Bott, but before he knows what happened, mother and daughter are locked out of their home. He invites them to move in with him. Mrs. Botts the elder suggests Leila serve as Edwin's "sugar" mother, which, in between panting and forgetting he has a spouse soon to come home (that is if Cecilia does not extend again), but he acquiesces to the fantasy.

This is a reprint of a jocular 1988 character study of a middle age man going through a personal crisis while his wife is overseas. Edwin is a fascinating lead protagonist who will remind readers of the Tom Ewell character in the Seven Year Itch as the audience wonders what is running wild in his imagination and what is real as Leila is his Marilyn Monroe. Fans will appreciate this deep look at the serious significance of the basic human need for relationships, but done in the author's Jolly satirical manner.

A Man's Heart
Lori Copeland
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310289852, $13.99,

In Washington State, Julianne "Jules" Matias wanted to delay her marriage to Cruz Delgado. However, he becomes irate as this is her second time in two years just before the ceremony she cancels. He walks out on her not wanting to hear her excuses about at Washington State University or her dying dad.

Over the next four years, she went to school, tried to grow the perfect potato and be there for her Pop. She now owns the Blue Bayou ranch that she inherited after her dad died, but her sister Crystal is hurt that Pop left her nothing. Meanwhile her best friend Sophie has uterine cancer and asks Jules to be there for her kids Livvy and Ethan. When Sophie dies Jules takes the children on to her drought stricken ranch. Finally there is Cruz who loathes the woman he loves.

This is an engaging rural romance starring a strong cast but the focus is on Jules. She felt overwhelmed when she jilted Cruz and feels the same today as if God is testing her. With a strength in her beliefs and in the land, Jules faces her tsuris with strength, winning over the hearts and minds of readers and hopefully her sister, her beloved ex fiance, and two little grieving children; she already has the Lord in her corner.

Lie With Me
Stephanie Tyler
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440245964, $7.99,

Gabriel Creighton rescued Cameron Moore from a life sentence for two homicides when the latter was nineteen. In payment, the CIA agent demanded Cam join Delta Force, which he did and work for him when he was not out on assignment. Cam has been loyal for over a decade doing his savior's bidding, but now thirty, he wants out as he has started to find out what happened to his father and him eleven years ago with the biker gang. However, no one walks out alive on Gabe.

In the Catskills, Cam survives a helicopter assault, but decides he needs an ace to get his former mentor off his back. Special Ops Dylan Scott owes his life to Cam so he informs his friend that Gabe has a daughter. Cam goes after Skylar Slavin, who has had a recent kidney transplant. He insists her dad sent him to protect her, but she has doubts until he saves her life from intruders. On the run, they are unaware that her father has been abducted by the Dead Man's Hand terrorist cell. As they fall in love, he knows he must reveal why he detests her father, but hesitates until too late she learns the truth from another source.

The first Shadow Force romantic suspense is an entertaining tale with plenty of complex intrigue and a strong lead couple supported by outstanding secondary characters. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Cam takes out the helicopter crew pursuing him and never slows down as secrets are slowly revealed. Fans will enjoy the ride as Stephanie Tyler provides an enjoyable thriller.

The Day of Small Things
Vicki Lane
9780385342636, $7.99

In Dark Holler Appalachia in 1922, Miz Fronie is in her third day of labor whens she gives birth. With an acrimonious heart and a withered soul, she names her latest offspring Least and informs everyone that this child is mentally incompetent. Neglected for the most part by family especially her mom when Fronie is not abusive and ignored by neighbors, Least turns to the land for solace and forms an affinity that enables her to see what others ignore. However, she has one mentor, her beloved arthritic stricken Grandma Beck who teaches Least to be the most with her tales of their Cherokee ancestry and natural healing.

In the late 1930s Grandma Beck dies, leaving Least with sadness for her loss but happiness that her beloved relative will feel no more pain. She also must choose whether to marry a suitor who is a devout Christian; if she says yes she will give up her magical connection to the spirits that haunt Dark Holler. Finally in the sunset of her life, Least will have to stand up one last time to save a child and subsequently her world.

This is an enjoyable epic saga told in what reads like three somewhat interconnected novellas tied together by the land and by the protagonist; as The Least (1922-1938); Redbird Ray (1938) and Miss Birdie (May 2007) provide the audience with an engaging tale. Although the best entry is the profound first one as readers will observe how the child psychologically adapts to neglect from all but her beloved grandma Beck, the trio combines into a deep look at Appalachia through the eyes of the allegedly Least one.

Olivia Darling
9780440245155, $7.99

At London's Ludbrook auction house, avaricious Nat Wilde and amorally ambitious Lizzy Duffy may have a boss subordinate relationship; in which each uses the other for personal gains. Meanwhile New York based Ehrenpreis auction house sends across the pond their number two art expert, morally ambitious Carrie Klein, to open up the London store.

Meanwhile in Cornwall, artist Serena Macdonald was eking out a meager living for her and her daughter Katie to barely survive as a portraitist paining family pets. When a neighbor dies, Serena meets her late friend's youngest son Julian who knows Nat. Soon a simple mistaken error turns into a lucrative business when Serena displays her talent of being able to paint the works of the Old Masters.

This is a well written satirical contemporary with solid flawed characters. Priceless lacks the credibility of the author's darling Vintage. With nods to the movies Breakfast at Tiffany's and the Art of Love but instead filled with avenging females (rather than Holly Golightly, or Dick van Dyke and James Garner), the story line is fun to read as the audience will wonder just who will be left standing on the streets of London and New York when the scam explodes.

Karen Wiesner's Kaleidoscope Series
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
9781603138048, $18.95,

Perfect Cadence. Thirty-year-old Keri dumps her commitment phobic boyfriend and heads alone to the family cabin owned by her boss Angela. There she meets Angela's cousin Joshua who came to mourn the death of his mentor and friend. A decade ago they shared an incredible day together before he left her after the KISS. Poignant

In Cahoots With Cupid. Kaleidoscope Office Services owner Angela has always tried to insure others were happy as she did with Keri and Joshua. She failed to take care of her herself when she fell hard for younger Kiowa, but walked away. They meet at a wedding where he plans to raise her Fever. Winner

Behind Amethyst Eyes. For years Aimee hides her crush on accountant Rob. When her father dies, she has a slim chance to make it with the family accountant. Sweet.

Jordana's Chair. Dex is used to dating glamour, but is attracted to the total opposite of his prototype Jordana. Realistic

Paper Tiger. Single father Widower Billy and his son love Veronica as they have for years, but she rejects his proposals until he learns why when her past comes to haunt them. Entertaining

Cabin Fever. Single mom Shayna struggles to overcome the lack of interest her ex has with their son. Teacher Widower Dakota reaches out to mother and child. Heartwarming.

The Longest Night. Model Jolie and photographer Jag married but bliss failed to come with it as she wanted to stay home to raise a family and he wanted to see the world. Two years apart, she has given up on him and love, but he has not.

The first five entries of were in various Jewels of the Quill anthologies; the last two have not been previously released. Each contemporary romance contains fully developed lead couples as Karen Wiesner displays her talent with this strong first time together collection of the Kaleidoscope tales.

The Sherlockian?
Graham Moore
Twelve Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446572590, $24.99,

In the 2010 annual Baker Street Irregular convention, newbie "Irregular" Harold investigates the murder of renowned Sherlock Holmes scholar Alex Cale. The homicide occurred just after Cale boasted he found the lost volume of Conan Doyle's diary. The valuable entry was not found in the hotel room where Cale was killed.

In 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle is bone weary of Holmes as he has no life seemingly without the famous literary sleuth. However, he never anticipated the uproar and anger when he solved his dilemma at Reichenbach Falls. In 1900 he has a bigger concern to deal with since someone sent him a letter bomb perhaps because of what he did to his "alter-ego". He turns to his friend Bram Stoker, who understands what it means to write a novel with a character that takes on a life of its own, to help him ferret out who wants Doyle as dead as Holmes.

This is a superb Sherlockian thriller with the focuses on why Doyle killed and later resurrected his hero. Readers see the same questions analyzed through the characters in the present day and over a century ago. The parallel subplots are rotated, which can be a bit overwhelming. The murder subplots though well conceived while enhancing the tale take a back seat to the overarching historiographical theme. Graham Moore proves modern day intelligent people unintended and unwittingly bring their imprint to Doyle and Holmes.

Stronger Than Sin
Caridad Pineiro
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446543842, $7.99,

The Wardwell scientists almost killed Dr. Liliana Carrera so she has dedicated her life to save others from these evil maniacs. Her current patient is former NFL player Jesse Bradford whose receiving career was cut short by an injury. As she tries to help the football star recover, he conceals from her that he works for her enemy, the Wardell scientists who are blackmailing him to steal her secrets by threatening to harm his ailing sister.

Liliana falls in love with her patient; he feels the same way about his healer. Thus he also feels guilt as he is caught between the two women he loves in the world; for whichever one he saves the other is dead.

The second scintillating Sin story (see Sins of the Flesh) is a stupendous action-packed science fiction romance starring two survivors. She is a dedicated doctor while he is tacked behind the line between saving his sister and his soul mate. With a terrific medical twist re his health, fans will enjoy the latest mad scientists'' saga as love is Stronger than Sin, but love also leads to conflicting multiple relationships.

Edge of Sight
Roxanne St. Claire
9780446566582, $7.99

At a restaurant she works at in the Boston area, Harvard law student Samantha Fairchild witnesses the assassination of journalist Joshua Sterling; the second time she saw a person kill another human. Her horrified face is caught on the security tape and the killer knows she saw him and is coming for her. The Boston Police Department refuse to protect Samantha because they hold her culpable for exposing a BPD scandal years ago though they hide their rejection (but not their contempt) behind bureaucratic garbage.

Desperate she turns to her friend investigative journalist Vivi Angelino whom she has avoided since an affair with her brother Zach ended with him rejecting her. Zach has recently returned from the combat zone, but bears physical and mental scars from his time over there. He is not the same person who left for the Middle East although his sister makes him open up a private investigative firm with her. Then Samantha enters the office; the woman who he will always love though he broke her heart.

The opening Guardian Angelinos romantic suspense series is a great Massachusetts' thriller. The story line is action-packed from the opening scene at the restaurant and never slows down as Roxanne St. Claire's fans anticipate two showdowns; one between the stalking killer and the lead couple and the other between the lead couple. As with her Bulletcatcher saga, Ms. St. Claire provides readers with a super tale.

Montana Glory
R.C. Ryan
9780446548649, $7.99

As a child, Zane McCord loved staying at his grandfather's Lost Nugget Ranch. However, when he turned twelve years old, he was forced to leave. Now he is back along with his two cousins, Wyatt (see Montana Destiny) and Jesse (see Montana Legacy) to run the ranch and to search for an alleged missing treasure. Unlike Wyatt and Jesse who apparently have found love, Zane plans to remain single.

Accountant Riley Mason accompanied by her four years old daughter Summer arrive on the ranch to work. Riley hopes to hide Summer at Lost Nugget from some ugly thugs who were associates of her daughter's late father. They will use Summer to obtain information they believe Riley possesses. When these predators arrive in Big Sky Country, Riley vows to keep them away from her beloved Zane and his extended family; Zane vows to keep the mother and daughter he loves safe from rattlesnakes.

The final McCord cousins' Montana trilogy is a wonderful romantic suspense tale starring a courageous heroine who is a lioness protecting her cub and a reluctant knight in shining armor who needs to intervene to keep his two beloved females safe. Fans will enjoy the last entry that ties up the overarching plot as the trio and the other McCord couples make for a terrific taut thriller.

The Transformation of Things
Jillian Cantor
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061962202, $13.99,

In Deerfield, Pennsylvania Jennifer Levenworth is at the salon getting her hair done when her husband is on the TV news. His appearance on the air is not unexpected as Will is the local district attorney, but the reason is a shocker. The reporter states Will has been charged with accepting bribes.

Stunned, Jennifer races home to be with Will. He has resigned and plea bargained to avoid prison. Jennifer finds her life has transformed back to what it was before they moved to the burbs and joined the country club set. Returning to Philadelphia, she hopes to regain the job she gave up and reconcile with her former BFF working mom Kat who she dumped when she fled the city. However, Jennifer struggles with returning to her former lifestyle and her marriage is at best shaky as her spouse is psychotically mute. Her father refuses to talk to her as if she is an embarrassment and her sister is busy raising a horde. Then there are the dreams when she sleeps to keep her further off balance.

This is a terrific character study that focuses on a woman who has fallen into humiliation as she deals the fallout with loved ones from her husband's felonious activity. The story line is obviously character driven as Jennifer finds her life shattered but also cannot feel for or even understand her disgraced spouse as she holds him culpable when he needs emotional support. Ironically she comprehends her father's reaction but not Will's withdrawal. Although the twisting end seems as far out of place as Pennsylvania is from Florida because it does not fit with what has gone on before, fans will enjoy The Transformation of Things especially lifestyles.

Beverly Jenkins
9780061547805, $7.99

In 1775 Boston, whether you remain a Tory or a rebel, everyone whispers revolt. Nicholas Grey comes home to find his father Primus dead; the British arrested and executed him last December after he met with the notorious "Lady Midnight."

He seeks vengeance for his dad's death. To achieve his objective he must start with Lady Midnight, but has no idea who she is. Nicholas believes a Tory tavern owner is behind his dad's death. However, he is attracted to the innkeeper's daughter Faith Kingston. She is a fierce supporter of freedom though she conceals her seditious activities that support Sons of Liberty. Faith is attracted to Nicholas, but knows to trust no one even if her heart says otherwise.

Once again, the great Beverly Jenkins provides a powerful historical romance as she brings her uncanny sense of time and place to showcase this time the role the Blacks played in the American Revolution. The lead couple is a terrific pairing of a worldly adventurer on a home mission of vengeance and a freedom lover who does more than drink tea as she risks her life as a spy. Her latest work affirms that Ms. Jenkins is one of the best historical writers today with a unique refreshing look at Americana through a perspective not seen enough in the sub-genre.

Next Time You See Me
Katia Lief
9780061809040, $7.99

Former Maplewood, New Jersey Police Detective Karin Schaeffer knows she is fortunate to have survived her second serial killer attack and the emotional trauma of her spouse and child murdered (see You Are Next). Three years later she has married her former partner on the force Mac MacLeary and given birth to Ben. They are a happy family.

Their joy is destroyed when someone brutally murdered Mac's parents. Things turn even uglier if possible when he vanishes. Karin fears the worst, but as the months go by her hopes for a joyous reunion fade. The police assume he is dead as they found his car in Long Island Sound, but Karin remains guardedly optimistic and as such hires a private detective. When a picture of Mac surfaces that implies he is alive in Florida, Karin heads there to personally investigate and confront her spouse while wondering if her husband is involved with the drug cartels.

Although Karin has come a long way since The Domino Killer murdered her loved ones, she remains strong yet fragile. Once again her second euphoric life is shattered when Mac vanishes just after his parents are killed. Putting aside the thought she is a murder magnet, fans will relish this powerful angst laden police procedural as the twists keep on coming one Lief blowing in the wind at a time keeping the courageous heroine and stunned readers off balance.

His Darkest Embrace
Juliana Stone
9780061808807, $7.99

As her breed dies out, Eagle Knight Skye Knightly feels immense pressure to do the right thing by her near extinct species. However, her current mission comes first, which is why she is in the Belize jungle. Skye searches for a missing portal that leads to the demon realm; also seeking the portal is her enemy the evil DaCostas Jaguars and their insidious mage Cormac.

For several months Jagger Castille has ended his contacts with his brothers. H has also allowed his Jaguar to run free. When two DaCostas Jaguars try to kill Skye, Jagger intervenes saving her life. Though he knows why his heart got involved and she feels the same way about him, she distrusts him as she does all jaguars; several centuries ago Jaguars nearly eradicated the Eagles.

The second "Darkest" Castille romantic fantasy (see His Darkest Hunger) is a super Shifter thriller due to the matchup of star-crossed lovers whose clans have a dark tragic history. Fast-paced as time has run out with only the planet at stake, fans will join the quest of Jagger and Skye as each knows they love their partner, but distrusts their associate when the only hope of survival is watching each other's back.

Rules of an Engagement
Suzanne Enoch
9780061662225, $7.99

Following the elimination of pirates and the their French supporters from the Mediterranean Sea, the hero of the battles, English sea Captain Bradshaw Carroway is assigned to the East Indies to escort passengers amongst the Pacific Islands. Five months later he works his new assignment and considers turning to piracy to relieve himself of this feelings of ennui.

However, one of the passengers is botanist Sir Joseph Ponsey's daughter Zephyr, who has served as her father's assistant for years. Shaw likes the brilliant yet naive Zephyr. He especially enjoys teasing her as he always seems to get a rise out of her. She, in turn, is confused by his interest. As they sail the Pacific, they have friendly and hostile escapades with natives, nasty rivals, Mother Nature, and the flora fauna specimen collection. He soon realizes he loves her, but needs to convince his doubting Thomasine that they belong together.

Zephyr and the locale refresh this enjoyable historical romance as her mix of innocence and intelligence excites the captain more than sinking French vessels. The story line is fast-paced from the opening battle in the Mediterranean and never stops for a gasp even with Shaw telling his brother "Runt" that he is bored. Fans will enjoy the gender war on the high seas.

Crown of Crystal Flame
C.L. Wilson
9780062018960, $7.99

At a time when the adversary, the malevolent Eld Mages, seems not just ready to attack, but overwhelmingly poised to win, the alliance between the Fey and Celieran splinters. At the same they fear their side will break apart the alliance, Rain Tairen Soul and Ellysetta Baristani struggle on a personal issue as they have failed to finish their mating bond, which if not done soon will lead to their deaths.

Meanwhile the Malevolent High Mage Vadim Maur knows his scheme is working as everything is coming together. The conquest has begun as his evil horde marches across the fading lands killing anything in their way and leaving wanton destruction behind. Ellysetta refuses to give up on love, on her people, on the alliance and on herself as she plans to write her destiny in order to save those she cherishes.

The finale to the great Tairen Song saga is a superb climax to the strong quartet. Somehow C.L. Wilson ties up the overarching fantasy on a larger than life plane yet this brilliant author also provides a deep personal look at the key players in a desperate quest to save their world risking their lives. Only the love between Rain Tairen Soul and Ellysetta Baristani keeps this pair going against the hopelessness of the overwhelming darkness that engulfs their world.

The Reckless Bride
Stephanie Laurens
9780061795190, $7.99

In 1822 in India, Army Captain Rafe Carstairs resigns his commission and, like his three comrades, sets off for home to deliver, in his case, the original letter that will expose the Black Cobra cult leader's identity to Lord Wolverstone. His only companion is Hassan the Pathan warrior. They travel inland to Rajputana and the Afghan Supremacy with no incidents.

At the same time in London Loretta Michelmarsh rejects her eighth suitor as she wants the man of her dreams. Her Great Aunt Esme arrives to inform the family Loretta is coming with her as her companion on a Grand Tour. Esme wants Loretta to behave wild like almost the entire rest of the family does.

Rafe and Hassan make it to Turkey and across the Black Sea with no cultists in sight. They reach Buda on the Danube when they see men accost women. They intercede; Esme directs Rafe and Hassan to escort them. Hassan says they have no choice but to accede as cultists are nearby so the two ladies and their two maids are safer with them. As they continue their journey by sea and land, they fall in love starting with a fishing contest even as cultists try to prevent their arrival.

The fourth and final Black Cobra tale (see The Brazen Bride, The Untamed Bride, and The Elusive Bride) contains two courageous fresh lead individuals and a strong support cast that includes a secondary romance. The threat to the traveling sextet comes from a great spin. However, as with the previous tales the cultists seem inept with one twisting exception and the heroes take too many unnecessary risks. Still this is a fun Regency romantic suspense that ties up the key threads.

The First Love Cookie Club
Lori Wilde
9780061988424, $7.99

Sarah Collier grew up loving Christmas as she and her beloved grandmother placed kismet cookies under her pillow. Though very young she knew who she one day would marry and on Christmas Eve every year with the cookies under her head dream of her beloved Travis Walker. However when she was fifteen, her fantasy crashed when Travis married someone else. She no longer dreams of kismet.

Almost a decade has passed since her fairy tale died. Sarah has become the successful children's book author Sadie Cool. Ailing Jasmine asks to meet her favorite author so the First Love Cookie Club tries to arrange for Sadie to come to Twilight, Texas. Although she would prefer to refuse, as this is the hometown she fled, Sarah agrees to come see Jazzy, Travis' daughter. Like Sarah, Travis thinks fairy tales are a sham, but neither of them understands the power of the First Love Cookie Club members enhanced by a little girl's Christmas wish.

The return to Twilight, Texas (see The Sweethearts Knitting Club and The True Love Quilting Club) for the holidays is a delightful warm contemporary romance. The cast makes the tale fun to read as the lead couple is obviously in love with each other but though it is deja vu all over again as they plan to go on with their separate lives. However, the second time has one enormous difference: First Love Cookie Club. Although the story line is thin, fans will enjoy stopping in Twilight for cookies made with TLC.

Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord
Sarah MacLean
9780061852060, $7.99

In 1823 England, Pearls and Pelisses ladies magazine explain to its readers how to land a lord and names single aristocrat Nicholas St. John as a "Lord to Land". Not wanting to marry and already tired of the marriage stalkers even before the article listed him as a top prize, Nicholas decides it is time to leave London.

Following some toad she never met before who informed her that her father sent him to marry her, Lady Isabel Townsend flees town in disgust while learning dear wastrel dad just died. Lord Leighton asks Nick to find his runaway sister Georgiana, which he agrees to do though insisting he is retired from the bulan days. Meanwhile Isabel needs money to maintain Minerva House for women in trouble so she plans to sell her beloved marble statues. When she is in trouble due to a runaway carriage, Nicholas rescues her. They are attracted to one another as he tries to uncover her dark secrets that she conceals from him and she wonders if he can keep her safe.

The sequel to Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Nicholas' twin brother Gabe's tale) is an enjoyable Regency romance starring a strong cast especially the intrepid heroine. Fast-paced from the moment that the list places a bulls-eye on Nicholas' butt and never slows down from there. He and Isabel fall in love while he works on her secrets and finding Georgiana.

Passions of a Wicked Earl
Lorraine Heath
9780061922961, $7.99

In 1850 Morgan Lyons, an Earl, married seventeen years old Claire. However, he caught her in the arms of his brother Stephen in the conservatory on their wedding day. Misinterpreting what he sees, he feels betrayed and exiles his bride to rusticate alone in the country while plays the boudoirs of London.

Three years later, having rebuilt his estate, Claire is no longer a frightened child although she knows in her heart her husband distrusts her. However, when her father, who arranged for her to marry Westcliffe, is giving her younger sister one season or she will wed odious Hester, she knows what she must do for her sibling. Claire has come to plead with her husband to help his sister-in-law; if need be though inexperienced she will seduce her mate. Morgan has other plans as he will marry his mistress Lady Anne once he dumps his wife.

This is an exciting Victorian romantic thriller with a fabulous spin and a strong cast. Fast-paced, Morgan has quite a temper as he displays it several times, which is the key to the deep story line. Lorraine Heath once again provides a fabulous historical.

Shelley Shepard Gray
9780061990960, $12.99

In Ohio, the Brenneman brood looks forward to getting together for the holiday; especially with the shutting of the Brenneman Bed and Breakfast. However, two people arrive planning to get away from their lives for a respite. The extended family is divided as some feels it is the Christmas spirit to welcome the guests; while Katie is outraged as she prefers they go ahead with the planned gathering.

One of the two guests, angry acrimonious Levi Bender had sent a reservation that came just before he did as it got lost in the mail for a few days. He wants to be left alone wallowing in his guilt over a tragedy as he believes he will never be Forgiven. The other is nine months pregnant Melody Gingerich who feels her family has let her down when she chose to go full term in spite of being raped. While she ponders whether her child will not be Wanted by her family, she refuses to comment why she came from Kentucky. Meanwhile the visitors and their hosts wonder if God has brought this pair to the inn for a reason especially when the snowstorm hits.

The latest Sisters of the Heart inspirational Amish romance is a terrific tale of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Readers will believe that "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven" as joyful smiles (by fans and angels) light up with the love between two emotionally battered souls helping them heal while regaining their faith. One of the best sub-genre writers, Shelley Shepard Gray provides a strong entry especially her compassionate look at the victim of rape.

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi: Vortex
Troy Denning
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345509208, $27.00,

In a remote planet in the Maw Cluster, the Sith believe they have trapped the father and son Jedi Knights Luke and Ben Skywalker. However, before the final confrontation, both sides find a greater threat from a third party. The Abeloth forces the enemies into an unholy alliance between the Skywalker pair and the Sith to survive the menace; not knowing if they survive something even more beastly awaits them on the moon of Pydyr, home to the brutal Fallamassi.

Meanwhile on Coruscant, Han and Leia Solo are in the middle of the growing divisiveness between the Jedi Order and the brutal leader of the Galactic Alliance. Civil war seems increasingly inevitable as the Solo couple tries to negotiate a more peaceful solution.

The newest entry in the nine-book saga "Fate of the Jedi" is a pivotal tale as the overarching story line takes a fresh, exciting and unexpected twist as new developments lead to strange surviving bedfellows and convoluted complications. Fast-paced, both enjoyable subplots continue the woes of the Skywalker duo and the Solo clan with terrific revolutionary spins that will delight Star War fans.

The Human Blend
Alan Dean Foster
Del Rey
9780345511973, $26.00

Mankind bickered over whether climate change was voodoo until it became too late to stop the catastrophes that placed major port cities under the sea. In this new world order that includes Mars and Titan, still dependent on personal finances, humans choose between remaining a "natural" unmodified person and a "meld" altered with natural or mechanical augmentations.

Two thieves work with a body parts dealer by killing victims and harvesting parts for resale on the black market. Their latest kill looks worth a fortune as the victim had an expensive prosthetic hand and a metallic thread attached to a data port. However, the cops interrupt their dealing, which leads to the two thugs fleeing separately; one with the hand and the other the thread.

Dr. Ingrid Seastrom remains a natural whose career is thriving. She also performs the government mandated house calls where she treats a teenage girl with a bad meld; however, during her fixing the botched job Ingrid finds a miniature device implanted in the teen. She begins to study the gizmo that her patient did not know was inside her when she meets a patient Whispr the thief who has Police micro-tracking units and a thread inside him. The odd couple teams up on an investigation to learn the truth while also eluding the cops who are coming for them.

The first Tipping Point futuristic science fiction mystery provides a strong world view, but that proves a two edged sword as Alan Dean Foster's vision is incredibly deep reaching literally to the bone marrow, but in turn it takes up more than half the book before accelerating. Whispr and Ingrid are a fascinating pairing, but so far obviously are not Pip and Flinx. Still in spite of the slow early pace, readers who prefer a fully developed setting will want to join the doctor and the thief as they investigate what is going on.

Odd Is On Our Side
Fred Lentz, Dean Koontz, authors
Queenie Chan, illustrator
Del Rey
9780345515605, $10.99

Halloween in Pico Mundo, California has fry cook Odd Thomas concerned as he fears there is much more afoot than just trick or treaters. Something does not feel right; which is odd for a person who communicates with Elvis and helps restless spirits with their needs before they move onto their next resting spot.

As Odd struggles with his gut insisting that something evil is coming and his spiritual advisor Elvis unable to help him, he turns to girlfriend, Stormy Llewellyn. She encourages him with her at his side to investigate the horde of bodachs appearing; always an omen of a horrific event to come shortly.

The second graphic comic rendition of an Odd Thomas novel (See In Odd We Trust) is an engaging rendition but lacks the freshness of the original tales as fans already know what occurs to whom. Still the illustrations by Queenie Chan are fun to follow for readers who will compare her version to our imagination; as in my mind she captures Thomas' essence and somewhat Stormy, but Elvis still needs to be found. The story line is entertaining but is no match to the novel while the addition of twenty odd additional pages following the story seems more like padding. The apparent targeted young newcomers will enjoy Odd is On Our Side.

Shotgun Sorceress
Lucy A. Snyder
Del Rey
9780345512109, $7.99

Mage Jessie Shimmer went to hell and back, but succeeded on her quest to return with boyfriend Cooper Marron and his younger brothers (see Spellbent). However, the cost was exorbitant with the visible being the loss of an eye and a hand. However the invisible price is stratospherically higher for the sorceress who killed a Virtus untouchable spirit lord while in Hades; as even making love turns her abode into an inferno, almost like a barbeque pit, as she has come back possessing fire magic.

Jessie expects the Virtus Regnum to assault her as this beast cannot ignore whet she did. However, Miko the mighty has come to Texas to deal with Jessie. Almost upon arrival, Miko creates a giant bubble that engulfs the town and traps Jessie, Cooper, his brother and her spider familiar inside along with the innocent residents of Cuchillo. Step two in Miko's scheme is changing the natives into zombies. Hell, she needs to challenge Miko if she and the others are to survive.

The second dark Shimmer suburb fantasy is a fabulous entry as everyone will believe in Snyder's Spellbent due to the cast. Opportunity costs are incredibly laid out as choosing one has second and third order effects on not just the decision-maker. With a strong mentally disturbed cast that runs the gamut of the otherworldly pantheon, sub-genre fans will want to read the gory Shotgun Sorceress.

The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir
Ken Harmon
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525951957, $19.95,

For thirteen centuries Gumdrop Coal the elf has worked diligently and loyally in support of his employer, affectionately known by his subordinates as The Fat Man and by children everywhere as Santa Claus. An original, Gumdrop is highly regarded amongst his peers for creating the Naughty List of children who were not nice so receive a lump of coal instead of a toy in their stockings. In fact he became Captain of the Coal patrol elf unit.

Maybe he delivered one coal to many, had too many artificial sweetened cookies or placed too many nasty kids on the Naughty List though all deserved their placement as an advocate of kick-butt tough love, but Gumdrop is fired from his job. He is irate and fuming insisting no one treats Gumdrop like this. The twenty-seven inch elf turns into a renegade to teach parents to raise their children to remain off the Naughty List. However, his descent into the inferno of hell has not bottomed out yet as a parent is shot to death by a Red Ryder BB Gun that contains Gumdrop's prints. Realizing he is the victim of a diabolical frame, Gumdrop turns vigilante seeking to uncover who in the North Pole communities set him up and why.

This is fun heartwarming holiday Noir starring a tough tiny thug while part of the enjoyment is the allusions to famous Yuletide movies and books. However, it is Gumdrop the rogue elf who makes this a terrific worthy addition to the Christmas repertoire with his nourish investigation into who set him up to take the fall from the front of the sleigh as the top aide to the Fat Man to exile from the North Pole.

Dark Prophecy
Anthony E. Zuiker with Duane Swierczynski
9780525951858, $26.95,

Following the murder of his wife Sibby five years ago, Steve Dark sent his newborn daughter to live with her grandparents as he went after Level 26 serial killers; specifically Sqweegel. His offspring resides in California while he is east coast, but after hacking away at murderers he believes he needs to begin being a father again. Thus he left Special Circs and his boss Riggins and his partner Brielle to start over.

King A-hole, better known as Secretary of Defense Norman Wycoff, orders Riggins who does not work for him to go to Chapel Hill to see first hand the murder of think tank expert Martin Green. Riggins assumes DOD needs the laundry cleaned with no ties back to them as he used to use Dark to do that for him. Riggins also normally would send Dark and Brielle, but his top operative is in Santa Barbara re-meeting his daughter and has earned his way back to the human race teaching on the west coast. Riggins tells Agent Paulson to meet him in North Carolina, but someone intercepts the message. Paulson is missing and assumed dead; a desperate Riggins pleads with Dark to help as Brielle enters the dangerous zone of someone with the knack of a serial killer.

The second Dark level 26 thriller (see Dark Origin) is an exciting action-packed tale that hooks the reader from start to finish. Although the story line is thin, it is fast-paced even when Dark is with his daughter and in-laws. Fans will appreciate the latest escapades as Dark once again ignores the law, the brass (especially the A-hole) and the danger as he crosses the line to fight Level 26 serial killers on their turf.

Highland Protector
Hannah Howell
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781420104639, $6.99,

In 1479 in Scotland, Ilsabeth "Twa" Murray Armstrong overhears her fiance Sir Walter Hepbourn discuss with his cousin their duplicitous plans to betray her and her family. He never had plans to marry an Armstrong. He apparently succeeds with his plan when the king's agent is murdered and the evidence points to the Armstrong clan.

Ilsabeth flees to the home of family friend Simon Innes. The king orders Simon, a highly regarded investigator, to find the missing Armstrong broods. The Murray clan visits him too asking him to investigate the homicide. Ilsabeth has demands on him also; she wants him to fall in love with her as she has with him. Of course it would also be nice if he could find the killer. Simon is a misanthrope who distrusts women; however, his avoidance attempts fail because Ilsabeth has a horde supporting her efforts to win his love.

The latest Murray fifteenth century romance (see Highland Destiny) is a terrific entry made fresh with the investigation, the brogue and the humor of the matchmaking throng. Simon is simply stupendous as every clue he finds supports the assertion that the Armstrong clan killed the agent; only his treacherous heart says no and ironically even before he met and fell in love with Ilsabeth he distrusted women. Readers will enjoy Hannah Howell's entertaining Highland historical.

Zoe Archer
9781420106817, $6.99

When Nathan Lesperance was a child, the Canadian government took him away from his tribe. By 1875, the adult Nathan has become an attorney practicing in Vancouver, but feels outside of both the Anglo and tribal worlds. Likewise both societies treat him like a leper.

Several years later his law firm chooses Nathan to travel to the wild Northwest Territory because of his heritage as the assumption is he will feel right at home unlike the all white rest of the staff. His task is to pick up the belongings of the recently deceased Douglas Prescott. On the trek the malevolent Heirs of Albrion kidnap him, but he escapes. Former Blade of the Rose Astrid Bramfield finds him wandering lost near dead. Whereas the heirs want to use magical objects to dominate the world; the Blade wants to prevent magical abuse. With her Blade late husband as her partner, Astrid studied the Primal Source, but the Heirs killed her spouse and stole the artifact. Now the Heirs stalk the pair to obtain her knowledge and his untapped magic, Astrid and Nathan trek to the expected safety of an alleged tribe of shapeshifters.

The latest Blade of the Rose historical romantic fantasy (see Warrior and Scoundrel) is another super thriller as the suspense never slows down while the romance simmers nice and slow as each has a history filled with doubts that desire is not enough. Fast-paced once Nathan goes north fully understanding why him and never takes a respite as Zoe Archer hits a bulls-eye with this winner.

Devoured by Darkness
Alexandra Ivy
9781420111354, $6.99

For two days inside Missouri tunnels, half breed Jinn Laylah flees from vampire Tane the Charon executioner who knows she leads him away from the Caine estate where he first saw her. He assumes she protects a child. However as a half Jinn she must appear before the Commission as her species is outlawed. Tane lusts for the tired Laylah who stops running when vampires arrive. Tane fights the vampires as Levet the gargoyle arrives. Laylah races back to Caine's lair to grab the baby concealed in a stasis spell she found in the mists fifty years ago. Tane and Levet follow her. The gargoyle mentions a jinn broke his wing two centuries ago in London. Laylah goes to London using her Jinn skill to vanish in the shadows, but Tane and Levet grab her and end up with her in the mist.

In London, Marika the vampire complains to her mage Sergei she hears her twin Kata whisper Laylah although Kata is in a deep magical sleep but made sure her half-breed daughter was safe from her aunt. Laylah informs Tane she is going to leave him behind in the mists unless he gives a wish debt that spell binds him to the half-Jinn. He agrees and in London she orders him to take her to a safe place. He takes her to the lair of Victor the vampire while Marika knows her quest to use her niece and the baby has finally accelerated.

The lead couple is a fascinating pairing of two seemingly opposites while the fast-paced story line makes vampires, gargoyles, jinns, and mages seem real. A nice late twist adds depth. Although the villainous is considered extremely dangerous and nasty by others, she seems somewhat feeble in person. Still this is a strong Gardens of Eternity romantic urban fantasy that cleverly sets up a future "Darkness" sequel.

A Midnight Clear
Kristi Astor
9781420105476, $5.99

In December 1908, American artist Troy Davenport lives with his Aunt Agnes when he notices a picture in the gossip column she is reading. It is his muse who he met briefly on the passenger ship Mauritania; he desperately wants to paint Miranda Granger who with her family is staying over Christmas at the luxurious Grandview Hotel during its grand opening gala. Two weeks later at the hotel, Troy and Miranda meet. She refuses to give him money or sex, but he surprises her because all he wants to do is paint her.

Miranda thinks back a decade ago when she loved Paul Sutcliffe. They planned to marry, but her dad offered him money and he took it. He ignored Miranda's plea in which she told him she was carrying his child; now raised by loving distant cousins. She assumes Troy is a fortune hunter unaware he comes from wealth.

Six months later William remains irate with his middle daughter Gertie for her tryst with Edmund that Miranda intercepted. Gertie blames Miranda for her trouble taking no responsibility for her action and for her father taking them back to Surrey. Troy arrives in her village allegedly to paint the abbey ruins. He pursues his muse again. He owes her the truth, but has to leave for New York to see his dying father. She is not home so he gives a note to Gertie to give to her older half-sister. Her father informs Miranda that Troy came but left as he wanted money not her.

The lead couple is a strong pairing of two people with secrets. The support characters are super by enhancing the Edwardian England era deeply. Although her younger sister is a spoiled brat with no redeeming qualities and some coincidence is needed to cause misconception between the lead couple, this is a strong historical.

Holiday Magic
Fern Michaels, Cathy Lamb, Mary Carter and Terri DuLong
9781420108354, $7.99

"Holiday Magic" by Fern Michaels. Colorado Ski shop manager Stephanie is a single mom looking forward to a holiday bonus so she can purchase a house for her and her daughters. Her employer Eddie hopes to persuade her to take a chance on him though he knows her ex husband left Stephanie and the girls wary of males.

"A Very Merry Christmas" by Cathy Lamb. In Montana, Meredith has plenty of items on her wish list but her to-do list is much longer. At the top of both lists is her hardest entry: avoid Logan the rancher.

"A Very Maui Christmas" by Mary Carter. Chef Tara flies to Maui to avoid her family's annual Christmas in hell celebration. However, her sister leads the charge to Hawaii. On the other hand the man she just met Darren makes the mistletoe seem right.

"A Cedar Key Christmas" by Terri DuLong. Single mom Josie is proud of her daughter Tess who has helped fisherman Mr. Al restore his home. When Mr. Al's nephew, Ben the publisher arrives, she finds he may be gruff, but she does not mind kissing the Grinch who stole her heart.

These four holiday romances are warm, somewhat throwback, straightforward tales of love at Christmas time.

Law of the Broken Earth
Rachel Neumeier
Orbit Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316079938, $7.99,

In Feierabiand, her family ignored Mienthe as a child. In fact the gardener was the adult who served as a surrogate parent raising her. That changes when her older cousin Lord Bartaud (see Land of the Burning Sands) takes her under his wings.

Soon afterward, Bartaud's griffin mage friend Kairaithin arrives to inform him that the Wall that separates the land of the fierce griffin from the human kingdoms is splintering. As Bartaud ponders what to do evil Istierinan captures Tan the spy threatening him with torture. Meanwhile Mienthe struggles with her new lot in life as she finds becoming important within a family has a price. She is uncomfortable with learning her magical prowess at a time when her latent skills are needed.

The third Griffin Mage (see Lord of the Changing Winds) is a strong coming of age fantasy starring a wonderful reluctant heroine who prefers to be ignored as that is her comfort zone, but that is not longer an option. The Neumeier universe is cleverly drawn so that the audience will believe in the physics of magic and the wall coming down. The cast is strong except for somewhat the super villain who is too stereotypical of the genre. Still fans will relish the Law of the Broken Earth as Rachel Neumeier provides a powerful vivid realm anchoring a fabulous story line.

Bitten in Two
Jennifer Rardin
9780316043786, $13.99

Jaz Parks, her vampire lover Vayl, Cole and Bergman are on the road to Morocco. Their mission is to find an artifact that might enable Jaz to purge Brude the demon who shares her body though she muses hiking in Marrakech on her birthday is unfair.

In Morocco, the quest turns frighteningly strange when Vayl wakes up insisting it is 1777. His behavior has Jaz and their other compatriots believing the vampire has been cursed somehow to relive traumatic events from his long life. Scaring his team further is he never heard of Uma Thurman and does not recognize any of them as they are; for instance he believes his beloved Jaz is his middle-aged housekeeper Madame Berggia. To prevent a new tragedy and keep Vayl's suddenly explosive temper from igniting, Jaz with the help of Cole and Bergman role pay the parts Vayl assigns them while trying to figure how to remove the curse.

The latest Jaz and company fantasy is a great thriller with a super twist with what has happened to Vayl, the CIA's top operative. With plenty of trademark biting humor and non-stop action, fans of the saga will enjoy the current on the road show while newcomers will look for the backlist (see Bite Marks). After completing the tale, readers will park Jennifer Rardin's enjoyable Bitten in Two on the keeper shelf.

The Bone Palace
Amanda Downum
9780316069007, $7.99

In 499 Ab Urbe Condita in the royal city of Erisin, corpses are not a rare occurrence; but a dead prostitute wearing the ring of deceased queen has no precedent. Police Inspector Khelsea Shar shows the Necromancer Agent of the Crown Isyllt Iskaldur the body of the whore who possessed a regal signet and had no violent marks. Reluctantly Isyllt investigates who magically murdered the woman, and how and why she had the ring. To her chagrin, the case leads to the tombs below the city where the revolting vile vrykoloi vampires reside in lightless lairs.

Her inquiry spins worse than she imagined even with the vrykoloi involved as Isyllt learns a truth she must conceal from her King. Apparently a dead sorceress plans to return to take the throne; and she has support from Isyllt's former lover Kiril and the Crown Prince Ionais' mistress Sevedra Severos; as well as unknowing dupes.

Staying at home in her second Necromancer's Chronicles, Isyllt has once again moral selections to make as espionage, politics, insurgency and military merge with magic in a fascinating investigative fantasy. Isyllt is a great protagonist because of her moral fiber as she must select between choices that she abhors. Readers will relish her brisk adventures as home proves as harrowing as her stay in the Drowning City, but worse because it is home.

Version 43
Philip Palmer
9780316018944, $14.99

Quantum Theory of Everything changed everything yet changed nothing. The theory led to advances like quantum teleportation whose odds of surviving with all your neutrinos intact and no additions on the ride has been calculated based on empirical data at less than half. Only the desperate or insane voluntarily take that escape route though selected criminals are volunteered by the government.

The planet Belladonna has become the receiving end of the quantum teleportation. The residents are criminally insane or just totally insane. Although the off planet powers normally ignore the human junkyard, the Galactic Police has been notified by Bompasso city Sheriff Heath of a horrific mass killing involving two males and three females as one of the victims is his son Alexander, a clean doctor at City Hospital. Though he knows he is the so called law of this Lawless City, Heath the father demands justice so he needs outside help to catch the SOB murderer. The Galactic Force sends cyborg cop Version 43 to investigate who killed Heath the son, the man's girlfriend Dr. Fliss Hooper, Andrei Pavlovsky, Jada Brown and Sara Limer. The starting point is City Hospital where Version 43 opens his inquiry with an interrogation of Macawley, an intimate friend of Hooper. Meanwhile several of the local crazies knew the cyborg when he was 100% human and wanted him dead then.

Although Einstein argued about playing craps with the universe, he would have appreciated this strong intelligent science fiction police procedural with a vivid look at a planet used as a dump for exiled humans. Version 43 still makes the tale work with his noir behavior while investigating the mass murders; he proves a cyborg is the perfect cool hand Luke noir detective whether he visits City Hospital, the hologram morgue or the "ballad of Parliament Square.

Heaven's Spite
Lilith Saintcrow
9780316074179, $7.99

In Santa Luz, Jill Kismet is unhappy with the recent eerie visitations. Perry the devil arrives with an odd artifact that once belonged to Jill's mentor. Then he gives her Melisande Belisa as a gift; she is the Sorrow who murdered Mikhail.

Meanwhile an unknown adversary apparently attempts to bring across the hellbreed. To prevent this from occurring, she needs the help of the demon and the sorrow though she knows the price each will demand is her soul in a game of avenging chicken.

The fifth Kismet demonological Noir fantasy thriller (see Flesh Circus, Night Shift, Hunter's Prayer, and Redemption Alley) is loaded with action and starring a kick butt heroine who from the opening scene until the final climax is performing her trademark donkey kicking seemingly every character (especially demons). The freshness comes ironically not from the constant gore but from the cerebral musings of Jill considering her options of allying with two enemies who she knows want her soul. With a major cliffhanger, fans of the Kismet saga will appreciate the series, but be a bit disappointed that they will have to wait to see how life, death, and after death in the Saintcrow universe will play out.

The Midnight Show Murders
Al Roker and Dick Lochte
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385343695, $26.00,

Although his doubts creep up and down his spine without a respite, Manhattan's Blessing Bistro's owner and the Morning Show TV personality Chef Billy Blessing returns to Los Angeles for a job. He joins a new nighttime talk show O'Day at Night. Billy soon knows his gut was right when someone murders Des O'Day host of the show.

Billy believes the homicide is tied to a cold case killing of his friend Tiffany Arden over two decades ago. That homicide is why Billy fled Southern California as the person Roger Charbonnet he suspected committed the crime threatened to kill him if he remained in town. To his shock Charbonnet asks Billy to investigate the murder of O'Day.

The second Chef Blessing culinary amateur sleuth takes the hero across the continent where he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. The culprit is relatively easy to spot, but no one will care as the fun in the story line is Blessing's tour of Hollywood. Readers will root for the writing team of Al Roker and Dick Lochte to cook up another entertaining tale of murder and TV meals.

Critical Condition
CJ Lyons
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780515148688, $7.99,

In Pittsburgh several staff and visitors at Angels of Mercy Hospital were shot by a hit man. Detective Jerry Boyle received the worst injury. The killer escaped, but also failed to kill his intended victim. Boyle's girlfriend Dr. Gina Freeman worries about him because he is not same since he took the shot to the head.

On New Year's Eve, a blizzard shuts down the streets and strands everyone at the hospital. The trapped includes the killer and his cohorts who plan to finish the job even if it means leaving a blood bath behind. These predators take charge with hostages. ER Charge Nurse Nora Halloran and medical rotational student Amanda Mason worry inside the facility, outside the hospital remains frantic ER Dr. Linda Fiore

The latest Angels of Mercy medical thriller (See Urgent Care, Warning signs and Lifelines) is a fantastic fast-paced finish to a strong hospital saga. Loaded with action but a bit over the top of PNC Park, readers will be hooked from the moment the killers begin taking over the hospital. With a neat late twist, fans will appreciate this terrific tale that inside an exciting plot showcases how far four women have come since CJ Lyons introduced them to fans two years ago. Perhaps a four-novella sequel to see where each is in five to ten years would be wonderful.

Harvest Hunting
Yasmine Galenorn
9780515148534, $7.99

Middle sister Delilah D'Artigo knows her natural instinct is flight not fight though she finds it ironic that she prefers to avoid a brawl as she is a shapeshifting were-cat and were-panther. Still she has been in many battles of late (see Bone Magic) as she knows sometimes you must wear the rubber underwear and stand up and fight as she has in her effort to prevent the evil demon General Shadow Wing from victorious domination.

She recently found out that she is to be a Death Maiden loyal to the Autumn Lord. Her training in her new responsibility has begun with the group's leader Greta as her mentor, but she continues her fight against Shadow Wing. Additionally, Delilah is concerned with what is happening to her former once human boyfriend Faerie-Human Crime Scene Investigation Team Director Chase Johnson at a time when a lethal magical drug Wolf Briar is spreading while the were-population vanishes.

The latest super D'Artigo Otherworld fantasy focuses on Delilah with her siblings Menolly the rookie vampire and Camille the goody wicked witch in support roles. The story line is fast-paced as once again all hell has broken loose on earth as this time the demon tired of the three Otherworld Intelligence Agency siblings intruding on his domination plans attacks and the drug epidemic turning pandemic. Yasmine Galenorn provides another winning entry in this strong epic as she continues to rotate the lead yet the support remains solid opening with Camille the polygamist marrying her third otherworldly spouse.

Rogue Island
Bruce Desilva
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765327260, $24.99,

In Providence, Rhode Island, a serial arsonist is torching the Mount Hope section over the last three months with nine fires and five corpses. Reporter Liam Mulligan wants to catch the murderer who has killed friends and acquaintances from his old neighborhood. The city residents are in a panic as the police and fire department seem helpless.

Mulligan's inquiry is enabled by a horde of collaborators stonewalled by a stunning coalition of cops, fire inspectors, politicians and landlords who make up the seamier underbelly of the city. Lawyers are thrown at him and the newspaper with threats to bankrupt the paper. The case turns even nastier when the police probe Mulligan insisting they have probable cause to name him a person of interest.

The key element to this strong arson investigative noir is the support cast of hookers, runners, bookies and hoods who make the atmosphere come darkly alive and mouthy Mulligan fit as one of them. The whodunit is cleverly devised to keep readers' attention with a strong spin that will stun the audience. However, it is the denizen of the streets of the Mount Hope neighborhood especially in contrast to the "Suits" who make this an exhilarating mystery.

The Flock
James Robert Smith
9780765328014, $15.99

In a remote part of the Florida rainforest where development has been nonexistent, the Berg Brothers want to open an amusement park in land that is part of the Edmonds Bombing Range. The 450,000 acres are considered environmental treasures so are protected from development. They manage to build Salutations, a town based on American family values.

Billionaire environmentalist Vince Holcomb opposes any intrusion into this pristine area while the developers hire a mercenary militia to clear the opposition. In the middle of this wilderness lives the Flock of prehistoric brilliant pre-aviary beings who will fight against any intrusion into their land. Contemporary humans and Pleistocene Era survivors fight to determine which species is the more predatory with Fish and Wildlife Agent Ron Riggs caught in the middle.

With a nod to Jurassic Park, The Flock is a terrific action-packed thriller in which the dino-birds and the humans prove adaptable when it comes to operational deployments as each side is viciously aggressive. Although the main players are stereotyped as the poster children representing a specific group (mega business, tree huggers, paramilitary, and the Flock as nature), fans will enjoy this strong drama. Ironically The Flock has the stronger moral cause, but that does not prevent humans from claiming economics supersedes animal natural habitats as cynical greed wrapped inside the flag vs. protecting "family" values of home turf lead to a dynamic satirical tale.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor
Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312605865, $16.99,

On San Juan Island businessman Mark Nolan has no time to grieve the death of his sister in a car accident as he is the guardian of his niece Holly. Used to taking no prisoners at the Seattle office, Mark is scared to death with how to deal with a frightened six year old child. Although he has the support of his sibling Sam while their other brother is overwhelmed with his own issues, adding to Mark's fear is that Holly is so traumatized she has become psychologically mute.

Mark takes Holly to the Friday Harbor Magic Mirror toy store hoping the child will find something she likes. Widow Maggie Collins uses a "magic" conch shell to talk with Holly. The child says her first words since her mother's death through the shell. The business mogul is shocked at how a stranger and his niece connected when he has known Holly all her life but failed. He soon realizes that Maggie may be his "One" although he feels unprepared for a permanent relationship; he even has a girlfriend. Besides his doubts he knows he must go slowly until she is ready to take a second chance on love as her late spouse died only a few years ago from cancer. Meanwhile the little girl has one wish for Christmas.

This is an entertaining sweet contemporary romance that is fun to read though the audience knows from the moment the key cast is set, the story line is set. The lead adult couple's doubts re love is not deeply explored yet Lisa Kleypas shows her writing skills as she provides an engaging tale with the child's plight providing seriousness to what would have been a sugary Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor.

Nowhere to Hide
Carlene Thompson
St. Martin's
9780312360740, $7.99

After leaving Chicago, journalist Marissa Gray returns to her birthplace Aurora Falls where she takes a job on the small but well written local paper. One night while she drives home, another car deliberately runs her off the road; she falls into unconsciousness. When she reawakens she watches her vehicle teetering on a cliff and with little further effort it will fall into the river below.

Her ex-fiance Chief Deputy Eric Montgomery, who was instrumental in her rescue, rejects her tale of someone wearing a mask trying to send her car over the edge. This reminds Marissa of a dangerous inquiry from five years ago when she saw Dillon Archer kill Eric's sister Gretchen; no one believed her then either. Rumors spread that he is killing people and soon those he "helped" begin dying. Eric and Marissa team up in search of a deadly psychopath before someone becomes the next victim.

Readers will admire the brave heroine who in spite of her fear goes around trying to do something to end the murderous reign of terror. Though a bit over the top of the town's church steeple fans will enjoy Carlene Thompson's entertaining action-packed thriller as a solid romantic subplot enhances the prime story line of Nowhere to Hide from a lethal predator.

The Prostitutes' Ball
Stephen J. Cannell
St. Martin's
9780312557300, $25.99

LAPD Homicide Special Chief Tony Filosiana sends Detective Shane Scully to investigate an alleged shooting at a dilapidated Hollywood mansion with Detective Sumner Hitchens as his partner since his regular mate Sally Quinn is on leave for the holidays. Like most of the hardcore members of the unit, Scully detests the African-American detective, who dresses like he is the centerfold of GQ as he made a fortune selling the story of a homicide case to the movies. Scully reappraises his partner following a harrowing incident.

At the mansion, the two cops find three dead people (a producer and two females who Scully assumes are hookers) shot by the same gun. The homicides ended an apparent party in which the attendees fled for the hills. They apparently solve the case, but have one problem as an extra shell casing not from the murder weapon is found. Soon the pair works a cold case murder at the same locale that occurred over two and a half decades ago.

The dynamic partnering of the seemingly snob and the slob make for a refreshing Scully entry as each learns not to judge a book by its cover; both prove courageous, intelligent and full of heart. Although the teaming of apparent opposites is not new (see Hollywood Homicide with Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett), fans of the saga (see The Pallbearers) will enjoy this fine entry as Stephen J. Cannell provides his fans with an engaging police procedural.

Bone Gods
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin's
9780312388201, $7.99

Black London is a dangerous place to reside as witches, mages and necromancers fight each other for control with no regard for collateral damage. Adding to the deadly chaos is the deity civil war and the revival of the lethal order of the Malleus who stalk witches with deadly intent.

Trying to retain order are detectives like Pete Caldecott. A Weir she misses her mentor former punk rocker Jack Winter, who took her under his wings when she was sixteen before he apparently died (see Street Magic). When Pete found Jack, she was euphoric. After drying out from his addiction, Jack was turned into a demon so he fled to hell to keep himself from harming Pete (see Demon Bound). Now Jack is back for the third time in Pete's life as the Commander in Chief of an army of hell's most odious horde with plans to dominate the world. Pete must assassinate her hero in order to save Black London and the world or else.

This strange but exhilarating Black London urban fantasy (see the anthology Huntress, for a Winter dark novella) takes a third major spin in the Jack-Pete relationship; which gives new meaning to dysfunctional. Although there is an initial deja vu all over again feel, the twisted fast-paced story line holds reader attention; as Pete is left with the choice of saving the world by killing her mentor-hero. Readers will relish the tale of the heroine's dilemma as she knows what she must do, but fears she will not be able to figuratively squeeze the trigger as the thought of patricide makes her ill.

The Christmas Journey
Donna VanLiere
St. Martin's
9780312613723, $12.99

Every year the Christmas season seems to come earlier and earlier as the stores decorate even co-mingling with Thanksgiving as the Yuletide is a big sales time. Pageants are everywhere displaying the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and especially the nativity scene as Joseph and pregnant Mary found no room at the inn, but the owner allowed them to stay in a stable. This is the sentimental legend, but not the true story as another example of when "Professor" Wuhl's theory (extracted from Who Shot Liberty Valance?) that "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend" (see Assume the Position).

The couple travels seventy miles taking several days to complete the trek. As they depart from Nazareth, Joseph notices that people he knew all his life as friends treat Mary like a pariah because Mary became pregnant while living under her father's roof. They leave as outcasts in accordance to the then Laws of Moses. Their journey proves grueling with Mary feeling each step the donkey takes. She fears what is expected of her raising the Son; while he fears being the father to the Savior as he believes he cannot be worthy of having God bestow such an honor on him. When they reach their destination, the crowds are overwhelming and there is no place for them at the inn. Joseph feels overwhelmed because he has to help Mary deliver but though conditions are extremely poor, Mary gives birth to a healthy Savior.

Donna VanLiere's version of one of the most legendary journeys provides a realistic look at the two travelers as a pregnant Mary rides a donkey for seventy miles (I rode a mule years ago down the Grand canyon for a few hours and that was fun but a bit sore). The trek is dirty and dusty while people they know along their path ignore them The illustrations augment the story as Ms. VanLiere adds the human facts normally ignored by the miracle birth.

The Surrender of a Lady
Tiffany Clare
St. Martin's
9780312372118, $7.99

In 1841 in Constantinople, a shocked Lady Elena Ravenscliffe hears one word "sold" that has her mortified. Her husband Robert says he has had a bad run of luck so he put her up as ante and lost her to a sex slave trader. Although it does her little good, she feels it is fitting that her spouse soon dies.

Elena reinvents herself as Jinan the harem girl in order to protect herself and her infant child. Her master offers her sexual favors to bidders. At a sex auction, Marquess Griffin Summerfield recognizes Jinan as Elena who he wanted back in London. He makes a seemingly exorbitant bid winning her for a few weeks. However, as they spend time together enjoying each other, Griffin knows he needs a revised plan to somehow take his beloved and her son with him back to England.

The Surrender of a Lady is an entertaining early Victorian romance with a wonderful Ottoman Empire prime location that enhances the Elena dilemma. Fast-paced from the moment Robert sells his wife to a sex slave broker to pay off his debts, sub-genre readers will wonder what will happen to the commodity once the three weeks are up and the auctioneer demands her return for her next sale. Although Robert's death is a convenient ending of a relationship problem as he owned his wife, fans will welcome Tiffany Clare into the fold as she provides a super historical.

Never Trust a Rogue
Olivia Drake
St. Martin's
9780312943462, $7.99

Heiress Miss Lindsey Crompton is happy for her sister Portia who has married her soul mate (see Seducing the Heiress). However, this also means that she is now under the glare of the money grubbers as the next wealthy target of the impoverished male aristocrats, which interferes with her desire to be sleuthing not dancing.

During an investigation she conducts she runs into an Earl, war hero Thane Pallister who has become known recently for his womanizing. He conceals his work with the Bow Street Runners behind the facade of aristocratic arrogance as he seeks evidence against a killer who wants to marry Lindsey for her money and beauty but will have to cut out her brains.

This is an exciting investigative historical romance starring two consummate professional detectives arguing, fussing, and fighting on their way to love. The opening wry commentary by Thane sets the table: "Females were nothing but trouble." However this particular female proves to be the epitome of trouble. Although Thane's motives for his inquiry are vague and he comes across as a Neanderthal, the match-up between two sleuths who each scorns the aristocracy makes for a wonderful nineteenth century romantic mystery.

Scoundrel in My Dreams
Celeste Bradley
St. Martin's
9780312943103, $7.99

At the Brown's Club for Distinguished Gentlemen, Lord John Redgrave recognizes the abandoned little girl Melody as his offspring. He assumes the mother is Amaryllis Clark who he was courting before he went off to war. She came to his room, had sex, and the next day rejected his proposal.

Jack confronts Amy only to learn that wonderful night was with her then seventeen year old sister Laurel. As he went off to fight, Laurel was ruined. Now she wants Melody back but nothing to do with Jack. However, she does not know Jack as he wants his daughter and the woman he cherishes in his life permanently.

The third Runaway Brides Regency romance (see Rogue In My Arms and Devil in My Bed) is an intriguing historical because of Jack who is so atypical of the sub-genre; he brings a sort of boorish but fresh personality to the mix as he does not intend to be crude or insensitive he just is. Fans will enjoy his efforts to win Laurel's head as he owns her heart and dreams, but she has doubts about her scoundrel being there for her and precocious (perhaps too cute) Melody.

Wicked Highlander
Donna Grant
St. Martin's
9780312381240, $7.99

The McLeod brothers (Fallon, Lucan and Quinn) were descendants from a cadre of warriors created by Druids to repel the Romans from Scotland and England. For three centuries the siblings hid from Deirdre who wants their magic. However in 1603, Lucan meets his soulmate (see Dangerous Highlander), but Quinn was captured by their enemy. Since Quinn's imprisonment, his other sibling met his soulmate too (see Forbidden Highlander). Now free again, Quinn is the most volatile of the three brothers. He remains tormented by guilt as he has for centuries and his rage has taken its toll on his mind and his soul. Only his desire for true love keeps him from going totally over to the dark although each breath darkens his soul

Marcail has been raised by Druids. Their ancient magic flows freely through her blood. Quinn thinks she may be his soul savior as his heart belongs to her. However, Deirdre plans to use her as a lure to recapture Quinn and his McLeod growing family.

The third McLeod brother historical romantic fantasy is a fabulous finish to a strong entertaining saga. The story line is fast-paced as the villainous sets in motion her endgame in which she uses love to destroy her enemies and to re-enslave the siblings. The Scottish Highlands has rarely looked as beautiful and forbidden as they have in Donna grant's wonderful early seventeenth century thriller.

Play Dirty
Lorie O'Clare
St. Martin's
9780312372156, $7.99

Six years ago in Los Angeles Haley King testified against drug lord Pedro Gutierrez. Immediately following her court appearance, she vanished into the Witness Protection Program; leaving behind her husband Greg and their two teen sons Marc and Jake without a word.

The three male Kings moved on and run a bounty hunting business when Greg sees Haley. Although her "boss" John has vanished and she fears Gutierrez is somehow involved, Haley begs Greg to stay out of her trouble. He refuses and agrees to treat her as one of the guys except for kisses. As a hit man targets Haley, Greg risks his life to keep her safe.

This first Bounty Hunter romantic suspense thriller is an enthralling fast-paced second chance at love romance. The story line moves faster than a speeding motorcycle; however the rapid pace also glides over relationships too easily as Marc and Jake don't even blink in welcoming their mom back into their lives and the lead couple seem to ignore six years have passed; for that matter one must wonder why the Gutierrez mob did not go after the King trio. Still filled with action and a tough lead couple risking their lives to protect the backs of their loved ones, fans will enjoy the ride.

David Poyer
St. Martin's
9780312613020, $24.99

Egotistical but brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Jack Scales purchases a fancy yacht he christens the Slow Dance. Although he has little sailing experience and that in sheltered environs and his vessel is not ocean oriented, he decides to sail from Long island to Bermuda. Accompanying Captain Jack is his reluctant family; his wife Arlen who considers leaving him, his twentyish bipolar son Rick who may be sent to a group home, and his rebellious teenage daughter Haley who loathes any family outing of more than a minute.

From the start, the ocean voyage proves dangerous as Jack's inexperience surfaces rather quickly and Rick stops taking his meds. They know they fortunately survive a deadly accident and a storm leads the Slow Dance to nearly sinking. When Jack rescues a man at sea, he leads his family into a group of deadly predators who plan to kill the males and rape the females before murdering them. Only Jack stands in their way.

Although the Scales' family could use the nautical expertise of Dan Lenson, David Poyer has given his star a respite so Jack and his three charges are on their own. The story line is fast-paced and filled with twisting action that grips the audience as one misadventure like waves keeps on coming. Even though the climax seems unlikely, fans will root for the beleaguered family as each must scale their personal fears and needs to risk sacrificing their life so their loved ones might survive.

David Moody
St. Martin's Griffin
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312569983, $13.99,

In less than twenty-four hours, billions are dead. The virus killed so fast that on one block a William Price was first to go and within five minutes his entire street had become a cemetery. Less than 1% of mankind survived the first wave. Those who do are in shock as they say good-bye to loved ones and in Britain they soon realize when no one responds to 999 or anything on the radio that civilization as they know it is over.

Factory mechanic Carl Henshawe cannot believe his beloved wife and their little girl is dead. Computer company executive Michael Collins gives lecture to a class of teens ignoring him when he horrifically watches them die. Fighting a cold medical student Emma Mitchell skips class and goes to the nearby shop to buy food only to see the owner and other patrons die. The few survivors find one another at a dilapidated community center waiting for first responders who never come. Instead as supplies dwindle, the dead begin to reanimate. The noise of the living disturbs the undead and even loved ones are coming to silence those who have not changed; the only thing that stops them is their rotting flesh.

This is an enjoyable cerebral zombie thriller in which David Moody looks deep into the souls of those who survived the virus; for instance others like Phillip struggle to move on pass a deceased loved one. Slowly the few humans find civilization stripped bare until the only thing left is whether it is worth the fight to stay alive. Though the story line is at times deliberately slow as Michael, Carl and Emma rotate internal pensive musings, readers who relish a different bite on zombies will appreciate the grim moody atmosphere of Autumn.

The Pursuit of Other Interests
Jim Kokoris
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312650599, $14.99

In Chicago Charlie Baker became the managing head of the ad firm because his predecessor died and he was the heir apparent after almost three decades in the business. Charlie is known for his temper and his political incorrect memos like his fat note. With the economy in free-fall, someone must take a hit so Charlie, notorious for frenetic management approach, is fired.

Fifty year old advertisers do not find work in a recession. Home more, Charlie thinks he can hide the loss of his annual 400K salary before bonuses from his neglected wife Donna and his teen son Kyle for now. However, Donna announces she is going to Maine while Kyle tells him they both know he was canned. He spends time at an outplacement center with other middle aged fired execs who he initially detests but soon along with the consultant counselor Ned Meyers he begins to appreciate them as refugees tossed aside by political and economic voodoo. As he begins to get close with his family, an opportunity surfaces for an exec position.

This is an amusing look at middle age unemployment of an executive used to getting his way. The story line is fast-paced and filled with humorous commentary, but the jocularity never turns scathingly satirical. Ergo in spite of an entertaining well written tale that readers will enjoy immensely, the audience also will muse on what could have been.

The Fledgling Handbook 101
P.C. Cast with Kim Doner
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312595128, $12.99

Ye who enter the House of Night will be welcomed as a new student and given The Fledgling Handbook 101 as a guide. Veteran vampires understand how difficult the conversion from sunlight to moonlight is. The guide provides the fledgling with an introduction to vampire life as an undead and the societal Maslow Hierarchy of surviving amidst the massive humans. There are treatises on vampire biology and history as the species traces its roots to Lilith. Included is a section on Nightkind Elementology, which is intended to help the newbie survive the terrors of the dark. A bit more experienced Fledglings like Zoey provides words of encouragement as they detail some of their adjustments. Finally a who's who like Sappho and Shekinah provide words of inspiration.

Young adult fans of the series will appreciate the entertaining handbook enhanced by Ms. Doner's colorful drawings as the newcomers are guided on what to expect as their body changes in a puberty-like twist. As Shekinah says: "Within chaos lies opportunity"; not for everybody as this entertaining reference guide is a companion piece to the saga by providing Fledglings and readers with increased opportunity of understand the world as Cast and less chaos.

Kidnap & Ransom
Michelle Gagnon
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778328261, $7.99,

World renowned hostage negotiator Cesar Calderon, CEO of Tyr Group whose mission is to rescue kidnapped victims, ironically is abducted by the adept Los Zetas paramilitary organization in Mexico City. A team is sent to retrieve him led by Jake Riley, but they fail leaving the leader to wonder why they were allowed to live having been trapped by the skillful enemy

A new unit is set up led again by Jake with his fiancee FBI Agent Kelly Jones included though the latter is still healing mentally from losing part of her leg on the Gatekeeper mission and this is her first field work since then. However, she understands why Jake needs to go on this rescue effort and wants the person he trusts most in the world with his back to be with him; his brother is one of the hostage victims. She has another reason for joining this endeavor; the man responsible for her leg loss is hiding amongst the kidnappers.

The latest Jones thriller (see Boneyard and Tunnels) is the usual fast-paced action-packed tale expected from Michelle Gagnon. The story line opens with the abduction as Calderon is drugged while dining out and never slows down in the efforts to rescue him. The ability of Los Zetas and the angst of Kelly make the tale as the former is refreshingly quite good at what they do and the latter feels not able to do field work as she expected to be desk bound for the rest of her career; Jake is not doing this out of pity as he needs her skills. Readers will enjoy this entertaining suspense as Kelly wonders if she can ride the bike again to face her ultimate demon if what the Feds believe is true about this killer.

Cold Dawn
Carla Neggers
9780778328247, $7.99

During a training exercise with her dog Ranger, search-and- rescue expert Rose Cameron finds a burnt body in a shed. The victim appears to be Derek Cutshaw though his body is beyond visual recognition. The evidence points to a serial killer as several victims found burned to death have been discovered.

California based smokejumper Nick Martini is the business partner of Rose's brother Sean (see Cold River). He and Rose shared a one night stand in Beverly Hills eight months ago that still shakes both of them. He follows the trail of a homicide arsonist to Black Falls, Vermont where Rose is. Though attracted to each other and angry over their one evening tryst, the couple puts off their personal war to concentrate on bringing down a psychopath.

The latest Cameron family Green Mountain State thriller is an exciting entry that once again proves murder even by fire is served "cold". The key to the strong story line is that the lead couple, in spite of their attraction leading to falling in love, knows the Cold Pursuit of the diabolical killer must come before their personal desires. Carla Neggers provides another strong investigative mystery.

The 3rd Secret
Tara Taylor Quinn
9780778328346, $7.99

Rick Thomas was caught stealing drug evidence from a government facility. He served three years in a federal pen, but is now free and vows to stay straight and free.

County Sheriff Huey Johnson arrests Rick charging him with the murder of Charles Cook. He called the cops informing them of finding the corpse when he reported to work. Rick insists he is innocent. Temple, Michigan defense attorney Erin Morgan is very selective who she defends in court as she refuses to help career criminals like Rick. She breaks her rule after meeting with him as she believes his plea he is innocent. However, the evidence proves Rick is either concealing something or lying. Erin considers dropping her client who she is falling in love with.

The third Chapman Files thriller (see The 1st Wife and the 2nd Lie) is a fabulous tale with two prime subplots besides the above in Chandler, Ohio. Dr. Kelly Chapman is adopting a frightened teen. Action packed, readers will want to know what the three secrets that Rock conceals are. Whereas the Thomas-Morgan arc is a fast-paced romantic suspense, the Chapman-Maggie segue is a poignant human interest drama; they blend smoothly together. With a strong cast, Tara Taylor Quinn writes a terrific Rust Belt thriller.

Christmas in Cedar Cove
Debbie Macomber
9780778328223, $7.99

"5-B Poppy Lane". In Cedar Cove, Washington, anti-war protester Ruth Shelton has been exchanging letters and email with USMC Sergeant Paul Gordon. However, he is coming home from Afghanistan on leave and wants to meet her in person. She has doubts because of his occupation. Adding a new prologue and epilogue to frame 5-B Poppy Lane (originally part of the Hearts Divided anthology), this is a terrific Washington State novella starring a heroic Marine and a realistic woman with doubts about a relationship with a soldier.

"A Cedar Cove Christmas". On Christmas Eve, pregnant Mary Jo Wyse comes to Cedar Cove, Washington seeking the father of her unborn David Rhodes. There are no commercial accommodations available in town, but Grace and Cliff Harding allow Mary Jo to sleep in the loft of their stable. When Mary Jo goes into labor, paramedic Mack McAfee attends to her. The three Wyse men, (bumbling brothers Linc, Mel and Ned) arrive to help their sister. Meanwhile Mary Jo has decided that instead of confronting David, who she has not found, she would prefer to be held by kindhearted Mack. However she doubts even this nice EMT would want to get involved with a woman who has just given birth. A Cedar Cove Christmas is an amusing and angst account of the Christmas saga with Puget Sound serving as the locale instead of Bethlehem; as a stable is a stable when it comes to hospitality for a pregnant woman. The cast is solid but it is the visitor Mary Jo who provides the anxiety, focus and equilibrium to a very Merry Christmas romp.

One Grave Less
Beverly Connor
Obsidian Mystery
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451231802, $7.99,

At the River Trail Museum of Natural History, curator Diane Fallon is working late when she finds two wounded individuals in separate rooms. She recognizes one of them Simone Brooks as a World Accord International human rights activist who she worked with in South America. The woman holding a child's femur in a death grip mumbles "It was one of us" before collapsing into a coma. Security calls for an ambulance for the first victim, but when Diane calls for a second ambulance, she learns no previous call was made and soon smells smoke in the room with the victim she does not know.

Not long after the nocturnal incident, Diane becomes the focus of a diabolical assault. Her identity is stolen and soon after she is accused by law enforcement of committing a murder when she worked in Brazil. Diane, her museum team and her fiance Frank begin the counter attack trying to uncover who is behind the assault and why.

This is a brilliant mystery as not only does Beverly Connor tie Diane's work in South America to the present case, the author also links back to her Lindsay Chamberlain series without missing a beat. The story line action-packed from the first moan and never slows down until the final confrontation as the past and present subplots excitingly mingle. However, adding to the fun is an overarching theme twist that is unexpected yet seems plausible. Fans of Ms. Connor will relish One Grave Less.

If Walls Could Talk
Juliet Blackwell
9780451231819, $6.99

Since her mother died, Melanie Turner took over her depressed father's San Francisco Bay construction business; specializing in restoration of historical homes as her dad could no longer run the firm. Matt Addax hires Mel to restore a run-down mansion so he and his partner can flip it for a nice profit. After an all night party, Mel enters the house to see Matt's partner Kenneth dripping in blood.

He was shot with a nail gun and someone cut off his hand with a motor saw. There is blood all over him and he dies shortly after arriving at the hospital. He told the nurses before he died that Matt didn't kill him, but he also said it was Matt's fault. Matt goes to jail leaving Mel to complete the renovations. She sees the ghost of Kenneth and he informs her he doesn't remember the time prior to his murder. Someone believes Mel found buried jewels and her house, car and storage room are ransacked. Someone is looking for them. To get rid of the ghost and to keep her family, friends and employees safe, Mel investigates only to be in the same perilous situation that Kenneth faced before he was killed.

This is the start of a new paranormal amateur sleuth series filled with ghosts, unknown villains, a great heroine, and a man who warned her not marry her ex husband. Mel has "insider" information from the other side. Mel does not trusting the cops who have focused on Matt only so she risks her life to investigate. With a nod to the Ghost Whisperer in a murder mystery setting, Juliet Blackwell provides a fun entertaining opening act.

Tad Williams
DAW Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756906400, $27.95,

The Eddon family have lived in Southmarch castle and ruling the Marchlands for centuries. Now they are scattered because Hendon Tolly took the throne forcing the twin co-regents Barrick and Briony to escape if they want to live. Southmarch is at war with the Qar (fairy folks) because since the usurpers took over they persecuted the fairy and forced them to erect a Mantle curtain and settle on their own lands. In the middle of the battle, the Qar stop fighting because a greater foe is marching to conquer Shadowmarch.

Both Tolly and the ruler of all the conquered lands in the south, the Autarch of Xis Sulepis, know that the Sleeping Gods are located deep below the Funderling Town where the group of small dwarf like creatures lives. The pair plans to attack the realm of the Gods and use a magic ritual to make one of the gods their slave. Brionye is safely staying with the Prince of Syan Eneas who loves her and vows to help her get home. When they arrive Eneas and his men fight to gain control of the throne that rightfully belongs to Briony. All parties interested in waking the Gods and those who oppose collide as Briony and her Syanese allies take the fight to those loyal to Tolly.

Shadowheart is a grand epic finish to a great grand fantasy saga that like its three predecessors is filled with action, but character driven as the audience anticipates the climatic ending. Tad Williams has not let us down as he springs one shocker after another to a spellbound audience. Barrick is more Qar than human because of a ritual to save his life although he fights on the side of the humans who want to restore Shadowmarch to its previous glory. Briony has come a long way from the youth foolishly challenging Tolly to a duel as her inner strength remains powerful but matured with experience. All the major subplots come together as apocalypse now has converged on Shadowmarch.

Alien Tango
Gini Koch
9780756406325, $7.99

Kitty Katt muses how in a flash one's perception of the world can radically tilt. Although it was six months ago, it seems just yesterday she learned of the A-C aliens from Alpha Centauri who reside among us purebred earthlings. Now the former marketing manager is undergoing rapid training as part of the Human/A-C Airborne Centaurion Division. Kitty also appreciates the side benefit of lovemaking with A-C Commander Jeff Martini.

The Kennedy Space Center brass orders their unit to come immediately. An experimental space ship has returned to Earth when the vessel was not supposed to. On the trek to Florida, a hit squad tries to kill Jeff, Kitty and their team. At the Space center, a stalker frightens Kitty, but her biggest fear is meeting Jeff's family.

The second kill Kitty Katt science fiction thriller (see Touched by an Alien) is an amusing over the top of Olympus Mons thriller. The story line is faster than the speed of light as the heroine struggles to stay alive while threats from ETs and from earthlings seem to be her constant companion. Readers will enjoy this bizarre totally out of control yet fully entertaining "aliens walk among us" adventures of a novice still trying to comprehend all that is going on.

Goddess of Legend
P.C. Cast
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425228166, $15.00,

In the Crystal Cave Water Goddess Coventina better known by her beloved Merlin as Viviane fears her loved one will soon fade into nothingness. The only way Merlin may be saved is if King Arthur avoids the darkness, but the monarch is depressed over his wife and best friend which expedites his going into the abyss.

Increasingly desperate Viviane finally sees a slight possibility in twenty-first century photojournalist Isabel Cantelli after her car plummets off an Oklahoma bridge when she avoided a chipmunk. Viviane fast forwards Isabel into Camelot as a countess to seduce Lancelot away from Guinevere. However, instead of Lancelot, Isabel is attracted to King Arthur who wants her too, but a deal is a deal or is it.

This is a terrific refreshing (hard to believe something new can be created from Camelot) retelling of the Arthurian legend as Isabel turns the romantic triangle into a quadrangle. The key cast is fully developed so that the reader will believe that the Sooner has landed in the midst of the Camelot threesome. Fast-paced fans will enjoy this charming romantic fantasy as Isabel sums up the plot quite nicely when she informs Arthur that he is better for her heart than a cardio workout.

Threats at Three
Ann Purser
9780425237052, $23.95

The villagers of Long Farnden, England want to raise the money to refurbish the village hall. The community meets to discuss plans including who does what with electrician Derek Meade chosen as the lead of the fundraising subcommittee.

Not everyone is euphoric over the Village Hall Renovation Fund-Raising renovation plan to "save our shed". Some feel it is a waste of money and prefer nothing occur while one person fears her spouse will cause trouble for the townsfolk. New Broome cleaning business owner Lois Meade becomes embroiled in the middle trying to prevent a calamity from happening. However she fails as the first corpse is found leading to Inspector Cowgill investigating the homicide and Lois "helping" him.

Well written, the latest Lois Meade amateur sleuth (see Warning at One and Tragedy at Two) is an engaging tale that spends most of the story line on a small village politics when an issue divides the community. The support ensemble cast is solid as each picks a side in the community debate. However, the whodunit takes a back seat to the increasingly divisive ugly fight to shed or not to shed.

A Killer Crop
Sheila Connolly
9780425238264, $7.99

In the New England town of Granford near Amherst University is an apple orchard owned by Meg Corey. She became the owner when she went down to sell it on behalf of her mother and felt a kinship to the land. Now out of the blue, her mother visits her, which is out of character so Meg questions Elizabeth.

Before she gets a response, Detective Marcus stops to question Elizabeth who was seen in town longer than she admitted to Meg. She was seeing a man who was murdered and found in the local farmer's market when it was abandoned. Elizabeth says she was not with him at the time of his death. Marcus suspects her, but Meg believes her mom is innocent and starts sleuthing to prove it.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy the entertaining latest Orchard amateur sleuth (see Red Delicious Death). We admire Meg who uses this difficult time to better understand her parents especially in their relationship with each other and with her; as that ironically for someone who has solved murder cases has always been a mystery to her. She also has uncertainties re her boyfriend Seth Chapin and her, but first she must prove her mom's innocence and then change weaknesses and threats into strengths and opportunities when it comes to her parents and her boyfriend.

Buttons and Bones
Monica Ferris
9780425237045, $24.95

In Excelsior, Minnesota Betsy Devonshire, owner of Crewel World needlework shop, was instrumental in getting Lars and his wife Jill a the fixer upper log cabin with six acres of land attached to it. The property is in a state park and part of the property is on the shore. While ripping up a floor and linoleum, they find a trap door that leads to a concealed basement. There they see the bones of a skeleton in the shape of a human are found. Whoever it was did not die a natural death.

Jill has a need to know who the victim and the killer are. Betsy joins her on the investigation. They soon learn a former WWII German POW camp was nearby and one person successfully escaped never to be seen again. Twentyish Dieter Keitel had a cold crown on his tooth just like the corpse appears to have. To affirm they found Deiter's bones, the daughter of Betsy's friend does reconstructive forensic modeling from six pictures of him. The results stun Betsy and the audience

There is no blood, or gore just bones in Buttons and Bones yet Monica Ferris once again (see Blackwork) knits together a hypnotic mystery due to the directions the investigations takes her. The murder happened over a half a century ago, but Betsy treats the killing as if it happened yesterday as she takes it as an affront in a believable manner as some of those involved back in WWII still live. This is a terrific 1940s whodunit investigated in the twenty-first century by an amateur sleuth who would have been a great police detective.

Worth the Trip
Penny McCall
9780425238479, $7.99

Behavioral psychologist Norah MacArthur has released a new book on relationships, but she fears any sales will happen because of either the notoriety of her estranged relationship with her dad or the curiosity factor. Over fifteen years ago, her father a con artist was caught and convicted for his role in a robbery. Although the loot was not recovered, Lucius served his sentence and he is being freed from prison.

FBI agent Trip Jones plans to keep Norah safe as he expects her to be a magnet for trouble when her dad's associates pressure him to provide the goods. He also hopes to recover the stolen property while musing about her relationship babble which is to him voodoo pabulum. However, he never expected to be attracted to the shrink nor for her to want him.

Readers will believe Penny McCall's latest FBI romantic suspense (see The Bliss Factor and All Jacked Up) is Worth the Trip as the search for the loot makes for an exciting entertaining and electrifying thriller. The action never stops from the moment dad is freed from prison and never slows down as Norah the shrink learns it is truly A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World when stolen money and stolen hearts intersect.

Bedeviled Eggs
Laura Childs
9780425238233, $7.99

The Midwestern town of Kindred is normally a serene quiet place, but this year the townsfolk seem to face one calamity after another. In the middle of most of the disasters is the Cackleberry Club; a cafe, bookstore and knitting community center. The Troubles begin when one of the owners Suzanne walks mayoral candidate Chuck Peebler out the door of the cafe when she hears a noise. Peebler was hit and killed immediately by an arrow.

The sheriff has no clues as to who wanted Peebler dead. Soon after that homicide, Deputy Wilbur Halpern, who uncovered an illegal dog fighting arena, is murdered too on the historical Quilt Trail. Suzanne and the ladies of the Cackleberry Club investigate with the support of the despondent sheriff and the lethal antipathy of the unknown killer who threatens her and firebombs her car.

The Cackleberry soft boiled mysteries (see Eggs in Purgatory and Eggs Benedict Arnold) are special due to friendship of the ladies who have each other's back. Although the murder mystery prime plot is appropriately somber, the three club owners and their customers bring mouth watering recipes and amusing eccentricity to the entertaining plot. Readers will enjoy these eggs over easy amateur sleuth.

Play of Passion
Nalini Singh
9780425237793, $7.99

In 2081 he feels he has wanted SnowDancer wolf pack companion Lieutenant Indigo Riviere as his mate seemingly forever. Tracker Andrew Kincaid so far has failed to get the person he cherishes to see him beyond being a buddy beneath her stature.

Drew knows a key part of her writing him off is she considers him beneath her as she is the dominant female in the pack while he is at best tepid when it comes to alpha status; besides his position keeps him outside of the pack hierarchy. Still they play a game of dominance until the Psy network warns of a perilous plot to the pack; now they team up to prevent the pending doom.

The key to this fresh exciting Psy-Changeling romantic fantasy installment (see Blaze of memory and Bonds of Justice) is the lead pairing of two previously supporting characters that seemingly have no chance to mate because of the pack's customs. The futuristic story line mostly is driven by this SnowDancer couple, but the series theme also moves forward as the Councils'' actions make war seem imminent.

Allyson James
9780425237823, $7.99

In Hopi County, Arizona, half breed Navaho Janet Begay prevented her mom a goddess from hell from taking over (see Stormwalker). Janet looks forward to a respite from working at her Crossroads Hotel and quality time with her Firewalker dragon shifter boyfriend Mick after her battle with mommy dearest.

However, her R&R ends when Pamela Grant the Wolf enters the inn with a message from Mick. After a brief confrontation with Pamela and with her partner Cassandra at her side, Janet learns Mick is in trouble as his message in his girlfriend's blood is "help me." She needs to rescue her boyfriend so she turns to a man she distrusts as the only one without family who has the power to assist her. Magic nullifier Sheriff Nash Jones curses her when Janet asks for assistance as Mick faces a trial by fire in front of the Dragon Council for disobeying a direct command to kill his beloved girlfriend. In turn the law enforcement official asks her to assist him with a magical murder in which the evidence makes Janet the prime suspect.

The second Stormwalker rural fantasy is a great entry as the heroine's beloved faces a trial of fire for not killing his girlfriend as ordered by his species. The story line is fast-paced from the opening cat fight and never slows down as Allyson James provides an engaging erotic thriller. One wonders how Arizona would enforce its new illegal alien law with shifters, wiccan and dragons, etc.

The Princess In His Bed
Lila DiPasqua
9780425237007, $15.00

"The Marquis' New Clothes". Widow Aimee de Miran arrives at the court of Louis IV to help her cousin Louise recover a ring from a rogue, but meets the Marquis de Nattes.

"The Lovely Duckling". A decade ago rake Joseph d'Alumbert humiliated Emilie de Sarron, who went into hiding. When she returns to society, feeling guilty he vows to help her, but falls in love with her instead.

"The Princess and the Diamonds". Fearing for her brother, Princess Gabrielle dresses like a male to enter the gambling den. There she meets undercover operative Marquis de Montfort, who seeks to end the killing spree associated with this gambling operation. He recognizes her as a female and offers his protection if they team up.

The latest adult Fiery Tales Collection (see Awakened by a Kiss for humorously lewd versions of Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and Puss N Boots) contains three more exciting erotic fairy tale romantic spins.

In Dreams Begin
Skyler White
9780425236956, $15.00

On her wedding night, Laura Armstrong is haunted by powerful dreams focused on the late Irish freedom fighter Maud Gonne. She is bewildered when she learns the vividness of what she sees are not actually dreams.

A jealous Victorian occultist Ida Jameson uses her medium skills to bring forth from the future Laura who meets and falls in love with William Butler Yeats. Occupying Maud's body Laura becomes a sort of muse for the poet. However, Ida has an agenda for transporting Laura into the past, which leaves the latter in peril as the former wants absolute power especially over the poet encouraged by the beast of love.

This is a fascinating complex time travel tale that enables the reader to learn much about Yeats and indirectly his beloved muse Maud. However, that is also the key issue complication as Laura's modern day assertiveness (some will say aggressiveness) takes over the personality of her host body even when the woman from the future is unaware she is in the past. Thus the readers will struggle with what is considered historical fact and what is pure fiction. Still In Dreams Begin, Skyler White provides a whimsical lyrical salute to Eire through the bridge of love that crosses the barrier of time.

Spun by Sorcery
Barbara Bretton
9780425236826, $15.00

In Sugar Maple, Vermont, half human Chloe Hobbs has a busy schedule. She is the unelected mayor of her town; receiving training in sorcery; running her Sticks and Strings yarn shop, and making time for her beloved town purebred human soul mate Police Chief Luke Mackenzie. However, stunningly as the pair plans their future together, Sugar Maple disappears taking her cats including Penelope and her Book of Spells with the vanishing.

Her friend Janice Meany accompanied by Penny the cat arrives in Chloe's car. The three begin investigating what happened to the town. Clues implicate Isadora the Fae as Casting Spells and imply the answers are in Salem. However, an unknown adversary wants to prevent the two females and the feline from getting to Salem. When they overcome the obstacles to reach the city, they find their adventures in strangeness have just begun.

This super New England fantasy mystery follows the threads of Laced With Magic. The story line is fast-paced yet character driven by the courageous threesome who knit together what is going on in Salem (past and present) that has stolen away Sugar Maple. Readers will enjoy the return to Sugar Maple even with the town no longer listed in MapQuest.

Enemy Within
Marcella Burnard
9780425236857, $15.00

The Chekydran capture Captain Alexandria "Ari" Idylle and torture her. Amazingly they not only fail to kill her, but they release her. She returns home, but not to a hero's welcome; as everyone she knows and some in the shadows she does not know assume the enemy tinkered with her brain. Even her loved ones believe the Chekydran played with her mind and therefore feel unsafe near her. She realizes her military career is dead as her superiors assume she has been brainwashed and thus a security risk.

She is forced to remain on her father's science ship as a sort of escape from the distrustful looks. However pirates led by Captain Cullin Seaghdh take over the vessel. However, she suspects there is more to the pirate than simple looting especially as they flee a Chekydran assault ship. In fact, he stalks her like others including her former military superiors who implanted a bomb in her head that can be detonated from a distance. Though attracted to him, she knows not trust no one.

This is a terrific romantic science fiction thriller that brings to life hostilities between two races fighting to dominate the galaxy with each side using nefarious tricks and willing to sacrifice loyal citizens to gain a check in the Outer Space game of chess that seems about to turn uglier. Although the climax contains repugnant sexual abuse that readers will insist is worse than to chewing on a Nurellan lemon berry, sub-genre fans will enjoy this strong space saga, which reminds the audience of the dirty tricks of the Cold War.

Devil at Midnight
Emma Holly
9780425237816, $7.99

In 1950, her abusive father George in a rage hammered Grace Gladwell's head one time to many leaving her in a sort of limbo; not quite dead but obviously not alive. Michael the guide lays out her choices and Grace decides the Holy Grail is a friend not family or a lover.

In 1460, Swiss mercenary leader Christian Durand sees a specter, which makes him fear he is going insane. In spite of their obvious handicap, the pair is attracted to each other. Their love enables her to have a body at times. Her periods in corporal form keeps growing. Vampire Queen Nim Wei orders Christian to escort and protect her on her trip, but he fears with good reason the sinister manipulative Undead royal has a scheme to force his odious father and him into mortal combat while all he wants is his beloved Grace.

The latest Upyr Midnight romantic fantasy is a great entry starring a fascinating lead couple and some vile secondary characters. The story line is fast-paced once Christian sees and wants the ghost of Grace and she reciprocates his desire. Fans will relish this paranormal thriller while waiting for the rest of their story in Angel at Dawn.

Deadly Intent
Kylie Brant
9780425238530, $7.99

In Colorado during a blizzard, Stephen Mulder, distrusting law enforcement, hires Raiker Forensics to help rescue his eleven year old daughter Ellie. He specifically asks for Macy Reid who rescued Ellie when Art Cooper abducted her and was going to auction her. Macy explains to her boss Kellan Burke, who is also on the case, her rescue was a fortunate by product of breaking up a children trafficking network.

Macy and Kellan shared a one night stand, but seeing him again makes Macy realize she still wants him. Kellan believes Macy has the keys to solving the kidnapping as her past as an abducted child seems tied to this kidnapping. He knows he must bully her to rescue the child, but fears if he goes to far the woman he loves will loathe him.

The latest Mindhunter romantic suspense (see Waking the Dead and Waking Evil) is a superb investigative mystery with a supporting romantic subplot that remains in a critical secondary role. The story line is fast-paced as Kylie Brant hooks the audience from the moment the Raiker's team gathers at the Manassas Regional Airport to begin the flight to Denver and never slows down keeping readers guessing who is behind the snatch and why. Deadly Intent is a strong thriller.

Seven Nights to Forever
Evangeline Collins
9780425236833, $15.00

In 1819 London, the deaths of their parents left the two Marlowe children without money. The older Rose knows of one way a woman can earn a living so that she can support her younger brother and pay back her late father's creditors. Thus one week in every month Rose works at Rubicon, London's most infamous brothel.

Wealthy merchant James Archer turns to Rubicon to escape his horrific marriage to a shrew Lady Amelia who has used her sponsorship amongst the Ton of his beloved sibling Rebecca as a means to keep him in line. When he and Rose meet, karma occurs as each knows they have found a soul mate as lonely as they are. He returns several times and finally asks her to spend a week with him, but not at Rubicon. Each expects the passion, but neither anticipated falling in love, a forbidden feeling.

Seven Nights to Forever is a provocative, passionate and compassionate Regency romance. The lead couple is a delightful pairing of two lonely people with no future together falling in love during a one week tryst; while the support cast is three dimensional except for his shrewish spouse. Reversing the genders of the heated Her Ladyship's Companion, Evangeline Collins provides a wonderful historical that should include a sequel starring Rebecca and supported by the lead couple and fascinating "mentor" bisexual prostitute Timothy.

Somewhere Along the Way
Jodi Thomas
9780425237724, $7.99

Now almost eighteen years old, Reagan Trent moved to Harmony, Texas two years ago after hearing elderly nursing home resident Beverly Truman's stories about her hometown. There she found a home and a purpose to help other residents; as she was Welcome to Harmony even after her identity was discovered by "Uncle" Jeremiah Truman.

Loner Gabe Leary recovering from injuries suffered in an explosion saves Reagan's life so she will do anything for him except leave him alone, which is all the man insists he wants. Lawyer Liz Matheson is attracted to Gabe, who conceals his pre explosion life. Reagan would like to hook up these two deserving souls. Finally there are her two best friends, Noah McAllen and Brandon, who each want more from her than friendship. However, Reagan's co-worker at the Blue Moon Diner Edith and her abusive husband place Reagan in jeopardy as they did when she was first welcomed to town at the same her beloved Uncle Jeremiah needs his great-niece.

This is an entertaining sequel to Welcome to Harmony though it behooves the fan to read the previous novel to better understand how far key figures have come. The story line is obviously character driven as once again Jodi Thomas provides a deep look at modern day living (and hiding in the world of the Internet) in small town Texas.

Bad Penny Blues
Cathi Unsworth
Serpent's Tail
3A Exmouth House, Pine Street, London, England, EC1R 0JH
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
9781846686788, $7.99,

In 1959, with one year on the job as a Police Constable in London Pete Bradley and his partner PC Alan Corbishall find a female corpse near the Thames in Richmond while their superior Acting sergeant Alf Brown snores in the back seat of their vehicle. CID DI Bell arrives to question Bradley on what he found. Pete decides to investigate the homicide in which he had observed at the crime scene how the culprit tried to clean up the "mess". He soon learns the victim was a West London prostitute, but their inquiry hits a wall as has the other inquiries into the brutal serial killing of the area's hookers.

Fashion student Stella Reade married Toby. Recently, she has been haunted by horrific nightmares of an abducted young woman who she does not recognize. However, when she learns of the Thames body, Stella believes she can help the police, but hesitates as she assumes they will write her off as one of those swinging drug soaked mod with her school work, a happening mate and their hip friends.

The time and place comes across very vividly though the chapter titles using song names seem inane in a grim murder case that in some ways feels more like a London Noir. Pete is a terrific character as shown early with the wry commentary of his and Alan re the snoozing older sergeant that has generational relevance to this day. Stella brings plenty to the case though her paranormal element is more distracting than insightful. Still Pete's investigation into the genuine unsolved Jack the Stripper case makes for an enjoyable historical British police procedural.

A Duke's Temptation
Jillian Hunter
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451413000, $7.99,

In 1818, Lady Lily Boscastle is humiliated when her engagement ends. At the same time rakish Samuel St. Aldwyn, the Duke of Gravenhurst, is infamous for taking up the rights of the downtrodden in offbeat amoral ways.

Feeling a need to leave London with her head held high (as expected of a Boscastle), Lily decides the Gravenhurst household is perfect for her to hide for now from society's inane pity stares. She obtains a position as a housekeeper as he hires her because he enjoyed their battle of words. As they become better acquainted through kisses and a war of wit and edit, she realizes he is the author of the gothic romance novels she loves while he realizes she is his heart's temptation. However, each has a past to overcome first.

This is a marvelous Boscastle Regency romance (see The Seduction of an English Scoundrel) starring two fascinating protagonists as she is a Boscastle all the way to her bone marrow and he is a Bridal Pleasures rogue shamelessly seducing the woman who owns his cravings. Character driven fans will enjoy the gender war of words as she "edits" his musings of love.

Wicked Wonderland
LuAnn McLane, Susanna Carr, Janice Maynard
9780451231338, $14.00

"Hot Whisper" by LuAnn McLane. At the gift shop at the Whisper, Colorado station waiting for her train to arrive, Claire becomes enchanted by beautiful hand-carved Santa figurines. She misses her train home to Atlanta, but meets the artist Jesse who gives her shelter and extra warmth for the holidays.

"Hot for the Holidays" by Susanna Carr. At the office holiday party, Rachel and Justin seemingly opposites and definitely rivals become wild lovers in her cubicle. Now she wants to flee town as she always chooses flight over fight even for the man she loves; while he wants her gift wrapped forever.

"Hot Arctic Nights" by Janice Maynard. Unemployed, Hallie agrees to run her friend's Alaskan B&B in Fairbanks over the holidays. Daniel arrives for some R&R, but gets no rest as they heat up the Arctic with their love making.

With straightforward story lines Warm Wicked Wonderland contains three wonderful holiday romances starring nice lead couples.

Living Nightmare
Shannon Butcher
9780451232373, $7.99

Just under a decade ago, the evil Synestryn attacked the Madison household. Nika was near death, but was saved by Theroinai warrior Madoc. Since she suffered mental damage during the assault, no one believed her when she said her younger sister Tori lived, but was abducted by the vicious intruders even though the siblings have a psychic connection.

Nika became a Sentinel whose purpose for living is to rescue her sibling. However, she fears time is almost over as the link between her and Tori is dying. She vows to make an attempt to find her sister or die trying while her savior from nine years ago continues to deny his attraction to the damaged goods female who cannot be his mate yet his heart argues otherwise. If Madoc ignores his personal vow to never return to Synestryn for fear of unleashing the monster inside him, he could harm those he cares abut including Nika.

The latest Sentinel Wars romantic fantasy (see Running Scared) is a terrific tale of two star crossed lovers struggling with how they feel about one another and how to mount the sibling rescue. As the Butcher world continues to vividly expand, readers will enjoy this exciting thriller.

Elle Jasper
9780451231673, $6.99

In Savannah, Riley Poe reflects back to her wild youth as now she is raising her younger teenage brother, Seth. She is recognized as one of the city's best tattoo artists; always in demand.

Seth and his friends pull a teen stunt in Bonaventure Cemetery. Their prank backfires when it frees the strigoi vampires, who leave their "prison" taking the humans with them. A desperate Riley turns to Eli Dupre and his kin to save her sibling from the vicious Victorian and Valerian who plan to convert Seth and toast their victory by dining on Riley's rare blood. Eli, sworn to protect the city from the strigoi and to keep Riley safe plans to help her rescue her brother but also hopes to persuade Riley they belong together.

The first Dark Ink Chronicles romantic urban fantasy is a fast-paced thriller starring a kick butt heroine whose unique blood proves more in demand than her unique tattoos. Although Riley's personality and tattoo skills have been used in other series (see Karen E. Olson's amateur sleuth series The Tattoo Shop), Elle Jasper's rendition of the vampire Everdark underworld of Savannah provides a welcome addition to the sub-genre blood bank.

Blood Spells
Jessica Anderson
9780451231659, $7.99

The marriage between Patience and Brandt White-Eagle was nearly dead before they sent their twin sons away for the safety of the kids; now each knows it is only a question of announcing the marital wake. However, they continue their efforts to prevent the upcoming 12/21/2012 catastrophe from occurring by performing a dangerous rite to capture the Triad magic.

To their chagrin, the depressed pair not only fail to obtain the magic, but the spell backfires leaving Brandt near dead as an Aztec God is returning to regain domination. Patience knows she must go back in time to learn what curse has left them in jeopardy.

The fourth Final Prophecy "Mayan" fantasy (see Dawnkeepers, Nightkeepers and Skykeepers) is an engaging tale as the lead couple are mated Nightkeeper warriors set to fight the enemy deity, but go into combat at less than full strength because of their marital woes. Their estrangement especially shows up with the failed ritual. Character driven, series fans will relish this strong entry as the end of the world, at least for this mated pair, if not everyone, seems closer to reality.

In the Company of Vampires
Katie MacAlister
9780451231604, $7.99

The Fates declared that Francesca Ghetti was Benedikt Czerny's beloved soul mate. However, Fran loves Ben, but refuses to accept destiny when she believes in free will. She leaves her beloved in Europe while returning to America (see the young adult teen fantasies CIRCUS OF THE DARNED and GOT FANGS, written as Katie Maxwell).

Five years have passed since Fran said goodbye to Ben. After rescuing her roommate from an otherworldly assault, Fran returns to the Gothfaire where they first met when she learns her mom, who remained with the troupe, vanished. Fran knows her mom would never just leave as she takes her role as the witch seriously. Accompanying her are three Viking ghosts assigned to banish Loki. She also has a rival for Ben's affection as Naomi the tattoo artist overtly makes it clear she wants him. Finally there is the villagers' paying homage to Wagner. With all that floating around mom still remains missing while an evil necromancer begins a deadly incantation.

This zany clever Dark Ones sentry (see The Last of the Red Hot Vampires) stars the six foot (no longer teen) in an adult role as she finds her vampiric soul mate with an apparent lover and meets his sibling. As is her personality, Fran charges ahead ready to fight anyone even her own heart while ripping skin off of everyone even Viking ghosts. Although the reunion lacks intensity beyond jealousy and sex, fans will enjoy the return as Ben and Fran lead readers on a wild tour of Europe.

His Sinful Secret
Emma Wildes
9780451231666, $6.99

In London, Michael Hepburn is stabbed in the ribs fighting off an attacker. He cannot go home due to his injury as his parents host guests. He goes to the home of Lady Antonia Taylor who with her lover Laurence patches him up. Antonia loves Michael who saved her life in Spain, but he is marrying an innocent in two days Lady Julianne Simpson out of a sense of duty towards his parents who are grieving the death of their older son Harry. Michael assumes his war time enemy Roget attacked him for the second time in a week though Laurence disagrees.

Michael feels unworthy of Julianne and fears he is betraying his brother. Still they marry and he is very gentle with his shy virgin. They discuss Harry before making love. She realizes the aloof Michael is sensitive to her feelings; something his amiable late brother would not have done. Michael and Julianne make love every night, but Julianne concludes she has his passion, name and protection but not his affection as she believes Antonia has that. His control of his feelings disheartens her; as she wants a marriage like those of their respective parents. As the newlyweds fall in love, each has secrets; his involves his war time work while hers involves her late fiance.

The latest Notorious Bachelor Regency romance (see My Lord Scandal and One Wicked Mistake) stars a strong lead couple whose marriage is brought about by the death of a loved one; she especially shows intelligence and keen observation, which in this sub-genre are traits of the male. The story line focuses on a suspicious spouse believing her new husband whom she does not know is concealing something from her. Although the villain turns out to be weak, readers will enjoy this engaging Regency romantic suspense.

Hot Stories for Cold Nights
Joan Elizabeth Lloyd
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425235270, $15.00,

The thirty entries are in fact twenty separate tales as the other ten are additional chapters rather than stand alone short stories. Thus, readers initially will be confused but quickly pick up that "Creating a Bestseller" is followed by "Creating a Bestseller: The Next Chapter" thanks mostly to Jared and Mandy. The longer multiple entries like the Madam's Brothel" (Options in five parts), "Movie Mania (three parts), and "Friday Night Games" (played in three periods) are the best contributions as the reader has the chance to meet the lead participants outside of just sex. Still even the short shorts (approximately eight pages on an average) are fun to read as accentuated by the opening act in which Pete and Missy capture a Leprechaun who provides lovemaking advice that the Penthouse Magazine guide would say makes for a wonderful cocktail. Ranging in sub-genres and encounters, for the most part, Joan Elizabeth Lloyd provides entertaining erotic Hot Stories for Cold Nights (temperate and hot nights too).

Anya Bast
9780425236864, $15.00

At the court of the Edaeii in Belai, Evangeline the Enchantress is euphoric as she is rewarded for her magical skill of emotional manipulator by being be-Jeweled with a sapphire, which makes her recognized as a master adept. However her joy shatters when revolutionaries destroy the court and kill most of the mages. Adept Anatol Nikolisan the illusionist saves her life.

Already attracted to each other even before the insurrection, the pair flees together to the only potential sanctuary, the home of Gregorio Vidhin. Ironically his oratory was the catalyst that inflamed the rebellion. As the low born hunt for the pair, Evangeline finds herself torn between two lovers.

This heated erotic romantic fantasy is fast-paced from the onset, filled with vivid love scenes that will raise body temperatures of adoring fans, and a strong sense that in the Bast universe the physics of magic feels genuine. The prime threesome comes across as real whether they flee the revolutionaries, deal with locals wanting to buy "his sister" for the night, or stop for a tryst. Although expressions like "sowing your wild oats" and even "middle class" feel out of place in this realm, fans will enjoy Evangeline's excellent escapades with the two mages in her life.

Inside Out
Lauren Dane
9780425236888, $15.00

Ella Tipton still struggles with mental healing after her last relationship with an abuser almost left her dead. Tattooed Andrew "Cope" Copeland and Ella have been friends for years, but though she has had dreams starring him he never showed any romantic interest in her. Cope offers her self-defense training so she can have a chance to defend herself if ever caught in the same ugly scenario that almost killed her. She accepts.

However, their touching as part of the lessons has both struggling with desire. Yet when Cope asks her to go out on a date, she is stunned, but accepts. While they fall in love, Ella fears her reactions are one sided as she distrusts herself to know otherwise having picked a psychopath previously. As for Cope, he struggles to cope with his feelings as he is used to playing the field.

This is a terrific contemporary romance with two strong protagonists whose relationship changes from friend to friend and lover. Ella and Cope know they must Laid Bare their hearts as well as they do their body parts, but each fears an intimate loving relationship. Lauren Dane provides her audience with a deep heartfelt relationship drama as the heroine remains somewhat traumatized and the hero is the deer in the headlights.

Pleasure's Edge
Eve Berlin
9780425236871, $15.00

Erotica author Dylan Ivory plans on a BDSM theme for her next novel. To obtain insider information, Dylan begins research on the subject. This leads to her meeting psychological thriller author Alec Walker who lives just like the daredevil stars of his novels.

They are attracted to each other, but she has always kept a tight control over her emotions and any relationships. He wants to take her mountain climbing but she is afraid her independence would die as she would need to rely on him. Alec also wants to teach her first hand the world of BDSM as the dom to her sub. She wants to accept but her fears of losing control keep her from the ecstasy he offers her; while his fear of commitment keeps him from admitting they are yin and yang in and out of bed.

Eve Berlin provides a wonderful well written BDSM romance in which the sex is hotter than the summer in the city of Miami. The superb story line is driven by the lead control freaks whose need to be in charge is radically different. Although her bone marrow screams sub Dylan feels safer in control while Alec's DNA is imprinted with dom. Fans will enjoy this erotic contemporary as each of the leads and grateful fans are driven beyond Pleasure's Edge.

The Wolf Age
James Enge
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616142438, $17.00,

By nature an extreme pessimist who in spite of his adept skills knows he cannot live up to the legend of his father except when he is intoxicated. Enchanter Morlock Ambrosius wonders what else could go wrong as nothing seems to be going his way. In the werewolf city-state of Wuruyaaria, he figures he hit rock bottom when he is confined in a prison inside Vargulleion, a werewolf fortress. Morlock soon learns he has not bottomed out when he is forced to kill another inmate who attacked him.

His new cell mate is Rokhlenu the werewolf, whose life he once saved. They become friends watching each other's back in the dangerous dungeons. However, Morlock also struggles with his sanity as the glass spike pounded into his head blocks his Sight leading to out of control paranoid rages. Working together, the pair escapes, but being on the outside in a city boiling over with angry werewolves divided in strife during an election year proves more dangerous than lock up.

Making last summer's Tea Party look like tea partiers, The Wolf Age is an excellent political fantasy as James Enge paints balloting skewered by the sword and claw; making Wuruyaaria seem worse than 1850s Bleeding Kansas and that of 2008 violent Kenya. The taut story line is character driven by the honor of blood werewolf voters as democracy proves deadly. With morose Morlock as the guide (see Blood of Ambrose and This Crooked Way), readers will appreciate the dark, grim and gloomy portrayal of democracy.

The Horns of Ruin
Tim Akers
9781616142469, $16.00

The three brothers were Gods until Amon betrayed and murdered Morgan. He also died leaving the sole surviving sibling Alexander as the last god.

A Morgan Paladin Eva Forge provides security for Barnabas the Fratriarch of the Cult of Morgan as he travels on a mission into dangerous sectors of the city of Ash to bring out an Amon Librarian Cassandra. Confused by the assignment, Eva knows the remaining Cult of Amon want revenge against the Morganites; as they blame their enemy for the fall of their God while choosing to ignore who initiated the betrayal. However, as Eva rides the monorails through she skies over Ash and journeys into underground lairs where the Amonites scurry like rats, she begins to uncover unnerving truths about her perceptions of past and present at the same time Alexander operative Owen investigates Barnabas' activities.

The keys to this refreshing fascinating fantasy are the city and its three prime interrelated siblings' cults. The story line is fast-paced and vivid as the intrepid trio treks through Ash though they are unsure why and Owen and Cassandra are uncertain whether to trust the brusque cantankerous follower of a different God. Although the ending feels more like a set up to the next thriller than a wrap up of the first adventures, fans will enjoy the investigation into the homicide and abduction that has the already despondent Morgan supporters in further disarray.

The Greyfriar
Clay Griffith, Susan Griffith
9781616142476, $16.00

In 1870, vampires came out of the coffins to attack western civilizations in the northern temperate zone. Instead of leading a counterinsurgency, human leaders fled south while their former subjects became food for the conquerors.

A century and a half later, the world remains divided between the vampire and human zones. A party led by Senator Clark of the American republic stunningly takes back St. Louis from the vampires. At the same time, Equatorian Empire Princess Adele is on a state visit to Marseilles when British vampire Prince Cesare kidnaps her in spite of the efforts of the mysterious freedom fighter Greyfriar. These two events bring a treaty between the two human superpowers and a plan to attack jointly the vampires.

The first Vampire Empire fantasy is an exciting thriller that grips the audience with the divided world concept that feels like a supernatural Cold War with heated incursions. The story line is fast-paced though it behooves the reader to ignore the plausibility factor; especially of the limited lack of major difference on how minorities are treated yet react radically different to injustice in both camps. Mindful of Phil Ochs' Ballard of William Worthy "But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay". Still this is an exciting paranormal futuristic spin to the Cold War.

Joel Shepherd
9781616142445, $16.00

Following what occurred to them and others at Petrodor and knowing they are fortunate to be alive, Sasha, Kessleigh and Errolyn flee to what they hope is a haven in the Bacosh held territories. The trio stops at Tracato where they hope for a respite.

However, the large city is tense with open dissension and hostilities between the serrin elected Council and their supporters, and the former powerful feudalists as the former replaced the latter two centuries ago but the former rulers want to be back in charge. As civil war from within threatens the city, the Verenthane faithful seem ready to invade Tracato. This places Sasha and her companions in jeopardy if anyone learns her family is major followers of the Verenthane.

The latest Trial of Blood and Steel saga (see Sasha and Petrodor) is a terrific entry albeit it opens with too much of the back-story especially what occurred in Petrodor for returning readers (great for newcomers). Once that opening segue is completed and the lead trio flees the city for Tracato, the action goes hyper and never slows down as the power struggle explodes. Philosophies battle for domination leaving people like Sasha caught in the middle. Ironically the enlightened alien serrin has brought prosperity to the city, but are not human; while the human feudalists when they reigned they brought prosperity only to the elite. Yet ironically many humans support the feudalists because they are human too. Once the plot accelerates, Tracato is a thought provoking action-packed social fantasy.

The Cardinal's Blades
Pierre Pevel
9781616142452, $16.00

In 1633 in Paris, Cardinal Richelieu as the first minister of France diligently works at insuring the French King Louis XIII is kept safe from his enemies in and out of the country. He especially fears the avarice ancestral dragons and their Black Claw agents, who have insidiously taken over much of the continent. The Black Claw especially wants to gain a foothold in France using the Spanish Ambassador to coerce the Cardinal to acquiesce.

Richielieu is very concerned with the demands. His only hope to forestall trouble for France resides with his Cardinal's Blades. However, they were disbanded in disgrace following a failed mission. The Cardinal asks the former leader sexagenarian Captain La Fargue to round up the crew; but he has doubts, if he can even find them, as they were betrayed on that ill-fated mission and Richelieu condemned them. However, for France he would die so La Fargue begins his quest to find his comrades in arms.

This an exhilarating alternate historical fantasy in which dragons soar over a Dumas' landscape; though the sentient beasts are more off page as their attempts to enter France with insider traitorous help vs. Richelieu and his team preventing them is the plot. The first part of the saga has a zillion relatively small subplots starring as individuals mostly the former members of the Cardinal's Blades in their own mini-lead though there are other segues (will need a scorecard); this enables the audience to know what happened to them since the fiasco "exile" and understand their specific personalities. The individual focuses converge into a super seventeenth century thriller as betrayal hinders the Cardinal's Blades. Readers will relish this sword-fighting homage to a fantasized Three Musketeers.

Anita Shreve
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316020725, $26.99,

In Hartstone, Vermont, paramedic Peter Webster stops at the scene of an apparent one car crash. Peter pulls out the unconscious driver Sheila Arsenalt who obviously was driving under the influence. He treats her injury.

Afterward he is drawn to her like a bear to honey. They have an affair and eventually marry. Soon they have a daughter Rowan. However, parenthood does not abate Sheila's drinking. Instead she hits the bottle much more until she is in another car accident with Rowan as a passenger. To keep his wife out of jail, a desperate Webster sends Sheila away. Years later, a high school senior Rowan has begun drinking; hoping for A Change in Attitude, Webster begs for Sheila to come home to help their daughter.

Rescue is an entertaining family drama starring three intriguing characters that seem to prove love is not enough to cement strong relationships. Neither Peter (as heroic first responder - even meets a teen he brought into the world years ago in an emergency), Sheila (as a woman unable to stop from hurting those she loves or herself) or Rowan (teen in peril) are fully developed beyond their dysfunctional roles. Yet in spite of the characterization, readers will enjoy Anita Shreve's enjoyable relationship tale.

How to Bake a Perfect Life
Barbara O'Neal
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway New York, NY 10036
9780553386776, $15.00,

In Colorado Springs, forty years old Ramona Gallagher loves her bakery, which brings her joy that very little else does in her life. Her other love is for her daughter Sofia who she had as a single teen.

When Sofia's husband is injured in Afghanistan, he is sent to Germany for medical care. Sofia flies to Europe to be with him. However, before leaving Colorado, she asks her mother to watch her stepdaughter thirteen year old Katie as the teen's mother is in jail on a drug charge. That summer Ramona and Katie bond, which encourages the bakery owner to reconcile with her somewhat estranged family and to take a chance on love with a man she was seeing when they were teens.

Although bonding between the "bread" generations has been done before, Barbara O'Neal bakes a fresh tale as in many ways it is the teen who teaches the adult what matters in life. Character driven mostly by Ramona but cleverly enhanced by Katie, fans will enjoy this terrific contemporary extended family drama, as the young "grandmother" discovers The Lost Recipe for Happiness.

The Last Run
Greg Rucka
9780553804751, $26.00

Thirtyish, she had been doing field work for years. British agent Tara Chace knows her job has a short time frame as evident by the death of her lover Tom Wallace in Saudi Arabia; yet, she felt she would go on forever as a Minder. Then came the fall from a rung at re-training school; a type of climb she had done twenty-nine times before without incident; she realizes her almost decade was up as her aching bones insist it is time for a desk and teaching role.

Although Tara is ready to come in from the cold, her superiors have one last errand for her. An enigmatic cryptic note has surfaced from Tehran in which the eldest nephew of the Supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Hossein, may be defecting. It also may be a brilliant ruse for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security to lure enemies into Iran to exploit them like they paraded the American Embassy workers. Tara and her extraction team sneak into Tehran knowing a double cross is likely, but though she feels her age, she refuses to be hunted when she remains a deadly predator.

The latest Queen and Country espionage thriller (see Gentlemen's Game and Private War) is a super entry due to Tara's waning confidence. She knows her time in the field is over, but dedication, loyalty and honor has her make The Last Run. Ironically, readers sort of know somewhat the danger that awaits Tara and her team in Tehran although keep in mind Greg "the magician" Rucka is the author so even a dead rabbit might be pulled out of the hat. Fast-paced from the opening training mishap until the final confrontation, fans will relish this Tara Chace kick butt spy thriller.

Skipping Christmas
John Grisham
9780440422969, $7.99

After celebrating Christmas for years with their daughter, Luther and Nora Krank decide a holiday change is what they ought to do while their offspring is serving in South America with the Peace Corps. Neither of the Kranks particularly enjoys the holidays due to crassness and the frenzies of late shopping amidst a horde. They agree to Skipping Christmas this year by going on ten day cruise with the money they didn't spend on the holiday.

They ignore charities and their neighbors who insist the lights and Frosty must go up. This year, they will be dining on a luxury ship rather than hosting a gala as they have done for years. However, the Kranks are about to learn an American lesson when it comes to Skipping Christmas as plans of mice and bah humbugs often go astray in late December.

This is a lighthearted entertaining reprint of John Grisham's satirizing a capitalist Christmas. The story line is fun, but not anywhere near the excitement of the author's legal thrillers. Still with a eggnog nod to It's A Wonderful Life, fans who enjoy a warm holiday stocking yarn will want to learn how hard it is to simply skip Christmas.

When Wicked Craves
J.K. Beck
9780440245797, $7.99

Petra Lang can never know the warm touch of another person whether it would be a lover or a friend. A hug is something she should never feel as one touch turns the nicest person into a snarling demonic beast. The Shadow Alliance leadership fears her curse will be used against them as she apparently has caused the prophecy of their deaths to begin. She must die before they die.

Vampire Nicholas Montegue rescues her from death as he needs her to save his friend Serge who she turned. However, her hero is turned into a beast. While the Alliance assassins chase them, the pair goes to his former mentor, an alchemist he betrayed centuries ago as their only hope. When she learns her death will save his friend, she willingly wants to die. However, he can no longer kill the woman he loves but can't touch.

When J.K. Beck writes a romantic fantasy readers know the tale will prove great as affirmed by When Blood Calls and When Pleasure Rules. Her latest tale is a tense twisting thriller that comes across as a paranormal Gift of the Magi starring an adult Kitty Pryde of X-women fame and a fascinating frustrated hero. Sub-genre fans will crave impatiently for when the next visit to the Beckian universe occurs.

The Pyramid of Doom
Andy McDermott
9780553593631, $7.99

As an international TV audience waits for the archeologists to open a recently discovered vault under the Great Sphinx, student Macy Sharif has found the excavation and Egypt boring as the leader Dr. Berkley detests debutantes being fostered on him due to favors and donations. Upset as she is a serious student who wants to contribute, Macy considers leaving until she overhears a discussion about another dig behind schedule. Apparently in an upper newer chamber of the Great Sphinx, led by Shaban, a splinter group is looking for a map that leads to the mythical lost pyramid of Osiris. They see her so she flees for her life. However, on Shaban's team are corrupt government officials like Hamid so they arrange for Macy to be declared a criminal while they hunt her down for execution.

Macy contacts the only person she trusts with her life, defrocked American archaeologist Nina Wilde; whose reputation has been shredded in a garbage disposal by the Eden fiasco (see The Covenant of Genesis). With former SAS operative Eddie Chase at her side the pair begins a search for the Pyramid of Osiris while trying to keep Macy safe from a fanatical cult and their Diamondback bodyguard.

The fifth Wild Chase thriller is at its best when the focus is on the race to find The Pyramid of Doom; when the tale centers on the relationship between the lead adventurers it loses steam as the quarreling bantering after four previous escapades of this makes them for the most part seem childish and petty. Still the fast-paced action is fun to follow and the prime villain ultra chilly. Andy McDermott provides an exciting entry in his enthralling saga.

Sharon Dogar
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547501956, $17.00,

In 1942, the Nazis continue to deploy the Final Solution. In Holland, brave Ditch hide Jews in their homes as the Nazis and local traitors hunt them down like animals. The van Pels and Frank families and others are hidden in an annex of an Amsterdam office building. Whereas optimist Anne keeps a dairy, fifteen years old Peter van Pels believes he is an artist with no canvas. He moans his fate. However, he also muses about God and observes his fellow rats scurry to survive. He thinks Anne is a child, but over the two plus years of intimate concealment, he begins to find he is attracted to her having moved on pass his infatuation with Liese. Over the next couple of years his interest changes as the Allies invasion of Normandy brings hope and a kiss of Anne makes him believe they and their fellow Jews have a future.

However, philosophical and mordant unlike Anne, his beliefs are affirmed when they are betrayed and taken away to various concentration camps. Now as he awaits death in 1945 at Mauthalsen concentration camp in Austria, he thinks back to the horrific war years when God chose to abandon his people.

This is a great historical fiction tale that uses The Diary of Anne Frank to tell the tale of life in the Annex from the perspective of Peter and limited historical record of what happened to him and the others (enhanced by Sharon Dogar) transported to deadly camps. Ms. Dogar captures the essence of Peter (at least from Anne's viewpoint) and brilliantly fills in gaps especially in the last quarter of the book that makes up the Part 2 Diaspora. Except for the deniers, this is a super companion piece to the classic as the readers must never forget any ethnic cleansing even if it is painful to do so. Also for another perspective (based on NPR and not my read yet), the audience should consider Francine prose's reflective look at Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife.

The Extinguished Guest
Jeanne Glidewell
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594148965, $25.95,

In Shawnee, Kansas, affluent Lexie Star is forty eight years old but has been a widow for almost two decades. She met on line jeweler Stone Van Patten while looking into a situation potentially close to home involving her twenty-five years old daughter Wendy (See Leave No Stone Unturned). Stone and Lexie are attracted to one another so he relocated from the East Coast to be with her. He purchased a historic mansion which he is converting into the Alexandria Inn B&B.

Because the inn is on the National register of Historical Places, the Rockdale Historical Society hosts its annual meeting there. However, newly elected president Horatio Prescott is shot in the head. Police Detective Wyatt Johnson leads the homicide investigation; he demands the eight society member guests and one wife remain at the inn; Stone allows them to stay gratis. However, to save the reputation of the B&B Stone and Lexie make inquiries that prove how odious of a person Horatio was.

The underlying reason Lexie and Stone provide for sleuthing seems far-fetched; but readers will put that aside as the whodunit is entertaining, the lead couple cute as middle age in love adults and the support cast eccentric including the amoral victim seen through his scorning compatriots. Character driven, readers will enjoy an extended stay at the Alexandria Inn as the amateur sleuths Leave No Stone Unturned while investigating who murdered The Extinguished Guest.

The Shooting in the Shop
Simon Brett
Five Star
9781594149245, $25.95

In Fethering, England Carole Seddon makes pre ghost Scrooge and Grinch look like Santa supporters compared to her feelings about Christmas. She believes the holidays are a ridiculous waste of time, money and energy. Her preference is to pretend the Yuletide season does not exist as it has not since her painful divorce from David and her son Stephen chose work over celebration. Now Stephen married to Gaby with a daughter Lily wants a family Christmas. Thus when her BFF Jude orders her to go Christmas shopping with her at Gallimaufry‚ she objects initially until she remembers it is discounted sales time so she agrees as only a bargain is anything positive about Christmas.

A few days after the two friends went shopping, Gallimaufry burns down. Once the fire is put out and the area cool, a body is found amidst the ashes and rubble. Although the death of pretty Polly Le Bonnier, the stepdaughter of the owner of Gallimaufry, initially looks like a tragic accident, a bullet is determined as the cause of death. Having solved mysteries before, the dynamic amateur duo Carole and Jude investigate with Gulliver assisting them.

The Fethering mystery series is always a wonderful English cozy starring a charming pair of amateur sleuths (in fairness; Jude is charming while Carole remains so wound up a shilling could not fall out of her crack). Their latest escapade is a fun whodunit as the detecting is well conceived containing a fabulous late twist and Carole becomes a reborn-holiday cheerleading aficionado due to her most gorgeous granddaughter. An eggnog toast is given to Simon Brett for another fine Fethering investigative whodunit.

The Last Matryoshka
Joyce Yarrow
Five Star
9781594148873, $25.95

In New York, Russian immigrant Nikolai hires his stepdaughter poet performer and private investigator Jo Epstein to prove he is not a killer; the corpse is in the elevator of the exclusive apartment building he and his wife (Jo's mom) Ruth live in. He proves to be as inept as a client as he is in social circles; as Nikolai tells Jo nothing except he is being framed. The existing evidence speaks loudly that he committed the homicide.

Abruptly Nikolai leaves New York stunning Jo. She follows him to Moscow where she finds herself trapped in a nineteenth century code of justice in which honor is everything to thrive for. The Matryoshka nesting dolls she sees are beautiful but odd yet also contain dangerous warnings telling Jo to go home or die as she has nothing to do with the code enforcement that is part of the imprint at the Vladimir Central prison and even infiltrates the Moscow police.

With a nod to the Godfather, the latest Jo Epstein investigation (see Ask the Dead) is extremely personal as the Manhattan based sleuth works a convoluted "personal" homicide case with ties to a previous century code of honor still thriving wherever Russian criminals operate. The Russian subculture makes for a fascinating mystery as Jo begins to unravel a complex tale of vengeance and justice inside a system of honor that demands revenge as justice; nothing including an American detective will prevent payment due.

The Blue Hackle
Lillian Stewart Carl
Five Star
9781594149221, $25.95

Retired Scottish detective inspector Alasdair Cameron and his American fiancee travel reporter Jean Fairburn look forward to their New Years wedding ceremony at Dunasheen Estate owned by his childhood friend Fergus MacDonald. On the Isle of Skye, the Dunasheen castle is run down although Fergie is trying desperately to save his heritage. His hope relies on historic artifacts found on the estate and inside the castle, and opening up the edifice as a sort of B&B for paying guests to attend a Scottish New Year gala.

However, another guest Australian Greg MacLeod is stabbed to death. Jean finds the murder weapon, an antique dirk taken from Fergie's artifact display. Several suspects emerge starting with Colin Urquhart who loves Fergie's daughter Diana and American antique dealer Scott Krum as each has motive and opportunity. However, Jean Krum's daughter Dakota has other issues besides a homicide as the ghost of Fergie's ancestor Seonaid "The Green Lady" MacDonald keeps visiting them.

The latest Jean Fairbairn-Alasdair Cameron mystery (see The Charm Stone and The Burning Glass) takes an odd seemingly paranormal spin in wintry Scotland on the eve of their marriage. Between the corpse, the cops and the uncooperative guests, fans will wonder whether the lead couple will exchange wedding vows at this time. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Australian is murdered, but is a long dead chatelaine haunting the castle or is the howls at night just the wind played up as an attraction by their host. Readers will appreciate the Fairburn-Cameron collaboration as the past and present converge in murder.

Colorado Pride
Jacquie Greenfield
Five Star
9781594149191, $25.95

As a child growing up in abject poverty‚ Seth Roberts vowed he would become affluent. As an adult he becomes a successful Colorado Springs developer. Seth believes the crown in his coming a long way is his conversion of a hospital into a five star resort.

However, his climb up the ladder of success has also meant avoiding personal relationships. Thus he is unprepared when he becomes guardian of his recently orphaned grieving twelve year old niece Nicole. He enrolls her in the J Bar D Outreach Camp for Kids whose head counselor is Heather Garrison Thomas who he recently met on a plane. The divorced mother of two rejects the handsome executive though she is attracted to him. She has sworn off clones of her former spouse. However, she is stunned with how good and patient Seth is with her nine-year-old autistic son Kyle and her precious seven year old daughter Katie unlike her ex who suddenly threatens a custody suit to take away the kids he does not want.

The third Under the Colorado Skies novel (see Colorado Secrets and Colorado Pick-Up Man) is an engaging contemporary romance that works because every key player has issues that seem real. The character driven story line is fun to follow as workaholic Seth has a new goal superseding his climb to the top of the corporate ladder. He wants to blend two families into one as he wants to be a loving daddy to his niece and Heather's two preadolescents as well as husband to his beloved. Fans will enjoy his campaign to win over the reluctant Heather who loves him but fears her taste in men as on the surface he is a replica of her ex, but deep down watching him get dirty with the three kids prove otherwise as Jacquie Greenfield provides a warm family drama.

My Occasional Torment
Bee Robb
Five Star
9781594149238, $25.95

It has been thirty three years of marriage to Sebastian Connery, yet Julia fears for her relationship. She knows her spouse, his lunatic father also named Sebastian and ashes of the extended Connery brood in the urns inside her bedroom closet remain irate with her for not naming the next generation the III.

Julia begins talking to herself. Her husband has been vanishing for periods without explanation. The ashes of her relatives agree that is like he did years ago when Sebastian was having an affair. Her imaginary self insists what do you expect after three decades of marital ennui and challenges her real self to find a faithful happy couple celebrating their silver anniversary. Julia begins her quest which leads to the retirement community of Sebastian the elder and dinner with the "Vampire" next door whose husband allegedly exploded. So far Julia has had no success on her quest to find a couple who remain in lust after five decades of marriage.

This is an intriguing look at marriage over the long run as everyone including her still disapproving of her (after three plus decades of marriage to his son) father-in-law, her Vampire neighbor next door, her teen son and most critical her other self insists intimacy inevitably becomes ennui. The support cast especially the imaginary Julia is flaky as they insist marital survival is not marital romance. Although Julia's occasional torment seems at times childish and irritatingly churlish compared with the rest of cast specifically her alter ego, fans will enjoy her quest to find one marriage of fifty years or more in which the couple remain overtly intimately in love.

Death at an Early Age
Kinley Roby
Five Star
9781594148958, $25.95

In the swamps off Bartram's Hammock, Hierba Alto tribesman Toke Wylie escorts Florida Fish and Game Warden Harry Brock to a corpse in which the victim's red high-heeled shoe sticks up incongruously as the nearest dance floor Stickpen was twenty five miles away. Harry immediately concludes this woman did not just stroll or dance to this spot as he could barely walk with his sneakers and a "guide". Toke prefers not to wait around for the law so he leaves while Harry waits for the police to arrive.

The victim is wealthy widow Lilly Rhinelander. The cops seek who financially benefits from her death leads to her unrecognized son New York African-American attorney Adrian Cooper who also appears to be the last person to have seen his mother alive. Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Fortunato builds a strong case against Cooper while Brock believes his former lover is going down the wrong swamp. Encouraged by Rector Rowena Farnham, Brock investigates leading back to Toke and the tribe and the late Lilly's "legitimized" three offspring (John Kringle, Rita Krnosky and Michael Rhinelander).

The super latest Harry Brock mystery (see Death's Other Kingdom and Two in the Churchyard for when the hero was a private investigator) has him ironically going full circle. The hero is a game warden like he was years ago in Maine, and Sonadora Asturias and Jennifer Fortunate are in his life for now as they once were. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as bullets fly while Harry works the case one swampy clue at a time.

Rose Hill Manor
Sharol Louise
Five Star
9781594149160, $25.95

Three months ago, her brother Lord Alec Chambreville's scandal led to him fleeing England for the continent and his concerned sister Lady Constance rusticating away from London. Her friend Lady Larissa Wakefield is in a panic as her sibling the tyrannical earl arrived and has interrogated her about her guest. Larissa explains she told a fib to her brother Marcus by claiming Constance is Miss Violet, her companion for the summer who was recently in Italy and a strict follower of Mrs. Carver's Hints For Young Ladies reference tome that he demands a chaperone rigidly apply. She explains she was afraid that Alec's scandal would make Constance an unacceptable friend in the mind of her proper behaved brother.

Lord Marcus and Miss Violet meet and to their chagrin they are attracted to one another. However, he has issues with her beautiful looks and sassy deportment; she has issues with his handsome looks and his overbearing deportment. As they fall in love, he uncovers one of her deepest secrets: how she uses Mrs. Carver's Hints For Young Ladies weighty book on proper etiquette.

This is a terrific amusing Georgian romance due to the cast as the lead couple is a fine pairing of a lady in disguise and an earl struggling with her impertinence that on the one hand he cherishes and on the other he scorns. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy rusticating at Rose Hill Manor as the minx teaches the tyrant how young ladies in love behave.

Weyman Jones
Five Star
9781594148798, $25.95

Mike Lyons's mother, owner of Power Meetings, a corporate meeting planning agency, took for a lover a younger man charismatic Alex Reed who worked for the firm providing inspirational speeches to clients. One day the police were called to her place and found Alex dead; his body wrapped inside a rug as if ready to be taken to a dump. She was arrested; the evidence so overwhelming, the jury took only a few hours to deliberate and find her guilty.

Mike knows his mom very well and believes even if she was dumped she would not have killed her lover. He visits his father after a decade of no contact and learns his mom called him when she found the body, but she did not heed his advice. Meanwhile two women were murdered in a similar manner to that of Alex. Mike investigates to clear his mom's name and get her out of prison. His inquiry leads to a Caribbean resort where Alex had been just before the homicide. However Mike is attracted to a woman, who is killed in the same way as in the states and the police think he did it. Mike is closing in on a killer who plans to murder Mike if the police fail to take him away.

Messages is a great thriller filled with action and misdirection which pulls the reader deeper into the storyline while adding complexity in determining if mom is the killer and if not who. In spite of the evidence, Mike believes his mom is innocent because he knows her and displays his love by risking his life to prove his assertion. Weyman Jones provides a suspense laden amateur sleuth tale as Mike and the audience run into The Unexpected as every clue leads to twists and turns.

Murder at Spouters Point
Leslie Wheeler
Five Star
9781594148866, $25.95

Native American Nate Barnes and his girlfriend Miranda Lewis come to coastal Rhode Island primarily to visit his friend Jimmy Swift, a member of the Dottaguck tribe who own the Clambanks Casino where he works maintenance. They plan to attend a pow-wow though Miranda feels out of place and a bit guilty when everyone asks Nate where his son Sammy is. She conceals from her lover that she is elated to spend some of what she fears would have been a lost weekend with her friend Erin Meloy at the Spouters Point Maritime Museum. Erin introduces her to her boyfriend George Kavanagh who one of her brothers objects to as being too old for his sister.

When someone kills George, the local cop Curtin assumes an Indian did it as he believes a white would never commit such a horrific murder. Thus he arrests Jimmy claiming circumstantial evidence. Fearing he will receive no justice from the white system, Jimmy flees into the swamps. Although filled with doubts that Jimmy is innocent in spite of Nate's belief and that Erin's volatile sibling could be the killer, Miranda investigates. This angers her boyfriend, his cronies, her friend and the cop while a psychopath watches her.

This is an entertaining Rhode Island amateur sleuth mystery that focuses on the modern day divide between whites and Native Americans while enhancing the story line with historical references. The cast is solid as the two cultures converge at Clambanks. Although the rationale for Miranda to investigate is weak, readers will enjoy this interesting whodunit.

The Tapestry Shop
Joyce Elson Moore
Five Star
9781594148996, $25.95

In 1265 in Arras, France, twenties something Citizen Adam de la Halle is accused of helping people avoid paying their taxes. Although a king favorite for his chansons and satirical comedic plays, he still is found guilty and sent away from his city in exile for a few months. Upon his return to Arras, he knows his first action is to find the thieving hangman who took his money and much more from his soul.

Adam heads to Paris to study at the university, but is distracted when he meets courageous Catherine, daughter of a Tapestry shopkeeper. She is deeply pious while he feels the Church's hypocritical intolerance towards Jews and Catha's is unacceptable. When she joins the crusade to free the Holy Land, he must decide between joining his beloved or ending their relationship before it begins as he knows having been married that love failed him once before.

This is a great medieval biographical fiction of the author of the first known Robin Hood tale. The story line brings to life this key but little known author and performer who allegedly wrote the first non religious French mystical, Le Jeu Robin et Marion (circa 1280 approximately). Fans will feel they rode one of the tapestries to late thirtieth century France as Joyce Elson Moore provides a spotlight on an intriguing era in Arras and Paris as women went on Crusades and more so introducing to fans of historical literature a fascinating pioneering writer.

Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590588062, $24.95,

The corpse is found in Botswana's Chobe National Park. The cause of death for the male victim was a gunshot. Chobe National Park game ranger Sanderson and police officer Kgabo Modise team up to investigate the homicide.

Sanderson's mind is not on the case as her son is dying of pneumonia caused by AIDS. On the other hand, Modise is euphoric about the opportunity to use his FBI trained skills. He knows he is expendable to work this case as his superiors are more focused on the World Cup overflow from host South Africa that could lead to a crime wave especially smuggling.

Closer in tone to Michael Stanley's tales of police detective David "Kubu" Bengu (see A Carrion Death) than Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective (see The Double Comfort safari Club), Reapers is a strong Botswana police procedural (see Predators). The story line is action-packed as Sanderson and Modise investigate the Chobe National park homicide while much of the police and the country are focused on the World Cup hosted by their neighbor. Although the Russian gangsters seem out of place, readers will relish this strong whodunit with insight into the save the continent "Orgonise Africa" movement based on questionable science.

South Phoenix Rules
Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen
9781590588147, $24.95

NYU Professor Jax Delgado came to Phoenix to conduct research for his next book. In town, he meets Robin and they begin dating. However, soon afterward, Delgado is viciously murdered. The acrimonious lead PPD Detective Sergeant Kate Vare believes the homicide is related to drug cartel activity.

While his wife Lindsay is in DC, historian and just resigned deputy police officer David Mapstone feels for his sister-in-law as he liked Delgado too, but this is not his type of case. He worked mostly cold cases providing a fresh perspective. However, those who killed Delgado are after Robin too. This makes the case his as far as David is concerned. As he investigates, he finds himself digging deep into a part of the city mostly concealed from the public; a place where human, weapons and drugs are trafficked without regard to the law.

The latest Mapstone mystery (see Arizona Dreams) has several interesting twists including in his personal life as the former cold case cop works the gutters of Phoenix. The story line is action-packed from the moment Robin opens the box and never slows down until the final confrontation. Readers will root for the professor as he risks his life and freedom trying to keep his sister-in-law safe.

Dead Lift
Rachel Brady
Poisoned Pen
9781590588109, $24.95

Emily Locke, after losing her husband, rescued her infant daughter who had been taken from her and sold to a couple who thought the purchase was legal (see Final Approach). She and her child move to Houston where she works as an assistant to her private investigative friend Richard Cole. Their client, wealthy society lady Claire Gaston, is charged with the death of Dr. Wendell Platt, who was murdered in his home and her fingerprints are everywhere including on the murder weapon. She swears that she never met the victim nor knows where her missing current husband Daniel is after they had quite a public brawl.

Emily believes their client is innocent because her first concern is for her children who she fears her first husband will take them home with him to Argentina. During the conversation, she learns that the lawyer Richard works for defended the group that kidnapped her daughter. Despite everything Emily remains on the investigation, which leads her to Diana King. Claire believes she framed her because she had an affair with her husband. After sleuthing, not always legally, Emily concludes they are looking in the wrong direction; she changes direction and soon thinks another murder is connected to Platt's. She soon becomes the recipient of threatening emails and an attempt on her life.

The second Emily Locke private investigative thriller hits the heroine in the gut when she learns who their client is and in the heart when she learns who Claire's concerns are for. It is for latter, as much as for her own needs that Emily goes beyond stretching legality by breaking the law. The rest of the cast is solid especially still sassy smack the butt BFF Jeannie.

Dead Man's Chest
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen
9781590587973, $24.95

It is time for a vacation and Queenscliff, a quiet seaside resort is the place where the Honorable Phryne Fisher, her housekeeper and companion Dot, and her adopted daughters (Ruth and Jane) go. It is a quaint coastal village, so no one would expect a murder there. Phryne sees trouble when three bullies assault a younger person.

She breaks up the fight and Tinker joins her household. The Johnsons who were supposed to be the household servants meeting them at the cottage never show up and ergo no cook. Fortunately Ruth wants to be a chef, but Phryne still wants to know where they are. The old biddy who lives across the street saw men get into a dark limo showing signs of duress. Phryne thinks there is mystery involving the vanishing and she intends to learn what it is to insure they are safe. Soon more people join her household as Phryne finds places for all these desperate misfits in order to keep them safe while she learns what happened to the Johnson's.

If this Australian historical mystery took place in 2010 instead of the late 1920s, readers (religious right would not read her exploits only condemn her as amoral) would s classify Phryne as a caring free spirit not concerned with adhering to social rules and order. The heroine and her entourage search for the missing servants and take in several endangered stragglers. Filled with action and a sense of time and place, Phryne is at her best whether it is fighting punks, arguing with Pussykins the parrot or wondering about the surrealist movement that seems to have taken over the quaint holiday spot. Fans will enjoy the often amusing but sometimes dangerous antics of Fisher and friends (see Murder on a Midsummer Night, Death by Water and Murder in the Dark).

Absolute Risk
Steven Gore
Poisoned Pen
9781590587713, $24.95

Fed Reserve Chair Milton Abrams asks San Francisco private investigator Graham Gage to investigate the death of a former FBI agent Michael Hennessy in France just before they were to meet even though it appears to be a suicide. His inquiry leads Gage to deported MIT Economics Professor Hani Ibrahim, who was kicked out of the country after Hennessey proved he was leading a money laundering scheme to fund foreign terrorists.

In rural China, an earthquake causes mass destruction and leads to anger and rioting from fuming workers upset with the government response. Their insurgency places the mission of Gage's wife Faith to rescue two Chinese friends from government forces in peril. Gage finds evidence that Ibrahim, using a too big to fail hedge fund, is plotting a terrorist assault on the fragile world economy. However, his work endangers his spouse from Ibrahim's subordinates. Meanwhile, evangelical President Cooper Wallace believes the global economic recession is part of God's master plan so he has doubts if he should intervene in alleviating the crisis.

The second gage tale (see Final Target) is a fabulous somewhat over the top financial thriller. Fast-paced, Steven Gore provides the reader with incredible insight into the too big to fail funding yet with plenty of macroeconomics, the action never slows down. Readers will want to join Gage as he hops from California to Marseille to China following the money trail.

Deadly Identity
Lindsay McKenna
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373774746, $7.99,

In Miami spousal abuser Dirk Payson, a Mexican cartel drug runner in the States, beat his pregnant wife Susan until she lost the baby. Five years of marital hell ends for the twenty-three years old victim when she testifies against Dirk in court before being placed in the Witness Protection Program.

Five years later, Dirk escapes prison; FBI Agent Brenda Wilkins informs his former wife called Susan Johnson she must leave New York City immediately. Her new identity is Rachael Carson and her home is Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

In her new home, Rachel helps Sheriff Cade Garner care for little Jenny by hiring on as the motherless child's nanny. Cade senses something is not right about Rachel; little things a non law enforcement official would not notice. As he falls in love with the nanny, he prays she would tell him the truth as he swears her will keep her safe from whoever haunts her. However, he also fears confronting her as knows if he does she will bolt like the scared rabbit she is.

Mindful of the Roberts-Bergen film Sleeping With The Enemy, Deadly Identity is an engaging exciting romantic suspense even with the reader anticipating a confrontation in picaresque Jackson Hole. The story line is fast-paced with likable lead protagonists, a wonderful little girl and a vile villain. Although nothing new is added to the theme, fans will relish this exhilarating thriller even while knowing what to expect when High Noon comes to Wyoming.

Shadow of the Sheikh
Nina Bruhns
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618477, $5.25

The note from her sister Gillian the historian says not to worry as she claims she is doing okay but is in love (see Lord of the Desert). Concerned for her sibling anyway, Cultural anthropologist Gemma Haliday wants to be looking at her sister "Jelly Bean" when she hears how Gillian is doing.

In the Nubian desert of Egypt to find Gillian, Gemma knows immortal shapeshifter Sheikh Shahin "Black Hawk" Aswadi has information as to the whereabouts of her sister. Thus she follows him into the forbidden zone where mortals never dare travel; not even the nomads have crossed into this area in a century. She enters the oasis of his people who worship the God Set-Sutekh where her prey captures her. Caught with overt desire for the Black Hawk, Gemma agrees to accompany him when he enters the underground city although she knows once you cross through the portal you can never exit. However, she had not expected to be a key player in an ancient war between Shahin's vampire leader Seth-Aziz and their immortal enemy Haru-re.

The second Immortal Sheikhs desert romantic fantasy is a delightful thriller starring an intrepid heroine and the immortal who dares to love her. Gemma is a bulldog who once she makes up her mind no one can budge her though her sisters can nudge her. Shahin recognizes his beloved's obstinacy and uses it as a tool to get his beloved to come to him; which she does into the pits of hell but engulfed by love. Filled with excitement, Shadow of the Sheikh is an enjoyable Haliday tale with one more sister to go.

Alaskan Wolf
Linda O. Johnston
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618491, $5.25

In Alaska Alpha Force Lieutenant Patrick Worley serves as an undercover dogsled driver at the remote Great Glacier Dog Ranch. His current cover assignment is escorting naturalist magazine writer Mariah Garver to an isolated area where she plans to research the wildlife of a glacier for an article she is writing. Besides obviously keeping the civilian safe, the shapeshifting wolf's security task is to investigate the strange happenings occurring to the glaciers.

Besides her prime subject, Mariah wants to know more about the glacial mystery too. She accidentally uncovers her guide's secret. They team up when they learn am industrialist is destroying the glaciers to expedite extraction of minerals from the ocean floor. The pair plans to prevent an ecological disaster from happening.

This is an enjoyable glacial romantic fantasy starring two likable strong protagonists and intriguing environmental vs. development scenario. He finds his desire for his client distracting him from his mission; while she finds him desirable. Although the remote glacial background is glossed over so lacks the deep starkness of the region, Linda O Johnston provides a fast-paced paranormal romantic thriller.

The Wolven
Deborah LeBlanc
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618484, $5.25

In New Orleans, a serial killer is targeting werewolves. The victims are always left dead in their wolf body with claws and fangs removed as if the predator collected souvenirs. The Keeper of the local Wolven populace shopkeeper Shauna MacDonald is sworn to protect the packs so she investigates the murders. She teams up with alpha pack leader Danyon Stone, who has had several of his members killed.

The pair concludes the predator is murdering werewolves to obtain their claws and fangs not as memorabilia or ritual items. Instead once extracted, the body parts are grounded into a fine powder that enables the user to gain immense physical prowess to rival that of a genuine shifting werewolf without changing from their human form. As the duet work on the case, they realize they want more as each knows this their mate.

The key to this strong New Orleans urban romantic fantasy is the smooth interweaving of recent real events with the paranormal happenings. The story line is fast-paced as the lead couple investigate the homicides, which continual unabated, and fall in love; though for the most part their romance takes a back seat to stopping a diabolical killer.

Miracle Baby
Laura Bradford
Harlequin American Romance
9780373753369, $4.99

In Michigan Maggie Monroe and Rory O'Brien have dealt with the numbing loss of a loved one. However, they have reacted differently. Whereas he has moved on through the phases of grief, she remains in the early stasis frozen with grief and unable to move on.

Working together to renovate her Uncle Doug's century old inn, Rory the carpenter knows Maggie and his faith are his prime reasons for moving on as he loves her. He acts slowly knowing if he rushes their relationship she will flee. He hopes to receive the gift of a second chance at love relationship with Maggie for Christmas because she is a keeper and he hopes he is her keeper too.

This is an uplifting hopeful holiday romance starring two fascinating lead characters who both know how it feels when a love one dies. Maggie is a real person as she can count seemingly to the nanosecond how much time has passed since her beloved Jack and Natalie died. Rory grieves too for his loss, but has gotten on with his life though his carpentry work. Readers will fully relish this second chance at love due to the super stars.

The Sheriff's Christmas Surprise
Maria Ferrarella
Harlequin American Romance
9780373753338, $4.99

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Forever, Texas Sheriff Enrique "Rick" Santiago walks out of his home only to see a baby boy strapped in a baby seat on his doorstep. At the same time he is stunned by the toddler, almost thirty attorney Olivia Blayne feels almost ninety as she searches for her runaway sister Tina as she wants to bring home her sibling and her three months old nephew Bobby. Rick and Olivia meet and she explains confusingly what happened; but he points out her sister is an adult who may have been brainwashed by Don Norman to come with him, but it sounded like no law was broken.

She learns Tina was critically injured from a car accident and her nephew was dumped in Forever. Olivia goes to Forever to find the sheriff is caring for her relative. As she spends time with the sheriff and Bobby, Olivia falls in love, but she is a hot shot Dallas lawyer and not a Forever type of woman. Rick plans to persuade her otherwise.

Although the giftwrapping with ribbons ending seems a stretch, readers will enjoy the warmhearted Sheriff's Christmas Surprise due to a fully developed powerful cast as the lead couple is strong but so are the townsfolk. Readers will appreciate spending the holidays in Texas as Rick and Olivia fall in love, but he is forever while she is Dallas.

The Best Laid Plans
Sarah Mayberry
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373716692, $5.50

Thirty-eight years old Melbourne corporate attorney Alex Knight has always separated her legal career from her personal life; some would argue she fostered her professional life at the cost of her personal life. However, lately she feels her biological clock ticking away as she wants a child to raise with or without a man.

Since she has no male prospects, Alex asks her friend Ethan Stone to donate his sperm. He agrees until he learns what the medical procedure involves; she is stunned too. Attracted to one another, they agree to try sex that becomes lovemaking to bring a child into the world. However, she has doubts about wanting a threesome and he has major commitment issues.

The Best Laid Plans is a terrific Australian contemporary romance due to the strong lead protagonists and the wonderful setting that brings out their personal needs and flaws. Readers will believe Alex's biological clock ticking down, but it is the almost psychotic fear of commitment by Ethan that makes for a strong tale as the more he falls in love the more he psychologically denies and runs from love.

Life Rewritten
Margaret Watson
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373716739, $5.50

Following the drug death of her lover and Redhead band member Diesel, Delaney Spencer has reinvented her life. She is no longer rock star Chantal and has become a carpenter in Otter Tail, Wisconsin. Delaney has become a good member of the community and actually still performs with a local band.

Diesel's brother Sam McCabe has located Chantal. He arrives in Wisconsin demanding she give him the recordings she and his late sibling made just before he died to secure the future for Diesel's two children, Leo and Rennie. He is their guardian since their mom Heather is incapable of caring for them. When she hesitates, frustrated by her and his desire for her, he accuses her of killing his sibling by hooking him to the drugs; which she denies. Still Delaney must decide whether to continue to hide from celebrity status or take a chance that her alcoholism is under control.

Life Rewritten is a strong family drama starring individuals tied together by their grief for a deceased loved one. The cast is strong. The kids feel frightened and abandoned; Sam is filled with anger and survivor guilt; and Delaney is a recovering alcoholic who logically knows she did not turn Diesel into an addict as he was a user before they met, but feels illogical guilt by not intervening to stop him. This is a winner as even Fluffy the dog has real flaws (and not just the gas).

That Christmas Feeling
Brenda Novak, Kathleen O'Brien and Karina Bliss
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373716685, $5.50

"A Dundee Christmas" by Brenda Novak. In Dundee, Idaho, illegal Guatemalan Cierra Santos is trapped with no prospects as Charlie who she was to marry dies. Former football player Ken Holbrook gives her shelter during a snowstorm and soon a job and his heart follow.

"We Need a Little Christmas" by Kathleen O'Brien. In Hallem Fork, Virginia, Araby Ranch owner eighty-nine year old Duke ends up in the hospital with two broken hops and double pneumonia. His staff led by Annie Browning knows how much the Joyland Christmas show means to him so they go all out to make it happen as they fear this may be Duke's last act. Annie struggles to make the magic happen but needs a miracle. Duke's estranged grandson Nathaniel comes to see his relative and soon he and Annie believe in miracles.

"Kiss Me, Santa" by Karina Bliss. In Suburban Auckland, New Zealand, Widower Mike Ward has never moved on since his wife died years ago. His neighbor Erica Owens and her son Will ignore his request to be left alone for the holidays and beyond as they insist he decorates his home for Christmas; not realizing they are decorating his heart with joy.

These are three wonderful holiday romances with deep leads and strong support characters. Readers will believe they caught That Christmas Feeling as Brenda Novak, Kathleen O'Brien and Karina Bliss provide three beautiful contemporaries.

Private Affairs
Tori Carrington
Harlequin Blaze
9780373795789, $4.99

In Earnest, Washington Penelope Weaver runs a successful coffee shop while kind of dating town Sheriff Barnaby Jones. Fifteen years ago, Palmer DeVoe left town and his sweetheart Penelope to become a successful contractor; until now he never came back.

Now Palmer is back in Earnest; considered by many of the townsfolk, except for the female Weaver clan, as a hero because of his business achievements. He has come home because he misses Penelope and hopes for a second chance with her. However, as their passion soars, she knows she owes him the truth about the deep secret she still hides from him.

The extended eccentric Weaver family brings humor to an engaging second chance at love tale; if she ever gets around to telling him her secret and if he wears her moccasins so that he can understand why she did what she did. Filled with business dealings that is some ways detracts from the prime plot yet also anchors the story line with realism because that is who Palmer is. Fans will guess early on Penelope's secret, but will not care as Tori Carrington provides a fabulous Pacific Northwest contemporary romance.

Taking Care of Business
Kathy Lyons
Harlequin Blaze
9780373795802, $4.99

In a Chicago high rise elevator, advertising executive Julie Thompson and "the sexy janitor" take one look at one another and leap into each other's arms. Both know their behavior is inappropriate, but neither can resist the lure and even bring kinkiness to their trysts.

Her janitor is actually Sam Finn, the undercover multimillionaire who owns the skyscraper and has been fantasizing about sex with Julie after watching her on the security monitors. Although he feels like a voyeur, he cannot stop. Now he has the real thing, which is so much better. However her firm is failing so she will be gone in under a month; Sam will do whatever it takes to keep his Julie handcuffed to him though he fears her reaction to the truth about himself.

Taking Care of Business in the elevator, the board room, the office and elsewhere is a fun funky frolic. The key to what could have been over the top of the Willis Tower is that Kathy Lyons never takes her story line grave yard (or Cubs) serious as the tongue in cheek (and other places) plot is an engaging contemporary erotic romance starring two likable lead characters.

The Shifters
Alexandra Sokoloff
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618460, $5.25

In New Orleans, a potential epidemic has spread across the city. Spirits without bodies are occupying humans and paranormal entities until they burn out their host leaving behind a dead person or other.

Shapeshifter guardian Caitlin MacDonald is assigned to end the lethal possession practice. She works closely with bounty hunter shifter Ryder Mallory over her objection as she does not trust his species. However, he is the one who has trailed these Walk-Ins to New Orleans so she has no choice but to team up with the expert. In spite of her overt scorning of him and their mutual attraction that he embraces and she loathes, when she becomes a target, he has more than her back. Neither is prepared for what they find when they reach the ephemeral ground zero.

Though a bit over the top with the ultimate source, readers will be hooked with this terrific urban romantic fantasy starring a bigot who has classified all shifters as shiftless evil until Ryder rocks her world with honesty and compassion. Fast-paced from the moment Caitlin angrily muses over a latte that her BFF is an idiot for loving a despicable Other until the final confrontation fans will enjoy this super thriller.

Luck of the Wolf
Susan Krinard
9780373774692, $7.99

In 1882 Cort Renier left his werewolf clan as an outcast in exile. He pursues a life of revenge. In San Francisco, Cort gets in on a high stakes poker game and wins the biggest stake.

Raised in isolation in mountainous Carantia by Franz who hid her to keep her safe, Aria di Reinardus travels to California seeking other Caranthian exiles and hopefully wehrwolfe entities like her. In San Francisco she was abducted, but Cort won her in gambling game. Cort thinks the European is perfect for his plans of revenge. With allies, he will pass Aria off as the lost Reinardus heiress and escort her to her clan in New Orleans. However, he is so consumed with vengeance, Cort fails to recognize his life mate when he met her; she knows from the start who her rescuer is. As his plans go awry due to his traitorous heart, Cort risks his life to keep his beloved safe from adversaries who fear she may be royalty and want her dead.

The latest Renier historical werewolf romance (see Bride of the Wolf) is a superb entry as the hero learns being a an avenging lone wolf is cold now that he has met his mate; although he took a long time to accept who she is. Fast-paced, sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine late nineteenth century paranormal with a touch of mystery while wondering just like Cort does whether his beloved actually is the Reinardus heiress; regardless he knows the Luck of the Wolf is winning her love.

Touch of Temptation
Rhyannon Byrd
9780373774791, $7.99

Kellan Scott is the youngest member of his werewolf pack. He is an emotional wreck who conceals his heart from everyone even himself to avoid being hurt. He is very attracted to witch Chloe Harcourt, but works diligently to deny his feelings.

However, even with his efforts to deny his desire, Kellan begins to believe Chloe is his one. As he fears what that means, Chloe assumes her sexual need for Kellan is symptomatic of her Merrick sexual hunger heritage and the Mallory curse, which embellishes the emotions of people who come into contact with her. Both sing I'm not in love yet each wonders why this feels different.

The latest Primal Instinct romantic urban fantasy (see Touch of Seduction and Touch of Surrender) is a wonderful entry mostly due to Kellan's denial as his refrain is I'm Not in Love (10 CC). The story line is at its best when it remains in the present conflict; when the tale focuses on the past, it loses some of its speed. Still readers will enjoy visiting the Byrd universe as the author's deft touch makes the werewolf society seem genuine.

Scoundrel's Honor
Rosemary Rogers
9780373774562, $7.99

In Yabinsk, Russia, distraught Emma Linley-Kirov worries about her sixteen years old sister Anya who left with two strangers. Whereas Emma wants to believe they abducted her sibling, English nanny and close friend to her late mom Diana Stanford insists Anya left with the wealthy gentlemen willingly because she would see them as the ticket to performing on the stage.

A desperate Emma, fearing her sister will be sold as a sex slave, pleads with the affluent devil Dimitri "Beggar Czar" Tipova, leader of the underground, to bring her sibling home. He agrees but hides his reason and what he plans to charge her for his service. An illegitimate, Dimitri detests his father the count and would do anything to destroy the odious man who he also knows is involved with illegal activity. As he follows the trail with his "client" at his side, cynical Dimitri falls in love with innocent Emma; risking his life to keep her safe from unknown adversaries that want one or both of them never to return to St. Petersburg.

The lead couple is a delightful pairing and the support cast enhances the sense of place in the exciting story line. The pursuit takes Emma and Dimitri to England and Egypt. On the trail, they fall in love while mounting a rescue attempt and dodging some nasty foes. However, this terrific late nineteenth century romantic suspense is owned by Russia as Rosemary Rogers serves as a super tour guide.

Double-Edged Detective
Mallory Kane
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373695041, $4.99

In St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, Police detective Ryker Delancey concludes a serial killer is operating in the area. However, he has failed to sell his theory to his boss Mike Davis though four women have died in the last five years starting with Autumn Moser. Instead, for the past year, on his free time he serendipitously guards the only person to survive this psychopath though not authorized to do so.

As the anniversary of her escape draws near, Ryker doubles his surveillance of chef Nicole Beckham because he fears the predator will make a statement on that day. He is attracted to her and her to him, but Nicole remains angry that she is the prisoner instead of the person who wanted to kill her. However, when another female victim surfaces, Nicole realizes her only hope to survive resides with the dedicated cop who watches over her like a guardian angel.

This is an exciting unauthorized regional police procedural starring two likable lead characters and a strong support cast especially the victims' loved ones, the cops, his family and those at the restaurant. Fast-paced though a straight forward romantic intrigue, fans will the first Delancey Dynasty thriller as Ryker and Nicolle fall in love while he tries to keep her safe with his twin (next story) having his back.

One Wicked Sin
Nicola Cornick
9780373774876, $7.99

By 1813, following a divorce and her family disowning her, Lottie Cummings has no options. As the scandal of the moment she desperately takes a position at the Temple of Venus brothel, but Madam Mrs. Tong fires her when five visitors leave because she bored them.

Irish Baron Ethan Ryder was a mercenary in Napoleon's cavalry before he was captured by the English. An illegitimate son of a duke, Ethan is on honor-bound parole. He offers Lottie the position of being his mistress, which she accepts as even the houses of ill reputes reject her. However, Lottie may be outrageous in her behavior, but she is no fool. Something is not quite right with her employer who seems to be using her as a facade, but for what she has no idea nor is she sure she wants to know; as she fears the street would be her next domicile.

This is an excellent Scandalous Women of the Ton saga (by sea, Whisper of Scandal) as love is not enough especially when trust is non existent and betrayal seems everywhere. Fast-paced, Regency romance fans will want to know the One Wicked Sin between the mercenary and the divorcee and whether they will fly away together.

Natural Born Hustler
Nikki Turner
One World
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345523600, $13.00,

Desember Day comes home to hear her normally go with the flow mom Angie yelling at her latest husband, construction firm CEO Joe Livingstone for coming home drunk. Once gain, Desember vows to herself she will never depend economically on a three legged male; even Fame Marauder who she hated when they attended Carver Elementary School. Instead she will sell anything to achieve monetary independence.

Fame and Desember go to see the movie Dreamgirls, but leave early. They enter his car when shots are fired. He is critically wounded with a bullet to his lungs and rushed to a hospital fighting for his life. His mother Francine blames Desember and threatens to kill her. While Fame lies in ICU, Desember looks back on their relationship and wonders how they got to this point. Soon afterward she meets the paternal side of the family including her dad for the first time and learns that being a Natural Born Hustler is in the gene pool.

This is an entertaining street lit contemporary novella starring a fascinating chip off the old block (see A Hustler's Wife and Forever A Hustler's Wife). Although the ending sets up a sequel as much as a partial a finale to a strong urban tale, this character driven story line is fast-paced from the moment Fame is shot and never slows down as Desember (and readers) meets her roots and much more.

Morning Glory
Diana Peterfreund
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345523938, $14.00,

Becky Fuller left Fairleigh Dickinson University to accept a job as a TV morning show producer at Channel 9 in New Jersey. Her goal is to one day be the senior producer of Good Morning, New Jersey. However, her climb to the top is caught in traffic when her boss Oscar fires her though he insists she is terrific.

However, Oscar sent her resume to his friend Jerry at IBS in Manhattan, who hires Becky as producer of the lowest rated news show on the planet, Daybreak. She accepts and soon finds herself working with equipment from the prehistoric age and reporters who belong in a celebrity failure reality show. She learns there is a betting pool as to when she flees for the other side of the Hudson. Becky hires renowned newscaster Mike Pomeroy as a co-anchor with Colleen Peck, in what is a clash of the superegos. Mike rejects the fluff as not news as he refuses to interview pet psychics and is nasty towards Becky. She finds the producer of the only hard news show Adam Bonnet supportive although attracted to him she wonders about his motive. As the clock ticks on Daybreak and her dying career and even deader love life, Beck panics while trying to salvage her show.

Although journalistic romances have been done a zillion time (see the original movie this tale is based on and His Girl Friday), fans will enjoy the zany life of a producer struggling to survive today. Fans will roots for Becky to make it, but the odds are so poor Jerry has not even signed her to a contract. With a strong support cast starting with the battle of the network anchors, Morning Glory is a fun lighthearted Manhattan romp.

A Christmas Odyssey
Anne Perry
9780345518583, $18.00

With less than two weeks before Christmas, not everyone in frozen London is rejoicing. Affluent sexagenarian James Wentworth feels bah humbug ill over the behavior of his son Lucien. All the younger Wentworth dies for are drugs and sex ever since he discovered the dens of iniquity in the West End last year after meeting Sadie.

Desperate to save his offspring from himself, Wentworth turns to his long time friend Henry Rathbone for help. Henry agrees to find the lad who he remembers as being nice and charming. However, though he has hope and promise for a happy intervention, Henry also knows he ventures into a part of London's depravity he is totally unfamiliar with. On his Christmas Odyssey into the West End, Rathbone meets former brothel owner Squeaky Robinson employed at Hester Monk's clinic and Dr. Crow physician to the downtrodden and underbelly. The three unite to follow clues to Sadie and her brutal owner Shadwell while also encountering Bessie the courageous teen.

The annual Anne Perry Victorian Christmas saga is a great but very dark thriller in which the beacons of light in the Shadwell shadows of the slums comes from the hopes of the three males and the teen who joined them on their venture. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the audience anticipates a Christmas showdown between the Odyssey voyagers and the evil that welcomes them to his version of the Eagles' Hotel California.

All Clear
Connie Willis
9780553807677, $26.00

The twenty-first century historians (Polly Churchill, Merope Ward, and Michael Ward) remain stuck in England during the Nazi Blitz of the country. After being separated for a time (see Blackout), they reunite in London. However, their effort to find a way to tell their future associates at Oxford in 2060 about their predicament remains impossible.

They also know time is running out before Polly's presence causes a time paradox having been to this era once before. Their fears over the Polly quandary also have them afraid they may have already changed 1940, which will have ripple effects into their time and beyond.

The sequel to Blackout is a fantastic time travel thriller as the trio struggles with the notions that ironically time is running out on them and they may have caused a change in the future. The story line is fast-paced, but the previous tale must be read first to grasp the nuances of All Clear. Fans will relish this strong tale as the trapped threesome in 1940 is unaware that their colleagues back in 2060 are working a time correction to insure All Quiet on the Western Front.

Blood and Fire
Nick Brownlee
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312550240, $25.99,

In Mombassa former British police detective turned Kenyan fishing boat skipper Jake Moore's business partner Martha Brantley has returned to New York where she is murdered. FBI Agent Clarence Bryson, who tried to warn her, believes her assassination has to do with Moore's assistance to Kenyan Detective Inspector Daniel Jouma, which devastated a human-trafficking ring (see Bait).

Bryson and Agent McCrickerd travel to Mombassa because they believe the deadly gang is cleaning up by killing those who impeded their lucrative business with Moore at the top of the hit list. The American Feds trace the series of murders to a professional team of assassins tied to the traffickers. Jouma struggles with government corruption, cronyism, bribes and incompetence while investigating a missing nun case and a local homicide as the new mayor wants him fired. Finally Jake tries to get back to his fishing boat business, but the suits are planning progress that will destroy his locale Flamingo Bay.

Although too much is going on too quickly, readers will appreciate this powerful Kenyan crime thriller as the bad guys are clearly defined early when a killer takes a knife to Martha's cat. Ironically the readers know much earlier than the cops and former cop who the psychopaths are, but that will not matter to the audience, as the action never stops. With a strong sense of locale, armchair warriors will enjoy the latest African adventure and want Moore from Nick Brownlee.

The Last Confession
Solomon Jones
9780312580209, $24.99

A mass killer calling himself "the Angel of Death" murders three people in a church. The police arrest Father Thomas O'Reilly, who is convicted and sentenced to death. In spite of the overwhelming evidence against the priest that he committed the Confessional Killings, Philadelphia homicide detective who led the investigation Michael Coletti had doubts.

Now a decade since the killings, Coletti is near retirement after over three decades on the force but as the O'Reilly execution date nears, his sense that the wrong man was convicted remains strong especially when he poorly sleeps. When homicides similar to that of the Angel of Death occur, Coletti believes the culprit has returned. He, police detective Charles Mann, and Pennsylvania state police profiler Mary Smithson try to solve the killings with clues that lead back to Coletti and the long time homicide detective's old cases.

Super Solomon Jones provides a strong gritty police procedural in which the author merges his Street Lit roots into a grim Philadelphia whodunit. The story line is fast-paced as the audience is hooked wanting to accompany the cops as they investigate the new wave of murders. Although the final confrontation fits the key cast personalities and the inquiry (from a Monday morning quarterback perspective), it feels too simple yet somehow apropos as Mr. Jones with his unique voice is a great welcome to the sub-genre.

Outwitting Trolls
William G. Tapply
9780312531270, $24.99

Ken Nichols and Brady Coyne were once happily married neighbors living in the burbs. That was a seemingly a century ago as both are divorced with Brady the lawyer residing in Boston and Ken the veterinarian in Baltimore. A decade since the two men has seen each other, but Ken calls telling Brady he will be in town for a convention. They meet and have a drink together.

The next day, Ken's ex wife Sharon finds him brutally stabbed to death in his Natick hotel room. She calls Brady, who is at dinner with he wife, his son, and his son's friend, but readily rushes to the homicide scene as her lawyer. Brady wonders if Ken's strange discussion with an intruder when they socialized last night is involved with his murder. As he makes inquiries, he learns a lot about his former neighbor's apparent involvement with peddling date-rape drugs to pay off massive debts and another family homicide that obviously ties to the first one; he finds what he recalls of his neighbors were a facade to a darker life.

In all probability the last Coyne thriller as William G. Tapply died last year is a terrific walk off home run at Fenway Park. Coyne is his usual solid self uncovering truths about his neighbors that he would prefer not to know while struggling to connect with Billy who still blames his dad for the break up of their family in spite of their male bonding two years in Idaho; as he believes his father placed clients ahead of him and his mom; the Nichols case affirms his contention. Fans of the series will appreciate this great whodunit while wondering what happened to Sparky the Cat.

Palace of Justice
Susanne Alleyn
9780312379896, $24.99

In 1793 in Paris, a copycat killer imitates the guillotine by beheading people. Headless corpses can be found in many neighborhoods. The police seem to make no progress on either finding the culprit of the rash of gruesome homicides or ending the terror.

Former Republic justice minister Georges Danton asks Aristide Ravel to investigate at a critical moment in peace negotiations with the English. He tells his sleuth time is short to apprehending the predator. As he follows clues, a government official becomes a victim, which only places additional pressure on Ravel to find the serial killer.

The latest Aristide Ravel French historical mystery (see The Cavalier of the Apocalypse) is a great entry that besides being an enjoyable whodunit investigation also provides a deep look at the era. Fast-paced from the moment Danton assigns the sleuth with ending the copycat serial killer; Ravel understands the cost of failure is a date with Madame Guillotine and success could also mean a date with the sharp edged executioner's blade. This is a great entry in one of the best historical mystery series on the market today.

Miss Dimple Disappears
Mignon F. Ballard
9780312614744, $24.99

In 1942 on a cold November in Georgia, elderly Elderberry Grammar School teacher Miss Dimple Kilpatrick takes her usual morning walk in the town park. She is oblivious to a car quietly following her with the beams off though it is still dark outside.

Not longer after the first grade teacher of four decades was strolling in the park, the school janitor is found dead in the storage closet and Miss Dimple missing. One of her students Willie Elrod insists to his mother that he saw spies kidnap "poor Miss Dimple." Third grade teacher Charlie Carr is worried about the disappearance of her former teacher who would never vanish during the school year. She persuades her best friend fourth grade teacher Annie Gardner to help her investigate what happened to the long time first grade teacher. She also wants to find out if there are ties to the janitor's death though the latter is most likely due to natural causes. At the same time Charlie feels guilty that her boyfriend is serving as a corpsman while she is attracted to the boyfriend of her BFF.

The author of the charming Augusta Goodnight mysteries, Mignon F. Ballard begins a new series located in the home front of a small-town Georgia during WWII. The background is wonderful with a deep look at Elderberry preparing for war with moms, sisters and daughters knowing some of the men joining the military will not come home. The mystery of Miss Dimple Disappears is a fun cozy as the investigation is well written, but it is the townsfolk doing their part to support the war effort that makes this a winner.

D.E. Meredith
9780312557683, $24.99

Perhaps the Victorian Age is misnamed and should be replaced by Darwinian Age as by 1856 scientists, treasure seekers and amateurs seem to be traversing the world in search of new species and odd or exotic ancient artifacts. London is not immune to the chaos as murder for possessions is not unique.

Collector Lady Blessingham is murdered in her bedroom. Yet in spite of the homicide, her vast collection of valuable artifacts, tribal masks, and fossils seem untouched. Working from out of the morgue's basement with no funding, Forensics Professor Adolphus Hatton and his assistant Albert Roumonde arrive at Blessingham's home to conduct a scientific autopsy of the corpse. Their insistence on seeing the dead body at the murder sight is considered blasphemous by some Londoners especially religious people. They soon expand their search of the home for clues like motive as something was sought by the murderer and opportunity as the killer gained easy entrance. The pair assists Scotland Yard's Inspector Adams' search for the culprit.

This fantastic Victorian Age whodunit is as much a historical tale as it is an investigative thriller. The wealth of detail is incredible as readers will believe they are in London in 1856 yet with so much vividness, D.E. Meredith never takes her eye off the mystery. Readers will relish this engaging story as Hatton and Roumonde apply the new "voodoo" science of forensics to the homicide.

The Killing Storm
Kathryn Casey
9780312379520, $25.99

FBI special agent David Garrity asks his girlfriend Texas Ranger profiler Lieutenant Sarah Armstrong to help him on a missing child case in which he leans towards the mom Crystal who was supposedly watching her child when he was kidnapped. At a Houston playground, while his parents argued on a cellphone, someone using the missing dog ploy abducted their four years old son, Joey.

As she agrees to assist David, Sarah and Ranger Sergeant George "Buckshot" Fields investigate the horrific decapitation killings of prize-winning bulls; the butcher carves cryptic African etching on the dead hides. While seeking clues in both cases, Hurricane Juanita appears heading for land in the Houston area frightening Sara, who is worried about the safety of her recently widowed mom as the cases take a frightening intertwining.

The third Armstrong police procedural (see Singularity and Blood Lines) is a great thriller as the heroine's personal fear for her mom enhances the prime twin investigative plots. Fast-paced, readers will be hooked from start to finish, but especially when Sarah begins to connect the dots between her two inquiries. Fans will appreciate this strong Texas mystery.

The Dove of Death
Peter Tremayne
9780312551209, $25.99

In 670, married couple Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf sails home aboard the Irish merchant ship the Barnacle Goose after attending the deadly Council of the Cursed. Off the Breton Peninsular, pirates with a dove on their sail attack. In the pursuing melee, the masked apparent brigand leader known as the Dove of Death stabs and kills the captain Murchad and Fidelma's royal cousin Bressal, who was the envoy of King Colgu of Muman. Fidelma and Eadulf leap from the vessel, but are fortunate when a monk at sea rescues them. He takes the pair to Hoedig Island.

On Hoedig, Fidelma vows to unmask the Dove of death so she as a law advocate can bring this murderer to justice. As she makes inquiries, other homicides occur and she soon fears her investigation has placed her and her husband in peril as the clues seem to tie the Dove and his killers to the local aristocratic host.

Once again, Peter Tremayne brings to life ancient times with his latest exciting Sister Fidelma mystery. The story line focuses on Fidelma's investigation, but the audience also observes the problems the Irish religious orders have with the new Rule of Benedict that demanded rigid sexual abstinence; as that dictum went against several centuries of tradition. Fast-paced and loaded with action, fans of ancient mysteries will want to sail along side of Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf as they are detoured on their way home.

Third Degree
Maggie Barbieri
9780312593285, $24.99

English Lit college professor Alison Bergeron is on her way to meet her boyfriend's parents for the first time following a marriage proposal from her beau NYPD Detective Bobby Crawford that she has not yet answered. To calm her nerves, she stops for java at her favorite coffee house Beans, Beans. As she opens the door, two men inside the shop tumble out in a brawl that looks as if each wants to kill the other. The professor is knocked down in the melee and left with a black eye.

The brawlers George Miller and amoral blogger Carter Willmott ignore Alison and continue their fight as the former is furious over the latter's constant nasty negative commentary on him. The fight abruptly ends when George hammers Carter in the head; the nasty blogger falls dead. The police arrest George charging him with manslaughter; Alison witnessed the deadly fight so will testify in court. Although she saw first hand what happened, Alison has doubts the head shot was the killing blow as Willmott has numerous angry enemies over his odious on line commentary and the car of the blogging beast blew up during the fight. George's wife Ginny voices her doubts to Alison, who begins sleuthing.

Fans of romantic mysteries will enjoy the latest Murder 101 amateur sleuth (see Final Exam) as readers will muse over how tough it is to get a good cup of coffee. The heroine is a brave soul whose detective boyfriend believes she has good instincts in terms of solving homicides, but poor instincts in terms of not being the next victim. Although readers will wonder why the autopsy failed to determine actual cause of death and why the professor decides to investigate, Third degree is an enjoyable caffeine cozy.

Elmore Leonard
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061735172, $26.99,

Following their award winning Katrina film, documenter Dara Barr and her top assistant septuagenarian Xavier LeBo travel to Djibouti on their next project; filming the pirates looting international vessels in the Indian Ocean off The Horn of Africa. Their greeting upon arrival at the city located on the southern point of the Red Sea is unfriendly as several foreigners claim CEO status over the piracy and want no films.

They meet a horde of outcasts who belong in a movie like Casablanca. There is the diplomat partnering with a charming popular pirate; both demand a kickback or else. Terrorists like al-Qaeda in Miami Jama provide the filmmakers with a choice between cash and bombings. Finally they encounter eccentric Billy the Texan and his maybe fiancee Helene sailing the world, but he wants to see the pirates in action on the High Seas. All this occurs even before the pair sail on the Indian Ocean to film the piracy.

This exciting trademark Elmore Leonard thriller takes time to gel, but once it does, Djibuti is the usual super skewering of everyone; especially know it all Westerners who reject being a major part of the cause while feeling outraged when the cash crop is piracy. Readers except the xenophobic who omit the latter part of Carl Schurz's famous full quote "my country right ..." will appreciate Mr. Leonard's entertaining take no prisoners take on the Somalia pirates.

Cat Coming Home
Shirley Rousseau Murphy
9780061806933, $19.99

In Los Angeles, the murders of her son and daughter-in-law shake Maudie Toola's equilibrium as even her bone marrow feels numb in shock. However, she has no time to grieve her loss as she must make the holidays uplifting for her grandson Benny who witnessed the double homicides. Maudie and Benny move to her childhood home Molena Point, California.

However, the town has its problems as criminals have broken into homes and assaulted women throughout the small village. Police chief Max Harper struggles with the attacks as they are seemingly random and he lacks the manpower to handle them. At the same time the L.A. killer has followed Maudie and Ben to Molena Point. Apparently Christmas may not be coming to town this year; as even Joel Grey, Dulcie and Kit fail to help Max until a hardened elderly stray arrives with a message for the cats and the cop. .

This is an entertaining holiday mystery in which Benny and the visiting tomcat add a special warmth to the tale. Both subplots are fully developed so long time fans feel sympathy for the Toola twosome and shock that Joel and associates fail to connect the dots. Shirley Rousseau Murphy provides her myriad of fans with a very merry Christmas tale.

Adam and Eve
Sena Jeter Naslund
9780061579271, $26.99

In 2017, renowned astrophysicist Thom Bergmann cannot hide his euphoria as he informs his wife Lucy that he has found extraterrestrial life. He gives her his flash drive data for safekeeping as he knows there are those who prefer to bury facts that they believe counter their religious system. Before Thom can go public, he is murdered. The Perpetuity rejects any proof that dares to oppose their fundamentalism. They destroy the evidence and assassinate the heretics. The leaders send fanatics to stalk Lucy.

While grieving her loss, Lucy is contacted by a friend of her late spouse Pierre Saad. He asks her to help him smuggle out of Egypt an ancient codex that retells the Creation story of Adam and Eve from a perspective that would devastate the three major monotheistic religions. The Perpetual will die if necessary while trying to kill Lucy and Pierre as heretics and burn the scroll before they allow this to occur.

With multiple over the top story lines that only interact through Lucy, Adam and Eve is an odd thriller that feels like several short stories, which never quite gel into a cohesive tale. For instance, the title is based on Lucy crashing a plane in Iraq and meeting a crazed GI as they establish an Eden. Still fans who enjoy the creationist vs. evolutionist debate will appreciate this convoluted spin in which Sena Jeter Naslund makes the case that regardless of your belief, lunacy is war.

American Assassin
Vince Flynn
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416595182, $27.99,

CIA Operations Director Thomas Stansfield understands the Cold War is over as the economic chaos begins to implode the Soviet empire. However, On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all on board and several in the town; Stansfield realizes a new adversary has taken its first visible strike.

Islamic terrorism has begun so to take the fight overseas, Stansfield orders Irene Kennedy and Stan Hurley to create a team who do not exist so that they can work outside the cage of politicians. Kennedy recruits twenty two year old college athlete Mitch Rapp who shows a propensity for stealth; however, the kid has no interest in working for the incompetent Feds as he only wants to murder those who murdered the Lockerbie victims. Soon he and Hurley go at it to see if he has the right stuff. Six months later, Rapp is in Istanbul to bring the war to the east starting with the efficient assassination of the Turkish arms dealer who sold the explosives. Soon after the first kill, bodies are left on two continents with Rapp knowing Beirut awaits him, but unaware his adversary plans to greet him as an honored dead man.

This is a refreshing Rapp tale as Vince Flynn tells the story of how he became the CIA superagent. Fast-paced throughout, Mr. Flynn uses the Lockerbie tragedy as the impetus for converting Rapp. Fans of the saga will relish the hero's tyro days starting with the bruising first nutcracker battle in the Virginia barn between Rapp and Hurley, his killing of the murderers and their associates and culminating in his escapades to survive the hells of Beirut. This is a great entry in a strong series.

Dog Stories
Diana Secker Tesdell, editor
Everyman's Pocket Classic
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9780307593979, $15.00,

This twenty short stories anthology focuses on the relationship between canines and their best friends, humans. The entries include a who's who of literature going back to the nineteenth century (but no Jack London). All the contributions are well written as they range the pack of doggy tales of the tails. O'Henry provides his usual twisting story "Memoirs of a Yellow Dog" as does Bret Harte in his "Yellow Dog"; though the settings are quite far apart. Fans will enjoy meeting the three-legged pit bull Ava who owns "Ava's Apartment" (by Jonathan Lethem) or encountering P. G. Wodehouse's "The Mixer" who just wants everyone to get along together while unable to comprehend why not. Whether it is the Case of the "Black Dog" by Penelope Lively or the amusing whimsical James Thurber's "Penelope Has Her Day", canine lovers (and fans of short stories in general) will relish reading tales like Mark Twain's "A Dog's Day" and a wonderful entry by Ray Bradbury. Dog Stories is a strong entertaining compilation as Groucho once mused: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read"; this enjoyable collection combines dog and book.

Thieves Like Us
Starr Ambrose
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439181294, $7.99,

With her divorce from her criminal spouse Westfield final, Janet Aims looks forward to her new life as a single. Part of moving on, though somewhat symbolic, is to pawn the jewelry he gave her. However, her plan goes awry right away as she is accused of being a jewel thief since one of her items she tried to sell is a necklace belonging to the stolen Pellini Collection.

Her hope for proving her innocence resides with former jewel thief convict Rocky Hernandez who she has avoided even though she is attracted to him as she does not need another felon in her life. Rocky agrees to help her because he loves Janet, but has taken it slow waiting for her to move past her divorce. Cops and robbers are after her as her car and condo are ransacked and only Rocky stands in their way especially when he goes back to his thieving roots to find the missing loot.

The sequel to Lie to Me is a fast-paced enjoyable romantic crime caper starring a likable lead couple caught in a frantic scenario as everyone except Rocky assumes Janet has the jewels when her aim is to start over. Although the support cast at times overwhelms the plot with so much going on, readers will enjoy Thieves Like Us as Janet just wants move on while Rocky wants her to move on with him, but the world intrudes.

Vicious Grace
M.L.N. Hanover
9781439176290, $7.99

Jayne Heller feels good about her life as finally it seems to be coming together. Still she muses about her "inheritance" as she would prefer to pass on fighting demons that thrive on humans and other paranormal adversaries like the cretins that killed her Uncle Eric and thrust her into his insane world last year. However, the reasons she feels optimistic are that she has friends and a lover; both of which she rarely could claim in the past. Even her belief in her self-worth has never been higher than now due ironically to kicking supernatural butt.

At the same time there is no respite in her new world. While recording dreams of patients at Chicago's Grace Memorial Hospital, the researchers notice the strange nightmare shared by several subjects. Jayne and her comrades investigate but soon realize something apparently evil is awakening from underneath the hospital. However, Jayne biggest threat may be from those she calls friends and lover, and even perhaps her deceased Uncle Eric.

The Third Black Sun's Daughter urban fantasy (see Darker Angels) is an engaging entry as the paranormal Chicago setting feels real and fans will recall how far Jayne has come from her first encounter with Unclean Spirits. However that insightful opening leads to the story line starting slow and not accelerating until about half way into the thriller. Still readers will enjoy the latest escapades of it happened to Jayne.

One Night In Scotland
Karen Hawkins
9781439175897, $7.99

In 1822, an unknown kidnapper abducts renowned Egyptologist Michael Hurst. For the safe return of his "guest", the Sulfi demands his family gives back the ancient Hurst Amulet that Michael's friend Angus Hay currently is investigating at his castle.

Michael's sister Mary journeys to Hay's castle to demand the earl give her the relic so she can ransom her brother. Instead to her shock he refuses to relinquish the artifact as he does not trust his visitor. Even more stunning to her Angus will not let her leave; but instead he locks her away as his prisoner in one of the castle's turrets. Suspicious Angus plans to seduce the truth out of Mary, but finds his motives changing after one stolen kiss.

The newest Hurst sibling Regency romance (see The Laird Who Loved Me and Sleepless in Scotland) starts a new saga, the Hurst Amulet series with a great overarching mystery. The information re the Amulet comes from Michael's letters he supposedly has sent home. However this is the wonderful tale of thoroughly modern Mary and thoroughly adoring Angus who together provides the audience with a rousing romance as they fall love while mostly establishing the foundation of this latest miniseries.

Entice Me At Twilight
Shayla Black
9781439166772, $7.99

In England the Doomsday Brethren chief wizard Bram Rion orders wizard Simon "Duke" Northam to meet with him prompt as the brazen enemy Anaraki army led by malevolent Mathias d'Arc have become brazen with their attacks. They burned the home of Bram and the headquarters building of the Brethren, but fortunately failed to achieve their goal of either taking or destroying the Merlin texts. Simon understands the gravity of such a call, but wonders how to be in two places at the same time as he is also the best man at the wedding of his half-brother the barrister Mason Daniel to nursery school teacher Felicia Safford.

Undercover agent Denzel informed the brethren that the latest scheme of the Anaraki is to enter the tomb of evil Morganna le Fay to resurrect their evil idol. Bram believes Duke holds the key to prevent the catastrophe, as he feels the playboy has touched a rare "Untouchable" since he has lost some of his aura. Duke assumes someone in the wedding party is an Untouchable; most likely his future sister-in-law. If so, he must abduct her to safety, which will alienate his half-sibling and further strain their already dysfunctional relationship.

Thee latest Doomsday Brethren romantic fantasy (see Possess Me at Midnight and a novella in the anthology Haunted by Your Touch) is a stupendous thriller due to the relational triangle though the Mathoas-Morganna arc adds exhilarating incredible levels of suspense. Readers will appreciate the low energy flow of the hero; the loyalty to her first choice by the heroine; and the half-sibling caught in the middle between a woman he claims he loves and the half-brother he detests. On top of that is the Morganna scenario that moves forward the overarching theme of the saga as Shayla Black entices readers to stay up long past Twilight to finish this terrific tale.

The Year of Living Scandalously
Julia London
9781439175453, $7.99

In 1792 in Hadley Green, eight year old Lily Boudine's testimony led to the hanging of a man for stealing the jewels of the Countess of Ashwood. To keep young Lily safe she is sent to live with family in Ireland. Over the next fifteen years, villagers debated whether the executed man was guilty of a tryst.

In 1808, Lily inherits Ashwood when her father dies. Instead of traveling to her estate, she heads to Italy while asking her cousin Keira Hannigan to visit her property. Keira readily agrees as this enables her to elude an unwanted suitor. At Ashwood, Keira poses as Lily until the Irish Earl of Donnelly arrives to see Lily. Lord Declan O'Connor knows his host is not the countess as they were in love back in Ireland. She persuades him not to expose her masquerade and help her uncover the truth about what happened over fifteen years ago. An unknown adversary wants to prevent the truth from surfacing even if that means burying the Irish interlopers.

This is a fabulous Regency investigative romance starring two Irish in England. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing as each understands fully the danger the Year of Living Scandalously will do to their respective hearts. However, it is the delightful inquiry into the mystery of what happened in 1792 that makes for a brisk entertaining historical romantic suspense.

Blood Trinity
Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love
9781439155820, $7.99

As they have done for centuries, the Belador protect humans from the others like demons. However, the Belador are not a tolerant species as half-breed Evalle Kincaid knows s first hand; being a scorned outsider by those she has lived with all her life. In fact, Evalle knows most of the tribe would prefer her dead or locked away as a half-breed is distrustful worthless trash and she more so as her heritage is unknown.

A demon attacks and claims a young woman. With no one else to blame, the tribe points at Evalle as a convenient scapegoat. Now she must prove her innocence knowing a clans person set her up and betrayed the tribe. At the same time Atlanta burns as rumor flies of an ancient powerful magical artifact surfacing. While her former tribe mates chase her in the underground of Atlanta, Evalle must prevent the day of reckoning that will begin the end of days for humans and Beladorans if demons obtains the magical stone before she possesses it and finds someplace safe to leave it.

The opening to the world of Belador is an exhilarating romantic urban (and rural) fantasy that makes this new realm seem real especially the interweaving in Utah and Atlanta. The story line contains several subplots that come together into a delightful cohesive tale though at times can be slowed down with the depth of this realm created by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love. Still with a strong cast especially the beleaguered outcast who has to save the world before she can save herself, fans will enjoy this terrific saga.

Rogue Wave
Boyd Morrison
9781439189580, $5.99

Somewhere over the Pacific, a light flashes past an airplane, which erupts into flames killing all on board. Their bodies were never found. A humongous wave assaults Christmas Island leaving it underwater; no survivors.

On the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, Kai Tanaka is the assistant director at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center when he accesses data that the world will never forget. While he is at work, his wife Rachel is at her job at a state of the art hotel. Their daughter Lani is with their guests Teresa and her daughter Mia at the beach. At the center, a tsunami warning is advised, but neither he nor his assistant is worried but then certain island stations fail to report. They do not understand what is happening because none of the conditions are right for a tsunami. They realize after studying available data that a meteorite hit the earth causing undersea earthquakes greater than any ever recorded before. Their announcement is late but they hope to save some lives including their loved ones. Few survivors in the Pacific Rim are expected to escape unscathed since the waves are more and bigger than they expected. Kai tries to find a way take his daughter Lani, his brother Brad, Mia and Teresa to a safe high point while his wife is at the hotel taking care of the guests.

This is a riveting apocalyptic thriller that is so enthralling readers will be unable to put it down until they finish the last page. Millions of people on the Pacific islands and Hawaii are on the verge of having their lives end due to a wave that is strong huge and higher than the largest skyscraper. Readers are hooked from the opening Mayday and the lack of the routine signal from a buoy as required to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The audience ironically knows hell is coming while Kai and his cohorts remain blissfully blind until it appears too late. Adding to the pending doom is Kai has family and guests caught in the upcoming catastrophe forcing him and Rachel to make difficult choices. Mindful of the giant tsunami that killed millions a few years ago, Boyd Morrison provides the audience with a spectacular thriller that brings to readers the tragedy on the two levels of a biblical scale and a personal dilemma.

Haunted by Your Touch
Jeaniene Frost, Shayla Black and Sharie Kohler
9781439166765, $7.99

"Night's Darkest Embrace" by Jeaniene Frost. In Nocturna, Raphael rules over the lawless demons, the even deadlier angels and others. He protects a female while helping her search for her kidnapped cousin.

"Mated" by Shayla Black. Doomsday Brethen warrior Raiden knows what he must do, but loathes doing it. He must safely escort the woman he loves who is the mother of his child to hand her over to another male.

"Darkest Temptation" by Sharie Kohler. Lily has one month left as a human. Her hope to extend her time as a human leads her to stalk half-breed Luc, knowing that to save him she must kill him, her soul mate.

These three romantic fantasy novellas are well written entertaining tales. The atmospheres are extremely dark especially Jeaniene Frost's introduction to Nocturna. Additionally fans of Shayla Black's Doomsday Brethren saga and Sharie Kohler's Moonchaser tales will enjoy entering these respective universes.

Laura Griffin
97814339152966, $7.99

Mia Voss works at a state of the art laboratory whose goal is to use forensic testing to help lock away criminals. On the night of a tragic event, Mia drives to the store to buy ice cream. She returns to her vehicle and reenters it, but a man in the backseat carjacks her auto and her. He makes her drive to an ATM to have her withdraw money. Then he orders her to drive to a secluded spot where she thinks he will rape her and perhaps kill her.

A police officer who saw Mia being held at gunpoint goes after them and is killed. She is able to escape but is traumatized. Detectives Ric Santos and Jonah Macon lead the inquiry. They believe Mia was the intended target of the killer and not a random incident of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The gun that killed the cop was used in a previous homicide years ago. Mia finds a third piece of evidence related to the other two crimes and before she knew it she is danger as is her family. Mia who committed a crime is offered immunity if she helps bring in the killer. Ric who has feelings for Mia, but will not admit it diligently works to find the killer and keep Mia safe.

Cross Cornwall and Reichs with Robb to understand the Tracers of Laura Griffin (see Untraceable). The characters turn up the heat so much so they can burn the sheets. However, Mia is a highly regarded forensic scientist who is used as an expert witness. If there remains a police procedural fan who has not read a Ms. Griffins' mystery, they are missing out on some of the best.

Ecstasy in Darkness
Gena Showalter
9781439175774, $7.99

In New Chicago Ava Sans is nearing the end of her training at Alien Investigation and Renewal. Noted for being one of the rough and tough girls, her "graduation" assignment is to capture the former leader of the vampire army, Victor McKell. The AIR trainee understands that this undead has become mentally deranged in his hatred of humanity. He believes they are low on the food chain even though his kind avoids his hostility, but in spite of being a psychotic he still can manipulate time.

Although Ava assumes Victor sees her as dinner, she walks boldly on to his estate where he fails to kill her like he normally does to intruders. Instead admires her incredible body and he offers a deal to team up with her to prevent an alien queen from infecting the planet. Planning to use her as an expendable lure to draw vampires to him, McKell soon falls in love.

Gena Showalter displays her romantic fantasy writing skills with her seventh Alien Huntress thriller (see Savor Me Slowly and Seduce the Darkness) with this fascinating, seemingly improbable pairing of a predator with a huntress and somehow makes it feel plausible. He is a human consumer (literally that is) while she is a rough vampire and other alien investigative human. She prefers nips and sensual bites while he rips throats for sustenance. Although the alien queen subplot takes a back seat to the dynamic duo's "war", readers will appreciate this pairing as she gives as much or more than she takes.

Linda Lael Miller
9781416598558, $7.99

In the Montana Territory, the father of two, Devlin Gallagher married a woman with two kids of her own. Ten years younger than her stepbrother Gideon Marshall, teenage Willow believes she loves him, but understands nothing can come of this because of their age difference.

Willow and Gideon are married by a fake minister. After they exchange their vows jokingly, they learn the minister is real and their wedding genuine. Willow goes home humiliated after the nuptials are annulled. Years later she is to marry, but he arrives and stops the ceremony. Meanwhile her biological brother Steven, once kidnapped by their mom, Chastity, has become a train robber. A bounty hunter wants him dead or alive and does not mind collateral damage like using and even killing Willow. Gideon also seeks out Steven as the robberies are of trains owned by his family. He stays near her as she is the ticket to her sibling, but by being in close proximity he can no longer conceal he reciprocates her feelings.

Linda Lael Miller's myriad of fans will appreciate the author rewriting a much shorter historical she wrote in 1984. Having not read the previous entry, I cannot make comparisons. The 2010 book is fast-paced with several strong characters especially the title heroine, her stepbrother and her brother as they forge an intriguing triangle. The ending is a fabulous spin that only Ms. Miller could have devised and also makes it feel genuine. This is a wonderful Americana romance as the trains come to Montana but it is love that ties the bonds of families.

Carousel Tides
Sharon Lee
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781439133958, $14.00,

In the resort of Archers Beach, Maine, elderly Bonny Pepperidge vanishes without a trace. When she learns her beloved relative is missing, Bonny's worried granddaughter Kate Archer rushes home to the town she grew up in hoping to find her grandma. She also reluctantly takes over Bonny's role as Guardian of Fun Country amusement park, a place where fae criminals are exiled and become the "animals".

Drug smuggler Joe Nemeier is unhappy with Kate's arrival. He sends his hit men to kill her. Meanwhile, the earth spirits inform a worried Kate that they think Bonny has discovered where Kate's missing mom has been all these years. However, the family reunion may prove deadly if the three generations of females reunite as besides the Nemeier mob, an evil fiend pursues Kate's mom who just escaped from devilish incarceration.

This is a fabulous Maine horror-fantasy tale\s Sharon Lee's vivid imagery will transport readers into a foggy deadly atmosphere. By returning home Kate becomes the focus of otherworldly and human predators in a fabulous setting. Readers will be spellbound as all hell literally breaks out just because the prodigal granddaughter has come home; and like a magnet has attracted Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury).

Salvation City
Sigrid Nunez
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594487668, $25.95,

His parents take him from Chicago to live in a small Indiana college town when the flu pandemic strikes leaving Cole Vining an orphan. Much of the world's population dies from this horrific disease.

Youngsters like Cole become the rapture children sent to cold orphanages to live. Pastor Wyatt takes Cole and other children with him to Salvation City, a closed Christian monastery. There he is to be indoctrinated in the way of the religious fervor of the survivors starting with Wyatt and his wife Tracy. Having been raised by secular liberals before the flu killed his parents; Cole struggles to fit in the new world order.

This is a strong young adult post-apocalyptic thriller starring a fascinating protagonist who from the start has issues with his new world though grateful he has been lifted out of the chaos; for instance the use of euphemisms with the Pastor saying passed and his late mom saying died. The story line focuses on Cole who has little time to grieve his loss as he is caught up in the survivor scenario including guilt and hypocrisy while being yanked in the opposite direction from his parental nurturing. Readers of all ages, but especially teens will appreciate this thought provoking look at a utopian Eden created in the image of Pastor Wyatt.

The Dead Path
Stephen M. Irwin
Doubleday & Company
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385533430, $25.95,

Widower Nicholas Close fears he is losing his mind since his wife Cate died. He wonders if it is grief playing tricks with his sanity as he sees ghosts play out their final moments of life; most of the replays are violent deaths.

Needing relief from the horrific visions, Nicholas returns from London where he and his late wife lived for years to his family home in Tallong, Australia. However, instead of comfort from being at a place of supposed fond childhood memories even his mom wished he stayed in London. His first night in town has the cops show him a picture of a missing boy; but the photo frightens Nicholas as the child is his childhood friend Tristam whose brutal murder happened twenty-five yeas ago. When he sees Tristam's ghost, he begins to investigate this and other local homicides he now bears witness to. Nicholas also peruses his father's occult book collection in which he concludes that ancient desecrated rituals are being practiced by those who believe he should have died years ago when his friend did.

The Dead Path is a great horror thriller starring Nicholas who sees ghosts, but this is not the Ghost Whisperers or the Ricky Gervais' movie Ghost Town pleading for help to enter the light as he learns about human demons and other evils wanting him dead. Fast-paced yet character driven as Nicholas fears he has no way off The Dead Path except perhaps in his death.

Mister X
John Lutz
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780786020263, $7.99,

Five years ago in Manhattan, the serial killer dubbed by the media as the Carver murdered five women. He carved an X on their chest, cut off their nipples before slitting the victim's throat. Tiffany Keller was his last fatality.

Frank Quinn never worked the Carver case because he was hospitalized from an on the job injury on another investigation. He was forced to retire so started a private detective agency with Pearl Kasner and Larry Fedderman. Chrissie Keller hires them to find the Carver so she can bring closure to herself by obtaining justice for her late twin sister. A recent lottery winner she pays a healthy retainer before disappearing. The three sleuths pursue leads, which comes to the attention of the Carver, and starts a new killing spree. The case takes several odd twists but the strangest spin occurs when Tiffany's mother arrives at the office insisting their client Chrissie is not her daughter. The detectives want to know who hired them, but have no time to find out as the Carver is escalating the kill rate of women of a certain type.

This private investigative thriller is filled with unexpected turns as John Lutz takes his fans on a wild roller coaster as nothing is quire like it seems. Readers will be hooked from the moment Chrissie enters the agency claiming to be Tiffany. She uses shock value so the private detectives will be interested in taking her case. That is only one of the superb spins as Mister X is a terrific mystery that will baffle the audience as much as the three sleuths.

Sundays at Tiffany's
James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonett
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446536318, $7.99,

Born to affluence and fame, Jane Margaux grew up lonely with one exception. While her famous producer mother Broadway creates musicals and her father preferred spending quality time with his second wife in Nantucket, her only friend and companion is Michael, who provided her solace even if he was only imaginary. However, when she turned eight, Michael informs her he will no longer be with her though he will always be her best friend.

Over two decades later, Jane remains lonely even with a boyfriend and neurotic because she works for her mother. No one would believe she is Vivienne's daughter as she is treated scornfully and horrifically. As Jane produces her first play based on her childhood with Michael, he returns bringing light into Jane's dark life. They fall in love as each find their groove with one another; but Michael fears he will not be allowed to stay with his beloved as adults are not supposed to remember imaginary friends while she has never forgotten him especially since he left her once before.

This contemporary romantic fantasy is an enchanting tale in which Jane breaks the rules of imaginary friends by somehow always remembering her Michael. The story line effortlessly switches from preadolescence in which he is a sort of guardian big brother to her to and an adult love story. Although the standard operating procedures of what an imaginary friend does and does not do and the laws of physics that govern the relationship between a child and their buddy are lacking so that the audience cannot fully appreciate the heroine's breaking the barrier, fans will enjoy it happened to Jane.

The Golden Hustla
Wahida Clark
Grand Central
9780446178105, $14.99

In New Jersey, just a few days after Nina's younger brother D-Rock was killed, a check cashing scandal leaves Michelle dead and Peedie severely wounded. Nina flees but not before she takes two kilos of drugs from her from dealing former boyfriend. She sells the drugs so she has a stake to start over far from New Jersey, but leaves her three children back in the not so Garden State.

Nina moves to Decatur, Georgia where she becomes Alexis, a telemarketer selling magazines. The money stinks and the insults are worse. She ignores her pledge when she fled her home to go straight and accepts a sales position at slimy WMM (We Make Millionaires) Agency. There she sells a lottery like opportunity to win a fortune in gold coins. Local hunk cops are undercover while the FBI is conducting surveillance of WMM at a time the CEO orders a hit on a client's nephew, who is asking questions.

This street lit stars a terrific noir anti heroine who is one step ahead of the law and the crooks with her other step sliding into a coffin or a cell. Men try to play her, as betrayal is the name of the game when a million dollars are at stake. The Golden Hustla is a strong thriller as the last man or woman standing may be dead too.

Peter Dexter
Grand Central
9780446540735, $14.99

On December 6 1953, after two plus days in labor, the woman gives birth to twins. The handsome newborn is dead on arrival while the uglier one named Warren Spooner survived. The mother prefers her deceased child over her breathing offspring.

On the same day Congressman Rudolph Toebox dies too. His funeral is held at sea led by US Naval Commander Calmer Ottosson. Soon afterward Ottosson leaves the military and marries Spooner's mom. This leaves Warren with superstar step-siblings while his talent is to anger folks who fume for hours after brief encounters. Spooner actually finds he has a talent as a baseball pitcher, but an elbow injury aborted his career. He lands a reporter's job where he is universally loathed. Eventually with a bad cloud hanging over his head, he flees to Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington State. at the same that bad luck is Spooner's only mojo his stepfather becomes a successful principal.

This is a humorous satire that lampoons sacred societal icons as nothing seems to go right for Spooner in his relationship with others starting with his birth and the death of his twin, and the success of his stepfather while the title character constantly fails. Although the dark graveyard jocularity at times overwhelms the cohesiveness of the story line, Peter Dexter provides his audience with a deep character study through a dirty lens that spoofs the American dream as a nightmare.

Hell's Corner
David Baldacci
Grand Central
9780446195522, $27.99

American President James Brennan informs retired CIA assassin Stone that his country needs his unique skills. Stone says he is John Carr and not Oliver Stone, American killer; he wants to refuse, but cannot. The Russian control the illegal drug pipelines in both hemispheres and their government is involved in the lucrative trade as they see it as a means back to the top tier of superpowers. Stone tells POTUS that this is his penitence from their last endeavor together when he rejected the Medal of Honor. The impossible assignment is to learn all he can about the trafficking through Mexico and what can be done to disrupt it.

Afterward, Stone is in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, when the British prime minister leaves only to have a terrorist attack occur. Stone's mission changes to identify who is behind the assault as allegedly the Russian drug cartels are the prime suspects. His partner is British MI6 agent Mary Chapman. They need help as the enemy remains elusive, but neither trusts their own agency any longer as a traitor seems to have infiltrated either the CIA, MI6 or both. Instead Stone reluctantly turns to Camel Club associates as he knows Shaw, Rhodes, Conroy, Ford and Finn has hit back and that they will never stay out of this dangerous inquiry anyway.

The latest Camel Club thriller (see Divine Justice and Stone Cold) is an exciting action-packed tale that grips the audience from the initial meeting between Brennan and Stone. Though the story line is similar to many in the genre, fans will want to know who was behind the bombing. Filled with twists and fast-paced, Stone and the camel Club will soon find themselves trapped in aptly titled Hell's Corner with no way out except death.

Harry Potter Film Wizardry
Brian Silby
Collins Design
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061997815, $39.99,

This is a terrific addition to the Potter universe as the depth rivals that of the films. Little things like "ads" for magical products and the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes catalogue add incredible layers to the interactive tome. Fans will remove all sorts of items like Slughorn's Apothecary labels of products used in the movies. There is plenty of information and articles on how the films made the Roweling realm realistic, which include supporting photos, salt as snow and much more.

Sent to me by the publisher, you can't help but tear this fabulous entry apart. My spouse cringed when I ripped open the cellophane and had cardiac arrest when I pulled out Potter's acceptance letter to attend Hogswarts Hall; though he also marveled at the details of the castle and cave, etc. and touched the pullouts (he cannot have my ticket to the Yule Ball). In fairness, he laughs at people who claim they owned that first Spiderman (see Amazing Fantasy #15) as he once did, but admits his copy was worth chump change because his mom bought it for him at a bazaar and he read it as a tweener a zillion times. Now if I can only obtain a second ticket to the Yule Ball so he can escort me; perhaps an order of Pumpkin Juice or with the help of Professor Snape. This is a great holiday gift for that young fan or in my case the ancient collector (wonder if there is Potter could put the cellophane back on).

Brava, Valentine
Adriana Trigiani
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061257070, $14.99,

Octogenarian Roncalli family matriarch Teodora stunned the family when she went to Italy on a business trip and became engaged (see Very Valentine); her shocked kin is coming to her Italian wedding. Teodora's Manhattan roommate shoe designer Valentine Roncalli is happy for her Gram though has doubts about marriage in general with the matrimony state of her family; but also sad for herself as her mentor is moving to Italy. She also has trepidations about decision making since her moronic brother and critic Alfred has become the Chief Finance Officer of the family business Angelina Shoe Company.

Val flies to Argentina on shoe business where other family members reside while Alfred counts the beans. She wants to bring the firm to the modern era, but must persuade Alfred to take a chance or watch the family company wither. Shockingly Alfred has an affair with a government official while Val wants an affair with her grandma's new stepson fiftyish Gianluca, but though he wants her in a permanent relationship she has doubts.

Although the plot is thin, fans will enjoy the rambunctious return of the Greenwich Village shoemaking family who cause havoc on three continents this time. The story line is breezy as Alfred learns a lesson on promises broke and Val on promises mot made. However, once again Teo owns the novel and the two extended families as everyone else dances to her uplifting energetic living life to the fullest.

Emily of Deep Valley
Maud Hart Lovelace
9780062003300, $12.99

In Deep Valley, Minnesota, orphan Emily Webster lives with her Grandpa Webster. Like other girls in the class of 1912 at the high school she attends and now graduating, she has dreams of going to college. However, she not only owes her elderly relative for taking her in, she feels strongly that she must not leave her beloved Grandpa Webster alone; thus she remains outside of the Crowd.

Although she expects a cold "lost winter" Emily vows to keep active. She works hard studying and is fascinated with the culture of the nearby Syrian community. However, it is the new high school teacher Jed Wakeman who has Emily dreaming once again of being all that she can be.

One of the three Deep Valley stand alone stories (see Carney's House Party and Winona's Pony Cart), Emily's tale is a reprint of a warm Americana tale. Emily is a fabulous individual who initially feels sorry for herself but comes out of her funk when she decides to make herself a better person while she suffers through the "lost winter" as her few friends go to college. Jed is a nice person studying for his Masters in sociology. However it is the "bad boy" Don Walker who danced with Emily and somewhat steals the show with his scorning intelligence as he purposely butchers Browning and his mocking speech at high school commencement. With humor and pathos Maud Hart Lovelace brings to life the seemingly innocence of 1912 Minnesota when a teen smoking a cigarette means juvenile delinquent.

Carney's House Party/Winona's Pony Cart: Two Deep Valley Books
Maud Hart Lovelace
9780062003294, $12.99

Carney's House Party. In 1911, Caroline "Carney" Sibley has come home to Deep Valley, Minnesota from college for the summer. She plans to throw a month long party and especially looks forward to seeing her friends from the old Crowd. In town with Carney is her classmate at Vassar Isobel Porteous. Her high school sweetheart Larry Humphreys has come home too, but she finds irritating infuriating Sam Hutchinson quite attractive.

Winona's Pony Cart: In Deep Valley, Minnesota, Winona Root prays that her family gives her a pony for her eighth birthday. She has told her father what she wants, but he insists no way. Ignoring her dad's proclamation, Winona believes her wish will come true, which is what she tells her friends Betsy, Tacy, and Tib.

Two of the three Deep Valley stand alone stories (see Emily of Deep Valley); are filled with humor and pathos. Carney's House Party is a full novel while Winona's Pony Cart is a novelette, but each contains fully developed characters, a trademark of Maud Hart Lovelace. As the author did with her Betsy-Tacy saga, these reprints of Deep Valley books bring to life the seemingly innocence of early twentieth century Minnesota.

Come Back, Como: Winning the Heart of a Reluctant Dog
Steven Winn
9780061802584, $13.99

In San Francisco, preadolescent Phoebe Winn harangues her parents Steven and Sally to buy her a dog. Instead, they ignore her pleading and keep buying other pets like goldfish whose life expectancy seemed less than a nanosecond. The couple finally acquiesces to their daughter's non-stop rant. At the local shelter, they adopt a mutt who they name Como. He has two traits: a need to escape human confinement and a bone marrow loathing of males. Como keeps trying to escape and makes it clear he hates Steven regardless of how hard the man worked at gaining the dog's trust and affection. When Come escapes and is hit by a car, a bath-robed Steven takes him to the vet as the canine may want out, but is part of the Winn family.

Obviously this warm memoir will remind readers of Marley and Me, and pets of their own (my Max had unrequited love for me, but tolerated my husband, and disliked our son). The pre-Como section is a bit hard on us weak stomach animal lovers as the pets seem to die in rapid prematurity, but adds a sense of genuineness to the true life family drama. Additionally the overall lack of the perspectives of Phoebe and Sally to Como's canine catastrophes and Steven's apparently futile efforts to win his heart would have added a wider view of whether the dog will adopt the Winn brood as his "pets". Still canine lovers will enjoy Como's tale as Steven tries everything in order to win the heart of a dog that seemingly has imprinted on his DNA to hate him.

Wishin' and Hopin'
Wally Lamb
9780061941016, $13.99

Looking back over years to In December 1964 when Cassius Clay and the Beatles were kings, Felix Funicello, whose family's claim to fame is being a third cousin to Mickey's Annette, attended the St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School in Connecticut. A fifth grader at the time, he, with the help of twice left back Lonny Flood, caused the meltdown (back then we said nervous breakdown) of their teacher Sisters Dymphna. At the time Felix, the smallest child in the fifth grade was going on Ronald Reagan's TV show Ranger Andy as a Junior Midshipmen and his mom was participating in the TV Pillsbury Bake Off show.

The school is doing a Christmas play production while the newest student is Russian tomboy Zhenya Kabakova who competed with the boys in their sports like dodgeball and "bezbull." All the students assumed she is a Soviet spy. Felix who was ranked as the second best student knew he could never catch the #1 Rosalie Twerski because she worked the teachers. When his mom melted down on TV frightening the host Reagan, Felix vows to save the family honor. Looking like the comic strip character Dondi, he goes on Ranger Andy and tells a dirty joke that turns Reagan's face red. However, it is the shenanigans involving the Christmas play that will go down in parochial school infamy.

This humorous hysterical historical tale targets two prime groups though other readers will appreciate the pranks too. Young adults will root for the feisty almost famous Felix and nostalgic boomers like me (elementary school student at the time) who know Annette by her first name and remember the Louisville Lip before he became Ali. Wally Lamb provides an engaging look at 1964, a pivotal year in American culture with the British invasion and our first environmentally conscious politician Lady Bird beautifying America. This is a winner.

Mary Ann in Autumn
Armistead Maupin
9780061470882, $25.99

Two decades have passed since Mary Ann left her husband and daughter in San Francisco for a TV career in New York. Meanwhile her ex-spouse Michael "Mouse" and Ben are married. Mary Ann's estranged daughter sex blogger Shawna is seeing professional clown Otto. Mary Ann\'s former landlady in San Francisco, octogenarian Anna Madrigal is still running wild.

As Mary Ann nears her sexagenarian birthday, she returns to the West Coast to inform Michael about some news she cannot share with anyone else. Staying at the cottage shared by Mouse and Ben, she finds solace in the garden as she relooks the errors of her life.

The latest Tales of the City (see Michael Tolliver Lives) is a terrific intelligent return to the Bay area twenty years after Mary Ann left and everyone moved on with their lives. The ensemble cast is full dimensional as Mary Ann in Autumn of her life is still seeking her muse, but with experience tries to rectify the errors of her youth whether any of those she hurt want her to or not. Like all of the Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin provides his trademark wit that affirms why this sagacious saga has had a TV miniseries based on it.

The Final Reckoning
Sam Bourne
9780061875748, $26.99

Following a terrorist alert, septuagenarian Lithuanian Gerald Merton is visiting the United Nations when a security guard shoots and kills him believing the elderly man was a suicide bomber. Henning Munchau asks former agency lawyer Tom Byrne to help with the expected media brouhaha. Tom agrees.

Tom journeys to London to offer the UN's condolences and apologies to the victim's grieving daughter Rebecca. At the same time NYPD Detective Jay Sherrill leads the investigation. The cop soon uncovers some links dating back to the end of WWII that ties the deceased to a Holocaust survivor group that Merton belonged to. This aging unit wants secrets to remain concealed and killing a cop, a daughter and a lawyer is an acceptable practice.

The Final Reckoning is a taut twisting thriller that grips the audience from the opening in New York, but especially hooks readers when the past hauntingly surfaces. The cast is strong as each in their way (either through investigation or firsthand and secondhand nightmarish memories) brings forth the dark vivid picture of Europe when the horrors of the Final Solution became internationally known. Sam Bourne provides a powerful "Never Forget" tale.

Wanted Undead or Alive
Jonathan Maberry & Janice Gable Bashman
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780806528212, $16.95,

What is paranormal evil and who are the good fighting against these abominations? Those are the questions that Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman analyze in "Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil" is a self help tome that looks at books, movies and TV to provide advice to readers on when to use holy water, silver bullets, or a garlic necklace worn to the school prom. Readers will learn when to join the arson mob chasing a vampire or to run faster than Bolt (the Olympic champ not the Marvel character). With interviews of some of the masters like Marvel's Stan Lee and director John Carpenter, fans learn how to be a superhero or a super runner as the "Root of Good and Evil" is explored. Set up like an encyclopedia, horror fans will learn the evil can track back several millennia before that Stone Age practitioner Lovecraft. This is a fun tongue in cheek reference guide worth reading over several weeks and this work is made stronger with illustrations and pictures that bring out the ancient war of good and evil. Simply put a superhero needs a supervillain (what is Superman without Lex? mild mannered Clark or Ali and Frazier); and you will no longer be afraid of ghosts or need the busters charging an exorbitant fee to rid you of these apparitions as you now can do it yourself.

Lords of Passion
Virginia Henley, Kate Pearce, Maggie Robinson
Kensington Brava
9780758251077, $14.00

"Beauty and the Brute" by Virginia Henley. In 1819 her father paid off his gambling debt by giving his young daughter Lady Sarah Caversham in marriage to Charles Lennox who is embarking on his Grand Tour. Three years later, they are to wed, but Charles is stunned by the confident beauty he will soon call wife as she is nothing like the shy teen he remembers. His plan has changed as he wants to win her affection and love too.

"How to Seduce a Wife" by Kate Pearce. In 1816 Louisa March wishes her prim and proper even in bed husband Nicholas was more daring like the males in the novels she reads. Nicholas is shocked to realize his new bride wants more adventure in their sex so he turns to a courtesan for mentoring.

"Not Quite a Courtesan" by Maggie Robinson. In 1818 prim and proper Prudence Thorn tries to help her distraught cousin with a marital issue. At a courtesan's home she meets ultra charming porn importer Darius Shaw, the brother to her cousin's husband. Between his slick tongue seduction, the graphic art and the sexual locale, Prudence sheds her inhibitions for that of a love slave.

These are three entertaining Regency romances starring wonderful protagonists learning first comes lust and than comes love.

The Pursuit of Pleasure
Elizabeth Essex
Kensington Brava
9780758251541, $14.00

In 1794 in Dartmouth, as England Lizzie Paxton is drolly chatting to another woman, she says being a widow would be ideal for the freedom granted to a woman however she also insists the first step to achieve this independent status will never happen to her as she will never marry. Her long time friend Captain James Marlowe overhears her feelings about marriage and astutely concludes her need for independence and his goal is to avoid a marriage entanglement fit nicely together. He offers her a marriage of convenience; she accepts.

Although he knows he should not, James seduces delectable Lizzie. Soon after that passionate tryst, he leaves. A few days later, she learns her wish is true that she has become a widow. However, the Ton assume Lizzie killed her new husband; placing her spouse in an untenable spot between his loyalty to his beloved wife and his loyalty to his beloved England.

The Pursuit of Pleasure is a wonderful late Georgian romance due to the strong likable lead characters. Lizzie is terrific as an intelligent witty individual while James is a dashing hero. Readers will enjoy this engaging historical as patriotic James is trapped in a nasty situation as duty and love war inside his soul.

Casting About
Terri DuLong
9780758232052, $15.00

Four years ago Monica Webster moved to Cedar Key, Florida where she bought her mom's yarn shop and fell in love and married Adam Brooks (see Spinning Forward). Life has been good as business is doing well and her relationship with Adam is strong. She loves living on the Key with eccentric neighbors and her beloved Adam.

However, her idyllic world implodes when the court declares Adam's alcoholic former wife an unfit mother following a DUI in which their eight-year-old daughter, Clarissa Jo was left home unsupervised; custody is granted to Adam. Although she was unsure she wanted to be a mom, Monica feels for Clarissa Jo who arrives clinging to a Raggedy Ann doll like a much younger child would. As the trio tries to forge into a family, a struggling at step-motherhood Monica turns to her kindhearted grandma for sage advice; even though her granny died years ago.

The prime plot of Monica and Adam adjusting to his preadolescent daughter living with them is not a new theme (see Carrie Adams' The Godmother and the Stepmother); however several subplots bring brisk freshness to the enjoyable character driven story line. Granny adds a beautiful TLC touch from the grave and Monica's BFF has relationship issues. Fans of family dramas will appreciate Terri DuLong's fine tale of an adult welcoming with doubts that she is capable of parenting a frightened depressed girl whose best friend is her doll.

A Darker Shade of Dead
Bianca D'Arc
Kensington Brava
9780758247315, $14.00

Dr. Sandra McCormick knows she will go to her grave seeing the marines brutally murdered eight months ago by the zombies created by her peers led by Dr. Rodriguez who used her genetic experiments on innocent people (see Once Bitten, Twice Dead). She hopes to at least find an antidote, but has little chance of doing so under current conditions as being persona non grata except by Rodriguez, who demands she return to the zombie project or he will expose her to the world as the creator.

Still she obtains a top secret government assignment to work with the military and civilian agencies on creating the antidote under the direction of Commander Matt Sykes before the virus goes pandemic. He distrusts her as he senses she conceals something critical from him. She fears his reaction if he learns her research led to the zombie plague that killed the marines and others. Then there is Rodriguez threatening to destroy her unless she hands over her research to him.

Zombie fever fans will enjoy this entertaining romantic urban fantasy in which, as she did in Once Bitten, Twice Dead (whose leads support this tale), Bianca D'Arc refreshingly (and shockingly) has two humans fall in love. The story line is fast-paced for the most part as the stars battle zombies and Rodriguez and their attraction; however it slows down when Sandra turns lecturer explaining the zombie virus and her efforts for an antidote. Readers will want to join the scientist and the soldier at the front trying to prevent a zombie pandemic even as they fall in love.

Killer on a Hot Tin Roof
Livia J. Washburn
9780758225702, $22.00

Atlanta literary tour organizer and guide Delilah Dickinson takes a group of English literature professors to New Orleans to attend the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. Though academics, Delilah cannot believe the wars between the attendees.

Especially igniting the group is Dr. Michael Frasier who challenges whether Williams wrote Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Frasier claims Williams' lover Howard Burleson authored the drama. He adds fuel to the firestorm he caused with his proclamation when he introduces Burleson to the group. Soon afterward, someone murders the shocking guest. Delilah feels obligated to investigate, but finds several viable suspects including a professor whose standing is based on William's writing the play and someone who fears the family the drama is based on will surface.

The third Literary Tour amateur sleuth (See Frankly, My Dear I'm Dead and Huckleberry Finished) is an entertaining whodunit filled once again with literary asides. The heroine is fabulous as her assumption about laid back English lit profs proves false when any time two get together a brouhaha occurs. Although readers will question Delilah's motivation to detect and solve the case fans will enjoy this academic cozy.

A Brisket, A Casket
Delia Rosen
9780758241702, $6.99

After her marriage fell apart and her Uncle Murray died, Gwen Katz Silver moved down to Nashville, Tennessee to take over her inheritance, the only kosher deli in town. Gwen looks on it as a new start and becomes familiar with all the employees except the manager Thomasina who was her late uncle's lover. Business is good until Kosher Karaoke Night when Buster Sergeant just keeled over and died.

The deceased was a powerful business man so his death got media attention upsetting a lot of folks. People start boycotting the restaurant. The police detective Beau McClintock informs Gwen that the victim was murdered with coyote poison that was injected into his food. Other dangerous things happen to Gwen as she investigates the workings of the restaurant. Someone locks her in the freezer so she can die. The list of vendors that her uncle used is missing and must be found because using the yellow pages leads to hilarious situations but doesn't bring in any customers. Another individual business mogul Royce Sinclair offers to buy her property in order to change it into a resort. However, Gwen has forensics skills that she applies bringing her closer to a killer.

This is Gwen's tale as she takes over from her late uncle the pastrami swami; if her personality can be summed up in one word it would be moxie. She knows something is not kosher at the deli and is determined to find what that is even risking her life. Gwen is obstinate as her friends know they can slightly nudge her, but never budge her once she makes up her mind. The support cast is everyday people who enhance understanding of the feisty heroine as she works to save the deli and identify the killer in an entertaining cuisine amateur sleuth.

Black Wings
Christina Henry
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, NY, NY 10014
9780441019632, $7.99,

In Chicago, Madeline Black is an Agent of Death who helps guide souls pass from one existence to the next. She likes her job as the benefits include magical skills and wings, but gets irritated with her know-it-all boss who is more a bureaucrat than chief of the Death Agent units.

Maddy is stunned when her peer and friend Agent Patrick is murdered. Even more shocking is demons are stalking her wanting her dead too. Finally she thinks there is something peculiar about Gabriel Angeloscuro, her new tenant. However, staying alive is her first imperative as she considers who in her family tree inherits the job if she dies, which is very possible as hell has come for her and other Agents of Death, and learning why is second.

This is an entertaining urban fantasy starring an intriguing heroine whose blood line includes some odd creatures. The support cast is strong especially Madeline's boss J.B., the enigmatic Gabe and Beezle the suspicious gargoyle. Madeline keeps the tale focused whether she is arguing with the death bureaucracy or new clients, or just trying to get demons off her lawn. The soul-eater serial killer mystery adds to an engaging Chicago joyride as courageous Madeline fears this unknown adversary but goes after the lethal beast.

The Bards of Bone Plain
Patricia McKillip
9780441019571, $24.95

He wants to finish his class work so he can graduate from the school on the hill. Phelan Cle chose an easy topic for his final report, the frequently studied Bone Plain. For five centuries the legendary locale has been argued about by academia as to whether it is myth fostered by romantic poets or a lost land. Even at his bardic school, Phelan knows most assume the Bone Plain is legend with its alleged trio triad of Trials, Terrors and treasures.

Phelan's research uncovers the story of a wandering bard Nairn the Unforgiven and the student wants to know more about him. At the same time his archeologist father Jonah digs at the ancient ruins of the city. Working at the excavation sites is Princess Beatrice, who prefers digs to dances. When the team uncovers an enigmatic disk with ancient runes on it, Phelan believes this is the key to solving the riddle of Nairn the Unforgiven while Beatrice begins to notice what has been hidden in plain sight.

This is a strange but enjoyable tale that feels like a fantasy, but is not; as Patricia McKillip provides a scholarly atmosphere in which the Lovin' Spoonful tune "Do You Believe in Magic?" seems so apropos as there is no paranormal. The story line switches effortlessly between Phelan, Beatrice and Nairn with the language of the runes connecting the trio (everything is in threes). Fans will appreciate the low-keyed look at The Bards of Bone Plain as the present interprets the past with a contemporary filter that can lead to misinterpretation

S. G. Browne
NAL (New American Library)
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451231284, $15.00,

For several millennia Fabio Delucci has been Fate responsible with assigning the misfortunates that betwixt just under a mean plus one standard deviation of the human race. This 83% are the classic losers who seem to screw up sure hands. He is tired and envious of his distant hands off lover Destiny who has fewer clients but those are elite Nobel Prize winners while his are drug addicts and the worse dregs of society politicians.

His superior Jeremiah counseled him over his recent poor performance. He can deal with a bad rating and his no touch romance with Destiny or even the schmuck clients. However, he has broken the Fate SOPs when he falls in love with purebred human Sara Griffen. When he reveals to his beloved who he is Fabio causes a shift in the cosmos, which could lead to the death of this immortal and his love.

This is an amusing fun romantic fantasy as Fabio feels Fated to be with his Sara though that is original sin since it breaks the immortal rules of behavior with mortals. Using a tongue in cheek story line, S.G. Browne provides an insightful look at the disaster of love as people will do all sorts of insane things when caught in that debilitating disease. Yet also takes a clever glimpse at the pitfalls of immortality though ennui has been written in many vampire tales and The Wellstone by Wil McCarthy provides a wonderful well written concept that the heir to the throne remains the heir and not the king for eternity. Mr. Browne is Fated for acclaim (and sales) with this engaging thriller.

Confessions of a Vampire's Girlfriend
Katie MacAlister
9780451232595, $15.00

"Got Fangs? Oregonian teenager Francesca Ghetti is six feet tall and reads minds by touching objects. Her divorced mother is a witch who has dragged Fran to Hungary on a traveling show filled with freaks and geeks. Fran is almost run over by a motorcycle. The driver is a hunk who is actually taller than her, which is what freaks her out. She does not blink when she learns he is Benedikt Czerny, a Moravian Dark One over three centuries old, who believes she will save his soul. When Benedikt demands Fran and his sister stay home while he fights a demon; his American Amazonian prepares to kick demon butt and his if necessary.

"Circus of the Darned". Teenage psychic Francesca has somewhat adapted to her abilities like summoning the dead and her abnormal lifestyle as a member of the touring Gothefaire. Even for Francesca used to the absurd being the norm, things are more out of control than usual starting with the twelve dead Vikings she brought back to life or her dating a motorcycle riding vampire who is almost three centuries her senior. While mom objects to his bad overbite with dental costs so high; Benedikt insists she is his life-mate, he needs to insure that his beloved GOT FANGS too. However the biggest problem in Francesca's mind is he is a night person and she has a curfew.

This reprints the two tongue-in-cheek young adult adventures of Francesca the Amazonian psychic written as Katie Maxwell. The cast in each tale, whether they are normal, supernatural, or hybrid in-betweeners, make for a fun time. However, this omnibus edition belongs to kick-butt Francesca whose action-packed escapades will be enjoyed by the targeted audience and long-toothed readers; while writing as Katie MacAlister has brought Francesca back in a delightful adult adventure (see In the Company of Vampires).

Twelve Wicked Nights
Nadia Aidan
9780451231314, $15.00

The death of her grandfather has attorney Isabella Andreu returning home for his funeral. There she runs into her former boyfriend Navy Seal Justin Rourke who is on leave. They remain attracted to each other though they have not seen each other in years, but neither plans to act on their feelings as he deploys in under two weeks and she needs to return to her law firm.

However, whether it is fate or something else, Mother Nature intervenes when a blizzard strands them at Justin's house. There Isabella finds a box of BDSM toys under his bed that excites her most intimate body parts with a need to test each one. They soon decide to spend every moment over the next twelve nights playing with his collection. Neither expects to fall in love while exploring their inner most sexual needs.

Fans will enjoy the Twelve Wicked Nights of Christmas with much of the pleasure coming from what the next sexual toy the lead couple deploys. The lead couple is a strong honest pairing of two delightful people whose lives seem to have magically crossed for the second time. Fast-paced and filled with heat, Nadia Aidan provides a fabulous Yuletide contemporary.

Revenge of the Geek
Piper Banks
9780451231345, $9.99

Miranda Bloom is a genius who enjoys school. However, the brilliant Miranda feels this semester as a junior at Geek High will hurt. Her La Crosse playing boyfriend Dex McConnell (see Summer of the Geek for when they met) is going away to a boarding school in Maine.

Miranda turns to her two BFFs, Finn and Charlie, but they have problems too so she does not want to burden them with her depression. She becomes friends with reticent new student Nora Lee. However, that makes her more depressed when Nora seems to be on a quest to prove she is Miranda's superior in anything and everything the latter does with acclaim. Still, her competitive juices flow as Miranda decides to teach this copycat that imitation is the highest form of flattery and can only achieve second place to the originator.

The fourth Geek High teen tale (see Geek High and Geek Abroad; neither read by me) is an intelligent entertaining entry as Miranda struggles with new personal, social and family issues not easily resolved without honest communication for instance the gender war between her two best friends each trying to pull her onto their side. Young adult readers will appreciate Miranda's success and failures as her attempts to reach out to the newcomer turns ugly (shades of Clueless) and family decisions by her have come home to roost while tennis looks almost as good as lacrosse.

The Virgin Widow
Anne O'Brien
9780451231291, $15.00

An Earl used to getting what he wants, Richard Neville decides his two daughters Anne and Isobel will wed the brothers of King Edward, Richard and Clarence respectively,. Outraged by the Duke of Warwick's presumption, Edward disapproves. In turn a fuming Neville joins with Clarence to revolt against Edward. They lose leading to Neville and Clarence being declared traitors against the House of York. The Warwick clan flees across the Channel to France where they join the exiled Lancaster family.

Still ambitious, Neville pushes Anne as a worthy bride of Edward Lancaster. Anne still loves her former fiance Richard, who stayed loyal to his sibling the king, which leaves them as star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of the dispute. Still her father forces her to wed the rebellious sibling Edward with the war for the throne of England still going unabated.

This is an engaging biographical fiction work that looks closely at Anne Neville caught between the two sides of the War of the Roses. She is a puppet to her politically ambitious Kingmaker sire who forces her to wed the wrong brother in her mind; but later has a chance to marry for love when her first husband and her father die in the battle to replace the late Edward. With a more human perspective of Richard than Shakespeare's version (the Bard wrote his plays with Queen Elizabeth I in mind if he wanted to keep his head), fans will enjoy this look at fractured England through the eyes of a key participant unwillingly pulled in several conflicting directions.

Seer of Sevenwaters
Juliet Marillier
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451463555, $24.95,

The fifth daughter of the Lord of Sevenwaters, teenager Sibeal of Sevenwaters has always dreamed of becoming a druid. Thus she is excited when she completes her training as all she has left to do to fulfill her goal is to take the vow. However, Sibeal's Uncle Ciaran directs her to drop her study in order to contemplate if she really wants to become a druid; as there is no change of mind once you commit. He sends her to the island of Inis Eala where her married sisters live for a summer of reflection in isolation.

Sibeal is angry with her mentor who she believes is punishing her although she cannot fathom why. A storm causes a shipwreck leaving several stranded voyagers. Sibeal is confused by the behavior of Knut the Norseman and his wife Svala who seems deathly afraid of her husband. The other survivor pulled safely from the water suffers from amnesia. To her shock Sibeal is attracted to this stranger with the memory loss, but also wonders what secrets have the married couple and perhaps the other survivor conceal from her and her family.

The latest Sevenwaters' family fantasy (see Daughter of the Forest and Heir of Sevenwaters) is an engaging entry starring a delightful intelligent daughter who must make choices not easy to select from as her life passion has a new passion. The story line starts off slow with much of what has gone on before overly rehashed to the chagrin of fans and glee of newcomers, but once Sibeal steps to the plate, the game accelerates. This is an entertaining romantic fantasy as the audience will wonder whether the heroine will select Druidism or love while also pondering who the amnesiac is.

Right Hand Magic
Nancy A. Collins
9780451463661, $6.99

Her affluent parents are disappointed in Tate as they expect her to marry someone of their social group. Instead, Tate is a Manhattan based metallurgist, sculpting life-sized human figures. Tate feels she is on the way to making it as a metal sculptor when the Templeton Gallery in Chelsea plans a showing of her work.

Tate finds a place to rent in the Golgotham, the oddest area in the city; some would say the world. Here is the true melting pot where Werewolves, Valkyries, Amazons, centaurs, and their ilk live above ground and Dwarves below the pavement. Also residing here is Kymeran witches who sell charms, spells, and curses to customers, mostly dumb humans. Tate's landlord is Hexe the Kymeran sorcerer who's a practitioner of the Right Hand magic. He shares in common with his new tenant the fact he has disappointed his mother the Golgotham Witch-Queen, Lady Syra by not following in her footsteps with using Left Hand curse magic. As Tate adjusts to Hexe's strange feline Scratch, a were-cougar stalks her. Hexe catches teenager Lukas, who is cold turkey detoxed from the drugs that had him out of control. He explains he fled from mob Boss Marz's pit fighting ring; the trio knows the gangster and his minion will be coming for their guest.

Right Hand Magic is a fascinating opening act of a new urban fantasy that focuses in the New York neighborhood Golgotham which is filled with an assortment of non-humans. The story line introduces the audience to the neighborhood through the eyes of the newest resident. The action is somewhat limited as Nancy A. Collins establishes the lifestyle of an assortment of paranormal species and a horde of players. This first entry looks like the beginning of an engaging series as fans will want to walk the streets of Golgotham; albeit with some magic at their right and left hands.

The Half-Made World
Felix Gilman
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765325525, $25.99,

At one time seemingly in ancient history or earlier the now mythical Red Republic allegedly kept some order between the industrial polluting Line and the violent prone Gun. However, that was then; now the Red Republic is a legend in which people who abhor violence and terrorism against others and the planet dream of a return as hope for the future is nonexistent.

Line Colonizers tramp west, trampling anything in their way. They enslave the native magic practitioners Hillfolk while creating their industrial revolution built on the trifold engines of religion, war and slavery. The Gun is losing the longer term war to the Line due to technological advances in weapons of mass destruction and the enemy's willingness to ignore collateral damage to others like the Hillfolk. Psychologist Dr. Liv Alverhuysen researches the impact of the Line's noise bombs on victims who go insane. She finds one case study particularly fascinating as the scrambled mind General claims he was an officer of the Red Republic. However, the desperate Gun abducts the shrink and the lunatic just in case his story is not insane.

The Half-Made World is a terrific alternate historical that uses the settling of the American West as a strong satire that rips the ethnic cleansing colonization and the industrial revolution polluting war machine. Not for grizzly mamas who would claim Felix Gilman is a liberal apologist, readers who relish a deep well written satire will enjoy this swift modest proposal of how the west was lost.

House of the Star
Caitlin Brennan
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765320377, $17.99,

Princess Elen of Ymbria dreams of one day becoming a rider of the Worldrunners. These horses are the only safe means of traveling Faerie and traversing the multi worlds. To achieve her personal goal, she must go to earth to be trained.

Though she knows that if she leaves Ymbria she will anger her family, but to not attempt achieving her dream she will anger herself. Elen arrives at the House of the Star ranch in Arizona. Although her personal quest is horse-riding training, she also has a secret official mission. While at the ranch she must meet with her peoples' enemy in hopes of forming an alliance. Her chances are slim, but with the guidance of the Worldrunners, she may succeed at both tasks.

This is a terrific coming of age fantasy as the heroine wants to choose how she lives her life, but being a princess her choices are limited by family decree. Still she rebels only to find herself caught in disputes not of her making. Young adult sub-genre fans will enjoy riding along side heroic Elen as her refrain is the Sinatra tune, My Way.

Empress of Eternity
L.E. Modesitt Jr.
9780765326645, $25.99

When the moon shattered, a 2000 mile long canal ripped through the earth splitting the continent apart.

In 1351, Unity of Caelaarn. At a remote weather station, married scientists Maertyn and Maarlyna observe glacial activity that threatens the world as splinted bergs increase the danger. They are hoping to find clues to the great canal, but a budget crisis may end their research

In 2471, R.E. MetStation scientists Eltyn and Faelyna study the great canal trying to learn its secrets before the great drought destroys the continent. Confronting the encroachment of the desert, they are caught in the middle of a civil war as the hive splits into two conflicting mindsets.

In 3123, Vaniran Hegemony. Another ice age is coming as glacierization threatens the continent. Researchers Duhyle and Helkyria study the great canal at a time when local rebels want to splinter away from the one nation world government.

These three eras star scientists (and the canal) struggling with geological disasters threatening a way of life; while their leaders prefer ignoring the immense problems by kicking the issues to the future for someone else to cope with the confrontation. Rotating perspective, each entry is well written and fascinating but takes adaptation as the communications change over the two millennia. The dedicated researchers come across as heroic while government leaders are avaricious and want to maintain or gain power only. This is science fiction at its best as L.E. Modesitt Jr. condemns those who either politicize, believe or pretend that potential catastrophes (like global warming) are scientific frauds rather than take hard unpopular resolve sooner than later in this deep commentary.

Wild Cards 1
George R.R. Martin, editor
9780765326157, $15.99

In 1946, Jetboy begins what looks like a suicide mission to save New York City from the Takisians invasion. The aliens plan to use Manhattan as a mass weapon experiment. He has "Thirty Minutes Over Broadway" (by Howard Waldrop) to prevent the tragedy; he fails.

While most died from the virus, nine percent suffered monstrous body changes and one percent became the super powerful beings - Jokers to some; Aces to others. When the bomb exploded he was a ninth grader who is ironically two decades later the "Sleeper" (by Roger Zelazny) who cannot allow himself to sleep; he has become a Wild Card like a few other survivors who must unite as the Swarm from space is coming to the Omni.

This is the opening tales from one of the great continuous superhero (and villain) anthologies. Ten of the entries were printed in the original first collection in 1987. There are three new contributions that fit nicely into this extremely dark world; in fact expand on the premise, especially the "Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan" by Carrie Vaughn. Although a couple of contributions feel awkward in terms of the overarching theme as if George R.R. Martin was still experimenting with Wild Aces, none of the entries are poorly written. This is a great return to the beginning of the fabulous Wild Cards Universe.

Game Over
Taylor Keating
9780765365477, $6.99

River Weston created a game that enables people to experience adventure, but has some snafus. The brilliant game designer is also unaware that she has drilled into a parallel universe where the Dark Lord resides. He manages to fool with the levels. Soon River finds herself trapped inside her game that is not a game; a place that is constantly changing. In this virtual realm, River meets a Dark Lord prisoner Hawk.

In her real world, River fears her friend Nick is hiding some dark secret from her. At the same time Kaye investigates River hoping to learn her secrets to use initially against her and then others. In Hawk's real world his body remains dormant under the alert of the Guardians, but like River's spirit, his remains trapped by his people's enemy the Dark Lord.

Readers will enjoy this exciting science fiction-fantasy romantic thriller due to the strong cast. River and Hawk prove that the sum is greater than the parts as the skillful duet from this different universes team up against a very formidable opponent. Fast-paced from the moment River and the Dark Lord "meet", readers will wonder who will be left standing where once Game over occurs. Obviously the plot pays homage to Tron as a loosely sort of daughter of the movie, however be aware the Legacy of the son is soon to be released on film.

Mr. Monster
Dan Wells
9780765327901, $11.99

John Wayne Cleaver still struggles, as he has all his life to keep, his demonic Mr. Monster side from taking over his mind. However, ironically his heroism involving taking out a serial killer has strengthened Mr. Monster's hold.

A second Clayton County second serial killer apparently surfaces with several corpses as the calling card. Once again the local police fail to catch the predator. In spite of fearing involvement again after how much stronger Mr. Monster has become, John uses his knowledge he gained from his war with the first demon killer to try to trap the second. However, evidence mounts that John is the serial killer.

This is much darker than the dark I Am Not A Serial Killer as Mr. Monster takes over for a few moments leading to a raging out of control beast ready to torture and kill, which after Cleaver regains the power he is filled with anguish and torment for what happened; mindful of mid stages of Alzheimer's victims who recall what they did and consider stupidity. Cleaver and Monster make the lead character appears as if he has a multiple personality disorder as they war for the lead. Action-packed with ultra gory scenes (some too vividly ugly for my sensitive stomach), yet Dan Wells enables his audience to see the battle of good and evil inside the heart and mind of one struggling soul teetering on the brink of being lost.

Twilight Forever Rising
Lena Meydan
9780765326799, $15.99

In 2004, a prime reason the Dahanavar vampire clan is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, of the ruling ten bloodsucker families is the unnatural skills of Darel even with each brood have all sorts of mages and paranormal aptitudes. He is an extraordinary empath who can read emotion and at times thoughts. Thus his brood knows ahead time what their rivals are plotting although for centuries there has been an uneasy peace as the various clans enjoy mutual prosperity not overt hostility.

However the feral chieftain Miklosh of the House of Nachterret believes his rivals are weak settling for shadows. The chief wants world domination, but step one is to eliminate Darel before he learns of the nefarious multifaceted plot. Once the mind reader is dead, the clans will fall next and then the rest of the sentient races especially the human sustenance will follow as he believes vampires are the highest step on the food chain and Nachterret are the acme of them all. The key to destroy Darel is through Lenore, the human female he cherishes.

This is a super translation of a Russian vampire thriller in which the Meydan world of competing vampire clans to include special paranormal ones comes across as genuine. Darel is the focus of the first Vampire Clans saga as Nachterret knows he must be murdered, but to do so Malevolent Miklosh needs a specific expendable human pawn. The relationship between Lenore and Darel seems undeveloped especially as this is the catalyst behind what the hero's actions are and what happens between the Ten vampire clans as manipulated by Miklosh.

Betrayer of Worlds
Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
9780765326089, $25.99

The Puppeteers sort of lead the mass exodus of the "Fleet of Worlds" away from the supernova spreading increasingly wider at an accelerating speed from the galaxy's core. Even in flight, some choose fight. Achilles though humiliated with his failed machinations proving embarrassing still believes he is destined to rule the Puppeteer worlds.

The feral genocidal Pak also flees the core; they willingly stop to attack other species especially the weak Fleet of Worlds running for their lives. The Gw'oth whose technological advances in the past two centuries (local time) is impossible yet continues to exponentially grow; they stand in the way of the fleeing Fleet of Worlds. Finally, the rebellious pathetic humans on Nature Preserve Four embarrass the cowardly Puppeteers as these apes are barely out of the caves. Desperation breeds strange bedfellows as insane Puppeteer scout Nessus recruits pill addicted human prisoner Wu and joins with megalomaniac Achilles to forge a partnership to end the war of all wars between three diverse alien races at a time when everyone needs to herd together to leave the galaxy post haste.

The latest prequel saga to the Ringworld Known Space science fiction series (see Destroyer of Worlds) is a strong complicated entry (even with a glossary, names are a mess to follow) as four sentient species are on the verge of when worlds collide. Ironically in spite of the obvious superiority of the three alien races, the human Wu and the insane puppeteer Nessus understand that cooperation is the only means of survival with the supernova coming; as either all four races endure together or die. Fans will enjoy learning why Wu was wooed years later in Ringworld as Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner provide a strong entry; newcomers need to at least read the prequel tales like Juggler of Worlds to ascertain the galaxy meltdown.

Seed Seeker
Pamela Sargent
9780765314284, $25.99

The sentient space traveling vessel Ship plants the human seeds on many worlds. Before disembarking, Ship always promises to return to judge humanity. On the planet Home, Ship left behind humanity (see Earthseed), but after he left the species divided into two branches (see Farseed). Inside of the dome left behind by Ship lives the Dome Dwellers who believe they only abide to the creator's admonition of being "true humanity" while waiting for the second coming. Those who left the dome to live off the land near the great river as farmers and hunters are technologically low. These River People believe Ship's vision for mankind is to live in harmony on Home. Each side believes strongly the other side is "contaminated".

The River People see the strange light in the sky they assume means Ship has returned for Judgment Day. Inside the dome, excitement and fear is high that Ship has come back to see how humanity has fared. However, the dome radio operators find their communication devices fail to make contact with Ship. The River Dwellers are concerned that the Dome Dwellers have sold them out as impure. Teenagers Bian and Arnagh begin a journey to the dome to learn what is going on.

With obvious religious implications of a second coming judgment day in which each side of humanity expects Ship to choose their way of life over the other as Pamela Sargent provides a deep science fiction story in which she lucidly makes the case that materialism (Dwellers) without purpose is futile. The reactions to the anticipated return is fascinating since the Dome Dwellers insist they are "true" yet fear Judgment while the River People fear the Dome Dwellers have left them to be condemned. Although the characters are somewhat interchangeable except for the teens, readers will enjoy this philosophical look at two cultures in which regardless of what Ship rules life will never be the same as the creator has returned.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Glass Door Knob: Lyric Poems
Llyn Clague
Pure Heart Press
c/o Main Street Rag Publishing Company
PO Box 690100, Charlotte NC 28227
9781599482743 14.00

Readers of poetry may have already discovered examples of Llyn Clague's work in numerous poetry magazines, or in four previous published books. In this fifth book, Clague's maturity as man and poet shines. Within these pages readers will find a fierce peace, ancient yearnings, the cold mists of melancholy, slanted facets of light, observations and imaginations mixed together like "confetti in a kaleidoscope."

His words are plain spoken truths, easy to understand and assimilate, as in these lines from "Hope":

...with a deep breath, you feel the fist

of your self-centeredness relax.

"Moonscape" is the haunting night contemplation of a man alone seeking elusive insights:

The moon slides slowly down the sky

and disappears like a love vanished

except in a cracked photo,

leaving a memory

of gleaming in the night.

"Anywhere" is a rush of thoughts tumbled together as a man experiences bits and pieces of his day. This excerpt brought a familiar chill:

...jagged edges of anxiety over your job

the trembling recognition of aging...

I chose to quote "The Needle" in its entirety to show readers one poet's creative process. This may explain where poems come from:

Sometimes a poem flies up

from a haying pasture

like a starling, whole

and suddenly there.

At other times

I must burn whole stacks

of mown words,

searching for a single needle

to stitch scrap and tatter

into a poetic entity -

seams and tucks invisible

and ashes scattered on the ground.

Like the title poem, Clague's work draws you inside the poet's heart and reminds you what life is all about. Highly recommended.

Missing Mabel: Book 1 of the Curl Up and Dye Series
Nancy Mehl
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 719, Uhrichsville OH 44683
9781602603981 10.99

I've eagerly awaited this new cozy Christian mystery series by Nancy Mehl and my anticipation has been well-rewarded. Once again Ms. Mehl sets a snuggly, cozy tone, gently shares her faith, provides readers with a coterie of delightful characters, and sprinkles the plot with tantalizing clues to pique our interest.

Hilde Higgins loves her job and considers dressing hair before funerals her ministry. This pride in her work and attention to small details has built Hilde's clientele with mortuaries in Wichita, Kansas. Once she sees a photo of a person in life, her photographic memory is a godsend. Through prayer and skill, Hilde creates the perfect image for funeral viewing. Why a young woman would want to be "hairdresser to the dead" is a mystery to most who know Hilde, especially her mother. She could still be working for the most prestigious salon in Wichita, but got tired of rich old women who want to look like movie stars. The dead don't talk, or complain.

Except for her mother's disapproval and a barren social life, Hilde's world turns smoothly until the day she's called to dress Mabel Winnemaker's hair. One brief glance at the REAL Mabel a day before tells Hilde the body in the casket is not Mabel. When she expresses her belief that Mabel is missing, no one believes her and the mortuary owner accuses her of stealing Mabel's ring. Everything goes downhill for Hilde from there. Her reputation is shot, Mabel is missing, and the only comfort Hilde has is her cozy apartment and friends in tiny Eden, Kansas.

Eden and Hilde's friends there provide interest and depth to the plot as our heroine struggles to clear her name and find the real Mabel. The ending, when it came, was a complete surprise. The clues were there, but I missed them.

Readers who love cozy Christian mysteries should relish this series. Highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

St. Cecilia's Orchestra
Michael O'Neill McGrath. illustrator
Alan J. Hommerding, author
World Library Publications
3708 River Road, Suite 400, Franklin Park, IL 60131
9781584594758 $16.99

"St. Cecilia's Orchestra" is a fantastic, song-filled, vibrantly illustrated odyssey across the world in search of beautiful music. Poetic lyrics, vivid pictures, and imaginative sounds fill this amazing book. It is crucial to follow the poster illustrated instructions on the first page: "Read this book aloud! Listen for the music in the words." St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music that glorifies God everywhere. In "St. Cecilia's Orchestra" she travels to amazing corners of the wide world to collect different sounds, voices and instruments What does she find? "Why, EVERY kind of instrument/Can offer sacred praise!" "St. Cecilia's Orchestra" inspires children and adults to celebrate the joy of life and creation in song and music, from organ to didgeridoo, from harp to zukra, from flute to balalaika. "St Cecilia's Orchestra" is a dazzling, inspirational book for children age 4 and up that celebrates the diversity and glory of music of all kinds.

Clancy's Christmas Stampede & Other Christmas Story Poems
Jim Zitzelsberger
Moki Lane Publishing
1199 E. Black Wolf Avenue, Oshkosh, WI 54902
9780615387055 $8.95

"Clancy's Christmas Stampede & Other Christmas Story Poems" is an original, quirky collection of song/story poems with the common inspirational theme of Christmas and all its trimmings. Some poems have suggested guitar chords and performance suggestions (country style, etc.). Every poem has its own unique twist, and all reflect a genuine warmth and good will that readers have learned to associate with the holiday. Humor is a key ingredient, as in The Twelve Cows of Christmas: "From the 12th cow of Christmas:/ A Longhorn gave to me-/ Twelve squirts of skim milk,/ Eleven shakes of Parmesan,/ Ten spoons of sour cream,/ Nine servings of yogurt,/ Eight scoops of ice cream,/ Seven ounces of creamy French Brie,/ Six glasses of whole milk,/ Five pounds of cottage cheese,/ Four sticks of butter,/ Three quarts of chocolate milk,/ Two cups of heavy cream,/ And a brick of golden cheddar cheese (pp. 56-57)." As can be predicted, there is a real Wisconsin flavor to these Christmas Story Poems, and the fun goes on and on throughout the collection. These are original narrative poems meant to be read aloud or performed and sung on cold winter nights around cozy fireplaces or stoves. They are sure to be enjoyed by an all ages audience, whether wearing homespun or hemp or silk.

Memories of a Farm Kitchen
Bob Artley and Rob Artley, authors
Bob Artley, illustrator
Pelican Publishing
1000 Burmaster Street, Gretna, Louisiana 70053
9781589801509 $22.95

"Memories of a Farm Kitchen" is a collection of memories and detailed illustrations of life in an Iowa farm kitchen from the 1920-s through the 1950's. The author's exact visual memories and artistic cartooning skills allow the illustrations to shine with loving attention to detail, while the chapters cover many of the significant roles of the farm kitchen and other farm activities that relied on the steady support and output of the farm kitchen. The kitchen was a center of all of the following activities: laundry, nursery, medical dispensary, food preparation and serving center, and scriptorium, and general center of the universe. All of this information is carefully presented in the chapters and presented in immense detail in the illustrations. Nostalgia for bygone days and ways may permeate "Memories of a Farm Kitchen," but it is also a record and guide to past practices of rural families, a memory of work and love.

As A Farm Woman Thinks
Nellie Watt Spikes
Geoff Cunfer, editor
Foreword by Sandra Scofield
Texas Tech University Press
2903 4th St., Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409
9780896727106 $34.95

"As A Farm Woman Thinks: Life and Land on the Texas High Plains, 1890-1960" is a compilation of over 25 years of syndicated columns written for multiple small town Texas newspapers and publications. Arranged in order by subject and by chronology, entries in "As A Farm Woman Thinks" represent the best of Spike's offerings, further enhanced by occasional black and white historical photographs of the people and places of West Texas she knew so well. One entry that was poignant, even bittersweet, describes a move that Mrs. Spikes has just made with her husband, while in her 60's: "March 31, 1950 - When asked just why we moved to Floydada, we would say there are many reasons. ...We have lived between Ralls and Floydada for forty-three years, or at least Floydada was here then. It seemed we were as much at home in one place as another...We are very pleased with our nice little home and the pleasant neighbors near us. It may be like moving old, rooted plants for us to move, but if we have plenty of friends to call, time to read and to write, garden a little and raise plenty of flowers, we will take deep roots and, like the plants, take a new growth. One reason that might have been hidden deep in my heart is the love of the canyons in this country. When we go south to visit there is always the canyon to cross, giving inspiration and help and comfort as it has done through the years (pp. 91-92)."

Here is a collection of poetic thoughts, natural observations, and human experience of life on the plains and canyons of West Texas from 1934 to 1958. Further biographical detail about Nellie's life is provided in the introduction. From age 4, when her parents moved to the area at the edge of the Llano Estacado to her young adulthood and marriage prior to her writing the first of her many columns in the 30's, Nellie never failed to bring a zest for the joys of her rural life to each daily task and to her writing.

"As A Farm Woman Thinks" is not comprehensive, it is a sifting and distilling of many prolific writings of a remarkable woman. In the era during which she wrote, many changes were witnessed as history continued. Nellie Spikes' peculiar vision was often if not always of the best sides of human nature. It is truly an honor and a joy to remake her acquaintance through the experience of reading her observations in "As A Farm Woman Thinks."

Coffee and Cake
Julie E. Meyers
Acclaim Press
PO Box 238, Morley, MO 63767
9781935001577 $24.95

"Coffee and Cake: An Adoptee In Search of Her Past" is an amazing story of a determined woman who seeks to uncover and restore her pre adoption history, parents, family and roots, while simultaneously cherishing and keeping her adoptive family ties intact. Born in Germany in 1968, author Julia Meyers is adopted by kind, loving parents who encourage her to develop her considerable talents and interests. "Coffee and Cake" traces the life-changing decision of the author to seek out first her birth mother, a German woman named Edda, and later her birth father, an American soldier named Ottie. In the process, which is supported by both her adoptive parents, the author uncovers past painful history and also new relationships with half-siblings born to her birth mother after her subsequent marriage, after deciding to give up Julia for adoption. All these encounters are filled with emotion, but Julie is persistent and courageous in her search. Her adoptive mother's only worry is that she will be hurt or disappointed in what she finds. The idea of "Coffee and Cake" is that you can't really understand entirely who you are until you have found - and embraced -who and where you came from. The author understands that not all adoptees' searches might perhaps end as positively as hers has. But to read "Coffee and Cake" is to enter into a spirit of vibrant, positive expectation of happiness and fulfillment deserved for all. Perhaps this expectation propels the compelling search, or perhaps there is more. As Julia finds and accepts and incorporates each new relationship into her life, her own family also grows. She meets and marries her husband and they have two children, all while leading intensely demanding professional lives as a musician/scientist and an archaeologist. Every time she is able to meet with either her birth mother, or birth half siblings, or other family she meets later, they have a ritual entertainment of serving coffee and cake. Germans love having coffee and cake in the afternoons, and during pleasant visits. Julie traces her search for family on both sides of the Atlantic, while continuing to keep her close ties with her adoptive family, mother, father, and brother, intact. Her life presents her with many challenges. She is resolute, even indefatigable. Her story will become an inspiration to many. I believe she has much to offer even to those who have not experienced closed adoptions. The message of cherishing your family roots, seeking and honoring your beginnings is very strong in "Coffee and Cake." It is a book to be kept, read and reread.

Star Songs and Water Spirits
Victoria Brehm, editor
Ladyslipper Press
15075 County Line Road, Tustin, Michigan 49688
Independent Publishers Group
814 N. Franklin, Chicago, IL 60610)
9780984334001 $27.95

"Star Songs and Water Spirits: A Great Lakes Native Reader" is an amazing collection of Great Lakes Native American literature and cultural wisdom in the form of sacred stories of the creation of the world and stars, tales of heroes and monsters, narratives of hunting, fishing, and food gathering and speeches/writings about war, personal narratives and essays and contemporary fiction and poetry. The cover of "Star Songs and Water Spirits" is a reproduction of a painting titled Water Spirit by Miskwabik Animiki (Copper Thunderbird, Norval Morrisseau, 1932-2007), a remarkable Anishinabe Wabeno and artist whose work reflected the early petroglyphs of the Great Lakes region. Continuing in the celebration of current Native arts expression, the dedication poem titled The Diaspora, by Claudine Sioui, Huron-Wendat, is a tragic gathering of utterances that builds its own special powerful appeal: "I come back from the diaspora,/ Is it really the end of the one way?/ Is it really the end of brutality? (p.xii)." An extended introduction to the collection briefly traces pre- and post invasion contact in the Great Lakes area among the many tribes and nations of First peoples there. The importance of Native stories is defined, and the plan of the book is outlined. "This is the literature of frequently displaced and dispossessed peoples and their cultures, peoples shoved aside by recent immigrants who were sometimes technologically but never intellectually superior....For Canada and the United States to respect Native literatures as classics equally with Greek and Latin would require a realignment of values and a recognition of past brutalities that few are prepared to make. Yet Native stories are as important to the residents of North America as Chaucer, Shakespeare, or Homer (p. 23)."

Continued writings by a variety of Native voices, some in First languages translations, are organized into sections by the seasons, starting with Winter, the traditional time for sacred storytelling. here are collected and presented a wonderful assortment of Native stories. Stories of suffering and hunger, stories of great bravery and sacrifice, stories of love and trickery, stories of survival and respect for the great land and water that supports this group of nations. Star Songs and Water Spirits" is truly a beautiful patchwork sampler of many cultures and entities' distilled knowledge and traditions in the form of their stories and literature. Perhaps it might be thought of as equivalent to a Great Lakes Native American Norton Anthology, if that is not an a demeaning comparison. Surely "Star Songs and Water Spirits" presents a rich treasury of sources unique to this amazing continent that is too valuable to be lost, overlooked, or demoted as unimportant. Sometimes finding the log in our own eye before criticizing the speck in our neighbor's is the most challenging discovery of all. To all those who wonder about the beginnings of human culture on the North American Continent, "Star Songs and Water Spirits" is a precious resource to encourage further exploration.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Healing Houses
Sheldon Norberg
North Mountain Publishing
9780967623160 $17.95

The remnants of tragedy often lurk in the air strongly. "Healing Houses: My Works as a Psychic House Cleaner" is a look at the work of Sheldon Norberg, who focuses on removing the aura of negative events that have occurred in the past and remain in these houses. An intriguing read for metaphysical readers looking into the connection of energies to homes, "Healing Houses" is a worthwhile addition for any metaphysical collection.

The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway
Jennifer L. Knox
Bloof Books
9780982658710 $15.00

There's plenty worth mocking, even with poetry. "The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway" is a collection of offbeat and humorous poems from Jennifer L. Knox, providing her unique spins and styles on language. With a sprinkling of idea and opinion, "The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway" is a choice collection not to be missed. "Babies in Silent Movies": How'd they make it cry so loud?/You know under the ragtime roll's/a wail that'd peel paint, can see/the blond brows crimped like claws/beneath the gingham bonnet, cheeks/red hot despite spectrumlessness./Maybe a lackey's pinching its thigh under the table./A good mother'd/shrug off the short pricks of pain one/outgrows to keep a kid back then that fat.

Lee D. Young
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, New York, NY 10016
9780533162468 $24.95

L.D.: Rocketry, Race and a Colorful Journey is the memoir of African-American rocket engineer Lee D. Young. Though Young faced problems with bigotry over the course of his life, his primary motivating force was creativity; he had a natural aptitude for mechanical things since early in his life. He saved money, put himself through college, and earned his career in rocketry through determination, hard work, and more than a little spirituality to balance out the material drives in his life. He also married and raised three children, now all adults. Young's life is ultimately an inspirational success story, and a telling perspective of not only the evolution of the Apollo space mission and the U.S. ICBM program, but also the wake of the 1965 Watts Riots, which prompted Young to seek freedom abroad before finally deciding to return to "home sweet home with all its faults". A quintessential American life story cover to cover, L.D. is highly recommended.

Urban Fey Book 2: Courting Favor
Kim Long-Ewing and Rhea Ewing
Mystic Sheep Studios
0979282446 $19.95

Urban Fey Book 2: Courting Favor continues the original, black-and-white graphic novel series about fey folk who have evolved in kindred to aspects of the city - they are personifications such as Auto, Opera, Bodymod, and Wall Street. In Book 2, the would-be Urban Court seeks to gain approval from other fairy courts. The Coastal Court adores them, but the Jungle Court still seethes with anger over old wounds, the Arctic court is as cool in demeanor as their homeland is in temperature, and Lord Oberyn is observes their efforts with severe antagonism. And just what is Pan up to? An excerpt from the creators' blog and bonus Pan mini-stories round out this exciting and soulful chronicle, enthusiastically recommended to anyone who has ever loved fairy tales.

The Lottery Eliminator: Pick 3 Pick 4
Dawn Lemke and Trisha M. Wilson
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432761646 $29.95

The Lottery Eliminator: Pick 3 Pick 4 is a no-nonsense lottery checklist book. It consists of a spreadsheet-style listing of the number sequences currently used in the United States Pick 3 and Pick 4 lottery. There are no extra gimmicks, mathematic equations, magic numbers, or any such material - nothing but a straight list of the numbers 000 through 999, and 0000 through 9999. Each listing has a "date" and a "comments" box for both morning and evening. The Lottery Eliminator is a practical and straightforward tool created especially for serious lottery players.

Glaciers, Bears And Totems
Elsie Hulsizer
Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9781550175165, $44.95,

Part history, part travel guide, part memoir, "Glaciers, Bears and Totems: Sailing in Search of the Real Southeast Alaska" takes the reader into a singular adventure of discovery with respect to what Alaska has to offer 'off the beaten track' of modern tourism. An environmental professional and trained oceanographer, Elsie Hulsizer draws upon her personal experience and research sailing the waters of Alaska with her husband Steve discovering what makes Alaska special with respect to its people, their art and festival, its fauna and flora, its geography, its past, and its present. With photographs and maps, "Glaciers, Bears and Totems: Sailing in Search of the Real Southeast Alaska" is an ideal read for armchair travelers, and a source of practical inspiration and reference for anyone wanting to depart from choreographed cruise ship itineraries and explore what's to be seen down 'paths less traveled'. Simply stated, "Glaciers, Bears and Totems: Sailing in Search of the Real Southeast Alaska" is informed, informative, inspired and inspiring, and a welcome addition to community library collections and personal reading lists.

Memoirs of the Original Rolling Stone
Andy Anderson & Erika Celeste
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
The Barrett Company (publicity)
12021 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 600, Los Angels, CA 90025
9781449082680, $25.00,

There was another 'Rolling Stone' band that preceded the one from England that went on to dominate rock & roll for decades. This earlier group was founded by a few guys from Mississippi that composed their own songs in a new style that would come to be called 'rockabilly'. This remarkable and influential music group is the subject of "Memoirs of the Original Rolling Stone", a profusely illustrated, 136-page history of an extraordinary band that can justly be considered as being godfathers of Rock & Roll. The collaborative work of Andy Anderson (a contemporary of Elvis Presley, who played with the King on several occasions, and who has many top 40 hits to his credit) and Emmy award-winning writer and documentarian Erika Celeste, "Memoirs of the Original Rolling Stone" is a stroll down memory lane for some, and a long overdue acknowledgment for a new generation of American popular music students, making it an enthusiastically recommended addition for personal, academic, and community library 20th Century American Music History reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

Through a Crack
Martin Lubran
Narbul LLC Publishers
4535 W. Saraha Ave., Suite 200, Las Vegas, NV 89102
9780615348780 $19.99

Martin Lubran has enjoyed careers as a biolgocial statistician; computer programmer; general contractor; and senior manager in his lifetime before turning to writing. His skill in writing lies with his research. Thus, THROUGH A CRACK is a novel based on a historical event that probably rated as one of the biggest cover-ups in our nation's history.

Shawn is a private investigator with a wife, Maureen, and a son. When he and his son take a hike, they find a ring. Shawn quickly identifies the owner of the ring, although the piece of jewelry dates from 1915. A visit to the granddaughter of the original owner turns up a mystery regarding the disappearance of the grandfather.

In the meantime, Shawn is having dreams of being trapped in a flood. What does it all mean?

"The water was up to my neck. The only thing keeping me from drowning were my hands thrashing wildly at my sides. I needed to focus completely on survival at all costs. I looked around to see if I could make out my next move. But in the darkness, I couldn't even tell if trying to make my way in one direction or another would benefit me. What could I do?"

From the beginning, the reader is kept as much in the dark about this mystery as the protagonist. Add the feeling that Shawn is always being followed by people who mean him harm adds to the nightmarish quality of the book. Who are the bad guys? Who died? Lubran feeds a thread of answers slowly, as if caught in a film noir himself. Then he throws in a twist at the very end that lets the reader off of the tightrope, and suddenly it all makes sense.

THROUGH A CRACK is not your normal run-of-the-mill mystery. Instead it slithers between an historical novel with just enough Alfred Hitchcock to make it into not really a murder mystery, but rather a thriller.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Hurricane Mia
Donna Marie Seim, author
Susan Spellman, illustrator
Pea Pod Press
151 Epping Road, Exeter, NH 03833
9780982691106 $12.95

We meet Mia in this outstanding tale, a young girl whose mother is dying of leukemia forcing some changes in her life. Mia's family feels it would be better for her and her younger brother to stay at her grandparents house during this time. Mia is not happy, she will have to leave her dog, her best friend, not go to camp, and leave her mother. When Mia reaches grandma's she feels she is a little cold, perhaps cranky. Mia never looks at herself as being the problem. Mia sneaks into town and meets, Neisha, an island girl whose family owns a Cafe. Much will happen because of the friendship of these two girls. When Neisha hears of the sickness of Mia's mother she tells her about Auntie Cecilia, a woman who makes a tea that can 'cure' anything. Mia simply must have that tea no matter what it takes, even if it endangers their lives.

This was quite a read. I read it with my 11 year old granddaughter and it definitely kept her interest. The author did a good job at bringing the characters to life and a great job at the description of the locals. Many facets of life were portrayed in this read that some children may be facing., such as the illness of a parent. There were also many decision making situations that Mia had to address, each with their own set of consequences. Children reading this book will think what their decisions would be. There was adventure and danger, family and friendship issues, and emotional upheavals and a showing of love. This read seemed to have it all.
My granddaughter and I truly enjoyed the story and looked forward to our daily reading of it. We are anxiously awaiting the next book to see how some of the problems are worked out.
Very well done, a read I am sure will be enjoyed by many.

Mrs. Pinkelmeyer and Moopus McGlinden Burn The Rrrump Rrroast
Jennifer Kelman, author
Michael Swaim, illustrator
Dog Ear Publishing
4010 West 86th St., Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781608446124 $15.99

Life often has a way of allowing something helpful to happen right at the time we need it. In this adorable tale we meet a young boy named, Henry, who is staying with his aunt and is very sad over not seeing his parents. His aunt accidentally makes a phone call that connects her to England and a very loveable woman named, Mrs. Pinkelmeyer, who has a bouncing dog named, Moopus McGlinden. The aunt and Mrs. Pinkelmeyer begin to talk and when she finds out her little nephew is sad she asks to talk to him and begins to tell him about the adventures with her dog, Moopus. Soon Henry forgets how sad he was feeling and giggles away at Mrs. Pinkelmeyer's tales. Unfortunately Mrs. Pinkelmeyer becomes so involved in her storytelling that she forgets about her rrrrump rrroast in the oven and it burns to a crisp. How will Mrs. Pinkelmeyer and Moopus handle their dilemma?

I enjoyed this story. The entire concept of it is that there are times when helping another person overcome what they are experiencing is more important than our own concerns. The illustrations are great, bright, bold, big and truly those alone are a treat to behold. They are adorable. I recommend this tale, the rolling of the R's definitely gives you a giggle when you are trying to read it and will certainly make a child smile. Very nice book, good story, great illustrations, a winner.

Cypress Lake
Joe Basara
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781453636527 $12.95

I was interested in reading this work since I live in Florida. I was pleased to see that the author definitely did a great job in bringing to light many of the wonders of our state. He intertwined this information within his storyline giving substance to what was being presented in the read.
Our character, Owen Cloud, definitely had some issues to work out in his life. Moving to Florida he begins a job as an orderly at a local hospital. It is here he meets many of the characters that will touch his life in one way or another. Owen doesn't think much of himself and that shines through from the beginning of the story. It is something he must overcome. Owen is a dreamer and through his eyes you are taken on many journeys of memories from the past, music, movies, literature and expectations of the present and future. Owen is seeking, but will he realize that what he needs is right before his eyes?

I feel the author did a nice job with this story. I suppose living in the state of Florida definitely gave me an upper-hand in some of the tale. However, Owen is a complex individual who is trying to work out his own life and at times wanting others to fulfill places that they are not able to. During his travels along his life he learns what and who is important and why. He also learns a lot about himself and the world he lives in. Definitely a story for thought, one that perhaps will encourage others to see what is truly important.

Kosher By Design Teens and 20-Somethings
Susie Fishbein
Photography by: John Uher
Mesorah Publishing
4401 Second Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11232
978142260998 $20.99

I always enjoy reviewing cookbooks and this one was truly a treat. My first impression was the fun, colorful cover, not the norm for a cookbook and it immediately drew me to want to look inside. Once opening the pages of this book I was impressed by the entire layout. It begins with giving tips like preparation, setting up, cleaning up, safe food habits, etc. and photos are included in this part as well. Very nice.

As I traveled along I was greeted by the recipes, each one was neatly printed, ingredients, instructions and a big bold photo of the finished product. Excellent. We have meats, salad, soup, deserts, snacks, drinks, just about everything you would need to set a feast for your family and friends. Looking at the food before you definitely made you want to take a bite right off the page, very well done.

A nice feature was also included at the back of the book where our author gives ideas for parties that are sure to spice them up and make them much more enjoyable. All in all this is an exceptional work. Well thought out, well presented and most important of all, would be a great help for anyone wanting to make a splash with their cooking abilities. Recommended.

Shadow Cay
Leona Bodie
WRB Publishing
Palm City, FL 34990
9780984419814 $19.95

Living in the state of Florida definitely heightened the enjoyment of reading this book. Although don't like the thought that perhaps some of what I read is actually taking place within my own area, I hope not, but who can tell.

This is a novel that is full of suspense and thrills. Drug Lords that have their tentacles reaching far and near rule much of what the natives do not see or understand. A heartless man, drained of emotions from his own life leads the way and now those who will live and die must fight for justice and help to bring an end to destruction that is far reaching, but will it ever truly end?

I could never fully explain this storyline in a short review. It is deep and rich, flowing with many characters that all piece together like a fine jig saw puzzle bringing forth a story that reels with adventure and intrigue.

I feel this story actually touches upon the motives and hearts of so many that dapple in the dark world of corruption. It is one of evil, and those who are determined to fight it, even at the risk of losing their own lives. It is one of love, and one of hate, greed virus common good for man, the problem, which one will win. A real thriller, one that wraps around you and keeps you tied to the pages until the final curtain. Excellent writing, recommended.

Now You're Cooking
Diane M. Lynch & Diana R. Jenkins
Pauline Press
50 St. Pauls Avenue, Boston, MA 02130
9780819851673 $8.95

Outstanding! That is the word that I simply must start this review off with. Our authors have taken a subject, cooking, and turned it into a great big grab bag of pure enjoyment. Inside the pages of this book children will find some great stories, each one bringing a great lesson of life and each followed by a recipe that the children may use. The stories and recipes represent a multi-cultural and that really gives the children a taste perhaps of more than the world around them. There are also some tips on cooking safety that all adults will be glad to see.

I have to say that this book surprised me with all that it had to offer and the way it was offered.
It is definitely not boring, but upbeat and enjoyable. Many of the recipes sound yummy and they are marked at how easy or hard they are to make. This is a real winner in so many ways and I am proud to recommend this book to young and old. Enjoy.

Me, Myself and Paris
Ruth Yunker
Outskirts Press
9781432757144 $24.95

I wonder who has never dreamed of going to Paris or some other far away land? Our author, Ruth Yunker, took the bull by the horns and made her dream come true. A feisty and free spirited woman she begins a 6-week stay in the city of lights, and her story begins.

Our author tells of her apartment and carefully gives us a mind's eye view of where she will call home for the next few weeks. She takes us on twists and turns as she attempts to buy an iron, one that does not work, and than is determined to return it and get her money back. Perhaps not as easy in Paris as it would be in the States. Does she?

My favorite story was the one about the fly, I am still wondering if it was her friend that she sent to its final reward or another one. I will never know. And I actually whispered a silent prayer that the dog she shared her food with did have a happy home to return to that night, again I will never know.

Inside the pages of this book you will share a woman's dream, at least for a little while. Told in a fun and light way you will taste a little of Paris, but more than that, you will smile at the victory of a woman's achievement to grab a slice of life and live it. A humorous, alive read, one I am sure you will enjoy.

Piercing The Veil
Jacqueline Fullerton
AO Lee & Co
PO Box 340292, Columbus, OH 43234
9781934482032 $14.95

I love a good mystery and when you add just a tad of the supernatural to it you always have a winner, and that is what I found in this outstanding novel by, Jacqueline Fullerton.

Anne Marshall is our main character, a young woman who recently lost a very important person in her life, her dad. He was a lawyer, well respected and Anne is now following in his footsteps. Anne is going to school at night and working as a court recorder in the day. She becomes very involved with a case of a man, Tim Sherman, a man her father knew. A man who has many secrets. Something isn't quite right with this case, Anne can feel it, and when her father shows up in ghostly visits her world begins to change, and even her own life is now in danger.

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way the author brought the characters to life as she unraveled each piece of their inner personalities, their thoughts and motives. Carefully she wove them around bringing to light their true intentions as the heat of the mystery heightened. I also liked Anne, her down-to-earth personality was refreshing, and I liked the way the author gave her the guts, if you will, to follow her heart despite danger to herself to bring justice.

This was just a really good book, all the elements of a first class mystery with characters that brought the story alive in a believable way. The supernatural element just added to the read and I can't wait to see what other capers Anne and her dad will get themselves into. Fast paced, mysterious, tender at times and just a great book to curl up with and lose yourself in reading enjoyment. Recommended.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Time for God
Joe Luna
Privately Published
9780615361826, $19.95

In order for God to help you through life, you have to fit him in somewhere. "Time for God: Effective Steps to a Productive Life" is an inspirational Christian read from Joe Luna, advising reader about the importance of God in their lives and how he can make a difference by working him into your daily grind, and make it feel like much less of a grind. "Time for God" is a top pick for many a Christian reader.

All Points North
Shelby R. Lee
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432755690, $15.95,

What you romanticize may be far more horrifying than you ever know. "All Points North" is a collection of short stories from Shelby R. Lee, providing thirteen stories on facing life. From the truth of hunting, from the wounds we never knew we had, to solutions that only enhance problems and so much more, "All Points North" is filled with fascinating ideas and proves to be a solid and recommended read.

The Entrepreneur
Rick Casteel
Privately Published
9781453818220, $11.95,

With high hopes and a vision for a brighter future, one's journey to the top can be a very perilous one. "The Entrepreneur" tells the story of a bright eyed individual who starts his own tattoo business with unusual services. But his goals for wealth don't end there, as he has many other endeavors for cash, as well as love. Humorous with plenty to ponder, "The Entrepreneur" is not a read to be missed.

Congenial Authoritarian
Deon D. Colvin
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449086701, $18.95,

George W. Bush is one of the most controversial presidents in history. "Congenial Authoritarian: A Psychological Assessment of America's 43rd President" serves as a political and psychological assessment of George Walker Bush, as Deon D. Colvin hopes to understand Bush as a president and a person. "Congenial Authoritarian" is an intriguing analysis of Bush, highly recommended.

The Financial Tsunami
Mike Gearhardt & Will Gates
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452039091, $14.99,

America seems to be in a rockier financial situation than ever. "The Financial Tsunami: Will it Drown Us in a Wave of Debt?" is a call to action from Mike Gearhardt and Will Gates as they express their anger with the federal government for failing to control the national debt and states that America has the power to do something about the poor management in Washington. A thoughtful call against the out of control debt, "The Financial Tsunami" is a worthwhile read for any angered with government financial failings.

Richard A Valicek
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452001050, $31.95,

Treachery and deceit are evil two best weapons. "Alamptria: Red Moon Rising" is a tale of good and evil from Richard A. Valicek, telling of the Kingdom of Elysium and its crush against the vampiric evil that claimed its king. When the princess is tricked away, it's up to one devoted knight and his army to set Elysium on the right path before it's consumed by the cruelty of the vampires. "Alamptria" is an exciting fantasy tale of good and evil, highly recommended.

From Tyranny to Freedom
John Vandenberge
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
Veritas Communication (publicity)
PO Box 2075, Canon City, CO 81215
9781616630942, $16.99,

Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. "From Tyranny to Freedom: My Journey from War-Torn Holland to America" is a memoir from John Vandenberge as he reflects on the Nazi invasion of Holland and how the conditions under Hitler's rule led him and his family to leave Holland for America. Telling of his journey and his experiences, "From Tyranny to Freedom" is an insightful tale of growing up during the most terrorizing years of World War II, highly recommended.

No More Time for Sorrow
Robert Beeman
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452016221, $16.99,

All that stands between America and affiliation is the spirit of good men. "No More Time for Sorrow" is a politically driven thriller from Dr. Robert Beeman as he places America in crisis once more and tells a story of America stuck between its two enemies, those who threaten it with destruction from the outside, and those who seem to be content to let it happen from within. "No More Time for Sorrow" is an exciting read with much to think about.

The Educated Heart
Janet Logan
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449090166, $15.99,

Even through tragedy, devotion can shine through. "The Educated Heart" tells the story of Bobbie Bloom. Spurned by her husband, she finds herself the adoptive mother of a child of her husband and the woman he left Bobbie for. Through the child and a forgotten love, Bobbie may find hope in the world yet. "The Educated Heart" is a moving read that will lift the spirits of many readers.

The Joy of Pain
Shavonna D. Jordan
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432759018, $17.95,

Pain is a reminder something is wrong, not a permanent state. "The Joy of Pain" is an inspirational read from Shavonna D. Jordan as she ponders the nature of pain and joy, stating that pain and suffering she had endured taught her much over life and gave her an appreciation of the greater times. With much faith and inspiration, "The Joy of Pain" is not a read to be missed for those looking for faith to get through the hard times.

Anthony Head
H2H Publishing
9780615410418, $16.00,

With little to push him towards reality, his own mind seems like a better and better escape. "Lucid" is a novel from Anthony Head following the crumbling life of college student Stuart Patterson. With the ability to lucid dream, to wake up inside a dream, he finds his solace in booze in his waking hours, and his own mind as he sleeps. But you can't run away and dream forever. "Lucid" is a thoughtful delve into escapism and how far you can run before you must answer to life.

The Dynamics to Speak with Care
Eladio Pasqual
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432751777, $10.95,

Not everyone is always calm, rational, and understanding, and for good reason some times. "The Dynamics to Speak with Care: Attending Support and Understanding, the Magnetic Words to Assist Others" is a guide for understanding people who are under stress and anxiety and how to understand how to talk to someone before even opening your mouth. A careful tone is a key to helping people and helping reduce their anxiety. "The Dynamics to Speak with Care" is a useful read for anyone who wants to more carefully deal with people.

DJ MacDonald
Corie Laraya-Coutts
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450213448, $21.95,

From the battle on the ice to the battle for another world. "DJ MacDonald: A Tale of a Malipayon Warrior" tells the tale of high school student DJ MacDonald, who has visions of this world where he and his friend are whisked away to the bottom of the sea. Overwhelmed by this sudden and bizarre change of events, DJ must overcome his shock to find that he must quickly make a difference to save himself and this world. "DJ MacDonald" is a fun read for younger readers who often become wrapped in their own daydreams.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Emotions Unleashed
Jay Patel
Privately Published
9781453810897, $15.00,

Reality is in the eye of the beholder. "Emotions Unleashed" is a collection of poetry from Jay Patel, with poetry focusing on everyone's unique take on reality and facing the pain of life through understanding that shift. With much to think about, "Emotions Unleashed" is an excellent read, and solidly recommended.

The Target
Bill Bowen
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432734824, $14.95,

Not bound by any government, the fall of Bin Laden may be in his hands. "The Target" tells of a vigilante war from Mike Curran, an Iraq war veteran who joins others like him to go after Bin Laden in Afghanistan without the help of the American government but with the help of a massive pile of resources. But bring Bin Laden to justice isn't easy even when you obey no laws, as Mike and company find plenty of things in their way. "The Target" is a riveting read of action and adventure, highly recommended.

A Rose for My Mother
Nancy Lee Canfield
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450231237, $21.95,

Out of a broken home, it can be hard to come to terms with one's upbringing. "A Rose for my Mother" is a metaphysical memoir from Nancy Lee Canfield as she states how parapsychology led her to come to understand her mother and her own turbulent life that didn't exactly go as planned. "A Rose for My Mother" is a strong choice for metaphysical readers looking for how parapsychology has changed lives.

The Reflections of Light for Daily Living
Tiffany Brown
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781451231434, $34.95,

When fighting your way upward for a better life, it's very easy to get discouraged. "The Reflections of Light for Daily Living: A Book of Affirmations for the Ambitious" is an inspirational book for those who are yearning to rise higher in life, she designs the book to be taken in gradual chunks to help them gain a better understanding of Christ and his plan for their lives. "The Reflections of Light for Daily Living" is an excellent read and very highly recommended.

The Mirror Maze
Tom Brungar & Lisa Nicole Walker
Privately Published
9781450584579, $15.95

Addiction can lead you down many dark paths. "The Mirror Maze: A Norwegian Man's True Story of Five Years in Mexican Prisons During the 1980s" is a memoir of Tom Brungar, a Norwegian man who finds his drug problem dragging him into the Mexican drug cartel and is caught smuggling cocaine to California. Stuck in the cruel prison system, he sees Mexico as corrupt throughout and through his long journey, he escapes. He warns against the dangers of drug use and other choices of his life, making "The Mirror Maze" a powerful read, recommended.

How to Know God's Will Every Time
Glenn D. Niemand Speziell
c/o Glenn Diddit
665 S. Skyline Dr., Suite 20, Idaho Falls, ID 83402
9781449983475, $8.95

Seeking to understand God's will is the endless endeavor of mankind. "How to Know God's Will Every Time" is a spiritual read from Glenn D. Niemand Speziell is a guide to finding God's inspiration and will in their everyday life when it seems so hard to find. With plenty of humor, "How to Know God's Will Every Time" is a thoughtful read, and solidly recommended.

Douglas R. Manley
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432746360, $20.95,

There is no time where stupidity will never not be amusing. "Duh!" is a memoir from Douglas R. Manley, as he reflects on his long career working at a car dealership and the wide range of intelligence he saw daily in his career. Thoughtful, humorous, with plenty of advice for not falling into the same traps, "Duh!" is a choice pick for those who enjoy learning from the stupidity of others.

Paul T. Vogel

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

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