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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 6, Number 7 July 2007 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf
Laurel's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf
Taylor's Bookshelf Vicki's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Basic Baby Food Cookbook
Julianne Hood
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781425960674, $12.99 1-800-839-8640

"The Basic Baby Food Cookbook" by Julianne Hood offers concerned parents wanting the very best, healthiest, freshest, flavorful, yet inexpensive nutrition for their infant or toddler a series of do-it-yourself, step-by-step instructions for making baby food in their own home kitchen. After explaining just how to get started with making baby food, "The Basic Baby Food Cookbook" offers an especially useful (and user friendly) chapter on how to steam, process, strain and freeze. The recipes themselves are then organized around age groupings: Four to Six Month; Six to Ten Months; and Ten to Twenty Months. "The Basic Baby Food Cookbook" is further enhanced with sections on Menu Planning and 'Tips for Travel'. From Banana Cream of Rice Cereal; Mango Yogurt; and Butternut Squash Barley; to Peas-n-Carrots Cottage Cheese; Scrambled Egg with Diced Tofu; and Ham Mac-n-Cheese, "The Basic Baby Food Cookbook" offers 'kid friendly' dishes that are easy to prepare and so completely superior to anything coming out of a Gerber's bottle from the grocery store!

Raising an Adult
Mark L. Brenner, MFT
BrenMark House
1333 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
9780970876645, $30.00

Written by licensed marriage and family therapist Mark L. Brenner, Raising an Adult: The 4 Critical Habits to Prepare Your Child for Life! is a solid guide for parents to helping children grow up psychologically well-adjusted. The four important critical habits to ingrain while parenting are learning to acknowledge the moment, speak with respect, enforce limits, and show an unrelenting and deep belief in one's child. Additional chapters cover common motivations for misbehavior, how to change a negative self-image, an overview of social development concerns, how to break negative parenting habits and shift one's mindset, and much more. "When disturbing and angry outbursts occur, and when it is practical, remove the child from the situation immediately and calmly. It is difficult to calm a child down in front of strangers or other family members. This only embarrasses and humiliates the child, and upsets your other children as well." Highly recommended for parents everywhere.

Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully
Nancy Manahan & Becky Bohan
Beaver's Pond Press
7104 Ohms Lane, Suite 216, Edina, MN 55439
9781592981793, $17.00 1-952-829-8818

Living Consciously Dying Gracefully: A Journey With Cancer and Beyond is a memoir reminiscing about and paying tribute to nursing professor Diane Manahan, a courageous, warm and loving woman. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she chose to blend complementary therapies and orthodox cancer treatments, and she lived a full and vibrant life for five and a half years until her death. Written by Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan, life-partners who were both graced to know Diane, Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully isn't just about illness and death, but also life and spirituality. A heart-touching journey, and uplifting inspirational resource for anyone going through life-or-death trials or witnessing such challenges visited upon a loved one.

A Very Very Beginner's Guide To Using Computers
Kara Glover
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780615140506, $19.95

"A Very Very Beginner's Guide To Using Computers" by Kara Glover is specifically designed and deftly presented for those who have virtually no previous experience with computers and scarcely even know how to turn one on. Indeed, the first chapter of step-by-step instructions is on how to turn a computer on and off! Kara then goes on to provide 'user friendly' instructions on how to access and navigate the web using Internet Explorer and AOL. Of special note are the tips about visiting at websites. Kara then covers bookmarking websites. The final section of instruction and advice is dedicated to using email beginning with registering for an email address, then moving on to reading email, writing and sending email, replying to email, forwarding email, attaching files and pictures to email, downloading an email attachment, and more. Also addressed is Microsoft Word work processing software basics, Microsoft Excel spreadsheet software. Kara then concludes with a section dedicated to keeping a PC safe from cyberspace attacks. "A Very Very Beginner's Guide To Using Computers" is an ideal introduction to computer basics and confidently recommended as a thoroughly 'user friendly' self-instruction manual for anyone unfamiliar with computers.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

Einstein's Design
David Jackson
Trafford Publishing
2333 Government Street, Suite 6E, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8T 4P4
1425103456, $22.00 1-888-232-4444

"Einstein's Design" is the debut novel of David Jackson and clearly documents his talent as an original and 'word skilled' crafted of riveting mystery and suspense. The plot centers around the discovery of a twenty-five year old secret embedded in an inbred relationship between elements of the bloody-handed Ku Klux Klan and certain radical Christian fundamentalists in Wichita, Kansas. The target of this infamous cabal is a condemnation of rational, scientific theory about the creation of the cosmos developed by Albert Einstein and Dr. Bhartiya Bharti concerning pre-Big Bang existence and the concept of God. These fundamentalist and racist forces are behind a brutal assault of Dr. Bharti's granddaughter Kamala when she, as a Professor of Physics at Friends University, because of her criticisms of certain Christian religious beliefs. A gripping and deftly written work of fiction based on the relationship and the struggle between science and religion, "Einstein's Design" lays out just how religious extremists can and will divide their communities (and a nation) into competing factions and groups resulting in the attempt of suppression by violence dissenting opinions and those who hold them. Very highly recommended reading, "Einstein's Design" from beginning to end is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is entertaining, leading the reader to look forward eagerly toward the author's next novel!

Constant Bearing - Decreasing Range
Skip Vogel
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419651458, $20.99

Written by 20-year Navy veteran Skip Vogel, Constant Bearing - Decreasing Range: The Collision of Public Policy and National Defense is a novel based on true-life ramifications of President Lyndon Johnson's ill-advised choice to swell the American military's ranks by allowing freshly convicted criminals to join. The result was a souring of the nation's armed forces; the misfits and felons that entered its ranks proved difficult to integrate and sometimes became the nation's worst enemy. Constant Bearing - Decreasing Range also focuses upon the personal story of one high-risk sailor named Sam, as the military strives to shape him into a true soldier without jeopardizing the success of its missions. A captivating, action-packed read with insights about the dangers of lowering military recruitment standards too low that are immediately relevant in today's modern age.

Patricia Averill
Xlibris Corporation
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781425712143, $22.94

Written by history scholar Patricia Averill, Cameron: Family, Technology and Religion in a Rust Belt Town as Seen by Averills, Nasons, McCormicks, and Others Who Passed Through is the true story of a Michigan town that originated in the 1820's, enjoyed the leisurely procession of a traditional local history common to Midwestern towns up through the 1950's, then endured a catastrophic decline when its industrial economy soured. Cameron traces both plant closings and members of the class of 1962 as they responded to changes within the town as well as elsewhere in the country. Blending the meticulous accuracy of a historical research project with the pacing of a novel, Cameron is absorbing to read in its own right yet also a superb microcosm and portrait of the hardships of economic blight, as well as racial, ethnic, and religious tensions. A heartbreaking yet indispensable case study of those who suffered from America's deindustrialization.

Comrades in Courage: The British Army in France and Flanders, 1914-1918
B. Cory Kilvert Jr.
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419657801, $18.99

Comrades in Courage, The British Army in France and Flanders, 1914-1918 is a visceral immersion of the British Army's harrowing experience in France and Flanders during World War I (though a few Canadian, American, French, and German soldiers are spoken of). Drawing heavily from non-copyrighted British regimental, brigade, and divisional histories (though usually paraphrasing their wording), Comrades in Courage presents a chillingly clear image of life in the trenches, without creature comforts, enduring nearly constant rain, poison gas attacks, enemy bombardments that could last for days, and the threat of injury or death at any moment. An eclectic variety of tales from those who served under such nightmare conditions induce the reader to understand the bonds, loyalties, and sacrifices of those who put their lives on the line. A respectful and welcome addition to military testimony shelves.

Michael Dunford

Klausner's Bookshelf

Let's Misbehave
Lisa Plumley
9780821780527 $6.99

After years of partying, the only skill Marisol Winston has is how to spend money. However, she decides to change her image so she asks her usually compliant daddy to invest in her opening of a Los Angeles deluxe boutique. Her father offers his beloved but wastrel offspring the capital if she meets his stipulation of checking into shopaholic rehab clinic in the Arizona desert. Marisol readily agrees figuring how hard can it be to go "designer-less" for a couple of weeks; millions do it their whole lives?

However, after weeks of shopping detox, part of rehab calls for real work. Marissol is assigned as a housekeeper where she is to take charge of an alien species, three preadolescent children. To her surprise she finds herself attracted to this anti-designer species and even more shocking the always soiled six year old triplets seem to like her. Even more so she desires their dad, quarterback Cash Connelly who has thrown a Hail Mary pass back to the pros, but needs a nanny to watch the kids although he keeps fantasizing the out of place newcomer will spend quality time alone sacking him.

This is an amusing contemporary romance starring a spoiled but likable female and a hunk in need of a practical nanny. The triplets become matchmakers between the unlikely pair. Thus havoc is the norm as readers will enjoy this humorous lighthearted desert frolic due to the strong characterizations.

The Broken Shore
Peter Temple
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
19 Union Square West
New York, NY 10003
0374116938 $25.00 1-888-330-8477

Former Victoria Police Detective Joe Cashin almost died during a homicide investigation. As he physically heals, he mentally is no longer the confident sleuth he had been. He quits the metropolis force and returns home to be a rural cop in South Australia.

His quiet job reverts back to his previous work when local millionaire Charles Bourgoyne is beaten to death. The evidence points towards three Aboriginal teen males who were pawning the elderly victim’s watch. However, the cops end up killing two of the boys. To Joe’s shock, the department says case closed on the three deaths. Unable to let it go Joe investigates unofficially only to be buried in the slime of child pornography and sexual abuse.

THE BROKEN SHORE uses a relatively easily solved murder to provide readers with a deep look at social class in Australia. The story line is filled with plausible twists and turns as Joe cannot back off from learning the truth about the Bourgoyne murder, the official homicide investigation, and the inquiry into the sue of force. Police procedural fans will want to read this strong mystery that brings to life rural Australia.

Safe Harbor
Christine Feehan
Jove Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0515143189 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

Mendocino County Sheriff Jonas Harrington takes a bullet when he finds himself in the middle of a Russian Mafia hit. His childhood archenemy supermodel Hannah Drake uses her paranormal skill to control the wind by calling up its force to save his life.

However soon after rescuing the sheriff, Hannah is brutally attacked and left to die. Ilya Parkenskii keeps her barely alive waiting for the Drake sisters, powerful witches to arrive to save their sibling’s life. Meanwhile a stunned Jonas stops running from his attraction to Hannah, vowing to not only keep her safe if her siblings miraculously save her life; he swears he will hunt down her adversary, not understanding what he has vowed to defeat.

Readers who have followed the previous tales of the seven Drake sisters (see OCEANS OF FIRE AND THE TWILIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS) know that the lead couple has been bickering nonstop since they met as children and continue in this paranormal romance until danger stalks Hannah. The story line is action-packed and like the previous sibling thrillers over the top yet the support cast keeps the plot focused. Christine Feehan provides a bewitching Drake thriller starring the pair fans have waited for.

The Hanging Mountains
Sean Williams
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
1591025443 $25.00 1-800-421-0351

Thousands of years after the Cataclysm eradicated civilization, Sky Warden Marmion reluctantly detours from his prime mission to uncover the source of the flood that apparently rose out of the Divide that splits the Earth. Instead frustratingly, he and his traveling compatriots are stuck in a forest trying to prevent war between the Milang human foresters and the Panic beasts.

Meanwhile the twins Hadrian and Seth continue to occupy the same body that of a Homunculus. They, tracker Habryn Kail and others flee the rising waters that inundate the land near the Divide hoping to find some safety in the legendary balloon cities of the Hanging Mountains. Sal and his companions on a ship of bones pursue them even as the siblings and Habryn begin to realize there is an unknown force at work trying to deliberately bring forth a second Cataclysm; evidence mounts that the original apocalyptic pandemic was caused by Homunculus so that Hadrian, Seth and Habryn wonder if they are the source again.

The third tale in the second saga is a well written entry that in one exciting (in of itself) subplot moves the overall chronicle glacially sideways (Marmion’s tale) while the other prime adventure (the twins’ tale) moves closer to the final confrontation though it also contains an entertaining unneeded “debate”. Still fans of the series will enjoy this volume (newcomers need to pursue at least the previous two novels if not the first series too) as Sean Williams sets in motion the final confrontation in the upcoming book four.

The Dark River
John Twelve Hawks
Doubleday & Company
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0385514298 $24.95 1-800-726-0600

Both Michael and Gabriel Corrigan are Travelers able to send their consciousness into other realms and when they returned from their journey, they had visions and information to change the world. Throughout time they were opposed by the Brethren who systemically hunted down in order to maintain the status quo. The Brethren are an uber-Big Brother who want to establish an invisible prison where all are spied upon, their every moment known. Various computerized information systems flow from the Vast Machine.

The Brethren are going to implement the next advanced monitoring program in Berlin and they know when it proves successful it will spread to all Germany and the rest of Europe. Michael has allied himself with the Brethren wanting the power they possess while Gabriel is on a collision cause with him because he his mission is to stop the Brethren from making the world an invisible prison with no freedom or human rights. Travelers always are by the ultimate fighting machine the Harlequin and Gabriel is guarded by Maya. Both brothers discover their father a powerful Traveler is alive and both get to find him. Gabriel become lost in one of the realms called Hell and Maya must risk everything in the hopes she can find and bring him home knowing she might be stranded in a word without hope or love.

Sometime in the future, computer technology will be so advanced that spying and monitoring everyone in the whole world will be commonplace. Those that persist against the technological imprisonment like, Gabriel, the Harlequins and the people that they persuade to go into battle with them are heroes as they are a very tiny minority willing to enter hell for their heavenly cause. Most people rather have their freedom curtailed to remain safe from terrorism. Michael isn’t the typical villain because he has some redeeming qualities and it wouldn’t surprise readers to feel he is more like us than his brother. This Orwellian tale is plausible and frightening built off of today’s anti terrorism practices in environs in which current technology has continued its rapid evolution.

Geneva Holliday
Broadway Books (Doubleday)
076792116X $12.95

In New York, two hundred thirty pounds waitress Geneva feels pulled in two directions due to her excess weight. Her six-year-old daughter makes her feel obese but her younger lover Deeka the hunk thinks big is beautiful.

Crystal makes good money as the director of a not for profit corporation. However, she misses her significant other, Neville who lives in Antigua working as a gigolo. Her fear for her figure makes her drown in diet pills as she wants to successfully compete with all the females Neville charms

The debt collectors swarm over Chevy tying her paycheck up with remittances. She has saved some money by living in her friend’s home, but a nasty fight with Noah ends that arrangement. Worse she is falling in love with a former convict who is struggling as much as she is.

Noah feels bad about his spat with his pal Chevy, but has problems with his girlfriend who wants them to have a child, but rejects anything Noah says on the topic. He begins to look elsewhere especially when his past resurfaces.

This is an interesting look at four New York singles who use sex to escape everyday living, but allowing their libido to rule their respective lives leads to major mistakes. Although at times it can become confusing who is talking as the plot is rotating first person at times without warning, fans will enjoy this close bite of the Big Apple. The support cast adds eccentricity to the tale, but it is the HEAT generated by the fearsome foursome that keeps the fun story line moving.

Liz Maverick
Dorchester Shomi
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0505527243 $6.99 1-800-481-9191

L. Roxanne Zaborovsky is graduating college, but does not plan to attend the ceremony. Instead before her interview, she heads to the neighborhood 7-Eleven, thinking nothing could happen to her on such a short walk; although she repeats that mantra several times trying to keep the panic at bay as her lack of memory of key events and people frightens her.

Suddenly two men come out of nowhere with one shouting at the other she is mine and the second one saying au contraire. As Leonardo Kaysar and Mason Merrick argue with one another over Roxy, she is ready for flight not fight. Still she knows they want something from her but Roxy is confused as she is not sure what and because Mason seems familiar yet unfamiliar as if they shared an attraction and more. She learns she is a player and so are they in a game of life in which fate is a zillion wires that crisscross, but though she feels she once loved Mason and may still she believes he will do anything to win including harming her. However, this time Roxy understands more than the apparent myriad of previous times with these two competing punks; she plans to change the rules although she has no idea how or if successful what that will do to her and the two male hunks sniffing at her.

This is a terrific science fiction thriller that readers will be WIRED into one sitting as “reality” consistently shifts depending on who controls the threads of time and place. Fans will cheer on Roxy as she begins to comprehend the rules of the game in which there are none except whatever the rivals Leonardo and Mason separately decide as they manipulate everything and everyone with Roxy their current expendable game pawn. However, she plans to become lean and mean kicking butt. Liz Maverick provides a strong tale told by her heroine.

The Chosen of Azar
Carol Kluz
WestBank Books
4408 Bayou Des Familles,Marrero, LA 70072
0978984005 $14.95

Azar the all powerful chooses a teen quintet to save Haven’s Hold from the fearsome fivesome of his evil brother Condragon. The all mighty knows his young warriors have quite a task ahead of them so he assigns wizard Mo Demz, the hero of the Third Age demon siege, to mentor and train the Chosen five so that when they face the ultimate malevolence in the Fifth Age with a world at stake they will be ready.

To teach them even an iota of what they will need Demz takes THE CHOSEN OF AZAR on a dangerous journey in search of talismans to use one day when the final battle occurs. Demz knows how difficult his task is, but realizes how much harder it will be on the Chosen, three boys and two girls who must grow up too fast as youthful exuberance and angry exasperation will vanish rather quickly or they will fail and die.

The above describes the opening sequences of an exciting epic coming of age fantasy. The story line is action-packed from the moment Demz and his followers recruit and trains the champions, and never slows down as they battle demons and churls; knowing defeat means death. Readers will enjoy the CHOSEN OF AZAR, a terrific first entry that introduces a strong cast preparing for the coming Fifth Age as chronicled in the Book of Empyrean.

Dead Copy
Kit Frazier
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
073870959X $13.95 1-800-843-6666

Twentyish Cauley “The Obituary Babe” MacKinnon wants to make it as a highly respected reporter. She feels being an obit writer is stuck in the muddy ooze underneath the lowest rung of the journalistic food chain ladder.

When her sometimes boyfriend FBI hunk, that is agent Tom Logan, asks her for a favor besides sharing the sheets, she agrees to help him on a witness protection case as long as he provides her with the SCOOP. He wants her to write and print a fake obituary for Wiley Ray Puckett; Tom wants to keep him safe until he testifies against the El Patron gang leader Selena Obregon. However, Wiley is murdered anyway and a dead canary left by Cauley as a warning to back off or her obit will be next. With her faithful companion at her side (that is Marlowe the dog not Tom the rat who told her to back off) Cauley, being a typical sweetened tea Texan searches for Wiley’s missing sister Faith.

Though the coincidence meter is way beyond the top metric of plausibility (then again this is in the Austin area), chick lit investigative readers will enjoy Cauley’s latest escapades to obtain a scoop so she can escape the dead letter office hopefully without her own obit written. The zany story line is fun to read if the audience ignores the doses of luck (more than the sugar her mom puts in the tea) that leads Cauley one heel at a time on her inquiry. Tom is always there at the right moment whether that is for some kissing or for some rescuing, sub-genre fans will laugh with the antics of the heroine of this lighthearted mystery.

Wicked Things
Thomas Tessier
0843955600 $6.99

The insurance company hires private investigator Jack Carlson to look into an extremely excessive number of filings due to accidental deaths in the small rustic town, Winship. Jack arrives in Winship; his first impression is somehow he went back to a 1950s Norman Rockwell designed rural village.

Still Carlson is a pro so he goes about his work only to find a new mystery as those who die also vanish in a sort of personalized RAPTURE. He goes to visit the local insurance agent only to discover the salesman and his secretary were murdered with no apparent motive; law enforcement fails to investigate the homicides; in fact they fail to prevent marauding thugs assaulting the locals. He visits the town doctor to learn more about the accidents only to observe the physician commit suicide in front of him. As he keeps digging Carlson finds himself feeling like Alice through the rabbit hole. Even at night he feels haunted by the town as an eerie glow lights up the otherwise dark sky. As he begins the FINISHING TOUCHES to his inquiry, Carlson believes the strange happenings are linked to the enigmatic Order of St. Michael.

Jack is a fabulous protagonist who struggles with learning the truth, but keeps finding new WICKED THINGS instead. That in fact is the problem with this exciting horror thriller as the audience must read it in one sitting because they want to find out what is going on behind the Rockwell façade, but never seem to learn the answers. This is a thrilling tale that hooks readers from the onset but the climax leaves readers with too many unanswered questions. Fans of the award winning Thomas Tessier will appreciate this enjoyable stop in the Twilight Zone. Apparently the book also contains a second tale that this reviewer has not read.

Tempted Tigress
Jade Lee
0843956909 $6.99

Anna Marie Thompson is stranded as an orphan in China. She survives by becoming an opium drug runner for her adoptive father, but quickly becomes addicted to the drug. However, she soon runs afoul of the Emperor's most zealous enforcer Zhi-Gang who destroys her current shipment and catches her.

Zhi-Gang is on a personal mission to rescue his sister from the traffickers who abducted her. During his quest he destroys their cash crop opium. However, his current prisoner Anna makes him reconsider all he does as he wants her. She reciprocates his deepest feelings and believes she has a reason to end her addiction. Although he does not trust her as opium users will sell anything even their body, they fall in love while teaming up to kill those human traffickers peddling young girls to the brothels.

Having the heroine addicted to opium and her beloved distrust her because of it make for a unique couple finding a delightfully different path to heaven as the lead pair refreshes the Tigress tales. Perhaps the most distinctive erotic historical romantic suspense around today, series readers will appreciate TEMPTED TIGRESS starring two fascinating heroes united in love and against the flesh vendors but initially on different sides of the opium issue that haunts late nineteenth century China.

Angel’s Embrace
Charlotte Hubbard
0843958034 $6.99

In 1876 Missouri, good friends Billy Bristol and Emma Clark are at the altar about to marry. He has doubts, but she is sure. So when nine-month pregnant Eve Messena from nearby Richmond arrives, he is relieved while Emma is upset.

Eve insists that the father of her unborn is Wesley Bristol, Billy’s vanished outlaw brother and that she was looking for any of his kin. When she goes into labor right there in the church, a nervous Billy delivers the newborn. Everyone believes the baby girl born in the church has to be an angel. Billy feels a love towards his niece that he has never felt towards anyone. Billy is attracted to the mother, who shares his growing love, but she fears those feelings having been hurt by a Bristol brother once before and he is unsure of such an emotion; however both love the baby angel and are not afraid to show it.

This is a terrific Reconstruction Era romance that sub-genre fans will enjoy as the inspirational elements are interwoven into the plot so that they are inclusive not intrusive. The key characters are fully developed so that the reader understands their deepest feelings including why they fear love. Using historical tidbits and the vernacular of the era, Charlotte Hughes provides a wonderful nineteenth century Americana tale.

Savage Intrigue
Cassie Edwards
0843955368 $6.99

In 1862 Minnesota, the angry desperate Dakota strike out at those nearby in Mankato to claim what was promised to them as once again the American government broke a treaty that included food and protection from settlers. Outraged whites retaliated lynching hundreds of the Dakota. Tribes fled to neighboring Wisconsin, but three years later lynching fever has returned; even white Doctor Hicks who provided medicine to the people is killed.

The doctor’s daughter Sheleen flees before she becomes a victim too; her hope is to reach her late mother's people. However, young excited Indian Gentle Bear out hunting accidentally hits Sheleen with an arrow. He takes the unconscious woman to his tribe where Chief Midnight Wolf decides to keep her prisoner until he can decide what to do with her as he has a problem with her story. As Colonel Robertson and others search for Sheleen, she and Midnight Wolf fall in love, but she knows she must leave as her troubles will harm his tribe just like the shaman insists.

Although the traits of the key characters are interchangeable with their counterparts in previous Savage tales, as always Cassie Edwards provides an entertaining historical romance. The well written story line is built on the real ugly events of 1862 that haunted the Dakota especially when it appears the ugly lynching mentality had returned three years later; Ms. Edwards captures that fear in such a deep way that readers will feel the trepidation. Fans of the series will enjoy this latest historical Indian romance as Ms. Edwards uses her recurring theme quite nicely.

Head On
Colleen Thompson
0505527138 $6.99

In Hatcher County, Texas, using a cane to walk, Beth Ann Decker works as a dedicated hospice nurse while most locals feel pity towards her because she survived a deadly tragedy with noted physical reminders. Sixteen years ago her life changed dramatically when an automobile accident left three cheerleaders dead and she badly injured in her car; to this day she still limps notably. The driver of the other vehicle, Mark “Hell on Wheels” Jessup walked away without a scratch although he spent time in jail for vehicular homicide and never recovered from his sister being one of those he killed.

Mark returns to Hatcher County for the first time since the deadly crash to care for his dying father, who rejected him when he most needed his dad. The older Jessup has not forgiven Mark for the death of his daughter and even now takes his anger out on his grandson, Eli, snubbing the lad. However, Mark has other problems as he quickly becomes the prime suspect when a murder occurs. He also finds he still desires Beth Ann, but feels guilty over what he did to her. She reciprocates as the demon she always though he was turns out to be a false assumption; instead he is a caring father and son struggling with what he caused. When someone tries to kill Beth Ann, Mark risks his life to keep her safe.

Although sixteen years have past since the trauma that shook Hatcher County, few if any have healed. Thus when Mark returns home festering wounds reopen as this town without pity forgives no one. Interestingly readers will believe in the love between Mark and Beth Ann although they would seem more obviously natural enemies and in Mark’s case a whole lot of regrets. The murder subplot seems unnecessary, as the plausibility of the lead couple’s relationship and the reaction of the townsfolk to the return of the prodigal killer make this a fine tale.

Soul Song
Marjorie M. Liu
0843957662 $6.99

Violinist Kitala Bell has always run away from her curse of seeing the future as her visions are always that of violent death. She escapes her vivid nightmarish foresight by burying herself in music and never staying still always performing to different audiences in differing locations nightly.

However, her music fails to keep away the vision of a knife in the head of an unfortunate woman sitting in the front row of the Queen Elizabeth Theater; Kitala tries to warn this Alice and her companion Uncle John, but instead learns why the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The cops want her, but not for questioning instead they want her dead as she knows too much. At the same time that Kitala is attacked by landlubbers, a soul eating witch sends her imprisoned M'cal the Krackeni merman to use his song to capture the powerful soul of the violinist. Instead M’cal watching Kitala perform is spellbound by her music and knows he cannot steal the soul of his soulmate and live. He risks all defying his “owner” and her enchantment because he believes in the magical music of the love he shares with Kitala.

The latest Dirk & Steele thriller (see EYE OF HEAVEN, TIGER EYE, SHADOW TOUCH, and THE RED HEART OF JADE) is fabulous romantic suspense fantasy that will hook the audience from the first note to the incredible climatic coda. The fast-paced story line contains two interesting protagonists who are united by love and music as they battle police, a malevolent witch, and much more while trying to stay alive.

Silk Dreams
Diana Groe
0843958693 $6.99

Considered a witch by her Norse people for her gift of the “sight”, Valdis is sold by her family into sexual slavery. Her owner takes her to Constantinople where she ends up in a harem. Exiled Erik the Viking is to teach her the special siren arts of a female’s true gift to lure men; while tutoring her he also encourages Valdis to use her visions as a help not a hindrance curse. However, in spite of her gains in position and skill, Valdis feels lost in this strange city.

Valdis panics when she sees the death of Erik, who her heart tells her is the one who can not only free her from bondage but also is her soulmate. He hides that he loves her and would die to free her. However, Valdis knows only she has the power to save their lives and keep them together sharing SILK DREAMS, but one miscue means violent death for both of them.

This is a refreshing historical romance starring two fascinating exiles falling into a forbidden love with one another. Not sure of the concept of harems in the 1100s Constantinople as the Ottoman Empire does not conquer the Byzantine Empire until the mid fifteenth century, readers will believe they are inside a twelfth century harem as the senses are on full alert as the audience cans taste and smell this strange exotic world. Diana Groe provides a deep picturesque Middle Ages eastern tale of love.

The Marsh Hawk
Dawn MacTavish
0843959347 $6.99

In 1812 Cornwall, England, Lady Jenna Hollingsworth shoots the infamous highwayman THE MARSH HAWK; before she can ascertain whether he is dying, she flees the scene as she hears voices. Jenna assumes that she killed the brigand who murdered her beloved father.

At a masquerade gala where Jenna and Viscount Rupert Marner are to announce their betrothal, she sees a masked man with the same hypnotizing ’eyes of the felon she shot. However, before she can follow up on whether this masked hunk is THE MARSH HAWK, Jenna finds herself married to the earl Simon Rutherford to avoid a scandal. As the newlyweds are deeply attracted to one another and both believing they must hide their love for the other from their mate, she wonders how to unmask him and he wonders how to remain masked while an outraged Rupert plots to destroy the pair who publicly humiliated him.

The fun in this Regency resides with the dynamic pairing who for the most part dominate the story line. The Rupert subplot distracts from the prime theme of two opponents playing chess with love as Jenna and Simon move and counter move back and forth seeking checkmate, which in her case is proving her husband is (or is not) the highwayman and in case hiding his secret identify. For the most part the audience will enjoy their antics until Rupert intrudes on the plot when he brings them together with his perilous mischief.

Belisarius: The First Shall Be Last
Paolo Belzoni
Arx Publishing, LLC
P.O. Box 1333, Merchantville NJ 08109, USA
1889758787 $14.95

The once invincible Roman Empire has been collapsing from within as much as from the barbarians attacking at the edges. Most citizens regardless of locale feel strongly that the great state is going in the wrong direction with little hope for the future. That changes when war hero Justin is offered the throne and accepts after rejecting the emperor position in the past. His rise from common birth to soldier to leader to emperor brings new hope of a cleansing. His heir nephew Justinian rules the kingdom in Justin’s name, but though all know this no one cares as a rebirthing of optimism is everywhere.

Justinian wants real leaders to take charge of the legions not noble connections. Soldiers like Belisarius in Thrace join with a chance to make their mark after learning to fight by defeating looters. He and his friends join Justin’s military and quickly become part of the Imperial household guard. With trouble on the eastern flank from the Persians, the competent Belisarius is sent to Constantinople to battle the enemy where he meets his assertive future spouse Antonina. He moves up the ranks as the Persian Wars occupy the eastern legions.

BELISARIUS, Liber 1 of a biographical fiction saga, is a superb Ancient Rome tale that brings to life one of the last great generals of the empire focusing on the Persian Wars; thus the story line reads for the most part as a fictionalization of military history. Told almost exclusively from the Roman perspective especially that of the lead hero; his side in the conflict comes across as honorable while the enemy consists of murderous thugs; to the victors go the fictionalized history books. Although readers will have to overcome the tiny font size, teens and adults will appreciate this spotlight into sixth century Rome at a time when the empire and in some chronicles of the time the world was on the brink of collapse as cultures collide.

Soon I Will Be Invincible
Austin Grossman
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0375424865 $22.95 1-800-726-0600

As he remains behind bars for his latest failure to conquer the worlds, brilliant diabolical scientist Doctor Impossible wonders where he went wrong. His family deserted him when he lost again to the super tights type and now the government has claimed his secret fortress under some sort of patriotic legal mumbo jumbo.

While Impossible struggles with his superego, the worlds’ greatest superhero team, the Champions, invites Fatale the cyborg to join them which she does. However, as she begins to train in earnest, team leaders Corefire vanishes and Doctor Impossible begins his latest conquer the world plan in which he plays billiards with the planet by knocking it out of orbit leading to leaders bowing to his superiority. Fatale is forced into battle before she feels ready as the doctor’s doomsday plan begins; but she understands that she belongs to the Champions, who will keep on fighting until the end because the Champions have no time for losers especially doubting cyborg queens.

Paying homage to superhero comic books, SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE is a terrific fantasy thriller that surprisingly has deep characterizations. Especially developed are Fatale who finds the team’s mission and vision quite humorous and the Doctor who feels like Wile Coyote as his perfect plans somehow are foiled again and again by losers. He also wonders if he is currently doing the right thing as who will he rule once the planet turns total iceberg (at least he will have stopped global warming). The story line rotates between these two lead adversaries, but also provides strong secondary players who are mostly superheroes. Satirizing the superego power grabbers who will do anything to gain and maintain supremacy even destroy a planet, Austin Grossman provides a winning tale.

Circumference of Darkness
Jack Henderson
Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553805150 $23.00 1-800-726-0600

John Fagan is held in awe in the hacker underground for the misdeed he accomplished in cyberspace. He lives like a hermit in New York City that is right out of a Star Wars movie with a talking intelligent computer called Kate. Jeannie Reese was a math and computer prodigy who was hired by the government to create a surveillance program that would eliminate extraneous data and put security risk information in a logical order

She initiates IRIN shortly after 9/11 and meets John in cyberspace where he is the first one to defeat her in a game of chess. He feels guilty because he was in an IRC chat in the 1990’s and talked about a blueprint to bring the U.S. to its knees. Someone intercepted and partially initiated that plan. She would like to talk to him but she is kicked out of her job by the power that be who want to control IRIN and he is kidnapped by those loyal to Edward Latrell, a survivalist militiaman who played a part in 9/11 and demands John’s expertise to break the U.S. and rebuild it in his image. John finally agrees to stop Latrell killing the innocents in the camp but is rescued by one of Jeannie’s people. They meet up in Las Vegas seeking to find a way to stop the doomsday scenario from happening but John built something he doesn’t know how to dismantle.

In his debut, Jack Henderson acts like a veteran thriller writer with strong plotting, solid three dimensional characterizations (especially the lead misfits) and exciting action adventure scenarios that grip readers from the onset. CIRCUMFERENCE OF DARKNESS is one of the best the thrillers to come along in years. The two protagonists are social misfits trying to save the world that neither feels comfortable in. Readers will admire and their courage and perseverance.

The Midnight Road
Tom Piccirilli
0553384082 $6.99

Flynn works for Suffolk County Child Protective Services and an anonymous tip has him heading to the Shephard house where he sees Kelly playing in the snow with her dog Zero. They enter the home where Flynn meets high strung Mrs. Shephard, who shows him her house and declares she can care for Kelly very well as there is not a mark on her. Flynn gets set to leave when he hears singing so he heads to the basement where the voice seems to come from. There he finds a man all scarred up in a cage big enough for a German Shepard.

Mr. Shephard says he made the call, but his wife shoots him. She goes after Flynn who gets away from her in his 1966 Charger, but falls into icy river. He is underneath for twenty-eight minutes when he is rescued and miraculously resuscitated by the paramedics. While in the hospital, Zero who was in Flynn’s car when it went through the ice appears and talks to him. In the aftermath of his near death experience, someone starts killing people around him, one who he knew pretty well. Flynn needs to learn who is taunting him and trying to kill him or die trying.

THE MIDNIGHT ROAD is an amazing thriller that shines a spotlight on the hidden dark corners of the human psyche. Tom Piccirilli creates a complex lead character who knows he is losing his grip on sanity yet also believes someone is terrifying him to drive him further over the edge. The protagonist is a refreshing protagonist mentally crippled (he knows Zero is a talking hallucination) yet must move on. Readers will finish this gripping Noir in one tense sitting.

Little Heathens
Mildred Armstrong Kalish
0553804952 $22.00

Mildred Armstrong Kalish provides a deep look back to growing up on a farm in Iowa during the Depression. Ms. Kalish’s family of seven lived a frugal lifestyle in which three generations resided in the home with the only missing person being her exiled father although why she was not sure. Her cousins lived on nearby farms so the extended family was nearby to help if needed.

The key to this superb discerning memoir is Ms. Kalish avoids acrimony and sugared (except when grandpa bought some) nostalgia to provide a vivid picture of a bygone era in which an extended family was there to raise the children with positive values. Life on the farm during harsh economic conditions was fun to a preadolescent Mildred although some chores were simply work. With black and white pictures to enhance the era and “farm food” recipes that were not microwave, LITTLE HEATHENS is a well written winner providing a powerful look at the 1930s in the Midwest. Ms. Kalish showcases how different life was back then from today when for instance the three Klausner brothers live in Georgia, New Jersey and Texas respectively and outhouses is a Three Stooges’ joke.

Trial and Error
Paul Levine
0440242762 $6.99

In Miami, attorney Steve Solomon prevents the abduction of two dolphins from Cetacean Park. Ironically, the radical green hugger he captured asks Solomon to defend him against a murder charge as his kidnapping partner died in the botched “rescue” mission.

The State Attorney General recluses himself because the accused is his nephew; so to the defense lawyer’s shock, he names Steve’s girlfriend Victoria Lord as the chief prosecutor. As the two do what they always do when it comes to legal matters, they argue in and out of court driving the judge to distraction. However, it is the insight of Steve’s autistic adopted son, Bobby, who brings a surprising lucid perception to what happened.

Sort of mindful of a legal thriller version of Moonlighting, the latest Solomon vs. Lord tale TRIAL AND ERROR is a fun lighthearted thriller that fans of the series will enjoy especially when the lead couple objects. The story line is at its best in the courtroom where humor and insight make for a fine lawyer war between the lovers. When the plot turns introspective into Bobby’s mind it loses some of the edge and when it morphs into an action thriller near the end it loses its keen edge. Still readers will receive pleasure from this amusing war of the attorneys.

The Dark Garden
Eden Bradley
0553589733 $13.00

In California Rowan Cassidy works the perfect job for someone with her dominant personality; she is mistress at Club Prive bondage club. However, much of what her peers and customers believes about her is image as she hides the psyche damage from her last relationship.

Christian Thorne meets Rowan at the club; he wants her like no one he has been with before, but this alpha male must be on top. He also feels she has a submissive soul that she conceals behind the leather dominatrix impression she emits. He offers her a deal of thirty days to prove to her he is her master and that her preference is that of a “bottom”. She wants him to dominate her, but fears returning to the hurt of her past.

This complex erotic relationship drama hooks readers from the moment Christian and Rowan meet and never slows down as Eden Bradley takes her audience not just inside the BDSM scene, but into the inner minds of her prime players. The fascinating story line is a psychological study especially of Rowan who struggles between her fears and her desires. The hunk who loves her as his submissive and the strong secondary cast enhance the deep peep at the BDSM landscape.

The Good Guy
Dean Koontz
0553804812 $27.00

After work mason Tim Carrier drinks beer at his friend Liam Rooney’s bar, Lamplighter Tavern. Tim prefers routines so although Liam wants to set him up with his wife’s cousin, he makes it clear that he prefers being alone or perhaps having his testicles cut off instead. However, he also enjoys quiet conversation so when the stranger with the manila envelop sat next to him, he thought this might prove an interesting discussion as the man with a beer seems like a fellow “wet nurse” nursing a drink or two for the night.

The stranger tells Tim his stomach is in knots just like skydiving for the first time. He then gives Tim the envelop stating "Half of it's here. Ten thousand. The rest when she's gone." Not sure where the man is going, Tim pretends to listen until the stranger abruptly leaves. Stunned Tim opens up the envelop to learn the target is writer Linda Paquette of Laguna Beach when a second stranger sits down and says to Tim “you’re early”. For not heeding mom’s advice of never talk to strangers, Tim finds himself as target number two from an invincible killer with government connections. As the targeted pair meet and flee together, they struggle to learn why even as the hit man keeps coming.

No writer today takes an everyman and places them in scenarios where they die or adapt better than Dean Koontz consistently does. His latest thriller hooks the audience from the moment Tim meets the two strangers and never lets go as Tim and Linda struggle to elude a killer out of the Energizer Bunny mold. Suspense fans will want to read Mr. Koontz's action-packed thriller starring two sly everyday people and a cold blooded terminator.

Old Wounds
Vicki Lane
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0440243599 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

Life seems good to Elizabeth Goodweather who has finally made peace with the death of her husband who died six years ago in a plane accident. She even reciprocates the interest of retired police officer Phillip Hawkins, a teacher at the college. However, he is not feeling euphoric because his past has arisen to haunt him. H Elizabeth’s husband and a other man in their unit in Vietnam ignored the atrocity performed against civilians by the man about nominated to be the next Secretary Of Defense.

Elizabeth is worried about her daughter Rosie who wants to find out what happened to her best friend Maythorn; the girl who vanished without a trace nineteen years ago. Both mother and daughter do not realize their inquiries will bring them to the attention of different evil men who want the past left buried.

OLD WOUNDS is an atmospheric work of suspense almost gothic in tone and set in an isolated part of North Carolina. The two tales runs parallel before interconnecting to the delight of an enthralled audience. Both female protagonists are well developed and believable as they make inquiries that lead them to danger in Vicki Lane’s tense thriller.

The Manny
Holly Peterson
Dial (Dell)
0385340400 $25.00

Thirty six tears old Jamie Whitfield and her lawyer spouse Phillip raises three children on exclusive Park Avenue in Manhattan. She also works part-time as a producer for a news program. However, though the Whitfields seem to be living the American dream, she is worried about her troubled nine year old son Dylan, whose father is never home and lacks an older male role model. Though it disturbs her Middle America upbringing to pay for a man, Jamie has adjusted to the lifestyle of the rich and famous in which all problems are solved by throwing money at it.

She hires almost thirty Peter Bailey to be the MANNY, “a nanny of male persuasion” to help raise the kids especially Dylan. However, Peter obtains funding for his software business so he can quit the demeaning position, but does not. He is attracted to his employer and believes she reciprocates, but wonders whether she will act on her desires especially when she is chasing down a news story that could make her career if she stays faithful.

This amusing tale lampoons the hypocrisy of some of the affluent who complain when the government spends money on problems, but resolve personal issues by spending money on them. Surprisingly even with the Manny and his employer fully developed and fun to follow their antics, the tale is stolen by her spouse whose temper tantrums over nothings seem more like a two year old used to getting his way. Holly Peterson provides a fabulous look at the changes in the individuals of a wealthy Manhattan family once they have their own male Poppins join them.

Beg Me
Lisa Lawrence
Delta Trade Paperbacks
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0385341040 $13.00 1-800-726-0600

In Thailand Chinese Jeff Lee hires Londoner Teresa Knight to learn what happened to his sister Ana. Some sick a**hole sent him pictures of her nude and bound; he claimed she died in Brooklyn while holding a gun on a drug dealer trying to get crystal meth from the man. Jeff insists Ana was not an addict, but was into a black BDSM scene; at least that is what her former English boyfriend Craig insisted before they broke up. Jeff wants the truth although Teresa thinks he wants to kill Ana’s killer and the BDSM members.

Teresa returns to the New York fetish scene seeking a black BDSM club that Craig said was more a cult. She quickly realizes that she must go undercover, which means letting go of her emotional defenses as she will run the gamut of the kink scene. However, as she begins to penetrate the cult she has joined, Teresa needs increasingly more thrills; Simon, who she just met, seems to be the best at servicing her libido. However, between her investigation into Ana’s death and a four decade old homicide that Simon is interested in, Ana begins to conclude that the cult members enjoy sexual execution.

The sequel to STRIP POKER, BEG ME is an entreating erotic investigative tale starring a woman whose defense mechanisms collapse under a libido siege leaving her vulnerable to other cult members and especially to Simon. The sleuthing is fun to follow though that takes a back seat to the kink. Fans who enjoy their mystery thrillers to be over the edge with sexual escapades that run the gamut will want to accompany Teresa as she frolics in New York.

Final Stroke
Michael Beres
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
1932815953 $24.95

In Chicago former police detective Steve Babe recovers from a left brain stroke at Saint Mel in the Woods Rehabilitation Facility, affectionately known by the residents as “Hell in the Woods”. His wife Jan visits Steve all time trying to help him recover. For the most part he is doing better, but speaking is difficult as communication is easier by using a computer.

When his best friend at the joint octogenarian right stroke victim Marjorie Gianetti, a mobster’s widow, dies in an accidental fall, Steve has problems with discrepancies in what he knew of her and how the accident occurred. He begins investigating by sneaking down to the scene of crime where the puddle of pee that Marjorie slipped on remains. After the finger-mouth taste, he knows the liquid is water and begins to believe murder occurred. As he gets in trouble with Washington, an aide at the rehab facility who is selling stolen equipment through a fence, Flat Nose, tries to pretend stupidity caused by the stroke. When Washington dies, Steve realizes that someone wants to silence witnesses, but to what and who remains outside his scope even as he uses his wife to assist him in uncovering the truth behind Marjorie’s murder not understanding that the connection is as far away as the Everglades and retired Feds.

The investigation by the Babes and the Feds domestic spying take a back seat to the deep look into recovering stroke victims. The communication between the Babes is incredible especially the patience of both as it must be frustrating to not be able to say what you mean to the transmitter and to the receiver. Although there is perhaps too much going on in the background (though not explored to any intruding depth), readers will appreciate this character driven whodunit starring a unique pairing of an amateur sleuth and a left brain stroke former cop.

Hope Tarr
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
1933836121 $6.99

In 1876 at the Roxbury House Orphanage in Kent, England, the four friends (Teenagers Patrick O’Rourke, Harry Stone and Gavin Carmichael and nine years old Daisy) meets in the attic whenever they can. Daisy believes they are a “real family” until Gavin’s hard-nosed grandfather Friend St. John arrives to take him home with him. Gavin promises Daisy he will never forget her.

In 1891 now a barrister Gavin has almost given up his search for Daisy as even a private detective has not been able to find her since she was adopted by the Lakes in 1877. Gavin’s two pals Harry and Patrick persuade him to attend a show starring Delilah du Lac. He is stunned to realize she is his Daisy; she is as shocked to realize he is her Saint Gavin. As they fall in love, Gavin remains upset she never wrote him and Daisy thinks he can do much better than her; however, both also dream that they can become a “real family”, but first one of them must have the courage to step forward and explain their doubts to the other.

The likable lead couple makes for a fine Victorian romance that will have the audience rooting for the pair to find a way to remain together. Character driven, Gavin and Daisy struggle to overcome their past and their perceptions of what is best for the other. Although Gavin’s his cold blooded interfering grandfather seems more like a Dickensian stereotype, the support cast especially his two pals Harray (see VANQUISHED) and Patrick (future tale) augment an enjoyable historical tale.

The Mark
Jason Pintor
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324893 $7.99

Henry Parker dreams of becoming an investigative journalist like his heroes Bernstein and Woodward. So when he has an opportunity to work in New York he leaps at it. However, still new to his job and the city, Henry is assaulted while on assignment.

When he regains consciousness, Henry finds he no longer seeks the news, he is the news. The NYPD think he is a cop killer while the FBI considers him as the prime suspect. He realizes if law enforcement catches him, he will take the fall as no one will believe his innocence; even he has doubts with the evidence that he knows of. On the lam with the Feds and local cops giving chase, Henry quickly learns how dire his predicament is when mobsters seek to silence him after they recover a package he allegedly possesses; Henry realizes if the mob gets him he would need to turnover to them what they demand if he is to die without a brutal beating, but the problem is that he does not have what they require. He knows he needs to elude the cops and the mob while also pursuing the same clues that will lead the cops and the mob to him.

This is a terrific thriller starring an interesting protagonist who goes from awe to desperation as everyone wants a piece of him. The exhilarating story line is told either in the first person by Henry or in the active third person with the switching very smooth so that no disruption occurs. Readers will appreciate the insight into the frightened frantic hero as he explains what he thinks is happening to him while inside of an action-packed on the run investigative tale.

2 Bodies for the Price of 1
Stephanie Bond
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324842 $13.95

Former socialite Carlotta Wren assumes life cannot get much worse since her parents fled the States to avoid white collar prosecution ten years ago and recently she survived the Atlanta police believing her as the prime suspect in a murder (see BODY MOVERS). The last thing she expected was someone stealing her identity, but apparently it has happened. Her credit cards have been run up to the max and her credit dragged to the lowest score conceivable.

As she tries to fix her financial problems, Carlotta returns home to find four men looking like their most loved person died. Her brother Wesley, Detective Jack, her former fiance Peter (who dumped her), and possible boyfriend Cooper are mourning her death; apparently Carlotta has learned she committed suicide or at least her identify theft double has. Will word reach her parents that she died bringing them home for her funeral watched by law enforcement or is there something even more nefarious going on as Carlotta wonders why her?

This is an amusing Body Mover tale starring a likable quirky heroine and her male harem. The story line is fast-paced but focuses on Carlotta and her problems as she begins to feel like a modern day female Job. Reader and Carlotta will wonder what next will happen to her even as she believes it can’t get worse but soon learns it can. Stephanie Bond provides a fun tale in which the audience will wonder who the dead double is while rooting for the delightful trouble magnet to overcome her latest woes.

Blood Red
Heather Graham
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324869 $7.99

In New Orleans, close friends Lauren Crow, Heidi Weiss and Deanna Marin are enjoying a bachelorette weekend together before the countdown to Heidi’s wedding begins. The three pals stop at a portable table near the Cathedral where Susan the fortune teller reads their future. In a crystal ball Susan shows Lauren the image of a man offering her “a world of blood and death and darkness”; Heidi and Deanna do not see what Lauren saw. She is stunned when a dark smooth evil voice whispers he is coming for her. She makes a noise and the crystal ball breaks. Susan warns them to stay in crowded places fearing for Lauren.

The vision and Susan’s reaction convince Lauren that her feelings that someone is following her are true and not just a response to the atmosphere of the French Quarter. Vampire hunter Mark Davidson trails malevolent bloodsucker Stephen who has ‘seen” Lauren and believes she is the reincarnation of his long dead beloved. The vampire plans to reunite with her while dining on the blood of her friends. Mark plans to keep the three females safe although like Stephen he is attracted to Lauren.

Although the lead and secondary cast members are three dimensional, this terrific vampire romance is owned by post Katrina New Orleans as the atmosphere of the city is everywhere in the exciting story line. Mark is a fascinating obstinate hero who finds love distracts his edge by taking away from his narrow single minded focus. Lauren also changes from a disbeliever to a firm understanding that vampires exist. Although no monster twists occur as Heather Graham’s fine tale is within the BLOOD RED sub-genre norm, fans will appreciate Heidi’s bachelorette weekend in the French Quarter.

The Death List
Paul Johnston
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324818 $24.95

In London, novelist Matt Wells receives a series of e-mails from a fan that gives him the idea for a story. Initially he thinks nothing of this beyond someone likes his work, which makes him feel good. However, he soon finds a lethal pattern that frightens him; Matt believes his biggest fan is a cold blooded serial killer who has targeted him, his ex-wife and his daughter for execution.

The White Devil is working his death list getting closer to reaching Matt and his loved ones. Chief Inspector Karen Oaten and her police force suspect Matt is the killer as the White Devil cleverly leaves incriminating evidence that places the writer at the murder scene. Matt realizes he must risk his life before the police arrest him if he is to keep his beloved family members safe from a diabolical killer who knows him and watches his every move.

From the onset, this is an exciting thriller that will have readers guessing how the White Devil is performing his deeds that set up Matt who is under tight police surveillance; the climax reveals the means, which the audience in a Monday morning look back will say is obvious if one applied Holmesian logic. Although the characters are developed enough to matter, it is the anticipation throughout that the White Devil is methodically coming one corpse at a time towards the final kill that grips readers even when the plot seems over the Thames embankment.

The Summit
Kat Martin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324702 $7.99

A dozen years ago, Autumn Sommers ignored her nocturnal dreams resulting in a tragedy that she feels she could have prevented. Filled with guilt and remorse, she vowed never again.

Currently in the Seattle area, school teacher Autumn has visions of a young girl. She follows up by looking at missing persons reports until she thinks the star of her dreams is Molly McKenzie, the daughter of the CEO of McKenzie Enterprises. Divorced Ben has never been the same since his beloved Molly vanished six years ago although he hides his feelings as much as possible from his beloved other child ten years old Katie. When Autumn tells him what she has seen, he explodes in outrage accusing her of trying to take advantage of a grieving father. Fully convinced she is the only one able to rescue Molly, Autumn refuses to back down until she persuades, albeit reluctantly, skeptical Ben to follow her lead that takes them to a religious sect.

This paranormal romantic suspense thriller stars two interesting “antagonists”; who share in common obstinacy that comes in handy when they must confront a charismatic sect leader (think Jim Jones) who has plans for the flock. What takes the story line to the SUMMIT of the sub-genre is the reactions of Ben, his ex-wife and the rest of the family to the disappearance of Molly thought dead by all; readers will feel the anguish, the guilt, and the uncertainty of what to wish for as closure is nowhere near until Autumn arrives with a spring of hope. In spite of being well written and interwoven into the story line, the love subplot seems unneeded (except to fit inside the sub-genre) as the rescue of Molly is the key link between the lead duo. Kat Martin is at her best with this exhilarating tale.

Touching Stars
Emilie Richards
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0778324729 $24.95

Since divorcing broadcast journalist Eric Fortman, who deserted her and his kids, Gayle and their three sons (eighteen years old Jared, sixteen years old Noah and thirteen years old Dillon) live a nice life in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Her Daughter of the Stars bed and breakfast is a major success while she also covers for her former spouse when he consistently fails his offspring.

Whereas Eric is never there for his children, Gayle’s neighbor Travis Allen is always there for the kids. He also has become her best friend. As Jared is about to graduate, Eric comes home for solace. He almost died at the hands of the Taliban while on assignment in Afghanistan and has not mentally recovered. Gayle offers him a chance to make it up with his three boys by offering him a room at the inn. Eric accepts but though he loves his former wife and his sons, he thinks of returning to the international scene if he can find his courage. However, this is also perhaps his last chance with his family as each of his three sons takes him to task.

This is an interesting family drama starring a hot shot journalist struggling with battle fatigue syndrome after a close brush with death. The lead pair and the ensemble cast (including a female reporter girlfriend) are fully developed characters highlighted when Eric who is no Fred McMurray deals with his angry at him offspring in combo and as individuals. Readers will appreciate Emile Richards’ strong contemporary tale with a delightful final spin that feels plausible and right but will surprise the audience.

Chesapeake Summer
Jeannette Baker
0778324591 $6.99

When his mom died, he inherited her property in Marshy Hope Creek. Bailey Jones plans are simple when he returns home; get out ASAP. He will sell the property to a developer for a fortune and hook up with his friend Chloe Richards who has just come home too.

The townsfolk, who never liked bad boy Bailey, are irate when he announces his plan to sell. However, his scheme is placed on halt when workers digging on the land uncover the remains of a human. Bailey knows whoever interred the victim, most likely killed the prey; but remains ignorant to the fact that the predator watches very carefully the inquiry and is prepared to cause more deaths to keep the deadly secret concealed.

CHESAPEAKE SUMMER, the sequel to the exciting romantic suspense CHESAPEAKE TIDE, is an entertaining second chance at love mystery. Bailey is terrific as Chloe and some others prove his uncaring bad boy persona is all facade and image. Although the killer is obvious, readers will enjoy the return to the Chesapeake Bay area as more than the culprit fears what law enforcement will uncover as the icons have skeletons in their closets that could scandalize their family name and nothing is as sacred as their untainted blue blooded pedigree.

Susan Kandal
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
0061452173 $13.95 1-800-242-7737

Cece Caruso writes biographies of mystery writers. Her backlist includes Erle Stanley Gardner (see I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason), Carole Keene (Not a Girl Detective) and Dashiell Hammett (see Shamus in the Green Room). Her current assignment involves the opening gala of Christietown, a housing development duplicating a Cotswold village where else but in California; her plan is a Miss Marple theater production.

However, Liz “La Duchesse de Danse” Berman, who is playing the starring role, vanishes. Since Cece wears the same dress size she is expected to replace Liz. Instead Cece accompanied by her fiance Detective Peter Gambino searches for the missing thespian. They find Liz except she will no longer perform on this stage unless a corpse is needed before she is buried; someone murdered her.

The latest homage to the greats of mystery writing, CHRISTIETOWN is a delightful whodunit. Cece is her usual self, stealing the technique of the author she honors; this time being Dame Agatha. However, like in some Christie novels, clues that the reader will immediately know are shams slow down the plot at times. Still with Cece performing as Miss Marple, the audience will appreciate this fine mystery that provides insight into the great Agatha Christie.

Defiant Heart
Tracy Bateman
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061246336 $12.95

In 1847 their stepfather sold Fannie Caldwell and her preadolescent siblings Katie and Kip to Tom as indentured servants. Over the next three years raging drunken Tom treats them horribly, abusing them although Fannie as a lioness protecting her cubs absorbs most of his wrath. However, she is concerned by the way Tom stares and leers at twelve years old Katie; she vows they will escape before he assaults her younger sister.

Fannie befriends Toni the town’s fallen woman. They agree to flee together with the former’s siblings at the first opportunity. When wagon master Blake Tanner arrives in town, the two females book passage on his trip west although he objects to single women with no man to protect them. As Fannie and Blake, and Toni with the wagon master’s best friend Two Feathers fall in love, danger seems everywhere besides the normal perilous journey as someone wants either one or both women dead although no reason seems apparent except perhaps Tom seeking revenge for the Caldwells running away.

The first Westward Hearts tale is a wonderful western romance starring fully developed characters bringing to life the decade before the Civil War on the Great Plains. The story line is driven by the cast who face all sorts of peril as they seek a new hopefully better life. Readers will admire the intrepid Fannie who is fierce when it comes to keeping Katie and Kip safe, but also loving and vulnerable. Toni will receive much empathy from the audience for her trials and tribulations. Tracy Bateman shows why she is an award winning author with this suburb Americana romance.

Sleepless At Midnight
Jacquie D'Alessandro
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
006123138X $6.99

The Ladies Literary Society of London are excited that a woman wrote the scary gothic Frankenstein as they are not tame Jane Austen supporters. Using literature purloined from males, they debate the perfect man. Afterward SLEEPLESS AT MIDNIGHT, Miss Sarah Moorehouse observes from the shadows Marquess Matthew Devenport sneaking home in the early morning hours holding a shovel; she wonders why such a tool at such a late hour. Unable to resist after the Shelley thriller stirred her imagination, she decides to investigate the nocturnal Marquess starting with his bedroom. However she proves to be a poor sleuth as Matthew catches her snooping.

Although he finds Sarah quite beautiful, Matthew has no time to fool with her and her literary ladies. Instead he worries that snooping Sarah will find what he has hidden behind a curtain, which would be the final nail in the coffin for his family. Still he wonders why this female “spy” seeks out his activities so he decides to play at her game and make inquiries into Sarah in order to learn why him.

This entertaining late Regency romance stars two fascinating lead protagonists and a strong support cast gathered together for a party. The fumbled “investigations” between Matthew and Sarah lead to humorous scenarios as each wonders what the other hides even as their attraction grows. Sub-genre fans will appreciate the Ladies Literary Society of London tale as love finds a way.

When She Was Bad
Cindy Kirk
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060847905 $5.99

Jenny Carman is an honest person who has always tried to play fair, but she is upset that doing so is a punishment. She not only was by-passed for a promotion she felt strongly should have been hers at the CPA firm that she works at, she failed to get the guy she wanted. Her friend Marcee suggests she find a hunk while Jenny agrees that no more Ms. nice gal being screwed by rule breakers.

She changes her garb from businesswoman to sexy siren in red that is a second skin it is so tight. Next Jenny goes to a bar where she meets businessman Robert Marshall who cannot keep his eyes off of her. She says she is Jasmine the hairstylist and looking for a one night stand to end all nights. However, as Jenny the accountant finds herself attracted to the hunk, she fears he only has eyes for wild Jasmine Coret, her phony persona.

This is an amusing contemporary romance starring a good girl turning into a bad girl by emulating the tales she heard of a deceased friend of her grandmother. Jenny-Jasmine makes the tale fun especially when passion confuses her alterego with the prime and proper person she believed she once was until Robert. Although the plot device has been used often, Cindy Kirk provides a fresh look at WHEN SHE WAS BAD.

Wedding Bell Blues
Linda Windsor
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061171379 $12.95

In Piper Cove, designer Alexandra “Alex” Turner is stunned to see her ex- husband rock star Josh Turner in town, as this is not the type of place for a person like him even if he is back to attend her younger sister's wedding as the best man. However, Josh has an ulterior motive for coming home earlier than he had too. He has radically changed his life having found the Lord and wants a second chance with the woman he still loves.

Alex also loves Josh, but does not trust him with her heart. Josh knows his work is cut out for him to prove to Alex he is not the same person who hurt her. As she struggles with her father’s health and his giving away the home she cherishes to her sibling as a wedding present while also helping her sister with her upcoming nuptials, Alex turns to the bible for solace, but has troubles with accepting that “to err is human; to forgive divine”.

This inspirational second chance at love tale stars two likable individuals who made lack of communication mistakes their first time around leading to their separation and divorce. The secondary cast, mostly the townsfolk, enhances the deep look at the fully developed lead couple. Readers will root for them to find a way back to each other. Although some passages might stun parts of the audience with their titillating metaphors, fans will enjoy this warm tale of history repeating itself as love may not prove enough once again.

Dead on Arrival
Lori Avocato
006083708X $6.99

As a former registered nurse, Scarpello & Tonelli Insurance Agency investigator Pauline Sokol is unhappy with her newest assignment. She is going undercover as a RN at TLC, a land-and-air ambulance company, which has recently had an incredible increase in charges since the nephew and niece took over from their uncle. Making matters worse to Pauline who left the medical world due to burnout is that much of the job is in the air.

As Pauline adjusts to flying time, she is not shocked to find the enigmatic Jagger working as an undercover paramedic. However, the employee who has her flying is TLC’s most experienced medic bone weary "ER Dano". The case takes a wild spin when a homicide occurs and the proud killer telephones Pauline, who wonders if she is on a hit list by the culprit or by some crazy patients.

The latest Pauline caper (see NIP, TUCK, DEAD) has her in trouble on the job and in her personal life. The two hunks have pet names for perilous Pauline as Jagger calls her "Sherlock" and Dano "Nightingale". The case is fun to follow, but it is the romances that add the depth to the latest lighthearted insurance investigation of Pauline Sokol, ex RN still working as an undercover RN.

Desperate Duchesses
Eloisa James
0060781939 $6.99

Having a father known by the Ton as the "Mad Marquess" is not a strong enabler of acceptance by the ton; in fact it is a detractor. Residing at the family country estate in the middle of nowhere makes acceptance utterly impossible. Lady Roberta St. Giles knows that if she is to make a proper match, she must leave the shelter of her home and also leave her father to his poetry in order to begin attending galas especially now that she has selected her future spouse even if the Duke of Villiers remains ignorant of her choice.

The Duchess of Beaumont Jemma has just returned from some French mischief so agrees to help a friend destroy the rogue Villiers for hurting her. She thinks the naive country mouse Roberta would be a perfect foil to ruin the rakish Villiers so she invites her to a party at her home. However, Jemma failed to account for her brother Damon Reeve, who will not allow Villiers to hurt the innocent pawn Roberta. As he ponders his altruism, Damon realizes part of the reason he wants to keep Jemma from getting hurt is that he loves her and believes she reciprocates although she insists Villiers is her true love.

This terrific Georgian romance is a comedy of errors that showcases the brilliantly creative talent of Eloisa James as she uses a ton of the Ton to tell a delightful historical tale. The fast-paced story line is very humorous as Jemma sets up the game with the precision of a grandmaster and never slows down until the final checkmate occurs. The cast is three dimensional and not just the prime players as Ms. James uses aristocratic pawns to enhance an entertaining eighteenth century romance.

Castaway Kid
R. B. Mitchell
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
1589974344 $13.99 1-800-323-9400

This may be the memoir of the year as no one will get through it without crying at least once especially with the provided proof at and within the bio supporting everything that R.B. Mitchell claims. When financial guru Mr. Mitchell was three years old his mother abandoned him. He was placed in an orphanage as a “lifer” distrusting everyone. As he got older he wondered why she dumped him as he began to question whether anyone could love him. His mom tried to kidnap him from the orphanage; his father tried suicide, but lived suffering from brain damage. His grandmother showered him with the little love he received as a child, but always left him behind in the orphanage, making him feel further rejected and unworthy of being loved. Finally at seventeen when he appeared heading down a path to self destruction, Mr. Mitchell turned to Jesus to help him overcome his nightmare of a life. That was the beginning of the turn around as he found Jesus loved him. Without preaching, the CASTAWAY KID is inspiring, encouraging the young that they can make it as he did it. Mr. Mitchell provides a gripping account of overcoming being dumped and turned into a lifer once he found the Lord.

Fatal Laws
Jim Hansen
Dark Sky
0976924366 $13.95

Denver homicide detective Bryson Coventry is working what appears to be a serial killer case as corpses appear in shallow graves. However, the problem with this theory is that each person died differently; serial killer typically uses the same MO.

His investigation leads Bryson to the avaricious Degan. This affluent man apparently chooses the victim, whom the predator kills. The case also brings him to Tianca Holland, a woman of interest to him not just because of her ties to the dead. Still none of what he finds makes sense to Bryson as it goes against what is known about serial killers and his desire for Tianca. Yet to have multiple murderers burying their victims in easy to find shallow graves makes less sense than Tianca being a killer, associate, or next victim and where Degan fits is even more complicated as nothing adds up except that Bryson believes somehow this man is being compensated.

The latest Brysan “law” tale is an exciting police procedural in which the sum of the murders add up to be greater than the individual killings. Brysan is at his best trying to determine whether a serial killer or multiple killers are the murderers while also struggling with Tianca whose seductiveness has his blood flow entirely to his lower head. Fans of the series will enjoy his latest thriller while newcomers will seek previous Coventry investigations (See NIGHT LAWS and SHADOW LAWS).

To Dance With Kings
Rosalind Laker
Crown Three Rivers
0307352552 $14.95

In 1664 in the tiny village of Versailles, Jeanne Dremont, a peasant fan-maker, gives birth to her only child, whom she called Marguerite. Witnessing the birth is Augustin, a not quite twenty drunken aristocrat, who was actually coming to pay his respects along with his comrades like much of the French aristocracy to King Louis XIV. Excited by what he observed, he vows to come back for newborn Marguerite when she turns seventeen.

The Sun King’s court accepts Marguerite as one of them, which leads to her daughter Jasmin being raised in affluence and privilege as a favorite on the monarch. Her daughter Violette enjoys the wastrel lifestyle that proves the descendents of that fan maker have come a long way from their peasant mud. However, all of what these generations of women have achieved will implode when Violette’s daughter Rose becomes a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette.

This historical saga follows four generations of women as each rises a bit higher from their peasant roots only to find everything gone once the Revolution began. The entreating sweeping storyline chronologically focuses on each of the femmes enabling the audience to obtain deep insight into a century and a quarter France prior to and during the Revolution. Historical fiction readers will want to dance with Rosalind Laker as she provides a compelling drama that vividly showcases late seventeenth and eighteenth France through a strong cast.

The Wish Club
Kim Strickland
Crown Three Rivers Press
030735282X $13.95

The five women (Claudia, Lindsay, Gail, Mara and Jill) make up a book club. Each enjoys the camaraderie of the get together as they chat about life while drinking wine; they even occasionally discuss a book.

After reading a novel involving witchcraft and trying a light spell as a joke, Lindsay brings Benton’s Grimoire, a book on witchcraft, to the next meeting although that tome is outside the normal reading material for the quintet. Fascinated by the spells, they jokingly test the incantations starting with stopping the rain; to their amazement it worked. Awed they tried to cure diabetes inflicting a cat; it works. Excited, the five decide to make their personal lives better with a series spells.

Claudia asks for a baby and the writing a novel. Gail, the mother of three, wishes for some quiet time. Lindsay wishes to lose weight so that she participates in the Women’s Foundation fashion show. Mara asks for money and for her former singing career to start over. Finally Jill wishes to be inspired by the perfect man when she paints. However when the Wish Club members begin to get their desires fulfilled; they find their lives out of control. Panicking they need to find a real witch to return them from the Wish Club back to the Book Club.

Based on the concept that sometimes you get what you wish for, this well written lighthearted amusing chick lit tale stars five likable women who learn powerful life lessons. The changing needs of the quintet make the tale fun to follow as Kim Strickland cleverly insures each of the protagonists maintain their underlying basic personality even as their desires keep modifying. Fans who enjoy a charming whimsical fantasy will wish to join the WISH CLUB whose members ultimately wish to revert back to when they were a simple book club.

Wandering Hearts
Donna J. Grisanti
Phoenix Publishing
4139 Via Marina, Suite 801, Marinna Del Rey, Ca. 90292
0970886098 $14.95

During the latter stages of the Depression, orphaned eighteen year old Raine Foster lived with her beloved grandmother Just before WW II broke out, Raine’s grandma died. Her choice is simple to marry a nasty Silas Marner type of scrooge. She refuses to even consider that option, instead she decides she must leave and takes with her two younger cousins. The trio fakes their deaths so no one follows them.

On their trek, they meet Touhy, who offers no surname; he feels sorry for the pathetic threesome so begins to mentor them in living safely on the road as he takes them under his wings. However, he panics when he realizes how much he likes Raine so he initially flees, but he returns to see them settled, which he succeed doings on an apple farm with Chinese-American China Joe. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, the locals attack the farm to get at China Joe, but no one is hurt. Touhy leaves to join the military while Raine and China Joe marry. However, Joe loves wealthy Mayleen Walters while Raine loves Touhy.

This is a terrific WW II historical drama that provides fans with a strong look at what was going on at home. Interestingly the focus of the entertaining plot is while Americans of all races were volunteering or being drafted, racism still prevailed in the States. Readers will enjoy observing life (and death) at the farm although the complexities of who is with whom at the end cleans up perhaps to easily. Donna J. Grisanti provides a warm character driven 1940s tale in which “every heart needs a home” filled with loving caring people regardless of race, religion, origin, or sexual preference.

Dying To Live
Kim Paffenroth
Permuted Press
177 Hillcrest Ln, Mena, Arkansas71953
097897073X $12.95

As far as he knows, which he admits to himself during his lonely muses as very little, Jonah Caine wonders if he is the last human alive? Wherever he travels he finds zombies whom he tries to avoid not always successfully. Jonah feels the solitude eating away at him at time though he is a loner by nature. This is compounded by survivor’s guilt and he wonders if staying alive is worse than letting the zombies go at him.

After months of finding no one, Jonah miraculously meets a small commune of humans hiding in a museum. After telling his tale of woe, Jonah is accepted without a second thought by the leaders Jack, Tanya, Popcorn and Milton, but first he must undergo a religious rite of initiation involving a pilgrimage into the realm of the Undead.

This is an interesting tale of survivor in which those who still live establish new rites of passage in a post-apocalyptic world owned by the living dead. The fascinating story line focuses on the rituals that include risking one’s life while proving one’s worth by a willingness to slice off the heads of the undead. Although the museum encampment seems filled with too much rapport and positive vibes especially in the situation they find themselves in, fans of zombie thrillers will appreciate this deep look at a small group of humans simply DYING TO LIVE in a world gone to hell.

Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines
D.L. Snell
Permuted Press
0978970713 $12.95

Living humanity’s reign is through. First the Zombies devastated much of those still breathing. The few survivors were captured by Vampires, who saw their food supply dwindling towards extinction due to the violence of the dead. Now the berserker Zombies are literally at the door trying to break through barbwire and other barricades to get at the vampire clan and their lobotomized human cattle.

Vampiress Queen Shade wants only to keep her kingdom in tact; her top military officer General Frost feels the cost to maintain the status quo is more than just too high; inevitably the enemy will win. He believes they must flee to an island where the natural habitat will keep the Zombies away while they breed humans. However, neither vampire defenders, invading Zombies, and the few humans like Ann who can think realize that the new generation of the reanimated living dead is something more horrific and dangerous to all three species.

This is a terrific reworking of the zombie- vampire sagas that will grip readers from the moment the living dead attack the apartment building where the vampires are hiding and never slows down for a moment. The fast-paced story line is so filled with action that George Romero would give it five stars. However, it’s the two lead vampires, Ann, and a dangerous reanimator who all seem genuine in this post-apocalyptic world that turns the Snell mythos into one of the better supernatural thrillers of the year.

Split Ends
Kristin Billerbeck
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
1591455081 $13.99 1-800-251-4000

Sarah Claire Winowski believes that if she stays in Sable, Wyoming she is wasting her talent as a hairstylist and will end up like her fortyish mom looking and acting like a octogenarian. Thus her dream has been to follow in the footsteps of her famous cousin Scotty and become a hairstylist to the rich and famous at Yoshi’s salon.

When Scotty gets her work in Beverly Hills, Sarah Claire believes she is on her way to becoming the one that Hollywood turns to for that special look. As she begins to achieve success, Sarah Claire finds men want her, which has further increased her self esteem, but on the downside her alcoholic mother has arrived in town so that her daughter can buy her drinks.

SPLIT ENDS is an amusing chick lit tale that stars a woman with dreams who concludes the road to success is one way out of Sable. Sarah Claire is a fascinating protagonist who understands that her unsophisticated innocence leaves her one rung above the Clampetts without their money in the world of Beverly Hills. Although at times her aside complaints disrupt the interesting coming of age plot, sub-genre readers will feel that is splitting hairs as this is overall a fine character study.

The First Assistant
Clare Naylor & Mimi Hare
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0452288363 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

A the Agency, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Miller feels euphoric over her promotion from Second Assistant to First Assistant at The Agency although she does not have to work. Her fiance is wealthy movie superstar Luke Lloyd, who would gladly let Lizzie spend his money. However, she feels she must make it on her own even though that means at times living below the poverty line.

Currently Luke is on location in the Czech Republic filming a movie with his ex-girlfriend Emanuelle Saix as his costar. Amber Bingham Fox, the person who replaced Lizzie as Second Assistant when she was promoted, is a nasty SOB who plans to do anything to replace the FIRST ASSISTANT ASAP. Finally, Scott Wagner, her boss at the Agency, sends Lizzie to Thailand for three months to work with star teen Emerald Everhart, who has allowed fame to get into her head and turned her into a party hardy child. Worse for her, Luke’s housekeeper found her sleeping with a man. Work for Lizzie as THE FIRST ASSISTANT gets just as crazy as when she was THE SECOND ASSISTANT; only this time her personal life has fizzled out while the adventures keep on coming.

This is a fun look “behind the Hollywood curtain” at those who hope to one day walk on a red rug instead of rolling it out for others. Lizzie is at her frazzled best struggling with work and the collapse of her personal life. Although there is little that has not been used before in books including THE SECOND ASSISTANT, fans will enjoy this amusing chick lit continues to go Hollywood (and Thailand).

Lost in the Garden
Philip Beard
0670037591 $14.00

In the Pittsburgh, area, forty-five years old Michael Benedict decides he wants to live his dream of becoming a professional golfer so he plans to join the senior tour. His wife Kelly is unhappy with his desire although they live comfortably with their two children and his investments are growing. However, Kelly says if he score under seventy twice, she will support his Peter Pan fantasy.

When she learns she is pregnant he reacts by being cold towards her. She is hurt by his icy demeanor, but she reacts by withdrawing from him. Needing sex and not getting any home cooking he moves out becomes a recurring client of Healing Touch sexual therapy. He makes his bid to join the tour, but lacks conviction until his caddie Sal gets into his face that he has the talent to play, but not the heart.

LOST IN THE GARDEN is a terrific look at relationships when a man rejects his lifestyle to keep his youth even as he enters middle age. Michael is a deep person as he is the focus of the story line with his refusal to bring anything further into his relationships with loved ones and willingly gives up everyone he cherishes. The rest of the cast is not quite as developed as the prime player. Although the ending implies reconciliation, which goes against the trend of the plot, readers will appreciate making par with Philip Beard.

Dragon Queen
Jayel Gibson
1933538465 $14.95

In Aestretfordae, the Ancients grant great power to the three Guardians in training Yavie, Ryden and Nall. However, before their first official mission and in spite of these gifts, Nall is wounded by the deadly slitherwort poison; to save his life, Yavie gives him a blood oath.

The trio’s opening project seems simple enough. They are each assigned to contact a different dragon flyte, who will in turn consign a quest to the visiting Guardian. Nall travels to the Ice and Accordant flytes; Yavie meets with the Wind and War dragon horde; Ryden, who hates dragons, visits the Sea flyte, but also cuts a side deal with a siren. After the Guardians complete the dangerous missions, war erupts when a kingdom under Yavie’s watch attacks dragons. Sides are forming amidst the flytes, the kingdoms and the guardians with no one trusting their so-called allies or even a blood oath as betrayal is the norm amidst the Seven Kingdoms.

This is an interesting coming of age fantasy saga that focuses mostly on heroic Yavie although the other two guardians have their subplots told also just not as deeply as hers unfolds. Apparently THE WREKENING: An Ancient Mirrors’ tale was released before DRAGON QUEST, but this novel’s events occur earlier; thus the audience is better off reading this exciting story first. Though containing too much sidebar description, the brilliant use of On the Job Training to introduce the prime threesome make each of them seem genuine. Filled with political intrigue (especially interesting is the thought processes respectively of the Ancients and the flytes), military battles, and several surprising twists, Jayel Gibson provides an brilliant opening fantasy novel.

Thomas F. Monteleone
Borderlands Press
PO Box 660, Fallston, MD.21047
1880325764 $16.95

In Scarpino, Italy, the old too small village church was replaced by a modern edifice with its altar moved. No one was prepared for what resided underneath the altar in the old church when the religious icon was moved.

Just after the altar was relocated, Sophia Rousseau appears out of seemingly nowhere and begins a trek as she has done for many millennia. Men and women desire her at first sight and die for her at first contact. Sophia is on her way to Manhattan looking forward to mingling with its phallic towers as she brings her ancient supremacy to the new age seat of power. Deaths remain her calling card leading to fifty year old paranormal expert Matthew Cavendish to conclude that a beautiful ancient demon is sucking out the essence of life; some religious types would insist the Angel of Death is stealing their souls.

From the opening sequence in Italy to Sophia Manhattan journey, readers will enjoy this terrific battle between good (Matthew) and evil (Sophia) although the audience will ponder the absolutism of what is evil once Sophia’s cause surfaces. The story line is fast-paced, but is at its best with the hero and villain stepping closer to a modern day confrontation. Flashbacks to several historical periods like the Ancient Greeks enables the reader to better understand Sophia’s motives and how powerful she is, but that also slows down the overall tense tale; these side trips and more tales of Sophia’s past would make a great short story collection. Still Sophia steals the novel as she is more than a sexy soul eating demon; she is female on a mission to achieve an objective.

Douglas Clegg
Borderland Press
1880325780 $16.95

When Beau is ten years old he, his parents and twin sisters go to Gull Island, Georgia to see his granny. Also visiting at the same time is his cousin Sumter and his parents. The children watch their parents get drunk every night and say terrible things to each other. Sumter has a teddy bear called Bernard that he clings to while his father calls him a sissy who should act like a boy instead of a girl.

It is Sumter who finds the abandoned shack on his granny’s property and he calls it Neverland. He brings Beau to it and introduces him to the god he worships in a crate. Strange inexplicable things happen in this shack as they worship the god. He puts his hand in the crate as do his sisters when they come to Neverland and feel something bite them. A blood sacrifice is made as the children put their blood in the crate. Beau and the children believe they fly over Gull Island and see the ghosts of dead children; Sumter communicates telepathically with Beau who believes what happens is real. He knows that some things are inexplicable because his dreams come true. It is when Sumter wants them to make the final sacrifice that Beau turns against him risking his life to stop it from happening.

Douglas Clegg is a talented horror writer who manages to creep out his audience with a very visual picturesque storyline so that the reader feels as if they are inside the storyline. This is dark atmospheric work, gothic in tone that makes the readers question whether the events Beau experiences have more than one explanation. Neverland is a scary work written by an author soaring to the top of his game.

Lost Son
M. Allen Cunningham
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
1932961348 $25.95 1-888-732-3822

In 1902, twenty-six-year-old Rainer Maria Rilke has received a commission to write the definitive biography of the great sculptor Auguste Rodin. Accepting the work, Rainer leaves his wife and their newborn daughter behind in rural Germany seventeen grueling travel hours away from his new residence in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris. The rustic writer is overwhelmed by the city with its affluence and poverty side by side. He feels overwhelmed as his childhood nightmares of being a stranger amidst strange people frighten him, but mostly he fears failure as a poet, as a biographer, and as a writer. His abandoned family females give him moments of concern, but they tie back to his childhood, which he needs to escape from and find with his poetry and with his writing peer and muse Lou Salome.

This is an insightful biographical fiction of Rainer Maria Rilke, considered by many to be Germany’s greatest twentieth century poet. The story line focuses obviously on Rilke from the opening baptism in Prague to his schism with Rodin in Paris, but also provides a discerning window into the artistic movements of Western Europe during the tumultuous first two decades of the twentieth century. The not chronological in order events lead to a more vivid astute look at the period, but also make it more difficult to follow the prime focus of the novel, the life of Rilke. This is an entertaining account of a poet whose haunting dark work makes many consider Rilke as having one foot within the competing classical and another with the modernist movements.

The Crime Writer
Gregg Hurwitz
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0670063215 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

In Los Angeles crime writer Andrew “Drew” Danner wakes up in the hospital with no knowledge of how he was found holding a knife and blood is all over him that is not his while his former fiancee Genevieve Bertrand lies dead nearby. Having recently undergone surgery to remove a brain tumor, his short term memory is off. Thus he cannot remember how he came to the crime scene let alone killing Genevieve, but refuses to believe he would murder her as he feels that goes against his natural instincts.

Drew is found not guilty due to temporary insanity. However, he obsesses with knowing the truth as to whether he committed the homicide as everyone else assumes he did. He makes himself the amateur sleuth in a detective story and begins his investigation. When a second murder similar to the Bertrand homicide occurs, Drew looks guilty, but this time he knows he did not murder anyone. Someone is out to get him by using seemingly innocent people that Drew knows to point the police at him.

The first part of this exciting thriller may be the best opening ploy in the mystery genre this year. Once the court case is finished, the story line remains strong as readers will want to know whether Drew is capable of killing especially an innocent, but loses some of the momentum as the police become culpable with mistakes in their inquiry. Still Gregg Hurwitz provides an exhilarating tale starring a fascinating beleaguered protagonist who along with the audience wonders if H. Rap Brown’s famous saying "violence is American as cherry pie" is true?

The Last Summer (of You & Me)
Ann Brashares
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
1594489173 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

The family always spent summer in Waterby on Fire Island so not breaking from her childhood tradition twenty-one year old Alice and her older sister twenty-four year old Riley are there. The tomboyish Riley actually is working as lifeguard.

Also on the island for the first time in two summers is Riley's best friend Paul. His father is dead and he never sees his mother. However, he is not back on Fire Island for a vacation; Paul must decide what to do about the family house not used last summer. Paul also has to decide what to do about his neighbors as he wants Alice, but fears hurting Riley if he makes a move; he also believes Alice is attracted to him but like him does not want to hurt her sister. Riley has issues too that impact the other two members of the triangle.

Fans of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants will enjoy the first adult tale as the players somewhat grow up though at times they behave more like teens especially when conflict arises. The story line is fun to follow as change is in the air of Fire Island with Paul wanting to come out and declare his love for Alice. The Pants crowd will enjoy this fine summer entry, but the lead trio has not fully turned adult.

High Noon
Nora Roberts
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399154345 $26.95 1-800-847-5515

Savannah Police Lieutenant Phoebe MacNamara is the Georgia city’s top hostage negotiator. Her work is how she meets sports bar owner Duncan Swift when he observes her talk a leaper whom he just fired from jumping. Unable to resist this fascinating woman, Duncan romances her although Phoebe's family baggage, her young daughter and her agoraphobic mother causes difficulty in their relationship.

At the police station, someone assaults Phoebe; battering her after he or she put a hood over her head so she cannot identify who her attacker is. She is stunned as this is the last place she would expect anyone to be so brazen. She looking deep inside herself and remembers when she was a child and she and her family were terrorized by a dangerous intruder in their home. Phoebe refuses to back down and become a victim though she is very shook up. When the terror campaign continues with threats to her loved ones, the frustrated Phoebe decides to uncover the culprit so that she can get into his or her face before her fears of harm to her loved ones cripple her.

This is a one sitting action-packed thriller that grips the audience from the moment they meet the intrepid Phoebe and never slows down until the final confrontation with her unknown adversary. The entertaining cat and mouse police procedural story line is gripping because the beleaguered heroine is likable while her anonymous antagonist remains shadowy adding tension. Fans of Ms. Roberts or anyone who appreciates a tense HIGH NOON drama will want to read Ms. Roberts’ strong Savannah saga.

The Secret Servant
Daniel Silva

Gabriel Allon, one of Israel’s most dangerous and brilliant operatives, is sent to Amsterdam on what is supposed to be a quick in and out mission. Dutch citizen Solomon has sent Israel good Intel for years and has made many enemies because of his his speaking out against Islamic fundamentalism. Now that he was killed Allon is supposed to look for his files and wipe away any connection between the dead man and Israel.

He meets one of Solomon’s informants, who tells Allon that Solomon was going to tell his handler that a terrorist cell was slipped into England and there would be an attack someplace in the country. Finding verification, he warns London but it is too late, the American ambassador’s daughter is kidnapped and bombs are exploded at a stop on the underground, at Piccadilly Circle, and other crowed places. The Sword of Allah is behind the kidnappings and al Qaeda is behind the bombings. The terrorists want to destabilize Mubarik’s regime where the martyrs were recruited so that a fundamentalist government could come into power. The Sword of Allah says it will exchange the hostage for the prisoner Sheik Abdullah dying from cancer in an American jail. Allon is the only one who has the ruthless qualities necessary to rescue the hostage but he has to evade capture and death from his many enemies.

As action thrillers go, THE SECRET SERVANT is one of the best to come along in the last year. Daniel Silva starts off at the speed of light and the plot only defies physics by accelerating. What sets this book apart is it has depth because the author shows by the actions of the characters why the Muslim fundamentalists feel like they do (similar to Congressman Ron Paul at the Republican debates), how governments cope with constantly being in a state of red alert and how the terrorists mold the minds of the youth generation after generation in hopes of reestablishing a Caliphate in the Mideast. Mr. Silva also shows why there is so much Muslim unrest in Europe. This is the thinking person’s thriller.

Eye of the Beholder
David Ellis
0399154337 $24.95

In the summer of 1989, six women were found in the basement near the maintenance lockers of Mansbury College. All the women were tortured and each died in a different manner ranging from strangulation to near decapitation. One of the victims, college student Ellie Danzinger had gotten a restraining order out against Terry Burgos, a part time handyman at the college. Whey they went to his home, they found enough evidence to convict him for five of the killings. The case of the sixth girl he killed Cassie Bentley, daughter to a mega-mogul billionaire was never tried to her father’s influence. In 1996, Terry is killed but his last words, cryptic though they might be, were to the prosecutor Paul Riley: “I am not the only one”.

In the present, a series of murders are linked to the killings in 1989. Paul Riley, now the head of mega powerful law firm, receives strange notes from the killer, has his finger prints on one of the victims and is forced into part of the new case with it evidence similar to the case that solidified his reputation. Looked upon from a fresh perspective with new information, Riley finds that the 1989 case didn’t reveal all its secrets and someone wants them to stay buried.

This is one of the most energizing and emotionally satisfying police procedurals of the year. David Ellis makes his characters come alive so that readers will either root for or detest them; no one will remain detached. There is plenty of action and the changing from the eighties to the nineties to the present is smooth so that the readers are never jarred out of the storyline. The protagonist as he ages from a man who sees life as black and white to a person who realize there are subtle greys has to make some decisions as he confronts his greatest success with the realization it is also his greatest failure.

Killer Weekend
Ridley Pearson
0399154078 $24.95

Attorney General Elizabeth Shaler reflects back to eight years ago when she was a victim and almost killed when an intruder attacked her in her Sun Valley, Idaho vacation home. Only the efforts of a dedicated rookie cop Walt Fleming saved her life.

Walt’s excellent police work has been rewarded as he is the Sun Valley sheriff. However, he and his staff are preparing for a difficult weekend as Ms. Shaler, who is planning a run for the White House, has come to town to announce her intentions at an upper crust conference. Fleming is concerned that a hitman coming for Shaler has vanished off the radar screen when he should have been on the plane from Salt Lake City. Shaler’s security team and the zillionaire host scoff at Fleming’s paranoia; writing him off as a local rube trying to pretend he belongs with the big guys. Meanwhile assassin Milav Trevalian has usurped the identity of a Utah blind man he killed because he knows no one would expect a “blind” person to be the professional killer.

This is an exciting police procedural political thriller starring a likable dedicated hero who is treated with disdain by the “big boys and girls” and by his staff; one deputy believes the job should be his just like Fleming’s wife is apparently his. The motive why Trevalian’s employer wants Shaler dead is not provided with any depth, but most readers will not care as the action never stops. The audience will enjoy this fine tale starring an overworked sheriff struggling with a murder investigation, an animal cruelty case, the Shaler protection entanglement, and his ambitious treacherous deputy in what proves to be a lost KILLER WEEKEND.

Requiem for an Assassin
Barry Eisler
0399154264 $24.95

John Rain is an assassin ready to retire. He lives in Paris with his lover Delilah an Israeli agent who kills when the situation warrants it which doesn’t make it easier for Rain to shed his old habits. Half a world away a mercenary group led by Jim Hilger has worked out a plan to kidnap Rain’s friend Dox in order to get the professional killer to do three hits. When Dox is in their hands they contact Rain and order him to kill three people but if he makes it look like accidents they will free Dox.

Rain doesn’t believe Hilger will let Dox go but he agrees to do the assignment in order to buy time. He needs to locate where Hilger has stranded Dox and free him because he knows the man will kill him just as he knows that Jim plans to take him out as hit number three. The first hit is the CEO of a CIA funded neural net database company; the second victim is Michael Accinalli CEO of petrochemical industries. After Rain kills the two targets, one of Hilger’s henchmen tries to take him out and fails. Now Rain has to find Dox and rescue him and foil Hilger’s plan that would cause panic throughout the world.

Barry Eisler writes a great thriller with an unusual protagonist. Part of him is the cold murderer he calls the ice man while the evolving Rain starts to feel and care. There is plenty of action as Rain travels around the world trying to find his enemy’s goal which is not what the audience believes it is. Hilger has become what Rain was and Hilger likes that person which makes the audience dislike him and root for Rain to take him out on top. REQUIEM FOR AN ASSASSIN is the quintessential cat and mouse thriller with fans wondering just who the rodent is and who the feline is.

A Stranger Lies There
Stephen Santogrossiv
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312364415 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

In Palm Springs, California, carpenter Tim Ryder steps outside onto his porch to drink his first cup of coffee. However, he does not need caffeine to wake him up as he sees the body of a young man lying on his lawn. Tim asks his wife Deirdre if she recognizes the corpse, but like him she does not.

Tim ponders if his past has caught up to him. Three decades ago back in 1972, Tim went to jail for his role in a bank robbery that he and his college age pals thought was part of a Viet Nam protest. The leader of the heist, the much older Turret, spent the most time behind bars as the others gave testimony to reduce their incarceration. Tim learns Turret is free and believes he has begun a terrorist campaign of revenge although he has not been able to figure out how the lad fits into the war as he has no idea who the victim is. Still the carpenter vows to prevent Turret from harming him, Deidre or others as Tim has picked up the gauntlet, but not before death number two occurs.

The winner of the St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic contest for Best First Traditional Mystery Novel, A STRANGER LIES THERE is an exhilarating amateur sleuth cat and mouse tale. The story line is fast-paced and the characters fully developed especially the reluctant hero and to a degree Deidre whose past also haunts her. Although Stephen Santogrossiv at times passively pontificates the flow instead of allowing the action to move the plot forward, readers will appreciate this tense thriller with a terrific finish.

Old Town
Bill Vernon
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594145520 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

In Shawnee County, Ohio hermit like Cliff Saunders runs a wooded path when he comes across the body of his friend Sam. His first inclination is to get the hell out of there as he does not want trouble with the police; having had enough for a lifetime. However, when he gets home he feels guilty that he owes Sam so he calls the cops.

He meets the police at the crime scene and quickly alienates the investigators (Lieutenant Grimes and Detective Shepherd) with his bad-ass attitude and record. He soon learns Sam’s full name is Sam Burkhoffer, a person he had an incident with over land use several years ago. He did not recognize old Sam as that individual and wonders if Sam knew who he was. He remains the prime suspect in spite of someone breaking into his home seeking something and likewise in Sam’s home. When his place is torched, Cliff decides he must uncover the truth before he is hurt or arrested because he knows everything the law enforcement types find is proof of his guilt with Sam’s will serving as the motive

OLD TOWN is an entertaining investigative tale that employs the overly used theme of an amateur sleuth trying to prove their innocence during a police investigation in which all evidence points towards one suspect. The story line is refreshed by Cliff’s sarcastic acerbic attitude with the cops and his attraction to Grimes. The whodunit takes a back seat to the discussions between the lead character and the two cops investigating him. While wondering along with Grimes and Saunders why Sam sought out Cliff of all people (revealed late), readers will enjoy Bill Vernon’s fun mystery due to Cliff’s uncanny ability to put his feet into his big mouth.

Diamond in the Sky
Margaret Bailey
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594145660 $26.95 1-800-223-1244

In 1895 in Leadville, Colorado, Juliet Corcoran and her ailing younger brother Larry arrive from Baltimore hoping the drier climate will help him with his fight to survive consumption. Shopkeeper Thaddeus McElwain and wealthy widower Noah Ralston are attracted to the lovely vivacious Juliet, who plans to open up a tailor shop unaware that the town is dying with its last hope being an ice castle to serve as the center of an annual winter carnival.

However, Thad’s hopes to win the hand of Juliet take a setback when his nasty brother Zeb arrives in town. Soon afterward “Marsh” Marshall who opposes the ice castle is killed following a fire and a public argument with Thad. All evidence points towards Thad although Noah witnessed who killed the curmudgeon. He blackmails Juliet into becoming his fiancee if she wants him to help keep her beloved Thad out of prison.

Although Zeb’s bitterness and jealousy makes him unlikely to seek out the object of his disdain, western romance readers will enjoy this fine tale of the gay nineties just after the Silver Panic. The lead triangle is a fine setup as each is fully developed and knows what they want and how to achieve it. Especially fascinating is Noah whose wealth comes from his late wife who died along with their offspring in childbirth. Margaret Bailey provides a solid look back through the interrelationships of her prime trio plus Zeb and Larry that enables the audience to watch a dying town grasping one last desperate attempt to survive.

Bad Thoughts
David Zelsterman
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594145407 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

Considering the trauma he experienced when he was thirteen years old and the emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, Billy Shannon grew up to be a fine man and a fantastic police officer. However, a few weeks before the anniversary of his mother’s death, he begins to dream but they are no ordinary nocturnal reveries. This year he dreams of a woman who was murdered and from his mind he pulls out the real time location of where her body is located.

He experiences his usual blackout after he goes on his yearly “binge” but this time the dreams don’t stop. Two other murders occur to women and in the same manner in which his mom was murdered, a knife in her throat by drifter Herbert Winters. All the evidence points to Shannon as the killer and he keeps dreaming and hearing the whispers of Herbert Winters claiming one of his alter egos are killing the women. Shannon knows he has killed nobody but he also believes Herbert isn’t the murderer because he killed him when he was thirteen after hours of torture. Someone is out to frame him for the killings and when he figures out why, he will know who and the reason this person has such a malevolent lethal grudge against him.

David Zeltserman is a talented noir thriller writer who throws one surprise after another at the audience so that they find themselves totally bewildered about what is really happening to the protagonist. Shannon has not had an easy life but his suffering never turned him to the dark side. Instead it made him a strong person determined to see justice is done which is why he became a police officer. The villain is so over the top that he makes the audience feel creepy as if spiders are crawling all over their bodies. This is a must read for thriller fans.

The Edge of Forever
Nancy Kelley
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594145784 $26.95 1-800-223-1244

Nurse Jennifer Denton was hired to look after the wealthy and ailing Belinda Wilson Now that her charge is dead, she realizes the family survivors are eagerly waiting to hear the will so they can find out how much she left to them. Nobody is more surprised then Jennifer when she is asked to stay for the reading of the will. Each Wilson is left $100 but the heir is her grand niece’s son John and Jennifer is asked to take care of him for a considerable fee.

His father Stuart, a member of the diplomatic corps stationed in Panama has gone missing so he needs a guardian Belinda could trust and she knew Jennifer was responsible and would take great care of her Johnny. Soon after the reading of the will, Stuart makes an appearance but he stays in the shadows because some very bad killers of a drug cartel are after the agent. Jennifer sees the scars on his back from torture and her heart goes out to him. As they spend time together their feelings for one another grow and when Jennifer is kidnapped to be used as bait to capture Stuart, he moves heaven and hell to find her. Together they have to elude the enemy and Jennifer is determined to help him whether he likes it or not.

If one can accept the premise that a very sheltered woman is outwitting professional hitmen of a drug cartel and driving like a secret agent man, one will thoroughly enjoy the exciting THE EDGE OF FOREVER. When the plot remains a thriller , the audience will find it plausible although tottering the edge; but when it turns to a romance readers will find it hard to believe that the in peril lead couple are truly in love. Still Nancy Kelley writes a fun over the top romantic suspense.

Fitness Kills
Helen Barer
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594145877 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

Max and Nora have each other but their differences make them separate. She thinks he is too controlling and dominating and looks at her career as a food critic and columnist as fluff. She takes a job at Rancho de las Flores in Baja, California in order to revamp the old fashioned vegetarian recipes and when she leaves she will write a book on the new food served at the spa. The first couple of weeks she is lonely because the chef doesn’t want her to make changes.

During her third week there is a group of people who go from spa to spa around the country. Nora immediately likes millionaire businessman Alison Evans and Cece who takes the instructor under their wings. One of the group never shows up and his body is found on Mount Chuchuma, his head injury the cause of death. They are not sure if it is an accident or murder until Cece imbibes a drink with her name on it and dies instantly. It is obvious she is poisoned and Nora believes the same person also killed Alan. She investigates in the hopes of finding the killer and two attempts on her life don’t stop Nora even though Max, who has arrived on the scene, begs her to leave it to the police to find the murderer.

Within the group there are plenty of suspects from a land deal that went south causing some members to lose money to Alan’s in laws who grow and export marijuana to the United States. Nora is a strong willed woman who does what she believes is best even if it means getting Max angry at her. Helen Barer has written an endearing and charming cozy populated with quirky characters.

Bite The Moon
Diane Fanning
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594145490 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

While waiting in a fast food hamburger jaunt for her husband, a hooded gunman kills one of her students working there and then her spouse when he enters. No longer satisfied with teaching, Molly Mullet joined the police academy and is now a police officer. She is moonlighting at the dance hall Solms Halle when she hears a commotion and sees blood leaking out of a closet. When the door is opened, the body of the manager of the band performing there is found.

Before a through investigation can be made, Bobby Wiggins the janitor who is mentally challenged is jailed but Molly knows the man with the mind of a four year old is innocent. She quits her job and offers to work gratis for the defense lawyer who has her working under his private investigator’s license. She receives threats warning her off the case but she continues making inquiries when another member of the band is killed. An anonymous caller places her at the crime scene and she is brought in for questioning. When a song writer who has a connection to the band is murdered Molly believes the same person killed all three men and she intends to figure out who it is; although she does not know the killer wants and needs to make her victim number four.

Molly’s belief in her childhood friend and her desire to have the real killer caught makes her an independent, strong willed and pig-headed woman who somehow makes the reader care about her. At first there is a plethora of suspects because the band manager had lots of enemies but as more people are killed, the suspects are whittled away and the investigation takes off in a new direction. Dianne Fanning has written an excellent police procedural even thought her protagonist is no longer on the force as she still thinks and works like a cop.

The Ghosts of Varner Creak
Michael Lee Weems
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594145776 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

Eighty something year old Solomon Grady lives in a nursing home where he is constantly visited by the ghost of a woman whose face is in shadows. When he dies he meets up with loved one and sees the events that led up to the tragedy that changed his life in 1909 when he was only twelve years old. Sol’s mother Annie caught the attention of field hand Abram Mayfield and though she didn’t love him she felt she had to marry him when he made her pregnant.

This was not a happy marriage and Sol remembers as a child that his pap used to hit and shove his mother leaving bruises on her face and arms. One day he beats her so hard he almost kills her; his father’s best friend Colby who married Annie’s sister Emma intervenes and beats him up. After that he stops hitting her and starts in on Sol. On the day of his sister Sarah’s birthday everyone notices she is preoccupied. The next day when he wakes up Abram tells him his mother left them and took his sister with her. When he goes to stay at his Aunt Emma’s home he sees the ghost of Sarah and starts to wonder if his mother and sister really deserted him after all.

This is as much a mystery as it is a family drama focusing on a drunken abusive man who makes life miserable for everyone who loved him. Readers will have no sympathy for passive Annie who is has been so beaten into submission that she is unable to prevent her husband from hitting her child or treating his offspring and wife as slaves to be abused. This tale is very atmospheric with dark overtones that imply a paranormal gothic mystery.

Bad Lands
Selina Rosen and Laura J. Underwood
Five Star
1594144737 $25.95

Paranormal forensic pathologist Maggie Holmes, has tried unsuccessfully twice to gain access to Knight Island, where two violent serial murders occurred two decades apart. She gave up any hope of ever getting there until she finds out that the reality show Chicken Out will stage an event there. Maggie maneuvers her way onto the show with her partner being her friend lesbian police sketch artist Vivian Storm, a psychic bartender, who reluctantly agreed after the fact when she learns they will split a million dollars when they win.

Other teams vie with the two females for the prize, but almost immediately upon debarking one member of a duo of cooks is murdered and the boats to leave Knight Island destroyed. A killer is on the loose with more homicides. Maggie applies her forensic skills along with Vivian's sketches of what the victims’ last saw before dying in an attempt to stop a brutal serial killer from adding them to the list.

This gruesome Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None Survivor thriller hooks the audience from start to finish seeing whether Holmes and Storm are left standing as elimination from this reality show is by death. The story line is graphic especially when Vivian sees what the dead saw; not sure how she lives with these nightmarish final pictures. Although too gory at times (unless you have the stomach of Vivian), the BAD LANDS is a tense thriller tale as Holmes investigates with Vivian as her able assistant.

The Inferno Collection
Jacqueline Seewald
Five Star
1594145768 $26.95

English doctoral student Lorette Campbell asks her friend, former student turned reference librarian Kim Reynolds if she knows anything about the inferno collection. Kim says no although she does not need to depend on her psychic skill her grandma calls the “awareness” to know her friend is upset. However, the nervous Lorette insists it exists and her limited knowledge has placed her in harm’s way; she mentions a recent accident that she believes was no accident. Not long after their meeting, Lorette dies with the police claiming it was a suicide.

Kim believes otherwise and begins inquiries starting with seeking out whether the inferno collection exists. Her efforts bring her to the attention of Professor Don Bernard who she was attracted to when she was a student and psychic police detective Mike Gardner who fears the librarian is in over her head and in trouble. As she investigates, attempts on her life made to look like accidents happen.

This paranormal amateur sleuth with some police procedural elements is an enjoyable whodunit starring a likable librarian who goes from no men in her life to two men in her life. Kim is a delightful lead character as she cannot help but investigate the death of her friend starting with her inquiry into whether the INFERNO COLLECTION even exists. Her jaunt into danger with two males trying to keep her safe will entertain readers as her goal is to insure Lorette’s restless spirit finds peace.

Reunion To Die For
Lauren Carr
Five Star
1594145482 $25.95

In 1984 in Chester, West Virginia, her mother coming home from work and discovered the murdered corpse of teenager Tricia Wheeler; the killer was never caught. Two decades later at the upcoming high school reunion, investigative reporter Gail Reynolds announces she will write a true crime book on the unsolved Wheeler case.

Hancock County prosecutor widower Joshua Thornton is unhappy with the proclamation as he expects to be painted badly in spite of being a student at the time by Reynolds who seems to loathe him. However, the single father of four has no time to brood; besides raising his brood someone murdered a cheerleader Grace Henderson with the crime emulating the Wheeler homicide. Soon afterward, Gail is killed, but hot shot police detective Seth Cavanaugh believes Joshua killed the two females and probably Wheeler too. Other killings follow.

This is an entertaining police procedural legal thriller with a terrific final twist that insures justice occurs. Joshua is a delightful protagonist who struggles with a difficult case already personal made even harder when he becomes the prime suspect. Although some of the resolution comes out of nowhere, mystery readers will want to attend A REUNION TO DIE FOR.

James A. Ciullo
Five Star
1594145539 $25.95

In 1998 Vermont, Joe LaCarta runs for the US Senate as an independent. On the same day Joe faces the media; his friend Francisco “Pancho” Morales is driving from Northern Baja to his home in San Diego after working as a volunteer at an orphanage. However, he is stopped by the police and two other vehicles. Knocked out, they send him and his car over the nearby ledge killing Pancho.

Joe attends the funeral of his 1972 Peace Corps pal; reflecting back to the idealism they and Pedro “Pete” Donovan made pragmatic with a heist. However, Joe soon realizes that the so called accident was a murder message intended to warn him about his senate run and the robbery that still funds a small town. He knows he can quit the race, but like his two Peace Corps compadres, Joe will not give up because of a threat; instead he plans to confront his unknown adversaries.

ORINOCO is an interesting political thriller as Joe learns the senate plays hard ball with mavericks. The action-packed story line is fast-paced although readers will be hard pressed to accept fifty years old Joe as an action hero. Still he is fun to follow and his political positions enlightening in probably the only state willing to elect a true independent (Bernie Sanders; Joe Lieberman remains a democrat). James A. Ciullo provides a twisting tale in which the past haunts the future.

The Blood of Father Time Book Two: The Mystic Clan’s Grand Plot
Alan M. Clark, Stephen C. Merritt & Lorelei Shannon
Five Star
1594146047 $25.95

As a youngster, Joel Biggs, accompanied by his friends Mark and Billy, traveled back in time to 1811 Tennessee. Joel always regretted that he couldn’t save Mark from a raging river. He and Billy were able to get back to their own time but Billy died young and Joel became an alcoholic. He is drying out at his friend’s house when he decides to go back to the past and find Mark. When he makes his move, his friend’s seventeen year old daughter Rachel follows; they end up in the 1830’s.

They end up staying at a farmhouse teaching the father and his son to read and write. When Jarrett Cotten’s men steal two of the farmer’s slaves, Joel goes after them; when they meet Cotten takes a shine to him. He tells him that he has a following called the Mystic Clan and their goal is to have the slaves revolt in the south so that he and his followers can steal the plantation owners blind. Joel realizes he is playing the role of Mathew Crenshaw who wrote about Cotten and his plans in order to stop it from happening. He gets a lot of Intel from Cotten before they part ways and he sets out to write the book he read in his own century hoping that this and another plan will break the back of the Mystic Clan.

Although Joel is an adult, this is a great coming of age story. Joel leaves a piece of himself back in the eighteenth century and his need to go back is understood by the audience. Readers will like the tortured hero who meets up with Mark and others who made an impact on his young life when he traveled back to the past the first time (see THE BLOOD OF FATHER TIME BOOK 1). Though Cotton’s rambling seems too bodacious bragging, readers will enjoy the continuing adventures of Joel Briggs, past and present, and past.

If Truth Be Told
Lynda Fitzgerald
Five Star
1594145687 $26.95

In 1961 when Christie O'Kelly was fourteen her beloved Uncle Jack, who serves as her male role model after her dad died, remarried. At the ceremony, Christie and her older sisters meet their new Aunt Carly’s son Todd. Christie thinks he is a hunk, but he ignores her. Over the next four years as she trades bobby sox for stockings, Christie finds she still wants Todd until he marries someone else.

In 1973, a divorced Todd realizes Christie is the one for him, but she rejects his advances. When her beloved Uncle Jack becomes ill, she goes to help Aunt Carly nurse him. Todd uses this time to try to re-win the heart he tossed aside when he thought she was too young for him.

This is a fascinating look at a girl becoming a woman as Lynda Fitzgerald takes readers through the major events shaping the life of her likable lead female. Thus the story line feels more like a series of vignettes in the life of Christie rather than a novel. This technique enables the audience to see deeply into what made her the adult she is, but lacks sustained action built from previous events as each occurrence is somewhat a stand alone. Fans of deep character studies of whom and what turned a teenage girl into the woman she is will appreciate Ms. Fitzgerald discerning tale.

Dead Man’s Song
Jonathan Maberry
078601816X $6.99

Pine Deep, Pennsylvania is known as the most haunted place in the United States. Every October, tourists flock to the small town enabling the local business to make enough money to live off of during the winter months. When a car breaks down with three Philadelphia mobsters inside including psychopath Karl Ruger on Guthrie land, thy terrorized the family and killed the patriarch before Ruger went down.

When Ruger awakens in the hospital, he tries to kill Crow who thought he killed him. The police put him down. One of the other criminals is dead and the third missing and seen around town although he should be dead with all the bullets in him. The missing criminal been turned by the evil thing that lurks beneath the swamp in Dark Hollow. Some believe it is a monster that died thirty years ago. Ruger somehow left the morgue with his intelligence intact, but has stepped beyond the living. Other townsfolk are secretly being turned so the Red Wave can hit on Halloween Eve. Crow knows something evil blankets Pine Deep and he must stop it but first he must save his lover who has been targeted by Ruger.

With only one fiction novel to his credit, Jonathan Maberry shows the skills of a top horror writer. DEAD MAN’S SONG keeps the audience wondering whether supernatural killers are at work or human predators as the strong cast insures readers will not know until the climax. Keep the lights on afterward because this one leaves you with the shivers.

Midnight Confessions II
Bonnie Edwards
Kensington Aphrodisia
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
0758214219 $12.95 1-800-345-2665

Faye Grantham inherited the run down Perdition House bordello from her recently deceased great-aunt. Sight unseen her plan is to sell the property as soon as possible. However, upon seeing the place, she has a sudden urge in her gut to live here.

Faye quickly learns she is not alone as the ghosts of those who peddled their flesh reside there. They fill her nights with erotic tales of their escapades while her luscious lawyer Liam and business mogul Mark makes those dreams real. As she relishes her new lifestyle, Faye worries that she may still have to sell as she lacks the money to maintain this house of pleasure.

This sequel to MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS is a delightful supernatural erotic tale in which the spirited women of pleasure provide refreshing pleasure to the entertaining story line. The living trio consists of full blooded characters although the males’ blood affirm that there is enough to feed one head at a time while Faye compares their high octane performances not to each other, but to the tales told by her “roommates”. Bonnie Edwards writes such a heated tale that the audience will crave more Midnight Confessions trois.

Bound in Flesh
David Thomas Lord
1575667657 $14.00

Art critic Jean-Luc “Jack” Courbet and his lover model Claude Halloran (Jack changed Claude in BOUND IN BLOOD) have literally taken a bite out of the gay communities of the Big Apple, the Vegas Strip, the Big Easy, and Paris to name a few of their haunts. The two vampires dine on the blood of their homosexual victims, but leave Manhattan since word spread about the “Horror of West Street”. As they leave behind mostly dead but some enslaved undead, they make a mistake that might prove divine intervention for them if they can control and convert NYPD cop Michael O' Donald. He has turned but thirsts for revenge especially against those who changed him. Claude thinks Michael is perfect to finally eradicate Jack’s violent much more powerful then them mother Noel Courbet.

However, not only is Michael a shockingly independent thinker, “mother dearest” is coming for them as they failed to obtain as she demanded the Charnac’s grimoires for her. Meeting red witches and switching bodies to hide their “souls” from Noel, Claude and Jack become Vegas stage magicians so they can dine in style. Still both wonder how they seem to be in hell in a hand basket quicker than nipping some mortal gay’s neck.

Changing the scope from the Greenwich Village sexual gay kills by Jack of underdeveloped prey in BOUND IN BLOOD yet keeping the morality of a creature hunting humans as food, BOUND IN FLESH is a terrific vampire fantasy focusing on the two vampires hiding from Mommy Dearest. The key cast members are fully developed especially Jack, Claude and Michael so that the audience can accept gay vampires traversing the world’s hot spots. Sub-genre readers will enjoy the second Bound thriller as David Thomas Lord writes an exhilarating vampire tale.

Ham Bones
Carolyn Haines
0758210922 $22.00

A year ago, Sarah Booth Delaney realized she would never make it as a Broadway star so she returned home to Zinnia, Mississippi where she opened up a private detective agency with her best friend Tinki. She left behind her lover Graff who made no move to stop her; he promptly entered into a relationship with diva Renata who Sarah was once an understudy for in a Broadway play that won the star an award.

Sarah is not exactly thrilled that Graff and Renata are coming to Zinnia to put on the play Cat On A Hat Tin Roof. Graff tells Sarah that Renata has been behaving erratically and he wants Sarah to be her understudy; she finally agrees but instead works like a gofer driving to Nashville to pick up a special trade of lipstick made especially for the pampered star. During her intermission, Renata keels over and dies; the coroner determines cyanide poisoning was cause with the lipstick as the mechanism. Other circumstantial evidence enhances the lipstick pointing to Sarah as the killer. Sheriff Coleman Peters who professes to love her arrests her. When she is freed on bond Sarah with Tinki at her side sets out to prove her innocence by seeking to uncover the identity of the real killer.

Sarah blossoms in HAM BONES as her coping skills give her a confidence she never had before. If she is cleared of the charges she has new chance to renew her relationship with Graff and going to Hollywood. Readers will root for her to make it with Graff, as her relationship with the sheriff has done nothing but her. The victim had a lot of enemies with enough motives to want her dead. Sarah has to figure out which one of them actually put their desire into practice, as to all of them felt strongly enough about her to do so. When it comes to rattling southern bones, Carolyn Haines writes an exciting down home cozy.

Once Around the Track
Sharon McCrumb
0758207786 $25.00

The entire NASCAR Team Vagenya (a female Viagra sponsor) is female with one exception; the driver Badger Jenkins. He was selected for several reasons: the lack of women drivers, his Peach State looks, his unpretentiousness in only wanting to drive and fish, and he is good. Badger just wants to drive race cars and go fishing on his days off.

Team engineer Taran Stiles has always worshiped the mega talented hunk especially in his purple outfit. However, she hid her feelings and kept her distance as much as possible. Now they work for the same team, but worse she knows it is not hero worship as she loves the hunk who hangs around the garage like one of the team.

This interesting look at an all female NASCAR team trying to make it in what is perceived as a male sport is a refreshing tale although none of the characters including the romantic lead come across as very deep as NASCAR is the star. Fans of NASCAR will appreciate the look into the racing world in which the relationship between Badger and Taran serves to enhance a scrutiny of the sport. Readers will enjoy what occurs off the track (including a betrayal by writing a memoir expose), in the pits (Pit Chief Tuggle leads as Kensington states: “A League of Their Own”), and on the oval (Badger goes for victory).

Room Service
Amy Garvey
Kensington Brava
0758215916 $14.00

In New York City, Olivia Callender knows it will be difficult, but she obsesses over saving her family home where she grew up, the century old hotel Callender House. However, she ignores the truth that the place is falling apart and probably should be condemned; it will take a lot of capital to renovate the once glamorous hotel.

Renowned British chef Rhys Spencer checks into the hotel. As Olivia tries to save her inheritance, she is upset with her uncle who she believes has nefarious plans to take control of Callender House from his “addlebrained” niece. However, as she and Rhys fall in love, she begins to take a second look at the old hotel that has been her home. She soon begins to understand people make the memories not places or things.

The author uses humor to lighten the deep message of a woman beginning to understand it is people not edifices that matter. ROOM SERVICE is a delightful contemporary romance that in many ways is a coming of age tale. As the hotel’s nameplate keeps falling down no matter what she does to prevent that from happening, Olivia is the star of the well written story line; her metamorphosis due mostly to Rhys and that makes for a fine tale.

Passion For The Game
Sylvia Day
Kensington Brava
0758217595 $14.00

Her stepfather uses her sister to blackmail Lady Maria Winter to abet his schemes. He has no concern re the impact his machinations have on her only that she obey or else never see her sibling again. However and in spite of her own scandals as an alleged widow-maker with two spouses suspiciously dead, Maria uses her keen intelligence to stay one step ahead of this rat until she figures out where he stashed her sister.

Her odious relative demands Maria use her body to seduce pirate Christopher St. John. However, she is attracted to the rogue who she must prove is a traitor or at least a dupe. Christopher has just gotten freed from prison with the stipulation that he seduce the “Wintry Widow” in order to learn her secrets and more so that of her stepfather. However, he is attracted to his target making him wonder if he has fallen into her sensual trap.

This historical romantic suspense grips the audience from the opening moment when readers meet the Wintry Widow and never slows down until the final confrontation. Maria and Christopher are terrific protagonists as they struggle between blackmailing demands and love. Sylvia Day writes a superb tale that will have her fans wondering throughout what the lead couple will choose.

Sun, Sand, Sex
Linda Lael Miller, Jennifer Apodaca and Shelly Laurenston
Kensington Brava
0758210965 $14.00

"One Last Weekend" by Linda Lael Miller. Their attorney friend handling their divorce asks Teague and Joanna Darby to spend a weekend together at their cottage. Whereas the lawyer hopes for a reconciliation, neither Darby expects one although a ferry strike and the storm outside leaves them stranded dealing with each other’s desire for one another.

"You Give Love a Good Name" by Jennifer Apodaca. Wedding planner turned thriller novelist Lexie Rollins escapes from her family, a stalking groom whom she stapled when he mauled her though she was charged for battery, and the cops so that she can complete her latest work on time. However, a bounty hunter she met four months earlier arrives in the Nick (Vardolous) of time.

"My Kind of Town” by Shelly Laurenston. Witch Emma Lucchesi arrives in Smithville, North Carolina to the consternation of shape-shifting deputy sheriff Kyle Treharne. He detests Yankees especially one who lives within a baseball toss of the Stadium, but somehow she has bewitched him anyway.

These three fun contemporary romances star strong protagonists struggling with their respective relationships. Though the sub-genre underlying theme of each tale differs (family drama, suspense, and fantasy) making one wonder why this mix, contemporary romance readers will enjoy these fine novellas.

Nine Months in August
Adriana Bourgoin
0758217315 $14.00

In Massachusetts caterer and events planner Gretchen Fox always uses lists to plan her day. However, she is stunned when an unforeseen circumstance nukes the best laid long term plans of mice and married women when she learns she is pregnant.

Her husband Fredrik is euphoric with the news, which just adds guilt to Gretchen’s despondency. Her best friends since their Smith College days together, Meredith and Louisa, are ecstatic as the three musketeers are pregnant at the same time; their joy makes Gretchen feel more miserable. Besides coping with morning sickness 24/7, and her mother, Gretchen fears she will lose her position as the family friendly era ended when compassionate conservatism became in. As months towards her August due date pass, Gretchen begins to feel an iota of happiness that with each day grows until she begins to find bliss with the coming of their baby.

This fascinating character study showcases how comparatively marriage makes some important changes in a person’s lifestyle, but the altering seems insignificant when compared with how a baby nukes a way of life. Gretchen is the star as she goes through the nine months that feels like eternity in purgatory. Adriana Bourgoin provides a great tale of a pregnant woman whose emotions run the gamut from euphoria to self loathing and deprecation.

Wild, Wild Women of the West
Layla Chase, Delilah Devlin, Myla Jackson
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758219814 $12.95

"Taste of Honey" by Delilah Devlin. Traveling saleswoman Honey Cafferty sells cure all elixirs and love potions from her medicine show wagon. Sheriff Joe Tanner knows he must order her to leave town as she is a major disturbance especially to his libido.

"Queen of Hearts" by Layla Chase. Queen of Hearts Riverboat owner Roark Sheridan loves the thrill of the game as nothing can match his passion for poker. Gambler Tayte believes poker is better than sex. That is until these card sharps meet one another calling with their respective hearts.

In "Touch of Magic" by Myla Jackson. When the handsome cowboy Trace Adams called her a fake, The Amazing Caterina decided to teach him never to call a female master magician a charlatan. She hypnotizes the stud and has him do what she wanted in a wild one night stand. However, Trace does not need to be mesmerized to be caught under Caterina’s sensual spell.

These three well written heated novellas contain strong plots as the star cowboys know how to ride and shoot and the sultry sirens know how to entice these cowpokes to ride and shoot.

Completely His: Loving Jesus Without Limits
Shannon Ethridge
WaterBrook Press
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1400071100 $15.99 1-800-726-0600

Using anecdotal incidents form her own life, Shannon Ethridge makes the case that God welcomes doubting Thomasina into his tent. She begins her assertion with the story of being a teen putting on lipstick while driving to school hitting a person walking on the road. That individual Marjorie Jarstfer died; her husband Gary asked if she was okay. Instead of loathing her, he tells her about his wife. He not only forgave her he and his family and their pastor informed Shannon that God forgave her too and that Marjorie was surely with Jesus forgiving her and wanting her to move on and make something of herself.

Thus this sets the tone as Ms. Ethridge uses plenty of scripture and personal incidents to encourage hurting women that God is there for them even people like her who committed vehicular homicide and who became a sex sinner before she found her way to redemption. Well written, those who already appreciate Ms. Ethridge’s powerful message will fully appreciate her latest Bridal Party inspirational (see COMPLETELY LOVED and COMPLETELY FORGIVEN); however, this doubting reviewer disbelieves those with damaged souls will soar to this motivating epiphany and make Jesus the passion of your life.

The Hellfire Conspiracy
Will Thomas
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
141654805X $24.00 1-800-223-2336

Enquiry agent Cyrus Barter and his employee Thomas Llewellyn make an interesting team. Llewellyn was unjustly accused of theft by a peer of the realm who attended Oxford with him. The man’s peer father made sure Llewellyn was sent to prison and while there, his wife died of consumption. He blames the aristocrat who accused him of theft and lives to even the score. Barker earned a living working on the China Sea. The empress gifted him with a dog Harm for services rendered and sent him the slave girl Fu Ying to take care of the dog.

Their latest case begins when a major if the Queen’s Guard hires them to find his daughter who disappeared while his wife was doing charity work in the Bethel Green section of London. At first they believe she was kidnapped by white slavers until another child was found murdered in the area. Barker and Llewellyn discover from the police that other girls usually in the same manner have been snatched like the latest victim. The killer communicates with Barker via badly written poetry adding to their concern that they may be too late to save the mayor’s daughter and must settle for catching her killer before he kills again.

This is a terrific historical mystery due to the two protagonists tracking a serial killer in a believable fashion during a time when the term wasn’t ever coined, the methodology for catching them was non-existent and the various police departments were not communicating with each other. Barker is a cipher wrapped in an enigma and covered in a puzzle making readers curious about his past. Llewellyn is more understandable and likeable because even though he lost his freedom and his beloved wife, he created a new and respectable life for himself. Readers enjoy their escapades in an England that is no more.

The Red Dahlia
Lynda La Plante
1416532196 $14.00

In London a young woman is found brutally slaughtered near the Thames. Former lovers, Detective Inspector Anna Travis and Detective Chief Inspector James Langton are assigned to investigate although neither are fully comfortable working together and because of the level of brutality that the victim suffered at the hands of her raging culprit when still alive and even after she died.

Both DI Travis and DCI Langton fear this will prove not to be the first such horrid homicide and their concerns prove right when a second battered female is found. Soon afterwards, letters begin to arrive similar to what haunted Los Angeles five decades ago when the unsolved Black Dahlia murder occurred. As the vicious killer scorns the two sleuths as being pathetic losers, Travis and Langton know number three is coming if they continue to fail to uncover the identity of the Red Dahlia Avenger.

The second Anna Travis English police procedural (see ABOVE SUSPICION) contains an interesting premise that grips the audience from the start. The story line focuses strongly on the police work in sub-atomic levels of detail that some will feel overwhelming while others will appreciate what a cop must do to solve a well publicized case. Travis is the star but she is not Jane Tennison as readers will feel the lead investigator is too professionally detached from the murders showing little disgust, anger or any emotion. Still this is a fine whodunit with the inspectors struggling to find a Prime Suspect.

As I Have Loved You
Nikki Arana
0800731670 $12.99

Single mother Leigh Scott is very close with her twenty-one year old college junior offspring Jeff. She is proud of him and looks forward to his receiving his degree. However, she is also obstinate that nothing will deter Jeff from finishing school and obtaining a good job.

Thus she is unhappy that her Jeff has fallen in love with trashy Jessica, who has a negative history and is unable to support herself. Leigh wonders how she can intervene in this unacceptable relationship, get Jeff back to hitting the books, and yet not alienate her son.

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU is an interesting character study of a mother who feels no female (except herself) is good enough for her son. Thus the audience gets deep inside Leigh’s head as Jeff not only has found a woman, but one that is extremely unacceptable to his mom (not that anyone else would). Nikki Arana provides a discerning look at a dysfunctional mother son relationship that outsiders would have thought healthy based on a glimpse; however although well written, Leigh is too nasty and infantile to gain audience caring as she her love seems psychotic instead of for instance her feelings generated from a fear of being alone.

Free Food for Millionaires
Min Jin Lee
Warner Books, Inc.
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
0446581089 $24.95 1-800-759-0190

In Queens, her Korean born father Joseph thinks it is time for his Americanized twenty two years old daughter Casey Han, a recent Princeton graduate, to find a job while also demanding she follow the old country tradition. In anger, because of her disrespect for him, he slaps her and kicks Casey out of the house. With her economics degree in hand and her affluent upper crust lifestyle, Casey goes to her boyfriend's apartment, but he is to busy with a menage de trois. She moves into Manhattan’s Carlyle Hotel although she will have problems paying off the credit card tab that she runs up there.

However, the recent graduate’s luck changes when she meets old friend Ella Shim. Ella allows Casey to move in with her while her fiance manages to get her work at his investment firm in which the pay stinks and the abuse rolls downhill into the ooze beneath the food chain plopping onto her. Casey also dates Ella's cousin Unu.

This is a terrific look at the American melting pot that assimilates second generations so much so that the gap between them and the immigration generation is wider than the Pacific Ocean. The story line is first rate when Casey is front and center even as she deals with stereotypical characters like her father and her friends. When the plot turns towards making its anecdotal premise into a sweeping generalization by enabling the audience to see inside the heads of much of the ensemble the assertion feels forced and loses steam. Still readers will enjoy this strong character study especially when Min Jin Lee focuses on the Americanization of Casey.

How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls
Zoey Dean
0446697184 $13.99

After failing to make it in New York, Megan Smith wonders if she can make it anywhere. However, she buys time when she accepts a deal with the wealthy Baker matriarch. She will receive $1500 a week for tutoring the infamous party animals, her seventeen years old twin granddaughters, Sage and Rose, so that they score an acceptable passing SAT marks. The siblings have the incentive of inheriting $84 million if they succeed, but are not interested in boring book learning. If by some miracle the twins are accepted by their late parents’ alma mater Duke and it is not the first sign of the End of Days, Megan receives a $75000 bonus.

Megan and the twins behave like enemy combatants and the siblings reject any tutoring time that interferes with partying. They also demand Megan change her attitude by showing she cares beyond just a paycheck. As they argue and learn, Megan thinks she might make lot money by writing a book on her adventures with the Bad Baker brats.

This is an amusing coming of age tale, but not so much the twins as Megan finds her inner strengths. The chick lit style enables the audience to see how much Megan changes in the course of her tutoring. Although the twins are not the quite the terrors they should have been, as they are more like the students in Welcome Back Kotter, sort of impish and mischievous, but not nasty, contemporary readers will appreciate this humorous look at HOW TO TEACH FILTHY RICH GIRLS who live Cindi Lauper’s credo want to have fun.

Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Betrayal
Eric Van Lustbader
0446580376 $25.99

Jason Bourne struggles with flashbacks of a woman he does not recognize dying in his arms. He seeks help from a psychiatrist so that the short visions become focused, but is unaware that the doctor is a fake corrupting the former hitman’s already sketchy memories.

In spite of his flashes, Jason rescues CIA Deputy Director Martin Lindros, who had vanished in Africa. In the States, Lindros asks Bourne to do him a favor, track yellowcake uranium purchases by terrorists in the Odessa black market. He agrees, but has doubts as the flashbacks of locations and people he does not recognize gets worse. He begins to wonder if the shrink has planted false memories and wonders if Lindros is the real Lindros. Unbeknownst to Bourne who is closer to the truth than he realizes is that Karim, the terrorist with a zillion disguises, is masquerading successfully as Lindros preparing a major terrorist strike in DC with Bourne as a weapon of mass destruction.

This is an interesting entry as Bourne struggles with pieces of memories that not only make no sense to him (a normal scenario for him), but also feel wrong. The story line is action-packed as Bourne travels to Africa and Europe in his usual mode of leaving bodies behind. Although he lacks the guilt that torments him in the Ludlum novels and somewhat captured in the films, fans of the rogue agent will enjoy his latest entry into the Global war on Terrorism.

Play Dead
David Rosenfelt
0446582417 $24.95

In Paterson, New Jersey affluent attorney Andy Carpenter only accepts cases that interest him since he inherited millions. When he learns that Yogi the golden retriever is going to be executed for allegedly biting his owner, Andy who loves dogs especially this breed, provides a community service by representing this death row canine in this capital case. The court gives Yogi to Andy.

As he walks his dogs, Yogi recognizes a nearby woman. Karen Evans explains that Yogi is actually Reggie, who belonged to her brother, former U.S. Customs Inspector Richard Evans convicted of murdering his fiancee, Stacy Harriman five years ago; Karen thought Reggie was dead. Unable to resist as he witnessed the love between Karen and Reggie and assuming that Richard and Reggie would be even stronger, Andy decides the canine’s former owner would not cold bloodedly kill someone he allegedly loves. Andy also thinks he has the key eye witness to the homicide, Reggie. He decides to represent Reggie’s former human pet and like a pit bull keeps untangling a conspiracy cover-up that smells government in nature.

Although it sounds like a dog lover fluff legal thriller, PLAY DEAD is a terrific tale due to the eccentricity of Andy who chases the truth like male dogs chasing a female in heat. The story line is fast-paced as Andy sniffs out clues trying to affirm his theory that Richard is innocent. Fans will appreciate this five bark novel starring an unconventional hero with an even more unusual eye witness.

Over Her Head
Shelley Bates
0446694932 $12.99

In the Pittsburgh commuting suburb of Glendale, Laurie Hale believes she is blessed by God. Her marriage is solid and their two perfect children seem contented and adjusted; so much so Laurie has high hopes for the futures of her fourteen year old daughter Anna and ten year old son Tim. She enjoys attending the women's Bible study group as she is friends with all the members.

Perhaps her only “sin” is pride as she is proud of her family members, her Bible club group, and her community. In fact pride drives her to jog as size sixteen looms. However, the run ends abruptly when Laurie finds the murdered body of Randi, a student in Anna’s class. She calls the police who investigate and soon Anna and several other teens emerge as the prime suspects. Shattered as her perfect illusion vanished in a blink, Laurie questions everything she believed in including God and her marriage.

This is a strong inspirational whodunit in which the heroine has her cocoon ripped apart by the police suspecting her daughter as the killer. The shock to Laurie is a form of battle fatigue syndrome as she evaluates the validity of all she thought were universal truisms, but now proves unreliable. Laurie is a great protagonist holding the deep thriller together as the townsfolk are stunned and want vengeance while she and the other moms have no place to hide as their offspring are in deep trouble. OVER HER HEAD affirms that strong Christian messages can be interwoven into a powerful entertaining mystery.

The Devil You Know
Mike Carey
0446580309 $24.99

In London exorcist Felix Castor has earned a reputation for his work with ghosts. He uses a tin whistle to “capture” a restless spirit in his music and when he ends the tune, the apparition fades away. As good as he is and how great the fee is, Castor knows that somewhere out there is a phantom too strong for him and potentially could exorcize the human.

Castor agrees to remove a ghost from the Bonnington Archive in Euston. To this expert this is a typical haunting that he, as an experienced professional ghost eradicator, figures will prove easy and fast and he needs the money to pay his bills. However, nothing goes according to the rules of ghostbusting as the living and the different species of the dead want Castor eliminated. Handling demons and ghosts prove easy and fast, but the living turn out deadlier than the dead.

The key to this delightful urban Noir fantasy is London as the city seems genuine even with all types of supernatural residents. Castor is a terrific protagonist who holds the exciting story line together as readers learn about him somewhat through his reflections on previous cases, but mostly on the supernatural and natural assaults he faces at the museum. Loosely reminiscent of Dresden, yet different and definitely unique, sub-genre fans will gain immense pleasure from entering the world of Mike Carey.

The Ever Running Man
Marcia Muller
0446582425 $24.99

Renshaw & Kessell International corporate security firm hires Sharon McCone to uncover who is responsible for the recent bombings of their facilities that has killed several employees and obviously has damaged their reputation. McCone accepts the case although she has reservations because her husband Hy Ripinsky works there. The partners Gage Renshaw and Dan Kessell explain to McCone that they need an outsider with a fresh perspective who solves crimes rather than prevents or negotiates as they do. They also mention the “ever-running man” is behind the bombings. As she leaves, the SF office is hit with security guard Jimmy Banks dead and McCone fortunate but now angry.

She realizes the ever-running man is nearby, but wonders how he knows the layouts of RKI except if he is or was an insider. She begins questioning management including an irate Hy about some of the historical questionable cases that he prefers left buried. As the married couple argues below the belt including comparisons to his first wife “Saint Julie”.; the ever running man knows that McCone is investigating and decides she must die for not minding her business even if that is her business and Hy also must be killed for his role in the firm.

The ever running McCone mystery series remains as fresh and exciting although this is the twenty fifth entry. The story line plays out on two interrelated levels; the investigation and its impact on the relationship between Hy and Sharon that has exploded into acrimony. Fans will learn more about Hy’s life that he does not want to divulge even to his spouse. The ever running man is a great villain as he plays cat and mouse with McCone whose professional and personal lives have mixed together with neither looking quite upbeat. Marcia Muller is at her best with this brisk McCone mystery.

Next to Die
Marliss Melton
0446618349 $6.99

Penny and Lia Price thought they lost their father to an automobile accident but after reading his journal they are convinced that one of his work partners was killed him. Their father believed the person responsible is Eric because he needed money to take care of his very ill wife. Lia confronts Eric who warns her she better keep quiet. She moves into Penny’s home as a safety precaution.

Joe, a SEAL who lost his squad in Afghanistan is Penny’s next door neighbor. She is attracted to him but he hardly even notices her as he is in pain physically and mentally from the wounds he received in combat. Penny, who is frightened that Eric will go after her, comes to Joe trying to help him as she is a physical therapist. The more time he spends with Penny the deeper his feelings grow for her. When Eric is murdered, they realize he was the puppet not the puppet master. When nothing happens to her, police protection is withdrawn and that is when the mastermind strikes.

There are two romantic subplots in NEXT TO DIE; Penny and Joe, and Lia with Vinny a SEAL who is four years younger than her. He challenges her as he woos her not realizing that she is in danger from a murderer. Readers will find him adorable and Lia spunky. Joe and Penny make a great pair as he allows her to heal him by giving him her warmth and he makes her feel wanted. There is a lot of action and suspense in Marliss Melton’s latest romantic suspense, a work that is as exciting as at is heartwarmingly riveting.

One Jump Ahead
Mark L. Van Name
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
1416520856 $24.00 1-800-223-2336

Jon Moore is tired of war although nanotechnology enhancements make him the best known combatant in the galaxy even if at times like this he feels more like a combat machine than a human. Still he just wants to go home to live the rest of his life in peace and quiet on his planet. His only friend is Lobo, an artificially intelligent Predator-Class Assault Vehicle; a tank that works in any environs.

Jon Moore, soldier extraordinaire, arrives at the planet Macken for some needed R&R. However, the leaders of the two major corporations that dominate this orb and control the use of the jump gate see things differently as they feel Moore is a machine to be employed and discarded. They demand Moore handle a simple action for them; the abduction of an innocent to be used a pawn. What the bigwigs failed to account for is Moore learning the truth. So with Lobo directing him and with some anti galaxy-wide business allies, Moore begins an assault on the invincible armies of the corporate moguls to right the wrong he committed when they lied to get him to act before he realized that they double crossed him.

ONE JUMP AHEAD would be just another military science fiction in which a lone cowboy and his horse battle against avaricious corporations whose leaders are willing to kill to insure the bottom line is mega profitable. However, this rider and his steed turn Mark L. Van Name’s first Jon and Lobo thriller into a great opening triumph. Fans will appreciate the bone weary hero who needs a breather, but his “owners” treat him as a disposable machine as well as his sentient tank side kick Lobo who is more than just an advisor; this PCAV directs Jon as they battle the evil empire. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this terrific military science fiction novel.

Thunder Bay
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0743278410 $24.00

After being through with police work, Cork O’Conner runs Sam’s Place, a takeout joint and during the winter months he has a private detective’s license. His good friend Henry Meloux is hospitalized and asks him to find the son he met in visions, a child he helped conceive over eighty years ago. A little digging on the internet leads him to Toronto native Henry Wellington whose father made Northern Mining and Manufacturing a wealthy and powerful company

Meloux asks Cork to meet with his son and give him a watch with his mother’s picture in it. Although it is hard to see the recluse, he manages to meet with him but Wellington is unmoved by his story. Meloux, who is out of the hospital, is attacked by Wellington’s bodyguard but the old man kills him. He then asks Cork to take him to meet the son whose visions say he needs him and serve as backup when they finally meet. This meeting upsets someone who is willing to kill to keep some secrets buried.

Any time a Cork O’Connor book is published it is a time for rejoicing. Meloux is an Ojibwe medicine man whose visions always come true so Cork believes him when he insists his son needs him. THUNDER BAY is a story of family secrets, greed and murder, past and present with Cork risking his life to help Meloux. A flashback that tells the tale of Meloux and Henry’s mother is fascinating, as the characters make THUNDER BAY a wonderful tale of suspense and mystery.

Woman in Red
Eileen Goudge
The Perseus Books Group
1094 Flex Drive,Jackson, TN 38301
1593154445 $24.95

Nine years ago in Bell Harbor, Alice Kessler filed a wrongful death law suit in civil court against wealthy Owen White, but loses though he was drunk when he ran over and killed her son. After losing she hits the accelerator hitting Owen while her other son seven years old Jeremy sits hysterically in the passenger seat.

In the present former Manhattan DA, widower Colin McGinty arrives in Bell Harbor to decide what to do with his inheritance from his grandfather William, a renowned artist estranged from his wife and son, Colin’s grandmother and father respectively. After nine years in jail, Alice comes home. Jeremy feels that his mom was not there when he needed her as she only thought of her dead son.

Colin and Alice met when they first arrived on the island just a few days ago. They each tell their tale of woe and he invites Alice to come to his home to see the portrait William made of her Nana that no one in her family has ever seen before. Meanwhile at a party, Jeremy has sex with Carrie Ann Flager who passes out afterward. The next day Carrie Ann. claims he raped her. Alice asks Colin to be Jeremy’s lawyer. He agrees though he tells her she would be better off with someone else.

Eileen Gouge easily moves between the present and 1942 as both casts are solid and believable, especially the “villain”, wheelchair bound Own who is treated as a person with regrets. The final scene is a fantastic ending, perhaps the best so far this year. Though the collapse of a key player seems too over the top, readers will appreciate this well written strong character driven family drama.

Justice Denied
J.A. Jance
0060540923 $25.95

Washington State Attorney general Ross Alan Connors rarely leaves Olympia, but is in Seattle visiting his Special Homicide Investigation Team Squad B homicide detective J.P. Beaumont to discuss a particular case. However first he asks a disingenuous question on workload. J.P. responds by saying he is looking into a MPT (missing persons thing) involving a whistle-blower who vanished twenty-five years ago on the day Mount Saint Helen's erupted in 1980. Ross assigns him to quietly look into the homicide of wrongly convicted gangbanger LaShawn Tompkins, the center of a media circus that was impacting the King’s County prosecutor political race.

As J.P. investigates the murder of Tompkins that looks increasingly like a premeditated hit made to appear like a street incident, his lover and Squad B associate Mel Soames works several related cold cases involving the questionable deaths of sex crime offenders. Through the statistical trend analysis of forensic economist Todd Hatcher and a horde of coincidences, the Tompkins inquiry and the sex offender homicides tie into one monster case for the Squad B partners.

Although an exciting police procedural, there are too many subplots and coincidences that subtract from the overall investigation by grandpa J.P. and not grandma Mel while Todd brings freshness with his statistical analysis forming trends. The story line is action-packed from the moment the lead pair says good bye to his grandchildren after a visit and never slows down until the final confrontation that connects all the workload except the whistleblower inquiry. Fans of the series will enjoy the entertaining Beaumont-Soames detective story.

China Ghosts
Jeff Gammage
006124029X $25.95

This is an interesting memoir of a couple adopting a child. Married for almost two decades Jeff and Christine Gammage decide to expand the family by adopting a Chinese infant. Finally after two years of horrific red tape (no pun intended), they succeeded in Changsha, Hunan Province when two years old silent Jin Yu joins the couple turning them into a family of three. However, as the Gammages will soon learn traversing the governmental bureaucrats and the insane laws to protect the child was the easy journey; parenting is the difficult but more rewarding quest made further complex by a quiet child who speaks a little Chinese while her new parents speak English.

Readers will appreciate this poignant memoir of the heart as author Jeff Gammage makes it clear how much he loves his daughter. The insight into the Chinese culture is vivid, but also as lucid is the deep look into the American culture re foreign adoptions. Easy to read, this is a winning bio of a writer’s “passage to fatherhood” and his “daughter’s journey to America”.

My Summer of Southern Discomfort
Stephanie Gayle
0061236292 $23.95

Natalie Goldberg shocks her parents when she flees Manhattan to accept the position of prosecutor in Bibb County, Georgia. Her reason for heading south is much less altruistic than her being renowned for championing civil rights causes parents would appreciate. Natalie is forced to leave town as she is the fall girl for a major legal error by a full partner Henry Tate at the New York firm they worked; Tate was her lover until he used her.

Natalie struggles to adjust to the southern rusticate slower paced life style of Bibb County. She especially finds herself amused and angry often at the same time when she and prosecutor Ben Maddox, whose connections prove the old south still runs the county, argue the merits of a case or how to save the world, NRA style. However her biggest adjustment is capital punishment, which she opposes on moral grounds, but as a Georgia prosecutor she must prosecute these cases with fervor; that is what she is working on as she finds herself increasingly enjoying life in Bibb County, Georgia.

MY SUMMER OF SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT is a superb character study that uses the setting of a legal thriller (although thriller seems a bit too strong) to look deep at the adjustments and adaptability of a person totally changing professional and personal lifestyles. The well written story line focuses on Natalie’s struggles to adapt from sophisticated Manhattanite to working with and for ignorant rednecks; over time she concludes the locals are much deeper than just dumb hicks as she first thought. Readers will enjoy the New Yorker’s southern comfit transformation (though this reviewer admits a strong bias as a former borough resident who moved to Atlanta).

Ellora’s Cave Presents Hurts So Good
Gail Faulkner, Lisa Renee Jones and Sahara Kelly
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
1416536132 $14.00 1-800-223-2336

“Romeo” by Gail Faulkner. Because of her years of being ill, her family overly protects Lauren. Her best friend Carla takes her to her family ranch; Carla tells her that she and her female cousins are betting that Lauren as the “ice queen” will be the first woman to ever turn down her other cousin Romeo. When Lauren and Romeo meet, sparks ignite between the big bad wolf and the little tabby cat with claws.

“Hurt So Good” by Lisa Renee Jones. Physical therapist Kelly Marshall knows that her all work and no play attitude comes as a reaction formation aversion to her mother’s irresponsible lifestyle. Thus Kelly represses her deepest sexual fantasies living them through her best friend’s descriptions. That is until she meets architect Mark Majors, who becomes the star of her nocturnal wet dreams. When he comes to her hurting, they share a special physical healing not taught in school. However she has doubts that they share anything beyond lust although she admits that is quite sensational.

“Sizzle” by Sahara Kelly. In high school Susanna Chalmers lusted over hunk Dylan Sinclair, but except for prom night she only could salivate. Over a decade since her greatest evening, relationship therapist Susanna is stunned when Dylan sits in on her lecture. Although she knows nothing long term will come of this as Dylan never stays with any woman very long, Susanna decides to pay the price of her heart broken for the immediate relief of her aroused libido.

These three well written erotic romantic novellas are a reprint of an e-book starring male hotties with reputations for loving and leaving until they sexually meet the sirens who heat their blood (south of the border).

A Thousand Bones
P.J. Parrish
1416525874 $7.99

Louis Kincaid's significant other Miami-Dade Police Department’s only female homicide detective Joe Frye looks back thirteen years ago to her first year as a cop. In 1975 the rookie Frye worked in the Sheriff's department of Leelanau County, Michigan where the job was one boring shift after another. Frye thought the ennui would drive her from her dream of being a cop.

That is her job was tedious until the human remains were found in the woods near Echo Bay. Soon afterward more bones were uncovered making it obvious that several people were murdered. The county law enforcement was dealing with a particularly vicious serial killer whose victims were young women. Frye and others worked the case, but she alone honed in on enigmatic Native American carvings that were on a tree overlooking the gruesome crime scene. As she begins to solve the whodunit, the culprit hones in on the sleuth with plans to make her his next tortured female victim.

Following up her strong supportive role in AN UNQUIET GRAVE, Frye takes the lead from her lover Kincaid who plays the minor second banana; no one will care as a star is born. Frye is delightful as that case in her first season as a cop haunts her in 1988 so much so it is difficult for her to talk to anyone, even Kincaid, about it. The police procedural is cleverly designed, but even after the killer is known by Frye and readers, the tale smoothly switches into a cat and mouse encounter with the cop being the rodent. P.J. Parrish provides a powerful refreshing spin to his Kincaid saga with this sequel that begs for more Frye cases.

Knit Fast, Die Young
Mary Kruger
0743484746 $6.99

Ariadne “Ari” Evans, the owner of Adriane’s Web, is a vendor in the Freeport Yarn and Wool Festival; a small event in Massachusetts. Thus she is stunned to see Felicia Barr, owner-editor of the prestigious Knit It Up! Magazine, accompanied by her assistant Debbie Petrino attend this minor show. Also there is Beth Morley, Felicia’s former assistant who she fired. The two women have a very public argument with threats from both sides and plenty of witnesses.

Although Ari is unafraid of Felicia, most of the vendors fear her because she has the power to destroy their careers; one of them resents her as she blames her for not obtaining a position she coveted due to Felicia’s criticism of her designs. When Ari goes for coffee, she finds an even more powerful jolt when she finds a dying Felicia stabbed with a knitting needle. Ari realizes instantly that there are a myriad of suspects with strong motives including the latest heir apparent Debbie. A police detective asks Ari, who has a reputation for solving crimes, to help investigate the homicide as she has a rapport with most of the attendees and knows which questions to ask.

Mary Kruger’s exciting second mystery flows smoothly one stitch at a time making it easy for the audience to follow the whodunit investigation. The tale is told by Ari for the most part although others heavily involved in the case give their first person viewpoint too; this enables readers to understand motives as a frustrated crowd of vendors feel fear as they are crushed under the thumb of a power yielder and after her death there are feelings of relief. Thus like Ari the reader has plenty of suspects to choose from. Although why the police would request a civilian amateur sleuth to help them beyond advice on knitting seems a stretch, KNIT FAST, DIE YOUNG is a fine and delightful cozy that will appeal to the audience who prefer no blood and no gore.

The Dead Whisper On
T.L. Hines
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
0764202057 $19.99 1-800-328-6109

Butte Montana garbage collector Candace “Canada” MacHugh hears a voice telling her to meet her at the Mint at 7:00 p.m. It is the voice of her father who has been dead for over a decade and like Houdini he told her if there was a way to contact her after death he would. After eleven years she almost gave up hope but even though she see him as a sort of vague shadow she recognizes his voice substantiated by his telling her something only they would know.

He recruits her for Network of the Shadows whose agents save lives and warn people when danger is about to strike. She agrees to do this but her agreement wakes up the golem Keros who has to stop her. She goes to various locations around the country bringing attention to serial killers, a mall that is about to be blown up and finding a child during a tornado. However when Keros comes in contact with her he tells her something that destroys her world and sends her back to Butte where she fights the evil that has lived in the mine for a long time; though she might be killed she is trying to save her town.

Not everything is the way it seems in THE DEAD WHISPER ON. Readers will find immense pleasure in reading this book because the surprises come right after another; thus there is no chance that boredom will set in. The protagonist is a brave and gutsy woman who is a natural leader which the inhabitants of her town need if they are to be saved. Her ability to accept the unexplainable and plan from there makes her someone to admire and leave readers rooting for her as she tries to throw out the garbage harming people.

Miss Katie’s Rosewood
Michael Phillips
Bethany House
0764200445 $13.99

Katie and Mayme leave their beloved Rosewood plantation in the Carolinas to travel by train to Philadelphia, but the latter is required to ride in the last car, the “Coloreds Only” coach. Upon reaching the city, a stunned Katie finds herself alone as the “Coloreds Only” car is missing. She fears her free friend may have been sold along with the other Negro passengers into slavery perhaps in the Caribbean. Deputy Rob Paxton offers to help find and if necessary rescue Mayme. He and Katie investigate.

At the same time back in the Carolinas the KKK plans to burn Rosewood to the ground as a warning for anyone else who upgrades slaves as equals to white folks. One lonely rider hopes to save the families residing there. However he has no idea how the mostly former slaves will react between fight and flight for the plantation is life to all of them and will continue to be so if he makes it on time.

This terrific Reconstruction Era Carolina Cousins thriller is a superb conclusion to one of the best nineteenth century Americana series on the market today. The story line is fast-paced and the key characters fully developed. However, it is the time period that so vividly comes alive as different forces vie for their vision of society in the aftermath of the destructive Civil War turning the “peace” into further hostility. MISS KATIE’S ROSEWOOD is an incredible historical that can be read alone but enhanced with the previous winning tales (see A PERILOUS PROPOSAL, THE SOLDIER'S LADY, and NEVER TOO LATE).

The Cure
Athol Dickson
Bethany House
0764201638 $17.99

Once he was a respected minister who taught at a prestigious school, a kind and gentle man who loved his wife and was happy to be with her as missionaries to bring Christ to a tribe known as The People. When tragedy strikes, Riley Keep felt responsible and ended up losing everything that meant something to him. He became a homeless alcoholic but in Florida he heard there was a cure for alcoholism in his hometown Dublin, Maine.

He goes there more for his friend Brice who is slowly dying from the alcohol he puts in his body. He hopes there is a cure and when he reaches Dublin he stays at a shelter run by Willa Newdale. When Willa disappears and is presumed dead, evidence points at Riley as the killer. Riley pockets an envelope that has the formula for the cure inside it. He hires a lawyer to patent the formula and sells it to a pharmaceutical company to make it available to alcoholics even as Riley cleans himself up. When he learns the cure will cost a person $5000 denying it to the people who desperately need it, Riley needs to fix it so the price is lowered.

The protagonist has hit rock bottom and finally tries to climb the ladder out of the ooze because of the two females he still loves and has missed for the last three years. Readers will wonder what made him fall so low but they will also empathize with his pain and suffering. He works hard to take care of his estranged family and he still has to change and find redemption so he can be the man he once was. his e. Riley is a good man trying very hard to make his family regain their respect for him and be proud of him.

Refining Emma
Delia Parr
Bethany House
0764200879 $12.99

In 1842 in Candlewood, New York Emma Garrett is a caring kindhearted soul who is always there to help someone else. When a fire devastates the town, no one is shocked that she offers rooms in her boardinghouse at no charge although there is little space to house anyone else.

However, Emma also has legal problems involving the ownership of the Hill House that she converted into a boardinghouse. Adding to her woes is that her lawyer Zachary Breckenwith no longer wants to represent her as he feels a conflict of interest because he loves her. He is the only person she has told the truth about her questionable ownership of Hill House.

The second Candlewood historical fiction is a well written nineteenth century Upstate New York tale starring real people who deal with the tragedy and post trauma caused by the inferno that challenges everyone’s beliefs in the Creator as the story line is driven by the cast struggling to understand why. Readers will enjoy this strong inspirational saga that stands alone but is embellished by previously perusing HEARTH IN CANDLEWOOD (not as focused as this novel is) in which the key players like Emma were introduced.

Bachelor's Puzzle
Judith Pella
Bethany House
0764201336 $13.99

In 1882, the female members of the Mainland Church look forward to the new unmarried circuit riding preacher Zack Hartley who will live in the small Oregon town even though he will be on the road more than home. The women work together on a welcoming quilt that turns into a somewhat acrimonious rivalry once everyone meets the handsome minister.

Zack fumbles with his religious chores, but no one cares. He visits the sick, but does not pray for a miracle; instead he does women’s chores like the wash and the cooking. This only endears him further in the hearts and minds of the female practitioners who see a caring man who would make a good son-in-law. However, none of the women know that this eligible bachelor has secrets involving Portland crime rings and dangerous thugs that will make most of them withdraw their opinion that he is a prized spouse.

The first “Patchwork Circle” historical tale is a delightful post Reconstruction Era novel starring likable townsfolk and a devilish minister. The story line is lighthearted fun as the women compete to gain the attention of the newcomer whose earthly ways endear him with the sewing circle females. Yet with all the rivalry friendship that abounds as the women teach Zack (perhaps too easily) what caring for others mean; he has a serious chance for redemption and love if he can go through the eye of the Lord’s needle.

Courting Trouble
Deeanne Gist
Bethany House
0764202251 $13.99

In 1894 in Corsicana, Texas, thirty years old Essie Spreckelmeyer is tired of being a spinster so she decides she will find herself a husband. The eccentric woman selects widower Hamilton Crook, but he refuses to look at a woman who rescues snakes into submission and rides a bike like a man in public. Instead he goes elsewhere for a new wife.

Soon after her latest disappointment that massacres her self esteem especially when it comes to attracting a man, Essie meets charming drifter, Adam Currington. They are attracted to one another and he makes it clear she has what it takes, but will he stay with the new and approved Essie when he knows she has better suitors than wanderlusts like him?

Essie is the key to this late nineteenth century inspirational drama as she learns to accept herself, which leads to confidence and others accepting her beyond being a “nut” to avoid. The audience will enjoy following the heroine’s coming of age as Adam teaches her to thine own self be true and the townsfolk begin to see there is more to her than just eccentricity. Deanne Gist provides a strong historical tale starring a likable individual finally understanding that God had not abandoned her to a life all alone and that she should thrive to be all that she can be.

Rises the Night
Colleen Gleason
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
045122146X $14.00 1-800-847-5515

In England as a Venator vampire hunter Lady Victoria Gardella Grantworth de Lacy has fought the undead for what seems like eternity although it has only been a year. She lost her spouse Phillip thirteen months ago to the vampires and though she still grieves his death, she knows she must continue the fight against these evil beings.

Victoria learns that the son of Lilith the Vampire Queen has begun to implement a strategic plan to become the dominant species with humans as their cattle. She travels to Italy to engage the undead minion in their denizen in hopes of destroying something even more dangerous to both races. However, a monster betrayal leaves her in peril of becoming that she has fought against; only the help of someone she is not sure she should trust, Sebastian Vioget, keeps her alive.

Placing a slightly older Buffy inside Regency England makes for a delightful romantic suspense fantasy that is refreshed by the historical tidbits as Victoria is both a lady of the Ton and a Gardella Venator. The story line is fast-paced filled with twists of intrigue as friends betray and enemies help the heroine. Fans of supernatural thrillers will appreciate the first Gardella Vampire Chronicle due to its early nineteenth century setting that refreshes a recently overly used theme.

Lost in Shadow
Jocelyn Kelley
0451221710 $6.99

Research professor Lord Nethercott was working on proving that ghosts live. However, before he can prove his theory he dies leaving a legacy to his daughters to question everything and to expect the unexpected.

So when the ghost of Sir Mitchell Renshaw visits Nethercott’s middle child Jade, she thinks nothing of seeing a spirit. Mitchell swears that he met her father who wants her to help him bring his killer brought to justice. In death as in life Mitchell is an obnoxious bore, but she agrees to help him if he manifests in front of other people; proving her beloved dad was not a crackpot. He accepts her terms with the additional stipulation she find proof that the disreputable Lord Gideon Bannatyne, the brother of his fiancee, killed him.

Jade meets Gideon and requests he help her as she has some questions. He decides to assist her on her quest for one week, but if she fails to find what she seeks she will join him in his bed for one month. However, he hides for now his honorable willingness to risk a murder arrest rather than ruin his Jade.

Leaving Queen Eleanor and her female knights in the Medieval Times, Jocelyn Kelley provides an entertaining paranormal Regency romance. The lead couple is a fascinating pairing as his rep is tattered yet he acts honorable towards her. The dilemma jade faces as to who to believe, her beloved or a ghost she disdained when he was alive and still does now that he is dead though she knows not to say anything bad about those who passed away but not on. Regency readers will enjoy this fine tale of love amongst the spirited crowd.

Lady Beware
Jo Beverly
0451221494 $7.99

In 1817 the “Vile” Viscount Horatio Cave knows his family consists of reprobates and rogues, who have made scandal and violence part of their legacy. The Napoleonic war hero plans to behave in such a manner that every member of the Ton will welcome them into their homes.

Lady Thea “The Great Untouchable” Debenham will do anything to clear the name of her brother, Dare (of the Company of Rogues), but has no avenue to overturn the claim that he was a coward at Waterloo; her sibling will not fight back the assertion as he came back a crippled addict. Her only hope to repute what she believes is a falsehood is Horatio, but she as a nobody with nary a connection has close to zero chances of meeting the adored viscount. However, she does manage to meet him, but she is shocked how attracted she is to this gentle man. As they fall in love, Horatio realizes someone threatens his beloved to get at him. This threat releases the violent side of his persona that kept him alive during combat, but this time he needs to keep his Thea safe from an unknown adversary although he fears her reaction to his fierce nature.

This is a terrific direct follow-up to Dare’s tale (see To Rescue a Rogue) as his sister would do anything for her brother and his new wife. Horatio is actually the more fascinating character as his feral side surfaces when his beloved is in danger; the same reaction he had when he was at the battlefield. However, not understanding what love is all about, he fears saving her life will cost him emotionally as she would never love a berserker. Readers will appreciate this Rogue extension tale that showcases Jo Beverly at her Regency romantic suspense best.

More Than Fiends
Maureen Child
0451221273 $14.00

On her thirty-second birthday in La Sombra, California, life turns upside down for Cassidy Burke as she feels she has entered hell without a hand basket. It starts with the return of Logan Miller, who left her pregnant when she was sixteen; he wants parental rights to their teenage daughter Thea and would not mind conjugal rights with Cassidy too.

Soon after Logan’s run home, Cassidy meets a strange elderly woman who informs her she that has demon dusting as part of her DNA make-up. Initially thinking she met a nut or a prank, she reconsiders when she suddenly becomes super strong. Soon Cassidy demon duster begins spraying people with a specialized cleaning solution that turns selected people smoking. At the same time businessman Devlin Cole makes it clear he wants her. However, a fiend kidnaps Thea so while Cassidy comes to the rescue she wonders what will happen on her thirty-third birthday as she cannot cope with this one.

MORE THAN FIENDS is a humorous romantic fantasy starring a reluctant superhero whose apprenticeship raising a teen maker her question how hard can it be to become the greatest American superheroine dusting demons. Told by Cassidy in a wise cracking chick lit style, the story line is fast-paced satirizing the recent Buffy imitation novels that have come out of late. Sub-genre readers will enjoy Cassidy’s thirty-second month long birthday bashing as she learns first hand that A FIEND IN NEED is a pest.

Brush with Death
Hailey Lind
0451221796 $6.99

Annie Kincaid owns a faux-finishing business; her attempt to gain some respect from the art community. Her reputation does not allow her to work as an art restorer since she was arrested when she was seventeen and her grandfather is notoriously known as one of the great art forgers of all time. She presently works at the Chapel of Chimes, a columbarium, mausoleum and crematorium fixing faded art when she meets Cindy Tanaka at a nearby cemetery.

Cindy asks her if the reproduction of La Fornarina by Raphael could actually be the original. While they talk, two men dressed as goblins leave a package that they stole from the crypt that Cindy picks up just before leaving. Later Annie tracks down Cindy, but finds her dead. The police believe she committed suicide, but two people connected to La Fornarina end up hospitalized. Annie believes a killer is tying up loose ends so she starts snooping see if the link to Cindy is as strong as her gut feels it is. She almost becomes the next victim, but that does not stop prevent her from continuing her inquiries.

This is a humorous enjoyable amateur sleuth tale starring a roguish heroine who has larceny in her genes especially involving art forgeries. The puzzle of the painting leads curious Annie into some scary BRUSH WITH DEATH scenarios while the quirky support cast adds a sense of place to the plot. Hailey Lind provides a creative art of larceny thriller.

Careful What You Wish For
Lucy Finn
0451221044 $6.99

In Noxen, Pennsylvanian twenty-seven years old attorney Ravine Patton raises her infant son Brady by herself; the father Jake was a one night stand in remote Texas after a bad day with a client. One day inside her Diaper Genie she finds an odd bottle. When she touches the bottle, Gene the genie appears.

Gene is a bewitched Australian World War II pilot who has waited six decades for someone to free him from the bottle. Now if Ravine makes the three wishes he grants her, he can go home. However, as she considers what she wants, she watches the kind hearted Gene help her around the house without a wish and especially play with her child. As he begins to believe twenty-first century Pennsylvania is home as that is where his heart is, she begins to wish he would stay with them. If she uses the wishes up, he literally goes home, which they assume is 1940s Australia (before she is born); if she fails to make a wish, he remains a genie.

This warm whimsical romantic fantasy stars an intelligent female and a pragmatic kind hearted genie. Ravine and Gene make the tale fun enabling readers to wish that the caring hunk who called a bottle home for the past sixty plus years is the type of person that we all fall in love with.

The Cleaner
Brett Battles
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
044024370X $22.00 1-800-726-0600

Although he goes by the name Jonathan Quinn, that is not his real name. He is a freelance operative who works for the Office, a sub rosa agency based in Washington D.C. He doesn’t do wet work, assassinations and the like. He calls himself a cleaner because it is his job to get rid of the bodies, find out information and sanitizing sites. His latest assignment takes him to Allyson, Colorado to see if Robert who died in a fire was murdered or if it was a household accident.

Despite evidence to the contrary, he finds proof that a murder occurred and he find a silver bracelet in the rubble that he puts in his pocket. He returns home to Los Angeles with his apprentice Nate only to discover that the operatives of the office and him are on someone’s hit list. Nate and Quinn go to the Ho Chi Minh City where he picks up operative Orlando. The head of the office sends them to Germany where they are to find the people who nearly destroyed the office; what they find instead is an operation that could mean the death of millions of people. He intends to stop them anyway he can but first he has to find Nate who was captured and Orlando’s son who has been kidnapped. They are being held hostage so Quinn doesn’t clean up their operation.

It is so very hard to believe Brett Battles is new to the thriller scene because THE CLEANER is an extremely well written tale that is on a par with the works of Le Carre. The hero is a James Bond type down to the wit and provocative asides under pressure. His apprentice is comic relief in a tense tale of betrayal, double agents and terrorists who make Bin Laden look like a choir boy. The plot throws one surprise after another at the audience who finds they can’t stop reading to find out how it all works out.

On the Fifth Day
A.J. Hartley
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425216284 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

In Chicago, Thomas Knight knows the “wrath of God” when on the day Peter the Principal fired him from his English teaching job, Father Harmon calls him to inform him his estranged brother Father Edward Knight died while conducting research into church symbols in the Philippines. Stunned by the unexpected suddenness, Thomas needs to know what happened especially when strangers begin to visit Edward’s abode seeking a sword, fish and other artifacts.

He begins an odyssey that leads him to the Vatican and ultimately to the site where his sibling died. On his trek for the truth, someone sends professional hitmen to prevent him from learning why is brother was killed. Not sure who to trust, but desperately in need of allies, Thomas turns to Druid Hills Museum curator Deborah Miller, but realizes he has placed her in jeopardy as agents of the faith will kill anyone like they did Edward and others who learns the secret their leaders prefer buried.

ON THE FIFTH DAY is a delightful Christian thriller that avoids the Da Vinci Code syndrome by not using a conspiratorial group, but instead the story line focuses on believers and doubters, who at times change positions as events play out. Thomas is a fascinating lead character as he begins to believe in a Da Vinci Code conspiracy at the same time he insists the Christian gene passed him; he will have quite a revelation when he realizes his lethal adversaries are simply true believers who will sacrifice the innocent to keep the truth secret.

Demons Are Forever
Julie Kenner
0425215385 $14.00

In her last battle with demons, soccer mom Kate Connor saved the life of her teenage daughter Allie. Now she must explain to her beloved offspring her vocation as a demon hunter and the truth about her child’s father, her late spouse Eric who died in combat against the evil demons. As difficult as that proves, she fears that Eric’s soul has been trapped inside the body of David Long, which implies use of taboo darkest magic.

However, Kate has no respite to assist her daughter’s adjustment and to analyze whether Long’s theory is correct. Hordes of demons keep appearing demanding she had over the “stone”. Having no idea what these malevolent beings are talking about, Kate ponders what was Eric doing before he was murdered as he seems to be the link in her current fiasco.

The latest Confessions of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom (see California Demon CARPE DEMON is a fabulous tale of Buffy being an adult suburban single mom battling demons while trying to raise her family in California. The story line is told by the heroine, but her toughest battle ever is explaining what the hell is going on to Allie especially after the teen’s entry into the demon war. Adding to Kate’s woes is that every demon in the vicinity believes she has something that belongs to them and her fear and joy that Eric’s soul is nearby. This is a great entry as mother and daughter discuss the legacy of soccer moms kicking demons to the death.

Dragon Heat
Allyson James
042521589X $6.99

Lisa Singleton knows wills can contain strange bequests and that some roommates can be difficult to live with. She knows both from recent practice. Her beloved grandmother recently died leaving her with a roommate; Caleb the fifty-foot dragon. Caleb does not like anyone entering his personal space, which is wider than the Grand Canyon; worse the beast also detests anyone stepping inside of Lisa’s.

Caleb is a guardian warrior sent to keep Lisa safe from evil witches, led by Donna, who attack the naive who do not know they have magical skills. Caleb goes human to protect Lisa from Donna and her black dragon although he struggles to stay focused as he fell in love with his charge when he was a fifty foot golden dragon.

The key to this delightful romantic fantasy is the audience will believe that grandma’s San Francisco apartment has an access to Dragonspace as Allyson James makes the dragons, witches and their environs so real. The story line is action-packed as Caleb turns from pet dragon to pet human in love. Lisa is delightful as she changes from non-believer to healthy skeptic to tyro-practitioner in an attempt to stay alive while also falling in love with her protector. Although readers will wonder where to buy a litter box to accommodate a fifty foot dragon, this is a fun tale of life between a mortal and her dragon.

Her Royal Spyness
Rhys Bowen
0425215679 $23.95

The year is 1932 and Great Britain is in the middle of the Depression which is even affecting the aristocracy. Lady Victoria Georgiana “Georgie” Charlotte Eugenie is ultra feeling the pinch of poverty while living with her brother Binky the Duke of Rannoch at Rannoch Castle in the wilds of Scotland. When she hears him and her sister-in-law trying to marry her off to Prince Siegfried of Romania, who she believes has the Fish-Face of a cod, she bolts for London.

She works at Harrods for only a few hours before her own mother gets her fired. While learning to live in a house without any servants Binky comes on a business matter. Gaston de Mauxville has proof that her father gambled Rannoch Castle away to him. When Georgie comes back to Rannoch House after leaving on an errand she finds de Mauxville dead in the bathtub and Binky nowhere to be found. When Scotland Yard arrests him for the murder of de Mauxville Georgie tries to find out who the really killer is because Binky is too wishy-washy to even contemplate murder. A series of accidents any one of which could have killed Georgie has her wondering if someone close to her is the killer

Rhys Bowen has two successful historical mystery series to her credit and this book starts a fresh one that will succeed as well. It is very different in tone and scope from her other words; as she takes reader into the lives of the aristocracy at a time when poverty is beginning to take root. Readers will adore Georgie who finds that life is better when she ignores her thirty something line to the crown so she can live life her way. HER ROYAL SPYNESS is a well crafted Depression Era mystery with an interesting pool of suspects.

Little Tiny Teeth
Aaron Elkins
042521530X $23.95

The three friends (forensics anthropologist Gideon Oliver, travel agent Phil Boyajian and FBI agent John Lau) are on vacation traveling on the ship Adelita complements of Amazonia Cruise Lines. Also on board the ship are a bunch of research botanists studying life on the Amazon. Whereas Phil considers the trip’s potential for his customers, Gideon enjoys the habitat and John “analyzes” the other passengers. However, Gideon and Phil also quickly realizes how tense an isolated trio is as famous ethnobotanist Arden Scofield seems to be arguing vehemently with his companions.

The fascinating vacation abruptly ends when another traveler kills a botanist before diving into the river. Soon afterward a skeleton floats by as piranhas had quite a recent feast. Gideon and John know that there is more to these deaths than meets the eye, but neither they or Phil realize how much danger they are in although they are aware that drug smugglers use these isolated waters and nearby, in concealment, are the deadly Chayacuro headhunters. However, the real danger comes from a feud decades old in which neither side allows witnesses to survive the human predators that stalk the jungle.

The atmosphere grips the audience as the trip on the Amazon deeper into the jungle is filled with foreboding and thick suspense (kind of mindful of the Amazon Queen). Thus the reader knows from the moment that this is no longer Iowa that this will not be a pleasant journey for anyone on board. Fans of deep suspense thrillers will want to trek along with Professor Gideon as the “skeleton detective” has his toughest case, not becoming fish bait.

Death by Chick Lit
Lynn Harris
0425215245 $14.00

Thirtyish author of a thriller, Pink Slip, Lola Somerville is enjoying the slings while wondering where is the star of the book party, writer Mimi McKee of “Gay Best Friend” fame. Lola quickly finds out where Mimi is when she sees the woman lying on the floor blood everywhere; her throat slashed by a broken martini glass.

Besides needing to faint, puke, piss, or all of the above, Lola sees another book in the making similar to Pink Slip, which was a fictionalized account of her exposing former media giant Ovum, Inc as villainous e. All she has to do is expose the killer; albeit and stay alive to write the fictionalized account. She assumes the culprit is either fortyish chick lit stalker Reading Guy, the victim’s boyfriend puzzling Quentin, or anti chick lit combatant Wilma of the Jane Austen Liberation Front. However, as more authors violently die, Lola sees a best seller while her husband Doug pleads with her to back off so she does not join the dead.

DEATH BY CHICK LIT is a lighthearted amusing satire that lampoons the invasion of the hard core mystery genre by chick lit amateur sleuths acting like the female reincarnation of Marlowe. The story line is a fast-paced martini as Lola gets what Lola wants with a spot on the bestseller lists but also lands on another deadlier list. Lynn Harris provides a fun tongue in cheek whodunit, chick lit style.

Murder in Chinatown
Victoria Thompson
0425215318 $23.95

As the new century brings new hope for many, there remains much of the prejudice especially towards mixed racial couples and their offspring. Perhaps the most scorned mixed couples are that of big strapping Irish females and their smaller Chinese husbands; they met on Ellis Island where both impoverished groups were alone with no opposite gender available from their race.

Midwife Sarah Brandt is in Chinatown tending to pregnant Irish expatriate Cora Lee, whose labor pains prove false. Cora’s teenage half-Chinese niece Angel rushes inside the apartment to see her. She begs for Cora to help her as her father demands she marry elderly restaurateur Mr. Wong. When she obtains no help from Cora, Angel vanishes. Although Sarah searches for the missing girl, she assumes Angel is a runaway teen. However, when Angel is found dead in a nearby alley, Sarah knows the child had an Irish lover, but not who he is. She asks her friend Detective Frank Malloy to investigate.

The latest Gaslight Mystery is terrific although the whodunit comes late and enhances the deep look at early twentieth century racism in New York. The vivid story line brings home the down side of tenement living in the slums as marriages are economic necessities. The final twist will stun the audience, but it is the discerning look at life during the Gaslight era that makes Victoria Thompson’s newest historical a must read for sub-genre fans.

Death By Sudoku
Kaye Morgan
0425216403 $6.99

Hollywood publicist Liza Kelly is trying to ease out of her job catering to actors and actresses and figure out what to do about her marriage to Michael, a freelance writer so she moves back to her hometown of Maiden’s Bay in Oregon. There she is establishing a reputation as a sudoku (number puzzle) master by creating puzzles for the Oregon Daily. Now she is back in Los Angeles for a sudoku tournament.

There she meets up with former TV. Star Derrick Robbins who wants Liza to be his publicist. When she sees Jenny she persuades her partner to take him on and that she will represent her. Derrick, a sudoku expert, tells Liza that he is finding odd bible messages about things that will happen in the Seattle Prospect sudoku puzzles. At first Liza believes he is a conspiracy nut but she changes her tune when he is killed. Back in Oregon, after decoding the messages and talking to the police who don’t believe her about an upcoming apocalypse, a picture of a kidnapped Megan leads Liza to try to stop a catastrophe; her husband and wannabe lover stay in Oregon looking for Megan.

This is the start of a great new amateur sleuth series focusing on a mature protagonist who is tough when the situation calls for it and kind at other times. She can hold her own with the stars, the police and the men in her life as well as with the tough as nails publicist who owns the publicity agency where she still works. Kaye Morgan is a talented storyteller who will go far in the mystery genre.

Come and Get Me
Alyssa Brooks
0425215946 $14.00

They have been dating six months, but to Sadie that is not enough time while to Dylan he knows she is the one. In a fancy restaurant the lawyer goes on his knee to propose while Sadie chokes on her shrimp. She has doubts, but somehow her moth said yes instead of no as her mind kept encouraging her.

Dylan has all the qualities that a woman would want in a spouse. He is faithful, honest (please no lawyer comments), caring and makes good money. Yet the twenty-seven year old Sadie has doubts because so far he has not brought her sexual fantasies to life although she admits to herself he has no idea what they are. When she begins having nightmares and then hives, Sadie blames Dylan so she decides to raise the courtship to a different level. She flees to oversea sand dunes challenging him to follow. Dylan picks up the gauntlet as he knows she is his soulmate, but makes a few rule changes to her cast and mouse sex game so he can fulfill his fantasies too.

Travelogues are not written quite like Alyssa Brooks provides them as readers will escape with this duo from Hawaii to Mexico to Egypt. From menage to bondage to tonguing, etc. this likable couple provides readers with a heated prelude to their marriage. Erotic romance fans will enjoy the sensual encounters between Dylan and Sadie as each knows what he or she desires and sets forth to satiate those itches.

Greg Cox
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441015077 $15.00 1-800-847-5515

The Crisis is over but there are casualties that leave the world vulnerable. Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman have disappeared. The latter two have suffered burnout and have to figure out who they really are while superman has lost his power temporally he hopes it will return but for now he cannot watch over the world in the way he loves. However there are still superheroes who have taken up the banner of keeping the world safe.

From the twenty-fifth century comes Booster Gold, a superhero with futuristic technology and a robotic sidekick Skeets. He is in it for the money from the sponsors but he is caught in a dishonest act and is discredited. A new superhero Supernova emerges who doesn’t fumble the ball like Booster did and is a hero in the Superman tradition. They play a role in dealing with the Intergang, a collective of criminals who have joined forces in the Mideast and want safe passage in Khandaq but the super family of Black Adam, Isis and Osiris refuses them. In retaliation plague and pesticide is released on the nation and the family has to fight the shapeshifting criminal monsters and battle until one person is left standing. Gotham has Catwoman to watch over it and the city will need her because Intergang plan to move its headquarters there.

52 is a novel based on the 52 issue DC mini series and it captures the spirit of those comic books even though plots and characters have been left out. This is a classic good versus evil series and the heroes are very heroic and the villains are the ultimate evil. Readers will thoroughly enjoy this change to the order as other heroes besides the original JLA members take the spotlight.

Blood Drive
Jeanne C. Stein
0441015093 $7.99

She is not just an ordinary bounty hunter; Anna Strong is a vampire bounty hunter, a secret she keeps hidden from almost everyone including her parents. The chief of police, an old and wise vampire professional, wants to mentor her so that she can use her powers the right way but Anna wants to go it alone. She feels it is enough to go to a small Mexican town magically protected by Culebuo, to finds willing human prey. She doesn’t know what he is but it is very difficult for her to keep him out of her mind.

That night she has dinner at her parents’ home when Carolyn Delaney, her dad brother’s only girlfriend comes to the house and drops the bombshell that her daughter disappeared and she is afraid that Trish killed one of her school friends. She also tells Anna that Trish is Steve’s child. When Anna finds Trish, she is with her friend Ryan and he shows her kiddie porn that Carolyn made Trish pose for. With the help of schoolteacher, a shapeshifter Daniel Frey, who wins her trust despite the rumors that he is involved in kiddie porn, they get Trish to a safe place but Anna tries to find out who is behind the kiddie porn ring and neutralize them. She works the case while avoiding the FBI, lying to her parents and protecting young innocents from evil that even Anna doesn’t know about.

Jeanne C. Stein takes on the vampire mythos in her own unique manner that makes for an enthralling vampire thriller. Readers of Laurell K. Hamilton, Tanya Huff and Charlaine Harris will thoroughly enjoy this fast paced novel filled with several action scenes that come one after the other making it hard for the readers to catch a breather. In addition to a wonderful story, Ms. Stein infuses BLOOD DRIVE with a moral message about the kiddie porn industry that harms everyone even those without children.

The Hidden Worlds
Kristin Landon
0441015115 $6.99

The Cold Minds, predatory machine intelligences, rose up and killed most humans and earth itself. Thanks to the jump pilots who work for the guild known as the Line, the only ones who can enter jump space, sent many humans to various planets in the galaxy where they stay hidden from the machines that would kill them if they knew where they were located. The line controls communication and travel between The Hidden Worlds.

On one of the poorest world Santandru Linnea destroys her reputation by accepting a bond servant contract with a male of Nexus, home of the Line pilots. She hopes to exchange information her family has on the family Iain in exchange for the Line to sign a contract renewing their services to her planet and taking care of her and the family. Iain knows nothing of this and his father refuses to tell her what he knows. Iain’s uncle, the head of the Line makes it appear that Iain, Linnea and his father are engaging in a conspiracy and he wants them killed. Iain believes the Line should rise above their petty squabbles because the Cold Minds have infected one planet. With the knowledge Iain has learned from his father he has the means of guarding the Hidden Worlds if he could avoid getting killed by his family and elude, with Linnea’s help, planet politics and enemies.

This is the first science fiction thriller in what looks to be a great new space opera series. Iain was kept in the dark about certain truths but he has to put the message out to the governments of the Hidden Worlds if they are to avoid a slaughter by the sentient machines. The heroine has the strength and wisdom to survive against overwhelming odds and as she learns to trust Iain, her fear of men begins to evaporate. She will go to extraordinary lengths to save him and travel with him to other words to deliver their message. Kristin Landon has written a spectacular sci-fi thriller that takes place in the distant future.

Mistress of Winter
Giles Carwyn and Todd Fahnestock
Eos Books
c/o Morrow & Company
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
006082977X $25.95 1-800-242-7737

Eighteen years have passed since Brophy, the once HEIR OF AUTUMN, saved Ohndarien but at the cost of his well-being; he sleeps the endless sleep filled with horrific nightmares caused by the Black Emmeria curse. During this ghastly period, Brophy’s beloved sex-mage sorceress Shara has tried to free him, but has failed. With each passing night, the weight of her failure has taken a toll on her psyche as she suffers from nightmares just thinking what mental anguish he suffers.

Making matters better and worse from Shara’s perspective is when teenage sorceress Arefaine Morgeon, a goddess in the rival kingdom of Ohohhim, awakens Brophy. He is not the same heroic person who entered the eternal sleep and easily is led away by Arefaine who persuades him to accompany her to the ruined magical city of Efften; there she says he can rid himself entirely from the residual remains of the sinister Black Emmeria. As a heartbroken and mentally devastated Shara leaves for the Summer Isles seeking solace, her beloved owes Arefaine although he distrusts her. Brophy knows Arefaine and her empire must have some reason to want to journey to Efften with him, but he is unaware that the plan to raid the magical city is to enable her kingdom to destroy Ohndarien.

This exciting action-packed sequel requires the audience to recently have read the first epic saga HEIR OF AUTUMN to keep up with all the goings-on (the above two paragraphs glide on the surface of the zillion subplots). Brophy is a fascinating protagonist who behaves like a tortured prisoner of war with no escape possible leading to all hope gone. This sort of reminded this reviewer of a Star Trek episode in which a man is stuck for eternity in a “universe” with a manic who wants him dead. However, the more fascinating character is Shara whose mixed reactions to his awakening are classic. Fantasy fans will enjoy Brophy’s latest escapades as it appears he has jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

Dangerous Offspring
Steph Swainston
0060753897 $13.95

In the Fourlands, winged messenger Jant Comet the drug addict desires the better life as he has survived the invading horde of Insects over the last few centuries and even worse the decisions of the Immortal leadership. He would like to enjoy life for a change while pondering is that asking too much of a messenger sent to the world hovels and most dangerous spots in the Fourlands.

While he thinks he deserves some pampering R&R, Jant knows that will not happen probably for a millennia or so as long as the war continues. Architect Frost has persuaded her Circle of Immortals that the time has come to defeat the insurgent Insects, which would keep Jant busy in and out of the battlefields. At the same time seventeen years old Cyan, daughter of his friend Immortal Lightning has vanished. Jant wants to find her his style, but knows she should be untouchable at least by him even if she is a desirable siren. Finally the wise Immortal Emperor San embellishes Frost’s plan and that makes Jant deeply concerned although he knows whatever is chosen for him, it is a good thing he is a drug addict albeit suddenly one with a pain in the wing conscience.

The Fourlands are so different from our world yet in some ways seem identical especially when it comes to power and pawns. The action-packed story line grips readers because this gritty forsaken landscape seems genuine especially the Gods (Immortals) war against terrorism. Jant is a terrific protagonist who recently struggles with his mission as if he suffers from battle fatigue syndrome leading to a conscience the worst thing an Immortal messenger needs as he relays suicidal orders. In spite of being well written and exciting, this is not an easy fantasy to read, as Steph Swainston paints a bleak world even for Immortals.

Ilario: The Lion’s Eye
Mary Gentle
0060821833 $14.95

In the fifteenth century Ilario was born a hermaphrodite and his mother Rosamunda wanted nothing to do with this abomination so Ilario became a side show freak for King Rodrigo of Iberia. When he-she is finally freed from his captivity as a monarch’s freak Ilario journeys across the Mediterranean to Carthage where the sunless dark Penitence serves as an encouragement to his plans to become a painter.

Upon arrival, instead he-she is drugged and sold to Alexandrian even as his mother and stepfather learn that her offspring had been freed and plan to send this embarrassment to the hell he-she came from before he harms their position of influence if it becomes known that he came from her womb. Influential Alexandrian arranges for Rosamunda to be deported back to Iberia. He sends Ilario to Rome to study painting as he has plans for this he-she.

This is an interesting character study set in the alternate historical realm of Ash although fifty years earlier. Ilario is an interesting protagonist as he-she lands in one predicament after another in this well written coming of age tale. Although the plot seems more towards providing Mary Gentle’s fans the recent history before the events in Ash, fans will enjoy learning of Caliph ruled ever dark Carthage (no explanation as to what caused the Penitence) and Pope-less Rome by following the escapades of a wannabe painter with a gender identity issue.

Kate Angell
Love Spell
0505527073 $6.99

Richmond Rogues baseball players' right fielder Cody “Psycho” McMillan, third baseman Jesse “Romeo” Bellisaro and catcher Chase “Chaser” Tallan are affectionately known as the “Bat Pack” for their antics on and off the field. Currently the trio is suspended for fighting as Psycho went after pitcher Wimbledon for nailing him twice on Media day and his two buds. Instead of intentionally walking away, he joined the fracas

Psycho meets interior decorator Keely when she manages to save his hide from female Valkyries; now he is willing to go into extra innings to persuade her that he desires her. Romeo feels he owes reporter Emerson for knocking her down during the melee; although he admits to himself he would like to hit a home run with her. Chaser decides his friend Jen needs a boyfriend but she steals his heart as he realizes he wants to be her only teammate.

Readers will enjoy this triple play baseball romance starring three superstars finding love between the balls and strikes. The story line is lighthearted fun as the audience will believe they are following a major league team strong enough to contend for post season play if their superstars stop swinging into trouble. Sports romance fans will enjoy how love teaches this trio of Rogues that a SQUEEZE PLAY can be as important as hitting the CURVEBALL over the fence.

Immortals: The Darkening
Robin T. Popp
Love Spell
0505527022 $6.99

Although his mother Sekhmet has kept him safely “imprisoned”, his first summoning in seven hundred years was so great that he needs to leave Ravenscroft for earth as is the task of an Immortal warrior. However, unlike his brother Adrian (see THE CALLING) who apparently answered the calling only to fall in love with an earthling, Darius must escape his concerned mom first who puts a final spell on him to insure he keeps away from the lowly humans; if he has sex, he will suffer from amnesia.

Werewolf bounty hunter Lexi Corvin was involved when Witches summoned the Immortals. Thus she is not shocked when Darius appears seemingly out of nowhere in New York City; in fact she knows what he is. Darius sees his tainted brother Tain, who vanished seven centuries ago, in the company of a demon Amadja so he plans to rescue his sibling and prevent whatever evil Amadja plans to unleash on the world. Lexi refuses his concept she safely stay behind.

Robin T. Popp provides the audience with a delightful romantic fantasy with the follow up to Jennifer Ashley’s terrific opening the IMMORTALS: THE CALLING. Filled with plenty of action in a Manhattan setting, the key to the tale as with Ashley’s awesome first novel is the lead pairing. The stars deny true love exists until they meet, but have to be cautious as free love means memory loss; besides which the mission comes first. Two for two as this outstanding miniseries remains top rate.

Three Sisters
Judith Henry Wall
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
0743297059 $15.00 1-800-223-2336

On her sixtieth birthday, Widow Penelope informs her three daughters that she moving to France to be with a man Jean Claude none of them met. Additionally they learn that their paternal grandmother did not die in childbirth as they were told.

After the first earthquake shocks pass, the three siblings react differently to the revelations. Mother of two Vanessa, who has marital troubles and hates her job and suburban lifestyle, cannot cope with her mom running off with some interloper. This leads to a family feud with her sisters, associate editor of Stiletto magazine Ellie and hand and foot supermodel Georgiana. Penelope wants her daughters happy so she offers to pay for a retreat. The trio takes her up on her offer, but decides to go to Montana to learn what they can about their grandmother Hattie, whom they assumed died in childbirth but recently found proof that she gave her son (their father) away. Instead Hattie is alive and so is another offspring, the uncle of the three sisters, who is running for governor; Hattie needs the story of the one she gave away to her Aunt Vera remain concealed.

This family drama starts off with a simple premise of the adult daughters battling over their widow mother’s plans to remarry and relocate, but effortlessly converts into three women in danger. The story line picks up the pace once the siblings choose to “vacation” in Montana in order to meet their apteral grandmother and never slows down until the final confrontation inside a cave. Although the ending seems simply off kilter, fans will appreciate the three sisters meeting “grandmommy” dearest.

The Tin Roof Slowdown
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
1416548483 $26.00

Nobody knows specifically what will happen when Hurricane Katrina hits but under the cover of wind rain and darkness, braving the floodwaters, criminals come out of the woodwork to steal things. In one New Orleans neighborhood four criminals made a rich score, finding coke, blood diamonds, a gun and money. These same criminals were spotted by a young woman who they raped and tortured earlier in the month. She identifies two of them as her attackers.

A shot rings out later that night leaving one of the criminals dead, one paralyzed from the necke down and the remaining duo flee. The quartet leader Bertrand is on the run as everyone is looking for him while many people remain shell shocked from Katrina. New Iberian Parish deputy sheriff Dave Robicheau looks for Bernard, the stolen diamonds, and becomes involved in the investigation of which victim killed the criminal. Bertrand took them from the most powerful crime lord in the country and it is through that same crime lord that Ronald Bledsoe, a torturer and killer, was hired by that crime lord to find the diamonds. He crosses paths with Dave’s daughter Dave knows that Bledsoe will be coming after her because she dissed him leading to a cat and mouse game played on a devastated landscape.

James Lee Burke has written a potent and chilling crime thriller that makes the protagonist ponder the nature of evil as Bledsoe and Katrina are two forces out of control. Like the hurricane, Bledsoe goes his own way doing what he wants. This metaphorical analogy makes this provoking police procedure a chilling work that keeps readers entertained.

Day of the Dandelion
Peter Pringle
Simon & Schuster
141654075X $25.00

Royal Botanic Gardens researcher Arthur Hemmings also works as an undercover British Secret Service agent. Thus he has the perfect resume to uncover who stole the research of Oxford Professor Alastair Scott from his lab because he understands the implications of this work on the world food supply. Scott and his assistant Tanya Petrovskaya are studying the apomixes process in which a unisex dandelion reproduces without male pollen; thus this plant forever retains its properties; humans would want to keep properties by avoiding the generational genetic crap shoot for those plants in the food chain.

Arthur knows the public and private sectors are filled with sharks who want to own Scott’s work’ whereas the professor wanted to benefit humanity. However, not all would go so far as murder, but someone did. Professor Scott drowned and Tanya vanished while another lab assistant died of anaphylactic shock. Hemmings visits the Oxford lab and from there to other parts of the prestigious university, but finds little of use until he realizes that Scott was in the way of the government industrial complex superpowers including Britain demanding control for selfish purposes thus causing the need to eliminate the altruistic professor.

Although Hemmings is too urbane especially when he digs the dirt, readers will appreciate this superb whodunit espionage thriller based on a brilliant concept executed near perfectly. A scientific breakthrough impacting the food system could prove lethal to the researcher by avaricious humans. The fast-paced story line grips readers and never slows down even when plausible scientific explanations are provided. The mystery is cleverly executed, but it is the science that makes this a winner, as Peter Pringle provides clarifications with easy to follow explanations interwoven into the plot without dumbing down his elucidations.

From Russia, With Love
Ingrid Weaver
Harlequin Mediterranean Nights
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373389604 $5.50

In spite of the break up of his engagement, American schoolteacher David Anderson completes the adoption of Russian orphan Stefan. He knows the reticent child is despondent, but likes ships so to help them get better acquainted, David has booked passage on the Liberty line cruise ship Alexander’s Dream for a ten day voyage.

Stefan’s Aunt Marina Artamova is outraged that her orphaned nephew fell into the abyss of the inefficient and ineffective except for corruption Russian welfare system. The successful fashion designer wants to raise her blood relation as families should, but her lawyer says she is too late as David is legally Stefan’s father. Marina books passage on the Alexander’s Dream with the objective to take Stefan home with her. The Cold War is renewed but instead of a third world nation as the objective, it is a little frightened child. As the two enemy combatants fall in love, the monster responsible for the deaths of Stefan’s parents also seeks to silent the sole witness to their atrocity as the pathetic Russian welfare system kept the lad safe, but now they know he is on the Alexandra's Dream.

This is a fabulous contemporary tale with the emphasis on a current event issue, American adoptions of Russian children. The lead couple is a conflicted pairing as they fall in love but the rules of engagement make that forbidden although they share in common their need to nurture Stefan. The monster brings late intrigue that is exciting but subtracts from an otherwise superb headline news modern day drama.

Naughty Paris
Jina Bacarr
037360517X $13.95

Left at the altar by her fiance David assumingly because she sucked at BJs and holding a nonrefundable ticket to France, a stunned Autumn Maguire decides to go on her honeymoon alone. In Paris, Autumn loves the city and responds to an artist’s ad for a model as she wants to extend her stay longer. The painter asks Autumn to don a beautiful opulent red cloak which she does but cannot stop herself from staring at an old portrait that seems hauntingly familiar.

However, something strange happens as Autumn suddenly feels transformed into a sexy and sensuous goddess followed immediately by lightning. Autumn has traveled back to the late nineteenth century studio of notorious artist Paul Borquet who is willing to work with the eager Autumn, but he insists she allow him to mold her into his muse. His touch sends a fire up and down her body so she accepts all he offers, but also wonders how she traveled to 1889 and why she is hot for her painter when she was one step from being married.

As she did with THE BLONDE GEISHA, Jina Bacarr places someone out of place and time for the prime setting; this time using time travel to bring a twenty-first century female back to a late nineteenth century Left Bank studio. NAUGHTY PARIS is a well written erotic historical romance starring a debauched artist and his sexual inspiration. Paul is a terrific lead male who keeps the plot anchored in 1889 Paris while the displaced heroine “naughty” Autumn makes the tale fun with her contemporary free sex liberating the “enlightened” and brining out the best in her artist and in Ms. Bacarr.

Codename: Bikini
Christina Skye
Harlequin HQN
0373772092 $6.99

US Navy Foxfire specialist Lieutenant Trace O'Halloran has chips implanted inside him that enables him to be more than he could have been otherwise. The chips allow him to scan anything breathing with the scope of his psionic net.

However, on his last mission he was severely injured and his chips turned off with the understanding they will be reactivated once he heals. Feeling ready to return to the job, albeit without the use of his chips, Trace is assigned backup duty guarding a package heading to Puerto Vallarta, but he knows it is a gimmick to get him on R&R. For ten days Trace is to relax on the cruise ship, but he cannot stay calm as he feels that is inappropriate even for a backup and besides which he is attracted to pastry chef Gina Ryan whom he met on dry land. However, someone on board wants her dead although no motive seems to surface and only Trace can keep her safe, but she wonders about the cost to her heart.

Fans of Christina Skye will feel that the cruise is a homecoming as Carly McKay nee Sullivan of GOING OVERBOARD is on the ship (nice touch). The latest Codename romantic suspense thriller is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action with the irony being that the audience knows who wants to kill Gina and why. Adding angst to the tale is that Gina is going blind even as she has obtained a TV show (some readers might feel that subplot is going overboard to gain unnecessary empathy towards the lead female) although the enigmatic Izzy sees opportunity. Fans of the ongoing SEAL series will appreciate this terrific entry.

A Wanted Man
Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN
037377236X $24.95

In 1905 in Stone Creek, Arizona Territory schoolteacher Lark Morgan and Marshal Rowdy Rhodes hide secrets from everyone including their attraction to one another. Lark and Rowdy firmly believes the other is a phony. He assumes she is a loose woman pretending to be a schoolmarm and she believes he is a gunfighter pretending to be a lawman. However, neither can resist the lure of horse blankets as they try to kiss the truth out of the other.

However, trouble is coming to Stone Creek via train robbers. Ranger Sam O'Ballivan assigns Rowdy to catch the thieves. However Lark’s darkest secret surfaces as the outlaws arrive in Stone Creek. Only Rowdy can keep her safe from the abuse of her past, but he may not survive High Noon.

Although the twentieth century seems too late for a tale of the Old West (keep in mind that Wyatt Earp died in 1929), using 1905 as a setting adds freshness to a fine western romance that fans will enjoy as two people attracted to one another hide secrets from one another. The lead couple is a fine pairing as each falls in love even as they suspect the other of duplicity. Though revelations and resolution seem too simple, Linda Lael Miller provides an entertaining early twentieth century romantic suspense.

A Wedding in Paris
Barbara Bretton, Marie Ferrarella, and Cindi Myers
0373837127 $5.99

"We'll Always Have Paris" by Barbara Bretton. Kate and Ryan Donovan dreamed of living Paris where she would follow Sartre and he would write the great American novel; instead of Paris there was Long Island with Shannon, then Alexis, and finally Taylor. They raised their three daughters always thinking one day there will be Paris. Now the couple is obtaining a divorce, but Alexis is marrying Italian Gabe Fellini in springtime in Paris. Forced together, this couple has a second chance if they take a chance on their love.

"Something Borrowed, Something Blue" by Marie Ferrarella. Marc Kendrick reluctantly flies in from Beirut to attend the wedding of his cousin in Paris. At the site of the wedding the Milles Fleur Inn he meets the chef Lacey Jessup. They have nothing in common except an incredible attraction that has both wondering about love at first sight.

"Picture Perfect" by Cindi Myers. Shannon is irate with her boyfriend Robert Newhall, who called her just before she was leaving for the airport to fly to Paris that he was not coming as he was to busy. At the hotel in Paris, Joshua McClintock from her high school says hello. Shannon is stunned that she crosses the ocean to find romance with the boy next door.

These three interrelated novellas will please those readers who enjoy attending a wedding especially one in Paris as the flavor of the city enhances the pleasant contemporary romances.

Dad for Life
Helen Brenna
Harlequin SuperRomance
0373714254 $5.50

In Seattle Lucas Rydall visits his former wife art gallery owner Sydney Mitchell demanding she give him a small gold statue he bought on their honeymoon. She wants him to leave as she does not trust him having been deserted once by the rogue. She fears more how he will react if he learns about their offspring Trevor, whom he never knew existed.

However, she can no longer hide her son from his father when a wealthy person kidnaps Trevor. He demands Lucas search for an ancient Mayan temple where he is to find the secrets of the Inca ruler Manco Capac, allegedly able to heal; if he fails he will never meet his son. Although Lucas believes that his son would be better off not meeting him as he is unworthy of the lad or the love of Sydney, he would willingly die to keep them safe.

This exciting romantic suspense will grip the audience from the moment that rumors abound amidst the art underground that Lucas has the Fountain of Youth and never slows down until the final confrontation. What makes this thriller fun to read besides the strong cast is the insight into Incan society including mythology interwoven into the action-packed story line. Fast-paced, sub-genre fans will never look at a sculpture the same way as the roguish hero learns a life lesson that he is a DAD FOR LIFE when it comes to the safety of his offspring.

Coulda Been a Cowboy
Brenda Novak
Harlequin SuperRomance
037371422X $5.50

His young illegitimate infant son Braden is dumped on football superstar Tyson Garner without any warning when he learned the mother Rachelle was failing to properly care for the infant. With the scandal costing him promotions, he accepts responsibility as the primary caretaker for his child, but he does not want the brat around too much; besides he knows nothing about children. In Dundee, he quickly hires plain Jane Dakota Brown to take care of his offspring.

Away from her abusive father and able to shower the baby with love, Dakota begins to lose weight and care about her appearance. Tyson, to his shock, finds he is attracted to his son’s nanny, but she stuns him even more by being the first female to sack his advances; she refuses to have anything personal to do with a man who would reject his son although she wants him in the sack.

The key to this well written COULDA BEEN A COWBOY is the fully developed lead couple. Whereas Tyson is an arrogant irate bully used to getting his way in all situations especially with women, Dakota needs to desperately economically escape her father. Together they fight over his paternal role and their attraction leading to a solid contemporary romance.

Blame It on the Dog
Amy Frazier
Harlequin SuperRomance
0373714238 $5.50

San Francisco resident Selena Milano is desperate as much of the neighborhood wants her out of control puppy to leave as the sixty-pound Axel destroys anything in its path. However, Selena cannot get rid of the canine as Axel has brought her preadolescent son Drew out of his funk.

Desperate and not wanting to move; besides which no place would abide by the antics of Axel, Selena hires dog trainer Jack Quinn to teach their family terrorist to behave. Selena quickly has doubts about Jack’s training skills as Axel seems to be causing more trouble than ever, but she has no doubts about her attraction to Jack. He reciprocates as a rambunctious canine plays matchmaker.

BLAME IT ON THE DOG is an amusing contemporary romance with Axel playing the matchmaker. The human lead couple and her child are three dimensional, but the fully developed rogue Axel steals the show with his antics that have the neighborhood watch ready to toss him into the Bay. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine tale as Selena and Jack know they can BLAME IT ON THE DOG that they met and fell in love.

His Only Wife
Cathy David
Harlequin American
0373751729 $4.99

When her beloved grandmother breaks her hip, Tucson emergency room nurse Aubrey Stuart takes a six-week leave of absence to return home to Blue Ridge, Arizona to care for the elderly woman. Her only prayer besides her grandma’s full recovery is to not run into her former husband Gage Raintree although realistically the small town environment makes that wish impossible.

Her second prayer is squashed immediately as she sees Gage almost upon entering the small town. She also realizes that although a decade has past she still loves the firefighter she married as a silly teen. Gage feels the same way and hopes that this time as mature adults they can make it permanent.

This entertaining second chance at love is a fine contemporary tale starring two likable protagonists. Each of the lead pair carries plenty of emotional baggage making a permanent adult relationship seem unattainable. Although resolutions seem a bit too easy, HIS ONLY WIFE is a pleasurable read.

Summer Lovin'
Marin Thomas, Laura Marie Altom and Ann Roth
Harlequin American
0373751699 $4.99

"The Preacher's Daughter" by Marin Thomas. Jake Turner has come home to Silver Cliff, Colorado to attend the reunion of his high school class. However, he has a selfish motive; he wants to see the brain, Amanda Winslow, who tutored him so he could graduate, but he never went after her romantically in spite of his attraction because he felt inadequate. He plans not to waste any more time doubting himself.

"Baby on the Way," by Laura Marie Altom. Pregnant event planner India Foster comes to Silver Cliff to work at the hotel. However, she has doubts about coming home until reunion attendee Graydon Johnson kisses her like there is no tomorrow.

"A Reunion Romance," by Ann Roth. Holly Stevens is irate that her livelihood will soon end due to a renovation project led by her former high school boyfriend Brady Cornell. Their quarrel when they were teens ended their relationship, but now they are on opposite sides of the development; yet each still wants the other.

These three interrelated contemporary romantic novellas focus on a second chance at love. The couples are likable although somewhat underdeveloped as their relationship issues are not deeply explored. Still readers will want to attend the Silver Cliff High School summer of love reunion.

The P.I.
Cara Summers
Harlequin Blaze
0373793340 $4.99

Private investigator Kit Angelis is leaving for the day when trouble right out of one of the novels he writes enters. He does need his paranormal gift to know this blond bombshell is a capital T. She is holding a discharged gun, a ton of cash, and a wedding dress, and her clothing is dripping blood. She tells him she cannot remember who she is and how she got in this condition. He asks her why him; she shows him her other possession, his business card.

Although he knows she might be a killer, Kit agrees to help the woman. He even ignores the SOP that they should notify the police. Soon they are on the lam from thugs who want her dead and the cops who want at least to question her. As they begin to uncover the truth, the danger mounts.

The first of Cara Summers' Tall, Dark and Dangerously Hot! trilogy is a terrific investigative romantic suspense due to the mixed feelings and signals coming from Kit to the woman in distress that he rescues. He wonders if she is a runaway bride who killed her groom while fighting his attraction the mystery female. Fans will appreciate the adventures of the P.I. and the bride in love, murder, and mayhem while looking forward to the tales of the cop and the DA to follow.

Shadow Hawk
Jill Shalvis
Harlequin Blaze
0373793332 $4.99

In Wyoming ATF Agent Conner Hawk is attracted to fellow agent Abigail Wells, but she refuses to mix work with pleasure as her last assignment ended poorly because of that. She goes so far as to make Conner believe she loathes him though he cannot ascertain why.

However, personal feelings aside, they work together with other Feds on a raid that goes completely wrong leading to a massacre. They realize they were set up, but the agency believes Hawk sold them out in spite of his taking a bullet. He desperately tries to stay free and keep Abigail safe as he assumes she has to be eliminated as she knows too much. Thus until he can uncover the identity of the real culprit, he handcuffs Abigail to himself. She assumes she is his hostage; his gut insists he keep her out of harm’s way.

The above is just the first few pages of a one sitting police procedural romantic suspense that hooks the audience the moment the lead couple is handcuffed together and never slows down until the final confrontation. This exhilarating thriller will blow away readers as Hawk and Wells battle one another and an unknown common enemy who wants him dead and she might be collateral damage; no witnesses.

Enchantment and Bridge of Dreams
Christina Skye
Harlequin HQN
0373772629 $6.99

Bridge of Dreams. In 1794, the fifth Earl of Ashton Gabriel Montserrat disappeared soon after he was accused of killing his fiance Geneva Russell. Five generations of earls later, Dominic Montserrat finds Gabriel's remains along with a case of rare Sauternes wine inside a recently discovered secret room in Draycott Abbey. To inherit the wine, Gabriel must spend a week with Geneva’s descendent Cathlin O'Neill at Draycott Abbey. Neither is prepared for the attraction between them nor the tragic nightmares starring their star-crossed ancestors that haunt them.

Enchantment. In 1991 Kacey Mallory comes to Draycott Abbey searching for a valuable missing rare painting. There she meets the current earl Lord Nicholas who she is attracted to and he seems to reciprocate her deepest feelings. However, she also wonders why he is her costar in her dreams and nightmares because they feel so real as if they are memories not fantasies.

This is a reprint of two Christina Skye’s delightfully haunting Draycott Abbey tales. If you have not read them or have back in the 1990s, these pass the test of time as they remain some of the better romantic fantasies available.

It Must Be Magic
Jennifer Skully
Harlequin HQN
0373771975 $6.99

Thirty one years old Lili Goodweather works as a sales clerk in a florist. She also has a special skill that few people possess; she can talk to the animals. Her neighbor, bottom line financier widower Tanner Rutland, scoffs at her ability to communicate with animals when his twelve year old daughter Erika and his father Rascally Roscoe insist she can. They want Lili to discuss with the other member of the family Fluffy the cat what traumatized him

Lili agrees to talk to the scaredy cat only because Erika’s aura showed plenty of brown stress in her normally optimistic yellow. After a few minutes she realizes the traumatized Fluffy witnessed a homicide. Tanner thinks this is foolishness but for his daughter’s sake he agrees to team up with Lili in investigating the homicide his daughter’s cat swears he saw; at least that is what Lili claims. On the one hand he hopes she is proven a fake because of his pragmatic beliefs; though that also means she is a killer based on what they found in the Redwoods; yet on the other hand he hopes she can speak with the animals as he and his daughter are falling in love with their good neighbor whose kisses cannot be that of a murderer.

IT MUST BE MAGIC is a whimsical romantic mystery with the Doolittle fantasy element bringing a fresh spin to the whodunit. The story line is fast-paced with witty asides from the animals like Einstein for instance who cannot believe a tomcat named Fluffy (think of Johnny Cash’s A Boy Named Sue). Readers will easily accept the fanciful Lili’s asides with cats and dogs as Jennifer Skully provides an entertaining tale that fans who enjoy a bit of personification will appreciate.

Catch a Mate
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN
0373772351 $6.99

Catch a Mate provides a special service for women who believe their man is cheating. Operatives like Jillian Greene serve as "bait" reeling in philanders although sometimes the man actually proves faithful. However, her job clearly prohibits touching the male she hooks. Her overall assessment is that the Y gene means cheat, lie, and grind.

Marcus Brody joins the Catch a Mate staff as male "bait" to catch unfaithful females. He, like Jillian believes of males, assumes all females are cheats. These two baiters distrust one another due to gender experiences, but also are attracted to one another. However, to her a monogamous male is an oxymoron; while to him a faithful female is an extinct species.

This heated humorous contemporary romance is lighthearted fun as the professional pick up artists compete while denying that they are in love with one another; neither wants the other gender partner in business or their personal lives as they share in common besides their love the belief that the other sex consists entirely of stupid liars. Fans will enjoy Gena Showalter’s hilarious war as Jillian and Marcus each feel strongly the other suffers from a gender induced libido that supersedes rationale thought.

The Lawman
Diana Palmer
Harlequin HQN
0373772386 $24.95

San Antonio based FBI agent Garon Grier buys a ranch in nearby Jacobsville. He meets his neighbor the emotionally troubled, but good-natured Grace Carver. They are attracted to one another and make love. However, afterward he knows he made a mistake by thinking with the wrong head and rejects her.

The townsfolk are irate with Garon’s mistreatment of Grace. However, Garon has other concerns to deal with than being local public enemy number or the emotional crisis of a reticent female. A serial killer who escaped from prison knows that the only witness still breathing needs to be murdered. Garon, aware that this psychopath is coming for Grace, plans to keep her alive. However, Grace not fully grasping the threat to her life rejects his offer of safety because she fears she will not recover when he breaks her heart again.

This is an exciting investigative romantic suspense starring two opposites as she is a kind shy person and he is a selfish rat; that is until he realizes how much he needs her. The story line is fast-paced with the killer lurking behind every paragraph once he escapes with Grace the target. Although readers will not like the realistic love em and leave em Garon even after his abrupt metamorphosis, THE LAWMAN is a fresh return to Diana Palmer’s favorite town, Jacobsville.

Chain Reaction
Dee Davis
Harlequin HQN
0373772068 $6.99

In Cedar Branch, Idaho, her studio being below ground is the only reason artist Mia Kearney survives a nuclear accident. However, the incident left her unconscious. When she awakens she finds Homeland Security agent Nick Price guarding her. He interrogates Mia, who cannot answer his penetrating questions. She realizes she is being incarcerated like an enemy combatant, but manages to escape.

As she flees her jail, Nick is stunned when he is abruptly removed from the investigation, which goes against procedure. He begins to wonder if there is more to this nuclear tragedy than just an accident. He seeks out Mia to enlist her help in learning the truth because he believes that she was allowed to escape so that she can be assassinated as the only “witness’ to the meltdown.

This exciting nuclear accident romantic thriller will have readers on the edge of their seats from the opening sequence at Cuppa Joe’s restaurant in Cedar Branch until the final confrontation. The story line is driven by the desperation of the lead couple as someone wants them dead just in case she knows the truth behind the incident that killed a small town. Although the conspiracy seems stretched no one will care as Dee Davis delightfully depicts two Davids battling an unknown goliath with seemingly plenty of governmental support.

Say You Love Me
Rita Herron
Harlequin HQN
0373771932 $6.99

In New Orleans, Naked Desires erotic publications columnist Britta Berger knows how fortunate she is to be alive. Thirteen years ago, a deadly pervert almost killed her. Though wary, she feels safe in the Big Easy until now. A ritual serial killer using the same modus operandi of the psychopath she escaped from has begun a murder spree that frightens the locals especially Britta.

With Mardi Gras coming soon, Detective Jean-Paul Dubois is obsessed with finding the serial killer haunting the city. He soon concludes that the maniac is working his way towards Britta, the one who got away. Jean-Paul vows to keep Britta safe, but hides from her that she already owns his Cajun heart.

This exhilarating serial killer romantic suspense is enhanced by the changing perspectives that include the lead couple and the psychopath so that the audience reads a strong thriller. The maniac is so insane that he kills others as he slowly targets his victim Britta who he believes deserves his vengeance. This is a fine tense psychological police procedural thriller with an incredibly discerning insight into the irrational mind of the insane killer

Lord of Scandal
Nicola Cornick
Harlequin HQN
0373772114 $6.99

Because of his heroic daring exploits, almost all Englishmen regardless of social status hold Lord Hawksmoor in high esteem. Since he is one thin ice step from scandalous poverty, Benjamin uses his legendary reputation enhanced by his charm to live like wealthy quality amidst the Ton who marvels at his risk taking escapades.

In 1814 wealthy Lady Catherine Fenton has decided to never marry as her fiance is a reprobate chasing any female he sees. However, upon meeting Ben, she feels an instant attraction to him; he reciprocates. However she hears the rumors that big Ben is cynical rake needing money. Catherine believes he loves her like she does him, but trust is the issue between them as someone takes advantage of their doubts with the objective being to take taking control of the heiress’ wealth.

On the surface, LORD OF SCANDAL is a by the numbers Regency romance starring a rakish aristocrat and an innocent lady who takes him to task when he takes inane chances. However, the changing relationship between the lead pair makes for an entertaining early nineteenth century gender war between Ben and Catherine who surprises him as this seemingly soft kitten has claws. Sub-genre readers will enjoy reading Ben’s most courageous risk taking adventure of all; offering his heart to his beloved while not knowing how she will react.

Raintree: Sanctuary
Beverly Barton
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373617666 $5.25

Two centuries ago two clans with magical powers fought a battle that left the Raintree victorious and the Ansara family devastated. While the Raintree brood thought that was the war to end all wars, the Ansara healed and regrouped on a Caribbean island with their home base Beauport magically enclosed so that the nearby humans would not know of their existence. Judah leads the Ansara clan, but is being undermined by his half-brother Cael, who craves power and wants to rule.

Cael sends one of his men to infiltrate the Raintree Sanctuary in the North Carolina Mountains protected by a magical shield that keeps humans away. It is in the care of Guardian Princess Mercy who had a one night stand with Judah that led to the birth of their daughter Eve who is more powerful than either of her parents. When Judah goes to stop the assassination of Mercy, he meets Eve. Judah plans to kill Cael and bring Eve home with him before his sibling starts clan war III; Eve has other ideas for her parents.

This concluding electrifying Raintree saga is a powerful spellbinding romantic fantasy thriller with a final twist that will shock the audience who never will anticipate it coming yet it seems plausible. Fast-paced and action-packed like its predecessors (see RAINTREE: INFERNO and RAINTREE: HAUNTED) RAINTREE: SANCTUARY is character driven tale making the clans seem genuine as if they actually exist in real life. Fans will enjoy the struggle of the Romeo and Juliet like lead pair, as each feels they must decide between clan loyalty and love.

Apple Brown Betty
Phillip Thomas Duck
Sepia (Harlequin)
0373830416 $14.95

Asbury Park, New Jersey is in rapid decline. Thus freelance magazine writer Cydney Williams is elated that a new restaurant Cush is opening in her hometown when no one was taking a chance on this depressed place. She plans to write an article on it praying that it is as good as what she has heard about the chef-owner.

However, she finds herself biased when she meets the owner chef Desmond Rucker, whose desserts are mouthwatering, but his body is sinful to die for. However, as Cydney ponders a relationship with the dynamic restaurateur, she worries about the decline of her once vivacious mother into an addict. She is concerned about her brother Shammond, who lives the lifestyle of the affluent but shows no inclination of how he pays his bills, which makes her worried that he is trafficking. As Cydney falls deeper in love with Desmond, her family, who she has always been there for them, threatens to betray her by destroying her chance of a lifetime of APPLE BROWN BETTY.

The key to this insightful contemporary tale is Asbury Park, a dying city that gains a little life with the simple opening of a new restaurant. Readers will admire the courage of Desmond for doing this as every advisor and friend believes he is wasting money and his reputation on a losing locale. Cydney, abetted by her mother and brother, brings a deep look into a family in decline serving as a real microcosm of what is happening in many urban centers. Phillip Thomas Duck provides a powerful tale of modern day America though his strong cast including the run down city.

Bangkok Haunts
John Burdett
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0307263185 $24.95 1-800-726-0600

Bangkok District 8 police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep shows his FBI friend Kimberley Jones a nasty snuff film that stars the killing of his former lover Damrong, whom he never stopped loving. The Thai cop and the American agent agree to investigate the homicide.

They start with the victim’s residence and should continue with her family, but Jitpleecheep delays that for personal reasons. Instead they visit Damrong’s former husband Baker, an English teacher living in Thailand; he is hostile by the mention of his ex-wife who he insist caused him all sorts of problems when they lived in Florida. The investigation takes the two sleuths to the Parthenon’s exclusive men's club, but seems to be going nowhere in spite of nocturnal visits by Damrong’s lusty ghost to Jitpleecheep. He struggles with his feelings while he lives with Chanya, who is carrying his child, and with his interfering dishonest boss Colonel Vikorn, who orders Jitpleecheep not to let a homicide investigation get in the way of his prime assignment, establishing a pornographic movie business.

The third Bangkok police procedural (see BANGKOK 8 AND BANGKOK TATTOO) is an excellent mystery that also provides insight into Buddhism, the Thai culture, and its bureaucracy. Obviously the entertaining story line is owned by Jitpleecheep, but the support cast brings him and his surroundings to life. He struggles with his desire for Damong’s ghost and his feelings for Kim while living with Chanya; he struggles at work with a boss who has recently become a big supporter of globalization especially the capitalist’s creed of easily making money regardless of legality and ethics. Even his assistant serves more as a chaperone than a cop. John Burdett provides his audience with a great Thai whodunit.

The Alton Gift
Marion Zimmer Bradley & Deborah J. Ross
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0756400198 $25.95 1-800-847-5515

The Terran Federation left Darkover to fight in an interstellar war not realizing just how powerful the people with laran (psychic powers are) or that they can be a weapon against an enemy. Now the old ways no longer work. There are less laran users and towers have been abandoned because there have not been enough people to fill them.

Trailmen’s Fever which was thought to have been wiped out by Terran science makes a pandemic return. The knowledge of how to cure it is locked in an encrypted file in the bioweapon files so those who know how to use a computer can’t access it. However, there is one Terran soldier Jeram who chose to stay on Darkover. His mind was entered without his consent to erase a few of his memories so that the off-world military won’t discover what laran can actually is. As the plague threatens the world, he is the Darkover’s last hope.

Taking place after the federation forces have left, The Regent Mikhail and his wife Marguerida try to hold society together but the poor, caught in a cycle of devastation have no lords to help them. Their son is torn between love and honor and finds the strength to rule when his father takes ill. These characters make THE ALTON GIFT very special because they care about their people and the audience will hope they survive and their son Domenic finds love. The authors have written a complex tale with interwoven storylines that are entertaining and exciting. They create a world with its own culture that seems believable. This adds to the Darkover mythos.

Places to Be, People to Kill
Martin H. Greenberg (Editor), Brittiany A. Koren
0756404177 $7.99

This twelve never before published tales focuses on the fantasy genre’s professional hitmen (and women), assassins as they have not been seen before (at least to the knowledge of this reviewer). The authors go deep into the psyche of what makes an assassin (naturing vs. nurturing), but not during the adrenalin rush of a planned kill; instead the tales occur during non productive time though a death or two happens. The compilation provides differing reasons why someone would choose to become a paid killer ranging from avarice, the thrill of the kill, the gene pool, or feeding a family. Think of this book as the assassin’s resume. Fascinatingly, in several of the tales this stereotypical antihero actually honors life as sacred because they take it away so effortlessly. The stories are well written running the gamut from a serious look at why one becomes an assassin (see “Fealty” by S. Andrew Swann and “Bloodlines” by Jim C. Hines) to a satirical look at why not (“Hang Ten” by Jean Rabe). In each of these fun contributions the assassin is a terrific antagonist who is always ready for population control assignments as their prime mission is PEOPLE TO KILL.

The Fire Opal
Catherine Asaro
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
0373802773 $14.95

As a priestess in the Dragon-Sun temple, Ginger-Sun serves the villagers of nearby Sky Flames. She provides them with comfort and leads them in prayer and ceremonies honoring the Sun that lights up the sky and the world. However, Ginger-Sun also conceals from her parishioners and her peers a dark secret. She possesses a fire opal given to her by her grandfather when she was five years old that enables her to perform spells of heat and light during nighttime; no one else as far as she knows can perform this heresy that she thinks might be a form of worship to some night God.

Villager Harjan and several miners from the ore flats arrive at the temple upset. They disturb the evening rest of the Priestess because someone stabbed a man whom they carried to her so she can perform the Sunset Rites so his spirit can move on. Sending the men away, instead of the rite of passage Ginger-Sun uses her fire opal to heal the soldier Darz Goldstone. By performing “witchcraft”, Ginger-Sun knows she must burn at the stake. Darz rescues her and Ginger-Sun leaves behind all she treasured to begin anew with her beloved Darz at her side while the Dragon-Sun mentors her to use her magic to save the land of Taka Mal from the darkness that threatens to turn off the Sun.

Returning to the realm where THE MISTED CLIFFS and THE CHARMED SPHERE takes place, Catherine Asaro provides the audience with a character driven beguiling and enchanting romantic fantasy starring a courageous Priestess who knows the cost of using forbidden magic, but does so to save a stranger’s life. The gripping story line is fast-paced as Ginger-Sun saves Darz, which makes his assassins her enemy and hopefully prevents the darkening of Taka Mal. Sub-genre fans already know that Ms. Asaro is one of the top RF wizards, but THE FIRE OPAL is her best work to date.

Dead Connection
Alafair Burke
Henry Holt & Company
175 - 5th Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
0805077855 $19.95 1-888-330-8477

Being a NYPD rookie, Kansas transplant Ellie Hatcher works the boring minor leagues of inconsequential robberies unless of course you are the victim. However, her break to the majors occurs when she is assigned as the partner of charismatic Homicide Detective Flann McIlroy who investigates the murder of Louisiana expatriate Amy Davis. The veteran sleuth believes a serial killer murdered Amy; the brass disagrees but stays out of the way of Flann who has a higher than norm completion record in spite of the worst case assignments. His theory and the police scoffing at it hits personally home to Ellie, who believes her father, a Wichita cop, was slain killed by a serial killer he was investigating but his brass says otherwise.

The only clue found on the victim apparently was placed there by the culprit. It leads the sleuths to FirstDate Internet dating. They quickly realize the FirstDate connection includes the murdered last year on this day Caroline Hunter. Ellie and Flann begin to look into the lives of other deceased females who died under similar circumstances. The FBI notices their efforts and Agent Charlie Dixon tries to end their investigation, which only encourages Flann and Ellie to dig deeper while their murderous felon switch MO to mimic her father’s killer.

Flann and Ellie make a delightful pairing as a media seeking veteran and a shy rookie work a psychopathic serial killer case that both knows will haunt them long after they are finished. The FBI causing roadblocks is not new, but fans will not care as this cat and mouse encounter switches roles to the delight of the audience. Initially the cops are the felines and the predator the rodent, but once the culprit realizes Ellie is on the case, he becomes the feline and she (and her partner) the rodents. This is a terrific New York police procedural.

Wiped! Life with a Pint-Sized Dictator
Rebecca Eckler
c/o Random House Trade Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0812976401 $13.95 1-800-726-0600

No longer the star as she was in KNOCKED UP: CONFESSIONS OF A HIP MOTHER-TO-BE (not reviewed), Rebecca Eckler continues her diary entry muses; this time as the mother to the great minuscule “Dictator”, Sir Rowen of 24/7 bodily secretions. Ms. Eckler quickly leans to sleep while changing diapers or during feeding time. She Forgets how she once looked with a good night sleep as the author avoids mirrors at all costs as she looks worse than her worst four poster hangover and of course pre Rowan clothing no longer fits. Perhaps the only one appreciating the arrival of the totalitarian Great Dictator is his maternal grandmother who enjoys the sweet revenge of watching her offspring suffer the way she once did. Profanity included (who can watch one’s language on a few hours of sleep), this lighthearted and irreverent Wiped is an enjoyable diary especially for moms being mentored by a first child and to a lesser degree dads on the pitfalls of raising a tyrant who also serves as the perfect necker-checker chaperone.

Blood and Circuses
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590582357 $24.95 1-800-421-3976

In Australia a concerned carnival worker Alan Lee asks his former lover Phryne Fisher to determine who is sabotaging Farrell's Circus and Wild Beast Show; Phryne agrees to investigate. The latest incident involved poisoning a horse, which led to the injury of a trick rider. This enables the socialite detective to go undercover as a trick rider since she is excellent with horses though she will need training to perform the act.

At the same time that Phryne joins the big top, a former employee of Farrell’s Circus, hermaphrodite Mr. Christopher is found dead in a Melbourne rooming house. The police arrest another former performer Miss Parkes, who was just released from prison. However, Melbourne Constable Tommy Harris and Detective Inspector Robinson believe she did not commit this homicide. As they make further inquiries, Robinson nebulously connects a gangland murder to the circus incidents and the Christopher killing. Now he thinks his friend Phryne is in jeopardy even as she and one of the clowns share a tryst while she risks her life seeking out the culprit.

As in her previous adventures, Phryne continues to defy the dictates of late 1920s Australian society that demand a single women behave in a certain way; this time she has an affair with a clown. Her investigation is made fresh by the circus and its performers and other employees as they bring uniqueness to the tale. The support cast is very well developed, especially at the circus, the socialite’s investigation and the police procedural. Series fans will appreciate this delightful historical whodunit.

The Day Will Come
Judy Clemens
Poisoned Pen Press
1590582993 $24.95

Farm hand Lucy and her fiance biker Lenny buy tickets for their pal farmer Stella Crown and her boyfriend Nick to accompany them to hear rock legends the Tom Copper Band perform at Club Independence in nearby Philadelphia. The usually fun loving Nick tells Stella he has a severe headache, but does not want to be a downer especially since the tickets cost a bundle.

However, a bomb scare sends everyone out of the club and onto the streets. While the police search for an explosive device, they find the murdered corpse of pixyish group singer, Genna. The police arrest group sound manager Jordan Granger, one of Stella’s eight “adopted” brothers. She thinks otherwise as she is positive that Genna and Jordan were in love with one another. Stella believes the ill tempered drummer Ricky, Genna’s boyfriend is the killer. As she investigates the rock triangle, she also looks closer at Nick’s recent behavior.

THE DAY WILL COME is an exciting amateur sleuth tale as biker chick Stella cannot help but take care of Jordan by investigating the Genna murder and the related bomb scare while also having doubts about Nick. The whodunit is orchestrated so that every clue that Stella finds implicates Jordon only. Ironically the Nick subplot is the crown jewel of Judy Clemens latest tale. Sub-genre readers will enjoy this fine mystery and seek out previous Stella stories (see THREE CAN KEEP A SECRET, TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE and TILL THE COWS COME HOME).

Fire Prayer
Deborah Turrell Atkinson
Poisoned Pen Press
1590584023 $24.95

In Honolulu, Tanner Williams hires his high school friend Storm Kayama to travel to Moloka‘i to insure his diabetic twelve year old son Luke is receiving proper care from his ex-wife the kid’s mother, the acrimonious Jenny. At the same time her law partner and lover, Ian Hamlin is also going to Moloka‘i to investigate whether a local kayaking company was negligent in the disappearance of Brock Liu, the son of an Oahu shipping mogul.

Doing a background check on Jenny, Storm realizes Tanner has reason for concern. She visits Jenny accompanied by Tanner, but soon after she leaves, Luke Williams discovers his mother’s corpse. He calls the cops, but vanishes. Storm worries that the killer believes Luke is an eyewitness to the homicide of his mom; and is coming for the kid on the lam who also lacks his diabetes medicine. She and Ian begin to theorize that Brock’s disappearance and Jenny’s murder tie back to an unsolved decade old homicide that both were involved in.

The Hawaiian locales steal the show from a fun whodunit. The two investigations are cleverly designed so that they ultimately tie together although most of the book focuses on Kayama being in the eye of the storm. Although Storm and Ian as lawyers doing field work as investigators seems a non-starter (where is Jack Lord when you need him), mystery readers will enjoy touring Hawaii as Deborah Turrell Atkinson provides plenty of FIRE POWER (for further tales of Hawaii see PRIMITIVE SECRETS and GREEN ROOM).

Buffalo Mountain
Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen Press
1590583698 $24.95

Picketsville, Virginia Deputy Sheriff Whaite Billingsley finds a body on the nearby icy forests; the driver’s license on the dead man was issued to Randal Harris. Since the victim is part of the orneriest bone cruel family living in the most isolated backwater area of Buffalo Mountain, Whaite assumes a feud of sorts.

However, when Whaite’s supervisor sheriff Ike Schwartz sees the corpse, he knows the victim is not a Harris, but instead is missing former KGB spy Alexei Kamarov. Using his past contacts as a CIA Agent, Ike contacts government operative Charlie Garland while pursuing the case as a routine homicide starting with sending Whaite to do field inquires and directing Sam Ryder to conduct web searches.

In his third Shenandoah Valley police procedural ( see SECRETS and ARTSCAPE), Ike’s behavior seems suspect as he knows better than to tell his subordinates that this whodunit is part of a blacks ops espionage encounter, but does so. The mystery is entertaining as Ike and his crew meets a cast of characters from generations living on the Buffalo Mountain, Russians who are out of place here (Brooklyn is more apropos), and CIA operatives trying to blend in. Although Ike’s out of character behavior appears wrong as if he is bragging about war stories, fans of the series will enjoy the case of the former Soviet spy turned dead hillbilly family member.

The Gold of Thrace
Aileen G. Baron
Poisoned Pen
1590584309 $24.95

In 1990 Turkey archeologist Tamar Saticoy and Orman Celibi lead the Tepe Hazarfen excavation near the village of Hazarfen. When Tamar and her student workers uncover a tessera small mosaic tile at a Roman house, she stops the dig as she anticipates what must be just below the dust. She and her student assistant Binali slowly complete the excavation so as not to ruin the incredible find. Tamar and Orman travel to report their findings to Department of Antiquities.

The next day they return to the site only to find Binali dead and the mosaic floor gone. Her co-director Andrew Chatham leaves the dig site supposedly to visit his mother in Czechoslovakia. Although still under suspicion, Tamar is allowed to leave the country; she journeys to Switzerland where she expects the floor to surface on the black market. Soon others including Orman die while at the same time Chatham heads to Bulgaria chasing after THE GOLD OF THRACE.

This is an exciting archeological whodunit in which the insight into Roman findings is cleverly interwoven into the exciting story line. There are actually two prime subplots as each of the directors goes their own way throughout most of the novel. This leaves some reader bewilderment re what is going on until the climax when all is revealed tying the two seemingly separate tales together. Still readers will dig Aileen G. Baron’s fun mystery.

And Murder for Desert
Kathleen Delaney
Poisoned Pen
1590584236 $24.95

In California, realtor Ellen McKenzie and her fiance Police Chief Dan Dunham attend the Harvest Festival Dinner at the Silver Springs Winery in nearby Santa Louisa. Though somewhat estranged from her snobby sister Ellen and Dan go to celebrate her niece Sabrina's husband Mark Tortelli becoming the new winemaker; although Ellen did not know her niece married as she was not invited or even informed until now.

As Chef Otto explodes over minor inconveniences, his rival Chef Frank arrives to celebrate his son being named the winemaker. Frank and Otto are more than competitors as they hate each other with a passion that rivals their love of cooking. However, it is not Frank who the police, including Dan, believe killed Otto, found floating in the fermenting tank; it is Sabrina they suspect. Not one to sit idly by while her niece goes down, Ellen investigates; even though she is unprepared for a second homicide.

Ellen’s personal life adds depth to a fine amateur sleuth tale as she has doubts about marrying for the second time after years in a horrific marriage to a physician; Dan recognizes her hesitation and does his best to prove he is not her former rat of a husband. Although the killer is obvious, the investigation is still fun to follow due to Ellen’s antics. She knows she should stay out of it but cannot because blood is thicker than water.

Harry Hunsicker
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312348517 $23.95 1-888-330-8477

In Dallas, Lee Henry "Hank" Oswald retires from being a private investigator as his recent cases have been too personally dangerous (see STILL RIVER and THE NEXT TIME YOU DIE). Instead he pays his bills tending bar as he assumes that serving drinks to belligerent drinks is a much safer occupation though his name can rouse an intoxicated person.

However, dying Gulf War I friend Mike Baxter asks Hank for a favor that the bartender prefers to not perform. However, since he owes his war buddy big time, Hank agrees to search for Mike’s missing daughter. The investigation takes Hank down twisted paths that lead him to Iranian Dr. Anita Nazari; she hires him to uncover the identity of the nasty culprit terrorizing her. However, before he can complete either assignment violence explodes with Hank caught in the middle.

The third Oswald mystery is a well written suspense thriller starring a very reluctant sleuth. The story line is fast-paced and filled with non-stop action as Hank realizes every step of the way why he became a bartender. Readers will enjoy this fine investigation due to Hank although with his name he should consider relocating.

P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
St. Martin’s
0312360266 $8.95

At a high school in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma the Tracker Vampyre MARKED sixteen years old Zoey Montgomery as a fledgling vampyre accepted at the House of Night, a prep school that trains the newcomers into becoming productive adults. The good is she no longer is failing geometry at SIHS; the bad is that some of the chosen fail to survive the Change. Leaving behind her close buddies, her boyfriend Heath and his beer binging, attending OSU, her step-loser dad, and using her grandfather’s name Zoey Redbird begins her new life.

As she adjusts to Vampyre School and makes new friends, the faculty knows Zoey is special. Nyx the Vampyre Goddess has given her and at least one other fledgling special powers.. However, with life and death still to come, Zoey with loyal new friends finds herself in direct opposition against the elitist Dark Daughters, whose leader abuses Nyx’s special endowment.

This is a terrific opening book in a young adult fantasy series that targets the high school crowd. The cast (pun intended) make the tale work as the audience will believe in vampyre high school because of the fully developed faculty and students. However, the entertaining coming of age story line belongs to the heroine, who just wants to fit in and not have to battle dangerous peers while fearing the Change as she keeps the fine plot focused.

A Spy by Nature
Charles Cumming
St. Martin's
0312366353 $24.95

In London twenty-four years old marketing consultant Alec Milius works for Central European Business Review selling advertising space to the new capitalists in that region. Alec understands the dubious meaninglessness of his vocation, but it pays the bills so even as his theme song is “We’ve Got to Get Out of this Place”, he feels he has no options if he wants to eat.

That is until a member of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) M16 meets him and hires him. As a rookie, they place Alec undercover with a British oil company; his real job to support another agent as needed. Alec enjoys the duality of his duplicity until the seemingly safe mission turns dangerous due to double and triple crosses that leave the rookie exposed in the cold with neither friend, family or British and American Intelligence to bring him home safely because he trusts no one.

A SPY BY NATURE is a terrific espionage thriller that stars a delightful protagonist who gets what he wishes for, a little excitement in his life. However, little turns into Mt. Everest as Alec is caught in a horrific spy vs. spy fiasco caused when the Yanks and the Brits fail at sharing information with both sides of the Anglo-Atlantic wanting to look superior; so it costs a SIS tyro his life. Charles Cumming’s tale will remind readers of TV’ Secret Agent Man even with a bungling neophyte muddling to survive the dangerous middle.

A Welcome Grave
Michael Koryta
St. Martin’s
0312340117 $23.95

In Cleveland, in a fit of jealousy enhanced by the man’s superior airs Lincoln Perry assaulted influential affluent attorney Alex Jefferson. His actions led to his dismissal from the Cleveland Police Department and he still lost the woman as his beloved former wife Karen married Alex. Lincoln moves on becoming a private investigator ruing his foolishness.

However, Lincoln soon has a new reason to rue his temper fit when someone brutally murders Alex. The police immediately think of Lincoln whose motive remains jealousy as the homicide looks like it was performed by a raging culprit. However, unable to say no to Karen, he agrees to search for Jefferson’s estranged son Matt although that makes him look guiltier to the cops investigating the murder. He finds the lad in Indiana only to have Matt commit suicide in front of him. Now the police suspect Lincoln for murdering the father and the son all because they assume he still holds the torch for Karen and ergo will do anything for this "femme fatale" especially with millions involved.

Lincoln is terrific in his third urban noir case (see TONIGHT I SAID GOODBYE and SORROWS ANTHEM) is personal as he is the prime and only suspect in the murder of Alex and the questionable (by the cops that is) suicide of Matt. The story line is fast-paced as the police assume Karen is a femme fatale black widow who uses Lincoln as her tool to get Jefferson’s millions. Fans of hard boiled detectives will want to read the escapades of Lincoln Perry has he struggles to expedite himself from quite a mess.

Lean Mean Thirteen
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin
0312349491 $24.95

Fugitive recover agent (otherwise known as a bounty hunter) Stephanie Plum is doing a favor for Carlos Manoso otherwise known as Ranger. She is going to her repulsive ex-husband’s law firm to plant some listening devices in his office. When she goes there she accomplishes her mission but not before she tries to strangle him. The picture of Dickie and the woman she caught him in bed with and his revelation they reconnected made her go berserker.

When Dickie disappears and the neighbors hear shots fired in his vicinity Stephanie wonders whether he is dead or alive. Before he vanished he took millions of dollars out of the corporate account, money that makes Stephanie question whether he and his partners were into something illegal. When attempts are made on her life and one of the partners is killed, she hopes Joe and Ranger can protect her from a stone cold killer who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants, whatever that is.

While Stephanie is in the middle of Dickie’s mess, she has to pick up her skips which leads her into some hilarious situations. Readers will enjoy watching her try and fail to bring them in several times. The sizzle that exists between Ranger and Stephanie, and Joe and Stephanie is hotter than in any of the other novels in this series. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum tales is like eating potato chips as you can’t stop reading until the bag is done.

Into the Dark
Cindy Gerard
St. Martin's
031298118X $6.99

Terrorists kidnapped Amy Walker, but made no demands for her release. Instead they raped and tortured the American. Several E.D.E.N operatives including Dallas Garrett rescue Amy. Subsequently she vanished, but Dallas knows first hand that out of sight means inside his mind as he has not forgotten her (see INTO THE DARK).

Six months since the rescue and he still thinks of her; wishing they met under nicer circumstances. Amy has gone into hiding because she knows the abduction was personal; her grandfather, a former Nazi medical scientist who experimented on his offspring (Amy’s locked away mother), arranged for her kidnapping and torture. She fears she will never be safe so she turns to her hero whom she was attracted to when he saved her as her own blood is coming to spill her blood.

Fans of the Bodyguard series have been waiting since Dec 2005 for the return of Amy and Dallas; the wait was worth it as Cindy Gerard provides a great romantic suspense thriller. The story line is non stop action (it is a Bodyguard tale), but insures that former teacher Amy and her hero seem real and their relationship genuine. In many ways her grandfather steals the show from mostly Amy’s impressions as an evil genius who goes OVER THE LINE of morality without a second thought even sending family TO THE BRINK of insanity.

The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes
Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer, and Anne Stuart
St. Martin's
031294098X $6.99

In Salem’s Fork, West Virginia, although only a teen, Dee Fortune realized she and her two younger sisters were in danger; she abducted Lizzie and Mare keeping them safe over the next thirteen years as she struggles to learn how to use her shapeshifting power. However, the haven she constructed falls apart with one wicked smile that makes her preening and ready to no longer be the oldest North American virgin when Danny James arrives to interrogate her about Miss Fortune’s past.

Middle sibling Lizzie knows the three Miss Fortune’s are in financial trouble so she concocts an alchemist like plan to spin straw into gold. She fails at that, but succeeds in changing forks into bunnies that overwhelm the land. Elric the sorcerer arrives to prevent Lizzie from spinning anymore disasters, but is too late as he wants to spin a future with her.

The youngest of the trio, Mare is much taller than her two older sisters and in fact can see eyeball to eyeball with most men; some forcing her to look down. However, her magic is limited compared to her siblings, which adds to her feelings of worthlessness until Crash the mechanic magically arrives to whisk her away from Value Video.

Fortunately for the contemporary paranormal romance crowd with a touch, the saga of the Miss Fortunes is an excellent novel that will grip readers from the first siblings’ vote until the climax as the “matchmaking” Xan sends hunks their way in an effort to steal their power. The humorous and heated story line belongs to the three sisters who have hidden in small towns since the threat surfaced, but due to the men suddenly in their lives must confront the one they ran from. This is a wonderful collaboration.

Last Seen Alive
Carlene Thompson
St. Martin's
0312937318 $6.99

A dozen years have passed since then teen Zoey Simms vanished. When she disappeared, her sixteen years old best friend Chyna Greer feared the worst as this was out of character for Zoey.

With the death of her mother, Chyna left New Mexico to return to her hometown of Black Willow, West Virginia for the funeral and to help her brother Ned handle estate needs. She is shocked as she hears a voice that she knows is that of Zoey, but fails to see anyone and besides she assumed her friend was murdered all those years ago. Soon after her arrival, a girl disappears. The police and the townsfolk suspect Chyna as the culprit since nothing occurred when she was away. Only her former boyfriend Scott Kendrick thinks otherwise and wants to help her, but he rejects her insistence that she has visions that she believes are the only hope to save the latest victim

LAST SEEN ALIVE is an exciting romantic suspense thriller that grips readers when Chyna hears the voice of Zoey after twelve years of wondering. Chyna is a terrific star as she struggles with all that is happening to her and to her town. Although a final twist seems a bit over the top, sub-genre fans, who already know that Carlene Thompson is a top gun, will enjoy her latest taut tale.

The Duke's Proposal
Leslie LaFoy
St. Martin's
0312347723 $6.99

In 1891 London when Lady Fiona Turnbridge finds the severely injured cat, she knows immediately the animal needs a professional. The nearest medical practitioner that she knows about is a former military surgeon Lord Ian Cabott. He handles beauty and the beast at his door at midnight with aplomb as he learned to remain cool while working combat medicine.

Ian proposes a deal with the fiery visitor. He will tend to the injured feline, but Fiona must help him with his ward fourteen years old wheelchair bound Miss Charlotte, whose parents died six months ago and moved into his home, that of a stranger, while the raised eyebrows of the aristocracy were upset with the arrangement. Fiona wants to say yes, but if she moves into the Ian’s home, she wonders how she can avert a scandal especially since she is attracted to the noble doctor. Meanwhile Ian reflects that until Fiona’s arrival, the duty was boring.

THE DUKE’S PROPOSAL is an entertaining late Victorian romance starring two likable caring characters. However, the story line is stolen by Miss Charlotte whose anguish and grief will hook the audience from the first broken piece of china to the last shard but the love of Fiona causes a miracle top happen. Leslie LaFoy writes an interesting historical that brings to life the state of medicine in perhaps the most affluent late nineteenth century society.

A Beautiful Blue Death
Charles Finch
St. Martin’s
0312359772 $24.95

In 1865 London, Prudence Smith, a maid at the home of the director of the Royal Mint George Barnard, dies. Scotland Yard believes she committed suicide by taking poison. Prue’s previous employer Lady Jane Grey refuses to accept that the young vivacious Prue Smith killed herself. She pleads with her best friend Charles Lenox to investigate the death. Charles prefers to drink tea while reading a book in his den, but reluctantly agrees to look into Prue’s death although that means leaving the comfort of home for field work. He only acquiesce for his life long friend Jane.

Lenox quickly finds evidence that punches holes in the official ruling as the poison proves to be an exotic, difficult to find and to expensive for a maid to obtain; he believes someone murdered Prue. However, the police detectives ridicule the armchair sleuth while Barnard ignores his homicide theory. The private sleuth, with the aid of his butler Graham, decides who the person with a jealousy motive and having the means of obtaining the poison and the opportunity to use it most likely is, but Lenox is stunned when his prime suspect becomes victim number two.

A BEAUTIFUL BLUE DEATH is a superb Victorian mystery starring a reluctant debonair hero whose preference is to be a couch potato rather than a field detective. The whodunit is cleverly designed so as Lenox finds a clue he ends up taking either a sidestep or two steps backwards as his case is far from linear as he had initially believed when he drew a jealousy line from the victim to the men salivating after her. The historical tidbits that make 1865 England come to life actually enhance the investigation that will elate sub-genre fans as Charles Finch provides a great first act.

Liberation Movements
Olen Steinhauer
St. Martin’s
031233205X $13.95

On April 23, 1975, Turkish Airlines Flight 54 explodes in flight following a hijacking by the Armenian Army of the Liberation. Soviet bloc country homicide detective Katja Drdova is assigned to investigate. However, since the incident is an act of terrorism by an enemy of the state, Secret Police agent Gavra Noukas also makes inquiries under the close scrutiny of his mentor Major Brano Sev; as a police peer of the lead cop, Libarid Terzian, is of Armenian descent and was on board.

At the same time of the tragedy and the subsequent official investigations, Czech student Peter Husak, a victim of the Soviet crushing of the 1968 Prague Spring, resurfaces. However, the case seems to swing away from Peter towards a female passenger Zrinka Martrich, whose lack of information in official records makes her the prime suspect. Gavra interviews her doctor and her brother. He shares a tryst with the sibling, but finds the medical practitioner murdered.

This Iron Curtain historical police procedural is a terrific thriller that hooks the audience from the onset as readers follow an intriguing mentorship that teaches the rookies sleuthing techniques and political considerations that often trump the investigation (sounds like the US Attorneys scenario). Training Sev also controls the official inquires. The story line is fast-paced but it is the unnamed Soviet satellite country bought vividly to life that makes this a top rate whodunit.

The Cursed
L.A. Banks
Griffin (St. Martin’s)
0312352379 $14.95

She is Lilith the wife of the Lord of Hell and he blames her for the death of vampires he had plans for; but instead of torturing or killing her, he forgives her because she has done the one thing that makes him happy. She has created a child with him and hidden the embryo inside a hybrid-angel residing in the land of Nod. The inhabitants of Hell can’t enter there and the people who fight for the Most High are forbidden to enter there.

Lilith knows she is in trouble because nothing grows is the place of banishment and if her husband finds out, he will be furious, a situation she wants to avoid at all costs. While husband and wife share a romantic two weeks together it ends when, Carlos, a Neturu married to Damali (also a Neturu) causes total chaos in Hell. He is helped by fellow Neturu Adam who breaks the first seal signifying the beginning of Armageddon. When Lilith tries to mess with Damali,, she enters Hell and deals Lilith and her minions deadly blow. However Lilith has a plan to free the angel-hybrid by using Damali as the instrument ensuring the birth of the antichrist. Carlos and Damali who don’t know anything about her plans find themselves in a struggle that could kill them and all they hold dear.

THE CURSED is a great horror novel filled with superb characters that one easily understands as one set works for the Creator and the others work for the devil. Lilith is particularly well drawn as a villain readers will love to hate. There is plenty of action in this fast paced work with the Neturus and the dead battling one demonic attack after another. L.A. Banks is one of the best horror authors writing today.

Slightly Married
Wendy Markham
Red Dress
0373895380 $13.95

After waiting for what seems eternity at least to her, Jack Candell proposes to his live-in lover Tracy Spadolini. Euphoric she immediately says yes.

Tracy dives into arranging the wedding. However, she begins to doubt what she always dreamed of, a big ceremony as she receives good wishes and advice from family and friends. Meanwhile Jack is starting to doubt the wisdom of his proposal as he wants only the needs of Tracy and him to matter, not the horde of congratulatory folks in her sphere. As he planned on only a best man, her octet entourage overwhelms his sense of balance. Still the biggest issue for Tracy to decide upon is whether she loves Jack or someone else as she thinks of some the men in her life especially Buckley who abruptly ended his engagement in the final countdown stage.

The latest “slightly” chick lit tale is an amusing story when the plot focuses on the difference between Tracy and Jack re their wedding. He thinks short and quick; she ponder long and extended; paralleling their sex life. Although several sidebars involving the relationship woes of her friends add depth to Tracy, these amusing subplots take away from the humorous entertaining prime theme of the final frontier from proposal to I do.

The Good Good Pig
Sy Montgomery
Ballantine Trade Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345496094 $13.95 1-800-726-0600

Ironically as a naturalist Sy Montgomery has traveled the globe, but of all the animals she has met in her travels, it was the runt of the pig litter in her hometown in New Hampshire who stole her heart and that of her spouse. As her beloved hero father was dying from cancer, Sy went back and forth between her New England home and her dad in Virginia. Each visit was heartbreaking. She obtained some solace when a sickly piglet able to fit inside a shoe box came home with her. She called him Christopher Hogwood; renovating the barn into a sty home for him. Sy knew Chris was safe with them as she is a vegetarian and her spouse a Jew. Over time as Christopher grew into 750 pounds of hog, he became more than the pet piglet who adopted the human couple in “runthood”; he brought joy to the area as THE GOOD GOOD PIG who the author believes taught her how to be human by sharing oneself with others.

This memoir showcases Ms. Montgomery’s enlightenment brought to her by the pig, who steals the show; WC Fields sage adage of not to star with animals is disaffirmed as Christopher makes everyone from the Montgomery duo to the cops feeding him to children massaging him and the reader feel good. Readers will appreciate the intelligent writing that brings home the need of people and animals for self actualization through the love to and from others especially at those moments when with gusto someone gives Christopher a snack.

Robert Conroy
0345494792 $14.95

Hoping to end the war with weapons of mass destruction, the United States drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, no surrender remains the motto of the military fanatics who strictly adhere to the code of Bushido. Knowing Emperor Hirohito is going to traitorously announce his country’s surrender in a few hours, this extremist military cabal kidnaps him.

Instead samurai General Korechika Anami takes over as leader of the bombed out country. Tired of war but seeing no end in sight and realizing the number of dead could reach seven digits, a reluctant President Truman authorizes General Douglas MacArthur to invade Japan. However, instead of a quick end the war continues with kamikaze attacks on the occupying force and human shields to raise the cost of counter attacks. As the war drags on and a successful kamikaze raid causes symbolic euphoria in Japan and nightmarish doubts in America, the anticipated V-J day celebration appears increasingly more like a Japanese celebration.

The key to Robert Conroy's powerful latest alternate history (see 1901and 1862; neither read by this reviewer), is the varying points of view that bring vividly to life that war is hell. The concept of Japan continuing the war on its own soil holds up as the American public loses confidence with increasing reports of casualties. Fans fascinated by plausible well written alternate military history will enjoy 1945.

Marriage By Design
Lynn Michaels
0345476018 $6.99

Thirty years old Mia Savard is considered the leading designer at her father’s bridal design company Savard’s Creations; work she fully enjoys. However, her personal life has recently flushed down the toilet as the beautiful Mia was unceremoniously dumped.

Mia puts her elan for life into her latest creation, which turns into an incredible wedding design. However, as she is about to quit the family firm, someone sells her conception to a rival. Mia and her dad know an insider had to have done the industrial espionage. Before more trade secrets are sold, the firm hires private investigator Joe Kerr to go undercover and find who sold them out. Joe figures Mia is the prime suspect, but as he makes subtle inquires engulfed by blobs of pompous pampered designers and stalking mothers of the brides, the former cop to his chagrin finds he is attracted to Mia; she reciprocates not knowing he considers her as the likely rat.

This amusing investigative romance stars two likable enemy combatants as he is positive she is the traitor and she is negative on the newcomer who knows nothing about weddings. The story line is filled with peppery exchanges between the pair as they argue, fuss and kiss. Although the defector is obvious to the reader early one and not to the lead couple (perhaps love is truly blind), Lynn Michaels provides a fun prenuptial romance.

The Dallas Women's Guide to Gold-Digging with Pride
J.C. Conklin
0345492943 $22.95

The Wall Street Journal sends almost thirty, Manhattanite Jennifer Barton to work at the Dallas bureau. While there her boyfriend Rafe dumps her for a much older wealthier married witch. Outraged she asks her roommate Aimee to explain why he would drop pretty miss compatibility like her for a snake with a spouse. Aimee explains once a Tall Texan always Tall Texan. Jenny vows to become a Tall Texan with Aimee offering to mentor her in what matters unlike her fortyish shrew of boss at work Carol Becker who wants her booted back east. The native also explains the rule that you marry wealth symbolized by a rock of Gibraltar stone, divorce wealth and remarry more wealth with a rock the size of Everest until you hit the pinnacle in which males seek to marry your wealth; Aimee is at phase two.

Jenny begins her quest to become the greatest tall cottoner ever. She hides her Jewish genes when she goes to the prime meat zone, a Baptist wedding while trying to do her day job. As she adjusts at work and more important on the money gold-digging hunt she begins to wonder whether you can take the New Yorker out of New York but can you take the New York out of a New Yorker.

This satirical chick lit tale is at its best when Jenny acts like an ugly American stunned by the culture and customs of a foreign country; the tale loses its keenness when the jokes turn Texan. Jenny is fun to follow as she learns first hand the local societal order so different from what she thought her knowledge based on TV reruns. Sub-genre fans will overall enjoy Jenny’s escapades in what seems to her is a third world nation.

The Sonnet Lover
Carol Goodman
0345479572 $24.95

Two decades ago then student Goodman Rose Asher fell in love with Professor Bruno Brunelli while she attended seminars at La Civetta in Tuscany, Italy where he lectured. However, in spite of their heated tryst, he stayed with his wife while she will always have the memory of Italy.

Rose teaches Renaissance poetry at Hudson College when she is invited as a guest professor and movie advisor on a film based on the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets at La Civetta where Bruno still works. The script was written by Robin Weiss and includes a Shakespeare-like sonnet found in the archives that implies Ginevra de Laura, daughter of a master mosaic artist, was the Dark Lady. However, soon after Rose arrives, Robin dies in what appears to be either a tragic accident or a suicide; the manuscript is missing. Rose refuses to accept her student killed himself while Bruno worries his son might be a killer.

The plausible solution to who the Dark Lady is makes this an intriguing entry in the Rose Asher academic amateur sleuth mysteries (see the GHOST ORCHID). However, the myriad of subplots from college president Mark Abrams to investigating Robin's death and locating the missing sixteenth century manuscript that contains the sonnet to Bruno worrying about his son while considering renewing his romance with Rose somewhat makes the most intriguing element (the Dark Lady identification) not as front and centered as most readers will desire. Still THE SONNET LOVER is a well written whodunit with an intriguing possible resolution to a literary mystery.

The Fourth Order
Stephen Frey
0345480643 $24.95

Virginia based Trafalgar Industries CFO Michael Rose strongly believes that his energy firm needs to diversify into other sectors. His target is Computer Information Systems, which he feels if successful will lead him to being the CEO at Trafalgar. He expected some opposition from within especially those who loathe him and the few who actually think it is a mistake to acquire anything outside the core mission. However, Michael is stunned with the hostile violent reaction of the CIS board.

Michael does not have the need to know who the prime customer of CIS is since 9/11 as this seemingly successful firm provides top secret assistance to the agents working at a deeply hidden federal program, I-4 (Immunity at the Fourth Order). I-4 known within as the Order detains, renditions, and tortures suspected terrorists and anyone linked even nebulously to terrorist groups; American citizens are not immune from this top secret Order who do not bother with obtaining permission from the courts. Rose soon finds his personal life in shambles when the police consider him the prime suspect in his cheating wife’s murder; the Order does not mind collateral damage even if the innocent die.

This is an exciting conspiracy thriller, but leave your plausibly check outside as several key events especially the Order’s plan and history seems stretched to the point of almost breaking the plot. Still the story line is fast-paced as Michael who plays hardball in business and in his personal life soon finds who is the major leagues as he is framed in several ways (not just with his wife’s murder). Stephen Frey provides an entertaining tale that his fans will enjoy.

Hitoshi Iwaaki
Del Rey
c/o Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345496248 $12.95 1-800-726-0600

They came from space at night; aliens falling planet-side while people sleep. These slugs crawl like snakes as they seek human hosts to feed on from within. One by one they easily nestle into the brains of those humans they find. These hosts are no longer who they were as the space slugs take over thoughts and their body, but conceal themselves and their master plan by pretending their human host remains in control.

However, one failed to cuddle inside the brain when high school student Shinichi sneezes as the slug enters his nostril. He grabs the creature that he thinks is a snake, but it escapes. When it soars at his face, he instinctively puts his hand up; the parasite enters him there. Shinichi still controls his brain and can communicate with Migi as he calls the creature residing in his right hand. As Migi studies the host population, mass kings and serial murders become frequent. It appears man’s reign is through with Shin the last hope although first he must defeat Migi over just whose body is it before he can try to save the world.

Mindful of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this gritty grim apocalyptic manga thriller is a reprint of a tale released in the United States in 1990. The plot holds up quite nicely as a terrific coming of age tale with several twists all inside a sneaky invasion by what would seem a whimper but is a pandemic big bang. However, it is the manga art that grips the audience as the simplistic dark and grainy pictures means not to eat while reading or just afterward as the gloomy vividness will stay inside your brain like a lingering PARASYTE long after this first book is finished.

Richard K. Morgan
Del Rey
0345485254 $24.95

In the future, genetic reengineering has enabled the government to use the tools to develop a series of human subclasses who only “live” to perform specific dangerous tasks. The norms are fascinated in a macabre way with these drones, but all humans fear the Thirteen, a pre-civilization creation known for its lethal aggression and kept under strict guard off planet.

However, a disaster strike when a Thirteen escapes its Martian exile and does what this sub-stratum is capable of: mass and serial murders. Bone marrow tired Thirteen bounty hunter Carl Marsalis is assigned to put an end to this killing machine although he quit being a government hit man. As he goes after his prey, Marsalis reflects how those who created him and his target made them what they are; yet these normals fear and distrust him as much as they do the Thirteen.

This is an action-packed complex High Noon science fiction novel but it also much more as Richard K. Morgan leaves his audience to ponder what makes a human and is bias a normal trait. Fascinatingly Marsalis as a created killer (of mostly Thirteen) is in some ways the most human of the cast as his Normal handlers see him and the other specialists as throwaway machines less than they are. He, on the other hand, commiserates with his prey as all he wants is stop killing even if it means life in a Miami prison. This thought provoking futuristic thriller will be on most short lists for sci fi book of the year.

A Distant Magic
Mary Jo Putney
Del Rey
0345476913 $24.95

In the Mediterranean Sea, pirate Captain Nikolai Gregorio kidnaps Scottish Guardian Jean Macrae out of a thirst for revenge. Two decades ago Jean’s father wronged Nikolai, or at least he believes the man did.

Although he has some magical skills, Nikolai is unprepared for the prowess of the Guardian he holds prisoner. He especially cannot understand his attraction to the daughter of his enemy. Meanwhile Jean sees the inherent good inside her captor as he only attacks slave ships in order to free the slaves taking those less fortunate to a haven. As they fall in love, freed slave Adia Adams comes from 1787 to 1753 to enlist their help in protecting the newly formed abolitionist movement.

The third Guardians historical romantic fantasy (see A KISS OF FATE and STOLEN MAGIC) is a fabulous thriller that uses magic (to include time traveling) that enhances a strong look at eighteenth century slavery issue. The strong relationship between the lad characters changes over the course of the exciting story line, but it is the astute subplot involving the relatively new abolitionist movement that grips readers. Mary Jo Putney’s fans and anyone who appreciates a thought provoking tale will want to read the well written A DISTANT MAGIC.

Short Change
Patricia Smiley
New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
0451221443 $23.95 1-800-847-5515

Management curmudgeon Tucker Sinclair left her corporate job when the partners failed to support her during a murder investigation. She opened up her own business and scrambles to build a solid client base. Ex-cop turned private investigator Charles Tate asks for Tucker’s help; ergo she gets sucked into one of his investigations. Evie Lawson asks Charles to help her because she thinks someone is stalking her. They are to meet, but she is a no-show; Tucker as a favor to Charlie goes to Evie’s house, but she is not there either.

Tucker’s police officer boyfriend describes a homicide victim to her, who is Evie’s former lover; Evie is a person of interest to the police. Charlie is in a car accident so he asks Tucker to continue to help him on the case. Evie’s stepbrother demands Charles find her before she harms herself as he insists she is mentally unstable and probably suicidal. Tucker discovers that Evie is holding up the construction of a multi-million dollar development project by refusing to sign away her property. She now knows why seemingly everyone is desperately seeking Evie, but like the others on the hunt she has no idea where the woman hides.

Though the tale can turn a bit confusing with the universe searching for Evie, readers will agree that Patricia Smiley has written an appealing amateur sleuth mystery due to the intelligent, determined, and caring heroine. Charles provides comic relief when the tension looks overwhelming especially as the taut noose chokes Tucker. There is a lot of action in this fast-paced tale, but it is the characters especially tough and tender Tucker who make SHORT CHANGE a fun investigative thriller.

Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants
Lee Goldberg
0451220978 $9.95

When Mr. Monk a brilliant police officer lost his wife in a car bomb, he never caught the killer. He became almost catatonic and to avoid being institutionalized Sharona Fleming became his nurse. After a time, he came back from the dark place he retreated into and became a police consultant. Sharona help him on his cases and with his struggle to cope with everyday life but she left him without a word when she reconciled with her husband.

Currently single soccer mom Natalie Teeger works for him and she copes with his obsessive compulsiveness, his need for things to be neat and his many other foibles. Now Sharona is back because her husband is in jail on a murder charge and Monk has two assistants, which make neither happy. While solving another murder almost instantaneously, Monk realizes Sharona’s husband isn’t the killer; someone framed him for the murder. The problem is he doesn’t want to return to L.A. because there are more germs there than in San Francisco and he has to deal with a mystery writer who sees his return as a money maker while Natalie and Sharona are angry with Monk for not helping Trevor prove his innocence.

Nobody writes stores based on television shows better than Lee Goldberg as proven by his treatment of Mr. Monk’s compulsions and people’s reaction to them. Readers will thoroughly enjoy this exciting police procedural. Especially fun is Mr. Monk’s struggles with the two females making his life even more miserable than usual and the expertly developed climax in which the strange triangle face a brilliant killer matching up nicely against the eccentric hero.

Between The Tides
Patti Callahan Henry
0451221141 $14.00

In Seaboro, South Carolina twelve year old Catherine "Cappy" Leary plays with the neighbors especially thirteen year old Boyd Loughlin. That is until Boyd’s two year old brother Sam accidentally dies. Cappy blames herself after overhearing Boyd tells his mother she was watching Sam. At that time she did not know it, but her childhood ended; she did believe no good thing will come her way for the negligence death of little Sam.

Nine months have passed since her father died, but Catherine has failed to complete his final request. However, her father’s protege Forrest Anderson informs her he plans to honor her father in a memorial article he is writing. Catherine fears what he will learn in Seaboro so on her thirtieth birthday she returns to Seaboro for the first time since the tragedy that traumatized her. Her goals are to honor her late father by scattering his ashes as he requested and to prevent Forrest from revealing Leary family secrets though deep down in her soul she would not mind making new secrets with him.

BETWEEN THE TIDES is a warm character study of a woman that has spent two-thirds of her life believing her negligence led to the tragic death of infant Sam. and that led her to conclude that she is worthless. Her return to Seaboro to accomplish her two missions provides Cappy with an opportunity for a renewal of her spirit and a second chance to live life to the fullest and not in the shadows. Readers will enjoy this fine tale as the lead protagonist after eighteen years at ebb tide is relearning to enjoy the waves.

Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me?
Jen Lancaster
0451221257 $14.00

The third line of this kick butt urbanized reflections sums up the tome and author Jen Lancaster’s philosophy as she writes a letter to “Dear Carrie Bradshaw” (of Sex and the City claim): “You are a fucking liar”. From there no sacred politically correct cows survive though anti politically correct has become the in mantra; soon we will learn from the anonymous pundits that it is time for an anti anti politically correct movement. Nobody escapes Ms. Lancaster’s amusing wrath whether she discusses Fletch, “retarded” people like herself and her readers like this reviewer, Chicago, the New York Stock Exchange, shopping at Target, or President Bush’s Christian family values that produced the “Twins” as his role models for the rest of the country of his achievements. Readers from the purple states will appreciate this often humorous bulls-eyes but always rants on life in the American jungle in which the Stairmaster always conquers the climber and the neighbors suck (read the book if you want to know what).

The Gangster Conspiracy
Steve Perry and Dal Perry
0451461622 $7.99

The bottom line has improved considerably at Star Risk, an interstellar security service firm, but the company still remains in some trouble. Thus, when Josiah Williams wants to hire them, the company does not care what he needs; they will do almost anything for the right price.

Williams’ client, a confederation of labor unions, is in the middle of difficult acrimonious negotiations. He will pay a fortune for Star Risk to employ a mercenary force to blockade a remote system that will force management to its knees begging for a settlement favorable to the union alliance. Preventing exporting of products is an easy job for Star Risk so they accept especially since the terms include a hefty sum for the firm. However, sometimes the simple turns out more dangerous and complex as Williams has only provided an iota of what is going on. The Star Risk squad all think the same thought that those who inherit their portion of the credit fee will thank them posthumously for making them such easy money.

Paying homage to the late Chris Bunch, who created the Star Risk mercenary science fiction thrillers, Steve and Dal Perry provide a terrific entry in the outer space saga. The story line is action-packed, but it is the conspiracy that makes for a fine time as the crew believes once again they feel like THE DOG FROM HELL as victims of THE DOUBLECROSS PROGRAM. Fans will enjoy this smooth well written interpretation of Chris Bunch’ military mercenaries in space.

Whiskey and Winter
Elizabeth Bear
0451461495 $14.00

Seven years has passed since Matthew survived the BLOOD AND IRON escapades when most of his loyal allies died and many of those who did not betrayed him. Matthew has come back from his war to save the land of Faerie to his hometown of New York City where he has vowed to protect the residents from the malevolent practitioners of dark magic and their otherworldly minion.

However, his enemy in Faerie realm Jane Andraste has started a new scheme to destroy her only formidable adversary Matthew before she begins her second attempt at taking power. She arranges for Matthew to be more than just a party of interest in a murder; she insures New York’s finest have evidence to lock Matthew away for quite a long time until it would prove too late for him to stop her. When he struggles with mundane matters in the Big Apple pertaining to a homicide investigation, Jane begins her coup in Faerie land.

This is a terrific urban fantasy in which the hero has troubles on two planes as his archenemy has tied him up in New York City with the police wanting to question him as their prime suspect in a homicide while in the faerie realm, Jane’s coup d’etat has commenced. Readers will appreciate this cleverly designed and well written sequel as Matthew prays more people he cares about survive his latest encounter with the malevolent Jane who does not worry about collateral damage. The murder investigation brings a plausible reality to this delightful tale filled with all sorts of otherworldly species as Matthew and Jane face off in round two.

Valentine’s Resolve
E.E. Knight
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
0451461460 $23.95 1-800-847-5515

It is the fifty second year since the Kurians divided up the earth into zones with a Kur as lord of his zone. They look upon humans as cattle because through their avatars the Reapers that they animate, they siphon off the life energy of a person leaving a dead host. The resistance has made some inroads, taking back land from the Kur by accepting the help of the Lightweavers. These beings are the same species as the Kurians but turned against their race and changed the physiology of certain people so they have much needed powers to help win the battles against the alien occupiers.

David Valentine, formerly of Southern Command, is brought in from the cold when the Lightweavers disappear. If they don’t return, the southern command will collapse and all that was regained will be lost. Valentine is told that some Lightweavers are in Seattle held by a powerful Kurian lord but the resistance there led by Adler won’t help Southern Command. David is told to infiltrate Adler’s resistance, dodging quislings, Reapers and other alien species called grubs. During his travels David discovers something so horrific that he does something he never thought he would do and if his agenda does not go exactly to plan, he will be killed in a very ghastly manner.

E.E. Knight brings excitement and interest to his Vampire Earth series as readers get a close look at a Kur and know despite the media spin of being saviors they put on their occupation they are evil beyond imagination. David makes a good guerilla fighter who is at his best when he acts on his own as he doesn’t trust orders that might contain a personal agenda. This makes him dangerous and there is a bounty on his head from aliens and humans. He also is raising a baby Reaper to see if scientists can find a way to use them against the Kur but he treats the alien child with love and kindness. He is an extraordinary character who turns the Vampire Earth war into a compelling tale.

Warren Hammond
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765312727 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

By 2787 the colonists of planet Lagarto are extremely concerned as the economy is in a horrific downward spiral. Inflation is out of control, exports are non-existent, and imports critical but expensive. The economy collapsed when the external market abruptly changed to an alternate cheaper source leaving Lagarto with nothing but fears as those who relocated to this isolated backwater orb have few options.

Koba police officer Juno understands first hand life on Lagarto as he makes a decent living by working for powerful crime lords although he rationalizes his actions by insisting to himself everyone is corrupt. Still in spite some material gains for him and his family, Juno knows he sold out leaving himself despondent that he failed to live by his principles of adhering to and enforcing the law. However, Juno will soon have difficult decisions to make as he is caught between his duty and his handlers when he learns of an assassination, which he would normally ignore. However, he knows that is step one in the illegal selling of the planet, which would leave even less for those left behind as they would become economic slaves of outsiders. If he intervenes, he will fall off the dole; that is assuming he lives and avoids going to prison for his framed role in the conspiracy.

The interstellar economy will remind the audience of the global rivalries as the residents of Lagarto went from a booming growth to abject poverty when a rival came up with a cheaper alternate. Betrayal is the norm so like Juno readers will not trust anyone even this cop who keeps investigating as fans will wonder whether he will sell out at some point. Warren Hammond provides a dark gritty science fiction police procedural starring a “hero” whose mother would not trust his ethics.

Brent Hartinger
Starscape (Tor)
0765313979 $16.95

Her parents’ constant fights frighten eleven year old Julie Fray. She is so scared that something bad is going to happen that even when she sleeps she suffers nightmares that she is a pawn on a chessboard with her mom as the white queen and her dad as the black king each giving orders for her to move. The dreams are getting worse and the preadolescent child has no one to turn to as her parents are too caught up with their war to see what it is doing to her. Being awake is as bad if not worse.

This time when she suffers the nightmare, Julie awakens but not to the hostility between her parents pulling on her to their side. Instead somehow she is still inside her nightmare realm. Specifically she finds herself in a studio where Julie’s dreams are a big production. Production assistant Roman befriends the bewildered frightened young girl and tells her to find the producer. However Julie has a bigger problem than getting nightmares less frightening. The child actress who portrays her, Vivian has crossed over to the real world and refuses to switch back. If she fails to return to reality, she will be trapped inside her head where a studio produces the nightmare world of Julie Fray.

DREAMQUEST is a powerful character study that hooks the audience once they realize Julie is marooned in her nightmares. The story line is set up so that readers are unsure whether this is a horror tale or a psychological thriller; in either case Julie and the preadolescent audience will agree that she is in deep trouble regardless. This tale of Slumberia is a fantastic novel that will please its pre-teen crowd, but also their parents.

Red Hart Magic
Andre Norton
Starscape (Tor)
0765353024 $5.99

Chris Fitton’s father and Nan Mallory’s mother marry leaving their stunned twelve year old offspring to stay with Aunt Elizabeth for six months while their parents gallivant in Mexico. Both children are used to living with someone else; whereas Chris stayed at boarding schools, Nan was raised by her grandma, who has moved into a senior citizen’s community in which children can visit for short times, but cannot stay. At a nearby store, Chris finds the model of the Red Hart Inn. At night while asleep and dreaming, Chris and Nan believe they have traveled to the real Red Hart.

"The King's Hunters". During the rule of King James, Chris and Nan try to save the innkeeper accused of being a priest who if true illegally owns the Red Hart Inn which is punishable by death.

"The Gentlemen". The smugglers seek the wounded excise officer in order to kill him before he can identify them to authorities; he hides in the Red Hart Inn where Chris and Nan try to keep him safe.

"Hue and Cry". When the fire burned down Squire Mallory's barn, Chris is accused of committing the arson that almost killed several people. Bow Street runner Harry Hawkins, a friend of the family, tries to prove the lad is innocent before an angry mob takes justice into its own hands.

This reprint of a 1970s young adult tale is character driven as in between their adventures; Nan and Chris have problems at home and at school. They feel like they do not belong anywhere and reject being step-siblings. The most popular girl in class wants Nan as a friend, but at an exorbitant cost; the most popular boy in the school picks on Chris. However, their time travel “dreams” that they have shared provide confidence for both to seek the right thing. Thus the great Andre Norton provides the audience with a strong fantasy wrapped inside a poignant family drama.

A.E. Vogt
Tor Orb
0312852363 $13.95

Jommy Cross’s mom Patricia knew the danger to both of them if they were discovered as Slans whenever she brought her son to the world capital of Centropolis, home to Earth dictator Kier Gray. The “normals” hate the super human genetically engineered Slans whose telepathic powers and other skills make them a superior race. Still this does not prevent the single mom from taking her Jommy periodically to the city.

Their latest trip turns tragic. Sensing the others were coming for them, Patricia informs her beloved son to find the catacombs of his late father if they catch up to her. She knows her time on earth is over as the law allows instant killing of Slans. While his mom is legally murdered nine year old Jommy escapes by leaping on to the bumper of a moving vehicle, but overhears an odd conversation that makes no sense to him as the killing of Slan female Kathleen Lawton could not undermine the Great Dictator, or could it somehow?. Jommy knows he must find this woman, but is not sure why or how she will receive a visit from an orphaned nine year old Slan.

This is a reprint of a WW II classic that many insist changed science fiction from pure action to pure action with a social message that in the 1970s remained required reading in college level Sci Fi literary classes. The story line has obvious links to the Holocaust, but also holds true today with genocides in Darfur, Rwanda, Cambodia, etc as the late great A.E. Vogt condemns racism in any form and not just the extreme final solution, but does so inside a great youth on the run thriller. The story line is fast-paced and will excite a horde of new fans to this landmark thriller that easily passes the test of time. Readers will also rejoice that Kevin J. Anderson, who wrote the Introduction to this edition, shortly will finish a Mr. Vogt’s manuscript, SLAN HUNTER.

SFWA European Hall of Fame
James Morrow (editor) and Kathryn Morrow (editor)
076531536X $26.95

The twenty plus contributors to the original SFWA Hall of Fame were all authors I read previously. However, this European version is quite the opposite having read only one of the sixteen contributors prior to this introduction to these talented writers. This brings a unique freshness as the American audience is introduced to the cross Atlantic writers that the Morrows felt were deserving of wider readership. In the Introduction James Morrow explains the difference between Americans and Europeans as follows: “Europeans think one hundred miles is a long distance, and Americans think one hundred years is a long time”. In many ways this sums up the similarities and difference. All the tales were written over the last two decades; none originally in English though translated for this compilation; this adds to the feel of visiting new realms. The authors come from all over Europe: France, Russia, Italy, Czech Republic, Finland, Poland, Spain, Greece, Romania, Germany, Portugal, and Holland. The stories are all well written and obviously translate smoothly into English. They run the gamut from a Dutch Orwell (see W.J. Maryson's "Verstummte Musik") to a “Swift” Finish A Modest Proposal that is a condemnation of free trade that exploits children. These are fabulous entries that belie the fact they are translations. SFWA’s European vacation is a terrific collection, which begs to ask other translation anthologies from Asia, South America, and Africa to follow?

Touch of Madness
C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
0765356635 $6.99

Dr. Miles MacDougal invites the members of “Not Prey”, humans who survived a vampire attack, to attend a meeting at a Denver hospital. Among those coming to the session is courier Kate Reilly and Detective John Brooks, who both recently battled the Thrall of vampire Queen Monica and won; Kate destroyed the nest and killed the queen (see TOUCH OF EVIL). Kate attends only as a favor to her brother Joe who works here.

Miles introduces his colleague Dr. Samantha Greeley, who explains she has 100 parasite incubated eggs of the late Monica. This shocks everyone attending and most leave. Samantha becomes infected and disappears while videographer Mason Watts is killed. While someone steals the eggs and Kate’s significant other Tom the werewolf is having trouble with his pack as they want him to mate with one of their own and not a purebred human, the new vampire queen P. Douglas Richards and his top aid ex NBA superstar Lewis Carlton want Kate to discover who stole the eggs.

Readers will root for the strong heroine as she searches for the missing eggs and struggles in her personal relationships with her lover and her older brother, as both object to her independent nature. However, the key to the exciting second Thrall thriller is the werewolves and vampires seem real with their respective complex societal customs. Fans of enthralling supernatural thrillers will appreciate this fine stand alone tale, but reading the previous novel helps the audience better understand the mythos and relationships.

The Thief Queen’s Daughter
Elizabeth Haydon
Starscape (Tor)
0765308681 $12.95

Ven Polypheme is fifty years old, but he is a Noin which translates to twelve in human age. He lives on the Island of Serendair in the lodge of Hare Warren located behind the Crossroads Inn where he eats and does odd jobs. He is also the Royal Reporter to the High king Vanemere so when he is called to come to the palace for his first assignment he is excited.

The King meets Ven in the garden before taking him to a hidden room where he shows him a special artifact that comes from the Gated City in Kingston, a former penal colony in which the citizens can never leave. He orders Ven to go there accompanied by four friends to learn who sent the artifact and why and what does it mean. When they enter the Gated City, they are immediately dazzled by its glitter, games, and market. However when one of them is stolen, the others must reach the inner city governed by the Thieves Guild. There they are taken prisoner so they must find a way to escape while seeking the person who sent the artifact but the gates are close so they will have to find an alternate means pf leaving.

Elizabeth Haydon is a great storyteller whose current work will appeal to the Harry Potter crowd. Her hero Ven is likable and willing to learn which makes him intelligent as he lives in a place where life is cheap. There is lots of action The Thief Queen’s Daughter and Ven’s curiosity makes him want to learn about the Inner City culture. Not all the people who reside inside the Gated City are evil as some risk their lives to try to help the children as best they can, knowing they will never leave. The villain has a surprising relationship to one of the children leaving the audience with hope that maybe the heroes will survive their ordeal although that is doubtful.

The Haunting of Cambria
Richard Taylor
0765317052 $24.95

The car accident on the day they signed the papers left his wife Lily dead and Theo Parker severely injured. After recovering physically he still grieves his loss and suffers from survival guilt. Still he tries to move on with their business plan although that haunts him as he keeps thinking they signed on that tragic day. Still with property manager Eleanor Grey, Theo reviews the business plan he and his late spouse had developed to convert a home into a B&B.

However, still emotionally battered, Theo struggles between euphoria that his plans are being employed and despondency that his wife is dead and he lives. Soon he begins to hear noises and things occur that make no sense especially when Eleanor initially denies hearing or seeing anything out of the ordinary. Somewhat concerned with his mental state, Theo begins to believe his late wife’s spirit live inside the B&B and she is trying to tell him something while his mother-in-law shows her loathing for his role in her daughter’s death.

The story line starts off as a typical haunted house ghost story filled with the usual suspects from Poltergeist 101. However, about half way into the by the numbers story line, the tale changes into something much deeper and more fulfilling as Theo and Eleanor begin to realize that their perceptions about the B&B are wrong. Sort of like the NBA in which the first half is enjoyable and fun, but does not matter much beyond filler time; however the second half is when the game begins in earnest. Richard Taylor provides a strong finish that if started earlier with less bumps in the night would have haunted readers long afterward.

The Sons Of Heaven
Kage Baker
076531746X $25.95

When last seen, Mendoza, the immortal cyborg botanist, is in 500,000 BCE with her three lovers in one body. One of three personalities in the cyborg body they share, Edward, was able to set the personalities of the other two men, Alex and Nicholas into a locked file in Mendoza’s mind. Edward is the most powerful cyborg that ever existed and believes he is qualified to rule the world. Mendoza, his love and lover doesn’t like that plan and convinces him to let her give birth to two immortal infants, Alec and Nicholas, who have data ports where information is downloaded at necessary integrals to give them back their minds, emotions and personalities.

Edward finds himself so enamored with fatherhood that he forgets world domination and settles in to raise his children with Mendoza. In the present Dr Zeus incorporated has finally come upon a plan to kill the immortals prior to the Silence, that day is July of 2355 when Dr Zeus no longer knows what will happen in the future. While they are trying to kill their creations, three cabals of cyborgs immortals form, each with its own idea of what to do with Dr. Zeus and the mortals. Mendoza plays a critical role in what becomes of Zeus’s board of directors and the mortal race.

Readers have long waited for Zeus to get what he deserves, but will have to read the book to learn the solution of each interested group and whether the good “doctor” did indeed get what was coming to the corporation. Mendoza and her three men continue to struggle to co- exist as a family knowing they need to find a way to live in harmony. The characters retain their personalities from previous books so readers feel a strong sense of continuity and the conclusion feels right. Kage Baker is a creative storyteller who has written the book that answers all questions and ties up all loose ends but not always in the way the Baker regulars will expect.

Emma Bull
0312857357 $24.95

In Tombstone in the Arizona Territory, Wyatt Earp seems to run things though he was defeated in the race for sheriff. Doc Holiday, who is dying of consumption, is in remission, and he believes it has something to do with Wyatt who needs him and regards him as part of his family. As long as Wyatt can draw on the support of his family including Doc, he is a power to be reckoned with, a man who always gets what he wants.

Jesse Fox was summoned to Tombstone by his friend and mentor, the powerful sorcerer Lung Chow. He stays because his friend needs him and because of his interest in typesetter, journalist and writer Mildred Benjamin. He becomes Wyatt’s enemy when he helps a prisoner escape, someone Earp wants hung to protect his brother who was one of the gang that tried to rob a stagecoach and ended up killing a man. When Lung is murdered, Jesse vows to avenge his death even if it means becoming a sorcerer like his friend was.

This is a fascinating and exciting historical fantasy in the tradition of Judith Tarr. Emma Bull’s take of the legend of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and other famous men of the Wild West is fascinating. Jesse grows and changes as he learns to accept the fact that he is a conjurer and he ends up using his rookie powers in a High Noon fight at the OK Corral to neutralize an experienced sorcerer who has too long not been held accountable for the murders he committed. TERRITORY is a spellbinding tale of the good and dark side of magic.

Slan Hunter
A.E. Van Vogt and Kevin J. Anderson
0765316757 $24.95

Davis and Anthea Stewart go to the hospital to have their first child, but instead of joy they are shocked to learn that the offspring has the tendrils of a slan. Neither of the parents were considered Slans before the birthing; slans are killed on sight by the secret police as humans hate this telepathic, stronger and fast healing race. As Anthea seeks a safe place to hide, President Kier Grey is arrested because the chief of the secret police has found out that he is a hidden in plain sight slan. Also incarcerated are his daughter Katherine and slan rebel Jommy Cross.

The president tries to convince his human jailers that the earth is in danger from Mars because that is where the tendrilless slans have built a superior civilization so that they can use it as a springboard to conquer the planet. The tendril-less driven spaceships encounter little resistance as they invade. The president, his daughter and Jommy escape and try to negotiate a peace with the Slans of Mars, but fails as one of the leaders wants to rule earth, but needs to ethnically cleanse the earth of the normals and the slans.

Kevin Anderson using the late A.E. Van Vogt’s notes for a sequel to the classic SLAN completes the project with an exciting science fiction thriller that reads as if the grandmaster wrote the tale. The story line is fast-paced with the strong social message updated from Holocaust genocide to ethnic cleansing genocide. Feeling like a Golden Age thriller, fans will enjoy the return to the world of Van Vogt as Mr. Anderson finishes SLAN HUNTER an exciting action-packed war of the worlds with a social commentary thriller.

Darkness of the Light
Peter David
0765311739 $25.95

The twelve races make up the Banished and they are exiled from their homelands the Elserealms. They defeated the humans during the Third Wave confrontation. The Morts as mankind is disdainfully called were eradicated to the point of extinction. The Overseer and his troops The Travelers insure the Banished never return to Elserealms.

With the Morts vanquished, the Banished alliance is shattered as each species fights one another for ultimate supremacy and within a species for control. Betrayal, treason, and strange bedfellows are the norm as today’s ally is tonight’s enemy. In this environs, Jepp the human joins Bottom Feeders stealing anything from the battlefield dead to sell on the thriving black markets. They seek the human weapon of mass destruction, the Orb of Trinity that will give the owner quite an edge in the power struggles. However, soon the “rulers” of this ravaged orb, of each of the Banished species, and the few surviving humans take interest in this seemingly inconsequential female, but even she has no earthly idea why.

This is a fascinating apocalyptic thriller in which racism plays a major role as each species thinks they are the superior master race that should dominate the other species. Interestingly as a sad reflection of our world, it is this bigotry that makes the Peter David universe seem genuine as each of the species need to subjugate the lesser races, which is everyone else. There is no prime story line as a myriad of subplots follow many of the species as they make bids to rule the world in Peter David’s DARKNESS OF THE LIGHT spellbinding fantasy.

Jesus: A Meditation on His Stories and His Relationships with Women
Andrew Greeley
0765317761 $17.95

Known for his Nuala Anne McGrail and Bishop Blackie mysteries, Father Andrew Greeley provides an enlightening look at Jesus especially his relationships with women and not just females named Mary and his place in the twenty-first century of technology, science, and Da Vinci Codes. Father Greeley also provides a fascinating interpretation of the four major parables and some other tales told of or by Jesus. Well written Jesus reminds us that God has room for everyone in his tent as he and his son love all. Insightful Father Greeley reminds the faithful that there is a special place for the victims of genocides; the victims of the Holocaust, Darfur, and Rwanda, etc. This is an excellent work that will probably lead to proclamations by those who use Jesus as a weapon that Father Greeley will burn for his sins; while those like this reviewer are reminded why Jesus remains relevant today.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Counting Sparrows
Kathleen Browning
Shadows Ink Publications
1209 Milwaukee Street, Excelsior Springs MO 64024
9781932447897 $6.95

This is Kathleen Browning's first book, a memorable beginning to be certain. She writes of love, life, stars, and the universe with words and cadences reminiscent of the classic poets but the style is distinctly hers alone. Consider, for example, the word play and rhythm of the first two verses from "The Wall":

You built a wall so high and wide,
instructing that I gaze on it from time
to time, not to forget. Why I agreed
I would abide, I can't recall.

And all the while you spoke of stars,
words and longing, whispering stones, and
oh, the poems you wrote that seemed to speak
my name. Did I hear wrong?

"A Place I Cannot See" is a powerful poem written for her son. In this excerpt, her words are such that readers can see the small boy becoming the man through a dizzying passage of time:

I cannot see inside your soul, cannot know what motivates you
or makes you afraid. Your eighteen years hang loosely on your
frame, like new clothes not yet washed to comfort. I cannot see a
trace of the four-year-old I read to once,
soft body warm as feathers, baby breath and wet kisses
fused to my cheek. I try to bring you into focus,
to assimilate the downy wee boy and the hard-edged
young man, intent on living dangerously……..

Ms. Browning writes eloquently of "stunningly vulnerable" young men moving through the "mine-strewn battle field" of life and celebrates the moon massaging "the lonely from my shoulders." She shares small hints of her existence with a father whose hand was "large, callused/capable of inflicting/pain, unpredictable" and a mother who silently sits snapping beans with the "imprint of a hand/upon her/delicate cheekbone." She holds her tears "clutched in the/throat like a/lark in a cage." Whatever her subject, her poems are alternately touching, joyful, or bittersweet. This chapbook is beautiful and highly recommended.

Tales of South Philly
Ed Galing
Four-step Publications
P.O. Box 12434, Milwaukee WI 53212
No ISBN $5.00

Tales of South Philly is, perhaps, Ed Galing's best known work. The Poet Laureate of Hatboro PA grew up there in the years between W.W. I and W.W. II. These are priceless poetic memories of the people and places he knew in his youth -- Jake's Candy Store, Porter Street, Snyder Avenue, Market Street, colorful immigrants who lived a hardknock life but proudly learned English and became citizens, and Mafia guys who took care of their own. This excerpt from "by definition"begins Galing's odyssey back in time:

you just don't come to
live in South Philly
just because you like it

you come here the hard
the way I got here…

"Love on the Sly" tells of South Philly girls. They had their dreams, and most of them did not include marrying poor:

cause south philly girls
came from poor houses
and dreamed of movie
stars like Gable
or Stewart
or maybe Fred Astaire…

Poverty and crime took a huge toll on South Philly. State and Federal programs poured money into South Philly. In "progress" Galing documents the results:

…and pretty soon what
was supposed to be the
end of livin in poverty
and the beginning of a
new era
began to turn to ashes…
those who lived there
tried to hang onto their
but a few months ago
they blew those hi rises
dynamite rippled through
slight murmur
and the houses that jack built
came down….

Ed Galing was abandoned to poverty, unceremoniously dumped off in South Philly by his father to be raised by a devoted mother. He grew up tough in hard streets, but loved the shops, sights, scents, and people who shared his existence. All that and more is in this paean to an era long gone. Tales of South Philly is highly recommended because Galing tells history like it was, as only he can.

Is There a Hole in the Boat?
Tales of Travel in Panama Without a Car
Darrin DuFord, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781591139973 $13.95

Whatever the genre, I enjoy books that intrigue my mind and engage my emotions in unexpected ways. This ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Finalist managed to intrigue and engage in the first page and didn't let up until the last word. Darrin DuFord shares a charming account of his Panamanian travels, through vivid descriptions of the country's topography, humorous details of his attempts to accept each new experience, and respectful acceptance of the cultural differences. As indicated by the title, this is NOT a dry how-to, where-to travelogue.

DuFord deliberately set out to travel Panama as the natives do. By land, he hikes, bribes and barters his way from place to place in colorfully painted buses, dilapidated taxis and pick ups. By river and sea he crams his American frame into dugouts made for natives half his size, forced to bail water from leaky boats. Other times, he experiences the unique flora and fauna on foot with native guides who take delight in pointing out poisonous snakes and spiders and rats as big as cats. DuFord meets all the biting wildlife you can imagine close up. For nourishment, he bravely eats and drinks whatever the natives offer, delicacies not found in the North American diet.

Except for the Canal Zone, most of Panama is a land without Western amenities. Potable running water is a luxury. Public transportation is a raucous adventure. Areas of clear cut rainforest deplete native food sources at an alarming rate. Still, Panama's people are hopeful and adaptable, cheerful, warm and welcoming. From native kings to sly guides to scientists, the stars of DuFord's travels are the people he meets along the way.

This author's writing style is personable, his book delightful. Readers will learn a lot about Panama and its people, and enjoy themselves immensely in the process. Highly recommended.

The Soul Decision A Collection of Poems
Charles Portolano
Wyndham Hall Press
5050 Kerr Rd., Lima OH 45806
155605355X $28.00

The Soul Decision is a trilogy of work inspired by a child of grace and bright spirit. Portolano's daughter, Valerie, has had a series of life-threatening conditions beginning in infancy, but nothing can keep her down for long. Her recurring illnesses teach a poet what he's made of and this brave, daring daughter leads her parents to hope, dream, and believe. Yes, there were dark days for the Portolano family, but the recurring theme throughout this beautiful book is hope. Valerie is the linchpin that completes "the sweet circle" of their life.

When Charles Portolano meets his wife, Vivi, she becomes "the spark that / ignites my future." After ten years of marriage, Valerie is conceived. Her developing life in utero is memorialized in exceptional style with this excerpt from "Born to Dance":

From the moment
you could first move
you wriggled and
waggled your way
around inside
your Mother's womb
kicking up a storm
heating up our hearts….

When Valerie's ordeal of illness begins, her parents must function as a team to ensure her survival. This brief passage from "The Ordeal" speaks eloquently of their focus:

…we use the pain
to power our purpose
forcing our focus
to become fearless
facing life's trials…

No matter how frightening the illness or how dark their fears, Valerie's courage inspires her parents. She is "The Light" that ignites their faith:

you warm all
of us around you
with your wisdom
for your silent intensity
constantly confronts
our anger turning
that negative charged
energy positive…

The Portolanos ride out each storm as a family. They focus on a brighter future time when Valerie will be well. Still, "The Dream" of storms and sinking ships haunts the poet-father:

…this ship is
springing leaks
taking on water
as ruthless winds
slit through the sails…

And as a family they survive by pooling their strength, as in this incredible excerpt from "Fulfilling." As a threesome, they are:

…so symbiotic that
when the weight
of living bends
our faith
we are able to feed
off of each other…

The nature of darkness is that it wounds the innocent, destroys joy, and robs hearts of love. The Portolanos are determined that this will not be their outcome, and share their journey through Valerie's illness with the world to offer empathy and hope. The world is shattered by illness, poverty, war, cruelty, and loneliness. The Soul Decision delivers an object lesson of hope to such a world through Charles Portolano's poetry, Vivi's strength, and Valerie's determination to be well. Highly recommended reading.

The Rainbow Bridge: Pet Loss is Heaven’s Gain
Niki Behrikis Shanahan
Pete Publishing
P.O. Box 282, Tyngsborough MA 01879
9780972030144 $12.98

Based on scripture, Christians believe all creatures have body, soul, and spirit, that Heaven is a very real place, and that God breathed the breath of life and spirit into animals as well as humans. Those who love their pets will find great comfort in this beautiful book, Christian and non-Christian readers alike. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, the comfort and hope delivered in this book are real and tangible.

Our modern world can be chaotic and frightening. Man’s inhumanity to fellow humans is often horrifying, leaving us numb and sometimes cynical. A majority of us find comfort in the unconditional love and devotion of our pets. When a pet dies, we mourn, often losing ourselves in black depression at that loss. Niki Behrikis Shanahan has grieved in such a way and understands our sorrow but takes comfort in the knowledge that lost pets are scampering in Heaven, waiting to be reunited with their human companions. Chapter by chapter, the author offers hopeful solutions to our sadness and loss, offering scriptural proof that animals and humans are important to God and are not truly dead when they die. She encourages us with miraculous stories of near death and death bed visions of animal companions thriving in their heavenly home. Step by step she leads readers out of depression and into the light of hope.

Whether dead or alive, animal companions live in our hearts. They give us joy in a world that is rarely joyful. When they die, their spirit continues to live. That is the author’s message in a wonderful book I highly recommend.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Identity Murder
Jean Sheldon
Bast Press
PO Box 3965, Albuquerque, NM 87190-3965
0972354131 $14.95

Jean Sheldon presently hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is the author of poetry and drawings; a book on car repair; a "how to" on the subject of cats; and most recently, her Chicago Police Detective Kerry Grant mysteries. Sheldon has actually published two additional Kerry Grant mysteries, entitled SHOULD OLD ACQUAINTANCE BE DEAD and A CHILLING GOODBYE.

Kerry Grant is a Chicago Police Detective who has a dark secret. She lost her entire family in a RV accident three years before. When her old childhood friend, Jennifer Kincaid, comes back into her life (with another 78 year old friend who has suffered from identity theft), Kerry's sad life begins to turn around. Because of her computer savvy, Kerry is asked to join an undercover agent who has been embedded with the Chicago mob scene for a number of years in order to train him. Little does she know that love will find her, and that a little Chicago Cubs teddy bear will symbolize a new start to her life:

"'I understand not sleeping with anyone for a while, but I figured that was life after forty.' Jennifer stopped herself and remembered there wasn't anyone else for Kerry to share her great news. She couldn't talk about it with Mike, or her sisters and mom. 'I do understand, Kerry, and it's wonderful. What I don't understand is why Marty turned Chubby Bear around, or why Cubby Bear watched you to begin with. By the way, the Cubby Bear we're talking about is the little stuffed bear they sell at Wrigley Field with the Cubs hat and shirt, right?'"

Not only does Jean Sheldon write against the backdrop of Chicago and the Eastern border of Wisconsin up to Fond du Lac, she has an excellent knowledge of police procedural in Chicago. Her writing is infused with a sense of humor; a fanciful take on romance; characters that share comradery in the midst of danger; and an excellent view of the mob. IDENTITY MURDER is a wonderful first effort in what will become a beloved series about plucky Kerry Grant, her best friend Jennifer Kinkaid; Kerry's partner Mike; and the inimitable Veronica Cooke. Sheldon includes a mini-course on computer fraud and identity theft that will give readers much needed information on how to avoid cyber-crooks. She also writes a darn good mystery yarn.

Murder Makes the Rounds
Mela Barrows Bennett
SterlingHouse Publisher, Inc.
7436 Washington Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15218
1563153750 $12.95

Mela Barrows Bennett is a family practice and emergency medicine physician. She has experience in administration as president of the medical staff and director of emergency medicine at major hospitals.

Dr. David Hunter decides to run for staff president of Green Valley Hospital, in part to try to block a merger being pushed by the hospital’s seedy administrator, John Michael Davenport. Part of his reason for running, other than a desire to maintain the hospital’s excellent level of service, is because Dr. George Bluestone, long-time trustee, encouraged him. But when Dr. Bluestone suddenly dies, David enlists help from a new lady friend in his life, pathologist Janis Saunders. The results of the post-mortem findings are vague and disquieting:

“David paged through the reports. Normal liver tests, fair lipid profile, normal blood count, negative drug and alcohol screens...Then he saw. George’s potassium level had been 2.4 (normal 3.5 to 4.5), and could have led to an irregular heart rate by itself, but the last page was the shocker. His dig level was 3.9 (desired 0.8 to 1.8)–highly toxic and particularly so in light of the low potassium. This deadly combination would be recognizable to a medical student. ‘Meds?’”

When a professional takes to mystery writing, it is sure to produce a highly entertaining and detailed story. It also turns out that Dr. Bennett is quite the romantic, so MURDER MAKES THE ROUNDS is liberally sprinkled with the emerging love story between David Hunter and Joyce Saunders. The docs are the good guys in this plot, and the nefarious background antics of the hospital’s administrator to enrich himself and threaten the future make this story all too familiar in today’s health care climate.

MURDER MAKES THE ROUNDS is a well-plotted whodunit filled with believable characters just trying to get by in the frantic-paced world of health care. The all-encompassing world of medicine is well portrayed, as the doctors involved try to carve out a normal life for themselves. This is a most fascinating and well plotted tale written by a caring physician. Great job!

Three O'clock's Dark Night
Dusty Bunker
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595327354 $15.95

Dusty Bunker has published nine books, some in foreign languages. She has many publications to her credit, including columns for MADEMOISELLE MAGAZINE, the MANCHESTER UNION LEADER, a cartoon strip entitled TREE LINE, and the Time-Life Series MYSTERIES OF THE UNKNOWN. THREE O'CLOCK'S DARK NIGHT is her third mystery, and she is currently at work on her fourth Samantha Blackwell mystery.

A dying man taps out a code on the trailer next door to Sam Blackwell. Sam's childhood friend, Charlie asks her to think about the sequence, which is 1-1-2-3. This man has embezzled the funds of the Frazetta Hardware Store, causing the suicide of Claudio Frazetta and putting the entire family's future at risk The Reverend Hannibal Loveless is fighting his own demons, as he was supposed to meet the murdered man, whose murder threatens to unravel his own life. In this small New England town Sam has the reputation for solving mysteries. Her husband, Nick, adores her after almost thirty years of marriage. Her friends are in trouble, and Sam swings into action and thought about what could be at the center of all the trouble:

"So, what do we have? Her eyelids drooped. We have an accountant who committed suicide. And his wife, two sons and the daughter, who all had a good reason to want the embezzling accountant dead. We have a biker who briefly dated Lynda Johanssen, who later became the accountant's girlfriend. And now the accountant's dead. A cast of five suspects, it would seem. And seven tappings. Five and seven equal twelve, the number of months in the year, although the solar calendar was originally a lunar calendar corresponding to the thirteen full moons in each year. Huh. Twelve apostles. Jesus made thirteen. Twelve witches in a coven. The High Priestess, the thirteenth."

Dusty Bunker begins her metaphysical mystery with several disparate lives, yet each character is linked. At first, all seem to be lost souls, like in THE HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. There is murder; violence; sorrow; fear; and loathing. But as Dusty's plot unwinds, there is love; helpfulness; and redemption. And, yes, always the background of Chaos Theory. A great tale!

An Air That Kills / Do Evil in Return
Margaret Millar
Stark House Press
2200 O St., Eureka, CA 95501
1933586095 $19.95

Margaret Millar hailed from Ontario Canada, and was born in 1915. She married Kenneth Millar a/k/a Ross Macdonald when she was 23. Three years later she published the first of over two dozen books she would write during her career. She won the Edgar Allan Poe award in 1956, and after long-term membership in the Mystery Writers of American, she won the Grand Master award in 1983. She eventually moved with her husband to Santa Barbara and became an environmentalist. She died in 1994.

Millar produced two tales that deal with marriage in the 1950's. The first, AN AIR THAT KILLS, is the tale of a three year marriage interrupted by an affair that produces a child. Four men have grown up together and are lifelong buddies, until one of their wives becomes pregnant by one of the four who isn't her husband. She is determined to leave her husband; he commits suicide. But things aren't always what they seem, and Millar writes an ending worthy of Hitchcock himself. For another of the four gentlemen, a college professor and the intellectual of the group, takes it upon himself to follow up with Thelma:

"He knew the idea must have been in the back of his mind before he even left Toronto because he had packed in his suitcase Thelma's last letter enclosed in the Christmas card with the snapshot of Ronnie on it. He remembered packing it, surreptitiously, without mentioning it to Nancy, and as he took it out now to reread, he realized that he had intended, from the first moment he'd been offered the appointment in California, to find Thelma. He wasn't certain why, whether he wanted to see her again out of curiosity, or for old times' sake, or merely to make sure she was all right."

Millar's second tale, DO EVIL IN RETURN, once again deals with marital infidelity with a twist at the end. Once again, murder is made to look like an accident. And once again, the primary characters act without real understanding of their motives and fears.

Margaret Millar was considered one of the greats in mystery writing, and her style was called "post-Freudian." She had a knack for trailing people through their blunders in life, which resulted in murder and mayhem. Millar's writing is sophisticated and enduring.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Malice in Metropolis
Lonnie Cruse
NADAC Publishing
P.O. Box 24, Metropolis, IL 62960
0978588037 $12.95

Sheriff Dalton has kept Metropolis safe for a long time and has always been the hunter of the evil, now the tide is turned as the evil becomes the hunter of the Sheriff. Determined to take our Sheriff out, the hunter will stop at nothing, not even at harming Dalton's family or his deputies. Something has to be done, after all Sheriff Dalton already has his jaw wired up by one attack and his garage blown-up by another. But who is behind this and will he be able to find out before it is too late for himself or those he loves? The heat is on and is turned up even hotter when the Mayor and DA become targets as well. Is everyone who knows Dalton in danger? It would appear so.

In this outstanding read we are led down many a mysterious trail in our search for the answer. One hint leads one way but ends up pointing to another as the one thought to be part of the crime ends up in a body bag, leaving Sheriff Dalton at another dead-end, with another dead body. Time is running out for all concerned and hurt or not our Sheriff must make some tough decisions to stop the killer before it is too late.

Excellence is not a new word for the works of Lonnie Cruse and it is still the word that I will use in describing her work Malice in Metropolis. As always, and what I have come to expect from our author, this novel is packed full of mystery and adventure, and will not leave you wanting in that area, but true to form, you still will enjoy the homespun softness of Dalton, tough when he needs to be tough, yet always being sure to put his family, co-workers and town as far from danger as possible. I enjoy all the characters I have become acquainted with in previous books; I feel as if I am visiting old friends with each new novel that she produces. I hope she never stops. A true mystery read with characters that will spin their web around your heart and have you begging for more. Highly recommended, as always.

Swapping Pain
Joyce & Jim Lavene
Midnight Ink
Liewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738710204 $12.95

At the start of this read, we find ourselves in a campground on the infield of a race track speedway with our two main characters Ruby and her husband Glad, a retired Polish police office and several years Ruby's senior. .....Glad and Ruby are no strangers to the world of racing as Ruby's entire family has been involved in it for years. Her younger brother Bobby is planning to try his hand at qualifying to drive in The Coca Cola 600; which would really be a notch in his racing belt. However the day before his qualifying race tragedy happens at the speedway as another driver, Ricky Sanders, who also was planning to race to qualify, turns up dead and all clues seem to point to young Bobby as the soul suspect. It doesn't help matter when Detective Frishburn, who is in charge of the case, finds out there is some bad blood between Ruby, who was once Ricky's boyfriend, their families and that Ricky and Bobby swapped paint the night before in a heated argument. The fact that Bobby is hiding out from being questions by the detective only intensifies the situation and cast more suspicion his way and Bobby is in real trouble with the law. Perhaps he is the killer!

Ruby is determined to prove her brother's innocence and enlists the help of her now retired police officer husband Glad, but with or without his help she warns him that she won't stop until Bobby's innocence is proven. Ah, now the games begin as the two of them get themselves deeper and deeper into a mystery of murder and the truth behind it that hangs as a shroud of more questions than answers surface to baffle them. Add the ever present presence of Detective Frishburn who is just as determined to run the investigation without their interference, and is sure Bobby is the killer, and your in for a ride on a barreling freight train heading towards the end of the tracks. The outcome is anyone's guess. I'll never tell.

Our authors, Jim and Joyce Lavene have pulled off yet another great murder mystery. Aside from all the normal 'who done it ' you have a great backdrop of racing world characters that spice up this read with just the right amount ingredients. It was also a fun read, as Glad not only has his hands full with trying to prove Bobby's innocence but also keeping his overzealous young wife from landing them both either in the brig or dead. You'll enjoy this one; a mystery with a new twist but still full of the elements that make it what it should be.

Ancient Roots Translinear Bible
A. Frances Werner
Waymaker Publishers
P.O. Box 1481, Fenton, MO 63206
0976208768 $31.00

I know that many may be leery when any new translation of the Bible is released. The fear is always there that perhaps the translation will put forth something contrary to what the Lord is actually saying and it could lead to some confusion in our Spiritual walk. In my opinion I have to say that this is not the case with this new translation by A. Frances Werner. This is one translation that can only enhance your Spiritual understanding of God's Word. Having been in the ministry with my husband for almost 30-years I have seen many Spiritual works come and go, but I truly believe this one is here to stay.

I love to read the Word and often cross-reference to try to get a deeper revelation of a Scripture. I would want to know, where in our world was Abraham living, exactly where does certain countries and cities appear in the Word? Our author gives us those answers and more, right in the verse we are reading, no more digging out tons of reference books to find it. Not only is this helpful but this knowledge definitely brings the Word alive in your spirit.

As I sat and read through the Psalm's I was delighted. The meaning became more clear within my Spirit than I ever thought possible. I especially loved Psalm 103:1, "Bless Yahweh, my soul, and all that is in my center, bless his holy name." I had never realized the full meaning of that, but when the word 'center,' was used, a greater understanding filled me. Think about it!

To me this translation is a God-send. One more step to knowing our Heavenly Father and His Word in a clearer way.

The book is well written, the type is crisp, clear and easy to read. If you are truly looking for a translation of the Word of God that will help you in your walk, this one is for you. I can't wait to see what the New Testament holds. Very highly recommended; a must have for all those who believe and hunger for the true Word of God.

Shadow In The Rain
Harriett Ford
Helm Publishing
3923 Seward Ave., Rockford, IL 61108
0977820521 $12.95

I want to begin this review with one word, DISTURBING! The further I read this book the more I shook my head and thought, how could this be happening in the land of the free? The story you will find between the pages of this work will keep you absorbed from beginning to end. Part fictional story aided by the truth, our author takes us into the world of murder, one that hangs in my opinion unsolved and very disturbing.

In 1999 a young woman was shot in the parking lot of a local Bar & Grill, seemingly for no other reason than a jealous ex-boyfriend. He is arrested, tried and put in prison for her murder; but the question that has not been answered without considerable doubt is this - did he really pull the trigger? Is he truly a cold-blooded killer? Many say yes, others no and as far as I can see by the evidence shown within this read; the proof is definitely not in the pudding that he is guilty.

This entire story is wrapped about the true case of Ted Kuhl who has been imprisoned for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. However according to the evidence presented something is definitely amiss in this entire investigation. From the beginning it is running over with Police blunders, no DNA testing, alibis not checked, suspects let go, the entire working of this case was like that done by the Keystone Cops of yesteryear, and should be an embarrassment to our justice system. How can this be ignored? Someone in authority must step up to the plate and reopen this case for further investigation. If they don't, it certainly would seem a solid question to ask, why not? Cases have been reopened for less than what you have here.

Listen, I'm all for putting the bad guy behind bars or worse, but when the evidence in a case is so lacking and so many questions are left unanswered as in this one you just have to wonder, who doesn't want what uncovered? And who has the power to make sure it isn't? We have the best Justice System in the world, and the best country as far as I am concerned, but even at that there are always times when something just doesn't add up. This is definitely one of those times. I am but one small voice, but this voice is yelling, "what are you thinking?" If the man is truly guilty, prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, reopen the case and answer the unanswered.
Read this book, it may scare you because we all can only pray this type of nightmare never darkens our door or those we love. America is justice for all, remember, for all; let her bell ring.

Is It Hot In Here, or am I Just Hot?
Sunny Hersh
Fast Forward Publications
Old Zionsville, PA
097430938 $15.95

When I was asked to review this book I said yes thinking it was a humor read on aging. You know, a fictional story of perhaps a man and wife discovering the in's and out's of aging together with a little humor thrown in to lighten the truth. I have to say I was surprised when I began my read. Author, Sunny Hersh's work is anything but a novel, it is a how-to-manual for those seeking a better sex life, specifically after the age of 40, and I would say basically for women. After I got over the shock, and I was shocked, (alright you can stop laughing now) I decided to keep my word and review the work.

Right off, I want to say, this book is not for the faint-hearted, or easily embarrassed even when they are alone person. I am sure I turned pink several times myself, perhaps red would be a better color choice. As my 90-year old mom would say, "there are some downright raw things written here!" In other words our author cuts right to the chafe and basically tells it like it is. Sunny leaves very little out in her advice and explanations of sexual activity and body parts, for example, what does happen, what could happen, what will happen, and what can happen with a couple experiencing sex after a certain age, and also how to make it happen, stop it from happening, or just make the best of it if it does happen. Along with that she gives advise on the use of Viagra and such, advise on taking care of your body for a better healthier you, dating, and much more. You can tell in her writing she is definitely a free-spirited woman, open and straight-forward in all she says. Also, she seems to have researched her work quite well and does give some helpful facts from her research. Her entire book is written in a light and carefree way yet with the impression this lady definitely knows what she is talking about, and I feel she is very sincere in wanting to help woman enjoy life at any age and all it has to offer.

One comment that I simply must make as a Christian, on page 222 in Sunny's book she gives views from different religions from an internet pole (I believe), showing what they feel when bad things happened. According to this pole it says Christians believe we did something to deserve it. Let me set the record straight right now.....I don't know what Christians they interviewed BUT that definitely would NOT be the answer any Christians I know would give. That said, if you are seeking to improve your sex-life this is a great book for you. Inside you will find answers to questions that you probably would find hard even asking your doctor in the privacy of his office, and some interesting medical facts that could happen when you age that I'm sure you don't know and will probably pray you never experience. But remember, this book tells it all in a very explicate way that I believe some may not be comfortable reading, and may even find it offensive, while others will embrace the openness of our author. Final word, if you are looking for answers and help in this area, this book is for you.

Dragon Queen
Jayel Gibson
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane,Gite 300, Austin,TX 78758
9781933538464 $14.95

I have to say that author Jayel Gibson definitely does an outstanding job in bringing forth a strong female character in her work, "Dragon Queen." Yavie has not had an easy life, nor the stability of family or love, yet this in itself makes her reach inside and use her own strength and fortitude to reach the goal set before her. After all, she is the rightful Queen of her kingdom and she must save her land.

Let me say right off, this is not a quick read but one that you will want to set time aside to savor the story unfolding before you. The characters are brimming with life and personality, cloaked in mystery and truth leading along the path to the final quest, each playing their part like an instrument in a fine orchestra. Dragon Queen has all the elements you would expect in a fantasy read, the story is tightly packed, well written and engages the reader in the tale from beginning to end.

God's Spy
Juan Gomez-Jurado
Penguin Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, N.Y.
9780525949947 $24.95

The setting of this thriller by author Juan Gomez-Jurado is Vatican City. John Paul II has died and hundreds of thousands now crowd the street to mourn his death. The air is electrified as everyone awaits word of the next Pope.

However, more is going on than the mourners can see because there is a dangerous killer on the loose, one who tortures his victims and leaves them with eyes gouged out and hands cut off. This madman, whose identity we learn early on, doesn't kill at random, no, his victims are well known to him; Cardinals of the church, those whose job is to vote on Pope John Paul's successor. Yet the mystery heightens as the reasons for his acts of such violence against Godly men are held secret in the pages of this work and you will struggle to make sense of his brutal crime as different possibilities are flashed before you.. Knowing who the killer is in no way takes away from the suspense of the read. The author uses this information to weave a web among the other players in the story. It seems there is more mystery behind the scenes of their lives that draws you into the essence of the storyline and adds deep color to each of the characters merging them all into the heart of the story. Excellent!

This work is a real attention grabber. Highly developed storyline that mingles events we are all familiar with, with inside background workings that we never hear about in this sacred city, adding the horror of brutal murders. Intense characters with flaring, yet secretive personalities await you, like Padre Fowler, a Priest and a former Army Intelligence officer, police inspector Paola Dicanti, a woman determined to do her job despite unbelievable opposition, are just two of the many sinister and saintly players you will meet. Well done! All in all this is a great mystery thriller that has all the elements needed for one top-notch read. The ending will surely surprise you and I most certainly give this work a high recommendation. Well done Mr. Gomez-Jurado; I look forward to more of your work in the future.

Angels Watching Over Me
Carol Roach
No ISBN Download $4.00 Paperback $13.41

In this wonderful work by gifted author Carol Roach we meet a very special girl named Carissa.
Carissa life has been anything but easy. She has known the scorn of poverty; the battle of rejection, the sorrow of death. However, Carissa has a quality that hinges almost on the supernatural; her faith and assurance in a God who is more than enough.

We are taken through the life of Carissa from her youth in a small rural community and her family to her final victory as a woman who never compromised despite the hardships such decisions would bring. Her life stood as a testimony.

This is a deep heartfelt read; one that shows the strength and courage of the human spirit despite at times cruel circumstances and unfair situations. The author definitely draws you into the very heart of Carissa merging you with the fight and strength that she possesses during her entire life. Her unselfish love is the main attribute that shone out to me and one that I think author Carol Roach did an exceptional job at portraying.

If you want to read a story of the heart, this one is for you. A compelling story of a woman, a time and a future where one can actually say, 'everything turned out all right." It might have happened much later than we as the reader may have wanted, but perhaps that is exactly how life for most of us plays out. Well done Ms. Roach!

The Rainbow Rhino
Fox Carlton Hughes
Ovation Books
PO Box 80107, Austin, TX 78758
9780979027536 $16.95

In this delightful children's tale Homer the Rhino has an oversized tusk and is bullied day after day by all the other children at school. Even though his parents try to comfort him, he is still very sad but then something happens to change his life. Homer loves rainbows and one morning after a rain he saw a beautiful one in the sky. Homer ran out to the rainbow but when he got there the rainbow was crying because there was a big hole in his side and his colors were leaking. Homer thought what to do and finally decided that he could plug up the hole with his oversized tusk until the Fairies could come and fix it. Homer saved the day using the one thing he had, and his act of kindness was rewarded in a very special way.

This is a story for children that shows sometimes what we think is a curse can quickly become a blessing, and that none of us is alike, we each have special qualities that are ours and ours alone, and can be an asset to those around us. It shows children that they should never put themselves down because they might not conform to what others feel is the norm; we all have a place in this world and we all have great worth. The illustrations are wonderful and truly bring the story alive with vivid colors and adorable characters. Children everywhere will enjoy Homer the Rhino as he saves the day.

The Last Summer
Ann Brashares
Penguin Books
80 Strand, London, WC2R, ORL, England
9781594489174 $24.95

At the beginning of this read we find ourselves on Long Island's Fire Island as Alice awaits the arrival of a long lost friend, Paul. Alice, her sister Riley and Paul grew up on this Islands and memories of their youth flash through Alice's mind giving us a beginning taste of what lies ahead in this read. The story takes us down memory lane as the three friends rediscover each other. relive the past, and forge into the future. Unresolved issues in each of their lives are unfolded, feelings hidden for decades are exposed and life for all of them takes a sad but triumph turn.

This is a story of childhood dreams, adult failures and fulfillment, and the true meaning of family and friends. It is often laced with humor, sadness and all emotions that play a part in living life and ultimately finding our destiny. Well written and enjoyable.

T.C. LoTempio
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
9781593748381 $14.95

Amanda and Jess were sisters, but that was about as far as the likeness between the two of them went. Their home was the town of Ebony, that is until Jess found her way to New York City and became a famous photographer, while Amanda on the other hand stayed behind and worked as a Court Clerk. Jess hadn't seen her sister in years and only spoke to her occasionally by phone, but now Amanda wasn't answering her phone calls and that worried Jess. She decided that it was time to take a trip back home and find out what was going on with Amanda. On the day of her departure Amanda receives an envelope from her sister that states, "To be opened in the event of my death." Inside she finds newspaper clippings of articles of missing people and one of the Mayor receiving an award. What could this mean?

Upon her arrival her sister is no where to be found and she is told that Amanda took a leave of absence but no one seems to know the reason why. Jess is suspicious and has a gut feeling that something is terribly wrong. Taking a job at the local paper she meets a reporter who was to meet Amanda one night with the promise of a big story, but Amanda never showed and who also received newspaper clippings from Amanda. Together, with the help of several others, they begin to investigate strange happenings, missing people, and townspeople who are anything but the upright citizens they portray themselves to be. Just what secrets does this town hold?

Evil is uncovered, evil that is not of this world but is from the very pits of Hell as you come face to face with the undead, literally. The question plays in your mind: Is Amanda dead or alive, and will Jess escape Ebony or be a one of the many victims that this town has claimed? It certainly appears time is running out for all of them, and the chips are definitely not stacked in their favor.

This is quite a hair-raising read, full of the supernatural taking place in modern times. The author does an excellent job of pulling you along as you try to figure out what sinister plot is unfolding and who or what is behind it and why. The characters are pretty creepy at times, ghoulish if you will, yet others are as normal as apple pie and the mix adds to the story. You wonder who can Jess truly trust and will Jess and her friends be able to stop the supernatural? The ending is a real block-buster and definitely leaves you feeling quite uneasy. Somehow you know the story doesn't end there and you wish that it did.

Ebony is a supernatural, mystery packed read that will keep you nail-biting your way to the end. A well written story with great character development, local and intense drama. Don't miss this one!

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Beauty of Souls
J. Byron Lasko
2021 Pine Lake Road, suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
Carol Hoenig, Publishing Consultant
10 Nassau Avenue, Plainview, NY 11803
9780595398768, $13.95

Poet, songwriter, and professional copywriter J. Byron Lasko presents Beauty of Souls, a novel about struggling with the hard realities of life and finding hope amid menace. Jim Armond suffers from a failing business and marriage; life is so bad that the voice in his head is trying to shake sense into him. Complicating the situation, Jim's best friend Louie has borrowed money from the mob and can't repay them; Jim tries to intervene, but his assets are frozen from his divorce proceedings. When Louie suffers a heart attack, an inexplicably divine event occurs - Jim meets Angelina Parish, and as the two of them administer CPR, her hand touches Jim's. A transformational experience touches everyone in the room - except the cold-blooded monsters out for revenge. Jim has discovered love, yet the specter of certain death threatens him in this suspenseful and dramatic novel of spiritual growth.

With Love Stan
Karen Ross Epp, compiler
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781425940379, $19.99 1-800-839-8640

With Love Stan: A Soldier's Letter from Vietnam to the World is an anthology of letters home written by Vietnam soldier Stanley D. Ross, who served honorably and was killed on October 20, 1969. Stan's sister Karen Ross Epp has gathered his letters along with vintage photographs to provide a memorial tribute not only to her brother, but to all who served bravely with him and have their own tale to tell. A vivid presentation of the rigors of basic training, and a realistic look at the conflict in Vietnam, With Love Stan is increasingly relevant in the modern day as young men and women are called upon by their country to risk and sometimes give up their lives in the Iraq conflict. Karen Rose Epp also interjects her own reflections amid the verbatim letters, in this timely and welcome addition to wartime correspondence reading shelves. "Until Desert Storm, I was always bitter about losing a brother like Stan. As I watched Desert Storm take place, I realized the reason we were taking so few casualties was these troops were led by Vietnam veterans. The country may not have learned, but we (the veterans) did." Highly recommended.

The Forgotten Homeland
Steve N. Simon & Robert K. Knake
The Century Foundation
41 East 70th Street, New York, NY 10021
9780870784989, $15.95

The Forgotten Homeland: A Century Foundation Task Force Report is a report on the state of American security by The Century Foundation, a not-for-profit and nonpartisan organization devoted to analyzing economic policy, foreign affairs, and domestic political issues. The verdict of The Forgotten Homeland is unfortunately negative - there are far too many ways in which America has failed to learn the lessons of 9/11 and taken appropriate safeguards against future threats, from gaps in cybersecurity to chemical plant security to restoring discarded federal emergency response strategies that worked and keeping focus on aviation security, and putting the American nuclear house in order. A timely, if chilling appraisal of measures America needs to take for its own protection, strongly recommended especially for anyone involved in politics or matters of state.

Life Changing Leadership
Mike Blaylock
Privately Published
5735 College Parkway, Mobile, AL 36613
9781430318439, $12.95

Written by popular speaker and former chaplain Mike Blaylock, Life Changing Leadership: Making a Difference in the Lives of Others is a straightforward guide to helping others succeed. Chapters teach the reader how to learn to listen effectively, put others first, motivate with encouragement, express appreciation, and much more. "The small pieces of the puzzle are those things that are a part of putting the picture together, but they are not the big picture itself. It is easy to lose perspective when those small pieces are all so different. Perhaps the most overemphasized small pieces in life are winning and losing... Successful coaches know that life is bigger than the outcome of the game." A solid introduction to embodying positive leadership traits and applying successful strategies.

John Taylor

Vicki’s Bookshelf

Miles of Smiles: Travel Games and Quizzes to Go
Laurie Calkhoven
American Girl
8400 Fairway Place, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562
159369170X $9.95

A must for summer travel, “Miles of Smiles: Travel Games and Quizzes to Go!” is a fun activity book divided into two sections: games and puzzles. Filled with crosswords, fill-in stories, memory tests, and question-and-answer challenges, the book also includes a license plate checklist, a board game, foldable dice, and a travel journal to make and keep memories while vacationing this summer. For girls 8 – 11.

School Smarts Homework Survival Guide: The Skills and Stuff You Need to Succeed
Erin Falligant
American Girl
8400 Fairway Place, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562
1593691742 $8.95

Thus spiral-bound notebook offers girls helpful advice for coping with their homework load. Included are tips on how to do smart research, choose the best place to study, and keep the brain and body going strong. Tear out tools, such as stickers, mini posters, door hangers and flashcards, take some of the work out of “homework.”

School Smarts Planner: The Best of American Girl Magazine
American Girl
8400 Fairway Place, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562
1593691688 $9.95

The latest “School Smarts Planner” features a hodgepodge of reprints from “American Girl” magazine. There’s not much rhyme or reason here, just page after page of random advice and inspiration, whether it be healthy snack recipes, hair styling tips, or peer suggestions. Girls can personalize the planner by making mini magazine “covers” using the American Girl logo stickers enclosed, and that’s about it.

Thanks to Nicki
Ann Howard Creel
American Girl
8400 Fairway Place, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562
1593692900 $6.95

Ten–year-old Nicki Fleming has had a busy summer on her Colorado ranch. When she wasn’t training Sprocket to become a service dog, she was helping her mother, who is expecting twins soon. But Nicki is dreading the fall – that’s when Sprocket will have to leave for more training and eventual placement with a person with special needs. The beginning of the school year also means she’s stuck in the middle – caught between her two best friends, Kris and Becca, who can’t seem to get along. Nicki must learn to find a way to let Sprocket go and keep both of her good friends close. A true story section at the back of the book focuses on real girls who have experience training service dogs.

The Secret Life of It Girls
Dakota Lane
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416914921 $14.99

“The Secret Life of It Girls” by Dakota Lane is a series of fictionalized vignettes that provide an insider’s view into the world of high school girls; their thoughts, their stories, their secrets. It is a bold, vinyl covered, nine by seven hardcover featuring full color photo spreads throughout and making the visual experience just as powerful as the stories themselves. Dakota, an established photojournalist and YA author, spent two years interviewing, photographing and immersing herself in the world of teen America in order to produce this collection of shocking stories. She includes hundreds of pictures, IM chats and notes, so that the reader is completely immersed in the look, feel and reality of being in high school.

Letters from the Corrugated Castle
Joan W. Blos
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780689870774 $17.99

"Dear Cousin Sallie, I begin with words I never thought to write: I am not an orphan!" Thirteen-year-old Eldora has always believed that her mother died when she was very little, and for nine years she has lived with people that she calls Aunt and Uncle. The year is 1850, and all three have exchanged their quiet lives in New Bedford, Massachusetts, for new ones in San Francisco, the rapidly growing city that is the heart of the California Gold Rush. Shortly after their arrival, they receive a letter from an unknown woman who believes she is Eldora's mother. She is eager to meet her long-lost daughter, and a visit is arranged. As Eldora deals with her conflicting feelings about this news, she must also adjust to the challenges -- and dangers -- of living in a brash and growing city. She finds herself teaching English to two Mexican children and beginning to learn Spanish, and an unlikely friendship with a boy named Luke introduces her to the hard, sometimes humorous, and often violent world of the mining camps. Every day seems to bring something different and new to consider. But can Eldora discover where -- and to whom -- she belongs? Told in letters that ring with the voice of the times, “Letters from the Corrugated Castle” is an intriguing adventure set in a fascinating time in California's history -- a worthy conclusion to the geographical trilogy begun with “A Gathering of Days”, winner of the Newbery Medal, and “Brothers of the Heart.”

The Traitor’s Gate
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780689853357 $17.99

John Huffam is sure the tall man's beard is false. He's sure of little else in November 1849, the year he is fourteen, the year his father is sentenced to London's Whitecross Street Prison. Maybe the man following John -- who claims to be one Inspector Copperfield -- can explain why. Surely, Pa isn't prepared to reveal the truth, any more than the jovial bailiff, Mr. Tuckum, who knows something, but remains mum. Or the little Frenchman, Mr. Farquatt, who courts John's sister but seems most keen on Pa's work at the Naval Ordinance Office. Or Mr. O'Doul, the Irishman who insists Pa owes him the unimaginable sum of three hundred pounds. Or what of the one-legged, single-mindedly fierce Sergeant Muldspoon, John's teacher? What about the boy's great-great-aunt, Lady Euphemia Huffam, who could pay the debt but won't for reasons of her own? What about the secretive Mr. Snugsbe of All Hallows Church, who hides himself away in the City's most voluminous coat? Then there's Chief Inspector Ratchet of Scotland Yard, who is after somebody for some crime or other. True, John has a new friend and ally in Sary the Sneak...but what has even she got up her sleeve? What John learns on his own is that there's a traitor on the loose, somewhere. And he must uncover the villain -- no matter who it might be. For readers 9-11.

Amelia Earhart: Young Air Pioneer
Jane Moore Howe, read by Lunn Taccogna
Blackstone Audio
P.O. Box 969, Ashland OR 97520
9781433201448 $24.00

Did you know that Amelia Earhart built her own roller coaster before she was 10 years old? And what do you suppose happened to her while she was exploring a spooky, dark cave and sledding down a steep, ice hill? Find the answers and share the rest of Amelia Earhart’s childhood adventures in this award-winning volume of the American Patriots Series. This unabridged audio-book production is a nice way to sweep today’s young listeners into history. The everyday details of family life, the time period in which they lived, what they wore, and the challenges they faced in school create a window through which children can access history. The early evidence of character, responsibility, ability, and courage are showcased in common situations to which every child can relate.

The Crystal Prison
Robin Jarvis, read by Roe Kendall
Blackstone Audio
P.O. Box 969, Ashland OR 97520
9781433202612 $63

This terrifying second novel of the Deptford Mice Trilogy is now in an unabridged audio book format, read by Roe Kendall. When the Deptford Mice flee to the countryside, they never expect to find themselves embroiled in a series of murders. The country mice suspect that headstrong city mouse, Audrey, is the culprit. But the truth is far more sinister-for Jupiter now reaches vengefully from the dead. When Audrey reluctantly keeps a promise to accompany a black rat to the country, she witnesses the return of a supernatural evil she thought had been destroyed.

The Girl I Wanted to Be
Sarah Grace McCandless
Blackstone Audio
P.O. Box 969, Ashland OR 97520
9781432202193 $36

This is the new, unabridged audio book version of Sarah Grave McCandless’ teen angst novel, here read by Marguerite Gavin. As a lowly freshman named for "The King," Presley Moran walks high school corridors paved with the stuff of family legend. Her cousin Barry, a senior heartthrob and brainy varsity letterman, insists that looking good on paper is the key to success. But Presley's young aunt Betsi, a former homecoming queen, has her own ideas about good looks and how to use them. "Can you keep a secret?" Betsi asks Presley, who, at age fourteen, is eager for entrée into the adult world of beauty, attraction, and romance. But as Presley is about to discover, some secrets should never be revealed. Will the illicit thrill of being a trusted confidante, privy to the details of muddled entanglements and incompatible desires, be worth the consequences of guilt by association? Propelled by the crash of falling idols, “The Girl I Wanted to Be” is a true portrait of passion, loss, and hard-won wisdom.

My Antonia
Willa Cather read by Jeff Cummings
Blackstone Audio
P.O. Box 969, Ashland OR 97520
9780786158836 $19.95

One of the outstanding novels in the canon of American literature, “My Antonia” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather, tells of the life of early American pioneers in the vast frontier farmlands of Nebraska. Infused with a gracious passion for the land, it renders a deeply moving portrait of a community and the free-spirited girl at its heart. This audio-book edition is unabridged, and was read by Jeff Cummings.

Minerva Clark Goes to the Dogs
Karen Karbo
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
158234678X $16.95

Something strange happened to Minerva Clark when she was almost electrocuted by her older brother: her insecurities were zapped right out of her, and in their place appeared a sassy new confidence. No longer shy or self-conscious, Minerva goes where most 13-year-olds wouldn’t dare – like behind the lines of yellow crime-scene tape, or wherever a new mystery rears its head. So when annoying rich girl Chelsea de Guzman pleads with Minerva to help her find a missing diamond, Minerva can’t resist. Before long, Minerva is crashing a movie set to get close to a suspect, spying on an animal-loving lunatic, and doing her dogged best to foil a number of serious plots. From kidnapping to jewel heists, Minerva’s wits are put to the test as she tries to get her man – or perhaps his dog? This second title in the “Minerva Clark” mystery series is a clever canine caper for capricious tweens.

Cecil Castellucci
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763630669 16.99

When she’s exiled from Canada to sunny Los Angeles, Katy figures she’ll bury her nose in a book and ignore the fact that she’s spending two weeks with her father. Her father, Beau Ratner – punk name: the rat – is a recovered addict and drummer of the famously infamous band, suck. Even though she doesn’t want to be there, even though she feels abandoned by her mom, even though the Rat isn’t anything she’d call a father, Katy is a nice girl. She’s quiet and polite, and she smiles. Another kind of girl, one like doom-and-gloom Lake – lead singer for an all-girl band and the Rat’s idea of a chaperone – might take off, break the rules, and scrawl manifestoes on the walls. Or she might pound on the skins and cymbals and let it all out, because sometimes the beat’s better than crying. Sometimes it’s the same thing. But music is dangerous, and Katy isn’t that kind of girl. So what kind of girl is she? More majestically modern angst from the new literary queen of cool, Cecil Castellucci, who, conveniently enough, is also the author of “The Queen of Cool.”

Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Megabeasts
Robert Sabuda, Matthew Reinhart
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763622305 $27.99

Within this dynamic book lurks fearsome saber-toothed cats, bears taller than basketball hoops, and everyone’s favorite Ice Age giant — the woolly mammoth. Prehistoric Yeti-like mammals, now-extinct birds, and giant flying lizards all come alive in a showcase featuring more than thirty-five astonishing pop-ups. In this third and final volume of the best-selling Encyclopedia Prehistorica series, 3-D masters Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart tackle the titans of the ancient world, awing us with a humbling close-up look at some startling mega-beasts that preceded us on planet Earth. Another pop up masterpiece from the unrivaled masters of the pop up.

Baby / Journey
Patricia MacLachlan
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385734233 $16.99

Newbery Award Winner Patricia MacLachlan explores the healing powers of language, memory, and love in her two acclaimed novels about family ties, now republished in a single hardcover edition for the first time in years. “Baby” is about 12-year-old Larkin who discovers a baby sitting in a basket in her family's driveway and welcomes Sophie into the Larkin family home. They know that Sophie's mother will return one day and take her from them. But in time, through poetry and song, they come to love this baby as their own—and to face an unspoken loss in their past. “Journey” is about an 11-year-old boy of the same name, the summer his mother leaves him and his sister with their grandparents. He searches family photographs for clues that will explain why his mother left. In the process, the camera becomes a means of finding things Journey's naked eye has missed—like the inevitability of his mother's departure and the love that still binds his family.

Stacey Goldblatt
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385734431 $15.99

When debut author Stacey Goldblatt was in high school, she spent weekends working at a family friend’s veterinary clinic. Little did she know that she was doing research for her first young adult book that she would write years later! “Stray” is a satisfying summer read for teen girls, about teenager Natalie Kaplan, a dog-lover. In fact, she compares everyone she meets to a particular breed of dog. Natalie herself is an Ibizan hound? quiet, playful, loyal, smart, and above all, obedient. Especially where her overly protective mother is concerned. Sometimes Natalie feels like nothing more than a dog on her mother’s extremely tight leash, always doing what is expected of her, and never straying. But this summer, with the arrival of older (and gorgeous) Carver Reed, who will be working side by side with Natalie in her mother’s veterinary clinic, Natalie begins to change. She begins to take risks, fall in love for the first time, and learn that sometimes you can’t always be the obedient daughter. But will her mother allow her to grow up, or will Natalie find herself on a short leash for the rest of her teenage life?

Breathe: Yoga for Teens
Mary Kaye Chryssicas
375 Hudson St., NY, NY, 10014
9780756626617 $14.99

In a world buzzing with cell phones, peer pressure, and negative body images, girls need to arm themselves with positive energy and activities. With “Breath: Yoga For Teens” (paperback and DVD), teens can chill out, stretch out, and have a great time practicing yoga. Written by Mary Kaye Chryssicas, a registered teacher with Yoga Alliance and mother to three yogi kids, “Breather” offers teens a gentle introduction to yoga that explains the best poses and techniques for a satisfying yoga practice.

Antiques Investigator
Judith Miller
375 Hudson St., NY, NY, 10014
9780756628420 $25.00

Antiques and collectibles expert Judith Miller’s passion for old things began in her student days. When she graduated to auctions she was confused by the dealers’ peculiar actions. Why did they examine the backs of drawers? Why did they hold pieces of porcelain up to their faces? What did the dealers see when they held glass up to the light? In order to solve the case of the mystery antique, she learned the tricks of the trade and became an antiques investigator. She shares her knowledge in her latest book, instructing readers how to solve their own antiques mysteries. Organized by field – furniture, ceramics, glass, silver, and collectibles – “Antiques Investigator” provides a systematic approach to looking at antiques. Each chapter begins with an introduction, followed by a step-by-step guide showing readers how to find their way around a piece. Close-up photography highlights subtle details that sets two items apart, pages compare commonly confused pieces or styles to point out their differences, and the “identity parade” and “photofit” sections show important makers in each field.

Richard Walker
375 Hudson St., NY, NY, 10014
9780756625368 $16.99

OUCH! is a stunning virtual tour of the internal workings of the human body throughout a very bad day. OUCH! guides readers through a terrible day in the life of an ordinary kid—all from the inside out! Everything from the body’s reactions to knee scraps, sneezes, bee stings, and burns is covered through sophisticated computer-generated artwork. Author Richard Walker brings young readers along on an up-close journey with his entertaining narrative, full of fresh and memorable facts. Watch as OUCH! reinvents human body reference one amazing 3-dimensional panorama at a time—you will not want to miss it! For ages 8 and up.

Nancy Drew Pocketbook Mysteries
Caroline Keene
Grosset & Dunlap / Penguin Putnam
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9760448445441 $19.99,

Sofa sleuths can join Nancy Drew on her first two thrilling mysteries with this irresistible gift package housing two Nancy Drew hardback capers in one darling, strapped carry-bag. In the first mystery story, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” Nancy witnesses a van speed away from the Turner sisters’ house. It leads her and her plucky friends to an intriguing mystery involving the wealthy and eccentric Josiah Crowley’s lost will. Can Nancy unravel this high-stakes mystery and see that his fortune goes to the rightful heirs? In #2, “The Hidden Staircase,” Nancy’s good friend Helen Corning has a mystery for her: an old mansion belonging to Helen’s family is haunted, and she wants Nancy to investigate. Nancy is eager to help, but while she’s away, her father, Carson Drew, goes missing, leaving Nancy faced with solving both mysteries at once.

Amphigorey Again
Edward Gorey
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
0151011079 $35

This latest collection displays in glorious abundance the offbeat characters and droll humor of Edward Gorey. Figbash is acrobatic, topiaries are tragic, hippopotami are admonitory, and galoshes are remorseful in this celebration of a unique talent that never fails to delight, amuse, and confound. “Amphigorey Again” contains previously uncollected work and two unpublished stories—"The Izzard Book," a quirky riff on the letter Z , and "La Malle Saignante," a bilingual homage to early French silent serial movies. Rough sketches and unfinished panels show an ironic and singular mind at work. Don’t miss what will probably be the final Edward Gorey collection being published from Harcourt, especially since this gem has already hit the deep-discount tables.

Beauty Store for Rent
Laura Bowers
Harcourt Children’s Books
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780152057640 $17.00

Abbey Garner has a plan: to earn a million dollars by the time she's thirty-five. Financial independence will allow her to break the cycle of unhappiness endured by the women in her family. Determined to fulfill her dream, Abbey works at Granny Po's struggling beauty shop, where the feisty Gray Widows go to primp, polish, perm . . . and, of course, gossip. There, among the hair dryers and perm rods--and with the help of a new friend--Abbey finds the courage to open her heart and take risks required for her to live life to its fullest. Debut author Laura Bowers creates a funny and touching first novel about family--both the one we are born to and the one we create ourselves.

The Neddiad
Daniel Pinkwater
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780618594443 $16.00

National Public Radio commentator Daniel Pinkwater’s latest book for children is an epic journey that is both a loving remembrance of 1940s America and a laugh-out-loud adventure featuring Pinkwater’s wry humor and zany characters. It all begins when young Neddie Wentworthstein reads about the Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles and tells his father he wants to eat there. Turns out his father does, too, so the family packs up and sets off from Chicago on an eventful train ride west. During the course of their journey on the Super Chief, with pit stops in Topeka, Santa Fe, and the Grand Canyon, Neddie meets many of the friends and foes who will ultimately be involved in a showdown to determine the fate of the world. A genuine charmer, for ages 10-14.

The Off Season
Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780618686957 $16.00

Life is looking up for D.J. Schwenk. She's in eleventh grade, finally. After a rocky summer, she's reconnecting in a big way with her best friend, Amber. She's got kind of a thing going with Brian Nelson, who's cute and popular and smart but seems to like her anyway. And then there's the fact she's starting for the Red Bend High School football team—the first girl linebacker in northern Wisconsin, probably. Which just shows you can't predict the future. As autumn progresses, D.J. struggles to understand Amber, Schwenk Farm, her relationship with Brian, and most of all her family. As a whole herd of trouble comes her way, she discovers she's a lot stronger than she—or anyone—ever thought. This hilarious, heartbreaking and triumphant sequel to the critically acclaimed Dairy Queen takes D.J. and all the Schwenks from Labor Day to a Thanksgiving football game that you will never forget.

Blood Fever: A James Bond Adventure
Charlie Higson
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
0786836628 $16.95

Following his adventures in the Scottish Highlands, young James Bond is back at Eton in this book two of the authorized prequel series. Here, 13-year-old Bond has joined the risk-taking Danger Society. Summer vacation is on the horizon and James is looking forward to the school trip to the beautiful Italian island of Sardinia, and the opportunity to spend some time with his reclusive cousin Victor. But all is not as it appears, of course. James soon discovers that the seemingly peaceful island harbors some strange secrets. Before long, Victor’s house has been ransacked and important pieces of artwork have been stolen. James learns that the Millenaria – an ancient Roman society long thought to be extinguished – is still active. He suspects the impetuous millionaire Count Ugo Carnifex may be behind it. But one of his teachers has been acting strangely as well, and with a girl’s life hanging in the balance, it’s up to James to uncover an intricate conspiracy.

Eve Titus, pictures by Paul Galdone
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
0375839011 $14.95

In honor of it’s 50th anniversary, the classic picture book story of Anatole, an honorable Parisian mouse, has been republished, along with it’s sequel, “Anatole and the Cat.” Vive Anatole! He is shocked when he learns that humans don’t like mice to sample their leftovers. What’s a mouse to do? He must provide for his family, but Anatole is determined to earn his supper. Perhaps he could offer his services at the Duval Cheese Factory?

Sammy Keyes and the Wild Things
Wendelin Van Draanen
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375835254 $15.99

Sammy Keyes trades in her hightops for hiking boots—and winds up with blisters. In the latest Sammy Keyes mystery adventure, it is not the summer camping trip of Sammy's dreams. She imagined shady glades, meandering streams, a deer or two. What she gets are scrubby shrubs, blazing sun, rattlesnakes, ticks, and scorpions. Her fellow campers are desperate to catch a rare glimpse of an endangered condor. To Sammy, the trip is nothing more than the painful in pursuit of the unspeakably ugly. But when she and two other girls find an injured condor, Sammy's intrigued at last. As they track down a clue, they stumble onto two classmates and wind up lost. Which leaves three girls and two boys in a canyon with one tent and six billion biting flies. Oh --and an armed and dangerous highstakes poacher. S'mores anyone?

Secrets of My Hollywood Life on Location
Jen Calonita
Little, Brown and Company
1271 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780316154390 $16.99

It seems like the summer of dreams come true for Hollywood princess Kaitlin Burke: the media loves her 9again), super cure and funny Austin Meyers is finally her boyfriend, and she’s starring in a movie by her all-time favorite director, Hutch Adams. What could be sweeter? But life on set is not nearly as perfect as the designer makeup and couture costumes. And with a slimy ex-boyfriend and a scheming new studio executive on the scene, Jen Calonita’s YA-lit sequel to “Secrets of My Hollywood Life” is about to get a whole lot messier.

Jack Plank
Michael Di Capua Books / Scholastic
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545004961 $15.95

The latest book by the author of “Tuck Everlasting,” is the tall tale of Jack Plank, who started out a pirate. His shipmates all liked him, and their ship, the Avarice, was certainly very beautiful. But after a while it was clear that he wasn’t much good at plundering. He just didn’t have the knack for it. So what to do? Jack did the only think he could do – he went ashore to look for another line of work. The town was called Saltwash, on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, and he had a lot of helpful advice from the people in Mrs. DelFresno’s boardinghouse. Somehow, though, each career he looked into seemed to have something wrong with it. And every night at dinner in the boardinghouse, he tried to explain why. For who would want to work where there might be a troll, or the danger of getting a crab caught in your beard? Or what about a music-loving crocodile? There were other things too, that ran against every suggestion and took the wind out of his sails. At last, Jack decided he wouldn’t be good at anything onshore and would have to go back to sea, pirate or not. But sometimes, as you probably know already, things work out very nicely when you least expect it.

Duncan Crosbie
Orchard Books / Scholastic
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439899956 $18.99,

“Titanic: the Ship of Dreams” offers readers new insight into what it was really like on board the majestic boat, with photographs, letters, and journal entries made by a fictional young boy. Inside the silver-foil cover is a hands-on adventure featuring elaborate novelty features including pop-ups, pull tabs, slide mechanisms, fold-our maps and booklets.

Tomorrow’s Magic
Pamela F. Service
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375840876 $15.99

Pamela Service’s futuristic spin on the Camelot legend is back. Originally published in two volumes in the mid-1980s -- as “Winter of Magic’s Return” and ”Tomorrow’s Magic – it is now available in a single hardcover edition. In it is everything from battles to magic, fairies to mutants, all set 500 years after the nuclear holocaust that devastated the earth’s population and left the few survivors dealing with unending winter. At their remote British boarding school, Wellington Jones and Heather McKenna have a lot in common. Both are misfits trying to avoid attention, and both are fascinated by Earl, a tall, calm, older boy with no recollection of his past, but a remarkable knack for showing up when he is needed most. When a blow to the head brings Earl’s memory back, he is full of wild ideas about King Arthur and the sorceress Morgan LeFay, and broadly claims that he is actually Merlin, a 2,000 year old wizard. Vintage, epic fantasy for teen readers looking for something magic.

The Black Tattoo
Sam Enthoven
Razorbill / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
1595141146 $19.99,

Jack’s best friend, Charlie, has always been effortlessly cool. When Charlie wakes up one day and finds a mysterious, moving black tattoo on his back, it’s a clear sign that he’s even cooler than Jack thought. To top it off, Charlie is suddenly able to fly, fight like a kung-fu master, and control the minds of others. He’s got superpowers…or does he? Jack soon learns the terrifying truth: Charlie’s incredible powers come from an age-old demon called the Scourge, who is using Charlie to bring about its evil master plan. To stop the scourge, jack and Charlie join forces with Esme, a girl with super powers of her own, trained form birth to fight the demon. But time is running out, as Charlie falls deeper under the Scourge’s dark spell. When the Scourge vanishes with Charlie, Jack and Esme follow their friend from the streets of London into Hell itself, where they face horrors that may well cost them their lives. Can they survive to outwit the Scourge, save Charlie, and stop an even greater evil?

Everybody’s Revolution
Thomas Fleming
Scholastic Nonfiction
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
0439634040 $19.99

What does the American Revolution had to do with you? More than you know. The portrait of our country at the time of the Revolution closely resembles the diversity that exists today. The dimensions of the patriot cause during the American Revolution were far more multicultural and multiethnic than we have for so long believed. Women, African Americans, Jews, Native Americans, Hispanic Americas, European immigrants, and young adults played leading roles in the struggle for independence from Great Britain. These are the compelling stories of courageous men and women who sensed the coming greatness of America, contributed significantly to our story, and embedded the concepts of liberty and equality into our history forever.

Giants of Science: Sigmund Freud
Kathleen Krull
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0670058920 $15.99

Sigmund Freud wanted to be great and famous – someone whose statue would stand prominently in parks. And famous he became. But does he qualify as a “Giant of Science”? Certainly his road to greatness had some peculiar detours. As a young physician, he was convinced that cocaine was a miracle cure for nervous afflictions. And at one time he traced the root of all ailments – both physical and emotional – to a single organ: the nose. Yet Kathleen Krull proves, with humor and discernment, that Sigmund Freud deserves his place in her unique series as the creator of a brand new branch of medicine – psychoanalysis – and for inventing a whole new vocabulary to go with it. He understood, as nobody ever had before, the power of unconscious motives and desires, the significance of dreams, and that physical symptoms of illness might have psychological causes. The third title in an acclaimed series, this is a scrupulously researched, juicily anecdotal biography offering readers an astute portrait of a complicated, irascible man.

Lawn Boy
Gary Paulsen
Wendy Lamb Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385746861 $12.99

Gary Paulsen can do more with less than 100 pages than most middle grade writers with 1,000. His latest delight is “Lawn Boy,” about a 12-year-old boy who inherits an old ride-on lawn mower from his grandmother and rides his way into a new business. His summer is spent mowing the neighbors’ lawns, and turning his gas-powered mower into a money-making machine, thanks to the help of his stockbroker neighbor. But as all budding entrepreneurs know, making money doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work…and heartache. The stockbroker offers to pay the boy for his services, with his investment services. Making extra money in the stock market seems easy and soon he wants more, so he hires 15 workers, and pulls in six times his initial investment. Things become stranger when the boy’s money is invested in a large prizefighter named Joey Pow, and some local thugs try to take over the boy’s thriving business. So much for the easy, breezy days of summer! Another laugh-out-loud page-turner from the three-time Newbery Honor winner.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Life As A Night Porter
Chris Shaw
Twin Palms Publishers
PO Box 10229, Santa Fe, NM 87504
1931885508, $60.00 1-800-797-0680

For ten years Chris Shaw worked in London hotels and used his camera during his late night/early morning shift as a porter to visually document the human spectacle and experiences associated with them. The 64 duotone photographs reveal thoughtful and thought-provoking images ranging from prostitutes killing time between customers, to inebriated and profligate guests, to wear hotel staff members, to details of the hotels' now faded but once impressive grandeur. A very highly recommended addition to personal, professional, and academic library Contemporary Photography collections, "Life As A Night Porter" deftly captures and presents states of mind by those who are in a place where most people would not choose to stay for more than a single night.

How To Teach Reading
Dr. Fry
Shell Education
5301 Oceanus Drive, Hunting Beach, CA 92649
9781425802592, $149.00 1-877-777-3450

Now in a newly revised, expanded, and updated fourth edition, "How To Teach Reading" by Dry Fry offers classroom teachers and home schooling parents a practical and effective six step method to teach children in grades 1 through 12 how to read. Comprised of a Professional Guide, a 484 page Companion Notebook, and a Resource CD, "How To Teach Reading provides an excellent, comprehensive, and methodically applicable informational background on the five essential elements of a successful reading instruction program. Very highly recommended as a curriculum supplement for reading instruction course work at all grade levels, "How To Teach Reading" is a welcome addition to private and public school Instructional Resource library collections. Also very highly recommended from Shell Education are four other instructional resources for the classroom: "Implementing An Effective Writing Program" (9781425802608, $149.00); "Reading And Writing Strategies For Social Studies" (9781425800543, $29.99); "Building Fluency Through Practice And Performance: American History" (9781425801137, $24.99); and "Assessing Comprehension Thinking Strategies" (9781425804376, $24.99).

Lennon And McCartney: Together Alone
John Blaney
1700 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781906002022, $27.95

A comprehensive discography of the solo work of Paul McCartney and John Lennon compiled by passionate and knowledgeable Beatles fan John Blaney, "Lennon And McCartney: Together Alone" is a comprehensive overview and presentation of the stories behind the creation of songs and recordings of two of the most influential pop music musicians of the mid-to-late 20th century. After the breakup of their band, the Beatles, in 1970, both of these talented musicians began solo careers as song writers and performers that emphasized their distinct and separate musical signatures. "Lennon And McCartney: Together Alone" details each and every major record release by these two performers from the 1960s down to the present day (including the posthumous releases since John Lennon's assassination in 1980). An impressively detailed and informative study, "Lennon And McCartney: Together Alone" is a 'must' for the legions of Beatles fans and a critically important and seminal contribution to the growing library of Beatles literature that should be a part of every community and academic library 20th Century American Music History reference collection.

Combat Self-Defense
David G. Bolgiano
Little White Wolf Books
42 Hatton Drive, Severna Park, MD 21146
9780979182402, $20.00

Written by former Army paratrooper and judge advocate David G. Bolgiano, who has deployed to Afghanistan, Qatar and Iraq as legal advisor to Commander, Special Operations Command Central, Combat Self-Defense is a chilling expose of how legal wranglings and the fear of using force in combat has put modern-day American soldiers in danger. In a post-September 11th era, when enemy combatants are not always in uniform and often masquerade among women and children, or even pose as dead bodies in the street, the restraint instilled by the threat of legal wrangling after the fact is a deadly additional risk, Bolgiano claims. "There's a saying in the legal defense world that it's better to be judged by twelve than carried by six. You may face an investigation following a use of deadly force in self-defense, and in rare cases, a criminal prosecution. But you'll be alive to face them, and ultimately, the law supports reasonable uses of deadly force. Despite media criticism, supervisor scrutiny, and anything else they can throw at you, self-defense is authorized when you reasonably perceive your life is threatened with death or serious bodily injury. Nothing else matters." A seminal and much-needed contribution to the modern debate about military tactics in the Iraq occupation and other venues of the 'war on terror.'

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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