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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 2 February 2009 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Klausner's Bookshelf Larsen's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf
Micah's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf
Taylor's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf  

Cowper's Bookshelf

Front Row Center
Cynthia B. Ainsworthe
c/o Prestige Management of Florida
7590 Dr. ML King Jr. Street North, St. Petersburg, FL 33702
9780980245905, $14.95,

A 2008 Independent Publisher Award Winner in the Romance category, Cynthia B. Ainsworthe's "Front Row Center" is a superbly crafted novel that is only available as an E-Book, published as a CD text. The story of Taylor Allen, a happily married business woman, begins with her attendance at a concert where she encounters Larry Davis, a world-renowned singing idol and eligible bachelor whose passion is for his music. Yet Larry finds himself as much drawn to Taylor as she is to him as she sits in the front row, center seat, where their eyes meet and a kind of electricity passes between them. What happens next is told in the form of a fast-paced narrative as Ainsworthe explores through the lives of her characters just what would make a happily married woman cheat on her husband. The answers are neither simple or predictable. "Front Row Center" is a riveting and original novel which can be confidently recommended for readings who prefer their romance literature to be sophisticated, complex, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and thoroughly entertaining.

A Garden of Flowers
Hazel Boutte Coleman
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158898, $13.95,

Hazel Coleman spent most of her life as a respected elementary school teacher, and she has always valued the arts. "A Garden of Flowers" is her own step into the world of poetry, compiling her own work, with more than two hundred poems in all. Combining her love for literature and her love for God, "A Garden of Flowers" is a unique blend of spirituality and the views of a retired school teacher. "A Rewarding Day": Yes, I was born free and life is sweet to me./My writing is a story/Because I am headed for glory./A foundation of love was started on earth years ago./God's acceptance from above was written for all below./Someday, my foundation will be complete./Someday, this story will be finished, when he takes my/soul to keep./The rewarding day will come, when Jesus and I meet.

A Woman's Work
Mary Ellen Korman
Arete Communications
773 Center Boulevard, PO Box 58, Fairfax, CA 94978-0058
9781879514072, $24.95,

Cross-cultural understanding is not an easy thing to do. "A Woman's Work: With Gurdjieff, Ramana Maharshi, Krishnamurti, Anandamayi Ma, & Pak Subuh" is the life story of one Ethel Merston and her journey from reserved Victorian England to the vastly different world of Eastern religion and India. Merston meets many important Hindi and other spiritual figures, and author Mary Ellen Korman relates her experiences to the reader with exceptional skill. A clash of worlds, "A Woman's Work" is a fine introduction to Eastern religion.

Sin's Grip, God's Release
Mary H. May
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781604628265, $14.99,

Joy in life can be found as easy as embracing God. "Sin's Grip, God's Release: An Unintended Sinner's Journey From Dysfunction and Despair to Divine Deliverance" reflects upon Mary May's journey towards God. Long stuck in the haze of a chaotic lifestyle, she recounts her life filled with abuse and pain that all started during her childhood. In spite of that, she found happiness through faith, and gives strong words of wisdom. "Sin's Grip, God's Release" is a solid choice for Christian readers.

Fairlee Winfield
7290 B. Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439200995, $15.99,

The West wasn't nearly as romantic as it was depicted to be. "Buffaloed" follows Ovidia Odegard, a new immigrant to the United States in the early twentieth century. Finding herself under the wing of famed old Western artist Charlie Russel, Ovidia learns quickly about the harsh truth of the old west, and does so in a delightful fashion. A flowing read from start to finish, "Buffaloed" is great novel of the old west.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

The Housing Crisis
Jim Randel
Clover Leaf Publishing
9780981893525, $12.95,

As timely as today's newspaper headlines, "The Housing Crisis: What Every Homeowner And Homebuyer Needs To Know" is critically important reading for anyone contemplating the buying or selling of a home in today's drastically chaotic housing market. Author Jim Randel draws upon his more than thirty years of experience and expertise as an attorney and real estate broker who make his living buying and selling properties to provide a comprehensive, practical, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' introduction to the perils and possibilities of buying and selling homes in today's economic recession brought about by a housing-based mortgage market collapse. Illustrated throughout with 'stick people' drawings, the information provided takes the reader through all aspects of the process including dealing with real estate agents, housing inspectors, appraisers, mortgage brokers, lenders, and attorneys. Readers will also learn how mortgage sales and securitizations came to basically disconnect the American mortgage borrower from the lender and in the process imperil a multi-trillion dollar real estate industry and the American economy. Informed and informative, "The Housing Crisis" is strongly recommended reading for anyone wanting to understand the processes of the housing market and is an ideal addition to personal and community library reference collections.

Controlling Your Hormones
Robert L. Peck
Personal Development Center
82 Bush Hill Road, Lebanon, CT 06249-1210
9780917828126, $16.95

The chemicals within one's body, hormones, control so much of a person. "Controlling Your Hormones: Power From Above, Within, and Without" is about dealing with one's hormones and gaining control of them in order to better become what someone wants to be. Citing countless studies and research into the hormones of the human body, Peck lays out the information in a usable manner for nonspecialist general readers. "Controlling Your Hormones" is something to consider when trying to improve oneself.

Jake Spring and Summer
Gary P. McIntyre
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158911, $22.95,

Growing up to be an Indian may be a childish idea, but for Jake, his dream seemed realistic and attainable. "Jake: Spring and Summer" is the story Jake, a young child in 1890. Fascinated with the riverboats of his time, despite their decline, his dream is become a captain of one of these boats. A story of a childhood dream and the antagonism of time and development, McIntyre paints a vivid picture of turn of the century America and growing up, making "Jake" a tale to appeal to any age.

Kurt D. Lafy
Virtual Book Worm Publishing
PO Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
9781602642072, $14.95,

War changes people, and George is no different. "George: A Civil Warrior" is the story of a civil war soldier dealing with the rough and human side of war. Lafy keeps the story focused on George, instead of the broader scope of the conflict, to give readers a true understanding on what these men had to deal with almost daily, such as the loss of a comrade, wishing for home and love, and so much more. "George" is a moving read and a different sort of civil war novel.

Worlds of Their Own
Robert J. Schadewald
International Plaza II, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781436304344, $19.99,

Some people believe the Earth is flat and the center of the universe. It may sound unreasonable, but they still have their supporters. "Worlds of Their Own: A Brief History of Misguided Ideas: Creationism, Flat-Earthism, Energy Scams, and the Velikovsky Affair" is a collection of writings from the late Robert Schadewald, a science writer who spent much of his time debating with creationists and flat earthers in the name of science. The testimony of a thirty-year expert in the realm of debunking pseudoscience, "Worlds of Their Own" is proof that the world lost a great scientific mind in 2000.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Judgment of Humanity
James P. Van Bibber
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159345, $8.95,

Could humanity's final judgment day just be lying over the horizon? "The Judgment of Humanity" is James P. Van Bibber's discussion on this potential forth coming time and how he believes humanity's worth will be weighed. Inspired by new age philosophy, "The Judgment of Humanity" is a strong choice for those who would potentially agree with Bibber's claim.

The Coronado Brief
Justin Dwinnell
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432710002, $15.95,

All too often, innocent men face death. "The Coronado Brief" is a legal thriller written by a man who knows the world of the law. Jason Cornell is a public defender and must fight to free his client who under shady circumstances confessed to a crime he did not commit. Dealing with the corruption on multiple levels and the welfare of his client, Jason's case will not be easy. "The Coronado Brief" is a riveting legal thriller, recommended.

The Witching Voice
Arnold Johnston
627 E. Guenther, San Antonio, TX 78210
9780916727444, $18.95,

The littlest things can make the biggest impacts. "The Witching Voice: A Novel from the Life of Robert Burns" takes one of the biggest poets in eighteenth century English literature and formats a novel around his life. Johnston writes the novel with heavy inspiration from Robert Burns' style, and takes it to new grounds. Riveting reading, "The Witching Voice" is a good novel about a poet turned revolutionary.

To Be a Rose
E. B. Mason
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158966, $21.95,

The war on Afghanistan still rages, and E. B. Mason brings readers a fictionalized yet inspired account of the daily military life. "To Be a Rose" follows a retired Air Force man named Ed, serving as a defense consultant to Afghanistan's new government. Faced with possible death, he begins to recount his experiences as a medical staff stays by his side. "To Be a Rose" is a nice fictionalized view of the Afghanistan conflict, recommended.

Street Smarts for Global Business
Rob Day
7290 B. Investment Dr. Charleston, SC 29418
9781419695001, $19.99,

It doesn't take being a doctor of economics to have good, solid business sense. "Street Smarts for Global Business: A Practical Guidebook for Global Business Executives" is a guide to applying the common sense knowledge of business knowledge that one uses every day and using it when dealing with international business. From legal worries to dealing with cultural divide, Day demonstrates that the world of international business isn't so different from the domestic version. "Street Smarts for Global Business" is a must for any business looking to expand across national borders.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

The Long Fall
Walter Mosley
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594488580, $25.95,

Albany, New York private investigator Ambrose Thurman hires Manhattan based sleuth Leonid McGill to find four black men who were close friends to two decades ago. He gives Leonid their nicknames as that is all his client gave him. Leonid has turned over a new leaf about being morally correct when it comes to working cases to include no jobs for the mob and being straight with his wife Katrina to include no more affairs with Aura and raise his three children; two not sired by him.

He learns James "Big Jim" Wright is dead; Frankie "Jumper" Tork is in the Tombs awaiting sentencing for B&E; Theodore "Toolie" Nelson is doing 86 years; and Roger "B-Brain" Brown is a successful financier. He reports the information to Ambrose, but soon afterward Jumper and B-Brain are killed; Toolie is stabbed; followed by Ambrose whose real name is Norman Fell also being murdered. As NYPD Detective Kitteridge tries to nail him, Leonid works on finding who the client was as he feels he owes B-Brain for exposing him; he also works a case involving a mobster seeking an accountant hiding in Coney Island and his teenage son Twill planning to kill an abusive pedophile father.

This is an intriguing private investigative Noir starring a man who in his fifties has found scruples that makes his job that much more difficult. The prime investigation is action-packed as Leonid realizes he indirectly caused the murders and almost dies too; yet feels he must uncover the truth even flying in a prop to Albany to do so. The other two sleuthing subplots, some musings by the hero into his unprincipled past and his family drama are well handled and enable the audience to better understand Leonid's motives. Although the king of the city seems over the Empire State Building, fans will enjoy this Walter Mosley's fine opening Manhattan (and Albany) murder mystery.

Rachel Vincent
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778326497, $6.99,

Werecat enforcer Faythe Sanders is charged by the Tribunal with murder after infecting her former human boyfriend Andrew Wallace. However, though she is on trial facing a potential capital punishment, Faythe admits to killing Andrew, but swears it was accidental due to a "Partial Shift" when she becomes excited, which in this case occurred in the victim's bedroom. She also continues her work along side her lover and enforcer partner Marc Ramos hunting down strays and rogues.

The duo rescues young tabby Kaci Dillon, who only feels safe when Faythe is near. The Pride wonders who her parents are. Meanwhile as the trial progresses, an alpha Rogue werecat, killing any creature in its way, seeks Kaci, but no one can fathom why. Faythe vows to keep her safe.

The latest Sanders werewolf thriller (see STRAY and ROGUE) is an exciting combination police procedural and legal thriller. The hunt for the Rogue is fast-paced as the killer cat works the mountainside seeking the tabby while Faythe and Andrew hunt for him. The Tribunal trial feels intrusive slowing down the cat and cat game between the Enforcers and the Rogue. Rachel Vincent provides a thrilling paranormal.

Chris Jordan
9780778325758, $6.99

In Humble, New York, Police Chief Leo Gannett gives the elementary school students a DARE talk. Roland Penny enters the school and shoots the cop in the head. He informs the teachers and students he has a bomb. Through cell phones pictures and text messages get to the outside until a smoke bomb is set off. Teacher Irene Delancey tells her favorite student ten year old Noah Corbin to hide in the air duct. Soon afterward all the hostages except Noah are free when the building explodes.

Six weeks later, Noah's mother widow Haley is the only one who believes her son is alive and was abducted by his powerful paternal grandfather Arthur Conklin and his Rulers. Everyone else assumes he died in the blast as some blood of his was found. She hires retired FBI agent Randall Shane whose life mission is rescuing children, but he refuses to take on the job without checking out a few things as he doubts the lad still lives. Not long afterward though he still has doubts, he agrees to take on the hunt as too many anomalies starting with the DNA lab losing Noah's tissue remains and Mrs. Delancey missing and being a Wall St. roller just before teaching at Humble Elementary. If the kid lives, he is somewhere inside the compound near Conklin, Colorado; a place with tighter security than the White House has.

The third Randall Shane child rescue thriller (see TAKEN and TRAPPED) is T for terrific as his investigation with some help from his FBI friends begins tearing apart a splintering cult's abduction of the dying founder's grandson. The story line is action-packed even before the hero appears and never slows down as the final confrontation occurs. Although the climax is over the top of the Rocky Mountains where it occurs, fans will enjoy Shane's latest caper as he gets his usual no sleep while wondering will he come back this time.

The Prime Objective
Ginna Gray
9780778326205, $6.99

Kate Mahaffey asks her ex husband CIA field agent Jackson Prime to come to Tralee as she needs his help. He translates that to mean she fears for her life. Still in love with Kate and knowing how calm she is in a crisis, Jackson takes her plea seriously and obtains time off from the agency during a case; he rushes back to keep Kate safe as he is very concerned about her.

Jackson learns some people are chasing after Kate though neither she nor he knows why. The only person in her circle, who might want to harm her, is her former brother-in-law, a nasty abuser. He also needs to know why she abruptly filed for divorce almost two years ago while he was in the field when he thought they were happily married for eight years. He hopes to have answers soon while keeping his beloved safe.

THE PRIME OBJECTIVE is an action-packed thriller starring two likable lead protagonists who confront external danger while having issues to resolve between them as they remain in love. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Jack tells his handler Annie he is coming in from the cold to protect his ex and never slows down on either the suspense or romance fronts as Ginna Gray entertains sub-genre fans.

Rapid Descent
Gwen Hunter
9780778326212, $6.99

On their second honeymoon, Joe and Nell Stevens went whitewater rafting. A nasty accident left her with a concussion and injuries from head to toe. Joe simply vanished. She got help, but in spite of a major search they never found Joe. The lead police detective Nolan Lennox believes the widow got away with murder.

Seven years later, Nolan persuades his son Orson, also a cop, to investigate. His gut totally differ from his dad's belief as he feels Nell is innocent watching her raise her son with love and run the rafting business she and Joe opened up together. When Joe's corpse is found, his family makes noise that his black widow killed their son; her motive being his money. Even Orson begins to have doubts whether Nell is innocent.

RAPID DESCENT is a strong police procedural with a hint of romance between the lead cop and the prime suspect that is kept simmering for the most part, which augments the inquiry into whether she killed her spouse or not. The cast is strong especially the lead pair and their extended families who believe she is a cold blooded killer while the story line is faster than the whitewater rapids as Gwen Hunter provides no respite from her superb thrilling story line.

Gallant Match
Jennifer Blake
0778326195, $6.99

In 1846 in New Orleans, Kentuckian sword master Kerr Wallace is proud to have earned the honor of being recognized as a maitre d'armes after years of obsessive training. However, through all that hard work, he also has not lost his focus. He lives for one thing; to avenge the death of his brother killed by Pierre Rouillard who resides like a noble in Mexico.

When Pierre decides to bring his Creole fiance Mademoiselle Sonia Bonneval to him in Vera Cruz, he hires Kerr to escort her; unaware of the man's deep grudge against him. Sonia surprises Kerr as she refuses to marry Pierre in a marriage arranged by her family. However, though attracted to her he ignores her wishes as he has two vows to complete. First he pledged to deliver her to Pierre safe and sound; second he pledged to his late sibling he will kill Pierre. The trek is dangerous, but the biggest peril awaits the travelers in Vera Cruz.

The latest Master at Arms historical romance (see CHALLENGE TO HONOR, GUARDED HEART, and ROGUE'S SALUTE) is terrific entry in a strong mid nineteenth century saga. The story line is refreshed by partially moving out of New Orleans (especially in Mexico) and by the Kentucky hero who has become a maitre d'armes for all the wrong reasons. Fans will relish how the French Creole Mademoiselle Sonia bursts his unshakeable resolve with love as his objective turns from killing her fiance to keeping her safe especially from her fiance. GALLANT MATCH lives up to its title as an exciting pairing of two wonderful protagonists.

Susan Wiggs
9780778326175, $7.99

Public relations expert Kimberly van Dorn is reeling. Her professional basketball star lover dumped her following a public argument. Soon after that spat, she is fired by her firm. Needing time to recuperate and decide what next, Kim goes home to stay with her widowed mom for a while.

However, mom has converted their house into a boardinghouse; more shocking is she is dating one of her renters. Also residing there is baseball pitcher Bo Crutcher, who is about to reach the majors playing for the Yanks, and his son AJ. The child stays with him since AJ's mom got into serious immigration issues and is probably going to be deported. However, Bo is caught between two conflicting spitballs as he has never met his kid before the dumping while he must attend the Fame School if he wants to play for the Yankees. Bo hires Kim to be his PR guru. Though attracted to one another, he can't get to first base with her as she has vowed to never date professional athletes ever again.

The latest Lakeshore Chronicles (see SNOWFALL AT WILLOW LAKE, DOCKSIDE, THE WINTER LODGE and SUMMER AT WILLOW LAKE) is a fabulous lighthearted romantic romp. Susan Wiggs cleverly combines humor with a strong cast working through a difficult situation as life after striking out Kim has thrown two splitters at Bo just when he is about to join the Yankees.

Second Chance Pass
Robyn Carr
0778326462, $5.99

Friends Matt Rutledge and Paul Haggerty meet flight attendant Vanessa Booth, the daughter of a retired general. Matt pursued Vanni until they married; while Paul ever the marine stayed out of the way of their romance though he loved her too. However, Matt died leaving behind his pregnant widow.

Vanni raises their son Matt in Virgin River. She wants to move on with her life, but wants to do so with Paul who she loves. Paul loves her and her son, but he cannot act on his feelings out of honor to his fallen comrade who was killed in Baghdad and knowing he owes all to his pregnant lover Terri; he will do what is right by her and their offspring once the child is born and by his late best friend and his family.

The latest Virgin River contemporary romance (see SHELTER MOUNTAIN, WHISPERING ROCK, A VIRGIN RIVER CHRISTMAS, and VIRGIN RIVER) is an enjoyable tale that displays Robyn Carr's talent as the plot skirts but never quite enters soap opera territory. The extended cast is strong (a trademark of this series). Although Paul seems too principled at times to be human, his morality makes the tale work as he tries to do what he believes in his marine heart is the honorable choice, but each step he takes seems filled with IEDs. Fans will relish this fine tale as the marine learns that values are complex and convoluted when it runs up against the values of others especially when heart felt in relationships forge.

The Funeral Planner Goes to the White House
Lynn Isenberg
9780778327356, $13.99

Much of the country regardless of political affiliation is in shock with the unexpected sudden death of the charismatic First Lady Haley Stone; not only was she widely loved and respected, this was a first for a FLOTUS. Even before Americans can move on, the Secretary of State Jonathan Darcy having worked diligently and successfully forged a Middle East accord died from a broken heart three months after his terminally ill fifty-two years old wife did.

Funeral planner Madison Banks of Lights Out Enterprises had tastefully handled Mrs. Stone's memorial and that of the Darcy couple; earning the appreciation of the nation and the widower President Andrew Stone. He appoints Maddy on the hastily created House Bereavement Specialists Committee, a temporary group to help the nation obtain closure and move on in the grief cycle. Called "The Grief Czar", Maddy struggles with her assignment especially being there for Andrew as his "grief buddy". She sets up a special government sponsored event, My Grief Day while her boyfriend Victor Winston works on the legacy of his former boss, Darcy, on implementing the peace accord in the Middle East.

There are too many "stand up comic" type jokes and chick lit asides that subtract from what otherwise is a superb satirical political thriller. The story line is fast-paced as Madison is drafted by POTUS to help the country work its way through the stages of grief. Fans will agree that Maddy has come a long way since her first foray into the Adam Smith world as THE FUNERAL PLANNER.

Maureen Child
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373618040, $5.25,

Alison Blair accompanied by her sister Casey travels to Ireland to deliver a message to centuries-old Guardian Rogan Butler, whose mission is to keep Ireland safe from demons. However, as Aly goes alone to her appointment with Rogan, a demon kidnaps Casey, who is an anomaly as she is the first family member in centuries without the guardian skill imprinted in her DNA.

A frantic Aly persuades Rogan to rescue her sibling. As they work together to save Casey, Aly and Rogan realize they are soul mates. Still in spite of the overwhelming desire for one another, neither takes the first step to embrace their attraction. Each recognizes rescuing Casey and protecting Eire comes before personal desires.

This exciting romantic fantasy opens with a fabulous atmospheric start as Aly feels the fear of walking alone in isolation and the plot goes from there into a more frightening paranormal environ. The lead couple is a great pairing of soulmates in denial using the rescue quest as a psychological defense mechanism to avoid their feelings. Readers will appreciate Maureen Child's latest demonic thriller as she returns to the world of the Guardians (see ETERNALLY and NEVERMORE).

Dragon's Lair
Denise Lynn
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373618057, $5.25

The men refuse to take no for an answer as they demand Alexia Reve-Drake translate an ancient Druid manuscript. Instead she flees to what she believes might be her only haven, the home of her estranged Druid husband Braeden.

He not only vows to protect his wife whom he still loves, but also work with her to prevent a disaster. They must stop Nathan the Learned, an evil ancient wizard, from using the ancient manuscript that contains Druidic magical spells, which will enable him to obtain power; something he has coveted since the twelfth century. If they fail to stop him, he not only will kill them once she completes his demand, Nathan will devour the world. Their only true chances lie with their love for one another if they freely embrace that and can control the inopportune lust, and with a dying incarcerated wizard, whom the Drakes are unaware that he exists.

This is an excellent romantic fantasy starring a wonderful lead couple caught in a great premise. They each feel their relationship suffers from a weird sexual bi-polar syndrome as they bounce from euphoric passion to abject loathing and back in an instant; neither is cognizant that their sudden uncontrollable desire seems to occur whenever they begin to translate the tome. Lacking restraint makes for a fun tale that sub-genre fans will relish as the powerful battle to control the Druidic spell book starts with a need for the lead couple to find a way to restrict their extremes so they can work as a team.

Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court
Chuck Black
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601421258, $8.99,

In Chessington, his father the Noble Knight and merchant Sir Barrington watches along with his peers as squire Bentley takes the sacred vows to adhere to Lord Kifus' Articles of Code and of being a Noble Knight of Arrethtrae from his mentor Sir York. Soon afterward, while on constant missions to kill the Followers of the recently murdered Prince, Sir Bentley has doubts that his side is in the right though Sir York proclaims they are doing the King's work. The lad notices how the Followers only defend themselves, but never attack first.

His unit gets into a deadly battle with ferocious fighters in which two Followers join their side. Afterward Sir York demands Sir Bentley kill the two men. Stunned he refuses, enabling them to escape while Sir York condemns him. The Followers Esmond and Trae explain to Bentley that they just fought the Vinceno Knights trained by the fallen angels Shadow Warriors. Bentley says goodbye to his parents; his father tells him he is proud of him as honor is important and is not proud of what he saw happen to the Prince. Bentley needs to learn who is right about the Prince as the Knights insist he was a charlatan while his Followers believe he was the King's son sent to help the people. Bentley meets Eirwyn who under the tutelage of the mysterious Gardener distributes food to the poor of Holbrook where affluent Lord Kingsley and his court flaunt their wealth. However, Bentley and Eirwyn soon find themselves battling evil as the Shadow Warriors attack the castle and the village.

The sequel to SIR KENDRICK AND THE CASTLE OF BEL LIONE is a terrific exciting Christian parable that grips the audience from the moment Bentley begins to doubt his mentor as he sees dishonorable actions on his side and honorable behavior by their foes. His quest is exhilarating as he needs to know the truth about the Prince, the Shadow Warriors, and why the Noble Knights of Arrethtrae killed him.

The Vast White
Jason Walters
c/o Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780982006702, $11.95

In Northern al-Muttaqiina Mountains bordering on the Vast White in the Year of Ascension 327, the Sultanate and the Etrisian Empire prepare for war over who annexes the Spice Cities into their monarchy. Both sides covet Salt, the unconquered Spice City that neither has been able to bring under their rule. The winner of this battle will invade the city that has never been occupied by outsiders.

Padisha the Sultan has his army of Bedune units growing; each new arrival comes with his camel herd to show off his worth. On the other side of the upcoming battle is the Etrisian forces led by Horsehead the terror wizard who recently destroyed the Spice city Saffron. Murdering mercenary Highdome, leader of the Red Regiment of killers, mutants and monsters, observes his leader Horsehead patiently waiting as if he wants more of his enemy in his way.

Both sides release new magics to totally annihilate their opposition. Neither considered the consequences of sorcery on the edge of the Vast White. Both sides soon find monster issues as the suddenly awakening Vast White ignites in retaliation. Horsehead and his Red Regiment struggle to survive the raging expanding desert with no hope except perhaps unleashing the uncontrollable Murderer's Edge force not knowing the subsequent consequences, if they can even perform this seemly impossible task, may prove worse than the raging assault of the awakened Vast White.

Part of the fascination with this exciting military fantasy is there is no hint of a concept of good and bad warring. Instead survival not necessarily of the fittest is what the war turns into. The Red Regiment is an intriguing group as murdering misfits must band together whether they are monsters, mutants or mortals if they want to stay alive once the Vast White begins its "cleansing" of the Sultanate and Etrisian forces. Narrated by roguish Highdome, the audience mostly obtains his viewpoint of what is going wrong. Fans will enjoy this entertaining tale though the print copy contains a very small font size that detracts from the enjoyment.

The Winter Rose
Jennifer Donnelly
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023-6298
9781401301033, $24.95,

Twelve years may have passed since the Whitechapel serial killings (see THE TEA ROSE), but time does not heal all wounds; as East London remains a slum. On a positive note, idealistic reformers want to make things better for the impoverish masses residing there.

With the help of her fiance, M.P. Freddie Lytton, recent medical school graduate Dr. India Selwyn Jones opens a practice in Whitechapel tending to the ailing poor especially addicts, but with her goal being the closing of the opium dens. Resident crime chieftain Sid Malone detests these outsiders who think they are better than the locals. He wants this Good Samaritan and all her reformist ilk to leave the neighborhood as their type of good in his mind causes more harm. Besides they interfere with his lucrative businesses. However, he changes his mind about India when she saves his life. They fall in love, but Freddie wants control of India's fortune and will do anything to insure he gets it. When a pregnant India thinks her beloved Sid is dead, Freddie "gallantly" marries her.

This is an interesting late Victorian romance that besides the subplot above contains what has happened in the dozen years since the events of THE TEA ROSE to key players like Joe and Fiona, who is Sid's sister and India's friend. The well written story line is character driven by a strong cast, although there is too much happenstance occurring to them. Still fans will enjoy catching up with the Bristows and others while reading about the star-crossed love between Charlie (Sid's real name) and India.

Call of Chaos
Carol Hightshoe
Double Dragon Publishing
1554045983, $16.99,

Kyrianna Dalynne was climbing a wall when she is caught by her brother a guard. He wanted to let her go free, but others arrive. Her father keeps her out of prison, but also throws her out of his home.

While traveling in a forest a fog engulfs her and a voice demands she find the Artifact of Order and Chaos. Not one to follow orders, Kyrianna ends up with other women at the temple of Thynitic, The Lady of Chaos knowing she is captive as those who guard the portals tell the females they will be freed once they locate the ancient artifact. Kyrianna wonders why she, as a nonentity daughter of a nothing Kilenter noble, is being used to search for the relic. Once they succeed on their mission with retrieving the artifact, they are all set free.

Though no longer stuck in a portal at the temple, Kyrianna knows her hosts did not return her to her home. She has no idea where she is when her fellow prisoners arrive as well soon after. In nearby Raspa, one of her formerly imprisoned peers is accused of murder leaving it up to Kyrianna and her sisters in arms to prove otherwise. Native Tristan Duvall, who has family issues involving demons that have kept him from his peerage, knows he must confront his dead blood kin, but offers to assist the outsiders in exchange for their ad with his paranormal relatives.

This is an entreating fantasy thriller starring a fascinating lead protagonist who would find heaven to be hell. The story line is action-packed, but feels choppy as Kyrianna leaps from one escapade to another in too rapid of a sequence. Still fans will enjoy following her adventures across worlds as she is an engaging rebel without a cause.

The Queen's Sorrow
Suzannah Dunn
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061704277, $13.95,

Queen Mary feels euphoric that she has become the monarch and thanking God plans to reverse the trend away from Catholicism to Protestantism by her subjects. Being half Spanish as her mom was the ill fated Catherine of Aragon, she feels even more ecstatic when her potential rival King Philip of Spain, a devout Catholic, marries her.

Philip sends one of his retainers Rafael to his wife Mary Tudor to build her a special sundial. However, the Spaniard has a difficult time adjusting to the damp climate and worse the mistreatment by the nobles who loathe and perhaps fear Catholic Europe. His project is delayed by the weather and the lack of funding, which adds to his sorrow as he misses his family who stayed in balmy Spain. He is attracted to Cecily the housekeeper and soon they become best friends before falling in love even though the confused foreigner still misses his devoted spouse.

In spite of the title, for much of the story line Mary plays a secondary role as Rafael and Cecily play the lead characters; the climax abruptly but exhilaratingly twists the prime role so Mary's sorrow becomes known. Through the actions of the cast, the story line digs deep as to what motivates the Queen who never forgot her daddy's rejection of her and her mother; his first wife. Rafael's constant lament even when he is with caring Cecily feels overwrought as how many times and ways can a protagonist tell his audience he misses his home and family before he becomes redundant. Still this is an interesting Tudor historical that uses a forbidden romance to provide an indirect look at Queen Mary's sorrows.

A Darker Domain
Val McDermid
9780061688980, $24.95

Michelle Gibson informs the Fife Police Department that her father Mick Prentice is missing; no one seems interested. That changes when she mentions her dad vanished in 1984 during a miners' strike. The Cold Case Review Team Detective Inspector Karen Pirie decides it is worth an inquiry and learns everyone assumed Mick went to Nottingham to find work as a scab, but never bothered to come back to the Fife area.

Wealthy Sir Broderick Maclennan Grant informs Karen that in 1985 his daughter Catriona and grandson Adam were kidnapped. He tried to pay the ransom demand, but everything turned ugly; his daughter was murdered and his grandchild vanished. He never gave up hope of finding Adam. Karen has two missing persons' cold cases to solve so family members can have closure.

This interesting Scottish cold case police procedural is filled with plenty of action as DI Price investigates the two missing persons mid 1980s cases. The story line is fast-paced but lose some momentum and plausibility when the inquiries converge. Though Dr. Tony Hill takes a needed breather, fans of Val McDermid will enjoy her latest mystery though most will have preferred two separate investigations.

Kitty Sewell
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
1416585141, $24.99,

Although Key West was not considered in a direct path of tropical storm Angelina, the island takes a nasty hit. A resident all her life, Madeleine Frank can never look at the place the same way since her spouse Forrest died in the storm. Needing to escape her loss, Madeleine flees Florida for Bath, England, where she opens up a psychotherapy practice.

Her latest patient Rachel Locklear seems at first like a classic domestic violence victim as her former lover and father of her child has pimped her and wants both back under his brutal thumb. However, as the sessions continue, Madeleine is stunned to find Rachel's past somewhat mirrors her own dark childhood growing up in a household where her Cuban mother was a powerful Santera priestess; her mom currently lives in a nearby mental institution as she suffers from acute paranoid schizophrenia. Soon the pasts of both women will collide with their present leaving each with no hope for the future.

Although there are some subplots especially the ants that feel pointless as they fail to enhance the psychological suspense or insight into the beleaguered heroine, BLOODPRINT is an engaging thriller. Madeleine is an interesting character as Key West can no longer be home for her and Bath is becoming questionable. Rachel purposely is a bit underdeveloped as the woman in trouble so that the audience will wonder whether she is manipulating her therapist; her actions and Madeleine's reactions lead to the heroine's peril just like her demented mom warned her. Even though this story is not on the level of ICE TRAP, Kitty Sewell provides a fine contemporary thriller that combines a violent significant other with Santera beliefs converging on two frightened but brave women.

The Black Girl Next Door
Jennifer Baszile
9781416543275, $25.00

In the mid 1970s in affluent California, elementary school student, Jennifer Baszile and her sister were the only black kids in the building. In the first grade she obtained a deep lesson on de facto racism and ignorance after winning a running race. The loser, naturally white, as everyone else except her sister was, "intelligently" commented that blacks had something special in their feet. Her teacher confirmed that as a truism. Her dad took exception but was careful not to have the school think he was a ghetto thug as he understood they were the local Jackie Robinson and had to behave with more decorum than their neighbors. As integration was pushed as social and legal policy, Jennifer would see de jure racism when she visited her paternal relatives in Louisiana and de facto segregation in Detroit seeing her maternal blood. Still her parents pushed her and her sibling to live the American dream as black pioneers, which the author succeeded because she became the first black female professor at Ya le's History Department.

THE BLACK GIRL NEXT DOOR is a superb memoir that looks deep into one black family making it in an all white wealthy neighborhood during a time when the Civil Rights movement was pushing integration against racial laws and society barriers. Professor Baszile provides powerful anecdotal incidents of so-called supporters of integration resenting the first black family on their block and how it felt to be the only exceptions to the all white rule in so many scenarios; not just school. Readers will appreciate this superb well written window to how society has come a long way due to brave settlers like the parents of the author who wanted more than the dream for their offspring; they courageously went after the opportunity fully aware they would be the token black family next door.

Evil Ways
Justin Gustainis
Solaris Books
c/o BL Publishing
1525 Hulse Road, Unit 1, Pt. Pleasant, NJ 08742
1844165930, $15.00

In Baghdad on the eve of the American invasion, five mercenaries use the unrest to break and enter the Iraqi National Museum. They climb down three flights of stairs and open up a tamper-proof safe. They steal the Book of Shadows that was locked inside. The team leader Miles Hawkins takes it to black magic practitioner Pardee in the States on behalf of his dying client multi-billionaire Walter Grobius, who hopes the tome contains a spell to save his life.

Supernatural investigator Quincey Morris completes a mission in which he sees the preserved hearts of eight murdered children, Two FBI agents Dale Fenton and Colleen O'Brien inform him that children across the country are being killed. Quincey's partner white witch Libby Chastain is also almost killed while taking a shower; eight white witches have been slaughtered and three more have vanished. The FBI investigates the murders using physical clues; while Quincey and Libby apply their paranormal skills to seek the same information of identifying the culprit. Meanwhile Libby's life remains in danger from a person who never forgot she defeated him in a contest of magic. All roads lead to Iowa where Pardee and Grobius are approaching a critical moment on Walpurgis's Night of the full moon. The Sisterhood uses their magic to try and avert a catastrophe while Quincey wants to do likewise but also save Libby from being a sacrifice and the Feds try to keep the summoning from happening.

EVIL WAYS, a worthy successor to BLACK MAGIC WOMAN, focuses throughout on the supernatural in the mundane realm with a myriad of subplots that tie together in a terrific battle between good and evil. The key to this exciting urban fantasy is both sides of the conflict contain fully developed key characters. Quincey and Libby are a dynamic team who bring plausibly to the plot even though they can move mountains when working in unison; in this case they may have to move the Great Plains with what Pardee and Grobius plan. Justin Gustainis makes his world seem real as the Field of Dreams turns into a nightmare.

P: Al-Qaeda Strikes Again
Bill Binkley
1094 New DeHaven St, Suite 100, West Conshocken, PA 19428
0741449102, $17.95,

At JFK International Airport, Code Red security alert is decreed when a person leaves her purse at customs before fleeing; she kills herself in a bathroom; the Feds followup the info on her Greek passport that affirms what they suspec:t Safia Makhdoom is a bogus name.

A few months later in Phoenix, Muusa Gandapaur is panic stricken having had his passport lifted at the airport. Still he becomes Arthur Bradley and begins his life in Arizona by sending a letter to Denmark.

In Islamabad, Pakistan CIA Station Chief Jerry Moses has hit a wall in his inquiries into Makhdoom when an informant tells him of a training camp north of Peshawar attended by Safia, Yusaf Hussani and others. He finds a paper with a list of names and places that he believes means something big and nasty is coming to America as twenty cities including Cherry Hill where Hussani bragged he would be appear. Wayne Kirby is put in charge of a counterterrorism task force that includes his kick butt girlfriend Rennie Jordon to prevent al-Qaeda from striking again.

This is only part of the opening chapter of what is an action-packed, fast-paced terrorism thriller that accelerates as readers await a confrontation between the Feds and al-Qaeda if the dots are connected and the government leaders listen to the troops on the ground. As corpses flood Dallas where NSA has forwarded Jerry's list, multiple subplots across American and in Pakistan keeps readers on edge wondering what next and how they connect. Bill Binkley provides an exhilarating one sitting thriller (not sure how he kept track with so much happening, but he does throughout) that will shake the audience as the terrorist multiple schemes seems plausible.

In the Wake of the Boatman
Jonathon Scott Fuqua
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
1890862428, $25.00,

In November 1942, Helen Steward gives birth to her second child, Puttnum. His father Carl is in a dark mood with the events of WWII and his bad knee keeping him out of the service; something a man's man like him cannot accept. He thinks his son would be better off dead and considers saving Puttnum from life's disappointments by breaking his neck.

That paternal attitude stays with Putt as he does well at his high school studies, but is filled with anger; his arrest affirms his father's opinion that his only male offspring is a loser. The teen obtains an ROTC scholarship to attend the University of Virginia where he has an interlude with his cadet commander, which leaves Putt struggling with his identity. Graduating from college, Putt puts on women's attire; he feels guilt, fear and euphoria. To prove he is a man's man, he volunteers for Viet Nam where he becomes a decorated hero. Back home, he is recruited to infiltrate a stateside Russian espionage ring, afterward the media and the military make him an American hero forcing him to hide even deeper his desire to wear women's clothing. Whereas his father and brother-in-law (another man's man) agree Putt is a loser, his older sister thinks otherwise though she knows something disturbs him turning him angrier and colder.

This is a deep psychological character study in which the relationship between father and son is based on what a man is. Carl feels his son is a wimp in spite of his service record and spy endeavors; though that is a psychological defense mechanism as his offspring accomplishes what he wanted to do. Putt is a fascinating character as he struggles with his unholy desire to wear women's clothing by acting cold. IN THE WAKE OF THE BOATMAN is an intriguing psychological drama that looks deep inside the tormented soul of a man whose solo reason for living is trying to win his father's affection despite decades of failure to achieve his objective.

Hammer of God
Karen Miller
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
0316008370, $7.99,

The Kingdom of Ethrea has never been ruled by a female. So when the current monarch dies his only offspring, his daughter Rhian, claims the throne. However many of her noblemen, even her spouse King Alasdair, reject her assertion on the grounds there will be a woman ruler.

While Ethrea is split apart with a royal dispute, neighboring Empress Hekat, who reigns with an iron fist based on her belief in her divine right of rule, feels God has intervened for her; she plans to conquer the divided kingdom. She leads her Mijak warhost horde into Ethrea where the ruling Queen is isolated with no internal allies or external trading neighbors to help her defend her people. Her only possible alliance is with Emperor Han of the seemingly strange Tzhung-tzhungchai, but she fears the price of allowing his army inside Ethrea as she distrusts they will leave once they occupy the land.

The third and final Godspeaker book (see EMPRESS and THE RIVEN KINGDOM) continues the complex saga of two female rulers heading to a conflation; that is if Rhian survives internal treachery. The pair are opposites starting with their upbringing and in many other ways yet share a belief they belong on their respective throne; one believes peace will bring prosperity to everyone while the other feels THE HAMMER OF God war will bring her vision of prosperity to the land. To fully grasp the nuances of this engaging fast-paced finish, readers should read the first two tales before breathlessly waiting for what seems the eventual final battle over whose vision will rule.

The Magician's Apprentice
Trudi Canavan
0316037885, $24.99

In isolated Mandryn, Tessia wants to be a chip off the old block by becoming a healer like her father Veran. However, her family including her dad who appreciates his daughter's assistance pleads with her to forget that dream as being undesirable for a young girl; her father and others fear for her life if Tessia steps out in pursuit of her aspiration.

She Obstinatly refuses to back away from her desire to heal others. Her push to practice healing leads Tessia to haughty Sachakan wizard Ashaki Takado, who scoffs at a young female healer. However, Tessia learns she has great skill in self-defense magic. Hoping to understand her innate ability, she becomes a junior apprentice to master magician Lord Dakon. Her ambition to use her powers to heal remains steadfast even as Sachakan's army invades Tessia's village.

Although similar in tone to many coming of age young adult fantasy mage sagas, THE MAGICIAN'S APPRENTICE is an exciting thriller especially for fans of the Black Magician Trilogy as readers obtain a glimpse of a much grimmer environs six centuries earlier. Magic at that time came in one flavor, dark as magical healing had not been invented at that time. Tessia in a sense starts a revolution on the level of the Fosbury Flop in high jumping when she reengineers medicine and magic by combining what she learned from her dad helping him on amputations, etc with what she learns from Lord Dakkon. Fans of Trudi Canavan will enjoy this engaging prequel.

Kiss Of A Demon King
Kresley Cole
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416580942, $7.99,

Rydstrom Woede knows how far he has fallen when he rejects the human females' offer of a lap dance at the Tongue and Groove Strip Club in Louisiana. The former Demon King of the Rothkalina plane plots to regain his Castle Tornin throne lost to the sorcerer Omort the Deathless who cannot die. Hell he beheaded his foe nine centuries ago and instead of victory Rydstrom was fortunate to escape alive. His current ally Groot is Omort's brother who wants the Deathless one dead; Rydstrom's theory is simply your enemy's enemy, etc.

Omort's half-sister Sabine the Sorceress of Illusions is as evil as her siblings with one exception; her need especially when she was a tweener more than a century ago is to protect her younger sister Lanthe from their kin and the Vreckners. When she meets and captures Rydstrom, she makes him prisoner of her body. However, though she knows she needs to deliver his head on a silver platter to Omort, something strange occurs as he somehow conquers her heart: Likewise Rydstrom knows he must kill her before she betrays him, but somehow she has captured his heart and soul (though he doubts he has the latter as that is a human frailty). As they fall in love, both need to team up to survive her family especially Omort, but neither trusts the other; instead they make love, fight foes and anticipate duplicity.

The latest Immortals After Dark saga (See DARK NEEDS AT NIGHT'S EDGE, NO REST FOR WICKED and A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER) is a wonderful urban romantic fantasy starring two fascinating individuals whose respective morality differs radically from most Americans. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as the demon warrior and the sorceress queen compete for the top position in their relationship. Fans of the Cole mythos will relish this superb entry succinctly summed up at the beginning by Rydstrom: "This sorceress might be an evil b*tch, but she's my evil b*tch. And I'll have no other."

Michael Mirolla
Leapfrog Press
P.O. Box 2110, Teaticket, MA 02536
9780981514819, $14.95,

In a Montreal psychiatric ward, former stationary engineer and wannabe circus mime patient Giulio Chiavetta abruptly seems alert after two years in a constant fog that the staff assumes is related to his belief he killed his wife and child though no proof was found that either existed. He read in today's newspaper that the Berlin Wall crumbled and informs his psychiatrist Dr. Wilhelm Ryle that he must return there. Ryle is stunned as this is the first full sentence uttered by his patient in the two years he has resided at the clinic.

Chiavetta walks away from the clinic shocking Ryle further as the man was a notch above comatose until the article. Ryle looks at what his patient left behind for clues and finds a document titled Berlin on Chiavetta's computer. The full title turns out to be Berlin: A Novel in Three Parts in which Professor Antonio Serratura is in West Berlin attending a conference as President Reagan demands Gorbachev tear down the wall. What Ryle finds makes no sense as Chiavetta was mostly incoherent while here and does not match up with what is known about the missing mental patient; yet there is a weird ring of truth underneath the words as Giulio begins an adventure in a convergence of the future and the past.

This is a well written but weird character study that turns transcendental philosophy upside down as Michael Mirolla pays homage to Kant and Kafka. Not easy to read, fans and Ryle are hooked trying to understand who Chiavetta is; why the Wall falling down awakened him and sent him on his odyssey; and what he needs to accomplish in the seedier parts of West Berlin. Eerie yet fascinating, readers who relish something entirely different will want to travel to the underbelly of West Berlin circa 1989 with on a magical mystery tour guided by an escape mental patient.

Starship: Rebel
Mike Resnick
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781591026952, $25.98,

After disobeying a direct order that would have killed millions (see STARSHIP: MERCENARY), the Federation throws Captain Wilson Cole of the starship Theodore Roosevelt into the brig awaiting court martial. Knowing he will be found guilty, his loyal crew rescues him and flees to the Inner Frontier where they become pirates then mercenaries. Cole now commands fifty ships with the home base being Singapore Station

A close friend, the alien Commander Forrice, is tortured and killed because he refused to tell where the Teddy R is docked. Cole blasts the vessel where his friend was executed. Federation ships retaliate by destroying an entire populated planet. Furious, Cole intends to attack the Federation to keep them out of the Inner Frontier where they impress civilians into their navy and do whatever abuse they want on independent worlds. Joining Cole on his quest is warlord Octopus who has hundreds of ships, and Lafferty who foments rebellion inside the Federation. The enemy sends the biggest armada with the greatest weaponry ever known to take out Teddy R and the Singapore Station.

The fourth Starship saga is as fast-paced and action-packed as its predecessors. Though a bit over Mount Olympus with a thin plot, this is fun military space opera as Mike Resnick paints a vivid galactic future that in many ways mirrors present earth with conflicts everywhere. Fans of the series will be in shock with the direction Cole takes us as he decides who the true enemy is.

End of the Century
Chris Roberson
9781591026976, $15.00

In 498 a bizarre vision sends Galaad journeying to Caer Llundain. In 2000, American teenager Alice Fell suffers from epilepsy; during her seizures she has strange dreams that send her to London in 2000. In 1897, Detective Sandford Blank and his partner Roxanne Bonaventure investigate brutal serial killings.

Fifteen centuries apart yet all three people share much in common. There are three eras including Camelot, late Victorian and contemporary as diverse individuals struggle with visions that make no sense to any of them.

Compelling from the onset, but not easy to follow especially when the timelines "converge", END OF THE CENTURY is a complex somewhat convoluted thriller that brings the past, present and future together in the space-time continuum. The bewilderment of the prime players make each feel genuine as they struggle to understand what is going on yet they sense the time has come but not what or why. With a story line that is fascinating but paradoxically not fast-paced, set aside plenty of time to read this engaging multifaceted thriller.

Fatal February
Barbara Levenson
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 327203
9781933515526, $22.95,

Miami criminal defense attorney Mary Magruder Katz agrees to defend Lillian Yarmouth, accused of stabbing to death her womanizing husband Gary in their affluent home in Coconut Grove; she was hired because her brother did the Yarmouth's will. The mixed breed Southern Baptist Jew finds a unique way to obtain a new client. Her car is hit from behind by obnoxious wealthy developer Carlos Martin at the car wash. When he learns she is a lawyer he hires her to help close a, $6 million dollar deal.

Attracted to one another, Carlos and Mary make love in her office. However, her tryst is seen by her boss who is also her fiance Franklin Fieldstone; he fires her as his future wife and from his firm, and files an ethics charge to the Florida State bar for having sex with a client so he can keep the firm from trouble. Feeling a bit of guilt but more euphoric, Carlos helps Mary set up her own practice even as she defends herself to the legal review board while also preparing Yarmouth's defense.

This is a fun legal thriller starring a feisty heroine who is not afraid to speak out when her rights even as simple as being pushed from her spot in the car wash due to extra money passing hands occur. The trial of Lillian is well written though some aspects of the defense are portrayed as discussions between Mary and Carlos, for instance obtaining Lillian's release. That technique is a bit passive, but also allows a relationship between the lawyer and the builder to develop. Fans will enjoy this engaging tale of a life ruined and rebuilt starting and ending with the car wash blues.

This Side of Heaven
Karen Kingsbury
Center Street
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781599956787, $14.99,

Nate and Annie Warren expected so much more from their son Josh, who grew up with everything he could ever want. Instead he has been a major disappointment never achieving anything beyond being a tow truck driver. He even failed at that though it was not his fault as a drunk driver left him unemployed and even lower in the esteem of his parents even as he rescued two young women from being DUI victims.

However, there are some friends like his neighbors Carl, Daisy and Cara who see him as a champion and a buddy. Although he would like to reconcile with his parents he holds no hope to do so as he cannot live their life. More so he would like to meet his eight year old daughter Savannah. When tragedy strikes him again, his mom meeting his friends realizes she never knew her son who is a hero to his friends and wants to make amends with her granddaughter that she never knew about. Her granddaughter lives with her addicted mom Fran Ito in New York City. Fran learns Savannah might be due some insurance money following Josh's tragedy; she plans to get the money to pay for her habit.

Although loosely connected to JUST BEYOND THE CLOUDS through some characters, THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN is a fascinating inspirational family drama that focuses on what is a hero and tolerance for decisions by loved ones that may not seem right to you but is to them. Whereas God and his friends accept Josh as he is enabling them to believe he is a kind loyal hero; his parents feel he failed even when he severely injured himself to save lives. More than beauty is in the eye of the beholder as his loved ones failed to see his caring soul while his friends admired him for that. Karen Kingsbury provides a deep look at parental expectations unfulfilled because they were never accepted by their offspring; albeit the Warrens lose a lot by their negative reactions to their son.

The Spare Room
Helen Garner
Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, NY, NY 10010-7725
9780805088885, $22.00,

Dying from bowel cancer, Nicola decides on an alternate treatment method of vitamin C infusions at the Theodore Institute. Her long time friend Helen invites Nicola to live with her as she has a spare room while she undergoes the radical therapy. The terminal ill woman appreciates the kindness and leaves Sydney for Melbourne.

However, as Helen observes Nicola's efforts to stay alive, she begins to believe the Theodore Institute is filled with con artists providing magical elixirs that do not work. She fears her friend will die soon anyway and is wasting time better spent with loved ones. On the other hand Nicola believes a miracle is forthcoming leading Helen to wonder if she is the right person to help Nicola die with dignity.

This is a fascinating look at friendship as the lead couple ee the cancer situation radically different. Helen believes Nicola is foolish wasting her precious last moments and money hoping for a Hail Mary miracle instead of spending what time she has left with her loved ones. Nicola believes Helen is a grump who cannot comprehend life and death as dying has not yet confronted her. Although Helen's eternal squabbling and lecturing become irritating as she either needs to support her friend's dying wishes, which centers on miracle treatments that probably will fail or toss her out, readers will relish this poignant character study as the reactions to how to behave when pending death seems shortly.

The Little Sleep
Paul Tremblay
0805088490, $14.00

Eight years ago around the time he received his private investigators license, Mark Genevich was in a car accident. His friend George died and though he survived, he has suffered from narcolepsy ever since. That sleep disorder could prove too big a handicap for a sleuth, but the Southie has few clients and never does field work; his jobs are internet research.

Legs that stretch from Maine to South Boston arrive at his office. Jennifer Times, a contestant on a TV reality talent show and the daughter of Suffolk County DA Billy Times, wants Mark to uncover who stole her fingers; she leaves him with racy photos taken of her. When he awakens, he finds a note and the portfolio; so he goes to see her. She denies hiring him. Since Billy was a close friend of his late father, Mark visits the DA who insists the pictures are not his daughter. Soon afterward a frightened Brendan Sullivan, who lives in the same Cape Cod town as Mark's widowed mom and was best buddies with his late dad Tim and Billy, calls to ask if he found what he was hired to find and to make sure he does not mention the pictures to anyone. Mark realizes Brendan not Jennifer is his client. He goes to see him, but fails to reach the man as the cops claim fiftyish Brendan committed suicide. The case is not closed as Mark's home and office are trashed probably by Thumper and Thunder, goons of the DA.

This is an enjoyable Noir mindful of Insomnia while satirizing Chandler's the Big Sleep. Mark's little sleep that leaves him confusing realty with hallucinatory dreams makes the tale starting with his mixing up who the client is and his reality that he might have caused the death of Brendan. Though smoking and narcolepsy seems a dangerous combination, fans will enjoy this offbeat private investigative tale of a detective suffering from his own private South Boston.

Lessons In Heartbreak
Cathy Kelly
Downtown Press
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th floor, New York, NY 10020, 1-800-223-2336
1416586245, $16.00,

Booking agent Izzie Silver has come a long way from convent school in Tamarin, Ireland as she has made it in Manhattan as a successful booking agent. Still the Irish expatriate is not satisfied with how far her career has come as she hopes to one day open her own agency for plus-sized models. Her only setback is falling in love with charming financier Joe Hansen, who happens to be married.

With her prime advisor nonagenarian Grandma Lily hospitalized with a stroke Izzie turns to Aunt Anneliese in Tamarin for help. Anneliese has her own heart issues. Despondent, she has learned her husband is having an affair with her best friend. Thirty seven years of marriage and he betrays her though she tries to hide her feelings of rage and hurt. The aunt and her niece find Lily's 1930s and 1940s diaries that describe the family matriarch also suffered from heartbreak.

LESSONS IN HEARTBREAK is a fantastic family drama that focuses on three generations of females with relationship issues. The lead trio is fully developed although much of what we know of Grandma comes from her diaries and the observations of her daughter and granddaughter. The rich character study contains brilliant spins as Grandma back before and during WWII, and Anneliese and Izzie in the present are obtaining advanced degrees in "How to Mend a Broken Heart" (the Beegees).

Warning Signs
C.J. Lyons
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658, 1-800-847-5515
9780515145830, $7.99,

At Pittsburgh's Angels of Mercy Hospital, fourth year medical student Amanda Mason is on rotation and she is going to Neurology to be overseen by Dr. Lucas Stone. He is the one physician she does not want to work with because she has a crush on him. She is also angry with him. When she was a little off in her performance, he forced her to have a physical; to make ends meet she is part of a research study conducted by Dr. Nelson.

Dr. Stone's newest patient is paralyzed but mentally aware; two previous patients with identical symptoms died with no one knowing the cause. This frightens Amanda because she has some of the same symptoms including shaking hands and feet, and numbness that has her tripping. With two patients dead and one in a coma Amanda now knows the link between them and her, but will it prove in time to save the newest patient and perhaps the next one: Amanda.

This exhilarating medical thriller gets the blood pumping as readers will admire and root for courageous Amanda. She and Luke find the first connection although what she learns ties her to the victims. The frightened heroine and her posse of friends investigate to learn who is behind the bizarre symptoms she suffers from and others did before they advanced into paralysis and death. This is a terrific thriller and fans of Michael Palmer will enjoy this fine tale of a brave but scared medical student in trouble.

The Saga of Beowulf
R. Scott Johns
Fantasy Castle Books
3711 Meadow Drive, Boise, Idaho 83706
0982153805, $16.95,

Early in the sixth century at Heorot, the victors have won many battles, but none as sweet as defeating the forces of Heruli; they built this great hall to celebrate their conquest. However, now the Danes led by intrepid King Hrothgar and his uncle King Edgtheow the Great face their most dangerous foe ever in their great mead hall. Their single adversary with his claws and teeth rip asunder the once mighty berserker warriors. The monster dines on his victims. A frightened survivor Hrothgar who knows first hand the ogre offers a great reward for the death of Grendel.

From across the sea Bear Wolf called Beowulf arrives at the Dane Hall occupied by Grendel the monster. Beowulf challenges the beast in his new lair and kills him. However, though many sing ballads honoring the great Beowulf for his heroism that saved the Danes, he is not done. Grendel's as monstrous mother Griselda seeks vengeance. He kills the troll-hag before leaving to go home and eventually become a king with many more epic battles including with an invincible dragon.

This is an excellent novelization of the great epic poem that authors like Tolkien paid homage to. The story line stays true to the poetry and to the hero, but also provides deeper insight into the champion, his times, and his otherworldly opponents for instance the paternal side of Grendel (nice twist). Mindful of the terrific Seamus Heaney translation, fans of epic fantasy especially of the original poem (and its modernization) and even those who skipped the reading in high school for the Cliff Notes will relish R. Scot Johns' superb novel rendition of THE SAGA OF BEOWULF, although last year's movie version was fun, the SAGA OF BEOWULF would make a fine adventure series of movies along the lines of its "offspring" The Lord of the Rings (is Peter Jackson looking for his next fantasy adaptation?).

What I Was
Meg Rosoff
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0670018449, $15.00,

H looks back over the decades to the moment that defined his life. His father determined that H was to attend St. Oswald's on the East Anglia coast and dumps his teenage offspring there. Having a lot of freedom prior to the drop off, H struggled with the school's rules and the decorum expected of him by his three roommates (Barrett, Gibbon and Reese).

Bored, the sixteen years old H wanders the nearby beach when he meets Finn, a squatter living in a ramshackle fisherman's hut. Finn is beautiful and alive in spite of his being an orphan whose only companions are books and a cat. H and Finn become friends doing things together like fishing, sailing, and crab cooking. However, their idyll ended with death, scandal and a police inquiry. Now eight decades later, Finn returns to East Anglia JUST IN CASE he does not know.

This engaging character study starts off a bit slow as readers share the ennui engulfing Finn. However, once Finn and H become friends, the story line accelerates into a combination buddy-coming of age drama. Well written and insightful fans will appreciate Meg Rosoff's fine tale of paradise found and paradise lost.

You Are So Undead To Me
Stacey Jay
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
345 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
9781595142252, $8.99,

Fifteen-year-old Megan Berry comes from a family of Settlers; people who help the Unsettled (Zombies) by listening to what makes them so bothered that they left their graves. She then performs a kind of magic to get them back into their graves and seals it. After that the Settlers try to do what the Unsettled wanted done. However, due to a trauma five years ago, Megan's powers went dormant and she developed a case of partial amnesia.

Black magic practitioners created Reanimated Corpses (flesh eating zombies) who attacked her five years ago. Now Megan's skills and memories return even as an Unsettled visits her. She recalls most of what she must do to get him back to his final resting place, but she cannot remember how to make him enter the grave. To protect her from the Reaniminated, her childhood friend Ethan, a Settler's Affairs law enforcement official is assigned as Megan's bodyguard pretending to be her boyfriend. Ethan likes the idea as he is attracted to her, but knows her safety comes first as some dangerous incidents occur targeting Megan. She and her family are placed in protective custody by an Enforcer who mentors Megan on how to use her second level skills. However her unknown enemy sets a trap that Megan falls into; one which could prove deadly.

Stacey Jay's fine zombie novel is similar in tone and style to the P.C. and Kristen Cast's vampire saga. Megan wants to lead a normal teen life, but comes to realize her heritage and her strong power will never allow her to do so. Once she accepts her reality, she studies diligently wanting to be an adept at level three spells so she can fight her own battles and hold her end up. Young adults will admire this fine role model while appreciating her star performance in the delightful and exciting YOU ARE SO UNDEAD TO ME.

Peter May
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103 , Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590586069, $24.95,

American pathologist Margaret Campbell left behind her beloved Li Yan in Beijing to come home to Texas where she has become Chief Medical Examiner of Harris County; she never expected to see him again. However, the former Beijing police detective has been reassigned to work at the Chinese embassy in Washington though he has no plans to look up the woman who left him.

When he is sent to work with American authorities investigating the deaths of Chinese citizens in Walker County in Southern Texas, Li and Margaret, on loan to the nearby county, are stunned as both are involved in the inquiry into the suffocation deaths inside a truck's sealed refrigeration unit. As they work together, the attraction remains hotter than the sun, but both knows first they must uncover the Snakehead mastermind behind human smuggling. However, the autopsy reveals they did not die from suffocation; they were injected with a form of the Spanish flu virus which killed millions in 1918 and potentially threatens pandemic billions worldwide now that an offshoot has returned.

The fourth Campbell-Yan police procedural (see THE FOURTH SACRIFICE, FIREMAKER and THE KILLING ROOM) switches the location from China to Texas, but maintains the high quality as Li though several thousand miles from his Communist home still must be cognizant of the rulers. The story line focuses on a real threat based on a plausible biological premise of using the deadly 1918 Spanish flu virus to cause a pandemic. Adding to the feel of this could happen is the dead illegal immigrants, another timely topic in spite of seemingly falling off the map when Tancredo's; run ended. .Whether it is France (home of the Macleod investigative thrillers (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE, THE CRITIC and BLACKLIGHT BLUE), China or the United States, Peter May always provides readers with an excellent mystery.

Murder in the Dark
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590584392, $24.95

In Australia liberated Phryne Fisher enjoys Christmas 1928 with her significant other Lin Chung and her family. Scandalous acquaintances from Paris, the Golden Twins Isabella and Gerald Templar, have invited her to the Last Best party of 1928, a four-day affair at Werribee Manor house.

Phryne considers declining the invitation until she receives letters and a Christmas present containing a poisonous snake in the post that threaten her if she attends. No one scares Phryne away so she goes to the gala. At the party, hashish and alcohol flow freely and she meets an odd collection of people including a bad-mannered child Tarquin who soon afterward vanishes without a trace. Two more people disappear with puzzle clues left behind. As Phryne and Nicholas Booth, who she has just met and believes is an undercover cop, investigates, she realizes someone has been hired to assassinate the sibling hosts.

No one messes with kick butt Phryne whether it is threatening her by post, behaving boorishly towards her at a party, or committing murder. She is at her best in this pre-Depression Era Australian whodunit as her sleuthing partner Nicholas brings out her strengths. The mystery is cleverly devised with solid twists and the roaring cast fits the decadent 1920s. Fans will enjoy Phryne's latest caper as once again Kerry Greenwood provides her readers with a deep look at a bygone era Down Under inside of a rousing investigative thriller.

Hollywood Buzz
Margit Liesche
Poisoned Pen Press
1590585798, $24.95

Having prevented a Nazi plot in Detroit (see LIPSTICK AND LIES) Women Air Force Service Pilot Pucci Lewis is assigned by her superior officer Miss C to go undercover at Fort Roach, a converted movie studio serving as the home base of the First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU). The mission of the unit is to create training and propaganda films in support of the war. Her official assignment is to replace injured pilot Frankie Beall whose job was to insure the movie makers treat the WASP with respect; however her real secret task is to investigate the suspicious plane crash in which veteran pilot Frankie was hurt in her life threatening crash.

Pucci works for producer Roland Novaro and quickly realizes female pilots are treated as a joke worse than her boss expected. However what concerns Pucci more is the squabbling between the producer, the editor Rask and the abusive abrasive director Brody. She also learns from airplane mechanic Mad Maxine Beacock that the plane the WASP pilot flew was deliberately sabotaged, but a cover-up has occurred though neither woman knows why. Soon others are murdered including Brody as the cover-up turns deadly.

Paying homage to the WASP warriors, Margit Liesche writes an engaging WWII military mystery that provides a deep look at the female pilot corps and at Hollywood goes to war. The whodunit hooks the audience as Pucci's assignment changes from investigating sabotage probably by Nazis to a homicide inquiry. She is a terrific lead as she holds the plot together. However, the deep makes the tale refreshing as they bring to life the roles of women and Hollywood in the 1940s at a military base in the States.

Persistence of Memory
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385734370, $13.99,

Like many sixteen-year-old high school students, Erin Misrahe struggles to belong to any crowd, but she is different. When stressed out sweet Erin turns into violent Shevaun; she hurts those nearby and when she reverts back to prime ego, she has no idea how she got where she is and what she did to others. Diagnosed by doctors as a mental illness, she is sent to the hospital and medicated.

When she is released and enrolls at Nefershen Public High School where Erin makes friends with fencing team member Marissa who she see shift into a tigress. Assumed that she had another psychotic incident, Erin is back at the ward. When she awakens she is in a different place with a man claiming to be her husband Adjila the witch and that she is Shevaun the vampire. They want to know why Erin and Shevaun switch places so they can end that tie if necessary by killing the human teen.

This is an excellent young adult fantasy thriller that anchors the exhilarating story line in the mundane human realm through the beleaguer teen's high school, family, and even the psycho ward; yet also insures the fantasy world once she crosses over (with readers) feels genuine. The cast is solid in both environs especially Erin. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes's fabulous tale is all about reality is in the eye of the beholder.

Margaret Lawrence
9780385342377, $24.00

In 1585 in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Gabriel North saves Her Highness from an assassination attempt. Her royal retinue, led by power seeking rogues like Raleigh, sees an opportunity with the handsome young man to bring needed money into the monarchy and subsequently not just keep their influence but increase it. They send Gabriel across the Atlantic to learn what happened to the Roanoke Colony and more to obtain a rumored significantly wealthy native ally in the cold and hot wars with Spain.

North leads the expedition to the New World. His assignment is to seduce Secota Indian Queen Naia, whose wealth is fabled on both sides of the Atlantic. On Roanoke Island, Gabriel begins to fall in love with his honest beautiful target and realizes the duplicity of those who sent him on his mission. As he begins to learn the true fate of the English colonists, he returns home to confront a court filled with intrigue and out of control power willing to sacrifice innocent pawns for personal gain.

Although disappointingly no incredible new theory about the Lost Colony surfaces, fans will enjoy this engaging historical thriller that brings to life the usually hidden woes of Elizabeth I in her third decade of rule. The story line is fun to follow as a strong cast including a zillion secondary players brings to life Margaret Lawrence's latest historical as Machiavellian maneuvers dominate the queen's court.

Dead Right
Cate Noble
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780821776339, $6.99,

The mission in Cambodia went south resulting in the deaths of two CIA agents and the brutal incarceration of the third Dante Johnson in a Thai prison. He has little hope to escape, but vows to remain alert so if the opportunity arises, he is gone though he is not sure what reality is any longer. The imprisoned operative holds his former lover, contract agent Catalina Dion culpable though she is dead.

Rescued after eighteen months in hell, Dante returns to the States with plans to regain his equilibrium wasting R&R time on his boat in Key West. However, he is a bit shocked when his olfactory senses detect the odor of Cat's perfume as he assumed she was killed. Things turn nasty when he picks up a ringing public phone near his vessel; as an explosion follows. Making inquiries he learns Cat is not only alive, but Viktor Zavovsky, a Russian scientist blames her and him for the accidental deaths of his family and her son is an eye for an eye pawn to this obsessed relentless madman.

The key to this CIA romantic suspense is the thrills and chills throughout the fine plot as Cate Noble provides an action-packed tal starting four months earlier with flashbacks that might not be real adding to the excitement. The romantic subplot is deftly handled to heat the sheets but not interfere with the cat and mouse game. Fans will root for the good guys, but also empathize with the villain who has an ax to grind and is grinding it into a fine tale that lives up to its title DEAD RIGHT.

Give Me A Cowboy
Jodi Thomas, DeWanna Pace, Linda Broday, and Phyliss Miranda
Zebra Books
1420103717, $7.99

"Silent Partner" by Jodi Thomas. After time in prison, Rowdy Darnell comes home to Kasota Springs planning to earn some money in the rodeo. However, he needs the fee to be paid to enter so seeks a silent partner as no one would want to publicly bankroll a felon. Laurel Hayes wants nothing to do with the convict she once considered a friend, but their kisses speak otherwise. A charmer

"Luck of the Draw" by DeWanna Pace. They reunite at the Kasota Springs rodeo, but Dally Angelo must conquer the bull who killed his father and "Gus" Garrison must reveal a secret to him that she fears will send him running away before they can consider a second chance at love. Heartwarming

"Texas Tempest" by Linda Broday. Rancher Tempest LeDoux comes to the Kasota Springs rodeo seeking husband Numero 6. Gunfighter McKenna Smith comes to town only to be wanted by Tempest. Somehow she has out gunned the gunfighter or why else would he participate in a rodeo. Exciting

"Roping the Wind" by Phyliss Miranda. Undercover Pinkerton agent Morgan Payne is in Kasota Springs during the rodeo seeking to catch cattle rustlers. However the detective is distracted by kick-butt tomboy Alaine LeDoux who considers him a citified suit and would not suit with her except for those kisses. Adorable

The follow-up western romance anthology to GIVE ME A TEXAN (not read by me) contains four wonderful novellas that occur in the summer of 1890 in Kasota Springs. Each tale stars delightful lead characters who provide different perspective to the same event. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this fabulous compilation insisting like the heroines the authors GIVE ME A COWBOY.

Night's Pleasures
Amanda Ashley
Zebra Books
082178062X, $6.99

Journalist Savanah Gentry first met the magician when she was a little girl and her late single dad took her to watch him perform as the Remarkable Renaldo. Sixteen years later he still works the small town circuit but calls himself Santoro the Magnificent. In the Northern California audience he recognizes Savanah who somehow seems to follow his shows. Savanah wants to interview the magician, but though he wants her and has for years, vampire Rane Cordova has avoided his need to taste her blood. This time when she waits for him, he surprises both of them by asking her out.

Humanity has achieved universal peace until Vampires and Weres each believed they should run the earth so they finally went to war to decide who would rule (see NIGHT'S MASTER). Their fragile ceasefire is teetering as both sides seek the hunter who possesses a special reference book that lists all vampires. Savanah inherited the tome from her late mom, a renowned vampire hunter. Rane keeps her safe even as they fall in love.

This is an exciting paranormal romantic suspense starring star-crossed lovers as he is vampire and she's a slayer. The story line starts off at hyperspeed, get a bit anemic in the middle, but accelerates to the finish. Fans will enjoy this fine urban romantic fantasy as the paranormal species and Amanda Ashley's alternate earth seem real.

Wicked Game
Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush
Zebra Books
9781420103380, $7.99

In 1989 sixteen year old Jessie Brentwood informs her friends at St. Elizabeth she is leaving town. When she vanishes everyone assumes she left town except twenty-five year old police detective Sam "Mac McNally who thinks one of her "Preppy Pricks" pals killed her. He puts the pressure on them, but the case goes cold with the obsessed cop earning a nasty reputation for crossing the line with the teens. Meanwhile Becca Sutcliff, who suffers visions, and Jessica's boyfriend Hudson Walker begin seeing one another until he goes off to college and fails to stay in contact.

In the present kids telling ghost stories near the statue of the Madonna in the St. Elizabeth maze find a hand sticking out of the ground. Mac is assigned the lead but warned not to go over the top. When the body is exhumed from its gravesite, they find the skeletal remains of a four-five month old fetus next to the woman.

Hudson's sister, Valley Star reporter Renee Trudeau brings the old gang together to discuss the case. Hudson is elated to see widow Becca whose husband dumped her for another woman before dying from a heart attack. Becca knows she loves Hudson as much as she did as a teen, but distrusts him. As Becca begins to have her spells that she had not had since Jessica vanished, someone begins to murder the gang in what seems like freak accidents, but Becca knows better. She believes the evil killer is back to finish what he started.

This exciting paranormal romantic suspense thriller is filled with plenty of action once the St. Elizabeth ensemble meets for the first time in two decades. Even with a psychic element and with people nearby including the obsessed cop, the tale is reminiscent of Christie's And Then There Were None. Though somewhat illogical re current day motive, the story line is tense and gripping as one by one the killer is murdering Jessica's old gang. Fans of both authors will enjoy the sibling collaboration as Becca and the audience know he is coming for her.

The God Stalker Chronicles
P.C. Hodgell
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781416555766, $24.00,

"God Stalk". The Three-Faced God created the Kencyrath triple people to end the spread of the Perimal Darkling. However as the evil extended its hold, The Three-Faced God abandoned its people to their dangerous fate especially after the Kencyrath leader betrayed his people. The stunned Kencyrath reacted by disavowing anything godly. A few thousands of years later, young Jame with her God marked silver eyes is exiled into the eerie wilderness to die. However, Jame survives and a decade later with little memory of before the deportation, searches for her missing twin brother Torisen. She fails at her quest, but ends up in mystical Tai-Taistigon where gods and demons co-exist. She becomes an apprentice to the Guild Master Thief Penari and meets Loogan and his god Gorgo, who she kills and brings back to life.

"Dark of the Moon". Jame eventually leaves Tai-Taistigon to continue her quest to find her sibling, but also wants to discover who she is. Meanwhile Tori is ten years older than his twin and currently is chieftain of the Kencyrath. However his sister will soon rock his comfortable vainglorious world as she obsesses over giving him their father's sword and ring while preparing for the coming of the Darkness

Combining these two related 1980s published superb fantasies into one collection leads to a comparative analysis of the support cast in each tale with the results being they are night and day; just like the twins. That brings freshness to both adventures even as each shares the overarching theme of coming of age escapades of a young woman seeking to understand who she is in a realm in which self seems murky at best. Readers will immensely relish the first two chronicles of Jame (the next saga is SEEKER'S MASK, not read by me) as she navigates a world she does not comprehend although P.C. Hodgell obviously does as this weird world makes for an excellent read.

Booby Trap
Sue Ann Jaffarian
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738713502, $13.95,

Lillian Ramsey asks her friend plus size paralegal Odelia Grey for her help. Upset, Lillian explains that her son, renowned cosmetic surgeon Dr. Brian Eddy has been accused of being the serial killing Blond Bomber, who has terrorized Southern California for the past year leaving behind etched on the corpse the word "whore". Odelia, having solved homicides before (see Thugs and Kisses), agrees to investigate.

As always Odelia receives assistance from her wheelchair-bound spouse Greg Stevens and her anal-retentive obsessive attorney boss Mike Steele. However what she learns makes her wonder if perhaps Brian is guilty. He and his wife Jane Sharp apparently knew four of the female victims. Meanwhile Gordon Harper, the former husband of one of the Blond Bomber's victims, seems to be everywhere that Lillian is as he seeks the killer too.

The second Odelia Grey amateur sleuth (see THUGS AND KISSES) is a fun whodunit that entertains the audience with an exciting investigation and with amusing commentary especially between the para legal and her husband and her boss. The fast-paced story line grips the reader from the moment a desperate Lillian begs Odelia to prove her son's innocence. Though some purists might insist she should have hired a professional private eye and Odelia should not volunteer to look for a serial killer, fans will enjoy the escapades of the heroine as she takes on the Blond Bomber.

Paper Scissors Death
Joanna Campbell Slan
Midnight Ink
9780738712505, $14.95

Kiki Lowenstein is in her favorite scrapbooking store Time in a Bottle when St. Louis Police Detective Chad Detweiler informs her that her husband George was found dead completely naked in an upscale hotel room. The medical examiner says he died of a heart attack, but Kiki doubts that as George had a physical six months ago with a clean bill of health. She considers investigating but instead has to deal with George's angry partner who insists he took, $500,000 out of the business.

In order to pay it back and take care of her eleven-year-old daughter Anya and their dog, Kiki sells all their major assets from their upscale home to their car; they move into a rental in a lower class neighborhood. When George's mistress is murdered, Detweiler suspects Kiki as the killer especially in light of the fact that she threatened to kill Roxanne at a public social event in which the drunken mistress acted as if she was George's wife. George's mother wants custody of Anyta and someone breaks into Kiki's home stealing her computer while trying to get CD pictures of the now infamous social event. A malicious woman arranges it so that Kiki is thrown into jail for murdering Roxanne leaving Anya with her mother-in-law. Kiki loses custody of Anya and the mother-in-law from hell gets temporary custody so Kiki has to prove she was framed with only Detweiler and her close friends believing she is innocent.

This is an electrifying combination of a family drama within a whodunit. Kiki proves she has deep inner strength that even she did not know she possessed as she goes about what she must do to provide food and shelter for her daughter following the riches to rags scenario and subsequently to regain custody. Detweiler turns from enemy to friend with the possibility of a romantic interest though Kiki calls the shots in their relationship. This adds realism to an engaging cozy as the heroine with no time to breathe let alone grieve sets out to prove her innocence and regain custody of her daughter.

The Sins of Lord Easterbrook
Madeline Hunter
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036, 1-800-726-0600
9780440243960, $6.99,

The Marquis of Easterbrook Christian has traveled the globe to learn how to cope with his inner secrets. In Macao, China pretending to be a commoner, Christian meets Leona Montgomery, the daughter of a trading house tycoon. Their attraction frightens both of them, but a young Leona flees from him fearing her feelings. He is heartbroken as she is the only person he ever met who keeps his demons at bay.

Seven years after they first met, Leona is in England seeking answers to her family's devastated business now run by her brother while also seeking needed capital investment. Her late father blamed the government sponsored Opium for Tea triangular colonialism trade anchored by the English opium monopoly for destroying his firm. Christian has waited for her all these years. Though he will help her on her quest, this time he will not allow her to run from love.

This mid nineteenth century romance is fast-paced and filled with action as love and intrigue make for an excellent historical. The relationship between the lead couple is worth the cost of this fine early Victorian, but it is the insight into the octopus tentacles of the Opium Trade for tea that brings depth to this passionate tale.

Marshmallow for Breakfast
Dorothy Koomson
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036, 1-800-726-0600
9780385341332, $12.00,

After spending time in Australia, Kendra Tamale returns home to England to escape with a fresh start. She rents a room from Kyle Gadsborough. Her plan is to keep everything simple and with her landlord, mind her business while paying the rent on time; no personal relationships.

However she feels sorry for his twin six year old children who are in shock that their mom left them and their dad. As she learned upon her first meeting with the kids, Summer cannot shut up reminding her she is black while Jaxon with his thumb in his mouth looks like the world has ended. The pair are pros when it comes to taking advantage of their dad. Unable to adhere to her plan of non-involvement especially when Kendra becomes Kendie, Kendra creates the sugar Saturday breakfasts even as she falls in love with the single father and his two kids. However, she believes her past will taint her in their eyes and prepares to give up to live a lonely wretched life as she expects Australia to surface especially when the mom returns to take the children with her.

This is an intriguing family drama in which one person's choice destroys another individual's equilibrium, The story line is character driven by obviously the four prime payers, but also subtly by the wife and by what happened in Australia as the past strongly influences the lead quartet. Fans will appreciate MARSHMALLOW FOR BREAKFAST as Dorothy Koomson provides a deep look at relationship failure and how little it takes to bring a glimmer of hope.

Beyond Recall
Robert Goddard
9780385341141, $12.00

Estranged from his family, Chris Napier returns home for the first time in years to attend his niece's wedding at the family estate Tredower House converted into a hotel in Truro, Cornwall. Unwanted at the ceremony, Nicky Lanyon arrives insisting to his childhood friend Chris that his father Michael never killed Chris' great uncle Joshua Carnoweth over three decades ago; although authorities hung the man for the murder insisting the motive was greed as he was about to be replaced as the heir.

Nicky accentuates his point when he is found the next day hanging from a tree; apparently having committed suicide. As homage to Nicky and to alleviate his guilt having ignored the plea, Chris decides to investigate the 1981 homicide of Joshua though his preference remains leaving the past buried.

This is an exciting tale of murder, blackmail, and avarice within an extended family as secrets from the past are slowly revealed. The story takes a bit of time to introduce the three prime interrelated families, but once it does the plot never decelerates as the tangled history is unraveled one dangerous thread at a time by Chris. Fans will enjoy this fine suspense thriller filled with twists and spins that shake the hero as he uncovers the truth.

Lisa Lawrence
9780385342339, $13.00

Children's book author and sometime private investigator (see STRIP POKER and BEG ME for her previous cases); Teresa Knight is hired to go undercover at London-based porn filmmaker Silky Pictures. The owner Luis Antunes has been accused of illegally working as a pimp pressuring his actresses into prostitution and those reluctant to having sex on film. Teresa obtains work as a director and quickly feels comfortable working trip X sequences and a few X to the nth degree sexual exploits.

Her efforts behind the camera lead to clues of an international sex-slave trade headquartered in Rio while also fleeing French and English law enforcement who accuse her of pushing her new boss off a hotel balcony. As she works to end the lucrative sex trade and clear her name of a homicide rap, Teresa finds herself in deeper trouble as she is accused by authorities of being a Jihadist terrorist. As usual Teresa depends on herself to find the fitting climax.

The third Knight sexploits is a fun over the top of Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Christ the Redeemer at the peak of Corcovado Mountain. Teresa, as always, lands in trouble and sex as she leaps from one fiery encounter to another. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows even with a zillion and one sexual interludes, as Lisa Lawrence provides an entertaining heated tale as the heroine is forced into SEXILE from her home in order to clear her name one following clues one tryst at a time.

Flirting With Temptation
Kelley St. John
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
044661923X, $6.99,

In Birmingham, thirty-four years old Babette Robinson knows herself too well as her lack of commitment has led to failures. She is the best person at almost anything until she reaches what the NFL calls the Red Zone where she fumbles away the touchdown. Her family insists she is a kind person who is always there to help other people with problems. They persuade her she should open up her own business as a relationship repairwoman.

Feeling good about the concept, Babette creates a match-mending consulting firm the `Love Doctor". Business is booming almost immediately and within a few months, Babette is the talk of the town as her success rate is phenomenal. She knows she has made it when affluent society queen Kitty Carelle hires her to patch things up with her ex fiance Jeff Eubanks, who apparently does not want a second engagement after being dumped one month before the wedding. However, there is a couple of spitballs in bringing together Jeff and Kitty as he was Babette's lover for several years. She realizes she wants to patch up their broken relationship that she ended because she could not commit. Her quandary is if she fails Kitty, Jeff will affirm his belief Babette cannot stay the course and would only dump him again if they start over.

This is a fun second chance at love starring fully developed lead characters and strong support players. The story line is fast-paced from the onset but focuses deeply on the fears and hopes of several cast members, but especially Babette. With some slices of humor, but mostly a poignant look at relationships, FLIRTING WITH TEMPTATIONS is a delightful character driven contemporary romance.

Marked by Passion
Kate Perry
0446541001, $6.99

In San Francisco Gabrielle Sansouci Chin works as a bartender so she can eat while hoping her paintings will soon pay her way. However, when her father dies, Gabrielle has little time to grieve her loss as she inherited a role she does not want. She is the latest guardian of the ancient Chinese scroll of Earth that each generation Chin has past down to the next seemingly forever.

On the plus side is some neat new powers, but on the down side she has no idea how to use them even as her late father's spirit keeps encouraging her to hang on as it will get easier. Gabe chooses to ignore her responsibility, which frustrates her late father. Meanwhile treasure-hunter Rhys Llewellyn wants the scroll, but Gabe so far has refused though his seduction and her pondering not having to deal any longer with the duty makes handing it over feel like nirvana. Still, when danger mounts, Gabe has no choice but to take charge of her task.

This engaging romantic urban fantasy stars a woman in total denial in spite of the evidence that she has no choice but to get involved. The story line is action-packed as Gabe eludes her responsibility and is fortunate the enemy fails at killing her and stealing the scroll. Still in spite of much of the story line focusing on her dodging her inherited duty as much as the villain, Gabe brings a freshness to the sub-genre as she fails to dive head first into the battle; instead choosing to hide her head in the sand. Fans will enjoy her escapades MARKED BY PASSION although the same spin is told too often losing some of the early briskness her refusal to participate brings to the plot.

Seeing Red
Susan Crandall
0446178578, $6.99

Fifteen years ago on Belle Island, South Carolina, Laura Greene was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered. Her family blames Nate Vance, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who wanted Laura as his girlfriend. Laura's cousin teenage Ellis defends Nate; insisting he was innocent and in court on her fourteenth birthday testified against Hollis Alexander, who went to prison.

In the present, many islanders still believe the wrong man went to jail as they insist Nate killed Laura; out of prison on parole Hollis bribes reporter Wayne Carr to investigate the case as he swears he was innocent. He also goes after the Greene family that never emotionally recovered from the trauma of the homicide. Nate returns to Belle Island after being away for years, but is no longer the helpless teen being driven off by the haughty Greene clan; he is also attracted to Ellis, a schoolteacher. Ellis reciprocates though she has been seeing Rory for several years. As Ellis and Nate dance around their feelings, they begin to uncover what really happened fifteen years ago; however, this is one time the truth will not set them free because someone wants the past to remain as is and is willing to kill to insure secrets remain concealed.

This is an exciting romantic suspense in which the victim's family never received closure although someone went to jail for the crime; as most of the Greene brood believes like most islanders that the wrong man went to jail. The action-packed story line moves briskly from the moment Ellis and Nate see each other for the first since just after the tragedy and never slows down as Hollis sets in motion his scheme. Readers will enjoy this tense thriller as the truth will set you free if it doesn't kill you.

The Isle of Dogs
Daniel Davies
Serpents Tail
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, NY, NY 10025
9781852429980, $14.95,

In London Jeremy Shepherd as the editor-in-chief of a London fashion magazine seems to have it all, living a glamorous life as an in person. However, he finds himself unsatisfied with his life and as he looks deep inside himself and concludes what he does is so insignificant it means nothing to anyone. Having a breakdown of sorts, he quits his position and leaves swinging London for his parents' home, a couple of hours by train from his previous haunt.

He decides to apply quantum physics to reengineer his life into something less complex except for more sex. He takes a low paying, non demanding demographics collector civil service job and begins his sexual quest. Jeremy is especially fascinated with "dogging", having outdoors sex with total strangers. He soon finds fellow adventurers wanting to share a tryst in a parking lot as well as pervert-hunters wanting to slice and dice him and his revelers.

This is an engaging look at a local rebel using public sex in spite of the Patriot Act (England's equivalent that is) surveillance society with official cameras monitoring everyone (great job for secret agent voyeurs). The story line is driven by Jeremy who tossed the glitter for parking lot encounters. Although the vigilantes stalking and assaulting the free public sex crowd never comes across as realistic as it seems (hard to get it up even the outrage when it appears the transgressions are relatively minor unless you're a Bible thumper politician). Readers will enjoy this fine character study mindful of Benjamin Franklin's cautionary adage that "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither."

Blood Wedding
P.J. Brooke
Soho Press
853 Broadway , New York, NY 10003
1569475296, $25.00,

In 1947 in Diva, Spain near Grenada, the villagers are stunned by the murder of beautiful vivacious graduate student Leila Mahfouz, who was writing her thesis on the impact of the Spanish Civil War on this village. Scottish-Spanish Sub-Inspector Max Romero, who serves as the police liaison to the large Muslim community, helps the local cops investigate the homicide since the prime suspect has ties to the Muslims.

However, politicians see an opportunity to seize more power since a Muslim is involved; more so when the prime suspect commits suicide. They launch a controversial inquiry into the "European Training Centre for Young Muslim Entrepreneurs". Romero also must cope with affluent influential antiterrorists who want the Muslim center closed and its leaders locked away using the Mahfouz murder as a convenient excuse. He also believes the homicide is more likely tied to her research into mid 1930s Diva; perhaps even the death of poet Federico García Lorca over a decade ago.

This is not an easy read as there are so many subplots and threads that go in various directions, which eloquently but sprawling brings to life time and place. The fully developed characters also enhance the feelings that the reader is in 1947 in a small village in Spain comprehending life after WWII under the reign of the only surviving Fascist dictator. Fans who appreciate an interesting historical police procedural will want to read this engaging look at an official investigation during Franco's reign.

Murder in the Latin Quarter
Cara Black
Soho Press
9781569475416, $24.00

In 1997 the world remains stunned with the recent death of Princess Di; especially shook is Paris where the car accident occurred. Soon after the tragedy, illegal Haitian Mireille enters the office of private investigator Aimee Leduc proclaiming they are half sisters; having the same biological father Jean-Claude; her mother was tortured and murdered soon after giving birth by Duvalier's thugs. Aimee still grieving the recent death of her fiance (see Murder in the Rue de Paradis) needs to know if the woman is pulling a sham and why or is she telling her the truth.

Soon after her stunning proclamation, Mirelle vanishes. She leaves behind an odd mysterious note with an address in the Latin Quarter. Aimee goes there to learn what she can about her maybe half sister. She finds the building houses an anatomy research facility that includes a corpse of a black male missing an ear who she learns is Professor Azacca Benot. Others associated with the late professor are also murdered while a Haitian trade delegation argue over a water deal with a French company.

This is an excellent entry in one of the best series around as the tale plays out on multiple fronts to include the Mireille mystery, the impact of economic globalization colliding with post-colonial nationalism politics and their convergence at the homicide of a Haitian expatriate professor in the Left Bank. The story line is vintage Leduc as she desperately seeks her missing maybe sister to learn whether they truly are siblings. Though for the most par her sleuthing partner Rene plays an even lesser role than usual, Cara Black provides a strong look at late 1999s Paris where the past and the then present crash resulting in MURDER IN THE LATIN QUARTER.

Buried Strangers
Leighton Gage
Soho Press
9781569475140, $24.00

In the Brazilian Rain Forest near Sao Paulo, Brazil, Herbert the "Mop" sheepdog finds a human bone. His owner Hans escorts local cop Yoshiro Tanaka, pathologist Gilda Caropreso, and others to the location of a grave. They soon realize they have found an unmarked mass grave site.

In Brasilia, Federal Police Chief Inspector Mario Silva persuades his reluctant boss Nelson Sampaio to allow him and his top investigators Hector Costa and Arnaldo Nues to look into the mass graves in spite of the politically connected supervisor wanting the case buried before it harms tourism and his career. Each victim including the two dozen children had a body part removed leading Sampaio to fear a cult involvement will keep the westerners home and he will have to answer why. While Tanaka tries to extort money from his inquiries, Silva and his comrades begin to tie the deaths to the Sao Paulo travel agency whose customers were allegedly heading to North America, but never left the country. The killer remains unknown.

The second Brazilian police procedural (see BLOOD OF THE WICKED) is an exciting whodunit made more fascinating by the corruptness of Tanaka. The story line is fast-paced while providing readers with an intriguing look at the country's largest city. Fans will be engaged with this tense crime caper as the local cop competes with the Federal Police trying to uncover the identity of the culprit for different reasons; one wants to make a lot of real money while the others want to solve the case.

The Drowning Pool
Jacqueline Seewald
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive
Waterville, ME 04901
9781594147555, $25.95,

In Webster's Township, New Jersey police detective Lieutenant Mike Gardner is assigned the investigation of womanizer Rick Bradshaw, who was found dead in his apartment complex swimming pool. Mike is mentoring former NYPD cop with a chip Bert St. Croix on the inquiry, which takes place in la Reine Gardens where his girlfriend psychic librarian Kim Reynolds lives.

They quickly learn the victim was stabbed to death before being dumped into the pool. There are plenty of suspects, women who he loved and left, and their cuckolded men. Rick, a single father raising two children, has Kim help him with the case. With no progress, Rick and Bert arrange an encounter at the DROWNING POOL between all the suspects with Kim in attendance as an observer.

THE DROWNING POOL is an entertaining romantic police procedural with psychic elements that are not used until the final confrontation unlike what happened in THE INFERNO COLLECTION. Although the investigation bogs down with no progress, sub-genre fans will enjoy the relationships between Kim and Mike, him and his kids, and especially him with Bert; whereas he uses brains and psychology, she carries a chip and guilt on her big body while preferring brawn.

Heart of the Ronin
Travis Heermann
Five Star Books
1594147795, $25.95

In thirteenth century Japan, orphaned seventeen years old Ken'ishi is a Ronin, a samurai without a master at a time when a recent peace after years of war have left many warrior unfettered and turning to crime to survive. Accompanied by Akao the dog, he carries a legendary sword Silver Crane that "talks" to him, which someone so young should not own. As he wanders the countryside, Ken'ishi saves the life of Kazuko, a daughter of powerful Lord.

Prepared to mysteriously vanish as he always does following a heroic deed, Ken'ishi instead is trapped inside treachery as he feels he must keep Kazuko safe. Soon the Ronin ponders who is ally and who is betrayer as paid assassins and monsters out of the myths that should not be alive try to kill him.

The opening Ronin historical Japanese fantasy is an exciting tale that is filled with unexpected but entertaining twists as Ken'ishi protects Kazuko. The story line is action, action, and more action as the adventures never slow down. Sub-genre fans will enjoy trekking along side of Ken'ishi from his opening duel and the villagers' reaction although much is left dangling for the next two tales.

Lost in the Gila
Lois Gilbert
Five Star Books
9781594147326, $25.95

The world most acclaimed archeologist Sr. Adam Richter is planning a dig at a site in the Gila wilderness that has everyone in the filed clamoring for an invitation. The location appears to prove for first time that the Pre-Columbian Teotihuacán civilization stretched beyond Mexico into the United States. Forensic anthropologist Kate Donovan would die to receive an invite, but does not expect to receive one as she has bad reputation for causing problems for excavation teams with her strange paranormal skills that most professionals prefer to ignore Thus she is shocked when Dr. Richter invites her to join the team; she vows to stay out of trouble.

When she arrives at the Gila location, Kate is shocked that her host is missing and has been gone for a few days with no one able to explain or willing to tell her where he went. As the team goes about their work, Kate using her abnormal abilities locates an incredible find of gold and other treasures. She reports her discovery, but the accolades last until the first homicide occurs or perhaps the battle over who gets the glory and fame.

LOST IN THE GILA is an enjoyable on location suspense thriller that grips the audience once Kate gets to work at the site and never slows down as jealousy swamps the excavation and murder places everyone in danger. Readers will be fascinated by the rivalry for credit especially when the Dr. Richter remains missing in action. Although the homicides add tension, they feel a bit forced as the fun in this fine plot lies in the archeological war over who claims what; as an intriguing aside, all the prime players instinctively agree Kate the finder gets none.

Murder by Ancient Design
Kat Goldring
Five Star Books
9781594147487, $25.95

In Texas the Nickleberry Museum board is selecting a new curator amongst four candidates. Ana Parker-Nolan is the acting curator while Mr. Nolan, Professor Stahl, and Dr. Etzui have applied for the position too. Currently the museum prepares for its Aztec exhibit.

High School English teacher Willi Gallagher is on the selecting committee as well as the individual assigned to welcome the candidates; Ana happens to be a close friend. Lately she has received threatening notes, which she has hidden from her Texas Ranger boyfriend Quannah Lassiter as he is busily tracking down three dangerous convicts who escaped from Huntsville. However, Will's world tumbles further out of control when the ancient shapeshifting Jaguar Clan seem to be seeking something from her. When Ana is hurt in what looks like an accident and murders associated with the curator position occur, Willi, living up to her rep as the "Miss Marple of the Range", begins inquiries into the Jaguar Clan not understanding these shapeshifters seek a sacrifice to their ancient god Chacmool.

Much of the first quarter of this enjoyable paranormal mystery starts slowly with a focus on the curator selection. Once the audience meets directly or indirectly the cast, the pace accelerates and never slows down as the intrepid heroine struggles to survive the apparent assault of the Jaguar Clan. Willi and the candidates make for a fun tale as they compete for the position while the menacing shapeshifter adds suspense. Fans will enjoy this fine look at a Texas Museum displaying Aztec culture while murder lurks in the shadows.

Early's Fall
Jerry Peterson
Five Star Books
9781594146787, $25.95

In Randolph, Kansas, Riley County Sheriff James Early sits outside the bank when a robber arrives with a gun. The thief gets nothing because the banker Rance Dalby locks himself in a vault. The robber flees on horseback after hitting James in the head with his gun. Jim gives chase, but the crook escapes. They later find the horse with a brand on it so can identify the felon as Sonny Estes, the son of a local rancher.

As Sonny continues to torment and tease James, someone brutally murders Jewish schoolteacher Judith Smitts in her home. Her husband works for the railroad so is away on business. As Jim, his Deputy Hutch Tolliver and State Trooper Daniel Plemmons investigate the violent homicide that begins to take an international spin of never again revenge; the sheriff's pregnant wife Thelma falls into a deep depression.

This is an engaging late 1940s Jayhawker State police procedural that is at its best when the focus is on the murder of the teacher, Thelma's depression, and as comic relief catching Sonny. When the tale takes a sidebar into a subplot involving President Truman it loses some momentum. Still Jerry Peterson cleverly uses real people like Truman and the lack of medical knowledge of pregnancy related depression to establish the era of an enjoyable regional historical mystery.

Probable Claus
Jon L. Breen
Five Star Books
9781594147340, $25.95

Philanthropist Charlie Baines enters the Baines Building after everyone but security, the cleaning crew, and his obnoxious brother Andrew is gone for the day. Later that same night he informs the guards that the police will be here soon as someone murdered his sibling and when they need to speak to him he will be at his home. Soon afterward the man called Santa Claus by so many in the city is arrested for the murder of his Grinch-brother, planning to tear down a historical site.

The defense team wants a theater like milieu with a decision at Christmas while the prosecution wants the setting more like a church with a decision a few weeks before the holidays. The defense is headed by famous trial layer Gordon Moon,; the second chair is his brother in law Vern Wagstaff; and third chair is newcomer Eve Nyquist. The prosecution is headed by WNBA star Melba "Jumping Jack" Wooten; second chair is Moon's wife and Gordon's sister Agnes; and third chair is Stacy Bamwanger. Complicating matters is Melba's acrophobic boss trial deputy David Ketchum who is falling in love with Eve and Judge Marisol Estrada who used to be a maid to the Wagstaff brood. This is one trial that is all in the family.

Modernizing Miracle on 34th Street with a ficus on the lawyers, PROBABLE CAUSE is an amusing legal thriller though with all the relational cross breeding, one must wonder why the judge is even her using the Scalia argument of impartiality and much of both teams were not tossed as an appeal would have surely raised those issues. Still the cast is solid and their antics fun to follow espcially references to old movies like Miracle on 34th Street. With two late clever twists tying the players together even tighter, fans will enjoy this satirical spin of Santa and legal thrillers.

The Horse Tamer's Challenge
G.K. Aalborg
Five Star Books
9781594147425, $25.95

In 1876, Rebecca Susan Bennett joins her father Otis in the Montana Territory after her mother died. They are delivering wagons and horses to Helena where the paleontologist Edward Cope is forming an expedition. On the trail, the Sugdren gang captures Otis and torture him in order to make him reveal where he hid gold. He escapes without revealing his secret, but dies upon reaching Rebecca; before his death he had his daughter swear she will continue his quest to find her twin sister Amy, abducted by Indians nine years ago.

At a gala hosted by the governor for Cope, Rebecca meets Lucas Swallow, the bone hunter's guide. When he sees her wearing a bear claw as a necklace he asks her where she got it. She says her father was given this by a Metris Luc "The Tamer of Wild Horses" L'Hirondelle for saving his life and that she seeks that man to help find her sister. He accepts her on the Cope expedition though he fears she is too gentle for the rigors of the dangerous terrain and hides that he is the Horse Tamer she seeks. As they fall in love, Sugdren wants to torture her into revealing the gold her late father hid.

This is an exciting western romance starring an intriguing courageous woman who is a fish out of water and a hero who understands the difference between French Canadian, Metris and half breed on the Great Plains where borders mean nothing and how you are classified everything. The story line is fast-paced from the onset when Sugdren and his gang stalk Rebecca and never slows down while the cast for the most part comes across very realistic with human flaws. Fans will enjoy this fine historical.

Vexing the Viscount
Emily Bryan
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0843961341, $6.99,

Over a decade ago, Daisy Drake defeated Lucian Beaumont in a duel with play swords; the scar on his chin is a reminder of his childhood defeat. However, the South Seas Company scandal caused a schism between their families. Now ten years later, Daisy recognizes her childhood friend whom she had not seen in years. They briefly chat before the Viscount leaves to provide a pitch for funding his dig to the members of the Society of Antiquaries as he has recently found ancient Roman relics. No one will support Lucian because his father is blamed for the South Seas Company scandal and subsequent failure; that is no one except Daisy. However, his father holds her uncle culpable for the South Seas Company failure so he cannot accept funds from a Drake if he wants peace.

Daisy's great-aunt Lady Wexford was a renowned courtesan "Isabella" who kept a diary that her niece is reading. She also finds the memoirs of French courtesan Mademoiselle Blanche La Tour. With Isabella urging her, Daisy attends her aunt's masquerade as Blanche; in that disguise she becomes Lucian's investment partner and his tutor on pleasing a lady. The only problem is that his kisses leave her wanting more.

Daisy really works the story line as she is herself during the day especially with her family, Blanche in the evening especially with Lucian, and Miss Clavenhook with Lucian's father who hates all Drakes and would detest Blanche for bringing more scandals to the family. Her masquerades make for a fun historical romance with a bit of suspense brought by unscrupulous people wanting the ancient loot for themselves. Fans will enjoy Daisy and Blanche VEXING THE VISCOUNT, who falls in love with both "women".

Brian Keene
Leisure Books
9780843960891, $7.99

On a deserted island, a group of contestants compete for a million dollars on the reality based show Castaways. The players must live off what is on the island and battle one another in various contests that the producer arranges. The winner of the day is immune from deportation while the group votes on who is exiled. The last person standing wins the prize. The contestants and the support crew assume the island is deserted, but they will learn otherwise.

The natives live in caves, but as the show's participants will learn they are hominid but not quite human. They are covered in fur, never wash or use tools and communicate with one another without speaking in any known language. It is also difficult for their females to become pregnant and those who are born are typically deformed. Their plan is simply one of survival.; they will eat the male intruders and rape the females keeping them pregnant until they no longer can bear their offspring. No rescue for the Castaways is in sight.

Although the tale of a reality TV show on an isolated Pacific island filled with monsters is not new (see Jaci Burton's Surviving Demon Island), Brian Keene refreshes his version by placing his Castaway within a horror version of Christie's And Then There Were None. Fans of Survivor will enjoy the twist as there is no getting off the island for the humans who are either sustenance or child bearers. The island paradise location adds depth to the horrific scenario confronting the show participants as Mr. Keene provides an enjoyable dark twist to reality TV.

Risk Factor
Charles Atkins
Leisure Books
9780843960853, $7.99

Almost forty year old Dr. Molly Katz, single mother of teenagers Josh and Megan, is a third-year resident physician on the psychiatric ward of Boston Commonwealth Hospital. She is shocked and distraught when one of her patients, fifteen years old Garret Jacobs confesses to viciously slaughtering a nurse with a knife. Molly had talked with Garret when he was committed last week with a psychotic diagnosis, but he displayed no violent tendencies. She wonders how she failed to notice his aggression.

However, the obvious closed case for the police that is and not the psychiatric student takes a bizarre twist when a second nurse is brutally bludgeoned to death while Garret is comatose. As she meets with her young patients who run the gamut of mental and emotional issues including violence towards those who love them, Molly increasingly is grateful to God that her two teens seem normal.

This exciting medical thriller focuses on the nature vs. nurture psychology debate; .as Dr. Katz and other professionals mesmerize the audience with the discussions re kids and violence, and the probability diagnosis of future behavior. Another sidebar bewailing the failed health of the insurance system seems a bit forced. Fans will relish this tense tale especially with a shocking twist as Dr. Charles Atkins provides a deep PORTRAIT of teen violent crime with this taut psychological drama.

Killing Castro
Lawrence Block
Hard Case
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843961133, $6.99,

In June 1961, Castro has been in power for two years since his Communist revolution successfully deposed corrupt the dictator Batista. Not everyone is pleased with the change in leadership; especially the Americans who loathe a Soviet beachhead ninety miles from Florida and the many Cuban expatriates who fled to the Miami for safety.

Someone using the name Hiraldo offers a, $100,000 bounty for killing Castro. Five men forge an agreement of sharing the loot equally as they plot to sneak onto the island and take Castro's head with them when they leave. Ray Garrison has never worked with partners when chasing down a bounty; Michael Turner is a cold blooded killer; inexperienced teenager Jim Hines is motivated by his brother's execution; cancer victim Earl Fenton wants to have one good deed in his pocket when he meets his maker shortly; and mercenary Matt Garth sees a solid pay day. In Southern Florida the quintet receives logistical support from the exiled Cuban community who ignore their penchant for violence. Soon they will cross into Cuba heading for Havana and a date with Castro.

Not to long after the Bay of Pigs invasion (April 1961), but prior to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is the time frame of this exciting thriller, a reprint of a 1961 tale; the story line actually reads more as a historical thriller with insight into the beginning of the Castro reign and the end of Batista then the contemporary story when first released. Although the climax is rushed, this novel is character driven and fast-paced especially once the not so magnificent five meet up. Fans will appreciate this fine Lawrence Block thriller while comparing the plot to Castro's five decade reign.

The Summoner
Gail Martin
Solaris Books
c/o BL Publishing
1525 Hulse Road, Unit 1, Pt. Pleasant, NJ 08742
1844164684, $7.99,

Heir to the throne of Margolan, Prince Jared chooses to no longer wait for his father King Bricen to die. He and his mage Foor Arontala assassinate the monarch and the rest of the royal family except one. Warned by a ghost to beware of treachery, Jared's half-brother Martris "Tris" Drayke flees his home. He is accompanied by Captain of the Guard Soterius, the Court Bard Carroway, and the royal guard assigned to the younger prince Harrtuck.

The quartet needs time and allies; as they know Jared and Arontala will hunt them down like rabid dogs. Time is not available as Jared goes after the only living threat to his iron clad rule and allies are not forthcoming at least amongst the living as few are willing to risk their lives in what looks like a lost cause. Feeling he is the SUMMONER heir to his late grandmother, the greatest sorceress ever known, Tris seeks supporters from the ghosts of the dead.

At the same Tris struggles to survive, Jared tightens his control over Margolan and turns to the neighboring Isencroft whose ruler is dying from a spell and whose crops failed from what also looks like dark magic. He demands Princess Kiara Sharsequin marry him or else. Buying time that is running out, Kiara travels to the Sisterhood praying they can save her father and her people; if they cannot she knows her duty is to her people.

This is an exciting opening fantasy thriller with an intriguing premise of a good guy raising an army of the dead. The story line is fast-paced while following the exploits of the beleaguered hero and heroine and the two nasty villains yet allows the audience to understand the people and cultures of the two kingdoms. Although an "outside" force the "Lady" who is not fully explained or developed" slows down the action with intervention at perilous moments, fans will appreciate the opening of the Chronicles of the Necromancer.

The Blood King
Gail Z. Martin
Solaris Books
1844165310, $7.99

In under a year since the assassination of King Bricen by his oldest son, the kingdom of Margolan has gone from wide prosperity to abject poverty. King "Jared the Tyrant" could not care less that people are starving. Instead with the assistance of his notorious blood thirsty fire mage blood practitioner Foor Arontala, he has destroyed the peace pact with the Blood Council; his minion is slaughtering their vayash moru vampires. The evil pair plans to sacrifice the souls of all those they stolen in the Soulcatcher to present as sacrifices to the Obsidian King on Hawthorne night. This will enable the malevolent one to escape the incarceration the Summoner sorceress Bava K'aa placed on him and consequently conquer the Winter Kingdoms.

Jared's younger half-brother Prince Martris "Tris" Drayke is the only other survivor of the family massacre. He remains in hiding pretending to be a peasant struggling to survive in hard times. The Sisterhood reluctantly agrees to train Tris in using his Summoner skill inherited as the grandson of Bava K'aa to fight against Arontalato; that is if he survives the training ordeal

The sequel to THE SUMMONER, THE BLOOD KING is an exciting quest fantasy that continues to move forward towards the anticipated confrontation between the two brothers. The story line is action-packed from the opening though feels a bit padded with a cast of interchangeable expendable pawns as Jared and Arontala have gotten around destroying seemingly a zillion villages that the readers visit and sacrificing quadrillion people for their cause. Still this is a terrific tale as the audience follows the adventures of Tris preparing for the inevitable altercation with his sibling and the evil mage.

Cabal Of The Westford Knight
David S Brody
Martin & Lawrence Press
PO Box 692, Groton, MA 01450
0977389871, $14.95,

In 1398, nearing fifty years old Henry Sinclair led an expedition of 220 sailors and craftsmen on twelve boats that followed a Viking map across the North Atlantic to a place he calls Nova Scotia. The natives gave him the benefit of the doubt that he is their yellow-haired god. Henry kept 23 men including his second cousin James Gunn to further explore the land to the south reaching what is now Massachusetts after he sent back to Orkney, Scotland the rest of the fleet.

Attorney Cam Thorne is returning books to the Westford, Massachusetts Public Library when a girl asks him if he will attend the talk on the legend of Henry Sinclair and the Scottish knights discovering America a century before Columbus arrived. He says no. He intercedes when a bullying Scotsman McLovick demands the elderly Gendron couple sign the quitclaim deed over to him. After seeing his "new" clients leave safely, Cam is accosted by McLovick who warns him he will not tolerate interference; Cam calmly tells the Scotsman to go dance.

However, the attorney with a bad knee is the one dancing for his life as a secret Christian cabal, treasure hunters, and McLovick want him dead. He learns why and concludes to stay alive he better find what they seek: the rumored cache Prince Hal and the Knights of the Templar buried in New England or the Canadian Maritime Provinces

Obvious connections to the Da Vinci Code aside, this is a fresh exciting thriller that uses real six-hundred years old archeological sites and artifacts (including pictures that add a feel of authenticity) and historical theory involving Prince Hal, the Templars, and the Masonic Lodge. The story line is fast-paced with a modern day chase across New England and Maritime Provinces as several people want Cam removed from the hunt. In spite of the villains seemingly inept and not as menacing as they should be; fans will enjoy this exhilarating tale of "Templars at the Newport Tower" and other locales.

The Ride
Tom Brandner
Grey Swan Press
Briar Lane, Marblehead, MA 01945
0980037743, $16.95,

In Lanier County, North Carolina, the driver of a vintage 1955 red Ford truck is going to fast when the vehicle collides with a car containing a mother and her ten years old daughter near the Easy Mart. Thirty-five years old Lanier Auto Body shop owner Carl Lee witnesses the horrific crash and rushes over to see if he can help the truck driver. The driver gives Carl an envelope and tells him to "hide them" just before he dies; the Easy Mart owner Valium addict Stu notices the exchange and plans to confront Carl after he takes another pill. After the police arrive, Carl, not mentioning the envelope or the death request, tows the truck to his shop in nearby Kinston.

Inside the envelope is a gold key that the deceased had warned Carl to hide. When no once claims the truck, Carl restores it and gives it to his septuagenarian grandfather Thaddeus James as a birthday present. Thaddeus is exhilarated with his gift that he names Rita. Soon the two generations will learn why the dead man warned Carl as THE RIDE into the past begins with an attempt to save a long dead loved one Becky from the damned.

Tom Brander provides horror fans with a wild ride into a hellish past as Tad and Carl learn about the gold key, the truck, and nefarious evil essences starting with the seemingly invincible Gray Man. The story line is faster than the speed the truck was driven at just before the crash. Carl is a fascinating protagonist who is a caring rogue, but it is Tad with his obstinate need to enter hell for his heavenly cause that will bring readers along for THE RIDE.

Voodoo Laws
Jim Michael Hanson
Dark Sky Publishing
218 S. McIntyre Way, Golden, CO 80401
0976924374, $13.95,

Denver police homicide detective Bryson Coventry leads the official investigation into the murder of affluent lawyer Ryan Ripley in a sleazy part of town known for cheap street hookers; inside his home is found a voodoo doll with a needle through an eye. Soon afterward, someone fires a shot at either Coventry or his girlfriend Ta'Venza Oceana while they sit in his 1967 Corvette; outraged that the bullet destroyed his window, he curses the miscreant who would harm a car like his, vowing justice.

Meanwhile attorney Mackenzie Lee has a new client, Erin Asher, who claims the prime suspect in another homicide and the abduction of Lindsay Vail could not have committed either of those crimes as she is his alibi. She asserts she has seen the accused stalk her. Coventry assigns detective Coyote to conduct surveillance on Mackenzie while a second murder tied to voodoo occurs at Ripley's law firm.

Soon the seemingly separate cases tie together with Coventry being cursed by a practitioner who employs VOODOO LAWS. The merged trails lead him to New Orleans and its voodoo shops.

The latest Coventry "Laws" police procedural is a terrific entry that has all the magic of the previous six and more. This time the hero is voodoo death cursed as he struggles to connect the dots that seem unrelated. Fans will enjoy this superb entry especially when the missing links are found in Denver and refreshingly New Orleans; as the hero is forced out of the Mile High City by the direction of the investigation. As always the audience needs to drink coffee with this fun tale in which a cursed Coventry curses those who could harm a classic car.

A.J. Scudiere
Griffyn Ink
3004 Laurel Creek Drive, Grapevine, TX 76051
0979951003, $9.99,

Isolated scientific researchers are working their projects separately at the same time, but each draws similar concerned conclusions on the phenomena they study. Geologist David Carter finds an anomaly that frightens him as his research affirms an isolated reverse polarity that he believes is the part of the natural magnetic polar shift that occurs every 65 million years or so. Biologist Becky Sorensen finds a strange frog species that has two extra hind legs in what the scientist wonders might be an abrupt evolutionary change and acts radically different than other amphibians as if they prepare for a radical shift; that is scary but it is her aviary and insect findings of changing migratory patterns in terms of direction and time that makes the scientist wonder if the planet's magnetic poles are reversing. CDC medical researchers Jordan Abellard and Jillian Brookwood are looking into several similar but localized epidemics of sudden death syndrome amongst people of all ages; they so far have failed to find the hotspot link that ties the locations together and somehow not spread beyond a particular radius; as if being at the wrong place at the wrong time literally means death.

Soon each of them and others will understand the greatest crisis to hit humanity has begun. The poles are switching magnetism and none know how to stop. Time is running out on what may prove a natural disaster of dinosaur proportions.

This is an exciting science fiction thriller that for about three fourths of the story line sets up the magnetic shift catastrophic disaster. The four lead characters rotate perspective as each with their differing scientific expertise draw the same conclusions. The last part of the novel takes an odd spin (pun intended) with the description of the shifted earth feeling more metaphysical fantasy than post apocalyptic physical sci fi. Still with a strong science base that is not dumped down, A.J. Scudiere's well written thriller will resonate with the readers as the earth no longer spins on its axis like it has for the last 65 million years.

A.J. Scudiere
Griffyn Ink
0979951011, $9.99,

The retirement plan of the Kurev mob family is death; either naturally or by hitmen. No one just leaves alive. Cynthia Beller and Lee Maxwell understand that first hand as her father Claymore and Lee, accountants at the same firm working the blood money of the Kurev mob, tried to quit at different times. Nine years ago Claymore and his family except for his daughter Cynthia were murdered; three years ago, Lee survived the hit, but his wife and daughter were killed. Each of the survivors vowed separately vengeance.

They meet for the first time as Cynthia having just finished a kill is about to leave when Lee enters the abode to assassinate the same thug. They encounter one another twice more before agreeing they have the same list and strategic BHAG. They agree to team up to destroy the Kurev family by dividing up the kills. Meanwhile though sympathetic to their cause and respecting them as he loves his wife and daughter that he might seek vengeance too if they were harmed, FBI agent Owen Dunham struggles with capturing the Grudge Ninja vigilante serial killer preying on the mob.

This is an exhilarating serial killer thriller that hooks the audience because the key three players seem vulnerably human with remorse, regret, and resoluteness. The vivid story line is action-packed especially with the scenes of the kills. However, A.J. Scudiere's tense thriller belongs to the Grudge Killer(s) and the cop reluctantly trying to bring them to the legal justice system even as he believes their vigilante justice is just.

Magic Happens
Cathy Corcoran
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595450992, $16.95,

Just outside Boston, former Raytheon cubicle mates, engineers Bob and George, open up their own firm B&G Enterprises in the Hingham Shipyard. Bob persuades his wife Kate to buy a million dollar plus home for them and their six years old daughter, but the firm failed to survive in time for its birthing; two months after his proclamation B&G was dead.

While Bob hides in his bed with growing depression, Kate brings in income as a public relations consultant that does not come close to paying off the credit card loans Bob took out or the mortgage. Being a recovering alcoholic who attended AA even before her spouse's business collapse, Kate finds herself desperately needing a drink as the meetings no longer help. Needing to release her stress caused by the incredible debt and the wallowing in self pity undependable Bob, Kate joins the local gym that her friend took her too as that was cheaper than psychotherapy. To the shock of heterosexual Kate she wants her female drill instructor leading the aerobics Lou. While at work she has issues with her boss Alden at the Social Welfare League. Kate is in the middle of a major period of change.

This is an excellent character study as Cathy Corcoran provides an inspiring insightful look at a working suburban mom struggling with a world she no longer recognizes. First there is formerly dependable Bob in so a deep funk that he cannot get out of bed. Then there is her problem with Alden, which she can no longer walk away from as that job is the only source of income, making her feel trapped and in need of a drink. Finally there is Lou, who has Kate wondering if all these years she was a closet lesbian and not aware of it. Cutting across all is the money problem, as Lou puts it so eloquently "sh*t happens", but Kate believes the corollary MAGIC HAPPENS too.

Posed for Murder
Meredith Cole
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312378564, $24.95,

Ever since she can remember photographer Lydia McKenzie wanted to have a solo exhibit of her work. Her dream comes true when Jacques Bulan displays her photos at his Bulan Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The pictures are that of models posed as dead people from the Lost Girls book. The author photographed the actual corpses while Lydia duplicated the victims using her friends. Her exhibit is interrupted when two NYPD detectives Romero and Wong arrive. They inform Lydia that one of her models Marie LaFarge was killed and posed just like the photo she was in.

When Jacques calls her to inform her he has a client interested in buying her work, she rushes over to the gallery only to find Bulan murdered and no one else on site. At her apartment, she stops to pick up her mail which includes an unmarked envelope. Inside is a photograph of Jenna looking dead; identical to the one Lydia took. Soon afterward, the killer trashes Lydia's apartment leaving behind a note stating she is next. Instead Emma, another friend who posed for her is missing; a photo arrives in gory detail. When Lydia is kidnapped, she escapes along with Emme, but knows her life is in danger unless she can take down the culprit.

POSED FOR MURDER won the St. Martin's Minotaur/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and readers will see why. The plot flows smoothly with a wonderful whodunit and why keeping reader attention. The key characters especially the beleaguered heroine are fully developed and either are involved in the murders or her job as a "Girl Friday" at D'Angelo Investigations, owned by comedic brothers Leo and Frankie D'Angelo and their authoritarian Mama. Readers will admire Lydia for her New York City grit and courage as she takes charge of her life although she fears the killer. This is a fun opening tale, which hopefully is the start of more amateur sleuth adventures.

The Caryatids
Bruce Sterling
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780345460622, $25.00,

In 2060 the world has changed from nations competing for resources into three major groups fighting one another for supremacy of an earth beyond the brink of pandemic collapse. Each wants control of the dwindling resources once coveted by countries. Headquartered in Los Angeles is the Dispensation based on the amalgamation of money, entertainment and high tech. The Green crowd Acquis still hopes to build a utopia on the dying planet. Finally the only nation still breathing, China survives by destroying its people as expendable pawns.

In addition to the geo-political-corporate rivals, there also exist three Caryatids female clones of a Balkan war criminal living on a space station and their brother. The Dispensation control Radmila tries everything to ignore her roots. The Acquis own Vera who wants to save her birthplace Mljet Island, Croatia. In China Sonja is a highly regarded medical expert who risks her life to help others. Finally there is also their brother Djordje the businessman. With the globe nearing its final death, Dispensation's John Montgomery Montalban, husband to Radmila and lover of Vera and Sonja, tries to unite the Caryatid women in a desperate Hail Mary plan. His problem is that the female clones hate one another almost as much as they loathe their orbiting mother.

This is a superb cautionary science fiction thriller that makes the case that even a super-person or three is not enough to clean up mankind's path of environmental destruction as long as world leaders and complacent people prefer to bushwhack with alibis any efforts to turn around the trends. The wannabe hero has a superego that has him believe only he can broker the deal to save the world. Fascinatingly the titled females share much in common as clones and with their hatred, but each is different in outlook bringing uniqueness to the mix. Although the story line in some ways feels like three novellas (each female's tale) tied together with a save the world in spite of humanity overarching theme, fans will relish this post-apocalyptic dying earth saga.

Dragon in Chains
Daniel Fox
Del Rey
0345503058, $15.00

The pirates of the ship Shalla led by Captain Li Ton kill Master Doshu the scribe and take prisoner his young apprentice-servant Han. Another pirate raiding party brings a boy Yerli they captured from his master a fake magician they killed. Li needs a new cabin boy, but only wants one child who will obey once he loses a finger or two. He asks the candidates what skills they possess. Han says he can read; Li explains he is not needed as he is the only one allowed to read. Yerli says he can see the future; Li insists only he chooses the future. Li forces a dual between the boys with the winner having a job and the loser a swim. Instead Yerli shows Han what he sees before leaping into the sea; Han becomes contaminated with magic even as he is the new cabin slave.

On Taishu Island, the exiled young Emperor Chien is in hiding when a local brings him a magical jade. Meanwhile Li and his crew kill monks who kept an ancient sea dragon chained just off the island; Han takes over the burden of keeping the monster contained. Their adventures have just begun.

This is a terrific medieval fantasy that captures the essence of Chinese mythology. The story line is fast-paced as Han ends up in one misadventure after another while serving a brutal pirate captain. Fast-paced from the onset, the opening adage sums up the saga: "When dragons bleed, they bleed in gold. When they weep, they weep in jade". Humans want both so they need dragons to bleed and weep. Fans who relish something different in their quest fantasy will appreciate DRAGONS IN CHAINS as pirates, monks, mages, and two boys make for a stirring Chinese historical fantasy.

Flight Into Darkness
Sarah Ash
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553805208, $24.00,

When the Kingdom of Francia's chief Inquisitor Alois Visant executed the entire College of Thaumaturgy for violating the taboo of practicing magic; "alchymist" Linnaius and his apprentice Rieuk Mordiern are the only survivors of the fiery massacre. Rieuk went underground to survive, but after escaping more harrowing scenarios (see TRACING THE SHADOW) he inadvertently frees the critical guardian spirit Azilis who maintains order between the living and the dead.

Although he wishes for the days of being a bored housekeeper, Rieuk learned one thing from his master; fulfill one's duty. He must return Azilis to her position as guardian. However, time is running out as the Seven Dark Angels of Destruction are on the march and Azilis has no interest to go back to her tedious role as guardian spirit. Instead she prefers being personal guardian to highly regarded singer Celestine de Joyeusse; although her inhuman talent has Visant and his Inquisition agents looking closely at her for signs of magic; a skill they found in her father before burning him to death.

Located in the Tears of Artamon realm just after the events of the CHILDREN OF THE SERPENT GATE, the conclusion to the two-book Alchymist's Legacy saga is a superb entry that showcases how Francia's enemies see their rivalry and the overall world. The exhilarating story line is fast-paced answering the too many major threads left dangling from the first story. Fans will relish the escapades of the reluctant champion, the hesitant heroine, and the guardian who brings them together as daemons invade, but fans should read TRACING THE SHADOW first as FLIGHT INTO DARKNESS is a direct sequel.

Super In The City
Daphne Uviller
Bantam Books
0385342691, $12.00

In New York City, twenty-seven years old Zephyr Zuckerman has quit school and a relationship so is undecided what to do next especially since unemployment makes her choices somewhat limited. Her friends encourage her to be all that she can be, but offer nothing specific as they have issues too. Divorced scientist Tag travels the world in search of a party to crash. Lucy the social worker seeks Mr. Right via ten dollar bills. Mercedes the violinist has a famous boyfriend and plenty of doubts. Professor Abigail tries the Internet for her dates.

When the super at her parents' Greenwich Village brownstone is taken away by the cops, Zephyr takes the job as she figures how hard is using a plunger. She begins to learn the dark criminal secrets of the tenants, which leads to two groups investigating her as the Feds assume she is working for the mob in the Village and the Mob assumes she is working for the Feds in the Village. The behavior of her friends only affirms what the Feds and the Mob believe.

Over the top of the Empire State Building, SUPER IN THE CITY is perhaps the best urban chick-lit tale in the last few years. The story line is fast-paced from the opening lies and transgressions and never slows down until the final desperate effort to clear her name before either undercover group takes drastic action. Humorous and satirical with no respites, fans will enjoy Daphne Uviller's irreverent biting of the Big Apple.

Blood and Ice
Robert Masello
Bantam Books
0553807285, $24.00

In 1856 British 17th Lancers Lieutenant Sinclair Copley and Florence Nightingale's Harley Street Hospital Nurse Eleanor Ames are in love. However, on the 28th of December the pair falls overboard from the HMS Coventry sloop in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean near Antarctica. Neither body is found.

In November of the present in Seattle, writer Michael Wilde needs time away from to escape a tragedy that haunts his sleep since he lost his beloved Kristin who lies in a coma; her residence being that ward of Tacoma General Hospital. Whereas her parents believe she will soon come home; he knows she is no longer there as in his mind her soul moved on. Thus he accepts an assignment from Eco-Travel Magazine to write an article on Point Adelie Research Station in Antarctica. Michael finds two bodies frozen in a block of ice; each chained. Shockingly once the ice is melted, Sinclair and Eleanor are alive.

This excellent paranormal thriller hooks the audience even before the rescue as both the present and past rotate somewhat perspective with each subplot fascinating. The story line is fast-paced and filled with chills; not all from the weather conditions as readers and Michael need to know the facts re the mysterious nineteenth century couple for personal reasons perhaps more than simple curiosity.

The Victoria Vanishes
Christopher Fowler
Bantam Books
9780553805024, $25.00

In popular London pubs, middle age women simply collapse and die. Initially there is no evidence of foul play; especially as all the witnesses insist nothing happened except the woman dropping dead and pathologist Oswald Finch recently died so no follow-up occurred.

Everything changes when Peculiar Crimes Unit senior detective Arthur Bryant claims he was with victim Carol Wynley just before she died outside the Victoria Cross; an edifice torn down over eight decades ago in 1925. Since the elderly sleuth misplaced Finch's urn containing his last remains, everyone even his partner Senior Detective John May worries about his senility. Still they investigate while the brass considers closing down PCU starting with the sale of their building and the addition of by the standard operating procedures Sergeant Jack Renfield.

The latest PCU police procedural (see TEN SECOND STAIRCASE and WHITE CORRIDOR) is a fabulous single sitting thriller that hooks the audience throughout the exhilarating story line as fans like the cops will wonder if this is an urban fantasy or Arthur suffers from senility. The need to know what is going on makes for a delightful tale as the PCU members visit pubs and uncover a religious relic that frightens and elates their blood while beginning to connect the dots of a murderous conspiracy. Christopher Fowler provides a strong entry that lives up to the peculiar label of this sleuthing unit.

Crash Into Me
Jill Sorenson
Bantam Books
9780553592016, $6.99

FBI Agent in Charge Leland Grant assigns Special Agent Sonora "Sonny" Vasquez to investigate the SoCal Strangler killings in the ritzy Torrey Pines section of San Diego. The prime suspect is world class professional surfer Ben Fortune, whose wife Olivia died three years ago in a similar but sloppier stabbing. A drifter confessed to the killing of Olivia, but recanted just before he committed suicide. The only clue to the rape and strangling is fiber from a wet suit.

Being from San Diego, Sonny uses the name Summer Moore when she notices Ben's out of wedlock sixteen year old daughter Carly sneak out of their upscale home at night. She follows only to see Carly dive in to the cold Pacific; Summer follows her into the water and rescues Carly. The teen informs her dad Summer rescued her. He invites Summer to a casual dinner to which she says no until he explains Carly will be there too. Ben's best friend John Thomas "JT" Carver arrives to insure Carly is okay. Carly was not committing suicide as she accidentally slipped from a rock. Instead she is a cutter. Her friend Lisette Bruebaker sneaks into Ben's bed as she wants sex with him. He is startled and tells her to leave; Lisette runs out of the house. Soon afterward, Lisette is found dead at sea by Carly's "pretend" boyfriend and his family; the evidence points towards Ben, whom Summer likes.

The lead couple is a strong pairing as each brings issues to the relationship as well as the problem of her being an undercover cop investigating him. The support cast is solid as they enhance either the story line or insight into the lead couple. Although the discovery of Sonny's expanded family is a bit too much coincidence, the investigation into the serial killings is cleverly done as the audience will enjoy this well written surf's up police procedural romance.

The Lost Recipe for Happiness
Barbara O'Neal
Bantam Books
9780553385519, $13.00

Although two decades have past since the horrific accident in Espanola, New Mexico that killed her sister and boyfriend and scarred her, Elena Alvarez remains mentally disturbed. Her only escape from the nightmares and ghosts is cooking, which she studied in Europe before returning to Vancouver as a chef at the Blue Turtle where her Santa Fe roots and his French cuisine merged. When the local paper features her instead of her boss Dmitri, he fires her.

Slasher film director and Blue Turtle restaurant owner Julian Liswood tasted talent in Elena's meals at the Blue Turtle. He offers her the position of executive chef at his new Aspen restaurant; she accepts. In Aspen, she works diligently on the menu in order to compete with a city known for food almost as much for skiing. She also finds herself falling in love with her employer, the divorced several times Julian.

Although a passionate contemporary culinary romance has been done many times, THE LOST RECIPE FOR HAPPINESS is kept fresh by the haunting of Elena who literally cannot go home and the failures at marriage of Julian; although the latter pales in comparison on the trauma indicator. The pair shares in common a passion for food and each other while both fears relationships as they always end in failure. With a nod to The Importance of Being Earnest, Barbara O'Neal cooks up a tasty gourmet meal.

The Map of Moments
Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Bantam Books
9780553384703, $12.00

It has been six months since history Professor Max Corbett left his position at Tulane to take a job at Tufts in Boston. His reason for leaving New Orleans had nothing to do with securing a better teaching post. He entered the apartment of his nineteen years old lover Gabrielle to find her having sex with a fellow student. Unable to move past the betrayal, he left town. He returns to attend Gaby's funeral; she died during Katrina with her corpse not discovered for several weeks after the storm. At the funeral, Gaby's cousin Corrine Doucette introduces Max to Ray, an elderly man who paid for the funeral as Katrina wiped out Corrine and their family disowned Gaby.

The two men go to Coopers where Ray offers Max an astonishing deal. If he follows a map of New Orleans' magical moments, he can save Gaby's life. Max takes the map and a potion which he drinks. The first moment appears on the map; the founding of the city; the next is that of a priest's magical voice blocking the shadows. Others follow until the seventh are the Tordu dark mages ruling New Orleans from the shadows. It is the eighth moment if Max survives the Tordu who want him dead that can save the city if the professor takes proper action even as he wonders how his beloved Gaby is tied to these evil practitioners.

As they did with London's MIND THE GAP, Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon make a strong dark urban fantasy team who once gain anchor the magic inside the mundane. Max hopes to save Gaby by witnessing the moments, but remains unaware that both the forces of good and evil are manipulating him for their respective cause. His observations and his actions to stay alive turn him into a stronger person than the one who fled rather than confront his cheating late girlfriend; he will soon face a greater more perilous confrontation between his mission and the city. Sub-genre fans will look forward to another urbanized collaboration between these two wonderful authors.

Men of the Otherworld
Kelley Armstrong
Bantam Books
9780553807097, $22.00

"Infusion". In 1946 in New York City the Japanese bar maid abetted by two other sorceresses seduced Malcolm Danvers, who to his chagrin wanted her in spite of loathing the race following the war. He knows she is pregnant and watches her stomach grow. He hunts her and kills her. When he goes to kill their half-breed offspring, his crippled father Edward, who he scorns for failing to become the Alpha as expected of a Danvers, demands he bring his half-breed abomination to the Pack to be raised by them; they call him Jeremy.

"Savage". In 1967 in Baton Rouge, the six year old child watched from the trees the adult change. He decided he wanted that skill too, so he blackmails the wolf into biting him. However, no one was there to mentor Clayton with the change until Jeremy took him under his wing two years after the bite. As Clayton learns to control his nature, Pack member Malcolm resents him for becoming Jeremy's favorite.

"Kitsunegari". In 2007 Jeremy has become the American Pack leader. He is wating for his Jaime to finish work when he meets a fox spirit, who insists she is for him as befitting the last Kogitsune while trying to seduce him.

Following up to her wonderful Women of the Otherworld saga (see LIVING WITH THE DEAD and PERSONAL DEMON), Kelly Armstrong provides fascinating tales of the males of the American Pack. Within "Infusion" and "Savage", there is insight into other male werewolves, which gives the collection a sort of anecdotal feel yet still focuses on the prime characters as described above. Ms. Armstrong once again provides a terrific urban fantasy anthology with this werewolves in New York compilation.

Harold and Me: My Life, Love, and Hard Times with Harold Robbins
Jann Robbins
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765300034, $25.95,

In 1982 in Oklahoma City, Jann Stapp received a call that Harold Robbins will interview her for the temporary job of his personal assistant. Down to a box of cereal and two cats, she was excited by the possibility as she knew her grandma, her mom, and her aunt were fans of the renowned author. She was also frightened as she read the Pirate the night before her trip to Los Angeles for the interview that changed her life. He hired her and remained in the job for the next ten years as an assistant to the volatile hard living Robbins. In 1992 she became his wife and was with him until he died five years later.

Although the biography obviously focuses on Harold Robbins, his widow provides a deep perspective into their relationship. Even as Ms. Robbins descriptions are somewhat rose colored to include the hard times when he was over the edge, she captures the essence of her late spouse whose genius was entertaining the public with intense passionate tales; the same way he lived life. Obviously for fans of Harold Robbins or celebrity biographies, HAROLD AND ME: MY LIFE, LOVE, AND HARD TIMES WITH HAROLD ROBBINS is an intriguing insight into the king of the titillating raucous thriller.

The Red Siren
M.L. Tyndall
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781602605251, $10.97,

Outraged that with her father away, her sister Charity was forced to marry an abusive man, Faith Westcott vows never her and if she can help it and never her two other sisters Grace and Hope too. During the day she is a lady charming the ton, but at night she becomes a notorious pirate bringing in needed loot to keep the abusers away.

British naval officer Captain Dajon White leaves his patrolling of Coastal Carolina for home because he has an obligation there. Off of Portsmouth, England, he rescues Faith only to have her take over his ship. Ashamed as the Lady Em was his father's gem, Dajon vows to hunt down the she pirate who humiliated him and all other pirates. However, first he must deal with the obligation of taking guardianship of the unmarried Westcott siblings.

Though the plot of a sea pirate besting a male at sea is not new, fans will fully appreciate the fine opening Charles Town Belles' tale. Faith is an interesting lead character as she lost her faith in God with what happened to Charity and has turned to piracy to keep it from happening to her and her other sisters. Dajon has family issues too as he feels he fails to live up to his father's reputation. Known for her buccaneer historical romances, M. L. Tyndall provides another fine at sea thriller.

Gingham Mountain
Mary Connealy
9781602601413, $10.99

In 1870 in Sour Springs, Texas Martha Norris leaves two more orphans with cattle rancher Grant Cooper. The boy Charlie has an attitude as he understands being a rejected leftover and the frightened little girl Libby has a noticeable limp. Still he will give them a home at the Rocking C Ranch and ask them like his other wards to pitch in at the spread.

New schoolmarm Hanna Cartwright meets Grant as he picks up the two orphans and concludes he is a slave-owner who will over work these children; part of her conclusion is his failure to shave and his smell as he raced from working cattle to meeting the orphan train. She plans to limit Grant's exploitation of Charlie and Libby by keeping them in school as often as she can. As meddling Hannah gets in his way, Grant falls in love with her; to her chagrin she reciprocates though she also reconsiders her initial opinion that he is a child labor abuser. However, he has other problems as two swindlers learn of black gold on his land; they arrange with Prudence the seamstress "Shirt Lady" with a grip that could bring a grown man to his knees to steal his land. Only Charlie stands in their way.

The latest Lassoed in Texas historical romance (see PETTICOAT RANCH and CALICO CANYON) is a wonderful tale in which the cast stands out as fully developed; not just the lead couple. Readers as much as Grant will be hooked by precious Libby whose champion is courageous out of control Charlie. The story line is fast-paced once Hannah makes it clear she thinks Grant is an amoral child abuser and never slows down. However, it is Charlie who brings the freshness with his escapades that will have the audience agreeing with Libby he is our hero too.

Stand-in Groom
Kaye Dacus
9781602605244, $4.95

In Bonneterre Louisiana, English expatriate George Laurence and wedding planner Ann Hawthorne meet in a restaurant through her cousin Forbes the lawyer, who tells each they are not meant to be. The next day, George and his fiancee Courtney Landry enter Ann's wedding-planning office, Happy Endings, to hire her to plan their nuptials. The six foot size eighteen Ann is disappointed once again while George is despondent because he cannot tell this Amazonian woman he wants her with all his soul and the truth being that he is not the groom; his employer is. If he reveals the masquerade he will be returned to England.

As Ann and George work together on his wedding, their initial attraction turns to love. He desperately wants to tell her the truth even if that means deportation, but he now fears that she will reject him having been burned by her now famous former fiance, Cliff Ballantine who is back in the picture.

Fans of amusing contemporary romances with an interwoven inspirational message will enjoy this fine tale of misconceptions and forgiveness. Ann sets up the theme early on when she turns to God to whine that the Lord is punishing her for her inability to forgive Cliff by having her plan the wedding of a man she believes is her soul mate. Kaye Dacus provides a warm Bayou romance as to forgive is human; to fall in love is divine.

The Piano Teacher
Janice Y. K. Lee
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0670020486, $25.95,

In 1952, recently married to Martin, Claire Pendleton arrives in Hong Kong when her spouse is assigned there as the chief engineer of the British colonial government Department of Water Services overseeing the construction of the Tai Lam Cheung Reservoir. Wealthy Chinese Melody and Victor Chen want their daughter Locket to receive piano lesions but only an Englishwoman will do as her teacher. Claire accepts the position so she has something to do, but quickly realizes her student has no interest in learning to play the piano.

In 1942 in Hong Kong Will Truesdale and Portuguese-Chinese Trudy Liang share a passionate affair, but the Japanese soon occupy the British colony. Ten years later, he is still in the city working as a driver to the wealthy Chen family. When he and Claire meet, the attraction is incredible. Soon they are having an affair that everyone knows about as neither do a good job hiding their trysts. However, the events of 1942 and who caused what to Will, Trudy, and Victor resurfaces as the good times ended with the Japanese invasion and returned when the war ended, but seem heading to another destructing finish for all involved.

This is an insightful historical fiction that brings to life two closely related periods: surviving the Japanese WW II occupation and recovering just after the occupation and the war is over. The cast is strong as each does what he or she must to live through the ordeal of the 1940s although ramifications still linger as of 1952 when seemingly less life threatening choices once again may lead to tragedy. THE PIANO TEACHER is a strong character study of survival of the fittest which means do whatever one must to live during WW II and its aftermath in Hong Kong

Aunt Dimity Slays the Dragon
Nancy Atherton
Viking Press
9780670020508, $24.95

All the residents of Finch in the Cotswolds even transplanted American Lori Shepherd and her ghostly roommate Aunt Dimity is excited with the preparations for summer when Calvin Malvern announces plans to host a Renaissance Faire. Everyone is euphoric with the idea of wearing historical garb while Calvin as King Wilfred the Good and his team of misfits prepare his uncle's land for the gala.

Everyone loves the fun except village manager and busybody Peggy Taxman and Lori's husband Bill who detest the Faire concept. At the Faire Lori's twin sons have a great time jousting while she enjoys dressing in costume and eating the food. However, Calvin has several near lethal accidents that Lori believes is the work of an assassin while Aunt Dimity tries to slow her down from drawing false conclusions that could place her in danger too.

Die hard fans and newcomers of this paranormal English village cozy will appreciate the latest Aunt Dimitry and Lori collaboration although the expatriate Yank still recklessly jumps head first into the fire from the frying pan in spite of her spirit teammate warning her to be cautious. Still quirky and well written, AUNT DIMITRY SLAYS THE DRAGONS is a fine amateur sleuth mystery, and readers who have shared tea with the paranormal heroine and the curt American over the course of thirteen know what to expect.

C.J. Sansom
Viking Press
9780670020515, $25.95

In 1543 London, Henry VIII courts recently widowed Lady Catherine Parr. He plans to persuade her into becoming his sixth wife. While much of town follow the escapades of the aging royal, hunchbacked barrister Matthew Shardlake remains in shock following the brutal murder of friend Roger Elliard.

Meanwhile Shardlake works the case of a teenage religious fanatic locked up by the King's Council in Bedlam while his parents want him released. As he works the case, Shardlake finds a connection between the Bedlam incarceration, Elliard's homicide and another killing that reaches into the household of Lady Parr. Although fearful of investigating the monarch's latest choice as queen, Archbishop Cranmer persuades Shardlake to do so. He, his assistant Jack Barak and his friend Guy Malton follow clues that lead to other killings and a belief that witchcraft is involved as Bishop Bonner plans a religious cleansing of Protestants.

The latest Shardlake investigative historical thriller (see SOVEREIGN) is a great entry that brings to life the intrigue surrounding the throne as an aging ailing Henry seeks one more spouse. The secondary and tertiary cast is solid, but it is clearly Shardlake's tale as he and his two companions follow clues that lead them to conclude a bloodbath in the name of God is coming. REVELATION is a strong sixteenth century tale starring a hero trying to prevent ethnic cleansing.

Love Without Blood
Raz Steel
Love Spell
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
0505528002, $6.99,

Two strangers break into the home of Dr. Lara West. They demand she remove a bullet from one of the intruders, which she does. Their gratitude is displayed when the one whose bullet she removed decides to taste her pulsing blood; afterward they tie her to a chair and set her house on fire. She escapes and races off to the hospital where she works, but knows her life will never be the same since the intruder sipped her blood.

Bobby the vampire works as a nurse at the same hospital that employs Lara. He took a job there so that he could steal blood without harming people and as a penitence to make up for transgressions he committed when he first converted to a monster. However, the hospital investigates the loss of blood packs while another nurse Meridian Jones tries to uncover Bobby's secrets.

This is a engaging urban romantic fantasy that starts off with an exciting but somewhat confusing bite and never looks back as readers will relish entering the reddish Raz realm; the confusion at the beginning is caused by the readers' expectations cleverly twisted by Mr. Steel. Although the plot is somewhat thin as much of the novel introduces the audience to a world of LOVE WITHOUT BLOOD, fans will be pleasantly surprised once the spin is understood and enjoy a fun look at a "General Hospital" filled with vampires, who like humans, some are moral and others psychopathic predators.

Stolen Fury
Elisabeth Naughton
Love Spell
0505527936, $6.99

In Italy archeologist Dr. Lisa Maxwell puts aside her life goal of uniting the three statues of the Furies, dedicated fifteen years ago when her lover died, for the night. She celebrates her finding her first ancient Greek Furies statue, Alecto, by having a tryst with Rafe Sullivan. However, he seduces and then drugs her. The next morning she is furious and frustrated with herself for letting her hair down and irate with her one night stand lover who turns out to be an art thief. He stole Alecto from her.

She vows to find him and take back what is rightfully her discovery. Her twin brother Chicago detective Shane Maxwell traces Rafe to Key West where he believes he will locate Megaera. Lisa arrives shocking him while making it clear to him that without her he will not have more than the one he took from her. Feeling some guilt, but plotting to abscond with Megaera and Tisiphone when she finds them, Rafe cuts a deal with Lisa. However, other treasure hunters, a lot more dangerous than either Lisa or Rafe combined are on the prowl and willing to kill anyone who possesses any of the Furies. To stay alive and to find the Furies, they need each other; and to fall in love, they need each other.

This is an exciting romantic suspense thriller that starts off hot with the sexual encounter and from there turns up the heart and the action. Rafe is sort of a modern day Hans Solo-Indiana Jones rogue while Lisa is more of the by the book professional. To find the statues and survive, they each need to adapt some of the other's core values; love complicates the already difficult task. Elisabeth Naughton provides readers with a stirring archeological thriller.

Lark and Termite
Jayne Anne Phillips
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th fl., NY, NY 10019
9780375401954, $24.00,

In the last week of July 1950 West Virginia, seventeen year old Lark; her mute younger brother Termite and their Aunt Nonie struggle to survive with none of them having any hope for the near future. Lark is confused by her past starting with her mom who dumped her on her aunt before disappearing and ending with having no idea who her dad is. When she was nine, the infant Termite, who cannot walk or talk, was abandoned on Nonie's doorstep.

Whereas Nonie is filled with fear for herself and her two charges while working overtime at a nearby restaurant to feed the three of them, Lark raises Termite while his father Corporal Robert Leavitt serves in Korea as the war begins. When Lark attends secretarial school, she soon is paralyzed with fear and despair just like her caretaker aunt as she realizes what Nonie knows that the future is at best gloomy for her or Termite.

Four days in July 1950 serve as the basis of this insightful historical character study that enables the audience to look deep inside the souls of the four prime characters and to a lesser degree Lark's mom. LARK AND TERMITE is both sad and uplifting as the audience along with the teen understand that she like her aunt has no future and Termite's is even less than hers; yet Lark has dreams for her and her ward even though they her subatomic tiny, they matter. Something as simple as a means for Termite to be a bit mobile like getting him a wheelchair though that is a dream as money is only for the basic sustenance of food and shelter. This coming of age drama is not an easy read as there is an overall feel of dismal inevitability to the story line, but even in total darkness little bits of hopeful light shine through.

Cutting For Stone
Abraham Verghese
9780375414497, $26.95

In 1947 dedicated to the Lord Sister Mary Joseph Praise leaves Kerala, India for a missionary assignment in Yemen. The voyage mostly by sea is grueling, but Sister Mary has the Lord accompanying her so has no ill affects. She saves the life of Dr. Thomas Stone who is heading to Ethiopia.

Sister Mary and Dr. Stone meet for the first time since their sea trek at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa and she provides him comfort. Sister Mary dies during child birth, but her twin sons Shiva and Marion survive; Thomas never knew although she wrote him a letter explaining all. Adopted by physicians at Missing Hospital, who hide Mary's letter, the brothers thrive over the decades until each becomes a doctor.

This is a terrific twenty century epic that wonderfully blends a family drama and medical practices into an Ethiopian political thriller. The well written story line is told by one of the siblings, who vividly explains, the love he and his twin received from his adopted parents, his discovery of the letter, and especially medicine in war torn Ethiopia and in the battle zone of the New York City slums. Although coincidence allows the major early events to occur the way the do, fans will relish this deep tale of two adopted brothers becoming doctors just like their parents and the biological father they do not know.

Spade & Archer
Joe Gores
9780307264640, $24.00

In 1921 San Francisco, Sam Spade quits the Continental Detective Agency to open up his own private investigative practice; partnering with Miles Archer who he knew married Sam's girlfriend Iva Nolan, when Spade volunteered for war service while he was serving overseas during the Great War. They hire Effie Perine as their secretary.

Sam works on a missing person's case as banking heir Henny Barber vanished, but the sleuth believes he took a ride on the San Anselmo passenger ship to the South Pacific. That case leads Sam into investigating stolen gold coins purloined on the San Anselmo. Though he hands the case to the cops on a gold platter the police blow the case allowing the mastermind to escape.

In 1925, insurance man Ray Kentzler surreptitiously hires Sam to determine the cause of death of banker Collin Eberhard as a homicide, a suicide or unfortunate accident. At the same time a friend of Effie, who still works for Spade & Archer, employs him to find her chest of Bergina.

In 1928 Mai-lin Choi seeks money stolen from her famous father who never recognized his offspring. Her efforts take Spade & Archer back to the 1921 stolen gold coins case and the mastermind of that heist.

This daring prequel to Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon is a great historical private investigative tale that grips the audience from the onset as Spade goes into partnership with Archer. The story line is fast-paced with the sleuthing top rate. The tale would work as a superb one sitting stand alone even without its obvious roots, but the most fun is following the early days of characters who are in the Maltese Falcon as fans will relish Joe Gores' excellent homage to the classic.

Pictures at an Exhibition
Sarah Houghteling
9780307266859, $24.95

In Paris, Max Berenzon attends medical school though he has no desire to be a doctor; in fact he wants to join his father's business and eventually take over the art gallery, but his dad Daniel rejects his desire. Max is also attracted the gallery's assistant, Rose Clement.

When the Nazis occupy Paris, the Jewish Berenzon family goes into hiding in a wine cellar far away from the city. They leave behind priceless paintings. In 1944, with Paris liberated, Max and Daniel learn of the looting of their masterpieces. Max vows to recover the stolen paintings. As he scours the legitimate but crooked dealers, the black marketers, and the Nazi sympathizers, he also seeks Rose.

The key to this excellent look at the missing after WWII Nazi ethnic cleansing is the little innuendoes and hints of anti-Semitism, clues to stolen masterpieces, and insightful angst over not knowing what happened to loved ones but sadly confident whatever occurred was not good. Max makes the tale work as he comes out of the war and his cellar obsessed with finding his father's art collection and Rose while learning paragons of society possess some of his family's masterpieces. Readers will relish traveling France with him as Sarah Houghteling paints a hunting picture of post war Western Europe.

Lois McMaster Bujold
Eos Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061375361, $25.95,

The Malices continue their success of converting helpless humans into murderous "mudmen." The only resistance against the evil Malices remains the Lakewalkers although they remain standoffish without offering pragmatic advice.

Former patroller Dag Hickory was fired and exiled for crossing the forbidden demarcation zone between his peer group and that of the farmers when he rescued Fawn Bluefield from an assault, fell in love with the farmer's daughter, and married her; she too is exiled from her community. He demands the Lakewalkers get involved with the community they claim to protect. He persuades Lakewalker groundsetter to mentor and teach him the magical art of healing, but crosses another taboo line again when he uses his new skill to heal a gravely ill farm child. Dag and his pregnant wife travel through the mountains teeming with mudmen trying to reach the haven of a friend even as the world they may have to leave behind is teetering on the brink of collapse.

The fourth cerebral Sharing Knife fantasy (see PASSAGE, LEGACY and BEGUILEMENT) continues to explore the negative impact of prejudice on people. Each of the three prime groups have vivid pictures of how they see the other two races and cannot move past those deep rooted beliefs even when it negatively impacts their well-being and that of their loved ones. This causes cultural stagnation that stifles potential as everyone is forced into the limited norm, exiled or killed. Bias is so bone marrow deep that the only hope to save the world (Dag and Fawn) is pariahs in the communities they respectively grew up in. Once again Lois McMaster Bujold provides a beguiling thought provoking tale with the audience wondering if a new HORIZON has formed or will distrust of those different continue to rule and destroy.

All the Colours of Darkness
Peter Robinson
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061362934, $24.95,

The corpse of theatre set designer Mark Hardcastle is found dead hanging in Hindswell Woods near the River Swain by boys playing nearby. With Detective Chief Investigator Alan Banks on leave spending time in London with his girlfriend, Detective Investigator Annie Cabbot leads the on-sight inquiry that looks like a suicide. She goes from there to the deceased's home he shares with his significant other Laurence Silbert. There she finds Silbert dead beaten to a bloody mess.

Although on the surface the two deaths appear to be a nasty murder-suicide, Annie and Banks, who has returned to investigate, have some doubts about the obvious as Hardcastle had no motive to kill his lover or himself especially at a time he received tremendous accolades for his work on Othello. Increasingly they wonder if the two scenes were set up to make it look like a murder-suicide as they investigate the activities of the two gay lovers in locales that are dangerous -- even for cops.

This is an excellent one sitting English police procedural, which retains a freshness although it must be the trillionth investigation worked by Banks. The story line is fast-paced as the audience and everyone even Cabbot and Banks believe a murder-suicide is the likely scenario although long time fans will know they can bank on Peter Robinson to do what afterward seems obvious keeping the exciting plot fresh and the reader hooked.

What I Did for Love
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
9780061351501, $25.99

The stars of the popular Sitcom Skip and Scooter simply loathe each other in real life. Actress Georgie York is a feisty beauty while her co-star, the womanizing Bram Shepard is a "Bad Boy" hunk. Bram's latest tryst leads to their show being canceled and both their careers in jeopardy; Georgie has even more reason to detest Bram.

Eight years later neither of their Hollywood careers have recovered from his sexcapade although she has married star Lance Marks. However, he dumps her for a new wife, Jade Gentry, a former perfect 10 actress who has become an international activist saving the world. In Vegas, Bram and Georgie see each other for the first time since the show's debacle when they wake up in the same bed with hangovers and a marriage license. Reluctantly they agree to pretend to stay married as Georgie wants to recover from what her ex has done to her in public and Lance sees a second chance at love to rectify the error of his life.

WHAT I DID FOR LOVE is an amusing satirical look at romance, Hollywood style, which means girl meets boy, girl hates boy, girl loves boy while the matchmaking paparazzi photographs every step in the courtship. Fans will laugh out loud at this amusing tale of beloved enemies as two actors perform their fake relationship so realistically they deserve an Oscar except for one problem; neither needs to act in this particular role. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a master storyteller.

The Best Of Everything
Kimberla Lawson Roby
9780061443060, $23.95

Reverend Curtis Black's daughter twenty-two years old Alicia Black Sullivan expects to be handed anything she wants on a gold platter. Her wealthy daddy always took care of the bills. Her spouse pastor Phillip Sullivan pleads with her to stop running up expenses they cannot afford for purchases they do not need. However, Alicia ignores her husband's beseeching.

Alicia ignores him living her life as if she still was daddy's little girl. Phillip struggles to corral his wife, but her infidelities prove too much. He divorces her. Alicia learns a lesson from the end of her marriage; her second husband will be richer than daddy so he will not care about her spending habits.

Turning from Reverend Curtis (see SIN NO MORE, THE BEST KEPT SECRET, CASTING THE FIRST STONE and TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING) to the next generation, THE BEST OF EVERYTHING contain intriguing twists. This time Alicia is so self centered, Phillip realizes the zillion times he forgave her transgressions only lead her to repeat her negative egotistical behavior; thus recognizing he is no Job, he walks. The other message of redemption can only occur if the person truly in their soul means it to happen; God will know. Although fans of the series will struggle with Alicia's attitude, Kimberla Lawson Roby puts readers to the test: can they forgive such an unrepentant sinner whose only lesson learned from her marriage is to wed someone much wealthier?

The Miracles of Prato
Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz
978006176720, $24.95

In 1457 in Prato, Italy, artist Carmelite Order Monk Fra Filippo Lippi, commissioned to paint a picture for the convent chapel of Santa Margherita, sees the beautiful novitiate Lucrezia Buti and decides immediately he needs to paint her. He asks her to become his model for his paintings and frescoes. Excited she agrees.

However, her visits to his studio are unacceptable behavior for an unaccompanied woman although both act with proper deportment. Still her spending time alone with Lippi, a known womanizer, is a breach of faith. As the artist and his subject fall in love, she poses for his masterpiece The Holy Mother at a time when the sacred Sacra Cinola belt of the Madonna vanishes. Some in the city blame Lucrezia and want her punished even as she proclaims she remains chaste; others believe her sincerity that she remains a virgin.

Using historical references, Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz provide an intriguing biographical fiction tale of the renowned artist-monk and his most inspirational model with a deep look at the fifteenth century Italian culture that threatened to destroy them. Although in some ways the well written story line appears to be a bittersweet romance, the insight into the limitations of a poor monk vs. that of a Pope or other Medici make for an engaging tale with some intrigue as authors' note points out their son Filippo Lippi lived with and was trained by his father Fra Lippi and was as renowned if not more so than his father. This is an engaging look at a forbidden love whose work for the Santa Margherita nuns is on display in Florence and highlighted by Robert Browning in his Victorian poem Fra Filippo Lippi.

Christopher Moore
9780060590314, $25.95

In 1288, King Lear of Britain decides to divide his kingdom into three monarchies run by each of his daughters. Who inherits what will be determined by Lear based on whom he perceives loves him the most. His best friend and most loyal subject the Earl of Kent warns him he is acting the fool with this proposition; for his honesty he is exiled from the nation.

His eldest daughters Goneril and Regan constantly flatter him and tell him how much each loves him; their ducal spouses also go out of their way to cajole their father-in-law. His youngest child unmarried with suitors Princess Cordelia refuses to sweet-talk her dad with blatant lies; instead she is honest and sincere with him refusing to exaggerate her love. Irate with Cordelia, Lear leaves her nothing; instead he splits the kingdom between Goneril and Regan. However, as King Lear descends into madness, his decision leads to murder and war.

Paying homage in a cheeky way to the Bard, Christopher Moore's take on the classic King Lear play is a brilliant mix of bawdry bedroom-bathroom comedy with a tragic novel in five acts. The story is told by the one person who knows everything that is going on because as the FOOL everyone except the apprentice FOOL Drool assumes subconsciously that Pocket is too stupid to understand court intrigue by the royals and the retinue. Well written and entertaining, Mr. Moore captures the essence of Lear in this fine rendition that is summed up by mentioning the rationale for having a ghost is simply "there's always a bloody ghost".

Toni Jordan
9780061763571, $24.95

It started when she was eight years old and counted the ten steps in front of her family house. Over the next two plus decades schoolteacher Grace Lisa Vandenberg who is a nineteen counts everything to include steps to and from work, the number of poppyseeds on her morning orange cake and the letters in her family's full names. She lives life by the numbers as she has even assigned numbers to colors. Ten is her magic number unlike her hero the inventor Nicola Tesla who worshipped three.

However, her fine tuned world falls apart starting with swiping a banana from the shopper behind her so her bunch will be ten not nine; thus Seamus Joseph O'Reilly, also a nineteen, meets the banana thief. He in turn steals her morning spot at the cafe, but asks her to have breakfast with him. Years of orange cake and seed counting turn into the trauma of pancakes, which seems like a miscalculation as computing syrup is somewhat limiting, but she likes the fact that they are both nineteen's.

Counting numbers rules how Grace lives with ten being perfect because of the number of fingers and toes. She obviously suffers from a form of obsessive compulsive disorder, but she functions quite nicely and is amusing when she discusses her affliction and how she hides it from others; a lesson learned at eight years old when her fingers were working calculations in public. Although at times her obsessions, for instance her hero Tesla, can become a bit overbearing, this deep look at a person with OCD is a well written character study with droll chick-lit asides.

We'll Always Have Paris: Stories
Ray Bradbury
9780061670138, $24.95

This twenty-one short story and one poem ("America") anthology showcases the width and depth of the great science fiction novelist Ray Bradbury. As the author explains in his Introduction, his skin contains two people: a watcher and a writer. The watcher personality surfaces in slices of life mostly on earth like "Massinello Pietro", "Pieta Summer", "Last Laughs", "The Visit", and "We'll Always Have Paris", etc. Of course Mr. Bradbury also provides his expected unexpected sci fi-horror thrillers such as "The Reincarnate" and "Fly Away Home", which reads like a Twilight Zone tale. The collection is top rate although none go as deep obviously as the novels, but entries like "A Literary Encounter" with a psychological thriller spin showcases Mr. Bradbury's talent beyond the other world speculative fiction arena he is renowned for.

The Domino Men
Jonathan Barnes
9780061671401, $24.99

A century ago Queen Victoria signed a Faustian pack with the devil in which the bill is now due. Back when she made her deal with the Leviathan, opponents who felt strongly the English should resists formed an underground opposition The Directorate secretly fight the monarchy and its evil ally. They managed to incarcerate the malevolence in a temporary "prison", but the Leviathan is escaping and coming to collect the debt, the souls of all Londoners.

The Directorate needs a champion so they turn to government filing clerk Henry Lamb, a bureaucrat with no heroic qualities except being the grandson of their best undercover operative, who lies in a coma in a hospital. The leadership of the Directorate prays DNA wins out over "tea" and other stifling weapons of mass stupefaction especially working for the government. Henry is bewildered with what is going on as he meets the Directorate chief in the London Eye ferris wheel and is aware of two insane men (Hawker and Boon) dressed as children lurking under 10 Downing Street. All Henry wants out of life is a paltry pay check and his landlady; not battles with an abomination, the House of Windsor and their agents, and his supervisor at rating time. The real hope lies with Henry convincing the enigmatic dangerous Domino Men, who seem only interested in beating him to a pulp, to help the city, but Henry is a lowly bureaucrat not a charismatic leader.

As zany yet different than the Victorian Era fantasy thriller THE SOMNAMBULIST, THE DOMINO MEN is another wild ride, but this time takes place in modern London. The story line is fast-paced from the moment a stranger falls from a window to Henry's and never slows down yet contains word play and jocular observations about power (always abused), tea (a watered down drug of choice), and heroes (everyday people). The cast is over the top of Big Ben but also make the soul eater seem terrifying even before the arrival. Not for everyone, THE DOMINO MEN is a refreshing humorous contemporary thriller.

Promises in Death
J.D. Robb
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155482, $26.95,

She gets a phone call and leaves the house almost instantly afterward with her two guns on her person. Her weapons do not help her as she is ambushed on the stairwell by someone she recognizes. She is brought to the basement where she is revived before she is killed. The year is 2060 and NYPD Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas catches the case.

Eve arrives at the crime scene and examines the body before turning it over. To her horror, she recognizes the victim as veteran Detective Amarylis Coltraine who recently joined the New York City police force from Atlanta. Ammy broke off with her boyfriend Alex Riker, the son of psychopathic killer Max, whom Eve and her husband Roarke got put away on an off planet cage Alex, who is in New York coincidently swears he never killed anyone hen Eve questions him . . The killer taunts Eve by sending her Ammy's badge and guns with an attached gloating letter. Determined Eve investigates seemingly anyone who knew Ammy which include peers in the two police departments, former lovers, and even current boyfriend Chief Medical Examiner Morris, and friends. Eve concludes to hers shock that the hit was carried out by two un-subs in what is an ever widening conspiracy.

J.D. Robb writes another sublime futuristic police procedural starring the heroine who after numerous cases (books) still believes strongly in justice for the victims and will go the extra kilometers to achieve her objective. The returning characters like the ME play critical roles in Eve's investigation while Roarke plays a somewhat lesser part than usual though he as always there for his beloved. Fans will fully appreciate this fantastic entry as five decades into the future Eve methodically step by step conducts her investigation. Eve is powerful woman who lets nobody get away with murder

Grave Goods
Ariana Franklin
9780399155444, $25.95

In 1176 during the reign of King Henry II, a fire causes damage to the holy Glastonbury Abbey. After the flames are put out, an ancient box is found. Inside are skeletal remains of a man and a woman.

King Henry II directs Adelia "Mistress of the Art of Death" Aguilar to investigate starting with identifying whose bones these are. Everyone who knows of the discovery and how old the container has to be, prays the remains prove to be proof of Camelot; King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Adelia and her "forensic" support team (Mansur, Gyltha, and daughter Allie) begin their inquiry into who were buried in the coffin; each prays that their leader will be able to tell the ruler what he wants to hear, but Ariana's crew knows she will tell the truth regardless of what they learn.

As with the two previous Aguilar medieval mysteries (see Mistress OF THE ART OF DEATH and THE SERPENT'S TALE) Ariana Franklin provides her audience with a blending of a Judith Tarr historical with a Kay Scarpetta forensics thriller. The story line is fast-paced and clever with its Arthurian connection. Adelia is a terrific lead character who leads the inquiry with a strong support squad in which they bring to life the court of King Henry II. Sub-genre readers and Camelot fans will appreciate this entertaining who are they twelfth century detective story.

Night and Day
Robert B. Parker
9780399155413, $25.95

The Chief of Police of Paradise, Massachusetts, Jesse Stone still loves his ex-wife even though she cheated on him when they were married. She goes with anyone who could further her career, but returns to Jesse when her life goes down the tubes. Fortunately Jesse is occupied with police work so he can block out thoughts of his selfish user beloved.

He gets a call to come to the junior high school where parents look like they are going to lynch the principal, Betsy Ingersoll for making students show her their panties. Although she broke no laws and her lawyer-husband makes that clear, she embarrassed the kids. Thirteen years old Merry Clarke tells Jesse her parents are swingers which her and her little brother unhappy and confused because in her mind only Mom can have sex with dad. Jesse also is trying to catch a perp Nighthawk who escalated from peeping through windows to entering houses with a gun forcing women to strip before taking pictures; he writes Jesse telling him he fears he is out of control and will harm someone soon. Jess believes him and sets a trap to catch the culprit.

Robert B. Parker has written a delightful police procedural containing the author's trademark witty repartee while showcasing a police chief working a small town in which eccentric characters may not break laws but cause harm to others. Jesse is determined to help the Clarke children, find a way to insure Mrs. Ingersoll pays for her affront, and catch the peeping tom before someone is physically hurt. NIGHT AND DAY is the police chief at his best.

The Silent Man
Alex Berenson
9780399155383, $25.95

In the DC area CIA Agents John Wells and Jennifer Exley are driving to work when traffic comes to a standstill because of accidents on two bridges. John thinks it is too much of a happenstance and quickly is proven right when three assassins on motorcycles start shooting at them. They kill their attackers, but Exley is critically wounded in the crossfire. When he knows she will live, John goes to Russia to obtain proof that arms dealer Pierre Kowalski put out the hit on him for embarrassing him and marking his face in a duel years ago.

The mission fails but Kowalski is deathly afraid that Wells will come after him. In Russia, two nuclear warheads are stolen from the secure Facility in Ozersk and placed on board a freighter heading to Canada where Jihadists wait for the arrival to drive them into the States. They intend to nuke DC on Inauguration Day led by Sayyid Nadiji whose family was killed during the Iraq War and occupation. Kowalski is asked to deliver beryllium to give to a third party who will supply it to those targeting Washington. He tells Wells to maintain the peace between them. John runs with the information, which is the first step in finding and preventing Jihadists from devastating DC.

This is an invigorating thriller that will frighten readers as the scenario is plausible with the terrorists capable of the theft, delivery, and destruction on a scale that could make 9/11, London and Madrid seem minor. John is a dedicated agent risking his life to keep the world safe while his beloved Exley wants him out of the deadly field game that he cannot walk away from even if it means losing her. Fans will enjoy the latest spy thriller, as Alex Berenson continues to deliver top rate realistic tales (see THE GHOST WAR and FAITHFUL SPY) on a par with Le Carre and Silva.

The Charlemagne Pursuit
Steve Berry
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0345485793, $26.00,

Ever since he was a child former espionage agent Cotton Malone believed his father, Captain Forrest Malone died in 1971 in a nuclear submarine accident in the North Atlantic. Now he seeks closure with learning the rest of the story so he asks his former supervisor at DOJ Stephanie Nelle to help him. She obtains the file that states his father was the captain of a nuclear vessel performing a Top Secret mission in Antarctica when he died.

At the same time twins Dorothea Lindauer and Christl Falk compete for their maternal inheritance promised to whoever uncovers what happened to their father, who served under Forrest's command in the Antarctic. They know there is a link to enigmatic findings discovered in Charlemagne's tomb and the Nazis late 1930s exploration of the icy continent. Malone, following up on what Nelle provides him, also finds puzzling journal entries. Malone and the sisters meet and agree to team up heading from Europe to Antarctica to learn of their respective deaths of their fathers; while deadly ambitious Admiral Langford Ramsey needs them permanently iced as the revealing of the truth will destroy his career plans of becoming Joint Chief of Staff.

The fourth Malone "Brownian" thriller (see THE TEMPLAR LEGACY, THE ALEXANDRIA LINK and THE VENETIAN BETRAYAL) is the best of the exciting saga. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Malone learns what he knew about his dad's death was false and never slows down especially when he leads the battling sisters to what is under the ice in Antarctica (though that revelation is not a fresh concept). Ramsey is a nasty villain whose pragmatic application of American military politics means blackmailing your rivals and anyone who might harm your career; and if that fails kill them. Steve Berry is at his best with the enigmatic Charlemagne code, the deaths of the dads, and the ancient civilization that tie together through the pursuit of the heroes for the truth and the villain to conceal the truth.

The Fireman's Wife
Jack Riggs
9780345480064, $14.00

In June 1970 South Carolina low country is in its seventh month without rain. Drought or not Cassie Johnson is bored with being the wife of Walhalla fire chief Peck and even the mother of their fifteen year old daughter, all star pitcher Kelly; the reason she married responsible Peck. The drought just makes it more oppressive on her as her spouse is always putting out fires. Since the last rain, she and firefighter Clay Taylor have had an affair hotter than an out of control blaze; he even jokes that the rain will only come if they cool their relationship.

Finally having enough of her husband's too busy to see to her needs, Cassie and Clay run away together. However, a revelation strikes her that by fleeing with Taylor, she is repeating the same error that led to her marrying Peck. Cassie leaves Clay to go stay with her mom in the nearby mountains to look inside and determine what she wants, but fate waits for no one as she will soon learn.

THE FIREMAN'S WIFE is a deep character study that looks inside to what motivates the title protagonist. The support cast is developed to enable readers to better understand why Cassie feels the way she does. The tale is clearly hers as she finds her heart as arid as the weather and her soul as oppressed as the humidity. Fans of strong family dramas (cannot say historical as key 1970 social elements like the civil rights and anti war movements are lacking) will enjoy Cassie's tale as she learns the grass is not greener on the other side especially during a drought and as the Moody Blues' song says: "Memories can never take you back, home, sweet home".

Fire and Ice
Julie Garwood
9780345500755, $26.00

She left one job because the paper wanted Sophie Rose to write about her father Bobby Rose, whom every police agency believes is a master thief. Their hometown of Chicago adores Bobby as he steals from the corrupt power brokers making them pay for betraying those who trusted them. Sophie works at a small local newspaper whose owner promises to never force her to write about her dad.

William Harrington calls the paper to tell them he has won 24 5-K races and wants them to cover his next event. Sophie interviews him and finds him excited about the race. He mentions something about a Project Alpha he is participating during the interview. Something happens and he never arrives at the race. Instead his body is found in isolated part of Alaska, eaten by a polar bear. Someone shoots at Sophie and to escape from everyone's protection she travels to Alaska to learn what William was doing when he was killed. Accompanied by FBI Agent Jack Prescott, they try to keep their hormones in check while someone again tries to kill her. They conclude an unknown adversary thinks Sophie knows something incriminating. Jack and Sophie plan to know what and who

Julie Garwood is known for her excellent romantic suspense thrillers and her latest FIRE AND ICE will enhance her reputation for quality. The heroine is spunky and independent just like the father she loves and adores in spite of his illegal alternate lifestyle. She is shocked when Jack pursues her even knowing who her dad is; and she enjoys his protectiveness as she ends up in one dangerous situation after another. Ms. Garwood delivers another fine tale that her myriad of fans will relish.

Rules of Contact
Kristen Heitzmann
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400073085, $13.95,

Isabelle Claire Boudreaux abruptly walks away from her John Hopkins medical residency when it looked like the infant she tried to save didn't make it. Her Gram left her the farm so Claire goes there to consider her future. Something strange happens while she drives her car and the next thing she knows she is waking up in a gigantic hole in the ground that swallowed her up and she has nothing on her to climb to freedom. She hears voices so she heads to them hoping they can help her; only as gets closer to them they sound like patients having seizures.

A man attacks Claire, but Rafe intercedes. He tells her he will protect her if she agrees to be bound to him. Not sure what he means, she has little choice so she accepts his terms. He escorts her to his sleeping quarters in the underground bomb shelter and rapes her. Claire realizes men are predators abusing women unless the female is a bound slave to a particular male. People fight to the death over food and other items as killing is encouraged. Rafe has been in this society since his infancy so cannot grasp what his new slave sees as horror; instead he welcomes the security of the underground...Still they escape together knowing the underground leader will stalk them to protect his realm and fearing the FBI will learn of his murders even as he struggles to comprehend an ethics system radically different than the one he was raised in.

Kristen Heitzmann provides a thought provoking tale that focuses on the nature vs. nurture debate, on community values, and related to the latter on what is a law. Though Rafe grew up under a kill or be killed system, Claire, once she moves a bit past the shock of the rape, notices how he quietly tries to help those less fortunate without being noticed. Once she accepts him for what he is, she begins to care for him even though some might insist she is a victim of the Stockholm syndrome. Readers will fully enjoy this exciting cerebral tale that will have the audience ponder differing societal values and ethics as globalization leads to more complex international relationships.

Mark of the Devil
William Kerr
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781934755532, $15.95,

In 1945 off the Florida coast, U-Boat Korvettenkapitan Strobel is irate with the defeat and decides to go for one last kill. SS Standartenfuhrer Kreuger wants him to stay with their mission and ignore the nearby tanker. Strobel fires at the tanker leading to two destroyers dropping depth bombs on the sub. Kreuger congratulates him for insuring they are "buried alive" after the war in Europe is already over.

In 2009 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, the Coast Guard asks Steve Park to mark with buoys where a barge was sunk by a storm to keep ships safe. Steve asks his visiting friend North American Archeological Research and Preservation Association Naval Special Warfare officer Matt Berkeley to help. At sea they find the barge, but also another vessel. They submit the proper paperwork to the State, but wealthy Henry Shoemaker as a favor to his much younger wife, whose grandfather left her information about the sunken ship, arranges with his brother-in-law at the Florida office on oceanic recoveries and his Antiquities Finders Inc to steal the excavation. To make matters worse, two friends of Matt, whom he visited in DC to give copies of his application to search the unknown ship he and Steve found, are murdered by an agent of Shoemaker. As Berkeley refuses to back down from AFI, Shoemaker, the State of Flo rida and the cops, he wonders what the valuable item is on the sub sunk after the war was over that everyone wants; the finding if revealed would humiliate the Catholic Church.

MARK OF THE DEVIL is an intriguing oceanic archeological thriller that focuses on the abuse of power and those refusing to buckle under the pressure. Matt is a terrific hero who tries to do the right thing, but will learn the cost of his ethical stand. Although Shoemaker, his wife and their lackeys come across as caricatures, fans will appreciate this fast-paced thriller as Shoemaker and AFI bring a killer and the government to keep Matt out of the excavation.

Hot Flash
Kathy Carmichael
9781934755037, $7.95

In Las Vegas, La Papillon sous chef Jill Morgan Storm turns forty today. After rescuing a kitchen helper form the chef and the freezer, the single mom celebrates her milestone with friends when she decides she needs a husband right now, but only for a week. Her first marriage failed and since the divorce she has not met anyone whom she is attracted to until now. Ignoring her heart, her brain insists she marry a traveling salesman. He would bring in needed money to send her son Stephen to college without the albatross of a monster student loan while only requiring satisfaction one week each month; three weeks on the road sounds perfect to Jill. He would also provide cover from breast grabber Chef Radkin.

However there is one major obstacle to Jill's perfect plan, schoolteacher Davin Wesley. He wants her and she is attracted to him. However, he is home four weeks out of a month, which makes his demands on her perpetual. On the other hand his kisses melt her brain. Years with no one activating her libido and now that she has the plan, he shows up keeping her in constant heat.

This lighthearted amusing romp contains amiable characters especially the lead couple supported by eccentrics at the restaurant, school and family. Mother and son are a dynamic duo who seems to land in one amusing situation after another especially since Davin enters the relationship. Although somewhat too frivolous, contemporary romance fans who want plenty of laughs will enjoy the frolics of HOT FLASH.

Inevitable Sentences
Tekla Dennison Miller
9781934755013, $7.95

Near Marquette, Michigan, Celeste Brookstone converted the Big Bay Point Lighthouse overlooking Lake Superior into a safe house for abused women and children. She did so to honor her murdered adult daughter Pilar, the ninth victim of serial killer Chad Wilbanks, who is incarcerated at the maximum security Hawk Haven Prison with a life sentence. Celeste deals with her guilt because Pilar turned to charismatic Chad for comfort rather than her mom or her dad, Celeste's abusive ex husband.

Chad plans his tenth homicide while charming kitchen worker Lizzie Chatfield who enlists the aid of psychologist Pricilla Madden in enabling the convicted killer to escape. Celeste believes he is coming for her as she is the reason he is behind bars; however, she will not be a victim by anymore or allow her wards to be either so she is prepared for him or for that matter the abusive spouses to bring it on. However, she is unprepared for a traitor within her safe house as the lethal snake charms another woman like he did Pilar.

This exciting direct sequel to LIFE SENTENCE continues the confrontation between Celeste and Chad as each reach out to abused women with different motives and ends in mind. The story line focuses more on the Lighthouse activity than on Chad working on the psyche of a prison employee eerily similar to what he did with Pilar; thus this is less of a psychological character study than the first tale. The suspense comes in the second half when the two female prison employees abet his escape and a third woman inside Big Bay Point enables him to go after number ten. Insightful into the fears and needs of abuse victims, INEVITABLE SENTENCES is an interesting cat and mouse drama.

It Takes a Thief
Liz Wolfe
9781934755068, $7.95

Zeke Alexander is a world renowned thief who took a disability retirement when he became inflicted with Parkinson's disease. His daughter Zoe is a chip off the old block as a master thief, but has for the most part been out of the family business too except for a few lapses. The Dominican Order wants to hire a master thief to steal documents and objects from museums and private collectors to build a clean energy source that is more effective than fusion, but can also be converted to a weapon of mass destruction.

Their goal is world order of peace and harmony with them in charge. Since the new energy source will provide them with capitol and a weapon, the CIA tried to infiltrate them, but failed. The Order needs a master thief to steal documents and other things so the CIA recruits Zoe for the position. Drake Leatherman is assigned to be recently recruited Zoe's handler as she goes undercover. The Order believes she is perfect to steal what they need. However, when they discover she is a CIA mole, they kidnap her mother whom she thought was long dead and the brother she never knew she had to insure she cooperates and finishes the job. Zoe vows to rescue her family while Drake works with her to take down the Order.

Traveling from the United States to Italy and Switzerland and back to America, Zoe helped by Drake tries to prevent the Order from becoming so powerful they cannot be stopped. She is a great heroine who, though a thief, has a strong moral fiber that enables her to easily become a patriot trying to do the right thing against a formidable opponent who believes in their quest making them more dangerous. Although the villains come across cartoonish, Liz Wolfe provides a strong thriller that focuses on IT TAKES A THIEF to stop an organization of deadly single minded thieves.

And on the Surface Die
Lou Allin
Rendezvous Crime
c/o Casagrande Press, Inc.
3119 Carleton Street, Unit 4,San Diego, CA 92106
9781894917742, $15.95,

Thirty two years old Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal Holly Martin is excited with her first leadership position even if the caseload is minor crimes. She has been placed in charge of the RCMP Fossil Bay Detachment unit west of Victoria on the southern wilderness coast of Vancouver Island when Reg Wilkinson opted for early retirement. Having come from the area, Holly knows she will predominately be dealing with vehicular offenses and the occasional robbery of a tourist. Still she plans to do her best as this is the first step towards becoming a sergeant and ultimately a staff sergeant.

However, her first day on the job finds her taken aback when scuba diver Bob Johnson finds the drowned body of a teenage girl in the surf at Botanical Beach. The victim turns out to be the high school swimming team star Angie Didrickson, who was on an overnight field trip with her classmates when she apparently accidentally drowned. Holly and her subordinates (Sikh-Canadian Constable Knox Singh and somewhat limited due to health issues Constable Ann Troy) question those on the field trip but no witnesses saw Angie leave the campsite for the beach. An inspector from Victoria does a quick inquiry and calls it accidental drowning to close the case, but Holly has doubts further fueled by the toxicology report stating the victim used crystal meth, but the police corporal wonders whether a superstar athlete would ruin her body that way.

With Belle Palmer, Northern Ontario amateur sleuth extraordinaire taking a breather (see NORTHERN WINTERS ARE MURDER and BLACKFLIES ARE MURDER), Lou Allin turns to a professional in Western Canada with the same level of excellent quality. This is an exciting RCMP police investigative thriller starring a dedicated cop who must overcome the doubts of her crew that she is ready to replace the much more experienced Wilkinson. Readers will relish Holly's first few days on the job in scenic Fossil Bay, British Columbia.

Adios to All the Drama
Diana Rodriguez-Wallach
Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758225573, $9.95,

In Spring Mills, Pennsylvania, high school student Mariana Ruiz is shocked to find sitting at the breakfast table, Alex, whom she met during the summer when she visited family in Puerto Rico (see AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS). Her last memory of him is his standing roadside in Utuado as she drove off to go home after they were an entry during the summer. Whereas Alex is ready to continue where they left off, Mariana is unsure whether she wants to take up where they left it especially since she also is attracted to her locker buddy Bobby (see AMIGAS AND SCHOOL SCANDALS) that she tried to hide but everyone seems to know.

As always Mariana asks Madison and Emily for advice, but the former is totally preoccupied with her on-line boyfriend whom she has never met in person and her other friend has parental woes Meanwhile estranged Aunt Teresa is getting married on New Year's Day with the teen cousins Mariana and Lilly serving as her bridesmaids while Mariana wonders who she will save the last dance for when the ball comes down; because that is whom she will kiss.

The third tale has the three amigas with boy problems that strains their friendship as for the first time they are not there for one another. The cast is solid and the subplots involving Teresa, Madison and Emily add to the overall teen angst, but no question there is only one star in Diana Rodriguez-Wallach teen series, Mariana, who first hand understands the Loving Spoonful's prime question of the universe (and not that of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy): Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?. ADIOS TO ALL THE DRAMA is an interesting look at teen decision making, information gathering, and especially drama queen angst.

Instant Attraction
Jill Shalvis
9780758231239, $14.00

Los Angeles accountant Katie Kramer did everything by the book keeping in mind the bottom line until the accident. Feeling fortunate to be alive, Katie vows to live life to the fullest as she understands you have one chance and hiding cubicles is not what one would call living. Katie applies for a job with Wilder Adventures in the Sierra Madre mountain town of Wishful and to her euphoria is hired.

The accident ended Cameron Wilder's career as a champion snowboarder. Feeling at a loss as what to next, he has wandered around but has come home to Wishful. He is shocked to find a beautiful woman sleeping in his bed in his cabin. She is shocked to find a man sharing her bed when she awakens the next morning. Each don't need caffeine to feel in their gut the INSTANT ATTRACTION between them. As they fall in love, one daredevil stunt at a time, she is unprepared for a relationship beyond the moment and he has doubts that love lasts though his "mom" Annie and her husband Nick prove otherwise.

The lead couple is a fascinating pairing as neither wants a relationship, but has no choice as the Wilder bunch insures they remain together. The Wilder bunch makes the story line fun with their antics yet key members are drawn with depth and poignancy especially the matriarch and her spouse. Readers will enjoy Jill Shalvis' fun contemporary romance as everyone seems to embrace love when they feel the emotion even in others except for Katie and Cameron who want to flee love.

The Courtier's Secret
Donna Russo Morin
9780758226914, $14.00

When Jeanne Du Bois turned seventeen, the convent where she lived for a decade kicked her out due to a lack of payments by her odious dad. She goes to the court of the Louis XIV in Versailles, where her family is in attendance as part of the Sun King's retinue. Her abusive father Gaston decides to marry her off to some pathetic noble over the objection of his wife Adelaide whom he considers a womb-loser; however her Uncle Jules encourages her to be all that she can be. He gives her fencing lessons, male garb and a mustache. Ergo Jean-Luc is born.

Jean Luc joins the musketeers as a loyal comrade to Henri and Antoine. Meanwhile Jeanne falls in love with her brother in arms Henri; he reciprocates though remains ignorant that Jeanne is Jean. As Jean-Luc turned to Uncle Jules, Jeanne turns to courtesan Madam de L'Enclos for advice with men. However, as she struggles with both identities, she learns of a plot to assassinate Queen Marie-Therese. The three musketeers vow to save their queen even at risk to their lives.

The spins to this engaging seventeenth century Musketeer romance are the gender bending Jeanne and the fact most of the support cast including the heroine's father are nasty hedonistic sociopaths although there are those who are kind to Jeanne like her uncle and courtesan. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Uncle Jules trains his niece and never slows down as Jeanne falls in love when she was a young man.

The Nightingale
Morgana Gallaway
0758227280, $14.00

In Mosul the al-Ghani family patriarch Tamir was a highly respected judge under the Hussein regime. A pragmatic moderate, he encouraged his children to be all they can be and urged his two daughters Fatima and Leila to obtain an education and encouraged them to dream. Leila wants to be a doctor and not forced into an unwanted marriage. When Saddam was deposed, he remained well respected and his family treated nicely though the income dropped radically.

However, when the photos of torture of Iraqis by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison are revealed, Tami becomes outraged by the affront to his people. As hostilities in Mosul make the city extremely dangerous for everyone, he demands that his daughters adhere to strict Muslim laws, is thankful to Allah that Fatima has a fiance sensible Khaled and informs Leila he will arrange a marriage for her. Leila obtains work as a translator at the American military base's hospital, but hides from her parents what she is doing even helping torture victims. Leila begins a relationship with Special Forces officer James Cartwright, but as Mosul explodes in violence she must choose between her father's demands and what she believes is the right thing to do.

The well written forbidden romance between the American solider and the twenty-three years old Iraqi female takes a back seat to the incredible look at Mosul when the firefight ignited and united the city against the occupiers. The story line is deep as the audience obtains a poignant often depressing look at what the war has cost the locals. Readers will appreciate THE NIGHTINGALE as Morgana Gallaway provides an in depth tale of clashing cultures when war devastates Mosul and threatens every resident as none will come out of the conflict without some loss.

Kisses Like the Devil
Diane Whiteside
Kensington Brava
9780758225153, $14.00

In 1900 Vice President Teddy Roosevelt meets with a former subordinate soldier from the Cuban operation Brian Donovan to ask for his help. Teddy knows the influential Donovan family is gathering in Europe to make efforts to rescue Brian's brother trapped in Peeling. Teddy wants Brian to attend the annual Grand Duchy of Eisengau armor sale to buy a gigantic cannon for the American army.

It has been four years since Meredith Duncan began working for Colonel Zorndoff, head of the Foundry and Cannon Sales sector of the government. She has stolen the plans for a gigantic cannon because she will use them to obtain freedom for the working class. She attends a meeting of her working class party but is shocked to see Russian agent Sazanov as a guest. She does not trust the Russian and tells everyone she has not stolen the plans yet.

At a beerhouse, Meredith and her friends hold a rally. The cops break it up and Brian who was there helps Meredith escape. He escorts her to the Grand Hotel where to her regret her parents catch her. They are unhappy to see her with an American though they somewhat hide their feelings as he is a weapons buyer. The next day her parents inform Meredith that they are aware of her seditious activity and have accepted a marriage proposal from Zorndoff, whose first wife was beaten to death by him. Meredith asks Brian to ruin her by making her his mistress. Shocked he agrees. As they fall in love, they remain divided over her belief that his father exploits the workers.

The weapons competition is fascinating as countries compete for the best armor. Readers will admire the heroine, a courageous idealist who risks her life for her beliefs, and her dog Morro who is always protecting her. The actions of the good guys lead to the deaths of many innocent people adding realism, however, their remorse never comes across as more than an afterthought. Still this is a fascinating late Victorian era romantic suspense.

Masters of Desire
Myla Jackson, Layla Chase, Shayla Kersten
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758225498, $12.95

"Pirate of Mystique Island" by Myla Jackson. The witch cursed blue skinned Rafe Herrington; his only hope to overcome the spell is bone crunching orgasm; Melodie the siren is the one who will either kill him or free him.

"Ghostly Legacy" by Layla Chase. Truda Borg arrives at Wybjorn Castle to study Norwegian warlord Garet the Protector, not realizing he was cursed. When Truda meets the ghost of Garet, she wants to free him so that she can study his body first hand.

"Keket's Curse" by Shayla Kersten. The high Priestess of the ancient temple of Goddess Hathor is outraged and jealous of the beauty of handmaiden Jamila. She curses the young woman to never be sexually satisfied. Centuries later, David sexually liberates her.

These three entertaining erotic romantic fantasies each contains a lead character cursed with their only hope of liberation being their respective beloved. Sub-genre fans will relish these heated novellas starring strong protagonists trying to sexually and otherwise overcome a curse.

Lord of the Forest
Dawn Thompson
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758227096, $12.95

The shapeshifting Lord of the Forest Marius is tired of the annual midsummer revelry in which he must perform super-deity like sexual escapades as the trysts have become increasingly meaningless to him. He even considers skipping the gala, which would bring issues with the summer solace that his festival renews. However, as he hides in his secret pool preparing himself mentally for another ordeal, Linnea the goddess of the hunt finds him. She peaks his interest and suddenly sex seems perfect.

Meanwhile Ravelle the malevolent shapeshifting demon plans to take the Forest Isle. While his only potential opposition are making love and ignoring his presence or that of his horde, his minion abducts Marius in his centaur physique. They take their prisoner to the land of the humans with only his beloved huntress capable of rescuing him.

The third Elementals tale (see LORD OF THE DARK and LORD OF THE DEEP) is more a straightforward fantasy with a somewhat minor romantic subplot. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action including a few erotic encounters between Marius and Linnea although their interludes are much less than in the first two stories. Still Dawn Thompson provides an entry in her thrilling Elementals saga.

Drive Me Wild
P.J. Mellor
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758220240, $13.95

"Double Trouble". Ryan Wright is tired of bailing out his twin brother Braeden by switching places, but agrees one last time. He is thankful because the woman next door is perfect for Ryan except to his chagrin he is Braeden for now.

"Double the Pleasure". Twins Megan and Suzanne Hartley attend their high school reunion with plans for sex with no attachments. However, Megan knows she can no longer adhere to the "no attachment" pact once she sees her high school crush Jake Stanton

"Double the Fun". Megan's sister Suzanne is spending a weekend at her friend's beach house when she meets Braeden Wright. Her interests change immediately from being alone to being a duet.

These three interrelated erotic contemporary romances are lighthearted yet heated fun that follows the sexual escapades of twins on the prowl.

Dog On It
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781416585831, $25.00,

Chet and Bernie Little are partners in the Little Detective Agency although the latter does much of the leg work and fills out the papers as the former is a flunked out from the police academy canine. As always Bernie is broke so he takes on despicable divorce cases to pay his alimony and child support debts.

In Bernie's neighborhood, neighbor Cynthia Chambliss hires him to find her missing fifteen year old daughter Madison who is eight hours late. When Madison returns home, Bernie feels her story is a fake, but his involvement is over. Soon afterward, Cynthia rehires him as Madison is gone all night. Chet on a surveillance mission at night notices a stranger sitting in a parked car; the perp fits the description a witness provided of someone who was seen speaking to Madison. However, the thug notices Chet and dog-naps him tossing the canine into the trunk of his vehicle and takes him to Mr. Gulagov. For a nanosecond he sees Madison in the window of a farmhouse. Later he escapes, but is picked up by a biker who dumps him at the pound. Bernie's pal Suzie brings Chet home to a relieved and delighted Bernie even as he is concerned that Madison's father wants him removed from the case. A picture of Madison in Vegas and a call insisting she will be home safe and sound soon persuades Cynthia to fire Bernie; but he believes otherwise and with Chet's lead follows the path they took the canine on.

Mindful of J.F. Englert's A DOG ABOUT TOWN series, canine lovers and surprisingly hard boiled detective fans are going to fully relish this offbeat crime caper told by the Noir perspective of Chet. Unlike his partner wallowing in the piss past, Chet takes life one bite at a time as he only lives for the present. His amusing yet kick butt commentary makes for a fabulous private investigative tale starring a miserable human and his smarter partner.

Body Surfing
Dale Peck
1416576126, $26.00

Q and Jasper have been friends since their early childhood, but lately the former has been acting strangely out of control even for a high school student until he maneuvers matters so that Jasper dies in a car accident in which Q drove. Instead of reaching the pearly gates, the fires of hell, or a bureaucratic weigh station, Jasper finds himself inside the bodies of fellow teen Jarhead and then that of EMT Larry Bishop. He learns he was possessed by a Mogran demon who succeeded in converting Jasper into one of them. However, the teen retains much of his human traits and detests jumping from host to host because each time the mind of the body he leaves behind changes for the worse following their experience with possession.

Khartoum based Ilena Magdalen was once possessed by a demon; under his control she committed atrocities that leave her thirsting for vengeance against the Mogran race As the Huntress, she is dedicated to the genocide of all demons on earth. When she learns her current target Leo is in upstate New York, she goes there to kill him and feels no remorse if his host dies too. For that matter transformed Jasper can also become a collateral damage victim. Q and Jasper prepare to fight this fanatic who fails to see how humanly different the former is.

Demons are ephemeral spirits who need a body as they were once mortal and are addicted to human living. Q and Jasper are fascinating characters because each remains loyal friends even though Q killed Jasper. Ilena is totally eaten up with hatred and anger so much so the obsessed demon hunter is insane, which makes her the antagonist instead of the champion. On the other hand Leo is a Byronic antihero who cannot control his demonic addiction to human bodies. There is plenty of action in this urban fantasy, but it is the twist of the lead cast that makes BODY SURFING more than a peck better than the usual sub-genre offering.

The Shanghai Moon
S.J. Rozan
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312245566, $24.95,

In 1938 eighteen years old Jew Rosalie Gilder, carrying her mom's diamonds, flees Nazi Austria for Shanghai in spite of the Japanese occupation. There she marries aristocrat Chen Kai-Rong. As a show of harmony between them Chen commissions a local jeweler to create the Shanghai Moon brooch that combines the gems of his wife's mom with his family rare jade heirloom. The Shanghai Moon vanished during WWII.

In the present in Shanghai, Rosalie's jewelry box is found, but disappears again almost immediately after surfacing when Chinese government official Wong Pan steals it before fleeing to New York. A Swiss asset-recovery specialist hires Joel Pilarsky to retrieve the box assumed to be with Wong in Manhattan before he sells it to unscrupulous collectors. When Joel is murdered, his friends Lydia Chin and Bill Smith follow clues that take them to Chinatown where they run into the son of Chen and Rosalie and other family members wanting to obtain the Shanghai Moon.

It has been a few years since Chin- Smith teamed up (see REFLECTIONS IN THE SKY and WINTER AND NIGHT), but the wait was worth it. Their latest contemporary urban thriller is a fast-paced and exciting tale that comes out of the gate filled with action even before the heroes join the fray. Adding to the fun is the historical subplot re THE SHANGHAI MOON brooch that in the present has several people avariciously lusting for it; with at least one willing to kill to obtain the jewelry piece. Fans will appreciate the return of the Manhattan duo as the East comes to the West in S.J. Rozan's tense mystery.

Patient Zero
Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin's
9780312382858, $14.95

Baltimore Police Detective Joe Ledger participates on a raid of a terrorist cell that turns nasty. He is forced to use his gun and kills Javad Mustapha. Soon after killing Mustapha, Joe is shocked as he has to kill Javad Mustapha again. The newly formed Department of Military Sciences (DMS) recruits Joe to join their specialized ultra top secret antiterrorist unit that deals with the unexplained phenomena that HSD is not equipped to handle like killing reanimated corpses.

Apparently a terrorist scientist Amirah has learned how to bring back to life the dead as zombies. Financed by affluent international businessman Sebastian Gault, Amirah and her husband terrorist leader El Mujahid deploy a zombie army around the world. Joe and his DMS unit fight the Zombie force with early success, but he is unprepared for a traitor to sell him and his squad to their dead enemy.

Zombie fans will be singing a DEAD MAN'S SONG of praise to Jonathan Maberry for this exhilarating wild military horror thriller. The story line is action-packed from the onset when a stunned Joe kills Mustapha twice in a week and never slows down as the zombie horde assaults an unsuspecting world while the hero and his DMS unit counter fight the dead insurgency. Sub-genre reader will enjoy this engaging tale as the dead don't stay dead for long.

Buying a Piece of Paris
Ellie Nielson
St. Martin's
031238355X, $24.95

Jack Nielsen tells his wife Ellie while they are driving in Melbourne, they should buy an apartment in Paris. She and their accountant agree for differing reasons. She because she loves the city while the accountant says it makes sense financially. Back in Paris Ellie begins the search for an apartment they can afford that has the special French unique feel and would comfortably be showcased in a magazine. Blaming the butcher, she entered her first realtor office only to be met with culture shock from the onset; as the number of rooms is irrelevant, but the number of meters is everything. Other stunners also occur as Ellie obtains a taste of the unique Parisian real estate market. Like much of the audience outside of Paris, Elle finds a part of the city that she never knew existed until she began the search. Filled with homage for the French capital, readers who enjoy a lighthearted well written memoir will want to read Ellie Neilson's melodious tour of apartment hunting in Paris.

The First Sin
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin's
0312946449, $7.99

At NSA Recovery Enforcement Division (RED) Human Trafficking and Sex Crimes Division, field agent Alexi Steele has been promoted to a team supervisor position. The current assignment, Operation Cinderella, consisting of the former Special Forces sniper and her team is undercover making the Boston S&M scene in order rescue thirteen abducted college age females from being auctioned as sex slaves to the highest bidder.

However, something goes wrong and one of her teammates Stacey Randolph was raped and murdered; her body found in Boston Harbor. Lexi wants revenge against the perpetrators, but to do so must get deep inside. She is partnered with a new co-leader Nick Donovan, who thirsts for vengeance too as this predatory group kidnapped and sold his sister Kristin in bondage. He wants to rescue his sibling and take out the sex slavery ring. To do they must enter the S&M world as a couple with her being his submissive and him as her "Control".

Boston has never looked grittier and dirtier even when Bush 41 accused Dukakis of crapping up the harbor or any Parker case then Cheyenne McCray's exciting but extremely dark portrayal of the human sexual slavery market. The story line is fast-paced from the opening scene when the abductee informs Kristin he would F her, but knows the rules of business starts with not to screw with the merchandise. That sets the tone of a terrific erotic police procedural starring a petit fiery dragon and her beloved Control.

Opal Carew
St. Martin's
0312384793, $13.95

They met almost a year ago at a Colorado ski resort, began seeing one another exclusively, and fell in love. Aiden Curtis proposes to his Harmony, who wants to say yes, but delays her response. She knows she has hidden one side of her inner self from her beloved. In college and once a year since, she and her best pals, "the Group of Six" come together for orgies.

Harmony decides rather than try to explain her desires to him; she will show him first hand as the annual all holds sexual tryst is about to begin. She worries whether Aiden will join the mix or be horrified by what is going on and not want to marry her. However, before Aiden has a chance to accept the sexual invite or take flight, his former girlfriend Mia arrives at the retreat.

This is a fascinating couple swapping tale of four men and four women switching partners. The story line is driven by the cast especially the lead couple as she fears his rejection and he not being adequate. Although the climax feels like premature ejaculation, erotic romance fans will enjoy this heated vivid orgy.

True Colors
Kristin Hannah
St. Martin's
9780312364106, $25.95

In 1979 Washington State, the three teenage Grey sisters (Winona, Aurora and Vivi Ann) mourn the death of their mother. Her passing tightened their sibling bond as they help each other with the males who enter their respective lives.

In high school, Winona's best friend is Luke, but she hides one thing from him; she is attracted to him. Instead Luke falls in love with Vivi Ann. They become an entry, but she cheats on him with farmhand Dallas. Winona does the unthinkable breaking the sisterhood bond by betraying her sister. Vivi Ann and Dallas marry, have a child and manage the family farm, until he is arrested for murder. Vivi Ann pleads with Winona a lawyer to defend her spouse, but she refuses. When Dallas is convicted of homicide, Vivi Ann blames Winona. However, her son, Winona's nephew, begins to move the irresistible force his mom and the immovable object his aunt trying to bring about a reconciliation between the estranged sisters.

TRUE COLORS is a deep character study that looks closely at the relationships between sisters, especially after an estrangement occurs. The story line is driven by the siblings and Luke early on, but it takes the newcomer to begin the healing. Kristin Hannah provides a strong family drama.

Three Weeks to Say Goodbye
C.J. Box
St. Martin's
9780312365721, $24.95

In Denver Jack and Melissa McGuane were euphoric when the adoption was finally approved and baby Angelina made their family complete. They love their infant daughter, but nine months later the thirty something couple is shocked and dismayed. Julie Perala of the adoption agency informs them that Angelina's eighteen year old biological father Garrett, a Cherry Creek High School student, wants his daughter; he never signed the documents waiving his rights to her. His father is powerful Federal Judge John Moreland who demands his son raise his granddaughter.

Jack and Melissa love Angelina and want to do what is best for her. Thus they agree to meet father and son, but at the session, the McGuane's realize neither of their adopted infant's paternal side is interested in her welfare. They have a personal grudge agenda and little Angelina is the kickball. Worse the Judge uses his vast power, legal and otherwise, to wreck havoc on the McGuane's trying force them to surrender. However, the scenario is not as straightforward as the Moreland father and son insist; child porn, and murder turn the three weeks from that initial horrifying phone call into hell in Colorado and Montana where Jack's parents reside.

Leaving Wyoming and Joe Pickett with a breather, C.J. Box provides his fans with a great thriller starting with the premise of losing an adopted child to the biological parent. The story line is fast-paced from that opening phone call and never slows down as events spiral out of control. Fans will root for the "David" like couple to defeat the Goliath judge who has weapons on both sides of the law and uses them. With a strong support cast in both states and fully developed lead characters on both sides of the custody debate, readers will appreciate this terrific tale of suspense at its best.

Only Pleasure
Lora Leigh
St. Martin's
9780312368739, $14.95

Kia Stanton, soon to return to her maiden name Rutherford, makes it clear to her estranged spouse Drew that she will never go back to him; nor deny the rumors that he and his friend tried to rape her at her Alexandria home or that they belong to some elitist sex Club. Drew warns her that Chase Falladay and his goons will visit her if she stays mute re the existence of the Club. She vows not to gossip but remain resolutely silent about what occurred although her best friend, make that former best friend, spread what she told her in confidence. Just after her father calls telling her they are in financial trouble if she fails to deny the existence of the Club, Chase arrives at her home to persuade her to state the Club does not exist; she agrees in return he will keep her safe from Drew.

For the next two years Kia limits her social activities. She meets Chase at a party and he convinces her to leave with him and his "third" Khalid to come with them to the Club. She is nervous but has been curious about the Club since the rape attempt. The trio enjoys the sexual tryst. As Chase and Kia fall in love, someone who loathes yet loves him has finally found a means to hurt him by killing Kia.

The latest erotic "Pleasure" Club romance stars a courageous female and the return of Chase (see WICKED PLEASURES where he served as the "third" to his twin Cam and Jaci). The story line is fast-paced even when it switches gear into a woman in peril subplot; as the culprit will be a shocking pleasure to fans of the series. Although first time readers will need time to comprehend the kinky Club policies, Lora Leigh provides a pleasurable addition to her fine saga of sex amongst the powerful in DC.

Tangled Up in Love
Heidi Betts
St. Martin's
0312946716, $6.99

Over a year ago, Dylan Stone was selected as the Cleveland Herald columnist beating rival Veronica Chasen for the position. Ronnie is not a good loser as she takes a columnist position at the lesser read Cleveland Sentinel. They begin a weekly challenge of dares in which each claims their gender's superiority. She has played ice hockey goalie and bungee jumped while he leaped out of a plane in spite of his fear of heights; neither will surrender the contest although she has won from him his prize possession the Harrison Award trophy.

However, her latest challenge may prove the toughest yet even more than her tattoo on her butt. She dares Dylan to knit a polished item within a month. Dylan tries self help manuals but fails. He visits the Knit Wits club at the Yarn Barn run by Ronnie's Aunt Charlotte Langan who agrees to give him knitting lessons; which she ironically turns him over to her niece. Dylan offers Ronnie, $1000 to teach him; so she wins either way. Charlotte knows the two obstinate adversaries are attracted to one another; so she brings down her grandmother's "magical" spinning wheel to knit the knot of love one stitch at a time.

TANGLED UP IN LOVE is an enjoyable whimsical contemporary romance starring two rivals whose attraction begins with the butt as he grows stiff admiring hers and she thinks he is Mr. Jackass. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted romp while wondering whether Charlotte's spinning wheel worked its magical spell as she believes or just being together outside The Penalty Box gave love the opportunity to knit two people into one relationship.

On the Grind
Stephen J. Cannell
St. Martin's
9780312366285, $25.95

LAPD Detective Shane Scully strikes a deal with the District Attorney's Office to avoid probable jail time for blackmailing movie actress Tiffany Roberts instead of reporting her efforts to hire a hit man to kill her sleazy spouse. Part of the settlement is he leaves the police department. Scully's wife, LAPD Chief of Detectives Alexa is livid with his misbehavior that brought another black eye to the department and kicks him to the curb when she learns he probably slept with Roberts.

The former cop obtains a rookie's position with the Haven Park police department known as the most corrupt in the state. His new blue brothers assign him the task to cripple the efforts of a reformist running for city mayor.

This is an engaging Scully police procedural that gives away the key twist way too early in the otherwise well written albeit over the top plot as that subtracts from the trademark angst of previous tales (see WHITE SISTER and THREE SHIRT DEAL). Still the exciting story line is fun to follow as a disgraced Scully loses his job and his spouse, and ends up working in what law enforcement officials overwhelmingly believe is the most corrupt department in California; anyone not on the take will not live for very long.

Whisper in the Dark
Robert Gregory Browne
St. Martin's
0312358660, $7.99

A taxi driver almost runs down a naked woman covered with blood; she attacks him with a pair of scissors. Not far away in a run down apartment, Detective Frank Blackburn finds blood all over the place with a brutalized male corpse in the middle. When he hears of the Jane Doe, he rushes over to see her before the ambulance takes her to the hospital. He finds her incoherent and violent; he assumes she is in shock from having witnessed the murder in the apartment.

When the medical examiner looks at the body, he sees ":)" on the inside of the lip, made by a Power Blast cauterizing tool. The serial killer Vincent is back in Ocean City, California after being away for a year following his last debacle: eight dead women. His signature is cutting off the left ear of his victim. When psychiatrist Dr. Michael Tolan examines Jane Doe, he freaks out as she no longer has tracks and her eyes are changed colors from what was on her chart; she is turning into his beloved wife Abby who died one year ago today as Vincent's eighth victim. The serial killer is playing with Tolan's mind because he apparently did not kill Abby and wants to punish Michael for giving him credit for something he did not do; Vincent believes it is more likely Michael killed his wife as he suffered a blackout during the time she was murdered. Blackburn needs to get to Tolan before he becomes the next dead model of Vincent Van Gogh.

This is a pulse pounding electrifying thriller in which nothing is at it first seems. Jane Doe is a homeless justice who is being used by a borrower, in this case Abby, to try to communicate with Michael. Even her bone structure changes as she begins to take on the shape of Talon's late wife. Blackburn diligently works the case with everything he can muster; yet remains unaware that the supernatural is involved as he strictly hunts for a human serial killer. Robert Gregory Browne writes an exciting paranormal police procedural that will have readers wondering if Vincent comes from beyond the grave too.

The Second Opinion
Michael Palmer
St. Martin's
9780312343552, $25.95

When American Dr. Thea Sperelakis learns her imposing father, renowned Boston physician Petros is dying, a hit and run victim, she rushes home from the Congo where she works for Doctors Without Borders. At home Thea is stunned to find the mighty "Lion", as her dad is known, look so feeble and helpless.

Her brother Dimitri creates a computer simulation of the accident that appears to support the unthinkable premise that the driver tried to purposely murder Petros. Thea struggles to learn why as no motive comes to mind until she obtains some information from her dad. Although still containing monster gaps in what she knows, Thea believes her father is a victim of a professional hit that she thinks is tied to medical fraud Petros must have uncovered at the hospital where he was working.

THE SECOND OPINION is a well written solid medical thriller though the story line cooks up nothing new even for Michael Palmer fans. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Thea returns to Massachusetts as she obstinately seeks the truth although she knows first hand how dangerous that is.

Grave Sins
Jenna Maclaine
St. Martin's
0312946171, $6.99

In 1828 vampire "Red Witch" Dulcie "Cin" Cravan is visiting her human relatives the Mackenzies at her former home (before she died) Ravenworth Hall when vampire Drake, the Sentinel of the High King arrives with a mission from his sire. Cin refuses to allow the attractive vampire inside the home. Cin's beloved Michael and their fellow Righteous Dark Council of Vampires Devlin and Justine arrive at the Hall. Drake explains they must visit the home of the Queen of the Western Lands Marrakesh, to determine if as reported she has broken vampiric law by killing humans. The team knows Marrakesh's husband King Macleod will refuse to give her up without a fight; the pair are two of the most powerful vampires on the continent.

When they arrive at their destination, the Righteous are coldly welcomed as everyone knows who they are and why they are there. Their witness is dead having died in a mystical "locked room" manner. However she rescues the queen who she found chained to the roof just before dawn. As the quintet make inquires the evidence grows that the Queen is guilty and either should be executed or exiled; only Cin thinks otherwise though she has not found a viable alternate suspect even as her Michael is acting strange while Drake flirts with her and a guest at the abode and Bel flirts with Michael.

The sequel to the delightful historical romantic fantasy WAGES OF SIN is a fabulous entry in what looks like will be a strong saga. The story line is action-packed once Drake arrives and never slows down as the Inquisition Righteous investigates the goings-on while the romance between Cin and Michael flounders. Although the culprit seems obvious early on, fans will enjoy this terrific tale as Cin exploits her exaggerated reputation as the unique vamp the Red Witch to bluff and obtain cooperation that her more typical vamp partners cannot.

Dogs and Goddesses
Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart and Lani Diane Rich
St. Martin's
9780312944377, $7.99

In Summerville, Ohio, desperate to improve the behavior of their respective canines, three women attend a dog obedience training session. Recent California transplant Temple Street Coffeehouse owner Abby Richmond accompanied by Bowser the Newfoundlander; Web writer Daisy Harris and Baily the Jack Russell; and ancient history professor Shar Summer with Wolfie the dachshund bond during the two week training sessions hosted by dog trainer Kammani Gula.

The three new friends soon learn their instructor is actually the Mesopotamian goddess Kammani, who ruled the world four millennium ago. She plans to do so again with her three female students serving as her loyal priestesses. However, in spite of the Goddess granting them the ability to communicate with their dogs, the trio does not believe the world starting in Ohio needs a despotic Goddess; men are bad enough.

This is an outrageous zany paranormal thriller starring three women, their dogs, and a Goddess; all fully developed with differing personalities. The audience will laugh out loud at the chick-canine lit discussions especially with hyperactive Bailey. Still with all the amusing asides, the story line is fast-paced and exciting as the three novice dog owners try to prevent an ancient Goddess from taking over the world starting with them as her first draftees in small town Ohio.

Alyson Noel
St. Martin's
031253275X, $8.95

Ever had the perfect teen life as her home was ideal, she was part of the in-crowd at school, and could have any boyfriend she wanted. Her wonderful life ended when she was sixteen with a car accident that killed all her loved ones; her parents, her younger sister Riley, and her dog all dead. Ever also almost past away as her spirit left her body, but she was revived; her Aunt Sabine took her niece into her California home.

Once again she has everything a teen can desire except her beloved family, but Ever is also a psychic who can read minds, see auras, and holds pillow chats with Riley. She wears a hood to separate her from others as she tries to hide from the world. Her two friends are rejects who fit in with her feelings of being one too. Then Damen Auguste comes into her life and brings peace with a touch as he can block her psychic skills. He makes it very clear to her that he wants a relationship between them, but she fears his lack of an aura. Once the teen learns the truth about the lad pursuing her, Ever has to make a choice that fits her name.

Readers who enjoy the works of P.C. Cast and Stephanie Meyers will love this outstanding paranormal teen-lit thriller. Ever feels survival guilt and remorse for the accident as she blames herself; her talks with Riley are heartbreaking as her sister pleads with her to move on and live life to the fullest. Ever struggles with understanding what Damen and his friend are; while readers will comprehend the aura-less pair's yin-yang relationship. Fans, adults and teens, will relish the spellbinding EVERMORE.

Whisper to the Blood
Dana Stabenow
St. Martin's
9780312369743, $24.95

Aleut private detective Kate Shugak homesteads in the "Park" and though mentored by her grandmother to become the leader of their tribe and head of the Niniltna Native Association, she is more of a loner than a charismatic leader. Thus her personal issues are even more irritating to her as she struggles with the demands of her teenage foster son Johnny Morgan, and her State Trooper boyfriend Jim. However, their "bullying" her seems mild compared to the pleas of the four widow "Aunties" who are the ethical conscience of the residents of the "Park" and play on her scruples. She ignored their concerns before (see A DEEPER SLEEP) to her regret but still prefers to discount their latest apprehensions.

Canadian mining firm, Global Harvest Resources Inc is planning a large operation in the national park that impacts all the homesteaders. The Park residents are angry and some forms of vigilant justice surface with vicious snow machine robberies harming victims. On top of that, two homicides have further divided the developers from the locals. Kate investigates the murders and the violent robberies.

As always with the rugged regional Shugak mystery the investigation is excellent and the heroine's personal problems with relationships enhance her as a person with flaws. The eccentric cast augments the prime story line by providing insight into living in the Alaskan wilderness. That barren landscape comes alive as Dana Stabenow escorts her readers to the rugged side of Alaska that the recent election failed to showcase (see A DEEPER SLEEP).

The Lost Witness
Robert Ellis
St. Martin's
9780312366155, $25.95

LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division rookie detective Lena Gamble did well on her first case that reminded her of her brother's murder (see CITY OF FIRE), but she is taken aback when her supervisor, Lieutenant Frank Barrera assigns her to a visible nasty case. Someone left a dismembered female corpse inside a Hollywood a dumpster. The police inquiry into the Jane Doe brutal murder went nowhere until an unknown apparent witness leaves the cops with the victim's driver's license and a thumb drive displaying the kidnapping.

Dedicated Lena follows the clues while her superiors follow her. When she begins to scrutinize icons, her boss warns her to back away quietly. Lena refuses continuing her investigation into two men with ACCESS TO POWER; the son of a pharmaceutical company CEO owner and a doctor who knew the victim while seeking the unknown LOST WITNESS who remains in hiding even as the cop fears the killer will cone after this key person.

THE LOST WITNESS is an excellent police procedural filled with reasonable twists that will have the audience enthralled with what comes next. The investigation is superb as the obstinate dedicated Lena gambles her career and perhaps her life to finding the anonymous witness and subsequently the vicious killer. Fans will appreciate Robert Ellis' fine look at Hollywood through the lens of murder.

Hangman Blind
Cassandra Clark
St. Martin's
9780312537302, $24.95

In 1382 wealthy widow and now a Cistercian Sister Hildegard returns to her hometown of East Riding, Yorkshire where she plans to set up an abbey to aid the impoverished, sick and injured following last year's deadly Peasant Revolt. To achieve her objective, she will need the help of her long time friend, local magistrate Lord Roger de Hutton.

However upon arrival at Hutton Castle, she learns her friend has been poisoned. Sister Hildegard investigates only to find Lord Roger made many enemies within his castle household and with Yorkshire rivals seeking to improve their position. However, none seem to go as far as murder although many had the means and opportunity.

Mindful of Margaret Frazer's Sister Frevisse fifteenth century mysteries, the first Sister Hildegard's fourteenth century tale is an excellent medieval whodunit that brings to life a fragile England still reeling from the revolt of 1381 and the growing tension of what looks like a civil war in the near future. Following the preliminary introduction to time, place and lead character, the story line shifts into first gear as the nun learns of Roger's fate and never decelerates as everyone acts suspiciously around the heroine. Readers will appreciate this strong opening act as the history is vivid and the investigation exciting and entertaining.

Barefoot Brides
Annie Jones
Steeple Hill
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373786425, $6.99,

In Santa Sofia, Florida the Cromwell females and the Weatherby father and daughter are excited with the discovery that each says must have been the Lord's doing. Thirty years ago the ex-husband of Dodie Cromwell abducted their youngest daughter from their Atlanta home and vanished. Dodie raised her two oldest Jo and Kate but never gave up hope. Local fish fry king William Jay Weatherby adopted an abandoned infant left at his renowned restaurant in Santa Sofia, Florida, a town the Cromwells have visited on vacation. The rest is the Lord's doing.

Whole Moxie excitedly adjusts to three blood females in her life, Sun Times editor R. Hunt Diamante tells her tale in his paper. Jo struggles with doing God's mission as she sets up her mission, but has hope in her faith in the Lord and minister Travis Brandt to guide her. Dr. Kate realizes she loves Dr. Vince Merchant, a new grandfather, so she prays for a second chance with him as they prepare to marry.

In the second Barefoot saga (see THE BAREFOOT BELIEVERS, not read by me) is an engaging character driven drama as the four females struggle to form a revised extended family while each of the three younger generation women have the Lord in their life and a man. Fans of inspirational tales will relish the forging of relationships with one another and with the Lord as the siblings learn that God may work in mysterious ways that seem a long time to the Cromwell women, but they also know his strategic plan for his flock somehow works.

The Warlord's Daughter
Susan Grant
0373773617, $6.99

The two powerful civilizations are on the brink of the final battle to determine who will dominate the galaxy. The brutal Draaken Empire informs Battlelord Aral Mawdarr that none of the Coalition fleet is to get past the Warlord's Flotilla. However, he has switched alliances and plans to see the end of the brutal empire that his father worships as a man of power. Aral expects his award will be THE WARLORD'S DAUGHTER, Awrenkka promised to him as his bride ten years ago when she was thirteen.

His treachery works leaving the Warlord dead, but the offspring in danger as everyone wants her; the Draaken to begin a revival while the Coalition to end that revival; even earth is interested in her. Forging a Triad, they seek her while Aral also searches for his vanished fiancee, who plans to destroy a mythical treasure to keep it out of the hands of any warrior regardless of loyalties. That was her intention until she reconsiders when Aral finds his Wren.

The latest Borderlands military science fiction romance (see MOONSTRUCK, YOUR PLANET OR MINE, MY FAVORITE EARTHLING, and HOW TO LOSE AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL IN 10 DAYS) is a terrific entry as betrayal for various reasons is the norm. Aral is a fascinating character who has played the dangerous game of traitor for several years while inside the inner most advisory circle to the Warlord; his stealth skill might seem implausible but espionage cases like Ames and Walker prove otherwise. In many ways Wren is the more intriguing protagonist as she goes from total isolation to being the most wanted person in the galaxy. Fans of the Draaken-Coalition War will enjoy the latest saga as the battles may be over for now, but the hostility remains heated.

The Courtship Dance
Candace Camp
0373773544, $6.99

Fifteen years ago, then eighteen years old Lady Francesca Haughtson and the Duke of Rochford were engaged though they told no one as he insisted she enjoy her first season. However, she ended their relationship when she learned the truth about her fiance with Lady Daphne Swithington; she married someone else. All these years Sinclair has never met anyone else he wanted to marry; besides he does not trust women as he tried to explain to his beloved, but she refused to listen.

A widow for five years after an unhappy marriage, Francesca is filled with remorse and guilt because she knows the truth that she was duped with lies when she dumped her beloved Rochford. She wants to rectify her error and though it will hurt use her matchmaking skills to find him a proper wife who will believe his word. However, to find him a suitable wife means being with him. Francesca knows at first look she still loves him; Sinclair has never stopped living her. Although he wants her he knows he can never trust she will stay with him if another misunderstanding surfaces.

The fourth delightful Matchmaker Regency romance (see THE WEDDING CHALLENGE, THE MARRIAGE WAGER and THE BRIDAL QUEST) is a superb tale as this time Francesca's efforts are much more personalized as she owes Rochfort for doubting him. The engaging story line is driven by her and Rochford as she wants to make amends and he wants her; the days of reckoning between them that Candace Camp's fans have waited for have finally occurred.

Montana Creeds: Logan
Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN
0373773536, $7.99

After a successful career with the rodeo and a failure twice at marriage, Logan Creed returns to the family dilapidated Stillwater Springs Ranch in Montana; though he is somewhat estranged with his brothers Dylan and Tyler. He is wealthy, but ironically he made his money not from the rodeo, but from self-help legal services over the net.

Dylan has allowed Briana Grant and her two sons ten year old Josh and eight year old Alec to live in Logan's house since her rat of an ex Vance deserted her, their kids and their dog two years ago in Stillwater Springs. Logan likes the children and is attracted to their mother. When it appears that someone wants to hurt Briana, Logan vows to keep her and her children safe while fixing up the ranch and reconciling with his brothers.

Linda Lael Miller expands her McKettrick universe with their Big Sky cousins: the Creeds. The first tale stars big brother Logan and a courageous single mom who shows how much she cares about people by making it her mission to pull weeds from the nearby cemetery's gravesites. The Creeds are as dysfunctional as a family can be. Ms. Miller uses broken relationships like a master mage. Obviously targeting the McKettrick mob, fans of the author will appreciate her latest entry as the saga grows and two more siblings to follow.

Every Breath You Take
Hope Tarr
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794454, $4.99

While working undercover in Denver masquerading as country and western singer Cole Coleman, FBI special agent Cole Whittaker fell in love with biotechnology expert Alexandra "Alex" Kendall; she reciprocated with all her heart, soul and body. However, when he suddenly vanished without a trace, she felt betrayed so deep it penetrated into every cell of her body.

Five years later Cole has left the Feds to run his own security company. Biotech expert Alex works for Traxton Biotechnologies, Inc., and is engaged to the firm's CEO Randall Traxton. Cole is hired to provide protection to Alex, who has received a viable threat while in Belize on business. Alex remains bone marrow deep with outrage by Cole's abandonment, but he remains inside her gut; she assumes if she sleeps with him, she can exorcise her demon.

This is an engaging second chance at love suspense starring two fascinating lead characters whose previous relationship was killed by national security interests. Although the threat to Alex never comes across as viable, fans will enjoy Cole willing to risk his life (and to him more significant his chance for happiness) to keep his beloved safe.

A Few Good Men
Tori Carrington
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794492, $4.99

"Eric". In Virginia Marine Corporal Eric Armstrong looks forward to meeting his pen pal while on leave; however, she keeps avoiding him.

"Eddie". In North Carolina Marine Corporal Eddie Cash may be known for his risk taking even in combat, but he fears his current task: take care of the woman carrying his child preferably by marrying her; a female six months and two days pregnant who rejects his help.

"Mateo". In Ohio Marine Lieutenant Matt Guerrero comes home for R&R, but instead wonders if serving his country with honor has ended his marriage.

"Justice". In Florida Marine Captain Brian Justice faces a court-martial due to the incident in Nicosia, Cypress that will kick him out of the marines dishonorably. He has no hope for the future until he meets Angela Mitchell, but fears he will lose her at the same time his career ends.

These four well written marine romantic novellas pay homage to the men in uniform and the women who love them while worrying about their deployments. The stories are stand alone but interact through the Cyprian incident and the subsequent court martial. Fans will enjoy A FEW GOOD MEN and want more perhaps with soldiers including women coming from the war zone to homes west of the Mississippi.

Baby on Board
Lisa Ruff
Harlequin American
0373752474, $4.99

Glass artist Kate Stevens makes a difficult decision when she learns she is pregnant. She decides to hide the truth from the father, boat racer Patrick Berzani. He has never made any time for her as his prime interest is racing; and believes he would be an absentee father, which is not a good dad for a baby.

During his last event, Patrick was away for three months; in that time he sent no email, no text message, no flowers, and one phone call. She decides the party animal will not hurt their child when he fails to be there. Kate begins seeking someone else to be the father of her child. However, Patrick learns of the pregnancy and Kate's campaign; he begins his own to prove to her will be a good husband and will be a great father if she gives him a chance.

Although the topic of hiding a child from the father has been done many times before, BABY ON BOARD is refreshed by Patrick's awareness before his offspring is born. His efforts to prove he will be there for Kate and their child make for a fine tale, but neither him nor her come across as empathetic as each seems stubbornly selfish. Still Lisa Ruff provides a fine contemporary maybe a family drama.

Mommy in Training
Shelley Galloway
Harlequin American
0373752482, $4.99

Matt Madigan left his hometown of Crescent View, Texas at the first opportunity he could. He never recovered from when he was a high school senior whose father died leaving him an orphan; he moved in with the kind neighbor Mrs. Wyzecki. He applied for scholarships, got one, and left Texas including his high school sweetheart Paige behind although he was dumping her anyway for doing the football team. Once he left he never came back even for Paige's funeral after she and her husband died in a car accident.

Now he is back in town opening up a SavNGo superstore that he believes will save the dying town. He knows Paige's younger sister Minnie Clark is raising his late girlfriend's five year old daughter Kimber and runs a local gift store. He also knows he is attracted to Minnie though she and much of the town's storeowners loath what he is bringing to Crescent View as a superstore means they will soon be having out of business sales.

This is an intriguing contemporary family drama as the aunt and her niece struggle to move on since the latter's mommy died last year; ironically though he literally moved on, Matt also struggles with emotionally moving on. As Minnie and Matt fall in love, he wonders if he has come home for the first time since his dad's death. Fans will enjoy this fine contemporary small-town Texas romance refreshed by Minnie's amusing commentaries are her shortfalls while Matt thinks she is the perfect Clark sister.

Night After Night
Kathryn Smith
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061632709, $6.99,

In 1899 Europe, Temple the vampire knows he must kill his six foot plus jailer, but something prevents him from harming Vivian though she is aligned with his enemies the Order of the Silver Palm and their leader Rupert Villiers. Still he tastes her blood that he covets, which stuns him giving him hope. When he asks her what she is, she flees hurt that he reminded her she is a freak. She loved his bite and fears she will betray Rupert. Temple realizes she treats the evil Rupert like a loving father and realizes his evil foe set a trap for his four vampiric friends. When he escapes, Rupert sends Vivian to follow him explaining he will flee to Clare Island, Ireland. Her task is to make the vampire believe she is his so that Rupert can catch all five of them.

On Clare Island, Temple waits for Vivian as he knows she pursues him. They fight and she does extremely well until he finally pins her. They make love and he takes her blood though he does not trust Vivian. He also knows Rupert lost his fiancee to a vampire twenty years ago, but believes his enemy wants much more than vengeance. Vivian explains Rupert rescued her from a freak show that her father sold her to; she is torn between loyalty to Rupert and love for Temple.

The latest Brotherhood of the Blood historical romantic fantasy (see NIGHT OF THE HUNTRESS, TAKEN BY THE NIGHT and LET THE NIGHT BEGIN) is an exhilarating tale starring a fabulous unique heroine. The relationship between the lead couple is terrific as they are attracted to one another and fall in love, but distrust one another while the ending contains a terrific final twist. Although the villain is brilliant yet is unable to accept his ward has changed sides in spite of the evidence and the five vampires fail to implement an obvious strategy, saga fans will want to read Kathryn Smith's exciting "Night" tale.

Shelley Shepard Gray
9780061474460, $12.95

Growing up in her parents' owned Amish Brenneman Bed and Breakfast and recently watching her older brother fall in love with her outsider friend (see HIDDEN), twenty years old Katie Brennerman dreams of Jonathan Lundy. She has loved him forever even more so after she left the Amish community for a while, but did nothing except hide her regard as he was married with two kids. When his wife dies, a grieving Jonathan asks Katie to help care for his daughters. She accepts although she initially thought he might be proposing, but quickly realizes he is talking about a nanny position.

Still this gives Katie hope that one day Jonathan will return what has always been her one sided love. However, when Katie receives a letter that reminds her of her Rumspringa days of doing things her people forbid and still shames her, she fears how her beloved and her Amish family will react if the truth is revealed. She prays to God for guidance though she also knows her prayers to gain Jonathan's love has gone unanswered.

The second Sisters of the Heart Amish romance is an engaging contemporary tale starring two fully developed flawed individuals and a strong support cast. The story line is driven by Katie who prays that Jonathan loves her back while also hiding from him and her family things she did that she is now abashed when she thinks of them. With plenty of good inspirational commentary interwoven into the fine plot, WANTED is a strong tale although the ending feels rushed and shortened.

A Dangerous Affair
Caro Peacock
9780061447488, $13.95

In his thirties recently elected to Parliament,"watch dog" Benjamin Disraeli offers Liberty Lane a fee to spy on dancer Columbine, whose disreputable behavior could lead to a nasty highly publicized scandal. Needing the money, Liberty reluctantly agrees. However, someone poisons Columbine with the London police leaning towards rival dancer Jenny as the prime suspect as she and the deceased had a public dispute.

Liberty thinks otherwise, but there is mounting pressure to execute Jenny, already convicted by the public, the media, and the cops, for the murder. To prevent a double injustice of the wrong person being hung while the real killer is free, Liberty investigates ably assisted by Amos the groom. They begin to unravel a series of murky deceptions in which the influential and the downtrodden are tied together in secrecy.

The sequel to A FOREIGN AFFAIR is a terrific early Victorian whodunit that uses real historical persons to anchor time and place. Liberty is an intelligent sleuth and her sidekick Amos serves as a sort of Watson. The mystery is cleverly devised with fabulous plausible spins and misdirections as Caro peacock furbishes an entertaining early nineteenth century investigative tale.

Evil Without a Face
Jordan Dane
9780061474125, $7.99

The only gun Chicago bounty hunter Jessica Beckett handles and sleeps with is her Colt Python. Men mean nothing to her except as skippers to bring to justice. Males are all lowlifes, but the name Lucas Baker is one that brings out the passion in the usually deadly stoic Jessica; she is after this child abuser hoping for the opportunity to see him die horribly.

However her dream ends when she learns Baker was murdered. Jessica finds out the malevolent malefactor was intimately involved with the international human trafficking group, Globe Harvest. The CPD detectives make Jess a prime suspect, but now she is on the hunt for a missing teenage girl whom she fears Globe Harvest has abducted. Former NFL quarterback Payton Archer swore to his sister he would find his seventeen year old kidnapped niece Nikki Archer. To do that he must persuade the female lone wolf to let him team with her.

This exhilarating romantic suspense thriller takes readers to Alaska and occasionally Russia on a non stop action-packed tour. Payton is a terrific character as he is used to manning the lead role of calling the shots, but instead this time must protect the quarterback in order to bring his niece to safety. Jess makes the tale fresh with her female hard-ass attitude that at all times insists on sacking the enemy (including all males), which enables her to keep men from blitzing her heart. Readers will appreciate EVIL WITHOUT A FACE as the quarterback and the bounty hunter know the rescue comes first followed by capturing the malevolent villains and at the rear their attraction to one another.

When a Stranger Loves Me
Julianne MacLean
9780061456855, $6.99

In 1874 on the Western tip of the Jersey Islands, Lady Chelsea is besides herself after receiving a note from Lord Jerome Carruthers. He coldly informs her that her brother Lord Neufeld has no offspring after a decade of marriage and is ailing; he will inherit leaving her and her mom homeless unless she marries him, a man many years her senior. When she finds a man lying on the beach having been washed from the sea, she thinks she has the answer to finding an heir. She will seduce the stranger who has no idea who he is as he suffers from amnesia. Her pregnancy will keep the estate and her from odious Carruthers.

However, Chelsea's plan goes astray when she falls in love with the kind amnesiac. His family arrives to bring him home and he realizes how his nurse used him. As he learns more about the cause of his memory loss, he too is in love, but no longer trusts his hostess.

Though readers might assume Chelsea's risky plan as inane, her desperation will convince the audience that she sees no alternative unless she marries the despicable Jerome. She and her amnesiac make for a fun Victorian tale although his mystery memory loss seems too easily resolved. Still historical romance fans will appreciate Julianne MacLean's fine Victorian romance (see MY WILDEST FANTASIES and THE MISTRESS DIARIES).

Devil of the Highlands
Lynsay Sands
9780061344770, $7.99

In 1273 England, Lady Edda asks King Edward to arrange for her stepdaughter Evelinde of d'Aumesbury to marry the "Devil of Donnachaidh". The stepmother loathes her late husband's offspring and detests sharing the fruits of her deceased husband's barony, which is beneath her needs as it is She also wants to punish Evelinde for being the brave daughter of her despicable dead spouse; so assumes the Scottish aristocratic barbarian will be a perfect brute for Evelinde. The monarch arranges for the couple to meet. Each is shocked that their preconceptions re the other is totally wrong. She expected an abusive thug, but he is kind and caring; he anticipated a cold aloof shrew, but she is warm and daring.

After they exchange marital vows, they head to his home in Scotland as she wonders why the nickname as he nothing like his ferocious reputation. She learns the epithet was given to him due to the murder of his father and the alleged suicide of his cousin; everyone assumes he caused both. Everyone except Evelinde until someone tries to kill her. She wonders if her husband is actually insane or is someone trying to make him seem like a berserker murderer; she plans to learn the truth or die trying.

Starting with the evil stepmother, DEVIL OF THE HIGHLANDS is a fabulous medieval romance starring two charming courageous characters. Evelinde is somewhat typical of the sub-genre except that she matures with a keen understanding that the man she loves proves his caring of her and his people through what he does for them. The whodunit adds to a strong thirteenth century tale as the heroine realizes her spouse is the angel of Donnachaidh.

Ravenous: The Dark Forgotten
Sharon Ashwood
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451226174, $6.99,

In Fairview, Registered Witch Holly Carver of the Three Sisters Agency is a house cleaner who rids homes of haunting, poltergeists and other paranormal varmints. She is having a tough time with Steve Raglan's Victorian better known as the dangerous Flanders place. If she didn't need tuition money she would never take on the job of kicking the butt of a haunt from this Amityville-like abode especially since she realizes the house is hungry and she does not want to be fast food. However, six people including kids are trapped inside as lunch if not rescued. She succeeds with the help of her undead business partner Alessandro Caravelli but the haunted house almost dined on her.

Soon afterward her boyfriend dumps her and she learns a demon escaped from a portal her ancestors failed to shut properly. Holly feels responsibility since her family failed to do their job. She is not a highly regarded spellcaster, but vows to kick the demon in the butt back to the other side and shut the gateway. Her grandmother advises her and police detective Conall Macmillan helps her though he suffers from "psychic flu" he caught from kissing a siren in a bar. Alessandro tries to to help the love of his life Holly, but knows to do so will alienate his vampire Queen Omara, who demands total loyalty from her vamps. Besides everyone knows vampires are like chocolates; tempting to keep biting but too much can prove a sweet death.

This tongue in cheek, action-packed jocular urban fantasy hooks the reader from the opening moment when the audience sees Holly's business card and never slows down as she becomes popular, as the most sought after individual in the area from hordes who want her dead before she can close the portal. Well written with Fairview seemingly real as coming acrsss as the paranormal capital of the world and the supernatural feeling natural, the sub-genre audible will relish the adventures of Holly Carver, Registered Witch.

MacGowan's Ghost
Cindy Miles
0451226186, $6.99

Allie Morgan is a for hire ghostbuster who is proud of liberating spirits so that they can move on. Her current client takes her from the States, her last job being in Raleigh, to the Northwest coast of Scotland. Odin's Thumb Inn and Pub is loaded with irritating ghosts.

However this assignment in Sealladh na Mara is different than any she previously performed. She quickly learns that every resident can communicate with the ghosts, which makes her realize she is not as unique as she thought, but also wonders why her customer the pub owner Gabe MacGowan needs an outsider like her; to do so he must sell the pub; to sell the pub he must rid it of its otherworldly infestation including his late wife. Neither Jake nor the ghosts want to leave their home, so they have teamed up to drive potential buyers away. However, Allie is attracted to the gloomy Gabe and likes his sons and the lively spirits so instead of driving them out, she joins their side hoping to understand what is disturbing her client's soul.

This is a fun paranormal romance starring a likable heroine, a Grinch of a male lead, and a fine cast of ghosts who play matchmaker along with his son. The story line is lighthearted fun while also digging deep into relationships even with those beyond the grave; especially Gabe's late wife. Fans will enjoy this enchanting romantic fantasy.

JoAnn Ross
0451226127, $7.99

Over a year ago, Army Night Stalker pilot and Army Dr. Kirby Campbell met in Baghdad and shared a great tryst. However when he crashed during a mission, he lost his leg; he never returned to Kirby. She assumes he died while on a SOAR mission. Shane returns to the States where he is fitted with a prosthetic leg. He never forgot Kirby, but has too much on his plate trying to rebuild his life in his hometown of Somersett, South Carolina.

Kirby is in Monteleon, Central America providing medical relief as a WMR physician to the residents of the jungle nation run by Dictator President General Vasquez. When her friend and boss Dr. Rachel Moore is abducted and held hostage, she joins the Phoenix Team led by Tremayne and McKade planning the rescue. Shane also insists on joining the rescue team. As the pair reignite whet they started in the Middle East, they both knows this is love, but is that enough to overcome what happens the first time they are together in a non "High Risk" scenario.

This action-packed romantic suspense thriller (see FREEFALL and CROSSFIRE for the previous High Risk thrillers) is fast-paced from the onset in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq and never slows with a brief respite in the States and then onto Central America. Fans get a deep look at issues facing veterans coming home after a deployment in the war zone. Shayne is a great hero as he adapts to his lost leg by teaching aviation and a willingness to test breakthrough prosthetic technology; as a medical volunteer in hot spots Kirby is as brave as he is. Readers will relish their exhilarating High Risk tale.

Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand
Carrie Vaughn
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9780446199537, $6.99,

After being bitten by a werewolf, Kitty Norville became one too (see KITTY AND THE MIDNIGHT HOUR). When her lawyer Ben, who was also bitten, Kitty, saw him through the change, their wolves' side knew before their human half understood they belong together. As Denver's werewolf population recognizes them as the alpha couple of their pack, they also maintain their contacts with their human family and human friends. The pair decides to marry so Kitty's radio show producers arrange for her to do a Vegas TV show.

Kitty initially saw the Vegas trip as a working vacation, but reassess her belief as the hotel she is staying at hosts a gun show with bounty hunters of werewolves attending. She knows some of them will try to kill her because of her fame. Odysseus Grant performs an old fashioned magic act that many think is the real thing, but refuses an invitation to do his act on Kitty's show. He also warns her to stay away from the animal act made up of shapeshifters at the Hanging Guardians run by Balthasar the King of the Beasts. When Ben is kidnapped, Kitty has a whole group of suspects to pick from who committed the crime starting with the bounty hunters where she gets a shocking surprise.

KITTY AND THE DEAD MAN'S HAND is an exciting supernatural romantic suspense. The protagonist and her mate have come a long way as they have adapted to being werewolves lifemates leading their pack while running their New Moon Restaurant, a paranormal neutral zone hang out. Though the abduction and related investigative mystery comes late, it is fun to follow as readers wonder whether Kitty will come out with a roll of a natural or craps as she tries to rescue her mate. Carrie Vaughn provides an enthralling and spellbinding urban fantasy as Kitty takes on Vegas.

The Girl She Used To Be
David Cristofano
Grand Central
0446582220, $22.99

In Columbia Pike, Maryland, bored and alone except for the one man in her life, math teacher Sandra Clarke decides it is time for a change. She calls up her man; Witness Protection Program US Marshal Randall Ferquer to inform him she received a call from the Brooklyn based Bovaro family. The sixty year old Fed retrieves her so she can receive her newest identity as he has done several times over the past two decades.

When she was six, her parents took her to a restaurant where they witnessed the Bovaro mob patriarch kill a man. The FBI was given a tip about their witnessing the homicide and placed them in he WPP. However Melody's actions as a teen led to the murders of her parents. Randall has been with her all the way, but he informs her he is retiring and the new man in her life is Sean Douglas.

However, this time when they reach a motel in Cape Charles, the last stop before the Chesapeake Bay complex, another man enters her life. Jonathan Bovaro, son of the killer, sneaks into her room and persuades Melody Grace McCartney, her birth name that he calls her by, to flee with him. Although she knows he probably will kill her, she takes a chance on his offer of freedom even as Sean gives chase.

THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE is a strange but intriguing contemporary tale that puts a fascinating spin to the Witness Protection Program. Melody finds it tedious with the same stereotypical identities, cities, motels and lack of fun. The Feds feels they are doing her a favor by keeping her safe and alive, but she feels otherwise; that the FBI and WITTEC lied about their "new" lives as Melody feels they killed her with their rules. Thus when Jonathan enters her life, he brings freshness to her stale existence. Fans will enjoy this fascinating character study that places a totally unique limelight on the WPP.

The Book of Lies
Brad Meltzer
Grand Central
044657788X, $25.99

Nineteen years ago in Miami, then nine year old Calvin Harper watched his bipolar mom go berserk as she always did when the demon surfaced. His usually in control dad Lloyd loses it this time and punches her in the chest in a rage. Just before dying, she blames Calvin. Lloyd is convicted of manslaughter. Over the years, Calvin never made contact with his dad even after he was released from prison.

Now in his late twenties Calvin and a former priest named Roosevelt work the mean streets of Fort Lauderdale taking homeless people to a shelter. However, when Calvin helps a vagrant, he is stunned because the homeless man is Lloyd. His father asks his estranged son to assist him as he searches for the ancient artifact that Cain used to kill Abel and may have been the weapon used to kill the father of Superman creator Jerry Siegel in 1932. Coded references hint at a book of immortality as the object, but others willing to kill want it too.

This is an entreating tale that links the first reported homicide to a 1932 murder to the Nazis and to a modern day secret cult. The story line is action-packed and fun to follow especially for Brownian conspiracy fans. However, none of the key cast members seem more developed than a comic book character so the tension never quite reaches gripping levels. Still this is an intriguing tale as the default starting in biblical times reaches the Harper males with interesting stops in between.

Erotic City
Grand Central
9780446179577, $13.99

In Atlanta lies the adult only Erotic City, the hippest, swingiest club in the southeast. The club occupies three stories in the heart of the downtown; a place where customers can behave with no inhibitions and no concerns up to four nights a week. Sex of any persuasion is the only game in Erotic City.

Thirty-two years old Club owner Milan Kennedy struggles to insure her clients are enjoying their visits without recrimination. However, just surrounding the sexual oasis is Georgia, a state that fundamentally condemns sex even between two consenting adults. They want the club closed and threaten the client base with exposure. Meanwhile Milan's significant other former boxing champ "Lavender" Lewis has issues with his ex volatile fruitcake Ramada Hart who will do anything including destroying Milan to get her champ back.

Though the heat is hotter than the equator, surprisingly EROTIC CITY is a character study of relationships between several people from differing aspects of life. The lead couple, his ex and her sisters are fully developed protagonists and an antagonist, but the support cast especially the clientele come across with just enough development to understand their wants and desires. Readers will enjoy Pynk's deep contemporary that focuses on relationships through the lens of sex in the city that prefers to pretend it is non existent, and those who flaunt it will regret it.

Leaving Whiskey Bend
Dorothy Garlock
Grand Central
0446695343, $13.99

In 1890 Whiskey Bend, Colorado, Chester Remnick beat up his stepsister Mary in public; none of the men intervened. Mary's friend Pearl Parsons warns Chester to stay away from her and his stepsister or she will use her rifle to convert him into a hen; she does shoot him in the leg. The two women and schoolteacher Hallie Wolcott decide to flee the brutality and abuse of the town.

A previous victim of abuse, Pearl vows to find a safe haven for her friends. A storm almost kills Mary, but she is rescued by a rancher Eli Morgan, who gives them shelter at his rundown spread while she heals over the objection of his malicious mother who knows the women mean trouble and wants them to leave. Outraged from the affront Chester is hunting the women with plans to take the friends to teach them a lesson and bring home his stepsister to take care of his shack. Eli has his own issues as his mom never forgave him for abandoning the family years ago and a need to find out who murdered his younger brother Caleb. As he and Hallie fall in love, neither are prepared for an unknown adversary who wants him dead.

Although intriguing with the premise of late nineteenth century abuse and with solid key characters, the romance fails to come across as realistic; as that and the climax seem abrupt. Still fans of Dorothy Garlock will enjoy her western romance as family issues threaten the lives of Eli and the three women he vows to protect.

Death of a Witch
M.C. Beaton
Grand Central
0446196134, $24.99

After heeding the advice of his friend to go abroad on his vacation, police constable Hamish Macbeth returns from a cheap off season holiday in Spain to his home village Lochdubhof in the Scottish Highlands. All he can think of is breathing Scotland's air after a boring disappointing trip to the southern part of the Iberian Peninsular.

However, in his short time as a stranger in a strange land, Macbeth finds the village males acting even stupider than normal, which in the cop's mind would have been impossible as stupid male is an oxymoron. Newcomer Catriona Beldame seems to own the men as if she cast a bewitching spell on them. She sells them elixirs that she claims cure all sorts of sexual malfunctions. Macbeth learns of her dishonest past and warns her if she is peddling illegal concoctions he will get her. Just after Macbeth foolishly in public proclaims he wants to kill the flimflam con artist someone takes his threat to heart killing Beldame and burning down her residence. Knowing Inspector Blair will gleefully make him a prime suspect, Macbeth investigates, but is taken aback by the murders of three more women and a female not under investigation who has him distracted with thoughts of a kiss.

The latest Macbeth police procedural (see DEATH OF A GENTLE LADY) is a terrific whodunit as the hero will shock his fans with the key relationship question to ask or not to ask as Hamish meets women who are not suspects. Filled with the usual humor, DEATH OF A WITCH is a delightful Scottish charmer that works on the investigative level as much as on the personal level. M.C. Beaton provides her usual superior tale with the king of obstinacy Macbeth diligently working a homicide while pondering the foreign concept of romantic thoughts.

A Witch's Beauty
Joey W. Hill
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425225677, $15.00,

Mina knows being a half-breed leaves her looking from the outside as neither her mother's race of Mermaids nor her father's Dark Ones trust her. She remains an unholy abomination although she risked her life to save that of Prime Legion Commander for the Goddess, Jonah the Angel (see A MERMAID'S KISS). Her reward is further distrust and suspicion from Jonah and his angelic horde as she displayed Dark One power.

Whereas Marcellas wants her caged as Dark One's are always evil, Jonah assigns angels to keep an eye on Mina, who detests the surveillance even if the Prime Legion Commander insists it is for her safety as well as theirs. However, her prime guard is David, a former human turned angel, who like Mina struggles with controlling the dark side that flows within his blood. As they fall in love, no one knows whether their passion will ignite the dark or light of their respective natures or burn out either or both of their souls.

The latest erotic Joey W. Hill fantasy is an excellent addition to a great saga. A WITCH'S BEAUTY is a direct sequel to the fabulous A MERMAID'S KISS with Mina in spite of her heroism even more of a pariah to the angels. David is a fascinating lead protagonist as he believes he sees the goodness in his beloved's soul while everyone else assumes his human origins tainted his perceptions with rose colored glasses. As the eternal war continues with no end in sight, a flicker of hope arises with love, trust, and a new generation. Ms. Hill is one of the best fantasists on the market today as her battle of heaven and earth excels with every entry.

Mortal Sins
Eileen Wilks
9780425225523, $7.99

FBI Agent Lily Yu and her soulmate California's Nokolai clan werewolf Rule Turner are in North Carolina planning to bring home his son, Toby, who lives with his grandma. While on a wolf run near the Lediolf clan's home, he smells death. He follows the scent to a grave containing three corpses and the lingering infection of death magic.

Since Agent Lily is already at the crime scene, she is put in charge of the official investigation. Another "death magic" homicide occurs; leading Lily to believe that something new at least to her is the serial killer. Werewolf sorcerer Cullen tells Lily someone has created a deadly wraith, but offers no clues how ends the reign of terror.

The latest Agent Yu "Mortal" urban fantasy police procedural is refreshed by the family element and by a unique serial killer who the FBI operative, her werewolf significant other and the sorcerer have no earthly idea how to defeat it. Thus solving the whodunit turns out relatively easy while solving how to prevent further deaths proves seemingly impossible. Eileen Wilks provides a strong entry in her Yu thrillers (see MORTAL DANGER).

My Man Michael
Lori Foster
9780425226292, $7.99

Twenty-six years old Michael "Mallet" Manchester is a month away from his SBC title shot that he and most pundits believe he will win. That was before the car accident left his right leg mangled, his fighting career over, and since he knows nothing else he is moping and bitter. He believes his life is over.

Kayle Raine enters his hospital room calling him a loser as a warrior never mopes regardless of the conditions of her limbs. She offers him an intriguing deal. Though Mallet believes he must be hallucinating from the pain medicine, he accepts her transaction; she will heal his injuries in exchange he will go back to the future with her people have become weak couch potatoes. She hides her real mission in taking him to 2220, which is his mating with a woman; but the rules forbid Kayle from being that lucky female.

This is an entertaining major twist to Lori Foster's SBC contemporary romances as the story line is a fascinating futuristic science fiction romance. Mallet is fabulous as he goes from total sulking ready to withdraw from life to stunned champion. Though the early twenty-third century does not seem quite real (could it be his drugs?), fans will relish the love between the rescuer and the rescued if they can each overcome their inadequacy fears.

Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time
Emily Brightwell
9780425226780, $7.99

A tea party is commencing at Humphrey House, but the owner of the place, train devotee Francis Humphreys fails to be with his guests. Relatives and friends become concerned because he is a punctual person. A knock on his door goes unanswered. Recently Francis has been forgetful as if he was in an early stage of senility. All talking at the party abruptly ends when a shot is heard. Everyone rushes to Francis' room where they find him dead, a bullet to his head. They call the cops and Scotland Yard sends their top detective Inspector Witherspoon to investigate what looks like a suicide by a man losing his mind.

The Inspector is disgusted as he is stuck with as his assistant Inspector Niven's' nephew Lionel Gates; Witherspoon would rather have Constable Barnes whom he respects. Still they interview the guests and investigate motives; most inherit part of Francis' estate. However opportunity remains elusive as every attendee had an alibi as all of them were in the drawing room together when the shot was heard. Witherspoon's housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries and the rest of the downstairs staff secretly investigate in hopes of finding clues to assist their kind employer and prevent a killer from murdering again.

Reading a Mrs. Jeffries Victorian whodunit is paraphrasing the Lays' potato chip commercial you can't read just one. The latest case is a fabulous locked room police procedural with all the suspects providing alibis for one another as they were together having tea. Witherspoon is as always solves the case, but is clueless that his housekeeping staff conducts an inquiry with the downstairs employed at Humphrey House. Fans will enjoy this fine historical mystery that showcases how the police conduct an official investigation and how the amateur sleuths perform their version.

The Runaway McBride
Elizabeth Thornton
9780425226346, $7.99

In 1885 on her deathbed, his grandmother Lady Valeria pleads with James Burnett to find his ex fiancee Faith McBride to protect her as her life is in danger. He would do anything for his grandma the witch but not that; still he swears he will keep his former fiancee safe even as he wonders who will keep him safe from her. He also knows his grandma's last act of life is passing on her clairvoyance skills to him; either that or he is hallucinating.

Faith believes her beloved James dumped her to marry someone else. When she sees him, she knows she still loves him even if he is somewhat cold towards her. He offers to help her learn how her mother died. As they follow the clues their love remains strong but their trust remains at zero; love is not enough until she realizes James risks his life for his Faith.

This superb late Victorian romance is enhanced by a touch of the paranormal and by the whodunit amateur sleuth investigation. The story line is fast-paced, filled with humor and action, but it is the second chance at love between the wonderful lead pair who makes this a fine historical.

The Courtesan's Wager
Claudia Dain
9780425225806, $15.00

In 1802 London, Lady Amelia Caversham perfectly meets the criteria for a duchess. She has excellent breeding as the daughter of a duke, no whiff of scandal, polite, and most important is that she has a sizable dowry. In spite of her assets, no male seems interested in her.

She decides she needs help from a professional when it comes to the males of the Ton. She asks notorious courtesan turned notorious matchmaker Lady Sophia Dalby to assist her. Dalby agrees feeling this will liven up a slow season. She arranges interviews of men who must meet her eligibility criteria to become Amelia's husband. The Ton explodes with delight and men line up for the job. Alas only Lord Cranleigh refuses to make a fool of himself except wanting to protect his reticent younger brother from doing so. His plan is to seduce the twit only he finds the seduction too enticing to walk away from.

Once again though a secondary player, Dalby steals the show (see THE COURTESAN'S DAUGHTER and THE COURTESAN'S SECRET) in this well written amusing Regency romance. The frolic is fast-paced from the moment a desperate Amelia turns to the notorious one and never slows from that first encounter. Readers will enjoy this terrific jocular caper as Cranleigh's behaves as amusingly shameful as Dalby and Amelia do.

The Adversary
Michael Walters
9780425225967, $14.00

In Ulan Baatar, Mongolia, Judge Radnaa is disturbed with the State Prosecution lawyer, Tsengal who asks for more time in the case against crime chieftain Muunokhoi as some of the evidence proves to be fake. The defense attorney Nyamsuren insists his client be let go or the trial starts now. The Judge rules in favor of the accused as the prosecutor should not have brought the case to trial if they were not ready.

Embarrassed by the proceedings, the Minister assigns Nargui, former chief of Serious Crime Team, to conduct an inquiry as to what happened especially who leaked to the defense that some of the evidence was tainted. His personally selected replacement Dosipalam wonders why Nargui is involved. Police detective Tunjin, a thirty year veteran, is placed on suspension with pay pending the investigation as he is the one who planted the evidence. Muunokhoi wants Tunjin dead so he flees with the help of an elderly neighbor from the Mongolian capital. At the same time the investigation into the murder of Mrs. Toya, whose cousin works for the free media, and whose teenage son is missing ties back to the crime king and the judge.

The sequel to THE SHADOW WALKER is a strong police procedural with an exciting internal affairs like investigation, but as before it is the locations in Mongolia of a somewhat westernized Ulan Baatar and the remote Gobi Desert that make this tale stand out. Nargui may have been promoted from the police department, but he remains a superb cop as does his protege. Part of the fun is their relationship as the more diplomatic Dosipalam egged on buy his wife who detests her spouse's former boss, wonders why he is back. The Tunjin and Mrs. Toya subplots add depth though the climax seems over the top of the Steppes. Fans will enjoy the second in-depth tour of Mongolia as several cops guide the audience around a country trying to balance the Russians, the Chinese and the West.

What Time Devours
A.J. Hartley
9780425226230, $7.99

In Illinois, Evanston Township High School English teacher Thomas Knight looks out his window to see the woman's face plastered against the pane; her eyes look vacant. He goes outside and checks on her to find her dead. Police Detective Lieutenant Polinksi leads the investigation into a victim with no ID except a stick-it note with Thomas' name and address on it. He insists he never met her, but obviously the cop say she came to see him.

Not long after that former student David Escolme calls Thomas. He explains he works at the prestigious Vernon Fredericks Literary Agency and needs to meet Thomas to show him something Thomas agrees to meet him at the prestigious Drake Hotel where David is staying while attending a Shakespeare scholarly conference. At the Drake, a distraught David insists he had and lost a handwritten copy of Love's Labor Won, an alleged play by the great Bard that has never been proven to exist though there is a footnoted historical reference that it did. He further explains that his client is renowned author Daniella Blackstone who he explains cannot write a sentence; her former partner Church is the obvious author of their collaborations. Thomas believes that the dead Jane Doe is Blackstone. Soon afterward, David vanishes, a web sight that listed him as an agent at Fredericks no longer exists, and he is not on the register of guests at the Drake; soon afterward someone tries to kill Thomas; hospitalizing him with a bullet wound. Although his shoulder hurts, David re-enters the scholarly world of Shakespeare; a place he fled from a decade ago to teach school.

Fans will enjoy the return of Thomas who is estranged from his wife Kumi, but hopes for a reconciliation. This time the conspiracy of sorts changes from the Church and his brother's death (see ON THE FIFTH DAY) to Shakespeare and his student's death. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as Thomas minding his business ends up in a modern day tragedy. Fans of A.J. Hartley will appreciate a brief visit from Atlanta museum curator Deborah Miller of MASK OF ATREUS who stops by at the hospital to say hello on her way to field work (sequel for her, perhaps). WHAT TIME DEVOURS is an entertaining thriller as the Shakespearean scholars are as cutthroat as Richard III.

Never Been Witched
Annette Blair
9780425226490, $7.99

The middle witch of triplets, Destiny Cartwright has visions of the future that she depicts by painting a picture of what she saw. However recently an anomaly has occurred; for the first time in her life, Destiny cannot focus on the vision. She realizes this abnormality only happens when architect Morgan Jarvis is nearby. He frightens her.

Morgan shares Destiny's unease. When everyone goes off to Scotland, neither Destiny nor Morgan goes with their friends and family; neither is aware that the other stayed behind. Needing time to think about how she feels Destiny travels to the Paxton Lighthouse to reflect on what she wants. She meets two spirits there; the last lighthouse keeper Horace and tweener girl "Megs"; also there is Buffy the guardian angel watching over the girl. Megs has remained behind to help her twin Morgan but has failed until now. She hopes Destiny can assist her. Morgan arrives at the lighthouse he just bought and demands Destiny leave though she cannot until the boat returns to pick her up. When Destiny mentions the lighthouse is home to two spirits and an angel, he does not blink. When she mentions Megs, he is shocked and further disturbed with Buffy as he recalls the picture his sister drew of her angel.

The final Triplet Witch romantic fantasy (see SEX AND THE PSYCHIC WITCH AND GONE WITH THE WITCH) is a superb tale starring a likable lead couple in denial and a matchmaking ghostly sibling with her own angel. As with the previous two the story line is whimsical but heart-wrenching as in many ways Megs steals the show as a young teen spirit who is part mature and part kid. Magician Annette Blair provides a terrific finish to an entertaining saga.

A Lie for a Lie
Emilie Richards
9780425226643, $7.99

In Emerald Springs, Ohio, the minister's wife Aggie Sloan-Wilcox tries to live up to the image of her position, but has a talent of finding dead bodies and determining who killed them. The new group in town is Sister Nora's Inspirational Tent Show, a circus whose acts comes straight out of the Bible. Aggie likes the woman who says she hears God and he is telling her to build a biosphere in Emerald Springs so when pollution makes survival impossible, some remnants of humanity will be saved.

Aggie is also working on a committee for the Emerald Springs Idyll talent show, a fundraiser to build a children's hospital. Judging the acts will be Grady Berber, a local who made it in Hollywood. Aggie is an assistant to Grady's assistant and she learns he is a pampered mean spirited individual who angrily takes out his displeasures on others. When Aggie enters his room, she finds Grady dead; his neck slashed by a knife like one used at Nora's circus. On the nearby wall the letters NOR is written; the police believe Nora, who is Grady's ex-wife, killed him. Aggie believes otherwise, but is unaware how much danger she places herself and her daughter in from an alert murderer.

This is a jewel of a book; a creative cozy that will fascinate readers as it does Aggie first by Grady's temper tantrums and then his death. There are plenty of people who firmly believed the world would be a better place if Grady was in hell rather than making everyone else's life one. The lead police investigator and Aggie's husband would prefer she stay out of the inquiry, but don't bother to tell her so as they know better. Fans of small Midwestern town mysteries will enjoy A LIE FOR A LIE that is as much a look at life in Emerald Springs as it is a whodunit.

In Too Deep
Jennifer Banash
9780425223536, $9.99

With her mom traveling in Europe, Casey McCloy left Normal, Illinois to attend the prestigious Meadowlark Academy in New York. She will live with her Nanna in the affluent Bramford Building in the Carnegie Hill section of Manhattan's Upper East Side. She has come a long way from her initial shock at the elegance of her new digs and school as she loves living in the Big Apple.

She has the urbane teen look and a boyfriend Drew Van Allen, but lately is concerned that the real small-town Midwesterner has vanished underneath a sophisticated phony veneer and that if Drew peeled away the surface he would detest what he sees. The top gun of the social set at Bramford Madison MacAlister is irate that the farmer's daughter is dating her Drew, whom she actually was not seeing when he turned to the country bumpkin. She wants Drew and plots to steal him while bringing normal back to the social stratosphere by humiliating and driving her rival back to Illinois.

The sequel to THE ELITE continues the adventures of the teenage country bumpkin navigating the shark infested waters of the east River's upper class. The key cast characters are fully developed hyperbolically representing a "good vs. bad" High Noon showdown on Fifth Avenue and a few other elite Manhattan locales (this crowd thinks the boroughs are foreign nations) with Drew going to the victor. Although there are too many subplots occurring with several not resolved, fans of teen high society will relish the latest civil war between the forces of THE ELITE.

Death Takes the Cake
Melinda Wells
9780425226421, $7.99

Mickey Jordan, owner of the Better Living Cable Channel, informs cooking show hostess Della Carmichael that she will participate in a reality baking competition. The owner of the sponsor Reggi-Mixx Cake Company Regina "Reggie" Davis believes the contest will be good for her ailing firm while a weary Della receives free publicity for her show. Della ignores her gut concerns that back in college she turned in Reggie as a thief to authorities and the woman was unable to gain vengeance back then but still holds a grudge.

Della's fears about the competition prove valid when she arrives at the cooking site at night to find a corpse drowned in cake batter; the victim is Reggie. T.J. Taggett, a private investigator hired by Reggie to make inquires into the lives of Della, her boss and his wife is later killed and Della thinks it is by the same person. The police focus on Bill, the husband of Della's best friend Lidy; he was seen with her several times and she had his prized pen in her purse. Della investigates and quickly learns many people had a motive to kill Reggie including her boss and his wife.

Although the evidence against Bill seems on the surface flimsy, which would make Della's motive to probe the homicide even flimsier, fans will enjoy the heroine's investigation which surprisingly comes across as plausible as what motivates her to sleuth could happen to others. Whereas the victim is not sympathetic at all, the accused is very much so; leading the audience to root for Della to prove his innocence as the police do not seem to be looking elsewhere though they should. Charming Della TAKES THE CAKE, as she turns this amateur sleuth into an engaging realistic whodunit.

Here Today, Gone to Maui
Carol Snow
9780425225639, $14.00

In Southern California, thirtyish Jane Shea looks forward to her week long vacation with her boyfriend, Michael "Jimmy" James although the weeks just before she considers what could go wrong like the flu, food poisoning or shingles. However her fears seem for naught as Jimmy arrives at Jane's home an hour early to take them to the Orange County Airport to fly to Atlanta to catch their connecting first class flight to Maui.

In Maui, Jimmy takes forever to get the car rental and then the Hyatt insists they never made reservations; Jimmy tells her no other hotel on Kannapolis has a room so he arranged for them to stay at a studio condo. Soon after that Jimmy goes diving, but never returns. A distraught Jane fears her boyfriend drowned, but soon finds herself in trouble she does not understand as the real Michael James stands up as someone she never knew.

Jane is an intriguing lead character as she learns that all her obsessive anxiety disorder musings pale next to the reality of the problems she suddenly faces due to the activities of her missing boyfriend. Jimmy is an enigmatic person who the heroine (and readers) begins unpeels the mystery one petal at a time. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted romantic suspense romp everything that she anticipated happening on her vacation did not occur, instead much worse did as Jane learns the hard way between worrying over possible trouble and real trouble.

Real Vampires Don't Diet
Gerry Bartlett
9780425225646, $14.00

For centuries old vampire Glory St. Claire is having a bit of a hissy fit because she is spending New Year's Eve in Austin by herself. Her boyfriend Jeremy Blade is traipsing off on some sort of rescue mission as his daughter was allegedly abducted by radicals. She is not quite by herself though as her telepathic dog Valdez tells her to go get a life when she plans for them to share a special bonding evening with chick flicks from hell (his not so subtle thoughts).

Infant vampire rock superstar Israel Caine invites Glory to a party he hosts; she knows he is drinking, a horrific error for a turned vamp so she rushes over to save him from himself. They go out on a boat ride on his vessel the Star Snoops on Lake Travis only to rescue Aglaophonos, call her Aggie a siren. Aggie informs Glory that she owes Circe three male vampires to break a curse and now has two captured albeit one is female and can only serve as a hostage. Caine, trying to keep Glory safe, declares she is his fiancee which upsets Blade while Glory persuades Aggie to cut a deal in which she and Caine will bring to her the three vampires; she figures how hard can it be to find and capture three evil vamps in Austin.

The fourth Gloriana Real Vampire saga (see … HAVE CURVES, LIVE LARGE and GET LUCK) is an engaging urban fantasy filled with action and amusing chick lit asides. Glory is terrific as she struggles with a way out of the fiasco that Aggie has her in without alienating Circe. Fans will enjoy this fun lighthearted romp as Glory needs to deliver three vamps to lift a curse before she becomes a victim.

Night Hunter
Yasmine Galenorn
9780425225462, $7.99

In Seattle, the three half Fae D'Artigo sisters continue to work for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. Each has personal issues as Camille the good witch struggles with being an equal opportunity multi-species hunk magnet, Menolly is still adjusting to being a vampire; and Delilah the shapeshifting were-cat tries unsuccessfully to deny she has become a Death Maiden servant of the Autumn Lord as that makes her relationship with her human boyfriend Chase the police detective seem impossible.

Meanwhile Karvanak the Raksasas demon and his associate Vanzir the dream stealer have obtained the third Spirit Seal and are after the fourth. To achieve their objective they abduct Chase, who is already in Delilah's litter box for whispering some other woman's name in his sleep while lying with her. With the help of her sisters Delilah hopes to rescue Chase, but the Autumn Lord has demands for her too.

Once again in this excellent urban fantasy saga, the various types of paranormal species seem genuine and the good guys do not always win so expect the unexpected as the lead role rotates this time from Camille (see DRAGON WYTCH) to Delilah. In spite of the non-stop action that never slows down for a moment and the myriad of support cast that can be a bit distracting, NIGHT HUNTER superbly builds on threads from the previous "Sisters of the Moon" books; yet can be read as a stand alone. Yasmine Galenorn provides a strong entry as the love between the sisters and the males in their lives propel the D'Artigo trio to do what they can to save Chase, but never lose sight of keeping safe the two worlds they have their feet standing in.

Edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Janet Deaver-Pack
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756405144, $7.99,

Feline fantasy fans will enjoy these seventeen tales of life in a magical "city of cats" that resides alongside our mundane world, but is kept hidden. Each tale is well written, but because the theme is somewhat limiting in terms of its catastrophic anthropomorphosis theme, readers should spread out enjoying the visit to Williams Lake, Wisconsin over a few weeks. The contributors are a nice blending of famous writers like Esther M. Friesner, Ed Greenwood, Richard Lee Byers, Jean Rabe and Donald J. Bingle with relatively newcomers; though some have had several short stories published. The tales range the spectrum from political to criminal to fantasy thrillers. Once again all seventeen are interesting with personal favorites being "I Am King" by Edward Carmien which has relevancy in DC right now, Lee Martindale's "Old Age and Sorcery" as "the life of Free Cats was not without its dangers", and "The Persian, the Coon, and Bullets (Matthew Woodring Stover) as cats learn bullets may be the means but its humans who kill. Readers will enjoy following the escapades of feisty felines like "The Guardian of Grimoire Hall" (Christopher Welsh) and the "Mentor of the Potala" (Bruce A. Heard) as CATOPOLIS is an entertaining compilation.

Lear's Daughters
Marjorie Kellogg with William B. Rossow
9780756405342, $24.95

In the latter part of the twenty-first century, the ecosystems on Earth are dying and the climate is running amuck. Flora, fauna and oil are gone and humanity is using coal which adds to the heavy pollution. People live in mega cities that are overcrowded and medical help is very expensive when it is available. The search is on for planets that are rich in lithium, an element needed to produce clean energy. The Corporation ConPlex is funding an expedition to Fiix in the Byrnham Cluster, which seems to be rich in lithium.

There is a primitive civilization on the planet which has natives that have our Dna. A periodic table of elements with elements not found in the human one is discovered and there is a complex system that brings energy safely for heating and cooling and for a variation of other reasons. The Sawl's myths say the weather is so poor and dangerous because the twin Sister-goddesses are at war. Stavros Ibia the ship's linguist immerses himself in the Sawl culture and believes the Sister-goddesses are not myths, but are real be they machines , people, or A.I.'s playing games with the weather and causing hostilities and devastation with heat and rain. ConPlex's representative Dr. Emil Clausen finds lithium in abundance and cares nothing about what the Sister-Goddesses really are if anything. He searches for ore mine and leads an expedition that is split in two with one side seeking ore for the earth and the other looking for a loophole the Sawl's world to continue to continue without interference. His endeavor leads to violence.

LEAR'S DAUGHTERS is a reworking of two books published in the 1980s (THE WAVE AND THE FLAME and REIGN OF FIRE). The new saga updates the science with new information on climate and weather on the planet. The story line is a cautionary science fiction thriller that indirectly paints a dark view of a future earth six decades from now through the conversations between cast members. Readers are immersed in the Sawl culture and want to know more about the Sister-goddesses: whether they are myths or if real whether they are sane as earthlings define the term. This is an intriguing massive tome that will fascinate readers as the future looks bleak in the Kellogg realm.

We Think, Therefore We Are
Peter Crowther (editor)
9780756405335, $7.99

These fifteen new tales that make up the A.I. themed anthology are well written engaging stories that for the most part entertain yet also have the reader thinking what the future will hold with the rapid speed of information technology advancements. The Introduction by Paul McAuley references the past (Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics), the present has The Matrix trilogy) and the future (Vernor Vinge's theory that AI will go where humans cannot imagine). With a nod to Clarke's Hal of 2001 fame, the entries are overall engaging and thought provoking. "Tempest 45" by Stephen Baxter has an AI fail to perform its mission to stop a hurricane from devastating Florida, but the investigation leads to so much more. Brian Stableford's "Highway Code" will remind the audience of Spielberg's AI as an intelligent big truck drives the roads alone for years until a major accident occurs. A salvager in space falls in love with his AI while waiting for the arrival of a missionary ship coming home from a visit with God ("Salvage Rites" by Eric Brown or what is the "Dragon King of the Eastern Sea" by Chris Roberson. Although somewhat limited in exploring what cou ld be due to the short story format, the compilation is superb as the authors contribute diverse tales with some seemingly weird like Marly Youmans' "The Chinese Room" adding depth and variety to the anthology.

Wings of Wrath
C.S. Friedman
0756405351, $25.95

Kamala the witch understood the use of spells by females drained them with each deployment of their life essence until they died. However, instead of death, she changes into an immortal Magister in spite of no record of a female ever being such. She worries that the Souleaters with their wasting disease have returned in full force.

Kamala knows they were defeated once before, but has no idea how. She desperately rushes off to the only place where the needed information may exist, the northern barrier, the Wrath of the Gods, to learn the truth though she has little hope of finding anything useful. However, she learns much more than she wanted to know; returning with a dreadful prophecy that can only mean war with little chance of victory for her side.

Book Two of the Magister Trilogy (see FEAST OF SOULS) is an enjoyable quest fantasy, but also suffers from the middle book syndrome as no major thread is closed out, but instead left dangling for the final tale. Still, C.S. Freidman's paints a grim world with a differing morality as most magic practitioners, especially females, pay the price for using enchantments with their lives. This over time suicidal tendency that life is expendable sets the tone in which what appears malevolent to readers is the norm in this society in which there are no heroes or villains (except perhaps the anomaly Kamala) only opponents as survival of the fittest actually is survival of the amoral shrewdest.

While My Sister Sleeps
Barbara Delinsky
Doubleday & Company
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385524926, $25.95,

Olympic level marathoner egotistical Robin Snow and her less athletic younger sister Molly the horticulturist do not get along for the most part though they share a sisterly bond especially when things go bad for one of them. Molly resents her older sibling's fame and accompanied gloating haughtiness so refuses to run with Robin as she trains. When Robin running alone suffers a heart attack that leaves her comatose, Molly feels guilty for not being there for her.

As Robin's health worsens, Molly's feelings of guilt rise in a negative correlation. Other family members like their brother Chris and their parents Charlie and Kathryn fail to cope with the increasingly ominous situation; Chris has a personal problem while Kathryn is in denial and Charlie turns to religion. Thus every critical decision falls on Molly's overly burdened shoulders as the doctor begins to believe Robin will never wake up.

Fans of Barbara Delinsky will enjoy this angst-laden character driven family drama that looks deep into relationships mostly between siblings. Although the well written story line is extremely passive (which makes sense since one of the key characters is in a coma) and at times over burdened with too much personal torment that borders on hyperbolic emoting, WHILE MY SISTER SLEEPS deeply showcases how people react differently to an unexpected health crisis.

Lethal Legacy
Linda A. Fairstein
0385523998, $26.00

Manhattan's Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper convinces librarian Tina Barr to go to the hospital after a thief masquerading as a firefighter assaults the woman in her East Side apartment. Soon after Tina disappears without medical treatment; a female corpse appears in her abruptly abandoned apartment.

The dead body resembles Tina's affluent landlady Minerva Hunt, but she discovered the corpse of her Romanian housekeeper Karla Vastasi. Alex and her NYPD Police Detective partner Mike Chapman investigate the Hunt family and Barr learning that the latter used to work for Minerva's father Jasper, a rare book bibliophile and ardent collector of priceless maps. The inquiry leads to the rare book and map collection of the New York Public Library, who has had valuable items stolen and vanishing into private collections, but Mike and Coop know to stay focused though the thefts are more fascinating.

The New York Public Library depth brings freshness to the latest Coop legal investigative thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the heroine who some insist "walk on bottled water" and her cohort follow the clues into the library. Readers will appreciate this strong entry which also sets up a cold case as number twelve for the intrepid Alex to investigate.

In Love with a Younger Man
Cheryl Robinson
New American Library (NAL)
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451225825, $14.00,

At college, her dorm residents dub Olena Day the "bitch" due to her prickly demeanor; she rationalizes her behavior as acceptable because her first boyfriend committed suicide when they were fifteen. Her college roommate who happens to be her cousin Candice warns Olena her chances of finding a boyfriend is slim to none as African-Americans prefer lighter skinned docile females. Olena ignores Candice's rant and becomes Andrew's girlfriend. When she becomes pregnant he demands she abort their twin fetuses. He still dumps her and marries another girl he impregnated.

Twenty-five years later, Olena is even a greater bitch than her college days, as a successful businesswoman but with no friends and no outside of work relationships. Lonely she takes leave from her job planning to write a book, but soon meets finance executive Matthew Harper, who is almost two decades younger than her. They are attracted to one another and begin an ardent relationship though she has doubts beyond their age differences as she knows first-hand men leave.

Olena makes this deep tale work when she falls IN LOVE WITH A YOUNGER MAN; who sees below the acerbic exterior to the lonely vulnerable woman inside. As Olena begins to think of a future without her beloved, she begins to look back to what she did to cause her to have no friends by running off anyone who tried to get close to her including family. Fans will appreciate this deep character driven contemporary romance as few protagonists are as developed as Olena is.

Lord of Misrule
Rachel Caine
9780451225726, $6.99

The college town of Morganville, Texas is unlike any other known place on earth. Vampires are the dominant species with humans far below on the food chain. The vampire leader is Amelie and student Claire Danvers is bound to her body and soul. Over the last few months, humans and vampires have been learning to live together somewhat in harmony.

However that peace is threatened when Amelie's father, blood thirsty Bishop arrives with plans to take over from his offspring. Father and daughter gather allies to their respective side. Whereas Bishop uses force to coax vamps onto his team; Amelie works in the shadows urging her species to resist and support her. A call goes out and vampires walk into the sun like lemmings even with shade nearby. Claire and her mates try to keep the violence down to a minimum rescuing the innocent when they can. However, a betrayal leads Claire to make a decision that horrifies her soul, but to survive she must do what she loathes.

Book five of the Morganville vampires is filled with delicious twists that the audience will appreciatively sink their teeth into (unless their aging boomer like me who would sink her gums into it). Claire is sixteen years old, but acts much more mature than her teen years as she displays natural leadership skills during a crisis. She sees the humans forming a mob to bring vigilante justice which is the down side of being under vampire rule though she is loyal to her leader. Rachel Caine provides a strong young adult vampire thriller and not a weather warden in sight.

Signora da Vinci
Robin Maxwell
9780451225801, $15.00

In Vinci, Italy Caterina, as befitting the daughter of an apothecary, is trained in alchemy. In 1451 when she turns fourteen, Caterina meets and falls in love with much older Piero da Vinci. Although he is from a much higher social circle, he offers to marry her. They make love and she becomes pregnant.

He reneges on his pledge as his family threatens to disown him if he weds his inferior mistress. After Caterina gives birth, Piero's family takes away the newborn Leonardo from his unwed mom; as she has no rights compared to their influence. The da Vinci brood abuse Leonardo, but his visits to his mom gives him hope. When she sees his incredible drawings, she arranges for him to apprentice with a master artist in Florence. Missing her son, who is becoming renowned as an artist, Caterina arranges a reunion with her Leonardo, but a surprise awaits her in Florence.

SIGNORA DA VINCI is a fascinating biographical fiction that looks deep into the life of Leonardo's mother. The story line is well written as it brings out the sacrifices Caterina did to obtain quality time with her son while he is raised by his wealthy affluent paternal family. The background of the Renaissance is also intricately interwoven into the plot. Although she performs some seemingly implausible events, which Caterina admits "would be impossible for a woman of my station" that detracts from the tale even with an explanation, sub-genre fans will relish this reflective refreshing indirect glimpse into the life of Leonardo through the eyes of his doting mom.

Full Exposure
Tracy Wolff
9780451225962, $15.00

Years ago photographer Serena Macafee was the victim of a brutal assault. She physically healed but emotionally she fears intimacy with men.

In Baton Rouge, her current project is to take pictures of highly regarded sculptor Kevin Riley. To her shock she is attracted to her subject as he awakens a part of her that she thought died with the vicious attack. Kevin wants her as much as she desires him. Both struggle with their need for the other. Especially adding to their difficulties is there is no respite from their respective hearts as she is living in his house during the shoot. As they fall in love and make love, he wants forever, but she fears relationships. Kevin soon realizes her paranoia has a current base as someone filled with rage stalks her. He pleads with her to go to the cops, but she says done that and have the mental scars to prove it so she insists no cops. He reluctantly accepts her proclamation fearing she might leave otherwise and vows to keep her safe.

Although Kevin seems too perfect especially his patience level, FULL EXPOSURE is an exciting romantic suspense thriller due to the heroine who needs a forklift to carry her baggage. Serena makes the tale work as her past, her kin, and her emotional withdrawal make her a fascinating protagonist. The stalker enhances her most crippling quirks. Fans will wonder whether the photographer will be able to overcome her phobias and stay with Kevin; or will she flee from love as Tracey Wolff provides a strong contemporary in which the answer to stay or not to stay is in the photos.

The Bikini Diaries
Lacey Alexander
9780451225900, $14.00

Wendy Carnes is on a business trip to Florida. While walking on a beach on the Emerald Coast, she notices the ultra confident "White Bikini Babe" who has men salivating and women envying her daring openness that she is looking for a super lay. Wendy writes in her journal how much she would relish being that confident female.

Deciding to see if a bikini would give her that sexual approach for a fling with a hunk or be like that old song, Wendy takes the plunge if nothing else to see what she has been missing. Men keep staring at her like a VOYEUR; while CEO Brandon meets Wendy and calls her Bunny. As they heat the Florida coast, they begin to fall in love; but she clings to her plan of brief while he wants much more.

This heated erotic romance star two likable characters who meet when "she wore an itsy bitsy teeny weenie … bikini". Wendy's attitude changes with her wardrobe modification though perhaps too easily as she loses a lot of her self consciousness. The plot is a bit thin, but fun as fans will enjoy THE BIKINI DIARIES due to the heroine going from gun shy to gun sly while her champion struggles with telling her how much he cares about the whole Wendy.

Steal Across the Sky
Nancy Kress
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765319869, $25.95,

The alien Atoners race came from deep space to establish a base on the earth's moon. They use the Internet to inform humanity that they committed a heinous crime against mankind ten millennium ago that they cannot rectify. Instead they ask for twenty-one English speaking volunteers to serve as witnesses to see the results of the crime they committed by witnessing and testifying first hand what has occurred on seven planets in which they seeded abducted earthlings. Safety is guaranteed to and from the planets visited.

Cam, Lucca and Soledad respond to the Internet advertisement and are selected by the Atoners as human surrogates. They are escorted to the moonless twin planets of Kular A and Kular B. The humans living on these orbs treat life as expendable as they believe that life does not end with death. What the three human visitors learn they bring back to an earth already reeling from the alien visitation.

STEAL ACROSS THE SKY is an exhilarating cerebral science fiction thriller that asks profound questions about humanity's development, religion, and social interaction through the Atoner (apropos descriptor for this group) intervention. The three earthlings represent mankind visiting two planets in which each orb can be seen in the sky of the other; while the Atoners remain mysterious almost Godly due to their superior technology, knowledge, and humble need to atone for their mistake. The residents of the two deep space orbs also seem real even as their culture (their existence actually) on the Kular twins is owed to the Atoners, which makes for a fascinating religious relationship between the settled and those who performed the deliverance. Nancy Kress provides plenty of action, but it is the thought provoking questions to include defining what a crime is that make this a great tale.

The Walls Of The Universe
Paul Melko
9780765319975, $25.95

Growing up on a farm in Ohio, high school senior John Rayburn dreams of studying physics at Case Institute of Technology though the reality is that he will attend Toledo where he can earn money to afford the tuition. He is angry at himself as much as bully Ted Carson whom he beat the snot out of when a figure arrives insisting he is Johnny. They look like identical twins and the second Johnny explains he is a double-Prime replica and gives John a gizmo to travel to alternate worlds and come up with inventions to sell on this orb that has not been created starting with Rubik's Cube (make that Johnny's cube).

Prime Johnny says he will masquerade as John while the latter explores. However, Prime fails to warn John that there is one flaw with the cross dimensional device: you can never go home. Prime takes over John's life. John, after meeting several "Johns", settles on a world where he studies physics with plans to stay in hiding of sorts while fixing the gadget so he can come home. Prime impregnates John's girlfriend Casey and marries her; while his Rubik's Cube creation runs into patent law issues and Ted makes trouble for him. On the world he chose to live John has a relationship with another Casey, avoids the Ted alternate and accidentally "invents" pinball that bring him to the attention of his previously unknown competitors, stranded cross-world travelers earning a living with new technology and a desire to steal John's functioning gadget.

THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE is an entertaining science fiction thriller in which the two Johns find their respective lives play out differently. Whereas Prime learns the grass is not greener as nothing goes right for him; John makes his new world a home though he ends up in danger from desperate marooned souls like himself. Although a late twist implies a series involving saving the universe from reverse engineers, readers will appreciate Paul Melko's fine tale of two Johns.

Escape from Hell
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
0765316323, $24.95

Science fiction writer Allan Carpenter knows he was fortunate to escape from the nine circles of Hell thanks to his guide, Mussolini (see INFERNO). However, returning from the dead does not mean he is mentally freed from what he witnessed as he toured the Inferno. In fact, he suffers survivor's guilt and struggles to return to his previous lifestyle as he saw innocent souls confined unjustly to hell's torture. He vows to find a way to return to liberate those who deserve a better eternal fate.

Poetess Sylvia Plath escapes from the Wood of Suicides. She and Carpenter meet and realize they share something extraordinary. She agrees to accompany him on his quest into hell on what he believes is a heavenly cause. On their trek into the Inferno, they meet J. Robert Oppenheimer amongst others as the Devil tries to prevent them from freeing souls especially those frozen in the inner rings home of mass killers.

Although very similar in tone and theme to INFERNO, the sequel is an exciting damnation thriller, as Carpenter learns how hard it is to turn the other cheek with some of the damned he and Sylvia meet. The story line is fast-paced and of course pays homage to Dante while insuring the historical personnel met in hell seem real. However, the tale belongs to Allan and his sidekick as they learn the hard way the infinite meaning of Dante's Divine Comedy.

Mortal Coils
Eric Nylund
9780765317971, $14.95

In Del Sombra, California, Audrey abetted by her mother is a martinet dominating her increasingly angry teen twin grandchildren Eliot and Fiona Post. The two matriarchs rule with iron fists inside velvet gloves. In fact Audrey hides the real reason why she has them living a boring life under her thumb with home schooling, working at a pizza parlor, and increasing the rules now at 106 she expects them to obey. Audrey fears for their safety and much more; the pair are the offspring of the eldest Immortal Fate Atropos and the Infernal Lucifer. Their existence threatens the treaty between the two groups.

However, on their fifteenth birthday, the siblings learn the truth of what they are and who their parents are. The Immortals and the Infernals also learn of their existence and each side wants the hybrid loyal to their group. The gods devise three tests of heroism that sends the pair into the most dangerous realms of mythology while the Infernals counter with three trials of temptations to separate the twins from each other. To survive the tribulations and treachery fostered on them from both sides, Eliot and Fiona must remain united covering each other's back.

The story line purposely opens with a boring suburban lifestyle that even when the impossible occurs the twins write it off as just a bit of weirdness, refusing to accept their DNA is not purebred Homo sapiens. As the trials begin, the action picks up dramatically with the teens getting increasingly aware that this no longer normal California. Loosely mindful of Paul Park's "Princess of Roumania" saga, fans will enjoy the trials and tribulations of two formerly red blooded American teens caught in immortal coils.

The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike
Philip K. Dick
0765323060, $25.95

In Carquinez, Marin County, Jewish realtor Leo Runcible knows he is out of place amidst the WASPS he sells local real estate to. Still he enjoys making money and he actually cares about the community. His neighbor Walter Dombrosio works in San Francisco as a product designer who loves pranks and dreams of a hoax to rival the infamous Cardiff Giant.

Leo and Walter had a spat when the latter brought a colored person to dinner, which the former insists cost him a potential megabucks deal; Leo blames Walter while he knows he was upset with his potential partner's denigration of Negroes. When Leo notices Walter driving erratic; he calls the cops. Walter loses his driving license which means his wife Sherry takes him to and from work. He gets into a fight with his boss who hired Sherry and loses his job. With time on his hands he creates a fake hominid skull "found" in his back yard where some recent artifacts had been uncovered. However, the joke spins out of control as archeologists descend on Western Marin County only to find something dangerous lurks in the water table.

This is a reprint of an intriguing character study that brings to life the mores of Northern California in the 1950s. The story line is totally character driven with little action beyond incidents that enable the audience to fully understand what motivates Leo and Walt. Readers who enjoy a slice of those Happy Days will appreciate Philip K. Dick's insightful realistic look at a somewhat isolated community with its local societal rules.

Magic's Design
Cat Adams
9780765359636, $6.99

Ukrainian egg artist Mila Penkin is concerned with the blackouts that have recently increased. Meanwhile Overworld Police Operative Talos Onan is assigned to recapture an escaped convict who broke out of a high security magical underground prison. When Mila and Talos meet he is severely injured; she psychically heals him to her amazement as she had no idea she possessed such a skill.

Mila and Talos team up to learn how she did what she did and to prevent Vegre's evil plan to destroy the Tree of Life. They learn she is a firecraft mage, whose mother took away her memories. Neither can understand why. Mila hopes her mom was protecting her from the danger, but she has doubts that it is so as her gut insists the reason was more selfish. As they work together, they fall in love, but Mila is the only hope to heal the dying Tree of Life if she can learn to focus her firecraft magic before doomsday strikes.

Going solo without her Sazi partner Cathy Camp, Cat Adams provides her fans with a wonderful romantic urban fantasy starring a heroine who takes to her role with honor and her soul mate who encourages her every step of the way while covering her back. Interestingly even with a world at stake, the theme seems narrower as the big picture doomsday never fully evolves. Still that small spotlight leads to a charming tense thriller as love blossoms while two intrepid warriors set out to save the world.

The Valley of Shadows
Brian Cullen
0765314746, $25.95

When thief Bricriu Poisontongue stole the Chalice of Fire from the Red Branch clan, he ended years of peace and enabled the evil wizard Maliman and his horde to escape from their imprisonment in the hellish Great Rift. In the mountains of Mourne, Malimiman is regaining his strength and rebuilding his forces as he prepares for war from his fortress Dun Daraiin. At the same time the Dark Ones insure none of the just can reach the sacred cup to drink from it.

The Seekers of the Chalice (Seanchan the Druid, Lorgas and Bern the elves, Cumac the warrior, Fedelm the Sidhe and Tarin the mercenary) search for Bricriu in the Province of Munster to take back the Chalice from him in order to bring it back to its rightful guardian the Red Branch. Their quest is hampered by Maliman minions like the Greyhounds, the Nightshades, and the Femonian Everywhere they go, they fight his followers or other evil not aligned to him. However King Caipre of Munster enforces the Laws of Hospitality allowing Bricriu some protection while the Seekers travel through the Forest of Fairdell where blood sucking Summaries and shapeshfting Wargaods want to kill intruders.

The sequel to SEEKERS OF THE CHALICE continues the Celtic based quest fantasy as the Seekers go from one dangerous encounter to another with most people afraid to show any support to them as increasingly Maliman appears certain of victory. His supporters are everywhere causing discontentment and divisiveness in an effort to weaken the Eire opposition before he engages his foes in direct hostilities. However, as the saga sets up for a terrific climax, the key to this and the previous tale is the Seekers have differing personalities and traits that especially surface during a crisis; which in this story line is constant. Fans will relish this superb middle fantasy as the action never slows down while the Eire champions run into trouble during their harrowing trek through Fairdell and other inimical places.

The Breath Of God
Harry Turtledove
9780765317117, $24.95

A major part of what defended the Raumsdalian Empire was the glacier that surrounded the powerful nation. Now that impenetrable frozen defense has cracked open (see BEYOND THE GAP) allowing outsides to enter and threaten the clans. The most vicious and insidious is the Rulers, mages riding mammoths as they destroy anything in their path.

Count Thyssen along with Northern Bizogot clan jarl Trasamund led an expedition beyond the glacier to explore the land the glacier and find the mythical Golden Shrine but soon return to the capital of Nidaris to rally the Raumsdalian forces against the invincible Rulers. Two battles result in Rulers slaughtering the opposition. Hamnet leads their withdrawal to fight another day as this battle is lost; the fleeing Raumsdalian army meets a new shaman Marcovefa who joins their side.

The second Opening of the World thriller is a terrific novel that switches gear from the first tale, which was more of an exploration expedition, to a great military fantasy. The story line is fast-paced as the heroes flee after losing the battle to the more powerful Rulers. The romance between Marcovefa and Hamnet provides a humanizing touch especially since he has been burned by women starting with his cheating ex-wife and has doubts about a relationship that when it goes wrong could have secondary consequences on the empire and its people. Fans will relish Harry Turtledove's superb military fantasy.

The Mystery of Grace
Charles De Lint
0765317567, $24.95

After her beloved grandfather died, Altagracia Quintero falls into a deep depression. They lovingly had worked together restoring old Fords so they ran smoothly and he was her best friend. Grace goes to the local bodega to buy cigarettes only to become caught in a junkie robbing the grocer. He shoots her and the next she knows she is back in her apartment in the Alverson Arms. A woman she does not know is there informing her she is dead and in a small dimensional place because she died so close to her building; Grace thinks cigarettes do kill you.

Everyone can return to earth twice a year; on Halloween and On the Day of the Dead, but no one will recognize Grace if she goes back. She becomes friendly with a teenager Conchita who had a rough life. When she returns she meets John Burns at the Solona Music Hall. They fall in love, but she disappears while in his bathroom. His research into her life informs him he loves a ghost as she has been dead for a few weeks. He now knows when he will see her next so he waits for her appearance on Samheim night. Before she disappears Grace and Conchita sneak into the Alverson Arms where they enter the other dimension to learn more about their new home especially why they are trapped there. Grace gives the inhabitants a choice to pass on to the next place in exchange for what they know.

Where Grace ends up after dying is an artificial construct surrounded by a mist in which people walk through it and end up on the other side of town. Through perseverance, she investigates to learn what is going on, but finding out where she is does not mean she is less trapped; but it does encourage her to continue to seek freedom for her and Conchita. This fascinating urban fantasy entertains the audience who will wonder what exactly the afterlife is. Charles De Lint provides his delightful fantasy version.

Tooth and Claw
Jo Walton
c/o Tor Books
0765319519, $15.95

Although society has strict rules of conduct for each of the classes including the ruling nobles, the death of a family patriarch is always rough on the survivors When highly regarded Bon Agornin passed away, his son Blessed Parson Penn vows to play fair with his younger siblings and adhere to his father's distribution of the wealth. However, the death bed confession, an act considered a sin by the church, shakes Penn's soul when he learns what his father guiltily explains what he did to his family and why sibling love meant so much to him.

Still Penn hides what he now knows from everyone but he does inform his brother and three sisters they must partake equally in the feeding so that all of them can gain some of the strength of their late dad. Penn also insists spouses can join in their dining on what remains of their sire; as all should grow and remember Bon as a great dragon. However, although his sister Berend' spouse Lord Daverak is already wealthy, he avariciously eats much more than his allotment. This angers his in-laws, but only the youngest son Avan acts by suing him in court. Berend and Daverak take in Haner, who is shocked by the mistreatment she sees in the household while Penn takes in the other sister Selendra.

This superb satirical look at Victorian customs through a fantasy lens mindful of Swift's A Modest Proposal is a reprint of an early Jo Walton tale. The story line is driven by the five siblings who react differently to Daverak's greed. However, it is the dragon hierarchal society with nobles, church, servants and commoners in which even the good ritually dine on the weak that make for an intriguing Victorian fantasy.

Taylor Anderson
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
045146253X, $24.95,

Formerly Lieutenant Commander of the WWII battle destroyer USS Walker in this other earth he and his crew landed in; Matthew Reddy was promoted to Supreme Commander after the recent events against the more modern Japanese battle cruiser and the Grand Swarm of the reptilian Grik (see CRUSADE and INTO THE STORM). Still he knows the recent victories will not prevent the Grik abetted by the Japanese from swarming all over his crew and their allies the pacifist Lemurians.

To win the war and not just delay the inevitable, Reddy leads his sailors into the deadly deep seas; home to "mountain fish" who can eat the Walker in one bite. However, he also has found unlikely allies in Grik who oppose the war and other displaced humans who like the Walker sailors entered this other earth at some time or their offspring. Still he knows in the end he must lead his puny forces in battle against an invincible armada.

Once gain it is the incredible naval battle scenes that makes for a great military science fiction thriller (and saga). The story line is action-packed from the onset, but it is the war at sea especially that is fun to follow. Taylor Anderson uniquely combines the big picture battles with in depth look at how the crew and others psychologically cope with maiming and death of friends and bunkmates knowing they can be next. Especially interesting is Reddy who knows he is sending people to their death and realizes this will haunt him and his future decisions forever; this is mindful of Eisenhower with his D-Day decisions impacting his later presidency especially his belief to avoid land wars in Asia. MAELSTROM is an excellent military sci fi.

Rob Thurman
0451462629, $7.99

Cal Leandros is half-human and half-Auphe; he looks human, but has the power to move about space and dimensions so he can travel from one plane to another. He denies his Auphe heritage and does not look in the slightest like the pointed ears, pale skin, razor claws and crimson eyes of that evil species. Mortals know the Auphe as elves from mythology. They want Cal but he and his brother Niko defeated their efforts to snatch him. Soon eighteen more arrive; Cal notices they are all females, which worries Niko as he thinks the enemy has switched tactics from muscle to something worse.

While trying to figure out how get rid of the latest infestation Cal and Niko are handed a case by the latter's vampire lover Promise. Her former lover Seamus the vampire feels someone is stalking him and he wants the brothers, who have opened up a preternatural private investigator firm, to find out who and why. They learn the Vigil who clean up supernatural messes are watching the flamboyant vampire; they feel he is coming close to exposing himself to humans. Their mission is to keep humans and monsters separated. While the siblings deal with these two problems, a third issue surfaces. Promise's daughter Cherish the thief and con artist stole something from a monster who is in town to retrieve it. Between the Auphe, the Vigil, and the theft, the siblings feel they are back in the MADHOUSE.

This is an excellent urban fantasy due to the two brothers, who love one another and will do whatever it takes to keep their sibling safe. Readers will feel the story line is moving at the speed of light as the Leandros brothers move from one escapade to another adventure without a respite. Told in the first person rotating chapters between Cal and Niko, fans know up front and in person what motivates each of them. They make a great team as they battle against overwhelming odds leaving the audience to root for them to succeed and wait for their next misadventures.

Rachel Caine
9780451462619, $7.99

The Djinn Cassiel was ancient when man had yet to appear on the earth. She is one of the Old Ones wanting nothing to do with humanity as she believes they are beneath her. Unlike David, she never lived amidst these human fleas; preferring life on the aether plane of pure energy. She is cold and treacherous even to her own kind.

Her life crashed when her Master, the newly made Conduit Ashan orders her to perform a task, but she refuses. As punishment for saying no, he changes her substance and exiles her in human form from the aether. Stunned Cassiel still needs aether energy to survive, but can only obtain it through the help of a weather warden. It is arranged that earth warden Manny Rocha will be her aether supplier in return for her assisting him with his job. The longer she remains in human form, the more she learns how to feel and that soon leads to her caring deeply for Manny and his family even his brother Luis. When tragedy strikes, instead of walking away to find a new host, Cassie and Luis team up seeking to find Manny's kidnapped daughter who Cassiel has learned to love.

Rachel Caine, weather warden writing wizard, begins a sidebar series with the outcast Cassiel that will enthrall her fans as this is an excellent addition to the growing Caine mythos. Cassiel is terrific as a haughty essence who struggles with humanization learning first hand what a human is. Her transformation is brilliant as she is UNDONE by Manny and his family. With an abduction to add suspense, this superb urban fantasy enhances the author's universe while setting up the sequel.

Unfallen Dead
Mark Del Franco
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441016891, $7.99,

It has been over a hundred years since the Convergence occurred in the twentieth century when Faerie moved into the human world, and is cut off from their homeland unable to walk between the realms. Connor Grey, a Druid born on earth, was once so powerful, a force to be reckoned within the Guild. An accident depleted him of much of his strength and a black mass inside his head prevents him from using Essence (magic) as he once did.

Now he works as a consultant to the Boston Police Department on cases involving the Fey (see UNQUIET DREAMS and UNSHAPELY THINGS for previous caseload). He joins his BPD contact Lieutenant Leonard Murdoch at a warehouse looking into the murder of a homeless man by a Druidess who etched runes in the victim's face. A few days later Olivia Merced was killed in the identical manner as the homeless person by the same practitioner. While Connor works the homicides, the veil between the worlds starts to open as Samheim nears with the Fey hoping a portal will enable them to finally go home. That happening is linked to the deaths of humans and the theft of artifacts from the Celtic Faerie Collection at MOMA. Connor realizes he must fight an old enemy and prevent TirNaNog from entering the realm of the living.

This enthralling urban fantasy focuses on murders in the mundane world while providing a deep look at the Fae Guild, which is deeply involved in the homicides. They intersect at the fairy mound in Boston so that Connor is coming around to the thought that something big an odd is occurring as his Essence is acting in weird new ways. His arrogance and pride was stripped away when he lost much of his skill, but in many ways he is a better person as he cares about others; subconsciously he knows this though he refuses to admit it to himself as that would put an end to his hopes of regaining what he lost. Mark Del Franco provides a spectacular paranormal police procedural.

Seraph of Sorrow
MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi
9780441016662, $7.99

Very few realize that were-dragons and were-arachnids exist as they can shapeshift into human form. They live among humans who don't know what they are. Gloriana Seabright saw a dragon kill her family and has vowed to kill as many as she can. She obtains power when she becomes mayor of Winoka, Minnesota where the Scales family resides. The Scales father Jonathan is a were-dragon; the mother Elizabeth is a beaststalker; their offspring Jennifer is a half-breed with the skills of both sides.

Just like humans, there are ethically good dragons and then there are evil ones. Most of the beastmaster populace assume the Scales are malevolent due to the matriarch being one of their own and Jennifer has saved their fiery lives twice (see JENNIFER SCALES AND THE ANCIENT FURNACE and JENNIFER SCALES AND THE MESSENGER OF LIGHT). They prefer the trio be executed but will settle on banishment. Incidents cause the Blaze, older were-dragons representing every family, to come to Winoka to destroy the town. The mayor is coaxing the were-arachnids to attack the dragons; Gloria believes she will come out of the ashes as a heroine knowing fire cannot harm her. However there is one force she has not considered, the teenage hybrid with the unique abilities of a beaststalking were-dragon. Neither is prepared to face the SERAPH OF SORROW who has his own agenda.

Targeted for young adults, the third enthralling Scales urban fantasy focuses on the destructiveness of racism especially as diabolically manipulated by roving leaders claiming the moral high ground when their actions use the distrust between species for their personal gain. Jennifer has a smaller role than in the previous entries in which she was rightfully the titled character. Still in spite of her youth she seeks harmony between her two families; not easy to achieve when your mom's DNA screams for her to kill your paternal grandfather. Fans will enjoy the latest scaly adventures as dragons and beaststalkers follow closely the senatorial race in Minnesota almost as much as each side fears ethnic cleansing by the other.

A Drop of Red
Chris Marie Green
9780441016815, $15.00

Limpet and Associates have traveled to England to wipe out another vampire underground. Many centuries ago, Costin exchanged blood with a man who made a deal with the devil; like a bloody Ponzi scheme, he turned his closest advisors into master vampires who go out and create armies. So when he wakes up from a centuries-long sleep, he has soldiers around the world waiting to do his bidding. Cortin hated what he has become and merged his consciousness with the body o f Jonah Limpet to destroy these underground pockets; praying his soul will be returned to him.

Muscular Hollywood stuntwoman Dawn Madison is believed to be the "key" to Costin regaining paradise lost by destroying the underground vampire units as he did in Los Angeles (see the first Vampire Babylon trilogy). The Romanian psychic Natalia who hears the dead joins the Limpet group and, Dawn finally accepts her. The group learns about young teens attending the Queenshill School in St. Alban's. They were turned by a master who is training them to take their places in the underground's main hive. The new vamps love night stalking searching for bodies to drink from and mutilate. They are confident that no one can defeat them, but Dawn and her crew are going to test that premise.

This is the start of the second Vampire Babylon trilogy saga and it is radically different from its excellent predecessor though as superb. The key is the California and England undergrounds are dramatically dissimilar from one another as are the creatures of the night. Dawn remains somewhat uncomfortable in her role, but has adapted mentally; she was already strong before her new task so physically her adjustment was easier. A DROP OF RED is urban fantasy at its best; filled with interesting characters and a fast-paced story line in which death has several outcomes but is always a bite away.

The Alchemist's Pursuit
Dave Duncan
9780441016785, $15.00

Nostradamus respected throughout Venice and beyond for his clairvoyant skills is a tad grumpy because his rheumatism has nearly crippled him. His apprentice Alfeo, an impoverished noble, goes about his chores ignoring his master's constant complaints when his mistress Violetta asks Nostradamus to find out who killed her friend and mentor courtesan Lucia. At the same time, the dying Giovanni sends someone to the house to tell something to Nostradamus, but he dies before he can reveal his closing remarks. Alfeo learns from a servant that the dead man wanted a killer brought to justice; a person who murdered a courtesan a week ago.

When Alfeo learns that another courtesan was killed, he informs Nostradamus who is interested in the serial killings. Their inquiries come to the attention of the Three, the ruling body of Venice who demand they desist in their investigation. Meanwhile Alfeo finds out that the killer was called "Honeycat "by the Courtesans who were killed." This turns out to be the name of Zorzi Michiel. Eight years ago Zorys was accused of killing his father and Lucs though he fled the city to avoid conviction. The Michiel Palazzo is riddled with secrets with seemingly everyone having something to hide. Nostradamus believes if they can unravel each person's secret, they will identify the killer of Zorzis' father as he believes the son did not commit patricide.

The latest Alchemist saga (see THE ALCHEMIST'S CODE and THE ALCHEMIST'S APPRENTICE)takes place in an alternate Renaissance Italy where magic exists along side of science (so one might ask if Nostradamus could obtain magic to relive his chronic aches). The hero Alfeo remains obstinately resolute to solve the case before someone carves Honey Cat on his beloved Violetta who is also a courtesan. Inside a fun whodunit, master fantasist Dave Duncan makes his version of the latter half of sixteenth century Venice seem believable as THE ALCHEMIST'S PURSUIT is a terrific historical urban fantasy.

The Jennifer Morgue
Charles Stross
9780441016716, $15.00

In 1975 needing something bigger than a marine assault carrier, the CIA with British support borrowed (their definition of the word; others might say eminent domain theft) Howard Hughes's Glomar Explorer to raise a sunken Soviet Golf-II ballistics missile submarine. The K-129 sub contained a special gizmo that enabled the living to communicate with the dead; they failed in their attempt not because of a Russian trawler at the site reminding the agents of international treaty law that the Commies ignore as much as the West when its convenient; they flopped because the Great Old Ones prevented them from taking out the "trash".

However, their efforts did not go unnoticed. Billionaire Ellis Billington wants the device because he believes the technology combined with his wealth, influence and ruthlessness will enable him to rule the world. He has no compunctions about awakening the Great Old Ones. The British Laundry top secret agency assigns recently promoted from the lowest job of geek Repairman to the lowest managerial job holder Bob Howard whose position is where the sh*t of ethereal mathematics (magic to non bureaucrats) cannot roll down any further. His newest assignment is to prevent Ellis from succeeding. His per diem is limited and the accountants demand receipts for any expense by those truly running the government, the bottom line auditors who understand waste, abuse and fraud as acceptable practices for desk jockeys like top management and accountants; an excess pound or a Euro not preauthorized comes out of the field agent's pocket.

The sequel to the ATROCITY ARCHIVES is once again Get Smart occurring in a technological paranormal world. Bob battles with Ellis and his human minion, supernatural combatants and worst yet the bureaucracy starting with his Smart transportation issues to get to the location. Fans will enjoy this madcap satirical espionage thriller as Charles Stross pokes fun at inane British government regulations that hamper employees from effectively doing their jobs while costing the taxpayer a lot more in oversight than the actual expense. This is how magically a hammer used to cost several hundred dollars (pre Gore Reinventing Government) in America.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Larsen's Bookshelf

Air Commandos Against Japan: Allied Special Operations in World War 11 Burma
William T. ("Tom") Y'blood
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21402
9781591149934 $36.95

308 Pages including an epilogue, Notes on sources, notes, bibliography , an index and 14 pages of photographs, 9 1/4" x 6 1/4", hardbound

William T. Y'Blood authored eight outstanding books on aviation topics from World War II. He passed away in 2006 following completion of this book. "Tom" always found a little known event or series of events which led inexorably to the outcome of World War 11. As a former Air Force and commercial pilot, historian Y'Blood peels away the years and puts us in the cockpit of a P-51, B-25, or a C-47, and lets us get the feel of the action.

The main characters are British officer Ored C. Wingate who developed the concept of Long-Range Penetration Groups, (LRPGs), General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, Commander of the U. S. Air Forces, who wanted to use the air force like navy ships and stage an aerial invasion of Burma and two innovative, "Go For Broke" U. S. Army Air Force pilots, Lt. Colonel Philip G. Cochran and Lt. Col. John R. Alison who were told by Arnold "To hell with paperwork! Go out and fight!"

Wingate led the LRPG, disrupting the enemy communication and rear areas while the Air Commandos, made up of light planes to evacuate the wounded, transports to move heavy cargo and personal, a fighter and bomber force to attack the enemy, gliders and helicopters to carry troops and cargo.

The LRPG and the three Air Commando Groups were successful in stopping the Japanese invasion of Burma, attacks on India and forced the Japanese to hold a million troops in China.

The China-Burma-India, regarded as a backwater theater during the war, has not been covered this well in a long time.

It is a great read!

World War Ll Army Air Force Chronicles
Jerome (J. R.) Roth
Vantage Press, Inc
419 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10157-0089
9780533158805 $8.95 212-736-1767

Jerome Roth did not see combat in his three plus years in the Army Air Force during World War II, but like all soldiers he thought about it a lot.

Jerome was a teenager at the start of the war. As a young boy, he realized America would soon be in the war raging in Europe. He knew that if he was drafted he would be assigned to the infantry. He knew that wasn't for him. He wanted to be in the Army Air Corps.

This is an honestly funny account of three years of misadventures, leading up to his greatest wish which was to flight training in a B-24.

Without Vantage Press and others like it, it would be difficult to give voice to and save memories of those harsh days and nights waiting in some barracks, or train station or foxhole or as a gunner in a B-24, when you had the rest of your life before you . Steps in the passage of life led Mr. Roth from New York City to Boca Raton, Florida, with a short visit with the Army Air Force, of which he has some real and humorous memories. Thanks for your service, J. R.

From a True Soldier and Son: the Civil War Letters of William C. H. Reeder
William C. H. Reeder
Commentary by Carolyn Reeder, Edited by Jack Reeder
Brandy Station Foundation
P. O. Box 165, Brandy Station, Virginia 22714
9780981880501 $17.95

William C. H. Reeder had a nice hand with a keen eye, did a fair job of identifying his mates, wrote regularly, was wounded in action in the Battle of Oak Grove, talked about his recovery, which I am certain worried his parents, witnessed from shore the battle between the Merrimac and the Union blockading force the day before she dueled with the Monitor.

The 20th Indiana saw service on the Virginia peninsula, at Gettysburg Campaign, saw service during the New York draft riots, the overland Campaign (in the spring of 1864).

Reeder chose not to reenlist with his regiment, but mustered out July 29, 1864 at the end of his three year enlistment.

This book reads very easily. Carolyn Reeder does a fine job of commentary between letters, and the editing job by Jack Reeder is outstanding. The Brandy Station Foundation found an outstanding manuscript to publish.

Battleship Oklahoma BB-37
Jeff Phister with Thomas Hone and Paul Goodyear
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, Oklahoma 73069
9780806139364 $19.95 1-800-627-7377

This is a comprehensive history of the Oklahoma BB-37 from its christening in 1914 through World War I, the great cruise of 1925 the evacuation in 1936 of political refugees from Spain, through the events of December 7, 1941 to the final sinking in 1947.

There is technical information galore, enough to make you think you served aboard her, and sufficient number of the personal narratives of the survivors to make you feel comfortable aboard her. The many photographs, both Japanese and American, remind us of the horror of that day in December.

Reading this book around December 7th 2008, I am reminded of the few remaining veterans who were there and still here.

Like all University of Oklahoma books, there is an obvious pride in the product. If Grandpa was on board the Oklahoma, keep his memory. Put the book on your coffee table where you can brag about the old Oklahoma and the generation of fine men who were on board.

Once upon a Time in War: The 99th Division in World War II
Robert E. Humphrey
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, Oklahoma 73069
9780806139463 $24.95 1-800-627-7377

This book is number 18 in the University of Oklahoma's series Campaigns and Commanders.

Robert E. Humphrey is a professor of Communications at California State University in Sacramento, CA. He has published many articles in the newspaper of the 99th Division, The Checkerboard, and is the author of Children of Fantasy: The First Rebels of Greenwich Village, 1910-1920.

Humphrey interviewed some 300 surviving members of the 99th Infantry Division and he writes like he was with them in that cold, snowy winter and spring of 1944-1945 in the Battle of the Bulge.

This untested Division, some 14,000 men strong saw their first serious combat when they met the charging German tanks the night of December 16-17 1944. They took some licks there, but went on the offensive, crossed the Rhine River and helped close the Ruhr Pocket at the end of the war in Europe.

This is not the first, but is the best rendering of the 99th Division, heavy with personal histories, blended skillfully into the narrative. I read it all in one very cold evening in mid December in Wisconsin. The wind was whipping up the snow and moaning outside my window. I could almost hear the artillery and the grind of German Tiger tanks.

This is a fine, honest read!

Submarine: an Anthology of First-hand Accounts of the War Under the Sea, 1939-1945
Jean Hood
Anova Books Company, Ltd (Conway)
10 Southcombe Street, London W14 ORA
U. S. Naval Institute
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, Maryland, USA
9781844860463 20.00

This is a great collection of submarine narratives from World War II, with first person accounts from the navies of Great Britain, American, Germany, Italy, Poland, Soviet Union, Netherlands, France, Japan, Norway, Australia, Yugoslavia and Greece. There is not a better overview of submarine action in World War II available. It equals the Conway Publication of "Destroyer" issued several years ago with fine reviews.

Jean Hood, editor and author of "Submarines" was for many years Information Officer at Lloyd's Registry of Shipping in London, and as such answered questions from the maritime community on many of the submarines of which he writes.

The glossary and fine index help us from the United States to understand some of the lingo, but Hood keeps prospective and wades with us through murky waters of international navies. I highly recommend this study by editor-author Jean Hood for anyone interested in World War II submarines. You can smell the salt and feel the fog.

The Daily Life of an Ordinary American Soldier During World War II: The Letters of Wilbur C. Berget.
Wilbur C. Berget, Edited by Mark D. Van Ells
The Edwin Mellen Press
415 Ridge Street, P. O. Box 450, Lewiston, New York 14092-0450
9780773449183 $119.95

Famous for their publication of some 4000 scholarly works, the Edwin Mellen Press of Lewiston, New York, issued in December 2008 their latest offering, the daily life of Wilbur C. Berget from February, 1941 to his death in on Christmas Eve 1945, in a jeep accident in Germany.

This book has a strong Wisconsin connection. The collection of letters in located at the Wisconsin Veteran's Museum on Capital Square in Madison.

Wilbur Berget, was raised on a farm near Wiota in Lafayette County in south central Wisconsin. He was drafted in February 1941 and was stationed with the 11th Cavalry in Southern California. Private Berget actually went on scouting expeditions on horseback along the Mexican border. He was later transferred to Camp Barkley near Abilene, Texas, Fort Knox, Kentucky, Camp Campbell, Kentucky, spent some time in Tennessee, transferred to Camp Benning in Georgia, and went overseas with the 12th Armored Division. The Division entered France at Le Havre on November 11, 1944 and saw its first combat November 18, 1944. Wilbur was a supply officer for the 92nd Cavalry Recon Squadron and remained as such to the end of the war in Europe. He was killed in a jeep accident with two other men December 24, 1945 near Mannheim, Germany while awaiting transfer home to the farm near Wiota, Wisconsin, where his travels ended at the West Wiota Lutheran Church Cemetery at 2 PM, September 29, 1946.

Plan to be captivated by Wilbur as you live with him for nearly five years as he grows as a son, a writer, a friend, a soldier, and as a man.

Editor Dr. Van Ells writes a strong 23 page biography as an introduction to the letters, and leads each of the five chapters with cogent historical comments. These chapter headings are a great aid as they spell out the location of the action. Letters by Wilbur and all World War II soldiers were censored.

Richard N. Larsen
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

The Wager
C.H. Foertmeyer
1663 Liberty Dr., Bloomington IN 47403
9781400113239 $12.95

I look forward to each new Foertmeyer book because I never know what his fertile mind will create next. But after reading 13 of his books, I know to expect that the mysterious and surreal will seep into the lives of ordinary folks. His literary style is unusual, and addicting!

In this latest book, specters from a good and decent man's past shatter his world. Nick Hines is the well-respected owner of a hardware store in Montrose, Tennessee. He's a reliable and kindly friend, a devoted family man and dedicated Christian active in his local church. On his 30th birthday, he sees a high school friend limping down the street and can barely believe his eyes. The friend has not changed from High School days, still a teenager in appearance. Nick is frightened to discover the old friend died before his spectral appearance on the quiet streets of Montrose. That day begins Nick Hines' unraveling.

Over the next 315 days, Nick loses everything. His wife, the sheriff, the townsfolk are convinced he's crazy when he continues to see his dead friend around town, and also begins to see his brother who died as a child. Each ghostly vision precedes the horrible discovery of a dead, missing child. He's investigated as a child killer, diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, loses everything and everyone dear to him, and imprisoned for murder. An evil, invisible force is at work in Nick's life, driving him to the brink of madness and beyond. Will his faith in God be enough to save him from the final disaster? You'll have to read the book to find out.

The Wager is a parable with Nick Hines as a modern-day Job. If you aren't familiar with the story of Job, I suggest you read it as a comparison to this book. As with all Foertmeyer's books, this one is imaginative, mysterious, and entertaining.

Shriner's Shame: The Dark Side of the World's "Greatest Philanthropy"
Sandy Frost
Dandelion Books
1133 W. Baseline Rd. Ste 178, Tempe AZ 85283
9781934280744 $20.00

Sandy Frost is a U.S. Navy veteran who has won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her investigative reporting. As a journalist with a gift for tracking down elusive leads, she goes where the evidence takes her. When a beleaguered Shriner contacted her with concerns about his organization, Frost began an investigation that produced shocking truths. Her findings were documented in detail at, and finally in this book. Vernon Hill was that whistle blower. Paul Dolnier is the tax accountant and IRS Revenue Officer who joined Hill in revealing the dark underbelly of one of the world's richest philanthropical organizations. Frost, through her contact with Hill and Dolnier, discovered that the Shriners and their associated group, The Royal Order of Jesters, have priorities other than burned and crippled children. Dandelion Books and Ms. Frost are donating one dollar from each book sold to ECPAT-USA. (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes.)

Disclaimer: Frost makes it clear that hundreds of thousands of good and faithful Shrine brothers are honest men, devoted to their charitable work. Most are unaware of how a small handful of influential members turned this iconic organization to the dark side.

Frost shows no mercy to those Shriners and Royal Order of Jesters members who deliberately sullied Shrine laws and philosophies. She names names, provides dates and locations gleaned from news articles in the Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, New York Times and other major dailies; from official court documents; from investigations by nonprofit watchdog groups; from interviews with witnesses; and from Shrine Treasurers reports online. These well-documented findings include:

- Lack of financial accountability and transparency;

- Financial conflicts of interest and disclosure discrepancies;

- Ruthless retaliation against whistle blowers or others who disagree with infractions;

- Misuse of funds donated for burned and crippled children;

- Fraud related to Shrine Circus ticket sales;

- Orgies that would make Bacchus blush, including soliciting prostitutes for group meetings and arranging child sex tours offshore;

- Tax fraud and corruption.

Frost followed the money trail throughout the investigation. In cases where the organization lost, or spent more than they took in, cash assets simply disappeared without explanation. Questions from Frost, the IRS, and other alphabet groups have gone unanswered. The Shrine chain of command will not permit questions because they say Shrine law supersedes state laws. If everything is above board, as they insist, why won't they answer pertinent questions? Are they above the law? The answer to that question is NO. A few Shriners and Jesters, pillars of their communities, crumbled under IRS or FBI investigations and have been prosecuted successfully. However, at this time, the Shriners organization has neither denounced nor punished members involved in or convicted of crimes.

This is a book of disturbing revelations, written despite threats and bully tactics that placed Ms. Frost's personal safety and reputation at risk. This is what good investigative journalists do. They dig until they discover the truth and shine a bright light on their findings. They reveal truth, even when that truth is inconvenient or shocking. In this era of economic trouble in every aspect of society, Shriner's Shame is a timely book. You may want to rethink your charitable donations this year.

How To Publish & Market a Book: Without Jumping Off a Cliff
Carol Adler, MFA
Dandelion Books
1133 W. Baseline Rd., Ste 178, Tempe AZ 85283
9781934280713 $35.00

So you've written a book, or hope to write one some day, and you're lost in the maze that book publishing has become. You want to be educated and knowledgeable about the entire process, but where can you find the information you need? Carol Adler is a professional writer, editor, ghost writer, book doctor, teacher of English and Creative Writing, and publisher. She's been where you are now and survived to tell about it in this book. Her guidelines are helpful, sensible, clearly stated, and might just save you from jumping off that cliff mentioned in the title. Her book is packed full of details, including the following:

- How to publish and market your book online yourself instead of jumping through the flaming hoops of agents and mainline publishers;

- How to make sure your book is professionally edited so you won't look like an amateur;

- What publishers are looking for – a writing style rich with imagery and characters or information that come to life on every page;

- How and where to create a website with online marketing capabilities and expose and promote your work through online networking;

- How to choose the right publisher, one that provides a quality product and expert personal service without censoring your work;

- How to tell the difference between vanity publishers, co-publishers, and print on demand (POD) publishers;

- How to protect yourself from piracy and copyright theft;

Marketing can be the most difficult part of the publishing process because it's a huge investment of time and money. If you've ever wondered why the already rich and famous get preferred treatment from publishers while unknown writers of excellent work get rejected, the cost of marketing is why. In this section, Adler outlines a marketing to-do list:

- The advantages and disadvantages of online sales;

- How to build a keyword specific website;

- Suggestions for joining the internet community through blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Squidoo, etc.;

- How to create a sales campaign;

- Linking products and services;

- Promoting yourself. HINT: Your work should reveal who you are as a person and reflect your values and passions.

Along with excellent, easy to read information, Carol Adler provides hope for what often seems to be a hopeless dream for writers. Regardless of genre, your work can be published if you do your homework and follow certain guidelines. Some of the best books ever written were originally self-published and/or rejected by traditional publishers in the past. But that doesn't have to happen to you. The electronic age is here. E-books are gaining popularity thanks to hand held reading devices, such as Amazon's Kindle reader. You have more options now than writers ever had in the past. This exceptional book covers all the information you need to find success as a writer. Highly recommended.

A Family Portrait
Poetry by Monica E. Smith
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington IN 47403
9781440104299 $11.95

"…home is that sacred place we feel we belong." For Monica E. Smith, and in fact for most of us, that place is nature. Forests, lakes, oceans, mountains, flora and fauna are our family, our kindred. Ms. Smith's poetry and Sam Rusztyn's illustrations accent that belief beautifully throughout this comforting book.

Nature provides order, harmony, purity, and grace to humans forced frequently to live in chaos and uncertainty. This excerpt from "(Un)like the Bird" is a perfect example:

But, unlike the bird
Which takes wing
On flights of fancy
In a moment's notice,
I am grounded
By my own uncertainty

"Passage" is an exceptional commentary on the past, present, and future of trees, and a touching metaphor for life itself:

Among the fallen
Lay the ancient ones,
Beautiful in death
As they were in life
Petrified, they remain still
Where once they stood tall
Nodding their delight
In the evening breeze
And yet, as in testimony
To resurrection
They shine in splendor,
Vivid and brilliant, gilded
In morning sunlight

Nature teaches us patience, fortitude, and how to stand through trying times. Humans flounder through minutes and hours where Nature counts time in eons. This excerpt from "Telegraphy" is a haunting reminder of the lessons to be learned from observing the effect of changing times and seasons:

…if you could see beyond
The physical, see beyond
Human perception, perhaps
You could envision the connection
Between life and death, understand
That they are two halves
Of the same whole, perhaps

Monica E. Smith takes readers to "those shallow shoals of Heaven's amaranthine shores…" and beyond in this poetic paean to Nature. Kindred is an encouraging, uplifting joy.

Conspiracy of Fear
E.L. Burton
BookSurge Publishing
7290 B. Investment Drive, Charleston, South Carolina 29418
9781439215579 $14.99

I read an excerpt of this book when it was a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Only one critic panned the book by saying it "strained disbelief." That critic must not live in the same world most of us inhabit. Nothing strains my "disbelief" any more, or my belief either! I devoured this book in an adrenalin rush. The plot was fast-paced and believable and the characters realistic. The bad guys are the sort of power mongers we hear about every day in the news: Pierce Thornhill, a CEO so wealthy he can buy anything, do anything, no matter how horrifying, and get away with it; Max Hunsaker, a CIA operative who coldly pursues his own goals without conscience; and Cutler Dawson, a hit man who relishes his kills with gusto. Their planned goal is to feed fear among citizens, to force politicians to remove the constitutional right of Americans to own firearms, and to accomplish this through pharmaceutical means. Burton takes his readers into the minds of these unappealing madmen and scares the bejaysus out of us. He also introduces us to protagonists who stand firm, common everyday Americans who do their job without fanfare and in so doing prevent a nationwide tragedy.

Why are ordinary citizens of various age groups and backgrounds around the country exploding with uncontrollable rage and paranoia? When a mysterious man hints at a murderous conspiracy and advises Medical Examiner, Henry Stone, to ask himself WHY people are dying, that question dominates Stone's thoughts during his autopsy of a teenage boy. Stone is a quiet, introspective man driven from his comfort zone by a need to find the truth. While Stone works at interpreting cryptic autopsy findings, journalist Alexandra Fletcher and Det. Chris Berkley are asking their own questions. Fletcher is beauty with a brain and spot-on instincts. Berkley is a troubled alcoholic by night and a case-solving investigator by day. Reluctantly at first, the three team up and pool their considerable talents. All three believe the citizens who have perpetrated recent killing sprees have been victims themselves. But victims of what? Or who? The deeper they get into this investigation, the more shocking the revelations.

Conspiracy of Fear has "blockbuster movie" written all over it. All the necessary elements are here: blood chilling conspiracies; despicable bad guys; all-American good guys; and enough action, murder, and mayhem to satisfy the most discriminating fan. Meanwhile, if you enjoy reading thrillers, E.L. Burton's latest book is well worth your while.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Freedom at a Cost
Jeremy F. Bender
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781425990350, $14.95,

Freedom stands for a lot of things. But is it worth the cost? "Freedom at a Cost" is a collection of poems based on the word FREEDOM. Taking each letter of the word as the start of a line of the poem, Bender crafts social commentary on America today using what it values most against them. "Freedom at a Cost" is a unique foray into poetry, and a solid pick. A sample: Fascism/Racism/Ethical/Eradication/Definitely/Oppresses/Man.

Henry Boulanger of Mushannon Town
Mark Seinfelt
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419695704, $17.99,

The new world was an apt name for it. "Henry Boulanger of Mushannon Town" tells the story a shoemaker turned soldier who gets a sample of both worlds. France and Germany are degrading into a cesspool of filth and corruption about to implode on itself, so Henry during his travels finds much to enjoy in the less spoiled and more optimistic land of America, so he soon finds himself fighting to sever their ties to the disgusting past world. "Henry Boulanger of Mushannon Town" is a fine piece of historical fiction, and would do well for those who enjoy Revolutionary War era based tales.

Far from the Trees
Michael Wellman
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432737399, $14.95 1-888-672-6657

Far from the Trees: The Troubled Sons of an American Neighborhood is a true-life memoir of author Michael Wellman's coming of age in a small-town neighborhood. But Far from the Trees is not a tale of blissful idyll; though the author remembers many days when kids were free to have their fun outdoors, his memories also contain darker stories of a public health tragedy. Near-effortless access to alcohol and drugs had a severely destructive impact on Wellman's hometown, and he gives an insider's perspective of the unfolding tragedy. A life story steeped in all things American, revealing an up close and personal view of cultural turmoil, Far from the Trees is an unforgettable read cover to cover.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

Tom Brown's Body
Gladys Mitchell
Rue Morgue Press
87 Lone Tree Lane, Lyons, CO 80540
9781601870230 $14.95

Gladys Mitchell is often linked with Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers as the three queens of the Golden Age of Mystery, but in reality Mitchell was not as well known or published in the United States. Thanks to the British Broadcasting System, however, many of her stories have found their way into feature film, with Dame Diana Rigg playing the part of Beatrice Bradley. Mitchell was a teacher of English, history and games at several British public (in reality private) schools. She was made a member of the Detection Club in 1933, and in 1976 she was awarded the Crime Writers' Association's Silver Dagger.

Beatrice Bradley is hot on the trail of a witch in the village of Spey, who she believes has in her possession a book written by one of her female relations. But she is waylaid by a friend on the Board of Governors of a local school to investigate a recent murder. The victim is almost universally disliked by his colleagues, but murder is murder. The school boasts the usual population of mischievous boys, and two of them might have real knowledge of the murder. Ms. Bradley joins her favorite nephew from Scotland Yard, Detective Inspector David Gavin, and the fun begins:

"'You, yourself, not to mention your sister, had actually been out of the house and at the Roman bath that night,' she gravely explained, 'and therefore you wanted to be sure that the police not suspect you of having murdered Mr. Conway.'

'Oh, nonsense!' said Mr. Loveday, with unusual vigor. 'We could scarcely have known that somebody would attack and drown poor Conway on a night when we were out of the house! By putting my house in order, as I believe I termed it, I merely wished to be certain that none of my boys could be held blameworthy. It was a very great shock to me when I was told that Merrys and Skene had been absent from the house one night not long before the event.'"

Gladys Mitchell contrives to turn TOM BROWN'S BODY into a whodunit twister and succeeds. From the first page she presents the reader with a whodunit barnstormer. Everyone is a suspect, and the real murderer does not emerge until Mitchell allows it.

Dead Letter
Frank Shima
Beaver's Pond Press, 7104 Ohms Lane, Edina, MN 55439-2129
159298245X $14.95

Frank Shima is a Minnesota-grown rural boy. He graduated from the University of Minnesota. His writing credits include: winner of the 1987 Lake Superior Contemporary Writers Series for fictional prose; membership in the Tornado Alley Writers' Group; screenwriting for Doing Time. a comedy produced by the Screenwriters' Workhsop, and a half-hour comedy entitled Junkyard Dog.

Set in rural Minnesota in the 1980's, DEAD LETTER begins with the murder of two elderly brothers, Nick and Ted Novacek. The hasty conclusion of suicide by the large and unpleasant Sheriff Trout seems strange to mail carrier Martin Prescott, who discovered the bodies. Prescott is fairly new to the town, and when he becomes a murder suspect and his house is ransacked after a bogus move by the good sheriff, Martin's antenna tells him something smells in Denmark:

"Was it just a coincidence that I had been detained in the squad car while my living room was being torn apart? Or had I been kept occupied until someone-maybe even some of the deputies—had finished destroying my home. It would even explain the mysterious ride home. Sheriff Trout probably drove me around the county until he was sure they were finished.

'I'll call the sheriff for you if you want,' Ed finally said.

'No, he's probably got better things to do.'"

Some things never change in America, and one of them is the personality of small towns and the attitudes of rural folks. They have an inherent distrust of anyone "from the big city," and Frank Shima hits this idea like a hammer to a nail. Martin Prescott is the perennial outsider in this small town, and there are some secrets that a number of people don't want to see the light of day.

Shima's writing style is folksy and precise. The book is a quick read, because he pulls the reader in from page one. This whodunit is particularly cunning, and Shima proves himself an adept at constructing a tale in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock. Great read!

Color of Murder
John Foxjohn
L & L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendswood, TX 77549-1984
9781603180429 $18.95

John Foxjohn's life experiences provide constant inspiration for his award-winning writing. Born and raised in Nacogdoches, Texas, he dropped out of high school; joined the Army and shipped out to Vietnam in the well-known Airborne Ranger division. He followed up as a policeman, taught and coached, and now is a best-selling author. His books include: CODE OF DECEIT, COLD TEARS, JOURNEY OF THE SPIRIT, COLOR OF MURDER, and a novel-in-progress, TATTERED JUSTICE.

When Justin Milam is shot point-blank during a traffic stop, he manages to videotape his own death. David Mason, Justin's good friend and former partner on the police force, is now with the FBI and is putting together a brand new Behavioral Science Unit in Washington DC. His first assignment with his new team is an important one, and when he discovers it will be an investigation into his friend's murder, it puts even more pressure on him:

"Baylor nodded and took a deep breath. 'OK, something you need to know before you make a decision. Angeline County Sheriff's Deputy Justin Milam was the one killed.'

David's stomach knotted and convulsed like someone had hit him with a baseball bat. Tightness gripped his chest and he couldn't speak. Without thinking, he slammed his hand on the chair's arm, breaking it into pieces. He glanced at the pieces lying on the shag carpet, and at his bosses.

'Sorry sir,' he mumbled.

Beeker's bug eyes grew larger, but Baylor said, 'Understandable. Do you still want the assignment?'

David blinked. What a stupid question. 'Damn right I want it.'"

Mr. Foxjohn's novels are particularly well-researched. His characters display sheer heart; and his plot is riveting. David Mason struggles with building a new team and establishing himself as an FBI supervisor, but at the same time is cognizant of the changes taking place in 1984, namely the introduction of females within the ranks. Foxjohn's story is full of finesse; great story-telling; and is a fast-paced thriller.

The Boreal Owl Murder
Jan Dunlap
North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.
PO Box 451, St. Cloud, MN 56302
9780878392773 $14.95

Jan Dunlap didn't know what she wanted to do with her life when she graduated from college. So she went back to school and attained a Masters Degree in Theology and wrote her first book entitled: Purpose, Passion and God: Awakening to the deepest meaning of life. She worked in a high school career office, and then decided to go back to school, this time to get a Masters Degree in English. She's been teaching Composition ever since. She and her bird watching family provided the inspiration for her first Minnesota birding mystery.

Bob White is a nice guy who is also a counselor for overwrought, hormone-driven high school students. He also loves birding, which means constant competition with area birders to find the ultimate bird. In this case that would be a Boreal Owl. But a weekend trip turns nasty when Bob encounters a dead body, and then is saved from an encounter with a grizzly by a weird friend with a gun. Naturally, the police at first suspect Bob and then dismiss him as a suspect. But his "anal" school administrator isn't so sure and decides to give him an unpaid leave that threatens his career. Bob decides to take matters into his own hands, and we're off and running:

"What I didn't add was that I'd head for Duluth and ask Knott to put the pressure on Mr. Lenzen to take me back by Monday in exchange for whatever assistance I could give him in his investigation. If I drove up on Thursday, I could pick up an extra night of owl hunting, too. Since I needed to use up the personal days anyway, using them to search for the Boreal sounded like a good idea.

And—big plus, here—Scary Stan wouldn't even know I'd left town, because if he asked Lily, she'd tell him I'd said that I was leaving for Duluth on Friday after school. Which meant that on Thursday night, I'd have the forest all to myself."

Jan Dunlap's background serves her well in this charming first effort. Her characters range from spooky, to pathetic, to hilarious. The plot is fast-paced, the denouement fun.

Meeting Murder
Katy McDermott
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven St., Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741449528 $15.95

Katy McDermott is a copywriter who formerly planned pharmaceutical meetings. As a meeting planner, she rubbed shoulders with the top executives of various pharmaceutical companies. She's also familiar with the inner workings of hotels; hotel staff; vendors; and temporary hotel workers. She lives outside Philadelphia with her family.

Laurie Kilcannon is a somewhat obsessed, high energy pharmaceutical meeting planner. She takes great pride in her work and bristles at the idea that she is a "secretary," that dreaded catch-all phrase generally applied to women conducting high level jobs. But Laurie is totally unprepared when one of the VIPs is found murdered at her current pharmaceutical drug rollout meeting. She is further surprised to find that she is highly attracted to Detective Tim Riordan, the Miami Beach investigator conducting the murder investigation. The feeling is mutual on Tim's part, and he would dearly love to move away from Florida with its consistently blistering temperatures. As Tim and Laurie work together to figure out the identity of the murderer, they are unaware that an animal rights group has infiltrated the hotel staff:

"This was even worse than testing Zephyrex on rabbits, Vivian thought as she filmed, careful to face the animals head-on so the lens in her name tag would capture them. If people could just see how these proud, beautiful creatures were being exploited to provide the Connor people with 'entertainment.'"

McDermott does an excellent job of setting the scene for the pharmaceutical meeting. She is knowledgeable enough about drugs to present a plausible scenario for the murder without giving anything away. Her characters are obviously Gen X, so this tale would particularly appeal to that age group. But she is clever enough to cover universal themes, which expands her possible readership.

MEETING MURDER creates the perfect winter getaway, with steamy jungle scenes, hotel style, visions of crazies running around with syringes, and pampered VIPs stepping out on their unsuspecting mates. All in all, it's a rollicking good time!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

The Assassination Arrow
J. Allan Smith
Dog Dear Publishing
4010 W 86th Street, Ste H, Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781598587531 $15.95

In this work by author, J. Allan Smith, we are taken into the political world of President Watson and Vice-President Peterson. Lifelong friends, these two shared two of the most important positions of leadership offices in the world. When Vice President Peterson is killed by an arrow while the two friends are on a hunting trip, answers to the why are waiting to be discovered. However, there are sinister forces that will stop at nothing to be sure this never happens. The author did a great job in his description of the personalities and the friendship that the two families of Watson and Peterson had shared for years. This did a lot in making the story come to life, and also sent you in a direction that enhanced the mystery.

We also meet Ross Tyler, a newspaper reporter who is soon drawn into a fight for his very life as the main suspect accused of killing the Vice-president gets in touch with him, asking for his help to bring the truth to light. A suspect that many assumed was dead. However, Clovis Belden was anything but dead and he held the answers to the mystery and the death of Peterson. The problem is, can Ross Tyler, Clovis, and those they love, live long enough to tell the world the truth of the evil that was brewing in the Oval Office. What a ride.

I always enjoy a good mystery and this one had such an unusual twist of characters and plot, that it was a pure joy to read. The detail character development that the author put forth was exceptional and critical in pulling the reader into the story. Each character completely came to life in the mind's eye, their emotions, their personality, and their place within the story flowed and merge at just the right time in the read. The hidden mystery and the unanswered questions were difficult to solve, at least for me, and the ending was surprising.

Let me say that this is one outstanding book. J. Allan Smith definitely has a talent of weaving a story that holds you tight from beginning to end. I highly recommend this book and I look forward to future writings from this talented author. Well done, Mr. Smith. Keep them coming!

The Ingredients Of A Good Thriller
Chris Wood
LDB Publishing
Manchester, England
9781906669003 $17.99

I have to say that this book came in for review at the perfect time. I am about to take my characters in my own book series, "The Adventures of Fos & Prissy," into the world of murder and mystery, and this book gave me some great tips. I love good timing!

What is this book about? It is what it says, a book that is full of ingredients that will help you organize and fine tune your story. Author, Chris Wood, gives us the main points in writing a good thriller. He talks about the setting, the development of characters, how to line up suspects, throw in some red herring, and also some 'what not to do's.' His words and ideas made me think and I agree on his seven deadly sins that can very well cause someone to murder or harm another. But I really do think it all comes down to the one, envy in every area of life that make so many fall, sad but true. Mr. Wood gives many good little tid-bits neatly packaged and easy to access at a time of need. Sometimes his advise wasn't something I didn't know, ( other times it was), but certainly was something I needed to be reminded of. His book is like a good outline that you can have by your side to check yourself from time to time, and we all need to do that as writers.

I always feel it's a good thing to get another's input when you are creating. And if someone writes a book that will help us to make our story richer, that's good for all writers. A few tips here and there can only enhance what we are creating and make for a better project, right? This book delivers what it tells you it will. In my opinion it will be a help to many in their writing projects as they strive to achieve that perfect story. A welcome helping hand. Nice job Mr. Wood.

Do You Know How God Loves You?: Successful Daily Living
Mary Lou Cheatham
9781439210154 $26.99

I have read in my life countless Devotionals, some from the famous, and others from those not so well known. As I began this read by author, Mary Cheatham I thought I was going to see the usual. Not that that is bad by any means, but at times one devotional can be closely compared to another. However, this was not so in this work
What I found was like a ray of sun after a summer shower. Refreshing!

In the beginning of her book she gives an index of 12 months of daily inspirations, with such topics as:

January: Praying with Power
July: Following the Light
October: Growing Closer to God, and
December: Following the Growing Cloud of Witnesses.

I was excited to see what was inside each of these gems, but I would have to wait.

Our author goes on to tell us some about herself, her faith and the importance of accepting the Lord as your Lord and Savior. She shares her heart as to why she wrote this book and what she knows the Lord wants to accomplish through it. To show YOU His deep love.

Now we begin our journey, one that will build you up in the Word of God, day by day, week by week, month by month, encourage you, make you giggle at times, and bring you into a deeper walk with the Savior. That is certainly quite an accomplishment.

Under each month the categories are expanded upon, Scriptures given, quotes and poetry shared, stories told, uplifting, giving encouragement when needed, direction to take, if wanted. To me, it was as if a wonderful Spiritual meal was being set before me and all I had to do was eat. I liked the fact that our author was real in her writing, letting the reader know that life is not always 'a bowl of cherries.' Take for example on page 24, "Some Days Are Bummers," where our author allows us to be human, feel emotions like being down, or worse yet deep depression, yet encourages us to run to the One who can handle our burdens. Good job.

Some of her words delve into areas you may not expect such as, Humanism. I found this quite interesting and refreshing, giving me a mini learning experience. However, some may not always agree with all of our author's interpretation and revelation of the Word, or other subjects she speaks of, such as Angels or the end times. However, if you will read this work with an open heart, whether you are in total agreement on some subjects or not, you will definitely walk away knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt the deep love God has for you.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mary has a deep personal walk with the Lord, one that is breathed upon with the love of God. That definitely shines through her writing and touches the very core of your spirit as you enjoy her work. This is a well researched book, both from the natural and spiritual. One that will encourage, make one think, and most important of all, remind the reader who they are in Christ Jesus, and how deeply they are loved. Isn't that what it's all about?

Thank you Ms. Cheatham for sharing your faith, your heart, and the love of God with a hungry, hurting world. I know I will read and reread this work many times over. Recommended.

Necessary Heartbreak
M.J. Sullivan
iUniverse Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595518036 $12.95

In this outstanding work by author, M.J. Sullivan, we meet Michael Stewart and his thirteen year-old daughter, Lizzie. Immediately in the story we are shown that there are some deep valleys separating the two caused by past hurts that neither have found peace with. Despite these trenches that life has dug you still sense, know and understand that there is a deep love between the two and a joining of father-daughter that is waiting to be unleashed into a strong unity.

While helping out their church LIzzie and Michael unknowingly find a portal through a door in the floor of their church basement that takes them back to Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion of Jesus. At first they believe they have stumbled onto an underground passage way that has taken them to another town that is having a Bible town play. Soon they find out that nothing can be further from the truth as they are thrown into a fight for their lives, battling forces they never imagined, and they are forced to reevaluate what is truly important in their quest to return home. Thankfully a kindly woman, Leah, befriends them and becomes an important part of their lives and their escape from the past. Her own life and traumas help Michael and Lizzie with their personal emotional and spiritual battles, and she becomes a needed bridge of understanding in many areas.

I enjoyed this first book in this, When Time Forgets Trilogy. The author did an outstanding job in character development. To me, the characters were vivid in my mind's eye, and the local descriptions were well done, definitely plunging me into the worlds the characters were dwelling. The story held my interest right from the start, catching me up in the lives of the characters, their emotions, trauma's and their quest to return to their time in history. I also liked the spiritual impute of the book, not overly played, but sprinkled gently, giving just the right touch in the storyline, at the right time, to bring it depth that touched my very soul. Well done. All in all this is one outstanding read that I am proud to recommend.

Freedom in Your Relationship With Food
Myra Lewin
Synergy Books
P.O. Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78758
9780981546216 $16.95

I want to say from the onset that this book takes a different approach to our relationship with food than I have ever seen before. The author, at least to me, appears to be very knowledgeable of foods from a natural viewpoint. For example, in one chapter we read about Sea vegetables, oils, spices and herbs. She even gives you a little mini lesson on what some spices do for your body. For example, bay leaf gives warming digestive aid. I found this information very interesting. As we travel on in the read we learn how we have used food in a non productive way, and we are given many insights to turn this around. The book is full of helpful information on foods, even giving some recipes. However, it also goes into what I would call the spiritual side of your relationship with food, and how it can be beneficial to you to utilize this. Don't misunderstand me, I am not talking religion, but inward spirituality.

The author explains how food can effect not only your health, but your personality, and your entire life. She encourages using meditations and gives instruction on this subject explaining how it can be helpful. She asks you to realize that change is a process and not to be discouraged if you decide to make the changes with your relationship with food, but to travel along at your own pace.

I think this book would truly interest those who enjoy works on solutions for a healthier lifestyle.
It is packed full of information that can be implemented into ones life and possibly give them the turn-around they are looking for.

Otis: The Musical Owl
Joseph N Chapplle
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
978143272584 $12.95

In this story, Hedwig Chappelle and her friend go for a walk and find along the road an owl who appears to be injured. Quickly they return home and Hedwig's mother rescues the owl, who the next day is taken to the vet. Finding out that the owl probably has lost its mother the Chappelle's turn it over to an animal rehabilitator who will teach it to live in the wild.

Otis is different from other owls or animals for that matter. He is a determined owl who definitely will make the most of his life. Otis demonstrates talent in many areas, he understands the speech of many animals and of humans, and he is a very quick learner in his survival skills. Otis also has a love for music, such as Bach, Mozart, and Chopin. All of this causes Otis to become a legend among the animal kingdom and humans.

However, Otis feels inside that he must try to find out what happened to his mother, and if he has any other family. Once he is ready to be on his own he travels to where he was rescues and begins his search. It is here that he enlists the help of other wild creatures who usually are predator and prey, to help him in his quest. Will this work, and will Otis find his roots?
"Otis, The Musical Owl," is definitely a different story. I would have liked to have seen some illustrations through the book as I feel this would have given the story a nice lift. It has a twirl of mystical in it, and I did like the way a common purpose united the animals together for that cause. Also, I liked the fact that Otis respected living creatures, even to the point of knowing killing another animal for sport is not what should be done, even among the animal kingdom. The ending was upbeat and happy and promised more adventures in the future for Otis.

The Tiniest Tiger
Joanne L. McGonagle
BookSurge Publishing
9781419684678 $15.00

All creatures long for a place to call home and in this tender read by author, Joanne L. McGonagle, we meet an alley kitten who stumbles upon a zoo and begins a quest searching for where she would belong. We travel with this precious kitten as she asks each wild cat she meets if she belongs with them. Amongst them are lions, tigers, leopards, and cheetahs that our kitten encounters as she searches for her identity, and the place where she belongs. We learn some important facts about each wild cat, and see their characteristics. It is the wise lion who gives the kitten wisdom and points her in the right direction to find happiness.

This is a very good read. It is educational and gives learning information in a fun way. The illustrations are bright and colorful and the ending brings a smile. A very well written tale and great learning experience. A book that young and old will surely enjoy.

Queen Vernita's Visitors
Dawn Menge, Illustrations: Bobbi Switzer
Outskirt Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781598007145 $12.95

Queen Vernita, of a kingdom called, Oceaneer, is the main character of this delightful children's work. She truly loves being the Queen, but misses her twelve closest friends and after some thought comes up with an idea to enjoy both. She sends out letters and invites each one of them to spend one month with her at her home.

As planned each new month of the year another friend arrives and they plan each day's activities, but it isn't just any activities, it is activities that utilize the happenings in her Kingdom of that particular month of the year.

For example, in September, since it was apple picking time, they did their activities centered around apples, in October they collected beautiful leaves, and in July, their activities centered around the beach. Each day of the week was filled with seasonal fun, and the author is careful to mention each day of the week, each month. This certainly will help the child to learn that fact in a fun and creative way. The illustrations are top-notch, big, bright, detailed, and colorful. Whether it is one of picking apples, playing a game, or resting by a warm toasty fire, you feel as if you are part of the happening. Very nice job.

I highly recommend this book. Your child will learn without realizing it is happening as they share the fun and activities of Queen Vernita and her twelve very special friends' visits.

Lady Flatterley
Linda Wagner, Illustrated by: Pearl L. Ollie
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432732332 $22.95

Lady Flatterley is a sweet, yet timid, caterpillar who appears to be afraid of life itself. She hides all day in a tall oak tree, in a home made of leaves, watching the world go by. She wants to have more in life, but her fears hold her back.

One day a beautiful butterfly visits her. Lady Flatterley is in awe at his beauty and his freedom. He explains to her that he too was once a caterpillar until the time came for him to make his cocoon. He explains how this will keep her safe and warm until it is time for her to break free, and once she does, she too will live a different life than the fearful one she has now.

Lady Flatterley didn't totally understand all that was told to her, but soon it came to pass and she was tucked safely in her cocoon as the winter roared. Finally it was time for her to come out, but poor Lady Flatterley didn't seem able to break her cocoon. Others wanted to help, but knew that God wanted Lady Flatterley to learn to survive on her own. Once she achieves this, she gives thanks to God and begins to enjoy the life she was meant to live.

What a wonderful book. Through the life of Lady Flatterley children will learn that there are always some obstacles in life that we must overcome to come to a place the Lord wants us to be. The work shows that fear often tries to make us step back and not move forward to a better place, but if we trust God we will be victorious. Illustrations are very colorful, well defined, and definitely bring the story to life. A great tale with educational and spiritual value. Recommended.

The Unseen War
David K. Kortje
Parson Place Press
P. O. Box 8277, Mobile, Alabama 36689-0277
9780978656775 $17.95

Right off let me tell you that you simply must have this book if you are truly trying to walk with the Lord Jesus. I have read countless books on the warfare that we as Christians will incur as we walk the walk, but very, and I mean very few can even come close to the honesty and truth that this book holds for you. I know, because I have been there and still am as I continue my Christian walk. It was refreshing to finally see someone had the strength to tell it like it is.

Author, David Kortje, clearly lets you know that you have an enemy and that he hates me, and he does. He explains in such a perfect clear way why he hates you, and that alone will boast you to continue on to battle him. I haven't seen that put so well, probably never, in any book that I have reviewed. Excellent job. He shares with you many times he himself has fallen into the gripes of the enemy, the tragedy that followed and how he could have avoided the hurt it did to himself and others. Thank you for sharing that with us. And then, he clearly lets you know that there will be sometimes that things happen, bad things, and no matter how much you pray, believe, confess, these things may well occur. That is hard, but that is the truth, and it is a truth that you need to hear. We don't always have all the answers, all the why's, but we do have the Savior that will see us through every difficulty in life.

I honestly want to tell you that I truly believe for any serious Christian this book will help you understand the struggles you are having. I am not downplaying the goodness that belonging to Jesus brings. Of course He never leaves us or forsakes us, and our life would be completely empty without Him. I just realize that too many Christians do not have their eyes open concerning their enemy, and that's just the way he wants it. An enemy can do so much more harm if you don't know you have one. You have much more of a chance of winning if you understand you do have an enemy and some of the tactics that he will use to harm you, and those you love. This is not a game to him, it's well to remember that.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a must have, a gem for all Christians. Thank you Mr. Kortje for the courage I know that it took to write this book. I am sure the enemy was not pleased, but I am sure the Lord is. My highest recommendation.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Entitled to a Nation
Eric M. Latham
Privately Published
9781424307616, $24.95,

Polls rarely get the full opinions. "Entitled to a Nation" is Eric Latham's travels across the United States and a little bit out outside it. During his journeys, he speaks to thousands of people about politics, social issues, and what really matters in today's divided world and comes across with some surprising facts that one rarely hears about on television. Intriguing, inspiring, and enlightening, "Entitled to a Nation" is a must for those who want to understand America.

Close Your Eyes So You Can See Me
Most Reverend John B. Reid
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533150892, $8.95,

Dirty thoughts, dirty bodies; is Christianity a religion based on shame? "Close Your Eyes So You Can See Me" presents Most Reverend John B. Reid's belief that Christianity should not put so much emphasis on shame. Promoting love of all people, even non-Christians, Reid has a highly positive message that more people, Christian or not, could enrich their lives by reading. "Close Your Eyes So You Can See Me" is a strong choice for any Christian leader.

W. Craig Reed
Rain Publishing
c/o Kelley & Hall Book Publicity & Promotion
5 Briar Lane, Marblehead, MA 01945
9781419654626, $15.99

The origin of life has been of interest to mankind since they've had the brainpower to discuss it. "DNA" offers W. Craig Reed's ideas through a fast paced science fiction thriller. George Anders, a Navy SEAL, believes he is simply tracking down another fundamentalist terrorist. He soon finds himself in a whirlwind of science and bioengineering as there are some who will go as far as playing God and altering humanity to suit their purposes for the future. "DNA" is an intriguing, thought provoking, and entertaining read, recommended.

Peace Corpse
Charles B. Neff
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Star Treatment Publicity Services (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
9780595478255, $15.95,

All too often, peace is met with violence. "Peace Corpse" tells the story of the gathering of a youth organization for the furthering of peace throughout the world, with members coming to Stockholm from all over the world to push their positive message. When one of the peace travelers is found dead, the group for peace may suddenly turn warlike, if a Swedish detective by the name of Magnus Torval can't solve the murder in time. Filled with intriguing characters, "Peace Corpse" is a mystery that will keep the pages turning.

Lizzi & Fredl
William B. Stanford
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Carol Hoenig (publicist)
2840 Grand Ave., Bellmore, NY 11710
9780595433117, $27.95,

Sometimes it's hard to differentiate between a Hollywood movie and real life. "Lizzi & Fredl: A Perilous Journey of Love and Faith" tell of a once happily married couple living in Vienna, Austria in the 1930s. Expectedly, the Nazi war machine begins to invade their life and in trying to evade it, Fredl is sent to the dreaded camps throughout the region, laboring for the very government he hates. Lizzi uses cunning and skill to get around Europe, and must rescue her husband before he ends up in the notorious death camps. A true story reading like a fast paced adventure novel, "Lizzi & Fredl" is an excellent read of real life heroes in the dark world of World War II.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Bag of Knives
Nick J. Stika
International Plaza II, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781436358408, $19.99,

Rock and Roll is the work of the devil some preachers say, but how far are some willing to go past just talking? "Bag of Knives" follows two people who live for the music, Skits and Eddie. Shut out of their dream careers by some musician's union they have never heard of before, they begin to lay the blame on a televangelist by the name of Billy Paladin. With the love of their lives on the line, the two begin to see what they can do against a holy man who is more than hot air. "Bag of Knives" is a novel in which readers who are also musicians will find much to love.

Behind the Lead Apron
Frank J. Hildner
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158706, $23.95,

The body can function without the brain or the lungs with artificial support - but when the heart dies, it's over. "Behind the Lead Apron: Thirty-Six Years Performing Cardiac Catheterization" is about a man who has worked in the field of cardiology for nearly four decades. Telling his stories of dealing with patients, medical scientists, and many more, it's a look into the daily of life of a heart care specialist. With dashes of information on heart health, "Behind the Lead Apron" is well worth the read for anyone with respect for the medical profession.

Living and Practicing by Design
John Hayes
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432732349, $22.95,

It's called 'practice' because there's always a way to better one's skill. "Living and Practicing by Design: Saving the Hearts that Care for Our Lives" is a memoir and discussion of modern medicine from a practitioner of medicine for nearly three decades and has always desired the best care possible for his patients. John Hayes is a founder of the Health Solutions Group, and "Living and Practicing by Design" is an excellently knowledgeable treatise on the subject.

Anatomy of Marriage
Minard Alvaro McAlister
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159086, $13.95,

Divorce has become normalcy for so many marriages. "Anatomy of Marriage" examines marriage and what makes so many of them boil down into divorce. Written by a divorce attorney, McAlister draws on his long and vast experience with marriage and divorce and elaborates on his ideas on why few marriages today follow the words 'til death do us part' seriously. "Anatomy of Marriage" is intriguing reading for anyone who wants to understand today's high divorce rate.

Behind the Paint
Ken O'Neil
Stone Corral Press
9780981620206, $50.00

Art and a secure life are two words that simply don't go to together. "Behind the Paint" is a combination art and biography about one Ken O'Neil. Leaving a life where he was set well off for the future for many years to come, O'Neil risked everything to pursue his career as a painter and writer all in the name of art. Telling his story, he gives readers a look into the mind of how an artist crafts their ideas and put them onto paper, be they words or images, his is a life of risk which has paid off well. With countless full-color reproductions of O'Neil's work, "Behind the Paint" is solidly recommended reading for any art enthusiasts who like the story behind the art.

Paul T. Vogel

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

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