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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 1 January 2009 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Exercise and Sport
Martin S. Hagger & Nikos L.D. Chatzisarantis
Human Kinetics
4726 Paysphere Circle, Chicago, IL 60674
9780736062503, $67.00

Willpower is an incredibly powerful thing. "Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Exercise and Sport" is a complex discussion of the power of motivation when training themselves, be it for overall fitness or for competitive purposes. Taking a technical and scientific approach to building one's self-determination as well as outlining the vital and extreme importance of it in just getting started. Enhanced with bibliographies, indexes, and more, "Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Exercise and Sport" is a complete and comprehensive reference for training, a must have for those who take physical fitness seriously.

Lake Hartwell Area Recreation Guide
Lara Kaufmann
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
Parnassus Book Distributors (distributor)
200 Academy Way, Columbia, SC 29206-1445
9781438212647, $12.95

When on vacation, no one wants to spend time paralyzed with indecision. "Lake Hartwell Area Recreation Guide" is an activity book with much information on the Lake Hartwell area, spelling out the countless activities that one can take part in the area, ranging from the expected boating to the nightlife to beer tasting to even auto racing. Quite simply, if one is planning a trip to the Lake Hartwell area in South Carolina and Georgia, "Lake Hartwell Area Recreation Guide" is considered absolutely required.

J. A. Nevling
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432724436, $14.95,

The best decisions one makes are never the impulsive. "Burned: A Tragic Mystery" is the story of Sharon and her burned daughter. Blaming the father, she on a whim sets out on her own. But she soon finds being a single mother isn't the easiest job in the world and it's not any easier when she's turned into a scapegoat in a far reaching corporate plot, which may very well cost her life. "Burned: A Tragic Mystery" is a riveting story, highly recommended.

Why Me?
Sheila A. Lacy
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Carol Hoenig (publicity)
10 Nassau Ave., Plainview, NY 11803
9780595496433, $13.95,

Some wounds never seem to heal. "Why Me?: The Dark Side of Man" is the story of John Johnson, a man who, at first sight, is living out the American Dream. But his past still haunts him, and he has many secrets, to which those he loves simply don't know. A thirst for vengeance drives John and it may destroy his so called 'perfect' life. "Why Me?" is a riveting thriller, recommended.

Chasing Lovers
Mellaney Gray
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158133, $7.95,

Mr. Right is someone who always proves evasive to so many women. "Chasing Lovers" is Mellaney Gray's debut volume of poetry, focusing on love and intimacy in the human spirit and the pursuit of it. Frank and blunt about the matters, "Chasing Lovers" has plenty of moving verse for lovesick readers. "Divorce": In a final tragic moment/Of paralyzing despair,/I can fight no longer/And the tears/Bleed,/Down my face./Crashing waves/Fill the room around me - /Gushing, agonizing pain/From deep within./Brokenness, beyond being.

A Month Plus of Nana's Stories
Veronica E. Cooper
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159246, $7.95,

There are few kids in the world who won't enjoy a good story. "A Month Plus of Nana's Stories" is Veronica Cooper's second volume of stories, focusing on short poems that can be read as stories to young children to entertain them and bring them smiles. "A Month Plus of Nana's Stories" is the perfect companion for any parent or babysitter. "Ten Little Fingers": I can count to "ten"/With my ten little fingers/1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10/I can also count to "ten" backwards/With my ten little fingers/10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1/There! I've Done It!/That Was Fun!/I don't know which way was more fun/Counting forwards or backwards/Which way do you like?/I like counting them both ways.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

Secrets Unveiled
Sheshena Pledger
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781435719187, $15.00,

The truth can be a scary thing when nothing is clouding it. "Secrets Unveiled" follows Nick Miller as he soon finds out secrets of his life that he rather not know. Wanting a nice peaceful life like anyone else, he finds his life on a collision course with the infamous Mafioso family of the Harrises, notorious for their violent tendencies. "Secrets Unveiled" is riveting and well worth reading for thriller fans.

Freedom's Just Another Word
Dan L. Hays
Virtual Bookworm Publishing
PO Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
9781602642140, $13.95,

The words of Janis Joplin never rang more true. "Freedom's Just Another Word" is a story about hitting rock bottom. Dan L. Hayes lost his father, his job, couldn't find another and things looked like they couldn't get any worse. He had nothing left to lose, and he tells his journey, one which is both emotional and spiritual about his rise back up to something that most people would call a life. "Freedom's Just Another Word" is a riveting read, sure to give readers something to ponder.

Subprime Meltdown
Charles Brownell
Privately Published
9781438236612, $14.95,

The average man on the street wouldn't lend money to a hobo with intents on getting their money back, so why did banks do this with subprime borrowers? "Subprime Meltdown: From U.S. Liquidity Crisis to Global Recession" examines this recent crisis and what led banks to do something so irresponsible with people's money. Tackling the problem issue by issue and revealing the bank's motivations on these and with tips on how not to be drawn into a loan that can't be repaid, "Subprime Meltdown" is an economic breakdown that any nonspecialist general reader can understand.

Jalal Ghavami
Infinity Publishing
1094 New Dehaven St., Suite 100, W. Conshohocken, PA 19428
0741440814, $9.95,

A follow up to his first anthology, Jalal Ghavami brings readers another focusing on the woes of daily life in "Brick". Focusing on the human element of everyone's existence, his verse is compassionate and draws readers in. "Brick" is as solid as its name implies. "Don't Judge": Don't Judge/a book by/its cover//one exception/-Cold Season Poems-//Oh Yeah//We are singing/singing a new love song 4 u/let it be love/4 uaaa/4 ever.

The Decade of Blind Dates
Richard Alther
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Michele Karisberg Marketing and Management (publicity)
101 Lexington Ave, Staten Island, NY 10302
9780595467297, $17.95,

Coming to terms with one's sexuality after years of self-repression is never easy. "The Decade of Blind Dates" is Richard Alther's biographically influenced story of Peter Bauman, a man who has come out of the closet after decades of traditional heterosexual marriage. The novel follows his adventures of dealing with the weird world of dating, which is just as unusual for either team. Dealing with the other hassles of life makes it no easier, making "The Decade of Blind Dates" a novel that many recent closet-departers will relate to.

Golf Ball Chronicles
Fred Cisko
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159000, $8.95,

No one expects stories from a golf ball. No one expects anything from a golf ball. "Golf Ball Chronicles" is a story told by a golf ball, who tells of a story of a driven woman who went on to great things. A strange story from a strange source, "Golf Ball Chronicles" is empowering and highly recommended reading for young women to brighten their futures.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Falling Through the Crack
Betty Jean Grant
International Plaza II, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781436333207, $19.99,

From rough beginnings, Betty Jean Grant has clawed her way up to a great life and career. In "Falling Through the Crack" she embraces her beloved hobby of poetry. "Falling Through the Crack" tells her story of growing up African American, in a time when people of her race were considered second class citizens at best, garbage at worst. Drawing upon her experience, she spins excellent verse in "Falling Through the Crack". "Winners and Losers": I was not a politician/Until I ran/I was not a winner/Until I lost.

Val L. McGee
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
Yoknapatawpha Press
PO Box 248, Oxford, MS 38655
9781434380784, $19.95,

To be prosecuted for protecting oneself is out of the question today, but it wasn't as such a century and a half ago. "Selma" tells the story of a slave who killed his master. Facing certain death, two white lawyers stand up for his rights during a time a such thing would be career suicide. A look into the deep, dark racism of Alabama during the time, "Selma" is a riveting tale.

Stay 40
Richard Lippman
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432729271, $33.95,

Age is the great opponent of many a middle-aged individual. "Stay 40: Without Diet or Exercise" takes a look at the somewhat optimistic tale saying that the average lifespan is increasing . . . only problem is it's twelve more years at age eighty instead of a more desirable age. Discussing the advancement of medicines that are emerging to help people feel and appear younger in other ways besides diet and exercise. "Stay 40" is a unique approach to the ravages of age, something to consider for those who fear their age more than death.

Carnival of Memories
Yocasta Fareri
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595456703, $17.95,

Lawyer to dishwasher isn't exactly moving up in the world. "Carnival of Memories" tells the story of the Lagos family. When father Luis fails in a plot with other rebels to remove tyrannical leader Rafael Trujillio from power, Luis takes his family to America, losing his successful job as a lawyer to work in one of the seediest neighborhoods in America. His family adjusts to their new locale very different, as the central character Lyana soon embraces the current trends of the 50s and 60s including the beatnik and hippie movements. "Carnival of Memories" is a moving story of how a family will get by and do what it can to make life better.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

And on the Surface Die
Lou Allin
Rendezvous Crime
c/o Napoleon & Company
178 Willowdale Avenue, Suite 201, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M2N 4Y8
9781894917742, $15.95 1-877-730-9052

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.

The Sweet in Between
Sheri Reynolds
Shaye Areheart
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
0307393895, $23.00,

In Virginia seventeen year old Kendra "Kenny" Lugo fears the near future. Her mom died years ago of cancer and her dad is serving time. She lives with her dad's girlfriend "Aunt" Glo who has two kids of her own (tweener Quincy and teen Tim-Tim) and her seven years old granddaughter Daphne, dumped on her by her oldest child. Glo survives her responsibilities thanks in part to prescription pain killers.

Kenny fears Glo will kick her out of her home once she becomes an adult, which is soon. The teen also struggles with identity issues especially hiding her feminine body. When their alcoholic neighbor Jarvis Stanley accidentally kills a college girl, Kenny obsesses over the deceased as her morbidity makes her believe Glo will kick her to the curb soon. Her plan is to soon become responsible and dependable; Glo will beg her to stay.

Told by the frightened Kenny, THE SWEET IN BETWEEN is a fascinating family drama starring a frightened teen filled with anger, remorse and fear. The rest of Glo's extended family is fully developed characters who enhance the at times subtle and other moments in your face story line. However, this is Kenny' tale as she sadly expects the worse but hopes for the best, which in this case is not being kicked out of the only shelter, albeit a relatively poor one, she knows at a time she wonders why she feels different from girls her age.

The Love We Share Without Knowing
Christopher Barzak
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553385649, $12.00,

In Ami, Japan, sixteen year old American Elijah Fulton is bored. His only outlet is running. On an isolated path he meets a red fox who seems to imply he should follow; he does and ends up in a sacred circle. Soon after still suffering ennui, Elijah without telling anyone takes the train to Tokyo. After spending the day there, he tries to find the train back to the town where he, his parents and younger sister reside, but fails; no one seems to help him until a teen calling herself Midori helps him as she is going there too. After leaving the train at Ami they walk together until she heads to her father's farm while he goes home. Later he learns Midori committed suicide thirteen years ago.

In Tokyo, Hitumi meets Kazuko in a restaurant after each of their respective dates let them down. Soon afterward Asami and Tadashi the only male of the four form a suicide club pact that reminds Hitumi of her late friend Midori.

More a series of somewhat related vignettes rather than short stories or a novel, THE LOVE WE SHARE WITHOUT KNOWING is a deep look at loneliness and its twin need to belong to others. Christopher Barzak makes the case that the human need for companionship is a basic requirement just a notch less critical than physical survival needs like food, water and shelter. Well written with more episodes than those above, but somewhat depressing because part of belonging could lead to negative consequences like forming a suicide club pact. Fans who appreciate a powerful character study that gets into the essence of human need (think of the Maslow's hierarchy) will relish this engaging but gloomy glimpse into the human psyche.

Dan Simmons
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
0316007021, $26.99,

As novelist Wilkie Collins narrates on 9 June 1865, fifty three years old Charles Dickens accompanied by his secret mistress takes the train from Folkestone to London. In their car were three people, Charles, Ellen Tiernan and her mother. However, near the Stapelhurst railroad viaduct, a human error leads to the destruction where a bridge was under repair. Dickens and the Tiernan female pair survive.

Dickens tries to help others though it looks hopeless. Amidst the carnage, he meets another apparent survivor, morbid Edwin Drood, who survived the ordeal due to his traveling inside a coffin. Drood vanishes while Dickens follows his trail to the nastiest decadent side of London. As Collins continues his account, he wonder if Drood ever existed and whether Dickens made him to cover nefarious dealings.

This is an excellent historical thriller that looks closely at the last few years of Dickens' life using the unfinished final novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood and other historical facts as a basis for this wonderful account. The story line grips the audience from Collins' opening monologue and never slows down with readers scrutinizing clues throughout as to whether Dickens' lost his mind, concealed his activities with the invention of Drood as the narrator believes, or if Drood lived. Dan Simmons is at his best with this insightful psychological Victorian thriller.

Stay the Night
Lynn Viehl
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451412669, $7.99,

Still an outlaw after seven centuries of first being declared as such by King John's merry losers, immortal Darkyn Lord Robin of Locksley knows he must intercede when the ancient mythical tome Maiden's Book of Hours is stolen and not by him; he waited for over five hundred years for this book that contains the only picture of his long lost love Marian to surface. Undercover FBI agent Christina Renshaw is appalled with the theft since she is the one who dangled the priceless book to catch a brilliant art thief. Since the thieves also have takes hostages, the FBI is even more involved. Christina and Robin meet and are instantly attracted and conflicted as to what to do; that is on recovering the Maiden's Book of Hours and saving the captives.

Robin's long time enemy Nottingham has joined forces with an obsessed deadly Kyn female. His adversary's diabolical scheme leaves Robin with little choice, but to yank a stunned Chris into the Darkyn realm. Soon the pair is in Europe where Darkyn lords are meeting as all hell in breaking out.

Tthe overarching Darkyn saga moves forward (see TWILIGHT FALLS, NIGHT LOST and IF ANGELS BURN) while also telling the romantic suspense tale of Robin the Prince of Thieves, Lynn Viehl provides an interesting entry in her wonderful urban fantasy saga. The story line focuses on the lead couple's search for the Renaissance Era book while also continuing the war between the Darkyn and the Brethren. With a couple of late stunning spins and a reference to Coleridge, the powerful riveting Darkyn chronicles will have sub-genre fans anxious to learn what the author will unveil next.

Kill for Me
Karen Rose
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
0446510300, $16.99,

In Dutton, Georgia., Georgia Bureau of Investigation's special agent Daniel Vartanian and his partner Luke Papadopoulis have solved two interrelated cases that started thirteen years ago (see SCREAM FOR ME). However, their work is not done, as remnants of an affluent rape gang whom for the most part never faced justice as money rules, survives in a different form. This gang that seems to be centered in the Dutton area is abducting female teens and selling them as sexual merchandise to perverted predators. An attempted raid to catch the leader of the trafficking network ends tragically with five girls murdered and the unknown chief still free.

Daniel's sister, NYC ADA Susannah is also involved hoping to rescue other victims before Charles and his horde sell them in a damaged goods reduction sale; she is intimately knowledgeable about the sex slave commodity market. However, two teens rescued during the raid provide useful information, but the GBI agents and the ADA remain ignorant that one of their peers is making a lot more money peddling insider information to Charles.

This is a stupendous police procedural suspense thriller containing a complex story line and a large cast although many are corpses. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action from the onset and never slows down as the "Me-Me" trilogy (see SCREAM FOR ME and DIE FOR ME) ends with a vivid violent finish. The romantic subplot between Susannah and Luke is handled deftly as each has a history that has them fleeing commitment and both knows bringing down the ruthless human traffickers who diabolically use chat lines to find their prey comes before their attraction. KILL FOR ME is an exhilarating thriller.

Miles From Nowhere
Nami Mun
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594488542, $21.95,

In the 1980s her father abandoned twelve years old Korean-American Joon-Mee and her mother; he was unable to cope with the increased craziness of his wife and still held her culpable for their leaving their country four years earlier. When her mom turns even more helpless with her midnight hole digging activity and is in denial that she everything is messed up except for the humiliation and economic disaster, Joon-Mee flees the Bronx for Manhattan. The runaway becomes a hooker and escort.

Soon heroin becomes part of the repertoire. She makes friends on the streets, but understands the code that no one has your back although male prostitute Wink mentors her on surviving the "Johns, the homeless, and the competitors. Benny, who has a regular job as an orderly, is nice to her when he is not too high; when he is he can be a nasty cutter. Life on the street is rough and fast with even the strong ultimately unable to survive.

This is not an easy read, but is an extremely deep look at life for a runaway young teen. The story line mostly focuses on Joon-Mee but also enables the reader to see how her mentor Knowledge and others survive at shelters and on the meanest streets. This is cutthroat capitalism at its purest; just like the extreme right wing envision. Readers will be stunned with the graphic details of survival in an urban jungle in which your stalking predator may be sleeping in the cot next too or may be your latest John.

The Centurion's Wife
T. Davis Bunn and Janette Oke
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764205149, $20.99,

In AD 33 in Caesarea Judea Province, Pontius Pilate cuts a deal with ambitious Centurion Alban, commander of the garrison near Galilee. Part of the arrangement is to have Alban marry his Jewess niece Leah. More a servant than a relative as her uncle hides their blood connection since her father disgraced the family name, Leah does not want to wed someone she has never met.

Angry, hurt and desperate, Leah asks her mistress, Pilate's wife Mistress Procula for help in preventing the deal. However, Procula has her own issues as she cannot sleep having recently suffered from nightmares re Jesus of Nazareth. Fearing for her Pilate and needing sleep, Instead Procula sends Leah undercover amidst Jesus' disciples to learn what they and others plan as a recent assassination of a rabbi has caused open anger among the Jews. However, as she befriends Mary Magdalene and the others has Leah believing there can be peace and hope on earth, but she fears she sill is in the dark because she will betray either her mistress or her friends and adding to her doubts is that she knows someone plans to kill Alban.

The first Acts of Faith ancient biblical historical tale brings to vivid life Judea at a time when Jesus is crucified and resurrected. The exciting insightful story line focuses on Leah who learns to love and believe while she and her intended try to prevent an armed revolt that will leave many dead. Biblical fiction fans will relish this deep look at first century Judea as a time when religion, politics, and the military converge like no other time since.

The Gates of Trevalyan
Jacquelyn Cook
Belle Books
PO Box 67, Smyrna, GA, 30082
9780980245356, $14.95

In 1844 Jenny Mobley and Charles King meet during a fox hunt. Although she is attracted to him, she assumes he is an idle spoiled rich kid. Charles is half way in love with Jenny so he pursues her. She quickly revises her opinion of him as he proves to be hard working, dedicated and caring. They soon marry.

She moves on to his affluent plantation Trevalyan in central Georgia. There as the country marches closer to all out war, they build a happy safe life together. However, when the war finally breaks out with the election of Lincoln, their idyllic lifestyle is threatened as no one is allowed to remain out of the Confederacy side of the fight in their area; not that either would go neutral or Union. Their life together raising a family is over for now and soon Trevalyan is at risk too from Sherman's march to the sea, but Jenny knows the source of their true power will survive whatever comes from the war and its aftermath.

This mid nineteenth century epic saga will hook the readers with a strong sense of time and place that transports the audience to two plus decades of life in Central Georgia. The support cast is solid with several having their own subplots embellishing a look at the growing troubles of the period. However, this tale is owned by the lead couple as their actions and reactions reflect the larger stage. As she did with the terrific biographical fiction SUNRISE, Jacquelyn Cook provides an engaging historical yarn that enables her fans to taste life on a plantation before, during and just after the Civil War.

Kathy Porter
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
1419636685, $17.99

In the near future, the inconvenient truth is the earth is dying as the environment has reached code red. Natural disasters have become epidemic and disease pandemic. Earthquakes and tsunamis at sea and in the air have become catastrophic as if the planet is in its final death throes. Humanity appears on the eve of extinction as the Doomsday Clock has reached the point of no turning back.

Hope arises when aliens arrive to treat ailing humans suffering from the Severe Environmental Allergy Syndrome. The Grays offer the governments a plan to save the species from the dying planet. They will bring selected humans to their home planet; predominantly women of child-bearing age.

Soon afterward, a second alien race appears. The Guardians insist earth can be saved if enlightened people make the concerted effort and that the Grays' secret agenda is a breeding program to establish super lethal hybrid to dominate the universe. Selling their belief to the embattled human leaders is near impossible as the Guardians are technologically inferior to the Grays so earthly leaders assume less knowledgeable; besides which they wonder what is the Guardians' agenda? On the other hand, the concept of not leaving home with most surviving is one generality humanity embraces. As the Grays and the Guardians battle over the future of mankind, humans feel somewhat helpless since their input seems to not matter, but both extraterrestrials underestimate the earthlings.

This cautionary science fiction thriller uses real people like Bush and agencies like SETI to establish a feel of plausibility that two alien races arrive at a time when earth is on life support. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but also provides intriguing metaphors on how western civilization looks at other cultures from a purely technological perspective; if you can't plug and play wireless you are backward. Readers will appreciate this deep science fiction thriller that is mindful of Frank Stockton's classic The Lady and the Tiger as humanity must choose but which of these aliens is the beast and which is the nurturing mother.

Magic Lance
Hal Simmons
Clear Light Publishing
823 Don Diego, Santa Fe NM 87505
9781574160949, $14.95

The tribe has made a fortune with its Magic Lance casino. Now the tribal war concerned with having all their eggs in one basket directs Lucky Joe to purchase ranch land with the goal to establish a Native American state.

As the pattern begins to surface, those in Washington and in the surrounding western states become concerned with the Indian power grab. Especially upset are local politicians who fear losing power and white ranchers who are disturbed by being archipelagoes in a red sea. Other strange bedfellows from environmentalists to hunters to organized crime mobsters to even some tribal members join the anti tribal land grab. In the midst of all this posturing while Lucky Joe legally continues his purchases and the casino brings in money by the truckload, small rancher Lance Burnett tries to run his spread even as his inner city teacher wife Jan leaves him to escape the lonely existence and he is attracted to the ranch manager next door Lighting McClain, whose owner wants his land at discount sales rate in order to compete with the Indian purchases.

This excellent regional thriller rotates perspective predominantly between what is happening to Lance and Lucky Joe until their subplots deftly converge; plausible but unexpected twists keep readers wondering where the two scenarios are going. Fans will enjoy this modern take of Old West "economic politics" in the twenty-first century especially the unintended consequences of the casinos as devastating a way of life while also becoming an equalizer. Insightful throughout with consistent characters behaving according to their moral code, MAGIC LANCE is a complex character driven tale that readers will appreciate as Hal Simmons shines a clear light on the New West.

War Games
Christopher Anvil, edited by Eric Flint
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
1416556028, $22.00,

This is a terific collection that includes one novel (see THE STEEL, THE MIST AND THE BLAZING SUN) and Christopher Anvil's early short stories. The shorts were published in the major science fiction magazines of the fifties and sixties like Astounding, Galaxy and Analog; as well as one each in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. The compilation includes two published in the fifties, thirteen in the sixties; one from the seventies; and two in the eighties (including the novel). Each entry is well written filled with twists, humor, and satirical hyperbole of war as so complex that his key characters consistently set out to do what they believe is ethically right only to find morality issues at every turn; a sort of Bushian spin since "Mission Accomplished". Incredibly even the plug and play world is anticipated by Mr. Anvil in defense of one's home.

THE STEEL, THE MIST AND THE BLAZING SUN. Two hundred years have past since WW III between the USA and the Soviet Union left devastation across the globe with the deployment of the nukes. Elected King Arakal of Wesdem O'Cracys (his adventures start in the included short "Ideological Defeat" - read that first) and his militia annexed the Russian colony in America and forged an alliance with New Kebeck to the north. He goes east across the ocean as west is too radioactive. His target is the Old O'Cracy islands of Old Brunswick and the continent just beyond the small channel starting with Old Kebeck. The Russians look forward to greet him with open warfare. Although feeling outdated with the collapse of the Soviet Union, this is an entreating war novel, which like the included shorts, proclaims war is absurd but is as human as eating and breathing.

The Private Patient
P.D. James
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0307270777, $25.95,

In Dorset, forty-seven years old investigative reporter Rhoda Gradwyn arrives at Cheverell Manor, a facility converted into a plastic surgery clinic by renowned surgeon Dr. George Chandler Powell. Rhoda is there for personal reasons to have an ugly facial scar removed. Two days later, Rhoda is dead.

Police Commander Adam Dalgliesh heads the investigation into the homicide of the journalist. He and his unit quickly find suspects at clinic, whose motives seem weird especially if any of them killed a virtual stranger. Confused by what they are learning, Adam also reaches out to the wider more likely fruitful focus of looking at those involved with Gradwyn's work as she was notorious for figuratively torturing the truth from reluctant individuals and then selling it to the highest bidder. One of the seemingly zillion including the staff at the clinic is a killer, but who took advantage of the opportunity remains far from being resolved even as the inquiry spins further out of control towards a three century plus old execution and a second apparently unrelated murder occurs at the clinic.

As always in the excellent Dalgliesh police procedurals, this great entry (perhaps the best of the long running saga) P.D. James interweaves her take on social issues into a terrific whodunit; nobody does it better than she does. The case is complex as suspects surface more than rabbits multiply while Dalgliesh learns either the clinic staff or the late reporter were interested in the graying of Great Britain, the failing restricted higher education system that exclude late blooming geniuses and immigrants, and the inconvenient truth of humans goring the planet; all cleverly interwoven into the plot. However, make no mistake the superb police investigation is the focus of the storyline as THE PRIVATE PATIENT is a fabulous "locked room" mystery with an endless sea of suspects.

The Northern Clemency
Philip Hensher
9781400044481, $26.95

In 1974, the Sellars brood leaves hip London for suburban ennui in Sheffield in the inappropriately named South Yorkshire as they trek to the north. The two Sellars sisters, reticent Francis and extroverted Sandra are concerned that life in the burbs will prove boring as the former loves music and the latter loves swinging London.

Their neighbors, the Glover family consists of two parents and three kids. Patriarch Malcolm is outraged when he finds evidence that his wife Katherine is having an affair. As for the children, bookworm Jane conceals from everyone she is writing a novel; Daniel's brain consists of one icon sex with any carbon bearing species; and the youngest preadolescent Tim is friendlier with snakes than people.

One decade later, the kids are away from home either at universities or working. The empty nest syndrome is compounded with employment issues for the older generation as their hobs die and the new economy begins to shape everyone. Into the nineties, the children as adults live around the world, but come home as often as they can seek solace.

This is an interesting family drama that showcases two families during the Thatcher Era. Each of the ensemble cast is fully developed as readers see them all from multiple perspectives. Although the story line is extremely passive, fans will relish this deep character study of two generations struggling in different ways to survive the Conservative period, a time of technology and dramatically changing globalization (Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat comes to mind although much of his treatise occurs after the events of THE NORTHERN CLEMENCY) in which the older generation feels hopelessly lost and left behind and their offspring disillusioned and unhappy.

The Stepsister Scheme
Jim C. Hines
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756405328, $7.99,

Danielle de Glas Whiteshore, better known as Cinderella, is just getting used to life at the palace when her stepsister Charlotte comes into her castle trying to kill her. Charlotte fails but escapes, but not before mentioning that something happened to her brother-in-law Prince Armand. Her maid Talia, who does not act like a royal servant nor like her famous name Sleeping Beauty, arranges for Danielle to meet with Queen Beatrice and her attendant Snow (as in agent White). They are told Armand has been kidnapped from the inn he was staying at and was taken to Fairytown by Danielle's two stepsisters.

Danielle is shocked that her stepsisters used a spell as she was unaware either had magical skills. The princess obtains the password to call the Summoner to help her and her allies pass through the hedge that separates fairy from human lands. Inside the realm of the Fairy, Danielle and her team learn Charlotte's sister Stacia is a powerful mage here. The princess and her two regal agents travel to the powerful fairy Duchess, who is despised by the king and queen of fairy to rescue Armand, but the trek is hazardous as disaster strikes at the courageous princess trio.

This tale occurs in the days after "happily ever after" as the three princesses face all types of adversarial situations while Danielle tries to rescue her husband. This adult fairy tale with amusing chick lit asides is an enchanting enjoyable fantasy. Jim C. Hines creates great heroines who even on their dangerous adventure retain their classy demeanor while trying to stay alive. Hopefully Beauty and White get the special Hines treatment.

C.J. Cherryh
9780756405304, $25.95

In the research city of Reseune, eighteen year old scientist Ariane "Ari" Emory is a clone of a late brilliant warped person whose work on psychogenesis, the cloning of psychology and memory, was ingenious; the evidence being Ari II. However, Ariane I was killed by an unknown adversary during a power struggle. Meanwhile another clone Justin Warrick mentors the "second Ariane".

However, all hell breaks loose when Justin's prototype Jordan comes home from exile demanding justice. He wants to know who killed Ariane I. Even more disturbing in his mind is that the history of the Union seems to be repeating itself with violence and death, but this time the battle for power also includes clones.

Two decades have past since CYTEEN was published, but fans of the series will feel the wait was worth it as the sequel REGENESIS retains the dark gloomy future of the first tale. The key is the cast who make Cherryh's grim picture plausible although the plot with several clever spins focuses on Ari II; she holds it together as a second power struggle erupts. Although reading CYTEEN is not a must prerequisite to appreciate REGENESIS, this reviewer suggests starting with the original super first story that holds up nicely as that enhances the backdrop to the excellent sequel.

Long Shadows
Erin Hunter
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780060892142, $16.99,

Since the solar eclipse occurred shaking many of the cat clans because the pale yellow eyed Sol, belonging to no one, predicted it. ShadowClan Leader Blackstar consulting with his Deputy Russetfur and his Medicine Cat Littlecloud announces to his loyal followers they will no long adhere to the ancient warrior code of the StarClan, but instead pledge their allegiance to Sol. His pronouncement has shocked his clan and stunned ThunderClan, WindClan and RiverClan. The Ancients led by Furled Bracken and his Sharpclaws are also taken aback.

ThunderClan apprentice Jaypaw is not convinced that tossing the code of StarClan for the enigmatic nomadic Sol is the right thing for the communities; he seeks the truth in the long forgotten ancient past. ThunderClan warrior Lionblaze wants out of his destiny as it is killing him even when he sleeps, but the litter-mate sibling code will not allow him to betray his two comrades. The third destined one Thunderclan warrior Hollyleaf fears that Blackstar's ruling is the beginning of the end as the StarClan warrior code has been the underlying ethical base of the clans forever and that will crumble under a Sol cult. However, as each of the threesome struggle with the radical change, the LONG SHADOWS of death by murder stalks ThunderClan.

The latest Powers of Three Warriors book is an exciting middle school fantasy. The story line rotates perspective between the three youthful heroes as the understanding they have gained in THE SIGHT and DARK RIVER is abruptly unraveling. Each is confused by what is happening to the code that they are pledged to follow as their previous experiences may turn out to have been for naught as obsolete adventures. As they go on their separate journeys to find the truth, all three subplots are well written and exciting, but also contain the trademark impending doom which seems inevitable. Once again the Power of Three is a winner with a great twist on the coming of age theme.

Dark Pursuit
Brandilyn Collins
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310276425, $14.99,

Suspense novelist Darell Brooke and his granddaughter Kaitlan Sering have been estranged for several years ever since demon drugs took over her life. He refused to pay for her addiction and displaying tough love kicked her out of his life though that broke his heart.

Two years ago Darell was severely injured in a car accident that has impacted his mental acumen as he struggles with memory and focus. He has not written anything since and has become an acrimonious grumpy hermit. On the other hand, the twentyish Kaitlan has rebounded starting with kicking the habit, obtaining a decent job and has a nice boyfriend Craig Barlow, the son of the police chief Russ Barlow, whom she has been seeing for three months and is carrying his child.

Excited and praying Craig will be too when she tells him she is pregnant, she finds a dead fortyish female in her bed. She wonders if Craig killed the woman, but soon has worse issues as the police deem her the only viable suspect. No longer trusting Craig or his dad, she flees to her grandfather for help, not knowing who else she can turn to if he rejects her. However, the king of suspense no longer has the sharp mind his granddaughter remembers; she fears she is endangering him too, but Darell needs to be there for his Kaitlan.

This is an exciting criminal thriller starring a strong ensemble cast anchored by the heroine in trouble. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Kaitlan sees the corpse in her bed and never slows down as the police and her fiance go after her while she and her befuddled grandfather push back hoping to break Craig. Although one critical spin seems unlikely, fans will relish the aptly named DARK PURSUIT, as family right or wrong is always family.

Beloved Captive
Kathleen Y'Barro
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781602602304, $10.97,

In 1836 wealthy Emilie Gayarre has finally learned the truth about her heritage that ironically even the family servants knew. She no longer believes the truth will set everyone free though she believes it helped her father whose deathbed confession cleared his conscience before he met the Lord. Still part of her remains in denial even as she knows it is true that dad told her the truth that her biological mother was a slave.

Although still in shock, Emilie leaves New Orleans by sea to return to teaching the kids of Fairweather Keys, Florida. On the Caribbean crossing, she meets Naval Commander Caleb Spencer. They are attracted to one another, but she conceals her mixed heritage while he struggles to overcome his family's dark past starting with his mother the pirate, his grandfather's illegal activity and worse his father the politician; their felonious escapades have stymied his military career. As they fall in love, she fears her students will be sent to other Keys for their education by an activist judge since there is no school-building on Fairweather. She also worries how her Caleb will react to a slave's blood flowing through her at a time he struggles to surmount his family obstacles while someone wants to cut him out permanently of his Caribbean inheritance.

The sequel to BELOVED CASTAWAY is a fabulous historical romantic action adventure thriller that holds the readers' captive from the moment Emilie and Caleb meet as each is attracted to the other, but hiding something from their beloved. The story line starts as a straightforward Americana romance but splits into two subplots following the separate escapades of each lead character learning to accept their ancestry before merging back together into a dynamic finish. As always Kathleen Y'Barbo provides an entertaining deep soul searching tale that in this case at times is more an action historical story than a romance.

Contract with the Earth
Newt Gingrich and Terry L. Maple
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452289925, $14.00,

This is an interesting look at merging American conservative values with environmentalism. Using the concept of the Contract with America that ironically failed to have any of it points survive, but helped bring the conservatives to power making it a successful manifesto; Newt Gingrich and Terry L. Maple provide ten points to save the environment, but not at the cost of the economy. The key unlike the 1994 tenet is reconciliation with all sides moving past rhetoric into doing the right thing politically while encouraging "compatible partnerships" between business and environmentalists. However some of the hug the other side tone is lost when the authors condemn the "Inconvenient Truth" crowd as being the drivel of activist scientists (taken from the mantra of activist judges as if society would accept as professionals, inactive judges or inactive scientists). Well written and interesting as the writers make a concerned case for saving the planet without destroying business interests, CONTRACT WITH EARTH is an engaging treatise at how the economy and the environment can coexist in harmony, but the book lacks deep fecundity as Newt Gingrich and Terry L. Maple never drill past the surface mantle.

Outlaw Marshal
Al & JoAnna Lacy
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601420541, $12.99,

In 1887 convicted outlaw Whipley Langford is freed from jail planning to go straight after avoiding a noose thanks to his friend Marshal John Brockman, who understands first hand how one can stray from the lord as he was once "Mr. Stranger". A pious law enforcement official noe John also encourages Whip to embrace God, but though he vows to never break the law, he cannot seek the lord's salvation.

Whip prevents a train robbery by four of his associates catching two of the outlaws and bringing them to justice. However, the two who escape vow vengeance on their former partner. They arrange for the evidence to overwhelmingly prove John committed a homicide. With a perfect frame, everyone assumes the outlaw returned to his roots except for John who believes in Whip's conversion to law abiding citizen. As the hanging rope comes closer, John sets out to prove his friend's innocence even as Widow Annabeth Cooper prays to God that the Marshal is able to free the former outlaw who owns her heart.

Fans of the Laceys will appreciate the "Return of the Stranger" and his wife Breanna who starred in the mid nineties Western Christian fiction saga The Journeys of the Stranger. The current tale is a fascinating redemption novel as John tries to persuade Whip that he needs to find the Lord if he is to truly make it. Although at times John can turn too preachy for less dedicated CF fans, OUTLAW MARSHAL is an exciting Colorado-Kansas thriller starring a fascinating lead character, the woman he loves, and the man who tries to help him find his way to the lord.

Death at a Discount
Sharon Dunn
Multnomah Books
9781590526910, $12.99

Accompanied by her husband Earl, Bargain Hunters Network guru Ginger Solinaski and her friend BHN member Suzanne Thames travel from their hometown Three Horses, Montana to Denver because the two females will appear as guests on the Discount and Value Network. The hostess Stephanie expected to work their show fails to arrive while another Candace demands her coveted spot. A snowstorm strands everyone at the studio and its adjacent warehouse while the two BHN members become separated after Suzanne compulsively slips into a buying binge.

While Ginger worries about Suzanne praying to God to protect her, the latter is caught outside in the cold where she finds a corpse. With the power gone, Ginger finds Earl's pepper spray flashlight handy especially after she notices blood on a cart. When Candace is found murdered too Ginger fears for the safety of her still missing friend and begins to wonder who the killer is.

This engaging entry combines a couple of apropos timely messages that in bad economic times and when one errs God is still there. The cozy story line moves a bit slow as much of the action occurs off page. However fans will appreciate the latest BHN inspirational amateur sleuth (see DEATH OF A GARAGE SALE NEWBIE and DEATH OF A SIX-FOOT TEDDY BEAR) even if only two of the four protagonists made it to Denver and they are in separate subplots for much of the tale as their friendship shines throughout.

The Empty Mirror
J. Sydney Jones
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312383893, $24.95,

In the 1890s several inexplicable violent murders rock Vienna. As Austrians watch in fascinating fear, the police suspect artist Gustav Klimt as the culprit predominantly based on the fifth victim Liesel Landtauer who was his model, but lack solid evidence to convict him although they raided his studio. Concerned that he could become the fall guy if police Inspektor Meindl fails to nail the brutal serial killer soon, he asks his friend lawyer Karl Werthen for help. Karl wants to assist Gustav, but also accepts he is out of his element at this point with the need of an investigative expert to take charge.

As Klimt is proven right when the police arrest him on inadequate evidence, Werthen asks criminologist Dr. Hanns Gross to help him uncover the identity of "Vienna's Jack the Ripper." He agrees and with Werthen at his side, Gross begins to follow clues that lead to all segments of Venetian society even as a sixth homicide frees Klimt who has the perfect alibi. However as the killer watches their progress and even sends taunting mail to authorities, influential members of high society want their inquiry stopped while the police continue to focus on Klimt as their end game.

Using real persona in key roles (including Klimt the artist who had the Malkovich movie made of him two years ago and the founder of criminology Gross), J Sydney Jones anchors time and place giving this terrific investigative tale a major historical feel to the story line. Plausible cameos enhance the feel of being in Vienna in the 1890s. The serial killer investigation filled with twists hooks the audience. Historical and late Victorian mystery fans will both relish this excellent whodunit.

Death Was in the Picture
Linda L. Richards
9780312383398, $24.95

In 1931 Hollywood secretary Kitty Pangborn continues to work for dissolute private investigator Dex Theroux even though she stepped into all sorts of trouble (see DEATH WAS THE OTHER WOMAN) while her employer spent time toasting the J brothers (Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Jose Cuervo). She is grateful that Dex is clean and sober when a paying client arrives. He says he represents interested nameless concerned citizens who want to hire him to conduct surveillance of movie star Laird Wyndham, as they think his morality is dubious at best.

Although he has doubts about the surveillance, he needs the money so accepts the case. However, his gut instincts prove right when the police arrest Laird charging him with murder. Desperate to clear his reputation, Wyndham hires Dex to find the real killer.

The latest Dex-Kitty Depression Era Hollywood investigative thriller is a superb period piece. Once again Kitty does yeoman work to keep Dex away from the J crowd. Dex is at his best in a one thing leads to another scenario with his gut constantly telling him to drop the case and turn to alcohol to numb the feelings of being a loser. Historical mystery fans will enjoy this fine 1930s whodunit as well as the previous Panghorn-Theroux case (see DEATH WAS THE OTHER WOMAN).

Second Time Around
Marcia Willett
0312306660, $13.95

Due to the splintering her family years ago, never married eighty-four years old Mathilda Rainbird has no obvious heir to bequest her large South Devon estate to once she dies, which the octogenarian knows is soon. As such with the help of barrister James Barrington she leaves her property including her seaside cottage to three nth degree cousins she never met and she believes never met each other.

After Mathilda passes away, the beneficiaries are stunned as none knew the late octogenarian nor expected the gift she bestowed on them. Twenty-two years old dog sitter Tessa Rainbird has felt alone ever since her parents and baby brother died; retired diplomat widower Will Rainbird has gotten used to being alone ever since his wife past away; and spinster retired school matron Beatrice Holmes has always been alone even when surrounded by her all male students and faculty. These three lonely-hearts move into the cottage as each seeks new beginnings. Also on the property is Mathilda's former housekeeper Isobel Stangate who resides in a smaller adjacent cottage while separated from her husband. None of the four want to share anything as each prefers hiding in shallow loneliness out of fear of being hurt; but soon family bonds begin to form as the quartet develop differing but caring relationships with one another.

This is the first American publication of a late 1990s English relationship drama starring five strong characters (including the late Mathilda). Readers will feel they moved into the cottage due to Marcia Willet's trademark ability to bring her cast alive (see THE COURTYARD that contains a similar ensemble warmth story line). Fans will root for everyone to make it especially as a warm loving family who are there for each other.

Shooters and Chasers
Lenny Kleinfeld
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594147395, $25.95, 1-800-223-1244

In Chicago, taxi driver Naguib Darwahab takes his fare renowned architect Wilson Willets home. Because they hit it off so well, he gives Wilson his copy of a tape. However, out of an alley rushes a mugger who shoots and kills the architect, but leaves the driver alive.

Homicide detectives Mark Bergman and John Dunegan lead to what appears to be a solved case as Naguib can identify the killer. The cops arrest Emeelio "Meelo" Garcia whose car contains the murder weapon and the victim's wallet. However, anomalies surface to include Naguib saying Meelo is not the killer in spite of his telltale tattoo. Other seemingly minor oddities also surface so that in spite of the brass wanting to take Meelo to trial during an AG election year, the dedicated cops look elsewhere for suspects including a pristine architectural competition.

This excellent police procedural stars two cops who perfectly represent Chicago as one is a Cub fan and the other a Sox fan. The set up is terrific as the case appears to be a random mugging killing with the solid evidence overwhelmingly convicting Meelo at a surface glance. However, the cops find tiny holes that grow increasingly bigger and the key witness places heavy doubts on Meelo. With several twists and a strong cast on both sides of the law, readers will appreciate this fabulous whodunit.

Donald J. Bingle
Five Star Books
1594147280, $25.95

GreensWord is a small environmental protest group that is dying; the only major benefactor Hollywood star Matthew Barrington has warned the members he will move his funding to a competitor if they fail to prevent global warming from relocating his Malibu Beach front property from sliding into the Pacific.

The trio who predominately make up the peaceful protest organization Milo, Zeke and Brandon fear they not only might have to work for a living, they no longer will be able to use Greensword membership to pick up impressed girls. Desperate they come up with a plan to save Barrington's beach house. They steal a nuke, set it off in Mt Rainer to activate the volcano leading to nuclear winter, and voila no more global warming. Based on TV crime shows, the threesome figure they can thwart the aftermath inept government investigation so they do not have to do time as that would crimp their Mojo picking up girls.

Although the government Katrina like response to prevent the ecoterror attack is too Keystone Cop to be taken serious, GREENSWORD is an engaging satire that lampoons extremists on both sides of the environment issue. Neither side worries about the consequences of their actions. Fans will enjoy the obstinate threesome as they plot to end global warming with an extreme counter surge, but alas the HSD response is so feeble it ironically defuses the ecoterrorist story line.

Donna Rose and the Roots of Evil
Norma Tadlock Johnson
Five Star Books
9781594147272, $25.95

In Cedar Harbor, Washington retired schoolteacher Donna Galbreath looks for some quiet after she and her neighbor Cyrus Bates captured a killer (see DONNA ROSE AND THE SLUG WAR). She does expect incompetent police chief William Doniker to be replaced by superstar cop Jake Santorini so when the City Council announces an award ceremony for the former, Donna and Cyrus are stunned. An upset somewhat intoxicated by alcohol and prescription drugs Jake comments he wants to kill William and sneezes into the man's food.

At the gala, William abruptly dies. The autopsy reveals he was poisoned by Monkshood previously used by the killer behind bars in the Slug War case, and stolen from the police evidence room. Jake is arrested as he had motive, means, and opportunity. Donna and Cyrus begin to investigate leading to a strange Cincinnati connection between the deceased, Tim the new owner of the Cedar Harbor Post, and Alvin a vagrant gardener, but how the latter two and Mayor Oliver with his "buddy" system tie to the chief's homicide remains unknown and consequently so does the killer while the cop in charge of the investigation continues to focus solely on Jake.

Although the story line is a bit thin, fans will enjoy Donna Rose's second amateur sleuth due to a strong cast who bring alive the Puget Sound area. The pairing of Donna and Cyrus is terrific as they believe Jake is innocent and should be chief so they seek the "roots of evil" in their community who murdered the chief. This is a fun Washington State cozy.

The Wisdom of Father Dowling
Ralph McInerny
Five Star Books
9781594146794, $25.95

This anthology contains fourteen stories published between 1995 and 1998, and one entry in 2000. The usual players besides the title lead character show up as does his housekeeper Marie, and police captain Phil Keegan. All take place in Fox River, Illinois in or near St. Hilary's church. Each tale is well written and fun to read with Father Dowling's usual amusing asides and witty intelligent commentaries on life enhance the collection. The short story format is a terrific method for the Father Dowling mysteries as he provides his compassionate solace to the flock and others while also solving cases that prove to the reader to kill or steal is human, but to catch the felon is divine. Fans of the series will fully appreciate this fine compilation of the short cases of Father Dowling as the format is heavenly.

Killer Cousins
June Shaw
Five Star Books
1594147302, $25.95

Cealie Gunther was preparing to go to Mexico when she receives an urgent call from her cousin Stevie Midnight to come over as son as possible as she is in danger. Cealie rushes to Stevie's house in Gatlinburg, Tennessee only to trip over a corpse. Police Detective Renwick questions the feuding cousins with Stevie insisting she did not know the victim and an upset Cealie told not to leave town. Cealie is stunned to learn Stevie's plea for help was based on her so called psychic skills.

Cealie accompanies Stevie to her Quitters Group; a support team helping each other quit smoking. There she learns the victim Pierce Trottier was a member of the group although Stevie still insists she never saw him. At the newly opened Cajun Delights owned by Cealie's sometime lover restaurateur Gil Thurman, another Quitters Group attendee Fawn McKenzie dies with her face landing in the source. As Cealie and Stevie argue, they investigate the group members to determine who is applying the Christie story And Then There Were None.

The second Cealie amateur sleuth mystery (see RELATIVE DANGER) is an interesting whodunit that takes a somewhat backseat to the feuding KILLER COUSINS". Stevie and Cealie spend much of the first half of the book irritating one another as if they were still little girls competing for their grandma's affection. The efforts to stop smoking is deftly handled and can be summed up by quoting Mark Twain: "Quitting smoking is easy; I've done it a thousand times", as the addiction is craving for relief all the time. The story line is at its best in the second half when the cousins stop fighting and team up as relentless amateur sleuths solving a murder mystery, middle age dieting, and controlling the cigarette addiction. Overall June Shaw provides a fine Tennessee cozy.

Passion Flowers
Molly Charles
Five Star Books
9781594147517, $25.95

Seattle resident Leigh Cole hates wide open water ever since a childhood tragedy so she wonders why she is flying over the Pacific to Hawaii even as she knows the answer is she owes her boss seventy-eight year old Kearny Enterprises CEO Olivia Kearny for mentoring her. Olivia is ill and wants to see her estranged grandson whom she raised when his parents died in an accident.

At Mike's Banyon Grill, Olivia meets Deke who is Olivia's grandson. He refuses to go home as he does not believe her and besides he is a single dad raising his son Sammy. However, he reconsiders his options when Sammy's mother Courtney who abandoned the child at birth tries to blackmail Deke into giving her money or face a custody challenge by her father, an Illinois senator. His lawyer advises him to avoid Washington State because he can probably win a court case on the islands, but it is not as likely on the mainland. Deke and Leigh fall in love, but he does not trust businesswomen or her agenda in particular while she never obtained closure from that childhood trauma that still haunts her today.

This is an interesting family drama with a contemporary romantic subplot accentuating the relationship issues between the generations. For instance Leigh blames herself for the tragedy while her dad believes she blames him as he does too; their inability to communicate makes the suffering worse for them and her mom. Communication is also a problem between Deke and his grandma. Although the Courtney subplot showcases her desperation to do anything, it seems over the top by those demanding money from her. Still even with the late suspense that appears out of place for the loan sharks, fans will relish this solid tale of healing relationships.

Secret Bride
Sharol Louise
Five Star Books
9781594147180, $25.95

In 1794 Viscount Damion Templeton believes his beloved grandmother is dying. He would do anything for her so when she asks him to marry, he knows he must find a bride or better yet hire someone he can introduce to his grandmother as his fiancee. Once his grandma dies, they would end the sham engagement.

Damion hires impoverished schoolteacher Alix Adams to pose as his intended. His ruse works perfect except for two things. His grandmother is not dying and he has fallen in love with his actress. Alix reciprocates even as his past rises to cause him further havoc and threatens his wealth.

Although the theme of a fake engagement has been done a zillion times this late Georgian romance is a warm tale due to the two likable protagonists who like the readers and his grandma know early on they belong together. The story line is breezy and light with the conflict coming from external sources who never quite come across as full blooded sinister villains. Still SECRET BRIDE is an enjoyable fun read as Damion finds more than a fake fiancee, he finds true love.

The Hood Life
Meesha Mink and De'nesha Diamond
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
1416577092, $14.00, 1-800-223-2336

Cleo and Ophelia have lived in the hood, the Bentley Manor Housing Project in Georgia for over four decades. They know there are many good residents trying to make an honest dollar and there are criminals who seek easy cash. The pair watches the neighborhood activities and at times intervenes.

Tavon "Sweet" Johnson is an amoral upscale pimp who has escaped the hood by selling sex at his clubs and at hi crib. However his idyll affluent life is shook to the core when a former girlfriend dumps at his mother's house a fifteen year old girl that she insists is his daughter. Sweet takes his offspring to his mansion where his wife Renee makes it clear the teen is unwanted.

Demarcus has just gotten out of prison and is haunted by his crime and needing to adhere to the Koran wants to go straight, but no one wants anything to do with an ex-con. With his girlfriend Zoey pregnant, he is offered a job that will take them out of the hood if he is not caught.

Kaseem runs drugs in the hood, but when his crackhead former girlfriend gives him his infant son to raise, he wants out of trafficking and Bentley Manor. A betrayal by his best friend forces him to react in a way that if caught he will spend his life behind bars.

Rhakmon is the smoothest playa in the hood. He can sell anything especially himself to any woman. When he kills someone he promises his girlfriend, Shaterica they will marry if she confesses to having committed the homicide. She does time while he does other women. Cleo and Ophelia deploy to clean up this scenario.

Living in the hood is not easy, but people have choices although sometimes the options are painful. The men select crime to include murder, pimping, drug peddling and more until revelations (mostly the next generation) makes each of them reconsider what they have done as others pay the price for their folly. As with DESPERATE HOODWIVES and SHAMELESS HOODWIVES, the return to THE HOOD brings out the worst and best of Atlanta with an overarching message of hope.

The Spy Who Wants Me
Lucy Monroe
Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758229151, $14.00,

The Goddard Project "Old Man" decides his best field operative Elle Gray should handle the California situation, but not because she is his top gun; instead he is worried about her as her entire life is TGP having no vacations from the job except field training. The Old Man believes California mellow will be good for Elle and with her chemical engineering degree might fit in with scientists on the right side of the law and perhaps he prays go out out on a date or two.

Research chemist Beau Ruston's top secret laboratory was compromised. Elle is sent in under the cover of being a security consultant insuring it does not happen again. In fact she is there to keep Beau safe and catch those who breached security. It is attraction at first sight as Beau and Elle want one another. However, she hides her true vocation from him while he conceals he knows her true vocation. However, Elle's hidden identity is in trouble when she learns her brother Matej works at the lab. When her sibling's girlfriend becomes the pawn of espionage thieves trying to steal Beau's antigravity prototype, a fired up Elle goes after them.

THE SPY WHO WANTS ME is a solid yet inane TGP espionage romance that in many ways lampoons Lucy Monroe's romantic suspense thrillers (see READY, WILLING, ABLE, and SATISFACTION GUARANTEED). The key players are cartoon caricatures in nature especially the superheroine and the villains. However, the story line is lighthearted fun to follow as the spy who came in from the cold finds heat with her scientist, who discovers the ecstasy of first hand (tongue, etc) vaginal research.

Daring the Moon
Sherrill Quinn
Kensington Brava
9780758231871, $14.00

In Tucson, Pima County Attorney's Office investigator Taite Gibson enjoys her job. However, recently she has become concerned with doing field work as a growling werewolf shadows her. Besides having problems accepting there is such a paranormal species, Taite wonders why the creature seems to be stalking her.

When the threat turns physical into dangerous assaults, Taite knows she needs professional help. The only person she can think of is British expatriate horror writer Ryder Merrick, who has the reputation of knowing everything you need to know about werewolves but were afraid to ask. She travels to Ryder's isolated private island to consult with him. However, Ryder's werewolf expertise and his life as a hermit are intertwined because he hides from society to contain the beast that he cannot control especially when the moon is full and a beautiful woman is near. His greatest test begins as the moon will soon be full and lovely Taite has arrived, a woman he is attracted to as man and beast. Neither is aware she has been followed.

Taite as a woman in peril from a supernatural beast makes DARING THE MOON a fun paranormal romantic suspense. She carries the load holding the fast-paced story line together while two males "want" her. Ryder is somewhat a throwback lycan with his brooding and moans about trying not to harm others, but now faces the ultimate test of his will. Sub-genre readers will enjoy Sherrill Quinn's fun werewolf romantic suspense.

My Favorite Phantom
Karen Kelly
Kensington Brava
0758225725, $14.00

Professor Peyton Cache is a bit shocked that his newly purchased Victorian contains a resident, a ghost who plays with his underwear amongst other disgusting habits. He wants to evict the spirit who emits slime everywhere, but also does not want to become a laughing stock at school. He hires serendipitously a professional ghostbuster informing her that his underwear better stay in his drawers within two weeks when he hosts a faculty dinner at his now house

Ghost hunter Kaci Melton shows up at Peyton's house. She hides the fact that her dad is the ghost hunter from her client and she just a needs a place to hide for a couple of days. She figures how hard can it be although she admits to herself ghosts scare the sh*t out of her and worse the hunk of a professor even frightens her more with her attraction to him.

Although the plot is thin, readers will enjoy this amusing paranormal romance with its not so subtle, make that slimed references, to the Ghostbusters. The story line is fast-paced and breezy as reluctant ghost hunter Kaci and skeptical professor Peyton battle ghosts and their respective hearts as each thinks who you gonna call when you fall
in love.

One September Morning
Rosalind Noonan
9780758209290, $14.00

Following 9/11 NFL running back John Stanton informs his wife Abby and his parents that he is giving up his football career and his multimillion dollar contract to enlist in the army. After training, he and his unit deploy in Iraq where he is killed in a friendly fire incident. The officers who inform Abby of her husband's death insist he was a hero killed by insurgents.

The Wives' Club provides a grieving Abby with support while her in-laws demand Arlington National Cemetery, which the military is elated to provide. However, Abby begins to find discrepancies in the official report especially since her spouse was disenchanted with a war that made no sense. As she begins to demand the truth, the Wives' Club and her in-laws demand she shut up before she taints the image of a hero while John's two siblings encourage her to keep probing. Meanwhile, the maniac who deliberately murdered John has come to town to live the life of the late football star.

The obvious Pat Tillman connection aside, ONE SEPTEMBER MORNING is an insightful look at some modern military dependents struggling between support to their loved ones and their opposition to the Iraq War. The characters are fully developed and clearly divided. Most of Stanton's unit and their families want Abby to go away while his parents want nothing to taint their son the hero. Abby needs the truth and her anti war sister-in-law pushes her to keep asking. Although the psychopath provides added tension that takes a way from an otherwise deep look at the family member on the home front while a loved one is in a combat zone.

Wolf Tales VII
Kate Douglas
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758226938, $12.95

In Montana, Anton Cheval suffers a nightmare that he fears is a premonition; he worries for his wife Keisha and their infant Lily as well as other Chanku. Keisha and her friend Xandi run together while Anton and Xandi's mate Stefan watch their babies. Kiesha and Xandi mentally tell their mates about two men tracking them who attack them; three more humans assault the house; all are killed though one breeched the home.

In San Francisco the female Chanku of Pack Dynamics are in Golden Gate Park when humans attack them. They mentally tell their men who come rushing to their aid. The attackers fire shots before fleeing hitting Tinker, but Adam who fixes things heals his wounded shoulder.

In Maine, while two Chanku are away, Adam's sister Manda and her mate Baylor are attacked. Manda recognizes one of the men is a scientist who experimented on her for twenty-five torturous years when she was half human and half wolf. Baylor kills the trio.

Anton invites the two coastal groups and Ulrich and Millie living in Colorado to meet in Montana to discuss the attacks. Soon twenty one adults and two babies meet in a giant natural cavern that runs next to the Montana home to discuss the concerted attacks and the counter assault; that is in between sexual activity

This is a terrific entry on the Wolf Tales saga as the ensemble comes together from two coastal locations and Colorado to gather in the fourth pack's enclave in Montana yet the adults contain differing personalities. That is the marvel of Kate Douglas' erotic fantasy as each adult Chanku remains unique. The threat to their safety in three locations makes for a tense story line; however, the humans seem to have no problems breeching the complexes in spite of the super extraordinary senses of the three packs. Still fans will relish this exciting Chanku tale as the packs assemble to deal with a dangerous threat tot their lifestyle.

Surviving Groomzilla: A Bride's Guide
Craig Bridger
Citadel (Kensington)
0806530006, $9.95

This is an amusing but cautionary (for brides) look at "Bridezilla's evil twin" in an attempt to help brides deal with, preferably rope in, the worst excesses of their future spouses. The author proclaims he is suited to write this guide book because he is a who's who in Groomzilla land; in fact Mr. Bridger admires his wife as the ultimate survivor. The anecdotes are humorous unless you happen to be the fiancee, a member of the wedding party, or a worker at the gala; as all are recipients of seemingly insane behavior. Some normally sane logical males do not even realize what they are doing to others; as caring males, who would not harm or insult others deliberately, go over the edge as grooms. Readers, not just brides, will enjoy this lighthearted look at an unexpected unintended consequence of feminism as out of control males turn into maniacal Groomzillas; however, included tips explaining how to "Tame the beast, take back the wedding" or when to run aimed at assisting the bride and others in the wedding party might help tone down the groom. My advice is get him pregnant; he will be too miserable and concerned with what happened to his looks than in mugging photographers, future mother-in-laws, and flower arrangements.

Two Rivers
T. Greenwood
9780758228772, $15.00

In Two Rivers, Vermont, twelve years back in 1968 Harper Montgomery no longer considered himself a living human. That year his wife Betsy died and he was involved in a vicious murder of a black man. Harper goes through the motions of living, but has never moved past grief or his guilt. Filled with remorse, Harper knows if it was not for the fact his daughter needs him, he probably would have committed suicide just like a friend involved with the homicide did. Thus he still works for the railroad and does his best to raise his daughter Shelly as a single dad.

In 1980, a train derailment occurs. One of the survivors is a young pregnant black teen who needs a place to stay. Harper brings Marguerite "Maggie" Dufresne into his household as a form of repentance for what he and others did a dozen years ago. She tells him she is on her way to Canada having been raped. As he muses on his time with Betsy in the volatile 1960s, Harper begins to wonder if Maggie deliberately came to Two Rivers seeking closure just as Harper has struggles with too.

This complex character driven drama is well written, but not an easy read as metaphors like the name of the town and the confluence of its rivers at the town provide deep insight into the hidden internal battles between passion for the future and remorse for the past. The three prime characters seem fully developed with the adults each having a secret agenda fueling their relationship. Betsy and the murdered black male come alive through mostly Harper's memory tinted by his psychological defense mechanism lens; which in turn makes part of the story line a historical romance and part a suspense thriller that converge into a profound character study. Readers who relish a deep but complicated drama will want to read this strong New England tale.

Running Wild
Lucinda Betts
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758222169, $12.95

Her kingdom is patriarchal with women having no rights except what their spouse or father might grant them; in those cases within the home. Any female who allegedly violates the strict legal code of conduct is beheaded with their head placed on a pike as a warning for other rebellious feminists. Princess Shahrazad was raised in such an environment in which being a royal female means nothing.

On the other hand Prince Tahir grew up in the opposite type of kingdom, women rule in the matriarchal in which young boys offer nothing until they are old enough to be bull breeders. A magician turns Shahrazad turns into a winged horse Pegaz during the daylight to fight demons. When they meet Tahir needs Princess Shahrazad to save his sister the monarch and defeat a demon; afterward to find a way to end the spell and make her his.

More fantasy than romance, RUNNING WILD is an exciting tale of two kingdoms in which the caste systems radically differ. Thus when the two royals meet, they both are submissives used to the other gender being dominant. Although too much is going on in the story line especially with the Shahrazad flying horse subplot that takes away from the prime theme of two people trained to obey falling in love with each needing the other to lead in their relationship and in their battle against an evil demon. Still fans will enjoy Lucinda Betts heated romantic fantasy.

Primal Male
Sasha White
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758228611, $13.95

Empath Drake Wheeler survives by hiding his feelings from the world. However, he worries about teenage Nadya's lack of ability to control her shapeshifting skills.

He has new hopes when he meets purebred shapeshifter Melissa Montrose in her town although she hides her legacy from her neighbors. He wants her to mentor Nadya. However, although attracted to the enigmatic outsider, she does not trust him ever since a hunter murdered her friend for she fears he is the rogue killer. To his shock, the empathic cannot hide his feelings for Melissa and fears for her safety. They need to rely on one another if they are to prevent a killer from murdering again.

The sequel to SEXY DEVIL is an interesting erotic romantic fantasy that lacks the typical non stop action psychic thrillers expected of a Sasha White thriller. Still Drake and Melissa is an interesting match up as she thinks he is a rogue hunter of shapeshifters while the return of the psychic Devlin siblings and their respective soul mates (from SEXY DEVIL) enhance the tale. Although at times too flaccid (except for that male body part), Ms. White's fans will overall enjoy Drake's efforts to persuade Melissa that he is not the menace and they belong together fueled by love in order to stop a psychopath predator from killing again.

Carnal Desires
Crystal Jordan
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758228994, $13.95

"In Heat". Although he grieves too, Iger King Vesperi wants his soul mate at his side; however he knows to achieve this he must help his Queen Mahalia the snow tigress to move past the death of their child.

"In Smoke". Mahalia's friend Lady Katryn returns home to join the harem of Lord Nadir as his mate, but she must adjust to his were-dragon culture that looks at relationships differently than hers; her new mate and his other mate Lord Tarkesh welcome her with open arms and wings.

"In Mist.". Dr. Sera Gibbons is part of a near extinct species, purebred humans as she is one of the last two survivors having been cryogenically frozen five centuries ago and only recently revived. Merman Bretton Hahn saved her life, but as they fall in love his Mer culture rejects a mating between one of them and one of those inferior land dwellers.

This futuristic heated science fiction romance anthology is engagingly refreshing as humanity has genetically engineered the species into several differing genus, which leads to creative sexual encounters in a racist world. Although the novella format leaves the plots thin, fans will want crystallized full length sagas of bi-species star-crossed love tales in the Jordanian future earth.

Embracing Midnight
Devyn Quinn
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758216540, $12.95

Undercover FBI Agent Callie Whitten is trying to catch serial killer Iollan Drake. When she finally catches up with the clever predator, he seduces her; leaving her bewildered as to why he failed to kill her and irate with herself not so much for failing to capture him but because she wants him.

Iollan is a vampire who has met his blood match in the courageous obstinate Fed. She arouses him like no one has and he understands fully why he is addicted to her as she is his one. However, convincing her to join him as his partner proves vexing except in the boudoir. As she begins to fall in love with him, she struggles to overcome her belief she is also betraying her country and her agency where she cannot forget she pledged her loyalty.

EMBRACING MIDNIGHT is a terrific vampiric erotic romantic suspense starring a typical modern day vampire and his more intriguing blood match. Callie is the key to the fast-paced with fabulous twists story line; she feels pulled in two opposite loyalties over failing her country or her heart. Fans will relish this engaging paranormal police procedural romance as a distraught Callie must choose.

Judas Kiss
J.T. Ellison
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778326298, $6.99,

Nashville police homicide investigator Lieutenant Taylor Jackson leads the investigation into the brutal murder of pregnant Corrine Wolff. There is a first hand witness to the homicide, Corrine's young daughter Hayden whose stunned aunt finds her blond hair strawberry colored by blood.

The violence of the crime normally means a family member in a fit of rage committed the murder. Thus the prime suspect is Corrine's husband, Todd. Taylor has some reservations especially when she learns the Wolff pair were filming pornography. To her chagrin, an X-rated film of Taylor surfaces that could destroy her police career and end her engagement to FBI agent John Baldwin; who has his own woes as an enemy plots to enact revenge on him and his loved ones.

The third Nashville police procedural (see ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS and 14) is a fast-paced action-packed thriller in which the three prime subplots work to make a terrific novel. Taylor is concerned over what her youthful indiscretion will do to her personal and professional lives while trying to remain focused on the horrific murder case. Readers will enjoy JUDAS KISS, a strong investigative tale.

The Puppet Master
Jan Coffey
9780778326106, $6.99

NASA scientist Alanna Mendes remains distraught by the death of her fiance; in fact she feels getting up everyday overwhelming as she wants him back in her life. Computer guru Jay Alexei is a pariah who no one will touch because he hacked into a top secret data system. Financier David Collier would give up both his kidneys if one was a match for his daughter dying from a rare renal illness.

An unknown person contacts the trio. That individual offers each a deal they cannot refuse. They will receive their fondest wish in exchange for their services to right a wrong. Their benefactor claims nothing illegal is expected of them; just help on a top-secret project. However, the trio begins to question the intended consequences of their actions on innocent people.

This is a fast-paced action-packed morality play that grips the audience from the moment the offer is first made and never slows down. The reader and the lead trio contemplate ethics as no one except their employer and they will know what they did; no one will know who or what principles are violated except perhaps each one's personal values. Jan Coffey is at her suspenseful best with this intriguing deep allegorical thriller that asks whose ethics applies when the masses are kept in the dark as the threesome ponders to do or not to do knowing they will most likely not be caught.

Heart of Courage
Kat Martin
9780778326090, $7.99

In 1844 London, Lindsey Graham writes a gossip column under the pseudonym "Lady Smart" for Heart to Heart, a ladies' gazette. She enjoys the galas she attends listening serendipitously to secrets and trysts that she can reveal. However, she is stunned when scandal slams her family as her hedonistic brother Rudy is arrested for the Covent Garden murders.

Lindsey plans to prove her sibling's innocence by investigating the homicides. That means she will make inquiries into dens of iniquity, brothels and opium holes like her brother frequented. Her Gazette editor Krista Hart Draugr's brother-in-law Thor Draugr will not allow her to visit brothels and opium pits without him; he proclaims himself her bodyguard to her chagrin. As they argue and investigate they fall in love, but besides seeking a serial killer, he knows his station is way too low to be considered as her equal.

The third Heart Victorian romantic suspense mystery (see HEART OF FIRE and HEART OF HONOR) is a terrific tale starring two likable lead characters investigating the Covent Garden homicides. The story line is fast-paced with solid twists as the clues take the two amateur sleuths and the audience on an interesting tour of London; the final spin is superb. Readers will enjoy Kat Martin's fun trilogy especially the final thriller as the gossip columnist and the brother in law balance falling in love with conducting their dangerous inquiry.

Single Mama's Got More Drama
Kayla Perrin
9780778326168, $13.95

In Miami Vanessa Cain remains in shell shock from the betrayal and murder of her cheating fiance, retired Atlanta Braves star Eli Johnson see SINGLE MAMA DRAMA). However, she tries to move past the scandal, but Eli's vengeful widow Tassie still battles her over who owns the condo Vanessa and her daughter Rayna shared with him.

Others are also making life miserable for Vanessa starting with her boss, Debbie, who is ecstatic over an affair she is having. Hollywood wants to make a TV movie of Eli's story with her portrayed as an idiot. Rayna's father Byron McLean suddenly wants joint custody after having nothing to do with their kid. Finally her pre-Eli boyfriend Lewis Carter proposes marriage. Worse she remains attracted to motivational speaker Chaz Anderson, who seems somewhat interested, but she fears not enough

Vanessa obviously suffers from the Mark of Cain as she got more drama than a soap opera queen. The story line in some ways feels more like a series of vignettes as the heroine goes from one disaster to another with so many that are not even in her lane the reader loses empathy for Vanessa. Still this is an amusing tale as the audience will understand how the lead protagonist feels as her life seems more like a pin ball game with tilt being the only respite.

Six Seconds
Rick Mofina
0778326128, $6.99

In Blue Rose Creek, California Maggie Conlin arrives at her son Logan's school to pick him up only to learn her husband Jake already did; when she cannot find either of them, she learns he took their child and went into hiding. She is extremely anxious because Jake since his return home from Iraq where he was a contract employee has not bee the same as he was before he left. He has become paranoid with loud public outbursts including accusing Maggie of having an affair with Logan's soccer coach.

Jake is in Cold Butte, Montana with Samara, a nurse who saved his life in Iraq. She contacted him when she came to the States and is using father and son as a cover while completing her mission. She seeks vengeance ever since the despicable West murdered her husband and son.

Near Banff, Alberta, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal Daniel Graham fishes out of the river Emily Tarver; before she dies she whispers: "don't hurt his daddy". He finds the bodies of her brother and mother. The father Ray is a free lance journalist working on a story of international scope. Due to bizarre circumstances Graham meets Maggie and they fly to Montana to retrieve her son and prevent a terrorist attack on the Canadian-American heartland.

Rick Mofina is a great thriller writer. His latest work is full of action and yet the main characters are fully developed even as the third person point of view changes from the distraught mom to the despondent RCMP officer to the PTSD suffering Jake to the embittered Samara. Thus the fast-paced story line enables the audience to understand what motivates the adults. Ironically though Maggie and Samara are antagonists, they share much in common especially as moms; many readers will conclude that if the American's child was brutally murdered she would be the victim turned terrorist. Thus the key to this strong work is making Samara an empathetic character doing wrongs because she has been wronged. Mr. Mofina is at his best with the superb character driven SIX SECONDS; as that is all it takes to destroy a person's world.

StarFist: Wings of Hell
David Sherman and Dan Cragg
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345500991, $23.00,

The troops of the 34th FIST (Fleet Initial Strike Team) marines feel like A WORLD OF HURT after their latest battles with the alien Skinks (see FIRESTORM). Those who survived are mentally and physically tired and looking forward to R&R at their home station installation on the planet Thorsfinni's World.

One thing the latest fight did do was to raise the consciousness level of the Confederation, which is no longer in denial, that the Skinks exist. However, some politicians running for office on earth strongly resent the marines trying to cause a war as they from their safe haven believe the aliens are not dangerous. Out in space light years away from the mother planet, the Skinks manage to establish a landing on Haulover. Rest, relaxation and healing are over as the 34th is deployed to repel the invaders from Haulover while other military components and economic and political interests especially the presidential election campaign interfere for differing reasons.

WINGS OF HELL may be the best entry in this superb military science fiction saga. What makes this tale and the entire Starfist universe (see Force Recon series) excellent is the insightful look at the psychology of the individuals of a unit and the team building sociological aspects in which the squad supersedes the person. For instance outside events like politicians pandering for reelection especially harm the morale. Fans will enjoy this fabulous interstellar military science fiction that cleverly uses space like it is the Pacific Ocean and planets are islands where battles occur.

Without Warning
John Birmingham
Del Rey
9780345502896, $26.00

In 2003, WITHOUT WARNING American military forces are preparing for Operation Desert Freedom deployment when an energy field that rises miles into the sky covers much of the forty-eight continental states, Canada, Mexico and Cuba like a thick blanket. Almost every animal life including humans trapped inside is dead; in almost seconds billions of Americans, Canadians, Mexicans, and Cubans are turned into ooze.

Around the globe there is shock and fear. The only major American city to survive the carnage is Seattle, which was fortunate to be outside the massive eradication zone. Still the emotional impact leaves the city and its burbs near collapse. City engineer James Kipper tries to deliver some semblance of civilization by keeping the essential support services working although rioting is common and the military consider martial law. In Hawaii, also outside the dead zone, Admiral James Ritchie leads the powerful American navy, but against no known enemy with no command and control beyond him. Israel considers nuking its Arab neighbors since the Americans no longer are there to require restraint. France has a civil war while Britain shuts down the islands. The aftermath is c ivilization around the world is rapidly deteriorating as ugly incidents are everywhere as only the deviously strong will survive.

The opening act of a world reacting to an apocalyptic disaster is fast-paced and filled with action as John Birmingham's global nightmare shows the aftermath to what begins to happen when the superpower vanishes WITHOUT WARNING. Ironically with the biblical proportions of the catastrophe, Darwinism comes to mind as survival of the fittest means the previous Americanized rules of order no longer apply. Although this is the set up for first tale, fans will appreciate Mr. Birmingham's deep dark saga of a world in radical change due to an unforeseen calamity that has survivors reeling for cover with differing reactions.

A Woman Worth Ten Coppers
Morgan Howell
Del Rey
0345503961, $7.99

The Wise Woman leaves young Yim with the the Seer who takes her South across the Highlands from her home near the Cloud Mountains of the Northern Reach so she can serve in the temple although he knows troubles are worse in the direction he leads them; he has no choice because the vision from the Goddess directs him. She asks if he is Theodus as that is the name of her guide as "whispered" to her; he says no insisting the Goddess Karn is her guide. Yim realizes "her father" as she is to call him in front of strangers is trying to hide his fear behind a veneer of calm. His fears prove right when they are attacked on the road; the Seer is murdered and Yim bound and raped by he who calls her scornfully "Ribbon Girl" before selling her to a slaver.

Honus, the Sarf warrior dedicated to Goddess Karm, is rudderless. He prefers to die for he has no purpose in life, but is unable to do so. His reason for living serving the holy Bearer ended when the followers of the evil God Devourer killed her. At the slave market, Honus for no reason he can discern decides to buy a back packer to carry his bags. Thus he travels to the village of Durkin where he buys the youthful Yim for ten coppers. He will soon know why the Goddess sent him to buy A WOMAN WORTH TEN COPPERS as their adventures just begin as nearby Lurwic Castle is burning down and its ducal family dead; Lord Bahl is on the deadly march..

Following up to the exciting Queen of Orcs trilogy, Morgan Howell starts a new saga with a superb quest fantasy starring two intriguing protagonists who both have emotional issues from recent traumas. The story line is fast-paced filled with plenty of action. However, as with Ms. Howell's Orc tales like KING'S PROPERTY the insight into the culture make for a dynamic tale; even the villains seem real. Fans will enjoy the opening gamut, which in many ways is a coming of age tale as the relationship between Yim and Honus change over the course of their escapades.

The Steel Remains
Richard K. Morgan
Del Rey
9780345493033, $26.00

Ringil Eskiath, the hero of Gallows Gap, found fame brought notoriety due to his sexual preference, which led to exile from his ashamed aristocratic family as his saving humans from the Scaled Folk is superseded by his being gay. Legally as a degenerate the state should execute him. He remains alive due to his family connections; his heroism; and his speed with the sword that matches the speed of his temper. Angry by the prejudice he faces and the lack of gratitude for risking his life, he has become an out of shape has-been residing in the squalid boondocks Gallows Water where he earns room and board at a dive talking about his glory days and pocket change using his Kiriath sword to battle the mighty mite populace.

His mother Ishil arrives to demand Ringil search for his cousin Sherin, whose husband Bilgest legally sold her into slavery. Reluctantly he returns to Trelayne where he acts like a bull in a pottery shop flaunting his sexual proclivity. He angers Poltar, shaman of the nomadic Skaanak, who wants to dispose of the clan master Egar the Dragonbane for his blasphemous ideas learned in the Kiriath city Yhelteth. The Emperor sends the last Kiriath, Archeth Indamaninarmal, to investigate the destruction of Khangset. She, Ringil and Egar meet as they did once before when they defeated the Scaled Folk, but that seems like a picnic compared to their foe, the Dwenda magical race that ignores the laws of physics when it comes to the time-space continuum.

This character driven sword and sorcery science fiction fantasy focuses on the three heroes, flaws and all, as they prepare for a second adventure of a lifetime. The world is detailed so it seems genuine as a wonderful hyperbole of our country (even with Richard K, Morgan being a Scottish author). Although much of the story line is inner musings and angry diatribes over unfairness, the military battles are exhilarating. From the opening gay encounter, Mr. Morgan provides a deep look at what happens to heroes when they choose to behave differently than the societal expectations of what a champion must be.

Royal Exile
Fiona McIntosh
Eos Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061582684, $7.99,

Using strategy that makes no military sense, tribal warlord Loethar and his deadly barbaric horde easily conquered Dregon and Voragan while Cremond capitulated without a fight. He now invades the final land in the Denova Set, the Kingdom of Penraven with once again little successful opposition. The flesh eaters easily slice their way to conquest defeating everyone who dares to face them. King Brennus is frustrated and worried, but will soon be dead as Loethar fearing nothing has every member of the renowned ruling family the Valisars killed although the king and queen go willingly so that one member of the royals can escape and insure Loethar fails to have access to their power.

The Champion of the Cohort Gavriel De Vis escorts away from the castle the first born son of the Valisars, young Prince Leo, whose special skills unlike that of his father and forefathers back eight generations has failed to surface. He seeks allies, but few sign up to join his noble but seemingly helpless cause. Not only has his talent remains dormant, but Loethar is too powerful and malevolent to fight against anymore; evil has won as the side of good allowed complacency and egotism to leave them unprepared leading them to defeat.

The first book of the Valisar trilogy occurs in the same world as the Percheron Saga, but is a different age and place. Readers will relish the return to Fiona McIntosh's fantasy realm as the opening act proves to be a worthy successor. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as the kings wonder how they could fall so fast to the blitzkrieg of Loethar. Leo is a wonderful wannabe hero, but his coming of age has a long way to go (two more novels) while Loethar is a fascinating in a macabre way villain who we meet early on after he has drank blood and looks forward to sharing a drink with King Ormond of Barronel. Ms. McIntosh opens her latest fantasy with a terrific thriller.

Kill Your Friends
John Niven
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061690619, $14.99,

In 1997 A&R guru twenty-seven year old Steven Stelfox suffers from the modern day deadly sins of arrogance, gluttony due to drug abuse and avarice. He rises rather quickly to the top of the music industry the phenomenal success of one act that makes it for every ten he finds. However, as the alcohol, cocaine and orgies pile on; he goes into a slump as the successes suddenly go empty. He owes a fortune and has no prospects back to the top as he is down near the bottom and sinking into the ooze below.

Angry, acrimoniously, and acidly, Steven despises everyone as he blames their jealousy for his fall from grace, but also loathes himself for failing to find the next hit wonder. With his ego still super, Steven is also paranoid that his friends are using and abusing him costing him his career. He ponders cleaning up in order to kill the competition and finding a hit to refuel his dying career.

This is a weird but entertaining satirical look at the British music industry. Stelfox is a fascinating character as he self destructs with fame and fortune, but blames others while plotting his comeback as he considers a few corpses on his climb back to the top of the A&R discovery world do not matter. John Niven provides a dark insider look at the music mega business in which cutthroat backstabbing even friends is the norm.

Forever Princess
Meg Cabot
9780061232923, $16.99

Genovia Princess Amelia is looking forward to the near future as she will soon turn eighteen, graduate high school, go to her senior prom, and attend an Ivy League School or an equivalent in Europe. Princess Amelia shows everyone her public upbeat persona especially with her kingdom about to hold their first elections.

Mia fears her make believe world is about to collapse. Grandmere plans to host her eighteenth birthday gala in a style fitting a royal, which means no fun. Her boyfriend J.P. has not asked her to the prom and for whatever dumb male reason he has not, she rationalizes though the clock is running out. Finally all those schools like Yale, Columbia and Harvard have not tendered a student seat although she has everyone think they did. Making matters more complicated is the triumphant return from Japan of her former boyfriend Michael, whose medical technology procedure has been adopted as the way to go. Finally, even her medieval romance novel (see RANSOM MY HEART) written under the pseudonym Meg Cabot has failed to find a publisher. Mia has less than one month before the big crunch implodes her world.

The tie in to the "co-authored RANSOM MY HEART is fun and cute, as Meg Cabot and Mia Thermopolis write the novel, which in the final Princess Diaries' tale includes excerpts. Fans will appreciate the usual doubting Thomasina as Mia disparages herself for fear of failing even as she has grown from the frightened teen eleven episodes ago to understanding the significance of a strong front to hide a queasy stomach. The audience will be elated with the climatic final tale wondering if all will go right as the heroine turns eighteen.

Spiral Hunt
Margaret Ronald
9780061662416, $7.99

Because of how powerful the magical undercurrent that flows through Boston is the Fiana , mages who left Ireland due to the famine and settled in Boston. Massachusetts. Over the decades, their power grew so that they set the laws of magic usage; non-members are frightened by the iron rule of this cartel as much as they fear addiction of excess usage of magical undercurrent.

Frank McDermott calls his former lover Evie "Hound" Scanlon, a practitioner who avoids the undercurrent as much as she can, to help him as he wants to escape from under the dictatorial control of the Fiana. Evie is renowned for her incredible olfactory sense that enables her to locate missing people and things. Her police detective friend Rena asks Evie to identify a strange corpse of a person who has the body of youth and visage of age; Frank was assassinated with his body covered by Celtic looking patterns. Three more bodies similar to the remains of Frank have been found in the past, but in spite of police investigations, the cases have become cold. Evie considers for some unknown reason the Fiana are after her, killing her loved ones. Her theory seems affirmed when they snatch the young sister of a friend; placing her in a difficult situation because a rescue attempt probably means death.

The vivid account of magical Boston in which non-practitioners are ignorant of the swirling undercurrent, the detailed laws of magical physics and vicious Fiana enforcement make for a superb urban fantasy. Readers will admire intrepid Evie who knows the probable outcome of what she faces, but proceeds anyway even as she distrusts any magical practitioners because they could be Fiana operatives; instead she turns to non-magicians for assistance. Readers will appreciate this strong opening tale with a unique vision of Beantown. Urban fantasy lovers have a new star on the horizon.

Jo Nesbo
9789961655500, $25.95

In Oslo, the robber and his colleagues enter the bank and calmly inform the teller she has twenty-five seconds to hand over her money or die. He watches the clock as she completes his demand in less than twenty seconds. He executes her anyway. He and the others calmly leave with the loot.

While Harry Hole's girlfriend is in a custody battle in Moscow, he feels lonely so the alcoholic he hooks up with is his former girlfriend, Anna for a night of fun. Soon afterward, Anna is found dead, officially ruled a suicide by Hole's peer Tom Waaler, but Harry believes a homicide occurred. He quietly investigates Anna's death while he and his partner Halvorsen work the bank robbery murder in which he notices something odd about the surveillance tape. However, an email warns Harry that someone has him under surveillance because they know he was with Anna just before she died and worse knows more about that night than the hanged over cop remembers.

The latest translation of a Harry Hole Norwegian police procedural (see THE REDBREAST) is a terrific thriller in which the alcoholic lead character prefers investigating the death of his ex more than the bank robberies, but needs to hide his inquiry from his girlfriend, partner and the brass. He and the bank robbers make the tale as Hole needs to learn what happened to Anna and who knows more about that night than he does; while the robbers open the tale with one of the most exciting ruthless scenes of the year and only increase the exhilaration level as well as the cold blooded killings. Readers will enjoy seeing Oslo through the eyes of Jo Nesbo.

The Way of Shadows
Brent Weeks
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
031603377, $7.99,

Azoth understands survival of the fittest first hand in his hometown of Cenaria; a city run by a criminal oligarchy. He knows that if he does not make a move soon, the constant beatings especially from the bully Rat will kill him. The young street thief loathes most of the gang with Rat being the most despicable but also cares what happens to his only friends Jarl and Doll Girl. Azoth needs to escape somehow but urchins like him have no options.

However, Azoth envisions making an alternate lifestyle choice. He must become the apprentice of legendary assassin Durzo Blint, who would never take on a rascal like him. Shockingly the aloof cantankerous Blint will accept him as his wetboy trainee if he assassinates Rat within a week. Reluctantly as he converts himself into the killer apprentice Kylar Stern, the lad fears the one shadow that remains inside him; the link to his former self as Azoth wonders how his beloved Doll Girl will react to his killing one of the gang.

The story line is fast-paced in spite of this being the opening gamut in the Night Angels saga, which denotes setting up the culture and environment and providing insight into the key characters. However, the plot is character driven as the key players which include Regent Prince Logan Gyre are not always what they first seem; instead shadowy twists that feel genuine and quite exciting will surprise the audience. Especially fascinating are the poetic legendary assassin and his new apprentice with his new identity. Fantasy fans will enjoy a visit to Cenaria, a place where the felonious rule.

Shadow's Edge
Brent Woods
0316033650, $7.99

He survived as Azoth a street urchin thief in his hometown of Cenaria until he became Kylar Stern, apprentice "wetboy" to legendary assassin Durzo Blint (see THE WAY OF SHADOWS). When they became embroiled in the Godking's successful coup, his mentor and his best friend the rightful king of Cenaria Logan Gyre died though he survived again; he quits the life of a professional killer seeking a new start with his beloved Elene.

Kylar and Elene accompanied by their adopted daughter Uly leave Cenaria with its too many recent deadly memories for Caernarvon. There he opens up herbalist shop as a skill he learned as a wetboy assassin, but instead of murder, he uses it to heal. However, inside his soul, he feels pulled by his love for Elene vs. his missing the adrenalin rush of an assassination. While somewhat accepting the ennui of a shopkeeper, he hears rumors that Logan is alive and hiding in the Hole of Maw prison amidst cannibalistic and psychopathic killers. Meanwhile, the former shadow rulers of Cenaria the Sa'kage continue to rebel against the Godking, but face extinction without a miracle. Jarl asks Kylar to join them by rescuing the rightful king and assassinating the wrongful king.

Although not quite as action-packed as the opening gamut, SHADOW'S EDGE has enough escapades to avoid the mid book feel of only setting up the finish. Kylar is a fascinating protagonist as he has matured since his deadlier days, but still feels the addiction of a kill. The support cast is solid from his family who yank him with love to Jarl who yanks him with adventure and the fate of his buddy to Logan who is slowly dying in the Hole. The second book in the Night Angel trilogy is an engaging character driven fantasy as the audience expects Kylar to return to the shadowy world of the assassin, but at the same time have some doubts whether he is willing to pay the cost: his life with Elene and Uly.

One More Bite
Jennifer Rardin
9780316022095, $12.99

She works for an organization that deals with crimes involving supernatural entities; her boss Vayl is someone she cars about, but though he wants to make her his, Jaz Parks is not ready for a commitment. After killing the vampire Edward "The Raptor" Samos, Jaz, Vayl and Cole travel to Scotland where the dead undead has left a power vacuum in which Samos's former allies, (the Flock vamp gang, the Valencian Weres and the Coven of Inverness) battle for supremacy. Jaz's superiors believe a balance of power between the three groups is best for everyone else.

However, the Valencian Weres have taken out a contract on the Coven's leader Floraidh Halsey; it becomes the job of Jaz's team to prevent the killing from happening. This proves exceedingly difficult as Jaz and her teammates have no idea what the target looks like nor how powerful she really is. The Coven worship Scidair whose followers live long lives because of the sacrifices of the dead they make to it. Floraidh is creating a spell that means danger for Jaz, but with the help of Vayl and the ghost who lives on her land, she has a slight chance of surviving their mission; succeeding at the goal of the mission is less likely.

Following up on the Raptor affair, Jennifer Rardin takes her Manhattan based operative to Scotland, which refreshes this amazing and provocative urban fantasy with new dangers for the heroine and her horde. The story line is loaded with action as the CIA agents work diligently to prevent a disaster; which is why the plot is actually character driven as the audience observes the strengths, weaknesses and desperate desires of much of the key cast. Besides the obvious Jaz and Vayl, the rival leaders are fully developed so that for instance the Coven witch is 200 proof evil, but there are even more malevolent creatures out there than she is. Jaz is at her best as she is tough, courageous yet vulnerable.

The Accidental Sorcerer
K. E. Mills
0316035424, $7.99

Twenty-three-year-old Gerald Dunwoody was a Grade Three Wizard at Ottosland's Department of Thaumaturgy. His rank means he is at the bottom of the food chain and soon learns a lesson about pyramidal hierarchies as sh*t rolls down hill. Someone has to take the fall for the PR and budgetary nightmare of blowing up a factory so though he followed orders and since he accidentally did the deed, his superiors claim they are clean and blame the moronic rogue at total fault for the accident. He loses his good government job, the lowest form of public debasement known to the people.

Although he is depressed as he assumes he stinks at being a wizard since no one breathing loses a bureaucratic job, his companion, Reg the magical raven believes otherwise. Reg thinks Gerald is a super mage lacking proper training. Meanwhile Gerald obtains a second government job as the court wizard in the remote isolated kingdom of New Ottosland. It is ruled by King Lional, who has big plans to expand his kingdom assisted by his new mage. Gerald just wants his employer to be the usual royal egomaniac, who rules over nothing while his loyal subjects play make believe that his domain is a country. Instead his regal ambitious boss demands his new employee turn into a lethal sorcerer. With Reg as his mentor advisor, Gerald begins his new job knowing there is the threat of being fired again with no other exile placement available.

Somewhat tongue in cheek, THE ACCIDENTAL SORCERER, the first book of the Rogue Agent saga, is a fabulous fantasy starring an individual who seems so inept that he has to take a position in as remote a land as one will find in the Mills universe. Only his friend Reg believes otherwise as even Gerald assumes he stinks at wizardry 101; his new employer may have grandiose schemes but figures Gerald is an idiot or he would not be in the end of the world. Fans will relish Gerald's escapades as K.E. Mills provides a strong opening act with this wonderful coming of age (though he admittedly has a long way to go) fantasy tale.

Deep Water
Pamela Freeman
0316033677, $7.99

The mage Saker continues his obsessed quest for vengeance against the descendents of Acton and his horde when they crossed through the Death Pass into what became the Eleven Domains massacring his ancestors the Travelers, who resided there. To succeed in his endeavor, the crazed enchanter sprinkles his blood on the bones of those murdered to forge warrior ghosts with a thirst for revenge that supersedes his. His initial efforts prove successful when he sends his dead army into Carlion, killing most of the residents.

Meanwhile as Saker improves as a necromancer, Bramble and Ash visited the Well of Secrets which advises them their only hope to prevent Saker from destroying the Eleven Domains resides with the long dead Acton. They go their separate ways on different aspects of the quest. Ash must go home to visit his scornful father, who believes his son is a failure as he only holds bards with regard; there he will find the song to raise Acton. On the other hand Bramble needs to explore the real events not the legend that occurred, a millennium ago when Acton led the invasion from the Death Pass.

While all this is happening Thegan the warlord plans to expand his rule from one to all Eleven Domains. He does not care who dies to further his ambitions placing Leof in an ethical dilemma between loyalty to his liege and to the common good of all the people.

The problem with this excellent middle book in the Castings trilogy (see BLOOD TIES) is waiting for the finish as DEEP WATERS will come FULL CIRCLE hopefully tying up the threads as each of the prime players have gone their separate ways in this entry. The story line is fast-paced with Acton playing a major role as Bramble begins her effort to separate the myth from the truth (think of Robert Wuhl's special Assume the Position). Well written with plenty of excitement though little tied up (the middle book syndrome), Pamela Freeman sets the table for what should be a spectacular finish.

Beyond the Grave
Lina Gardiner
ImaJinn Books
PO Box 545, Canon City, CO 81215-0545
9781933417431, $14.00,

NYPD Police Captain Jess Vandermire used to believe she was the only living vampire with a soul. However, while working a vampire serial killer case, the detective has to reconsider her soul belief. Lately she has suffered from dizziness and blackouts; each time she goes unconscious, a human female dies. Jess fears she may have gone rogue and as a psychological defense mechanism blacks out to forget what she has done.

Her partner Police Lieutenant John Brittain strongly believes his superior officer is innocent. He vows to find the real killer and uncover the link to Jess' blackouts. He has no GRAVE ILLUSIONS that this will prove easy as humans are physically inferior to vampires as he is to Jess. Still he owes her as she gave him a reason to live and even more important he believes in her. Britt's biggest fear is that the killer is working his way to a grand deadly finale starring Jess.

This action-packed vampire police procedural will hook the audience into a vampiric hypnotic state the first time Jess collapses and never let's go for an instant. The story line is faster than a speeding vampire, but also goes deep inside the souls of the two cops as both fears that if she survives she will be another soulless undead. Adding to the spins and twists of the serial killer investigation is a secondary character, a caring priest whose faith in God regardless of what he faces keeps those in his circle of influence safe. Fans will relish this delightful urban fantasy whodunit as Lina Gardiner makes vampires with and without souls seem genuine

The Murder Game
Linda Suzane
Wings ePress
9781597056748, $17.95

Gwen Wilson travels to Mt. Tamalpais just north of San Francisco to create a murder mystery game based on her literary detective Adam Long for Lawrence Van Hise on his seventieth birthday. Gwen knows Lawrence because her mom worked for him two decades ago at his home Hillside Cottage as his housekeeper until he accused her of stealing a valuable jade statue. Soon afterward she and her mother left allegedly to take care of an ailing aunt but soon after the accused committed suicide.

While working on the game, Gwen, who believes no one will recognize her as that tweener child with a different surname, also plans to investigate the cold case theft as she rejects the notion her mom took it; she also has doubts that her mom took her own life. As she considers what Long would do next she digs deeper into the pasts of her mom and her client, his son Hunter offers to help. When she was younger she was attracted to Hunter and to her chagrin still is. At the night of the event, the guest of honor is found dead with Gwen as the only suspect.

This is an intriguing amateur sleuth tale as the heroine seeks closure with her mother's death and finally after years has the opportunity to try to prove someone else stole the statue as Gwen rejects the premise of her mom being a thief. Her use of Long as her "mentor" guide has been done before, but is refreshed with Gwen's bumbling efforts that only enhance her as the number one suspect. Readers who appreciate an engaging whodunit will enjoy this fun cozy as Gwen wonders if history is about to repeat itself.

Dashing Through the Snow
Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., NY, NY 10020
9781439129173, $23.00,

In Branscombe, New Hampshire, the townsfolk are excited and volunteering as the village prepares for its first ever Festival of Joy with plans to hold annual galas. Visitors are expected from the rest of New England and especially New York. In fact novelist Nora Regan Reilly and her daughter private investigator Regan Reilly accompanied by their close friends Alvirah and Will Meehan, are in town for the event.

On the night before the opening ceremony, four employees of Conklin's Market win, $160 million in the lottery. The Meehans especially understand the joy and pitfalls of lottery winnings as they won, $40 million a few years ago. The grateful quartet agrees to share their new wealth with a fifth employee of the store, Duncan Graham who provided the winning numbers at the last moment declined participation on the advice of financial advisors. When they go to tell him what they want to do to thank him, the foursome finds him missing. The NYC visiting quartet begins to investigate a strange trail of cons and lottery winners.

The latest holiday collaboration between the great mother and daughter queens of suspense is a fun tale that focuses on lottery winnings. As with the previous adventures (see SANTA CRUISE and THE CHRISTMAS THIEF) Carol Higgins Clark's sleuth Regan Reilly is the lead investigator assisted by her retinue. The story line is razor thin, but no one will care as fans will enjoy DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW of New Hampshire along side Regan, her mom and their friends.

Murder in Mykonos
Jeffrey M. Siger
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590585818, $24.00, 1-800-421-3976

On Mykonos, Greece, the first corpse was found in a long abandoned church; the victim was a tied up female. Soon after that body is found several more dead bound women are uncovered; each turns out is a lost traveler with some over twenty years gone. The police did lip service letting the cases turn cold as no pressure form the outside occurred and tourism rules.

Newly arrived police chief Andreas Kaldis is horrified by the official apathy having come from Athens where there would be a major search for a missing female visitor. He knows a serial kidnapper-killer is loose. With veteran homicide cop Tassos Stamatos at his side they investigate the homicides but obtain no official sanction to do so; in fact the brass wants them to stop their inquiries in case it frightens away tourists. As the number of suspects remains high, they learn of a new kidnapping; in a frenzy to rescue the victim, the case turns shockingly personal for Kaldis.

MURDER IN MYKONOS is an engaging Greek police procedural due to the locale and the lead detective. Armchair travelers will gain a taste of the island while also appreciating Kaldis' inquiry and his look back to what brought him to Mykonos. The brass, ignoring missing tourists for economic reasons, comes out of Jaws while the rounding up of the usual suspects is fun to follow as the police teammates have to be extra careful since their inquiry is unsanctioned. Fans will enjoy this superb whodunit.

Valley of the Lost
Vicky Delaney
Poisoned Pen Press
159058595X, $24.95

In Trafalgar, British Columbia, the townsfolk are shocked when the corpse of a young woman is found dead with her three month old son lying next to her. The case looks obvious as the victim died from a heroin overdose. However, the police do not close their investigation as there are strange marks on the victim that appear to have come from restraints of some sort.

Activist Lucky Smith takes the baby home while police lead investigator Sergeant John Winters asks her daughter Constable Molly Smith to assist him as he, as a newcomer, is less likely to get cooperation than she will. The cops know very little about the victim and clues are not easily found. Meanwhile, John's wife, Eliza has a potential modeling job with a resort development firm whose projects have strongly divided the community between development and environment.

The second British Columbia police procedural (see IN THE SHADOW OF THE GLACIER) is a terrific investigative tale due to a complex multifaceted story line and a strong cast of characters especially the cops and many townsfolk. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the corpse and the living infant are found and never slows down as John walks a slippery slope between his wife's desires and his role in the community. Vicky Delaney provides a strong Canadian Pacific complex whodunit.

Pleasing the Dead
Deborah Turrell Atkinson
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590585979, $24.95

Attorney Storm Kayama travels to Kahului, Maui to discuss with her client Lara Farrell the legal aspects of opening up a dive shop. Soon after she arrives in Kahului, she hears a loud explosion that occurred in a nearby restaurant.

Visiting the under construction dive shop, Storm observes a foreman council a drunken Japanese laborer for breaking the rule of not working under the influence as one can be a danger to one's self and others. Soon after receiving the verbal reprimand, the worker Hiroki commits an apparent murder-suicide killing one of his two daughters. Unable to resist Storm investigates what drove the man to kill himself and his child starting with the still powerful ancient "coconut wireless" communication system, in which the gossip ties Hiroki to the Yakuza Japanese mob.

The keys to the exciting Kayama tales (see THE GREEN ROOM, PRIMITIVE SECRETS, and FIRE PRAYER) are the deep look into Native Hawaiian mythology and the hidden from tourists underside of paradise. The story line is fast-paced, starting off as a legal thriller, but as with the previous Stormy stories quickly turns into a dangerous investigative tale. Fans will enjoy tour guide Deborah Turrell Atkinson's exciting Hawaii Paradise adventures.

The Sky Took Him
Donis Casey
Poisoned Pen Press
1590585712, $24.95

In 1915 her sister Ruth Ann Yeager informs Alafair Tucker that her husband Lester is dying. To pay her respects to Lester and be there for her sibling, Alafair accompanied by her two daughters Martha and three years old Grace takes the train from Muskogee to Enid, Oklahoma.

Upon arrival in Enid, instead of being there for her already grieving sister while Martha watches Grace, Alafair who learned from the letter she received re Lester's pending death that her niece Olivia's foolish husband, Kenneth vanished even as local ruthless businessman Buck Collins is looking for him. Apparently foolish Kenneth had a deal with Buck that failed to pan out; most locals assume Buck took care of business his way, but Alafair thinks otherwise and with her oldest daughter assisting her begins to investigate the disappearance of her niece's moronic husband

The latest Oklahoma historical amateur sleuth story (see THE DROP EDGE OF YONDER, HORNSWOGGLED and THE OLD BUZZARD HAD IT COMING) is a fabulous entry in one of the best continuing WWI era sagas. The story line as always gives the audience a sense of place and time as for instance the events in Serbia last year seem so removed from the current events in Oklahoma. The mystery of the vanishing in-law is filled with twists that stun the mother and daughter detectives as the links go back to the last decade of the previous century. Fans will fully appreciate this strong story while thinking the sooner Donis Casey writes her next Tucker tale the better.

The Moon In Deep Winter
Lee Polevoi
Casagrande Press, Inc.
3119 Carleton Street, Unit 4,San Diego, CA 92106
0976951657, $24.95,

After an illegal scheme overseas Parker Sloane leaves Southern California where he has lived for years, as a two-bit criminal, to return to his New England small-town home. Although part of his reason for going to the back woods is to elude those wanting to kill him, he hopes to reconcile with his family members especially with his mom and younger siblings; although he does not expect the same with his martinet stepfather, but Parker would not mind a ceasefire understanding with him.

However, Parker begins to believe you can go home as nothing has changed except in the sense of worsening. His stepfather is even more a dictator than before; his brother resents him; his half sister is a siren tempting him; and his mom has become a born again evangelical. He now wonders if he was better off facing professional hit men than his family even as he feels an urgent need to help each of them and keep them together.

This is a fascinating family drama as each of the key five players look outward at each other with either anger and resentment or loathing and disappointment. When they look introspectively at themselves they see survival supersedes everything. With a nod towards Maslow's Hierarchy, Lee Polevoi provides a profound glimpse at the individual members of a dysfunctional family in which the sum is much less than the parts as each of their personal needs supersede all else even their inner principles.

Courage In Patience
Beth Fehlbaum
Kunati Inc.
c/o Independent Publishers Group
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610, 1-800-888-4741
9781601641564, $14.95,

In La Salle, Texas Ashley Asher has been sexually abused by her stepfather Charlie who calls her ash-hole for six years. Desperate she turns to her mom when she turned fourteen, but is stunned as the person she thought would keep her safe rejected her plea; mom backed her spouse over her daughter.

Ashley is sent to live with her estrange biological father David in Patience, Texas. The upset teen fears her dad as he has anger management issues. However, his schoolteacher wife Beverly welcomes Ashley into the family and into her English high school summer class studying the controversial Ironman by Chris Crutcher

Mindful of the Barbara Streisand movie Nuts, Ashley keeps the deep look at family abuse focused as she receives reader empathy and understanding with her inability to trust anyone or depend on those who should help you but hide in the sand; ignorance is bliss. Beverley's efforts to make Ashley comfortable and ultimately just be part of their family are commendable and not easy but she displays COURAGE IN PATIENCE with the teen that learned from adults she is worthless and therefore seeks to destroy herself. However, the powerful prime plot of a teen struggling to overcome parental abuse and adjust to a warm nurturing relationship is somewhat sideswiped by Beverly's tendency to spout overkill babble. Yet Beth Fehlbaum has written an insightful look at a teen trying to overcome abuse as she superbly captures the essence of Ashley, making this a winner with a deep message of "It may not seem like it now, but you are not alone."

True Crime: An American Anthology
Harold Schechter
The Library of America
14 East 60th Street, New York, NY 10022
Goldberg McDuffie Communications (publicity)
444 Madison Avenue, Suite 3300, NY, NY 10022
9781598530315, $40.00,

I hate to admit this publicly, but this excellent anthology highlights Americans' (including guilty me) macabre fascination with crime through famous authors who over the years, especially the last few decades, have made this into a powerful genre. The collection starts in colonial times with Puritan documents and Ben Franklin; runs into the nineteenth century with Bierce, Hawthorne and Mark Twain; and into the twentieth century and this decade with a genre who's who to include Dreiser, Thurber, Capote, Dunne, Rule, Ellroy and Talese. The compilation includes some of the most felonious activities in American history; several of which gained additional notoriety through movie versions like Double Indemnity, the Black Dahlia, and Compulsion. Finally, True Crime analyzes why people love the genre. This is a winner for fans as Harold Schechter analyzes the roots, the history, and the current popular state of the genre through authors and their subjects even with many of the cases included like Son of Sam of Bronx infamy well known.

Lauren Dane
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425224649, $15.00, 1-800-847-5515

For the past decade Federation Subcommander Sera Ayers has loathed but lusted over Ash Walker who after the sex of a lifetime dumped her to settle on a First Families politically arranged marriage. She detests herself over the fact that she wants him yet also wants to kick his butt in as she has since they first met.

The brass assigns Ash, whose marriage is dead, and his friend Brandt Pela to go undercover to infiltrate Imperialist sympathizers and learn of their seditious plots. He knows he and Brandt need a cover from someone who can take care of herself. They ask Sera to join the team as their concubine. Reluctantly she agrees, never anticipating the sensual pleasure two hunks can provide a woman in heat

UNDERCOVER is a refreshing second chance at love science fiction romance with the unique twist of a menage a trois rather than the usual two suspects coming back together. The triangle is hotter than Mercury as Sera and Ash overcome their volcanic past with Brandt adding spice to the mix. Although the undercover mission serves more as a backdrop to the trio's tryst, sub-genre fans will enjoy visiting the torrid Dane Known Universe.

Fed Up
Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant
9780425225981, $23.95

Chloe Carter's boyfriend Josh is competing with two other chefs to win a slot on a new eight part TV cooking show. To win the contest he has to star in three episodes of Chefly Yours (as does his rivals) cooking meals for supermarket customers selected randomly by the show's producer. When the nine shows air, the audience will vote on who will star as the chef of the new series.

Josh has to cook meals for Leo the vegetarian and his wife Francie who is a meat eater. Challenged, by the herbivore-carnivore couple, Josh makes his selection and goes to their home to prepare their repast. While dining, Francie dies on camera; others who took bites of her meal get ill. Someone sprinkled the food with digitalis from the foxglove plant. In between coordinating her best friend's wedding and working for her parents while grad school is out for the summer, Chloe investigates the murder.

The latest "Gourmet Girl Mystery" (see TURN UP THE HEAT, SIMMER DOWN and STEAMED) is a delicious entry filled with action and plenty of humor. The whodunit is clever as there are many suspects who had opportunity and Chloe realizes what their motives are. When the killer is revealed this will make total sense to the reader as being obvious yet it is almost impossible to pick out the perp during the course of the story.. The spunky heroine is the obvious master chef keeping the story line focused while the strong support cast adds depth to a tasty amateur sleuth.

Princess of the Sword
Lynn Kurland
9780425225684, $15.00

Having seen the ugly side of spells, Morgan of Melksham loathes all things and people associated with magic. To make matters worse, she has learned who her father is, an evil magician. She has ignored her own skills but she no longer can afford denial as the world is in trouble. Her father has released evil into the world when he opened the well of spells and she believes she must stop it.

She is accompanied in her quest by Archmage Prince Miach who understands the danger of what they need to retrieve to cast counter spells, but also what the cost of failure is to the Kingdom of Nieroche. He still regrets his earlier treatment of his beloved although his intentions were honorable as he placed his kingdom above his heart. As they set about to stop the leakage, Lothar the malevolent mage still remains dangerously causing trouble as he has his plan to take over the world starting with ridding himself of two pesky do-gooders.

This is an excellent finish to a great romantic quest fantasy (see THE MAGE'S DAUGHTER and STAR OF THE MORNING). The story line is action-packed while Miach has come a long way from the mage in love protecting his woman because he disregarded her skill even as he used her. Now she is equal, perhaps his superior, as they go to undo what her dad did. Readers will relish Ms. Kurland's superb trilogy.

Mortal Temptations
Allyson James
97800425223697, $15.00

In midtown Manhattan psychic Patricia Lake is stunned to find an unconscious hunk with a broken wing lying on the floor of her shop, Lake Antiques. The demigod Nico Stanopolous was cursed by the goddess Hera for his cavalier affront to women; he must spend eternity as a sex slave to females. Nico was in the store seeking an artifact the ostracon that he believed she had that will free him and his equally cursed friend were-leopard Andreas; he explains they own nearby trendy Andre's. He explains Dyon attacked him though his enemy can maim him but is not allowed to kill him.

Patricia, Nico and Andreas travel across the world seeking a means to free the cursed pair. At every stop, the trio dives into bed for heated trysts. There band grows when a human archaeologist, an Egyptian god and a Greek deity join their adventures while Hera has sent a horde to prevent them from succeeding. None of the band understands that the only potential answer to free at least Nico was not going on tour, but could be found much easier if the mortal and the immortal stopped to listen to their hearts.

Using the Norse mythology concept of Gods interfering and intruding on human lives, but in a modern day context, Allyson James provides a wonderful erotic romantic urban fantasy. From the moment they meet until the final climax (figuratively and literally), Nico, Patricia and Andreas will have fans believing in cursed demigods with wings, shift-shapers, and an irate Hera ready to punish those who defy her will; all that and various sexual interludes from female-male partnering to menage a trois to mano a mano. This is the beginning of what looks like will be a strong saga. Sub-genre fans will relish MORTAL TEMPTATIONS because it is an entertaining hot contemporary quest thriller.

Witch Heart
Anya Bast
9780425225530, $7.99

In the demon realm of Eudae human witch Claire saved the life of coven leader Thomas Monahan when he was held prisoner. However the handmaiden to Rue demon decided to stay on Eudae rather than return to earth with Thomas When Atrika demons attack Rue, he instills a powerful magical weapon the elium inside Claire and sends her back to Earth.

Fire witch Adam Tyrell rescues Claire even as demons led by Atrikan military Commander Tevan chase after her to retrieve the elium from her. Stunned by the changes on earth since she became a handmaiden over two decades ago, Claire goes with Thomas, Adam and the rest of the coven, who know they must prevent the Atrika from obtaining the magical weapon and also somehow safely remove the elium from Claire without killing their patient.

The third Witch Blood urban romantic fantasy (see WITCH FIRE and WITCH BLOOD) is a fabulous tale as Adam risks his life and his heart to keep his beloved Claire safe. The story line is fast-paced from the onset with deadly Tevan relentlessly tracking down the heroine while Adam and his coven do everything they can to protect her. Fans will enjoy the third bewitching blast as the witch and the handmaiden fall in love, even as the enemy keeps on coming to steal the elium without regard to Claire's wellbeing.

Mona Lisa Darkening
9780425226476, $7.99

Queen of the Louisiana Monere Children of the Moon Mona Lisa behaves very differently towards her followers than her peers. She treats her subjects with respect rather than contempt. Perhaps it is her being the only half-breed Monere queen or her having lived amongst the humans.

On the night of the vernal equinox, Mona takers her followers outside in the bayou to celebrate the holiday by drawing on rejuvenating power of the light. However, under the full moon, something goes wrong; instead of light Mona is cocooned in an eerie darkness. While some of her shocked subjects remain paralyzed with fear and others want to act but don't know at who or what, she vanishes. In the realm of the damned, a gargoyle captures her while the evil Monere queen Mona Louisa tries to take control of Mona Lisa's body. However a hero will step forth to go into hell for the heavenly cause of rescuing Mona or being damned for eternity if he fails.

Using an excellent twist, Sunny totally refreshes her unique erotic urban fantasy saga. A simple celebration turns dangerous for Mona Lisa while her loyal followers feel helpless and concerned as they do not know what happened to their beloved queen, whose involved or what to do; their frustrations enhance Mona's trek through Netherhell, the realm of the damned that makes Dante's depiction look PG. The superb DARKENING focuses mostly on a beleaguered Mona as she struggles to survive while trying to control her appetite of wanting the hard gargoyle inside her and not succumbing to the sexual desires if becoming enslaved to him.

Seduced at Midnight
Jacquie D'Alessandro
9780425226759, $7.99

In 1820 strange paranormal occurrences happen in Mayfair that parallel the plot of a novel The Ghost of Devonshire Manor that the Ladies Literary Society is reading; the London Times mentions ghosts in their article on the robbery-murders of two aristocrats. Worried for his daughter's safety Lord Bradley hires Bow Street Runner Gideon Mayne to protect his daughter, Lady Julianne. When her dad introduces Julianne to Gideon, she recognizes him as the man she has been waiting for since she began dreaming of love.

Gideon and Julianne understand they are unsuited as she must make a match within her social class. Still as their desire for one another explodes, Gideon remains dedicated to what matters most: keeping his beloved safe from human or ghost.

This entertaining Regency romantic suspense plays out on two levels that nicely converge into a wonderful tale. First there is the "forbidden" romance between the lady and the bodyguard, which has been the theme of many books and movies (for instance the Costner-Houston film The Bodyguard). However the second subplot brings freshness with the Ladies Literary Society (and much of London) asking do you believe in ghosts as the lead duo get embroiled in the robbery murders. Once again Jacquie D'Alessandro will keep her the audience up past Midnight (see CONFESSIONS AT MIDNIGHT and SLEEPLESS AT MIDNIGHT).

Warrior of the Highlands
Veronica Wolff
9780425226759, $7.99

Harvard University graduate student Haley Fitzpatrick is doing her dissertation on early modern historical weapons although her faculty advisor loathes her topic as being insignificant in the modern world. When she comes across an odd sword circa 1675 and a painting of her with the long dead Highland brutal warrior Alasdair "MacColla" McDonald, she is shocked. She is unaware that a seventeenth century witch Finona doing the bidding of the Campbells has placed a curse on the sword to insure MacColla's bride comes to distract his mind from war.

Back in modern day Boston when she touches the weapon, Haley is propelled back in time to 1675. As MacColla rescues his sister from his enemy the Campbell clan, he captures a stunned Haley near their encampment. He assumes she is a spy while she knows he is a vicious cold killer. However, as they fall in love, he realizes she is no Campbell agent and she concludes he loathes having to shed one drop of blood even that of his foes. She also sadly knows he will soon die in battle.

WARRIORS OF THE HIGHLANDS is an engaging time travel romance starring a strong pairing as Haley learns first hand that to the victors goes the history books as her beloved is nothing liked the modern day depiction of him. Although she adapts too easily to being sent back over three centuries ago, fans will enjoy Veronica Wolff's fine tale as the author blends in real persona to anchor the time and place. Readers will enjoy the saga of twenty-first century Harvard meets seventeenth century Highlander.

Smart Girls Think Twice
Cathie Linz
9780425226483, $7.99

Boston sociologist Emma Riley returns to her hometown of Rock Creek, Pennsylvania to attend the weddings of her two sisters and to conduct some local research. However, coming home also places a strain on Emma as she is a victim of dejà vu when she is caught in the middle of her family battles, a role she is quite good at but prefers not to do anymore.

When dependable Emma meets rebel without a cause Jake, she is shocked how attracted she is to him. Jake feels likewise although he cannot understand why he wants the seemingly always mellowing too smart Emma; thus he refuses to act on his desire until he realizes she rejects him as being too rebellious, too much a hunk, and worse too stupid for her. Trying to prove he is her intellectual equal although he hides his secret agenda as to why he is in town from her, they fall in love. Yet each wonders how much they will need to compromise of their essence as they both understand how polar opposites they are in outlook.

Fascinatingly although the premise of lifestyle opposites falling in love has been done a zillion times, Cathie Linz keeps her delightful counterparty romance amusing mostly because of Emma's dilemmas that make Jake feel somewhat like a snake as he rejects family roles. Whereas Emma does not like to make waves so she effortlessly returns to her expected family function of referee and arbitrator in time for dealing with wedding nonsense; Jake relishes making tsunamis to keep his family away. Smart sub-genre fans will not have to think twice about reading this humorous opposites attract romance.

Double the Pleasure
Lori Foster, et al.
9780425224069, $15.00

"Deuces Wild" by Lori Foster. Wanting to hide his training to join the Supreme Battle Challenge from his family while he trains, Hart Winston persuades his twin brother Dexter to pretend to be him. Dexter reluctantly moves into Hart's apartment. However, Dexter falls in love with Hart's neighbor middle school secretary Christy Nash who believes he is Hart.

"The Luck of the Irish" by Deirdre Martin. In Hell's Kitchen, divorcee Maggie O'Brien and Irish Green Card immigrant Brendan Kelly meet when he assist his Uncle Joe in renovating her family's Wild Hart Pub. They are attracted to one another, but she is reluctant to act after a bad marriage.

"Your Room or Mine?" by Jacquie D'Alessandro. Java Heaven CEO Gavin Laine informs his CFO Jack Warden that the accountants will attend a team building weekend at Lake Lanier's Casa di Lago hosted by consultant Madeline "Mad Dog" Price. Jack and Madeline detest their attraction to one another; each expects fireworks at the Georgia resort, but neither is prepared for what occurs between them nor the betrayal.

"Double the Danger: by Penny McCall. Dr. Abigail West moved to Pottersville, under 200 miles from Chicago, from DC to be near her only living relative, her grandfather, but remains an outsider to the "Pottersvillains". When she opens up a body bag to conduct an autopsy her college lover Drake, who vanished abruptly ten years ago without a trace, steps out alive. He explains he is FBI and they along with her grandfather are in danger. She assumes it is her heart from him

These are four fun well written contemporary romances that contain reasonably deep lead characters. Although the Penny McCall entry feels out of place with its police procedural suspense plot, fans will appreciate the strong quartet of tales with the bonus of Winston twins starring in Lori Foster's fine contribution.

Portrait of a Lady
Diane A. S. Stuckart
9780425225738, $14.00

In 1483 Milan, Dino is the apprentice to court engineer Leonardo Da Vinci. The great Renaissance Man knows so much about the world, perhaps more than anyone else, but remains ignorant that Dino is actually a female named Delfina; women cannot be apprentices.

When a servant of Contessa Caterina falls to her death, the Duke of Milan expects Leonardo to investigate as Bellanca worked for his ward. Leonardo and Dino make inquires including visiting the tower where the fatal incident started. They conclude this was a homicide and they will need an insider working amidst the servants of the Contessa. Leonardo arranges for Delfina as Dino dressing like a female servant to obtain a position working for the Contessa. Soon a second person employed by the Contessa is murdered. Meanwhile the Duke's Captain of the Guard Gregorio is attracted to Delfina, who reciprocates but fears his connections to both murdered women make him a prime suspect.

The second Leonardo Da Vinci Mystery (see THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT) is an engaging Renaissance Era whodunit although Da Vinci plays a lesser (but critical) role than he did in the initial mystery as much occurs under the stars with Dino as Delfina starring. The story line is fast-paced yet contains a strong sense of time and place as the audience will feel they are visiting late fifteenth century Lombardy Province. The investigation is a cleverly designed historical investigation that also challenges Delfina's divided feelings towards her employer, and the Captain.

The Ghost and the Haunted Mansion
Alice Kimberly
9780425224601, $7.99

When Penelope McClure's husband committed suicide, she packed up their things and with their young son moved to Quindicott, Rhode island where she bought into Buy the Book bookstore. The building comes equipped with the ghost of Jack Shepard, who was murdered there in the 1940s and so can't leave the premises unless Pen takes his buffalo nickel with him; and then he can only go where Pen goes. From believing he was a hallucination, Pen realizes she has romantic feelings for him although they can only meet i+n her dreams.

Delivering books to the reclusive Miss Todd, Pen notices her letter carrier Seymour Tarnish hurrying from there with a red stain on his shirt. At the Todd mansion, Pen finds Miss Todd dead. Pen calls the police who suspect Seymour has something to do with the homicide as he had opportunity since he could enter her home with the mail; Seymour swears Miss Todd gave him permission; the red spot turns out to be ketchup to Pen's mixed feelings as she is happy that Seymour seems innocent and a bit mortified it was not blood. He remains the prime suspect so Pen and Jack who believe he is innocent investigate those who would inherit the estate.

Jack is molded from the Philip Marlow school of hard boiled sleuths while Pen is a proper lady similar to Mrs. Muir of the Ghost film fame. This off beat pairing turns into an electrifying chemical combo that leads to a stand out series whose latest entry like its predecessors "The Ghost and …" tales is a delightful paranormal cozy noir; an apt description of the lead couple as well. Alice Kimberly provides a haunting whodunit.

The Flame
Jean Johnson
9780425224052, $15.00

The seventh brother Koranen is perhaps the loneliest of the siblings as his skill pyromancy means no passionate touching; he literally burns women. He knows what the prophecy says for him and bolstering his hopes that his bride is an aquamancer as predicted is the recent success of his six brothers in finding their mates. Kor believes she is finally coming to him when four aquamancers from the underwater city of Menomon come to Nightfall to examine the desalinator.

Danau is Kor's polar opposite as her touch leads to frostbite. Although a pariah in terms of personal relationship, she is in charge of the Menomon delegation. Her icy persona hides her lonely heart, but also angers Kor who wants nothing to do with the frozen beauty. However, destiny could not care less what either thinks even as evil has creeped onto the island.

Events are reaching a climax as Johnson delivers the penultimate chapter in her magical Sons of Destiny series. Watching these characters and this new monarchy develop has been pure fun, with practical kingdom-building considerations mixing cleverly with high-risk danger. Johnson's impressive talent is on full display.

Though somewhat a set up for the grand finale tale in this terrific romantic fantasy saga, this seventh Sons of Destiny tale is kept fresh and exciting by the uniqueness of the lead couple as he is fire and she is ice. Separately they are loners as no one can touch them without being burned; together they make a perfect match. However, in spite of being destiny's darlings they must overcome their learned response that touching including passion literally burns. Jean Johnson provides a character driven enjoyable book seven.

Wicked Burn
Beth Kery
9780425224373, $15.00

In Chicago with so many traumas in her life, no one blames Niall Chandler for hiding from the world. She has had no time to grieve the death of her child or cope with her husband locked away in an institution.

Divorced playwright Vic Savian meets Niall when he intercedes in her rejection of the unwanted advances of Evan Forrester; Vic had seen her twice before and was already attracted to her. She is ready to come out of her shell at least physically; their tryst is heaven in Vic's mind. However when she prevents his entering her heart and soul, Vic initially thought that was fine but soon realizes that is hell as she gets inside his gut with her nightmarish cries that scream out for hugs. Vic is in love, but her demons make a relationship beyond sex seemingly impossible and then there are the two family intrusions.

This is a poignant contemporary romance starring two scarred lovers who have demons from past relationships. With so much baggage neither feels at first ready for anything more than sex, but soon mindful of the Spinners' tune And Then Came You makes each reconsider their failed history when it comes to loved ones. Vic soon wants to change the dynamics. Beth Kery provides a deep angst laden tale filled with real characters wanting much more out of life but lessons learned have led to settling for much less.

Stormy Weather
Geri Buckley
9780425219492, $14.00

In the Florida Panhandle having just turned fifty and being married to the same man for thirty of them, Vonda Kay Thayer looks forward to the future with her husband as she believes they live the American dream. Vonda also fantasizes of the time when their teens move on as empty nest sounds heavenly even though her in-law will still be there. Everything changes when she catches Jerome cheating. Upset, Vonda decides to move on without him though she has two teenage daughters (Charlotte and Caroline) and a crusty mother-in-law at home.

However, before she tests her new vision, twin responsibilities leap into her lap. First her pregnant oldest daughter Amelie returns to the already insane fold followed by her ailing father-in-law. When a hurricane hammers the Panhandle, Vonda takes charge of her suddenly expanded family insuring everyone remains safe.

With a chick lit feel even without asides and the dreaded lists, STORMY WEATHER is an amusing yet poignant family drama. Vonda is a superb lead character caught in the eye of the storm even before the hurricane hits. She and the rest of the household and the "douche bag" spouse are fully developed so fans will believe in her ability to take charge during a crisis. Geri Buckley combines humor with seriousness inside an aptly named contemporary tale.

Behind the Shadows
Patricia Potter
9780425224908, $7.99

With her beloved mom Katy dying and in need of a kidney, Atlanta reporter Kira Douglas offers one of hers. However, the blood test results affirm they are not just incomparable, but it a 100% certainty that Katy is not her biological mother.

Kira carefully talks to her mom and soon concludes that Katy is unaware that they are not biological mom-daughter. She concludes that somehow a switch occurred over three decades ago. Her private investigative friend Chris Burke helps Kira find the most logical candidate, Leigh Howard, heir to the Westerfield fortune. Leigh's attorney Max Payton fiercely protects his client as he assumes Kira is pulling a scam. However, he reconsiders his opinion re Kira when someone tries to kill her.

The concept of baby switching at birth has been done many times, but Patricia Potter provides a strong fresh entry. The story line is action-packed once Katy learns the truth, and is driven by her need to know what happened, find a kidney match with her mom's DNA daughter and to meet her biological family as well. Her desires turn nasty starting with Max who distrusts the newcomer and worse for her besides wanting the outraged lawyer when someone stalks her. Readers will relish this fast-paced one sitting double the fun romantic suspense thriller.

What a Pirate Desires
Michelle Beattie
9780425224939, $7.99

In 1661 one thing drives Samantha Fine; vengeance against vicious Captain Dervish for what he did five years ago in the Caribbean. He is the reason she became pirate Captain Sam Steele, whose loyal crew know her gender but none will gossip about this factoid because they successfully raid merchant and pirate vessels. They are so good Captain Sam is the most feared person on the sea.

The only person besides her crew to know Sam's gender is incarcerated Luke Bradley, a former member of Dervish's cruel crew. Sam rescues Luke demanding he will lead her to Dervish. As they become acquainted with one another while arguing they fall in love, but both agree that destroying Dervish whom they each loathes comes before any future plans beyond that.

This terrific seventeenth century High Seas pirate romance works because Samantha comes across as an avenging sea-she pirate captain. Her verbal battles with Luke are amusing with word play sharper than sword play. Fans will enjoy this fine at sea cat and mouse tale while wondering whether it will be Sam, Samantha, or neither to survive the expected combat with Dervish.

Jaci Burton, et al.
9780425223819, $14.00

"The Ties That Bind" by Jaci Burton. Divorced fifteen years ago but still in love, Lisa and Rick would not mind a second chance together.

"Undone" by Jasmine Haynes. Margo feels undone after meeting Dirk, but shocked when she learns what his vocation is.

"Controlled Response" by Joey W. Hill. Due to meeting Lucas, Cassandra knows she no longer needs to hide her deepest ardent emotions; as she can finally let it all hang out.

"Rubies and Black Velvet" by Denise Rossetti. To win the heart of Meg, John must destroy an evil sorceress' corset.

Tongue in cheek, or perhaps corset in cheek is more apropos as that sexy garb connects these four erotic well written heated romances as the heroes understand their assignments starts with unlacing.

Dark Nights, Dark Dreams
Savannah Russe
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451225665, $6.99,

With a shortfall of State Department volunteers willing to work in Iraq, Foreign Service specialist Sam Chase is stunned that she is being loaned to the CIA although she understands why. Sam's ability to see the future and being warned by an inner voice, some say a guardian angel, has kept her safe. The CIA has assigned her to a new Top Secret cell with special paranormal skills.

Sam is assigned to help DOD forensic investigator Lance "Bear" Rutledge, who cannot believe they dump a civilian on him based on a mumbo jumbo fraudulent talent; he scorns psychic ability as either a ruse or a mental case as he believes in the facts. Another cell mate voodoo priestess Rina Martus warns that stolen corpses are being converted into an army of zombies. As Bear, who assumes Rina is a fruitcake, and Sam search for the army of the dead.

Darkwing Chronicles' vampires aside, the first of four "Sisterhood of the Sight" psychic romantic suspense thrillers is a superb paranormal tale as the heroine and her partner confront peril from beyond. The story line is fun from the moment Sam and the bear meet; as she is living proof of what he scorns as ridiculousness. Falling in love interferes with the mission so neither wants to act on their desire, but both need to act on their passion for the other. Savannah Russe opens up her new series with a winner.

Maureen Child
0451225767, $6.99

Maggie Donovan goes over to her soon to be former fiance's office to return him is ABBA CDs and his classic Star Trek DVDs only to walk in on a nightmare. Something female from a horror flick is dining on poor nice Joe Erickson before turning to chow on Maggie. She grabs the bi*ch's pendant and uses it against the carnivore, which enables her to survive the demonic assault, but inhales a strange powder that gives her astonishing powers.

Otherworld Fae warrior Culhane feels his hundreds of years waiting impatiently for the right woman which has finally occurred. He believes Maggie, who has Fae blood in her, is destined to fight and defeat the evil Queen Mab. However, in spite of her libido deserting her with her attraction to Culhane, she rejects the Fae until attacks on her human family begin. She knows she must confront Mab who has everything going for her in a one on one battle except for Maggie's grit to keep her loved one safe from the malevolent witch.

Maggie owns this wonderful urban fantasy although some might argue she adapts to her off kilter new world disorder too easily. She is terrific as the chosen one (at least Culhane's chosen one), which she believes only places a bulls-eye on her chest for Queen Mab to send her worms to attack her. Readers will enjoy the opening gamut as the Child universe is established in a way that the heroine feels so BEDEVILED she would empathize with Alice falling through the looking glass.

Hot Mail
Janice Maynard
045122583X, $14.00

In Statlerville, Tennessee Jane Norman has always wanted her former best friend Ethan Oldham, but he never displayed any inclination of caring for her that way. Their friendship forged as the two tallest kids in junior high school ended four years when Ethan became engaged to a gold-digging pariah. Although Jane sort of moved on, her love for Ethan remains strong.

Deciding he will never take the first step, thirty-two year old Jane decides on an anonymous inane HOT MAIL campaign to win his heart or at least intimate time with him in his bed. She begins sending him love letters so graphic he fears his hands will burn by touching them; once a week they arrive and he finds himself anxiously waiting for the next one even as he wonders who is sending them. When someone burglarizes Jane's stationary store, Assistant Chief of Police Ethan investigates. As they renew their friendship ironically the erotic letter writer causes a triangle that leaves Jane looking on with desire while her shadow self wins his heart.

HOT MAIL is an amusing contemporary romance that contains underlying issues which strengthens the story line. The lead couple is a terrific pairing even if Ethan is ignorant to the facts while the support cast especially his older sister facing empty nest syndrome with her ex in Florida and her daughter about to attend college at U of South Florida deepens the plot. The letter campaign proves too successful opening up more problems for the heroine whose New Year's Resolution looks dead with Valentine's Day approaching. Janice Maynard provides a delightful humorous charmer.

Lone Star Woman
Sadie Callahan
0451225775, $6.99

In West Texas three generations of Campbell-Strayhorn blood own the Circle C Ranch. Grandpa may be the family patriarch, but his son J.D. runs the spread while his granddaughter Jude looks forward to soon take over from her dad. However, the two men in her life prefer Jude to marry and raise the next generation, preferably males.

Independent and upset with her dad and granddad, Jude buys the nearby 6-0 ranch to prove to her chauvinistic kin she can run a spread. However, she finds a stranger nesting on her new property; to her chagrin, recently divorced Brady Fallon makes her warm all over until he asserts he inherited the ranch she just bought. Brady is attracted to Jude, but he is coming off of a nasty divorce and knows better than to fool around with the daughter of his neighbor, who has given him a job that he needs to bring in money to restore the 6-0 ranch. As J.D. mentors Brady to replace him at Circle C, her daddy breaks Jude's heart again.

LONE STAR WOMAN is a fabulous contemporary ranch romance that is kept fresh by the lifestyle depth of the three generations of Campbell-Strayhorn's. The storyline us fast-paced as Brady struggles between loyalties and Jude by betrayal by the three men in her life. Readers will appreciate this fine Texas tale starring a strong female and three chauvinists who love her but fail to give her the chance she deserves.

Star Bright
Catherine Anderson
0451225716, $7.99

Knowing how lethally dangerous her affluent influential husband Peter Danning is as he has killed two previous wives and not desiring to be next when he finally goes over the edge with her, Lorraina Ann with help from her friend Janet arranges for her death on a ship at sea to fool him when he searches for her. Rainie Ann no longer exists as Anna Pritchard is born. Besides altering her appearance, Anna plans to disappear to isolated tiny Crystal Falls, Oregon.

In the small town, Anna obtains work as a bookkeeper at Parker Harrigan's horse ranch. However, Parker believes his new employee is not just hiding secrets, but concealing her identity for whatever reason. As their attraction grows, Anna fears it because she knows all she can give to her beloved employer and his extended family is death if her psychopathic spouse finds her in Crystal Falls.

The third of the five Harrigan siblings romantic suspense tales (see MORNING LIGHT and SUN KISSED) is an exhilarating tale that refreshes the theme of a woman in peril from her insane but connected husband (think of Roberts-Bergen in Sleeping with the Enemy). The story line is fast-paced from the moment Rainie Ann no longer exists and Anna Pritchard with her Elvira wig does. Fans will enjoy the latest Harrigan saga as the besieged brave woman and the readers know the maniacal predator is coming for her.

Jessica Andersen
0451225759, $7.99

Nightkeeper warrior Nate BlackHawk rejects the notion that he and his inexperienced fighting peer Alexis Gray are destined to be together although he admits to himself she stirs his rebellious blood especially when he sleeps; she knows he is the one even as he pretends to ignore her. Instead he rejoices in the recent victory the Nightkeepers gained when they prevented the demon Banol Kax from breaking through the barrier to their realm (see NIGHTKEEPERS).

However, King Striking-Jaguar begins to find evidence that an ancient enemy has arisen and poses a threat. He and others believed the evil Banol Kax lords of the underworld Xibalba were locked away from the earth twenty-four millennia ago, but they believe an effort to return has begun when an obviously powerful mage starts to acquire the seven sacred Mayan artifacts. To stop this malevolence from amassing more relics that will soon turn this deadly predator invincible and break the barrier keeping the evil Ribald horde away, the Nightkeepers must find the remaining statues. Nate and Alexis team up to do so and he can any longer ignore destiny's pairing.

This exhilarating urban romantic fantasy saga is constructed around modernizing Mayan mythology, to include but not limited to the doomsday prophecy. Nate is an intriguing protagonist who rejects his Nightkeeper bloodline that insists Alexis is his soulmate (some readers will believe: "Me thinks thou dost protest too Much!" - Shakespeare) with his denial while she easily accepts their destiny. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the overarching Andersen mythology is wonderfully embellished with this engaging entry.

Phantom's Touch
Julie Leto
0451224906, $6.99

Action movie star Lauren Cole wants to be taken seriously as an actress, but is contractually trapped to perform one more thriller as Athena for her ex-husband Ross. She is especially angry with her former spouse because he refused to give her an antique sword he purchased in Germany for her. Lauren steals the weapon.

As Lauren practices with the ancient sword, she liberates warrior Aiden Forsyth from his entrapment inside the weapon. However to his disappointment he is not totally free of the curse that first incarcerated him in 1747 when he tried to rescue his sister from gypsy abduction; he remains a phantom during the day but a human able touch others at night. Neither is prepared for unknown adversaries to covet her sword and attempt to murder those in possession of it.

The second Phantom urban romantic fantasy (see PHANTOM PLEASURES) is an engaging tale in which Hollywood collides with real magic. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Lauren tries to prove her skills on the silver screen are genuine in real life. Readers will relish Julie Leto's outstanding touch; especially with a bewildered Aiden. He struggles with understanding a world that makes no sense as he has seen moving pictures of Lauren in action performing incredible feats of daring do that he could never do; yet though competent she is nowhere near that super level of expertise. This is a exhilarating paranormal thriller starring a strong lead couple and a diabolically vile villain.

Zen and the Art of Vampires
Katie MacAlister
9780451225603, $6.99

As her fortieth birthday approaches Pia Thomason decides to celebrate with a tour of Europe hoping to find a lover's fling across the pond. Her first stop is Iceland, but for whatever reason people calls her Zorya. Even more mysterious Pia ends up in possession of a light-producing moonstone.

Bewildered Pia finds things turn even stranger when an enigmatic group of weirdos the Brotherhood of the Blessed Light demand she marry their Sacristan. At the same time ghosts begin to show up claiming she the guiding reaper expected to escort them to the promised land of Ostri. Wondering what else could occur on this trip that makes no sense, the Dark One Kristoff needs Pia to help him enact vengeance on the Brotherhood at the same time he wants to insure she never obtains her full power, which means he must marry her.

The latest Dark One screwball vampire romantic suspense comedy is a jocular action-packed tale. As always in this wonderful zany series, the heroine gets trapped in an out of control frenzied frolic once Kristoff meets Pia. Readers will enjoy this latest biting romp as the escapades never slow down. Katie MacAlister provides some of the zaniest paranormal tales with her Dark Ones' saga (see EVEN VAMPIRES GET THE BLUES; SEX, LIES, AND VAMPIRES; SEX AND THE SINGLE VAMPIRE; and THE LAST OF THE RED HOT VAMPIRES).

Wicked Intentions
Lydia Joyce
9780451225672, $6.99

In 1866 Emmeline Dunn has one reason for living and that is to avenge the affronts of her father's second family. She knows as Emmeline she cannot succeed as her stepbrother has the Ton on his side, but as Esmeralda the spiritualist she can achieve her objective because she can search records that Emmeline cannot.

Lady Hamilton has not recovered from the death of one of her sons. She desperately needs to speak to her late child and prays that Esmeralda can bring them into contact. The distraught mom's other son Thomas Hyde has become angry and cold since his brother's death except towards his mother as many suspect him of the deed. He vows to expose Esmeralda as a fraud taking advantage of a grief stricken women. However, even when he and Esmeralda are fighting, passion simmers between until it ignites into an inferno. As they fall in love, they learn perhaps too late the interconnection between their families even as someone serendipitously plans to harm both of them.

This is a fabulous historical romantic investigative tale starring two obsessed individuals falling in love at a time neither welcomes the feelings as they have other needs to take care of first. Thus Emmeline and Thomas make a great pairing as love battles deep emotional scars in a superb Victorian amateur sleuth romance.

A Face at the Window
Sarah Graves
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553806793, $22.00, 1-800-726-0600

Jacobia "Jake" Tiptree, who resides in Eastport, Maine, feels very uneasy after her father was decades on the run as a fugitive. Her father was exonerated from killing his wife because a bomber made a deathbed confession stating he was there and Jake's father did not kill his wife. The only other adult in the house at the time of the murder was Ozzie Campbell, who loved Jake's late mom. Jake was three years old when the tragedy destroyed her home; a trauma that she witnessed and remembers in great detail though she never saw the killer's face. The horrific events haunt her decades later as she can still vividly see what happened.

After Jake give her witness impact statement to the ADA that should close the case, he forwards it to Campbell's defense lawyer. Right after that Campbell vanishes and Jake fears he is coming to get her. Jake is extra concerned because she is watching her best friend's toddler Lee while the woman and her husband are in Europe. Her paranoia is warranted when apparently Campbell has two thugs working for him snatch Lee and her teenage babysitter, Helen. He calls Jake telling her to meet him if she wants the kid back alive. While Campbell and Jake play cat and mouse, Helen tries to escape and get help..

Even though a recurring part of the series, the household tips seem a bit out of place in this gritty thriller filled with evil villains who have no qualms about killing an innocent young child and two courageous heroines trying to save the toddlers life and that of their own. From the onset Jake feels someone stalking her, watching her, and waiting to attack. She cannot get the authorities to understand Campbell is coming for her although she no idea why; no one believes her until three females including her are in jeopardy. Sarah Graves' latest thriller is much darker than usual but even more exhilarating as Campbell's obsessed purpose becomes clear to the reader while Jake's sense of hopelessness of saving the teen and the tot grows with each step she takes.

Gears of the City
Felix Gilman
9780553806779, $24.00

Arjun is lost as he wanders the dark gloomy city Ararat that he does not recognize. He is weary and a bit frightened because his amnesia is so deep he cannot recall his name. He feels like a forlorn ghost being hunted by brutal hollow men. Only because of his rescuers the Low Sisters and the words of a prophesy does he use the moniker Arjun, which feels right so he assumes is his real name though he cannot be sure.

He does believe he is on a quest as he volunteers to find his hosts' missing third sister trapped by a ghost like him inside the ominous Mountain palace; he also thinks that someone is trying to prevent him from succeeding on his mission by stealing his memory. Arjun feels he must gain access to the nearby Mountain that rises above the city, but he has not been able to break free as if the stronghold repels his efforts though he knows it is more physical with traps than metaphysical. If he fails on his quest Arjun assumes the Mountain will spread the darkness through all space and time; only he can prevent the engulfing of his world.

This is a superb strange science fiction thriller that hints at paranormal elements with the ethereal sinister Mountain casting an evil shadow on the city and its residents. Fans will wonder whether the Mountain is advanced technology or otherworldly as Arjun goes about his quest. He is a solid character even with no memory while the Low Sisters are developed enough to enhance the mystery of the Mountain in the key role of menacing antagonist with what the palace apparently has done to Ararat including Arjun. Fans will enjoy this brooding portentous quest thriller as Felix Gilman keeps the audience engaged wondering what is the Mountain.

The Last Day
John Ramsey Miller
9780440243113, $6.99

Near Concord, North Carolina, businessman Ward McCarty and his wife pediatric surgeon Natasha are mired in grief with each mourning the tragic death of their young son Barry by electrocution last year separately. They live in an isolated part of the state, but recently Natasha has had the disturbing feeling that someone is watching them. She is unaware how right she is as a man in the woods observes them closely; he plans to kill both of them on the one year anniversary of their son's death.

Strange things are happening to the couple. Their son Barny's's things are being moved around the house with each McCarty blaming the other. Ward is having memory lapses and blackouts while Natasha's hands are shaking, which removes her from surgery. They remain unaware that the Watcher has easy access to their home and is causing things to happen to them. Ward's company server is sending out kiddie porn to anyone in their email leading to a public outcry. The Watcher anticipates THE LAST DAY when he kills the pair.

John Ramsey Miller has written a refreshing nightmarish crime caper centering around the Watcher who targets for death innocent people. Readers have no idea what motivates him to go after the McCarty couple or why he killed three teens.. Though shadowy he is ferocious but clever as no one notices him until it is too late. Natasha and Ward already on their heels from Barry's death are constantly on the defensive as the diabolical Watcher works his deadly art. A bit over the Blue Ridge Mountains, but no one will care as fans will fascinatingly in a macabre need to watch the Watcher.

The Pre-nup
Beth Kendrick
9780553591507, $12.00

In Mayfair Estates best friends Ellie Barton, Jen Finnerty and Mara Stroebel are having male issues. Ellie's spouse Michael who on the surface is the poster boy for the ideal husband and father appears to be having a red hot affair. Eric loves Jen, but is thinking of dumping her because he believes she no longer reciprocates his feelings. Mara and her fiance Josh seem to fight over every little thing starting with the critical prenuptial agreement.

Each of the three amigas is upset with their so called significant other. However, instead of weakening in their resolve, the trio gains strength through their deepening friendship. They abide by Dumas's mantra "as one for all and all for one" has meaning to the threesome with being there for one another regardless of the male relationship outcome.

Rotating points of view shows the perspectives of each of the women including how they perceive themselves and fascinatingly their two other best friends. The men in their lives come across much thinner as for the most part the life in these males is seen predominately through the eyes of their significant other. Thus the reader never fully sees the viewpoints of Michael, Eric or Josh. Fans of sisterhood contemporary romances will enjoy following the escapades of the three Mayfair Estates musketeers as the buddies navigate the shark infested relationship waters.

Never Tell a Lie
Hallie Ephron
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061567155, $24.95, 1-800-242-7737

In their thirties Ivy and David Rose have been a couple since high school. Both are excited with Ivy being pregnant and the Victorian house they have bought in Bush Hills, Massachusetts where they plan to raise their children. However, they need to rid themselves of what was left behind by the previous owner, but rather than just junk, the Roses decide to have a yard sale.

A former high school classmate, pregnant Melinda White arrives to look over the items for sale. She almost breaks a mirror before buying something. David gives a tour of the house to the excited Melinda who insists she played there as a kid. Later no one notices when Melinda left, but that night Ivy looking out her window notices someone who looks like Melinda looking through the junk left for the morning.

Three days later the local police detectives visit the Roses to question them about the reported missing Melinda. Inside a trunk left out that night is her bloodied top and a bloody knife found in David's truck A message by David on Melinda's answering machine further incriminates him in what the cops begin to think might be a murder though no body surfaces. Ivy trusts her David though she knows how he treated Melinda back in high school, but begins to believe someone is framing him as everything is too obvious, but who and how to prove it remains the questions.

Although the motive behind the disappearance and the evidence pointing at David has been used frequently in books and movies, Hallie Ephron uses them effectively with a terrific late spin that focuses on how far someone will go with out of control compulsive obsessive behavior. The cast is realistic especially the beleaguered Roses and Melinda; who is mostly developed by how others perceive her. Readers will enjoy this engaging dark psychological suspense investigative thriller.

Cat Playing Cupid
Shirley Rousseau Murphy
9780061123979, $16.95

In Molina Point, California live three special cats: Joe Grey, Dulcie and Kit. Each can talk to humans and understand human speech. The trio seems to get involved in every murder that has happened recently in the village. So it is no shocker when they learn from a feral feline that a human body is buried in the ruins of the Pamilion Estate. They delay their usual investigation until Joe's friend Clyde marries Ryan and is out of the way on his honeymoon.

Another corpse is found in a treehouse in Oregon lying there for years. Lindsey Wolfe returns to Molina Point goes to the cops claiming the victim is her fiance Carson Chappell. When the cats investigate the grave, they find a book that discuses their unique skills; they want the book destroyed before anyone who finds it reveals their secret. Lindsey's sister brings anonymously to the police incriminating evidence that point towards her being the killer. Her lover Ray Gibbs, who was Carson's partner, drops off something incriminating to the steps of the police station. Joe Grey begins an inquiry into them with Dulcie helping him while Kit considers whether she loves injured Sagel enough to go feral with him and leave her two pals behind.

Though on opposite coats, the Molina Point felines will remind readers of The Cat Who tales by the Brown duet. The body found at the estate is linked to the other corpse, but how and why remain a mystery that Joe Grey is determined to solve. The three talking cats are adorable even grumpy acerbic Joe Grey while fans of the series learn more about their backgrounds. Shirley Rousseau Murphy has written a purrfectly delightful anthropomorphism feline whodunit.

A Matter of Justice
Charles Todd
9780061233593, $23.95

In 1920, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge is in Scotland attending his friend's Somerset wedding when his London based superior informs him to go to nearby Cambury to lead a murder investigation. Ian arrives at the affluent Hallowfield estate to find the "squire" former financier Harold Quarels hanging from a harness used to hold the Christmas angel used as part of the holiday gala. He and his inner ghost Hamish MacLeod, whom he had executed during the war, agree that whoever did this murder was extremely angry at the victim.

Constable Padgett who found the corpse is not very helpful and in fact he impedes the inquiry. In spite of the local cop's hindrance, Ian begins to learn that every villager, estate workers, and even Harold's wife loathed him and had motives to kill him. Additionally his business partner Davis Penrith and Quarels only recently ended their relationship and several people lost a ton of money due to Quarles's failed African investment strategy. However, Ian and Hamish feel all this just obfuscates the real reason for the homicide; which lies in revenge of multiple murders and theft during the Boer War two decades ago.

The latest Rutledge-MacLeod post WWI police procedural is a strong entry in one of the best anti-war series on the marketplace. Readers ironically know who is behind the murder and why long before Ian figures it out after additional killings occur. Although Hamish seems to behave himself a bit more than usual, fans will relish this excellent historical whodunit as Charles Todd affirms he is no chicken hawk as he once again makes it clear his position that war is only good for the profiteers and politicians.

Leopard's Prey
Suzanne Arruda
Obsidian Mystery
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451225863, $24.95,

In 1920 on the Thompson coffee plantation near Nairobi, the corpse of Martin Stokes, owner of Stokes and Berryhill Store, is found inside a coffee dryer. Since his wife Alice has gone missing as evidenced by Martin putting out an ad asking for help to find her, the local cops assume two murders occurred. Other evidence points towards WWI flying ace, Sam Featherstone.

Having returned from Morocco (see THE SERPENT'S DAUGHTER) photographer and animal rights activist Jade del Cameron refuses to accept Sam the filmmaker as a suspect; he is her lover and aviator instructor teaching her to fly. He also wants to be her spouse, but Jade hesitates. As she investigates the murder of Martin and the disappearance of Alice, Jade and her sidekick Biscuit the cheetah rescue endangered animals.

Paying a strong homage to Africa, Suzanne Arruda provides a wonderful historical whodunit that focuses a powerful light on the changing "Dark Continent"; especially Kenya by bringing to life the geography , the assault on animals, and a deep look at the customs of the Kikuyu and Masai tribes. The story line vividly depicts the era that can be summed up by the rationale of Jade and the Perkins and Daley Zoological Company to save (not capture) animals for zoo relocation in order to keep them safe from hunters. Jade is at her best trying to prove her lover is innocent while eluding his efforts to marry her; all that in between her rescuing endangered species like white leopards.

Homicide in Hardcover
Kate Carlisle
0451226151, $6.99

Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder and restorer who has recently gone into business by herself after years as an apprentice by one of the best in the field, Abraham Karastovsky. Her mentor handles what he calls her defection very poorly and they have not spoken to one another in six months. Ergo Brooklyn is nervous about attending a private showing at San Francisco's Covington Library because she knows Abraham will also be there. When they meet at the gala, they become friends again and he invites her to look at the copy of Goethe's Faust in his workroom.

When she arrives at his workroom, Brooklyn finds Abraham lying on the floor. She goes to him and he whispers his dying words "Remember the devil." She has no idea what his departing cryptic message means, but freaks out when Derek Stone of Stone Security declares she killed him. Stunned she faints. When she regains consciousness, the police question her, but let her go while Stone states he will be watching her. As the Covington Library chief hires Brooklyn to finish Abraham's restoration of Faust, someone kills another book restorer. Attempts are made on her life and her house is broken into and searched. Past the breaking point, Brooklyn investigates starting with the space Abrahame made in the cover s to the tome and whether it is why someone is willing to kill to obtain the Faust.

The first bibliophile amateur sleuth showcases how dangerous the life of a book restorer is when a critic wants something. In less than a week, numerous attempts are made on Brooklyn's life and her home and her and Abraham's studio as well her mentor's murder make for a fun time for readers, but a rough go for the heroine. This is an entertaining somewhat amusing whodunit as the nervous eccentric Brooklyn travels the mean streets of San Francisco trying to restore order to her life starting with having a life.

Batter Off Dead
Tamar Myers
0451225929, $22.95

Old Order Mennonite Magdalena Yoder, owner of the Penn Dutch Inn, has temporarily closed her business due to her expecting any week now. At eight and a half months pregnant running the inn is too much along with her duties as mayor and with her church; the latter two coming before making money. Still she hosts the Beechy Grove Mennonite Church Brotherhood fundraising all you can eat breakfast.

Magdalena irritates Minerva J. Jay over gluttony charges when the latter eats twenty-six pancakes and seventeen pork bellies. Shortly after her gouging, Minerva dies. The toxicologist reports states that someone added an overdose of pills into the pancake batter, making the death a homicide. Chief of Police Chris Ackerman knows Magdalena's record for solving murder cases so he asks her to help, but she puts him off as she gave birth in her cousin's grocery store just after Minerva died. When she begins to investigate she starts with the Church Brotherhood and quickly learns almost every member had a reason to loathe Minerva; none seem sad or suffer remorse as the glutton was blackmailing people and seducing married men. However, no one appears to be desperate enough to kill the woman who made everyone miserable.

Motherhood does not sweeten Magdalena's acerbic nature although she obviously loves and cares for her newborn although she treats the baby in the same manner she handles adults; this leads to amusing scenes as the infant acts like some of the childish adults she knows. The mystery is well executed with an interesting group of suspects who, like her family, try to stay out of Magdalena's way, but also like her relatives fail as she is more tenacious than a bull dog. Tamar Myers writes a delightful picturesque Pennsylvania Dutch cozy.

Scattered Graves
Beverly Connor
0451226143, $7.99

In Rosewood, Georgia, newly elected Mayor Spence Jefferies has fired experienced supervisors like the chief of police and the chief of the crime lab replacing them with political hacks. No longer working for the town as its crime lab chief, RiverTrail Museum of Natural History curator Diane Fallon has run-ins with her replacement Lloyd Bryce and his thugs. However, legally she is in the right as the crime lab is owned by the museum not the town.

As Bryce and the new police of chief Peeks lead the harassment of her, one of the cops Harve Delamore tries to kill her, but instead he dies falling from a cliff ledge. When someone kills Jefferies and Peeks apparently in retaliation by "biting" back for their nefarious activities, the townsfolk want Fallon and her former team of crime scene experts to investigate. Although she has doubts about getting involved, Diane begins to look into the homicides because the prime suspect worked for her recently at the lab and in a nasty lethal overseas incident that has left both with emotional scars.

Although why the harassment, which comes across for much of the book as childishly inane especially without legal counsel, is not explained until very late to the reader (early would have been better even if the heroine is left in the dark), this is an engaging crime caper. Someone finally had enough of the bullying tactics of the mayor, the police chief, and their hooligans; Diane worries her friend and former employee David is that someone as she fears he went over the edge with frustration. Fans will enjoy this small town Georgia thriller as Rose County becomes a killing field.

Psych: A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read
William Rabkin
0451226356, $6.99

Shawn Spencer was best friends with Gus since they were youngsters and that has not changed since they became adults. They are partners in a private detective agency in which Shawn pretends to be psychic. They are unable to find evidence to exonerate their client Veronica Mason who is on trial for murder. Shawn, using his "gift" badgers a juror into confessing to the crime. When they get out of the courthouse, Gus' car has been towed.

They go to the impound lot only to learn they owe, $6000 in fines for overdue tickets due to their failure to pay other tickets they received.. Shawn reads the person and learns he is an escapee from an Arizona chain gang. The convict starts to shoot at the sleuths who flee but Gus is hit by a car. Gus awakens in the hospital where he learns Shawn has acquired Tara, an unbalanced woman who believes she is psychic and can hear Shawn's thoughts. She becomes his shadow and does what she thinks he wants her to do. Meanwhile a high school classmate adversary of Shawn, billionaire Dallas Steele offers a large sum of money to Shawn to prove to Dallas he is psychic. Between Dallas and Tara, Shawn is in deep trouble that turns worse when his high school enemy is killed with the police holding his psychic slave in custody as she claims Shawn made her do it.

PSYCH is a serio-comedic mystery that will have readers laughing at some of the situations Shawn and Gus land in yet also has a sort of Son of Sam tragic element. On a par with renowned for TV show adaptations Lee Goldberg, William Rabkin provides an entertaining whimsical novelization of the show as the imagination and jocularity come across solidly. Fans will enjoy PSYCH summed up by its subtitle: "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read."

Words Alone
Autumn Dawn
Love Spell
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780505528018, $6.99, 1-800-345-2665

Working as a translator for the Galactic Explorers has not been fun in what should have been an uplifting experience for Lieutenant Xera Harris-d. Her captain is a boorish self-conceited macho idiot and the company he represents cares only about the bottom line. Thus she is not shocked when her vessel and that of the Scorpio race get entangled in hostilities with both crash-landing on a nearby hostile planet.

Shockingly Scorpio, Commander Ryven warns the enemy crew of the dangers and offers to escort them to safety. As the sole woman amidst testosterone-thinking thugs on both sides, Xera expects to be a victim. She especially believes her side starting with her captain is the group to fear the most from so she stays close to the Scorpio hunk as he is probably the only safe situation. When another Scorpio ship rescues everyone, Xera knows she is a POW, but her heart captured by Ryven frightens her the most.

NO WORDS ALONE is an exciting science fiction romance driven by the strong cast on both sides of the conflict. The Galactic Explorer's crew led by the captain is cutthroat coming across as pirates in space while the Scorpio are more disciplined as a professional military unit. The Romeo and Juliet love story in outer space is well written as the audience sees the first hand cultural divides and taboos inside of the superb Autumn Dawning of a new "universe".

Unclean Spirits
M.L.N. Hanover
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781416575979, $15.00,

Like most young people, Jayne Heller has a full life between going to college and having a boyfriend. However, her normalcy is shattered forever when someone murders her Uncle Eric. Jayne closes his estate as his prime heir, but is unable to obtain emotional closure as she cannot understand why an uncle she hardly knows left her his estate and why he was killed; she already knows Randolph Coin of something called the Invisible College where the research is solely on demonic spirits conversion into sources of incredible power.

Obsessed Jayne is determined to avenge her uncle's murder. Several of Eric's friends and associates help her as they too want the killer brought to justice though their definition strongly differs from that of Jayne. However, as she explores Uncle Eric's weird world she begins to meet a horde of Hollywood mythical "UNCLEAN SPIRITS" who rock her physics based realism off its foundation as she wonders can this be Denver and keeps reminding herself this can't happen to Jayne.

This engaging urban fantasy amateur sleuth is more a character study than a whodunit as the intelligent technologically astute heroine is clearly out of her element with her former belief that demons are in games, movies and urban fantasies not the streets of Denver. Although Jayne's adept skill at fighting otherworldly monsters seems over the top of the Rocky Mountains even with her late uncle's "blessing", fans will enjoy learning alongside the heroine the rules of para-physics in the realm of the "Black Sun's Daughter".

Promises of Change
Joan Medlicott
Pocket Books
9781416524588, $15.00

In rural Covington, North Carolina, Hannah and Max marry, but maintain their separate houses although she spends many nights at his. Her two friends Grace and Amelia who share a farmhouse with Hannah are fine with the arrangement, as is Max.

However, their marital bliss abruptly ends when Max's estranged son Zachary accompanied by his pregnant wife Sarina, arrives from India. Hannah and her two best buddies welcome Sarina to the Tar Heel State with friendship and quickly the mother-daughter in-laws forge a strong bond while baby shopping in town together. However, the schism between their husbands remains wider than the Great Gorge even after Sarah is born, which dampens the joy of a newborn

Fans of the Covington tales will enjoy the latest escapades as Hannah's new family issues take center stage although plenty happens to Grace and Amelia too. Hannah worries that the estrangement between her beloved husband and his son, which already huts the pair, will cause pain to others, but is unsure how to proceed to bringing about a reconciliation. Obviously for the Covington audience, this is a warm character driven entry; as all the novels are.

Whisper No Lies
Cindy Gerard
Pocket Books
9781416566755, $6.99

On the Vegas Strip, Crystal Debrowski works security at Bali Hai Casino. Her job is made harder because as her friend Abbie Hughes Lang puts it she is a "man magnet" due to her looks although she rejects all offers. Her latest admirer Yao Long refuses to accept her declination of a sexual encounter. The Asian crime lord pulls strings, which leads to Crystal's arrest based on her employer accusing her of stealing by substituting counterfeit chips and other security glitches; all occurring during her shifts as security game manager; Yao pays her bail.

Abbie knows Crystal is innocent and asks her spouse Sam and his cronies at Black Ops Inc (see TAKE NO PRISONERS) to help her friend. Before he can react, Yao's goons abduct Crystal taking her to his base in Jakarta. BOI agents led by before Texan Johnny Duane Reed mount a rescue. As they learn of Yao's human trafficking to include the apparent sale of an American general's daughter, Yao as belied by his Komodo dragon heart belief vows a fiery vengeance on those who affronted his honor.

This action-packed BOI romantic suspense thriller focuses on the entire amoral supply and demand of human trafficking as sexual slaves are a high selling commodity more than even the romance subplot. The story line is fast-paced from the onset while the key cast is fully developed. Especially interesting is Yao who believes strongly in his dragon heart that regular humans are inferior cattle to him. WHISPER NO LIES is a strong entry with a powerful deep focus on a currently thriving even with bad global economy abomination.

In the Blood
Adrian Phoenix
Pocket Books
9781416541455, $15.00

In New Orleans, vampire rock star Dante Baptiste used his music to save the life of FBI agent Heather Wallace (see A RUSH OF WINGS). However soon afterward, the Nightkind rocker learns a shocker about his origins. Besides being a True Blood born vampire, his father is Lucien a fallen angel.

Lucien DeNoir realizes his Fallen brethren probably heard the song played by his son and his band when he saved the Fed; and like him they also realize a new creawdwr was born. His theory proves right as the Fallen ones meet in Gehenna, believing their savior has arrived. Lucien knows who the Fallen believe the savior is and is willing to die to keep that person safe from his peers.

In Seattle, Dante and his band the Inferno are performing. Heather, who realizes her beloved FBI is corrupt and evil, is also in town. In the meantime a deep covert government agency wants to kill Dante and Heather as part of their plan to eliminate anyone associated with Project Bad Seed while someone else plans to use the rocker with his feet in two realms as an expendable pawn for avenging a seemingly eternal affront.

IN THE BLOOD continues the saga of Dante and Heather and though they have left the south for the northwest, the atmosphere remains dark and gloomy. Betrayal is the norm as the lead pair learns no one has your back because everyone has an agenda whether they are Fallen, Nightkind, Feds, or others. With multiple layers involving various support groups focused mostly on the brooding Dante, he and Heather struggles to survive in Adrian Phoenix's extremely complex well written urban fantasy world.

Delia's Heart
V.C. Andrews
Pocket Books
1416530851, $7.99

After living in the United States for a few years (see DELIA'S CROSSING), poor Mexican girl Delia Yebarra still feels like a stranger in a strange land. She returned to her homeland briefly with Ignacio Davila after his role on the death of the person who raped Delia was known by everyone. Everyone but his family and Delia thinks he is dead and Ignacio wanted Delia to return to her Aunt Isabelle's Palm Springs estate. Isabelle believes her niece is an impoverished wetback, whom she treats like a servant rather than a relative. Her son Edward blackmails his mom into giving Isabella similar opportunities as his sister Sophie has.

Sophie hates Delia while is also jealous of as important people seem to always defend her. She tries to destroy her cousin by telling her mom lies and spreading rumors that Delia cannot disprove. When Adam Bovio starts paying attention to Delia, Isabella is thrilled because his family is rich high society starting with his father running for senator. Outraged and envious Sophie vows to send Delia back to Mexico anyway she can.

The lifestyle of the children of the wealthy prominent high society families come across as vapid, causing trouble a mainstay to keep the ennui abated. Delia lived a simple life in Mexico so has major adjustments to being part of the rich and famous crowd while also wondering if she is running from her roots. Readers will admire and like this conflicted person and hope she finds what she wants. Her female cousin and aunt are over the top of the Sierras as villainesses and the story line somewhat mirrors the first tale; yet fans of V.C. Andrews will enjoy this fine entry and look forward to the next Delia Cinderella like story.

Master of Torment
Karin Tabke
Pocket Books
9781416555032, $6.99

In 1067 Saxon King Harold's niece Tarian of Dunlac believes a woman should have a say in who she should marry. Good with swords, she forces a man to marry her with her sword at his throat. Soon after her sharp nuptials, she becomes a widow.

When she is abducted by a brigand who tries to make her marry him, she refuses even under the threat of torture. Norman knight Wulfson de Trevelyn rescues her, but also knows his liege William the Conqueror has assigned him to kill all of Harold's surviving relatives. However, he cannot murder Tarian, whose courage and caustic tongue excites him. Tarian drugs Wulfson and takes him to her bed hoping to become pregnant so she can lie by claiming her child has come from her late husband's seed and not the Norman. As they fall in love, Wulfson risks his neck to keep Tarian safe from Normans, Saxons and Welshmen, but also does not trust his beloved.

Although the theme of a Saxon royal and a Norman knight fighting and falling love is a commonly used historical premise, Karin Tabke refreshes her Conqueror romance with the twist of the pregnancy ploy. Fans will enjoy the gender war between Tarian and Wulfson as each finds their taboo love testing their natural loyalties. Ms. Tabke provides medieval fans with a strong historical romance.

Wicked is the Night
Catherine Mulvaney
Pocket Books
1416525580, $6.99

Racing car driver Patrick "Trick Granger is fortunate to be alive even though his career is over because he injured his knee. He and his assistant Marcello Bellini are driving from Tahoe to Placerville where he recently inherited a home that was once a brothel and is now haunted by nineteenth century hooker turned ghost Blanche.

Nevada White knows two men are after her since she escaped from the Appleton Institute. When a trucker tosses her from his van, Trick notices and gets Marcello to rescue her. She is upset as she lost a gold amulet; her only item from her mom, whoever she was. Nevada has some psychic skills, but they are not helping her remember.

They stop at a truck stop and she leaves them. When she sees the two thugs pursuing her at truck stop, she sneaks back into Trick's car. Trick finds the man who deserted Nevada on the road dead with tons of blood everywhere. Trick and Marcello continue their drive, but are stopped by Detectives Branson and Collier who insist they are looking for an escaped killer who murdered her father. Trick sends them towards Sacramento as he refuses to believe Nevada is a killer. Over the next few days he tries to protect her, he knows someone wants her dead, but not whom; as they struggle to figure out just who is Nevada White.

The relationship between the lead couple is terrific as they are attracted to one another, but her lack of a past makes her hesitate to trust anyone. Critical to the strong paranormal romantic suspense plot are vampires seems real; especially how messy they can be when they dine on humans. Although not enough explanation on the Appleton Research Facility is provided and for someone with a bad knee, Trick gets around rather easily, sub-genre readers will relish this fine thriller.

Fish Out of Water
MaryJanice Davidson
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780515145496, $7.99,

Life used to be simpler for grumpy Boston Aquarium expert Fredrika "Fred" Bimm. That all changed when the Undersea Folks came out of the oceanic closets to reveal themselves to the surface dwellers in an effort to reduce ocean pollution. Fred has feet and tail in both worlds.

Underwater King Mekkam has hired Fred as his public relations consultant with the land humans, a job she tolerates though she is media phobic. Meanwhile Prince Artur continues his pursuit of her, wanting her to announce their engagement although she has not quite agreed to marry him. Human Dr. Thomas Pearson also wants Fred and does not hide his affection for the half breed. However, Fred is worried as the Undersea Folk are starting to vanish for no apparent cause and her biological merman father Farrem, exiled for a failed coup attempt, has suddenly entered her life; making her wonder if he using her to take the throne.

The third Fred the half-breed mermaid tale (see MAKING WAVES and SWIMMING WITHOUT A NET) is the usual zany comedic romantic fantasy that MaryJanice Davidson is renowned for consistently writing. The story line is action-packed on land and under the sea. Fred remains the crank queen of both worlds out grouching Oscar, but this time has a cause for her irritability as she now knows who she gets it from as her biological father threatens her two worlds. Fans will enjoy this fine entry while wondering whether Fred will select Artur, Thomas, or neither; going in neither is the heavy favorite.

Murder Game
Christine Feehan
9780515145809, $7.99

Tansy Meadows knows her psychic gift is a two edged sword as has used it to help the police track down murderers especially serial killers, but also has left her alone as even a simple handshake causes problems. Recently injured on a climb, she told authorities she lost her skill. FBI GhostWalker Kadan Montague had heard of her when he was training at Quantico and she was a teen. Now he needs her ability to locate serial killers playing a coastal deadly competitive game in which he believes a ghost walker is involved; perhaps two of them one on each side.

He finds her sleeping naked in an isolated field. When he grabs her, she is shocked her mental skills to cause pain fail her. Reluctantly Tansy agrees to assist him in ending the lethal competition although she hides her bet with herself that she will not come out of this one sane.

This is a refreshing Ghost Walker entry due to the lead couple and their telepathic romance and the killing teams with their apparently paranormal specialists in spite of The MURDER GAME concept not being new (see Barton's DYING GAME). The story line cleverly compares the growing love between Kadan and Tansy and the horrific violent homicidal hunts. With the return of couples from previous tales in the saga, fans will enjoy this strong thriller while wondering whether ghost hunters lead the predators and will Kadan say those three words to Tansy; assuming they survive the game they entered not meaning to be the prey.

Hold My Hand
Serena Mackesy
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
1569475334, $25.00,

Knowing first hand how violent her former husband is and how undependable he can be even in terms of caring for their daughter Yasmin, Bridget Sweeny needs a job somewhere safe. Thus she thinks it is God sent when she is hired as the caretaker at the Hotel Rospetroc, a Cornish converted manor. Bridget and Yasmin waste no time in fleeing London and the abuser for the Cornish coast.

At Rospetroc, the Sweeny females receive a cold welcoming from the Blakemore family who own and reside at the hotel. Bridget and Yasmin meet sad nine year old Lily Rickett a ghost haunting the manor house. Lily tells the Londoners that she was evacuated from London during the WWII bombings only to be terrorized at Rospetroc by the mistress before vanishing; she owes the Blakemore brood and by employment extensions Bridget and Yasmin.

The atmosphere enhances a strong ghost story in which a little girl abused and discarded six plus decades ago, seeks vengeance from the descendants of her predator and those who work for that family. Lily makes the story line work because readers will believe in angry spirits haunting a manor house. Although the ending seems improbable (ironic to state that since this is a ghost tale), fans will relish Serena Mackesy's terrific paranormal thriller as Bridget feels she jumped from the frying pan into the fire, but has no alternate leap to make.

Breach Of Trust
DiAnn Mills
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414320472, $12.99,

Running as an independent conservative, former CIA operative Daniel Keary appears heading to victory as the Governor of Oklahoma. In Split Creek, Oklahoma lives former agent Mikaela Olsson under the guise of librarian Paige Rogers; Daniel's henchmen placed her there with the warning to remain silent or her Wisconsin parents will die.

Split Creek High School football coach Miles Laird has fallen in love with Paige who rejects his requests for a date. She is attracted to the caring but tough coach, but she is a realist as she knows she has no future as long as Keary is lurking. As the coach has a quarterback controversy caused by a player's rabid father who is on the school board, CIA agent Palmer pleads with Mikaela to help him bring down Keary before he is elected as doing it after would cause international damage to the country. He believes Keary killed his CIA teammates on the Angola mission in 2002 that Mikaela was fortunate to have survived with major leg damage and that he now is dealing illegally and deadly African oil. When Keary tries to bully Mikaela to join his election team, she prays to God for guidance before informing Palmer she will bring the deadly traitor down.

This fast-paced character driven thriller answers the question whether a CIA field operative expected to do all sorts of Ten Commandment sins can believe in God outside of a foxhole or being a fundamentalist claiming divine right. The story line focuses on Mikaela as Paige struggling with her failure to bring down the traitorous snake who has White House ambitions. She turns to God for solace and guidance even understanding that her Father works in mysterious ways as one woman's treasure is another's sacrifice. Although a mole in Split Creek fails to come across as a Keary undercover agent, fans will fully enjoy this strong tale as DiAnn Mills answers her fascinating question re God and the CIA. Readers who enjoy the works of Dee Henderson, especially her O'Malley series will love BREACH of TRUST

Apocalypse Unleashed
Mel Odom
Tyndale House Publishers
1414316364, $14.99

In the not too distant future, one third of the world's population disappeared including all children under the age of thirteen; US Army First Sergeant "Goose" Gander's son was one who vanished. Goose is with his Rangers unit in the Mideast trying to prevent Syria from conquering Turkey. The Syrians are making deep inroads as Captain Cal Remington and his squad cannot repel the invaders.

While protecting a supply train, he notices a fire and goes inside to rescue the two teens trapped. The convoy gets ambushed because the fire was a deliberate distraction. Goose gets the men to safety, but afterward Remington places him under house arrest. That is short lived as the Syrians arrive; Goose breaks out to help in the evacuation. However, he and two other men fall behind enemy lines with assassins everywhere targeting Goose while the enemy methodically tightens its noose.

This is the long awaited final tale in the Apocalypse Left Behind Military saga (see APOCALYPSE DAWN, APOCALYPSE CRUCIBLE and APOCALYPSE BURNING); fans will feel the trial and tribulations of waiting worth the time as APOCALYPSE UNLEASHED is an enthralling pulse pumping tale. Besides Goose looking cooked, his wife Meg at Fort Bragg and other dependents of the entrapped Rangers establish a support group. Readers will learn what the CIA knows and does, and what Carpathian plans and also who obsesses over killing the hero and why. Fans will relish the tribulations military sidebar quartet as Goose running on empty is out of time.

Fireflies in December
Jennifer Erin Valent
Tyndale House Publishers
1414324324, $12.99

In 1932 in Southern Virginia just turned thirteen years old Jessilyn Lester has her theory confirmed that bad things happen in the summer. When she was five her Granny Rose died; when she was seven her dog Skippy ran away; when she was eleven the drought killed the corn crop. However, the worst has just occurred when the parents of her best friend Gemma die in a fire.

Her Christian caring parents bring Gemma into their household with Jessilyn's dad vowing to the Lord he will raise the grieving child as if she was his biological daughter. However, the "unholy" actions of the Lester family disturb the townsfolk as they are white and Gemma is black. The neighbors shun them and stare at them with loathing in their eyes as if they are the devil. As the locals continue their insidious campaign of scorn and demand de jure segregation laws be enforced between the races, the Ku Klux Klan learns of the white family nurturing with love an inferior race child. They bring their brand of violence to town as hatred grows towards the family and their newcomer with the courageous patriarch refusing to bow to the dangerous pressure as he knows he has the Lord on his side for doing the right thing.

This is an incredible Depression Era historical tale that provides insight into overt racism especially the effect on the innocence of the young. Readers will admire Mr. Lester for taking his stand though he would scoff at us insisting he only did the Christian thing. The two young females are fascinating protagonists as each is a recipient of hatred and outrage. Whereas Gemma has previously tasted this before, this is new to Jessilyn who questions her dad's wisdom as she becomes a pariah. Fans will enjoy this deep 1930s small Southern town saga in which ironically de facto segregation is more important to the well-being of the locals than the impoverished economy.

Blood Lines
Mel Odom
Tyndale House Publishers
1414316356, $13.99

During a fugitive recovery op in Charlotte, Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Agent Marine Gunnery Sargent Shelton "Shel" McHenry is shot trying to make the arrest while the alleged criminal Bobby Lee Gant is killed. However, there are consequences to his use of deadly force. The father of the deceased, three tours of Viet Nam ground pounder veteran Victor Gant, leader of the violent weapons and meth peddling Purple Dragons bike gang, vows the grunt who murdered his son will pay in blood. Ironically Victor served with Shel's dad decades ago in Vietnam. The FBI who is investigating Victor sees an opportunity by using Shel and his family as bait.

NCIS Commander Will Coburn believes strongly in taking care of your team. He and the unit have Shel's back when attacks occur. They also want to protect Shel's family, an easier target to bring down his morale. As death stalks Shel, he goes back to the day he lost faith in God; the day he buried his beloved mother. He prays for the first time since that day, but not for him; he asks God to protect his family back in Texas while also wondering if he believes in the Lord or is this foxhole mentality.

This is an action-packed NCIS thriller that goes a bit over the top of Camp Lejeune, but no one will care as the fast-paced story line grips readers from the opening basketball game through the revealing of Texas secrets to the final confrontation. The key cast is fully developed especially Shel who turns to God and even pleads with his daddy to try it. Fans will appreciate Mel Odom's exhilarating inspirational tale.

Blown Coverage
Jason Elam & Steve Yohn
Tyndale House Publishers
9781414317328, $13.95

Professional Football League (PTL) Colorado Mustangs linebacker player Riley Covington looks forward to the NFL mini-camp season though he knows that the drills are much worse than boot camp. However, he also recognizes football is a game albeit even with billions of dollars involved after spending a military tour in Afghanistan and confronting terrorists in the United States (see MONDAY NIGHT JIHAD).

However, Riley has to put aside his football helmet and pads for the dangerous mission of the Counterterrorism Division when al-'Aqran the lethal brilliant leader of the Cause escapes incarceration and activates sleeper cells in America and Europe. As the threat goes red, Riley realizes he and his CD unit are part of the enemy's coordinated concerted effort to stop any defensive counter attack by targeting personnel and their family members with a keen fatwa as well as hitting key locations. The free world is under a severe blitz in which the deadly Jihadists look to exploit any BLOWN COVERAGE to sack the infidels; Riley prays for the safety of his loved ones, his teammates, and others while placing himself in God's care to counter the terrorists' assaults at a time he has doubts since a personal tragedy struck his soul.

As with the exciting first tale, readers see deep into the soul of the Cause leader who believes he and his team have God on their side just like the Americans; in fact the Muslims are even more certain as Riley in spite of his prayers has some major doubts. The story line is fast-paced never slowing down yet enables fans to better understand what motivates a Jihadist as the terrorists are humanized by Jason Elam & Steve Yohn, who score their second game winning touchdown with BLOWN COVERAGE.

Black Cathedral
L.H. Maynard & M.P.N. Sims
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843961997, $7.99,

The British government subsidizes Department 18, a special unit dealing with bona fide supernatural and paranormal activities. Robert Carter a powerful psychic and medium, along with Sian are sent to a home in an English suburb to investigate what has reported poltergeist calamities. From the time they enter the house they realize they are dealing with something much more evil. Carter sends Sian to the car and locks the door but the monster beetles in the walls get inside and leave no trace she was even in the car.

Robert is suspended, but his superior pushes to bring him back to active duty so he can join the group heading to Kulsay Island off the Scottish coast. A group of middle managers sent by their influential corporation to work together as a team on the island have vanished without a trace; sixty years ago the islanders also disappeared. A helicopter arrives on the island seeking survivors, but sinks into the ground. Carter and his group arrive next and immediately sense the malevolence that permeates the island; that evil prepares to attack the latest intruders.

L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims once again write a scary horror story that will frighten the audience into leaving all lights on. There is plenty of action with unexpected twists to shake readers from any complacency they might feel. The protagonist is also shaken by the disappearance of Sian and believes there is a link between the two incidents. Robert is hero in spite of himself as he courageously goes about his investigation into otherworldly activities on the mortal plain.

Wanted: The Texan
Bobbi Smith
Leisure Books
0843958510, $7.99

In the 1860s bounty hunter Josh Grady decides the time to retire is now after a shootout with two killers left him wounded. He decides to buy in as a junior partner at a ranch and is grateful when Mr. Ryan allows him to do so and work at the Rocking R Ranch in Shotgun, Texas.

When his partner dies, his Philadelphia raised daughter Emmie Ryan inherits. She immediately heads to Texas to run the spread though her experience is limited to summers. Emmie is shocked to learn her late dad had a new partner whom she detests as much as she wants to kiss him. As they fall in love, Josh is declared an outlaw with bounty hunters and a killer going after him with the preference being him dead. He takes a stand alone only to have his obstinate beloved insist she has his back.

This is an engaging western romance starring two likable lead characters with opposite backgrounds that make them an unlikely couple. Although the somewhat thin plot of a prim city miss and a rough westerner falling in love has been used many times, fans will enjoy tough Emmie the Philadelphia lioness refusing to allow her Texan to fight alone. Bobbi Smith provides an engaging Civil War era romance.

The Silver Queen
Jane Candia Coleman
Leisure Books
0843961058, $7.99

In the late 1850s Augusta Pierce and Horace "Haw" Tabor marry and leave Maine for the "Bleeding" Kansas Territory. Soon afterward gold is rumored to have been found in the Rockies so Haw with his wife join the "Fifty-Niners" heading to West Kansas Territory. For the next two decades the flexible Tabors make a living in various jobs amongst the silver-mining towns. When they were short cash, Augusta worked the mines alongside Haw; they were a team.

When they finally become the wealthiest couple in the Colorado Territory as Western Kansas is now called, Augusta remains thrifty as she remembers the bad times. On the other hand Haw relishes his affluence flaunting his nouveau riche status and becoming a successful politician. When he meets Elizabeth "Baby Doe" McCourt, he dumps Augusta. Once their divorce is final he marries "Baby Doe". Augusta knows her soul mate dropped her, but she never quits on life; thriving without her Haw at her side.

This is a superb biographical fiction that focuses on the lives of three intriguing individuals who were major regional figures in the latter half of the nineteenth century in Colorado. The prime focus is actually on THE SILVER QUEEN, Augusta; however because much of what occurs happens with Haw and later with Baby Doe, the story line provides a deep look at their triangle. Fans will appreciate this superb Americana as Jane Candia Coleman writes an insightful look at three strong obstinate people.

Desert Prince
Constance O'Banyon
Leisure Books
0843960078, $7.99

In 30 BC, the Romans have consolidated their control of Egypt, whose ruler Queen Cleopatra lies dead with her lover Marcus Anthony. In that environs, Cleopatra's blood relatives flee the country. Badari tribal Prince Julian is in self imposed exile on the island of Bal Forea where he learns to be a warrior and waits for his chance to return home. He especially owes his life to a friend young Sabinah, daughter of a goldsmith, who helped him escape.

When the chance comes for his return to Egypt finally occurs, the exiled DESERT PRINCE jumps at it. Sabinah risks her life again to provide him with information about a treacherous plot involving her ambitious stepmother. Julian risks his life and position to protect the girl he always respected but is now the woman he loves while also trying to keep his beloved country safe from rabble-rousers who will bring the might of Rome on the innocent if allowed.

The latest Constance O'Banyon exhilarating ancient Egypt romance (see LORD OF THE NILE and PRICE OF ROME) is an excellent tale that showcases how the Egyptians especially the royalty survived or died under Roman rule. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Julian returns home from his exile and never slows down. Yet with plenty of action, readers will feel they are crossing the Sahara and the Nile while visiting Alexandria. Fans will fully enjoy the saga of the loving lead couple who understand keeping Egyptians safe is their mission.

Pamela Clare
Leisure Books
0843954892, $7.99

In 1757 Frenchwoman Amalie Chauvenet becomes an orphan due to a daring raid by the notorious British militia MacKinnon's Rangers near Fort Ticonderoga. However, the legendary Morgan MacKinnon is injured in the battle and captured by his enemy, the French and their Indian allies the Abenaki.

Amalie who loathes MacKinnon, sight unseen, is shocked when she is assigned to nurse him back to health especially since Brigadier de Bourlamaque plans to allow his Abenaki friends to torture Morgan. Even more stunning to the gentle Frenchwoman is he is far from the brutal berserker she expected; instead he is grateful for her care and remorseful for killing her kin. Morgan is attracted to Amalie, but pretends to switch allegiance from the English to the French. When Amalie realizes he lied, she wants nothing to do with him; instead she is married to him. Before they can figure out what to do next, Morgan and Amalie are on the run with the French, the English, the Indians and his two brothers in pursuit.

The second Mackinnon French and Indian war romance (see SURRENDER) is a great tale due to the interweaving of historical tidbits into the story line including the fact that some of the colonists already resented the English military almost two decades before the Revolution. The story line is action-paced but owned by the fleeing lead couple and the historical backdrop that makes this clearly must reading for Colonial America romance fans.

Jake's Wake
John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow
Leisure Books
9780843960761, $7.99

Jacob "Jake" Connaway is a televangelist whose show has attracted a cult following as has his Church of Everlasting Life. He comes across as a sincere believer interested in saving souls. However, the truth is he is evil as he is into white slavery, adultery, pyramid schemes and other crimes and transgressions. His latest salvation occurs when he scores with Sugarplum whose boyfriend kills Jake.

Three days later after his funeral service as his corpse is about to enter the crematorium, Jake arises from the dead. He and his friend Gray, a stone cold killer, go to his home where he finds his widow Esther, his whore Evangeline, and his acolyte Emmy talking. Esther frantically wants to know what Jake did with their money that he took from his church as she needs it to keep her home from being repossessed. Jake and Gray enter his abode to begin sadistic games and those tring to stop him do not know how to kill a dead man.

JAKE'S WAKE is a combination slasher rise from the dead horror thriller filled with gore. There are an over abundance of killer scenes told in vividly red detail, but the nightmare to everyone except Jake and Gray is the lack of understanding of why he was resurrected. Fans of Brian Keenee will appreciate this dark tale as God works in mysterious ways with the exciting Jake's awakening serving as proof.

Dancing with the Devil
Laura Drewry
Leisure Books
0843960493, $6.99

In 1882 after a decade being away from home, Deacon returns to Penance, Texas, to atone for the sin of abandoning the woman he loved. He owes his beloved Rhea an explanation and more. However, his greeting by Rhea is harsher than he expected and used to violence from his outlaw family he anticipated what he thought would be the worst thing to ever happen to him. Instead no wrath matches that of a scorned woman as she shoots him.

Rhea feels guilty that she allowed her temper to ignite. She takes him into her home to nurse him back to health. Deacon is thankful that he has time to prove to Rhea that he loves her and will not leave her again. She has doubts but takes a second chance on love until his sister arrives to persuade him to return to the family's outlawing ways

DANCING WITH THE DEVIL is a fun late nineteenth century western romance starring a man with outlaw DNA and the woman who loves him but doubts his sincerity as she believes his blood is thicker than their relationship. Readers will appreciate this fine second chance gender war as Deacon tries to prove her wrong but despairs he can as Rhea knows men like him leave. When his family arrives to bring the "back" sheep back into their outlawing ways, even fans will wonder whether he will go with them. This is an engaging character driven western romance.

Mayhem in High Heels
Gemma Halliday
Dorchester Making It,
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843961096, $7.99,

Los Angeles Homicide Detective Jack Ramirez and shoe designer Maddie Springer were in Paris causing the usual MAYHEM IN HIGH HEELS (see ALIBI IN HIGH HEELS) when he proposed and she accepted. Maddie expected nuptial problems from her mom, but did not anticipate wanting to name a hemorrhoid after her. Mom wants to invite half the planet including people neither Maddie nor mom have spoken with in the last decade or so.

To keep the ceremony under control and not need the Coliseum, Maddie hires wedding planner Gigi Van Doren to take care of the gala, but especially to run interference with her mom. Maddie and Jack arrive to test taste their wedding cake in Gigi's Beverly Hills studio; only instead of a sweet and a planner they find a corpse. Someone stabbed Gigi in the back leaving her face buried in the butter cream frosting. Maddie's friends Dana and Marco replace Gigi as the planners while Jack leads the official investigation into the murder. Maddie knows when he works a case he has tunnel vision so to insure he makes it to the ceremony, if for no other reason than not having to explain otherwise to the mother of the bride from hell, she decides to solve the case assisted by her new wedding planners.

The fifth "High Heels' amateur sleuth tale ( see ALIBI IN HIGH HEELS , KILLER IN HIGH HEELS, SPYING IN HIGH HEELS and UNDERCOVER IN HIGH HEELS) is the usual madcap amusing investigation. As always Maddie's chick lit big mouth manages to get her into trouble with the cops. However, much of the amusing asides come from mom who wants her daughter's nuptial to be the wedding of the century rivaling last century's biggest one, Luke and Laura. Although the usual dueling homicide investigations (amateur and professional) are a bit thin, fans of the series will enjoy the latest hilarious "High Heels" hi-jinx.

The Devil To Pay
Michele Hauf
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373618026, $5.25,

His parents, a vampire and a witch, sold his soul as an indentured servant to the devil before he was born in return for favors. When he turned twenty-one, the devil collected his due in Minneapolis. Since then the half-breed Ivan Drake has been at the beck and call of his owner, doing whatever mischief the devil demands of him. He has no hope of ever being liberated; as a realist he understands that a contract with the devil means being a slave for eternity; even in death he would be the devil's minion for all the transgressions he committed or will perform.

His current assignment is to retrieve the legendary Grand Grimoire, a tome that includes every known spell. When Ivan meets witch Desideriel "Dez" Merovech, he is shock as he is attracted to her; he has never felt such a deep need and affinity to anyone before, not even his sell his soul parents. He begins to dream that his Dez might not only help him regain his soul, but also extract him from the devil's deal.

This is a terrific romantic spin to the Faustian deal as Dez gives Ivan a reason to not just live, but to live with love, but he believes to do he must reclaim his soul. With a wonderful twists and a strong cast, Michel Hauf's terrific urban romantic fantasy will have readers demanding more tales from Twin Cities' witch-vampire war.

Alpha Wolf
Linda O. Johnston
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373618026, $5.25

In Mary Glen on Maryland's Eastern Shore, veterinarian Melanie Harding knows she has come a long way from Beverly Hills, but learns how far she has traveled the hard way when performing a good deed leads to punishment. However, she also knows she would do it again in spite of the danger to herself from being a Good Samaritan saving the life of a dog someone shot with a silver bullet.

A fervent anti-werewolf group is outraged by what the vet did. Melanie is bewildered by their hostility as everyone knows there is no such thing as werewolves except in novels and movies. The dog's grateful owner US Army Major Drew Connell and Melanie begin to see one another. As their attraction grows, Melanie begins to see indications that there is substance behind the legend of shapeshifters.

Melanie makes this werewolf romance a fun read as her beliefs change over the course of the fine story line. She converts from her initial shock that the locals believe in a supernatural creature until she begins to accept a pack of real Lon Cheney werewolves and falls in love with one of them. Although the werewolf community lacks cultural insight and overall substance beyond the hate of the purebred humans, sub-genre fans will enjoy the story of the vet and the vet falling in love.

Darci's Pride
Jenna Mills
Silhouette Thoroughbred Legacy
9780373199341, $4.99

Tyler Preston's dream of retuning his Lochlain Racing to its former glory has turned into a nightmare. He and his stable have been caught up in a thoroughbred doping scandal; leaving the reputations of both shattered.

Meanwhile his former lover, Darci Parnell manages the campaign for the International Thoroughbred Racing Federation presidency of Tyler's cousin Andrew. The sure shot has been damaged by Andrew's blood relationship to scandalized Tyler, cleverly used by opponent Jacko Bullock. Darci is in town for damage control. Still attracted to one another, an arson's fire in a barn kills a hand and placed the stable's top horse in danger. As Darci and Tyler work together to uncover who wants him destroyed, neither trusts the other with their heart.

DARCI'S PRIDE is a terrific "special edition" of the Thoroughbred Legacy saga due to the lead couple. They were lovers whose relationship died a few years ago on the same night his stable almost perished; now they must trust one another to uncover the truth, but both holds the other culpable for what happened between them. Jenna Mills provides a strong character driven horse racing romance.

An Indecent Proposal
Margot Early
Silhouette Thoroughbred Legacy
9780373199365, $4.99

Widow Bronwyn Davies hid from her former lover stockbroker Patrick Stafford that he sired a son with her. However, she feels she made a mistake and decides to inform him that he is ten years old Wesley's dad especially since she is looking for work at his family stable.

She applies for a job at Fairchild Acres, owned by Patrick's great-aunt. Although a decade has past since they last saw one another Patrick steals a kiss and accuses her of sleazy conduct as evidenced by Wesley. Outraged she informs him that he is Wesley's father. Stunned he demands she grant him joint custody or see him in court. Neither trusts the other, but though not intended they each hurt a confused Wesley with their behavior.

Wesley steals the show from the bickering adults as he (and readers) is bewildered by their baffling childish behavior as much as his confusion over meeting his biological father somewhat unnerves him. The second chance at love romance never hooks the reader because Bronwyn and Patrick place their respective hurt before the preadolescent. The perplexed tweener needs honesty and tender loving care from his parents to help him emotionally cope with the abrupt relationship changes, but only receives that as an afterthought of the second chance reconciliation.

The Secret Heiress
Bethany Campbell
Silhouette Thoroughbred Legacy
9780373199372, $4.99

Andrew Preston travels to Australia to drum up support there in his race to become president of the International Thoroughbred Racing Federation. However, he runs into some trouble down under that derails his campaign.

At the same time he also meets waitress Marie Lafayette whom he is attracted to. He is stunned when their relationship becomes an issue in the election as his opponent indirectly uses her working class background as a means to paint Andrew negatively. Andrew worries about Marie's safety as he believes his adversary is willing to do anything, including harming an innocent waitress, to become the next president. However, she has a secret too as her mom on her deathbed revealed that Marie might be the missing heiress to Fairchild Acres

THE SECRET HEIRESS is an intriguing thriller in which the romance plays second fiddle to the tense suspense. Andrew and Marie are a wonderful pairing of opposites as he is a sophisticated affluent male and she is a naive working class female. The two prime subplots (his campaign and her secret) come together nicely enhanced by the romance between them as Bethany Campbell provides a strong Thoroughbred Legacy tale.

Breaking Free
Loreth Anne White
Silhouette Thoroughbred Legacy
9780373199358, $4.99

Aunt Louisa Fairchild and her niece corporate lawyer Megan Stafford were estranged for a long time, but finally reconcile; both are pleased as their disagreement hurt the two relatives. However, Megan is stunned when local Aussie police officer Dylan Hastings arrests Louisa for the arson murder at Lochlain Racing (see DARCI'S PRIDE).

Perhaps it is the accusation, but Louisa suffers a heart attack that hospitalizes her. Megan vows to prove her aunt is innocent. However complicating her emotional state is her attraction to the enemy, Dylan, who feels the same way of about the big city slicker as he too wants his adversary.

This Australian romantic legal-police procedural thriller is an entertaining tale as the urban attorney and the country cop mutually detest their attraction because the other represents every trait they hate in a person; proving love works in mysterious ways. The story line is fascinating as the lead couple argues over whether her aunt is an arsonist killer or not. However, the romance never fully comes across as plausible since the lead couple abruptly and very late breaks free of their stereotypical depiction of their beloved.

Darkscape: The Rebel Lord
R. Garland Gray
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781933836485, $7.95,

In 3210 the solar system peace between the clans is fragile. Many pray that the upcoming peace conference will strengthen those wanting cooperation rather than war. However, one of the attendees, Commander Lin Jacob Rama leads an attack on Clan Douglas on Ceres. He takes Lachlan de Douglas, heir to the clan, prisoner.

Combat pilot Lieutenant Kimberly Kinsdale worries that madness is taking over her commander's mind. She fears the assault and abduction of Lachlan will lead to clan warfare. Her only hope to prevent what seems like Rama's deliberate sabotage of the peace conference is to rescue Lachlan, which she succeeds in doing though she is branded a traitor and deserter. As the two warriors try to expose a deadly conspiracy that has the planetary clans at war, they fall in love, but saving humanity remains the prime directive.

The premise behind the Darkscape tales is simply placing pre-Culloden Scotland in outer space; thus clan wars are all over the solar system and where they are not, hostilities are one incident away from exploding. Kimberly is a remarkable protagonist struggling between performing her duty by doing the ethically correct thing vs. loyalty to her superior officer and her clan by obeying orders. Her dilemma makes the early segment of the story line very appealing while the rest of the tale continues that strong ethical exciting start. For instance, Lachlan is terrific in the co-lead role as he must sacrifice his personal quest for vengeance for the better good of all the clans. Together they make quite a force though the enemy seems quite insurmountable. R. Garland Gray provides readers with a superior stimulating space opera.

Kiss of a Traitor
Kat Linder
Medallion Press
9781933836515, $6.95

In South Carolina, zealous Tory Wilhelmina Bellingham opposes the War of Independence siding with the British against the colonists. Believing she must act and knows the swamps as well as any person or fox, Willa decides to capture General Francis Marion. She also wants her marriage to Lord Aidan Sinclair, whom she has never met annulled. Willa assumes the former will prove easier to achieve.

When Sinclair dies in battle, rebel Captain Brendan Ford takes on his late half brother's identity so that he can spy on the British. This also means he must court his sibling's widow, but finds her to be quite a handful in spite of her being tinier than a wren. As he seduces Willa to win her to his cause Brendan is stunned with the change in his feelings towards the true blood Tory. Whereas he could not wait to end the masquerade and escape her, he finds he is in love, but fears she reciprocates his feelings except hers is for a dead man.

This is a terrific Revolutionary War romance that emphasizes a large segment of the colonists opposed the revolt supporting England instead. Thus, the divisiveness of the war serves as a wonderful backdrop to a fully developed lead couple who brings real meaning to the phase beloved enemy as their objectives clash. Although there is a cul de sac sidebar that feels like excess padding that never fits inside the story line, KISS OF A TRAITOR is a fabulous look at American Revolution through the loving eyes of two adversaries.

Spy Candy
Gina Robinson
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
1420104721, $3.99, 1-800-345-2665

Jenna Jarvis lives a perfectly sensible but boring life in Seattle. However for one week she looks forward to an espionage adventure in the cold; of course being sensible about her escapade Jenna heads to Fantasy Spy Camp in Arizona where she figures the only downturn of being a Bond female sidekick is the name. Thankfully she is Domino and not Honey, Pussy, Warmflash or Goodhead.

However, all fun and games turn realistically ugly as if someone truly wants Jenna, make that Domino, dead. The instructor, former CIA Agent Torq Toricelli tries to keep Miss Sensible safe even as he wants this wannabe Jane Bond under his covers with him while also trying to uncover what appears to be a spy ring using FSC as a cover.

This is a lighthearted espionage romantic suspense that uses trivia references to the Bond books and movies to enhance the fun. The story line is fast-paced with a sort of Bondian wink to the plot. Domino and Torq are a wonderful pairing as the audience learns what happens to a spy who comes in from the cold; he gets warm with his woman while teaming up to find enemy agents. Camp was never like this as Gina Robinson provides an enjoyable humorous suspense thriller with a perfect homage to Ian Fleming ending: "oh, James".

About a Dragon
G.A. Aiken
Zebra Books
1420103741, $6.99

For over a decade and a half, powerful Nolwenn witch Talaith has tolerated marriage in order to keep her beloved daughter Izzy safe from harm. The goddess Arzhela has held Izzy captive using her as a pawn to insure Talaith cooperates when the time is right to use the witch's skills; hence the marriage of convenience for her.

Were-dragon Briec the Mighty sees Talaith and decides he wants her sexually (not as a snack). When he rescues her from an angry mob, he expects gratitude and sex. Instead he receives constant verbal tiradea ripping his scales off. In fact her chatter is giving him a headache whether he is in human or dragon form. Talaith makes it abundantly clear no sex without rescuing her daughter although she silently keeps to herself she would not mind riding this steed. As they argue for who is on top, neither is aware there is a dangerous scenario coming their way, which could prove fatal to both of them and much of the realm.

Returning to the Dragon Kin fantasy realm (see DRAGON ACTUALLY), G.A. Aiken provides another engaging humorous medieval paranormal romantic thriller. The jocular story line is fast-paced from the moment Briec and Talaith define tongue exchange 180 degrees differently and never slows down from one verbal battle to another. However, even with the gender war on-going, there remains a critical subplot filled with action especially deadly battles. Although Zebra states ABOUT A DRAGON was previously published as THE DISTRESSING DAMSEL, sub-genre readers will enjoy the war of words between the dragon and the witch as the foreplay of a lethal background.

Final Justice
Fern Michaels
Zebra Books
9781420101881, $7.99

The Sisterhood seven looks forward to their presidential pardon and the end of their self-imposed exile in Europe as they did their part of the bargain (see COLLATERAL DAMAGE). However, the pardon is delayed for political reasons when the president selects Bert Navarro as the new FBI director. No one wants his alleged abetting the Sisterhood to become the focus of the Senate advice and consent hearings.

Instead Myra, Annie, Kathryn, Alexis, Yoko, Nikki, and Isabelle are working a scenario in Las Vegas as a favor to a friend Beatrice. Her estranged daughter Marble Rose is on a roll at the casinos, which means those in charge want it ended anyway possible including murder. The Sisters and their lawyer Lizzie investigate what looks preposterous at first, but soon that turns into a network of corruption in which the betting line in Vegas is all seven and their attorney will be shortly dead.

This is an exciting entry although the overarching story line of receiving the pardon and life afterward never moves forward; many fans of the saga will be disappointed in that. Still this is a solid tale as the magnificent seven struggles through layers of obfuscation that politicians would cherish. As they dig baby dig deeper, their adversary counterattacks. In spite of some disappointment in the overall saga moving forward at a glacier pace, readers will enjoy FINAL JUSTICE wondering whether our side will lose this time as the opposition seems so much more powerful.

To Seduce a Texan
Georgina Gentry
Zebra Books
9780821779923, $7.99

In 1864 Texan "Waco" McCain informs his three compadres that they are in deep trouble with the Confederacy and have been directed to travel to Prairie View, Kansas to rob the local bank and bring the loot back to the Texas rebel forces. However, their plan proves impossible as the town is loaded with Union soldiers. Instead, Waco adjusts the scheme to a ransom ploy by kidnapping the banker Godfrey St. John's stepdaughter, Rosemary Burke.

Rosemary is frightened, but vows to behave like the courageous heroines of the dime novels she reads. She knows her avaricious stepfather sees this as an opportunity to rid himself of a pesky, plump, plain pain in the butt since he has been unable to marry her to his thug of the moment. He needs her dead so he can own the bank. When Godfrey refuses to pay the outlaws, they lower the fee. Rosemary assumes they are morons, who fail to grasp her stepdad wants them to kill her. She revises her scheme to escape by seducing Waco and use him to reclaim her inheritance as his bride; Waco has no say in the matter even as he fears the Confederates will soon come for the four failed felons.

This amusing western romantic spin of the movie Ruthless People will have the audience laughing out loud with the antics of the heroine and the gang who can't think straight. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the townsfolk except for the banker welcome home Rosemary as a heroine while the four tall Texans arrive in a sea of blue. The relationship between Waco and Rosemary is deftly changing over the course of the abduction as he wonders just who is the captive while willingly risk his life to keep her alive. Georgina Gentry provides an amusing historical that will have readers in stitches as the ransom of Rosemary is a seductive winner.

Jacquelyn Frank
Zebra Books
9780821780701, $6.99

Ashla Townsend has been in a New York devoid of people and light with no idea how she got there or what happened to the sun. She is overjoyed to see another person, but her euphoria turns to abject fear when another man arrives trying to kill the first person. Both men are shocked that Ashla can see them because only Shadowdwellers are able to see one another. Trace kills Baylor, but is mortally injured; Ashla saves his life using her healing hands.

Trace assumes that Ashla must be one of the Lost, a wraith whose body is in a coma in Realscape. As a Shadowdweller Trace cannot cope with any form of light, but to remain only in the shadows typically leads to madness. Trace is further stunned that he has feelings for Ashla as she is the first woman in a dozen years he trusts,. He escorts Ashla to his people, but neither is safe there even though the clan wars ended with the Chancellors solidifying their power; some rebels want the peace broken with Ashla and Trace being perfect targets. She risks her life to heal Trace even while a traitor plots to kill both of them.

With her Demon series over, Jacquelyn Frank begins a new romantic urban fantasy saga that fans of the author will find radically different and refreshing. Readers will love this strong provocative and evocative tale that digs deep into the Shadowdweller society. Trace is honorable and yet caring about his people with an ironic emphasis on punishing rule-breakers. The sub-genre audience will be in ECSTASY with this superb thriller and look forward to more light and dark Shadowdweller entries.

Simply the Best
Shirley Jump
Zebra Books
142010036X, $5.99

For over two decades, Mack Douglas and Alexandra Kenner have been friends and neighbors. They are always there for one another, but neither shows any sexual inclination towards their pal. In fact Mack muses whether Alex even realizes he is not just one of the "girls" and likewise Alex ponders whether Mack knows she is one of the girls. When the reporter's house is under renovation, Mack invites her to stay in his; which she accepts at the same time she ends another losing relationship.

A confirmed bachelor, Mack finds himself fantasizing about sex with Alex. His upper head is embarrassed by his sexual musing, but the libido of his lower head is rock solid. Meanwhile Alex begins to realize she wants more than friendship with the contractor next door, but how to seduce the commitment wary Mack becomes her obsession even more than her career, which until she moved in was her number one goal.

SIMPLY THE BEST is a fine contemporary romance starring two best buddies falling in love with neither knowing how to proceed. The tale is fun to follow due to the wary antics of Mack and Alex as each covets the other, but hides as best they can their desire to change their relationship. This is simply a lighthearted When Harry Met Sally frolic.

The Lady Elizabeth
Alison Weir
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345495365, $15.00,

"The King's Daughter". Elizabeth Tudor is not quite three years old when her father King Henry beheads her mother his second wife Anne Boleyn. Thus with one stroke of the ax the child is demoted from Princess to lady. From that day until her sire dies, her life is in jeopardy.

"The King's Sister". A teen when her father dies, Elizabeth's fortune and safety improves when her brother King Edward ascends to the throne. She tries to protect her virtue from royal retinue rats, but overall feels safer than when her father lived.

"The Queen's Sister". In her early twenties when Edward dies, her sister devout Catholic Mary becomes the queen. Elizabeth being a protestant remains in more peril than when either of her male blood relatives ruled.

Alison Weir provides a refreshing biographical fiction; not an easy task as so much has been written and filmed re Queen Elizabeth I. The novel is broken into three parts all prior to Elizabeth sitting on the throne and based on her relationship to the monarch of the moment. Readers will obtain a deep look at the salad days of the ultimate survivor as the young Elizabeth navigates the political, religious, and regal shark infested waters. Ms. Weir's character opposite follow up to the ultimate victim INNOCENT TRAITOR (Lady Jane Grey's tragic saga) is a terrific sixteenth century biographical fiction.

The Deepest Cut
Dianne Emley
9780345499523, $24.00

In Pasadena, California, Police Detective Jim Kissick heads the investigation into the murder of former gangbanger Abel "Scrappy" Espinoza inside a facility owned by first generation Chinese-American Mrs. Zhang. Assisting him on the inquiry is his lover, Nan Vining, a single mom of fourteen year old Emily. On a valuable mural, the culprit paints China Dog 187. Whereas Nan believes the killer is T.B, Mann as she calls the Bad Man who almost killed her (see THE FIRST CUT), Jim assumes it is gang warfare.

Their boss Sergeant Early reassigns Jim to follow up on the near deadly assault of Nan as new clues have surfaced; Nan will work the Sparky homicide as the lead. Nan informs Jim how she broke the law to learn more about her attacker and her theory he is a female police serial killer; he scoffs at her belief. As T.B. Mann continues to operate under the radar screen, the sole connection remains a deranged artist Nitro who vanished. Soon Mann will attempt to complete the killing of the only one to survive with her daughter as the lure.

Although it seems obvious that Nan is obsessed with capturing TBM and would fail a psychological screening unless she was Oscar level performer, readers will enjoy this entertaining California police procedural that goes down two paths before converging. The story line is filled with action even when the lead couple stops for lunch to talk about the cases or when the ghostly elements limited to not much more than a butterfly alit on Nan's shoulder. Fans will enjoy this fine sequel that stands alone as an exhilarating investigative thriller.

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death
Charlie Huston
9780345501110, $25.00

Web Goodhue burned out as an inner city elementary school teacher until he finally quit. Although still suffering from what the shrinks call post-traumatic stress disorder, the former Los Angeles teacher obtains work as a member of a crime scene cleanup team. He finds cleaning away the remains of dead people easier on his brain than teaching.

He and his crew clean up a particular nasty job in Malibu where the suicide splattered blood and guts are everywhere. Soon afterward, the dead man's daughter Soledad calls him to ask if he would like to make some under the table loot cleaning up a mess she and her hooligan half-brother need serendipitously performed by a professional. Web agrees although he knows better than to do an unauthorized side job, but Soledad's voice and later her beautiful body has the mentally fatigued man hypnotized with a need to live for the first time since teaching fatigued him to the breaking point. He will soon find himself wishing he stayed in the classroom as a burned out husk.

With a nod to crime scene cleaner writers like Wendy Roberts (see A Ghost Dusters), but more a darker Noir than most, Charlie Huston provides a twisting terrific tale of betrayal. Fascinatingly, the action is muted as the players discuss what they desire and what happened. This passive approach works as the reader increasingly anticipates doom; enhancing the Noir feel to the plot. THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH is a unique refreshing look at crime especially those who clean up the mess afterward while asking who cleans up the cleaner's mess.

On The Prowl
Karen MacInerney
9780345496263, $6.99

After her recent escapades with weres and proving her mom a witch was not a killer (see HOWLING THE MOON) Austin werewolf Sophie Garou plans on keeping a low profile like she used to have before her recent problems. She especially prays the powerful Houston pack ignores her solo existence in the midst of them.

Instead, the pack leadership demands Sophie come to them or else. She has no choice if she wants things to remain positive with her boyfriend Heath and at her accounting firm Withers and Young where she made partner. The Houston pack is outraged by her living inside their territory as strays are normally unacceptable, but what makes her worse in their lupine eyes is that the half-breed has been inside their turf under the werewolf radar screen for a few decades. To make amends and calm their fears of a rogue, she agrees to spy on the San Antonio pack, but quickly realizes she is not a good undercover agent and her new accounting client Southeast Airlines CEO Mark Sydney seems to be sniffing around her an awful lot making her wonder if he is ON THE PROWL with her his target.

The second Garou Texas werewolf tale is a terrific follow-up to a strong opener due to the heroine's actions and reactions as she no longer can hide under the radar scope. Sophie cannot understand how her world has crumbled so fast. However she is strong perhaps because she is the offspring of a witch and a werewolf; so faces her issues with courage albeit reluctant bravery as she would rather hide. Fans will appreciate her howling adventures that give biting meaning to the modern day wild west.

Night Shadow
Cherry Adair
9780345499738, $23.00

Besides their employment as Terrorist Force Logistical Assault Command (T-FLAC) operatives Lexi and Alex Stone have only on thing else they share, their identical surname. Alex is an experienced operative who rarely comes in from the cold; Lexi the human works data like a wizard in the office.

The T-FLAC leaders fear super field agent Alex the wizard has joined the enemy as there is proof of his staging terrorist events. They want to confirm their suspicion but know a field pro would be outed rather easily by Alex; they send Lexi who never leaves the office to investigate under the guise of assisting him. If she finds proof she must kill him. Alex is irate with his new partner who obviously has never stepped out of the office controlled climate into the field tundra. He has no time to protect Lexi, as something chilling is occurring around the globe. However she proves useful as her data analysis skills begin to uncover a pattern of terrorist strikes .His foster brothers Lucas Fox (see NIGHT SECRETS) and Simon Blackthorne (see NIGHT FALL) try to help the stunned couple deal with an international threat.

The final T-FLAC romantic suspense espionage urban fantasy is a super thriller that teleports readers around the globe as Lexi and Alex struggle with doppelgangers and love; with the latter being more dangerous. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as once again Cherry Adair makes her realm seem genuine, but also adds self spoofing humor with the names of her lead couple. The return of the T-FLAC heroes from the previous paranormal spy novels enhance a strong finale that will have fans clamoring for more tales in the Adair environs.

A Christmas Grace
Anne Perry
0345502035, $18.00

As 1895 is winding down, Emily Radley, sister-in-law of Scotland Yard's Superintendent Thomas Pitt (star of Anne Perry's late Victorian police procedural series), hopes next year will be better. She remains in London for the Christmas season with her husband and two children so she will be expected to attend parties although she is not in the spirit of the season even as she tries to hide her negativism from her family.

On the western coast of Ireland in Connemara, Father Tyndale sends a message to Emily informing her that her Aunt Susannah Ross is dying. Although Susannah was ostracized by the family for marrying outside their religion, Emily feels it is important to visit her relative to provide some comfort for both of them and besides escape the joy of Christmas; she leaves her family in London so they can enjoy the city. In Connemara, Emily is stunned to see the abject fear on every villager's face. She wonders why but no one will reveal the secret that haunts everyone, but vows to find out. Meanwhile a nasty storm causes a shipwreck leading to a daring rescue followed by an enigmatic murder that makes the outsider's amateur sleuthing so much more complicated.

The latest Christmas mystery (see A CHRISTMAS SECRET and A CHRISTMAS BEGINNING) is a terrific tale that merges a strong investigation with a sense of time and place while also containing religious elements that enhance the excellent story line. Emily is at her best feeling a bit depressed as the holidays arrive, but being a good mom and wife tries to hide her melancholy from her loved ones. Ireland enables her to do so and get involved in the mystery of a town haunted by something as it is on everyone's visage. A CHRISTMAS GRACE is a strong entry in a charming holiday series.

Red Light Green Light
Margaret Johnson-Hodge
Sutton Place Publishers
9780975402610, $16.95,

Forty something crack addict Craig Stevens has been clean for forty-one days, but is not proud of being in his second month of clean as he knows the number of days means nothing; each new dawn denotes struggling all over again. He attends meetings near his rental in Far Rockaway to help him stay clean and receives strong but tough help from his landlady Miss Raymond and his sponsor Brother Raheim.

However, on this morning, Craig like so many other New Yorkers will be tested. The Twin Towers have been hit by jets and collapsed. Though he desperately needs a hit, Craig with assistance from Miss Raymond and Brother Raheim holds off although he prays he does not stumble to what looks inevitable. Instead he needs to know if Gazelle, the one woman who mattered before Crack took over his life and drove her away, is okay as a few years ago she worked in the shadow of the Towers. With a small advance from Miss Raymond who controls his money, he begins his public transportation and walks to her home in Queens only to learn she and her family moved to Hempstead. He continues his quest in Long island where he finds out that she works in one of the Towers so begins the next leg, Ground Zero to see if Gazelle, assuming she is alive, needs help although what he can do he knows is zero.

RED LIGHT GREEN LIGHT is an excellent character driven thriller in which the audience sees first hand the impact of the 9/11 tragedy through the eyes of Craig and those who help or hinder him on his quest. Craig is a unique protagonist as he struggles with his addiction all the time, but especially on the 9/11 day of infamy. Margaret Johnson-Hodge provides readers with a poignant powerful look at the most traumatic day in American history through a unique anti-hero. This is a book so memorable it will become a classic in the years to come.

The Spoke
Friedrich Glauser
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
9781904738275, $14.95,

In Bern Swiss police Detective Sergeant Jakob Studer and his wife have traveled to Schwarzenstein to attend the marriage of their daughter. However, in the Hotel zum Hirschen where they are staying someone stabs to death Jean Stieger using a sharpened bicycle spoke.

The local police arrest the only suspect, bicycle store mechanic and peddler Ernst Graf. However, Studer believes the murder weapon is not enough to prove Graf did the deed. Soon afterward while Graf remains in custody, someone poisons Stieger's boss and partner , financier Joachim Krock. Studer investigates the two homicides, applying a logic that confuses the local cops, but leads to several suspects with motives for both murders.

The latest reprint of the 1930s Studer Swiss police procedural series is, like the previous four, a fabulous investigative tale. Studer is at his best working what appears to be a closed locked room case in which his progress in finding other suspects besides Graf with means, motive and opportunity alienates him with the locals and frustrates his wife on vacation and daughter preparing to marry. The Jakob Studer collection holds up as strong mysteries with an obvious historical perspective seven decades after they were initially released (see IN MATTO'S REALM, FEVER THUMBPRINT and THE CHINAMAN).

Richard North Patterson
Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9780805087727, $26.00,

San Francisco law firm partner forty years old Damon Pierce is getting a divorce. The international litigation expert e-mails his college lover Marissa Brand to inform him that his marriage will be over by tomorrow although he knows she is married to oil rich Luandia reformist Bobby Okari whose country is run by a brutal despot.

While the foreign oil companies work closely with the government to rip off the oil deposits, everyone in Okari's village is murdered. However the government ignores the mass murders because they are the culprits; instead they arrest Bobby for the lynching of three foreign oil workers. Damon, out of love for Marissa, defends the accused in a kangaroo court that has already convicted him.

Few authors can hook an audience and maintain that grip throughout like Richard North Patterson does consistently. ECLIPSE affirms that belief especially with the haunting working and environmental conditions in Luandia that is the main star; even Governor Palin will shout the manta wind baby wind if she spent fifteen minutes getting her hair fixed there. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action that fans of legal thrillers in foreign nations in which the dictator makes the law will appreciate Mr. Patterson's latest exciting tale.

Mixed Blood
Roger Smith
9780805088755, $25.00

In the United States, American security specialist Jack Burn worries about the impact his recent financial failures will have on his family. When he is offered a chance to stay solvent, he reluctantly accepts the terms offered him. He agrees to join a gang planning to rob a bank.

The plan was perfect; the execution a disaster. Most of the gang and a cop die. Burn escapes with millions, but is wanted by the law and the few robbers who survived the debacle. He, his pregnant wife Susan, and their four years old son Matt relocate to Cape Town, South Africa. Life seems peaceful and good until two meth users invade their home; Jack kills both, but now corrupt Police Inspector Rudi Barnard is scrutinizing the professional use of counter force inside his realm, Cape Flats.

This exciting South African crime caper will grip the audience from the moment Barnard checks on the Americans, which begins the spin out of control somewhat fueled by career felon Benny Mongrel observing his fellow American. Susan will learn she don't know Jack as he piles lies on top of lies with her and with Barnard. With the cast divided between the innocent and the felonious, fans will enjoy Roger Smith's tense thriller while humming Bonnie Tyler's Holding Out for a Hero as increasingly none seem to surface.

Among the Mad
Jacqueline Winspear
9780805082166, $25.00

On Christmas Eve 1931, Psychologist and Investigator Maisie Dobbs and her assistant Billy Beale, having finished a report for a client, are strolling on a London street to deliver their findings when another pedestrian detonates a bomb. He dies while Maisie is slightly injured, Billy is okay physically because Maisie seeing something off kilter with the culprit told him to head back to the office, which he started to do until the explosion.

The next day the Office of the Prime Minister receives the first of several threatening letters warning of terrorist activity; this note also contains the name of Maisie Dobbs. She joins a government investigation team trying to find the anonymous writer and prevent the threatened attacks.

This is a terrific Dobbs entry that as usual brings alive London at a time when the Great Depression is causing global havoc. Maisie is terrific as an early psychological profiler though some of her descriptors are based on hunches as no validated database yet exists. More a thriller than an investigative tale, series fan will enjoy the latest Maisie Dobbs psychological sleuthing case (see PARDONABLE LIES and AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE).

The Appeal
John Grisham
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385342926, $14.00,

The shocking verdict is heard in Jackson, Manhattan and DC when a Mississippi jury finds Krane Chemical guilty of dumping carcinogenic waste into the local water supply leading to a "cancer cluster". Widow Jeannette Baker and her trial layers are awarded, $41 million in punitive damages, but she knows that means little since her husband and their child died from their little town being turned into a toxic dump; her lawyers are gratified because they sunk a half of a million dollars into the case and defeat may have meant bankruptcy.

Krane appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, but the Wall St based CEO shark Carl Trudeau does not want a second failure. Judicial elections are coming soon and he plans to
insure favorable judges sit on the court. He understands it will cost him a few million, but he believes a million here and a million there to buy judicial loyalty is loose change; in his mind it's billions before he believes we are talking real money. He has picked his prime target and quickly has him signed, sealed, and delivered.

This exciting legal thriller focuses on a real issue in the American political system, the election of judges who are politicians looking for donations to support their election bids. Thus the so-called independent judicial system adhering to laws is actually a series of activist judges regardless of party affiliation bought and sold by the highest bidding corporations. In that environs it is ironic that trial lawyers and punitive settlements are attacked but not the worst that capitalism can buy. Exciting and fast-paced from the onset with the jury ruling coming very early, fans will enjoy John Grisham's fine tale although the villains are so deliberately hyperbolic stereotyped they turn into caricatures as the star is the premise of buying judges through election donations.

Veil of Midnight
Lara Adrian
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440244493, $6.99,

Nikolai the vampire is in Montreal searching for the Gen One vamp Sergei Yakut to warn him to be on the alert because someone is targeting the founding generation of the Ancient extraterrestrials and their families who mate and produce offspring with them. He walks into a trap sprung by some vampires and Breedmate Renata who can put him under with the power of her mind. Nikolai mentions his warning and is escorted to Sergei's compound for a discussion.

While there, Renata who trusts no one begins to think Nikolai is a good individual. Nikolai discovers that Sergei has hunts with humans as the prey; upset he walks out in disgust. He returns once he calms down, but Renata knocks him out as she believes he killed Sergei; unaware that his treacherous son committed fratricide. When the traitor sells the child Mira, who Renata loves like a daughter, she escapes the compound and rescues Nikolai. Their feelings blossom until they become blood bonded. However the Order that protects the vampire nation has assigned Nikolai with a mission that conflicts with Renata's plans to rescue Mira.

Once again Lara Adrian writes a gripping character driven romantic urban fantasy that leaves readers believing vampires exist while hiding in plain sight. Characters from the previous books in the "Midnight" series (see KISS OF MIDNIGHT, MIDNIGHT RISING, and MIDNIGHT AWAKENING) appear while a new surprising vampire joins the Order which is now dedicated destroying the Ancient and Dragos. Nikolai is stunned by his feelings for Renata, but less shocked than she is as she always believed she would be an untouchable loner. His mission leaves his soul divided between loyalty to his beloved and to the Order. Readers will relish the lifting of the VEIL OF MIDNIGHT while looking forward to more vampiric escapades in the Adrian universe.

Dying For Revenge
Eric Jerome Dickey
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
0525950869, $25.95,

Taking a vacation from his job as a professional assassin, Gideon travels to Antigua. He believes his dispute with a former client in Detroit is resolved so he lets his hair down for some needed R&R. Instead he quickly learns his misconception as Detroit has not forgiven the threat to his children so has hired a horde of killers to bring him Gideon's head.

Fleeing the Caribbean with assassins chasing him, Gideon races to the United Kingdom while trying to insure his only family, "the Kid" is hidden from Detroit's relentless goons. Gideon flees from London to Nashville, Atlanta and finally back to the Caribbean with paid killers following his every step.

The key to this wild cross Atlantic ride is the locations are so vivid within the violent stops that the various cities make the over the top of Big Ben seem somewhat genuine. The story line is fast-paced and filled with non stop action as double and triple crossings are the norm. Readers will root for Gideon (star of SLEEPING WITH STRANGERS and WAKING WITH ENEMIES) as a professional hitman with a conscience battling to survive and keep the Kid safe against amoral thugs; though in fairness Detroit has similar moral standards as the antihero lead has at least when it comes to family.

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine
Lauren Willig
9780525950967, $25.95

After spending over a decade in India, Robert Lansdowne returns home to Sussex in 1803 to investigate the murder of his mentor at the Battle of Assaye. The duke's plan is simple; he will go undercover by joining the notorious Hellfire Club where he thinks he can begin to track down the killer, espionage agent Arthur Wrothan.

However, Robert failed to consider one problem with his perfect plot. His cousin a zillion times removed Lady Charlotte Lansdowne has made him the hero of her romantic dreams that she reads in the novels. He was there when she became an orphaned child and she wants him there as her beloved husband. In spite of kisses that inflame his desire, Robert begins his quest only to have Charlotte join him over his objection and together they get embroiled in a seditious anti royal scheme.

As with the previous Pink Carnation tales Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly doing her research uncovers the latest account of a Napoleonic Era female spy while having a romantic interlude with host executor Colin Selwick. Though this reviewer has found Eloise's modern day piece unnecessary but well written, fans will see how far she has come from Massachusetts (see THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PINK CARNATION). However, the tale belongs to Charlotte as her adventures in espionage and in love are not anywhere near the romantic images she has of both. Fans will enjoy this fine historical undercover romance even without a flowery title (see THE MASQUE OF THE BLACK TULIP, THE SEDUCTION OF THE CRIMSON ROSE and THE DECEPTION OF THE EMERALD RING) as the real human Robert falls off the pedestal in the eyes of his spying associate even as their love blossoms.

The Renegades
T. Jefferson Parker
9780525950950, $26.95

Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs Charlie Hood and Terry Laws are driving together when the former is executed. The brass insists gang initiation or perhaps getting even with Laws who has been a veteran of the streets. Hood is a bit shook up with his new partner's death especially since he prefers patrolling by himself with his demon (the spirit of Allison Murrieta - see L.A. OUTLAWS) to accompany him, but understands why he should not investigate it.

However, Hood is a bit surprised when he is assigned to Internal Affairs, but this also gives him an opportunity to look into who murdered his partner starting with inquiries into the life of Terry, dubbed "Mr. Wonderful". He soon begins to find evidence that alleges Terry that was a crooked cop delivering a personal code of justice. This is something that Hood can understand as a good cop crosses the line to convey justice like in the old west as the system often protects nasty felons not because of fundamental rights that these same hoods tale away from others, but because of those working inside of it are disguised as upright citizens.

Hood is a beacon of morality in a desert of corruption in which drugs seem to own almost everyone's soul from Los Angeles to Mexico. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the throwback hero who obsesses with a need to know whether Mr. Wonderful was a bad or good cop; as defined by Hood and not some artificial law or a pompous judge with Allison inside his head as a reminder of what justice is. Fans will enjoy Hood's Old West mentality in modern day Southern California.

Last Gig
Norman Green
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312385420, $25.95,

Thanks to her street wise uncle, former Bronx runaway Alessandra "Al" Martillo learns to live off the street too. She obtains a job at a dumpy private investigative-repo firm working as an assistant to sleazy former NYPD cop Marty Stiles.

Irish mobster Daniel "Mickey" Caughlan hires Stiles to investigate who is using his trucking company to transport drugs while setting up the gangster to take the fall once the cops move in. Stiles needs an insider so assigns the anti Barbie tall, lean and tough Al to go undercover working at the trucking company. Al makes inquiries and learns of the mysterious death of Mickey's twenty year old son six months ago from an alleged overdose. As Stiles works other cases for his clients who hire him due to his silent shady investigations that cross the legal and ethical lines, Al courageously bangs heads placing her at risk.

This is a terrific New York noir starring a kick butt female whose attitude encourages fights as if her motto is "violence is as American as cherry pie" (H. Raps Brown). Although she is bit over the Empire State Building, fans will enjoy her antics and that of her boss as they trek the city that never sleeps. Urban noir fans will enjoy THE LAST GIG due to Al's approach to life from pool-halls to dives, cases from sex tape retrievals to mob traitor, and Manhattan from sordid to even sleazier scenarios.

The Thirteenth
L.A. Banks
St. Martin's Press
0312368763, $14.95

The fourth seal has been broken releasing the pale horse. What American cities are attacked the powers that be fear terrorists have struck again but it is really demons and vamps that Lucifer brought to the surface to kill as many mortals as possible. The media, controlled by Hell's forces make the Neterus Damali and Carlos and her Guardians out to be terrorists; they are on the run so the Light brought them to Bermuda. They need to return to the States and get the rest of their crew and they meet Montley Sinclair who wants in on the battle and gives them a ride on his yacht.

Lucifer and Lilith are waiting for the Anti-Christ to finish gestating; plague, famine and pestilence are everywhere. Chaos rules as order has broken down. Saints and martyrs help the Neteru and the Guardians when the fifth seal is broken. The team rushes to Jerusalem to find out the home of the chosen THE THIRTEENTH who will free the bound fallen angels in the Euphrates and will lead a horde of two hundred million warriors to kill off much of humanity. Damali and Carlos need the name and the weapon that can defeat him, but with Israel on dead alert and Hell's minion looking for them, they have little chance of surviving the skirmishes.

The Neteru-Guardian team is struggling with the End of Days yet are willing to die to fight the evil Dark that seems overwhelmingly on the verge of victory. Carlos has evolved over the course of the thirteen books from a mob boss to the chairman of Hell's Board o a Netura who worships the Light. He has come a long way from the vice king to a hero worthy of Damali. The final excellent tale in this great saga is an exciting and evocative urban fantasy.

Without Conscience
David Stuart Davies
St. Martin's Press
0312382103, $23.95

In 1942 London, Sandra Riley, believing that her husband Walter is cheating on her, hires private investigator Johnny Hawke to scrutinize his activities. Hawke tails his target and quickly learns that Riley is a closet cross-dresser. Hawke continues his surveillance, but before he can ascertain whether the man is also cheating on his spouse or other deviant behavior, Hawke observes Riley's murder.

Stunned, the grieving Sandra engages Hawke again this time to find the widow-maker who murdered her husband. As Hawke investigates the homicide he witnessed, the cops including the military police conduct a wide spread manhunt for AWOL Harryboy Jenkins, who has killed a vicar and a police officer among his crimes. As the two seemingly divergent cases connect, orphan student Peter Blake flees school and bullies to stay with his hero Hawke, who once saved his life only to be caught at the point of the pending encounter between Hawke and Jenkins.

Although the use of coincidence too easily expedites the convergence of the three males, WITHOUT CONSCIENCE is an enjoyable WWII home front crime thriller. Hawke is terrific as he adapts from surveillance to a whodunit at the same time that maniacal Jenkins is an out of control military deserter. Fans will anticipate their inevitable collision accelerated by Blake's arrival. David Stuart Davies provides an exiting 1942 mystery (see FORESTS OF THE NIGHT for Hawke's previous case load).

Living the Vida Lola
Misa Ramirez
St. Martin's Press
9780312384029, $24.95

In Sacramento Dolores "Lola" Falcon Cruz earns a living as a private investigator. Her current case involves a missing person, responsible forty-two years old Emily Diggs, who failed to pick up her six-year-old son Sean at his school. Everyone Lola spoke with who knew Emily insists she was a good mother who would never commit a negligent act involving her child especially with what happened to her older son.

However, the inquiry turns ugly when Emily's body is found near the Riverbank Marina. Lola continues her investigation, but changes her focus to uncovering the identity of the killer. Sacramento Bee reporter Jack Callaghan informs Lola that a distraught Emily told him that her older son, Garrett died from what the woman called a "heart infection" that she believed came from an unsanitary tattoo. Lola remains dedicated to catching the culprit using Jack's tip as a lead by looking perhaps first hand into tattoos and belly-button and other unmentionable body parts piercing.

Never taking itself graveyard serious, this is an entertaining investigative half boiled noir with a touch of romance to spice up the proceedings. Ethical Lola is terrific as a literally and figuratively kick butt heroine who believes she owes her late client so continues her inquiry. You don't know Jack if you fail to understand that what Lola wants Lola gets, which is a killer, even if that mean a belly button or a nipple ring. Misa Ramirez provides a wonderful first case in what looks like the start of a delightful series.

The Spanish Game
Charles Cumming
St. Martin's Press
9780312366391, $24.95

Following the disastrous events that went totally wrong (see A SPY BY NATURE), M-16 blames espionage agent Alec Milius for the fiasco although he was a rookie and his side failed to communicate with their American counterparts; he also blames himself. Fired by his agency and no longer seeking adventure, Alex relocates to Madrid where he works for a British owned bank. Filled with guilt and doubts, Alex hopes staying low key will keep him safe as he would not be shocked to find his former employers, the CIA sending assassins or a rogue colleague holding him responsible by taking him out.

In Spain, Alec is having an affair with the wife of his boss Julian Church while using alcohol to numb his crippling remorse. Julian assigns Alec with a special project that has him traveling into the Basque sector of Spain. There he meets Mikel Arenaza, a former Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) Basque separatist party member. Soon after their encounter someone kills Mikel. Alec is caught in the middle between ETA hardliners, Spanish cops, and apparently his former British associates and their cross Atlantic partners.

This is a superb espionage thriller as Alec, filled with remorse and uncertainty about his skills, expects his former colleagues or their peers to take him out. He lives looking over his shoulder with a hesitant step. The story line is fabulous with timely solid twists, but Alec makes the tale; as a disgraced spy in exile waiting for the cold to come to him. THE SPANISH GAME will be on most short lists as one of top three espionage thrillers of the year.

A Rule Against Murder
Louise Penny
St. Martin's Press
9780312377021, $24.95

Every summer the Gamache's go on vacation together. This year they stay at the luxurious Manoir Bellechasse in Quebec. Chief Inspector Armand especially loves the getaway with his beloved spouse that gives him time away from criminal activities.

The only other visitors are the Finney brood celebrating a reunion of sorts at the manor. The family matriarch Irene hosts a gala in tribute to her late husband. The highlight of the festivities is the unveiling of a statue in her spouse's honor in the Manoir's garden. However, when the statue crumbles off its base it kills one of the middle age adult daughters. Although on vacation, Gamache cannot let it go as an accident; instead he investigates expecting to discover an accident, but instead finds a dysfunctional family who loathe one another. Murder is not out of the question even as the snooty Finney brood insult and scorn the chief inspector for his respectful methodology and worse for his ancestry.

Part of the fun in this Quebec police procedural is the disdainful treatment by the haughty Finney family who assume Gamache is an idiot beneath them socially and intellectually; a sort of loose nod to Colombo. The investigation is top rate enhanced by the obvious flaws of the lead character, his wife (who brings some humor with her not again reaction) and the prime suspects. Fans will enjoy the intelligent and dedicated (this time instead of the Surete insisting obstinate, the Finney brood does) Gamache's vacation at an isolated resort as he relishes the investigation (see STILL LIFE and THE CRUELEST MONTH).

Find Me
Debra Webb
St. Martin's Press
0312532954, $7.99

NYC based investigative reporter Sarah Newton works for Truth magazine, traveling to locations in which the locals claim the supernatural committed murder; she debunks their mystical fears. However, Sarah is a loner who is used to people loathing her.

Sarah travels to freezing Youngstown, Maine where one teenage girl Valerie Gerard was found viciously sliced to death in a chapel and another Alicia Appleton is missing. Many townsfolk claim the curse has returned as similar murders occurred two decades ago. The City Council assigns lobsterman and newest member Kale Conner to escort the outsider around town; Sarah knows that means to help the town hide its secrets from her. As the police work the case, so does Sarah who soon begins to win over Kale to her side. Attracted to one another from the onset, they begin to fall in love, but neither has any hope for a future as he scorns her as a Manhattan pushy woman while she assumes he is her natural enemy although a dark secret from her own childhood closet is her real reason to keep him away.

FIND ME is a well written investigative romance starring a fascinating journalistic sleuth and a former dreamer. The story line is exciting from the onset as Sarah arrives alienating everyone. Kale is a strong character who gave up his dreams when his father became disabled; he goes from doubting antagonist to believer in his beloved. Sarah makes the tale work with her take no prisoners' attitude and her Pygmalion Effect of expecting no cooperation so acts offensively which leads to no cooperation, her family history, and her loner status that the lobsterman finds heartbreaking. Although the townsfolk do not seem very frightened or frantic over a vicious murder and a probable second killing fans will appreciate this fine Manhattan-Maine romantic suspense thriller.

Spider Season
John Morgan Wilson
St. Martin's Press
9780312341480, $24.95

Benjamin Justice was revered as a fine journalist who deservedly won a Pulitzer for his articles on nursing his lover who was dying from AIDS. When it was substantiated that Ben fabricated his story, he became despised, black balled and the only person forced to return a Pulitzer. He changed careers solving mysteries instead of writing articles, but the disgraced former West Hollywood reporter publishes a memoir.

Ben is shocked that two people, former marine Lance and middle age arachnid aficionado Jason, neither whom he knows, seem to want to beat the crap out of him since his memoir went public. Not one to sit idly by, Ben decides to make inquiries into the two radically different males who want a piece of him so that he can find what in his book stirred their testosterone. However, they are not his biggest problem; unprincipled reporter Cathryn knows Ben did not uncover all his scandalous muck; she investigates him so she can pile more dirt on him and more fame on her.

The latest Benjamin Justice thriller (see RHAPSODY IN BLOOD and THE LIMITS OF JUSTICE) is a solid entry as the hero continues his self flogging behavior that only leads to more trouble. He still has not been able to move on beyond his fifteen minutes of shame as if he wears the Scarlet Letter L on his face though almost two decades have past. His inquiries into Lance and Jason is fascinating and well done, but also somewhat slow paced especially while rotating between investigating his two antagonists and his real enemy Cathryn. Still this is a fine tale as the disgraced lead character struggles with learning why the two men are after him and keeping further dirt interred.

Erica Spindler
St. Martin's Press
0312363907, $23.95

Rockford, Illinois Police Detective Mary Catherine "M.C." Riggio is ecstatic when Dr. Dan Gallo proposes; she accepts, which is a big step for her as she has humongous trust issues that has led to commitment phobia. Meanwhile her Violent Crimes Bureau partner Kitt Lundgren looks forward to traveling to Mexico with her ex-husband, hoping they can reach a reconciliation and a future together.

The partners are sent to investigate the death of Matt Martin whose neck was broken. When they arrive they find he was living in luxury well beyond his means and his computer is missing. Matt is a cracker hacker who belongs to a ring of twenty something years old that commit internet crimes. After their engagement party, Dan drives her cousin Tommy home. However when she drives up besides Dan she finds him murdered. MC is determined to work the case and Kitt wants to be there so she delays her Mexican vacation causing a schism with her former spouse. Tommy becomes the next victim, which leads everyone to belie Dan was shot was because of a mistaken identify as Tommy was always the intended victim. Everyone in the Cracker group who brag about their exploits is being eliminated one at a time; leaving anyone close to Tommy like his girlfriend and his brother in danger from a deadly executioner.

As the death toll mounts while also remaining personal, MC feels pressured to solve the case that she should have been excluded from since her fiance and her cousin are victims. Most of the Cracker group see what they do as victimless activities and therefor should not be labeled crime; they choose to ignore the consequences of their actions and how it may impact others. Readers obtain a deep look at some tunnel vision IT geniuses envision the physical and cyber worlds as Erica Spindler provides her usual exhilarating thriller.

Mistress of Mellyn
Victoria Holt
St. Martin's Press
0312384157, $13.95

After their parents died, sisters Martha and Phillida Leigh moved in with Aunt Adelaide. She sponsors a season for each of her wards with Phillida making a good match while Martha failed. Now twenty-four years old and considered on the shelf, Martha has only one course of action: accepting a governess position, which is not easy to attain for someone with no experience.

However, Martha is fortunate that widower Lord Connan Tremellyn needs a governess for his difficult Alvean, who has recently run off three in one year; although in fairness the last one was actually run off by Connan's mistress Lady Treslyn accusing her of theft. As Martha tries to help the troubled Alvean, she falls in love with her employer. However, she begins to learn secrets that make her wonder what happened to Connan's first wife Alice as she now believes the woman did not "elope" with the neighbor Geoffrey Nansellock as his sister Celestine claims and that Alvean is not Connan's biological daughter. Her only ally she trusts is Geoffrey's mentally challenged other daughter Gillyflower when she realizes someone wants her dead; perhaps Connan.

This is a reprint of a 1980s gothic romantic suspense that is fun to read though does show some age as adhering to the rules in place back then for this sub-genre. Martha is marvelous as the beleaguered heroine wondering if the brooding hunk she loves is a murderer. With the Cornish castle serving as a backdrop, the gothic audience especially the fans of the late great Victoria Holt will enjoy the MISTRESS OF MELLYN.

Zack Armed and Dangerous
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin's Press
0312386710, $13.95

A decade ago in Douglas, Arizona not far from the Mexican border Zack Hunter met nineteen year old Skylar McKenna and fell in love. However, he was a troubled youth and concluded that Skylar deserved much better than a thug like him as he knew he would just bring her down into his cesspool. Instead He left town breaking her heart, but keeping her from drowning in his ooze.

Ten years since he made that honorable momentous decision to leave, Zack has spent the entire time wondering if he did the right thing as his heart says no while his brain insists he had to for both their sakes. He is back in town, a respectable lawman who immediately at first sight wants the still unmarried Sky at his side forever. Zack believes that if he catches the rustlers stealing cattle from her Flying M Ranch, she will forgive and take him back. He still does not understand her love for him remains unconditional.

This engaging border second chance at love romance provides a vivid picture of ranching in an area where illegal contraband that includes people is smuggled into the country. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Zack returns home and never slows down whether he is hunting rustlers and smugglers or having sex with his beloved. Although he can be an overbearing bully with his claim that she has no choice as she belongs to him, fans will appreciate Sky's superior skills in disarming dangerous Zack.

Jude Morgan
St. Martin's Press
0312384785, $24.95

In 1827, Irish wannabe actress Harriet Smithson hopes to become a famous performer receiving accolades for her work. She also refuses to sleep with influential men to get ahead as she believes in her talent. To make it she joins a Shakespearean troupe touring France. In Paris composer Hector Berlioz sees her but though he desires her and believes he is in love, he keeps his distance and worships her from afar.

Over the next few years he places his beloved on a statue, but makes no efforts to meet her. Finally five years after he saw his muse, they meet. Berlioz successfully courts her and they marry. However, instead of a passion of the hearts, he remains obsessed with the object of his affection. As the real Harriet crumbles from her lofty pedestal in his mind driving him deeper into obsessive psychosis he scores the revolutionary music masterpiece "Symphonie Fantastique"

With a strong sense of time and place especially the backdrop of a troubled, revolutionary yet passionate Western Europe a decade plus since the Congress of Vienna of 1815, SYMPHONY is a fabulous biographical fiction that focuses on the relationship between Smithson and Berlioz. Their marriage is unstable because he is unstable; yet ironically his volatile fixation and her revolting lead to one of the classics of music. This is an insightful winner as love can easily prove to be madness.

Engaging Father Christmas
Robin Jones Gunn
Faith Words
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
0446179469, $13.99,

Raised by a single mom in San Francisco Miranda Carson had always wanted a loving family, but never had one. When she learned she has paternal relatives in England, she visited them (see FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS). Now with Christmas coming, she looks forward to spending the holidays with the warm caring Whitcombe's at Carlton Heath accompanied by her boyfriend Ian, who plans to propose to her there.

While in England their plans are disrupted when his father is hospitalized and his family opposes their marriage. Whereas Ian is going home to be there for his dad, Miranda must choose between returning to a lonely existence in the States in which his family are not even tepid about her and staying in England with people who treat her as a beloved relative. She also feels guilty over not revealing who she is as the daughter of their much-loved and adored the late Sir James as she does not want to destroy their image of her dad.

This is a terrific engaging inspirational tale with a strong cast on both sides of the ocean, but totally owned by Miranda who has difficult decisions to make including obviously returning home or not and revealing her identity. The sequel to FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS is a delightful holiday saga that engages the audience from the onset with its uplifting tale of making new Yuletide traditions.

Boys Are Dogs
Leslie Margolis
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
1599902214, $15.99,

Annabelle comes home from a summer at a sleep-away camp to live in a new home with her single mom and her mother's new live-in nerdy but nice boyfriend. She is to start sixth grade so is old enough to understand when she is being bribed. They give her a puppy in exchange for her accepting the new arrangement.

Annabelle adores her puppy, but school is a war zone as this is the first time boys (yucky) are in her classes. They are selfish, thieves and rude whether it is the kid behind her who is practicing for a football career with her chair; her lab partners who share nothing, or stealing her homework. In many ways without the cuteness they remind her of her puppy before the training. Annabelle begins to teach the boys how to behave with her using the puppy manual.

The fun in this wonderful tweener tale is the behavior of middle school boys as seen through the myopic lens of the suffering heroine who is just starting to comprehend the Girls on Venus and the Boys on Mars make that Neptune concept. Applying a dog behavior manual as a modification tool is fun as Annabelle learns how to get along with the gender who makes Larry of the Three Stooges look like an Einstein.

The Archbishop in Andalusia
Andrew M. Greeley
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765315904, $24.95,

Accompanied by his nephew Joseph and the graduate student's girlfriend Peggy Anne Nolan, Archbishop John Blackwood "Blackie" Ryan, coadjutor to Cardinal Cronin, leaves Chicago to attend a conference in Sevilla, Spain. Blackie hesitates leaving the States as he is concerned with the health of his superior. However, before leaving Illinois his sister demands he persuade his traveling companions that it is time for them to marry.

In Spain Blackie learns that his reputation for solving mysteries precedes him; as such local Cardinal Diego Sanchez y Tomanos asks him to protect the widowed Duchess of Seville Dona Teresa Maria Romero y Avila from her relatives. Her "loving" family wants her affluence, influence and title. He fears some might choose murder as a means to gain wealth. Blackie agrees to do his best to keep the pious beautiful Duchess safe.

THE ARCHBISHOP IN ANDALUSIA is an engaging mystery as Blackie struggles to unravel the extended Gordian knots of the Duchess' family relations. This enables the audience to obtain a deep look at South Spain. Although the investigation takes a back seat to the tour of the region, fans will relish Blackie's amusing take on the deadly sins of pride and greed.

Critical Mass
Whitley Strieber
9780765322531, $24.95

Contractor Jim Deutsch works for the CIA as a NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) expert whose prime specialty is nukes though he has been involved in preventing the sale or development of the other weapons of mass destruction. He learns that Islamic terrorist Madhi has obtained weapons graded plutonium that he has smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico and concludes homeland security has failed to protect the border. Mahdi announces he has nukes planted throughout the western United States.

To prove his assertion, he nukes Las Vegas. A stunned President William Fitzgerald considers nuking the Muslim world back into the stone age, globalized tension rises as the crisis seems out of control with Middle East governments considering their options and Mahdi ready to destroy another city if his demands for a Muslim fundamentalist world, Mahdi style is not met.

CRITICAL MASS is a fascinating look at efforts to counter the flow of nuclear weapons around the globe. The story line is action-packed with dedicated Jim and his Muslim wife struggling to prevent further tragedy from happening. Although the language turns oddly poetic at crisis moments which jars the reader, Whitley Strieber provides an exciting thriller based on the very plausible concept of nukes ending up in the hands of a fanatic.

Boca Knights
Steven M. Forman
9780765319876, $24.95

Eddie Perlmutter grew up in Boston's North Side as a Jew in a sea of Italian Catholics. He became a cop who cared. He used his experience in the Golden Gloves to teach youngsters to box. His confident since early puberty is his stand erect penis who always talks back. After years of honorable services late fifties Eddie retired due to arthritis. He leaves the cold New England climate for the heart of Boca Ration assuming that the warmth will be good for his sore bones.

However, Boca may be an elixir physically, but mentally he feels out of place. As his retirement ennui grows, he gets involved in local criminal matters so to avoid legal trouble he gets a private investigator license. Excited by the sudden change in venue, Eddie gets involved with the Russian Mafia, the homicide of a golf pro, neo-Nazis and a lovely nurse earning him the title "Boca Knight" at least for his encounters with the first three contacts.

Over the top with a zany offbeat humor, BOCA KNIGHTS is a delightful satirical crime caper that enhances the already capital of quirkiness, the South Florida private investigative world. The story line contains several suspenseful subplots that are fun to follow although at times can be humorously campy. With a strong cast of eccentric and dangerous individuals causing havoc, readers will enjoy this fast-paced tale; superbly held together by Eddie, who finds his niche stirring up seemingly anyone who resides along the I-95 corridor south of the Palms and north of Lauderdale after he failed miserably at retirement 101.

People of the Thunder
W. Michael Gear & Kathleen O'Neal Gear
9780765314390, $25.95

By 1300 in an area now known as Alabama and Mississippi, the Sky Hand People rule with an iron fist controlling territory for vast miles from their Split Sky City. Their Chief Flying Hawk is devious and ambitious with plans to expand the tribe's land. His nephew War Chief Smoke Shield is a brilliant merciless strategist, who expedites his uncle's plan. Together they are intelligent, abusive and deadly; complementing one another

They attack their peaceful neighbors the Albaamaha tribe with a blood thirsty assault. The "most dangerous man alive" Old White the prophet, Trader a man with dark bloody secrets and the enigmatic female shaman Two Petals seek peace. To achieve peace in their time, the trio knows they must end the reign of terror of Flying Hawk and Smoke Shield.

This completes the tale first started in THE PEOPLE OF THE WEEPING EYE. As always in the incredible Gear North American Forgotten People saga, readers obtain an insightful look at Native American culture and everyday living inside an exciting action-packed thriller. Although extremely but appropriately graphic with murder, rape, torture and the abuses of war, fans will relish the fifth Mississippian story as the Gear duet bring to life the early fourteenth century through fully developed characters leading to a confrontation that will determine whether peace or war will dominate the region.

Talk of the Town
Sherrill Bodine
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue , New York, NY 10017-0010
0446618586, $6.99,

Divorcee Rebecca Covington cannot believe that she lost her position as a gossip columnist at the Chicago Daily Mail after fifteen years doing that due to a report she wrote leading to a California senator threatening to sue her and the paper as being false and thus libel. Instead she has been relegated ironically to recipe writer although she cannot boil water without burning it and thinks that a nutritious diet consists of Diet Coke and Kleenex.

Still in spite of her good intentions to be the best home and food section reporter, Rebecca decides to ask the new CEO, David Sumner why he demoted and replaced her with the ultimate insult a Women's Page reporter Shannon Forester. However, Rebecca and David are both stunned by the instant attraction each feels for one another that leaves each questioning the true intentions of the other.

Although reporter romances have been done frequently, for instance the Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell screwball romantic comedy His Girl Friday, Sherrill Bodine provides a warm amusing gender war between the spunky reporter and her reticent boss. The story line is fast-paced and very humorous once Rebecca and David meet, fight, and kiss. Fans will enjoy TALK OF THE TOWN (ironically another Grant movie), a throwback screwball romantic comedy.

Simple Wishes
Lisa Dale
0446406899, $6.99

With her failure at making it in New York followed by her mom Marge's death, Adele Martin quits her job as an art gallery manager and leaves Brooklyn to return to the Pennsylvania mountain cottage she grew up in to consider what next. Adele and her mom had a falling out over the former leaving for the big city and now she feels guilty over their estrangement although she knows part of the problems was her mom's secret past. Aunt Christine comes by to see her niece for the first time in years and weekend warriors the Lopresti family invites her to Korean fare.

Adele meets her next door neighbor, the only year round resident, artist "Hermit Jay" Westvelt. They are attracted to one another, but have differing opinions about Marge. As they fall in love, she begins to learn the deepest secrets about her unknown father, her mother and her aunt that make her want to flee the Pocono's for Brooklyn and the restraining order she left behind. Jay hopes to persuade her that mountain life is good when filled with love and besides the big city of Scranton is nearby.

More a deep family drama with a romantic subplot, SIMPLE WISHES is an interesting character study of a woman who begins to learn what love is and is not after meeting Jay, Skipper the dog, her aunt and the Lopresti family. Before them love was conditional with controlling strings and IOUs; after them she begins to realize love can be unconditional just there. Although the story line lacks action with the focus on the characters' emotions, fascinatingly, the Lopresti teen granddaughter is her prime teacher, as Adele sees history repeat the same errors she made, but will she understand in time to save her relationship with Jay starting with her real given first name.

Border Moonlight
Amanda Scott
0446541354, $6.99

In 1386 Edinburgh, at the altar, fourteen years old Sibylla Cavers says no to a marriage to ancient Lord Galston. A year later she is at the altar where she meets her latest groom for the first time, but says no again when he cannot even smile; he vows vengeance for her impudence. Two years later she informs her irate frustrated father Sir Malcolm she will not marry his third choice who spends all his time with his men. Her father writes her off and plans to arrange his next oldest daughter's marriage, praying she is more biddable.

In 1391, Sibylla is riding alone when she hears a child's scream. She sees the lass drowning in the nearby river and makes a gallant attempt to rescue the young lass from the current, but is hurt in the unsuccessful process. Laird Simon Murray returning home accompanied by a small contingency saves her while his men rescue the child. He takes the injured Sibylla home even as both recognize one another from her jilting him at the altar over three years ago. As they become better acquainted with one another, they fall in love, but trouble on the border appears ready to divide clans in a potentially ferocious war.

This is an exciting Border romance with plenty of action as strife seems everywhere starting with an abduction. The story line is fast-paced from the opening moment when the intrepid Sybilla says no to the priest in front of her father and others and never slows down until the final clan confrontation. Amanda Scott fans will enjoy her latest medieval romance starring a brave female and the arrogant laird in a terrific historical gender war.

Demon's Hunger
Eve Silver
0446618934, $6.99

In New Orleans Dain Hawkins and his Compact of Sorcerer cohorts seek Hybrid humans who allow Demons to take over their bodies. They are concerned that the Solitary special demon is making an effort to cross the line between his realm and the human world; and has the help of Asher the Ancient Sorcerer who betrayed his oath. Dain collects gris gris voodoo bags with bones inside and plans to visit University of Toronto at Mississippi assistant anthropology professor Dr, Vivian Cairn for her take on his collection. He and his peers also seek a serial sexual killer, who they believe is a rare succubus.

Vivian feels relief that her mom's latest visit ended though she loves her single mom. Still she wonders why her dad left them when she was two years old leaving behind a velvet bag and a photo of him. Over the years she has found more gris gris bags. However, her big fear is once again twelve hours of her life vanished without her knowing what she did.

Dane and two other sorcerers arrive at Vivian's home to consult with her. Dane and Vivian are instantly attracted to one another, but he refuses to act on these feelings fearing the same fate for her as his human wife and daughter who were murdered centuries ago. Vivian realizes he is her dream lover. A demon and hybrids attack them; Dane kills the demon and his friends the hybrids. She is not sure what is going on, but uses her skill to stay emotionally detached though she desperately wants Dane, who insists she stay at his home so he can protect her.

This excellent romantic fantasy works because of the relationship between the lead couple and the belief that demons, half-breeds, sorcerers and succubus are genuine. The lost time is a brilliant spin that will leave readers marveling and there are other terrific twists involving the heroine and her mom. Although a pet peeve that the villain Asher boasts to one of his former cohorts much of his plan instead of acting, the audience will enjoy this superb thriller.

Patricia Cornwell
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155161, $27.95,

Kay Scarpetta and Benton Wesley are married and for the first time in their long relationship, they are not only in the same state, they share the same house. She is the medical examiner for the Northeastern District of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and both are guest lecturers at NYC's John Jay College of Criminal Justice. They also provide free consulting services for agencies to include NYPD.

Oscar Bane, a little person, checks himself into Bellevue after seeing his lover, also a little person, dead; a homicide victim. Benton does a pre evaluation and Oscar reveals he will not talk to anyone except Scarpetta. When she arrives Oscar tells her that "they" are watching him and know every move he makes. He also tells her to find a disc hidden in his apartment so she will know he is not paranoid. The police believe Bone killed his significant other, but Scarpetta based on forensics does not even believe he warrants a warrant. Further research reveals other people were killed in a similar fashion; each wearing an ankle bracelet. Kay, Lucy, prosecutor Jaime Berger, and investigator Pete Marino begin to seek a serial killer who enjoys torture and murder.

It has been two decades since Scarpetta was introduced and over that time the characters have changed and grown. Bonds have formed and others broken; now Kay and Benton take the next step in their relationship. However as always in this great series, SCARPETTA is first and foremost a superb crime thriller filled with action though character driven. Readers will fully enjoy the heroine and her horde's latest adventures as Patricia Cornwell affirms why she is this reviewer's favorite crime thriller author.

A Darker Place
Jack Higgins
9780399155505, $26.95

A former paratrooper who fought in Afghanistan and Chechnia, internationally renowned Russian novelist Alexander Kurbsky decides to leave his homeland for the West, but believes his fame might prevent him from staying abroad. Thus, Kurbsky asks Sean Dillon and his associates who make up the British prime minister's "private army" to abet his escape to freedom.

Prime Minister Putin warns Kurbsky about betraying his country and blackmails the author into spying on Dillon and his comrades by showing him pictures of his sister Tania, who he thought was murdered during a student protest that turned ugly; the photos prove Tania lives for now and will be paroled from her life sentence if he cooperates. Dillon and his girlfriend Lady Monica Sterling, a big fan of Kurbsky especially On the Death of Men and Moscow Nights, welcome the noted author to London. There he infiltrates the "private army" that welcomed him to England in an attempt to rescue his sibling from incarceration.

The latest former IRA operative turn British agent Sean Dillon thriller (see THE KILLING GROUND and ROUGH JUSTICE) is a superb entry as he, Monica and the others are totally fooled by Kurbsky. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action even when the plot uses enlightening flashbacks. Fans will relish A DARKER PLACE although the climax feels sudden and faster than the speed of light.

Mistress Shakespeare
Karen Harper
9780399155451, $24.95

Anne Whatley and William Shakespeare have been friends since childhood. On 27 November 1582 a marriage license in Latin between Anne Whateley and Wm Shaxpere is issued in nearby Worcester, England. However, their respective families object to their relationship. A few days later William Shakespeare and pregnant Anne Hathaway wed.

To escape from the reminders of her broken heart Anne flees to London. She occupies her mind with the family business. When Will comes to town, they meet up with both still attracted to one another, but he is a married man. Still Anne becomes Will's ardent advocate of his work and though their departures are sweet sorrows their reunions are passionate.

This is an intriguing biographical fiction that indirectly looks at Shakespeare's life through Anne Whatley's lens by combining fact and what if fiction. The story line provides a focus on the Elizabethan Era especially from the viewpoint of artists and their patrons. Although the romantic plot lacks suspense as there is only so much poetic license an author can take to fill gaps and reach the known end, fans will enjoy this solid glimpse into Shakespeare in love.

Mounting Fears
Stuart Woods
9780399155475, $25.95

It is perhaps the most difficult job in the world on any given day, but this particular week has strained American President William Jefferson Lee IV more so than any before as he runs for a second term. His vice president ailing George Kiel died during prostrate surgery. His advisors have vetted California Governor Martin Stanton as being perfect as the new VEEP, but they remain unaware he has a few skeletons in his closet. After Will publicly nominates him, Martin confesses he and his wife are divorcing. They don't know he is still sleeping with other women and his divorce is not yet finalized.

In Pakistan near the Afghanistan border, Taliban rebels have seized a nuclear missile site that contains two armed warheads; most of the technicians were captured alive. Pakistani President Mohammed Khan plans a swift attack to retake the silo, but a nuclear warhead explodes in the air while the second one is missing. The assumption is the Taliban with El Qaeda abetting them has taken it with plans to turn 9/11 into a minor tragedy in comparison.

Finally making matters worse, former CIA assassin Teddy Fay, who killed right wing politicians after he retired and thought dead (see SHOOT HIM IF HE RUNS), has resurfaced. Teddy's target is a right wing independent candidate eho might cause the president to lose the election.

Stuart Woods writes an exciting political thriller that showcases how the highest levels of government makes difficult policy decisions politically and managerially in an international world in which the media is everywhere. Especially intriguing is how the aides like Holly Barker try to somewhat insulate their boss; for instance from the Teddy Fay issue by insuring it does cause him to lose his job for keeping quiet that he is alive. Thus the audience obtains an interesting look at the tightrope balancing of political concerns with real world problems as defined by the stolen nuclear weapons. In his fourth POTUS thriller, Mr. Woods captivates his audience from start to finish.

Bone by Bone
Carol O'Connell
9780399155147, $24.95

Twenty years ago, then seventeen Oren Hobbs and his fifteen years old brother Josh are walking in the woods taking separate paths. When they fail to meet up, Oren searches for his sibling but his efforts prove unsuccessful; the Coventry, California townsfolk attempts to find Josh also are futile. It is as if the teen just vanished into thin air. His despondent father sends Oren to boarding school and Oren thinks it is because he didn't want to look at him as a reminder of their loss; from their Oren joins the army where he becomes a CID investigator. He leaves the force when the family housekeeper informs him his father is dying.

Oren returns home for the first time in two decades only to find his dad in perfect health. Something creepy is happening top his family, which is why the housekeeper asked him to come home. Josh's bones are left on the porch every night and his dad places them in a coffin in Josh's room every morning. Someone appears to know where Josh was killed and the sheriff, not interested in a cold case, gives Oren permission to investigate. Like any town, Coventry has its dark secrets, which Oren plans to bring into the light so that he and his family can finally attain closure.

Whereas Mallory takes a breather, the great Carol O'Connell provides a deep psychological suspense thriller that will give readers goose-bumps. Readers see skeletons in the closet slowly revealed as Oren gets closer to the truth. The eccentric support cast provides a strong feeling of small-town California living while their point of view enhances the cold case whodunit investigation. However, as with the Mallory series, Ms. O'Connor digs deep into the lingering psychological aftermath of human atrocities on surviving family members and their circle of friends and neighbors; the entire town of Coventry is still haunted twenty hears after the tragedy.

The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom & Their Lover
Victoria Janssen
Harlequin Spice
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373605262, $13.95,

Their marriage was arranged by their parents as a political deal. However, Duchess Camille fears her cheating violent husband Michel plans to dump her for failing to provide him with an heir and a spare. With no place to go if he throws her out or worse if she stays based on the bruises his cruelty could one day kill her, Camille plans to ask Henri the stable hand to make her pregnant.

However Michel goes berserk so Camille flees for her life. Henri, her maid Sylvie and her two eunuchs Arno and Kaspar accompany her to the only potential haven the home of Camille's first love Maxime. She knows if Michel or his thugs catch her she will be raped be-fore being killed and her friends tortured and murdered. Hiding in brothels, they trek towards Maxime's home while enjoying the fruits of their respites.

This erotic historical romance is a fun entertaining tale that in some ways will remind readers of the Fielding classic The History of Tom Jones with its bawdy underpinning to a strong cat and mouse story line. The cast is a delight especially the title characters and those they meet in the brothels while the audience will desire for the mean odious villain to be converted with a not sharp knife to a eunuch. Victoria Jansen provides sub-genre fans with a tour of houses of ill repute providing haven to the harried runaways.

Megan Hart
Harlequin Spice
9780373605279, $13.95

Funeral director Grace Frawley has no interest in a permanent man in her life. Instead of a husband or even a boyfriend, Grace prefers to hire young hunks from a circumspect escort service.

However, Grace makes a mistake one night at the Fishtank when she assumes musician Sam Stewart is her escort date. The evening turns euphoric for the always alone woman as she has the best sex of her life. She is unable to forget the hunk even with passionate trysts with Jack, whom she was originally to meet at the Fishtank. Grace feels out of sorts as this has not happened to her love them but leave them lifestyle before. She begins to wonder why she fears commitment while her sister is happily married. Sam is half in love with his amazing Grace, but wants the entire woman, heart and soul not just her body. He has run out of patience with the woman he loves so he is ready to play a sad final refrain and move on to the next gig though he knows that will lack passion.

What gives this wonderful erotic contemporary romance plenty of "Hart" is the deep look inside Grace, whose first person account is profound and terrific starting with her realization she slept with a stranger; as if Jack being a business arrangement is not. Fans understand her fears of relationship and commitment even as she does not fully grasp the whys. Sam and Jack are strong support characters as is her family; as each escorts the audience deeper within the complex soul of Grace.

The Warlord's Bride
Margaret Moore
9780373773480, $6.99

In 1205 King John orders Lady Roslynn and Welsh Lord Madoc of Llanpowell to marry. Because her late spouse was condemned as a traitor, Roslynn expects guilt by association will mean her monarch dumped her on a grisly brute of a husband whose nickname as the "Bear of Brecan" affirms her belief and exiled her to the wilds of Wales as THE WARLORD'S BRIDE.

Accepting her doomed fate, when she meets her new spouse, she is pleasantly surprised that he is her age and he shows kindness to her and others. Madoc is pleased with his bride who is pretty but caring. However, soon after they exchange their vows, someone slaughters sheep with many believing the new bride involved. When Roslynn finds out about the feud between her husband and outlawed brother-in-law, she tries to intercede as Madoc assumes his sibling is behind the cruel acts while his wife thinks a clever diabolical unknown adversary is the cause.

The above two paragraphs fail to portray what makes a Margaret Moore medieval stand out from much of the rest as on the surface is a typical historical romance. The key is the seemingly effortless interweaving of early thirteenth century Wales as a backdrop so vivid, fans can picture the scenery first hand; yet as stunningly vibrant Wales comes across, the lead couple own the fast-paced story line as they struggle with their relationship at a time someone is using their newness against them. This is a fine King John era romance.

Talk Me Down
Victoria Dahl
9780373773565, $6.99

Molly Jennings uses an alias to write erotic romances. When she comes home to Tumble Creek, Colorado after a decade away, she plans to keep her income maker secret. She also realizes that she still is attracted to Ben Lawson, who has since become the police chief.

Ben is shocked by how much he desires Molly. However, he refuses to act on his need until she confesses to him how she makes money. He soon changes his mind when he fears for her safety from a nosy reporter who wants to uncover how she makes money, her former husband and other dangerous incidents. Ben needs to be next to his beloved to keep her from being harmed even if she fears the closeness.

Although some threads are left unanswered, TALK ME DOWN is an engaging police procedural romantic suspense starring two likable protagonists and a town of enchanting eccentrics. The story line is a lighthearted romantic mystery that fans will relish as Ben and Molly (sound like an ice cream company) stage a wonderful Rocky Mountains gender war.

Winter Heat
Vicki Lewis Thompson, Jade Lee & Anna DeStefano
9780373837304, $5.99

Weekend Fling" by Vicki Lewis Thompson. Los Angeles based ad executives Tracy Bingham and Josh Dempsey share the ignominy of having their former spouses leave them so they can be with each other. When they win a love sonnet contest whose prize is a stay at Weekend Pass Resort, Josh and Tracy are excited yet nervous as they both want each other but fear a sexual relationship could kill their friendship.

"Weekend Meltdown" by Anna DeStefano. Recovering too easily from the end of her engagement, lawyer Felicia Gallo submits a love sonnet that earns her a vacation at Weekend Pass Resort. Deciding to become a bad girl during her stay, Felicia tries to seduce public relations specialist Tony Rossi, who is interested in the real her; not the weekend cat on the prowl.

"Weekend Tigress" by Jade Lee. Kindergarten teacher Liz Song's love sonnet also wins a trip to Weekend Pass Resort. Her plan is to step out on the wild side leaving behind the prim and proper school teacher role model. Transportation Security Administration Agent Matt Walker wonders who she really is as her persona seems off kilter, but cannot resist running wild with her.

The three contemporary romantic novellas live up to the anthology as each will heat the winter with their entertaining tale. The women are fun to follow as each decides to walk, run, and lie on the wild side for the weekend before returning to their appropriately sedate lifestyles. The men in their lives are also fully developed as they want the wild side to continue with them after the weekend. Simply put fans will enjoy these amusing romps.

Tori Carrington
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794430, $4.99

Her married boyfriend Jerry informs lawyer Lizzie Gilbred by text message that he is returning "2 Jen", his wife. She has remained upset since receiving his cold message seven days ago, but is now ready to take action. Tired of being a loser because she has been a caring good girl, Lizzie decides no more Ms. nice girl. She chooses her renter grunge garage musician Patrick Gauge as her bad boy target.

Gauge is Dion's Wanderer, who is "never in one place" as he "roams from town to town" but sadly "going nowhere". However his libido explodes when his landlady proves not to be a frozen tin Lizzie as she seduces him. They share what each thinks is the greatest sexual trysts of their respective lives. As they begin to fall in love, Gauge the "king of the road" considers fleeing; his normal response to any serious commitment since he went homeless, However this time he knows leaving will be more than sweet sorrow; it will be the hardest departure of all as his Lizzie makes him believe in him and them.

Gauge is the key to this terrific contemporary romance as his love for Lizzie and her encouraging nurturing enables him to begin to heal and return to what he once was; only greater now because of her. Lizzie is a bit more typical of the prim and proper good girl determined to test the bad girl waters, but Gauge brings out both sides. Team Tori Carrington provides a superior character driven tale as Lizzie, readers and even Gauge wonder if the boy is back in town fighting for love or picking flight.

Heating Up the Holidays
Jill Shalvis, Jacquie D'Alessandro and Jamie Sobrato
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794393, $4.99

All He Wants For Christmas by Jill Shalvis. Ocean Harbor Beach, California Emergency Medical technician Dustin Mauer and town firefighter Cristina Lewis share similar wishes for the holidays as both wants the other. However he needs more than a one night stand or even the twelve nights of Christmas while the brave woman would dare building infernos but not one of the heart as she runs from commitments.

My Grown-Up Christmas List by Jacquie D'Alessandro. Florist Toni Rizzo wants nothing to do with egotistical firefighters except to sell them flowers. However, Ocean harbor fireman Brad Griffin wants her not her floral arrangements.

Up On The Housetop by Jamie Sobrato. Dr. Lorelei Gibson returns home to Ocean harbor in order to move on as she never forgot her high school sweetheart who broke her heart when he dumped her. Her plan is to break his heart like firefighter Ryan Quinn did hers. However, she never expected him to rescue her from her rooftop when she was almost naked. She wonders if lighting can strike in the same place.

These are three heated delightful Yuletide romances starring firefighters and their soulmates.

His Only Defense
Carolyn McSparren
Harlequin SuperRomance
0373715323, $5.50

While working a nasty situation, Shelby County Police Negotiator Liz Gibson is shot; worse she is mentally shattered when a hostage she was trying to free was murdered. Liz carries survivor guilt as she keeps going over what happened to see what she could have done differently.

While still traumatized, Liz is assigned cold cases. Currently she is investigating the disappearance of the wife of builder Jud Slaughter seven years ago. Everyone even his stepdaughter and other family members believe Jud killed his spouse. After interviewing him, Liz believes he is not only innocent but he has no idea what happened to his spouse. However, she also knows that her attraction to Jud may make her see the case through rose colored glasses. Either way she plans to uncover the truth.

This superb police procedural romance stars two emotionally scarred individuals who meet due to her investigation. Liz is terrific as she falls in love with her prime suspect but keeps her professionalism even if it means the end of her relationship before it truly begins. Jud is frustrated as everyone including the new cop in his life who has given him back his feelings assumes he killed his wife. Readers will appreciate this strong contemporary Tennessee thriller as Carolyn McSparren keeps the audience wondering is he a victim or a psychopath.

Meant for Each Other
Lee Duran
Harlequin SuperRomance
0373715358, $5.50

Although they are divorced Frankie Hale never stopped loving her former husband Johnny Davis. Thus when she receives a call in the middle of the night learning he was in a car accident due to crashing after skidding on icy road conditions and suffering an apparent heart attack, Frankie waits until daylight to rush to St. Louis to be at his side. In town she goes immediately to Memorial Hospital in spite of horrific weather conditions and icy roads.

On the way over, Frankie muses over the past with her beloved Johnny and prays he will be okay. Johnny is euphoric to see his soulmate and tells her he loves her and misses her. They agree to remarry; hoping the fourth time between them is the permanent charm.

This is an intriguing romance starring two fascinating but underdeveloped characters. Much of the tale occurs in the past using flashbacks as readers learn the ballad of Frankie and Johnny contains three refrains and the beginning of a fourth though that is never fully explored. Obviously MEANT FOR EACH OTHER fans will wonder how long marriage number four will survive.

No Place Like Home
Margaret Watson
Harlequin SuperRomance
0373715315315, $5.50

In Green Bay, single mom Bree McInnes takes an administrative assistant position at Collier College where her father once taught. On her first day on the job, she meets renowned orchid hunter Professor Parker Ellison and to her chagrin she is attracted to the abrupt demanding botanist.

However, although he reciprocates, his desire to obtain her father's papers make Bree wonder if he cares only for the documents and just using her to get at them. Additionally, the father of her tweener child wannabe herpetologist Charlie, who is taking Parker's Introduction to Biology summer class as a special student, is also at the college making waves. Bree is used to running from adversity while Parker is used to running from relationships.

The second McInnes triplet's contemporary romance (See A PLACE LIKE HOME) is a fabulous tale starring two adults used to running away and a precocious tweener whose intellect leaves him as an outsider; Bree's sisters also make a return engagement. The cast is fully developed while the story line focuses on misconceptions between the lead couple. Whereas Parker assumes that Bree is pushing Charlie to take a college class when she would refer he played with kids his age; Bree believes Parker wants her to get at her dad's research papers. Fans will enjoy the second McInnes homecoming tale.

Once Upon a Christmas
Holly Jacobs
Harlequin American
0373752423, $4.99

In Erie, Pennsylvania, although only the legal guardian to her nephew Brendan, Michelle Hamilton acts more like the child's mother and has for five years ever since her sister, his mom, dropped him off explaining she was dying. She loves the lad and would do anything for him; even join the Erie Elementary PTA Social Committee; of course she volunteered when she was too sick to realize what she was doing.

However, when Brendan becomes determined to find his biological father, Michelle is hurt and worried as she fears if the child succeeds, the man will wants custody. Brendan meets his dad Daniel McLean and to her shock Michelle sees he is a terrific male role model. Even more stunning to the "single mom" is the realization she is falling in love with her nephew's dad after spending several years hiding behind the mommy persona.

Holly Jacobs keeps this engaging Erie Elementary PTA (see ONCE UPON A THANKSGIVING) contemporary romance fresh through three strong protagonists coming together as a family who supersede the often used plot of finding a biological parent. The story line is driven by the changing relationships especially between the adults as each starts off wary and cynical but slowly observe how good the other is with Brendan before knowing they are in love. The fully developed triangle and the support cast make for a fine ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS tale.

A Baby in the Bunkhouse
Cathy Gillen Thacker
Harlequin American
0373752415, $4.99

On his Texas Hill Country ranch, Rafferty Evans behaves like the Grinch who stole Christmas year round; he is a grump if you ask the other cowboys living there. His new cook pregnant Jacey Lambert is driving him crazy with her kindness and caring for everyone even saying nice things to the grouch who makes Oscar look angelic.

However, Rafferty cannot prevent himself from looking forward to Jacey's good cheer and to his shock he even likes A BABY INN THE BUNKHOUSE even if the infant is not his. As Jacey begins to turn around the crotchety cantankerous cowboy, they begin to fall in love, but to have a happy ending she must persuade him to move past his tormented past into a loving future.

This entertaining Texas ranch romance stars a crank, a baby, and an angel. Jacey's optimism is contagious as she sees the glass as half filled while Rafferty would spill out the liquid and claim it is totally empty. Although similar to many sub-genre tales fans will enjoy this fine contemporary as Jacey keeps filling up the glass refusing to quit each time Rafferty empties it.

Bedding Down
Kristina Wright, et al.
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061560637, $13.95,

"One Night in Winter" by Kristina Wright. Susannah returns home to Minerva where her former lover Derrick reignites their heat.

"Six Weeks at Sunrise Mountain, Colorado" by Gwen Masters. Stressed to the max, burned-out millionaire Fletcher flees for Sunrise Mountain to escape; there he rescues a frozen bruised Janine who in turn rescues his libido and heart.

"It's Not the Weather" by Alison Tyler. Shelly assumes it is her fault that her boyfriend Roger is cold regardless of what she tries; so she gives up on him only to find warmth and passion with Jeremiah.

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Marilyn Jaye Lewis. Married couple Kaylie and Connor becomes snowbound, which gives them time to reenact some of their hottest moments.

"Northern Exposure" by Isabelle Gray. Their marriage is over yet neither Alana nor Gideon can move on as each wonders if they should give it one more try.

"Hidden Treasure" by Sophie Mouette. Brenda and Sean discover a treasure, but will they understand what the real treasure is.

"Sweet Season," by Shanna Germain. After being away for awhile, Dulcie returns to her family's maple syrup business only to find Travis is the real sweetener.

Although the plots are paper thin, the lead couples are developed enough to emit plenty of heat for fans to appreciate this wintry erotic septet.

At Grave's End
Jeaniene Frost
9780061583070, $7.99

Married at least in terms of vampire laws, half-breed Cat Crawfield and pure bloodsucker Bones are euphoric. They were manipulated cleverly by her family keeping them apart for years. Now they live together and Bones has joined the government agency run by her uncle hunting rogue vampires.

Already the most successful team due to Cat's unique prowess, the addition of Bones makes the unit seemingly invincible. However, the vampire world recently learned that Cat is the notorious Red Reaper making her a Scarlet letter type target to her enemy and that Bones is a traitor. While struggling to stay alive from hunter-vamps especially one who loathes Bones for dumping her, they must prevent a war of magic from devastating the world.

The latest Night Huntress urban fantasy (see HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE and ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE) series is a powerful entry as the overarching theme moves forward with increasing complexity; while also containing an action-packed story line and intensifying the lead couple's romantic relationship. Now that Cat is outed, she wears a bulls-eye on her forehead as vampiric gunslingers know taking her down would make them into an over night superhero, not that Bones will sit idly allowing that to happen. Sub-genre fans will fully enjoy Cat's saga, as Jeaniene Frost's tour of the world of the "Grave" is deep yet fun to follow.

Tempt the Devil
Anna Campbell
9780061234934, $6.99

In 1826 London, Olivia Raines is the first choice of anyone wanting a courtesan. Her beauty and skills are beyond comparison as nobody does it better than she does. Surprisingly, behind her enticing smile is a woman whose heart is ice.

Earl Julian Southwood has just come home to England after time in places like Marrakech and Constantinople. Considered a rake by polite society, he persuades Olivia to be his mistress. However, he is different than those hedonistic aristocrats who desire her especially those who have had her; he wants more than her body. He wants her mind, her heart and her soul given freely to him. Julian knows he will not get them unless he can get her to confess the secret that turned her heart into an iceberg even as she begins to thaw with a desire for his lover's touch.

TEMPT THE DEVIL is a powerful late Regency romance starring two wonderful vivacious lead characters whose role reversal refreshes the story line. He is the one who seeks much more depth with their arrangement; while she is the one whose past limits her relationship to sexual dalliances. Fans will think of Dean Martin's tune Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime as Julian builds his campaign around expanding that theme because he needs the whole Olivia; but she distrusts passion, intimacy, and especially love. Anna Campbell provides a potent, entertaining and heartwarming historical romance.

The Highland Groom
Sarah Gabriel
9780061234972, $5.99

In 1823 Fiona MacCarran understands her late grandmother's strange will that she must meet if she is to inherit, but also believes she will not be able to meet the conditions. Her grandma wants schoolteacher Fiona to marry a wealthy Scotsman so that she leave the classroom and paint portraits of fairy.

Fiona is attracted to laird of Kinloch, whose children she teaches. However, she knows Dougal MacGregor may be a hunk but is not remotely affluent; in fact she believes he is a whiskey smuggler avoiding the excise men like her cousin.

Dougal feels drunk with desire for Fiona, but knows he must ignore his feelings. He fears what she can learn about his clan's "fairy whiskey", especially the smuggling activity that could if revealed could endanger his villagers. However, when the locals get in trouble, Fiona joins Dougal rather than her blood kin to help keep them safe.

From almost the beginning readers will see how Fiona thinks differently than her brother Patrick when they rock climb and hear a noise that she says is fairies while he insists it is smugglers. That sets the tone of a whimsical engaging historical romance with a wee bit of the paranormal and some late suspense. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the caring laird sees the beauty through the highland mists and never slows down as they fall in love while she wonders if her hunch is right that he leads a smuggling operation. THE HIGHLAND GROOM is a winner as it asks whether doing the right thing to care for the locals should supersede the law that has wider applications.

Between the Devil and Desire
Lorraine Heath
9780061355646, $6.99

In 1851 Jack "Artful" Dodger knows he has come a long way from his thieving days on the streets of London to where he is now, the owner of an exclusive gentleman's club, which means aristocratic women hate him. However, his dirt poor begging days have left a mark on his soul; he wants more and more money with no entanglements.

Changes abruptly occur when the notorious rake is named guardian by the late Duke of Lovingdon of his heir, four years old Henry to the appalling shock of the child's mom, Widow Lady Olivia. Initially Jack is bewildered with why him from a highly regarded lord and unhappy with the task as it interferes with his womanizing and money-making; that is until he begins to see the lioness lady. He wants her and plans to have her; she wants him and plans to avoid him. As they argue while taking care of her son, they fall in love. However, before they can consider a family, the identity of his parents surfaces leaving Jack to confront danger and end his hopes of marrying the duchess

The sequel to IN BED WITH THE DEVIL is another excellent adult where are they now twisting of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. The story line is character driven starting with the reading of the shocking will as Dodger and Olivia go from enemies with a common purpose to love with an even stronger common purpose. The late suspense rounds out a wonderfully passionate Victorian that does justice to Mr. Dickens' classic.

Margo Maguire
9780061667879, $6.99

Two decades ago Anthony Maddox went on an African safari with his father and never returned to London. While his family and friends assume he died, his grandmother Lady Sutton prayed for a miracle that she would see him one last time before she died.

Shocking everyone in 1829, an adult Anthony comes home. However, he is no longer the polite behaved child; instead he is a savage who flaunts the inane rules of High Society. Unaccepted by all except his grandma and yet desired by the ladies due to that same lord of the jungle unacceptability, the WILD Lord Sutton shocks the aristocracy with his behavior. A whisper campaign insists he is in an imposter taking advantage of a foolish lonely old woman. However Lady Sutton believes he is genuine and asks her companion Grace Hawthorne to tame the beast by teaching him proper etiquette. As they see each other daily, they fall in love, but he needs to go home to Africa to enact revenge on the individual who left him ostracized; that compulsion changes when he realizes someone wants his beloved spinster dead he believes because of him.

This intriguing early nineteenth century Tarzan meets the Ton and Jane in England is an engaging historical romance. The story line is at its best when the student purposely misbehaves to impishly get a rise out of his tutor. The avenging subplot feels overdone and though understandable never quite holds up to the Tarzan-Jane prime theme that sub-genre fans will relish.

Shelter Me
Juliette Fay
9780061673399, $13.95

In Pelham, Massachusetts, thirty-eight years old Janie LaMarche is stunned to learn her husband Robby died in a motorcycle accident. She needs to grieve, but must hide her inner torment from their two preschool aged children, Dylan and toddler Carly. Each, but especially the older Dylan questions when will daddy come home?

As a pleasant surprise for his wife, before Robby died four months ago, he hired contractor Tug Malinowski to build a screened-in porch. Divorcee Tug is stunned how attracted he is to the new widow although he tries to hide his feelings out of respect for her grief. She in turn finds herself shockingly wanting someone else who she knows should be beyond temptation; which adds to her overall depression.

Janie is a complete character who owns the novel as she mourns her loss yet tries to put up a strong front for her bewildered children. Her journal entries display her confusion, her fears, and her grief as she doubts she will be able to cope as a single mom raising two children feeling overwhelmed by her trials and tribulations. The two new men in her life add to her overall bewilderment. Juliet Fay provides a deep character study focusing on a depressed person, buried in grief and fear with no outlet for her stress that she hides from her kids while also over time starts to marvel about the beauty and wonder of life.

Ransom My Heart
Princess Mia Thermopolis with Meg Cabot
9780061700071, $13.95

In 1291 Stephensgate, England the miller Crais' oldest daughter Mellana is pregnant with the father being a traveling troubadour. Since the family has no money set aside for a dowry, Mellana's prospects for marriage is zero unless she takes direct action. She persuades her sister Finn to assist her by kidnapping for ransom a wealthy man.

After due diligence, they decide on an Earl just back from the Crusades. Finn abducts Hugh Fitzstephen, who has plenty of gold and jewels that he brought home from his overseas venture. Fitzstephen acts docile more out of curiosity than any threat from his guard. However, to both their shock, Finn and Hugh are attracted to one another, complicating an already out of control plan.

This is an amusing medieval romance "written" by Mia with Meg Cabot's help. Fans of the author will understand who Mia is especially if they read the last Princess Diaries entry while newcomers will seek her previous starring work. The story line is fast-paced, humorous and at times zany once the gender battle takes shape. Fans will appreciate this fun historical romance, in which the Princess is donating the profit to Greenpeace.

Where Do I Go?
Neta Jackson
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595545237, $14.99,

Gabrielle Fairbanks has been a supermom to their sons and very supportive of her husband's career at a cost to her own identity. When Gabby and her spouse relocate to Chicago for his job, they agree to leave the kids at boarding school.

However, with the children away at school, Gabby suffers from empty nest syndrome, but is unsure what she wants to do. When she meets a homeless person, Gabby finds a calling and obtains work at Manna House Women's Shelter. However to her chagrin her husband opposes her work and the new friends she has made; he even has issues with her finding God in her life.

This direct sequel to the recently completed Yada Yada saga includes some of the cast and the beginnings of the same inspirational "House of Hope" messages of "to thine own self be true" by getting involved to help others through God's forgiveness. The spousal war over who Gabby should be and her asking herself the title question is well designed, but those needing closure will have to wait for the next novel. Fans of Neta Jackson will rejoice with the opening of her new series.

Ted Dekker and Erin Healy
Thomas Nelson Publishers
9781595544704, $24.99

The McAllister siblings were driving together when a nasty accident leaves Shauna in a coma and her brother Rudy permanently brain damaged. When Shauna awakens from her comatose state six months later, she finds her memory impaired. Her doctor fills in some of the gaps of the accident; informing her she was the driver and her blood level at the time recorded her as under the influence of drugs; she caused the accident ramming into a semi in which her dad has paid off millions already.

Feeling remorse and guilt Shauna returns home to finish healing. Her father, running for president, treats her like the enemy while her stepmother overtly shows her loathing towards her. Only Wayne Spade, insisting he is her boyfriend though she has no memory of him, treats her with kindness. She soon learns she has developed a new skill, pilfering other peoples' memories. Shauna decides to learn the deepest darkest truth concealed by her father so she can understand why he seems to have always hated her only now he acts more overtly. Sometimes a person is better off not knowing as ignorance will prove bliss because knowledge brings assassins coming for her.

This exciting Christian parable ironically subtly focuses on the Plato concept that to appreciate the good (in this case the light of God) one must experience the bad (the devilish dark side); inside of a suspense thriller with paranormal elements. Shauna holds the fast-paced story line together with her insistence on learning the whole truth although each revelation cuts a chunk of her soul off and leads to someone wanting her dead. Fans of Ted Dekker will relish this strong allegorical fable filled with suspense yet underlying is the theme of deliverance from the mental anguish if Shauna willingly turns to God.

Free Pass
Elizabeth Scott
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451225030, $14.00, 1-800-847-5515

The three couples have each been happily married for over six years. All six are friends enjoying each other's company on occasion. However, as they approach their seventh year of marriage, each has an itch to explore more than just their beloved mates, but none want to risk their relationship with their significant other. However, they agree to a one time FREE PASS with strangers.

In Miami, Cherisse and Wesley are on a vacation when he using his telescope as good as any peeping Tom could and notices the impish wicked beauty while she covets their lifeguard. At her House of Fit health club Melanie decides on a special exercise program with a visiting guest while her husband Thomas initially watches with a bulging third leg until he joins the menage. In Greece, Debra and Gordon watch with their tongues hanging out and other body parts wet, a Russian couple putting on a love making XXX performance in which they double the pleasure.

With an irreverent nod to the classic movie The Seven Year Itch, FREE PASS is a fun definitely over the top erotic romance. The story line is hot, hotter, and hottest as the couples widen their sexual escapades. Although no one is fully developed beyond the itch, Elizabeth Scott provides a torrid tale that sub-genre fans will enjoy.

The Comet's Curse
Dom Testa
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765321076, $16.95, 1-888-330-8477

Comet Bhaktul did not collide with the Earth, but its tale past through the atmosphere, providing people with a good light show of bright red particles. Months later, adults around the globe come down with a fatal virus. The comet contaminated anyone eighteen and over with the pandemic death rates devastating the adult population. If a vaccine is not found soon, humanity will be extinct as eighteen is a death sentence to the survivors.

To preserve the species, a special ship Galahad is built as dedicated scientists give up what precious little time they have left with their families to build the craft in a timely manner. The best and brightest teens under the age of sixteen, a crew of 251, are selected to colonize a new home in a distant solar system. Two years later, Galahad led by Triana Martell leaves planet earth. They are ready for anything outer space sends their way, but not inner space as number 252 is a stowaway on board sabotaging the quest.

With nods to Wild in the Streets and Lost in Space albeit much more serious in tone, young adult since fiction fans will love this sold space opera whose prime characters are easy to relate to and admire. Although all carry a heavy burden, the teens are strong and independent as each contributes to the common good of the Galahad community. The prime focus is on Triana, who was traumatized by her beloved father's death that turned her into a loner unable to make friends, but capable of caring for others while making difficult decisions. Readers will enjoy the opening gamut of this six book saga to save the species.

The Horsemen's Gambit
David B. Coe
Tor Books
9780765316394, $26.95

The Southlands are populated by three groups who distrust one another. The Oirsi practice a life stealing magic; the Mettai use blood mixed with the earth to cast spells; and the Eandi do not use any form of magic. Over six decades ago a SORCERER'S PLAGUE destroyed a Mettai village; more recently that same plague devastated Kirayde, the hometown of Lici. She vowed vengeance against the Qirisi raiders whom she blamed and succeeded much more than she could have imagined when she interwove the SORCERER'S PLAGUE into baskets.

The Eandi peddlers sell her infected baskets to the unsuspecting Qirsi without relaizing that they are cursing the villagers they leave behind with a nasty death from their in demand product. With many villages eradicated as the epidemic spreads, the survivors believe the Eandi peddlers are killing them as they seem immune to the curse. Meanwhile from the Forelands, Eandi Captain Tirnya Onjaef leads a force south to conquer the stunned Qirsi while Grinsa the Weaver tries to escape incarceration by the Fal'Borna so that he can locate Lici and persuade her to end the plague. There is two problems for him and his allies; first escaping will not be easy and second they are susceptible to the customized lethal disease.

The second book of the Blood of the Southlands is a superb fantasy tale that not only avoids the mid book set up syndrome, but enhances the tension between the clans as each blames the other for their problems. Lici is a bit more off stage this time as her efforts have proven fruitful. Fans will relish this entry for its deep look into the social, political, economic and military interactions between the three distrusting groups; ignorance and racism are the norm with the hostilities turning the Southlands into a large killing field.

Bones Of The Dragon
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Tor Books
076531973X, $24.95

Everyone except Skylan Ivorson believes the self conceited pup is too young and egotistical to properly lead a clan, especially a clan of raiders, but all acknowledge he has becomes the chief of chiefs of his clan, the Vindras. Skylan believes the War God Skoval has looked favorably at him and many agree calling him the Blessed, but he soon realizes his seafaring raiders are actually cursed as being the Blessed also means doing suicidal bidding.

The ancient gods including Skoval are under assault by newcomers who want the top level of the pantheon. They are proving successful in their war against the ancient ones. The only known way to repel the intruders is to find and bring back together the Five Bones of the Vektan Dragons. The Dragon Goddess has selected the Blessed one and his weary clan to accomplish the quest; Skoval orders Skylan to complete his destiny as the Blessed.

Although similar to Greek and Roman mythos with a destined quest bestowed by interfering Gods, readers will enjoy the opening Dragonships' fantasy due to the lead character, who learns the hard way being chosen is a double edged sword. The story line is action-packed even as Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman introduce their new world and the war of the gods to the audience. Fans of the writing team will appreciate the first tale in their new saga as the hero learns that the gods bestow not out of altruism but so that the gods demand when they need too.

Kit Reed
Tor Books
9780765321619, $25.95

Former marine "Sarge" Whitemore renovates Clothos, an isolated island that once was a Benedictine monk monastery. The only survivor from the religious order is elderly lay brother Benny. After the reconstruction is completed, Sarge offers a deal to affluent parents with troubled youngsters. In exchange for an exorbitant amount of money, he informs them that he can save their dissolute off spring from themselves and the ugly world. Give him their kids so his "hermetically sealed private school" can "keep them safe".

The response from bone weary emotionally shot adults is incredible as bidding wars over obtaining one of the hundred seats begin. Sarge collects the chosen hundred; tosses away their gizmos and on Destination Day takes them to the remote isle that the unhappy kids scornfully call Mount Clothos. Nothing works in accordance with the plan as the physician is a drunk, kids hack into the computer room, Benny hid an ailing friend whose illness has pandemically spread amongst the residents, and then there is the rest of the staff and the ghost.

Ironically in spite of his martinet throwback drill instructor persona, Sarge is not the champion of this intriguing story line. Instead the teens led by peer Killer Stade are the heroes as they fight to stop the virus spread and the mob mentality of the staff and faculty. Quite frankly adults are condemned (worse than in Wild in the Streets) as miscreants who fail at the ecology, at raising their kids, and at saving those stuck at the isolated island. Fans who appreciate something off beat will enjoy this satirical allegorical thriller that claims the boomers and Gen X as pathetic losers with the present teen generation the only hope to save the planet from its elders.

Mamizu Arisawa with art by Mari Matsuzawa
Tor Books
0765321467, $9.99

Hedonistic and selfish Kawahira Keita has shamed his famous family as the first one to fail to obtain an Inukami for him to tame; the spirit dogs scorned him as being too self centered. His grandma gives the slacker Keita some hope when she informs him there is an Inukami who selected him, but was unready at that time. He is euphoric and more so when he meets his "dog" a beautiful looking babe Yoko. They agree to a contract for him to tame her so they can battle as a team fighting evil, but he only forges his half of the deal.

He soon learns that his failure to complete the binding leaves him open to attack by demons wanting to steal his soul. Keita also finds out the hard way about his partner's selfishness that rivals his when his disobedient dog leaves him naked in public; she is impish and considered by her peers as un-trainable. Instead of her serving him, he serves her as she punishes his transgressions, real or not. Worse another Inukami Nadeshiko is sent to train the pair on proper behavior, but that only outrages Yoko who is jealous.

This is an amusing manga fantasy that targets older teens with its innuendos and beastly humorous take on relationships (though the Inukami look human, manga style, except for their tails). The story line is a bit thin, but fun to follow as two selfish individuals star in an outrageous cross-species jocular gender war.

Ken Scholes
Tor Books
9780765321275, $24.95

Way into the distant future in the Named Lands, the city of Windwir is recognized by most as the center of world. Much of that proclamation comes from the city being home to the Androfrancines, who are the keepers of the Old World knowledge in their Great Library; a place where science and magic mingle. This is a normal day until a metal bird flies above the city. Soon afterward darkness engulfs Windwir. When the dust settles and the sun shines through, the city is gone; left behind is a scorched plain.

Nothing will be the same inside the Named Lands from that moment when the Old World metallic weapon quoting Xhum Y'zir's Seven Cacophonic Deaths destroyed the city. Stunned warrior Lord Rudolfo of the Ninefold Forest Houses saw from a distance the smoke that is all that is left of Windwir. He heads there immediately and finds a shocked survivor apprentice Isaak sitting where the city was moments earlier sputtering references from the Seven Cacophonic Deaths; he had been just outside when the devastation occurred. The kingdoms blame each other and maneuver to take advantage of the dramatic change in relationships. Increasingly evidence points to the Entrolusian City States Overseer Sethbert as the culprit. He apparently has brought back the ancient weapons of mass destruction as war threatens to send the Named Lands back to the Stone Age.

The first Psalms of Isaak is an excellent epic fantasy that in many ways is a post apocalyptic science fiction thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the incredibly opening sequence and filled with intriguing twists that never quite allows the reader to gently peruse the plot. The world seems plausible and solid enough while the key players Isaak and Rodolfo are well developed so readers get to know them. Fans will relish Ken Sholes' strong opening act as war engulfs the Named Lands while mindful of nineteenth century novelist Alphonse Karr's commentary "The more things change, the more they are the same".

Hayate Cross Blade
Shizuru Hatashira
Tor Books
0765321815, $9.99

When her twin sister Nagi Hayate becomes too ill to go to the Tenchi Academy that has accepted her in their prestigious "Sword Bearer" program, Kurogane agrees to temporarily go in her stead. Ever the optimist, Hayate assumes the switch should be easy. However, after arrival at the all-girls boarding school, she begins to learn the rules of Star Stealing and wants to compete, but needs a partner. As a first year student, who arrived late, her choice is limited to losers whose eyes look vacant.

Upbeat as always, she observes third year student Mudou Ayana defeat an opponent without using her sword or hands. She learns Ayana has no partner so cannot compete; Hayate wonders what happened that left Ayana alone. She decides Ayana will be her partner though the older girl keeps rejecting her. When Hayate learns the Dandelion Garden orphanage that she was raised in is in financial trouble with owing a fortune to Yakuza mobsters, she makes it her goal to earn money by winning the Star Stealing, but needs Ayana as her Sword Bearer sister to do so.

Targeting older teens as there is some profanity; HAYATE CROSS BLADE is an engaging manga graphic comic book. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that the Pollyanna with blades Hayate arrives at school and never slows down as she does everything to make Ayana her partner and save the Dandelion Garden. Hayate's always rah-rah can do attitude is a doubled edged sword; fans will admire her bubbly optimism yet at times is irritating just ask the usually stoic Ayana. Still readers will enjoy attending Tenchi Academy where the best swordswomen in Japan are trained through the intriguing Star Stealing program.

Jamie Leigh Hansen
Tor Books
0765357216, $6.99

Since they attended high school together, Alex has loved Elizabeth. However, although she feels for him, she has made it clear that an intimate relationship beyond friendship is impossible. He assumes he suffers from unrequited love, but she has secrets that keep her from reaching out to him. Alex is a healer whose touch can cure anyone; Elizabeth is a dream weaver with the ability to ensnare people in her nightmares. Although she loves Alex, she fears what she will do to him especially since her father is a powerful fallen angel who is battling her soul for control of her mind and body. Thus she left him and their hometown.

Elizabeth has returned home to help her family while Alex knows as he did before she left he still loves her. However, besides her rogue angel dad, a goddess has plans for Alex; anyone in the way must die and who knows (besides Ms. Hansen) what else might crawl out from the Tunnels of the Forgotten Ones.

Somewhat overwhelming with a large cast and so much happening, CURSED, the sequel to BETRAYED is an intriguing romantic urban fantasy. The story line is filled with action, but at its best when either or both lead characters are at the vortex of the plot. Readers will wonder whether Elizabeth and Alex have a future together and for that matter whether either has a future at all.

Mean Streets
Jim Butcher, et al.
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451462497, $15.00,

"The Warrior" by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden knows he has faced some death defying strange cases, but fears this time with the Michael scenario he may not make it out even dead let alone alive.

"The Difference a Day Makes" by Simon R. Green. In the Nightside, the femme fatale enters the private investigative office of John Taylor to obviously hire him. However, her request is off the chart, which says a lot with what the detective has seen and done; she needs John to find her lost memory.

"The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog" by Kat Richardson. The case was expected to be easy and fast so the Greywalker wonders why she is in such dire straits as nothing went right starting with the attacks from the grave of the raging vengeful late Harper Blaine

"Noah's Orphans" by Thomas E. Sniegoski. He is hired to uncover who killed the centuries old Noah; for a fallen angel like Remy Chandler the case seems simple, but he will soon learn once again as he did when he fell from grace that there is nothing straightforward under heaven and earth.

These four paranormal urban fantasy noirs occur in the author's renowned "world" starring ultra famous lead characters. Each tale is well written feeling complete even in the novella format and complement one another as the writers rose to the occasion of expectations from their fan base. An obvious must for readers of any of the four paranormal sagas, newcomers will appreciate the introductions to these literary legends as they investigate the otherworldly MEAN STREETS.

In Shade and Shadow
Barb & J.C. Hendee
0451462505, $24.95

After parting ways from Magiere the Dhampire and Leesil the half-breed elf, Wynn Hygeorht returns to the Guild of Sagecraft in Calm Seatt. She brings with her journals she has cribbed that describe what she witnessed and did as well as arcane texts written by vampires during the time of the Forgotten History and the Great War, millenniums ago. These need translation, but to her disappointment she is not one of the scholars working on this because the highest ranks consider her confused as the Noble Dead Vampires do not exist.

The Guild Scholars translate what they can with what Wynn brought home before farming them out to various scriptoriums to be copied. When two journeymen go to pick up the texts, they are killed by what looks like a black blob of darkness that murders people without touching them. Identical homicides follow of those picking up the texts that the killer steals. Wynn abetted by Chane, a Noble Dead, who has feelings for her, investigates and discovers the serial killing thief is a different type of undead than previously encountered. Both believe that this is connected to the Enemy who destroyed the world during the times of the Forgotten History. Wynn has to rely on her beliefs to prevent a killer from bringing the seemingly invincible Enemy back for a second world destruction tour.

IN SHADE AND SHADOW starts the second Noble Dead series turning the focus from Magiere the Dhampire and Leesil to the little scribe Wynn. She is stubborn and independent with a need to know the truth. Readers learn what is expected of scribes as the job description does not allow for poetic license or interpretation; instead one writes down what one is given even if it is obviously false. Wynn's need to go beyond the word will make her a fan favorite on a par with the heroes of the first saga. Thus she and Chane conduct a serial killer investigation concentrating ion what the predator is and the link to the return of the Enemy rather than just note another murder by the blob. This is a great start to the newest Noble Dead series.

Just Another Judgment Day
Simon R. Green
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441016747, $24.95,

Since time began, there has always been The Walking Man; an entity who travel's God's path by killing sinners regardless of their crimes against the Lord although he focuses mostly on those beyond redemption. He has become invulnerable with incredible strength and speed. He has no compassion, no empathy, no pity; he cares naught about their souls or their surviving loved ones. Heavenly justice is all that matters to this judge, jury and executioner.

Now he is coming to clean up Nightside, a city invisible within London; a place where sin thrives and where every perversion known to humanity flourishes in the open. The Walking Man demands the end of transgressions or else; he includes sinners and hedonistic self indulgers. Nightside will die once he purges the community. Private investigator John Taylor intends to stop the invincible Walking Man; he understands what he is going up against as all who ever opposed this legend died. However, he also comprehends passivity denotes death anyway. At the Adventurer's Club House, John takes a last stand with many locals at his side; but in the end it will be him and The Walking Man with only one walking away.

As is the case in the previous saga, Nightside is a place where anything happens as John Taylor is well aware of from the numerous cases he has worked. This place is in his blood and in a sense his heritage. The irony of this deep two person character study is that John also dispenses justice on evil doers in his Marlowe tough guy manner. The difference resides on interpretation as John discreetly ignores self inflicted depravities that harm no one not involved in the dissoluteness; while The Walking Man does not discriminate as he goes after anyone who in his mind has violated God's rules; hence the title. Simon R. Green has refreshed his terrific urban noir fantasy with a paranormal gunfight at the OK Corral showdown.

Airs of Night and Sea
Toby Bishop
Ace Books
9780441016693, $7.99

There is trouble brewing in the Duchy of Oc as Duke William is obsessing over riding a flying magical horse; a feat only women are capable of doing. He thinks that with the potion he is taking that gives him breasts, a beardless face, and a female shape he will be able to ride his steed Diamond. He has cut back on funds to the Academy of Air run by women who train young girls to ride the flying horses in service of the duchy.

He sends his militia to the Academy of Air to spy on the people who reside there. Mistress Philippa Winter is in hiding from the duke, who wants to punish her for her transgression. He kidnaps the Kree trainee Amelia from the school as a hostage believing that will force Philippe out of hiding. Larkyn "Lark Hamley, flies to Kree to tell Amelia's father what the Duke has done to his daughter. A warship attacks the duchy's harbor and it looks like war is coming between Kree and Isamar as the people are divided between supporting the duke and deposing the duke. Lark tries to defuse the situation to keep the Academy of Air from being destroyed.

Lark might not be an aristocrat like the rest of the trainees attending the Academy, but she has more inner strength and fortitude than the other students. She believes she must act as the duchy faces a lot of issues in THE AIRS OF NIGHT AND SEA. William is actually the key as he forces events. Some will say he is evil while others believe he is insane as he ignores his responsibilities to the duchy to purse his obsession, but when people turn against him he seeks revenge. He can no longer care for the common good, but ironically is in charge. Thus Toby Bishop raises a fascinating question of what to do with a leader who is incapable of rational leading in this fabulous fantasy.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Blindspot: By a Gentleman in Exile & a Lady in Disguise
Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore
Spiegel and Grau
Division of Random House
1745 Broadway, New York NY 10019
9780385526197 $24.95

What a delightful book! Sometimes it's difficult to craft historical fiction in an accurate, interesting way, but these two authors had no such problem. The plot, two main characters, and supporting characters fascinated me from beginning to end. Kamensky and Lepore transported this reader back in time and held me there, a captive to their storytelling skill.

Scotsman Stewart Jameson is a card playing, womanizing libertine and gifted artist escaped to the Colonies to avoid jail for non-payment of a loan. Boston in 1764 is the outback of America, just beginning to establish itself as a center of learning and patriotism. Accompanied by his great mastiff Gulliver, Jameson tries to blend in and earn a living. It's a fine line he walks at first: avoiding the sort of publicity that might attract interest in England while advertising himself as a painter of fine portraits.

Frances Easton is a fallen woman, desperate for freedom and playing a dangerous game. When Jameson advertises for a young lad to be his assistant/apprentice, she binds her breasts and masquerades as a boy. Life on the streets of Boston has not been kind to her. She comes to Jameson's home a half starved, filthy waif with no options left to her. As the young lad Francis Weston, she finds shelter and kindness with Jameson. Her artistic abilities are considerable and immediately obvious to her master. Jameson calls his young apprentice Weston.

Their story unfolds through Jameson's thoughts shared with readers and Weston's letters to a childhood friend. Jameson is a long time lover of women, bewildered by his powerful attraction to this ragtag apprentice. Weston finds her master to be a man of great compassion and kindness, a skillful painter who sees into the very heart of the wealthy citizens he paints. Neither knows the other's true story until Jameson's friend and runaway slave arrives on their doorstep. Fortune, aka Dr. Ignatius Alexander, is the catalyst that shatters every blindspot to reveal truths neither Jameson nor Weston could see.

What a fine novel these authors have wrought! Love and murder, greed and alchemy, tyranny and fledgling patriotism, all play a part in Blindspot. This well-written novel has my highest recommendation.

The Millionaires: A Novel of the New South
Inman Majors
W.W. Norton and Co.
500 5th Ave., New York NY 10110
9780393068023 $24.95

Inman's writing style is unusual. It varies between flashes of absolutely brilliant prose and chapters written like screenplays. Once I adjusted to that variation, the plot and characters hooked me.

The Cole brothers are far more complicated than the southern good ol' boys they seem to be. They're hometown boys who made good, rednecks with new money. Roland is a banker given to financial speculation and hoping to be elected Governor of Tennessee. He and his wife Libby enjoy all the trappings of new money but are very much aware of their Appalachian roots. J.T. is second in command of the Cole banking empire and plans to bring the World's Fair to their little mountain town of Glennville. He's loved his wife Corinne since childhood, but that does not stop him from chasing other women with gusto. In fact, both Roland and J.T. love the ladies and have the sort of charm certain white southern males possess in abundance. Neither brother is loved, admired, or respected by the citizens of Glennville, but they're not about to let that ruin their plans.

Mike Teague is a retired teacher and successful lobbyist, the man J.T. hires as advisor on the World's Fair project. Teague is a quiet, introspective man with ties to insiders in both Tennessee and Washington D.C. He knows first hand how deals are made and broken so seems the ideal man to expedite J.T.'s plan and Roland's run for Governor. But Teague has hidden baggage of his own, past indiscretions that become entangled inextricably with the Cole brothers' illicit dealings. He's inside a political and financial house of cards that could collapse at any moment. And once it collapses, there will be no government bailout for anyone involved.

This is a story of the New South, and of the politics, the financial shenanigans, and the competitive mind games that bring wealth and power to a handful of determined men. Inman's description of the beautiful Appalachian mountains is a plus.

For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls: Book 3 of the Ivy Towers Mystery Series
Nancy Mehl
Heartsong Presents - Mysteries
Imprint of Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 721, Uhrichsville OH 44683
9781602601321 $6.95

I'm not particularly a mystery fan but thoroughly enjoy this series for several reasons: Ivy Towers is a delightful, realistic character who has become my friend; Winter Break is so typically small town Kansas that I smile every time I read about its quirks and follies; the citizens of Winter Break are so appealing, with all their foibles and eccentricities, that I want to meet them; and….I desperately long to eat one of Ruby's Redbird burgers. Nancy Mehl has done an exceptional job of bringing Ivy, Amos, Winter Break, and its citizens to vibrant life in this series.

It's been a long wait since their teenage years, but Ivy and Deputy Amos Parker are finally planning a February wedding. Between running her successful bookstore and struggling to focus on other responsibilities, Ivy can't seem to do any actual planning. The wedding is only a couple months away and all Ivy knows is that she wants a church wedding. Enter Delaphine Shackleford, Society Queen and Wedding Planner. Delaphine and her husband J.D. are new to Winter Break. She doesn't really enjoy small town life and thinks planning Ivy's wedding will be a welcome distraction. Her flamboyant wedding plans drive Ivy nuts, but their association does not last long. Very soon, "murder victim" is added to Delaphine's resume.

Who would murder the harmless Society Queen with a bronze chopstick, in Ivy's driveway no less? And why? And who will plan Ivy's wedding, now that Delaphine is dead? Rumors abound at the town's gathering spot, Ruby's Redbird Cafe. Ivy seems to attract murder victims like a magnet and this crime has her stumped. The Sheriff and Deputy Parker now have a murder to investigate along with bank robberies around the county. Are the crimes connected?

Readers will find clues and the usual red herrings as they assist Ivy in solving the mysteries. Mehl keeps us on our toes as we follow every lead to the final solution. The author also provides a couple interesting sub plots to entertain us. As an added bonus, readers finally discover the secret ingredient that makes Ruby's Redbird Burgers so delicious! Cozy mystery fans will be thrilled as they snuggle into their favorite chair with a cup of hot chocolate and help Ivy solve this one. I'll hate to see this exceptional series end.

There Goes Santa Claus
An Ivy Towers Mystery
Heartsong Presents - Mysteries
An Imprint of Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 721, Uhrichsville OH 44683
9781602602892 $6.95

I'm sad to say that this is book #4 and the last of the Ivy Towers Mystery series. Ivy, Amos, Winter Break, and the townsfolk seem like old, dear friends to me now and I don't want to bid them farewell. Nevertheless, Nancy Mehl has ended her series on a high note. This is a sweet, hopeful, uplifting story, ideal for Christmas season reading - except for the murder, of course.

Christmastime has come to Winter Break, complete with snow, sleet, holiday lights, and church activities. The newlyweds have been married ten months and Ivy is dreaming, wishing, praying about having a baby to complete their happiness. They love Miss Skiffins the calico cat and Pal the border collie they adopted in Book 3, but a baby would be their greatest blessing.

Ivy's Christmas preparations are complicated when a man dressed as Santa Claus falls off their roof and dies in a snow drift on their front lawn. Inside a plastic bag on their roof they find a Cabbage Patch Doll, circa 1985, along with a note addressed to "Ho Ho." Why was Santa on their roof in the middle of the night, and who is Ho Ho? The truth unfolds slowly, and I must confess the clues revealed along the way by Mehl were diabolically sneaky. Ivy solved the mystery long before I had a clue. The sub plot this time involves the theft of diesel fuel from area farmers. I was also clueless in solving this mystery. Nancy Mehl sure knows how to weave a fine tale of intrigue to leave her readers guessing until the end! I think she distracted me this time with worry when Pal got poisoned and I missed a clue or two. The final solution took me by complete surprise.

Ivy Towers and Winter Break, Kansas are unforgettable. I can't remember when a fictional person or place has staked such a claim on my heart and mind. The characters in this series are well developed and realistic. They live, in all life's fullness, in a memorable town where people pull together to survive every tragedy and celebrate each other's joys. Fans of Ms. Mehl's work will be like me and hate saying goodbye to the Ivy Towers Mystery series. But we can take comfort in knowing another series is in the offing. This entire series of four books is highly recommended to cozy Christian mystery fans and anyone who enjoys a well written story.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Thru the Wall
Rodger Epley
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432729233, $10.95,

There are some experiences in life that are hard to explain. "Thru the Wall" is one man's encounter with one of these strange occurrences. Saying he encountered the presence of a divine goddess and how her revelation changed his life. Telling of his life before and after the experience, "Thru the Wall" tells his story and just might make a believer out of its reader.

Footprint Nicaragua
Richard Arghiris & Richard Leonardi
Footprint Books
9781906098292, $24.95,

When people think of sunny vacation spots, they usually lose out by not considering Nicaragua. "Footprint Nicaragua" is another entry in the footprint series, elaborating and giving much information and knowledge on magnificent potential vacation destination of Nicaragua. With much information on everything to its active yet attractive volcanoes, the local music and flavors, the diverse wildlife and environment, and so much more, "Footprint Nicaragua" is very much recommended for anyone looking to visit central America this winter.

Purgatory U.S.A.
Edmund Kostka
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158836, $13.95,

Even at one's best times, life is not perfect. "Purgatory U.S.A.: Life Isn't a Nickelodeon" offers the realist view of the world of Edmund Kostka. Although it may seem dark and depressing by that tone, Kostka hopes to encourage readers by outlining that the pleasures of life are to be enjoyed, and that the problems one may face as such are nothing to obsess over. "Purgatory U.S.A." is a memoir with a realistic message that many should learn to embrace.

Napoleon's Gambit
Eric Goldman
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595528431, $19.95,

Sometimes when one seeks adventure, you get much more than you desired. "Napoleon's Gambit: Sailing through history . . . to commit the perfect Crime" tells of Joshua Rick, who joins the Royal Navy only to find himself in the Royal Navy of nearly two hundred years ago. Fast paced and action packed, Goldman seeks to entertain and succeeds well and beyond his intent. "Napoleon's Gambit" will get readers reading til the very end.

Hendrik E. Sadi
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595483518, $14.95,

Every place his its origin story. "Jenford: A Short History of Upland" tells two stories, drawing a long and storied picture of two times in a small rural town, with many differences and parallels between them. An old farmer recalls how his grandfather founded the township and his neighbor remembers his own teenage year, showing that the more things change, the more they stay the same. "Jenford: A Short History of Upland" is a riveting story, sure to please readers of literary fiction.

The Greatest Feeling
Ron Tonyken
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158362, $10.95,

Gas station attendant is on no one's career goal list. "The Greatest Feeling" tells the story of a future football star's whose dreams become nothing more than that. Working at a gas station with others, the hero and his peers live a tough life for a worthless wage due to a corporation which could be likened very close to a slave master. "The Greatest Feeling" is a novel of rising up against cruel conditions for even the chance of a better life, recommended.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

The Elymais Coin
John H. Manhold
Cereb Press
239 Windbrooke Lane, Virginia Beach, VA 23462
9780979757204 $16.99

John H. Manhold divides his time between his careers as a Research Scientist and as an author of historical fiction. His novel EL TIGRE won two of the 2008 National Indie Excellence Awards.

Cy Lane is a private investigator who also holds a law degree from Yale. Coming from an upper class family, whose expectations of him were dashed when he married the bride of his choice, Cy exerted his independence by professionally boxing to support his education. He also became a ranger and served in Desert Storm.

Cy is hired by a coin rich coin collector named James Weston to locate a rare coin that was minted in a country called Elymais, which was part of the second century B.C. Parthian Empire, which was located between Persis and Babylonia. Rare coins from forgotten or little known eras and locations fetch big money, and Weston wanted the coin badly enough to send Cy zigzagging around the world searching for a coin that left a trail of death and destruction in its wake. Cy hooks up with an old CIA acquaintance to hunt down the coin:

"'…The Elymais coin and icon that appeared for sale on the world market were placed there by this Muslim group to gain money to augment their supplies. The icon had been sold and produced some of the necessary monies. The purchaser had no interest in the coin, was not aware of it, or could not afford this piece as well. When Eskel attacked the jeweler and ran off with the coin, immediate reaction occurred. The Muslim faction used a shotgun approach in sending out trackers. Two were successful and, as you know, found him in Andorra. Apparently, he was kept alive because, although he did not have the coin, he was believed to be needed for its recovery. The part of this whole charade that is of most interest to the governments of Morocco and the United States is the fact that he was brought to this country.'"

Manhold is knowledgeable of not only Mideastern politics and geography, but also of world geography. His tale is not so much suspenseful as is a "chase" surrounding the coin, with lots of lovely descriptions of various locations, restaurants, and food. Bravo!

Murder in Los Lobos
Sue McGinty
Fithian Press
P.O. Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564744777 $14.95

Sue McGinty is a former technical writer, who graduated to short fiction and then to mysteries. She hails from Los Osos, California, a coastal community similar to the setting in her first novel, MURDER IN LOS LOBOS. She lives with her collection of mysteries and several cats, including "The Shredder," her ferocious mama cat.

Bella Kowalski, former nun, currently writes obits for the local paper in Los Lobos, California. Los Lobos is a coastal small town with all the small talk and innuendo. She has gotten involved in politics, weighing in heavily against the location of a proposed sewer plant on some historical property. Her husband is a former cop, runs the current sewage disposal business, and when Connie Mercado, part-owner of the proposed site for the sewer plant, is murdered, Bella begins to make connections. How involved was her husband with Connie Mercado? But she was the one who discovered the body, and her inquisitive mind makes her a target for murderers most foul. To complicate matters, she and her husband have agreed to take on their teenage nephew, the son of Bella's murdered twin, Bea:

"'Auntie Bella, I'm vegetarian, remember?'

'That's right.' At supper last night, while Mike scowled, Chris announced that besides veggies and fruits, he also ate eggs and dairy products, and once in a while fish, fresh caught of course. Oh, and organic chicken. Sometimes. No pork. Except for barbequed ribs on major holidays. Whatever."

Sue McGinty has a clear and concise writing style filled with humor, and when the occasion demands, extreme suspense. Her first novel is well crafted, and of course is a whodunit for the ages with a murky perpetrator. She covers the generation gap beautifully in her novel, as well as growing pains for Bella's marriage, which adds all sorts of delicious flavors to this whodunit. McGinty captures the conflicts Bella faces as an ex-nun and ex-Catholic in a world where few have been so protected by the outside world. But Bella emerges as a fine heroine, and her emergence as both a mother to the needy Chris and as a hard-headed detective is a sheer miracle. McGinty's first novel is well worth the read, if only for the disparate subjects she merges into her great plot.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Eat Your Way to Natural Good Health
Kathleen Beisel
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432724979 $12.95

Eat Your Way to Natural Good Health is a book you don't want to miss, especially if you are fighting sickness, exhaustion, or the battle of the bulge. This book puts the responsibility for our well-being in our own hands, and goes into detail of how to turn your tired, sick body into a healthier you. What can be better than that?

The book is broken up into fourteen chapters, each one packed full of useful, vital information for your health. A few examples of the chapters are: You Can Make Your Food Your Medicine and Your Medicine Your Food, The Best Foods and Food Supplements for The Common Chronic Diseases and The Health Benefits of Drinking Water. You will be amazed at the high price in health your body pays for keeping it in stress, and you will receive some helpful ways to get out of stress. I believe we all could benefit from this advice.

You are given sample meals and also a listing of beneficial vitamins, exactly what they do for the body, and what foods you will find them in. Interesting and written in a clear concise way that cut down on confusion. I liked that.

I found this book to be very well written, well researched, and written by a woman who does more than talk the talk, but walks the walk in her own life concerning her health and well-being. I appreciated the reminder that God has indeed put certain foods on this earth to help our bodies stay healthy and again the reminder that certain foods should never be consumed. I have to admit I was rather grossed out by the revelation given forth about ham. I do believe all the little piggy's are safe from me nibbling on their flesh at this point. It almost made me want to give up meat altogether. I never fully understood the health danger involved in eating this meat, and have to tell you I was a little shocked. Glad I found out.

All in all this is a very good book, written in an easy to understand manner and full of top-notch information that will definitely benefit you. Well done. Recommended.

The Adventures of Songha: the Amazing Savannah Cat
Linda R. Caterine
AuthorHouse Publishing
9781434383617 $11.95

I love when I enjoy a book and also learn from it, and that was the case with this work by author, Linda R. Caterine. "The Adventures Of Songha," take us on a journey through the eyes of a frisky, independent, yet adorable cat named, Songha. Songha is not your ordinary house cat, as she will be quick to tell you, she is a beautiful Savannah cat. What is that? Songha is half African Serval leopard and half domestic. What a combination. Her domesticated side gives her a personality that will allow her to be a house pet, but her African Serval leopard side drives her to adventure and freedom.

Songha lives in a home with a family and a close friend, Simba, a Bengal cat, who doesn't understand Songha's need to have times of freedom and exploring. Bengal tries time after time to convince Songha to stay within the safety of their home, but Songha cannot control the stirrings within her. Songha uses her bright mind and resourceful ways to escape the protection of her human home, and many exciting adventures follow, including a battle of wits between Songha and a very mean Coyote. Unfortunately, her human family does not appreciate this side of Songha, nor do they understand her yearning to run free from time to time. Songha learns much both from her adventures and also what the love and protection of a family means.

This is a very interesting book. Not only do you learn about this rare cat, but you are entertained along the way. The author tells the story through the eyes of Songha and that truly was a fun experience because if nothing else, Songha knows her worth and enjoys letting others know as well. She is witty, adventurous, entertaining, and definitely a handful for her owners, yet she gives her owners much pride and joy having her in the family. The black and white illustrations gave the story just enough visual to bring Songha into the mind's eye, and the book is enhanced with poems along the way to bring more light to our beloved cat, Songha, and her life.

I recommend this book. All who read it will learn much about a beautiful animal, and will giggle along the way at her strong will and adventurous spirit. Well done, a book both young and old will treasure.

Just Chris
Christopher Shiveley Welch
Saga Publishing
9781897512128 $12.95

It isn't often that I am privileged to review a book written by a youth and I was very honored to be asked to review, "Just Chris," is a work that will capture your heart, and certainly give you more than the title implies. In this book you will meet Christopher Shiveley Welch, who is one remarkable young boy. Christopher came into this world with physical problems, born to a mom who just was not able to care for this new soul. However, there was a couple who had been believing for the child of their heart, and as Christopher writes in his book, God gave him to them.

Christopher takes us on his journey from settling into his new home to his present time. He opens his heart to the reader. He tells of the love that covered him, the struggles he encountered in his schooling, the pain of his many surgeries to make him acceptable in the eyes of our society, and life in general. Chris speaks of friendships, mentors in his life, emotional struggles and miraculous victories. His story is simple, but complex. It is heart tugging and at times amusing, yet always laced with innocence and truth. I liked that.

I believe after reading his story there were several things impressed upon me. One, Chris is a young boy who faced many insurmountable obstacles in life, but through each one he found new hope, and determination to continue on. If I was watching this unfold in a movie, there certainly would have been times that I would have given him a standing ovation.

I also feel that he knows how special he is. He understands that every person comes from the heart of God and has their own purpose on this earth. No one is a throw away person, and because of his wonderful upbringing, and what he has already overcome, he sees the world and those in it as very special. That in itself is a rare gift.

"Just Chris," is more than a boy telling of his life. It is a story that surely will bring encouragement to many who face challenges, feel worthless due to some physical handicap, or face rejection in anyway. It is a story of hope, courage and steadfast love. I believe Christopher has an exciting life ahead of him, and he will fly to heights that even he cannot imagine at this time. A great read, from a great young man.

Earth Song
Laurel Johnson
Create Space Publishing
9781438282732 $12.50

I have been privileged to read author, Laurel Johnson's outstanding writings in the past. Each one touched a core within me, always a story that rang true, laced with life, both good and bad, but this book truly brought home the reality of the One who matters, the Creator of Life. Earth Song is both simple and profound, as glory is given where it belongs, to Whom it belongs.

In this book her words ran deep within my soul, caressing my emotions with feelings of wonderment at the majesty of our Creator, and stirring within me the realization of whose capable hands we are in. This is no small task, but our author weaves her poetry and prose with tender tentacles around the heart giving strength and encouragement and renewing a trust, perhaps momentarily forgotten, of the One who indeed has the whole world in His hands, leaving you with a feeling of peace and contentment.

Her colored photographs are breathtaking, like a Thanksgiving feast to the mind, as once again you are surrounded by the beauty of creation, the glory of your everyday existence, and in the light of majestic beauty the heaviness of your own burdens become easier to bear. That truly is a lot for one book to accomplish, yet you walk away knowing there is a God who created from the words of His mouth, and you understand you are not alone. Such peace is hard to find. Thank you Laurel for a book such as this. Very highly recommended.

Stay 40 Without Diet or Exercise
Dr. Richard Lippman
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
978432729271 $33.95

I am sure for all of us who are middle-age any book that may well give us an upper-hand is one to be investigated. I was excited to be able to read/review this work, "Stay 40 Without Diet or Exercise," by Dr. Richard Lippman. I have read many books on this subject that covered areas from exercise, to eating only certain foods, and having a certain mental image of oneself. It seems the book world is often flooded with books catering to the generation that now faces the prospect of old age maladies such as, wrinkled skin, memory loss and sick bodies. Shudder at the thought.

I was excited to see what Dr. Lippman had to throw into the mix. I knew this was a man who took his work seriously and had proven himself to be quite an expert on the subject. I knew I would not be disappointed.

A few highlights of his book follow: In Chapter One, "Understanding the Aging Process," our author explains what is happening in our bodies. I found this very interesting and quite educational. In Chapter Two, which was my favorite, he talks on many myths that simply are not true, such as: The Myth That Cosmetic Sprays and Creams Will Maintain Youthful Skin, (how much money have you spent on creams?), The Myth That Heavy Aerobic Exercise Benefits Longevity. Is that a surprise to you? It was to me. I thought of the many hours I had spent doing aerobics until I thought I would drop. His explanations will surprise you.

Dr. Lippman goes on to explain the importance of using Antioxidants and using them correctly. He talks of Free Radicals, he even speaks of having joy in your life, and its importance. The doctor covers physical and emotional wellness. I liked that. He gives you names of products to use, explains what they are for and how to tailor them down for your use. His directions are proven, tested and up-to-date. He gives the reader a plan, with several ways to follow that can be trimmed down to fit their economic situation, that was a good idea, as we all know the high cost of even vitamins at this time. Understand this book will take you time to sit and study and take the information given and make it into a personal plan. However, all the facts are there for you to utilize, practical and useful to help you make the right decision in your quest for a more youthful you.

Crafting Jewish
Rivky Koenig
Photography by Jennifer Levy
Mesorah Publications, Ltd
4401 Second Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, 11232
9781422608173 $29.99

I am always interested in different traditions and ideas when it comes to crafting and cooking, and this beautiful book, Crafting Jewish, is one of the finest I have seen in a long time. Inside the cover of this work you will find holiday crafts and party ideas, with the Jewish theme, to make that will delight everyone involved.

The book starts out giving you a complete guide of products and tools that you will need. There are even pictures to insure that you have use of the correct material. I was very impressed.

We than travel on to the different Jewish Holidays, or times of year such as, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur or, Shabbat. Under each one the holiday is explained and different crafts are presented to be made that would be used during this time. For each craft you are given a check list of what you will need and complete simply instructions on how to do it. To top it off you are also given recipes of foods that are cooked and eaten during this holiday with pictures that will make your mouth water and urge you to cook away. You will also find an explanation of why these foods are prepared and eaten, and what their meaning has. I loved that part. It brought such personality to the book that you felt part of the festivities. Great job. At the end of the book there is a section titled, "For Every Day," that gives you eight fun crafts that can be made anytime. And you are given templates and a listing of resources that are sure to help.

I have to say, this is much, much more than a crafting book. It is an explanation of Jewish heritage, tradition, the very essence of whom they are. This work brings to life their past, merging with their present shown through their crafts and food. It is filled with their beliefs and the deep commitment they have for God and family. Yet, it draws all with interest and respect, and beacons you to try a craft and sample the delicious food your eyes are feasting upon. What a wonderful book. I don't care what faith you are, or if you are none at all, this book is truly one that will strike a cord in every reader. It is one of the most beautiful books I have seen in a long time, and the spirit of the Jewish history seeps from its pages and graces the very soul of the reader. Very highly recommended. An outstanding read.

The Tutu Ballet
Sally Lee
BookSurge Publishing
9781439209165 $17.99

In this charming children's story we meet four very talented ballet students. We have Belinda the bear, Mirabel the mouse, Harriett, the Hare, and Fillippo the Fox. They each have a special talent that they are very good at. Belinda the bear likes to kick high in the air, Harriett the hare likes to twirl, Fillippo the fox is great at jumping, and Mirabel loves to pile. Unfortunately when they all began their dance doing only their favorite moves, it turns more into bumper cars than ballet. Something had to be done, and this is where their teacher, Ms. Berry comes up with a solution to bring all their talents together for one great performance.

The illustrations definitely brought each character to the mind's eye. I loved the Hare in her little ballet outfit, too cute. The mothers' waiting on the sideline certainly gave me a giggle as I thought of years gone by when I was one of those mothers. A very sweet, colorful story. One I'm sure your child will enjoy.

Johnny Big Ears, The Feel-Good Friend
John Paul Padilla
Mike Andrulonis, illustrator
Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc.
2450 Croswell Road, Turlock, CA 95382
9780805974966 $17.00

What would this world be like if we all looked the same? I don't think any of us would like to find out. Our author, John Paul Padilla takes us on a journey with Johnny who is a five-year-old about to start kindergarten. Johnny is a very blessed child. He has always known the love of parents and those around him. He was given his name, "Johnny Big Ears,' by those who loved him, but after a hair-cut for his special first day at school, Johnny can't help but wonder how others will react to his big ears.

He meets his teacher whose name is, Mrs. Wrinkles, as Johnny looks at her face he can see why. That was a good touch by the author to show another person not being 'perfect.' Johnny, looking at his teacher, realizes that every person has something about them that may not be as others deem, 'perfect,' and he knows that some of the children may tease him about his ears.

As the story moves on Johnny is confronted by several children who mock his ears, but Johnny is firmly grounded in love and acceptance of himself and ignored these children and soon a freckled face friend enters his life, one who does not notice that Johnny has big ears, and his first day at school is filled with excitement and looking forward to a year of adventure.

This is a delightful story with illustrations that bring a smile and add life to the words. It shows the importance of bringing up a child surrounded with love and acceptance and how it will affect how they deal with others in the world. Children will be children, and often they will find anything to mock and tease another, but I believe this book shows if a child understands their own value, physical attributes will be second to what is in the heart with themselves or others.
Very well done and would be a plus for any child, and adult to read and share.

Chicken Soup For The Soul
Loving Our Dogs
Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen
Chicken Soup For The Soul Publishing
9781935096054 $14.95

I was so excited to receive this book for review. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am quite an animal lover and have always had a pack of dogs as part of my family. I knew I was going to love every page of this book, and I was not disappointed.

This work is divided into eleven categories: On Mutual Love and Admiration, I Can't Believe My Dog Did That!, Bringing Out The Best In Us, Pets Have Pets Too!, Man's Best Friend, Support Dogs, It's My Family Too!, Dogs and Their Soldiers, Great Dog Moments, Canine Matchmakers, and Letting Go.

I am sure you can tell by the titles what type of stories you will find in each category. I have to tell you, I laughed and cried, say 'ahh,' over and over again, and stopped reading and went off to find one of my pack and give them a big hug just so they would know how much I loved and appreciated them being part of my life.

This book brings to the surface just how much a dog understands, how much they want to share life with you, and how completely they want to give their love to you. Everyone, and I mean everyone who reads this book (unless your heart is black and how sad is that?,) will walk away with a mark in their heart that will remain forever. You will not look at dogs the same, but you will be awakened to their true self, which is absolutely priceless. I LOVED this book and highly recommend it.

Artlist Collection
The Dog
Why Are Dogs' Noses Wet? and Other True Facts
Scholastic Paperbacks
0439922143 $3.99

My granddaughter loves dogs so it was not surprise to me when she brought this absolutely adorable book for us to share. Immediately the cover caught my attention a little puppy with an oversized head is licking his nose with a very big tongue. So cute.

Written from the very mouth of a dog, we are given a lot of information on they "Why's" of what dogs do. Such as, Why do dogs sniff everything?, Why do dogs howl at the moon?, and Why do dogs dig?, just to name a few. The answers are written in easy to read fun form, as only a doggie could do, and the pictures on each page are priceless.

My granddaughter and I had a great time sharing this book. We learned a lot and had some really good giggles enjoying the adorable pictures of the dogs that are on each page. Good price for some good information and some giggles too.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Life Philosophy
T.C. Lea
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158324, $24.00,

A wise decision is made when one considers all sides of a story. "Life Philosophy: For the 21st Century" is TC Lea and his pondering on the masses of the worlds philosophies and religions. He lays out his ideas and conclusions within his book and makes many points that many readers may have never thought of other wise. Thoughtful and thought provoking, "Life Philosophy" is highly recommended reading for those who think about life's tough questions.

The Third Basic Instinct
Alex S. Key
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781419654749, $15.99,

Survival and Reproduction are the two things that drive all creatures to exist. But what really makes Humanity different from everything else in existence? "The Third Basic Instinct: How Religion Doesn't Get You" is a look at what separates - strangely stating it is the ability to disagree with religion. Saying that logic and questioning everything is the third instinct that drives mankind, Alex Key argues his point with knowledge and examples and makes a solid case for more carefully choosing one's belief system. "The Third Basic Instinct" is intriguing reading, indeed.

River to Ocean
Jalal Ghavami
Infinity Publishing
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741449560, $9.95,

Jalal Ghavami brings readers his fifth anthology of poetry in "River to Ocean". Focusing on his upbringing and life in New Jersey, Jalal brings bits and pieces of wisdom and Americana, sure to echo with many a reader. "River to Ocean" is a fine volume of verse indeed. "Rattle Snake": When You See It/Rise Like Sun/When Running to Its Hole/Shine Like Sun.

Child of Darkness, Child of Light
Dennis Dufour
Trafford Publishing
2657 Wilfert Road, Victoria, BC Canada V98 5Z3
TCI Smith Publicity (publicity)
2 Split Rock Drive, Suite 12, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
1425141056, $15.89,

Help is not something everyone seeks, but sometimes up it shows up anyway. "Child of Darkness, Child of Light" is a mystery following Detective Simon Reynolds. A brutal murder is his current case, and solving it doesn't seem to be an easy task. His own marital problems haunt him, and the case seems to be a tough nut to crack. But aid lies in wait from the most unusual of sources... "Child of Darkness, Child of Light" is a riveting story of murder and bringing justice to its perpetrators, highly recommended.

Gefilte Fish in the House of Bedlam
Larry Baumhor
Privately Published
PO Box 113, Southampton, PA 18966
9780615224800, $14.95,

With more than two decades of unpublished literary material, Larry Baumhor finally makes his work available to the world with "Gefilte Fish in the House of Bedlam". Drawing inspiration from everywhere from Andy Kaufman to Holden Caulfield, he brings readers stories that will not only entertain them, but give them something to relate to on a deeply personal level. "Gefilte Fish in the House of Bedlam" is a solid collection of short stories, recommended.

Judy & Peter Dix
Privately Published
9781419656385, $15.99

What if you received advice from a source beyond this world? "Contact: Interstellar Dialogues" is Judy Dix's account of her encounter with a being who was only identified to her as White Eagle. White Eagle claimed to be from somewhere not of this earth, and the story that unfolds is one that is strange, bizarre, and shockingly, enlightening. "Contact" is a must for anyone studying incidents of encounters with extraterrestrial beings.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Name Games
Peter E. Abresch
Privately Published
9781438262864, $12.95,

Murder knows no city boundaries. "Name Games" is another entry into the Elder Hostel Mystery series following James P. Dandy, an individual with a knack for being faced with mysteries. Hoping to please a lady friend and get some much needed rest, he embarks on a journey into nature. He won't get the latter as his life once again gets interesting. "Name Games" is a riveting mystery sure to satisfy a mystery fan who can't get enough.

The Chaplain's Assistant
JT Caldwell
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Drei-Katzen Communications
1457 Newman Road, Pennsburg, PA 18073
9780595407521, $18.95,

All of the participants in warfare are never on the battlefield. "The Chaplain's Assistant: God, Country, and Vietnam" tells a Vietnam story from a perspective less seen, the eyes of the support troops who work hard behind the scenes of the war to make sure the boys on the front line have everything they need to wage the most effective war possible. Aiming to give readers a better appreciation for the men in these roles through fiction, "The Chaplain's Assistant" is solid and riveting reading.

The Accidental Teacher
Annie Lubliner Lehmann
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434376961, $14.95,

Learning is not something that stops when one graduates high school, or even college. "The Accidental Teacher: Life Lessons from My Silent Son" is one mother's experiences with her son's autism. Not intended to be a book about autism, but instead a book of learning from a mother's perspective on the lessons of life she learned from her son's condition. "The Accidental Teacher" is autism from another perspective that many a mother will appreciate.

Poems of Life
Ronnie Lee
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432725426, $23.95,

With well over six hundred pages, Ronnie Lee gives readers a lot of poetry value for their buck. "Poems of Life: Inspirational Knowledge for Life" is his massive volume of poetry touching on politics, morality, and the commonly debated things of everyday life. Written in a free verse style that's sure to please readers, "Poems of Life" earns a solid recommendation. "Existentialism and Principal": Nothingness, is the same everywhere,/Within it,/ And thus has no principal,/ That is not neutral,/ Thus existence is different everywhere,/And thus has a principal,/That is neutral,/Thus one that is wise and just,/ With no favorites.//This principal must be God.

Peaceful Endings
Michael K. Tucker
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432727390, $15.95,

Humans are tough creatures, and it takes a lot to kill them. But when people start keeling over from minor injuries, Dr. Marilynn Harwell is determined to find out why. "Peaceful Endings: The Nopsam Project" follows her quest to find out what is going on and soon finds there may be a greater conspiracy yet than her patient's happening to have really weak constitutions. She may be risking her own life to find out the truth. "Peaceful Endings" is a riveting thriller, well worth its price.

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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