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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 7 July 2014 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Donovan's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf  

Donovan's Bookshelf

Childhood Games
J.M. Roach
Roach City Publishing
$6.99 (ebook) / $16.99 (Print) / $21.99 (Large Print)
ISBN-13: 9781499309089 (Print)
ISBN-13: 9781499314083 (Large Print)
ISBN: 9781311014412 (Smashwords ebook)
ASIN - B00K1LMWUO (kindle ebook)
B&N -

Can a girl be raised to become a killing machine, operated by a remote control device much like a television set? Childhood Games poses an intriguing question centering on the roots of humanity itself as it presents such a scenario with an institutionalized eight-year-old who answers to the name 'Blackjack' and calls her keeper 'Father'. It's clear that her spirit has been broken in the process of his experiments upon her.

The next chapter jumps sixteen years ahead to the present day. From this moment forward, the story shifts to the first person reflections of a 24 year old investigator, named Samantha Black, who faces the drudgery of her job and life ("I'm still adjusting to this life. A life where the vast majority of my time is spent in front of a computer. I do exciting things like attempting to find the hidden assets of a cheating husband. Or performing background checks. Or playing with angry birds. Every once in a while I'll be assigned a job that requires actual field work, but not today."). It soon becomes apparent that Samantha is in fact the adult version of that institutionalized girl. She no longer uses the name 'Blackjack', but the effects of her upbringing still linger inside of her.

Despite this, Samantha has managed to build a familial relationship among her co-workers at the small PI firm where she works. Her boss's fourteen year daughter has even become a sort of adopted sister to her.

Next thing Samantha knows, she is waking in a hospital bed suffering from a variety of injuries. She has no memory of how she got there, but soon discovers that an attack and massacre on her workplace has destroyed the only family she's ever known. Her boss and co-workers have been murdered and her adopted sister has been kidnapped.

With the absorbing contentions and characters in Childhood Games, by the third chapter events have created an engrossing thriller revolving around a powerful girl whose special abilities are uncontrolled ... and the reader is hooked.

When Father tells Blackjack of his plans for the future and his twisted ideals, she rebels; and the voice of long-suppressed Samantha emerges into her consciousness and lends her a mutinous strength to defy her manipulator's orders.

Blackjack was supposed to be the first in a series of military ace-in-the-holes, she discovers: "While our best and brightest head off to university, we beg the leftovers to accept our call. Men and women... adults... People whose personalities, belief systems, and work ethics have already been formed through years of the laziness that is civilian life. We take these men and women, and place the security of our nation into their incapable hands. They will fail." "So what is the answer?" Blackjack asks. "You are," he says. Soldiers, raised in the art of their chosen field of battle. Trained in the use of technology for a greater purpose, not a social one. The art of deception."

As Samantha searches for her lost sister Lindsay (and faces the possibility that Lindsay has fallen prey to the same evil objectives as she), Sam also begins a search to re-establish her own humanity despite years of psychological manipulation and experiments.

Childhood Games is all about becoming something greater than your experience - and listening to one's inner voice. Expect a healthy dose of violent confrontation, military perspectives, social issues such as human trafficking, and much more in a tense thriller that weaves its web of intrigue around a believable, feisty protagonist struggling for more than the return of her life.

It's gripping, it's seat-of-your-pants unrelenting action, and it's high adventure that offers different, unpredictable twists to any who would look for a superior, engrossing thriller.

Tomi's Time
Tom Zarzaca
9781610054713, $9.95,

Tomi's Time: In Love and Loss And Rebirth from Bacterial Meningitis is about a baby that contracted bacterial meningitis (the author's son), and follows the highs and low of a family faced not only with their baby's life-threatening illness, but with the disabilities accompanying a partial recovery.

Here's where Tomi's Time departs from other accounts of illness and recovery: it's centered on family dynamics during the recovery process, and how delight in their child's evolving senses (seeing, hearing, touch, taste) turns to horror as their child spikes a fever at daycare and becomes seriously ill over the next few days.

What the author didn't know was that Tomi had meningitis and that a critical 24-hour window for treating his type of meningitis was closing even as they were advised by healthcare professionals to simply "watch and wait". Even ER hospital staff weren't aware of what was going on; and this is one of the messages of Tomi's Time: that when a child falls ill, there are more warning signs than a fever's progression alone. Lethargy and numerous infections were among the indicators that more was going on than a singular event.

But nobody knew, at the time, what little Tomi's fever portended: not until a critical 24 hours had passed and Tomi had gone from sick to critically ill. There were thousands of seizures, a constant battle to keep Tomi alive, and the helplessness and desperation that comes from watching your child battle for his life.

So when recovery was evident and things turned around, the worried parents began to relax until they realized that full recovery was not an option, and that Tomi would live with the disabilities from his meningitis for the rest of his life.

Tomi's Time is as much about adjusting to these disabilities as it is about the initial life-threatening condition Tomi survived. It considers the definition of "recovery" in such a case: "...recovery is what we call this even though it's life-long and ever-changing, for this is recovery in Tomi's time."

Perhaps most important of all, Tomi's Time is all about how to delight in a child's small progresses and return to life, how a family moves forward from this chain of events, and what support resources are available in medical and educational systems.

Any parent who has faced the specter of a child's disability will find Tomi's Time engrossing, pairing the story of one child's sudden changes with his family's recovery process. Decisions made cannot be unmade with a bit of hindsight; but what can evolve is a new appreciation of life and its diversity...and surprising new beginnings that stem from what seems like complete disaster.

The author's ability to maintain hope and belief in the face of all obstacles makes this a winning and inspirational read that will elevate and soothe any parent facing their own child's disability.

My Guide: How to Write a Novel
Rebecca Richmond and Claire Pickering
Richmond Pickering Ltd.
9780957237209, $8.35,

My Guide: How to Write a Novel is the first place a writer should turn to uncover the basics of not just writing a novel, but publishing it. In a nutshell: yes, what you get here, under one cover, is information covered elsewhere ... but in expensive seminars that will far exceed the price of this primer, making My Guide a bargain in comparison. So if you want to write a novel but have no idea where to begin ... begin here.

What, exactly, is covered?

First of all, the basics of inspiration are considered in depth; from an introductory history of the book format to the fundamentals of cultivating a book idea from nugget to germination. Nothing is left to assumption: there's no prior knowledge base taken for granted, and so those who have never written a novel before (but who do have a dream or idea) will receive encouragement that doesn't presume previous experience in either writing or publishing.

First, a caveat: for all its accessibility and lively manner, My Guide: How to Write a Novel is no light treatment of its subject: it packs in eleven chapters, includes a bibliography and an index, and assumes its reader is passionate about the idea of writing, publishing and marketing a novel. So don't expect a 'quick and dirty' overview: chapters move logically and quickly to cover the nuts and bolts, offering specifics and details novel writers must know to see their book in print and develop a readership.

One of the best features of My Guide: How to Write a Novel: its ability to link the writing process to exercises reinforcing basic grammar, punctuation, plot development, characterization, and beyond. This all sounds dry, but it's not: producing a novel that captivates readers is all about providing sequences of events that are alluring and readable; and if grammar is poor, punctuation is off, or action lacking, one's novel will (ultimately) fail.

Chapters move in quick sequence from how to turn initial inspiration into a logical storyline to handling subplots, foreshadowing (providing clues to future events), creating consistent, believable protagonists, and understanding which elements create a page-turner versus a mundane read.

Examples and quotes from successful writings are provided at each step of the process, while concluding chapter exercises encourage readers to produce their own dialogue, scenes and characters reflecting the principles of what they've just learned. These exercises do more than reinforce chapter teachings: they succeed in setting the stage for the next lesson, offering inspiration and successful outcomes to fuel a novice writer's passion for the written word.

What is presented here is a logical system of sequential events that need to take place to produce a successful result - but it's a system couched in creative, inspirational choices rather than dry rote learning.

And by focusing on novel production rather than general writing, Rebecca Richmond and Claire Pickering are able to be specific about the novel's particular elements of (and requirements for) success.

You won't get as much depth and instruction from anything other than a seminar, which not only costs much more than this book, but often packs too much material into a limited time frame.

The advantage of My Guide: How to Write a Novel is that it's available to consult time and again, making it an encouraging, inspirational 'must have' recommendation for any would-be writer who would create their first novel and make it a high-quality achievement.

Market and Sell Books: A My Guide
Rebecca Richmond
Richmond Pickering Ltd.
9781910141014, $15.00 (PB), $1.65 (Kindle)

Market and Sell Books: A My Guide is the next phase of 'how to write a novel': perhaps the most important one, as writers who neglect to market their book (or who fail to understand the process) will only see their title fade into obscurity.

From the first chapter, writers receive specifics that distinguish this guide from more general 'how to market a book' titles. These specifics differentiate the processes of marketing novels versus non-fiction, identifying the successes and pitfalls of social media and online marketing efforts and proffering a specific set of strategies for identifying one's readership and then marketing and selling books to that audience.

No prior marketing experience is assumed; which is perfect, given that book writers generally know little about the marketing end of the publishing business. Chapters thus offer all the basics; from preparing a press release and sending it to the right audience to developing publicity goals, understanding distribution markets, and creating different kinds of accounts for these efforts.

All this is provided in user-friendly chapters that break down the marketing process into a logical sequence of events and enable writers (who are not intrinsically marketers) to enter the world of publicity.

Why is this important? Because there are many more opportunities for self-publishing than in the past, and because self-published authors need to take charge of something usually outside their comfort zone: the selling process.

While Market and Sell Books: A My Guide is most likely to appeal to writers who already have a book in print, it shouldn't be neglected by those who are at the beginning stage of writing a book, whether it is in the idea development stage or nearly done. Writers will find plenty of specifics on how to determine if their book is marketable in the first place and, if not, how to tailor their book for success: invaluable information for those not yet in the publication phase.

Perhaps this is the best audience for Market and Sell Books: A My Guide: pre-publication, while there's still room for change and tweaking. In reading about the marketing and sales process, writers can quickly determine the best approach for creating a marketable result from their efforts, and will learn how to avoid common pitfalls along the way.

Market and Sell Books: A My Guide is perhaps the most important place to begin learning about the process, and is a highly recommended pick for any who would go beyond publishing a book to insure it's ultimately a success. In fact, it's not a bad idea to begin here, even before the 'how to write' book is absorbed. The guidelines provided in Market and Sell Books are intrinsic to the process of creating not just a published novel, but a success.

My Guide: Manage Fibromyalgia/CFS
Rebecca Richmond
Richmond Pickering Ltd.
9780957237216, $9.35

My Guide: Manage Fibromyalgia/CFS is both an autobiography of the author's struggles with fibromyalgia and an overview of the condition, and is a recommended guide for any who suspect they might have fibromyalgia.

Now, most books on the subject adopt a medical focus; identifying symptoms, discussing the condition, and offering a few keys to its management. In contrast, My Guide: Manage Fibromyalgia/CFS offers a LOT of keys to its management after introductory insights on its medical progression, making this book a 'must' for any who would take a more active role in successfully handling fibromyalgia's challenges.

Chapters focus on recovery and managing everyday life, and offer a range of techniques the author found successful in her own life. These vary from meditation and visualization routines to nutrition, linking diet and mental health to fibro's progression and offering hands-on hope for readers who have struggled (with few results) with traditional medicine.

Breathing exercises, TAP applications, handling sleep difficulties, and addressing flare-up symptoms after exercise are just some of the fibro-specific practices readers can employ to make their lives easier.

Each discussion is cemented by the author's own experience, and each offers a combination of medical overview and specific answers on why a management approach or technique works.

Chronic illness (especially one as misunderstood as fibromyalgia) can be challenging to manage and at times a feeling of hopelessness adds to the suffering: by personalizing the management process with tested routines proven successful in the author's own life, My Guide: Manage Fibromyalgia/CFS goes far beyond discussions by medical professionals and those without personal experience.

One particularly startling revelation is key to the idea: "Do You Really Want to Recover? This might sound like a strange question and I guess just the fact that you are reading this book means that you do want to recover. So it might surprise you to discover that not all sufferers will want to recover. This does not make them crazy or bad in any way - it is simply that fibromyalgia/CFS has become such a big, important part of their life that it is now meeting one or more of their emotional needs."

As a starting point for understanding fibro and its control, My Guide: Manage Fibromyalgia/CFS should be at the top of any self-help program and is recommended for any who want to manage (and, ultimately, recover from) its debilitating effects.

Mental Mastery of Chemotherapy
David R. Nethero
9781610054744, $12.95,

Mental Mastery of Chemotherapy: A Guide to Meditation and Positive Mental Imagery is written by a cancer patient who successfully used and developed visualization and meditation techniques to combat the side effects of chemo over a period of six months, and is especially recommended for cancer patients new to meditation.

Coming from a survivor, the account carries with it the authority of one who tried numerous approaches to cancer and pain management before successfully handling the effects of chemotherapy.

Now, one might not believe meditation and mental imagery could make much of a difference to chemo's side effects. And that's part of the problem: without an understanding of how this works (and at least some confidence that it will work), much of the beneficial possibilities of meditation can be lost in uncertainty.

So, ideally, Mental Mastery of Chemotherapy should be consulted early in the process for maximum benefit.

And lest you think this is only a subjective story, be advised that David Nethero includes contributions by psychologist Dr. George Pratt, who lends his expertise in mind/body techniques to supplement the story of how Nethero maintained a positive, effective mindset during the battle against his cancer.

Introductory chapters consist of autobiographical reflections on Nethero's life (both pre-cancer and after diagnosis); but readers will be especially interested to learn that 'nuts and bolts' guidance is intrinsic even in these chapters, which move quickly into how to work with doctors and segue neatly into later chapters covering Nethero's introduction to meditation, its applications and discoveries, and how meditation actually affects the entire body and mind.

To this end chapters juxtapose Nethero's insights with blank lines and direction inviting reader reflection and self-inspection, encouraging readers to analyze their own feelings surrounding the process of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Because the chapter covering 'My Meditation' is deemed the most critical part of his book, a YouTube link to a video is also included to visually supplement the written word. Here are actual exercises personally tested by Nethero that blend positive mental images with advice on how to 'customize' the process. Thus, readers almost receive personal one-on-one instruction in tailoring techniques for their unique needs and personalities.

Central to this approach is the fill-in blanks (titled 'Self-Reflection') throughout each chapter. Be advised: if you don't intend on considering this read an interactive experience, you should look elsewhere: its primary value lies not just in providing information (other books already cover these basics), but in developing an approach that leads cancer patients to create their own successful meditation and visualization routines.

In this, Mental Mastery of Chemotherapy excels, creating a set of customizable, tested exercises that any reader can easily absorb and apply to their own unique experiences and needs.

No health collection should be without this practical, accessible key to gaining control over what might seem an uncontrollable situation!

The Universe Builders
Steve LeBel
Argon Press
ISBN-13 (ebook edition): 9780991055418 $5.99
ISBN-13 (print edition): 9780991055401 $16.95

It's not often that fantasy combines with side-splitting humor, but this is present, in abundance, in The Universe Builders, which is based on the premise that there are 'many universes' run by a variety of gods with different personalities and purposes.

Now, this whimsical idea may offend the deeply religious: but after all, The Universe Builders is meant to be a humorous spoof, not serious reading! And with this focus in mind, readers are introduced to the newest graduate of God School, Bernie, perceived by his instructors as lacking appropriate purpose. Despite his failings Bernie is given his first job (building a sun with three planets to manage) - and this is where things get dicey.

There's a demanding overseer god, Shemal, there's school rival Billy, who plans to destroy Bernie's creation with volcanoes and asteroids, and there's an entire god-centered industry based on The Business of building universes. Of course, there are rewards for excellent universe-building (the Annual Universe Awards) and young god Bernie is a new graduate, hoping to achieve success in his first real job outside of God School.

Do gods fall in love? Graduate? Face obstacles from other Gods? Absolutely! And how does a God do his job well, against all odds? Passages are hilarious and involve readers in a seemingly-impossible series of tasks that become more complicated at every turn: "Bernie sat in stunned silence. He'd done everything right. These volcanoes should not be here. He'd done nothing to make them happen. Even if he had, they would have shown up when he did his time check. Yet, here they were, and they had destroyed his plant life and poisoned his world."

The fact that Bernie is still testing the waters of Universe Creation makes for a vivid, moving story packed with fun and which will especially appeal to teens and adult fantasy readers who enjoy entertaining action, vivid protagonists, and clearly-defined purposes: "As Bernie considered the problem, he thought back to his dad's universes. Simeon hadn't created companion creatures. He said in his book he didn't want any distractions for his primary life forms. That didn't feel right to Bernie. Shouldn't there be a higher purpose than just looking good? Isn't it important for creations to enjoy living? Shouldn't they have meaning in their lives? Some sort of purpose? What else was living for? He knew most gods would laugh at him for wasting time on such questions. But still, the questions troubled him. He wanted his world to make sense. He wanted his people to understand their place and to live happy lives, content knowing they are fulfilling some higher purpose. He spent the morning thinking about higher purposes and companion animals. By lunch, he had no answers, but he was confident he was asking the right questions. As long as he did that, the answers would come."

What's better than one universe? Two! Bernie faces many obstacles as he plans his worlds and his future as a god; in the process honing not only his own abilities, but his capacity to inject intelligence and safety into his universes. And when he decides to break the rules, Bernie faces the specter never achieving what his goals, let alone creating an award-winner.

The result is a powerful, amusing story of overcoming impossible obstacles, facing down bullies, and building worlds: a top pick for teens and adults interested in not just straight fantasy, but unique stories filled with unpredictable action!

Married with Luggage: What We Learned About Love by Traveling the World
Warren and Betsy Talbot
ES Scott Publishing
1230000232745, $7.99
Book website:

Married with Luggage: What We Learned About Love by Traveling the World isn't what you think, from its title: just one more reason why you should never judge a book from its cover alone.

Yes, it's about travel; but it's also about packing (and unpacking) emotional baggage en route, and it follows the emotional ups and downs of a relationship as much as the physical journey of discovery.

Another surprise: when the authors embarked on their trip, they were about ready to give up on their marriage, too: not your usual time to plan a year-long sojourn. They were uncertain not only about each other, but about whether they could fix all the things that were wrong between them.

So, anticipate not your usual "went there/did this" type of travelogue, but a richer examination of a relationship gone awry and repaired by the process of travel and new discoveries experienced in the first year of a long journey.

Married with Luggage is divided into three sections: an introduction to the authors and their marriage struggles, a second section focusing on travel experiences, and a closing section on the 'life lessons' of love and relationships that were the side benefit of travel. As such, it's as much a love story as a travelogue, and charts turbulent journeys on all levels.

There're a lot of intimate revelations involved in such an endeavor, so anticipate a story replete with candid personal insights and emotionally-charged scenes. To make the whole process easier, it comes from the observations of Betsy Talbot alone.

One outstanding virtue of Married with Luggage is its ability to segue neatly between travel adventure and relationship insights so that readers of either self-help or travelogues will find it equally satisfying: no mean fete, given these audiences are usually quite different!

The atmosphere incorporating discovery on many levels is always involving: "We woke up in the middle of the night covered in a layer of grit. I blinked my eyes a few times, trying to orient myself. Then I remembered: we were camping on the southern coast of Turkey. My next thought: "Is the air this salty near the Mediterranean Sea?" It took only a second more to realize the grit wasn't salt but sand."

And that's the greatest strength of Married with Luggage: Talbot's ability to involve readers in a multi-leveled journey that integrates life-changing exploration on more than one level: "As the sun set, we talked about our hike, our life, and the grand adventures we'd have before it was over. Little did we know the adventure would escalate that night. At 1:30 in the morning, we began discussing our situation, neither one wanting to express just how scared we were. It was like two strangers making small talk about the weather in an elevator. Can you believe this storm? Yeah, crazy isn't it."

It's almost as if the reader is packed into the luggage along with the writers, following their progress and coming full-circle to a place where individuals and their dreams are valued as much as the relationship between them.

Anticipate a vigorous examination of journeys, ideals, and lifestyles in a world exploration that helped the authors re-assess themselves, their relationship, and their ultimate goals in life: an inspirational and exciting read indeed!

Land of the Free
Woodrow Landfair
Harbinger Book Group
ISBN: 9781940500355
eISBN: 9781940500119, $24.95

Land of the Free is a different kind of novel, and will pique the imaginations of any who want a candid shot of American culture as seen through the eyes of a nameless (yes, I said nameless) protagonist who leads a nomadic lifestyle.

Now, plenty of novels have presented the story of a protagonist who embarks on a journey across America: one of the most notable being Jack Kerouac's On the Road. What differentiates Land of the Free from many of its competitors is that its story is based on author Woodrow Landfair's real-life experiences: thus, the scenarios and encounters assume a realistic tone that many such stories just can't match.

Land of the Free is as much autobiography as it is a novel: it's travel adventure at its best, it's introspection at its deepest level, and it's as much the story of American culture and evolution as it is about the protagonist/author's explorations.

But wait, there's more: the protagonist harbors the ability to fib his way into just about any profession. Thus, his entry into the world of a traveling road show leads to his rapid advancement up the rungs of a ladder of lies and into the spotlight of national television - and it's here that the story really shines.

Having built such an elaborate web of lies and a persona that doesn't really exist, our hero finds himself caught in a spider's web of complexity, and when he attempts to flee his fabricated life it's not to become a hero, but a wanted criminal.

Add a coast-to-coast chase, encounters with a myriad number of characters who each foster their own illusions and lies, and an evolving search for the truth about America and self and you have a read which is thoroughly engrossing in spite (or, perhaps because) of featuring a nameless protagonist.

Writing is tight, dramatic, and involving and deftly narrates the dilemma of a character caught in his own trap: "For publicity, for money, for fame, for the inflation of my ego, for the advancement of my dreams and my dreams for others, I turned my life into the ridiculous stack of pages in my hands. None of this ever really bothered me before, but as I stare into the mirror, I can't recognize my face. I can't remember my past."

There's equal emphasis on the stories and lies (some big, some little) of others he encounters, with a measure of humor thrown in for good measure: "In the back room, Manuel filled the Grey Goose bottles with discount vodka. Roberto set mousetraps in the pantry. The hostess did her little dance with the customers: "We bake all of our own bread, and our dessert chef makes a wonderful tiramisu from scratch." She referred to the supply closet by a much grander name: "Let me call back and see if we have that year in the wine cellar."

From little discrepancies come great lies - and from great lies greater evils emerge in the world of America and the protagonist. Under such circumstances the finer lines between hero and villain, between truth and reality, and between illusion and fact create a confusing vortex that swirls around a small-time adventurer who inadvertently becomes a personality to be reckoned with.

The protagonist's journeys and dreams are vivid touchstones reflecting the uncertainties of the nation and individuals alike: perhaps this is why the writing is so compelling, holding the ability to spark reader self-reflection in turn: "In my mind I see an aerial image of the planet, with a zoom lens gradually gaining focus on the Northern Hemisphere and getting ever closer. I see the United States of America. I see the northeast. I see Maine. I see the coast. I see myself. I see myself."

If you're expecting a standard story of cross-country travel, think again. Land of the Free is so much more; and its ability to involve readers in a quest for personal AND national understanding makes it a top recommendation for any who want an engrossing, unique perspective.

The Trader - Man With No Face
R.K. Mann
Shia Press LLC
9780991594207, $7.99,

If it's a vivid science fiction read you're seeking, that opens with the bang of a man who awakens to discover essential body parts have gone missing - then you'll find yourself hooked from the first few paragraphs of The Trader - Man With No Face: "His hands fumbled over his face. His eyes and ears were gone. Of his mouth and nose, only holes remained on the flat plain of what was left of his face."

There are actually two central characters in this absorbing story: the now-faceless trader and Maranth, a healer-slave who began her career as a healer in the mining colony of Addeht, but who is enslaved and charged with caring for her captors on Afthar, the slavers' colony.

When the faceless man appears among them, she's ordered to care for him too, and an unusual bond develops between them fostered by their shared mutual goal of escape.

Expect a book which holds mystery, action, romance and intrigue; all set against a backdrop of complex protagonists and situations.

As the faceless (and nameless) man and Maranth find their ways in this strange world, so readers follow their evolution and encounters. But this is no light adventure story: R.K. Mann devotes quite a bit of attention to fully describing aliens, technology, and the trappings of a very different world, and this attention to detail pays off with scenes that are unusually sharp and realistic: "The man gingerly lay down and watched anxiously as Doc swept him with an eyelike, blinking device, bathing him in blue light. The diagnostic light was silently accompanied by a highly sensitive ultrasound scan and, most importantly, an extremely sensitive sniffing intake that let Doc detect a myriad of illnesses by sampling the molecules coming off the patient."

Maranth's skills and feisty personality allow her to escape some of the worst horrors of enslavement, including rape; but she's ever at risk in her position and so she's highly motivated to join forces with this new stranger to make her getaway.

As the two realize both shared goals and some real differences, they also probe the deeper meaning of life beyond simple survival and escape plans: "The only center of balance in this great and terrible life lies inside - here." He lightly tapped her chest." The connections forged from adversity will last over the years and even beyond their separation; and both will be reborn by their experiences on Afthar, in a manner that will lead them on separate journeys toward meaningful lives.

Most stories end with escape from adversity. The fact that The Trader - Man With No Face continues its saga beyond escape and into the wider-ranging process of recovery sets it apart from other science fiction stories.

Add depth of character, vivid descriptions of place, and the meeting of two diverse protagonists and cultures makes for an engrossing read that's hard to put down and that offers no easy, predictable route along its trail of adventure.

Don't Hit Me!
Vanessa de Largie
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00JPYD02W, $3.99

Don't Hit Me!: A Fragmented Journey Through Domestic Violence presents its disclaimer right in its first sentence: "If you're looking to read a conventionally written book about domestic violence then this book is NOT for you. This book is untraditional and unconventional: it's a true diarised account of my time living with an abusive man from 2001 to 2003. It does not unfold as a normal story would instead it unfolds as a real story did."

And so the tale begins, made all the more touching and realistic because (it should be noted) this is not a grammatically polished, cleaned-up or sterile presentation but a vivid collection of the author's journals kept as one of her survival mechanisms during this period of brutality. As such, they represent source materials documenting the daily sadness and trails that make up domestic violence scenarios.

Because domestic violence is erratic and journal entries varied, it's not necessary to follow Don't Hit Me! like a typical book: just open it anywhere and read. That's one of the attractions of a format that will especially appeal to readers who eschew the usual storybook 'beginning-middle-end' organization, and who want a breezier way of absorbing the story. And what better design for this than the journal, which excels in vignettes and scenes independent of one another, yet connected in theme and experience?

Another notable difference: each vignette is labeled with a heading of just a single or a few words that depict feeling and experience - so readers flipping through Don't Hit Me! will readily be able to choose between such accounts as 'Controlled', 'Repetition', 'Dream', 'Denial', or 'Lost'.

Expect an emotionally-charged set of digestible, vivid reflections and scenes that ultimately capture the thoughts, hopes, dreams, and devastation of a woman who daily faces domestic battery under her own roof.

No other book on the subject captures the bare-bones process of survival as does Don't Hit Me!: hopefully readers in similar circumstances will not only recognize the pain, fear and anger, but will come to understand the process that ultimately led Vanessa de Largie to become a survivor instead of a statistic.

Highly recommended for any who would delve into the often-hidden thoughts and world of the chronically abused.

Mommy A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the Joys, Wonders, and Absurdities of Motherhood
Meredith Peters Hale
Meredith Peters Hale, Publisher
No ISBN, $5.99

Mommy A to Z sports a cover that looks like a children's book and an A-Z format reminiscent of a child's primer; but that's where its similarity to a children's book ends, for this is directed to mothers, not their kids.

It comes from an author who always dreamed that her first book would be a novel and a literary masterpiece. Reality often takes different directions, however, and motherhood led Meredith Peters Hale to write about the process she knows best: being a parent.

There are an overwhelming number of books already on the market covering parenting techniques and 'how-to' advisories for first-time Moms; so what's special about Mommy A to Z?

For one thing, it condenses and presents its information in a format very accessible to overwhelmed, harried new Moms. And, most importantly, it is intended not as the usual advice guide, but as a hilarious look at the ironies and inconsistencies of motherhood itself. And in this arena, it's truly a masterpiece that stands out from the crowds of moms writing about the parenting process, capturing the extraordinary moments of motherhood in succinct chapters.

Short entries are designed to neatly fit into a busy mom's limited attention and time span for reading, while A-Z chapters and their subtitles make it a snap to flip pages and pick up the book for a quick dive into leisure reading ("K is for Kids' Clothing", "V is for Vacations", "Q is for Questions, Quiet").

As for the writing itself: a dip into 'C for Conception' captures the gist of Meredith Peters Hale's fun approach to all her topics - even the most serious: "...while trying to conceive may offer its fair share of tender moments and risque midday romps, it also involves a certain amount of calculation and perseverance. So, the next time you are interrupted mid-act by a screaming baby who can't find his binky, or a toddler in hysterics because his nightlight has burned out, and you wistfully yearn for those wild and crazy trysts you had trying to conceive your first beloved offspring, know that, in reality, your love life changed the moment you even thought about having kids."

There are fun, real moments from a real-life family's child-rearing and there are simply hilarious moments that point out the underlying joys and fun of encountering small hearts and minds.

And, there are sage observations about the effects of culture on the parenting process: "...I have to admit that movies have provided entry to some difficult concepts in our house. As much as I hated the Mufasa conversation, whenever my daughter has subsequently encountered death - whether in real life or in fiction - I've explained that the deceased is "in the stars with Mufasa." Somehow this has allowed my daughter to vaguely grasp a concept that otherwise would have been explained by Mommy as "umm." And I guess that's what these movies do. They make difficult situations a little less scary, gradually introducing kids to ideas that might otherwise overwhelm them."

Anticipate a fun read that doesn't overwhelm but does provide thought-provoking reflections along with insights, all presented in an inviting, accessible format to invite parents to look to Mommy A to Z for a bit of battery-recharging fun.

The Taste of Murder
Trisha Sugarek
9781497590854, $TBA

The Taste of Murder is Book 5 in Sugarek's 'The World of Murder' series (previously acclaimed by this reviewer as a tight, compelling series that builds powerful scenarios and believable protagonists) and is especially recommended for prior fans of the books who want a continuation of the same successful devices employed in the previous titles: emotion-driven protagonists and a whodunit scenario that puzzles readers as much as the characters doing the investigating.

With its dash of romance, culinary-based intrigue, and a New York City setting, The Taste of Murder is as riveting as its predecessors and offers much to newcomers as well as prior fans.

And having the subject be a culinary competition mystery is perfect timing, by the way, given current TV viewer interest in cooking show competitions (which are proliferating - sans murder scenarios, of course!)

The story opens on the set of a cooking show competition where four chefs are charged with using ingredients from three mystery shopping bags. All is progressing smoothly ... until a world-renowned chef/judge keels over dead.


The next scene takes place at the police station, where O'Roarke and his partner Stella Garcia have just been handed the cold case of Chef Jeff's death from 2011. But the duo doesn't do cold cases, so why has this one landed on their desk with special direction by their Captain? It seems politics is involved; but when O'Roarke and Garcia do some sleuthing, much more is at stake than the wishes of a new mayor to see closure on an unsolved mystery.

As their probe into an old case turns up more and more suspects and possibilities, so they find themselves probing film directing, culinary cook-offs, and long-dead motives for murder that return to life during the course of their investigations.

From a gay lover to a jealous wife, there's lots of motivation for murder and emotions run high: it's up to Garcia and O'Roarke to sort through the maze of connections and angst to sort out the identity of the real murderer.

Fans of mysteries in general will find The Taste of Murder holds all the trappings of a good yarn, tightly bound with the personalities and motivations of the two investigators themselves. While old fans will find O'Roarke and Garcia's methods familiar (and just as engrossing as in prior books), newcomers will find this book also stands well alone and assumes no prior knowledge of protagonists and past events to prove a satisfying, compelling mystery read.

The Historical Jesus, My Gnostic God and Me
John Turnbull, J. D.
Privately Published
978467579841 $TBA

The Historical Jesus, My Gnostic God And Me: A Labor of Love is collaborative nonfiction in the loosest sense of the term, in that the Holy Spirit led John Turnbull to write this book (basically a survey of Jesus' history within and outside Biblical reference). Any Christian reader or historian with an interest in Bible-based historical record will find it a well-researched consideration worthy of attention.

Years of intense study have gone into this effort, as his son attests to in the opening introduction. It should also be said that the book invites readers to analyze text and confirm the author's own sources and conclusions; not just blindly follow his logic.

And his research points to a complex fact, indeed: "...these sources, taken together, contain evidence, or clues, supporting a conclusion that there were opposing groups whose diverse ideologies were used to create a Jesus who would urge the members of these groups to both obey and disobey the commandments set forth in Judaism's Holy Scriptures, the Torah. The evidence also supports a conclusion that Luke, the accepted author of the third gospel and the Book of Acts, recognized this diversity and tried to resolve it by making the members of these diverse groups' believers in the Gospels' Jesus and members of a Christian Church in Jerusalem. If my construction of the historical record is valid, Luke's effort constituted a perversion of history that Christian scholars have swallowed hook, line, and sinker. "

With this introduction in mind, scholars and Bible students should anticipate chapters supporting these contentions; presenting Biblical references that dispute other scholarly contentions about specific religious groups, that help readers "logically question" the ideas of 'experts', and that offer many eye-opening statements and with backing evidence: "Luke's Acts of the Apostles distorted history by having Judaism betray its God and his Torah."

Those who would obey without thinking, who would accept any historical contention without question, and who would be fooled by dogma and ritual with no need to question authority, should look elsewhere.

John Turnbull, J. D.'s The Historical Jesus is as much about cultivating and fine-tuning the questioning and examination process as it is about re-creating a different version of Jesus than is commonly portrayed... and here is where his analysis shines.

Chapter after chapter summarizes history using not only Biblical background, but references outside the Bible, spiced by the author's own insights and (more importantly) keys to how he arrived at his conclusions: "The struggle is between the two spiritual beings, the Prince of Light and the Angel of Darkness, between truth and falsehood, between good and evil. Since this is a Zoroastrian belief and is not reflected in Biblical Judaism, I submit that it was among the hidden mysteries revealed to the Interpreter who belonged to a group of Jews whose ancestors had been influenced by the Zoroastrian religion while under Persian rule."

From circumstances and promises surrounding the Day of Visitation to how competing (and sometimes seemingly- opposite) ideals and visions have a place in history ("There can be no doubt that both the Teacher and the priesthood considered Barabba/Jesus to be one who had lead all Israel astray and labeled him a liar and deceiver, but he did not see it this way. He allegedly believed that it was possible for the two concepts to live side by side (Matt.13:52)."), Turnbull time and again supports his contentions with Biblical passages and the historical analysis of other scholars through the ages.

It should be evident by now that although The Historical Jesus is accessible to lay readers, it is by no means a 'light read'. Quotes are numerous, the cultural, social and historical events surrounding Jesus are accompanied by numerous in-depth references, and any who anticipate a light or quick read should look elsewhere.

This is serious scholarship at its best: often-radical contentions thoroughly supported by a combination of source materials, Biblical reference, and personal insight: "I see these two passages as another example of Luke's effort to have the Way of the sect and its Mashiyach be the same as the Way of Paul and his Jesus Christ. As noted, I cannot see how Apollos and his brothers could be so knowledgeable about the preaching of a John the Baptist around 32 CE and not have heard of the life of the Jesus whom John allegedly had baptized in the Jordan River. This is especially so if, as all four of the later Gospels maintain, Jesus had on that occasion been anointed by the Holy Spirit and declared by a voice from heaven to be the son in whom God was well pleased. Had there been a historical John, who had become less so that Jesus might become more, I doubt that his experiences in Judea would have been carried to Alexandria unaccompanied by the story of Jesus' miracles, together with the belief that he was the Son of God and had fulfilled messianic prophecy. But most scholars have no difficulty accepting it as historical fact."

So if it's a scholarly, in-depth analysis that is sought, filled with passionate attention to historical detail and spiced with the author's own conclusions - all supported by referenced materials in an extensive bibliography broken down by 'Gnosticism', 'The New Testament', and more - then consider The Historical Jesus a treasure trove of research that offers more than a plateful of food for thought. In actuality it's an entire supper, rich in specific details and well-supported content and highly recommended for any interested in the life and purposes of Jesus.

Murder on the Hoof
Gayle Carline
Dancing Corgi Press
0985506083, $14.99 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle)

If it's a horse story combined with a romance that jazzes you, then Murder on the Hoof promises to trot away with your heart, and is the item of choice for any who want a steamy love story and murder mystery, served up equestrian-style.

Willie Adams is a young widow out shopping not for a man, but for a horse; so it seems inevitable that she'd encounter a catch in both, with a handsome horse trainer helping overcome her reluctance to the notion of dating again.

There's no time for romance to bud, however, when she finds another potential suitor (who has been less than pleasant) dead in her tack room, sparking an investigation that draws Willie into a battle to protect her reputation and her business.

Add an attraction to the detective investigating the case and a series of seemingly-chance discoveries that seem to point to her as the perp and you have a fast-paced story indeed.

Now, blending romance and mystery to cross genres and reach both audiences is not an unusual approach. What is unusual here is the equestrian atmosphere combined with not just one romance, but overlapping layers of attraction between various protagonists - all centered around the uncertain Willie, who is entering the dating scene after a long hiatus, and only just beginning to realize the emptiness of her life without a mate: "Hank had been gone for three years now, leaving her a widow at barely thirty. The good news was there were no children to raise without him. The bad news was she would have adored raising his children. Photographs and videos couldn't be hugged in the middle of a bad night, and her memories of their carefree marriage did not feel like much of a legacy."

Gayle Carline creates scenes that are high-charged and appealing, including the insights of male protagonists as well as the central female figure: something that rounds out the action and special interests quite well: "Her breath was a soft breeze in his ear as she confessed her innocence, and he could almost feel the strength of her heartbeat, pounding like a horse's hooves. In that moment, he could have easily wrapped his arms around her and never let her go."

It's refreshing to note that the horse scenes are just as well detailed as the romance: "Willie pressed Chester and started him jogging, too. Most horses were bumpy at the jog, but Chester was like riding a Cadillac with really good shocks. She could feel his back end rise and fall, but his flat knee action kept him floating instead of ramming each foot into the ground. After her recent injuries, she was especially thankful." It's this attention to detail that round out the mystery/romance plot with a believable setting and additional insights: much needed devices too often lacking in the romance genre, but more than present in Murder on the Hoof, where equine experiences are a strong emphasis. It's obvious Carline knows her horses!

Life's ironies and changes are well presented in the story of a young widow who thinks she's going to a horse show to buy a horse, but who buys romance and danger instead. Readers seeking more than one-dimensional descriptions of on-and-off passions will find Murder on the Hoof just the ticket, steeped in the ironies, twists, and multi-layered emotions that make for a realistic, absorbing read.

41 Strange
Diane Doniol-Valcroze & Arthur K. Flam
Amazon Digital Services
9780615979359, $3.99

If the short-short story format (and by this, I mean 3-4 pages of reading) is an attraction and diverse plots and subjects are of interest, then take a look at 41 Strange: it excels in vivid opening lines and peculiar dilemmas, and packs a lot of punch into a very few pages.

This is the mark of the superior short story; but the goal too often falls short in this format, which only has a few pages to pack in plot, character, and meaning. And if you think this an easy task, think again: read through 41 Strange and then take a look at some of its competitors.

While you'd think it would be easy to build a setting and memorable character with a few quick strokes of the pen - it's actually not. Having a very limited amount of words in which to build a memorable story with beginning, middle and end, a strong protagonist, and enough meat to make the reading memorable is a big challenge: one more than well met in 41 Strange.

The opening act, 'Staircase Man', sets the stage for what promises (and delivers) a powerful set of vignettes: it's about a peeping Tom - but actually is so much more.

The descriptions, for one, are spot-on and engrossing: "At night, with the aid of a flashlight and magnifying glass, scanning the tread and rise of the steps for hours, I could not detect the hairline seams that distinguished his wedged-in body from the real steps. That's how insidiously disguised he was. How seamlessly he fit interlocked into the "stairwell jigsaw puzzle."

As the protagonist struggles with a threat that plagues him (which other building tenants can't see), readers are treated to exquisite tension that is expertly depicted in just a few words: "One cold November, I resolved to kill the staircase spawn..."

Lest you think this opening gem is a singular occurrence, look at any of the other stories in 41 Strange - say, 'Cut It Short', in which a door-to-door salesman peddles something nobody else has ... a customizable calendar. Much like Ray Bradbury's famous 'The Illustrated Man', his calendars tell a story and entwine their readers in terrible tales which grab victims such as innocent Betty, who normally has a routine to dissuade all salespeople who come to her door.

Macabre, engrossing, and well-done: if you like the ironies and drama of 'The Twilight Zone' and appreciate the short-short story form with a literary focus that excels in unexpected concluding twists of tale, 41 Strange is very highly recommended!

The WishKeeper
Maximilian Timm
Lost King Entertainment
9780991063208, $2.99

Readers of fantasy who appreciate multi-volume sagas will want to dip into Volume One of 'The Paragonia Chronicles', The WishKeeper, while keeping in mind that the action and story is just beginning, and to be continued.

Now, everyone knows the teen years are a time of rebellion: but what if you're a teenage fairy always searching for adventure? What if you've already spent nine years wishing for something exciting to happen? And what if, in a land of wishes and WishKeepers, your wings, your dreams, and your mother have all been torn from you?

That's the opening situation of The WishKeeper, recommended for young adult to adult fantasy readers and chronicling the coming of age and dilemmas of Shea, who has learned to live with crushing disappointments at an early age, and who recalls, all too vividly, heartbreaks of the past: "There are signposts to every memory; checkpoints that Shea forced herself to remember so that the in-betweens of that particular night were never forgotten. The bleeding red of her father's tunic as he said goodbye to his wife just before she destroyed the True Love Wish."

Ten years later Shea is still broken, both in spirit and in her non-working wings - and has become a handicapped daughter who struggles with memories of violence and limitations in her present life: "She rarely looked up at the sky anymore, and thus embraced what the ground had to offer, taking solace in how little it changed. It was nice to see things that didn't judge her or force her to change or remember a birthday she hated to remember."

All this is about to change, and in more ways than one. Shea gets her wishes: some from unexpected places. That's the wellspring of The WishKeeper, which centers on how Shea finds her heart's desire and develops newfound purpose to her life.

The WishKeeper begins with a focus on lost love, dreams torn asunder, and rebellion; but evolves into a satisfying fantasy adventure as Shea confronts a series of obstacles well outside her comfort zone and becomes involved in battles, confrontations with traitors, and dangers from the past which wing their way towards her once again: "Goren and Foster were fighting the fierce storm, hovering with their wands held high. The one thing she had avoided with every bit of pained effort for the past ten years was the memory of Erebus and his torture, but there he was, in all his blackened glory."

Soon Shea is immersed in a battle that moves far beyond her personal concerns (and the world she knows so well) to spill into the politics and very existence of her kingdom. At the heart of it all lays a demented, dangerous WishingKing, a broken bond between vanished mother and daughter, and a journey towards apology, reconciliation and healing.

All of these personal elements weave together to create an engrossing plot packed with action and, more importantly, strong protagonists who each face their own broken dreams with an eye to fixing what is wrong.

And that's the unifying force and strength behind The WishKeeper: a series of adventures and encounters that allows characters room to develop into living, breathing protagonists the reader will care about.

As with any series title, its conclusion is uncertain, leaving the door wide open for the next book. Unlike many series titles, however, there's enough resolution to allow The WishKeeper to stand well on its own; and that's a huge 'plus' in the genre of series fantasy novels, making it a fine recommendation for young adult to adult readers who want their fantasy stories packed with ripping action and memorable moments.

Guitar Odyssey
Michael Rays
9781311993670, $4.99

GUITAR ODYSSEY: A JOURNAL OF MUSICAL GROWTH represents Michael Rays's personal journey as he evolves from an amateur guitarist with the passionate goal of learning to play Deep Purple's "Highway Star" to a real guitar player: a project that would take an unexpected two years of hard work and musical evolution.

There are many, many books on the market seemingly covering all aspects of guitar-playing, from how to choose an instrument to workbooks for chords and playing. Guitar Odyssey is a horse of another color, however, offering a rare glimpse into the efforts and frustrations of a would-be musician who had only some basic playing under his belt before attempting what turned out to be a formidable challenge: "I am going to learn the guitar solo from Deep Purple's "Highway Star," even if it kills me. I have played guitar since 1989. It's the end of 2011, and I'm tired of not having anything in my bag of tricks with a serious "wow" factor. That is going to change. Just as mountain climbers go up Everest because it is there, so will I learn every note of Ritchie Blackmore's masterpiece - because it is there, and because it is awesome."

Anticipate a journal filled with candid, revealing specifics throughout this learning curve: "I'm starting to wonder, though, if the toughest thing about this solo is actually the string bending. Going up a full step using just your pinky is no cakewalk."

That Michael Rays actually kept a session-by-session journal outlining his progress through the years is a tribute to not only his tenacity, but his ability to document, step-by-step, the entire process of learning to master a challenging piece of music.

With its narrowed, specific focus on "Highway Star", fellow guitar players receive exact insights on the special requirements of learning a complex piece: "I did several full-speed run-throughs with the CD today. I'm starting to pay attention to subtle things like right-hand picking technique (straight up and down vs. slightly angled, which seems to produce more of the smooth, legato feel I'm after) as well as my left-hand thumb position atop the neck as I play the string bending section. If I consciously move my thumb up the neck (to the right) just a bit, I seem to have an easier time getting the string bends just right. But it's delicate: too far up the neck (we're talking a quarter inch or so) and all kinds of sloppy mistakes start happening."

From false summits where the author seemingly reaches a breakthrough (then becomes 'stuck') to revelations and small successes, Rays creates a chronicle of growth that will immerse and inspire fellow guitar players who have their own 'impossible' playing goals and aspirations: "Overall, the solid efforts continue. There has been no magical "Aha!" moment; rather, the mistakes and the sloppiness are melting away bit by bit. Note of interest: After almost twenty-one months, tonight I finally realized this solo only uses strings 1-4!"

The result details the intimate moments - the successes, the revelations, the failures, the breakthroughs and stagnant moments - of one guitar player whose journal serves as a testimony highly recommended for other aspiring guitarists who yearn to break away from amateur status to achieve excellence.

The Containment Zone
Danielle Singleton
Danielle Singleton, Publisher
1499204434, $2.99 (ebook); $10.99 (paperback)

Ordering links:


The scenario is very familiar for an apocalyptic novel: a mysterious epidemic sweeps the U.S., nearly 90 percent of the population dies off, and the U.S. closes its borders: nobody is allowed to enter or exit the country.

And that's just the opening of The Containment Zone: for what happens within the borders of a closed land is really the heart of the story; and within this heart lies a cast of survivors determined to arrive at the truth of what has happened and why.

Where other doomsday stories would focus on events leading up to the containment, this one moves quite quickly through disease symptoms, early warnings that it's a fast-moving problem, and the rapid spread of a disease from one school worker through an entire town and beyond. It's a wildfire that can't be contained: a disease that offers not a single clue to its origins, and which brings down otherwise-healthy people within four days of infection.

But how does one create and manage a containment zone the size of Europe? Singleton's focus on both the human and political aspect of such a project makes for a gripping narrative that presents two simultaneous stories: that of individuals struggling to get a handle on a disease that could eliminate humans from the planet, and that of politicians directing one of the most massive survival efforts in history.

It's hard to say which thread is more engrossing: together the two streams of action keep readers immersed in a series of plausible scenarios cemented by a logical progression of plot and thought processes that ultimately involve everyday people in extraordinary measures.

Individuals who survive find themselves changed by life-threatening events and extreme efforts ("The news broadcasts typically concluded with some sort of human interest story. Earlier, before the Shorewood outbreak, they were Ricardo's favorite part of the program. A handicapped little boy who won a sporting contest or a young mother finding a creative way to bring about a better life for herself and her children. But now, ever since the pandemic began, Dr. Capello didn't like the human interest stories. And yet, the interviews with people who escaped the US or still had family members there inspired him to keep working hard to find an answer for the deadly disease.") and it's this attention to small details that make The Containment Zone a such a vivid account.

More so than other apocalyptic novels of rampaging disease, this story's human and political aspects collide in a satisfying saga of struggle, creating scenarios in which survival often ultimately, tentatively emerges in spite of as much as because of the radical containment measures in place.

While the overall plot has been done time and again, it's these subplots covering individual and political processes that make The Containment Zone unique, compelling, and hard to put down - and highly recommended even for those genre fans who might believe they'll all too easily predict the chain of events stemming from a USA-wide wildfire disease. Be forewarned: you won't. And it's the surprising twists that make this novel stand out, placing it high in the genre of apocalyptic fiction.

Crushing Low Stakes Poker: How to Make $1,000s Playing Low Stakes Sit 'n Gos, Volume 1: Strategy
Mike Turner
Sit 'n Go Publishing
9781499168785 $4.97 (Kindle) / $9.97 (paperback)

Amazon Kindle:
Amazon Paperback:

Volume 1 of a poker how-to guide, Crushing Low Stakes Poker: How to Make $1,000s Playing Low Stakes Sit 'n Gos, will appeal to any poker player who has some playing time under his belt but who wants a specific, strategy-oriented guide to this particular style of poker playing.

It's not for the casual once-in-a-while player, but for the serious poker enthusiast interested in improving his game and making some equally-serious side income. Beginning to intermediate players with this goal in mind will relish the instruction in Crushing Low Stakes Poker.

Now, there are plenty of poker books on the market; plenty of guides on how to play the game ... so it's surprising to note that most gloss over the topic of low stakes poker playing, which makes Mike Turner's guide a key acquisition for any poker player.

Don't expect a quick read here (as the title should tell you): this is simply the first volume in a series, and as such, it offers a narrowed focus on Sit 'n Gos: profitable single-table tournaments that begin as soon as enough players are at the table. Because Sit 'n Gos are flexible, easier to play than the bigger multi-table tournaments, and rely on a strategy that is fairly straightforward, they are the ideal starting place for poker newcomers.

That's not to say you can sit down and win: not without understanding the game; and that's where it pays to have read Crushing Low Stakes Poker from cover to cover. The book shares Mike Turner's secrets and proven-successful strategies and begins with an overview of basic poker concepts that are an intrinsic key to understanding the game.

As chapters move from discussions for bare-bones beginners to explanations of general strategy approaches and specifics for Sit 'n Go players, readers receive support that ranges from written explanation to a review of websites and tools for further research, plus three low-stakes strategy training videos that use slides to help explain plays.

From terminology to the basics of strategy, nothing is assumed and nothing is left to guesswork. With this book under their belts, novices can dive right in and absorb the game, while those with poker-playing experience can benefit from its focus on Sit 'n Go particulars and how to profit from game plans.

Mike Turner's tone and approach to plays is revealing and specific: "It may seem a bit silly to over-shove 1,390 chips into a 370 chips pot, but when you're convinced your opponent is not capable of folding trips when he thinks he is slowplaying a monster, you just have to go for it: play the hand fast and ship it in."

And his approach to resources goes beyond your usual bibliography to assess the value of specific tools and where it lies: "Probably the best feature of this type of software, however, is that you can use a Heads Up Display or HUD. A HUD is an overlay of on-screen statistics, providing you with a detailed insight into the playing style and tendencies of your opponents while you play. This makes it a lot easier to pinpoint and exploit the leaks in your opponents' game. A HUD is especially useful if you're multi-tabling, in which case you don't have the opportunity to get a lot of reads on the other players."

The chapters on progressive learning, improvements, and winning poker plays make for a lively read packed with detail. All the strategy and theory necessary to make a success of playing Sit 'n Gos is here: the only thing up to the reader, after absorbing these guidelines, is to take all this valuable information and just play!

Global Cultural Trivia
Ramona Moreno Winner
BrainStorm 3000
9780965117487, $8.00

Educators, parents, and kids in grades 7-12 will find something different in the ibook-only presentation Global Cultural Trivia: it's an ebook publishing format which stands out from the crowd not just because it's ONLY available in ibook format, but because it's highly interactive. Translate this to mean highly entertaining and accessible, especially for normally-reluctant readers who are captivated by screens!

The first thing to note about Global Cultural Trivia is that it focuses on daily cultural encounters most Americans don't fully understand or appreciate, and it encourages acceptance and celebration of these cultural differences by linking history with popular interactive images.

The opening chapter 'The Hamburger', for example, holds a map of Mongolia and China that can be blown up to full-size color with just a tap of the finger while accompanying history explains the hamburger's unexpected connection to Mongolia as well as its better-known German connection.

Various popular American food groups are all pursued, from tacos and pasta to French fries, with colorful maps pairing such diverse connections as international trade routes from 1400-1800 with appealing, colorful food images.

There are chapter 'fact checks' and easy reviews, a bibliography of references which are all hyperlinked to websites for further information, and many cultural insights from around the world.

The second chapter, for example, covers Oral Hygiene - quite a leap from food - and considers the history of tooth cleaning around the world. Students can research different roots, barks and dental aids common in different cultures and will learn about the cultural differences in current oral hygiene. From the earliest recorded toothbrush in China to a fun interactive section on boar bristles featuring wild boar facts and the opportunity for close-up examination of said bristles, this delightful format keeps on surprising.

Perhaps that's the greatest strength of Global Cultural Trivia: by choosing an interactive format, it mimics the Internet's ability to take advantage of the brain's capability of 'jumping' from topic to topic without the usual linear progression of more limited book/paper formats.

This, in turn, encourages excitement and involvement on quite a different level, taking full advantage of all the tools of the Internet and expanding the subjects and references to a truly global platform.

Wedding Traditions, Birthday Celebrations, even Name Origins and the Origins of Mathematics: it's all here, in a format that clearly states lesson objectives and applications so that teachers and homeschoolers can not only easily grasp but can teach students about cultural influences in modern American culture.

The result: an interactive teaching tool that is vibrant, rich in content, backed fully by and integrated into the power of the Internet, and highly recommended for any educator pursuing global cultural studies at this level!

Before Summer
H. Arlo Nimmo
Prairie Avenue Productions
9781493637614, $16.00

Before Summer is an excellent collection of coming-of-age short stories that adopts an unusual format in describing the life of one Lachlan McLennan, beginning in 1940 when he is seven years old and ending in 1956 with his college graduation.

Lach grows up in a small Iowa farming community (Tools Rock) and his world and experiences come to life as he slowly grows to understand and accept his homosexuality and what it will mean for his life and his standing in the community.

Each story stands well alone but adds to the overall profile of Lach - which is one of the delights of H. Arlo Nimmo's book. It's rare to see the short story format used so deftly: the strength of the short story to build up not only the protagonist's profile but the lives and concerns of those close to him makes for a rare opportunity to delve into the psyches of all concerned; not just the protagonist's viewpoint.

What this means is that the stories center as much upon those who influence and touch his life as upon the evolution of Lach himself as he becomes not just a 'gay person' but a gentle man.

Now, readers used to an undercurrent of high drama in accounts of gay lives may be disappointed here: there's more of a placid path chosen than high adventure or rampaging emotions; and that's just one of the strengths of the collection.

By eschewing emotional drama in favor of mild evolutionary processes, H. Arlo Nimmo provides a moving series of explorations and encounters which (taken individually) fill in the daily nuances of people's lives and which (taken together) create an overall portrait not just of Lach's growth, but of the community's interactions as a whole.

Understanding is promoted as much as adversity; resolution is highlighted as much as strife. And so the short stories evolve themselves as Lach ages from boy to man, focusing on the daily lives of ordinary people as they all struggle to understand their choices and paths in life: "When children come along that makes a difference. For a while anyway. They provide diversion. But when they're gone, the husband and wife are stuck with each other. They spend the rest of their lives looking across the breakfast table wondering who will die first so the other can have some freedom."

There's irony (as in the elderly, friendly Miss Cotter's unexpected action and fragile friendship with Lach), there are deaths and births, and there are all the small interactions of ordinary folk who each give Lach a piece of wisdom with which to consider his own world.

The result doesn't hold the powerful 'bang' of many coming-of-age or gay novels, but offers a slow buildup of character and setting, each story contributing to the overall buildup until the exquisite tension and real-world culture and perspectives of small-town Iowans comes to life.

In the end it's not only Lach that evolves; it's the reader. All achieved here, in Before Summer, with deft, accomplished creations of plot and character that make the short story format (like a well-done painting that looks simple but layers complexity into its subject) simply shine.

Diane Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

Murder In Merino
Sally Goldenbaum
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451415363, $24.95,

In Sea Harbor, Massachusetts, the Seaside Knitters agree to knit something special for member Nell Endicott and her husband Ben as they celebrate their fortieth anniversary. Besides the gala and afghan for the Ruby Anniversary of her aunt and uncle, owner of the Seaside Knitting Studio, Izzy Chambers Perry places on the market the cottage she lived in until she married Sam.

Stranger Jules Ainsley offers to buy the somewhat rundown cottage with a jungle foliage backyard sight unseen to the shock of its owner, her friends and family. The outsider's persistent questions about Sea Harbor and her jogging in all types of weather also add to the belief that Jules is a harmless lunatic. However, when Ocean's End co-owner Jeffrey Meara's corpse is found murdered in the yard of Izzy's cottage, Police Chief Jerry Thompson suspects Jules. The knitters look for a motive until they conclude the reason for the homicide ties back to something that happened several decades ago.

The latest Seaside Knitters mystery (see Angora Alibi) is a delightful leisurely-paced cozy that enables series fans to catch up with what is happening to the members, their spouses and the rest of the townsfolk. The freshness comes from the enigmatic Jules, whose eccentric behavior even before the homicide has the locals and readers wondering what is rattling inside her head; while she turns Murder In Merino into an enjoyable whodunit.

The Blonde
Anna Godbersen
Weinstein Books
345 Hudson Street, 13th floor, New York, NY 10014
9781602862227, $26.00,

In the outer rim of Los Angeles County, due to a lack of funds, Norma Jean's mother and "aunt" took in boarders. One of them Perry warns pretty but shy Norma Jean not to trust men and that one day soon he promises to teach her to defend herself from brutes. Not long afterward, Perry not only shows her how to use a gun; behind the scene he turns Norma Jean into the star actress, Marilyn Monroe.

A dozen years after he launched her career, Perry comes to collect. He asks her to gather information on Massachusetts Senator John Kennedy, a rising political star. To sweeten the pot, Perry says he will arrange for Monroe to meet her father. Monroe leaves New York for Chicago, where she meets Kennedy at a restaurant. They begin an affair as he runs for and wins the White House. However, his ascendency changes Monroe's mission into destroying the JFK presidency with the tryst and much more ending in Dallas.

Although the premise of MM Soviet sleeper agent seems over the top of the Hollywood sign as the execution fails to come across as plausible, readers will enjoy The Blonde due to Anna Godbersen capturing the Hollywood-DC complex and the portrayal of lonely Marilyn Monroe. The support cast is solid (in both locales) while The Blonde, pretending to be a naive moron to hide her true intelligence, keeps the entertaining storyline focused even as Camelot takes a super hit.

Monday Monday
Elizabeth Crook
Sarah Crichton Books
c/o Farrar, Straus & Giroux
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780374228828, $26.00,

On a hot day in August 1966 as the Mamas and the Papas sing Monday, Monday, Marine veteran Charles Whitman carries weapons to the top of the bell tower at the University of Texas at Austin. Using his high ground position as a sniper, he begins shooting at those on the plaza below; killing sixteen people and wounding over thirty more before the police shoot Whitman dead. Student Shelly Maddox watches a person she knows die near her while she is shot in the breast and arm. In class, Wyatt Calvert hears the shots and looks out the window to see the blood and gore. He calls his wife to tell her to stay where she is before rushing out, and joined by his cousin Jack, to rescue those injured including Shelly, but Wyatt takes bullets in his legs.

That fatal day forges a bond between the cousins and Shelly; as each struggle with emotional traumas, and Wyatt and Shelly with physical scars. Over the next four decades, the trio finds their lives changing, but each knows that Monday Monday in 1966 remains the lethal pivotal moment that shaped who they became.

This is a powerful epic that makes a strong case that survivors of a mass shooting never fully connect with others except for those who were there and never move on; as even those like the cousins who displayed courage under fire remain haunted. Over forty years before the Virginia Tech tragedy, Elizabeth Crook captures the harrowing impact of the Texas Tower mass murders that becomes imprinted in the souls of those who lived through it and the loved ones of those who did not.

Bone Dust White
Karin Salvalaggio
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250046185, $24.99,

Eleven years ago, the corpses of four Eastern European females were found in Collier, Montana. The prime suspect Leanne Adams vanished leaving behind her six year old daughter Grace. The murders were never solved and Leanne never found.

In the present, a fearful Grace recovers from a heart transplant when someone comes to the door of her home. Peeking out of a window she watches a knife-yielding man assaults and kills a woman; who turns out to be her mom whom she had not seen in over a decade. The police are delayed answering her frantic 911 call, but paramedics Peterson and Carson arrive at the harrowing scene.

Soon to give birth to her first child, Montana State Special Investigator Macy Greeley looks into this homicide that appears tied to the cold case in Collier though she prefers out of the investigation besides shortly being due, Leanne was her sister-in-law. Additionally, the cop fears Grace could be next so though she prefers no involvement, Macy wants to protect the teen while making inquiries in a town with no compassion.

Bone Dust White is a strong grim Big Sky police procedural as readers get a close look at a town whose last thriving industry is meth production. Character-driven by for the most part the uncaring local residents, readers will appreciate this entertaining whodunit though we ironically will solve the case much earlier than the pregnant detective and her "partner" Peterson.

Harriet Klausner

The Heart's Pursuit
Robin Lee Hatcher
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310259275, $15.99,

In 1873 bounty hunter Jared Newman, accompanied by a prisoner, arrives in Twin Springs, Colorado on the same day that charming rat Bob Cassidy jilted Silver Matlock. Silver's father Gerald explains to his disbelieving arrogant second wife Marlene and his fuming daughter that business has been poor lately and though lacking legal proof he believes Cassidy stole a large sum of their money from a land sale that was to pay off the mortgage and other debts. The runaway fiance left the Matlock family teetering on the brink of financial ruin with no options left.

Sheriff Cooper introduces Silver to Jared as a person he can recommend to her. Cooper persuades Newman to help Silver though the bounty hunter's motive is to collect a small fee while waiting for the money due him from his prisoner; deep in his gut he knows the murder of his sister back in Tennessee is why he accepts the commission. Over his objection, Silver joins Jared as he hunts her former fiance. While on the trail together in Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada, the daughter of the town's leading family and the bounty hunter fall in love.

The Heart's Pursuit is a wonderful inspirational western romance as two apparent opposites share in common a thirst for avenging justice and eventually love. Although the storyline goes as expected with the exception of a lad they meet on the trail, readers will feel we are traveling with the lead pair during the Reconstruction Era in the Rocky Mountains Old West that comes vividly to life in this entertaining tale of forgiving one's self.

The Given
Vicki Pettersson
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062066206, $14.99,

In Las Vegas, angel-human Grif Shaw reads the Tribune story on the accidental shooting death of septuagenarian Barbara McCoy. In 1960, as he died from a knife to the gut, McCoy said "Both Shaws got what they deserved"; which led Grif to assume his wife Evie died when he did. Now the P.I. knows Evie survived his death and still lives. Although he realizes he has hurt badly his current love reporter Kit Craig with his obsession to find his spouse, Grif planned to interrogate McCoy before she died in a shooting accident.

Meanwhile Kit uncovers an ugly nursing home plot while Grif knows why he was murdered. With Kit's help, Grif investigates the rest of his personal mystery, but a horde from beyond willing to kill him try to thwart him from succeeding in learning the truth.

The third Celestial Blues romantic urban fantasy (see The Taken and The Lost) is a terrific, twisting and taut thriller starring a hard boiled 1950s detective with a soft boiled heart and his loyal beloved reporter teaming up on his cold case murder. With a somewhat convoluted but exciting storyline, fans will appreciate this entry as the Bible says "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"; but not in the way Grif (or readers) anticipated.

Closed Doors
Lisa O'Donnell
9780062271891, $26.99

On Rothesay west of the Scottish mainland, eleven year old Michael Murray lives in a new house that his Ma thanks Prime Minister Thatcher for building while his Da loathes the PM for caring only for the rich as he insists her excursion in the Falkland Islands proves. One day his Ma comes home with a severely bruised face. She tells her concerned son she fell while fleeing from a flasher.

The tweener initially accepts this explanation, but as time passes something seems wrong because his Ma seems too depressed for just a bad tumble running from a naked pervert and his Da displays temper he never had before; their fights frighten the child. Knowing the only way a child can learn the truth from concealing adults is by clandestinely listening while they argue behind closed doors. He hears his irate Da insisting they tell the police what really happened because the townsfolk believe he physically abused his wife; while Michael's Ma refuses as she does not want to become labeled a foolish victim who got what she deserved. Bewildered Michael struggles to know what changed the demeanor of his parents.

Closed Doors is a tense Thatcher Era Scottish family drama in which a dark pivotal moment radically changes the relationship dynamics. Whereas the adults go out of their way to hide the incident from their son because they believe he is too young to deal with the harrowing truth; the lad goes out of his way to uncover what really happened to his Ma. Readers will empathize with Michael as his fear-driven imagination of the unknown running out of control wild; and his family poorly coping with victimization following a heinous assault.

Queen of the Dark Things
C. Robert Cargill
Harper Voyager
9780062190451, $26.99

In Austin, Texas Colby Stevens suffers from PTSD after he and his BFF Ewan successfully escaped from the Fey's Limestone Kingdom only to have to fight and defeat the fairy horde's invasion from their realm. However, the cost was exorbitant with the death of Ewan and the knowledge that others know of his skills (see Dreams and Shadows).

Thus six months later, Colby has become a semi-recluse. At the same time while the American grieves and broods, in Australia tweener Kaycee accepts that the mundane normal world ignores her as a loser due to physical disabilities and blemishes. However, in the dreamworld, no one dares ignore powerful Kaycee. Diabolical demons use their respective rush to fight attitudes without data to cause Colby and Kaycee to confront one another; while also ignoring their real adversaries who threaten both of them, Austin, America and the world.

The second Colby thriller is an enjoyable urban fantasy filled with deep metaphysical debates on life and death, and other conditions. Having witnessed death, aware that evil exists and feeling alone since his abductee peer and BFF died, brooding (until the escapades begin) Colby is much grimmer and darker than he was in his debut. Readers will appreciate the action-packed Queen of the Dark Things while wondering along with the protagonist who this ethereal monarch is.

The Man With The Lead Stomach
Jean-Francois Parot and Michael Glencross (translator)
Gallic Books
c/o Meryl Zegarek
9781906040123, $15.95,

In 1761, gunshots are heard by family and staff inside the locked bedroom of the son of the Comte de Ruissec. Although the evidence overwhelmingly points to a suicide, recently promoted to Commissioner (due to his excellent handling of the Lardin affair; see The Chatelet Apprentice), Nicolas Le Floch believes a homicide occurred by a brilliant killer who brilliantly staged the death.

Comte de Ruissec refuses to cooperate with the police inquiry into his son's death, but he uses his being part of Princess Adelaide's retinue to try to end the investigation or at least thwart the inquiry. Though there is pressure on Le Floch to stop the case, his boss Sartine warns him to tread extremely carefully as he deals with the non-cooperating or misinforming aristocracy in Versailles and less so amidst the brothels and theaters of Paris. When the Commissioner learns the deceased owed an exorbitant gambling debt that forced him to end his relationship with an angry actress in order to become engaged to a wealthy older woman; he ponders whether the motive lies somewhere in the victim's recent relationships.

The second Le Floch eighteenth century French police procedural is a strong investigative historical starring a wonderful protagonist who has come a long way from his country bumpkin start. Readers will enjoy Le Floch's inquiry into what appears to be a suicide though the cop and his assistant Inspector Bourdeau lean towards a locked room murder.

How's The Pain?
Pascal Garnier, author
Emily Boyce, translator
Gallic Books
c/o Meryl Zegarek
9781908313034, $12.95,

Elderly Simon Marechall has spent a lifetime as an exterminator, but knows killing vermin is a young person's game. With bodily aches and much more persuading him it is time to retire; Simon has one last commission in Cap d'Agde to complete before he hangs up his guns permanently.

When Simon becomes ill on the way to his final job, he stops in Val les Bains. He meets twentyish Bernard Ferrand as both sit on a bench. Bernard explains he is in town visiting his mom while on medical leave recovering from an accident that cost him two fingers at work. Simon hires Bernard to drive him to Cap d'Agde so he can complete his last mission though the exterminator also accepts he will die hopefully not before he closes out his last vermin contract kill.

Readers will relish the late Pascal Garnier's graveyard humorous dark French noir. The traveling companions are an odd coupling of a dying mentor instructing his young chauffeur that exterminator and vermin have multiple connotations. Fans will enjoy their road show as nothing goes in accordance with Simon's farewell tour plan.

Harriet Klausner

Mirror Sight
Kristen Britain
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408794, $27.95,

In a confrontation inside the primordial Blackveil Forest, Sacoridia Green Rider Karigan G'ladheon manages to dispatch malevolent Mornhavon the Black into another age, but the wicked magic released by their duel also sends her two centuries away. She awakens inside a fully sealed stone tomb with her air supply rapidly running out.

Karigan escapes to learn that magic seems to have all but vanished as the Serpentine Empire has crushed her beloved kingdom. She also finds out her fate; as the myths record a Green Rider named Karigan G'ladheon disappearing without a trace within the Blackveil Forest while on King Zachary's quest to defeat Mornhavon the Black. As Karigan struggles to adapt, she knows she must find a way home to her time, but first obsesses over liberating her kingdom's descendants from the tyranny of evil essences; of whom she knows most, firsthand from previous encounters with them many decades ago.

The fifth Karigan epic fantasy (see Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb) is a terrific entry made fresh with the heroine in a new era and though it is her homeland, she is A Stranger In A Strange Land (Robert A. Heinlein). Although fans should at least read Blackveil to better understand how the protagonist became a future legend due to her mysterious vanishing, readers will appreciate the return to Sacoridia; albeit a future even darker place than the one we and the protagonist are very familiar with.

Dragon Princess
S. Andrew Swann
Daw Books
9780756409579, $7.99

Mediocre thief Frank Blackthorne fled Grunwald after a failed theft that has cultists seeking his head and also leaving behind a master debt to the Thieves' Guild after the money collector vanished with his fee and that of others. He reaches Lendowyn; a kingdom in which most people are passing through like he wants to; except Frank ran out of cash with an ocean between him and his destination. With a choice between volunteering for sea duty that ends in death or chains, walking the coastline that never ends, or getting drunk hopefully that never ends; he chose some local poison.

While intoxicated, the Kingdom of Lendowyn Court Wizard Elhared the Unwise offers the drunken Frank an offer if sober he would refuse. Elhared hires Frank to rescue Princess Lucille from a minor dragon in return he will receive money and safety from the stalking cult. However, when the thief catches up with the not as advertised humongous knight-eating dragon and the royal prisoner, misused magic leads to undesirable body swapping. Frank resides inside of Princess Lucille; she land inside the dragon; and you don't want to know what happened to the thief's body. To return to normal (though Frank wants a bit more pampering), the fuming fiery Princess and the soused thief need each other in their pursuit but the path is cluttered with no allies and many cutthroat enemies including the Dark Lord Nātalc.

This is an amusing lighthearted quest fantasy that uses the concept of movies like Freaky Friday to tell a fun tale through the filter of a mediocre thief. Though the premise is not new, readers will enjoy this Visa Versa body swap tale due to Frank's frank reflections.

Alien Collective
Gini Koch
Daw Books
9780756407582, $7.99

During a peaceful protest against an anti-alien presidential candidate, the cops detain in a paddy wagon American-Centaurion Ambassador Kitty Katt-Martini, her mother-in-law, her child, several Alien Dazzlers, Culver, Representative Gagnon-Brewer and several humans mostly males. Instead of a holding cell, they end up receiving a warning that a deadly gas threat imperils those at the Centaurion Embassy. Kitty believes the attacks on the A-C immigrants has arisen again because the favorite to win the presidency Senator McMillan selected her husband appointed New Mexico Congressman Jeff Martini as his running mate.

Besides having to behave like a potential Second Lady, Kitty fears the persistent media and the opponents' researchers will dig up dirt on the A-C populace, her husband and her. She also worries that her enemy the unidentified Mastermind remains free seeking allies amongst the Yates brood that Kitty must locate first but lacks vital information since their data base was hacked and destroyed. Even worse, a super powerful being has arrived as a judge, jury and executioner to determine whether the populace proves worthy of life.

Starting with a scene reminiscent of the Marx Brothers cabin scene in A Night At The Opera and throughout combining mirth with mayhem, the ninth Alien science fiction (see Alien In The House and Alien Research) is a zany thriller. Fast-paced, series fans will enjoy the escapades of Kitty and her mixed retinue as they close in on the Mastermind (mindful of Agents of Shield's super villain The Clairvoyant), a judgmental deadlier threat, and even more perilous to the heroine exposure as wife of a VEEP candidate. Fans will enjoy this amusing over the top of the Washington Monument tale.

Alien Collective
Gini Koch
Daw, May 6 2014, $7.99

During a peaceful protest against an anti-alien presidential candidate, the cops detain in a paddy wagon American-Centaurion Ambassador Kitty Katt-Martini, her mother-in-law, her child, several Alien Dazzlers, Culver, Representative Gagnon-Brewer and several humans mostly males. Instead of a holding cell, they end up receiving a warning that a deadly gas threat imperils those at the Centaurion Embassy. Kitty believes the attacks on the A-C immigrants has arisen again because the favorite to win the presidency Senator McMillan selected her husband appointed New Mexico Congressman Jeff Martini as his running mate.

Besides having to behave like a potential Second Lady, Kitty fears the persistent media and the opponents' researchers will dig up dirt on the A-C populace, her husband and her. She also worries that her enemy the unidentified Mastermind remains free seeking allies amongst the Yates brood that Kitty must locate first but lacks vital information since their data base was hacked and destroyed. Even worse, a super powerful being has arrived as a judge, jury and executioner to determine whether the populace proves worthy of life.

Starting with a scene reminiscent of the Marx Brothers cabin scene in A Night At The Opera and throughout combining mirth with mayhem, the ninth Alien science fiction (see Alien In The House and Alien Research) is a zany thriller. Fast-paced, series fans will enjoy the escapades of Kitty and her mixed retinue as they close in on the Mastermind (mindful of Agents of Shield's super villain The Clairvoyant), a judgmental deadlier threat, and even more perilous to the heroine exposure as wife of a VEEP candidate. Fans will enjoy this amusing over the top of the Washington Monument tale.

Sparrow Hill Road
Seanan McGuire
Daw, May 6 2014, $16.00

In 1952 Buckley Township, Michigan, Bobby Cross used as his fee for immortality his soul and the vehicular murder of teenager Rose Marshall when he ran her off of Sparrow Hill Road. Over the next six decades since Cross killed Rose, he has slayed many others. During those the same sixty plus years, there have been numerous sightings of a young woman hitchhiking and stopping at the Last Chance Diner for a malted; most Michiganians believe the hitcher is Rose, the Ghost of Sparrow Hill Road among her other nicknames.

Rose feels strongly that her mission is to help the newly deceased quickly adapt to the afterlife. On a personal level, she also hunts Cross who has sent so many (starting with her) to their grave before their time should have been up as remittance for his evil young existence.

Sparrow Hill Road is a great ghost tale told in four interconnecting "Books" with Rose holding the storyline focused even while the plot deftly leaps between several different years. Readers will enjoy Rose's chronicles as she helps those like Larry the Trucker move on; while she also learns that true love never dies, and life and death (regardless of when) are a circle in her case on Sparrow Hill Road.

A Season Of Change
Lynette Sowell
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426753558, $14.99,

Still grieving the losses of his wife Hannah and their third child during childbirth; yet also knowing his two other young kids need a change as the three mourn deeply, Amish widower Jacob Miller takes them from Ohio to Pinecraft in Sarasota, Florida where he has family. However, his brother Ephraim pressures Jacob to consider Betsy Yoder as a wife since two children need a maam. The family's fun of ice cream at Christmas time ends when a car hits his daughter Rebecca; so Jacob's Florida stay will extend into next year while his offspring heals.

Twenty-five years old Englisher Natalie Bennett's aerial artist days ended with a severe knee injury. Now she performs as Bubbles the Clown at the children's corridor of Sarasota General Hospital. There she meets Rebecca, her brother Zeke, her aunt and uncle, and Jacob. The widower and the clown are attracted to each other and he offers to help Natalie find her maternal Amish roots when she mentions her mom left her family and community years ago. However, as they fall in love, both believe nothing can come of their relationship as each resides in polar different worlds.

The first Seasons in Pinecraft Amish romance is an engaging family drama starring a solid cast who bring alive this real place where Amish Snowbirds come for the winter. Although readers know how this will end, this is an enjoyable storyline as the two adults struggle to find common ground besides love while knowing there is no compromise solution.

Out Of The Ruins
Karen Barnett
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426780578, $14.99,

In 1905 San Jose, California, Dr. Greene informs the family of Cecilia Fischer that she is dying from leukemia. Her distraught sister Abby prays to god for a miracle, but also threatens the Lord with never speaking to him ever again if he allows her sibling to die. While their Mom Clara struggles with accepting the death of one of her daughters as moms should pass away before their children; their despondent Papa Herman calls Cousin Gerald who says doctors in San Francisco are experimenting with a potential cure.

Gerald and Dr. Robert King drive to San Jose in the former's new car to conduct a physical of their new patient. However, Gerald sees how weak his cousin is and has little hope for a cure as he believes they are too late. Still the family and the researchers agree to try. In San Francisco, Robert uses the recently discovered X-ray as a treatment, but Cecilia dies anyway. Attracted to Robert, a grieving Abby needs time away from him; but an earthquake devastates the city stranding her alone struggling to survive and God not answering her prayers (from the fiery trenches).

The first Golden Gate Chronicles is a wonderful inspirational historical that asks the question why God allows bad things to happen to good people. The background look at experimental medicine and road conditions for cars before the quake, and the city during and after the deadly tremors in the first decade of the twentieth century are powerful. Although the drama feels like two related novellas rather than a cohesive storyline, readers will appreciate this enjoyable tale.

All My Belongings
Cynthia Ruchti
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426749728, $14.99,

In Willow Lake, ashamed of the notoriety caused by what her reprehensible father did to her ALS-suffering mother that led to her testifying against him in court; twenty-seven year old Jayne Dennagee begs the nursing program director Patricia Connor to let her continue her studies. The nontraditional student explains that she understands money is tight in spite of her also working two jobs but her grades have been good. Instead Connor suggests that she start over somewhere far from her family.

Her friend and mentor Geneva Larkin offers Jayne a job to help her beloved dying from Alzheimer's sister Aurelia live to the fullest as long as possible in Oceanside. Accepting the position and using the name Becca Morrow, Jayne travels across much of the country. Becca likes her patient and is attracted to Aurelia's businessman son Isaac Hughes, but expects nothing to come of her feelings for him. Her effort to reinvent herself falls apart beginning with her father pleading that he needs her and followed by Aurelia's questionable death in which Becca is the prime suspect. She has no time to grieve her latest losses, which she assumes includes her BFF Geneva and the love of her life Isaac.

All My Belongings is a strong inspirational drama that stars a person who feels like a modern day female Job being tested by God yet also finds the strength to embrace the Lord. Her role as caretaker brings out the emotional and physical rewards and stresses of work that can be simultaneously uplifting and down-spiraling. The romance feels in some ways unnecessary but also adds a third positive relationship (along with God and Geneva); as readers will relish this entertaining profound drama.

Red Mansions
Cynthia Drew
Daniel & Daniel Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745576, $15.95,

At the turn of the century, following the Cossack burning of their Jewish village Lucava and murder of their parents for their dad's seditious activities; teen Carsie Akselrod and her tweener sister Lila escape with help from disgraced Cossack Mikheladze and tavern owner Max Siegel. The siblings make it to New York living in the overcrowded Lower East Side and working at the Triangle Waist Company. Max joins them and marries Carsie (see City of Slaughter) who fulfills her dream by opening up a millinery shop and raising two daughters Sarit and Sophia.

During WWI, Max joins the military and dies overseas. His grieving widow eventually marries wealthy Chat Nussbaum who becomes a loving stepfather to Carsie's daughters while living in affluent Red Mansions. When the Great Depression devastates America leading to the closing of her shop, Jews like Carsie and her family are hit additionally hard because of their religion.

Though it behooves the audience to first read City of Slaughter to learn more about Carsie's Russian roots, Red Mansions can stand alone as an excellent historical fiction that focuses on a Jewish immigrant's life in New York during WWI, the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. Once again character driven by courageous Carsie; who watches loved ones suffer or learn they died along with her dreams, but still she holds her head up high trying to be there for those she cares about.

Mom's Night Out
Tricia Goyer
B&H Publishing Group
127 Ninth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37234-0143
9781433684821, $15.99,

Allyson tells her husband Sean that she is living her dream of being a stay at home mother to their small children, but though she cannot explain why she feels unhappy. He wisely says she never takes a timeout to pamper herself and suggests Allyson and her BFFs enjoy a Moms' Night Out.

Mother of twins, Izzy learns she's pregnant; but instead of euphoria she is depressed. Izzy knows her husband Marco can't cope with their two children so will take the news poorly of another rug rat. Izzy looks forward to a Moms' Night Out.

Pastor Ray's wife Sondra hides her true feelings from her husband and his flock, and she thinks even herself. She believes her teenage daughter is the only who sees through her masquerade. Sondra looks forward to a Moms' Night Out.

The three amigas hit the town, but in spite of planning that the Pentagon would envy, nothing goes as expected starting with the wrong reservation date and Bridget's baby Phoenix vanishing while inside a tattoo parlor. For the three stay at home amigos watching the kids during the Moms' Night Out, nothing goes the way they thought it would.

This novelization of the movie is an amusing yet at times profound look at family dynamics summed up by Allyson and Sean kissing passionately when one of the kids interrupt their interlude. Fans will enjoy this engaging lighthearted frolic; as Robert Burns wrote in To The Mouse: "the best laid plans of mice (moms) and men often go astray"; while in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller: "If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it" (life).

Treasure Planet
Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476736402, $15.00,

In Thoma'stown on Wanderland, since the lessocks killed her husband, human Widow Cartwright owns and runs Lord Templemount Inn with some help from her son Peter. One of the inn's guests is elderly Skel, who enjoys the rum and telling bloody tales of yore. Skel hires Peter to keep him informed when strangers come to the bar.

A telepath enters the Lord Templemount demanding Peter, setting up alone, tell him where Skel is. Peter's friend Kzin young one, Marthar Riit, enters and orders the telepath to leave, which the intruder does. The telepath accosts Skel who takes care of business. Soon afterward, a blind Kzin arrives and gives Skel something. After the Kzin leaves, Skel dies without paying his room, board and bar bill. Inside his room, Peter finds an encrypted map to the banned world Garth; an orb allegedly filled with technological gizmos worth a fortune on the black market. Marthar's dad Orion obtains a ship and crew, and with his daughter, Peter, Dr. Lemoine, Judge Jorg von Thoma and human scientists set off to this Treasure Planet with pirates led by infamous K'zarr the Kzin, hated by both sides in the recent war, in pursuit.

Placing Treasure Island inside the Larry Niven Man Kzin universe some years after the hostilities on Wanderland are officially over leads to a wonderful outer space adventure. Although readers will know what happens next; as Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox pay homage to the Robert Luis Stephenson's classic with close adherence to the original storyline though with a fresh locale, Treasure Planet is an entertaining unique Man-Kzin thriller.

Secret Of The Stars
Andre Norton
9781476736747, $14.00

"Secret of the Lost Race." In JetTown, Port of N'Yok, Joktar the orphan works as a dealer at Kern's SunSpot casino when a sweep shanghaied him as slave laborer bound for another world. However, before being deployed, an Intergalactic Scout accuses Joktar of murder, which leads to his exile to the galaxy's worst hellhole, iced Fenris to toil and die in the vile mines. Knowing his fate if sent into this hell, Joktar flees for his life taking a chance on surviving the frozen tundra rather than the relentless men in gray who fear he learns the truth about his heritage.

"Star Hunter." At the Starfall dump in Nahautl's starport, Vye Lansor works as a swamper cleaning up puke, crap, blood and body parts from the lowlifes who frequent this dive. Ras Hume the Out-Hunter hires Vye to join his next safari on Jumala, but hides his real interest in his new recruit. He and his partner know that the Heir Rynch Brodie died during a crash on Jumala that no one survived; they plan to use a memory-altered Vye masquerading as Rynch who upon bringing him home will make them rich. On Jumala, though Vye has some strange memories of having been there as the heir, but he also retains other conflicting thoughts.

Forerunners of later series, these are reprints of two fun five-decade plus old outer space operas in which the respective worlds seem real. Readers will root for the orphaned protagonists to survive the dangerous planets and their much more powerful adversaries.

The Sea Without A Shore
David Drake
9781476736396, $25.00

On the Bantry Estate on Cinnabar, Intelligence Service Chief Bernis Sand orders CIS Cyberspy Adele Mundy (accompanied by Tovar) to travel to dangerous Corcyra to keep the spymaster's troublesome son Rikard Cleveland safe while he hunts for rumored ancient treasure. Mundy's friend Republic Cinnabar Navy Captain Daniel Leary (backed by the Sissies) goes with her. Before they depart, Daniel's sister Deirdre Leary also asks a favor of Mundy pertaining to her brother.

Various rivals want control of the mines on Corcyra. Hostilities have made the planet unsafe for anyone but especially the foolhardy risk takers like Cleveland with a war seemingly imminent for possession of the valuable mining deposits. Though Leary has no official mission as the Cleveland scenario belongs to his friend; nonetheless he and Mundy struggle to broker a peace.

The tenth RCN Saga (see What Distant Deeps) is an entertaining outer space thriller starring two polar opposites in personalities. The freshness comes from the greater focus on fascinating Mundy as her soliloquies on death, life and relationships (with Leary, Tovar, Miranda and those the spy killed) are insightful. Although the efforts on Corcyra seems lightweight compared to the war and keeping the peace with the Alliance (see The Road of Danger), readers will appreciate the brisk role switching as Leary supports Mundy on a planet about to implode.

Murder And Mendelssohn
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202469, $24.95,

In 1929 in St. Kilda, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson loathes asking for the help of the Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher with his investigation into the murder of orchestra conductor Hedley Tregennis, but knows he is out of his league when it comes to noticing little things at a musical rehearsal. A fan of Mendelssohn, Phryne agrees to escort the DI to the Scots Church Assembly Hall where the Melbourne Harmony Choir and the Occasional Orchestra will practice.

Meanwhile Rupert Sheffield has the city and cops hopping with his attitude, looks and his science of deduction lectures. Phryne's WWI in the trenches friend Dr. John Wilson acts attracted to Rupert who Phryne fears is a person seeking danger to himself and anyone within his circle. Further complicating her inquiry besides Robinson demanding she remain on the sidelines as a consultant and Sheffield's arrogance is M16.

The terrific twentieth Phryne Fisher historical whodunit (see Unnatural Habits and Dead Man's Chest) is a great entry as the brilliant independent protagonist works the multifarious Mendelssohn murder mystery competing in several ways with Sheffield. Part of the fun is comparisons between the heroine and her conventional companion Dot, with Sheffield and with Robinson. While Mendelssohn plays in the background, Kerry Greenwood's long running saga remains fresh as one of the best early twenty century detective series on the market.

This Private Plot
Alan Beechey
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464202407, $24.95

In Synne, children's author of Finsbury the Ferret as O.C. Blithely, Oliver Swithin chases after his girlfriend police Detective Effie Strongitharm in a very public place including the village maze while both are naked except for his used hanky. Their sojourn is interrupted when his maternal Aunt Phoebe and her husband Scotland Yard's Serious Crime Directorate Detective Superintendent Tim Mallard arrive in the same state of garb. Oliver's brother Toby set up both couples, but he did not include the fifth wheel as the writer finds the corpse of one time popular but retired children's radio star "Uncle" Dennis Breedlove.

Whereas the local constables and Tim lean towards a suicide; the latter focuses more on the Theydon Bois Thespians amateur acting group performance of Hamlet than the case. Oliver disagrees believing Uncle Dennis was murdered. Though ordered by Tim to stay out of the investigation, Oliver and Effie make inquiries.

The latest Oliver Swithin whodunit (see Embarrassment of Corpses and Murdering Ministers) is a great English village mystery that effortlessly combines humor and tension. Filled with twists (including personal) and red herrings, readers will appreciate this fabulous amateur sleuth as blackmail, murder and the banana theory of man (proving Thomas Carlyle's Philosophy of Clothing, or lack of) make for a super read.

Eileen Brady
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464201844, $24.95

Owing a fortune in student loans, veterinarian Dr. Kate Turner accepts a temporary position at the Oak Falls Veterinary Hospital in Upstate New York while Doc Anderson travels around the world. The Long Islander visits the Langthorne home to check on the health of the 27 Cavalier King Charles spaniels. Only she finds the dogs running wild inside the home and the owners Vivian and Thomas Langthorne dead.

The police believe a murder-suicide occurred, but Kate disagrees as either of the obsessed couple would have first taken care of their beloved pampered canines before committing a spousal homicide and killing themselves. The deceased's adopted daughter Pippi does not wait for the graves to be cold when she sells all of the prized dogs with the top gun Charles Too purchased for a million dollars. With a theory of her own, Kate, in between caring for a menagerie while dealing with their human pets, investigates only to find many people with strong motives wanting the despicable Langthorne couple dead and also uncovers questions of pedigree.

The first Kate Turner, DVM, Mystery is an engaging amateur sleuth that combines an enjoyable whodunit enhanced with veterinary and grooming tips, and a picturesque Hudson River town. Although Kate's detecting is typical of the subgenre, her retired firefighting grandfather adds freshness with his investigative suggestions.

The Disposables
David Putnam
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608091188, $26.95,

Once a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Violent Crimes Team superstar, Bruno Johnson served time behind bars, but recently was paroled. He works at a liquor store on Long Beach Boulevard, but Bruno knows some of his ex-peers want him gone probably in a casket or back in prison as they constantly taunt him trying to goad him into doing something stupid. Meanwhile Bruno's goal is to obtain money (legally or not) so he and his beloved Marie and the abused kids they help can flee to start over.

Not long after a robbery at the store that goes bad with the unnecessary shooting of a Disposable high on meth, Bruno's former police partner Robby Wicks calls in a debt that the ex-cop/con owes him. He demands Bruno help him find the psychopath(s) committing violent homicides before someone else brutally dies.

The first Bruno Johnson "police procedural" provides readers with a powerful dark landscape as the disgraced cop works the meanest streets of Los Angeles. The key cast is made of genre stereotypes yet fans will not care as the aptly titled The Disposables is a strong entertaining urban jungle thriller.

The Hydra Protocol
David Wellington
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062248800, $25.99,

On Rikard Island in Eastern Siberia, Spetsnaz trained Russian spy Nadia Asimova finally obtains the Soviet State Secret report she sought. She knows she must warn the Americans in order to prevent a nuclear winter so heads toward Japan and from there the States.

At the Pentagon, Chapel's superior Hollingshead tells him the 1980s Soviet Dead Hand program never was shut down. Also there is Nadia who explains what she found in Siberia about Dead Hand or what her side called Perimeter. If specified conditions occur that leads Perimeter to conclude Russia is under attack; the program will activate by firing missiles at the United States and cause a global nuclear winter. Although still ailing and now heartbroken after Julia Taggart ended their relationship in Brooklyn, Chapel joins Asimova heading to locate and disable Dead Hand while understanding this doomsday machine is a Hydra that reacts to a head cut off by activating a new deadlier head.

With nods to Star Trek (The Doomsday Machine) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (Vendetta), the sequel to the exciting Chimera is a superb twisting "Cold War" thriller filled with distrust and triple crosses as nothing except Angel is what he or she first appears. Feeling isolated except for Angel, Chapel struggles with determining who his allies are and who his adversaries are. Fast-paced from the onset, but accelerating even more so when Chapel and Asimova meet for the second time (after a brief encounter off Cuba), readers will appreciate this save the world from a relic only an insane lunatic would create.

Return To The Beach House
Georgia Bockoven
9780062195241, $14.99

California beach house owner Julia hires her college bound teenage neighbor Grace to keep her property in tip top shape and take care of the renters. In June, Widow Alison and her college bound grandson Christopher arrive. Over the month, Christopher teaches Grace to ride horses and she mentors him on surfing while his grandma meets Kyle who makes her forget her decade long feeling of loneliness.

In August, Danielle, Bridget, Carrie and Angie come to the beach house to spend time together. Danielle, Carrie and Angie are upset with Bridget for concealing she underwent chemo because each wanted to be there for her, but all vow to spend the month together renewing their friendships while revelations threaten to break their bond.

Due to work commitments, war photographer Lindsey and wildlife photographer Matthew struggle to see each other though both desire this very deeply. They agree to spend January together at a beach house near Monterey with each believing this is a farewell finish to their affair and friendship.

The Return To The Beach House is a fun sequel (see Beach House) as each of the entertaining three relationship dramas star fully developed cast members in engaging storylines that for the most part (with some revelatory exceptions) follow the anticipated path.

One Hundred Names
Cecilia Ahern
9780062248633, $15.99

Journalist Kitty Logan struggles with emotional trauma partly caused by her errors when she falsely accused Colin Maguire of sexual harassment. However, the brunt of her despair comes from the death of her beloved mentor and boss at Etcetera magazine Constance; though some also derives from her recent breakup with her boyfriend at a time she needed reassuring hugs not finger pointing condemnation.

Etcetera magazine staff decides to pay homage to a beloved Constance with a special memorial edition. Kitty suggests they use Constance's special list of One Hundred Names to enable readers to see what they all saw in their heroine. Thus Kitty begins her quest to interview the list to learn who they are besides a database name and what Constance saw as their connection. She finds ordinary people, but cannot fathom why Constance kept this roster.

This is an entertaining tale with a fascinating premise that ironically the audience figures out long before the protagonist. The individual stories are interesting vignettes, but Kitty, who keeps the storyline focused, comes across very shallow and unworthy of Constance's belief in her. Still One Hundred Names is an intriguing drama as Kitty slowly begins to understand what made Constance considered great by so many people (including a depressed reporter) mourning their loss of a close friend.

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell
Nadia Hashimi
9780062244758, $25.99

In Kabul, three Afghan sisters (Shahla, Parwin and Rahima) are walking home from school when a boy on a bike stalks them. They lack male protection with the only man in their lives, their father, often away fighting the Taliban at the side of his Warlord Abdul Khaliq while also addicted to opium. Thus, they can no longer go off by themselves; school is over for them.

Their spinster Aunt Khala Shaima tells her nieces the story of their ancestor Shekiba who worked the field alongside her father. Due to a cooking accident, her face was scarred so when her father died, she was placed with her family where they treated her with disdain and taunts until they sold her as a slave. Shekiba wore male garb when she was young because the acceptable bacha posh tradition allowed a young girl to cross-dress until she begins to turn into a woman when a family had no boys. Rahima follows Shekiba's practice until her father offers her and her siblings in marriage to his Warlord and his cousins.

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a profound look at acceptable Afghan customs through two blood relatives a century apart. The American influence proves limited in spite of constitutional changes to provide for women's rights as it "Looks like nothing's gonna change; everything still remains the same" (Otis Redding's (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay). With a strong support cast and terrific protagonists, fans will appreciate Nadia Hashimi's deep comparative tale of female life in Afghanistan, at the turns of the last two centuries

Nebula Awards Showcase 2014
Kij Johnson, editor
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616149017, $18.00,

The Nebula Awards Showcase annual collection is always an entertaining anthology that provides readers with those tales selected by the by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as the best, in this case of 2012, in the two genres. Included are the enjoyable short story winner sci fi tale "Immersion" by Aliette de Bodard and two of the other five finalists ("The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species" by Ken Liu and "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain" by Cat Rambo). The Best Novelette (fascinating survivor saga of "Close Encounters" by Andy Duncan) and the Best Novella (excellent eco-thriller "After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall" by Nancy Kress) are strong entries. Fans will read excerpts from the Best Novel (taut terraforming "2312" by Kim Stanley Robinson) and the eerie winner of the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy ("Fair Coin" by E.C. Myers). Finally the great Gene Wolf received the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master recognition; with his short story "Christmas Inn" and two essays paying homage to this superstar by Michael Dirda and Neil Gaiman added to the anthology. Rounding out the compilation are 2012 Rhysling Awards, Best Short Poem ("The Library, After" by Shira Lipkin) and Best Long Poem ("The Curator Speaks In The Department of Dead Languages" by Megan Arkenberg); and the 2012 Dwarf Stars Award went to Marge Simon for "Blue Rose Buddha". With a list of past winners as well, this is a great book though I personally would prefer more of the complete shorter works that many of us do not get a chance to read rather than extracts from the longer winners.

The Silk Map
Chris Willrich
9781616148997, $15.95

Odd couple adventurers, upper class poet Persimmon Gaunt and cursed thief Imago Bone, saved their son from evil by dispatching their offspring to a secret dimension; likewise Snow Pine the bandit did the same with her child (see The Scroll of Years). Now the even odder trio team up to bring home their respective children, but need a powerful ally who can tell them how to reach the Scroll. Thus the desperate threesome cut a deal with Great Sage; the monkey goddess incarcerated by essences on a distant mountain, who assigns them a quest in exchange for her help.

Gaunt, Bone and Pine must obtain the rarest of species, the alien Iron Moths, who spin cocoons made of ironsilk. They expect the journey to be dangerous, but none of the parents are prepared for competing against lethal rivals who possess pieces of the Silk Map that provides directions over the thousands of miles populated with predatory creatures not known to exist anywhere else to the Iron Moths. If they or their competitors make it to the nesting locale, ready to greet them is a murderous cult who lives to protect the Iron Moths.

The second Gaunt and Bone (and now Pine) Chinese fantasy is a fabulous franticly-paced quest adventure though fans should first read The Scroll Of Years to better understand why the bickering couple and their new partner banished their beloved children into another dimension. The Silk Map is an exciting action-packed thriller; as the protagonists never obtain a respite from deadly just as obsessed with possessing the moths' opponents, harrowing nasty creatures greeting them with murderous intent on the road and finally the killing anointed defenders.

Boiled Over
Barbara Ross
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, NY, NY 10018-2522
9780758286871, $7.99,

Residents of Busman's Harbor, Maine prepare for the annual Founder's Day gala that brings summer visitors to their town. As always the Snowden Family Clambake Company plans to enjoy the festivities while also serving up New England style seafood.

However, Julia Snowden and others notice a human foot sticking out of the family claminator oven; at the same time new employee Cabe Stone flees from the scene. Local rookie cop Jamie Dawes takes control of the crime scene until State Police Lieutenant Binder and Sergeant Flynn arrive from Augusta. The victim is Founder's Day committee member Stevie Noyes, owner of Camp Glooscap RV Park and the prime suspect is the vanished Cabe. Julie believes Cabe is innocent, but wonders how to prove her assertion.

The second Maine Clambake murder mystery (see Clammed Up) is an enjoyable amateur sleuth as Julia's inquiry leads to her uncovering the secrets of several residents including Cabe though some of her findings turn out to be red herrings re the case. Although subgenre fans will have to accept the former successful Manhattan venture capitalist feeling a deep need to investigate, readers will appreciate this Maine Island cozy with several delicious recipes.

Oath Of The Brotherhood
C. E. Laureano
c/o Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781612915876, $14.99,

King Galbreath of Tigh wanted nothing to do with his heir so ordered Lord Labrhas to raise his son. Labhras sired the lad as if Conor was his biological offspring training him to be a scholar. However after nine years of no contact, Galbreath demands his seventeen year old child see him at his fortress Glenmallaig. The monarch is disgusted to learn Conor's time was wasted on worthless languages and history instead of sword fighting, and proclaims Conor is not his son. Diarmuid the Druid tells the distraught teen when he is ready come to him for answers.

Fearing an invasion from the Sofarenden seafarers of the Northern Isles crossing the Amantine Sea, Galbreath wants to seal an alliance with his equally threatened Isle of Saire neighbor to the east Faolin; so he exiles his worthless son as a hostage to King Calhoun as a sign of good faith. At Calhoun's court in Lisdara, Conor and the monarch's sister Aine fall in love. While he is away receiving special training, war breaks out threatening the four nations on the Isle of Saire.

The first Song of Seare coming of age fantasy is a fabulous saga because the Laureano world seems genuine and the lead couple a brave wonderful duo. The storyline starts slow as terms and names are introduced but also providing a sense of a different setting. Once the audience adjusts to the vernacular, readers will appreciate Conor as a scholar warrior defending his faith and people, and Aine leading her nation in an insurgency against the evil who took over the kingdom.

The Baron's Honourable Daughter
Lynn Morris
Faith Words
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455575596, $15.00,

When the Earl of Maledon suddenly died, his estate unraveled while his widow grieved alone in her chambers and his six year old son seemed lost with his new responsibilities. Realizing someone had to take charge, the new Earl's eighteen years old stepsister Valeria Segrave began giving orders to the household and others working on the estate. However, though she knows she can do the job, the males universally reject her being in charge because of her gender, youth and lack of a blood tie to the late Maledon.

A relative of her deceased stepfather, Lord Alastair arrives. Though attracted to the newcomer, Valeria feels unworthy of him as she thinks he deems her lacking in the social graces of a lady. In London for a season, her actions seem to affirm his first impressions. However, not one to back down from a challenge, Valeria takes on Alastair in a gender battle of wits and love.

This engaging Regency romance is an entertaining historical that showcases the lack of support for a young female trying to do the right thing for her family and employees. Readers will root for spunky Valeria who makes the tale fun; as she believes in herself in spite of overwhelming sexism and other biases, with an "anything you (Alastair) can do, I can do better (from Annie Get Your Gun) attitude.

Shades Of Virtue
Jack Whitsel
Paladin Timeless Books
c/o Twilight Times Books
P. O. Box 3340, Kingsport TN 37664
9781606192252, $17.95,

Almost two years ago a half of century of peace in the Hugue ended with the incursion of the feral beasts of the Harhn of Vol Thaldane. Led by a diabolical sorcerer and allied with the Darkfey, the Harhn invaded the Hugue at a time when most of the Order Knights were far away and unable to protect humanity. Due to the heroic efforts of Lord Protector of the Land Duke Baudouin and Dragon Maiden Lady Lucia, mankind survived though the war has left behind devastation especially for those who work the land as the fall harvest yielded little (see Shadows of Kings).

As he leads his armies against the Harhn Hordes and other enemies, Lord Yannic tries to persuade the humans that divided they fall while united they triumph. He pleads with the fiefdom leaders to join Shyrlandia. Meanwhile a jousting tournament at Kilgan draws many desperate individuals as well as experience champions to compete for the hand of Lady Basina and becoming influential throughout the lands. To insure fair play as this contest has far reaching impact, the Council sends Lady Lucia accompanied by her novices (Dragana and Tallya) as observers with instructions to interfere if, as expected treachery or malevolence, surfaces; and to uncover who defiantly defies the Order Knights causing potential destruction.

The fast-paced second Dragon Rising fantasy magically transports engaged readers to a medieval setting that enables fans to believe in wizardry, beastly hordes, dragons and much more. Filled with high drama and a delightful tournament of champions, Shades of Virtue is a terrific tale of yore lacking only a needed regional map of Shyrlandia, Vol Thaldane and Hugue.

Cold Shot
Mark Henshaw
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476745572, $24.99,

In the Gulf of Aden, the USS Vicksburg recovers a lifeboat containing a tortured dead African. Not long after that, CIA analysts using satellite imagery notice the Iranian freighter Markarid missing a lifeboat secretly sailing towards Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. Knowing that President Diego Avila covets possessing WMDs add to the suspicion of what the ship may be carrying.

CIA Red Cell desk analyst Kyra Stryker returns to the field to gather on the ground Intel in Venezuela, a place where she had issues years ago. Red Cell analyst Jonathan Burke joins her as they videotape Venezuelans with illegal nuclear distributer Hossein Ahmadi, and workers becoming ill from what might be radioactivity exposure. American President Rostow demands 100% proof that the Iranian is selling nukes to the Venezuelans; thus Stryker infiltrates the facility, but nothing goes right as all hell explodes around her and her partner.

Filled with incredible depth and a strong cast, the second Stryker-Burke CIA tale (see Red Cell) may be the espionage thriller of the year as the action never slows whether at sea, data crunching at Langley or in country. Readers will enjoy this action-packed entry as early on Iranian Sargord Elham sets the table when he keeps to himself that the Tehran-connected Ahmadi made an unnecessary and foolish minor mistake in the Gulf of Aden; that seemingly harmless error enables the Americans to follow falling dominos starting from the dead African.

Live In Person
Lynda Fitzgerald
Crystal Dreams Press, Apr 17 2014. $15.95
9780971565821, $15.95,

A lot has happened to Allie Grainger over the last year. Her beloved Aunt Lou died, but left her the house and estate while still talking to her inside her head. Working as a reporter for the Brevard Sun, Allie investigated the suicide of the wife of county Sheriff Cord Arbutten; Lou loved Cord and believed him innocent while his son, Allie's her now beloved Rand, believed his dad killed his mom (see Live Ammo).

Allie's idyllic life crashes when she returns to her home to find her angry obnoxious brother Len greet her with a demand of half of their aunt's two-million dollar estate in spite of his scornful treating of Lou when she lived. She refuses, but soon afterward Rand vanishes with Allie the only suspect. At the same time, convicted psychopath former Brevard County Deputy Sheriff Sidney Finch escapes incarceration. He deploys his avenging plan to regain all he lost starting with killing the nosy reporter and those who abetted her; leaving him a cripple and cost him the respect of his beloved father figure Cord.

The latest Sunshine State Grainger mystery (see Live Ringer) is an exciting tale in which the heroine fights a two-front war. The support cast is fully developed with Rand being her caring lover; next door neighbor Libby adding eccentricity; Grainger's family offering ridicule and threats; and the return of insane Sidney preparing to finish the job he failed at last year. Lynda Fitzgerald provides another strong entry in a fabulous series.

Avenge Me
Maisey Yates
Harlequin Presents
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373430376, $9.99,

Once best friends, Alex, Hunter and Austin meet every year as they have for the past decade on the anniversary of the event that turned them into shallow deniers. This time Austin shows them the letter proving his renowned (for advocating women's rights) father Jason caused Sarah to commit suicide when he ignored her rejection of his advances. Austin feels guilty for also ignoring Sarah's mental state just before she killed herself. The three men agree to prove Jason's guilt in this and other female victims including two others who were very close to them.

Sarah's sister Katy received a letter from her sister explaining all to her just before she jumped off the building. Since that fatal day, she has sought evidence to destroy the man responsible for tormenting her sibling to death. At a gala Katy and Austin attend seeking to avenge Sarah's death, they meet and are attracted to each other. Once she learns who he is, she wants nothing to do with him; while he vows to insure his father keeps his creepy hands off of her.

The first Fifth Avenue romance (prequel Take Me by Maisey Yates; future pubs: Scandalize Me by Caitlin Crews and Expose Me by Kate Hewitt) is an entertaining opening act as two people fall in love while sharing a common obsession for avenging justice. Although Jason's behavior in this age of instant media seems unlikely to not have been exposed by now especially with deaths and pay-offs; he is diabolical using his support of female causes as sheep clothing for his proclivity. Readers will enjoy strike one in the effort to destroy the vile man who devastated so many lives behind the facade of mentor.

Jill Sorenson
Harlequin HQN
9780373778720, $7.99

Though backwoods hiking is not at the top of her list, San Diego Seaside Retirement Center Director Abby Hammond accompanies her teenage daughter Brooke on a trek in the High Sierras. Abby decided to come because she distrusts her ex-husband, plastic surgeon Ray Dwyer, showing up for his daughter though he is a good father when he does his commitments. Accompanying Ray are his second wife Lydia and her college-age son Leo from her first marriage.

Leo is at the cabin when mother and daughter arrive. As Leo and Brooke go for a ride on his motorcycle, recovering alcoholic former Major League player Nathan Strom comes to the cabin hoping to reconcile with his son; though his baseball career and visitation rights died after Leo uploaded on YouTube his drunken state. Abby muses that she and Nathan shares one thing in common; their respective spouses cheated on them with each other. Leo explains Lydia sprained her ankle so Ray opted out to be with her; ergo they sent him instead. As the tense quartet hike, the two teens angrily pronounce revelations re their parents. However, when Brooke vanishes, the rage turns to fear as two adults and a teen desperately search for her.

The angst is higher than the range that the foursome hike as each has issues going back to the affair (though in Nathan's case he believes alcoholism drove his then wife to another man) that changed the two families. The tension is already stratospheric when Abby's disappearance raises it beyond the troposphere; yet it also enables the adults in their frantic search to get close. Although the ending feels wrong for this otherwise strong family drama turned thriller, fans will appreciate the hike.

Before We Kiss
Susan Mallery
Harlequin HQN
9780373778812, $7.99

Retired NFL player Sam Ridge is in Fool's Gold, California because his PR firm Score relocated from Los Angeles. He and event planner Dellina Hopkins meet in a hotel bar and enjoy a wonderful sexual encounter until he panics in fear when he sees a room filled with wedding gowns.

Score hires Dellina to host a weekend event for their clients over Sam's doubts. Though she wanted more with Sam, Dellina relishes the opportunity to prove her competency to the newcomers, which she hopes means future bookings. Putting aside her hurt; Dellina quickly demonstrates she knows what she is doing as she plans the event. However, Sam almost has a stroke when she employs a certain sex guru; as this guest lecturer happens to be his outspoken mom. As the ex-jock and the planner work closely together they fall in love, but he obsessively distrusts that emotion since he always ends up hurt and at times even ridiculed like with his ex-wife's tell-all autobiography.

The second Score Fool's Gold romance (see When We Met) is a fun amusing contemporary starring a hunk sacked by love and a responsible caring woman who hopes he will trust her one day with his heart. Rotating perspective between them, readers will relish this entry as his family and associates add humorous depth while her sisters enable us to understand her better.

Take My Breath Away
Christie Ridgway
Harlequin HQN
9780373778324, $7.99

When the Inn Klein management announces a renovation project, employee Poppy Walker decides her family property could do likewise and turn it into a thriving Southern California mountain retreat. Her siblings insist the idea is inane as each believes the place is cursed with no good ever coming from this land their ancestors obtained over a century and a half ago.

The single mom leaves her beloved five years old son with cousins and accompanied only by Grimm the dog begins her project. Needing money, she rents a dilapidated cabin at five times the normal rate to Ryan Hamilton who insists he needs time away to think; Poppy is unaware that her guest was a teen movie star and remains a Hollywood big shot. When a storm makes her abode unlivable and the nearby road unpassable, she moves into his cabin. As they enjoy their tryst, the paparazzi find them. Picking up her child, they hide in his mansion, but agree no sex even as their attraction grows.

Leaving the Crescent Cove Beach House behind, the first Cabin Fever romance is an entertaining contemporary due to the protagonists; as both were hurt by love so each refuses to risk their heart again. The cabin time is hot while the mansion's phone-sex fun and the leads' chats enlightening. A late suspense disrupts the pacing and seems unnecessarily even though it forces Ryan to look at what he may lose if he fails to take a chance on love. Still fans will enjoy this entertaining tale as the lead couple makes each other lose control and take their breaths away.

The Marriage Pact
Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN
9780373778706, $7.99

In Mustang Creek, Wyoming, determined Tripp Galloway marches to the front of the church with no opposition; as no one dares stop this resolute man on a mission. At the altar he tells the congregation there will be no marriage and dares the groom Oakley Smyth to explain to his fiancee why he will not wed the eighteen year old sister of his late best friend Will. Angry and confused Hadleigh Stevens begins a tirade that ends when he points out her "mate" kept silent rather than defend their right to wed. As he explains that Smyth has two kids with his pole dancer, Hadleigh hopes Tripp intruded out of love for her; but her fantasy dies when she realizes he acted on behalf of Will as he is already married.

After her humiliation and rage diminished, Hadleigh and her BFFs Bex and Melody pledge The Marriage Pact in which each vows to marry for "true love or nothing." A decade later, divorced Tripp returns home from California to care for his ailing widower father and save the family ranch. Hadleigh knows why she remained single; as Tripp is her one, but though attracted to her then and now, he hesitates.

The characters and setting read similar to the Big Sky tales with Parable and Mustang Creek seemingly interchangeable; Linda Lael Miller fans will enjoy this second chance Cowboy State ranch romance as the support cast adds small-town depth to an entertaining storyline. The lead couple's changing relationship is fun to follow as we get inside their heads although that profound look into their thoughts and feelings also slows down the pacing of a fine contemporary.

The Defender
Adrienne Giordano
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697694, $5.50

In Chicago, FBI Special Agent Russ Voight remains diligent on a humongous stock fraud case that he has worked on for over a year. At the steps of the Cook County Courthouse while Russ admires the perfect butt of defense attorney Penny "Killer Cupcake" Hennings, shots are fired at her. A reporter near Penny crumbles having been hit while Russ takes her to the ground and lies on top of her to keep her safe except from his poking erection.

Later at her office, he tells the attorney that the shooter escaped. They discuss the conditions of immunity and protection for her client Elizabeth Brooks (and son) to testify against the vicious Colin Heath the prime dealer behind the massive multistate stock fraud case. As the Fed and the kick butt attorney team up, their attraction turns to love, but trust is more difficult to achieve.

With a nod to 1940s detective movies like Undercurrent, but with at times Thin Man amusing banter and asides, readers will enjoy this wonderful romantic mystery; mostly because of the fun relationship between Killer Cupcake and the "sick, demented man" vowing to protect her. The Heath subplot provides the danger that serves as the impetus bringing the lead couple together in an exciting drama.

Rescue At Cardwell Ranch
B.J. Daniels
Harlequin Intrigue
9780373697649, $5.50

Texas private detective Hayes Cardwell flies to Bozeman, Montana to attend his brother Tag's wedding to Lily (see Christmas at Cardwell Ranch) and persuade his sibling from opening up a restaurant in Big Sky Country. His plane was delayed in Denver; so he stops for food when he notices a man carrying a woman towards the trunk of a car. He intervenes and rescues realtor McKenzie Sheldon from a dangerous assault though the pervert escapes. After the cops arrive, Hayes drives to the Cardwell Ranch; while rescued McKenzie Sheldon tells the police she failed to see her abductor and her plan to fire her top realtor Gus Thompson for stalking the office women including her.

Hayes and McKenzie meet again because she is Tag's realtor. He becomes her personal bodyguard when the irate fuming maniac, who attacked her in the parking lot, makes attempts to silence her and that Good Samaritan permanently in case either can identify him.

This Cardwell Ranch romantic suspense is an enjoyable thriller as an obsessed psychopath rages over his first failure having abducted women before and his fear his latest chosen one or her cowboy can finger him. Although the second protagonists' meeting comes across as a plausible but significant coincidence, readers will enjoy this twisting tale with several suspects besides Gus surfacing.

Riding High
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Harlequin Blaze
9780373798032, $5.50

After he caught his fiancee sleeping with his best friend and partner, six months ago veterinarian Regan O'Connelli moved from Virginia to Shoshone in the Jackson Hole area where his sisters live. He joined the veterinary practice of his brother-in-law Nick Chance (see Wanted) at the Last Chance Ranch.

Nick does volunteer work at the overcrowded and rundown Peaceful Kingdom Horse Sanctuary recently bought by brilliant free spirit Lily King. He asks Regan to help, which he agrees to do. When Lily and Regan meet for the first time, each fells an incredibly strong attraction like neither ever felt before. As they fall in love, he hesitates having been burned not too long ago; but she wants to take a chance that they belong together.

The latest engaging Sons of Chance Wyoming ranch romance (see The Heart Won't Lie and Cowboys & Angels) stars another O'Connelli sibling (see Ambushed) matched with an eccentric genius. Freshness comes from Harley whose relationship with Wilbur is precious; as this mischievous pig upstages the lead characters to their everlasting joy by proving WC Fields' wrong when he said "'never work with children or animals".

Need You Now
Debbi Rawlins
Harlequin Blaze
9780373798056, $5.50

In Blackfoot Falls, Montana, high school teacher Melanie Knowles knows she lives up to the image of a virtuous life expected from Pastor Ray's daughter by volunteering for many local activities, especially at the Safe Haven Animal Shelter. Dedicated Prison Reform Now representative Lucas Sloan arrives in Blackfoot Falls. He hopes to persuade Melanie and Shea Monroe to house over a hundred horses at Safe Haven in which his group will pay for feed and vet services as part of their Wild Horse Training Program.

Starting with his shirt off as he changes a school bus' flat tire and by the way he ogles her butt has the saintly good girl thinking wicked thoughts about the visiting hunk. As they begin a tryst, Lucas feels guilty knowing his past if revealed would change her reputation to fallen angel.

This Made in Montana romance (see Alone With You, From This Moment On and No One Needs To Know) is an entertaining contemporary starring two seemingly opposites falling in love. Though readers will guess his secret early on and the pace slows down in the middle, series fans will enjoy visiting Big Sky Country.

The Single Dad's Second Chance
Brenda Harlen
Harlequin Special Edition
9780373658190, $5.50

In Charisma, North Carolina, Buds and Blooms florist Rachel Ellis hates Valentine's Day except that is a major moneymaker. That holiday is also one of three days annually (November 22 and August 10 are the other occasions) that Andrew Garrett buys white roses.

Lonely Rachel stops at Valentino's for takeout, but her owner friends make her sit and eat in the kitchen. Andrew arrives for pasta takeout, but the owners make him sit down and dine with Rachel; as they insist no one should eat alone on Valentine's Day. He tells her the woman he bought the flowers for, his wife of five years Nina, died three years ago.

His first grade daughter Maura would like to attend a wedding by Christmas with her sad dad as the groom. When Maura meets Rachel, she writes in her diary that she wishes the nice flower lady was her mommy.

Brenda Harlen fans will rejoice with the return of Those Engaging Garretts! (see the New York branch in From Neighbors ... to Newlyweds, A Very Special Delivery and His Long Lost Family) as the North Carolina cousins take center-stage. The lead couple is a delightful pairing while precocious (at times too much so) Maura and her Dear Diary entries enhance the second chance romance between a florist who gave up on love and sleepless in Carolina.

Always Emily
Mary Sullivan
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373608478, $6.75

Over a decade and a half ago in Accord, Colorado, young teenager Emily Jordan fell in love with her twenty-year old BFF Salem Pearce; though attracted to her too, he knew she was too young for him so did nothing. Instead of waiting for her to grow up, he had sex with Annie, a girl his age. When she became pregnant, Salem married her. Four years ago, Annie died leaving him a widower single dad to their children.

Thirty yeas old archeologist Emily goes off on another dig, but this time returns home suffering from malaria and framed by her boss-lover Jean-Marc for stealing a prayer book that she took from him. As he slanders her name all over the Internet especially within their field, Emily feels a deep need to take the tome back to the rightful owners the National Museum of Sudan and also decides to commit to Salem and pray he does likewise to her though she accepts his daughters must come first. However, as the pair struggles with love, the uncovering of human remains leads to Salem's arrest at a time when she must make one last sojourn overseas this time to Khartoum.

This is a strong contemporary romance as the lead couple deals with complex issues in an attempt to forge a permanent relationship while secondary players also have tsuris like cyberbullying. Character-driven by the protagonists and a fully developed support cast (including the arrogant nasty Jean-Marc), readers will enjoy this second chance at love.

Cavanaugh Undercover
Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278695, $5.50

Brennan Cavanaugh's career as a DEA undercover operative ended when he blew his cover to save the life of Aurora former police chief (and family member from a side he never knew existed) Andrew Cavanaugh. Punished by exile to desk duty, Brennan quits DEA to accept a position with APD as an undercover detective. His first assignment is to infiltrate a sex-trafficking ring.

San Francisco CSI detective Tiana Drummond arrives in Aurora seeking information on her missing sister Janie who she believes is incarcerated by a sex-trafficking ring. When Tiana meets Brennan in the dive he is staying in, her first reaction is a hunk who works for the nefarious traders selling females like her sibling. As Tiana begins to fall in love, she learns Brennan is undercover working the same case as she is. Although she accepts he is on the side of the good guys, her father's abuse leaves her wary of all men while insisting to herself rescuing her sister remains her heart's only mission.

The latest fast-paced Cavanaugh Justice romantic police procedural (see Cavanaugh Baby) is an exciting thriller; as this Cavanaugh Hero needs to forget undercover work having been exposed again by doing what he believes is morally right. As Tiana and Brennan fall in love, both know the priority remains ending the sex-trafficking ring's selling of women on a "commodity" exchange while also rescuing Janie and other female prisoners.

Home To Hope Mountain
Joan Kilby
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373608461, $6.75

Melbourne-based architect Adam Banks moves to Hope Mountain as a single dad to his fourteen years old daughter Summer. Bushfires left many dead and the town severely devastated. While making a pitch to a Japanese contingent, Summer's school interrupts Adam. Summer was arrested for shop lifting earrings that she tells her stunned dad she took to give to her mom Diane on her birthday.

Widower Hayley Sorensen mourns the death of her husband and several of their horses due to the inferno. To help herself heal and provide comfort to despondent neighbors, Hayley runs a clinic allowing people to ride her surviving steeds as a form of therapy. Desperate, Adam turns to Hayley to help his troubled teen. As the two adults fall in love, they learn her late spouse and his former wife had an affair; leaving both with major relationship trust issues.

Home To Hope Mountain is an emotional Australian contemporary as the traumatized townsfolk struggle with survivor guilt and paralyzing grief with evidence of the tragedy everywhere leaving little mental escape. The spousal affair feels unnecessary except to add an unneeded roadblock to the lead adults' romance as they already have plenty of scars to deal with. Still readers will appreciate this angst-laden tale paying homage to the real Horses for Hope program that focuses on "therapeutic healing of the mind, body and soul ..."

Traitorous Attraction
C.J. Miller
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
9780373278718, $5.50

Intelligence database analyst Kate Squire intrudes on retired Sphere assassin Connor West when she arrives at his isolated cabin. He wants her to leave until she says she was a friend of Sphere operative Aiden. Though Connor assumes she was his sibling's friend with benefits, Kate upsets him when she insists his dead brother Aiden is alive and held by Armed Revolutionaries in the troubled South American country Tumara.

Even a sliver of hope has Connor ready to travel to Tumara although he expects nothing except life-threatening danger will come of this foolish venture. Accompanied by Kate while distrusting her out of paranoiac belief she is a Sphere tool, Connor enters Tumara with his former comrades in arms in murderous pursuit.

Traitorous Attraction is an action-packed romantic suspense thriller as two strangers connected by his "late" brother enter a hellish scenario in what may be an inane rescue attempt. Connor makes the tale fresh with his attitude of "... just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face." (Jim Butcher) while desk jockey Kate adapts too easily to the rumble in the jungle. The unwanted feelings of love enhance an engaging quest.

One Night In Texas
Linda Warren
Harlequin American Romance
9780373755189, $5.50

Teenager Angie Wiznowski fell in love with Hardison Hollister (see The Sheriff Of Horseshoe, Texas in which they were secondary players). They shared one great night, but he left for school and she stayed behind carrying his child. She never told him he sired a child; instead Angie married someone else, but that ended in divorce so she raised her daughter Erin as a single mom with help from her family.

Eight years later, Hardy returned to Horseshoe, Texas where, pushed by his powerful father the judge, he becomes the D.A. Though Angie knows she owes the truth to Hardy and Erin, two years pass with her remaining silent. When Erin runs into the street, Hardy has no time to brake and hits her. Horrified, Hardy does what he can for the tweener until he learns who sired Erin.

Though the premise is not new, the characterizations and execution make for a strong tale as the protagonists and their families behave as expected when the secret is revealed. Angie fears for her daughter's wellbeing and the loss of control. Irate Hardy is confused except for his demand to be in his daughter's life while ignoring for the first time the objections of his raging father who wants to bury the scandal and his nasty girlfriend Olivia who wants him to forget the child. Erin's maternal relatives add depth with their indignation towards the Hollister brood especially the latter using their influence to bully them. This deep cast makes for a super second chance at family drama.

Expecting the Prince's Baby
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin Romance
9780373742882, $5.99

Nestled on the Riviera, the Principalities of Arancia and Gemelli rejoice that Crown Prince Vincenzo Di Laurentis and his wife Her Royal High Princess Michelina Cavelli soon will become parents after she suffered three miscarriages. The regal couple accepts their marriage lacks caring intimacy as it was an arranged expediency between the kingdoms. He especially is grateful to the generosity of Rhode Island native and longtime friend Abby Loretto who agreed to carry their child. However, soon after Abby becomes pregnant, Michelina suddenly dies. The nations mourn their loss, but six weeks later, some normalcy returns to Arancia with the Lemon and Orange Festival.

The daughter of the Chief of Security, Abby has been a close friend of the prince for years. She worries about the child growing up without a mother and for the prince being a single dad while also having royal duties. Vincenzo insures the surrogate mother is well taken care of and visits her a lot. As their friendship between them turns to love, both know the prince cannot marry a commoner.

The first Princes of Europe duet (see the upcoming June release Becoming the Prince's Wife) is a fun royal contemporary although the unloving relationship between the prince and his late wife enables him to move on too easily. With thoughts on the abdication of King Edward VIII, readers will appreciate Vincenzo's dilemma as he must choose between forbidden love and
being the heir to the throne.

From Single Mom to Secret Heiress
Kristi Gold
Harlequin Desire
9780373733132, $5.25

In Boulder, Colorado, single mom Hannah Armstrong knows she lacks the funds to pay for the plumber, but has no choice. The widow mistakes hunky cowboy Logan Whittaker as the plumber, but he explains he is a Cheyenne lawyer settling the estate of the late J.D. Lassiter. She reacts by saying she does not know any Lassiter, but he tells her that her deceased mom Ruth Lovell did. Logan claims she is an heir to the Lassiter fortune with her inheritance valued at five million, but must adhere to family stipulations. Hannah angrily she says the usual BS from those with more money than the National Debt like her North Carolina in-laws who has seen their granddaughter Cassie once.

Attracted to Hannah, Logan feels a deep need to assist her adaptation from working poor to wealthy so offers to house mom and daughter on his Wyoming ranch. Coveting to learn what she can about her biological father whom she never knew even his name before Logan's visit, Hannah accepts his offer. As they share the same abode and conduct research into her paternal kin together while chaperoned by her young daughter, they fall in love. However, he conceals his scarred past from her although he also knows that is a relationship breaker after her dad failed to legitimize her until he was dead.

The lead couple is a nice pairing of two people who must overcome their respective histories if they are to make it. Although the climax feels disappointingly soft and at times the pace slows down, overall the first Dynasties: The Lassiters tale (see Dynasties: The Jarrods and Dynasties: The Kincaids for previous miniseries) is a warm contemporary.

Beach Bar Baby
Heidi Rice
Harlequin Kiss
9780373178971, $5.99

Needing to escape London, Ella Radley goes on a solo vacation in Bermuda. However, she feels like odd person out at Paradiso Cove Resort since the other twelve guests are on their respective honeymoons. After six days of boring American soap operas and dreaming of baking cupcakes, Ella decides to join the six couples on a snorkeling adventure. When she meets exciting Jezebel Captain Cooper Delaney, out of character Ella decides to join him in a one-night stand though she feels she is cradle robbing when she finds out she is six years older than the hunk.

Ella returns to ennui in London until Cooper arrives on a business trip and needs to see her. She seems different to him, but he cannot quite figure out why. Ella knows she owes her captain an explanation, but struggles to tell him why she is different as she fears striking out if she swings the bat.

This is an entertaining romance as both protagonists handle their love poorly because of different trepidations. Readers will enjoy this engaging poignant contemporary as love may not be enough to overcome "cowardice" counter reactions.

Sex, Lies & Her Impossible Boss
Jennifer Rae
Harlequin Kiss
9780373178988, $5.99

TV station manager Cash Anderson places Faith Harris' show Sexy Sydney near the top of the cancelation list because the program fails to bring in advertising money. Faith argues that her show is not just about sex but much more as she insists Sexy Sydney focuses on loving relationships.

Feeling a bit foolish as the bottom line screams cancellation, Cash gives Faith one week to prove her show deserves to remain on the air by proving Sexy Sydney provides a needed service to the community and will one day bring in revenue. To make her case, Faith decides to perform the Sexy Sydney routine on Cash, her relationship phobic boss, though her real experience is limited. As they fall in love, each needs the other to eradicate the demons preventing them from embracing a meaningful caring relationship.

Aptly titled, this is an enjoyable, amusing yet passionate romance. Though not a new premise, Faith and Cash are fascinating individuals who make the case that a loving whole is greater than the sum of the emotionally scarred individual parts.

Brian Lutterman
Conquill Press, May 1 2014, $15.00
c/o Partners Publishers Group
9780980001785, $15.00,

After the car accident that left her a paraplegic and her young niece dead, attorney Pen Wilkinson lost her position at her Florida law firm. Sending her resume around the country, Minneapolis based North Central Bank hires her to provide legal advice to the company's Foundation. Although not in her area of expertise Pen is happy to be working again.

All hell breaks loose when the media learns that a white supremacist group Great Western Liberty Alliance is included on a list of recipients given to the bank president James Carter for final approval. While Carter vanished in New York, everyone especially her boss Deanne Nolan at the bank blames Pen who allegedly vetted the list. The media stalks her; reporting her grandfather was active in the KKK and a profitable merger dies. As Pen tries to prove her innocence, someone kills Carol Hart in Atlanta and goes after Terry Forsythe in Chicago. Terry contacts Pen offering her information if she lives long enough to do so; as she recognizes the North Central spin from being a willing participant in a similar scenario.

Downfall is an exhilarating action-packed financial thriller starring a fascinating besieged woman who makes the Roadrunner look docile as she follows leads to Chicago and California. Pen is independent but smart enough to accept that at times she needs help due to her paralysis. Though the plausibility to this reviewer who can't balance a checkbook seems over the top of Deming Heights, the villains' operations are cleverly designed and precisely executed except for allowing Terry temporary to escape from death until (to the delight of readers) Pen takes the fight to them.

Black Lake
Johanna Lane
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316228831, $25.00,

As his family has lived in isolated overlooking the Atlantic Dulough Castle, Ireland since it was constructed in 1857, John Campbell is heartbroken and feels like he betrayed his ancestors though he sought employment in nearby Donegal. He also thought of a flat in Dublin, but decided against dividing his family. Thus, unable to pay the exorbitant bills, John converts Dulough into a museum for tourists to visit.

Depressed John, his grieving wife Marianne and their two mortified children (twelve years old Kate and eight years old Philip) move into a nearby cottage. The despondent foursome watches the renovations to what was home to the Campbell clan past and present; each change batters the current members' psyches as none of them adapt to being banished from their home. The move was traumatic enough, but a more harrowing tragedy leaves the family on the brink of complete disintegration.

Rotating perspective mostly between the Campbell's (including past residents), this insightful leisurely-paced storyline looks deeply at voluntary displacement due to economics on a small scale. Readers will appreciate this profound, gloomy yet with a flicker of hope family drama; as the Campbell family feel lost in the wilderness. The audience extrapolates the Campbell sense of exile and loss to mass displacements by refugees forced to leave homes in combat zones and ethnic cleansing especially in the Middle East and Africa.

The Pink Suit
Nicole Mary Kelby
Little, Brown
9780316235655, $26.00

Kate came from the Great Island in Cobh, Ireland to work as a seamstress in Manhattan's Chez Ninon Boutique, owned by upper crust Sophie Sonnard and Nona Park. The thirtyish Kate never comes out of the back room while sewing; as others do the fittings. Musing over how she only knows the Blue Book elite who buy her outfits if they are newsworthy photo famous enabling her to recognize her work.

On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline, who rarely accompanied her husband on these trips, are in Dallas when he is assassinated. Watching on TV, Katie recognizes The Pink Suit and other wardrobe items that she created for the widowed First Lady worn at that fatal event. Struggling to accept the tragedy due to the now iconic infamous Pink Suit haunting her; Katie's boyfriend Patrick Harris the butcher wants to marry her. Instead Katie turns to what she knows about Jackie from the media to guide her through her grief.

This is an intriguing historical that uses the JFK assassination to tell the tale of a working class immigrant creating the wardrobe of the rich and famous. The well-written storyline comes across as a biographical and historiographical fiction with entertaining tidbits like the extraordinary care that goes into what the First Lady wore in public and the enormous classes' divide that seems more prominent today. Although major events of the tumultuous 1960s (except for the assassination) are ignored and the protagonist's relationships (except to the Pink Suit and Jackie) are underdeveloped, readers will appreciate this entertaining slice of the rise and fall of Camelot through the eyes of a troubled seamstress.

The House On Blackberry Hill
Donna Alward
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250045164, $7.99,

Nova Scotia elementary school teacher Abby Foster inherits the Foster estate in Jewell Cove, Maine from Aunt Marian. Though she never heard of her late aunt or even knew she had any recently living relatives, persistent lawyer Ian Martin persuades her to finally come to the coastal town and decide what she wants to do with the dilapidated estate that was ignored for years after Marian became ill. Her plan is to sell The House on Blackberry Hill ASAP and return as quickly as she can to her Canadian home.

Contractor Tom Arseneault wants to renovate the Foster estate. However, after an ignominious first step meeting, he convinces a reluctant Abby to hire him. Distrusting her new contractor and for that matter all the townsfolk, Abby knows firsthand the venom of small towns. Still Abby cannot resist learning about her ancestors as she and Tom find hidden photos and letters, but it is a ghost who teaches her what family love is all about.

The first Jewell Cove romance is a wonderful tale that emphasizes the importance of familial relationships though not necessarily made up of blood relatives. The storyline is character driven by the strong pairing of the Canadian and her local contractor ably supported by locals including the ghost and the heroine's ancestors (through the documents found in the house). Fans will enjoy visiting Coastal Maine as Abby finds her roots.

Darkest Flame
Donna Grant
St. Martin's
9781250041364, $7.99

M15 sends agents Denae Lacroix and Matt "the prick" to breach Dreagan Industries in Scotland. Though Denae does not know the objective, inside a cave the American operative carries on the mission until her partner tries to wound her. Matt explains she is bait to lure those residing on Dreagan Land out into the open; but instead she kills him although Denae is severely hurt.

The furor wakes up Kellen the long dormant Bronze Dragon King, who uses his human form to investigate. Kellen finds the injured Denae and takes her to his manor house though centuries of loathing her kind since a betrayal wants him to leave her dead in spite of his attraction to the intruder; she feels the strong desire too. Neither trusts one another due to her failed mission as she realizes he and his community were M15 targets for some unknown reason and he believes her trespassing and killing of her partner were for a nefarious goal to harm his kind.

This delightful Dark Kings romantic fantasy (see Dark Heat anthology) is a wonderful entry in the Grant universe that saga fans (see the Dark Sword and Dark Warrior series) will enjoy as the Dark Fae uses M15 to expose and destroy their enemies The Dragon Kings. The star-crossed romance seems doomed by mutual distrust yet also longing gives it a longshot's chance.

The Unexpected Duchess
Valerie Bowman
St. Martin's
9781250042071, $7.99

In 1815, Lady Lucy Upton is very protective of her shy best friend Lady Cassandra Monroe. At a gala, Lucy hides nearby in the bushes in order to whisper responses for Cassandra to use while chatting with men. However, war hero and recently named the Duke of Claringdon Derek Hunt exposes Lucy and worse shows a desire to court Cassandra. Feeling he is not good enough for Cassandra, Lucy plans to prevent the unacceptable duke from hurting her buddy.

Derek conceals from both women a death bed reason to go after Cassandra; while in battle against Napoleon, he promised his mortally wounded comrade in arms Julian he would protect Lady Cassandra. However, though his brain says demure Cassandra will give him the quiet life he needs after his harrowing war experiences, to his chagrin his betraying heart prefers the rude spitfire whose family even wants her to keep away from them.

The Playful Brides' opening act is an amusing lighthearted Regency romance. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing of enemy combatants (with Cassandra as the battlefield) falling in love. With her BFFs pushing these deniers together, the journey turns into a fun read.

Abducted By A Prince
Olivia Drake
St. Martin's
9781250002105, $7.99

In London Damien Burke owns the most popular gambling establishment in town, Demon's Den. When Viscount Stratham admits he cannot pay his debt, Damien offers to forgive the bill if the haughty aristocrat returns the key he stole from him when both attended Eton. Damien gives Stratham one day or he will abduct and ruin the lord's innocent sister Lady Beatrice.

When Stratham fails to give him back his key, Damien abducts Lady Beatrice. Only the victim insists she is Beatrice's poor relation companion Ellie Stratham. Marooned by the weather in Scotland, he realizes his error as they get to know each other and fall in love. Ellie vows to help him retrieve his key and solve its mysterious use; Damien pledges to assist her with publishing her children's book of illustrations and getting her out of this potential scandal.

The third Cinderella Sisterhood historical romance (see Stroke of Midnight) is an engaging nineteenth century tale due to the strong lead couple. Though the audience anticipates what is coming and most of the secondary characters are extremely selfish and mean; series fans will enjoy this entry as we delightfully know what If The Slipper Fits denotes.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Your Hands
Chris Bohjalian
Doubleday & Company
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385534833, $25.95,

Sixteen years old Emily Shepard attends high school in the Northern Kingdom sector of Vermont where her father manages the nuclear reactor and her mother works there too. When reactor 1 melts down and explodes, the area becomes a dead zone. Emily's parents died in the accident so the industry, company and designer blame her dad who cannot defend himself when they accuse him of operating the system while intoxicated.

People take out their rage on Emily as a surrogate for her dead detested "Power Couple" parents. Thus she becomes a walker living in tents and concealing her identity while prepared to flee to another makeshift town if she thinks someone knows who she is. In a tent city, Emily befriends tweener Cameron, who uses the disaster to escape from the abusive foster care system. When Cameron becomes ill, Emily takes him to the hospital, but flees as she knows their freedom is over. The displaced refugee returns to her home in the contamination zone prepared to die with Emily Dickinson's poetry to comfort her.

Having given birth in Camp Hill only a few miles from the Three Mile Island reactor on March 28 1979 this story resonates with me. Chris Bohjalian brilliantly captures the world fleetingly watches but with a macabre short attention span; those outside the fishbowl go on with their lives as if nothing happened while seeking a fresh voyeuristic event. Emily is a terrific protagonist as her world implodes when the reactor explodes, but struggles to survive since her lineage makes her public enemy number one. Character-driven by Emily and the displaced she meets during her travels, fans will appreciate this insightful disaster thriller.

The Lost
Sarah Beth Durst
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317111, $14.95,

Lauren Chase fears the pending results of her mom's medical tests; so instead of heading to work she just keeps on driving mile after mile. Unsure of which state she is in and after a while without any towns until she reaches Lost, Lauren is forced to stop there due to a horrific dust storm that seems endless.

Lauren soon learns the diverse populace share one thing in common; an obsession into finding out what each particularly lost that trapped them here; as this town consists of the forgotten amidst long forgotten items. However, her arrival causes a radical change in the hierarchy when the Missing Man vanishes; as he is the only one who can free a dead or alive person from this village. Thus many of the trapped blame the newcomer for their losing hope of ever going home.

The Lost is a wonderful metaphysical parable in which the town and its residents make for a captivating poignant tale. Although the thought-provoking storyline can turn passive with too frequent soliloquies, Lauren's fears of being lost and alone without her mother evoke reader empathy.

Empire Girls
Suzanne Hayes & Loretta Nyhan
9780778316299, $14.95

In 1918 in Forest Grove, New York their mom died, leaving the older sister Rose in charge of the home while Ivy remained childishly unchanged. Over the next seven years, Rose's resentment towards her sister grows immensely while Ivy detests her sibling's prim behavior. When their dad dies, the twenty-something sisters are stunned to learn they are penniless. However the biggest shock is that even their home Adams House went to an older half-brother Asher that neither of the sisters knew existed before the solicitor mentioned him; apparently their dad searched unsuccessfully for his first born.

With a photo of Asher in front of a New York City boarding house, the sisters head to Manhattan hoping to find their brother. They easily locate the building in Greenwich Village and obtain a room in the attic so they can ask the occupants questions about Asher. Everyone they talk to insists they never met Asher though the siblings believe they are being lied to. As the sisters in different ways struggle to acclimate to the city, they begin to unravel the truth.

Empire Girls is an engaging Roaring Twenties family drama based on the premise of "How ya gonna keep 'em away from Broadway Jazzin around and paintin' the town" (from "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm" (Joe Young, Sam M. Lewis and Walter Donaldson). The storyline captures the essence of the era through the rotating changing eyes of the country bumpkin sisters. The cast purposely is stereotyped to enhance the post WWI celebratory euphoria; leaving fans to enjoy visiting speakeasies to drink illegal booze and dance alongside flappers, while learning the truth about Asher.

The Cursed
Heather Graham
9780778316268, $7.99

In Key West Hannah O'Brien runs Siren of the Sea bed and breakfast, which has been owned by her family for several generations. Though her B&B struggles to survive, Hannah supplements her income with ghost tours beginning at Siren of the Sea.

Following a tour, a college student couple staying at the B&B, Stuart Bell and Shelly Nicholson, see an apparent ghost holding a knife dripping with blood by the pool; terrified they leave immediately. Hannah lectures Melody and Hagen the ghosts for frightening their paying guests, but both spirits emphatically deny involvement. The next morning Hannah finds a corpse who looks like the ghost as described by the upset guests. While her cousin Krewe of Hunters Kelsey O'Brien tells her she is coming, the local cops inform FBI Agent Dallas Sampson as this homicide seems to have ties to his smuggling ring Los Lobos case and the victim was a Fed. Meanwhile the new ghost Jose Rodriguez pleads with Hannah to help him while she believes Sampson suspects her as the killer.

The latest Krewe of Hunters urban fantasy police procedural (see Phantom Evil) is a terrific thriller due to a solid cast (including ghosts) and a strong haunting locale. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy touring (with Hannah and Dallas as our guides) Key West for ghosts and learning of sunken treasure although the audience will guess who the villain is before the cops do.

A Man's Promise
Brenda Jackson
9780778316251, $7.99

Several years ago, Caden Granger and Shiloh Timmons planned to elope in Vegas. However, her martinet father Samuel sent Caden photos of his daughter with another man and though Caden waited, Shiloh failed to show up.

Now Samuel's widow Sandra visits Caden to apologize for not being there for him and his siblings fifteen years when his dad killed his mom and to set the truth straight re Shiloh. She says the incriminating pictures were Photoshop, and Shiloh failed to meet him because she was in Boston fighting for her life after being a victim of a hit and run which killed their unborn baby. Caden is shocked and ashamed as he never gave his beloved Shiloh an opportunity to explain.

The second Granger romantic suspense is an exciting second chance drama although the protagonists' conflict ends too quickly especially with how he reacted. The overarching theme moves forward with implications that what led to the Granger patriarch's conviction fifteen years ago is not the truth. Although clearly a middle-book plot connecting the first entry (see A Brother's Honor) to the next thriller, series fans will enjoy learning more about the two families intertwined tighter than the DNA helix.

Something to Talk About
Dakota Cassidy
9780778316275, $7.99

In Plum Orchard, Georgia Emmaline Amos's husband Clifton, Sr. dumps her for Gina who encourages his cross-dressing lifestyle in Atlanta; as he insists his wife is a lackluster mother of their two sons (Clifton, Jr. and Gareth). The town gossips have a field day with the breakup of the Amos marriage.

Her best friend Dixie Davis (see Talk Dirty to Me) hires Em to manage her thriving phone-sex company Call Girls. After a discussion with Jax Hawthorne's young daughter Maizy who called the "girlfriend store" to get her dad a date, Em decides to be more than a boring rural mom. She chooses fuming Jax who confronts the phone sex operator for talking with his daughter; only he is taken aback when Em suggests a tryst. As the single parents fall in love, Em deals with a town without pity, her spouse's custody threats, and her sons' issues re their father leaving.

The second Plum Orchard romance is an amusing regional contemporary in which the beleaguered heroine owns the storyline as she struggles with family, friends, gossipers and her heart while in love with a single dad and his daughter. Fans will enjoy Dakota Cassidy's tale of a woman finding her groove by simply finding herself

Where Earth Meets Water
Pia Padukone
9780778315971, $14.95

On 9/11, Karom was supposed to be in the Twin Towers when so many perished. In 2004, he was supposed to be with his family when the tsunami flooded the land and killed his loved ones. Filled with survivor guilt and a need to know why he escaped these monstrous deadly incidents, Karom becomes fixated over whether he possesses special karma with his obsession growing to a point where he needs to take risk to prove his invincibility.

His upset girlfriend Gita and his concerned BFF Lloyd each worry about his health due to his increasingly agitated mental state frightening them. They persuade him to return to India seeking solace. In Delhi Karom meets Gita's grandmother Kamini who he initially writes off as a quack, but the elderly woman guides him while concealing her secrets from him.

With a passive nod to the premise of the action thriller Unbreakable, Where Earth Meets Water is an enjoyable contemporary that looks closely at the defense mechanisms people deploy in order to psychologically cope with surviving a disaster. The four protagonists come across as genuine with Karom being the focus of concern by his two peers and the elderly Indian wanting to help. Although the transitions of this somewhat non-linear storyline are disruptive, readers who enjoy something brisk and unique will appreciate Pia Padukone's poignant saga.

Megan Hart
9780778316220, $14.95

Every two weeks, Stella Andrews Cooper takes a long weekend escape by flying from Harrisburg to any other city. Where she goes means nothing to her; only to go so that she can leave her dismal life for a couple of days. In her arrival airports like Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, Stella seeks strangers for no-strings including no contact info trysts before returning to her miserable life for twelve days and starts the cycle over again.

In Chicago, Stella encounters Matthew Shepherd. Instead of a one weekend stand of sex, sex and more sex, for the first time since Stella became depressed, she talks to him about her emotional traumas. Matthew empathizes as he has monster issues eating at his soul too. However, though Stella craves more than a one-weekender with Matthew, she fears telling him her real name.

Flying is an intriguing character study that enables the enthralled audience to understand how emotional demons can drive a person feeling all alone even in an urban locale to despair and desperation; Stella's escape from her reality is sex with strangers in different cities. Although her former husband is a stereotype of an acrimonious angry adversary and Stella behaves out of character at a key moment (though one can argue she chose a different flight over fight path), readers will enjoy Flying with this broken woman.

Talk Dirty to Me
Dakota Cassidy
9780778316190, $7.99

For her only friend growing up in Plum Orchard, Georgia would Dixie Davis return home. Driving from Chicago, the "mean girl", as the locals labeled her and they still believe this to be true even with a decade having passed, wishes it was not for Landon Well's funeral.

Landon's will proclaims a contest between once engaged couple Dixie and fuming (at her) Caine Donovan. Whoever obtains the most customer calls wins Landon's lucrative phone sex company. Needing the money, Dixie decides to go for it though the townsfolk mistreat her in retaliation for her previous nastiness; she takes everything ugly thrown at her as Dixie feels she deserves this for being the evil pariah. However, Caine begins to observe how different this Dixie is from the one who broke his heart although he fears his love for her may be tainting the truth.

Talk Dirty To Me is an entertaining second chance at love (and life) rural Georgia romance. Dixie owns the storyline as she accepts her just dues even from an abusive over the top avenger but also begins to believe she deserves love too; Caine is more typical of the subgenre while his transition from cruelty to passionate believer is cleverly portrayed. Readers will enjoy this small-town regional contemporary as from the grave Landon tries to bring together his BFFs before she dries up and he turns to dust.

Always On My Mind
Bella Andre
9780778316176, $7.99

Several years ago, Grayson Tyler's wife died; unable to cope with his memories of their fabulous time together in New York City, the widower fled to Northern California to become a lonely farmer in Pescadero. Lori "Naughty" Sullivan caught her boyfriend bedding another woman; she fled Chicago for Pescadero.

In the town's general store, Lori finds a notice for a farm hand job. Though a dancer, Lori drives to the farm only to crash into a fence. Concerned Grayson is taken aback when the driver nonchalantly asks him for the job he advertised in town. As Lori and Grayson work the land together, they fall in love; however she recently was burned and he feels grief and guilt for caring for someone besides his late spouse.

The final California Sullivan family romance is a wonderful contemporary starring two likable protagonists. Readers will not recognize Lori as she acts sweet and nice rather than risk-taker and impishly naughty. However, her belief, due to the examples set by her widow mom and her siblings (see Let Me Be The One and Come A Little Bit Closer), that love heals the emotionally wounded makes for a fun entry.

Cottonmouth And The River
C.S. Fritz
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781410335, $7.99,

Ten years old Freddie Cottonmouth is lonely as his only friend for the last two years is the churning river where his parents left him. One day Freddie is astonished that the river is not moving and this stillness enables him to see the stones on the bottom for the first time. He notices a black egg floating towards him until it stops by him. When Freddie picks the egg up, the river begins flowing again.

Freddie takes the egg home, but becomes afraid when he hears a noise inside his house. He meets an intruding Beast who introduces himself as Tug the Comforter who explains the egg grants wishes to Frederick the Reckless; the only stipulation is not to eat it. The egg allows Freddie to go on adventures over the next two weeks, but fails to grant the tweener's ultimate wish. When Menson the Rat tells Freddie to eat the egg whole if he wants his deepest wish to happen, the child struggles between his heart's desire and his pledge.

Targeting the middle school audience, Cottonmouth And The River is an engaging fable that assumes its readers are intelligent by not dumbing down the moral message that a promise is important to keep even at the sacrifice of your greatest psychological need. The numerous B&W illustrations enhance a fabulous children's story.

The Virgin of Clan Sinclair
Karen Ranney
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062242495, $7.99,

In 1875 Drumvagen, Scotland, prim and proper Ellice Traylor knows she will never compare to her late sister Eudora, the perfect paragon in the mind of her shrewish demanding mother Enid. Whereas Ellice is grateful to Macrath and Virginia Sinclair (see The Devil of Clan Sinclair) for allowing her and her mom to live at Drumvagen Estate in Scotland, Enid takes it for granted due to her being a countess.

Ellice secretly writes a book "The Lustful Adventures of Lady Pamela" that she hopes her friend Mairi (see The Witch of Clan Sinclair) will publish, but must find a way to go to Edinburgh. When the Earl of Gladsden visits Drumvagen, Ellice is shocked as this Ross Forster could have been the role model for the hero in her tale. As the Earl leaves for Edinburgh, Ellice hides in his carriage. When he finds her book in his carriage, he draws the same conclusion she made that he could have been the hero. Fearing others would reach the same thoughts, which would destroy his political ambitions, Ross tries to prevent the book from being published. When they are compromised, he proposes but she has doubts as real men pale next to fictional heroes; or is it the reverse.

The third Victorian Era Scottish Clan Sinclair romance is an enjoyable amusing nineteenth century tale with metafiction extracts and comparisons to Ellice's erotica adding fun. Readers will appreciate Karen Ranney's wonderful historical; as Ellice turns to Pamela for guidance while Ross struggles to prove he, not some fictional character, is the writer's real hero.

How To Seduce A Vampire (Without Really Trying)
Kerrelyn Sparks
9780062107763, $7.99

In 1241 Transylvania, an assassin killed the father of than fourteen year old Zoltan Czakvar. The teen took the arrow from his dad's corpse and searched for the identity of the archer, but failed. To buy time, he became a vampire, but over eight centuries since he buried his sire, Zoltan made no progress on solving his obsession, the tundra frozen case, until now.

Russell the AWOL vampire arrives at the castle for blood supplies to the shock of security chief Howard the were-bear (see Wild About You). Zoltan notices Russell possesses an arrow identical to that which killed his father. However, Russell explains he cannot say anything because he made a vow of silence. When he teleports, Zoltan grabs him and ends up in Tibet. Soon after arriving, Zoltan finds a village in the Himalayas.

Neona recently buried her twin sister when she learns of a visitor. She attacks him to keep him out of Beyul-La, but decides he is a perfect mate so she can birth the next generation female warrior. Though he wants more than be Neona's discarded stud muffin while she knows her culture makes him expendable (except for his sperm), they fall in love. However, Neona's secret, if revealed, could bring down two realms which would elate Master Han.

The latest Love At Stake paranormal romance (see The Vampire With the Dragon Tattoo) is a wonderful entry due to the attitude of the female warriors who protect the valley and Zolton's changing fixation. With heroes like Angus and villains like Han from the Sparks pantheon making appearances, series fans will appreciate this tale though the overarching theme moves very little.

The Masterful Mr. Montague
Stephanie Laurens
9780062068668, $7.99

In 1837 London, Runcorn the son of Runcorn and Son goes over Lady Halstead's bank account with the aristocrat and her employee Violet Matcham. The "ailing" older woman proclaims her balance is not correct as there is too much in it. Runcorn insists one of the late Sir Hugo's investments recently must have begun to pay dividends, but will trace the anomaly.

To appease her upset employer, Violet asks business genius Mr. Heathcote Montague to investigate what happened to the bank account. Attracted to her, he agrees to look into the matter. Not long afterward, someone kills Lady Halstead and other murders follow. Fearing for his beloved Violet's life, Montague keeps her safe; while Barnaby and Penelope Adair (see Where The Heart Leads), and Inspector Stokes and his wife Griselda seek this deadly predator.

The latest Casebook of Barnaby Adair (see The Peculiar Case of Lord Finsbury's Diamonds novella) is an enjoyable Cynster spin-off historical romance that will please the myriad of fans. The storyline is action-packed as three pairs work the thrilling case though that proves double-edged as their personalities seem interchangeable along gender lines. Still readers will appreciate this engaging early Victorian whodunit.

The Witch Of Clan Sinclair
Karen Ranney
9780062242464, $7.99

In 1872 Scotland, Edinburgh Gazette editor Mairi Sinclair tries to attend a lecture at the Edinburgh Press Club. However, she is refused entry because women are not allowed. Fuming at the affront, Mairi demands Lord Provost of Edinburgh Logan Harrison take action, but instead he persuades her that the "pen is mightier than the sword" (Edward Bulwer-Lytton) so she should write an op-ed. Heeding his advice, Mairi does, but that backfires as customers cancel their subscription in protest of her tirade.

Raging Mairi decides to take her frustration out on her most visible source Logan. However, her anger turns to attraction and love, which he reciprocates. Though he knows this modern woman is bad for his political career, Logan proposes; Mairi declines because she knows being a politician's wife is bad for her newspaper career.

The latest Clan Sinclair Victorian romance (see The Devil of Clan Sinclair) is an entertaining historical starring two fascinating protagonists whose respective vocations place their relationship in peril as love seems insufficient to supersede the job aspirations gap. Although the storyline loses some energy especially with what it could have been when it switches from female crusader to a more typical historical romance, The Witch Of Clan Sinclair remains a delightful read.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Murder On An Egyptian Note
Shelley Glodowski, author
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshocken, PA 19428
9780741499127, $13.95,

"Murder On An Egyptian Note" is the latest murder mystery novel from author Shelley Glodowski and continues her series based on a pair of Midwest private eyes who enjoy a second life as rock band stars, Sam and Ian Temple. "Murder On An Egyptian Note" mixes familiar thrills and expectations of the star characters with surprises and new plot developments with complex implications.

Sam and Ian are in for an intense vacation the includes an Egyptian mob-based crime scene, threatened precious antiquities, the challenge of solving one of ancient history's unraveled mysteries, and confronting and absorbing unexpected family connections that cut to the core of (Ian's) identity.

All told, "Murder On An Egyptian Note" is a sophisticated mystery, with hints of the previous lightness of heart in characters and scenes, but also a new depth of character development for the protagonists. There is plenty of chair-edge suspense, danger, intrigue, and glamour in the ever exotic locale, as the team journeys through Thebes, Luxor, and the Valley of the Kings, as well as modern day Egyptian cities including Cairo.

In a way the search for a solution to the modern mystery - deaths of Ian's grandfather and other innocent people - is paralleled by the search for the solution to an ancient mystery: What became of the tomb of the famous Nefertiti, beloved wife of Pharoah Akhenaton? With the valued assistance of Nate, Ian's long estranged father and his trusted Egyptian lieutenant, plus the arrival and support of several other well known players, Anni and James plus Rob and Lisa, the desperate puzzle that has cost many people's lives and the illegal smuggling of valuable stolen artifacts are lined up for a lasting solution.

Interpol, American CIA assets, and other unknowns including the inimical Sons of the Pharoahs combine in a swirling plot mixture that heats up to a stunning conclusion. "Murder On An Egyptian Note" is filled with accurate, well researched sidebars of historical background that is seamlessly incorporated into the narrative of this exciting modern mystery. It is also noteworthy that "Murder On An Egyptian Note" shows increasing skill and craft in the mystery narrative techniques of its fine, accomplished author.

Read on, fans, a hidden surprise ending promises even more exciting mystery adventures to come for Sam and Ian.

Piano Teaching Skills: A Complete Guide for Piano Teachers
Elaine Andrus Watts, author
Biographical Publishing Company
95 Sycamore Drive, Prospect, CT 06712
9781929882874, $19.95,

"Piano Teaching Skills : A Complete Guide for Piano Teachers" is an excellent piano pedagogy manual written by an experienced piano teacher especially for one of her students. It contains the distillation of years of practical piano teaching experience. Forty five plus years of experience plus accompanying musicians, adjudicating music festivals and solo and ensemble performances contribute to a valuable teaching toolkit. The beginning or experienced piano teacher will find information on the art of teaching, training to play by ear and transpose, developing good piano technique, preventing piano practice injuries, teaching music reading, sight singing and ear training, teaching musical terminology through music club activities, curriculum and repertoire guides, musical expression and interpretation, pedal technique, musical ornamentation, beginning improvisation and composition, recital etiquette, motivation, music history, and more. "Piano Teaching Skills" is an excellent comprehensive overview and guide for piano teachers desiring to improve or extend their proficiency, and deserves a place in every piano pedagogy collection of resources.

Mel Bay's Modern Piano Method Grade 1
Per Danielsson, author
Mel Bay Publications
PO Box 66, Pacific, MO 63069
9780786678303, $14.99,

"Mel Bay's Modern Piano Method Grade 1" is an excellent comprehensive keyboard manual for beginning older students and adults on piano or keyboard. Basic components of music theory, keyboard orientation, reading music notation written on the grand staff, time signatures, the music alphabet, are included in the introductory chapters, along with Getting Started exercises to familiarize the student with notes, fingering, reading, and counting. A CD is included with 24 tracks recorded to demonstrate some of the different styles of music and rhythms. Examples build and progress rapidly and soon the emerging pianist will be able to read and play both treble and bass clef staff music in several recognized styles and pieces. Excellent practice tips and steps towards better musicianship are incorporated into exercise and piece introductions. A final two page series of chords and chord progressions takes the student from CMaj7 to multiple exciting chord destinations with jazz or improvisational roots. "Mel Bay's Modern Piano Method Grade 1" contains beginning and intermediate introductions to pieces in classical style as well as gospel, reggae, new sound, and rag music. Completion of the pages of "Mel Bay's Modern Piano Method Grade 1" will equip the older student to move on to other performance experiences, such as playing with bands or groups, as well as solo work.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

The New Lady in Waiting Study Guide
Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones
Destiny Image Publishing, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768404005, $ 15.99, 2014, 270 pages

All New Study Guide for a New Generation of Daughters of the King

"The All New Lady in Waiting Study Guide" is designed as resource to accompany the book and DVD Curriculum by the same title. However, it can also be used as a stand-alone ten week, devotional study program.

The study guide is divided into 50 days of interactive exercises made up of a Video Listening Guide; a daily instruction based on scriptural principles, a daily affirmation, and guided applications for personal journaling. The focus of each lesson is on becoming God's best by recognizing your personal identity and a reminder of the role purity plays in protecting and guarding your true self and your relationship with Jesus.

Jackie Kendall adds new insights to help here readers face the challenges of current changes in today's culture brought about technical advances in communications, the influences of the media, in an age complex issues and fast paced activity. The study reinforces the concepts of earlier Lady in Waiting resources which have already inspired over a million readers.

"The New Lady in Waiting Study Guide" is relevant for today, Biblically based, with life changing implication and practical application; an all new study guide for a new generation of "Daughters of the King."

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

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

The Flip
Michael Phillip Cash
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781497345515, 14.99, 392 pgs,

I have read several books by author, Michael Phillip, however this one to me was top of them all. We meet a young couple who flip houses . They both have had some trouble with their work, so this became their livelihood, and became very important to them.

The house looked good at first, but there was something there, a strange feeling like they were not alone. As the story moves on you find out just how not alone they are, especially when they decide to stay there as they work. It seems there are others living in this house, but not those of flesh and blood, but Spirits that had occupied the home in life. One of these Spirits has her eyes set upon our husband, not a good thing, and the battle begins.

I liked this book, I liked the paranormal activity that was present in it. It was quite creepy and scary at times. The author did a great job with character development as the story moved along. It intertwines, the living and the dead, throwing in marital problems, partly caused by the spirits. It's both creepy and interesting at the same time, and I liked how it ended. This book will definitely hold your attention . Good read.

The Guardian Series: Keeper of The Forest
Jennifer Ogden
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492909439, $5.75, 52 pages,

In this charming read we are taken to Whispering Pines, a forest filled with enchanted creatures who are protected and led by The Guardian. He is a very special Owl, who sees and tells the future. All is going well until, Boldwyn, a very evil crow wants revenge for his fathers death. Another, friend of the Guardian, is also seeing danger ahead. Will this be the end of their peaceful existence?

I found this book to be very engaging. I could actually sense the closeness and trust among the ones who called this forest home. The author did a great job in bringing the reader into the heart of the characters, causing you to care what might happen to them. She leaves you on the cliff with the need to know what will happen. We will just have to wait for the next book to find out. Well done.

Counting With Friends
Jennifer Ogden
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492180708, $6.50,

This is a delightful book for young children learning to count. Our author uses visuals to help the children learn. For example she shows a young boy named Paul who has three balls. She shows the balls. The pages are not cluttered so the attention is on the number being learned. Good move. The illustrations are bright and colorful so they will catch the children's eye. A very good learning tool. Well done.

Learning ABC's with Friends by: Jennifer Ogden ISBN#9781492360001 34pgs Createspace Publishing

This is a very well written book. On each page we see a child whose name starts with the alphabet that is being learned. Now the best part is each activity is also started with the letter, and the letter is also shown in the corner, large and colored. The child will be able to see the letter in use. I recommend this book highly. Definitely a great teaching tool.

Bully the Bullfrog BY
Jennifer Ogden
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492287803, $7.50, 34pgs,

In this delightful tale by author Jennifer Ogden we meet Bully the Bullfrog. Bully is not a very nice Bullfrog. No, he likes to pick on others and call them names. Bully has no friends and always sits alone. In this story we learn how a young frog named Penny and her friend, Earl, show kindness to Bully and turn his life around. This is a very good book on teaching young people to not return hate with hate, but to show compassion and love. The illustrations are very cute and bring the story to life. A nice read with a lesson to learn. Recommended

If I Were Me and Lived In Turkey
Carole P.Roman
Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
978148197949, $8.00, 26pgs,

Off we go into another wonderful adventure in Carole P. Roman's book, "If You Were Me And Lived In Turkey." I am always excited to read each and every book in this series, because I learn something new each time.

In this read, we learn about Turkey, where it is located, what you would call Mom and Dad in their language and many other words. You will also see what they eat, what they do for fun, and when their special Holidays are. Do you know what they wear in Turkey? Read this book and you will see. Full colored illustrations grace each page and help open your mind to learn about this country. You are also given their flag, a pencil and something very special, a Passport Book with stickers in it for you to use. A great work that not only teaches but brings enjoyment. Recommended.

Next Of Sin
Lisa Gordon
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781495320569, 20.48, 612pgs,

This excellent reads starts you out with a bam as you experience the killing of a young teen, but why? What does this have to do with the rest of the story? Ah! Our author draws you in with the 'I have to find out,' trick. It's been a while since I have read a book that takes you around so many curves in the story and yet at the end ties all the notes into one bow. This one does. It is a tale of murder and suspense, family and friends, trust and betrayal, all tightly weaved within the read. The character development is excellent, as is the description of locals, bringing everything to life in the mind's eye. I loved how it ended, although perhaps a bit sad in some ways, the author definitely brought all the mysterious pieces together. I am happy to recommend this book, a very well written read and well worth your time.

Whaley's Big Adventure
Alexander Luke
Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
978149485117, $7.50, 24pgs,

I am going to say right off that this book is amazing. We are taken on an adventure with Whaley, who is a blue whale that lives in the ocean. We start out learning about whales, that they are mammals, breathe air, have hair, etc.

As Whaley moves along on his adventure he begins to meet other whales, such as Owen the Orca, Harold the Humpback whale, and Gary the Grey Whale, and several more. We learn how many different whales are in the oceans. I was so interested in this read and learned so much. The big surprise is that this little book, that will give you mounds of information, was written by a five year old. Impressive, I think so. The illustrations that he also provided are great.

You simply have to read this little gem to appreciate it to the fullest. It is great for young and old and I recommend it highly. Well done, Alexander. I believe you may be famous one day. I am very impressed.

9,000 Miles of Fatherhood - A True Story
Kirk Millson
Plain Sight Publishing
c/o Cedar Fort, Inc.
2373 West 700 South, Springville, Utah 84663
9781462113811, $12.95, 216pgs,

In this delightful read we are taken into the lives and hearts of a dad and his son and their adventures on a trip that will put a stamp upon their hearts for years to come. Dad is having some job problems, and decides to use this down time to do something different in life, to have an adventure, and he takes his son, Peter with him. Peter is having many issues himself, both in school and in his relationship with his father. Dad hopes this may cure both of their ills, and bring them into a closer relationship.

As we move along the dusty highways we are taken into a world that is not like the one that was left behind. In this world they must confront corrupt police, sexual hungry woman, dirty motel rooms, and food that they are not quite sure what they have eaten, and that is just the beginning of the ride. One mishap after another confronts you as you ride the highway with these two, and wonder, how are they going to get out of this one. I liked this read, it reminded me a lot of the Chevy Chase movies, only this one really happened. It's real to life, I know I've been in some of those countries, and it's both comical and sobering at the same time. Be careful, it may well pull some on your heartstrings. as father and son must team up again and again to win their battles. To add to the pot, you will definitely get more than a few giggles out of their adventures. All in all, a great read for the entire family.

The Witch's Revenge
Danny Odato
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478725640, $12.95, 188pp,

In a small town, we are taken in this read. The people are close, but there is a new arrival, who seems different. They are not sure if she is friend or foe, good or evil. Soon children and others begin to die in terrible ways. Many people are acting different, not themselves. What is happening? I wasn't sure at first if I would like this book but as I continued to read, the people of this town and the situation they were living pulled me in until I could not put it down. It is a tale of evil using its power to kill, steal, and destroy. It is laced with terror, sadness, and mystery as you walk the dark, scary roads of death and destruction with a community committed to each other and to bringing an end to this dark intruder that is taking so many lives. The story had depth, mystery and very good character development. It is different than other books I have read, but in a good way. A real page turner. I liked it and enjoyed the read and loved the ending. Recommended.

Nuclear Farm
Charles C.Anderson
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478722076, $23.00, 302pp,

In this second book by Charles C. Anderson, we are taken to another battle. This one is stopping a nuclear nightmare. Will it be achieved? I have to tell you I have read countless books but the books written by Mr. Anderson definitely stand alone. The way he is able to bring an entire family into his storylines, with all that they do is amazing. We are shown his twins, Jack and Ava and are introduced to their amazing ability of knowing how to fight just about any battle set before them. Their knowledge and bravery are amazing. Now, don't leave out Dr. Andy Carlson and his wife, Lindsey, who both are knowledgeable in just about every area of warfare known to mankind. Quite a remarkable family, indeed.

The battle begins as they set off to join as a family and fight the evil that few in our country even know exist. This read is very faced paced. You will be amazed at the different challenges that this family faces and more amazed at how they overcome them. I have to salute the author for doing a series that is not only action paced, and adventurous, but also shows what love, unity and learning can bring from a family. Throughout the read the unity and working together of the family was paramount. I liked that.I believe the styoryline will hold your attention and at times keep you on the end of your seat. It was faced paced and kept my attention. Very well written, definitely a winner.

Starlette Universe: Eva From E-Ville
Kathy Johnson, author
Captain Cartoon, illustrator
Headline Books
P.O. Box 52, Terra Alta, WV 26764
9781882658046, $24.95, 112pp,

This is the second book that I have reviewed for Ms. Johnson, and I have to say I love them. These stories are packed with adventure, bright with color as our young ladies encounter so much learning in a way that is total entertainment . I love to see how they deal with the different situations that arise, the writing is wonderful.

This book is also alive with pictures that bring every word to life that is written.. My granddaughter, who is 15, loves these books. They are very entertaining with a makeup about them that draws you in. She tells me that she learns a lot and has her mind refreshed without even thinking about it, because she becomes so involved in what she is reading. . She always walks away with a smile. These are some great books and I am happy to recommend them.

When I Grow Up I Want To Be in the U.S. Navy
Wigu Press
9781939973023, $12.95, 58pp,

I have had the pleasure of reading other Wigu books and they are all excellent, this one as well. In this read we are taken into the ways of the U.S. Navy. We learn the history of our Navy, how it really began. We learn about the carriers, what is kept on them and what they are used for. That was very interesting, but it doesn't stop there.

We are also told of the many different jobs that the crew has on the vessel. Besides the sailors, there are doctors, dentists, electricians, and that is just naming a few. This is a great read that both young and old would find fascinating. It is chuck full of information and illustrations and pictures to bring the words alive. If you love the Navy, or just want to know more about this important part of America, this book is for you. I feel it will definitely hold the attention of both young and old, and bring them true knowledge of just what our U.S. Navy is all about. Excellent.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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