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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 12 December 2013 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Beautiful Tufi
Jan Hasselberg
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
c/o Bohlsen Group (publicity)
9781468586145 $50.00

Illustrated with striking, full-color photography on virtually every page of the lush, rainforest splendor of Tufi, Papua New Guinea and the hardworking people who call the land home, Beautiful Tufi: Between the Past and the Future is tells the reader about daily life in Tufi - from ancient traditions to modern innovations. Packed with vivid anecdotes from the lives of ordinary people in the rainforest, tending their gardens, fishing coastal reefs, or raising families, Beautiful Tufi is the next best thing to seeing Papua New Guinea in person, and is especially recommended for armchair travelers.

The Dead Do Speak To Us...
Dayton Foster
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781481759823 $56.99

The Dead Do Speak To Us... of Love, Life & Death is an extraordinary, full-color photographic collection of tombs, gravestones, and monuments to deceased individuals, alongside quotations presented in easy-to-read text. The result is a compilation of immortal wisdom alongside visual embodiments of "memento mori" ("remember that you will die"). Many of the quotes from famous people about life and death touch upon deep, abiding love: "If I could reach up and hold a star for each time you made me smile; I would have an entire night sky in the palm of my hand." Beautiful, soulful, and thought-provoking, The Dead Do Speak To Us is worthy of extended contemplation.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Voyage to a Phantom City
Christopher Bernard

Voyage to a Phantom City is a surreal, philosophical story that opens with a vivid description: "You hear a creak, an animal-like squeal, and feel the breeze and hear the sound of surf against the rocks. The kitchen backdoor pauses and swings, in a little dance, awkward as a child; you must have forgotten to latch it. It finally makes up its mind and stops, stuck on the threshold like a half-open book, and you turn back to the broken hurricane lamp and the unopened letter lying near it."

With such an evocative invitation it's hard to stop reading: captured from the first paragraph, readers are quickly immersed in a sensory explosion of images and description surrounding bad news brought to an isolated man. The 'you' referenced is an old man, his hair nearly all white, and the dreaded letter contains notice of the death of an old friend from years past. As readers gain understanding of the impact of this death and the strange experiences which follow, settings and perspectives change from the introductory 'Kitt's Rock' chapter to the second chapter 'In the Mountains', which takes a flash of memory and moves the plot to an entirely new setting where 'Kitt's Rock' was just a dream ... or, was it?

The protagonist here is one Mr. Hunter, a desert guide who leads professors and assistants into a barren world to check on a possible ancient city revealed by satellite photos. His work as a guide is not a joy, but his desert job offers much more than pay: it's a subliminal experience challenging perception, illusion, and memory; blending past, present and future with different worlds: "Dozing: broken images of the professors blend with memories of your flat in Oran, the schoolyard of your middle school near Columbus, a road in New England, a silent bar in the East Village during the summer before the attacks on September 11, a rowdy Cairo dance club, a train stopped in the middle of a pasture in Spain, a foaming vanilla shake sliding toward his mouth, then the blocky face of your long-dead father...."

Literary, allegorical and spiritual discoveries permeate the expedition and weave together literary and daily worlds alike, creating waves of surreal thought and interactions between very different protagonists. At the heart of Voyage to a Phantom City is a focus on these different directions and how these roads are chosen: "Corn circles, witches' covens, corn wizards¯corn was the basis of Mayan blood rituals. That's what got me into archaeology, when I discovered that. Midwestern corn no longer seemed like such an embarrassment. We had a secret, we were wild and weird, dancing bare-chested beneath the slowly fattening cobs. All summer long." From drifters to anarchists, believers to students, each searcher seeks something different from the expedition ... more than archaeological discovery.

Being in the desert and encountering different people in singular ways leads to epic visions, dreams, and equally ambitious thoughts: "And you drift off to sleep, with the thought of the night sky slowly turning, like a kaleidoscope. And your mind begins to turn with it, the night sky's stars turn and turn around you, in a great sweep between the poles and a long, flat horizon, as though you were on a sea or in a desert: a turning wheel of dark and light above your head, that turns faster and faster, the stars streaking in white arcs against the blackness, as long as comets, sweeping, swirling, faster, faster, until you feel yourself, as it were, shooting up in a fountain, a geyser, of stars, thrust into the sky, and you're flying, the earth shrinks below you to the size of a toy train table, of a doll house, of a map, as you soar into the night, the earth's shine surrounding the horizon like a corona, and you hear a voice saying, "This is you," and it says again, "This is you . . . this is you . . ."

When survival and danger enter the picture, each explorer finds a different way of confronting mortality. Voyage to a Phantom City's changing settings and reflections are evocative of the best of Proust's Memory of Things Past, in that the plot is enriched by a combination of reflection and tactile descriptions loaded with a sense of the moment. In such a surreal world the story line becomes quite simply an overlay for memories weaving past, present and future, and under Christopher Bernard's visionary hand each experience brings with it a burst of emotion and perception that goes far beyond the usual singular tale.

Without spoiling the plot's evolution, it should be said that all things return to Kitt's Rock: and in that moment readers gain true insight into the real goals and meaning of the phantom voyage they've just undertaken.

Heartfelt and brimming with experiential moments, this is a challenging novel recommended for readers with special interest in surreal and philosophical literary works.

Antisocial Media
Alex Siegel
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00FHKB0SO, $2.99

Antisocial Media provides another Gray Spear Society saga ... and if you haven't read the prior eleven books in the evolving series involving spiritual 'supernatural' beings and their constant struggles against oppressive dark forces, now's the time to go back and enjoy a powerful collection of riveting, action-packed sagas to prepare a foundation for this latest adventure.

Here Marina's the new commander of the San Francisco cell of the Society, and everything's fresh to her; from her geographic location and team to her many responsibilities; all of which weigh heavily on her... especially since she has no experience being a commander.

Her new position places her in the perfect spot to face one of the most frightening events the Gray Spear will yet encounter: a destructive force which is ripping apart the social fabric and connections of the city, pitting husband against wife, prompting waves of abuse, and threatening chaos.

Now, readers already familiar with the Gray Spear Society will quickly realize that this narrowed focus on Marina and her new responsibilities as commander is actually a step back in time. Marina looks forward to her new challenges without lover and fellow (more experienced) commander Aaron's help - but she's also facing deadly forces with all the insecurities of a brand new team unused to working together. It's a big change - culturally, socially and politically, from Chicago - and so it all takes time for Marina to absorb. And time will prove a luxury in the face of a fast-growing threat.

Marina's enlistment of unsullied (and sometimes reluctant) recruits such as Corrie and her approaches to building a team offer readers many satisfying and surprising moments: "I'm the person you've been waiting to meet your whole life. I represent the destiny you were born to fulfill. Conversations like this are never accidental....(sic) this is a question of faith."

Faith and determination are only two of the forces connecting very different - and supernaturally skilled - protagonists throughout the novel. As Marina confronts some of the most surprising forces of her life, she'll come to rely on both strengths in herself and in the team she's chosen, and will tackle open threats to the idea of marriage, fidelity and relationships: "There is no reason for a couple to be permanently bound together with legal chains like prisoners in a work gang. It's unethical. It's illogical, yet most young people celebrate marriage as if it were some glorious, life-changing achievement."

Her team's search for 'anything strange' that might lead to the source of this culture-changing message and its linked increase in abuse and violence involves considering forces outside of God in an investigation best done without the help of God: "...I felt His presence very strongly when I got my gift. You'll have divine encounters, too. It's one of the perks of being a Spear."

The Society is looking for poison, the spread of a disease, or any evidence of what's affecting the city. What they discover is a phenomenon that began in nearby San Jose and which is spreading throughout the Bay Area. And if they can't track down and battle its cause, society as a whole could disintegrate.

Any seeking a unique blend of spiritual thriller with more than a touch of the supernatural will find this latest Gray Spear saga provides fast-paced action and many satisfying twists and turns. Those who have read all eleven prior books may find these twists becoming more predictible, but will still find the story involving and will also appreciate how the plot successfully flushes out protagonist Marina's past and her evolution to becoming a Gray Spear leader.

Echoes of Paradise
Deanna Kahler
Rose Petal Publications
ISBN: 9780615863399, $12.95

Echoes of Paradise offers a powerful blend of spiritual and paranormal insights and is a pick for any who enjoy such a mix, blending positive viewpoints with life-changing observations.

Celeste thinks she's satisfied with her life until her former love Connor dies and leaves her feeling not just alone, but with questions about what happens after death and how she can resolve traumas from her past. Her journey leads to a newfound focus on spirit communication, unexplained circumstances, and possibilities derived from human connections and even from their absence.

It's also all about miracles, so be forewarned: readers should be open to all kinds of possibilities as they read this vivid account of Celeste's personal struggles to find meaning in a much-changed life.

Connor is the love that helped Celeste recover from the scars of an abusive ex-boyfriend: even though they never married, she always thought that one day they would. Since they were only in their thirties, time seemed the one thing they could count on. Now it's evident that 'one day' won't happen, and that the very different personality issues that kept them apart ("He craved adventure and new experiences, while Celeste felt safer with her predictable life and familiar, comfortable surroundings.") will never be resolved.

The connections she felt with Connor even during her brief marriage was one thing that broke up her relationship, and now it appears that even death won't end this strong bond: "She had never been angry or bitter that their relationship didn't work out. Instead, she was left with a sad longing. Although she had no expectation of them becoming a couple again, she had secretly hoped that one day, he would tire of the single life and figure out that all he really wanted and needed was her. Connor was a good person. He was someone she would never forget, no matter how hard she tried. Not even after death."

All this provides the backdrop for events that will lead her to question not only the nature and purpose of romance and her relationship to Connor, but the meaning of life itself.

Celeste comes to realize Connor's continuing presence in many ways: first ethereal, then as a very real part of her world. As he teaches her about the nature of reality itself, Celeste comes to develop an entirely new worldview that incorporates elements of belief beyond Christianity: "Celeste then thought about how we all create our own lives based on what we think, feel, and choose to do. She remembered how our lives can be whatever we want them to be. Our thoughts shape our reality. We literally have the power to write our own stories."

The message in Echoes of Paradise is powerful, inspirational, and filled with spiritual reflection. It advocates a God with a plan - and offers hope, promise and inspiration to spiritual readers interested in ties that bind beyond the reality we know. Any reader looking for such inspiration in their novels will find the story of Celeste and Connor to be not tragic, but filled with hope. And that's part of the purpose in a well-crafted story that carries readers on a delicate spiritual journey to expand their own belief systems.

Time's Chariot
Henry Stollenwerck
Privately Published

Time's Chariot opens with an observation ("Against all odds, Frank Holt lived to be an old man.") and then moves on to consider what factors influenced Frank's achieving the older age of nearly 79 years, sans wife and back home on an ancestral farm in Texas where isolation brings with it both loneliness and joy.

One anticipates the story will consist of Frank's reflections about the end of his life and the experiences that brought him to the Texas prairie, a lonely survivor of life's slings and arrows. In fact murder changes all that, involving Frank not in a quiet end-of-life retirement, but in a series of encounters that challenge the notion that someone over seventy has already lived the most meaningful and exciting moments of their life.

Flashbacks to his wartime encounters blend with present-day experiences, with many startling contrasts between violence and beauty permeating his observations: "He closed the rifle case and aimlessly wandered out to the deck overlooking Bulls Branch. Wild flowers had appeared as though a great invisible hand had splashed them upon the field below. The blue bonnets turned the field blue with a whitish cast to it. All through the blue were spots of bright orange from the Indian paint brush, and scattered through the field along and among the blue and orange were spots of pale pink and light cream from the prim rose."

These observations are one of the great strengths of Time's Chariot: it literally takes a memory and lives it, bringing forth visual and emotional connections that draw readers in to experiences such as a Marine Corps sergeant teaching new recruits about gun maintenance and appreciation.

Readers come to know Frank on many levels: as a lover, a fighter, and a survivalist. As he battles dangerous forces and becomes involved in international politics, he finds within himself the ability to use his military training to confront assassins and turn the tables on them - and discovers unexpected love right under his nose.

Time's Chariot is hard to neatly categorize: at once a Western, a thriller, a romance, and a novel of intrigue, its protagonist is immersed in past and present worlds of conflict even as he experiences travel and pleasure from his changed life. It's the story of an older man's search for peace and tells how adventure finds him, breaks his isolation, and leads to newfound revelations.

Well written, vivid, and replete with changes, Time's Chariot mirrors what we all experience: evolutionary growth that doesn't end at any age but continues, relentlessly, onward. Any who seek a novel replete with strong images and a tough protagonist with an equally powerful history will find this an engrossing story.

Owning Main Street: A Beginner's Guide to the Stock Market
Patrick Pappano
Cardyf Publishing
9780988912700, $39.95

Owning Main Street: A Beginner's Guide to the Stock Market is an unusual, striking pairing of a basic stock market financial guide with artistic pictures by Ben Aronson. The combination of illustrations with explanations of financial concepts makes for a unique presentation certain to capture the interest of even those who believe stock market books are dry (and, most of them are!). For, here's the exception to that belief: a book written by a layman who became a stockbroker at the age of 61.

Fueled by the notion that despite his lack of experience he'd gain much from the training, Patrick Pappano's sole business plan for success was to 'just be a good broker'. His education in the field went beyond understanding asset classes to realize a different approach was required in order to provide lay readers (without financial backgrounds) with the basic keys to beating inflation through investing.

Owning Main Street: A Beginner's Guide to the Stock Market stresses the idea of understanding the overall process over setting targets when making investment decisions. There's a basic key involved in such an understanding: "In the end, which stocks you invested in will hardly matter -- what will matter is that you invested in them at regular intervals, over a long span of time."

This key to success is outlined over and over again in chapters that assume no prior stock market (or even financial experience), and which condemn the usual active trading strategies as losing propositions.

It steers beginners, instead, to routines and perspectives geared to building a retirement nest egg by letting the market do the work, and focusing on more passive strategies than aggressive management promoted by many/most brokers who profit by constant customer change and buy/sell orders. And instead of index-watching, it promotes more of a "Ferris Wheel" approach to understanding the highs and lows of the market's process.

Chapters reveal this progression by considering all aspects of stocks, business, and their managers. They provide examples of business fluctuations and changes designed to help investors understand the ups and downs of stocks, companies and the market: "The obvious argument is that if the CEO is also the Chairman, who has the power to look after the interests of the owners? The answer is nobody."

While some of these discussions would seem to apply to general business, in fact all of them are important clues to understanding the market and making the right investment choices.

From underwriting processes and the variable annuity product's pros and cons to growth, savings and investments, Owning Main Street: A Beginner's Guide to the Stock Market advocates a strategy for taking back power in investment decisions rather than relying solely on stockbroker recommendations.

Charts, graphs, and illustrations throughout assure that novices receive all the written and visual information needed to reinforce Patrick Pappano's review of Wall Street processes. The result is a powerful assessment of not just stocks, but an investment process that individuals can take charge of without extensive financial background.

Owning Main Street is thus recommended for any novice business reader and any investor who wants an understanding of the market based on no prior knowledge or experience with its nuances.

Bevel Down
Todd Langley
Amazon Kindle
ASIN: B00E3JFXB0, $0.99 ebook / $8.99 Paperback

Bevel Down is not your usual novel: it's billed as an "absurd tragic memoir of an Okie meth head" and focuses on the life and issues of an intravenous meth user in Oklahoma. Set in the mid-1990s and told in the first person, it combines the format of a novel and with a memoir in revealing the short life of a junkie whose life becomes lost to fantasy, decline, and darkness.

Why would one want to read such a story?

In the first place, it's a gripping narrative that shows how such a decline takes place. How does a thieving junkie evolve from such a world, and how does he exist under impossible conditions that narrow his worldview and lead to crime and danger? News reports aside, Bevel Down delves into the heart of such a lifestyle and takes a close, intimate look at a young man who relishes his outlaw image only to eventually finds himself trapped by it.

Secondly, the Bevel Down provides readers with a powerful account of relationships formed under such conditions, with the idea of 'community' evolving to include dubious and disintegrating connections: "They had perhaps once loved each other, but the degradation inherent in their lifestyle had eroded that affection into an uneasy living situation that was becoming increasingly violent."

As lifestyle choices become increasingly linked to crime, drugs, and decline, so the protagonists become immersed in the quicksand of a world that is too easy to enter and too difficult to escape.

Be prepared for scenes of violence, drug use, and the evolution of a logic that justifies criminal behavior as a means to an end. Also be prepared for the main protagonist's views of his own contributions to deprivation and his struggles to retain bits of his own humanity: "I didn't want to be responsible for creating another needle freak; partly due to my own lingering humanity and partly because my monkey didn't like to share, but also because Desmond was the only remotely grounding force in my life, a friend outside the circle of craziness I usually spun around in."

Bevel Down isn't a novel for readers seeking clear conclusions and soft situations: it's a gritty, eye-opening and violent survey that offers solutions to community erosion: "The bottom line is that there is no community. If there was, then crime would be rare because people would be unified instead of divided. If we want to change the world, then we have to do it by talking face to face with each other. We must accept not just our neighbors, but our entire neighborhoods into our lives, and the only thing that will do that is communication."

The conclusion offers a satisfying blend of hope and despair: something also not common in your typical singular novel, and highly recommended for readers seeking accounts of social challenges and community evolution.

Lunatic Laundry
Todd Langley
Amazon Kindle
ASIN: B00ES2B1TK, $0.99 ebook / $8.99 Paperback

Lunatic Laundry is in keeping with Todd Langley's focus on the darker side of life and human nature, opens with a spiritual encounter between a man and a coyote, and moves quickly to the heart of the story: one Sara, a young rehab inmate in Texas who is challenged not only by the possibility of becoming God's emissary on Earth, but by a host of lunatics around her in the form of fellow inmates.

Reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (but with an interesting spiritual twist), Sara finds herself confronting well-meaning doctors who would medicate her away from her mission at The Center for Christ's Healing Touch, a rehab clinic for young women from ultra conservative families. Sara's been sent there not because she's an addict, but because she needs 'reprogramming' from her unacceptable activities and thoughts.

Instead, what happens is she is changed by (and changes in turn) a cast of unpredictable characters who each have their own, very different missions and issues in life, from Crazy John (the janitor who loves cats and lives in a trash-filled trailer) to blonde inmate Manahan, whom Sara invites to "...silently visualize the window changing. I've read books about shamanism, and it says that everything on the physical plane has its beginnings on the spiritual plane, not the other way around."

One would think that with such a cast of characters, each with their own different issues and perceptions of reality, that Sara's observations would have little impact in a system geared to handle quirks at best and insanity at worst; but in fact Sara proves both the unifying force and the guiding light in such an institution, and the unexpected evolves in a community where lunacy is a given and connections even to reality are tenuous.

Sara's power to unify disparate entities will eventually embrace and connect the community and will change lives: "She walked to Shay and took her hand. The smile that lit Shay's face was like a thousand suns. Kylee turned and held her other hand out to Janna. She took it and held hers out to Manahan who in turn linked with Candice and so on. The earlier dissenters hesitantly but irresistibly fell in line until at the very end Madeline held her hand out to Tiffany. She paused but could not stop herself from reaching out and completing the chain. The energy of the moment had grown larger than any individual."

Her ability to change worlds will alter reality itself and injects a God-driven spirit into a system geared around insanity, creating disciples from what was formerly a type of prison.

Compelling and filled with unpredictable twists and turns of plot, Lunatic Laundry is for any reader who enjoys spiritual reflections on life's meaning and the power of individual change. It's not a passive, quiet story; but a vivid saga of how Sara comes to realize her own powers in such a place, and leads others on her path.

A Widow Redefined
Kim Cano
Amazon Kindle
ASIN: B00C8BV10W, $2.99

Amy White is a young widow who lost her husband to cancer. Her life must go on without him; but any hopes of healing or resolution (even after three years of grief) are thwarted by the mysterious appearance of flowers on his grave on Valentine's Day. Who placed them there? Did he have a secret life? Amy's determination to answer to these questions will turn into an obsession that involves many secrets as she keeps this event (and her search) from her live-in mother and seven-year-old son.

There are many elements that set A Widow Redefined apart from your usual novel of grieving and recovery. First is the process of weaving a mystery into the story line where the protagonist, filled with grief, is forced to consider even more emotional turmoil and challenges to her belief system.

The buildup is slow: don't expect a fast-paced story from page one. The point is that life also moves in this fashion - slow, then swiftly - and that grief can be either all-consuming or only too slowly extinguished by other life events.

In this case it's a mystery and the uncertain friendship that evolves from it that makes A Widow Redefined so absorbing: it's a thought-provoking revelation of life's ironies, all juxtaposed and bound to each other by circumstance and events beyond control: "People shouldn't die of cancer at thirty. Every good memory eventually ended up there reality...(sic) And now there was the mystery of the daffodils."

In the end Amy's newfound friendship with Sabrina will offer a kind of healing she's been unable to obtain elsewhere. And in the end, further surprises will complete the evolution of her life, which was placed on hold when her husband died.

Throughout the story line, interactions with Amy's son and mother are strong and revealing. The different methods each woman uses to handle grief and move on meld into a unified source of comfort and mutual support. And this all serves to give Amy courage to face not only the past, but further surprises from the future.

The warmth of an evolving friendship bound by mutual interests and a family's recovery from close-held grief makes the processes described in A Widow Redefined revealing and involving. Any reader seeking a story of emotional growth from all protagonists will find this a story of quiet desperation, friendship, and moving on.

The Secrets of Business
Ehab Atalla
Ehab's Books and Media Publishing, Inc.
9780989473804, $19.95

The Secrets of Business is a celebration of the American capitalist system and how it can lead to success for immigrants and natives alike, and is a primary pick for any business collection appealing to novices or business readers looking for concrete approaches to achievement in a changing world.

Now, plenty of other books have been written from both immigrant and small business perspectives: what sets The Secrets of Business apart from either viewpoint is a focus on underlying methods of achievement that lie behind any business venture, but largely go unspoken. These assumptions are keys to success, and Ehab Atalla's story embeds these keys into a saga that blends personal with business pursuits and considers the inherent opportunity that underlies adversity. His mission here is to: "...make business easy for everyone to understand. I have engineered business principles for anyone to just press the gas and go by opening their mind to different business opportunities, and explaining them in detail."

Without further ado than a heartfelt introduction, chapters enter into a dialogue with would-be and novice business readers and explore exactly how this blueprint reads and how it can be applied to virtually any business venture.

Business operations are full of secrets, from working quickly and efficiently to understanding how psychological factors meld with business ventures to achieve either opportunity or failure. And lest readers harbor any suspicion that the author's business savvy was achieved through inheritance or the silver spoon, it should be noted that he "...went from being a broke, immigrant cashier to starting 34 businesses in 15 different industries."

The focus on this step-by-step process for achieving such success is what makes The Secrets of Business so remarkable. And for any who believe the secrets will be intuitive or self-evident, it should be mentioned that his approach is far from conventional. The abstracts and theories common to business school thinking are set aside for more real-world experiences and applications - and all of these have been personally tested by the author.

Don't expect dry theory here. The use of the first person, case history examples from real life, and a sparky, even saucy, condemnation of traditional approaches draws readers in where traditional business books fail: "Business - on the other hand - is unpredictable: you're the one who is creating steps and taking steps at the same time. You are the artist. It's really no different than a painter creating a painting. Just like a painter, you 'creating' - or 'painting' - a business. "So if you're goal is to create a successful business, then you need to forget how success works in school. That is step one."

Chapters then pinpoint specific skill sets needed to run not just any business, but a successful one. From the different requirements of retail to product versus service approaches and how to cultivate wealth once it's achieved, chapters review all aspects of a business pursuit.

With its gritty, hard-hitting discussions of everything from import/export business demands to leveraging positions, different business structures, online and retail sales, investment strategies and more, The Secrets of Business packs so much into its pages that one might believe it could only do a cursory job of touching lightly on points.

Don't be fooled. What we have here is an in-depth discussion that sets up a basic blueprint for success. All that's needed are readers who want to move beyond traditional school-based theoretical business models to understand the real underlying influences on successful strategies - and then apply them.

Rama: Gaze in My Direction
Liz Lewinson
Epiphany Press
9780989889919 $TBA

'Rama' in this case is one Dr. Frederick Lenz, American Buddhist and teacher; and the biography of Dr. Lenz presented in Rama: Gaze in My Direction is recommended for any who want greater insights into his life and Buddhist belief in general.

It's a spiritual, transformational biography that surveys his life and uses the results of over a hundred interviews to build a wide-ranging consideration of his many achievements. (And for novices to Buddhism, 'gaze in my direction' is a meditation instruction having to do with focus and being open to inner messages and beliefs.)

An introductory chapter tells how the author came to meet Rama while searching for a new spiritual teacher, and how her own ability to 'gaze in his direction' immediately revealed his 'siddha' ("In the literature of Buddhism and Hinduism, a siddha is a magical or mystical power attained by an advanced practitioner of meditation.") Months went by before she was to become his student and embark on a journey that would lead to an understanding of different perspectives on American Buddhism and Eastern belief systems.

Dr. Lenz's actions in promoting his teachings and mission and expanding his students are documented in a vivid account based on the author's personal interactions and those of others involved in Rama's circle: "This year, in 1982, what we're doing together, besides just having a generally good time, is trying to get you to walk through the doorways to eternity. Because each time you walk through those doorways your perfection will manifest in a new and exacting way. . . . What I'm trying to do is to have you not be pedestrian or plebeian with this study. That is to say, we're not simply studying how to get high in a new way. You're studying existence itself, to become it."

From his journeys across the country to spiritual revelations, social challenges, and changes, this is filled with insights on Rama's perspectives and approaches to spiritual growth: "He likes us for the being that he sees can emerge after our layers are peeled back. He does not expect us to be holy, just honest."

It is this blend of Rama's wisdom and his life journey in teaching groups and individuals across the country that makes Rama: Gaze in My Direction so unique: part travelogue, part spiritual reader, and part biography, it's a celebration of his life and perspectives as much as it is an account of how American Buddhism spread across the nation.

From musical projects to dance, lectures and meetings to meditation encounters, Rama's wide-ranging influence powers not only his life and those of his students (including the author), but becomes the focal point for the evolution and dissemination of Buddhist belief across the country.

Any interested in accounts of Eastern religious thinking and growth will find Rama: Gaze in My Direction filled with unique, perceptive insights.

The President's Killers
Karl Jacobs
Lien Press
ASIN: B00FML0SMW, $3.99

The President's Killers is a novel of a high-level killing with a satisfying twist: told from the viewpoint of protagonist and suspect Denis Kinney, it reveals that Kinney is actually the newest recruit with an elite government intelligence agency. The only problems are: the nation believes, thanks to circumstantial evidence, that he's gunned down the President - and the agency claims they never heard of him.

With every lawman in the country hot on his tail, Denis is compelled to find out the identity of the real killer in this fast-paced thriller which doesn't disappoint, and which is spiced with a sense of reality that can only come from an author who was himself the former top aide to a Senator (and, therefore, well versed in politics and behind-the-scenes government operations.)

The President's Killers is all about political intrigue and high stakes chase scenes: if you don't like cat-and-mouse thrillers, don't go here. If, however, you're a thriller reader more than used to such scenarios, be prepared for the ride of your life. There's nothing predictable about The President's Killers, and no easy answers evident in the course of a struggle to unearth the identity of the real killer.

From a cryptic help-wanted ad on the web which leads Denny to become the patsy in the President's murder to the involvement of Meesh, a woman who isn't used to seeing the FBI's shadow around every corner, The President's Killers presents an ever-tightening net of intrigue and deception that involves forces on all sides in a desperate search.

As Meesh and her boyfriend become more involved in deception and danger, they also find their relationship strengthening even as the nation is ever more focused on finding answers. The investigation progressing on all sides will take place on the streets, in public areas, and will even bring danger into unexpected places such as a ball game.

Part of what makes this thriller so exceptional is that it brings to mind events surrounding Kennedy and King's assassinations. Another facet that keeps The President's Killers an exceptional read is its attention to detail. From the nuances of protagonist personalities and involvements to encounters between law enforcement agencies and a suspected killer on the loose, events progress swiftly and often unexpectedly with plenty of action and political and social insights.

The result is a thriller that grabs hold and won't let go: a strong recommendation for any interested in political intrigue and high-level murder mysteries.

Got a Bad Boss? Work that Boss to Get What You Want at Work
Dr. Noelle Nelson
MindLab Publishing
ASIN: B00F80BKEW, $7.99

Got a Bad Boss? Work that Boss to Get What You Want at Work is recommended for any employee who has a bad, miserable boss without the luxury and option of quitting the job. Now, there are plenty of bosses who are everything from selfish and cruel to just plain crazy: good luck with trying to change their basic personalities.

What this book advocates instead are strategies to change the relationship with such an individual - and that is done by first identifying a Bad Boss's secret fears and desires and then one's own personal strengths, reworking those parameters to make for better interactions.

It's both harder and easier than it sounds: harder because the process of such identification requires a good degree of self-analysis
and the ability to analyze others; easier because in fact Got a Bad Boss? is the stepping stone to achieving this level of psychological inspection. The ability to turn the 'impossible' into documented achievement requires a detailed knowledge of psychological profiles and how they work, and Got a Bad Boss? provides these keys to nailing a boss's profile and working within that outline.

Chapters offer prototypes of different 'bad boss' habits, from egomaniacs to incompetents, and provide keys to placing a 'bad boss' in the right category for considering effective responses to behaviors. The goal is to assure that the boss has a feeling of success directly attributable to employee (i.e. your) actions.

Got a good boss right now? Think you therefore don't need to keep this reference on hand? Nobody is immune to the possibility of getting a bad boss: the focus on how to thrive under various diverse personality types will thus prove invaluable to any employee at one time or another in their career.

The author is a practicing psychologist as well as a trial consultant to major corporations, so she operates in two worlds: that of business and that of mental health. The meat of her title's focus (which neatly differentiates it from other employee guides) lies in its more aggressive suggestions that go beyond simple survival strategies and enter into the realm of prospering under adverse conditions: " don't need defensive maneuvers, as in "How do I survive my tyrannical boss?" You need attack strategies, as in "How do I get promotions, raises, whatever I want and need from my expletive-deleted boss?!"

Case histories throughout document different boss personality types, their likely methods of manipulation, and provide guidelines for adjusting employee responses and behaviors to gain better results from every interaction. Specifics on how to 'work' these different personality types are clear and involve doing 'reality checks' on both the gripe and one's own goals in the workplace.

By moving the blame from the boss alone and encouraging self-examination, Got a Bad Boss? creates an all-around formula for success based on a healthy dose of self-growth and change. It's not for those who would assign blame to others alone, but for readers who would re-examine their own goals, reactions, and motivations; there to discover the 'bad boss' scenario may be one of mutual participation. The result is a reference that should be in any employee's toolbox - and in any business reference collection.

America Never Promised Us Happiness (Only the Right to Pursue It)
Dr. L. A. Lemmons
9780988708204, $35.00 pbk. / $9.99 Kindle, 21 pages

"Happiness is at best a pipe dream," says author and naturopathic physician, Dr. L. A. Lemmons. This startling conclusion came after 10 years of searching in vain for the American dream.

Her debut work, America Never Promised Us Happiness (Only the Right to Pursue It) addresses the myths and fallacies surrounding this much lauded past time. Humor is used throughout the book to make more palatable some hard-hitting facts about American culture and its preoccupation with happiness.

Central to the author's argument is that there is a difference between 'being happy' and 'finding happiness.' 'Happy' is our natural state once our need for food, warmth, and sleep have been met. 'Happiness', on the other hand, is marketing gimmick used by media, businesses, and politicians alike to sell products. "The definition of happiness is so entirely vague, it can be anything - making it the perfect selling medium."

'Happiness' is a marketer's dream come true. It is at the heart of every commercial, movie, and magazine advertisement. Hear and see these messages enough times and an insidious process begins to take root: the brain starts to record the message that consumerism is the source of all things good and joyful in life.

Tackling such issues as love, marriage, relationships, mental health, and dream analysis, each chapter shows how marketers systemically disrupt the natural rhythms of human life with their relentless advertisements. "Dream scientists take REMs out of their natural context of survival and place them on a department store shelf of a store near you, marketing them as if they were some sort of third dimension wishing wells."

So what is real happiness and how can it be identified apart from media and business influences? That's the heart of a book that ultimately offers enlightenment and illuminates a path towards real satisfaction - and why any concerned with the idea of 'achieving happiness' needs to read America Never Promised Us Happiness (Only the Right to Pursue It). Quite simply, it cuts through illusion to grasp reality - and that's quite an achievement!

Tears Upon the Rose
Gregory Robert Wright

Tears Upon the Rose: A Story of Ireland 1641 - 1660 is recommended for readers who like strong historical novels featuring many protagonists, strong background facts, and challenging conditions. It's set in a narrow period of Irish history when clan and religion meant far more than country and borders, and it opens with a dream by one Robbie, who runs in fear from an unknown assailant.

In this bitterly divided country Robbie is warned of an uprising that could end his life, and embarks on a journey towards a home that no longer offers sanctuary. Caught between political and social conflict, he swears revenge on the man who killed his family only to find himself involved in an unusual war where sides are not clearly defined and friends become enemies overnight.

English and Irish interactions are personal and political at the same time, tempered by struggle, differing ideals, and danger. Meetings between different classes are outlined precisely, with dialogue documenting close encounters between different worlds: "She sat fascinated, and for the first time in her young life, was unsure of herself in the presence of a man. As was typical of women in her privileged position, she had had experience with men at an early age - but they were men of her own kind. She knew how they flattered; she knew how they pursued. This one was different. Very different. She clasped her hands together and watched him until he finished."

The forces that bind cultures and communities range from political experience and social strife to the arts; all of which are explored with an eye to showing how Irish (and English) history evolved, from the common man through high society, and how encounters between them changed both.

As Robbie comes to realize his real heritage as Sir Robert Delacey, he also examines the roots of beliefs born in exile ("A mere ten months ago, he had been a member of a privileged class of a privileged race. How could he not have realized it?...The Scots had provided him his religion and his God....The Irish had provided him with a love of simple things....Above all, he had been English. Englishmen had provided the order in his world....Now he didn't know what he was. He had been prepared to abandon his religion, or rather, to exchange it for the woman he loved.")

In a world where wars center around religion and heritage, people are divided by blood feud and deception, and where fighting is more the norm than loving, unity and accord often seem far from the realm of possibility.

Traveling storytellers both unite and inflame peoples and impart news, religious communities form alliances and foster loyalties and war alike, and all protagonists are drawn into a complex web of political and cultural challenges to survival.

One thing to note about this historical novel is its extensive cast of characters. This isn't a simple, easy read: its complexity mirrors the state of interactions between the Irish, Scots and English. Some protagonists are entirely fictional while others are based on real-life characters.

Another note: the theme of conflict and evolving, changing relationships runs through all characters and story lines. It's a complex thread that moves back and forth documenting alliances, conflicts, and vast changes affecting the entire region. Hardship, strife, duty and betrayal: all these are additional themes that create a fluid, changing story line where politics and ideals affects even love: "Mary Margaret, listen to me. Even if I knew that I was marching to my death, I would not shrink from it. What do you think Ireland is? Is it just place with rivers and streams and salmon leaping? Is it merely a place with the greenest fields and the blackest marble on earth? No, it is not. Ireland is the place where God has planted us. It is the place that he gave to us, whether we be O'Briens or O'Connells or O'Bannons or O'Kennedys. From its deepest glens and its highest crags, our ancestors watch us. They whisper to us. I have heard them. Shall we abandon them to the strangers? How can we? I tell you, Mary Margaret, we cannot."

Any reader seeking a novel centered around the multifaceted, changing natures of a country's social and political changes will find Tears Upon the Rose a revealing and well-detailed account worthy of close inspection. It's page-turning action, well-drawn protagonists, and most of all, its attention to historical detail makes it a gripping read that educates even as it entertains: highly recommended; especially for those who seek more than 'light characters' in their historical fiction!

Saving Superman
Kathleen Sales
9781491713532, $3.99

Saving Superman is recommended for teen to adult readers and provides a fine psychological novel. It begins with ten-year-old runaway Pete's account of his mother, hospitalized for depression after losing her baby.

It's important for Pete to feel like Superman because he's lost control of his world. From his depressed mother and a sibling's death (which he feels is his fault) to his problems at school, Pete needs his Superman comics to help him feel empowered. He comes to discover others in the world who also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder: namely hobo Jake, whose nightmares rival even Pete's.

When Pete reaches his goal (a relative's home in Nashville) he's in for a rude awakening: his relatives expect him to re-enter school, a place where he knows he can't succeed, and they don't seem to realize that Pete carries that failure with him wherever he goes: "I'd failed, and that meant I was too stupid to do schoolwork. Maybe I'd grow up both brave and stupid like Pa. I clung to that."

As Pete keeps hoping for their lives to change and for his mother to return to the lively, happy person he once knew, his fears and hopes eventually lead him full circle back to Jake - whom he discovers is a drunk. But he still considers Jake his friend, and it doesn't take superpowers to realize Jake's in trouble.

Add his mother's dark secret (which Pete has dutifully kept and struggled with), his relationship with an older sister (who doesn't know about the mysteries in his life and leads Pete to think: "When adults kept secrets, it always drove me crazy. That's why I learned to eavesdrop. But I couldn't tell her everything."), and so many emotional burdens that even Superman couldn't fix them, and you have a versatile, changing story that closely examines a child's powers of survival and adaptation.

Saving Superman is as much about change and coping as it is about discovering inner resilience and the power to survive virtually any psychological onslaught. It's a story of running away and coming back, a story of secrets and revelations, and most of all a chronicle of families breaking apart and coming back together. In the end these evolving relationships will give Pete unexpected courage and the ability to survive even the specter of death.

All these elements give Saving Superman a hopeful and inspirational feel that will reach any young adult reader experiencing chaos and conflict in their own lives.

Hyde's Corner Trilogy Book I - No Man's Land
J B Bergstad
Smashwords/Woodside Publishing Group
ASIN: B00CDAQ4PU, $4.99

Fans of historical novels won't want to miss the first installment of the 'Hyde's Corner' historical trilogy No Man's Land. Set in Oklahoma with a Western feel of adventure, No Man's Land quickly captivates the reader with a deft portrait of one widower Doctor Beaman, whose grief has not subsided even after years of suffering, and who faces a powerful adversary and uncertain camaraderie in the form of Selmer Burks, a figure of reminiscent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At once a devoted family man and a sly enemy capable of exacting great revenge, Selmer becomes sheriff and uses that position to carry out his personal vendetta, involving Doctor Beaman in ungodly acts that are moral and ethical horrors.

Is Selmer mad, as he fears, or is his motives and approaches calculated, sane reactions to his life? As Selmer's brand of justice spreads and the newly-formed Sundowner County changes, Selmer's vendetta will slowly poison not just his family, but the entire town.

Oklahoma history permeates every page of a story that spins a web of intrigue and interconnected lives, from a family who leaves Tennessee to find themselves unexpectedly setting down roots in Oklahoma to the evolution of a monstrous family figure who sets the stage for both rebellion and revenge.

Generations of interactions and responses overlap town history: as characters develop and change, so does the face of not just the small town, but the West as a whole.

No Man's Land is a vivid saga of how family associations evolve to political arenas and beyond, of how the old West confronts modern times, and of how one man's legacy affects everything around him. It's packed with twists and turns that are completely unpredictable and satisfyingly filled with angst and revelation, and it's a suitable 'Book One' to a trilogy that promises further depth and development.

Any fan of Westerns featuring powerful protagonists will find this a strong read.

Hyde's Corner Trilogy Book II: In The Name Of Vengeance
J B Bergstad
Smashwords/Woodside Publishing Group
ASIN: B00EB3PGRO, $4.99

Hyde's Corner Trilogy Book II: In The Name Of Vengeance provides the second in a trilogy centered in Oklahoma in the old West; and if you haven't read Book One, be advised that it's a 'must' for providing the depth of characterization to appreciate the ongoing family dynamics continued here with In The Name Of Vengeance.

Selmer Burks hasn't changed his ways: even as he mourns the death of his child, he still plots revenge. This time his desires are thwarted by the lure of his newborn bastard grandson, who gives him a new lease on life and appears to at last change his vengeful heart. Tasked with raising the child, Burks discovers within him a newfound and unprecedented love and loyalty for grandson Thomas.

Even as Burks rules the town with an iron fist through in his sheriff's role, he finds within him the capability of building a loving home environment against all odds. But the past catches up to the family and grandson Thomas soon discovers the truth about his birth, forgiving his grandfather's trespasses only to face a new test in the form of romance and disintegrating family and town relationships.

This second book in the series is more about the second generation than the first, however, and offers a solid focus on how Thomas comes of age and evolves his own personality against the backdrop of his grandfather's strength.

Killing, vengeance, and bloody encounters are threads that run through this family saga - as is love. That Burks possesses the strength to fiercely love his grandson despite his equally strong thirst for vengeance against the forces that took his beloved daughter from his life is testimony to his multi-faceted personality. Through his relationship with his grandson he will pass on legacies that range from understanding and forgiveness to knowing when to pursue injustice: "Burks took Tom's chin in his hand and pulled the boy's face close. "Everything is relative, boy. You said it yourself. Mrs. Porter is dead. No punishment could bring her back. I understand Mr. Temple is spending his days in a wheelchair just like Bowdery's. I've heard tell he spends his days in a sanitarium down in Tulsa. Drools on himself. Jabbers a lot. Could be that's worse than being dead." Burks searched his grandson's face hoping to see an understanding take root."

One powerful feature of Book II: characters are even more exquisitely drawn and rounded out than in Book I. From the importance of giving one's word to the trauma of inter-family murder, readers will find themselves not outside a Western novel looking in, but walking amongst the characters, their motivations, and their experiences.

The roots of vengeance and fears come alive within the framework of Burks and his grandson's conversations and interactions: "His eyes didn't leave his grandson's face. "You can see it now can't you, Tom? Damnit boy, you've got to get past flesh and blood. You've got to understand the spirit. Hyde evil crawls into every nook and cranny of my county. It's in the air, son. It waits for those of weak character and infects them like the Spanish Flu. You only need to think on the actions of Royster, Hammersmith and the rest. Think about the last three years. If the Hydes win, they'll be nothing for the Burks...."

Burks' ability to perceive peoples and places as 'evil' permeates all their lives and affects decisions and confrontations alike. But will Tom be able to step into his grandfather's killing footsteps and justify his own actions as defenses against some greater evil force? And what will happen to love in the face of all this conflict?

Kidnappings, violence and suffering: oh my! The action just doesn't quit, and the plot changes are satisfyingly unpredictable, keeping readers on their toes - and immersed.

In The Name Of Vengeance does require familiarity with and appreciation for Book I in the series in order to provide a smooth transition: but what a ride this is!

Doors to Perdition: A Short Story Collection on the Dark Side
J B Bergstad
Woodside Publishing
ASIN: B00DPO2CJK, $2.99

Doors to Perdition: A Short Story Collection on the Dark Side consists of eleven stories of psychological suspense and intrigue; each of which centers on violence, killing, and how personal decisions can lead to horror, shock and awe. There's no singular path to these horrors: each protagonist arrives at his own personal version of hell through a different doorway; and this is part of what makes the stories in Doors to Perdition so compelling.

Each story, in keeping with its different route to the same kind of horror, opens with a very different protagonist and setting. 'Saturday Poker', for example, is set in Brazil in 1971 and focuses on the character of novice bank robber Bryson, who is on the run after a newspaper identifies him as a possible fourth man involved in the robbery.

An alcoholic with money woes, Bryson was the one who suggested the robbery of his former employer - and the one who escaped. What seemed like a good idea for four middle-class men (down on their luck but with no prior records) turns into disaster, but Bryson has yet to face his biggest disaster, as a result of his decisions.

There are no neat conclusions to these tales; nothing which offers redemption or atonement or even solutions to the warped and twisted paths the protagonists choose. So if you hated Twilight Zone and dislike psychological profiles and examination - don't come here.

Doors to Perdition is all about the journey to terror, life's ironies, and how the human experience becomes warped and twisted by psychological horror. Each short story encapsulates a very different kind of dilemma; but all are bound together, under one cover, with an overlay of angst and psychological terror: the kind that transforms lives - and the reader.

Doors to Perdition is a dark and involving read for any who like deep, stark dramas with unexpected twists.

What Would Oprah Do?
Erin Emerson
King Literary Group
ISBN-10: 0615880487
ISBN-13: 978-0615880488
Price: $11.00

What Would Oprah Do? is light reading at its best and introduces 32-year-old Cate, who arrives at a crossroads in life when she's laid off from her corporate job. And who best to guide her through this confusing process than Oprah Winfrey, her inspiration? And that's where the TV personality enters Cate's life to become more than just a figurehead. Cate decides to write Oprah, and the very act of penning her predicaments and searching for the nugget of Oprah's style of wisdom changes her life: "I have no idea what to do with my life and the only thing that gives me hope is writing letters to Oprah. I really believe that she tries to do good in this world, and it's just nice to imagine that she lets me move into one of her houses and gives me some sort of stipend or general relief so I can find my purpose."

Now, don't expect a serious and plodding story line here: there's a healthy dose of humor to accompany the main story, there's thought-provoking reflection on pursuing one's dreams against all odds, and all this is held together by protagonist Cate's engaging personality and whimsical perspective on life. Cate has five months' worth of savings accrued: thus, she has five months to figure out her life ("I had saved up just enough money to pay my bare necessities for five months. I figured that since somehow God had immediately intervened and changed my work situation, surely I could sort out where to go from there in five months."): what could go possibly wrong with this plan?

The answer is 'plenty' - but that's not the real point of this appealing saga. Its heart lies in Cate's writings themselves, which are nothing short of hilarious and inviting: "Dear Oprah,I saw the most ridiculous thing on the cover of a tabloid today, a headline saying that you and Gayle are secret lovers. I'm sure with your strong character; you would never let that kind of nonsense bother you. What shocked me was that the person who wrote the article, if you can even classify it as such, is a woman! I feel sorry for her because she has obviously never had a real girl friend if she can't understand your relationship with Gayle without trying to make it romantic. This woman needs some real friends!"

These letters open each chapter and set the tone for Cate's further discoveries about her goals and perceptions: "Despite all of my attempts to envision the life I'm trying to create, sometimes you have to see things as they are, not as how you want them to be. I don't know why I thought that everything would fall into place when I sorted out what to do with my life, but that's what I believed."

Cate's ongoing confrontations with the reality of a harsh job market that offers few opportunities are neatly juxtaposed with her personal goal to move in a different direction with her life, and they represent unexpected journeys that also move Cate from writing to Oprah to even penning musician Beyonce with a special request: "If you truly believe that you wouldn't be where you are today without the support of your fans, I'm unabashedly asking you to repay the favor and support me in my business."

At once hilarious and poignant, What Would Oprah Do? is about a formerly-successful businesswoman faced with kickstarting her life in a new direction: surely a novel for modern times, and perfect for women looking for light, yet inspiring, reading!

The Death Bet
A. K. Price
9781456619046, $2.99

The Death Bet holds a compelling, colorful cover design by Megan Baker (of MB Productions, Maui) that will draw mystery and crime novel readers into the story of a surprise company investigation, a murder, and a complicated business relationship. Confidential files, an audit gone wrong and an element of fate soon involve Blaine Stone in one of the most puzzling encounters of his career.

Blaine is invited to quit his regulatory job (which is involved in investigating life insurance company First Granite) and is offered a cool four million to make it quick. The only problem is: Blaine knows it's blood money, and that First Granite executives are up to their ears in a bet gone bad. They have purchased a portfolio of life insurance policies so they can collect death benefits when insureds die. The only problem is that insureds are not dying as planned, forcing the executives to keep paying expensive premiums to keep the bet going.

From a secret society immersing a small town in a web of intrigue and danger to an increasingly dangerous cat-and-mouse game that reveals the murderers behind a corporate entity, Blaine finds himself struggling to keep up with changing events and revelations that could place him at the heart of the deadly deal gone wrong.

Political clout is the preferred approach of this company - and a high priestess insists murders aren't the answer even as Blaine receives clues about who the next victim will be.

In addition to the web of intrigue spun around a business/quasi gang, strong characterization also surrounds Blaine's life and family, adding an extra dimension of personality to his actions and reactions.

It all boils down to missing money, a power struggle, and an anonymous group called the Red Skulls who wield a different kind of undercover influence in a complex, evolving scenario.

The Death Bet is ultimately a no-holds-barred treasure hunt, and immerses Blaine and his love Lindsey in a dangerous world that will either make or break their lives. It's a satisfying combination of thriller, mystery, and big business crime saga and its complex twists and turns of plot are especially recommended for seasoned mystery readers looking for elements of espionage and adventure in their genre reading.

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra
Colm McElwain
Troubador Publishing Ltd
9781780880693, $2.41 Kindle / $TBA Paperback

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra is a children's fantasy novel centering around James, raised in a children's home under a shroud of mystery and tasked (by his grandfather) with protecting a mysterious diamond which holds the strange power of attracting evil into the world. His recent adoption (and that of his adopted brother and sister from the children's home, Ben and Mary) only brings danger with him into his new home; a fact revealed by a fortune-teller's perceptive eye.

Accompanied by his good friends, James embarks on a journey to the alternate world of Orchestra where he will face the source of both the diamond and evil, there to make decisions that will change the universe.

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra features many strengths; not the least of which is an ability to immerse readers in its characters and their vibrantly real worlds. James and his friends have their hands full, but the challenges they face together are tempered by individual goals and personalities that are vividly portrayed and which examine underlying influences. Even the motives of those deemed wicked are considered with an eye to tracing the road toward evil. James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra creates engaging relationships between all the protagonists with a dose of light-hearted love thrown in for good measure.

A second strength lies in its ability to create a winding story line with no clear linear path. A reader used to fantasy adventures, especially, will appreciate the twists and turns of a plot that keeps to no logical direction - and, therefore, offers many surprises throughout the story.

Thirdly, James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra weaves a healthy dose of action, suspense, and intrigue into its fantasy. Where many genre tales excel in the fantasy portion and fall short on depicting reality, this saga incorporates real elements of a pre-teen boy's life and concerns: "...he certainly didn't feel any different. Nor did he ever want to be. He was quite happy to be like everybody else, thank you very much. And yet, in his mind he still thought about everything that Belinda had said to him. He was special; destined for greatness, destined to be a great leader. She seemed to know everything. Could she be wrong once?"

Another plus: though this story of necessity incorporates several violent confrontations, the actual degree of violence is kept to an acceptable minimum. No gory descriptions or bloody encounters here - which are in keeping with a children's book designed to entertain, not horrify. Parents will be appreciative of this attribute.

Chapters are short and adventures are to the point, with each chapter linking neatly to the next in a pattern designed to keep young readers guessing - and reading. From diamonds to a forceful, mysterious queen and a mystery that could ultimately threaten his friends, James finds himself on a journey that will change everything.

A final note: there's no neat, tidy ending to this story. And this both creates opportunity for a sequel and ties into the prior point: there's nothing easily predictable about the events of James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra. Perhaps that's its greatest strength!

Aloha, Mozart
Waimea Williams
Luminis Books Inc.
1935462636, $7.69

Readers seeking a historical story integrating a passion for art and music, a coming of age account, and the saga of a young woman whose unusual flair for singing opera flourishes, despite an impoverished background in Hawaii, will find Aloha, Mozart the perfect pick. It combines one woman's personal drive with the rising cultural and political powers of 1960s Austria to create a powerful protagonist whose personal growth mirrors the political surges of her times.

Maile Manoa exhibits her inherent abilities at an early age, but is powerless to do much about them. In sixth grade she realizes her calling is to sing opera; an interest unheard of - and unsupported - in her community; so she sings other genres with her amazing voice and saves her pennies to someday achieve her true dream.

What she doesn't know is that this passion will lead her away from her beloved homeland to other worlds, causing financial and emotional hardship for her family. Ultimately she experiences a series of worldly encounters that challenge her heritage, her morals and ethics, and her goals.

The story opens with a bang, hooking the reader with a poetic and enchanting description that is a prelude to the tone and approach permeating Aloha, Mozart: "Maile Manoa's singing came from the ocean, people said, from the mountains, from flowers....Some claimed that dogs and horses stopped eating to listen to her, chickens in the yard, even sharks out beyond the reef....but she didn't consider herself special. Singing was simply something she did."

As Maile is introduced to the culture and worlds of opera and European culture, she finds her life transformed, her voice finely honed, and her beliefs and heritage challenged. Would she do anything to achieve her goals? What happens when romance enters the picture, complicated by rising political tensions, and two very different choices and opportunities, each with the power to change her life?

Maile's ever-changing world is one of eye-opening wonder, passion, and evolving transformations that keep her options open and fluid. Her journey involves unbelievable sacrifices, heartbreak, and choices that speak of the ongoing resonance and meaning of music in her life.

The contrast between very different worlds (Hawaii and Europe), their values, and their culture is one powerful strength of this novel, which moves beyond one girl's growth to embrace social change on different levels.

Another strength of Aloha, Mozart lies in its mercurial, evolutionary process which blends philosophy, psychology, and history within the realistic and compelling worlds of protagonists who must mesh their desires with influences beyond their control.

Finally, Aloha, Mozart offers a poignant set of insights into the mechanics of betrayal, achievement, disillusionment, and change. In the end it's all about the microcosm of evolution and how success and failure are perceived. Within this environment, Maile's worlds of wonder are marked with struggle; all deftly portrayed in a novel especially recommended for fans who enjoy stories solidly rooted in music.

America's Greatest Blunder
Burton Yale Pines
RSD Press
9780989148702 (paperback)
9780989148733 (hardcover)
9780989148726 (mobi e-version - for Kindle)
9780989148719 (e-Pub e-version)
Hardcover $28.95; Paperback $17.95; Kindle $8.79

America's Greatest Blunder: The Fateful Decision to Enter World War One maintains what should be obvious: that America had no business entering the local, years-long conflict to create a world war, and that by intervening and tipping the local balance of power, the U.S. in fact created the roots of World War II's even greater atrocities.

Compromise would have come more quickly without American intervention, bitter resentments wouldn't have created a German national pride vulnerable to the likes of a madman like Hitler, and the entire situation would have likely resulted in a lasting peace, not the uncertain and volatile, simmering resentment that was to fuel World War II.

Now, many titles have already made this point. What's new here is an attention to documenting the political and social milieu that led up to America's decision to enter World War I, how an attitude of neutrality changed to one that saw military intervention as the best option, and how the famous and celebrated doughboys in fact introduced a new level of violence onto the battlefield which was to have lasting ramifications for all involved.

Much historical research and analysis has gone into America's Greatest Blunder: a fact reflected in chapters that provide plenty of background and insights to trace exactly how these decisions evolved. From how this country observed the war's progress to how it made the decision to become involved, how it entered the war, and how the doughboys broke a battlefield stalemate that allowed France and Britain to in effect punish Germany and crush its national pride, chapters trace the legacy of a reluctant peace and its long-range effects at home and abroad.

It's all about deadlocks, the specific actions and events that led to the rise of Nazism, and how America's entry into the fray changed the face of the world forever. But most of all, this focus how America changed the Western Front's battlefield dynamics which struck the most punishing blow to relationships on all sides makes for a close inspection of a military approach that won a war but set the tone for festering psychological conflict requiring a second world war to achieve any semblance of resolution.

What would have happened if the U.S. had stayed out of World War I? Burton Yale Pines maintains that peace would have been established and would have proved less unstable, that German national pride and identity wouldn't have suffered a crippling psychological blow, and that different surrender terms could have been crafted that might have avoided the rise of Nazism.

Had this country remained neutral (and military intervention been avoided), than human relationships in today's world might be very different. In this case, yes: the U.S. won that particular war. But the lasting impact of its decisions resonate even today in a world which cannot definitively be deemed 'better' for America's decision.

As this country continues along a path that involves military interactions with other nations, it could use the lessons of World War I as a cautionary tale of the long-term effects of interventions. And while readers could say that the projections of different scenarios had America not entered the fray are subjective ones, nobody can argue about the fact that World War I ultimately caused more problems than it purported to solve.

Plenty of well-researched evidence support Burton Yale Pines's contentions here, providing logical lessons of cause and effect documenting the fallacies and dangers of military responses by this country as well as other nations.

Political science (and especially military history) readers should consider America's Greatest Blunder a foundation work suitable for debate and reflection on the lasting impact of military intervention, no matter what the arena of battle.

Dead Dreams, Book 1
Emma Right
Right House Books/New Shelves Book Distribution (for orders)
e-book ISBN: 9780989267212, $3.99
PB: 9780989267243, $TBA

Billed as a 'young adult psychological thriller' and mystery, Book 1 of Dead Dreams tells of eighteen-year-old Brie O'Mara, who has a world of living and dreams ahead of her and nothing but bright promises for a good future. She's all set for success ... until she gains a new roommate in Sarah, an heiress with lots of money and a penchant for trouble.

At first Sarah's secrets don't bother Brie: after all, she's obtained a roommate not for friendship, but to help her make ends meet in her first bid for independence. The problem is, Sarah's secrets keep reaching out to immerse Brie in not just mystery but danger, and soon Brie realizes that Sarah's life is not just spilling over into her own, but threatening to take it over and destroy everything she's worked towards.

Brie has modest expectations from a roommate situation and no illusions about possible friendships: "Running to my parents to bail me out each time a housemate wriggled out of a deal wasn't an option and I didn't make enough to bear the rent alone. Just as long as Sarah paid her share, and didn't try to murder me in my sleep, that was all I expected out of this arrangement."

Perhaps it's her Craigslist choice for a roommate search, or maybe her assumption that secrets are okay as long as nobody is hurt in the process, that leave her open to someone like Sarah ("She looked sober. She had money. She seemed like a clean-cut, girl-next-door type, and except for her relations who she shouldn't be blamed for, I couldn't see a reason to refuse."): either way, it paves the way for a mystery that only keeps growing.

Eventually Brie will discover she actually has something to gain from Sarah's inheritance: a gain that will only result from giving up something she can't afford to lose. From a lawyer who might have been paid off by Sarah to a subterfuge that ultimately involves a look-alike game ala 'Single White Female' (but with more bite), Dead Dreams succeeds in questioning the nature of reality, perception, character and motivations.

Events that unfold will lead Brie to trust no-one, including herself, and will also cause her to question the power of money and its ability to pay off nearly anyone.

Dead Dreams concludes with passages that will lead to and support Book 2 - and provides an open-ended set of possibilities that challenge the protagonist's ability to confess to her role in a crime.

The combination of psychological suspense and mystery lends to this 'young adult' title's appreciation well into adult audiences, and will require a mature young adult reader able to appreciate the intricate twists and turns of psychological suspense that are such a strong part of the events driving Dead Dreams.

The Gatekeeper's Sons
Eva Pohler
Green Press

The Gatekeeper's Sons is Book 1 of 'The Gatekeeper's Saga', and is a powerful young adult fantasy novel centered around fifteen-year-old Therese Mills, who is heading home in the car with her parents when someone begins shooting at them, sending their car into a lake. She watches her parents drown, somehow finds the strength to escape, and winds up in the coma that introduces her to the twin sons of Hades.

The Gods' interactions in and observations of human affairs are evident in the beginning: "Humans didn't realize how lucky they were, Than thought as he took the woman's hand. At least, if they were mostly good, they could live a brief life with some kinds of freedoms and then spend eternity in a dreamlike trance, unaware of the monotony around them."

And this sets the stage for the rest of the story revolving around Therese's deal with the gods, which requires her to avenge the death of her parents with the help of Than, who has fallen in love with her and who has struck a deal with his father Hades to return to the Upperworld to try to win her.

It's important to note that the weaving of Greek mythology into the underlying plot and the twining involvement of Therese with these gods requires readers to enjoy mystery as well as fantasy and romance. Therese's experiences operate on all three levels and so The Gatekeeper's Sons is not easily identified as being one thing or another, but holds strong elements of various genres.

Secondly, the characters really make the story. This should be true of most young adult novels; but sadly, it isn't. The motivations, anguish, romance, and drive for revenge and resolution that permeates The Gatekeeper's Sons is satisfyingly diverse. Its setting offers mystery but also provides explanations for how romance evolves and how Therese's quest for justice becomes entangled in this process.

There's also more than a touch of the supernatural as Therese longs to be with her parents more than she can initially accept Than's love: "I don't care about the real villain. I want to be with my parents. Take me, too." She stumbled forward and into Than's arms. "Take me to them," she said again. He kissed the top of her hair. "I told you, you wouldn't be the same if I did." "I don't care," she whispered breathlessly. "That's not why I'm here."

But what is the hidden cost of revenge? Soon Therese finds that her destiny and her choices are being assessed by the gods and controlled by oaths and alliances far beyond her understanding. In the midst of all this a love grows up between a mortal and a god: a love that might offer no easy paths.

Being Book One, The Gatekeeper's Sons provides no neat conclusion but leaves the door open - wide open - for Book Two in the saga. Fans of this book who appreciate its blend of romance, mythology and mystery will await Book Two with baited breath: the combination of mythical and human worlds is satisfyingly complex and concludes with evidence that the real drama is only just beginning.

Stay tuned for further developments!

The Rainy Day Killer
Michael J. McCann
Plaid Raccoon Press
ISBN: 9780987708793 (e-book)
9780987708786 (trade paperback)
Price: $3.99 (e-book); $19.99 (paperback)

The Rainy Day Killer stands strongly alone but also adds to the 'Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel Series', opening on a rainy day when homicide detective Lieutenant Hank Donaghue is working on a wet, nasty murder - much to his chagrin. For that's how the Rainy Day Killer operates: by targeting women in the rain and then murdering them.

Unlike many murder mystery investigations, this case requires the efforts of three professionals to solve: Donaghue (who leads the investigation), FBI profiler Ed Griffin, and Detective Karen Stainer, who is trying to prepare for her upcoming wedding and who resents the intrusion of a complicated case and killer just when her attentions should be on her personal priorities.

The interactions between these three professionals and their different approaches to the investigation is one feature that differentiates The Rainy Day Killer's modus operandi from other, more singular murder mysteries where a single investigator provides a more linear approach to problem-solving.

Now, newcomers to the series might note this difference; but in fact it's been used before in the author's prior three books in his series. The interactions between the homicide Lieutenant and Detective Karen Stainer are realistic, wonderfully vivid, and especially strong in their portraits of police operations and the investigative process as a whole.

Where other crime books focus on the process alone, The Rainy Day Killer's consideration of the personalities involved, which often influence the course of the investigation through their preferences and insights, makes for an additional layer of reality. And after all: a good crime novel is all about the realistic feel of not just the event and problem-solving strategies, but the interactions between all people involved.

Tasked with 'nailing' the perp, Karen is conflicted and resentful about being pulled in two directions (her wedding, and her career.) But soon the two come closer together as it becomes evident the perp is now stalking her with the intention of making her his next victim.

Between passages about the crime and the investigative process are plenty of vivid assessments of department interactions, conflicts, and behind-the-scenes politics: "Everyone was petrified that Barkley would insist on Jarvis, who was universally despised as an obnoxious, self-centered son of a bitch. Jarvis was perceived as a favorite of Chief Bennett, which was said to be helping him in his career advancement. The smart money, though, was on Cassion. Like Barkley and Bennett, she was ex-FBI."

The glimpses of psyches, personality conflicts, and influences are precise and revealing: ""She's very upset," Martinez said, still looking at Hank, "and very contrite."

"She wants to be," Karen said. "This is your captain we're discussing," Martinez snapped. "Show a little basic respect."

Karen reached out with a forefinger and jabbed Hank on the forearm. "This is my captain. I don't care what anybody else says." "Not at the moment, he's not." "Fucking politics - "

It's not just about the psyche and behavior of the perp: it's about the underlying psyches and behaviors of all the major players chasing him, as well. And this is one powerful facet that sets The Rainy Day Killer apart from your usual crime novel: it's as much about office politics and influences as it is about criminal psychology - and those underlying currents of contention and confrontation are what help make The Rainy Day Killer special. Any crime novel enthusiast (especially those looking for a different approach) will find this an involving, revealing story from start to finish.

The Legend of the Ravens
Branwyn Rhodes
Branwyn Rhodes, Publisher
9780989110709, $2.99

The Legend of the Ravens is a children's book based on historical legend: a fairytale set in London in the 1600s, when Edward James becomes friends with the ravens living in the Tower of London. The King has protected these ravens (as did his predecessors) for centuries, believing that six ravens should live in the Tower at all times to prevent disaster. The problem is, the cantankerous ravens get into trouble and the king changes his mind about their beneficial powers. And so it falls to Edward to save the ravens - and England - from a terrible curse.

Mike Kunde's colorful, lovely drawings lend to a picturebook presentation that requires good reading skills but holds the ability to immerse young elementary-level readers in a fine fantasy.

The ravens are sassy creatures (as ravens are), have bold personalities and names, and have an inflated perception of their importance based on historical precedent: "Big and bold, they liked to think they were in charge of anything and everything associated with the Tower."

Edward enjoys his friendship with these birds until an incident involving an astronomer changes everything. Now, this astronomer also has an inflated feeling of self-importance: "...he took his work very seriously. He was not about to let any man, beast, or bird get in his way." So when the ravens accidentally break his precious telescope in the course of an argument, the royal astronomer bends the ear of the King to get rid of them.

The ravens unleash a frightening force in revenge and Edward finds himself caught in the middle of a struggle that could bring disaster to the entire kingdom. Only Edward might be able to bring peace back to the world.

While this is a fantasy and a semi-historical story, it's also a story of a young boy's coming into his own power, about the strength of win-win problem-solving techniques, and about power struggles on many levels.

Young readers will relish the fantasy saga but will also be absorbing all these elements of values and ethics in the process of following Edward's growth and challenges.

It's a quick read, it's filled with compelling elements of action and personality conflicts, and it is a fine fantasy young readers in grades 2-5 will appreciate.

Use Protection: An Employee's Guide to Advancement in the Workplace
Johanna Harris
Hire Fire and Retire LLC

Use Protection: An Employee's Guide to Advancement in the Workplace isn't your usual employee guide to office politics: it goes beyond typical HR-oriented advice to reveal the 'hidden' company processes and rules most general, non-union employees never know.

Take, for example, the challenge of responding properly to illegal questions asked in the course of a job interview. Identifying these questions is only part of the game: the other key to success lies in responding to them. These responses can dictate whether a job is offered or not - and they can also affect workplace rights in the future.

Among other issues addressed are those of properly gaining and using a workplace mentor, handling unfair assessments during a performance evaluation process, what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace, and much more.

Influences on winning or losing jobs, succeeding or failing in the workplace, and how managers conduct and consider evaluations are all covered with an eye to revealing not just the process, but an employee's legal rights and how these rights can be maintained while professionally addressing an employer's requirements.

From overcoming geographic distance to a manager (to assure the manager receives regular insights on how an employee is doing the job) to handling false accusations and understanding the evaluation process affecting which jobs are eliminated during hard times, Use Protection is all about proactive self-assessment. It won't reach those seeking easy answers: it WILL reach employees who want to assure they understand all the reasons behind company policies, procedures and actions in order to make the most of their status and ensure valuable contributions to a company.

Why should an employee make such an effort? Harris boldly outlines the purpose of her book: "The more you understand about your company and its personnel policies, the more likely you will have a satisfying and successful career. That applies not just to next month's sales goals or to the next round of marketing promotions, but to the forty or more years you can expect to work. You need to act strategically to protect your career for the long term. You'll be playing this game for a while."

The fact that author Johanna Harris is a labor lawyer, specializes in investigating employee wrongdoing, and that she holds extensive experience in human resources law and employee relations lends authority to advice which is not to be found in other general books on employment.

Looking for strategies to assure success? Use Protection's case history examples from real-world scenarios blends with company savvy to translate all the 'hidden' operations of business for any who would persevere in moving upward.

Satchel & Sword I: The Search for the Saluka Stone
Claudette Marco
9781492853770, $9.73, 254 pp.

Teen Nevaline is no ordinary girl, but a powerful protagonist who (even at age fifteen) is more than adept at fighting and physical training: something her Amazonia teammates resent her for: "Her skills always surpassed those of his daughter in both sword fighting and physical training. They both hated her for it....(sic) Her father imparted helpful words when dealing with such people: 'coping with others is like caring for a sword, day after day it must see diligent sharpening and persistent polishing.' In other words, dealing with people required a lot of work on one's part, not to mention a lot of patience. Yet, if the wrong person wielded it, the cut of her or his blade ran deep; 'wipe away the blood from your pride and continue on your own path absent return swing.'"

As a trainee in the United Warriors' Training Camp, Nevaline's skills exceed those in her squad in both physical prowess and swordsmanship. Raised within a military structure, Nevaline's connections to her duty and military structure are just as strong as her abilities: "...she felt more and more entrenched into her duty to the army. That was her lot in life. To defend herself in battle, to not die, meant mastering the sword."

Balancing this military perspective is one special, mystical teacher and father figure, Master Sjhong, who has both raised her and encouraged Nevaline to realize some of her more mystical talents and her connection to the Goddess. His wisdom and influence has a major impact on her development, leading her away from a purely military perspective to a realization that her true destiny lies in killing the evil Micdian before he can enslave the world.

But life is all about changes - and so is Satchel & Sword I: while Nevaline has lived with the possibilities of war and unrest all of her life, what she really wants is to live a more peaceful life away from the army. Unfortunately her desires for peace will not be realized anytime soon, and the expedition she faces with her best friend Cairine will both challenge her and change lives.

The heart of this journey involves a search for the mysterious Saluka Stone, with which Nevaline can awaken the god Micdian in order to destroy him. A lovely map introduces this saga with visual geographic support of the Kordalis and Caatlach Islands where action takes place, and allows readers to understand the extent of Nevaline's world and journey.

In the course of this search Nevaline will uncover answers not only to her questions about her real father, but about her own strange powers: "How could my sudden ability to view the forest as it should be and to wield wind and lightning through my bare hands not originate from the forest or Lady Earth?"

Myths, the surreal and challenging world of a young warrior girl who faces her greatest task to date, and ongoing issues of parentage, heritage and friendship unfold against the backdrop of a seemingly impossible mission that tests all of Nevaline's relationships and beliefs.

Perhaps this is the greatest strength of Satchel & Sword I: its ability to inject this sense of daily wonder into an epic fantasy involving an impossible journey, a testing of personal boundaries, and a realization of the world's infinite connections.

Teen readers with an affection for fantasy will find this strongly rooted in cultural exploration, spiced with a complex ever-changing story line, and centered around a powerful young adult female who holds the ability to transform her world without losing her sense of appreciation for its daily wonders: "Now she could see the ocean. They flew closer and closer. They reached the cliff's edge. The waves crashed into the jagged rocks of the reefs below, throwing up a beautiful water spray. "Casaneas's gates! What a marvel to witness!" she exclaimed. My gaze can remain forever upon this vision of nature's beauty."

Satchel & Sword I isn't a novel for light leisure story enthusiasts seeking quick action and resolution, but the beginning of an epic journey more suitable for any fantasy reader who is drawn to complex plots, characters, and powerful female protagonists.

Passage at Delphi
Allan K. Patch
AKP Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-0615917023
Cover Price: $14.99; Kindle: $6.99

Passage at Delphi provides an unusual blend of history and adventure thriller that juxtaposes past and present worlds and connects three very different places and times in one story. It opens in Delphi, Greece in 2011 with Apollo's re-entry into a world that no longer recognizes Greek gods, telling of his decision to journey to the Americas to "... seek out allies to train, allies chosen in the Book of Histories, to see if they could pass his crucible of survival. After all, heroes do the work of the gods." But a battle between gods thwarts his mission, injecting injustice and agony into the mix.

With that introduction (provided in just a few pages), readers then move to 2011 San Diego, where Professor Lauren Burns is substitute teaching her husband's class when she's attacked by a student. Even as she successfully fights off her aggressor, her husband (who is at home recovering from tooth issues) experiences strange dreams about ancient Greece. His tenure at the university could be helped by his involvement in an evolving new archaeological discovery in Greece: the only problem is, he's already promised Lauren they will stay home this summer and focus on the one thing that has become her obsession: having children.

Zack faces a dilemma between career and family interests that reflects many conflicts in American modern society: "How could he get Lauren onboard for Greece? Whatever happened to their marriage being a democracy, two people choosing their future together? More and more, as she intensified the pressure to have children, their household democracy seemed to be as endangered as it was nationwide - with all hell about to break loose, an anarchy and chaos within their walls that would rip the fabric of their love apart. Just as, on a larger scale, once great civilizations tumbled. Like Ancient Greece."

As events unfold to immerse Zack and Lauren in both ancient and modern worlds, readers are immersed in a story line that at first seems simple but quickly evolves to become a complex mystery centered around historical events and ongoing challenges to freedoms both personal and political.

The Greeks created democracy and fostered a feeling of this idea through structure and order: as Zack and Lauren find their lives ever more entwined in past principles and issues, they find not only their marriage in jeopardy, but the fate of the world itself. They also find that the Greek gods are only too alive and well, affecting their modern world even as they changed the course of human affairs so long ago in ancient Greece.

When Zack has visions of a major catastrophe only he can avert, he tries to protect Lauren while exploring the limits of his vision even as the characters of ancient Greece (including a very confused young girl, Cassandra) enter their world and become absorbed in their lives and causes.

Many of the landscapes in Passage at Delphi are so intricately described that readers enjoy a "you are there" feel as they absorb Lauren's adventures, contrasting past and present worlds and providing vivid associations between the two: "Lauren walked to the window, dragging a wooden comb through the snarls of her long hair. The breeze ruffled the tapestries behind her, working like an electric dryer. By the open window, she saw the Argolid Plain below the citadel, along with distant farms and fields. Roads led from the city in every direction. Olive groves and vineyards dotted the landscape, the blue ocean to her left."

And when Lauren finds herself in 480 BCE Greece facing the real possibility that Zack is dead, she must confront all her dreams, nightmares, and realities and how they exist on levels of possibility she never imagined possible.

Passage at Delphi is no easy adventure thriller, but an intricate weaving of fantasy and adventure that traverses times, places, and mythology. Here the Greek gods are real, and here Lauren and Zack prove pivotal characters with the power to affect humanity's future.

In the struggle for survival, what will be extinguished and what will survive? And can the present be changed by forces from the future?

In presenting action spread out over three different times and characters that intersect, Passage at Delphi could prove confusing. That it, instead, creates a fast-paced and challenging story line that places readers at the crux of understanding choices and their wide-reaching consequences makes it a force to be reckoned with: a novel that involves even the most experienced reader of historical fiction, mythology fantasy, and adventure.

The Execution Channel: A Political Fable
Michael McCord
Michael McCord, Publisher
ISBN/ASIN: B00EG06LX0, $2.99
Web Site:


The Execution Channel: A Political Fable is political satire fiction at its best, and is designed to entertain (or piss off) just about every reader, no matter what his political beliefs. While all its characters are fictional creations, they are (with no pointing fingers) all too familiar to any who live in modern-day America with its ironies and inconsistencies.

Here in 2018 'Real America' there's motive on all sides. There's also a faith-based economy, elusive magical promises that never quite jive with reality, a future America that worships something called the 'Galtian Imperatives', and a new illusory founding father of all this farce and circumstance; one John Galt (a fictional figure from Ayan Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged', who doesn't believe in government and believes making money is mankind's highest goal), whose vision has not just captured but imprisoned America.

Over it all stands The Execution Channel, a popular TV show that features live executions in football stadiums, much as the ancient Romans enjoyed with their lion-based coliseum entertainment system.

In this new America led by Galtian ideals there are other characters who all represent self-interests and objectives, from a Texas militia leader who wants democracy by bullet to a billionaire's interest in politics as a platform for spreading his economic powers.

Now, all of this sounds frighteningly possible: where's the dark satire or humor in this?

For one thing, the dialogue and presentations are tongue-in-cheek even as they condemn many modern nuggets of this future world's actions:

"He's an imposter. The career congressman may have a 100 percent Liberal Hater rating, but it's a front of deceit meant to subvert the Galtian Imperatives," Bowie said. Political analysts said the most devastating blow came when Bowie's campaign discovered that Someret once had paid one percent of the health insurance premiums for the employees at his balloon-making factory."

For another, the scenarios are solidly rooted in today's politics ... only this future world takes modern standards to the extremes of logic, justification, and irony:

"I think if they are lucky, there will be quick trials before the ruling local militia. Hopefully for their sake, such a procedure will lead to quick executions, probably one shot each in the head, and if proper procedures are followed, their families will be charged for the bullets and the legal accommodations. Luckily, the families won't have to pay much for a burial because the militias practice market efficiency and most bodies these days are being dumped at sea for sharks to consume. This service is becoming quite the job-creating industry so it's win-win for a lot of people. Did you know we learned that little trick of disposing the evidence from our good and efficiently ruthless friends in in Chile and Argentina? They became experts at disappearing bodies in the 1970s. More importantly, they knew how to make a point."

With its quirky confrontations and dialogue, The Execution Channel succeeds in dancing between science fiction, political commentary, and social satire: and this is no easy dance. To create such satire, one must be politically astute beyond the usual reactionary stance - and author Michael McCord's background as an award-winning political commentator and journalist is just the ticket for taking these observations not just to their extremes, but injecting a sense of ironic humor into the mix.

The result is a hard-hitting yet accessible piece that toes the line between science fiction and political satire: a kind of dark comedy if you will, with its roots firmly centered in modern-day sentiments and trends. Readers seeking something different, challenging, and fun will welcome The Execution Channel's quirky presentation of an all-too-possible America where "Revolutions devour their own."

Missing Steps
York Van Nixon III
NexWord Press
ISBN: 0615817939
ISBN-13: 9780615817934 $9.99

Missing Steps centers around one Kory Vanon, whose grandmother dies saving him from a fire in an event that causes him to shed his childhood too soon, only to become an adult pursuing a dancing career.

All too easily could Missing Steps have become solely about this pursuit; but in actuality it's much more: it's a story of a young man's increasingly dangerous life as his dreams decline and turn into a too-real, deadly struggle with personal demons intent on wresting from him all he has worked all of his life.

Now, be advised: this version of Missing Steps represents a revision of the original 2007 publication. While usually revisions hold little warranting their re-purchase, word has it that this re-issue is more finely crafted than its original version, by far. Not having read the first release, all I have to go on is this story; but any interested in strong characterization, exceptional dialogues and powerful premises that move beyond the anticipated plot structure will find Missing Steps an extraordinary read.

Readers should be prepared for a plot - and a life - that centers on dance. The author is a Jones-Haywood classically trained dancer: his background infuses a fast-paced story with real dance concerns and serves as the impetus for many of the protagonist's choices and motivations.

Readers should also be prepared for surreal and poetic descriptions setting mood and place with a solid series of descriptions loaded with hard-hitting impressions: "During moments such as this, copper moon rays usually disappeared before anything happened, except tonight. Indecision had finally lost patience. At last the indolent flame would be drowned in welling wax. In sympathy, shadows folded arms and bore witness."

There's a man and a gun, there's reflection on a child and circumstances which point Kory toward suicide as a solution to problems, and there's reflection on long-lost faith: a void slowly filled by an emerging force bent on taking away Kory's reasons for living.

Raised in an atmosphere of belief fostered by membership in the John Wesley African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Kory's faith is more than shaken by life events; but he doesn't realize that this void will come to be filled by something far more sinister: something that grows over the decades as he matures. There's no relief, no matter which path Kory investigates to subdue his fears and the haunting which affects his life: "Seeing her demise should have been enough to dissuade him, but his arrogance about his ability to have modulated his usage in the past gave him false confidence when he climbed into the pipe stem in search of that first feeling of euphoria. Now he faced a substance stronger than he was."

As Kory becomes addicted and begins to neglect his son, Little Kory, he faces the demons of his own childhood and comes to realize the patterns predicting his decline from a conservative lifestyle to one on the brink of disaster. Pulling himself back from the precipice, he faces his diagnosis of MS and eventually even holds the courage to include his love in a decision that will change their lives.

Missing Steps is all about identifying and changing the forces that cause disconnection and angst in one's ambitions and dreams. It's all about one man's evolving relationship with his son, and the quality of a life that changes over the decades. Most of all it's about survival and overcoming all obstacles with new connections, goals, and dreams.

Perhaps this is the most powerful message of a story that begins with angst, tailors ambitions and dreams from that fire, and like a phoenix, falls only to rise again: "I'm stuck in self-pity and delusion, with no clue how to break the cycle. Can it be folly for me to believe one day I'll fully recover and be the person I once was?" "You know one cannot return to the past. What's more, most of your pain is in the past. Maybe it's time for you to be the most of who you are now."

The cadence and events of Missing Steps mirrors life's ups and downs. Its message of growth, change, and evolution is not to be ignored and creates a compelling story line readers will find involving.

The Night Trippers
Pam Summa
Amazon Kindle (forthcoming)

The Night Trippers is the sequel to Pam Summa's first novel, Groping for Luna, which was about Alice, Angel, and Joe and the challenges to their band and friendship when romance entered their lives. Groping for Luna (not read by this reviewer) apparently ended on a 'happily ever after' note; but what does that actually mean in real-world terms? Lives don't work out that neatly, which is one of the ideas explored in The Night Trippers.

In The Night Trippers Alice, Joe, and Angel return to continue the saga of their ongoing relationships with each other, their music and art, and their circle of friends. (Given their intertwined relationships and previous history, the sequel can be confusing for new readers until they get a sense of the characters' past and present interactions.) Here a pregnant Alice reflects more deeply on how her actions affect her life. Her efforts to get her priorities straight may fall short of what most people consider sensible, but for her, having any concrete plan for the future is a monumental stretch. Meanwhile Joe, who has always argued for looking before you leap and then using a net, is questioning his old stance. When Alice says to Joe: "Isn't that what using a net means? Planning for the future and using common sense?" he says: "I guess." He didn't want to say, no, it means watching for trouble so you can stay clear of it, and taking no chances. It means living in fear. He didn't want to live that way anymore. He didn't want her to live that way, either. Basically, that was the point. He didn't want her to look at him and see a net."

Both Alice and Joe have to resolve their past with Angel in order to be with each other: Alice has to move on from her relationship (and infatuation) with Angel, while Joe has to confront his jealousy of Angel. And Joe has other issues with his old friend, which it takes him a while to reveal. Alice and Joe are still in the early days discovering who they are as a couple. Their process is part of what makes The Night Trippers so complex and revealing: it's a journey every couple makes, and it explores boundaries between individuals who interact on more than one level. And Joe and Alice are not only discovering how to be together; they are individually coming to terms with their art-making - Joe's music and Alice's visual art - as well as with issues left over from their childhoods. Alice's pregnancy makes her need to clear out old family issues particularly urgent.

Meanwhile Angel, who left Alice partly because he could never envision himself in a monogamous relationship, much less a family circle, has moved in with Sukey (another non-monogamous ex-junkie) and - surprise - he discovers that his inability to commit to one person has suddenly come full circle with her. At the same time Angel is transitioning from being the unpredictable genius to the anchor of the band (which finally has reached a level of success that includes cash flow). Part of Angel's newfound maturity is due to his love for the problematic Sukey, which acts as a spur to his self-awareness, and part from his changed relationships with Joe and Alice. Despite his anger at Alice, Angel's insights about her are sound: "That was the thing about Alice - cornered, totally and obviously in the wrong, she would fight to the death and never give an inch. But she dropped all that if you were straight with her."

Angel's insights into Joe are not as clear, partly because Joe withdraws into inscrutability when challenged. As the band begins to take off, Joe and Angel have to deal with issues of creative freedom and financial commitment. Angel's frustration with what he perceives as Joe's apathy grows as Joe retreats, and even Alice has premonitions of disaster. How each of them comes to terms with the resulting upheaval will change their relationships as well as their art, and show Alice, Joe, and Angel a way to live with the changes that were initiated in Groping for Luna.

The Night Trippers is a solid recommendation for any reader who has made music or art a big part of their life and is looking for a powerful new vision of success in that world. The book is also recommended for anyone interested in protagonists who circle each other like dogs looking for a fight. Don't look for anything easy in this read: it truly follows life's complexities, showing relationships as they evolve and emotions that are fluid and changing. And don't expect pat solutions: at the end of the book no one has become rich or famous, and some relationships are unresolved, or are resolved in ways that preclude easy answers.

What is left are the partings and new connections that carry life forward.

Diane Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

The Equation
Judith Hill
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781490313252, $16.95, 457 pp,

Synopsis: Sarah Thompson was stunningly beautiful, compassionate, and unblemished. The only thing she wasn't was eighteen. Her talent was writing, her nemesis - math. Enter Travis Hall - highly disciplined and accustomed to getting what he wanted. A master at math, Travis comes to teach at Sarah's high school in 1962 after suffering a life altering event. His plan hadn't anticipated Sarah, whose aqua blue eyes seduce him, but whose open heart teaches him how to love. During tutoring sessions their mutual attraction grows into admiration overcoming their opposite natures. Passions simmer while their forbidden love is left unspoken taking each of them on a journey of the heart. As the year ends, Sarah remains off limits, the only prize he can't claim - though that doesn't mean that he can let her go. The Equation chronicles a compelling tale of unrequited love that spans decades, from Long Island, New York, to the great American Southwest. This epic story stirs the heart in all of us who have looked back across the bridge of time to touch the hand of the one we never forgot and always loved.

Critique: A superbly crafted novel, "The Equation" is a truly impressive debut effort from an obviously talented author. A complexly woven story populated with memorable and remarkable characters, "The Equation" is a solid entertainment from first page to last and will leave immensely satisfied readers looking eagerly toward Judith Hill next literary effort. Highly recommended for community library contemporary fiction collections, it should also be noted that "The Equation" is also available in an ebook format ($9.99).

The Midsummer Mouse
Reg Down
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781484871959, $16.50, 138 pp,

Synopsis: The sun is rising higher into the sky every day. Summer has come and Farmer John builds a great pile of wood for the Midsummer's Eve festival taking place on his land. Tom Nutcracker and June Berry's whole school is coming to celebrate. June Berry forgets a basket (with a cookie inside) by the oak tree when they are helping their dad build the wood pile. A small detail to us, perhaps, but one which leads Jeremy Mouse on a merry dance as Jemima Mouse tries to preserve the cookie for the festival. Meanwhile, Pine Cone and Pepper Pot are not opening their door to anyone other than Tiptoes (and even then only reluctantly). Their beards, it seems, are entangled. Hopelessly entangled. This sends Tiptoes all over the forest to find a way to get pine resin out of beards. Then there is the problem of Ompliant the Elephant. What are Tom and June to do with him? How will they keep him out of sight? But the clever kids come up with a wonderful idea to hide a pachyderm in plain sight. Finally, the Summer Queen begins to appear here and there, and in the end joins the festival and tells 'The Tale of Turana' before mysteriously vanishing before the crowd.

Critique: A modern fairytale certain to delight young readers (and their parents!), "The Midsummer Mouse: Midsummer Tales of Tiptoes Lightly and the Summer Queen" weaves together an engaging world of fantasy and enchantment, gladness and jollity, mystery and misadventure, and great fun from beginning to end. Also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95), "The Midsummer Mouse: Midsummer Tales of Tiptoes Lightly and the Summer Queen" is enthusiastically recommended for family, school, and community library collections for children ages 5 through 10.

Forbidden Bigfoot
Lisa A. Shiel
Jacobsville Books
28151 Quarry Lake Road
Lake Linden, MI 49945
9781934631294, $15.95, 304 pp,

Synopsis: Throughout recorded human history, eye-witnesses have reported face-to-face encounters with the bizarre beasts responsible for mystifying us with the tantalizing evidence they leave behind. Countless books and documentaries have offered up the same explanation, that Bigfoot are nothing more than large, bipedal apes that mainstream science has yet to accept as real. But is this the truth, or merely disinformation? "Forbidden Bigfoot: Exposing the Controversial Truth about Sasquatch, Stick Signs, UFOs, Human Origins, and the Strange Phenomena in Our Own Backyards" presents uncensored facts about Bigfoot in a meticulously researched, no-holds-barred exploration of the phenomenon. Forbidden Bigfoot exposes the startling connections between Sasquatch and other unexplained phenomena, from UFOs and fairies to stick signs and crop-circle-like formations. Shiel strips away the hype about claims of Bigfoot DNA evidence, touted as the ultimate proof, and explores what genetics and the fossil record can really tell us about these elusive creatures.

Critique: Cryptozoology is a field of study involving the search for animals whose existence has not been proven. This includes looking for living examples of animals that are considered extinct, such as dinosaurs; animals whose existence lacks physical evidence but which appear in myths, legends, or are reported, such as Bigfoot and Chupacabra; and wild animals dramatically outside their normal geographic ranges, such as phantom cats. Lisa Shiel's "Forbidden Bigfoot: Exposing the Controversial Truth about Sasquatch, Stick Signs, UFOs, Human Origins, and the Strange Phenomena in Our Own Backyards" is an informed, informative, and valued contribution to the growing library of cryptozoological studies. "Forbidden Bigfoot" is very highly recommended reading, particularly for non-specialist general readers with an interest in cryptozoological and related studies.

Two Women
Christene A. Browne
Second Story Press
20 Maud Street, Suite 401
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5V 2M5
9781927583203, $19.95, 344 pp,

Synopsis: Set in the 1970s, with a feeling of mystery and magic realism, "Two Women" is the story of Bernice Archer, who lives in a low-income downtown neighborhood where she has raised her blind twin daughters, Eva and Ava, in relative isolation. Every night she tells them regurgitated bedtime stories, sometimes magical and often cautionary, about the dangers of the world outside their small apartment. Eva and Ava, now middle-aged, still wait for their mother's stories with both excitement and suspicion, knowing that there is much they haven't been told. When Bernice notices two new neighbors in their building, she is inspired to tell a new story. And so begins the saga of Violet and Rose, who Bernice believes were born at the exact same moment, hemispheres apart, and who share the same soul.

Critique: An impressive debut novel, "Two Women" clearly documents professional film maker Christene A. Browne's considerable storytelling talents as she deftly engages her reader's attention with a compelling, complex, and cleverly woven narrative driven story. "Two Women" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections -- and will leave the reader looking eagerly toward Browne's next literary effort!

Vineyard's Children
Steve Shilstone
Livingston Press
University of West Alabama
Station 22, Livingston, AL 35470
1604891238, $16.95, 190 pp,

Synopsis: In the late 1970s, in the Northern California wine country, a hippie commune known as Vineyard has evolved from sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll into a working farm and winery. Ten-year-old JC, short for Joyful Child, a name he naturally despises, is a decent, sensible, compassionate kid. He and Teenie, his half-sister, are the only two children remaining on the farm. Their world features New Age spirituality, seances, tree-hugging vegetarians, parental kidnapping, folk singers, drug abuse, psychic healing circles, a horse called Pegasus, and a few magical mysteries but what lights the JC's fire is joining a Little League baseball team. He's an amazingly gifted pitcher, and coaches are eager to have him as a player. This is JC's look at the kaleidoscopic events of the era. At its core, it is a story about a brother, a sister, and a time.

Critique: Especially recommended for school and community library YA collections, "Vineyard's Children" is richly and accurately embedded with subcultural details that bring an impressive realism to a deftly crafted and highly entertaining novel that will have strong appeal for today's contemporary young readers. It should be noted that "Vineyard's Children" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781604891225, $28.00).

Bound By Blood And Brimstone
D. L. Dunaway
Itoh Press
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781939383334, $18.95, 358 pp,

Synopsis: Coming of age is never easy, but for Ember Mae Roberts and her twin sister, Lorrie Beth, it may boil down to a matter of life or death. Growing up in the mountains of West Virginia in the 1950's presents unique challenges for any child, but for talented young Ember Mae, it means bearing the burdens of an adult, as she quickly learns her expected role is that of her sister's keeper. When a schoolyard bully sets his brutal sights on a fragile Lorrie Beth, Ember Mae jumps to her defense. Terror abounds at every turn as the tormenting escalates. What begins as a normal rite of passage for children since the beginning of time ends in a final tragic confrontation that leaves Lorrie Beth shattered. Both sisters make a pact to keep a deadly secret in order to heal, but Lorrie Beth has always been weak. Ember Mae fears she'll crack under the strain and bring their world crashing down around them. What Ember Mae doesn't realize is that she and Lorrie Beth aren't the only ones keeping a secret. There are other secrets waiting to spill out, secrets so vile that when the full force of their evil is unleashed, it's anybody's guess who will survive.

Critique: A deftly crafted and complex novel, "Bound by Blood and Brimstone" is a compulsory read from beginning to end. Highly recommended for those who appreciate the feeling of tangible realism in their fictional novels, "Bound by Blood and Brimstone" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

The Money Bird
Sheila Webster Boneham
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738734873, $14.99, 336 pp,

Synopsis: For Janet MacPhail, photographing retrievers in training is the perfect way to spend an evening. But a photo session at Twisted Lake takes a peculiar turn as Drake, her friend Tom's Labrador, fetches a blood-soaked bag holding an exotic feather and a torn one-hundred-dollar bill. When one of her photography students turns up dead at the lake, Janet investigates a secretive retreat center with help from Australian Shepherd Jay and her quirky neighbor Goldie. Between dog-training classes, photo assignments, and romantic interludes with Tom, Janet is determined to get to the bottom of things before another victim's wings are clipped for good.

Critique: A ripping good mystery from first page to last! Highly recommended, it should also be noted that "The Money Bird" is also available in a hardcover large print (Thorndike Press, 9781410465177, $30.99) and a Kindle ($8.69) editions.

Understanding Human Design
Karen Curry
Hierophant Publishing]
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
665 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781938289101, $21.95, 376 pp,

Synopsis: Founded in the twentieth century by the late spiritual teacher Ra Uru Hu, Human Design is often called the "new Astrology," and the "intersection of science and spirituality." Your Human Design chart is formulated by taking your birth date, time, and location and extrapolating specific personality traits and life paths from this convergence. A Human Design chart offers an astonishingly accurate guide to your personality, as well as direction and counsel on how each individual can deal with challenges in their life. Previously, Human Design charts have been notoriously difficult to interpret and decipher, usually taking a dedicated expert to read and translate them into plain English. At least, that used to be the case--until now.

In Understanding Human Design: The Science of Discovering Who You Really Are, author Karen Curry walks you through the sometimes complex and intimidating Human Design chart with simple, direct language. You will learn about each level of Human Design, from the most basic elements of the chart to the deeper, more nuanced insights Human Design offers, all in an approachable and interesting way. Understand how every line, intersection, and symbol correlates to a personality trait that can directly affect your life with an experienced guide by your side.

Your personal Human Design Chart can reveal your strengths, your weaknesses, and perhaps most importantly, your potential. Prepare for repetitive difficulties that you might encounter throughout your life, and embrace the opportunity to grow as you understand your personal Human Design strategy. With author Karen Curry's assistance and knowledge, you have a path to overcome these difficulties simply by following the directions set out in your Human Design chart, the "owner's manual" to your life.

Critique: Offering a wealth of deftly presented and practical information, "Understanding Human Design: The New Science of Astrology: Discover Who You Really Are" is a welcome and highly recommended addition to personal and community library Astrology and Metaphysical Studies collections. It should be noted that "Understanding Human Design: The New Science of Astrology: Discover Who You Really Are" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

One More Mountain
Janet Buckwalter
Sartoris Literary Group
c/o MM Book Publicity
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 37203
9780989318655, $19.95, 192 pp,

Synopsis: Experience five wildly different journeys across America in the pages of "One More Mountain: Road Warriors Explore America ". Dip your toes into the Pacific Ocean after pedaling 4,100 miles with a silver-haired, spitfire grandma on a trike. Feel your lungs explode as you struggle the last few miles up and over the Rocky Mountains with Dick & Rick on their bike/wheelchair. Beg your quivering biceps to stay in the race with Team Can Be Venture racing their hand cycles. Hear the wheels of your skateboard hug the hairpin turns down the Appalachians as Jack shares the memory of his son across the US. Find refreshment in the warm, bottled water taste of youthful idealism as Matt and Brandon run mile after mile, sharing their dream to bring clean water to the children of Africa. These are the stories of individuals who crossed America, sometimes under harsh conditions, to spotlight individuals with disabilities, share memories of loved ones, or help those in need. This book is a celebration of strength. Of ordinary folks doing extraordinary things with their lives. Of shouting in the face of obstacles, "Yes, I can!" Of living life based on what it can be instead of what is. Share their powerful stories as they leave footprints of compassion and selflessness in their wake, road warriors in search of adventure.

Critique: "One More Mountain: Road Warriors Explore America" is a collection of 'true life' adventurous, entertainingly presented, and occasionally inspiring stories that make it a perfect recommendation for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "One More Mountain: Road Warriors Explore America" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.95).

Sorrow's Knot
Erin Bow
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780545166669, $17.99, 368 pp,

Synopsis: In the world of "Sorrow's Knot", the dead do not rest easy. Every patch of shadow might be home to something hungry, something deadly. Most of the people of this world live on the sunlit, treeless prairies. But a few carve out an uneasy living in the forest towns, keeping the dead at bay with wards made from magically knotted cords. The women who tie these knots are called binders. And Otter's mother, Willow, is one of the greatest binders her people have ever known. But Willow does not wish for her daughter to lead the lonely, heavy life of a binder, so she chooses another as her apprentice. Otter is devastated by this choice, and what's more, it leaves her untrained when the village falls under attack. In a moment of desperation, Otter casts her first ward, and the results are disastrous. But now Otter may be her people's only hope against the shadows that threaten them. Will the challenge be too great for her? Or will she find a way to put the dead to rest once and for all?

Critique: A superbly crafted and unique fantasy novel from beginning to end, "Sorrow's Knot" will have particular appeal for young readers ages 12 through 18, making it an ideal addition for school and community library teenage fantasy collections. It should be noted that "Sorrow's Knot" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99). Also very highly recommended is author Erin Bow's previous novel for young readers ages 12 and older, "Plain Kate" (9780545166652, HC $17.99, PB $9.99, Kindle $7.59).

Blood Redemption
Tessa Dawn
Ghost Pines Publishing, LLC
9781937223083, $14.84, 348 pp,

Synopsis: Saber Alexiares is no ordinary vampire. He is like a cruel, fire-breathing dragon. Reared in the bowels of the colony by Dark Ones, he has no conscience, no compassion, and no saving grace. Captured by the enemy, he is sentenced to execution by sunlight only to discover that his body will not burn - he isn't who he thought he was. He was stolen at birth. He was reared by the wrong house. And the sunlight isn't going to kill him because he does have a soul.

Vanya Demir is the very heart of goodness and light, an ancient female from a magical race, the progeny of humans and celestial deities before they were cursed by the Blood. With her deep-rooted sense of duty; naive upbringing; and tragic, personal history, she has unknowingly packed her heart in ice and dedicated her life to the service of the Vampyr. She is wholly unprepared to face a fire-breathing dragon.

When their paths converge beneath a Serpens Blood Moon, they will each have thirty days to reconcile the irreconcilable, to confront the primordial darkness that threatens to destroy them both. Can a being lost in darkness for eight-hundred years ever find its way to the light? Can a heart that's been buried for as long as it can remember risk the ultimate in betrayal and damnation simply for the hope of Blood Redemption?

Critique: "Blood Redemption" is the fifth and newest volume in Tessa Dawn's outstanding and unique fantasy series. Those to whom this is their first introduction to the extraordinary storytelling talents of Tessa Dawn, her four earlier novels are also very strongly recommended: Blood Destiny (9781936185214, $14.95); Blood Awakening (9781937223007, $14.94); Blood Possession (9781937223038, $14.94); and Blood Shadows (9781937223069, $14.94).

Shallow Enough To Walk Through
Marissa Reaume
NeWest Press
#201, 8540-109 Street
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 1E6
9781927063422, $17.95, 180 pp,

Synopsis: "Three weeks it's been raining, but no puddles". Author Sara Pierce is slowly drowning in Windsor, a city where water will seemingly not stay put long enough to form puddles. While living with her germophobic best friend Angie and dealing with her online gaming-addicted boyfriend Dan, Sara finds herself obsessively writing and rewriting her own story in order to gain some sense of control over her life. Reading like John Barth by way of Lena Dunham, this is a portrait of the artist as a young woman trapped in a world she never imagined would end up this way.

Critique: This debut novel clearly documents author Marissa Reaume's genuine talent for deftly crafted characters and nicely woven plots. "Shallow Enough to Walk Through" is a thoroughly satisfying and entertaining story that will leave the reader looking eagerly toward Marissa Reaume's next novel!

Historical Hearthrobs
Kelly Murphy & Hallie Fryd
Zest Books
35 Stillman Street, Suite 121, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781936976102, $17.99, 224 pp,

Synopsis: History is about much more than dusty books, dreary dates, and long-forgotten battles. History is also about sex appeal! Historical Heartthrobs compiles photos and life stories of 50 of the sexiest men and women from history and asks the essential question: Would you really want to date them? Consider George Sand, for instance. She was the hottest thing in pants in nineteenth-century France, but would you really want to put up with all that smoking? Or what about Nikola Tesla? His utter brilliance made Victorians swoon, but he seemed incapable of swooning back. Would you endure his indifference in return for that incredible smile?

Each entry in Historical Heartthrobs includes a full-page photo, contemporary quotes, and an in-depth explanation of who these people were, why they mattered, and how they managed to be so seductive. They also include vital statistics about the hottie's place of birth, lifespan, and major areas of influence; the inside scoop on peccadilloes, noteworthy liaisons, and long-standing relationships; and an overall heat reading that factors in sex appeal, charisma, accomplishments, and of course, moral virtue.

Everyone included here made their mark on the world - but not everyone did so in an equally admirable fashion. John Wilkes Booth was definitely good-looking, but racist assassins don't generally make for the best life partners. Nellie Bly, on the other hand, did more in her average year than most people do in a lifetime - and she happened to look like a model, too. So review their records, check out their photos, and choose the hottie who makes you swoon.

Critique: A pure pleasure to simply browse through, "Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes-From Cleopatra to Camus" is as informed and informative, as it is entertaining and occasionally quite surprising. Profusely illustrated throughout and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted that "Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes-From Cleopatra to Camus" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Life with a Superhero
Kathryn U. Hulings
University of North Texas Press
PO Box 311336, Denton, TX 76203-1336
9781574415247, $29.95, 288 pp,

Synopsis: Over twenty years ago, in a small Israeli town, a desperate mother told a remarkable lie. She told her friends and family that her newborn child had died. That lie became the catalyst for the unfolding truth of the adoption of that same baby - Michael - who is, in fact, very much alive and now twenty-two years old. He also has Down syndrome.

When Kathryn Hulings adopted Michael as an infant, she could not have known that he would save her life when she became gravely ill and was left forever physically compromised. Her story delights in how Michael's life and hers, while both marked by difference and challenge, are forever intertwined in celebration and laughter. With candor and a sense of humor, Life With a Superhero wraps itself around the raucous joy of Michael's existence with his four older siblings who play hard and love big; how Kathryn and her husband, Jim, utilize unconventional techniques in raising kids; the romance between Michael and his fiancee, Casey; the power of dance in Michael's life as an equalizing and enthralling force; the staggering potential and creativity of those who are differently-abled; and the mind-blowing politics of how Kathryn navigated school systems and societal attitudes that at times fought to keep Michael excluded from the lives of kids deemed "normal."

No other books about the parenting experience outline what to do when, say, a child runs across the roof of a tri-level house pretending he can fly, or shows up in a 7th grade social studies class dressed like Spiderman, or calls 911 when his girlfriend breaks his heart. But, as Michael's mom, Kathryn has been trying to figure how to be a mother in just such circumstances - sometimes with success, sometimes with dismal failure - for over two decades.

Critique: Candid, intimate, powerful, inspired and inspiring, "Life with a Superhero: Raising Michael Who Has Down Syndrome" is highly recommended reading for anyone having a Down Syndrome child in their family. Exceptionally well written from beginning to end, "Life with a Superhero: Raising Michael Who Has Down Syndrome" is a strongly recommended addition to public library collections for the benefit of their patrons and community at large.

T. R. Dowden
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781481985246, $16.95, 464 pp,

Synopsis: Giovanni St.-Baptiste, a New Orleans fishing boat captain with an MBA in Business, is about to set sail on the Josephine Rose with his crew on an extended fishing voyage; but before he leaves, he must attend his parents' landmark wedding anniversary party. Immediately after the celebration, a tragic car accident happens, leaving his mother dead and his father fighting for his life in Intensive Care. Rafael Buchanan, his father's attorney, tells Giovanni ("Gino") that he's been appointed acting CEO of his family's company in his father's absence. From that moment on, Gino's life changes forever. The family of Gino's deceased mother, the Portobellos, are shareholders in the St.-Baptiste family business and they are adamantly opposed to Jean St.-Baptiste's decision to name Gino as CEO. They seek to undermine him at every turn, in particular, his Uncle Louis, who has longed to take the corporate reins for many years. He conspires with Jean's enemies in order to accomplish that goal. Gino soon learns that not only is he acting CEO of the family business, he is also the acting "don" of his father's "crime family" - a gang of criminals known in underground circles as "the Pack" - in keeping with his father's nickname Le Garou Grise (The Gray Wolf.) Gino soon realizes he has very large shoes to fill and with the help of family, friends, employees, and acquaintances old and new, he struggles to survive the 'Aftermath'.

Critique: "Aftermath" is a complex, detailed, deftly woven novel that documents author T. R. Dowden's impressive writing skills and storytelling abilities. "Aftermath" is an engaging and entertaining reading experience from beginning to end and is a strongly recommended addition to personal reading lists and would make an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections. Simply stated, "Aftermath" will leave its readers looking eagerly toward T. R. Dowden's anticipated next novel, "Delaware Blues".

The Crowded Kingdom
Louella Dizon San Juan
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492331421, $22.89, 182 pp., ($14.49

Synopsis: What if you woke up in Central Park as someone so tiny that you discover a fairy kingdom in New York City? The Crowded Kingdom is the story of two sisters, Jada and Jinny, who find themselves shrunk to the size of dandelions and discover a world of fairies, elves, and other small folk in New York City. Along with several elf friends and a rebellious purple fairy, the girls embark on a journey to find out how to return to their normal size - and get caught up in a magical war instead. Will the curious girls ever find a way back to their families, or will they be forever trapped in this wondrous world?

Critique: Nicely illustrated with occasional full-color images, "The Crowded Kingdom" is a deftly written and thoroughly entertaining modern fairytale adventure that will fire the imagination of young readers and hold their full attention from beginning to end. "The Crowded Kingdom" is very highly recommended for school and community library fantasy collections. It should also be noted that "The Crowded Kingdom" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.49).

Julie Summers

Klausner's Bookshelf

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
Philip Pullman
Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780143107293, $18.00,

This reprint 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.

Far Shore
Traci L. Slatton
Parvati Press

The white miasma Mists killed billions when the metals were sucked out of humans during the fatal Day and aftermath. In Edmonton, Arthur saved Emma, her youngest daughter and several orphans when he dispatched the Mists and brought them into his safe camp. Emma assumed her husband Haywood and their oldest daughter Beth were dead; she and Arthur soon become an entry until her family members arrive at the camp (see Fallen). Not long afterward, raiders abduct Beth, but her parents rescue her (see Cold Light).

Adversarial psychopath Alexei abducts and tortures Arthur. A concerned Emma wants to mount a rescue, but Haywood demands she choose between him (and their kids he swears will go with him) and his rival. Heartbroken Emma feels she has no choice except to save Arthur and through him what is left of the dwindling safe sectors, but fears failure in finding, saving and healing him.

The third After the Day apocalyptic thriller is a terrific twisting tale as the lead quartet individually deals with their personal demons while time runs out for a seemingly dying world in its last throes. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate this super finish to a strong fantasy as hope fades with the final flickering of love or perhaps that tiny unsteady light reflects a new beginning.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing
P.D. Viner
c/o Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780804136822, $26.00,

Two decades ago in Durham, someone raped and murdered British college student Dani Lancing. The case remains unsolved but impacted the twentyish victim's parents as neither of the separated pair moved on with their grief. Unable to cope with her death, Dani's father Jim lives with his child's ghost who does not remember the deadly assault on her; while her avenging seeking mother Patricia vigilantly searches for her daughter's killer in a compulsion that will end with either the psychopath dead or her death. Also affected by Dani's death is her childhood friend Tom "The Sad Man" Bevans; who after all this time still suffers from unrequited love and a sad obsession that rivals that of Patricia. He knows her death motivated him to become a cop in order to help victims and their loved one with closure.

Now a Detective Superintendent, Tom Bevans applies modern forensic technology to evidence gathered at the homicide scene twenty years ago. He informs Dani's parents he plans to open the cold case, which triggers responses from Jim who refuses to lose his daughter for a second time; Patricia who renews her vendetta to kill the killer; Tom who hopes to move on; and those who prefer the murder remain unsolved.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is a fascinating character driven police procedural that focuses on what happens to the victim's loved ones after her brutal murder. The flashbacks enhance understanding Dani without the rose colored glasses of her friend and parents as well as what drives the grieving trio, but also detract from the present day suspense. Still readers will enjoy this complex tale as Dani sums up: "It's lonely being dead."

Severed Trust
Margaret Daley
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426761867, $14.99,

In Summerton, Texas high school students BFFs Lexie Alexander and Kelly Winston attend a pill popping party. Accompanying them is Kelly's boyfriend Jared Montgomery. After the party ends, Jared is found dead from a prescription pill overdose.

Lexie's uncle Texas Ranger Ethan Stone investigates Jared's death and that of two more students from illegally-obtained prescription drug overdoses to try to uncover the source. Petrified Kelly fears telling her parents, her BFF, the law or her teacher Sadie Thompson what she knows. By the time she realizes her error she is dead in what looks like a suicide, but Lexie thinks otherwise. As Ethan gathers evidence that an illegal prescription drug gang sells to local teens including his niece, he realizes he must keep Sadie and Lexie safe from this vicious ring.

The latest Men of the Texas Rangers inspirational thriller (see Scorned Justice) is a fabulous romantic police procedural that focuses on the illegal prescription drug usage epidemic including looks at "safe zones" like theft inside a nursing home and sales inside a school. Action-packed yet with a strong awareness message, Severed Trust is a thrilling wake up call.

The Christmas Quilt
Vannetta Chapman
9781426752773, $12.99

During her rumschpringe, Annie Weaver studied and became a nurse and after her return home married Amish healer Widower Samuel Yoder (see A Simple Amish Christmas). Since coming back to Mifflin County, Pennsylvania three years ago, Annie and Samuel provide medical care to their neighbors.

She and her sister-in-law Leah Weaver are pregnant with the latter carrying twins. Annie vows to create a quilt for her friend before Leah gives birth. When Leah goes into premature labor, Belinda the midwife insists she goes to Mercy Hospital where Annie once worked as a nurse. Annie stays at her friend's side while working on the quilt. Each shares their trepidations of being first time mothers and their belief that God led them to being BFFs so that the nurse is there for the patient.

The latest Quilts of Love inspirational (see Raw Edges by Sandra D. Bricker, Pieces of the Heart by Bonnie Calhoun and A Healing Heart by S. Dionne Moore) is a gripping family drama as the two pregnant best buddies strongly believe God purposely guided them to become friends for this moment. Character driven by a strong cast, especially the faith-filled lead females, readers will appreciate this entertaining Amish tale.

Alligator Man
James Sheehan
Center Street
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455508648, $23.00,

After his company Dynatron went bankrupt destroying the lives of 20,000 employees and their families, and decimating investors, gazillionaire CEO Roy Johnson retired to Gladestown, Florida with a hundred million dollar Golden Parachute package. The Feds sent his accountant to prison for three years, but Roy and the rest of management proved uncatchable.

Roy's wife Sylvia reports him missing to County Sheriff's only local employee Carlisle Buchanan. On a hunch, Carlisle goes to the Everglades where he finds pieces of clothing that apparently belong to Roy. This leads to many locals assuming an alligator grabbed Roy during his nightly intoxicated stroll. Sheriff Cousins assigns Carlisle to work with detective Vern Fleming on the missing "Alligator Man" case. High school student Freddie Jenkins swears to Carlisle that he saw a hit-and-run and another witness claims to have overheard bar talk re a murder. Evidence soon points to angry ex-Dynatron employee Billy Fuller as the Alligator Man killer. Meanwhile Kate Parker calls lawyer Kevin Wylie with news that his estranged father Tom is in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. Though almost three decades have passed since his mother, accompanied by their eight years old son Kevin, left his dad; he and his father defend Billy.

The Alligator Man is an entertaining legal thriller with roots in the capitalistic avarice underbelly of the Great Recession. Although the key cast is either pure of heart goodness or dark of heart wickedness and a twist improbable; readers will enjoy the reconciliation of father and son lawyers as they defend the accused in a Florida court.

Mr. Lynch's Holiday
Catherine O'Flynn
Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, NY, NY 10010-7725
9780805091816, $26.00,

Eamonn and Laura moved from England to a new condo in picturesque Lomaverde, Spain. However, When the Spanish economy tanks, the complex falls into unfinished disrepair. Residents with choices abandon the place including Laura who flees for home. Depressed and angry, Eamonn struggles to teach his online English class.

His father Dermot the retired bus driving widower surprises Eamonn when he arrives from Birmingham. The trapped bitter British expatriates welcome Dermot who feels at home in the rundown development that reminds him of his childhood in the Irish slums. His enthusiasm brings a new hope for those trapped in a nightmare that once was a dream.

Mr. Lynch's Holiday is an engaging character study that looks deep at the impact of the Great Recession on a once upscale boom town changed into a Depression Era-like ghost-town. Dermot is a Pied Piper as his energetic optimism brings a magical reawakening to those (including his son) living dead in Lomaverde.

Christmas Ghosts: A Fiction River Anthology
Kristine Grayson (editor)
WMG Publishing
PO Box 269, Lincoln City, OR 97367
9780615783550, $15.99,

"The Farewell Gift" by Louise Marley. The Spanish Flu pandemic killed lonely Madeline's family; however for Christmas her brother Holland the ghost gifts her with Peter stranded during a Montana blizzard.

"A Ghost of Time" by Dean Wesley Smith. Sherri bought the rundown mansion in 2015, but she is in 1898 when Carson built the place.

"Christmas, Interrupted" by Lisa Silverthorne. In December 2013, Mallory tries to go back to one year to prevent Rowan's murder.

"The Ghost of Willow's Past" by M.L. Buchman. In Portland, soldiers Dusty and Amy meet at a public garden where her grandmother's tree of love planted in 1917 was recently cut down.

"Toasted" by Mary Jo Putney. In New York, Rebecca the Hunter wakes up Simon the Guardian because she insists the children need help. Attracted to each other, her being a ghost complicates matters.

"Chains" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. In New York, Roth feels lonely as he prepares to go on stage with his father the ghost nagging him about turning in the unauthorized young girl when his only love Erika comes looking for her.

"Miss Merriweather's Christmas Follies" by Carole Nelson Douglas. Pitt informs Dark Angel singer Adrian that he is a problem dead and alive while Marianne argues he does not belong in hell as his ancestor killed her.

"A Countess for Christmas" by Anthea Lawson. In 1814 Liam writes Cecilia that her brother is healing at his estate following an accident; they continue to exchange correspondence.

The latest Fiction River anthology (see Time Streams) contains two time travel and six ghost stories, but all eight entries sage a strong Christmas romantic theme.

Rasputin's Shadow
Raymond Khoury
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525953135, $27.95,

In 1916 in the Russian Empire's Ural Mountains, miners suddenly go berserk and kill each other. Not long after the insanity began, an explosion leaves all the miners dead. Rasputin tells his horrified scientist companion, who trembles with what they wrought, that they saved their people.

In present day Queens, Russian embassy official Ilya Shislenko falls to his death from his high rise apartment. FBI special agent Sean Reilly investigates the death that he believes was a homicide. At the same time, Reilly also works the case of high school physics teacher Leo Sokolov who recently vanished. The Russian connection has Reilly seek a link between his two inquiries, but he remains ignorant that Sokolov possesses a gizmo his late ancestor made for Rasputin that radically changes a person's normal behavior.

Although the premise seems over the top of the Ural Mountains, the latest Templar tale (see The Devil's Elixir) is an action-packed save the world from a weapon of pandemic mass destruction thriller. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy Reilly's in your face escapades even though the suspenseful storyline flows as expected.

Death on Demand
Paul Thomas
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens
London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
9781908524171, $14.95,

Six years ago, friends Adrian, Christopher, Fraser and Jonathan go on vacation together as they have done every year for fifteen years regardless of family and work needs. This time they go to Waiheke Island where they discuss solving their personal problems by hiring a hit man.

Three months later, a car kills Joyce while she jogged in St. Heliers, Auckland. Not long after that a mugger slices the throat of Roger in Ponsonrby, Auckland. Nine months ago, Evelyn is murdered in Auckland. As more deaths occur to include an undercover cop, Detective Sergeant Tito Ihaka investigates what appears to be a serial killer for hire; at the same time Auckland Central PD wants to exile the Maori police officer allegedly for his unruly behavior and appearance.

The latest Ihaka New Zealand police procedural (see Guerilla Season) is a fantastic investigative tale. The taut leisurely-paced storyline is filled with twists as the always in trouble with the brass protagonist works the case and deals with racism from his peers and superiors in his brusque manner.

Steven F. Havill
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464200700, $24.95,

Retired Posadas County Sheriff Bill Gastner can't sleep so he goes outside to enjoy the view of the night sky. The septuagenarian notices a fire and that the power in the area is out. He calls it in and heads to the blaze approximately 20 miles from the mesa where he was stargazing. Once there, Gastner finds a corpse and carved up wooden power-line supports.

Although he knows better than to get involved, Gastner makes inquiries. A cop's murder leads him to believe the arson, vandalism and two deaths relate to local rancher Miles Waddell's dream of Nightzone; the astronomy-based theme park resort that many New Mexican environmentalists allied with anti-federalists oppose.

The key to this super Posadas County mystery (see One Perfect Shot) is the protagonist acts like a person who is seventy-four years old as he tires much quicker than when he was the sheriff. The key characters (besides family) are divided over the Nightzone development, but each group is populated by real people instead of casting 101 stereotypes. Steven F. Havill writes a strong timely investigative tale.

The Heavens Rise
Christopher Rice
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., NY, NY 10020
9781476716084, $26.00,

In the Bayou in 2005, Niquette Delongpre's father dreamed of changing the land surrounded by swamp water into Elysium an estate like no other. The construction crew diligently working at the site dig into a long buried well. None of them or the Delongpre family knew at the time that they liberated an interred parasite better for mankind left buried. Soon afterward, the entire Delongpre family except for Niquette disappears near Bayou Rabineaux leaving behind the frightened teen and signs that their car went through a guardrail.

Niquette knows what has happened to her and her family. Filled with rage and remorse, she vows to never allow her recent need for violence to harm her boyfriend Ben and their best friend Anthem so pushes them away. However, they refuse to walk away from her. In 2013, Niquette realizes that the parasite infected another childhood peer Marshall who while he resides in a coma in an Atlanta Hospital plans to release his inner violence in an unsuspecting world.

Rotating viewpoint between the four protagonists and two time periods, readers get to know what motivates each of the quartet; especially the pair hosting the parasite inside them. Character driven, fans will relish this strong horror thriller that builds suspense from the eeriness of what was released from deep in the murky Bayou.

Battered To Death
Gayle Trent
9781476706573, $7.99

After a sour life with an abusive ex who is in prison for shooting at her, Daphne Martin came home to Brea Ridge, Virginia where everything has turned sweet. She opened up popular Daphne's Delectable Cakes and has a boyfriend Brea Ridge Chronicle editor Ben Jacobs.

Daphne enters the Brea Ridge Taste Bud Temptation Cake and Confectionary Arts Exhibit and Competition. She attends a workshop hosted by saccharine TV celebrity cake decorator Jordon Richards. The teacher lives up to his non-sugary reputation as he is nasty to the students. Soon afterward someone murders Richards ironically using a cake stand as a battering ram. The police find many people with motives and to her shock include Daphne as a suspect. While she and her friend Myra try to prove her innocence, Daphne prepares for the competition and struggles with Ben considering relocating to Kentucky.

The latest Daphne Martin Cake mystery (see Dead Pan, Killer Sweet Tooth and Murder Takes the Cake) is an enjoyable amateur sleuth. Readers will wonder what is in the icing as Daphne seems overextended with the case, the cops, the contest, the Chronicle boyfriend and the cake business. Still fans will enjoy this charming cozy as the BFFs investigate while the cops and Myra's PI boyfriend are unhappy with them.

L.A. Kornetsky
9781451671650, $15.00

In Seattle, private concierge business owner Ginny Mallard enjoys stopping at Mary's Bar & Grill. Bartender Teddy Tonica likes when Ginny and her shar-pei Georgie visit though the canine relaxes outside.

College student Mora Rees works as a volunteer at the Lifehouse animal shelter. She is concerned when $2000 vanishes; as the missing money could impact the animal shelter's grants since all donations must be accounted for. Having read about Gin and Tonic in the newspaper (see Collared), she comes to Mary's to persuade them to investigate the stolen funds. Gin accepts the case while Tonic reluctantly agrees to keep her out of trouble. As they interview staff and scrutinize records, Georgie and Penny the bar cat who adopted Tonic as his pet discuss how to help the humans solve the case so that there mates at the shelter have a home.

The second Gin & Tonic cozy is a lighthearted leisurely-paced anthropomorphist whodunit with life in a cheerful neighborhood bar in many ways superseding the sleuthing. The lead humans and their animal owners are unique engaging leads while the investigation is mostly low-keyed.

The Case of the Love Commandos
Tarquin Hall
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., NY, NY 10020
9781451613261, $24.99,

In India Ram and Tulsi meet and fall in love. However, Tulsi's father Mishra objects to the relationship as he and his daughter are upper class Thakur and Ram is a lowly Dalit Untouchable. Mishra threatens to kill Ram if he continues to pursue Tulsi.

The desperate pair asks the Love Commandos, who assist star-crossed couples overcoming caste differences impeding their marrying; they plan to help them elope. However, before they can wed, Ram is kidnapped. Love Commando Laxmi talks with her boss at the Most Private Investigators Ltd, Puri; who agrees to find the missing groom. Puri soon learns that someone murdered Ram's mother with Mishra as the prime suspect. Feeling the resolution too simple, Puri digs deeper; while his Mummy goes after a person she believes is a pickpocket about to commit a deadlier crime; and his operative Facecream works undercover.

India's Most Private Investigator's latest case (see The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken) is a fabulous investigative tale that looks deep at the remnants of the Caste system in which money has dented the rigidity but it remains strong otherwise. The engaging storyline rotates between Puri, Mummy and Facecream with the first being a terrific insightful whodunit, the second comedic relief (except if you are "Chubby" Puri or her suspect), and the third well done but not at the same level.

Midnight's Temptation
Donna Grant
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250017284, $7.99,

Aisley Wallace regrets heeding the advice of her cousin Jason when he persuaded her to sell her soul to the Devil for power. No longer a Mie Druid, filled with anguish Aisley is damned to live in Hell, home to the malevolent soul selling Drough Druids. Making matters more difficult to accept for Aisley is she has a conscience that requires her to rectify her mistakes starting with preventing dead Jason from enacting revenge and harming the innocent before she dies.

Phelan the Warrior pursues Aisley whose kiss awakened deep feelings of love after centuries of him being a hermit following his long incarceration by Isla the Drough. He offers to keep Aisley safe in spite of his vow to assassinate all Droughs, but her siren skills supersede her evil Druid essence. Though she wants to say yes, Aisley refuses because she cannot allow harm to come to her beloved due to her foolishness. Meanwhile evil is coming to collect Aisley and anyone in the way.

The latest Dark Warrior (see Midnight's Captive) is a taut action-packed romantic fantasy that hooks the audience throughout. The concise fast-paced storyline focuses on the two wounded warriors who fear love yet may find redemption if they take a chance; while the vile villain's stalking provides suspense to a fabulous tale.

Silencing Eve
Iris Johansen
St. Martin's
9781250020024, $27.99

Psychopath Jim Doane brilliantly executed his kidnapping plan re Taking Eve Duncan when she was alone in order for the forensic artist to reconstruct the face of his late child Kevin using his son's skull. Filled with guilt for canceling plans to be with Eve, her loved ones (police detective Joe Quinn, her adopted child Jane MacGuire and Kendra Michaels) believe she is dead following an explosion while they were Hunting Eve. CIA agent Catherine Ling who owes Eve for finding her missing son is in shock with the news.

However animal whisperer Margaret insists otherwise. Catherine enlists Eve's father Lee Zander the assassin to join her, Joe, Jane and Kendra in search of their beloved before Doane decides Silencing Eve is prudent.

The final entry in the latest Duncan trilogy is an exciting twisting thriller especially when the focus is on the cat and mouse deadly game between the clever maniac and title abductee's loved ones. Subplots involving the pursuers add depth to these characters that we all already know but also slow down the prime suspense. Still this is an entertaining ending to another Eve epic.

Secrets Of A Scandalous Marriage
Valerie Bowman
St. Martin's
9781250008978, $7.99

In 1816, Lady Katherine Townsende resides in the Tower of London for murdering her husband, the Duke of Markingham. Viscount James Bancroft comes to her cell offering her a deal in which he will make a lot of money on the homicidal scandal. He will obtain the best lawyer for her in exchange for her cooperation in writing a pamphlet focusing on her perspective of what happened. He also insists, in accordance with the law, she first must ask authorities to place her in his custody. She accepts his terms with one caveat that she moves into his home while awaiting trial as the murdering duchess.

Lord Perfect suffers from conflicting feelings of chagrin and desire, as Katherine disrupts James' orderly lifestyle. He also doubts her insistent claims of innocence as everyone in the Tower makes that assertion. As Katherine seduces the staid James, they fall in love; but the trial increasingly affirms the belief held by everyone except Lord Perfect that she is a spousal killer.

The third Secret Brides Regency romance (see Secrets of a Wedding Night and Secrets of a Runaway Bride) will be on everyone's short list as one of the best historicals of the year. The love plot is fresh with a rare uniqueness due to the prim and proper perfect lord and the sassy seductress who makes him relish messes something he loathed before she turned his life upside down. The trial adds tension to a super early nineteenth century winner.

Anything But Love
Beth Ciotta
St. Martin's
9781250001344, $7.99

In Sugar Creek, Vermont, Luke Monroe loves his family and the women. However, the hound was attracted to enigmatic independent Rachel Lacey but allowed his cousin Sam to court the Sugar Tots teaching assistant and member of the Cupcake Lovers before she vanished last year. Luke muses that she was the only one who knew he suffered from dyslexia as he hid his reading problem from family and friends. He hired PI Jayce Bello to find her and he finally did. Jayce says Rachel goes by the name of Reagan Deveraux, an heiress living in Bel Air about to inherit a fortune; her photo is that of a hot woman instead of the mousy female she was when she resided here for a year.

Reagan misses her time in the Green Mountain State especially her Cupcake Lovers' friends and mostly Luke. On Christmas Eve he comes to Bel Air to confront her. His arrival amuses her mom Olivia and angers affluent Geoffrey Stein. Acting like a judgmental jerk, Luke tries to force Rae to return to Vermont for Christmas, but she refuses. They have sex that satisfies neither and he angrily leaves for New England. Six weeks later, Rae flies to Sugar Creek with Sam's assistance to tell hostile Luke she is pregnant.

The third Cupcake Lovers romance (see Fool For Love and The Trouble With Love) is an enjoyable second chance as betrayal occurs in a nanosecond if your entire life except for one brief interlude is a series of treacherous acts from those who allegedly love you. Although Olivia is too stereotypical Momma Dearest, Anything But Love is an engaging tale.

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312594435, $18.99

In Tulsa, the immortal Neferet is lost to Zoey and her House of Night companions (see Hidden). However, Neferet has a greater thirst for victory with revenge a powerful motivator for this ancient one used to always winning. She needs a body, but for one like her easily obtained through the blood of these lesser being mortals she kills without remorse.

Neferet begins her return engagement with a gruesome kill that angers the humans residing in Tulsa. The irate mortals demand a reckoning with the vampires starting with the House of Night occupants. The teen students led by Zoey know they must not just vanquish their evil adversary this time; they must prevent the malevolent from ever retuning. At the same time Zoey and her friends also must persuade the humans they will not harm them before a bloody incident happens.

The latest House of Night older teen urban fantasy is an engaging entry though the storyline has a deja vu theme and the overarching plot fails to advance. Zoey and crew struggle with Neferet's lethal actions that lead to the city outraged with all vampires racially profiled and blamed for one evil apple. Long time series fans will enjoy Neferit's comeback tour.

Killer's Art
Mari Jungstedt
Stockholm Text
19820 82nd Place NE
Kenmore, Seattle, WA 98028
9789187173455, $14.95,

In Visby on Gotland Island, someone batters before murdering art dealer Egon Wallin. The killer leaves the naked corpse hanging off of Dalman Gate. Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas leads the investigation assisted by Detective Inspector Karin Jacobsson into what is ruled a homicide as the corpse died elsewhere.

The brutality of the death shocks all of Sweden while the cops believe the viciousness probably means the culprit is filled with out of control rage; two more violent murders in the art world affirm that hypothesis. Due to a connection to Wallin, complicating the murder inquiry is the theft of the renowned Nils von Dardel's "The Dying Dandy" painting. As the two cases tie together, the feeding frenzy media demand more blood except for reporter Johan Berg whose ethics leaves him and his loved ones in danger from an avenging killer.

The latest DS Knutas Swedish police procedural (see Unspoken, Unseen and The Inner Circle) is a terrific twisting tale with a moral lament in which gaming the system is an acceptable way of life as reminded by the apparent settlement between the government and Bank of America. For the most part the killer's ire is never fully felt by readers except through the respective filters of how the media and cops portray the psychopath. Fans of Scandinavian noir will want to read this taut thriller.

Justice For Dallas
Mark Rusin and Priscilla Barton
Loop O Press
c/o CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781490399706, $14.95,

In 1986, Iron Cobra Vallejo lead biker Butch Crowley and his brothers enjoy a three day party. Afterward they bike to Fort Bragg in Mendocino County. There they brutally kill former member Billy Derhammer, his wife, teenage son and five years old daughter.

Law enforcement from several jurisdictions unites to work the vicious homicides in which the violence leads to Butch. ATF agent Marko Novak is on the case, but personalizes it when he takes a photo of the youngest victim Dallas and promises her justice. The case makes little progress because everyone including bike members and his woman are afraid of ruthless Butch's brutality.

Justice for Dallas is a terrific police procedural as readers get inside the head of a cop working a particularly violent case. Marko is a fabulous protagonist who turns to the Vegas casinos to relax from a difficult inquiry. Although the transitions between the past and present are choppy, fans will appreciate Marko's efforts to take down Butch.

Secretariat Reborn
Susan Klaus
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608090945, $26.95,

His mother tells her son Christian Roberts that his father Hank is dying from lung cancer and wants to see him. Though estranged from his dad since his parents' divorce, Chris drives through Ocala to Citra and on to Make A Wish farm. Hank explains to his son what happened in 1985 Kentucky before giving Chris control of his Triple Crown dream and information on a colt that happens to be a clone of Secretariat.

Though Chris loses his thoroughbred to avaricious trainer Ed Price, he begins to seek funding for his Secretariat Reborn venture. Mobster Vince Florio lends him the money, but Chris fears the price may be too exorbitant as he becomes a mule picking up illegal drugs in the Gulf.

This engaging crime caper is at its best at the track and stables as Susan Klaus provides a refreshing premise and a fabulous lead. The mobsters come out of casting 101 and the added tsuris of the protagonist's lunatic ex-girlfriend detracts from the otherwise very entertaining horseracing storyline.

A Bride For Noah
Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736953474, $13.99,

In 1851, Evie Lawrence has no future prospects having been kicked out of the family home after her parents died by her uncle. In Chattanooga, Evie works for Miles Coffinger, whose nephew Noah Hughes has a business venture in Elliot Bay, Oregon Territory. Miles sells the concept to go west and agrees to finance Evie's restaurant as partners. They over the objection of his wife, and three single women (Lucy and Sarah Burrows, and Ethel Strapp) travel across the country to work at the establishment in the Pacific Northwest.

However the logging camp is a dump and the men have different ideas when it comes to the females' occupation. Noah hates his attraction to Evie. To her chagrin Evie shares Noah's feelings of unwanted desire, but both have business dreams that do not include a romantic relationship.

Leaving the Amish in Apple Grove, Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith open up the Seattle Brides inspirational saga with a strong historical romance that showcases the founding of the Pacific Northwest city. The protagonists are a wonderful pairing as each needs to mature and move on from past failed relationships if they are going to make it together. However, it is the logging camp beginnings of Seattle that make this a deep historical Christian mid-nineteenth century Americana.

An Amish Family Christmas
Murray Pura
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736952378, $10.99,

A drunk drove into the buggy killing Naomi Bachman's parents and sister, and leaving her brother Luke in a coma that the doctors believe he will never come out of; the DUI left her family in the ditch. While grieving her loss, Naomi knows the holidays will be painfully lonely as she needs her husband Micah to comfort her, but instead he joined the military last year against the tenet of their Amish church. He felt a calling to heal the wounded in theater; while his wife insists to her sister-in-law Rebecca she has no husband.

When Micah returns from overseas, still in uniform he goes to the hospital to see his wife and brother-in-law. Naomi remains angry with Micah for choosing war over her and their lifestyle. The Bishop tells Micah he is happy he came home alive, but the Bann remains in place unless he repents by admitting he erred when he enlisted. Believing he did God's calling to heal the injured as a medic, Micah accepts the shunning though that means living under the same roof with his wife but banned from speaking with her. Letters arrive from people appreciative of Micah saving the lives of their loved ones. With an epiphany, Naomi shows them to the Bishop hoping he will lift the shunning.

An Amish Family Christmas is a superb second chance family drama starring a dedicated lead male, his beleaguered wife and a strong fully developed support cast. Character driven by the Bann, readers will relish this engaging entry as Micah, a real hero, follows his soul-calling at the cost of his family and community.

The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Mike Resnick and Bob Garcia
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781451639353, $15.00,

This delightful collection pays homage to the extremely popular early twentieth century pulp fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs. The anthology contains ten new tales and one reprint (John Carter in "The Forgotten Sea of Mars" by Mike Resnick) that occur in the various realms starring famous and not so remembered characters created by Mr. Burroughs. Tarzan obviously leads in "Tarzan and the Great War" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, "Tarzan and the Martian Invaders" by Kevin J. Anderson & Sarah A. Hoyt and "Tarzan and the Land That Time Forgot" (in the realm of another Burroughs' series) by Joe R. Lansdale. Other entries include Dek in "The Fallen, A Tale of Pellucidar" by Mercedes Lackey, Carson Napier in "Scorpion Men of Venus" by Richard A. Lupoff and Billy the Mucker in "The Two Billys, a Mucker Story" by Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens. All the entries are fun and make a wonderful introduction to an action writer whose worlds have been made numerous times into movies though like the films only a few of the contributions are excellent but especially the Tarzan stories that take him out of his comfort zone.

1636: The Devil's Opera
Eric Flint and David Carrico
9781451639285, $25.00,

King of Sweden, Emperor of the United States of Europe and the Union of Kalmar leader Gustavus Adolphus Vasa II recuperates from war wounds and is unable to perform his leadership duties. Swedish Chancellor Oxenstierna grabs the chief positions; superseding the claims of Gustavus' heir Princess Kristina. To solidify his power, Oxenstierna opens a court in Berlin.

USE President Ed Piazza and Vice President Rebecca Abraband are concerned with Oxenstierna's power grab especially his presence in Berlin. They ask arts guru Mary Simpson for help to get Oxenstierna out of Berlin by tricking him into believing Magdeburg is the heart of USE power. Mary obtains help from several people like Marla Linder the musician to bring a major art festival to Magdeburg. After finding a floater, Simon Bayer rescues Hans Metzgerinin from an assault; the latter introduces him to his sister Ursula as the Magdeburg Police investigate the death of the drowning victim. However, Marla's contribution to the festival, a King Arthur opera, sparks a patriotic reaction that upsets Oxenstierna.

The latest Ring of Fire alternate history entry (see 1636: The Kremlin Games) is an engaging for the most part low key tale that focuses on political intrigue during a leadership battle to fill a void at the top. The use of music to obtain support for an outcome (such as George M. Cohan's "Over There" and "The Ballad of the Green Berets" by Robin Moore and Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler) is cleverly handled. Fans of the series will enjoy the chess game over who leads the USE while the Emperor remains severely injured.

The Girl in Berlin
Elizabeth Wilson
Serpent's Tail
3A Exmouth House
Pine Street, London, England, EC1R 0JH
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
9781846688270, $14.95,

In 1951, Great Britain and her Western allies are appalled by suspicions of Soviet spies in high government positions. MI5 Chief Miles Kingdom needs someone to go undercover who he can trust and has a strong socialist background as a cover because he believes a Communist mole operates inside his agency. Thus he assigns Special Branch operative Jack McGovern to masquerade as a Communist sympathizer in order to identify who betrayed the Crown.

Communist Party member Colin Harris leaves East Berlin for London. Soon after he arrives in England he visits the Wentworth's to tell him he loves an East Berliner. When someone murders German physicist Konrad Eberhart, the police and the Intel community focus on Harris as the killer. Meanwhile Harris goes back to extract his beloved from East Berlin while McGovern follows him.

The Girl In Berlin is a terrific post WWII espionage thriller (see The Twilight Hour and War Damage) that plays out on a personal level even as major events unravel in the background (for instance the Burgess and Maclean spying betrayal). This exciting Cold War morality play focuses on the influential acting intellectually superior and untouchable while rationalizing collateral damage caused by their actions were for the good of the state (the second Iraq War comes to mind).

Inherit The Dead
Jonathan Santlofer, et al.
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781451684759, $25.99,

Affluent Upper East Side socialite Julia Drusilla hires disgraced ex-NYPD cop turned private investigator Pericles Christo to find her daughter Angelina Loki, who when she soon turns twenty-one will inherit a large sum of money if she signs the documents on her birthday. The fee she offers him is exorbitant as the case seems simple, but Perry knows his client can afford it.

As he begins his search for the missing Angel, Perry runs into duplicity from the young woman's loved ones. Angel's father, her boyfriend and her BFF outright lie or omit something critical; and his instincts scream his client is too. As he investigates, his inner homicide detective radar warns Perry that Angel may be in peril. Desperately trying to find the missing woman before she is hurt or dead, Christo becomes a target too as the inquiry takes him to the Hamptons and Brooklyn.

Inherit the Dead is a fabulous collaboration by Jonathan Santlofer, Stephen L. Carter, Marcia Clark, Heather Graham, Charlaine Harris, Sarah Weinman, Bryan Gruley, Alafair Burke, John Connolly, James Grady, Ken Bruen, Lisa Unger, S.J. Rozan, Dana Stabenow, Val McDermid, Mary Higgins Clark, C.J. Box, Max Allan Collins, Mark Billingham and Lawrence Block , in which each author provides a chapter that brings their particular genre strength to the mix though that can be somewhat distracting. Still surprisingly smoothly integrated and filled with terse twists, fans will enjoy this entertaining noir in which "... royalties in excess of editor and contributor compensation to Safe Horizon, the leading victim assistance agency in the country."

Kiss Of Death
Debbie Viguie
Faith Words
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455574223, $6.99,

Though a human Susan knows her role in the war against vampires has been handed down from generations going back to at least the late twelfth century. Her cousin Wendy and injured friend David who can resist an undead stare help Susan in her quest. The trio recovers in Prague from their latest battle against Richelieu and his evil minion. The cousins devote their healing time to translate into English a diary written by Carissa an ancestor in France at the beginning of the family's involvement centuries ago; praying their relative left the method to destroy their malevolent adversary.

Susan and Raphael the vampiric ally are attracted to each other, but have no time exploring their feelings. While she works on the journal, Raphael knows he must stop Richelieu from finding an artifact containing the Christ's blood; failure means losing the war. To succeed Raphael must ignore his rage and persuade his sire Gabriel and their vampiric friend Paul to help him and his human partners.

The second Kiss Trilogy (see Kiss of Night) is an action-packed Christian good and evil vampire thriller. The two prime subplots (the good vampires' efforts vs. the malevolent ones, and the translations) are fast-paced and entertaining. The overarching theme that anyone even a vampire can be redeemed (though the evil one seems the exception to that Christian tenet) is enhanced as two teams of trios separate while preparing for the final kiss of death against the seemingly superior force of Richelieu.

The Scroll Of Years
Chris Willrich
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616148133, $15.95,

Adventurers Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone are an odd couple as she is an upper class poet and he is a cursed thief. With her pregnant, they flee from a fire-breathing arkendrake dragon and the ruthless Night's Auditors assassins who don't kill their prey they vegetate their victims.

The pair takes sanctuary inside the Heavenwalls of the Qiangguo Empire. However, the artist and the thief find the insular culture stifling with rigid obeisance to customs. Gaunt and Bone obtain allies like the Swan Priestess Eshe, Lightning Bug and Next-One-A-Boy; as they struggle to survive bandits and officialdom, and deal with being an unwanted prophesy.

The first Gaunt and Bone fantasy novel (there are some short stories previously published with one included in this book) is an exciting action-packed tale as the protagonists deal poorly with inbred officialdom that leaves no room for adventurers especially by illegal aliens. Though I would have preferred the outsiders as the final straw catalysts to radical change rather than the "White Man's (and woman's) Burden" as external saviors (due to the prophecy), readers still will enjoy this engaging thriller.

The Diamond Deep
Brenda Cooper
9781616148553, $18.00

The rebellion between the oppressed Grays against the elitist technologists Reds on the generation ship Creative Fire has been somewhat settled though some ire and revolt remains especially among those who have fallen in status. Ruby Martin, who led the rebellion as a rare dreaming Gray, and her partner Joel North with the collaboration of the ship's AI leads the vessel on their way home to Adiamo.

However, when they dock at the Diamond Deep station, instead of being welcomed as exploratory heroes, the residents treat the Creative Fire crew with disdain as inferiors. Ruby and her mates are backwater when it comes to the advances in technologies since the ship began the venture many generations ago. Ergo their superiors dump them at the bottom of the social hierarchy.

The second Ruby's Song science fiction (see The Creative Fire) is an exciting outer space first contact thriller that continues to focus on technological class warfare (an issue impacting the world today). Ruby still covets life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but now that she is in charge of governance rather than leading a rebellion against status quo leadership she seems incompetent which ironically makes her appear real. Although not as exciting as its prequel, fans will appreciate this deep look at the technological revolution especially the impact on those left behind.

The Osiris Curse
Paul Crilley
9781616148584, $17.99

Late in nineteenth century London, someone murders Nikola Tesla and steals the inventor's WMD schematics. Encouraged by Sebastian Tweed's father Barnaby, he and his partner Octavia Nightingale investigate the homicide in order to obtain the weapons' plans before the killer deploys them.

The teenage sleuths quickly find a stunning connection between the Tesla homicide and the disappearance of Olivia's mother over a year ago. More clues lead the daring duo to The Hermetic Order of Set whose members attempt to assassinate them. Sebastian and Olivia flee on the luxury airship Albion heading to Tutankhamen's View Hotel built inside the Great Pyramid knowing that the history texts are wrong and England is in peril.

The second Tweed and Nightingale steampunk investigative thriller (see The Lazarus Machine) is an engaging save the Victorian world young adult adventure. The teenage amateur sleuths are fascinating heroes as they try to save England while shocked by what they have learned about the history of the world. Although the romantic elements between the lead couple feel more of a requirement that takes away from an otherwise entertaining alternate historical suspense with fun steampunk inventions in the name of progress, readers will enjoy the teens' heroic escapades.

Penelope Crumb Finds Her Luck
Shawn K Stout; pictures by Valeria Docampo
c/o Penguin Group USA
345 Hudson Street, 15th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780399162541, $14.99,

Penelope Crumb feels depressed and lonely as she believes she's no one's Favorite since she learned about her Crumb cursed shnoz inherited from her Graveyard Dead dad and her paternal grandfather Felix. Recently her BFF Patsy Cline dumped the final F by becoming best pals with Vera Bogg.

She wishes her 24/7 bad luck would change into a little good luck but instead all she has is her older brother Terrence the Terrible to remind her of her misfortune. Her medical illustrator mom tries to encourage her but that makes Penelope feel worse as she knows her mother has no Favorite between her and her sibling. Voted to lead the Mother Goose mural painting at the Portwaller's Blessed Home for the Aging, Penelope feels her luck must be changing until she finds out that being in charge is no fun as everyone hates the boss though resident Nila Wister makes the youngster feel a little better about Favorites.

The latest Penelope Crumb upper elementary school escapades (see Penelope Crumb Never Forgets) make for an amusing tale with a moral message about friendship enhanced by wonderful illustrations by Valeria Docampo. The beleaguered protagonist laments that she can't escape from bad luck, which she concludes is why she is no one's Favorite. At the nursing home, thanks in part due to Nila, Penelope begins to understand being the Favorite is not what matters when being cherished by loved ones brings good luck.

Paige Rewritten
Erynn Mangum
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935
9781612913216, $14.99,

In Texas, Paige Alder feels great as her personal life is the best it ever has been with her dating Tyler Jennings who she met at church (see Paige Torn) and her boss Mark Lawman offers her more responsibilities and a raise at the adoption agency where she works. Adding to her sense of well-being is her religious beliefs remain stronger than ever that God is always with her especially since she has made time to read the bible.

However, Paige also has issues as she still cannot say no. Her former boyfriend Luke Prestwick, who dumped her, wants to just have a conversation using her birthday as a means to chat with her; he tells her he is coming home as his firm opens up a Dallas office. Her sister Preslee who she has not seen in four years since she ran away with her band, arrives at Paige's apartment, asking for her to forgive her. Already teaching Sunday School at the church, the youth pastor pleads with her to counsel younger girls.

The second Paige Alder inspirational continues the warm look at a person who cannot "just say no" as she debates with the Holy Spirit for guidance re forgiveness, second chances and to move pass her vitriolic animosity towards Luke and Preslee. Although the enjoyable storyline behooves the young adult audience to first read the prequel to better understand the protagonist, fans will enjoy Paige Rewritten.

Lighthouse Island
Paulette Jiles
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062232502, $26.99,

In the harsh endless city, parents abandon their four years old daughter. The neighborhood watch takes the bewildered child away and soon she ends up in an orphanage where many of the abandoned reside. All the children watch television and do nothing else. Only Raisa cannot see the screen or anything else, which gives her time to think. She believes that her mom will come back one day and turn on her eyes so that she can see the North Star.

The Agency for Parentless Dependents names her Nadia Stepan. While the others live in absolute fear from the powerful and numb their phobias with TV, Nadia the loner dreams of a life without trepidation. She turns to the outlawed Big Radio for tales before the sea to sea urbanization and loves poetry. However, her quest to find Lighthouse Island keeps Nadia going even when hope abandons her.

Lighthouse Island is a bleak futuristic dystopian thriller that paints a drab existence for the 99.9% as group ennui leaves no room for individualism. Although the large support cast makes for some difficulty to follow the plot, readers will relish the protagonist on her dream quest for happiness in an Orwellian world.

Cut To The Bone
Jefferson Bass
9780062262301, $26.99

In 1992, University of Tennessee at Knoxville Anthropology Department Chair Dr. Bill Brockton has had success using forensics to help police solve murders. He wants to expand the knowledge by establishing a unique forensics research center that studies decaying corpses. Thus he opens up what becomes dubbed The Body Farm.

At the same time, a serial killer surfaces murdering victims in ways that emulate some of Brockton's previous consultations. Brockton knows his loved ones are in peril from this diabolical psychopath and diligently works with the police to end the maniac's reign of terror that the professor believes if not stopped will end with his death. However, Brockton also concludes the identification lies in his past, but who remains unknown.

The latest Body Farm mystery is a thrilling serial killer prequel as team Bass focuses on two decades ago at a time when the research facility is just beginning. The forensics adds freshness to the typical cat and mouse whodunit; as does meeting the predator early on. Fans will appreciate this engaging investigative tale.

Duke Of Midnight
Elizabeth Hoyt
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781455508341, $8.00,

Witnessing the murder of his parents years ago changed Maximus Batten. Now in 1740 the duke patrols the streets as the Ghost of St. Giles keeping people safe and seeking the killer.

While on duty, Maximus saves Artemis Greaves from footpads though he wonders why she is in the slums. However, she is on a mission and needs the Ghost's help. Her brother Apollo remains incarcerated in Bedlam for killing three people four years ago, which also relegated Artemis from sister of a viscount to companion to her cousin Penelope. When Artemis realizes that Maximus is the Ghost, she blackmails him into rescuing her sibling. He agrees to perform the mission because he wants her though both know he must marry a titled lady like Penelope.

The sixth Maiden Lane Georgian romantic suspense (see Scandalous Desires) is an exciting Ghost of St. Giles entry (see Lord of Darkness and Thief of Shadows) made fresh by the spirited heroine who refuses to allow her brother's tragedy and her fall from grace keep her down. Fast-paced, sub-genre fans will relish this enjoyable romantic historical mystery though want to know more about Apollo's plight.

Always on My Mind
Jill Shalvis
Grand Central
9781455521104, $8.00

After a debacle on the Sweet Wars reality TV show that has not aired yet, humiliated pastry chef Leah Sullivan returns to Lucky Harbor, Washington to run her ailing grandmother's bakery. However, ashamed by what happened on the show, Leah has told no one as her neighbors are so proud of her. She has no idea what she will do once the townsfolk watch her failure.

Dee, the mother of Leah's childhood best friend firefighter Jack Harper, is ill. Loving the ailing woman, Leah tells Dee a white lie that she and Jack are engaged. Upset Jack does not like lying to his mom; but agrees to a fake engagement because he wants nothing to mentally harm his beloved. As she prays for her grandma and her fiance's mother to heal, Dee waits for the airing of her calamity; while she and Jack fall in love.

The latest Lucky Harbor romance (see It Had To Be You) is an enjoyable second chance contemporary that for much of the entertaining storyline focuses on the lead couple in separate subplots; this enables the audience to deeply know the motives of both. The reality show segue is a two-edged sword as it grips readers with a voyeur need to know what happened, but the extended wait to learn how Leah flopped distracts from fully appreciating the protagonists' changing relationship. Still the love story between the hotshot and the chef is a fun tale.

Dead Men's Harvest
Matt Hilton
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062225306, $9.99,

Using four criteria in which a felon needs only meet one, top level maximum security Fort Conchar houses the most dangerous threats to national security; no one escapes from this facility. One particular inmate, Prisoner 1854, is the only individual who meets all four criteria; even his jailers are wary of this mute maniac. After eighteen months residency, with help from a mob chief, he does the impossible and breaks out. Even with MPs, K9s and a helicopter in pursuit, Prisoner 1854, once Secret Service Agent Martin "Harvestman" Maxwell and allegedly buried as Tubal Cain to hide the scandal of his crimes, gets away.

The Harvestman owes his benefactor so he plans to pay off his debt by killing John Telfer and his family who is under the protection of Witness Protection as the latter soon will testify against the crime boss who freed Prisoner 1854. Maxwell also targets those who incarcerated him and John's half-brother, former Arrosake antiterrorist field agent Joe Hunter, who believes he killed the Harvestman several years ago (see Dead Men's Dust).

The latest Joe Hunter action-packed thriller is a fast-paced tale from the moment Prisoner 1854 escapes and never slows down until the anticipated final confrontation. Over the top of Manchester, England's Black Chew Head, fans will enjoy this adrenaline pumping rematch.

Spider Woman's Daughter
Anne Hillerman
9780062270481, $25.99,

Navajo Nation Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito enjoys breakfast with her peers and retirees. As Manuelito talks on her cell to her husband Police Sergeant Jim Chee, she watches in horror as someone from inside a vehicle shoots retired Police Lieutenant Jim Leaphorn. He is rushed to the hospital where he remains in a coma.

Captain Howard Largo selects Chee to lead the investigation. Because she witnessed the shooting, Largo and Chee warn Manuelito to stay away from the case. Chee knows Leaphorn's worked with the American Indian Resource Center so visits the place only to learn that the victim's anthropologist friend Louisa Bourebonette recently vanished. Unable to remain on the bench, Manieloto bulldogs her way onto the inquiry even as fear grows the culprit will kill again.

Revising her late father's super NNPD series, Anne Hillerman provides readers with a strong police procedural that captures the vivid locale and the cast's essence just like her dad created them and enhances that with an engaging look at tribal history. Although the final anticipated encounter seems weak, readers will welcome back Bernie, Chee, Leaphorn and the rest.

The Dead Run
Adam Mansbach
Harper Voyager
9780062199652, $25.99

Jess Galvan works the lucrative cash crops trade that flows back and forth across the Tex-Mex border. He, like many locals, understands the risks of being caught on either side of transporting illegal goods, but Jess takes his chances as he needs money to pay for the best lawyer in the state in order to gain custody of his daughter Sherry from her religious nut mom Melinda Richards.

In Mexico, he sits in a bar waiting for his latest shipment to deliver to El Paso. He observes two patrons with a stoned teen who makes him think of Sherry. Though Jess knows to sit quietly until Pescador arrives with bearer's bonds, he intercedes. One of the thugs is the Chief of Police so Jess is sentenced to ten years in prison for attempted murder. Unbeknownst to Galvan, Sherry vanishes and hysterical Melinda calls Del Verde County Sheriff Nichols as she fears her former cult grabbed her daughter. At the same time Tenochtitlan High Priest El Cucuy mentally takes control of Galvan and orders him to deliver a special package to Seth. If he fails to complete his mission he will dwell in hell; if he succeeds humanity will reside in hell on earth.

This exciting Aztec urban fantasy uses the Tex-Mex border as a bridge between the supernatural and the trafficking that goes both ways. Although the key cast is stereotyped, El Cucuy brings freshness with his Aztec beliefs and his ability from a distance to destroy enemies. . With a nod to the FX TV show The Bridge, this taut tale contains a believable (for the most part) paranormal plot, as Adam Mansbach uses Tex-Mex nation to spin an entertaining supernatural thriller.

The Outcasts
Kathleen Kent
Little Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316206129, $26.00,

Several years after the Civil War ended, in Fort Worth, Texas Lucinda Carter the prostitute escapes from the "prison" brothel taking part of her madam Mrs. Landry's gold with her. An epileptic that makes her an outcast, Lucinda plans to reunite with her beloved Bill McGill in Houston. However, two Rangers (Deerling and Dr. Tom Goddard) and lawman Nate Cannon pursue the murdering McGill; so the outlaw directs Lucinda to continue on to Middle Bayou to search for Lafitte's buried treasure; he swears to her will catch up to her.

In Middle Bayou, Lucinda cleverly locates the island where Lafitte allegedly buried his treasure. McGill arrives, but his womanizing behavior upsets loyal Lucinda. Meanwhile the three law enforcement officials follow the ruthless killer to Middle Bayou where they plan to catch McGill and his woman.

The Outcasts is a thrilling late nineteenth century Americana with a strong cast and twisting ties. Though faster than a gunslinger can draw, the fabulous historical storyline is character driven from the moment Lucinda flees from the worst little whorehouse in Texas until the anticipated key cast convergence clash.

Traces of Mercy
Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781408691, $14.99,

In 1865, Dr. Abe Johnson administers to the unconscious woman dressed in men's garb and wearing her hair short. When she awakens in his St. Louis clinic, she tells Dr. Johnson she has no idea who she is, why she dressed as she did, how she got injured or anything about her past. The physician tells his patient she suffers from amnesia, an illness not understood by the medical profession. He takes her to Mother Helena at the Little Sisters of Hope. Because of the medallion she wears, Mother Helena names her Mercy. Filled with fear, Mercy knows she prefers trousers and loves animals, but hates womanly chores.

In St. Louis, Rand Prescott, son of a railroad owner and Union supporter, is picnicking on his family's vast estate when he notices trespassing Mercy who he treats as an interloper. Later he feels remorse so visits Mercy at the Little Sisters of Hope. Rand tries to help her and soon they fall in love; but she refuses to act on her feelings because she has no idea who or what will surface from her past. Former Union officer Elijah Hale sees Mercy wearing the medallion he gave to a kind Confederate soldier. He demands she tells all to her beloved or he will; she fears Rand and his parents will hate her for fighting for the Confederacy.

This marvelous Mercy Medallion Americana romantic drama brings to life the immediate aftermath impact on people once the fighting ended. Character driven by the fully developed lead triangle (even amnesiac Mercy is three-dimensional); readers will relish visiting St. Louis circa 1865.

Glittering Promises
Lisa T. Bergren
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434764287, $14.99,

In 1913 in Dunnigan, Montana, Cora Diehl's Papa suffers a stroke. She tries to sell her necklace to bring in needed money. Instead affluent Copper King Wallace Kensington explains to Cora that he not her Papa is her biological dad as he recognized her necklace (see Glamorous Illusions).

As her Papa gets the best medical care, Cora meets and joins her three distant half-siblings (Felix, Lillian and Vivian) on a Grand Tour of Europe hosted by Sir Stuart McCabe and his nephew, William McCabe. However, as the trip comes to an end, Cora misses her parents and will miss her new family and Will, but will not miss the press who stalk her almost as bad as the crazies trying to hurt her. Cora plans to refuse Pierre de Richelieu's proposal as she loves Will, but prays he cherishes her as much as she does him.

The latest Grand Tour pre-WWI historical romance continues the entertaining European adventures of a devout Christian struggling with her new found affluence, her illegitimacy, reluctant acceptance by her biological family, her stalkers and her beloved. Although Pierre makes it too easy to dump him; readers, William and Cora know in our hearts she still is the farmer's daughter.

Richard A. Thompson
Forty Press
427 Van Buren Street, Anoka, MN 55303
9781938473098, $16.95,

When Herman Jackson lived in Detroit, he was a bookie and racketeer. Deciding to go straight, he moved to St. Paul where he opened up a legitimate bail bonds office.

Public Defender Trish Hanover asks Herman to bail out alleged serial killer-rapist Ray Valenti from the Hennepin County jail. None of the Minneapolis bondsmen will float the bail for this vicious charmer, but Herman visits the jail where the cops tell him don't let this psychopath back on the street. Herman tells Ray in jail and Trish in her apartment no. When he leaves Trish's condo, someone knocks him out. Herman awakens at Regional Hospital suffering from a concussion. He soon learns he allegedly bailed out Ray; Trish has been viciously murdered; and the killer's PD is Chris Parker not Hanover. With "Wide" Wilkie, Herman investigates how someone used his name to bail out a ruthless killer.

The latest Herman Jackson investigation (see The Fiddle Game and Frag Box) is an action-packed Twin Cities noir that grips the audience throughout. Fans will enjoy the antics of the wisecracking head cracking (including his own) sleuth and his sidekicks as Richard A. Thompson provides the audience with a strong mystery.

Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756409449, $25.95,

Having been rescued from kidnappers, bone weary Mags the orphaned Herald trainee returns to the Collegium filled with concerns about whether his staying there will bring harm. Still in spite of his depression, Mags feels at home when he sees Haven and stops at the nearby Harvest Fair. Mag's Companion Dallen escorts him to the Collegium where he is interrogated before they allow him to relax. He knows he is no longer a member of the South team as Kirball adequately replaced him and is told that he is suspended from classes. Instead he works with herbs and weapons training of other students alongside Amily.

King's Own Herald Nikolas and Dean of the Heralds Caelen send Mags, accompanied by Valdemar Herald Jakyr, on a mission. Soon afterward, his friends Healer Trainee Bear, his wife Bard Trainee Lena and Dean of the Bardic Lita, followed by Mags' beloved Amily, leave the Collegium too. They rendezvous with Mags and Jakyr at Waystation before heading to the caves of Bastion to fake the trainee's death in order to fool the assassins and to seek clues about his missing parents who were once held there.

The latest Valdemar Collegium Chronicles fantasy (see Redoubt) is an enjoyable entry though much of the pre-trek adventure comes across as anecdotal preparation and Mags' seemingly PTSD. The storyline accelerates once the band of merry travelers meets up at Waystation while the quest cleverly contains gloom and joy simultaneously.

Terry A. Adams
9780756409326, $7.99

Planet D'neera was colonized by mutated humans as a haven from racism. Telepaths, recently the populace has become accepted by other human races enabling those like Lady H'ana ril-Koroth, using the name Hanna Bassiano, to explore other planets and people (see Sentience).

An expert on first contact (see The Master of Chaos), Hanna travels on the alien ship Endeavor Three with a mission to reverse engineer a trek by aliens from a planet dubbed "Battleground" contacting humans on New Earth over two centuries ago. Using her telepath skills, Hanna mentally reaches out in space only her first contact communication frightens her as the species is shark-like feral.

This sequel to The D'neeran Factor omnibus reprint of Sentience and The Master of Chaos is an exciting science fiction. The engaging storyline focuses on first-contact specialist Hanna who at times frustrates readers as she has become a prima donna leading to errors that should have been avoided if she heeded the thoughts of xeno-specialists; my late mother-in-law would have said to Hanna: "you think you're so smart, you dope". Still readers who appreciate a solid first contact thriller will want to read Terry A. Adams's entertaining outer space saga.

E.C. Blake
9780756407599, $19.95

In Aygrima the Master Maskmaker proudly creates his daughter Mara's mask that she will wear as a Gifted adult when she turns fifteen. At the rite of passage, instead of becoming her Daddy's apprentice, her mask labels Mara traitor when she says she sees one color while concealing that she actually sees all; as a child she learned to hide that magical Gift. In accordance to the strictly enforced rules of the Autarch of Aygrima guards take away Mara to the horror of her parents. She will suffer the fate of the Unmasked masses by toiling in enforced slave camps and the mines until she dies.

On her way to a death camp, Unmasked rebels attack the wagon and liberate her. As she learns more about her Gift Mara fears her magical skill may prove lethal to the Masked and Unmasked populations of Aygrima.

Masks is a strong coming of age fantasy due to the vividly created Blake world that include the rules of enchanted Masks and a deeply developed two-caste society though the depth can slow down the pacing. Mara is a super protagonist who holds the entertaining storyline together while slowly understanding (like Spiderman did) that "... great power involves great responsibility" (FDR speech never given).

All The Shadows Of The Rainbow
Inanna Arthen
By Light Unseen Media
PO Box 1233, Pepperell, MA 01463-3233
9781935303152 , $14.00,

Three years have passed since 1952 when she last attended a Beltane at the Order of the Silver Light Motherhouse in Boston. Instead in self-exile Diana Chilton grieves the losses of friends caused by what she and her associates wrought trying to help Thomas Morgan overcome his vampiric thirst for human blood. Now a vampire as well as a witch, she ponders whether to visit the coven's Belrane rite or continue to hide in Pepperell, Maine. Concealing her vampiric side, Diana decides to attend but is surprised with what has happened to the Motherhouse in her self-imposed banishment.

At the masked gala, Diana and Jack Garret pair off. The next day he suggests they and others form a new clandestine coven dedicated to improving the lot of the people. Diana, who established and still funds the Bread and Roses Foundation, is euphoric with helping others improve their lives. Magicians David Hofstein and April McFarland join their coven until three of the founding members start to doubt the wisdom of their manipulations. The disagreement comes to a head in November 1963 leading to the coven's breakup. Alone and filled with remorse, Diana joins Troy Stevenson the vampire in Sheridan, Massachusetts until rumors arrive warning her that Jack has begun implementing an agenda that will change the world in his image.

The third Vampires of New England historical fantasy (see THE LONGER THE FALL) uses the major events of the 1950s and 1960s as a backdrop to a strong morality play that focuses on free will. Character-driven, readers will relish Inanna Arthen's powerful drama as the heroine learns once again that "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Thankless In Death
J.D. Robb
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399164422, $27.95,

In 2060 as Manhattanites prepare for Thanksgiving, twentyish Jerald Reinhold murders his mom using a knife. He patiently waits holding a bat for his dad to come home. After committing the homicides of his parents, Jerald flees the murder scene taking money with him

New York Police and Security Department Lieutenant Eve Dallas heads the investigation into the killings of Barbara and Carl Reinhold in their apartment. Though money was stolen, the violence indicates a crime of passion rather than a robbery that turned ugly. Thus Dallas and her team seek the couple's missing son Jerald who has others to kill for their alleged affronts towards him.

The latest In Death futuristic police procedural (see Concealed In Death) is an engaging cat and mouse tale as the heroine knows the identity of the raging psychopath early on. Fast-paced, Dallas acts distracted perhaps because Roarke's horde is arriving for the holidays as she makes blatant mistakes that lead readers to shout at her. Although the protagonist is not on her usual A-game, series fans still will enjoy aptly named Thankless In Death.

Black and Blue
Gena Showalter
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451671605, $7.99,

Michael Black insured the three Otherworlders he found as abandoned babies were raised comfortably in caring homes while he trained them. Owing all to Michael as he gave them sustenance and a reason to live, Solomon "Solo" Judah (see Last Kiss Goodnight), John No Last Name and Corbin Blue became his elite black operatives.

While discussing Operation Dumpster Dive to take down Gregory Star, a bombing at their chief's house separates an injured Blue from his cronies Solo, John and their leader Michael. He was left with perilous third degree burns. Being an Arcadian may save his life but only if he can find shelter to heal. Instead of his naive fiance Pagan Cary, Blue turns to Michael's estranged adopted daughter Evangeline a doctor and rare Rakan as the only person he trusts with his life; though he previously insisted he'd "rather be slit open from naval to nose" than have anything to do with her; being a former operative she carries a knife. As he recovers, they must drop the animosity and team up in search of her father and the other two members of the Dynamic Trio. At the same time each remains in denial re how they really feel by hiding behind a facade of acerbity.

The second exciting Otherworld Assassin romantic urban fantasy is a fun tale that focuses more on the war of the words than the search and rescue. Readers will enjoy the Beloved Enemies storyline as Black and Blue blend together into the color of love.

The Chatelet Apprentice
Jean-Francois Parot
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, SW1W ONZ, UK
9781906040062, $15.95,

In 1761 twentyish Nicholas Le Floch arrives in Paris with a letter from his godfather asking Lieutenant General of Police Monsieur De Sartine to hire the lad. No one, not even the Paris magistrate, who wants to remain employed, ignores a request from a Marquis and besides De Ranreuil is a friend so Nicholas becomes a police officer. Nicholas knows his godfather wanted him out of Brittany; after he and De Ranreuil's daughter Isabelle declared their love for each other, but wonders about the older man's enigmatic response.

After fifteen months in Paris working cases discreetly, De Sartine shows how much he trusts Le Floch when he assigns him to investigate prudently the disappearance of Police Commissioner Lardin. Assisting Le Floch on the inquiry is Police Inspector Bordeau.

The Chatelet Apprentice is a fabulous eighteenth century French police procedural that brings to life pre-Revolutionary Paris through the eyes of a resolute honest newcomer. The support cast serves as foibles for the protagonist or to anchor time and place while the final denouements re the case come across too passive and the hero's personal mystery seems obvious early on. Still sub-genre fans will appreciate this enjoyable historical as the storyline, for the most part, achieves the Gallic vision of "The best of French in English."

The Officer's Prey
Armand Cabasson; translated by Michael Glencross
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, SW1W ONZ, UK
9781906040826, $15.95,

In the summer of 1812, the French army reaches the Niemen River, the border between their ally the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and their target Russia on their march to Moscow. Emperor Napoleon's stepson Prince Eugène de Beauharnais orders Captain Quentin Margont to see him immediately. Leaving his unit Margont reports as directed to the prince at the camp headquarters.

In nearby Tresno, Poland someone, most likely a French officer, butchered Maria Dorlovna, a woman of German and Polish ancestry. The Prince fears the reactions by their two allies and the troops once word spreads that an unknown French officer tortured and killed a woman, and murdered a military peer. Given no choice a reluctant Margont begins his investigation with limited information to identify the culprit and report the name to the Prince. He must do so discreetly to avoid scandal and with much of the evidence buried. As the army continues to head to Moscow, other similar brutal homicides of women occur.

This Napoleonic Wars mystery is a great historical military whodunit that places a strong investigation inside of a vividly described over-confident unprepared French Army heading into disaster. The protagonist is fabulous as he (and others) recognize the calamity that awaits the Grand Army in Russia while seeking a murderous needle in a haystack of soldiers widely spread around.

No Escape
Mary Burton
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9781420125061, $7.99,

It has been fourteen years since Texas Ranger Brody Winchester and psychologist Dr. Jolene Granger were married. In Austin Brody visits Jo to ask for her help. Sitting on Death Row in West Livingston serial killer Harvey Day Smith, who Brody caught, wants to give one last confession before he dies from cancer in a month or two; but only to Jo who wrote her dissertation on him.

Smith joyfully tells Granger that he has other bodies buried beside the ten he was convicted of murdering including one that explains why he selected her as his exit confessional. The psychopath also gleefully warns her that his apprentice is ready for the big time. As he fears for her life, Brody vows to keep his beloved ex-wife safe.

Reminding readers of NCIS' "Mind Games" episode, this taut second chance at love thriller focuses on the investigation over the romance. Filled with action and plenty of twisting suspense, fans will enjoy aptly titled No Escape as a clever maniac proves a vicious chip off the old block of his deranged mentor.

Secret Santa
Fern Michaels, Marie Bostwick, Laura Levine and Cindy Myers
9781420121452, $7.99

"Mister Christmas" by Fern Michaels. Instead of Christmas in Colorado with her brother, lawyer Claire O'Brien visits her ailing client Donald Flynn in Ireland to change his will; but his nephew Quinn Conner objects.

"The Yellow Rose of Christmas" by Marie Bostwick. In Too Much, Texas middle age Velvet Tudmore gave up on love until a secret admirer surfaces with yellow roses and more, and with a promise to come out in the open at the annual Christmas ball.

"Nightmare on Elf Street" by Laura Levine. In elf attire for a mall gig, Jaine Austen (see Death of a Neighborhood Witch) tries to get a picture of her cat Prozac and deal with a bah humbug Santa who ends up murdered with her as the only suspect.

"Room at the Inn" by Cindy Myers. In Colorado, a blizzard forces Barbara and Jimmy Stanowski and others drivers to seek shelter in a nearby cabin where he tells her that he quit his secure job to start a business with his dreamer friend.

Though the genres differ, these are four delightful holiday tales.
Darkness Rises
Dianne Duvall
9781420129786, $7.99

For several years, vigilante Krysta Linz used her only paranormal power reading auras to identify vampires. Immortal Guardian Etienne d'Alencon observes Krysta pretend to be a helpless human female out for a good time as she lures bloodsuckers into her trap before she kills them with her swords.

Etienne congratulates Krysta with her destroying vampires; as he explains his species though sharing some physical traits differs from the evil ones. Her brother Sean the healer fixes her injuries and shares with Krysta, fascination and fear of the Guardian. However, when Etienne realizes a long thought dead malevolence has arisen, he needs the siblings to help him even as he falls in love with the mortal.

The latest Immortal Guardians romantic urban fantasy (see Darkness Dawns) is an exciting action-packed thriller though the relationship between the engaging lead couple seems similar to that of Night Reigns. Fast-paced, series fans will relish this fabulous entry even as we need a scorecard to keep track of who's who helps in this enjoyable complex story.

An Amish Country Christmas
Charlotte Hubbard and Naomi King
9781420131888, $6.99

"The Christmas Visitors" by Naomi King. In Cedar Creek, brothers Bram and Nate Kanagy meet and fall in love with twins Martha and Mary Coblentz, but the courtships prove complicated.

"Kissing the Bishop" by Charlotte Hubbard. In Willow Ridge, the snows strands sisters Jerusalem and Nazareth Hooley at the home of marital-separated Tom Hostetler; also there is Cedar Creek resident Vernon Gingerich.

Charlotte Hubbard and Naomi King show their respective series fans that their Missouri Amish tales make readers feel Home at Cedar Creek as this is the Seasons of the Heart at Willow Ridge too.

His by Christmas
Kaitlin O'Riley
9781420112412, $7.99

In 1878 London, Lord Lucien Sinclair asks his close friend Lord Jeffery Eddington to watch his only single sister-in-law Yvette Hamilton while he and his wife Colette visit another sister Juliette in America. The other two married Hamilton siblings are unable to chaperone.

Jeffery realizes Yvette wants to become a duchess though he feels her chosen one Lord William Weatherby is not right for the feisty Hamilton. His cousin James bets Jeffery that he cannot take Yvette away from William. Yvette tells Jeffery that she wants to be a duchess, but wonders how well William will fit in with the Hamilton family. William leans towards making Yvette his bride by Christmas as he likes her and needs an heir and a spare with his dad very ill; but is frustrated that Jeffery keeps intruding. He decides if he weds Yvette, Jeffery will not be allowed in their lives. Yvette panics when her mom suffers an apoplexy attack that leaves a side paralyzed and her speech slurred and only in French. Whereas Jeffery comforts her; William wonders if her mom's disease is genetic.

The fifth (and last) Hamilton Sisters Victorian romance is a terrific tale though series fans expected this pairing after the previous entry (see To Tempt an Irish Rogue) as the love between the lead couple is simmered slow but nice. The secondary characters, especially the sisters and their husbands, are fully developed and consistent with previous stories; while the rival is not a bad person. Although the use of a wager is not fresh and adds little except late unneeded tension, Kaitlin O'Riley writes an engaging holiday historical.

Plaid Tidings
Mia Marlowe
9781420129731, $7.99

In December 1821 on board the Agatha May off the coast of Scotland, Lord Alexander Mallory plays poque with Lord MacMarin who tries to distract him by reminding him of his late mother who was buried in unconsecrated grounds when he was four. Controlling his ire, Mallory wins Bonniebroch estate in their card game.

Alex is elated as the first step in his plan to mingle among the local clans so that he can capture rebel Scots may work as he has a reason to be there now as Lord Bonniebroch. However, he soon learns that as the lord he is legally bound to marry Lucinda MacOwen and that the estate is cursed. Bewildered Alex also finds out that Lu sees a ghost. As they fall in love, Alex, as the only one who can, tries to break the curse before Twelfth Night ends his revised plan.

This enjoyable Scottish Regency paranormal romance is a fun historical. As Robert Burns said: "the best laid plans of mice and (Mallory) often go astray" when love haunts the hero. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this amusing satirical story.

Season For Scandal
Theresa Romain
9781420132434, $6.99

In 1819 London, using her abacus like mind, Jane Tindall counts the cards as she plays vingt-et-un with Lord Sheringbrook. When she knows she has the perfect hand to win the 10,000 pounds she needs, she bets a lot only he produces the winning fifth ace. She congratulates him on his creative play but vows to herself to take this cheat down by destroying his reputation.

Handsome affluent Baron Edmund Ware stuns plain Jane and those at Sheringbrook when he announces she is his betrothed. She accepts as this will keep her from ruin, but she wants a real marriage while he insists on a relationship of convenience. When Ware's long time enemy plots to destroy him by scandalously stealing his betrothed; neither the baron nor his adversary expected the wallflower to take charge.

The third Holiday Pleasures Regency romance (see Season for Temptation and Season for Surrender) is a fun frolic as Edmund, his foe and her cheater soon realize they don't know Jane. Fans will enjoy the leads' changing relationship as Jane teaches her mate that as the Four Aces sang: "true love's a many splendored thing" (by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster).

Merry Christmas Cowboy
Janet Dailey
9781420124637, $7.99

Denver police officer Paula Lewis drives solo on her patrol when she stops Zach Bennett for going down a closed street. She does not give him a ticket as the warning placard is gone, but gives him directions to his destination; both sense an attraction but neither follow-up on their feelings. The city's holiday parade that used to excite her has not since her grandma died two years ago as they always went together. Still she volunteers to help at The Christmas House.

Zach has come to the Mile High City from a Colorado ranching county to perform carpentry tasks on the Christmas House. When Zach and Paula meet again, they each realize how much they want the other; even as everyone appreciates the renovated mansion serving as The Christmas House.

The latest Janet Dailey cowboy Yuletide romance (see Santa In A Stetson and A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree) is an enjoyable contemporary mostly due to the townsfolk and visitors sharing the upbeat joy to the world holiday spirit. Although the cast including the leads and a troubled young boy is underdeveloped, readers will enjoy Merry Christmas Cowboy.

Cowboy Justice
Melissa Cutler
9781420130065, $6.99

In Catcher's Creek, New Mexico, rancher Rachel Sorrentino sees four men painting on a rock on her spread; she takes photos before firing two warning shots. They fire back killing her beloved horse. Irate, she calls Quay County Sheriff Vaughn Cooper to let him know about the assault. Vaughn races to her farm while thinking of their heated tryst sixteen months ago. He arrives to a war zone with Rachel shot in the arm, Jimmy de Luca in the leg, and Wallace Meyer, Jr. the son of the powerful Tucumcari police chief in the back; the other two men fled with their AR 15s.

Vaughn worries that Meyer Sr. will go after Rachel to protect Jr. Sr. demands Vaughn provide him information or else he will arrest the sheriff's kleptomaniac sister Gwen. Undersheriff Stratis demands Vaughn recuse himself from the case while explaining that Rachel fired 38 times which means she reloaded and therefore were premeditated instead of a crime of passion. Vaughn agrees with Stratis and his BFF Reed to stay out of the inquiry, but cannot allow harm to happen to his beloved

The latest Catcher Creek romance (see The Trouble With Cowboys) is an exciting second chance tale. The lead couple is in love, but both have stratospheric doubts due to their heated affair occurring when Rachel was most vulnerable. The support cast adds depth to the storyline especially the sheriff's dad, Gwen and Sr. Although the lead couple acts like dogs in heat with their inability to control their sexual urges at moments when discretion needs to supersede desire, fans will enjoy this wonderful contemporary.

Laird of Ballanclaire
Jackie Ivie
9781420124019, $6.99

In 1771 heir to Ballanclaire, Kameron Ballan hates his title, loathes his engagement and despises his father. When he causes a ruckus, his disgusted dad decides enough. Using his title, the Laird arranges for his son to join a Scottish unit heading to the colonies to stop the rabble rousing rebels.

In the colonies, Kameron gets into a brawl with patriots at a tavern; he lies on the ground severely injured. Constant Ridgely finds the Redcoat and though loyal to the independence movement, she saves his life. As he recovers, Kameron and Constant fall in love. However, they are beloved enemies as she believes her father was part of the group that battered him and besides both are betrothed to others; however all that does not matter when they are forced to marry.

This engaging Revolutionary War romance never decides between an extended epic with long separations and a star-crossed love. The setting captures the war years in the revolting colonies and sub-genre readers will root for the beleaguered feisty heroine. Although the climax seems improbable yet welcomed, fans will relish the journey.

When The Marquess Met His Match
Laura Lee Guhrke
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062118172, $7.99,

American heiress Belinda was seventeen when she fell in love with the Earl of Featherstone and thought he reciprocated her regard. However, once they married, the naive Buckeye learned the truth that suave Charles wed her for her money. Heartbroken by her husband's disregard of her, but now free since Charles died, Lady Belinda Featherstone makes it her mission in life to protect innocents like she was from these rakes.

Owing eighteen year old Rosalee Harlowe's mother a debt of gratitude, Belinda tries to persuade her "niece" to marry a caring steady person not an exciting thrill-seeking rake. A friend of her brother-in-law, roguish Marquess Nicholas Stirling, cut off by his father, visits Belinda the matchmaker to hire her to find him a wealthy bride among her American mentees. Belinda agrees to find him a most unsuitable bride, who will destroy his already sordid scandalous reputation. When they kiss, each reconsiders what they want with Nicholas knowing he must persuade his beloved that he is no Charles.

This American Heiress in London romance is an entertaining historical as love complicates the arrangement between the matchmaker and the marques. Although Nicholas' daddy dearest father is a stereotypical control freak with no redeeming values and the storyline goes as expected, readers will enjoy this lighthearted amusing frolic.

The Nanny's Christmas Wish
Ami Weaver
Harlequin Special Edition
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373657803, $5.50,

Widower Dr. Josh Tanner feels guilty over the death of his wife Lucy as they parted in anger just before she died; his in-laws remind him of his culpability while his mom believes otherwise. Josh hires ex-teacher Maggie Thelan as his son Cody's live-in nanny. Maggie concealed from her employer that she is Cody's aunt as she recently learned that Lucy was her half-sister; and she coveted the position so she could get close to her nephew without revealing long kept family secrets.

As Christmas nears, Josh and Maggie struggle with growing feelings of desire; with both adhering to the tacit agreement of no romance especially since Josh, who cannot move on past his mom's death, comes first. Soon Maggie knows she loves father and son, but fears the truth will not set her mind free but only break her heart.

The Nanny's Christmas Wish is a warm holiday romance as the adult protagonists push love away out of fear of rejection as much as concern for the hurting youngster. Cody is a delightful child struggling with the death of his mom and ultimately transferring his feelings to the kind nanny. The tertiary characters add depth to a wonderful Yuletide tale.

Scene of the Crime: Return to Bachelor Moon
Carla Cassidy
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697274, $5.50

Baton Rouge field office director Jason Miller surprisingly sends three FBI Agents (Gabriel Blankenship, Jackson Revannaugh and Andrew Barkin) to Bachelor Moon, Louisiana to check on ex-Kansas City-based profiler Sam Connelly after a call from a concerned Marlena Meyers. Two years ago, Sam met and fell in love with Daniella Butler, owner of the Bachelor Moon Bed and Breakfast (see Scene of the Crime: Bachelor Moon); they married and he became a stepfather to her daughter Macy. Marlena, the B&B manager, tells the Feds that the Connolly trio vanished.

As the agents gather information from B&B employees, from their opening salutations, Gabriel and Marlena are attracted to each other. Both have suffered in their past relationships; whereas he distrusts desire while she embraces love as she wants what her boss has. When he realizes someone wants her dead, Gabriel vows to keep the woman he loves safe.

The latest Scene of the Crime romantic police procedural (see ... Deadman's Bluff) is a gripping suspense as readers will want to know what happened to the Connolly family and who wants the heroine dead and why. The taut storyline hooks the audience throughout in this super Bayou thriller.

Would-Be Christmas Wedding
Debra Webb
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697236, $5.50

In DC Mission Recovery Deputy Director Emmett Holt knows how it feels to be a traitor and hates it as he walks a tightrope between his boss Thomas Casey (see Bridal Armor) watching his every move and raging criminal Bernard Isely's demands. The former has Holt tailed while the latter wants Holt's assistance in destroying Casey and recovering a deadly virus that Mission Recovery took from him.

Holt plans to use Casey's widowed sister, CIA operative Cecelia Manning, as the lure to capture the psychopath. To spring his trap, Casey joins an online matchmaking site to romance his bait. As Cecilia throws a gala honoring her late husband who died last year; the traitor and the agent fall in love while his respect for her resolve to bring down a dangerous adversary grows.

The newest Colby Agency Specialists' entry (see Ready, Aim...I Do) is a fabulous romantic espionage thriller. The lead couple makes the taut tale work as he goes deep undercover as a traitor and she risks her life as she must make a "Lady or the Tiger" (by Frank Stockton) choice. Fast-paced readers will enjoy the poorly titled Would-Be Christmas Wedding.

Her Last Best Fling
Candace Havens
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797783, $5.50

After four tours in theater and an injured leg, Marine Lieutenant Blake Michaels returns home to Tranquil Waters, Texas to heal. As he heads to a gala in his honor, due to the antics of her Great Dane Harley soaking her, Blake and "Yankee Girl" Macy Reynolds meet. Inheriting her late uncle's mansion and local newspaper Tranquil Waters News, the reporter fled Boston after catching her lover-employer with the intern.

Though she tries to fit in, the insular community makes her feel like a fish out of Tranquil Waters. Meanwhile Blake and Macy begin seeing each other and soon fall in love. However, a once in a lifetime opportunity arrives for Macy in which she must make some difficult decisions.

Her Last Best Fling is a wonderful contemporary romance though the storyline follows a very predictable path with the protagonists having issues to overcome. Harley with his always in trouble escapades and Amanda the receptionist with her amusing zingers in spite of her worry over her mom's illness steal the show from the leads.

Driving Her Wild
Meg Maguire
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797776, $5.50

Retired from the Mixed Martial Arts ring, former fighter Steph Healy becomes a trainer at Wilinski Fight Academy in Boston. Hanging around and working out with jocks for over twenty years, Steph vows to date white collar men only as she wants someone with money after two decades struggling in the sport without.

Wilinski Fight Academy hires carpenter-electrician Patrick Doherty. He and Steph are attracted to each other, but she refuses to act on her feelings as he is blue collar. Still Patrick knows what he wants is Steph. As they fuss and fight (for real) they fall in love, but she needs monetary security and he comes with a monster financial burden.

The newest Wilinski Fight Academy MMA romance (see Making Him Sweat and Taking Him Down) is a fun heated contemporary starring two protagonists struggling between love and money. Fans will enjoy the thrilling third round bout between the trainer and the electrician.

The Iron Traitor
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen
9780373210916, $9.99

Iron Queen Meghan Chase's younger brother Ethan wanted nothing to do with his sibling's Iron Realm Nevernever after spending a traumatic time as an abducted four year old in that abomination (see The Iron King). In the normal realm, Ethan hid his true nature behind an angry tough guy loner facade until he met Mackenzie St. James at his new school. That encounter eventually led to his return accompanied by her to the last place he wanted to visit (see The Lost Prince).

After a week in Faeryland, he is back in normal land, hopefully with Kenzie as her boyfriend. The cops question him re shell shocked Todd and Kenzie whose parents order her not to see Ethan again after he explains that he drove her to New York for a week. Meanwhile Ethan's same age as him nephew Keirran, who he met for the first time on his recent visit to his sister, vanished. The family fears the teenager plans to raise the deadly Forgotten. Feeling a sense of responsibility that he knows sucks Ethan must stop his relative before he devastates two realms.

The second entertaining Iron Fey Call of the Forgotten urban fantasy (see The Lost Prince) continues to focus on Ethan who no longer is an angry teen since he has friends and family to care what happens to them especially Kenzie. Though it behooves the audience to read the previous book to better understand the protagonist (and for that matter Meghan's saga - see The Iron King, The Iron Queen and The Iron Daughter), fans will enjoy this entry as Ethan learns the importance of family.

The One She Warned About
Shoma Narayanan
Harlequin Kiss
9780373207398, $4.99

In India accountant Shweta Mathur took the short flight from Mumbai to Kerala to attend the office annual convention. Also in town is her former Pune schoolmate, Nikhil Nair, who was expelled due to his bad behavior with the last straw smoking. The family soon left town afterward. He hugs her and explains he owns an event planning firm. Though tired and with her roommate Priya, Shweta agrees to spend time with Nikhil who she had a secret crush on back in their schooldays.

They begin seeing each other as he takes the risk avoider on a heated ride on the wild side. As they fall in love, she pleads with him to talk to his estranged father who he has not seen in four years. Instead he angrily ends their engagement leaving her to believe he thinks little of her.

Starting with the bet between the roommates, this engaging India romance is a warm tale that provides readers with a fascinating look at family. Character driven, fans will enjoy this second chance charmer as love may not be enough for this couple to make it together.

His Until Midnight
Nikki Logan
Harlequin Kiss
9780373207381, $4.99

Australian Oliver Harmer believes in fidelity after growing up observing his father constantly cheating on his mother. Though he dates a lot, he remains a bachelor because the woman he loves Audrey Devaney is married to his friend Blake who is a wandering spouse. Every year Oliver and Audrey meet for lunch on December 20th in Hong Kong until two years when she failed to arrive from Sydney.

Shocking her, Oliver fails to attend Blake's funeral. When they met last year for lunch, she said they are not friends. He asked her what they are; as he planned to tell her how he always felt about her before she can escape back to Australia.

With a nod to the 1978 Alda-Burstyn film Same Time, Next Year, His Until Midnight is an engaging contemporary with a wonderful coda twist that explains the dysfunctional triangle, but it needed to appear earlier especially after the link died. Still fans will enjoy dining with the nice couple Oliver and Audrey at the Qinting Restaurant.

B.J. Daniels
Harlequin HQN
9780373777808, $7.99

Fuzz Carpenter calls the sheriff's office to tell Sheriff Frank Curry that a terrorized kid covered with blood was fleeing the Beartooth Mountains; the lad said he worked at the Diamond C sheep ranch before he continued in his haste to get back to the spread. Former NYPD homicide cop turned deputy sheriff Bentley Jamison responds by heading to the ranch owned by Widow Madison Conner.

Inside the barn is frightened sixteen year old sheep tender Dewey Putman. Maddy fears something happened to her shepherd Branch Murdock and her sheep as Dewey hesitantly tells his story of what occurred while he and the herder worked at the camp for four days. While Maddie worries about her 2000 sheep, her missing herder and the teen, Bentley investigates even as their Big Sky clashes turn to attraction.

The third Beartooth Mountains Big Sky romantic suspense (see Redemption and Unforgiven) is an enjoyable contemporary due to the New Yorker and the Montanan fussing, fighting and falling in love. The romance takes a major back seat to the suspense while a subplot involving an assault by his ex-wife on Curry adds a taut twist to an enjoyable police procedural.

Out of the Night
Trish Milburn
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885800, $5.75

The Bokar virus went pandemic killing many humans around the globe. In the aftermath vampires began attacking the surviving mortals. Those who remained breathing Homo sapiens quickly learned to stay off the streets at night if they did not want to become a blood donor.

In Lower Manhattan Olivia DaCosta closes up her diner only to find her car stolen and the last bus having left Battery Park. Desperate and near hysterical as she knows her blood is considered special by the vampires, she seeks shelter by knocking on doors pleading with those inside to let her in, but no one opens them. V Force vampire cop Campbell Raines rescues Olivia. They are attracted to each other, but her safety comes first as a vampiric cabal covets Olivia as a permanent blood donor.

Out of the Night is an exhilarating romantic urban fantasy headed by two star-crossed lovers who know a relationship between them is not good for either of them but resistance is futile. Although the heroine's intoxicating blood premise has been used before, readers will appreciate this fabulous fast-paced New York paranormal thriller.

Claimed by the Demon
Doranna Durgin
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885794, $5.75

Gwen Badura plans to go to Vegas for her vacation, but instead feels an obsessive compulsion to travel to Albuquerque instead. Stunned as she never was an OCD sufferer until now, Gwen believes the pendant she has worn since her father gave to her years ago compelled her to drive to New Mexico instead of Nevada.

In the city, Gwen and demon blade owner Michael MacKenzie meet as he compulsively came to the city though like her he cannot explain why except that the blade he struggles to control expects him to use it to fight an evil. Empathizing with him, Gwen aids Michael in his efforts to prevent the demon blade from controlling him even as a new compulsion of love unites them much deeper.

The second Demon romantic urban fantasy (see Taming the Demon) is an engaging paranormal thriller due to the lead couple's refreshing fights to keep the demon at bay; while battling other evil in which the blade is conveniently handy even while draining its beholder's soul. Although the street peril confronting the protagonists adds tension by forcing the hero to choose between his soul and his heart, several of these escapades feel too abrupt. Still fans will relish the fight between love and evil.

In This Together
Kara Lennox
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718801, $5.75

In Houston, after Eric Riggs was convicted of murdering his wife Tammy, the state took away his daughter Mackenzie and gave her to nasty foster parents who plan to adopt her. Tammy's Uncle Travis, an ex-con, believes his brother is innocent and wants to prevent the adoption by proving his assertion. He anxiously turns to Project Justice, but after the carpenter mangles the online form, he goes to Daniel Logan's home.

Personal assistant Elena Marquez tells Travis that Daniel refuses to meet with him; as he makes no exceptions to his rules except for death row inmates; besides he must deal with a potential nuclear reactor leak. Desperately Travis abducts Elena to force her boss to help his sibling. Shocked almost as much as he is by his action, Elena knows instinctively he will not harm her. Although not her bailiwick Elena decides to help Travis save his family even as they fall in love.

This is a thrilling romantic suspense with the kidnapping bringing the lead couple together even if she throws a wrench into his spur of the moment action. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate this exciting contemporary as the ex-con and the Cuban-American fall in love while her family, work associates and friends want him locked away.

Marrying Dr. Maverick
Karen Rose Smith
Harlequin Special Edition
9780373657698, $5.50

In Rust Creek Falls, Montana Veterinarian Brooks Smith wants to leave the group practice in nearby Kalispell to partner with his dad Barrett, but his ailing obstinate father refuses to allow him to join the practice until he marries. Frustrated Brooks decides to open up his own practice that at least should reduce his dad's workload.

Jasmine Cates came to Kalispell as a volunteer helping ranchers and others clean up after the recent floods. She also admits to herself that her secret agenda was to escape her family. When they meet at the Ace in the Hole while Jazzy waits for her friend Willa Christensen (see Marooned with the Maverick by Christine Rimmer), they chat and he soon offers her the assistant position at his new practice. He soon changes that offer to a marriage of convenience, which she accepts. Neither expected nor know how to deal with falling in love.

The latest Montana Mavericks: Rust Creek Cowboys (see The Maverick & the Manhattanite by Leanne Banks) is an enjoyable ranch romance. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as Karen Rose Smith provides a refreshing Big Sky take on the overused marriage of convenience premise.

A Texas Family
Linda Warren
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718795, $5.75

Almost a decade ago, Jena Brooks fled Willow Creek, Texas after the tragedy in which her father Lamar killed her lover Jared Corbett; she left behind her Mama and her sister Hilary, and her newborn. Soon after Jared's murder, her dad had been found shot to death in an unsolved cold case. Now a legal assistant, Jena returns to Willow Creek to gain custody of her child.

She challenges Jared's brother, single dad of two children Carson Corbett, by insisting his father, who recently suffered a debilitating stroke, kidnapped her, induced labor, and took her baby away in a life for revenge. She gives Constable Carson two days before her lawyers take action. Skeptical Carson, a marine at the time, always assumed she left town with her offspring due to the trauma and scandal caused when her father killed his brother. Although he disbelieves Jena, Carson finds proof in the basement that his father took his grandchild away. Teaming up, Carson and Jena investigate what happened to their blood relative.

Filled with a super twist, this is a fabulous extended Willow Creek, Texas Family drama (see A Texas Hero). Character driven by a strong ensemble cast, readers will appreciate this entertaining romance as love and trust conflict when the ugly truth surfaces.

Killer's Prey
Rachel Lee
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278411, $5.50

In Minneapolis irate businessman Cranston Langdon cannot believe he was placed under electronic house arrest for his assault on psychologist Nora Loftis. He plans to kill his wife who testified against him at his hearing insisting his violence is the reason their child sees the shrink; and afterward Loftis wherever she hides for daring to survive.

Nora needs to recover from her near death experience so returns to her hometown Conard City, Wyoming. To her chagrin and gratitude, rancher-cop Jake Madison meets her at the airport. Twelve years ago, she courageously asked him to the prom and he brutally said no. To insure her safety while she heals, he takes her to his ranch. As he falls in love with her while she always unrequitedly loved him, Langdon begins his revenge.

The latest Conard County: The Next Generation (see Rocky Mountain Lawman and No Ordinary Hero) is an action-packed romantic suspense. The second chance thriller entertains readers though the exciting storyline follows the anticipated path; Nora brings freshness with her vulnerability and her understanding of the predator.

Her Wyoming Hero
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin American
9780373754755, $5.50

At Walter Reed, three marines suffering from survivor guilt and respiratory problems caused by their Afghan deployment agree to convert the Wyoming spread owned by one of them Lundgren into a dude ranch for the families of fallen comrades. When the trio completes the renovation, they begin to invite surviving family members of deceased brothers and sisters in arms (see Home To Wyoming and The Wyoming Cowboy).

In Bar Harbor, Maine, military widow Kit Wentworth receives an invitation for her and her son Andrew to spend a week at no charge at a dude ranch near the Tetons. Financially she is well off though she lives with her stifling martinet in-laws especially Charles. Kit also knows the three wounded warriors need to honor fallen comrades like her late husband Winston so she accepts over the anger of Charles who has controlled her and Andy for several years. One of the marines Ross Livingston serves as escort to the visitors. Understanding Kit's lifestyle as he comes from a similar upper crust background, Ross falls in love with mother and son, and them with him. Meanwhile, Andy's paternal grandparents pressure her to come home.

The third Daddy Dude Ranch romance is an engaging tale that enables readers to once again understand the mental and physical health of returning soldiers and surviving family members. The "former" upper class lead couple and the child seem real; while even more authentic is Charles the bully.

A Beauty Uncovered
Andrea Laurence
Harlequin Desire
9780373732722, $5.25

Needing a job after recently being fired due to an office romance with her boss, Samantha Davis turns to Agnes her godmother for help. Agnes arranges an office assistant position for Sam at Eden Software Systems. Her first impression of the firm is that entrance is harder than getting inside the CIA and her concerns over the confidentiality agreement penalty in which if she leaks anything about the company or the recluse CEO Brody Eden she owes him five million dollars.

Sam wonders why Brody hides from the world and even for the most part from her as she thinks he is gorgeous. Attracted to her hermit boss yet feeling fickle after her last office romance fiasco, Sam hesitates showing her feelings. Brody wants Sam, but believes she would never love his scarred face and besides has secrets he wants no one to know.

The second Secrets of Eden romance (see Undeniable Demands) is a wonderful boardroom version of Beauty and the Beast. The key to this engaging tale is readers understand why the vulnerable protagonists' fear a relationship between them. A Beauty Uncovered is an engaging contemporary as love may not be enough to overcome the lead couple's trepidations.

The Christmas Baby Surprise
Shirley Jump
Harlequin Romance
9780373742639, $5.99

After a decade of an unfulfilling marriage and a sort of six-month separation, Emily Watson leaves her workaholic husband Cole in New York to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer. Her destination is her favorite place growing up, Gingerbread Inn in Massachusetts where she, Andrea, Casey and the late Melissa had so much fun together. When she arrives, she pats her stomach and talks to Sweet Pea, the nickname she has given to the baby she carries. Emily ponders life as a single mom and muses that the dilapidated for sale inn looks nothing like her childhood memory except for owner Carole.

Cole has a business crisis in Japan, but convincing his wife for them to stay married is his priority. He catches up to her at the rundown Gingerbread Inn and begins repairs. He also sees Emily's protruding stomach. Although afraid of being a dad, Sweet Pea gives Cole a second incentive to persuade his beloved spouse to take another chance on their love, marriage and the baby carriage.

The Christmas Baby Surprise is a warm second chance at love romance. The lead couple is an endearing pair with his unintended neglect to give them a secure life devastates their relationship. Shirley Jump provides a tender well-written family drama as Emily decides between divorce and marriage. Cole is the more fascinating character affirming the child is the adult with his trepidations re losing his wife and his neurotic fears of being a father after a dysfunctional example (as a child) not to emulate.

Command Performance
Sara Jane Stone
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797745, $5.50

Her friend Olivia persuades military history professor Maggie Barlow that chocolate will not cure her break up blues or the ennui that comes across in her boring writings even on important subjects like enemy surveillance; she needs a one night heater filled with orgasms. Maggie chooses Army Ranger Chief Warrant Officer Hunter Cross. They share an incredible evening, but both recognize there can be no morning after.

Hunter is Maggie's contact on a book she wants to write that will bring her accolades and probably a promotion. However, he is assigned to "control" what she writes to make the Rangers look good and distract her from learning why his last mission failed. Following that first night tryst, W.O. Cross knows who has Command Control in this relationship.

This Uniformly Hot! military romance is a wonderful heated affair due to the protagonists as he obeys orders but she makes it difficult for him to follow them. Readers will enjoy Sara Jane Stone's delightful tale of love between the soldier and the historian.

Lying In Your Arms
Leslie Kelly
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797714, $5.50

After losing his Floridian childhood friend costume designer Candace Reid to a winery groundskeeper hunk (see Waking Up to You), Tommy "Superstud" Shane turns to her twin as his fiancee. Screenwriter Madison agrees to pretend to be his woman in order to protect his being gay. She becomes a media darling.

However, Tommy decides to end the sham engagement. Madison insists on being the SOB as his fans worship him; so she pretends to an affair that has her hated by all. To escape her unwanted notoriety she flees to Costa Rica. Also there on his honeymoon without a bride is recently dumped Chicago firefighter Leo Santori. They become a heated entry, but Hollywood stands in their way once they leave the tropics for the States.

The second "Powerpuff Girls" Forbidden Fantasies contemporary is an enjoyable heated romance starring two protagonists on the "rebound". Although the premise of Madison taking the cheat heat feels unreasonable, fans will appreciate this fast-paced tale with a Santori (see Don't Open Until Christmas and Overexposed) cousin as the lead male.

Releasing The Hunter
Vivi Anna
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885787, $5.75

Demon hunter Ivy Strom waits in the club for the arrival of Sallos the degenerate Great Duke of Hell known for hunting girls here. Her plan is to end his reign of terror that have left seven dead in San Francisco, but not before she extracts information on her missing brother Quinn. Her plan fails as he recognizes her and leaves while she chases him only to crash into a patron Ronan Ames who she believes is a demon. To her shock her anti-demon melting remedy fails against this Cambion who explains he is a rarity having some demon blood but also insists he wants Sallos dead.

Reluctantly Ivy agrees to allow him to team up with her as long as he keeps his high school desires sheathed. As they stalk the demon and search for her sibling, they fall in love. However when she learns his true agenda Ivy no longer trusts the Cambion who owns her heart.

Releasing the Hunter is a super action-packed romantic urban fantasy that grips the audience from the opening encounter between the protagonists. The exciting storyline never slows even when the readers learns the history of the Strom demon hunting family; mindful, as Vivi Anna states, of the Winchester duo in Supernatural.

The Lost Wolf's Destiny
Karen Whiddon
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885770, $5.75

Fifteen years have passed since Lucas Kenyon last saw his father, Church of Sanctuary Preacher Jacob Gideon, but he recognizes the voice on the news even without seeing the screen. He thinks of dearest dad hunting him and killing his sister Lilly for being shapeshifting abominations needing to die.

Now his devout murdering dad promises to save Blythe Daphne and heal the defective heart of her young daughter Hailey, but Luke realizes what Jacob has in mind for the pair; as his inner wolf knows Blythe is in trouble once she goes inside Sanctuary. Jacob will kill this female Shape-shifter and probably her cub. Luke vows to rescue mother and daughter from his righteous homicidal father.

The latest Pack romantic urban fantasy (see The Wolf Prince) is an engaging tale that builds from the premise that a mother will enter hell to save the life of her child. Although there is a lack of background re the Pack to anchor the storyline, series fans will agree that the fast-paced The Lost Wolf's Destiny is an entertaining read.

Through The Zombie Glass
Gena Showalter
Harlequin Teen
9780373210770, $18.99

On Alice Bell's sweet sixteenth birthday, Zombies killed her family and destroyed her innocence. Filled with remorse, grief and revenge, Alice found allies and a boyfriend when bad boy Cole Holland and his friends rescue her (see Alice In Zombieland).

Recently Cole has become distant from her and his friends; and refuses to explain why. Worried about her beloved, Alice has new concerns following the latest Zombie assault as she feels different inside. Voices insider her head scream at her to do horrific things and she fears her brain may have gone over the edge as objects come alive. Concluding she must eradicate the zombies and learn what is going on with Cole before she can figure out her tsuris, Alice with Kat having her back begins her quest.

The second White Rabbit Chronicles is an exciting teen urban fantasy starring a terrific protagonist whose entire life keeps changing in nanoseconds. The support cast is fully developed and their discussions witty while the Zombie threat palatable. Although the overdone dysfunctional relationship between Alice and Cole decelerates the thrilling plot and his behavior radically different than in the first tale (even accounting for PTSD), readers will enjoy Alice's latest adventures as seen Through The Zombie Glass.

Victoria Lamb
Harlequin Teen
9780373210978, $9.99

Her beloved Aunt Jane mentored her niece Meg Lytton on witchcraft and concealing the practice from those who would burn these so-called devil worshipers at the stakes. By 1554 Meg resides in captivity at Woodstock Castle with Princess Elizabeth. The royal supports Meg's Magick skills, but both know they must hide what she can do from agents of Elizabeth's half-sister the Queen.

When Spanish Father Alejandro De Castillo arrives at Woodstock, Meg finds herself attracted to the priest though betrothed to Witchfinder Marcus Dent. She wants to confess her abilities to Father Alejandro, but she also fears doing so after years of warnings. Meanwhile the efforts of Meg and Elizabeth to avoid the lethal trap of being named unholy magick supporter ends when the practitioner's family demands she support their efforts to dispose of Queen Mary.

The opening Tudor Witch saga is a fantastic teen historical fantasy due to a powerful atmosphere in which those named as witches either burn or drown; if you float you're a witch while if you drown you're not. The relationship between the young practitioner and the priest enhances the dark storyline as he risks his life and soul to keep her safe. In some ways a coming of age tale, readers will appreciate this dark sixteenth century drama.

Not A Drop To Drink
Mindy McGinnis
Katherine Tegen Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062198501, $13.49,

Lynn made her first kill protecting the pond when she was nine. A year later, cholera left many nearby dead as "water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink" (Coleridge) safely. However, Mother built a National Geographic simplified water purification system to keep the pond clean. Now sixteen, Lynn and her Mother expect the people by the stream to attack once summer dries up their water supply.

When coyotes kill Mother, the now fearful lonely teen finds herself on her own; as Mother was Lynn's only companion besides animals and dead trespassers. Surprising herself Lynn and her reclusive neighbor Stebbs become friends. Soon a family with a pregnant mother joins them as Lynn adopts the little girl Lucy as her younger sister and is attracted to Eli, a boy her age. Meanwhile raiders who kill and rape without any moral compunctions have arrived planning to take whatever they want from Lynn and her loved ones.

Not A Drop To Drink is a powerful cautionary dystopian teen thriller that uses the scarcity of clean water as its underlying premise for the collapse of civilization. The background is harsh yet purposely underdeveloped so that the audience fills in the blanks of a grim realm; in which kill or be killed is the only Commandment. Additionally an emotionally coming of age tale, the storyline is at its exciting best when the action is fierce but slows down when the plot turns to passive discourse. Still fans will enjoy the arid McGinnis world as the author makes a case that water is the next major resource war.

Dorothy L. Sayers: The Complete Stories
Dorothy L. Sayers
Bourbon Street Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062275493, $19.99,

This interesting anthology contains 21 Lord Peter Wimsey entries; 11 Montague Egg stories; and 12 assorted other tales. Similar in tone to his novel appearances (see Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane), the Lord Peter tales include the fabulous whimsy Wimsey humor (see "The Entertaining Episode of the Article In Question" and The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker"). Some were written with crossword puzzlers and family enablers enhancing the quirky humor (see "The Fascinating Problem With Uncle Meleager's Will" and "The Adventurous Exploits of the Cave of Ali Baba") and others contain unexpected Twilight Zone-like mystery spins to include "The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste. The wine-selling Montague Egg stories are more typical whodunits (see "Bitter Almonds") as the protagonist is driven by a strong ethical sense of right and wrong. The Others section run the genre gauntlet with my favorites being the satires like "Scrawns'" salute to the gothics and "Nebuchadnezzar" salute to Charades the game. All the short stories provide readers with a sense of time and place and most are quite good though a few are weak; for instance "The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey" due to overwhelming use of happenchance. Overall this is a great compilation of the short works by one of the Grand Dames of mystery.

The Devil Laughed
Gerrie Ferris Finger
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432826970, $25.95,

Judge Portia Devon invites Child Trace investigator Moriah Dru, Atlanta Police Lieutenant Richard Lake and the latter's daughter Susanna for a July 4th shindig on Lake Lanier. Nearby on the water, Portia notices the Scuppernong sailboat that vanished almost four years ago with two couples (Johnny and Candice Browne of North Carolina, and Laurant and Janet Cocineau of Atlanta) on board partying. However, Johnny's body with his head battered was found at the Swann Marina in Forsythe County, the last place the sloop was seen. The other three disappeared.

Candice's thirteen years old daughter Evangeline believes her mother is alive and hires Moriah to investigate. Though her firm's mission is tracing children, the sleuth agrees to take on the young teen as a client. Moriah begins the search for Candice tracking the Scuppernong's last known stops in Georgia.

The third Moriah Dru / Richard Lake mystery (see The Last Temptation and The End Game) is an exciting missing person's investigation that introduces the audience to the Georgia exurbs and rural waterways. Owning the engaging storyline, Dru, Lake and Devon are strong lead characters; while a myriad of support players add depth but need a scorecard to remember who's who.

Peak Season For Murder
Gail Lukasik
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432827298, $25.95,

In Wisconsin, Door County Gazette reporter Leigh Girard covers the renovated Bayside Theater gala celebrating its 65th anniversary though her interest remains more on the disappearance of actress Danielle Moyer almost a quarter of a century ago. However, the journalist also is distracted by the death of homeless recovering alcoholic Brownie Lawrence.

Her editor Jake Stevens lectures her to ignore the Lawrence death though the late man's friend insists he was murdered and not overly dwell on the cold case vanishing, instead he orders her to focus on the opening. Though she obeys Jake's command, Leigh wonders what is going on at the theater after a bat invasion and several dangerous incidents. She also learns of strange activities occurring at Moyer's abandoned cabin. Finally when actor Nate Ryan who was last in town twenty-three years ago dies, Leigh investigates.

The third Leigh Girard journalist mystery (see Destroying Angels and Death's Door) is an entertaining mystery though too much emotional tsunami in the protagonist's personal life detracts from the solid investigation. The fascinating look behind the scenes at a county theater adds depth to an engaging regional whodunit.

Separation Anxiety
Michael Lister
9781888146356, $26.99,

Near Tupelo, Florida, sixteen year old Shelby Summers vanishes eight years to the date that her twin sister Savannah disappeared at a time when a hurricane in the Gulf threatens the Panhandle. Her aunt renowned artist Taylor Sean and her lover novelist Marc Hayden are enjoying their tryst as he marvels over how she transformed her traumatized body into a work of art. She, on the other hand, knows all the tattoos on her epidermis will not conceal the survivor guilt she feels after the surgery to separate her from her conjoined twin left her sibling Trevor dead.

When Taylor receives the call that Shelby failed to go to school, she panics as she hysterically recalls how Savannah vanished during the short walk from the bus to the cabin. Taylor prays that her niece skipped school to spend time with her boyfriend Julian, but the artist also fears he may be the lesser of two evils.

The sequel to Double Exposure is an exciting thriller with several shockers (too many) including ties back to the aftermath of WWII. Fast-paced, readers will empathize with the heroine as she struggles to cope with one trauma after another when she never recovered emotionally from the surgery. Although not a John Jordan bloody investigation (see The Body and the Blood, Flesh and Blood, Power in the Blood and Blood of the Lamb), Separation Anxiety is a taut twisting tale.

The Ninth Floor
Liz Schulte
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781490566825, $13.99,

Estranged for years from her parents, Ryan Sterling vowed to never go home. At a time when her decade-long boyfriend Briggs dumps her, Mother calls telling her that Aunt Bee is in St. Michael's Hospital and inanely named Ryan executor. Ryan refuses to allow Aunt Bee at the mercy of her family so she returns to Goodson Hollow to be there for the only person who cared about her including running her relative's clothing store.

Scared Ryan hurts deeply as Bee suffers from kidney failure. In Bee's hospital room, the other patient emaciated Mrs. Simpson claims the closed since 1984 Ninth Floor is haunted. Meanwhile her sibling Ashley, the youngest town mayor ever, acts snobbishly distant to his sibling emulating their parents; only younger brother Blair genuinely wants to see her. Dr. Jack Sadler welcomes Ryan as does her old boarding school roommate Vivian Golde. While Ryan offers a kidney to her aunt, she receives odd packages from an unknown source, notices a stranger Aiden stalking about, and finds out Mrs. Simpson died. She begins to believe that something is not right at St. Michael's at the same time Ryan learns why her family exiled her; but the full truth appears to be on The Ninth Floor.

This is a terrific horror tale that hooks the reader with a need to know why the hospital locked away The Ninth Floor. Fans will wonder whether ghosts walk the corridors, if this is a psychological suspense, or a psychopath; and why Ryan's parents treat her as they do. Liz Schulte provides her audience with a strong thriller that will have fans suffering the "Jaws Syndrome" to stays at hospitals.

Amy & George
Ann L. McLaughlin
John Daniel and Company
c/o Daniel & Daniel Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745460, $15.95,

In 1937, George Baldwin becomes the Dean of Harvard Law School at the same time he works for the White House on the New Deal. He loves his wife Sophie and their two daughters, nine year old Amy and eight year old Nina but has no time for his family as work always comes first; even when he communicates with Amy and Nina he usually does through a math problem. The rest of the household are two dogs and servants (Leola the cook, her handyman husband William and Betsy the babysitter).

His children especially the oldest hate their new location, but he insists they are receiving a good education. Amy concludes she does not know Poppy as she calls her father. Now the only person George is close to his brother Henry is moving to Butte, and Sophie is upset that family friend Frank Papush is moving nearby. Soon tragedy shakes up the Baldwin family dynamics.

This insightful Depression Era family drama looks deep at how a calamity impacts the relationships of those affected by what happens. Character driven, readers will appreciate this well written historical that provides a glimpse of an affluent family through the eyes of Amy who desperately wants to get closer to her distant dad.

The Deep
Karen Wiesner
9781300666769, $11.99,

In 1994 in Woodcutter's Grim, fifteen year old Cheyenne Welsh frustrates her "Romeo" James Beck by her constant parenting her five years old sister Dulcie. Since her sibling was born, their mom has been mentally ill and their dad always away on a dig or in the basement nurturing his latest find. When she races home in a panic with James following her, Chey's fears prove real as Dulcie and the child's favorite doll, hideous Ajuoga, are missing. Making it worse, she realizes their Daddy satiated his ivory nymph the now alive Die Diep in the basement of the Welsh home.

Fifteen years later, still grieving her loss, Chey comes home to sell the family property following the death of her Daddy; though she refused to attend his funeral. When she fled, James angrily said no to her pleading for him to leave with her. Now a doctor he prays she comes home unaware that her Dad's evil steadfastly welcomes home the prodigal daughter.

The eighth Woodcutter's Grim thriller (see Beauty Is The Beast and One Night Of Eternity) is a chilling horror tale "loosely based on Metamorphoses: The Story of Pygmalion and the Statue by Ovid". The second chance relationship between James and Chey enhances the strong main storyline of a good earth mother fighting the ancient evil her Daddy wrought upon his offspring. Readers will relish the latest work by this wonderfully talented writing wizard.

A Catered Christmas Cookie Exchange
Isis Crawford
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, NY, NY 10018-2522
9780758274892, $24.00,

In Longely, New York, the Christmas Cookie Exchange Club is thrilled over the Baking for Life TV show airing their annual competition hosted this year by local catering sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons. All the members like octogenarian Millie Piedmont with her Millie's Majestic Meltaways expect to win. However Millie dies in a car accident, but before passing away she asks her niece Amber to persuade her employers at A Little Taste of Heaven, the Simmons sisters, to find her killer as she does not trust Police Chief Lucas to identify the culprit.

As they argue, the siblings agree to investigate the death of one of the contest's favorites. They quickly realize the entire club resented Millie. Complicating the Simmons duo roles as the judges almost as much as the demands of the martinet producer; Amber replaces her deceased aunt in the contest.

This Simmons sisters holiday mystery (see A Catered Birthday Party and A Catered Halloween) is a wonderful lighthearted Christmas culinary cozy with recipes though it seems unsafe to belong to a food club (see A Catered St. Patrick's Day). While the bickering siblings lose some of the humor after a while, series fans will enjoy will enjoy how the sleuth sisters spent their latest holiday.

Devilishly Wicked
Kathy Love
Kensington Brava
9780758265890, $9.95

Demon of lust Tristan McIntyre becomes editor-in-chief of fashion magazine Hot! replacing Finola White the devilishly Diva of the damned. Tristan exiles his predecessor to the mailroom; ordering her to identify undercover demon slayers allegedly working inside the organization.

Tristan is upset with himself because he is attracted to his artless human assistant Georgia Sullivan instead of focusing on the fashion magazine and sending souls to Hell. He flirts outrageous with Georgia; but though she is attracted to her Devilishly Wicked boss, she knows her overly ample curves look too abundantly fat next to the perfect size two models Tristan can have whenever he lusts for it.

The latest Devilishly heated romantic urban fantasy (see Devilishly Hot and Devilishly Sexy) is a fun lighthearted tale due to the pairing of opposites, a sophisticated sexy demon and an ultra-naive human. Although Tristan's transformation from wicked soul dispatcher to born again human lover never feels right as he ignored his hellish mission, readers will appreciate this amusing tale.

The Big Chihuahua
Waverly Curtis
9780758274977, $7.99

In Seattle Private Investigator trainee Geri Sullivan works for Jimmy G at his nearly bankrupt Gerrard Detective Agency. Jimmy G assigns Geri and her talking (only to her) Chihuahua Pepe to extract depressed (following a miscarriage) Tammy Darling from the Dogawandan cult. Geri and Pepe meet with the client Tammy's husband Mark who gives them a note from his wife that sounds suicidal; he also says she withdrew a large sum of money.

The apprentice and the canine enter the cult who believes that Dogawanda the dog is the true path for the enlightened. Inside the compound Channeler Crystal Star proclaims Pepe is the next incarnation of Dogawanda. However, besides Pepe's superstar status, a homicide complicates the extraction.

The latest Barking Detective mystery (see Dial C For Chihuahua and Chihuahua Confidential) is a fabulous satirical investigative tale that amusingly mocks cult worshippers mostly by Pepe's expert commentary yet balances the humor with insight into various wolf species. Pepe's nose for trouble makes for a fun whodunit.

Christmas Carol Murder
Leslie Meier
9780758277015, $25.00

In Tinker's Cove, Maine, few residents feel like celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday as Downeast Mortgage has foreclosed on many houses. On the Friday of the holiday weekend, Downeast Mortgage partner avaricious Jacob Marlowe receives a package labeled "Do Not Open Till Christmas." Ignoring the instruction, Jacob begins to open the parcel, but sets off an explosion that leaves him dead amidst the ruins of his mansion.

Pennysaver reporter Lucy Stone covers the impact on townsfolk by the Great Recession. She also plays the part of Mrs. Cratchit in a community theater performance of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. However, she interrupts her rehearsals to investigate who left a second bomb targeting Marlowe's miserly partner Ben Scribner.

The latest Lucy Stone mystery (see Easter Bunny Murder) is an engaging whodunit that cleverly combines A Christmas Carol with the Great Recession. The whodunit entertains the audience with a solid mystery, and obvious and obscure references to the Bush downturn and the classic novel. Readers will appreciate this strong entry as the insight into the effect on people by the housing collapse and unscrupulous greedy banking practices are timely, honest yet depressing.

Two Times As Hot
Cat Johnson
Kensington Brava
9780758285409, $9.99

After Dr. Becca Hart lost her assistant English professor position at Vassar, the only vacancy was at Oklahoma State University. She and her sibling Emma come to Stillwater for an interview. At a rodeo Emma meets divorced US Army Sergeant Tucker Jenkins while Emma enjoys the company of Jace Mills (see One Night With A Cowboy).

Ten months later, graphic designer Emma travels from New York to attend Becca's wedding though angry with Jace who never contacted her after their super tryst. At the nuptials she meets Tucker's ROTC superior officer LTC Logan Hunt and sees Jace again. After a tryst, she returns to the Big Apple at the same time Logan learns his father suffered a stroke. Needing her sister as she deals with a crisis, Emma goes back to Oklahoma where she and Logan see each and fall in love, but she owes him one truth that the New Yorker believes will end their relationship.

The second Oklahoma Nights is a wonderful contemporary due to fortyish Logan who lives the Army's values (LDRSHIP). Emma's behavior comes across as childish at times especially her anger with Jace over his assumption they shared a one night stand. Still this Big Apple-Sooner romance is a fun tale as love battles insecurity.

You Don't Know Me Like That
Reshonda Tate Billingsley
9780758289537, $9.95

The celebrity gossip show Rumor Central's host Maya Morgan is euphoric as she has become the hottest teen star in America; able to attend the top parties as everyone who matters knows "This Girl Is On Fire" (Keys). However, her superego leads friends and associates like her former Miami Divas' show mates irate with her.

Maya meets the president of her fan club Jayla Cooper who says she is a techie. Maya's studio hires Jayla to create and administer the superstar's web activity. However, when someone sends damaging gossip to the tabloids from allegedly Maya's email, the diva's tsuris may have began in cyberspace, but her troubles are in the real world.

The second Rumor Central teen drama is an engaging tale mostly because of the impact on a rising celeb by cyber identity theft and other related online felonies that also serve as a stern warning to readers to remain vigilant protecting your personal information. Character driven by the Miami HS divas and those within two degrees of them, young adult fans will appreciate You Don't Know Me Like That.

Killer Weed
Michael Castleman
MP Publishing
9781849822404, $14.95,

Silicon Valley dot-com billionaire Gene Simons hires unemployed reporter Ed Rosenberg to investigate the summer of love Haight-Ashbury scene. Simons has a personal interest because in 1968 someone murdered his pot selling mom in Golden Gate Park.

At the same time, Ed's wife Julie works on the mayoral campaign of Dave Kirsch, a pot dealer and author of weed growing guides. To her horror, Julie is near Dave when someone assassinates him. While Julie turns to vino to help her cloud the horrible imprint controlling her brain; Ed, in between totes, works the Kirsch murder as well as the Simons' cold case killing, but soon finds himself the target of a killer.

The latest Ed Rosenberg mystery (see A Killing in Real Estate) is an exciting fun tale that highlights the history of the not so counter culture. Fast-paced, both homicides decades apart are cleverly plotted as Ed works on both inquiries. Like the last line of Jefferson Airplane's classic White Rabbit, Killer Weed will "Feed your head. Feed your head."

The Case Of The Purloined Painting
Carl Brookens
North Star Press of St. Cloud
PO Box 451, St. Cloud, MN 56302-0451
9780878397082, $14.95,

Mr. Gehrz retains private detective Sean "NMI" Sean to locate Tiffany Market; who the client says he has not seen in two weeks. He leaves Sean with cash and a photo. Not long after that Ann/Anne hires Sean to inform the police that in a snowstorm she saw two men push another off a bridge, but fails to explain why she needs a cutout to talk to the cops. Three days later, The Star Tribune reports that the corpse of elderly Manfred Gottlieb was found in the ice covered Mississippi.

Prominent wheelchair bound lawyer Derrol Madison asks the sleuth to take on Manfred's grand-nephew Aaron Gottlieb as a client, which the PI does. As the investigator makes little progress in spite of help from his girlfriend, his office neighbors and a close police friend, someone targets Sean for elimination; at the same time he theorizes his three cases as one that dates back to the end of WWII and stolen art.

The latest Sean Sean mystery (see The Case of the Deceiving Don and The Case of the Great Train Robbery) is a super investigative tale. The well-written investigations are clever as the hero struggles to put the pieces together for his three clients and the insight into stolen WWII art adds fascinating depth. The relationship between the six foot Catherine and the five foot two Sean enhances the entertaining storyline as each loves and respects the other, but also accept the physical obvious such as he cannot help her with her coat. The Case Of The Purloined Painting is another strong Twin Cities' whodunit.

Safe House
Chris Ewan
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250038159, $15.99,

During the Tourist Trophy gala held on the Isle of Man, Rob Hale wakes up in a hospital after suffering a motorcycle accident. Dr. Gaskell explains to him that he was unconscious for seven hours; waking up briefly once, broke his left scapula, suffered bruised ribs and assorted other injuries. When he asks how Lena, who rode with him on the back of the bike and went in the first ambulance, was doing, Gaskell got Dr. Stanley. He bluntly tells the patient he suffered a traumatic head injury that besides nausea and dizziness could include hallucinations; as no one else was admitted with him.

Rob does not believe his injured brain made up Lena as the details about her are overwhelming. He and private investigator Rebecca Lewis search for Lena, but besides finding oddities re the missing woman they uncover a connection to Rob's sister, Laura, who committed suicide a few weeks ago. As they dig deeper, the sleuths end up in the crosshairs between dangerous rivals.

With the Good Thief taking a respite from urban guiding readers, Chris Ewan provides readers with a taut twisting thriller with clues to what is going on cleverly placed in the suspenseful storyline. Rooting for the beleaguered dynamic duo, fans will relish this exhilarating hard to put down tale that requires discipline to avoid skipping chapters to read the climax early on due to a deep thirst to know the resolution.

The Tulip Eaters
Antoinette van Heugten
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778313885, $15.95,

In 1980 single mom, Dr. Nora de Jong comes home from her work as a pediatric surgeon at Methodist Hospital looking forward to seeing her beloved six-month-old daughter Rose and her widow Dutch mom Anneke in their three female Texas household. Instead of joy, she finds her mom lying on the living room floor with a bullet hole in her head, Rose is missing and a stranger is also dead. After calling 911, the hysterical Nora dials her visiting Dutch friend Professor Marijke van den Maas for comfort until Houston Police Lieutenant Richards arrives to take over the crime scene.

HPD, Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team and the FBI investigate the double murders and search for the missing infant, but their efforts go nowhere. As the case turns cold frantic Nora refuses to quit on rescuing her daughter. Nora looks into her parents' past in Holland going back to WWII in search of clues as to the motive for the homicides and kidnapping.

The Tulip Eaters is an exciting mystery as what happened in the 1940s in the Old Country impacts what occurred almost four decades later in Texas. Grieving Nora holds the storyline together with her desperate search for Rose although she receives too much unlikely assistance on her frustrated fearful quest. Still this is a fabulous suspense thriller from the moment Nora is greeted by a mom's worse nightmare.

Candlelight Christmas
Susan Wiggs
9780778314745, $16.95

In Avalon, New York, sports marketing executive Darcy Fitzgerald fails to move on from divorcing cheating Huntley Collins as she always has an in your face reminder of her failed marriage since her sister and his brother are married. As Christmas comes to the area, divorced dad Logan O'Donnell misses his son Charlie who lives with his mom far away except for summers in the Catskills with him.

Darcy and Logan meet through his Long Island sister India, in the area to pick up her twins from camp, being her friend. However, their respective attitude towards a relationship is polar different. He dreams of remarrying with children and she rejects relationship permanency and ergo no children. As summer passes into fall and then winter, Logan embraces their attraction, Darcy flees from it.

The latest Lakeshore Chronicles contemporary romance (see Return to Willow Lake and Marrying Daisy Bellamy) is a warm holiday drama that readers will relish due to the leisurely paced changes to the lead couple's behavior towards each other; especially Darcy. The audience will enjoy Christmas in the Catskills as love brightens the lights more than when the area was renowned as the Borscht Belt.

If You Were Mine
Bella Andre
9780778315605, $7.99

Racecar driver and dealership owner Zach Sullivan easily says no to his brother Gabe (see Can't Help Falling In Love), but refusing his preadolescent niece Summer is something he cannot do. When she insists her Uncle Zach watch Cuddles, her Yorkie, while she and her parents are in Europe, he reluctantly agrees

Zach soon realizes he is out of his element dealing with the three-pound terrorist who destroys his shoes and other items. He needs professional help; so asks dog trainer Heather Linsey to assist him with the hyperactive fluff ball. Heather's 200-pound Great Dane Atlas and Cuddles become BFFs while Heather and Zach begin to fall love; albeit at a much slower pace than the canines because the dogs don't have human trust issues.

The fifth Sullivan siblings' romance (see I Only Have Eyes for You) is a wonderful contemporary, which affirms the W.C. Fields' wry comment "never work with animals or children" as first Summer and then the dogs steal the show from adults. With the extended Sullivan brood making appearances, fans will enjoy this amusing sweet entry.

Upon A Winter's Night
Karen Harper
9780778314721, $7.99

In Home Valley, Ohio, Josh Yoder employs Lydia Brand to care for his menagerie. She searches for missing Melly the eight-foot tale female camel when a snow storm hits. Before she can head back, Lydia finds the frozen corpse of an older Englishe she does not recognize. Sheriff Freeman identifies the victim as Victoria Keller, the reclusive spinster older sister of Senator Bess Stark.

Lydia is attracted to her boss who worked at the Columbus Zoo before returning to his Amish roots. She also obsesses over who her biological parents were though her adopted parents obviously love her. When a second dead woman is found and vandalism occurs, someone makes it clear to all that the truth will set no one free except in death.

The latest Home Valley Amish romance (see Finding Mercy and Fall From Pride) is an engaging suspense. The heroine must choose between honoring those who love and cherish her including accepting their chosen suitor Gid and a compulsion to find her roots and pick her own come calling friend preferably Josh. Though the murder motive seems weak, the fascinating clash of cultures is deep as fans will enjoy visiting the Amish in the Buckeye State.

Take Me Home For Christmas
Brenda Novak
9780778315469, $7.99

On the Legacy yacht off the coast of Rio, Sophia DeBussi's affluent investment banker husband Skip is missing as she prays her abusive spouse never returns. The FBI informs her that Skip died faking his death rather than face ruin and criminal charges from an investigation of his firm's illegal business practices.

Known as the "Mean Girl" by her hometown residents penniless Sophia and her daughter Lexi return to Whiskey Creek, California. She has no prospects and everyone who trusted her late spouse with their money transfers their rage to her since their real target is not available for their wrath. Still irate at her for breaking his heart when they were high school sweethearts as Sophia chose money over love, author Ted Dixon hires her as his housekeeper. His anger turns inward when Ted knows he still loves Sophia.

The latest Whiskey Creek romance (see Home to Whiskey Creek) is an entertaining second chance at love romance. The protagonists are fully developed and Lexi terrific as she deals with a series of traumas realistically especially her vicious father's death. Although the town without pity seems over the top of Mt. Whitney with their nasty actions towards the DeBussi mother and daughter, readers will enjoy Sophia's coming home for Christmas.

The Stranger You Know
Andrea Kane
9780778315018, $24.95

Forensics Instincts group profiler Casey Woods feels good that rapist/murderer Glen Fischer was sentenced to life in prison at Auburn State thanks to their efforts. However, her euphoria ends with a phone call from an apparent psychopath who brutally murders red haired young women and leaves them looking like a scene from a movie; eerily similar to Fischer's M.O.; but also mindful of the rape-killing of her college roommate Holly.

The predator consistently calls Casey before he kills. She and her team believe this serial killer eventually plans to murder red-haired Casey with his victims left behind as his calling card that he will soon come for her. The FI members (ex-SEAL Marc Deveraux, technologist Ryan McKay, retired Fed Patrick Lynch and Hero the dog) vow to keep their leader safe; but the murderer seems to elude them in spite of another teammate Claire Hedgleigh's psychic skills enabling her to "witness" the horrific butchering.

The third Forensic Instincts investigation (see The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, and The Line Between Here and Gone) is very personal as everyone believes Casey is the ultimate target of the clever culprit. The exciting cat and mouse twisting storyline grips the reader although the audience needs to write off the at times dumb behavior of the good guys as fearing for Casey. Fans will appreciate this chiller as each violent death takes the diabolical maniac closer to Casey.

10 Shades of Seduction
Tiffany Reisz, et al.
9780778317036, $14.95

These 10 enjoyable erotic tales by 8 authors (Tiffany Reisz, Alegra Verde, Alison Tyler, Anne Calhoun, Lisa Renee Jones, Sarah McCarty, and two each by Portia Da Costa and Alison Tyler) are print copies of e-short stories (released between 2007 and 2012). All the entries are heated BDSM fun, but the best ones bring more to the respective relationships. In "Submit to Desire" by Tiffany Reisz, Charlotte is taken over the erotic Edge by Original Sinner mentor Kingsley. Willa and James find the "Second Time Around" (by Portia Da Costa) much darker and fulfilling. Also by Portia Da Costa, reversing office roles Miranda becomes A Very Personal Assistant to Patrick in the boudoir. Imogen the executive relishes being in control of all situations except when much younger Giles turns her into his submissive in Saskia Walker's "Forbidden Ritual".

A Seaside Christmas
Sherryl Woods
9780778315117, $16.95

Songwriter Jenny Collins struggles to accept her mom married an O'Brien especially that they are now part of a humongous clan. When the tabloids headline her breakup with pop star Caleb Green, Jenny leaves Nashville and returns to Chesapeake Shores, Maryland for the holidays to escape the stalkers.

Caleb wants to use Jenny's latest song, but needs her permission. He knows she is irate with him for cheating on her, but follows her to Chesapeake Shores. As he easily adapts to the zany O'Brien quadrillion, she feels like an outsider unused to extended family masses. However with their help, Caleb launches his real agenda, a comeback with Jenny.

The latest Chesapeake Shores tale (see A Chesapeake Shores Christmas and The Summer Garden) is a warm second chance holiday romance wrapped inside a family drama. The engaging storyline follows the anticipated path though enhanced by Jenny trying to connect with her stepfather and stepsister even as the horde makes it difficult for her (and at times readers) to do so. Series fans will enjoy A Seaside Christmas.

Kissing Under the Mistletoe
Bella Andre
9780778316930, $16.95

Four decades ago in San Francisco, Allen Walter, CEO of Walter Industries, tells Jack Sullivan that his pocket planner electronic gizmo is a great product but the firm needs a sure shot like pet rocks after losing a lot of money on other great products over the past year. Disappointed Jack knows he and his partners over the last ten years (Howie Miller and Larry Buelton) need a Christmas miracle as they have 24 hours to prove to Allen that Pocket Planner can sell.

The three partners head to Union Square to come up with an idea when internationally famous fashion model Mary Ferrer finishes her final shoot there before retiring. Jack and Mary cannot stop staring at each other. Whereas she decides to take one last chance on love, he feels fate has intervened as he not only found his Angel he found the means of proving pocket planner is a sexy gizmo.

Kissing Under the Mistletoe is a delightful prequel to the Sullivan family romances as readers meet the brilliant patriarch in person and not through the memories of his family as the series does. The entertaining storyline is very linear with no twists, but showcases the love that started it all.

Sleigh Bells
Beth Albright
9780778315308, $14.95

In Tuscaloosa, TV reporter Dallas Dubois is irate that Vivi is giving birth on a football game day, which has the Crimson Tide Voice making a bad choice by rushing to Druid City Hospital instead of calling the game. She hides her ire that she covers the baby rather than the play; but with a live mic she thought cleared Dallas proclaims she hates kids. On the plus side, Dallas knows she is in the running for the open WTAL news anchor chair even if she must prove she deserves the spot by covering mush stories.

Former Alabama quarterback Cal Hollingsworth ignored her back in school though she wanted him. He wrote her off as an Ice Queen, but now has second and third thoughts re Dallas. Cal courts her and Dallas wants him but has doubts about relationships as her past keeps her afraid of trusting anything but football.

The third Sassy Belles (see Wedding Belles and Sassy Belles) is an enjoyable Crimson Tide romance starring a damaged refreshing Steel Magnolia and the ex-football player who takes the offense by blitzing his beloved's defenses. Although the horde of children initially driving Dallas crazy is overdone even as they are key to moving the plot into the fourth quarter, readers (once again except Auburn fans) will enjoy this amusing holiday tale.

Teatime for the Firefly
Shona Patel
9780778315476, $15.95

By 1943, seventeen years old Layla Roy knows like everyone else she is astrologically doomed having been born as a Manglik due to Mars being her predominate in the Hindu horoscope; which means no man will want a feral wife like her. Her bad luck started early with the deaths of her parents, but due to her modern day thinking grandfather Dadamoshai, who raised her to be an intellect and use her mind, she felt fortunate to attend his all-girls school in Assam.

In April three events seemingly unconnected merge. Russian Boris Ivanov breaks his leg; a baby crow falls out of the nest; and Layla and Manik Deb meet. He ends his arranged marriage and stays in contact with Layla while dangerously working as a tea planter; his family banishes him. When they marry, they clash with the caste system and much more.

Teatime for the Firefly is a fabulous historical that looks deep into 1940s social classes in India and especially the tea plantations. The cast brings alive the era while the lead couple with their opposite attitudes towards others keeps the wonderful storyline focused.

The Night Is Forever
Heather Graham
9780778315087, $7.99

Marcus Danby established the Horse Farm near Nashville as a place to take care of deserted animals. Therapist Olivia Gordon finds Marcus' body in what looks like a horrible riding accident caused by a drug overdose though he had been clean for three decades.

Already wondering how a top rider who knew every inch of the area could have fallen and having doubts about his addiction relapse, Liv's concerns about her boss' death become a certainty when Marcus' ghost tells her he was murdered. She contacts her cousin Malachi Gordon (see The Night Is Alive), an FBI Krewe of Hunters agent who knows of her ability to communicate with ghosts. He informs Krewe unit Chief Jackson Crowe who assigns Dustin Blake on his first case to investigate the Horse Farm paranormal activity and the death. Dustin and Liv are attracted to each other from their first meeting and their feelings are strengthened by both sharing the paranormal skill of seeing ghosts especially with so many in the area. However, the killer plans to silence the only person claiming homicide.

Though similar in tone to the previous "Night" thrillers (see The Night Is Watching), this Krewe of Hunters paranormal romantic police procedural is an entertaining investigative entry enhanced by the ghosts from a nearby Civil War era massacre bringing alive the local history. Action-packed from the moment Marcus' spirit pleads with Liv, readers will relish visiting the haunts of the greater Nashville area.

Sleep With the Lights On
Maggie Shayne
9780778315544, $7.99

Famous self-help inspirational author Rachel de Luca visits the police station demanding information on her missing brother Tommy, a homeless addict. The cop blows her away. Using her cane to leave but distracted by her concern for Tommy, Rachel fails to pay attention to her surroundings. A car driven by Police Detective Mason Brown hits blind Rachel. Later on that same day, Mason watches helplessly as his brother Eric commits suicide; leaving behind a pregnant wife and kids.

Mason donates Eric's organs and Rachel receives the corneas for a transplant. Seeing for the first time since she was a child, Rachel adapts to a sight world. However, the writer also has visions of a serial killer. Rachel and Mason team up searching for her sibling and a psychopath.

Though the eye transplant premise is not new, Sleep with the Lights On is a thrilling paranormal romantic police procedural. The leads are fresh characters; as Rachel is cynical and uses profanity; and Mason is a good cop but conceals secrets that question his ethics. Fast-paced with an tense twist, sub-genre readers will enjoy this thriller as evil always finds a willing host while good manifests itself in love.

Going Once
Sharon Sala
9780778315483, $7.99

In Queens Crossing, Louisiana, her late Mama wakes up feverish Nola Landry who finds her life in peril by the flooding Mississippi as the torrent has continued for days. Needing high ground immediately, she climbs a tree. However, Nola witnesses the horror of The Stormchaser serial killer murdering three neighbors.

No one ever saw this psychopath who preys on people during the aftermath of a natural disaster; that is no one has seen his face until now. FBI profiler Tate Benton and his partners arrive in his hometown Queens Crossing to investigate the latest homicides. Tate also vows to protect his former college girlfriend Nola because he believes the Stormchaser will target the woman he still loves; as no one who has seen this predator's face lives.

This is an exciting second chance romantic suspense with the emphasis on catching the murderer before he kills the witness. The keys to this great tale are that the reason for the leads' initial split is deftly and rapidly dealt with as is the poignancy of caring for a beloved ailing elderly parent; so that the focus predominantly is on the present dangerous situation. The psychopath's motive seems plausible as this is a terrific taut Forces of Nature thriller.

I Only Have Eyes for You
Bella Andre
9780778315599, $7.99

When Sophie Sullivan was five years old, she liked her older brothers' friend eleven years old Jake McCann. Now almost two decades later, Sophie the librarian attends her brother Chase's wedding (see The Look Of Love) where she has an epiphany; being the "Nice" quiet Sullivan will never win the heart of her beloved Jake the best man so she must be bold like her twin "Naughty" Lori.

Sophie seduces Jake. Although he never had a better time in his life, Jake flees as he believes he is unworthy of Sophie and her love. Not long after he left Sophie heartbroken, Jake knows he erred as he realizes he needs her with him and has an epiphany in which she must decide whether he is good enough for her. However, a scared Sophie no longer trusts Jake with her heart.

The fourth Sullivan siblings' romance (after Can't Help Falling in Love and From This Moment On) is a strong complex drama. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing while the extended Sullivan brood adds depth to a wonderful contemporary.

Dead of Night
Charlaine Harris and Amanda Stevens
9780778314769, $11.95

"Dancers In The Dark." Dancer Rue May answers an ad for job dancing with vampires at Blue Moon Entertainment and Black Moon Productions. Rue gets the job. Vampire Sean O'Rourke finds he is attracted to the mortal, but believes she is hiding something. As he tries to learn the truth about Rue, they fall in love, but her actions leave her in danger from an unknown person who is part of the troupe.

"The Devil's Footprints." The cloven footprints first appeared in Adamanet, Alabama in 1922 during a freak snowstorm; nothing further was found. Seven decades later, the battered mutilated corpse of seventeen year old Rachel DeLaune is found in the same area with those same devil's footprints nearby. Her younger sister Sarah thinks Ashe Cain killed her sibling, but no one else believes he exists. Fourteen years later in New Orleans, Sarah remains disturbed by her sister's death. Two mutilated corpses are found near her home with those same telltale cloven footprints. Her ex-lover, New Orleans Detective Sean Kelton leads the homicide investigation; he asks Sarah to interpret strange etchings on the bodies. She immediately thinks of Ashe and wonders if he is coming for her.

These reprints of two taut thrillers grip the reader throughout though Dancers In The Dark is a romantic paranormal and The Devil's Footprints keeps readers guessing whether it is horror or psychological suspense.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

First Lessons Music Theory
Katherine Curatolo, author
Mel Bay Publications
PO Box 66, Pacific, MO 63069
9780786685219, $9.99,

Suitable for young adults and beginning to intermediate music students, "First Lessons Music Theory" is a compact introduction to the basics of music theory in 26 easy lessons. Beginning with a guide to reading a full music staff and score and progressing to basic components of theory, including rhythm/time signatures, key signatures, 8th, 16th, 32nd notes and rests, accidentals, intervals, order of sharps and flats, major and minor keys and scales, dynamics and articulation, repeats, tempo, triads, arpeggios, inversions, and seventh chords. Chapters include explanations, examples, and practice suggestions or exercises. Access to a piano or keyboard would be helpful in completing and understanding the theory lessons in "First Lessons Music Theory." When completed, the student will have a good grasp of the basic components of music theory.

Voices of Cherokee Women
Carolyn Ross Johnston, editor
John F. Blair Publisher
1406 Plaza Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27103
9780895875990, $12.95,

"Voices of Cherokee Women" is a rare collection of over 50 first person historical accounts by Cherokee women written between the sixteenth century and present times, October, 2013. The release of "Voices of Cherokee Women" was timed to coincide with the 175th anniversary of the Trail of Tears, resulting from enforcement of the Indian Removal Act beginning in October of 1838. This collection of Cherokee women's writings comes from many sources, including women from the Eastern Band of Cherokees and also the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Some of these women were highly educated, acculturated individuals and some were more traditional Cherokee women. Some of the authors included are Rebecca Neugin, also known as Wa-ki, who wrote her personal memories of the Trail of Tears in the late 1930's. Another voice is that of Hannah Worcester Hicks who kept a diary from August of 1862 which is excerpted through 1863. Hannah was the child of missionaries and became Cherokee through marrying Abijah Hicks, son of an Eastern Cherokee chief who was mistakenly murdered by Pin Indians near Lee's Creek, Oklahoma on July 4, 1862. Other voices are heard in the Petitions by Cherokee Women of 1817 and 1818 to the National Council during that the Cherokee lands be held in common and not apportioned individually or sold or signed away. Cherokee women contributors from the present day include Wilma Mankiller and Joyce Dugan, elected chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians from 1995-99. All writings are arranged, roughly chronologically, in seven sections: Part 1- Stories of the Cherokees (taken in 1888 from accounts by Swimmer, a male Cherokee Shaman), Part 2- Encounters (early writings and excerpts), Part 3- The Civilization Program (memoirs and Cherokee Phoenix articles), Part 4- the Trail of Tears (excerpts from journals, interviews, letters), Part 5- The Civil War, Part 6- Allotment and Assimilation, and Part 7- Leading Cherokee Women.

The totality of these haunting intimate recollections and excerpts is complex, nuanced, and powerfully resonant with a determination to preserve a precious heritage and identity. The role of women in the history of Cherokee Indians is also briefly reflected through a myriad of changes and cycles. The message is endurance and strength, a real sense of survival that encompasses both physical and spiritual realms. "Voices of Cherokee Women" is a rare collection of refracted glimpses of Native American women who maintained a balance through the cycle of accustomed, inherent accorded powers for women, followed by the removal and silencing of such political and economic powers, back to a new enhanced position of respect and empowerment in the 21st century. "Voices of Cherokee Women" is offered as a tribute to women who endured through many reversals, "giving voice to the voiceless."

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Killer Of Enemies
Joseph Bruchac
Tu Books
c/o Lee & Low Books
95 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9781620141434, $19.95, 368 pp,

Synopsis: Years ago, seventeen year old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lives in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones (people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human) and there was everyone else who served the Ones. Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones' pets - genetically engineered monsters - turned on them and are now loose on the world. Lozen was not one of the lucky ones pre-C, but fate has given her a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities. She hunts monsters for the Ones who survived the apocalyptic events of the Cloud, which ensures the safety of her kidnapped family. But with every monster she takes down, Lozen's powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is not just a hired gun... Lozen is meant to be a hero.

Critique: Pure action/adventure entertainment from beginning to end, "Killer Of Enemies" is grip the attention of young readers age 11 and up. Memorable characters combine with a deftly woven plot make this a highly recommended addition for school and community libraries alike.

My Lost Cuba
Celso Gonzalez-Falla
East End Press
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780988767324, $24.95, 320 pp,

Synopsis: "My Lost Cuba" is a moving novel of Cuban life at a pivotal time in the country's rich history will resonate with anyone who has experienced the loss of family or homeland. 1958 was the last year of Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship. Mike, the son of Don Miguel, a wealthy land owner and rancher, is summoned home from his MBA studies in the United States because of his father's failing health. Still recovering from the loss of his wife, Mike's return is an immediate tonic for Don Miguel. Caught between his family obligations and his desire to pursue his own dreams, Mike quickly finds himself succumbing to his father's desire for him to take over the responsibilities of running the family ranch. As Mike settles back into the life he was groomed for, Don Miguel, reinvigorated, spends more and more time socializing in Havana. Changes are happening everywhere. The government is encroaching on civil liberties and social and political upheaval is in the air. There are rumblings about Castro's guerillas organizing in the mountains. On the ranch, long-time employees of Don Miguel resent the changes that Mike is making, setting the stage for a confrontation that change the lives of everyone involved.

Critique: A richly crafted portrayal of memorable characters in extraordinary circumstances, "My Lost Cuba" combines the elements of a love story with that of hardball politics and an impressive family saga. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library fiction collections, it should be noted that "My Lost Cuba" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Meluhha: A Visible Language
S. Kalyanaraman
Sarasvati Research Center
3 Temple Avenue, Chennai 600015
9780991104819, $39.90, 812 pp,

Synopsis: "Meluhha: A Visible Language" makes path-breaking contributions to understanding links of life-activities with language, art and written communication for 3 millennia from ca 4th millennium BCE. The change in paradigm of art appreciation is hermeneutics -- hermeneuo, 'translate' or 'interpret' -- of ancient texts. "Meluhha: A Visible Language" shows most of the early art forms and symbols not as abstractions but founded on underlying, meaningful speech and as innovations to match artificers' inventions, which define the transition from chalcolithic age to bronze age, particularly in the Ancient Near East. Masterpieces of bronze-age art demonstrate Meluhha semantics. "Meluhha: A Visible Language" is a tribute to the artisans of the Bronze-age Indo-Eurasia who laid the foundations for 1) an industrial revolution with the invention of tin-bronzes and brass and 2) a cultural revolution with the invention of writing systems. The glyphs of early writing systems of Bronze-age in Ancient Near East, represent a visible language of Meluhha. A synonym of 'visible language' is 'incised speech' takshat vaak, (a metaphor used in what is possibly the oldest human document, the Rgveda.). Meluhha were sea-faring merchants and artisans working in tin, zinc, copper and other bronze-age alloying minerals (attested in cuneiform texts). Meluhha settlements are also attested in Ancient Near East archaeology. Meluhha Smithy denotes the divine space, a temple. Implements produced in a smithy and repertoire of a smithy denote attributes of the divine. This world-view of Meluhha is discerned from hundreds of cylinder seals with hundreds of hieroglyphs - as visible language or incised Meluhha speech. A list of Meluhha glosses evidenced in Indian sprachbund is presented. A list of languages and dialects listed in Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Munda lexicons annexed to the list constitutes a resource base for identifying and clustering semantics of Meluhha. The intimations of semantics conveyed by Meluhha cipher should be augmented by further language explorations and studies to detail the grammatical features of Meluhha/mleccha language.

Critique: Meluhha or Melukhkha is the Sumerian name of a prominent trading partner of Sumer during the Middle Bronze Age. Its identification remains an open question. Complex, comprehensive, amazingly detailed and documented, "Meluhha: A Visible Language" is a seminal work of seminal scholarship and a very strongly recommended contribution to academic library Archaeology, Linguistics, and Indo-Eurasian Studies collections.

Finding Ourselves at the Movies
Paul W. Kahn
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, NY, NY 10023-7015
9780231164382, $35.00, 256 pp,

Synopsis: Academic philosophy may have lost its audience, but the traditional subjects of philosophy -- love, death, justice, knowledge, and faith -- remain as compelling as ever. To reach a new generation, Paul W. Kahn argues that philosophy must take up these fundamental concerns as we find them in contemporary culture. He demonstrates how this can be achieved through a turn to popular film. Discussing such well-known movies as Forrest Gump (1994), The American President (1995), The Matrix (1999), Memento (2000), The History of Violence (2005), Gran Torino (2008), The Dark Knight (2008), The Road (2009), and Avatar (2009), Kahn explores powerful archetypes and their hold on us. His inquiry proceeds in two parts. First, he uses film to explore the nature of action and interpretation, arguing that narrative is the critical concept for understanding both. Second, he explores the narratives of politics, family, and faith as they appear in popular films. Engaging with genres as diverse as romantic comedy, slasher film, and pornography, Kahn explores the social imaginary through which we create and maintain a meaningful world. He finds in popular films a new setting for a philosophical inquiry into the timeless themes of sacrifice, innocence, rebirth, law, and love.

Critique: A model of impeccable scholarship presented with an especially talented clarity, "Finding Ourselves at the Movies: Philosophy for a New Generation" is informed, thought-provoking, and insightful -- making it an outstanding and enthusiastically recommended addition to academic library Cinematic Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "Finding Ourselves at the Movies: Philosophy for a New Generation" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.24).

Some Other Time, Some Other Place
Robert Whitfield
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781481028820, $14.95, 242 pp,

Synopsis: On a Long Island beach, Nicholas Mathers meets Kathering Cantrell, and old friend he hadn't seen for ten years. Katherine's husband, Fiske Cantrell, is one of Mathers' best friends. Katherine explains that she and her husband are now separated and she is living at her family's summer home near Montauk Point, while Fiske is in Manhattan with their daughter Jennifer. When Nicholas meets Fiske in Manhattan he learns that Fiske wants to save his marriage and asks for help to do so from Nicholas. But Fiske has placed his career above his marriage and Jennifer is struggling with the aftermath of an abortion and an on-going drug addiction. To complicate things further, Nicholas becomes involved with Kathering himself. Then Fisk dies in an auto accident and Jennifer is found dead in Manhattan. All this is an eventful summer of tragedy, betrayal, love, and changing perspectives on the part of both Nicholas and Katherine.

Critique: A complex, deftly woven literary tapestry of memorable characters and all too human frailties, "Some Other Time, Some Other Place" is an engaging read and one that lingers in the mind long after the novel is finished and set back upon the shelf. Also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99), "Some Other Time, Some Other Place" would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections.

The Mexican Gardener
Len Lamensdorf
SeaScape Press, Ltd.
5717 Tanner Ridge Avenue, Westlake Village, CA 91362
9780966974188, $19.95, 280 pp.,

Synopsis: Jose Diego-Rivera is tall, dark and handsome, an excellent marksman and skilled jet pilot, so what is he doing working for a beautiful Oscar-winning film actress as a gardener? He seems like so many other Mexicans and Central Americans, toiling anonymously in the yards and gardens of Californians. But there is a dramatic difference: Jose is actually a world-class scientist, hiding from a murderous drug cartel which plans to unleash a vicious chemical attack against the hated "Anglos," and restore the fabled "Aztlan Empire" in the southwestern United States. Not least amongst his enemies is a childhood "friend," now a powerful titan of industry. Jose is a member of a secret clique of distinguished scientists, working undercover to thwart this terrible conspiracy, but time is growing short and there are many unsuspected enemies. In this, his 8th published novel, Len Lamensdorf has once again deployed is remarkable knowledge of history, geography and current events to create a spell- binding, suspense-laden thriller. Both Jose and his arch-enemy, Hector Palacios, are skillfully drawn, compelling characters, and their collision cannot have a fraternal ending.

Critique: Len Lamensdorf is an accomplished novelist and playwright. His latest novel, "The Mexican Gardener" once again demonstrates his gift for deftly crafting a riveting story that is superbly enhanced throughout with finely descriptive background elements that significantly contribute to a truly enjoyable and entertaining story from beginning to end. "The Mexican Gardener" is highly recommended reading and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections.

Intelligence and Private Investigation
Hank Prunckun
Charles C. Thomas Publisher Ltd.
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398088880, $35.95, 220 pp.,

Synopsis: "Intelligence and Private Investigation: Developing Sophisticated Methods for Conducting Inquiries" examines how private investigation has grown over the past several decades into an exacting, sophisticated, professional occupation with standards. "Intelligence and Private Investigation" examines key issues in what it describes as private intelligence including intelligence activities practiced by operatives other than law enforcement, national security, or the military. Eleven world experts contribute chapters addressing key practice issues concerning the skills, abilities, and knowledge necessary in the new realm of private intelligence. The initial three chapters provide a report on present-day private intelligence and offer an overview of the specifics of intelligence issues that follow. Eleven subsequent chapters take the reader progressively through various intelligence-related subjects. Major topics presented include: skills for intelligence-led private investigators, open source intelligence, target profiling, fraud intelligence, political intelligence, anti-terrorist and anti-gang intelligence, illicit organizations and financial intelligence, counterintelligence, clandestine communication methods, preparing a prosecution brief, legal issues for intelligence-led private investigators, and ethical issues for intelligence-led private investigators. Additionally, the text contains several features that will appeal to both students and instructors. These include a set of key terms and phrases, a number of study questions, and learning activities in each chapter. Written in a clear and concise style, the text provides a foundation of practical and useful information. "Intelligence and Private Investigation" will be a most important and unique resource for undergraduate students in private investigation courses as well as intelligence practitioners and general readers interested in self-development study.

Critique: A solid, basic, fundamental, and detailed course of instruction in a single volume, "Intelligence and Private Investigation: Developing Sophisticated Methods for Conducting Inquiries" should be considered mandatory reading for anyone considering or even already involved in information gathering for governmental, corporate, law enforcement, or private detective agencies. Also available in an ebook edition (9780398088897, $35.95), "Intelligence and Private Investigation: Developing Sophisticated Methods for Conducting Inquiries" is a critically important addition to professional and academic library reference collections.

To Hold The Sun
Chas Watkins
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781489507648, $19.99, 174 pp.,

Synopsis: "To Hold The Sun" outlines the experiences of a young, poor, and disillusioned reporter who is enticed to do a series of articles about Paul, an unconventional philosopher and motivational speaker. In lieu of payment, he gets to travel to and dive on Roatan, arguably one of the most beautiful, pristine islands in the Caribbean. Through a series of meetings, the reporter gets to know Paul's innermost philosophies. He learns an alternate way of living from a man who strives to perfect handstands on a dock and practices the art of happiness.

Critique: So much more than just an original, engaging, and consistently entertaining story, "To Hold The Sun" can be viewed by the reader as a kind of guide or blueprint to live life in a way that would enable an appreciation of the journey and not just the destination. An expertly crafted work from beginning to end, "To Hold The Sun" is enthusiastically recommended reading and will prove an enduringly popular addition to community library collections! It should also be noted that "To Hold The Sun" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.95), and a Spanish translation is forthcoming.

Closed For Winter
Jorn Lier Horst
Sandstone Press
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9781908737496, $16.95, 328 pp.,

Synopsis: Ove Bakkerud, newly separated and extremely disillusioned, is looking forward to a final quiet weekend at his summer home before closing for winter but, when the tourists leave, less welcome visitors arrive. Bakkerud's cottage is ransacked by burglars. Next door he discovers the body of a man who has been beaten to death. Police Inspector William Wisting has witnessed grotesque murders before, but the desperation he sees in this latest murder is something new. Against his wishes his daughter Line decides to stay in one of the summer cottages at the mouth of the fjord.

Critique: "Closed For Winter" is novelist Jorn Lier Horst's second William Wisting mystery to be translated into English, after the successful Dregs (9781905207671, $17.95 PB / $5.99 Kindle). Horst continues to demonstrate a very special talent for engaging his readers total attention from beginning to end as he populates a riveting storyline with memorable characters and unanticipated plot twists. Very highly recommended as a solid mystery/suspense entertainment from first page to last, it should also be noted that "Closed For Winter" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).

A Woman Named Jacchi
Jacchi Machito
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477133224, $19.99, 132 pp,

Synopsis: Extraordinary, shivering account that catapults the reader from past, present to future of unbelievably fascinating truth, and not much fiction told in a haunting tale of "Jacchi". She is a transparent entity that belongs to God, creating an indelible imprint on the importance of this to readers. She weaves a tale of love, hate, envy and murderous attempts to stamp out the bloodlines and incinerate the spirit of the beautiful ancestral line of one who only wanted to love and be loved. "Jacchi" abounds of religion, mysticism, life after death, voodoo practice and the occult workings of those trapped into beliefs, and prejudices of long ago still felt today in our country. Spirits and souls of the departed circle the air of those entrapped in the ramblings of this novel. Remarkably sensual and lusty, Jacchi teases all senses as tears, hate, cheers pierces the soul. With life's purpose in question, closed minds and faint hearts be weary!

Critique: A deftly crafted work of fiction based on elements of the author's own family history, "A Woman Named Jacchi" is a quick but satisfying read that is as entertaining as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Highly recommended, it should also be noted that "A Woman Named Jacchi" is also available in hardcover (9781477133231, $28.99) and Kindle ($3.99) editions.

Publius: Libertas Aut Mors
Baltazar Bolado
c/o Author Marketing Experts, Inc.
PO Box 421156, San Diego, CA 92142
9781491216057, $11.50, 392 pp.,

Synopsis: A dead revolutionary, using a sequence of prearranged think tank scenarios, places his son and his son's wife at the center of an elaborate plot to overthrow the government of the United States. Set in the backdrop of the dyed-in-the-wool soil of Virginia, a secret counterterrorism organization, within the remains of the decommissioned CIFA Agency, sets out on the task of eliminating an identified domestic revolutionary society. Used as pawns, Quentin and Irene Randolph, a common American couple, celebrating their first year wedding anniversary, find themselves immersed in a terrifying world filled with intrigue and government sponsored assassination. On the run, desperate to survive, Quentin and Irene discover family secrets, which prove that the events are part of a complex plan of revenge and they're caught in the throes and violence of a new American Civil War. In a race against time, a titanic struggle ensues, the incredible events flashing across Virginia in patriotic images of ordinary citizens who dare to defy an oppressive government in the name of liberty. Amidst the chaos, emerge two love stories of extraordinary devotion and the spirit of a long ago romance that will inspire Quentin and Irene in their quest for the truth.

Critique: In a story that could be ripped from tomorrow's headlines, "Publius: Libertas Aut Mors" establishes author Baltazar Bolado as a first rate writer able to capture his reader's total attention and hold it unfailing from beginning to end. Especially recommended to those who appreciate a well crafted thriller of unusual plot twists and turns, "Publius: Libertas Aut Mors" is very highly recommended reading and would prove to be a popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Publius: Libertas Aut Mors" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).

Avalon Bay
Ronald von Freymann
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477220191, $19.99, 352 pp,

Synopsis: "Avalon Bay" is a mystery thriller set in the legendary town of Avalon on the idyllic island of Catalina. Jenn, a retail jewelry marketer known as the Jewelry Hunter, inadvertently learns that a fundamental Islamic terrorist sleeper cell comprised, in part of American Caucasian women converts to Islam, plans to destroy two tourist ferries that service Catalina. Unable to convince local authorities, the FBI, or Homeland Security of the threat, she, her friend Tiffany, and her husband, Bill, resolve to thwart the terrorists on their own. Jenn confronts and captures the cell's Saudi born cell leader when he attempts to initiate the plot from a commuter helicopter flying over the two ferries. This leaves the suicide bombers on each ferry to act on their own. Jenn must determine a way to prevent them from completing the plot before the ferries enter the Long Beach and Avalon harbors without alerting the terrorist that the plot has been discovered and their leader captured.

Critique: Author Ronald von Freymann has deftly written a riveting contemporary thriller that grips the reader's total attention from beginning to end. Of special note is the imaginative weaving of a complex adventure that is a solid entertainment from first to last. Attention Hollywood! -- "Avalon Bay" is the stuff of which block-buster movies are made! Highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted that "Avalon Bay" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781477220214, $27.50).

Brayden Rider
C. L. Barnett
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781478297772, $12.15, 334 pp.,

Synopsis: Brayden Rider has no idea what the future has in store for him. Only ten years old, Brayden's life promises to be one of endless toil and hardship in a small medieval village. All that changes when a young knight arrives with a cryptic letter. For Brayden's father is no ordinary man, he is the treasure master of the Templars, and there are those who will stop at nothing to gain the secrets he possesses. From the mysteries of the castle to the spectacle of the joust, Brayden is drawn into a world where he makes new friends while experiencing adventure and danger the likes of which he could never have imagined, all while starting down the road to his destiny.

Critique: "Brayden Rider: Tales of a Medieval Boy" is author Chris Barnett's debut novel and clearly marks him as having a singular talent for storytelling as he weaves a complex historical novel that will entertain readers both young and old from first page to last. Certain to be a popular addition to community library collections, it should also be noted that "Brayden Rider: Tales of a Medieval Boy" is available in a Kindle edition ($3.99) as well.

The Student Prophet: Going Home
James Nicholas Logue
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478706434, $16.95, 404 pp,

Synopsis: A Nightmare, or the Dream of a Lifetime? On his 50th birthday, prophet Jeff Fitzpatrick boards a plane in California, looking forward to his return home. But that is the last thing he remembers. Now he is alone on a beach, having a dream that takes him back to the milestones of his life for the past thirty years...including the return of his nemesis, a powerful archangel, head of the demons...a force of evil called simply The Leader. This time, The Leader doesn't intend to fail. He returns to earth, disguised in human form, and renews his mission to eliminate Jeff. But The Leader doesn't anticipate the growing dissent among his own ranks or the massive hunt for him by both law enforcement and the archangels for good. As Jeff's dream unfolds, The Student Prophet: Going Home thrills and tantalizes with a thought-provoking and richly characterized tale of demons and angels, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

Critique: A superbly written and complex action/adventure novel of the first order, "The Student Prophet: Going Home" clearly debuts the literary and imaginative storytelling talents of author James Nicholas Logue. Compelling and entertaining, "The Student Prophet: Going Home" is a very highly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "The Student Prophet: Going Home" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

A Personal Medical History
Pamela Taylor
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478721154, $20.95, 214 pp.,

Synopsis: "Your Personal Medical History" is specifically designed for non-specialist general readers to make an ongoing record of all aspects of their health and medical history including medical diagnoses, blood type, medication list and updates, physicians' contact information, emergency contacts and their contact information, a list of allergies, a record of daily vital signs, a log of their food intake and exercise routine, shots and vaccinations received, tests undergone and the test results, a list of their surgeries, information on insurance policies, notes taken during doctors' visits and hospitalizations with discharge orders, treatments received, and a list of health care provider options, aw well as important documents such as a copy of insurance cards, a Living Will, Power of Attorney, etc. This is an ideal medical history book that can easily be taken along to doctors' appointments and to the hospital. Review previous entries periodically to look for patterns and for cause and effect relationships between reoccurrences of illnesses and symptoms, medication changes and reactions, treatments and results, etc. With "A Personal Medical History, it will never ever again be necessary to put one's life or the life of a loved one totally in the hands of other people without keeping track of what's being done.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly', "A Personal Medical History" is very highly recommended, not just for the family, but for every member of the family.

Jack Mason

Richard's Bookshelf

I'm In Love With a Church Girl
Ryan Phillips with Galley Molina
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403763, $14.99, 174 pages

Life Defining Choices, Consequences, and Faith Building Transformation

I'm In Love With a Church Girl is based on the life of Galley Molina and the motion picture by the same name. Molina's counterpart in the story is protagonist Miles Montego; who acquired wealth as a drug trafficker but has moved on to become a legitimate investor and concert promoter. Montego, however, remains loyal to his friends who continue in their illegal pursuits. The DEA are building a case against them on drug charges and are determined to include Miles in their arrest. As a relationship with Vanessa Leon develops, Miles is confronted with his need for the fullness of life provided by becoming a faith follower of Jesus.

Ryan Phillips reaches a unique audience of readers from a contemporary culture with an insight and understanding that establishes her inimitable writing style. I'm In Love With a Church Girl is no exception. The medium of fiction is used as a platform to alert at risk youth to danger and consequences of wrong choices. A better choice is offered; a surrender to a life of faith and allowing God to take charge of their life.

Phillips understands the art and elements of good storytelling; a fast moving plot, intrigue, romance, conflict, and resolution. I'm In Love With a Church Girl is an action packed story with a strong redemptive message.

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

Entangled - For Everything There is a Key
Harrison III
Destiny Image Films, Inc.
167 Walnut Bottom Rd., Suite 500, Shippensburg, PA 17257
793573209986, $14.99, 1 DVD

Illusion, Drama, Magic - Family Entertainment with a Message

Master illusionist Harris the III uses the principles of magic and the art of illusion to demonstrate how easily we are deceived by our perception or the things we think we see.

Harris narrates his story highlighting significant turning points that determined the purpose of his career path and his spiritual journey. Using the dramatic elements of good story telling, actual filmed stage performances, and a powerful stage presence Harris relates how, at the pinnacle of his career, his mentor challenged him to consider whether he himself had been deluded by his own success and was allowing pride to get in the way of accomplished his purpose.

After years of pursing success, working at building a career, gaining recognition, becoming rich, and acquiring an expensive home and luxury cars; Harris tells how he took an audacious step of faith, sold his posh house and expensive cars to answer God's call to live a simplified life, reach out to the poor, and to fulfill his divine purpose, to deliver the message: "The chain of deception has many locks - For everything there is a key.

The DVD Entangled - For Everything There is a Key combines illusion, magic and a dramatic story, with a strong evangelical appeal, providing quality family entertainment with a clear message.

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

Memory's Door: A Wellspring Novel
James L. Rubart
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
97814016861079, $15.99, 360 pages,

Supernatural Battles, Prophetic Fulfillment, and a Quest for Freedom

Reese, Brandon, Dana, and Marcus, key characters from the earlier Well Spring Novel, Soul's Gate, continue in their supernatural battle against the evil forces found in the realm of the spirit world. They are in a quest for supernatural freedom and on a mission to change the world.

In Memory's Door, bestselling author, James L. Rubar captivates his readers with subterfuge, suspense, angelic beings, counterfeit spirits, as evil forces attack seeking to destroy the impact of the ministry of the band of Warriors Riding. The introduction of the Wolf leads to another prophetic fulfillment; through the unnerving effect of a stalker in the shadows, an overwhelming career, blindness, and confusion with alternate realities undermine and weaken the cause of and quest for spiritual freedom.

The fictional nature of the novel in no way hinders the forcefulness of Rubart's message. The novel becomes a platform for his creative gift of storytelling to attract a unique audience with the reality of spiritual warfare and the promise of freedom from its bondage.

In Memory's Door Rubart warns of the devastating effect of the poison of toxic memories of looking back on the past and past failures and brings a message of hope and freedom from regret.

Rubart's writing is powerful, his message strong; his previous books are highly endorsed and recommended. Memory's Door is no exception. Highly recommended.

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

Alzheimer's 911; Help, Hope, and Healing for the Caregiver
Frena Gray-Davidson
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Or 97411
9781934759141, $16.95, 192 pages,

Frena Gray-Davidson sheds light on the plight of anyone dealing with dementia and the devastating frustration and hopelessness that accompany the victims and caregivers impacted by the disease. In her book Alzheimer's 911; Help, Hope, and Healing for the Caregiver, Davidson describes the behaviors of dementia in an effort to help the reader understand and interpret their own observations of a loved one with Alzheimer's.

Davidson sheds fresh perspectives on caregiving, the importance of flexibility, developing patience, nurturing compassion, and living in the present moment. She uses humorous personal anecdotes, spiritual insights, and practical pointers to encourage and empower the reader to successfully navigate the uncharted course in their journey through Dementia. Each chapter ends with a feature called A Life in Alzheimer's Land which provides a unique glimpse into the mind of the person with Dementia.

I now have a better understanding of the components of a support system, the need for interdependence on others: family, friends, the church, and the community.

I found the chapter titled Forgiveness and Acceptance especially helpful as it enabled me to look within myself to establish a new kind of relationship with my spouse; by recognizing the reality that I have a choice of accepting our situation or being trapped in a toxic attitude of pity and regret.

Alzheimer's 911 is a must read for Dementia caregivers, family members and medical professionals. I plan to apply the principles, personally, add the book to my permanent library, make it available to my family members, and to re-read it often.

Deliverance from Toxic Memories: Weapons to Overcome Destructive Thought Patterns in Your Life
Ken and Jeanne Harrington
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768403619, $16.99, 320 Pages

An Open Heart - An Expectant Spirit - Deliverance from Destructive Thought Patterns

In their book Deliverance from Toxic Memories - Weapons to Overcome Destructive Thought Patterns in Your Life Ken and Jeanne Harrington look at both the physical and spiritual components of memories; how they are formed, retrieved, and processed. The book is made up of three sections: Physical Aspects of Memory, Deliverance from Toxic Memories, and Preventing the Formation of Toxic Memories.

The Harrington's emphasize that toxic memories are a perception and that it is important to take proactive steps to release fear, and erase the toxic memories of the past. Their conclusions regarding the creation of changes in thought patterns, emotional responses and the resultant change in an individual's personal circumstances suggests and encourages the reader to pursue an amazing exploration and discovery into the freedom that comes with healing from toxic memories.

A variety of schematics, illustrations, tables, photographs, compelling quotations, and topical titles enhance the presentation and format of the book adding valuable visual aids for a clearer grasp of understanding and assimilation of the complex information regarding the physiology of the brain and its relationship to the other body functions. Helpful "Keys" at the end of each chapter summarize in a few words the information and instruction provided within the chapter. Chapter endnotes and documentation verify the extensive research and provide the reader with additional resources for further study.

Deliverance from Toxic Memories provides proactive techniques to help the reader discover the freedom to fulfill their Divine destiny.

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

Not the Way You Thought It Would Be: Making Sense of the Journey of Faith
Glen L. Gibson
WinePress Publishing
1730 Railroad Street, Enumclaw, WA 98022
9781606152386, $15.99, 248 Pages,

An Invitation to a Vicarious Adventure through Abraham's Journey of Faith

Glen L. Gibson's Not the Way You Thought It Would Be leads the reader in an exhilarating vicarious journey of faith through the life Abraham from the book of Genesis, chapters 11 through 25; including God's invitation to obedient faith through to Abraham's passing the torch and finishing strong.

Gibson's personal experiences and contemporary stories validate and strengthen the relevance and application of these lessons and principles from the Old Testament scripture. The chapters dealing with Choices and Consequences, Faith in Balance, and Addressing the Weak Spots offer specific challenges to the authenticity of our faith.

The "Questions for Reflection and Group Discussion" enhance the value of the book as they serve as an important study guide for personal thoughtful contemplation and stimulating group discussion.

Regardless of the juncture of your journey of faith you will find valuable guidelines and helpful direction for meeting the difficult questions of purpose, facing temptation, coping with trials, moving forward toward a deepening understanding of God's grace. Not the Way You Thought It Would Be offers positive motivation and guidance for a strong finish in your spiritual journey.

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

One Minute a Day to a Healthier You
Dr. Robert DeMaria
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17258
97807638403633, $12.99, 366 pages

Natural, Biblical, Health Principles for Optimal Wellbeing

Robert F. DeMaria, DC, DABCO is highly recognized globally for his contribution to alternative health solutions. He is known as "the Drugless Doctor," as well as for the Dr. Bob's Guide to Health series. In 1 Minute a Day to a Healthier You; Dr. Bob provides the reader with an inspirational daily devotional guide with practical principals for developing a regular one minute a day plan for a lifestyle of healthy living.

Each of the 365 daily readings include a carefully selected scripture, practical instruction, a challenge to action, or a recipe for insuring enjoyable meals that contribute to experiencing a lifetime of good health. Dr. Bob includes warning signs, and foods to avoid; from fat craving snack food to trans-fat, and sugar loaded sweets.

Dr. Bob submits plans for designing delicious healthy menus, enjoyable exercise regimes, and inspirational motivation for positive attitudes that contribute to a healthier you. Some of the readings that captured my attention included titles like: "Lessons Learned from Mummies," "Detective Work," and "Swine, Go Swimming."

Compact in size, chock-full in content; One Minute a Day to a Healthier You comprises wide-ranging guidelines, motivational tips, Biblical principles, and instructional teaching which emphasize positive action steps, proven prevention measures, empowerment to follow through with your personal plan for happier, healthier living in the years ahead.

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

Spiritual Disciplines of a C.H.R.I.S.T.I.A.N. - Intensive Training in Christian Spirituality
Gil Stieglitz
Thriving Churches Int'l, Inc.
1625 State Route 88, No. 401, Minden, Nevada 89423
9780983195818, $19.99, 254 pages,

Nine Essential Disciplines to Healthy Spiritual Growth

Dr. Gil Stieglitz, author, pastor, seminary professor, and church consultant maintains that in the same way that physical and social discipline has become a part of your life spiritual disciplines are a normal part of the process of holiness.
He uses the word CHRISTIAN to identify nine spiritual disciplines essential in a program of intensive training in Christian spirituality prerequisites for developing a deeper relationship with God. Each of the letters captures or characterizes common elements that may include a combination of disciplines.

The "C" for confessions includes personal and group confession. A reader friendly format includes instructional guidelines, lists, and suggested prayers, and spiritual exercises. The "H" represents the Holy Spirit and provides information on the role of the Holy Spirit in providing guidance, and in producing Christ like qualities. Each of the remaining letters of the acrostic follows a similar pattern.

I found the chapters dealing with "Interaction" especially significant. Stieglitz included Bible study and prayer under this heading. I also found the topics of "Repetition" (Memorization and Meditation) and "Togetherness which included worship and fellowship to be extremely helpful.

Spiritual Disciplines of a C. H. R. I. S. T. I. A. N. - Intensive Training in Christian Spirituality is written for those who are seeking a deeper level of the presence of the Lord in their lives. Practicing the disciplines outlined in the book will require change in the reader and guide them into a new awareness of the presence of God throughout their life and in their spiritual journey.

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

How Do You Say Goodbye
Nan Baker, author
Original Oil Paintings by Vincent
Nan Baker Books
P. O. Box 603, Union Pier, MI 49129
9781483914886, $25.00, 80 pages,

From Boater's Log to Literary Art Form

In her own inimitable poetic verse, Nan Baker captures the contrast of the naive hope of the eternal optimist and the cunning shrewdness of the opportunist in her poem "Seven Coats of Varnish on the Teak," A lesson about how not to buy a boat. Baker creates a unique pattern of poetic images that take form in humorous word pictures which describe the inevitable tragedy often found in comedic drama.

Baker brings into her writing a reality and authenticity of raw emotion and excitement as she reflects on memories of life at sea with Jim. She writes of the feelings of silence and solitude of the night in her poem "The Silent Sea."

Vincent's painting beautifully captures the feelings of the poem using contrasting shades of blue with reflections of light; the glimmer of the moon and the flicker of starlight in his illustration of "the mystical calm of the ocean" and "myriad of stars in the sky."

How Do You Say Goodbye is Baker's tribute to all boaters, to Jim, the love of her life and his love for the sea, using poetic verse to tell the stories of their shared experiences cruising the Louisiana bayous and adventures sailing on the Gulf, Mobile Bay, the Tennessee River and, more.

Baker's writing is sensitive, genuinely engaging, creative, and highly entertaining. How Do You Say Goodbye is filled with wit, wisdom, and insight. Highly recommended.

Sheila Jaxland author
Victor Guiza, illustrator
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd -515, Parker, CO 80134
9780578126029, $18.95, 32 Pages,

Mylo's Destiny - A Journey with Jesus from His Birth to His Resurrection and Ascension

Sheila Jaxland tells Mylo's story in her book by that name. Mylo, a donkey colt, abandoned by his owner, feels sad and useless, alone in the middle of the Sinai Desert. Victor Guiza captures the feeling of the heat, dryness and vastness of the wide expanse of the arid Sinai desert and the hopelessness of the circumstances surrounding Mylo's situation in his full color illustrations. The brightness of the background highlight the sudden alertness of Mylo as depicted by a sense of listening, revealed in the brightness of his eyes upright ears as he listens for the voice of God instructing him in with the plan and purpose for his destiny.

Sheila Jaxland delightful story tells of the Mylo's obedience to the call of God. This imaginary story of Mylo follows the time line of the Biblical account of Joseph and Mary on the road to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, his years in Galilee, his baptism by John, his ministry and message of the Gospel leading up to the day Jesus rode on his back through the streets of Jerusalem as his followers carpeted his path with palm branches proclaiming Him as their king.

A week later Mylo was nearby as Judas, one of the twelve, betrayed Jesus with a kiss as a sign to a crowd of soldiers, who arrest him. He follows Jesus as he is taken to the cross to be crucified. He is there to see the empty tomb and later to see his ascension.

Guiza's colorful paintings illustrate each of these important scenes from the life of Christ and bring Sheila's narrative to life. Sheila's love for animals, children, and for Jesus come through in her sensitivity and heartwarming writing style.

Mylo is ideal for gift giving as the Christmas season approaches as well as for any other occasion. Parents will be blessed as their children follow along with the powerful story and as the pictures come alive on the page. Highly recommended.

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

The Illusion of Being Black: Behind the Smoke Screen
Ray A. Ransom, Ph.D.
Sampson Publishing, Inc.
P. O. Box 22934, West Palm Beach, FL 33416-2934
9780974941356, $19.95, 100 pages,

Facing the Reality of the Need for Change for the Family to Survive

The Illusion of Being Black: Behind the Smoke Screen is a call to action alerting the reader to the negative effects of the absence of father's in the home. Dr. Ray A. Ransom, Ph. D. presents a sobering commentary on the reality of the future of the African American family in today's culture.

As an advocate for prison reform, restorative justice, prison chaplaincy, and faith based prison ministries, I was particularly interested in Ransom's observations on the cause of violence, the problem of drugs, and the hopelessness of imprisonment. I was disturbed by the far reaching impact on the development of children faced by any of these environments over long periods during their formative years.

Dr. Ransom's writes with clarity, warning of the serious threat to the family as we have known it in generations past. There are no easy answers. I might have liked to have a positive plan with action steps; however, Dr. Ransom's approach effectively implants profound seed thought's into the mind of the reader that demand individual self-examination challenging personal involvement, creative change, and a desire to take positive action.

The Illusion of Being Black: Behind the Smoke Screen is worthy of reading, re-reading and passing along to others to read. Highly recommended.

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

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

The Cruel Ever After
Ellen Hart
Bywater Books
PO Box 3671, Ann Arbor, MI 48106
9781612940441, $12.95,

Ellen Hart is a regular Castle, having published twenty-eight novels featuring two different storylines. Ms. Hart teaches "An Introduction to Writing the Modern Mystery," and has garnered a dozen awards, including the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery, the Minnesota Book Award for Best Popular Fiction, and the Golden Crown Literary Award in various categories. Ellen lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her long-time partner.

The Cruel Ever After introduces a host of characters who are all involved in the restaurant business, art galleries, or antiquities. They all have ties that bind, so to speak. The tale opens with one Chester (Chess) Garrity waking up with a smashing hangover to find Melvin Dial murdered in his own home. Chess doesn't remember anything except being very drunk and playing poker:

"As Chess edged forward, his breath caught in his throat. 'I am so screwed,' he whispered, fight back a burst of panic. Dial lay on his back, the front of his white dress shirt soaked in blood, the beautiful Kurdish rug beneath him stained a dark red. The old man's eyes were open and staring blankly at eternity, leaving no doubt in Chess's mind that he was dead. He bent down to examine the deep gash in Dial's chest. Someone had knifed him and left him to die."

Hart does a masterful job of introducing fifteen characters besides Dial, then leading the reading on a merry chase of possible whodunit scenarios. A priceless relic has been stolen from the Bagdad Museum, which was in Chess's possession for sale, and he finds that as the dead bodies pile up, the assassins sent to retrieve the relic are getting closer. Hart is an absolutely stunning writer, and her devotion to her craft jumps out from every page, even as her characters keep the reader guessing.

Trouble At The Scriptorium
Anne E. Johnson
Royal Fireworks Press
First Avenue, PO Box 399, Unionville, NY 10988-0399
9780880923927, $9.99,

Anne E. Johnson has a fascinating background, having taught music history at The New School for Music in New York City. After fifteen years of teaching, she turned to writing full time. She possesses a Master's Degree in Music Theory and History.

Basing "Trouble At The Scriptorium" in the 13th century, the tale begins with Harley, son of a jester. Harley lives in a medieval castle, where one "knows one's place." Harley grew up with Lady Margaret, which is hard because they are now old enough where their childhood friendship has to be set aside:

"He had gone most of the day without thinking about Lady Margaret, but now her pale, round face filled his mind, and it confused him. She was the daughter of Sir William and Lady Ursula, and was twelve years old, just like Harley. But Harley was the son of a chambermaid and a traveling entertainer. He was not allowed even to speak to this girl unless she addressed him directly."

All this is about to change when a chant book produced by the monks at the scriptorium for Lady Margaret's mother contains a page full of errors, with notes inked in the wrong color. What can it mean? Harley is attacked in the library of St. Aiden's monastery, as he peruses the problematic chant book. He takes it upon himself to solve the mystery, and his beloved Lady Margaret becomes his sleuthing buddy in his quest to solve this historical whodunit.

Johnson has written a lovely book meant for a younger audience, but is entertaining for all ages. Her intent is to bring history alive, and she accomplishes her mission with flying colors. TROUBLE AT THE SCRIPTORIUM is a tale bursting with imagination. Harley's partners include soldiers, monks, and a horse named Courage.

Jennifer Chase
JEC Press
P.O. Box 214, Aromas, CA 95004
9780982953693, $15.95,

Jennifer Chase hails from California, and holds an undergrad degree in police forensics and a master's in criminology. "Deadburn" is her first effort.

California is no stranger to serial killers, but the criminal in Chase's thriller presents a complex psychological profile. He not only wants to kill, he wants to erase evil. His modus operandi is fire, and his victims are hopelessly trapped before they realize the fiery fate that will spell their doom. Emily Stone is a private investigator driven not, apparently, by money, but by a calling. Two men help in her investigations, and both are in love with her:

"Emily let out a sigh. 'I don't know about you guys, but I'm exhausted.' Rick pushed back his chair. 'It's time to get home and get some sleep.'

'Oh, yeah, sleep...' Jordan said with a sarcastic tone and a dramatic role of the eyes.

'Jordan are you ever going to get a girlfriend?' Rick equaled his mocking tone.

The group stood up to leave.

'Yeah, well, most of the women I know can't handle me.' Jordan grumbled."

Emily Stone is an interesting heroine. Her inner motive seems to be a love of catching the bad guy, and she relies on her two men to help her out in a pinch. But, like most female protagonists, she is going to conduct her investigation no matter what. Naturally this lands her in some hot water, but Stone isn't just a piece of fluff and uses her innate abilities to outwit the bad guy. Jennifer Chase possesses an excellent mastery of the principals of criminal behavior and police procedure. She also has a natural writing style all of her own, which will only improve with time. She is an exciting new talent with a big future ahead of her.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

T-Bone The Flying Horse
Janice Virant
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432759513, $13.95, 26 pgs,

This is a very sweet story about a horse named, T-Bone who is very sad until a loving girl befriends him. Because of her love, T-Bone becomes what he was always suppose to be. I liked this book, the illustrations are absolutely adorable and really bring the story to life. I also love the story line, the way the author shows how love and friendship can change the world for someone, even a sweet little horse named, T-Bone. You and your child will enjoy sharing this tender read. Very well done, recommended.

Heavenly Signs: U.S. Eagle Falls
Mel Gable
WestBow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781490804453, $46.95,

As I started the review for this book I was concerned because how could I possibly write how important it is for every American to read it, but it is. Mel Gable has information in this read that every American should know, and once knowing should join with others in prayer.

What is this book about? Our future, yours and mine. I would hope that every person in America can see we are in trouble. The America that we knew is no more, and unfortunately that is not a good things. Where are we going? What is going to happen? When will these things happen? Do you want some answers, read this book. Do you want to be shaken to the core, something that we all need to wake us up, read this book. What are the Heavenly Signs and what do they have to do with our future? Too much information in this read for me to even begin to tell you. However, if you want to know what is ahead this is a must read for you. I know it will sit next to my bed so I can continue to follow the future. Well done, Mr. Gable! Thank you.

If You Were Me And Lived In Norway
Carole P. Roman
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781481979948, 28 pgs, $14.95,

I have been reviewing Mr. Roman's series on introducing children to other cultures for a while now, and I have never been disappointed in any of her books. This is an author who truly does her research about what ever country she is featuring and gives to the children the most important facts, the most interesting, and the most enjoyable, that she can find. this book is not exception.

Inside the pages of this work, we learn what it would be like to live in Norway. We find out what we would eat, what recreational activities we would do, and even a little about the sun in that country. It's a great book, illustrations are top notch, as usual, and the information is fun to learn. I truly cannot recommend this and Ms. Roman's other books in this series highly enough. Every child will not only learn from these books, but will truly enjoy every page. Highly recommended.

Silliman on Sports In Song And Verse
Stan Silliman, author
Zyk, illustrator
Comedy Empire Press
2405 Wilcox Drive, Norman, OK 73069
$12.95, 96 pgs,

Let me say right off, I am not really a sports lady, but everyone loves a good laugh, and that is what I had when reading this work.

It is packed full of stories, songs, sketches, poems and other interesting things that enlighten (could that be the correct word?) you to the world of Sports. Perhaps it is not shown in the same way you perceive stories should be, but buckle down and allow yourself to partake of some downhome belly laughs, at another's expense, of course. Sports lovers beware! This book may rock your world or at least bring a whole lot of chuckles into it. Well done.

Christianity Karma And Reincarnation: A New Message Begins
Micheal J. Andrisano, SR.
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478713661, $31.95, 289 pgs,

I was apprehensive reading this book because as far as my belief goes I do not believe in reincarnation, and I knew nothing would change my mind on that, period. However, I had made a commitment to read and review this work and I intended to keep it. I was very impressed with Mr. Andrisano's writing style, his flow with his thoughts and happenings in his life was excellent, and definitely kept your attention. The author opens his heart to you the reader as he shares what he believes is a message from God.

I feel that he is very sincere in his belief that what he delivers in this book is from the Lord, and much of it is very interesting in many ways, but personally I am not able to accept some of this message as it goes against my personal beliefs, and my own walk with God.. However, each must walk the road they feel has been laid before them, and each must settle within themselves the belief they wish to carry within them. I applaud his courage to share his message with others. I am sure some will find great peace from the words written in this book. It is well written flowing from the author's heart.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

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

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