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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 1 January 2014 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Eat Fish Live Longer
Pat Flury with Lee Lavery
Privately Published
9780615826936 $15.95

Fisherwomen and retired healthcare workers Pat Flury and Lee Lavery present Eat Fish Live Longer: A Recipe Book for Healthier Living, a no-nonsense cookbook to with a focus on preparing fish for a healthier diet. Fish is well-known to be lean meat rich in healthful omega-3 nutrients, in addition to being more eco-friendly than pigs or cattle. Whether buying fish at the market or cooking one's own catch, Eat Fish Live Longer is an excellent, user-friendly "how-to" guide to preparing memorable entrees (and some healthy garnishes too)! Succulent dishes include "Fish Cakes" (a popular appetizer at parties or anytime!), "Fish Gumbo", "Barbecued Fish Wrapped in Foil", "White Fish with Lemon, Capers, and Mushrooms", "Maine Fish Bake", "Fish Stuffed Tomatoes", "Fish Kabobs" (with zucchini!) and much more. A "must-have" for anyone interested in cutting down on red meat for a healthier lifestyle!

Wounds of Deception
Patrice Tartt
Privately Published
9780615847610 $22.00

The debut novel of Wisconsin author Patrice Tartt, Wounds of Deception is a saga of the fallout from family betrayal. Christie Whitfield-Adams has led a charmed life, with a loving husband, a close relationship with her father, and success in her career. But when her father falls deathly ill, and his two sisters start caring for him, Christie's near-perfect life is thrown in disarray. Christie's aunts begin to act strangely even as her father gets closer to death's door, and gradually she stumbles upon hidden secrets - missing money, vanished personal items, and a shocking legacy of family betrayal. In the wake of rampant greed and thievery, will justice be served? Gripping to the last page, Wounds of Deception is highly recommended.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

The Homecoming
Tom Chaney
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00FX2EQA0 $5.99

The Homecoming opens with a familiar scenario: a man returns to his childhood town when his father dies, there to find many changes await him. There's a difference in this picture though: Hollywood bigwig Michael Johnson has allotted exactly three days to tidy up affairs and get out of town; only events don't proceed in such a quick nor tidy fashion and he finds himself confronting a long-left love and a mysterious, wise old man who pops in and out of his affairs and seems to know way too much about Michael.

He manages to return to his Los Angeles life, albeit forever altered by his brief respite with his past. He can't forget Roseanne, he can't help but wonder about how the old man knew so much about him, and these ponderings lead him to new discoveries and revelations that will change his life and his path through it.

Thomas Wolfe wrote "you can't go home again" and in many cases he was right; but in this case what appears to be a simple homecoming to quickly settle matters of the past turns into a journey that will change Michael's future and his very persona.

The introduction neatly sets the stage for this journey: "The first day of my life started thirty-nine years into it, practically in the fall of my days. Not that I wasn't living one and not that I wasn't busy trying to make something out of myself, quite the contrary as a matter of fact, but it wasn't until things started to go a little south that I really began to wonder what it was all about. Strangely enough, the beginning of mine started with the death of someone else, my father."

And what a journey it is: as Michael makes ongoing discoveries about his personality, objectives and values in life ("There are givers and there are takers. My father was a giver and I had become a taker. While my father was back here giving, I was far away, taking."), he finds himself slowly shifting in unexpected ways and finds himself drinking in the wonders of the world with newborn eyes and fresh perspective.

Can the queries of one wizened stranger change the direction of a life? Not by themselves; but death, love and family ties are simultaneous, life-changing forces that strike at the heart of Michael's values and the vision of success that he's so carefully built for himself far away from family and home. And when Michael's mother also suffers a setback, it's the final straw tipping the specter of a professional life falling apart and a personal life teetering in new directions.

What happens when these continuing changes are brought into one's current reality is one theme that permeates The Homecoming.

In today's world of business-oriented values that often spill over into personal lives, The Homecoming is an inspirational gift. Michael learns how to fall in love again, how to re-establish family connections, and how to integrate all this into a new worldview. Through all of this, the 'Rubber Band Man' appears time and again to offer Michael keys to staying on a path that will ultimately lead to happiness after all the pain permeating his life: "I looked up again. Suddenly, I didn't care if he saw my eyes and sensed my pain. It was quite obvious that I couldn't hide it anyway. "I am lost. Ever since I came to this God forsaken little town..." "Now don't say that," he said. "It's not the town that's forsaken." His happy tone was suddenly serious. I looked at him for a second, wondering again, who he really was."

Readers will follow Michael's passage with bated breath. It's about the journey as much as the destination. The Homecoming proves inspiring, enlightening, and gripping on some unusual levels: emotionally, spiritually, and even into the financial world. And that's what makes this a unique, warm read.

The Ambivalent Memoirist: Obsessions Digressions Epiphanies
Sandra Hurtes
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492359722 $12.95 pbk / $5.99 Kindle

It's intriguing to note that The Ambivalent Memoirist began as an autobiographical writing blog ("Finding My Place Through Writing and Teaching") documenting the author's process of using the cathartic writing process to evolve in her own life and career. Sandra Hurtes' account of this evolution documents her move away from home and pursuit of her writing goals: "...I took baby steps toward being a writer. The first sentence I wrote was: When I caught my mother smuggling three boxes of strawberries, a cantaloupe, and a bunch of grapes she had hidden under her blouse into my refrigerator I was out of control. The written words were my grasp at autonomy."

During the process of this evolution, Hurtes realizes early on that her ambivalence about herself and life holds the power to create an undecided life where everything is fluid and nothing quite evolves into success: "Then I settled further into a life where my yeses and nos were all mixed that moment in front of Papaya King, Ann and I were two young women on the brink of everything - although Ann was a "yes" person and I was a "no." I gazed across a Manhattan I wanted to inhabit. Not doing so was a turning point that didn't turn."

As her life and expertise as a writer progress, Hurtes learns the mechanics of converting her impulse towards 'no' into one that embraces 'yes', and also comes to realize the sources of these impulses and their consequences: "I replied: Yes Yes Yes. For one of the few times in my life, I asked no one for advice. I signed an agreement, and that was that. I didn't know that "co-publishing" was an eloquent term for self-publishing; it didn't matter what it meant. I needed something great to happen in those early days after my father died, and there it was - my book."

From a legacy of pain from her Jewish immigrant parents to connecting the writing process to her life's evolution, Hurtes is at her strongest when making these observational, insightful examinations of how writing changes her world: "In the weeks since my father's passing, I'm being revised. My insights and understanding of him change so swiftly, I can't keep up."

Her evolving insights about her family heritage, her place in the world within and apart from this legacy, and its effects on her life choices are the driving force behind The Ambivalent Memoirist: "Like all children of survivors, I was handed a task at my birth: to understand and love the person my father was before while interacting with the parent who bore the aftereffects. On this sunny Sunday morning, the Holocaust is alive. It breathes and sighs upon me."

From being a writer and a teacher to the ongoing challenges she faces in the process of evolving her personality and career, Hurtes captures her world in deft paragraphs that will resonate with any who search for meaning and direction in their lives: "My friends tell me I'll still be me wherever I go. They say "searching" is part of my personality. So, too, is indecisiveness and saying no. I hate these things about myself....(sic) There are so many ways to live one's life. If I'm not careful I can spend mine waiting, not quite alive until I get to there. My gut is still not talking to me."

How can one produce a memoir, much less a coherent life, with the inability to effectively choose and say 'yes' to options and opportunities which are the best matches? Expectations, entitlement, and spiritual and romantic explorations permeate an account filled with enlightenment, insights, and hope to inspire fellow seekers to understand the influences that lead to a writer's skills.

Any who are driven to the pen and who want a revealing saga of one author's journey toward teaching, writing, and self-realization will find The Ambivalent Memoirist packed with vivid, compelling insights: "The thing about living in the center of the world is that it wasn't always my own life I was in the middle of."

The Ambivalent Memoirist is available through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Whole Health
Mark Mincolla, PhD
Jeremy P. Tarcher
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780399165016, $27.95,

Barnes & Noble:

Whole Health: A Holistic Approach To The 21st Century is not a general discussion of health, but a specific program (the Whole Health Healing System) developed by Dr. Mark Mincolla, and is based on some thirty years of his experience as a holistic healing practitioner.

Now, most holistic healing approachs take a singular approach to philosophy and method. Despite being called 'holistic' they in fact are fairly particular ways of integrating one specific technique. Not so the Whole Health Healing System, which blends elements from classical Chinese medicine, nutrition, and extrasensory energy medicine. This emphasis on sixth-sensory diagnostic processes not typically covered in holistic medical titles focuses on balancing body energies for optimal results.

Right off the bat, Whole Health provides a discussion of what constitutes a 'disease' and how it is identified and treated. What modern medicine defines as a malady and treats with a pharmaceutical approach actually is often better described as a series of intolerances and allergies: conditions resulting from energy imbalances.

Much of this, Dr. Mark Mincolla maintains, is caused by the processed and modified diets modern man consumes. In fact, this diet is making so many sick that food-induced symptoms masquerade as disease, ultimately causing many conditions. In fact, toxic food intolerances are often at the root of ill health even though current medical models are fixated on assigning disease names to these symptoms so a pharmaceutical-based solution can be found.

There is a need for alternative approaches to health and disease: one that acknowledges the body's energy systems, their interactions with nutrition, and how they are maintained or eroded - and that's where the Whole Health Healing System comes in.

Whole Health is devoted to exploring, explaining, and applying that system. Different personalities and people (from mental types to water types) are explored in chapters that cover mental, spiritual and health factors associated with each category, different nutrition requirements, and diets, herbs and supplements that can help each group.

But identifying where you belong is only part of using this system effectively: chapters then move to mind balancing, the author's experience with and integration of pieces of different holistic practices in formulating his program, and discussions of emotional and spiritual energy blockages and their effects on bodily and mental systems.

This is no casual collection of ideas but represents three decades of applied natural healing. It aims to empower individuals with responsibility for their own health care and choices, it refutes the pharmaceutical model of treatment that modern medicine embraces, and it provides clear discussions on not only bodily energy processes but how to balance them properly.

Though Whole Health breaks down bodily systems for easier discussion, it's actually a synthesized whole-body program essential for any interested in overall health and how different emotional, physical and spiritual systems interact.

Add in appendixes packed with natural treatments for specific conditions from fibroids to Parkinson's disease and charts for body assessments and food and you have an important treatment that integrates many different holistic approaches to health.

The Reporter and The Girl (MINUS The Super Man!)
S.C. Rhyne
Smashwords (ebook)
ebook: 9781310170683
Createspace (print)
Print ISBN-13: 9781493635351
ISBN-10: 1493635352 $2.99

The Reporter and The Girl (MINUS The Super Man!) is not your usual novel about an independent girl seeking love: indeed, Sabrien Collins is actually happy with her life and her relationships largely consist of online liaisons that don't interfere with that happiness - until she meets reporter Jon Sudbury and her life takes quite a different turn.

At first Sabrien thinks of Jon as little more than a fling: one-dimensional, easy to manipulate. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth: Jon in fact holds much mystery and their intense physical relationship begins its metamorphosis into something quite different; and something Sabrien has never before experienced.

This is no light romance: packed with erotic scenes and unexpected twists of emotion, The Reporter and The Girl is about one girl's unique perspective on sex and romance - and what happens when her neatly cataloged world is rocked by an exceptional individual.

Now, Sabrien is no dummy. Her candid confession of how she misses warning signs is honest and right to the point: "... yes every time you and your partner get into the Relationship Mobile, and decide to gun it at three hundred miles per hour, all the warning signs pointing to the upcoming cliffs and curves may have been a blur, but you definitely saw them."

And for Sabrien, relationships are all about keeping control; so when she loses it with Jon, she loses a key part of herself: "He filled me in a way that left no room for food. I didn't need breakfast, lunch, or kick boxing. Talking to him was... my survival. I still wonder how I made the leap from being in control to losing control to him."

The evolution of their relationship from passion to love and beyond it to something akin to hate charts the course of many relationships, and the move from 'relationship' to 'friendship' (with all its challenges and impossibilities) is also revealed during Sabrien's roller coaster journey.

Adding Jon's perspective into the mix makes for some potential confusion as protagonist viewpoints switch, but ultimately adds depth and dimension to discussions of shared values, happiness, and how their emotionally and physically charged relationship has affected their perspectives and possibilities of other relationships: "Mr. Tech seems like my kind of guy, but I don't feel fit for him. In another world, I would give him my number. But instead I have been ruined by someone who wears a baseball cap like a gentleman's top hat."

Most readers have known a Sabrien; or possibly have been in her shoes. The same goes for Jon. Having lost herself in a couple, how can Sabrien find herself again, separately? And what about bisexuality and other issues which pop up to affect their evolving blend of friendship and love?

Don't expect easy answers here. DO expect a gritty, honest series of self-assessments and experiences that come together to define - and expand - the meaning of 'the relationship'; all fueled by the thoughts and approach of a feisty, independent female protagonist more than savvy with the Internet, dating, and men ... but not so much that she still can't be surprised or blindsided.

Death Dues
Geraldine Evans
Solo Books
ASIN: B00G2JOHCU, $4.05 / 2.54 Brit. pounds

Link To Ebook On Amazon.Co.Uk:

Death Dues is #11 in the 'Rafferty & Llewellyn cozy procedural' series, and though it's this reviewer's first introduction to the books, it doesn't take long for the interplay between D.I. Joe Rafferty and sidekick Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn to become an absorbing and fun piece in a fine detective saga.

The story revolves around the murder of one John 'Jaws' Harrison, killed while on his way to collect a debt from one of his residents. It would seem an open/shut case; but Rafferty and Llewellyn find it in fact will prove one of the more challenging cases of their careers. Jaws had many debtors, but all of them are mysteriously silent about the affair.

This suspicious silence on the part of debtors who surely had more than a few problems with Jaws causes Rafferty and Llewellyn to embark on the investigation of a lifetime as they probe too many motivations, too much silence, and the life and actions of Jaws.

Rafferty's week is trying enough: he's simultaneously struggling with his upcoming wedding and its pressures, combined with a supervisor who wants him to resolve a series of muggings. What he needs is an open-and-shut case, not the complexity that Jaws' murder brings to the table.

What he gets is anything but quick and easy as his interviews provide few keys and too many puzzles and quickly become spiced with the lives of low-income residents with too much to lose and too many reasons for murder: "Rafferty knew how low Incapacity Benefit and JSA payments were. They would meet only a few of the household bills. Robbing Peter to pay Paul must be a daily event. Had they also robbed John Jaws Harrison in order to pay the rest?"

One notable difference between Death Dues and more mundane murder mysteries is its inclusion of a healthy dose of British social and cultural observation. Each interview with a possible suspect reveals an aspect of British society and lower-class concerns that adds to a believable setting and plot.

Another is its lovely use of descriptive phrases to bring to life the ambiance of the area and its residents: "Harry Jones gave a quicksilver nod." Dialogue is precise, but it's the background descriptions of settings and protagonists that shine, bringing the British atmosphere to life: "When Rafferty got outside, it was to discover that the weather had decided to play tag with the humans....(sic) It picked up the sides and hem of his raincoat till it danced a veritable Irish jig."

Borrowing money is one thing; being unable to repay it is something different ... especially when murder is involved. And when Rafferty finds the borrowing trend hits too close to home, he becomes even more motivated to find the killer and resolve what is rapidly becoming an impossible (even personal) mission. And with other loan sharks being targeted, there's literally a deadline to his cracking the case.

Does anyone really deserve to die? And what if a seasoned expert is involved in the matter?

These and other questions drive a lively story that blends wedding jitters and challenges with a murder mystery. Any fan of detective stories will find this replete with a series of strong protagonists, infused with British atmosphere (discussions over cups of tea are common), and filled with intrigue and personal concerns alike.

Olivia, Mourning
Yael Politis
Yael Politis, Publisher
ISBN-13: 978-1493652457
ISBN-10: 1493652451
Price: eBook: $5.99 Paperback: $14.99

Olivia, Mourning, Book 1 of the 'Olivia' series, is historical fiction at its best. It is the story of Olivia Killion, a feisty, would-be-independent woman - a seventeen-year-old female living in 1841 who's determined to fulfill the requirement of her father's will and cultivate 80 acres in Michigan in order to gain title to the land.

She spent two years caring for her demanding father during his long illness and now feels entitled to a home she can call her own. Many obstacles stand in the way of her plans but Mourning, her childhood friend, has experience working the land and agrees to become a partner in this endeavor. Olivia not only trusts him but fears no romantic entanglement developing between them and complicating matters.

There's only one problem: he's black and reluctant to risk the wrath of white men by working with a young white girl. He's also the orphaned son of slaves who escaped to the north. Mourning was born free in Pennsylvania, but knows that the private agents who patrol the free states in search of fugitive slaves to return to the south are not particular about the legal status of the young black men they kidnap.

Olivia believes she can make her dream come true without putting Mourning in danger, and the two set off to an isolated log cabin to work the land together. Olivia represses the feelings she begins to develop for Mourning and focuses instead on her attraction to a young neighbor. But when all turns to disaster, Olivia is forced to acknowledge - and re-assess - not only her feelings for Mourning, but the very nature of her drive for independence.

Olivia, Mourning deftly captures the atmosphere of her times, offering readers a smooth introduction to Olivia's character and its origins, her purpose, and her growth: "Olivia had heard the good women in the pews behind her all through her father's funeral service, a flock of pecking hens in winter poke bonnets. They lowered their voices, but not enough; she heard their opinions of what that Killion girl ought to do. Or not do. Just what was wrong with her and how it ought to be fixed."

The way she attempts to conduct her relationship with Mourning reveals the depth of her maturity and awareness of the challenges they face: "I'm not a fighter, Mourning. I've never wanted to change the world. All I want is to make my own little piece of it as nice as I can. We'll both have a lot more trouble doing that if all the white folks we meet get it into their heads that we're way too friendly for their liking. We're going to need good relations with our neighbors, and if telling them you're my hired man - and me bossing you like you are - will keep them from getting all rankled, well so what?"

Her assessments of reality are strikingly down to earth for a seventeen-year-old and her slow realization of Mourning's importance to her life (beyond their business relationship) is candid and revealing, too: "It's Mourning, she thought. Mourning is the one I care for. Has been for a long time. Not just as a friend. He's the one it could be wonderful to share a life with. But with Mourning there is nothing to hope for, no "if only he wanted me." Never. I might as well wish both of us dead as wish for him to express desire for me. Nothing will ever change that. And no other man will ever feel like part of me, the way Mourning does."

What to do with this new-found self-awareness? What choices will Olivia make? Will they support her beliefs or compromise everything she purports to value? And what roles will isolation and stubbornness play in both their lives?

Olivia, Mourning is about the changing complexities of human relationships and politics as much as about one determined young girl's desire to make her own place in the world, outside of boundaries and conventions. It's also a story of trauma and how even the closest-held relationships and secrets change.

Expect no easy conclusions to Book 1: it's all about transition points and leaves the door open for further journeys with Olivia. Readers interested in historical fiction with a healthy dose of romance will find Olivia, Mourning a compelling, gripping saga that deliciously wraps what could be predictable elements in a cloak of many choices. It's all about options and consequences - and is a heartfelt story especially recommended for readers who enjoy headstrong protagonists tasked with making their own way in the world.

Tempesta's Dream
Vincent B. "Chip" LoCoco
Cefalutana Press
ISBN: 9780972882415 $16.95 print / $4.99 ebook

Orders: Amazon:


Giovanni Tempesta has long dreamed of becoming an opera singer in his home town of Milan, Italy; but despite his talents he lacks the money for proper training and his dreams seem futile until he meets and falls in love with the wealthy Isabella Monterone, whose father, a powerful Judge, is less than thrilled about her infatuation with a poor musician with no future.

Banned from their household and forbidden to date his love, Giovanni feels all his dreams and goals are lost...and then he stumbles upon a rest home for musicians established by the great opera composer Verdi, meets up with a retired opera singer with a secretive past, and discovers in him a mentor who can help Giovanni realize his ambitions.

Tempesta's Dream: A Story of Love, Friendship and Opera is not a singular story of ambition nor even of romance, but a blend of patterns, circumstances, and relationships that lead to vast changes. Its setting is partially driven by its powerful protagonists and partially because many elements of the novel are based in reality (the convent described is based on an actual convent while stories about historical operas and their conductors and participants are all based on actual opera lore.) The author grew up in a household steeped in an appreciation for opera, so he is in the perfect position to provide a novel filled with authentic opera references and atmosphere.

Because he was raised in a home filled with music appreciation and Italian passion, it's hard not to suspect that these two driving forces are the real foundation of Vincent B. "Chip" LoCoco's ability to create story filled with atmosphere and musical insights far beyond the usual observations of an outsider.

Phrases in Italian and English pepper his story: these are presented with translations side-by-side for quick enlightenment. There's also a series of quick references to how the protagonist attained his deep love of opera (from a father also passionate about music, who never realized his own dreams of making a name for himself in opera.)

How did this love pass between generations? Tempesta's Dream leaves nothing to wonder about the process of evolving passions: "Giovanni Tempesta loved how every night his father would take an opera libretto and make it into a bedtime story. Unlike other kids, Giovanni's father did not read nursery rhymes to his son at bedtime, but instead read opera librettos to him, relating to his young son the great stories and legends of operas written centuries ago."

What a son does with his father's dream and how he integrates it with his own evolution: now, that's the stuff of legend - and the foundation of Tempesta's Dream's compelling plot.

As Giovanni comes to realize and express his real passion, he discovers more than a mentor in his newfound teacher, using his lessons to rise above the frustrations of his life: "Alfredo said, "Always sing with passion. When you sing Aida, let Verdi live through you. At the heart of the opera is passion. I know you know the role. But feel it."

What happens when Giovanni lives his passion and how he changes his life to take his rightful place in the world of opera greats (and in his love's life) makes for a powerful novel of dreams, debts, and an effort that gives an old man and his young Student a new lease on life.

Tempesta's Dream is all about the music, it's all about passion, and it's all about pursuing one's dream. Anyone who wants inspirational reading (and who want to be immersed in the world of music as well as Italian opera) will find this a moving, engrossing story.

Shemlan - A Deadly Tragedy
Alexander McNabb
Publisher: Alexander McNabb
9781493621934 $15.99 print

$4.99 ebook



Jason Hartmoor is a retired diplomat dying of cancer whose last wish is to journey back to Lebanon and locate a love lost when civil war forced him to flee the country so many years ago. Unfortunately his past life catches up with him and his quest for romance turns into a cat-and-mouse game he can ill afford, threatening to end his life before his cancer overcomes him.

It's important to note that Shemlan - A Deadly Tragedy is third in a series (the prior books have not been read by this reviewer). The prior books (Olives - A Violent Romance and Beirut - An Explosive Thriller) were also set in the Middle East and received much acclaim as thrillers worthy of attention, and Shemlan - A Deadly Tragedy does not disappoint, offering a novel that stands strongly on its own for newcomers to Alexander McNabb's characters, setting, and brand of action.

Expect a story charged with emotion and angst, injected with a healthy dose of ambition and longing for the past. As Jason finds a combination of deadly forces and heart's desires pull him in different directions, so he struggles simultaneously with his failing body and the knowledge that any of his goals have limited payback.

All this centers around a little-known fact: that in the small village of Shemlan (in the mountains above Beirut) the British maintained the Middle East Centre for Arab Studies, a school to teach its diplomats (and its spies) Arabic. This fact is the driving force behind Jason's actions, behind the actions of many protagonists, and behind the novel itself, serving as a power that creates and dissolves bonds of connection and contention.

Thomas Wolfe wrote "you can't go home again" and in many ways Jason finds this true: romance and even landscapes have vastly changed, and McNabb brings these changes to life using descriptions steeped in observation: "...Hartmoor sat at his table looking out over the garden and, beyond it, glimpses of faraway Beirut below them. It was a different angle down to the city from that of Shemlan, seeing the city from above to the East rather than the West. An odd mirror image of his memories, the city was so much bigger now."

One strength of Shemlan lies in descriptions that bring the region to life. Another strong point lies in its detailed discussions of covert operations, politics, interactions between spies, and most of all, how the past rises up to haunt a terminally ill protagonist who seeks only to make things right. One might think that a man with cancer is the last person to embark on a long-distance journey, much less successfully face forces from the past that challenge his strength, psyche, and ability to survive. But Jason is something different, holding the ability to sum up an immense amount of energy to tackle demons of his past.

All the elements of a thriller are packed into a vivid story line: there are high-speed chases, explosions, spies, traitors, friends, and romance - all this fueled by the very real setting of a small town that really did serve as a center of spy activities for decades.

In the end Jason's search for peace comes on many levels at many costs - and it's a wild journey that will immerse readers in the cultures and world of the Middle East. While death is ever-present, there are many surprises along the way - and readers will find Shemlan a satisfyingly vivid thriller that holds many satisfyingly unpredictable moments throughout.

Dark Flame Rising
Jason A. Pedersen
Sandpiper Press LLC
9780981451725 ASIN: B00G150W9W $2.99

Dark Flame Rising is Book One of The Keegan Crowe Chronicles, and centers around fourteen-year-old orphan Keegan Crowe, whose desire for proof of her past only results in the discovery that her parents were, in fact, members of a secret society dedicated to preserving magic who were killed for their efforts.

She also stumbles onto a secret war and a long-hidden treasure that could tip forces, and embarks upon mission of her own as she chooses to avenge her parents' death.

Now, there are several things to realize about Keegan. One of them is that she's not your typical fourteen-year-old. She's precocious (a talented hacker) and she's curious. Both of these faculties are enough to get her in trouble - but Keegan was born into trouble; all she's doing is finding answers to puzzling questions surrounding her life. What she finds brings up more choices about how she'll reconcile her past with the future of not just her world, but humanity as a whole.

Keegan's close familiarity and comfort with computers is one key to her ability to find answers: "Despite the dangers, or perhaps partially because of them, Keegan enjoyed her hobby. Ferreting out the corruption, abuses, and hypocrisy of dirty bureaucrats and crooked businessmen, posting the facts to an anonymous blog, and covering all traces of the hunt offered a juicy mix of risk and reward....But it was also much more. To Keegan, her favorite pastime provided companionship. Computers had long served as her closest playmates."

With these abilities in hand and motivated by the mysteries of her past, Keegan embarks on a journey fueled by an affinity for technology, a flexibility of belief systems, and a heritage that includes magic.

Don't expect a singular, easy story here: there are numerous footnoted references to history, anthropology and more throughout the novel that lend depth and background to Keegan's tale.

One strong facet of Dark Flame Rising lies in these connections of past- to present-day concepts. For example: viewing magical objects as 'resets' to re-establish the natural order between the elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water is something Keegan brings to the table as she struggles to absorb the changed realities of a world she once thought to be fairly predictable.

From an underground treasure hunt to school cruelties and Keegan's own struggles with impulsive behaviors, Dark Flame Rising provides constantly-evolving scenarios that are both unpredictable and a cut above most teen fantasy adventure stories.

The protagonist of Keegan is powerful and realistically drawn, her emotional reactions to the evolving world around her are compelling, and the plot is as fast-paced as any Indiana Jones adventure. That the story line's evolution is logical and smooth only lends to its ability to draw in young adult and adult readers alike, making Dark Flame Rising a compelling story of finding kinship, home, and a purpose in the world.

It does represent Book One; so don't anticipate a story that begins and ends in one fell swoop. Do anticipate a saga of Keegan's many changes; not the least of which are evolving friendships that move beyond her singular obsession with computers and into the world of real interactions with all their complexities. Fans of Harry Potter and other fantasy adventures based on powerful personal interactions will find Dark Flame Rising a compelling read.

Gideon's Spear
Darby Karchut
Spencer Hill Press
ISBN-10: 1937053946
ISBN-13: 978-1937053949 $9.95

Gideon's Spear is fantasy at its most intricate, and will appeal to any fantasy reader who enjoys tales of sorcery and goblins. It features a thirteen-year-old monster hunter who takes up arms to fight an enemy and is actually Book Two of 'The Adventures of Finn MacCullen', a series steeped in Celtic mythology, lore and language.

The story opens with Finn wandering in a wood, in possession of a long knife and fantasizing about being a warrior. In reality Finn isn't a powerful warrior but serves a master (Knight Gideon Lir) who always seems angry with Finn's actions. Finn's apprenticeship to Gideon brings him in close contact with goblins and a host of dangers that keeps them both on their toes.

Expect a healthy dose of Irish history, drama, and fantasy steeped in the character of a teen apprentice just coming into his own powers, yet still serving as a sidekick to Gideon, who is responsible for his training.

As Finn learns fighting talents that depend on traditional techniques fused with supernatural abilities, he begins to come into his own as a warrior during lessons designed to bring out his innate abilities: "Before the rage could completely take over his apprentice, Gideon stepped back. "Finn, listen to me! Use the anger to attack me," he said in a low, clear voice. "Forge your rage into a weapon." He held his breath and watched as Finn began to tremble, his boyish face twisted into an ugly mask."

From the journeys and impact of an ancient Spear that can thwart the enemy in the right hands to magic that weakens the further it gets from Ireland, Gideon's Spear is at once a coming-of-age story and the tale of a young boy's evolving warrior heart and abilities. Steeped in Irish culture, it's also a story of Finn's uncertain entry into a world of knights and warriors - a world centered not in Ireland, but in Colorado: "Although our people are scattered all over Colorado, we still have a leader - or chieftain, so to speak - amongst us."

The result is a fine story that teens will find evocative and fast-paced, reflecting the evolution of Finn's psyche, abilities, and life choices.

Essential Money Guidebook
Wes Karchut and Darby Karchut
Copper Square Studios
ISBN: 9780974114514 $16.95

Essential Money Guidebook: Simple and Sustainable Personal Finance for Real People might seem like another basic primer covering basic financial savvy, but it's not: it's packed with clear analysis of differences between traditional money management approaches and lifestyle changes and blends money management into overall goals. As such, it offers many hard-hitting ideas right off the bat: "The goal of this book is to spare you from the tedium of money management boot camps and makeovers. If instead, you make the right financial moves at the right time, your results will far exceed any of those possible from the penny-pinching chores that typically pass for sound financial advice. If you could care less about personal finance, but you also acknowledge that you need to know a little something about it, then this book is for you."

Chapters teach the basics of making better money choices no matter what one's lifestyle. All of this takes time, not quick idealistic perspectives; so one thing readers need to be prepared to do is to think of long-term goals and long-ranging solutions to achieving them - not 'get rich quick' ideas that involve a minimum of change.

It's also surprising to note that "...ninety percent of what you learn will improve your financial situation without any lifestyle changes, and without regard to your current financial condition..." Much of what is taught here involves very basic ideas such as avoiding spending traps, understanding what credit scores mean, avoiding financial scams and identity theft, and getting the most out of retirement income.

Readers think these topics pertain primarily to wealthy individuals will have to think again: this book assumes no degree of prior wealth, little financial savvy, and explains the myths and realities of money management in a way that simplifies ideas and processes.

Among the many topics covered are ones any family experiences, from locating the best educational value and understanding loan terms when borrowing money to estimating future retirement spending and understanding the media's effects on individual investment decisions.

The sections covering common financial scams are particularly important as they reveal common threads scams share and how to recognize and thwart them.

The authors hold extensive experience in education, business and finance: their shared experiences lend to a guide that advocates the 'right way' to make financial decisions in life, from student loans to jobs, buying a home and making investment decisions.

Now, plenty of financial planning titles cover strategies and provide insights on how the financial world works. What differentiates Essential Money Guidebook: Simple and Sustainable Personal Finance for Real People from others is its attention to simplicity and perspectives that involve neither get-rich-quick schemes nor complex financial insider savvy. Ordinary folk from all walks of life can use this approach to hone in on the basics of successful money management without the usual complexities a financial management guide often lends: and that's the joy of Essential Money Guidebook.

It's recommended for anyone who wants to understand the basics of personal finance who wants an uncomplicated blend of simple explanations, strategies that work across lifestyles and goals, and insights that strike at the heart of what it means to earn and effectively use money.

Empty Places
Martin Roy Hill
Amazon via Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing
ISBN: 9781484058381 ASIN: B00FUAPAH8
Print $12.33, Kindle $3.99

Amazon Kindle:
Amazon print:

B&N (print only):

Empty Places is a mystery thriller that combines elements of both genres, and is a recommendation for mystery readers who want more than a simple 'whodunnit'. It's set in 1987 and centers on war correspondent Peter Brandt, who returns from covering war abroad to bury an ex-wife who has been brutally murdered.

A prologue introducing TV reporter Robin Anderson's last investigation leading to her murder neatly dovetails into the story of Peter's involvement, offering readers a taste of Anderson's personality, involvements, and final moments: "She realized suddenly her worst fear was coming true. She was dying, alone and without anyone she could call out to, anyone who would hold her, who could save her. Alone in a dark and empty place."

This introduction, narrated in the third person, moves to the first person as Peter receives a cable telling him of the event, and feels compelled to return to the U.S. in search of resolution and answers. Driven by regrets over his now-forever lost relationship and the mystery surrounding his ex's death, Peter doesn't expect to become immersed in a web of intrigue involving politics, government agencies and underworld forces; but that's exactly what happens when he discovers that local police won't investigate her murder.

He's drawn to fill this gap by enlisting the aid of his old buddy, retired cop Matt Banyon, to help him track down the perps. From then on it's a cat-and-mouse game that involves both locally and international secrets, crackling with action and unexpected turns of plot.

Mystery readers will find Empty Places a satisfyingly fast-paced story line that involves old ghosts, new ghosts, and an effort to get a villain to reveal his involvement in murder. While mystery-savvy readers will likely anticipate the identity of this murderer before it's revealed, the swift plot changes and action still prove involving and exciting right up to the revelation of 'whodunnit'. And that's the mark of an exceptional thriller: even when the outcome is suspected, readers are compelled to keep reading, drawn into a constantly-evolving story line. Recommended for any who want a vivid mystery/thriller and a genre-breaking read!

The Skills of Business
Ehab Atalla, MBA
Ehab's Books and Media Publishing, Inc.
9780989473811 $TBA

The Skills of Business is second in a succession of books published by a self-made millionaire whose desire is to provide a series of "A-Z" how-to titles on how to handle any type of business, and is a recommendation for any with an interest in entrepreneurship.

Lest you think this book has 'already been written' by others with similar themes, let's reflect on a few facts: Ehab Atalla holds two main claims to fame: he's started (from scratch) 34 businesses in 15 different industries, and he moved "...from a broke, new immigrant cashier who couldn't speak English to becoming a multi-millionaire entrepreneur." These two facts alone should suffice to point out that the lessons in The Skills of Business are anything but ordinary.

Chapters fulfill their promise of being special by focusing on seven distinct business skills that form the basis of a 'blueprint' of basic rules and principles key to business success. From flexibility and using the moment to basic to advanced business skills, chapters serve as building blocks to a wider-ranging perspective of business's underlying keys to success. The emphasis here is that business is a skill that can be learned by anyone, and the point is that generalization and flexibility produce more opportunities for success than rigid thinking and 'business as usual'.

Atalla's perspective is simple: "...all businesses require the same common skills. If you learn these common skills, you will be able to establish any kind of business."

Don't expect status quo analysis: many of Atalla's beliefs and theories go against common teachings in traditional business books. Don't expect easy answers, either. Much of his wisdom involves self-analysis and resetting habits to new approaches: "One habit that I picked up early in my career was to evaluate what I did on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. At the end of every day, week, and month, I ask myself, what did I accomplish? What mistakes did I make? What did I learn? How can I improve? I then write out what I did to see firsthand what seeds I am planting and what results I am experiencing. This one habit is responsible for much of my business success."

With discussions ranging from different kinds of skills development ("general versus specialized skills") and how these skills fit into widely varying businesses to leveraging a business by creating passionate managers ("The key to leveraging a business is to create owners out of your managers. I connected my managers with businesses they love to run. I made them love the business more than I did. When your managers care about your business more than you do, that's when you know you're experiencing positive leverage."), there are many specifics to help any business reader learn the basics of what drives success.

This isn't just a collection of generalities about business, either: chapters focus on specifics ranging from how to verify property values and how to identify and buy an existing, successful business to handling market downturns with strategic responses.

The Skills of Business is, in the end, a series of wide-ranging lessons that can be applied to virtually any business venture, filled with positive perspectives and real-world, tested applications. It should be on the radar of any business professional and those who would learn from experience.

Dream Wedding on a Dime: 7 Secrets for the Budget-Savvy Bride
Bobette Kyle
LinkUp Publishing
9780988578067 $4.99

Dream Wedding on a Dime: 7 Secrets for the Budget-Savvy Bride is more than your usual wedding planner: its whole focus is on ideas for brides on a budget, so chapters focus on everything from recycling to accepting new traditions that can translate to savings for all involved.

First on the list is a surprise: some chapels will stream weddings onto the Internet so that a wide circle of friends and family can 'attend' without actually being present. Online wedding resources have expanded vastly since Bobette Kyle first discovered this possibility during her own elopement years ago: her focus on learning about these options resulted in this book, which explores all the latest technology available for budget-minded brides.

Now, a caveat: Bobette Kyle is not a wedding planner nor professional. Perhaps this is her best advertisement: Dream Wedding on a Dime thus comes from an ordinary bride with a $5K budget for her wedding, and it reflects her bargain-hunting skills and real-world experiences; not the advice of a professional primarily interested in expensive options.

That's not to say that elegance doesn't enter into the picture. The point is: elegance can be obtained on a budget with a little planning and much savvy: both of which are imparted in this book.

From determining a wedding's 'personality' by analyzing participant and bride and groom psyches and expectations to saving on do-it-yourself, this book's focus is all about creating a strategy for getting the best value from every aspect of a wedding, from choosing a setting to flowers, food, and entertainment.

Creatively mixing vendor services, understanding and choosing from less traditional options, spending money wisely and lowering the cost of items and services are all ways planners can produce big wedding savings.

Take cakes, for example. The traditional tiered wedding cake is expensive. A less expensive, equally elegant choice can range from displaying several small, tall cakes on their own stands to choosing petit fours, cupcakes or other non-traditional cakes.

How about transportation? An expensive limo may not be in the budget; but here's the time to tap guests to take care of their own transportation (illustrating one of the secrets: asking).

Are bride-specific accessories proving the budget-buster? Either forego the veil entirely or make your own, use the website link in this book to locate affordable tiaras online, and (for bridesmaids) allow mismatched dresses with a common element so that bridesmaids may pick their own (or allow cocktail dresses that can be worn many times.)

There's all kinds of invaluable hints, website links, and different approaches to wedding planning on a budget, making Dream Wedding on a Dime an invaluable guide and information-packed 'must' for any bride-to-be planning her own budget wedding!

Seven Deadly Clicks
Margo Strupeck
Zest Books
ASIN: B00CR6QQ1M $6.99

Seven Deadly Clicks should be read by any computer user before they go online for the first time (even though it's directed to young adult audiences). It's packed with safety tips and keys to understanding how internet identities are formed, compromised, and how common problems involve the computer (from cyber-bullying to identity theft, over-sharing, and becoming addicted to technology.)

Now, much of this is increasingly common knowledge: the underlying focus of Seven Deadly Clicks lies in issues of artificial connectivity that promotes different behaviors and provide only an illusion of closeness: "As the lines between real-world relationships and virtual avatars continue to blur, the threats that teens face online are on the rise....teens are in danger of being desensitized by the continuously connected world they are growing up in."

Online life is all about choices; and like real-world encounters, there are good and bad choices. Few books explore the differences between these options: Seven Deadly Clicks fills that gap, exploring seven common mistakes computer users make that get them in big trouble.

Accompanying these warnings are case histories of teens who did get in trouble: how, why, and what happened. These examples come from high-profile cases and serve as strong illustrations of what can happen and how to prevent it. Many of these examples revolve around actions their and consequences: " a heated argument, fit of passion, or excitement, it's hard to remember to slow down and think about the consequences of what you post."

This isn't just a book about generalities, however. It offers many specific examples ranging from understanding privacy setting options on Facebook (i.e. what it means to be 'public' versus 'private' or 'friends of friends'), to writing with the largest audience in mind when using personal blogging, or handling 'sexting'.

Margo Strupeck's own experiences managing her internet life and identity pepper accounts of others with reflections on consequences, social identity, and how to take regular breaks from online life to preserve a sense of peace by going off the grid. Teens are advised to step away from smart technologies to preserve their identities and are provided tools for achieving these goals.

The result is a clear, specific set of guidelines all ages can use to identify (and avoid) common problems associated with computers and social networking systems: a 'must' for any computer user, whether novice or pro.

A Creative Toolkit of Meditations
William W. Blake
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
Hardcover [5.5 x 8.5] ISBN 9781452574417 - $23.55
Softcover [5.5 x 8.5] ISBN 9781452574394 - $12.99
E-Book ISBN 9781452574400 - $2.99

Available at and Barnes and Noble

A Creative Toolkit of Meditations comes from an expert who has taught meditation for fifteen years, and who provides some twenty meditations designed for inquiry and mindfulness. From a better mind/body connection to increasing communications with others and addressing barriers to these connections and communications, A Creative Toolkit of Meditations is filled with keys to supporting and building conscious awareness on many levels.

Chapters begin with discussions of basic belief systems, childhood messages, and how a process of emotional growth can be supported by meditation. Life's first journey is all about recognizing these beliefs and assuming responsibility for their impact; life's second journey is about waking up to (and acknowledging) one's true nature ... also a process supported by this toolkit.

While these processes are interconnected, the meditations associated with them are different, designed to support different levels of consciousness and purpose. That's why it's important to have a toolkit that operates on varied levels: to address the specifics and differences involved in this evolutionary process.

Awareness here is likened to a 'muscle' that needs building - and that's what this toolkit is all about.

From knocking out negative belief patterns to fostering investigative dialogues that involve rephrasing techniques and uncovering underlying negative perceptions, this is packed with meditations linked to specific changes and actions: "The crafty, subtle negative beliefs that we have about ourselves and others must be uncovered if we desire to live more happily. Anyone committed to investigative dialogue can gently elbow another person into increased clarity about negative beliefs. Investigative dialogue is a device to crack open subconscious ignorance."

These approaches are just one aspect that differentiates A Creative Toolkit of Meditations from your more general 'how-to' guide to meditations. It's much more than one person's reflection on techniques, however talented: it incorporates research studies (such as The Third International Mathematics and Science Study that tested a half-million students around the world, and whose findings lend to a probe of underlying attitudes about belief and the educational process as a whole), it discusses how and why attitudes are changed, and incorporates the process of meditation into the bigger picture of social and cultural observation.

Can meditation techniques result in social change? Yes, if they are applied! A Creative Toolkit of Meditations takes the smaller circle resolving around individual growth and slowly moves to the bigger picture of changing hearts, minds and social connections. It promotes a flexible attitude that invites readers to rephrase and redesign elements of the basic toolkit to fit their own paradigms for growth and personal achievement, and it's all about the bigger picture of fostering love of self and love for and understanding of others.

A Creative Toolkit of Meditations more than achieves these goals by providing a focused group of meditative reflections blending spiritual, psychological and cultural growth. Any seeking more than a 'pop' guidebook on the topic will find this title's structure and focus is exceptional.

Farnsworth's Revenge: A Rollo Hemphill Misadventure
Gerald Everett Jones
9780985622732, $15.99,

Farnsworth's Revenge's publicity note mentions that this story represents an addition to a different genre from most novels, and makes what is certain to be a controversial statement about the book's intended audience: "....boychik lit - a counterpoint, alternative to, and parody of the hugely popular female-oriented fiction genre chick lit. Boychik lit defies the widely held notion that today's young men won't or can't read. Besides, the audience includes just as many book-buying men of a certain age who fantasize about being young and "on the make," as well as women of any age who are amused by the foolishness of men."

It also should be mentioned that this is the third book in a series (the others not previously seen by this reviewer) that promotes both the 'boychik' concept in general and (in particular) the exploits of protagonist hacker/slacker Rollo Hemphill and his series of zany misadventures. While familiarity with either the new genre or the prior Hemphill novels is not absolutely required, a reading of his prior exploits will make for a smoother segue into this latest story, which revolves around a life-sized sex doll (Monica LaMonica) originally designed to look like a famous star in order to make a girlfriend jealous.

Dialogue explaining these circumstances recap prior adventures and set the scene for a gritty observational tone that is both candid and hilarious: "...he would not have gone to the trouble of ordering a seven thousand-dollar-plus rubber doll if I hadn't needed a sexy prop to make Felicia jealous. Yes, making her jealous was Hector's idea originally. And my idea to dress the doll up to look like the most famous pair of tits in Hollywood and drive her around town in a hastily borrowed Bentley actually did have the intended effect. On the plus side, Felicia was indeed jealous. On the negative side of the equation, she wrongly assumed (as Hector rightly warned me she would) that I was Monica LaMonica's latest boy-toy. But all that did was make me look like a gold-digging gigolo..."

In Farnsworth's Revenge, the lady vanishes (so to speak) and Rollo is nominated to deal with 'kidnappers' who are actually part of an international scheme involving state secrets, corruption, and an eccentric Turk who collects lookalikes (and who holds a deadly secret that could change the world.)

Contrasting with this international scenario is Rollo's own complicated life, which revolves around a pregnant woman who is estranged, but not yet Rollo's 'ex'.

The first requirement to be a fan of Farnsworth's Revenge is an ability to suspend belief. While the scenario of a kidnapped life-size replica inviting international espionage seems far-fetched, the story succeeds in painting a satisfying blend of possibility and madness in a manner designed to attract male readers with an interest in fast-paced espionage stories that hold a healthy dose of angst, witty mishaps and misadventure.

Second: readers need to cultivate an appreciation for underlying comic encounters which occur even during serious conflict. Rollo Hemphill's confessions are anything but usual in the face of his involvements in Europe and his many crazy schemes, which could either solve world issues or create disaster.

A disclaimer as to the novel's serious perspective is presented within its first few paragraphs: "If you're going to demand that my story make sense, you might as well stop here and return this book for a full refund. That is, provided you didn't borrow it or swipe it or download it from Zero-Buck dot com."

Many suspect Rollo to be a 'wacko' despite the many misadventures which befall him: "...I went on to tell him about getting grabbed by the police in Paris, getting recruited by a resurrected Arlen, and getting sent on a weirdo mission to carry the P.M.'s severed ear to a lunatic Turk who has a whole roomful of those dolls and a basement with a jar of fizzy water that could change the future of life on this planet..."

Blend all this zaniness with emotional reflections as Rollo strives to reconcile differences between many different factions (not the least of which is his girlfriends) and you have a blend of action, drama, humor, and laugh-out-loud reflections revolving around the male ego and its responses: "As far as my fragile sense of honor was concerned, Farnsworth was my client in all this. I dreaded going to him with the news his own personal Monica had somehow met with foul play. Or, you know, fouler than the kind she was designed for."

Monica - and Farnsworth himself - ultimately have their revenge and Rollo does find his life and world changed by his encounters; albeit not in any manner he (or the reader) could have predicted.

Don't expect a book that's easily 'pegged': Farnsworth's Revenge provides a read that's out of the ordinary and excels in unexpected twists and turns of plot; all spiced by comedy and hilarious encounters between Rollo and forces that pull him different emotional and intellectual directions. It's recommended for mature teens (ages 16 and older) as well as adult audiences.

Here Be Dragons
Anne Wilson
Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co.
9781625161727 $15.95
Publisher's website:
Author's website:

Here Be Dragons: A Tale of Mortals, Myths and Mystery tells of writer Anna, who develops a relationship with Danish man Nils, keeper of many secrets... not the least of which is what happened to his former wife. Nils lives in a cave-house and he won't let Anna fully into his world; so Anna and her friends decide to investigate what he's hiding ... with surprising results.

The first thing to note in Here Be Dragons is that it provides a disparate contrast between fairy tale, myth, and modern-day reality. This means that while chapter headings assume the mythical, actual settings in fact contrast two different realities (as in a chapter headed 'Once Upon a Time' which contrasts its header with the opening sentence "The Internet Cafe off the Plaza Major was always busy on Saturdays.")

As Nils moves from being a loner and an acquaintance to someone more meaningful in her life, Anna discovers that he holds the power to introduce his darkness into her world, even reaching into her dreams with a threatening Nordic dragon.

The last thing Anna anticipates is fantasy come to life, but her "...mission as a writer (sic) is to remember and to note and sketch as much as possible" leads to observations and conclusions that cannot be ignored. And as she makes sketches and notes to fill out her book, she slowly comes to realize how fantasy and her daily world are blending in unusual and dangerous ways.

Here Be Dragons is steeped in Mediterranean culture and atmosphere. At times Anna is surrounded by this sense of place and at other times she's immersed in her past, where she was once a children's teacher in England who dreamed of a writing career. Inheriting her parent's apartment when they died in the space of a year brought her into this strange new world of Mallorca, ripe with possibilities: "...the minute she stepped outside the plane in Palma airport, the warm scented air whispered enticingly. It spoke of tomorrows as yet unimagined, a blank page waiting to be written. The ratchets of the wheel of fate cranked soundlessly as she stepped down onto the tarmac."

The problem with possibility is its accompanying unpredictability: as Anna moves from a singular goal to wider-ranging encounters, she makes the dragon that has been haunting her the focus of her third children's book, seeks supplemental employment, and finds further mystery when her employer falls to his death in the middle of the night.

As Anna's creations of the dragon, a cave, and a Wicked Queen come to life in her own world, she discovers that the boundaries she's carefully trusted to keep fantasy and reality separate are beginning to dissolve. And as she sleeps, the story comes to life in her head and heart: "From the castles highest tower, the Wicked Queen surveyed the land by starlight. All she could see was hers, now she was married to the King. The Kingdom stretched beyond the Emerald Forest and the Luminous Lake, through the Terribly Tangled Woods and on to the snow-capped Mystical Mountains. Because of an ancient curse, the whole realm was covered, day and night, by the Star-Spangled Indigo Sky. The sky was beautiful but all the people wished the stars would go out and let them see the sun again."

There are wonderful, sensual displays of sights, smells and sounds throughout the story: "Nils had left the cave-house and returned from the streets above with the Mallorcan speciality of thick, spiral ensimadas lightly dusted with icing sugar, and still-warm freshly baked bread rolls. He'd set them down on the table outside, next to a bowl of yoghurt, a plate of figs, pots of conserves, and slices of his favourite Danish Havarti cheese; there was silver-foiled Danish butter, which appeared at most mealtimes.

Currents of morning air carried an aroma of freshly ground coffee across the pages of the Sunday paper he had placed beside Anna."

This is one strength of a novel which has the capacity to draw readers in on more than an emotional level, permeating its pages with tactile images and descriptions so juicy one can almost taste its rich atmosphere.

Another strength: its ability to show how ghosts from disparate pasts rise to affect present-day relationships. As Anna comes to understand the confused tangle of past relationships that Nils finds burdensome, she also comes to realize that the real dragons of her story lie not within the pages of a children's book, but alive and too vivid in her own world. And as Anna and Nils come to understand each other's very different worlds, they venture together into new territory that will either join or break their newfound relationship.

In some ways Here Be Dragons could be described as a romance novel: but that would be too simplistic. It could also be described as murder mystery - but that would be putting too much emphasis on death and not enough upon the blossoming of atmosphere and relationship that is central to the story line.

There's a surprise ending that reveals the real purpose of the Dragon overseeing both their lives; but the meat of the story lies in its ability to trace intersecting cycles of life and subconscious and unconscious influences on its progression. Any who want a complex read replete with evolution, change, and Danish folklore and atmosphere will find Here Be Dragons a vivid, engrossing read.

Sutro's Glass Palace: The Story of the Sutro Baths
John A. Martini
Hole in the Head Press
9780976149460 $22.95

Sutro's Glass Palace: The Story of the Sutro Baths is an especially-recommended pick for any California history collection and for Bay Area history readers in particular, and provides a fine history (packed with color photos and illustrations: original artwork by Lawrence Ormsby, along with vintage works) of one of San Francisco's 'lost landmarks'.

Sutro Baths was built by a Comstock mine millionaire (one Adolph Sutro) and was the world's largest indoor swimming complex when it opened in 1894 to much acclaim. It featured seven swimming pools, a museum, restaurants, and seating for literally thousands, rivaling anything that exists today, and was a popular destination for many until it burned to the ground in 1966.

From how new travel routes in the city evolved in the area that would become known as Sutro Baths and Cliff House to Sutro's tactics in buying up City real estate and establishing landmarks in the hills surrounding his home, Sutro's Glass Palace does more than present developer's objectives and evolution: it re-creates the atmosphere of 1800s San Francisco and discusses motivations for the creation of Sutro Baths.

The author often visited them as a child to ice skate in the former bathhouse, and one purpose of producing this book as an adult was to more closely examine the engineering behind their production. Another purpose was for it to serve as a 'field guide' to the ruins that remain today, offering visitors an opportunity to visualize the past, understand the Baths' development, and connect today's visual relics with yesterday's dreams and realities.

Magazines, newspapers, and archived reports of the time serve as a foundation for re-creating this history both visually and in a lively accompanying text. There's a richness to both the vintage images and the written word that comes to life here: "Sutro also hinted at a grander vision for the cove: "I did at first have some idea of building baths, but the rock at which I have been blasting seems to have given out, and I am afraid that I will not have enough to build a bulkhead [seawall]. . . . About the baths, my plans are in embryo. Let us first finish the aquarium. . . ." This is the first known mention of the future Sutro Baths."

Any with an interest in San Francisco's evolution around the turn of the century will find this packed with tidbits of information and insights into why and how different streets came to be named and how the idea of Sutro's resort evolved. From lawsuits and visionary dreams to engineering failures, marvels, and local politics, Sutro's Glass Palace explors it all, and backs its reports with well-researched facts.

The result is a lively, engrossing read especially recommended for avid fans of San Francisco history and culture.

The Dance of Murder
Trisha Sugarek
4900 LaCross Rd
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781494361327, $9.86 pbk / $9.37 Kindle

The Dance of Murder is Book 2 of 'The World of Murder' series and is recommended for fans of murder mysteries. It opens with murder cop Stella Garcia at her desk contemplating cleaning up another case in time to make her quota of resolved cases.

She's solved many murder cases in her seven years on the job, and she and her partner O'Roarke, make a good team; but they're about to be slammed by a new murder investigation that involves a serial killer who's targeting strippers, and they not only have literally a hundred possible suspects, but the media's gotten hold of the case and politicians and top brass are demanding it be solved quickly.

They make an arrest in the case - but do they have the right perp?

As with any murder mystery, it's all about sleuthing methods and the personalities of the investigators. And in this case, Stella and O'Roarke's different investigative methods neatly dovetail: "Waiting for her partner she stood quietly and watched the CSI team at work and the ME's team carefully bagging the body. Sometime s, when possible, it was good to just be quiet and let the scene come to her. A lone bird trilled a soulful note. Stella looked up toward the sound."

Some murder mysteries focus primarily on personalities and psychology while others focus nearly exclusively on sleuthing tactics. Much like a crossword puzzle, The Dance of Murder focuses on clues that successfully pair readers with Stella and O'Rourke's thought processes as they work through a range of possibilities in their case.

As they interview various employers of the dead strippers (all of whom have dubious connections to the deceased and potential motives for murder), they discover patterns and possibilities that lead them ever closer to the truth. It's obvious that the perp believes his actions are justified and his victims deserving of their fate: he's written 'whore' and notes on their dead bodies to point out their transgressions.

What is less obvious is a motive that will lead to an unexpected murderer and his obsession with - of all things - honor.

The Dance of Murder offers a strong focus on problem-solving and sleuthing. This allows readers to test their own skills in piecing together the puzzle, and to become involved in a story line that focuses on eliminating suspects and arriving at truth.

With its swift assessments of possibilities and motivations, it's a satisfying murder mystery that deftly captures the interactions between murder detectives and their professional and political challenges in solving crimes. Any murder mystery reader will find The Dance of Murder a fast-paced, involving read.

The Art of Murder
Trisha Sugarek
9781492961277 $8.95

The Art of Murder is Book One in 'The World of Murder' series and tells of one Montgomery ('Monty'), a struggling, shy artist in Soho who admires his beautiful neighbor from afar, painting her image and dreaming about her. It all seems so innocent ... until she's murdered and the police turn up at his door, asking about his 'obsession' with his dream woman.

Now Monty is caught in a dangerous game he never asked for: one that involves proving his innocence against impossible odds. But he's not alone in his quest: detective Jack O'Rourke becomes less convinced of Monty's guilt as time goes on and more evidence turns up, and decides to make it his personal goal to uncover the truth surrounding Samantha's demise. Joining him is sidekick Stella Garcia, a fellow detective also committed to justice.

What they uncovers during the course of their investigation will involve them all in a highly charged case that reveals as much about Samantha's life and personality as it provides clues about the circumstances surrounding her death.

The Art of Murder is replete with emotionally-charged writing capturing not just the process of a murder investigation, but the emotions of all involved: "Sam's gone...she's dead...He told the river. No more ridiculously high stilettos dancing down the street. No bright call of greeting. No more dazzling smile that she bestowed on everyone but me. They killed my muse, my reason for painting. And those cops...they think I might have done it...slaughtered the most beautiful thing in the world...these last words ended on a heart wrenching sob."

This focus differentiates The Art of Murder from other murder mystery approaches, adding a human element which, after all, is always a part of any murder scenario - but is too often under-explored in traditional murder mysteries.

As the crime-solving duo find theory after theory dissolving, they find themselves learning more about Sam's love life than they had bargained for - and suddenly everything begins to make sense...

Billed as a 'novella', this is a short, quick read; but don't let that fool you. It's also steeped in emotion, with a sensational cast of characters and interconnected circumstances that weave together to form a neat, involving story line with a tidy finish. The Art of Murder grew out of a one-act play, but you'd never know that: in novella form, its growth represents a satisfyingly rich story.

On the Road to "A Place Called Retirement": The Journey Requires Us to Let Go of What Was to Discover What Can Be--Enjoy the Ride
Dr. Richard (Rick) Steiner
Pathways Books
ISBN: 1628473797 $15.99

On the Road to "A Place Called Retirement" isn't your usual retirement book that speaks to financial planning alone: that subject's already been done (just about to death), and isn't the purpose here. What is provided is a blueprint for those whose lives have revolved around work routines for 20, 30, or 40 years or more: folks who have thought much about the financial side of matters, but little about what their lives will actually be like once working is no longer part of their picture.

Where too many view retirement as a conclusion to life, Dr. Steiner points out that it's actually a pivot point to new beginnings - and his book is designed to show new and forthcoming retirees exactly what these new beginnings can look like. Dedicated to the Boomer Generation, the biggest generation of retirees in American history, this book is the 'go to' place for any who haven't solidified their personal picture of retirement.

First of all, chapters offer profound psychological insights into why retirees often don't move smoothly into retirement: "Retirement to some is symbolic of our aging selves, of our powerlessness to stop the hands of time; the ending of our life at work." On the Road is all about empowering individuals to re-consider retirement as a phase of life replete with new opportunities, new life, and new freedoms the more structured work world hasn't provided.

Secondly, chapters focus as much on what retirement 'is' as what it 'is not'. The most important chapter of all comes packed with admonishments to branch out and let life in: to "Do Something Simple and New Every Day - read a book, contemplate the universe, or climb a mountain."

Indeed, there are so very many positive admonitions to these chapters that it's hard to pick out just a few to illustrate the tone and excitement within the pages of On the Road: "'s about challenging our minds and our bodies and engaging life up close and personal. It's about accepting our new lives with eyes wide open; it's about living forward, not in the past; and about who we will become, not about who we used to be. It's about challenging life and tempting fate, it's about exploration, travel, and adventure; it's about friends and family, about meaning, legacy, reconciliation, forgiveness, and spirituality."

This reviewer is focusing on the book's important psychological messages; but that's not to say that it doesn't include a healthy dose of financial savvy. Chapters also address common issues of retirees as they learn new ways to manage and spend money, and live on fixed incomes.

There are important insights on how and why retirement succeeds or fails - and important reflections on expectations, aging, and changing circumstances that many retirees fail to plan for: "The "act" of retiring, while important in and of itself, pales in comparison to the challenges and stresses we will confront when actually "living" in retirement, because sometimes our dreams and expectations have realities of their own."

With its specifics on psychological, financial and lifestyle changes, there's no better book to give to the nearly-newly-retired than On the Road: it's all about making the most of change and accepting the attitude adjustments that come with it.

Retirement is an end goal that many (perhaps even most of us) strive towards. On the Road explains and explores the entire process and offers many concrete keys to making the most of this end result, and should be read by any who contemplate making this big change and seeing their dreams come true.

Tales From Little Lump - Alien Season
Jeff Folschinsky

Tales From Little Lump - Alien Season isn't your usual end-of-the-world series: indeed it reads like a Christopher Moore novel, with a healthy dose of hilarious improbability to keep its scenarios fast-paced and unexpected.

When aliens show up in Little Lump, Texas, it's up to Gertie (and the customers of Aunt Gertie's Gas 'n Sip) to bring 'em down with what artillery and chutzpah they can muster.

Now, we're not talking about a big town packed with gunslingers, here. In fact, Little Lump's got only a hundred folk in residence - if that. But they're not about to take anything lying down (including alien invasions) and when you size up the characters, it's to find they all, like Gertie, have enough stubbornness - and artillery - to keep any alien force at bay.

The humor begins on Page 1, when Aunt Gertie reluctantly answers an annoyingly-ringing payphone, hangs up on Fred three times, and must reluctantly accept the fact that aliens are actually on their way to Little Lump Texas, compliments of coordinates thoughtfully provided by the U.S. government and intercepted via the radio magic of Gene Kelly, the local DJ.

Now, Gene isn't the only funny name in town: there's Gertie's brother Pie, for example. And Gertie's more than a bit reluctant to accept the obvious: that there are aliens in town. For one thing - why would aliens choose to invade a tiny town with nothing going for it? The answer seems clear ("When conquering territory, you start with the weaker towns and work your way out to the bigger ones, and that's what they're doing here.") and Gertie's response is equally decided: "...If I didn't roll over for the metric system, I most certainly will not roll over for planetary enslavement."

Only in Texas, right?

Things get even more complicated when, amid the gunfire, an agent is sent to town to investigate, is nabbed by the locals who suspect him of being an alien, and discovers that the townspeople are harboring an alien hostage in the shed. With a peppering of hearty 'God rest his soul' reflections Gertie leads the agent to the alien ambassador who has become her 'involuntary guest' out in the back shed that used to be the domain of her husband (God rest his soul).

Held hostage by extension cords promising some manner of deadly power, Saturday Night Specials that can be used "any day of the week", and threats all the way 'round, aliens have more than invasion on the mind as they face off a small town with power (and firepower) to start an intergalactic incident.

Tales From Little Lump - Alien Season is a top recommendation for Christopher Moore fans especially, and for any who enjoy a healthy blend of humor ala a dose of small town Texas psyche blending with science fiction. Its easily one of the most original, inviting reads seen in a long time and is very highly recommended for any who love unique writing and humor that just doesn't quit.

Georgia Divorce Handbook
Harmon Caldwell
9781610053846 $3.95

Author Harmon Caldwell has been a Georgia Super Lawyer for some nine years now, and has guided hundreds of clients through the divorce process for decades, developing an expertise on the state's laws and requirements. This fact alone makes his Georgia Divorce Handbook an authoritative publication that surveys all the possibilities based on Georgia's specific laws, and makes it a solid recommendation for any Georgia collection and those seeking legal information about divorces in the state.

From interviewing lawyers and forming the right questions to ask that will result in accurate assessments of a lawyer's expertise and perspective to understanding different possibilities throughout the process, Georgia Divorce Handbook provides a user-friendly format to impart the basics, assumes no prior familiarity with any legal terms or court procedures, and empowers litigant readers.

These explanations are contained in chapters that mirror the legal process from the initial location of the right lawyer to exactly what happens at every step of the divorce process. Understand: the information here is not to be considered as legal advice; nor is it intended to replace a lawyer's counsel. What it does intend to do (and achieves quite well) is educate legal consumers about the process of divorce and court and lawyer actions, offering both insights and clear discussions of choices and decisions along the way. Readers are encouraged to use this understanding to ask the right questions of their lawyers.

While one might think this information must be readily available online, there are many emotional tips throughout the process that simply can't be located in legal paperwork, and which are explored here: "If you tell your spouse what you are thinking, what you are worried about, or what you want, your spouse will likely share that with his or her lawyer, and that lawyer will use what you have said to manipulate you."

There's rock-solid information on how to gain fair settlements, how to understand different filings, paperwork and options along the way, and why some divorces are simple and others more complicated. Much of this boils down to assets and children; other factors include emotional connections and reactions which may provide self-defeating to one side or the other.

There are also candid assessments of which options aren't recommended, and why, as in the example of a new "collaborative law" process designed to simplify and streamline a divorce without the need for a lawyer, but which actually doesn't work well in cases where there are significant assets involved.

This book is definitely not written for the 'do it yourselfer' who either has no need or no desire for a lawyer's advice: it's for those who will be working with a lawyer, and who want keys to understanding the entire process and how to get the most from the legal system.

Case histories are based on Harmon Caldwell's clients and serve to illustrate legal precedent in terms any can readily understand. These accompany chapters that take a step-by-step approach in outlining the divorce process in Georgia.

With its specific insights, recommendations, explanations and candid assessments of pros and cons of different choices, Georgia Divorce Handbook is quite simply a 'must' for any planning a divorce in Georgia.

Gary Lawrence Sheerin
Amazon Kindle
ASIN: B00GYN58SQ $2.99

Digi at first glance seems to be a young adult science fiction novel; but its mature opening prologue demonstrates that it is in fact a recommendation not only for young adults, but for adult readers as well. The prologue is set on a mercenary base in Africa where a small girl with supernatural fighting abilities is successfully killing off a roomful of threatening men. How did she get in the locked, secure room? Why through a computer screen, of course ... and thus begins the real mystery.

Fast forward to the life of nerd Peter Dempster, a high school outcast with little to show for himself. He's not athletic, he's not scholarly ... he's actually not much of anything. You can't even call him a proper 'nerd', as he's not great at either computers or science. Nope: nothing much to say about Peter - until he's hit by lightning when sitting at his home computer and is transformed into ... something indefinable.

Not everyone can turn themselves (physically) into a digital entity and enter the computer world, for example...shades of 'Matrix'! And not everyone can step up to the challenge of being a hero in a hitherto-unknown cyberworld - but that's exactly what Peter does; and is exactly what Digi is all about: the process of that transformation, and being that hero.

You couldn't open with a more unlikely hero than Peter, who simply wants to coast through his classes unnoticed, and whose goal is to "...slip in quietly, unnoticed, and hopefully stay that way for the rest of the year."

Now, this all too easily could have turned into a predictable situation - but wait, there's more! Peter's entry into a cyber-universe is not surprising to its residents, but is expected - and his role there seems to be pre-determined.

From a school bully's malicious computer virus that threatens to destroy the Internet itself (and Peter's newfound 'digi' world) to family relationships that affect both Peter and bully/hacker Terry's perspective on life, morals and values, this is a multi-faceted presentation that will reach mature young adult (and many adult) readers on many levels.

How do teens rise from their families and teachings to become more than their influences? How do they make 'good' over 'bad' choices in life? And what determines (or predetermines) actions and consequences? It's obvious that Digi is more than an action story or a quick sci-fi read, though fans of both genres will gravitate to its absorbing story line.

Underlying all this is an attention to life purpose, the mechanics of coincidence, and influences on success or failure; and that's, ultimately, what Digi is all about. Neatly wrapped in the package of evolving family influences and relationships are actions that, in the end, could save the world...

Fascinating, unpredictable and involving, Digi is young adult sci-fi at its best.

The Gatekeeper's Challenge: Gatekeeper's Saga, Book Two
Eva Pohler
Green Press
9780989999908 $16.00

Book 2 of 'The Gatekeeper's Saga' (a powerful young adult fantasy novel with fifteen-year-old Therese Mills as its heroine and guiding force) begins where Book One left off and is especially recommended for those who have read and enjoyed its predecessor, The Gatekeeper's Sons.

The Gatekeeper's Challenge opens with seeminglyTherese newly reunited with her god/love Than for a quick visit after a ten-month separation, and the perplexity over her mortal good friend Peter (who may be more than just a friend) when their relationship is threatened by Than's return.

In quick succession appear the Furies, Poseidon in a chariot, and more figures from mythology - and with them, once again, is confusion over where Therese really belongs and the true nature of reality and fantasy itself... for her encounter with Than proves to be a dream, even as the real Than is spending his time and efforts trying to find a way to be together with Therese and make her his queen.

Therese doesn't know this fact, however: to her it's been ten long months with no communication with Than and no indication that he is still interested in her, and so when he shows up when her hamster dies (he is, after all, a god of the underworld), she still only gets a tidbit of conversation and not nearly enough time to discuss romance, intentions, or the future.

Her decision to search out and take a drug that provides a near-death experience so she can have a proper talk with her underworld boyfriend goes terribly awry and results in a challenge issued by Hades that will either make her a goddess or destroy her.

It's Therese's strong will, courage, and determination that will be the real tests of her capabilities under Hade's near-impossible challenge: that and her ongoing love for Than, which continues, unchanging, through both worlds and under impossible conditions.

There are also surprising, humorous moments in Therese's encounters - as when she pursues a treasure guarded by a monster and entices him with a (drugged) cinnamon roll: "Therese opened her purse and took out the cinnamon roll. "Hera gave me a gift to give to Ladon." It wasn't exactly true. Technically, Hera hadn't given it to her. But it had been her idea. Too frightened to approach the tree and the nymphs, Therese tossed the roll through the air where it was caught and eaten by one of Ladon's hundred heads." Really: conquering a legendary monster guardians with SleepAid tablets and Prozac?

Even as Therese faces her own challenges, she's tasked with protecting her mortal friends, occasionally with extraordinary means. Being mortal means she sometimes fails - as in trying to protect Vicki - but sometimes succeeds - as with her friend Jen. It also means she has a lot to give up in the process of making the right moral, ethical choices at times - possibly even her future with Than.

But one strong message in The Gatekeeper's Challenge is 'never give up' - and Therese continually finds her approaches that allow her to keep her promises, protect her friends, and retain her own clear vision of what she wants from her life and the afterworld.

Speaking of which - also at the heart of the story is finding one's purpose in life: a task that involves not just mortals but gods and goddesses alike: "Every god and goddess must serve humankind or the world in some way. We have to find a purpose for you, or this transformation won't last."

As Therese moves ever closer to her heart's desire and to identifying what that desire might mean in the bigger picture of two worlds, she finds herself facing her greatest challenge.

Once again, expect no neat conclusions, here. The Gatekeeper's Challenge is a complex, shape-shifting fantasy with an evolving protagonist and changes to all involved. The conclusion only sets the stage for more possibilities, drawing readers to a mercurial ending that cries out for more.

Byron's Lane
Wallace Rogers
Langdon Street Press
9781626521315 $15.99

Byron's Lane in many ways reflects the dilemmas of middle age and life itself, and is centered around the dilemmas of Adams as seen through the eyes of his friend Tom. Adams has spent his lifetime using democratic principles at home and abroad to improve people's lives - but middle age brings with it regret, re-assessment of the principals of The American Dream, and the fading of political and personal dreams in the 21st century.

Time has moved on, leaving Adams and his generation's ideals behind...or has it?

Readers who enjoy novels centered on aging, reflection, revelation and change will find Byron's Lane differs from many in that it holds a satisfying blend of personal and political reflection. Being neither one nor the other, this philosophical process is all about different levels of change in the existence of an American white suburban middle class male who, until now, has largely viewed his life's goals and objectives as successes.

The character of Tom Walker is not only well drawn, it provides a sense of distance and objectivity as Tom is drawn to help his friend heal emotionally from his experiences in Iraq. This character is a central, necessary component of Byron's Lane, serving as both a pivot point for change and as a mirror for different perspectives on past events. Tom also serves as a witness for events that will unfold to their logical conclusion despite the efforts of both protagonists.

There's much psychological depth to Adams's story which is rare in most novels, moving neatly beyond surface experiences to analyze engrained habits, belief systems, and how they permeate both personal and political worlds: "Adams was never the self-confident rebel, the Byronic hero, he projected. He was a non-threatening non-conformist who craved acceptance. Fear of rejection - which most of us learn to rationalize away or live with - was the principal motivator in Adams's life. It served him well and it served him badly. He had never lost an election. The possibility that he could lose one made him an outstanding campaigner and an effective politician, but that same fear caused him to avoid a woman's total immersion into his life, or his into hers."

Will Adams take the steps necessary to accept romance, new directions and new possibilities in his life? As friend Tom finds, his probes lead to new, startling revelations about his friend's involvement in revenge killings in Iraq, and turn over old, buried experiences perhaps best left forgotten, he discovers that events and lessons learned which fell neatly into place on Byron's Lane decades ago no longer fit so well. Cascading events are leading to a dangerous collision between past and present that will challenge Adams' perspective of not just himself, but this brave new world that's evolving without him and his contemporaries.

Is the American Dream still alive and well for the Boomer generation - or has it faded?

Byron's Lane is a powerful novel about finding one's place in the world - over and over again. You could almost call it a 'coming of age' novel, centered around the middle years. It's all about choices both past and present - and it offers a powerful conclusion firmly linking politics and social change with personal lives. Perhaps this is the strongest facet of Byron's Lane ...not totally unexpected, since the author is himself a former Wisconsin mayor.

The Mexican Gardener
Len Lamensdorf
SeaScape Press
9780966974195, $7.95,

The Mexican Gardener's title sounds like it would revolve around the story of a typical Mexican who tends the garden of a white employer: but there's much more to Jose Rivera-Diego - including the fact that he's a skilled jet pilot, a marksman, and (underneath all this) is also a scientist hiding from a dangerous terrorist group plotting a chemical attack on the southwestern United States.

All these elements don't take half the book to develop, as one might anticipate, but evolve from the very first paragraph, in which Jose occupies a plushy office in Mexico (which at that moment is incongruously occupied by the gruesome dead body of fellow chemist Ermino Diaz, a deadly warning scrawled on his lab coat in blood.) It's more than time for Jose to leave town, before he's next ... and thus evolves a deadly cat-and-mouse game that will draw him into not just a world of danger and intrigue, but the world of Anglos whom terrorists are plotting to destroy.

The Mexican Gardener also revolves around a former friend seeking to destroy him - and as Jose flees his former life, he realizes not only the world, but his world will change. All this isn't a surprise to Jose: in fact, he's been methodically planning his departure and new life for a long time, now. And his pursuer, former employer Hector Palacios who heads the company involved in the plans for a chemical attack, is equally savvy, meeting each of Jose's moves with such precision that one wonders if Hector is merely toying with Jose before his inevitable demise.

Iffy boarder crossings and identity camouflage are only a few of the challenge Jose faces: also at risk are his family and an evolving international crisis that places him at the heart of some difficult and paradigm-changing choices. Jose misses his wife and children and has hired protection for them in his absence, but his choice to hide in the position of being a Mexican gardener offers him the best protection against his pursuers - until its own complications reach out to inject their own complex tendrils into his life. Suddenly what seems like the perfect cover also comes to feel like a trap, as his new employer puts him in charge of her latest entertainment: a city-wide treasure hunt: "The problems, the risks were getting greater every minute. He could be dealing with hundreds of people - some might even be from Mexico. It was not impossible he would be seen by someone who knew him, someone who might recall the scandal of his disappearance... In Mexico, he was considered at best an outcast, at worst an international criminal."

'Treasure hunt' is one of the evolving themes of this thriller as Jose becomes immersed in his new, rich employer's complex game even as he avoids becoming part of his former employer's disastrous plans to establish a new 'Aztec empire' in the southern U.S. When his worlds collide, it's with a bang that will intersect some ambitions and create new options in the process.

The Mexican Gardener is replete with action, high octane energy, political intrigue and underlying social tensions and follows one man's efforts to save the world - and his own world. From international missions to encounters between different Latin American forces and U.S. operatives, this is a fast-paced novel that charges off the start line from its first paragraph and doesn't quit racing until the finish line: a winner!

Diane Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

Road to Nowhere and Other New Stories from the Southwest
D. Seith Horton 7 Brett Garcia Myhern, editors
University of New Mexico Press
1312 Basehart Road SE, Albuquerque NM 87106-4363
9780826353146, $12.95, 296pp,

Synopsis: The Southwest of the twenty-first century is full of surprises, and so is this collection of southwestern short stories published between 2007 and 2011. The writers represented here remind us that this is not the "Old Southwest" of gunfighters and sagebrush but, instead, a place of rock collectors, palm readers, and Russian mail-order brides. Well-known authors like Sallie Bingham, Ron Carlson, Laura Furman, and Dagoberto Gilb are joined here by exciting newcomers Eddie Chuculate, Don Waters, Claire Vaye Watkins, and others.

Critique: A literary cornucopia of superbly crafted short stories, "Road to Nowhere and Other New Stories from the Southwest" is a fascinating and entertaining anthology that will leave readers eagerly tracking down more from the represented writers. A literary tour-de-force, "Road to Nowhere and Other New Stories from the Southwest" is highly recommended reading and an excellent acquisition choice for both community and academic library Literary Studies collections. It should be noted that "Road to Nowhere and Other New Stories from the Southwest" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.72).

The Other Side Of Free
Krista Russell
Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
1700 Chattahoochee Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
9781561457106, $16.95, 256 pp,

Synopsis: It is 1739. Young Jem has been rescued from slavery and finds himself at Fort Mose, a settlement in Florida run by the Spanish. He is in the custody of an ornery and damaged woman named Phaedra, who dictates his every move. When Jem sets out to break free of her will, an adventure begins in which Jem saves a baby owl, a pair of runaway slaves, and, eventually, maybe all the residents of Fort Mose. While Jem and the other characters are fictitious, the story is based on historical record. Fort Mose was the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what is now the United States. In 1994 the site was designated a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2009, the National Park Service named Fort Mose a precursor site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Critique: A superbly crafted historical novel specifically intended for young readers ages 10 to 14, "The Other Side Of Free" is as accurately informative as it is solidly entertaining. "The Other Side Of Free" demonstrates that Krista Russell has an impressive gift as a storyteller and novelist. Highly recommended for school and community library collections, as well as for supplemental reading lists for Black History Month curriculums.

Sapphire Trails
Marilyn Jax
Beaver's Pond Press
7108 Ohms Lane, Edina, MN 55439
9781592985067, $26.00, 384 pp,

Synopsis: Private investigators Claire Caswell and Gaston ''Guy'' Lombard receive an invitation from longtime friends to visit their lodge in Bigfork, Montana, a respite far away from the frenzied pace of Miami Beach. Guy has not been himself since they returned from a case taking them to the Greek island of Crete, and Claire believes the trip will do them good. But shortly after the two arrive, a cold-blooded murder--a crime bearing similarities to a recent rash of burglaries plaguing a well-to-do enclave in the neighboring community of Whitefish--pulls them into an ominous plot and they are called upon by the local sheriff to help solve the crime.

Critique: A truly riveting read that captures the reader's total attention from beginning to end, "Sapphire Trails" clearly identifies Marilyn Jax as an experienced and singularly gifted novelist who will leave her readers eagerly looking toward her next literary effort. A solid entertainment from first page to last, "Sapphire Trails" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Sapphire Trails" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.49).

Bridge Between Music, Art & Architecture: Boxed Set
Owen Waldschlagel
E. L. Foster Publishing Inc
9780982760611, $38.95, 112 pp,

Synopsis: The nature of beginning is to connect. The result of connecting intellectually or physically is some form of development. "Bridge Between Music, Art & Architecture" describes a life of connections involving the natural physical world with music and art. The stimulations of the progressive effects among the three brought forth the logical steps of architecture and self sustaining vocation. It begins with a young boy exploring and interacting with nature. His family and society allow his abilities and imagination to develop and flourish. The freedom of seizing opportunities and fates adventures allow his various talents to expand. Geography and the ocean become an integral part of his existence as he becomes a man. He often believes as he travels in solitude over land and sea toward his destiny that he exists in another time, perhaps hundreds of years earlier. As a young adult he reconstructs a sailing vessel that he found under the Brooklyn Bridge, in NYC. The sailboat is capable of ocean voyages. He sails and discovers interesting attributes combining the muses of natural science with those of music and philosophy. His interactions with people within and without his life bring him an awareness of the human condition. He is a song writer turning his thoughts into lyrics and music. He returns home to NY and discovers the high attributes of applying knowledge and logic to problems to create solutions. Involved in the everyday possibilities of hopes and dreams either through creating music, producing artwork or constructing dwellings he aspires to elevate destinies. A central theme of this book is the affability of the relationships between the different talented personalities and their abilities to share a logical or artistic quest as their paths crossed. Often the group would be thinking or creating in tandem or as one. The end results connect the reader to the sources of creativity that produce a bridge between Music, Art and Architecture. All inspired with creative communication being the only impetus. This tome describes how they developed a philosophical approach to solve some problems of the human condition through innovative architecture and vocation. The CDs feature 18 songs. It also includes two Pyramid Books - "Sol-Ra" and "Returning Origin".

Critique: This kind of reading experience that is one that is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is solidly entertaining. Very highly recommended for personal collections, "Bridge Between Music, Art & Architecture: Boxed Set" includes a paperback edition of the book, 2 Pyramid Books ('Sol-Ra' and 'Returning Origin') & 2 CD (featuring 18 songs).

Prophets of the Posthuman
Christina Bieber Lake
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9780268022365, $38.00, 256 pp,

Synopsis: Prophets of the Posthuman provides a fresh and original reading of fictional narratives that raise the question of what it means to be human in the face of rapidly developing bioenhancement technologies. Christina Bieber Lake argues that works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Marilynne Robinson, Raymond Carver, James Tiptree, Jr., and Margaret Atwood must be reevaluated in light of their contributions to larger ethical questions. Drawing on a wide range of sources in philosophical and theological ethics, Lake argues that these writers share a commitment to maintaining a category of personhood more meaningful than that allowed by utilitarian ethics. Prophets of the Posthuman insists that because technology can never ask whether we should do something that we have the power to do, literature must step into that role.

Each of the chapters of this interdisciplinary study sets up a typical ethical scenario regarding human enhancement technology and then illustrates how a work of fiction uniquely speaks to that scenario, exposing a realm of human motivations that might otherwise be overlooked or simplified. Through the vision of the writers she discusses, Lake uncovers a deep critique of the ascendancy of personal autonomy as America's most cherished value. This ascendancy, coupled with technology's glamorous promises of happiness, helps to shape a utilitarian view of persons that makes responsible ethical behavior toward one another almost impossible. Prophets of the Posthuman charts the essential role that literature must play in the continuing conversation of what it means to be human in a posthuman world.

Critique: A work of consistently impressive scholarship, "Prophets of the Posthuman: American Fiction, Biotechnology, and the Ethics of Personhood" by Christina Bieber Lake (Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English, Wheaton College), is a seminal work of exceptional merit and should be considered an essential acquisition for academic library 20th Century American Literary Studies collections.

The Healing Paradox
Steven Goldsmith, MD
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781583946169, $18.95, 320 pp,

Synopsis: Why does Western medicine fail to cure chronic physical and mental illness? Why do so many treatments and drugs work only for a limited time before eventually losing effectiveness or producing harmful side effects? Dr. Steven Goldsmith's answer is at once counterintuitive and commonsensical: the root of the problem is our combative approach. Instead of resisting and fighting our ailments, we should cooperate with and even embrace them. We should look for and apply treatments that are integrated with the causes of illness, not regard illness as an enemy to conquer.

This "hair of the dog" principle is already widely evident in practice. Take, for example, vaccines and inoculations, which are small doses of the microbes that cause the diseases being prevented; the use of the stimulant Ritalin to calm and ground people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; and radiation, which is both a well-known cause of cancer and a well-known method of treating it. These are just a few of Goldsmith's many examples, which he relays in clear, evocative, and thought-provoking language. Perhaps most compelling of all, he explores reasons why this clearly effective principle is ignored by Western medicine.

Critique: A fascinating work illustrated throughout with case study examples and public health data, as well as Doctor Goldsmith's own professional experience and expertise as a medical doctor and psychiatrist, "The Healing Paradox: A Revolutionary Approach to Treating and Curing Physical and Mental Illness" is exceptionally informative and very well written, making it appropriate for non-specialist general readers with an interest in alternative medicine and mental health issues. With its impressive level of medical scholarship and comprehensive approach, "The Healing Paradox: A Revolutionary Approach to Treating and Curing Physical and Mental Illness" is also very highly recommended for community and academic library collections as well. It should be noted that "The Healing Paradox: A Revolutionary Approach to Treating and Curing Physical and Mental Illness" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.39).

You Are Here
Chris Delyani
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781475934434, $19.95, 334 pp,

Synopsis: All Peter Bankston ever wanted to do was paint. An aspiring painter, Peter scratches out a pauper's living in San Francisco, wanting nothing more than to be left alone. Instead, he finds himself getting involved with not one but two very different men. Like Peter, getting involved with another man is the last thing on Nick Katsaris's mind. Smart, handsome, and good-humored, Nick's done more than just survive-he's positively thriving in San Francisco. But when he meets Peter, what begins as fun and games quickly turns into a game he can't control. Miles Bettencourt's days are filled with longing. For him, San Francisco is haunted by Stuart, his missing ex-lover. Desperate to win him back, Miles wanders the streets in the hope of running into Stuart again. Instead, he runs into Peter-the one man who might hold the key to what Miles is looking for. These three gay men soon form one very unlikely love triangle. Sometimes, when people break apart and then come together, they learn that discovering that where you are is the key to knowing who you are.

Critique: Chris Delyani's deftly written novel "You Are Here" won one of the 21st Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards and it's easy to see why. An engaging work that captures the reader's rapt attention from the beginning and holds it firmly to the very end, "You Are Here" documents the singular storytelling talents of its author. Memorable characters adroitly woven into a complex story that will linger in the mind long after the novel is finished and set back upon the shelf, "You Are Here" is highly recommended reading and would prove an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections.

Running Into The Forever
J. W. Becker
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9780983853824, $14.95, 260 pp.,

Synopsis: Five escapees from the Beast's camps join Daniel and Samantha Bryant's family of orphans. The leader, Robert, tells Daniel what he already knows: "The Beast is still looking for you and he's getting close again." The family must find a new safe place, but how safe can it be when one of the escapees is a "half-one" who infiltrates the family in order to help capture "breeders" which the Beast desperately needs to survive? As the family sets out on their journey to find another new home, Robert realizes what he must do. "There's no choice, Daniel. The Beast must be destroyed or none of us will survive. I have to make sure the other three embryos don't make it out of the incubator. It would be the end of all of us who are left."

Critique: As her debut novel, J. W. Becker's "Running Into The Forever" reveals an extraordinary and exceptional talent for writing 'cliff-hanger' style science fiction fantasy that quickly engages the reader's total attention and holds it through ever plot twist and turn from beginning to end. Also available in a Kindle edition ($5.95), "Running Into The Forever" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. Also enthusiastically recommended is "Dead Is Forever" (9781492713166, PB $12.00, Kindle $3.99), which is the second volume in J. W. Becker's 'The Forever' series.

Julie Summers

Klausner's Bookshelf

Aloha Rose
Lisa Carter
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426752735, $12.99,

Laney Carrigan searches for her biological family with her only clue being her baby wrap red rose snowflake on a white Hawaiian quilt with the words "Aloha, Rose". On the islands, Laney meets Kai Barnes. His animosity shakes up Laney though she wonders why he despises her.

On his own quest Kai stonewalls Laney's search because he believes she is a gold-digger and will hurt his cherished foster family that she claims as hers. To their chagrin as their relationship turns increasingly hostile Kai and Laney are also attracted to each other. As they fall in love, each needs to believe the other is a good caring person and not a miscreant, but in spite of their respective heart's messaging, neither trusts the other.

The latest Quilts of Love inspirational (see The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman, Raw Edges by Sandra D. Bricker and Pieces of the Heart by Bonnie Calhoun) is a gripping family drama. The wonderful battling protagonists each have a personal mission brought alive by the picturesque locales and deft use of the Hawaiian language. Character-driven, readers will appreciate this entry as Laney and fans learn another meaning of Aloha.

A Marriage In Middlebury
Anita Higman
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426733871, $14.99,

Years ago in Middlebury, Charlotte Rose Hill and Sam Wilder were in love. He proposed but his father threatened to destroy a teenaged Charlotte Rose so she turned down Sam. He left heartbroken as was she. Eventually Charlotte Rose converted the old Riley house into the Rose Cottage Tearoom.

Accompanied by his fiancee Audrey Anderson, Sam comes back asking "Lotty" if she has tea. Audrey requests Charlotte Rose to cater her marital reception at Rose Cottage. Though she has other suitors (Pastor Wally and Doctor Maverick) and held onto the wedding invitation she drew up for them in high school, Charlotte Rose realizes she never got over Sam, but he has Audrey in his life.

A Marriage in Middlebury is a wonderful Christian inspirational romance due to a deep cast in which loyalty and friendship matter. Fans will enjoy this second chance at love if Sam and Charlotte take that difficult first step but both believe their time passed almost two decades ago.

Montooth 3 Red Cross Of Gold
Robert Jay and Meghan Christian
Cloverleaf Corporation
1916 South Tamiami Trail, Ruskin, FL 33570
9780989117104, $21.99,

In 1954 at Florida's Sarasota's Preparatory Academy, Cuban student Elena Rafferty tells her friend Carty Andersson about her anti-Batista activity. Both teens will miss each other as they graduate and vow to stay in touch; as Elena plans to return home to join the Castro forces rebelling against the dictator while Carty and her Crew mates (Blake Homes, Mack Stein and Hale Wending) will attend Purdue.

At Purdue, freshman Carty likes her petit roommate Marjory Mentor who majors in MRS while fascinated with Andersson's archery skills. In class, Mack challenges Economics Professor Lyndon Donagle's wine growing theories embarrassing the Dr. When the Crew leaves the campus over Thanksgiving, Marjorie remains in the dorm where she spends time with her new boyfriend. In Lafayette, someone shoots three arrows into Donagle before bashing in his head. LPD Police Detective Mickey Malone leads the homicide investigation with Carty as the only suspect.

The third Montooth historical thriller (see Montooth And the Canfield Witch, and Race for The Ryland Ruby) is a terrific profound look into the "Happy Days" of the Eisenhower years with readers feeling like time travelers to vividly described Indiana, Florida and Cuba. The taut homicide inquiry subplot feels like ancient history with no Bones or Jeffersonian forensics while the rise of Castro as the Cuban people's savior further anchors time and place. With a Montooth legendary saga re bees, and treasures dating back to Templars rounding out the delightful 1950s drama, readers will appreciate this strong suspense as the Crew loyally set out to prove one of their own did not kill the professor.

The Ninety Days of Genevieve
Lucinda Carrington
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778316985, $11.95,

In their third meeting in London discussing whether business mogul James Sinclair hires Genevieve Loften's Barrington advertising firm, he offers her a personal deal for her consideration. If she fulfills the 90-day contract to his sexual satisfaction, James will use Barrington as his advertiser. Landing the Sinclair account means a major promotion so Genevieve accepts his terms with one additional consideration that this remains a business arrangement only.

James introduces Genevieve to the world of BDSM. To her shock, she enjoys his company and especially his sexual games. As the days move too quickly for her, she wants to extend their personal contract, but doubts the self-assured Dom will keep her as his willing Sub.

This reprint of a 2001 Black Lace erotic romance is an enticing tale starring two protagonists who begin their contract with business like efficiency lacking passionate effectiveness but soon desire and need supersede the original consideration. Though the concept of a wealthy man buying a career woman has been used a lot in recent years, erotica fans will enjoy this well-written entry as love brings passion to a business deal.

Sherryl Woods
9780778315124, $7.99

In Chicago, someone murders Minister Ken Miller. His death leaves his wife Dana and their three children in shock as Ken was a good husband and father, and a caring man of God who took his message into the worst sections of the city. When CPD explains to Dana the case is turning cold; needing closure the former private investigator decides to inquire into the shooting homicide of her husband.

To protect her three sons, she ships them to their grandparents in Florida. Once her children are safely out of the way, Dana targets Ken's best friend Rick Sanchez, founder of Yo, Amigo, a shelter for teens attempting to leave the gangs. This is her best lead since her spouse spent a lot of time helping there. Fearing the obsessed Dana will get herself killed, Rick offers to help her. Both CPD claims illegal drugs were found in Ken's church office and a second killing of a church employee leads Dana to revise her hypothesis.

This reprint is an exhilarating romantic suspense that was a contemporary in 1997 but has a historical feel with what has happened in communications since its original publication. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Dana gives up on the cops and never slows down as she and the person she holds culpable investigate the murder. Although a romantic subplot feels more of an unnecessary forced requirement, fans will enjoy this taut thriller.

Wake To Darkness
Maggie Shayne
9780778315551, $7.99

Famous self-help inspirational author Rachel de Luca and police detective Mason Brown met when his car hits her as the distracted blind woman left the police station. That same day, his brother Eric committed suicide so Mason and his sibling's widow donated his organs. Rachel received his corneas that enable her to see for the first time since she was a child. After regaining her sight, Rachel and Mason worked together on a serial killer case in which she saw visions of a psychopath in action and shared the best sex either had (see Sleep With the Lights On).

The renowned author completes a Wish Yourself Rich book tour and TV appearances only to learn Mason's widowed sister-in-law suffered a stillborn. With his family needing him and he upset over her not calling him while she was away for a month, Mason suggests they keep apart for now. However, Rachel suffers a nightmare in which she sees another of Eric's organ recipients a mom with small children murdered. She joins Mason as he investigates the homicide in which she believes she is on a serial killer's Wraith organ hit list.

The latest Brown and DeLuca paranormal investigation is an engaging thriller starring two wonderful protagonists and a strong support cast especially his family. With a nod to the movie Blink, this fast-paced with a tense twist tale grips sub-genre readers as once again evil always finds a willing host while good manifests itself in love.

Along Came Trouble
Erin Kern
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455573929, $8.00,

In Trouble, Wyoming, the Golden Glove owner Brody McDermott knows his restaurant is in trouble after a food critic ripped the taste, the portion and the look in a magazine article. At the same time Brody fears for the future of his sports-themed bar and grill. Elisa Cardoso comes to Trouble with a deep desire to photograph the picturesque Wyoming landscape.

Brody hires the photographer to take pictures of his meals; she accepts because she needs the money to enable her to shoot her passion. As they work together, the homebody restaurateur and the globetrotting photographer fall in love. While Brody has doubts after fumbling his first marriage, the world awaits Elisa when an opportunity she cannot refuse arises.

The third Trouble romance (see Here Comes Trouble and Looking for Trouble) is a delightful contemporary starring two passionate people in love though his back and forth teetering feels overdone. His ex-wife and their tweener son add depth to a fine Wyoming tale.

Wildest Dreams
Toni Blake
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062247551, $7.99,

At high class Chez Sophia in New Orleans, Stephanie Grant "sells" the idea that she is an escort. Bartender Jake Broussard watches Stephanie "perform". His instincts honed from his cop days scream at him that she is not a hooker prowling for a wealthy patron. Knowing he should mind his business, Jake confronts Stephanie until she admits she came from Chicago seeking her missing twenty-something sister Tina. Regardless of the danger, Stephanie explains she has no choice except to continue her masquerade.

Though Jake left the police force vowing never again after what happened to his Becky, his attraction to Stephanie will not allow him to walk away from the courageous fool. Keeping her from harm proves a full time job that Jake covets in spite of the risk to his life and the guilt in his soul re Becky as he and Stephanie fall in love.

This 2005 reprint of In Your Wildest Dreams is an enjoyable contemporary due to an engaging lead couple and New Orleans, just under two-months before Katrina. Although a subplot involving a street teen runaway enforces Jake's save damsels in distress nature, this segue distracts from the prime otherwise taut romantic suspense.

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished
Sarah MacLean
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062068545, $7.99,

In 1819 at Whitefawn Abbey, Marquess William Harrow awakens in a bed of blood after a wonderful night with a beauty. He learns from a troubled maid that his sex partner was heiress Mara Lowe, his father the Duke of Lamont's soon to be fifth wife.

Over the next dozen years, the Ton believes that Temple killed Mara; due to intoxication he is unsure whether he did or did not. Now known as the scandalous "Killer Duke" of Lamont, Temple the pariah avoids his former peers except when they visit his Fallen Angel gaming establishment. To his shock, Mara arrives at his club offering him a chance to regain his lost lofty standing in exchange for his dropping her brother's exorbitant debt he accrued at the Fallen Angels. Though he despises the woman who destroyed his life, to his chagrin Temple also wants her, but fears taking a chance on the woman who left him in a scandalous bloody mess.

The third Rules of Scoundrels historical romance (see One Good Earl Deserves a Lover and A Rogue By Any Other Name) is a strong nineteenth century tale due to the flawed hurting protagonists who must deal with and accept their past if they are to share a forever loving relationship. Character-driven by the lead couple as they slowly change and a deep support cast especially his scoundrels and their families, subgenre fans will relish this entertaining entry.

The Severed Tower
J. Barton Mitchell
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250009470, $18.99,

A decade ago the Assembly arrived and abducted almost every American adult. Since the ethnic cleaning, these aliens have controlled most of the country while human teen outlaw bands continue to prey on the struggling survivors, mostly young children. Bounty hunter Holt Hawkins, his partner Max the dog and fugitive Mira Toombs teamed up to rescue Zoey, who the Assembly coveted for her magical skills. The unlikely quartet headed to Midnight City; seeking to find out who Zoey is and why the Assembly wanted her, but none of them anticipated Zoey's power until she defeated an Assembly army (see Midnight City).

Seeking The Severed Tower for further information on the prophecies and hopefully Zoey's destiny that they found out about in Midnight City, the foursome enter the Strange Lands. There they quickly learn none of their experiences and knowledge applies; as the known laws of physics no longer work here. The Assembly and human enemies led by Ravan the pirate pursue them because Zoey is a valuable commodity and they owe her companions while the target increasingly becomes enervated each step closer to their destination.

The second Conquered Earth science fiction is an enjoyable young adult post-apocalyptic thriller starring likable protagonists and vile antagonists in a weird wonderland. Though it behooves newbies to read Midnight City first to understand how the beleaguered heroes became a team with bulls-eyes on their chest, fans will enjoy this taut tale.

Innocent Blood: The Order of the Sanguines Series
James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061991066, $27.99,

After an earthquake left hundreds dead in Masada and opened a long buried tomb, archaeologist Dr. Erin Granger, U.S. Army Sergeant Jordan Stone and Father Ruhn Korza explored the new find when inhuman beings attacked them. Surviving the assault, Father Korza persuaded his teammates answers can be found in the mystical missing tome allegedly scribed by Christ in his blood. This Blood Gospel claims Armageddon can be prevented if the Knight of Christ, the Warrior of Man, and the Woman of Learning unite and find the First Angel. Father Korza proves to be the Knight of Christ; Sergeant Stone is the Warrior of Man; and Dr. Erin Granger probably is the Woman of Learning.

Following a nasty attack on Granger near Stanford by the strigoi vampires, Father Korza vanishes in Rome. His two allies rush to Italy searching for him in the Vatican. They soon feel out of their element again as the brave pair, helped by the saved Sanguinists, battle the fallen strigoi.

The second Order of the Sanguines Christian horror thriller (see The Blood Gospel) once again grips the audience beginning with the California attack and never slows down as the plot goes deeper into the paradox of faith and redemption. Fast-paced, series fans will relish this exciting entry although the American heroes continue their globetrotting confrontations with the strigoi, but seem to have fallen to the middle book curse as they fail to grow from all the blood they recently have experienced.

After I'm Gone
Laura Lippmann
9780062083395, $26.99

On July 4, 1976, Felix Brewer kisses his wife Bambi like he did the first time when they met at a high school dance in 1959. They are to meet later, but instead abetted by his mistress former stripper at one of his clubs Juliet Romero Saxony, Felix flees the country. He left to avoid a prison sentence for his illegal activities that kept him, his wife, their three daughters (Rachael, Linda and Michelle) and his mistress living luxurious lifestyles. Julie takes Felix to a private plane but instead of joining him in flight he leaves her behind.

On July 3, 1986, Julie disappears with those who knew of her relationship with still missing Felix assuming she finally joined her lover wherever he hid. In 2001 in Baltimore's Leakin Park, Julie's body is found. Over a decade later, retired police detective widower Sandy Sanchez, who works cold cases, investigates the murder of Julie and the related vanishing of Felix.

While Tess Monaghan takes a deserved respite (except for a last second appearance), Laura Lippmann writes a strong mystery that hooks the reader with a need to know what happened to Felix while learning how his vanishing act impacted the five females he loved and cherished. Character-driven, the gripping storyline rotates between past and present, as Felix wonders if he really escaped incarceration.

Someone Else's Love Story
Joshilyn Jackson
9780062105653, $26.99

On their way to Atlanta for school, single mother Shandi Pierce, her brilliant three year old son Natty and her best buddy Walcott stop at a Circle K in Georgia when an armed robbery occurs. One year ago, William Ashe's world shattered in a car crash that left him a widower with no children as his wife and their child died; but at that same convenience store, he bravely walks between the gunman and Natty. Shandi thinks how in seconds a courageous stranger has become her beloved god and he finds himself living for the first time since the tragedy.

Although she wants more from her second "miracle" relationship, Shandi settles for now as friends with William. However, as William works through his grief, their respective BFFs and her divorced parents oppose their friendship as not being good for either of them or Natty.

This charming whimsical relationship drama contains a strong cast as the prime players are fully developed caring but flawed people struggling with how they truly feel. Joshilyn Jackson provides her readers with a poignant twisting tale as love proves confusing especially when it is Someone Else's Love Story.

Cries of the Lost
Chris Knopf
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579623326, $28.00,

Still recovering from injuries he received during an assault on his Chilean wife Florencia Etxarte that left her dead and him temporarily in a coma, market researcher Arthur Cathcart persuaded his sister the doctor to declare him dead so he can go undercover to investigate the murder. What he so far finds out shocks him as his late spouse's illegal financial activities include embezzlement and off-shore accounts leaving him to wonder who he married (see Dead Anyway).

In a bank in the Caymans, Cathcart and his new girlfriend Natsumi Fitzgerald obtain the contents from Florencia's safe deposit box. When the pair leave, thugs attack them. Soon using a zillion disguises, a quadrillion gadgets and his uncanny ability as a finder (no relation to the TV show), Cathcart and Fitzgerald play lethal chess with dangerous people associated with Florencia's Basque DNA.

The second Cathcart amateur sleuthing is a fast-paced investigative tale as thugs chase after the lead couple. Though there is a deja vu feel to the suspenseful storyline and Cathcart has more gizmos than Inspector Gadget, readers will appreciate this action-packed international thriller as one cannot help but to root for the hero and his sidekick to come out of this deadly life and death game triumphant.

Visibly Struck
Steve Kubicek
Summit Partners LLC
9780984842643, $16.95,

Seventeen years ago, historian Stephen Spitzen's son and daughter-in-law died in a plane crash. Soon after that his wife passed away. As a single "dad", Spitz raised his beloved granddaughter Aspen while ranting at God for taking away his other loved ones.

Years after her parents died, financier Aspen loves her Papa but worries about his health as his anger towards God consumes Spitz. Deciding to prove that the Founding Fathers were not influenced by Christianity; Spitz hypothesizes that George Washington and the others did not trust in God when they created the United States. However, Spitz suffers a stroke that leaves him in a coma and Aspen praying for divine intervention. In his comatose state, Spitz travels back in time to observe Washington in two wars as an officer and eventually as the first president of this new experiment.

Using time travel by a twenty-first century deity denier, Visibly Struck is an enjoyable historical. The storyline enables the reader to better understand George Washington through the experiences of the Father of Our Country as a soldier and a statesman, and his writings that argue in his strong "Faith in the Invisible Hand of God." Although the wealth of information gives the storyline a nonfictional feel at times, readers will appreciate this engaging different perspective of the founding of America.

The Misfortune Cookie
Laura Resnick
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408473, $7.99,

Twenty-seven years old New York Actress Esther Diamond is out of work and apparently is out of a boyfriend as NYPD Detective Connor Lopez slept with her on Christmas Eve (see Polterheist) but has not called her in the week since. On New Year's Eve, Esther works a singing waitress gig at Bella Stella a mob and tourist hangout in Little Italy. NYPD led by Lopez raid the joint giving Esther a chance to emote her ire at her attraction before she is cuffed and the joint shut.

As desperate Esther obtains a bit part in a student's Chinatown film, her friend sometimes wise man Lucky Battistuzzi contacts her after escaping from Bella Stella to hide in a Chinese-Italian mortuary. As the residents of Chinatown prepare to celebrate the Chinese New Year, the odd couple believes deluxe fortune cookies are being used as a mechanism to curse victims including Lopez. They and Max Zadok the three century and a half old bookselling sorcerer must prevent a mystic psychopath from destroying Chinatown.

The latest Esther Diamond urban fantasy investigation (see Vamparazzi, Unsympathetic Magic and Doppelgangster) is an entertaining lighthearted early January farce as the heroine teams up with a kind of retired hit man and a wizard to battle a miscreant cursing fortune cookies. Though the Real Little Italy is Arthur Ave in the Bronx, readers will enjoy Esther's antics starting with her amusing acerbic tirade at Lopez and ultimately facing the crumbling of The Misfortune Cookie(s).

A Cold and Lonely Place
Sara J. Henry
Broadway Books
c/o Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY, 10036
9780307718426, $15.00,

On a gig at New York's Lake Placid's annual Winter Carnival, reporter Troy Chance covers the ice cutters on Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks. As she takes photos, she and others notice a corpse under the frozen water. To her shock, Troy realizes the dead man is her roommate Jessamyn's boyfriend Tobin Winslow.

Troy knows that the police will be interested in the philandering victim's girlfriend and soon gets the opportunity to help Jessamyn when her editor assigns her to do a piece on the late Tobin. As she looks into his life with the assistance of his grieving sister Win, Troy wonders why an affluent Connecticut blueblood chose to live in the rural Adirondacks.

The second Troy Chance journalist investigation (see Learning to Swim) is an enjoyable regional mystery with a strong sense of place as fans will feel we are attending the Winter Carnival. The protagonist holds the engaging storyline together though a romantic subplot feels more like an unnecessary requirement. Still readers will relish this band of sisters investigating the murder.

Deadly Catch: A Mac McClellan Mystery
E. Michael Helms
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228
9781616148676, $15.95,

After nearly a quarter of a century as a U.S. Marine, Mac McClellan retires. He heads to the Florida panhandle for some R& R before deciding what to do as a civilian. While fishing, Mac hooks a rotted corpse.

The vet later learns the victim is affluent teenager Madison Lynn Harper. Meanwhile marijuana is found on the boat Mac has leased. Maddie's uncle Sheriff Bo Pickron offers him a deal he cannot afford to refuse if he wants to remain a breathing free man. Bo tasks Mac to go undercover in order to find the killer of his niece and why her. With help from marina employee Kate Bell, Mac works the case hoping to escape from the mess in which someone cleverly has framed him for the homicide and for drug dealing.

The first Mac McClellan mystery is an exciting regional whodunit with a vivid backdrop and a fabulous beleaguered protagonist. Although there is too much passiveness especially by a marine, fans will root for the sleuth-drafted veteran as he battles against influence targeting him to take the fall.

Cassandra: A Delphic Woman Novel
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202056, $24.95,

Aphrodite challenges her brother Apollo to a mortal manipulation contest. Apollo angrily curses Trojan Princess Cassandra for her rejection of him as no one spurns a god without wrathful repercussions especially when he is engaged in a contest with his sister. He enables Cassandra to foretell the future while Aphrodite gifts Diomenes with healing hands.

Cassandra foresees King Agammemnon of Mycenae winning the seize at Troy coming home after years away triumphant. She also sees his grieving angry wife Queen Clytemnestra, loathing her spouse for sacrificing their daughter to the Gods before he left for the war and abetted by her lover Aegisthus murdering the monarch. As the events unfold at Troy just as she envisions, Cassandra's two lovers help her and endangered siblings Electra and Orestes flee from the royal wrath but not from deity rage; while Diomenes serves the army as a healer.

The second Delphic Woman (see Medea) is a strong retelling of Cassandra just prior to and during the combat at Troy. Cassandra is a wonderful lead but pales next to the more intense saga of Medea. Still Kerry Greenwood entertains her audience with the "real" story of Cassandra cursed to see the future.

Hidden Heritage: A Lottie Albright Mystery
Charlotte Hinger
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464200762, $24.95

In the middle of the night in Carlton County, Kansas, a corpse floats in the "shit pit" at the feed yard. Someone murdered Victor Diaz, who apparently had no known reason for being at this locale especially at two in the morning.

Sheriff Sam Abbott assigns Undersheriff Lottie Albright undercover at the feed yard where she learns of felonious activities tied to her boss. While she hides her current assignment from her concerned family, Lottie also rejects the idea that Sam is corrupt. KBI Agent Frank Dimon thinks Sam's going bad is plausible as he believes the homicide is more than just a local murder. Also a historian Lottie realizes that the victim is the great-grandson of still living Dona Francisca Diaz, who developed the western part of the state. Dona Francisca explains to Lottie the motive for Victor's homicide can be found in historical documents she gives to the undersheriff.

The third Lottie Albright police procedural (see Deadly Descent and Lethal Lineage) is a leisurely paced whodunit that uses Jayhawk State history as the key element in the protagonist's investigation. Although the overly included insight into the cattle industry detracts from the mystery, readers will enjoy Lottie seeking the homicidal Hidden Heritage.

Rituals: A Faye Longchamp Mystery
Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464201691, $24.95

Accompanied by her adopted teenage daughter Amande, archeologist Faye Longchamp works at the Rosebower, New York museum helping the curator classify documentation and artifacts in a town known for spiritualists and radical religious reformists. The mother and daughter team sift through decades of donations that run the gamut from incredible finds to disgusting junk with the latter much more abundant than the former.

Affluent medium Tilda Armistead provides the two rational Floridians with a reading that leaves the pair stunned with what she says as there is no way plausible she could know this except with talking to them or the dead. Not long after the Longchamp visit, someone sets on fire Tilda's home; she fails to escape the blaze dying from smoke inhalation. Faye investigates the arson murder uncovering several people with strong motives for killing Tilda. At the same time, Faye ponders out of character strange behavior and greedy rivals thriving for power and money related to spiritualism, the museum and the arson.

The eighth Faye Longchamp mystery (see Strangers and Plunder) is a great whodunit with a touch of paranormal whimsy (as Sherlock Homes in the Sign of the Four says: "...when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth") enhancing the strong investigation into the world of mediums. Readers will relish the archeologist and her able assistant probing the super spiritualist support cast and those not contacting the dead.

Dead Money
Dean Wesley Smith
WMG Publishing
PO Box 269, Lincoln City, OR 97367
9780615824901, $15.99,

In Idaho, poker champ Carson Hill dies when his small plane crashes. A person detonated an explosion in the plane's engine while watching the crash but cannot retrieve the coveted key from the victim. Also in Idaho, on a whitewater trip Carson's estranged son Jonathan "Doc" Hill learns from his business partner and BFF Fleet Korte that his father died. They tell the former's grandfather Ace who asks them to learn the truth.

Someone hires Grove to dig up the grave of great poker champion Jeff Taylor who was murdered in an unsolved case twelve years ago. The smell is overwhelming in spite of the really good condition of the remains and worse to Grove is the gross touching of the shirt to remove a key from the deceased's neck. Grove goes to Vegas to deliver the key to his client for a sizable fee. Steve Harrison the client takes the key while musing one down eight players with keys to go before killing Grove. As Doc seeks what happened to his father after the Big Game, he finds a connection to a 1982 game and the White House.

Though the premise should be over the top of the Central Idaho Mountains, Dean Wesley Smith draws a royal straight flush by making the hand he deals readers seem possible with this exhilarating political poker thriller. With his DNA containing the poker gene, the protagonist, accompanied by his loyal sidekick, raises the stakes, bluffs and calls his way in a Dead Money game in which the players' ante is their life.

Murder On The Orient Espresso
Sandra Balzo
Severn House
110 East 59th Street, 22th Fl., New York, NY 10022
9780727883117, $27.95,

Leaving Wisconsin, Uncommon Grounds gourmet coffeehouse owner Maggy Thorsen accompanies her lover Brookhills County Sheriff Jake Pavlik to attend the Mystery 101 writer's convention in Fort Lauderdale where he is a presenter on forensics and she a tourist. Having worked GenCon in Milwaukee, Maggy is disappointed that no one dresses up as Miss Marple or Monsieur Poirot and knows what organizer Zoe Scarlett wants from Jake and her.

Attendees participate in a Christie reenactment while riding the Murder on the Orient Espresso train into the Everglades with Maggy as a Narrator, Zoe as the Woman in the Red Kimono and Jake as Rachett. To Maggy's joy many riders wear 1930s garb to reflect the era of the classic. As the key role players are introduced, Laurence Potter playing Monsieur Poirot fails to appear. Soon Jake with Maggy's help and others search for the missing Potter and that soon turns into a homicide investigation.

Paying homage to Agatha Christie, the latest Thorsen caffeine crime cozy (see Triple Shot) is refreshed with the South Florida locale especially the murder train into the Everglades. Although the storyline slowly but amusingly percolates by introducing the attendees in Fort Lauderdale; once the players and fans are on board, Murder On The Orient Espresso high speeds (in spite of Florida rejecting this form of rail) into a fabulous mystery.

The Grey Star
James Bartholomeusz
Medallion Press, Inc.
100 South River Street, Aurora, IL 60506
9781605427003, $9.99,

In their quest to obtain the Risa Star shards, the weary Apollonians have won a battle on oceanic planet Nexus that destroyed much of the world and left the Emperor dead. However, they and the apparent Ubermensch Jack have no time to celebrate or even rest. Their adversaries the Cult of Dionysus members remain powerful with plans to obtain and deploy the Risa Star that will kill billions. In combat, the Cult's disregard for collateral damage gives them a fighting edge over the Apollonians.

Making matters more complicated and dangerous for Jack and his allies is they must split up in their task of gaining the final two shards. However, the weight of the universe is on the Ubermensch who faces an enemy so great, his only chance of winning seems to lie with mass destruction.

This Seven Stars middle school fantasy is a fast-paced tale although the predictive final confrontation is slowed considerably by passive explanatory commentary rather than active combat except for an odd climatic battle. Jack is a solid hero matured by the fight while his prime opponent seems greater than him. Tweeners and young teens will enjoy the third novel if they read the previous two thrillers (see The Black Rose and The White Fox).

Andrew Post
Medallion Press, Inc.
100 South River Street, Aurora, IL 60506
9781605425016, $9.99,

In Geyser, teenager Clyde felt safe and secure while working for Mr. Wilkshire at the latter's chateau. That ends during tea when a vicious assault leaves his master dead. Before dying Wilkshire tells terrorized Clyde to "run", which he obeys by hiding in the basement for weeks. He remains frightened, but also feels remorse for deserting his only friend, lost without his mentor and needing revenge by killing the killer, but Clyde has no idea how.

After the animal-looking Flam the scavenging Mouflon arrives at the chateau, a confused Clyde leaves his hiding place. As the pair departs from Clyde's haven, he wanders in a constant state of bewilderment while meeting Nevele the royal "Stitcher" and Rohm the sentient frisk mice group. As they trek the feral streets of Geyser, two revelations occur. First that Clyde is a Fabrick who has the ability to lessen the guilty conscience of a confessor at the cost of reducing proportionately the individual's good fortune quotient. Second they find the streets filled with blood and gore as war rips the city.

This is an entertaining exciting science fiction thriller that on the surface will remind readers of Dorothy's early trek in Oz as Clyde picks up as comrades strange sentient beings. The fearsome squad is fully developed as individuals (sort of) from diverse species; while the beleaguered city enhances the journey. Although too many subplots slow down the pacing of the action-packed twisting storyline, fans, especially older tweeners and younger teens, will enjoy Clyde's coming out escapades.

Storm Demon
Gregory Lamberson
Medallion Press, Inc.
100 South River Street, Aurora, IL 60506
9781605427461, $14.95,

Following the completion of his mission to rescue his best friend Edgar Hopkins the "raven" from a witch doctor in New Orleans, Miami, and Pavot Island (see Tortured Spirits), ex-police officer turned private detective Jake Helman feels good being back in the Manhattan jungle. Besides saving his BFF, Jake looks forward to a relationship with Edgar's NYPD homicide detective partner Maria Vasquez who teamed up with him on the paranormal "rumble in the jungle" (not the Ali-Foreman fight).

While he was traipsing the tropics, psychic healer Laurel Doniger vanished. Jake investigates Laurel's disappearance by looking into the missing psychic's past. Although the sleuth works the supernatural beat, which means meeting and frequently confronting strange creatures, even Jake is taken aback when his inquiry leads to Lilith the first succubus now known as Storm Demon planning to destroy New York City.

The fifth case in the Jake Helman Files (see Cosmic Forces, Desperate Souls and Personal Demons) is an exhilarating urban fantasy noir. Jake is terrific as he holds the fun story line focused while following clues that lead to an angry avenging malevolent who is the oldest female on the planet having been there when Adam and Eve fell from grace. Gregory Lamberson deftly blends humor and horror elements inside of a strong save the concrete jungle investigative thriller; summed up by the hero's wry observation about needing flood insurance.

City of Lies
R.J. Ellory
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781590204658, $26.95,

Almost a decade has passed since former New Yorker John Harper wrote his only novel Depth of Fingerprints. In the interim, he stopped drinking and stopped believing while becoming a Miami reporter who started many things but finished nothing.

Drifting through life, his aunt notifies John that someone shot his father Edward "Lenny" Bernstein when he intervened during a hold-up. He is stunned with the revelation because he was told his father died before he was born and his mom committed suicide. No longer an orphan John returns to New York; home of his horrid childhood, to visit the father he never knew on the comatose man's deathbed. NYPD Detective Frank Duchaunak orders Harper to leave town for his safety while the cop lingers at the hospital hoping for a breakthrough to nail Bernstein for financing mob activity. His aunt informs her nephew that her brother was a mobster while Bernstein's top adviser Walt Freiburg tells Harper to stick around town using Cathy Hollander as the lure.

City of Lies is a strong crime drama starring a person with childhood demons that still haunt him as an adult. John makes the exciting storyline work with his obsessive need to know whether his father was a mobster and if his mother killed herself superseding his fear of becoming a hit victim. Readers will appreciate this deep noir while rooting for the protagonist to outwit the mob and the cop as he seeks his gene tree truth.

John M. Daniel
Oak Tree Press
1820 W. Lacey Boulevard #220, Hanford, CA 93230
9781610090612, $14.95,

In 1972 stutterer Hooperman Johnson works as a shipping clerk at Maxwell's Books in Palo Alto, California. Hoop enjoys being with the books though his actual assignment is to learn how major theft of the merchandise was occurring.

The undercover Hoop knows that the amount of pilfering is way beyond simple shoplifting so he surmises an employee must be involved. He observes the petty fights between the workers and begins dating suspect Lucinda Baylor; though he rationalizes that romancing her makes for a smart cover.

More a character study of eccentricity than a whodunit, Hooperman is a wonderful cozy that uses flashbacks to enable the audience to better understand what makes the bookstore cop tick while Hoop's stuttering is superbly handled to include his embarrassment and harassment. Homage to a throwback to an era when the Indies mattered as social meeting places (and Amazon was a river), readers will appreciate this engaging nostalgic look back to life in a bookstore.

Death Overdue
Mary Lou Kirwin
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451684667, $15.00,

Sunshine Valley, Minnesota librarian Karen Nash stays at the London B&B owned by her boyfriend Caldwell Perkins while deciding whether to relocate here as they discuss opening a bookshop together; partially financed by his selling the bed and breakfast. However, to Caldwell's chagrin, Karen's shock and housekeeper Brenda's jubilation; Perkin's former lover and ex-B&B partner Sally Burroughs, accompanied by her lover Alfredo Remuledo, arrives to claim her share. Seven years ago, she took all their money and abandoned Caldwell underfunded to deal with the B&B. Sally's sister Penelope Winters and book collector Bruce are also in residence.

That night in the library, a bookcase falls on top of Sally, killing her. Inspector Blunderstone leads the official investigation in which Caldwell is the prime suspect though Karen, Penelope and Alfredo have strong motives. Determined to prove her lover is innocent, Karen asks questions of those staying at the B&B trying to learn why the victim was in the library a place Sally allegedly hated.

The latest Librarian Mystery (see Killer Librarian) is a fun cozy with a solid lead protagonist and a fine late twisting motive. Although the support cast besides Caldwell is underdeveloped and the final denouement gathering doubtful as the cop has no reason to depend on the American, fans will enjoy the librarian's soft amateur sleuthing.

The Dinosaur Feather
S.J. Gazan
31, West 57th Street, New York, NY10019
9781623650667, $24.95,

At the University of Copenhagen, as a biology Ph.D. candidate nearing the moment in two weeks she must sell her dissertation to the faculty, single mom Anna Bella Nor feels overwhelmed. Besides the obvious woes of toddler motherhood and student-hood, Anna Bella's faculty advisor brilliant Professor Lars Helland, known for his work into the evolutionary path from dinosaurs to birds, displays no interest in her thesis.

Frustrated Anna Bella knows she is not alone with ire towards Helland, but that provides her with no comfort. Obviously she is not as outraged by the pompous professor as someone else who murdered the genius, found dead in his office. Copenhagen police superintendent Soren Marhauge leads the inquiry into academia in which only the fittest survive. He soon finds plenty of suspects including Anna, others employed in the biology department and a rival scientist. At the same Anna investigates the homicide though she lacks the time and skill while placing her life in peril.

The Dinosaur Feather is a suspenseful academic murder mystery. The exciting storyline superbly merges a single mother raising a toddler with academia and scientific rivalry for prestige and grants, and Anna Bella's thesis connecting the evolutionary line between dinosaurs and birds. Although Helland's death occurring over several months feels almost comedic over the top of Tivoli Gardens, readers will enjoy this taut Danish noir.

Drifter's Heart
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
9781300794776, $12.50,

In Fever, Texas, flirtatious thirtyish Maggie May falls in love with forty-something drifter Ryder McCall. However, Ryder panics over his feelings and how great the sex was; he flees for the rodeo circuit breaking Maggie May's heart though she believed he will come back to her one day. Maggie May becomes pregnant but tells no one who the father is; as she knows her dad will force the miscreant into a shotgun wedding and her mother believes the man has to be the best in the county for her Magpie to love him.

Four years later, Maggie May with help from her loving family raise hell-raising Little Tex. Ryder works as foreman at nearby Mackenzie's Ranch (see Wings of Love) while his notable limp is a reminder of the severe near crippling injury caused by a bull. He avoids Maggie May out of fear he will not be able to run away from his heart this time while she runs towards his heart with his son in hand.

The sixth Cowboy Fever contemporary (see Losses and Gains, For Always, Taming April and The Only One) is a wonderful second chance ranch romance. The enjoyable storyline contains strong protagonists with the heroine knowing what she wants and the hero struggling between love and a dysfunctional childhood (due to his rodeo champion father). With the return of stars from the previous entries (see Cowboy Fever Series anthology for a delightful omnibus reprint of the fab five) enhancing the readers visit to Texas ranch country, fans will relish Karen Wiesner's wonderful tale.

Sweet Nothings
Janis Thomas
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425264829, $16.00,

In Pelican Point, forty-seven years old Walter Miller explains to his stunned wife of eighteen years forty-four years old Ruby that he wants to be with fortyish Cheryl from accounting. He not only dumps her and their two children (Kevin and Colleen), Walter announces his plans on Facebook to sail away with his new woman.

A stunned Ruby is left explaining to their kids, other family members and neighbors what happened though she cannot understand why her husband was so unhappy with his family. She worries about her Muffin Top Bakery failing and paying the mortgage while Walter continues to live the irresponsible "good life" that he highlights on Facebook. Ruby begins to come out of her middle age comfort pie shell by teaching a baking class while dealing with her malicious "friends" holding her culpable for her failed marriage. On the other hand mortgage broker widower Jacob Salt offers a fresh start with her new baking credo that life begins at forty-four.

Sweet Nothings is a warm second chance at life (and love) middle age contemporary. The protagonist is super with her when hurt, bake credo and her use of food references as metaphors; while the cast especially her former circle adds amusing finger pointing satirical commentary. Although Walter's middle age crisis subplot goes as expected, readers will appreciate this enjoyable tale that should carry a warning label sprinkled with scrumptious desserts.

Clisson & Eugenie
Napoleon Bonaparte
Peter Hicks (translator)
Emilie Barthet (translator)
Gallic Books
9781906040277, $12.95,

From birth Clisson felt an affinity towards war. Still a boy, he joins the Revolutionary National Guard and quickly moves up the ranks. His demeanor was perfect especially in combat, which led to glory accompanied by superior officers' envy. Tired of the pettiness attacking his character, Clisson quits the military where he no longer was happy but felt rudderless with no purpose in life. At a spa in Alles, Clisson meets teenagers Amelie and Eugenie. All the men love Amelie like a popular fine piece of music, but Clisson is attracted to Eugenie who is a musical masterpiece. They marry and raise a family until the military recalls Clisson. While he is severely injured in battle, Eugenie and military aide Berville are attracted to one another.

Though a short-short story pieced together from partial drafts, most of the book deals with a comparative analysis to a young Napoleon and to how the text was transformed. Though this is not the Emperor's finest hour, readers will find fascinating the accompanying premises by the two translators and Armand Cabasson's Introduction and Afterward that suggest Clisson & Eugenie as a what if "autobiographical" fiction.

Warrior Untamed
Melissa Mayhue
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451640892, $7.99,

Fiery Pict descendent Bridget MacCulloch lives for one thing only: killing the person who killed her father. As Protector of Man Thor descendant Halldor O'Donar has no time for women. When the termagant demands he allow her to help him take down her enemy, the warrior from another world rejects her passionate request. Hall rationalizes that he has no time to coddle a raging female when he confronts the evil who escaped his plane for this one.

However Hall finds the distracting beautiful berserker refuses to go away no matter how hard he tries to get rid of her. Reluctantly Hall understands his options boil down to fleeing from this obstinate female warrior who he cannot shake and as the Protector embracing her burning fire. Finally, he accepts his fate is to deal with Brie if he is to achieve his objective.

The latest Warrior romantic fantasy (see Warrior Reborn) is an exhilarating thriller starring a warrior who avoids women especially when on a mission struggling with his desire for his unwanted volatile partner. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate this fun tale as the hero believes he is Taming the Shrew while instead love tames both of them.

Dangerous Seduction
Zoe Archer
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250015600, $7.99,

In 1886, Nemesis, Unlimited headquarters in London receives a pleading letter asking for help as the anonymous writer claims the workers at the Wheat Prosperity Copper Mine in Trewyn, Cornwall are treated as abused slaves and their families left in horrid conditions. NU operative Simon Addison-Shawe decides to go undercover as a machinist employed by Wheat Prosperity in order to ascertain working conditions.

The locals especially those in the mines and their families distrust the stranger. He meets passionate defender of the workers Alyce Carr, who though attracted to Simon, refuses to have anything to do with the newcomer while he wants her too. However Simon restrains his desire because he realizes he needs her help if he is to accomplish his mission. To prove he is on her side, Simon trusts Alyce with the potentially lethal information that he is from Nemesis. As they team up on the mining operation, they fall in love but he is an aristocrat and she is working class.

The latest Nemesis Unlimited Victorian romantic suspense (see Sweet Revenge) is a powerful Dickensian thriller in which the dangerous working conditions and the impoverished company town are front and center while the romantic subplot plays an important second fiddle. Each of the lead couple is dedicated, diligent and brutally honest; as both accept the mission supersedes their class taboo attraction.

Midnight's Promise
Donna Grant
St. Martin's Press
9781250017291, $7.99,

After centuries giving up everything to battle evil, weary Malcolm Munro knows he is mentally in trouble as he is losing hope that he will find a place in this shitty world to end his abject loneliness. Recently the Warrior's depression has begun to affect his self-control over his powers.

Druid descendent Evangeline Walker is on the run as she believes her paranoia that she is being pursued is real. In Scotland, she and Malcolm meet when he rescues her from a car accident. Both feel the attraction though he struggles with his need after hundreds of years with none and she deals with her expectation of living her life alone. As they fall in love, she may trust him with her soul, but not that of her sibling Brian; so Evangeline turns to the darkness to rescue her brother.

The eighth Dark Warrior romantic fantasy (see Midnight's Kiss, Midnight's Captive and Midnight's Temptation) is a taut action-packed tale starring two fascinating troubled protagonists. The fast-paced storyline focuses on whether two distrusting doubters, whose "... hearts they beat as one; no more love on the run" (Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean), can depend on love to strengthen their resolve if they are to survive their confrontation with overwhelming evil and Death.

The Devil Wears Kilts
Suzanne Enoch
St. Martin's Press
9781250041609, $7.99

In Glengask, Scotland, a servant tells Marquis Ranulf MacLawry that the laird's eighteen year old sister Rowena fled to London. Rowena left home because she wants her Season that he as her guardian denied her; his reason being he wants her safe from the dandies and already selected her mate. Ranulf informs his two other siblings to stay home to reduce the potential of scandal while he chases after his runaway sister.

Following clues, Ranulf invades the home of Lady Charlotte Hanover demanding she turn over his sister to him. Charlotte ignores his Highlander blustery insisting she has given her vow to provide a safe house for Rowena. Admiring the host's grit, to his chagrin, Ranulf agrees to escort Rowena to the galas. Worse in his mind is his attraction to Charlotte; who shares his feelings but wants nothing to do with this berserker brute. She quickly changes her mind when she sees how caring her beloved is to his sister and to her.

The first Scandalous Highlanders Regency romance is a delightful amusing ethnic-gender war starring two engaging polar opposites supported by characters from their families and the Scandalous Brides series. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate this jocular ballroom drama as the English flower could have authored The Handbook to Handling His Lordship.

The Vaporizer
Lee Driver
Full Moon Publishing
9780988868304, $26.00,

Shapeshifting Sara Morningsky wakes up with a headache in pitch blackness with someone touching her while breathing into her hair. Moments later her private investigator partner Chase Dagger awakens to a sensual touch, a satin pillow and sheet inside a contained rather small for two enclosure. Neither knows how they ended up in a coffin. Chase believes his former employer BettaTec found him in Cedar Point, Indiana and went to great lengths including drugging them to warn him to cooperate or they will bury Sara for real; though he also believes they remain ignorant about her ability to turn into a hawk and wolf since they did not take her.

As the sleuths begin inquiries into what happened to them and why, the medical examiner's autopsies of three gang members show they did not coincidentally die of natural causes as improbable as it first seemed; instead someone removed their brains. The cops know "Who ya gonna call" (Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr.) to investigate the Eerie in Indiana; as Chase has a reputation for successful resolution of the weird.

The latest Chase Dagger Mystery (see Fatal Storm, Chasing Ghosts and The Good Die Twice) once again deftly blends mystery and fantasy into a fabulous investigative thriller beginning with a great claustrophobic opening scene. Sara continues to mature while Chase knows he would willingly die for the young woman he mentors and loves as an adult equal. Action-packed from
start to finish, fans will want to join the lead couple working together on a personal case and on the gangbangers' murders.

Susan Krinard
Harlequin Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373885848, $5.75,

Aegis agent Trinity Ward goes undercover as a convict sentenced to a life as a blood slave to a Bloodmaster in the Opiri city of Erebus. Her mission is to learn whether the rumors of war are genuine at a time when the Armistice is in peril due to a humongous drop in human criminal activity leading to a potential blood scarcity.

Looking over the new inventory though he never bids on them, Bloodmaster Lord Ares is taken aback by the healthy educated human female as a young disease-free female is a unique prisoner especially these days of increasing shortage. His rivals obviously notice her too. He and vicious Lord Palemon of the feral Expansionist Party compete in the bidding war over the rebellious human until Ares concedes to his adversary. That is until his rival hits the woman, causing a stunning reaction by Ares to Challenge his opponent. Ares wins the woman due to her intervention while knowing there will be a to the death rematch. Meanwhile Trinity's seduction plan of her Bloodmaster leaves her in love.

The latest Nightsiders romantic fantasy (see Daysider) is an action-packed thriller enhanced by the changing relationship between the Bloodmaster and his blood serf. Readers anticipate the second fight between the two powerful Opiri who represent the species' greater divide by the faction each belongs to; as Susan Krinard provides an exciting entry.

Dark Wolf Running
Rhyannon Byrd
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885831, $5.75

For several months, Bloodrunner Wyatt Pallaton impatiently waited for pureblooded Silvercrest Lycan Elise Drake to notice him, but this incredible female ignores him. Finally out of patience and tired of feeling like a jackass stalker, Wyatt decides to confront her with his feelings for her.

Since the sexual assault three years ago, Elise has wanted to be left alone until recently. She has noticed the Bloodrunner out of the corner of her eye and moon dreams of him though she conceals her desire from everyone. Wyatt asks Elise to dance, which shakes her up as she wants to allow him to invade her space, but fears males ever since she was raped. Even with therapy, she never moved passed the attack. Elise rejects Wyatt who says he will accept friendship though he wants more. At home, one of her violators invades her house. Dejected while passing through her property, Wyatt hears her scream and intercedes but not before the drugged Lycan boasts he and his allies will finish the job before escaping. Wyatt vows to keep the woman he loves safe.

The latest Bloodrunners romantic fantasy (see Dark Wolf Rising) is a taut thriller that grips series' fans from the first dance until the final altercation. Fast-paced and loaded with action, the realistic lead couple's emotional needs make the storyline a winner as the honorable hero struggles with self-control of his desire and she still poorly deals with PTSD from the first violation now worsened by her rapists return.

A Valley Ridge Christmas
Holly Jacobs
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718948, $5.75

In Valley Ridge, New York, Maeve Buchanan is elated with so many wedding bells (see You Are Invited... and April Showers) but the town librarian also feels a tad jealous that she has not found her one and only. Caring Maeve invites the Holder family (Boyd, pregnant Josie and their son Carl) living in a frozen trailer with no propane to stay in her warm home.

As cold snowy November weather freezes his butt, Floridian Aaron Holder wishes he said no to his Uncle Jerry's "Family is Family" request to oversee his Valley Ridge Farm and House Supplies store. Lake Erie is a tad colder than Aaron's Orlando and Arizona where Jerry enjoys the sun. Maeve comes to the store to fill the tank where she meets Jerry and finds him obnoxious. However when Aaron goes out of his way to help the Holder family and others, she revises her opinion of him. As they fall in love, she is Lake Erie and he is Orlando.

The latest Valley Ridge romance is a wonderful romance made fresh by the witty banter between fiery Red and the frozen Floridian, and the wintry locale; as no one does the Lake Erie region better than terrific tour guide Holly Jacobs does. The support cast, especially the family in need of a holiday miracle, enhances this cheerful Christmas contemporary.

A Texas Child
Linda Warren
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718917, $5.75

Seven years have passed since Myra Delgado betrayed her then lover Levi Coyote, but though she has become a Houston Assistant District Attorney her life remains filled with guilt and regrets. Swallowing her pride and using GPS, Myra heads to his grandfather's ranch in Willow Creek where she waits for him to come home after spending time with his girlfriend.

Myra plans to beg Levi, as Texas' top private investigator, to help their distraught friend Stu. Ignoring his no, Myra explains that Stu's daughter Natalie lies in a coma after a beating from her former lover Marco Mortez who also took their nine month old son Daniel with him. The vicious brute most likely went either to Mexico where he may have cartel connections or Brownsville where his parents live. Levi has no problem refusing Myra, but not the baby. As the pair follows the trail into Mexico, both realize they remain in love with each other.

This strong second chance at love is a tense romantic suspense that hooks the audience the moment Myra comes to Willow Creek (see A Texas Hero and A Texas Family) and never slows down until the final confrontation. Action-packed, the rescue mission takes the lead as the couple's re-evolving relationship rightfully mostly supports saving the infant.

Second Chance With Her Soldier
Barbara Hannay
Harlequin Romance
9780373742684, $5.99

In Tarin Kot, Afghanistan Australian Commando Corporal Joe Madden delays opening his wife Ellie's Crunch Time email that he assumes demand he sign their divorce papers ending their troubled marriage. It was his idea, but both know signing the document will not allow either to move on passed their stormy relationship. In Karinya Station in Far North Queensland, Ellie wonders why Joe never responded to her email that explains she changed her mind about donating their "sproglets" embryos as she decided on one last try for pregnancy though agreed to continue with the divorce.

Three years later in Sydney, Joe is home but never told his wife his deployment ended as has his military career. He struggles with a lack of purpose and detachment from civilian society. When she calls having seen him on the news, he asks about two years old Jacko but Ellie guts him by inviting him to stay with them. He insists that is a bad idea. Still Joe knows he no longer can avoid coming home to see his family in order to end his marriage. In Karinya Station, the torrent leaves Joe trapped with his wife and son for Christmas.

This dynamic contemporary looks deep into military marriages and the mind of a former combat solder adjusting to civilian that star Aussies but could be any nationality. The storyline goes the expected second chance course (duh - it is a romance), but the fascinating relationship between the disturbed vet and his concerned wife and their precocious toddler make for an insightful family drama.

The Cowboy's Christmas Surprise
Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin American
9780373754823, $5.50

In Forever, Texas, with his four siblings finding love (see His Forever Valentine), Ramon Rodriguez feels good for them, but enjoys his last bachelor standing status. Holly Johnson fell in love with Ray in elementary school, but refuses to believe her feelings for her close friend remain unrequited though she patiently conceals her attraction.

At a gala, Ray is stunned by his sudden wanting to be the only one dancing with Holly who looks incredible in her dress. When they kiss, Ray no longer cares about being single as he now needs to make up forever for the years he failed to heed his heart.

The fifth Forever Rodriguez romance is an engaging BFFs falling in love contemporary. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as she has known forever he is her one while he has known just as long she is his buddy until the dance. Readers will enjoy Ray's conversion from pal to soul mate as Marie Ferrarella provides a wonderful Cowboy's Christmas Surprise.

The Diplomat's Pregnant Bride
Merline Lovelace
Harlequin Desire
9780373732876, $5.25

At her sister's wedding (see Business Engagement), pregnant Gina St. Sebastian rejects career diplomat Jack Mason's proposal as he demands a marriage of convenience so their child is legitimate. Gina is deeply attracted to the widower, but knows the love of Jack's life is his late first wife and she refuses to play second banana.

Jack proves as obstinate as Gina is as he vows to marry her even knowing her antics will nuke his career . As he campaigns with the fervor he displays when discussing field diplomatic safety and local interaction at the State Department, Jack revises his goal because he loves the mother of his unborn; she realizes she loves her persistent suitor when a life-threatening incident occurs.

The latest Duchess Diaries contemporary is an interesting romance due to the strong changing relationship between the stubborn lead couple. Readers will appreciate the answer to the paradox of what happens when an immovable couple and the irresistible force of love collide.

Cold Case, Hot Accomplice
Carla Cassidy
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278497, $5.50

In Wolf Creek, Pennsylvania Dollhouse owner Roxy Marcoli becomes worried when her beloved Aunt Liz fails to deliver baked goods to the restaurant for the first time in three and a half years. Roxy tried Liz's landline but her aunt fails to pick up and the cell phone went to voice mail. Known by her aunt and her two sisters (Sheri and Marlene) for being the ultimate pessimist, she asks her Marlene to check on Liz. Meanwhile she opens up for breakfast with one of the patrons WCPD detective Steve Kincaid turning her stomach in knots with desire while also angering her by calling her "Foxy Roxy".

Marlene reports Liz missing so Roxy asks Steve and his police force peers (Jim Carmani and Frank Delaney) for their help in finding Liz. Jim and Frank says Liz is an adult missing for only two hours, but Steve stuns them and himself when he offers to search for her aunt. As the cop and the restaurateur search for her missing aunt, their attraction turns to love. However, the detective wants nothing to do with that dangerous emotion as he still misses his abducted son Tommy gone for two years in spite of his search. Everything changes when he realizes that Liz's predator targets his Roxy.

This Men of Wolf Creek romantic investigative tale stars two wonderful protagonists flirting and challenging each other. Although the engaging storyline never twists from the expected path, sub-genre fans will enjoy the first journey.

Covert Attraction
Linda O. Johnston
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278527, $5.50

In Moravo Beach, Beth Jones turned whistleblower claiming that her employer Corcoris Pharmaceuticals committed dangerous practices. When the firm's CEO Preston Corcoris warns her to back off or else her family will suffer; Beth believes him. Instead of cowering and also distrusting the law to protect her and her loved ones; using an alias Beth obtains work on the custodial crew in order to find incriminating evidence to take down Preston.

U.S. Marshals Service's Covert Investigation Unit agent Daniel McManus works undercover at Corcoris as a lab technician. While on overtime, he and Beth meet. Attracted to each other, she thinks she can use his flirting to her advantage while he fears she will expose him before he completes his mission; thus each rationalizes a reason for keeping the other nearby.

The key to this entertaining though leisurely-paced tale is the likable lead couple coming together seems reasonably plausible. Readers will root for the pair as whistleblowing proves as dangerous a vocation as going undercover.

Crash Into You
Katie McGarry
Harlequin Teen
9780373210992, $7.99

Private school student Rachel Young comes from an affluent family who expect her to behave in a certain manner belying their status. Besides her parents' expectations, her four older brothers allow Rachel no breathing room. In her expensive designer clothing and high grades, Rachel conceals from her overly protective relatives her passion of racing strangers on the slummy Southside streets and her debilitating panic attacks.

A decade ago Isaiah Walker's mother went to prison while he went into foster care. He respects his social worker who looks him in the eye but refuses any contact with his mom, recently released early from prison. Isaiah looks like a tattooed neighborhood hood with a passion for fixing cars, which he hopes to turn into a job when he is booted from the system in a year.

Isaiah and Rachel meet due to street car racing. They are attracted to each other, but he hides behind a not caring tough guy facade from the slumming rich girl where he lives, who his mother is and how he feels about Rachel. Pushing The Limits, Rachel makes it clear she wants Isiah. Besides being in love with each other and with racing, they must depend on one another to find a way out of a life threatening situation.

The latest Katie McGarry teen drama (see Dare You To) rotates perspective mostly between the star-crossed protagonists, who live on polar opposite sides of the social spectrum. Character-driven, young adult fans will enjoy this speed racing romance that opens in first gear and never brakes until the finish line is crossed.

Aimee Carter
Harlequin Teen
9780373210558, $7.99

Like everyone in society, Kitty Doe took the Test at seventeen, but scored a disappointing rank of III branded into her neck. This means a lowly job in Denver, a life span of forty and the loss of her boyfriend Benjy with his superior VI.

A District of Columbia Shield mentions to Kitty that her eyes are the same coloring as Prime Minister Daxton Hart's deceased niece Lila Hart. Later that day, Colonel Sampson and that same Shield arrive at the group home seeking Kitty. The "mother" Nina Doe tells them to try the train station or the clubs. Associate Tabs takes Kitty to a prostitution club where Sampson and the Shield guard Prime Minister Hart are. The PM offers her a chance to become a VII; a ranking only obtained by the Hart family. She agrees to surgery that changes Kitty Doe lowly III into Lila Hart lofty VII. However, instead of adulation and not lacking for anything, the "Masked" Kitty soon learns of Lila's rebellious activity and what happened to the wife and child of her "uncle".

The first Blackcoat Rebellion is a fabulous young adult dystopian thriller in which America is a very rigid numerological social order. With an obvious nod to the Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games (especially the districts), the D.C. by the numbers neighborhoods and a fully developed cast especially the protagonist make the Carter caste society feel genuine in an entertaining opening act.

Down Range
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN
9780373778218, $7.99

Several years ago, Marine Captain Morgan Boland and SEAL Lieutenant Jake Ramsey met in the Hindu Kush Mountains and subsequently at the Naval Academy. They had a tryst in which he remains forever grateful as she helped him move passed much of his grief following the deaths of his wife and baby in a car accident just a few years before he and Boland first met in Afghanistan.

At the Pentagon, Army General Stephenson assigns Boland and Ramsey on a special ops mission in Afghanistan. Both know they must apply strict control on their feelings as the assignment comes before their desires. However, each realizes the task will enable them to learn what makes the other tick as nothing matches danger when it comes to testing a person's inner strengths.

The sensational second Shadow Warriors military romance (see High Country Rebel) is a taut in theatre thriller. The key to this engaging tale is the perilous operation in a lethal locale supersedes the attraction as Lindsay McKenna provides a love story inside the combat zone.

A Soldier's Christmas
Leslie Kelly, Joanne Rock and Karen Foley
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797806, $5.50

"I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Leslie Kelly. Rafe and Ellie were lovers but in her mind he chose the military over her so she chose a veterinarian over him. Three years later, they meet during a blizzard in Chicago where he hopes being stranded gives him the time to rectify his operational mistake.

"Presents Under the Tree" by Joanne Rock. Several months ago, Las Vegas producer Ari and air force Captain Dylan met and married in a rushed drive-through before he deployed. With him coming home, she plans to rectify their inane reaction to passion.

"If Only In My Dreams" by Karen Foley. Suffering from Dengue Fever, ailing Aiden is sent from Uganda to his home in Monterrey. On the same flight back to the States is medic Lily who Aiden dreams of making love with. When the overwhelmed Fort Atterbury's MEDDAC closes for Christmas leaving both staying there for the holidays, he hopes to turn his fantasy into reality.

These are three entertaining Uniformly Hot! holiday romances; especially the second chance tales.

Cowboys & Angels
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Harlequin Blaze
9780373797790, $5.50

Last Chance Ranch cowboy Trey Wheeler wonders who the angel is that saved his life after an accident left him in trouble during a spring blizzard. His quest pays off at the Serenity Ski Resort where he attends the wedding of B&B owner Pam Mulholland when he meets his angel, ski instructor Elle Masterson.

They are attracted to one another and begin a tryst. However, whereas the devilish angel sees their relationship as a holiday fling before she flees to Argentina with prayers that her heart remains in one piece; while the cowboy wants their hearts together forever.

Sons of Chance (see The Heart Won't Lie) fans will appreciate the latest contemporary as the cowboy and the angel fall in love, but that emotion may end their relationship rather than cement it. Trey believes "Heaven must be missing an angel" (Tavares); while Elle insists "our hearts they beat as one", but prefers "... love on the run" (Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean).

Dirty Little Secrets
Mallory Kane
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697311, $5.50

The murder of Louisiana State Senator Darby Sills at the French Quarter's Louis Royale Hotel causes a media feeding frenzy over the homicide of a prominent politician compounded by sensationalism of scandal and corruption, and mindful of the famous Huey Long assassination. New Orleans Police Detectives Ethan Delancey and Dixon Lloyd lead the investigation while the former keeps safe the witness Elaine "Laney" Montgomery who is fortunate to be alive after also being shot.

Ethan's brain tells him Laney is concealing something from him. Ethan's heart tells him he is attracted to her. The inquiry finds many people with a motive to kill the corrupt politician and several with opportunity, but who is the shadowy scarecrow proves difficult to ascertain as family Dirty Little Secrets begin to surface that no one, including Laney, want revealed. As Ethan keeps her nearby, he and Laney fall in love, but first he must keep her alive from a persistent cold-blooded killer who seeks the fatal moment to silence the witness.

The latest Delancey Dynasty mystery (see Special Forces Father, Star Witness and Death of a Beauty Queen) is a strong police procedural in which the investigation and protection supersede the romance. Enhanced by the scandals that rock the state and with a vivid New Orleans location this action-packed story grips readers from start to finish.

An Early Christmas Gift
Susan Crosby
Harlequin Special Edition
9780373657858, $5.50

In California, ignoring their feuding ranching families four years ago, Jenny Ryder and Win Morgan fell in love and secretly married. When Julie miscarried, Win persuaded her into a divorce. Neither told their respective families about their marriage, divorce and miscarriage as Jenny went off to college.

Graduating from college with a degree in farm management, Jenny returns home but the local bank refuses to give her a loan as she lacks collateral. Win notices an upset Jenny drive like a lunatic; so he follows her to insure she gets home safe. With her car in a ditch, he gives her a ride. Both remain in love and they have sex only she becomes pregnant again. This time they plan to tell their respective parents. He also knows he owes her the truth about a deception he committed four years ago but Win fears losing his beloved's trust especially with the dispute as a Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.

The latest Red Valley Ranchers contemporary (see A Family, At Last and The Cowboy's Return) is a wonderful second chance at love. Although the family feud premise is not new (Romeo and Juliet, and even Beowulf), but proves fun to follow as the lead couple navigates treacherous water trying to change the climate.

Yuletide Protector
Julie Miller
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697298, $5.50

Kansas City Police Department feels good about capturing the Rose Red Rapist (see Task Force Bride), but knows this is not the time for euphoria since his partner the Cleaner remains free. The Cleaner always cleaned up the Rapist's forensic evidence including murdering the victims.

However, PTSD sufferer Bailey Austin survived the assault so KCPD plans to protect her because they feel the obsessive Cleaner will not stop his compulsion to scrub away the evidence by killing her. Detective Spencer Montgomery understands his assignment is to keep Bailey safe, but is angry at himself due to his attraction to Bailey. Still Spencer will not act on his desire because he cost the life of a woman several years ago when he failed to keep his libido in check. When terrorizing Christmas gifts arrive for Bailey, Spencer increases his vigil as he expects the Cleaner to attempt to complete the job; but he will not allow any harm to come to the woman he loves.

Though it behooves the audience to read the prequel Task Force Bride, Yuletide Protector is a fascinating romantic police procedural due ironically to the unique villain even if the Cleaner seems over the top of Mount Sunflower. Julie Miller provides another winning The Precinct: Task Force entry (see Assumed Identity).

Siren's Secret
Debbie Herbert
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885824, $5.75

Because of her hybrid human-mer DNA, with the exceptions of her cousins (Jet and Lily who adore her), her purebred sea-living compatriots treat Shelley Connor with disdainful superiority. A physical therapist, she enjoys late nocturnal swims. While on a midnight swim, Shelley sees someone disposing of a corpse several miles at sea; the killer sees her and knifes her before she escapes.

Shelly fears the culprit will come after her, but conceals part of the truth from Sheriff Tillman Angier, who recently returned to the Bayou to help his widow mom care for his autistic brother. Attracted to Tillman, Shelley instead turns to Jet and Lily as to what to do. Jet says kill the predator and poetical justice dump his body in the ocean while Lily and Shelley insist they plant evidence so that Tillman can arrest the psychopath. However Tillman knows Shelley hides something from him and the three cousins are suspects due to their tampering; while the murderer plays chess with the half-mermaid and her two relatives.

Rotating first person accounts between Shelly, Tillman and Melkie the killer, Siren's Secret is an engaging romantic police procedural urban fantasy. The lead couple and her cousins are three-dimensional flaws and all; on the other hand Melkie is one dimensional and the Mer race underdeveloped. Still readers will relish this taut thriller as the Three Musketeers battle a stalking maniac at the same time the sheriff and the mixed race siren fall in love.

The Keepers: Christmas In Salem
Heather Graham, Deborah LeBlanc, Kathleen Pickering and Beth Ciotta
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373885817, $5.75

"Do You Fear What I Fear" by Heather Graham. The darkness engulfing Salem, Massachusetts grows each day by spreading slowly to other cities and reducing the daylight at the epicenter. Keeper of the Vampires Samantha Mycroft knows the cause is not earthly physics but an Otherworld malevolent. To make this holiday season worse for Sam, her former lover vampire Daniel Riverton is back needing her help.

"The Fright Before Christmas" by Deborah LeBlanc. Keeper of the Five Elementals Rebekah Savay knows she cannot do the rescue of the black hole elemental alone so obtains help including from her one-time rival Vaughn Griffith to save the essence before disappearance leads to pandemic destruction.

"Unholy Night" by Kathleen Pickering. Keeper of the Selkies Katie Sue Montgomery must choose between her present land-bound life and the sea of her beloved Jett the selkie.

"Stalking in a Winter Wonderland" by Beth Ciotta. Newly appointed Keeper of the Witches June "bug" Twist and her ex-lover Basel "Baz" Collins the wizard team up to challenge the evil warlock causing the ever expanding darkness.

With a nod to the Neverending Story (except targeting adults), though there is some repetition these are four enjoyable interconnected romantic urban fantasies.

The Colton Heir
Colleen Thompson
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278466, $5.50

Dead River Ranch wrangler Dylan Frick catches Hope Woods in the stables. When he threatens to call the cops, she begs him not to as that will give her location to her brutal ex-husband. She explains she was in Witness Protection, but her former spouse's thugs found her so she fled no longer trusting the program. Her Jersey college roommate for a few months Amanda Colton confirms she has hidden Hope on the ranch as a maid and that her new employee is former Miss New Jersey Aurora Worthington.

Dylan promises to keep safe the new maid; whose Eastern debutante roots surface constantly as she never knew vacuums require bag changing until now. In hiding, Hope cleans up the messes made by Tawny and Trip Lownden while avoiding the groping latter and eating the nastiness of their mom, Jethro Colton's third wife. Several murders have Dylan on edge as reminders that his mom Faye was a homicide victim and Hope is in peril. At the same time the wrangler and the maid fall in love while DNA will determine if he is the missing Colton Heir.

The latest Coltons of Wyoming (see The Missing Colton by Loreth Anne White and The Colton Bride by Carla Cassidy) is a fabulous romantic suspense that answers several key questions including the biggest but also leaves threads still dangling for a Colton Christmas Rescue (by Beth Cornelison). The romantic subplot is enticing, but it is the taut suspense and the answer to whether Frick proves to be or not to be The Colton Heir that makes this entry a fine Thanksgiving treat.

The Most Expensive Night of Her Life
Amy Andrews
Harlequin Kiss
9780373207404, $4.99

Veteran Blake Walker hates the current renovation project due to the snobbish client, affluent supermodel Ava Kelly. His brother Charlie tells him that their widowed sister, Joanna's charity is short one million quid. Feeling survivor guilt since he was the superior officer of his late brother-in-law when Col died, Blake wonders how to make up the loss of a major financial backer while trying not to tell the spoiled pain in the ass to screw off.

Ava is in awe of unflappable polite Blake who showed no reaction to her beauty and her unreasonable orders; not used to being ignored behind a facade of good manners, Ava cannot stop herself from trying to make him react to her diva demands. The renovation completed, Ava displays a shocking appreciation of a job well done. As Blake goes to leave on his vacation, shots are fired. His reaction saves her life while he wonders who she pissed off. Frightened Ava asks Blake to protect her in exchange for her helping his sister's charity. As they hide on his London canal boat, they fall in love.

Paying homage to combat veterans and their families, The Most Expensive Night of Her Life is a poignant contemporary. Whereas Ava is more of a caricature, Blake is terrific as a vet suffering from coming home alive while many of his brothers-in-arms died; his feelings accentuated by his sister making him promise to bring home her husband alive (not in a bag). Readers will appreciate the tale of love between the super diva and the super soldier.

The Reunion Lie
Lucy King
Harlequin Kiss
9780373207411, $4.99

Thirtyish statistician Zoe Montgomery needs to flaunt something at her high school bullies at the upcoming reunion. She chooses a fake fiance and persuades a reluctant hunk Dan Forrester to play the role. A total stranger considered London's number one bachelor, affluent Dan hesitantly agrees to pose as her boyfriend.

Dan and Zoe perform their roles with gusto leaving her tormentors jealous of her. However, the co-stars' Academy Award worthy performances is so good because they are not acting as a couple in love; they are in love. Still fooled once by a gut-wrenching betrayal, Dan refuses to be fooled twice by love.

The Reunion Lie is an entertaining over the top of Big Ben romance starring two amiable lead characters. The amusing asides by each protagonist add depth to understanding both of them though also distracts from the prime premise of "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to device" (Marmion by Walter Scott) compounded by falling in love.

Better Than Gold
Mary Brady
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718887, $5.75

Bailey's Cove, Maine is dying with most townsfolk waiting for the announcement of when the wake will be held. Energetic Mia Parker is the exception as she believes her new restaurant Pirate's Roost once built and opened at an 1818 building will save her town as tourists will flock to Bailey's Cove. However, to her dismay, the construction crew finds a human skeleton interred inside of a column buried within a wall serving as a tomb. Chief Montcalm stops the work until he can have CID clear the crime scene that will take two-three weeks due to backlog. He also suggests she asks the university to send a forensics anthropologist to expedite the crime scene as both know she cannot absorb the cost of a delay.

Feeling anger with his loss, university anthropologist Dr. Daniel MacCarey grieves the death of his beloved progressive nonagenarian Aunt Margaret that leaves him alone. The university recommends Daniel to Montcalm and the state crime lab approves him to investigate the remains. He arrives at the site where he yells at Mia to stop tampering with the evidence. Soon Daniel concludes the entombed victim is town founder Liam Bailey who vanished in the early nineteenth century. As he and Mia fall in love, he nukes their relationship bridges while fleeing to the safe academic world.

Better Than Gold is an entertaining Maine romance with a skeleton acting as the matchmaker between the staid professor and the effervescent restaurateur. Mia's BFF Monique adds depth to understanding the heroine while much more briefly elderly Professor Loch and Aunt Margaret do likewise with Daniel. Readers will enjoy Mary Brady's lively tale of discovering love at a secret burial site.

That Reckless Night
Kimberly Van Meter
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373718870, $5.75

In Alaska on the anniversary of her sister's death coupled with failing to obtain the promotion to management, game warden Miranda Sinclair gets drunk with plans to have a one night stand. At the Rusty Anchor she selects a stranger she assumes is an Anchorage tourist.

Jeremiah Burke and Miranda enjoy the greatest evening of their respective lives. However, she turns mortified when she learns her one-night lover is her new boss. As they work a bear poaching case, Jeremiah shares in common with his subordinate besides the attraction, Miranda's overwhelming guilt re her late sister; as his son died in an ATV accident.

That Reckless Night is a superb contemporary as two emotionally guilt-laden wounded warriors finally begin to heal due to the elixir of love. With suspense from the poacher subplot in the Alaskan wilderness as a powerful backdrop and deep secondary characters like Russ the bartender adding depth, readers will appreciate the fabulous first Sinclairs of Alaska romance.

Course of Action
Lindsay McKenna and Merline Lovelace
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278459, $5.50

"Out of Harm's Way" by Lindsay McKenna. On a humanitarian mission in Afghanistan, horse breeder Madison Duncan slips away from a safe area to look at local breeds only the Taliban capture the foolish American. Risking his life, Navy SEAL Travis Cooper rescues Madison. Neither is prepared for their attraction, but both rationalize the desire as part of the heat of combat.

"Any Time, Any Place" by Merline Lovelace. In Colorado Springs as part of a Russian-U.S Joint Exercises USAF Master Sergeant Dave "Duke" Carmichael and Defense Intelligence Agency civilian analyst Anna Solov pretend to be a married couple as they seek to prevent a terrorist act. However, their respective superiors assign them with contrary orders at the same time they react differently to their attraction.

These are two thrilling military operational romances starring two pairs of strong leads who make the mission and the falling in love themes fun to follow.

Marry Me Under The Mistletoe
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin American
9780373742677, $5.99

Fourteen months ago, Andrea Fleming's husband Gunter died in a car accident in Germany that left her a grieving hospitalized widow no longer able to have children. She comes home to Providence to run the family-owned Hansel and Gretel toy store filled with beautiful Bavarian made items from his parents; Andrea also moves into the loft above the shop.

With two weeks before Christmas, widower Rick Jenner and his daughter Tessa enter the store. At first sight to the shock of both of adults as each loved their respective deceased spouse, Rick and Andrea are attracted to each other while unsurprising Tessa manipulates the store owner. As the adults fall in love; her friend Casey "Gingerbread3" Caravetta asks Andrea AKA "Gingerbread4" to meet her at rundown Gingerbread Inn where they and two other friends first met as children.

This Gingerbread Girls Christmas romance is an engaging warm second chance at love holiday tale. Although Tessa is too precocious, the lead couple is a charming duet while their solid first marriages were to nice people.

The Perfect Match
Kristan Higgins
Harlequin HQN
9780373778195, $7.99

Thirty-five years old Honor Holland runs her family-owned Blue Heron Vineyard in upstate New York. She works diligently but also enjoys her heated moments with her beloved Brogan Cain. When her doctor counsels her that her eggs are at the age of beginning to decline, she decides to ask Brogan to marry her before her biological clock shuts down. Mr. Perfect says no as he seems them as friends with benefits; three weeks later he and her BFF Dana are engaged leading to a catfight in a bar.

British Professor Tom Barlow wants to remain in the states so that he can be near his "stepson" Charlie. When Tom and Honor meet for the first time, neither is impressed. However, he needs a green card and she wants a baby; so they agree to a marriage of convenience. Both soon want a real marriage as love changes their relationship dynamics.

The second Blue Heron madcap romance (see The Best Man) is an engaging contemporary. The two leads initially come across as unlikable especially Honor who like a "fungus" slowly grows on the reader as her hurts seem genuine (so does Tom's anguish). Subgenre fans will enjoy this tale of two normally reasonable people behaving irrational.

Expecting a Bolton Baby
Sarah M. Anderson
Harlequin Desire
9780373732807, $5.25

Crazy Horse Choppers owners Bobby Bolton and his brothers (see Bringing Home The Bachelor and Straddling The Line) have become wealthy and famous due to their reality TV show The Bolton Biker Boys on FreeFall TV. Bobby and fashion designer Stella had a one night stand in a limo that was his greatest night ever until she mentioned her surname as Caine. Her father David owns FreeFall TV and can easily ruin Bobby and his siblings by destroying their business deal to build the Crazy Horse Resort near Sturgis and canceling the show.

While he still dreams of that fabulous night and not just for the out of world sex, Stella informs Bobby that she is carrying his child. Bobby insists they marry, but Stella says no. While he panics as to what her father might do to his South Dakota dream and the show, she wants him only if he loves her like she does him.

The latest Bolton Brothers romance is a fun contemporary due to a delightfully unconventional cast (think of the Duck Dynasty crew). Readers will enjoy Bobby's monumental screw-up as he must overcome the impression he left Stella with that the deal and the show come before love and the baby.

Homespun Christmas
Aimee Thurlo
Harlequin Heartwarming
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00D4MWFOA, $5.99

Though the townsfolk have not announced the wake, Independence, New Mexico is dying. The town needs a new blood transfusion since IVA left turning Independence into an empty nest as the young go elsewhere, but no miracle seems likely to occur. Once the high school head cheerleader, Myka Solis is one of the few succeeding through her online craft business Wooly Dreams and her supply of Churro sheep.

Myka feels Independence can thrive as an arts center by transforming the vacated IVA factory. However, she also knows the only person who could make it happen is renowned architect Joshua Nez; once the town's bad boy when he attended high school as his next door neighbor Myka did, but in different social circles. Arriving from San Francisco for Navaho father Adam's funeral Myka asks him to help save their town. He still owns her first knit a blue sweater she gave him years ago so he agrees to help her, but insists Myka must lead the effort. As they work closely on the project, they fall in love; however, Myka feels Independence is her home while Josh seeks employment in Santa Fe.

Homespun Christmas is a warm romance due to a strong cast with a desperate need to save Independence. Although the storyline goes as expected, the delightful protagonists and the supporting townsfolk engage readers who wish for them a Christmas miracle. The background of a dying town adds depth to a wonderful holiday contemporary.

A Cowboy's Christmas Wedding
Pamela Britton
Harlequin American
9780373754809, $5.50

At the New Horizons Ranch in California, Saedra Robbins and widower single dad Cabe Jensen plan the wedding of her best friend Trent Anderson to his BFF Alana McClintock. However, three obstacles hinder finalizing the arrangements. Cabe detests Saedra for reminding him of his late wife Kim and bringing her cat-attitude feline Ramses to stay with her at his ranch. They have only two weeks before the nuptials with no place locally large enough to host the gala in winter. Finally the two wedding headliners are away visiting his family.

Cabe's teenage daughter Rana offers advice to Saedra and soon the pair bond. Rana pushes her dad and Saedra to spend time together as she thinks their guest is good for her father and for that matter her. She coaxes her father to chauffeur the visitor and into decorating the house for Christmas for the first time since Kim died.

This is a warm second chance (for him) holiday romance that focuses on a grieving adult fearing to move on towards a new love. The lead couple is a nice pairing, but Rana is too much Machiavellian matchmaker.

Amalie Howard
Harlequin Teen
9780373211050, $9.99

Sixteen-year-old Nerissa Marin loves attending a Southern California high school, being with her friends, playing on the field hockey team though her strength is swimming, shopping, surfing, and recently human Lo Seavon. In other words she is a typical American teen. However, in reality Riss is atypical as she is the heir to the throne of the underwater Aquarathi's High Court.

When Ross' father the king is murdered, she becomes the monarch and must go home to Waterfell as its queen, a position she prefers to abdicate but duty calls. A lower ruler Ehmora sees an opportunity for a coup that would place him on the throne of Waterfell. He challenges the teen for the High Court crown.

Waterfell is an engaging young adult oceanic fantasy in which Amalie Howard creates a vivid under the sea kingdom populated by a unique specie. Starring a heroine who will remind readers of Buffy (early in the movie) and containing a fun twist in spite being obvious immediately, readers will enjoy Riss' royal adventures.

Trade Secret
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781451639292, $25.00,

On Verstal, junior galactic trader Jethri ven'Deelin the human works deals with Liaden traders. When he completes these transactions, retired trader tel'Linden shows him items for sale to include outlawed Old Tech and other merchandise. After haggling, they agree on a price.

Jethri returns to the Clan Ixin Tradeship Elthoria to continue his training on Terran and Liaden contract law and customs; especially intriguing to the trader is the Terran birthright principle and the Liaden concept of Balance. Liaden Clan Ixin Master Trader Norn ven'Deelin consults with the Elthoria's weapons master Pen Rel about her adopted son Jethri's abilities. Shortly afterward Liaden Scout ter'Astin arranges to meet them at Boltston; where he and Jethri as Second Board leave together on his ship.

The second Liaden Universe coming of age prequel is a fascinating outer space thriller that enables reader to better understand Liaden clan and Terran social orders through the eyes of a neophyte in training. Although the well-written insightful storyline feels somewhat like a middle tale with most threads left dangling, the cast is fully developed especially Jethri and those in direct contact with him. Saga fans will enjoy this entry, but should read Balance of Trade first to know how Jethri got to where he is.

A Cosmic Christmas 2 You
Hank Davis, editor
9781451639421, $15.00

The second Cosmic Christmas anthology contains thirteen overall entertaining holiday science fiction short stories with 2 being new and the remainder reprints or rewrites. The collection opens on a high quality level as a father attempts to sell an ancient SF tome printed in 1944 to buy Christmas presents in Joe Haldeman's "Angel of Light". In "Away in a Manger" by Wen Spencer, the engineered animals find a left behind human infant in a world no longer populated by Homo Sapiens. As the holidays arrive meteors also arrive that will destroy Earth with only the chosen ones escaping; being old means he will die but not before he says farewell to his beloved family in "A Christmas in Amber" by Scott William Carter. The reprint of Frederik Pohl's "Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus" proves to hold up in today's increasingly web-based economy as much as it did when published in the Eisenhower economy. Although there are some weaker entries, overall these authors and Hank Davis sing to readers: "We Wish You A Cosmic Christmas" 2.

Spheres of Influence
Ryk E. Spoor
9781451639377, $15.00

The Arena names Holy Grail starship pilot Ariane Austin as the Leader of the Faction of Humanity while she and the crew struggle to adhere to the rigid rules of the Arena as they compete with less scrupulous races also trying to gain higher social hierarchal status. Hyperion Super Marc DuQuesne introduces Ariane to other experiment survivors before visiting and asking Hyperion Sun Wu Kung the Monkey God of a virtual world to return to the real realm as they need his expertise.

Ariane learns that Oscar Naraj has become the Space Security Council chief with his loyal supporter Michelle Ni Deng assisting him. They are coming to the Grand Central Arena on the FTL ship Duta, which means physicist ship designer Dr. Marilyn Shoshana, who DuQuesne insists is a psychopathic murdering Hyperion Super, betrayed them. The Holy Grail returns to the Arena just before the arrival of the Duta. Ariane informs an angry Naraj that the Arena named her as the Leader of the Humanity Faction and that the only mission remains for their species to prove its worthiness is to join this association or face extinction.

Once again paying homage to E. E. "Doc" Smith, the sequel to Grand Central Arena is an exciting science fiction. The Holy Grail crew led by awesome Ariane must deal with competing species, learning Arena rules of order, partner with wary Super Hyperions, and prevent another human faction nuking their chances. Although the storyline does not move forward much, readers of the previous Arena thriller will enjoy this solid outer space first contact saga.

Sins of the Flesh
Colleen McCullough
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781476735337, $26.00,

In August 1969, Holloman, Connecticut police Captain Carmine Delmonico is on vacation with his family. However, crime does not stop because the boss is away. Someone severs the testicles and starves to death a man; a second male in the same brutal state is found soon afterward and a connection to four other vicious homicides is made.

HPD Police Lieutenant Abe Goldberg and Sergeant Delia Carstairs contact Carmine, who with his wife Desdemona's permission, rushes back to Holloman. The cops begin a desperate search for a male-loathing psychopath before more men are violently castrated and murdered.

The fifth Delmonico 1960s police procedural (see The Prodigal Son, Naked Cruelty and Too Many Murders) is an engaging historical investigative tale in which time and place are anchored by technology though the college campus seems quiet for tumultuous 1969. The set-up is fabulous as the police hunt an insane lethal predator. Colleen McCullough provides her fans with a strong Connecticut serial killer mystery.

Murder As A Second Language
Joan Hess
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250011961, $25.99,

To fill out the volunteer section of their college applications to schools like Vanderbilt, teenage BFFs Caron and Inez become ESL tutors. At the same time, Caron's bookselling mom Claire applies as a volunteer at the troubled Farberville Literacy Council. Instead of becoming a tutor like her daughter, Claire ends up on the Board of Directors, but quickly seeks an exit strategy as the FLC is a cesspool filled with embezzlement claims and financial problems.

Not long after Claire joins the FLC, her new husband Deputy Police Chief Peter Rosen rationalizes breaking a personal vow that she will sleuth anyway when he asks his wife to help him investigate the murder of ESL student Ludmila Grabowski; she has insider access he does not have. The elderly acrimonious Russian was found dead in a FLC storage room, but her body seems to have been moved as evidence suggests she banged her head on a copying machine. Claire finds many of her board member peers with the opportunity and concealing all sorts of activities that mostly do not relate to the late Ludmila, but who committed the act remains out of reach.

The latest Claire Malloy Arkansas whodunit (see Closely Akin to Murder, Mummy Dearest and Deader Homes And Gardens) is an exciting mystery. The enjoyable storyline contains the typical albeit somewhat toned down zaniness especially the suspect pool filled with amusing underdeveloped characters. Series fans will enjoy this fun regional whodunit; as Claire learns that volunteerism in her case proves that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

An Old Betrayal
Charles Finch
9781250011619, $25.99

In 1875 Lord John Dallington suffers from a cold so is unable to meet a potential client at Gilbert's Restaurant in Charring Crossing Station at 8:00. After showing his former sleuthing mentor Charles Lenox the unsigned note, he asks his teacher to go in his place. Charles concludes from the note that the writer has a train to catch soon after 8:35 as the author states he will wait for no more than thirty-five minutes.

Bored with being the Parliament's junior Lord of the Treasury even with a critical vote on the Factory Act that he supports coming up, and enjoying though embarrassed to say so his time with his wife Lady Jane and their toddler, Lenox shamefully relishes a case. He enters the restaurant seeking a man with a striped black umbrella dining alone. When a male enters late, Charles assumes he is the client until abruptly a woman runs out of Gilbert's; as Lenox realizes his gender blunder. Charles seeks the frightened female to learn how he may help her.

The seventh Charles Lenox Victorian mystery (see A Beautiful Blue Death and The September Society) is an entertaining twisting historical. Filled with tidbits that anchor the era (like the Factory Act debate), series fans will enjoy the return of married with child Charles and his family and friends as Lenox (and readers) appreciate his complicated investigation made convoluted by his false gender assumption.

Anne Elizabeth
Sourcebooks Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402268939, $6.99,

Aria Kavanagh and U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Daniel McCullum are in love. They marry, but their happily ever after is marred by Aria's culture shock of being a SEAL's wife. Dealing with his abrupt dangerous missions and long separations has Aria feeling lonely and frightened that her beloved will not return. She learns military life proves difficult for this civilian as the spousal caste system is built on rank.

Dan loves his wife and would do almost anything to help Aria adjust even perhaps give up his vocation that he loves. He knows his spouse struggles with her life change from a civilian unaware of the Navy except from Headline News to being a military dependent confronting a hierarchy she does not understand; but Dan vows to be patient and when stateside be there for his Aria.

The latest Anne Elizabeth's SEAL drama (see A SEAL at Heart) is an insightful look at the life of a militarily wife. Readers will feel the fears that eat at Aria's stomach while her mate is in the dangerous midst of war and her sense of being a fish out of water. Although the depth of that subculture is perceptive and educational, it also slows down the pacing. Still fans will appreciate this homage to our war heroes and their military spouses who make incredible sacrifices as the 1% that matters.

Kiss Of Revenge
Debbie Viguie
Faith Words
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455574247, $6.00,

With his evil minion obeying his bidding, Richelieu continues his quest for the holy relics that would enable him to use Christ's blood to transform him into an all-powerful being. His prime adversaries, humans (cousins Susan and Wendy, and David) and vampires (Gabriel, Raphael and Paul) continue to oppose the malevolent wannabe deity.

Translating their twelfth century relative's diary, Susan and Wendy learn what happened to their ancestors Carissa and Fleur who fought this same fight and they hope provides the method to win the war. A the same time Susan and Raphael no longer ignore their taboo attraction as both know the war is nearing an end.

The third Kiss Trilogy (see Kiss of Death and Kiss of Night) is an action-packed Christian good and evil vampire thriller. The numerous subplots tie up the major threads and contain neat spins like the origin of vampirism but also slow the pacing of the overall enjoyable storyline. The overarching theme that anyone even a vampire can be redeemed is reinforced as the sextet team up for the final battle against Richelieu.

The Sanctuary
Ted Dekker
Center Street
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781599953366, $8.00,

Danny Hansen had a very disturbing violent childhood. When he and Renee Gilmore met, they fell in love and he thought his troubled and her amoral past were finally over (see The Priest's Graveyard). Instead of cohabiting at a condo, in order to keep his beloved safe Danny resides at Basal Prison, a guest of the state for fifty years for two murders he did not do.

An unknown person informs Renee that Danny will die in prison unless he breaks his pledge of nonviolence. She also receives a package that means someone knows the truth that she and Danny concealed by his turning himself in to the DA over seven years ago. A frantic Renee pleads with former cop Keith to keep Danny alive.

The Sanctuary is an intriguing Christian thriller that condemns the failed prison governmental industrial warehousing complex which abets antisocial feral behavior. The storyline engages the audience especially inside Basal though there is a deja vu feel to the plot as conscientious objector Danny constantly turns the other cheek and totally committed Renee never truly considers an affair with Keith as that would sort of violate Thou shalt not commit adultery.

The Influence
Bentley Little
Cemetery Dance Publications
132-B Industry Lane, Unit 7
Forest Hill, Maryland 21050
9781587674198, $25.00,

Engineer Ross Lowery lost his position at Air Research during the Great Recession and has not found work since. He always sent money to his family when they needed it even when he didn't have much. However, now that he needs assistance, all (including his siblings) except his cousin Lita ignore him. Though not wealthy, Lita and her husband Dave invite Ross to stay with them in remote Magdalena, Arizona for a few months while he applies for jobs over the Net.

At the town's New Year's Eve bash, everyone shoots into sky at midnight; only something falls to the ground. Soon afterward the townsfolk begin to face changes in their fortunes. A rancher's cattle die with eerie creatures leaving the corpses before vanishing and Lita's eggs hatch lizards and spiders; Ross receives job offers and falls in love, and a beautician wins the mega lottery. When children vanish, realizing something is not right in Magdalena ever since the creature fell from the sky and altered 180 degrees the fortunes and misfortunes of everyone, Ross believes he and others must rescue the young and prevent whatever is occurring from spreading.

The Influence is a strong horror thriller in which darkness threatens life as the townsfolk knew it. The reactions by the affluent suddenly hammered by bad luck and the threat of poverty, and the impoverished suddenly charmed with a run of good fortune make for a super storyline. With deep underlying social messages from scriptures: "But by the grace of God I am what I am ..." and "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (karma aside). Bentley Little provides a taut thought-provoking tale.

An Untamed Heart
Lauraine Snelling
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764202032, $14.99,

In 1878 Norway, Ingeborg Strand knows what blunt matchmaking family members led by her mother demand of her. However, she has not found anyone who she wants to marry as her preference is to become a midwife. Ingeborg, her siblings and her cousins are on the farm when she meets Oslo university student Nils Aarvidson. They have in common family pressure to do something neither wants to do; as he is the heir to a lucrative business empire and fortune. They forge a loving friendship until the accident leaves Ingeborg grieving her loss.

Ingeborg meets widower Roald Bjorklund and his young son Thorliff. He pleads with her to come to America with him where he will obtain free land and she could care for Thorliff. As Ingeborg considers his proposition, she knows that means leaving behind her loved ones and her Norwegian home.

The prequel to the six-novel Red River of the North historical series (see The Reaper's Song, A New Day Rising and A Land to Call Home) is a delightful inspirational late nineteenth century drama that uses a deep look at life in late 1870s Norway as time and place anchors. Ingeborg holds the wonderful storyline together; while the cast is solid though readers will need a scorecard to keep track of who's who amongst the myriad of family support players. Fans who kept the faith while waiting for years for the origin story of Ingeborg-Roald to be told will relish this strong entry.

The God Tattoo: Untold Tales from the Twilight Reign
Tom Lloyd
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616148591, $18.00,

This superb eleven story collection enhances the macro view of the Twilight Reign fantasy saga with a darker micro level return to the Land. In the opening act, "A Beast in Velvet" brutally hunts the residents of Narkang with a calling card of battered corpses and enigmatic runes. Daken the mercenary believes mages are natural born sociopaths while the indifference of the Gods makes both groups untrustworthy with their hidden agendas in the title story. Now retired, "The Marshal's Reflection" of a time just before the war came to Narkang remains vivid. Marshal Calath learns a life lesson that good intentions do not necessarily mean good outcomes in "A Man from Thistledell". All the entries are excellent leading to Twilight Reign fans relishing this strong anthology and newbies showing their appreciation by reading the novels.

Tim Lebbon
9781616148218, $17.99

Several years have passed since the 2017 Doomsday terrorist attack left London an isolated Toxic City (see London Eye) surrounded by Chopper troops assigned to use deadly force to keep survivors inside and other people outside. The rest of Britain and the world believe no one lives within this wasteland, but those who do are considered expendable experimental guinea pigs.

Apparently due to the healing touch of enigmatic Nomad, some of those "trapped" inside the dead city like Jack and Lucy-Anne are developing odd powers (see Reaper's Legacy). Jack learns that in seventeen hours the final solution will occur when the Choppers detonate a nuclear bomb to eradicate London and bury their test specimens. With the assistance of Lucy-Anne and Nomad, Jack must warn Londoners, but even with the doomsday clock counting down, he knows he first must commit patricide by confronting his father the Reaper.

The third taut Toxic City post-apocalyptic thriller will remind readers of the TV show 24 as each chapter contains one hour closer to the nuking of London. With a stunning climax, fast-paced and filled with action except when wallowing Jack (in those non-heroic introspective moments) too frequently feels remorse for killing those who want(ed) to kill him. Still series fans will enjoy climatic Contagion.

Found: A Matt Royal Mystery
H. Terrell Griffin
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608090990, $26.95,

On Longboat Key, Florida, police detective J.D. Duncan receives a text addressed to her college nickname Jed containing a photo. She forwards it to her boyfriend retired attorney Matt Royal's email to open since her cell is too small to see the picture clearly. The text shows her college friend Katie Fredrickson holding today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Over a year ago in Sarasota, Katie's husband Jim was murdered and based on crime scene evidence she was presumed dead though her body never found.

Someone murders Cortez villager WWII veteran Ken Goodlow while he apparently was coming to see Royal. The killer dies in the bay trying to escape the police. Duncan works the Frederickson case while laid-back Royal tries to learn why the elderly man wanted to see him. Matt's BFF kick butt top secret operative Jock Algren arrives for a visit and joins the lovers' inquires as danger mounts from cutthroats who don't care about collateral damage.

The latest Matt Royal entry (see Fatal Decree and Collateral Damage) is a fast-paced convoluted thriller that grips the reader with the same questions haunting the "sweeties"; for instance why Goodlow wanted to see Royal and what is going on with Katie alive or dead. Series fans will enjoy this tale as the cop, the retiree, and the agent work the two perilous investigations.

Michael Krikorian
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608090556, $26.95,

L.A. Times reporter Michael Lyons works the street beat with his prime focus on members of gangs as he has the uncanny ability to put a human face on these seemingly interchangeable dangerous miscreants. Near his office, Michael stops at his favorite haunt the Redwood Saloon where affectionately he is known as "Hit'n'Run" for his frequent quickies. However, this time when he leaves the bar in daylight, someone shoots Lyons.

While he recovers from his wound, his journalist peers form a pool as to whom the trigger is and why. LAPD fails to find the culprit while the L.A. Times editorials rip the cops for incompetency and complacency until the police release a tape in which Michael eloquently explains the truth of being shot to a gang-member. While the shooter begins targeting other victims including the younger brother of incarcerated gangbanger Big Evil, a fired Lyons starts an investigation in the grim impoverished Southside.

Those who live on the means streets of LA own this dark graphic urban thriller; as the investigation highlights their grim existence. Fast-paced throughout, readers will appreciate entering the Lyons' Den; escorted not by the late great New York columnist Leonard Lyons, but by a disgraced Los Angeles reporter working the gang circuit.

The Glamorous Life 2: All That Glitters Isn't Gold
Nikki Turner
St. Martin's Griffin
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250001443, $15.95,

Even before Shelly, their mother in name only, abandoned them, fourteen years old Calliope already knew if she and her ten years old brother Compton were to survive, they needed to rely on no one but themselves. Once Shelly drops out of her children's lives, their grandmother gives them shelter, but the siblings must feed and clothe themselves. Calliope turns to stealing and stripping while Compton sells drugs.

Just freed from incarceration, Lynx and his faithful woman, Bambi, look forward to starting over. However, Lynx struggles with a gambling addiction that if not stopped will end his relationship with Bambi, but not before destroying both of them. When Lynx and Calliope meet, both finds a motivator to clean up their act hopefully before it is too late for them and their loved ones.

The Glamorous Life 2 is an engaging street lit tale as the key cast learns the hard way and seemingly too late that All That Glitters Isn't Gold. The two females and the ex con who connects them are fully developed so that the reader understands what each faces to make it. Although the middle chapters feel somewhat bloated, fans will enjoy Bambi's return engagement (see The Glamorous Life).

All That I Desire
Francis Ray
St. Martin's Press
9781250023827, $7.99

Navarone Resorts and Spas Events Coordinator Skylar Dupree always got what she wanted materially. However, for the two years that she has worked for Blade Navarone she has not got what she craves most in the world: the love of security chief Rio Sanchez. No longer willing to wait for him and out of character for her normal behavior, Skylar decides to use a frontal assault find out whether her love is returned or unrequited.

Since he first met Skylar two years ago, stoic Rio has been attracted to her. However, he refuses to act on his desire because he knows things he did make him unworthy of wonderful Skylar though he remains wary of matchmaking matriarch Ruth Grayson in case she focuses on him. When someone threatens his beloved Skylar, raging Rio acts like a man in love protecting his endangered woman.

The tenth Grayson Friends tale (see All That I Need and All I Ever Wanted) is an enjoyable conclusion to a wonderful saga. Though the suspense feels unnecessary due to a strong romance, readers will appreciate this entry. With the death in July of Francis Ray, subgenre fans have lost one of the consistent greats whose Grayson pantheon is a fabulous legacy.

Ghost Medicine
Aimee & David Thurlo
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781466807853, $24.99,

Former Navajo Nation cop Harry Ute left the tribal force to become a private investigator. When his mutilated corpse is found in a remote part of the Rez, Harry looks like the victim of the fearsome skinwalker witches.

Navajo Nation special investigator Ella Clah leads the investigation into the brutal murder of her one-time subordinate. She questions Harry's boss Bruce "Teeny" Little, but he offers little beyond stating Ute was looking into stolen property. Ella's boyfriend county Detective Dan Nez was working the same case as the victim. He teams up with Ella while residents living near the murder scene fear the skinwalkers' retaliation so they refuse to say anything about the vicious homicide or the theft of artifacts.

The latest Ella Clah Navaho police procedural (see Never-Ending-Snake and Black Thunder) is a strong case personalized by the protagonist. Even with her obsessed need to catch the killer motivating her, Ella finds her inquiry complicated by tribal beliefs especially the fear of the skinwalkers. Once again team Thurlo provides a super tribal whodunit.

The First Phone Call from Heaven
Mitch Albom
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062294371, $24.99,

Residents of Coldwater, Michigan begin receiving cell phone calls from deceased loved ones who insist they reside in heaven. Their message to their families is one of hope and believing. The townsfolk are divided between a monstrous hoax and a loving miracle with some of the deniers refusing to accept calls from heaven. People like young Jules Harding prays that his late mom calls him while his remorseful dad Sully, who was in prison when his wife died, believes someone is pulling a horrible chicanery on the vulnerable like his son.

Word spreads about the Coldwater heavenly communication and soon a horde of religious fanatics invade the small town; followed by equally zealous opponents. The two adversarial sides divide like the locals into the miracle and hoax supporters. The feeding frenzy media smelling a ruse joins the horde rushing to Coldwater.

The First Phone Call from Heaven is a delightful allegory in which the telephone is used as the link with the afterlife. The engaging storyline shows down with a fascinating look at Bell's original invention of the telephone. The key to this wonderful satire is how the cast reacts differently to the calls; which allow the reader to choose the side they want to join in the debate though everyone will want: "All I Need Is A Miracle" (Mike & The Mechanics).

Dead Set
Richard Kadrey
Harper Voyager
9780062283016, $22.99

After the unexpected death of her father, grieving sixteen years old Zoe and her mother who has no time to mourn their loss move into a run-down apartment in San Francisco. They are broke and cannot afford for Zoe to regularly check her email. Zoe does not hate this apartment, but feels miserable there and at her new school while her dreams frighten her except for mysterious Valentine who she does not know always being there.

The enthusiasm Zoe's late father had for punk bands is her fondest memory of him. When Zoe meets music store owner Ammut, she feels a connection her dad. Ammut tells her he can arrange for her to meet her father's spirit. Excited Zoe ends up in Iphigene; where trapped souls like that of her father linger for eternity. Zoe's deceased brother she never knew existed welcomes her and guides her as she tries to help her dead family members move on from an evil despot and ultimately for her to return to her mom.

This is a fabulous young adult allegory that looks deep into grief as everyone mourns a loss differently. Although the storyline contains no twists, readers will feel the depth of despair Zoe carries in her heart and the burden of the Dead Set denizen stuck in Iphigene in this profound fable.

Star Corpsman: Abyss Deep
Ian Douglas
Harper Voyager
9780061894770, $7.99

Navy Hospital Corpsman Elliot "Doc" Carlyle understands firsthand the "hurry up and wait" credo of the military as he boringly sits inside a Katy orbital transport with 41 marines of Bravo Company. Their mission is to end a hostage situation on earth orbiting mining asteroid Atun 3840's Capricorn Zeta before the neo-Ludds crash the rock into the planet. The platoon and Doc deploy their search and seize operation. Doc saves the life of injured Corporal Morrisey and a hurt M'nangat while his comrades in arms prevent the terrorist plot. However, as Doc does a DNA sweep, a newsie catches him in action, which violates security protocol during a combat mission.

Instead of a court martial, General Craig exiles Doc on a mission to the harsh watery planet GJ 1214 I better known as Abyssworld in which the oceans are boiling or frozen. On the Haldane vessel he, other Corpsman and a marine scout-recon element will investigate why the planet's research facility abruptly went silent. Upon reaching their destination, an alien combat vessel floats above the planet while below the glacier awaits something even more feral than the combative orbiting enemy.

Star Corpsman Book Two (see Bloodstar) is an exhilarating military science fiction tale that feels genuine due to the extrapolation of modern day technology into the future; the medical data that Doc uses is relatively easy to follow and enhances the sense of being on the combat and first contact missions in outer space. Doc is a terrific lead character who holds the storyline in place while in and out of trouble with his by the SOPs superior officers back in headquarters. Action-packed throughout, Ian Douglas provides another entertaining thriller.

True Story
Ni-Ni Simone
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758287724, $9.95,

Eighteen years old Stiles University sophomore Seven McKnight has a dilemma and it is not her roommate Kyla's should be condemned Gremlin. Believing in the proverb that all work and no play makes Seven a dull Jersey Girl; she wants to party.

However, her present boo Zaire St. James, once in trouble with the law, has become all work and no play except for renting flicks. Bored with her current boo, Seven gives her former cheating boyfriend Josiah Whitaker (see Upgrade U) a close look. The baller wants her back and feels a convict, especially a born again responsible one, is no competition against a slam dunker like him though he knows he must regain Seven's trust.

The latest Seven teen drama (see Shortie Like Mine) is an engaging tale that seems real because of the lead female's hedonistic selfishness that plays two wannabe boos. Young adult readers will enjoy the confused Simone's antics as she struggles to choose between loyal ennui and philandering excitement while we shout our choice to her.

All Fudged Up
Nancy Coco
9780758287106, $7.99

Allie McMurphy and her nonagenarian grandfather Papa Liam planned to work together on renovating the Historic Register McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop on Mackinac Island, Michigan so that afterward he can mentor her in running the place. However, before she left Chicago for Mackinac Island, Papa died.

Allie continues the project until she finds the corpse of Papa's long time enemy Joe Jessup in a closet. Because of her grandfather's well known feud with the victim, the police look at Allie as the only suspect. Realizing she lacks an alibi and needing to open the landmark ASAP, Allie investigates the homicide.

The first Candy-Coated mystery is a fun cozy due to the wonderful location filled with eccentric characters. Although the overused premise of an amateur sleuth making inquiries to stay out of jail detracts and the murderer's motive is poor, fans will root for awesome Allie as she works her case and her grand opening preparations while trying to stay alive and out of jail.

The House On Main Street
Shirlee McCoy
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9781420132359, $7.99,

Tessa McKenzie left Apple Valley, Washington when Cade Cunningham chose her sister Emily as his girlfriend over her. She became a successful interior designer in Annapolis, Maryland. When Emily and her husband Dave die in an accident, Tess comes home as guardian of her ten years old autistic nephew Alex and to take care of cranky Aunt Gertrude. She plans to sell her late sibling's This-N-That Antiques store and The House On Main Street before going back to Annapolis with her grieving tweener and her aunt.

While her two charges angrily tell her they will stay in the Pacific Northwest, Tess and Cade the town sheriff meet for the first time in years. Cade is attracted to his childhood BFF; but must persuade Tess to stay and give them a chance.

From the grave, Emily steals the show from her living relatives and ex-boyfriend as the quartet and others have different visions as to who she was to them. Readers will enjoy this second chance Christmas romance while applying the What's My Line question: "Will the real Emily please stand up?"

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Interview with author Donald H. Ford by Laurel Johnson for Midwest Book Review

I recently reviewed Carol's Alzheimer's Journey for Midwest Book Review. The book was a tender, humorous, fascinating recollection of Carol Ford's life as she journeyed towards a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. When Carol developed symptoms of early Alzheimer's in 2000, she and Don devised a plan of care together. They decided on a medical plan of care, including medications. In addition to that medical care, Don believed a developmental plan of care would be essential to Carol's daily life. He promised his wife of more than 50 years that she would continue to live in her own home, surrounded by family and friends, enjoying life. He promised Carol she would be treated like a person, not a patient, which is the cornerstone of the developmental model of care. Carol's Alzheimer's experience provides a hopeful, joyful contrast to what most people view as a hopeless, horrifying situation. Because hers is a chronicle of hope and joy, despite Alzheimer's ultimate deterioration, I wanted to interview Mr. Ford because his knowledge may bring hope to others.

MBR: For me, the most powerful proof of Carol's successful home care plan was that on the last day of her life she danced with you to Big Band music. She'd had Alzheimer's for more than eleven years, was dependent on others for all personal care, and yet she laughed and danced. Explain to readers how that daily dance with Carol ties in to your developmental plan of care.

Ford: This developmental theory assumes that every person's day is organized in goal directed activity patterns called behavior episodes. From the subjective experiences produced by each BE pattern a person constructs short term memory patterns. When similar versions of the same general goal directed BE pattern are successfully repeated over time and varying contexts and produce feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction and pleasure, that short term memory pattern is transformed into a permanent memory pattern called a behavior episode schema (BES). That schema then functions as the starting point for creating every similar new BE, so instead of creating a new short term memory with each BE those new experiences contribute to further elaboration and strengthening the previously constructed memory schema. Memory schemas aren't just formed in terms of mental images; they can include images of other kinds of experiences such as action patterns like walking (sometimes called "motor memories"). Over time and thousands of similar specific BEs, the relevant memory schema becomes more elaborate and diversified in terms of the content of the activity pattern and context involved. For example, a 2 year old initially creates a simple walking activity pattern, but over years of use it evolves into a general mobility pattern composed of diverse sub-patterns (e.g., to walking in all kinds of contexts such as floors; yards; hills; forests; steps; jumping; running; games; chasing something or someone).

Once a permanent memory pattern is constructed, it remains dormant until conditions of a new BE pattern may reactivate it so it can function to help guide a current BE activity pattern. Current conditions that can activate an old memory pattern are called memory cues. As Carol's Alzheimer's illness progressed neural patterns needed to reactivate and help perform various forms of walking activity patterns were increasingly disrupted making it increasingly difficult for her traditional memory cues to activate reconstruction of her mobility activity patterns. But, the conditions that can function as memory cues can differ from pattern to pattern and occasion to occasion. So, when a person is having difficulty "remembering something" (like how to walk) modifying the pattern of memory cues may enable them to reactive the desired memory & activity pattern. For example, when self-controlled walking activity became increasingly difficult for Carol she was provided a cane that enabled her self-controlled walking. Later when that no longer worked the pattern was changed so that she could hold onto someone walking with her so they could help her walk. Finally, Carol's mobility limitations became so severe none of those memory cues worked to enable her to walk more than a few steps.

Walking activities have many benefits (e.g., the exercise contributes to physical health in several ways; it enables a person move from one context to another to participate in different kinds of activity; it helps a person feel they have some control over their life). So, I searched my memory for ideas about her history of mobility patterns that might function as an alternative to walking. That led me to her long history of and pleasure in social dancing. We first danced together when she was 16, we both loved it, danced whenever we could to different forms of music with different forms of dancing in different contexts. We danced often throughout our lives and became quite good at "walking to music" .

During her Alzheimer's years dancing brought both of us many forms of pleasure and satisfaction. For Carol it provided simultaneously several forms of pleasure: her love of music; the physical pleasure different forms of dancing provide; the pleasure of being held in the arms of her husband while she danced; the additional benefit of feeling safe as she moved because holding on to and being held by me she couldn't fall; the health effects of aerobic activity; the pleasure of people talking with her and complimenting her about her dancing. It made her feel she was still a person with some capabilities who still had some control over her life.

MBR: Carol's mother did not adjust well to the nursing home when she had Alzheimer's. If you had been in charge of creating her personalized plan of care, what would have been your top three goals?

Ford: A. Create a care program in her own home. All of the adaptive patterns a person develops over time are developed to be effective in the contexts in which they occur. Therefore, if an Alzheimer's care program is implemented within their own home all the memory cues for her adaptive behavior episode schemas are continually available to help activate patterns that can be modified to fit her emerging limitations. If she is placed in some different physical and social context (e.g., a nursing home) all the memory cues learned as part of her adaptive patterns are no longer available to activate learned adaptive patterns. She would have to relearn them "from scratch". That loss of habitual memory cues and the learned patterns they activate is a source of many of the unusual and troublesome patient behavior patterns one sees in nursing home dementia cases (e.g., depression; wandering; memory loss).

B. Provide caregivers trained in the rationale and methods of the developmental model of elder care because their key role as companions is to fill the care receiver's daily life with the kinds of BEs that would yield satisfaction and pleasure for them.

C. Keep the care receiver busy every day with activities that they evaluate as useful and satisfying, including some activities outside the physical facility in which they are living, to help them continue to feel they have some control of their life and are still part of the larger world.

MBR: Your developmental plan of care works because you believe that hidden inside every person with Alzheimer's is the entirety of their history. Explain how you tapped into Carol's history and memories to bring moments of joy and pleasure to her daily life.

Ford: A. This question is overstated. A person's memory does not contain an "entirety of their history". The experiences generated by a specific BE first form a temporary memory pattern of that limited experience. That will fade away unless it is transformed into a permanent memory pattern. There are two basic ways that happens. The first is if it is merged with a similar already existing permanent memory pattern (i.e., a BE schema). The second is if there are powerful evaluative components in the temporary memory pattern, e.g., strong positive or negative emotions and affects (such as pain) and strong evaluative thoughts (such as delightful surprise).

B. A permanent memory pattern (i.e., behavior episode schema) becomes reconstructed for use in a current behavior episode when the goals guiding the current BE and the conditions used to implement it function as memory cues to stimulate reconstruction of a relevant permanent memory schema. To create a new behavior episode that might yield satisfaction and pleasure for a person, it is necessary to have knowledge about that person's history of the kinds of past behavior episodes that yielded satisfaction and pleasure. By creating a new BE that has properties like one that has produced satisfaction in the past it is often possible to produce a similar result. For example, Carol's history was full of pleasure resulting from playing and listening to piano music. When she was 17 she was so enthralled by the concert performance of a famous pianist named Jose Iturbi she went back to his dressing room and met him personally. She was overjoyed with his thoughtful treatment of her. Knowing of that history, 60 years later when she had Alzheimer's we obtained a copy of a movie in which he starred as a pianist and watched it with her one afternoon. She laughed and clapped her hands while re-experiencing her happy feelings.

MBR: Your book stresses that anyone can provide the nurturing care parameters you developed for Carol. List the two most important points for any facility or individual to consider when caring for a person with Alzheimer's or other debilitating affliction.

Ford: A. Treat them like an ordinary person who, despite their limitations and handicaps, still wants to have some control over and get some satisfaction out of their daily life; don't view them and treat them as just a sick person who must be medicated and sheltered.

B. Provide them with a homelike rather than a hospital like environment, and keep them busy everyday with diverse behavior episodes from which them can gain some satisfaction despite their limitations.

MBR: Carol spent her entire adult life helping others through charitable projects. Share with our readers how you plan to continue her work through proceeds from this book.

Ford: A. This book is Carol's last effort to try to enrich the lives of others because she participated in the decision to write it as an example of how to apply our developmental model of elder care to enable those who, like her, end their lives dealing with incurable limitations like Alzheimer's and strokes. That is why she is listed a coauthor.

B. We were partners during our adult lives in creating university based research and professional education programs to help put new ideas in practice to improve the lives of people in our society. The role of universities in our society isn't primarily on continuing the status quo but is upon creating new ideas and possibilities for a better future. We agreed to continue to work towards that objective by facilitating and supporting the research and educational work of university colleagues aimed at improving the quality of life of people in our aging society as their lives come to depend on sound long term elder care.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Christmas Holiday Favorites for Piano, Voice and Guitar
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree/ Up On the Housetop (piano vocal edition)
Johnny Marks and B. R. Hanby arranged by Jonathon Robbins
Santorella Publications
13 Pleasant Avenue, Danvers, MA 01923
TS329, $4.95,

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Up On the Housetop" are two favorite holiday tunes offered here in two separate early intermediate piano vocal arrangements by Jonathon Robbins. Both arrangements are written the key of C with full chord accompaniment and guitar chord tablature, along with separate vocal lines. These accessible arrangements for the young intermediate pianist allow pleasure and performance to be simultaneous at a festive recital or holiday event. Also highly recommended for easy piano is "Christmas Holiday Favorites for Easy Piano - Jingle Bells, Silver and Gold, and Away in a Manger (TS304, $4.95)." Arrangements are presented in easy piano/vocal form in accessible keys of F major, C major, and G major.

True Colors
Jodi Hills, author/artist
Tristan Publishing, Inc.
2355 Louisiana Avenue North, Golden Valley, MN 55427
9781939881007, $16.95,

"True Colors" is a beautiful outpouring of the rainbow embracing vision of Jodi Hills, fluent writer and painter of portraits in all true colors. Every page is a portrait complete with narration and inspiration. The challenge is to not only accept your true colors, indeed all true colors, but to embrace and celebrate them. Persons of differing ethnicities and ages are featured, each glowing with a huge smile from inside out. The author shares her deepest revelation on each page, in each line, and in every portrait. She celebrates and illustrates the following affirmation: "I want to see the beauty in all, possibly even me." The artist's use of color in her facial portraits is unique and striking, incorporating unexpected rainbow colors into each subject's skin, hair and eye color. A beautiful blending of the races and ages, with detailed exposition, can be imagined in viewing these twelve amazing character portraits and narrations. "True Colors" is a book for all ages that celebrates the vast variety and vibrancy of the human creative spirit.

Kitty (heart) Doggy
Jeremy Greenberg, author
Andrews McMeel Publishing
1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO 64106
9781449442026, $9.99,

"Kitty (heart) Doggy" is a warm, funny photo-documentary of successful, loving feline/canine relationships. What a wonderful example of intra-species love! E very other page has one adorable color portrait of at least one cat and one dog (one is a menage a trois) in a loving relationship. The facing page introduces both sides of the curious pair using categories of "Been together," "Relationship secret." and "He says," "She says." This is a very funny book, inspiring any reader to restore faith in enduring loving relationships, even between species. The photographs are priceless, and here are some of the memorable quotes:

"What I love about my cat is that he knows how to be loved. I can't tell you how many times I tried to kiss my human on the mouth only to learn we aren't at that point in our relationship yet."

"Remember your vows to always love each other in good times and bath times."

"I just can't believe I waited this long to be happy!"

"If your partner says she wants to bring a toy into the bedroom, she probably just means a squeaky mouse."

"What you want in a mate is a good provider and Sammy is always pulling food off the counters onto the floor."

"Don't pant the small stuff."

"Kitty (heart) Doggy" is a paean to love, especially feline/canine love, but also an inspiration to all the rest of us to learn to get along and enjoy each other!

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Sea of Hooks
Lindsay Hill
McPherson & Company
PO Box 1126, Kingston, NY 12401
9781620540060, $25.00, 352 pp,

Synopsis: A boy grew up beside a sea of hooks and he learned to swim in that sea and to notice the hooks as they rose and fell and twisted in the tides. Christopher Westall, an alarmingly imaginative young man, experiences repeated trauma and transformation. His childhood has shattered into a thousand glints, shards, and tangled threads that are gathered and rewoven by the reader while following Christopher's pivotal journey from San Francisco to the mountains of Bhutan. As memory, dream, fear and resilience exert their tidal pulls, Christopher's life tilts, collides, reverses, dissolves and re-emerges, while risks and revelations glisten side-by-side in the depths of the Sea of Hooks.

Critique: "Sea of Hooks" is an impressive crafted and original novel that nothing short of a spell blinding read with its dark humor and unexpected twists and turns. Lindsay Hill evidences an extraordinary talent as a novelist and storyteller. "Sea of Hooks" is strongly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections.

Man On A Red Horse
Fred Grove
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781053191385, $12.99, 312 pp,

Synopsis: Jesse Wilder was a man who had seen more than his share of violence. A former captain in the Army of Tennessee, he was inducted into the Union army as a "galvanized Yankee" after the battle of Shiloh. After the war he headed to Mexico to ?ght with the Juaristas against Emperor Maximilian. That cost him the life of his wife and his unborn child. All he wanted then was peace. But instead he was offered a position as a scout on a highly secret mission into Mexico, where bandits were holding the Sonora governor's daughter for ransom. The rescue attempt was virtually a suicide mission; the small group was vastly outnumbered and was made up of men serving time in the garrison jail. Jesse had every reason to walk away from the offer - but he couldn't. Not when one of his wife's murderers was second in command to the Sonoran bandits chief.

Critique: A superbly crafted western adventure novel of the first order, this large print edition of "Man On A Red Horse" is a solid entertainment and enthusiastically recommended for western fiction fans from first page to last. Highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Western Fiction and Large Print Fiction collections.

Rough Passage To London
Robin Lloyd
Sheridan House Publishers
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781574093209, $24.95, 376.pp,

Synopsis: Lyme, Connecticut, early nineteenth century. Elisha Ely Morgan is a young farm boy who has witnessed firsthand the terror of the War of 1812. Troubled by a tumultuous home life ruled by the fists of their tempestuous father, Ely's two older brothers have both left their pastoral boyhoods to seek manhood through sailing. One afternoon, the Morgan family receives a letter with the news that one brother is lost at sea; the other is believed to be dead. Scrimping as much savings as a farm boy can muster, Ely spends nearly every penny he has to become a sailor on a square-rigged ship, on a route from New York to London - a route he hopes will lead to his vanished brother, Abraham. Learning the brutal trade of a sailor, Ely takes quickly to sea-life, but his focus lies with finding Abraham. Following a series of cryptic clues regarding his brother's fate, Ely becomes entrenched in a mystery deeper than he can imagine. As he feels himself drawing closer to an answer, Ely climbs the ranks to become a captain, experiences romance, faces a mutiny, meets Queen Victoria, and befriends historical legends such as Charles Dickens in his raucous quest.

Critique: A superbly crafted historical novel wherein the author has taken enormous care with respect to accuracy of detail regarding shipboard life in the early 19th Century, "Rough Passage to London: A Sea Captain's Tale" is enthusiastically recommended reading and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library historical fiction collections. Author Robin Lloyd has a genuine flair as a novelist and will leave his readers looking eagerly toward his next literary effort. It should be noted that "Rough Passage to London: A Sea Captain's Tale" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49).

Arthur Quinn and Hell's Keeper
Alan Early
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9781781171585, $14.95, 384 pp,

Synopsis: The dramatic conclusion to the 'Father of Lies' trilogy. Arthur Quinn is back in Kerry, having once again foiled Loki's evil plans for world domination. However, he knows that Loki is looking for his third and most deadly child, Hell's Keeper. Unable to stop Loki awakening this monster, Arthur finds himself erased from time. Saved by a mysterious force and sent back to Earth, he finds everything changed terribly. Without Arthur to stop him Loki has flooded the world and has rounded up its people into camps. In his third and most deadly adventure, Arthur knows he must defeat the Father of Lies permanently, but how do you kill a god?

Critique: The third and final volume in novelist Alan Early's outstanding 'The Father of Lies Chronicles' trilogy, "Arthur Quinn and Hell's Keeper" is a highly engaging and entertaining read from first page to last. As an author, Alan Early is clearly a singular and original writer of the first order. Very highly recommended for those who enjoy a well crafted fantasy novel, it should be noted that "Arthur Quinn and Hell's Keeper" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).

Ride The Man Down
Bill Brooks
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432827083, $25.95, 270 pp,

Synopsis: John Henry Cole, working as a deputy U.S. marshal out of Judge Isaac Parker's court in Arkansas, was on assignment in the Indian Nations, in pursuit of a group of white renegades who were in hiding there - above all a particularly vicious renegade named Caddo Pierce. He had a wagon of captive renegades when he was shot and seriously injured. He managed to come out of the Nations with his prisoners, but decided that he had enough of that job and so resigned. Now fifteen years later, employed as a deputy for Judge Roy Bean in Texas, Cole receives a personal summons from Judge Parker. He learns that Caddo Pierce and his gang are systematically murdering Indian law enforcement officers and their families in the Nations. By treaty, Parker cannot send any officer into the Nations to pursue a killer unless that killer has killed a white man, so Cole is without backing in his pursuit of Pierce.

Critique: A classic western, "Ride The Man Down" is a solid entertainment from first page to last. Very highly recommended for western fiction enthusiasts and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections.

A Place in the Son
Clarence Ogle
New Book Publishing
c/o Reliance Media, Inc.
515 Cooper Commerce Drive, Suite 140
Apopka, FL 32703
9781939748140, $19.95, 440 pp,

Synopsis: "A Place in the Son: Fitly Joined Together in Love and Growing in Christ" is a guide to growing in Christ in harmony with other true believers. Readers are urged to examine their beliefs and their lives and surrender all to Christ. The God who is Love has a calling(s) and a place in the body of Christ for every unique person. The wonderful works of God are accomplished as believers obey the Head, Jesus Christ, and love and serve with their assigned partners in the body of Christ. "A Place in the Son" calls believers to press on, to step into the realm of the supernatural, and to enjoy daily fellowship and intimacy with God. Personal experiences and testimonies of God's faithfulness combine with the Word of God to inspire readers.

Critique: Author Clarence Ogle has a gift for swiftly engaging the reader's total attention with a style of commentary that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Solidly based upon a scriptural foundation, "A Place in the Son' is as inspired as it is inspiring. A feast of spirituality from beginning to end, enhanced with five appendices and extensive Source Notes, "A Place in the Son' is enthusiastically recommended reading for Christians of all denominational affiliations. It should be noted that "A Place in the Son" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

The Illegal
John Mort
Southeast Missouri State University Press
One University Plaza, MS 2650
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701
9780988310346, $15.00, 270 pp,

Synopsis: One hot night on the Rio Grande, a corrupt drug deal goes the wrong way. Police set themselves against soldiers, and soldiers die. Lieutenant Mario Oliveros should be among them, but he swims for his life to Langtry, Texas. Officially, he's a dead hero. Alive, in Mexico, he'd be dead soon enough. Through no fault of his own, he has become an illegal. Set in today's Mexico, Dallas, and the Texas Panhandle, The Illegal charts Mario's journey across desert and urban landscapes, seeking honest work and a place to rest. Slowly, an old dream--turned American Dream--asserts itself. But it's hard to dream when you're illegal. Current, prophetic, and often humorous, Mario's story brings a welcome, human dimension to the immigration debate. The Illegal is a fast-paced tale about one man's dangerous journey toward freedom.

Critique: A riveting thriller of a read, "The Illegal" clearly documents author John Mort's singular talents as a gifted novelist able to deftly craft memorable characters and chart an unpredictable storyline. Pure entertainment from beginning to end, "The Illegal" is highly recommended leisure reading and would make a popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections.

See A Little Light
Bob Mould
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781573449700, $16.95, 420 pp,

Synopsis: Bob Mould stormed into America's punk rock scene in 1979, when clubs across the country were filling with kids dressed in black leather and torn denim. And at its center, a new band out of Minnesota called Husker Du was bashing out songs and touring the country on no money, driven by the inspiration of guitarist and vocalist Bob Mould. In "See a Little Light", Mould tells his dramatic story for the first time. Revealing the struggles with his own homosexuality, the complexities of his intimate relationships, and his drug and alcohol addiction, Mould takes us on a whirlwind ride through achieving sobriety, his acclaimed solo career, creating the hit band Sugar, a surprising detour into the world of pro wrestling, and finally finding his place in the world.

Critique: Bob Mould's autobiography, "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody" is as candid and revealing as it is informatively authentic in describing the impact of punk rock on American popular music. Exceptionally well written and an inherently fascinating read, "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody" is especially recommended reading for anyone struggling with their own emerging sexuality, as well as punk rock music enthusiasts. "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody" would also be a highly appropriate addition to academic library American Biography and American Music History collections. It should be noted that "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody" is also available in both a hardcover (Little, Brown and Company, 9780316045087, $24.99) and a Kindle ($10.67) edition.

The Wife Of Jesus
Anthony Le Donne
OneWorld Publications
c/o 45th Parallel Communicatons
9781780743059, $25.00, 208pp,

Synopsis: The idea that Jesus was married goes back to the very beginnings of the Christian movement as evidences by such gnostic works of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. To continue to bolster this view today are such finds as Harvard Professor Karen King's recent discovery of the so called Gospel of Jesus' Wife - a piece of ancient papyrus that made the explosive suggestion in 2012 that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were man and wife. But most Christian theologians and historians who address the topic either dismiss the possibility or propound conspiracy theories, often of Christian origins.

Approaching the subject from a fresh, historical perspective and without appealing to sensationalist stories or dismissing Jesus' sexuality on theological grounds, Le Donne "The Wife Of Jesus" places Jesus firmly within his 1st Century Judaic sociocultural context. By investigating gender and marriage norms - as well as a number of social outliers who defied them - he provocatively argues that Jesus might have been married before he was thirty years of age. Le Donne then points to several indicators that suggest that Jesus was a sexual non-conformist and probably was single during his public career. It is a quest that illuminates the humanity of Jesus, while also revealing important connections between ancient sexuality and modern spirituality

Critique: An impressive work from beginning to end, "The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals" is a fascinating, informed, informative, and iconoclastic work that is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is well written and presented. Enhanced with extensive notes, an impressive nine page bibliography, and a reference index as well as a subject index, "The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals" is highly recommended reading and will make an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Christian Studies collections. It should be noted that "The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.75).

The Storied Ice
Joan N. Boothe
Regent Press
2747 Regent Street, Berkeley, CA 94705
9781587902246, $34.95, 373 pp,

Synopsis: ''The Storied Ice: Exploration, Discovery, and Adventure in Antarctica's Peninsula Region'' recounts mankind's dramatic history from Magellan through the first years of the twenty-first century in the part of the Antarctic regions below South America and the Atlantic Ocean. This part of the world, by far the most visited portion of the south polar regions, is not only a place of staggering scenic beauty and amazing wildlife, but also a locale with a long and fascinating human history. Several expeditions to Antarctica's Peninsula Region are well known, in particular, the amazing story of Ernest Shackleton's ''Endurance'' expedition. ''The Storied Ice'' dramatically retells that story, along with many other less familiar, but fascinating, adventures tales of early explorers, sealers, whalers, seven expeditions (including ''Endurance'') during Antarctica's 1897-1917 Heroic Age, pioneer aviators, and scientists. . . . All this is woven together into a coherent whole, placing the individually exciting tales in a historical context that breathes new life into even the best known of them. Abundant quotes from the explorers' accounts enrich the text, as do the nearly 100 illustrations and more than 30 maps. ''The Storied Ice'' is unique in the rich literature on Antarctica, the only modern comprehensive Antarctic history work that both focuses specifically on the historically exciting Antarctic Peninsula and tells its complete story.

Critique: Author Joan N. Boothe deftly draws upon her years of experience and expertise in visiting Antarctic many times ( including her making a 67-day circumnavigation of the entire Antarctic continent aboard an icebreaker ship) in "The Storied Ice". An exceptionally well written and chronologically presented history, "The Storied Ice" is enhanced with the inclusion of appendices that include an Antarctic Timeline; Antarctic Firsts; a Gloosary of Terms, Abbreviations, and Acronymns; an extensive listing of Sources and Notes; a roster of cited literature, and a comprehensive index, making it an ideal and highly recommended addition to community and academic library collections.

Searching for Philadelphia
David S. Traub
Camino Books, Inc.
PO Box 59026, Philadelphia, PA 19102
9781933822785, $24.95, 112 pp,

Synopsis: Searching for Philadelphia utilizes photographs to bring awareness of the many largely hidden and unexpected architectural treasures the city has to offer. Most of these would likely be missed except by the curious and alert pedestrian. The book is made up of seven distinct sections. In Alluring Entryways, memorable doors and portals are featured in various locations, including Pemberton, Smedley and Camac Streets. In Narrow Streets, one of Philadelphia s specialties walkable blocks practically inaccessible to car traffic is the principal subject. Included in this section are scenes showing Cypress, Delhi, Iseminger, Fitzwater, Addison, Irving, Jessup, Manning, Waverly, Bonsall and Quince Streets, as well as St. Mark s Square. In Walkways, small passages are given special attention, including St. Joseph s Way, the English Village, St. Alban s Place and Madison Square. In Hidden Courtyards, Philadelphia s architectural hideaways are showcased. These include Loxley, Addison, Bladen s, Bell s, Green s and Drinker s Courts, as well as picturesque Lantern Square. In Secret Gardens, some of the least known and most beautiful little verdant precincts are featured. Among others, the plots at Powell House, Physick House, the College of Physicians and the Society of Colonial Dames are wonderfully revealed. In Tiny Parks, recreational spaces both small and quaint are the focus. Included are sites ranging from Fitler Square, known by some, to places known by very few, such as Daniel Michaux Coxe Park, Bardascino Park and the Palmer Burial Ground. Finally, in Unnoticed Buildings, structures unique to Philadelphia are brought to light. These include two fine carriage houses, a Romanian Orthodox church, other intriguing Christian places of worship, a most unusual old shot tower, two notable synagogues from past and present, structures once housing a classic bank and firehouse, and residences only to be found in the Quaker City.

Critique: A master collection of black-and-white urban images, "Searching for Philadelphia: The Concealed City" is a truly impressive body of work and would well serve as a template for similar photographic projects of other cities elsewhere throughout the nation. "Searching for Philadelphia: The Concealed City" is an impressively thoughtful and thought-provoking collection of photos and is highly recommended browsing from beginning to end.

Crystal Ships
Richard Sharp
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492722922, $13.95, 374 pp,

Synopsis: A sweeping saga of American idealism and disillusionment, Richard Sharp's "Crystal Ships" traces the lives of seven friends through two decades of violence, hope, and social revolution. The heady days of the Kennedy administration, when Camelot appeared as a shining beacon of hope for all Americans, devolved over the next several years with riots, assassinations, drugs, gender conflicts, and the Vietnam War. Through it all, seven very different individuals live out their lives against the backdrop of these monumental events, unwittingly encapsulating the spirit of the time. From a youthful striver from Boston's Irish working class inspired by JFK, a Harvard-educated, would-be poet of the drug culture, and a dedicated Vietnam War volunteer, to an abused aspiring dancer and her repressed girlfriend, a conflicted housewife-career woman and a South African exchange student following the American dream - each individual carries the burden of the times.

Critique: Richard Sharp has a singular talent as a novelist with the ability to engage his readers into an a fictional world plucked from real-world headlines. The combination of deftly crafted characters immersed into a complexly woven story marks "Crystal Ships" as an extraordinarily entertaining read. Also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99), "Crystal Ships" is highly recommended for community library fiction collections.

The Call Of Cthulhu And Other Stories
H. P. Lovecraft, author
William Roberts, narrator
Naxos of America, Inc.
1810 Columbia Avenue, Suite 28
Franklin, TN 37064
9781843794257, $28.99,

Howard Phillips "H. P." Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 - March 15, 1937) was an American author who achieved posthumous fame through his influential works of horror fiction. Virtually unknown and only published in 'pulp' magazines before he died in poverty, he is now widely seen as one of the most significant 20th century authors in his genre.

Lovecraft in early adulthood was established in a reclusive 'nightbird' lifestyle without occupation or pursuit of romantic adventures. In 1913 his conduct of a long running controversy in the letters page of a story magazine led to him being invited to participate in an amateur journalism association. Encouraged, he started circulating his stories; he was 31 at the time of his first publication in a professional magazine. Lovecraft contracted a marriage to an older woman he had met at an association conference. By thirty-four years old he was a regular contributor to newly founded Weird Tales magazine; he turned down an offer of the editorship.

Lovecraft returned to Providence in 1926, and over the next nine months he produced some of his most celebrated tales including "The Call of Cthulhu", canonical to the Cthulhu Mythos. Never able to support himself from earnings as author and editor, commercial success increasingly eluded him in this latter period, partly because he lacked the confidence and drive to promote himself. Lovecraft subsisted in progressively straitened circumstances in his last years; an inheritance was completely spent by the time he passed away at the age of 46.

Superbly narrated by William Roberts, "The Call Of Cthulhu And Other Stories" showcases unabridged presentations for four of Lovecraft's most iconic stories: The Call of Cthulhu; The House; The Dunwich Horror, and Dragon. With its flawless production values, this four CD audio book edition from Naxos of America provides the listener with a true 'theatre of the mind' experience with respect to these dark and mythic fantasies with their impressive emotional impact. Highly recommended, especially for the legions of H. P. Lovecraft fans, "The Call Of Cthulhu And Other Stories" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library audio book collections.

Jack Mason

Richard's Bookshelf

40 Days to Fit and Fabulous with Praise Moves
Laurette Willis
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442205, $24.99, 256 pages

A 40 Day Adventure through Faith to Fitness

40 Days to Fit and Fabulous with Praise Moves includes a Morning and Evening Devotional plan that combines "Praise Moves" created by Christian fitness facilitator Laurette Willis with a devotional guide book. Each day's devotional includes a theme verse, a daily Bible reading, a brief devotional challenge, and a section for recording personal plans and action steps in response to contemplative insights discovered.

The DVD takes the participant through a series of easy to follow instructions for both Morning and evening workouts incorporating praise moves, stretching postures, and highly motivating devotional thoughts; resulting in refreshing, emotional peace, spiritual renewal, and physical restoration. Beautiful background scenery adds an additional dimension to the calming effect of the body, soul, and spirit.

Willis has an uncanny giftedness for drawing the reader into taking that first step of "launching out into the deep" in connection with God's purpose and presence. Her fitness tips offer practical suggestions for saving time, food preparation, healthy exercise, and reducing stress.

40 Days to Fit and Fabulous with Praise Moves combines faith and fitness to "super-charge" your spiritual life and your relationship with the Lord. Laurette Williams provides a blueprint for a new generation of Christians desirous of a focus on balancing physical fitness with spiritual wellbeing.

A complimentary review copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

A Road Unknown by Barbara Cameron
Abingdon Press
P. O. Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426740596, $14.99, 294 pages,

Caught at a Crossroads - Choices, Consequences, Conscience, and Self-Discovery

Award winning author Barbara Cameron introduces Elizabeth Bontrager in her book "A Road Unknown," the first in the new "Amish Road" series of novels, based on the traditions of the Amish. Elizabeth is at a crossroad. The practices of her faith allow for a "rumschpringe" an opportunity to live outside of the protection of the community for a time before embracing the Amish way of life and joining the church.

Unsettled at home and responsible for the caring of her younger siblings, Elizabeth opts to join her friend Paula in Paradise, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth's physical attractiveness, simple innocence, curious nature, polite manners, shyness, and spiritual inner beauty are quickly noticed by Paula's friend Bruce, and by Saul Miller, the supervisor who helped her get a job at a store selling Amish products in the local community.

As the two young competitors vie for her attention Elizabeth is faced with uncertainty, and feelings of ambivalence; she realizes Bruce is looking for more than friendship while her feelings toward Saul are deepening. She is also experiencing an overwhelming sense of homesickness. She is again at a crossroads. She now has another choice to make; to pursue making a life for herself in Paradise with the possibility of romance or to return to the love and responsibility of the family and a commitment to the church.

Cameron brilliantly uses the dialog in the development a strong character driven plot. Her characters become three dimensional as they show growth in self-awareness, work through conflict resolution, and a commitment to deeply engrained spiritual convictions.

"A Road Unknown" is written for anyone who is working through the uncertainties of relationships, life's circumstances, and the conflicts that arise while reexamining inner convictions and matters of faith, family, and destiny. Cameron's writing is provocative, soul-searching, and inspirational without losing the heartwarming entertainment value of well written fiction.

Walking in Supernatural Healing Power
Chris Gore
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442427, $15.99, 144 pages

Powerful Testimonies of God's Healing Power

Walking in Supernatural Healing Power is a source of inspiration and encouragement, a refreshing message of partnering with God in his miraculous power, in the midst of a world filled with misery, pain, sorrow, and heartache. Chris Gore captures the essence of the difference between "working for God's love," and "working from God's love."

Chris Gore is clearly a practitioner of the message he preaches. He tackles tough questions head on, models important core values of the scriptures, and demonstrates a passion for God and a heart for ministry through his writing. The testimonies and stories he shares are inspirational, instructional, and often related in an humorous and entertaining manner. His own personal testimony is woven throughout the book, and helps the reader understand his reliance on the nature of the character of God, his love, goodness, grace, power, and majesty, as the source behind his healing ministry.

The story of his daughter Hope is a reminder that God's love is bigger than our circumstances or of our understanding; it is this love that empowers us by grace, through thanksgiving and humility to see the incredible power God working through us.

Walking in Supernatural Healing Power is an incredible reminder that every Christian is walking with untapped healing power within - through the power of the indwelling Christ.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Live Free: Discover the Keys to Living in God's Presence 24/ 7
Dennis Clark and Jen Clark
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442410, $14.99, 154 pages

God Given Tools for a Lifestyle Change - Forgiveness and Freedom

Pastor Dennis and Dr. Jen Clark demystify what it means to experience freedom through intimacy with God in their book, Live Free: Discover the Keys to Living in God's Presence 24/ 7. The book details systematic, proven tools, with easy to understand step by step instruction for embracing in everyday life to find freedom from mental strongholds, negative emotions, and deliverance from spiritual bondage.

Exciting testimonies and personal stories tell of people who have implemented the author's powerful "God tools" to discover "the reality of God and the treasures of the spirit." They have moved into freedom in areas of spiritual and physical health, and have found new purpose in life. Through intentional prayers for forgiveness, and adapting a process of supernatural thought transformation, choices, and feelings involving, body, soul, and spirit they have found freedom. They have exchanged bitterness, brokenness, and unforgiveness, for joy, peace, and abundant life as a new norm.

Live Free: Discover the Keys to Living in God's Presence 24/ 7 is written with clarity. The keys are helpful for a new generation of followers of Jesus and ideal as a training resource for mature Christians in mentoring and in discipleship training.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Supernatural Favor - Living in God's Abundant Supply
Kynan Bridges
Destiny Image, Inc. Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442403, $ 15.99, 174 pages

Set Apart By the Favor of God

It is refreshing to find an author who captures a truth and application from scripture in its historical setting and then translates this truth with such a profound relevance for today's reader. Kynan Bridges does just that in Supernatural Favor - Living in God's Abundant Supply.

Each chapter includes a spiritual truth to embrace, solid Biblical teaching, contemporary illustrations which reinforce these principles, a practical application, and a powerful "Favor Declaration." I gained new insight on discernment and the covenant promise from the life of Abraham, about the birthright from the life of Jacob, as well keys for experiencing God's blessings from the testimonies of contemporary Christians who tell of God's favor on their lives.

Bridges writes with clarity and simplicity with a message that comes from his heart; evidenced by openness as he relates stories of his childhood, his own spiritual journey, and stories from his family life, in candid humility.

Supernatural Favor - Living in God's Abundant Supply is written for anyone willing to be set apart to experience new levels of God's faithfulness and His abundant blessing in every area of their lives. Beautifully written, powerful content, with a transformative message. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Maker's Diet Revolution - The Ten Day Diet to Lose Weight and Detoxify Your Body, Mind, and Spirit
Jordan Rubin
Destiny Image Publishers
Inc., P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442281, $21.99, 270 pages

Biblical Principles, Natural Foods, and an Objective Plan for Living Beyond Organic

Bestselling author Jordan Rubin uses a combination of Biblical insight and scientific findings in his latest work. The Maker's Diet Revolution is a treasure-trove of valuable data regarding digestive diseases, stress related issues, allergies, toxic cleansing, and chronic fatigue.

Rubin relates his own battle with Crone's disease as at age nineteen. This story also tells of his discovery of an eating plan that led to what became called the "Maker's Diet." As a result of the success of this life giving alternative food plan, Rubin made a commitment to "transform the health of this nation and world one life at a time." This has become his life mission.

The book is filled with health tips, food lists, sample eating plans, including tips for shopping and for dining out. Rubin also includes a sampling of balanced menus and recipes based on "Maker's Diet Meals." Throughout the book he calls attention to other diets, resources available and natural alternatives, including Garden of Life products.

I found the "revolutionary results" testimonies to be strong motivators. Rubin's writing is informative, interesting, entertaining, and highly motivational. . I plan to resume my journey to health and wellness

The Maker's Diet Revolution - The Ten Day Diet to Lose Weight and Detoxify Your Body, Mind, and Spirit is written for anyone who wants to improve their health or someone looking for a healthy effective short term plan to lose weight, or to begin a program designed for healthier living.

The Glory Within: The Interior Life and the Power of Speaking in Tongues
Study Guide
Corey Russell
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442557, $10.99, 190 pages

Companion Guide to The Glory Within DVD Curriculum Series

The Glory Within: The Interior Life and the Power of Speaking in Tongues
Study Guide is designed to be used as a participant's guide with the DVD Curriculum based on Corey Russell's book by the same title.

The study guide corresponds to the eight sessions of the video curriculum. Each lesson opens with a "fill in the blanks" page for use during the video session; it becomes an outline of the material covered in the lesson with room for the participant's personal notes.

Five daily readings are included for each week for study; for reflection, and reinforcement of the material discussed on the video. A "Glorious Reality" focus statement precedes the daily discussion questions. These questions offer the participant a chance to integrate the daily scripture and reading personally as well as an opportunity to journal these thoughts. An affirmative prayer is provided for initiation of a personal conversation with the Holy Spirit.

The Glory Within curriculum is a first-rate tool for sharpening your spiritual senses, accessing the Holy Spirit for equipping you for spiritual warfare, deepening your intimacy God, and your passion for Jesus.

A review copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Who's Your Father? Returning to the Love of the Biblical God
Robert Bernecker
Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781482068382, $9.99, 228 pages,

A Masterful Presentation of God's Divine Sovereignty

Who's Your Father? Returning to the Love of the Biblical God by Robert Bernecker is a masterful presentation of God's divine sovereignty. Bernecker carefully considers major misconceptions about God's providence, man's responsibility, free will, and the doctrines of predestination, election, perseverance and foreknowledge.

Bernecker's writing combines the thoughtful analysis of a judicious theologian with the passionate heart of a pastor. He is persuasive and authoritative; his writing is balanced, Biblically sound, and worthy of note. He is a master at exegesis; as well as able to skillful in presenting practical application, devotional inspiration and motivation. He is meticulous in the documentation of his exhaustive research and is a devoted student of historical theology.

Writings from noted Theologians, including: Albert Barnes, J. I. Packer, Adam Clarke, John Wesley, C. H. Spurgeon, A. W. Tozer, A.W. Pink, and many others reinforce Bernecker's conclusions. It is Bernecker's desire that the reader will experience God's love with a deeper understanding, be transformed in their relationship with Him, and cause them to reexamine their doctrinal biases.

Who's Your Father? Returning to the Love of the Biblical God is worthy of careful reading and additional study. The format and approach of the material give the book added value for adaptation for small group study, adult church Bible classes, for inclusion on suggested reading lists and as curriculum for foundational courses in Bible Colleges.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Glory Within, DVD
Corey Russell
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442540, $39.99, 2 Videos

A Noteworthy Video Curriculum Series on the Foundational Teaching of Salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Inner Life and Speaking in Tongues

The Glory Within DVD Curriculum series is based on Corey Russell's book The Glory Within, The Interior Life and the Power of Speaking in Tongues. The kit includes two DVDs containing a total of 8 sessions, designed to be completed over an eight week period.

An accompanying "Leader's Guide" provides step by step suggestions for implementing the series. A leader checklist, an overview of the sessions, and additional detailed guidelines for each of the eight lessons guide and are designed to insure the success of the program.

Corey Russell staff member of the Kansas City International House of Prayer Ministry team and author of the book The Glory Within is the each of the sessions before a live audience. Russell is personal, genuine, and candid. He is dynamic and convincing in his presentation. He lays a Biblical foundation; beginning with the Gospel message, the person of the Holy Spirit and the benefits of tongues as a prayer language.

In a logical progression he helps the participant discover:

A deeper intimacy with God and a new passion for Jesus

How to prayer more confidently

How to prepare for victory in spiritual battle

The Glory Within DVD Curriculum is ideal for use in, church classes, as Sunday school curriculum, as well as small group or individual study. The curriculum is an important resource tool for Charismatic churches and Bible School. Non charismatic Evangelical, Mainline Denomination, and Independent churches will find the series and excellent tool for creating awareness and unity among believers: ultimately strengthening the witness of the Christian Church worldwide.

A complimentary review copy of this product was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

The Four Seasons of Patrick
Susan Hughes
Red Deer Press
195 Allstate Parkway, Markham, Ontario L3R 4T8 Canada
9780889955059, $9.95, 80 pgs,

In this moving story we meet, Patrick, a nine year old boy who lives with his older brother and his dad. Patrick's mother has passed away and as time moves on, his father finds a lady who he would like to marry. Patrick does not want to open his heart to her or her daughter. He feels smothered as they move into his life and his house. Patrick decides he needs to build a tree house to have a place of his own, but what happens when Patrick sees that his new little step-sister is feeling the same way he is? Does he turn away from her hurt, or open his heart?

I really enjoyed this read. It was a short story but our author, Susan Hughes, took us straight into the very soul of young Patrick and what he was going through. This story touches on the emotions that children feel when a new person comes into the family. The fear of them replacing the one they loved, the fear of being outcast themselves, and losing the one who remains, and the fear that their entire lives will change, and not for the good.

However, our author touches on something we may all not realize is going on in a young person's heart. The feeling of being smothered, having no place that is truly theirs, a place where they can release whatever it is they need to release. In this story she shows how one young boy took care of this fear, and ended up sharing it with a little girl who needed exactly what he had to give. Excellent read. Recommended.

Mark Mcclelland
Independently Published
c/o Sandpiper Publicity
223 Zinfandel Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448
9781300335610, $17.00, 277 pgs,

I was quite interested in reading this book. It is the story of a man, wrapped in some serious problem, trying to escape into a new life. However, this life is not what you would assume it to be. How abut uploading your consciousness into a computer? sound farfetched? Maybe not. There is more going on in this world of ours than people know or understand.

This is a well written book. It has a great storyline, wrapped with some mystery and an open door to perhaps the future of mankind, or is it the now?. You will have to ask yourself. Could this be done? Is it being done now? What are the consequences? The characters are very well defined, taking you from layer to layer in this read . Interesting, and definitely will leave you wondering just how much has man accomplished that we do not know?

The Hanging Tree
Michael Phillip Cash
Red Feather Publishing
133 Steep Mountain Ct., Livermore, CO 80536
9781492274513 $19.95, 75 pgs,

In this read we meet, Arielle, a seventeen year old girl whose boyfriend wants to take her virginity. He takes her to a park like area and they sit under what is called, The Hanging Tree. He hopes it will be there that he can woe her into giving him what he wants. Little is it known to them that there are spirits in this tree because of a curse put on them a long time ago. Do these spirits help or hinder Arielle's decision and her future?

I liked this book, it was a short read but was packed full of interesting happenings and stories of the spirits who lived in the tree. Your a little bit in suspense, not knowing if they are very evil and will end up hurting Arielle or helping her. I found their stories quite interesting and also liked the way the author brought Arielle's father into the picture. He definitely brought the characters to life.

Now! What was Arielle's final decision? Did the spirits harm her with evil or help her just when she needed their help? Aw! Sorry, Not telling. -- Great little book. Recommended.

The Hanging Tree
Michael Phillip Cash
Red Feather Publishing
133 Steep Mountain Ct., Livermore, CO 80536
9781492274513, $19.95, 75 pgs,

In this read we meet, Arielle, a seventeen year old girl whose boyfriend wants to take her virginity. He takes her to a park area and they sit under what is called, The Hanging Tree. He hopes it will be there that he can woe her into giving him what he wants. Little is it known to them that there are spirits in this tree because of a curse put on them a long time ago. Do these spirits help or hinder Arielle's decision and her future?

I liked this book, it was a short read but was packed full of interesting happenings and stories of the spirits who lived in the tree. Your a little bit in suspense, not knowing if they are very evil and will end up hurting Arielle or helping her. I found their stories quite interesting and also liked the way the author brought Arielle's father into the picture. Our author definitely brought the characters to life.

Now! What was Arielle's final decision with her boyfriend? Did the spirits harm her with evil or help her just when she needed their help? Aw! Sorry, Not telling.
Great little book. Recommended.

The Facebook Diet
Gemini Adams
Live Consciously Publishing, Ltd.
97809554665635, $9.99, 146 pgs,

I wasn't quite sure what I would find in this read when I was asked to review it. I knew a book with the title "The Facebook Diet: 50 Funny Signs of Facebook Addiction and Ways to Unplug with a Digital Detox" had to be good, and I was not disappointed. First let me say that the illustrations used to convey the words being read are gems. They definitely bring to life the scrip and I have to say at times I giggled more over them than what I read.

Alright, what is this book about? Facebook, and all of us participants that daily get our 'hit' of Facebook humor, drama, and friendship at least once a day. The book is written as a wakeup call to so many of us who are addicted to our daily shot of Facebook. I thought, could this be me? Hum! I'm not going to tell. However, I will say I cringed a little when I read the one statement, "You check in wherever you go!" Okay, yes I do! So, does that mean I'm addicted? Anyway, I really loved this book. It could definitely open all of our eyes to just how addicted we are to Facebook, but will we listen? Probably not, but this read will definitely give you something to think about, at least for the time you are reading it. Great read. Recommended.

Martin Swans Diary
Kyle Keyes
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781456503796, $19.95, 301 pgs,

In this quick paced adventure of a read we meet, Martin Swan. Martin is working undercover for the Government to help stop a terrorist attack on our country. The problem is, he needs a wife to complete his cover. He finds a lady, Jodie, he feels would be perfect., since she just lost her husband and all! One small problem, she does have a child whom they must leave with his aunt, who isn't quite sure is her sister should trust this man, maybe he is a killer? Jody is not overly keen over the entire situation she is in, and really isn't totally convinced that Martin is working for the government, but considering the situation, he's the best bet she has to survive for now. After all, her husbands family is after her to kill her, and take her child away,what's a woman to do?

Sound interesting yet? Trust me, we haven't even cut through the crust of this great tale. I have to say I am impressed with this book. It has adventure, crazy characters, and a really good storyline. I actually didn't want to put it down once I got started on the read. I'm confident to say that you don't want to miss this one. I'm hoping they'll make a movie of it one day, yes, it's that good. Recommended. Well done, Mr. Keyes. well done.

Poppy and the Fat Puppy
Eil Jay
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478700036, $19.95, 40 pgs,

Poppy, a little green balloon, is out and abut, making a stop at the park where he meets a fat little puppy. This poor little puppy is depressed and not feeling well. Poppy decides to help him by teaching him how to be healthy and happy. Does he succeed?

This is a very adorable book. The author was wise to use two things that all children love, a balloon and a puppy to bring forth their life lesson. A child will learn about proper eating and exercise and friendship by hearing the story of Poppy helping the sad little puppy. The story has a happy victorious ending that is sure to make a child smile. Nice read.

Shirley Priscilla Johnson
Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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