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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 11, Number 12 December 2012 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan'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 Vicki's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf

Cowper's Bookshelf

What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z
Lance Johnson
A to Z Publishing
9781468172362 $27.95

What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How To Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language And More is an absolute "must-have" for anyone interested in doing business with, moving to, or visiting America for any significant length of time. Packed with invaluable insights and information for those who are not wholly familiar with America's way of life (including immigrant citizens who may have lived in America for years but are still adjusting to different cultural practices and rules of etiquette!), What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z covers general cultural practices (such as how to respond to an RSVP invitation); guidelines for responding to business, social, or personal situations; warnings against behaviors commonly practiced in other nations yet seen as rude in America (such as blocking the sidewalk, pushing past other people in crowded situations and never saying "excuse me", or talking loudly to people at another table in a restaurant); an overview of the American history, government, and religions; English language mastery tips; and much more. "...if English is your second language and your contact doesn't understand something you say, he will probably ask for clarification. Such as response might be considered rude in some cultures, but not ours. In fact, before you begin your presentation, tell him to let you know when he needs clarification, but do not apologize for your English; it will weaken your position." What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z should be required reading for every international college student or business professional who arrives in America without extensive cultural knowledge, and is worthy of the highest recommendation especially for public libraries, or as a giftbook for visiting friends and relatives from another country!

Nothing for Christmas
John Bolen
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781467901932, $9.99,

The holidays bring out something in us; whether it's for better or worse is up for debate. "Nothing for Christmas: & Other Holiday Tales" is a collection of Holiday driven tales from John Bolen as he shares a collection of stories set among the back drop of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year. With plenty of humor adapted from Bolen's playwright work, "Nothing for Christmas" is a collection worth considering, recommended.

Murphy Lives Here
Dr. Merryl J. Polak
Privately Published
9780615555638, $14.99,

We all have our hopes and dreams, and seek to make them all come true. "Murphy Lives Here" is a novel following Emma, a woman pursuing those dreams only to find out her own body betraying her as she seeks to become a mother. Following her journey to solve this life's issue of her infertility, "Murphy Lives Here" is an excellent pick for literary fiction collections, resonating with many women who have also felt such struggles.

Dandelion Man
Walter M. J. Kreucher
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781478101888, $9.99,

As we search for love, we enter tangled webs of life and living. "Dandelion Man: The Four Loves" is a novel relationships throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and across generations as many put together the unique stories of their lives and the touches of first love as they come. Enticing with a dedication to a very different era, "Dandelion Man" is well worth considering for general fiction collections.

Other Nations
Elizabeth S. Eiler
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432797119, $12.95,

There's more to animals than simple survival. "Other Nations: A Lightworker's Case Book for Healing, Spiritually Empowering, and Communing with the Animal Kingdom" is a spiritual insight to the world of healing and animals, the soul of our pets and the unseen spirituality that animals hold for us as we often do them. With a touch of metaphysical spirituality, "Other Nations" is an insightful recommended addition to pets and wildlife collections with an aside for spirituality collections.

The Emerson Gospel
Robbyn Burger
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462074624, $18.95,

Success can be a drug all its own. "The Emerson Gospel" is a novel following Haley Emerson, a woman driven to leave her home behind for success on Wall Street, which she finds, in ruthless excess. As she returns home for the holidays, she begins to learn much about the weight of family. "The Emerson Gospel" is an insightful addition to general fiction collections focused on family drama.

Terrence W. Cooney
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432795689, $9.95,

Death is final, and that makes many people uncomfortable with using it as a punishment in a flawed criminal justice system. "Chessman: And His Nine Lives on Death Row" spins a narrative drama of creative nonfiction from Terrence W. Cooney as he tells the story of Caryl Chessman, who faced a death sentence and had execution stayed eight times before the sentence was carried out, due to Cooney's efforts. Arguing that the death penalty qualifies as cruel and unusual, he presents the long legal battle using the format of a novel to tell the tale. Intriguing argument about the status of life and death as punishment, "Chessman" is well worth considering for those seeking a different form of legal debate.

Failure & Other Failures
Chris Ridenour
Night Bomb Press
9780984084258, $10.00,

No one succeeds often, and we fail more often then we'd like to admit. "Failure & Other Failures" is a collection of short fiction from Chris Ridenour as he explores the concepts of life's failures, as he presents offbeat musings on life and his other stories. With plenty of humor and plenty to think about, "Failure & Other Failures" is a fine assortment, much worth considering.

An Expression of Spirituality
Amar Mistry
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475253702, $15.00,

Poetry rises above traditional writing for its ability to express emotion. "An Expression of Spirituality" is a collection of poetry from Amar Mistry that focuses on the spiritual side of life and how it rings out in our existence, empowering us in many a way through our life and loves. "An Expression of Spirituality" is an insightful and recommended addition to those seeking poetry with a strong emotional base. "Present Moment": present moment/is very prime,/it is present/all the time.//To live in the present,/let go of the past./It will make you go/forward very fast.//Using the present is a big present./What you have to do is focus cent percent./Releasing the future/relieves you of anxiety./But you can visualize and change your reality.//Living in the present brings you reward./Using it properly makes/your life a record.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Five Valuable Steps for an Effective Job Search
D.T. Brown & Teri Brown
Crary Publications
No ISBN, $2.99,

85% of available jobs are not advertised or made known to the public: this fact alone means that many job searchers are missing the mark if they limit their job search to want ads and employer ads alone. So what are the right job-hunting techniques to locate work from this hidden job market?

Five Valuable Steps for an Effective Job Search outlines some simple basics and involve an emphasis on small business employment opportunities, reaching out to busy employers who don't have time to do more than glance at the highlights of a resume, and identifying the kinds of jobs that will always be needed in industries always hiring.

From locating relevant, free training courses and tutorials for brushing up skills and taking tests online to the proper steps for putting together a quick resume that highlights relevant skills, Five Valuable Steps for an Effective Job Search provides examples of three resume styles designed for quick at-a-glance review.

Also important is the section covering online resume upload tips which pinpoints how to embed key words and sentences that are visible only to an employer's computer software. This coverage alone makes all the difference between this being yet another resume-oriented job-finding guide and a reference tailored to real-world employer search techniques that few job-search titles cover.

Lists of websites and further online job resources accompany keys to understanding why people don't get hired in the first place, making for a quick yet comprehensive key to the hiring process from how a resume is located and read to why interviews succeed or fail.

Any job-seeker seeking a succinct understanding of the new job market's approaches will find a winner, here!

Missing Persons Locator Guide
T.A. Brown
Crary Publications
No ISBN, $5.00,

Anyone who is searching for a missing family member or loved one must consult Missing Persons Locator Guide before beginning their search: a brief overview of a logical search process that eliminates confusion and missed opportunities and explains the process of locating a missing person or someone who doesn't want to be found.

First, searchers are advised to document their hunt - which includes keeping copies of all requests for information. A journal with pockets is advised for making notes and putting copies of documents in one place; then the 'meat' follows with hard-hitting, specific chapters covering court records and documents, opportunities for information-gatherers, how to request and assemble information, and a key article by Christina Smiley, 'Collecting on Civil Judgments'.

From unmasking hidden assets to locating debtors and hiring a private investigator, Missing Persons Locator Guide offers specific advice on locating and handling a missing persons situation and covers everything from identifying and accessing databases to culling city directories, conducting a birth family search, and plumbing newspapers, maternity homes, search obituaries, and more.

Whether you're looking to collect on a debt or conducting a birth family search, here's a treasure trove of specific sources and approaches key to the missing persons search: a 'must' for any who would understand the entire process.

Psychological Damage
Alex Siegel
Amazon Kindle
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781105053979, $2.99,

Psychological Damage provides the third book in the Gray Spear Society series and is especially recommended for readers with prior familiarity with and enthusiasm for its predecessors.

Such an audience will find Psychological Damage a smooth continuation of a saga which portrays Aaron and Marina, members of a Society spiritually charged with identifying and eliminating supernatural world threats.

In an unexpected twist the two find themselves caring for a mysterious young boy, Wesley, who is being hunted down by an army of Catholic monks who want to destroy him. The monks have already murdered his parents in full public view, and they wouldn't hesitate to track Wesley down and eliminate him either, witnesses or not. For Wesley holds the power to change the lives of everyone around him - a religious and social threat to many - and often creates chaos in the process of working to further the intentions and word of God.

A very satisfying aspect of each book in the Gray Spear Society series is the twists and turns of plot that keep each book unpredictable and absorbing. This latest addition to the series, for example, adds new perspectives to the entire series and takes it in a new direction while keeping true to the characters and motivations presented in the first book.

The result is a uniformity that succeeds in carrying the plot, which unfolds with new insights on the sources of world and individual tensions.

Anticipate violent confrontations, struggles between warring factions, and an underlying supernatural and psychological mystery revolving around the unusual Wesley and a mission which Aaron comes to believe is a mandate from God.

Wesley holds more than the power to change lives: he can 'read' people and determine their inner truths and lies. And he's not above instructing Aaron and Marina to kill someone who looks to be innocent on the outside: a command that vastly troubles Aaron despite his belief that the boy's mission stems from God.

Eventually Aaron comes to harbor troubling conclusions about his new charge, his mission, and his beliefs: "...He moved through the world like a nuclear icebreaker. He permanently changed the lives of everyone he met. And he's only eight years old, Aaron thought. What will he be like when he grows up?

The Gray Spear Society's mandate to protect the world (which often involves violence) sometimes gives Aaron cause to rethink: "He was in a car full of people who talked about murder the way ordinary people talked about getting a haircut."

In the end Wesley's world-changing views will reach into the heart of even the monks' world, questioning their own God-given vision of what is right and wrong.

A powerful child, two forces who believe they are acting on behalf of God himself ... it's a riveting thriller that just won't quit, and is a top pick for both prior fans of the series and newcomers who will receive a quick immersion into the world of Aaron, Marina and their circle.

Things Are Going to Slide
Rangeley Wallace
9780991679836, $4.99

Marilee is a confident law professional in a small Southern town that her family has occupied for generations, and is leading a charmed life until, pregnant with their second child, she faces an absent husband and loses a coveted job that would have given her financial stability. Now she's finding that everything she believed to be solid in her life is sliding away at the same time, placing her on a roller-coaster ride that will challenge her beliefs, assumptions, and comfortable life.

There are many elements that add depth and complexity to what at first glance might seem like another novel about a woman's changed world. For one thing, author Rangeley Wallace is herself involved in the legal profession, and she lends a powerful dose of reality and insight in exploring how free legal clinics operate, how they interact with the public and with clients as well as the legal system, and the different politics and perceptions of legal schools of thinking across the country.

The interactions between colleagues are refreshingly realistic: "She and Marilee had been arguing about the law school's purpose and future path since Sue arrived last spring from Harvard. Sue didn't support Clinical Law, Marilee's area of expertise, and had single-handedly nixed her otherwise popular proposal to expand the Clinic and represent the immigrants languishing at the nearby Department of Homeland Security detention facility."

For another, different family members interact well within the story line: they whirl around her, both supporting her and serving as stabilizers as Marilee moves through a virtual whirlwind of professional and personal chaos:

"Instead of going straight to her parents', Marilee drove to her tarp-covered house, partly out of habit, partly out of longing. Why couldn't she still live here, with Rick and Ellie and the new baby? Why couldn't things just be normal again? She wanted her old life back. She wanted it, but she couldn't have it. She sobbed in her driveway for ten minutes until the flow of tears slowed enough to allow her to drive safely to her parents' house, where she plodded up the front steps and collapsed into one of the high-backed front porch rockers and rocked and cried, then rocked and cried some more."

As Marilee faces newfound challenges to her career, romance and family interactions, she discovers within herself a strength that will carry her through legal controversies, legal politics, and past the pain of unrealized dreams to a new future complete with a new child.

THINGS ARE GOING TO SLIDE charts the course of a suddenly out-of-control life and those elements which contribute to it evolving into a different, unexpected world. Even the case that has been central - and seemingly endless - to her legal world proves not totally hopeless, making this a powerful novel of chaos and recovery that will attract any interested in strong stories of professional women at pivotal transition points in their lives.

A Bullet For Carlos (Blood Flows South)
Giacomo Giammatteo
ISBN ebook: 9780985030230
ISBN print: 9780985030247
$2.99 digital $17.99 print

Detective Connie Giannelli has faced and overcome several major challenges in her life: one when her mother died, and years later when she found out her beloved uncle was in the mob. Now an undercover drug bust leaves her partners dead and the drugs missing - and she becomes involved in a desperate race for truth that will bring her in direct contact with the Mexican cartel running the drugs.

Her journey to Texas in search of a the truth will bring her too close too a sadistic serial killer and a murder that holds strange connections to Brooklyn in this complex, riveting story filled with tense twists and turns of plot.

Giacomo Giammatteo moves easily between Connie's experiences, narrated in the first person, and a third-person observational narrative style. One might think this would confuse the plot, but it does not: A Bullet for Carlos moves along swiftly, and nothing is lost in tense or translation.

Connie's devotion to her career and ideals is evident and solid: "I had sacrificed everything for this badge - my family, a great boyfriend, and any shot at a stable home life, not to mention having to put up with the hidden stares whenever I walked down the hall. I took a deep breath and sucked it up. There was no way I was losing what I had left."

Mixed in with her devotion to her job are reflections on her family ties: "I thought about how I used to get embarrassed about my mother's condition. After her stroke she couldn't feed herself. Food would dribble from her mouth and down her chin. If we were in public, I'd sit low in my seat, hiding my head behind a menu, and looking around to make sure no one I knew saw me. Afterwards, I'd go home and cry, hating myself for the way I felt. In a way I still hated myself for that, and there was no way to fix it. Mom was gone."

It's this juxtaposition between personal life challenges and career that keeps A Bullet for Carlos on a personal level, involving readers in Connie's entire life and psyche and also presenting alternative viewpoints from her colleagues and those who become involved in her quest for justice.

The result is a riveting murder mystery that concurrently reveals absorbing interactions between characters and killer alike. Any murder mystery and detective story fan will find this an intriguing story filled with satisfyingly unexpected twists and turns and plenty of psychological insights.

The Benchwarmers of Countyseat
Acwel Adam
AMNY New York
9780972677608, $TBA

Sheila is sick of being inundated with political and social issues - so she's confused when the latest radio announcement of the Supreme Court's ruling on obscenity resonates in her mind. Politics, after all, is "not one of her passions" in life, and Sheila, having just graduated from high school, is only looking forward to some freedom away from the pressures of school and studies: that's why she's begun a hitchhiking trip across the country, after all.

Her journeys bring her to the small town overseen by one Mayor Dunmore, who comes from a long line of landowners, of which he is the last. His rule of the town is ironclad, even when he begins to exhibit mental instability due upon his wife's death from rabies: "Come election time, Mayor Dunmore would still go unchallenged for office. No one complained about having him as mayor since he was, in fact, the main landowner and taxpayer. It was just simple logic, in a simple place, during a simple time."

But the mayor isn't inactive: he's got a plan for the town - a plan that involves changing not only its name from Cloudy Valley to Countyseat to compete with more successful counties in his state, but to rebuild the entire town itself - even as Sheila finds herself facing death in the middle of a local alfalfa field as a result of her choices in life.

A cast of local characters become unexpectedly involved in Leslie Tanner's plight, each with their own histories and each with their own desires to change the past, get ahead, and make new discoveries.

From a mayor's controversial business decision to build on the hillsides of the town to confrontations between personalities and economic visions, The Benchwarmers of Countyseat provides a vivid blend of small town politics and a murder mystery that reaches even into the local school.

Engrossing characters, unexpected twists and turns of plot, and new beginnings for Countyseat make for an engrossing story of death, life, and rebirth in a fine pick for any interested in small-town affairs and crimes operating at different levels.

Thwarted Queen
Cynthia Sally Haggard
Spun Stories Press
9780984816910, $2.99 Kindle

Ordering link:

Thwarted Queen: A Saga About the Yorks, Lancasters and Nevilles, Whose Family Feud Started the Wars of the Roses is historical fiction at its best, an account which takes the real-world stories of a woman trapped by power and her husband, a Royal duke, who faces down his political opponents, and melds their lives into an exciting fictional drama.

Cecylee Neville, Duchess of York and mother of two kings, doesn't marry Richard for love; it's all about political associations and power plays most of which are out of her control. Her love affair with a handsome archer produces a child destined to become King Edward IV and threatens her position. But her husband (Richard, Duke of York) is thoroughly engrossed in the turbulent political changes of his times and keeps her close at hand despite her indiscretion.

It's the end of the Hundred Years War and the beginning of a struggle in which the War of the Roses begins, a war where Richard will find his role changed, his life choices challenged, and enemies everywhere. The turbulence of this period forces Cecylee to re-examine her choices in life, facing decisions that will cause her to place her powerful sons in pivotal roles that will change the fates of nations.

Thwarted Queen's story line is narrated by Cecylee who probes family relationships and interactions, feuds and difficult choices, romances and political associations, and more.

Through it all the politics and social issues of her times spring to life in vivid observations and insights: "As news of Warwick 's defeat reached London, panic spread. Streets emptied as merchants shut and locked their shops. Folk barricaded themselves inside their houses. Some wealthy merchants even went abroad."

From the pros and cons of political alliances between different families and sides to one woman's struggles as her children become embroiled in the mess, this is an engrossing saga packed with not only real historical accuracy and research, but added depth through personal reflection: "What a sin I had committed by being unfaithful to my lord. Edward was not legitimate, but he'd executed the legitimate heir. What had I done? What monster had I brought into our family?"

Thwarted Queen is an engrossing story that reads like fiction, capturing the full drama and intrigue of its times, and is a top recommendation for any collection strong in historical novels.

Message In My Pen
Luella Hill-Dudley
Straight From The Heart Associates &
9780964018136, $2.99 Kindle

Message In My Pen is available also paperback for $12.95 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Message In My Pen will be available in paperback in Spanish-Latin American edition at the end of November 2012.

Message in My Pen is poetry at its best, and provides a fine collection by a black woman who became motherless as a small child, was abused in the foster care system, and reconnected with her father when she was seven.

Her words reflect her life experiences, offering free verse insights on everything from dogs to cultivating faith in life:

"Maintaining growth means keeping it moving
No matter what comes or goes
Flowing with the weather
Through the clouds, I will shine
Through the rain, I will pray
Through the storm, I will walk with faith"

From honor and respect to romance, Luella Hill-Dudley's poems are steeped in the black woman's experience and offer powerful observations of people, places, and religious quests for redemption, freedom, and love:

"My way doesn't work I'm tired
of running into a brick wall
This mean ole cruel world
has no sympathy for me
Wolves have shown up in sheep clothing
I need you to mold me shape me all over again..."

While general-interest poetry readers will find Message in My Pen an emotionally packed and hard-hitting collection, it's particularly recommended for readers interested in spiritual reflection and the words of a black woman struggling to understand and work with her world.

Anyone interested in the literary works and reflections of black women will find this an absorbing collection.

The Healers: Waters of Life
Donna Labermeier
9780988552609, $10.99 paperback, $2.99 e-book

The Healers: Waters of Life is young adult fiction at its best, and tells of three young people who share astounding healing abilities, each harboring the power to change their worlds. Their healing skills are complimentary: one heals psychic despair, one makes sick people well, and one can discern and reveal emotions on a deep level.

Book One, The Healers, told of how they evolved: guided by one Agostino, the three were sent on a global mission to heal the world of its dark forces - and discovered wider applications to their seemingly-individual healing abilities. From saving people from self-destruction to handling terrorists and supporting innate psychic abilities, the three young people faced their greatest challenges out in the world, ultimately banding together to face the dark force Venceslao, who wanted to use their abilities to his own evil purposes.

This sequel tells of what continues to evolve from their journey, which concluded with their defeat of the phantom responsible for evil. Now it's time to rebuild on the ashes of chaos, and they are tasked with creating a Conference of Hope even as the remaining dark forces seem intent on poisoning the world.

Apparently there are Anti-Healers on the move, intent on destruction as they work to resurrect an ancient plague upon the world; and as this force begins to consume the Waters of Life, the Healers face their greatest challenge in a confrontation that will make or break their world.

One particular and shining strength of The Healers: Waters of Life is its ability to pinpoint how darkness and revenge are used to twist the purposes of goodness to a different viewpoint:

"Ritchie was swept up by the emotion of the group, even though he had nagging reservations he couldn't quite explain. Barnabas explained that the Healers were privileged little imposters, pawns controlled by selfish interest groups like oil companies or banks. They were being used to keep the popula-tion complacent by providing false hope that everybody could change the world if they just dreamed hard enough. It was all just propaganda. People like Ritchie, and Josh, and Yen, Tessa, and Remy were who the world should turn to. They could really speak for the weak, the outsiders, the vulnerable. The young people were so pleased, babbling happily about how this was their chance to have revenge on the people who had kept them down all their lives."

Another plus is a plot which travels the globe and considers the social and military structures of different regions of the world. How leaders choose to portray goodness or twist the intentions of others to their own benefit is an approach which provides young adult readers with specific insights:

"Whichever country, town or city they visited, Barnabas took them to see examples of the oppression they were laboring against: disgustingly expensive government palaces built with the sweat and toil of the destitute; fearsome military bases equipped with the most deadly modern armaments sold by unethical Western arms dealers; collections of narcissistic leaders' statues in bronze or stone dominating public spaces. Barnabas stoked their anger and diverted it into their dark abilities. He explained that they were following the course the Healers had taken so as to unpick their influence one stitch at a time."

The action is fast-paced, the descriptions of The Healers and their abilities is vivid and charged, and the methods employed by all on either side are revealed in a fine plot that's packed with action and insight throughout.

While familiarity with the opening novel The Healers is highly recommended, it's not actually a requirement for appreciating this sequel, which deftly outlines the setting and continuing theme of the three's journey.

The result is a fine and epic saga that takes the classic 'good against evil' battle and turns it into a fine ethical adventure story.

Breast Left Unsaid
Jude Callirgos
Green Acres Press
9781477629864, $9.99 Kindle, $12.99 Paperback

Breast Left Unsaid: A True and Uncensored Story of Survival is autobiographical writing at its best and tells of an eighteen-month journey undertaken by the author upon a diagnosis of breast cancer.

In 2006 a mammogram indicated suspicious results, demanding an immediate biopsy that only adds to the chaos of the author's busy life, already immersed in a divorce, business commitments, and the loss of loved ones.

Chapters spare nothing in the struggles that follow, documenting the pain of biopsies, lumpectomies, and the eventual mastectomy and recovery process.

What makes Breast Left Unsaid so much more than another personal account of cancer and recovery is the author's forward momentum that moves from healing to moving beyond treatments to fundraising and involving family and friends in efforts to raise money to fight cancer.

At least half of her account focuses on this recovery process - one which moves beyond personal healing and into the realms of activism and understanding the entire medical process involved in treating cancer, which comes with its own confusing pros and cons: "I wanted to feel better....someday. I did not want to be tethered to yet another drug that could take me down a path of being sicker elsewhere in my body. This was like a scary game of whack-a-mole; beat one thing back and something else pops up."

'Crisis wrestled into submission' - that is one of the many themes of Breast Left Unsaid, which charts a journey of building strengths and going through the entire process of reconstruction and healing while facing life's challenges.

Another key mention: Jude is FUNNY - her observations and her insights, albeit serious and emotional - are also tinged with a wry sense of humor that just doesn't quit - much like her approach to life. In the end the author holds tight to her dreams - and realizes them.

This, in and of itself, makes Breast Left Unsaid an inspiring and candid winner recommended for any interested in self-healing and the journey undertaken by one woman diagnosed with breast cancer.

Sufis at Culver
Richard Gwyn Davies
Unlimited Publishing
ASIN: B0067NC8EA, $9.99

Culver is a boarding school in Indiana where an evil pair of rogue Indians are trying to encourage the worship of one Mchemnito: a process that requires a human sacrifice. Teachers and students are resisting this movement, but when three homeless kids are sacrificed, it's evident that an alternate approach to battle the dangerous cult is needed.

Enter a Fulbright teacher from Senegal who introduces the school to the meditations and practice of Sufism, and also enter time-traveling opportunities as Tim embarks on a journey to rescue a chief's son from an early death: a mission that could change everything in the present.

It's a vision quest on another dimension entirely as the students and faculty of Culver find themselves at the center of a battle between good and evil forces, and as spiritual insights about Islam mingle with a powerful account of interactions between Sufis and a dangerous, evolving power:

"Sufis believe that the image of Allah is found in all things. You Christians have the concept of original sin, which we do not accept. We believe that Adam simply forgot about the image of God and fell away from Him. Sufis believe that we can teach people to remember that image, to recover it, you might say, thus allowing it to become real and powerful again. That is the point of the ancient saying 'as above, so below.' The Indians seem to mirror this belief in every aspect of the ceremonies that I took part in - from the simple act of entering and leaving the sweat lodge, to the principal of learning from nature. Some of these elements are found in Islam. Did you know, for example, that worshippers circle the Kaaba, the great sacred stone cube in Mecca in a counterclockwise manner, just like the Indians enter and leave the sweat lodge?"

It's intriguing to read a novel where the usually-benevolent, benign Earth Goddess is portrayed as an evil force. Serpents, warning signs, portents of doom, and interactions between competing spiritual viewpoints permeate a fast-paced novel of cat-and-mouse interactions between both sides, and a struggle that will culminate in an epic battle where the outcome is uncertain.

It's the very different perspectives on religious ideals and belief systems that keeps readers of Sufis at Culver on their toes and thinking:

""For a moment, folks," Davies said addressing the group, "whether you believe in angels or not, suspend your disbelief and work with me. What do angels usually say to humans whom they appear to, Merthyn?" Davies asked.

"Well, sir, it is usually something like 'Fear Not' or 'Be not afraid.' Something like that, I think."

"You're absolutely right. Why do they need to speak that warning to humans, Merthyn?" He asked.

"Because, they must be terrifying to look at; and like Von Hoffmann said, their very presence scares the . . ." here, Merthyn paused, and then went on, "the 'dickens' out of us."

"Well, then, what did each one of us feel when that silent being came into the Council Ring?" Davies asked.

"Absolute terror," Phillip whispered.

"That was because you were in the presence of one of God's angels; in this case Malak al-maut, the angel of death...."

Very highly recommended, Sufis of Culver can be read as either a spiritual adventure thriller embedding a classic good-against-evil theme into a wider discussion of different twists in spiritual perspective, or an epic fantasy charting a battle involving time-travel and competing belief systems.

Either way, it's a winner!

Austin Wimberly
ISBN (Kobo version): 1230000024940
ASIN (Kindle version): B009OWVH02
BN ID (Nook version): 2940015528541
ISBN (Smashwords and Apple iBookstore version): 9781301951383, $3.99

Kindle version:

Nook version:

Kobo version:

Author website:

Sobornost is set in Yekaterinburg, Russia in the years after the collapse of communism and provides a moving saga about a boy's adoption in the midst of chaos, and the difficult decisions of three Russian mothers and the American women who adopt Russian-born children.

The book's title actually provides a key to its course and perspective: Sobornost is a Russian term describing the need for cooperation between people that goes beyond individual needs and desires and advocates that opposing groups focus on what is common between them, for the good of all involved. The blending of cooperative and individual pursuits evolves in the context of the adoption process: cooperation therefore sets the theme for a novel that considers the enactment of this idea for Russian mothers who choose better lives for their children apart from even their own native families.

The Russian women's names are Vera, Nadezhda, and Lyuba. These names translate to Faith, Hope, and Love, which assume themes in each of their respective narratives.

Russian culture and daily struggles come to life in this novel: perfect for any who would gain insights into the not just the motivations and lives of women who live there, but for those who would understand the process and impact of international adoptions.

The structure of the book is divided into a number of small narratives (Vera, Nadezhda, Lyuba, and Elise). If you read each of the narrative sections together (ignoring the other ones), you'll get the integration of one character. Then, if you put all of the narratives together, you get one novel. Characters are Russian and American.

In Sobornost, individual families come together through adoption to make a larger one - one overall theme of the novel, which advocates international connections and family bonds.

There's a cast of characters whose lives are entwined in this complex novel, from the loving and happy baby Boris to Stan and Valerie are seeking to adopt - and move from considering a domestic adoption to looking overseas. Swaps and meetings, the interactions of main protagonists Elise and her husband Paul, and perceptions of the entire process on all sides continually reinforce the themes of cooperation and family, with the risks and realities of both kinds of adoption contributing to a story line that mingles a fictional plot with solid, real-world advice:

"On the international side, the risk is that you won't know your child's medical history, so it's possible to adopt a child with certain needs that don't show up until much later - needs that would have been known if a medical history were available. However, if you adopt from a country with an orphanage system - and most countries that you would be adopting from have orphanage systems - the parental rights of the birth parents are terminated before the child is available for adoption, so you wouldn't have any of the legal issues you have with domestic adoption."

From the couple's interaction with facilitators at an agency to their long journey to get their son, this is packed with observations about the entire international adoption process - all couched in the overall story of Russian women who face many questions in their journey to achieve better lives for their offspring.

It's rare to find an account that details, in depth, both sides and perspectives of the adoption process - much less captures the underlying emotions and perceptions in a fictional format.

Sobornost is a cooperative journey that includes social and religious introspection as well as cultural interactions, and ultimately reveals the linked points in a world governed by a belief in God and the principle of sobornost.

A positive, uplifting story evolves.

Diane Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Dunford's Bookshelf

Earth is Overpopulated Now
David E. Christensen
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
0595424279, $16.95,

How much more can the planet take? "Earth is Overpopulated Now" is David E. Christensen's argument that the Earth's carrying capacity for humanity has been reached. Stating that action must be taken soon to curb humanity's growth or face disastrous consequences that will do it for us, "Earth is Overpopulated Now" is an intriguing perspective on the world's explosive population growth from a man who has seen it triple in his lifetime.

James Allan Krause, PhD
CC Sotel Publishing Ltd.
168B Arden Road, Courtenay, BC
Vancouver Island, Canada V9N 8Y2
9780986829222 $TBA

Wetion: A Fiction-Based-on-Fact Tale of Migration from Africa is an incredibly ambitious original novel featuring the dreamlike journey of Adam and Eve across the world, spanning 50,000 years, 2,000 generations, and the breadth of the Earth from Africa to Canada. Chapters correlate to a human migration path researched by the National Geography Society's Geneographic Project. Different chapters take different formats reflecting the peoples and cultures that evolved along the journey. Wetion is as enlightening as it is entertaining, and draws the reader on a whirlwind tour through the epochs of history. A music CD "Wetion: The Soundtrack" ($TBA) featuring fourteen original tracks of poetry and music complements the story - though the poems and the story can be enjoyed separately, together they reciprocate in bringing the essence of each human era to life. Wetion is a grand and thought-provoking adventure, thoroughly engaging from cover to cover.

5 Simple Steps to Choosing Your Path
W. Granville Brown
A Flair For Writing - Publishing Services
9781450768535, $9.95,

Finding our calling and path in life is often hard to do. "5 Simple Steps to Choosing Your Path" is an inspirational self-help booklet from W. Granville Brown who offers five things to consider on one's path to what they want to do with their life and how to best live up to their calling, and making the choices that bring us towards our chosen destiny. "5 Simple Steps to Choosing Your Path" is a must for inspirational collections, highly recommended.

The P. I. G. Mantras
Romina Wilcox
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432792909, $15.95,

The old boys world of toxic corporations is unappealing for many, but some won't let a little ignorance stand in the way of their success. "The P. I. G. Mantras" is a novel of Maite Bruns, a determined business youth driven to succeed in the world of Silicon Valley for the sake of her husband and her family. With everyone out to end her career or make her work for them, "The PIG Mantras" is a fun addition exploring women in the modern workplace.

Spy's Reveille
C.J. Bolling
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466386518, $14.95,

What's a spy operation for old times sake? "Spy's Reveille" is a novel from C.J. Bolling presenting a humorous twist on the shut down of the Cold War and the lost people following the endeavor. Old KGB agent Aleksei is charged for dismantling an old Cold War Cell in America, but in the process gets his orders and mixed up, and challenges international peace by executing a plan to bug the White House. "Spy's Reveille" is a humorous and fun twist on the spy thriller and what happens to a spy when there's no more secret war being fought.

The Trojan Horse Conspiracy
Dick Nelson
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432795085, $19.95,

Does the real power lie in Washington, or its puppetmasters? "The Trojan Horse Conspiracy" is a novel of adventure and intrigue, following FBI agent Brad Tilsdale uncovering a plot of subterfuge from Russia and China, infesting the American intelligence community with sleeper cells. Facing the rising threat of nuclear war, Tilsdale must uncover those responsible quickly, before it's too late...and finds that they may be already deeply rooted in the American government. "The Trojan Horse Conspiracy" is a worthy thriller for those who love spy fiction.

Teachers Beyond the Law
Oscar Weil
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462063222, $38.95,

Teachers shape the minds and futures of tomorrow. "Teachers Beyond the Law: How Teachers Changed Their World" discusses the drive for better conditions for teachers as Oscar Weil tells the story of the Illinois battle for teachers unions to make their thoughts be known, a process that took decades and was only truly successful in 1983. Telling the story of those who defied the law and laid their careers on the line, "Teachers Beyond the Law" is a strong addition to any history collection focusing on education and worker's rights.

Attacking the Standardized Exam
Ronald S. Thompson
Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781463422073, $15.99,

Standardized testing isn't going away any time soon, so for the academically ambitious, preparing to master them is simply a good idea. "Attacking the Standardized Exam: The Art of mastering Multiple Choice Standardized Tests" is a guide for those facing these highschool or college entrance tests and want to be best prepared to get the best scores. With practical advice on preparation, common sense to make guesses more than just random chance and much more, "Attacking the Standardized Exam" is a strong addition to education collections, highly recommended.

Diary of a Bachelor Father
D.M.R. 1
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463752200, $15.00,

The single father is becoming more and more a reality. "Diary of a Bachelor Father" is a story telling of such a modern tale, Gavin Tanel, a young man who gives up his academic career to provide for his son...and soon finds him the sole parent as well as his would be girlfriend takes off. A very human tale of a growing struggle for many young men, "Diary of a Bachelor Father" is not to be missed and is quite recommended reading.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Patagonia Chronicle
Susan Alcorn
Shepherd Canyon Books
9780936034041 $17.95

Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine is an engaging travelogue about the 2009 adventure that author Susan Alcorn and her husband had following the internationally famous Circuit trail in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. They also visited Isla Magdalena and the Perito Moreno Glacier of Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park, and in the following year they returned to Torres del Paine to experience the beautiful Lake District and ride a ferry through the Patagonian fjords. Patagonia Chronicle recounts a firsthand journey amid nature, wildlife (including Magellanic penguins!) and tremendous scenic beauty. Additional chapters are filled with backpacking tips, tricks, and techniques for those who would hike the wilds of Patagonia, and even a brief history of the region. Patagonia Chronicle is an absorbing read from cover to cover, thoroughly recommended for armchair travelers and prospective sightseers alike.

Stress Pandemic
Paul Huljich
Mwella Publishing
9780615489209, $16.95,

Stress can wreak havoc on many of us, and it needs to be taken control of for happier lives. "Stress Pandemic: The Lifestyle Solution" is a guide to better mental and emotional, and to an extension, physical health, by managing stress and anxiety in our lives and live life more completely and comprehensively on many levels. "Stress Pandemic" has plenty of solid advice for a better life through better habits, recommended.

Turning Point
Charles A. Santangelo
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432793968, $16.95,

The 2000 election was a swamp of controversy, no matter how you cut it. "Turning Point" is a political fantasy from Charles Alfred Santangelo, veteran government official at NASA and Homeland Security. For sake of hypotheticals, he does away with the names of Bush and Gore, instead crafts a What If scenario of a Progressive Democrat claiming the White House in 2000, and what would have followed in many crises, from the environment to a different handling of 9/11. "Turning Point" is an intriguing look at a very different political world.

The Legend of Tyoga Weathersby
H. L. Grandin
Acorn Book Services
9780985726720, $16.00,

A clash of two worlds changed everything for the both of them. "The Legend of Tyoga Weathersby" is a historical novel following the titular individual, in seventeenth century Colonial America. Adopted into a Native American tribe, he learns much through his upbringing and the legends behind his tribe. Drawing on mythology and fuelling much adventure, "The Legend of Tyoga Weathersby" is a riveting read for anyone who enjoys the setting, much recommended.

Hope Flies on Broken Wings
L. F. Falconer
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432795771, $12.95,

Cruelty isn't passed on between generations...or is it? "Hope Flies on Broken Wings" is a romance and fantasy as young Collie catches her eyes on the son of the black sheep fisherman of the town. Collie believes she can help Dugan, the young son, but she soon learns that the weight of the world around them will make both of them crumble under pressure. "Hope Flies on Broken Wings" is a must for general fiction collections, highly recommended.

Veins and Grains
Yih Laur
Bookswells LLC
9780985769888, $20.00

Thoughts compose much of what we write, and Yih Laur attempts to capture his thoughts in the purest form. "Veins and Grains" is a unique collection of poetic thought, as he presents a free verse collection pondering the nature of poetry itself and the emotions it stirs. "Veins and Grains" is much worth considering for those looking for something different, recommended.

A Modern Fairy Tale
Mary Eckert
Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781468506655, $14.95,

To be whisked away from the mundane and see something new is what fantasies are made out of. "A Modern Fairy Tale" is a twist of romance from Mary Eckert, telling of a chance meeting of two individuals as Donna is swept into a world very different than what she is used to and sees a whole new world she never knew. "A Modern Fairy Tale" is a strong and much recommended addition to contemporary fiction collections.

His Strength Made Perfect
Cyndie Degnan
Crossbooks Publishing
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462713462, $12.99,

Faith grants us the will to continue through anything and everything. "His Strength Made Perfect: Michael's Story" is a memoir from Cyndie Degnan as she seeks to tell her son Michael's struggles with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and how their strong faith in God gave a ten year life sentence a spin into a much fuller and fulfilling life. A powerful message of motherhood and God, "His Strength Made Perfect" is a strong addition to memoir and Christian inspirational collections, recommended.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

The Table My Mother Set
Theresa DeCaria
Privately Published
9780980097207, $19.95,

"The Table My Mother Set: A Collection of Traditional Family Recipes From My Mother's Italian Kitchen" is a 128 page compendium by Theresa DeCaria comprised of eighty-one beautifully illustrated, showcased and presented authentic Italian family recipes. Deftly organized into four major sections (Simple Beginnings; At the Heart of It All; Added Complements; and A Sweet Ending), the recipes range from Oven-Baked Egg and Cheese Sandwiches; Rapini and Cannellini Beans; and Italian Potato Salad; to Marinated Eggplant; Italian Hard Bread; and Wine Cookies. In addition to listed ingredients and step-by-step instructions, each recipe comes with a succinct personal commentary and a full color photograph of the finished deal. Thoroughly 'user friendly', and featuring a spiral bound hardcover format allowing it to lay flat upon a table or counter, "The Table My Mother Set" will prove a welcome and enduringly valued addition to personal, family, and community library cookbook collection.

Mastering the Mommy Track
Erin Flynn Jay
Business Books
c/o O-Books
9781780991238, $19.95,

In the modern day, Mommy has to work too...but has the problem of wanting to be Mommy too. "Mastering the Mommy Track: Juggling Career and Kids in Uncertain Times" is an advisory from Erin Flynn Jay as she suggests how mothers can balance the rough jobs of being a working mom in the modern day, and trying to be there for your kids while keeping your career advancement strong. "Mastering the Mommy Track" is a strong pick for the modern career woman looking for every advantage they can to get by.

Turning Aside to See
Eric Marder
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463740795, $11.95,

Faith is all we can have sometimes, even if we do not view ourselves as religious people. "Turning Aside to See" is a collection of fiction from Eric Marder who presents stories that explore the concepts of faith and God, although without any particular religious reverence. A fascinating outlook on the world as we know it, "Turning Aside to See" is a fun and much recommended addition to literary short fiction collections, recommended.

Circle the Date
Susie Beaty Green
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432787905, $10.95,

When you deal in marriage, you get used to the complexities of love. "Circle the Date" is a novel following Wedding planning team Lesley and Patsy as they enjoy their lives, but their latest client is certain to make everything all the more complicated for them. With plenty of humor and a look into the unique situations of the wedding planner, "Circle the Date" is a much recommended addition to contemporary fiction collections.

A Guide for Spiritual Living
Rev. George L. McLaird
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781475909968, $19.95,

Living life for the long term is harder than many think. "A Guide for Spiritual Living" is a manual from Reverend George L. McLaird as he advises readers on how better live their lives and find their own spirit, and letting that spirit live and evolve as you do. For those seeking a brand of spirituality that cares not for what faith one calls their own, "A Guide for Spiritual Living" is a strongly recommended pick for life and living, not to be missed.

Stop Sabotaging Your Life
Bruno LoGreco
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432792671, $15.95,

Our biggest obstacle to our own happiness is often the self. "Stop Sabotaging Your Life: 3 Steps to Your Full Potential" is an inspirational read from Bruno LoGreco as he advises readers on how to realize their own actions and realize how to stop being their own enemies to their lives, and find that epiphany to a happier life. "Stop Sabotaging Your Life" is a driven and much recommended pick for those trying to find that piece in their life that lets them live as they want to.

Battle of Grace
Neal Brandan Parks
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781620243268, $17.99,

Faith guides us through much turmoil, and reminds us of our ultimate goals in life. "Battle of Grace: Poems and Stories" is a collection of faith inspired fiction and poetry from Neal Brandan Parks, as he presents tales of people struggling with their lives and finding the guiding light of faith to see them through. "Battle of Grace" is a fine addition to any Christian fiction or poetry collection, much recommended.

Hello, Goodbye Again
Suzette Francis
Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452075860, $15.00,

To be hated instantly due to the color of your skin is not a good message for a young person. "Hello, Goodbye Again" is a novel following young Sadie Winter, a biracial young girl abandoned by her mother to her racist grandmother in Tennessee. A tragic yet intriguing journey of a young woman growing up in a bigoted town, "Hello, Goodbye Again" has a strong message and is a solid pick for modern fiction collections.

Helen Dumont

Kaveny's Bookshelf

A History of Chess: The Original 1913 Edition (Facsimile)
H. J. R. Murray
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10018
978-1620870624 $17.95

Skyhorse Publishing should be proud of making A History of Chess, originally published in 1913 available in a handsome and affordable trade paperback format. Artistically illustrated, it would make an ideal gift for any chess beginner, enthusiast or serious competitive player. It also would be of interest to the student of history, material culture or culture studies. Further, even in these days of dwindling book budgets A History of Chess: The Original 1913 Edition H. J. R. Murray Facsimile Edition is a must have item for every public, middle, high school, college, research and special library. Our word has now become, on the upside, a realization of Marshall McLuhan's "Global Village," and on the down side is balanced on the razor's edge of unlimited possibility or the abyss; just as was it was nearly a hundred years ago in 1913 when this great work appeared, one year before World War One shattered the world.

World War One, "The war to end all wars" broke out in 1914. The late great American writer Kurt Vonnegut, the Mark Twain of the low vocabulary but high interest readers of the last half of the 20th Century said it best when he described World War One and its second half replay World War Two, which started less than twenty one years after guns fell silent on the Western Front, as the world's two only barely unsuccessful suicide attempts.

I've spent nearly half a century of playing and teaching chess, as well as giving university guest lectures on the social history of change in European class structure reflected in the changes in the game of chess. One of the most amusing things I ever did was hold a small international chess tournament in my apartment above a long demolished block in Madison, Wisconsin in 1972. We held the tournament as we watched the live telecast of the sorrow, pity and courage of the late Bobby Fischer wresting the world chess championship from Boris Spassky and the Soviet chess Colossus. What I mean by that was in 1972 chess was a theatre of the Cold War, and chess was Russia's national sport, heavily financed by the Soviet government. Fischer on his own resources succeeded in spite of harassment by the US government. I think this partially exonerates Fischer's anti-Semitism; he was actually half Jewish himself. I feel qualified to hold an opinion on this book.

Now I need to say more about the A History of Chess, described as a historic undertaking that shattered preconceptions about the game upon its release. Over a century later, Murray's research, in which he argues that chess originated in India, is still widely accepted by most chess historians. Undertaking such a pioneering task, the scope of which has never been attempted before or since, Murray was required to learn to read Arabic in order to decipher historical manuscripts on the game. Divided into sections, Murray's study unravels the history of the game as it evolved from its Asiatic beginnings through the role chess played in Europe during the Middle Ages, up until the arrival of modern chess as we know it in the nineteenth century. Accompanied by diagrams of transcribed important games, as well as some of the more famous historical chess pieces, such as the Lewis chessman, no single work on the game of chess has come close to touching Murray's in breadth or significance.

Yet even in the sort of daunting descriptive language a very human, even brilliant Murray comes through as he reflects about the differences between western and non-western variations of the game of chess. He notes that from about the 15thcentury on in the west various forms of chess notation were used to record the moves in important games so that they could be analyzed, and thus new knowledge synthesized, so over the centuries the game progressed, This did not happen in its non-western variants. Geo-political historian Paul Kennedy observes that in the mid-fifteenth century Mongols still occupy vast areas of Russia, the Crusaders fail to hold The Holy Land, much of Spain is still non-Christian, and the rise of the west over the next four and a half centuries until World War One is not a done deal. If we think about Paul Kennedy's observation about the west in 1450 in light of Murray's in 1913 about Chess analysis, and thus new knowledge through synthesis, perhaps what Murray observed about the progression of western vs. non-western chess might have been part of a generalized historical process.

This part of my review article where I say something about my own personal relationship to the game which violates some rules of academic engagement, something I have spent a lifetime doing. Sometimes unintentionally and sometimes with extreme malice of forethought and some might say philosophical rudeness. For example, in the Vietnam era I was politely asked to leave graduate school at UW Madison for writing nothing but rude four letter words on my final exam. Elsewhere I claimed to have earned four F's on all my finals. In fairness it was really only one and after I was once again admitted to this great University the in 90's the guy who gave me the F said he had never seen a guy work so hard for a grade. Of course I did what I did for the same reasons that my entire blue flavored baby boomers had. We were, in the words of the French Existential philosopher Albert Camus, having trouble loving our country and justice at the same time.

After I left graduate school I stayed in Madison since it was my home and over the next three years pulled my life out of an alcoholic spiral of death. Also because of my chess abilities I feel into the really bad company of a bunch of young graduate students working in a theoretical area of mathematics called topology, all of whom were better chess player then I -- at least at first. They were like the cast of "The Big Bang Theory" including the girls, and they kept me around as a kind of buffoon, but they all knew by heart Mark Twain's caution that the greatest swordsman does not fear the second greatest; he fears the worst who isn't afraid to die. That was me. In other words they had to play me and it was a humiliation to lose me. Of course we all became good friends in the way that only socially challenged outsiders know. And frankly my game got a lot better, because though I am dyslexic and cannot read chess score I can see through the cloud of war that becomes a chess board.

As a matter of fact I developed a reputation for developing attacks against my opponents king that seem to arise phantom like out of nowhere, and since this sort of thing seemed at least a little unusual for me a six foot one inch three hundred and fifty pound former college heavy weight wrestler I became known to a whole generation of chess player at the UW Madison Wisconsin Union's rathskeller "The Phantom". My signature gesture upon victory was to take my opponents nose between my index and finger and chant you been forked by the phat guy.

So back to the subject of my own little international chess tournament which was held concurrently with the 1972 Fisher Spassky Reykjavik, Iceland world championship, in an my apartment which had all the charm of an abandoned Foreign Legion Post. It was above Bob and Gene's Bar, a college dive in the now demolished and gentrified six hundred block of University Ave in Madison Wisconsin. Incidentally Dr. Steven Jones, one of our participants who was former US Amateur Chess Champion who actually knew and played against Fischer, flew to Reykjavik for the second half of the match. As I remember I was the only one of the eight participants in our my double round robin tournament that did not have a doctorate in theoretical math, and as I remember out of a possible fourteen points I only score one half for a single draw.

By this time the University of Wisconsin had granted me a full time civil service janitor's job which I held my entire working lifetime, after a thirteen year binge from age thirteen to twenty-six where I was drunk to black. I quit drinking and with the grace that god seems to have for small children drunks and idiots, I never started again. At this same time through my chess connections I met this tall beautifully disdainful graduate student in Comparative Literature who found me arrogant, fat and self- centered.

The first time she came up to my foreign legion post I showed her a chess problem and sent her home. Later she became the love of my life and my wife for most of the last forty years. She admits that the first times she came up she was quite disappointed when I just showed her the problem and sent her home, because she was truly looking for an opportunity to test the can of pepper spray she had in her back pack She has risen to the rank of full professor her at UW Eau Claire and sometime we team teach in the honors program. And she says I am still the same boy she met forty years ago, that is to say arrogant, fat and self-centered. By the way as I write this, just because it will make her mad, she is presenting a paper at and International Science, Education, Technology and Medicine Conference in Beijing China.

I admit that in that roomful of international math geniuses that graced my little tournament I actually may not have been the brightest bulb in the room. So any way I asked them these two questions. The first being how you come up with the metaphysical axioms that must ground your mathematical system? Secondly, how long will it be before computers will beat the world champion? This Norwegian guy started to give an answer by saying, picture a granite mountain at the end of the world one hundred miles high tall .Now imagine a sparrow that flies over that mountain every hundred years and brushes it with its wing tip. But before he could get any farther we pantzed him and he shut up.

All the fellowship in that magic instant forty years ago rebooted my life and broke the trajectory of what would have been an inevitable death spiral. The answer to my first questions was this: Axioms are conventions of agreement, not observations. My second question arose out of conversations I was having with a professor of computer science who was trying to program a computer to play chess even at my level using what they called at that time artificial intelligence or A.I., which really came to a dead end because of fundamental structural differences between computers and human brains. Also any decent chess player wins not by following the rule or algorithm, but by knowing when to violate these. Of course IBM did it with Deep Blue in the mid-90's. But the way the answer in 1972 was this: The computer would have to be as big as the Empire State Building and cooled by Niagara Falls. Someone added yes, and half the people in the world would have to work at programing it, and the other half would have to work to feed them. Of course the punch line is that the computer they are talking about has been reduced in size by the last thirty iterations of Moore's Law and now powers my iPad, weighs three pounds and can run apps I cannot even list on a twelve hour battery rechargeable battery.

In the last forty since I grew up and stopped playing chess as a blood sport it has become a gateway to a better way to live. It has also been a way to make human connections with smart people and a way to formulate philosophical problems even when philosophers deny their very existence. When I sobered up in 1971 I made a film called "Death of a Chess Player." It was grim it, pretentious, it was artistic and it lead to a lifetime of production in community media. The film opened with a very long dolly shot of hundred empty tables all covered with chess boards with the black king in checkmate. I was the last guy for the master to beat in a simultaneous exhibition. My character denied human warm and beauty in his obsession to beat the master. When that is done all the character can do is commit suicide. The moral of my film was for me in real life was to escape the trap had snared my soul in I was in through the redemptive power of art. Thus chess became a warm and nurturing life giving activity, and I as neither the Phantom tweaked nor more noses, well maybe a couple more but only if they really needed it.

Philip Kaveny
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

A Feast Unknown
Philip Jose Farmer
Titan Books
9781781162880, $12.95,

In 1968 septuagenarian Lord Grandrith looks back at his life as he enjoys living in Africa looking like a thirty year old person. He learned early on that he is the illegitimate son of Jack the Ripper and over the years has become almost as famous in his own right as the Apeman, Lord of the Jungle.

Grandrith is also aware that he becomes aroused when he kills so he must control his urges to complete the opponent's death. His greatest adversary is legendary Doc Caliban, the Man of Bronze and Champion of Justice, who shares with Grandrith the secret of eternal life. They know they will one day meet with only one of them walking away. However, to the chagrin of both of them before they can have that ultimate climax that each desires, each obsesses over identifying who the third party foe(s) manipulating them into their coveted duel to the death.

This is a reprint of an exciting late 1960s satirical thriller that retains its controversial freshness with the ripping away of the goodness mythos of two pulp fiction heroes. Filled with gore and more gore and with the twist of the Apeman's sexual appetite, fans who appreciate something different will want to read Lord Grandrith's engaging memoir.

Not A Fire Exit
Christopher Finlan
Milverstead Publishing
9780984284702, $4.95

Five months ago, widow Beth Groves gave birth to Michele. However, instead of a happy occasion, her baby was dying from Type One Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). At Philadelphia Hospital, Dr. Thomas Schad claims he can cure Michele. Though Beth and her dad believe he is a con artist, she is desperate so she accepts his terms, but becomes horrified when he explains the procedure. To save her daughter, he needs a little girl as the host; that other child will die. He demonstrates on Michele with a temporary fix that gives the infant a short-term lift and leaves a cell phone message to "Go ahead."

Three months after Dr. Schad offered Beth a deal, Michele who was hours from death is on the news with her miraculous recovery. Jim Knox tells his wife Sarah, he knew Beth's older sister in high school. At Tyler Elementary, Sarah is part of a cupcake sale. She prevents affluent Cal Nolan of Nolan Knockouts fame from stealing a cupcake for his son; but he makes her look like the villain. Soon after her run-in with Nolan, Sarah's life unravels leading to her receiving a cell phone message of two words: "Go ahead."

The tone for this strong at times dark medical thriller is set by Hillary Dunlap Schmid in the Forward when she lovingly talks about her late baby Zane who died from SMA. Character driven by the strong cast yet deeply thought-provoking, readers will wonder how far a parent goes to save the life of their child. Christopher Finlan provides an uplifting tale filled with love and angst yet avoiding over-sentimental emoting.

Great North Road
Peter F. Hamilton
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345526663, $30.00,

In 2004 Kane North uses family money to hire the best geneticists to work a cloning program. Over the next few years three clones of him are born with severe defects. In 2012, triplet clones Augustine, Bartram and Constantine are born. In 2020, Wan Hi Chan's theory of trans-spacial connection proves instant travel as doable leading to links to rival interstellar programs. In 2034 Augustine, Bartram and Constantine form the Northumberland Interstellar Corps. However, by 2087 the siblings split up with Augustine remaining at Northumberland while his brothers leave the firm becoming rivals.

In 2121 on the planet St. Libra someone slaughters Bartram and his family. The police arrest Angela Tramelo who is convicted and given a life sentence; she insisted she was innocent and that an alien killed them. Over two decades later, an eerily similar slaughter of a North clone occurs in Newcastle, England. Detective Sidney Hurst leads the investigation that he knows will prove a career killer regardless of what he does. He and others also know Angela has the perfect state sponsored alibi. She is freed to search the planetary jungles for the deadly predator as the only survivor of the alien psychopath while he investigates the slaying in England.

This is an exciting futuristic thriller that is at its best when focusing on clone creation, instant interstellar travel and a great murder mystery in Newcastle and on St Libra. The Zanth assault on human colonies at first seems out of place as if Peter F. Hamilton switch the theme, but he shows his skills as an author when he cleverly brings everything together in a taut science fiction detective tale.

Sword of Queens
Joan Marie Verba
FTL Publications
P O Box 1363, Minnetonka, MN 55345-0363
9781936881116, $15.95,

For over five centuries, Tashtalon the overlord has ruled the patriarchal kingdom of Somerlie with an evil iron fist. No one has ever seen Tashtalon but everyone knows of his presence especially at night when sleeping is dangerous. Each evening, Tashtalon puts his subjects to sleep two hours after sunset; and awakens them each morning two after sunrise with some vanishing overnight. No one has any hope of overthrowing this invincible malevolent God.

Twentyish Gill is like everyone else living in fear of the evil ruler; wondering if she will disappear next and knowing how helpless it is as nothing can defeat Tashtalon. Gill wonders why the overlord's most enforced law is that no woman will yield a sword with the penalty of breaking his code instant death though she assumes it has to do with females being subservient to males. As she begins her required quest year "To Find Herself", Gill thinks of her elderly grandma's tales of life before Tashtalon. On her journey Gill learns that the magical Sword of Queens can destroy Tashtalon.

Sword of Queens is an excellent coming of age quest fantasy starring a likable heroine. The vibrant Verba world of magic seems real while the vile villain is made even stronger and eviler by the fearful whispers of his subjects. Sub-genre readers will enjoy Gill's adventures in an engaging good and evil thriller.

Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End
Manel Loureiro and Pamela Carmell (translator)
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781612184340, $14.95,

From Galicia, Spain he began the blog because his psychiatrist suggested he do so. His first entry on December 30 dealt with Spain broke or not broke, stockholder clients making money or not making money and an incident in one of the former Soviet "Stan" republics in the Caucasus Mountains. His next entry focuses on that explosion in Dagestan apparently caused by Islamic guerillas seeking nuclear material. He later writes Russia closed its border.

He continues his blog as he speculates why no news from ground zero in Dagestan has surfaced as if all are dead inside the nation; the silence also engulfed its neighbors like Georgia and now American troops patrol Fifth Avenue. He soon learns the consequence of the event in Dagestan as humans turn into monsters attacking the normals. Governments try to keep order, but fail as the disease turns pandemic. Many of the remaining humans struggle to survive the onslaught creating not so "Safe Havens" that are more prisons than enclaves. The blogger begins an odyssey of survival for him and his cat Lucullus while keeping his blog current with what his happening in his life.

The beginning Apocalypse Z horror tale is an exciting end of the world thriller. Even with much of the novel using the blog and a journal to tell "The Beginning of the End", the storyline is fast-paced. Readers will admire the blogger though doubt a lawyer could adapt as easily as he does (unless he was an extreme survivalist) to the chaos and constant peril with everything including electricity failing. Still Manel Loureiro provides an engaging zombie thriller starring an admirable hero telling his tale.

Hook and Shoot
Jeremy Brown
Medallion Press, Inc.
100 South River Street, Aurora, IL 60506
9781605425214, $14.95,

Aaron "Woodshed" Wallace expects to receive a contract offer from Warrior Incorporated President Banzai Eddie Takanori, but in spite of his recent fight inside the cage in Burbank (see Suckerpunch), none has occurred. Woodshed and his trainer Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Gil Hobbes are frustrated as his performance warrants a contract as Eddie refuses to speak with the fighter.

Seemingly out of the blue, Eddie arrives at the gym to talk with Woodshed. He tells the warrior that he will receive a special contract that includes his bodyguard protecting him from the ruthless Japanese Yakuza mob who wants his flesh due to the results of Woodshed's last combat. Additionally he will go into the ring against a deadly Asian champion Zombi, no one stateside heard of.

Round two continues the super action-packed noir starring a charismatic MMA fighter with anger management issues and a strong retinue in his corner. Woodshed is a fascinating warrior as he spends two weeks inside of a metaphysical cage trying to survive Eddie's latest lethal tricks. Readers will root for Woodshed against Zombi, the Japanese mob and his worst adversary his promoter.

Highball Exit
Phyllis Smallman
TouchWood Editions
340 - 1105 Pandora Avenue
Victoria, BC V8V 3P9, Canada
9781927129791, $18.95,

In Jacaranda, Florida thirtyish Sherri Travis worries that the bank will foreclose her Sunset Bar and Grill as she is three months behind on her mortgage. She cannot turn to her lover Clay who has lost his fortune when the housing market imploded.

Aunt Kay tells Sherri that childhood friend Holly Mitchell committed suicide and that another buddy from the old days, police officer Danny Raines found the body but failed to identify the corpse as Hilly. She offers Sherri three months of mortgage payment if the bartender finds out what happened to Holly's baby Angel. Sherri had no idea that Holly had a child through Aunt Kay insists she met the baby. The bartender puts down the Jack Daniels visiting Raines who had an affair with Holly that he does not want his superiors to know abour. She also learns Holly was an escort at Angel Escort Service. With Aunt Kat as her sidekick, Sherri investigates what happened to Holly in order to track down a baby no one except Aunt Kay knew exists.

The latest Sherri Travis amateur sleuth (see Margarita Nights, Sex in a Sidecar, Brewski for the Old Man and Champagne for Buzzards) is an engaging whodunit in which the heroine begins to wonder whether saving her bar is worth the investigation into an infant who might not exist. Aunt Kay's antics add fun to the tale while the relationship with Clay seems shaky since he is on the road with his ex with him. Fans will enjoy downing a fifth while touring the West Florida beaches with Travis as our guide.

Ellen Hopkins
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781451626377, $24.99,

San Diego State University graduate student Ashley Patterson and Marine Cole Gleason meet at a bar as do their respective best friends Darian and Spencer. They share in common their love of poetry and attracted to one another begin a relationship over the next five years in spite of his four overseas deployments.

At the same time Ashley and Cole struggle with long periods of dangerous absence, Darian and Spencer becomes a couple. However, unlike Ashley who has met temptation at college, Darian seeks lovers when her mate is deployed.

Collateral is a fascinating look at the impact on loving relationships by the constant long periods of out of bed deployments and by what Cole mentally faces in a war zone. The storyline is leisurely paced with poetry written by both an intricate part of their partnering. At times overdramatic, readers will appreciate this deep look at the cost of endless war on a couple of marines and the women who love them.

The Ice Maiden Cometh Not
Alistair Boyle
Allen A. Knoll, Publisher
200 West Victoria Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101-3627
9781888310092, $23.00,

In Southern California heart surgeon Dr. Chester Kulp hires investigator Gil Yates to look into the death of his son-in-law Sandy Straus. Arrogant Chester pays Gil $10,000 to determine whether Sandy committed suicide when he fell or jumped from a roof in Muhlenheim, Pennsylvania. Though he detests the pompous doctor as a pretentious a-hole and has a fear of flying, the money is too good to ignore so he accepts the case.

In Muhlenheim, Gil meets and is taken aback by the grieving widow and Chester's daughter Ginger as she is drop dead gorgeous. The circumstantial evidence affirmed by the cops and a local PI point towards likable Sandy killing himself. Only Ginger and her dad insist her late spouse would never harm anyone especially himself. To prove this Gil dugs deeper into the life of the victim.

The latest Gil Yates investigation (see They Fall Hard and What Now, King Lear?) is an entertaining at time humorous middle boiled noir as the protagonist is a bull in the Muhlenheim "china shop". The lighthearted storyline is fast-paced but thin. Still fans will enjoy Gil's antics starting with almost soiling his pants on the plane and his amusing "Shermanesque" march through Muhlenheim society.

Deadly Deception
Marie Romero Cash
Camel Press
c/o Coffeetown Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603818933, $12.95,

In 2001 in Santa Fe, a person screams at State Policeman Don Ilford for failing to hit the tree with his car correctly. The individual fixes the scene so that investigators believe that Don's wife Rose died in a car accident. Ilford's neighbor paramedic Roger Streeter arrives at the accident and notices anomalies, but is ignored. Afterward, he wonders why Don told him his wife had leukemia while she denied it and why he exaggerates his injuries. State Police Captain Jeff Whitney accepts Don's story that he was rushing his wife to the hospital when he lost control and crashed though there is no skid marks.

In 2008, the police commissioner, under pressure from Rose's influential family, orders Whitney to reopen the investigation, he does nothing. One year later, forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge is assigned to look into the cold case. She asks Santa Fe County Sheriff Department Detective Rick Romero, head of the Cerillos satellite office, for help; explaining that Whitney is uncooperative. He agrees though he knows working with her will be difficult as he is attracted to her though she keeps him at a distance. He is unaware of the trauma of her Mormon roots. Whitney warns Rick to drop the inquiry, which he refuses even when someone tries to kill him and Jemimah.

The second Jemimah Hodge Santa Fe police procedural (see Shadows among the Ruins) is a superb investigative thriller that combines a strong mystery in spite of knowing the accident was murder and solid personal relationship issues (her Mormonism and his ex-con brother). Though the Fed Sandra Gorman feels forced into the plot, readers will appreciate this entertaining whodunit wondering who lectures Ilford at his wife's death scene.

Cocaine Zombies
Scott A Lerner
Camel Press
c/o Coffeetown Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603819039, $13.95,

In Urbana, Illinois Chloe and Thomas visits Sam the lawyer. Chloe explains her companion has been charged with class X felony of selling cocaine. She says in spite of the fact he did not sell drugs; if Thomas is convicted he will spend the rest of his life behind bars due to his criminal record.

Sam wonders what the relationship is between his client and the mysterious Chloe. Still he takes on the case, but almost immediately afterward he begins suffering nightmares in which people die; only to learn when awake the stars of his dreams indeed died. Sam asks his friend Bob to help him understand why he has these deadly visions when he sleeps. They learn about a German pharmaceutical company testing a highly addictive form of cocaine developed by the Nazis but lethally enhanced by herbs and voodoo. When his client's head is found in his refrigerator, Sam expects the cops to suspect him of the murder forcing him with Bob at his side to confront the evil turning humanity into enslaved living zombies.

This is an exciting paranormal legal investigative thriller as a drug derivative and voodoo equate to Cocaine Zombies. The cast is solid though somewhat stereotypical as Chloe is a femme fatale while Sam is that law abiding good neighbor and Bob is a knowledgeable nerd. With a fun who do voodoo spin, fans will enjoy this taut twisted tale.

The Winters
Betty J Cotter
Swamp Yankee Publishing
475 Woodruff Ave, Wakefield, RI 02879
9781938517082, $14.97,

In 1978, Jim Winter, his wife Helen and their two children (Joyce and Don) live in a dilapidated farmhouse with a fabulous view of the Atlantic. On a wintry morning, Jim commits suicide stunning his family who were unprepared for their beloved patriarch taking his life. Feeling pressure as a failure Jim knew his family would grieve, but concluded they were better off with him dead than alive as his life insurance will pay bills he could not.

Heartbroken Helen knows their beachfront property owned by the Swamp Yankee family for over three hundred years needs to be sold as the land is valuable to affluent gentrification developers, but hesitates with ending the tradition though there is pressure on her to sell. Ludlow her cousin the realtor hires Helen but also pressures her to sell. Fran her new neighbor wants her antiques. Loretta her sister-in-law wants to donate the land to the Audubon Society. Her daughter cannot cope with her dad's suicide or what appears to be the imminent loss of her heritage. Finally, her best friend Camille is on a quest to learn about her Narragansett Native American roots.

This profound family drama focuses on the impact of a changing world on a long time tradition. Character driven by a fully developed cast, readers will relish the trials and tribulations of each individual while they cope with an affluent invasion superseding the Swamp Yankee subculture; money talks, heritage walks.

Soul's Gate
James L. Rubart
Thomas Nelson Publishers
Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781401686055, $15.99,

Three decades ago, Reece Roth was a warrior for Jesus who could enter the soul of another person and help guide them to the righteous path. However, a tragedy occurred when he remained inside too long and has turned him into a wounded recluse unable to perform the Lord's work anymore.

In the present, God sends four tyros (Brandon Scott, Marcus Amber, Dana Raine and Tamera Miller) for Reece to train and lead. Reece knows he needs to find his lost faith if he is to mentor the rookies he will take to Well Spring high in the Colorado Rockies. The prophecy says for four to battle the rise of the Wolf. However Dana calls saying he cannot make it as he is too busy with the Titanic. Reece leads his students to the ranch where he instructs them on their mission with the final exam to cleanse their own souls.

Soul's Gate is a powerful inspirational thriller that grips the reader from the moment God calls on the lost soul Reece and his three acolytes to begin the mission. Fast-paced with a fully developed quartet and a unique vision of souls in a materialistic electronic age, readers will relish James L. Rubart's fabulous first Well Spring tale.

The 13: Fall
Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781616267698, $12.99,

In 2025, The Prophet begins sending warnings to the President of the United States that the Lord's reckoning of judgment day is coming if the country does not return to the true faith. Concerned about national security as the messages threaten the country with terrorism but also fearing the source may be God, POTUS assigns an elite team to capture The Prophet. CIA agent Jon Keene blames God for his wife's death, FBI computer hacker Megan Taylor is a devout Christian; and former special ops warrior Bozwell Hamilton has become a pastor.

At the same the trio searches for The Prophet, they struggle to form into a viable group as Keene ridicules the notion of Godly intervention labeling the prophet as a terrorist; while Boz somewhat embraces the concept of heavenly fire and brimstone on a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. At the same time, a high ranking official betrays the country by enabling the Chinese to enter America allegedly to drill for oil.

The first installment of The 13 is an exhilarating fast-paced suspense thriller in which trends since 9/11 are extrapolated one decade into the future. As the lead threesome go through the phases of Tuckman's Model of Group Development especially with their debates re God, the readers will want to know whether the Prophet is the Lord's messenger or a terrorist.

Past Lives
Christopher Kokoski
9781613181096, $15.95,

In Louisville, Kentucky, Police Detective James Wolfe takes Courier-Journal outbound sales representative Eric Shooter into custody as he was found unconscious next to murdered pregnant Rosalie Parker; his name carved into her body. A stunned and confused Eric is show four photos of dead females. He denies knowing anything about the brutal homicides. On a lie detector test, he answers he never killed anyone, which registers as a lie. The cops send him to hypnotherapist Dr. Samantha Jones who finds Eric has been a serial killer many times in previous lives.

When another murder occurs and a cop is severely hurt, Eric knows he must confront the killer before he fears his dark side takes over. He soon learns of a connection in his previous psychopathic lives to the present day predator. However, his apparent partner in many lifetimes proves diabolically clever.

With a strong reincarnation premise, Past Lives is an exhilarating paranormal mystery starring a beleaguered protagonist, the vigilant cop, an amazed doctor, and a vile villain. The storyline grips the audience from the horrific opening murder until the final confrontation. Although the short chapters (averaging 2 pages) causes abruptness and restricts depth, fans will enjoy this unique serial killer thriller.

Immortal Betrayal
Paul Lewis
9781613181133, $11.95,

In 1085 AD Eric returns to Iceland after an exile insisting there is a better warmer land to the west. His old traveling buddy Kallock, accompanied by his wife Callie and their nine year old son Darien, joins him on his quest. Diligent Kallock becomes concerned as the numbers going with them grow out of control with 500 men, women and children. He also pleads with hedonistic Eric and others to end their visits to the women in taverns before a disease decimates them. Not long afterward the sickness spread until many die including Callie. With her death, father and son grow apart as she was the loving bind between them. They complete the journey to Greenland and over the next decade Darien and Eric's son Leif become friends though their temperament differ as each take after their respective father.

Stephen Santos and Rachel Davenport arrive at the hall in Greenland to hire the best shop and crew from the legendary Eric the Red. He offers to pay a fee and supplies while Eric volunteers his son and Darien. Not long afterward her brother Randall and another man arrive. On the journey Darien falls in love with Rachel, but she belongs to someone else. Soon Darien finds his Viking loyalty shook over Rachel as he also confronts vampires and werewolves.

Immortal Betrayal is an exhilarating refreshing Viking paranormal thriller that gives new meaning to the Dark Ages. The story line is fast-paced with a strong cast especially the two generations of BFFs, Rachel and the supernatural. Paul Lewis provides a fabulous historical fantasy filled with twists and plenty of action and a forbidden love.

Dark Halo
Christopher Kokoski
9781613181287, $15.95,

Thirtyish Landon Paddock closed his business and deserted his wife and teenage daughter. He moved back onto the family plantation in Southern Indiana and turns to drink to ignore what he fears he sees.

Two years later during a nasty storm, Landon sees unnatural things that he assumes came from too much alcohol until he sees a naked winged stranger outside his abode. Sneezing when he is nervous, Landon opens his door holding his rifle only he shoots at his fifteen year old daughter Katie; thankfully he jerked upward and missed her. She had a fight with her mom over her boyfriend Brian who took her to her dad. Big bruising Brian attacks Landon before turning to Katie who prays to Jesus; who Brian knows. Desperate he uses the rifle butt to temporarily stop Brian. Landon realizes the choices are the wings outside or the ogre inside; thus Father and daughter flee into the night with their only hope residing with his estranged family as evil stalks them.

This is a great action-packed Christian horror tale starring a besieged father and daughter struggling to survive against monsters hunting them. Landon is fully developed with little idiosyncrasies like sneezing when he bluffs in poker that make him complete while fans will feel Katie's ire towards her dad every time she calls him Landon. Readers will relish this dark thriller as hell has come to Indiana.

The Ogre and Other Stories
William Levy
9781613181034, $11.95,

This is an entertaining adult fantasy anthology in which William Levy sets the tone in his introduction with his comments on Julie "Catwoman" Newmar (as adolescent males wanted to make her purr and teen females envied her statuesque purrfect feline form). In the "Dragon at Mackenzie's farm", Coleridge insists he is not a wizard to the investigating sheriff. Erv Largo is introduced to lovely Ms. Tessa and knows instantly by his bodily reactions she has sex "Appeal"; note that no bananas were hurt during this tale. Only eight years old, Lida is given the "Burden" to watch over her younger siblings in the hidey hole while a wizard and four fighters arrive to take her parents as prisoners to the king. If you have a queasy stomach you don't want to know "What They Did To Me On My Summer Vacation." The Martian Girl's green body had male eyes (and other parts) bulging, Posey begins to rise from the third shift convenience store clerk position in "Out Of Space." Finally there are the seven engaging Ogre entries to round out a fascinating short story collection.

Sugarland Melting
Sam Neace
9781613181072, $11.95,

In Eastern Kentucky ninety-nine years old multimillionaire RJ Rockhouse constructs Sugarland, a thirteen trailer park in the shape of a cross. He soon expands his original concept to fifty trailers. Rockhouse selects families living below the poverty line to reside in the trailers rent free.

The nearby townsfolk wonder why he used this form of philanthropy when the affluent Rockhouse could donate to causes that would help many more people. Five years ago, RJ's beloved wife Lola died. At her funeral he apparently lost his mind. Now the townsfolk believe his latest action affirms his insanity. Instead, RJ, who believes in the magic of 100, has a plan to transfer his soul and that of Lola into the bodies of his Sugarland residents.

Sugarland Melting is an engaging thriller that keeps readers guessing whether the storyline is a necromancy horror or a psychological suspense. Once readers know the path the entertaining plot goes, the excitement ebbs. Still this is a strong character driven tale of a desperate person trying to regain paradise lost at any cost.

The Prodigal Son
Colleen McCullough
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781451668759, $26.00,

In 1969 biochemist Dr. Millie Hunter informs her father Medical Examiner Dr. Patrick O'Donnell that someone stole tetrodotoxin blowfish extraction from their lab. John Hall traveled from Oregon to Holloman, Connecticut to claim his inheritance. At a family gala welcoming him, he dies from an injection of blowfish toxic extraction, a poison that kills almost instantly and leaves no trace. One day later the death of Professor Thomas Tarleton Tinkerman by poison occurs.

Holloman Police Captain Carmine Delmonico leads the investigation in which Millie's husband Dr. Jim Hunter had the means and opportunities (to the victims and to the toxin) though he finds no motive. Carmine believes the husband of his second cousin is innocent. He looks at those who lost a fortune when Hall came to New England, the Chubbs University faculty members who gain with the professor's death, and even a hate crime to destroy the black and white couple Millie and Jim. However, no one seems to have a motive that ties the murders of the scholar and the heir.

The latest Delmonico 1960s police procedural (see Naked Cruelty and Too Many Murders) is an engaging historical investigative tale. The set-up is strong as there are plenty of suspects, who may have committed one of the homicides, but none appear to have motive for multiple murders; however, the rationale once revealed seems weak at best. Still fans will enjoy this 1969 Connecticut mystery.

Carolyn Hart
Seventh Street
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616147068, $13.95,

In 1980s San Francisco Jimmy Lee asks physical anthropologist Dr. Ellen Christie to come with him to Chinatown. In a basement, Jimmy shows Ellen a strange looking skull. Stunned Ellen identifies the fossil as part of the "Peking Man" group. Two thugs arrive and accost Jimmy. He and the rare skull vanish.

Ellen and Jimmy's brother Dan investigate where Jimmy may have found the Peking Man unaware that the skull and other bones were shipped from China in 1941 to keep put of the hands of the Japanese army. As the pair begins to unravel Jimmy's recent activities, others seeking the precious find will kill anyone in their way.

This is a reprint of an exciting amateur sleuth mystery that superbly uses the premise of the missing Peking Man bones as the heart of this mystery. Fast-paced from the moment Jimmy shows his treasure to Ellen, readers also obtain insight into the complex people of Chinatown. Fans will enjoy Skulduggery.

Dog In The Manger
Mike Resnick
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616147105, $15.95,

Four months ago, Baroness the Weimaraner won Best in Show at Westminster. Recently, Baroness was shipped from Cincinnati to join her owner in Arizona. She never arrived at her destination. Her accompanying kennel employee and several other people were murdered.

Downtrodden Cincinnati private investigator Eli Paxton takes on the dognapping case. He knows the objective is to find and rescue the abducted canine. However, the case proves deadly as someone commits several homicides and tries killing Eli. Following clues Eli travels to Arizona, drug trafficking in Mexico and finally back home.

This is a reprint of an entertaining Eli Paxton medium boiled detective thriller. The whodunit is fast-paced as Eli becomes target practice while also providing a tender look at show dogs. In addition there is an engaging Paxton short story, "Even Butterflies Can Sting" (see Death Dines At 8:30 anthology), in which the Cincinnati slugger teams up with his new partner Marlowe the Westie on a case.

The Cold Cold Ground
Adrian McKinty
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616147167, $15.95,

In 1981 in Belfast, a mutilated corpse is found in a busted up heap. The police assume he is another victim of the Troubles. However, some evidence surfaces that have the cops reconsidering their initial conclusion. They fear a serial killer using the Troubles as a disguise is torturing and murdering gays. Police detective Sean Duffy, a pariah as a Catholic, leads the investigation.

Duffy soon believes a woman who allegedly committed suicide by hanging may have been murdered. He also believes the IRA is involved with the killings as one of their top officers is a victim. However, his superior ridicules him while refusing to hear what Duffy believes because his boss is Protestant and he is Catholic. At the same time, the tension mounts stratospherically when IRA hunger strike prisoners begin dying in Maze Prison.

Ostensibly a Northern Ireland police procedural, The Cold Cold Ground is much more as the audience obtains a close look at life in Ulster during the Troubles. Sean is terrific as a man with deep convictions residing in two worlds yet disdained by both. Fans will relish touring Belfast in 1981 with Sean as our guide.

Bill Pronzini
Cemetery Dance Publications
132-B Industry Lane, Unit 7
Forest Hill, Maryland 21050
9781587672675, $19.99,

The Unnamed Detective has been a private investigator for many years but never met a femme fatale except in fiction or the movies like The Maltese Falcon or Double Indemnity. That is until his bail bondsman friend Abe Melikian introduces Nameless to Cory Beckett, who meets the definition of femme fatale adding new curves to the "species". Nameless muses he spent more time as a detective than the twenty-eight years old Femme Fatale has breathed.

Melikian hires Nameless to find Beckett's younger brother Kenneth who jumped bail. Kenneth has been charged with stealing a $20,000 diamond necklace from the alcoholic wife of his employer San Francisco union leader Andrew Vorhees. Nameless begins his search for the jumper while Cory uses her wiles to influence him.

Although he remains the Unnamed Detective in this entry, he is no longer Nameless (see Hellbox). Cory makes the tale entertaining as she lives up to the opening line: "Femme Fatale. French for deadly woman" though her actions are somewhat typical of her literary and film sisters. The storyline is fast-paced as Nameless works a case in which Cory Beckett's weapon of choice is sex.

Bill Pronzini
Cemetery Dance Publications
132-B Industry Lane, Unit 7
Forest Hill, Maryland 21050
9781587672668, $19.99,

Student Allison Shay, accompanied by her boyfriend was driving from the University of Oregon to her home in the Bay area, but never made it. Allison's frantic mom Marian hires the Nameless detective to find her daughter whose last known location is the Northern Comfort Cabins in Creekside, California; population 112 where the car broke down. Marian tells the sleuth she knows nothing about the boyfriend.

Nameless visits the cabins where he questions the proprietor Mr. Bartholomew about Allison. The owner tells the detective what he told the sheriff that he never saw the boyfriend nor when the couple left. Taking the same room that Allison occupied, Nameless, fearing the worst, questions the locals who at best are uncooperative and overtly hostile as the San Francisco detective has entered rustic hell.

This is an enjoyable reprint of a 1993 novella that focuses on an insular small population in which hate crimes are ignored by the community (think of the BSA and PSU scandals). Fast-paced with Nameless risking his life for the truth, the small-town cast never quite gels beyond the James Dickey Deliverance stereotypical cloning. Still this is a taut entry as the protagonist increasingly fears what he will have to do once he affirms his dreaded belief.

James A. Moore
Cemetery Dance Publications
132-B Industry Lane, Unit 7
Forest Hill, Maryland 21050
9781587672309, $35.00,

While her husband Tom brings in the income, Kathy Erinson is a stay at home mom caring for their three children. In her little spare time, she enjoys sketching, which she finds relaxing. Currently she is drawing the family farm's landscapes, a place she is fond of and where she lived as a child.

Her only bad memory from childhood is her then tweener friend Mickey vanishing, along with five other children, without a trace. Over the years the cases grow cold. Several pleasant hours pass until she goes to meet her children at the bus stop. As the bus pulls away from the stop, a stunned Kathy swears she sees Mickey silently screaming inside. Over the next few days Kathy begins to recall forgotten memories of Mickey which Tom notices in her most recent drawings. Seeking closure, Kathy investigates in spite of distrusting her spotty memories in which she is not sure they happened and that many of those who lived in town the year that Mickey disappeared are dead or moved away.

This is a taut horror thriller as readers will wonder what is happening to Kathy and why. Enhanced by several grim B&W sketching (mindful of Edvard Munch's "The Scream"), readers will relish this taut novella in time for a scary Halloween.

Warrior Prince
Nancy J Cohen
The Wild Rose Press (Faery Rose)
9781612173573, $15.99,

Nira Larsen arrives at Drift World on Orlando's International Drive for a make-up job interview though she is confused as the theme park's log cabin employment office seemed to materialize in the parking lot out of thin air. Algie Morar welcomes Nira and asks her to test her skills on odd looking Jek by making him appear more human. When Nira resists Algie's mental Confounding commands, the Drift World employee needs to know how so he directs Jek to restrain her. Drift Lord Warriors led by Commander Zohar Thoral rescue Nira while Algie escapes.

Like Algie, Zohar wants to understand how Nira resisted the Confounding but does not imprison the bewildered human; instead they seek to learn who she truly is. As she begins learn the truth behind ancient mythology, Nira is falling in love with Zohar and while he feels the same way. However, a malevolent force invades the earth through a schism in the Bermuda Triangle, the Drift Lord and the human know they must team up to save the planet, but neither trusts the other with their respective life or heart.

The first Drift Lord romantic urban fantasy is a super thriller as Nancy J Cohen brings ancient mythology to a city known for modern day mythos. The Cohen world feels real due to the warriors, their adversaries like the Trollecks and the mystery of Nira. Readers will relish this engaging save the planet before the protagonists can consider love.

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds
Alexander McCall Smith
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307907332, $24.95,

In Edinburgh, Isabel Dalhousie lives a busy life. She edits the Review of Applied Ethics, deals with friends and family and "sorts out people's difficulties."

Affluent Duncan Munrowe asks for her help. Thieves stole his valuable Nicolas Poussin painting and offer to return it if he pays their ransom demands. He wants her to negotiate the safe return of his prized work that he plans to donate to the Scottish National Gallery. Isabel agrees to regain the renowned French artist's masterpiece. On the personal front, Isabel the philosopher knows first-hand relationships are confusing due to The Charming (and not so charming) Quirks of Others.

The latest Isabel Dalhousie contemporary (see The Forgotten Affairs of Youth) is an engaging amusing tale that deeply looks at the ethics of people. The enjoyable painting subplot is the prime entry. However Isabel's math prodigy toddler Charlie, her caring lover Jamie, her dedicated but anger management not housekeeper Grace, her toxic niece Cat (at the restaurant), and Cat's employee Eddie affirm that human interactivity is a contact sport with no rules.

George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780345535498, $16.00,

The planet Windhaven has no large land continents. Instead it consists of a series of islands with some grouped in clusters. When the colonists landed there, they built homes on the more habitable isles and soon a low-level technology formed that adapted to the geography. Flyers also appeared as the settlers compensated for the planet's environment by allowing some individuals to have silver tip wings to fly from island to island with messages.

Over time the landsmen came to revere the flyer as the wings pass from parent to oldest child in a primogeniture manner. This system apparently works well and is accepted by all until a flyer adopts a girl, Maris. When he could no longer use his silver tip wings, he gives them to his beloved Maris. However, when her stepfather sires a son with her adopted mother, Maris is supposed to return the wings, but she refuses. Instead she demands a flyer council convene so that she can make her case to keep her wings and in doing so changes the social structure of her world.

Windhaven was first published three decades ago, but like any well-written novel, it passes the test of time and remains fresh as if it is a brand new book. The Anne McCaffrey crowd will find the tale reminiscent of the Pern books. The planet seems real and the technology evolves as form adapts to the reality of the world. Science fiction and fantasy readers will want to soar with the flyers through this enjoyable tale.

Laura Resnick
DAW Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756407339, $7.99,

Actress Esther Diamond obtains work as Dreidel the Jewish elf in Manhattan's Fenster Department store. She got the position because several people hired for the annual meet Santa display failed to return to work.

Santa is running very late while a crowd becomes edgy. Dreidel entertains them while Candy Cane the elf looks for him. Finally Esther's friend Big Satsy arrives screaming in terror with his Santa suit on fire. A little boy Jonathan also starts screaming claiming a Santa with fangs tried to eat him. At the same, the Fenster family fights over control of the retail giant and thieves hijack shipments. When a tree attacks Dreidel, her on and off boyfriend NYPD Detective Connor Lopez claims mechanical failure, but Esther knows otherwise. With Max the three century and a half old sorcerer at her side, they investigate supernatural happenings unaware that a malevolence is deploying a wicked scheme to make for a deadly Christmas.

The latest Esther Diamond satirical urban fantasy (see Vamparazzi, Unsympathetic Magic and Doppelgangster) lampoons the excesses of commercialized Christmas in a fun lighthearted farce. Once again intrepid Esther proves fearless as she chooses fight rather than flight by facing danger on the freight elevator, the tree, a retired gangster and the Fenster family feud. Laura Resnick writes a not so merry Christmas paranormal mayhem.

The Silvered
Tanya Huff
9780756407438, $24.95

The powerful Kresentian Empire invades the Aydori Kingdom with brutal force as they loathe their enemy's ruling species, werewolves. The Aydori and its allies expect their were-prowess accentuated by the mages to defeat the invaders. Instead, the Kresentian military use silver weapons to kill the courageous werewolves.

With the Kingdom falling into chaos and a genocide campaign underway, the Kresentian know only one thing could defeat them based on the prophecy of an unborn child leading the counterattack. To prevent this from happening, they capture five high-ranking Aydori women including the wife of the Mage Pack leader. Untested were Tomas Hagen the leader's younger brother and underachieving mage Mirian Maylin who begin a rescue mission inside the Kresentian Empire to rescue the females.

This is an exciting romantic quest fantasy starring two individuals in a coming of age entertaining storyline while the prophecy will remind readers of Moses. Though the impossible odds are so overwhelming against their success that Vegas would refuse to take bets, fans will enjoy the trek of the werewolf and the mage into the heart of the enemy.

Revenant Eve
Sherwood Smith
9780756407445, $25.95

Southern California Professor Kim Murray prepares for her marriage to the Statthalter Marius Ysvorod, who will soon be the Crown Prince of Dobrenica. Her ancestors come from the small European nation, which recently regained its independence from the Soviets.

However, her happiness runs out of time when Kim finds herself in 1795 France as the spirit guardian to hybrid Aurelie de Mascarenhas of Saint-Domingue. The twelve year old girl is the only person who sees Kim. The college teacher realizes the stakes are whether she, her parents and grandparents exist if she fails to escort her charge to Dobrenica. This means the child must travel across dangerous anarchistic post-Revolutionary France. However, Aurelie's family has plans for her and the French demand she spy for them as her fulfilling her destiny seems unlikely while both grow close with a profound understanding of Vrajhus, the Blessing, and the Nasdrafus.

The exciting Revenant Eve works on two fronts: as a terrific time travel thriller and as a Dobrenica entry (see Coronets and Steel, and Blood Spirits). The mentor and the mentee are fully developed so that the trials and tribulations of both seem genuine especially in light of what is at stake within the deadly era. Fans will relish this exhilarating thriller while newcomers will find this a fine taste of Dobrenica.

Power Play
Patrick Robinson
Vanguard Press
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9781593157319, $25.99,

In 2018, the world remains a dangerous place as Israel destroyed the Iranian underground nuclear weapons facility and America devastated a North Korean nuclear facility. Septuagenarian Russian president Nikita Markova wants a return to the glory days of Stalin's Soviet Union. He needs to punish the Americans for their affront to his allies without the retaliatory attack.

Markova approves a nuclear attack on the headquarters of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland while disabling the American "nuclear football" response. Naval Commander Mackenzie "Mack" Bedford and his SEAL Team 10 must sink the Russian freighter carrying the nuclear missiles before it reaches Central American.

The latest Mack Bedford thriller (see The Delta Solution and Diamondhead) is an action-packed tale as time is running out to prevent the disaster. The storyline is at its exciting best when the focus is on the countdown to an anticipated confrontation at sea. On the other hand pontificate interpretation of real events (for instance, the alleged British equivalent of the 47%) detracts from an otherwise entertaining thriller.

The Sacred Impostor
J. R. Lankford
Great Reads Books
PO Box 2112, Bellaire, TX 77402
9780971869455, $16.95,

In New York geneticist Felix Rossi stole two threads with DNA from the Shroud of Turin in order to create a Jesus clone. He selected his Harlem maid Maggie Johnson as Mary (see The Jesus Thief). However, some people find Maggie's now ten year old son Jess a devilish abomination (see The Secret Madonna). Still upset about her son, Maggie is pregnant and will soon marry the father she hates Sam Duffy.

Ex butler Luis Tepiltzin Moctezuma inherited a lot of money that does not ease the grief for family members dying while crossing the border and anger for the Americans who let them die. He plans to use his wealth on his "Reconquista" plot to take back the land America stole from Mexico. As such, he hires ex-hooker Coral Anders to kidnap Maggie's baby as a key element in his scheme.

The third part Maggie Johnson thriller is a deep tale that provides a fresh look at the illegal immigration issue from a Mexican perspective. The cast is solid as Maggie questions her faith, Sam lives more completely in his past, and Luis thirsts for vengeance with the destruction of America. Thus it behooves the audience to read the previous novels to learn how key players got to their current emotional state. The Sacred Impostor is a strong saga as the lead trio and Coral seemingly have lost their faith.

1635: The Papal Stakes
Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781451638394, $25.00,

In 1635 Rome, Cardinal Borja y Velasco of Spain has taken control of the Vatican. However, he is upset that Pope Urban VIII escaped. United States of Europe (USE) Ambassador Sharon Nichols and her husband Ruy Sanchez provide sanctuary for the beleaguered Pope and his retinue near Padua while Borja sends assassins to kill the Pope so that he can replace him as His Holiness.

Sharon finds radio contact with Colonel North fails. At the same time among Borja's prisoners are Frank and pregnant Giovanna Stone. North dispatches Commander Harry Lefferts and his Wrecking Crew on an extraction mission.

The latest 1630s Ring of Fire alternate history (see 1634: The Galileo Affair collaborated with Andrew Dennis) is an exhilarating entry with a strong Papal Stakes plot enhanced by a profound look at seventeenth century Catholicism. The storyline is extremely complex as theological debate and armed combat (including targeted assassinations) combine to a fabulous thriller as Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon prove a deft pairing.

Fire Season
David Weber and Jane Lindskold
9781451638400, $18.99

Teenager Stephanie Harrington was euphoric when she obtained an internship in the junior forestry program on Meyerdahl. However, she became depressed when her family including her relocated to Sphinx, which had no such program. The seventeen-month winter and her boring peers at the Two Forks School are uninterested in her passion for xenobiology, which adds to her despondency. Stephanie investigated the stealing of celery. That led to her meeting and bonding with Climbs Quickly the treecat. The Chief Forester named her and her only human friend Karl Zivonik is a provisional forest ranger (see A Beautiful Friendship).

Stephanie persuades Karl to allow her to use his family's aircar to practice flying. As the provisional forest rangers and Climbs Quickly fly, the treecat smells smoke. They inspect the fire and rescue twin treecats Left-striped and Right-striped who they bring to her father, a veterinarian.

Xenoanthropologist Dr. Whittaker arrives from Urako with his team and his son Anders to study the treecats. He distrusts the government including the Sphinxian Forestry Service to put the interests of the native population above those of the humans. Thus he leads his unit on an exploration of an abandoned clan site only to have their air-vehicle sink into the ground leaving them stranded while struggling to survive as forest fires ignites.

The second Stephanie Harrington Star Kingdom young adult science fiction thriller is a superb prequel to the Honor Harrington saga. The key cast is fully developed regardless of species or national origin. The storyline is great when the focus is on the interactions between the two species or the exploration of the planet; however, the teen relationships seem stereotypical. Still fans will enjoy exploring Sphinx with Harrington as our guide.

Wed to a Highland Warrior
Donna Fletcher
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062034878, $7.99,

In 1005 in the woods of Scotland, Bliss the Pict curses her gift as she waits for her destined mate to arrive just as she had envisioned. King Kenneth's soldiers accost her with one insisting her race of pagans will be no more. His older comrades warn him that she is a seer who will steal his soul. While they debate what to do with her, Bliss says her husband has come for her. She claims Trey MacAlpin as her mate as he steps out of the mist. He affirms her statement.

Bliss knows that the MacAlpin brothers will fulfill the prophecy to place the True King onto the Scottish throne and that she would be part of the epic struggle. However, she was unprepared for her attraction to Trey as they head to his stronghold. However King Kenneth's soldiers assault them on their dangerous trek but she knows her greatest peril is to her heart as she loves Trey; unaware even with her ability to read the future that he loves her too.

The final eleventh century MacAlpin brothers' Warrior King Scottish romance (see A Warrior's promise, Loved by a Warrior and Bound to a Warrior) is a fabulous finish to a fresh medieval saga. Fast-paced from the moment the Pict seer names her husband, fans will appreciate this strong historical wondering which sibling is the true king.

Notorious Countess Confesses
Julie Anne Long
9780062118028, $5.99

A courtesan Evie Duggan moved up in the world when she married an earl to the shock of the scandalized aristocracy. However, not long after they wed, her husband dies. The Ton gleefully names Evie "The Black Widow".

To escape the relentless nasty gossip, Evie flees to her only possession from her short marriage, a Sussex manor house in Pennyroyal Green. However, her dreams of a peaceful widowhood end when the gossip arrives faster than she did. When she attends the local church, the ladies shun her. However, Vicar Adam Sylvaine welcomes her to the congregation upsetting some of his more opinioned flock. Adam finds the newcomer stirs his Eversea blood as he wants Evie; she feels the same way about him. However, as their attraction grows, each knows why it is wrong for them to embrace their heart's desire which could be her salvation or ruination.

The latest Pennyroyal Green historical romance (see What I Did for a Duke) is an enjoyable tale of "forbidden" love. Ironically, the freshness comes from the insight into how the villagers feel about a Delilah tempting their Samson yet that also slows the pace of the relationship between the vicar and the countess. Containing an intelligent fascinating storyline, fans will enjoy the Notorious Countess Confesses.

A Cowboy For Christmas
Lori Wilde
9780062047809, $5.99

At the Scarborough Renaissance Fair in Waxahachie, Lady Divine the fortune-teller tells teenager Lisette that a "dark" cowboy will change her life. Lisette soon meets and marries Jake Moncrief. They settle down in Jubilee, Texas, but four years later he leaves her a widow when he died in combat in Afghanistan. She raises their baby alone with her biggest shock being her husband failed to name her or their infant beneficiaries; they are entitled to no widow or dependency benefits as the brass further ruled Jake disobeyed a direct order when the IED killed him.

Jake's half-brother Rafferty Jones arrives from Los Angeles to give his late sibling's widow the life insurance that should have gone to her. They meet when their vehicles collide. She refuses the money he brought to her that he believes belongs to her and Kyle. Instead he offers to train Jake's cutting horse so when she sells it she can receive more money for the steed. As they fall in love, both have family issues to prevent them from coming together permanently.

The latest Jubilee romance (see The Cowboy and the Princess, and The Cowboy Takes a Bride) is a warm family drama starring two likable protagonists and a strong support cast. The beneficiary issue adds a sense of realism as this is a genuine problem that occurs more frequently than most people realize. Although there is too much angst, fans will enjoy A Cowboy For Christmas especially if like Rafferty, he is "a man for all seasons".

The Shortest Way Home
Juliette Fay
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780143121916, $15.00,

When their mother died from Huntington's, their father dumped his three kids on their Auntie Vivvy in Pelham, Massachusetts. The oldest Sean became a nurse providing medical care in the worst areas of the world. Now in his forties he comes home from the democratic Republic of Congo after learning that his younger brother Hugh died. Sean is shocked how old his thirtyish sister Deidre the actress turned surrogate mother to their nephew Kevin looks. She informs him their aunt is beginning to show signs of senility.

He tries to help Deidre with Kevin, but parenting is something he never dealt with before. Sean feels attracted to his childhood friend Becky, who reciprocates. However, though he suffers from PTSD, Sean feels unable to stay home.

Though there is some similarity to the relationships in Shelter Me (also in Pelham), The Shortest Way Home is an engaging family drama as the aunt, siblings and nephew each have personal issues. Character-driven, love may not be enough to heal this dysfunctional quartet as Juliette Fay provides readers with an engaging warm contemporary.

The Elephant Keepers' Children
Peter Hoeg
Other Press
2 Park Avenue, 24th Floor, NY, NY 10016
9781590514900, $28.95,

Pastor Konstantin preaches to his flock on Fino Island. With him on the tiny Danish isle is his wife Clara the organist and computer guru, and their children (Hans, Tilte and Peter). When Konstantin and Clara disappear, their three kids think nothing of it as their parents have vanished before after a spiritual con. The trio knows their parents are Elephant Keepers of the faith.

However, the teens become concerned when they conclude that Konstantin and Clara plan to steal artifacts at the Grand Synod of faiths in which the major religious leaders from around the world will meet in Copenhagen. They begin an intervention odyssey before the world comes after their con artist parents.

This is a satirical amusing thriller which makes a strong case that adult moral leadership is lacking as substance does not matter in an instant media information age. Peter tells the tale in an all over the place manner as one would expect from a fourteen year old adolescent on his first sojourn. With odd names and strange scenarios that border on teenage Monty Python quirkily escapades, The Elephant Keepers' Children is for those who appreciate "And Now for Something Completely Different."

Daughter of the Spellcaster
Maggie Shayne
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778313809, $7.99,

Magdalena "Lena" Dunkirk the witch has always been aware of what her soul mate looks like. When they finally meet, she and affluent playboy Ryan McNally feels charmed by love. However, their spell ends when a pregnant Lena flees for her home to raise her child as a single mom in a safe haven.

Several months later, Ryan arrives with a strong need to help raise their child. At the same time Bahru the demon has plans for the baby in which history will repeat itself due to a curse. Bonded by their love for each other, Lena and Ryan share dreams of being together in an ancient land, but remain ignorant of Bahru's scheme.

The latest Portal romantic fantasy (see Mark of the Witch) is a fast-paced thriller starring a strong lead female, a protective male who will have a chance to prove his mettle or die, and a powerful diabolical demon. Readers will feel Maggie Shayne put a spell on them as Daughter of the Spellcaster is nearly impossible to put down.

Edge of Black
J.T. Ellison
9780778313724, $14.95

Following the tragic deaths of her husband and children a couple of years ago (see A Deeper Darkness), former medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens finally left Nashville to teach forensic pathology in the fall at Georgetown. She even has a boyfriend veteran Xander Whitfield. Currently she teaches a summer class at GW when a student Brooke Wasserstom becomes very ill. With the help of students, she takes Brooke over to campus ER where Sam finds other patients with the same condition.

Wearing her M.E. cap as a consultant, Sam learns the common thread of all those ill is riding the Metro. Meanwhile three die from the unknown pathogen while the media and Homeland Security causes panic across the nation. As Sam works the case, she realizes the predator is not a terrorist, but instead a psychopath with a personal lethal agenda.

The second Samantha Owen forensic thriller is a great tale that grips the audience starting with the collapse of Brooke and never stops until the final confrontation. Fast-paced with insight into forensics theory like Locard's Exchange Principle interwoven into the exciting storyline, fans will relish this great entry as Sam proves she is the equal of Taylor Jackson (see Where All The Dead Lie) when it comes to strong nail-biting suspense.

Merry Ex-Mas
Sheila Roberts
9780778313922, $15.95

In Icicle Falls, Washington Gingerbread Haus Bakery owner Cass Wilkes wonders how one of the most beautiful events in her life could turn ugly. Cass has looked forward with joy to her daughter Dani's wedding until she learns her ex-husband will walk their child down the aisle. To make matters even crueler, Dani would like Daddy and his second wife to stay at Cass' house.

Recently divorced couple Jake and Ella O'Brien share the same residence with plans to go their separate way once they sell their house. However, at times they act like a married couple leaving both confused.

Charlene Albach is stunned when her former husband Richard the deserter is back in town. Richard knows he made the error of his life when he ran off with the hostess from Charley's restaurant Zelda's. He wants his ex-wife back.

The second Life in Icicle Falls' family drama (see Better Than Chocolate) is an engaging humorous tale of three sets of ex-couples coming together over the holidays. The ensemble cast makes for a fun frothy frolic as the ghosts of Christmas past reunite in a Merry Ex-Mas story.

When Snow Falls
Brenda Novak
9780778313717, $7.99

Cheyenne Christensen hated her childhood when she, her older sister Presley and Mother lived in unheated cars and fleabag motels while many times going to bed hungry. Now Mother is dying as they live in rundown home on the wrong side of the tracks in Whiskey Creek, California. In spite of the squalid abode, Cheyenne feels good with staying in one place though strange memories of a smiling blonde woman haunt her. She seeks the truth about her past, but no one including Mother will accommodate her

Good citizen Joe DeMarco asks Cheyenne out. She is ecstatic as she secretly likes him, but soon realizes her BFF Eve loves Joe. However, Cheyenne is also confused by her feelings for hell raiser Dylan Amos, the baddest boy in town who wants the real Cheyenne regardless of her DNA instead of the mask seen in public.

The second Whiskey Creek romance (see When Lightning Strikes) is a strong character driven contemporary starring a fascinating protagonist who hides her inner essence from everyone except Eve and the man who refuses to accept anything less than the genuine Cheyenne. A mystery adds depth to a strong pathos character-driven tale.

My Kind Of Christmas
Robyn Carr
9780778313854, $7.99

To escape her hovering mom in Sacramento, medical student Angie LeCroix heals from a car accident in Virgin River where her Aunts Brie and Mel, and her Uncle Jack welcome her at his bar. At the same time Navy pilot Patrick Riordan also heals at the cabin of his brother Aiden (see Moonlight Road). Angie and Patrick need some breathing room from both family hovering.

When Angie and Patrick meet, they both accept the attraction and the poor timing. She needs to recover emotionally from her near fatal accident in which the other driver died; he reconsiders his commitment to the navy. As they fall in love, their respective families have plans on how the pair will spend the holidays.

The latest Riordan brothers' Virgin River contemporary romance (see Temptation Ridge and Angel's Peak) is a warm Christmas tale starring two hurting individuals who find solace with one another to the chagrin of their families. The storyline is at its best when it focuses on the lead pair; but loses momentum with a barrage of where are they now anecdotes from previous protagonists. Still readers will agree this is our kind of Christmas tale.

Bronze Summer
Stephen Baxter
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451464798, $26.95,

Millennia have passed since the Year of the Great Sea led to teenagers Ana and Novu leading the construction of the Great Wall. By the Year of the Fire Mountain, Northland has become a prosperous pat of the continent rather than being under the North Sea or conquered by the kingdoms to the east. The impoverished Greeks look at Northland and its trading partner the thriving Hittites for conquest during devastating drought.

In the Northland capital Etxelur, the head of the ruling order dies in what appears to be an accident at a time her daughter Milaqa has failed to choose which Order to join. Milaqa's Uncle Teel believes his sister was murdered and demands his grieving niece join him and the secret Order of the Crow in investigating the death. At the same time Qirum and dethroned queen Kilushepa team up to take advantage of the chaos engulfing much of the continent including Northland.

The second Northland alternate prehistoric thriller (see Stone Spring) has moved the people from a stone age into a bronze age at a time when an Icelandic volcanic eruption has led to climate change and famine. The action-filled storyline is filled with too much blood and gore distracting from the engaging political and social upheaval started by that volcano erupting; violence is a way of life in Stephen Baxter's Bonze Age tale.

The Shattered Dark
Sandy Williams
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9781937007812, $7.99,

McKenzie Lewis attended college but differed from the other students in that she is a shadow reader who can see the fae and their movements between earth and the Realm. Called insane, McKenzie became apprentice to fae sword master Kyol. Together they supported the fae king against the rebels. Fae rebel leader Aren kidnapped McKenzie and she learned the truth that the side she supported was brutal and oppressive. The king and his top general died, but the fae remain divided and the civil war continues.

Though she loves Aren and adores Kyol, McKenzie looks forward to a normal life. However, even that proves out of reach when her BFF Paige vanishes and McKenzie must save her but the cost could be those she risked her life to protect.

The second Shadow Reader urban fantasy is a superb thriller as both sides in the dispute recognize the significance of the heroine's skill and will do anything including an abduction of an innocent to insure cooperation. McKenzie ponders whether she can trust anyone as betrayal haunts her every step. With a strong romantic triangle adding to her dilemmas, fans will appreciate McKenzie's fast-paced odyssey.

The Cassandra Project
Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick
Ace Books
9781937008710, $25.95

In 2019, the United States remains in the throes of the Great Recession. Federal agencies are cut to the bone so that there is little strategic planning when surviving daily operations has become the norm. In that environs, NASA press director agent Jerry Culpepper is a long term thinker grounded in reality.

Jerry releases material from the 1960s Apollo mission that contains a shocking recording between Houston and Sydney Myshko, captain of the first test mission to circle the moon on which the astronaut says he is landing. In the second test mission, astronaut Aaron Walker wrote in his diary that he walked on the moon. Two now deceased men and apparently a few others claim to have taken that "... giant leap for mankind" before Armstrong did. Jerry seeks the truth while trying to contain what seems to be a scandalous cover-up that capitalist Bucky Blackstone plans to exploit for his private enterprise moon landings. President George Cunningham realizes he loses credibility no matter what happens.

This is a superb NASA thriller that works because the key players seem genuine especially in how they react to the information as it is found. With a nod to the movie Capricorn One but with realistic people and critically no odious villains, fans will want to know if Armstrong was fifth in the batting order and why the four astronauts to precede him were not acknowledged as walking on the moon.

The Wrong Hill To Die On
Donis Casey
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464200441, $24.95,

In 1916, Alafair and Shaw Tucker leave behind nine of their children under the watch of their oldest offspring in Boynton, Oklahoma. They travel to the home of Alafair's sister Elizabeth Kemp in Tempe, Arizona so that their ten year old daughter Blanche can heal from bronchitis in the dry climate.

The morning after Elizabeth and her husband Webster hosted a party, Alafair finds the body of Mexican handyman Bernie Arruda, who performed as a mariachi singer at the gala, in an irrigation ditch with less than six inches of water. Constable Nettles leads the investigation at a time when Whites fear and rage at Mexican refugees flooding into Arizona and a movie is being on location here. Unable to resist while fearing for her sister who she fears is involved in human smuggling and whose marriage is teetering, Alafair investigates as a second homicide occurs.

The latest Alafair Tucker amateur sleuth (see Crying Blood) is an enjoyable historical mystery with a strong emphasis on social issues like racism, immigration and family ties that resonate today. Readers will appreciate the whodunit, but it is Arizona circa 1916 that makes for a strong Americana.

No Regrets, No Remorse:
R.F. Sharp
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464200434, $24.95

Palm Beach, Florida sleazy attorney "Big Jack" Burdine dies in a boat explosion; a passerby also perished in the incident. The police arrest lawyer Roy Flagler, who allegedly was having an affair with the victim's wife Lucy. Roy calls his ex-law partner Oscar Leopold to defend him. At the jail, Roy explains that Jack's fuel line was cut and the cops claim he has means, motive and opportunity especially after a public fight between them. Finally he says he and Lucy have been seeing each other on a personal basis as well as on a wrongful death suit.

Oscar asks his former lover (and roommate), Sydney Simone to help him with the defense. Sydney hides from Oscar that she runs Human Pest Control, which lives up it its name as an exterminator of two legged rodents. In fact she just completed a job in Michigan. The case turns convoluted when Roy is implicated in a vast insurance scam that has Oscar under investigation too.

This is a fast-paced thriller with legal and kick butt action. With her different morality (sort of mindful of Beth Riesgraf's Parker in Leverage) Sydney steals the show as she takes no prisoners in her secret endeavor and in protecting Oscar the wuss. Though none of the cast is likable, fans will enjoy No Regrets, No Remorse due to the anti-heroine whose attitude brings freshness to the genre.

Death in the 12th House: Where Neptune Rules
Mitchell Scott Lewis
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464200601, $24.95

In a building undergoing renovation in Manhattan, sexagenarian rock and roll great Freddie Finger of Rocket Fire was found hanging from a pipe with three bullets in his body. Freddie's daughter Vivian Younger the actress pressures NYPD to bring Starlight Detective Agency chief David Lowell, known nationally for the Winston Case (see Murder in the 11th House), into her dad's investigation.

NYPD Lieutenant Roland explains to Lowell that Finger is the third ancient rocker recently murdered; Gene Hallow and Wally Fischer preceding him as victims. Using astrological charts to guide him, Lowell looks into the background of the late rocker only to find a horde of people with motives as the dead singer was mean spirited to women (especially ex-wives and groupies) and the band during his heyday as the alcoholic lead singer. With his team of Sarah the hacker, Mort the psychic and Andy the bodyguard, Lowell continues his inquiry using charts of those with a motive to reduce the pool.

The second Starlight Detective Agency Mystery is an engaging cozy starring a likable hero and a strong specialized support crew. The whodunit is fun to follow as Lowell uses astrological charts to eliminate the number of potential killers. Readers will enjoy his exploits as he seeks who caused a Death in the 12th House.

Make Believe
Ed Ifkovic
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464200823, $24.95

In 1951, Pulitzer Prize winning author Edna Ferber is in Hollywood to attend the premiere of the movie Show Boat, which is based on the Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II 1927 musical adaptation of her 1926 novel. Though the film tracks back to her work, Edna is in Southern California for an entirely different motive. Vile Senator Joseph McCarthy has blacklisted her friend Max Jeffries so Edna is in town as a show of support to the beleaguered musical arranger.

Less than a week after she arrives in Hollywood, someone shoots and kills Max. The police suspect Frank Sinatra who had a public brawl with Max witnessed by Louella Parsons who wrote about it in her gossip column. Though she knows Sinatra has been behaving strangely, Edna doubts he killed Max. She decides to find a real motive that she assumes will lead to the real killer.

The third Edna Ferber amateur sleuth (see Lone Star and Escape Artist) is an endearing historical whodunit with much of the fun involved meeting a who's who of Hollywood (Ava Gardner and Sinatra, etc.) and Broadway (for instance George S. Kaufman the playwright). Fast-paced, readers will ignore the heroine's shaky motive to investigate as we "Can't Help Lovin' Dat ..." Edna Ferber.

Weapon of Choice
Patricia Gussin
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G
Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608090518, $25.95,

In 1985, Tampa City Hospital accepts its first HIV/AIDS patient Matthew Mercer. There is limited knowledge about the disease so thoracic surgeon Dr. Laura Nelson struggles with providing her patient with the best treatment.

At the same time that Dr. Nelson works her first HIV/AIDS case, ex-Keystone Pharma infectious disease researcher Victor Worth learns that he is Matthew's father and that the pharmaceutical firm where he previously worked rejected testing a drug that might save his son's life. Irate Victor decides to experiment on Tampa City Hospital patients while CDC researcher Charles Scarlett, working for the Order white supremacist group, deploys flesh-eating bacteria on HIV/AIDS sufferers.

The third Dr. Laura Nelson medical thriller (see Shadow of Death and Twisted Justice) is an exciting tale that showcases the early awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The exciting storyline contains too many subplots (including several involving the heroine's personal life as a single mom), but with a strong climax. Fans will enjoy the heroine's examination of the shocking facts.

Guilty Wives
James Patterson and David Ellis
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, NY, NY 10017
9781455506668, $14.99,

Notoriously known internationally as the "Monte Carlo Mistresses", the four best friends wonder what happened as they linger in a French prison. Georgetown literature professor Abbie Elliot, U.S. Olympic skier Serena Schofield, British diva Winnie Brookes and South African beauty Bryah Gordon came to Monte Carlo to stay at a luxurious hotel. After enjoying their first day, they awaken on a yacht surrounded by French police.

The "Guilty Moms" are confused with what occurred. They are unaware that their husbands watched their every move in Monte Carlo; nor that Devo, who was with Abbie is also with Winnie; and finally he was the president of France until someone shot him and his bodyguard is dead. Thus they linger in prison bewildered as each knows they never killed anyone in spite of the court finding. The quartet believes to prove their innocence; they must first escape this hellhole.

This is a fun over the top of the Eifel Tower thriller. The French courtroom is enlightening as to how it differs from that of America and the plight of the four females in prison among some hard asses. This engages the audience to root for them. Although the husbands are one dimensional and the villain(s) somewhat obvious, readers will enjoy this fast-paced suspense.

A Wild Goose Chase Christmas
Jennifer AlLee
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426752490, $12.99,

Six months ago Gran moved into assisted living after fracturing her hip. Her granddaughter Izzy Fontaine moved into Gran's house to take care of Bogie the dog. She always assumed Gran would come home, but two days ago Gran died.

Virgil arrives claiming to be a friend of Gran and bearing a gift from Izzy's late relative. He gives her the Wild Goose Chase quilt that he kept safe for Gran from people who believe the pattern is a treasure map. Her family learns of the quilt and they decide to find the treasure. Museum curator Max Logan claims Grandma Isabella promised to give him the quilt so he demands Izzy honors her late relative's vow. Wondering what is going on, Izzy starts her own wild goose chase on a quest that will lead her not to Gran's treasure, but her own.

The second Quilts of Love (see Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane) is a warm whimsical contemporary tale starring a likeable heroine. The eccentric dysfunctional support cast adds humor and depth as they turn the holidays into a mad world with their Wild Goose Chase Christmas escapades. Fans will relish this wonderful entry as Gran knew what the treasure her beloved granddaughter needed to find.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
Philip Pullman
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670024971, $27.95,

"Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm" contains fifty "Children's Stories and Household Tales" in "A New English Version" with each entry including a very brief enlightening commentary. Some of the better known classics like Rumpelstiltskin, "Cinderella," "Hansel And Gretel," "Snow White," "Little Red Riding Hood," and "Rapunzel" are included. Also there are others made into animated tales like "The Brave Little Tailor," The Boy Who Left Home To Find Out About The Shivers," and "The Fisherman And His Wife." Finally there are some lesser known entries such as "The Three Snake Leaves," "Lazy Heinz," and "Iron Hans." This is a superb collection paying homage to the Brothers Grimm on the bicentennial anniversary of the release of their first fairy tales anthology.

Peaches for Father Francis
Joanne Harris
Viking Books
9780670026364, $26.99

Several years have passed since Vianne Rocher brought her magical sweetness to Lansquenet, France (see Chocolat). She now happily lives on a houseboat in Paris with her husband Roux and her daughters (Anouk and Rosette) with no plans to return to the village where the clergy condemned her and her confectionary delights.

However, her Lansquenet ally, Armande sends her a letter stating the villagers desperately need her magical sugary intervention. Now deceased, Armande offers no further explanation as she knew her friend would come. Vianne, accompanied by her children, arrives in Lansquenet where she learns her most fervent adversary Father Francis Reynaud needs her help as the Bishop has replaced him with a Microsoft priest. After publically arguing with the Imam of Les Marauds, Reynaud was accused of setting fire to a Muslim fundamentalist girls' school established by Ins Bencharki, sister to the Imam's son-in-law; ironically in Vianne's candy shop. Reynaud saved the Imam's granddaughter Alyssa from drowning and Vianne takes her into her temporary home. As the priest and the confectioner team up, people begin to die leading to deeper trouble between the two religions.

The latest Rocher tale (see The Girl with No Shadow) focuses on the fractured relationship between the long-time Christian residents and the new Muslim community. For the most part, the storyline lacks action as the plot centers on the conflict between the two religions until an incredible climax. Still fans will enjoy the Chocolat mage using her magic to foster more than just tolerance of others; she wants everyone to embrace each other as Vianne believes both cultures bring positives to a melting pot in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Emperor's Soul
Brandon Sanderson
Tachyon Publications
1459 18th Street #139
San Francisco CA 94107
9781616960926, $14.95,

They capture Shai the Forger as she attempts to steal the emperor's Moon Scepter by replacing it with a perfect replica that she created, which rewrites its history. Emperor Ashravan's advisors like Councilor Gaotona and Frava the Arbiter debate what to do with the abomination they normally would execute for her thieving and her despicable magic. However, Frava persuades Gaotona they can use their prisoner in this time of crisis.

Gaotona and Frava know that once the hundred day mourning period for the deceased empress is done, either their ruler appears in public or the empire will implode into lethal chaos with the end of the Heritage Faction rule. They demand Shai forge a new history for Emperor Ashravan who is near death since an assassin removed his consciousness. If she refuses she dies so she buys time by acquiescing knowing she has never done anything like what her captures demand of her.

The Emperor's Soul is an engaging leisurely paced fantasy in which Brandon Sanderson makes true believers of fans in the magic of forging though the dialogue between Shai and Gaotona. Told mostly by her viewpoint, Shai is an antihero who seeks opportunity in all her endeavors including her current incarceration gig. The other prime player Gaotona is not fully developed beyond how Shai sees him. Still fans will enjoy their battle over creating The Emperor's New Clothes.

J.A. Souders
Tor Teen
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765332455, $17.95,

In the underwater nation Elysium sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters feels her life is perfect as she trains to be Daughter of the People. Thirteen years ago, Mother selected Evelyn for her position because her genes were perfect.

Surface Dweller Gavin Hunter accidentally arrives in Elysium, shaking the core of the secluded haven as his appearance exposes the Utopia fabricated on lies. Evelyn begins to reconsider all she believed as she realizes her perfect life is a sham. Memories seem contradictory and Evie concludes her mind and even her body are controlled by someone else. Worse is her beloved Mother is not kind and caring but a manipulative ogre with plans to destroy paradise. As Evie considers fleeing with Gavin, she learns the worst secret of all; that her mind is a weapon of destruction ready to ignite.

Renegade is a super teen fantasy starring a wonderful heroine whose awakening makes the storyline work as she begins to question who Mother is and who her mother is. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy the "low-life" Surface Dweller and Daughter of the People trainee as they learn the truth about this underwater Utopia.

April Christofferson
9780765364753, $7.99

Backcountry ranger Will McCarroll protects the wildlife of Yellowstone National Park from poachers, hunters and trappers. He arrives at the Pebble Creek campsite where a drunk killed his friend. Irate, Will takes away the guns from everyone at the campsite. Superintendent Gonzales wants to fire Will for breaking rules as Congress passed a law allowing the carrying of weapons into the national parks, but recognizes Will is a hero who will soon testify in front of Congress. Instead he exiles Will to Glacier National Park.

Leaving behind his girlfriend Yellowstone Magistrate Judge Annie Peacock, Will travels to Glacier, where he meets angry wolverine biologist Johnny Yellow Kidney; someone stole an olfactory concoction he created to trap animals. Meanwhile illegal trappers continue their self-proclaimed Constitution given right while political connected radio talk show personality and former governor Faith Unsword sponsors a predator derby. At the same time, the American Rifle Foundation sets a trap to kill Will before he testifies in Congress on the impact of weapons in the parks.

No one will doubt what side of the rifles in the park issue April Christofferson is on with this exciting vivid thriller. Action-packed, fans will relish traveling the wild alongside of obstinate Will (see Alpha Female) as we appreciate the beauty of Montana's "Crown of the Continent". Additionally, a great realistic coda of how politicians think happens with the placement of running the Department of the Interior someone who believes in unfettered hunting and trapping; ironically the agency's mission statement is "Protecting America's Great Outdoors and Powering Our Future. The U.S. Department of the Interior protects America's natural resources and heritage, honors our cultures and tribal communities, and supplies the energy to power our future."

Ghost Planet
Sharon Lynn Fisher
9780765368973, $7.99

Environmentally compared to earth Ardagh-1 is Eden. However, there is one major problem with this otherwise idyllic world: a native species hooks onto a human by taking the form of a dead person the outside knew. The alien spirits are meek followers of their "host". Psychologically the colonists struggle with a deceased loved one following them everywhere they go. New Seattle Counseling center chief psychologist Dr. Grayson Murphy issues the "Ghost Protocol," which bans the colonist from interacting with their ghosts.

Dr. Elizabeth Cole arrives on Ardagh-1 to help the unsettling humans with their mental traumas. She thinks the "Ghost Protocol" is a mistake. Additionally the new psychologist is attracted to her supervisor until she realizes that Dr. Elizabeth Cole died due to a malfunction upon landing in the ocean instead of a pad. Her host Dr. Grayson Murphy ignores her existence, but unlike her new docile peers she plans to learn what she has become.

Ghost Planet is a great romantic science fiction with a strong premise that Sharon Lynn Fisher executes perfectly. Elizabeth is a super protagonist even though we (and she) know she died by chapter 2 as she keeps the fascinating storyline focused. Character driven, readers will appreciate this engaging tale.

Halo: The Thursday War
Karen Traviss
9780765323941, $15.99

In 2553, the Unified Earth's Office of Naval Intelligence assigns psyops unit Kilo-Five to occupy the Sangheili Covenant by causing internal troubles so that the enemy loses sight of what earth is doing to insure their permanent defeat. To accomplish their mission, the black-ops squad first must prevent the Covenant's former military leaders the Elites from regaining control and second foster a civil war.

On recently liberated Onyx, the ONI interrogates captured Elite Jun Mdama who has his own plans for the human enemies. Meanwhile all is going well in Sangheili until Captain Serine Osman reports back to headquarters in Sydney that she lost contact with her Sangheili language and cultural awareness expert Professor Evan Phillips. Besides never leaving behind anyone and in this case his knowledge is too valuable to ignore, Osman knows she needs to mount an extraction from Sangheili unaware the professor is knee deep in Forerunner technology.

This is an exciting fresh spin to the Halo universe as the second post-war military science fiction (see Halo: Glasslands) occurs after Halo 3 has several key players fascinatingly looking back at the moral decisions they made especially with deployment of the Spartans during the hostilities. The other major subplot is a deep look at the enemy's civil war. Fans of the game will enjoy this tale though will need to adjust to the relatively minor role of the Spartans as they were created for war, so with a tentative peace their action is much less than it has been.

People of the Black Sun
Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear
9780765326959, $25.99

Once known as Odion the warrior, Dekanawida the Peacemaker has become the esteemed "The Sky Messenger" prophet with a vision of uniting the five nations in the Great Law of Peace. Based on a frightening vision, Dekanawida fears that if the five tribes do not unite in peace, their way of life will end. As his prophecies become true, four of the fighting tribes agree to adhere to his Great Law of Peace.

However, the People of the Mountain led by vicious Chief Atotarho reject The Sky Messenger message with open hostility. They continue to raid the other tribes. Dekanawida believes time is running out as all must join the League or all will die. As the People of the Mountain prepare to annihilate his Standing Stone People, Dekanawida makes one last desperate plea but not to Atotarho; instead to the sky and his feral tribesmen.

This is a great finish to the epic People of the Longhouse (see The Broken Land) saga as team Gear enthusiastically combines an exhilarating thriller with a deep look at Pre-Columbus Iroquoia. Leisurely-paced, the storyline provides plenty of insight into the era, strong characters especially the prophet, his orator and Atotarho, and vivid battle scenes. Fans will enjoy visiting the Lands of the People of the Longhouse circa 1400.

The Tangled Bridge
Rhodi Hawk
9780765324979, $14.99

Tulane University Professor Madeleine LeBlanc, a psychologist, researched her family heritage in an attempt to avoid the shortcomings caused by the unique ability to see things that others cannot. She fears joining the long list of members committing suicide like her brother did (see A Twisted Ladder).

Madeleine vow to never use her power ends when she learns that Zenon, her great-grandmother Chloe the Voodoo Queen and their demons hunt a little boy she obsesses over keeping safe though he is the one who destroys her and her family. She and her friend Tulane neurologist Ethan Manderleigh finds a corpse physically murdered by a tall big woman controlled by someone else probably Chloe. Madeline looks back to the 1930s in New Orleans for answers to how to defeat her relatives.

The second Madeleine LeBlanc exciting urban psychological suspense fantasy is a family good and evil affair. Maddy is a complex individual who fears her bloodlines (either inheriting the darkness of century plus old malevolent Chloe or the schizophrenia of her father). The leisurely-paced convoluted storyline is atmospherically driven giving the plot a modern day bayou gothic feel. Not for everyone, fans who appreciate something interesting but different will want to cross The Tangled Bridge where past and present converge.

Karen Marie Moning
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780385344401, $27.00,

In Dublin, fourteen year old Dani "Mega" O'Malley lives in the abbey amongst other sidhe-seers and with the unseelie prince Cruces the powerful Sinsar Dubh frozen underneath the house. Dani uses the Sword of Light to kill the fae.

Ryodan, owner of Chester's club, tells Dani he has a job for her. She refuses as he caters to the fae. He takes her to Chester's taking Dani to a bottom level where a room is frozen with unseelie and human dead. They flee when the room explodes. He asks her to investigate before sending her back upstairs where she kills many fae. An irate Ryodan considers executing her for murder in his neutral club. Seelie-seer Jo makes a deal to serve as a waitress to keep Dani safe. To keep Jo safe Dani signs a contract too. Ryodan takes her to a frozen warehouse which explodes just after they enter. Three more iced places are searched for clues; two explode. A few days later he takes her to a frozen church; Dani stops to touch a baby, but endangers her life. She is taken to Chester's to heal. Afterward she begins to investigate until Jayne takes her sword away.

This is an exciting opening of a new Fever saga that focuses on the actions (sometimes moronic) of a fourteen years old individual with special skills who acts even at inopportune moments like she believes she is invincible. Readers will enjoy that the prime Fever cast plays major roles and the introduction of two new unique dangerous Fae who widen the mythos. Although there is no climax, saga fans will relish following the escapades of dangerous Dani.

Eleven Pipers Piping
C.C. Benison
9780385344463, $24.00

Reverend Tom "Father" Christmas, accompanied by his tweener daughter Miranda, became vicar of St. Nicholas Church in Thornford Regis. Though only residing at the village for a few months, the Christmas pair finds life calming after dealing with the homicidal death of his wife/her mom. This sense of serenity remains strong even though Father Christmas investigated a murder (see Twelve Drummers Drumming).

Cricket coach of a team of teens, Will Moir publically explodes at player Harrison Kaif during practice. Almost immediately following the rage, the humiliated fourteen year old Harrison commits suicide. Soon after the teen's death, someone poisons Moir. The police suspect Harrison's family killed his tormentor. Meanwhile Father Christmas tries to comfort those grieving while also slyly investigating the murder.

The second "Father" Christmas is an enjoyable English village amateur sleuth starting a unique single dad-widower who collects data in an atypical empathic way as he chats with the villagers. Readers will relish the protagonist's investigative technique, which provides insight into the psyche of the residents inside of a fabulous cozy.

The Warrior
Margaret Mallory
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446583091, $7.99,

In 1508 on the Isle of Skye, Duncan MacDonald and his chieftain's teenage daughter Moira fall in love. However, when her raging father and her equally angry brother the heir catch them, they exile to France Duncan and his cousins Alex (see The Sinner) and Ian (see The Guardian) who allegedly abetted him with his disloyal violation. Moira, while carrying Duncan's child, is married to abusive Sean.

In 1516, Duncan finally comes home. His chieftain Ragnall assigns Duncan to breach Sean's castle in search of weaknesses. Instead he arrives as Moira and her son Ragnall attempt a desperate escape. Duncan helps the pair to freedom, but his beloved distrusts men as her lover, her father and her brother abandoned her and her offspring to a brutal beast.

The third Return of the Highlanders historical romance is am entertaining second chance at love tale. The hero is somewhat stereotypical of the sub-genre, but the lead female and their child bring freshness as abuse victims. Fans will appreciate this engaging sixteenth century Scottish romance as love heals the mind and soul.

To Tempt An Irish Rogue
Kaitlin O'Riley
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
NY, NY 10018-2522
9781420112405, $6.99,

In 1876, Paulette Hamilton enjoys her life as a single person with no desire to marry. She especially likes working at her family's bookstore in London. One customer changes her feelings about marriage when widower Lord Declan Reeves, accompanied by his young daughter, Mara enters the bookstore to buy the child a book.

Paulette feels for the silent Mara who has been mute since she watched her mom die in a horrid fire; in which her dad is the only suspect. Ironically like Paulette, Declan has had no motive to wed in his case because of his miserable first marriage. Yet he and Paulette share an attraction. As he begins to frequent the bookstore, they fall in love, but the tragic fiery death of his late spouse stands between them.

The fourth Hamilton Sisters Victorian romance (see When His Kiss is Wicked, Desire In His Eyes and It Happened One Christmas) is a superb historical as the lead couple team up in investigating the death of his wife. Fast-paced from that first memorable meeting in the store, fans will appreciate this romantic mystery while rooting for this couple and his child to find out what happened that devastated a father and daughter so that the pair can move on with Paulette's love making them whole.

A Winter Wonderland
Fern Michaels, Holly Chamberlin, Leslie Meier and Kristina McMorris
Zebra Books
9781420121445, $7.99

"A Winter Wonderland" by Fern Michaels. Actress Angelica Shepard gets away from New York for a Rocky Mountains holidays in Colorado. In Denver, trauma surgeon Dr. Parker North is despondent as he failed to save the life of an injured child. Each takes a respite at the same remote location. When a snowboarder drills Angelica, Parker gives her medical attention. Soon they are giving each other undivided attention.

"The Joy of Christmas" by Holly Chamberlin. After much introspective musing, Iris Karr moves away from her sweetheart Ben Tresch. Years later, Iris remains consumed with guilt over leaving her beloved and unfulfilling her dying mother's wish. She is asked to come home for Christmas where she will see Ben.

"The Christmas Thief" by Leslie Meier. Elizabeth Stone looks forward to Christmas in Tinker's Cove, Maine with her family. However, her plans change when someone steals jewels from the Cavendish Palm Beach Hotel in Florida where she works at the same time Elizabeth is attracted to Chris Kennedy. Her mom Lucy joins her daughter in Florida for the holidays.

"The Christmas Collector" by Kristina McMorris. Estate liquidator Jenna Matthews ignores nostalgia as those feelings can interfere with sales. However, part of elderly Mrs. Porter's estate includes a keepsake that Jenna has doubts should be sold. Soon she and her client's grandson Reece meet.

These are four entertaining holiday romances with the bonus of Lucy Stone amateur sleuth as part of the fun anthology.

A Merry Little Christmas
Anita Higman
Summerside Press
9781609366889, $14.99,

By 1961, thirty-three year old Franny Martin expects to die lonely on her family Oklahoma farm that she tried unsuccessfully to sell for a dozen years following the tragic deaths of her parents during a storm. Charlie Martin arrives only to frighten Franny who starts to fall in the muck; he rescues her radio instead of her to her joy as she loves to sing along with Sinatra and others. Charlie offers to purchase the dilapidated spread, which she accepts but not before explaining how run down the farm is. Still he wants to prove worthy of his affluent father Alfred though he knows nothing about farming.

Franny plans to move to Oklahoma City, but agrees to stay on for three weeks to mentor Charlie, who knows nada about farming while he hires an experienced hand. As the city slicker and the country bumpkin fall in love, his father, threatening to commit his other son Willie to an asylum arrives to end Charlie's inanity.

This is a wonderful historical tale starring an unsinkable woman who bravely defends the oppressed like welcoming Willie and also defends other races. The romance between Charlie and Franny is entertaining as both have obstacles including their backgrounds to overcome but are united in love. Although the ending seems unlikely and rushed, fans will enjoy Sinatra singing A Merry Little Christmas as "two lonely people, we were strangers in the night up to the moment when we said our first hello little did we know love was just a glance away, a warm embracing dance away."

Edge of Oblivion
J.T. Geissinger
Montlake Romance
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781612184197, $12.95,

The Ikati convict shapeshifter Morgan Montgomery of treason for her recent blunder (see Shadow's Edge). Feeling guilty for what happened due to her colossal mistake, she knows and accepts that treason means automatic state execution.

Instead Ikati Queen Jenna gives her a last chance reprieve to prove her loyalty. She has two weeks to find and eliminate their enemy the Expurgari. Accompanying her is Xander Luna the loyal top assassin, whose assignment is to kill Morgan if she fails on her quest. On their dangerous journey, Xander and Morgan begin to fall in love, but she believes, as he should, that will not prevent him from executing Plan B if necessary.

The second Night Prowler romantic urban fantasy is an engaging suspense thriller with a similar underlying premise as in Shadow's Edge with readers wondering whether Xander can execute his beloved. The affected dialect of the Ikati anchors the Geissinger mythos with a freshness that needs some adjustment to accept from the audience. The romance between the lead couple adds tension to an entertaining quest fantasy.

Aztec Revenge
Gary Jennings and Junius Podrug
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765317049, $25.99,

In 1569 in the Valley of Mexico, New Spain Don Juan de Zavala the Lepero sits in his cell reflecting on what he could have done differently to avoid being caught for horse-thieving. However, he concludes nothing as the horse thieves occupation guarantees a hanging no matter how good they are at their profession.

Still Juan reflects back on his life starting as a street urchin begging and stealing. As he got older, Juan became a skilled horseman and an adept thief. However, Juan became the fall guy in an accidental death, so he fled before he was executed; joining "banditos." From there Juan masqueraded as a wealthy visiting Spaniard before confronting the Inquisitors and heading to Spain as Napoleon takes his war into the Iberian Peninsula. However, Juan de Zavala has a secret that has seemingly everyone from the crown to rebels led by Father Hidalgo needing him dead.

The latest Aztec historical thriller (see Aztec Rage) is an intriguing tale that is told mostly by Juan reflecting on his life. The insightful storyline contains an incredible amount of history, but at times lacks focus and turns tedious as the background information overwhelms the plot. Still fans of the series will enjoy the latest entry as Don Juan de Zavala lived a fascinating sixteenth century life.

Gideon's Call
Peter Leavell
Worthy Publishing
134 Franklin Road, Suite 200, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781617951176, $14.99,

On a South Carolina barrier island, white Collin persuades his black friend Tad they can get away with stealing a pie though the latter being a slave is fearful of being caught thieving. When Spencer the watch catches them, Collin betrays Tad. The slave is whipped severely, has his cherished necklace ripped from his neck, and salt water thrown on his open cuts. Everything changes when the Northern army arrives forcing the plantation owners to flee and liberating thousands of slaves in a few hours. However, the freedmen own nothing except a dismal future. Tad trusts no one, which northern whites affirm by their readiness to use the new freemen for their causes while offering nothing except platitudes in return. Over the objection of his beloved Peg, he joins the 54th Massachusetts at Fort Wagner while hoping that one day he leads his people to the Promised Land that President Lincoln proclaimed.

This is a powerful coming of age Civil War era thriller that uses real events and people to paint a grim yet hopeful picture of the aftermath of slavery on the de jure south and the de facto north. Historical figures like Lincoln, Pierce and Johnson add depth to this strong realistic epic overcoming the Forest Gump syndrome. This is Tad's tale as he faces his fears and overcomes his experienced-based distrust to mature into a leader.

Every Breath You Take
M. K. Gilroy
Worthy Publishing
134 Franklin Road, Suite 200
Brentwood, TN 37027
9781617950681, $14.99,

In Chicago, hedonistic trust fund abuser Jack Durham is murdered. Durham was known for drinking and high class escorts. However his affluent billionaire father, throwing his influence at the politicians and media, demands his son's killer brought to justice.

CPD assigns Detective Kristen Conner to work the highly visible homicide case as she is a beautiful woman who could enter Durham's inner circle and besides received accolades for solving a serial killer case (see Cuts Like a Knife). She finds it ironic as her love life is with FBI hunk Austin Teeters. Thus she goes undercover as an escort to the 1% only to find they spend money to spin the truth, but must find time to coach her niece's soccer team the Snowflakes.

The latest Conner police procedural is a terrific undercover investigative thriller starring an engaging cop who balances at times poorly her profession with personal demands including from her protective smothering family. The whodunit is top rate filled with twists as the ultra-rich have special means to alter the truth. Every Breath You Take is a fabulous urban mystery.

Christmas in Cornwall
Marcia Willet
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250003706, $25.99,

With the sudden unexpected death of his wife, Clem has no time to mourn his loss; as their five year old son Jakey struggles with the loss of his mom. Deciding he cannot be a single dad with no help, Clem, accompanied by Jakey, moves to his hometown of Cornwall so they can be near his loving mom Dossie.

Successful caterer Dossie showers her son and grandson with plenty of love. As Clem and Jakey acclimate to life without their respective wife-mom in Cornwall, each finds solace with the kindhearted Sisters and Father Pascal. Jenna tales care of the crazy nuns she considers beloved family who act like eccentric aunts needing protection from the unscrupulous. She falls in love with the grieving father and son, but fears for the Sisters as a Grinch arrives for Christmas in Cornwell with development plans for the convent.

This is a warm, humorous holiday romance starring an engaging ensemble cast. With a touch of whimsy and an a sort of fairy tale quality, fans will enjoy this fun Christmas tale as a family is not defined by DNA but by being there for others while knowing they will be there for you.

Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII
Robert Hutchinson
9781250012616, $27.99

This is an interesting biography of King Henry VIII that uses household accounts to provide insight into the monarch up until the birth of Princess Elizabeth in 1533. In his latest Tudor nonfiction (see Elizabeth's Spy Master and House of Treason: The Rise & Fall of a Tudor Dynasty), Robert Hutchinson makes a case that the ruler was not the debaucher that fiction depicts him to be though he was very hedonistic. Instead he makes argument that as a pampered second son, Henry understood enjoying life to the fullest cost be damned; as the shakiness of ruling England could end your rule and your head. Thus Lord Chancellor Wolsey ran the kingdom while Henry hunted, played and gambled like he did before taking the throne. Nothing changed in his lifestyle except Henry also knew he needed to eliminate all rivals, and produce the heir and the spare as that was more important to longevity than governance. Well written with some jocularity that enhances the fascinating portrayal, Tudor fans still are left wondering how such an influential historical figure seemed to do little more than self-indulgence.

The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury
Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
9780312547745, $24.99

In what was the Atlanta metropolitan area, the zombie plague continues to spread unabated. Those still human struggle to survive against The Walking Dead taking shelter wherever they can find temporary safety; these spots are dwindling. Frightened Lilly Caul seeks sanctuary as she flees from the undead horde, but rarely finds it and when she does it is temporary as the abominations never rest in their endless quest for live flesh.

Lily reaches the fortified town of Woodbury, Georgia; a haven for squatters to barter in relatively safety from the Walking Dead. In a previous life, he was known as Philip Blake, but now he is the Governor of Woodbury. After feeling safe for the first time since the plague began, Lily has a new fear as she observes how the Governor and his law enforcement rule the city with an iron fist. She and others rebel against his tyranny as Woodbury implodes from within.

The sequel to the Rise of the Governor is an exciting horror thriller based on the Benjamin Franklin premise that "Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one." Fast-paced, fans will enjoy this entry though they also will wonder how traumatized scared of shadows Lily suddenly turns into a ferocious freedom fighter.

Matthew Costello
9781250012739, $25.99

After the assault by the feral cannibalistic Can Heads left his Brooklyn police bat partner dead and him injured, NYPD police officer Jack Murphy, accompanied by his wife Christie and their two kids (Kate and Simon) go on Vacation to the Upstate fortified Paterville Family Camp. There he and his family eat old fashion real food, drink pure water, and have fun until he sacrifices himself to keep his beloved family safe (see Vacation).

Christie, Kate and Simon are shocked by what happened to their dad, but have no time to grieve if Jack's last actions are to be meaningful. They barely escape from the Paterville Family Camp, but fear there is no sanctuary anywhere in a world gone mad. Still, the trio struggles to survive from the nightmares they know exist and even more horrid beasts they will soon learn exist.

The second Murphy family post-apocalyptic horror tale is a gripping survivor thriller as three innocents struggle to stay alive. Their ordeal is fast-paced but at times lacks vividness due to the frantic speed of the plot. Still readers will want to travel the road with the Murphy family who believe in Schwartz's Law as their namesake's law proves too optimistic.

Death's Apprentice
K. W. Jeterand Gareth Jefferson Jones
9780312547714, $24.99

The Devil created Grimm City on top of Hell as the center of his activity on earth. Many of his minions do business in the thriving metropolis; a place where mortal and supernatural can purchase almost anything for the right price.

Death and his young apprentice Nathaniel enter a club to take away a drug user's soul. However, this time after a decade of assisting his mentor Nathaniel reacts differently as something unknown happens to him. At about the same time Blake the wraith kills skinheads who attacked the rag men and Hank the seven foot tall and seemingly as wide hit man destroys a crack house. Soon these two essences join Nathaniel in leading a revolt on several plains against the devil.

The first Grimm City horror thriller is a dark and grim with an incredibly detailed world in which the paranormal like witches soar. Built upon the collective works of the Brothers Grimm, this is a fabulous fast-paced, blood and gore tale. Readers will appreciate the epic odyssey of Death's Apprentice and his two partners as this improbable threesome take the final battle to the Devil with humanity at stake.

Crisis Of Faith
Eliza Wood
Pomegranate Free Press
9781938341014, $24.95

In Manhattan, the terrorists attack the proposed site of a mosque. In the name of God, their deadly assault leaves several women and babies dead. Like many tolerant people, the President is horrified by the latest domestic terrorism caused by fundamentalist Christians at a time when the country and the world face plenty of crises. Disgusted, POTUS establishes a task force to look deep into the bone marrow of those behind the deadly attacks in the name of God.

Though each member of the task force like Lisette Collier knows they are targets from nut cases from all the religions, they diligently investigate the root causes of genocide in the name of God. The team finds many instances of violent heavenly wrath in the bible especially the Old Testament but also Revelations with its genocidal Armageddon. Many instances in history of ethic and religious cleansing are highlighted. They begin to challenge the Words of the Christian Bible and other religious canon.

Crisis Of Faith is a deep look at religion from the viewpoint of kill thy neighbor if he or she worships differently. The fascinating storyline is inundated with facts that stun the audience. Eliza Wood makes a powerful argument that religion is a prime cause of hate. Many of those who denounce Shia Laws demand Judeo-Christian Laws enacted and proclaim the American equivalent of Fatah against their opponents. The information on genocide is frightening as Ms. Wood provides an exciting fact-based frightening thriller that paints God and religions in a terrible violent light; paraphrasing H. Rap Brown; violence is as religious as Cherry Pie.

Frozen Heat
Richard Castle
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, NY, NY 10023-6298
9781401324445, $26.99,

Following a "chesticle" workout with her friend Pulitzer Prize journalist Jameson Rook, NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat takes the train to ta murder scene. A frozen food delivery person found a suitcase inside the truck's freezer. The bomb squad inspected the mysterious suitcase, which contained the corpse of a Jane Doe stabbed to death.

Heat, with Rook's help, investigates the homicide. However, the detective is taken aback as they find clues to the present day murder with ties to the killing of Heat's mother Cynthia ten years ago. Knowing she might finally obtain closure ion the cold case that not only made her a cop but enabled her to individualize each victim as a person, they head to Paris to question a close friend of Cynthia.

The forth enjoyable Nikki Heat police procedural (see Heat Rises) continues the engaging metafiction investigative thriller in which TV character Richard Castle writes the novels. The whodunit is deftly handled though some of Heat's actions are inane and hateful even if we fans can rationalize her idiocy as her emotional reaction to her mom's frozen case heating up. Still readers will appreciate the latest caper of Heat and Rook.

Neil Gaiman
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062200396, $30.00,

Tristran Thorn grew up in the in the Wall, a town abut to the wall between Faerie and human realms. He loves beautiful Victoria Forester, but she acts aloof and cold in response. One day, they see a star fall from the sky landing on the other side of the barrier. He tells his beloved Victoria he will retrieve it for her if she agrees to marry him. She accepts his terms as nobody crosses the wall outside of the enchanted flea market held every nine years. The young man also is unaware that he was conceived when his parents attended one of those galas.

Tristran enters Faerie on his heart's quest. Malevolent others also seek the star for evil purposes. As he talks to mythological flora and fauna, Tristan battles against witches, goblins and trees. However, as Tristan learns from the star what love truly is, the Lord of Stormhold's children deploy their nefarious plot.

This is a reprint of the engaging coming of age romantic fantasy. Tristan initially seems pathetic as a hero yet perseveres as he begins to understand right from wrong. The motives and respective backgrounds of his star-seeking adversaries are developed so that the audience obtains an enjoyable tale.

The Walnut Tree
Charles Todd
9780062236999, $16.99

In 1914, pregnant Madeleine Villard asks her best friend Lady Elspeth Douglas to come from Scotland to Paris to be at her side during the last few months of her pregnancy. Elspeth travels to Paris as the Germans invade Belgium and head to France. Madeleine's husband Henri and her brother Alaine enlist in the French army.

Elspeth loves Alaine who admits to her that he feels the same way; he gives her a family ring telling her he will speak to her guardian Uncle Kenneth when he returns from combat. As the Germans close in on Paris, Madeleine gives birth prematurely to a son. Meanwhile Scottish Captain Peter Gilchrist arrives to rescue Elspeth, who is confused by her feelings for him and her betrothed even as she provides sustenance to the soldiers near the front.

This is an exciting WWI military romance as all is not quiet on the northeastern front. The key cast is fully developed so that the transition in class status that the war to end all wars brought as its most lasting and radical outcome feels genuine. However, it is the atrocities and tragedies as an outcome of war that makes this a strong historical thriller.

Things Remembered
Georgia Bockoven
9780062195166, $14.99

When their parents died, their maternal grandmother Anna raised the three sisters. The youngest Grace is a wannabe actress living in Southern California. The middle sibling pregnant Heather seems contented raising her two and a half children. The oldest Karla owns a coffee shop in Northern California.

When she learns Grandmother Anna is dying, Karla leaves for Rocklin to insure the affairs of the woman who raised her and sisters are in order. She does not want to see her relative as their relationship was combative. Both are obstinate ready to fight at the slightest nothings though the dying elderly woman prays for reconciliation with the granddaughter who is most like her. They find common ground since Karla needs to know Anna's memories of her mother and Anna needs to know Karla's memories of her daughter. As they begin to respect and cherish each other, Karla meets and is attracted to single dad Mark Taylor, a divorced veterinarian, but fears her feelings.

This reprint of an engaging family drama remains fresh as readers will enjoy the dysfunctional yet loving relationships between the three siblings and with their grandmother. Obviously the prime focus is on Karla whose life gets further complicated with her feelings for father and daughter. Although the reasons for the discord between Anna and Karla are never fully explained, fans will enjoy the pair sharing Things Remembered about the loved one who binds them.

Sad Desk Salad
Jessica Grose
9780062188342, $14.99

Alex Lyons avoids the commute as she works from her home as a blogger for Chick Habit the women's on-line gossip fanzine. She knows hits equal employment as her job requires a million per month so she constantly searches the net for the latest celeb scandal as ten minutes away from the cyber means missing out on a celeb death. Her frustrated boyfriend Peter not only has to remind her to shower, eat and go to the bathroom, he has to beg her as well.

The writer saves her best nastiness for the Sad Desk Salad crowd who eat physically healthy but mentally depressing lunches at their desk. A tip points her to a great scandal as Becky, the MIT daughter of parenting guru Darleen West, is caught snorting. Alex knows this feeding frenzy will end the young woman's future before it begins so she has doubts about its release. However, her British tabloid trained boss sends it out anyway. As a BTCH (Break the Chick Habit) attacks Alex and her colleagues, feeling guilty she obsesses over finding the missing Becky, ask an angry Peter for forgiveness and regain her self-respect lost since she graduated from Wesleyan.

This is a jocular intelligent look at the instant internet destructiveness of uncaring blogs and competitive media as freedom of information supersedes personal privacy with a click of a cell phone. Fast-paced, readers will relish this expose as nothing is sacred in the reality of the virtual world.

Burning Up
Anne Marsh
Kensington Brava
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758266811, $14.00,

Jack Donovan and his fire jumper crew complete a mission in California. Afterward, Nonna, who raised him and his two "brothers" Rio and Evan, asks him to come home to Strong to help his mentor Fire Chief Ben Cortez with a rash of arson. Her call has Jack thinking of Ben's niece Lily Cortez who he left behind as he felt she deserved better than him. Only for Nonna would he and his brothers return to Strong.

Ben shows Jack a map of the fire locations that cluster around Lily's lavender flower farm. Jack talks to her about the fires. They argue over her safety. Lily thinks back to San Francisco where she lived until a stalking arsonist had her fleeing for home six months ago when he burned her books in her kitchen sink; she knows he has found her. A man watches Jack and Lily. He sets fires to calm down and to inform Lily she belongs to him by leaving her personalized fiery gifts. Jack moves into Lily's home over her objection to protect her and insists that when she is ready they will enjoy sex together for the first time. Meanwhile her arsonist turns irate with plans to teach his beloved a lesson.

This is an exciting romantic suspense in which the firefighting scenes are incredible. The lead pair behaves inane at times as he is a bully and she is obstinate while the support cast show they care for the protagonists. Although the cleverness of the villain seems doubtful with his compulsive obsessive behavior placing him at great risk of capture, readers will appreciate this entertaining firefighting romance.

Lord Gray's List
Maggie Robinson
Kensington Brava
9780758269096, $14.00

In 1820 Baron Benton Gray is irate with the London List gossiping about him and his mistress Veronique as the paper has ripped him for two years. Adding to his furor is that his mom and his staff have subscriptions he pays for. He decides to confront the publisher, R. Ramsey. Benton immediately recognizes Evangeline Ramsey. She thinks back ten years when she gave Gray her virginity and she rejected his proposal; fearing he was just like her wastrel father. Benton offers to buy the newspaper; she says she will talk to her father and tell him their answer tomorrow. He is wealthy due to his brilliant investments.

He ends his relationship amiably with Veronique and buys the newspaper from her dad angering her. Benton kisses her though she broke his heart years ago. They make love and she knows he still owns her heart and he knows she owns his. A crowd gathers outside Benton's home angry at him for cheating Ramsey out of the newspaper though he paid much more for it than it is worth and protest his plans to shut the List. Benton discusses the List with Evie who says people with needs advertise in the paper. At the shop he is all business while admiring how she helps others and publishes the paper. When he finds a warning note that concerns him for her safety, she ignores it; while he plans to keep her safe and marry her.

The lead couple is a fun second chance at love pairing and the London List is an intriguing newspaper although Benton adapts too easily to publishing a newspaper. Fans will enjoy this Regency version of His Girl Friday.

A Not So Model Home
David James
9780758206329, $23.00

Palm Springs, California Amanda Thorne knows the housing market is murder due to the bubble burst, but had not known how literally true that proved when she had her first listing as an independent realtor (see Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse). With sales nonexistent, Amanda is elated with the opportunity to sell multimillionaire Ian Forbes's mansion.

Allegedly dying from cancer, the hair-care guru Ian arranges for a reality show on the Q network to be held at his mansion. Ian will choose from contestants, of whom some he has had affairs with, as his heir. The rivals prove nasty towards each other and mutually ridicule Amanda. When someone murders two of the contestants, the survivors are gleeful as their chances of winning improve. Amanda assists her boyfriend homicide detective Ken Becker on the investigation while her ex-husband gay Alex assists her.

The second Amanda Thorne mystery is an amusing whodunit in which the realty TV supersedes the sleuthing. The storyline focuses more on the ridicule and insults thrown back and forth as grenades between the players than on the inquiry. Still fans will enjoy this humorous lampooning of realty TV as Amanda showcase once again A Not So Model Home.

What Happens At Christmas
Victoria Alexander
9780758255686, $16.95

1886 Lady Beryl questions the wisdom of her twin sister widowed Lady Camille as her sibling's plan seems harebrained to her but brilliant to its creator. Lady Camille plans to marry Prince Nikolai Pruzinsky, but believes she needs to invite him to a traditional English Christmas. The problem is the rest of the family are scattered around the globe so a resourceful Camille hires a troupe.

A second issue surfaces when her former best friend Grayson Elliott arrives after a decade plus absence. Eleven years ago, he told her he loved her just before she married someone else. He vows this time to win her heart. Compounding her already collapsing scheme is her family including her deceased dad arrives for Christmas.

This is an amusing late Victorian Christmas as the heroine validates that Robert Burns was right (with a slight modification) as the best laid plans of mice and Lady Camille go awry. The charming storyline is a fun comedy of errors compounded by more comedic blunders. What Happens At Christmas is a zany historical tale that fans will enjoy year-round.

Laura Griffin
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781451617399, $7.99,

On Basilan Island in the Philippines, Delphi Center forensic anthropologist Kelsey Quinn studies the human bones in a locale classified as a massacre. However, something is off and she tries to resolve what and why starting with the pacifier. When she sees the FBI investigator working with her murdered, she knows she is next so she flees into the jungle.

Navy SEAL Gage Brewer chose his job over his beloved when he dumped Kelsey several months ago. While in San Diego following an African mission, he learns his Kelsey is in lethal trouble. The special ops operative drops everything to protect his woman as a diabolical adversary refuses to allow a SEAL or an anthropologist interferes with the plan.

The latest Tracers forensic romance (see Twisted, Snapped and Untraceable) is a fantastic action-packed conspiratorial thriller. The tense storyline is fast-paced from the moment Kelsey flees for her life and never slows down as the heroine wonders whether she can trust her "protector" with her life as he may be the killer and he broke her heart.

Warrior Reborn
Melissa Mayhue
9781451640885, $7.99

Former special ops soldier Chase Noble has never truly found a place where he feels he belongs. Though frustrated, he continues to seek somewhere he can call home. Whether it is his Fae progeny or not, Chase senses he is destined to do something important once he arrives at "home."

Her evil half-brother keeps Christiana MacDowylt imprisoned so he can use her paranormal gift of seeing the future. Christiana sees a warrior rescuing her, but her champion lives seven centuries into the future. Using fairy magic, she brings Chase back to her time to save her from her wicked sibling. Chase feels at home when he is at the side of Christiana, who never foretold he was more than just her champion.

The second MacDowylt clan time travel fantasy romance is an exhilarating thriller as this time the hero goes back from the present to the medieval era; reversing the trip of Warrior's Redemption. Fast-paced fans will relish this modern day warrior fighting with seemingly primitive arms, but love proves the strongest weapon in his arsenal.

Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter
Jessica Sims
9781451661811, $7.99

Sisters Sarah and Bathsheba Ward run the Midnight Liaison's paranormal dating service. Sarah feels guilty as her older sibling lies in a hospital bed after tying to protect her from the Wendigo; the irony being that Bathsheba is human while Sarah is a were due to her ex-boyfriend changing her without her permission. Bathsheba also has alpha cougar shifter Beau Russell at her side too (see Beauty Dates the Beast).

A rival werewolf pack holds member Savannah hostage while their Alpha demands Sarah join them if they want their prisoner freed. Savannah agrees while Werebear Ramsey Bjorn claims Sarah as his mate to keep her safe from the werewolves who forced the couple to prove their assertion by "mating".

The second Ward sister paranormal romance is a fast-paced thriller that directly builds off the previous tale. The romance between the wolf and the bear is deftly handled as neither realizes their sham is the real thing; while the sisterly love is beautiful as each risks their life for the other. Filled with suspense as the protagonists fall in love while surrounded by brutal werewolves, readers will enjoy Sarah's Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter plight.

A Trace of Moonlight
Allison Pang
9781439198360, $7.99

Maurice possesses the Key to the CrossRoads after stealing it from Abby Sinclair the TouchStone. Meanwhile Abby marries Elven Prince Talivar though her new mother-in-law wants to make her son a widower. However, a honeymoon must wait unto after she retrieves the Key.

The two rival males still vie for her affection yet Talivar and former incubus now mortal Brystion vow to help Abby when she confronts Maurice who threatens to terminate OtherWorld. Phineas the mini-unicorn joins their odyssey. To succeed she first must figure out the loophole in a deal she agreed to with a daemon that she does not remember occurring or what the pact is. Then she needs a replacement sacrifice for the Faerie Tithe or she dies for the second time.

The latest Abby Sinclair (see A Sliver of Shadow and A Brush of Darkness) fantasy is a taut good and evil thriller as each of the fab four knows what they voluntarily need to give up if they have any chance to prevent Maurice's paranormal genocide from happening. Fast-paced with jocular graveyard bantering that at times feels out of place, fans will relish the confrontation between loving sacrifice and end of the world malevolence.

Twelfth Night Secrets
Jane Feather
97814391145272, $7.99

In 1797, Lady Harriet Devere and her family mourn the death of her brother Nicholas. Still she and her grieving family gather in Oxfordshire for their annual holiday celebration. While attending the gala, the government asks Harriet to spy on Nicholas' alleged best friend Julius Forsythe who will be at the gala; they believe the Earl of Marbury murdered her sibling to conceal his seditious deeds as a double agent working for them and the French.

At the gala, Harriet watches Julius carefully as he charms her grandfather the host and the rest of her family; her ten year siblings worship him. Harriet wonders how he could be her late brother's best friend when his name never was mentioned and she catches him lying. Still, Harriet begins to fall in love with him, but also fears her heart hides the truth yet every instinct tells her he is not a traitor or a murderer. Deciding to follow her heart, Harriet resolutely sets out to find the real double agent.

This is an engaging Napoleonic espionage romance starring an intrepid heroine and a mysterious earl. Action-packed fans will enjoy this late eighteenth century version of Harriet the Spy as Jane Feather provides a wonderful thrilling Yuletide tale.

Hammer Head
Joe Dieckman
V Wind Publishing
PO Box 1031, Elgin, IL 60121-1031
9780982877302, $11.00,

He is an electrical engineer bullied to never take a respite by his affluent smothering parents. The Boy is lonely and is considering suicide as he finds his life miserable due to the constant demands of his parents as he worked with his father, did his mother's accounting for her businesses, and conducted research in his spare time. Out of character he goes kayaking by himself though he never did anything remotely like this. Boy has an accident while white water rafting, but gets ashore. He walks in the woods until he finds a house.

Paw and his sons greet the injured Boy and take him inside their home where Maw helps him heal from his wounds and their young daughter watches him with curiosity. Once recovered, Boy lingers with paw and his family as he finds inner serenity in this rural outdoors lifestyle.

Hammer Head is a fascinating character study starring a disillusioned urbane man finding solace with a seemingly primitive family while unable to achieve this with his biological parents. Paw is the more interesting character as readers will appreciate his lifestyle. Although it takes an adjustment to Paw's vernacular, which also adds a sense of authenticity to the tale, fans will enjoy Boy's contentment as Ferris Bueller says "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

The Stockholm Octavo
Karen Engelmann
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061995347, $26.99,

In 1791, Offices of Customs and Excise Sekretaire Emil Larsson loves the life of a swinging single in enlightened Stockholm. He enjoys drinking, playing cards and is contented as a bachelor though his employment is in jeopardy if he fails to marry soon.

Everything changes for Emil when he meets gambling club owner Sofia Sparrow. A fortune teller whose clientele include King Gustav III, Mrs. Sparrow lays out the bureaucrat's personal Octavo of eight people who will assist him in finding his fiancee and a promotion. What she fails to tell him is that his Octavo overlaps with hers in a Divine Geometrical connection and that his octet is divided on both sides of a scheme involving the monarch.

This is a fresh thrilling Swedish historical fantasy that ties what is happening in France to what occurs in Sweden. The opening act is incredible as readers learn of aristocratic intrigue and the applications of the pseudo sciences (Divine geometry, numerology, hand fan magic and cartomancy). Soon Emil's search by the numbers for a wife via the Octavo contacts lead to the demands of opposing female conspirators (Mrs. Sparrow and Baroness Kristina Uzanne). Complex due to changing roles and relationships (thankfully a cast listing included as there are fourteen key players and the city), readers will appreciate this strong though at times convoluted late eighteenth century tale as the audience and the protagonist learn it is in the cards.

Phoebe & the Ghost of Chagall
Jill Koenigsdorf
MacAdam Cage Publishing
155 Sansome Street, Suite 550
San Francisco, CA 94104
9781596923836, $24.00,

In Sonoma, California single mom Phoebe is a failed artist who keeps herself and her daughter Audrey from starving by designing wine labels though her creditors are demanding remittance or else. Twenty-five years after he died, the ghost of Marc Chagall arrives in her kitchen. He is thankful that Audrey cannot see him while he ponders why a painting he drew that her father found during the 1944 liberation of France never came to Phoebe or her mother. Marc is pleased to see his host has reproductions of his work on her walls. Vowing to help her find what is due her while also resolving the one thing that disturbed him when he was alive: his hundred or so paintings that vanished during WWI.

After a spirited introduction, the wannabe artist and the dead artist begin their trek to find La Contorsioniste. They soon run into an assorted motley crew wanting to ether help them or help themselves as witches, black market traffickers, sinister collectors, an inn keeper and much more join the search.

This fabulous paranormal amateur sleuth works brilliantly on two levels. First the historical provides the audience with strong insight into Chagall and his work, as well as the Nazi art theft with each intricately interwoven into the engaging storyline. Second is the exciting amateur sleuth search for the missing masterpiece and other works by the renowned artist. Fans will enjoy this good (art lovers) and evil (art profiteers) thriller as Phoebe & the Ghost of Chagall investigate.

A Question of Identity:
Susan Hill
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781468300505, $25.95,

In 2002 a Yorkshire jury found Alan Keyes not guilty of murdering three elderly women (Carrie Millicent Gage, Sara Pearce and Agnes Daphne Kavanagh) in Yorkshire. The verdict angers many people who demand vigilante justice. To keep the mob from tearing his limbs apart, Keyes is given a new identity.

In 2012, someone murders octogenarian Elinor Sanders in her home on Lafferton. The evidence points to the return of Alan Keyes as the M.O. is similar to what happened to the three victims in 2002. Police detective Simon Serrailler leads the investigation as the psychopath kills two more elderly people.

The latest Simon Serrailler police procedural (see The Betrayal of Trust) is a fabulous whodunit that is incredible when following the investigation or centering on Keyes (circa 2002 and 2012). When the storyline focuses on Simon's affair with married Rachel it adds depth to understanding the protagonist but detracts from an otherwise great mystery.

The Big Exit
David Carnoy
9781590205150, $25.95

Affluent dot-com marketer Richie Forman enjoyed his bachelor party when intoxicated he left with his best friend and partner Mark McGregor in the former's Cadillac. They ran a red light killing a woman. Convicted of vehicular homicide as his blood alcohol was stratospheric, Richie went to prison though he believes Mark drove the car. While he remains hopelessly behind bars, Mark married Richie's ex-fiancee, Beth Hill.

Finally freed Richie earns a living as a Frank Sinatra impersonator while also doing volunteer work at the DNA Exoneration Foundation run by attorney Marty Lowenstein. Soon after Richie's release, someone hacks Mark to death in the latter's garage. The same crowd that hung him the first time, Detective Hank Madden and former prosecutor turned Beth's attorney Carolyn Dupuy, point to Richie, as does muckraking blogger Tom Bender. Ironically they use his alibi that they did not believe when he claimed he was not the driver as his motive for murder, but this time he has Marty on his side.

This is a great crime caper that grips the reader from the moment a horrified Beth identifies the brutalized corpse as her husband. Filled with two great twists, fans will enjoy this strong legal thriller as all evidence targets Richie in what seems like a revenge out of control killing.

Red Rain
R.L. Stine
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781451636123, $24.99,

Near Cape Hatteras National Seashore, vacationers avoid Cape Le Chat Noir as if the South Carolina barrier island is diseased though it is home to a small population. The place has a dark history so it is understand few outsiders venture there. Visiting the isle is travelogue blogger Lea Sutter when Hurricane Ernesto seemingly comes out of nowhere to destroy all buildings and seemingly kill the residents. Lea survives as do twin tweeners Daniel and Samuel.

Lea brings the pair home to her family to the chagrin of her children (Ira and Elena) and the joy of her spouse Mark the child psychologist whose theory is to allow children to thrive with limited controlling as their parents ought to be guides not cops. Lea ignores her family's needs as she seems to care about the angelic twins she rescued from the storm while ignoring their wickedness.

Red Rain is an entertaining horror thriller that is fun to read though never veers from the anticipated path. The twins affirm the adage "never judge a book by its cover as they appear angelic but use paranormal skills maliciously. Though I doubt a rescuer albeit stranger would gain temporary custody of two traumatized kids, R.L. Stine provides an engaging extended family drama as the Sutter household learns the lesson of the Good Samaritan.

The News from Spain: 7 Variations on a Love Story
Joan Wickersham
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780307958884, $24.95,

This superb collection focuses on "7 Variations on a Love Story" with differing "News from Spain." Each entry enables the reader to look deep into the souls of the protagonists while showcasing the various types of relationship love. She sits on the beach with her friend knowing when her marriage died while he considers marrying a companion. The daughter visits her mom at the nursing home because she feels this is the right thing to do, but soon realizes she wants to see her mom. The only female student at the school, she feels alone except for her married Spanish teacher. The biographer interviews the race car driver's widow, but is the author's wife who shocks the elderly woman. Married but in love with someone else, she tells her beloved the tale of a doctor in WWII in love with two famous women. The choreographer and his polio stricken wife the ballerina have accepted his cheating and her relationship with her gay caregiver. The Countess (from The Marriage of Figaro), Elvira (from Don Giovanni) and the author are tied together forever. The premise works nicely with the tales based on real persona the best of a strong compilation on love in its variations.

Silent House
Orhan Pamuk and Robert Finn (translator)
9780307700285, $26.95

In 1980 acrimonious nonagenarian widow Fatma Darvinoglu waits for the annual summer visit of her adult grandchildren when they invade her dilapidated home in Cennethisar near Istanbul. She has lived in exile there since she married her foolish late husband Selahattin when she was a teen as Fatma has observed the fishing village turning into a posh resort town. His obsession with writing the definitive encyclopedia proving God is a supernatural myth while science only matters alienated the country's leadership seven decades ago.

Adding to her rage towards the idiot she married, he had affairs proven by her servants Recep the dwarf and his crippled brother Ismail; while the latter's son Hasan belongs to a nationalist gang of bullies. The only thing Selahattin did right was to drink himself to death; as did their son Dogan. Of the grandchildren, Faruk has failed as a historian but appears to be a chip off the male blocks as he heads towards drinking to death; Nilgun the only female considers joining the Communist Party; and the youngest adolescent Metin angrily envies his wealthy peers who can afford endless alcohol and drugs.

This is a mesmerizing look at the conflict between modernization (west) and tradition (east) in identifying what Turkey was, is and will be. The eight family members are different personalities but she in common for the most part a depressed outlook overwhelmed by the burden of life yet do so diversely so that the reader obtains a sort of 380 degree glimpse of a country pulled in opposite directions. Fans will appreciate this engaging but dark look at Turkey during a critical period.

Sentinels: Kodiak Chained
Doranna Durgin
Harlequin Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373885602, $5.50,

"Kodiak Chained." Ruger James the Kodiak bear shifter was a Sentinel warrior and Healer. When Atrum Core's ambush leaves him severely wounded, he cannot heal himself quick enough before another attack will finish the assassination. Using her olfactory sense, Sentinel black bear shifter Mariska Banks rescues him. They team up in search of an experimental lab that conducts vicious tests on animals in order to discover the way to eradicate the Sentinels. As they face an amoral enemy, each knows the other is his life mate, which in these dire circumstances may not be a good thing. The latest Sentinels romantic fantasy (see Tiger Bound) is enjoyable entry due to lead pair as each has the other's back while battling Core evil.

"The Gatekeeper" by Heather Graham. In Las Vegas, Elven detective Saxon Kirby investigates which werewolf went rogue and left behind a chewed up corpse at a tourist attraction. The inquiry leads to hybrid elf-werewolf dancer Calleigh McGowan, who hunts the same killer. The short story prequel to the upcoming Keepers saga is an engaging investigative romance.

Holiday with a Vampire 4
Susan Krinard, Theresa Meyers, Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885596, $5.50

"Halfway to Dawn" by Susan Krinard. The hostilities between humans and vampires heat up while Special Forces Captain Fiona Donnelly and fugitive vampire slave Jonathan Kane team up to protect a negotiator trying to end the war.

"The Gift" by Theresa Meyers. In Pennsylvania Vampire Cullen McCormack needs the locket that Angelica Edwards recently inherited and wears around her enticing neck if he wants his existence to continue.

"Bright Star" by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom. Heaven sends Dylan McCay to keep human astronomer Savannah Clark from finding the Christmas Star that will lead to the mortals learning immortal angels and fallen exist.

Each tale is a refreshing romantic urban fantasy starring fascinating protagonists who make the paranormal seem real though the respective storylines end abruptly. Additionally the anthology contains a short story "The Gatekeeper" by Heather Graham in which Elven detective Saxon Kirby and hybrid elf-werewolf dancer Calleigh McGowan hunt a killing werewolf as the prequel to the upcoming Keepers saga.

Secrets Of The Lynx
Aimee Thurlo
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373696611, $5.25

A sniper using a high caliber rifle killed his partner U.S. Deputy Marshal Judy Whitacre and ended Paul Grayhorse's field agent job with the U.S. Marshal Service. Paul becomes a private investigator working New Mexico cases with his foster brothers. However, someone tries to kill Paul with the overwhelmingly probable culprit being Chris Miller who he suspects previously went after him.

U.S. Deputy Marshal Kendra Armstrong was working the sniper murder when she is abruptly reassigned to protect Paul. She wonders if her boss removed her from her inquiry because an agent went gun-trafficking rogue. Paul makes it clear to Kendra that he does not want or need a body guard as he looks forward to getting it on with Miller. As they fall in love, he uses his Navaho gift to hone in on a killer who likewise targets the pair pursuing him.

Secrets Of The Lynx is a strong police procedural romance starring two fascinating protagonists and a villain somewhat in the shadows. Fast-paced, the storyline also enables the reader to obtain a taste of Navaho life and myths; as Aimee Thurlo provides another strong enchanting New Mexico thriller.

Let It Snow
Leslie Kelly and Jennifer LaBrecque
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797271, 5.25

"The Prince Who Stole Christmas" by Leslie Kelly. New York City candy shop proprietor Claire rents a room to Phil. She is attracted to het tenant who has come to the Big Apple seeking his fairy tale princess, Claire.

"My True Love Gave to Me" by Jennifer LaBrecque. In Alaska Gertie and Knox were BFFs until he became ensorcelled by a cold woman. Now they meet for the first in a few years at the Good Riddance Christmoose festival and their emotions quickly turn to love.

The latest Blazing Bedtime Stories Holiday Collection (see Once Upon a Valentine) contains two delightful Christmas romances starring wonderful protagonists.

Hers For The Holidays
Samantha Hunter
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797325, $5.25

Former Marine Ely Berringer works for his family's bodyguard firm. His sister-in-law Tessa asks him to leave Antigua to learn what happened to her best friend, tattoo artist and owner of Body, Inc. Lydia Hamilton. Six months ago, Ely and Lydia shared an incredible tryst before going their separate ways. He just was unprepared to freeze his butt in freezing Clear River, Montana where her trail leads.

Ely realizes Lydia is settling her late mother's estate. To inherit the ranch she must remain there for a month. However, a series of increasingly dangerous incidents occur in which someone seems to want to drive her away. When Ely offers bodyguard protection and much more, she hesitantly accepts.

The latest Berringer Bodyguards File (see Yours For The Night) is an engaging romantic suspense starring polar opposites falling in love. Fast-paced, the suspense is well done but takes back seat to the romance; as Ely and Lydia live for the holiday moment as both assume love is not enough to make a forever relationship.

The Defender
Lindsay McKenna
9780373777105, $7.99

Certified with an eagle license, just like her foster mother Donna, Katie Bergstrom opens up a raptor rehabilitation facility near Jackson Hole for birds with a medical condition who cannot fly in the wild. She hires former marine Joe Gannon to help run her ranch.

Joe is an undercover FBI agent looking into whether Katie works for her biological mother's cartel. To his chagrin he is attracted to his employer and enjoys life at her sanctuary. While his heart says Katie is innocent, Joe knows the mission comes first as he deals with drug traffickers and the appearance of his beloved's birth mother for the first time in Katie's life. Katie loves her employee, but trust is not something she gives easily.

This is a strong romantic suspense with a powerful setting of majestic birds soaring high into the sky with the Grand Tetons in the background. Fast-paced, readers will relish Sam and his fellow birds of a feather affirm WC Fields' wry commentary to "Never work with animals ..." as they will steal the show as Katie and Joe (and readers) learn.

B.J. Daniels
9780373776733, $7.99

Over a decade ago in Beartooth, Montana, someone viciously murdered Ginny West. Everyone assumes Carson Grant killed her in a violent fit of passion as they had recently ended their relationship. Though he insisted he was innocent and grieving the death of his beloved, and no concrete evidence proving he committed the homicide, Carson leaves town with a cloud over his head. His sister Destry and Ginny's brother Rylan end their relationship to focus on helping their respective families heal from the tragedy as she defends her sibling and he believes her brother killed his sister.

Over the years since the trauma, Destry concentrates on her family ranch while Rylan like Carson left town. When new evidence surfaces, Carson returns home from exile to prove he did not murder Ginny. Rylan also comes home as he never forgot his Destry.

This is an entertaining Big Sky romantic suspense in which the investigation of a violent murder eleven years ago may have gone cold, but its grip on the townsfolk remains powerful. The storyline is fast-paced and the setting beautiful. However, none of the key players feel fully developed beyond the impact of Ginny's death on their relationships. Still readers will enjoy learning whether Carson killed his sweetheart.

Caden's Vow
Sarah McCarty
9780373776993, $7.99

On the Hell's Eight Ranch, Caden Miller feels alone with his gunslinger peers marrying (see Shadow's Stand, Sam's Creed and Tucker's Claim). He decides to leave the spread before he turns soft like his compatriots and work a gold mine in the Kansas Territory.

Now living at Hell's Eight Maddie O'Hare grew up in a brothel. She loves Caden, but he keeps his distance from her. Encouraged by a friend, she follows him as he prepares to move on. When Caden learns she is being held prisoner at the nearby Fallen C Ranch, he rushes to her rescue. Instead Caden and Maddie wed in a shotgun marriage ceremony that has him reeling and her dancing. Now she must persuade him she is worth keeping before it is too late as his past shows up with guns blazing.

The sixth entertaining Hell's Eight western romance is an engaging pre Civil War thriller though the lead couple is more pitiful than likable as he seems indifferent to her and she is a constant victim. Still, fast-paced, fans of the series will enjoy the tale of the somewhat interchangeable gunslinger (with previous heroes) and the unique woman who lacks the confidence to corral him.

What An Earl Wants
Kasey Michaels
9780373776764, $7.99

In 1789 a drunken Earl of Saltwood duels with the man poking his wife. However, as he is shot by a hooded figure instead, he remarks he never anticipated this before dying. His widow and her lover leave.

Over two decades later, their children grow up with the scandal always hovering. Their oldest offspring, Gideon Redgrave, the current Earl of Saltwood ignores the scandal as he lives his way amidst London high society; except for distrusting everyone as he vowed to never allow a woman to destroy him. He is unhappy to be named guardian to the Collier heir. However he will do his duty even if the lad's widowed half-sister Jessica Linden is a distraction he prefers to ignore but cannot as she demands custody of her younger sibling. As they fall in love, his late father's mysterious alleged Hellfire Club membership surfaces with lethal consequences.

The opening Redgrave Regency romance (the Wedding Party short story in Rules of Engagement precedes this) is an exciting taut thriller starring two interesting protagonists struggling with the deaths of their fathers. The suspense grips the audience from the moment Jessica accosts Gideon and never slows down as the mystery of their respective fathers' deaths place them and others in peril.

Brenda Joyce
9780373777297, $7.99

In 1791 Brest, France, a desperate Countess Evelyn D'Orsay arranges with English free trader Jack Greystone to smuggle her, her ailing French husband Henri and their child Aimee across the Channel to her family in England. He succeeds in bringing the D'Orsay family to England.

However, in 1795, Evelyn buries Henri in Cornwall. Needing money, Evelyn learned that her late husband hid gold in France. She seeks the smuggler who saved their lives four years earlier to find the cache, but Jack is in hiding with a bounty on his head. He learns of her search and serendipitously visits her. Jack reluctantly agrees to accompany her on the dangerous treasure hunt while they make love on his island. However, as they fall in love, Evelyn fears he is a traitor.

The third Spymaster's Men late eighteenth century espionage romance (see Persuasion and Seduction) is an exhilarating suspense thriller as the French Revolution winds down into the Napoleonic Era. The storyline is fast-paced and filled with danger as the lead couple takes extremely risky chances in a particularly perilous period.

The Wedding Plan
Abby Gaines
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718146, $5.50

Eight years of flying choppers for the Navy over areas like Afghanistan in which he does not know the language fails to prepare pilot Lucas Calder to being grounded after suffering an injury eight months ago over the Persian Gulf. Placed on medical leave, Lucas fails the eye exam that he needs to pass in order to return to active duty. He travels to New London, Connecticut to ask his father Admiral Dwight Calder to intercede so he can retake the test. His dad, doting over his newborn, tells his son to reconsider his career and what does Lucas' childhood friend Merry Wyatt think.

Lucas asks Merry to persuade his father. However, Merry's dad John on twice a day dialysis nearly dies from kidney failure. John wants Merry and Lucas married before he dies. Both love John so they agree with plans to grant him his wish and divorce after his funeral.

The Wedding Plan is an enjoyable contemporary romance starring two BFFs falling love and a sold family support cast. Though the premise has been used, the engaging storyline entertains the readers as the lead couple enter a new relationship in which both soon lovingly want it but each fears changing the mission.

The Life of Riley
Lenora Worth
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718153, $5.50

In Sinclair, Georgia, thirty-five years old Riley Sinclair learns she is pregnant due to in vitro fertilization treatment. She looks forward to being a single mom.

After five years away her former husband Jackson Sinclair III arrives in town ready to share his revelation with his ex-wife, but not before he stops for a hamhock burger at the Hamhock Cafe. Jackson realizes that he will be a father; while Riley expects him to run away again as he did when he deserted her when she most needed him after they lost their baby JT IV. He surprises her when he declares he will be part of this baby's life though she expects him to choose flight whenever something bad needs them to fight as a team. He distrusts her as he believes she took him to the cleaners including his family estate.

The Life of Riley is an enjoyable warm second chance at love romance made fresh by Jackson who after a lifetime of flight chooses to fight for his beloved and their baby. Character driven, readers will appreciate this tender tale as Jackson sets the tone when he visits the gravesite of his late son to tell him he came home to stay.

The Christmas Inn
Stella MacLean
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718177, $5.50

Marnie McLaughlan sells her half of Total Elegance hair and aesthetic saloon to her partner of ten years Shane Walker who plans to team up with his soon to be wife Gina a hairdresser. Her brother Scott asks Marnie to evaluate Mirabel Inn in the Berkshires as the owners plan to sell it.

At Mirabel Inn, Marnie meets and is attracted to widower manager Luke Harrison and adores his young son Ethan. As they fall in love, she owes him the truth as to why she came yet also knows she owes her brother a confidential analysis that would displace father and son from the inn they call home.

The keys to this mystery shopper's romance is that the lead trio seems realistic especially Marnie's dilemma. Luke and Ethan learn they can love another woman while still cherishing their late wife/mother. Character driven, fans will want to visit The Christmas Inn as Stella Maclean provides a warm holiday family drama.

A Forever Christmas
Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin American
9780373754304, $5.25

Forever, Texas deputy sheriff Gabe Rodriguez drives home when he sees a car teetering on the edge of a deep ravine. Fearing the vehicle will fall of he waits for help and kill the unconscious driver, Gabe makes a successful risky rescue. The victim he calls his Christmas Angel suffers from amnesia as she has no idea who she is or why someone cut her brake lines.

Angel feels safe when Gabe is near and fearful when he is not. Gabe is attracted to his Angel, but feels she is too vulnerable for him to take advantage of her; so he plans to do nothing about his feelings. She is willing to give up whatever is out there to be with him. When her past arrives in Forever, Angel fears she will lose her Gabe.

This is an entertaining romantic suspense starring a hero and the victim he saved. The amnesia theme has been used too frequently in novels, but fans will enjoy A Forever Christmas
with a need to know who Angel is and why someone tried to kill her.

Christmas in Texas
Tina Leonard and Rebecca Winters
Harlequin American
9780373754311, $5.25

"Christmas Baby Blessings" by Tina Leonard. Texas Ranger Seagal West and Capri Snow are obtaining a divorce. Ironically his current assignment is to protect his florist wife from whoever is trafficking drugs through her shop. He knows he wants a second chance with his twins she carries an additional loving reason.

"The Christmas Rescue" by Rebecca Winters. Texas Ranger Flynn Patterson comes across a car accident in which the driver abandoned a baby. Flynn comforts the infant as he takes the kidnapped child back to his distraught mother Andrea Sinclair. As he vows to keep mother and child safe, Flynn takes them to his lonely home for Christmas where the pair light up his life.

These are two taut terrific Christmas In Texas romantic suspense thrillers. The respective key cast members are fully developed while the romances and the tense danger blend into a pair of superb tales.

Kissed By A Vampire
Caridad Pineiro
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885589, $5.50

Two millennia ago, a betrayal by her beloved turned Stacia into a vampire who trusts no one so she roams the night alone. While on the prowl for chow in South beach, she finds a mortal near death. Though she cannot fathom why, instead of biting what was left of his life, Stacia saved him (see Death Calls).

In Miami, DEA agent Alex Garcia works a human trafficking case that targets young girls. When he runs into Stacia, Alex is stunned as he assumed the beautiful female haunting his dreams was a fantasy caused by his near death experience. Stacia realizes why she saved Alex's life as she is attracted to him just like he is to her.

The latest action-packed Calling paranormal romance (see Fury Calls and Blood Calls) is a fast-paced romantic urban fantasy starring an elder vampire and a DEA human. Fans will enjoy their Miami joyride as they team up in love to rescue the girls and take down the vicious criminals.

The Witch's Initiation
Elle James
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885572, $5.50

While attending college in Chicago, Aurai Chattox vanishes without a trace. While her four older sisters come to the Windy City, CPD undercover operative Cal Black investigates the disappearance of the sorority sister. To Cal, the case is personal as he was once engaged to the victim's sister Deme until she left him without a word one year ago.

Deme prefers Cal to leave the quest to her and her siblings. However, dedicate cop that he is, Cal refuses to abide by the wishes of the woman who broke his heart. As they work together over her objections, Cal begins to see impossible things occur and soon learns Deme dumped him for fear of how he would react to learn the Chattox sisters are witches. When they find the darkness, the cop and the witch, realizing they remain in love, also know their chances of survival are slim at best.

The Witch's Initiation is an exciting fast-paced romantic urban fantasy that will have readers believing in the paranormal in Chicago. The lead couple is fabulous second chance at love (after mission accomplished, if they live long enough) pairing. Although the climax is abrupt, fans will appreciate touring Chicago with Deme and Cal as our guides.

After Moonrise
P.C. Cast and Gina Showalter
9780373776481, $14.95

"Possessed" by P.C. Cast. Psychic detective Kent Raef uses negativity to catch murderers. Lauren Wilcox asks for his help to find her twin sister's murderer so her sibling, who communicates with her, can move on.

"Haunted" by Gina Showalter. Artist Aurora Harper believes she witnessed a vicious murder that her conscious mind repressed while subconsciously she paints the deadly scene. She turns to Detective Levi Reid, who struggles with memory lapses of unaccountable time, for help in finding the victim and the killer.

These are two engaging paranormal romantic investigate thrillers starring strong characters and a firm belief that the otherworldly essences exist.

A Lady Of Expectations And Other Stories
Stephanie Laurens, Nicola Cornick and Kasey Michaels
9780373777235, $7.99

"A Lady of Expectations" by Stephanie Laurens. Considered a rake, Jack Lester wants a family but needs a wife who loves him. As such he conceals his wealth from the Ton. Jack believes Sophie Winterton is for him; but though she loves him, she rejects his courtship as she believes he needs to marry a wealthy heiress to save his estate.

"Secrets of a Courtesan" by Nicola Cornick. Eve Nightingale was once a mistress to the Duke of Welburn, but left him to settle as a respectable shopkeeper in Fortune's Folly. Five years after she vanished, Welburn arrives in the village.

"How to Woo a Spinster" by Kasey Michaels. Lady Emmaline Daughtry accepts her spinster status as a foregone conclusion. When Captain John Alistair tells her bad news, he admires her reaction. Obsessing over helping her, he remains nearby.

These reprints of three entertaining historical romances are fun reads that showcase the early talent of the authors though the plots are straightforward. The Nicola Cornick entry is part of her Brides of Fortune series (see The Confessions of a Duchess and The Undoing of a Lady) and the Kasey Michaels' contribution is a Daughtry family tale (see How To Tame A Lady).

Wyoming Fierce
Diana Palmer
9780373776962, $7.99

Montana college student Bolinda Mays comes home to Catelow, Wyoming, worrying that her vicious stepfather will toss her disabled sexagenarian grandfather out of the house that once belonged to her late mom. She needs a loan but her only prospect is Middle East veteran Cane Kirk, but she is afraid to ask him.

Cane lost an arm in combat and suffers from PTSD that has him raging at the world. When she finally finds the courage to ask him, he brutally refuses to lend her the money. After, her grandfather dies, his brothers, Mallory and Dalton, help her while Cane feels ashamed of himself for failing the woman he loves.

This angst-laden Wyoming romance stars a bitter wounded warrior and a grieving financial strapped student. Although the stepfather is a caricature of a 200 proof evil villain, fans will enjoy how to mend a broken soul.

The Lost Prince
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen
9780373210572, $9.99

Meghan Chase's younger brother Ethan strictly adheres to his survival technique of never looking at the fey that he can see. He knows he wants nothing to do with the Iron Realm where his sister and her Ice Prince rule the Nevernever after spending a horrible time in that abomination (see The Iron King).

Though several years have passed since his living nightmare when his sibling became The Iron Queen, Ethan has become an angry acrimonious teen as he blames the fairy for his obsession to never allow anyone to get close to him. However, his avoidance technique ends when he starts a new school and gets into trouble with Miss Singer within thirty minutes due to Kenzie St. James. This is followed by a fight with a jock and Todd the half-breed recognizing he can see his true nature and Them; Thistle knows who his sister is. After the first day is over Ethan soon realizes that exiled fey and half-breeds are vanishing though he prefers his tough guy isolation, but cannot remain reclusive.

The first three Iron Fey urban fantasies (see The Iron King, The Iron Queen and The Iron Daughter) focused on Meghan; the fourth entry centered on her beloved Ash; this exciting thriller places Ethan as the prime lead. Ethan is an angry teen wanting to be left alone but his reputation precedes him (think of the Heath Ledger character in 10 Things I Hate About You). Staring with Kenzie the school reporter, he seems to land in constant trouble until he and his sidekick find themselves in the Iron Realm. Fans will enjoy the escapades of this tough guy as Kenzie, the Fey, the half-breed and his DNA lead to unending danger.

Cayla Kluver
Harlequin Teen
9780373210442, $9.99

Sixteen years after the Legacy of their previous war, the forces of the Cokyr Kingdom led by Commander Narian conquer their neighbor Hytanica. The new teenage Queen Alera knows she and her people must wait for the right time before throwing off the yoke of their more powerful invader. She shares her rule with Narian, who she loves but loathes for betraying their people when he chose his Allegiance to his evil guardian the Cokyr monarch and the malevolent mystical Overlord.

Shaselle does not have the chains of ruling to hold her back. She thirsts to avenge the murder of her father as she prowls the capital seeking to join the growing resistance. Rebellion is everywhere in the nation forcing Queen Alera and Commander Narian to choose between leading and following.

The third Legacy young adult romantic military fantasy is an enjoyable finish to a fabulous trilogy in which the aggressor nation supports women's rights while the oppressed does not. Filled with political intrigue in a medieval setting, fans will enjoy this entry wondering whether Alera can reveal her love for Narian to her people and if they will accept him as her consort; that is if they can defeat the Cokyr invaders.

Yours For The Night
Samantha Hunter
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797240, $5.25

"Yours For The Night." Widower bodyguard Garrett Berringer vacations in San Francisco when he meets Tiffany Walker at a wedding. They share a great night together. However, while they are trysting, someone robs her family's jewelry store, Tiffany a private detective, with Garrett assisting her, investigates. The first Berringer romantic suspense is an entertaining whodunit as the couple fall in love while pursuing the robbers.

"Virtually Perfect." In Salem, Massachusetts, Raine Covington avoids social activity outside of cyberspace or office functions. At the office computer guru Jackson Harris is attracted to Raine, but feels she thinks he is a roach so he keeps away from her. Rider and Nilla met on line and are attracted to one another. However, when Rider and Nilla meet in person they see Jack and Raine. This reprint of a cyberspace relationship is cleverly done so that the audience observing the chats believes something special is occurring though Raine fails to come close to her alter ego.

Distinguished Service
Tori Carrington
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797226, $5.25

"Distinguished Service." Marine Mace Harrison returns to Colorado Springs to receive an award. While home he looks into Lazarus Security for employment when he retires from active duty in six months. When he and pregnant graphic designer waitress Geneva Davis meet, they are attracted to one another and agree to a one week heated affair to keep her former boyfriend away from her and the female horde his good intentioned friends and family send his way. Neither wants their relationship to end. This Uniformly Hot! romance is a terrific tale starring two individuals who learn "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell).

"Every Move You Make." In Trueblood, Texas, Zach Letterman, upon learning his roots, handles his first case working for his newly found family's private investigative firm. His mentor on the search for the missing wedding dress is Mariah Clayborn who demands in return for her training him in sleuthing he teaches her how to act sexy so she hold onto a boyfriend. This reprint of a Trueblood romance is an engaging tale as the sleuths fall in love.

A Kiss in the Dark
Karen Foley
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797257, $5.25

"A Kiss in the Dark." Starpoint Technologies engineer Lacey Delaney designs the Subterranean Advanced Receiver (STAR) for NASA. Over the objection of her "Helicopter" mom who pleads with her to send someone else, Lacey heads to Kentucky to test the GPS device underground. When her car breaks down in a remote area, she meets Cole MacKinnon, who explains he is seeking work in the mines. Cole conceals that he is a Department of Labor undercover engineer looking into unsafe practices. When they become trapped in a cave, he relieves her fears of the dark in a unique way. This Wrong Bed romance stars two fascinating protagonists especially the brilliant but fragile heroine who is a product of her mom's traumatic caused insecurities.

"Flyboy." In spite a great record, Department of Defense aerospace engineer Sedona Stewart is passed up for promotion to senior engineer again; this time the chosen one is dorky Bob Lewis. Irate as the good ole boy network has slapped her in the face, she vows to get that job. She soon learns that her agency uses the illegal rule of sexual prowess as the selection requirement. She plans to expose this illegal practice with a formal complaint, but first investigates a series of jet fighter crashes partnering with Navy pilot Angel Torres. They are attracted to one another, but stopping the sabotage comes first and stripping naked the sexual practices of her peers comes second or do they? This reprint of an entertaining military romantic thriller is at its best when the plot looks into sexual office practices that harm employees and cause morale issues.

So West: Desert Justice
Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths Chapter Members
DS Publishing
8050 E Crystal Drive, Anaheim Hills Ca 92807
9780982877425, $14.95,

So West: Desert Justice contains twenty exciting crime capers that highlight the Southwest. In "Lucky Me" by Shannon Baker, Tom takes his wife Julie hiking the Grand Canyon and rafting the Colorado River in order to kill her so he can claim their then million dollar lottery winnings; he just forgot to read her resume. Mara fears she suffers from Huntington Disease like her father did as she forgets things while her spouse Kenny has an affair in which the woman wants him to get rid of his wife (see "Totaled Recall" by Susan Badavari). Near Kartchner Caverns, the three friends since foster care have found another cavern that the pushy Ringo wants to develop into a tourist attraction; Morris and "Gee-Lee" plan to let him be sole owner, but he has similar ideas in Deborah J. Ledford's twisting "Cave-in." Ruthie sees "Dust to Dust" (by R K Olson) everywhere; so much so it hides the murdered corpse of elderly Mrs. Solomon. In 1928, female architectural students Frankie and Nora are at the construction site of the Arizona Biltmore wanting to meet the master Frank Lloyd Wright but are unprepared for "Death by Design" (by Judy Starbuck). In "A Season For Death" by Judith Starkston, retiree Jim cares for his Alzheimer's- suffering wife Lizzie who wants to die rather than live like this. This is a thrilling anthology as the Desert Sleuths Sisters in Crime once again combine twisting suspense with strong protagonists (even with no stories over fifteen pages) set in a diverse but vivid Southwest.

Nightshade on Elm Street
Kate Collins
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451238504, $7.99,

In New Chapel, Indiana, Bloomers Flower Shop owner Abby Knight and Down the Hatch Bar & Grill owner and private investigator Marco Salvare are marrying in a few weeks. Abby's former fiance wealthy Pryce Osborne II of the old Osborne money begs her and Marco to help him; as his current acceptable fiancee Melissa vanished while they hosted a weekend gathering at his beach house for the weekend. Though she should refuse since Pryce rejected her after she failed the Osborne family Kentucky blue grass test Abby and Marco agree to investigate.

The engaged couple interview the guests, but none cooperate; in fact most hinder their inquiry into the disappearance of Melissa. However, the case turns bizarre when a guest drowns with the overwhelming evidence pointing towards Pryce having committed a homicide.

The latest pleasant Flower Shop mystery (see Night of the Living Dandelions and To Catch a Leaf) is an engaging cozy as Abby runs her shop, prepares for the wedding, and squeezes in sleuthing. She and her fiance are likable as they are caring, concerned people who are there for their family, friends and even cruel ex's. The investigation contains entertaining red herrings and twists as the lead sleuths apply reverse psychology to obtain information from the snoot crowd. Fans will enjoy this fun lighthearted whodunit.

Deadly Patterns
Melissa Bourbon
9780451238245, $7.99

In Bliss, Texas, Buttons and Bows dressmaker Harlow Jane Cassidy runs the fashion show for the annual Winter Wonderland Festival. She meets with other committee members at the historical Denison Mansion site of the gala. The mansion is undergoing renovations led by Arnie Barnett and his former brother-in-law Dan Lee Chisholm who will wear the Santa costume for the event. Arnie's wife Hattie hates Dan Lee for deserting her sister and newborn. The house's widow walk railing is loose and due to a comedy of errors Harlow Jane is pushed over the edge. She is injured by the fall but next to her lies Dan Lee in full Santa garb dead.

After Harlow Jane stops at the hospital, Sheriff Hoss McClaine and Deputy Gavin McClaine question her as she seems to land near too many corpses. Encouraged by the ghost of her late great-grandmother Meemaw, Will Flores, and the rest of the Texas posse, Harlow Jane searches for the killer who forced her to make a new Santa costume to replace the blood stained one Dan Lee wore.

The latest Magical Dressmaker's Mystery (see Pleating for Mercy) is an engaging amusing paranormal amateur sleuth. The lighthearted fun storyline does have a similar feel to the previous whodunit A Fitting End as the heroine seeks a killer in plain sight yet hidden behind respectability.

Come Easy - Go Easy / In A Vain Shadow
James Hadley Chase
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781933586380, $19.95,

"Come Easy - Go Easy." Lawrnece Safes Copration Chet Carson answers the service call from affluent Henry Cooper at the Ashley Arms. Seeing the money inside he decides to steal the loot. It goes wrong for him and his partner Roy Tracey. Chet is sent to Farnsworth but soon escapes. He makes it to the Point of No Return filling station and snack bar owned by elderly Carl Jenson. The owner's wife Lola recognizes Chet and demands he breaks open her spouse's safe or she will get the cops.

"In A Vain Shadow." In London Henry Sarek has received threatening letters so he hires Frank Mitchell as his bodyguard. At the office Mitchell meets Sarek's secretary big boned Emmie Pearl and moving into his employer's home Henry's sultry wife Rita. When the Sarek couple head to Paris without him, Mitchell searches the house as he believes his employer traffics in illegal diamonds. Instead he finds photos of Rita with a nightclub act partner in Cairo. Mitchell knows the partner is behind the threats so the bodyguard writes a threatening letter to see what occurs. Sarek wants to flee England while Rita wants the diamonds so she orders Mitchell to kill her husband if he wants her and the gems.

These are reprints of two taut throwback thrillers written over five decades ago share a similar premise of bad to the bone protagonists remain wicked while making up two thirds of a fascinating triangle. With nods to the movie Double Indemnity, fans will appreciate these exciting tense crime tales.

Bear Bait
Pamela Beason
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, NY, NY 10014
9780425251652, $7.99,

Summer "Sam" Westin works as a temporary wildlife biologist for the National parks Service at Olympia national Park near Forks, Washington. She loves her work as she relocated Raider the bear and wishes she could get something permanent. Currently she has fire watch duty near Marmot Lake since the regular ranger is on leave. This particular night the thirteen year old daughter of Ranger Joe Choi, Lili, is with her.

Sam hears an explosion and using binoculars sees a fire. She calls it in and with Lilli nearby rushes to the scene to create a fire line. After she and others put out the blaze and she suffers an injury, they find the barely alive body of Trail Crew Lisa Glass. FBI Agent Chase Perez arrives as he pursues robbers and looks forward to time with Sam with whom he once collaborated on a case in Utah (see Endangered). Though already receiving a warning for disobeying rules by rushing to the fire with a civilian, Sam breaks more as she investigates the fire.

The second entertaining Summer Westin wildlife mystery is a wonderful outdoors amateur sleuth though this time the heroine has no reason to investigate. Still her exciting inquiry leads readers on a guided tour of the national park near the site of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight saga. With a nod to Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon, readers will enjoy Sam's latest back to nature caper.

Let It Sew
Elizabeth Lynn Casey
Berkley Prime Crime
9780425251713, $7.99

Tori Sinclair had no friends or any place to call home until she became the Sweet Briar, South Carolina librarian as the Sweet Briar Ladies Society Sewing Circle welcomed her as one of them and she now has a fiance. The ladies grieve the recent death of one of their founding sisters Charlotte Devereaux who Tori never met as the elderly woman suffered from Alzheimer's for several years. Adding to their dismay is that Councilman Jordon persuaded the council to let his girlfriend Maime Wellington run the town's Christmas Decorating Committee instead of the Sewing Circle member Margaret Louise.

Tori understands that Charlotte's husband Parker left her for another woman, her older son Brian is mentally challenged and her younger son Ethan is a greedy loser. Charlotte's personal nurse Frieda Taylor also mourns her patient's death. She mentions how much Charlotte enjoyed sketching and gives one depicting the library to Tori. When she and Debbie look at other sketches, Tori sees a marking on a sketch that makes her wonder if a body is buried there as Charlotte accurately drew still life. They soon learn that Parker did not leave his wife. Tori and Sewing Circle investigate who wanted Parker dead and why.

The latest Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries (see Dangerous Alterations and Reap What You Sew) is an engaging holiday amateur sleuth filled with twists and red herrings. The storyline starts slow as the heroine and readers meet the late Charlotte and the antics of the Christmas Decorating Committee. Fans will enjoy following Tori and posse make inquiries into who murdered Parker only to uncover more deadly dirt.

Written in Stone
Ellery Adams
Berkley Prime Crime
9780425251737, $7.99

Through a visitor and a cousin, Munin "Witch of Oyster Bay" Cooper asks restaurateur Olivia Limoges to visit her in her to her swamp home. To get the woman to come, Munin mentions she possesses her late mom's starfish. With a need to know more about her deceased mom and how Munin knew her mother, Olivia, accompanied by her dog Captain Havilland, arrives at the swamp. Munin warns her death is coming and gives to her a customized memory jug that contains items that will lead to answers Olivia needs. Olivia leaves behind her precious starfish.

Not long afterward, Munin dies. Though she helps with the Coastal Carolina Food Festival and hosting Noah Wiseman of the Foodie Network, Olivia obsesses over learning what the memory jug items means especially a KKK token from the 1950s and who killed the witch and why. Thus, with the help of the Bayside Book Writers and her boyfriend Police Chief Sawyer Rawlings, Olivia looks into the memory jug's pieces that she hopes will help solve two homicides.

The latest Books by the Bay amateur sleuth (see The Last Word, A Killer Plot and A Deadly Cliche) is an entertaining whodunit with a fresh source of clues, the memory jug. The insight into the Lumbee Native American provides a strong background to the mystery. Although the storyline lacks tension, fans will enjoy learning the meaning of Olivia's memory jug.

The Anatomist's Wife
Anna Lee Huber
Berkley Prime Crime
9780425253281, $15.00

In 1830 Scotland, Lady Lydia and Mr. Tuthill find the murdered corpse of Lady Godwin. Lady Westlock immediately blames Lady Kiera as the widow of Sir Anthony, the infamous anatomist butcher who made her illustrate his gruesome autopsies. Host of the gathering, Kiera's sister Alana defends her sibling. Tired of ungrounded accusations, Kiera mockingly shows her hands to Westlock stating no red on them.

Since the official investigation will not be available for a few days until an inquiry agent arrives, Sebastian Gage, son of a war hero whose father is a London sleuth, looks into the murder. Familiar with corpses and with a deep need to make Westlock publicly apologize, Kiera assists Gage in uncovering the real killer though she expects he will prove incompetent and use her as the scapegoat.

This is a superb historical whodunit as the heroine is unique fascinating person and the support cast fully developed. The investigation is cleverly devised with the sub-genre audience believing they are involved in a case in 1830 Scotland.

A Novel Way To Die
Ali Brandon
Berkley Prime Crime
9780425251690, $7.99

Darla Pettistone inherited Pettistone's Fine Books from her later great Aunt Dee. She legally owns the Brooklyn bookstore, but the real de facto owner is Hamlet the cat who controls hiring, which is how Robert got a job there in spite of once accusing Darla of committing murder.

A customer Carl, who along with his partner Barry is renovating a nearby brownstone, gets into an argument with Pornshop Bill inside Darla's store. Attracted to Bill, Darla is pleased to do lunch with him. He shows her the brownstone, but they find Carl's battered corpse. Darla notices paw prints that she thinks belong to Hamlet. With her friend Jake, the private investigator's help, Darla tries to learn what Hamlet witnessed while NYPD police detective Reese leads the official investigation.

The second Black Cat Bookshop Mystery (see Double Booked For Death) is an engaging Brooklyn whodunit with several red herrings and a killer in plain sight executing a perfect plan except for that darn cat. Hamlet steals the show as he proves W.C. Field's right to "Never work with animals or children." Although the storyline starts slow though amusing with the employment interviews, fans will enjoy this investigative tale.

Lauren Dane
Berkley Heat
9780425253250, $15.00

On Bainbridge Island, Washington Jules Lamprey owns the highly successful Tart bakery. Her friend Gideon Carter comes home to help his recently widowed octogenarian grandfather run the family farm. Jules and Gideon are attracted to one another.

Attorney Cal Whaley loves Jules though he acts more like a friend than a wannabe lover. Feeling desperate that Jules and Gideon have become an entry, Cal kisses her. Confused as she likes both men, Gideon suggests they forge a menage a trois. Though both hesitate, Cal and Jules agree.

The latest Delicious erotica romance (see Lush) is a torrid contemporary starring three full blooded (and not just the lower heads of the lead males) protagonists. The sex is hot with MFM and MM. However, the storyline fails to provide any dissenting sparks between the sexual triangle participants. Still sub-genre fans will feel the heat.

Exposed to You
Beth Kery
Berkley Heat
9780425259153, $15.00

On the set of United Studio's film Maritime, Hightower Special Effects owner Seth Hightower asks his beloved niece Joy the high school art teacher to draw the final tattoo. However, she and a stranger share an intimate moment that neither can resist.

Fourteen months later, that stranger star actor Everett Hughes arrives in Chicago looking for Joy as he has not forgotten that incredible interlude. Everett realizes the woman he has thought about for over a year is actually a prim and proper person. He needs to persuade her that what they share leave both outside their normal comfort zone with a need for more and not just the incredible sex.

The latest One Night of Passion (see Addicted to You by Bethany Kane) is a terrific erotic romance starring two wonderful lead characters. The storyline contains the heated sex scenes, but also provides much more as the couple must open up beyond the boudoir if they are to make it. This is erotica at its best.

In Need of a Good Wife
Kelly McNees
9780425257920, $15.00

In 1866 in Manhattan City, Clara Bixby loses her job at Rathbone's Tavern. This is the latest setback, having lost her baby followed by her husband George deserting her. She reads about a town in need of marriageable women. Seeing an opportunity, Clara writes to Destination, Nebraska Mayor Cartwright asking if anyone is interested in a wife.

Widow Rowena Moore still grieves for Richard who died in the Civil War. With her father in an asylum, Rowena worries about paying the bills, as she sells items like her wedding ring. She knows this is a far cry from her upper class social status. Fortyish Elsa has worked at the Channing Mansion laundry for three decades. When she reads an ad for Christian wives, she decides to take a chance on a change. Clara hosts a meeting with twenty two applicants for eight men. She pairs snobbish Rowena with widower businessman Daniel Gibson, but fails to mention he is the butcher and has five young children. Leopold Shreier wants a cook not a wife. Elsa is interested as both are older Bavarians. One woman backs out in Manhattan City. In Detroit, two more women leave. Another dies on the train. Four of Bixby's Belles reach Destination. The men whose women fail to arrive accuse Clara of fraud. Cartwright likes her, but can't help her as she faces a trial.

This is a super western romance with the three female protagonists possessing different personalities while the time and places come alive with nuances like the letter exchange. Although George's actions seem illogical, fans will enjoy this engaging Cornhusker romance.

L.A. Kornetsky
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781451671643, $15.00,

In Seattle, Washington, Ginny Mallard struggles to make a success of her private concierge business. Needing a new client to stay afloat and feed her puppy Georgie, she heads to her neighborhood bar Mary's with hope that she can find a customer there.

At the pub, Ginny overheads realtor Walter Jacobs telling bartender Teddy Tonica that he is worried about his Uncle Joe, who vanished with some important business documents. Ginny offers her services to find Uncle Joe and the papers; though doubtful about her abilities, Walter hires her. Ginny persuades Teddy to help her as his people skills, honed by bartending, complements her research talent. Also joining the human duet on the hunt for Uncle Joe are Mary's Mouser Mistress Penny-Drops and Georgie.

The first Gin & Tonic amateur sleuth is an engaging missing person's mystery with a delightful Seattle setting. The lead quartet is a fun teaming as the humans argue much more than the cat and dog. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy this engaging cozy.

Bargain Hunting
Rhonda Pollero
9781416590828, $15.00

Finley Anderson a paralegal at Dane, Lieberman and Zarnowski in West Palm Beach, Florida is attracted to her boss lawyer Tony Caprelli and the firm's private investigator Liam McGarrity though neither excite her as much as being a fashionista shopping for bargain priced designers. She especially wants to do it with Liam, but sh*t happens every time they begin.

Late at night Liam arrives at Finley's house with a gunshot. She agrees to hide him while he gets his wound cared for. He tells her he left the police department when the brass made him the fall guy for the shooting death of a teen in a drug bust; that same weapon was used kill his former partner; which makes Liam the suspect. As Finley, Loam and Tony investigate, someone threatens to kill the paralegal if she does not back down.

This is an enjoyable whodunit as series fans learn what happened to Liam while the trio works the case. Tony's teenage daughter, Liam's ex-wife, and Finley's mother add humorous complications to the triangle relationship. As Finley uses her fashionista skills to determine who lives tropospheric above their take home pay, fans will enjoy her latest F.A.T amateur sleuth (see Slightly Irregular, Fat Chance, Knick Off and Knock 'Em Dead).

'Twas The Night After Christmas
Sabrina Jeffries
9781451642469, $19.95

In 1803, his parents sent him away to Titus' Farm when he was eight years old. When he was younger Pierce Waverly believed they would welcome him home, but they never did. Now thirty one year old Pierce is the cold Earl of Devonmont who prefers the life of a rake as he lives up to the image demanded by his late father. In fact he has not been home in years and has not seen his Mother in all that time as he assumes she hates him or why else did she abandon him to distant family.

In December 1826, Mrs. Camilla Stuart sends him a note in which she warns him that if he wants to ever see his ailing mother he better come home now before it is too late. Stunned, he assumes his mom is dying so though he knows she will not welcome him he rushes to Montcliff to see her. Instead he finds his Mother healthy as her companion Widow Camilla sent him the missive hoping for the pair to reconcile. She did not anticipate her attraction to the troubled son of her employer or him to her.

This is an entertaining late Regency Christmas romance starring two individuals brought together by an estrangement. Filled with humor, pathos and a late twist, the cast makes for a warm wonderful holiday second chance at family tale even though the villain is over the top of the Tower.

The Marriage Trap
Jennifer Probst
9781476717517, $12.99

Venezia Conte rants and rages at her brother Italian billionaire businessman Michael. She blames him for her long time beau Dominick not marrying her; as their widow Mama insists Michael must wed first. He does not want to marry anyone, but does not want to stand in the way of his sisters so he needs a fake spouse.

Last year Alexa Ryan (see The Marriage Bargain) introduced her sister-in- law photographer Maggie Ryan to Michael. Maggie loves Michael but assumes he loves Alexa. Desperate she tries a love spell while he chooses her to be his sham spouse since she will be in Milan anyway. Whether it is a love spell or just old fashioned love, Michael and Maggie want the temporary removed from their relationship.

The second entertaining Marriage to a Billionaire contemporary romance is a lighthearted farce starring likable lead characters and fiery Italian female warriors. An enjoyable tale, but only for readers who ignore the plausibility of a nineteenth century relationship premise in a twenty-first century drama.

Busman's Honeymoon
Dorothy L. Sayers
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, NY, NY 10022-5299
9780062196576, $14.99,

Lord Peter Wimsey has finally worn down notorious mystery writer Harriet Vane with his zillionth proposal. They marry and plan to honeymoon on an estate he just bought that she remembered from her childhood.

After a difficult greeting at their new home, they begin to settle in until Mr. McBride arrives asking the newlyweds if they saw his missing Uncle, Mr. Noakes who sold the estate to Lord Peter. Bunter the butler soon finds Mr. Noakes with his head bashed in lying in the cellar; no blood by the wound with six hundred pounds on him. Lord Peter knows he will not enjoy his romantic interlude until the murder is solved.

The fourth Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane (see Gaudy Night, Have His Carcase and Strong Poison) is an enjoyable period piece in which the interrelationships between the classes supersede the whodunit. Filled with wry social commentary and witty bantering, fans will enjoy this engaging Depression Era detective tale as Lord Peter investigates the homicide so he can get back to his Busman's Honeymoon.

Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane
Dorothy L. Sayers
9780062196538, $14.99

Mystery writer Harriet Vane returns to Oxford's Shrewsbury College for a class reunion knowing her recent trial for murder makes her infamous. Since her acquittal Harriet says no to her persistent hero Lord Peter Wimsey while feeling somewhat abashed that her dirty laundry was revealed in court but as she did even in jail and at the trial she still refuses to bow down to the nasty gossips.

However, someone has a different opinion about Harriet. She receives ugly letters calling her a "dirty murderess;" each one harsher than the previous. Fearing for her life, she asks her champion Lord Peter for help as she knows a stalker walking the hallow halls of Oxford plans to execute her.

The third Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane (see Have His Carcase and Strong Poison) is an engaging historical mystery that focuses on the beginning of the Depression and the bantering relationship between the protagonists more than the super whodunit. The support cast is excellent as they bring circa 1930s academia to life while making a strong case for women's rights as the female professors have less standing than male freshmen. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy the engaging Gaudy Night.

Have His Carcase
Dorothy L. Sayers
9780062196545, $14.99

In 1929, having been proven innocent of the murder of her fiance author Philip Boyes due to the efforts of her new friend Lord Peter Wimsey, mystery writer Harriet Vane tries to move on. She walks a sixteen mile deserted beach from Lesston Hoe to Wilvercombe to clear her head.

About halfway into her trek while thinking of lunch, she comes across a murdered body of a bearded young man, whose throat was cut. Harriet takes pictures of the body before the tide takes it out to sea. She wonders if the stranger killed himself or was murdered. Private investigator Lord Peter convinces her they should make inquiries as there is no carcase for the cops to conduct an investigation.

The second Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane (see Strong Poison) is an engaging historical murder mystery in which the gender war between the lead couple supersedes the improbable whodunit. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy the collaboration between Vane and Wimsey as it's in the blood.

Blood Line
Lynda La Plante
9780062134325, $14.99

Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector Anna Travis remains in shock with the death of her fiance, Prison Officer Ken Hudson murdered by a convict Cameron Walsh obsessed with her. To not think about the tragedy, Anna turns to her work.

Old Bailey usher Edward Rawlins tells Anna he thinks his twentyish son Alan was murdered though he has no proof. Neither he nor Alan's girlfriend Tina brooks has spoken to Alan in two weeks, which is out character for the mechanic. She tells the distraught father he needs to report the case to Missing Persons as she only works homicides. A month later, her former lover Detective Chief Superintendent James Langton mentions the MPER Rawlins case suggesting Anna take on the investigation. With no evidence of foul play, Anna and her team look into Alan's background only to uncover a lifestyle radically different from that described by his father and girlfriend.

The latest Anna Travis British police procedural (see Blind Fury, Silent Scream and Deadly Intent) is an engaging whodunit starring a cop in mourning who cannot move on with her grief as the protagonist is short and nasty to her team; newcomers will classify her as unlikable. The series trademark detailed and profound methodical inquiry feels redundant as Anna and her subordinates rehash what they know several times without adding new information. With her personal life in a coffin, Anna turns to her professional side for solace but without any regard for others.

Krampus: The Yule Lord
Harper Voyager
9780062095657, $27.99

In impoverished Boone County, West Virginia on Christmas Eve, songwriter Jesse Walker is raging and depressed since his wife Linda, taking their child Abigail with her, left their trailer park home to move in with crooked cop named Dillard. Jesse wishes Santa would return his family to him. However, he stops his wish-making when he observes seven devilish looking people chasing a man in a red suit. All eight enter a sleigh pulled by eight reindeers; who take to the sky. Stunned Jesse hears screams in the sky followed by a red satin bag falling near him. To his shock, Jesse realizes he has Santa's magical sack, which he plans to use to bring his family home to him.

The horned Yule Lord Krampus escapes from the cave that Santa incarcerated him in centuries ago. He wants vengeance but his top priority is to take back what Santa took from him as the Yuletide season belongs to him. That means obtaining the red satin sack that Jesses possesses. Father Christmas meets Jesse first and they agree to prevent the Yule Lord from achieving his objectives while also enabling Jesse to win back his wife and child. Not sure who to trust the troubled Jesse cannot fathom the hostilities between these ancient enemies who have him in their crosshairs.

Krampus is an exhilarating gory Christmas tale as Santa and Lord Yule battle each other while the mortal matures as he gains confidence and esteem while moving away from self-pity and debasement. Fast-paced from the moment Santa and the devils fight and never slows down, fans will appreciate this coming of age holiday horror thriller.

Into the Woods
Kim Harrison
Harper Voyager
9780061974328, $24.99

This excellent anthology provides readers a strong glimpse at the full Harrison realm to include inside and outside the Hollows. Part one focuses on The Hollows with three short stories and four novelettes; six previously published and a new tale of Rachel and Trent ("Million Dollar Baby"). The second section contains four "Beyond The Hollows" fantasy short stories that apparently were never published before ("Pet Shop Boys", "Temson Estate", Spider Silk" and "Grace"). In "Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil" Inderland Security Homicide Division cop and living vampire Ivy seeks a killer who knows her every move even as she evades the moves of her boss Art an undead vampire. Teenager Rachel recuperates from I.S. disease that killed her father and nearly killed her, but left her new powers as a witch in training; however, she misuses her new skills with a resurrection that may prove lethal in "Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel." Jenks the pixy and Bis the gargoyle investigate a case involving pixy children in Ley Line Drifter." In "Million-Dollar Baby," Trent and Jenks go on an elf-quest. Will Temson inherits much more than he bargained for when he gained "Temson Estates." In "Spider Silk" the angry tree spirit rages at three generations of females (Emily the grandmother, Meg the mom and Lilly the child). The collection is quite good providing more insight into the Hollows and into the rest of the Harrison mythos.

Angel's Ink
Jocelynn Drake
Harper Voyager
9780062117861, $14.99

Those with innate magician abilities must reside in Ivory Towers as a witch or a warlock. No one dares defy the rule until Gage Powell. He has issues with his peers over the treatment of the masses as he sees them as individual humans while everyone else living in Ivory Towers looks at them as chattel. Gage does the unthinkable when he opts to leave, insulting his warlock mentor Simon. The Council grants him his freedom but warns him he is not to delve in magic except in self-defense.

In Low Town, Gage opens up Asylum Tattoo Parlor catering to customers who covet something special in their inking. Bronx the troll and Trixie the elf work for Gage. Dying from cancer, Tera asks Gage to tattoo her entire back so when she goes to hell she will be wearing his angel wings. She admits she cannot pay him his costs, but moved by her story he does as she asks, but adds a special to the mix. From that kindness, Gage learns the road to hell is inked with good intentions as everything goes wrong when Trixie's secret past surfaces and Simon places a bounty on Gage's head.

Though the premise of a renegade practitioner has been used in urban fantasies, Jocelynn Drake provides a brisk entry mostly because readers will believe in the magic of her realm as the caste system enhances the mythos. Gage is an endearing individual who care about others as he prefers to do no harm. His assistants are loyal to him and likewise him to them. However, Simon's diabolical scheme makes for a fast-paced thriller that fans will relish.

Midnight's Seduction
Donna Grant
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312552503, $7.99,

Three years ago, the evil Druid Declan Wallace captured the Druid-seer Saffron Fletcher. He tortured and blinded her as he did what he wanted to her to break her spirit as Declan planned to exploit her rare seer skill.

Three years after her captivity her friend Danielle Buchanan the Druid helps Saffron regain her sight as Declan's dark spell is broken. At MacLeod Castle, Saffron struggles with her sight and her freedom. She also obsesses over revenging her trauma by destroying Declan and his evil ally Deidre the Drough Druid. Finally there is her unwanted desire for Camdyn MacKenna. He offers to help her as he too seeks to avenge what Declan did to him. Additionally both struggle to ignore their attraction for one another as vengeance may be served cold but each believes that comes before the warmth of love.

The latest Dark Warriors (see Midnight's Lover and Midnight Masters) continues the Dark Sword spin off series with an awesome entry starring two individuals who fear love weakens their chance for avenging affronts committed by the devilish Ds. Midnight Seduction is another winner.

Alyson Nol
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312664879, $18.99

In Enchantment, New Mexico, Daire Santos learned from her paternal grandmother Paloma why she is different is due to heredity making her a Soul Seeker who travels between the mundane world of the living and the surreal world of the dead like her late dad and her grandma. As the last of her line, Daire is Fated to save or destroy the world of the living.

With her boyfriend of her dreams Dace at her side, Daire saved her grandma's soul. However, as a lethal second order effect the Richter sorcerers escaped and have caused havoc in the Lowerworld. Dace's sibling Cade leads a horde of ancestors on a destructive path that causes Daire to choose between embracing her Fated prophecy at a cost to her heart and soul or to allow Cade to conquer the world starting with a small town in the Land of Enchantment.

The second sensational Soul Seekers urban fantasy is a fast-paced thriller starring an intrepid heroine who understands what she must do but the price weighs heavily on her emotional well-being as increasingly PTSD symptoms cause her to hesitate. The storyline is thin, but entertaining as fans wonder whether Daire will dare to embrace her fate before it is too late as either way she chooses she knows the cost is beyond what she can mentally afford.

Midnight City
J. Barton Mitchell
St. Martin's Griffin
9781250009074, $17.99

Eight years ago the Assembly arrived and abducted almost every American adult. The new world order has the aliens controlling most of the country while human teen outlaw bands prey on the struggling survivors, mostly young children.

In this nightmarish landscape, persistent bounty hunter Holt Hawkins and his partner Max the dog hunt fugitive Mira Toombs while eluding the Assembly patrols and the teen gangs. As the diligent pair locates Toombs, they become distracted with the need to rescue Zoey, who the Assembly covets for her magical skills. The unlikely quartet heads to Midnight City; seeking to find out who Zoey is and why the Assembly want her.

Midnight City is an enjoyable young adult post-apocalyptic thriller starring likable protagonists. The storyline is fast-paced, but goes down the anticipated path of the Tuckman's Model of Group Development, betrayals and hostile enemies everywhere in pursuit. Still this is a fun fast-paced novel.

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet
Darynda Jones
St. Martin's
9781250014467, $24.99

PI grim reaper Charlotte "Charley" Davidson takes a time out after her last case ended in the cesspool. She has spent several wallowing months not dealing with her feeling like a burned out loser.

A desperate Harper Lowell arrives at Charley's home pleading with the sleuth to help her. Harper explains that someone wants her dead and her family and friends insist no one is out to get her; they believe she is paranoid. Though the circumstantial evidence supports the assertion that Harper is insane, Charley senses the woman is telling the truth though if she is mad she could confuse reality and fiction. As Charley looks into her clients claim, she also struggles with her feelings for Reyes "Son of Satan" Farrow, who she kicked out of her life yet also seems to be involved in the Albuquerque arson fiasco.

The latest Charley Davidson urban fantasy (see Third Grave Dead Ahead) is an amusing exciting thriller though the overarching theme barely moves forward. Charley is at her grim irreverent best while Reyes lings in her head and other body parts. Fast-paced fans of the series will enjoy Charley's fourth grave and grim tale while hoping a fifth of Davidson accelerates the apparent upcoming celestial war.

Grace Grows
Shelle Sumners
St. Martin's Griffin
9781250003508, $14.99

In New York until Day Zero, prime and proper textbook editor Grace Barnum led a tedious life. On the job she dealt with pompous know it all demands to remove key passages from books by acting almost mousy and at home she and her perfectly boring boyfriend Steven never change routines.

On Day Zero, Grace's totally predictable lifestyle abruptly and unexpectedly is nuked at a time she dressed out of character looking like a call girl when she and wannabe singer Tyler Wilkie meet. They forge a platonic friendship with Grace rejecting her feelings for her new buddy yet she also hides her friendship from Steven as if she was misbehaving. However, Grace becomes frightened when she learns the lyrics to Tyler's songs focus on his feelings towards her as she cannot do that leap of faith to trust his and her love.

Grace Grows is an engaging contemporary romance starring an obstinate editor, a patient singer and a nice boyfriend. The coming of age storyline leisurely moves forward as Grace Grows emotionally. Though a key decision made by Grace seems inanely immature, readers will enjoy this well written character study.

P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312594428, $18.99

After the major disappointment that the Vampyre High Council failed her and her friends when they allowed Neferet to return as the High Priestess at Tulsa's House of Night, teenager Zoey Redbird felt alone. However she now has mixed feelings as she feels great that her evil enemy has been exposed, but deeply mourns the loss of her mother to the Darkness, and the death of Dragon killed by the Aurox (see Destined). Thanatos is currently High Priestess at Tulsa's House of Night. Zoey feels she will finally have time to grieve.

Raging Neferet refuses to vanish into the darkness. She deploys a brilliant stratagem to turn the human populace of Tulsa and the House of Night School residents into enemies. Realizing what the evil one has wrought, Zoey delays her mourning to battle her insidious adversary and to calm the frightened humans before a deadly incident becomes the point of no return.

Hidden begins a different relational dynamic in the exhilarating House of Night urban fantasy as Neferet has lost power and Zoey has gained some with the exposure. Rotating viewpoints, this strong pivotal entry enables readers to understand better what makes key cast members tick in a free will cosmos. Cast to the second power provides a terrific taut thriller as major chaotic change has come to Tulsa.

The Elementals
Francesca Lia Block
St. Martin's
9781250005496, $24.99

Her parents inform Ariel that her BFF Jeni never returned from a visit to University of California at Berkeley. Ariel decides to attend Berkeley in order to learn what happened to Jeni. Before leaving for the Bay area school, her parents tell Ariel that her mom has a tumor, but insist she is okay so they want their daughter to attend Berkeley.

One year ago Jeni vanished as Ariel searches for her. At a Halloween bash at the House of Eidolon, the lonely freshman meets three bewitching grad students (Perry, John and Tania). They name her Sylph and soon have her joining their circle of sex, drugs, and talks of magic. Ariel falls in love with John and forgets about her quest to learn what happened to Jeni until she realizes her three new friends seem to know what befell her BFF.

This fast-paced thriller turns college stereotypes into extremely dark versions. Hooked just like Ariel is, readers will wonder what next will happen to the heroine and who are her three new buddies and several other enigmatic individuals while also wondering if Ariel follows a path previously paved by Jeni.

Allison Brennan
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250005960, $7.99,

Lucy Kincaid is excited over finally being accepted to attend the FBI Academy. Though she knows her work on crimes especially the Cinderella Strangler case (see Kiss Me, Kill Me) were a major reason she was accepted by the Feds, she hopes her resume does not prove a distractor.

In New York City someone murders true-crime writer Rosemary Weber. The author's last incomplete work was the Cinderella Strangler case. FBI agent Suzanne Madeaux who worked that investigation tells Lucy of Weber's murder. Lucy's FBI mentor Tony Presidio brings her onto the NYC case as he believes the Weber murder ties back to a cold case killing of a young girl over ten years ago. Lucy's boyfriend RCK East private investigator Sean Rogan helps her only a death in Quantico stuns the FBI as the killer is one of them.

The latest Lucy Kincaid investigative thriller (see If I Should Die) is a fast-paced taut suspense as deaths in Manhattan and in Quantico have everyone including readers shocked and on edge. The fast-paced storyline grips the audience throughout as Lucy feels Stalked by a lethal adversary in what she thought was the safest place in the world.

A Drop of Chinese Blood
James Church
9780312550639, $24.99

Near the North Koran and Russian borders, Ministry of State Security chief of the Yanji Sector/Special Bureau (YS/SB) Major Bing is a legend back in Beijing headquarters as he has remained in charge for seven years when the betting line had been under a year. He knows his career is over as his success in the desolate region means he can never leave. Currently he lives with his highly regarded uncle Inspector O (see The Man with the Baltic Stare) though their relationship is an odd respectful and affectionate discord.

Beautiful Fang Mei-lin arrives at their home seeking the assistance of Inspector O. Almost immediately after she left their home, she crosses the Tumen River into North Korea. Her pleading and subsequent vanishing force a hesitant Bing, accompanied by his even more reluctant uncle, to travel to North Korea in search of a missing Chinese official.

This is a terrific Inspector O spin off series that has the brilliant sleuth working with his nephew as the pair head into the older relative's homeland. The storyline is fast-paced with a fabulous dangerous inquiry enhanced by an exorbitant sense of deep rooted paranoia that permeates everyone in the region as even the Intel crowd know the criticality of adhering to Sergeant Shultz's (Hogan's Heroes) survival philosophy: "I see NOTHING! I know NOTHING!"

Rick Gavin
9781250015228, $24.99

After taking $300,000 from a crazy Acadian meth dealer, (see Ranchero), former cop Nick Reid and his partner Desmond seek a less risky investment. Ex-convict Larry "Beluga LaMonte" Carothers, brother of one of Desmond's previous girlfriends Shawnica, offers the pair a once in a lifetime lucrative investment opportunity that neither best friends can resist though the source is shaky at best.

Beluga LaMonte tells the two buddies that there is a truckload of stolen Michelin tires. Give him 30K and he will steal the load from the thieves and arrange a quick fire sale. However, what Beluga LaMonte fails to inform Reid and Desmond is that gentleman Lucas Shambrough is the kingpin of the original robbery; he takes no prisoners when he feels butt slapped. He assigns his mistress costumed schoolgirl Alice Marie Fennick AKA Mako and Isis to destroy the repo thieves. Choctaw-African-American cop Tula Raintree wants to handcuff Nick who would appreciate it in her boudoir but that is not where she intends to lock him away.

This is a zany violent Mississippi Delta crime caper starring two lunatics (who make Hackman and Ackroyd seem normal in the movie Loose Cannons) and a horde of even crazier friends who are more foes, and enemies. Fast-paced, fans who enjoy an over the top of Woodall Mountain thriller will appreciate this wild commodities war.

A Small Hill To Die On
Elizabeth J. Duncan
9781250008244, $24.99

The Nailz chain of nail bars and tanning salons owner Mai Grimstead opens up a new spa in Llanelen, Wales. She and her family move into Ty Brith Hall. Asian Mai informs her competitors Penny Brannigan and Victoria Hopkirk, owners of Llanelen Spa, of her grand opening as a courtesy.

While Victoria is away, Penny notices that Mai seems to be making much more money than her yet has many fewer customers. On a wintry stroll, Penny finds the corpse of a teenager whose snakeskin manicure she recognizes. Though her boyfriend Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies tells her not to get involved, Penny investigates the homicide.

The latest Penny Brannigan Welsh cozy (see A Killer's Christmas in Wales) is an engaging mystery though the Canadian expatriate protagonist's reason for investigating is weak and improbable. Still the storyline is fun especially the reaction of the townsfolk to the Vietnamese family residing in their town as Penny knows first-hand as she is a somewhat accepted outsider.

Sacrifice Fly
Tim O'Mara
9781250008985, $24.99

Former Brooklyn cop Raymond Donne left the force five years ago due to a leg injury that still bothers him. Since leaving NYPD, Raymond became a middle schoolteacher. Currently he is very concerned about fourteen year old student Frankie "Lefty" Rivas, a baseball team pitcher who has failed to come to school in almost two weeks.

Thus he heads to Clemente Plaza in Williamsburg where Frankie and his younger sister Milagros live with their grandmother Matilda Santos. He fails to see any of them as no one answers his knock on their apartment door. Instead Raymond finds the corpse of the father of the two siblings Francisco while the kids are missing. NYPD Detective Royce gives the murder and missing children case little attention so Ray investigates hoping to find Frankie and Milagros safe; not expecting to place his family in jeopardy and he kidnapped.

Conflicted Ray (to be a cop or not be a cop that is his question) brings freshness to the storyline as he diligently works the mean streets of Brooklyn and the dangerous roads of Upstate New York in an effort to rescue the children. The storyline is fast-paced and filled with action while containing a cast of mostly Brooklyn eccentric shtick. However this is Ray's investigation as he takes a bruising but keeps on cruising.

The Snow White Christmas Cookie
David Handler
9781250004543, $26.99

Two back to back blizzards have buried much of Connecticut in snow with no relief in sight as a third snowstorm is coming. Although affluent Dorset looks like a Norman Rockwell painting, the storekeepers are concerned as annually this is their best retail season, but no one is out shopping. However, someone is making the rounds as expensive Ugg boots are taken, and mail-order drug prescription packages and holiday tips left for mail carriers are being stolen from the mailboxes. Making matters worse are two apparent suicides; as Bryce leaves a note while taking an overdose and mail carrier Hank dies from carbon monoxide poisoning after tying a hose to his car's tailpipe.

Connecticut State trooper Desiree Mitry investigates as do an alphabet horde of law enforcement types from the USPS, FBI and DEA. They forge a task force that makes the Keystone Cops look competent. With her lover film critic Mitch Berger assisting her, Des ties Josie Cantro the life coach to both suicide victims. However complicating matters for Des is Mitch goes missing.

The latest Berger and Mitry Mystery (see The Blood Red Indian Summer) is a wonderful though overly complicated whodunit as the snow has everyone going stir crazy except for a few criminals. Berger's wry commentary on movies as always are fun while his Hanukkah bush decor reminds me of my spouse's "Hanukkah bush." Fans of the series will enjoy The Snow White Christmas Cookie.

The Paris Deadline
Max Byrd
Turner Publishing Company
200 - 4th Avenue North, Suite 950
Nashville, TN 37219
9781618580122, $27.95,

In 1926, Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Toby Keats is stationed in Paris though being in France serves as a reminder of serving as a tunneler corps underground bomber in what only idiots in the home front called the misnamed "Great War". With the murder of septuagenarian automate dealer Patrice Bassot, Toby gains possession of the eighteenth-century notorious Vaucanson's digesting duck automaton that even Voltaire admired.

However holding on to Vaucanson's duck even one that may be a Houdini fake proves difficult as many people covet the automaton. A banker and Elsie Short of the Thomas Edison Doll Company want to buy it. Meanwhile war traffickers also desire owning the gizmo because these profiteers believe they can duplicate the inner mechanisms of Vaucanson's duck to produce weapons for Germany.

The Paris Deadline deftly uses the real "digesting Duck" as created by automata inventor Jacque de Vaucanson as the underlying cause for this entertaining historical suspense thriller. The support cast including the duck is solid while the hero keeps the tale focused. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy Max Byrd's exhilarating ode to Paris between the wars.

The Recruit
Monica McCarty
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780345528414, $7.99,

In 1306 Northumberland, King Edward hunts Lord Atholl while his wife Mary worries about him and their young son David, a hostage of the English monarch. The English take Mary prisoner. For three years ignored by King Edward, she learns little about her son and nothing about her missing sister; her husband is dead. Finally Edward orders her to go to Scotland on a truce negotiation and to spy.

Kenneth Sutherland wants to join King Bruce's Highland Guard but his temper and his brother-in-law MacKay keeps him out. Bruce wants Kenneth married soonest. At the Highland Games that he is winning Kenneth has a tryst with Mary. The next morning she returns to England.

Kenneth joins the Guard. Bruce assigns Kenneth to pretend loyalty to Edward so they can learn where he will invade. Kenneth arrives at Henry Lord Percy's castle where he provides information on a raid of a supply run. Kenneth is stunned to see Mary here and learns her son David is Sir John Felton's squire. He leads Felton on an attack of the Guard in which he saves David's life while the Scots escape. Kenneth kisses Mary and realizes she is carrying his child. He insists they marry and that he will become David's guardian while Felton plans to kill Kenneth.

The latest Highland Guard medieval romance (see The Saint, The Viper, The Ranger, The Hawk, and The Chief) stars an interesting lead pair and a solid Scottish support cast; on the other hand the English are one-dimensional villains. Although Mary's distrust of Kenneth seems overly done, fans will enjoy this entreating historical filled with danger, intrigue and love.

A Christmas Garland
Anne Perry
9780345530745, $18.00

In 1857, as a rebellion sweeps across India, Colonel Latimer assigns newcomer Lieutenant Victor Narraway with an unpleasant assignment. He is to defend British medical orderly Corporal John Tallis for abetting the escape of a Sikh prisoner Dhuleep Singh that led to the murder of a guard Cutter Singh and other deaths. With the recent Siege of Cawnpore on everyone's mind and the deaths of comrades, the garrison occupants demand execution immediately.

Narraway assumes his defense of Tallis is a meaningless check the box formality as he expects his "client" to hang. However, Narraway realizes there is no physical proof or an eyewitness tying Tallis to the murders. In fact the evidence is indirect as he is the only soldier who apparently has no alibi. Though his comrades warn him to do nothing, Narroway, encouraged by a widow and her children, investigates what really happened.

The latest annual Perry Christmas treat (see A Christmas Homecoming, A Christmas Odyssey, A Christmas Promise, A Christmas Grace, and A Christmas Beginning) is a terrific Victorian era legal thriller. The background of a rebellious India enhances the tale as the protagonist begins to believe his client is innocent while almost everyone else demands a scapegoat. However, believing in the innocence is not the same as proving it as Narraway learns; yet he finds hope to have a Happy Christmas if he can prevent a travesty of justice.

An Amish Gift
Cynthia Keller
9780345538130, $16.00

When Shep Davis lost his job, he, his wife Jennie, their two teenage children (Tim and Willa) and Scout the dog move to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where the family patriarch inherited a home and a bicycle shop. The Davis brood looks at the relocation as a fresh beginning as they reside among the Amish.

However, in spite of starting over tensions remain stratospheric between the parents. Jennie becomes friends with her Amish neighbor Mattie Fisher as they share brisk walks. Mattie's optimism even when life seems most dire lifts Jennie's spirits while a Tim comment inspires his mom to start a candy business. Instead of abating the tension, her success and his struggles lead to more intense arguments as Christmas arrives along with a special visitor who brings hope.

This is an engaging family drama that looks deep into how people deal differently with adversity especially when their loving relationships fracture. Character driven, fans will enjoy this entertaining holiday fable as Jennie and Shep receive a wonderful Amish Gift of friendship.

An Amish Holiday
Cynthia Keller
9780345528766, $14.00

"An Amish Christmas." James Hobart makes a lot of money so that he, his stay at home wife Meg and their three kids (teenagers Lizzie and Will and tweener Sam) live in luxury beyond what he brings in. When he makes several bad investment decisions after being fired, the family's finances collapses. Swinging between self-debasing and denial James faces irate Meg who blames him for their tsuris, argumentative spoiled teens, fearful Sam and scornful relatives. Adding to their woes is an accident in Pennsylvania as the five were moving to upstate New York. Stranded the Lutz family welcomes them into their Amish home. This is an engaging reprint of a holiday tale that compares internal relationships between a selfish materialistic family to that of a nurturing caring family.

"A Plain and Fancy Christmas." Gil and pregnant Nina Lawrence were traveling through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania when she went into labor. She gave birth to her daughter Ellie before the trio continued on to New York. Also in the hospital giving birth is Amish Leah King who with her husband Isaac name their child Rachel. Nurse Violet Thompson realized her husband the physician mixed up the babies. Over three decades later, a dying Violet tells the families of the error. Both are hesitant about meeting their biological parents. Although switched at birth is not a new premise, Cynthia Keller provides an interesting spin to the nurturing vs. naturing debate with the cultural differences between the two families in this reprint.

Jacquelyn Frank
9780345517692, $7.99

In Saugerties, New York, while talking to her brother Jackson, Docia Waverley walks across a bridge over where the Esopus River meets the Hudson. Suddenly a passenger in an SUV pushes her over the railing. An annoying voice in her head welcomes her to the Ether by giving her a choice between her death and returning to earth but sharing her body with the voice. Docia accepts the terms of her Egyptian hostess.

Simone wants Docia dead and that person sends killers to finish the job. A stranger Ram saves her life, but confuses her when he welcomes her as his returning Queen. However though sworn to protect her and his best friend the king, Ram's two souls want Docia's two souls even as an ancient war remains heated.

The first World of the Nightwalkers romantic urban fantasy is a terrific expansion of Jacquelyn Frank's mythos with the introduction of a new species. The Bodywalkers forge beneficial partnerships with dying mortals that enable each to survive. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment the heroine is shoved from the bridge and never slows down as readers learn of the ancient hostilities and meet the Bodywalkers.

Shiloh Walker
9780345531902, $7.99

Shay Morgan survived a brutal childhood that turned her into a recluse. She moved to Earth's End, Alaska to be as far away from her tormentor and becomes a hermitic writer who uses electrons when she has to reach someone. To even her shock, she had a boyfriend, village bookstore owner Elliot Winter, but he ended it a month ago when she refused to tell him her darkest secrets.

Shay becomes the victim of identity theft as someone using her name has done book signings, stared a blog and Facebook page. That individual fired Shay's agent and accuses Elliot of rape. Having seen his military career destroyed by false accusations, Elliot will not allow deja vu to occur again if he can end the lies. He believes Shay when she says she did not accuse him, but she hesitates to tell him about her nightmarish childhood although she knows they must team up to end the insidious assault.

This is an exciting psychological romantic suspense starring two flawed individuals; each carrying the weight of the past on their respective souls as neither is very trusting. The identity theft is brilliantly achieved as few know what the recluse looks like as she does everything remotely. Shiloh Walker provides a taut thriller that will have fans reconsidering on line activity requiring personal information.

Angels at the Table
Debbie Macomber
9780345528872, $18.00

Three angelic amigas (Shirley, Goodness and Mercy) and their apprentice Will visit the in-spot Times Square on New Year's Eve to enjoy the festivities. As the Big Apple countdown winds down, Will notices two lonely people. Though he knows rule number on in the guardian angel handbook states no interference with humans, Will feels these two are made for each other; so he cause a slight bumping between Lucie Farrara and Aren Fairchild. At midnight Lucie and Aren kiss stunning both of them. However, whether the time was wrong or some other reason, the wannabe chef and the food critic go their separate ways.

Months pass with the couple remembering that enchanted midnight moment but never expect lightning to strike twice. Meanwhile the three bungling matchmaking angels try to rectify the inept rookie's mistake, but each effort they make to correct the problem only sends Lucie and Aren further apart; as a universal law they seem unable to overcome is that a chef and a critic are like oil and water even when love binds them.

The latest Shirley, Goodness and Mercy holiday romantic fantasy is an entertaining lighthearted Christmas tale. Filled with humor, fans will enjoy the wonderful Angels at the Table even if the thin storyline follows the narrow path of least resistance that readers anticipate.

Lola's Secret
Monica McInerney
9780345534033, $15.00

In Clare Valley, Australia eighty-four year old family matriarch Lola Quinlan decides she wants to do something different and special for Christmas. Having success four years ago in ending the estrangement of her daughters, the Alphabet sisters; Lola conceals her plan from her extended family while encouraging three generations of descendants to spend the upcoming holidays with what they want to do and not worry about her.

Lola advertises for seven strangers to spend Christmas at the motel where she resides owned by Jim and Geraldine. As her family leave, people in need respond to her ad. Lola wonders how her little holiday fable will end for the magnificent seven; clueless to the impact on her.

Lola's Secret is an entertaining Australian holiday drama starring a feisty senior citizen and a strong support cast although the background of Christmas in summer never comes across. The cast is solid while the storyline is in two parts: the family scrambling and the strangers going through the Tuckman Group stages. Fans will enjoy this engaging tale as Damn Yankees says: "whatever Lola wants Lola gets" proves you are never too old to learn.

A Simple Autumn
Rosalind Lauer
9780345526755, $15.00

In Lancaster County, Jonah King hopes to have a life with Annie Stoltzfus. He has loved her since he was a child but she remains infatuated with his older brother Adam as she has since she was a child though his sibling is engaged to marry Remy McCallister (see A Simple Winter). Hoping to finally get his beloved Annie to notice him, a desperate Jonah begins working at her family farm.

Jonah's sibling Gabe loves schoolteacher Emma Lapp, who reciprocates his feelings. However, she refuses to allow anyone to see them together due to his wild rumspringa. While his behavior breaks her heart, she needs to understand his need; neither seems capable of taking a step towards the other.

The third warm Seasons of Lancaster King family drama (see A Simple Winter and A Simple Spring) contains two engaging Amish romances. Although the siblings' path to true love goes as expected, fans will enjoy the trek each takes.

Cricket Maiden
Algenes Edmund Dantes
GM Publishing
9781467947879, $35.00,

In 1810 Bangalore, the annual Colonial Championship cricket final between the East India Company XI and Deccan XI is fixed by bookman Cashman to insure the latter wins. However, Lord Gregory gives the star of the East India team Hughie Dawson the "Enchanted Willow" magic bat which he uses to win the match for his company. Immediately following the match, Hughes becomes engaged to Dame Andalusia. Following that, Cashman and Hughie's teammate Lord Clarkson assault them killing Andalusia.

Two centuries later, the affluent Dawson siblings arrange a three-match Twenty-Twenty series between Amateurs XI and Professional XI teams. Covering the matches for Evening Chronicles is six foot fashion reporter Amelia Kanowski who knows nothing about the sport. Everyone is shocked when the amateurs led by Captain Chris Dawson wins the first match. However that night someone murders the coach of the Amateur team with bet fixers the most likely suspects. The team's star batsman Amay Indulkar loses his form and the second match. While detectives Landon Beau and Bob Davidson investigate the homicide, the cricket world-wide search for the missing "Enchanted Willow" continues.

This is an entertaining but odd good and evil sports drama that focuses on cricket as a mystical way of life by its worldwide fans and most players at the same time betters buy players to throw the match. The well written storyline contains romance, mystery, fantasy, bet fixing and cricket, but I personally had problems with terms and rules (glossary would have helped), which distracted from the tale. Still Algenes Edmund Dantes targets cricket fans, who will appreciate the spiritual enlightenment that the author brings to the sport.

Black City
Elizabeth Richards
Putnam Juvenile
c/o Penguin Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, 15th floor
New York, NY 10014
9780399159435, $17.99,

The horrific war in Black City left the humans and the Darklings devastated. Each side blames the other for atrocities as hostilities remain stratospheric even with a high wall separating the enemy races.

Sixteen-year-old Ash Fisher the hybrid Half-Darkling and Natalie Buchanan the human meet and fall in love. Their star-crossed love is the number one taboo of the humans. Making matters worse for the couple is Natalie is the daughter of a murdered sentry (by a Darkling) and a high government Emissary; Ash possesses a realistic outlook of being a condemned pariah unaccepted or welcomed by both of his races even his human father hesitates as he knows firsthand the cost of a hybrid offspring. Each knows their forbidden relationship means state execution, but neither wants to deny how they feel.

The first Black City Chronicles is a dark romantic thriller set in a world still reeling from a terrible war that settled nothing. Though the plot can slow down at times, readers will appreciate this engaging character driven, tale as the lead teens know as star-crossed lovers their execution is imminent but each feels every moment together is worth the consequences as both expect to be caught.

The Bone Bed
Patricia Cornwell
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157561, $28.95,

In the Wapiti Bone Bed in the Peace Region of Alberta, paleontologist Emma Shubert vanishes. The only evidence of the fortyish woman disappearing is an email sent to Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta at the Cambridge Forensic Center in which the victim's ear is severed. Scarpetta assumes someone taunts her while the University of Alberta bone digger is probably dead.

She is also overworked as she testifies in the Channing Lott murder trial and identifies mummified remains found in Boston Harbor before the decay sets in; delaying her is safely removing endangered species leatherback turtle. Finally her niece Lucy Farinelli, her FBI forensic psychologist husband Benton Wesley and her top investigator, Pete Marino have their own issues.

This is an exciting Scarpetta forensic thriller (see Red Mist) with much of the opening chapters devoted to what is happening to the heroine and her inner circle. The storyline accelerates with the thrills stratospheric in the latter half as the cases tie together though improbable. Fans will appreciate this exhilarating tale as Scarpetta works a dangerous inquiry against a diabolical murderer while feeling she is on her own.

The Trial of Fallen Angels
James Kimmel, Jr.
Amy Einhorn Books
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780399159695, $23.95,

Brek Abigail Cuttler arrives at abandoned Shemaya Train Station bloody and is somewhat confused about how she got here and what her ten month old daughter Sarah looks like. Luas arrives to inform her that she died when she stopped to pick up milk. The lawyer thinks he is her first legal mentor the late Bill Gwynne. She rejects the notion that she is dead though she misses her child and her spouse Bo.

He escorts her to her to her beloved deceased Nana's house to prepare her for her afterlife as a defense attorney for souls going before the all mighty Judge. Nana tells her granddaughter that the souls she meets will help her deal with what happened to her on the mortal plane and prepare her to continue her celestial journey. Brek begins her passionate defense of her clients but wonders whether one can receive a fair trial without a jury of your peers when God is sitting in judgment and oversees the procedures.

This exciting allegorical tale uses the Albert Brooks' "Defending Your Life" premise enhanced by God sitting in judgment of the souls before the celestial bench. The storyline engages the reader while Brek keeps the plot focused as she raises questions of fair play, redemption and forgiveness. Although the key celestial cast is underdeveloped, fans will enjoy Brek's look at most people who are saint and sinner as she appeals that the judgmental procedures are biased towards the wicked deeds superseding the good ones.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Death Unmasked
Rick Sulik
Itoh Press
9780988233317, 13.99,

In this paranormal thriller, the author weaves an intriguing tale of reincarnated love and hate, past and present, pain and triumph, good and evil. In an era reminiscent of Europe in World War Two, Emil and Laura are viciously murdered by a ruthless tyrant. Their quiet lives and devoted love are cruelly snuffed out and Emil is helpless to protect his beautiful Laura. As he watches Laura die and awaits his own death, Emil believes they will be together again, somewhere in time.....

In present day Houston, Homicide Detective Sean Jamison struggles to maintain his focus while investigating a series of brutal murders. Each victim has a lock of hair removed, and at each scene the serial killer leaves a cryptic message: "Yet each man kills the thing he loves."

Jamison is aging but still physically fit, a world weary old school gentleman with a strong moral code. His fellow detectives admire and respect Jamison, but worry that he's lost his sharp edge. He's always been a tenacious investigator, a tough adversary of evil-doers. Lately, Jamison has also begun to doubt himself. The buried memories of a past life haunt his waking and sleeping hours until smoke from a factory fire and the sight of a tattered coat bring a startling truth. Jamison knows he was Emil in a past life, knows his Laura is alive and waiting somewhere in the Houston area and knows a stalking evil from the past is the serial killer he seeks.

The reincarnated monster killed Laura once and is saving her for his last victim before leaving Houston. He knows who she is and where she lives. Jamison also locates his Laura and is determined that in this life, evil will not prevail. Can Jamison and his fellow detectives find and capture their prey before history repeats itself? Is Jamison's belief in reincarnation and love that transcends time a reality or the imaginings of a lonely, tortured mind? And if we all wait long enough, will goodness and justice overcome chaos and evil?

You'll have to read the book to find the answers to those questions. Sean Jamison is a fascinating protagonist, supported by a cast of secondary characters with well-developed strengths and personalities. The serial killer is a hair raising entity, the kind good cops everywhere dread. And the police work here is realistically portrayed because the author is a Texas cop. Gritty realism, timeless love and good versus evil: Sulik tackles these themes with explosive results in Death Unmasked.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

The Best of Christmas
Jonathon Robbins, arranger
Santorella Publications
13 Pleasant Avenue, Danvers, MA 01923
TS267 $14.95

"The Best of Christmas: Big Note Songbook for Piano" is a fun collection of 27 well-known holiday pop songs arranged and printed with big notes for young pianists. Arrangements are of easy to intermediate levels of difficulty, preserving the complexity of each song but presenting in a simplified form, very clear and easy to read. Although this is a collection for young pianists, it is not a beginner's book, but more like a second to third year level. Popular songs such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jingle Bells, Up On The Housetop, and Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree are combined with old classics such as O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, and Away in a Manger. Perfect for holiday home performance and public recitals, "The Best of Christmas" is sure to be well used by growing keyboard performers in the coming Advent season. Also recommended are the following holiday music publications for keyboard, vocal, and instrumental performers: "Christmas Treasures, Piano Duets, One Piano Four Hands," arranged by Kirk Whipple & Marilyn Morales (book and CD, TS168, $16.95), "The Best of Christmas Piano Vocal Songbook," arranged by Jonathon Robbins (TS268, $14.95), "Santa's Little Helper Christmas Songbook Accompaniment for Instrumental Series," arranged by Tony Santorella (TS 170, $9.95), "The Best of Christmas Easy Piano Songbook," arranged and performed by Craig Stevens (TS264, $14.95), and "Traditional Christmas Standards For Easy Tri-Chord Piano," (TS300, $9.95).

A Cappella Arranging
Deke Sharon and Dylan Bell, authors
Hal Leonard Books
7777 West Bluemound Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781458416575 $29.99 973-337-5034, x 203

"A Cappella Arranging" is a concise, practical, guided curriculum for (sophisticated) vocal music arranging at all levels. Written by practiced professionals, the text is described as "structured to act as a kind of self-contained arranging course..." but it is accessible to beginning arrangers of all ages and music students and amateurs. Readers will profit most from the book's wisdom if they have a basic knowledge of music theory, basic notation skills, and simple piano skills. However, if some of these are lacking, supplementary resources are listed in the appendices that are helpful. "A Cappella Arranging" can be thought of as a self contained arranging course, but it can also be a reference tool. Since a capella is the oldest form of music (vocal), it has a long and varied history of different musical trends and traditions, that are also continuing to evolve. First in the vocal arranger's vocabulary is "Basic Arranging in 10 Steps," a condensation of the a capella arranging process.This is followed by 24 incredible creative chapters that build on the basic steps of vocal a cappella arranging to bring it to a high level of complexity. A highly practical instruction manual, "A Cappella Arranging" covers a multitude of thorny issues for vocal a cappella arrangers in a very compact, non -threatening format. One of the stand out chapters is Chapter 21, Specific A Cappella Styles: A "How-To History of A Cappella, covering vocal arranging history from classical music to gospel, including polyphony, chorales, barbershop, doo-wop, vocal jazz, and big band. The stellar teaching value of "A Cappella Arranging" is undeniable in this rapidly evolving profession. In addition, a number of helpful appendicdes include valuable information on other notable arrangers, recommended texts, online resources, and a glossary of terms. "A Cappella Arranging" belongs in every vocal music program, classroom, and also recording studio.

The Singer's Musical Theatre Anthology Volume 3, Duets, Various Voices
Richard Walters, compiler and editor
Hal Leonard
7777 W. Bluemound Rd.
P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
97814234 47153 $42.99

"The Singer's Musical Theatre Anthology, Volume 3, Duets for Various Voices" is an outstanding collection of classic musical theatre duets for two voices, some male female, some male, some female. A jewel in an award winning collection, Volume 3 contains duets such as 'Do You Love Me?' from "Fiddler On the Roof," 'Agony' from S. Sondheim's "Into the Woods," 'For Good' from "Wicked," 'A Boy Like That/I Have a Love' from Bernstein's "West Side Story," and 'I'm All Alone' from "Monty Python's Spamalot," and many more. Duets are sometimes challenging, sometimes charming, ranging from comic to dramatic and romantic in tone, always classic. The two CDs of accompaniment tracks make this anthology particularly useful to talented singers and performers everywhere. Long awaited and containing difficult- to -find editions of songs, "The Singer's Musical Theatre Anthology Volume 3 of Duets" brings the best of vocal performance material to the public for enjoyment.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Simple Wisdom Extraordinary Life
Teresa Rogers
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780557718085, $14.95,

Life's journey has many challenges, and best preparing oneself for it is essential. "Simple Wisdom Extraordinary Life" is an inspirational memoir from Teresa Rogers, who shares her wisdom for life that she hopes will help other women keep themselves through life, from associating oneself with others better, approaching situations with a touch of wisdom, and keeping oneself motivated. "Simple Wisdom Extraordinary Life" is a strong addition to general memoir and inspirational collections, highly recommended.

The Great Pyramid of Giza
Eckhart R. Schmitz
Privately Published
9780987957702, $18.95

Could the architecture behind the great pyramids hold untold secrets? "The Great Pyramid of Giza: Decoding the Measure of Monument" is a mathematical metaphysical delve into the design of the pyramid, trying to dig out the ancient knowledge that may rest in its design and its impact on the ideas of astronomy. With heavy mathematical analysis, "The Great Pyramid of Giza" is worth considering for those who want to look deeper into the construction of these monuments.

Lilly's Rooming House
E. E. Chernoby
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478719878, $11.95,

Humor is just letting the little things of life be known. "Lilly's Rooming House: Based on a True Story" is written in the style of a memoir, juxtaposing a bit of raw wisdom from day-to-day living and the rapport between a most eclectic and eccentric set of tenants. "Lilly's Rooming House" is insightful and enjoyable, and makes for fine leisure reading.

Douglas Schofield
Miwk Publishing
9781908630285, $12.99,

One does not take the job of an emergency surgeon without a drive to heal and save lives. "Succession" is a dramatic thriller set on the backdrop of the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997. Dr. Emma Parks, a surgeon facing a shit on the day of her funeral, is about to face her own string of tragedies, and struggles with her new discoveries, from the true nature of who she loved, to those who want to end her for unknown reasons. "Succession" is a riveting read that should prove hard to put down.

Adventures in the Land of Ketra
E. E. Ricardo
Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438914060, $14.99,

Technology becomes more and more prominent in today's society. "Adventures in the Land of Ketra" is a blend of science fiction aimed by E. E. Ricardo to help teach kids about technology while still encouraging a love of literature, by creating a tale surrounding the virtual land of Ketra. Sure to please many younger readers, "Adventures in the Land of Ketra" is well worth considering, recommended.

Doctor Bob
Lodewyk H. S. Van Mierop, MD
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432771294 $21.95,

To our dreams, there are many things we must overcome, no matter how unfair they seem. "Doctor Bob" is a memoir from Lodewyk H. S. Van Mierop, MD, or simply Doctor Bob as he calls himself, as he tells his story of facing internment by the Japanese during World War II, the first of many things that derailed his medical studies and career. Through immigration hell, he eventually lands himself in America, and gains success as a pediatric cardiologist. "Doctor Bob" is a moving read of always pursuing one's dreams no matter what.

The Accidental Senator
Dixie Swanson
Prose Publishing
c/o News & Experts
3478 Turman Loop, Suite 101
Wesley Chapel, FL 33544
9780983329305, $14.99,

What was meant to be a seat warming habit turns into a crusade against Washington. "The Accidental Senator" follows Abby Adams, a woman who agrees to fill in for her late sister in the Senate for the remainder of her term. Going to Washington though, her plan shifts, as she sees something worth fighting for while trying to manage her homelife as well. "The Accidental Senator" is a humorous and poignant look at family and politics, very much recommended reading. Also to be considered is the sequel, "The Accidental President"(9780983329312, $14.99), following Dr. Abby Adams as her place as senator and lightning striking a few times leaves her in the oval office.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

Art, Wine, & Bullets
Vinnie Hansen
Mainly Murder Publishing
1011 Bostwick Lane
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
9781890625191, $12.95 print / $3.99 Kindle

Vinnie Hansen is the author of numerous short stories, articles, and five prior Carol Sabala mysteries. She has been named a finalist in the Iowa School of Letters Award for Short Fiction. She lives in Santa Cruz, California with her husband, who is an artist.

PI Carol Sabala lives with her boyfriend, David, who is an aspiring photographer fighting to earn a place in various Santa Cruz gallery exhibits. Carol works at Sloan Investigations part time, which is a shaky enterprise run by an out-of-control alcoholic. She is also a baker at Archibald's, an upscale restaurant. She and David need some good luck. David has applied to Open Studios and is waiting for the jury process. They attend The Artist's Reception one week before the Open Studios exhibit, and the reader is introduced to a variety of artistic personalities before the dead body appears:

"'Ducky who?' Most of the artists had spit-polished their personas for the reception. One tall man with long hair had donned a black cape, ebony cane, and eye-patch, but this guy Ducky looked like he had not even combed his hair. He was neither dressed for the occasion, nor quite battered enough for the derelict, garret living, starving-artist image. Yet his arms flung wide and his fingers danced as he talked, and people congregated around him."

If one hasn't read any of Vinnie Hansen's prior books, it doesn't matter. Her writing style is like liquid poetry. Her characters rule the page, and the action moves smoothly from one scene to the next. Her murder victim is mum on the subject of just who the murderer is, foiling even the police. Carol Sabala is a gritty detective, who, though self-effacing, is no doubt beautiful and much more capable than she lets on. One can picture her equally at home dressed to the nines in a little black dress, then going home to change into her PI costume of black jeans, turtleneck, and black stocking cap to crawl around in whatever dark pits present themselves. Not to be outdone by a female PI, Ms. Hansen introduces us to Art Gorilla, a specialist in urban art, or graffiti, as it is known to most of us. Art and Carol's paths converge in a very interesting manner.

ART, WINE, & BULLETS is a delightful, appealing, and delectable read.

Hide and Seek
Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield
Kepler Press
PO Box 400326, Cambridge, MA 02140
9780971377073, $12.00,

Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield is an English Professor at Boston College, specializing in writing and literature. He has taught courses in detective fiction and love, among others. His definitive book is MEMOIRS OF A SHAPE SHIFTER, a Salem witch trial novel set in the Seventeenth Century. His newest effort is a comingling of Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code.

Young and handsome David Draper comes from old Boston money and society. He attends one of his Aunt Grace's Beacon Hill parties and meets a young actress named Melanie Carson, whom he madly pursues. Melanie is more polygamous in her taste for love, and David grows increasingly jealous and insecure. After a breakup, he blindly stumbles to her apartment with murder in mind, but doesn't quite remember what happened, only that she has been strangled with a rare rosary. After a few months, David feels he has eluded the police and is no longer a suspect:

"They took a DNA sample, of course, to compare with the sperm found inside Melanie. There was no match. Fingerprints found in addition to mine led the police nowhere. No one had been observed entering or leaving Melanie's apartment that night. An old Italian grandmother who lived downstairs said she heard voices but couldn't be sure whether that was from the TV. No witnesses placed me anywhere near the North End on Friday evening, and Mr. Doherty verified that I had come into his store after dark."

Is this the perfect murder? David thinks so until his sister Dorothy (Dots) invites him to a mystery weekend. David immediately notices several similarities between the make-believe corpse and his own lost love. Is this some elaborate plot to entrap David and turn him in to the authorities? Read this finely crafted, compelling mystery to find out! You won't be able to put it down.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Four Gospels of Jesus Christ
Designed and Produced by Michael Degnan
Gospel Comparative
9789935910103, $24.95,

I cannot tell you how many times I have switched around in my Bible to compare one passage to another. Often left feeling frustrated in my search. Mr. Degnan has created a Godsend in his new work, "Comparative," that you will use over and over again. Open it up and be amazed how the Gospels become clear and the information given in each merge to become a whole and bring much needed understanding.

Within the pages of this work you will be able to read and compare all four of the Gospels, told as our author states, as a narrative "story." I have read the Bible all my life, but still I would have to search to see what, if anything, Luke had to say about a subject that Matthew wrote of. At times that was confusing, time consuming, and frustrating, but no more. Our author has given us a much needed tool that will help us in our Devotional time.

Let me give you an example: On page 340 we have in Matthew the writing of Jesus explaining why they could not cast out a demon. On the same page and next page you can see what Mark and Luke had to say about the same subject. You could also see that there was no mention in the book of John. This allows you to see if what each says is the same, or adds more to the story, different details, or perhaps a total different outlook on what happened. This will definitely expand your knowledge and understanding of the Word of God.

I have to say this is an amazing work and one that I plan to keep with my Bible at all times and share with others. I am proud to highly recommend this book and encourage you to check it out. A wonderful Bible Companion.

Genesis 6 Giants
Stephen Quayle
End Time Thunder Pub
315 Edelweiss Drive, Boxeman, MT 59718
9780972134705, $40.00,

Let me start off this review by saying I am one of those people who feel we are in the Endtimes. Believing thus I am always searching for mysteries that are about to be revealed. The Bible often only gives us hints, a glimmer if you will into what the future holds for us. It can be scary, and exciting at the same time. I need to know.

Stephen Quayle is a man that I put trust in as far as seeking out information that is of interest to me. In this book, Genesis 6, he dives into the mystery of Giants and the likes. This is no small book but is packed full of information for the seeker. He has, just to name a few topics: Pre-Adamic Earth, Creation, and chapter after chapter on Giants and Angels. He gives you information from so many lands of people who have stories passed down of these Giants that roamed and ruled the land. He also includes pictures that will amaze you . He intertwines much of the information with the Bible which I found very interesting., and he gives you some room for thought, to make your own decision. It doesn't really seem there are too many places on our earth that these Giants did not live. My question, will we see them again or will these be reserved for after the church is Raptured? So many mysteries are ahead of us, so many unanswered questions. If you are a seeker like me, you will love this book. If you are a doubter of what was once and what is ahead you will dislike this book, or perhaps look at it as a fairy-tale. I think it's great and share it with all those that listen. Well done, Mr. Quayle.

The Admazing Adventures of Thomas and Erin with Granddad Van Gogh Museum
John Vasey
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477468708, $12.95,

I don't believe children are ever too young to be exposed to the finer things in life, as well as the simple things. In this new book by author, John Vasey, our two children Thomas and Erin, embark on an exciting adventure to Amsterdam. It is here that they visit the Van Gogh Museum and are able to see his talent in his beautiful art work. In its simple way, this story will help young children to notice paintings that are in their world, and hopefully appreciate their beauty. Another winner for Ms. Vasey, a delightful book for young children.

Ella the Pink Elephant: Her Life, Love and Fame
Doris Rueger
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781469937564, $9.13,

In this delightful tale we meet, Ella, a charming elephant. We are taken through Ella's life from an adorable baby, dressed in sweet baby costumes, to a grown, but still gentle adult. The reader will share with Ella the joy of bringing happiness to the young, grace and beauty to those about to start a life together as she brings elegance to their special day of marriage, and the comfort and peace as Ella begins her final journey in life and realizes she has made a difference. Ella understands and shares that understanding with the reader, that her memories and accomplishments, friendships, and love will remain with her for the rest of her life, and bring the peace and contentment she needs. The illustrations in this book in this book bring the story alive and I noticed something special. I was quite touched as I looked into the eyes and face of Ella, somehow it was as if the very picture spoke to the reader, well done. This is a wonderful story that will help young and old remember that life is a journey, one that often brings changes and moves us from one place to another. However, it is one that will fill us with memories that last a lifetime and that as we age these memories will wrap us in their arms as we live in the twilight of our life. Recommended.

Valley of Dust
Karoleen Vry Brucks
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477125342, $12.95,

This is the story of a young woman, one who was deprived of love and a family relationship in her life. It is the story of Selene. Selene's childhood held sad memories for her, from her lack of love from her father, to knowing she was different, but not understanding in what way. She had dreams, of a man who helped her, but who was this man?

Lucian, although keeping himself in the background at first, always knew he loved Selene, knew of her powers and knew they were destined to be together. The problem was she didn't have a clue on any of this. How would this work? As fate brings them together and Lucian saves her life from an attacker the bridge is built, Selene did not know the powers she possessed and how different she really was from the rest of the world. Nor did she know the love of Lucian, but through the story all of this was about to change.

To be honest, at first I did not think I would enjoy this book but as I kept on reading I found myself being pulled in the life of young Selene and the mystery that revolved around her. It is the story of two very different worlds merging together and the people who live them. You have the supernatural spinning its web with a tale all its own, relationships of love, hate and betrayal, characters of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and many unanswered questions lurking about the future. I would say this is the type of story that pulls you in before you even realize it. It grabs you and doesn't let go. Good job. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Love Calls and Roundelays
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432797690, $11.95,

I am one that enjoys poetry and I have to say that placing photos with these poems definitely enhanced my enjoyment. First, let me say that the poems could stand alone, touching the very core of each subject in different ways. Some were gentle, like a bubbling brook, others were telling in soft whispers, while others breathed forth the sorrow and sadness of living and dying. Each could stand alone, yet seemed to wrap themselves together and merge into a story of life.

I loved the photos, especially the one 'My Dog Shad,' and the poem that followed, especially the last line. I had to laugh. However, every picture told a story of its own, a piece of life in our ever changing world. They made you pause and think, if just for a moment, and at times they made me giggle. I especially liked "She Stoops to Peruse"...too funny. All in all this was a book that I truly enjoyed reading and 'seeing' and I am pleased to recommend it.

Shirley Priscilla Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Your Vote is Magic
Lyn Dillies
Lovebug Publishing
c/o Patricia Millman
9780615665306, $14.95,

Getting out the vote takes many shapes and sizes, and sometimes it takes magic to get it done. "Your Vote is Magic: How a Donkey, an Elephant, and an Illusionist Are Making Voters Appear" is illusionist Lyn Dillies is doing her part in encouraging the vote throughout the country with her entertaining shows throughout. "Your Vote is Magic" is a unique view at the encouragement of democracy throughout, well worth considering.

Doctor's Eyes Only
Tom Martin, Paul Larson, & Jeff Larson
Brockport & Schoolcraft
c/o Westwind Communications (publicity)
9780985368005, $34.95,

School is expensive, and the only way out of debt is to make sound financial decisions using your training. "Doctor's Eyes Only: Exclusive Financial Strategies for Today's Doctors and Dentists" is a personal finance guide from Tom Martin, Paul Larson & Jeff Larson as the three provide their expertise int heir chosen medical fields and how they maximized their incomes and decisions when pursuing their practice. From practical advice on finances to tricks for the field, "Doctor's Eyes Only" is worth considering for rookie medical professionals of any field.

Tear Down This Wall
Dale Ingraham
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432795924, $13.95,

The abuses of power that lead to Child abuse cannot be left to stand. "Tear Down This Wall" explores the crises facing many Christian communities surrounding child abuse and the pain that many face surrounding it, facing difficulties often from just coming out and letting the pain be known, to the pressures that lie beyond. For Christians and Christian leaders, "Tear Down This Wall" is an insightful and recommended pick for many Christians.

Lily the Silent
Tod Davies
Exterminating Angel Press
9781935259183, $14.95,

Sometimes our destiny is predetermined, and we have to risk it all to change it. "Lily the Silent: The History of Arcadia" is an original fantasy from Tod Davies, who tells the story of Lily, who has seen much of the lands of Arcadia where she may just become queen. But her choice is not between love and power...but between love, power...and her own free will. A novel that evaluates the purpose of self-determination in our lives, "Lily the Silent" is a riveting read with much to ponder and keep people reading.

Faithful Shadow
Kevin J. Howard
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432794354, $15.95,

A raging inferno is going to claim much life, and humans will be among those lost. "Faithful Shadow" follows Ranger Joe Rand as he is facing a tattered life and tries to piece it back together after years under the drink. When Yellowstone is consumed by a historic flame, he has to join the investigation as the fire blazes about a dead fireman, and his investigation leads him to things scarier than the fire devouring his beloved forest. "Faithful Shadow" is a novel of horror set amongst Yellowstone, very much recommended reading for genre fans.

Who's Talking Now?
Seymour Boorstein
Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456728298, $31.27,

Many of our problems fester even as we are unaware of their ultimate causes. "Who's Talking Now?: The Owl of the Crocodile" is a relationship guide from Seymour Boorstein, as he advises readers to better control their two minds, the clash between wisdom and our primitive lizard-like tendencies. Drawing from true life cases, Boorstein states how these two minds clash all the time and can occasionally make our push for better lives all the more difficult. "Who's Talking Now?" is illustrated and comes with a good dose of humor, and makes for a strongly recommended pick.

Prescription: Murder
William H. Simon
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781469788289, $12.95,

Being a bit too clever can make you unacceptable to some. "Prescription: Murder" is a novella omnibus from William H. Simon as he crafts a story of Ham Marks, an MD who is commonly called on as an expert witness. His credibility makes him a target, and the everyday orthopedist has violence aimed at him all too often, making him more involved in the crimes than he'd wish to be. "Prescription: Murder" is fun twist of medical thrillers and mystery, much recommended reading.

John Taylor

Vicki's Bookshelf

Dead City
James Ponti
1230 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781442441293, $16.99,

Author James Ponti's "Dead City" is a fresh, welcome addition to the paranormal action-adventure genre. Most kids have enough to deal with between school, homework, extracurricular activities, and friends, but Molly Bigelow has something else on her list: hunting zombies. By day, Molly attends MIST -- the Metropolitan Institute of Science and Technology -- but outside the classroom she's busy dealing with the undead. Because not only do zombies exist, they're everywhere, and it's her job to help police them and keep the peace. Sure, she'd like to be a regular kid, but given that her mother was the most revered (or feared, depending on your perspective) zombie hunter in the history of New York City, "regular" just isn't possible. Molly's got some legendary footsteps to follow -- and some undeadly consequences if she fails. "Dead City" is excellent reading for the impending zombie apocalypse.

Earthsea: The Farthest Shore
Ursula K. LeGuin
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781442459939, $16.99,

With millions of copies sold, Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle has earned a treasured place on the shelves of fantasy lovers everywhere. Complex, innovative, and deeply moral, this quintessential fantasy sequence has been compared with the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and has helped make Le Guin one of the most distinguished fantasy and science fiction writers of all time. Darkness threatens to overtake Earthsea in this reissued edition of book three in Ursula K. LeGuin's modern classic fantasy series. As the world and its wizards are losing their magic, Ged -- powerful Archmage, wizard, and dragonlord -- embarks on a sailing journey with highborn young prince, Arren. They travel far beyond the realm of death to discover the cause of these evil disturbances and to restore magic to a land desperately thirsty for it. A young prince joins forces with a master wizard on a journey to discover a cause and remedy for the loss of magic in Earthsea. Young adult fantasy book fans would be wise to catch up with this satisfying series.

Earthsea: Tehanu
Ursula K. LeGuin
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781442459960, $16.99,

"Tehanu" is book four in Ursula K. LeGuin's beloved "Earthsea" fantasy series, newly reissued in hardback editions. Years before, they had escaped together from the sinister Tombs of Atuan -- she, an isolated young priestess, he, a powerful wizard. Now she is a farmer's widow, having chosen for herself the simple pleasures of an ordinary life. And he is a broken old man, mourning the powers lost to him not by choice. A lifetime ago, they helped each other at a time of darkness and danger. Now they must join forces again, to help another - the physically and emotionally scarred child whose own destiny remains to be revealed. When Sparrowhawk, the Archmage of Earthsea, returns from the dark land stripped of his magic powers, he finds refuge with the aging widow Tenar and a crippled girl child who carries an unknown destiny.

The Guardians
William Joyce
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781442474253, $44.99,

This boxed set of the first three Guardians books is the perfect companion to the Rise of the Guardians movie!

Of course you know the Guardians. You've known them since before you can remember and you'll know them till your memories are like twilight: Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the others. But where did they come from? How did they become beloved and worthy of holidays? And what nefarious evildoer prompts them to band together and protect the children of the world? Answers are revealed and imaginations unfurl in this this treasure trove of a boxed set. Both a standalone collectible and the ideal complement to the mesmerizing Dreamworks Animation movie "The Rise of the Guardians," this set includes the first three titles in the Guardians chapter book series: "Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King," "E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core!" and "Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies."

Dearly, Beloved
Lia Habel
Ballantine Books/Del Rey
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345523341, $16.99,

Can the living coexist with the living dead? That's the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as "The Laz" hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reason, and control their ravenous new appetites. Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety. Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grow between pro- and anti-zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-commando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and The Murder, a masked squad of urban guerrillas hell-bent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren't the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder's crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target. As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora's scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of "The Laz" and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the illness -- and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse. Author Lia Habel's spellbinding, suspenseful sequel to "Dearly, Departed" takes her imaginative mash-up of period romance, futuristic thriller, and zombie drama to a whole new level of innovative and irresistible storytelling.

Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls
Mary Downing Hahn
Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin
251 Park Avenue South, NY NY 10003
9780547760629, $16.99,

Based on an actual crime in 1955, this YA novel is at once a mystery and a coming-of-age story. The brutal murder of two teenage girls on the last day of Nora Cunningham's junior year in high school throws Nora into turmoil. Her certainties -- friendships, religion, her prudence, her resolve to find a boyfriend taller than she is -- are shaken or cast off altogether. Most people in Elmgrove, Maryland, share the comforting conviction that Buddy Novak, who had every reason to want his ex-girlfriend dead, is responsible for the killings. Nora agrees at first, then begins to doubt Buddy's guilt, and finally comes to believe him innocent -- the lone dissenting voice in Elmgrove. Told from several different perspectives, including that of the murderer, "Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls" is a suspenseful page-turner with a powerful human drama at its core.

The Iron Thorn
Caitlin Kittredge
Delacorte Press / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385738293, $17.99,

In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical -- born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day. Aoife Grayson's family is unique, in the worst way -- every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.

The Nightmare Garden
Caitlin Kittredge
Delacorte Press / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385738293, $17.99,

In the sequel to "The Iron Thorn," Aoife discovers that everything she thought she knew about the world was a lie. There is no Necrovirus. And Aoife isn't going to succumb to madness because of a latent strain -- she will lose her faculties because she is allergic to iron. Aoife isn't human. She is a changeling -- half human and half from the land of Thorn. And time is running out for her. When Aoife destroyed the Lovecraft engine she released the monsters from the Thorn Lands into the Iron Lands and now she must find a way to seal the gates and reverse the destruction she's ravaged on the world that's about to poison her.

The Opposite of Hallelujah
Anna Jarzab
Delacorte Press / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385738361, $16.99,

Caro Mitchell considers herself an only child -- and she likes it that way. After all, her much older sister, Hannah, left home eight years ago, and Caro barely remembers her. So when Caro's parents drop the bombshell news that Hannah is returning to live with them, Caro feels as if an interloper is crashing her family. To her, Hannah's a total stranger, someone who haunts their home with her meek and withdrawn presence, and who refuses to talk about her life and why she went away. Caro can't understand why her parents cut Hannah so much slack, and why they're not pushing for answers. Unable to understand Hannah, Caro resorts to telling lies about her mysterious reappearance. But when those lies alienate her new boyfriend, friends, and put her on the outs with her parents, Caro seeks solace from an unexpected source. And as she unearths a clue from Hannah's past -- one that could save Hannah from the dark secret that possesses her -- Caro begins to see her sister in a whole new light.

The Treachery of Beautiful Things
Ruth Frances Long
Dial Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014-3657
9780803735804, $17.99,

"The Treachery of Beautiful Things" by Ruth Frances Long is a darkly compelling mix of romance, fairy tale, and suspense from a new voice in teen fiction. The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she's lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures that seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack's help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some of the most treacherous evils, and she's faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice -- and not just her own.

Waking Storms
Sarah Porter
215 Park Ave. South, NY, NY 10003
9780547482514, $16.99,

After parting ways with her troubled mermaid tribe, Luce just wants to live peacefully on her own. But her tranquility doesn't last long: she receives news that the tribe is on the verge of collapse and desperately needs her leadership. The tribe's cruel queen wants Luce dead. Dorian, the boy Luce broke mermaid law to save, is determined to make her pay for her part in the murder of his family. And while the mermaids cling to the idea that humans never suspect their existence, there are suddenly ominous signs to the contrary. But when Luce and Dorian meet, they start to wonder if love can overpower the hatred they know they should feel for each other. Can Luce fulfill her rightful role as queen of the mermaids without sacrificing her forbidden romance with Dorian?

Lois Lowry
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780547887203, $17.99,

They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn't exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice. "Son" thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, "The Giver," as well as "Gathering Blue" "Messenger" where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry's epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

Juliet Marillier
Knopf / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375869549, $16.99,

Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill--a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk -- Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec. During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death--but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban's release from Keldec's rule. Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.

The Pledge
Kimberly Derting
Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781442422025, $8.99,

In the violent country of Ludania, the language you speak determines your class, and there are harsh punishments if you forget your place -- looking a member of a higher class in the eye can result in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina (Charlie for short) can understand all languages, a dangerous ability she's been hiding her whole life. The only reprieve from oppression is within the drug-filled underground club scene. There, she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy who speaks a language she's never heard, and her secret is almost exposed. As the violent clashes between the totalitarian monarchy and the rebel forces escalate, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible grip of a deadly regime. Kimberly Derting, author of "The Body Finder" series, writes powerfully and movingly of a girl with dangerous powers in an unusual and expertly crafted setting.

Ellen Hopkins
Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416983309, $18.99,

Love -- good and bad -- forces three teens' worlds to tilt in a riveting novel in poems from New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins. Three teens, three stories -- all interconnected through their parents' family relationships. As the adults pull away, caught up in their own dilemmas, the lives of the teens begin to tilt.... Mikayla, almost eighteen, is over-the-top in love with Dylan, who loves her back jealously. But what happens to that love when Mikayla gets pregnant the summer before their senior year -- and decides to keep the baby? Shane turns sixteen that same summer and falls hard in love with his first boyfriend, Alex, who happens to be HIV positive. Shane has lived for four years with his little sister's impending death. Can he accept Alex's love, knowing that his life, too, will be shortened?

Black City
Elizabeth Richards
Putnam / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399159435, $17.99,

A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war. In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable -- they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash's long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they're caught, they'll be executed -- but their feelings are too strong. When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

Gina Linko
Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375869969, $16.99,

All Emery Land wants is to be like any other 17-year-old - to go to school, hang out with her friends, and just be normal. But for as long as she can remember, she's suffered from seizures. And in recent years they've consumed her life. To Emery they're much more than seizures, she calls them loops - moments when she travels through wormholes back and forth in time and to a mysterious town. The loops are taking their toll on her physically. So she practically lives in the hospital where her scientist father and an ever-growing team of doctors monitor her every move. They're extremely interested in the data they collect when Emery seizes. It appears that she's tapping into parts of the brain typically left untouched by normal human beings. Escaping from the hospital, Emery travels to Esperanza, the town from her loops on the upper peninsula of Michigan, where she meets Asher Clarke. Ash's life is governed by his single-minded pursuit of performing good Samaritan acts to atone for the death of a loved one. His journey is very much entwined with Emery's loops. Drawn together they must unravel their complicated connection before it's too late.

C.K. Kelly Martin
Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375866500, $16.99,

Then: The formation of the UNA, the high threat of eco-terrorism, the mammoth rates of unemployment and subsequent escape into a world of virtual reality are things any student can read about in their 21st century textbooks and part of the normal background noise to Freya Kallas's life. Until that world starts to crumble. Now: It's 1985. Freya Kallas has just moved across the world and into a new life. On the outside, she fits in at her new high school, but Freya feels nothing but removed. Her mother blames it on the grief over her father's death, but how does that explain the headaches and why do her memories feel so foggy? When Freya lays eyes on Garren Lowe, she can't get him out of her head. She's sure that she knows him, despite his insistence that they've never met. As Freya follows her instincts and pushes towards hidden truths, the two of them unveil a strange and dangerous world where their days may be numbered. Unsure who to trust, Freya and Garren go on the run from powerful forces determined to tear them apart and keep them from discovering the truth about their shared pasts (and futures), her visions, and the time and place they really came from. Yesterday will appeal to fans of James Dashner's The Maze Runner, Veronica Roth's Divergent, Amy Ryan's Glow, Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Ally Condie's Matched.

The Dark Unwinding
Sharon Cameron
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545327862, $17.99,

"The Dark Unwinding" is a spine-tingling tale of steampunk and spies, intrigue and heart-racing romance. When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London. Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity. As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.

The Scorpio Races
Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545224901, $17.99,

A spellbinding novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater. Some race to win. Others race to survive. It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition - the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. As she did in her bestselling Shiver trilogy, author Maggie Stiefvater takes us to the breaking point, where both love and life meet their greatest obstacles, and only the strong of heart can survive. "The Scorpio Races" -- a 2012 Michael L. Printz Honor Book -- is an unforgettable reading experience.

Orson Scott Card
Simon Pulse
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416991779, $18.99,

A complex fate. A deadly path. The adventure, suspense, and time travel continue in this second installment in the critically acclaimed, bestselling Pathfinder series by Orson Scott Card, author of "Ender's Game." In "Ruins" -- and the previous installment, "Pathfinder" -- Rigg and his friends crossed the Wall between the only world they knew and a world they could not imagine, he hoped he was leading them to safety. But the dangers in this new wallfold are more difficult to see. Rigg, Umbo, and Param know that they cannot trust the expendable, Vadesh -- a machine shaped like a human, created to deceive -- but they are no longer certain that they can even trust one another. They, however, will have little choice, because although Rigg can decipher the paths of the past, he can't yet see the horror that lies ahead: A destructive force with deadly intentions is hurtling toward Garden. If Rigg, Umbo, and Param can't work together to alter the past, there will be no future.

Unraveling Isobel
Eileen Cook
Simon Pulse
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416991779, $9.99,

A darkly comic novel that "combines the perfect mix of mystery and romance to create a delightfully creepy chick lit-y ghost story" (School Library Journal), from the author of The Education of Hailey Kendrick and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood. Isobel's life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the Internet only three months before and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother. But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn't only her life that's unraveling -- her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she's seeing ghosts. Either way, Isobel's fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

Game Changer
Margaret Peterson Haddix
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780689873805, $16.99,

A talented teen athlete questions reality -- and the role she plays in it -- when a mysterious injury upends her world. Athletics are everything for eighth-grader KT Sutton. She's a softball star, and she's on track to get a college scholarship and achieve international fame. Then one day during a championship game -- in the middle of an important play -- she suddenly blacks out. When she wakes up, she's in a different world. One where school is class after class of athletic drills, and after-school sports are replaced by popular academic competitions. One where KT is despised for her talent, and where her parents are fixated on her brother's future mathletics career rather than KT's softball hopes. KT is desperate to get back to reality as she knew it, but bits and pieces of disturbing memories and dreams make her wonder if something truly awful happened there. What if she's lost something a lot more important than a softball game? From New York Times bestselling author of "Sent" and "Sabotaged," an engaging and highly relevant exploration of society's debate of smarts versus sports.

The Edge of Nowhere
Elizabeth George
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670012961, $18.99,

Whidbey Island may be only a ferry ride from Seattle, but it's a world apart. When Becca King arrives there, she doesn't suspect the island will become her home for the next four years. Put at risk by her ability to hear "whispers" -- the thoughts of others -- Becca is on the run from her stepfather, whose criminal activities she has discovered. Stranded and alone, Becca is soon befriended by Derric, a Ugandon orphan adopted by a local family; Seth, a kindhearted musician and high school dropout; Debbie, a recovering alcoholic who takes her in; and Diana, with whom Becca shares a mysterious psychic connection. This compelling coming-of-age story, the first of an ongoing sequence of books set on Whidbey Island, has elements of mystery, the paranormal, and romance. Elizabeth George, bestselling author of the Inspector Lynley crime novels, brings her elegant style, intricate plotting, incisive characterization, and top-notch storytelling to her first book for teens.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Doctor's Eyes Only
Tom Marti, Paul Larson, & Jeff Larson
Brockport & Schoolcraft
c/o Westwind Communications (publicity)
9780985368005, $34.95,

School is expensive, and the only way out of debt is to make sound financial decisions using your training. "Doctor's Eyes Only: Exclusive Financial Strategies for Today's Doctors and Dentists" is a personal finance guide from Tom Marti, Paul & Jeff Larson as the three provide their expertise in their chosen medical fields and how they maximized their incomes and decisions when pursuing their practice. From practical advice on finances to tricks for the field, "Doctor's Eyes Only" is worth considering for rookie medical professionals of any field.

I Am Not A Buddhist
Charity Seraphina Fields
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475085662, $14.99,

Buddhism attracts many with its philosophy, but not everyone can embrace it to its fullest. "I Am Not A Buddhist" is a spiritual musing from Charity Seraphina Fields who explores the faith and how despite her attempts to fully embrace it, could not, but how she still appreciates the aspects of the faith and what she had learned in the process. "I Am Not A Buddhist" is a strong addition to spirituality and Buddhist studies collections, much recommended.

Scrolls of Darkness
Paul Henry Johnson
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432795313, $16.95,

A little adventure may make one remember how nice their love of their grind may be. "Scrolls of Darkness" drags attorney Brent Michaels into his old father's game of archeology...and his father was on the verge of some very dangerous things during his time, touching on dangerous cults. Brent, out of his element, has to act fast or some very dangerous people will get more power than he could comprehend. "Scrolls of Darkness" is an intriguing thriller, worth considering.

Make it Last
Raleigh Briggs
Microcosm Publishing
9781934620984, $9.95,

There are many thing we hold dear in our lives, and keeping them there is so very important to us. "Make It Last" is an inspirational guide for those who enjoy their cheapening objects they hold dear, and resisting the allure of new that society has pressured on us. With charming illustrations throughout and plenty of practical advice for making things like clothes, food preservation, even our aging homes, "Make It Last" is full of practical advice for do it yourselfers and much recommended reading. Also for do it yourselfers from Microsm Publishing is "Beyond the Music: How Punks are Saving the World with DIY Ethics, Skills, & Ethics" (9781621064725, $15.95) discussing how the garage influence of punk is leaking out for the greater good elsewhere.

Sacred Transitions
Julie M. Milne
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432795054, $14.95,

Death is horrifying to many of us. "Sacred Transitions: Taking a More Conscious Role with Dying" is a spiritual advice guide for those who are fearful of this final step in life's cycle. Drawing on her experiences as a psychotherapist and her own experiences, she shares what she knows about preparing oneself or those close to them about this tragic event. "Sacred Transitions" is a strongly recommended addition to self-help and inspirational collections focusing on death and dying, not to be missed.

Sun Touched Moon
Susan Elizabeth Ann
Breathing River
9780985697402, $17.00,

The touch of love can come to us in many forms. "Sun Touched Moon" is a novel of World War II and the romance that forms between an American and a German during the conflict where Gunar and Melany form a bond as their nations clash in conflict. Drawn between duty and their romance, their lives are faced with many challenges, and their may be something greater to their spirit of the mundane. With a twist of fantasy and alternative interpretation of history, "Sun Touched Moon" is an intriguing spin of romance, highly recommended reading.

One Summer in Tokyo
William J. Shannon
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
0738822086, $22.99,

International harmony is good for business. "One Summer in Tokyo" is a novel of international politics and intrigue between America and Japan, as an anti-American Japanese politician gains power, and the CIA seeks to maintain the relations under this threat. Analyzing the economics and politics of Japan and international relations hand in the Japanese economy, "One Summer in Tokyo" is a fine and much recommended addition to contemporary fiction collections.

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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